a publication of Rowan Universityâ€™s Master of Arts in Writing
featuring the importance of appearances confronting oppression loveâ€™s fragility
Cover art: “Untitled #10” by Martin Krafft
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 Jade Jones
Cover Design & Layout: Katie Budris
SENIOR EDITORS Steve Royek Myriah Stubee
ASSOCIATE EDITORS Dina Folgia Jackie Domenus Elizabeth Dandrow Mosolovich Kaytlyn Mroz Glassworks accepts literary poetry, fiction, nonfiction, Amanda Spadel craft essays, art, photography, short video/film & audio. Kassidy Tirelli Glassworks is available both digitally and in print. See our website for details: RowanGlassworks.org
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 © 2020 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.
FICTION EDITORS Taylor Blum Chris Comparri Megan Kiger Erin Theresa Walsh NONFICTION EDITORS Mick Bratton Connor Buckmaster Brianna McCray POETRY EDITOR Dina Folgia Elizabeth Dandrow Mosolovich Amanda Spadel COPY EDITORS Editing the Literary Journal Fall 2020 students
glassworks Fall 2020
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
Issue 21 | Table of Contents Poetry
Taher Adel, Son | 3
Cathy Allman, My Inner Neil Armstrong | 4
Delilah Andarina, On the Expressway | 18 Norman Minnick, Tourist Baiting | 54 Ellene Glenn Moore, At Daitoku Monastery | 34 Dream Logic | 32 Karen Neuberg, Time Squared | 57 Steven Ostrowski, Girl | 60 Now | 61 Simon Perchik, Untitled #1 | 30 Eric Pierzchala, Dove Harbor Portrait | 52 Rachel Tramonte, Boyfriend | 42 Will Wells, The South Fork of the Snake | 40
John Wojtowicz, Because I Canâ€™t Tell My Wife... | 20
Displacement | 22
Fiction Nina Lukina, Content Management | 8 Robin Vigfusson, The Stylist | 44
Nonfiction Ashley Monet Johnson, Sing | 36 Elizabeth Ponds, The Economics of Breaking | 26 Andy Smart, A Unit of Measure | 55
Art Sarah Kohrs, Bark Map | 41
Frozen Afield | 6
Martin Krafft, Untitled #2 | 24 Untitled #4 | 58 Untitled #10 | cover Dave Magyar, Reflections | 17
Tidal Pool | 31
Anatomy of a Fall | 53 KJ Williams, In Motion | 35 Melting Dreamcatchers | 43
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.
Don’t forget the ones you fail to resurrect like high books on dusty shelves stories we open for antique smells but never to read again. Don’t forget the steps; the ones they took for your peace. Don’t forget the way they would leave their unwanted colour on doorsteps, walking bare-foot on streets. Don’t forget the loneliness— Shying away from conversation because their words are beautiful but would take too long to utter. Don’t forget the tongue that is no longer a mother because mothers die and daughter tongues cannot remember. Don’t forget the strength it took to raise us tall or the way they were stripped of it all piece by piece until all that remained was you.
My Inner Neil Armstrong Cathy Allman
I used a crowbar to open the old cedar chest and found the 1969 National Geographic moon photos in a pile with your letter to the younger me. Inside the space capsule, astronauts checked figures, twisted dials, like they rehearsed. Your letter read: I know you’ve started a new life and may still hate me for ending our relationship The crew’s gauges synced to math, to the flight plan. as I did, but I’d like to keep in contact with you, no matter how infrequent. You’re a good person The space explorers exited what keeps Earth spinning— gravity and atmosphere. and you know how rare good people are on this coast (in the movie business especially). Mission control played Sinatra, “Fly Me to the Moon,” and Streisand’s “People Who Need People.”
I hope and pray (yes, occasionally) that you are happy. On the dark side of the moon, space is radio silent, except for its reckoning of jet propulsion. I wonâ€™t mention marriage, but if it happens, you should let me know The Eagle has landed, one small step for man, footprints on the lunar surface. so I can change the name on this envelope.
Frozen Afield Sarah Kohrs
Content Management Nina Lukina
Fiona was aware that Colin wasn’t boots or a bag, and she knew enough not to ever say it aloud or post it online, but she couldn’t help but think of him as a “great vintage find.” Take now, for instance. Despite his displeasure with her, Colin was walking Fiona back to her room across the dark campus. His chivalry, both kind and gently condescending, struck her as pleasantly oldfashioned (never mind that an hour ago two basketball players held him upside down by the ankles as cheap beer funneled down his throat). It was the middle of the night and the air was warm and still. They walked in silence that was like something heavy they dragged between them. It seemed to Fiona that Colin was brooding. This could work in a male romantic lead. Brooding hinted at profundity and a rich interior life. It didn’t work, however, if directed at her. In that case—Fiona edited herself—it was more like “sulking.” Colin was giving her nothing to grip readers. Nothing to boost engagement (and thereby advertising revenue). She would have to find a way to imbue this scene with tension sans dialogue, a challenge even if she hadn’t drunk three or four screwdrivers at the party. But her followers were expecting a post that weekend. Fiona considered focusing it on the
party they had just come from, the stately colonial building that housed it, its wood-paneled interiors and oil paintings, and the keg-guzzling, beer pong, and coke-sniffing that formed its incongruous centerpieces. The readers loved that kind of thing. But setting only gets you so far. Her fans were eager for an update on Colin.
was giving her
nothing to grip readers.
Fiona glanced at his hand, gauging the distance between them. She could try to take hold of it to make content happen. Tentatively, she would slide a pinky into his palm and let him do the rest. But he might pull away from her, and she would end up only making herself pathetic. She would have to say something. “Of each of the six major Romantic poets, each had a shorter lifespan than the last.” Colin made a noise that sounded like a scoff. He shoved his hands into his pockets and fiddled with his phone and plastic key card, cancelling any possibility of handholding. Fiona gazed up and around at the trees, scavenging for details to sate the fans and sponsors. In the light of
the old-world lamps lining the cobblestone path, grayish-green leaves were bathed in golden fuzz. (Fiona had also smoked a third of a joint that someone had passed her at the party—more than her share and a breach of smoking etiquette to be sure, but what guy would object when she wrapped her little mouth around his jay too many times?) What she needed was content. “It’s a meaningless word,” Jasper had sputtered earlier, waving a near-empty Solo cup as he stood pressed against a wall. “Content. Anything could be content. It doesn’t have to be good; it doesn’t have to have a point.” Jasper didn’t get it, which was unfortunate because he was hot. Fiona liked the way his marble-white neck emerged from the collar of his polo, muscular yet delicate like a Greek statue’s. She’d met him through Colin—they were best friends—and might have considered him for her next romantic interest if things with Colin fizzled out, which they seemed to be doing. Fiona and Colin were nearing her dorm. Finally, she asked, “Is something wrong?” This was an exceedingly boring thing to say, and Fiona literally couldn’t afford to be boring. The revenue from last month had been her highest ever and she’d already spent it all and more in the expectation that this month’s would
match or exceed it. She’d ordered white patent-leather booties, vintage stiff-denim mom-jeans that she’d seen on a French-girl influencer, and a giant potted Monstera (that, on reflection, was unlikely to thrive in her dorm room, dim and cluttered as it already was with clothes, books, and cosmetics that Fiona had bought and been sent to try). And she had signed up for Printmaking I and Modernity II for next semester, both of which required a significant investment in materials and textbooks written by the professors who taught the class. “I mean,” Colin sighed, “I think you know.” He seemed determined not to give her any material. The impulse to hold his hand evaporated, replaced by an urge to reach up and shake him by the shoulders. Her fans normally went wild for his lines. Fiona could remember well the time Colin told her that she was, “minx-ish in that old-school F. Scott way.” He’d been lounging in a sunny patch of grass in front of the Architecture building, wearing Ray Bans and a stylishly faded t-shirt from a field day at his prep school, as they took turns sipping covertly from a box of warm wine. According to the analytics, engagement shot up 350% since they’d started hooking up earlier that spring. They had met in Intro to Lit Crit. Colin was getting amazing grades in the class without seeming to put in
any effort. He had a slow lope, deep blue eyes, and an effortless style. He smelled like expensive leather and something else, maybe vanilla. He was friendly with the studentathletes and knew the best parties. He was a bit skinny, a petite guy. But still hot. And photogenic. Plus, he liked to take her to restaurants and speakeasies in the city that supplied great backdrops for her “outfit of the day” series. Around the time they’d first met, Colin used to write Fiona long, confessional messages about his feelings for her. Now he barely texted, not wanting the screenshots to end up on her blog. At first he’d regarded Fiona’s role as an internet persona as a kind of quirky hobby. The way Fiona would switch her outfits several times in one day and ask him to photograph her reminded him of his younger sister’s mania for crafting and modeling costumes. And Fiona, for her part, found his naïveté about the internet to be appealingly masculine. It took a few weeks into their relationship for him to realize that people who knew him read her blog. And though Fiona tended to call all her readers “fans,” they were not always kindly predisposed toward her and what she referred to as her “work.” The first time he bristled was when she revealed on the blog that they had slept together. Fiona struggled to understand his indignation.
