a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing
featuring forbidden fruit addiction and vice seeking home
Cover art: “Muy Caliente” by Diamante Lavendar
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 Cate Romano
Cover Design & Layout: Katie Budris
Glassworks is available both digitally and in print. See our website for details: RowanGlassworks.org
SENIOR EDITOR Myriah Stubee ASSOCIATE EDITORS Megan Kiger Thomas LaPorte Georgia Iris Salvaryn Marissa Stanko
Glassworks accepts literary poetry, fiction, nonfiction, craft essays, art, photography, short video/film & audio. See submission guidelines: RowanGlassworks.org
FICTION EDITORS Scott MacLean Georgia Iris Salvaryn Marissa Stanko
Glassworks is a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program
NONFICTION EDITORS Ed Benkin Connor Buckmaster Christina Cullen
Correspondence can be sent to: Glassworks c/o Katie Budris Rowan University 260 Victoria Street Glassboro, NJ 08028 E-mail: GlassworksMagazine@rowan.edu Copyright © 2021 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.
POETRY EDITORS Aleksandr Chebotarev Angela Faustino Sam Fine MEDIA EDITORS Julianna Holshue Thomas LaPorte Dom Marconi COPY EDITORS Editing the Literary Journal Fall 2021 students
glassworks Fall 2021
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
Issue 23 | Table of Contents Poetry
Daisy Bassen, Blazon | 47
Mark Blackford, Christmas | 14
Late-Night Snack | 12 Of Bad Dreams and Home Movies | 11
Phillip Watts Brown, Serpents | 16
Adrianna Caputo, Gardening Poem I | 5 Gardening Poem II | 6
Morning Prayer | 8
Adam P. Davis, Recent Excavation | 46 Kelly DuMar, good Samaritan | 30
Tina Klimas, Goddess | 58
Laurinda Lind, Essential Recombinations | 3
Dani Putney, Turning Point | 48
Ron Riekki, My Brother Out of Rehab, Points, | 22 Abhijit Sarmah, Ghazal for Stateless Bodies | 60 Claudia Schatz, Flower, Stem | 55 How to Cross the Room | 56 Carla Schwartz, If I Visited My Mother’s Grave | 53 Steven R. Weiner, Cutting Back the Shoots | 4 Edytta Wojnar, In the melting pot | 23 Ellen June Wright, Life Cycle | 52
Morgan MacVaugh, The Master | 18
Jesse Mardian, The Vacant Lot | 32
Nonfiction Lucinda Cummings, Ephemera in Five Parts | 25 JosÉ Enrique Medina, The Spies | 49
Art Louis Dennis, Drifter | 54 Koi with Glass Balls | 10
Morning Light | 15
Kelly LaCour, Keep Off Artist | 29 Stage Left | 44
Diamante Lavendar, Funky Dreams | 57
Muy Caliente | cover
JRM, Mais Non | 24
Proof | 51
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.
Essential Recombinations Laurinda Lind
This fall was a winter where I spilled like the sky as salt down as far as it will go, which was all the way into the mouth of the ground, its old machines grinding underneath as always. What melts there flows backward like a river remembering how deep a mind lives in each of its molecules, before they go out to the air. Let it all wash down from there. I was September enough to want the width of the trees in me, in that sliced season, but already a new month had locked the door on it. I was opaque long before I caught the flood of cold and how it would halve me, one part like an animal, one part losing leaves since there was snow stuck to that time to make it immaculate. I wasn’t too clean to keep on and I was about to spill like salt, and November was still coming, flipping on its feet the way February will, if it is a real year, not just a giant engine inside another engine running wherever it wants. Such as into this strict month that has lasted since summer. A crystal can carry a current as long as its electrons leave their local orbits. Sodium and chlorine electrify each other like that and so can quartz, everything down to its same elements, in whatever cycle the world sends us next.
Cutting Back the Shoots Steven R. Weiner
To the lost and to the last love, I would send these flowers— White foxglove, pink columbine, Days past their peak bloom, Sprawling unkempt as a drunken guest Across the little grove I had kept private. Seeds taken by the night birds, Final blossoms spent, While the lost love, Who still needs nothing I can give, Finds her own respite somewhere. The last one, in her own garden, Needs even less from me. This is mine to keep Safe from deer, for swallowtails, For bumblers, for me And the sphinx moth The garden needs to be pruned, Blooms of no more use to me, And I have shears.
Gardening Poem I Adrianna Caputo
Replant the sapling clenched between your fists, and dig the yarded dirt around its root. The earth beneath your nails is dust, more dry than you recall, back on those spring late dawns, with your mother and her hands in the mulch. Your knuckles and the pillbugs raw, naked among unspent dew drops, which sit swollen on huntsman webs as false trigger, the damp fake feast. Press to the ground the trunk of tree, hold your hands against that fresh bark. Feel life, the pulse of it a prayer that splits open the creases in your palms and bleeds them stale, rusts the garden, washes the sphagnum moss of sin so that you may rest on its bed and let its fingers grab hold of your spine, the bones of which belong to your mother, to hers before her, all of you folded in the litter of decomposing tree.
Gardening Poem II Adrianna Caputo
I am out of the sick room. I am on my hands and knees in the garden. It is barely spring, the tree in the yard is past bloom, its leaves are waxy and shining in the way of magnolias, the sun a yellowed glaze on its branches, and on the lawn, dotted with petals— not unlike the flecked fawns that jumped the backyard fence during breakfast. There were two of them, knobby legged and all nose, and I could not mirror the endearment of my mother, who called them darlings, like they were her own hoofed offspring, but I saw their skin crawl. A great bubbling under the coarse of their spotty fur, those boil insects, the kind that so mimic the bowl of swollen cherries on the kitchen table. Forgive me, I have just emerged from a bed-ridden winter on behalf of a full-bellied parasite disease that leaded my brain and gorged itself on my blood, feasting like the doe who bows its head to tear at the zucchini flower. There is no beauty without the thing that bites.
For every time I have been frozen to the bone and colder, there is the trout lying hungry and alive under the ice.
There is a week into June when the air is thick scented with planting and hot dusk. The sky a bruised sort of green, the churning green of stomachs and pre-thunders, a brewing thrum of storm that will wash the soil I weed
Adrianna Caputo | Gardening Poem II
down the steep of the driveway, mingle it with scattered petals, the ones razed by a breeze that fats my lungs and holds me up, like an old marionette whose hands now dig at the soft of the Earth.
Morning Prayer Adrianna Caputo
Here you are in the cradle of sunrise, and you’re in the car. It’s a long and narrow road, the kind that is just swallowed by trees, the spidery pines, and their branches that reach out over the asphalt and soak a squinting orange sun, arms raised in praise of some tree-altar, maybe, or the altar which is the worn nylon car seat, and the glow of it and yourself in the ripening sunlight. Sunroof down, the rearview a rushing of green, an ever-blueing glinting light. And for just a second, it’s you alone. And you are speeding towards sunrise. The pitch of road below you, the hum of engine and waking life. But you are the boy with wax feathers, and how human the ritual that is the cracking stop. There will always be the road animals and how they herd on the stretch of street in the breathy dust of morning, the slice of horizon that shines through the gut on the glass and onto your face like light through a cathedral window, as you kneel in shattered windshield with a furred corpse, drag it to the bloodying sand by the side of the road.
Adrianna Caputo | Morning Prayer
Here is when you are gentle. Fold the entrails back into its heaving body, like you cradle warm laundry. Like to leave it cleanly behind you. Like to offer it whole to the buzzards.
Koi with Glass Balls Louis Dennis
Of Bad Dreams and Home Movies Mark Blackford
At bedtime, my son tells me he wants to learn to sleep with his eyes open. He says, this way, the nightmares could not come, and I imagine our minds as attics; our eyelids, no more than cheap pull-down screens upon which cerebral reel-to-reels rerun spooled scenes, rummaged from subconscious boxes marked Memorably Forgettable Lane: sitcom-length segments of sleep, lasting little lifetimes left behind, once, by our minds. We each wake, exhausted, without reason or recollection as to why. I picture my boy, asleep, holding a lighter to the bottom of the screen. I watch the flames lick their way up. I think he might be onto something.
