a magazine of literature and art
featuring the art of water experiential birdwatching definitions of family
& work by Carol Guess Kelly Magee Kathleen McGookey
Cover art: “But Beautiful I” by Ira Joel Haber The staff of Glassworks magazine would like to thank: Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Program Rowan University’s Writing Arts Department The Glassworks Advisory Board: Jeffrey Maxson, Jennifer Courtney, Andrew Kopp, Martin Itzkowitz, Lisa Jahn-Clough, Ron Block
Cover Design: Katie Budris & Manda Frederick Layout: Katie Budris Glassworks is available both digitally and in print. See our website for details: RowanGlassworks.org
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Glassworks is a publication of Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Graduate Program Correspondences can be sent to: Glassworks c/o Katie Budris 205 Hawthorn Hall Rowan University Glassboro, NJ 08028 E-mail: GlassworksMagazine@gmail.com Copyright © 2014 Glassworks Glassworks maintains First Serial Rights for publication in our journal and Electronic Rights for reproduction of works in Glassworks and/or Glassworks-affiliated materials. All other rights remain with the artist.
EDITOR IN CHIEF Manda Frederick MANAGING EDITOR Katie Budris FICTION EDITORS Joseph F. Berenato Katlyn Slough Amelia Thatcher POETRY EDITORS Jason Cantrell Steph Kohler NONFICTION EDITORS Christina Schillaci Steve Royek MEDIA EDITORS Christi Fox Bryan Maloney
glassworks Spring 2014 Issue Eight
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING GRADUATE PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
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 â€œGlass Works in the Woodsâ€? in 1779. The primacy of artistry, a deep pride in individual craftsmanship, the willingness to explore and test conventional boundaries to create exciting new work is part of the continuing spirit inspiring Glassworks magazine.
Jeffrey Alfier, Reward Sign on a Utility Pole | 39 Chanel Brenner, King Riley | 3 Amber Cecile Brodie, Roots | 2 Holly Day, Where We’ve Been | 57 John Grey, A Drowning Resort | 64 D.R. James A Dad, after Divorce | 42 With His Dad Just Dead | 43 Richard Levine Catalytic Conversions | 41 Legacy | 40 Terry Martin, What Does It Take to Change a Town? | 67 Kathleen McGookey, Four Prose Poems | 62 Donna O’Connell-Gilmore, Song on Your Birthday | 58 Nina Pick Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad | 31 The Body Gleams | 30 Emily Stout, Recipe Book | 12 Nicole St. Pierre, A Small Gold Fish | 14 Brendan Todt The Best Week | 28 Chinese Parsley | 29
Kathie Giorgio, Petit Poissons | 4 Carol Guess & Kelly Magee, Struck | 59 Brendan Lynaugh, The Turtle | 32 Jennifer Robinette, Never Lie to a Ghost | 44
Nonfiction Michael Hess, Robot Cormorant | 16
Elena Botts, Gitana | 56 Ira Joel Haber But Beautiful | Cover New York City | 27 New York City | 38 Virginia Mallon Out on the Salt Wreck | 66 In from the Wild Sea | 11
Amber Cecile Brodie We approach not like the mourners, dressed in black, but as laborers. Armed with wax, scissors, rag and bucket, Jay bends down to rub the stone with water from the spicket. Between massages to the granite, I read his name, a date some twenty years ago, a quote from a psalm. He stops for only one moment to introduce me: Dad, he says, This is my girlfriend. She wanted to meet you. I ask: Does he like me? He squeezes my hand, washes and caresses the corners where the roots of the bare rose bush planted nearby must be holding the casket beneath our feet. He looks at the leafless branches and I know he thinks that it has died. So, I show him how to prune the bush at the joints, so that it will bloom from these hinges. And a season later, we pass the graveyard to witness the roses. He lets the steering wheel go to hold my hand, pulls it to his lips - roots branching out and twisting with my fingers.
King Riley Chanel Brenner
I wonder what happened to the blanket your dad lay over you like his body, but feathered and winged, while the man in the uniform held you in his anonymous arms and walked out our front door. It used to keep me warm while I sat in the black chair in front of the television, watching other people’s lives. I’ve been waiting for the blanket to come back, for you to cover me with its baby blue skin and say those regal words you learned in kindergarten and said so proudly, “For you, my fine lady.” I imagine you wearing it now, over your shoulders like a cloak, a crown of six stars upon your head like a halo, your two front teeth sticking out like golden trophies you won in a contest. Death becomes you, my King Riley! I hail you, my mighty ruler of the afterlife. Today I stumbled upon an unfamiliar photo, common people, a boy with his mother, mouths turned up, his ash blond hair without a crown. I stood staring at the relic until I remembered the faraway people.
Petit Poissons Kathie Giorgio
Petit poisson, petit poisson, nage, nage, nage! Petit poisson, petit poisson, gloop gloop gloop! Oh non! Il est mangé par un... Lily swam her hands like a fish and she was enchanted. Placed together, her fingers and palms pressed, she really did look like a fish swimming through the water. “Nage, nage, nage,” she sang with the others in her first grade class. They were learning French and singing in another language was magic, like her tongue was a wand. It glittered her words out into the air and changed sound into something she didn’t recognize, but knew. She knew what she was singing, even as the words tasted odd. The words swam. They swam in the air and she saw them, like bubbles above her fishhands. Gloop gloop gloop! Lily’s P in her last gloop sputtered as she felt a jab in her back. She knew who it was without even looking and she watched as her fish bubbles popped. BJ was behind her. BJ was always behind her, it seemed. Even when he wasn’t supposed to be, even when he was told not to, he found a way. BJ seemed to think that the P in gloop stood for the P in poke and he jabbed her spine with each sylla-
ble. The gloops were repeated three times in the song, three sets of three, nine pokes all together, and when the teacher made them stop and start over because they were off beat or off key or not pronouncing clearly, the pokes multiplied. Lily predicted their coming and she tried stepping out of reach, but BJ’s fingers seemed to grow. Gloop gloop gloop! Poke poke poke. Lily knew there was nothing she could do. Even though she’d done everything right. Told her parents. Who told her teacher. Who told the principal. Who called BJ’s parents. But it just made things worse. Even when BJ was punished, when he had to stay in from recess, stay home from field trips, walk again to the principal’s office, BJ always came back. Nobody could ever do anything. Lily focused on her hands, swimming. Nage, nage, nage! She saw her fingers turn into fins, her arms the long and graceful tail. Swim away. Poke poke poke. Lily’s mother found the bruises up and down Lily’s back that night, and so the correct path was followed again. Just like BJ’s path to the principal’s office. Over and over and over. Lily heard her mother tapping hard on her computer’s keyboard, sending yet another email to the teacher. Across invisible waves, like the waves of an ocean, hidden blue in the sky, Lily pic-
Barracuda, barracuda, nage, nage, nage! Barracuda, barracuda, gloop gloop gloop! Oh non! Il est mangé par un... Amelia fluttered her hands down her dress, feeling the silk trickle through her fingers like water. It was her favorite color, this royal blue, and she felt beautiful in it. More than beautiful. When she looked in the mir-
ror at her fifteen-year old reflection, she could see she was more than that. She was so much more than fifteen years old. The dress flowed over her body, her fingers fluttered and silk trickled, and she was beautiful. Homecoming. It was a strange name for this dance, when Amelia and her friends hadn’t even left home yet. They were all still here. Home. Though she could see in royal blue that this would change soon. Her fingers fluttered. She was so much more than fifteen. She needed to get back to her date. Ever since BJ asked her out for the first time a month ago, he didn’t like her out of his sight for long. She thrilled at that, his need for her. She’d heard from other girls that he could be rough. But he told her she’d be fine. She had an effect on him, he said. He loved her. He wasn’t like that. Rough. Not with her. She was so much more than fifteen. When Amelia joined BJ again, she was surprised at the grip of his hand on her elbow. He told her they were leaving. “Why?” she said. “Are you sick? They haven’t even crowned the court yet.” But he started walking and his hand on her elbow meant she walked too. His grip kept her from a choice. Her fingers fluttered,
Kathie Giorgio | Petit Poissons
tured the words swimming. To the teacher. And then from the teacher to the principal. From the principal to BJ’s parents. Where the words would pop. Tomorrow, Lily knew, she would stand in her classroom and BJ would stand behind her, even when he was told by the teacher to stay in the back row. The back row, BJ, the back row, the teacher would say. But BJ would nose his way, like the barracuda in the song, to stand behind the little fish. He would, Lily knew, sit on the rug behind her in reading circle. He would stand behind her in the lunch line. He would follow her wherever she went on the playground. Nobody could ever do anything. Tucked in her bed, Lily swam her hands. She sang the words. Petit poisson, petit poisson, nage, nage, nage! Lily felt the bruises like fish hooks in her spine. She swam her hands. Hard. But she knew she’d be reeled in.
holding up the skirt of her dress, the silk trickling like water. Amelia looked over her shoulder. Several girls were watching. So were some boys. In the corner, one of the chaperoning teachers looked up. But then the door closed. And Amelia was on the other side. She tried to step back, but BJ’s fingers dug in. She felt each of his fingernails. Poke poke poke. The car, the drive, his house, his parents gone for the night. BJ’s grip told Amelia she had no choice. Even though she did everything right. She said no. She said no. She said no. She screamed it. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. She had an effect on him, he said. He loved her. The silk trickled through her fingers like water. At school on Monday, Amelia sat for lunch at a table filled with the girls who told her that BJ could be rough. They made room for her. BJ was with a group of boys who all laughed loudly and slapped high fives with abandon. The teachers moved through the cafeteria line and left, though Amelia thought one glanced her way. Nobody could ever do anything. Amelia’s hands fluttered to her lap. She was so much more than fifteen. BJ’s grip told her she had no choice.
Grand requin, grand requin, nage, nage, nage! Grand requin, grand requin, gloop gloop gloop! Oh non! Il est mangé par une... Margaret’s hands flew over the keyboard. The clicking was a rhythm she was proud of, a rhythm she knew she could beat, and she beat it out better than others. Her fingers flickered like hummingbirds. Six months into this job, and she was finally bringing in some money, finally supporting her daughter, finally living in an apartment with two bedrooms. No more studio, no more shared sofa bed. She’d be paying off student loans for years, but it was worth it. Nothing could stop her now. Well, a bad review at this job could. But there was no chance of that. None. Margaret was doing everything right. At lunch, a sidelong glance from one of her co-workers, when Margaret mentioned her upcoming review, shadowed doubt. “The boss can be a bit tricky, Margaret,” the co-worker said. “Just… well, you know. You’ve been around. Be careful.” “BJ?” Margaret smiled and brought up a spoonful of yogurt, ten for five bucks this week at the grocery store. One for her lunch, one for her daughter’s, all this week. Money was so much better now, but as her co-worker said, be careful. A girl couldn’t be too care-
on the edge of his desk, right in front of her. There was even more she could do, he said. If she wanted to advance. Margaret could be so much more. He leaned forward, his breath fresh, laced with coffee and peppermint, his clothes smooth and well-tailored. He ran his finger down her throat. Her décolletage. Her cleavage. Poke poke poke. Would you like to keep your job? he asked. There is so much more you can do. Yogurt. Ten for five dollars. One for Margaret, one for her daughter, every day at lunch. A two-bedroom apartment. Student loans. A girl couldn’t be too careful. A single mother absolutely so. BJ’s grip on the back of Margaret’s head told her she had no choice. Margaret’s fingers flew in a rhythm she knew she could beat and she beat out better than others. Congratulations, he said. She’d done everything right. On time every day. Never called in sick. Always called him BJ. Always returned his smiles. On her way back to her desk, Margaret caught the eye of her co-worker, who quickly looked away. Margaret sat down. She
Kathie Giorgio | Petit Poissons
ful. A single mother had to absolutely be so. “He’s just cheeky, that’s all.” The co-worker nodded and returned to her salad. She continued to glance at Margaret, but said nothing. After lunch, Margaret made her way to BJ’s office. Just his first name made her comfortable. BJ wasn’t the kind of boss that insisted on Mister. He used her name too, all the time, and it made Margaret feel like he really saw her. On his visits to her cubicle, his breath was peppermint laced with coffee when he leaned over her shoulder to look at her computer screen. Whenever they squeezed past each other in the narrow cubicle rows, his clothes were well-tailored and soft against her and he always smiled and said Pardon me. Margaret liked him. She’d been around. She was careful. And she knew what she could do. Her fingers flew over her keyboard, pounding a rhythm like no one else’s. BJ waved her in to his office. She sat in the chair in front of his desk and he told her what a good job she was doing. So conscientious. Exceeding expectations. He smiled and smiled and smiled. There was a cup of coffee on his desk, as well as a pack of pep-omint Lifesavers. His smile grew wider. Listening, agreeing, Margaret tapped her excitement on her knees. Her fingers flickered like hummingbirds. There was no chance of a bad review. None. She’d done everything right. BJ left his chair, propping himself
glanced to the left and the right. She looked at the telephone. And then she looked at her hands. Their trembling. A girl couldn’t be too careful. A single mother absolutely so. Margaret had been around. Nobody could ever do anything. Yogurt was ten for five dollars. Margaret needed to be so much more. Her fingers flickered like hummingbirds. Grosse baleine, grosse baleine, nage, nage, nage! Grosse baleine, grosse baleine, gloop gloop gloop! ...*burp*... Oh, non! Devi folded her fingers in her lap, making a formation she thought of as praying. Fingers curled one over the other. She knew it was a gesture of pleading too. Please, please. She supposed there wasn’t much difference between praying and pleading. She sat quietly in her new apartment. In her living room. On her couch. Hers. Not His. Not His and Hers. Just Hers. Devi breathed out and rested her head on the cushions. It would be okay. She’d done everything right. Left BJ. Stayed in a shelter. Filed a restraining order. The police ordered him to turn over his weapons. Found this apartment.
