a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing
featuring the pull of past and present transformative love living in an evolving world
Cover art: “One Tree Remains” by Guilherme Bergamini
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
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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 Street Glassboro, NJ 08028 E-mail: GlassworksMagazine@rowan.edu Copyright © 2022 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.
ASSOCIATE EDITORS Megan Kiger Scott MacLean Emily Nolan Ariana Tucker Eric Uhorchuk FICTION EDITORS Garret Castle John Castle Daria Husni Ariana Tucker NONFICTION EDITORS Farah Bakri Ellen Lewis Amanda Smera POETRY EDITORS Jake Amato Aleksandr Chebotarev Natalie Ritchie MEDIA EDITORS Billy Appelbaum Emily Nolan
glassworks Spring 2022
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
Issue 24 | Table of Contents Art Guilherme Bergamini, Milho Verde | 61 Old Havana | 44 One Tree Remains | cover Rachel Coyne, Blue Jay | 65 Goldfinch | 6 Elinora Lord, Anonymous Was a Woman | 17 Mrs. Dalloway’s Garden | 49 Leah Oates, Transitory Space, Brooklyn, NYC 2020 #4 | 68
Transitory Space, Brooklyn, NYC 2020 #9 | 12
Transitory Space, Brooklyn, NYC 2020 #11 | 30
Fiction Charlie Beckerman, The Braided Rope | 32 Marco Etheridge, Fermat and the Liar | 7 Garth Robinson, The Little Ghost Boy | 52
Nonfiction Cole Brayfield, In Bits and Pieces | 18 Cheryl Skory Suma, I Lay Amongst the Stones | 46
Poetry Jared Beloff, Just Another Tuesday in the Anthropocene | 66 Joel Best, Milkweed Boats | 42 Susana H. Case, Green | 64 New York Ornithology | 62 Jessica de Koninck, Aubade, Winter | 3 Iris A. Law, Ode to the Girl in the September Yard | 67 Sharon Lopez Mooney, Something’s Whispering | 27 Toti O’Brien, Almendras | 43 Susan Chock Salgy, What a Great House Wants | 28 Kira Stevens, One Line and the Light After | 14 Denise Utt, Butter Churner | 16 Austin Veldman, Confession | 4
Fatherhood in January | 5
Cynthia Ventresca, Continuum | 50 May 11th | 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.
Aubade, Winter Jessica de Koninck
Get up, there’s something you need to know. The wind rattles the patio door and hoots through that one frame with the loose seal. Outside trains and trash trucks rumble and roll. The refrigerator, too, vibrates and hums this morning. These songs are for me. The impossibly cold world wishes me good day. The clattering cans ask if I slept well. Get up. Put on your coat, your woolen hat, your scarf and gloves. Fasten your boots. Breakfast can wait. There’s something I want to show you right now.
Confession Austin Veldman
I enjoy anything that is not predetermined. Just walking down the street, the faces and the way people choose to clothe their naked bodies. How a tree will play with light depending on the wind and the time of the day and the very season. And the unknown that rises up every time I sit down to write a poem—I could drink this uncertainty until the final certainty of how this all must end. Please, let me. My sons don’t understand any of this yet. This is burden—how to transfer this understanding of beauty. In the end it will make all the difference as it has up to now. Being alive is to know what is inevitable. How can I justify this to my sons who have nothing but a want of play—and there it is. There it is. There it is. I have found it. Stop all the clattering of my heart, for I have found it.
Fatherhood in January Austin Veldman
I think often of this silence that wells within from time to time. What am I waiting for? January snow comes and goes like the lifting of a blanket in a cold room. Sometimes we trap our sons beneath the comforter, billowing fabric muffling their laughter that cuts us awake into the world like strong coffee, still hot. And their arms wave as if to ward off the source of their joy, their knowing of the intent of their father and mother not a small thing. It is not a small thing, how to be a father is to have all this pure and accessible joy—believe me that this is not an attempt at anything but to bring witness to my dumbstruck heart every time it overtakes me. And this silence: given over to all this noise in a room in January, given over to good reasons to be mute in marvel of the blooming of the first triumphant crocus every spring.
Goldfinch Rachel Coyne
Fermat and the Liar Marco Etheridge
Imagine yourself at a posh party, a standup affair with trays of canapés brought round by aspiring stage actors. Strangers, you and I, until we find ourselves tête-à-tête with only our wine glasses hovering between us. I love this moment, when the game is fresh, and the board is clean. You ask me what I do. I take a slow sip of the red, wave my glass to honour modesty, and charge the field. As my opening gambit, I tell you that I am the mathematician who solved Fermat’s Last Theorem. You are at a loss for words. Your speechlessness is understandable. My trap is well-laid, and now I have you right where I want you. You have blundered into one of my Big Lies. I am not a Cambridge mathematician, and I did not win the Nobel Prize. I can barely balance my chequebook. The only talent I possess is the ability to tell amazingly complicated lies. If there was a Nobel Prize for perfidy, I would win in a walk. As with any branch of knowledge, lying has its own set of rules and best practices. If I tell you that I am the Prince of Wales, you will know me for the liar that I am. However, if I tell you I am the Baron von Bullerbü, last male heir of a forgotten Germanic city-state, you are not so sure. Obscurity is the key.
And so, we find ourselves at this lovely party, with only wine glasses and a grotesque lie between us. What binds us is the human predilection for belief. It will be a lovely story with which to regale your friends, how you met the famous mathematician Andrew Wiles at a party. Charming man, you will say, though a bit younger than I might have thought. Human beings want to believe. It is more than a desire; it is a need. How much nicer for you to be sharing a glass of wine and conversation with a famous person, rather than a boorish party crasher. You have no idea who Fermat was, no clue that his Last Theorem bedeviled mathematicians for centuries, but Nobel Prize winner has a nice ring to it, so you choose to believe. The odds are with me. Fermat himself was not above telling a good whopper. After laying out the theorem that would trouble clever minds for a good long while, he suggested there was a solution already at hand. “I have discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition that this margin is too narrow to contain.” Or, to paraphrase: Here is the grand puzzle of all math problems, which, by the way, I have already solved. I cannot scribble the answer down in this
small margin, but trust me, the solution exists. Clever, that. I wish I’d thought of it. We clink glasses, drink to good old Fermat. I deflect your questions, a paragon of self-effacement. I urge you to tell me about yourself and I know that you will. I am a famous person, after all. You reveal things that should never be shared with a stranger. God, how I love this game! Days later, after the glow of the party fades, curiosity may compel you to type my name into your laptop. Then Google, my arch nemesis, will unmask my lie. Faced with a bold deception, you will ask yourself why? He seemed like such a charming man. Why did he go out of his way to deceive me? Why, indeed. The answer is far simpler than you might think. I do it because I enjoy it.
I find the truth
to be both boring and
tiresome. Don’t you?
There are underlying reasons, of course, deeply rooted causes and the like that might explain my behavior, but they are bedded in truth, and thus suspect. And I find the truth to be both boring and tiresome. Don’t you? Ah, very well, I will indulge you this one time. My early years were
empty of trauma. I have no history of child abuse, nor of ragged poverty. I am neither orphan nor urchin. My childhood was a blur of beige, sketched in dull charcoal. Being a clever child, and easily bored, I began to invent alternatives to ward off the dullness of my existence. Once started, I never stopped. My father was no longer an accountant working day in and day out under the glare of fluorescent lights. He became a courageous labor leader, then a communist. I reinvented my mother as well. A drab housewife emerged from her shabby cocoon, transformed into a beautiful and wild bohemian, the sort of woman who posed for nude paintings daubed by avant-garde artists. They met in Tangier, where he was hiding out and she was smoking hashish and sleeping with musicians. I was the fruit of their torrid love affair, born in a narrow back alley of the Casbah. So much better than growing up amongst endless rows of council flats. If novelists can do it, why can’t I? Never mind that Paul Bowles lived a rich, full life, while mine is an empty shell. Does that bring us back full circle to the why that you are at this moment pondering? The answer may be that necessity is the mother of invention, and invention is my stock in trade. I am nothing without it. If you were to cross the threshold of my monastic cell,
of my personae than the one I am currently wearing. Take yourself, for example. You recognize me as, say, a Nobel prize laureate in mathematics when today I am, in reality, deaf and dumb. There is an understandable embarrassment, a moment of awkwardness during which I answer your indignant questions with faux sign language. It is for awkward moments such as this that I have conjured an evil twin brother. My evil twin is mentally unstable. He suffers from a multiple personality disorder. The poor deranged fellow causes no end of problems. I’m sure you can understand. You might think it a transparent ruse, but it is surprisingly effective. People choose to believe, even reluctantly, rather than admit they have been duped. Which is how we find ourselves, you and I, standing on a rain-soaked sidewalk while pedestrians stream around either side of us. You are hurt, even angry. Your sense of betrayal is understandable. But it was not I who caused you pain. It was that bastard brother of mine. I write it down for you, scribbling on my pad. I cast my face into a quizzical mask, pretend to read your lips. As I scrawl out an explanation,
Marco Etheridge | Fermat and the Liar
a thing that you will never be allowed to do, you would learn nothing from contents therein. Two rooms furnished in prefabricated modern, insipid and unrevealing. The walls of my hideout are devoid of photographs, the shelves empty of anything remotely personal. I perform my daily ablutions in solitude, those voluntary and biological tasks that none of us are immune from. To use the vulgar, here is where I shit, shower, shave, and sleep, unseen by any prying eyes. This sterile flat is my hidden fortress, my womb of solitude. It is the empty husk that contains my emptiness. It is only when I lace up my shoes, when I step through the door and lock it behind me, that I become someone. Who I become is my choice. Is that not freedom? The roles that I assume are limited only by my imagination, and I am a very imaginative person. I have been any number of obscure yet somewhat famous artists. Strange professions make easily filled offthe-rack costumes. When I am desiring something more physical, I can become a blind person, or a deaf mute. The latter takes practice. Not reacting to sound is harder than you might think. There are risks, of course. This city, large as it is, does not guarantee a permanent immunity. Chance encounters do occur, unfortunate events where I might bump into someone who knows another
raindrops spatter the coarse paper of my notebook. The ink runs, making a mess of everything. I hold up the streaked pad for you to read, but you are already stalking away under the shelter of your brolly. The rain streams down in torrents as you disappear into the throng. The downpour beats a tattoo against the crowded sidewalk, breaks over the stream of impatient pedestrians. I have no protective cover. My head is soaked and dripping. An icy rivulet runs down the back of my neck. The noise of falling water thunders in my skull, my ears deaf no longer. The wall of silver noise lodges in my brain. A sudden vicious vertigo threatens to spin me down onto the pavement. I wheel about and run, reeling like a drunkard, the panicked flight of a coward. My heart is pounding in my chest when I finally reach my council flat. I ignore the lift, take the stairs two at a time. A dripping trail marks my frantic passage. I fumble with the keys, open one deadlock, then the second. The door slams shut, and I claw at the locks, sealing my fortress from the outside world. Hands on my knees, I gasp for breath. Remnants of rain dribble from my sodden clothes. A small puddle forms on the cheap parquet floor. It does not matter. I am inside my hideout. I think that I am safe, but I am not. I have crossed the threshold of
my monastic cell. When I said that the two rooms of my flat are devoid of anything personal, I lied. Yet another lie, this one more dangerous to me than all the others.
believe, even reluctantly, rather than admit they
have been duped.