“But I wrote about it like a whole month later,” she had argued, adding, “I felt like it was the respectful thing to do.” “But you wrote that it had happened a month ago. So you didn’t really obscure any of the real facts.” “Well, I’m not going to lie to my readers.” “Why did you have to write about it at all?” “And I kept it general. I didn’t write any details about what we actually, you know, did.” He groaned at the prospect. “Please don’t,” he pleaded. Fiona didn’t respond. She would not make promises to limit herself. Maybe someday she would delve into erotica. Women were always being asked to limit their potential, to make themselves smaller, for the comfort of others. As they walked across campus now, Fiona considered Jasper. Would he be better at delivering the titillating content? The problem was that Jasper was mean to her. On the other hand, documenting his cutting remarks might make her readers feel closer to her. They would think she was going through a dark patch, dating a guy like that. In the comments, they would support and encourage her and discuss and debate her relatable situation. This could be good enough to be subscriber-only content, she thought, with that rising excitement that she believed characterized her brilliant ideas.
matter; psychological musings were not on-brand. And what was she supposed to do now, recycle content? That was the sort of weak thing that bloggers who took vacations did. As popular of a character as Colin had been, she couldn’t deny that she was now in need of new material. She owed it to her fans. She would not allow the blog, her business, which she had reared up into the profitable state it was now in, to become as boring as their arguments. But she also had to consider that Colin had been offering to take her to Italy in the summer; she had to consider photos of
Nina Lukina | Content Management
“I don’t want to be on your blog anymore, okay?” Colin was saying now. “You know I put my whole life on there,” Fiona said. “A version of it,” he said. “Do you not want to be with me anymore?” “I just don’t want you to write about me publically anymore.” “If you don’t want to be in my life anymore, then fine. I mean, is that what you’re saying? But that doesn’t mean I won’t post about you anymore.” “Come on, don’t I have a right to privacy?” “You do! Of course. But I also have a right to tell my story, don’t I?”
were always being asked to limit their
potential, to make themselves smaller, for the comfort
Content-wise this discussion was going nowhere; they’d had it before, almost word-for-word, and Fiona knew because she’d posted it to the blog and (as her own proofreader) read through it several times. Colin had probably read it too, though he claimed not to read her posts about him. And so they’d assimilated their prior disagreement and were now reenacting, cannibalizing it. Was this an example of what therapists called a pattern? Ultimately it didn’t
sparkling water, narrow beaches under craggy cliffs, pastel fishing villages, bright bowls of pasta. She imagined herself on a moped, a cute dress from Free People fluttering behind her in the Calabrian wind. The engagement she would get! And there also lurked the prospect of sharing with Colin, the real person, with his very real, sinewy body and wonderful smell, a hotel room with a bed that was bigger than
twin-sized. But would her followers stick with her until then? Would Colin? “In the posts I’ve read, you act as if I’m…” Colin seemed to search for words, “okay with this. Or like, the character who is me is okay with being on the blog. Or at least, like, understanding of your need to do it.” “And I really appreciate that about you. You know that, right?” “No, no. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is I’m not as understanding as you think I am, or portray me—or my character or whatever—to be.” “Oh.” “Yeah.” They came to the door of her building. The lobby was a garish yellow in the dark night. “I feel like you willfully misunderstand me sometimes,” he said. “You post private stuff about me, about us, online. And you’re not even apologetic.” “Are you expecting me to be apologetic because I’m a woman?” “No, no,” Colin said quickly. He sighed. “I’m sorry. Listen, I really respect what you do. You’re talented. I just can’t be part of it. It’s really important to you and I get it, I guess.” With his fists still deep in the pockets of his chinos, Colin looked down at his Nikes. Fiona felt impatient—and exhausted. She hadn’t slept since Thursday night.
“I just feel like it comes first for you in everything. So, yeah, sorry. I tried.” He started to walk away without kissing or even hugging Fiona goodbye. Not even a hint of that wellbred, gently teasing wit. Fiona had never seen him less charming. In her room up on the seventh floor Fiona pulled her laptop from the pile of student-blogger detritus piled on her bed. She was drunk, somewhat high, and pretty sure she had just been dumped. “Drunk, High, and DUMPED”: potential headline? She just didn’t know. She had nothing. Fiona pulled at her ponytail, which she wore loosely tied in a retro scrunchie (a little girl’s hairstyle that the school blog, The Gadfly, had referred to as “a demeaning bit of regressive role-play”), and pulled out three long brown hairs. She got up and, using most of her remaining strength, opened the window. The thing about Colin was that Fiona liked him. He was mature for his age, and he was actually nice to her. He was her friend. Fiona’s “best” friends were from online. Like her, they ran blogs. Like her, they were cool, too much so for the milieus they found themselves in. When she saw them in real life, maybe twice a year, their meetings centered on cross-promotional content-creation. Colin had been her only friend at school really. Fiona’s classmates left rude
were going to. Fiona wished she had some alcohol or weed but all she had were her noise-canceling headphones, which managed to block the party from her hearing but not her consciousness. As she looked out her window, Fiona was able to admit to herself that she had really liked Colin—maybe even loved? But then she’d gotten it all mixed up, between what was content and reaction to the content and engagement with and repetition of the content, and what constituted so-called “real life.” Radical honesty about her life, the eradication of the boundaries between it and her writing, had started as a sort of high-concept project. Its success had transformed the notion of a private “real life,” something unmediated and distinct from online, into a luxury she had to sacrifice. The air outside was warm and stagnant and not at all refreshing. Fiona slammed the window back down. She looked at her bed. She would have to haul the heap of stuff to her chair before letting herself give in to sleep. But first she absolutely had to post something. She would not let herself get out of it now. She sat down at her desk. The university’s internet was much slower than the one she’d had at home. The pages took several full seconds to load, giving
Nina Lukina | Content Management
comments on her site—she was fairly certain it was them from the tone, pretentious and snarky and matching that of the comments on The Gadfly, which had dedicated a running feature to her. The girl who wrote most of the posts for “Keeping Up with the Fionas” (a stupid, unoriginal name) was in her Intro to Anthropology class. She wore unflattering overalls and ostentatiously thick glasses and kept her face expressionless when her eyes met Fiona’s. Fiona did talk sometimes to Leah, a junior who lived across the hall. But they weren’t close, or even friends exactly. Leah hadn’t, for instance, invited Fiona to her birthday party the other weekend. Fiona had confined herself to her room when she realized what was happening, fearful of running into one of them while in the state of being uninvited. She tried to root herself to her desk chair and block out the raucous sounds of Leah and her friends drinking. She picked up Pride and Prejudice, Intro to Lit Crit reading, and put it down. She browsed her social feeds and read comments on old blog posts and browsed her fans’ profiles. The party grew steadily louder. Leah’s friends laughed and shrieked and talked over each other with increasing volume, drowning out the music streaming from someone’s laptop— corny EDM, Fiona noted. She would probably have hated to be in Leah’s room and at whatever lame club they
her too much time to think. While she waited for one page to load, she opened a series of her usual tabs—online clothing retailers and her friends’ blogs and The Gadfly— though she knew this was bad for the loading time. Everything is on the line, she told herself, trying to work up enough anxiety to keep herself awake. It wasn’t difficult. Finally she wrote: “Drunk, High, and DUMPED.” She read back the headline and pulled on her ponytail. Earlier, the caps had seemed too aggressive. Now, not at all.
