Copyright © 2014 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. © 2014 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: Eye C U by Clara Kirkpatrick. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
XLVII | Spring 2014 ARTS SELECTION COMMITTEE Hannah Bernard Hannah Condon Jackson Dunnington Charlotte Kanzler Eliana Schecter
EDITORS Clare Boerigter Emily Mester Drew Ohringer Quinn Underriner
WRITING SELECTION COMMITTEE Caitlin Beckwith-Ferguson Geo Gomez Linnea Hurst Diane Lenertz Clare Mao Julia Marquez Sarah Porter Alejandra Rogriguez Caleigh Ryan Eliana Schecter Sylvie Warfield
Diane Lenertz Lessons 15
Writing Alex Bazis Porjo
Jenkin Benson Ideally 38 Clare Boerigter The Fire Rises 65 Devin Doyle Loop 40 Sam Dunnington August, 3:30 in the Afternoon
Dylan Fisher In San Francisco 12 Nuwara Eliya 20 Fish Tank 33 Linnea Hurst Grandmothers 40
Patrick Kennedy-Nolle Legardeur 26
Matt Lewis Waiting for a Goodtime 32 Drake Haikus 57 Clare Mao Pink-ing of You 32 Superstition 58 Lake Mendota, WI 70 Lucy Marcus Swiggartâ€™s Assistant 72 After Daddy Left 78 Emily Mester Gum and Vodoo 16 Endlings 37 Varun Nayar On the Train Home 23 mr. rococo 64 Drew Ohringer The Dentist 18 The Rooftop Erection Test 48
Art Sarah Porter Philosophy for the non-philosophy Fruit and Sex Exist
Kelly Pyzik Phylum, Salmo, Polysemy
John Seng Jade Street Creamery
Eleanor Stevens Hard Tortillas Translated from Enrique Romero Morenoâ€™s Tortillas duras 34 Quinn Underriner Lines 46
Lorraine Blatt Duck 56 Zev Braun Reciprocity of the Passion Flower
Hannah Condon Charlotte Hegerdorn, 1936-1939 28 Sweetheart 29 Jack Dunnington Actaeon 25 TambiĂŠn esto 30 Ezra Edgerton Meatropolis 54 Dylan Fisher The Mall at Northgate
Hannah Fiske Back and Forth Etc. 27 Strands 43 Eliza Harrison Emily Rowing 22 6
Clare Mao Filial Guilt 44 Rosie O’Brien Paradox 21 Study in Bacon Grease 1 52 Study in Bacon Grease 2 53 XIX 39 Martha Orlet The Things I Ate Today
Cassidy White Fingernail Moon 42 Na Chainkua (Chainky) Reindorf Portrait of Artist 14 Linnea Schurig Age 39 Eleanor Stevens I’ll Fuck Your Mother, Cabrón 36
Letter from the Editors Allow us to unzip our skin suits for a moment. When we last wrote you, we were children. Now, we are robots, our innards not dead, but reanimated electrically. Lean closer to inspect our circuitry, our wirecrossed guts. We were given new names: Emiloid, Drewb, Clorg and Beta Quine. Do not pity us. Our droiding was inevitable, and not without its pleasures. Like sentences, we do not sweat. This volume contains many tales of flesh which once would have coaxed feeling fluids from our old, warm bodies. If you percolate as we once did, you will find much to enjoy within these pages. Weâ€™d like to thank SPARC for funding us with such professional aplomb; the English Department for sponsoring this event. And finally, a huge thank you to the writers and artists who submitted work and the students who served on the selection committees.They lent us their gently pulsing carbon sacks and recieved in return McNuggets and .
Clare Boerigter, Emily Mester, Drew Ohringer, Quinn Underriner
â€œMore than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity. I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber. I need it for my dreams.â€? -RACTER,the world's first artificial intelligence computer
program capable of generating English language prose. From its book, The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed.
JADE STREET CREAMERY John Seng
As I rise my mind is creamy. Disgusted by the thought of dressing, Baby-stepping onto my thoughtwalk, Baby-walking my mind line, Big boy acting jaded, I cannot wait to watch the grass get green. I suppose it’s simple where grass is green; I know it’s nice when life is creamy. Look here! At me! I am jaded! Feel free to ignore my sheet salad—too much dressing… Why yes—I see the line, I cross it in search of my thoughtwalk. I rise. Jackhammerin’ guys greet me on my thoughtwalk. Though I appreciate the effort, their noise is too easy and far too green. And they appear to ignore my line. The jackhammermens’ lives are likely creamy, Smooth and simple, lean gravy, work post-dressing, No time to get jaded!
I am John every day and today I am JAY-DID-DID-DID, And if I may ask, what did you DO with Johnny’s THOUGHTWALK? Consider today a blessing! I am talking my walkiethinkie thoughts pre-dressing. ________________ green My soul wants la vida más creamy, And my John Hancock says it’s set for any old line. I can be John-In-The-Box, but I see beyond the line, Too close and I grow JadedIn-The-Box and I rise crazy, cranium still creamy, rising above my thoughtwalk, hearing hammers in green and grieving the necessary dressing. I’m over the dressing I’m over the line I’m over the green I’m post-jaded I’m back on my thoughtwalk I’m back to creamy My boulevard is creamy green, I call it my jaded dressing, And it lines my thoughtwalk.
In San Francisco Dylan Fisher
In San Francisco, people live in elevators, but this one’s empty. On the other side of the room, across from the elevator, a concierge sits behind a short counter. It takes three standard strides to move between the counter and the elevator’s door.You ask the concierge if it has always been like this and hear his voice slide through his mouth, his tongue pressed against the upper bridge of his front teeth, protruding, bent just a little, towards the elevator. He says yes, and pulls himself up, leaning forwards onto the dividing counter. His upper thigh presses sharply into its edge, folding a slight crease into his pressed khakis. He puts his arm around your shoulder, pulling you in close, so that you can smell the curry on his breath and feel the dampness of his tongue upon your cheek. You see his eyes catch in the fluorescent light and his breath simmer across the counter. He wants for you to stay in San Francisco. You say you have an appointment upstairs, you are already late. He asks if he can come, he has done this before in San Francisco. In San Francisco, residents wear noses on their chins and watches on their ankles. San Franciscans swim in ocean water that’s too cold. When they walk it sounds like they have waterlogged their shoes.
In San Francisco, all the elevators were once painted red like the Golden Gate Bridge.You place your hand against the door and feel chips in the rusty paint, like these walls haven’t been noticed for years. On the fifth floor the red walls slide open, but you don’t step off.You allow the elevator door to slide shut again, forget the appointment to which you are late. Thousands have left their hearts in San Francisco, only to wish, sometimes years later, they had them back to give again. On foggy days you watch them—businessmen and vacationers, students and gas station attendants—searching desperately for that tenderness they so easily let slip away, like on the fourteenth floor, where the buttons are all cracked and worn. In San Francisco, doors open when windows close or when it rains, and everyone you don’t know or want comes in. The elevator, once empty, fills with florists carrying summer bouquets that get in your hair. A girl with braces and hopeful bangs.You ask if she still has her heart. She smiles back, cross-legged on the floor. Three children, double-fisting mocaccinos with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.You hear them talk about mutual friends in Sacramento and San Jose. Here, in San Francisco, these friends are named, but never met. A porter carries in suitcases that aren’t his. Sometimes when he’s alone he drops the bags, falls on the floor,
and pretends to be a dinosaur messed up on gin and tonics and cough syrup. He roars and tries to catch his echo, leaning, tipping, slowly through the door, hands full of suitcases. In San Francisco, someone once found gold, but didn’t know it. In San Francisco, the speed of an elevator corresponds almost directly to the number of travelers multiplied by the number of floors each must scale to get home. As the elevator fills, it starts to slow. It takes two days to move between the fifteenth and eleventh floors. The red walls stretch with accommodation. Someone orders pizza and you take on the delivery boy and slices of pepperoni and black olives. The pizza is cold and you can’t reach it.You’re trapped in the elevator, your limbs pinned to your side, stuck in the middle of everyone.You wish that you had stepped off when you had the chance, on the fifth floor, when you were supposed to. On windy days, you can still hear the concierge’s voice sliding all over the place, though you don’t see him anymore. He asks if you remember what you’re doing in this elevator? In San Francisco? 13
Portrait of Artist| Na Chainkua (Chainky) Reindorf| Oil on Canvas
Lessons Diane Lenertz
I sat in one chair You in the other â€œMove the air not harder but fasterâ€? So we sat, both tapping Our thighs with cupped hands and altering the atmosphere in breaths. My lips encircled the pitch They pushed, mimicking yours. Your eyes focused like target practice on my mouth. My lips and yours pushed tones back and forth over feet of frayed carpet.
Voodoo Emily Mester
A name mouthed for months in the fruitless dark. Like rubber candy like good luck charm chewed to cud. And still you mull it, long past flavor. Ration nor raft. Food nor rudder. Enough. Pitch jetsam to the brine. Fingers, skin the sweet. Lilt of lush tongue, alight on the square. Lips, lock the vault. Now hush. Leave the rest to the tides.
Gnash, teeth, like Cerberites loosed. Throat, roil thickly with curdled citrus spit. Now, taffy -locked jaw, hang slack. For a moment, let it hangâ€”quivering wet at the altarâ€”aloft. Then swallow. Let it slide along a gradient of slime. Let it bob halferoded in your lightless gut. Let it wait to be ravished by bile.
The Things I Ate Today | Martha Orlet| Wax, Crayon, Food, Arm
The Dentist He was: five feet nine inches tall, of northern European ancestry, a dental student. He had hazel eyes, like my mother.
girl from a few weekends ago. A girl who had shiny teeth.
I mean: he is five feet 9 inches tall and of northern European ancestry.
He was in his third year of dental school as he twisted shut the lid of the plastic cup, inside which swam his sperm.
He has hazel eyes, just like my mother.
Inside his sperm swam Vikings.
He was a dental student sometime before March, 1991.
“Do you have hazel eyes?” asked the girl with shiny teeth, in early March, 1991, as she drank a beer he’d bought her. He tried not to stare at her teeth. His sperm swam inside my mother.
He is probably still five feet nine inches tall, he is of northern European ancestry, he has hazel eyes—just like my mother—and he was a dental student sometime before March, 1991, when he walked into a room in Tufts Medical Center and jerked off into a cup.
He was 24, 26, 29, 32.
He stood 5 feet nine inches tall as, with his hazel eyes, he examined the medical office’s magazine collection: Hustler, Penthouse, Playboy.
He had two of his own children by the time, at 11 years old, I told a friend that my father was in jail. My friend’s father offered my mother his sympathies.
He was probably still a dental student when, in early March, 1991, his semen was thawed and injected into my mother.
He quit dental school. He is not a practicing dentist.