In my narrow entry hall, just beyond the edge of the growing puddle at my feet, there is a door. Behind this door is a cramped coat closet. Shoes are arranged on the floor, coats and jackets hang from the rod, all of it quite ordinary with the exception of one perilous object. At the top of the closet, perched on a shelf all its own, rests a wooden box. The box is the size of a small travel case. There is a hasp on the front of the box, and a heavy padlock, locked, always locked fast. The wooden box is the casket of my past, and inside it is a substance more dangerous to me than kryptonite to Superman. Hidden within that horrible crate are photographs, letters, all the damning evidence of another life. There are black and white snaps with scalloped borders. The greens and blues of the coloured prints have faded to sepia. Peering out
a distorted reflection in the puddled water. Tears stream from my staring eyes, silver droplets falling down to strike my dappled reflection. My limp body is inert, helpless. The tears continue to fall, adding to the spreading pool that surrounds me. The tidewaters of the past rise, patient, unstoppable, and beneath them I will surely drown.
Marco Etheridge | Fermat and the Liar
of the photos is my father with his tight smile, an accountant never to be a courageous communist. My mother is beside him, captured as the drab housewife she will remain her entire life. And pinioned before these two parents, their hands binding his shoulders, a small boy squints into the sun. He is an ordinary boy of average height, a boy who earns average marks in school. There is nothing unusual about him, except perhaps the suspicion with which he views the invading camera. It is the look of a child who knows what the world has in store for him and wants no part of it. All evidence of the boy’s existence, every image, each scrawled note, every memento, is locked and sealed, but the seals are now broken. The malevolent power imprisoned within the casket begins to seep out, oozing from under the locked lid, filling the closet with a glowing green vapour. Tendrils of the stuff curl from under the closet door, wrap themselves around my feet, my ankles, clinging like noxious vines. They twine themselves up my legs, reach my heaving chest, bind me in their iron grip. I do not possess the strength to resist. The pull is too strong, the weight too heavy. My legs crumple beneath me. My hands slip from my knees. I collapse facedown onto the floor, my forehead pressing against the hard parquet. My face is
Transitory Space, Brooklyn, NYC 2020 #9 Leah Oates
One Line and the Light After Kira Stevens
flowers face the sun, steadfast and circling it like adoring sharks hungry and hopeful these cracking lips cling to bone and beg the light to leave its body the married clocks of infinite time are not forever happy together sometimes neither looks up from the plate they sit in silence at polar ends of their long dining room table painters seize invisible things and all the sunsets they never reach permanent leaves don’t grow on trees, and dreams are things for breaking into alone is where the water flows
the problem is the backpack the seeds cling to—the empty moon’s call which echoes into the dark still water
Kira Stevens | One Line and the Light After
roots have roofs they have to break through before they get to embrace themselves
Butter Churner Denise Utt
Yellow and blue checkered dress, Granny’s backside to me, turning the family cow’s cream, by wooden bowl and spoon, into butter. That sweet flavor hint that dissolved too quickly and fell by the roadside, like red barns and dairy farms that sold fresh eggs and ice cream. I’d spoon Granny questions silly as, Do cows eat butter to yield buttermilk? Facing me, she’d answer. I milked. Granny was calm as the cow in the pasture. She didn’t run off like Dad. At night, I’d ask, What if I fall asleep praying? She answered, A nice way, to drop off, talking to God. I held onto her even-tempered strokes that formed a velvety spread. Then, Granny placed the butter in the icebox. Later, I’d carve pats from a gold brick. Butter on my bread, a roof on my house, and Granny in my sky churning the moon.
Anonymous Was a Woman Elinora Lord
In Bits and Pieces Cole Brayfield
Psycho (1960) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock Late one night, when I was a teenager, I watched Psycho with my mom, and she quickly fell asleep on the couch. I did not. I became enthralled by the film’s menacing score and shadowy images, its measured crawl. I found the handsome Anthony Perkins twisted but irresistible. I tensed in terror when Perkins as Norman Bates was revealed in the fruit cellar, not because I was afraid of him—I adored him—but because I began to understand the way the world was afraid of me. I curled my toes as he sat wrapped in a blanket, dark eyes and a dark smile, the voice in his head ruminating over a fly, the frame withering, his face becoming skeletal. That first viewing of Psycho lead to an obsession with cinema and with Hitchcock, and I sought his other films. Greater than my appreciation for Hitchcock’s filmmaking was my infatuation with his leading men, particularly Perkins and Farley Granger. As a teenager, I adored the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age. I’d spend hours researching the love lives of men like Perkins, Granger, James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Clift. I struggled to reconcile my envy of and attraction toward them, their jaws, their smiles,
the incredible sex they must’ve had with one another, the fantasy. Anthony Perkins was never open about having relationships with men. He was married to his wife, Berry Berenson, until his death in 1992 of complications with AIDS. Reflecting on Perkins’ hospital visits in which they would check in under different names, Berenson was quoted in a New York Times article saying, “I literally asked myself, Who am I today? It was weird. You lose all sense of reality. You can’t even be yourself in a situation like this. You’re signing ‘Mrs. Smith’ or whatever.” When asked how Perkins might have contracted AIDS, Berenson said, “No. We don’t really know. No. It’s not worth it.” There’s something crushing in her words, something honest. Berenson died nine years later aboard American Airlines Flight 11. Tab Hunter, another Golden-Age icon, dated Perkins for a while in the late Fifties. My first summer home from college, I hooked up my dorm-room TV in my childhood bedroom. I felt some strange freedom as I sequestered, able to watch things away from prying eyes; after a year of close-quarters dorm life, that tiny black box, a portal to gayer dimensions, bloomed like orchids in the newly formed sanctuary
The slash, stab, slice, smash, burn, bash, butcher, bludgeon of fluorescent faces and bank balances. Of crowded sidewalks. Of swimming pools. Of bent reflections. I have this recurring daydream. Palms on either side of my head. Fingernails grip my scalp. Rip, tear, pull. Cracked open, black fog spills out, and my mind is finally clear. ~ Halloween (1978) Dir. John Carpenter Halloween’s effectiveness is entirely a result of its score, evidenced by its initial wouldbe distributors who were unimpressed by an early pre-score cut. Halloween is a familiar comfort. When I revisit the film every year, hear its score and see its jack-o-lantern title, I smile, settling in.
Cole Brayfield | In Bits and Pieces
of my bedroom. I found myself in its glare, volume low as others in the house slept. On that TV, I watched a documentary about Tab Hunter’s life as a gay man in Hollywood. In it, Hunter’s voiceover describes Perkins as duplicitous and secretive as a series of photos of Perkins show him sporting the infamous stare that he wore as Norman Bates at the end of Psycho. An actress that accompanied the pair publicly as a sort of beard says that Perkins would frequently arrive to her apartment in tears after fighting with Hunter. She says that Tony loved Tab more than Tab loved Tony. Both men were profoundly closeted at the time, just as I was when I first watched the documentary hidden in my bedroom. My image of these men ruptured, like a framed photo above a fireplace tumbling toward brick.
“. . . after a year of close-quarters dorm life, that tiny
black box, a portal to gayer dimensions, bloomed like orchids in the newly formed sanctuary of my
Thesis 1: Slasher films recognize violence. I chew my mouth; sores line my lower lip. I pull hairs from my arm. I dig my nails into my skin and breathe through my mouth. There’s an everyday trauma.
As a kid, before I’d ever seen Halloween, my friend D showed me how to play the theme on the piano. I sat next to him on the piano bench, watching his fingers methodically dance atop
the keys. D and I watched a lot of horror movies together, gritty, early-aughts fare. He would tell me that horror movies made him think of me. The Christmas before I graduated with my master’s, my parents revealed, in somewhat dramatic fashion as we stood around their kitchen island, that D had a boyfriend. “We’re not supposed to tell anyone, Paul,” my mom said, feigning innocence. “Of course we’re going to tell him,” my dad said. My parents said D’s parents didn’t approve, that his parents sobbed when they told my parents, and I chuckled at the thought of D’s parents confiding in my parents, ostensibly experts on how to deal with a gay son. I came out my second year of college—four years prior to this kitchen-island conversation—after meeting my husband, S. “They’re not telling anyone else,” my mom said, “so if anyone asks, you don’t know.” I had questions. I thought about the way D and I used to wrestle. Memories of watching gay director Carter Smith’s The Ruins one Florida vacation returned vivid in my mind, and I wondered if he desired the film’s male bodies in the same way I did as we sat close on the small hotel couch that barely contained us. Six months after the kitchenisland conversation about D, my parents told me D’s parents were
having a Fourth of July party. They said D and his boyfriend would be there, and I had these daydreams about what I’d do if I saw D again, both of us adults, neither of us closeted. I imagined hugging him, neither of us saying a word, though I couldn’t remember us ever hugging before. I imagined some kind of unspoken understanding as we embraced. S and I visited my parents for the Fourth. The night before the Fourth, S and I arrived at some stranger’s house by a lake. In the backyard, D and his boyfriend lit fireworks for the assembled crowd. I stood close to my parents, feeling uncomfortable. My husband eventually made his way out to D and his boyfriend. S mingled effortlessly, lighting a few fireworks himself. I pretended to like the beer I drank. The next day, we arrived around noon at D’s parents’ house. The house felt both familiar and entirely foreign. Where the piano once sat, a massive TV streamed Fortnite for D’s nephew. Outside, after losing several cornhole games and feelingly hopelessly unathletic, I grabbed another beer. S sat next to me and said matter-of-factly, “I find him attractive.” He gestured to D, adding, “It makes me feel good about myself because I think we have similar body types.” He wasn’t wrong, and I knew S hadn’t meant anything by the comment, but I also didn’t know, not really, not truly, deeply.
