Go Places Renewal
IIssssuuee 44//M Maayy
Go Places/ Renewal Issue 4/ May
ďŁŠ 2012 All contributors retain sole copyright to their work.
Contributors: Amy R. Brenner
Sarah R. Lipman Magda Rachwal
James Scales Richard H. Swanson
Brian Evans White Knox Haynsworth White Featured Musician:
Take Me Back Sweet Anna Lee Spirit Family Reunion spiritfamilyreunion.com
Created and Curated by:
Hannah Raine Brenner-Leonard hannahrainebrennerleonard.com
Dear Friends, Last year, the snow was up to my knees covered in glassy ice so my shins would hurt when walking. This year there was winter for one week, bitter cold and snow that didnâ€™t stay. In 1995, the snow covered my whole body and we traveled to school through a white tunnel. After winter bodies ache for renewal, for bulbs to multiply, cropped up in yellowed grass and acidic leaves. After all the earth laughs in flowers. 1
Something like Nothing I've Seen Knox Haynsworth White Paul and Saul released a shoe box stuffed with scorpions out all over our stepmother Faith’s bedroom on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, sure as you expect, Faith’s face got bit up all over. Her tongue swelled so she spat when she chewed and she slurped when spoke, and her eyes disappeared beneath steep blue welds. Dad died laughing. He swallowed a sharp chip whole and keeled off an ottoman cackling and coughing in atonal hoots - smack onto the living room floor. I raced Saul to the top of the stairs just to push him back down. I stepped on Paul’s teeth in his mouth. Dad hacked and spat. Paul bit my fist, and our brotherly squabble ebbed off with a roar when Dad howled his peace - ‘girl you’re eyesore for sure.’ Our step-mom Faith moved out Thursday morning after a fight. I loved her. Say what you will. I never follow celebrity marriages. Tabloids stack the rack by my register. Mostly we sell whole sale hair beautifying tonics or creams and dollar dvds. You won’t beat our skin care deals in this town. That is with or without a coupon clipping. I notice her breasts right off, you know, but I don’t say anything about them. You know. She lays her wares on the counter by my handheld data-logic bar code scanner, and I say something cordial and timely, ‘that’s all?’ -BeepContraceptive - 11.99 -BleepBath oil - 7.00 -Beepfruity candles - 2.33 - Bleep I like orange women with winter tans. I told her I’d be a damn cold heart fool not to see her prettiness laced up in knots too tight unsure how or when to who to Star Magazine - 12.00 -BeepWeekly World News - 4.00 -BleepI told her she should never be unsure. Uncertainty’s sure enough about without her owning her own. It’s like a luxury, you know? The Inquirer - 7.00 -BeepThe Sun - 7.00 -BleepMega Star - 11.00 -BeepA handful of change shakes me from myself. She says she won’t need a bag. I check her out. I closed the store to smoke shitty pot at a picnic table on an island in the parking lot. Unannounced Dirge Oren rides up on an electric scooter. -Sid Sur. I heard your lady flew to Albuquerque in New Mexico to elope with some sailor she met on a facebook. -Yes sir. Say what you will. Nearly a month’s gone by in just two weeks, nearly three months in just two
months after that. You know. I suppose the swelling’s gone down. - I’m not too incensed about the split. Dirge is a brother from another mother. His manic mom Eula part-time substitutes preschool and lives beyond the county limit next to Tequila Burrito Dos. Dirge’s father flew NASA saucers for a secret but short-lived special NASA covert space saucer program. He was a mighty and brave American astronaut whose space saucer tragically exploded over Turkey in a nationally televised broadcast about air pollution in Eastern Europe. A likely story sure, Dirge is convinced, but he never has seen any evidence of his father’s honorable service. -I never reckoned Faith to live in a desert. -She’s a wind I’m off. She’s never on my mind. I offered dirge a toke. We watch a tramp trundle a wheelbarrow full of rocks up a steep inclining freeway. He drops a few. Cars. Cars driving by passing cars from exotic and distant places all over like Richmond or Florida. Faith says careless boys make ruthless men. She said that once after Dirge and I drank off a day. As boys we drank beer and drove off, and we once found a fetus in a bucket with a bramble