And now, here she was. On her couch, in her living room, in her apartment. Only her name on the lease. Only her name on the silver mailbox in a slender row of silver mailboxes in the lobby. Only her name on the directory in that little alcove between the building’s outer and inner doors, that non-space that provided extra security because no one could get in without buzzing. She’d done everything right. Devi looked down at her hands. Please, please. The light was soft as the sun went down. Devi relished how it rosied her apartment, making the white walls pink, then orange, then full-blown red as the sun dipped below the horizon. It felt like a show was over, like velvet curtains dropped over Devi’s new stage. She stretched, then got up to turn on some lamps. When there was a knock, Devi startled. She supposed it would be a while before she stopped doing that. Going to the door, Devi hoped that it would be a new neighbor, bidding her welcome, or maybe even someone from the shelter, making sure she was okay. She bet on the neighbor; there’d been no buzz from the non-space below. But when she looked through the peephole, Devi only saw BJ. And an enormous bundle of roses. A harvest collection. Pinks, oranges, reds. She stepped back. She folded her hands. One finger curled over the other.
Flowers would be nice. Even from BJ, they would be nice. Maybe especially from him. In this apartment. In this living room. She pictured them, the flowers she saw him holding, pink, orange, red, a harvest collection, in a vase on her coffee table. Her coffee table. Not His. They were Her flowers now. He gave them to her. They were not His. Devi looked through the peephole again. The hallway was empty, to the left and to the right. She thought she could see everything. She opened the door and the flowers were right there on the floor. Pinks. Oranges. Reds. They would be so pretty, inside these white walls. When Devi picked them up, when she brought them to her nose to breathe them in, breathe deep, she came face to face with the barrel of a gun. His. Not Hers. She’d done everything right. Left. Shelter. Restraining order. Gun order. Apartment. Hers. Not His. Not His and Hers. Just Hers. But nobody could ever do anything. He said she had an effect on him. He said he loved her. He said he was sorry.
Kathie Giorgio | Petit Poissons
He knew she was in there, he said. He was sorry. He just wanted to give her some flowers. Devi shook her head and took another step back. Her hands tightened. BJ lightly tapped the door. It sounded like he only used one finger. Poke poke poke. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He just wanted her to have the flowers. It wasn’t like he could do anything, he said. It wasn’t like anyone could do anything. He told her she’d be fine. She had an effect on him. He loved her. Devi did everything right. Leave, shelter, restraining order. Gun order, apartment, move in. Only her name. Hers. Not His. She was not His. She could be so much more. He offered to put the flowers on the floor. And then he offered to leave. He loved her, he said. He was sorry. Devi waited. Fingers folded. The lamplight was soft in her apartment. It glowed gold. She waited. But there was nothing else. Devi looked through the peephole. The hallway was lit. She could see her neighbor’s doorway across the hall, and she knew there were doors to the left and right of that one, and to the left and right of hers, and on and on down the hall in both directions. She’d been so pleased when she saw how well-lit the hallways were. She could see everything, she thought. No shadows. No doubts.
There was no time to fold her fingers. One right after the other. Fold her fingers in a formation she knew of as prayer. A gesture she also knew as pleading. There wasnâ€™t much difference between prayer and pleading. Please, please. Elle a mangĂŠ tous les poissons!
Author Virginia Mallon
T Initle From of the Piece Wild Sea Text
Title of Piece
Recipe Book Emily Stout
for L. Carsey
The hand bound book is brittle Note the fingerprints done in cinnamon, the accidental watercolors too where ink bled from steam; a recipe for Persian Rice penned in red cursive, clearly hers, has nearly disappeared. At the time we had only a corded phone so you could go so far before taking out a vase of Daffodils. Iâ€™m sure this is why phone numbers are recorded in the corners of the pages. There are sicknesses and dinner parties and Sunday afternoons when nobody knew what to make and the reason we have this book, I guess, is that some things turn out better than others. It was summer. We had no money but cardboard boxes full of nightshade vegetables; tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants lined the small apartment. A lady at the market traded us flowers, I started saving the iridescent scraps of onions trying to understand what could be taken to the back yard and buried and become next spring, a garden. glassworks 12
Emily Stout | Recipe Book
It was the sweeter yellow tomatoes rising where we dumped only red that made me think, much later, it was okay to have clams for Christmas and it was best (she was right) if the homeless came and afterwards we all sang O Come O Come Emmanuel on the porches of people who preferred to be alone. And now in the cold kitchen, as the smell of coriander and cumin warmed in oil, rises; I am grateful to know what can and cannot be used in place of these missing spices.
A Small Gold Fish Nicole St. Pierre
A small gold fish in a bowl on my desk makes a sound and wakes me from the sleep where I was somehow closer to you. The sound he makes is the scraping of a sharp edge against the glass. He does not have tools or muscles or arms or nails to scrape. He does not have teeth. And I wonder just what it is on my desk beyond the glass that makes him want to make that noise that he cannot make to begin with. It must be some sort of deep alien passion. For my pencil case, maybe, or for the spare ink cartridge just beside it. For the white ceramic cat which I took as a souvenir from a Japanese restaurant last fall. He loves her.
And sitting atop a stack of books. Smiling and waiting for him. You have twenty-eight teeth. Twenty-eight human, adult teeth.
Nicole St. Pierre | A Small Gold Fish
He loves her enough to grow teeth, little slivers of calcium brought up from deep inside his throat to push and scrape, cut away glass and swim across my desk to the white ceramic cat shining under fluorescent lights
I will wait for you to find, to pull some little treasure up from deep inside your throat, to cut and gouge and scratch. I will sit atop a stack of books. On the desk. On the other side of the glass. And wait for you.
Robot Cormorant Michael Hess 1. I am not one of those birders who keeps a lifetime list of all the birds I have ever seen, nor am I the type of birder who keeps a list of all the birds I have not seen but that I do really want to see. I am simply a person who every so often looks up and sees a bird or birds that catch my eye. Right now, I am sitting on a bench at Cherry Beach in Toronto, and a few birds catch my eye that are flying onto a peninsula across the harbor on the Leslie Street Spit. The birds appear to be flying into a large group of trees with white trunks whose leaves have been stripped away. Perhaps the leaves are only obscured by a light fog. I would like to investigate these birds and these trees, so I hop on my bike and head toward the Leslie Street Spit. According to key stakeholders of the Important Bird Area Conservation Plan, the Leslie Street Spit, also called Tommy Thompson Park, is “an artificially constructed peninsula extending into Lake Ontario at the foot of Leslie Street on the city of Toronto waterfront.” The Leslie Street Spit was created in part from 4.3 million truckloads of landfill materials, beginning in 1959, one point of which was to establish an “urban wilderness,” whose vision has become “to protect its significance for colonial, migratory
and residential birds, and other wildlife, and as a place where nature can be monitored, studied and enjoyed.” This “urban wilderness” can be enjoyed by the public on weekends between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. To my surprise, even though it is Friday, the entrance to the Leslie Street Spit is open and a few citizens on bike or foot are enjoying this long stretch of landfill. To enter the Leslie Street Spit on a day when it is not allowed makes me feel like I am getting away with something, like entering an abandoned building or taking a five-fingered discount at a dime store. Perhaps this is the unadvertised special of the Leslie Street Spit: it’s open to adventurers unannounced on warmer days. About a half mile in, there is a sign that is supposed to read “No Entry,” but some kids have used a thick Sharpie and reinterpreted this sign to read “Know Entry.” The Oxford English Dictionary says that “Know, in its most general sense, has been defined by some as ‘To hold for true or real with assurance and on (what is held to be) an adequate objective foundation.’” With two letters these hoodlums have implied that this little turnoff is a portal, or entryway, to truth or reality based on objective information. I do not take this turn-off as there is nothing much there to view, but allow it to exist in my imagination as a place where one might go to gather essential and material information, and where cerebral court may come to order.
barge next to this grouping of trees where a hundred or so birds are congregating. I cannot make out the types of birds, can only say they all appear white and gray and therefore presume they are Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, and Common and Caspian Terns, which are known to nest together on the Leslie Street Spit.
Many thoughts and ideas are not, in fact, one’s own, mere pulses from the cultural and literary ether that collect on the cortex like lint.