Years ago, I read that the average person loses twenty hairs every time they shower. I used to count. I’m still gentle as I massage the wet mass of fragile tendrils extending from my scalp. The Prowler came out in the midst of the early-eighties American slasher craze following Halloween. It’s standard slasher fare. For many, it’s unremarkable. For me, it was a milestone. I knew The Prowler existed long before I watched it, but I waited, pushing it off for years. Farley Granger appears in the film. He was fifty-five at the time of filming. Farley Granger was my favorite actor when I discovered him as a teenager. He’s best known for his films with Hitchcock, Rope and Strangers on a Train. Outside of those films, he’s not well known, but I adored him; he was deeply uncomfortable with having fans. I read his autobiography, Include Me Out, the summer before college, when I was eighteen, desperate, and closeted. In a chapter titled “Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex…”, he details the night that he lost his virginity. He begins, “I was thinking about sex all the time. I was twenty and still a virgin.” I also thought about sex constantly, and at the time, I compared myself to that number: twenty. Would I still be
Cole Brayfield | In Bits and Pieces
I was hopelessly insecure. I panicked, heading inside to cool off. Passing D’s childhood bedroom on the way to the bathroom, I noticed an air mattress on the floor, so he and his boyfriend didn’t share a bed. In the bathroom, I pressed my eyes back deep in their sockets. What’s my body type? I wondered, examining myself in the bathroom mirror. Coming here, back home, to this party, was a mistake. For the next half hour, I drifted in the pool, pouting, alone. Listening to my husband laugh with D and his boyfriend as they played cornhole, I realized that I didn’t fit in. Even though we were all gay, even though I was an adult in a committed relationship, I was brooding in the corner at some party, still a child. I barely spoke to D or his boyfriend. Thesis 2: In the slasher, isolation and loneliness mean survival. Only the Final Girl lives. I don’t want to be the last one standing. ~ The Prowler (1981) Dir. Joseph Zito I try to avoid looking down. When I look down, my receding hairline is visible. S knows that I’m afraid of losing my hair. “If you’re worried about it, shave your head now,” he says, showing me pictures of impossibly attractive bald men. “Be confident.” He tries. I’ve always struggled with confidence—I’ve only just begun to feel that struggle fade.
closeted, still a virgin, when I was twenty? While in the Navy, Granger was stationed in Honolulu. A friend of his found an escort service for Granger, and he met with “an absolutely ravishing young Hawaiian woman” at night in the backyard of a massive estate. He swam naked in the pool until she arrived. When she did, she complimented his body. They talked for a while, and he says she was well-educated. He says when they began, she made him take his time; she slowed him down. They made love twice, he says. He fell asleep, and when he woke up, she was gone. Still nighttime, Granger went to get his clothes but found a man sitting at the bar by the pool. He complimented Granger’s body too, and they also sat and talked. The man was a lieutenant commander in the Navy, and he was scheduled to deploy the next day. Suddenly, he pulled Granger into his arms, and
neighborhood’s pool after it had closed. As I removed my shirt, I ran my fingers along the crests and valleys of my form, my newly bursting shoulders, and the molded lines of my obliques. Like a stream, muscles flowed down the length of me, the heavenly core in my chest thrusting, heaving, sighing; I was nervous. In the cool darkness, I did laps trying to replicate what had worked for Farley. I’m not a good swimmer. I sometimes wonder—I used to wonder more often—what would’ve happened if I had downloaded Grindr the night I read that chapter, if I had been brave enough. I think of the anticipation that may have tightened my chest, the deep breaths I may have taken as my lungs worked to still my shaking frame. I think of lips meeting my skin, the neck I may have kissed, the back I may have held, the arms that may have held me.
“I think of the anticipation that may have tightened my chest, the deep breaths I may have taken as my lungs
worked to still my shaking frame. Granger resisted until he realized how excited he was. Granger says they made love for hours. He never saw the lieutenant after that night. The night I finished “Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex…,” my parents were out of town, and I snuck into our
When I was eighteen, I thought about Granger’s chapter all the time. When I read the chapter now, it feels too clean, too tidy. Granger’s sex feels like a Hollywood sex scene, indescribably romantic and indistinct, quick to pan away to blowing
Thesis 3: Slashers scrutinize the body, each cut incisive, the careful dissection a confession of imperfect flesh and muscle. My mirror is a screen; fragile glass in harsh light reflects the uneven lines and irregular outline of my jaw, shoulders, and abdomen. Hairs and moles are little monsters forming the derelict landscape of my skin. ~ Hellbent (2004) Dir. Paul Etheredge I saw Hellbent for the first time and the second time and the third time, at home, alone. Advertised as the first ever gay slasher, Hellbent is a cheaply made, incredibly silly film. The experience of watching it, especially early in the film, is that of unending eyerolls at its truly cringe-inducing, ever-increasing series of ridiculous antics. It begins with a scene of two guys making out in a car filled with balloons—“they’re for my mom,” one of them says inexplicably—that ends when one of the men, while receiving a fellatio-adjacent foot rub, is decapitated. Hellbent only gets wilder from there and grows more charming. I care about the main character, and of course, I’m also attracted to him. I compare myself to him: a handsome eyepatch-wearing Final Boy.
Cole Brayfield | In Bits and Pieces
curtains. He had sex with a woman and a man. How did he have sex with that man? Did they fuck? How did they fuck? Sex, sex, sex, sex. Four times. Is that how many times Granger came that night? What did he actually do? What is making love? I’ve had sex and loved the man I had sex with, but I don’t know if I’ve made love. When I finally watched The Prowler, Granger looked nearly unrecognizable to me. I suppose he doesn’t look that old; he was only fifty-five. But he certainly doesn’t look the same as in his Hitchcock films or how I imagine him swimming in that Honolulu pool. His hair is grey. Granger only appears early in The Prowler for a couple short scenes then disappears until the Final Girl’s confrontation with the killer. The killer rips off his mask, revealing himself to be Granger. He wrestles a shotgun from the Final Girl and shoots himself. His face explodes in chunks. Unrecognizable. Granger doesn’t write about The Prowler in Include Me Out. I wonder if he only did the movie for money. Or as a favor. Was he embarrassed by the film? When I was younger, I stopped reading Include Me Out about a third of the way through because I couldn’t stand the thought of Granger growing old. Now, I’ve seen The Prowler, confronted his aging face, and finished his memoir, and I can only think, at least he still had his hair at fifty-five.
In the film, the main characters dress up for the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival. They wear cop, cowboy, biker, and leather daddy costumes. In a scholarly piece on Hellbent, the author argues that the hypermasculine costumes act both as parody and eroticization of heterosexual hypermasculinity. That feels true. The dichotomous nature of the perfectly bodied gay men of Hellbent evokes the crippling envy I’ve felt throughout my life: both desire and identification. I remember going to see films in the theater—forgettable films like I Am Number Four and Sanctum—and leaving distraught and confused, those emotions lingering with me long after I’d left the theater. The men onscreen were supposed to be my age, but their broad musculature didn’t resemble my short, thin frame. I wanted to be them, to have their masculine figures, stone jaws and carved outlines, so I could have some chance of being with them. I couldn’t disentangle these wildly conflicting ideas. Part of me wishes I could share Hellbent with someone, that I could laugh and holler at the screen in the company of others, as slashers are supposed to be experienced, especially silly slashers like Hellbent. I know S would watch it if I asked, but I also know he’d cringe at how cheap it is. In some teenage fantasy, I want to hold him while I watch it, to know that I am enough, that my
body is enough, to have nothing to prove. He cannot give me that. I’ve tried to become more comfortable with the fact that I watch most movies alone, that my memories of most films are solitary ones. I’ve tried to become more comfortable with myself. Thesis 4: Slashers recognize panic, the kind of all-consuming panic that tears through me as I run my fingers through my hair, pulling the roots, curled on the floor. I’ve lost control. I can’t remember who I am. I’m drowning, spiraling. Nothing helps. I am mistakes, hatred. I am melting, revealing the dull muscle beneath, the rickety bones. Nails scrap skin, obliterating flesh and being. There’s no rescue. I cannot stop. I can’t breathe. The balloon sacks in my chest find only arid dust. They rot and shrivel. ~ Knife+Heart (2018) Dir. Yann Gonzalez I watched Knife+Heart for the first time on a rainy summer day. At the end of the film, a flashback reveals the killer’s backstory. He was in love with another boy. In the scene, the boy holds the killer in his arms and the killer cries with joy. Knife+Heart presents the flashback in black and white, evoking a deep sense of nostalgia, nodding to earlier cinemas. The score is idyllic and ethereal, a series of cascading chimes scaling with quiet intensity. S called just as the film ended that first time.
“In some teenage fantasy, I want to hold him while
I watch it, to know that I am enough, that my body is enough, to have nothing to prove. He cannot give
In the coda to Knife+Heart, after the flashback, the protagonist, a gay porn director named Anne, is pulled away from an angelic vison of her ex-lover, who was earlier murdered by the killer, and Anne exchanges a look with her best friend and producing partner as the pulsating score fades, and the lights dim on a stark white porn set, a manufactured heaven. The men inhabiting the Grecian set look from one face to another. The darkened set shatters a fantasy, and the characters awaken
some new consciousness within themselves, their gaze into the camera challenging the viewer to follow suit. One day, as I’m driving, I leave my body for a moment and soar far above the highway stretched before me. I’m among white billowing giants that form and reform, shift and collide in elapsed time, fluid like watercolor. An uneasy resonance shakes through me, and light pours from my chest. Clusters of shapes glitter around me as memories flood the space beneath my skin. They’re the faces of everyone I’ve ever cared for, growing in number— as my mind spins—until they extend for miles in every direction, brilliant like stars, illuminating the sky. A sun appears among them, its glow taking a familiar shape: me. I smile and embrace the sun, this me who is every me from every moment of my life, infant, toddler, teenager, adult. I embrace myself, acknowledging the constellation of my body and faults and the possibility of my being. Then I brake, eyes back on the road. Thesis 5: Nostalgia is the essence of the slasher. They are always looking back, searching our pasts. In looking back, slashers recontextualize our histories. They acknowledge the messiness of memory and
Cole Brayfield | In Bits and Pieces
He said he was thinking of me. I smiled and I wanted to cry. When we hung up, I texted him: Sorry, I just watched a movie that I really enjoyed so I’m feeling vulnerable. It was a queer horror movie and it had a sweet relationship that made me really happy to have you. I don’t know. I love you. I tried to communicate the sense of melancholy and first-love euphoria that Knife+Heart left me with. I couldn’t.
emotion and pain. On my knees, I fumble for lost and broken pieces of a forever incomplete puzzle.
Something’s Whispering Sharon Lopez Mooney
A horde of prayers circled the veranda, slid over its edge, onto dry thirsty ground, floated off again along the highway of butterflies and bees Endless petitions rumpled into a breathing cloud bigger than imagination, smaller than a wish humming tunes of gull wings and cricket clicks Invocations headed for the clouds hiding the heavens waving over the seas, sifting with desert sand, oozing their way through fecund mud from the rains Swarming, not quite visible, enriching the air, flavoring the breeze, replenishing their numbers, correcting their flow, renewing their destinations Growing in strength, expanding with the music of longing supplications honing each other in flight, building a new dream, forming a new story, shifting the flow of our world
What a Great House Wants Susan Chock Salgy
when her long and careful duty is done, the vast confederacy of furniture and rug released from allegiance to this polished acre, when the clocks have driven their last dangling hour up the curling staircase to call the end of time into the hollow halls, and when all the walls stand suddenly flat, wide-eyed, surprised in their underwear after centuries of shadowy reticence behind the oiled heirs in uniform on horseback, or standing forever before their sisters, pale and comfortless in taffeta by the fire, the curls adorning each generation bright as glowing whisky in a shaft of afternoon— when the last of the blood has run out and no one is left astride the family tree to hoist the tax, a great house only wants a little help to shed her heavy hat from brim to brim, and feel the leaping lightness in her bones. She wants to offer her hidden corridors, all at once, to the wheeling firmament that has tempted her wayward tiles since the Bonny Prince sheltered here. Wants to turn her cantilevered heart inside out, to be loved entirely by heaven, open to every searing kiss and ruinous adoration of sun and wind and water. She welcomes any ragtag company of trees that wanders on the wind through her hospitable walls. Invites them to go up and claim the children’s rooms; to clamber unmolested through the unroofed attic, every crack and cupping place a nursery for wildflowers and saplings
they will release her chiseled façade, pick it to pieces piling anonymous around her disappearing hem, festooned with meadowsweet and whispering grass, with all the other unmade halls that sink contented into Scotland’s fragrant fields when nothing remains to overrule the patient dream of stones, that will hold our world safely in their arms, as long as it lasts.
