a magazine of literature and art
featuring sequential word games rememberances of ancestry and the origins of pain Rowan University
Cover art: “Terrible Dawn” by Chrystal Berche The staff of Glassworks Magazine would like to thank Rowan University’s Master of Arts in Writing Program Rowan University’s Writing Arts Department and The Glassworks Advisory Board: Ron Block, Lisa Jahn-Clough, Jennifer Courtney, Martin Itzkowitz, Andrew Kopp, Jeffrey Maxson
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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 Katie Budris MANAGING EDITOR Andrew Davison SENIOR EDITORS Manda Frederick Joan Hanna Nick Tryling ASST. EDITORS Amanda Baldwin Andrew Bates Kathryn Brining Kevin Coopersmith Amanda Kozlowski Leslie Martinelli Denia R. Martinez Michael Nusspickel Jessica O’Shea Carly Szabo Kaitlin Zeilman SOCIAL MEDIA & MARKETING Jude Miller
glassworks Fall 2014 Issue Nine
MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING GRADUATE PROGRAM ROWAN UNIVERSITY
Poetry Tim Barnes The Cannibal of Memory | 47 Talanoa (Hindi), Idle Talk as a Social Adhesive | 46 Scott Beal, Warning and Watch | 29 Sean Brendan-Brown
Crows | 16
Ten Thousand Spears and Shields | 17 Leah Browning The First Day You Were in the Psychiatric Hospital | 28 Edward Butscher, Pigeons | 18
Bird Netting | 26
Wisteria From Seed | 27
Ruth Foley Dear Firefly | 63 High Tide at Bee Beach | 64 Rachel Lake
Compact Breathing | 71
My Mother’s Flowers | 70 Lupe Méndez, Tile | 72 Kimberly McClintock The Garden State | 4
In the Apple Tree | 5
Martha Silano Loveliest Fleeting | 15 Rondeau for the People of Nogents-Sur-Seine, France | 14
Carol Steinhagen, Lost Language | 3
June | 48
Swimming | 50 Linda Wang, Pretty Carolina Sunset | 7
Fiction Timothy Dodd, The Physicianâ€™s Advice | 8 Richard Dokey, Rainbow | 54 Stan Lee Werlin, Aspic Bayberry Cathedral | 32
Nonfiction Katharine Kress, Where the Tension Lies | 66 Kate Peterson, Atlantic City | 20
Fuschia Frolic | 52
Terrible Dawn | cover
Drain | 6 Spots | 62
Wax | 45 Mya Kerner Untitled Figure Study | 13 Lying Figure No. 1 | 30
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, and the willingness to explore and test conventional boundaries to create exciting new work is part of the continuing spirit inspiring Glassworks magazine.
Lost Language Carol Steinhagen
The only letter that remains from the grandmother I never knew was written on school tablet, every other line. A few sentences in pencil about gathering eggs and making cake now almost absorbed by the porous paper. She had learned to leave blank spaces from the husband who corrected her grammar from the daughters who knew words no lady spoke. At night, dishes done, kitchen floor swept, she crocheted round antimacassars. Her eloquent fingers wound white threads into intricate lacy webs, the dream maps of her world. Pinned to backs and arms of sofa and chairs they struggled against soil and silence. Now they absorb the clean, exotic scent of the daughtersâ€™ cedar chests, filling too small a part of the large space between then and now with their raveled unread language.
The Garden State Kimberly McClintock
I jog the roads, rainswept and cool, that frame the farmland where I grew up: not even Tuscany is lovelier than October in New Jersey with its filament of fog and startled doe. But, Octoberâ€™s what I see, not what I remember. Not gladiola swathes and crimson bogs, but a sky so elaborate a blanket even an insomniac can sleep. Diagonals of peach trees, each a dark hand cupping a crust of snow. February, bitter cold, men stomping toward us, rabbit, quail, emptied, slung in their kidney pouches. They swung us up into the smell of gunpowder, bluing, linseed oil; scratch of wool, walnut stocks propped at the garden door. Children astride shoulders, we ducked doorframes, bobbed inside for chili lately frozen as their beards, chopped into chunks, heated, picked through so no one swallowed the snapped tip of my motherâ€™s knife.
In the Apple Tree Kimberly McClintock
My mother hollers from the kitchen, you get down the same way you got up, which really doesn’t tell me much. From here, I can see the pond I dug, buttercups stuck to the mud side floated ‘til the water drained out. I haven’t broken anything yet bigger than my big toe, and I’ve been up here six or seven times, but I think I must’ve never got down. My mother’s mother says I’m not ladylike. The apples from this tree are hard and sour and rot to mush hidden in the grass, squeeze up between your toes and yellow-jackets tuck inside and when you pick the apples up sometimes your fingers push right through, even the not-rotten ones are sour, but they don’t taste as bad as dog food. Neighbor boys bay in the street, punch of a kicked ball. Breeze sways the branches, and my stomach folds up, puts my legs away for good. My sister in the sandbox sings how bad it smells, so bad, of cats. Her favorite Monopoly piece was the dog and it’s missing. She thinks I hid it and my mother believes her, but really it’s just gone, like one of the gold hoops Grandmom gave me for my birthday was in my ear when I left for school, but not when I came home. That’s the house where Louie lived who died of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. He got it from a tick. Mom’s in the window saying, get down now, it’s time for lunch, mom who, I’m certain, has never climbed a tree.
Pretty Carolina Sunset Linda Wang
Brows low, the sun bloodies the palmettos. Already, the heavy air dreams of nightfall circling blue mosquito pools, cupping dark eyes with layers of kohl. In the pleasure garden, the nurse parks the man with no legs on the brickwalk. She’s silent. It’s what he prefers. Not her Boston accent muddying up the Carolina sky with empty words: corned beef, some disease they cured, goings on in the world that’s left them both, passed on. This vacation town of newlyweds in vineyards with heavy lids, damp mouths, clothes patted down on branching limbs. The citronella’s lit. Vigil in darkness, cicada-rich. Their only disfigurements ones of the heart. The nurse must talk. “What a pretty sunset, Walter. I’ve wanted to come here ever since I was young. It’s romantic, isn’t it? I could cry.” “No,” he says. And on she goes: “We’ll be eaten alive. Out here, our blood’s a warm feast for the mosquitoes. Let’s go in. All right?”
The Physician’s Advice Timothy B. Dodd
I learned early on that a disdain for doctors is sometimes justified. In sixth grade Dr. Fellows convinced my mother I needed surgery to widen my urinary meatus. Two years later a lung operation damaged my grandmother’s heart. Whether through misdiagnosis, over-prescribing medication, surgical error, or general tampering, I learned from a number of first and second-hand experiences that doctors can harm a person’s body. But I never imagined a doctor might interfere with a kid’s choices in life. “I wouldn’t let my son go to a third world country,” Dr. Yekwahs told my mother after informing us I needed hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and yellow fever vaccinations for my five-week study trip to Egypt. I had won a national contest for high school students and finally gained parental approval two weeks earlier. “But if he goes, make sure he takes a daily dose of doxycycline to fight all the nasty bacteria he’ll be putting in his body.” His instructions put a strange look on Mother’s face, similar to the one when my older sister forced her to watch The Exorcist, and only caused more nasty spats at home in which I had to defend my interest and participation all over again. Except for a high school Quiz
Bowl trip to Marietta and family vacations to Myrtle Beach, Dollywood, and King’s Island, I had never traveled outside of West Virginia. Neither had my parents. Mom and Dad were Bible-believing, petunia-growing, name-brand-laundry-detergent- loving overachievers who grew up without electricity in the hollows of Clay County. They worked hard to buy a house in a Charleston subdivision where my two sisters and I grew up college-bound. They never related to my interest in books and art and culture, so I didn’t expect them to understand my interest in a faraway land as significant to them as rotten peanuts. Their son was a seventeen-year-old boy who didn’t drink, date, hunt, or drive. They probably thought I might run for president some day. Still, I couldn’t forgive Dr. Yekwahs for the additional arguments his advice caused. In fact, I even thought about him when I boarded my flight for Cairo later that June. Why did he try to wreck the first thing I had actually desired in years? Why did he put his stethoscope where it didn’t belong? Only when the TWA flight reached cruising altitude did I convince myself to stop thinking about him. But the plan to forget Dr.
I knew I had changed. Choosing a cereal from the hundreds of options in a supermarket now confused me, food at home tasted bland, friends mostly bored me, and the rift with my parents grew wider. like it was too little too late. The next few days I walked and moved gingerly. I even slept gingerly. I wore an ugly hat that shaded my entire face and tried to stay out of the sun despite one mind-
bending experience after another: Egyptian Museum, Citadel, Giza Pyramids. It took a full week before my skin returned to its rightful paleness. When I arrived home five weeks later, Mom and Dad feigned interest in my photographs, but mostly they just celebrated that this crazy experience in my life was over. They didn’t understand my excitement when I described Cairo or practiced Arabic. I couldn’t communicate to them the awe of seeing the temples at Karnak and Luxor, gazing at hieroglyphics, or riding a felucca on the Nile. They took no interest in it at all. But I knew I had changed. Choosing a cereal from the hundreds of options in a supermarket now confused me, food at home tasted bland, friends mostly bored me, and the rift with my parents grew wider. But I still hadn’t forgotten my favorite doctor.
Timothy B. Dodd | The Physician’s Advice
Yekwahs didn’t last. On my first day in Cairo I woke up from a pre-dinner nap with a bright pink face. Dr. Yekwahs never mentioned that doxycycline causes sensitivity to sunlight, and the sting of a North African scorching ruined all the excitement of Cairo’s chaotic traffic and flowing galibyas, intriguing Zabbaleen and lovely Fatimid mosques. Mrs. Gunderson, one of the program directors, instructed me to apply cold compresses and moisturizing cream, then asked if I was taking any antibiotics. After I learned none of the other students took doxycycline, I dropped the rest of the pills in the trash, but felt
I returned to Dr. Yekwahs for my annual check-up in December, entering his office with more confidence. His slicked-back hair, doctor’s overcoat, and WVU diplomas no longer intimidated me. For the first time I greeted him with a handshake, followed by “Salaam alaikum.” One or the other caused him to snicker. “How was your trip?” he asked.