Michael Hess | Robot Cormorant
I could use some cerebral order, too. This is my first year in a new city, and I really want to get to know it. It is a year I plan to take the observation of birds and the natural world seriously. Some of my observations, however, are turning out to be less than novel. For instance, while speaking of the trees with white trunks on the Leslie Street Spit, I wanted to push the point that summer, by creating a vegetative cover, allows living things and contours of the environment to remain hidden, whereas in winter all the vegetation is stripped away and so too are the illusions of cover and space. But the point I wanted to express was stated much more elegantly by Annie Dilliard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek when she said simply, “All that summer conceals, winter reveals.” To allow oneself a year of observation and articulation is to confront the memories of other people’s sentences. It is to sit in a mental space that acknowledges authorship by making every man with a pen a plagiarist. Many thoughts and ideas are not, in fact, one’s own, mere pulses from the cultural and literary ether that collect on the cortex like lint. I turn onto a lookout area on the Leslie Street Spit. There is a railing in front of me to mark off the area and to prevent people from falling down the embankment, which is rather steep. From this lookout, I can see what I think to be the trees with white trunks I saw from Cherry Beach, but from the other side. There is a sand
Sibly’s Birding Basics would offer, “It can be difficult to accept the fact that a lot of birds have to be identified as ‘possible’ or ‘probable’ because of human misjudgment and the flighty nature of birds.” My presumption that these birds are what I reference then is only a possibility, and a small one at that. The only birds I know, and know only vaguely, are robins, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, and cardinals. Ordinary birds, the ones that end up in feeders and coloring books. I did not grow up on a shore, so the gulls at the edge of the city are a mystery to me, and a beauty—more so
since there is a huge flock half-paying attention to me right now. They seem to accept my presence as they make no effort to bother me. If I move in too close, however, the ones closest to me walk or flutter to the interior or to the opposite outer edge of the sand barge. The distance they keep is just one of the characteristics of these and other birds, and interestingly of birders themselves. Is it too judgmental to call birders distant? My view of them comes from interactions on the Leslie Street Spit or in Central Park—and I wasn’t a birder in these locations, more a cruiser of the noted range. In these spots, I would watch them hunt for a particular species with binoculars, pick on seeds and sandwiches stored in Ziploc bags, call out “yellow warbler on the North Meadow!” and similar exclamations, and reference pocket books for relevant information. They are very generous at passing along the information they do find about birds to amateurs, like me, as well as professionals. So what if they are more comfortable with and interested in creatures that do not require or inspire cuddling? The only thing that definitively separates them from their study is that they don’t shit from branches. They either store waste like camels, or hunt for the nearest outhouse or restroom or tree or briar patch. I speak of private habits here because I have a sudden urge to use the bathroom. A portable toilet in a cur-
vature of the cul-de-sac where I stand would be the discrete place to release. Instead of standing in the stink and swarm of a prefabricated outhouse, I decide to whip it out at the rail and arc a stream of piss over the land below. No one is around. It’s getting late. What can be the harm? A founding father once insisted that a certain amount of rebellion might be said to be in the best interest of a considered life. But to rebel against something, even in a small way, is almost always to fear payback, to assume some consequence in the future. Would some authority figure write me a summons for my exposal and expulsion? That there would be no consequence to my shooting piss over a railing or invading the Leslie Street Spit would quickly pull me toward an understanding of the rebel stance, which might be associated, in part, with the birding stance. A birder always feels that she is getting away with something when she captures in her frame the bird or birds of the day, seeing something hidden from those who are not in the know. And seeing what others do not pulls the birder back to a primitive part of herself—to those first sights that she marveled at as a child, those moving images and flash tableaus that she “claimed” even before she knew she was claiming them. These sights, if lined up chronologically, would lead us, like a trail of bread crumbs, to a portion of her authentic self. Birders, if anything, are authentic—very spe-
destruction—play and destruction are interchangeable in youth of a certain age. He conferred on me a title that I value, that of a writer. They hop on their bikes, leaving me to sort out the minds of adolescent boys, the gathering of distant birds, and the pressure of words. 2. A week later I ventured down to the Leslie Street Spit again. This time I pedaled just a quarter of a mile further than before, turned down a dirt path with a portable toilet at the entrance (a different portable toilet from the one in the cul-de-sac), maneuvered through sand, rocks, and grass, and arrived at a grouping of birds that made my jaw drop and my eyes tear. There were thousands of birds in these trees or flying back and forth between other points and these trees. Most of the birds were Double-crested Cormorants, big blackish birds with hooked beaks. They belong to the Pelicaniforms, a group of birds with four webbed toes that make them good at getting around in the water. They can dive under the water and swim without coming up for air for “70 seconds at deptha of 8-12 meters” in order to obtain food according to the ROM Field Guide to Birds of Ontario. The
Michael Hess | Robot Cormorant
cial creations indeed. After I exit the Leslie Street Spit, I ride back to the bench at Cherry Beach where I was sitting before, so I can write some notes on what I did and did not see. A group of kids stands behind me by a tree that is about to bud. There are eleven splits in the trunk of this tree. A person can lean on these trunks so the body is canted and two kids, say thirteen and fourteen years of age, are doing just that. The names of the kids are Tyler and Robert. The wind pushes their words into my ears. “You want to be a tree or a robot, Robert?” Tyler asks. Both reach up and feel the branches of the tree to get a sense of how much weight they might hold. “I’d like to be a robot. That would be badass,” Robert says. “This is a ghetto tree. A real sketchy thing.” Tyler’s fingers run over the gnarly knots on the tree and on the half-broken-off branches toward the bottom of the trunks. Tyler challenges Robert to rip off one of the large lower branches. “That would be like cutting off an arm from nature,” Robert says. “But I could do it.” Tyler continues to egg him on, and Robert keeps refusing. Robert then says something to get him out of this adolescent standoff. He says that he does not want to pull the branch down and have it fall on “the man who is writing.” I am sitting on a bench with pen and paper, and have become an obstacle to their play and
Double-crested Cormorants share this space with the Great Egrets and the Black-crowned Night Herons, which are fewer in number. From where I was standing, I counted eight Great Egrets and about thirty Black-crowned Night Herons in the trees closest to the edge. I did not carry binoculars, so what I saw was what was visible to my naked eye. The Great Egret is a stately bird, thin, with a regal air like that of an entitled woman from the Upper East Side, whereas the Black-crowned Night Heron is a hunched over bird, stout, like the old man who quacks orders at Zabar’s. There were even two red-winged blackbirds that sat on the lower branches on the very outskirts on trees that might or might not be considered part of the habitat. They were hesitant to move in too close for major interaction but still held their ground. I point out the red-winged blackbirds for sentimental reasons. This was a bird that was prevalent on the farm in the Midwest where I grew up, a bird I knew both by appearance and call, and a bird that, in third grade, students from all the schools in the region re-nominated the state bird of Illinois. Neither the Double-crested Cormorant nor the Great Egret nor the Black-crowned Night Heron represent any jurisdiction in the United States or Canada. This area I arrived at on the Leslie Street Spit might be referred to as a sanctuary, as one is not allowed to enter between April 1 and September 1
because the City of Toronto has established it as a “sensitive bird area.” They’ve even built a small lookout area, which consists of several panels of plywood, the two outer boards angled at 45 degrees inward, with a large square punched out of the centerboard. A gay man might call this a birding gloryhole. No one who comes to this sensitive bird area on the Leslie Street Spit stands behind this construction. Like the white lines painted on crosswalks, it helps establish the boundaries of the space and manages the expectation of where one can and cannot stand but never fully holds people in the suggested area. No one, however, enters the invisible barrier created by the ring of trees. And no one walks directly under the birds. But to stand just out of reach of thousands of birds is to imagine walking underneath them, to imagine entering the sensitive area, to trespass, to take a rebel stand, just to see how the birds might respond. Just to see how the subject might respond. I thought back to the question that Tyler asked Robert the other day at Cherry Beach. Do you want to be a tree or a robot? Robert chose robot over tree. A robot could be programmed by a clever geek to move through this sensitive area, feel what it feels like to walk under thousands of blackish birds. Well, a robot cannot feel, but it could render a computational experience, get up close and android on their birdy butts. Real birders would be in-
their backsides, evidence that they were ready to mate. The clatter of all these birds sounded strangely unreal and cacophonous, like there was a dome around the habitat and the sounds were bouncing back and forth indefinitely. The sound of the birds and the sight of the birds was beginning to produce a vivid picture of what a thousand birds can and cannot do. There was the beauty of wing in light and sound in space, but there was also environmental destruction, which could not be ignored. The Double-crested Cormorants shit profusely, and their shit all but destroys the trees. As Thom H. in East York, Ontario yelped, “Acres of denuded forest look like something out of a post-apocalyptic video game. It’s an eco nightmare that you don’t see from the paths.” The shit of the Double-crested Cormorant is called guano. I cannot distinguish the scent of the guano from the other odors in the air, namely the costal scent of water and fowl and the nearby waste treatment facility plant. It is common knowledge that when a person is lacking in one sense area, other ones, like smell, are highlighted. We might wonder how those who have been blind from birth might approach this living array of Double-crested Cormorants, Great Egrets, and
Michael Hess | Robot Cormorant
terested in a robotic response to the gathering. It would verify what they already know or what they don’t know but do want to know. The information that the robot uncovered could certainly help me in my understanding of the behavior of a gangly group of big birds. But I don’t want the activity of birding to ever become a study. I don’t want it in any way to be “work.” This probably makes me as idiosyncratic as the birders, and less informed, but there are certain activities that I want to go into just plain dumb. Can’t I just stand there and be near them? More knowledge might assist in my seeing; on the other hand, it might detract by allowing me only to see within a limited—er, educated—frame. The Double-crested Cormorants were flying back and forth bringing materials in which to build their nests, anything from twigs to pieces of orange and black plastic grids the City of Toronto has started to use as temporary fence material. The birds and the shadow of the birds created a strobelike effect of light and shadow in and around the sanctuary. One got dizzy watching for too long. Those Double-crested Cormorants that were not flying back and forth gathering nest materials were standing on branches stretching out their wings so they may dry in the air and the sun. The Black-crowned Night Herons were sitting in pairs, presumably coupling and resting on eggs. The Great Egrets had long white plumes jutting out of
Blue-crowned Night Herons on the Leslie Street Spit. They know of trees, of birds, of light, if only from the speech of others. What sensory imprint forms or does not form in their heads? Is it something that approaches an image? Can we say that they see them in their own way? Their experience has to hold just as much import as ours, their pictures regarded just as remarkable or just as boring. Perhaps they hear and smell these birds, sense their presence in their special way, which may change the impact of the “sight.” What I am saying is that the picture they get may be a wholly different kind of picture, a picture that is not a picture at all, but a sensation of sound and touch and smell. This sensation is their photograph, the Kodachrome they do not want their momma to take away. I bring up the blind from birth to show that to see is not solely related to the visual field. To see is to use all of the faculties and senses at the person’s disposal to gather information in order to maneuver through and experience an environment. It is to form a picture. The picture. As the OED defines see in its broadest sense, it is “to know by observation (ocular or other), to witness; to meet with in the course of one’s experience; to have personal knowledge of...” or “to experience in one’s own person.” To know that all can see, that all can “experience in one’s own person” that which is before them, means that all can home
into any experience and suck something out of it. While this experience will be different depending on the available sensory inputs, it does suggest that there are many conversations to be had. There is dialogue that could push us in countless directions.
The inability to hold the frame—to really see—may be the most human thing about us, and the most unforgiveable. But before we converse with each other, we are routed back to a dialogue with ourselves, the subject confronting the subject in a frank way about experiential and natural points. Annie Dillard would note in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek that we need to have a dialogue with the self about what we see in order to really see it. To not do so, “It is as [John] Ruskin says ‘not merely unnoticed, but in the full, clear sense of the word, unseen.’” From this point of view, sight is the image and images in front of us combined with the internal audio track about what is in front of us. And it must be about what is in front of us. When one is think-
really see—may be the most human thing about us, and the most unforgiveable. Writers make a career out of this flaw. They use what they see and what they really see (those moments), along with an obdurate internal track, and the conventions of grammar, to put into words the experiences that mark the days. To not be a writer may be to not be afflicted with this drive. I do not know. I do know this drive pushes me further and further every day. The further I go, the better the chance of finding the nugget that keeps the interest alive. I might not find anything of interest, but there is a chance I may uncover an entire natural aviary, a living breathing shitting kingdom of great birds where only pre-programmed robots dare to tread.
Michael Hess | Robot Cormorant
ing outside what is in view, when the internal track diverges to fantasy or random thought, one might be said to be only partially seeing, or not seeing at all. Whole lives can pass by in this manner, broadening our notion of who is and is not blind. I may be blind most of the time, but there are some moments, precious ones, when what is in front of me seems to register on a deeper level, when I think I am really seeing. Just last week, Lake Ontario was pushing its waves onto the shore and then pulling them back. The red branches of the sumac looked like flaming rods bursting from the ground; its leaves and fruit appeared to be kerned into an overall shape that best complimented the sky and lake. And there was a bumblebee moving from one white flower to the next, its buzz filling all of my channels, a long even tone, rich, like the tone from the bars and tone at the beginning of television programs. This scene hung in my mental frame for a long extended moment, shimmered, and then was gone. I was back in the world again—the plain ordinary world. What was only a moment ago riveting was now just merely seen. What to make of this? I think we just weren’t made to hold the extraordinary in our frame for a considerable length of time. We glimpse it only once or twice a year, if we are very lucky, once or twice in a lifetime if we are merely lucky. The inability to hold the frame—to
3. I bike out to the Leslie Street Spit on a Sunday afternoon at the end of September and am able to walk under the trees where the Double-crested Cormorants, the Great Egrets, and the Blackcrowned Night Herons nest between April 1 and September 1. I am able to walk under the trees because the birds are all gone. No robots necessary. One discovery: not all of the trees are completely denuded of leaves. The ones closest to the perimeter of the bird
sanctuary, as I walk in, still have many of their leaves in tact. The leaves are spotted white, however, the result of dropped and dripping shit. As I walk into the bird sanctuary, I stumble over the remains of several Double-crested Cormorants. The carcasses lay mixed in with countless white sticks that make up the floor of the bird sanctuary. These are probably the remains of “finger-width sticks that cormorant pairs use to build their nests,” according to the IBA Conservation Plan, and they look like the bones of animals or humans, which makes me feel like I am happening upon the remnants of a mass extinction or a mass grave. Many of these white sticks are cemented together, and further blanched, by the Double-crested Cormorant guano. In the center of the sanctuary, there comes a clearing, a large circular cut in the canopy that lets quite a bit of light in. There are green plants and shrubs on the ground that, while not unaffected by the bird’s behavior, are able to endure because they are not confronted with the full guano assault. Plus they receive plenty of sunlight during the middle of the day. With the birds in the trees on different levels on their branches, the area might serve as a natural amphitheatre where avian attention might turn for exhibition and communication. There is hardly any vegetation below the trees as I move away from the perimeter of the clearing. In fact, the visual that details the most devastation, the one
that “look[s] like something out of a post-apocalyptic video game” is the one of the completely denuded trees just beyond the clearing, where anything that might be called vegetative is nonexistent, or minimally so. Here, I look up and only see white stripped trees dotted with hundreds of dark nests. “All that summer conceals, winter reveals” is the line by Annie Dillard I was toying with earlier. It strikes me that this line may be true as a general statement. But the nesting of thousands of birds on the Leslie Street Spit makes clear that this cohort can strip the leaves off the trees just as cleanly as any season. It strikes me further that the birds themselves are not in the game of concealment. They let their bird selves hang out like drag queens along Christopher Street in New York. (When I speak of drag queens I am not only or preferably speaking of female impersonators; I am speaking of anyone who puts on a mask in order to represent themselves in a different—and possibly more truthful— way.) One reason the birds are able to assume such a bold and vocal stance is that there are so many of them. What predator or provocateur would engage in a battle with thousands of birds? Every human and animal in the kingdom keeps their distance. They watch. They admire, or they jeer. But no one who is in their presence disregards this grouping as it hunkers down on a location. And no one should.
