Copyright © 2015 by the Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC). The Grinnell Review, Grinnell College’s biannual undergraduate arts and literary magazine, is a student-produced journal devoted to the publication of student writing and artwork. Creative work is solicited from the entire student body and review anonymously by the corresponding Writing and Arts Committees. Students are involved in all aspects of production, including selection of works, layout, publicity, and distribution. By providing a forum for the publication of creative work,The Grinnell Review aims to bolster and contribute to the art and creative writing community on campus. Acknowledgments: The work and ideas published in The Grinnell Review belong to the individuals to whom such works and ideas are attributed to and do not necessarily represent or express the opinions of SPARC or any other individuals associated with the publication of this journal. © 2015 Poetry, prose, artwork and design rights return to the artists upon publication. No part of this publication may be duplicated without the permission of SPARC, individual artists or the editors. The Grinnell Review is printed and bound by Pioneer Graphics in Waterloo, IA. It was designed using Adobe InDesign® CS5. The typeface for the body text is Perpetua and the typeface for the titles is Didot. Cover art by Ezra Edgerton Inner cover art: Untitled 1, Untitled 2 by Martha Orlet Inner title art: Stare Down by Leina’ala Voss All editorial and business correspondence should be addressed to: Grinnell College c/o Grinnell Review Grinnell, IA 50112 www.grinnellreview.com Letters to the editor are also welcome. Please send them to the address above or to email@example.com
XLVI | Spring 2015 ARTS SELECTION COMMITTEE Julia Broeker Hannah Condon Melissa Fandos Charlotte Kanzler Edith March
EDITORS Hannah Bernard Silvia Foster-Frau Geo Gomez Masha Shevelkina
WRITING SELECTION COMMITTEE Jenkin Bensen Sam Burt Diane Lenertz Alejandra Rodriguez Caleigh Ryan Eliana Schechter Josie Sloyan Jazmyn Taylor Clara Trippe
Emma Morrissey Alamo Square 55 Patrilineal Eulogy 51
W riting Leo Abbe Uncle Leo 79 Jenkin Benson Station 6, Holiday Aquatic Center 37 Dallas County 48 Gray’s Lake 51 Total White Guy Ennui 56 Jessica Flannery It’s Hard 33 Eleanor Griggs Preparation 17 Annunciation 40 Geo Gomez Kids Are Sick Hot Mess
Diane Lenertz Therapy 13
Emily Mesev Transhumanism Microfiction
Varun Nayar For Bombay 30 Instructions for Leaving 54 Caleigh Ryan What Keeps Me Here on Earth
Eliana Schechter Fragmenting in Code
Masha Shevelkina Shower Milk 33 Emma Sinai-Yunker Anniversary 67 Josie Sloyan But Ultimately the Details Don’t Matter 81 Emily Sue Tomac Animal, Eating
Jazmyn Taylor Secrets
Clara Trippe Lanscape
A rt Joshua Anthony Untitled (one), (two), (three) Hannah Bernard Earth is Woman Justicia Para Ayotzinapa
Amy Flores Attack of the Aliens
Cal Froikin Color Glitch no. 1
Becky Garner Amoeba II 11
Hannah Condon Carcass in Two Parts 15 Memento Mori 60 Shrine for Prairie Summer 76 Douglas Dale Bernie 14 MMadhousee 61 Ezra Edgerton Feast II 32 Consumption 35 Feast Fight Fuck 39 Elle Azul Duncombe-Mills Into the Canal 62 Hull 69 Jack Dunnington Icon 38
Eliza Harrison Rio de S. Vio, Venezia
Charlotte Kanzler Chickadee 28 Light Gaze 76 Nathan Kim Your Mom 53 Abby Lowe So Gently Tethered
Grace Lloyd Das Rhiengold
Rosie Oâ€™Brien Health Frescoe 29 Juggle Me 77
Michelle Tsai Familiar Demons 64 Leinaâ€™ala Voss Angel 31 Double Poncho 45 Heavenly Library 49 Palm Tree 80 Metea Voyce Underwater 73
Letter From the Editors Dear Readers and Contributors, For this edition of The Grinnell Review, we wiped more tears from our eyes than sweat off our brow. We, just like you, have scraped our brains for four years to pile it onto something tangible, an education, and have found solace in the things we cannot scrape out but only explore in wonder--imagination, creativity, and adventure--all of which we hope you’ll find on the pages within. Before we get too emotional, we’d like you to know: To say that editing The Review changed the way we approach art and writing is not untrue, to say that we did not lose sleep or hair or possibly even our sense of self during layout would be topsy-turvy, and to say we’ll miss The Grinnell Review is a catastrophic understatement, at best. As we type our final farewell, we bid you, readers, contributors, and Grinnelians alike, to continue making and absorbing art, and to, above all else, “go ham”. We’d also like to thank Jim Miller and the rest of the wonderful crew at Pioneer Graphics, SPARC for funding, and the English Department for their tutelage and their equally swaggy and swanky release parties.
Please don’t cry, or we will too! Oh no, here come the tears--
With Love, Hannah Bernard, Silvia Foster-Frau, Geo Gomez, and Masha Shevelkina
“I’ve had it with being nice, understanding, fair and hopeful. I feel like being negative all day. The chip on my shoulder could sink the QE2. I’ve got an attitude problem and nobody better get in my way...I’m in a bad mood and the whole stupid little world is gonna pay!” - John Waters
Attack of the Aliens | Amy Flores| Oil on canvas
Amoeba II| Becky Garner| Plexiglass, translucent vinyl, sunlight (10 am CST)
Hills Over Bangor Eliana Schecter
Imagine this: French roast coffee horse tumbling through Maine air, free as lust. Remember this: You are the ten year old on top, holding onto the corroded burnt bread brown saddle horn like mothers in the city with their childrenâ€™s leashes. And this too: Baby blond hair irreverently tangling in the wind. Bruised hope only recovered in the grasp of Dancerâ€™s owner, halting his last run.
Therapy Diane Lenertz
I forget my body so I can sit between the two dimensions of the TV, let myself be flattened til I’m the newest model Prius, the dog barking for Purina, any face that flits across the screen. It’s a process of unbeing. I still myself til I separate from feeling any moving parts. If I never move my arm, I can’t confirm it’s still attached, that the shoulder joint up top has not dissolved like one commercial into the next. One is not alone who does not exist.
Bernie| Douglas Dale | Oil on canvas
Carcass in Two Parts| Hannah Condon | Welded steel and cotton string
Animal, Eating Emily Sue Tomac
You eat your grapefruit sliced in half. With serrated spoon, a civilized lie. The sugar on top glistens, demure and impartial as the sticky eye of a newborn calf.You forget too quickly, my love, the comfort you took in milking its lingering hull, wanting to drink every drop from the modest fold of the rind. There are no bones. Only your face in the silver, washed and dried.
1952 She stared down at the linoleum floor under her desk. She spotted an old piece of bubblegum next to her head as she huddled down. The whole classroom was quiet except for the uncomfortable shifting of bodies scrunched into uncomfortable positions beneath the desks. Luckily, Nadine was small. She pulled her skirt further down over her knees to form a barrier between herself and the cold floor. The other children fidgeted and giggled at one another, but Nadine felt sick. She kept remembering the movie they’d watched and imagining the bright flash that could burn them all up without warning. The teacher had given her a metal necklace with her name on it to wear. She didn’t want to be burned up by the bombs. She wanted to sink beneath her desk and never come out. She wanted to sink below the linoleum tiles into the earth and curl up in her cave forever. The teacher called out that the drill was over after five minutes. Nadine refused to come out from underneath her desk. Her parents had to be called. For three weeks, after she was tucked in, she would sneak out from under the covers and sleep under the bed instead. 1957
Her friend owned a trampoline. After school they raced out of the doors and all the way home, lunch boxes bumping at their knees, and threw down their backpacks and jackets in the backyard grass. And then they jumped. Nadine sailed into the air, higher, higher. She was wild, absolutely crazed with joy. The sky was pink and purple like her sweater and the back porch of her friend’s house gleamed a warm yellow. She looked up and saw a ghostly glimmer of the moon. She jumped up, reaching towards it. Higher, higher. And then she was down, flat on her back in the grass. Her ears rang. She could not breath. Her friend ran into the house. She lay in the grass, lungs gasping, limbs tingling in shock as her body searched for breaks. As she lost oxygen her eyes grew fuzzy and she looked up she saw something flash in the sky, something shooting through the night. She wanted to scramble back, get away, and she strained until suddenly she felt her lungs take a deep, shuddering breath and she was all right. “You okay, honey? Kind of got the wind knocked out of you there,” said her friend’s dad, polishing his glasses on his shirt and then helping her to slowly sit up. “I saw something in the sky,” Nadine said, “something’s falling.” “You were just in shock, kiddo,” said her friend’s dad, “let’s take you home, okay? I’ll drive you.” “I know I saw something,” Nadine said, feeling urgent. “Aw, heck, I don’t know. Maybe it was Sputnik,” her friend’s dad said, leading her towards the car. She’s heard the name before and she knows it means creased eyebrows and tight mouths and changing the subject. 17
Every night, Nadine searches the night sky for the flash again, looking for the unknowable terror only known by its terrible name. Sputnik in the sky. She pressed her nose to the window glass, leaving a faint oily print, and looked up to the moon, free from encircling fears and far, far away from all of this. 1965 It was her first year out of high school and she’d gotten a job at the bank where her father worked. Every morning she got up, made herself a pimento cheese sandwich and a thermos of coffee and drove to work with her father in the Plymouth. She worked until five, but at five every day her father drove out to play squash with the other managers, so she had to walk home alone. In her purse she carried the empty thermos and the Tupperware sandwich box and she walked fifteen minutes back to her house. One day when as she walked home, a man stepped out from a diner and began to walk a few paces behind her. At first she barely noticed, but they seemed to be going in the same direction. He caught up to her when she stopped at a traffic light and stood a few paces behind her. He wore a tan coat and his hair was too long. She began to walk faster. On a whim, she turned down a random street with nothing but a few houses and a deli, and the man turned too, walking casually just a few feet behind her. She cut across an intersection and back to the main road. The man stayed behind her. Nadine’s heart began to beat faster and faster. At every storefront or window they passed, she cast a glance over to see the man walking behind her a little closer. She had nothing but a thermos, a sandwich box, and her house key to defend herself 18
with. Maybe her hair clip, she thought desperately. When she turned on to her own street, it was beginning to get dark and Nadine began to run. She wasn’t even sure if the strange man had turned, but she could almost sense hot breath and snapping teeth just behind her. When her father got home from squash, he found every door locked and barricaded and Nadine playing a game of cards with her mother, a baseball bat casually resting next to her chair. When he looked at his daughter, he thought that there was something harsher about her sweet, young girl’s face. Her eyes were wide, frightened like a deer, but her hands were steady. 1969 Nearly thirty people were clustered in her living room. It’s sweltering. She fanned herself and a drop of sweat slid down between her breasts and pooled at the top of her stomach, forming a dark stain on her blouse. Her mother frowned at the state of her shirt and Nadine crossed her arms. The important people got to sit in the front. Her father’s shiny head blocked most of the picture. Her father’s boss asked her if she could fetch him a lemonade from the kitchen. She needed him to like her. When she finished her accounting course he would be her boss as well.