on a creek after a storm. You know shock. Electric or heated moments that bond buddies like a beer you know. What’s important is not what we talked about - Faith and I - we had a way of speaking with one another. Our together tongues became lucid portals that recoiled when others chipped in to talk. Inside I clock back in and mope behind the counter. Dirge disappears in aisle twelve to reemerge recalcitrant and spirited. I ring him up. -BeepRubbing Alcohol 10% - 9.99 -BleepToilet paper - 1.00 -I need a lighter too. -Are you eighteen years or older? -Before you were Sur. -I’m feeding a torched tee-pee roll to that vending machine in Gower Park tonight. Gonna burn the evening down. -that Karma-Cola Machine in the petter-park? -I’m bored as all is all, and I figured you could use a light night yourself Sid Sur. -If you’re bored you’re boring Dirge. Though I’m obliged for the invite, and I bore myself too. Sure. I’ll fly out your way soon as we close. Two decades and some time back a few developers lost confidence in a glaring scheme to restore an abandoned baseball diamond and exploit the urban forest growing around an undeclared lot where a boy scout troop reportedly found arrowheads and an Indian Graveyard. After a scientist noted in a notable scientist magazine that said arrowheads there excavated in no way resembled the roughly stone projectiles commonly affiliated with artifacts dating to the Paleolithic era, and that the arrowheads in question; well they are glossier and pointy, and that the boy scouts in fact are fucking liars. The development project was jeopardized by a sensational Dateline NBC special that you really should see. Without a body of investors the county let the lot go. It’s now a park and a notorious safe-haven for pedophiles and birdwatchers. In the dark, after work I hike up to the park alone to start a fire with Dirge Oren. Headlights hew the shadows of the murmuring pines. Passing light casts the mossy, bearded hemlocks into strange blazing haints, visions like molten troglodyte silhouettes dancing, woven in gowns of light on dark asphalt, their hips swaying just as the traffic passes through and your world too gets dark as the blacktop paved way. Faith follows my thoughts. Yes, her memory is a suspirious haint that stalks my wandering inner-gaze as does a winged premonition. That day she left replays on loop in my worries, you see, and there’s no pausing the tape. I see her arms soaked in a greasy kitchen scrubbing slop from our dishes. I see her hair in a net at home. After work, one night she served me some microwaved left-over turnips when I stumbled in late and drunk. She scrubbed at the
suddy sink while I ate without speaking grace, and my words were careless, spoken in a full mouth. And in her words I believe that I heard her feelings hurting. -You're a step-mother, I told her. It doesn’t mean you're for stepping on. You ought not let us burn you out. -We become our habits Sid Sur. Your father caught me young. He clipped my wings and I'm perched here. So deliver us from evil, she said. Faith's like anyone from anywhere you know. She made herself up with all that she got. That is who Faith is, she is just a grip on all that she's got, like you or me, and how we're each all that we have. -Our habits become us, I barked back! -Dust becomes us, Faith chirps! You are yourself an effigy burning to the man you'll be Sid Sur. Ringing register - clock in and check yourself out and drown yourself to drink. -And who do you burn for Faith? Not yourself. She took a moth-eaten hand towel from the pewter rack to dry a clammy glass, sighing. -I believe I'll be a songbird in my next life. I'll not nest up too high for you to shoot me down Sid. She said. She said just those words. Then I moved to strut toward the pot then, and I puked my filling on her clean floor before sleeping in it. I woke up clean too. That next morning I reckoned Faith had washed my cheeks and mopped around me. When I woke I heard screams of scorpions and blisters, she cried out 'The pinchers! Lord the stingers!' she cried. Faith railed weeping. My brothers laughing and Dad shouting on the living room floor, chewing his chips & dip. The bugs on Faith’s face, flailing while she moans, clenched beneath the welds below her blue eyes eyes that morning before the day Faith left.