Late-Night Snack Mark Blackford
The six shots of Seagrams you’ve taken in the half-hour you’ve been home sneak up your brainstem, one-by-one like a team of Navy SEALS sent to replace your hostile regime with another hostile regime when, suddenly, you see the popcorn your wife had put away; a chance for some serious late-night snacking. Forty-five minutes and maybe four-to-five shots later, it’s almost 4 o’clock a.m.: You’ve melted the same two sticks of butter so many times, the air has become so saturated in fat inhalation causes chest pain. Your wife finally wakes up. She finds you, staring down the counter, strangling a bottle. You swear (in slur) you’ve added enough salt to your masterpiece and her face says you have, indeed. She tells you to go the fuck to bed and you don’t think that’s a bad idea but not until you barge into the kids’ room, rouse your daughter to remind her that you are, in fact, her father
how predictable and lame you’ve become, both you and your dick: good for nothing but making a mess before you pass out which, tonight, you will do
Mark Blackford | Late-Night Snack
no matter how unwilling she is to admit it. Your wife guides you to your room, reminds you how late it is
after you piss all over the floor. Your wife, a mother of two and a parent to three, will clean and tuck you in. In the morning you’ll wake and see her and you’ll wonder why she’s looking at you, like she’s wondering how much longer this should be allowed to continue.
Christmas Mark Blackford
It wasn’t even snowing. The excitement had us like spellbound children. We imagined ourselves suffering a blizzard to cherish the snow; even our sinuses burned with anticipation, but not a speck of a flake fell from the sky that night. As we flew down the road I looked up and saw only stars, no different than the peel-and-stick, Day-Glo galaxies on the ceiling in my childhood bedroom, intriguing ghost lights shining through the darkness of bad dreams; too insignificant to guide you, but enough to mind you of where you are, and ways you could go if gifted the choice, to get out.
Morning Light Louis Dennis
Phillip Watts Brown
I I was adolescent, a green field. At night, questions uncoiled and whispered through me, troubling the grass. My heart lifted its head, a deer startled by the dark scent. II Round face shining like a moon in the computer glow, I opened a window. Searching answers, I found riddles instead, a strange language of the body. My eyes widened, overripe with men. Dawn’s wildfire edged closer. Black cables slunk back behind the desk. III Shame feeds on itself: a terrible ouroboros. Silence cinched around me like a belt and a bruise bloomed, the flesh tender where it tightened. I straightened in my chair hoping no one would notice. My spine still arches from what could hold it.
The questions shift and shed skins, glitter darkly in their fresh shapes. Sex and fear intertwine, shadow on shadow, difficult to distinguish. Even now, my body confuses the two. One name for a group of snakes is a knot. Another is a bed.
Phillip Watts Brown | Serpents
V I trace the imprint of that first bite, punctuation for a list of numbed hungers: heat, knowledge, belonging. It’s a myth, the trick of sucking venom out. So how do I extract belief ? Blame is no antidote, but I apply it. Bandage the boy best I can. VI Slow work, unlearning paralysis. To wrap arms around my love and let the orchard burn. To taste fruit without forbidden— this sweet freedom that feels like falling, like fire.
The Master Morgan MacVaugh
Quit complaining. Half the stuff in here is yours. Come on, guys. Really? Knock it off. Will, are you listening? No? No. Here, I—I’ll tell you what. Hey. Look here. I’ll tell you what we’re doing and why. Sit that box down, Annie. Not on your brother’s feet. Jesus. Quit acting like assholes and let’s talk. You wanna know why we’re clearing out our junk room? No, Will, your mom’s not on one of her stuff binges. Yes, these Legos still spark joy. They’ll just be in your closet now. Right. Damn, what was I saying? Oh. Guys. We’re making room for the Master. Yeah, Annie, love. The Master’s coming around again. Aw dear, look at that smile. You love your aunt, don’tcha? Me too. Don’t stick your tongue out, Will. There’s no shame in admitting that. Your aunt’s important to me. Like you two are to each other. Oh, no? Ha. Not yet? God. You guys don’t understand. It’s okay, but you don’t. When we were kids—yeah, just like you two— it was just me and the Master. Your grandma worked 24/7. Because, Will, we preferred a house with a roof and heat than the street corner, and people don’t just stop eating. Especially kids. Yeah, she worked hard. Even more than your mom
and me. I know. Crazy, right? You guys never got to meet her, but your grandma was like a superhero, and it’s no wonder that somebody as special as that made up someone like the Master, huh? Yeah, sure. And me. What’s that? Oh right. Sorry. Yeah. The Master isn’t just visiting this time. She’s staying for a while, and this’ll be her room. We don’t know for how long yet. That’s alright with you two, right? Okay, okay. Quit cheering. You’ll wake Mommy; she’s got nightshift. Why? Well that’s because of some grownup reasons. But tell you what—can I trust you two? Actually and really? I’ll tell you if you can keep quiet for a bit. And don’t breathe a word of this to your aunt. The Master doesn’t need to be reminded of anything she already knows. Like I was saying, it was just me and her growing up, you know? She looked after me all the time, cause she’s a lot older. Almost a decade. Not like you and Annie. Y’all are practically Irish twins. Nothing. No, never mind. That wasn’t nice of Daddy. But a decade means ten, Annie. The Master’s ten years older than Daddy. She kept me out of trouble and kept my belly full of all the cheap
Can you imagine your old Dad doing that? You can laugh, if you like; I swear it happened. You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things the Master and I did together. Like what? Well—we’d leave plates of milk out for the brownies and sprites every Tuesday night. No, I don’t know why on Tuesdays. You’ll have to ask the Master when she comes. I never saw one, but the milk was always drained in the morning. What else? Well, our neighbor had a pond. And everybody knows that creepy things like kelpies live in swampy places like that. Every—they’re water horses, but not the nice ones you’re picturing, Annie— every full moon, we’d be out there in the twilight sprinkling
Morgan MacVaugh | The Master
stuff you guys like to eat for treats. The Master makes a mean box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese—you just wait. But you wanna know the best thing she did for me? She kept me looking up. She kept my head full of stories. Do either of you believe in dragons? No, of course not. See? That’s why we’re clearing this room out. You need the Master. Not even ten, the pair of you, and you’re already as boring as your mom and me. Aw, love, I’m sorry. Please don’t be upset. I’m just teasing. Partly. What could we expect? You two came from the two of us and your mom and I don’t believe in much of anything. Your mom’s the smartest woman I ever met, but she reads those medical books like they’re comics. And I stopped hearing dragon roars years ago.
was following that something that always
whispered to her. Giving her the words to make
meaning of this tumbled-up world. I did hear them, Will. On those nights, back when I was your age. They mimic train calls almost perfectly. That’s what the Master said. She and I would slip through my bedroom window and sit with the fireflies in our backyard just listening for it.
a mix of salt, glitter, and oats around the banks. Just praying that it’d be enough to keep it there. What’s that you’re mumbling, Will? What’s a brownie? Jesus, kid. This is why that Master’s coming to stay. We need her to.
You guys just don’t understand. I’d have believed the sun bled green if she’d said so. Yes. We need her here. We need her, kiddos. Why are you asking that? Of course she needs us too. Why? Well. Better question. Did you guys know that she was the first person in my family to go to college? God, I missed her so much when she left. It’s no fun making Kraft by-yourself-foryourself. There’s too much in a box for one person. But I managed. How couldn’t I? She was following that something that always whispered to her. Giving her the words to make meaning of this tumbled-up world. At school, she learned how to spin those words for people beyond me and your grandma. She graduated, and kept going on more borrowed dimes. The next program made her a Master. Now, she tells stories like you wouldn’t believe. You know your aunt. Always grinning like she knows something the rest of us can only meet once or twice. But you asked why she’s moving in. Well, that’s harder to explain to the two of you. Would you believe your old man if I said, life’s a lot harder than choosing which Legos stay in your room and which get chucked into the junk room? Yeah, even more than deciding what toys get donated, love. The world’s hard. It leans on people like me and your
mom to go to work and get things done. Build new bridges. Save a life. Your mom’s amazing, isn’t she? Brilliant. Just brilliant. But the world’s not so kind to people like the Master. Why? Well. It’s hard to say, kids. I guess it’s a lot harder for the world to see the value in things that make our hearts hurt and grow. It’d rather have something physical to show for somebody’s efforts. Let’s just say: life’s been hard waiting for her, kids. The people who she borrowed dimes from are asking for them back. It’s getting a bit too much. So we’re opening our doors. Do you understand? Maybe a little? Good. Now Annie, pick that box back up. That’s going to your room. We’ll sort through it later. Okay? Good girl. Help her out—what’s that, Will? Oh. No. I haven’t heard the dragons in a long time.... That’s not what you asked? Sorry, kid, ask me again. You listened to me. The least I can do is return it. Oh. Of course I still believe in dragons. Yep, even though I don’t hear them anymore. Even the brownies. And the kelpie. Especially the kelpie. Once you believe in something, you don’t just stop. Even when it hurts, you can’t give up on it. Why do you ask? Have you been hearing long whistles some nights? You thought it was a train all this time, didn’t you? The Master can teach you the difference.