it sound final, like he really meant it, you guys!” The post took her all of an hour to write and reread and schedule (for optimal engagement she had to slate it for later that Sunday morning). Fiona slept for nineteen hours. At one point, close to waking, she dreamt of a beluga whale, like one she had seen in an aquarium as a child. She saw the beluga’s beatific face as it glided past the spectators, followed by its gargantuan, ghostly blue body, at once blubbery and ethereal in the undersized tank. Behind the glass the whale’s whole
“At one point, close to waking, she dreamt of a beluga
whale, like one she had seen in an aquarium as a child... Behind the glass the whale’s whole stupid fat life was on
“You are a creative genius,” she said to herself. And she wrote the blog post. The night, just like it happened. But because not much had actually happened, she had to fill it out with her own (post facto) thoughtful reactions to the banalities that had transpired. She summarized her conversation with Colin: “he told me again that he wasn’t comfortable with being on the blog but this time he made
stupid fat life was on display. The children gawked and jeered and— worst of all—ignored it. For a moment after she woke up, Fiona had the sensation that she was underwater. Through her thick headache, she recalled that her post had been published while she slept. Sitting up, she rose slowly from the bed, keen to read the reactions but too unsteady to open her laptop. On her way back from the
“It’s streaming. A lot of people listen to it, not just people who go here. It’s got listeners from like Japan and Indonesia. Apparently this segment broke download records. The Gadfly reported on it and the post got a ton of comments too.” “Do not talk to me about The Gadfly.” “Ok, sorry,” Leah held up her hands in a defensive gesture. “No, I mean, you can talk to me about it. It’s a figure of speech.” Leah sighed. “But what did he say?” “It was a his-side-of-the-story type thing.” “We literally just broke up. I can’t believe he did this.” “He made it sound like it was like a few weeks ago.” “Did he? Was he mad?” “He actually sounded really nice.” Fiona stared at the Monstera. “He said he was trying to be understanding about your need to express yourself as an artist or whatever,” Leah said, “but he also said it’s affected his life negatively and invaded his privacy. He said he’s had to delete all his social media and that he feels like strangers know private details about him. And that he never signed up for this. He said that he feels like you viewed him as like a list of qualities you
Nina Lukina | Content Management
bathroom she ran into Leah from across the hall. She raised her eyebrows at Fiona’s rumpled party dress. “Are you going out somewhere?” she asked. “No,” Fiona sighed. “Actually, I think I have to stay in for a while.” “Because of the interview?” “Interview? You mean the blog? I just really need to get some work done for class.” “No, I mean Colin’s interview.” Interview? Fiona had never done an interview with him. Not a bad idea though. “Like on my blog?” she asked. “He gave an interview on student radio.” “Wait, Colin did?” “Yes.” “Like he interviewed someone? Or was interviewed.” “He was interviewed.” “Radio?” “Yes,” Leah said softly. She looked up and down the hall and at Fiona’s dress again. “Let’s go into your room.” She shuffled the confused Fiona back into her room. “The student radio station,” Leah explained. “Student radio? Like AM and FM? I didn’t even know we had something like that.” “It’s pretty popular actually.” “Wait, wait,” Fiona stammered. “Like people have radios? And dial into it?”
could put on your blog rather than as a person—I don’t know, you just have to listen to it.” “I don’t think I can.” “But you’ve written about him.” “I can’t.” “Isn’t it fair to hear his side?” “I’ve never made him read about it. And he could have come to me with his thoughts first. He doesn’t talk to me.” “I don’t know, Fiona. Maybe because you put everything online. Alright, listen, I have to go study for Bio.” “Do you have to?” “Yes.” “Wait, hold on, stay for just a minute.” “No, I can’t.” “Okay, fine, go. Come back after you study, okay?” “I can’t,” Leah called, the door closing on her excuse. Fiona turned to her laptop. Colin had given an interview. About her. She began to rise from her chair. Sighing, she sank back down and stared at her keyboard and thought. After a while she sprang up and put on the coffee machine. She had work to do. She would write a reaction post now, before listening. After listening, she could write another post—or, she could even do a livestream of her listening to the interview, and another recap post after that.
Colin was always good for content.
Reflections Dave Magyar
On the Expressway Delilah Andarina
I didn’t let her cut in front of me. What she wanted to do was illegal. Mostly, though, my mind maundered, idling on other things: the prematurely graying sky; my phone’s persistent failure to sync with my car; my radio’s loss of signal; the inexplicable malfunction of my blind-spot sensor; how there was no shoulder where I could pull over for police lights’ advancing blue flames; my growling evening hunger; my totaled marriage; or my inexpressible love for somebody bound for a different place. I confess that if I had it to do over, I’d have let her cross the lines on the road one is not supposed to cross because traffic laws exist to protect us from our basest instincts, and each other. Still, I would have let her, (had I been of a mind to yield to her selfish needs instead of mine). Only I didn’t, and I couldn’t reverse—
Time, traffic heaved. She cut in front of the guy behind me instead, then pulled up beside me and stopped, though she had open road ahead of her and it was the expressway, to honk her horn, wait for me to look, glare into my moony face, and execute her mono-digital salute. I doubt my expression changed. She eventually drove away, while I remained trapped in the traffic from which sheâ€™d made her expressive escape, jolted for a moment into admitting her to my thoughts, and how it seemed just possible her travails on the expressway had far exceeded mine.
Because I Can’t Tell My Wife I Occasionally Pick up Hitchhikers on My Lunch Break John Wojtowicz
He makes sure to wipe his feet, mud on his face. Serial killers don’t hitchhike in the rain. I turn the heat full blast; he holds his hands up to the vents. Says he’s trying to head back to his tent— worried he left it open, exposed to the downpour. We pass the high school and he points out the baseball fields. Tells me someone told him his son’s going to be the next Mike Trout. He asks me to stop at WAWA. Asks if I want coffee. I buy us both large coffees and little cigars. We laugh at a duck swimming in a pothole.
Dropping him off near an unassuming patch of woods, he offers me an old transit ticket for my trouble. I return to my office, shelves full of psychology and self-help books— bought to lessen the anxiety that I’m not as happy as I could be. Raindrops race down my one translucent window and I picture him watching them run down nylon canvas. I sip my lukewarm coffee and get back to my button-down work.
Displacement John Wojtowicz
She works long shifts at the diner where the Turkish manager throws silverware amid strings of curses. Says she should shake her ass more when she walks. She wanted to be a hairdresser then thought about opening a daycare but this has to do for now: the bus route, the money, the boys only two and three. Between serving hot plates and sharing “parenting time” with her asshole ex-boyfriend, Pall Malls and shots of Seagram’s are usually enough to keep her going. But every other Friday, when she works until closing and there’s no sleeping kids to come home to, no foreheads to kiss, she detours through the Walmart parking lot. Cuts the headlights. Points her Dodge Neon in the direction of the first stray seagull. Foot on the gas, she floors it: sends the bird scrambling, flurry of feathers, over the windshield.
She lights another menthol and the Neon becomes a monster truck, Grave Digger, as she turns her attention towards an assemblage across the lot, barrels towards the birds, sparks flying. Some nights just becauseâ€” she races around the McDonaldâ€™s drive through, Richard Petty, rustling even the crestfallen ones, squawking over soggy fries tattered and ash-colored wings who never seem to make it down the shore.
Untitled #2 Martin Krafft
The Economics of Breaking Elizabeth Ponds
Campus Pride, Summer Fellow May 2017 - August 2017 Faithless college graduates can’t afford to break down in their bedrooms anymore. Bedrooms are for sleeping off the ache and battling the jadedness. I can only afford to break down in my already broken Jetta on the way to pick up LGBT activists from the airport. It’s the first day of Camp Pride, where queer college kids pay $1,200 for a week of social justice conferences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). It’s the day after my first break-up and the onset of mono. I can only afford to cry outside the camp lunchroom, after I make sure two kids get their gluten-free tortillas. My tonsils shred my throat with every swallow, and my bones hollow from the anger I’ve spent on this ex-fundamentalist boy from Tinder named Nathan. I’m asexual—too queer for him. Too alien after four months. So he breaks me. I grimacingly drink honey herb tea and hate him for his contagion. I can’t afford to cry in my bedroom because lymph node balloons aren’t a valid reason to miss the summer internship that my queer heart now resents. I take director-approved afternoon naps, wake up at 6 p.m. to oversee karaoke night, return to
collapse in my room at 8 p.m., set my alarm for the next day. Nathan (the contagion) visits me in my UNCC apartment and brings me soup. My tonsils reluctantly let the liquid pass, and I hope for healing. I receive $4.06 an hour and a housing stipend for all my troubles. ~ Chili’s Bar and Grill, Host August 2017 - April 2018 “How old are you?” They ask when I work at Chili’s. “Almost twenty-two.” I look seventeen, I’m aware. I can afford my own apartment now, but I spend all my weekends at Nathan’s place. Mono passes. Forgetfulness begets forgiveness when you’re fucking lonely. Cooking curry and cuddling, watching Community, conversing about our Christian cults. Crying on Sundays because tomorrow is Monday and I’ll be alone with the thoughts I only share with him. “I can’t stand to be apart from you, ugh.” Nathan rolls his eyes with a dimpled grin. I like the way we co-depend, consume the time. Feels like commitment. I cling to the affection. He breaks me up more keenly the second time around in November. He says depression is a murderer
of love, though not that eloquently. “I wanna make you happy but I don’t even know what will make me happy,” he explains. I see him cry for the third time. My empathy accepts the explanation. I work a double shift the next day. My manager Jack asks me how I’m doing as he makes his rounds past the host stand. I sputter past the tears in my throat, speak of Nathan’s pain. Jack stares in another direction with his meth-affected owl eyes, pats my back awkwardly, tells me I’m young and will get through it. I mutter a thanks, angry that Jack doesn’t understand—I know I’ll get through. I’m not weak. I just don’t know the same about Nathan. I can’t afford this type of talking anymore—it’s cold standing in front of the open door. I can afford to rush to the Chili’s bathroom sporadically for three weeks to wipe the snot off my face because guest satisfaction is top priority, right before not being homeless.
