Copyright © 2012 by the Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC). The Grinnell Review, Grinnell College’s semiannual 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. © 2012 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 12 pt. Perpetua and the typeface for the titles is 48 pt. Didot. Cover art: Front Photo by Danny Penny, Back Photo by Andy Delany. Inner title art: Barbara by Cassidy White All editorial and business correspondence should be addressed to: Grinnell College c/o Grinnell Review Grinnell, IA 50112 www.grinnellreview.com Letters to the editor are also welcome. Please send them to the address above or to email@example.com
XLII | FALL 2012 ARTS SELECTION COMMITTEE Corson Androski Elizabeth Allen Hannah Bernard Hannah Condon Tyler Dewey Hannah Fiske Eleni Irrera Abraham Kohrman Andy Lange Quinn Underriner Gavin Warnock
EDITORS Andy Delany Danny Penny
WRITING SELECTION COMMITTEE Stepheny De Silva Thomas Foley Linnea Hurst Drew Ohringer Kelly Pyzik Emily Sue Tomac Quinn Underriner Leah Yacknin-Dawson
Contents WRITING Anonymous These Things 23
Linda Beigel Porch Song 65
Clare Boerigter Kings Peak 11 The (Imagined) Lover 72
Isabel Cooke Ghost In The Graveyard 34 Wet 59
Eva Dawson Untitled 48
Leah Yacknin-Dawson Dorian 18 Fall Semester 58 iv
Ryan Halloran Houseguest 18 Road Trip 39 Reconfiguration 75
Linnea Hurst Flensing 59 Cereal Brothers 77
Grace Mendel Parade 16 The Surface of It 35
Jeanette Miller This is Not a Love Sonnet 48 Chipped Paint and Outlines of Dreams 84
Clare Mao The First Time 38
Varun Nayar Sleep 47
Caleb Neubauer Drawing Pints 22
Drew Ohringer Mike’s Ladder 41
Danny Penny Great Flood 19 La Gracienda on St. Patrick’s Day 68 Serpent’s Egg 76 Untitled 81 A New Class 89
Alex Phillips Fathers Fathers Fathers 62 Roll Slow 69 Truth to Materials 88
Daniel Agositino Jsi Krásná 67
Corson Androski View From the Crypt 33 Discovery (Archaeology in Modern America) 37 The Uncertainty Principle I&II Diptych 50 Self-Portrait at the Dig Site: Anthropologist or Looter? 53
Hannah Bernard Pour 66
Kelly Pyzik A Saturday Night at Harris
Kim Steele With Child 39
Julianne Thompson Science 19
Colin Brooks Untitled 36 Growing Up 52
Hannah Condon Organs on My Sleeves 24 Bare Bones 49
Quinn Underriner Keys 44 v
Andy Delany Revolve 21 And Now the Bells Once Rung Are Rusted Thin 37 Beijing 70 Burnt Smokestack Quadtych 82
Cait De Mott Grady Leah 24 Del Monte Monoculture 31 Saoirse 55
Hannah Fiske Ben 17
Lauren Flynn Blue Woocut 1 28 Walmart 3 54 Colorful Nude 60 The Brain is Wider 87
Devon Gamble Nautilus 29 Exo/Endo 57 Bacon 86
Lea Greenberg Lady 20
Eleni Irrera Hull 30
Andy Lange Foursquare Breathing 32 Something Calming 61 Greenwich Connecticut 71
Andrea Nemecek Grove of Aspen Trees
Danny Penny Family in Pond 40 Ben on Back 56 Nat Firework Double 66
Hannah Strom Surfer 27 Greenhouse Reflection 53
Cassidy White Cave 25
based on an email exchange with “the friends of decency”
An Open Letter to the Editors
A Letter from the Editors
I have been reading The Grinnell Review longer than most of you have been alive. Long before your mouths had ever met the sweet embrace of your mother’s milky teat, before you were even glimmers in your parents’ eyes, I was leafing through these flimsy pages. And as far as I can remember, this forty-second volume is the worst, most vapid, perverse, wet rag of a publication this critic has ever laid eyes upon. Don’t bother reading any further; you will only meet lechery and disappointment.