Morgan MacVaugh | The Master
She taught me once. I see your face. What’re you thinking, kiddo? What if you’re somebody like the Master? Don’t worry about that just yet, kid. Learn to love something— anything—and work at it. We’ll get you to school. No matter what. You’ll have to work hard, and borrow some dimes of your own. It’s just the nature of the world right now. But it could change. You could change it. Your room down the hall will always be yours, if you need it. And maybe, just maybe, years from now, you’ll be teaching kids of your own to listen for dragon calls. You won’t stop hearing them like your old man. No, you’ll keep that alive, cause you’re a smart kid with a lot of heart. And one day, the world might change because of you. But for now, quit slacking. Pick up that other box, there. Don’t drop it. Jesus. It’s fragile. It’s got those old dolls of your mom’s in it. She’ll be pissed if they break. Let’s work hard, Will, okay? The Master’s coming, and she’ll be here in no time at all.
My Brother Out of Rehab, Points, Ron Riekki
as we drive down the street, says, They sell there, and there. And there . . . And there. The pauses, him waiting, then pointing—a McDonald’s, an alley, a veterinary clinic, an apartment complex. Where’s God? he says. I wait. His hand circles around a full 360, like he’s making a halo for some ghost at his side, and he says, Everywhere. And I’m not sure if: drugs are God. Or if: God is God and he’s a believer now. Or if: he’s high, even now, after just getting out. Or if: he means that God is watching, or that God is an addict too. Or if: he means nothing, just talking. And I wait; and he waits. He points, whispers, And there.
In the melting pot Edytta Wojnar
of lowlands and mountains a divide a mile deep on the south a steel wall twenty feet high on the east windows boarded up against looters and on the west trees burn for weeks constant blood moon against shrouds of smoke that choke like the knee on a neck.
Mais Non JRM
Ephemera in Five Parts Lucinda Cummings
Papers Notebooks and journals, sketchbooks and stationery, notecards, scrapbooking paper, papers with lines, grids, and dots occupy my house. I began collecting papers when I was three, pulling from wastebaskets every piece of junk mail, every sheet of paper with words I was just learning to read. Gathering them into piles that I picked up in my small hands, clunking the page bottoms against a tabletop to line them up in a perfect satisfying stack. Pushing my papers across the carpet in a cardboard box, pretending to go door-to-door, selling “preferences.” I didn’t know what preferences were, but borrowed the word to name my papers because I liked its sound. One day I found a pile of cancelled checks in the trash after Daddy paid the bills. I marched outside to Mama, who was hanging sheets on the line. Tripping, falling, the checks flew out of my hands, blanketing the back yard with green paper. “Pick those up right now! I don’t want everybody knowing our business!” The heat in my chest, my earliest memory of shame, both hers and mine. “For Sale House Papers:” my son Benjamin’s words for the one-sheet handouts we found in plastic boxes
mounted atop “For Sale” signs in our neighborhood the summer he was four. Newborn Sam in the stroller, I walked to shed baby weight and entertain my ever-restless firstborn. When we spotted a new sign down the block, Benjamin ran toward it, then waited for me to reach up and retrieve the new addition to his collection. He brought the papers home to look at the photos, listen to me read the strange language, giggle at the idea of a square foot.
of shame, both hers and
~ Fabric In the South of my 1950s childhood, we called it “material.” Hancock was a fabric store, but what they sold was material. Grandmother laid out the material on her round kitchen table, a beige hopsacking, loosely woven and soft. She showed me how to pin on the brown tissue paper pattern pieces, having volunteered to teach me how to sew a skirt for myself. Mama sewed, but her constant swearing at the machine made her
a poor teacher. At each step, after Grandmother explained what to do, I talked her into doing it for me. No confidence to practice something new in front of someone else, even my adoring grandmother. And what if it didn’t turn out perfectly? In a fabric store, material calls out to me, begging to be touched and stroked, its colors admired. I run my hand along the soft wales of thick cranberry corduroy, inhale the scent of new cotton, feel the “hand” of blue wool, touch the ivory shell buttons arrayed on their cards in rows.
congregation, sending them out of this life wrapped in ancient tradition. They performed a ritual cleansing of Benjamin’s body, accompanied by sacred prayers, then dressed him in his shroud and the silk prayer shawl from his bar mitzvah, and gently laid him in his plain pine coffin. They sat with him around the clock until it was time for his burial. A gift that can never be reciprocated. ~ Light Major depression kept Mama in bed, every shade drawn. Undoing the legacy of darkness she left,
“They performed a ritual cleansing of Benjamin’s body, accompanied by sacred prayers, then dressed him in his
shroud and the silk prayer shawl from his bar mitzvah,
and gently laid him in his plain pine coffin. Old cotton sheets, endlessly washed, bring perfect rest. The kind that start out stiff and sturdy, a high thread count, and soften over years into worn white cotton with a velvet finish. Cotton that cools your cheek as you lay your head down for the night. My Benjamin was buried at twenty-three in a white cotton shroud made from a discarded bedsheet. Volunteers from our synagogue’s burial society sew shrouds for the deceased of our
I crave sunlight, renting an office because of its sun filled, south facing windows, painting its walls a soft yellow. Every Labor Day, I begin my morning vigil of sitting in front of my SAD light, storing up sunlight to survive a Minnesota winter. Dread comes as the days grow shorter and the sun sits lower in the sky. I celebrate at Winter Solstice, knowing that the waning light has reversed its flow and daylight will increase again.
around my shoulders, saying simply, “I want you to have this.” Pure cashmere, it was the most elegant blanket I’d ever seen or felt. I wanted to insist that she keep it for herself, but words would not come, as I trudged the rest of the way to the funeral home’s black limousine, Bob and Sam beside me. Inside the car, the heat blasted as we drove away, but it would be months before I felt warm again. In the spring, I returned the cashmere blanket to Nancy, but her gift stays with me. ~ Star The pride I felt in grade school when I figured out how to draw a perfect star. Drawing stars all over our unfinished basement walls with my purple magic marker, the one I’d saved up 50¢ to buy at the dime store, choosing purple because I thought it was a sad, left out color; because no one I knew claimed purple as their favorite. A silver necklace with a petite marcasite Star of David hanging from its chain, given to me by four-year-old Benjamin (with a little help from Grandma) on the day that he and I entered the mikveh for our conversion to Judaism. Indigo sky filled with silver stars: a motif in my quilts and watercolor paintings.
Lucinda Cummings | Ephemera in Five Parts
My English name means “light,” as does my Hebrew name, “Liora.” Perhaps I’m part bear, meant to curl up in my leaf-filled den and sleep through the darkness. On the day Benjamin died, the gray sky descended and dark rushed early at the windowpanes. One golden light had gone out of our lives. We huddled together in the blackness, afraid of sleep. ~ Blanket Tucked into my knitting bag, a wool blanket I’m making, and skeins of yarn in sky blue, green, creamy white, and charcoal. More the size of a miniskirt than something one might curl up under, it’s been in progress for years. I see now that I bought the yarn because it was fall and my hands loved its scratchy warmth. I knit to feel the yarn again, not for the finished product. For weeks after my son died on a freezing January day, blankets filled every room of our house. Sam and I sat watching movies to get through those unbearable days, wrapped in quilts I’d made. Bob turned up the heat and walked around with a knitted blanket over his shoulders. We could not get warm. Walking away from Benjamin’s grave on the day we buried him, the cold air stung our faces and the wind was merciless at our backs. Nancy walked toward us with a snowy white blanket in her arms. Opening it wide, she placed it
Standing outside at night, I talk to Benjamin among the stars. Why does a starry night bring him close? Maybe some childhood idea I had of heaven, situated among the stars, or the sense of infinity that arises in my chest when I look up from the dark earth. Or Benjamin’s fascination with stars and planets as a young child. I talk to him in other places, driving or sitting in his room, but I find him most easily, late at night, in a star-strewn sky. I like to think of him in the world to come, a burst of light and energy, streaking across the dark universe.