“I can afford to hope for permanency.” I don’t call out of work no matter how sick I get during the holidays, no matter how many guests complain about the waits, no matter how many double shifts I work alone. I say, “Welcome to
Chili’s! How many?” I quietly return to Nathan after two months and the death of his mother. We love again, we say. We make what they call love, I understand. I accept $9.00 an hour out of necessity while I scroll through job posts in the Chili’s parking lot. ~ Harris Teeter, Cashier April 2018 - January 2019 “How old are you?” the teens ask me as I enter the grocery scene at Harris Teeter. “Almost twenty-three.” I revel in my acceptance to Winthrop’s Master of Social Work program, talk to Nathan about moving into his place a year from now. I can afford to hope for permanency. Then I clutch the anxiety in my chest, standing at the end of my checkout line in May after Nathan said I wasn’t enough for him for the third time—he’s been unhappy. I remember in January when he said he hated how much he loved me. I don’t know about that kind of love, but I see it’s run its course. I decide I am mature; I can afford to pack the tears into the back of my brain while tension headaches pull me down to break my spine despite my memory foam shoes. I show up and smile and talk about vegan products with the bougie Fort Mill patrons. I don’t mind $9.30 an hour if the job is low stress.
Winthrop University, MSW Admissions Graduate Assistant May 2018 - May 2020 I’m just the right age for a graduate assistantship, and my organizational skills are well-developed. I praise the atheist god for $12.00 an hour and an annual $7,000 tuition grant. I can afford to break my brain in my Master of Social Work Admissions office and then at the information session that I helped set up, texting Nathan’s suicidal self furiously underneath my burgundy hair as I swipe at each wave of worry. The lights are off for the projector to do its job. I sit in the back at the check-in table unnoticed while my supervisor performs her recruiting spiel to the prospective students. Nathan is valuable, I explain this to him. He was my first true best friend, the one to whom I have entrusted my alienhood. I quietly slip out of the session after waiting the required amount of time for stragglers. My tears are open to the summer breeze as I traverse a deserted Scholar’s Walk and consider driving up to Nathan’s apartment. A one-way trip to Charlotte costs $5.00 in gas. A broken brain costs two ibuprofen. He says he wishes it was easier to get rid of me. I continue texting because my atheism won’t kill my childish belief in the redemption of men. But I join Bumble again. ~
Safe Passage, MSW Intern January 2019 - April 2019 No one asks much about me when I start interning at the domestic violence shelter seven months later. I don’t offer much back. Quiet interns are thought to be lacking skills rather than suffering from disempowerment. I progress to $0 an hour for graduate school class requirements. “Have you ever experienced domestic violence or sexual assault?” they’d asked during the interview process. I wrote, “No” because I hadn’t. I can afford to softly break my composure in the corner downstairs bathroom at the office as I understand that I have to stop talking to Nathan. He only called from two different numbers today, left only one pleading message. He said, “That’s all for today.” He wants me back now that I am out from under him. Rachel, my bubbly supervisor, pushes self-care and offers to be there if we interns ever need to talk. I intern where I need but will not seek counseling.
expect the death of
love. I plan its funeral.
Some of us think we are smart— that goddamn college education. I say nothing because I know that men are allowed to do as they wish
inexperienced tattoo artist and my boyfriend Phillip. He says afterward that he’s impressed I didn’t cry. I laugh because a single tear had fallen onto the tattoo bed. The tattoo is bloody in the mirror behind me as I peer over my shoulder at it. I clock in five minutes early the next day and hold myself up on two-year-old memory foam shoes. I think I need new insoles, but I’ll probably be okay.
Elizabeth Ponds | The Economics of Breaking
with us. My alienhood has been safely entrusted to others anyway. I cut Nathan out of my life, although he has no one and nothing and then I left him (he says). I betrayed him (he claims) when I said I wouldn’t be his friend if the cost was my body under his. This doesn’t fit into my budget anymore. I’m fake just like his family that excommunicated him (“how ironic,” he writes). ~ Walmart, Electronics Sales Associate May 2019 - June 2020 I continue loving whoever I can for as long as they will let me and then some. I seek to empower myself. I say I’m doing what I want with myself. I’m a strong, independent adult despite expecting a dystopian future. I rejoice at $12.70 an hour at Walmart during my summer off from graduate school. I expect the death of love. I plan its funeral. After forty-five-hour work weeks in May, I wonder if I can afford to break myself down in my bedroom yet. I can’t. I can afford a tattoo. $120.00 for a mountain inside a half circle with the yellow sun rising over it. With cheesy Iron and Wine lyrics beneath: “So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten.” It’s the one that’s hurt the most— right shoulder blade on my back. I lay on my stomach and wince in the opposite direction of the
Untitled #1 Simon Perchik
To remind you how long before white becomes invisible—you fold this dish cloth over and over as if each splash is wiped with a cry making room the way an old love song turns the world still from inside, lowers it into this sink though you reach down for the arm that was everything—it’s a ritual where after every meal you become a hermit heard only as the voice that’s missing was waiting under the faucet while you blow each word out could hear its light weaken, disappear though you sit in a small room with a hole in it, stripping a cup naked pressing it closer, louder and louder already gone which means a sea boiling your hands in its ashes.
Tidal Pool Dave Magyar
Ellene Glenn Moore
Somehow my parents have arrived on the back stoop and I am doing something at the kitchen table. Not eating, but drawing, arranging, reading some slender book. Northern light suffuses the room, the cherry table glowing, window in the door lit like a dusty television screen where my parents play out something familiar, as I remember it now, inevitable as Fievel singing to a shared moon. It is always the same moon, large with borrowed light that spills through the kitchen, spotlight making dramatic shadows of my family seated at the table for meal. I am talking now not about nights I washed up before dinner at the kitchen sink, made a cracked egg in my hand from different-colored soaps, a golden, creamy yolk smelling like pears, but one night when my mother moves to hit my brother in the face. I know I donâ€™t really remember though I must have been there must have heard what my brother said, my motherâ€™s snarl, must have seen him push her away. My mother loves this story, loves the part where she looks at my father, where he looks at his dinner, says nothing, she says, and eats.
His silence strangles us all: That was when I knew I was truly alone she persuades me, though I have already made her the center of my gospel.
At Daitoku Monastery Ellene Glenn Moore
Thick, bitter matcha pressed into the bottoms of our bowls, and now I cannot remember where I have left my shoes, my feet tucked beneath me like a catâ€™s. A placid man tells my brothers and me we must honor each bowl. He councils me to sit still. I drink, turning the bowl in my hands, touching my lips to its mouth. On the steps my brothers and I stare at rocks, look for my motherâ€™s universe in the marks left by those who fill themselves with bamboo forests, the particular silence of water bleeding through porous stone. We see islands in the sand, five moons, dry waves crashing at our feet. The rooftops converge where we stretch, barefoot, and we are submerged in the slack tide of all we do not say to one another. Clear rainwater fills our hands. We are small bowls emptying ourselves into forests of juniper and spruce.
In Motion KJ Williams
Ashley Monet Johnson
When the lights shut off and it’s my turn To settle down, my main concern Promise that you will sing about me… —Kendrick Lamar “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” My dad wants me to sing about him. Before I do, he gives me instructions. He tells me to read. Check out Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Carter G. Woodson’s The Mis-Education of the Negro. We go to the Museum of African-Americana. After I do my reading, he tells me a story. He never reaches the end… Sing about the prison industrial complex and the plight of marginalized blacks. Don’t forget the hundred-to-one cocaine-to-crack ratio and mandatory minimums. Sing of black excellence. He thinks (I am not a statistic of justice). I see flesh on a scale, marked chattel. A system dehumanized my dad—intelligent black male. ~ He has never been known to sing—my father. His condition of addiction was incurable. He played a solo elegy inside a cell. His vibrato intensified in the hole. From debut to platinum status, the ideas for his song never change. Strip. Squat. Cough. (Survive in here.)