He is a practicing dentist. He stared into the plastic cup: all that generational teeming. He stared into the plastic cup and saw: five feet nine inches, northern European ancestry, hazel eyes (like my mother, except he didn’t know that).
By Drew Ohringer
He was practicing dentistry in Burlington, VT when my mother said: five feet nine inches, northern European, dental student, hazel eyes (like me). He had hazel eyes in March, 1991. He has hazel eyes now.
He had been a dentist for almost ten years when my friend told me, during recess, “He probably did it for beer money.”
Although he tried to think of her breasts, he could only think of her shiny teeth. He wanted to touch them, lick them. He wanted to polish them.
He descends from Vikings.
He looked into the cup: milky viscosity.
He looked at the Hustler for a few minutes. Then he thought about a
His children are named Dan and Emily. They don’t have hazel eyes. In 835 CE his ancestors pillaged the Isle of Sheppey. In 1991 he jerked off into a cup. He was taking a piss at dawn, standing five feet nine inches tall, and blinking his hazel eyes when my mother went into labor.
He saw Vikings, milk, swimmers. “He died of altitude sickness climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro,” I told my 5th grade class. He flosses three times a day.
He suffers from panic attacks.
He was driving west on Route 2 the afternoon I first ejaculated.
Two of his children are named Ned and Drew.
He descends from berserkers, from Beowulf.
He practices dentistry. He practices golf.
He saw them swimming: Dan, Emily, Christopher, Pierre, Nicole.
“You actually did that?” she said, naked, her teeth shining. In 1993 he married her. She never asks him why.
He died of seasickness sailing the mandibular canal.
He takes Zoloft. He practices yoga. He has never traveled to northern Europe.
He flossed his wife’s teeth before they got divorced.
Asian Fever, Finally Legal.
He was sitting bored in a lecture on odontoblasts when a woman at the sperm bank called my mother to tell her it had worked. “You’re lucky—he’s a smart one,” she said.
He chews sugar-free gum.
He is 48, 56, 41, 39.
He is a hypochondriac.
He has his own practice.
In 836 CE the women of the Isle of Sheppey gave birth to hazel eyed children.
He is a practicing Methodist.
He gets seasick. “I hope our children get your eyes,” his wife said. Her teeth were yellowing. He doesn’t like beer.
Five feet nine inches.
Northern European. Right now he’s sneezing in Burlington, VT. Hazel eyes (like my mother). I have brown eyes and don’t brush my teeth enough.
Nuwara Eliya Dylan Fisher We almost ask each other questions. Is there a curfew? At what time? Do we need to run? Do we want to? How many dogs make up a pack? How many smoking men make up a crowd? Is the pack dangerous? Sad? What about the crowd? Why do the smoking men smell like fish? Why do they wear sarongs even when itâ€™s cold? Why are they awake when everyone is asleep? When they yell out do we cross the street? Do we still look back over our shoulders and gently wave? Do we say hello? Do we bow? How do we say hello in Sinhala? Ayubowan. What do we say then?
Paradox | Rosie Oâ€™Brien|Watercolor on Paper
Emily Rowing | Eliza Harrison|Woodcut Relief Print
On the Train Home Varun Nayar
1944: Badi Nani packs her children into four decrepit navy-blue duffle bags strapped to a train running down from Karachi to Dilli. The bed-sheet sky holds dry, white stains on its body; like the clouds that lived there grew up. Families of bare feet make loud, stinging claps onto the platform. The train screams and begins to move, both forwards and away. The disappearing train is swallowed by a now, even larger sky. Badi Nani holds her heart in her throat, cries into her dupatta, never stops. 70 years later, grandmother floats soundlessly in her sari and kisses my forehead. I kiss her too. A warm bead of sweat washes over a thin mark on her cheek - right where they threw her off the train in Dilli. No one here is done returning.
Phylum, Salmo, Polysemy Kelly Pyzik The body was buried under the rose bush, now petal-soft mountains surface in crags. Bubblegum stems snake through intercostal spaces â€“ Vacancies available within paradoxical piping! Paint the roses red! Paint the roses red! Paint the roses red! That is what the queen ordered.
philosophy for the non-philosophy
afterlife: you are a jellyfish and i am the salt in the sea. afterlife: am I the ghost? afterlife: you are a horse! afterlife: mayonnaise on a sunburn.
Actaeon| Jackson Dunnington| Charcoal on Paper
Legardeur Patrick Kennedy-Nolle William LeGardeur was certain someone had played a mean trick on him. It was the simplest explanation that presented itself, and his simple mind accepted it unchallenged. The brownhaired pouty-faced child sat patiently in the waiting room and, listening very, very hard, he could hear the hour hand crawl along on its eternal route to nowhere. The minute hand, which was notably louder, moved even more painfully quickly, outpaced only by the cruel second hand, whose resonances struck at a severely sensitive chord in his heart and made reading the Goosebumps book he had brought along impossibly difficult. Occasionally he diverted his eyes to the fat woman across from him, and in these expressionless moments the narrator’s lungs stopped expanding and contracting, and the boy’s pupils grew tiny once more; the monster under the sink had, temporarily, stopped gobbling up the poor unsuspecting husband, who was for lack of a better word stupid not to realize that horrors such as flesh-consuming creatures could violate the inviolable six-figure house he had purchased he knew not how long ago. Six years, was it? Eleven a.m. already. The boy was missing out on his little league baseball game, which he was certain must be well into the sixth, possibly seventh, inning by now, although there was hope that it was only 26
the fifth, especially when you consider all the pre-game delays, like waiting for the grumpy umpire, who’d last week arrived thirty minutes tardy and with no excuse to boot, except that his wife had detained him. And had someone right then and there sat down next to William and explained in small words the idea of opportunity cost, he would have nodded his head vehemently, shaking loose the careful part he’d been scrupulous to comb earlier that morning, because earlier that morning he’d been told by his parents they were going to go straight from the Doctor’s to the ballfield, and no he wasn’t going to miss a single minute of action, because the appointment wouldn’t take that long, promise. Suffice to say that when eleven thirty rolled unapologetically along, William felt both upset and betrayed, and the idea that his parents had lied to him became more and more likeable as eleven forty-five came and went without so much as a passing wave, and the narrator resumed his pleasant omniscience, speaking about the tragedy befallen sad, mangled Mr. Hawkins, who had also been deceived, though admittedly by his own fault. But the boy did not care about Mr. Hawkins anymore because he had died too soon and now there was nothing to look forward to in the rest of the book, three long and unnecessary chapters devoid of casualties; they would find the monster, the police and investigators, and they wouldn’t hesitate to kill it in whatever way you do, in fact, kill sponges that have teeth and breathe and feed on the damp hot dark under the sink. And it occurred to him then that this in and of itself was a motivation to keep reading. The destruction of the thing. And he was so enraptured by this idea that little league just sort of went away, and the clock did not bother him, and neither did the uncomfortably fat woman, and the boy and
the narrator sped along page after page after page fast as Santaâ€™s sleigh, both of them seeking the selfsame sentence, and years later he would remember waking up alone in his apartment at night, hopelessly and indescribably angry at R.L. Stein for not providing the solution to the monster, who kept eating away at the unaware for all time, all this of course understood retrospectively, little William LeGardeur angry then only about the missed match, angry later at himself for not realizing why it was in the end his mother and father came out of those adult doors he was prohibited from following them through with eyes so sad even the omniscient narrator ceased his aimless scribblings, didnâ€™t understand it because all Doctors were like Doctor Tromp, the pediatrician who tapped his knee and made it move against his fist-clenched will with the hammer instrument thingy, and none of them punctured your spine with needles as wide as pupils and studied mammograms looking for spots smaller than pupils, little white circles so harmless they were worth reading over.
Back and Forth Etc. | Hannah Fiske| Monotype
Charlotte Hagedorn 1936-1939| Hannah Condon| Ball Point Pen and Colored Pencil
Sweetheart | Hannah Condon| Adobe Photoshop Collage
TambiĂŠn Esto | Jack Dunnington | Digital Photograph
Waiting for a Goodtime Matt Lewis
*from the 2002 OPI Sheer Romance Sheer Shades Collection
“Be quick, hurry to find your coat.” He can’t hear you. His outer ear is floating in a pool of sweat and snot.
Have you ever hated crowds? “Let’s go” “We can’t” “Why not!” There is no use in screaming he is waiting for goodtime. He has lost his coat And blue plaid has switched off the lights. Legs have entangled and you no longer wish for home. Because home is a room, and a room is a room. into her dupatta, never stops.
Pink-ing of You The man who does my nails says red is my better color. He holds my hand and calls me pretty, the yellow of his teeth inelegant, but bright. I ask after his wife, estranged and faraway, in love with men who do not touch the hands of other women. The winter sun is young today, soft and weak and blue behind the crown of his bent head. It looks into his salon, its light a waiting guest. Among the rows of blacks and greens, a photo of his daughter. Six and sweet and lucky.
Fish Tank Dylan Fisher Were I to see you In the fish tank at the Pet Smart down the interstate I wouldn’t know your eyes are too big for your face You don’t smile with your teeth, because they’re all pointy and unflattering Like a kid I once knew, nick-named K I’d name you Margaret, because you remind me of a photograph: my mom in a new jean jacket, mouth vaguely ajar in the 1980’s Or Jackie The first girl I kissed wore grape chap-stick and only smiled with her lips I would ask to take you home, because you’re not my favorite or my least favorite, but probably something in between, because your skin blushes those translucent purples and blues I always wanted to know
Hard Tortillas: We’re Too Broke to Buy Beans
Translated excerpts from Enrique Romero Moreno’s novel Tortillas duras: ni pa’ frijoles alcanza
Eleanor Stevens “I NEED SOMEONE to help me clean up my back yard.”
“What’s that gringo saying?” somebody demanded. “I don’t know, just be like, ‘Yes, yes.’ We’re not going to need English to do this job.” “Yes! Yes!” he called out obediently. 34
“‘Yes, yes,’ what? How much money? Dfo you speak English?” “Yes! Yes!” he answered. “He’s asking you if you speak English, pendejo, and how much you charge,” another paisano interrupted, and took advantage of his companion’s confusion to catch the patrón’s attention and snag the job for himself. “40 dollars, mister. Give me 40 dollars.” “That’s too much. I’ll give you 30.” The bargaining got fierce. The gringo wouldn’t give an inch, and neither would the paisano. The patrón had the advantage: he had options, and he chose a cheaper one. He decided in favor of the fellow who kept on saying “Yes, yes.” The next day, bright and early, I visited the Avenue. Like the day before, they wandered in one by one in the same clothes, unshowered and unrested. Very few came with smiles on their faces. The only one I’d talked to yesterday was nowhere to be seen. The paisano who pronounced “Yes, yes” so well in English looked good and pissed. He told everybody bitterly what had happened to him yesterday. “The goddamn gringo took me to his house to work. I cleaned up his whole garden, took out rocks, moved this over here and that over there, planted a little rose bush and some other stuff. When we’d finally finished, he motioned for me to get in his truck and like an idiot I got in. I thought he was going to take me to go get something to eat, but no, we went to go drop off the trash. And as soon as I turned my back that cabrón drove off and left me
there.” “Oiga,Yes Yes, you gotta make them pay you before you start working,” somebody said. “How the fuck was I supposed to tell him that if all I know how to say in English is ‘Yes, yes’? He probably asked me if I felt like spending the night in the garbage dump and I told him ‘Yes, yes’… Boy, if I ever see that bastard again, am I going to romper su madre!”