“Egypt, wasn’t it?” “I’ve never felt better,” I replied. “Those third world countries really work wonders. Must have been all the koshari and camel I ate.” Dr. Yekwahs didn’t respond as his smile faded. “Of course I couldn’t complete your doxycycline prescription as a result of the terrible sunburn it gave me on the very first afternoon. You know the other scholars came from eighteen different states and none of their doctors prescribed them preventative antibiotics.” Dr. Yekwahs ignored my comments and turned to his small cabinet to pick up a tongue depressor. “Hey, never mind modern medicine, what do you know about ancient Egypt?” I asked. “Would you consider it one of the world’s great civilizations?” “Of course.” “Did you know the domestication of dogs may have first occurred in Egypt? Fascinating stuff. Your wife has a saluki doesn’t she?” “Yes, she does,” Dr. Yekwahs replied. “Open up so I can check your throat.” I opened my mouth, stuck out my tongue, and let the foul-tasting stick enter. “Her name is Memphis.” “Mrs. Memphis Yekwahs. Has a ring I suppose.” “Turn to the left please,” he said, holding up his otoscope and ignoring my joke. “You know, I think even my sense
of humor improved with that trip.” I didn’t bother Dr. Yekwahs for the rest of the check-up. By that point he probably just thought I had “come out of my shell,” another chatty teen. “Well, you appear to be in good condition,” he said after completing the exam. “Any questions?” “Look, I know this is the first time I’ve ever asked you anything,” I said, “but I may be in need of some more vaccinations.” Dr. Yekwahs tilted his head. “Oh, are you thinking of going back to Egypt?” “Yes, I am. And I’m going to need vaccinations against provincialism, small-mindedness, and idiocy just to make it back to the airport.” I stood up and walked to the door. “Please don’t inform my mother, but I may need one for interracial relationships as well. That might include Muslims.” I left the office content with my performance. Outside the medical building Mom hadn’t returned from taking her slacks back to Stone & Thomas, so there was time for one final jab. From my backpack I took out a tourist decal of an Egyptian flag that I had brought back for Dr. Yekwahs. I scanned the parking lot and located his black BMW. I walked casually to his vehicle, unpeeled the sticker, and stuck it on his rear bumper. Mom appeared a minute later as if she had experience
news. The doctor’s seventeen year old son had died over Thanksgiving, the driver and lone fatality in a single-car drinking and driving accident. Two friends in his car had recovered from moderate injuries. Mom said I should reschedule the appointment for summertime, but I told her not to worry. If Dr. Yekwahs kept the appointment, so would I. No matter how angry he made me, I sympathized with his loss. Three days later I entered the doctor’s office and greeted him. Dr. Yekwahs had always been a thin man, but now he had lost fifteen to twenty pounds and looked frail. He had reddened eyes and a blank face. His shoulders slouched. As I watched him prepare materials for the checkup I sensed he didn’t care whether I was a teenage adversary or Governor Caperton. He checked my eyes, looked in my nose, and followed my breathing without saying a word. In five minutes the exam ended, and I started to dress. While bending over to put on my shoes the door opened. I assumed Dr. Yekwahs left the room, but instead he paused at the door. “There are roughly 30,000 deaths per year in the United States due to drunk driving, many of them teens. But I hope you realize that malaria alone causes over half a million deaths
Timothy B. Dodd | The Physician’s Advice
in the art of the get-away. After eating lunch at home I stayed near the telephone in anticipation of Dr. Yekwahs’ call. It came at a quarter to six. When I picked up the phone and said hello, he tried to disguise his voice. “Just a second and I’ll get her for you,” I replied. I paused five seconds. “By the way, I forgot to ask you. How was your vacation to Daytona Beach last summer?” I didn’t wait for his answer. Later that evening Mom told Dad what happened and they grounded me for a week. It didn’t matter. I preferred to sit in my room anyway. Dad laughed about the Egyptian flag sticker, but he supported Mom and tried to fake disapproval. I reiterated the doxycycline mess to prove Dr. Yekwahs got what he deserved, but this infuriated Mom even more. I didn’t see Dr. Yekwahs until my next check-up a year later. By then I had graduated high school and finished a semester at Concord College. Mother reminded me of the decal incident and made me promise I wouldn’t embarrass her again before she scheduled the winter break appointment. In halftruth I told her I held no grudge against the doctor. But when I returned home on a cold, midDecember evening after taking final exams, Mom gave me unexpected
annually in Africa, and most of them aren’t adults either.” Then the door closed with a needless bang. I remained in the seat for a few moments longer, contemplating the situation. I knew Dr. Yekwahs was grieving and also probably angry at me for embarrassing him a year earlier. I also knew he had mixed his apples and oranges rather than showing any knowledge learned in a statistics course. There was virtually no risk of malaria in Egypt anyway. But I didn’t argue. I left the exam room, his office, and the medical building. I walked to my Chevette, still thinking about Dr. Yekwahs’ illogical comments and emotional state. When I got to the side of the medical building I looked up to his fourth floor office. Despite the glare on the building from a sun peeping through grey clouds, I saw Dr. Yekwahs looking down at me through the window. Because of the distance and the reflection, or perhaps something happening to Dr. Yekwahs himself, the face appeared so strange that I began to doubt it was him. Dr. Yekwahs looked not only old, but oddly prehistoric. His face had narrowed even more since I departed his office, now as thin as Akhenaten’s, and deep indentions in his jaw reminded me of a mummy. As I watched, the face turned angry and started to wrinkle. Dr. Yekwahs’ mouth opened and his head shook
as he shouted words I couldn’t hear. I ran around the corner of the building to my parked car and saw the newly attached, bright yellow bumper sticker: “Kids don’t let kids drive drunk.” I got in the car and sat for a moment before turning on the engine. I never mentioned the experience to anyone, and I never went back to see Dr. Yekwahs. But in the subsequent months as I began to research study abroad programs for my junior year, I remembered him many times. In fact, I still remember him. Sometimes I think about the thousands of teens, including his son, who die each year due to drunk driving. But those thoughts are usually replaced by a more vivid image of Yekwahs’ disturbing, thinning face. Then I begin to wonder how many youths die slow deaths each year, their dreams suffocated by nosey professionals and contorted minds twisting reality.
Author Mya Kerner
TFigure itle of Study Piece Text
Title of Piece
Rondeau for the People of Nogents-Sur-Seine, France Martha Silano
We could not say missile, even among ourselves. We called it our dear one. To give it a name gave it power; we called it anything other. Where once there had been only hay and castles, churches and garlic and sunflowers, a new crop rose from the fields of black dirt, crop of concrete towers. Some of the people, as always, said no, tried to keep the brilliance from their town, the good intentions of science. What of reverence for the healthy cell? The wrens and robins keep singing, children balance on a bridge above the Seine, laughing, jumping, floating toward disaster. We called it our dear one, played down the part about the devilâ€™s pact, the lack of conscience, our daily complicity, the drive each day to the plant, distance the whine of evacuation sirens, Geiger counterâ€™s clicks, souring milk, inedible chevre. We do not speak of her, invisible spinster butt-naked on the bank. No gaping. No alarm. What a sentence. We called it our dear one.
Loveliest Fleeting Martha Silano
I kept the finite with me, tucked it in my shoe. Days went galloping by while it rattled off facts about mastodons and mammoths, men in clothes made of skins. Sometimes it pierced my foot, clovis-point reminder of the opposite of smooth, cozy in my clean-sheeted bed. It wasn’t friendly, but I listened anyway through all four seasons. Instead of a mouth it had mold. Instead of arms, a placard: “Ammonite, Bothell, Washington, seventy million years before present.” Instead of lips a scream. Wedged in my shoe like the clay tablet containing the first written words, chafing like the first minted coin. Fixing to bang it out, this seed lying dormant a thousand years before sprouting. Fixing to pry it away from my arch as it asks me: Who was your great grandmother’s mother? Where did she live? What did she eat?
Sean Brendan-Brown When I was a boy everyone shot crows— God-given right— though I was sorry for them I thought them malevolent too, all black and bloody; one night dad brought home six babies, caged them with plywood, staples and chicken-wire. The crows made no noise. I fed them toast & scraps; the cage remained a week then suddenly it was empty— I pressed my face into wire— the screen smelled of crow, rust, bread and bacon drippings. Released, they must have cawed excitement; I envied their wings, their undisguised hatred and committed cold black eyes which held my own when I fed them peanuts. They scorned my sympathy and jabbed my fingers without apology.
Ten Thousand Shields and Spears Sean Brendan-Brown
The VA surgeons finished my father with a genre of cuts. I lit his cigarettes below scarlet keloids— humor still in him he wrote someday these really will kill me. His last request was cremation so cancer would know fire. When it was over I took him to the place of burning, listened to the roar of furnace. I shook his can of ashes into Lake Michigan. Fragrant diesel lapped them up & I prayed “Earth, reassemble him with pig iron bones, draw his heart in quartz.” My father loved winter, laughed at my ineptitude with cold’s rules— my inability to fix, with a slap, the radio. Today, ice closed Cedar River, ten thousand spears rattled glass shields. If this shack had value I’d buy my way warm. Santa’s coming the TV warns: another sad quarrel; trees stripped, scabrous rose petals heaped. Expect ice dad’s radio gloats. I switch it off, vacuum tubes exhale heat onto the bull’s-eyes of my palms. The radio doesn’t speak anymore and as dad’s not here to fix it so it remains— hot box tick-ticking, without news.
Edward Butscher A dark, lean, hard man who spoke little forever hatted like a taxicab driver, his childish smile rare as a peacock unfolding below the flock of pigeons that exploded from upturned palms like electrified stones, his form distinct above us on the tenement roof: a foreign saint set against rabid clouds. He was our uncle, we were told, but he never looked at us, shy as a Dutch tulip, and my father said in secret (man to man) that he was only a cousin from the family’s corrupt branch where blood seethed wild with syphilis herds and was thin enough to candle eggs—his wife a huge balloon figure sloped over a kitchen window chair who could not bear children. It was on the Lower East Side, just after the war when we first glimpsed him and his pigeon host and I guessed from the way my father gauged his rooster frame that he was unique, a specimen divine in the madness propelling him into the sky each morning, a laugh like startled mallards as he unlatched the wire door and slowly pivoted on tar paper in tune, in time, to circling shafts of light. Near the end of both their lives, my father and he sat side by side in a urine-stained couch to monitor TV soap operas. Teeth gone, nearly deaf, he could not stop clucking as my father sipped his headless beers, reciting newspaper horror stories by rote— fried infants, raped co-eds, tortured cats—asking me once if I had ever tasted a “coon hair pie.”
Edward Butscher | Pigeons
At my fatherâ€™s wake, he slumped alone in the rear and played with himself, cave grin bearing witness to the betrayal of our shared laughter, and soon he was also dead, his wife dancing in a thin nightgown on the griddle of a snow-ribbed street, while black attendants handled him gently into an ambulance, dawn horizon bleak as a tossed purse, pigeons ascending like tattered angels from my mouth.
Atlantic City: Where all your dreams come true Kate Peterson
I woke up in my plaid party dress, with one strap snapped off and my father snoring next to me. He explained why the hell I was sharing a hotel bed with him by pointing to the other half of the room. I didn’t remember puking all over the thin floral comforter. Or the berber carpet. Or into the sink. Dr. Jonathan Pitney envisioned Atlantic City to be a health resort. The ocean would be good for people. The sound of it, the smell. My little sister’s boyfriend handed me a blunt by a lifeguard stand. Jenni had climbed into the tower and wanted me to take her picture. I was distracted by some spinning in the sky. The seagulls looked like pieces of floating paper, illuminated by the lights of the storefronts, the casinos. The boardwalk was built in 1870 as a way to keep the sand out of the hotel lobbies. The staff had become too busy sucking it out of the carpets. Let them track their grains across the boards. My dad left two twenties on the bed. Wrote, So sorry on a coaster. I spent the afternoon on a deck chair by the indoor pool, under the rounded glass ceiling. I watched the sun move across the sky. I was too hungover to drive home. The first road into the city came out of Pleasantville: the town where Sonora Webster died. She might have walked down that road. She might have gone home by way of memory, after losing her vision in a dive. Her hands were tight into the horse’s mane, she had just forgotten to close her eyes. I put my palm on the painted wall of the Tropicana, pretending to stroke the soft muzzle of the falling gelding. Ken, the boy I had loved since preschool, took my picture. He was about to leave for Afghanistan. In the car I asked if he would kiss me. Don’t get me wrong, was all he could say. In the black-and-white photographs the diving horses sometimes
When we crossed the bridge into the city, Tommy, a boy I was seeing, opened his eyes wider. Gripped the steering wheel tighter. He had never seen so many lights, never their reflection in water.
Kate Peterson | Atlantic City
look like they are about to spin upside-down, land on their backs.
After 1878 one road was not enough. Tourists were coming from Philadelphia. They had to put down rails. Tommy and I met in a bar in Old City. He asked how he compared in real life to his internet profile. I told him I thought he would be taller. I told him not to ask girls those kinds of questions. Salt water taffy doesn’t taste like it sounds. The story goes that the little shop flooded after a bad storm, and even though it was soaked they still sold it. And the name— stuck. It snowed at home during the night. In the morning we drove down the expressway and the trees started getting whiter and whiter. I had broken his heart, and he hadn’t seen it coming. During prohibition many people died after drinking gin that had been sitting in tubs for days. They tried to flavor it with berries that fermented in the stagnant pools. The first time I went to AC without my parents I was seventeen. I hosted a party at a hotel right out of town, couldn’t afford to stay within the city limits. We went to a concert, filled the bathtub up with beer cans, almost didn’t wake up. Enoch L. ‘Nucky’ Johnson ran the Atlantic City crime scene for over twenty years. He was arrested in 1941 for tax evasion. He was handcuffed to the Deputy Marshall, who
never even dropped his cigarette as they strolled down the boards. When Tommy drove away from my house for the last time, I took pictures of our tracks in the white driveway. The spot where our feet met. I tried to remember the moment that I knew he was the wrong man. The moment I decided to keep it going anyway. By the edge of the water the police broke into barrels with axes. Only five of them swung. Eight more stood around with their hands in their pockets, watching the beer hiss into the sky. My dad introduced me to two women after he left my mother. I saw the eyes of at least three more on me at parties and across the room at restaurants. Do you know that woman? I would ask. Should I order an appetizer? He would answer. I saw a picture of Flossie Osbeck, Nucky’s wife, cutting into her wedding cake. She looked just like Kat, my dad’s new fiancé. Same far-away look, knowing that her husband was about to be put away. My dad met Kat at the Borgata. He told me that he met Donna Summer there too, in the seventies, when he was putting wires into the shell of some new casino. I pictured him thin, dusty lightcolored jeans, hardhat, no idea what he was about to do. The first Miss America was from D.C. She had a boxy nose and front teeth that were squared off at the sides. They called the girls Bathers, paraded them up and down the boardwalk in sashes. A girl I knew in college won the title of Miss New Jersey in 2012, but didn’t get past the first round of Miss America. Her face was too circular, her eyes too small. For a whole year she brought Ziploc bags full of carrots out to the bars. She ate them in dark corners. Watched our wine glasses. Watched the lines in our lips stripe red. During the Depression many hotels were shut down or turned into brothels, drug dens, and nursing homes.