She turned towards the kitchen, warm yellow walls, family pictures, the shine of chrome, but at the last moment she glanced back and saw something remarkable. Flickering in just a few shades of black and grey she saw a man climb down a ladder. He was wrapped up like a baked potato. He took one small step. “Hey sweetie, how’s that lemonade coming?” said her father’s boss, sweat rolling down his bulging forehead. “Get it yourself,” she said, “I’m watching.” Small steps, great leaps.
When she took the deer to get it butchered, she asked the man if she could sit in and learn. That is how she met Frank. He had just gotten back from the war and now he worked at his father’s farm although in the army he was an engineer. She liked this balance in him, both the rugged farmer and the mechanically minded soldier. Everything about his calloused hands said competence. This was a man who could go out into the world and make it on his own. For the first few minutes, Nadine sat quietly and watched as he slit the deer open. His hair was cropped close to his head, 1974 which she liked. Slowly the room filled with the smell of deer, a She bought herself a gun. At first, she was embarrassed by pungent and yet natural smell. it and kept it hidden in the drawer under her socks. Eventually, “So you were in Vietnam?” Nadine asked him timidly. she worked up the courage to go to the firing range. Men always “Yep,” he replied briskly. smirked when they saw her there, they thought it was funny, but it “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but…” Nadine bit her didn’t stop them from offering to coach her. At the end of the day, lip, “why not go into engineering?” it was worth getting her sides fondled by a greasy old man if she “I like to farm. I like to hunt and fish and take care of learned to shoot her target dead center every time. myself,” Frank replied, as blood began pouring from the animal on But it’s not enough, she realized, to go shoot at a stationary the table and clung, glutinous and slimy, to his hands. “In the war target in safety goggles and earmuffs. So she got a hunting permit I found myself helpless a few too many times. I never want to feel and went tromping out in the woods every afternoon with a gang like that again. I want my life in my own hands.” of boys she’d gone to high school with. At first, they were irritated Frank began pulling the guts from the deer and shoveling with the way she consistently scared away deer with her tromping the pink, rubbery heap into a bucket. Nadine’s hand shot out to feet or the frequency with which she dropped her ammo, but after stop him. a few months she bagged a buck. She had no idea what to do with “Save those,” she said quietly. the deer. It lay there in the moss, bleeding, and she stared down “The organ meats? Most people don’t eat-“ Frank started, at its enormous body. Her eyes were already trained not to see its confused. beauty, its elegance, or its confused animal pain. Instead she saw “I don’t want to waste it,” Nadine said. She stared down meat. She saw herself never going hungry again. into the dull, sticky eye of the dead animal. “It might come in 19
handy later. High in nutrients.” “You,” Frank said after a pause, “are a practical little lady.” “I’m sorry,” Nadine said with a flush, “you can throw them away.You’re more qualified after all.” Here she was obsessing over intestines like she was starving. “I just mean,” Frank stuttered, for the first time seeming unsure, “it’s smart.” Nadine and Frank married the following summer. They bought a charming little farmhouse. Frank said he loved the picture window. Nadine said she loved it too, but she lay awake at night and worried about nuclear winter or massive hurricanes and dreamt of boarding the damn thing up.
When she got home with the groceries Frank stared at her as she brought in bag after bag. “What were you thinking?” he kept shouting, “We don’t have the room for this!” Nadine began to cry, dropping a sack of cans. She sat down on the floor, surrounded by overstuffed bags and food spilling out onto the floor. Frank looked surprised and knelt down in front of her. “It’s okay,” he hushed her, “We’ll eat it all eventually.” And just like that, the tears were gone.
1979 They had their first child, a son, and they named him 1977 Elwood after his grandfather. The first week he came home, he She went to the grocery store for eggs and laundry caught a cold and Nadine lay awake miserably night after night detergent. Never shop hungry, her mother had always said, but thinking of germs creeping into their house and infecting their Nadine was hungry. She filled the cart with treats at first, a box of defenseless baby. Spending so much time at home while pregnant fresh donuts for Frank, a new brand of coffee that was on sale, the had made her fat and useless so she bought an exercise bike and first apples of fall. But every aisle she walked down was so swollen spent her days at home gazing down at the baby while her legs with bounty, she found herself stacking the cart with random whirled below her. A drop of sweat slid down her nose and onto items. Flour, salt, cat litter for their nonexistent cat, limes, canned the baby’s forehead and he cooed. She smiled at him so that he corn, canned meat, canned beans, canned everything. She filled knew that he was safe and protected and his mother would make the cart. She got another cart. It was so difficult to push them but her body into a deadly weapon for him. She was becoming so she makes it to the cash register. powerful. “Having a party?” The kid at the cash register asked. It took But a shadow niggled at the back of her mind, whispering him twenty minutes to scan it all. that she cannot stop a virus from coming into her home by She struggled out to the parking lot, guiding both carts brandishing a gun and she cannot stop the picture window from over the cracks and scrambling to pick up anything that fell. She shattering with well-toned quads. In some aspects she was still as loaded the back of the Volkswagen and then the backseats. weak as a skittish doe or a butterfly or her newborn son. 20
Frank spent a lot of time grumbling about the economy and so she went to the local library and picked out books with titles like “Famine and Survival in America” and a shiny new hardback called “How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years.” Standing in line to checkout, Nadine dropped the books into a magazine display and left. Instead, she went to the children’s section and checked out books she could read to her baby. The woman working at the counter smiled at her as she handed over her library card and Nadine smiled back. She was the beloved mother, preparing her soft little baby for a life of joy, and everyone smiled at that. But as she left the library, she found herself shoving the other books, the ones she’d shoved into the magazine stand, into her purse. After all, as the sign on the wall informed her, Reading is Fun! She’d bring them back, she told herself. She’d bring them all back. She and Frank read the secret books in the living room, and Frank began to sketch out designs for little gadgets to collect rainwater and eventually rough blueprints for a bunker. For the first time, Nadine felt that there was something serious to be done about the fears that had haunted her since childhood. There were ways to protect herself from that dread and there were names to put on the nameless doom she’d always felt breathing down her back, following her home. They sat in the living room, backs to the wide maw of their terrible picture window and read about ways to save themselves. Then they put Elwood to bed and read about bunnies and castles and dinosaurs who live in cheerful denial about their coming oblivion.
1981 The year Frank and Nadine had their second child, a daughter this time whose sweet face demanded to be named Jennifer, they sold their farmhouse and moved further out into the country. They told their friends that they’d grown tired of the way the subdivisions had been crowding them and how the neighborhood had declined since they’d first bought it. This time they moved far out into the country. Frank worked mostly from home, getting money from a few fairly significant patents, and Nadine spent her time planting a huge garden and learning to keep chickens. She liked the idea that one day they could turn their homestead into an entirely self-sufficient ecosystem. One day they could have everything they need. When Jennifer was a few months old and Elwood had begun toddling around, Nadine finally worked up the courage to ask Frank about a home renovation project and to her surprise he agreed without hesitation. Together, they dug their bunker deep into the earth and Elwood played with the dirt. Nadine kissed Frank’s dusty face and felt absurdly happy to have a husband who was more than just a lover. They were partners. And they made a wonderful team. At night they watched TV and a grim, fastidiously made up newscaster told them about the danger of Russia and deadly bombs stacking up all over the world. Nadine felt afraid, but at least she knew she was not helpless. It’s a game of action and reaction, and she could take whatever they threw at her. Jennifer cried in her crib and Nadine wished she’d grow up already. 1983 21
The baby stopped breathing. It was only for a moment, but it changed things. At the hospital, the doctors told her that little baby Jenny had a severe peanut allergy, enough so that if a single nut so much as touched anything she air, her airways would constrict to a close and she would die, helpless and gasping. Frank rocked the baby in his arms, she was asleep and peaceful now, while Nadine read through the endless pamphlets on where tree nuts might be hiding and mentally rehearsed driving the epipen into her baby’s soft skin. Peanuts had infiltrated this world completely and now lay waiting for an ambush around every corner and in every dark shadow. Then she went down to the pantry. The lights of the bunker flickered on and the generator began to hum in the corner. Despite the noise, it seemed so much quieter down there. Only then did she let herself sob and she felt ashamed. Her baby was broken, unfit, too delicate for the hard world, and she would die so easily. Unfit to survive. Nadine stared at the shelves of peanut butter she’d saved and saved, telling herself that it was such good protein, so many calories, so many years she could keep her family alive. Worthless now. Unfit. She scooped them off of the shelf and into a cardboard box she’d already labeled for the local food pantry. Some terrible, unmotherly, animal part of her whispered that she could dig a hole in the back yard, bury the jars. They would keep for years. If they were ever in desperate need she could find it and be the savior. Nadine grabbed a shovel and headed out into the yard. The moon hung over the house, serene in its knowledge that it was so far away from a world of peanuts and crying babies. It was for Elwood, she told herself, pressing the shovel into the dirt. She 22
would do it to save Elwood. Inside she heard the baby start crying and Frank shushing and singing her back to sleep. Rock-a-bye baby he sang and Nadine could almost see the precariously dangling cradle. She set down the shovel and set the box of peanut butter in the back of the Volkswagen. After all, she thought, some one else might be hungry right now. She went inside to hold her little girl. 1993 The house was swarming with people and she tried to keep up. Children were out in the yard, playing with the hose and Nadine’s mother stood next to her in the kitchen as she iced the birthday cake. “I didn’t know your new place had a cellar,” her mother mused, looking out towards the bunker doors that erupted out from the middle of the grass. “I use it for canning,” Nadine said honestly. She wore a soft sundress, the first time since the beginning of winter that her legs had felt the pleasant brush of air. In the dark, cold tundra of the preceding weeks a birthday cake seemed like an absurd waste, but now she smiled as the children swarmed through her house like locusts, endlessly hungry and consuming. Nadine set her jaw and finished writing ‘Happy Birthday Elwood’ on the blue frosted cake. To keep the thoughts of eternal, barren winter and countless frozen deaths away, she turned on the radio and offered her mother the spoon to lick. The radio played I Will Always Love You and Nadine forgot about everything but birthdays and sugar and April sun. The song cut out before the big climax. A news reporter
interrupted in a solemn voice that made her heart seize and her throat close as if some secret peanuts were worming their way down her throat. The radio reported that in Waco, Texas the Branch Davidians, a group of survivalists who believed that the apocalypse and second coming were near at hand, had finally surrendered after a fire in their compound killed seventy-six men, women, and children. Her mother shook her head. “So sad,” her mother said, “those crazy end-of-the-world types always seem to end badly. It’s a pity they catch so many young people under their spell. If they’re so concerned with surviving the end days, why don’t they just surrender themselves when they have the chance?” Nadine brought the cake outside. Her heart pounded as she imagined seventy-six people huddling where they thought they were safe, secure in their fortress, while fire raced inevitably towards them. Alarm bells and secret passages, she thought, we have to learn from the mistakes of others.
