a publication of Rowan Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Master of Arts in Writing
featuring the decay of expectations the slow healing of time and an interview with Katherine Flannery Dering
Cover art: “Frozen Flowers 3” by Nicoletta Poungias
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 Anthony Palma
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 © 2019 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 Tim Donaldson Steve Royek Myriah Stubee ASSOCIATE EDITORS Rachel Barton Kaitlyn Gaffney Laura Kincaid Amanda Rennie FICTION EDITORS Justina Addice Mark Krupinski Matthew Vesely MEDIA EDITORS Jenna Burke Alex Geffard Elizabeth Mecca NONFICTION EDITORS Ann Caputo Joe Gramigna Isha Strasser POETRY EDITORS Dylann Cohn-Emery Julie Darpino Leo Kirschner
glassworks Spring 2019
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING GRADUATE PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
Issue 18 | Table of Contents Art
Laurie Borggreve | A Peaceful Coexistence Part II | 15
Time and Chance IV | 70
Leah Dockrill | Migraine | 6
No Discernable Fault Line | 52 Pressure Drop | 27 Rodrigo Etcheto | Sea Stacks | 30
Sunken Branch | 57
Nicoletta Poungias | Frozen Flowers 1 | 18 Frozen Flowers 3 | cover Frozen Flowers 4 | 43
Joe Costal | Puncher, America, and Fake-Ass Jordans | 8
Christina McCabe | Ten Days | 58 Mark Mulholland | Sandals for Summer | 32
Alice Hatcher | Laughing Meditation | 19
Dylann Cohn-Emery, Julie Darpino, Kaitlyn Gaffney, & Leo Kirschner | The Aftermath of Tragedy: An Interview
Katherine Flannery Dering | 45
Poetry R.A. Allen | Magnolia | 16
Some Syndromes | 17
David M. Alper | Reincarnated Butterfly | 29 Fred Dale | She Who Carries the Water, Carries the Fish | 72
Alexa Gutter | Sonnet at 4pm | 4
Top of the Stairs, Looking Down | 5 Richard Hedderman | The Art of Writing | 44
AE Hines | Our First House on Yamhill Street | 28
Lynn McGee | Zoo Dream | 56
Donna Pucciani | Waking Up in a Rented Flat... | 54 Chase Troxell | Tangerine | 3 Marne Wilson | Drought | 74
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.
Tangerine Chase Troxell
A tangerine is a tough thing to peel, I try to explain to her. You see, on the outside there is almost nowhere to pick your nails to start opening it up. When you find it and start that process of tearing skin from fruit, it is violent and scary at first, but when it is all done you have a succulent, ripe, sweet thing. You see, the insides were always there waiting to be peeled and revealed for what they really are. You just have to find the opening and pry, to question, even a little, and you’ll see something that is just so perfect. She takes a whole strawberry in one bite, tearing only the green away with her teeth and shrugs. I don’t know, she says, I just think it’s too much work for such a small reward. I keep the tangerine to myself and eat it, piece by piece. It isn’t hard to swallow, little by little.
Sonnet at 4pm Alexa Gutter
There’s something I should tell you about the afternoon light on bare trees. A yellow glow; the sun’s last attempt at beauty before it drops down to make night. I only mean to say that I’m noticing it, as I drive home along the river. There are geese, too— a whole flock of them resting in the same great field, nudging the cold ground with urgent beaks. In town, boys are playing hockey on the frozen pond. I’d like to stop the car and call out to them, tell them to pay attention to the sun— how it’s like melted butter over everything. But they have their own joy. Skates slicing the ice, their shouts are puffs of heat in the noiseless air.
Top of the Stairs, Looking Down Alexa Gutter
You were ten, bundled for Finnish winter, standing at the brink of cement steps, when Mirja, neighbor-girl, school-friend, stretched her woolen hands in front of her and shoved. How many stairs? In your story, the drop seemed endless, the concrete icy and unforgiving. I could see it clearly—little girl you crumpled in a heap of boots and knitted clothes, your white mitten soaked with blood as you touched the place where your cheek had broken open. And Mirja! Mirja at the top of the stairs, her rosy face glowing with pleasure, unaffected by the red splashed snow. I learned all this when I asked about the pale scar just above your cheekbone, near the outer corner of your left eye, a place where tears collect and spill over. At five, the injustice of it rattled me, filled me with outrage each time I looked at the spidery mark. In Helsinki that summer, we sat with Mirja and her daughters in an outdoor café. I stared at you in awe, watched you smiling as though the whole betrayal had never occurred. Later, you laughed when I demanded an explanation, assured me that people move on from these things, forget them. I would never have guessed that villains grow up, have daughters, eat cups of vanilla ice cream. How strange to discover you were once a small girl, and to find out some years later that you would not live forever, that I might touch your swollen face and you wouldn’t feel it, wouldn’t open your eyes.
Migraine Leah Dockrill
Puncher, America, and Fake-Ass Jordans Joe Costal
It’s 8 a.m., but it’s already hot. The Hudson public pool will be packed. Before she leaves for the embroidery factory, Abuela warns me not to go to the pool. “Domincans will steal your shoes,” she tells me. Except she says “choos,” and she puts an “e” in front of steal. “No one wants my shoes, Abuelita.” I own a pair of knock-off, Pro-Joggs, twenty bucks at Kinney’s, red and black high tops—“the fakest of the fake-ass Air Jordans on the market.” Cousin Carlos calls them that, and he’s right. But I don’t argue abuela logic. She insisted the Pro-Joggs were Air Jordans when she bought them. She called to tell me she got me Jordans. When she came home with those fake-ass shits, I ran to my room and cried. Today, she mumbles her warning and puts on a sweater. Abuela gets cold even on 90 degree days. North America’s not warm enough for her. She gives me her worried look as she leaves our apartment. The look of someone smelling something rotten. Like she smells my weakness. I am weak. Yesterday, a thin, buck-toothed boy punched me on the head outside of Lucy’s bodega. He wasn’t from our neighborhood. I had never seen him before. I was
drinking a purple juice, sitting on the stoop. I didn’t see him coming. He punched me, and at first, I thought something hard had landed on my head, like a rock from a window. But there he was. Flaco as fuck, but aggressive. Pounding his arms downward, like a tiny King Hippo, bouncing in place and saying “yeah, yeah, yeah.” He had a friend with him. A shorter boy, less skinny, who bit his lip and held his chin tilted at the sky, like the football players do in the yearbook. I should’ve hit him back. I should’ve pushed his scrawny ass to the floor and sat on him. At least told him off. But I didn’t. I rubbed my head and said “ow.” My ghetto juice barrel spilling at my feet. When Abuela is safely away, Papi comes out of his room. He tells me to ignore my grandmother. “She racist,” he explains, “but she old, and old people is racist.” Papi doesn’t work because he’s on disability. A truck tire exploded on his right leg. He doesn’t walk much, either. I can’t remember a time when I saw him outside our apartment. He goes from his chair in the front room to his chair in the kitchen. When the weather’s hot, like today, he drinks less coffee, more Budweiser.
“For me, the Manhattan skyline is a shitty oil painting hanging
room. Too familiar to be beautiful. The skyscraper horizon holds our town in—trapping us—like the
curve of a glass jar.
Besides, I could never take my shirt off in front of every girl from school. So, for me, going “to the pool” means sitting “near the pool.” It means scratching like a leper in the high grass on the Palisades hills. The pool is carved into the cliffs over the Hudson River. It dangles in front of New York City like dice on a rearview. So I can perch on the graffiti rocks. Buy a Malta Goya from Lucy
and carve my way across the jagged rocks to a spot where the grass is so high it tickles my chin. There I’ll sit in my own sweat. But at least there I can think. And I can avoid trouble, but still I can tell Papi I spent the day “at the pool” without being a liar. All around are once-in-a-lifetime views of the Manhattan skyline: the Empire State, The World Trade. Once-in-a-lifetime, unless, of course your lifetime is spent in Hudson County. For me, the Manhattan skyline is a shitty oil painting hanging in my living room. Too familiar to be beautiful. The skyscraper horizon holds our town in— trapping us—like the curve of a glass jar. Today, as I settle in on the hill, Javi the pool man is locking his shed. I missed the morning fun of watching Javi fight off gopher-sized, hissing river rats as he opens the pool. Quickly, a spray of kids bob, shoulder to shoulder, filling the pool. They glisten brown and strong as the tenement buildings they come from. Cuban mothers swirl the perimeter, yelling and swearing to God through saliva-stained cigarettes. They guard and chide their precious, chubby sons. Reyes pequeños, who whine and snack on picnic table thrones. They mock their inferior, nappy-haired
Joe Costal | Puncher, America, and Fake-Ass Jordans
Papi tells me to go to the pool. “If anybody fucking fucks with you, you fucking kill their icehole.” Papi likes some English words better than others. I don’t argue. I’ll go to the pool, but I won’t swim, and I will not kill any iceholes. Papi knows this. But even he doesn’t realize the length I will go to avoid trouble. In our town, too many kids wanna fight a kid like me. And every kid in our town will be at the pool today.
sisters and tip-toe around on the pool tiles, their boy boobs jiggling along. In one corner, Puerto Rican viejos huddle—wordless, shirtless. They sit on aluminum chairs that don’t fold. They wear polyester pants. Black-socked toes peek out of chancletas. They pass the time toying with golden Blessed Mother medallions around their necks. They run the emblems, like oversized guitar picks, through tufts of grey chest hair. They squint hard through the sun, staring at their children in the pool, but not “watching” them. That’s what mothers are for. The Mexicans have their own corner. Their food smells best. They are also the only Latinos in town who don’t drink Budweiser because their own beer doesn’t suck. The rest is Latin potpourri. Colombians and Ecuadorians and the Dominicans and the Haitians and the Chileans, all equally hated and hateful of their minority status even among us. When my family hates on these people, I remind them that gringos think we’re all the same. All brown. All suspected and despised. My family laughs me off and rolls their eyes. “Nah, even Americanos hate the Dominicans more.” I’m not so sure. When I went to the state science fair, I made a few white friends. They called me “dirty Mexican.” They said “for fun.” “I’m Cuban,” I told them, hurt for
a different reason than they knew. “Same thing,” they said. When my eyes glazed, they said, “We’re fucking around. You know that, right?” “Of course,” I said. All smiles. When I told Abuela, she needed to sit on the bed. “Aye, hijo, Mexican? Das cray-see!” She clutched for the Blessed Mother. In Spanish she asked if I wore the pants “with the stains.” I told her I didn’t. “I wore the good pants.” She wrung her hands and asked in Spanish, “What do we have in common with them? Nothing!” “To them? Everything,” I thought. But there was so much disbelief in Abuela’s eyes. I watched TV instead of arguing. ~ Marisol, an Ecuadorian from Union Avenue, bounces me back to focus. She wrestles a polka-dotted swimmie up her baby sister’s arm. Her bikini is tan and pink with frill on the bands. Maybe her moms bought it on Bergenline, or maybe her pops drove her down the hill to the strip mall in Secaucus. Got it at Mandee or Fashion Bug. It cost him his parking spot when he got back to town. He wakes at 5 a.m. now, to get his car out of the municipal lot before ticketing. All so baby girl can shine at the pool. For me, his effort is worth it. I reach between my legs and settle my
winds, as if lighting a runway for my escape. But I’m too slow to get away from these two. I confer this truth with my fake-ass Jordans. “Chupa, foul gut.” Puncher slaps his little buddy on the shoulder, trying to rally approval. If I don’t talk, I’m dead meat. “Yo, man. I ain’t no faggot ok.” The duo laughs. “Leave me alone, ok?” But the little one who grabs my elbow as I try to walk pass. “Nah, nah, nah. Bruh. No way. You’re not going nowheres. You’re not gonna come be a homo creeper and get away with it. How about I make you eat this dirt right here?” I’m taken aback for a moment, less by the grab, and more by his impeccable English. It’s better than mine. Not a smidge of accent. As he twists my arm around my back, I look in his eyes. He’s a gringo. Has a wet, soft white boy stare. The doughiness around the cheeks. He was born here. “You Americaaaugh...” I want to point out that he’s a gringo, but before I can say “American,” he twists my arm up my back. The pain winds down my arm to my temples. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Puncher is excited, and I’m on my knees. America uses my pinned arm to push my upper body toward
Joe Costal | Puncher, America, and Fake-Ass Jordans
stare. I imagine the bikini top in my hands. I see it sitting on the side of a bed or the top of a laundry pile. I want to smell it. Hold the inside cup part to my nostrils and take in whatever is there. “Yeah. Aye. Jew. Foul gut?” I swipe my hand away from my shorts and jump up. Two boys crackle through the dry, summer brush. It’s them. The puncher from the bodega and his friend. Fuck. I think of Papi and his useless advice. I think of their iceholes. “Yeah. Foul gut. You a foul gut?” I look around, the mountain gets steeper three steps from me, diving over the face of the pool and the patio below. It’s a long way down. Much worse than even an ass beating if they are inclined. “Foul gut,” he says like someone calling for a lost kitten. There is no place to go but past them. “What?” I try to buy time. “You.” “Me?” “Si.” “Me what?” “You fucking foul gut?” I know what he means from the jump. I hear the insult. The threat. But I can buy time by straining to understand. They are both so close now, I can smell Andy Capp Hot Fries on their breath. Instinct makes me look down. At my feet, the grass grows up the hillside, leaning away from the river
the rocky ground. The two of them blur into a single shadow. “Espere. Espere. Them Jordans?” Puncher asks America. There’s a pause, I can’t see them. I see rocks and weeds, inches from my teeth. I can smell sweet grit from the earth. “Nah man, they’re fake, man,” America decides with a shift in weight off my forearms. He’s looking. Wants to be sure. “Fuck they are.” I push the logo side of my Pro-Joggs against the hard ground. “They’re Jordans, bruh.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Take them shits from foul gut,” Puncher can’t hide the squeal in his voice. “I’ll give ‘em to you.”