Charles Darrow claimed to have invented Monopoly. He retired at 46 and moved to the country to raise exotic orchids. In truth the game was already being played under another name. Lizzie Magie developed and described The Landlord’s Game in 1902. It was made to teach children economics. Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied.
Kate Peterson | Atlantic City
My grandmother called from the lobby, asked if I could come down. It was Easter Sunday and she was playing the slots. My aunt Joanne pushed her in a wheelchair, carried the plastic cup full of coins. Both of their husbands were gone. Mom-mom tried to explain the severity of Joanne’s depression these days. Told me that she crawled into bed with her most nights, crying quietly under the creamcolored sheets.
My dad licked the salty corner of his left hand and threw his head back, bit down on a slice of lime and stomped hard on the hotel floor with his right foot. I wondered if he realized how deep the lines had gotten — around his knuckles, circling his elbows, his eyes. In the eighties Mike Tyson brought the city back with his fists. It only took him ninety-one seconds. Once, after my dad’s company Christmas party, my sister brought twelve basketball players into our hotel room. I had never fought so hard with her. I balled up my right hand and went for the soft parts of her back. In 1908 the mayor of Atlantic City ignored an order from the governor to close bars on Sundays. Religious leaders, defeated, held hope in the idea that good people would stay away from the city, causing it to sink into financial ruin. But the people kept coming. Evangelicals explained that Americans had lost their souls. My Danish friend Mette asked me to show her America. We ate
dinner in a plastic rainforest. The wait staff paraded a flaming volcanic brownie past our table four times. I’m sorry, Kate. I know that you hate it, but I have to smoke, she said. Her heels kept getting stuck in the space between the boards. When Hurricane Sandy hit the shore, the television told us that the whole boardwalk was washed out. That the entire city was being blown away. Now the place is dying for tourists. They don’t even know it’s still there. My dad’s business partner is on his second wife and third girlfriend. All three of his kids were always allowed to go to the company parties, but my siblings and I were not. The first year we were old enough to be invited, my brother stayed home to play video games. I took my boyfriend Jay, and we danced and flirted and kissed the way young twenty-somethings do in front of strangers. The second wife remarked to my mother how sweet it was that my brother and I were so close. In an attempt to dissuade the homeless population from sleeping under the boardwalk, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority closed off many of the access points. Smoke them out. Drown them out. Flush them out. I couldn’t sleep in the bed with Jay, with my sister throwing up in the bathroom, with my dad downstairs about to leave my mother for a cocktail waitress. But as I drove down the expressway a little after three, I found myself nodding at the wheel. If only I could set up a bed in the Pine Barrens. I could swirl all the pills down the toilet, unplug the sound of the water from the wall. Terence Winter developed the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. He had a team of researchers on staff to make sure that the historical information would be correct, but he opted to fictionalize the characters themselves. He did this because he knew the audience would be waiting for the famous punchlines, the infamous assassinations. It’s like looking through a crystal ball and you’re like, ‘Oh God, is that how it ends?’ Sometimes it’s better not to know.
Bruce Springsteen was born in Long Branch and gives New Jersey credit for much of his artistic inspiration.
Kate Peterson | Atlantic City
Tommy didn’t understand women’s bodies. He didn’t get my jokes. He would cut our dates short to save money, to go home and eat spaghetti alone on his couch. He told me that he wanted to write. All of his stories were about the women he had fucked. I heard him crying in the bathroom after I finally told him to stop. I pushed his naked body off of mine and told him it was over. I couldn’t take any more. No, not just tonight, all of it. It’s done.
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City.
Bird Netting Jeremy Cantor
Her head was slightly cocked, wind-ruffled feathers shedding drops of rain. The way she’d entered to find shelter from the rain last year was now impassible, yet visible. This puzzled her beyond her small capacity for thought and so she paced the ledge, a matter of a foot or so, confused, but capable of wishing herself inside last year’s shelter from this year’s weather. She’d flown about the building where the nets had been installed that kept her from establishing a newer perch, so now she looked again at last year’s roost while images emerged (disjointed in her mind, not strung together in life’s narrative of self) of a mate, and a dry nest cradling warm eggs.
Wisteria From Seed Jeremy Cantor
“Almost no one grows wisteria from seed,” I told my sons. “This one has a healthy set of leaves so it ought to flower in about ten years.” I’m sixty now. A botany professor showed our class a bamboo plant. He said, “This flowers every forty years. I won’t be here to finish the experiments I might start now. If any of you are planning graduate studies, please see me after class. I’ve got some ideas I’d like to try.” I never thought myself a man of faith yet I grow wisteria from seed while others study bamboo, plant vineyards, grow olives, raise children.
The First Day You Were in the Psychiatric Hospital Leah Browning
We visited twice, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. The second time, he took a miniature carton of H채agen-Dazs ice cream (mint chocolate chip, your favorite) and two plastic spoons. I took a pair of brightly colored socks with suns and moons and blue and purple cats and a shower of sparkling golden stars. You had lost so much weight that your skin, that day, was almost translucent. I can still remember how small and fragile your fingers looked as he handed you a spoon. But before we were allowed to go upstairs to see you, we had to stop again at the security desk. Your name was written in pen on a line in their book. Already, you had been given a number. I removed the keys and coins from my pockets, prepared this time for the sudden intimacy of the wand, brushing my outstretched arms and the lengths of the backs of my legs.
Warning and Watch Scott Beal
Today I told a four-year-old people can be struck by lightning. So now she has that to worry about. Brilliant timing, with the sky bunching its fists and tuning its drums. Studies prove what we see is no roll of smoke from a celestial palace collapsing. Weâ€™re schooled in the degrees between warning and watch. I rushed the kids to cower inside. Then stood and saw the hull of a warship cross slowly over my roof. No pause or cannon blast. It carried its cargo and arsenal unhurried toward the horizon as I gaped from the bottom of the sea.
Lying Figure No. 1 Mya Kerner
Aspic Bayberry Cathedral Stan Lee Werlin
It’s almost midnight when they leave the beach, tired, thirsty, still too high from the freely flowing weed. They’re jammed into Ed’s aging blue Volkswagen, Lisbeth up front, Jonathan and Denise crowbarred into the tiny back seat as they head onto the Mid-Cape Highway for the trip back to Manhattan from Truro. Each of them has finals in the morning, so they’re looking at an all night drive to get there on time. There’s no choice. The Beatles are on the radio. Sometimes the Stones, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix. The era of psychedelic rock has just begun and the dope is like an accelerant for them, heightening the rhythm, the chords, the weighty, counterculture lyrics of so many songs they hear and play endlessly. One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all. “A New York beer container, four syllables.” They’re playing that rhyming game - hinky pinky - and Lisbeth, the English major whose poetry has begun to attract attention from the literary journals, throws out another killer challenge. She’s sure they’ll never get it. They’ve already missed “a sergeant penny, two syllables” (copper copper), “Father’s Day thief, three syllables” (pop-gifter
shoplifter), and even “archival conundrum, three syllables” (history mystery). Their senses are dulled. Ed flails away at the word puzzle. “Greenwich Village lager fillage?” He knows it’s an awful guess as soon as he says it. He’s heading to Cornell Med School in the fall, doesn’t like losing at anything. There’s nothing between him and Lisbeth, they’re just good friends, but Jonathan and Denise are another thing entirely. They’re groping each other in the back seat and are only half-interested in the game. “Come on guys, help me out here.” Ed is exasperated. “Didn’t you get enough on the beach?” Jonathan comes up for air and laughs. “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” he starts in. “It’s not me, it’s the insatiable nymphomaniac back here.” He laughs again, a dope-filled wheeze. When Denise grabs him in the crotch and grinds him a little too playfully, he pulls her hand away. “Oh man, that hurts. I’m out of commission now.” She hates it when he calls her a nympho, even though she knows it’s true. Right now, Denise hates a lot of things about her life. She realizes she’s not going anywhere with her history major. She’d like to write but is intimidated by Lisbeth’s talent. The idea of following Jonathan to
Stan Lee Werlin | Aspic Bayberry Cathedral
at all about next year?” her mother asks. Denise’s silence speaks volumes. “You know Daddy and I can send you to any graduate program you want.” Her father’s constant badgering about “after Columbia” seems increasingly impatient and accusatory. “You think I’ve squandered my college education, don’t you?” she asks, and gets nothing for an answer. Last summer she would often lock herself in the basement recreation room, ignoring their pleas to come out and talk, shouting at them through the door. “I hate living here! I hate it! Graduation can’t come soon enough!” Her focus, her only current bright spot, is a newfound quest for higher consciousness and spirituality, a quest that has taken her obsessively into mysticism. And drugs. Jonathan’s thinking about the Her focus, her only trying to forget the dull current bright spot, puzzle, pain in his genitals. “How are we is a newfound quest going to get four syllables?” he Ed. “Lower East Side? L.I. for higher conscious- asks Railroad? Keg of Miller? What’ll ness and spirituality, a we do for the other half ?” Ed his hands up in the air, quest that has taken throws pounds the steering wheel. her obsessively into “C’mon, Denise. You in the game?” mysticism. “Give up, guys,” she says. “Give up.” Lisbeth is cackling, makinquisition that chafes away at her ing that playful sound she makes fragile identity. “Have you thought when she stumps them, somebusiness school to live with him, an exciting and rebellious thought, has gradually given way to a cascade of conflicting feelings. At first she thought it inevitable and virtuous, selfless; now she sees it as shortsighted, repulsive, idiotic. She’s not even sure it’s going to be an option. He’s on the waiting list at three business schools and doesn’t know where he’ll be in three months. He calls each school every week for status checks on his progress up the lists, but there hasn’t been any. “They’re holding me hostage,” he complains angrily to Denise. To everyone else, he’s full of false bravado. Her conversations with her parents, fewer and fewer each month, have all become short, sharp slugfests, a metronomic
thing she’s been doing all day with frightening regularity. “It’s a Knickerbocker liquor locker, you dopes.” Ed and Jonathan give out a tired groan. Denise reaches over, yanks Lisbeth’s hair lightly. “Way to go!” she applauds, even though she had no idea of the answer herself. “Liz, you’re killing us. We accept defeat yet again. No more hinky pinky,” Ed pleads. “How about a round of Sequence? Keep us alert.” He doesn’t wait for an answer. “I’ll start. Aspic.” It’s a memory game they all know well. Each player repeats in alphabetical order the words called out previously, then adds a new word beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. Miss a word and you’re out. Lisbeth’s next. “Aspic bayberry.” Then Denise, “Aspic bayberry cathedral.” Jonathan adds “dandelion.” “Aspic bayberry cathedral dandelion.” Denise is still high, so much higher than all the others, her personal unhappiness exaggerated even further by the state she’s in. She sees it flying at her, a seething dragon of contempt consuming what’s left of her self-esteem. She’s desperate to flee from it, somewhere, anywhere. Suddenly she has something to say. “Do any of you ever wonder if there might be some sort of cosmic code that can unlock us from the world, let us travel be-
yond?” Her demeanor is strangely calm and controlled, almost serene. “Maybe a sequence of words or numbers, a set of tasks that needs to be done in some exact order until they click in like those little combination locks and – presto! – the lock is open?”