they took some money they’d put aside and bought a reinforced steel shipping container to live inside. No earthquake would shake it down, no bullet would pierce it, and just to be certain Nadine ringed their whole property in cheerful garlands of barbed wire. And maybe, just to be careful, she and Frank bought an old greyhound bus, fixed it up, and stocked it with essentials in case everything else failed and they had to make a run for it. No matter what, it was good to have backup. Frank called it their “bug out” plan, and he started pacing around the house like a soldier again, drawing coded maps to each of their secret cache spots. He made the rounds once a week to make sure no coyote tried to dig them up. Nadine attempted to take down their home with an assault rifle. There was barely a dent in the shipping container. But you can’t be too careful. She tried a plastic explosive. Some of the china broke. On New Years Eve, Elwood and Jennifer came home. Elwood brought his fiancée, a sturdy nurse practitioner named Aurora who’d embraced her position as official medical specialist 1999 in the event of catastrophic shutdown with surprising zeal. She could feel it pressing down on her all year. The big one Jennifer brought no one, but after a few drinks complained that is coming. It was the Year of Many Classes and when she was not it was so difficult to bring home a guy when home was a shipping canning and cooking and harvesting for the future she was out of container. They popped a bottle of Champaign and then headed the house learning Taekwondo or EMT training or fungal biology. down to the bunker. Nadine’s heart pounded as they turned on the Elwood had moved out and Jennifer was going to community news and waited for everything to end. When Y2K sent the world college. Nadine and Frank had spent hours getting ready for the to the screeching halt she had been watching in slow motion for all big event. The bunker was bursting with food, water, medical of these years, they would be untouchable. supplies, and a full arsenal. Frank’s generators and windmills could Her children were strong and capable. Her house was a power the whole complex. But they couldn’t be too careful and so fortress. Her life was a closed system and she had all the energy 23
she needed. They braced themselves. 2000 The next morning as she scrubbed a few dirty glasses and Frank scoured the Internet forums for any news they might have missed she could not help but feel a little disappointed. 2003 The options were overwhelming sometimes. Super volcanoes, global warming, global cooling, sudden reversal of the earth’s polarity, electromagnetic pulse, oil crisis, economic shutdown, pandemic, or maybe some sort of asteroid that comes out of nowhere. The Internet forums were abound with theories and tips, and Nadine realized just how unprepared she has been all this time. A bunker seemed so silly now, like shielding yourself from a nuclear blast with a plastic desk. Frank was worried about power and he spent a lot of time in his workshop, running through a constant cycle of frustration and excitement. Then one night, Elwood called to announce that they were going to have their first grandchild. Frank beamed for the rest of the night and kept chuckling to himself with pure joy. Nadine smiled, but for some reason she couldn’t make herself elated. She was preparing herself for an apocalypse, not another hungry baby. That night, she woke up cold and could not get warm. She slid out of bed and although there was a nice thick rug on the floor, she could feel the cold seeping up from the icy steel beneath them. Quietly Nadine walked down to the bunker and ran her fingers along the rows of cans and jars and dried military rations 24
she had been ordering from a specialty supplier. She had seventyfive years of food for their family, but with the baby she would have to change her calculations. As she went over the math, she realized with a strange drop in her stomach that she had been assuming she and Frank would live another seventy-five years. With a shiver, she felt another weight settle down on her shoulders and for the first time in years she trembled beneath it. She could survive, but she was old and in the long run, in the big game, it didn’t matter if she lived or died. Humanity still ended if she was the only one to make it out. Elwood’s little baby was the thing she should be preserving, but she would not let that baby grow up and die the last of his kind. They’re going to need sperm and eggs, she thought grimly, and a few more grandchildren would be nice. 2007 Nadine stood in the shower Frank built, and although the well water still smelled like sulfur, she barely noticed anymore. She scrubbed herself with the soap she’d made from goat fat and ashes, scented with peppermint oil she’d added as a special treat. Elwood and Jennifer would be there soon to run a bug out drill. Elwood was bringing Aurora and Gavin, their three year old. Jennifer was bringing her boyfriend Jake and the twin babies. Jake was a construction worker with a penchant for getting into bar fights over the verity of what he called the “Arab conspiracy.” Every time he came over to their house he would spend half the visit chasing around their barn cat, Pumpkin, and threatening to roast her if they were ever really starving. Still, Nadine thought, he was strong, virile, and didn’t mind a shipping container. What was
So Gently Tethered| Abby Lowe| Watercolor on paper, tenguchu, cotton thread
her daughter expecting? She had a surprise for Jennifer and her twins. After night after night of worrying over pandemic or biowarfare attacks for who knows where, she’d managed to get her hands on a few old space suits with oxygen tanks and everything. But of course, none of them would fit the children and so she’d spent weeks making them tiny suits so tight and strong that nothing could get to them inside. She hoped the kids thought they were fun. She hoped Jennifer wouldn’t be too upset. Other grandmothers might have knitted a sweater. There are too many people in the world, she thought as she got dressed. Other people have always been the variable factor in her plans. Looters or marauders or infected carriers. If she could only choose thirty likely candidates and seal herself in when them, life would be a lot simpler. Perhaps Frank could arrange it. She heard the sound of cars pulling up to the gate and the buzzer sounded. Elwood gave the week’s pass-code and Nadine pressed the button to open the gate.
held the new baby in her arms. Jake fidgeted behind her, trying to place a loving hand on her shoulder, but he ending up leaning on her head. Frank and Nadine were front and center. The reporter came in a few minutes before they shot and introduced himself. His hair was sparse and his face red, unlike the handsomely coifed reporter she remembered so vividly from his long serious reports on nuclear arms. But this was a new world and a survivor must adapt to everything. The reporter asked them why they prepared for doomsday when none seemed eminent: no government warnings, no concerned scientists. Frank immediately answered by describing how it was a fun activity for their family and how they enjoyed thinking up new ways to get by when it really hit the fan. Nadine stayed quiet and suddenly realized just how often used that phrase. When it hit the fan. Such an unpleasant image. The reporter asked them why they thought the world was going to end and again Frank began explain a few of his favorite theories. Nadine felt her face growing hot. She became suddenly aware of the undecorated walls of the steel shipping container 2014 behind her and how wild her hair had started looking ever since A local news channel came to interview them. Frank she’d begun making her own shampoo. was excited by the prospect of getting a chance to explain his The reporter asked them why they spent so much time inventions and thoroughly planned systems. A few years ago he’d canning food for themselves when children went hungry in their finally patented his new energy system and slowly they began own community. Frank got huffy and explained how their lifestyle to have more money than they knew what to do with. When was self-sufficient and how they hunted and gardened and used the camera crew arrived, they brushed makeup liberally across clean, natural energy. everyone’s faces and then seated the whole family in the living That night, Nadine rubbed the makeup off of her face with room. Elwood’s boys were placed in a row across the back because her peppermint soap. She felt very tired. Before she went to bed they had gotten so tall. The twins sat at Jennifer’s feet and she she went to the computer room and wrote a post on one 26
of their favorite forums about how NASA was covering up the fact that an enormous asteroid was heading straight for earth and the federal government didn’t want anyone to panic while they secretly prepared massive pleasure bunkers for the powerful elite. She didn’t sleep very well and kept waking up thinking she heard sirens in the distance. 2017 “If the earth goes, I don’t want to go with it,” she explained to Frank, “it’s only reasonable to have a back up plan. I just want to be prepared.” “Well,” he said, scratching his face thoughtfully, “it would be a fair bit of work, but I’m sure we could learn about most of it online. If we can get the kids to pitch in, we might have a pretty good bug out in a few years.”
glass jars of tomatoes where they were going. There was something soothing to her in the act of storing away food; counting up the meals they can have in the future. She thought she should visit her parents’ graves soon, maybe leave flowers. Perhaps when they are gone away at last, she thought, she would donate the canned goods to the soup kitchen. It can be her apology. It can be their consolation when they are burning. That night, they took a break from working and lay on top of the massive metal hunk to watch a meteor shower. Nadine tried not to flinch.
2029 She was over eighty years old when she left the earth’s orbit. The ship flew perfectly with hardly a bump as they left the atmosphere and she was grateful. Her body was as strong as it could be, but soon she would no longer have to be the weapon 2023 that can defend her family. She closed her eyes. It’s just like Elwood sat on top of the ship, welding. She thought that sleeping on a plane, she thought, but she needed to be awake. She she’d never appreciated how handsome her son had become, had plenty to work on during their voyage. and how kind he was to his children. Jennifer was out using the “Will we ever go back?” asked Josie, the youngest cement mixer for the takeoff pad. Jake was working independently grandchild at fifteen. Nadine smiled at the girl. In the low gravity, on a missile launcher he was trying to design for the bulkhead her hair floated around her head like a halo in a renaissance while Aurora was out of town; hunting down a few parts they painting. needed directly from the industrial suppliers. The six wonderful “If it’s safe,” Nadine told her. grandchildren had divided into teams for the days work and Frank directed them. Frank who always found a way. Who could do 2030 things without any help. The first year on Mars is difficult for everyone. But they Nadine stood in the kitchen, canning tomatoes. She was survive. Buried firmly in the red soil criss-crossed with polar ice not sure why she did it anymore; they wouldn’t be able to take caps, Nadine finally feels secure. 27
You can come out from under your desk now. No one can get you here. She looks up at the sky where earth is, floating vulnerably in the void. She wonders if the planet is still okay or if they had only gotten out just in time. The gravity of Mars is more forgiving than that of earth and her joints feel better as she walks through the greenhouse. She sees Frank working on one of the vents. She wants to tell him thank you for rescuing us, for taking her to a place where she has nothing to fear, for preparing them so well. He turns around and smiles at her. She starts to speak; feeling like something is expanding in her chest. But something else comes out of her mouth instead. “I’ve been thinking, the set-up here seems secure, but it might be good to have a bug out location a little further off the grid, just in case.” “For when it really hits the fan.”
Chickadee| Charlotte Kanzler| Digital media
Health Frescoe | Rosie Oâ€™Brien | Handmade gouache on paper
slide along the big smooth body of Bombay, along
I want to sink into the curving rain-soaked palms
to remember every exploding train and every
of Bombay, where rose pink twilight grips the earth
the sunlit lanterns that illuminate its neck. I want
with love and anger. A bridge emerging serpentine
America you are magnificent! But our homes
against imposing fog, I want the smell of sunset
Bollywood superstar in Ralph Lauren screaming
and cumin suspended across the atmosphere
The sorry excuse me please, Bombay, I want to be
falling endlessly towards its edges. I want both
are here. I want all the complex heartbreak—
the big and small of Bombay. It’s vibrating ocean
as they curl around warm chai, on evenings she
scratching the sand more and more. Shake me
undone by the knowledge of my mother’s fingers
a dose of your English-speak Bombay, I want the
fourth floor balcony. Bright and beautiful city built only
moon bright kurta against the dark denim of Bombay.
is waiting for my father to return, hunched over the
How the buildings extend and disperse, jagged teeth
from lonesome afternoons — every pigeon cawing
unfinished anthems — I want it all.
against the bedsheet sky of Bombay.Yes, I want to
Angel| Leinaâ€™ala Voss| Digital photograph
Feast II| Ezra Edgerton| Reductive linocut
It’s Hard Jessica Flannery
It’s hard to trust the logic of someone with red cheeks and foggy eyes Lumbering, stumbling, loud With jumpy, startled sleep
I sit alone in the chasms of this airless house the diamond snow banks creeping listlessly up the walls and into the window cracks, and I read “no fresh milk for jews” who tended to these fields of frozen water and then were buried in their showers.