IT WAS ABOUT half past eleven in the morning when the paisanos saw the police. They’d come to the Avenue because of a call from Dunkin Donuts. The guys who hadn’t gotten hired that day wandered over to watch the show, just in time to see one of their fellow paisanos arrested. Everybody knew him. He came to the Avenue every day to look for work. In a couple of seconds, the police had him handcuffed on the ground. The owner of Dunkin Donuts, an Iranian, was accusing him of not paying for his breakfast. The paisanos couldn’t believe their eyes: the police had arrested him over a couple of pesos. If only he’d gotten his breakfast from Lupillo’s taco truck, like everybody else! The whole time he was lying there, he didn’t so much as lift his face off the ground, he was so ashamed. When the police put him into the patrol car, the paisanos caught a glimpse of the hopelessness on his face. “For God’s sake, we’ll pay what he owes you!” they yelled to the Iranian, but it was hopeless. Busted for eating breakfast gratis. The paisanos swore they’d never set foot in the Iranian’s store again. Stingy bastard. Holy shit. What kind of nut calls the police over a couple of bucks?
“Broke, out of work, in the United States, and now they arrest us for eating donuts. That’s what I call being well and truly fucked,” one of them said as they all wandered away. “Things like this don’t just happen to us because we’re fucked,” said another. “They happen because there are people out there who want to fuck us over even more.”
THE PAISANOS WENT back to their accustomed
places on the sidewalk. They had it all to themselves, now; most of the Salvadorians had been hired and left to work for the day. The paisanos who had been deported by Migration a few weeks earlier were back. If somebody who crosses the border illegally is a mojado, these guys who’d done it twice were “remojados.” Among the “remojados” was Fernando. When the migra arrested them all, he was the one who got put in solitary confinement for kicking the cell door, desperate to call his neighbor to ask her to look after his children. Today, he carried under his arm a copy of the newspaper La Opinión. “Hey, apparently we’ve got rights even though we’re undocumented,” said Fernando. “This newspaper says so. I’m going to make a photocopy of this, a bunch of copies, and always keep one in my pocket. I’m never going to let myself get fucked over again like I was the other day. There’s a list here of the rights you’ve got if Migration arrests you.” “Bueno, let’s hear them.” “Here goes.” Fernando began to read: “‘Your rights when dealing with the INS…’” “Oye, what does INS mean?” someone demanded. 35
“What do you think, dumbass? It stands for ‘Indocumentados No Somos.’” “Ya dejen de decir pendejadas” interrupted another paisano, getting impatient. “Those letters mean ‘migra’.” Fernando unfolded the newspaper all the way, and finally everyone quieted down enough for him to go on. “It says here that it’s against the law in this country for Migration to interrogate you or review your papers just because you look like a paisano or speak Spanish. Even if you don’t have a green card -- that is, your papers -- you have the right to remain silent and to refuse to answer any question the agents ask you.” Fernando kept on summarizing the article for his listeners. “We’ve got to remember: as long as we’re in the custody of the migra, they aren’t allowed to threaten us or insult us, put our handcuffs on too tight, deny us medical care, transport us in dangerous ways, put us in dirty or overcrowded cells, deny us drinking water, let us go without eating for more than six hours, or take away our money, jewelry, glasses, or medications.” “Pues, it sounds nice on paper, Fernando,” said one of the laborers on the sidewalk, “but, let me tell you, in real life, it I’ll FuckYour Mother, Cabrón | Eleanor Stevens | Pencil 36
doesn’t work like that. They’ve detained me more than once. Mira, they take away all your belongings, and put them in a little plastic bag, and don’t give them back to you until you’re about to get on the truck… but as often as not, they’ll lose your bag and say you never gave them anything. All those rights, they just take them and stick them up their… Bueno, you get the point.” “Well, it’s got to be good for something,” said Fernando. SOME OF THEM bought copies of the newspaper and kept the section with the article about their rights. Later, they cut the articles out and tucked them into their empty wallets. At least it made their wallets feel a little fuller. The laborers began their discussion standing on the sidewalk, continued it leaning against a wall, and finally finished it in Dunkin Donuts. They ordered all kinds of donuts and coffee, more and more. When the discussion ended, one by one they wandered out. The last to leave said to the Iranian: “Go on, deport us all.” And they left without paying. Who knows what all the Iranian shouted at them in his native language, but he carried on shouting for so long that the paisanos figured that somewhere in there he’d probably told them to go chingar sus madres. So one of them yelled back: “I’ll fuck your mother, cabrón!”
Endlings Emily Mester Vast unnumbered hosts once darkened the heavens for days at a time. Martha expired of stroke Celia died alone in the in Cincinnati, an old maid Spanish Pyrenees, crushed half defeathered. beneath a fallen tree. Of billions, the last now whisked to the backroom of natural history, where quickly, she went cold in its hands.
Of 57 eggs implanted to replace her, one attempt stuck, but, born gasping the clone drowned in its lungs
Her body, consigned to ice her brain, to alcohol the bird, later to glass.
Rare, stubborn, now twice gone extinct, Celia would remain the last.
Lost to the markets of time, silence issues its own kind of threat. 37
Fruit And Sex Exist
You shine brighter tonight than ever. Your smile is a slice of neon honeydew and when I write love poems, I am really writing about the moon. Ha. I fooled you. I fooled me too.
Ideally Jenkin Benson
She pronounces privacy like an anglophile. The privacy of our love is a little tune she sings to herself, like a chickadee secret, quiet enough to forget most other things. She moves only as fast as everyone needs her to be. I need her to be slow.
XIX |Rosie Oâ€™Brien| Oil on Canvas
Age| Linnea Schurig| Watercolor
Grandmothers Loop Linnea Hurst Our Grandmothers are waiting for us—bird Boned and down feathered they lean against our Smiling faces on the fridge, waiting as Cats streak under street lamps, as owls call and
Devin Doyle maybe dreams never fly this far south unless they're lost and circle the field until
Our grandmothers reply—their reflections In the window sway to a song they have Almost forgotten—then our grandmothers Undress and walk the hallways of their own
they drop dead cause
I used to find bones out there and I used to think they used to be Dinosaurs but now they're birds but ambition all looks the same color to me
Home like it is someone else’s, fingers Lingering over the mantelpiece, feeling the Dust and wax, bits of carpet—letting it all Loosen and float to resettle elsewhere, Our grandmothers then laugh, watching the sky Blush and bloom from the kitchen sink— Slipping into fabric we inhale as they Fold us up in their cast iron embrace.
and it's one of those colors that scientists kill each other over
The Mall at Northgate | Dylan Fisher| Silver Gelatin Print
Fingernail Moon| Cassidy White| Digital Photo Collage
Strands | Hannah Fiske|Monotype
Filial Guilt | Clare Mao| Digital
Reciprocity of the Passion Flower | Zev Braun| Digital Photograph
Lines Quinn Underriner Call it a madeleine moment when I brought home a mylar blanket and my father started talking about how I never tucked my bed corners tight enough before he spoke about being drafted, leaving triangular flag apologies for two years with the parents of the early dead and somehow maneuvering to how anxious coffee now makes him. Years later when he would start like this, I’d look away from him and imagine the groove in my brain maze made into a line. Pulled taut, it would twang and chorus, peak and flourish, only to be blanketed by sleep. I’d picture my father as he cites his own footnotes and I go to bed, repeating the number of days since he’s had a drink, 11,857, leaving me alone to consider what he was like in those earlier 10,563. As early as I remember my Grandfather counted too, but for him the equation was the combined number of days, updated on lined paper every Christmas, that his children and grandchildren had lived. He blanketed us all with stories about leaving New Jersey for NYC after 16 hour pool hall shifts. Bed, he reminded us before our growth plates closed, was the for the weak, the unfit, leaving 46
my mother to tell us which words he said that we could not. She only left these visits after attending mass in a cabin outside town. Early on my father would come too, but lately there is just no moving him. My mother always told me she wanted a second child, a daughter, Madeleine, like the books. She would get a matching hazy red blanket. Often, my mother rubbed a small bone of St. Margaret as she went to bed. She even added a bunk to mine, but it was just an unstained plywood ceiling to my bed which stayed barren. My mother was left nearly alone for the last four years, even taking up Tai Chi, but early she learned to expect no more company from him, that there would be no Madeleine. She would count stitches like rosary beads and knit more length and width to my blanket. I recently had to give up coffee as my speech had become a sandy blanket, darker and improperly strained years left me in bed with an ulcer, leaving me gnawing in half caffeine pills, doling out the pair slowly to get me from bed. Early one morning, I thundered into the den to find my father on an unnanounced visit, not looking up, reading Proust. I found that mylar blanket one midwestern morning, early as I sifted through my parentâ€™s attic. I think of that demibed and why I never asked him if he sometimes saw Madeleine.