It’s a memory game they all know well. Each player repeats in alphabetical order the words called out previously, then adds a new word beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. Miss a word and you’re out. Lisbeth sighs. “Let’s not get started on this again Denise, okay? It’s a long ride home. Let’s just play the game.” Jonathan reaches for her hand, tries to pull her toward him, but Denise is already sensing his impatience. She knows he’ll just try to placate her and she won’t let it go that easily. She won’t let it go at all. “The cosmic code, it’s not just a numbers thing. I’m sure of it. It could be in the words too. It’s centered on the number twenty-six.” Denise is more animated than she’s been all day. “I’ve been researching it. Don’t you see? It’s so obvious.
love, embodying harmony and beauty. A string of twenty-six words would be an achievement powerful beyond your imagination. Wouldn’t you say so, Liz?” Liz just nods and murmurs her assent; she knows at this point with Denise it’s better just to play along. Ed adds “echelon” to the wordstring and the game moves on. They’re up to J quickly; Lisbeth adds the word “jacks.” “Aspic bayberry cathedral dandelion echelon felicity guru hijack ingenious jacks,” she recites, glad to have made it this far. It’s Denise’s turn, but she’s preoccupied with her ideas about the cosmic code and doesn’t care if the game loses steam. She still wants to get everyone thinking about that escape route she’s after. “It’ll take us to the exit ramp,” she says. “Lead us all right out of here to the alternate universe. It’s the only way we’ll find it.” They don’t immediately recognize what she’s talking about. It’s a complete nonsequitur. Jonathan leans over, takes her face in his hands. “What are you talking about, Denise? You’re not making any sense.” Denise looks hurt, numb. “Jonathan, the twenty-six words. The sequence. The cosmic code.” “Here we go, again,” Ed
Stan Lee Werlin | Aspic Bayberry Cathedral
Remember the Golden Rectangle? The ultimate symbol of perfection. Classical and Renaissance Art. What were the dimensions of the Golden Rectangle? Eight by five by eight by five. Twenty-six. The right twenty-six words will open a portal to an alternate universe and away we go!” Jonathan starts to say something, but Denise shushes him, clamps her hand over his mouth. “Twenty-six letters in the alphabet. Do you know how special the number twenty-six is? In Hebrew, the values of the letters that make up the word for God add to twenty-six. If one of us gets all the way to Z, we’ll be closer to God. We’ve never done it before. But I’m going to get us there, I can just feel it. Salvation. I’m going to take us there tonight.” Ed’s instantly in her face about this. “You’re going to take us where, Denise? To God? Me, I just want to get back to New York, take finals, sleep for the next two days. Where do you get this crap?” He turns and scowls at her. “You’re into numerology now? Man, you’re over the edge.” There’s genuine contempt in his voice, and Denise feels it. “Actually, the numerology of twenty-six is quite intriguing, Ed.” Her voice has an amused quality to it; she loves to see him angry, especially when she’s the cause. “The numeral two provides balance. The six is the number of
jabbers from the front seat. “C’mon, Denise, add a word and forget the philosophy.” He’s impatient to get on with the game, eager to dominate, proud of his memory skills, honed razor-sharp by the complexities of organic chemistry and the other pre-med sciences. He always expects to win. “No, put the game on hold for a minute, OK?” She’s petulant, irritated by Ed’s demeaning putdowns. “Don’t you think it’s possible? I mean metaphorically, at least, maybe not literally a strip of pavement somewhere where we can drive the car off the road and into the twilight zone, but a parallel universe or an alternate universe where there’s another you, someone who’s similar to you but isn’t exactly you and he or she is the you in that other universe?” Lisbeth pipes in. “Sweetie, I think maybe you smoked a little too much dope tonight, that’s all I think.” She’s not looking for a response. They all overdid it and they’re still jazzed up. Besides, she’s heard this from Denise before; they’ve been roommates for three years. “Sure it’s possible. Quantum physicists think it’s possible, for God’s sake. Didn’t you guys ever hear about the multiverse? Decoherence? The quantum foam?” “Wow, where did that shit come from?” It’s Ed again, ever the skeptic. “The quantum foam? You mean there’s another me out there somewhere in “the quantum foam”?
Let’s go, man. Lead the way.” He’s laughing now, looking for help from Jonathan. He won’t get it. They were best friends once but Ed’s attitude toward Denise has soured the friendship badly. “I want to meet the other me so I can kick his ass and send him packing. There’s only room for one of us and I’m it.” Denise feigns pulling her hair out. She bangs the interior of the car’s roof, tugs on Lisbeth’s shoulder. “There could be many of you out there, Ed” she taunts. She goes quiet for a moment. “You’re fucking hopeless, Ed. Hopeless!” Right now she feels belittled, trapped in her own life, wrong-headed, even though it’s been her own decisions that have taken her to where she is, thinking about trailing after a boyfriend whose future depends on a waiting list. “You took the B school route because it looked like an easy path to a money career,” she told Jonathan a few days earlier in a fit of pique, “But now what? Wait to get lucky in some last minute admissions sweepstakes?” Lately she’s begun to think of him as a loser, even when they’re in bed together and her breath is coming in short, sweet gasps. Denise can’t get the word out of her head. Loser. It repeats itself like one of her Beatles albums stuck on a part of that song she doesn’t particularly like: Your mother should know… Your mother should know. She knows
vanishes quickly, but they all felt it. If it wasn’t a wind gust, Lisbeth observes aloud, then maybe the car’s steering system is failing and they’re going to break down soon, spend the night on the side of the road and miss their finals. Her comments are meant to loosen the tension, but they cause Ed to break out into a sweat, his hands clammy, his face wet around the eyes like he’s holding back tears. Jonathan is also unnerved. He loses his concentration and can’t remember the wordstring. He forgets “echelon,” so it’s down to Ed and Denise. “Still playing, Ed?” Denise jeers. “You bet your ass I’m playing,” Ed shoots back. Ed adds “sandman.” Denise struggles through, almost missing “practical,” then adds “tintinnabulation.” She touches Lisbeth on the shoulder. “Twenty words,” she says. She looks at Jonathan, pressing his fingers meaningfully. “Twenty words. We’re getting close.” She squeezes Jonathan’s hand again, and then out of the blue she speaks a word none of them has ever heard. “Precipitevolissimevolmente,” she says. It’s not her turn, and it’s not a word for the game. But it’s a word she has known now for a year, a word that utterly fascinates her. Three times
Stan Lee Werlin | Aspic Bayberry Cathedral
that once graduation is over, the relationship will be too. She brings herself back to the word game. K. She likes Irish green. She spits out her word. “Kelly.” And then, before anyone can draw a breath, “Twenty-six. The only number between a square and a cube.” “Denise, lighten up, huh? We left the multiverse ten miles back.” Jonathan chuckles, trying to alter the mood. He looks at Denise pleadingly, but sees she’s still upset. He adds “louse” to the wordstring, and they’re back in the game. She wishes the word he chose had been “loser.” Her private little joke. Another round goes by. Ed: mesmerize. Lisbeth: noodle. Denise: octopus. Jonathan: practical. Ed again: quell. They’ve reached the point where they usually start to stumble, and sure enough, Lisbeth is the first to go out. She can’t remember the Q word, and she’s gone. She puts her head back to rest. They’re up to eighteen words for Denise. “Aspic bayberry cathedral dandelion echelon felicity guru hijack ingenious jacks kelly louse mesmerize noodle octopus practical quell rotation.” She shouts out the last word triumphantly. When a heavy gust of wind suddenly comes up, Ed fights the wheel for a few seconds and barely avoids the guardrail. The pressure on the car
she pronounces it, as if to show them that she is, after all, capable of something complicated and erudite. If she had a wand in her hand she might be a sorceress casting an obscure magic spell at her enemies, perhaps to immobilize them or to bind them to her as changelings. “It’s the longest word in the Italian language. Twenty-six letters. It means ‘as fast as possible’. Wherever we’re going, we’re going as fast as possible.” In the darkness, Jonathan stares hard at Denise, wondering if she’s really serious about the things she’s saying or if it’s just the dope talking. He knows the marijuana high should have worn off, but now he considers the possibility that she’s dropped a tab of acid and is hallucinating. Lisbeth has started humming “Amazing Grace.” I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. Denise’s emerging self-image, misguided and hopeless. Ed’s ripping through the words quickly, trying to keep his rhythm going. He adds “undulation.” Denise follows with “verisimilitude.” And then the unthinkable happens. Ed’s stuck in the middle of the wordstring, fumbling for the L word. He starts back at the beginning, steps through the sequence twice more. The word has deserted him, and though they have no hard and fast rule about how long a player gets to run the words before being dropped, he knows he’s lost.
He looks over to Lisbeth, resignation in his eyes. “Louse” she mutters. “How appropriate,” Denise says. Jonathan is clapping for her, a slow, solitary repetition, but she cuts him off. Her hands are at her temples,
It’s the longest word in the Italian language. Twentysix letters. It means ‘as fast as possible’. Wherever we’re going, we’re going as fast as possible. kneading in circles. “Ed,” she says, “Now I’m taking us to the multiverse.” And even though she’s won and has no need to continue, she races through the words again, adding a twenty-third, “wombat.” Suddenly it seems as if the sheer effort of concentrating on the game combined with the dope, lack of sleep, and dehydration from their long day on the beach has taken the last of Denise’s energy. Her head falls onto Jonathan’s shoulder and abruptly she is asleep. She’s out cold for several hours, misses her turn to drive. It’s not until they’ve driven through the night and are leaving the Henry Hudson
this. Just stop. Let us live in the universe we know. Bring us back. You know the words that work! Bring us back!” In the dream, she hears herself enunciate each word precisely. “Aspic. Bayberry. Cathedral. Dandelion. Echelon. Felicity. Guru. Hijack. Ingenious. Jacks. Kelly. Louse. Mesmerize. Noodle. Octopus. Practical. Quell. Rotation. Sandman. Tintinnabulation. Undulation. Verisimilitude. Wombat. Xenophobic. Youthful.” She pauses for a moment. Collects herself. Ed’s powerless to stop her. She takes in a breath, and quietly mouths “Zookeeper.” She becomes aware that Jonathan is violently shaking her. “Denise, wake up! Wake up!” The car is stopped, parked on a side street where Ed has been lucky enough to find an open space. She sees that she’s lying in the back seat, Jonathan, Lisbeth, and Ed like a surgical team peering down at her. The pre-dawn light is familiar, slate grey and a slowly intensifying pink that pokes its way down into the streets and eventually through even the most heavily shaded student windows. Denise knows this time of day well, so often has she stayed up through the night studying, partying, smoking dope with Jonathan and Lisbeth. Recently she’s made contact with a more dar-
Stan Lee Werlin | Aspic Bayberry Cathedral
Parkway that a dream forms in her mind, eerily vivid and detailed. In it, they’re still driving in the car, but it’s impossibly dark, no moonlight, no stars, no other cars. She shouts out the word “Wombat,” and Ed immediately begins to scream. He no longer has control of the car. The steering wheel won’t move, the gas and brake pedals are useless. “What the hell is going on? Jesus, what’s happening to us?” They can feel themselves accelerating, lifting away from the road. Denise says “Xenophobic,” and as soon as the word leaves her lips they’re accelerating again. Jonathan is crying from a deep, primal fear, the realization that he has no idea who this woman really is sitting next to him. Denise says matter-offactly “We’re locked in now. Can’t you feel it?” Lisbeth reaches back and the two women clasp hands tightly. Suddenly Ed and Jonathan lunge at Denise, their hands flying to her mouth to smother her words. They know it’s their only chance. Lisbeth tries to push Ed back, but it doesn’t matter; his body is contorted awkwardly in the front seat and he can’t reach Denise as she twists away. She bites Jonathan fiercely on the hand. She fends them off and shouts out “Youthful.” Ed is whimpering. The situation is impossible to comprehend. He’s begging her now. “Denise, don’t do
ing crowd experimenting with LSD, peyote, mescaline, tripping their way through one hallucinogenic high after another. It’s rapidly becoming a dominant factor in the plan taking shape in her mind. Jonathan has a concerned look on his face. “You were talking in your sleep, but we couldn’t make out the words. We’re back and there’s about three hours before your first final. Come on, let’s get upstairs.” Denise sees now that they are indeed home. The dream is so fresh in her mind that she still remembers most of it. She can agonize all she wants for it to be real, but of course it is not. They are not on their way to an alternate universe. No one is closer to God. The wordstring has had neither magical nor transformative powers. “Goddammit!” she screams out. She presses her eyelids shut as if to wish away the fact that they’re standing on 114th street at 6 AM and she’s about to take a final for which she is ill-prepared. The day is already unseasonably warm and humid; it will be oppressive in the exam hall. She’s desperately trying to remember those last three words in the dream. At this moment, right this second, it’s the most important thing possible to her. She takes a notebook out of her bag, stops on the empty sidewalk. Ignoring Ed and Lisbeth’s questioning looks and Jonathan’s impatience to change their clothing and find breakfast, she pauses to write them
down. Xenophobic youthful zookeeper. ~ There is a nervous moment of transit across the podium when they hear their names called out, a handshake with a dean none of them has ever met, and then they are holding the flimsy cardboard that represents their baccalaureate degree. Their parents are all there, basking in the glow of the moment. And just as suddenly, there are the goodbyes as these four friends go their separate ways. Commencement is over. Ed leaves immediately after the ceremony, back to Atlanta for a carefree summer before the med school grind begins. Lisbeth will head to Berkeley for the MFA program, determined to break in as a serious writer. She and Denise hug and hug endlessly before she drives home to New Haven. The last thing, the very last thing Denise says to Lisbeth before they part has nothing to do with congratulations or when they will visit over the summer, as they have promised themselves that they absolutely, definitely will. Instead, it’s the wordstring Denise wishes would have taken them all away. She repeats it into Lisbeth’s ear, just as she has insisted they repeat it together every day since they returned from Truro. It’s a strange goodbye, Lisbeth thinks, but she joins in with
to crop it short, close to her face, taking care not to be hasty so that it doesn’t look ragged or like an amateur chop job. In a few minutes, she’ll dye it a nondescript brown. She does not want to be conspicuous. She just can’t let that happen. She removes her make-up,
Aspic . Bayber r y.