“Let’s see them shits.” America is less sure. They let go, and I roll onto my ass. I get to one knee and undo the laces of my Pro-Joggs. I hunch enough to cast my own shadow over the sneakers. The duo huddles closer to one another and strains to see beneath me. “Wait till you see, you stupid refugee.” America turns his aggression to Puncher. “Those ain’t Jordans.” “They are,” I say and rise to both feet. “Look.” I hold an index finger to the Pro-Jogg logo and take a step toward Puncher, who heaves like a cartoon villain, all shoulders and teeth. I steady my face into fake confidence. Puncher squints hard against the sun, his eyes searching
“I hold an index finger to the Pro-Jogg logo and take
a step toward Puncher, who heaves like a cartoon villain, all shoulders and teeth. I steady my face into fake
“No, man. This faggot doesn’t have Jordans, man. Chill, ok?” America doesn’t sound as sure as he’d like. “Ok. Whatever,” their hesitance raises my hope. They don’t believe me, but the prize might be too great. If a man tells you he has a million dollars in a suitcase, even if he’s full of shit, you don’t go home until he opens the suitcase.
where my index finger points below the black, splayed logo paydirt. Under my finger is not mid-flight Michael Jordan. But it’s a series of swoops designed to mimic the real thing. It’s enough. Thank you, Kinney Shoes. It’s enough. America knows. He calls Puncher a “dumbass” one more time and folds his arms. Puncher leans
On that day, though, my $20 Kinney Shoes Pro-Joggs glide through the thick, urban summer. They rise and catch Puncher under his chin. I open my eyes long enough to see his head snap back, spittle forming and disappearing from his lips. I clench my eyes tight once again, and let the Pro-Joggs flail. They spin like nunchucks around my own head. I poke with the sneaker, letting them dart into the space around me. I imagine myself a spinning death wheel. Inside my darkness, though, I feel a pop against my eye. The force is enough to make me stumble back. I regroup and flail again. Keep my eyes clenched and let the sneaker fly once more around my head. Pop. Pop. Pop. They were on me. Had to be. Smacks to my cheek and another quick one to the side of my head. I make one more wild rotation with the sneakers, hoping to hit them both across the face at one time—like in the Three Stooges. Hope to nail them once before they hit me again. But as I swing, I take blunt force to the bridge of my nose. It’s enough to make me stop moving. My eyes well and open expecting to catch a glimpse of the beating.
Joe Costal | Puncher, America, and Fake-Ass Jordans
his face into my sneakered hand, though. Hoping beyond hope to be right. Below us, from the pool, a mambo plays from a boom box. The tempo pulses in my sore temples, and I think of Papi and “fucking an icehole.” Shocking even myself, I let the Pro-Joggs drop from my hand, catching a single shoelace between my thumb and pointer finger. With both eyes closed, I let the fake-ass Jordans fly into the air. ~ Ten years later, the Hudson Pool is gone. In its place, a private pool adjacent to brand new, luxury condominiums. New people, non-neighborhood types who buy food from a brand new concession stand. Grilled chicken on Caesar salad instead of cut mangos from pocketbook napkins. Wraps instead of empanadas. No more salsa/merengue. No more dark boys, with thin arms and concave torsos. No more illegal workers in overalls opening Coke bottles with their teeth. Instead, a “members only” sign and white people with high-rise addresses. They step on our streets only to catch a midtown bus. They are New York Giants, New Jersey Devils, Wall Street wolves and other magical creatures. They are not from Hudson. They are not of this pool. ~
I focus through the tears and blur of my exhausted movements. Neither boy is anywhere near me. Both stand a few feet away, their mouths open, staring. Their arms at their sides. My nose throbs, I rub it as they stare. “You were hitting yourself with your sneakers, bruh,” America says, like he’s reading the six o’clock news. I turn and run. I never look back. I never see either boy again, but I must’ve dropped my one Pro-Jogg at some point, because I am almost home before I realize one socked foot has been hitting pavement. That night, Abuela lectures Papi and me, and herself about shoe-stealing Dominicans. About the real threat they pose to our way of life. Like urban sprawl or price gouging. She cries and wails, pressing ice cubes to my black eyes. She points and gestures, imploring us in Spanish to bide her words. “Ness tine,” she wails. “Ness tine, jew lessen to me!” “Abuela, it was American kids,” I sob for drama. I can hear her gasp. “American kids stole my shoes.” She clutches her chest and retires to her telephone. It will take Abuela months to reconcile this news. The new danger of American kids. The one remaining Kinney Pro-Jogg sits on the television, our version of a mantle, like
a precious family heirloom. Like a real “Hair Yordan.” Testament to Abuela’s vision and vigilance and glory, even if her facts were off.
A Peaceful Coexistence Part II Laurie Borggreve
Magnolia R.A. Allen
Whose pollination is accomplished by beetles because you evolved before the bees. Whose shade cools the Confederateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Rest in Elmwood Cemetery. Whose blossoms my mother floated in a crystal bowl on the dining room table in defiance of Uncle Alfredâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cigar. Whose fallen leaves crunch brittle underfoot, hilariously. Whose reputation is forever tarnished by a bum rap for strange fruit.
Some Syndromes R.A. Allen
He didn’t notice until a few days after the service that much of the furniture was out of place—if only by millimeters. And that the doorknobs seemed to resist his turning, just slightly. And the TV news anchors and meteorologists and the local advertisers stared out not at him, but past him as if at someone standing over his left shoulder. At his consultation, derealization was the word they used before sending him home to an Impressionist’s rendition of his face in the bathroom mirror. But in full length, he seemed, well, more Expressionistic, his suits hanging like those in portraiture by Schiele. His shoes were blobs from Francis Bacon. They diagnosed depersonalization and sent him home to where home was not. So he lay down on her side of their bed, her impress cold; her scent fainter; and yet, on her pillow, a strand of her hair worth his remaining days. Lost, he’d stay here till found.
Frozen Flowers 1 Nicoletta Poungias
Laughing Meditation Alice Hatcher
Every Monday, I attend a mindfulness meditation sit guided by a man who has likely saved me from prison time, or at least various drunk tanks, court appearances, and hundreds of hours of community service. That, at least, is what I imagine in moments of gratitude, assuring myself in the spirit of self-compassion that I can’t be that exceptional. Introductory mindfulness classes, after all, often attract individuals dealing with deeply entangled strands of anxiety. The usual suspects at the Monday sit include angry divorcées, agitated postal workers, cancer survivors, recovering addicts, and adults dealing with physical infirmities, weight management issues, and residual neuroses left from traumatic childhood experiences. Few of us hope for enlightenment in the Buddhist sense. Few of us expect dissolution of the self in some cosmic energy flow or a mystical mind-meld with every sentient being on every astral plane in the universe. Most of us are just trying to get through the damn day, ideally without breaking out in hives. To that end, we close our eyes and focus on limited objects of attention: our breath, ambient sounds, or specific physical sensations. We try to be present in each moment, rather than distracted by “mind chatter” or
consumed with internal narratives— the thoughts about the past and fantasies about the future that define our sense of self. We observe emotionally charged body sensations (e.g., nausea) that arise with troubling thoughts and maintain what passes for equanimity until they pass. Our teacher is the perfect person to herd distracted and depressed cats. An unassuming lawyer partial to faded t-shirts, he employs a soothing voice to remind us that, “a thousand times, the mind will drift, and a thousand times, we will gently bring it back to the present moment.” There are no failures in meditation, he reminds us, noting that struggle will strengthen our powers of concentration, and, over time, enable us to be present in our lives. With practice, we will notice when we begin to get swept away by internal narratives fueled by resentments, regrets, or wishful thinking. We will see situations for what they are, rather than through lenses clouded by past hurts, muddled fears, and unreasonable expectations. We will be less likely to respond to situations in reactive or “mindless” ways. Last month, he went on a threeweek vacation. Being a responsible person, he arranged for a substitute teacher.
The substitute teacher was a deeply toned ballet dancer and meditation instructor visiting Tucson from Santa Monica. Limber and lithe, she spent a moment stretching and settled comfortably onto a cushion at the front of the room. A slouched, desk-bound writer plagued by the sense that I have ‘gone to seed’ as a result of my sedentary lifestyle, I wondered what it would be like to possess the teacher’s seeming comfort and confidence in her body. Perhaps some combination of physical unease and emotional vulnerability made me defensive, but I found myself growing resistant to the teacher’s proposed plan for the evening: a silent sit preceded by a ten-minute laughing meditation.
had always balked
at the idea, the irony, of laughing in the company of strangers in order to
I had heard about laughing meditations, but always—and adamantly—refused friends’ invitations to attend them. I had always balked at the idea, the irony, of laughing in the company of strangers in order to relax. I felt ambushed listening to the teacher describe the physi-
cal act of laughter as a scientifically demonstrated route to relaxation. The muscle contractions associated with laughter, by themselves, she said, act as natural antidepressants by sending “positive messages” to the brain and decreasing levels stress hormones. I’m a firm believer in the mind-body connection and the influence of physiological processes on emotional states. Still, I found myself doubting the wisdom of the planned exercise. I tentatively raised my hand. “What are we going to laugh at?” I asked. “We’ll laugh without a prompt,” the teacher stated. “The point is to start laughing, even if you need to force it. Simulated laughter usually leads to real laughter. As they say, ‘laughter is contagious.’” Fear seized me. “What if I don’t feel anything?” The teacher considered my expression. “The mind responds to muscle contractions produced by simulated laughter and real laughter in similar ways. It’s all hormones. It’s not about how you feel when you start.” “I don’t know if I can laugh without a reason.” “What’s the worst that can happen?” the teacher asked. “Laughter is the best medicine, and you don’t even need a prescription.” Just like cocaine and Robitussin, I thought. The teacher offered to spend a
cruel. The moment for analysis, though, had passed. I began to panic. The thoughts flooding my mind were incoherent, fleeting images experienced more as jarring bodily sensations than threads of a fluid mental experience. I saw a distraught woman pulling dishes from cupboards and laughing as she smashed them on the floor, and then staring vacantly at a cowering child. I saw a man laughing as he cast a yelping puppy down a flight of concrete stairs. I felt the terror I felt growing up in a family ravaged by vaguely understood mood and mental disorders. Since the 1980s, various members of my family have received diagnoses of borderline personality, bipolar disorder, narcissism, and major depression. It isn’t clear how meaningful these diagnoses have been, given how frequently the American Psychiatric Association revises its diagnostic manual. Whatever the case, most of my family members exhibited severe emotional dysregulation. In my family, outward affect often bore little relation to emotional states. Moods changed quickly, often without obvious cause. Members of my family formed and dissolved relationships in rapid succession. They adopted dogs and, days later, abandoned them on street
Alice Hatcher | Laughing Meditation
moment laughing by herself for demonstration purposes, and the other students smiled awkwardly, but smiled nonetheless. I looked at the floor. I couldn’t help thinking that laughing at nothing was, well, a bit crazy. I became painfully aware of my abdominal muscles tensing and perspiration gathering on my forehead. Feeling isolated and vulnerable, I sensed that I was the only one in the room who knew that something deeply disturbing was about to transpire. I had to remind myself that, years before, on the advice of an integrative physician, I had started meditating to ease the anxiety surrounding a health crisis. Within months, I had been surprised by rapid improvements to both my emotional and physical condition. Perhaps I would be surprised again. Straining to maintain a beginner’s mind, I assumed something resembling the lotus position and braced myself for a bout of hilarity. The teacher straightened her spine, pressed her palms to her abdomen, inhaled deeply, and released a sharp exhalation that sounded like a forced cough. Then she drew another breath and released a series of hacking, almost barking sounds. Repeatedly, she sucked in air and forced it from the back of her throat, rapidly ascending a tonal scale until she was tittering at a high pitch. My shoulders tensed. The teacher’s forced laughter seemed absurd, and in a way I struggled to understand,
corners. They tried to establish intimacy by sharing terrible secrets, only to lash out at stunned confidantes. They chattered incessantly and then withdrew for weeks. They dispensed hugs one moment and threw punches the next. There was a profound disconnect between circumstances and their reactions to them. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to cry at the sight of flowers and then express boredom with the tears of others. Family members laughed at each other’s accidents. They laughed at inappropriate moments. Sometimes they laughed for no apparent reason. As childhood memories flooded my mind, the meditation teacher rocked back and forth and gestured for us to laugh along with her. My breath grew shallow and my extremities tingled. I felt as though a large stone were falling through my lungs and my chest was collapsing in its wake. Minutes or eternities later, the teacher paused. Thinking she had resigned herself to our silence and abandoned the exercise, I unfolded my legs. Then a woman behind me giggled, and the middle-aged man beside me guffawed. The theater of the absurd had opened for business. A ripple of titters and giggles moved through the room, and suddenly everyone began chuckling and snorting. A man with a fringe of white hair turned beet red and clutched his gut. A woman pressed her fingers to her lips to stifle a laugh, spluttered, and doubled over.