Keep Off Artist Kelly LaCour
good Samaritan Kelly DuMar Figment of man curled under a sink wrist hacked a razored wound. At this angle of shock he is headless. First reached by my husband a hero in every rescue who shrinks from this gore is going to faint— my bare hands bear down on raked slits chalky arm, blood-streamed ––bandages!––I am tossed sheared strips of what’s handy. Who am I? No doctor, no nurse, no medicine maker––just fingers fervently applied. Booned by my grit the dying man on the way of blood lifts up his head, sees outside a daylight–– he isn’t dead yet.
a pleasant surprise after all! He holds no belief I can’t save him. Yet now uncoiling, his guts
Kelly DuMar | Good Samaritan
Grins teethfully like isn’t alive
snake my lap––I’ve nothing clean to wrap him. A lullaby rocks from my––hush you are mine you are mine you are mine
The Vacant Lot Jesse Mardian
The lot behind our home had been a vacant sprawl of dirt for months until the motorhome appeared. A moldy, yellow behemoth, the clunker puttered around, leaving flatulent smog in its wake. It circled the grassless patch and situated itself beside our fence line, releasing a gurgling belch as the ignition died. “So,” Lucy said, sitting up from a lounge chair. “So, what?” I said. “I don’t know, Ollie, maybe go say something to them, like shoo them off or something.” I peeked over the fence and observed the giant Twinkie. Dents, scratches, a little graffiti on the side. Whatever was inside probably matched the outside, or at least I imagined. “Eh, I don’t know, maybe they’ll just go away on their own.” “Jesus. Do I have to do everything?” Lucy didn’t like surprises, so it was no surprise to see her get all flustered like that. She stomped towards the back gate, paused, looked back at me, and then disappeared. The lot hadn’t always been barren. Once there stood a charming, little house owned by an elderly couple, but they died and had no kids, so I guess the banks took over the house. I don’t know how these things work, but someone decided to bulldoze
the house and abandon the lot. They had been nice people too. Talked to them once or twice. Old but nice. I called them Bill and Agnes, but they could have been Mark and Martha, or Sam and Janine. We weren’t here too long before they died, one after the other. One day here, the next day gone. Just like the house. I took a seat in the lounge chair, sipping lemonade, and trying to figure out nineteen down on the Sunday crossword. Polite words while entering. Eight letters. Nice home? I heard three loud pounds from beyond the fence. Lucy’s voice resonated, “this is private property, you can’t be here! Do you hear me? Hello?” She reappeared a few moments later, her gait still exaggerated. “And?” I said, filling in the crossword. “And what? They didn’t come out. Get out of my seat.” I stood and looked over the fence again. Lucy plopped down on the rattan and picked up the paper. “Maybe they need help or something?” I said, perching my nose on the fence line. “After you,” Lucy said. “I don’t know, maybe it’s better to leave people to their own business.” “No,” she said, erasing the words
Lucy had gotten her wish, and the motorhome was gone when we woke up. Here yesterday, gone today. Like Bill and Agnes and their charming little home. “Sorry, I freaked out yesterday,” she said, pulling the comforter to her chin. “I get it, the thing looked like a block of moldy cheddar.” She sighed and looked out the window, over the fence line and into the motorhomeless horizon. I knew it wasn’t really the RV that bugged her. Lucy was tricky like that, projecting one thing onto something else. I’d need a psychiatrist to spell it out for me. Tell me Doc, I’d say. What is it really that she’s trying to tell me? If you don’t know I don’t know. I’m just a daydream. Lucy’s alarm chimed and she slammed it off. “I think we can squeeze one in before our appointment. Be quick,” she said. “I always am.” ~ We arrived late and had to sit in the waiting room with two couches, a center table with month old magazines, and a faux plant that looked like it needed water for some reason. An instrumental jingle of an old Beatles song played— I think it was “Eleanor Rigby,” or maybe “Dear Prudence,” or “Happiness is a Warm Gun?”
Jesse Mardian | The Vacant Lot
I had written. “Polite words while entering. AFTER YOU.” ~ Later that night we lay in a post-coital sweat and I stared at the ceiling, working out the math in my head. To my count, this had been the thirtieth time since we tossed to the contraceptives. We had to be getting close by now. Everything was coming together nicely. Marriage. Check. Wife. Check. House. Check. Baby. Lucy yawned and faced the window. The Winnebago stared back. “That thing better be gone by morning,” she murmured. Soon she was asleep. I forgot to carry a one and realized it was actually forty times. Not thirty. I went for water. It was a hot evening, and outside I could see the roses in our garden sleeping flaccidly in the darkness. Garden. Check. Past the rosebushes was our yard and then the fence, and above the fence the top of the motorhome. Sure it was an eyesore, but one could simply forget it was there, like a sun-beaten bird feeder or a garden gnome or a coiled hose. I was about to return to bed when I heard it. Through the slider, past the garden, and into the depths of the backyard, I followed the subtle, but unmistakable sound of a baby crying. I inched closer. A woman’s voiced cooed a lullaby. It came from the Winnebago. ~
The room smelled like paint. From the pile of magazines, I picked up a copy of Trailer Life and teased Lucy by holding up a centerfold of a vintage RV. “I was thinking of getting one of these,” I said, playfully jabbing her with my elbow. The doctor was a plain woman with a stoic face, her hair tied back, and a general lets-get-on-with-it attitude. She introduced herself as Dr. Patel. Lucy listened attentively, asking questions, clarifying comments, and pressing the doctor for suggestions. I examined a photo of a sailboat, battling fierce surf. “Any questions about the scrotal ultrasound, Mr. Stenson?” “Huh, oh, nope, got it, scrotal ultrasound.” “Ms. Stenson, continue with the clomiphene and we’ll follow-up in a week or so. A nurse will be in shortly with the container for you Mr. Stenson.”
“Sorry, I don’t like doctors, or doctor’s offices. Like that sailboat picture over there. Doesn’t it seem out of place.” “Oh, now you care about when things seem out of place.” A light knock came from the door and a nurse entered with a kit. “Here is everything you need. There are magazines in the bathroom, and you can leave the sample once you’ve finished.” “Sample?” “Yes, sir. The doctor has asked for a semen sample. There’s a medical safe box in the room, you’ll see it, just make sure the lid on the container is fastened and you can leave the sample inside.” The porno mags were outdated and I found a Playboy that had a tasteful Vonnegut short story about bees. I suspected that it wasn’t really about bees, but I wasn’t sure what Mr. Vonnegut was getting at. Rest his soul. Although, I learned that only
“I learned that only female bees sting, which made sense, since I knew that only girl mosquitos drew blood, and that female spiders release more venom. Something to
do with maternal instincts.
The doctor left and Lucy punched me on the arm. “Can you take this seriously?” she asked.
female bees sting, which made sense, since I knew that only girl mosquitos drew blood, and that female spiders release more venom. Something to
and listened to the family gossip. I threw away a stack of old mail as I learned my sister Blair had cut her own bangs and Jimmy up north had quit his job at the startup. And I was doing okay. By the time I got to the list, morning had become afternoon and the sun wheezed arid rays onto our thirsty lawn. I turned on the sprinklers, pruned the rosebush, swept the garage, and took out the trash. Brown spider eggs peppered the eaves of our roof, and I sprayed them with WD-40, not knowing really what else to do. While I did this, a chime came from the front door. “Afternoon,” the officer said. His belly hung over his waistband and perspiration pooled above his lip. “Is something wrong?” I asked. “No, no, no,” he said, flipping open a notepad. “We’ve had some complaints in the neighborhood about a squatter, specifically a junky, 1970s Vandura, yellow, plates WG3—.” “A Winnebago,” I blurted. “I have here that it was a GMC Vandura, but in any case, so you’ve seen it?” “Nope, sorry.” “But you just said—” “I just assumed, ya know, ‘Bagos being the brand and all.”
Jesse Mardian | The Vacant Lot
do with maternal instincts. It made sense if you thought about it. A knock came from the door. “Is everything okay in there?” Lucy’s voice called. I shut my eyes and did what I came for. ~ A week had passed since the motorhome appeared, then disappeared, and the Sunday paper smacked on our doorstep. I awoke late to our morning intercourse appointment, having slept badly, so I made up for it with a rushed job, which Lucy didn’t seem to mind. She had a list of chores for me, so I took a good, long time in the bathroom, reading the headlines about diseases in the east, droughts in the west, and all the political gobbledygook in between. By the time I heard Lucy hollering, I was rifling through coupons and ads trying to find the comics. “Remember to dust the blinds,” Lucy said, grabbing her keys. “Got it,” I said, “Blind the dusts.” “And, Ollie—” “Yes, deary?” “Don’t do that thing you do, you know, the mindless stowing,” she said, opening the front door. “Shoving something out of sight doesn’t mean it’s not there.” The door shut and I felt lonely, but only for a second. I called Carl and we talked about football. Then I rang up George and asked about the wife and kids and his hernia operation. I checked in with Mom
He stared at me for an uncomfortable second. “Well, here’s my information,” he said, handing me a little card. “Officer Grenache,” I read. “You can call me Tim. Now just call that number if you see the motorhome, alright?” Officer Grenache smiled, turned his back, and waddled towards his patrol car. “Officer Tim,” I called. “Are these people dangerous?” He turned slowly, like a globe on rusty hinges. “What makes you think they’re more than one person?” “It is a motorhome.” “Uh-huh. Well, no. I don’t believe so. Have a good day now.” I watched the officer leave and returned to the spider eggs in the eaves, noticing how they looked like little cotton balls stuck together. ~ Lucy returned home later that afternoon. Apparently, they didn’t have the color of paint she wanted for the guest room/future nursery. The things that made her tick were trifles to me, but I learned long ago to never question them— questioning them led to the deconstruction of my sympathies—always nod and agree, agree, agree. Right Doc? Whatever you say. “Where’s that damn palette?” she said. “Where did you leave it?”