Guru. Hijack. Ingenious. Jacks. Kelly. Louse . Mesmerize. Noodle. Octopus. Practical. Quell.
Stan Lee Werlin | Aspic Bayberry Cathedral
Denise one last time, and then she’s on her way. Denise has sent her parents off to Trenton, their car packed with most of her clothing, her books and belongings spilling out of odd little boxes and supermarket bags. She tells them she wants to use the day of grace before seniors have to leave the dorm to hang out with a few other friends who are also staying the night. In the euphoria of the day, they’re completely oblivious to her true state of mind. Her father will pick her up at the train station in Trenton early the next evening. And then there’s Jonathan. He’ll spend the summer at home in Philadelphia working a boring clerical job in his father’s business, hoping that one of the waiting lists will open up. Just before he leaves, he makes Denise promise that she’ll call as soon as she gets home. He wrestles with her playfully, trying to convince her to make love one last time in the dorm, but her mind is already elsewhere and eventually he gives up the pursuit. We’ll see each other every weekend, he says. Maybe more. It’s such a short drive. We’ll get an apartment where I get into B school. She lets him think whatever he wants. When everyone is gone, Denise settles down to work. Her hair, a lustrous white blonde that she has been keeping long for over two years, has to go. She does her best
Rotation. Sandman. Tintinnabulation. Undulation.
Ve r i s i m i l i t u d e . Wombat. Xenophobic.
tweezes out most of her eyebrows, cuts her fingernails short and takes off her rings and the oversized earrings she loves to wear. They might be one of the first things someone would mention in a description of her. She tosses these things into the plastic bag
filled with the rest of her jewelry, a bag she will eventually discard somewhere far from campus. The clothing she’s been accumulating from the city’s thrift stores is strewn across her bed – the sack dresses and tie-dyed t-shirts, the grubby jeans, the oversized army jacket and rain poncho, items she’s been careful to keep hidden away so that none of her friends has seen them. She selects the items she’ll wear when she leaves the room and carefully folds the rest. It’s all got to fit into the one soft small suitcase she’ll carry with her. The money is the most important thing of all. She has more than two thousand dollars from her now closed savings and checking accounts, and she’s carrying all denominations, even a few hundreds to keep down the bulk. She knows it’s a good cushion, but it won’t last long. Most of the money is hidden away in interior pockets she has sewn into one of the dresses. The dorm is nearly deserted, as she knew it would be. The few lingering seniors are all out partying. She waits for dusk to settle on the city, and then tucks on a Yankees cap and calmly takes the three flights of stairs down to the street. She thinks about walking to the Port Authority bus station, a way to spend her last moments in New York on some of her favorite streets. But it’s impossibly far, the suitcase
is heavier than she expected, and who knows who might see her. Instead she descends into the subway station at 116th Street and grabs the “1” train to Times Square. The underground passageway to the Port Authority is thronged with people scurrying in both directions well into the evening, so it’s easy for her to blend into the crowd. The walkway smells unpleasantly of imprisoned humidity and stale food and overheated human bodies. At the ticket windows, Denise is well-prepared. She has studied the bus schedules carefully and knows exactly the tickets she needs. She doesn’t want to be fumbling around and have the ticket sellers remember her. She thinks it’s important that she stick to the major cities where the bus stations will be full of people and anonymity is easy. Nor will she take one bus all the way across the country. That would help anyone who might be searching. There’s an overnight bus arriving later the next day into Chicago, where she’ll wait a few hours for another to St. Louis, then Denver, Los Angeles, and finally to San Francisco. She has researched the driving distances – 790 miles, then 297, 852, 1017, and 382 – hoping to find something in the numerology to reinforce her determination, provide assurance that she’s doing the right thing. There’s nothing special, but it doesn’t matter. Including stopover time
with zookeeper, over and over. Suddenly she’s aware that someone has taken the seat next to her. She opens her eyes for a moment, sees settling in beside her an older gentleman, possibly from India or Pakistan or perhaps Sri Lanka. He has an immaculate grey mustache and beard. She doesn’t acknowledge him at all. There will be no conversation, and he seems to sense this almost immediately. As the bus pulls away, Denise stares fiercely through the window, concentrating on the city images that present themselves, her last views of Manhattan. Occasionally, her seatmate can make out one or another of the words she is muttering in her hushed, low voice. He suspects she’s afraid of something, maybe him, maybe whoever’s waiting for her in Chicago or wherever she is going. He couldn’t be more wrong. He wonders if she’s tripping on one of those hallucinogenic drugs the college students are using now. Perhaps she is one of the new wave of Hare Krishnas he sees so often on the city sidewalks chanting, dancing, endlessly clapping their finger cymbals together. She has the look, he thinks. He strains to make out what she’s saying. He hears the word guru. Louse. Sandman. A word that sounds like it begins with zeno. Even after they’ve
Stan Lee Werlin | Aspic Bayberry Cathedral
between buses, she’ll be on the road three days. She’s going to the Haight. There’s no one there she knows, all the better to help her disappear. She wants more than anything to be part of the counterculture society that’s taking her generation by storm. She envisions the following: that she will be welcomed warmly by the many like-minded ones already there; that she will change her name, find a group to crash with for awhile, and maybe join a commune; that when her money runs out she’ll get a job. Her college degree, she knows now, was her parents’ idea, not hers. She can’t believe she ever wanted it. She sees herself as a chrysalis, mature, glistening, emergent. The body known as Denise lies within it, gently beginning to probe the thin, translucent casing. What beautiful flower child will burst out? Lisbeth, she thinks, would do a lot with that. The bus is ready to leave, half full at best. She drops her suitcase on the curb where the driver will pick it up and store it away in the undercarriage. As she steps up into the bus, she begins to whisper to herself, so quietly even she can barely hear it. The wordstring. She takes a window seat halfway back on the left side, her eyes darting everywhere, the words on her lips a mantra, starting with aspic, ending
reached the New Jersey Turnpike, he can still hear the words, Deniseâ€™s irregular cadence. Soon, he picks up his things and moves to the other side of the bus. Still, every few minutes he looks Deniseâ€™s way. When they pass the exit for Trenton, he sees her breathe deeply, a measured sigh, and slowly close her eyes. Her smudged reflection in the window looks peaceful to him, untroubled, but her lips are pinched inward, restless, and they never stop moving.
Talanoa (Hindi), Idle Talk as a Social Adhesive Tim Barnes
A definition from They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases by Howard Rheingold The little hours, how they go on with idle chatter, ours and the birds’. You say something about the weather and then I do because neighbors do that and it makes the hours comfortable. Trees know this about the birds, sparrows and jays, the burbling bushtits. It is written in the leaves. Sometimes the crows get argumentative but that’s their nature, grumpy, like the old man who lived in the old Victorian on the corner used to be before he left on that long flight. Maybe he’s back, the old curmudgeon, in the crow glaring down from the telephone pole, cawing at me, grumbling something, it doesn’t matter what, about the hours palavering by.
The Cannibal of Memory Tim Barnes
I heard you were dead and so I stirred the soup. I stirred and stirred in me the many-seasoned stew Of memory and bone, the one with torn cartilage and fate, The gristles of regret and the salts of circumstance, The one with the garlics of gullion and the acids of irony, With the onions of anger, their flavors and fevers. I chopped the rosemary of remembrance and added it to you Marrowing there in a black pot, the thick broth I brewed, The stew stirring me nowâ€“ You cooking up something new From somewhere with no e-mails, faxes, or phones, Memories seasoned with you, the stock and bones I stew and stir and brew, that kettle of contradictions With which I cook and concoct that slumgullion stew, That soup, that brew, that meditation I made of you.
Mitchell Untch We turned down the driveway, walked up Mill Creek Road toward the edge of Juneâ€™s property, the entire length of which could not be made out in either direction and seemed to go on for miles. We listened to the gate rattle as we passed, to the porch swing, to the neighborâ€™s combine, to the long drawn silence after, walked until we reached a plot of land surrounded on all sides by a three foot fence and lined with junipers that sprang from its corners like the posts of a bed. Here is where I am going to be buried, she said. And hereâ€™s where my boys are going to be buriedMark here, Harry here, Henry next to Mark on the left, Butch near the corner next to grandma, and Steve where you see the ground tilt and that dead patch of grass. There will be room for their children over here. I looked at the headstones, each no more than a foot apart, each with a name, a beginning, and thought of the earth and how it takes things, how grief grows from what only rain can touch and the ground gives back to us everything we have ever known. I thought of days and all the silence that borders them, hours folded into the next and the next until it seemed to me there was nothing left, except stars that burned all day and land that never met up with anything but itself,
Mitchell Untch | June
where time stopped, and nights spread open like an onslaught of wings, a place where I imagine June, seven, maybe eight, sat and looked out her bedroom window with her chin in her hands and wondered if her life would ever be larger than the size of her window, where the last thing she knew she’d never leave behind were the unbearable winters, herself, her parents, and theirs and theirs and the land she’d worked for everything it was worth, for everything it had a mind to give back. She must have known. I guess it’s still like that in some parts of the Midwest I remembered thinking. You never really leave it. You never want to. It’s where you’ve lived your whole life.