Susan Chock Salgy | What a Great House Wants
rooting in the dust of the children, and tugging at the crumbled joins between the stones. She knows
Note: In the 20th century, a number of Scotland’s historic buildings fell into ruin as a result of new taxation policies, which levied heavy property taxes against all structures with roofs. When unable to pay, the owners of these great houses (such as Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire) sometimes deliberately destroyed their roofs to protest and avoid the new taxes.
Transitory Space, Brooklyn, NYC 2020 #11
The Braided Rope Charlie Beckerman
1. February In the days before our second date, I ask him if he would marry me. “Not for real,” I say over the phone. “My friend is a photographer and wants some gay wedding photos for her portfolio.” “How do I know this isn’t some trick?” he asks. “How do I know you aren’t going to swap in a real preacher? Are you just using me to get a visa?” “I’m pretty sure if anyone is going to be benefiting from a sham immigration marriage, it’s going to be you,” I say. He laughs. “You Americans,” he says, the pronoun sounding like it’s had its tight ooo chopped off: yeuh. “Always think the damn world revolves around you.” Wuhddled. “Oh, we passed a law saying that it does. For clarification.” “Fine, sure,” he says, and for a moment I’ve forgotten the topic. “I’ll fake marry you.” I can hear his smile over the phone. ~ 2. January He is leaning up against the side of WHSmith in the Edinburgh train station, which is where I suggested we meet, not knowing a better, less corporate landmark. He is taller than I’d expected—taller than me—
and I can feel my brain quietly rearrange the hierarchy between us, or maybe just create it. His eyes are icy blue and his smile is easy and clean. His gaze darts away from mine. “I can’t believe you came,” I find myself saying. He says, “Me neither.” We’d matched just as I was leaving the city where he lives, but we’d kept chatting anyway, and now, here he is. “There’s a sort of momentum when it comes to these things,” I tell him as we make our way out of the station. “It’s like in improv comedy, where you can’t contradict anything anyone says, you just have to say ‘Yes, and…’” I give the example of us: “Would you like to keep talking even though I’ve left Glasgow?” “Yes, and would you like to come from Glasgow to Edinburgh to go on a date with me even though I’m leaving for England the next day?” “Yes, and…” We head towards the Royal Mile. I say, “So, should we get a drink?” “Yes,” he says. “And.” ~ 3. March I am starting to feel like I’m a visitor in my own body, in my own mind. I think, if I really was in charge, then I’d just snap out of it. I’d be able to take my friends’ advice that he’s trash (rubbish), that I’m too
to rain, and we only have the venue for an hour.” “Isn’t it bad luck for you to see me before the wedding?” he’d asked, standing there in just the shirt, no pants. Befoor, wehdding. Sorry, trousers. “I think it’s only for dresses. Not sure about kilts, and since you’re wearing a suit, I think we’re safe.” I go up slightly on my tiptoes to kiss him real quick. He aims to take more. “Nuh-uh, my goal is to get you into pants, not me out of them. I mean, trousers.” “Trow-zerz.” He’s making fun of me.
Charlie Beckerman | The Braided Rope
good for him. But if I’m too good for him, then how come I’m not with him? It’s a line from a movie, but it’s hitting pretty hard. I’ve taken to crying at random times. On the train, tears leak out from under my eyelids unprompted as I try to make sense of what has happened, which is nothing. I’m just trying to assign meaning to nothing. In a different state of mind, I might take the word—implications—and pull it apart like a satsuma, to see that I’m deriving truth not from data but from suggestion. I have no information, but the inescapability of the question leaves a wide, open, flat space for my worst thoughts. I’ve
happier,’ my friend tells me, her shutter
snapping to the beat of microwave popcorn. ‘This is
the happiest day of your life.’ constructed a boxing ring, the word WHY? printed on the canvas, where I can beat the shit out of myself. My eyes snap open and I’m unable to tell whether or not the woman sitting across from me, her eyes on her copy of The Evening Standard, was watching me or not. It doesn’t matter: she’d never say anything, even if she had been. ~ 4. February I’d had to hustle him into his suit as soon as he arrived. “It’s supposed
The venue is a secluded glade in a park. Someone had audaciously set out the white folding chairs the night before: my friend has come prepared with kitchen roll for drying the seats. I don’t know any of the six guests, which I suppose doesn’t matter for the photos, except for my own ability to fake it. “Look happier,” my friend tells me, her shutter snapping to the beat of microwave popcorn. “This is the happiest day of
your life.” I look into his eyes and see he is having no trouble faking it. I try really hard to look happier. She hands me a folded piece of paper. “What’s this?” I ask. “They’re your vows,” she says. I look down at the paper. It’s an invoice. “Think you can look like you’re about to cry?” I hold the vows in front of me and look into his eyes. “There,” she says, camera clicking away. “That’s great. Not too much. Great.” ~ 5. January The bar is built for crowds, but it’s a Sunday night so it’s almost empty. We find a table in a secluded but too-brightly-lit corner. The only place to sit is an elevated booth, which I’m wary of because it puts into the mix the possibility falling. “Is everything okay?” I ask when his eyes switch away from mine. I’m sitting with my right arm resting on the booth back like it’s an armrest. He’s polished off his pint, and I’m just nearing the halfway mark. “I’m nervous.” Nairvis. “About what?” “About meeting you.” This seems preposterous, and his words have carved out a strange space that I am desperate to fill, but I come up with nothing. He goes to get a second drink and returns with a pint of Guinness and a whisey and coke. “I hope I’m not making you that nervous,” I say. He smiles and
shrugs, and quaffs the top third of the Guinness. “Who’s the whiskey and coke for?” He takes another deep draft of the beer and then pours the cocktail into the half-full pint glass. “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.” He offers me a sip, and it kind of tastes like Dr. Pepper. It’s pretty delicious, actually. I kiss him on the cheek. He gives me a sideways, skeptical look. “Sorry,” I say. “No, don’t apologize,” he says. “I just wasn’t expecting it.” ~ 6. March My phone vibrates with a new message as the grid of faces, torsos and sunsets assembles itself in front of me. Grindr is like one of those vinyl bags that folds up into a pouch, but once opened, can expand exponentially, to the point where it can fit an entire afternoon, evening and night. I’m sure it can fit entire days. Early on I was batting .300, when it was explicitly for fun and not a coping mechanism, but now that I could really use the distraction my average has dropped below .100. The message is from a guy I’ve hooked up with before, and we arrange to meet up again. The first time was fun and forgettable, in a good way. Maybe it would feel okay again. He has his own flat, which is a rare commodity in Brighton’s casual sex market. On the app, he describes himself as a bear, which is not really
my place is marked for MRS. JEROME HOPEWELL—so as not to upset the settings. I take a peek at the name card at his place—MR. GEORGE CLEMENT. He takes hold of my hand under the table. We start getting instructions. In the span of twenty minutes we take entrance photos, toast photos, first-dance photos, lastdance photos, hug photos, group photos, and candids. “Try to look like you’ve had a few drinks,” my friend says. Everyone gets a little silly. For our first dance (which, halfway through, we’re told to take off our blazers and roll up our sleeves so it can also be our last dance) someone plays “Can’t Help Falling in Love” through the tinny speakers on their phone. We’re told to keep dancing as the song ends, and the phone rolls from the Elvis version into the UB40 version. He leans into me and says, “I’m so happy,” and I say, “Me too,” and it scares me how much I mean it, but I have no idea if he’s pretending, like everyone else. ~ 8. January We sort of roll downhill— an easy enough thing to do in Edinburgh—in search of another bar. On one stretch of abandoned street I push him into a doorway and kiss him, properly,
Charlie Beckerman | The Braided Rope
my thing, but it’s not not my thing, and he’s pretty cute and sweet when we’re not having sex, which I remember as vigorous and athletic, if not quite passionate. At his house, we chat for maybe thirty seconds before we start making out and within three minutes, we’re naked. Fingernails are raked across my back but all I feel is pain. At one point he pulls hard on one of my balls and gives me a devilish grin. I have to tell him to go easy. A few days later, my semen will come out brown. It might not be related. We’re sweaty by the end, and when I dress and he kisses me goodbye at the front door, the cold March air chills the moisture on my skin. The first time I walked home from his flat I was exhilarated, but now I am empty. ~ 7. February The weather turns early, and the nine of us—two fake newlyweds, six of their closest fake loved ones, and the photographer—run into the reception hall to escape the rain. It’s a kind of pavilion, with large French doors gridded with glass flanking three of the four walls. The hall is still and unlit, but everything is ready for the real wedding later today; it feels like a tightly wound-up music box with the stop in place. After five minutes of searching for a light switch, my friend instructs us to give up and start fake celebrating. We sit gingerly at a table—
as they’d say here. It’s good—almost too good. His kisses are deep and forceful without losing any tenderness. It’s like when you really get a good pump going on a swing: the heaviness at the bottom of the arc, the weightlessness at the top. The next pub we find is also mostly empty, but it’s cozier. He insists on sitting next to me, not across, and I end up sort of leaning into him, like he’s a couch cushion. When he goes up to get our second round, an American couple, a guy and a girl, walks in and asks if they can drop their jackets on the empty seats across from us. When they recognize my accent, we chat a little bit. They’re from Georgia, but don’t seem put off when he comes back and we resume our snuggling. They get their drinks and settle down at the next table. When they leave, he says to me, “You were so excited to talk to them.” “Ha, was I? I guess it was nice. But, you know, straight people.” “Fuckin’ hetties.” “Huh?” “Hetties. Heterosexuals.” I laugh. “Your voice changed when you were talking to them. Your accent.” “What? It did not.” “Yeah, it did. You sounded, like, more American.” Moor. I’m practically reclining on him at this point; at the very back of my mind, I’m waiting for someone
to tell me to cut it out. Maybe him? This is my fourth beer, and I’m feeling reckless. More than just kissing/ making out reckless. I fish my phone out of my pocket and take a candid selfie from near my knee. “What are you doing?” he says, but it’s pretty obvious. “Sorry, the angle is pretty horrible.” He takes the phone out of my hand and holds it up and snaps off a few. In that moment, between the beer and his warmth, I think it’s perfectly possible for me to just slide my atoms in amongst his. ~
consider saying the
truth—my heart’s broken, and I don’t know how I fix it, and I’m worried it
9. March I’m sad in a way that scares me. I look into therapy with the NHS, but I’m stymied. “You basically have to be standing on the ledge, ready to jump, before you get to see someone,” my friend says. I read a book once that talked about the psychological benefits of meditation, so I go to one of the free classes they have at the large Buddhist Center in town. I think, what’s one more coping mechanism
which helps a bit, but my back slowly gnarls into knots even though I’m sitting on a chair. Before we conclude, he asks if there are questions. My question forms petulantly in my mouth: what does the Buddha have to say about heartbreak? What does the Buddha have to say about hopelessness? About sadness? But I know if I ask it, I will cry, and then people will cluster around me, offer me a tissue, put their arms on my shoulders; they will not let me leave until they are satisfied that I will be okay, and my thing is, I may not be. As we get up to go, she asks me if I think I’ll come back. “Maybe,” I say, hoping it’s true. “I’m not sure yet.” But I think we both know I won’t. ~ 10. February We’re asked to give fake speeches from blank notecards. “Just make something up,” my friend says. I go first. “Thank you all for being here for this special day, I know that we only just met, but I feel like all of you are family now,” which gets a few chuckles. “And, well, I just want to say I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.” I look down at him and he’s smiling up at me and I lean down and give him a kiss, which elicits an awwww from the crowd. “Enjoy the cake,” I say.