Run that back. (Survive.) Open wide. It is unacceptable to sing. Tongue up—pressed to the roof of your mouth. Tongue down. Tongue out. Put these on. Welcome home. You sleep here. Stay in here. An inmate’s refrain sounds like: figure out who you are. Read. Keep your head down but walk proud. Keep your head up but stay humble. ~ The sentence repeats. Another is added, over and over, time and again. Again. (Run that back.) His soundtrack is distorted. Heat-warped the vinyl grooves until whole parts went missing. I try to concentrate on echoes of crooked crooning. Holding parsed notes, I mumble through melody. Revise words. Rehearse sounds.
“He played a solo elegy inside a cell. His vibrato
intensified in the hole.
I am ready to record his record (for the record), but—when I open my mouth—he stops me. Once more he says. Repeat after me he says: I was at Howard University (The Black Mecca) in the
‘80s. I am worthy. I’m the color of the brown paper bag. I passed the test. I been to Howard Dental School. I had plans… a private practice. I know black-bourgeoise and black poverty. I hear him, I have heard him. I can recite it from memory. It goes… My daddy—a God-fearing, woman-loving, wanting-for-nothing, black middle-class-family-having, countryside-visiting, city-living, suburbandwelling, black boy—became an addict. For a long time, he frequented buildings with bars and places with rehab in the name. But the buildings didn’t make him better. An applause for my freestyle, my father is pleased. I am not. ~ My pitch is off. I’ve been singing the same song, the same riff, but there’s something missing. The rhythm? Perhaps… Maybe it’s me… (Maybe it’s my voice.) Nah— His notes are wrong. He never finished telling me the story. I ask him for the melody. Just hum. Cut the words, just hum. Vibrations. Pour soul in it. Give me a reference track. (I will get it together, and then I will sing.) He gives me what I ask for, but it is more than one song. My dad’s untitled magnum opus, unmastered: Track 1. Intro - You were born, I was there Track 2. Prince George’s County Correctional Center Track 3 Mountain Manor Treatment Center [Interlude]
(18 months) (3 months) (1 month)
Track 4. Cecil County Detention Center (feat. Light Skin Mike)
Track 5. Lorton Correctional Institution
Track 6. Eastern Correctional Institution
Track 7. Second Genesis Rehab [Interlude]
Track 8. Maryland Correctional TC/Hagerstown New Jail
Track 9. New Life for Youth Rehab [Interlude]
Track 10. Seven Locks Detention Center (feat. Randall Horton)
Track 11. TROSA (feat. Randall Horton & Big Wayne) [Interlude]
Track 12. District of Columbia Central Detention Facility/DC Jail
Track 13. Federal City Treatment Facility
Track 14. DC Jail Pt. 2
Track 15. Langston Lane Halfway House [Interlude]
Track 16. Clarksburg Detention Center Track 17. Jessup Pre-Release
(2 weeks) (3 months)
Track 18. Eastern Correctional Institution Pt. 2
Track 19. Southern Maryland Pre-Release
Track 20. Maryland Reception Diagnostic CC [Interlude] Track 21. Patuxent Institute. . . Return to Seven Locks Track 22. Outro—Hope House TC Oxford House (Snippet) [BONUS TRACK]
(1 week) (1 week: 18 hours) (17 days) (? months... ? years)
I study the track listing and check the time stamps. I’m thirty-three-years old. I had my daddy for four-and-a-half years (fifty-one months). My father spent 127 months in centers, facilities, and complexes, for correction and detention. Detained for 127 months, nothing was corrected. Our bids together were not consecutive or concurrent. My location was a pit stop on his road tour from this jail, to that prison, and some rehab. I waited on him doing time. I want to sing it right. I prayed to God—on my hands and knees, like Grandma showed me. But prayers are not wishes and God is not a djinni. (I think) I liked him more when he was locked up than when he huffed and puffed crack. He made the clearest sounds when he was clean—at home (not running). Every relapse and scrape happened when he was outside of a container. I feared for him when he was free; I feared for him when he was incarcerated. The worrying turned me into a parent long before I birthed my first son. Though I am too old for parenting now, I am never too old for his advice. For a long time, we’ve been in the round. Taking turns. Trading tracks.
Ashley Monet Johnson | Sing
When our metronomes click clack in unison (when we’re synced up) we chop it up. I refuse to pen lyrics until his timing aligns with my beat. These songs already exist, have existed, will continue to exist. There are many covers and renditions—for my father’s version, I know the notes and I can sing. I can revise; try a different pitch. Go an octave higher. My dad just can’t add no more tracks.
The South Fork of the Snake Will Wells
Though legs are foreign to it, it knows how to run—slow eddies and paired currents, fast and faster. Each swirl coils around my raft. And whether I startle a moose dozing in underbrush beside a slow meander or cartwheel a chute of big water boil, I’m suspended in time as I submit to water’s whims. My reflection nods back, a rippled co-conspirator. Boulders or snagged limbs concealed beneath the surface are ‘sleepers’ that can conjure fresh peril from the psyche of the ever-shifting stream. But, when islands part the flow, I am the flood that covers them to find what’s been prepared, like a beached Christmas morning, just for me. The truth is that I never learned to swim, yet I am drawn, Snake-bitten with desire to be caressed by each of its barbed tongues.
Bark Map Sarah Kohrs
He had a ponytail, an earring and wore a skateboard On his hip. High school tidal waves carried us up to his bedroom Where we got high and gazed into the grid of Boerum Hill backyards Each one broken up by dark red bricks and rough patches of green. Then it would be my white T-shirt up over my head. His white T-shirt Over his head. As we fumbled past a mixed tape of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin And landed on the bright white sheets, where we used all our dexterity To undo his button-fly Levi jeans. Our bodies were single arcs, Drawn together like magnets, my north pole to his south pole. I remember nothing else except the silver-white spots we left Behind us on the sheets. We thought with such confidence we were The only ones who knew we were sometimes naked in his room. We slipped back into our T-shirts and jeans, floated downstairs like shadows For pasta with egg and bacon, a cigarette, cassis. The city was empty, Families left for the Virgin Islands for spring break, stockbrokers at work While we sat on the upper terrace with a bowl of pasta, one glass, two forks.
Melting Dreamcatchers KJ Williams
The Stylist Robin Vigfusson
Iris was on her way to the neighborhood deli when she discovered Demimonde, a tiny beauty parlor she’d passed a number of times, always thinking it was a junk store. There was just enough room for a sink and one station and the only décor were Lautrec posters of dancing women in frenzied colors. The lone Stylist in Demimonde was sitting at the art deco dressing table she used as a station, reading a fashion magazine with Zoë Kravitz on the cover. She was a thin blonde of about forty, Iris’ age, and her hair hung over her shoulders like a ratty shawl.
her head, but still felt obliged to tip them extra. When Iris settled into the chair at the dressing table, the Stylist studied her reflection in the huge, round mirror as if gauging her face’s worth. “You have very good bones and beautiful hair,” she told Iris who wore her hair in a chin-length chestnut bob. “Thank you.” “Do you have seborrhea?” “As a matter of fact, I do,” Iris said. Seborrhea was a dermatological condition, the result of a scalp producing too much oil.
“When Iris settled into the chair at the dressing table, the Stylist studied her reflection in the huge, round mirror as
if gauging her face’s worth.
“Can I help you?” “I’d like a trim,” Iris said. “Do you do walk-ins?” The hairdresser nodded, then led her to the sink and put a plastic cape around her neck. She shampooed her hair as indifferently as doing laundry and Iris felt strangely relieved. She’d always detected contempt in the mincing way the hair washers at her regular salon, Mirabella, massaged
The Stylist nodded. “A lot of people with seborrhea have thick, lustrous hair. Strange when a disease causes desirable symptoms.” Neither of them spoke after that, but the Stylist’s prodigious silence was refreshing, even hypnotic. There was no sound in the room except a subtle hum like brain waves that almost put Iris to sleep.
When the Stylist finished, Iris was thrilled by the radiant symmetry the blunt bangs and honed edges brought to her face. “I love it!” she said, and the Stylist smiled. “I’m glad,” the Stylist said, removing the cape from her shoulders. After Iris paid the bill, she asked for the Stylist’s card. “I don’t have one,” the Stylist said. “Well, what’s your name? I’d like to see you, again.” “I own this shop. I’m the only hairdresser here and I just see customers once.” “What?” “That’s right.” “How do you stay in business?” “I manage.” Iris didn’t know what to say. “Couldn’t you make an exception? This is the best haircut I’ve ever had.” “No exceptions.” “Why?” “It’s a business decision.” “It makes no sense.” “It does to me.” Iris was a vain woman and felt intensely frustrated. “Couldn’t you please see me, again? I’ll pay anything you want.” “The day will come when I give you a cut you don’t like. Then you’ll just look for someone else and I’ll feel demoralized.” Iris was shocked. The woman had just cut her hair; it wasn’t as if they’d made love.