Mitchell Untch The lake is the skin I slip into to get away from myself, my clothes draped on rocks to wear their shape and leave my body alone. Droplets, filaments I fling from my hair, sprinkle onto lime colored grass, scatter the mist. Birds are my slow awakening, my arrival. Shadows brush my face, a pair of gloved hands. This is what loss must feel like afterward I think to myself, what memory wears. I remember that favorite coat you didn’t want to surrender until you’d worn holes in the elbows, unraveled its unruly sleeves. Where the aberrant thread started is still a mystery to me. I miss the pearled button’s tiny mouths, the rush of cologne inside, the way you lay on the bed, limbs on snow. Though sex was never much part of it, I forgot how much I appreciated our silence, flipping the remote for something to watch on TV. Who held the power was irrelevant, bargained away for a trip to the refrigerator. Time passes without the strings of an orchestra, without the exquisite French horn. I realize what I’m asking for is something that I can never get back, something permanent. These days, I follow thoughts through a sequence of doors opening out. There are words I remember, of course, certain ones used, particular as glass, cut both ways. Isn’t this where God comes in, a solace of sunlight waving a wrench through the trees? I notice him cracking the veil of mid-morning frost,
Mitchell Untch | Swimming
spreading open the leaves. I want to hold you in this light. But something stops me, keeps my hands away. I donâ€™t want to move. I want to be still, as still as the world never is, imagine the hesitancy we had before touching, when only our breath reached forward, when I felt most human not knowing anything about you.
Fuschia Frolic Chrystal Berche
Richard Dokey Frank Armitage was no stranger to death. He had watched his father die. He had watched his mother die. His friend Robert Carmichael had just died and his friend Jerry McGee, only six months ago. He had attended funerals, quite a few funerals lately. Friends were like leaves in October, and here he was, holding on, in November. “You have to,” he told Barney Schlegel over the chessboard. “Is that realistic, though?” asked Barney, who was a fatalist. “What are you saying? What’s your alternative?” Barney shrugged. He moved his rook to rook five. “It isn’t a question of alternative,” he said, “since you don’t have a choice. So it’s all preparation.” He tapped his head. “Shouldn’t you be ready? Checkmate.” Frank looked at the board. He looked at Barney’s face, which was empty, but benign. “What the hell?” Frank said. “That’s three times in a row.” “Your mind’s not on the game,” Barney said. “You’re not thinking.” “All right, then,” Frank said. “Anyway, I’ll see you at the dinner Thursday night.” That evening Frank thought. He thought about Jerry McGee. He thought about Bob Carmichael and
Kenny Sottlemyer’s wife Marie, who had gone just three months before, falling like galactic debris onto the parking lot at Wal-Mart, burned up by the heart attack half way down, her head cracking against the black asphalt. He looked at his hands. They were good hands, strong hands. He had grown up in the country. He had dug vegetable gardens beside his father and mother. He had hoed weeds, cut wood. He had worked in the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company and in Colberg Boat Works during the summers from school. He had worked four hours a day, each day after class, to finish up at Berkeley when school was in session. He had played on the golf team. He was a trout fisherman. He made a fist and looked at the knuckles. True, he had not played golf in five years now, but it wasn’t that he could not play golf, and as for trout, for the first time, this last season, he had missed the yearly trip to Montana with his brother Ed, who had had a stroke in April. It was what Ed and he did together. He just could not bring himself to be in Montana without Ed. He went into the kitchen. He found a can of tuna in the pantry. He cut open the can. He held the lid against the tuna over the sink to drain the water and put the tuna
condo, and he could see out across the common court to the road and the fields beyond. The condos were on the edge of town. There was still a little country. He and Elizabeth had lived in town when they were first married. He had hated every minute. Then they bought the acre and a half five miles out and built the house. He wanted to continue living in the house, but Elizabeth was dead, the kids were gone, the house was big and empty, and he hated to clean. He loved the country, but he had to adjust. It was all too big and too much. At night it was terrible, alone with the dark and the quiet. The condo was acceptable. The grounds were cared for. There was a gate. The rooms were cleaned every other week. Someone came for the trash. He could have had his meals prepared. It was acceptable to be on the second floor at the edge of town and to see, beyond the road, fields filled with gnarled oaks and wild orange poppies. It was not an old manâ€™s place, where the end of days is made gracious. There was no planner of activities. There were no journeys by chartered bus to punch slot machines at the Lake or to shop in San Francisco, no guest speakers, no book clubs, no dances with gray-haired, shuffling widows, no
Richard Dokey | Rainbow
into a bowl. He opened the tiny refrigerator and removed the jar of light mayonnaise and the jar of pickle relish. He put a spoonful of mayonnaise and a spoonful of relish into the bowl and stirred everything together. He dropped two pieces of multi-grained bread into the toaster. With the bread warming, he popped a can of diet Coke and set it on the kitchen table. Frank sat at the table eating the sandwich and drinking the diet Coke. He looked at the kitchen wall, where he had fastened the calendar he got each year from Trout Unlimited. There were check marks on all the days up to today. He went to the drain board and opened the screw top containers of pills: one Centrum Silver, two gel capsules of fish oil and two capsules of Kyolic. He put a check mark on the calendar and sat down. He finished the sandwich and swallowed the pills. He looked at the calendar. Above the checkmarks was a photo of a young man fly-fishing in a river. It was winter. Snow was on the banks of the river. Snow was on the pine trees and on the rocks in the current. He remembered the time Ed and he had fished a river in Alaska during a snowstorm. He had had to flip the line straight up to allow the wind to blow the line down river. He had lived in the condo now three years. It was a second floor
bridge, whist or canasta, no meals in a common hall, no sitting room with newspapers from New York or Los Angeles, no magazines from the Smithsonian, no brown leatherette chairs and a large flat screen television you could see from the edge of the far, sun-streaked window near the door that opened to a brick patio filled with wrought-iron furniture and striped umbrellas, where, in the heat of summer, you waited for the coolness of sprinklers above the clay pots of geraniums and clipped xylosma. He owned a television, but he usually did not watch television. He did not watch CNN or the Fox Channel or NBC or CBS. He did not watch the comedies or the dramas, the game shows or even the golf tournaments. He had a disc player hooked to the television. He watched movies, mostly black and white movies, and documentaries about World War I or World War II or about ancient Greece or Rome or Egypt. Sometimes he watched Johnny Carson or Sid Caesar. He watched British films, like Are You Being Served? or Rumpole of the Bailey. He had the entire Rumpole of the Bailey. Sometimes he read novels by writers who no longer were alive. It was a quiet place. The young were there. He saw them on the stairways and on the paths. He saw them entering or exiting their automobiles, carrying reusable grocery
bags, leather suitcases or Styrofoam cups. Miss Carstairs, in fact, lived two doors down on the other side. She was his friend, the way the old and the young are friends. She was a child, she told him, when her father was killed in the First Gulf war. She missed her father very much. She said there were things she did not understand and never would understand. She was quite straightforward and said she had known men, which
The water was very cold. He held the rod in his right hand. The rod snapped backward and forward. The line went out. The line uncurled. The leader uncurled. was fine, but she felt always there was something else, and could he understand? He shrugged and said loss was universal, and then felt quite stupid for saying it. She invited him in for coffee and pound cake from her motherâ€™s recipe. Sometimes Miss Carstairs came to his place for coffee. He made coffee in a French press. She said she liked his coffee better than her own and even better than Starbucks, which was only just down the road,
had a slender waist, small hips and long, lovely legs. Her skin was like the underside of a rose petal. He was thrilled to see her, but he was terrified. He went to the window to look at the field of oak trees and wild poppies. He shut his eyes and tried to remember Elizabeth, but he could not remember Elizabeth. That night he had a dream. He was up to his waist in a trout stream. It was August. He wore a short sleeve shirt with a back vent. He was glad for the vent because it was very hot, and he felt the sweat running down his sides to his belt. He was wading wet, the way he had done when he was young, just a pair of boots and shorts and a canvas bag he had made himself hanging across his chest for his gear and the net hanging from a loop below the collar of his shirt. The water was very cold. It came down from the mountains and cut through the valley. All around was the valley. It was a valley in Montana or Idaho or Utah or Colorado. He had fished everywhere. It was a generic trout stream. It was any trout stream he had ever fished. The water was very cold. He held the rod in his right hand. The rod snapped backward and forward. The line went out. The line uncurled. The leader uncurled. The fly dropped gently
Richard Dokey | Rainbow
and that pleased him. Sometimes she brought the pound cake to his place so that they could drink his coffee and look out across the road. She liked him, she said. She said that she could talk to him. Her name was Amy, and after a bit she called him Frank. Then she called him Papa Frank, which touched him so deeply that sometimes, thinking about her, he had trouble sleeping. He watched her sometimes going down the stairs to the courtyard and out to her car, a silver, late model Lexus. Sometimes on the weekends she went running in the early morning. He waited by the window for her return. He watched her climb the stairs, wiping her face with a towel. She saw him and waved. One afternoon, back from tennis, she invited him in for a drink and said please wait while she showered and dressed. A large mirror was fastened against the wall above a chest just inside the front door. He could see into the mirror, which reflected another mirror above a dresser in her bedroom. On the chest were photos of her father and mother, photos of young people. He looked at the photos and then looked into the mirror. Amy was undressing before the mirror in the bedroom. He tried to turn away. He wanted to turn away, but he watched her undress. She had small, lovely breasts. She
upon a current seam. A trout struck. Quickly, he set the hook. It was a big trout. It felt bigger than any trout. The trout pulled hard. He lowered the rod and stepped forward. His foot came down without a bottom. He fell into the stream. He held onto the rod and struggled to stand, but the trout held him down. He wanted to breathe, but he could not breathe. He wanted to let go of the rod, but he could not let go of the rod. He was down where all the trout he had ever caught lived and where he could not live, even if he wanted to. Trout, silver and blue or spotted orange and brown, came to look at him. Watching him, they held steady in the current, red gills flaring. He thought, I’ve got to let go, but I can’t let go. This is the biggest of any trout. Tiny bubbles escaped in slanting lines from the mouths of the other trout. The trout were laughing. He had never harmed a trout. He always released trout, but they were laughing, and he could not let go. Then the big trout came up. It was the biggest trout he had ever hooked. It was the biggest trout in the world. He could see the leader and the line, pulled in an arc down river by the current as the trout held before him with huge, wavering fins. The big trout made tiny bubbles from the corner of its mouth. Then the trout sank, pulling him deeper. The other trout went deeper too, making
bubbles. The big trout stopped just above the bottom, holding steady, staring at him with round, marble bright eyes. Ed was on the bottom of the river in a dark business suit, amid tiny swirls of sand and gravel as the current washed over him. The current made Ed’s hair twist and wind. Ed’s eyes were wide and marble bright. A narrow line of bubbles rose from one corner of Ed’s mouth. There was a large brass hook embedded in the other corner of Ed’s mouth. Frank woke with a scream. He was sweating. He rolled up and put his feet on the floor. He wiped his face. He looked at the alarm. It was two o’clock. He picked up the phone. Ed lived in Fresno. “Hello,” the voice said sleepily. “Ed?” Frank said. “Hello?” “Frank? What the hell?” “Ed, are you okay? Are you all right?” “Of course I’m all right. Say, what’s going on? Do you know what time it is?” “Nothing’s going on. Ed, I just had a dream, a horrible dream.” “You called me now because of a goddamn dream?” “It was a horrible dream, Ed. It was a nightmare.” “Stop eating that crap you eat. How many times have I told you? Can’t you take a lesson from your own brother?” “That’s not what it was.”