A woman in a neck brace spewed laughter, and her mangy therapy dog yipped in sympathy. A square-jawed man sporting a triathlon shirt snickered in a machine-gun rhythm. An asthmatic wheezed her way to bliss. A self-described “student of flow” shrieked, and the teacher redoubled her efforts. I hunched forward. However gripped by a childlike sense of helplessness, I lacked the coping mechanisms familiar to distressed children. I had no bottle of apple juice to throw to the floor. I had no bed to wet. Sucking my thumb would have seemed, well, inappropriate in the situation. I grew dizzy thinking of different kinds of laughter: joyful, drunken, bitter, smug, and cruel laughter. I heard the convulsive laughter of someone crawling from a car wreck, unscathed, after a bout of drinking, and the cutting laughter of a bully pushing a kindergartener into a muddy ditch. I was struck by the odd relationship between two truisms—that laughter is the best medicine, and that laughter is contagious—and wondered whether laughter was healing or infecting everyone. As the men beside me gasped for breath, I averted my eyes, and with little sense of direction, collected my purse and stumbled from the meditation center. When I regained my bearings, I was fumbling for my car keys and trying to remember the location of the nearest convenience store.
cacti. I retrieved a set of clippers and started pruning, scraping and cutting my hands and wrists on thorny mesquite. I stripped bristled branches off overgrown lantana bushes until my forearms grew red and inflamed. I pitted the yard with a shovel to unearth the sharp seed pods of invasive grasses until blisters formed on my palms. Without a thought to scorpions or black widows, I collected windblown garbage from the alley behind our house.
Alice Hatcher | Laughing Meditation
I wonder, now, if I attempted small talk with the cashier at Circle K, or if I was crying by the time he rang up two six-packs of beer, a bottle of cheap wine, and a pack of cigarettes, only months after I had quit smoking and curbed my alcohol intake in the interest of being fully present in my life, moment by moment, breath by breath. When I arrived home, I considered the regular Monday night meditation teacher. He would hardly recognize desperate drags off a cigarette as a focus on the breath. He
“I was struck by the odd relationship between two truisms—that laughter is the best medicine, and
that laughter is contagious—and wondered whether
laughter was healing or infecting everyone. would not consider my awareness of cold beer sliding down my throat as a form of sensory clarity. He would not count my relief at the first signs of intoxication as a healthy form of gratitude. At some point, I stopped caring. I just wanted to stop the flood of memories, to distract and exhaust myself. I rifled a beer, lit a cigarette, and started pulling tools out of the shed behind my house. When I finished raking the sumac leaves covering the yard, I drank another beer, and without gloves, pulled weeds from the dirt surrounding prickly pear
The sun had set by the time I finished heaping garbage and lawn debris in the center of the yard. Beneath the light of a naked bulb above the kitchen door, I smoked several cigarettes, finished a six-pack, and then broke apart a rotting picnic table and pulled used paper from a recycle bin. I lit a match and chainsmoked while I fed flames with cereal boxes, old newspapers, dead branches, and finally, to crown the conflagration, a bundle of old letters from a family member, disjointed and angry
missives pulled from the bedroom closet. Letters filled with justifications and drunken accusations. Suicide threats and ultimatums. Just before I tossed the bundle onto the fire, I opened the bottle of wine. Anything to stop thinking. But thoughts invariably arise, as the regular Monday night teacher has said a thousand times. The mind is constantly working, seeking meaning in stories and sometimes lies, assessing and analyzing each new experience in light of the past. Staring into the fire, I realized I was not entirely unlike my family members who stifle troubling emotions though ritualistic and impulsive behaviors—“maladaptive strategies” in the parlance of psychiatrists. Family members who go on wild spending sprees, wearing down credit cards to fill insatiable voids with substitutes for love. Who wash their hands raw to stave off dread. Who grasp at people in moments of desperation and then push away those unequal to the impossible task of consoling them. Who throw themselves into sordid affairs to quell real feelings. Who cut themselves with razors to feel something and then numb themselves with pills. Who laugh in euphoric moments and drink in despair. That they drink whiskey rather than beer hardly seemed to matter. I told myself that fueling a bonfire with every bit of paper within reach and then burning my fingers was no different than various family mem-
bers’ manic spending, binge drinking, mindless fucking, and endless fighting. The difference was only a matter of degree. I lit another cigarette and smoked it quietly while I nursed flames, ruminated on my failures, and told myself there was no hope for healing or joy, and that something in my blood had condemned me to a lifetime of disquiet and striving, endless struggle, and aborted attempts at flight. Was it an accident I dropped the wine bottle, then, on the sandal strap across my big toe? Or had my fingers, however numb, retained some sense that my mind lacked? Pain flooded my foot, and I grew agitated about the spilled wine and the never-ending stream of suffering carrying me back, always, into the past. I inwardly raged about my childhood and again heard the substitute meditation teacher’s laughter. Once again I had been infantilized by fear and retreated from difficult feelings. I grew angry at the teacher, and then with myself, blaming both of us for the swelling of my toe. My anger, though, proved impermanent. In pain, I found insight. Evolution’s awkward gift, pain alerts us when something is wrong, when the body and mind are threatened by disease or indignity. Pain gave me pause. It forced me to survey the scorched grass and empty bottles and cigarette butts and, well, confront what had just happened. I was responsible for a mindless
exhaustion’s onset. But I felt a flush of gratitude, too. When I heard my husband pulling into the driveway, I could have attempted to cover the evidence of my binge. I could have thrown bottles into the recycle bin and buried dropped cigarette butts in a layer of ash. When I started dating the man who is now my husband, though, I committed to being open and honest about my past. So, I took a drag off the cigarette in my hands and waited. “Meditation didn’t go so well tonight,” I said, when he found me in the backyard. My husband surprised me by laughing. Was it the sight of me standing at the edge of a smoldering bonfire, surrounded by smoke, with a cigarette burning between my fingers? Was it the streak of ash across my face and the twig tangled in my hair? Was it that I was wearing workout clothes and drinking wine? I never asked. It didn’t seem to matter. “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him,” my husband said, after I recounted the evening’s events. “Your gut told you what you needed.” He drew the cigarette from between my fingers and took a drag. My thoughts raced over the evening, over the years and decades, until I heard a voice saying that, if the mind drifts a
Alice Hatcher | Laughing Meditation
binge; that was beyond question. But I was not entirely at fault, in the sense of being deficient in character. I had responded understandably to behavior associated, throughout my childhood and adolescence, with abuse. In my childhood, unprompted laughter or any sign of emotional dysregulation raised the specter of violence. Then, my fear-driven behavior—physical and emotional withdrawal, panicked flights and pointless playground fights, and even self-inflictions of pain to slow my racing thoughts—was adaptive in its own perverse way. It provided immediate relief from intolerable situations. In my adult life, fear-driven behavior no longer serves my interests. I know this, and yet I still sometimes lapse into self-destructive behaviors. That said, I have broken the worst patterns established during my childhood. I made a decision to walk away from my family years ago, and I have since learned to laugh, and to love in ways that are not self-destructive. I can see beyond my own pain and look into the eyes of others. I am not my parents. In my drunken attempt at gardening, I had only harmed myself, and only by bruising my toe and creating the conditions for a terrible hangover. Beside a pile of dying embers, singed cardboard, and cigarette butts, I stood on one leg, held my toe, and watched wine dribble from a dropped bottle. I sensed
thousand times, a thousand times we gently draw our attention back to the present. I felt the sting of tiny thorns embedded in my fingertips and palms, the throb of my toe, and told my husband I had just burned dozens of family letters. When my husband drew a twig from my hair and kissed the top of my head, I laughed with a sense of relief. Then I took the last drag off the cigarette, threw the butt on the fire, and watched a wisp of smoke dissipate against the night sky, and for a brief instant, everything appeared in all of its impermanence.
Pressure Drop Leah Dockrill
Our First House on Yamhill Street AE Hines
All we could afford, and more artifact than home, we stood that first day wondering why the previous owners had opened up all the walls. The red fir floors, saplings in the Tillamook Forest when Columbus first sailed, were now splintered and bowed, groaning beneath our every step. The house was as old then, as we were still new, and I should have known its decrepitude would outlast our will to improve it. Standing in the kitchen one morning, I was unsure which of my three back doors to choose, or if it was safe to leave the sawed-off broom handle propping the open window. I was yet to learn that I would never learn how to repair that window, its ancient sashâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; broken counterweights would remain broken and buried behind a century of paint. I was yet to understand metaphorâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; that home is an idea, repair, an idea, and that we loved our ideas more than we would ever love each other. That at any time, I could have chosen a door, any door, walked through it, and kept on walking.
Reincarnated Butterfly David M. Alper
Her black and white Magnavox blared the snowy show tunes of The Magic Garden and I was safe inside my Omaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s splendor. Emphysema could not offset her elegance, yet the Holocaust buttressed her forbearance, as she whispered the rules of Solitaire while I, riveted, sipped a 7-Up and swallowed her burnt, butter-filled burgers in a kitchen whose only ornament was her smile. She confessed her love of Buster Keaton and revealed her plans to be reincarnated as a vermilion-shaded butterfly. She was caramels and colognes tinged with sweetness and sadness my emerald-necklaced philosopher of hope adjudging me her goldjunge unreservedly revering nine year-old me as no one ever will again.
Sandals for Summer Mark Mulholland
Today is the day I give my dear old Mam to the sea. Today is the day I let her go. And to swim for safe ground, she will not do that, cannot do that, will not know where ground is or how to find it or, indeed, the purpose of it; all that knowing is gone. So I will allow the tide to take her and then, as confusion holds and as exhaustion takes, I will allow her to fall below the blue and fall below the green and fall to the dark as her mind is fallen to the dark, her beautiful self drifted and gone. Yes, today is the day I kill my mother. But that’s what love is. Mam. Oh, Mam. Look at you. Poor you. Poor Mam. Beautiful Mam. That’s what love is. Isn’t it? Oh, Mam, is it? And there’s the rain now. Light the rain is, gentle, though heavy drops are sprinkled amongst the fall. Out of place, the heavy drops, as if they don’t belong in the spray; but an occasional kind of rain here. Like a couple of boot-boys hanging around a convent you named this rain, and I love that. But otherwise, no weight to the water as it drifts across the cove. That, too, is one of yours, no weight to the water. Quiet today, the cove. It mostly is. Only on school holidays or warm weekends do the day trippers come. And even then it’s calm. Well, it’s Ireland, Horst insisted. It isn’t Benidorm. And we are glad
of that, aren’t we, Mam? Glad it is Ireland. Glad it isn’t Benidorm. How long have we spent looking out this window? Love? How can this be love? Letting you go isn’t my choice to make, they’ll say, isn’t anyone’s choice, not even your choice, though you are beyond making choices; and, anyway, it’s a crime, and it’s a sin. Life belongs to God. Oath belongs unto God. Promise or not, killing is killing, murder is murder, and that’s that. Or is it? Can’t you look at me? Please, Mam. No, I know you can’t. Poor you. Poor beautiful you. You are gone from me. Gone from you, too. We’d put the Christmas tree here in this corner, Mam, and I’d pile up the presents underneath it. Up and up and up they’d go and Horst would give out if I put them too close to the lights. A proper little feuer mädchen, he’d call me. And he had us celebrating on the twenty-fourth, too. A big evening meal. For my olden days, he said. Like he was asking our permission. Or our blessing. He always got it. And this is where the television used to be, before it all went away. You had your room upstairs before we put your bed here, the girls helped get it nice for you. And we made my old room across into your wet-room. Though the cove
“Love? How can this be
love? Letting you go isn’t my choice to make, they’ll say, isn’t anyone’s choice,
not even your choice.