Charlie Beckerman | The Braided Rope
to add to all the napping and drinking? It’s churchier than I would have liked: a raised seat at the middle of the room, statues of the Buddha ranging in size from as small as a Pekinese to as large as a rhino. A woman with blonde hair and serious glasses sits next to me asks me what brought me there. I consider saying the truth—my heart’s broken, and I don’t know how I fix it, and I’m worried it can’t be—but instead I settle for some masticated version of it. “I just haven’t been feeling great lately, and I’ve heard a lot about meditation, and wanted to come and see what it was like.” I feel like an actor in an informative video. “You?” “I used to come a lot, but I fell off recently, trying to get back into it.” This is the most reassuring thing I will hear all night: that Buddhists are just as susceptible to lapse as the rest of us. The teacher comes in robed in orange, and we stand. He sits and we sing a toneless hymn, the words of which strike me as the same blind praise that I remembered from Hebrew school. We sit and he begins speaking about all bad things coming from thoughts, that there is no suffering except for in our minds. His voice is thin and wispy, something I’m sure is meant to be soothing and calming, but I’m registering it as patronizing. Near the end of the lesson we meditate for ten minutes, and I try to focus on my breath,
Someone brought a £2 cake from the Co-Op which we’d cut with a butter knife earlier, and daintily fed to each other to avoid staining our clothes. He stands up. “I don’t know many of you, or, well, any of you, but I do know that if you’d told me a month ago that I’d be standing here today, getting fake married, I’d have probably asked you what you meant by ‘fake married.’” He pauses for laughter, which he gets. “But, on our first date—which just so everyone knows, is the only other date we’ve been on—he said something to me… he said, sometimes you just have to go, ‘Yes, and….’ ‘Will you go on a first date even though we live on opposite ends of the country?’ ‘Yes, and will you come South to see me?’ ‘Yes, and can I come on Valentine’s Day?’ ‘Yes, and will you fake marry me?’ ‘Yes, and, yes, and, yes, and…’” I’m a mess, face-wise, but as we click plastic flutes and sip discount Prosecco, I see there’s not a dry eye in the goddamn house. ~ 11. January From the bar we climb back up the hill and end up at a castle. This is the kind of thing that happens in Scotland. I whip out my phone to take a picture: the thirteenth-century castle is lit with twentieth-century halogens and looks good against the cold black sky. As I move my thumb to press the shutter, something hits
the side of my face, warm and fleshy, the speed of a drunk bumblebee, fucking up the shot. Believe it or not, I’m mad for a second. This motherfucker just kissed me. Not like we had been kissing: this was just his two lips against my beard. Unprovoked, unbidden, not a part of any rhythm, not a reaction to any action. I look at him, and he’s just smirking at me, and I feel a very real desire to punch him. “What was that?” I asked. He shrugs and smiles. I attack him with my mouth. Later, when I unbraid the thick cords tying me down, the threads will lead back here, to this moment. It’s a lifeline. It’s an anchor. ~ 12. February We clear out of the pavilion when the caterers for the real wedding show up. The rain has stopped and my friend has us walk through the park to do a few final shots. She finds a cluster of trees and has us enter from either side. “This is the ‘first looks’ shot,” she says before sending us to opposite ends of the copse, “so pretend like you haven’t seen each other yet.” For the first few steps on the soft, peaty earth I am worried that I’m walking in the wrong direction. But then, he emerges from his trees and gives me a look, a sloping smile, his blue eyes flashing. Let’s find a priest, I think. Let’s do it for real, right now. I bite my tongue.
precariously over the city. I push for us to get a hotel. It’s not the kind of thing I’d normally do, but it’s the easiest logical way to avoid having to say goodbye, and also the best way to get his clothes off. He demurs—he has work in the morning. I have a train in the morning. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There’re still a few trains left back to Glasgow yet, anyway. We roam the streets, making out in doorways and alcoves. At one point he gives me a piggy-back ride, going a fair way with me clutching to him for dear life, before I start nibbling on his ear and he has to put me down again. “Do you own a kilt?” I worry for a moment that the question might be offensive.
Charlie Beckerman | The Braided Rope
My friend snaps away, instructing us to walk closer and closer until we’re within an arm’s reach. His hand comes out for mine, and then the other, and for a moment we stand apart, a circle, before he pulls me close and kisses me like he’s drowning. “Okay boys,” my friend says, her shutter still. “That’s enough of that for now.” The last thing she has us all do is the rice-throwing. She hands little bags to each of the guests and has them make an aisle for us, right there in the woods. We run through a dozen times before they run out of rice. It’s kind of exhilarating, though by the end, even though his hand is in mine, I can feel it slipping out, I can see his eyes dimming, the grains of rice no longer getting stuck in his hair, but sliding through, as if he’s not really here at all.
“Later, when I unbraid the thick cords tying me down, the threads will lead back here, to this moment. It’s a
lifeline. It’s an anchor.
~ 13. January We lean against the parapet outside the castle and make out for a while, our arms wrapped around each other, our faces pressed into one another, us taking turns to be the one with their back dangling
“Of course,” he says. “Do you wear it that often?” “You know, weddings and stuff.” “Are you going to get married in it?” I’m careful with my sentence construction, with my subjects.
“No, at our wedding I’m going to wear a wedding dress. White, and everything.” “At our wedding?” I ask. My heart leaps up through my chest and bashes my brain in the balls. “Of course.” We get to the station about twenty minutes before the secondto-last train of the night. “Come on,” he says, dragging me out of the station. Along a windy medieval stairway he finds a large recess, the size of a handicapped restroom. I think this is just for more making out, but before I know it he’s undoing my pants—well, my trousers— and my dick is in his mouth. I’m almost too dumbstruck to register the pleasure. After a minute or two I return the favor. When we’re almost caught by a couple of backpackers, we slip our junk back into our jeans, and allow ourselves a moment or two for composure. After they pass, we fly down the steps, laughing. We kiss goodbye at the faregates. “So I’ll see you in Brighton,” he says. “You don’t have to say that,” I say. He shrugs. “I’ve been meaning to visit anyway.” We kiss again and then he’s through, and on the train, and I stand there, waiting for the doors to close, hoping he’ll jump off and come back. But right on time the doors close, and the train slides out of the station to make its lonely way across the dark Scottish night. ~
14. March I finally clear my photo library so the picture from the pub in Edinburgh isn’t on my phone anymore, ready to pull up at a moment’s notice. I archive our chats—saved, but hidden—and delete half-written emails and texts. I keep his number, just so I’m not caught off guard in case he ever decides to resurface. I think about our last phone conversation—well, the last one where he said he’d come visit. “I can’t come that first weekend of February,” he’d said. “But I’ll come the second.” I felt obligated to point out that that was Valentine’s Day. “Oh… is that a problem?” he asked. “Not for me,” I said. “I figure either we pretend it isn’t, or we really lean into it. Make everyone sick to their stomachs.” “We could be fucking vile,” he said. I considered not telling anyone, but my friend got it out of me. “He’ll be down here for Valentine’s Day?” she asked, incredulous. “D’you think I could use you guys? I need some gay wedding photo samples for my portfolio.” “Let’s wait and see if he even books his ticket to come,” I said, but, too late, I’d already imagined the whole thing. Now that Valentine’s Day is a distant memory, and the clocks have changed, and the worst of the winter
Maybe she’s improving it.
Charlie Beckerman | The Braided Rope
darkness is behind us, I consider that perhaps I am starting to feel better. For moments, anyway. I tell myself that it was worth it, the heartbreak and misery and hangovers. Not for the kissing, or the swooning, or the laughing, not even for the brief street fellatio, though all that was good. But it was worth it for those moments—fuck that, it was hours— where we were no longer two distinct beings, just one vile beating heart. I get pretty damn close to convincing myself. ~ 15. April I still have bad moments. I think my friends are sick of hearing about him, which is fair. They want me to be mad, and I think how mad I’m not makes it hard for them. They’re mad at him enough for all of us. It may not be safe for him in England. I still disappear hours and hours into Grindr, but I also go for weeks without it. Sometimes the sex is good, but more often it’s just something to do, something to mark the passing of time. I make a spreadsheet and put their names into it. Most names are only entered once, including his. My friend tries to get me to date guys closer to home. She’s wrestled my phone away from me a couple of times and swiped right madly. I worry she’s messing up my algorithm, but what do I know?
Milkweed Boats Joel Best
“A pound or so of milkweed floss could keep a 150-pound person floating for more than 40 hours. . . . So children were asked to pick milkweed, filling sack after sack with the silky white floss.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel we had no part in the new war
other than to let it take place
it spun together in our hand touched by broken fingers battles
counted themselves in sleepy rhythms
cannonade sent us to a place sharpened by imagination we wore black hoods and shirts made from children’s souls in the sooted dawn for absolution
asked the burning dead
they cared not to answer
having neither mouths nor tongues
Almendras Toti O’Brien
Almond-shaped in the dark like a tiny rowboat like a thing that barely moves from corner to corner like a small, modest leaf. Like her eyes attempting—askew—to take flight fluttering brown lashes curled like penciled commas. Almond trees bloomed off-season when she was born fooled by treacherous sunrays. An explosion of white scattered on sidewalks. An eruption of petals against blue skies. Just one bitter nut crushed among dozens gives the pastry its edge of delight exalting the sweetness like a deep nostalgia of the tongue. Like the saltiness left on the tongue in the darkness by a silent, oath-bound fingertip. Another nostalgia, or the same.