“It was with the mail, right here, where’s the mail?” The trashcan smelled like sweaty socks and I cut my arm on the rose stems I had trimmed earlier. The mail was deep and I was careful to avoid the clusters of spider eggs beside the soaking bags of garbage. I dug deep to find the mail and the lost color palette, but be damned if I didn’t find it. “Voilà!” I said triumphantly, holding it in the air like Willy Wonka’s last golden ticket. Lucy snatched it from my hands and shook her head. “What did I say before I left?” “Something about how your love for me—?” “When are you going to grow up, Oliver?” That night there was no coitus and I couldn’t sleep knowing, but not knowing, the flaws in my being that led to this moment. I mean, it wasn’t really that big of a deal, and I fixed it, didn’t I? Staring into the darkness, I made a mental note for another thing to consult a psychiatrist about. Can people really change, Doc? Why do you keep asking me these things? I’ve told you. I’m just a figment of your imagination. A mechanical purring came from outside, and I stumbled out of bed. Lucy snored. I watched the Winnebago return, situating itself beside the fence line once again. I stepped into the night and listened.
She pinched the delicate area between my ribs and armpit. It was Monday, which meant work, which meant the robotic routine of sipping coffee, tie tying, and a general sense of loathing that could only be alleviated by knowing that time never stops. The motorhome lounged in the vacant lot where there had once been an orange tree. Orange tree, yellow RV. Bill and Agnes. Motorhome man, motorhome woman. And baby? We sat at the dining room table, eating eggs and toast. Lucy was gazing out the kitchen window, chewing the same piece of bread over and over. “I think I’ll call in sick today,” I said. “And why is that?” Lucy turned from the window, finally swallowing. “I just don’t feel like it, and why not?” She shook her head, stood up, and rinsed her plate in the sink. “And you think you are ready?” “I’m never ready, that’s precisely why I’m not going.” “Not about that.” “I’ve got plenty of sick leave. The data can enter itself today.” Lucy scoffed and went about her business. A spider had made a web from the rose bush to our patio umbrella, and a fly dodged it. Someone had once told me flies live for only twenty-four
Jesse Mardian | The Vacant Lot
No sounds except for the low buzz of power lines. My feet moved before my mind could catch up and I found myself outside the gate, tiptoeing towards the Winnebago. A dim light shone inside, but no people could be seen. When I was close enough to feel the heat of the engine, I heard the whispers clearly. “I don’t know,” a woman’s voice said. “This is the best spot, end of the street, vacant lot, out of the way, not bothering anybody,” said a man’s voice. “But what about them?” “What about them? “I don’t know, we are close to them, they can see us, maybe hear us, I think it’s better to stay moving,” the woman said. “And that rude woman pounded on the door and told us to leave.” “Listen: I’m tired of moving. Christopher doesn’t like it, and it would be nice to rest for a while. Until I find work again. We can easily move on if we have to.” The voices faded, and I thought I heard kissing happening, but maybe I just imagined it. I lingered until the light turned off, and then made my way back into the warm house and cold bed. ~ “It’s back,” Lucy said, shaking me awake. “Yes, honey, the sun revolves,” I yawned.
hours. If that was true then I had just witnessed a major life event. “Will you deal with this please?” she said pointing out the window. “If you do one thing today, make it that this piece of junk leaves and never comes back. I hate looking at it. It’s ugly.” I never told Lucy about Officer Grenache’s visit, and I felt like this was the time to let her know. But on impulse, I let it be, maybe because it would create more problems and I liked things simple. A lie is the disease of marriage, the imaginary psychiatrist said in my head. Oh, now you have advice. Shut up, you’re not real, remember? Lucy left for work and I called my boss with a nasally voice. I spent most of the morning reading parts of the newspaper I had missed yesterday. In El Paso, a man died of a strange respiratory illness. East coast, World Series had begun and one of the Sox did well in the ninth. Stocks fell. Stocks rose. And a girl named Yoshida won the national spelling bee. The winning word was ALBUMEN. Around noon, I rummaged through the dresser, looking for Officer Grenache’s calling card. I found it crumpled inside a pocket along with some dirt and lint. I dialed the number and tossed the card onto the coffee table. “This is Officer Grenache.”
“Hi officer, I uh, this uh, well you came to my house yesterday about a Winnebago.” “And who is this?” “Oliver Stenson, Willoughby Avenue. End of street. Next to the vacant lot.” “Yes, I remember. So what can I help you with?” I looked out the window and noticed a young man perched above the motorhome with what looked like a garden tamper. His shirt was off and tied around his head like a castaway. “Oh, I was just wondering if you had found it yet,” I said. “Listen: I don’t have time for this. You call me if you see it, not the other way around. Am I clear?” “Clear as quartz.” The receiver went dead, and I went to the window where I could watch the man. He was young, but maybe my same age, he just seemed young because he was skinny and agile. I guess age is relative anyway. Like that fly I saw earlier. It could have been eight hours old, only twothirds of life left. The man was pouring soil into a plot and it was obvious now that he had some sort of garden on top of the RV. There seemed to be solar panels, too. I spied tomatoes as I strode out through the yard and when I neared the fence, I called out, “Hello, neighbor!”
“Trouble is a good word. We always seem to be in
“I love you baby, it’s going to be okay,” she said, kneeling beside him and kissing his sweaty head. Billy’s arm was an S. The infant cried and cried. “Here, let’s get him inside then,” I said. ~ It took a while but the old painkillers I had must have kicked in and Billy lay asleep on the couch, his arm in a makeshift sling and a damp rag on his forehead. Lucy would be home soon and I dreaded the moment. The woman, Marie, bounced
the baby on her hip and paced aimlessly, only stopping to examine a photograph here and there. “He’s going to need surgery,” I said, not really knowing, but feeling like it was true. “That arm is in bad shape.” “Your wife?” Marie said. She held a photo of Lucy and me underneath the Eiffel Tower. Beside it were several more pictures of our time abroad. “Yes.” “Must be nice to visit places like that. Must be a lot of money,” she said, still holding the frame. “But it doesn’t look like that is a problem for you.” “Listen: there’s been a cop over here asking about you; are you in some sort of trouble?” Her eyes darted towards Billy and she placed the photograph back on the mantel. “Trouble is a good word. We always seem to be in trouble nowadays. Like we are cursed or something. Wasn’t always that way. We was like you and your wife and things were good. I mean, not France good, but we had what we needed. I guess that is just how life works. Things are good until they’re not. Started with Billy being discharged, then he got mixed up with—then his parents—then my parents—no work—no apartment—nothing seems to go right anymore. And now this.”
Jesse Mardian | The Vacant Lot
The man turned quickly, staggered, and shrieked as he fell. Thud. A woman screamed and a baby wailed and I ran around the fence. The man lay clutching his arm, and the woman looked around frantically. I stood there, mouth agape. “I’m so sorry, I thought he saw me, I was just—” “Oh my god, Billy, your arm!” The man wailed, “It’s busted, Marie.” “Let me take him to the hospital; it’s all my fault,” I said. “No, no,” the man said through clenched teeth. “No hospitals.”
She started to cry, and I felt bad. But I had to ask. “No, I mean, are you in trouble with the law?” The baby made garbled noises, and she dabbed his face with a duck-printed apron. “You got kids?” she sniffled. Billy groaned and turned on his side. “Trying,” I said. “I guess that is the one good thing we got. Christopher is healthy. And Billy, bless his soul, always positive, you’ll see when he wakes up, he thinks the best even when it’s the worst.” As Billy rested, I made Marie a sandwich and we ate silently at the table. I cleared the plates and sat back down unsure about what to do next. “I gotta feed him,” she said. I stood there stupid for a second
so I took my chances. The phone rang and it was the office of Patricia Patel, M.D. “Yes, the doctor has asked that you and your wife come into the office, does tomorrow work for you?” “Uh-huh, yes, let me confirm with the missus and get back to you,” I said. “Well, can you get back soon; the office closes in a couple hours.” “Uh-huh, couple hours, got it.” I heard a thump, footsteps, and the front door open and close. My heart dropped into my bowels and I peeked around the corner. The phone slipped from my hands and fell to the floor. No Lucy. Which was good. But no Billy either. Or Marie. Only Christopher, wrapped in his little blue blankie, waving his stubby arms into the air.