Rain, rain, rain, Mam; all the wet days we have had together here in the cove. And it was raining that day too. Let’s think; I was five years old. And when I was older and grown up and I knew childhood as a time in itself and as a separate thing, I knew that day as the first day of the sandals. The sandals, Mam. My summers came the day you arrived home with the two buttermilk shoeboxes. I remember it so well, so clear. You were so beautiful. My every dream was that I’d grow up to be you. It was evening and Nan was making tea when I heard Mr. Harrison’s car on the gravel and I ran to the window just as you stepped out and Mr. Harrison too got out and opened the back door and took two boxes
off the back seat and he walked you over and he saw me at the window and gave me a wave and don’t smudge the glass shouted Nan and he handed you the boxes and then he waved again to me and then to you and then he got in and drove off. You came in and put the boxes on the floor and lifted me up and held me and then we sat on the floor and Nan called tea’s ready and in a minute, Mam, you called back, and we opened the buttermilk shoeboxes, two sets of folds of tissue paper, and under those wispy folds two pairs of sandals, one in a blue turquoise and one smaller set in yellow gold. Land and sea, you said. Land and sea, Ellen, that’s who we are; a forever moving changing togetherness with no absolute edge where one of us ends and the other begins. And every time we wore them you repeated that. And I’d love to hear that, would picture that drifting non-edge, would see it as a tide lapping on the sandy shore, would see it running along the rising strand, would see no definite edge but us merging into one, would see the merge moving sometimes deep sometimes shallow but always overlapping, would see us as two and yet one. Harrison’s season’s fashions brought summer in buttermilk shoeboxes. And each year a new set. And so began the long days and running
Mark Mulholland | Sandals for Summer
outside used to be your wet-room. The whole of your life now, this bed, chair, toilet, and shower; and your adventures lost and forgotten, as though they never happened and none of us existed. All the beautiful things gone. Oh Mam? Where are you? Where did you go?
under sharp showers and sunburned necks and picnics on the strand and sand between toes and big towels across shoulders and long games in the blue sea. Oh Mam. But we knew today would come. We planned it so when things began to slip, when you got the diagnosis, before it gets too bad, you said, before it gets beyond me. And you made me promise. Do not let me go like Nan, you asked, you begged, you made me promise. Do not let dignity get away from me, you insisted.
ery scrap of material or garment or product in Harrison’s Department Store, and the cost of it, and how to use it, or how to wear it, and how much to sell it for. You were good, Mam. The best ever, Mr. Harrison said, there’ll never be another Grace. That’s how the trouble was first noticed, numbers. Suddenly you couldn’t get the orders right, and you had always been able to that stuff in your head. No need for scribbling or slide-rule, Mr. Harrison used to boast, or an electronic
“One morning we were making a picnic for the girls and you couldn’t remember how to open the flask, and you
cried. And all the skills left you. And nothing would stick,
only the old stuff, until that too fell away. It isn’t fair. And that has been your thing, Mam, dignity. Let me go the way I want, you made me agree to, and where I want. And then you said please. And you put it all into that word. And you would have taken yourself off, but for Horst. But you couldn’t do that to your old Dad, couldn’t put him in that pain. So you waited and waited and waited and it got beyond you and you slipped away. A hundred and one he got to, dear old Horst. Though numbers mean nothing to you now. But they used to. You were good with numbers. From cashier girl to department supervisor to buyer to manager. You knew ev-
counter or gadget. At Harrison’s, we do it with Grace. He loved that little joke. And one morning we were making a picnic for the girls and you couldn’t remember how to open the flask, and you cried. And all the skills left you. And nothing would stick, only the old stuff, until that too fell away. It isn’t fair. Is it, Mam? One day every year your old Dad came to the school and told his story. And it was a one-room school so by the time we left we all heard the story so often that every child in the village knew all about the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe! Isn’t that right, Mam? Con Walsh joked that
determination in you, Mam, wasn’t there? And as well as falling for Nan, Horst fell in love with the Irish coast on that first viewing, even as he crashed into it, and so when the university offered him a post after the war they raced down and bought this cottage in the dip overlooking the cove and had two boys and one girl. And that girl is Grace, and that is you, Mam. You are Grace. You are Horst’s girl. I remember Miss McGoldrick being delighted with Horst’s story as it added reconnaissance and meteorologist to our vocabulary for when the school inspector visited. She wrote them up on the board and had us memorize them. And she did a good job, I can still spell them. But when the inspector visited whom did he select to tell a story but the bold Con Walsh and didn’t Con spoil the whole thing on Miss McGoldrick by constantly referring to the flaming Foche. Oh, Mam, how you laughed when I came home and told you that. You said it was the best ever. And years later when he started chasing me, you said that Con Walsh was a blackguard, but that he was a likeable blackguard, and that was the danger. Here, let me clean you again. Now, that’s better. There’s the rain’s off. It’s brightening up. We could have a fine day yet. There’s the cove.
Mark Mulholland | Sandals for Summer
they gave us Horst and in return we gave them Johnny Logan. Con said we swindled them good and proper, that we pulled a fast one there. Here, let me wipe you. Now then, all clean, that’s better. A Focke-Wulf Condor, he was in, on a reconnaissance flight over the Atlantic, in August 1940. Well, they thought they were over the Atlantic but when they popped down through the clouds they were over the coast of Kerry and flying into a mountain. He was the meteorologist on that mission, your old Dad, flying out from a German base in Northern France. Of course, he wasn’t old then. He was twenty-five and handsome. They all survived; Horst explained that the pilot pulled up at the last second and so they slid along the mountain. Isn’t that right, Mam? All the children of the cove have played out that crash-landing on the strand. The crew were taken to the Curragh, near Dublin. More like a scout camp than detention, Horst said. So he decided to stay. Horst said only a madman would want to escape Ireland. The Irish state gave them him five pounds and sent them into the city to buy some new clothes. So Horst went into a department store to buy a suit and met Nan. He asked her to marry him after only three months courting. That’s the Germans for you, they don’t hang around. They see what they want and they go straight for it. There was some of that
Teapot Bay, you named it. The long strand as the base, the short crescent strand as the handle, and the river as the spout. And when the big hurricane passed through with battered boats all over the place, the roof gone from the co-op, the great pines felled, the big cedar down at Attridge Hall, roads impassable, power lines broken, half of Twomey’s sheep missing, and everyone so agitated and frightened, you said it was nothing but a storm in a teapot and they laughed and calmed. But the sea here is dangerous. Many have been lost. And Horst insisted that everyone must learn to beat the rip current. It was Horst who discovered that the pull will take you back towards the shore farther out by the headlands, providing you don’t panic and go with it and wait until you are out and in line with the headlands, and then if you swim across it and aim for the lighthouse it’ll take you safely in. And he tested it himself as Nan followed in the punt. And so he trained every child in the village to beat that rip, and that was another day in every year that he went to the school and took us down to the shore and he taught us to win against the sea. Who knows how many he saved? If it gets you, the trick is not to fight it, but to go with it and swim across it by the headlands. You can’t fight it, it’s too strong. Survival is to wait. Otherwise the Atlantic will take you. Isn’t that right, Mam? Oh, Mam. And he’d give us those lines
from Frederick Hölderlin, when he spoke of the tide: Wo aber gefahr ist, wächst das rettende auch. Where there is danger, that which will save us also grows. Good old Horst. They built this, Nan and Horst. They built you, too, didn’t they? You don’t know your story anymore, do you? You don’t know who you are. And you told me that’s what makes us human, the contemplation of who we are. But you have a story, Mam. There is a beautiful you. As soon as Nan and Horst bought the cottage here in the dip above the short strand they set to making it good, cutting the paddock under the north woods and planting the orchard and the onion patch to the south. Horst had a thing about sweet onions after that airfield in France. And he’d put a knife through one and here, Ellen, he’d say, here is the Earth circling a core with the knife and then we have the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, and the thermosphere as he moved the knife out through the onion layers. I knew those atmospheric distinctions before I went to school. And what was it, Mam? Cooler, cold, warmer, cooler, very cold, warm; though I could never remember the numbers, the miles out and the temperature lost or gained. But you did. You knew the numbers. Two weeks he’s gone. We found him in the onion patch. Every weekend, he went down to the strand to gather seaweed and bring it up. How many barrows did he gather
the smoke rising as Nan or Horst added turf or wood to the fire. And winter would go and spring would come and bring swallows, the first to see one would get cake, and we’d listen for the first cuckoo in the woods, the first to hear one would get cake, and Horst loved to be first and win cake, he loved cake, and the furze would burst to yellow in the hedges, stonechats, wagtail, bullfinch, linnet, and robin busy in the laneways, and the ditches with whitethorn and blackthorn hiding badger, fox, pheasant, and stoat. May would scatter bluebells in the woods and the wild rhododendron would break into showy purple, the May mornings loud with birdsong bouncing around the cottage, and June would bring high gliding swifts above fat pigeons speeding from the woods where rooks and jackdaws called above hedges of tall foxgloves and leafy ferns with fingers of bramble stretching over lanes and Horst would have the punt on the water under the first terns of summer. July and August would bring flag iris to the ditches and the day-trippers and holidaymakers came, the mams and the children on the strand for the day and the dads mackerel fishing and then in September we’d have the cove again to ourselves when we’d swim after school and
Mark Mulholland | Sandals for Summer
over the years? You used to ask that. And you worked it out. You gave it a number. Nothing else on this side of the cove, the cottage stands alone in the dip. That’s what attracted them. Nothing but scrub to the lighthouse; and nothing but woods to the farms of Crowley’s and Dineen’s on the north road. Horst said it was like having the place to ourselves with the village over there for convenience. But we loved over there too, didn’t we, Mam? Every day you walked me to school. Every day. You never missed one. And you kissed and hugged me at the school-gate and some others thought that odd and you told me that a family who hides emotion not just hides love but loses love. And then you’d take the bus into Harrison’s and Nan would walk me home in the evenings and I’d wait for you by this window. And love. We never hid it, and we never lost it. But our days here are lost to you now, Mam. They are only with me. And I must remember for you. And I do. In cold January the herring came and you’d wrap me in my new Christmas hat and scarf and coat and we’d walk on the headland and count grey seals and then look farther out over the simmering sprat sea and you’d point and name them: kittiwakes, gulls, razorbills, guillemots, divers, cormorants, shags, and is that a mermaid, maybe, not sure, hard to tell, could be a good looking seal. And we’d look over water to the village and the farms and to the house in the sheltered dip and
pick blackberries as the swallows assembled on village wires. In October we’d walk to school through leaf-fall and you’d call out a shore of lapwing and curlew and godwit and oystercatcher and golden plover and heron and egret and on weekends we’d gather wood for the winter, and then came the blue cold of November and the storms of December that brought us fieldfares and redwings and then Christmas and the big meal on the twenty-fourth for Horst’s alte zeiten. And you thought me those hedgerows as we passedby on the school walk: hawthorn and holly and elder and wild privet and hornbeam and ash and crab apple and sycamore and Spanish chestnut. Those were your days, Mam. All of that was you. But where is it now? Where are you? Here let me wipe your face. Now, that’s better. Oh, Mam, if you gave me a million days alone to ponder and I would not have imagined today. But you knew that. Don’t let me go like Nan, you insisted, made me swear to it, made me promise, made it our oath. That fall to paranoia and anger. The screaming at night until sleep took. Don’t let me fall from Grace, you said. And we laughed at that, for a while. Look at you now in your swim suit and your new sandals. And look at me in mine. Land and sea, Mam. Here, keep this towel around you. I’m sick in the head, you said, and we laughed at that too for a while, until it got you, piece by piece it whittled you away. And doctors?
They don’t know, do they, Mam? It isn’t necessarily hereditary or genetic, they said. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. And just because your mother went that way doesn’t mean anything. But it did. Didn’t it, Mam? Each one presents different, is all they could say in the end. It’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault. Here, let me hold your hand. He called this year, old Mr. Harrison. He never misses. He came and took two shoe boxes from the back seat. He’s never missed a year. I took him in and he sat with you. You didn’t know him, thought him a stranger. But he stayed and sat with you. I let you be alone. And he spoke to you and I guess he told you of those things between you. And when he was leaving I saw him broken and I knew that he was in love with you all this time. But I always knew that. How many years, Mam? Fifty? A wife and children he had when you started at Harrison’s, I guess it wasn’t the done thing then to pack up and go. And you were so young then. So he’s loved you from a near distance for fifty years. A near distance, yet he might as well have been watching from Mars. And yet, he never stopped. That’s love. And you, Mam? Down the gravel, hand in hand, and along the lane or across the strand with fuchsia hedges along the path and Twomey’s sheep in the rough grass to one side and Crowley’s pasture and sheds to the other, gorse and hawthorn bursting from unkempt patches of boundary fence
“So he’s loved you from a near distance for fifty
years. A near distance, yet he might as well have been watching from Mars. And yet, he never stopped.
priest’s bungalow and the rise where the new houses are now and on past the playground and the football field and O’Driscoll’s pub and Saint Finnbarr’s and then over the narrow stone bridge to the school. The holy trinity of an Irish village you named that arrangement; the football field, the pub, and the church. Your favourite part of your day, you used to say, the morning walk. But it’s gone from you now. Isn’t
it, Mam? And remember Miss McGoldrick having a thing about there being no father and making an issue of it with a form to be filled for some outing and you giving her no truck and proclaiming no, we don’t need one of those, real loud in front of the other mams and dads and them laughing, knowing you as they did, and loving you for it, except Miss McGoldrick who got flustered? No, you don’t remember. You don’t know, but they love you here, Mam. And one fine day Miss McGoldrick took us down to the long strand for a picnic and Mad Dan Twomey started shouting at us from the sheep field. Knickers, he shouted, knickers, and then he’d duck down in the grass, but we could still see his cap. He always shouted knickers at us, if he caught us passing the farm. Anyway, Miss McGoldrick said she was going to get the guards and then at the top of his voice and in front of us children didn’t he shout ah feck off you cunty bollocks and then he ran away. Miss McGoldrick didn’t know where to put us. Poor old Nan was shocked when I told her that evening. But you, Mam, you laughed and laughed and laughed and said it was the best ever. And then one day, Nan forgot to come. And another day, she got lost passing the coastguard
Mark Mulholland | Sandals for Summer
and elderberry that we gathered in autumn for syrup, and the day a big brown hare broke across us from Twomey’s field into Crowley’s yard and you said in that direction lives a Hatter and in that direction lives a March Hare, visit either if you like, they’re both mad and I said that Mad Dan Twomey was a capper and not a hatter and on we went to the crossroads and by the co-op shop and the coastguard terrace of Crighton, Scannell, Hodnett and Walsh, and on past the
terrace and Fred Hodnett had to help her. And another day Nan was taking me home and a car passed too fast for Nan’s liking and she ran for the driver and called him a cunty bollocks and threw a stone after him, and when I told you, you didn’t laugh. That was when you knew. Wasn’t it, Mam? And from then Horst came to the school to take me home. And when things got bad, you and Horst refused to send her into a care-home. A keep for the lost and abandoned, you said after you visited. A circle of wheelchairs, a ring of despair. So you kept Nan here and loved her. But don’t let it happen to me, you made me swear to. Don’t let me go that far. And so we watched Nan go until what was left was a kind of nothing but ignorance and fear and confusion and delirium and hallucinations and rage. And the madness. The spoon-feeding of the diced and liquidised in the high-chair, and then the feed tubes. The incontinence and the cleaning. The infections as her body failed. The laboured breath. No walking. And Nan had loved walking. No talking. And Nan had loved talking. No contemplation. Gone. All gone. Gone with the absolute departure of self. And you insisted, don’t let me go like that. Let me go, you said, when I am still me. The sun is out, Mam. The rain is gone. Though it wasn’t rain, was it? Ellen, Horst said to me when I was three or four and I had given the weather the wrong classifi-
cation, there is rain and there is a shower. The difference is the clouds. Rain comes from a layer over a very large area, like altostratus, zum beispiel. But a shower comes from an individual cloud, like cumulus or cumulonimbus. So it is possible, if the one cloud doesn’t move, to have a shower for many hours and yet it is also possible to be under a wide layer and for the rain to last but moments. But a shower is still a shower and rain is still rain, no matter the length of time it falls.