I Lay Amongst the Stones Cheryl Skory Suma
Across our lifetime, each of us will have countless firsts. Special milestones that we collect to recollect. First word, first day of school, first lost tooth, first ride on a bike without training wheels, first best friend, first betrayal by a best friend, first kiss, first fight, first apartment, first love, first time. Sadly, my first time was not sought nor consensual. It buried me whole, an avalanche tumbling over and through me until I became lost beneath the wreckage. ~ Children often have an affinity for collecting things. As a small child, I gathered water-polished stones. Black, white, amber, green, speckled, ocean blue; as long as they were smooth, I would pick them up, take them home, and place them in the bowl of my long-deceased fish. A collection of once jagged, mismatched things, now smooth, their edges erased until they could never fully touch one another—my unbreakable eggs, warily leaving spaces between themselves and those around them. Spaces that would never be filled. ~ My mother grew up on a farm in northern Ontario, just a few miles walk from the single intersection that marks the township of Clute,
which is a bit north of Cochrane (a more-than-one intersection town, but only by a few). Although she fled to the south for nursing school and the city’s promise of new opportunities when she was seventeen, she loved to return to the quiet and vast wilderness of her childhood. When I was a child, my parents took my brother and me camping up north every summer. Along the way, we would pass towers of stone placed roadside or set upon a protruding rock. I marveled at those stones, long ago polished smooth by the riverbed, now stacked precariously, one upon the next. I asked my mother who had balanced them and why. “It’s called a cairn. It can be used to mark a trail or simply to let us know that someone was here. For many, its construction represents grace or spirituality.” At seven, I couldn’t see the grace. For me, these precarious towers that dared to defy gravity seemed to taunt that all was not as it seems, suggesting that the world could come crashing down at any moment. I marveled at their defiance while simultaneously fearing for their ultimate demise. ~ From a very young age, my parents taught me to find pleasure
The evening of my first time, I was calm. We’d only been on a few dates, so I didn’t know him well, but I wasn’t afraid. There was no sign, no clue of what was to come. I wish I could claim that I’d picked up on something, that my women’s intuition had led to my decision to move on, but that simply wasn’t true. I just didn’t feel at home with him, so it was time to go. After I finished explaining my reason for ending our relationship, he put his hand on my arm—not in an adoring way, in a stopping-you-leaving way. “You don’t need to go,” he spewed before smiling through me as he locked the front door.
Cheryl Skory Suma | I Lay Amongst the Stones
in work: the value of persistence, the joy of accomplishment, and the satisfaction that arises from a focused drive toward a purpose beyond your immediate desires. I also learned to enjoy the hunt—the promise offered by a goal within reach. At twelve, my parents swapped our camping trip for a tropical vacation. I spent hours walking alone on the beach after the tide had gone out, searching for the perfect polished stone. I wanted to find a stone similar to those I had collected at the lake on our past camping trips—a smooth gem that would be kinder in my hand than the broken shells that glimmered with false promise amongst this foreign sea’s waves.
“To survive, I chose to lay amongst the stones. I buried myself beneath their history, became one lost within
Years later, as a young adult entering the dating world, I viewed taking a chance on a new relationship as akin to my polished stones— born from the ruins of previous flawed encounters, new love makes it possible to forgive and forget. It permits you to let go of all the others you released back to the sea, knowing the tide will eventually erase their edges. ~
His words left ashen smoke trails to drift on the air between us, an invisible threat now made visible, too thick to take in. I couldn’t breathe in the space it left behind. Moments later, when he snarled, “Don’t play innocent,” I still couldn’t gather up his words—they were heavier than I could carry. He was deaf to my fear. At that moment, in that now,
he became a stranger. He pinned me down, his hands tore to reveal. Consumed by his needs, he would become a thief. My first time was here. ~ Since the day he took what was not offered, my perspective changed. To survive, I chose to lay amongst the stones. I buried myself beneath their history, became one lost within the cracks. For a long time, there was no more searching for the one—years would go by before I could manage to just let myself be found. My defiant cairn had toppled, after all. It would take time, too much time, before I could rebuild it alone. ~ Eventually, I did heal. Time can be an adroit gal; she loves to repurpose the past. I discovered an unexpected gift—by offering compassion, support, and a sympathetic ear to other abuse survivors, I was able to hear my own inner voice when she screamed. This allowed me to find my center again, to quiet the trauma. To trust again. So, now, I watch and listen. Occasionally, I pick up on the mismatched edges another woman has buried herself with—the signs that something terrible has happened to her, something that should never have happened. ~
To all my scarred sisters, my brave stone carriers—you’re not alone with that weight you carry. Pass someone a stone.
Mrs. Dalloway’s Garden Elinora Lord
I My father died in a hospital room overlooking a cemetery. Sun crept in, fracturing the white sheet to diamonds and afterwards, his house: unswept porch, chairs stacked, silent kitchen where he would sit, a bowl of fruit still on the table. II I took a few shirts from his closet and hung them in mine. One with snags and grass stains—I could see him, warm Sunday, clippers in hand, Sinatra seeping outside from the stereo. III Last night I woke up and saw my father sitting on the arm of the couch. I could smell his aftershave, see the tv’s reflection in his glasses. He was talking with his hands like he did about red wine, Easter, and about light: how it flares, then wanes, you swear it’s gone, but it only changes, he said. Never leaves.
My birthday again, Mom, and I sit with the sunrise, breath hanging in air like wishes that fall apart when spoken. It’s your hands around this cup of coffee drying to a stain at the bottom. I have drunk you in. I have strung pearls from your bones to hold pieces of me in place. Sometimes, before first opening my eyes, I ask how you got up, took curlers from your hair, hung sheets on the line, put on lipstick, laughed into the phone—even once you knew. That we are here to lose what we love. The best we can do is grow old.
The Little Ghost Boy Garth Robinson
The little boy lived a short and good life. His father owned a food truck outside Tucson; his mother was wonderful. He thought often of his parents as he floated in the dust and the light that fell from the small window in the attic. Sometimes he dozed off as he gazed at the top branches of the gum tree, or sometimes at the grackle who would come to rest there. The little boy found that dust still made his nose run and his throat itch, and he often woke from his half-sleep sneezing and digging his palms into his red swollen eyes. He missed his mother terribly then. He missed the warm spring nights when she would take a damp rag and fold it so carefully in half and lay it over his eyes. The loose strands at the corner of the rag tickled his face. The water dripped along his cheekbones and down onto his neck. The little boy thought it funny that so many of his memories lived in his body, or what-was-oncehis-body. He watched the grackle eat a juniper berry and thought of the rag, the ringing in the whorls of his ears from a dog barking, the quick pain across his back when Diego whipped him with a slender stick. He remembered the way his hair fanned out around him in the bathtub, and the way his mother poured warm water from a Tupperware over
his head to wash out the shampoo. He remembered splitting open a loaf of bread and tearing away the soft insides. When it was only the crust left, he and Diego threw it in pieces to the crows dancing at the edge of the parking lot. His mother would have something for him if she too floated in the attic light. The little boy felt sure of this. She always had little candies, or a sketch of a smiling bear or an ugly toad or the mountains to the east that the little boy loved so much, or she had a hand in his hair if his father told him off, or cherry cough drops if she had no candies. She would make him laugh and call Diego silly names for letting the little boy swim too far into the Rillito River. His mother always told him it was important to smile every day. Although he felt alone and very scared, the little boy tried. He thought sometimes of his father’s cooking and the time they camped with him in a sandy arroyo near Big Bend. He thought of the club that he and Diego formed with some of the other boys in the neighborhood and their secret meetings in the thicket at the end of the road. But he smiled at any and every thought of his mother. And so the little boy—sneezing and thinking of his mother and
his limp body and his stuck-on aimless soul sprawled on a beach where they were never supposed to be. But when the little boy woke early to fiery sunrises, to the burning away of stars, he convinced himself over and over that there must be a reason he had gone here. He knew, for one, that this was still Tucson. He could see the glassy blue edge of the Pima County Legal Building if he craned his neck to the south, and to the east were the mountains he loved. He thought he might be near the lot where his father parked the food truck but he could not leave the
Garth Robinson | The Little Ghost Boy
licking all the shallow wounds of his short good life—hid in the attic like an old blind tomcat. He’d been relieved, at first, to find himself away from the pounding of the Rillito River, to find his nostrils and mouth clear of its heavy stinking water. Yet the attic did not bring the relief of his mother’s arms or of a damp clean rag over his itching eyes. The little boy found that this place, if it was indeed the place he sometimes feared it might be, was not black but instead see-through. He watched a pretty young woman sort through a pile of rugs, and he watched the grackle and the gum tree. He watched two boys, younger than him, play with wooden blocks
“By the time he reached the front door, he would
be gone, underwater, downriver, washed up on some
even stranger beach.
at a table in the center of the attic. Sometimes he thought that if he floated in front of the window and caught the sunlight just so then maybe the young woman or one of the boys might see him. One morning it seemed that the young woman looked twice at the spot where he hung. The boys always looked too hard at the blocks. The little boy did not know who they were. He often worried that the thrashing river had thrown him out at random and left
house to find out. This comforted the little boy—not just his father nearby, but that if he floated downstairs and got too close to the front door, he would feel himself coming apart. It was like wading into the river all over again; the closer the little boy got to the door the less there was of him. By the time he reached the front door he would be gone, underwater, downriver, washed up on some even stranger beach.
He must stay in the house. His father would want this, anyways, just like when they went camping in Texas and he told the little boy and Diego that if they were ever lost they had to stay in one place and yell. So the little boy stayed in the house, in the attic, thinking that he was only listening to his father’s directions and that he must, then, be where he was supposed to be. His father was simply in the next arroyo over, bound to find the little boy soon. At dawn, with the sun still in the desert, with weak rings of pink and orange cloud just rising over the mountains, with the young woman brewing coffee downstairs and the smell going up through the floorboards, the little boy could convince himself of order and reason. He sorted through the events in his life, turning over first the big ones and then the smaller ones, searching for something he may have done wrong to deserve the attic, the sneezing, the motherlessness. There was, of course, the afternoon last year in Holy Hope Cemetery. The little boy often cut through Holy Hope on his way home from school and one day, weaving and jumping through the veteran’s section, he knocked over an ancient unsteady headstone, EFREN PEQUEIRA ABRIL, JR. He’d been waterlogged with guilt. His mother held him as he cried that night and she taught him how to pray and also how to look up the phone number for the Diocese of
Tucson Catholic Cemeteries. And then there were the meetings in the thicket at the end of the road with Diego and a few other boys. The little boy scratched at the red dirt with a stick when Diego and his friends talked about movies where they’d seen men and women make love, and although the little boy didn’t know what this meant he still had a hard time looking at Diego or at the other boys or even at his parents when he ran home. The little boy thought hard about his life as he watched the pretty young woman walk out onto the tiny concrete patio and empty the kitchen trash into a big green bin. She turned and stood for a second in the morning light, her hands on her hips, and then she went back inside. The little boy heard her close the door and call to her sons. It’s time for school, she said softly. The little boy felt very small and he wiped his nose along his arm and felt boogers catch in the downy hair there. Maybe it had been that last afternoon at the Rillito River. His father took them to the pull-off in Limberlost, a few blocks from his usual parking spot, and told them to play on the bank for an hour. I’ll be right back, he told them through the window as he reversed back onto the road. I have to do this errand and it can’t wait, but I’ll be right back. He pointed at the brown water. You see how strong the river’s getting? It’s monsoon season, so stay up here
The little boy cried and sneezed. He told himself that maybe the crying and the sneezing meant that things might go back to normal. He told himself he was stupid for thinking such things. He told himself there was no God, and he told himself that his prayers for knocking over EFREN PEQUEIRA ABRIL, JR and for talking in the thicket about making love and even his prayers in the attic for disobeying his father all went nowhere, and to no one. Just into the hot flat sunlight, like burps and breath. He would not see his mother again; she would sketch no more mountains for the little boy. It was this last thought that froze the little boy’s mind and made him float in quick frantic circles around the attic. He needed to prove himself wrong. Although he did not like to leave the attic, as he knew his father would want him to stay in one place, the little boy began to float, occasionally, down through the floorboards and into the tiny bathroom next to the kitchen. He liked to float an inch or two above the toilet seat for a few minutes. There were red and yellow tiles along the wall and the little boy looked at these and at the dirty blue bathmat and at the three toothbrushes in a cup on the sink. It all felt so normal and the little boy liked this.