We at the Review want to assure potential readers that the accusations made by one Disgruntled Alumnus are patently false. We are not, nor have we ever been, affiliated with Satanism. Ours is a wholesome, traditional, decent kind of publication full of tales so cockle-warming some readers may complain of heartburn. We put Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, and tuna casserole to shame; we are that uninteresting.
Everything between its covers fails on a catastrophic level, from the half-baked prose to the hastily scribbled art. I would like to take this moment to thank the artists who chose not to submit their work.You have spared the world the punishment of yet another pile of morally abhorrent undergraduate turds.Your restraint is truly worthy of praise. If you happen to chance upon the so-called editors of this toiletpaper review, I ask that you pelt the scoundrels with your discarded copies. Show these good-for-nothing charlatans that such affronts to decency will not be tolerated in this jewel of the prairie. In sum, I beg you to end your reading of this devil’s pulp here, to toss aside this steaming garbage heap of a journal, and to run the people responsible out from our glorious Iowan paradise. Sincerely, The Friends of Decency
We wish to thank all of the writers and artists who submitted to this issue of The Grinnell Review, without whom, this publication would not be possible. To the committee members who survived for hours on pita chips, hummus, and granola, we salute you. We’d also like to thank the people who pull the purse strings at SPARC—shout out to Bing Xe and Joe. Finally, we’d like to thank the English department for supplying the spread, and you, dear reader, whose confidence we’ve thoroughly abused throughout this introduction.
Enthusiastically, Andy Delany and Daniel Waite Penny Fall 2012 Editors
Now you have burned your books, you’ll go with nothing. A heart. The world is full of the grandeur, and it is. Perfection of tables: crooked grains; and all this talk: this folly of tongues. Too many stories: yes, and high talk: the exact curve of the thing. Sweetness and lies: the hook, grey deadly bait, a wind and water to kill cedar, idle men, the innocent not love, and hard eyes over the cold, not love (eyes, hands, hands, arm) given, taken, to the marrow; (the grand joke: le mot juste: forget it; remember): Walking is all: readiness: you are watching; I’ll learn by going: Sleave-silk flies; the kindly ones.
–John Thompson, ghazal xxxvii
Kings Peak Clare Boerigter
“The hotshot firefighters are the genetic freaks of nature,” says Greg, or maybe it’s Chet, possibly Vince. “These real real big guys. Always first on a wildfire, just work like crazy.” Two quick beats of silence on the telephone line. “You’d have to be pretty tough to do that.” Sitting on a wooden bench in the gray March light, you lean back, feel the slight tug of your stomach muscles. The phone is warm against your ear, your pink cheek.You’ve spoken to so many AFMOs—Assistant Fire Management Officers, the permanent firefighters who hire seasonals for U.S. national forests—that you’ve begun to blur them all together, the names and the voices and the low, rolling conversations.You sense that this AFMO, Greg or Chet or Vince, would like to say more to you, but those words—the ones he means—remain a slick film on his upper row molars.You’d have to be a man to do that. You want to be a wildland firefighter.You determined this with startling clarity on a January night.Your body—pale, naked—sank into your family’s hot tub as the dark hands of the trees turned on themselves in the wind.You could not see your neighbor’s porch light for your father’s shed, but the bulb’s soft glow seeped outward, soaking the gutters and eaves, buttering the snow in dull yellows. When you tipped your head back, water filling up the holes in your ears, you liked the cold, muted calm—longed to be outside forever. Looking up at the shivering shapes of the stars, you realized how much you wanted to do this. That you could do this.You’d seen female firefighters during your archaeology internship in the Kaibab National Forest: gray-haired Punky, doe-eyed Maggie, the hotshot who wore her hair like a golden fan up high on her head, the small, nose-ringed woman who asked your advice on running trails, who stretched her arm in one long roll of muscle.