Dad’s sorry. I’m not. Faith made life a new. By now she sure lives in the desert in a double-wide, and I’m sure the grass there’s greener. Dirge awaits my arrival with an electric torch lamp beaming over the scrubby parking lot onto an unkempt Karma-Kola machine. He is not alone. Dirge is blabbering. His optimism tells it that he’s between his fourth and ninth beer of the night. A stranger drinks with him in the dark. There’s a stubby, squat and balding man twice our age jabbering with Dirge. He’s wearing elastic gym shorts and a khaki safari vest with velcro pockets, no shirt, popped beer in his hand. -This Tiresias. Dirge makes my introduction. He’s a pedophile! Tiresias shrugs unapologetic. -Say what you will. -He’s gonna photograph the soda fountain pyre. We’ll make the internet as sure as cats in cute costumes! Tiresias tries to shake my hand as I open a beer. He tells me about his Nikon D3x with an interchangeable 110 mm telephoto zoom lens. He tells me about himself, and we start talking about troubles. Sure enough he has them too. -Let’s light this bitch! Dirge declares. -Let’s light this bitch! Tiresias reiterates queerly. I douse the toilet roll with rubbing alcohol. We stuff the mouth of the drink machine and Dirge strikes his new lighter. She sparks a swift spout that veers up the plastic Karma-Kola logo. It smolders, and the warped font is indecipherable now, scorched and dripping onto the sidewalk where we perch drinking. Our mischief illuminates all the lot. -Unrequited love, Tiresias Utters. That’s the sap on your bark. You’re tougher and sweeter now. You know. Once I loved a girl whose Daddy shot at me whenever I neared. She loved show tunes and pizza rolls like no girl you know. Burning plastic smells like smoking amphetamines. Moths draw near to soak in the heat and wild dogs in the woods nearby flee howling. I’m not listening to the pervert
over my shoulder or the brother who arranged the spectacle tonight. No I’m not listening. I’m reflecting. I’m indulging a retroactive binge. My love, you know, lives beyond a desert without a sign to tell her that across the land I’m lighting fires with Faith on my mind. -Blazing fire-shits! A conflagration! Tiresias shouts. -Deliver us from evil! I gasp, and the machine hisses in an unholy pitch like dog whistles for men. There belches a flaming, fluttering fiery orb! It spurts forth iridescent and screeching. She flaps blazing wings. An incinerated sparrow escapes the conflagration engulfed and screeching. She chirps the fuming song of boiling tea-kettles. Reeling from the sky to the gravel by our feet, the bird shudders and dies, screeching, blackened beak gaping and blackened eyes gawking. Tiresias snaps a photograph. -We were bored as all is all.
Untitled Monica Wendel That winter your hand swelled with eczema then the skin peeled in bloody strips. The dry air, maybe, the cold, an infection, allergies. Finally you started wrapping the whole thing up in gauze and telling people you burned yourself on the oven. We were young, but not very young. The nights stretched enormous past sundown. I wanted to be a pioneer woman – scrappy, strong, petite, with a poultice or herb to put on your hand. But I had nothing. On the long quiet drives back your house I would take your hand and massage it until the pus ran out from between the skin’s cracks. It didn’t matter, though. The gauze always came off in your sleep and we woke in the morning with our arms twisted in bloody sheets.
Samson in Sunshine Hannah Raine Brenner-Leonard
Through Hiker Limerick Amy Brenner There once was an herbalist named Samson Who trekked on the Trail Appalachian He sought to be nourished And ate what he foraged Which renewed both his purpose and person
“The universe / past the ocean / from the beach / as pigshit” B.W. FRIDAY Trish dropping Claudia for the weekend. Says morning - BUT - 12:25pm already. Ass digs deep into the uncushioned seat in my kitchen - I feel a bruise forming. 1:50PM - Eventually - Trish drops Claudia w/out word for me - distant lately. Trish puts on a show for me - kissing Claudia's face like an animal cleans its young … She acts as if the skies opened up & a suburban Santa Claus God swooped her husband away - leaving her divorced & alone to fend for her precious cub - who swings from side to side to side suckling her stiff tits. As if to be the only single mother to have walked the earth. Me - I open the front door - grinning & waving & hallow - a black-face Dick Van Dyke jack-Olantern. Shallow / shallow / shallow as the mirror & the pig inside it. I kiss my granddaughter as Trish drives off licking her lips <<No no no! Panini is pronounced like this: Panini / no no no! Panini. Listen: Panini / it’s pronounced Panini. Look at my mouth while I say it, hun - Panini. Look at it! - Puh - knee knee.>> Trish has a huge ass w/ anorexic legs & pockets of fat around her waist & stomach. & w/ that Perdue hanging from her arm. I show Claudia around - her room next to mine. We have nothing to talk about. She invites a friend over - scrappy orphan type / desperate for love. She has intense - gypsy-through-the-desert eyes - a fucking ace! Sixteen? They lay
their eyes & assholes the way on the floor & laugh rainbows out of overanxious anorexic zits like them always do. They looked at one another & smiled such sweet depth. Those girls were born sucking & licking at their halos pure only by the technicality of their youth. They push their weight against one another drunk w/ the feeling of eternity they give each other. waist & stomach. & w/ that Perdue hanging from her arm. I show Claudia around - her room next to mine. We have nothing to talk about. She invites a friend over - scrappy orphan type / desperate for love. She has intense - gypsy-through-thedesert eyes - a fucking ace! Sixteen? They lay on the floor & laugh rainbows out of their eyes & assholes the way overanxious anorexic zits like them always do. They looked at one another & smiled such sweet depth. Those girls were born sucking & licking at their halos - pure only by the technicality of their youth. They push their weight against one another - drunk w/ the feeling of eternity they give each other. 6:00PM - The ocean & the sky stack like two blue bricks tonight. The beach w/ all the cockroach guidos. The girls see something else - but what? something clear / refreshing. I try to find meaning / even in simplest ways / I find it difficult. They feel so deeply w/out trying. Beauty is everywhere for them. Life still expands for them. TV for now. 9:50PM - I drink too much at dinner. Girls still laughing as I lay down to sleep. My skin feels so thin & if I tugged hard enough I could tear it off like toilet paper & wipe my ass w/ it. Walls feel thin too. I can