The Rooftop Erection Test Drew Ohringer
“So how about you take your pants off.” “I like girls, dude,” I said, my eyes closing every few seconds. “Come on, we’re all alone up here. I bet you have something special under there.” I’m in a haze of sleeplessness, weed and a half tab of ecstasy. Jonathan—who’d guided me from bar to club and now to the roof of the hostel where we were both staying—wanted me to take my pants off. It was a little after eight in the morning: the sun was rising over a river I couldn’t name and part of the Wall that had been painted over psychedelically. I tried to laugh off Jonathan’s requests. “Sorry, it’s not happening.” Again I told him I was into girls. Even though I would come to invest the rooftop scene with Jonathan with a kind of narrative ambiguity, I couldn’t escape the fact that I simply wasn’t attracted to this pockmarked 19 year-old from Guatemala, squeezed into black skinny jeans. Over one-euro beers earlier that night, he told me of his escape to Berlin—a refugee of his bigoted father, he’d been hostel hopping for three months—and I’d delivered what I thought was a sensitive monologue on sexual fluidity. I had immediately intuited that he was gay, and given the circumstances—me buying us beer and cigarettes and following him blindly into the night—I’d 48
tried to drop hints that I wasn’t interested. I’m not sure it would have made any difference: at a club he’d successfully brought a hammered British boy who at first rebuffed him to the bathroom; now, passing me the joint he’d just rolled, he brushed my crotch with his hand. “I’m going to sleep,” I said. My native guide, he’d shown me how to traverse the series of ladders and stairs that took us illegally to the roof—I couldn’t get back down alone. Wordlessly we descended. The final platform before the door that would lead me back to my room was higher than I remembered. Jonathan jumped off it first and stood by the door waiting. I told him I needed a hand and used my left arm to balance on his: I withdrew it immediately upon landing. I beat him to the door—but it was locked shut. With all my weight I grabbed the handle but, Teutonically tough, it didn’t budge. I turned in defeat to face my companion. He was smiling. “It’s fucking locked,” I said, as if any explanation were necessary. “We’re stuck.” He said he’d try to call somebody—he seemed part of a vast network of Berlin’s hostel underground—and I slumped down at the foot of the door, intent on keeping my distance. “We could have some fun up here, “he said. “You know it
would feel good.” So this was the scene, comical in the slapstick mode I would later adopt when telling it to my friends back in Aix. Drew and the gay guy stuck on the roof in Berlin; Drew trying to run away; Drew self-deprecatingly downplaying the qualities that may have made him attractive to Jonathan in the first place; Drew protecting his pelvic region against encroachment. What I never mentioned to my friends in France—a richly attired group of girl gourmandes—was that I didn’t just laugh away Jonathan’s offers of pantless skyline pleasures. There was no one around up there, I would never see Jonathan again after that night--even half-asleep by the door, I thought: if there were ever a moment… Locked on the roof, I had my chance to see what it would be like: a man’s hand on my penis; my penis in a man’s mouth; my mouth—can I say it?--around a man’s penis; some variation thereof. Jonathan had found me in a rare moment of sexual calm, even euphoria— two nights before I’d gone back to my hostel bed with a New Zealander whose name I couldn’t remember; my second night of vacation, in Paris, I’d done the same with a 28 year-old Australian with whom I spent the next day drinking 12 euro gin and tonics in Hemingway’s favorite bars—but his advances threatened to awaken an old, obsessive line of self-interrogation. I had spent a year of high school terrified, as I put it, of being gay. One October evening junior year, a friend of my brother’s came over to pick him up for a Halloween party: he was dressed as a shirtless cowboy—images like that branded
themselves in my mind—and I felt, or thought I felt (the endless redoubling of doubt), a pang of arousal. From then on I became fixated on testing, examining—finally, destroying—my sexual responses. During yet another biology class PowerPoint on posttransciptional RNA splicing, I would undress Dan, the soccer player who sat next to me, check to see if a boner was coming on, then, relieved for the moment, try to imagine what the rest of Sara’s ass would look like in that blue thong I could see poking out from across the room. My recent successes abroad weren’t without complications, either: the Australian had refused me when, at the end our alcoholic expedition, I’d drunkenly asked her to make out in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and the guys I was sharing my room with in Berlin had all heard me ask the New Zealander, after flopping futilely in and out of her for a half hour, whether she liked the feeling of my pointer finger in her asshole. Jonathan started flipping electrical switches at random, trying, I guess, to alert someone below to our presence. “You know that British guy wasn’t gay, either,” he said. For a moment I subjected him to my high school tumescence test: nothing. If I didn’t want him—and I don’t want to keep saying I didn’t—I at least wanted his persistence. While he brought the Brit to the bathroom at the warehouse club, I stood smoking alone, another bobbing male, peripheral. I stared at a German girl swaying by herself. How many times since summer camp had I stood on the edge of some dance-floor, half drunk and hating myself? I was the young American, continentally alone, thousands of miles from mother—the overnight trains, smoking Lucky Strikes in cafés,
“You know it would feel good.”
bedding an international array of women—but I couldn’t muster up a quarter of Jonathan’s cocksureness. The German girl danced away, I got a nicotine headache. On the train to Paris, before splitting a bottle of champagne with the three French students in my compartment, I’d been reading Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse. I’d bought it at Shakespeare & Co.—the young American woman working the register even stamped the front page with an image of the Bard’s head—and every morning I stuffed it into the chest pocket of my corduroy blazer to read on the Metro. Here, in a nervously sensual mixture of discourse and narrative, Barthes evoked all the longings and anxieties that had overtaken my consciousness since high school: “When a demon is repulsed, when I have at last imposed silence upon him (by accident or effort), another raises his head close by and begins speaking.” It was raining and as Paris poured, then dripped into suburbs, I kept coming back to one passage, without having read much of what came before or after it. “Sometimes the world is unreal,” Barthes writes, and “sometimes it is disreal.” I clung to that word I’d never before encountered, disreality. In unreality the “rejection of reality is pronounced through a fantasy”; in disreality “I also lose reality, but no imaginary substitution will compensate me for this loss.” I’m not sure if Jonathan’s wanting to take my pants off counts as a moment of disreality—certainly I was far from Barthes’ state of lovesickness in that moment—but perhaps I want it to serve as one in the novelistic recasting of my time abroad. Barthe’s term embodied what I came to admire in novels in high school, the same time I began to ruin each of my days with my 50
absurd sexual self-interrogation. Bottomlessness, unknowability, ambiguity clouding everything: just what terrified me when it came to my penis and its attendant fantasies. I craved novelistic visions that blasted the boundaries we invented for ourselves while I writhed in the boundaries I had so rigidly constructed. In the novels that got me through high school and stuck with me even in Europe—predictably my high priest was Philip Roth—it was sex itself that incarnated a free, dizzying world of disreality. And by the time I read Barthes on the train to Paris—by the time I was stuck on that roof with Jonathan—I told myself that I had escaped my adolescent cage of confusion. I was living novelistically, I thought, riding the ambiguities while having a great fucking time. I was letting go into a disreality not of novels but of life. Jonathan had given up both his electrical mission when I spotted a shovel lying on the ground near him. I picked it up and struck it against the door—once, twice, three times—until I almost collapsed, panting. Sometime passed before a plump German man—why he was up on the roof I have no idea—opened the door. The three of us all stood still, arrested, for a moment. Then I ran, somehow navigating the hostel’s post -industrial maze until I found my room and, with a robotic click, shut the door. “One question,” the man at the desk said the next morning when I checked out. “Were you the one on the roof last night?” I forgot that I had emailed the hostel from my phone, explaining that I was stuck on the roof and needed assistance. No, I told him, I had never been on the roof: a drunk friend had hijacked my phone and sent out all kinds of crazy texts. He laughed. “Okay, just wanted to make sure,” he said. Embarrassed for my bad behavior, I didn’t
examine the exchange in the moment, but later, as I walked through the Holocaust memorial, I wondered if I had lied only to erase the night from my mind. In between the Memorial’ s offkilter rows of concrete, French children were playing tag. When I tried to remember my recent erotic episodes, I hit a blurred wall—I couldn’t get myself back inside of them. My sunrise with Jonathan, though, remains vivid, alive even in the haze of intoxicants—I have little trouble existing in the not letting go, in the not taking my pants off. I wasn’t excelling at being young after all, I hadn’t mastered my youth, and it was only the promise of a few more weeks of academically accredited vacation in Aix that kept me from once again wanting it to be over.
Study in Bacon Grease 1 | Rosie Oâ€™Brien|Bacon Grease and Crayon on Canvas
Study in Bacon Grease 2 | Rosie Oâ€™Brien|Bacon Grease and Crayon on Canvas
Meatropolis EZRA EDGERTON
â€œThe neck to him was as the bole of a great oak, knotted and seized together with musclehumps and carbuncles of tangled sinew, the better for good feasting and contending with the bards. The chest to him was wider than the poles of a good chariot, coming now out, now in, and pastured from chin to navel with meadows of black manhair and meated with layers of fine manmeat the better to hide his bones and fashion the semblance of his twin bubs. The arms to him were like the necks of beasts, ballswollen with their bunchedup brawnstrings and bloodveins, the better for harping and hunting and contending with the bards. Each thigh to him was to the thickness of a horse's belly, narrowing to a greenveined calf to the thickness of a foal."