“I met his little eyes, feeling his little heart beating rapidly
against my chest. Both our hearts beating together and something very strange came over me, and I started to
understand . . .
until I realized she meant she needed privacy to breast feed the baby. “I’ll just be in the bedroom, then.” Part of me was suspicious to leave the strangers alone in my living room, but Billy was in no place to do much, and Marie had the baby,
I looked around again, confused, and then the baby began to cry. He was warm in my arms, gurgling as he sucked on his fingers. I bounced him lightly, not knowing what else to do. And then I met his little eyes, feeling his little heart beating
“I mean it, Ollie, that thing out there needs to go. We didn’t buy this house to look at city trash like that. Next thing there’ll be more, and all of sudden we’ll have an RV park in our back yard. Septic tanks leaking shit everywhere!” “Is this really about the motorhome?” I asked. “Ugh. You are unbearable.” She marched out of the room. I really wished that I knew more about the human psyche. The hidden meanings. The space between the lines. My list for the shrink was getting long and I didn’t even know where to start. I get the feeling that who I am isn’t who she wants anymore. Dude, I don’t know what you want me to tell you, I am not real. We ate dinner in silence as evening fell and the Winnebago became a harvest moon. I worried about Billy’s arm and what they would do. I worried about Lucy. And I worried about having to go back to Dr. Patel. I also worried about all those damn spider eggs in the eaves, what they would hatch and what I’d have to do to get rid of them. If only Lucy had seen me with Baby Christopher, she’d understand. But the more I tried to formulate that conversation the more ludicrous it became.
Jesse Mardian | The Vacant Lot
rapidly against my chest. Both our hearts beating together and something very strange came over me, and I started to understand Lucy and the things she said earlier that day. But I was ready. See. Here. Now. I could do this. We could do this. Christopher could be ours. Baby Christopher, so sweet in his blue cap. The door opened and I turned, beaming with pride to show Lucy our baby. But it was not Lucy. Marie hurried towards me. “Sorry, so sorry, Billy came to and wanted to be in the RV, I couldn’t juggle them both, it was only a second.” She took Christopher and his warmth lingered on my chest. A second. So much in a second, and I fumbled over my words as Marie headed towards the door. “He… hospital, Billy, baby,” I heard myself saying. “Thank you for the sandwich.” And she was out the door. She crossed the lawn, grazing the tip of a rose as she passed. The petals floundered to the earth and she disappeared behind the gate. ~ “You had one thing to do,” Lucy said. She plopped a bag of groceries on the kitchen counter and dodged my kiss. Outside, the Winnebago tanned in waning sunlight. “Doctor called, we need to make an appointment for tomorrow.”
Lucy continued the silent treatment all the way into bed where she flicked the light off, turned on her side and tightened her shoulders as I kissed her goodnight. As I lay, I resolved that in the morning I’d tell them they would have to go. Maybe I’d give them a little money if they’d take it. In the morning. ~ Sirens. I awoke with a start and reached for Lucy. She was gone. Outside, there were flashing lights. Blues and reds. And I shot up and shuffled to the kitchen. Lucy stood, peeking out the window. In her hands she held a card. Officer Grenache’s card. And she turned and looked at me with something malicious in her eyes. “Were you ever going to tell me?” she said, returning her gaze to the scene outside. “What did you do?” Marie and the baby stood beside a patrol car as Officer Grenache spoke with someone out of sight. I moved toward the window and saw Billy handcuffed, sitting on the curb. He was wincing and shaking his head. His arm had to be in excruciating pain bent behind his back like that. Another officer took notes, while another patrol car parked. Our neighbors all stood on their porches, watching. “I can’t believe they have a baby in there,” Lucy said. “Christopher,” I muttered. “Who?”
Billy was put in the patrol car as Marie tried to push her way through an officer. Eventually Grenache sauntered to our door. “Thanks for calling,” he said. “Have you noticed anything missing from your home? Any valuables? Jewelry, and things of the like.” Lucy looked at me and I shrugged. “I don’t believe so, Officer,” she said. “What will happen to the baby?” I asked. Officer Grenache looked back towards the street and scratched the hair under his cap. “Ah, that’s for the DCFS to decide,” he said. “I just protect and serve, sir. If you notice anything missing, just give that number a call and we’ll have some forms for you to fill out.” He swiveled and began to make his way back to the street when Lucy called out, “and the RV, what will happen to the RV?” “You two be safe now,” he said, waving a hand. “But they didn’t do anything!” I said. Lucy stared ahead as he joined the other officer. A feeling came over me and I looked at the couch where hours earlier baby Christopher had reached for me. ~ When I look back over the year, after that night, after my diagnosis, and after all the money spent, stress,
A ball bounced over the fence and I could hear Remus and Romulus shouting at each other. “You go over there.” “No you go.” The ball remained and the spiders hid in the eaves.
Jesse Mardian | The Vacant Lot
fights, and failures of in-vitro, it isn’t much of a surprise that my marriage failed. A month after the Winnebago was towed, construction began on a new house and just like that the lot was no longer empty. The place was nice, Spanish-style, and a young couple with twins moved in. I never got their names. I called them Remus and Romulus, but by that time Lucy was in no mood for jokes. I was fired from my job in the fall and Lucy left soon after to stay with her sister up north. Around that time the spider eggs must have hatched because all a sudden there were webs everywhere. Money was tight and I was quoted too much by the exterminator, so I just dealt with them myself. One of the suckers got me and it must have been a female too, for my arm swelled and grew infected. I wrapped my arm in gauze and lay on the couch, staring at the mantle where there were no more photographs. My head was on fire and I felt drunk, but not good drunk, sick drunk. I began to see the room as if through a smeared lens. My arm throbbed. Lips dry. Tongue like a leather strip. The psychiatrist appeared, sitting on the armchair beside me, biting the end of a pencil. Or was it Lucy? We have quite a bit to talk about, she said. So much I should have said, so much I should have done.
Stage Left Kelly LaCour
Recent Excavation Adam P. Davis
If I choose to give you part of me, a soft and precious artifact, unearthed, preserved by teams of archaeologists who know the nooks of my anatomy, who’ve oared my blood, and hiked my nerves, and summited my vertebrae, you will have to wait for it. I will not launch it upon a light beam or a thunderbolt, nor tied to a balloon or kite. But one night, from your balcony, as you watch the moon imprint a mesh of pearls upon the grass, and wonder where I’ve been for so many revolutions, I’ll come limping up to you and hand over this excision. Take it with two hands, admire how it shimmers when you tilt it to the sky. Now, it’s yours: do with it what you please.
Let’s be honest, Which assumes otherwise we’d be lying To each other, such lovely, gentle lies Like peonies riddled with ants; You thought I’d write about her beautiful hips, Their flare, their curve, their subtle sway, Oh, that dance, that samba, that waltz, Her eyes, dark or light, her gaze, Direct, soft, a mystery like night barely falling Close to the pole, lavender, her lips, her, her, her; All of it is really you, your expectations. She has teeth, not like a shark’s; hers are made To grind. Her thighs conquer horses— She can walk twenty miles, across a savanna, A city, easier since they’ve emptied out; Those narrow shoulders shrug at your stupidity, Common as bees used to be. Her ass is glorious, you ass. I haven’t told you her name. She’s no one’s Mistress, no one’s lady fair. You never imagined Her in a lab this whole time and we both know it. Oh, my dear cadaver. Once, I held your heart in my hand. Then I broke it.
Turning Point Dani Putney
Southbound on 95, the first real turn you make from Reno to Las Vegas happens in Beatty, a place famous for its candy shop and straight shot to Death Valley National Park. I never stay long— always a destination in mind— but I’m always thrilled to reach the small bend outside town. Leading up to this curve is the tiniest of rivers, the Amargosa, only recognizable by way of shrubs and riparian trees. If you look closely, you can see the slightest of dips, almost like a gully in its infancy. When the river ends and I’m on the highway’s fulcrum, my body projects into the mid-aughts, late elementary school age, my family’s summer expedition. Ma drank enough water to drown her organs. (Don’t ask me why we didn’t stop in town.) Dad swerved onto sand & we sprang out, van doors left open, our roles already assigned. Past a low fence my mom squatted on the baby gully and pissed, male bodies a wall around her. Maybe it was pre–Independence Day sentiment, but I felt American then. Every family road trip has its pee-in-the-water-bottle scare. Yes, even those with brown mothers, brown children.