You let the thought settle, stared out into the gentle Iowa dark. After you had stood with your toes in the snow-frothed grass and after you had slid into the kitchen through the glass doors and after you had padded quietly through your house, fingers tracing lines along the textured walls, you found that you were still determined.You want to be a wildland firefighter. The firefighters in national forests are federal employees. On AVUE Central, the government’s contracted hiring site, twenty hellish pages vet candidates. Are you blind? Missing extremities? Tell us about your military service, your security clearances, all those pretty little stamps in your official and personal passports. They ask if you’re male or female, if you’re black or brown or white. They glean what they can from “Clare Boerigter” and “Spanish: Professional Language Skills” and “Lived in Country: Middle East, Three-Five (3-5) Years.”You picture a man in a federal building as he pulls out tender mouthfuls of information, soft and fatty meat. You are allowed to enter nine locations into your AVUE application, nine crews to which you can submit yourself. An interactive map lists ranger districts by state, but not who’s hiring or for what type of crew— hotshots blowing in for initial attack, handcrews beating line, engines laying hose, the smoke jumpers, the fire modules, the helitack teams.You start with Washington, with Oregon, and the five firefighters you call tell you, as though they’ve all practiced together, that it will be a difficult year for seasonal firefighters, that nobody has money, that crews are being halfed. But Region 4, a Washington AFMO tells you, Region 4 is trying to diversify, and they’re giving the seasonal hiring process the shake-up. More women, more ethnicities. He lists the states of Region 4, slow and lightly slurred. “That’d be Utah, Nevada, parts of Wyoming, southern Idaho.You might see about trying them.” “Hello!” you say to Shirley or Barbara or Pam. “I was wondering, is your AFMO around by any chance?” They are almost all sweet to you, the women manning the front desks of national forests all over the West, with their “oh, honey” and “doll.” Despite their best intentions, they usually 11
connect you to voicemails, and after a while, you learn that they are the ones to chat up for information.You think of the middle-aged women from the Kaibab National Forest where you spent two months as a love-struck, starcrossed archaeology intern.You will never forget that forest or the smell of ponderosa pines—cream and sweet vanilla—and the women from the ranger district stick with you, all cigarette skin, bleached-by-bottle hair and sticky mascara eyes.You have begun to ask the front-desk women about bunkhouses and twenty-person handcrews, about fire engines and hotshots, about who in the forest is hiring—is anyone in the forest hiring? They give you phone numbers when they can, mostly without the area code, because Iowa is an ocean of states away from Utah and Wyoming, Nevada and Idaho. The first weeks back at college were tough. That August had opened for you with a back road in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park and a twentyyear old bike, and shooting an unmaintained hill, you’d watched your front tire jump left, jump right, buck you over its handle bars. It must have been a twisting slide in the sand and the gravel and the fine, toothy rocks, but this you must imagine because you knocked head, elbow—a cracking double beat—and you can’t quite recall the moment.You knew it was a different sort of fall when, pushing off the ground, you touched the stinging blood on your thighs and your hips, saw the collapsed wheel of your slender-boned blue Trek.You knew this was different when your hearing retreated into your skull and your vision shifted into shadowy registers, into soft and total black. Brain slosh, you were later told, was the technical term for those few minutes of lost sight and stolen sound. Twenty-four days later—post-ER, post-CAT scan, post-X-ray, postsurgery, your elbow settled into a pliable cast—you started sophomore year, left arm strapped to your chest. When you walked down stairs, you used the railing. In the dining hall, you made multiple trips, your one good hand open wide.You let people open doors for you and learned how to wash your hair with only five fingers.You couldn’t race cross country.You couldn’t drink.You could hardly tie up your shoes, could barely button closed your jeans, and when you took the brace off, it was worse because you could see just how it was. 12
The bruises flowered up your arm, the wormy scar puckered up like lips, and even when you really, really tried, your arm remained crooked, scaring you. The doctor, fluttering his fingers around your wrist, your forearm, said elbows were tricky, that it was possible you’d never have full mobility, full extension, ever again. He’d bend up, pull down, tug away at your elbow and measure its angles with a clear plastic protractor. “Does it hurt?” He would say again and again. “Does that hurt?” One of the first nights back at college, you sat in the Forum’s computer lab and googled “list of national forests.” On the yawning screen of a Mac, you scrolled down, studied names and states.You were mostly curious about the West, about Utah and Colorado and Oregon.You wanted to know what was out there. It was funny then to discover them, the letters in blue, forests stacked one atop the other, and it was what you needed because you started