“Where there is danger, that which will save us also
grows. Oh Mam, does it? Let’s go to the water and
let the waves roll on us.
And how will I know which is which? I asked. Look up, he said and I laughed and he didn’t know why I thought that was funny. Oh, Mam, good old Horst, he was very German. But Horst could have looked up all day and he’d never have seen a couple of boot-boys hanging around a convent. No, only you could see that. Well, Mam, look how beautiful the cove is. Look, there’s Attridge Hall, the spindly pines that survived the big wind are still standing. A storm in a teapot, you said. And there’s the school by the stone bridge. And when the whooper swans came to
sea. Wo aber gefahr ist, wächst das rettende auch. That’s what Horst used to say, isn’t it Mam? Hölderlin, wasn’t it? Where there is danger, that which will save us also grows. Oh Mam, does it? Let’s go to the water and let the waves roll on us. You liked waves. And you knew waves. You understood them. You taught me that waves begin and grow from some distant indefinite energy or push, immeasurable you said, and unknowable, some movement that gives energy onto water in Africa or America or Ardnahinch and that what we get is that energy running across the ocean until it lands in the cove and it crashes and dissipates to sound and sand. You taught me that as a wave rises, gravity pulls it down, but as it does so it pushes it forward and drives it on. And you understood that pull and push, didn’t you, Mam? You understood the shore. You understood that what comes is only energy, not water; that the sea rises and falls but stays where it is, that only energy travels. And Horst told us about research that measured waves that began in Antarctica and reached Alaska. But you understood too that sooner or later, near or far, waves die, that the energy moves on, that nothing remains, that nothing is permanent, that everything changes. And there
Mark Mulholland | Sandals for Summer
winter on the river, you called them the wild swans at school. And there’s the church and pub and the football field, the holy trinity of an Irish village. And there’s the playground where you’d push me on the swing. And there’s the new houses on the rise and the priest’s bungalow and the coastguard terrace of Crighton, Scannell, Hodnett and Walsh, and the co-op shop and the crossroads where we’d take the bus to town and the farm yards of Dineen’s and Crowley’s and there’s Twomey’s field where Mad Dan did his shouting, and there is the lane where we’d gather the elderberries for syrup and the blackberries for jam and walk the path between fuchsia hedges, and above the farms is the woods where the five beeches are gathered over Crowley’s farm, like a bunch of heavies at a street corner, you said, and then alone in the shelter is this house and paddock and orchard and onion patch, and then beyond us, out towards the headland and remote of shelter, are the bent buckled branches of wind-shorn gorse and hawthorn and scrub until they give to nothing but the stony ground of the lighthouse. So many times we stood there and searched the sea for dolphins and basking sharks and the blow of migrating whales. And look at the seaweed over the rocks. How many barrows? You used to know. You liked numbers. Does any of it register? No, I know it doesn’t. It’s all gone. And the sea. Our beautiful
was something in that for you. Something you gathered. What was that? That it begins with an unknowable? Immeasurable, you said. That it begins beyond our seeing in some remoteness too far or too strange to recognize as a beginning but that it grows and travels through but takes nothing of that through thing with it, but that it can give life and that it can take life until it reaches the shore of its ending and crashes to sound and sand, a ripple of reflected light rising and returning as the energy moves on. But we can know the beginning, Mam. Isn’t that it? Isn’t that what you found? That it is here, unhidden. For it begins in a star. Our star. It begins with light that creates heat that creates movement that creates a push. It all begins with light. It all returns to light. All is light. That’s what it is, Mam. That’s what you gathered. Land and sea, a forever moving changing flowing energy with no absolute edge or beginning or end. Yes, a million days given to ponder and I would not have imagined today. But that was then, when the world was young. And this is now. You want to play in the water. Okay, Mam. Let’s go. Come on, Mam. Let’s go for a swim.
Frozen Flowers 4 Nicoletta Poungias
The Art of Writing Richard Hedderman
I rearrange the paint cans, moving the rustier ones to the back of the shelf, check the opera schedule on the radio, call the exterminator, look up used book stores in our dog-eared yellow pages. Then Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll study my fingernails awhile until they glow with a cool, interplanetary light. I move on to the fingertips where the body harbors its strange, translucent labyrinths, then imagine the hand itself and its 27 shining ridges of bone, all to keep me from thinking about what I really fear: the emptiness, blinding like a terrible fever. What I truly love is when itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s over, when the afternoon light is behind me, the light that illumined my hand hauling the pen across the trackless plains. Then I emerge into the dying evening light, heart weightless as a dragonfly, mind like a colander, admiring the spike weed, the thunderheads.
The Aftermath of Tragedy:
An Interview with Katherine Flannery Dering Dylann Cohn-Emery, Julie Darpino, Kaitlyn Gaffney, & Leo Kirschner Making sense and finding purpose after experiencing great tragedy in life is something with which many people struggle. It is not unusual for authors to take pen to paper when exploring pain and grief in such times. But for author Katherine Flannery Dering, family heartbreak provided the opportunity to examine not only the negative, but also the positive of life. Previously, Dering turned the plight of her brother’s schizophrenia and subsequent death into a emotional journey of self-discovery and staunch advocacy for mental illness in her memoir, Shot in the Head: a Sister’s Memoir, a Brother’s Struggle. Now the former teacher, full-time mother, and retired businesswoman explores another family tragedy— the untimely death of her nephew— to reconcile her feelings in her new collection of poetry titled Aftermath (Finishing Line Press). Dering comments that when we are suddenly forced to face reality’s hardships, “we can crumple, or we can learn from it, and grow in wisdom.” In this conversation with Glassworks, Katherine Flannery Dering discusses how keeping the writing specific and personal leads to greater sharing with her
readers, and explains how focusing on unique moments in life and in nature can put us on the road to overcoming grief. ~ Glassworks Magazine: Given your previous work with your memoir Shot in the Head: A Sister’s Memoir, a Brother’s Struggle, which centered around your brother’s mental illness, why did you choose to write your latest book Aftermath as a poetry chapbook to reconcile your emotions in the wake of your nephew’s passing? What does the genre of poetry offer you in terms of expressing yourself that memoir or other prose writing does not? Katherine Flannery Dering: Poetry is a distillation. It has allowed me to share a period of my life with readers, emotion by emotion, without a lot of set up. While writing Shot in the Head, I found myself looking for ways to write more sparingly—to get to the essential emotion of the moment. At times, even in a work that started as straight prose, I found myself opting to write in poetic form. Take, for example, the awful revolving door of mental illness health care. My prose, to me, sounded repetitive instead of
emotional. He crashed and became psychotic. He was taken to the ER, they kept him for a few days, they released him. Repeat. Repeat. A reader can’t feel how traumatic that all was. So instead of writing about three or four of those instances, I wrote a poem: “Hospitalization, stabilization, release, decline, / psychosis, fights, rehospitalization or jail.” The choice of poetry for Aftermath came about very differently. While I was ostensibly working on my mystery novel, which I suspect I will never finish, I instead repeatedly found myself inspired to write a poem about losing Nick. And then, as I was dealing with the emotions of caring for my daughter-inlaw’s mother on her last afternoon, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. To process my feelings, I tried writing a poem as a pantoum. The discipline of writing in a rigid form helped me sift through the day. A couple of weeks later, as I was editing that poem, I rejected the form, picked out the lines I liked best, and wrote a different poem. It is that second poem that became part of Aftermath. I took a poetry class at the Hudson Valley Writers Center during that time, and we were asked to write a poem a day. I wrote many poems about death, aging, loss, etc. I became fascinated with “The Cloisters.” I liked several of the poems that came out of all this, but somehow, only a few of them stood
well on their own; they worked better as a grouping. I was musing about what to do with them when I came across someone’s chapbook, and I thought—that’s it.
“I spend some days just
watching nature outside my
metaphors come to me.
GM: The exploration of death is a common theme found in your work, inspired in part by your personal experiences. How has writing poetry led to new discoveries about death? KFD: My writing is first of all an expression of what I have experienced or learned, conscious or subconscious. And then comes the further experience of sitting with it, letting it all sink in—the realization that I, too, will die in the not-toodistant future. Back in college metaphysics classes, one professor began each class with, “Why being rather than nothingness?” Martin Buber had his “I and thou.” Victor Frankl wrote of finding meaning as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. As I rewrite, discard, and try again, I ruminate on it all. I read other poets like Rumi or Kabir. I hold in my hand the prayer card from Nick’s funeral or my brother’s funeral and
GM: You strongly utilize nature in expressing your ideas about death, as in your poem “Ebb Tide.” What are you looking to find in nature that would help us better understand death? What do you find rewarding about using nature as a metaphor? KFD: I think the natural world speaks to all of us on a personal, familiar level. We have all seen trees. We know the beautiful green buds of spring will become dry and brown, then fall in a dead, brown heap. Many of us have stood on an ocean beach and watched waves crash against the shore. The line of rotting seaweed at the high tide line after a storm tells us something about violence and change. We’ve watched a hawk circle in the sky, and we know it looks for its next meal, and that a small animal has to die so that the hawk can live. We feel it—the circle of life—in our pores. Now that I am retired from full time employment, I spend some days just watching nature outside my window, so the metaphors come to me. I hope that most readers will grasp them easily because they, too, have seen something similar to what I have seen, felt the breeze ruffle their hair, watched a small bird seemingly disappear into the sky, or smelled the rank of rotting fish and seaweed.
GM: In your poems “Lunchtime Carp” and “Solstice, 7AM,” among others, you observe very succinct moments and expand on them poetically. How do you choose which observations to explore in your poems? KFD: I usually start to write within a few seconds of some prompt. I am busy with this or that, in a bank meeting, arranging for a voter registration drive, whatever. And then I have a few quiet moments and I look around me, hear a cardinal chirping, see a cluster of foot-long carp that remind me of calico kittens nursing, and I jot it down. Later that day it becomes a poem. I am up early with the summer sun and a beautiful goldfinch catches my eye, but flies away before I can take a picture of it. A fawn jumps out into the road and I almost hit it (which prompted a poem not in Aftermath.) Watching TV or sitting through a business meeting doesn’t usually prompt anything. You can’t catch a fish while sitting on your couch. You have to get a rod and reel and some bait, head out to a pier, drop your line in the water, and sit there for a while, see what bites.
An Interview with Katherine Flannery Dering
I wonder what I really do believe. So it becomes iterative.