The trout were laughing. He had never harmed a trout. He always released trout, but they were laughing, and he could not let go. Thursday evening—the third Thursday of the month—Frank drove the Town Car to Oswego’s for dinner with Barney Schlegel, Harry Strand, Charlie Commager and now Kenny Sottlemyer. The Stumps, Barney called them—what was left when wives burned out. Barney always arrived early enough to get the round corner table that seated six. The fact that there were five of them now, with one chair empty, made Frank think of a missing man formation. Frank looked at the menu. He knew what he wanted. He wanted the spaghetti and meatballs with
buttered garlic French bread. Oswego’s had the best meat sauce in town. He always ordered extra meat sauce. It was only on the third Thursday of each month, and he wanted the extra meat sauce and the buttered garlic French bread. Barney ordered a seafood salad. Harry ordered grilled chicken breast and a baked potato. Kenny ordered a salad, and Charlie said, “Give me what he said,” pointing at Harry. “I’ll have spaghetti and meatballs with extra meat sauce,” Frank said, “and an order of buttered garlic bread. And a bottle of Corona.” The others looked at him. Frank looked at the empty chair. “So, anyway, like I was saying, it’s my damned eyes again,” Charlie said. “So I have an appointment. I can’t watch television. I can’t even read the paper. Everything’s a blur.” Kenny removed a small amber-colored canister from his shirt pocket and snapped off the lid. He shook out two white tablets, one small, the other oval and large. He put the tablets into his mouth and reached for a glass of water. “Anna had cataracts,” Barney said. “That’s how it goes. One thing, then another.” Frank looked about the room. Oswego’s was a family
Richard Dokey | Rainbow
“Well, then, you’re nuts, Frank. Now go on back to sleep.” “Sure, nuts,” Frank said. “All right, then,” Ed said. “All right,” Frank said. “But it was a horrible dream, Ed. You were in it. I was in it. There was this river. We were fishing.” Ed hung up.
restaurant specializing in pizza and pasta. Oswego’s had the best pizza as well as the best meat sauce. Frank liked the combo pizza with everything on it. He liked taking the combo home and having leftovers warmed in the microwave. Now he wanted a pizza. The restaurant was crowded. Families, couples in sweatshirts and jeans, people jabbering on cell phones. The servers were kids from the local high schools. The servers wore the same t-shirt, black, with Oswego’s spelled across the chest in white. The place was noisy. Nobody paid any attention to anybody. He liked the smell of food and the noise. TV monitors were in the corners of the room, one over the register and the other over the kitchen door. A basketball game was on, the same basketball game. “Well, so they found two polyps.” Harry was talking. “They’re doing the biopsy now. I’ll know next Tuesday. The doc won’t say, one way or the other.” “They can’t say,” Barney said. “What do you suppose, then?” Harry said, playing with his fork. “Am I a doctor?” Barney said. “I wouldn’t say.” “I can’t sleep,” Harry said. “I see too damned many doctors,” said Kenny. “A doctor for my knees. A doctor for my stomach. A doctor for my heart. And then those goddamn check-ups. That’s another
doctor. But what can you do? I’m in the doctor business.” “That’s how it is,” Barney said. Frank moved his chair. He placed the napkin across his lap, lifted the napkin, folded it and replaced it. He looked at the television. He hated television. He looked at the uniforms of the players. He tried to see the people sitting in the bleachers. A woman in the first row wore a red baseball cap. Kenny wiped his eyes. Everyone knew he was thinking about Marie. The server brought the dinners. Frank concentrated upon the spaghetti. He pushed the meat sauce against the roof of his mouth. He rolled the garlic bread with his tongue, sucking at the butter. He held the beer in his cheeks, trying to see the woman in the red baseball cap. “Look,” Barney said, pointing his knife at Frank’s plate. “Like there never was any tomorrow.” Barney’s eyes went to the ceiling. They shone in the yellow light. They were yellow eyes. Barney was getting ready to prophesy. “Listen, then” Barney said. “Can you still get it up? And how many times at night do you go to the toilet, and it’s just little drops?” He was not talking to him specifically, Frank decided. He was talking generically. He was talking to anyone with gray hair anywhere. Barney Schlegel, the Jeremiah of gray hair.
his friends. He looked at them, one at a time. They sat there, shivering before a cold fire. He opened his wallet. “I have to go now,” he said. “I’ll see you all later.” “Say, what the hell?” Barney said. “Don’t worry about it,” Frank said. “I’m all right.” Outside, he decided that this year, even without Ed, he was going to Montana. In Montana, in the summer, the streams were clear and bright. The trout waited, down behind the stones and boulders. The hills were without snow. The valleys were green. In Montana, late in the afternoon, after a storm, there was always a rainbow.
Richard Dokey | Rainbow
“When’s the last time you slept eight hours straight through,” Barney said. “Listen, we’re old, that’s what it is. So we think old.” “Cut it out,” Frank said. “Well, for chrissake,” Barney said, surprised. “Look at you. You eat that crap, and every time it’s the same crap. You want it all to come right up some day and slap you in the face? You want it to embarrass you on the toilet before you can wipe your goddamn ass? So we’re old, Frank. So it’s that time. We think old because we are old. You’ve made a will, haven’t you?” “Of course I’ve made a will. I made one a long time ago.” “So there you are, then,” Barney said. “What’s that about, if not thinking old? We all have our wills. Any of you guys don’t have a will?” He looked around and patted the table. “So you let go.” He patted his head. “Or you get torn away. Why hold on to something that’s not holding on to you?” Frank stood. The chair clattered to the floor. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he said. Inside the bathroom Frank washed his face. He looked into the mirror. This is how it is, he concluded. This is how the trees go bare. He returned to the table. He looked at his friends. They were good friends. He had known them a long time. They would always be
Dear Firefly, Ruth Foley
Maybe because I like you best in the light—spare toes spread on a leaf, false eyes glowing at the back of your blackening, rough wings at rest—I like to think of you adolescent and unfledged in winter, sleeping beneath the bark in our small woods— all glimmer and potential, snug lightning undecanted.
High Tide at Bee Beach Ruth Foley
Beside where we have been working all day, bracing beams and walls, dulling nails to prevent the lumber from splitting, learning one strike at a time what can be connected and contained, the bees are living their reputation. I’m told it’s possible to pet them—smooth their backs in the drowsy trailings of late summer—but I can never remember if that’s honeys or bumbles, and I know ours will surrender themselves to the stinging if spooked. He calls them ladies, greets them, compliments them on the pollen they bundle like basketballs on a hip, fixed to their sides until they can hardly stick the landing at the hive. They are racing September, like us, building while the skies still cooperate. He has found a stick the diameter of the bird bath, has laid it across the water, keeps the basin two-thirds full. A dozen ladies lounge on the wood and rim. And he—filthy from hauling and trees, tee-shirt stuck to his chest and waist, lifts a harvestman on his fingers and lowers it to the ground, then pours out his bottle of water on the low side
hair or my blouse, bounce off my shoulder and swerve back to the hive, would turn myself inside out for this deliberate man, for his fingers slow against the small hairs on my spine, gilded in shadowed bands in the early evening before fall comes.
Ruth Foley | High Tide at Bee Beach
of the bowl. High tide at Bee Beach, he says, and I, standing in the neglected grass while the ladies investigate my
Where the Tension Lies Katharine Kress 1. It was the two years during which I read the New York Times everyday but could never remember what it said. I wanted to memorize it all. But instead I could remember only Matthew Arnold and his “Dover Beach” and the mechanistic sadness that weighted his chest: You hear the grating roar/Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling…Begin, and cease, and then again begin,/With tremulous cadence slow, and bring/The eternal note of sadness in. I felt a strong desire, too, to run everyday on the elevated university indoor track. I ran around in ovals and could not keep the time or look down past the guard rail into the empty space and would, sometimes, after moving as fast as I could for as long as I could, begin to cry. And maybe because of all of that, or maybe because of something else, my heart began to hurt. 2. It was autumn and I was a sophomore in college. It was 2009 and 2010 and I lived in Iowa City. I was running laps on the track of the field house that fall of 2009 and my heart seized. It felt squeezed between wide palms with thick, dry fingers and sharp, metallic fingernails that
pierced thin pericardium. I inhaled sharply. Over the next six months I felt a squeeze, like blood draining, flowing out of my valves and spurting out of holes in my ventricles, collecting in a bowl hidden somewhere beneath my stomach or maybe in the calluses under my toes, my heels. I ignored it for the first few weeks but soon told my best friend, and then, my father. In January of 2010, I saw the first doctor. This doctor hypothesized that maybe I was drinking too much caffeine, not getting enough sleep, that maybe I was mentally unstable and feeling the pains of a phantom heart. It was soon after that electrodes attached to my bare chest and recorded the electrical impulses of my heart, mountains without bottoms. 3. Matthew Arnold lamented the certainty of his faith and feared the tensions between soot, oil, cogs, and prayer. He wrote that it was upon the straits that the moon shone and the tide pushed. But the poem evokes, too, the instruments by which we restrain others, ourselves. Arnold attempted to bridge the schism between industry and religion, between popular Victorian desires of mass production and the in-
obvious to me, too, that below the divot of my collarbone emanated a pain that, although recognized, remained unknown and unwanted. Many things and people, I understand now, exist in a similar way. It all felt emotionally quite metaphysical, but it seemed to me physically, very real. 4. The next doctor I visited instructed that I lay down on the table, still, as a nurse took an ultrasound of my heart. I couldn’t see my heart or hear its pulses or echoes. I wanted to, though. I wanted to turn my head and see my insides. I wanted to see it pulse in black and white. I wanted to know its exact shape so I could imagine its curves and the width of its valves, the thickness of the muscle and the smoothness of the skin. I wanted to imagine a size and form more specific than skin stretched tight over the bones of knuckles and fingers curled into a fist. And so I imagined my heart felt like velvet, smooth and slick, the color of raw and fatty ground beef. After the ultrasound there was a stress test, too. I walked, then ran, on a treadmill while the incline increased. The doctors looked for spasms, for an irregular beat, for a skip or a pause. I ran until I tired
Katharine Kress | Where the Tension Lies
ner life of the individual, which happen, still, to be at odds. He wanted to find the middle ground. It was the center he was looking for. And, it was the fragments and phrases of Arnold’s pebbles and tide and tension that teased the edges of my tongue as I voted yes for same-sex marriage equality. I heard Arnold’s lament of things that could not hold, and it was my lament too. I clung to time as it passed away much like Arnold and I, too, felt a melancholy that I could not quite name. I desired social, but not personal, change and that is where the tension lay. It lay, too, in the gap between my biological and emotional realities. It had occurred to me, that the vote in 2009— which still struggles to come to a vote in many states—was really all about belief and fear and a tension that tugs us away from what we once thought was balance. After it became clear that the vote had been successful and that same-sex marriage was now legal— in spite of an outdated state law that decreed marital union between only men and women—the mood seemed celebratory and light, but tentative, too, as if the vote could be overturned at any moment. It was known, though, that a love had rightly been recognized, an exclusion had begun to inch toward the opposite. And almost at the same time as the vote came in, it became
but my heart still didn’t hurt. I wanted it to, though. I wanted an answer, something I could treat and research and know about and fight against. The doctors concluded—after those tests and my family medical history and my straw allergy and immunity to penicillin failed to provide an answer—that my heart was physically healthy. They concluded the pain must be caused by stress and told me to take up yoga practice, to breathe my way towards the center. That wasn’t the answer that I wanted, and as it happened, I felt more pain, a deeper squeeze, a sense of urgency. I continued wondering why the pain began when it did. Why not earlier? Why begin at all? It had occurred to me that I didn’t know my own body. I knew what was supposed to reside beneath my skin, but did it? I wanted to see it, to peel away the skin and slough through the fat and paw beneath muscle fiber and striation to get at the core, the center of things. 5. In the autumn of 2010, three of the Iowa Supreme Court Justices who voted for same-sex equality were subsequently voted off the bench. Members of the American Family Association and the National Organization for Marriage, who supported the “reshaping” of the Iowa Supreme Court, explained that
those former judges “had sided in freedom over virtue.” The emotional and pseudo-moral beliefs of these special interests groups collided with state constitutional law, butted against all of those who tried to tip the social balance, to push it inside out. 6. What lies at the center? I crave the interior, to know the things that cannot be seen. Sometimes, when I forget to eat or don’t have time to sleep or my sister drives drunk, or I read the New York Times, or my brother’s eyes look like he’s been using heroin again, my heart hurts. It takes my breath away. I try to breathe, but the sharpness of the pain prevents me. I exhale, slowly and squeeze my right fist, tight. I don’t need to listen to the grating roar because I can feel it and the pebbles and the tide nudging, too. The waters that push against Dover Beach are familiar and I can do nothing but wait and try to breathe. I imagine my sister bleeding from her head, her neck limp, the wheels of her Taurus straddling an oak tree. I imagine my brother laying on a wooden floor, the crook of his left arm bent at a gentle angle, stiff. I imagine these things because I want to know, to figure out why. I want to know how and what and why my brother, sister, and those propelled by religious fervor think.
Katharine Kress | Where the Tension Lies
I can imagine, but I can’t know. I have no control of the center. And so my heart spasms and the doctors can’t see it and even though I feel it, I can’t see it either.