It’s hard to trust a man with hidden bottles in the car Wine Stains, Long errands Lips curling into lies, It’s hard to trust a man who gets a hair cut for hours Burning juice in coffee cups It’s hard to trust a man Its hard to say these things out loud Because then others might see Burning embarrassment, The heat of deep shame He stares at me rarely, But I see his thoughts, “She doesn’t have sleepy eyes or tiny hands anymore” It’s hard to say these things out loud, And it’s hard to trust a man.
Das Rheingold directed by Craig Quintero | Grace Lloyd | Photograph
Consumption | Ezra Edgerton| Watercolor and pen
Landscape Clara Trippe
this blood remembers something in its plasma-the place where the only thing that matters is oxygen. It’s home in the way sand feels under your fingers, far away like the time we turned sea cucumbers inside out with our hands and threw them back into the sea. You know, the kind of place that feels the way names do when I see them carved on the back of a bus seat, where they matter but you’re not sure how, and the people they belong to don’t feel quite real but you hope they’re okay. I think that place isn’t so ridiculous, where fingers only touch like fan coral, all the buildings are a hundred years old, and no one kills spiders.
Station 6, Holiday Aquatic Center Jenkin Benson Infantine obsessions are made clear inside a dusky flume. A young girl asks me with abrasive earnestness, "is it scary to drown?" I stare at the dead cicadas floating in the puddles around her feet, "I assume so." With a giggle somewhere between callow and callous, she bounds off without burden. I'm not paid enough to resuscitate these people and talk to them.
Icon| Jack Dunnington | Oil on canvas
Feast Fight Fuck| Ezra Edgerton| Linocut print
A week after my mother’s funeral, I decided to stay in Wyoming. It seemed like a big decision, but I made it for small reasons. I was hideously menopausal at the time and the idea of going back to an Atlanta summer was unbearable. Furthermore, I had just broken up with my most recent boyfriend, a depressingly platonic man who played the French Horn in the symphony. His name was Robert and our courtship was so mildly pleasant I had to really work to convince myself that after forty-seven years I’d found the one. Finally, I dreaded going back to my friends, all married and desperate to invite me for drinks so they could bitch about their teenaged daughters. I knew that they’d offer sympathy, comfort, and sage advise about losing a mother, and I still hated that old bitch too much to listen. My mother’s house smelled like smoke. She’d smoked herself to death, leaving the world with a wet, cancerous gasp and gifting me with a legacy of a smoker’s cough I in no way deserved. For the first week after her death I left the windows open and let the roaring Wyoming wind pillage every cranny of the house. Like everything else in Wyoming, it all seemed disproportionately big now. Too much house for one little old woman, too much land around us, too much winding dirt road in between me and so much as a bar. But god, it was a cool breeze and I let it rifle 40
through books and scatter decorative bowls of potpourri and tear down curtains and knock paintings from the wall. Then by the end of the week, a storm hit and I finally closed the windows. The night of the storm I moved into my mother’s old room. I felt it would help me tame the old house, as I was now its rightful owner. Still, something small and childish felt absurd as I climbed into the bed my parents had slept in. It was a high bed, built by my father who’d stood at six foot five inches until a premature heart attack at forty-five knocked him right down into his grave. I remembered him in Kodak film, hazy and distant, without the crispness of digital quality. His arms lifting me up into the bed when I was still too young to crawl in, he and my mother enveloped in their castle of a bed. I was older now than he ever was and I lay flat on my back in the middle of where he and my mother would have been. Thunder growled outside in rolling waves of grinding power and rain splattered against the window. I stared at the ceiling and tried to keep my breathing even. Sleep was absurd right now, with so much excitement and action happening only a pane of glass away, but I was determined to sleep in the parental bed that night. Rational thoughts kept attacking my resolve. I ought to be back in Atlanta, I had a job I liked, organizing and planning weddings. I had friends and a house there. Half of my stuff was still in that house. I liked my stuff. But whenever the rational thoughts began to infiltrate my consciousness, my half-dozing brain involuntarily took me back to my mother’s deathbed. It wasn’t the bed I was trying to sleep on, but in a hospice facility an hour away. Like all things with my mother, I’d dressed for the occasion. My mother had endless rules
on season, event, age, and weather, but somehow her nearly comprehensive code did not include what to wear to a death. Funerals were covered, but it seemed rude to wear the dress I’d chosen for that inevitable event. Instead, I wore the jacket she’d given me the previous Christmas, paired with earrings she’d given me for a birthday, and a skirt that had once seemed to impress her at a Thanksgiving. Carefully, I’d applied lipstick and hairspray for the first time in months. Then I sat at her bedside, armored with all her past love and admiration to watch her die. “You killed this family,” she wheezed, gurgling in the back of her throat. I felt like she’d reached out and pressed her hand right through my sternum. “What’s that mom?” I asked gently, squeezing her hand and smiling. Her eyes struggled to focus on me again; there were so many drugs in her system. “You killed it, I raised you fine, but you killed it,” she said with slow determination, “been in this country five generations, daddy worked himself to death and all his brothers in the war, we’re all they left. Came from Ireland smuggled in an old pickle barrel, and that’s what you give them? I was patient, but you couldn’t make anyone want you, selfish, never thought of your family.” She broke off into a fit of coughing and I felt a chill run through my body. She’d been a picky woman, always finding fault with some aspect of my life, but we’d had a twenty-year truce on the subject of grandchildren that she had just shattered. “It’s okay mom,” I said, trying to be soothing, “don’t worry about it.” “I could have had five kids like we wanted if it hadn’t torn
me up. I hated being the only child and yet I made you,” she gasped raggedly. “I’m sorry mom, I love you,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady. “You killed your baby,” she said, which was true. But I wasn’t going to think of it that way. Then she struggled, a mouthful of acid yet to speak, but her lungs were full of rot and she died. The storm finally settled into a heavy rain around four in the morning and I slipped into a light doze, twisting in the sheets and feeling my too big, too soft body press into the hard, narrow rivet left by my mother on the right side of the bed. As soon as light began filtering through the curtains, I got up. I was impatient with sleep and even though I was tired, I felt edgy and energetic. The living room was still in disarray and through the window I could see that one of the old trees had been ripped up and was now lying across the yard. Pulling on boots, I headed out to investigate the damage. The tree had missed the porch by only a few feet and I would need someone to come cut and haul away the lumber. My boots were sucked down into the mud and I picked my way along the length of the tree. Wet leaves grazed my calves and there was a litter of twigs and bark surrounding the fallen tree like shrapnel after a blast. Finally, I reached the end of the tree. The roots undulated in the breeze, shaking off a thin film of dirt. The whole delicate system had been torn out of the ground, leaving a pile of churned soggy soil on the little hill where it had once stood. It wasn’t the best soil, clay and rock mixed with a light 41
brown powder, but the tree had stood there for years. I decided to climb the little pile to get a vantage point of the property and I began carefully to climb the sticky lump of dirt. That’s when I saw the body. The first thing I saw was the hand, unmistakably human, and I froze. My heart began to pound and my vision seemed to blur. I could tell that I was on the verge of something, and that my choice now would change everything. It was like the child spotting the gnome or fairy and choosing to follow, the boy seeing the beauty and deciding to ask her name, the spy agreeing to One Last Job. Every ancient tale or Hollywood blockbuster said the same thing, if you answer the call then you get pain, fear, trauma, and death, but nevertheless saying yes is what makes your life worth hearing about. I reached down into the dirt and carefully brushed away some of the wet soil from the hand. My brain insisted on a melodrama, imagining that this could be my father’s crazed romantic rival, or the simple country inspector who happened to discover my mother’s secret meth empire, or my mutated and mentally disturbed twin hidden away since birth until his final and tragic escape attempt. The hand was very small. I drew away, remembering every forensic crime show I’d ever watched in one glorious burst of rationality. I needed to call someone and I definitely needed to stop contaminating a crime scene. God, the hand was so small. I couldn’t stop looking down at my own hands, unable to comprehend what I was seeing, but slowly knowing. There was a child buried in my backyard, under a tree, and the earth had finally forced it up, at last birthing the little 42
corpse back into the world. Here you are, my baby. Several police cars showed up with surprising speed when I informed them that I had found the skeleton of a child in my yard. But after pointing out the grave, I was ushered back into the house and saddled with a young officer to take my information and inquire about the property. As I searched through the wind torn house for important papers, I kept craning my neck to see out of the window at the little group of people gathered around the roots of the fallen tree. After an hour of wild confusion, the policemen came tramping back to the house, boots heavy with thick, creamy mud. One of them, a tall, elegant woman, invited me out to the porch to avoid tracking it through the house. She didn’t wear the uniform, but carried a nametag and laminated ID card on her jacket. “Ellen Geiger,” she introduced herself with brisk confidence, “how long have you lived on this property?” “I lived here at a child, um, eighteen years, and I just inherited the house after my mother passed,” I answered, feeling keenly aware of the armed officers surrounding us. “My condolences,” she said without much interest, “may I ask how long that tree has been planted there? “I’m sorry, I’m not sure. Longer than I’ve been alive.” She nodded to herself. “Well then, I have good news for you. I’m a forensic anthropologist specializing in skeletal remains such as these. Obviously I won’t have any certain answers unless I ran some tests, but I can assure you with reasonable confidence that these remains are likely a few hundred years outside of our jurisdiction,” she said with a smile, “I think this is more of a matter for the University of
Wyoming than for the police department.” “I’m sorry, I’m a little confused,” I began. “From my preliminary investigation, I believe the burial is pre-Columbian. Based on its position, its certainly older than the tree, and based on the artifacts found in context with the body, I’d say we have ourselves a pretty old Indian burial,” she said, nodding with apparent pleasure. “We will be contacting the anthropology department at the university and with your permission, they can perform a full excavation to determine the origin of the human remains.” And with that I was left with the reality that a dead child had been rotting in my backyard for over a hundred years. The cops left eventually, leaving nothing but a tarp over the remains until archeologists from the university arrived. I watched the tarp fluttering from my living room and opened the windows again. Sitting in the middle of the living room in a wooden chair, I let the wind whip around me, stirring the dust and the papers and the debris into a cloud. I suppose it wasn’t particularly rare. After all, humans had walked and lived and died on this planet for thousands of years before we regulated them to cemeteries with clearly noted headstones. The earth is swollen with decomposing bodies, thousands of bodies without history or voice or any living decedents. All that had happened during the storm was that the earth had given one back, a perverted gift. But I wasn’t going to think of it that way. For the next few days I felt the proverbial dead baby in the room hovering over everything I did. As promised, a team arrived to excavate my backyard, but it was a slow process. At first