GM: What is your intention behind the different structural choices throughout Aftermath,
such as in the shaped poem “Simplon Pass” and the use of caesura in “Lost Child?” KFD: Structure follows content. “Simplon Pass” is a reflective poem written long after the events. And its theme is not only the journey through the mountain pass, but also the concept of before and after, how life changes due to a deeply felt experience. “Lost Child” is that choking, gasping realization of a terrible truth in the moment. The separate sections of the “Labyrinth at Garrison Institute” mirror how my mind wandered as I walked the winding path. Claiming the “sonnet” designation for my at first playful “Ninth Night Sonnet” was a way to telegraph that it would turn in the last couplet. GM: In “Doric Loop,” you were able to weave a connective tissue between personal despair at a funeral and the themes found in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” Can you talk about how you find such connections between literature and real life? KFD: I have no idea how that works. Really. I can only guess. Anyone who has ever sat through a three hour wake of a loved one knows the complex emotions felt. Nick’s wake was like an open wound, and my mind wanted to wander. When I found myself writing about it the next day, the connection to Poe started when I looked up the words casket and
coffin in a dictionary. It was a little like focusing on the pantoum form that I described in Q1. By immersing myself in definitions I found an intellectual escape from grief—however momentary. The definitions led to the word casque, which led to poor Fortunato, etc. All stream of consciousness. That whole poem is my repeated effort to not face what was happening and being pulled back to the reality of the moment: the closed casket in the front of the room. GM: In addition to your tragic family experiences, how has your authorial voice been shaped by other things in your life, such as your professional and scholarly background? KFD: In a poetry class I took years ago, April Bernard, the instructor, began by saying that we all exist in a river of poetry. The words of anyone from Shakespeare, to Whitman, to Paul McCartney influence what we write. I’d expand that to say we all live in a river of ethnic mores and generational music and gender expectations, as well as poetry. I attended a Jesuit college, Le Moyne College, where our required curriculum included about 30 credits—ten classes—in philosophy and theology, in addition to my major, which was Spanish. I had originally planned to teach Spanish literature on the college level, but changed my mind and chose a practical
Ellen Bass, and Jory Graham, whose works reveal our common humanity through the personal, the everyday, and sometimes our yearning for the eternal. I’m also fascinated by cross genre work. In an MFA class a few years ago I came across Anne Carson’s Nox, which opened my eyes to cross genre writing as well as to the elegy as an art form. In our technologically advanced publishing world we artists can share more than words with our readers. David McCullough’s wonderful bookin-a-box, an illustrated edition of 1776, includes loose facsimiles of original documents he used while researching for the book. It gives readers a tactile feel for the thrill he experienced while doing original research. When you’re 70 years old, there are so many experiences that influence your writing, it is difficult to pinpoint them all.
An Interview with Katherine Flannery Dering
career in business to put food on the table. Still, the metaphysical stayed with me. Christian imagery (if not the faith) stayed with me. The desire to read and research stayed with me. Travel influenced me. I lived in Switzerland for two years as a kid, and I studied one summer in Mexico and two summers in Spain, where I worked at a beach resort near Valencia and studied in the medieval university town of Salamanca. On a visit to Istanbul 20 years ago, I came across a gigantic, upside-down statue of the head of the Gorgon, Medusa, buried underwater for almost 2,000 years in a cistern under the city. I was in Glastonbury one summer when hundreds of women in flowing robes celebrated the Goddess with singing and parades. Experiences like these opened up in me an array of interests in art, mythology, and pre-Christian religions, which inform much of my writing, perhaps as a counterpoint to the Catholic world I was raised in.
“We all live in a river of ethnic mores and generational music and gender expectations, as well as poetry.” GM: What about your literary influences? KFD: On a literary level, I have to pay homage to poets Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, Marie Howe,
GM: Can you talk about your advocacy on mental health and drug abuse and how it connects to your writing? Do you feel like you have a responsibility in enacting social change?
KFD: It’s another iterative combination. When I wrote my memoir about caring for my brother Paul, I had no idea of how many people suffer from a serious mental illness (SMI). I didn’t know that Paul wasn’t someone who accidentally slipped through the cracks; he was one of millions of people with SMI who are ignored by our mental health system. Four percent of our population suffers from SMI—that’s over ten million—people in the U. S. alone. And the problem is worldwide. Every one of these millions of people has a family and childhood friends and long-time neighbors who suffer along with them. I learned about the system as I was writing, then promoting, my book. I realized that I could help. I could connect with people who are dealing with a troubled family member; I could tell them they are not alone, give them courage. I could let advocacy groups use my story to illustrate the problem to lawmakers. Telling people that 72,000 people died in the U.S. of an opioid overdose in 2017 is just numbers. Showing how that sorrow impacted me and my family helps to put a face on the tragedy that is substance use disorder (SUD) and its aftermath. Aftermath started out simply as one woman processing grief and moving from that to anticipating her own death. But through the particulars of my experiences, I believe others can more fully grasp the SUD tragedy, as
well as face death and dying a little more openly. GM: How do you view the role of writers in general when involved with social advocacy? KFD: There are other people— social scientists, doctors, and researchers—who can write about the facts. And there are wonderful non-fiction writers who can write, and have written, about SUD in America—books like Beth Macy’s Dopesick. And there are wonderful books out there about death and dying and recovering from grief. Some of them started with the desire to advocate for change. I found nonfiction difficult, though, as the temptation to go into didactic rants could be deadly. So I come from the other direction; I call myself an accidental advocate. I write the personal and readers can use it to expand to the universal if they want. I came into adulthood in a Catholic college atmosphere which emphasized the need to give back and help those less fortunate than ourselves. That said, I don’t feel it is my responsibility to change the world, exactly. It’s more of a feeling that I have learned some things from my experiences that will inform, and might help, others. GM: How did your writing change in the aftermath of those experiences?
An Interview with Katherine Flannery Dering
KFD: When I was reflecting on that two year period of my life, I realized how different were the aftermaths of a violent, pointless death like a teenagerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heroin overdose, my emotional efforts to comfort my friend Carolyn as she struggled to breathe, and the peaceful death of a man in his seventies with his family at his side. All three died, but under vastly different circumstances. When I tried to write about death in a general way, it brought out some dreadful cliches; I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t delete those efforts fast enough! But sticking with the particulars of individual moments allowed me to help readers into my world so we could share the experiences directly. The emotion follows (I hope). We all go blithely through our early years, believing that we will live forever, despite the obvious proof that we will not. And then something happens that shoves reality right up to our face, and we can ignore it no longer. We can crumple, or we can learn from it, and grow in wisdom. That is the aftermath. And in that aftermath, we find a way to deal with reality.
No Discernible Fault Line Leah Dockrill
Waking Up in a Rented Flat in Didsbury, England Donna Pucciani
Will the water in the shower scald or chill today? What does it matter?
The birds are chirping outside a drizzled window, daring the sky to lower itself one more centimeter.
The village is smothered in mist—
the fishmonger on the lane pairing silver-scaled haddock with fresh cod, mussels asleep in their dark shells, still smelling of the sea,
the butcher hanging joints of beef on hooks above glass cases of chops and sausages made from local pigs, and the cheese shop,
with Lancashire’s best, Devonshire wheels waxed and ready, fragrant Stilton on parslied trays, jars of jam and honey.
Even the local pubmaster is up, airing out the carpets of stale beer before the lunch crowd descends.
Buses rumble past, their windows steamed by the breath of tired workers. There’s morning coffee at St. James.’
A creeping senility engulfs the rest home on the corner, its inhabitants smiling or crying for no apparent reason,
showing us how to live
within the bonds of nothingness on a planet facing an invisible sun.
And tea is brewing in china pots all over England.
Zoo Dream Lynn McGee
A circus elephant is cinched into a howdah. The sequined saddle lurches and jangles with each leaden step. Her eyes are hooded, lashes white, and the spotlight makes them pink. A terrier leaps to her trunk— she lifts him to her back. A beach ball rolls on stage— she sways, and swats it back. She misses the kind touch of another elephant’s trunk. She misses walking in a space that is not a circle. She hurls herself into the bleachers, smears the front row in a mash of organs, bones and blood. It’s happening, I tell someone standing beside me. How long could she pretend to be something she’s not?
Sunken Branch Rodrigo Etcheto
Bluffton was sticky. The humidity left its mark on everything; it kept hair wet, it curled the pages of books, it kept puddles of rainwater pooled on the pavement for days. Elizabeth wished she could grab it. If only it were palpable, a cushion for the soft thud of her footsteps on the wooden steps down the side of her rented house, allowing her to sneak away from Miss Grace, the widowed landlady, without conversation. Miss Grace was one of the few things Elizabeth had told her husband about, in detail, when she first came to South Carolina. Miss Grace spent the majority of her day hosting neighbors on her front porch, fueling them with a seemingly endless supply of sweet tea and cookies. Between gossip sessions, she’d fit a sunhat over her short, brown curls and walk through the gardens for trimming and weeding. Elizabeth typically spoke to Miss Grace and her friends through the mesh of the screened porch when she was on her way out—all of their conversations seemed to begin with an invitation to join them and ended with her landlady perplexed about how much time Elizabeth spent at the hospital. When Wilson asked for pictures of the apartment, Elizabeth sent a picture of the kitchen, the most
presentable part, and pictures of her landlady’s gardens and house instead. The apartment was enough, but Wilson would want her to have more. He wouldn’t understand that it was what she wanted, that it was her choice to fill her refrigerator with beer and bottled water, the freezer with pizza. She didn’t mind the white walls, the coastal TJ Maxx decorations that said “Life is better by the beach” and “Sea you later” that hung on either side of the door. She didn’t mind the brown stain under the oven or that there was no real closet. It all reminded her of being twenty again: sleeping in her underwear with two oscillating fans trying to push the humidity away, improvising in the kitchen with the limited utensils, wandering the town in her free time. Wilson would, and has, stressed comfort and a feeling of home, how she shouldn’t be alone, not now, not even six months after the fact. But she didn’t want to be at home or feel at home. She really did spend most of her time in the hospital, anyway. Elizabeth started her car before she shut the door, afraid she might suffocate if she did it the other way around. The engine groaned in protest of the one hundred degree heat, the AC on full blast from the night before blew air that felt hot enough
with no income, her parents several states away, lofty career goals on her mind. It was always their baby. “What if it doesn’t work?” Elizabeth asked Wilson in bed one night. They lay with their backs facing the middle of the bed, not looking for each other in the dark. “If she changes her mind?” Wilson asked. “Well, that. But what if we get this baby and we can’t do it? What if I don’t feel connected?” “Lizzy,” he said, dragging out the last syllable, making her name sound as tired as this conversation. “The baby won’t be—” “—biologically ours,” Wilson said. “Medically it’ll matter, I’ll give you that since you tend to think that way,” he said as he rolled onto his back. She pictured him smiling in the dark; she could always see his bizarre smile, the way he bit his lower lip towards the corner so it was lopsided. He reached towards his wife and rested a hand on her arm. “But other than that it won’t matter. We want to raise a child and be a family, and we will.” ~ Elizabeth walked down the hall of the small hospital to the radiology suite, nodding at the handful of people she
Christina McCabe | Ten Days
to melt plastic. Her phone rattled in the car’s cup holder as she pulled out of the small gravel lot off Miss Grace’s driveway. It was a text from Wilson, seven hundred miles away in PA. She wondered where he was: maybe in the kitchen with coffee and the paper, maybe in the rocker in Christopher’s room. She felt her stomach churn, her grip immediately tightened on the wheel and she gasped at the heat in the black leather that scalded her hands like hot water. She sighed, having arrived back at Christopher. Everything was about Christopher. ~ The social worker had told them it was a possibility. “But it’s very unlikely,” she said quickly, after Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “Don’t worry about it. And you’re lucky; until recently, birthmothers had three months to change their minds. That’s been shortened to two weeks.” She and Wilson spent two years waiting—waiting to be moved up the list, waiting to start the classes and interviews, waiting to meet the birthmother. But Elizabeth knew those two weeks would be harder than the past two years. She wondered if the baby could be kept at arms length for that period, if once they had their child, they could think of them as a guest. But as she signed the papers she knew it was impossible. This wasn’t Hannah’s baby, it was their baby. Hannah had even said that. She was a college student
recognized. She’d looked for a position like this one, temporary, when she felt ready to go back to work. The term “Locum Tenens” wasn’t very appealing, but the offer was; approximately three months at a small hospital Bluffton, South Carolina while the Chief of Radiology was being treated for prostate cancer. She got a salary and a paid apartment; the money helped, but it wasn’t why she was doing it. Her mother had thought of it as recovery, Wilson thought of it as running away.
says hi, he misses you. He can’t wait to visit next month. I’m off to work, just wanted to wish you a happy week two.” Elizabeth put the phone back in her pocket and turned toward her computer. ~ It was a Tuesday evening when Elizabeth got the text from Hannah. “Baby, West Penn” was all it said. Wilson didn’t answer his phone until the third call, but when he did he only asked, “Baby?” “Baby,” Elizabeth said.