feel the size of Claudia’s room by the sound of it. The hum of the space. I see everything in there: them flirtatiously fidgeting girls - Claudia crosslegged on the floor & the gypsy girl on her stomach on the bed. The tiles of my ceiling glow as I stare at the shapes in the dark. My skin & the tiles & everything is covered in an optical static. Everything hums. Palpable - X marks the spot. 11:15PM - Sleep. 1:00AM - Exaggerated bite-the-pillow grunts & moans wake me through the walls. My body is sore & the night is cemented as I look out the window. My ears are perked. The teen sluts sound ridiculous <<Mmmm you like that / I bet you do>> Their oohs & ahhs dotted like perfect little ‘i’s & ‘j’s - true doves slopping around in a bed. I find my sleeping pills in the nightstand & I hear Claudia as clearly as if she were in my own bed. <<Mmmmm ... yeaah ... Oh yeah. You ARE the best!>> Under-aged sex steams through the pores of the walls & curtains. Girl’s grunting one liners - makes me smile. <Don’t stop> - <oh baby you’re SO good> - etc. I take the sleeping pill - using my dry tongue & crusty saliva to force it down my throat. 2:40AM - Awake again. A sudden thump from the other room. Naked girls falling off the bed? Assured by giggling - BUT SUDDENLY - a boy’s voice? IT IS! I jump to my feet - bare assed & I hear Claudia <<shhh, you hear something?>>. I wait. The naked little bitches & lover boy all freeze as stiff as myself. A creak & a naked little bitch ear presses against the wall. I feel the creaking of my bones & the ballooning of my old achy joints. If not for that wall!
The little bitch ear peels itself from the wall. Giggles return. I tip toe across the room / put on my robe (& to sneak through my own home!). The sleeping pill - still in full effect drowsy & falling over I slip through the kitchen & out the sliding glass door - am welcomed into the night. Sudden glow of the porch light against my sweaty / fat / hammy skin startles me. I hide behind a knee-high shrub & eventually a fat unassuming tree (more to my likeness). 2:48AM - Outside. Staring in through Claudia’s window from behind the fat tree - darkness of room is inconclusive. I wait. Pump myself up thinking <<I am a fucking clenched fist w/ eyes!!>>. I wait ready to destroy the first person to break the virginity of the window. The tree holds my weight. Body’s temptation to sleep overwhelms. I mutter gently to myself to stay on task. Singing to myself - <<Keep those kneeees LOCKED / while the teeeen SLUTS / kneeees KNOCK!>> Time passes & grandeur of my anger fades. Half hour? I see a foot penetrate the darkness. A body comes tumbling out the window. Anger renews - anger always does. I watch as the twit-snot boy fumbles himself out the window. He whispers one last serenade & tiptoes across the length of the house. As window closes & curtains are drawn I step confidently from behind the bush. Kid turns around / matches my gaze. We locked eyes & I run at him. (BIG GRIN.) Sprinting & I see him silently mouth the word <shit> & as he turns to run. I dash w/ the strength of my heart of hearts! I tackle him to the floor - head bounces against the concrete of the driveway like a tennis ball. His grimace turns to just another piece of meat as I punch him in the cheek &
into the gravel. Blunt stomping in the ribs w/ my bare feet etc. Recoiling dramatically w/ my robe crashing like a wave against the motion sensitive light on the side of the house - I get right up in to his ear <<Keep that prick prick of yours away from those girls. Got me?>> He coughs & wheezes & looks me in the eyes (scared shitless naturally) He says, <<I swear I won't ever deal to them any more. I'm sorry!>> & so on. Hadn't thought to think drug dealer - huh? How had I not thought that? Hadn't thought to think. I cover up my confusion <<You’re lucky I don’t call the cops.>> I stand up <<Pale little shit.>> Blood & skin all over my driveway. I retrace my path through the sliding glass door & into the kitchen. My eyes strain to keep focus my body torn between adrenaline & sleep medication. Tumbling through the hallway towards my room - I hear through my fingers as they scrape against the walls & see through my ears as a car drives off from down the block. 3:50AM - Falling back into the bed & no noise from through the walls & no noise from out the windows. I need to get bent or dead. I swear I am so tired - this spaghetti western life is just too stupid to maintain…
white trash piece of shit to determine which of her four meatball boyfriends is the father of her child. Her yodel husband w/ her assures that he's the dad. Mascara runs down wife’s fat face. Husband explains <<Maury, th’ kid has blue eyes & my sister has blue eyes…>> Whistling through his teeth as he talks. <<Th’ baby's ears stick out like mine - Maury…>> Fucks who fucked his wife all telling him to just take the kid if he's so sure & husband insists that he <<Just got to know for sure - is all.>> He holds wife’s hand. <<Maury - I've just>> all teary eyed & bullshit - <<got to know.>> I get Naked to shower & am caught hypnotized by the image of my body in a mirror. Staring blankly into it & I realize I have never felt naked while naked. My haircut sits oddly on my body & even naked - I look to be a man of a specific time & place. Skin is loose & nipples droop - depressed / stretched & deformed from time. A medium-hot soak in the shower & I push my hand down the crack of my ass & watch the pellets of shit & hair swim across the tub & down the drain. Looking out the window. Girls emerge w/ pack of cigarettes. I crack the window slightly. Cigarettes slip between their lips w/ tender perfection / lightly gripping the tack of their lips while they fumble w/ the lighter. They play it off - convincing themselves as much as the other of their confidence & poise.