to cry.You were happy, really, just to know that they were still out there. “It’s a physically demanding job.You have to be fit. It just comes down to the safety of your crew when you’re on the fireline.” You smile into the receiver.You have very large, very straight teeth. When you were fourteen, an orthodontist wanted a picture of your face so that he could brandish a shiny version of your open mouth around the office. Now you push out your lower jaw, bite up with your correctly placed canines and grin. Eleanor, the twenty-year old religious studies major who has never used toothpaste, has said that you smile when you are particularly angry. She told you, eyes big and round and blue, “It’s scary.” You stretch your mouth, feel the tight tug of flesh. In these moments, you find that a measure of pain is terribly pleasing.You have bitten yourself when you are too upset—half-moons mirroring each other on your knee caps—and you have scratched yourself when you are too furious—slender slices below the first knuckle on your hand—and you have stripped the calluses from both heels when you are too anxious—the subterranean skin, once revealed, flushing purple.You know that this AFMO is talking to you about your body, about its lack.You know that he is doing this without knowledge or authority, without any sense of you or your bones.You know
that he has no idea—the summer scars, the blistering sunlight headaches, the bike helmet with a twisting center split. The man holding the phone on the other end—Greg or Chet or Vince—isn’t the first AFMO you’ve called today. He’s not the second either, not the third.You dedicated a section of your 3 subject, 120 sheet, college ruled notebook to wildland firefighting, and it has overwhelmed the pages. In two days, you have called thirty-three ranger districts on ten national forests in five different states.You will have used almost double your monthly cellphone minutes, for which your parents will unhappily pay overage charges.You will have missed a class and lied about it because the time difference between Iowa and the West means that at 2:05p.m., AFMOs all over Utah are getting back from their lunch breaks and when that old-style, curly-corded phone rings, they’re just happy enough to finally answer it. When you speak now to Greg or Chet or Vince, you do it how you learned: clipped and staccato, no please or thank-you, your lower jaw dropped slightly to pitch your tone down.You are struck, more than anything, by the actual physical adjustment that goes along with this.You have told yourself that it is a disgusting thing, to change for anybody else. Right now, it doesn’t seem to matter. After you asked about running, about biking, about driving, it was the question about rock-climbing that made your surgeon, Dr. Rutt, angry.You were a week past the elbow operation, the hot, golden tongue of anesthetic already settled into memory. Under your shirt, along the waistline of your shorts, inviting curiosity on your legs and arms, long strips of gauze, buttered with prescription cream, covered up the worst of the road rash— slick, open-mouthed things.Your not-quite broken nose had subsided to its normal arch and the Vicodin, when it didn’t make you vomit, made you mellow and happy and high. “Can I trust you?” he said in his short, sharp way. “Because if you shatter that bone, you’re looking at a lot of long-term, life-long problems.” You nodded, convinced him that you would be a good girl—you would not run or bike or even walk fast—so long as he let you start physical therapy.
He considered, shuttled you into a full-body imaging machine for a disorienting, claustrophobic hour, determined that yes, you were ready. You saw two physical therapists—one in Waverly, one in Grinnell— for almost three months.You started with 1.5-pound weights. It was horrifying, your weakness and the way your elbow talked to you at night— aching sentences, clear but nonsensical. It got better, but it got better very, very slowly.You did therapy every single day, knowing that if you didn’t, your arm might never move the same again. Eight months later and you have not yet stopped doing therapy.You feel the band of muscle stretched over your left elbow—you feel it when you descend into a push-up and you feel it when you bend to make a backwards bridge of your body and you feel it when you press into the water, when you swim with scooped hands.Your wrist cracks now and your elbow pops and, although you have full mobility, you can’t hyper-extend your left arm like you can your right. On a flight to Seattle over winter break, you learn that even with a five-inch screw dug down into your bone, the airport metal detectors remain silent. “Don’t be scared.” Maggie Ross has fought fire for almost fourteen years, the last few on the Kaibab, and that’s what she says to you when you call—don’t be scared. She is five-foot-four-inches, sun-browned and smiley. On an eightmile hike to Supai Village in the Grand Canyon last June, she told you about the four girls in her family: an English literature major, a firefighter, a firefighter, and a firefighter. She laughed then, said: “There’s nothing else like it.” The sounds of her voice played along the Canyon’s red walls, fell and curved with dips in the stone, settling into you like trail dust in your socks. Maggie told you how it was to live and work and struggle as a crew, how it was to spend countless days in a fire’s thick heat, how it was to move ceaselessly, a shifting of boots through backcountry. It was the first time you’d ever really heard about wildland firefighting, but already you wanted it, had maybe always wanted it—to be cracked open, broken down, brought to the end with your body, discovering just what it could do for you even when you didn’t ask nicely. 13