José Enrique Medina
“Who wants to go spy on the ranch?” I said. “I do! I do!” my godchildren screamed, jumping. “We have to go and see how the ranch has changed,” I told the children. “Then we have to come back, and tell your parents the new things we saw.” “You’re crazy, Henry,” their parents said, laughing. I put Amirah and Anahi in car seats. Between them, I sat Ayden, the eldest, made him buckle his seatbelt. Recently bathed, their hair combed, in clean clothes, the kids looked like little angels. I pulled into the alley. It was a dusty road, full of rocks, with lots of holes and little mountains. I drove slowly. Even so, we dipped, lurched upwards and rocked side to side. “Ayden, did you bring your camera?” I asked. “No.” “Good spies have to take pictures,” I said. “How else are you going to prove to your parents what you saw?” He shrugged. Obviously, he had a lot to learn about the art of espionage. The alley let us peek into people’s backyards. I stopped the car two houses from our destination,
craning my neck. Was anyone home? “The new owners might see us,” I said. “We have to be careful.” Slow as a hearse, we moved towards my mother’s old house. “Ooh, ooh, ooh,” Anahi said. “I see a brown horse. I see a brown horse.” Ayden crossed his arms, pouting. “I can’t see anything.” Seated by the passenger window and raised by her car seat, Anahi had a better view. The bulky car seat partly blocked Ayden’s outlook.
alley let us peek
into people’s backyards. I
two houses from our destination, craning my neck. Was anyone home?
“It’s not fair.” Ayden huffed. “I’m not discovering anything.” Now we were one house away. I looked around. The new owners had raised an aluminum roof over a stable. “Look, Ayden,” I said. “There’s a new roof. You can discover the roof.”
“Ooh, ooh, ooh, I see the roof,” said Anahi. “Anahi is discovering everything.” Ayden lowered his head. “I’m not a spy.” We parked beside my mom’s old ranch. On the left side, there were tall nopales which she and I had planted. On the right, were the chicken coops that used to house the golden Wyandotte hens she loved so much. At the far end of the long rectangular backyard sat the small peach-colored house. “Ayden,” I said. “Look up. You’re missing everything.” On a previous mission, we’d discovered the stable. Now there was a roof and a horse. On the ground there were 4x4s and metal poles, promises of new things to come. Little by little, the world that used to be my mother’s was disappearing. Near the house, there was a sun-drenched walkway. One day, my mother had a strange attack, trembling and mumbling, “Frío, frío.” To warm her, we brought her out to that sunny sidewalk. It didn’t help. She drooled, nodding sleepily. “I can see the horse,” said Amirah, the youngest, from the seat with the worst view. “Yes, it’s a pretty horse,” I said. “We didn’t have horses.” Part of me was sad, but another side was happy that other people could enjoy what was causing me and my siblings sorrow. “Ayden, look,” I said.
He lowered his head even more. Then an old man with a big moustache and a cowboy hat, the new owner, came out of the house. “Oh shit!” I yelled, throwing the car into gear and peeling out of there. “The killers are coming!” I looked into the backseat. Ayden raised his head, laughing. All the kids were laughing. I swerved hard to the right, saying, “They’re throwing missiles at us.” I made the sound of a projectile flying through the air and then exploding. “Aaah!” I screamed, swerving to the left. The children guffawed, a really deep and happy sound. Thanks to my wild driving, clouds of dust churned on both sides of my car. The children kept laughing. “Drive crazy,” Ayden said. “The killers are throwing bombs at us.” I looked up. In the rear-view mirror, the dust had erased the entire world.
Ellen June Wright
Our warm, beautiful cells invisibly fall from our limbs, from our lips as scales fall from the eyes of the metaphorically blind, as hair floats on the wind; we are dying and resurrecting in the same moment— cells divide and replicate each instant. Skin cells slough all day and all night. We leave them everywhere. The bed is full of them—between the sheets; they rain down like atomic dust when we snap linen to make the bed. Our cells feed dust mites in the carpet. As we live and die, a universe of the unseen lives off our warm, beautiful cells invisibly falling from our limbs, from our lips as scales fall from the eyes of the blind, as hair floats on the wind; so we die and are consumed, so we die and are reborn.
If I Visited My Mother’s Grave Carla Schwartz
I’d ask her what she does all day. She’d answer, I talk to Mommy—so, I picture that sun-drenched plot of loam and worm at the confluence of New York’s worst highways, my mother’s headstone kitty-corner to her mother’s, amidst the din of relentless traffic, my mother and grandmother, teacups full of pine rot and pill bugs, relive that cold, awful night in Gleiwitz, ’38, that November night of crashing and smoke— and my Americanized mother asks, How could this? and her mother, wrapping her arms around her, answers in German, There, there, I’ll get you out of here— and with one hand filled with my mother’s they reminisce— the lugging, the trains, their host family in Belgium, the tumultuous ship crossing to Cuba. My grandmother recalling how seasick she was, says Acch, but my mother reminds her We made it to New York, and you saved our family— Then, noticing me standing between their stones, they point out the wild strawberries at my feet, while the bees, buzzing through the roses, remind me how my grandmother once killed chickens so my mother could spend a summer out of the city, and there, in the fresh air, my mother trained bees to land on her thumb.
Flower, Stem Claudia Schatz
On my right breast, a purple mouth-shaped bloom, blood pulled to the surface in a gasp, and this is what my body is for. On my mother’s right breast, a purple knife-shaped line, wound wrenched wide then sewn shut in a bruised curve, and now I wonder what my body is for.
How to Cross the Room Claudia Schatz
Link hands, latch pinky fingers, form a line and slide hips slantwise through the shifting crowd. With arms stretched taut to keep your palm in mine we slip into what space we are allowed. When in collective motion, side by side, the risk of dropping hands is understood; our shared machinery cuts through the tide in ways that, one by one, we never could. This automatic linking, shrinking walk of girls at every party I have known speaks volumes when the music drowns out talk: it isn’t safe to cross the room alone. Move with us and there’s everything to gain for freedom can look awfully like a chain.
Funky Dreams Diamante Lavendar
Goddess Tina Klimas
Through a shroud of falling snow, dog by my side, she appears. Slicing her shovel down her sidewalk like a miracle. Wearing only a sleeveless cotton muumuu. Legs bare and blue-veined. Feet in flimsy slippers. Unruly nest of gray hair floating around her head like a halo. Flinging snow aside as easily as fairy dust. Amidst bundled-up paunchy men. Red-faced sour and bitter, cursing winter like cheated gamblers. Looking askance at her. Cigarettes clamped between blueing lips, mumbling: Senile. Psycho. Nutjob. Attempting to bury their fear by maneuvering unwieldy fume-spitting machines to throttle their snow into submission. Her near naked imperviousness— to the elements, to the men, unshackled from biology, from shame—beckons me. To surrender to the primal joy leaping in the confines of my heart. To unbridle the wild desire to howl with my dog—It’s me! I’m here!
We are crone. We are goddess. My skin will soon be hers. Ancient. White translucent, polished like the immortality of marble. She impels me to believe that, at last, I can open the gates to the fierce gale of freedom. To gust into a mighty storm.
Tina Klimas | Goddess
To absorb the frigid cold into my bones and so, quench the hormonal fire.
The dog tugs at the leash—Let’s walk. The snow-blowers hum. An elderly woman retrieves her mail. And the white curtain drifts down.
Ghazal for Stateless Bodies Abhijit Sarmah
“Indefinite incarceration of men, women and children in conditions worse than those of convicted prisoners, only because they were unable (or not enabled) to prove their citizenship, greatly diminishes India—its government, but even more its people.” —Harsh Mander, The Dark Side Of Humanity And Legality: A Glimpse Inside Assam’s Detention Centres For ‘Foreigners’ The universe is filled with papers of our whereabouts but which way is home? Painted in the colour of dawn and woodsmoke, Beki assures heaven but not home. Blistered bodies left to gnats, numbered children on most nights imagine bruised shades of Palash, warm zephyrs flaring through steppes covered in wet ash and home. In this watercourse of dispossessed cadavers we’re muddy currents of history hemming our cries into lullabies to reverberate across thick meadows of our childhood, our home. Were it possible we would’ve trekked our cut of heaven and fetched aubades for you. Maybe we dreamt it all: silk eels turning into sparrow plumes, chiselled fathers back home— How bizarre to still have faith, to dream of departing on horseback along through death. Let the sentinels of salvation put down their guards and open the last postern to home, Let the turfs of desolate Qawwalis finger the Gulmohar-misted evenings of Khagrabari. How to expunge those visions of crocheted streets bustling with Bulbuls opening to home? Our blood is molasses now, the sky from here a silhouette of a turquoise God and when rain ploughs the earth, we can overhear the screams of our sisters hauled behind our home— Because you barely listen to choruses of shifting grasses, to whistles of the ancient land or see the trysts of golden flowers on crisp days, you know nothing about your land, our home.