Garth Robinson | The Little Ghost Boy
on the bank. You hear that, Diego? Watch your brother, Diego. Diego waited until their father merged into the traffic on Oracle Road before he turned. The little boy was bent over collecting bottle caps and pieces of shale and he was smiling as he thought about tossing them all the way over to the opposite bank. Diego took off his shirt and threw it into the weeds. The little boy looked up. Diego had on that funny face that always made the little boy laugh and feel like they might get in trouble. Diego’s eyes were bright and glittering in the hot flat sunlight. Should we go in? The little boy shrugged and kept smiling. When we go up to Kanab he even lets us swim in the Colorado. The little boy nodded. Diego looked out at the river. Up to our knees at least, he said. From downstairs came the twinkling sounds of the young woman washing the dishes and laughing. As the day went on and the little boy floated in the afternoon light, listening to the hum from an unseen highway and the quiet of the house beneath him, he lost all belief in order and reason. In the attic sunlight—in the hot and flat sunlight, like that last day with Diego—the little boy looked at the gum tree and told himself he was lost. He was lost, somewhere far away, farther away than the desert outside Tucson or a sandy arroyo in Texas or even the end of the Rillito River.
After what seemed like the right amount of time, he left the toilet and floated near the sink and looked out at the base of the gum tree through a narrow sheer-curtained window. Then he smiled and floated back up through the floorboards and into the attic. These trips to the bathroom always shrunk the immensity of his problem. The little boy thought of his mother dropping Cheerios into the toilet for him and Diego to aim at. His mother had all sorts of advice about going to the bathroom. She told them to wipe the seat good. She told them never to wait until it was an emergency. If Diego and the little boy were well-behaved, she told them they could pee in the backyard. The little boy thought that if all this bathroom training had made it out of the Rillito River, then things couldn’t be so bad. One night the little boy fell asleep as he floated against the window frame and he woke a few hours later with a stiff pain in his neck. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, he stretched and yawned and looked out the window. Through the thick calico branches of the gum tree the little boy could see the bluish outline of the mountains to the east. He could see a half moon, and below the halfmoon the quiet street. The little boy often felt lonely at night, with the pretty young woman and her sons sleeping below him, without his own mother to lay a rag over his itching
eyes or to hold him close until he grew sleepy again, but tonight he could hear low voices beneath him. He could smell someone burning a candle, or maybe sage. He wondered if the pretty young woman was making love. Diego and his friends always said that men and women lit candles whenever they made love.
“The little boy began to cry, softly at first and then
harder as he understood, all at once, the terrible lonesome fact that his father had not seen him
The little boy was awake now and very curious. Finally, he might learn exactly what Diego and his friends meant when they talked about men and women making love. But he felt guilty whenever he left the attic, and he remembered the way he couldn’t look at his parents after those meetings in the thicket. He bobbed a little as he floated in the moonlight. He listened. He thought the smell of sage was growing stronger and that maybe this meant the young woman was making more love. The little boy circled the attic a few times and felt his heart beat quickly
off a few squares of toilet paper and wiped the seat. He stood up straight and faced the little boy directly. His eyes were redder than the little boy remembered. They drifted to the sink, the window, the floor, and this made the little boy look down. Knotty dark hair grew in a clump between his father’s legs, and the little boy looked away and thought about rushing to get him a towel. He’d never seen hair like that before. His father turned and, without washing his hands, switched off the light and left the bathroom. The little boy floated in the dark near the sink. He stared at the strips of white moonlight reflected on the tiles. The little boy began to cry, softly at first and then harder as he understood, all at once, the terrible lonesome fact that his father had not seen him at all. The smell of sage and the young woman’s quiet voice washed through the bathroom. The little boy wiped hard at his nose and the wiping made him sneeze a few times. He knew for certain now that he’d never see his mother again, and worse yet he knew that even if she somehow found him, she would look past and through him. The little boy knew that floating over the toilet would not feel very normal anymore. So he cried hard for his bad luck and his runny nose,
Garth Robinson | The Little Ghost Boy
and decided that he would float down into the bathroom for just a moment. The little boy’s father stood naked in the bathroom, his arm pressed against the red and yellow tiles as he looked down at the open toilet. He seemed to be having a hard time peeing. The little boy screamed and if his father had not been naked, he would have run to him and hugged him. In his short good life the little boy had never known such relief. He was not lost; his father had been searching for him ever since Diego dared him to swim a little farther into the Rillito River. He would see his mother again, and her sketches, and the ends of the rag would tickle his face. His floating became dancing. He was not lost. His father had not heard his shocked and happy scream. His pee came in short bursts and he groaned as he stood over the toilet. The little boy called to his father and floated closer. He waved his hands and laughed crazily. His father smelled bad, like sweat and the frying oil he used in the food truck. He leaned against the tiles and closed his eyes. The little boy floated close enough to touch his father and he called to him again, but the only response was another spasm of pee and if the little boy had been more solid, more like he once was, droplets would have splattered his ankles and calves. His father swore quietly as he opened his eyes and he tore
for the matted hair between his father’s legs, for all the things that had changed since that afternoon with Diego at the Rillito River. He heard his father’s voice. His father spoke slowly, and as quietly as the young woman, and the little boy could not hear his words. Still drawing short breaths, still close to choking on snot and tears, the little boy floated out of the bathroom and down the hallway and through the door of the young woman’s bedroom. Her bedroom was small and cozy. Strings of pale white lights framed the windows, and a tall lamp with a red lampshade stood on the bedside table. The light in the room was pinkish and diffuse and made the little boy think of sunrise over the mountains. On her bureau the young woman had lit five or six candles and arranged them alongside a ceramic bowl and a few silver rings and a carved figurine of a funny pig in a tutu. Over the bureau hung a mirror and a small framed photograph of her sons. In her bed his naked father lay on his belly, the flannel sheets tangled around his ankles. The young woman lay next to him and stroked his back with one hand. She was naked too. The little boy looked at the dark skin around her nipples and felt his breath catch through his tears. They were much larger than any he’d ever seen. He tried to focus on the silver rings or the funny pig but found it hard
to look at anything besides those dark circles. He realized he would finally have something to tell Diego and the other boys at the next meeting in the thicket at the end of the road, and as he thought this he remembered the river and the attic and his father’s eyes slipping past him in the bathroom, and this all made him think of his mother, and as he thought of his mother he wondered why she was not next to his father, naked, whispering gently, moving her fingers through the hair on his back, and the little boy sneezed as he began to cry again and the pretty young woman looked up and screamed very loudly. What the fuck, she yelled. She yelled his father’s name but he had turned over at her first scream and looked right at the little boy. The young woman gathered the sheets around herself and pointed at the door. Her voice was high and shaking and she kept yelling what the fuck and who was the little boy, but the little boy just looked at his father. His father’s mouth was open and he closed his eyes and shook his head. The little boy had rarely seen his father surprised, but he thought he must look scary in the low pink light especially since his father had never seen him float before. He moved into the white light near the windows and as he did so his father jumped out of the bed and threw himself onto the floor.
“His father started to say
something else, something angry about love and all the things that love needs,
but he stopped speaking.
But then his father sat up and looked at him with wide wet eyes. The little boy had never been looked at like this before. He felt much less like a little boy. He couldn’t think of anything to say. He wanted to hug his father, and for his father to take his hand and bring him home. My baby, his father said, but he spoke so quietly and lifelessly that the little boy was not sure he’d heard him. His father had not called him that in many years. His father said it again, his voice louder and more certain now. My baby. And then, with a furious heave, his father began to cry. He threw his head back towards
the floor. The little boy looked at the young woman but she was staring at his father. She had stopped screaming but seemed much worse now, her face white and purple and less pretty. The little boy floated closer to his father and thought about touching his shoulder. The young woman shrieked as he floated and she began to say things, began to say his father’s name and no and I don’t, but she had forgotten all her words. Before he could touch his quaking father, the little boy heard crying from the hallway. The young woman looked at the door and then at him. Her eyes and her lips quivered. The little boy’s father sat up again at the sound of the crying and his face and neck and shoulders were pink and looked fleshier than usual. He cried so deeply that his whole body rumbled and shook. He put out both hands and said, in an unbalanced voice, I shouldn’t have left that day. I shouldn’t have come here. Spit bubbled and popped at the corner of his mouth. I’m sorry, my baby. I should have stayed with you. The young woman did not speak or move. Her sons cried loud for her. The little boy floated in the pink light feeling dumbfounded and tired. He thought
Garth Robinson | The Little Ghost Boy
The young woman shouted at his father. Stop. Oh my God, stop. Do something. Get him out. His father pressed his forehead against the floor and clasped his hands behind his head. He began to whisper. The little boy, although he was very confused and wanted the young woman to stop screaming, almost laughed with joy now that his father could, plainly, see him again.
about floating back up to the attic and looking out the window and waiting for the sunrise and the grackle to alight, together, in the branches of the gum tree. Maybe he would fall asleep as he waited. The little boy knew he did not want to be in the young woman’s bedroom anymore. His father, naked and crying and hairy in such strange places, did not look like his father. He yelled take me, take me but don’t touch her, but the little boy had no idea what he meant. He wished his mother had come to the house instead. Or Diego could have come, giving the little boy his sad-dog face as an apology for the afternoon at the river. Even his father, if he had been clothed and smiling and intent on bringing the little boy home, would have been enough. The little boy’s father seemed angry at him for floating next to the bed and saying nothing. What is it, he screamed at the little boy. What is it you want? His father stood up and stumbled closer as if he was less afraid of the little boy and his floating now. His body and voice and the hairy parts between his legs all trembled. What are you gonna do with me? He pointed at the young woman. This isn’t just my fault, you hear me? Your mother’s to blame too. He stepped even closer to the little boy. He roared. This is your mother’s fault too. Whatever you’re gonna do to me, you better visit her
after. You don’t understand. You don’t get it. His father started to say something else, something angry about love and all the things that love needs, but he stopped speaking. He stood tall over the little boy and looked down at him. The young woman leapt off the bed and ran to the door and the little boy could hear her sobbing and shushing her little boys. Later, after his father had finished crying and screaming and had found out that his hand only passed through the little boy, and after the young woman had come back into the bedroom with garden shears and yelled at his father to leave now or else, and after the little boy had floated back up to the attic and begun to ready himself to walk out the front door and to finally come apart, he wondered if he should leave the young woman’s sons a message—in their blocks on the small play table, somehow, or with the grackle resting in the gum tree, or maybe hidden in the outline of the mountains that he always loved so much. He would tell them to stay away from dust and rivers, and to go and look for their mother if they were ever lost.