Medium: Charcoal on Canvas
Duck| Lorraine Blatt| Digital Photograph
Matt Lewis drizzle in your eye october: filled with days and people wearing masks â€œyour voice is velour, not like a sweat-suit, like a loose collared sweaterâ€? go ahead and lean dip your iphone in orange, steaming, lobster bisque
s u p e r s t i t i o n 58
My skin buzzed like there was a colony of flies living beneath it, waking me. It took a second for my vision to adjust to the darkness and, when it did, I felt for Reid’s watch on the bedside table. It was 3:47AM. Tuesday, now. I ran a hand up and down my arm under the comforter, feeling for telltale signs—the crackle of dry skin, scaly roughness—but it was fine. Everything was still there. Closing my eyes, I took a breath, then another, allowing the buzzing to flat line into the phantom itch of anxiety. On the bed next to me, Reid stirred, stilling me. “Nina?” he asked, voice slurred with sleep. “Are you awake?” He reached out a hand, palming the dip of my waist before sliding it to settle on my stomach. His thumb nudged slyly towards the shallow curve of my breast, and my breath stuttered. I imagined his hand coming away, a strip of skin following it. The flies started up again, this time deep in the pit of my stomach. I turned to face him on the bed, letting his arm fall between us. The eyelashes of his right eye stuck together, blinking away the sleep. He searched for my face in the dark, and this unconscious tick of human dependency sent a wave of revulsion crashing through me. From somewhere above us, there was
C L A R E M A O
the distant thump of someone’s shoes being kicked off. Reid’s apartment was on the third floor of an eight-story apartment building, and we could hear everything through the ceiling of the bedroom from the apartment above us, and one over too. I’d found it fascinating at first, but it eventually rooted in me a fear of the ceiling caving in from the heavy strain of emotion it carried. How does one measure the weight of five floors of mundane unhappiness, of all that human disappointment? How did people even sleep in ground floor apartments? Each minute flutter of Reid’s eyes was another inch the ceiling stole from the floor, leaving my chest abuzz with nowhere for the panic to go. “I’m not,” I said, pulling the comforter to my chin. I felt rather than heard Reid’s sigh. “Alright,” he said. It was impossible to tell what kind of ‘alright’ it was—disappointed? Surprised?—before he was asleep again, nose whistling. A charming human idiosyncrasy I could never replicate. When it came to charm, Reid had it in spades. He turned his head, revealing the careful line of his profile, and I felt the ceiling retreat. By the time the hour hand on Reid’s watch ticked to four, I was fully awake. I got out of bed and into my thin-soled slippers, tracing the familiar fifteen feet to the door. Reid had been living in his one-bedroom Alphabet City apartment for almost my entire lifetime when we’d first met. California in heart and complexion, he loved plants, white paint, and windows, all of which filled his small, but well-laid out, apartment. On some lucky afternoons, it seemed to harbor all the sunlight in New York. In the kitchen, I filled a kettle with water, then put it on the stove to boil. In the cupboard to the right of the stove, I found
a canister of jasmine tea and a cup my mother had gifted me when with a convenient outbreak of chicken pox that made for an easy, I moved in with Reid, her tacit way of reminding me whenever I automatic excuse for anyone who thought to ask me where Ellie looked at it that she thought I was taking the human charade too was. This also meant that, for four days, I had to brave sixth grade far. In the eight months since, just the thought of tea brought with alone. Unfortunately, twelve was the age when human cruelty it the image of my mother’s tight-lipped disapproval. It had grown started to manifest itself in most of our classmates. My and Ellie’s into something of a comfort. sameness, previously enviable, became instead a target for the I measured out a pinch of tea leaves from a bag At our mother’s honing missile of their nascent meanness. inside the canister before replacing it in a cupboard. encouragement, I For four days I sat in class, irritable when Though there were signs I lived there, too—the spoken to, sullen when not, the distance between ventured to touch her honeysuckle plant in the window, a drawer stuffed shed skin, the feel of it my sister and I pulled taut. The bond of sisterhood, full of Chinatown grocery bags, the Chinese character rough and unfamiliar and especially our twin-ness, was a quality we’d for ‘fortune’ hung upside down on the door—the inherited from the human biology of our father, between my fingers. apartment seemed to do nothing more than inhale, distilled into its purest form in our mother’s reptile and then make room for whatever I brought into it. The realization egg. For almost a week, what that meant was I couldn’t feel at ease of this pleased me for some perverse reason—that, after 24 years until I was pushing open the familiar wood door to the sight of of human existence, my presence could still be made negligible. Ellie bending over the kitchen table, starting first, as always, on As I waited for the whistle of the kettle, the prospect of tea our customary after school snack of half a vegetable bao each. did a little to soothe the murmur of my core. Through the window, While I was learning the inevitability of physical distance, I could see the moon, bright and heavy, between two neighboring Ellie was learning the distance within herself. She spent four days apartment buildings. A passing cloud gave it the illusion of winking at home with the curtains shut and the door triple-locked, holding and I suddenly thought of Ellie with such perfect clarity that I felt her breath at the slightest of sounds. Her skin started peeling off, it in my reptile heart, too. at first reluctantly, and then with an ease that terrified me. Just two days of this bred in Ellie an untethered wildness that left her * vision clouded, bringing out the animal sharpness of our mother’s smile. I had been dreaming lately about being twelve again, On the fourth night, our mother and I watched Ellie pull undergoing the first transformation. Ellie, though eight minutes the last of her old skin over her feet, emerging anew. Together, younger, had been first, the itch coming to her six weeks before we rubbed lotion onto her newborn shoulders, stilling the shake it did me. It kept her home from school for four days, coinciding of them. Privately, I marveled at the heat of her body, a creature 59
in its own right. At our mother’s encouragement, I ventured to touch her shed skin, the feel of it rough and unfamiliar between my fingers. Ellie’s four days of agony gave me a better clue of what was to come, and it made me suddenly grateful I hadn’t been first, that I’d gotten lucky. The shame that chased this thought was painfully, acutely human. Six weeks later, it was my turn. I woke up on a Tuesday morning with the discomfort of my outgrown skin at breaking point. Now it was Ellie’s turn to go off to school in the mornings without me, the elasticity of her fresh skin making her spirit more buoyant, too. I watched her go in the mornings and realized that, actually, she’d been the lucky one. It turns out there is a word for envy, for bitterness in my mother’s tongue, too. For four days, I lay on the cool bamboo mat of our bed, rubbing against it in an effort to relieve the itching. It was made worse by the sudden swell of late-May heat. By the end of just the first hour, I discovered what Ellie must have six weeks prior, finally able to understand the wall I kept encountering inside her. She’d tried explaining it to me, but frustration and her twelve-year-old human tongue rendered her incapable of communicating it to me in a way I could understand, a first. My mother, returning at night, found it uncovered in me by the second day, my eyes turned glassy with brille. On my last night, she waited, as she had for Ellie, while I finally shed the itch of my clumsy adolescent skin, her centuries of experience weighing patient but expectant on me. Unable to help myself, I cried when I was done, elbows looking for purchase as they slid on the new skin of my knees. My mother’s response 60
was gentle, by her standards. She and Ellie smoothed lotion onto my shoulders and legs until my sobs reduced to hiccups, the shine of my skin emerging under their care. Ellie and I hadn’t been our mother’s first children, but we were the only ones left. Our mother had little use for sentimentality, but her fondness for our father, us by extension, was palpable. We were her favorites, we could tell. We went out afterwards for hand-ripped hot oil noodles, like we’d done for Ellie. Meant to be eaten on birthdays, they represented longevity in our parents’ shared culture, though the origin of this superstition was undoubtedly human. Our mother has no use for longevity; who desires what they don’t miss? Nor could she ever be considered a sentimental woman. And yet, there is a certain undeniable charm about the dogged way human traditions, like human existence, continue to endure. * In the morning, I came up behind Reid in the bathroom as he was brushing his teeth, slotting myself into the narrow space between his back and the tiled wall. He made to turn, but I stood firm, reaching my arms up to circle the stomach that was finally starting to show his age. “Good morning,” I said into the small of his back, my mouth pressed against the cotton of his shirt. It was 9:00AM. I had been awake for five hours already at that point. When the sun finally crested, Ellie called me, confirming the insistency of my dreams. We didn’t need to say a single thing to each other. It would’ve been inconsequential at that point. I sat on the edge of
the bathtub I’d filled with two inches of water now chilling my ankles to the bone, reacquainting myself with the rhythm of my sister’s breathing. “Morning,” he said, reaching with his right hand to touch the end of my braid, his elbow bumping the tiles behind me. “Did you sleep well?” The bony ridge of his spine met my chin with a kiss as he bent to spit the foam from his mouth. When he straightened again, he smiled at me in the mirror, mouth rounding with ease into the charming, lopsided grin that had granted him far beyond his predetermined lot in life. At forty, his hair was graying at the temples, and the skin around his eyes was looser than it’d been when I met him eight years ago. But even the trappings of age had done little to dim his incandescent charisma. I hummed against the warmth of his back. “I slept okay,” I said, pressing my ear to his back. “How about you?” He turned, arm slipping around my waist to lead me out of the bathroom, and I wondered if he was remembering my rejection from the night. “I slept well,” he said, choosing to forgive. I looked up at him, at the fine stubble on his chin, the crook of his nose. How human he was, how temporal. The eight years I’d known him represented a third of my present life—huge now, but more and more insignificant with time. Charted, our time together was a case study for the law of diminishing returns, slope reducing every day. The first time I’d met him, I’d felt it in the hum of my blood immediately, the way the very sound of my name in his
mouth—Nina Bai, right?—was lightning; my body, a lightning rod. Next to me, Ellie tensed. She’d felt it after the realization had already sparked through every nerve in the conductor of my body, and turned to look at me with a sharp twist of her head, as if guided by the sudden bloom of unfamiliar emotion in me. Her hand found mine behind my back, and I felt in the tight grip of it the echo of an ancient, inherited promise. We were at the New York Tenement Museum, attending an award ceremony for a high school essay contest about immigration. I won second prize for an unexceptional essay, most likely because I’d written about my father’s passing. Humans placed an inordinate amount of ceremony on death. Inordinate, considering how common it was amongst them. Ellie and I had permission to take the afternoon off school for the ceremony, so we went. We had just turned seventeen, and it was the age of wonder. We were insatiable in our quest to understand the human experience. The answer to everything our mother presented us with was, why not? Reid had been on the review committee. He was an editor for children’s books, sixteen years my senior, and Reid, which he’d introduced himself with, was his last name, not his first, which he didn’t prefer anyway. These were things that would come with time. Yes, I’m Nina. He pressed his palm to mine, and a hiss ran through Ellie’s body, ending in an exhale. This is my sister, Ellie. Ellie was the experimental one, shearing her hair short and cutting her clothes, adopting a well-studied façade of individuality, but Reid didn’t even look twice, just kept my hand in his as he nodded at her. 61
Congratulations. It was truly a pleasure to read your essay. He moved on to the next award winner, and I curled my fingers into my palm, trying to save the sensation. Maybe he’d felt it then, too. I was young, but our mother had taught me well, had taught both Ellie and I well. Ellie has never liked Reid, and makes sure to mask the fury of her disapproval around him in a politeness so sharp only I would feel the sting of it. I understand. We are sisters. She is unable to blame me, and so she blames him instead. I’d made a choice, and bound Ellie to it as well.
to curl around my absence. I forewent the slippers, and left the door to Reid’s bedroom ajar as I walked through it. Reid, still asleep and in bed, snorted, turning to the memory of me next to him. His hand clenched around my phantom limb, hopeful and instinctive, but unable to find purchase in where I had been. Of course, I might have imagined this. Maybe he didn’t notice at all, wouldn’t even think of it until late afternoon, by when it would be too late. In the kitchen, I started to make tea, even going so far as putting the kettle on the stove and retrieving my canister of tea. When the water boiled, I let it whistle for a few seconds longer * past politeness, rebelling in my own small ways. I poured my tea and waited for the water to turn amber. I was just delaying I woke up, my skin tight and dry around me. I stared the inevitable at this point, recognizing the insistent, almost up at the ceiling for a few minutes, taking my breaths slow. My unbearable pull in my throat as part survival instinct, wholly knuckles, when I held my hand up to my eyes, were cobwebbed animal. with tiny cracks. The time, when I checked Reid’s watch, was It was 4:12AM when the pull in my throat was joined 4:02AM. It was Thursday. by my mother’s unique brand of disapproval. I left the tea still As far as Reid was concerned, 4:00AM was magic, and steaming on the counter, buried the key Reid had given me into he kept a running collection of whenever he came across another the soft soil of my honeysuckle plant. I left the front door, the mention of humanity’s witching hour. This belief wasn’t cultural; it character for ‘fortune’ still adorning it, partly open behind me, was just his. Like my mother, I had no use for a superstition about providing an emergency exit for whatever parts of me I was sure time. But, after years, my body had developed a strange, visceral to be leaving behind. reaction to the very mention of it, as if his enthusiasm had trained As if possessed, I went down the stairs, shoeless and in mine the habit of superstition. surprisingly buoyant, led by the ghost of Ellie’s hand in mine. The buzzing under my skin was a frequency searching I imagined, as I stepped out onto the street, as if the building out my sister while responding at the same time to the changes was exhaling in relief behind me, having spent so long creating in her. It only confirmed what we’d always known. There was no space. It no longer had to adjust to my strangeness, the stone of hesitation this time about slipping out of bed, leaving Reid’s arm my reptilian heart making even heavier the strain of everyday 62
unhappiness. My mother lived south of Reid, my sister deep in Brooklyn. I knew, the minute I started walking, new skin alive with anxiety under the itch of my old one, that they were together and waiting for me. This was the only superstition I allowed myself, and even then I knew it was foolish, the human name I gave to this instinct so deep within me. Animals have never needed to be told in times of danger to seek safety.