secretly cheering for the birds from the sidelines, hoping they will congregate in their natural amphitheater, figure a way to outmaneuver the machinations of man, which can include oiled eggs, barriers, poisons, and guns. Let is be known that I root for these birds not because it’s in the best interest of the environment, not because it’s the best thing for man, or even bird, but because these particular birds provide a profound sight. And genuine natural sights move me, no matter how fecund or vulgar they may be. My mind eases in their wake. Cerebral court comes to order. I am home. Before I am about to leave this sensitive bird area, a Little Blue Heron comes into view. The Little Blue Heron is the image that the ROM Field Guide to Birds of Ontario uses on the cover of its guidebook. It is the bird that represents all the other birds, the poster bird. The Little Blue Heron circles around the shore of the bird sanctuary. For a moment I think it might dive into the post-apocalyptic landscape and land nearby. When it does land, according to the ROM Field Guide, it “holds wings still and descends almost vertically.” But it circles a couple of times and then dematerializes in the distance. I wait around for a while in the hope that it might
Michael Hess | Robot Cormorant
Nineteen-ninety was the first year the Double-crested Cormorant colonized the Leslie Street Spit. There were only six nests in an area referred to as Pennisula B that year. By 2000, there were over three thousand nests and they were not only in Pennisula B, but had spread to two other peninsulas as well. Today, there are over seven thousand pairs and they are threatening to colonize yet another peninsula. The biggest negative impact of these colonizations, according to Bernard Taylor, Dave Andrews, and Gail Fraser in “Double-crested Cormorants and Urban Wilderness: Conflicts and Management,” is the destroying of trees and the surrounding environment; in fact, the Double-crested Cormorant has “deforested 24% of the site through their nesting activities” on the Leslie Street Spit. The Double-crested Cormorants also can displace other nesting birds, especially the Black-crowned Night Heron. (There are Black-crowned Night Herons within in the Double-crested Cormorant population, but they are pushed to the perimeter.) The Double-crested Cormorant has also been known to compete with fisherman for fish, but this is not a concern in Toronto. The larger issue is how to manage these migratory birds in an “urban wilderness” where, at least in theory, birds and man must live side by side. I know in any showdown between man and bird, man inevitably wins. End of story. Maybe that’s why I am
come back and land nearby. It is at that point that I realize how lonely it feels out here and how deeply I want to reach out and grab someone’s hand. While I am a beginner at birding and a beginner at so many other things, I am not a beginner at this feeling. I’ve had it before, many times, perhaps all my life. A moment of arrest. Very blunt. It always catches me off guard, like seeing in the broadest sense of the word an imposing group of birds push their limits in an urban wilderness just one more time. I know the only way to conquer this feeling is to write about the experience of standing here, in a place where a certain fowl is protected between April and September. Writing is a peculiar compulsion. Those who have it cannot imagine living without it. Those who do not have it rarely understand those who do. The first question a person asks when I say—confess—that I am a writer is, “What do you write about?” I suppose if someone asks me that question today, I might say that I write about birds and their relationship to robots, and a lot of other shit.
New York City Ira Joel Haber
The Best Week Brendan Todt
A girl will struggle in the water on the evening news. Her father will jump in to help and fail. The helicopter pilot ten months from her pension will swing the red swimmer through the canopy and into the water where he will have to choose who to swim to first. I will watch it all in passing as you stir fry our vegetables and call you in to see how the father goes under and comes up and goes under again and to ask you how the network can show something like that on TV. I’ll add more peppers to the wok and stand behind you as the grease teases our arms with something we can’t quite call pain. For eight days we will fight and storm out and make up as we never have before, as if it were the water we were battling on behalf of the father, and the mother who by now has emptied and rinsed and recycled his toiletries and is absolutely convinced she will never speak to her daughter or go to the river or have curry, which was his favorite, again. You will come home to fresh squash and fileted salmon and for those eight days you’ll eat better and you won’t know why. The sky above the house will change like it always does, and I will attribute it to turmeric and paprika and the restaurant owner’s cranberryscented dish soap whirl pooling together past the grates of the restaurants downtown.
Chinese Parsley Brendan Todt
I’ve heard it’s not necessary to know a language in order to translate from it which makes me believe maybe we’re not so bad off after all and what we’re doing by loving is taking each other one word at a time and looking it up and allowing ourselves to deviate from the actual, literal thing—baby, my actual, literal heart has never actually, literally ached for you— with something that has more to do with the fact that coriander is nothing but the seeds of the cilantro plant, another name for the herb we once tried to grow on the windowsill, cooking and smelling happy if that makes any sense.
The Body Gleams Nina Pick
a bowl of pearls bone beads strung down the spine
please (I insist) return me to the rudiments:
each spine calls out to the forest floor
brainplate, molar, radiolarian rock
and the forest hears and calls back each to the other like dark-furred wolves the torso grows crooked bent by an arc of wanting wide as whale fin heavy as antler sea-brush leaning to wind this is the body longing for the dirt that made it this is the flesh yearning to be a rib inside a man inside the wilderness inside him
like a wolf, I want to carry my bones home
Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad Nina Pick
Death has something to do with the musician but everything to do with the music Listen I’m telling you the mountain’s a precipice the river’s on fire which is why when god speaks god speaks in a bush which is why when we sing sh’ma yisrael we cover our eyes with our hands
The Turtle Brendan Lynaugh
Two days before Christmas, she drove to the airport with her younger son, Benny, navigating from the front passenger seat. “6A,” he said. “We won’t miss it.” He was good at directions; good at making things simple; good at knowing where they should go. They parked in the short-term lot. She double-wrapped her argyle scarf and hurried to keep up as he strode toward the terminal. Her older son’s flight number flashed red on the Arrivals board. Delayed. Benny clicked message after message on his phone. Clare couldn’t stop thinking about the plane on the news last month. When Ryan appeared, in a thicket of businessmen, and families hoisting small children, his curly college hair longer than ever, she stepped forward and pulled him tight. “Yeah, I missed you too, Mom.” On the way home, like on family trips to Six Flags, he talked and talked. He talked about going to his favorite Jersey diner, taking the train to the city, sleeping late. He asked his brother how the team was doing. “You can check the scores online, you know.” If Ryan noticed his brother’s tone, he didn’t show it. “How’s Coach,” Ryan asked. “He wants to see you. Think you can keep up? You’re looking a bit hefty.” She thought her son had gained a
few pounds, but not in a bad way. He looked healthy. Both her boys did. But appearances could be deceiving. Could they ever. Over the phone this semester her older son had sounded well, said classes were fine, he was getting his work done, weightlifting and playing club hockey. But two weeks later he’d sent an email at four in the morning saying it all was all too much. He could barely concentrate in class, couldn’t focus to write a paper. He’d called the next day to reassure her. Told her the counselor at school said this was normal, that’d he be fine. ~ The next morning, lying in bed, Clare remembered how the wind howled all night, rattling the storm windows. In the bathroom, she kept the lights dim as she traced her stretch marks and squeezed the little rolls of fat around her mid-section. She wrote down her weight on the yellow pad near the scale. She’d almost taken off all the pounds she’d put on the past two years since her husband’s diagnosis. Funny, how he’d started losing weight and she couldn’t stop eating. Downstairs, she read the NY Times editorials over homemade Café au Lait—microwaved soymilk and coffee. She fixed herself whole grain cereal with chopped fruit. She liked being in control again. The sun warmed her and the new cat, just over a year old, which curled on the table. There was a thin layer of frost on
She always turned before a collision, praying the crowd wouldn’t gasp all at once, praying if they did gasp, it’d be the other boy. Sportscenter in his sweatpants. “I won’t have to remind you to take out the trash, will I?” Clare said, holding a basket of laundry. Her older son kept sleeping. She had noticed a light on downstairs when she’d used the bathroom last night. When she checked, she saw him curled on the couch, a book propped open on his lap. Over the phone, he’d told her he read poetry when he couldn’t sleep. It was how he coped. “Honey,” she called, tapping his door. “Time to get up,” she nudged the door open. “Honey,” she called
again. Ryan sat and balled his hands like a baby to rub his eyes. His hair, much darker than hers, had grown thicker and stuck out every which way. Hair had been on her mind last year. How quickly it could turn from brown to grey and then fall out. The toupee on the nightstand. Could anything become normal? She turned on the shower and waited. In October, when Ryan announced he was spending Thanksgiving with his girlfriend’s family in California, she’d decided to take Benny to her sister’s for the holiday. They could have gone away for Christmas too. Everyone would have understood. Steam fogged the window. She wiped and waited as it fogged again. She had her boys back. They were with her, in their old rooms, all of them, together. ~ They stretched out on the couch in front of the TV. Their athletic frames looked oversized and sluggish, like sea lions out of water. How had she produced such boys? She remembered how graceful they were on the ice. Graceful and brutal. She hated watching their games. Always cold in the stands, and they hit and were hit so hard. She always turned before a collision, praying the crowd wouldn’t gasp all at once, praying
Brendan Lynaugh | The Turtle
her green lawn and a small brown rodent the cat had left dead by the grill. She tried to enjoy the sparrows darting in and out of the birdfeeder, but there was the turkey, and the stuffing before that, and the two pies, apple and pumpkin, as always. And the house needed to look perfect. She could still have Christmas at home. Benny woke first. He watched
if they did gasp, it’d be the other boy lying on the ice, unmoving. She wondered if she’d been punished for such thoughts. “What was that?” she called from the kitchen. She hadn’t been able to hear. “Nothing,” her older son said. “What?” she called louder to be heard over the TV. When they didn’t respond she walked into the room. “It’s an A-B conversation, Mom.” She didn’t understand. “You can C your way out.” “We’re just kidding,” Benny said, a little too quickly. “There was just a big hit on Sportscenter.” She shook her head and decided there was no harm in letting them relax. Guests weren’t arriving until four. She was glad they were having fun together. She didn’t think they’d spoken since August, when her older son and his girlfriend, who had visited from LA, flew back to school. She washed last night’s dishes. The boys downed giant glasses of orange juice and smothered two toasted bagels in cream cheese. She didn’t know why the comfort she took in watching them eat surprised her. They went to the basement to play video games. Crumbs covered the couch. Their empty glasses stood like gravestones on the coffee table. ~ Showered and shaved, the boys came downstairs looking handsome in khakis and sweaters. She’d only had to
ask them once to get changed. “What can I do?” Benny asked. “Aren’t you mature.” “I’ve been here.” “You can set up the bar,” she said. “And start the fire.” They dug out the Jameson and Cutty Sark and Chivas. The poured themselves generous amounts. It was more strange than usual waiting in a house prepared for guests. She kept finding things to do in the kitchen. Her older son cursed. Smoke was pouring into the living room. “The flue,” she said. The smoke alarm pounded her head, disrupted her balance. Benny ripped the batteries out. She yelled for them to open the windows and doors. In the silence, ears ringing, she saw Ryan’s face had turned red. Cold air hushed the living room. Everything seemed stuck. She couldn’t make out her son’s faces through the haze. The doorbell rang. Two couples arrived, appearing on the doorstep with expensive appetizers and dessert. “Smoky,” said one of the men, and hugging commenced, restarting the night. The women had gone to graduate school with Clare. Both couples had been coming for years, driving BMWs from Long Island and Manhattan. Before marriage, before babies, they’d gathered in their Upper West Side studios for fondue and wine. What her boys called “pre-parties.” Now, the women wore elegant dresses, complemented with African bracelets or
The boys refilled their whiskey glasses. She told them to be careful. Ryan asked how many glasses of wine she’d had. He sounded like a little child, jealous about who got a bigger slice of cake. ~ “Where are people sitting?” Ryan asked. They were standing in the kitchen, looking over the desserts. Two empty bottles of wine bookended the counter. “I thought people could choose,” she said. “Who’s sitting at the head?” he asked, and scooped the cat. “Do you want to?” He looked away. Benny stood in the doorway, hands in pocket. When she looked at him he shook his head. Ryan said, “Maybe Henry or Rick could. This year.” The cat squirmed and he put her down. “That would be fine,” she said. Her boys still needed her. “I should have been here,” Ryan said. Benny moved beside her. “He wanted you at college,” she said. “I’m sorry Sophie couldn’t come,” Benny said. “It would have been nice to see her.” Her boys had never been good at saying how they felt. Ryan allowed a smile. She felt he didn’t completely believe his brother, but appreciated it, nevertheless. The cat crouched and leapt onto the
Brendan Lynaugh | The Turtle
East Asian necklaces. One husband, a lawyer, arrived in a full suit. The other, a teacher and an artist, wore a ratty sweater and smiled at his wife’s mock disapproval. The women joined her in the kitchen. “Such gentlemen,” one said to Clare. Her boys had offered to take their coats. “You blink,” said the other, “and they’ll have kids of their own.” “But how are you doing?” Clare said dinner would be right on schedule. “We didn’t mean dinner.” The women walked out with appetizers. Everyone crowded the now roaring fire. The room lingered of smoke, but with the doors and windows closed, conversation filled the room. She sat between her boys on the couch. Dwarfed by their hockey bodies, she looked like a kid sister. Ryan asked the artist-husband about a Latin American poet he’d discovered this semester. “Your father turned me on to him,” the artist said, scratching his spotty beard. His wife said, “We have a lot of his books.” “Stop by,” he said. “Next time you’re in the City.” Ryan said he would. “We all miss him,” said one of the women. No one responded, her boys fidgeted on the couch. “We’re so glad you could make it,” Clare said.