I watched from the window, antsy without really knowing what I was anticipating. It wasn’t like they would walk in one day and present me with a photo and autobiography of the little skeleton in the yard, but at the same time, everything I heard them mention made me more curious. “Only a year old?” One of my high school friends asked incredulously as we had a few beers at the Laramie Red Lobster. Bored and stir-crazy, I’d phoned her up and she obliged me with her reliable sameness. “God, that’s so sad.” “No known gender because the baby is so small, but they found beads and carved bone, as well as a few points, clovis points,” I said, parroting my new and boundless well of information. “So you think it was a she?” My friend giggled. “Who knows, the point is it looks like a clovis point which means this baby lived nearly thirteen thousand years ago,” I said, trying to make her understand without sounding like I was brushing her off. “Neat,” she said. “That means this baby was one of the earliest human beings to live on this continent. These people existed along-side mammoths and sabertoothed tigers, they literally were the first people to spread across this country,” I urged her. “Do you think they’ll let you keep an arrowhead? My dad used to collect em,” she replied, sipping her beer and checking her watch. “This find could have enormous archeological significance, this baby’s genetic material could tell us so much about the origins of humanity in the new world,” I said, beginning to explain to her 43
about haploid X and the Solutrean theory and Beringia. “How are you holding up after your mom?” She asked. I smiled. “Do you want to share one of those coconut shrimp baskets?” What I didn’t say was this. Around thirteen thousand years ago a mother gave birth to a baby and it died. Maybe it was sick, or there was simply no food, or it just wasn’t cut out to live. And even in that alien land populated by gigantic hairy elephants and ravenous cats with spear-like fangs dripping blood, the mother and whoever else walked with her loved the baby. And when the baby died they took the things they’d made, their tools and their arts, and gave them to the earth along with the little body on the little hill. They took red ochre, like violent death or equally violent birth and they sprinkled it on the baby’s corpse. Then they piled the place with wildflowers, leaving a shower of ancient pollen to mix with the red ochre, to coat the stone points, to work its way down to the brittle bones that turned halfway to dust while thousands of years went by and everything that lived in the world the baby was born into died and changed until it made me. But I wasn’t going to think of it that way. I got into the habit of inviting the archeologists in for a drink every night before they packed up. They liked whiskey, which I usually hated, but I bought it and learned to make a variety of mixed drinks so that I could get them to come in a talk to me about the baby. Some of the team were graduate students and they were particularly talkative about what they were doing out in my yard. One of them was a short, pinkish girl named Liz who seemed to be something of a functional alcoholic but loved 44
to share her theories about Paleo-Indian archeology. At first I had imagined them as Indian Jones figures who spent their days breaking into ancient tombs or detecting secret patterns that led them to hidden cities. Instead, much of what they did seemed to be sifting dirt and deeply analyzing pieces of rock with an impressive variety of chemical and microscopic techniques. And frequently they came back to the subject of the tree. “It’s just so unfortunate,” said Liz, leaning back in her chair and shaking the ice in her drink, “those roots completely fucked with the stratigraphy. If it weren’t for that tree, the skull probably would have eroded out years ago.” “Weird place for a tree to grow, too,” remarked one of the male students. “Maybe we could use the dendrochonology somehow,” Liz mused, “it could help with the timeline.” “It’s less than a hundred years old, Kinney, barely a sapling,” remarked one of the professors with slight scorn. “My parents didn’t even build the house here until forty eight,” I said, interjecting quietly, but another discussion over something called coprolites that everyone seemed to find very funny had begun instead. Suddenly I missed Atlanta and realized that I should go home. “Goodnight everyone,” I said, standing up and shooing the archeologists out of my living room. I was too drunk to stand, but I stood. The room looked trashed, debris still lying wherever the windstorm had thrown it and I was suddenly embarrassed. The single-minded drunk compulsion urged me to clean everything in sight. Before I went to bed, I crept out to the grave again. It was
Double Poncho | Leinaâ€™ala Voss| Digital photograph
an empty hole now, the body had been sent to the lab piece by piece. Then I went back and started to clean up the house. I hung the pictures back on the walls, straightened lampshades, picked up a slew of papers and finally began sorting through them. Estates, wills, bank accounts. I found an orange envelope under a pile of ancient bank statements and the soft paper opened at the bottom, spilling the contents onto the floor. It was an envelope full of old pictures, the kind that had to be specially developed from film on a very old camera. They were still in black and white. I swept them up, trying not to look, but inevitably I looked. There was my father holding a tiny bundle in his arms, there was his friend Fred Bolton holding the same bundle, there was the bundle up close with its wrinkly, squished face. Me. Me lying in a crib, me sucking a pacifier, me and a bottle of formula. My mother held me in a few, but you could tell she’d only just been handed the baby. She stood, stiff and formal, her clothes far too nice for someone taking care of an infant. Her smile, stretched not-toowide across a perfectly made up face. Baby me pulls away from her and I felt the anger again. She couldn’t even bare to love me. She looks terrified, I thought. What I didn’t think was this. Around thirty years ago a fat girl whose mother made her dress like an old lady and who cried too quickly when other kids made fun of her went to a party. She’d told her mother she was going to sleep over with a friend, and that’s what she thought she’d be doing, but her friend laughed when she saw the sleeping bag and told her that they were going to a party out at someone’s ranch. Her friend’s older brother drove them and then disappeared into the crowd of older people. The girl talked to a boy a year older than her she knew 46
from school who was that kind of wild high school boy that either seems alluring or repulsive depending on taste. The girl thought it was a fairy tale, but even then her heart pounded and she felt sick with fear. They went upstairs and she didn’t say anything. He said, it’s okay, I’m doing you a favor, you want this, you’re supposed to like this, it’s not like anyone else would do this with you. The girl didn’t say anything and so maybe it was all fine and there was no problem. But in a few months she knew there was a problem, a sick, swollen problem and she felt scared and she asked her mother to help her. They drove to a doctor in Laramie and they never said anything about it again. So maybe it was all fine, all better. But I wasn’t going to think of it that way. My mother was not buried and so there was no grave to spit on, no dead body to scream at, not even an urn to smash. I wanted there to be a headstone so I could knock it over and scream fuck you for making me feel worthless because I never had some baby and because you let me. So I tore the picture of her in half and that felt good. It served her right to be afraid of what she created. I am un-mother, anti-life, destroyer. I birth a hundred dead babies into the earth and then they come crawling back out. I am not a story of ended lines and frustrated potential and entropy. I create the lives, the feelings, the stories of every silent pile of bones still trapped beneath the earth. I plan and build and grow weddings and reunions and occasions for remembering. I give birth to myself after my mother drives me home from the doctor’s, still sleepy and bleeding a little. Covered in red ochre. At some point I pass out on the couch and when I wake up I have to unstick my face from the glossy surface of a photo. When
I pull it off, there are only shadows left and when I look in the mirror I see ink on my face. We all absorb our history differently. I call my friends back in Atlanta one by one and tell them Iâ€™m coming home in a few days. I request that we all meet up at Red Lobster and eat coconut shrimp and laugh and bitch about teenaged daughters and then maybe I can rant about my mother and tell them a pretty wild story about a thirteen thousand year old baby that will create controversy and discovery and progress. I sweep up the photographs and throw them away. The last one sticks to my foot at I look at it. My mother, absurdly dressed in all white, kneels in the dirt outside of my house. In her arms she holds a little sapling tree and a trowel. She is laughing as she holds her tree, like a prize. Stupid, uptight old bitch who blamed me for all of her shortcomings and never rose above her rotten set of standards and planted a tree to hide, to impede, to destroy. But I wasnâ€™t going to think of it that way.
Kids Are Sick
The O'Keefe's aren't accountable. Neither are the people they marry or fuck. They'll tattoo a name before they memorize it. They'll jointly buy a house with some Methodist before they sign any pre nuptials. The O'Keefe's are getting more dysfunctional, even though two of 'em are gone now. The Methodist took the youngest one to Indiana and Afghanistan took a brother to God knows where. The O'Keefe's don't see anything noble or natural in self-preservation, but the O'Keefe's still find a way to manage.
When rain falls heavy, the groundspews out worms. They wriggle. It makes me sick. Pick them up, vacuum seal them, watch them expire in a tumescent mass.
Heavenly Library | Leinaâ€™ala Voss | Digital photograph
Untitled (one), (two), (three) |Joshua Anthony | Compressed charcoal on paper
Patrilineal Eulogy Emma Morrissey
Pews crackle in the neat colonial church. We shift in our dark clothing under the opaque drawl of the old priest. The air lightens in his silence. My father stands, withdraws trifolded pages from his suit jacket. The neat folds remind me of letters from my grandfather, always written on fine, blue graph paper with three creases. My father inhales, prepares to speak.
Gray's Lake Jenkin Benson I am lakesiding, graylooming, coolbrooding over spare time and change. My hands are an indigo bunting chasing cicadas and pecking holes in Des Moines Register crosswords.
Words present themselves kindly to him. They always have. He breathes a memoryâ€” concrete, fried fumes, children with their children. Itâ€™s some theme park we all visited before I could remember. Itâ€™s a funny story; people laugh. But soon his breath comes faster and he slips. His breath comes faster, wetter, and he begins to splutter. I stare at the wall, plum and mahogany, over his right shoulder. 51
Earth is Woman | Hannah Bernard| Reductive linocut
Your Mom | Nathan Kim| Pastry sheet, insulation foam, pliers, scissors, pencil, arrow, screwdrivers, box cutter
Instructions for Leaving Varun Nayar
In Patiala, hunger will follow a a searing pain, and they will tell you, Daddy and Mummiji never boarded the train.Your sisters will collapse to the floor like silk, cry until they drown that sandstone kothi: columbarium house of unlived rooms—and what now? You will wait: ear pressed against the hard silent sky, flesh sinking
closer to the marrow almost invisible against that magenta charpoy where you will sleep, and again, listen. Madras eyes unable to squint off the pink: you will journey every morning with your sister to the nose of the hill where salmon-tinted pumpkins sprout from the ground— severed heads from someone else’s holy war. Your tiny palms grasping through the sheet of white smoke, uprooting as you go before they chase you down. And in your running you look back andala see clouds instead of smoke and think of Daddyji’s pooling eyes, the way he’d look at all these places— call them, Heaven on Earth.
the substitute starlight with our cellphone cameras.
I let the light quilt my retinas when we stood on the concrete path,
Organza fog and the light from other windowsâ€” We climbed up here for the view.
rolling in a frail, clean-sheet breed of awe.
With the Bay at our backs, we tripped towards the slumbering Pacific as it dreamed of reclaiming this city in a future yet unimagined. Cars cruised the corduroy streets bounding the park, their headlights pulling across our bare heels. We chose not to see the shadows. My dress wove into the night on a breeze as we arrived, panting slightly, at the hillâ€™s peak and struggled to catch
Total White Guy Ennui Jenkin Benson I cook my chicken flavored ramen in bong water using a cornucopia of spices and seasonings I stole from the grievously disorganized and gravely scant pantry of some off campus house during a typically toxic "soiree." My mother's birthday was sometime last week? I tie up a belated offering with guitar strings tuned to a well rehearsed excuse.