“If I’d known your terms I wouldn’t have come in,” Iris snapped. The Stylist smirked. “I don’t believe that.” Iris knew she was probably right. The Stylist began sweeping up the hair on the floor to signal their time was done and Iris walked out of Demimonde, dazed. Outside the shop, she called her best friend, Marina, on her cellphone as if she’d been in an accident and needed help. Marina’s phone rang four times before her droll message came on: “Hi. Now, you say something.” “Marina, it’s Iris. Please call me as soon as possible.” Iris went to her car and flipped down the mirror over the dashboard. Her hair was like a glorifying aura, sharpening her features into clear, chiseled focus as if a camera lens had been adjusted, revealing her ideal self. Her phone vibrated and she saw it was Marina. “Marina, the weirdest thing happened. I got this exquisite haircut—and then the Stylist tells me she’ll never cut my hair again. She only sees customers, once.” “Did you go to Demimonde?” Marina asked knowingly. “Yes! Have you ever been there?” “No, but I’ve heard about it. I’d walk on a bed of hot coals for a great haircut, but I won’t expose myself to someone like her. Talk about getting drunk on your own power.”
“So you know people who’ve seen her?” “She has a reputation. They say her husband’s Mafia and the place is a front. She’s not even there much.” “What’s her name?” “I don’t know. Carole Wendell told me about her. She had highlights done. She went back a few months later, hoping the Stylist wouldn’t recognize her, but she did. She can spot her own work.” “What a kook.” Iris didn’t give a damn that the salon might be owned by Mafia; the Stylist’s work was worth it. And weren’t the best restaurants in New Jersey all mob-connected? She did feel a bit peeved that Marina had never mentioned Demimonde to her when she’d known about it. Marina was always full of revelations as if she were leading an exalted double life that Iris was excluded from. They were supposed to be best friends, but Marina had a summer house in the Hamptons that Iris had never seen and she was too polite to ask for an invitation. When Iris’ husband, Ryan, saw her that night, he was mesmerized, and for weeks to come she was anointed “beautiful” by strangers and acquaintances as if she’d entered a state of mysterious harmony, beamed in from a heavenly realm. When the cut grew out, cowlicks sprouted and Iris knew she’d have to return.
Marina had warned her the Stylist would recognize her own work so Iris snipped the bangs and sides, herself and the perfect balance was completely thrown off like a sphere skidding out of orbit. She hadn’t been this obsessed with her looks since adolescence, but then she’d never had a haircut so transcendent, before. It felt life-changing. To make sure she wasn’t recognized, she rinsed her hair a crass burgundy and bought a pair of eye glasses with tinted lenses in CVS. If the Stylist asked her name, she’d tell her it was “Crystal.” The shop was empty except for the Stylist who sat at her station, engrossed in a paperback called Against Nature. If the place was a front, she wouldn’t even want customers which explained her offputting attitude. She was probably her husband’s lookout. The last time Iris had seen her, the Stylist’s long, pale hair had hung shapelessly, but now it was intricately structured as if hammered into place like an ornate birdcage. She might be striving for an ancient goddess look. The Mafia ties and the Stylist’s dominatrix hairdo made Iris wonder if Demimonde wasn’t a secret brothel. Iris smiled brazenly, getting into character. She’d put on a distracting red lipstick, the kind she never wore, and the Stylist gave her a vacant stare as if she’d never seen her before.
hairdo suggested that could be the case. It looked very incongruent with her pragmatic hornrimmed glasses. When they went to her station, the Stylist gazed at Iris’ reflection the way she had last time and Iris tensed slightly. She suddenly felt endangered what with the mob connections, the lewd posters, and this woman’s obvious mental issues. It almost whiffed of sex trafficking. “That hair color is not for you,” the Stylist said. “Your complexion’s way too pink.” Iris relaxed. “Do you want to color my hair?” “No. You asked for a cut and that’s the mode I’m in now,” she said, sounding like an android which was also not outside the realm of possibility. “What did you think of your friend’s highlights?” “She looked angelic.” “It was Jean Harlow’s recipe.” “Who’s Jean Harlow?” Iris asked. The Stylist seemed more talkative today and Iris figured her current disguise might be more approachable than what she usually projected. Maybe she looked like a good-natured slut. “Jean Harlow was a movie star of the nineteen thirties, the original platinum blonde. She died at twenty-six.” “That’s horrible. How did she die?”
Robin Vigfusson | The Stylist
“I’d like a trim. Do you do walk-ins?” Iris asked, making her voice higher than usual. “I should tell you now, I only see customers, once. After I cut your hair, you’ll have to go somewhere else.” “I know that,” Iris said and flushed like a shoddy con who’d cracked out of turn. “How do you know that?” The Stylist narrowed her eyes. “Carole Wendell told me,” Iris lied. “You colored her hair. That’s how I even heard of this place.” The Stylist seemed pacified. “Yes. Blonde highlights.” She smiled as if recalling a fond memory, then led Iris to the sink, draped the plastic cape around her shoulders and proceeded to wash her hair as robotically as last time. “Can I ask why you don’t see steady customers?” Iris said carefully, knowing she risked being banished. “There was an incident at a salon where I used to work. One of my regulars asked for someone else right in front of me and after that, it all went downhill.” Iris nodded without asking her to elaborate because the Stylist’s pain was obvious. Iris watched her face in the mirror and she looked ashen and cold as if even the memory of that betrayal turned her to stone. How had she gotten through life up to now? Maybe she was mentally ill. Her bizarrely sumptuous
“Her hair color.” “What?” “She bleached her hair with Clorox.” “Are you serious?” “A mix of Clorox, ammonia, Ivory Snow, and peroxide.” “And that’s what you put in Carole’s hair?” Her instincts were right; the woman was deranged. “I knew I’d do it only once,” she said. “Harlow did it every two weeks for years on end. It wound up killing her, but if she stopped dyeing it meant the end of her career. When Clark Gable did his last love scenes with her, he said it was like kissing a corpse. Everything was rotting.” “Does Carole know you put Clorox in her hair?” Iris asked. The Stylist stopped cutting. “Should we quit right now?” she asked sharply. “No,” Iris said to assuage her. “I won’t say anything. Like you said, you only see customers, once.” “If you tell her, I’ll deny it,” the Stylist said, but went ahead, trimming. When she was done, the effect was windswept and sultry. She’d pushed Iris’ bangs away and parted her hair seductively to one side, emphasizing the slant in her hazel eyes. “I love it,” Iris told her. When Iris got home, Ryan told her she looked gorgeous and hoisted her up on his crotch. She wrapped her legs around him and he carried her to their bedroom where they made
love in the afternoon for the first time since before they were married. “You’re fucking irresistible,” he whispered. “Do you like my hair better than last time?” she wanted to know, afterwards. He’d been so fervent she almost felt he wasn’t fucking her, but an illusory twin. Wasn’t that what sex symbols always complained about? Not being loved for themselves? “Well, that was beautiful, too. This woman you’re seeing is an artist.” “What if I stopped seeing her?” she asked. He looked surprised. “Why would you?” The next day, she rented the movie Saratoga from the library. It was Jean Harlow’s last picture and she’d died while making it. Maybe it was the power of suggestion, but Iris thought Harlow looked blowsy and embalmed. It was weird that such a glaringly unhealthy girl had been a movie siren though Iris knew she was seeing her in decline. Later that week, Marina asked Iris to meet her at Faubourg, an elegant French restaurant for an early dinner. “I don’t know how you got in to see her a second time, but you look amazing,” Marina said as she sipped her Negroni. “So glamourous. I wish I was as brave as you are.” “Brave?” Iris looked up from her kale and pistachio salad. “I really can’t deal with unstable people,” Marina chattered
she was done,
the effect was windswept
“Why haven’t you ever invited me to the Hamptons?” Iris blurted out. She’d never been this direct with Marina before. Marina looked surprised. “Well, I didn’t think East Hampton was really your thing.” “What does that mean?” “I didn’t know if you’d feel comfortable, there. You’ve always been such a—simple person,” she made “simple” sound insulting, “but if you’d like to go, certainly. I think you’d enjoy yourself.” “No, thanks,” Iris said. “I was just curious why you never asked. The way you talked about it made me feel I was missing something.” She abruptly opened her purse and started counting out what
she owed. “Iris, what is the matter with you?” Marina looked anxious. “They haven’t even brought our entrées. Did I do something wrong?” “No, Marina. I just didn’t think our wait would be this long,” she said, deliberately disparaging the service since Marina had picked the place. “I really should get home. This should cover what I owe.” She stood up and left without looking back. ~ Before Iris saw the Stylist again, she dyed her hair a color called “Onyx,” wore a black trench coat, overlarge sunglasses and a dark purple lipstick by Urban Decay called “Venom.” “I’d like a haircut,” she told the Stylist, sullenly as soon as she walked in, having gotten into character. Her name would be “Hazel” if she was asked. “I only see customers, once.” “I know that.” The Stylist arched an eyebrow. “Everyone does,” Iris said tersely. “You have a reputation.” The Stylist smiled, perversely pleased and Iris felt she hated her. Even Cinderella must have come to resent the fairy godmother on some level and here was this wacko, making her jump through hoops for the sake of a goddamned haircut.