counter, inches from the chocolate Yule log cake. “Bad Krishna,” Benny said, grabbing the cat and putting her on the ground. “Do you want to call people for dinner?” she said. “I think we’re ready.” ~ As people started eating, Benny brought out the new gadget he’d ordered online specifically to make Black and Tans for Christmas Eve dinner. After filling half a pint glass with ale, he attached the Turtle, a concave metal device, which resembled the armored reptile. Its four feet fit snugly over the rim with the shell suspended between the lip of the glass. Everyone watched as the Guinness seeped evenly off the shell down the edges of the glass, and stayed above the ale, resulting in a clear demarcation between the light and dark. The men lined up their glasses, reveling in the fun, reminiscent to Clare of when the boys were little and had bubbled over showing the men the newest issue of MAD magazine. Even the women allowed Benny to pour. “We shouldn’t be doing this,” they said. “But it’s the holidays.” Benny remained standing; he glowed behind his creations. “That’s awesome,” Ryan said, swigging his pint down. “Will you show me where you got it?” “Your dad would have loved this,” the artist-husband said. Her sons winced, but thanked him,
and Benny offered to pour another. Clare didn’t think their father would have approved. She’d hardly known her in-laws, but her husband had limited himself to a half-glass of wine with dinner, if he drank at all. He’d told her about uncles who couldn’t keep work, cousins never to be found for Sunday dinner. Her boys wouldn’t drink so much if he were still here. Clare surveyed the scattered pint glasses, aware that the different viscosities, not magic, kept the two colors from bleeding and blending together, but not wanting to completely suspend her disbelief. Conversation restarted, but she kept watching as the liquids swirled and wrapped around one another like silky ephemeral fingers until you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. The top half remained darker, though less so with each passing moment. There was no stasis. Her boys were becoming men; their growth hastened by loss. And they would leave her too. ~ “You’re still in high school,” she said to Benny after the guests had left. They were all tired, but still buzzed, and still sitting around. The cat purred in her lap. “You shouldn’t be drinking.” The goodnight hugs with the two couples had gone on longer than usual. “Keep having these dinners,” the artist-husband said. “But let’s get together soon,” said his wife.
Benny hit play and the familiar jingle jangle holiday music began. She wanted to ask her boys something, but the flashing screen lit their faces. They cracked up at all the stupid jokes, even laughing at the movie dad’s inept failures: the Christmas tree way too big for the car, the ill-conceived sledding trip. Her boys would keep their traditions alive. She grabbed the cat off the floor and placed it on her lap. First Ryan, then Benny started snoring. As if in stasis she stayed awake, mechanically petting Krishna, soothed by the cat’s mild purrs until, apropos of nothing, she arched her back and leapt to the ground. She could believe she’d be happy to watch her boys leave one day.
Brendan Lynaugh | The Turtle
Clare kept thanking them for coming. Her boys shuffled to the side, having hugged, they stood, detached. Finally, the couples made it out the door. Snow had started falling sometime during dinner, but wasn’t sticking yet. It was too soon. “I can’t believe we’re both allergic to Krishna,” Benny said, and Ryan agreed. She’d offered to give back the cat, but they’d insisted she keep it. They’d heard her talk about how much she loved her first cat when she was single and living in the City. They decided to watch a movie. “Get it ready,” she said. “I’ll be there in a minute.” She couldn’t leave the mess until morning. She filled the dishwasher and started scrubbing pots as her boys tromped downstairs. “Mom!” they yelled. “We’re starting.” They’d chosen a movie they’d watched religiously as little children every Christmas at their grandparents. Everyone had crammed into that modest house, the parents using their old rooms, the kids taking the downstairs and basement couches. The boys would get as many cousins and aunts and uncles gathered around the 14inch TV as they could. They knew all the funny lines. She remembered her husband, who didn’t care for TV or films, who preferred turning in early with a book, had never missed a minute. He’d put his arm around her, like a high school boyfriend, and laugh with the rest of the family.
New York City Ira Joel Haber
Reward Sign on a Utility Pole for a Missing Guitar Jeffrey Alfier
for Sean Thomas Dougherty
Perhaps the ancient Gibson suffered too many midnight closets without the humid grace of hands and pick. Needed to slink down some dark street to be stroked warm into heavy blues, beg for a gig at a night club to spark a song into flame like flint striking stone. Maybe there was a chance to spread notes over a woman’s dancing spine, then slip out the club’s doors, trundle down alleys, join a runaway Stratocaster touching the moon-scorched sea with bass chords strummed hot and tight. So it released itself at last – to somewhere it had been headed for years. But no doubt exists that its owner craves it back. He offers two grand for its return. No questions asked.
Richard Levine we will be the first civilization to leave a dictionary in its wake so many words to explain our embrace of our own extinction but not one to stop it
Catalytic Conversions Richard Levine
There is hydrogen and there is oxygen rising from the smoke of every wood fire, and if you could recombine their molecules in the right proportions, their reunion would make enough water to douse any fire, no matter how hot. This is a fact you can find in any chemistry book, but it does not explain why when we came to the wood like a wild fire licking away our clothes and all we could tongue and touch, we found only smoke and fuming between us. With no catch or warmth in the fade of sparks, we redressed, as if we had not just seen each other naked as winter trees. Sun and shade spotted us in the steep silence encompassing our misstep. Small and awkward, we walked back the trail weâ€™d burned into the woods.
A Dad, after Divorce D.R. James
It’s how the field must feel when the inverted pyramid of the planter’s spade rips a young maple from amidst its siblings. Air rushes in, cold on the wound as the slenderest roots wave their amazed goodbye. Or the dune on a cool blue day, a careless hand pulling a tuft of its elemental grass. Sand rushes in, filling itself with itself. How the vacuum of the heart attracts the day’s stray dust, the dry seal of distraction having cracked. It’s a time of numb and gnaw. A spectrum of grays: the slow press of low clouds, the dead quiet of dusk seeping into an empty room. A tomb, if a tomb were where the living lived.
With His Dad Just Dead D.R. James
He proceeds like a man who dreams about drowning. At first, it makes sense, the sudden plunge, the calm walk along the bottom. Breathing as easy as ever. Old friends, his kids as kids drifting in and out of the shifting plot, all belonging, only slowly raising doubt. Then, faster. A second subconsciousness. The pressure of water. A suspicion and a realization. The elongated faces escaping in various directions, as if upon bursting a surface the panic of awakening renewed the need to breathe: the lunge, the shuddering, the heaving lungs.
Never Lie to a Ghost Jennifer Robinette
We’re moving again, Erica and I. This time the decision is completely mine; I can no longer stand living downstairs from a bunch of doe-eyed frat boys and their yapping little rat dogs. Erica doesn’t mind them, but I reasoned with her. After all, it’s a miracle that none of them are in my classes – the boys, I mean, not the dogs. My exact words to her: “We’re too old for this shit.” “I’m not.” I just looked at her. In point of fact, Erica doesn’t age; we don’t speak of this, though. I tried a different tactic: “I’d like to be able to go out in the yard without a bra on.” “What’s stopping you?” But her puckered face meant that she saw my point. Of course she would have to relent, since I handle our finances. I’m still in charge of some things, even if my life is not entirely my own. ~ The new landlord is suspicious. Yesterday when I met him across town at the apartment, he eyed me up and down. I didn’t blink. He produced a rumpled, coffee-stained copy of my application from the back pocket of his jeans. “So it’s just you, huh?” He spat into the front yard, just missing the concrete porch. “No kids, no pets? A single gal?”
“Yep.” I squinted down the street into the mid-day September sunlight. Nice neighborhood, lots of trees, close to the river. I couldn’t really afford it, but we needed a change. At least I did. For Erica, there is no change. “So, a two-bedroom apartment for just you?” He wouldn’t let it go. “No roommates? ‘Cause, you know, it’s fifty bucks extra a month for a roommate.” I swallowed hard and looked straight into his sharp black eyes. “It’s just me.” I shifted my gaze to a child riding a tricycle down the sidewalk. “I have a lot of books.” The landlord snorted. “I guess so. Your application says you teach at the university. I used to read, but now I don’t have time.” He unlocked the door and took me through an inspection of the place, which had standard gray carpeting and white walls. But there was a big kitchen, a bay window, and a fenced-in yard with a patio. I could smell the river. Most importantly, we had the entire house to ourselves, both upstairs and downstairs – even if it was tiny. No more duplexes for us. After I signed the inspection form, he gave me the key and told me I could move in when ready. Then he drove off in his truck and left me alone in the bare apartment. ~
been Clarke’s cheating, but mostly it was just that day of the week. Tuesday. Everything happens on a Tuesday, Erica used to say, before the ultimate everything, the everything of everythings, happened to her on that Tuesday back when we were both twenty-one. But that’s another thing we never talk about – that day. I couldn’t say any of this to Jerry, though, not when he was standing there looking so concerned, so stable and strong. He asked me if I wanted a ride home, and since I already trusted this stranger more than I trusted myself, I went with him. By the time he pulled into our driveway, I’d stopped crying and had sobered up. I thought about asking him in, but I didn’t want to disturb Erica. So we sat in the car and talked until the sun came up. Jerry had gone to the Art Museum function, which he’d heard about on public radio, for the free wine and cheese. The second he told me that, I fell in love with his honesty and practicality. I probably would have had sex with him right there in his truck if he’d asked, but he seemed content just to talk. He owned a construction company, along with an honestto-God house. He was only twenty-eight, about a year older than I was, but he already had an adult life. I loved that he didn’t work at
Jennifer Robinette | Never Lie to a Ghost
Moving Day. My boyfriend Jerry is helping with the heavy lifting, which is good considering that Erica is useless in this type of situation. Jerry rescued me from a stagnant relationship about two years ago, when we met at the University Art Museum during one of those wine-andcheese functions. It was the week of the Writers Conference, always a time of stress. Clarke, my boyfriend at the time, was in absentia: off somewhere cheating on me, no doubt. He was a law student, highly literate in his field but with no love for fiction or poetry, and no desire to attend Writers Conference events. I’d been initially attracted to Clarke’s passion for politics and law, but I knew I wasn’t the only one. There I was at the Museum, fluttering from group to group, flush-faced and laughing too loudly. Presenting my social self to the world of letters, such as it was in this small college town. At some point, though, I must have had one too many glasses of red and ended up alone in the cloak room, crying like an undergraduate. Jerry found me there. He was looking for his coat, of course, but heard me sniffling in the corner. I was facing the wall and didn’t see him at first. “Hey.” He touched my shoulder, and I turned around. “Are you okay?” I breathed deeply through my nose and wiped at my streaming eyes. “Yeah. I’m just drunk.” I didn’t know why I was crying; part of it may have
the university, but was intellectual in his own way. He listened to classical music and jazz; he even read Steinbeck on occasion. Before I left his truck, he handed me a business card on which his phone number and email address were printed in baby-blue script. I slipped it into my purse as I fished out my keys. Early as it was, Erica was awake, lying on the couch with her nose in a paperback. Waiting for me, obviously, but she didn’t acknowledge me right away. “What are you doing up?” I said. “Couldn’t sleep.” She read on for a few seconds, then laid her book facedown on the coffee table. “I heard a car in the driveway. Were you with Clarke?” She rolled her eyes, communicating her disgust with Clarke and his philandering. “Nope.” I settled down beside her on the couch, forcing her to move her feet. “I’m done with Clarke. I met someone new.” “Thank God. You should call Clarke and tell him it’s over.” She was right, of course. She’d always been the practical one when it came to relationships. In that moment, though, I was overcome with guilt. “It doesn’t seem right to dump him so suddenly. Maybe I should give him another chance.” Before I could stop her, Erica grabbed my purse and took out my phone. I tried to get it away from her, but she was too quick. She found
Clarke’s name under “Contacts,” hit “Send,” and handed me the phone. The sleepy way in which Clarke said, “Hey, baby,” almost made me relent, but the unmistakably female voice in the background strengthened my resolve. I told him that I knew about his cheating and wanted to break up. I pressed “End” before he even had a chance to argue with me. I expected him to call me back right away, but he didn’t. I never heard from him again, in fact. “Problem solved,” Erica said. She stood up and stretched. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and get some rest for once.” She strutted down the hallway to her bedroom. Whenever she says things like that, I just try not to think about the implications. ~ We’re almost finished moving the big items into the apartment. As Jerry helps me with Erica’s mattress, he starts to get huffy. “I don’t understand why you need a guest room anyway. You never have any guests but me, and I sleep with you.” “Well, you never know.” I groan, setting my end of the mattress down onto the box spring. I’ve never told him about Erica. How can I? He lies down on Erica’s bed and pulls me toward him. This feels like a violation, but she isn’t here at the moment, so I let it pass. I curl into his chest and expel a sigh. “Moving sucks.”