Color Glitch No. 1| Cal Froikin | Archival digital print
Justicia Para Ayotzinapa | Hannah Bernard | Wood block and monotype prints, series of 43
Transhumanism Microfiction Emily Mesev
Transhumanism: the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology. 1) Cryonics I wore my best dress for God because God knew what I’d done with the body beneath it. I worried that I wouldn’t see God until I died. I worried that I wouldn’t die. For years, I lay in a box without feeling. My body and my brain were frozen, and God was taking his time. 2) Megascale Engineering The world the engineers built was: vast; beautiful; cold; wonderful; frightening; visionary; grandiose; inhabitable; a paradise; grossly over-populated but not as over-populated as the Earth; only for the intelligent (which is to say all of us); of paramount importance; too expensive to create, and too necessary not to. 3) Artificial Intelligence Legs: Operational Arms: Operational Head: Operational Brain: Operational Sympathy: Operational Jealousy: Operational Creativity: Operational 58
Pain: Operational Love: Operational Remorse: Operational 4) Gene Therapy On the fourteenth of June, Mrs. Thompson went for anti-aging therapy. ‘This should add an extra eleven months to your lifespan,’ said her doctor. The following year, Mrs. Thompson went for anti-aging therapy. ‘This should add an extra twelve months to your lifespan,’ said her doctor. The following year, Mrs. Thompson went for anti-aging therapy. ‘This should add more than a year to your lifespan,’ said her doctor. Every year thereafter, Mrs. Thompson went for anti-aging therapy. 5) Autonomous, Self-Replicating Robots I. Build a robot and go to the moon. II. Set up a factory (it can produce whatever you like) and teach the robot how to work in your factory. III. Leave the robot for ten years. Go have fun on Earth. Drink a lot, and have a lot of sex. Direct a short independent film. Be afraid of things. Love something. IV. Repeat. 6) Cybernetics Before the implant, I heard differently than you. I heard the weight of silence and its heat. I heard the feel of skin on my skin, the taste of the rain, and the sound of the dark. I heard the aches in my brain, and I heard my blood. After the implant, I heard. 7) Space Exploration Some people wanted to go to places that were too hot, and some people wanted to go to places that were too cold. I asked my father, ‘Daddy, why can’t we stay here?’ I was little at the time, and I didn’t understand the big matters of life. My father just smiled and rubbed my head. We had to upgrade our bodies before we left Earth. 59
8) Molecular Manufacturing I punctured a lung. The surgeons put me on an operating table, and left the room. Is that all you do? I thought. Then the nano-robots went to work. 9) My Brain Has Been Uploaded to a Computer 01101101 01111001 00100000 01100010 01110010 01100001 01101001 01101110 00100000 011010000 01100001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01100101 01100101 01101110 0010000 01110101 01110000 01101100 01101111 01100001 01100100 01100101 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100001 00100000 011000011 01101111 01101101 01110000 0110101 01110100 01100101 01110010 10) Virtual Reality Every day I wake up on the ocean.
Memento Mori| Hannah Condon| Suite of trace monotype prints on newsprint
MMadhousee | Douglas Dale| Lumber, newsprint, found objects and a lighting fixture
Into the Canal | Elle Duncombe-Mills| Digital photograph
Fragmenting In Code
Your grandma had a brother, Ima says, his name was Samuel. This is how I learn about how deep silence can go, how much my family has covered up. There is so much that is left untold that omission feels too light of a word. Is that why Abba’s middle name is Samuel? I ask. I don’t know. John! Come out here! is the only answer she offers. According to Abba, he’s named for another Samuel, someone his father was close with as a child. At the end of the day, I don’t know if I believe this. Samuel Robinson is a man never shown in the family photographs, never mentioned with the few stories of Grandma Sally’s childhood in Iowa with her three sisters. Samuel is the hidden implication of what we could each be. My father only gives three stories on him. One, that when Samuel visited them in Glencoe in the 60s he would occasionally throw Abba and his siblings across the room as a joke. Two, that he was not seen again at the house after he mentioned to Grandpa Dan that he was using heroin. The third being that he overdosed in New York and that no one went to his funeral. Another story: Sally also had a sister named Mary, whom I only met once as a ten year old. Mary spent years frantically collecting Native American art, teaching at St. John’s College, and pent up in a little house in Des Moines filled with that art. Beverly, another sister took care of her when she would return to Des Moines and take medications again – for what exactly no one seems to have asked. I imagine her flying around doing all this (manic, probably). Mary gave me a turquoise butterfly ring that I still have. She liked you, my father told me after telling me this. This is how I learn that depression is not the only issue in this family. That depression is a code word we have been using for too long and for far too much; that collecting a medical history will never be easy; that medical histories for this sort of thing are ironic, even callous in their expected simplicity. To demand a medical history is to simplify humanity into mere terminology, shifting family stories around until the cause is found for all of one’s woes, until one discovers where along the lines something went wrong.Yet, things go wrong at all the points. “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them,” James Baldwin wrote in “Stranger in the Village” of the inescapability of being Black and the awareness of the socio-political repercussions it holds. There is so much to learn from how one is treated that even the Othered one is at times caught unaware by the simplest microaggression.Yet, to notice the abnormality of one’s treatment, or to know one should notice, is to be conscious of the cause – or at least the concept of its difference. These family stories reflect an opening into the transgenerational silence on genetic history or catastrophe or whatever you want to call mental illness and its implications. These glimpses into my grandmother’s earlier life give background to the children I’ve seen in my father and his siblings each Thanksgiving, of how the stage was 63
Familiar Demons | Michelle Tsai | Sugar, bread, and chocolate cake
set for their own individual fragmentations, and why silence is like shuttered windows. Transgenerational silence again making its signature mark: illness becoming transferable trait. Baldwin too recognized this sort of illness in his father and in himself, as seen in his essay, “Notes of a Native Son,” where he writes that his father “had lived and died in an intolerable bitterness and it frightened me … to realize that this bitterness now was mine.” By marking anger over persistent and systematic discrimination as an inherited pathological response, inheritance becomes for Baldwin a problem for which he must control his actions so to not – ironically – raise alarm. While inheritance varies in its methods of delivery, its psychological and personal effects can be inescapable even if their severity is misunderstood. For a while, I believed that I understood depression and that it could be controlled and kept respectable – really, out of sight. Only now does it become clearer that my entire family is a play of respectability politics of the mind for a society that does not acknowledge mental illness and its disabling features. Truthfully, one that is not so unique in that regard. With that in mind, breaking through this silence and pain will be like trekking through a blizzard to an unknown destination. I want to know this history, this silence, and the pain streaming through it, to make sense of it, to situate myself and find what my own outcome might hold.Yet, I wonder if that is fair to ask. Is there meaning in these silences and are these questions are even mine to ask? How much can be made out of these fragments of stories without fictionalizing them? I try to remember the years and the cultures my father’s family was shaped by: the world wars and their lingering emotional casualties, the reserved Midwest, the childhoods I will never know beyond the select stories told about them. I don’t know how one gains access to these memories and how one addresses them if seen. On navigating these narratives, Eva Hoffman writes in After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust about the complexity and meaning of being the child of Holocaust survivors as she visits Poland. She writes: “Can we bridge the time gap with requisite emotion? … But what is the appropriate emotion – the appropriate response? What is the appropriate emotion for me – for those of us who came after? This has everything to do with me, I think; this has so little to do with the actualities of my own life.” In attempting to weave a narrative out of the glimpses of a time that is not ours but has deeply marked us, we become what Hoffman identifies as ‘the second generation’ – the ones carrying the emotional and psychological legacy of their forbearers, and more likely the ones to question the family framework. In asking questions of our family, of the contexts we have been raised in or the ones we don’t yet recognize, a more coherent image is formed. Like with stories of family lost in the Holocaust, known by name but not by face, it’s unclear how much weight we can give the lost ones in these narratives. At what point are we romanticizing these stories through our retellings? At what point does searching for a detailed narrative only serve our own desires? Thanksgiving 2013: my cousin and I stayed up talking frantically until 4 a.m. about how we couldn’t understand why our parents and their siblings couldn’t talk about their mental health – or at least what we knew of it then. We were distraught by the repetition of mental health issues in our generation and how we had to be our own advocates. We wanted our parents to notice these changes in us, to 65
call them out rather than leave us too to twist further into ourselves. I wonder now if we can really claim a right to our parents’ stories. We forgot how normalized they are – how these issues are characterized as individuality in the family and how that maintained individuality is not to be disturbed. The logic is that you don’t wreck someone’s chance at (pretending to) escape a collective legacy; the logic is that you forget your pain and anger rather than damage the façade more. Certainly, there’s the understanding of how great the pain must be for the first generations underneath the façade; but is it the responsibility of the generations after them to uphold that façade and absorb its transferrable pain? That logic doesn’t work anymore. Especially not in a world where stories are shared casually, and the distinction between public and private is increasingly blurred. After all, how much of a distinction can be made in a technological era? I skim my Twitter timeline and see that a friend’s depression is getting worse – not in those words exactly, of course. We sardonically describe our issues. The same friend once tweeted: “self-esteem so low it won limbo at like four bat mitzvahs in a row.” The silence still exists in mediated forms. Sites like Tumblr and Twitter make this easy; you post a tidbit of what you feel. Tumblr tends to be a safe space for self-disclosure, mainly through the anonymity that its users tend to have amongst each other. That’s unlike Twitter, much more of a public arena, where you wouldn’t tweet: “History of bipolar and depression going back too many generations. Psychiatrist’s nightmare.” It’s only 91 characters, so you could. But should you? Hoffman writes on the question of how or whether one shares suffering: “It may be that suffering shared, suffering respected, is suffering endurable. Suffering that is misunderstood or dishonored can turn on the self in unendurable pain.” This seems to be the case in my generation, where getting some form of treatment is common and less stigmatized than in the past. The number of people I know on antidepressants is at first surprising and then reassuring – we are all not as alone as we think; these things are more normal than we are taught to believe. The past and the stories it holds are only as closeted as their potential tellers allow them to be. With the desire to uncover these stories comes the reality that there needs to be a compromise between the present generation and the past generations – one that allows some sort of closure for all without compromising sanity too much further; one that brings the private into the public, out of the therapist’s office and into the living room. I still want to know the family stories, their hidden complexities. Perhaps this desire is sensationalistic, demanding too much.Yet when each family occasion is filled with small talk until there are no more superficial words available, I don’t think it is. When I talk to friends, I find that I am not the only one with these fragments we still call stories. We collectively share this pain, the aftermath of past generations’ silences. For those of us with mental illness as a lineage, we are inescapably impacted; there’s no use in denying it. I now ask questions on long car rides where my father’s eyes stay set on the road, when words can blend into the monotony of the highway. I ask about these characters and learn when questions go too far through many silent miles where I fear I’ve triggered more pain than these stories are worth, where I stare out the window like it will erase the last question, where I remind myself that these questions must be answered in one form or another. 66
God damn i'm a trainwreck i dunno where my mind went told him to get bent but that bitch went astray tell me you've ever just once felt this way
Before snow. Stark morning crow’s wings. Our neighbor is calling for her Cat again. The same cat I found last Night, guts kissing
pause it like two bars donkey kong fuse lit barrels of fun and some prescription blue lines bit into my dinner my filling popped out
The pavement, white fur stained the kind of red that Makes me hungry. The same red I wear on my lips some days—days I bleed and refuse a flower smells More sweet. Crows swap sticky Kisses but will not share with me. Maybe I will leave one at Our neighbor’s cold, bare feet. Neck Wrung, belly full of meat scraped from a pretty white rib Cage. Winter’s first taste.