heartbeat shook her entire body, feeling
more like the bass that rattled the old venues at the
concerts she used to go to. When she arrived at the office suite she shared with the resident and the techs, there was a stack of charts waiting in her inbox. On her computer she’d find files of scans to review, pictures of intricate feet to scour for broken bones, placements of feeding tubes and endotracheal tubes to confirm, abdominal scans to review. She’d have hours ahead of her to dedicate to looking for problems that people can fix. Remembering the text from Wilson, she pulled her phone from her pocket. He’d sent a picture of their dog, Jem, lying in their bedroom with a tennis ball. He wrote, “Jem
She stood on the front porch of their house waiting for Wilson to pull up. She bounced on her toes trying to keep warm as a light snow fell around her, phone comfortable in the palm of her hand where it had been for the past few weeks. Their Christopher was three days early. When Wilson pulled up to the house she skipped down the steps. “Our son is here,” she sang. “Yes he is,” he said, putting an elbow on the console to lean over and kiss her. He reached towards her face to wipe off the tears that she hadn’t noticed. A car honked behind them; they were sitting on their
head. Elizabeth briefly thought of last year when her youngest niece was born, and her big sister kept calling her “baby burrito.” In that hospital room, seeing a woman with a child had hurt so much she’d left quicker than she should have. But in this hospital room she smiled and laughed, clapping her hand over her mouth, feeling the warm tears that had settled on the brim of her lips. Christopher’s tiny fists reached towards the ceiling, his pink face contorted as he moved around in his swaddling, tiny, soft gasps escaped his mouth. She didn’t look at Hannah until the small bundle of blankets was moving towards her, Hannah’s shaky arms extending. “Oh Hannah,” she said breathily, taking her son from his birth mother. “Thank you for our son,” Elizabeth said through a muffled sob. Hannah cried, too; she nodded slowly and sighed when Elizabeth lifted the baby from her arms. Their little boy, swaddled in his hospital blanket, his tiny heart beating against her heaving chest. ~ Elizabeth knew she couldn’t avoid her hostess for much longer, so when Miss Grace asked for the tenth time, she accepted an invitation to sit on the screened in porch for an undetermined amount of time and
Christina McCabe | Ten Days
narrow street lined with parked cars. “Sorry!” Wilson yelled, raising his hand in the rearview mirror. “I’m having a baby!” he said more quietly. A nurse greeted them in the sanitized hallway where they paced. The nurse, who was assisting with the delivery, told Elizabeth and Wilson that they would need to wait there. Elizabeth had wanted, so much, to be present for the birth. But ultimately it was Hannah’s decision, and an audience during labor did not seem like something she wanted. When the social worker arrived, jogging down the hall in high heels, briefcase flapping behind her, she waved to Elizabeth and Wilson as if she were chasing a fly from her face. She knocked on the door that Hannah was presumably behind and disappeared. Thirty minutes later she was back, waving them in. “He’s here,” Wilson whispered, his warm breath curling around the folds of her ear. Elizabeth’s heartbeat shook her entire body, feeling more like the bass that rattled the old venues at the concerts she used to go to. She wobbled as she took a step towards the social worker, the woman who knew everything about their lives and their dreams, who they’d been working with for nine months, who counseled them day after day, who at one point had aided in the happiest moment of Elizabeth’s life, this day. Christopher was wrapped in a blue waffled blanket, a blue hat on his
chat. It was stifling; there was a soft breeze generated by the wicker ceiling fan, but only so much could be done in the midday September heat. She waited for Miss Grace to bring the tea and cookies and looked around the porch—mason jars filled with different kinds of shells sat on window frames and shelves next to books about gardening, vases of cut flowers sat on two end tables, above which hung a black and white portrait. A Black man and woman on their wedding day. They smiled weakly, their hands joined (hers gloved, his not,) close to their bodies, which were nearly touching. In the background, trees draped with Spanish moss over endless grass. “Your parents?” Elizabeth asked when Miss Grace came back with the provisions. She turned, slowly, to look at the picture, though she knew there was only one in the room. “Me. I’m old,” she said, laughing. “My Milton passed over twenty years ago. Your husband is up North?” “Yes, he’s at our house in Pittsburgh,” Elizabeth said, accepting a small plate and glass from Miss Grace. “What are you doing down here, then?” She explained the Locum Tenens, and that they were fine apart, that this was something Elizabeth always wanted to do. The last part, of course, was a lie: the only thing
Elizabeth wanted to do was hold Christopher and be his mother. She explained her duties in the hospital, what being a radiologist meant, and included that she’s a certified Sign Language interpreter. “Sign? I ain’t ever seen a deaf person around here.” Her brother was deaf, Elizabeth explained. It was her second language. “I’ve got sisters, five of them, and three of us still live in Bluffton,” she said. Their conversation went like this for over an hour. Each time there was a lull, Elizabeth would search for a way out, but Miss Grace was quicker, and would ask her another question as though she were reading them from a list. Do you get tired of all that snow? What do your parents do? Is their property big? Do you like gardens? The question came eventually, like it always does. “Are you two thinking about kids?” her landlady asked, innocently. “We are, we are,” Elizabeth said, nodding her head. Her typical answer. In the silence that followed she’d plunge into mourning all over again and she’d curse the endometriosis that rendered her infertile. She’d feel like a failure, incapable of doing something that women have been doing since the very beginning. She wished people wouldn’t ask. If they didn’t ask, Elizabeth
wouldn’t ask. If they didn’t ask, Elizabeth
have to remember...
“I’d better let you go,” Miss Grace said after an hour and a half. “Come help me in the yard sometime; I could use your long arms on the shrubs,” she added. That evening, Elizabeth made the short drive to Hilton Head Island. With an ice cream cone, she walked down Coligney Beach: cool, powdery sand flowing between her toes, mosquitos nipping at her calves and arms, pelicans arranged in arrowhead patterns flying into the wind above her, their wings flapping and flapping with little progress being
made. Families littered the beach: parents trying to pull children from the warm surf for dinner, a handful of kids flying kites, another dozen on a bike ride. When Christopher was theirs, she’d imagined their first beach trip, how they’d go to North Carolina where Elizabeth had vacationed as a girl. They’d wait until Christopher was three; he’d be more mobile and talking, interested in the world around him. He’d already know Sign Language so he could talk to Elizabeth’s brother and his kids; they’d all be on the trip together. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, Christopher’s entire family surrounding him for one perfect week. On the beach they’d sit in the sun. Christopher would play in front of them in the sand. They’d build sandcastles with moats and walls, they’d place his Legos or Matchbox cars inside, they’d be in the process of adopting a brother or a sister for him. She imagined Wilson leaning over, kissing her on the cheek with sun-toasted lips while they admired the life they were raising. But on her beach, it was dark. She walked probably two miles before turning around, the arches of her feet aching now in the shifting sand. The tide was rising; it was perhaps twenty feet from the dunes. Ghost crabs
Christina McCabe | Ten Days
wouldn’t have to remember handing Christopher to the social worker at their front door, ten days after the birth, and how much her arms ached afterwards. She wouldn’t have to remember how she spent the night shaking the mattress with her sobs, squeezing the toy they thought Christopher liked, the stuffed turtle with the lighted plastic shell. But she knew that people would always ask, and that their questions weren’t the triggers for these scathing recollections. She thought about those things every day anyways.
sprinted from her, darting back into their holes after moments of frantic scavenging. Out at sea, far away, perhaps off the coast of Georgia, lightning bolts struck the ocean and illuminated the water. Elizabeth looked around the empty beach and couldn’t see her family, her past, or her future. ~ Her mother had told her about what it was like to bring the first baby home from the hospital. It was almost a warning. “You’re preparing and suddenly you’re on your own with this little life—it’s overwhelming, and you feel helpless.” But still, they thought they were ready. They’d spent five months preparing for the arrival of their son. They picked the bedroom, the corner one with two windows that provided a cross breeze. They’d had three rooms to choose from because they’d bought the house with the intention of staying and filling it with kids. As they shopped and painted they read books, the usual ones about expecting and books about adopting newborns. They set up the bassinet in their bedroom as well as one in the living room downstairs. They had formula, diapers, toys, and books. When they brought Christopher home, he was screaming. They set his car seat in the middle of the living room and argued about how to get him out of it. They didn’t know if he was just mad, or hurt. They weren’t sure how to unzip his winter
coat, take off his sweater and hat, and pull him from his car seat without hurting his delicate newborn body. When he was finally out, he was still screaming. His cheeks were red, his arms moved up and down, his belly rose and fell quickly. “So it wasn’t the car and he wasn’t too hot,” Elizabeth said. “Maybe he’s too cold,” Wilson said. “Maybe he needs a change.” Wilson set a blanket on the carpet and Elizabeth laid her son on the floor. They changed him for the first time with hesitation, trying to avoid his kicking legs and flailing arms. She couldn’t remember it being this hard with her nieces and nephews, she didn’t have this hard of a time when she was little and had to change one of her brothers. Nothing. Elizabeth picked him up and started pacing the living room. “So what is it?” she asked, thinking about her mother’s warning. “He ate before we left the hospital, it couldn’t be that again.” “Maybe he’s just mad,” Wilson suggested, shrugging. “Mad,” she laughed. “Yeah, it’s been a stressful hour. He left the hospital, rode in the car, he’s in a new place.” “Can he tell?” she asked, adding a light bounce to her step. “Maybe he can tell we’re nervous.” As Elizabeth paced, Christopher calmed down slowly. The crying stopped, his arms and legs fell to
slowly from Christopher’s feet up to his head, tail wagging enough to create a breeze. Elizabeth hooked her arms around Christopher, Wilson held Jem’s collar. When he sniffed the baby’s face, Christopher let out a cry and their grips on the baby and the collar tightened, but Jem wasn’t alarmed. He licked Christopher’s hand and backed off the couch, curling up at Elizabeth’s feet. “A boy and his Golden,” Wilson said with a chuckle. ~ Elizabeth sat in her office around dinnertime, reviewing images from several accidents that had happened throughout the afternoon. A multi-car crash on 278 brought six victims to the hospital, and some mechanical snafu on a shrimping boat brought them another three. She’d been at work for twelve hours. Elizabeth sat in the dark scouring scans and x-rays illuminated by light boxes. Urges of sleep began to weigh down her swaying head. Then she received the hospital-wide page: ASL speaker to P407. The pediatric floor of the hospital was brighter than the others. The posters were happier, the walls were in muted primary colors rather than shades of sand. The nurses wore scrub tops with patterns on them: rows
Christina McCabe | Ten Days
his sides and he gazed at her. Elizabeth put him back on the blanket, where she and Wilson lay on either side of him, staring. When he fell asleep they counted his fingers and toes; they mimicked the way he held up his legs with his knees by his ears and his arms at his sides, the way he’d been stuck for months. Wilson laughed when Christopher yawned, like he couldn’t believe something so small could produce a movement so similar to his own. It hadn’t occurred to them then how the terror had vanished, how it had been abruptly replaced with joy, how biology really didn’t matter. There wasn’t hesitation. “Look at his hair; it’s almost white. Maybe he’ll be blonde like me,” Wilson said as he touched his own white blonde curls. “Yeah,” Elizabeth whispered. “You’ll have blonde hair like your daddy, won’t you?” When he woke up from his nap his eyes were wide, soaking everything in. Elizabeth picked him up again; his warm body nestled in her arms, eyes still roaming the living room, his heart fluttering away against her chest. She sat on the couch while Wilson retrieved Jem from their bedroom and led him to the baby. Their dog sat in front of Elizabeth, sniffing rapidly. Jem put his front paws on the couch, towering above Elizabeth, intrigued by the bundle of blankets in her arms. His nose moved
of Peanuts cartoons, pink and purple kittens, cityscapes adorned with super heroes. There was no noise, no commotion; on the pediatrics floor, it was quiet at night, the doctors and nurses she passed spoke in whispers, letting their charges sleep. The lights were on in P407, and a young boy was sitting up in bed, mouth slightly open, watching the TV on the adjacent wall. IVs dangled from his veins, his arm was locked in a blood pressure cuff, and his hands lay at his sides, wrists wrapped in soft restraints. His glasses were crooked, his sheets tangled around his legs, but he sat perfectly still. Elizabeth waved in his eye line, approaching the bed, but he didn’t blink. He was focused on the TV, and the bright, flashing cartoons on it. “Hello,” she signed, but there was nothing. She picked up the chart from the rack at the foot of his bed. Tayron Phillips, age thirteen, it said. He looked like he was eight or nine. She opened the thick binder but didn’t see anything besides the words “Sickle Cell Anemia” before the doctor entered the room. A man she hadn’t met before, Dr. Gormon from pediatric general surgery, entered. He too waved at Tayron and received nothing. Dr. Gorman explained that due to sickle cell complications, Tay had just had his spleen removed. He was a young surgeon, he fit into pediatrics well. He had cartoon characters stitched
onto his lab coat, little stuffed animals were clipped to his stethoscope. She heard the rustle of lollipops in his pocket, but he didn’t use any of this on Tay. “His BP and heart rate are up, abnormal, he’s been pretty consistent this whole time. I need to try to figure out if something hurts, or if he’s upset. His parents just left for Parris Island, their other kids are at home. I don’t want to scan him if I can avoid it; I’d have to sedate him,” the doctor rambled, looking at Elizabeth. She was confused—the boy wasn’t displaying any signs of distress, but then again, wasn’t displaying any signs of anything, really. “He has Autism, which limits his abilities to communicate and to express what he feels,” Dr. Gorman said, as though he could tell what Elizabeth had been thinking. She nodded slowly, realizing the enormity of the task in front of her. “One more thing. He won’t really sign back to you,” he said through gritted teeth. “How do I—” “Just talk, sign, try to stay in front of him and I’ll look for hints that he gives us, maybe he’ll let on if there’s any pain.” Elizabeth nodded and walked over to Tay’s bed. He still showed no regard for her, instead focusing on the yellow sea sponge and starfish that danced across the television screen. Dr. Gorman turned the TV
as he watched the monitors about Tay’s head. His BP and heart rate were back to normal; he’d relaxed. It was only nerves. “You’re feeling fine, aren’t you?” she asked. They watched as Tay raised his arms and signed one word. “More.” Elizabeth called her resident around 10:30, who was at home and off that night, and told him that she had other urgent matter to attend to in the hospital and needed him to come in. She
Christina McCabe | Ten Days
off, which to her surprise, solicited no reaction from Tay. Now, when she waved in his eye line, he turned to look at her, smiling. “Hi, my name is Liz,” she signed. “Your name is Tay, right?” She didn’t know what she was doing, but when she spelled his name, he smiled a little bit more. “T-a-y, T-a-y,” she spelled. “How is your stomach? How do you feel? Pain in stomach?” She asked over and over. He finally moved his arms and she stopped signing, waiting for whatever he was going to say. But he didn’t sign anything; he pulled back his sheet and picked up the stuffed turtle that sat in his lap. It was the same turtle they had for Christopher, the one with the hard shell that projected stars and moons on the ceiling. Her brother had told her about it; it was one of the few toys he’d found that didn’t make noise or require hearing. She took a deep breath, and continued talking. “I work in the hospital. Downstairs, I look at pictures of bones and insides. Do you feel okay? Do you hurt? Any pain?” She signed non-stop for five minutes, asking about his belly over and over. She asked about the cartoons, about school, asked him to repeat signs. But he gave no response. For a few moments she sat unmoving, waiting to think of something else to do. Dr. Gorman waited with her, nodding encouragingly at Elizabeth
“The lights came on in
the dark room, casting large
ceiling. They were red, and when they changed
to blue, he smiled.
heard the sleep in his voice but felt no ounce of guilt in waking him up. The inappropriate nature of her request briefly crossed her mind—her duty was to her patients in her specialty, not three floors above with somebody else’s patient and child. She knew her resident should be at home in bed like he was supposed to be, but she didn’t care.