My Mother’s Flowers Rachel Lake
I spend the afternoon in my mother’s flower beds, dipping iris seeds into shallow holes, soil rich and black and peppered with worms. The blossoms will be full this year, because the dirt I used came from behind the shed where my father left the head of a deer to putrefy in the sun. Flesh falls to soil, to sprout, to flowers my mother cuts for the table. My mother sleeps as if she is praying, nails sprigs of dried lavender in every room. “Are your dreams too vivid?” She asks, reading the warning label on a bottle. My mother fell into depression again, slid into the well of it, then came up dripping and licking her fingers.
Compact Breathing Rachel Lake
Today I saw a man asleep on the train splayed across four sick-orange seats, his face unshaven, the rubber soles of his sneakers peeled, socks grey, stiff with salt. I watched him breathe while the train shuddered, a smudged black current under city. He never lifted his head from the hard plastic seat, but sometimes his eyes would open glazed. A puddle of spit shone fluorescent on the floor, he trembled. The other passengers and I watched peripherally, shoved against one another, strained against the push of air the sleeping man. The doors opened, and I ran from the stink of him to one car, then the next, each overflowing with bodies.
Lupe Méndez I remember the feel of tile floors, soothing, icing fresh blisters. We walked on dirt a week ago. My toes were strong, barbaric little things that connected to tierra, daily. They were my eyes at night when a midnight tinkle or an owl came calling. The first time on the tile, I stretched them out, imagining how much easier it would be to keep my soles clean in bed. I would no longer track traces of the ground with me. The cold of this was different, my abuela, Manuela mentioned we must always walk barefoot in the house now, as if walking on the dirt floor was a choice. The streaks of color in these squares made me think my primas would have to scrub and scrub to sustain the red; to cancel out the blemishes that the random marble slick eggshell color intruded with. I didn’t know of style, I didn’t know marble did that. I didn’t even know how to say marble in Spanish. This cold on these heels was soft. I could see how brown my skin was against the red, deep like the pork morcia blood was
Lupe MĂŠndez | Tile
in Abuelaâ€™s stew as it simmered, rich. The night we celebrated the floor being finished, we feasted in oil lamps and laughter, in envases of sidal for the kids, in vasos of tequila and coke for the men, in copas of coffee for the ladies and pork stew. Everyone laughed when something was spilled. You could see it now. You could lean back in your chair and not sink into the ground. We heard the taps of our feet and my tios discussed painting walls to match the new floor. I remember the feel of tile floors. I placed my hands and then each cheek to the tile and introduced myself to it. I asked out loud in a five-year-old voice, if I could just sleep on the floor that night, for the floor and I had much to talk about.
Images of Illinois 2013. Clarissa’s work can be seen at cseephotograChrystal Berche dabbles, lots, phy.com and somewhere in those dabbles blossoms ideas that take shape into Mya Kerner works in a variety images. Many of her current pieces of media while collecting artifacts of artwork start out as three minute and experiences which serve as gesture drawings and eventually get the foundation for her artwork. paired with some sort of still life By observing interaction between photography and a lot of playing in people, she uses these artifacts to photoshop. She loves to take pic- express the bonds which hold us tures, especially out in the woods, together. Mya attempts to capture where she can sit on a rock or a log something of existence in her work and wait quietly, jotting notes for by weaving together her personal stories until something happens by. folklore and research of mytholA free spirit, Chrystal digs in dirt, ogy and the structure of the cosdances in rain and chases storms, mos. More work can be viewed on myakerner.com all at the whims of her muses. Clarissa Colletti approaches photography in a stylistic manner. She is particularly inspired by nature and the abstract and constantly drawn to reflections and shadows. She studied photography at Denison University from traditional darkroom to digital; however, she is most happy when working with alternative processes. Her work has been shown in Chicago at Morpho Gallery, RAW: Natural Born Artists, and State of the Art Chicago. In addition, her photograph “Strawberry Patch” won second place in the Prairie Art Alliance glassworks 74
Fiction Timothy B. Dodd is from Mink Shoals, WV. His stories have appeared in Yemassee, The Owen Wister Review, Main Street Rag, and elsewhere. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Texas El Paso. Richard Dokey’s stories appear regularly in the reviews. They have won prizes and awards. He has a number of books to his credit. Pale Morning Dun, his collection
Stan Lee Werlin’s short stories have appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Los Angeles Review, Sheepshead Review, and Prime Number. Since 1987, his humorous children’s poetry has been published in children’s magazines including Cricket, Spider, Highlights for Children, and Odyssey, as well as in several anthologies including A Bad Case of the Giggles, Rolling in the Aisles, and I Hope I Don’t Strike Out! He holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard College and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. ~
Nonfiction Katharine Kress grew up in Iowa among oak trees, tall grasses, and fields of hay, but now lives in Chicago where she is pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at Columbia College. She teaches and tutors writing and coordinates Co-
lumbia’s internationally accredited undergraduate mentoring program. Kate Peterson is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, Washington. She is now teaching composition as an adjunct instructor at EWU. Her poetry has appeared in the Eat This Poem anthology, Breadcrumb Scabs, Barnstorm, and Apiary. She is originally from southern New Jersey, but feels much more at home in the mountains.
Issue 9 | Contributors
published by University of Missouri Press, was nominated for the American Book Award and the Penn/Faulkner Award. Currently, he is a finalist for The Lamar York Fiction Prize, awarded by The Chattahoochee Review.
Poetry Tim Barnes taught for twenty-five years in the English Department at Portland Community College. His poems have appeared in Basalt, Elohi Gadugi, Poet Lore, Cutbank, and a number of other journals. His latest book of poems is Definitions for a Lost Language. He co-edited Wood Works: The Life and Writings of Charles Erskine Scott Wood and now edits Friends of William Stafford, A Newsletter for Poets & Poetry. He glassworks 75
is also the creator and compiler of Everyone Out Here Knows: A Big Foot Tale, a children’s book based on a poem by William Stafford. He lives and gardens just east of the Willamette River with his wife Ilka and their cat Lorca. Scott Beal teaches in the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan and serves as writer-in-residence at Ann Arbor Open School. His first book, Wait ‘Til You Have Real Problems, will be published in 2014 by Dzanc Books. Sean Brendan-Brown is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently resides in Olympia, WA. A medically-retired Marine, he is the author of three poetry chapbooks (Everything Repeated Many Times, King Of Wounds, West Is A Golden Paradise), a poetry collection, No Stopping Any Time (Tri-Color Press, 2014), a fiction chapbook, Monarch Of Hatred and a short story collection, Brother Dionysus (MilSpeak Books/Smashwords, 2012). He has published with the Notre Dame Review, Wisconsin Review, Indiana Review, Texas Review, Poetry East, Southampton Review, and the University of Iowa Press anthologies American Diaspora and Like Thunder. He is the recipient of a glassworks 76
1997 NEA Poetry Fellowship and a 2010 NEA Fiction Fellowship. Leah Browning is the author of three nonfiction books for teens and pre-teens and three chapbooks. “The First Day You Were in the Psychiatric Hospital” is included in her fourth chapbook, Out of Body, which is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Browning’s poetry and prose have appeared in publications including Queen’s Quarterly, Blood Orange Review, Bluestem Magazine, Heron Tree, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, The Literary Bohemian, and Corium Magazine, as well as on a broadside from Broadsided Press, on postcards and bookmarks from the program Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf, with audio and video recordings in The Poetry Storehouse, and in several anthologies. In addition to writing, Browning serves as editor of the Apple Valley Review. Poet, teacher, critic, and literary biographer, Edward Butscher was born in Flushing, New York, and now lives in East Hampton, New York with his wife, Paula Trachtman. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies since 1976, as well as in several collections of his own, among them, Poems About Silence, Amagansett Cycle,
headed Stepchild, The Bellingham Review, Yemassee, and Sou’wester, among others, and her chapbook Dear Turquoise is available from Dancing Girl Press. She serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review.
Issue 9 | Contributors
and Child in the House. Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, from Continuum Press, was the first biography of the poet, and has since been reissued by the Schaffner Press. His Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale won the Poetry Society of America’s Melville Kane Award in 1988, and has recently gone into a second edition with the University of Georgia Press.
Rachel Lake is a poet from South Jersey who was raised in a small town just outside of the Pine Barrens. Of course, she has encountered the New Jersey Devil on many occasions, along with the occasional wandering bear. In addition to being a writer, Rachel is also a painter, photographer, and runner. She gives readings regularly at New York City’s Poetry Brothel under the guise of Victoria Copperfield. Currently, Rachel is working on a cross-genre monster of a manuscript that covers everything from sex to chronic illness to driving down back roads. You can find more of her work at lunalunamag.com.
Jeremy Cantor began writing poetry shortly before retiring from a career in laboratory chemistry. He prefers writing. His poem “The Nietzsche Contrapositive” received first prize in the Grey Sparrow Journal’s 2014 Flash and Poetry Competition and appeared in Grey Sparrow’s annual, Snow Jewel. His work has also appeared in The Naugatuck River Review, Convergence, Poetalk, The Bicycle Review, and Heyday Magazine. More is scheduled to appear in forthcoming issues of Forge and Prospectus. Also forthcoming is The Owl at Sunset, a Leaf Press “Leaflet” edition of his haiku and senryu. He lives with his wife near San Francisco. Lupe Méndez originally from Galveston, Texas, works with Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writwhere she teaches English for ers Having Their Say, the Word Wheaton College. Her recent work Around Poetry Tour and the is appearing or forthcoming in Red- Brazilian Arts Foundation to
promote poetry events, advocate for literacy/literature and organize creative writing workshops that are open to the public. His work has previously been published in Huizache, La Noria, Luna Luna Magazine, Nakum, The Bayou Review, and anthologies such as Norton’s Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-short Stories from the United States and Latin America and The Beatest State in the Union: An Anthology of Beat Texas Writers. Lupe is a CantoMundo Fellow and currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at University of Texas El Paso. thepoetmendez.org Kimberly McClintock holds an MFA from Warren Wilson, and is the recipient of their alumni association’s 2009 Larry Levis Fellowship in poetry. A native of southern New Jersey, Kimberly has lived and worked for many years with the writer David Wrobleski on the Colorado Front Range.
or are forthcoming in Poetry, Orion, Ecotone, American Poetry Review, and North American Review, where she received the 2014 James Hearst Poetry Prize, and have appeared in over two-dozen anthologies, including American Poetry: The Next Generation and The Best American Poetry 2009. Martha has been awarded fellowships from the University of Arizona Poetry Center, Washington State Artist Trust, Washington 4Culture, and Seattle Arts Commission, among others. She edits Crab Creek Review, curates Beacon Bards, a Seattle-based readings series, and teaches at Bellevue College.
Carol Steinhagen has retired from a professorship at Marietta College to try life as a poet. She has also returned to the classroom as a student to learn more about the life that poetry embraces. Examples of her recently published and forthcoming work can be found in Slant, Earth’s Daughters, and The Comstock Martha Silano is the author of Review. four books of poetry: What the Truth Tastes Like, Blue Positive, The Mitchell Untch was a 2011 finalist Little Office of the Immaculate Con- for The Atlantic Review Internaception, and Reckless Lovely. She tional, the 2012 C.P. Cavafy Award, also co-edited, with Kelli Russell the 2012 Janet McCabe Poetry RuAgodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By- minate Magazine Contest (Judge: Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice. Li Young-Lee), a semi-finalist for Her poems have recently appeared the Puamantock 2012 Poetry Prize, glassworks 78
Issue 9 | Contributors
and a 2011 Pushcart Prize Nominee. Publications include: Confrontation, Nimrod Intl, upstreet, The Beloit Poetry Journal, South Dakota Review, Solo Novo, Natural Bridge, Southern Humanities, The Fourth River, The Hawaii Review, Kestrel, Ruminate Magazine, and Out of Ours, among others. Most recent publications include Poet Lore, North American Review, The Lake Effect, Pacific Literary Anthology, Knockout, and Owen Wister. Linda Wang is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania working towards a BA in English and biology. Her work has appeared in Penn Review.
Timothy B. Dodd
Stan Lee Werlin
Leah Browning Edward Butscher
Rachel Lake Lupe Mendez
Mitchell Untch Linda Wang
Issue 9: a magazine of literature and art.