Sleep. TUESDAY / AUG 3RD 12:45 PM - Girls now awake & walking around in T-shirts that fit like dresses on them. I stay out of their way. They talk / watch TV & eat cold cuts off of napkins w/ mustard. I pretend to read the newspaper. They flip stations to Maury. The program: a paternity test for tubby
They giggle & look around to be sure they aren't watched. A glass pipe emerges & girls pack it / giggling. I slowly crack the window to listen. Claudia goes first - exaggerating her movements - pulling an enormous huff of air into her tiny body. Her chest pushes out & her rib cage & stomach protrude past her tiny tits.
Waits. … & releases the cosmic smoke back into the universe. The smell is unfamiliar / strange / not grass.
laugh & moan w/ a true magnificence. Her smile would fade & she'd just light up another cigarette & talk about how soon he was expected to die. He'd fall right back into his squirming & his discomfort. Always - <<Could be any day now.>> …
Claudia curls to the ground / her friend watching her & hesitantly holds the pipe to her face. Claudia falls slowly to the ground - like a thick loogy drips from a mouth onto the patchy grass & the dirt. She speaks incoherently & slowly / slurred / drooling. Followed down by the gypsy girl who sits Indian style while she exhales. Their eyes become empty & their lips & limbs begin to droop. Claudia says something like <<It's just like sometimes & further. Across - a cross - for.. Everyone. Just high - or - salvia saliva - mine or mine. See?>> Stuttered & choppy.
Eventually - words all fade to spit. REMINDS ME: Back in '94 this woman & her kid moved in down the block. She was Polish / Swedish / some such shit. Her skin was pale & her hair - a frigid blonde. She was tall & a little wide & we drank through the early years of my retirement. Her kid was all fucked up - cerebral palsy - would move like the girls were moving now. I couldn't bear it sometimes to see this kid trapped inside this scummy fucking life of his. Sixteen year old kid shitting into a diaper - squirming around in his body all day - sleeping in a crib. Kid had no sense of language or self-control- it just wasn’t right. His mother kept hand towels throughout her house to wipe his spit & for his piss that would leak out the side of his diaper. The kid could smile though. His mother would tickle his body & he'd scream &
Girls stand up off the grass - laugh with shallow hearts. <<That was crazy!>> & <<you were all…>> & all the bubblegum. They kiss. TV still on. Husband was the dad - turns out. & Maury congratulates the lucky couple. I step out of the shower & catch eyes w/ Claudia stepping in from outside. Her hair is tangled w/ a leaf in it & she has a new bruise on her arm. She smiles at me & we stayed locked for several seconds. & if it weren't so pleasant to be alive just then. ( & if not / how?) 6:15PM - Out looking for food - w/ Claudia - talk about beach & birds & strip malls. Talk about patterns telephone poles make. Claudia puts her body out the window of the car - she calls a mattress salesman in a Superman costume a loser. Stop at a diner. Pale sun shines through a chalky cloud. This dusty road feels like some dead moon. Burgers & soda etc. Me - nibbling on neon yellow mozzarella sticks. Claudia - watching Jap-crap cars screeching across the parking lot. She laughs at waitress's make-up. Goth kid across the street w/ eyeliner tells another he’s <<gonna punch him in the balls.>> w/ the emptiness that has surrounded my life somehow - I hope to feel angry. I try & instead nothing.