Lucy, the youngest Ross sister, worked her first fire season that summer—a handcrew in Washington. She called Maggie while you were both still in Supai, left one short message.You heard it two days later in the forest service truck, after the desert miles and the switchbacks had been reversed, Lucy’s voice saying, “My back hurts and my shoulders hurt and my feet hurt and I love it.” In the Ames IHOP, in the DNR office, on the side of the road by Iowa State University, you answer the interview questions of four different module leaders.You feel particularly loved by Utah. The Skyline crew wants you and the Chepeta crew wants you and the Kings Peak crew wants you and Abajo crew really, really wants you. They ask about the mapping tools you used in the Kaibab, about INFRA, the federal archaeologist database, and about the palm-sized Junos, radiantly yellow and GIS-equipped. The firefighters sound youngish and you tell them you are oh-so-close to that beautiful little redcard.You have been eating in parking lots for a week in Ames, spending eight hours a day in one of the DNR’s cement classrooms, all for that laminated certificate, a tiny testimony to the four government classes and the physical fitness test you must have passed in order to work on a fire. Those courses teach you lots of things, but the sixty-something Tony tells you more. About weed farms and booby-traps in California forests, about “Mexican nationals” and the mistake every firefighter should avoid— making fun of Texas when in the Lone Star State. He teaches an entire section on firefighter fatalities—“shake-and-bake” is the proper name for your emergency fire shelter—and about mitigation—twenty-hour days followed by sixteen-hour days followed by four-hour days—and about the high-calorie food dropped from the sky—big tubs coming down out of helicopter sling loads. When you learn that the Iowa Conservation Corp group is going to take the physical fitness exam at the end of the week, you decide that you will too. The exam, a pack-test, reads like a simple math equation: three miles walked while wearing a 45-pound weighted vest in less than or equal to forty-five minutes. Because you have not practiced, Tony puts the vest on your shoulders a few days early.You wear it around for five hours, sitting with the 14
lead pressing down towards your lap. At more than one-third your weight, it is heavier than you expected. Tony doesn’t seem worried. This year, he finished his pack-test in thirty-eight minutes, crawling the last twenty yards just because he could.You are not surprised, his goofy grin stretching across his face, his eyes small behind frameless glasses. The day of the pack-test blows blustery and bright. Six of you line up and become ready, your legs jumpy on the tarmac. Tony gives the shout and you all start walking. A Beloit grad falls into step with you, his hands sunk into the pockets of his green jeans, his dark eyes forward.You keep pushing and he keeps with you and after the halfway point, you talk. As you come around to the end, you both agree to shuffle jog the last bit—running isn’t allowed, too many bad falls and broken noses—and the vest thumps against your bottom ribs.You finish together at forty-one minutes and forty-five seconds—the first ones to be done. The two boys behind you make it, but the two girls do not.You are much too happy to feel bad for them. The next day, it is not your legs or your back or your shoulders but your hips that really hurt, and you stagger, wince, smile for yourself. Roger Howards gives you a call on a warm afternoon almost a week after you have passed the pack-test.You are wearing a long blue dress, your hair knotted back at the nape of your neck. When you hang up, you stare at yourself in your dorm room mirror, gawping a bit like a fish before jumping up and down and nearly falling over your own desk chair. It’s a hard thing to believe, and you keep mouthing it to yourself over and over again: “I’ve got a job. I’ve got a job. I’ve really got a job.” You are wearing that long blue dress with your mother’s yellow belt when Daniel Hugh, the Kings Peak module leader, calls. It is spring break and you are in Claremont, California, in an academic building, your brother talking to a professor about nuclear disarmament not so far away. “Welcome to the crew,” Daniel says. “It’ll be great to meet you.”You do not talk for particularly long, just enough for him to get an idea of you