mr. rococo Varun Nayar to say i miss the fractal music is to say nothing at all. there was more to that city than your shitty poetry; you, master of metaphor, marinating inside tiny pissstained bathroom stalls, plucking orchids with your teeth, smooth talking at all the phantasmagoric girls, the cheap champagne drinking fantastic girls, sucking the damp pulsating yellow from every street corner. you, in your brownian balter, ablaze with a tobacco gilded mother-tongue â€“ a language rendered ornamental in form, curling like the baroque sun cathedrals where you sat burning yourself most days. it is true that the mind remembers only childish things
them, so far, is holed: five tears on the right shoulder, the nipping of my chainsaw’s metal dogs. All the gear issued to me this season is marked, in sharpie, with a number one—the sleeping bag, sleeping pad and liner; the personal gear bag like a large, roughskinned duffel; the radio, GPS and camera. I was number eight last season, but this year I am the crew’s “number one girl.” Clare Boerigter I say, “I am the only girl this year.” They’ve built a fire in the pit outside my window, and I listen to My father was an Eagle Scout when being an Eagle Scout their voices—all nine of them—as I take my time, do the gear bag meant something. When I was young, he taught me the proper up right. It is a new thing still to me, to live in a guard station with way to build a campfire, and also about Houdini, and the way Houdini died. My father told me that—if I fell asleep near running only men, to look forward at the months and to see that these are the people that will fill them. I do not know it then exactly, water—dragonflies would come and sew my eyelids shut. For how this will work, that I will be a girl who is close to her crew nightmares, he once offered aspirin. in a way that women are not usually close to men, in a way that is I am sitting on the floor of my room in Stockmore Guard familiar and easy and every day. Station in Utah, and though I’m not thinking about any of this And it is every day. Because in wildland firefighting, crews directly, these bits are always there. I palm a pair of wool socks, like to go out on “full rolls,” or fourteen day shifts on a wildfire. a raincoat. I’ve surrounded myself with plastic baggies, and they These fourteen days will usually start at 0600 and end at 2200, look like the shiny skins of organs under the lamplight, each 6a.m. to 10p.m., unless a high-ranking supervisor can justify waiting for my hands to pack it full and seal it tight. I am slow more than sixteen hours of work in a day. On either side of these and methodical, touching everything. Fourteen pair of seamless fourteen operational days, crews are allotted four days for travel underwear, two sports bras, a puffy jacket with four duct-tape and a single, final day for rehab, for sharpening tools, cleaning patches. One baggie is medicinal: Desitin, hydrocortisone and trucks, mending the broken. After a full roll, crews will reset with Benadryl, for sleeping. I put all things into piles: BIC lighters and ball-point pens and extra leather shoelaces. Other firefighters have two mandatory, paid days off—which is the only chance we’ll have to be away from each other, and only then if you’ve got the luxury told me that I will always be forgetting something, that over the years I will get worse, not better, at packing my personal gear bag. of a home that isn’t the shared guard station. Then we become available again. Because it is the beginning of fire season, nothing smells My first fire season, which was last year, saw me work yet. The sleeping bag and liner are neutral, newly laundered. My five two-week rolls. I tallied up numbers when the end came in spare crew t-shirts are un-routed by sweat lines and only one of
The Fire Rises
October: fifteen fires, four helicopter rides, eighty-seven nights on the ground. In August and September, I’d showered just eight times. In less than five months, my crew had banked nine-hundred and sixty-four hours of overtime, and all of it we worked together. I lay the baggies out next to my gear bag. After tonight, my bag will be stowed in one of our three fire trucks where it will remain, untouched, until we pop our first fire. And then I’ll be living out of it, rationing my toothpaste and my contact lens solution. This is how I begin to think in essentials; this is how I learn what is enough. … It feels as though it’s been raining for days, and not a Utah rain—quick and done—but a real, honest rain. The sort of rain that wakes you up at night, that sleeps with you and falls, over and over again, until every ditch runs full. Kane, our only native, shows a video to whoever he can find to watch it: the flash flood that nearly took his pickup three years ago during a time when the rain fell like the rain is now falling. In the mornings when I wake up—first at five-thirty, then five-forty-five, five minutes until six—I am confused by the sound of water on eaves. And before I hear the fire boots and the sound of my men’s voices, in the dark, in my room, I think that I am home again. Back to the heartland where the air breathes easier and the storms take the summer as their own. In the kitchen with three refrigerators and a soda pop dispenser which now keeps beer cold, I make my lunch in a plastic bag. There is very little speaking. We do not turn on many lights. We are familiar. And the smell of gasoline is strong. I walk from the guard station to the yard with my hood up. At this hour, with 66
this rain, I can hardly see the split of the canyon; the right turn up North Fork, the bend of Wolf Creek Pass. The chain-link gate to the yard is open, our trucks like white figures before the garage that is also cache and workshop. I ride with Tony and from the passenger seat, I watch the rest of the crew come in. It is easy to tell them apart from each other—the particular slope of a head, the one set of swaggered shoulders—all dead giveaways. I know how they hike and how they run and how they walk when they’re shitfaced. In fire camps, all those men gathered in yellow and green uniforms, this is the surest way to find the one I’m looking for. Tony likes Daft Punk, the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge and “country western” music. He drinks coconut water, Monster Ultra and mushed apple smoothies, which come in squeeze packets for babies. He has worked eleven seasons, seen fire on both coasts, and when he walks, he swings, little bursts like firecrackers. When we drive—and for many, many hours, we drive—Tony will sing and talk to me and sit in silence. We get on well together even during the long days, which these are, when we drive and burn and drive, in the rain, from six until as late as nine, then do it all over again. We are setting fire to piles of aspen on the east side of the forest. We are getting wet, eating our mayonnaise sandwiches and trying to light damp wood that was improperly piled more than five years ago. We are trying not to smoke each other out, fall down the mountain or lose ourselves in endless aspen. I begin to feel a kinship with my drip torches—metal canisters with curlicue spouts which we use to set the land on fire. They are filled with a gas-diesel mix and at the end of each spout,
which we call a pigtail, there is a small wick which I light. When I by fire. I look at the crew and I think: If this went bad, who would tip the torch down, slash mix runs out the pigtail, is lighted by the I put money on to make it out? wick and lays the ground with fire. Peter likes to ring my feet with I am down by the riverbank with Parr where he is having flame. I light the backs of his calves. And Tony, unsuspecting, singes me light the madrone and manzanita. This is the final day of his his curls when he empties his drip torch on a pile hiding light in its back burn. We have been bringing fire down the mountain for the belly. This is what we do, day in and day out, while the rains run. better part of a week. To the north and west is the Jenny Creek The unit we are burning now is called Alma Taylor. To maintain Fire; to the south and west, the Big Windy Fire; to the east, across stand health, improve wildlife habitat and open areas for range, the Rouge River, burns the Dad’s Creek Fire. Smoke hangs on us, national forests designate a number of target acres for treatment grays every view. The raft guides who brought us in on their boats every year. Fuels crews and fire crews, when home, labor for this kept whetting their mouths with the same series of words: eerie, end. Trees are loped, piles are lit and plots are prepped for grand- unnatural, ghost-like. It is hard—in the twilight, the sun red like scale prescribed burns, administered in the snow of winter or clay—for them to recognize the river they know so well. the showers of spring. Before Alma Taylor, my crew In the light hours, we There are twenty-two structures, and we are cut down pinyon and juniper trees on a unit called watch the brown bears here for them. The largest is a lodge where Cary Anthro, which came to nearly a thousand acres of as they move, driven Grant once slept, the smallest is an outhouse for saw work. After weeks, we are near to done with ourby fire, like all things, hikers to use. We’ve extended a hose lay around the allotment and these days, “completed target acres” is down to the water. grounds, improved the sprinkler system and had a on everybody’s lips. second pump rafted down to us. We keep five gallon But not mine. For now, for a few hours, I do not need to containers of fuel—jerries of gas and diesel for the chainsaws, drip think about slash mix or wet wood or smoke. We’ve got the heat torches and pumps—in the middle of the horseshoe court. And, on full against the dampness in our skins and the morning sun is instead of waiting for the fires to converge wildly on the lodge, we laying itself out on the flats in the frame of our windshield. I’ve let have brought them here in slow, measured strips. I have dragged my hair out of its braid and I’m singing, though I’m tired, because drip torches through poison oak, the heat felt like sunburn, the Tony is tired too, and he likes this song—and it is his really, when smell in my face as fine, soft ash. I have shot sausages from very I think about it, because I never will think about it again without pistols, watched the rounds explode into flame as they land, the his being a part of it, just like I won’t think of Alma Taylor without sound like sucking wind, like fire rising. This lighting that we do, seeing aspens planted like a garden of white tulips hung with rain. putting fire on the ground, brings about a quickening—the stir of … breath and blood—as great sugar pines and Douglas fir torch like I begin to play a game with myself when we get pinched in matchsticks, as the air blackens and fills with embers. 67
Parr brings me up in the heart of it. He’s got a military manner, this once Iowa boy of a long time ago, and I think, perhaps, that here is where I’d lay my bets. He begins to explain his patterns and his reasoning, the control he keeps by running a newly set fire into the smoldering of an old burn. I think he expects—the flames I lit beating towards us—to find me nervy, unsettled. But I am not, and this is the key: I need a cue for discomfort; I am as calm, always, as the man beside me. We stay like this—the two of us hung in the center—until the warmth stings and the tan oaks take the fire up into their hair, and then we walk out through the lowest flames. It is on these fires that I sing at night, in the dark, with the bats above me. In the pauses, my words are offset by the booming of trees as they fall, consumed. In the light hours, we watch the brown bears as they move, driven by fire, like all things, down to the water. … On my birthday—or a few days before, because otherwise the meat would spoil—they make me rib-eye and sirloin and pork loin wrapped in bacon. The days have been hard on me, this roll has been hard. We have been set down on a dead fire to watch it shoot wisps like kisses to the clouds and for eight hours a day we sit with our flesh itching. It’s unusual but not unheard of, to babysit like we are. When this forest last burned eleven years ago, the spread was unimaginably vast, which makes men cautious. There are snakes on the beach where we have made camp. The first came to me out of sleep: a small, brown serpent with a curious eye. I could have touched him with a finger. He had, undoubtedly, scented me on the air with his tongue. I sat up, shook 68
my hair back on my shoulders, thought about how easily he could have slid himself in with the strands. The first rattlesnake I almost stepped on in the dark with my flip flops. The second rattlesnake came out of the firewood pile. The third rattlesnake I do not see but imagine every night as I lay near the rocks, my tarp on the ground and the sky as my ceiling. They take the meat out of coolers with watery ice. I am a near twenty-two and swallowing sorrow with fat from the bacon. I cannot say these things, but this is the truth that I feel, the truth with the tenderness that I have for them, these men that are mine for a season. And it is that one of them drinks like a lush—pissing himself, passing out in public—and that one of them will never see my good as good enough—for the loads I cannot lift—and that one of them will never know me—not really, not me—because he has made someone else up in his mind, tied my name to her like a luggage tag. And I understand what they are doing—they find it funny, the way I take to meat—but their fondness feels like a bone in my throat. And these are the things that I think without words or breath to give them, and I do not know if I will ever be able to come back to this, or them. … I am perched on a prominent rock in a vein of scree on the side of a mountain. The sun above is resolute as the winds switch around me. From here, I can see down into the folds of the mountain, out along the sagebrush flats and off into the dry distance. I am sitting lookout on the Lackey Fan Fire, my radio beside me, and my eyes keep going back to the dark band of black that has already burned. I can see, miles beyond it, smoke and
clouds from the Dark Canyon Fire, and it’s handsome, all of these colors laid out like clothes. In the black, the charred trees sway and tip and shoot embers that eventually torch a pine up canyon, but it’s the dust devils, not the crack of limbs, that I watch for. I begin to wait for them, to follow the winds across the desert, to see first the lifting of skirts at the border of the black before the fullness of it is borne out: dust devils in jet and obsidian ash, the size of them startling, incomprehensible, all seen from here, above. I key the mic on my radio to alert my division of the fire to the increase in winds. Over the ridge top, great plumes ascend like a deep bruise to the bright, brilliant sky. And it is this that I will miss in the months after our season has ended: the steadiness, the trust and the heat, are hard to let go. Into my radio, to my crew, I say, “The winds are rising.”