Robin Vigfusson | The Stylist
on, “and it sounds to me like she’s a textbook case. Certifiable. But still, if she can give you a haircut like that—” “I’m starting to think it’s not worth it,” Iris said, feeling like a guinea pig for everybody’s whims. “You really think you could go back to Chelsea after this?” Marina smirked. Chelsea was Iris’ hairdresser at Mirabella. “Wouldn’t it be like moving from Tribeca to Queens?”
The Stylist had abandoned the Grecian hairstyle for Valkyrian braids. Her hair was a platinum color and Iris wondered if she’d used the Harlow recipe, herself. Probably. She was crazy enough. Iris sat down at the sink and this time the plastic cape was draped around her neck like a queen’s robe as if “Hazel” intimidated the Stylist. “That’s a nice color—I like the blue-violet sheen,” the Stylist said, “but you really shouldn’t do your hair that dark. It killed Jackie O.”
“Women don’t have to
suffer for beauty, but it
does require courage.
“What?” Iris felt like the Stylist was putting a curse on her. Her tone of voice seemed softly malignant and her face in the mirror looked as icy as a witch’s over a cauldron. “Just Google ‘Jackie O, hair dye’ and see what comes up. It’s linked to cancer and the darker the color, the more lethal it is.” “Why didn’t she just go grey?” “For her, that would have been unthinkable. Women don’t have to suffer for beauty, but it does require courage.” “You’re quite the philosopher, aren’t you?” Iris said, recalling some of her other observations. How a
disease can sometimes cause desirable results. The Stylist didn’t reply, but washed Iris’ hair more roughly than she ever had before and the conditioner felt slimy. When Iris sat in the chair, the Stylist took a razor to her head, swiftly shaving off most of the hair on her head while Iris froze. “What are you doing?” she screamed. “You’re mutilating me!” “I thought you’d love it. It suits your whole vibe. I can’t believe things turned hostile this quickly,” the Stylist mocked her as if onto her charade. “You’re the one who’s hostile! You shouldn’t be in business!” “Who are you?” the Stylist hissed. “Everyone knows you put Clorox in Carole Wendell’s hair! You’re anti-social! And everyone knows this place is a front!” “Get out!” The Stylist shoved her and Iris fled, afraid of violence. Outside, she caught her reflection in the storefront’s window and was aghast. Instead of punk-chic, the razored hair made her look like a martyr about to be burned at the stake. Until her hair grew out, she wore a wig, then returned to her hairdresser, Chelsea, at Mirabella. Chelsea’s work was still uninspired, veering between lovely and subpar, but she corrected all the damage the Stylist had inflicted.
Robin Vigfusson | The Stylist
“Want to see the back?” Chelsea asked, after finishing up. “Sure,” Iris said and Chelsea held up a hand mirror while Iris inspected her hair. “It’s fine,” Iris said. She looked completely innocuous, but at least she felt safe.
Dove Harbor Portrait Eric Pierzchala
(Painted in Pantone 15-0343, with a Bruise of Pantone 19-2524, Almost Half-a-Line in Pantone 13-0755, and then a Partial Line in Pantone 19-4045) Bruised purple about the right cheek the size of a backhand, with blue-yellowing fingerprints pressed deep into one upper arm (also the wrist), she gets up and puts on one leg then the other— what she was told were a dead woman’s jeans; sits down on her safe bed, takes account. She’s left behind things. Her daughter is no longer a thing to be taken—to be threatened with. And as she sees her daughter sleeping there, (nearby), her daughter in the morning light wakes—it’d be enough to make any mother smile, but bruised lips they do not lift—when remembered where an easy smile, led.
Anatomy of a Fall Dave Magyar
Tourist Baiting Norman Minnick
Of all the people on this pier–– the salted and the salty, the sober and the sloshed, the old salts with stories to tell, and the tourists leaning over the rail scanning the shallow water pointing excitedly to a grocery bag floating as a jellyfish–– a seven-year-old local girl who has been carving chunks of flesh from the side of a mullet to be used as bait reels in a remora. Without even saying Watch this! she sticks it to a light post for all to gape at. Sunburnt fathers in flip-flops snap pictures as she goes about rebaiting her hook.
A Unit of Measure Andy Smart
I remember my father shaded from the chest up by a weeping tree beside the granite steps from Clark Street into the vaulted atrium of the Downtown Post Office. The tree was not a willow but an oak, maple, or spruce. For years after my father’s death it confounded me how I could remember such a tree in that repose; it took the same years to learn that a tree can weep in different voices, that seasons of grief do not a different tree demand. It took years after my father’s death to see in other trees the same kind of tearfulness or a similar one, to recognize in other broad-shouldered men of certain ages the fatigue and mortality my father wore when we stood on the steps and took smoke breaks together.
I am part of a half-truth which can only be told within the lifespan of a cigarette. The Chinese have a name for stories that take only a cigarette’s length to read or to tell: smokelongs. A few days a week for a couple of years before my father committed suicide we compiled an oral anthology of smoke-longs while he stole away from the machinery of his electrical engineering duties in the subbasement of the Post Office and I ran the outgoing mail from the hotel across the street where I worked as a bellman. Our shifts overlapped for those couple of years—three to eleven for Dad, four to midnight for me—and we overlapped more with one another because of that than we did most other times.
“Much of what I know about men, my father, and weeping
I have had to grow from seed and water with my own
tears. But I am not a tree or my father. Much of what I know about men, my father, and weeping I have had to grow from seed and water with my own tears. But I am not a tree or my father. I am not a tobacco leaf or a matchhead’s flame or a puff of smoke or a granite staircase.
I would call Pop when I was pretty sure we’d both be free. “Hey. Busy?” “Nope, reading grievances for the Union. You?” “Nope, thinking about dropping the mail.”
“Back steps in five.” “Bet.” Where there’s smoke, there is permission to speak freely. Until I was almost out of high school, my father demanded I call him sir. But now, just on the other side of my twenty-first birthday, as we lit up together as men having reached our majority, I could substitute colloquialisms like Bet that for Yes sir. Dad was six-foot-two and weighed over 300 pounds but in the shade of his tree, smoke wrapping around his body and dancing over his head, he was smaller. He was never frail and seldom tender, but in those smokelong moments his military posture relaxed and the arthritically-inflamed knuckles of his hands, which were almost perpetually clenched into fists, appeared as if they never contained or ever could hold any violence. I remember his greyscale eyes going soft with a kind of sympathy I would never see from him anywhere else. Even now, knowing he was slouching toward self-annihilation, it’s hard not to see those versions of him as at peace. In his casket he would not look so at ease. I remember what we must have talked about: the assholes in management or the oppressive heat or the traffic on the freeway or how with my tips figured in I made more than my father for two hours that day. I remember him smiling like he knew something profound which
I would learn in my own time if he’d raised me right. I remember him telling me he loved me before giving me a hug, kissing my sweaty mop of brown hair, and telling me it was time to get back to work. He must have said those words— I love you—before, but only when I was a boy. During our smokelongs he saw me grown up, beginning to resemble him or a man he would hold in esteem. His pride was smoke-long and I think now that I ran the mail across so as to renew or reaffirm that pride, for however long it lasted. Three or four days a week for twenty-two months my father loved me as a man. Where there’s smoke there are subverted expectations. When the Chinese refer to smokelongs they are generally speaking of flash-fictions. Dad’s suicide note read: I love you too much to hurt you. I have never been able to read that as truth, and I have smoked over it plenty.
Time Squared Karen Neuberg
Memories shrank into bowls placed on tables that stretched from one end of the clock to the other. From there, I squared time. Then subtracted an allowance worth pocketing. It jingled in tune to the seasons. Clustered into grapes into wine. Sotted, I reviewed reminders stuck on my refrigerator with magnets displaying places Iâ€™d been. A grand staircase offered a high view with a balcony looking down to the ballroom of time. I was gliding, I was doing tai chi, I was a pigeon with perfect alignment. First, I tried to continue. Then I modified. Finally, I was down to minutes from what had been hours. I took my amazement into the garden. Spring, after all, is the time for renewal. What hadnâ€™t already left grew into flowers.