“I’m just not ready,” I say. “You’re like a dude. A dude with tits.” Erica throws her head back and cackles, then jumps up from the bed. “Come on, let’s order some pizza.” ~ A few hours later, we are drunk and pleasantly sleepy. We’ve been talking about Old Times, back when we were in college together in a little town much like this one. Erica and I were assigned to the same dorm room, and unlike most accidental roommates, we actually liked each other. In a couple of years we started sharing apartments, and have been ever since. We were always a pair. Our friend Lucy used to say that we were each one-half of “cool.” I’ve never understood which half I was supposed to be – the “co” or the “ol” – but back then I always felt like I was more dependent on her than vice versa. Maybe I still am. Erica punches my shoulder while sipping her margarita. We’re sitting side-by-side on the couch, and she tends to get physical when I’m within touching distance. She says, “Do you remember the time Lucy boked on the dance floor at Zephyr?” To boke, meaning “to vomit,” is one of Erica’s Irishisms, learned when she spent a semester in
Jennifer Robinette | Never Lie to a Ghost
He strokes my hair. “I wish you would just move in with me. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked you.” “I like having my own place…at least for now.” He laughs, a soft rumble that I take into my body. “For an English teacher, you can be really vague sometimes.” “I know.” I wish I could explain to him that I don’t want to abandon Erica. “You should at least stay over at my place tonight, since everything’s so chaotic here.” I’d love to stay over at Jerry’s, which is a palace compared to this. But Erica and I have this Moving Day ritual of ordering pizza, making margaritas, and staying up until we pass out. “I don’t think so, Jer. I’m exhausted. I’d like to go to bed soon.” He grunts and rises from the bed, avoiding my eyes. “Whatever you want. Call me tomorrow, and I’ll help you finish setting up here.” He practically sprints out of the room. “Okay,” I call after him, but he’s already out the front door. Erica appears in the doorway of her bedroom. “What’s his problem?” “He’s still bugging me to move in with him.” “Why don’t you, then?” She sits on the edge of the bed and grabs my foot. “That tickles.” I swat her hand away. “Seriously, though, why don’t you?” She releases my foot, her expression somber. She knows why.
Dublin. That semester was the loneliest I’ve ever been. “I remember,” I say. “I was plenty wasted myself.” I look up at the clock: three a.m. “Good thing tomorrow’s Sunday.” “Forget about tomorrow.” Erica shakes her drink at me. “We still have tequila left. Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.” I laugh. “Isn’t that from the Bible or something?” “Or something.” She pierces me with her patented look of intensity, the one she perfected in college through her dramatic roles in black-box theater plays. “Why should I know the Bible any better than you do? You think I’ve talked to God recently?” She’s testing me, I know. Sometimes she does this. I’ve found the best way to deal with it is to keep quiet. She breaks into a laugh and punches me again. I rub my shoulder. “Cut that out. I think I’m getting a bruise.” “Sorry,” Erica mumbles, nose in her drink. Sandy hair frames her pale face. She is impossibly young, and always will be. “No problem,” I say, and we keep talking through the night as if there is no difference between us. ~ By Monday, the apartment is almost completely set up. I don’t own much, after all. I slept long into the afternoon on Sunday, but once Jerry came over we still managed to get things done.
The students in my 9 am composition class are listless. I can tell they haven’t done the reading, but it seems rude to accuse them of this, so I resign myself to doing most of the talking. After class I meet my friend Celeste at Urban Scholar, the inappropriately named campus coffee shop. As I sit across from her with my hot chocolate, her face turns grim. I can tell without asking that she has reached a crisis point in her ongoing struggle with the university’s English Department. Celeste and I are both doctoral students and teaching assistants. She’s a few years younger than me and just started last year, whereas I’m almost finished with my dissertation. (Lord, please let it be so.) My specialty is American post-colonial literature, while hers is poetry writing. She is the first new friend, not counting Jerry, I’ve made in years. The cohort of students I started with has disbanded – some members leaving town, others having babies – and I hadn’t anticipated the difficulty of replacing them with new friends. No one warned me that friendships, like everything else, become harder to build and maintain as you get older – for me, at least. I’ve become more private, and I usually don’t have the energy to pretend I care about the lives of people I’ve just met. I prefer those with whom I have a history – like Erica. But Celeste and I managed to bond last semester at a curriculum meeting.
the table to ask the guy behind the counter for an application. I shake my head and smile, taking a moment to admire the deep red color of her gauzy skirt. ~ Today is October 17th – my twenty-ninth birthday. A few weeks have passed since Moving Day. On my office desk this morning I found a bag of lotion and body wash with a card inside, courtesy of Celeste. Erica and Jerry both have something more interesting planned, I know. But since Jerry can’t know about Erica, they were unable to coordinate their efforts. Jerry takes me out to the second-nicest restaurant in town – I actually don’t like the food at the nicest one – and we order the works: drinks, appetizer, soup, seafood entrees, and dessert. Gorging is one of our greatest mutual pleasures. At least we have the sense to share the flourless chocolate pudding cake. As our spoons clink together in a mock fight over the last bite of ice cream, Jerry grabs my wrist and asks me what I look for in a ring. I know what he’s getting at, but I try to stall him. “You mean, like, ring-tones?” He doesn’t laugh as I expected. “I mean the kind of ring you wear on your finger.” I’ve never seen
Jennifer Robinette | Never Lie to a Ghost
She sat at the desk beside mine, and her eye rolls and impatient sighs signaled that we hated all the same things about the meeting. Afterward we went out for a drink and shared our lists of complaints about the department, the composition program, certain faculty members, and so on. All in all, she was much angrier than I was, and much more capable of pissing people off. I could tell from her anecdotes that she’d been doing exactly that. Earlier this morning, she had enough. A student, disgruntled about his grade, had complained about Celeste’s accent. She’s from Mexico originally, but has lived north of the border since she was twelve. She has only the slightest trace of a Spanish accent, and speaks impeccable English. But the department higher-ups, grateful for any reason to come down on Celeste, jettisoned their liberal principles for the day and demanded that she take an ESL speaking class if she wanted to continue teaching. “So I told those racist fuckers that I quit.” Her brown eyes are radiant. “I don’t blame you at all,” I say. “That’s totally ridiculous.” She nods her head in agreement. “They know I speak better English than most of the people born in this town. They were just looking for an excuse.” “So what will you do now?” She shrugs. “I don’t know.” She sips her coffee thoughtfully. “Maybe I’ll work here.” And she actually leaves
him this intense. “I’ve never really thought about it before.” He leans back in his chair and sighs. “Well, maybe you could put some thought into it.” “Sure.” Jerry sits up straight again and kisses me on the forehead. “Happy birthday.” ~ Back at the apartment, Erica is waiting up for me as usual. “You’re home really late,” she says. “I thought you’d never get here.” She doesn’t usually accost me like this, so I know there’s trouble ahead. “Sorry. We decided to go to a movie afterward.” “What movie?” I shake my head. “I don’t even know. Some action thing I never heard of.” I didn’t pay attention to the movie because I was too busy thinking about rings – gold rings with rubies, silver rings with diamonds, platinum rings with sapphires. Rings and all they signify. Erica’s shoulders slump. “I don’t mean to be a bitch. It’s just that I have a surprise for you.” She leads me into her bedroom, where takes a package wrapped in newspaper from her top dresser drawer. As I take the package from her, I’m not sure what to expect. We don’t usually give each other gifts; our friendship doesn’t work that way. I rip open the paper to find a framed photo of
the two of us. We’re sitting at a shiny wooden bar table, holding clear plastic cups of beer out in front of us. The photo was taken on Erica’s twenty-first birthday, and she wears a conical paper hat as she sticks out her tongue at the unseen photographer. I know that later, when I flip through the photo album I keep in a bedside drawer, there will be a blank space where this photo used to be. I swallow a vague sense of terror. “Do you remember who took this picture?” Erica grins. “Not a clue. I think we asked some random guy to take it for us.” “It’s a nice frame,” I say, running my finger over its silver swirls. “Well, I thought maybe you could put it out in the living room, on the mantle. You know, where Jerry can see it.” Her voice is casual, but with a hint of menace. “You want him to ask me about it.” I try to say this in a questioning tone, but it comes out as a statement. “You’ll have to tell him about me someday.” Now her voice is quivering, but her eyes stay level with mine. “Especially if he wants to marry you.” How does she know? “I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that,” I stammer. Her gray eyes search me. “I like Jerry.” “I know. So do I.” “And you’re not getting any younger.” Her smile is forced, but at least it’s
Celeste, who spent the last few nights on our couch. “She just needs a place to stay for a little while. She can’t keep up with her rent anymore since she quit teaching. I told you about that, remember?” Jerry shakes his head. “Well, I did. Anyway, it’s just until she finds another job.” The gig at Urban Scholar didn’t pan out after all. “She seems all right, but she told me she was sleeping on the couch. Why not let her use the guest room?” I’m prepared for this. I tell him the same thing I told Celeste. “There’s a problem with the guest room. Termites. The room is sealed off so they don’t spread. We’ve got plastic covering the door cracks and everything.” I managed to convince Erica to stay holed up in her room when Celeste is around. Erica’s not happy about it. “I didn’t notice that. Why don’t you call the exterminator?” I’ve got an answer for this one, too. “I tried to make an appointment, but they’re all booked up for a month. And they’re the only ones in town.” This last part is actually true. Jerry frowns. “Typical. And you probably couldn’t get someone from out of town, unless either you or the landlord is willing to
Jennifer Robinette | Never Lie to a Ghost
there. Erica has always been a borderline genius, and her strategy this time surpasses even her usual brilliance. She knows that she can’t stop me from changing, from growing older, so instead of continuing to hold me back, she wants me to incorporate her into my new life. This is a clever move, but not entirely realistic. If she were older, she would know that. Angry words form in my mouth, but I gulp them down. “Thanks for the picture, but maybe you should keep it in your room for now.” She doesn’t say anything, just nods curtly, charges down the hall with the photo, and slams her bedroom door. ~ “I met your roommate today,” Jerry tells me at dinner. My chest turns to a block of ice. “What? When?” He puts a hand to my forehead. “Are you okay? You’re sweating like crazy.” “I’m fine.” To demonstrate my good health, I lift my burger to my mouth and bite. We’re eating someplace notso-nice this time, a place called Burger Hut. After I manage to swallow, I ask, “When did you meet my roommate?” “She came in while you were in the shower, then left again.” He slurps root beer through a straw. “You didn’t tell me you had another girl living there. She’s got a cute accent.” My body temperature returns to normal. Of course he’s talking about
pay a lot extra. Did you try trapping them?” “Yes, but they breed so fast it’s just impossible to trap them all.” I know just how fishy this story sounds, but it’s the best I could do. Jerry shrugs. “Well, maybe I’ll ask around and see if I know anyone who could take care of it for you.” I smile, so caught up in my lies that I barely need to perform. “Thanks, Jer.” ~ Thanksgiving Day, and the three of us – Celeste, Jerry, and I – are having dinner at Jerry’s. Celeste’s family lives way down in Texas, and since she’s still living with me, Jerry was nice enough to invite her. Jerry seems to have taken a liking to Celeste. He’s always laughing when she’s around. They’re out in the kitchen laughing right now; I’m a terrible cook, so I let the two of them handle dinner. Meanwhile, I sit in the living room and watch the Detroit Lions lose. “We’re out of whipped cream,” Celeste says, putting an arm through her coat sleeve. “I’ll run out and get some.” Cold air rushes in as she rushes out. I go out to the kitchen to check on Jerry. “How can you be out of whipped cream?” My arms circle his waist as he stirs the gravy. I rest my chin on his shoulder-blade. “Don’t you usually think of everything?” He puts down his spoon, turns off the burner, and faces me. “We’re not out of whipped cream. Celeste agreed
to step out so I could ask you something.” He reaches into his pocket and takes out a beige ring box. “I couldn’t wait any longer.” Jerry doesn’t get down on one knee, thank God, but smiles and flips the box open. “Marry me?” The heat from the oven flushes my face. His proposal is spontaneous but low-key. Perfect. Just like Jerry himself. But I can’t accept. I think of Erica sitting in our apartment alone at this moment, poor Erica who has been nearly invisible since Celeste came to stay. I can’t even look at the ring. Before I say anything, he sees the answer in my face. His smile disappears; the box snaps shut. “I get it. You’re not ready.” All I can do is nod. He turns away from me, back to the gravy. I put my arms around him again, but he ignores me. “I love you,” I say, knowing it’s not enough. “I love you, too.” He’s concentrating on the gravy. “Don’t give up on me.” He nods but still won’t look at me. “Okay.” Celeste bursts into the house with exactly zero containers of whipped cream. She’s grinning and clasping her hands together, but after observing us for a moment she seems to understand. Finally, she shrugs and says, “They were all out.” Fifteen minutes later, dinner is delicious yet silent. After dinner, Celeste
December now, and the snow coats everything. Thick. In the apartment, the air is likewise coated with discontent and suspicion.