and for you to get an idea of the summer. Home, though you do not expect to spend much time there, will be Stockmore Guard Station—built in 1914, listed on the National Register of Historic Places—on the Duchesne Ranger District in northeastern Utah. The Ashley National Forest will be your forest, Kings Peak Mountain—the highest in Utah at 13,528 feet, for which your crew is named—will be your mountain.Your fires, Daniel says, will be the long, slow burners, the “fire use” fires, the fires that are allowed to burn. These are backcountry fires, remote wilderness fires, and your crew will spend multiple fourteen-day rolls courting them, flirting.You will watch them, map them, dig into the dirt as a gentle way to tell them where it is they ought to go. What modules do—monitoring, measuring, calculating—happens to be just a little bit different. The Kings Peak Wildland Fire Module—your crew of eight—will spend most of the summer traveling, most of the summer camping, most of the summer all alone together in areas where machines are not allowed to go.You will hike many miles in your personal protective equipment—green nomex pants and yellow nomex shirt, leather gloves, boots and helmet—your 45-pound line gear strapped around your hips.You will learn to use a hand tool, learn which one—Pulaski, combi, McLeod, rhino—is meant for you.You might even, finally, figure out how to cook— something hot and high-calorie under the low, bright sky. You decide to go with the Red Wings—9 inches high, full leather with the rough side out, vibram-soled and lug-shod, logger style and lace-totoe—even though you heard Daniel call them “Blood Wings” over the phone. Because they’re a bit rough. On the feet.You agonize over it for a while, but nobody sells real fire boots in Iowa, and if you don’t start breaking in some boot now, your feet will be hamburger when you start work on May 29.You go to Brown’s, order Red Wings—men’s size seven. You run later, an hour stretch on a gravel road where you can low to the quiet, stupid cows.You take these long routes a lot, ever since your brother tricked you into 11.5 miles on a cool California morning five weeks ago and you learned that you were capable.You like the old roads, the back roads,
the dirt roads, you like the soft, lonely track at eleven o’clock at night, the railroad ties and the way they force your feet to fall just a little bit faster. You do not like the jeep that idles in the middle of the country road that afternoon.You do not like the way the man is staring at you and you do not like that you are very much alone on 360th.You pull out your earbuds, slow down, look him right back in the eye to tell him that you see him, that you know him, that you are there.You pass slowly. After a moment, he drives on. The rest of the run is spent looking back over your shoulder. On the phone that night, your dad tells you it is all about calculating risk. Take a cellphone. Learn the street names. Keep your eyes up. There is no use being angry. On May 25, a Friday, you will leave your Iowa town of 10,000 in a white Chevy Malibu.You will drive west on I-180—through Nebraska, Wyoming—for some 1,190 miles.You have 18 hours of road time, a handful of gas stations and two hotels. Through almost all of it, you will second-guess yourself. Because you are not strong enough and you are not tough enough and you will suffer—bloodied feet, bruised back, an elbow that talks to you incessantly—for four ashy months. And then you will think about Maggie and about what she said to you.You turn left on Flaming Gorge Road in Utah and you think about the Kaibab and the day you climbed Mount Humphreys, the tallest peak in Arizona at 12,637 feet. Ponderosa pines tightly grown up to the tree line, the snowy saddle between Mount Humphreys and the Agassiz Peak dipped low in the high sunlight.You remember the 4,000 feet of changed elevation and the punch-drunk altitude sickness and the long slide of scree—your buddy Carson leaning over you to tighten the straps on your pack, to settle the weight against your body. Carson fought fire for a few seasons, and on the way down the mountain, he wanted to race. For more than a mile you both ran, Carson with his dogged step, you in heavy, careening footfalls. Passed stumps and thick grasses and laboring hikers. He saw you slide into the ground, saw the plume of dust and your wide eyes as you rolled back up and stretched your legs and ran, your blood reaching out to the dirt on your shins with stumpy little fingers. 15
You remember that the last 100 yards of the Mount Humphreys trail were open, a diagonal cut across a ridge, the sun slick on your neck and your nose.You remember that this part was the hardest, your calves loose and thighs thundering, and that at the trailhead, you pitched onto the bluegreen grass beneath a stand of trees.You put your body down among the roots and waited for Carson. With your water, you washed out the sting from your knees, the forest grit, and you wet your hands, your palms. Under the beautifully black-eyed aspen, you straightened your legs, took off your hiking boots and pointed your toes.You remember wanting to be that way, always, and you will think about this as you drive to Stockmore Guard Station, window rolled down.You have been waiting five months for this day.You want to see deep down beneath the fine blonde hairs on your forearms, below the splayed, feathered scars on your stomach.You will look out at Kings Peak and you will remember Mount Humphreys in Arizona, how good it felt to be bone-tired and bloody, your body a simple soreness in the grass. *Some names have been changed
Parade Grace Mendel
The bleached heart of our old peach tree lies split by lightning--splayed, resilient pale white bone. Beneath somatic hills and grassy cliffs, the sound of high school trumpets and trombones, and wavering drums begins to slowly crawl toward the center of our little town. A siren’s moan ignites and slowly falls, shaking the still of the sun-drenched afternoon. So far from sacrifice, I think of you. As the dog’s tongue lolls, the children’s sticky hands fidget, I imagine the creased starch blue of your uniform. The little muted band drifts slowly beneath a waving streamer of stars. I feel you without knowing where you are.