Untitled #4 Martin Krafft
The long-dry fields the blowing fields the gold-going fields and cold coming and the lone girl in the windy dress sweaterless watching three buzzards arc and dive, fall and rise. What she wonders is the meaning of what she sees, how all her whos and whens just glide across her sky-scribbled whys.
The dark pours and a wild wash fires water sideways. Today brought its cask of dry sorrows but tonight brings rainlight, salvific, heedless, gleaming.
Art Sarah Kohrs creates art with a unique perspective on how surroundings kindle hope in even a disparaged heart. Find her photography in Blueline Literary Magazine, CALYX, Claudius Speaks, Columbia College Literary Review, Esthetic Apostle, In Layman’s Terms, Mt Hope, Mud Season Review, Ponder Review, Raven Chronicles, Virginia Literary Journal, and 3Elements. Surrounded by Shenandoah Valley mountains, Sarah is a poet, a potter, a homeschooling mother, director for Corhaven Graveyard (a preserved burial ground for African Americans enslaved on an antebellum plantation), managing editor for The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, volunteer board member of Nasaruni Academy (a primary school for Maasai girls in Narok, Kenya), and more. Sarah has a B.A. in Archaeology and Classical Languages from The College of Wooster and a Virginia teaching license endorsed in Latin and Visual Arts. Find her online at: http://senkohrs.com Martin Krafft received his undergraduate degree in Creative Writing and Economics at Emory University. He is currently a graduate student in photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. He hails from the sweet-tea-drinking part of rural Southern Maryland. His jobs have been many and mostly financially unrewarding: ranch hand, handy man, community organizer, preschool teacher, and video editor for an artist with dementia. His art and writing practice revolves around people’s search for meaning. Dave Magyar is a native of New Jersey with a B.A. in fine arts at Montclair State and an M.F.A. from Pratt Institute. From 1970–2004, he pursued a career in art education. Since, he has been actively showing work at galleries and museums in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. He has received numerous awards including the von Holtzbrinck Coexistence Award (2007), JerseyArts.com’s featured artist of the month, honorable mention in the Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council’s Skylands Photography Show (2008), the New York Center for Photographic Art’s international exhibit Water (2013), and a Patron’s Choice Award for work in Berks Art Alliance 39th Open Juried Exhibition (2018). His work has been selected three times for inclusion in special online exhibitions of
KJ Williams is an abstract expressionist. She has studied art at Newbury College and The Art Institute of Boston before moving to New Hampshire. Through her work, KJ has expressed her physical pain from an accident in 1993 to the depression and frustration of trying to work while in pain. She has been compared to Frida Kahlo in that respect.
Contributors | Issue 21
The Photo Reviewâ€™s International Photo Competition. Most recently, his work has been included in the Pennsylvania Center for Photography The Odyssey Exhibition in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and the Artspace radius250 2019 exhibit at Plant Zero in Richmond, Virginia.
Fiction Nina Lukina was born in Moscow and raised in Brooklyn, where she now resides. She works as a copywriter and is currently writing a novel. Robin Vigfussonâ€™s stories have appeared in Constellations, fresh. ink, Foliate Oak Literary Journal, Windmill, Lou Lit, Jewish Fiction.net, Feminine Collective, The Valley Review, and other literary magazines. Her first collection of short stories will be published by Main Street Rag in 2021.
Nonfiction Ashley Monet Johnson lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. She is an M.F.A. candidate at the Solstice M.F.A. Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College. Her work has appeared in Sleet Magazine. Elizabeth Ponds is a creative writer and social worker based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Born in a mobile home across from a South Carolina corn field to a fundamentalist family of ten children, her writing often centers on themes of family, religious trauma, and queer identity. She received both her B.A. in Creative Writing and her M.S.W. in Social Work from Winthrop University.
Andy Smart earned his M.F.A. from the Solstice Low-Residency Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College, where he was a Michael Steinberg Fellow in Creative Nonfiction. His essays have appeared in Sleet Magazine, Moon City Review, and elsewhere. Andy’s first chapbook, Blue Horse Suite, was just released by Kattywompus Press and his first full-length book is due out in August of 2022 from Unsolicited Press. His website is: www.andysmartwrites.com
Poetry Taher Adel is a British-Bahraini poet and spoken word artist raised in London. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in Creative Writing and Poetry at the University of East Anglia. His poetry has also been published in Ambit, Lucent Dreaming, and The Poetry Salzburg Review. Cathy Allman’s work has appeared in numerous journals including Blue Earth Review, Bluestem Magazine, Broad River Review, California Quarterly (CQ), Free State Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Maudlin House, Sequestrum, Talking River, and Terminus. Her poem “Not in the Wonder Box” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Delilah Andarina earned an M.A. from Northwestern University. This is her first published poem. Your interest in her work thrills her. She hopes you love it. Norman Minnick is a queer poet and essayist. Their poetry collections are To Taste the Water (winner of the First Series Award from Mid-List Press) and Folly (Wind Publications). They are the editor of Between Water and Song: New Poets for the Twenty-First Century (White Pine Press) and Work Toward Knowing: Beginning with Blake (Kinchafoonee Creek Press). Their essays have appeared in many journals including The Writer’s Chronicle, World Literature Today, The Georgia Review, and Poetry International. Ellene Glenn Moore is a writer living in Philadelphia. Her poetry has appeared in Lake Effect, Best New Poets, The Journal, and others, and her prose has appeared in Brevity, Fjords Review, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. Ellene earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Florida
Karen Neuberg is a Brooklyn-based poet. Her latest book is Pursuit (Kelsay Press, 2019). She is also the author of the chapbooks the elephants are asking (Glass Lyre, 2017), Myself Taking Stage (Finishing Line Press, 2014), and Detailed Still (Poets Wear Prada, 2009). She is associate editor of the online poetry journal First Literary Review-East. Her poems and collages can be found in numerous publications including 805, Canary, New Verse News, and Verse Daily.
Contributors | Issue 21
International University, where she held a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellowship in Poetry. Her book How Blood Works (Kent State University Press, forthcoming in 2021) won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. Find her at: elleneglennmoore.net
Steven Ostrowski is a poet, fiction writer, painter, and teacher. His work appears widely in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, most recently in The American Journal of Poetry, New Delta Review, and Lily Poetry Review. He is the author of five published chapbooks—four of poems and one of stories. He and his son, Ben, are authors of the full-length collaboration Penultimate Human Constellation (Tolsun Books, 2018). His chapbook After the Tate Modern (Island Verse Editions, 2018) won the 2017 Atlantic Road Prize. Steven teaches at Central Connecticut State University. Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Rosenblum Poems published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at: www.simonperchik.com Eric Pierzchala earned his M.F.A. in poetry at Murray State University. His works have most recently appeared in journals such as Rue Scribe, The Stirling Spoon, NonBinary Review, Cathexis Northwest Press, and SurVision Magazine. Eric also has a chapbook accepted for publication with Urban Farmhouse Press, The Prayers of Liam McIleveny, No Saint, expected in fall 2021.
Rachel Tramonte lives and writes in Cleveland, Ohio. Her work has appeared in Third Wednesday, The Broken Plate, Jelly Bucket, Broad River Review, Evening Street Review, Emrys Journal, Whistling Shade, Dash, Plainsongs, and other journals. Will Wells has published three full-length collections of poems, most recently Odd Lots, Scraps & Second-hand, Like New (Grayson Books, 2017) which won the 2016 Grayson Poetry Prize, and Unsettled Accounts (Ohio Univ./Swallow Press, 2010) which won the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. Other poems appear or are forthcoming in Permafrost, Naugatuck River Review, Southwest Review, Evansville Review, Carolina Quarterly, Connecticut River Review, River Styx, Image, Potomac Review, Cortland Review, Alabama Literary Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. John “Catfish” Wojtowicz grew up working on his family’s azalea and rhododendron nursery in the backwoods of what Ginsberg dubbed “nowhere Zen New Jersey.” Currently, he serves his community as a licensed social worker and adjunct professor. He has been featured in the Philadelphia-based Moonstone Poetry series, West Chester-based Livin’ on Luck series, and Rowan University’s Writer’s Roundtable on 89.7 WGLS-FM. He serves as the Local Lyrics contributor for the Mad Poets Society blog. Recent publications: Toho, Jelly Bucket, Glassworks, Tule Review, Driftwood, Constellations, The Poeming Pigeon, and Schuylkill Valley Journal. Find out more at: www.catfishjohnpoetry.com
Norman Minnick Ellene Glenn Moore
Simon Perchik Eric Pierzchala
Ashley Monet Johnson
Issue 21: a publication of Rowan University's Master of Arts in Writing