Tonight I can’t take it anymore. When the whispering reaches maximum thickness, I claim a headache and flee to my room. Erica is there, lying on my bed. I’m so happy to see her that I don’t even ask what she’s doing in my room, or where she’s been. I just motion her to move over. As we lie there next to each other, she points up at the paint swirls on the ceiling. “They look like record grooves, don’t they?” “Yeah.” She turns to me. “You want to go somewhere?” “Absolutely.” I’m ready to leave in about five minutes. I run out the door with Erica beside me, ignoring Jerry’s questions and Celeste’s astonished expression. Cold air slaps me in the face. Erica and I sprint to my car, giggling. I drive to the town’s only “club” because I know that Erica wants to dance. Oh hell, I want to dance, too. The bouncer at the door – tall and gangly beneath his cowboy hat –is one of my students, but I don’t care. We go nuts on the tiny dance floor, sloshing our mixed drinks in plastic cups and sweating like wrestlers. All the songs are from eight years ago, each one of them throbbing with pain and longing beneath their simplistic beats and corny lyrics. But I want to feel them tonight, and before I
Jennifer Robinette | Never Lie to a Ghost
reads a poem that she wrote for the occasion, a poem about thankfulness. ~ December now, and the snow coats everything. Thick. In the apartment, the air is likewise coated with discontent and suspicion. Celeste and Jerry conspire in corners, whispering about me just loudly enough that I can hear. They try to disguise their anger as concern. They don’t understand why I would have made up that story about the exterminators, who are obviously never coming. Celeste is too polite to demand the guest bedroom, and Jerry is too kind to give an ultimatum on the marriage issue, although they don’t understand my hesitation any more than they understand anything else about me. They just want to understand me. In the meantime, Erica has all but disappeared; I can only guess at what this means.
know it I’m drunk on them. We dance for what seems like hours. Then a slow song comes on, and we make our way to the bar. There are two empty stools, so we sit. I am unprepared for what I see in the mirror across the bar: just me, face pale, eyes emptied. Blank, fishy eyes. Dead eyes. “It should have been me,” I murmur into my drink. “Fuck you and your clichés.” Unlike mine, Erica’s eyes are not blank. They cut into me like shards of slate. Her anger surprises me. “I don’t care if it’s a cliché; it’s true.” “You’re such a wimp.” She slams her drink down, spilling some liquid out onto the bar. I haven’t seen this side of her since we were nineteen and fighting over whether we should rearrange the beds in our dorm room. Our only real fight, and she won. She’s right; I am a wimp. “I should have been there,” I say. “What?” I swallow hard. “That Tuesday night.” Erica shoots me her intense look, but this time I don’t think it’s an act. “So are we talking about this now?” “I guess.” I try to match her gaze in its concentration. For once, Erica is the first to break. She turns away from me, a sigh catching in her throat. “I can’t absolve you, you know. I’ve got my own problems.” I wait. She stares straight ahead. “I could tell you what you want to hear. But I’m
not going to.” While she drains the rest of her glass, I hear everything she’s not saying. The things I don’t want to hear. I hear how she wants to tell me that it’s not my fault, that I couldn’t have done anything to help her anyway, but how she can never be sure if that’s true. I hear how she resents the way I fail to appreciate my life as much as she would have appreciated hers. I hear how she envies me as much as I do her. What she does end up saying is completely unexpected. “I think I should move out.” I shake my head furiously. “No. I don’t want you to.” Erica grins. “Never lie to a ghost.” “I’m not lying.” And at that moment, I’m not. It’s true; I don’t want her to go. She leans forward and stares into my eyes as if she’s trying to hypnotize me. “This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to call Jerry and ask him to pick you up because you’re too drunk to drive home. While you’re waiting for him, you’ll say good-bye to me. Then you’re going to accept his proposal before he dumps you and starts dating Celeste.” I recognize the wisdom of all this, but I keep shaking my head. A familiar pressure builds behind my eyes. “I have to go to the bathroom,” I say, hopping down clumsily from my stool. Once I’m safely behind a stall door, I let myself cry. After all, I’m probably not the only woman crying drunk-
great-grand-daughter. Finally, she is the angel I always wanted her to be, granting me forgiveness for the years that she never lived.
Jennifer Robinette | Never Lie to a Ghost
enly in the bathroom this Tuesday night. I’m reminded of the night I met Jerry, so I call him right there. My ragged apologies and promises echo off the bathroom walls. When I return to the bar, Erica is gone. I knew she would be. I wander outside to wait for Jerry. There, I watch my future in the glow of Christmas lights reflecting off dirty parking-lot snow. I can see myself lying in bed with Jerry, telling him about Erica. I’ll tell him about how, on a warm Tuesday night in April, she drowned in Lake Erie during a solitary two a.m. swim. A decent swimmer who got caught in a deep-water tangle of algae. I was supposed to go with her, but changed my mind at the last minute. I don’t remember why. Was I tired? Lazy? Scared? I would never be sure. I do remember that the night was balmy and beautiful, with a bright, low crescent moon, and that I regretted not going with Erica almost as soon as she took off in her car to the lake. I see myself telling Jerry all this and more. Then I see us married, raising children, growing older and becoming happier in some ways, unhappier in others. I see our bodies breaking down, our minds dulling. And through it all, Erica will show up from time to time, popping in unannounced every five years or so. With each visit the age difference will change what she is in relation to me. Soon she is not a friend, but a younger sister. Then she is a daughter, next a grand-daughter. A
Where We’ve Been Holly Day
we rolled the windows up against the rain and my father said “I wonder what that rat-bastard husband of yours is doing right now” and I just looked out through the glass and said nothing, watched countryside slide past in varying shades of green. behind me the tired baby cried in his car seat, tired of being strapped in for six hours straight and I wanted to cry but I don’t do that. outside the car, corn unfolded under the onslaught of rain sparse trees danced in waves of rippling light and everything I was going to be faded into black far, far behind us.
Song on Your Birthday Donna Oâ€™Connell-Gilmore
Deep pink buds of apple tree break into pale pink blooms, conceal the oriole. I hear his notes, free-ranging, melodious. He plays a piccolo. Now he emerges. His flame-orange feathers eclipse the apple blossoms, dazzle against the jet black head, black wings with startling white bars. I wonder if he sang this way the day when you were born, in this tree younger then, blossoms more profuse, while I inhaled and pushed the final push, bloody gush, and couldnâ€™t raise my head. Then your voice, a singing wail, arrested me. I beheld you wet-skinned, matted hair, blinking. How you dizzy me. How you eclipse the bird.
Carol Guess & Kelly Magee Every girl’s been struck but me. Lightning has taken more from my family than any war. It’s taken pigment and nails and IQ. Memories. Platelets. Gave my aunt hepatitis, caused my cousin’s stillbirth. Cured my sister Lanie of diabetes and ever getting cold. She glows now. Slightly, so you wouldn’t notice unless you knew her from before. My time is coming. No one knows why it’s only the girls who get struck, but it doesn’t matter why because that’s how it is. You can’t escape it. They say it hurts but it’s over fast. Afterward anything can happen. If you heart stops, you better hope someone nearby knows CPR and isn’t afraid to touch you. Lanie’s heart didn’t stop, but she was paralyzed for two weeks after, and she said she smelled fire the whole time. She communicated by blinking, but all she’d tell us was that something was burning. Her hair was singed off, so that made sense. But she also said she kept thinking of this phrase, “Get her out of the water,” and she didn’t know why. Didn’t know who said it or where she’d heard it. She thinks it was some kind of premonition, and that it has something to do with me. People who’ve been struck are always talking about their premonitions. After hers, my mom developed reverse ESP, where after everything that happened, she said, I knew that was
going to happen. Lanie thinks I should go swimming. Storm swimming. She doesn’t like that I’ve been left behind. She’s only ten months older than me, so we’ve always been close. She tells Mom she’s going to help me so that I don’t become one of those people like our great-grandma, who didn’t get struck until she was eighty-three. She had to wait her whole life, and then she died from it so she didn’t even get to enjoy it. Mom tells Lanie to be patient, that it’s not a competition. Moms have to say those kinds of things, even though really, with us girls, everything’s a competition. Lanie goes around in her sports bra and shorts, skin tinged red like she’s been in the sun, and she starts sentences with when I was struck, and every time she says it, it’s like she’s won something. The next time I hear thunder in the distance, I tell Mom I’m going on a walk. She nods and tells me to be safe. Lanie high-fives me on the way out. “This is your day,” she says. “I can feel it.” “How do you know?” I say. She pauses, thinking. Her face perpetually flushed. “I just do,” she says. “Look.” She holds out an arm covered in tiny bumps. “A chill. I didn’t even feel it.” “What will happen to me?” I say. She shrugs. “Maybe you’ll be able to breath underwater. Maybe your eyes will change color.” She levels a gaze at me. “Maybe your problem will go
away.” “Yes,” I say. “Maybe.” My problem was that I kept trying to get people to dare me to kiss girls. It was funny at first. Then it stopped being funny. At school they called me Lightning Girl because they knew I was waiting to get struck. Why don’t you just stick your finger in a socket? they said. Why don’t you take a bath with a hair dryer? I could if I wanted to, I said. I could hold a live wire. I could kiss Jenny Miller. Dare me. We don’t want to dare that anymore, they said. We want you to lick a battery. If you dare me to kiss her, I’ll do it, I said. You’ll see. You’re boring, they said. We’d rather watch TV. And they would all leave, and Jenny Miller or whoever would stick out her tongue at me, and I’d be alone on the playground. I thought maybe after I was struck I wouldn’t care so much about being alone. There were kids who were like that naturally, and it seemed like they had this advantage. I hoped it was at least something useful, like never having to be cold. Lanie was lucky; she already knew exactly who she was. She had a ride to Cloud Lake every Saturday night. College kids hung out at the lake on weekends, a place to park and a place to swim. Beer in bottles and pills from a doctor. Skinny dipping and diving
from the highest ledge. I knew these things because Lanie told me. Like lightning, she’d gone fast and first. I wanted to ride, but she wouldn’t let me. “After you’ve been struck,” she’d say.
When I hit the water, I know I’ve been struck. My body twitches and I fight to keep breathing. All I can see is broken green. The next time I see storms in the distance, I tell Mom I’m going on a walk. Lanie high-fives me on the way out, but she’s wrong this time; all I’m after is the rain. The bus waits at the stop, and a creep offers me a ride, but I walk for an hour, all the way to Goodwill. My babysitting money buys a swimsuit and a necklace: a silver chain with an L for Love. L is for Lanie, who thanks me when I give her the necklace, wrapped in tissue I found in Mom’s drawer. “It’s perfect,” she says, hooking the clasp. “L is for lightning.” L is for lure. I watch her watch herself in the mirror, smiling at her face on fire. “CanIgotothelakewithyou?” Lanie sighs, hot pink. “Just don’t dive in the shallows. I don’t want to play lifeguard if you break your neck.” Saturday night takes forever to happen. After basketball practice Lanie
The girl on the ledge is me. The swimmer waves and I wave back. I want to kiss her and I want to be struck. Lanie stumbles out of the car, shirt on backwards, smiling a locked diary smile. Clouds start raining. Then lightning, and the lake’s on fire. “Get her out of the water,” someone screams. I dive, which I don’t know how to do. When I hit the water, I know I’ve been struck. My body twitches and I fight to keep breathing. All I can see is broken green. My swimmer’s drowning, but she’d like to be saved. “Hold on,” I say. I put my arm across her chest and swim us both to the broken pier. Inside the water we’re electric. The lake sizzles around us, kiss. I know people die this way, but I’m Lightning Girl, and it’s my turn.