Ben| Hannah Fiske | Monoprints
Houseguest Ryan Halloran
the house thrums a pulse across its lengths; creaks and settles in all the standard ways. I’m tired of telling stories that have no point. I’m afraid of knives, afraid of policemen. Ice melts from a block. I try to split it with my teeth. I will always go mad again. The temperature rises in this house. I scratch out quiet in the corners of rooms. All my skin itches and crawls with gnats. I dream my fingertips phosphorescent, I pitch face-forward into imagined scenes. Driving home, the light wisps away again and again. The strings of everything I pass hold me close then break. Lying alone on my back, I say, “Repeat after me: water is not a demon, the ceiling is not the face of god, the treeline is not watching you; you will never go mad again.” 18
Leah Yacknin-Dawson if your eyes are blue, then so is your laugh and when you grip stolen apples, I think it is my hand you clutch, secretly, without any real sense of attachment. but if your laugh is blue, then my feelings are colors and if your hands are apples, then my heart is fruit so I will paint you edible. I promised myself that on a future day, or probably night, when you are drunk and I am a strawberry, I will walk to your picture, slowly and with great effort, since strawberries have no legs. and because my heart is fruit, I will speak to the paint, kiss you (hard), and you will not bruise though my skin will peel in ribbons like a McIntosh for a tart.
Great Flood Danny Penny
You are kneeling on the slick tile floor of our bathroom after the great flood, scraping out long troughs of half-frozen mud, bent over a bucket of grout; back sore, wrists aching, tendons tight as bungee cords. The house is lit yellow with hammer thuds. I stare at your pink throat, the way it glugs on your diet coke breaks. This is the fourth. How Mom wept when she first saw the water, her little face twisting in on itself. Kirk-like, you grabbed a flashlight from the shelf and sprang to turn off the basement breakers. I stood in the dry corner: a daughter watching Mom cry and wanting to shake her.
Science Julianne Thompson
I remember learning that fire is not alive (something one has to be taught, I am sure) fire is not alive (although it certainly isnâ€™t dead). What I donâ€™t remember is how I thought of fire before: the first time I looked at the flames. Everyone claims that they knew all along. They found it in their bones, they said. We make believe this knowledge is intrinsic, so we can never tell where our real insides begin. There must be other ways to think, for grass does not seem to hold more life than a burning moving crackling flame. But this is the only one I know nowadays.
Lady | Lea Greenberg | Collage
Revolve | Andy Delany | Silver Gelatin Print
Drawing Pints Caleb Neubauer
Trees draw the best lines. The way they arc and stab the air only leaves disrupt the dark tangles and their slender tips. These drawings take years, even decades to complete, but still remain gestural and unpredictable. Have you seen their drawings? I tried to draw a tree from life when I was seven. With every branch I drew, I hurt the page—it was dark and torn when I finished. I took the crumpled sheet to the tree and tossed it towards the empty arms, but it fell back into mine instead. My uncle drew so well. His drawings were always mistaken for photographs at first—Iowa trees, his cougar, grieving soldiers, all in graphite, like black and white film. They took months, even years to complete, but still remained immediate and understandable. I tried to draw a tree from memory when I was eight. This time the paper did not suffer, but the drawing still did—I felt accomplished. I decided to draw again. My uncle gave me a drawing lesson when I was nine. He had a clipping of a horse from a “mazagine”—as my parents let me mispronounce for three more years. Its hair covered its eyes. I took an hour to shade around its form, and then used the smudging stick to shade in the lighter parts, and treated the lead so carefully, like him. It remained sketched and unlike a photograph.