Dr. Gorman asked if she could stay and she agreed instantly. Tay still held the turtle. He flipped the switch on its belly and put it in his lap—the lights came on in the dark room, casting large stars on the ceiling. They were red, and when they changed to blue, he smiled. He reached for Elizabeth’s hand and put it on the turtle, blocking some of the light, which had turned green. He rested his little hands on top of hers and smiled wider, showing all his teeth, looking close to giggling. With her left hand Elizabeth pointed at the turtle and signed, “it’s beautiful,” and he giggled. She kept saying “it’s beautiful, the turtle is beautiful,” and Tay kept laughing. She waited next to Tay’s bed until he fell asleep, and a little while after. Back at Miss Grace’s, she sat on the bench swing in the corner of the yard, waiting for Wilson’s phone call. It was after midnight. From the palmettos and holly bushes that surrounded the corner of the yard came the sound of cockroaches rustling their wings, hissing, calling out in their nocturnal habitat. They called them palmetto bugs in the Low Country, which Elizabeth scoffed at when she first arrived, figuring the name would not make them any more tolerable. But they were everywhere, and when Wilson called and her phone lit up a small area around her, Elizabeth brushed one off the bench without hesitation.
“Hey.” “Hi, hon,” Wilson said. “How are you?” “Okay. Long day.” “Me too,” Elizabeth said. There was a moment of nothing: just palmetto bugs and crickets. “Hey, I was an interpreter today,” she said. “Oh really?” “Yeah, they paged for someone who knew ASL,” she said, not elaborating. “Great. And how’s Grace?” “Oh, I finally sat down with her the other day. I couldn’t put it off any longer,” she said, growing more comfortable with their conversation. “She asked a bunch of nebby questions and get this, couldn’t fathom why my husband let me wander so far all by myself,” Elizabeth said. “Sometimes I wonder that, too,” he said, voice as serious as the day he suggested they adopt again. Elizabeth pushed another palmetto bug off the arm of the bench. She dug her toes into the crab grass and rocked slowly, listening to Wilson breathing on the other end of the line, waiting for her move. He’s always waiting for her move. Since they discovered the infertility, since the surgery failed to correct it, since they suggested adoption, since Christopher. It was always, “whenever you’re ready.” “So, how’s home?” she asked, not taking the bait, not going where he wanted. His desire was another serious conversation, more reassurance
Christina McCabe | Ten Days
that this was only about Christopher and not about him. “It’s fine,” he said. She heard a heavy sigh from him, a white flag. “Your mom was over for dinner tonight. Jem’s ears are smelly again; I’ve got to get him to the vet tomorrow.” “You know I still love you, right?” she blurted out, feeling it was her duty to reassure Wilson when the conversation turned to their dog’s ear canals. “Yeah, I do. I know.” ~ Tay was gone the next day. Taken home to be with his parents. Elizabeth stood in the doorway with her morning coffee, ready to sign, ready to ask for the turtle. The heels of her tennis shoes squeaked against the linoleum floors as she dragged herself into the room and away from the door, where nobody saw how she slid down the wall, crumbling to the floor. She put her head between her knees, the same way she sat in Christopher’s room after the social worker left, and sobbed.
Time and Chance IV Laurie Borggreve
She Who Carries the Water, Carries the Fish Fred Dale
Through the hands and the gut, the sunken child tells you what kind of fish she’ll be. Only this one snaps the line as she comes into view, a miscarried shape that speaks your name. When the cork remains on the surface, moving away, you realize it’s a finger pointing to the fish below, and you tell him this is the fish you need, a sister. So, the father hauls the anchor, releases the boat. Carried by water, their minds drift (don’t ask why) to the mother, the dead child induced from her, the stolen possibilities of the little one the doctors brought to the surface, the gutting of the mother who tried again, regardless, and won another son, knowing, she who carries the water, carries the fish. The boy listens as the boat goes the way of the fish, and the father, years later on a trail, tells him, he wept buckets—that pain, like water, finds its way into us—
that people are a kind of water. But before taking any of this for a walk, the boyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reached the bobber, too dumb to discern the cork will slide free, that the fishing line will stay where it is, with the gliding fish.
Drought Marne Wilson
When the vines run across the garden, the leaves on the trees stay green, and the water from the pump flows freely, we say we have prepared for the possibility of drought. “We’ve survived it before, and we’ll do it again,” we promise each other, nodding in that stoic way that makes us feel strong. But it is another thing when the vines wither, the leaves curl up and turn to dust, and the pump produces only dry air. We know that rains must come again. That is not the question. Instead, we wonder whether we will be here to see it, or if we will have dried out and blown away ourselves, no different than the innocent plants we once watered with hope and expectations.
Laurie Borggreve studied design, studio arts, and art history in Minneapolis, then worked as an art director and designer in San Francisco to support her career in fine arts. With a background in both art and design, she uses a multidisciplinary approach to stretch the potential of materials and craft the hundreds of handmade components that form each artwork. She now creates award winning work out of her studio in Minneapolis that is exhibited across the country. Keep up with her current projects on Instagram: @laurieborggreve Leah Dockrill was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada where she went on to earn education and law degrees at Dalhousie University, Halifax, and a library science degree at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. With little formal training in art, she has developed a thirty-year art practice that includes painting, collage, and digital art. Leahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s art has been exhibited in Canada and the U.S. in commercial galleries and public institutions. She has won numerous awards, including the ArtAscent: Journal of Art & Literature Gold Artist Award, and her images have been published in Understorey Magazine, The Esthetic Apostle, NUNUM, and High Shelf Press. Leah has been an elected member of the Society of Canadian Artists since 2000. She and her husband live in Toronto, Canada. Rodrigo Etcheto is a native of the Pacific Northwest; he began his excursions into the forests, mountains, and coast as an exercise in philosophical contemplation. Spending time alone in the wilds turned from a therapeutic endeavor into a passion for capturing the unique moments he saw. An avid reader and student of philosophy, Rodrigo derives much of his inspiration from the works of the ancient Stoics and Epicureans. He is obsessed with the flow of time and themes of change, impermanence, life death and rebirth, and tranquility. Nicoletta Poungias is an aspiring autodidact photographer from Germany, born in 1993, who identifies as an intersectional feminist and firmly believes that kindness and generosity are severely underrated. She focuses primarily on portraiture. You can find her work on: www.poungias.com
Contributors | Issue 18
Fiction Joe Costal’s water bottle stickers are mostly ice cream shops. His writing has most recently appeared in Watershed Review, Barrelhouse, and Quirk Books. The first chapter of his YA novel can be found in the current issue of Painted Bride Quarterly, and his poetry was included in More Challenges for the Delusional by Diode Editions. Joe teaches writing at Stockton University and lives with his children. More at: www.JoeCostal.com Christina McCabe is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is the setting for much of her work. She teaches first year composition at the University of Pittsburgh, and her fiction has previously appeared in Chautauqua. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can be found watching baseball or playing with her dogs. Mark Mulholland is not from the USA or Canada or the UK or even Australia or anywhere snazzy like that. Mark, through no fault of his own, was born and raised in Ireland. However, when fifteen, as luck would have it, he underwent a stroke of genius and left schooling to linger around a second-hand bookstore. By further miraculous intervention, he slipped his way into employment and with his small earnings bought books by their cover or title or by some indefinable inclination. The whole world was to be found in that bookshop, he says, and everything a boy needed to learn could be learned there. He has been educated in this way ever since. Mark is the author of the acclaimed novel A Mad and Wonderful Thing. His short fiction has been published in the USA, Ireland, and the UK and has been shortlisted for the Dorset Fiction Award. He lives in rural France.
Nonfiction Alice Hatcher’s work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Notre Dame Review, Fiction International, Lascaux Review, Fourth Genre, and Chautauqua, among other journals. Her novel The Wonder That Was Ours, winner of Dzanc Books’ 2017 Fiction Prize,
Poetry R.A. Allen’s poetry has appeared in RHINO, Third Wednesday, AmuseBouche, JAMA, The Penn Review, The Hollins Critic, Amaryllis (UK), and elsewhere. His fiction has been published in The Literary Review, The Barcelona Review, PANK, The Los Angeles Review, and Best American Mystery Stories 2010, among others. He has one Pushcart nomination for poetry and one Best of the Web nomination for fiction. He lives in Memphis and was born on the same day that the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism: December 26th. More at: www.poets.nyq.org/poet/raallen David M. Alper is a high school AP English teacher in New York City, residing in Manhattan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Northridge Review, The Platform Review, Shantih Journal, Dragon Poet Review, Tilde Lit, and Obra/Artifact. Fred Dale is a husband to his wife, Valerie, and a father to his occasionally good dog, Earl. He is a senior instructor in the English Department at the University of North Florida. He earned his MFA at the University of Tampa, but mostly, he just grades papers. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sugar House Review, The Summerset Review, Crack the Spine, Chiron Review, The Evansville Review and others. Alexa Gutter is a former high school English teacher, and was the Bucks County Poet Laureate in 2013. Most recently, her poem “April” was published in the River Heron Review. She currently lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania with her husband and young son. Richard Hedderman is the author of two collections of poetry, and his publishing credits include poems in Rattle, Chicago Quarterly Review, CutBank, Chautauqua Literary Review, Kestrel, Skald (Wales), Blue Collar Review, The Midwest Quarterly, and the anthology In a Fine Frenzy:
Contributors | Issue 18
was long-listed for the Center of Fiction’s 2018 First Novel Prize. Hatcher’s work can be found at: www.alice-hatcher.com
Poets Respond to Shakespeare. He has appeared as a guest poet at the Library of Congress and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His poem, “Mummies—Milwaukee Public Museum,” has been selected by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a global, bilingual literacy program scheduled for a 2019 launch. He lives in Milwaukee. AE Hines is a poet and practicing financial advisor who lives in Portland, Oregon. A recent Pushcart nominee, his work has appeared in recent and forthcoming issues of Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Pinyon, SLAB, SLANT, I-70 Review, Third Wednesday, and other publications. More info at: www.aehines.net Lynn McGee is the author of the poetry collection Tracks (Broadstone Books, 2019), Sober Cooking (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2016), and two award-winning poetry chapbooks: Heirloom Bulldog (Bright Hill Press, 2015) and Bonanza (Slapering Hol Press, 1997). Her poems are forthcoming in Upstreet, Lavender Review, and The Tampa Review, and her work has appeared recently in The American Journal of Poetry, Cordella Literary Magazine, the Potomac Review, The American Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review and others. Visit www.lynnmcgee.com for more information. Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in such diverse journals as Poetry Salzburg, Istanbul Literary Review, Shi Chao Poetry, Journal of Italian Translation, and Acumen. Her work has been translated into Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and German. Her seventh and most recent collection of poems is Edges. Chase Troxell graduated with his BA from the University of Findlay where he was also the first managing editor for Slippery Elm. He has poems published in GNU Journal, Mochilla Review, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Eunoia Review and most recently Coffin Bell Journal. He lives in Findlay, Ohio with his two beautiful daughters, Felicity and Leona. Marne Wilson grew up on a farm in North Dakota and now lives in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Her poems have most recently appeared in Coachella Review, Coe Review, and Whale Road Review. She is the author of a chapbook, The Bovine Daycare Center (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Learn more at: http://marnegrinoldswilson.wordpress.com
Contributors | Issue 18
David M. Alper
Alexa Gutter Richard Hedderman AE Hines
Fiction Joe Costal Christina McCabe Mark Mulholland
Nonfiction Dylann Cohn-Emery Julie Darpino Katherine Flannery Dering Kaitlyn Gaffney Alice Hatcher Leo Kirschner
Lynn McGee Donna Pucciani Chase Troxell Marne Wilson