Lake Mendota, WI In memory of JVN (1993-2012)
Clare Mao The first thing I remember thinking: this is nothing I haven’t heard before. Boy. Nineteen. Tongue heavy with the Chicago streets that raised you, hands full of sound. Hands made for holding all the light you stole out of that room.You opened your throat, spit a seed of a song I played the entire ten hours back to Iowa. Boy. Nineteen. 7:00AM. Hour of too early, of too soon, of there had to be nothing for you there. This morning, the banks are heavy with the gold of your ghost, fish bellies full. And Lake Mendota is still sorry. There is a patch of light always washing ashore I suspect escaped from your throat: your last breath, coursing throughout a body we have been slowly rebuilding back into ours. Boy. Nineteen. At first, we had nothing left but your name, weighing so heavy on your father’s shoulders. He stays hopeful, and looking in the rooms of his memory for a last light
with your name on it he can still switch on. There are lights we are all still trying to switch on. Boy. Nineteen. Throw us a bone here. All we have left is the skeleton of our collective memory, chewed in our mouths to nothing. Memory like your body, water-logged and heavy. Memory like your young heart, too full to float. Memory like your last mouthful of freshwater lake, drained ever so slight. Just enough for the gardens in our throats. Boy. Nineteen. It was the earliest hour of the brightest day of the year. If nothing else, the August sun keeps remembering, heavy, bloated, and sorry it couldn’t save you. It weighs heavy, the sink of its regret making its rise purposeful. Is it not enough? Is the morning searchlight of its remorse not enough? Something blooms in the back of my throat. Boy. Nineteen. A year, and I still can’t say your name without wanting to cry. It has left me with nothing. John, sometimes it’s hard to think about anything else but your heart full with water, your throat full of light. Our gardens, heavy with fruit.
Porjo Alex Bazis Oh weeping stinking Porjo, Oh friend of friends in the mud I saw you peek into the barn of my birth I saw you dance in the garden with pigs when I was all alone And in the waves by the desert you stood tall and whispered me sarabandes of love Now I am lord of all but you my friend, And when I grow too grey I will follow your voice across the red mountains And the black mountains, across the thinking seas To that mansion you built when I was a child, Where, in the kitchen, when my parents are away, You can tell me what it was you always meant to say But wait before the sun has risen So I can have the whole day to act on your words
SWIGGART’S ASSISTANT (An Excerpt) Lucy Marcus
Things were bad. Nita recognized this now; things were really bad. She was supposed to be the calm one, that was really her job. Officially, she was his research assistant. She was the levelheaded one, which was why she had lasted so long, five years so far. Before Hugh Swiggart hired Nita, he went through an assistant every semester, sometimes every month. He scared them all away, but not her. Nita was different, special, she liked to think, but really she had just grown comfortable in the confines of their abnormal interactions. He’d say, “let’s ravish each other,” and she’d look at him straight-faced and tell him the coffee was burning. He’d take one of her newly printed reports and crinkle it up with both hands, (“I needed that satisfying sound of paper crunching”) and she’d just print him another, calm as day. They had this dynamic. Now it was threatened. Under the prospect of failure, he had lost weight. Not a lot, but enough that his gray collared shirt sank slightly where it
used to stretch. Everything about him seemed smaller except for his cheeks, which were swollen with the volume of an overgrown beard. He leaned on the corner of her desk with raised eyebrows and waited for her to respond. His parrot, an African Grey with clipped wings and a wide vocabulary, clutched the top of her computer screen and shook his neon green head at her. “No,” Nita said. She shook her head at Swiggart and the parrot. “I can’t do that.You’re asking me to plagiarize.” The Shamelessness Project (The Intrinsic Value of Shamelessness in the Small and Large Communal Arenas) was due to be presented at the Midwestern Psychology Convention in less than a month. If successful, the project would receive renewed funding from the research board at the College, but Nita knew that the money wasn’t one of Swiggart’s concerns. It was success that Swiggart craved, the sound of his name spoken through a microphone, awards for his research announced to the stuffy rooms of academic conferences. He was the grandson of the man who invented the stapler, which granted him a trust fund that paid for the project, including Nita’s extraordinarily high salary. She knew that she was by far the highest paid research assistant in the country. He pulled at the crooked hairs at the bottom of his beard. “God damn it Nita,” he said, “it’s not plagiarism.” He was becoming irritated now. “Plagiarism is when you copy someone else’s work. It’s when you steal an idea. I’m not asking you to rob; I’m simply asking you to duplicate our own data—my original ideas.You would simply be replicating, not stealing anything!” He looked at his hands, twisting the wedding ring around his finger. Really her office was just his old bathroom, connected
to his office through a door in the back. When the building was When people used to ask her what she wanted to do, she’d tell renovated, a new communal bathroom was added at the end of the them with confidence, “anything.” Her one vow was to never work hall, transforming Swiggart’s personal bathroom into a spacious in a cubicle. closet. When he began the project and hired an assistant, he made “Listen,” he said. “I don’t understand why you’re protesting here. the area into a tiny office, disconnecting the plumbing, but keeping Tell me, what’s the difference between participants 47 and 5,000? the toilet as it was, adding a cushion on the seat to make a desk What are their names? Where do they live? You don’t know.” chair. The desk was really just a foldout table, so when Swiggart She nodded blankly, listening to the phone ring again. Five years leaned on the corner, it threatened to tip. Nita’s framed photos, ago, she had responded to an ad in the college newspaper, a few pencils and stapler slid slowly to the left. weeks before her graduation. The articulate simplicity of the ad “I just can’t cheat like that,” Nita said. She attracted her: “In need of a focused individual,” it He’d say, “let’s ravish looked at herself in the darkened computer screen said, and beneath in thin numbers, the impressive each other,” and she’d on her desk, watching her hardened face as she told pay. Nita never considered herself focused before, look at him straighthim no. She wasn’t bad looking. She had soft black she was often caught within her thoughts, deaf to faced and tell him the curls and naturally long eyelashes, though she had her environment. But she absolutely loved the word coffee was burning. recently begun to wear mascara anyway. There was a individual. She was feeling the light giddiness that time, back in high school, when she could’ve been an actress if she came with the end of schooling—she could do anything in the really wanted to. Men would flirt with her. They’d ask her if she’d world, all on her own. ever been on TV. They recognized her, they’d say. They’d seen her “But tell me, Nita, why do their heart rates double when face. questioned in front of the group versus confession in private using “Cheat?” Swiggart repeated, offended. The phone began to ring just pen and paper?” and he stood up from the table. “You think I’d ask you to cheat? He smiled now. She had always heard about Swiggart; he was You think I’d ask anyone to cheat?” the kind of professor every student had some story about. She The shortage of data wasn’t her fault. Her main task was heard he spent seven years in a circus, she heard he could read to copy the numbers from the Data Collector’s printed scrawl minds and had an IQ of 180. When she arrived for an interview, into the keyboard, where it took its proper place in a cell, among Swiggart stood next to the desk chair and urged her to sit. thousands on the screen. She had the job for five years, and liked She remembered being struck by him, his tall cheekbones, his to think that she mastered it, though this type of work was never groomed, graying beard and wild eyes that danced around from something she could have seen herself mastering. She always behind thick glasses, features that had long grown familiar. He thought she would become a teacher or a traveler of some sort. explained the theories of the project as though giving reason 73
for her very existence. “Shame,” he had said, “is at the root of all irrationalities, all miscommunications, everything that keeps you low and urges you to keep others low.” He held one hand in an effeminate pose on his extended hip and the other he used to balance himself, pressing down on the desk with such force that it seemed to shake. He explained to her how Shame Eradication would eliminate numerous social problems: violence, greed, divorce rates, premature death, and economic deficits. He gave her his business card with the mission statement of the project in small blue letters: For a Better Future in a Shameless World. She accepted the job immediately without knowing or caring what specific tasks it involved. For once she was a part of something greater than her. “And why do the resting pulse rates decrease for our subjects throughout the course of the sessions, as time spent in treatment increases? Why does this happen to our subjects?” He paused, looking at her now. She moved forward in her seat as the phone rang again. She tried to ignore it. “I don’t see how that relates to making up participants by typing made-up numbers—” “It’s shame, Nita!” He slapped the table with his palm, causing a pencil to roll and drop onto the blue tiled floor. “It’s shame. You can’t make that up! You can’t call shame false! What you can do is simply alter the vehicle for telling the truth. We need to share the data we have about the incredible physical and mental benefits of releasing shame! If we kept that from the world, now, that would be the crime.” Another ring from the phone stole Nita’s attention. “You can save this study, Nita,” he continued. “It’s in your hands, these 74
hands!” He lifted limp hands from where they rested on the keyboard and took them in his own. “Nita, my dear,” he said, “This project isn’t over, it’s just beginning, you have all the power to change everything. You have more power than I could ever wish for. Nita,” he leaned in and whispered, “you can change the world.” “Right,” she murmured with a weak smile and glanced at the phone, ringing yet again. “Take it,” Swiggart said. He dropped her hands and began to pet the parrot. Nita lifted the phone delicately from the receiver and was repelled by the shrill voice on the other end, a woman who introduced herself as Mrs. Apfel. It took a moment for Nita to remember that this was the gigantic woman who taught her little sister algebra. “You must come in to school,” Mrs. Apfel said. “Maggie has, once again, disturbed the class.” Nita was not aware of a first disturbance. “I’ll be right in,” she said. Swiggart waited, still petting the bird and eying Nita’s reaction after she hung up. He didn’t ask but his stare was enough to prompt an answer. “It’s my sister,” she said. “Trouble at school.” “You can’t leave,” he said. “Did you hear anything I just said, Nita? We have a great deal to do before the conference!” She began to sweep her things into her purse. “Won’t one of your parents get her?” he said, forcing sympathy into his voice. Nita pulled on the long sleeves of her paisley green sweater. She was surprised for a moment that Swiggart didn’t know that she was her sister’s only caregiver. She had always placed him
in the small group of people that actually knew her, but now she saw that she knew him, not the other way around. Over the past four years, her data entry duties were often interrupted by urgent trips to the pharmacy or the botanist or grocery store. She knew his medications (Caltrate, Valium, Lipitor, Propencia), his allergies (bee stings, cats, peanuts, shellfish), and the color roses that encouraged his wife’s forgiveness (yellow). She knew, from birthday party thank you cards, who were his son’s friends (Max, Noah, Alexander, Tiger) and what toys he kept in his overstuffed closet (Walkie Talkies, Legos, an airsoft pocket pistol). She knew Swiggart’s tie collection (from the Charlie Brown to the simple red silk), his brand of shaving cream (Keihl’s), his shirt, shoe and pant sizes (L, 10.5, 36x30), but he didn’t know this? He didn’t know about her parents? “I’m the emergency contact,” she said. She turned and hit her hip on the corner of the porcelain sink as she walked out into the hall, where she pushed the elevator button one, two, three times. He called her name from the office as the door opened to the crowded elevator. She stepped in and smiled at the fidgeting students and hungry faculty heading out on their lunch breaks. “Come on, Nita,” he called again, as though they were alone. For a moment everyone looked at her, waiting, before the door closed and down they went.