Carol Guess & Kelly Magee | Struck
dawdles in the shower and uses up all the hot water. Comes into our bedroom and sits on the floor. “I’m so glad my hair grew back,” she says. Sometimes, when someone burns inside, their hair stays gone. Lanie got lucky. Her hair grew back curly, darker and thicker. “We’re like birth sisters now.” I take my turn in the shower to hide how she’s hurt me. Sometimes I worry that being adopted means I’ll never be struck. While I’m washing my adopted hair and shaving my adopted legs, Lanie knocks on the door. Says she’s sorry by showing me her tattoo: a lightning bolt. Mom doesn’t know. “You should get one, too, because you’re my sister. My real sister.” I drink it all down. Then it’s Saturday night, and someone’s driving us somewhere in his lightning bolt car. I’m in the backseat, watching Lanie nod at MattMichaelMartin. His name keeps changing. Lanie looks over her shoulder and sticks out her tongue. Cloud Lake is rock ledges circling a sheet of green glass. Mitchell grabs Lanie’s hair like she might run away. I’m just watching from the backseat, invisible. When he tears off her shirt, I get out of the car. I walk to the ledge and look out at the water, ripples in circles toward a faraway shore. There’s a girl swimming backstroke near the broken pier. She’s watching the sky, then the girl on the ledge.
Four Prose Poems Kathleen McGookey Death, Why can’t I stay mad? Yesterday, I pictured you as CEO: Sorrow, Heartbreak and Grief run your busy operation. Appointments are made. Brisk workers deliver papers for you to sign. But you like house calls. You orchestrate the stray in front of the van, the construction zone and complicated detour. Afterwards, you pause to watch glass on the pavement reflect the sunrise, a glittering wash of small possibilities.
Death, Here’s the Gingerbread House I made for you. It fits right on my mantle, under the wreath. I like to think of you contained in the snug and spicy dark. The doors and windows are just imprinted on the dough. Even Santa would break the chimney so we’ve left him a note. Climb over the frosting drifts and you can set up a table for your collection of lost mittens and scarves. Why not stay where I can keep an eye on you? You can eat until you ache.
for weeks, Death, I start to feel tenderly toward you, imagine you got stuck with this job when you were a girl with a laugh like running water. Did you need college tuition or daycare money? A green lizard tattooed around your navel? Your parents must have been furious. And even you are helpless in the face of time passing. So now you hate your work, though the hateâ€™s been dulled like a well-used blade, and when you can, you call in sick and let us live another day.
Kathleen McGookey | Four Prose Poems
When You Have Been Away
Take This Scrap of my words, Death, and fold it into your pocket, snug over your hip. The three white feathers from my pillow smell like my lemon perfume. Donâ€™t worry that your pocket has a hole. This time of year, swallows dive for feathers to line their nests. After it cartwheels over the daffodils, the scrap will land in the gravel. A sparrow will snatch it up. Now what will you remember me by?
A Drowning Resort John Grey
Yes, the ocean view is great nothing like a thousand years of drowning to whet the appetite for fun. And the rooms are spacious. You could hold a wake here for the guy who went out too far this past July, was taken by a current. And it’s clean as you would expect a funeral home to be sure, the sheets are white and not black but that’s where the night comes in. The staff are courteous. “Anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable” sounds to me like, “We’re sorry for your loss.” As for the food yes, it’s wholesome and tasteless enough to serve at someone’s funeral. I walk the beach, try to imagine what it would be like to be submerged in that briny forever I’ve heard it’s a very peaceful way to die. You float down. You breathe easily, calmly, until the moment that you don’t.
And now the neon sign out front is flashing â€œVacancy.â€? So is the ocean.
John Grey | A Drowning Resort
Yes it was a last July a guy staying at this place drowned.
Title O ut on ofthe Piece Salt Wreck Virginia Author Mallon Text
What Does It Take to Change A Town? Terry Martin Only sand. For six days, I’ve watched five Tibetan monks of Drepung Loseling lean easily over a raised square platform hour after hour in open concentration, tapping fine lines of colored sand. Holding a chakpur in one hand, each runs a metal rod along the funnel’s grated surface. Herbs flow like liquid, sound like a chant. Grain by grain, the monks tap colors of intention. This art is prayer. Men who embrace peace carry themselves differently. I could love them, I think, kind unlined faces, eyes like grandmothers’, compact bodies draped in flowing maroon robes. Could run my hand across soft black bristles of brush-cut hair, bury my nose in brown necks, smooth as wind. They summon tenderness. What will those of us who have learned to hold on tightly with both hands take away? At the end of the week they sweep the table clean scattering colorful grains to the sea.
recipient of the 2011 Sam Ragan Poetry Prize from Barton College. Her most recent published books include Jeffrey Alfier is winner of the Kithara Walking Twin Cities and Notenlesen für Book Prize for his poetry collection, Dummies Das Pocketbuch, and The TrouIdyll for a Vanishing River (Glass Lyre ble With Clare. Press, 2013). He is also author of The Wolf Yearling (Silver Birch Press) John Grey is an Australian born poet. and Terminal Island: Los Angeles Poems Recently published in Slant, Southern (Night Ballet, forthcoming), and has California Review and Skidrow Penthouse five-time Pushcart nominations and with work upcoming in Bryant Literary two for the UK’s Forward Prize in PoMagazine, Natural Bridge and Soundings etry. He is the founder and editor of East. San Pedro River Review. Chanel Brenner lives in Los Angeles with her husband and five-year-old son. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poet Lore, Rattle, Cultural Weekly, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Coachella Review, Foliate Oak, and Caveat Lector. She has written a collection of lyric and prose poems about the death of her six-year-old son. Amber Cecile Brodie is currently getting her MFA in Creative Writing at Fresno State University. Her poetry has been featured in Aquirelle and ZOUCH Magazine. She spends her days in Fresno studying, drinking wine, and watching Food Network. Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis who teaches needlepoint classes for the Minneapolis school district and writing classes at The Loft Literary Center. Her poetry has appeared in Borderlands, Slant, and The Mom Egg, and she is the
D. R. James is the author of the poetry collection Since Everything Is All I’ve Got (March Street Press 2011) and three poetry chapbooks (Finishing Line and Pudding House), with a fourth, Why War, to be released in May 2014 (Finishing Line). Poems have appeared in the anthologies Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry (New Issues Press 2013) and Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford (Woodley Press 2013), and in publications such as Hotel Amerika, North Dakota Quarterly, Oberon, Passager, Rattle, Ruminate, and Sycamore Review. James lives in Holland, Michigan, where he’s been teaching writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College, now going on thirty years. Richard Levine is the author of The Cadence of Mercy (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press), That Country’s Soul, A Language Full of Wars and Songs, Snapshots from a Battle, and most re-
poems have been published in Off The Coast, Cape Cod Poetry Review, The Aurorean, and Prime Time Magazine. She has twice won the Katherine Lee Bates award from the Falmouth Historical Society, and special honorable mention in Byline Magazine’s “Reason to Terry Martin has published over 350 Rhyme” contest. poems, essays, and articles, and three poetry books—Wishboats (2000), The Nina Pick lives and teaches in Secret Language of Women (2006) and Northern California, where she The Light You Find (forthcoming from is an editor of the Inverness AlmaBlue Begonia Press in 2014). She has nac. Her work has appeared or is also edited journals, books, and an- forthcoming in journals such as thologies. She teaches English at Cen- Arion, Stone Canoe, and ISLE, and tral Washington University, where she in several anthologies. Her first won the Distinguished Professor— book is forthcoming in 2015. Teaching Award and has been honored as a U.S. Professor of the Year by Emily Stout is a cleaner for an the CASE/Carnegie Foundation—a aircraft service group in Maryland. national teaching award given to rec- Her recent work has appeared in ognize extraordinary commitment and Commonweal Magazine. contribution to undergraduate education. She lives with her spouse in Yaki- Nicole St. Pierre was born and ma, Washington— The Fruit Bowl of raised in upstate New York and the Nation. currently resides just outside of Baltimore where she writes creKathleen McGookey is the author of ative nonfiction, poetry, and works Whatever Shines and October Again, and for the stage. She attended Elizathe translator of French poet Georges bethtown College in PennsylvaGodeau’s book We’ll See. Her chap- nia, where she was awarded the book Mended and her book At the Zoo Louise Baugher Black Award for are forthcoming. She lives with her Excellence in Nonfiction Writing family in Middleville, Michigan. and earned a bachelor’s degree in English and theatre. Most recentDonna O’Connell-Gilmore is a reg- ly, several of her creative nonficular and sometimes featured poet at tion essays have appeared in Emopen mic venues on Cape Cod. Her bodied Effigies and Fine Print literary
cently A Tide of a Hundred Mountains (Bright Hill Press, 2012). “Bread,” a poem from his last book, was recently featured in American Life in Poetry, former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s column. Levine’s “The Talkin’ Frackin’ Blues,” by mudpoet, is on youtube.
magazines. In addition, her plays have Writers’ Digest. been performed and held in staged reading throughout central Pennsyl- Carol Guess is the author of thirteen books of poetry and prose, including vania. Tinderbox Lawn and Doll Studies: ForenBrendan Todt is a poet and fiction sics. She teaches at Western Washingwriter living in Iowa. He’s the Edi- ton University. Follow her here: www. tor-in-Chief at Atlas and Alice, and his carolguess.blogspot.com work has been published in Ninth Letter, Tin House (online), Roanoke Review, Kelly Magee’s first collection, Body PANK, Nano Fiction, and others. His Language (UNT Press) won the Kathpoem “At the Particle Accelerator at erine Anne Porter Prize, and her secKrasnoyarsk” was anthologized in the ond collection, With Animal (co-writ2013 Best American Non-Required ten with Carol Guess) is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2015. Reading. Her writing has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, iction Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, and others. She teaches in the creative Kathie Giorgio’s third book, Learning writing program at Western WashingTo Tell (A Life)Time, debuted in Sep- ton University. tember 2013 to an audience of over 200 at the SE Wisconsin Festival of Brendan Lynaugh is a fiction writBooks, where Kathie was the wel- er and tennis instructor living in New coming Keynote. Her first book, The Jersey. His stories have appeared in InHome For Wayward Clocks, received the ertia Magazine, The Monongahela Review, Outstanding Achievement recognition and Black Heart Magazine. He is workby the Wisconsin Library Association ing on his first novel. Learn more at Literary Awards Committee and was brendanlynaugh.com. nominated for the Paterson Fiction Award. Giorgio’s short stories and po- Jennifer Robinette’s fiction has also ems have appeared in over 100 literary appeared in Silk Road Review, The Red magazines and in many anthologies. Clay Review, TINGE Magazine, and The She’s been nominated twice each for Blue Pen. One of her stories, “The Bell the Million Writer Award and the Best Choir,” was nominated for a Pushcart of the Net anthology. She is director Prize. She earned her doctorate in and founder of All Writers’ Workplace Creative Writing at the University of & Workshop and serves as a teacher North Dakota and her M.A. in Enand advisory board member for for glish at Northern Michigan University,
where she currently teaches writing Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospecand literature. tives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney onfiction Museum Of American Art, New York University, The GuggenMichael Hess is a filmmaker and heim Museum, The Hirshhorn writer who lives in Toronto. His films Museum & The Albright-Knox have played at the NYU Directorâ€™s Art Gallery. Series, NewFest, the American Cinemateque in Los Angeles, the Kansas Virginia Mallon is a painter, International Film Festival and the photographer and blogger with Beloit International Film Festival. His a focus on both human and enviwriting has appeared in Shenandoah, ronmental subjects. Her goal is to Red Savina Review, The Outrider Review, reflect and comment on the curAlleyCat News and Glitterwolf Magazine. rent state of the world whether it He worked previously for Goldman is the psychological undercurrent Sachs. For more information, please of contemporary society, envicheck out his website at http://hess- ronmental issues, or the challengstudios.wordpress.com es of the ordinary, the everyday life. Mostly, she hopes to illustrate the juxtaposition man and nature rt while paralleling the strengths and vulnerabilities of each. See more Elena Botts has been published in of her work at www.virginiamalover twenty literary magazines in the lon.com. past few years and is the winner of four poetry contests, including Word Works Young Poetsâ€™. Her poetry has been exhibited at the Greater Reston Art Center and her poetry book, A Little Luminescence is available at allbook-books.com.
Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and
Contributors Poetry Fiction Jeffrey Alfier Kathie Giorgio Chanel Brenner Carol Guess & Kelly Magee Amber Cecile Brodie Brendan Lynaugh Holly Day Jennifer Robinette John Grey D.R. James Art Richard Levine Elena Botts Terry Martin Ira Joel Haber Kathleen McGookey Virginia Mallon Donna Oâ€™Connell-Gilmore Nina Pick Emily Stout Nicole St. Pierre Brendan Todt Nonfiction Michael Hess
Issue 8: A magazine of literature and art.