In the kitchen - chef spits into my burger. I can't make out the noises - BUT - see him pulling snot from deep inside his throat just before he lays it all out on my bun. The burger is served & we eat in silence.
feel like there’s some sort of conclusion coming (because it hurts so much to chew it all). Again it isn't anything - & I'm just tired. It’ll just spit out eventually. Like it rolled out of bed unannounced while I was sleeping.
I eat the burger as penance for my emptiness.
6:15AM Wake up. (Had fallen asleep in car.)
8:30PM - Trish calls to talk w/ Claudia. She catches me slur my speech over the telephone & calls me a drunk. I don‘t try to disagree. <<What’s your granddaughter going to think of you when you’re dead?>> & <<The only male figure in her life is always drunk. That's great dad, just great.>> Straight shooting bitch. I’d love to reach through the phone & shove my fist into her eye.
I gag on the hamburger air. In a panic I step out of the car. Stood up too quickly. Vision tunnels on the beach - world becomes a pinhole. Every gray comes undone - slipped open (as a shoelace.) The sky / ocean & sand becoming black on black on black - hopelessly infinite.
I interrupt <<Trish, I may be an alcoholic, but your daughter is a dyke.>> Silence for a tick. <<Your fifteen year old is a carpet cleaner. Got me?>> I laugh & she slams the telephone. 11:00PM - Bed. WEDNESDAY / AUG 4TH 5AM I drive to the ocean & sit in my car - eat a hamburger. Smell of meat fills the air & fogs the windows. I watch the morning unwind w/ the fish & the men who reeled them in. It all feels superimposed (the ocean / the fish / their men / the pier / the beach / the car window & my ass in my seat). It felt clear in that moment - there is no difference between any of it. But - just the same there is - & so the moment is broken. It's just bubblegum. & I've stuffed so much between my teeth over the years - I just keep chewing even when the flavor is gone. It's what I do best. & as many as I can bare to fit in my Mouth - I put more on top every day. I
10:00AM Trish comes by to pick Claudia up. Scolds / etc. ( ...) I listen & etc. I feel I've let Claudia down. Walk them to their car. Claudia leans in to kiss me. Her freckles illuminate like stars across her face & down the length of her arm. As our lips meet she & I catch a long hair between us. I spit at it & lap at it fingering my mouth until I catch it by chance. She reaches out a single finger (like in a movie) & the hair floats like magic off my clammy old hands into hers. My eyes focused on the hair the world turned to spots & sweeps of colors the rooms in the house return to the swatch book they came from. The hair glistens w/ singularity. <<Make a wish>> she blew.
Untitled: Someone's February 14th leftovers, found in our apartment
complex's jacuzzi. San Antonio, Texas: 28 February 2011 Terin Talarico
Richard H. Swanson Hood deli ground floor outpost of old constraints thugs lined up bastard pigeons clutter buoyantly like fishing boats ringing bells trading insults a bright day blossoms glinting off poverty’s badge we made it though the mire of winter’s ache came teeming out friends till nightfall drunk on spilled secrets into short spring afternoons until its hot and fights break out and duties loom in the glare lashings at irregular seams your girlfriend in a loose tank top someone else’s girlfriend in cutoffs toes and calves and beer in rounds to dodge the tunnel of days kids are 2 and asking for hand held computers so it makes sense that years pass like trimesters and thirty isn’t as bad as thirty seven year olds promised so I sweep up go out just a little thread wavelengths whistling through it I feel like a ponytail neat and free out with sizzling steps decadent nature adding flourish to three dimensions bedazzling a fourth soupy limbs slow steady paths of direction sweat glands vindicated by a burning star eye of winter’s rule and summer’s abandon with rain and air between a day coated in resin glossy to the lips
Ceremony James Scales The ceremony was beginning in an hour and nobody could find the bride or groom. Upstairs, they had locked themselves in a small suite where later their honeymoon would come to pass. On the bed opposite from Tom, the bride was carefully packing weed into a small glass bowl. Her gown was hanging in the closet next to the bathroom and she wore a thin slip the color of old pennies that wrinkled when she crossed and uncrossed her legs. The groom sat next to her, looking bored as he squeezed his hands between his knees and leaned back, stretching. Tom fingered in his pockets nervously the folded page with the notes for his speech. The window was open and the air was being pulled across the room from under the door, ruffling a paperback on the desk. Outside you could see a small section of tarred roof, then the freshly paved parking lot, and a small ditch choking with springtime weed, where an opened culvert emptied from under the highway. Over the lot, past the adjunct restaurant and gas station, shook the occasional rumble of downshifting trucks, on their way to Buffalo, thirty miles up. She was a loyal plump bride. Her thighs and upper arms were pale and round. Over her bosom hang a small pendant with a bedazzled cross. She directed everything she said to her fiancé with a glance, speaking to anyone else with eye contact that was furtive, with a guilt that made her hunch her shoulders forward into herself. —Do you