New York Ornithology Susana H. Case
The pigeons are shitting everywhere, dullards belligerent on the terrace railings, splattering the planters. I want to shoo them to the nearby unoccupied apartments, where people have tried to escape the virus, decamping for Vermont, or, worse, the Hamptons, people I’m angry at because they didn’t support my beloved city by ordering internet toilet paper and food while holed up in their locked apartments. It’s impossible to reason with the small-brained: I bang on all the windows and the birds ignore it. I run outside screaming, waving my arms— and they saunter to the other side of the terrace, as if they’ve decided on their own to change position—try silver strands of ribbon, party decorations that catch the sun, the glint meant to chase pigeons away. The birds are indifferent. Stoning them would work, but that seems cruel. Once there were seagulls by the river. Who knows what happened to them. Maybe it was climate change.
shit as much as pigeons do. With a little luck, the hawk is hungry. With a little luck, he’s brought his whole family to feast.
Susana H. Case | New York Ornithology
Yesterday, a hawk was perched outside an apartment across the street, red-tailed and magnificent. Hawks can’t possibly
Susana H. Case
After removal of the tumor enables her to see the color green for the first time, she thinks cheese, moon, azalea leaves, the soft pulp of honeydew, parrots, sculpted copper roofs, the dulled sunfish she saw years ago in Mexico. She gazes anew at the starred ceiling of Grand Central, algae-green with grime. Spring continues to stray toward silence. The over-population bomb grows more alarming. Soon enough she will lie under a quilt of grass, its roots and borders tended to by others. She wonders if her grandchildren will see anything left green.
Just Another Tuesday in the Anthropocene Jared Beloff
There’s beauty in death if you learn how not to look for it. We talk about the weather in distant countries, sands shifting from one coastline to another. Here the sand is dredged and pumped from the edge of the continental shelf, fine and pure but hot on the pads of our children’s feet. Wear your sandals! The wind lifts dust that has forgotten how to settle, coats our limbs in powder that glistens. Look Dad, I’m a unicorn! My daughter holds her arms up sparkling, transformation on display. I try not to think too hard about coral limbs budding out one cell layer at a time, a thousand tiny polyps radiating in the warm sway before bleaching into mausoleums ground by acid and time, skin flaking, sifting to shimmer into sand now covering our skin. Oh, what a gorgeous day.
Ode to the Girl in the September Yard Iris A. Law
You, cicada-girl, still crouched inside your faded paper shell— you, who have yet to acquaint your wakening body’s green—you were made to spin night into song. When your father presses the wind between his fingers in the parking lot, open your ribcage; ribbon its warm breath through you, ravel its kite-tails loose from their spool. When your mother reads poems aloud in the sleeping house, let the rustle of her voice anoint you; tuck its gold beneath the armor of your skin. Ink your new wings with evening. Study its velvet beneath your tongue. Someday, you’ll know how a story can tear through, moonsilver thrumming, leathery shoulders straining, ready to shake out in flight.
Transitory Space, Brooklyn, NYC 2020 #4 Leah Oates
Art Guilherme Bergamini is a Brazilian reporter, photographic and visual artist with a degree in journalism. For more than two decades, he has developed projects with photography and the various narrative possibilities that art offers. The works of the artist dialogue between memory and social political criticism. He believes in photography as the aesthetic potential and transforming agent of society. Awarded in national and international competitions, Guilherme Bergamini has participated in collective exhibitions in 50 countries. Rachel Coyne is a painter and writer. Her books include Whiskey Heart and The Patron Saint of Lost Comfort Lake. She can be found on Instagram @imrachelcoyne Elinora Lord, influenced by David Bowie, Virginia Woolf and Sally Wainwright, is a lesbian writer of stage, screen, fiction, poetry and radio from the UK. Her novel, Everland, has been selected for the Penguin and Random House WriteNow 2021 Editorial Programme, and her short films have been selected by Pinewood Studios & Lift-Off Sessions, Cannes Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Camden Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival, while her theatre shows have been performed in London’s West End and on Broadway, where she won the award for Best Monologue. Leah Oates has a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is a Fulbright Fellow for study at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. Oates has had solo shows in Toronto at Black Cat Artspace and in the NYC area at Susan Eley Fine Art, The Central Park Arsenal Gallery, The Center for Book Arts, Real Art Ways, The Brooklyn Public Library and at the MTA Arts and Design Lightbox Project. Oates has also been in a number of group shows in Toronto and New York City.
Charlie Beckerman writes lots of different things. His fiction has appeared in The Quail Bell Review, and his nonfiction has appeared in Greatist, Thrillist, and Bustle, where he covered the 2016 Presidential election. His memoir podcast, Serial Dater, has two seasons and is available wherever you listen, and he is the co-author of the internet’s pre-eminent Star Trek: The Next Generation fashion blog, Fashion It So. He has an MFA from Florida State University, and was a Fulbright in the United Kingdom. Since the pandemic, he’s been wandering the earth, between Brighton, San Francisco, New York, and London. Author website at: www.charliebeckerman.com
Contributors | Issue 24
Marco Etheridge is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer of prose, an occasional playwright, and a part-time poet. He lives and writes in Vienna, Austria. His scribbles have been featured in many lovely reviews and journals in Canada, Australia, the UK, and the USA. Notable recent credits include Coffin Bell, In Parentheses, The Thieving Magpie, Ligeia Magazine, The First Line, Prime Number Magazine, Dream Noir, The Opiate Magazine, Cobalt Press, Literally Stories, and The Metaworker, amongst many others. Marco’s first volume of collected stories, Orphaned Lies, is available worldwide. Author website at: https://www.marcoetheridgefiction.com Garth Robinson grew up in Massachusetts and lived most recently in Brooklyn. He is currently an MFA candidate at Hollins University.
Nonfiction Cole Brayfield is a writer, game designer, and avid horror movie fan. He lives and teaches in Indianapolis, Indiana. Find more of his work at: www.brayfieldwriting.com Cheryl Skory Suma is a Pushcart nominee whose fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in US, UK, and Canadian publications, including National Flash Fiction Day 2021-Flash Flood, Second Chance Lit, Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine, Blank Spaces Magazine,
Longridge Review, Sonora Review (forthcoming), Nightingale & Sparrow, and others. Her work placed in twenty competitions in 2019-21, most recently the shortlist of Five South’s 2021 Short Fiction Prize, and semifinalist, Ruminate Magazine’s 2021 The Waking Flash Prose Prize. Cheryl has a MHSc Speech-Language Pathology and a HBSc Psychology. You can find her on twitter @cherylskorysuma
Poetry Jared Beloff is a teacher and poet who lives in Queens, New York with his wife and two daughters. You can find his work in Contrary Magazine, Rise Up Review, Barren Magazine, Bending Genres, The Shore and elsewhere. He is the editor of the Marvel inspired poetry anthology, Marvelous Verses. His work was nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize for 2021. www.jaredbeloff.com Joel Best’s poetry has appeared or will appear in venues such as JMWW, Common Ground Review, and Apeiron Review. His chapbook, august, never (Finishing Line Press) is forthcoming. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and son. Susana H. Case has authored eight books of poetry, most recently The Damage Done (Broadstone Books, 2022). Dead Shark on the N Train (Broadstone Books, 2020) won a Pinnacle Book Award for Best Poetry Book, a NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite, and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. She co-edited, with Margo Taft Stever, the anthology I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe (Milk and Cake Press, 2022). Case is a co-editor for Slapering Hol Press. http://www.susanahcase.com Jessica de Koninck is the author of one full-length collection, Cutting Room, and one chapbook, Repairs. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she was a winner of the Writer’s Almanac, Pandemic Poetry Contest. A long-time resident of Montclair, New Jersey, where she is active in the community, Jessica is a retired attorney who teaches in the Public Administration program at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City. For more information go to: www.jessicadekkoninck.com
Contributors | Issue 24
Iris A. Law is a poet, editor, and educator living in the San Francisco Bay area. A Kundiman fellow and Pushcart nominee whose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Hyphen, The Margins, Counterclock, and Waxwing, she is also founding co-editor of the online literary magazine Lantern Review. Her chapbook, Periodcity, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. Visit her online at: www.irisalaw.com Sharon Lopez Mooney, poet, is a retired Interfaith Chaplain from the End of Life field, living in Mexico. In 1978, Mooney was given a California Arts Council Grant to establish a rural poetry series; she also co-published a regional anthology, co-owned an alternative literature service, produced poetry readings, and has facilitated poetry feedback workshops. Mooney’s poems appear in numerous publications including: The MacGuffin, Soul-Lit, The Avalon Literary Review, Galway Review, Adelaide International, Ginosko Literary Journal, NewVerse News, Roundtable Literary Journal, as well as in Calyx: Women and Aging; Cold Lake Anthology; Smoke & Myrrors (UK), and several others. Author website: https://www.sharonlopezmooney.com Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. Born in Rome, living in Los Angeles, she is an artist, musician and dancer. She is the author of Other Maidens (BlazeVOX, 2020), An Alphabet of Birds (Moonrise Press, 2020), In Her Terms (Cholla Needles Press, 2021), Pages of a Broken Diary (Psky’s Porch, 2022) and Alter Alter (Elyssar Press, 2022). Susan Chock Salgy studied creative writing at Brigham Young University, and writes poetry and creative nonfiction. Recent nonfiction publications include an essay, “The COVID Interregnum,” published in Pages Penned in Pandemic: A Collective, and “Indelible,” an essay published in Glassworks. Her poetry appears in The Sunlight Press, Sunstone, The Magnolia Review, Writers.com, and Ensign. She and her husband live in Provo, Utah. Kira Stevens is a poet and visual artist from Delaware. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School, and a BS in Psychology from the University of Maryland. Her chapbook
Highly Noted and Other Poems was published by Lillet Press. Follow her on Twitter @kirawritespoems Denise Utt is a poet living in New York City. Her poetry has appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, Paterson Literary Review, the Forgotten Women Anthology, The Strategic Poet, and elsewhere. Her lyrics have been recorded in the songs: “What I Wouldn’t Do (for the Love of You),” a rhythm and blues hit, and “I Don’t Want No Happy Songs,” a jazz song. Austin Veldman is a poet, editor, and collage artist from South Bend, Indiana. His poetry has recently appeared for is forthcoming in Epiphany Magazine, Atlanta Review, Free State Review, Ocean State Review, and more. Collage art can be found in Watershed Review and The Penn Review. He is the founding editor of Twyckenham Notes, an online literary magazine that was the recipient of a 2020 Pushcart Prize and a finalist for a Firecracker Award from CLMP for Best Debut Magazine. He holds an MA in English from Indiana University South Bend, where he has taught contemporary poetry. He works in management at an automotive recycling facility and lives in Northern Indiana with his wife and children. Cynthia Ventresca a resident of Wilmington, Delaware, Cynthia works as a Community Relations Specialist during the day but spends her predawn hours wrestling with words. Publication credits include American Life in Poetry, The Broadkill Review, Orbis Quarterly International Literary Journal, Dreamstreets, and 3rd Wednesday. Selected winner of the July 2018 Poem of the Month Contest by Cosmographia Books, and included in their anthology, The Spirit It Travels, published July 2019.
Susana H. Case
Jessica de Koninck Iris A. Law
Sharon Lopez Mooney
Susan Chock Salgy
Kira Stevens Denise Utt
Nonfiction Cole Brayfield Cheryl Skory Suma
Austin Veldman Cynthia Ventresca