What Keeps Me Here on Earth Caleigh Ryan Early in my first year here I got upset while reading an old copy of this, the Grinnell Review, that I had found in the basement of my dorm. There was a pretty good story in it that featured two people sighing together alongside each other. Something like: …“I’ve wanted this for so long”… “me too”… “so long” . . . That made me upset because I had never wanted anything for very long at all. I had no idea what it felt like to want something for so long that I could write about it. Sometimes I felt incomplete, not completely there, maybe akin to how a ghost might feel. But no, actually, that was wrong, I was not like a ghost at all. A ghost must feel more deeply and seriously than anyone. What else could anchor their incompleteness here onto the Earth?
Rio de S.Vio,Venezia| Eliza Harrison | Analog photograph
Hull | Elle Duncombe-Mills | Digital photograph
Secrets Jazmyn Taylor Nia took a few deep breaths before she walked into their apartment, scratched her arm though it didn’t itch, counted the flowers in their new garden painting until her mother came out of her room and into the living room. Winter had been over for some time, but today was one of the first warm days, and Nia celebrated with a strapless top. She felt like the sun hadn’t seen her arms in months and in reality, neither had her mother. Louise’s eyes went immediately to her daughter’s arm: first questioning, then knowing, then dark. Nia expected her mother to be upset, but the sound that escaped her mouth was so new that Nia was sure no one anywhere had ever heard it before. It sounded like anger and confusion, the question and the answer, mixed with the kind of pain that hangs around and settles into the crevices, the kind that grew more flavorful with age. It sounded horrible. ### The parlor had been hospital-grade clean with white linoleum floors and metal playing on the expensive stereo system. Her artist was handsome and his tattoos extensive, his piercings accenting his face. She sat backwards on the chair, hugging its back to her chest, while her artist stenciled the outline of the tattoo across her. “Damn good design,” he’d said. “You an artist?” “Yeah.” “Like for real or for leisure?” Nia laughed. “For real. I just got a job at an animation studio.” “Legit.” She considered explaining to him about her father, about the legacy, but he might not have seen the films and she didn’t want to sound snobby. It was a job. A job’s a job. But then the needle buzzed into her skin and she felt that lie slowly drawn out of her. ### “You went and got it,” Louise said after she’d regained herself, spitting out it like too-sour candy. Nia nodded, peeked into the kitchen. The dishes needed washing. She went for them. After a few moments, Louise followed. The dragon, lapis-lazuli blue, was carefully tattooed across her back, its reptilian eyes staring out from the back of her shoulder. Its whiskers were the first thing Louise saw. They wrapped around her daughter’s right arm like emerald ropes, a regal mustache. When Nia turned her back to her, Louise hadn’t expected so much of a masterpiece. Nia had gotten the mother of all dragons drawn into her 70
skin; a queen fire-breather. It even had the beginnings of flames at its mouth, eyes serene as if fire were as harmless as air. They looked at each other for a long time. Nia felt her mother watching her. She wondered if this would only make it worse, but it was too late; you can’t un-do a tattoo. “It’s not the one he drew,” Louise said, as soon as the last dish was set in the drying rack. “It’s not even the one you drew, after.” “You would have been sad.” “I’m mad now.” “That’s different,” Nia turned to her mother, who leaned on the counter. “I didn’t want an obituary on my back, I just wanted something to help.” She leaned forward on the sink, “Come look at it.” “I see it fine from here,” Louise muttered, and left the kitchen. She felt angry heat creep up her neck and blamed the fire-breather. ### Louise’s husband -- Nia’s father-- was named Langston Everett Brown, a fine, tall, dark man who made cartoons for a living for a strange little company that produced stranger, littler films. From He was the strong, silent type with a Technicolor mind and a fierce love for his girls, and a man of mystery to boot. From a young age, Nia was tasked with keeping her father’s most precious secret. Guess what? I believe in magic baby, but don’t tell nobody. Every birthday he would make sure that she both remembered the secret and believed it in her heart, and before he died she did the same for him. In the year before he died, the 12 Months of Hospital, he said that he believed in it more than ever, that science and technology were good and useful, but without this thing he wouldn’t want to make it out alive. Once everyone came to terms with the truth that he would not be so much much as making it out of the hospital room, it became his reason for why he’d made it so far at all. Nia believed it, never stopped even as he wasted away, folded the knowledge into her heart for safekeeping. But when he was gone, she wanted more. During the funeral, she waited for the tangible kind of magic to kick in, expected her father to rise up and interrupt the preacher and suggest that they all go out for dinner. Then she buried her father and realized that wasn’t what he had ever meant at all. Louise did not believe in magic. She barely believed in people. What she knew to be true was that her husband was dead, and that there were bills to be paid every month, and that the sun would rise each morning. She once tried to write poetry but it never filled her full of life like what she read in the books, or like what Langston made in his little studio in the back of the condo. Nia followed right after him, bringing daydream to life like she was writing her name. Any mother would thank god to know their daughter, a year out of school and slowly becoming disillusioned from the “starving artist” dream, could rest easy with a job that she would love. And Louise, deep down in the darker corners, was elated. If only she could stop breathing for more than a moment, so that the pain that radiated could wane, just for a moment. But reality dictated, and Louise did not believe in magic: the secret was happily lost on her. Nia knew. Before her father died, she’d brought this fear to him, and he smiled through his furrowed brow. He knew too. “She loves me though baby girl, and she loves you. That’s how it starts. It could take a while but that’s how it starts.” And then he would go
back to drawing his dragons. It had been for some upcoming project and he’d wanted his fire-breather to be magnificent, King of them all. Nia wanted, waited, for him to finish. Louise just wanted him to get better. When that didn’t happen, they both stopped wanting things for a while. Eventually Louise packed all of his animations away, which made it only slightly harder for Nia to retrieve them and watch them, over and over. For months they seemed to speak to each other in two different sets of code. Louise would replace pictures of them as a family with paintings, and Nia would respond with singing her father’s old songs. They both grew thin with not-asking, with looking through each other. And their home began to look like someone else. When they offered Nia an intern position at the studio, both felt as though their condominium would simply slide off of the building into the middle of the street, for different reasons. And then the intern period ended, but Nia’s job did not. Then she comes home with the tattoo. Louise knew that the ink wasn’t new; she wore three of her own, and she’d figured that something in the house was different for a month or so. She just didn’t suspect that they had a guest. That night Louise heard her daughter in the living room watching one of her father’s films. At 3am Nia heard her mother in her bedroom, trying not to cry too loud. ### It rained the next day, like Nia suspected, because she dreamt about dragons whenever it was that time. Like some people had knees that could tell, she had dreams. At first she was afraid that it meant someone had died as well, but then she remembered people died every day. Louise sat on their couch with the windows open so she could smoke inside. She smiled at Nia when she came in to join her. As a child it had intrigued Nia how her mother was very particular when it was time to breathe fire. This morning, she wished the windows would open wider so they wouldn’t choke to death. There was some show playing in the background, some aggravating voice crowing at contestants to play the fool, and then play even more the fool, for imaginary gifts. In late spring the weather outside was friendly; Every breeze that rolled through into their living room said so. A wood-pecker added to the TV’s noise; the tea on the stove had just begun to whistle. Ginger tea was good for you. Dinner tonight would be good-for-you. When Nia once suggested that this was the kind magic Louise believed in, she was firmly rebuffed. Now it made them both weary to think about it. “So why’d you hide it?” Louise gestured towards Nia’s arm, where the whiskers were wrapped around. She wondered if female dragons even had the whiskers. Nia shrugged. “It was easier to, when it was cold. Maybe it wasn’t time to show it. Now it has to be, unless I wanna sweat all my clothes out.” She chuckled, then bit her lip. Her mother’s mouth pressed into a thin line. “Or you knew I was going to be upset.” “You’re always upset, ma.” Nia said softly, and it was true; nearly a year of banging dishes, flashes of anger. So many tears. 72
Underwater| Metea Voyce| Digital media & photography
“I’m still mourning.” “I just want to help.” “How’s a tattoo s’posed to help me, Nia? How is that tattoo supposed to help me? Daddy’s just a memory to you already? You go and put his deathbed drawing on you back—“ “It’s not his dragon.” Nia said meekly. “It’s not the same.You even said so yourself.” “No, you just used his pencils and his paper and his desk.” Louise scoffed, crushing her cigarette in the crystal dish he’d bought for her. She wanted to toss it at the wall; not at her daughter but for her, so that Nia could understand how ridiculous she was being. Instead she let her hand linger on its edge. Her daughter said nothing. Louise sighed. “In a few years you’re gonna look at that and it won’t make a shred of difference whether the damn thing is the same or different; your father drew a dragon while he was dying and you got one drawn on your skin.You’re gonna look at it and still see him like he was in the end, and you’ll never get away from it. We need to get away from it, baby.” “You’re right mama. But that doesn’t mean we have to get away from him. This is the last bit of him he put out into the world,” Nia’s voice broke, “His last beautiful thing. He thought of dragons, and it sounds silly but it was him. So you go and put away his pictures, and his movies, and all that, trying to erase him. That’s not getting away from the right thing. That ain’t right.” She rose from the couch, went to the hallway closet for a sweater, slipped on her shoes. Louise had sunk into the sofa, watching her daughter go. “Sorry. I thought if I waited a little you’d be okay with it, but I guess not. I’m going to grandma’s. I told her I was gonna help her with her computer tonight, but I can just do it now. I’ll be back later. Get the kettle before the tea boils off, mama.” The door shut softly after her. Louise let the teapot shriek a little longer. ### Nia came home early the next morning, and almost turned right back out before she realized that she hadn’t accidentally walked into someone else’s home. It was Sunday. Nothing useful ever came of Sundays; they both managed to spend the entire day “getting ready for the week,” and avoiding each other. Sundays were the only days that the condo felt big enough to breathe in. Louise was well aware that Nia would be staying on with the studio; When she was small, Nia would jump into her father’s footprints in the snow, leaping from print to print. This was the same. Nia sat in her father’s office with the door open, not so horrible as to unpack anything (aside from the movies), but her own materials were splayed across his desk. An image: daughter at father’s desk, back to the open door, dragon keeping watch. Louise left the door open and closed her own. Monday: They speak in code. They cook dinner together. Tuesday: They order out. 74