want any? she asked Tom. —No, thanks, said Tom. —Do you smoke? she asked, looking sideways at the groom. —No, not in a while, said Tom. I’m on sabbatical. Tom had known the groom since middle school. They had played in each other’s bands, and traded tapes. The groom never went to college, staying home to work for his father at the electric company. He drank too much, and after three years his father had to fire him. A few weeks of living at home, doing nothing but drinking every night, blacking out and calling his old friends and being nasty, then apologizing in the morning, forgetting what he had said, and he gave it up and moved to Buffalo, following an advertisement online for a band needing a singer/guitarist. The band folded right away, and he couldn’t find any work, sleeping on the drummer’s couch, selling small bags of weed. Eventually he found the bride in an online chat room for singles. He moved onto her couch and the two were engaged within months. The bride pushed the bowl toward Tom. —No, said Tom, beer is good enough for me. —I can’t pass to him, she said, before the ceremony, motioning sideways, her mouth full of smoke. It’s like a traditional thing. Downstairs the groom’s father was perched in the bar off of the lobby. He looked too young to be a father but his face was lean and stretched and leathery, like a baseball bruised by scores of wooden bats. He was gulping beer like he was parched, buying drinks for guests and strangers alike and telling the same old stories. —Thanks Teddy, said a man at the end of the bar. —Yeah, thanks, Ted, said another man. —We’re celebrating today, said Teddy. When he was his son’s age someone had given him a blanket of money to complete and publish his comic book, which was finished, he pointed out, only the story kept evolving, kept changing like his life and the drawings just couldn’t keep up. The whole process was a microcosm, he liked to say, for his own existence. He could never sell it, because it would be selling a fragment of his soul. He had gone to Columbia, on his mother’s dime. She was a prominent psychologist who had once fruitlessly attempted to treat a famous women’s poet. She sent him to Columbia to study the mind and how it works. He dropped out after three years, his highest achievement being the gram of marijuana he sold to Hunter Thompson before a university speaking event. His father had given him a job through a friend at ConEdison, and the two spoke
very seldom. —I never wanted to study that bullshit. The way psychology is today is like trepanning in the Stone Age. It’s an ancient relic, a leftover tradition from Freud and those mother-f’ers. It was the same thing with religion, he said. A deadly social virus. All those old beliefs we have are gonna disappear with the same foreseeable calculus of an epizootic, like the plague in the wenisweniswenis eighteen hundreds, when we all learn to wash our hands and make it illegal to indoctrinate our children. —Thanks for the Bud, said the guy next to Teddy, clapping him on the back. The bride’s family had, at the very last rushed minute, found a priest to do the whole thing. His car had run out of gas along the road and the mother had driven off to pick him up, fearing a sign and frantically attempting to intervene. Through the window upstairs the bride saw the car return. She knew her mother and her notions and made the boys leave while she changed, and when the groom refused she sprayed perfume until he left. Fifteen minutes later the whole party, bride, mother and priest, were seen rushing into the reception room. In the bar the groom’s party gathered, former co-workers at the plant and a few members of the band, finishing their drinks or ordering one more. In the center the groom stood stiffly, answering the congratulations of those around him with curt little nods. —My boy, began the father, he’s a very, lucky boy. I hope he looks back on this day and remembers the best decision he’s ever made, and one day he’ll be here, or somewhere else, making a speech to his son on the day of his wedding. He gulped the last inch of beer in his bottle. Well, let’s save the speeches for later. Let’s get to it. The ceremony went off without a hitch, except for the twenty or so chairs that apparently went missing or got lost, even though they had very clearly told the hotel how big their party was, and the staff interrupting the opening remarks to carry in various chairs from unoccupied rooms so that the back few rows could sit. The priest was warm and kind, joking about his adventures that day and thanking god for the beautiful weather he was giving them, and the bountiful spring it would entail, and the long summer of happiness and youth that the young couple would surely enjoy. Like the grass now budding outside, so too would their love bud, returning every year just as young and green as it was today, always there during the dark moments, which, just as winter comes, there were sure to be. He paused, before the vows, to offer a space for those who wanted to add their own prayers for the two to address themselves humbly and directly to god in hope that he may hear them and bestow his grace, and someone in the front row coughed loudly. The rings were carried in by the bride’s childhood poodle, which was distracted by the audience, though they had practiced with it, and entertained everyone when it ran through the bride’s hands. —Now you may kiss, said the priest, when the