Beki: one of the right bank tributaries of the mighty Brahmaputra River Palash: a species of Butea native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of Southeast Asia Qawwali: a form of Sufi Islamic devotional singing Khagrabari: A village on the fringes of Manas National Park, Assam
Art Louis Dennis was born in Hazel Crest, Illinois in 1960; he moved to Huntington Beach, California in 1975. As an amateur photographer, he learned photography in a chemical darkroom; photography is his freedom and escapism from daily life. He is a profound lover of images, who has been dabbling with photography for many years, as well as designing spaces. His approach is simple and direct in selecting what to photograph and how to chose to photograph it. His source of inspiration is light and contrast and in his searches he finds surprises where they are least expected as in the body of work Behind the View Glass. Kelly LaCour, based in North Carolina, has been taking pictures since first receiving a Polaroid camera at the age of ten. Having always been interested in fellow humans as well as the animals that surround us, her work encompasses a large range of subjects: wildlife, nature, architecture, and social routine. She is passionate about creating an open dialogue through photography, using composition and light to allow her subjects to become more than just part of an image. You can find her online at: www.kellylacour.com. Diamante Lavendar lives in the Midwest US. She enjoys using art as a medium to explore the issues of life and the human reactions to those issues with a strong emphasis on spirituality. The majority of her work is mixed media digital art which includes some or all of the following: photography, fractals, drawing, painting, and digital art. Diamante’s work has been shown in numerous online and “brick and mortar” exhibitions and has been awarded in many of those shows. She has also been recognized in the American Art Awards in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Diamante’s work has been published in several magazines including Edge Of Faith Magazine, Eris and Eros, The Closed Eye Open and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. Her work can be viewed on her website at: www.diamante-lavendar.pixels.com. Jason R. Montgomery, or JRM, is a Chicano/Indigenous Californian writer, painter, and playwright from El Centro, California. He merges Indigenous Californian and Chicano designs and aesthetics to explore the history of US colonization while synthesizing
Fiction Morgan MacVaugh is a conductor of magic. She’s currently rooted in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where she lives for card games, oil paints, and her chonky black cat. In the coming years, she’d like to attend graduate school and go gallivanting through Scotland for a bit. You can find some of her other work in Hunger Mountain, F(r)iction’s Dually Noted series, and Luna Station Quarterly.
Contributors | Issue 23
a decolonized motif that honors the complicated heritage of the postcolonial subject. More online at: www.attackbearpress.com
Jesse Mardian earned his MFA degree at San José State University. His works have been featured in The Surfer’s Journal, Gambling the Aisle, The Rumpus, and Three: An Anthology of Flash Nonfiction. Currently, he is working as an educator in Long Beach, California.
Nonfiction Lucinda Cummings is a writer and clinical psychologist who lives in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in Hippocampus, Woven Tale Press, and other publications. She is working on a memoir about finding home. Visit her website at: www.lucindathewriter.com. José Enrique Medina earned his BA in English from Cornell University. He writes poems, short stories and novels. His work has appeared in Best Microfiction 2019 Anthology, Tahoma Literary Review, The Burnside Review, and other publications. He is a VONA (Voices of Our Nation) POC fellow.
Poetry Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown
University. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, and [PANK] among other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 and 2021 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 and 2020 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family. Follow on Facebook at: @dgbassenauthor Mark Blackford has a BA in Creative Writing from Valdosta State University in Georgia. Recent work has appeared in Cathexis Northwest Press, High Shelf Press, and Forbidden Peak Press, with no income to report, but he did get a Pushcart nomination. He once read poetry to open for Arlo Guthrie (again, no income to report). He lives in Woodridge, New York with his wife and children, and he can be found on Instagram: @markbpoet Phillip Watts Brown received his MFA in poetry from Oregon State University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in several journals, including The Common, Ruminate, Spillway, Camas, Tahoma Literary Review, Orange Blossom Review, Grist, and Longleaf Review. His poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets. He and his husband live in northern Utah where he works at an art museum. He also serves as a poetry editor for the journal Halfway Down the Stairs. Find more of his poetry at: www.phillipwattsbrown.com/poetry Adrianna Caputo was born and raised in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. She is currently earning her BFA in creative writing. She lives at home with her dog and two cats. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The A3 Review, and Humana Obscura. Adam P. Davis grew up in Maryland, majored in French at Wesleyan University, and received his master’s degrees in both political science at Columbia University and supply chain management at Purdue University. He has taught English at several community colleges and spent a year in Shanghai. Currently, he works in the logistics industry. He has been published in Poets Reading the News, Meniscus, the Free State Review, and Silver Rose Magazine. Instagram: @adampdavispoet
Contributors | Issue 23
Kelly DuMar is a Boston area poet, playwright, daily blogger and writing workshop leader who has published three poetry and prose chapbooks, including her most recent, girl in tree bark, published by Nixes Mate. Kelly’s poems and photos are published in Bellevue Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Tiferet, Crab Fat, and more, and her plays have been produced around the US and are published by dramatic publishers. You can learn more at: KellyDuMar.com/blog Tina Klimas’s poems can be found in THEMA Literary Journal, Bear River Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Backchannels, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and Willows Wept Review. Her short fiction has also been published in several journals. She enjoys her writing life in Redford, Michigan where she lives with her husband and their dog. Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country, near Canada. Some publications/acceptances have been in Atlanta Review, New American Writing, Paterson Literary Review, and Spillway. She is a Keats-Shelley Prize winner and Best of the Net nominee. Dani Putney is a queer, non-binary, mixed-race Filipinx, and neurodivergent poet originally from Sacramento, California. Their debut full-length poetry collection is Salamat sa Intersectionality (Okay Donkey Press, May 2021). You can find their poetry in outlets such as Azahares, Hairstreak Butterfly Review, and Thin Air Magazine, among others. While not always (physically) there, they permanently reside in the middle of the Nevada desert. Visit them online at: www.daniputney.com or @DaniPutney on Twitter. Ron Riekki’s books include My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press). Abhijit Sarmah’s poems have previously appeared in The Albion Review, GASHER, The Rigorous Magazine, South 85 Journal, The Scriblerus, Not Very Quiet, and elsewhere. Claudia Schatz (she/hers) is from New Haven, Connecticut. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Euphony Journal, Five on the
Fifth, The Hamilton Stone Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, and Blue Earth Review. She loves peanut butter, feminist podcasts, and racing triathlons. Carla Schwartz, filmmaker and photographer, has been widely published and anthologized, including in The Practicing Poet (Diane Lockward, Ed.), and in her collections, Intimacy with the Wind, (Finishing Line Press, 2017) and Mother, One More Thing (Turning Point, 2014). Her CB99videos YouTube channel has 2,400,000+ views. Learn more at: www.carlapoet.com or find her on YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram: @cb99videos Steven R. Weiner is a recently retired nurse practitioner and hospital administrator, still working as a nurse, who has written and studied poetry for most of his life. His poems have appeared in journals including The Café Review, Kerem, Sacred Journey, Poetica, Ars Medica, Bridges, Labor, and the Journal of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Edytta Wojnar, born and raised in Poland, now lives with her husband in northern New Jersey. She holds an MFA in Poetry from William Paterson University where she currently teaches College Writing. She is the author of two chapbooks: Stories Her Hands Tell and Here and There, both published by Finishing Line Press. Her work has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Cagibi, CALYX, Lumina, Narrative Northeast, and Paterson Literary Review, among others. Ellen June Wright’s poetry has most recently been published in River Mouth Review, Santa Fe Writers Project, New York Quarterly, The Elevation Review, The Caribbean Writer, and is forthcoming in Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora. Her work was selected as The Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week and was featured in the article, Exceptional Prose Poetry From Around the Web: June 2021 by Jose Hernandez Diaz. She was a finalist in the Gulf Stream 2020 summer poetry contest and is a founding member of Poets of Color virtual poetry workshop in New Jersey.
Phillip Watts Brown
Adrianna Caputo Adam P. Davis
Laurinda Lind Dani Putney
José Enrique Medina
Claudia Schatz Carla Schwartz Steven R. Weiner Edytta Wojnar Ellen June Wright