On Wednesday Louise stood in the office’s doorway. Nia was hunched over in a silk pajama set Louise bought her months ago. This was her first time seeing her wear it, the dragon peeking out through the spaghetti straps. Nia had let her hair out of its afro puff and it curled tightly over her headphones as she worked. Langston never had any tattoos, but he would turn, as Nia did now, to smile distractedly at her over his shoulder. “I love you, ma.” Nia said before turning back to her work. “I’ll take a break real soon, Louie.” It was late at night—9 was late for them—with little Nia curled up in the corner, sleep. “Gimme a sec and I’ll bring baby girl to her bed, too.” “I love you, too.” On Thursday, another argument. Nia left without even the Grandma excuse, the door shutting louder and the dishes undone. Louise sat once again, angry and confused and smoking, tears still undried, throat scratchy from yelling. This was getting nowhere. Her husband was still dead and her daughter was trying to start again and she was lost. It was not wrong for Nia to work at the Studio; if Louise was honest with herself, she always imagined her baby in this exact position. And yet...Nia came to her work (her Work!) heavily. She was still crying in the night, and in part Louise blamed herself. But she was lost. How are you supposed to do it? How is it supposed to work? Damn you, Langston for filling her head with bullshit. I have to deal with death and dragons and... I’m afraid of ghosts. I don’t want to cope. I don’t want my baby to cope. It’s such a stupid word. How is it supposed to work? You should have drawn a manual for this part instead of your dumb lizards. She never let Nia know that it wasn’t really a secret; Louise had always known. At one point, she even enjoyed it in her own way. Then he got sick. Then, he got sicker. Sometimes now, when she pressed her hand to her chest, she swore there was no heartbeat. Had she really taken down his pictures? There was still one inside her pillowcase, but she had not looked at it since she put it there. Louise looked around the living room, hoping for some kind of relief to seep out of the walls and cover her in calm, but that was magic too. And she didn’t believe in that. “I don’t believe in it,” she said, and the walls and carpet stood silent. She felt her loneliness bounce off the furnishings and inevitably return to her, cold. ### There were three things Nia knew for sure: She loved her mother, she believed, and time was running out. It was becoming too easy to just leave home for a few days, getting caught up in work and the outside world, while her mother sat at home simply refusing. The more she thought about it, the more she ached. Soon it would not matter: If they could not find the words to speak to each other again, the words themselves would die out. There would be no fossils for reconstruction, no ancient script with the letters still clinging to parchment. It had to be now, while they could still name their pain. But how could they begin? 75
Light Gaze | Charlotte Kanzler| Photograph
Shrine for Prairie Summer| Hannah Condon| Found
glass vessels, cast plaster bones, Echinacea, silicone
Juggle Me | Rosie Oâ€™Brien | Mixed media and jewelry findings
Her mother lay in bed, rubbing her feet together the way Nia did when something wouldn’t let her sleep. She stood in the doorway, unsure of how to proceed, until Louise called softly for her to come on, come lay down with me. “I’m glad you’re back,” she whispered, clasping Nia’s hands in hers. Nia nodded. Her eyes were sad. “Grandma said if we don’t work it out, she’s going to invite herself over like last June.” “You trying to have grandma live with us for two months again?” “Not really.” They smiled at each other. “You know, I’m staying.” Nia said, looking her mother in the eye. With the job. With you. Louise nodded slowly. “You’re just like your father,” Louise murmured. The words were like a sledgehammer to the windpipes, or sweet release. They were quiet for a while. Eventually Nia turned around, settling in close to Louise, who was once again face-to-face with the tattoo. Naturally, it hadn’t changed much since she first saw it. Still a deep, rich blue, still ready to breathe fire. She saw now how intricately designed it was: Each scale was rendered perfect. The eyes were enigmatic and multi-colored, with green lashes to match its whiskers. Its claws were extended, teeth partially bared in a half-smile. The artist had taken such care in his work that it nearly looked as though the creature were raised slightly off of her daughter’s skin. Louise hesitated, then reached out to touch the scales and shatter the illusion. She would never say how truly she believed that she felt rough texture under her fingers. So maybe magic wasn’t real in the form of a wand and even if it was, what mattered was the light and whisper, the reminder of something else that stood spine-straight in sun and moonlight alike, ready to envelope one in all that might be. Louise was unsure what else to do, and she lay with her fingertips tracing her daughter’s dragon, finding it. Nia cried, but quietly, so that her mother wouldn’t stop.
Uncle Leo Leo Abbe You’re the reason an old Italian man said to my brothers and me only moments after meeting us: ‘You, you are a beautiful artist. And you, you are a fantastic musician—guitarist… And you!—you are a sonofabitch, and I know this because I was one myself, and there are only so many of us in this world.’ And you’re the reason my parents got phone calls From Debbie and Grandma in early January 1994:
You flash that smile—your smile, our smile— to the maître di and slide him a twenty pre-meal. You always liked the private room when the family came to town. My dad, at age 13, asks your opinion on which steak. ‘Whatever suits your fancy, but you should get at least a lobster tail, too.You look too small.’ And as much as I love hearing these stories about you winning drag races against police officers and your smiling at lonely looking waitresses, I don’t know how many more times I want my dad calling me, worrying, at 3 AM.
‘You know why I’m scared, I know the types of things you get up to.’
‘He was a joy, and we all loved him, but nobody is forcing you to name the boy Leo.’
And when I think of you, you’ve always got the nicest black jacket, crisp shirt, black tie, legit fedora blurting out that shadowy class I’ve only gotten to hear about. The family’s in New York for the weekend, so you take everyone out for steaks and stacks of cash. 79
Palm Tree | Leinaâ€™ala Voss | Digital photograph
But Ultimately The Details Don’t Matter
Josie Sloyan Towards the end of his life the notable mystery-writer Daniel Rasmussen grew very tired and restless and decided to commit suicide. After much deliberation he sat down at his typewriter and wrote a final story about a balloon tied to the edge of a rotting pier. He left the story, ten double-spaced pages, in the bottom left drawer of a wooden cabinet and locked it. He put the key in a mason jar, walked outside onto the street and left it beside his neighbor’s flowering shrub in the six o’clock silence. He’d written a note to his sister as well, concise and emotional, with an encrypted code that revealed yet another message that was equally brief and full of love and loss. It also revealed the place he hoped to be buried, a green hill in Maine like one he climbed in a recurring dream where, upon waking, he’d lie silently in bed in an agony of bittersweet halfremembrance. The letter was beautifully written. He tore it up and put the pieces in his pocket. There was a gun propped on his kitchen table next to a pile of placemats and a sweating glass of ice water. He changed his shirt. He looked in his bathroom mirror, Daniel Rasmussen, celebrated author and recipient of two major awards
in the fields of Short Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, respectively, looked at the punctuation of his nose and mouth, his eyes watching him watch himself. What did he look like without that comfortable expectancy? What were his eyes when they weren’t making a voyeur of himself? He had rigged the gun with invisible hair-fine string so he could watch himself go. His eyes guttering like candlestubs. Outside the sun was rising. He had planned on doing it at the stroke of midnight and found he couldn’t. The light coming in through the window sent fish diving across the mirror. There was a taste in his mouth like coffee, like artificial cheese. No one should to die in a place where the smell of them would settle into the walls. That’s the point, he thought. To leave. He reached for the window-latch, accidentally triggered the trip-wire, and sent a bullet through his left eye.
Contributors Leo Abbe ‘16 eats his hamburgers medium rare with lots of mustard. Jenkin Benson ‘17 is a midwestern basement dweller who is perpetually disheveled/charmingly acerbic. Hannah Bernard ‘15 “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” - Pablo Picasso Hannah Condon ‘16 is death obsessed like a teenager. Douglas Dale ‘15 is mainly glue. Elle Azul Duncombe-Mills ‘16 is currently abroad and misses peanut butter. Jack Dunnington ‘16 is fighting horrifying London doppelganger, brb Ezra Edgerton ‘16 is just a lusty varlot looking for a busty harlot. Jessica Flannery ‘15 has only written two poems in my in my life: first one in fourth grade, it was about an acorn that could talk. It was the best in the class. I wrote the second one when I was 21. I put it in the Grinnell Review. 82
Amy Flores ‘15 kicks ass, you wanna fight about it? Silvia Foster-Frau ‘15 has a fourth year status but a first year heart Caroline Froh ‘18 pulls teeth. Cal Froikin ‘16 is also a callipygian pianist, a childishly humored soccer breh, an ambitious yet flawed whale tussler, and a politically incorrect man of few words. Becky Garner ‘15 (finally) admitted to herself that she’s going to be a maker of art things. Huzzah! Eleanor Griggs ‘15 is a fourth year English and History major who enjoys reading hundreds of books for class and then a few more for fun. Geo Gomez ‘15 is outta here! Eliza Harrison ‘15 check out my new hit single “Ain’t Nobody Booty Poppin’ No More” Charlotte Kanzler ‘17 feels the need to wake up at 2am and go artichoke hunting in the praries, while wondering: “what is a sesame?” Diane Lenertz ‘15 will disappear among the trees.
Grace Lloyd ‘16 I am a newly declared double major in Theatre and English, with a Technology Studies concentration. I am crazy in love with everything digital media, theatre, and writing. Shout out to Joey Saen.
Emma Sinai-Yunker ‘15 deals primarily in kittens.
Nathan Kim ‘16 Is doing alright
Eliana Schechter ‘16 spends her time daydreaming about the East Coast, puppies, and a life in which people wouldn’t take her resting bitch face personally.
Emily Mesev ‘15 is patiently awaiting that intergalactic bypass, except on Thursdays - never got the hang of Thursdays. Emma Morrissey Jersey”.
Jazmyn Taylor ‘15 really likes to write, and always wants to get better. She also just got a Kindle and yes, lord. Praise.
Emily Sue Tomac ‘15 is an English major and Linguistics ‘15 is a sunflower from a land called, “New concentrator from San Luis Obispo, California. She enjoys collaging, curry, and pronoun ambiguity.
Varun Nayar ‘15 would be down to go out, but could also like Clara Trippe ‘18 was found in a strip mall outside Iowa City. hang out and chill and stuff. Leina’ala Voss ‘18 is looking forward to going home to Rosie O’Brien ‘16 a third year from Lawrence, Kansas. She Portland for the summer so she can get “bare as she dares” for the found ten Elvis stickers and dares you to find more. Naked Bike Ride, do henna at Last Thursday, and watch movies in the park. Caleigh Ryan ‘16 is a total sleeze. Metea Voyce ‘15 I use my body as a subject to represent Linnea Schurig ‘17 “My life is pieces of paper that I’ll get a powerful force. Within different spaces, I try to create an back to later. I’ll write you a story, how I ended up here. experience through performance which appeals to multiple sensations. I am interested in exploring the limits of my body and Masha Shevelkina ‘15 is detrimental. it’s detrimental? you the space it occupies. Impermanence and visual interruptions in detriment me. daily life provide foundational ideas in my work. Josie Sloyan ‘18 was a child prodigy in hopscotch. 83