vows were over and a speaker began with Pachabel’s Canon. A small round of applause began and ended abruptly near the back, several turning in confusion. The mother of the bride stood up as the two turned from their kiss and walked back down the aisle, tears tugging insistently at the corners of her eyes. The whole party had moved to the bar, and after the couple had their dance it was time for the speeches. The bride’s mother demurred, her first glass having made her blush and get unsteady on her feet. The groom’s father leaned against a chair and everyone hushed each other until he began. —My son is a wonderful kid. When he first introduced me to Brittney and her family, I said to myself, well, I think this is going to work out well for everyone. He took Brittney down one day on the bus and we all went out and I tell you, that girl can keep up with the best of them. I knew it then, a month before he told me, they would be together for a while. He paused, a few warm sighs punctuating from the audience. I know maybe I have not been the greatest father in the world, but you now, I always made sure to myself that
my boy was happy and that he was strong. And I look at him today and see a little version of myself, and I tell you, I could not be happier for him. The applause was prolonged, and the father hugged his boy and everyone raised their bottles and drank deeply. Tom stood up, unfolding and refolding the page from his pocket. He read it over once as people were quieting down, then changed his mind and refolded it and stuffed it into his back pocket. —I want to thank everyone who made this wedding happen, Brittney’s parents, Brittney’s mother, and Steve’s dad. Steve and I have been friends for a very long time and it’s great to see him be so happy. You know, I haven’t known Brittney for a very long time, but from everything I’ve heard from Steve, I can tell she is going to be a wonderful bride and a good friend. It sounds a little corny saying this, but I think love takes a lot of hard work. It’s never going to be easy, even if you know the person for years and years. I know Steve is strong and I know that when he gets his mind set to something he can work at it forever. When we were freshmen he couldn’t even play an open string on his guitar, and in four years, when we were graduating, he wanted us to play the whole Dark Side of the Moon for the talent show. I’m glad they didn’t let us, he added, a few people laughing. It’s always hard with old friends, when you begin to lose track of each other’s lives. I know Steve and I didn’t talk much for a couple of years after high school. People get busy with their lives, moving on to new places. When he called me though to tell me about the wedding I made sure that I would be here, to support my old friend. Just like the grass growing outside—the audience laughed—I hope our friendship grows every year. And, just like the grass growing in the parking lot, I hope the love between Steve and Brittney renews itself forever and fills in all the cracks of their lives. He coughed and sat down as the audience clapped and raised their drinks. —To Steve! —To Brittney! —To Pink Floyd! —To Grass! Much later, after most of the guests, co-workers, friends and the bride’s family had left, and the bar had closed, the couple, the father and Tom left for the suite upstairs. The three packed a bowl and Tom sipped quietly from a bottle of wine they had managed to pinch from the bar. After they smoked the father began to fall asleep on one of the beds, and they almost had to push him off to wake him up. He sat up and took from his pocket a small bag of white powder. —Well, it’s only midnight, said Steve, laughing. —I’ve never tried it before, said Britney, looking at her husband. —I’m okay, said Tom, standing up and looking at his watch. I should probably get to sleep. I have to be back in the city for work tomorrow night. —Your loss, said the father. Brittney giggled, almost uncontrollably. The couple woke late for brunch the next day, cold cuts of meat, sliced pale watery tomatoes, garlands of cold lettuce, bagels and Green Mountain coffee, and Tom had to leave very soon after they came downstairs. They all shook hands outside by the car and promised to visit his new apartment and he didn’t see them for many years.
Hermit Crab Shells Jesse Cataldo Sooner or later our pets all died: In heaps; Stretched rigid by the furnace; In the wheel wells of our neighbors' Chevys; Mouths agape on cold steel tables; Reflected on the lip of the bowl. And we cried. Because fish are forgotten, cats scratch at the gates of heaven, and hamsters are soulless beasts that float like soap bubbles in limbo. Plunging into teary dreams we would find our grandparents, holding lost dogs in their laps, with bony faces and briquette eyes, so that when we woke we wanted nothing more from them. Chilled by the waning heat of their stilled hearts, even as we missed their cold noses in our ears. When their replacements arrived, fresh-faced, pawing at the bars, full of tricks and leaps and quirks we would shake our heads and wring our hands, black spiders spinning in our knotted guts
Featured Artists: Amy R. Brenner, Jesse Cataldo, Mac Faulker, Sarah R. Lipman, Magda Rachwal, James Scales, Richard H. Swanson, Terin Talari...
Published on May 1, 2012
Featured Artists: Amy R. Brenner, Jesse Cataldo, Mac Faulker, Sarah R. Lipman, Magda Rachwal, James Scales, Richard H. Swanson, Terin Talari...