August, 3:30 in the Afternoon Sam Dunnington
When he saw the pit bull, Marlo was halfway to the QuikPak to get more sponges for his aunt. The pit bull was on the roof. The dog’s dark-brown color made it pop against the blue sky and Marlo tried not to look at it. Two nights before, the dog had run at him when he was out walking, and had gotten its teeth around his arm. The owner yanked the dog’s chain just before it bit down. Now, Marlo couldn’t walk down the street without sweating panicked beads. He felt the dog’s fetid breath on his arm, and he saw the dog running at the edges of his vision, snarling right behind him, its stretched-back grin opening wide before it ripped him to meaty pieces. His aunt had him walk to the store every other hour- for a Gatorade, or packing paper, or a candy bar or more sponges. He was at her house for the week, helping her pack before she moved into assisted living. The first two days, they had done nothing but box up her track and field awards. Each item needed to be wrapped individually and set in specially sealed boxes. Now they were cleaning, using sponges and diluted Windex to clean every surface in the house. Today they were on the baseboards, which
had collected fifteen years’ worth of scum. His father paid him $10 at the end of each day, and told him that it was a good deal, since Marlo didn’t lose “Uncle Sam’s Cut” out of that. The dog pumped up and down on the roof, slamming its chest against the gutter and getting ready to jump. The owner, eating chips, sat out front of the house. A long rope of pearly drool fell from the dog’s jowls and landed on the cement walk. “Your dog,” Marlo said, pointing. “He’ll be fine,” said the owner. She shook chips into her hand and the dog banged its chest against the rusted metal again. Marlo licked his lips and discovered they were dry. All week, August heat had moved through the town in undulating waves, softly dehydrating anything unfortunate enough to need moisture to survive. Staring at the dog’s owner, he could see that her pale legs were starting to burn. He wondered if the dog might pass out from the heat of the roof, its brown body tumbling in a heap on the front walk. A two-by-four leaned against the moving truck in his aunt’s backyard. All week, whenever she yelled at him, Marlo would wait until she went back inside, and then he’d pick up the board. He’d swing it against the truck, bashing the aluminum side of the U-Haul, or else hit rocks so that they soared over the fence and into the yards of the neighbors many houses down. He hated his aunt, and his dad, and he hated that he had to sleep in his cousin’s old room in the basement, which no one had redecorated. When his cousin had left, Marlo’s aunt moved in to his house for a month. He would open the vent in his room and listen to her crying at the kitchen table while Marlo’s mom rubbed her back. His aunt leaned out of the window while he walked
towards the backyard. “Marlo! Didja get the sponges?” He ignored her yelling and picked up the two-by-four. It felt warm in his hands. The sun beat on his back as he shuffled back through the dry grass, taking practice swings. Marlo’s cousin had called him, two months before, late at night. Marlo slept with his phone in his hand, which his mom hated. He kept looking at the phone’s display, which read “BenMobile.” It went to voicemail. “Marlo, if you’re going to be at my mom’s in a few days, can you leave some stuff out back, and I’ll come get it? I need my socks, and a couple of cables, and if there’s any snacks lying around that would be great, too.” Marlo whirled the board above his head, taking bigger and bigger swings. He hadn’t left any of the stuff out, but had stayed up late into the night, several nights in a row, waiting for his cousin to drive by the backyard. He had not come and Marlo had spent the last few days of school falling asleep in class. Twice, he’d snapped awake with a prod from the teacher, and laughter filled the room when the others saw that Marlo’s drool had stuck his worksheets to the side of his face. “Marlo!” The screen door squealed as his aunt came out onto the front lawn. He was on the sidewalk now. The dog started barking. The owner turned and saw Marlo, small against his aunt’s beige ranch house, tapping the two-by-four on the curb.Yawning between them, the street’s asphalt threw up thin waves of heat that made Marlo’s eyes water. “Kid,” she said. “What are you doing with that?”
He kept tapping. He dared that dog to jump. He dared that dog to jump and then he’d bash it, and keep bashing it, until it fled or it died. His aunt came across the dead lawn in her house coat, which hung on her like a wet bag. “Marlo, give me that board,” she said. The owner talked to the dog now, trying to calm it down, but the dog kept barking and slamming its chest against the roof. The edge of the gutter had cut the dog so that a few drops of blood fell down onto the walk below. With the dry summer sky swirling around him, and sweat on his neck, and a burning somewhere behind his navel that felt like it might rip him inside out, the summer seemed to turn in on itself. Marlo tightened his grip on the board and swung harder while his aunt yelled and the woman across the street walked toward him. The dog let out a series of low yelps. Marlo smashed the board on the curb and screamed, jump, jump, jump.
After Daddy Left Lucy Marcus
Mama ate red beans For seven days straight Out of the can With a plastic spoon Said she was trying to cleanse her system but boy did she stink up the house.
“my aspect is one of mOlting” -RACTER
Jack Dunnington ‘16 Artist since 2013. Tech Guru. Cyberpunk Activist/Freethinker. Middlevale Junior High Chess Champion 2002-2003. Patriot. Gun-Haver and 2nd Admendment Rights Defender: Want Them? Come And Get Them. Impeach Obungler. IBS Survivor. Father Of 9.
Alex Bazis ‘14’s goal in life is to get a bar in his basement with only Blue Moon on tap.
Ezra Edgerton ‘16 NEEDS A BIO.
Jenkin Benson ‘17 is the epitome of Midwest emo, a real twinkle daddy. His friends say he’s a huge bro. His heart breaks sometimes and he think that’s why he loves poetry. Lorraine Blatt ‘14 Born in 1976, 2 Chainz didn’t get his big break in the music industry until he reached his mid-30s– which proves age is nothing but a number. Clare Boerigter ‘14 is 5’6” with aspirations to 6’2”. Zev Braun ‘15 is a third year Biology major from the small town of Hood River, Oregon – a place where the forces of nature collide to produce stunning natural beauty and countless possibilities for adventure Hannah Condon ‘16 is disturbed by the fearless Grinnellian squirrels because they are so unlike the skittish mountain squirrels of Colorado, her home state. Devin Doyle ‘15 is from Boulder, CO. He enjoys keeping it real, real talk NOW. He also enjoys long walks on the beach and not snow. 80
Dylan Fisher ‘14 doesn’t want to get too sentimental, but probably will miss you. Hannah Fiske ‘14 is from the hills of Massachusetts. Eliza Harrison ‘16 is a second year from Massachusetts. She spends her free time doing blind contour drawings, spacing out and booty popping. Linnea Hurst ‘15 would like to know what your hobby-horse is. Patrick Kennedy-Nolle ‘16 loves writing, chess, and nature. He mostly tries to simplify, simplify, simplify, except in those moments when he realizes that the third person selfreferential does little more than to complicate, complicate, complicate. Diane Lenertz ‘15 is unavailable. Please leave a message after the tone.
Matt Lewis ‘14 kobe voldemort grew up in south italy sicily, LA
favorite color. She has phases. Her current phase is periwinkle blue.
Lucy Marcus ‘14 is an English major from New York.
Linnea Schurig ‘17 likes sudoku and trapdoors and collarbones and thunderstorms. She would happily get lost in the middle of a crowd.
John Seng ‘14 usually only shares his poetry with close friends. A few of his poems have been selected for published Clare Mao ‘14 is only here because of nepotism. Don’t talk to collections, but most of his work stays in his notebooks. her about New York.
Emily Mester ‘14 ⨌krrt ⨌wish ⨌mell ya later
Rosie O’Brien ‘16 is Rosemarie O’Brien of Esperanza Farm, but you can call her Rosie from Kansas. Some of her favorite things are ukulele, making and collecting earrings (she has over 100 pairs), watching fire and receiving constructive criticism.
Eleanor Stevens ‘14 is a Spanish major who cares about all topics related to Mexican immigration, an interest which stems from living in a border state, New Mexico, and from studying abroad in Mexico. In 2014/2015 she will work as an AmeriCorps tutor with City Year in Sacramento... if she can survive without the d-hall to feed her.
Drew Ohringer ‘14 got a tattoo in France. Have you seen it?
Quinn Underriner ‘14 NEEDS A BIOTRON
Martha Orlet ‘15 is a Studio Arts major from Saint Louis, MO. Her favorite food is avocados.
Cassidy White ‘14 has her Tinder radius set to 5 miles. Swipe right.
Varun Nayar ‘15 is being consumed.
Sarah Porter ‘17 doesn’t want to meet your daddy. She just wants you in her Caddy. Kelly Pyzik ‘16 is an English/Spanish double major, because she just likes words that much. Note: Kelly means warrior woman in Gaelic, boys. Na Chainkua (Chainky) Reindorf ‘14 doesn’t have a
The 2014 Spring Issue of the Grinnell Review, Grinnell College's semi-annual arts and literary magazine