Only old skin rivals trees in their drawings. It admits age with its creases, its smudges, its gradations—only accidents disrupt the quiet strokes. These drawings take decades, even a century to complete, and leaves stillness and grief. Will I see your drawings? When we first met, you drew blood from my arm. I had never donated before, but had made a resolution to save someone’s life, and I heard you saved three with every pint. I couldn’t see your name tag long enough to read what it said. As you pierced the kinked vein, the blue line, the loudest bump, I tried to make you smile.You did, in halves—I felt accomplished. I decided to save more lives, two months at a time. On my fourth pint, I finally saw you again. On my fifth pint, you tended the person in front of me. On my sixth pint, I asked you to tea.Your name was beautiful. On my twenty-seventh pint, I asked you to marry me.Your answer was beautiful. On my twenty-ninth pint, I mistook my reflection for my uncle. I remembered my lesson. I tried to find any drawing I had of his, any print I’d received from my father, but I only had the horse I drew with my uncle’s guidance, framed in plastic. It looked like a photograph from across our bedroom.You asked if I’d drawn it then, I said I had not.You asked when I’d drawn it, I told you about the lesson. On my thirtieth pint, I bought charcoal, erasers, paper. On my thirty-sixth pint, you became pregnant. On my thirty-eighth pint, I tried to draw you from memory, while you were away. As I dragged the charcoal across the paper you looked less and less like you—and more and more like how you were before you carried life.Your lines dissolved into smooth planes, you flattened, you narrowed. I destroyed it, so you couldn’t see my fear. I threw it in the fireplace to make extra sure
On my fortieth pint, you miscarried. I tried to draw the child we couldn’t have, but all I could find were erasers and shadows. On my forty-first pint, I dreamt you were a piece of paper, and the crushed trees that made up the blank sheet began to reassemble, and I took my hands to their edges and guided them as they tore apart, the pulp twisted into branches and twigs, and leaves sprouted, and the drawing spread across the room, you filled the room, I fell to the earth as the cement floor returned to solid limestone and sand, tearing into and around my back, you burst into flame and burned back into charcoal strokes. I lost forty-one pints of blood and woke up.You still slept beside me, but I didn’t touch you until morning. Blood follows skin in its drawings. The way it traces age—with each puncture, each wince, each throbbing vessel. These drawings take minutes to complete (unless your veins are elusive), but still affect years, even decades. Will I continue drawing? My uncle was found in his bathtub when I found out it was “magazine.” I went to his funeral in June with my father—I cried in the car as he stood around the grave with his siblings. When he joined me in the backseat, I remained sad but composed. On my three-hundred-and-twelfth pint, I tried to draw you from life. I found the old charcoal, my hands turned to night, the dust made us sneeze, you shivered in your nudity—but when I felt accomplished I covered us with wool as the sun rose. We remained for millennia, complete and still.
These Things (anon)
these things happen in Southern Minnesota all the time
Organs on My Sleeves | Hannah Condon | Mixed Media
Leah | Cait De Mott Grady | Silver Gelatin Print
Cave| Cassidy White | Digital Photograph
Grove of Aspen Trees | Andrea Nemecek | Digital Photograph
Surfer | Hannah Strom | Digital Photograph
Blue Woodcut 1 | Lauren Flynn | Ink on Plywood
Nautilus | Devon Gamble | Linocut Print, Watercolor
Hull | Eleni Irrera | Plywood, Glue
Del Monte Monoculture | Cait De Mott Grady | Digital Photograph
Foursquare Breathing | Andy Lange | Digital Photograph
View From the Crypt | Corson Androski | Digital Photograph
Ghosts in the Graveyard Isabel Cooke I country dark is different it’s louder and more profound, more consuming it fills up the cracks in your heart with remembering and calls what has been long forgotten out of the hiding places of your mind it negates time because when you can’t see your hand in front of your face you can’t see then or now or later
and it changes you in ways you don’t notice until you’re back in the light
behind a tree to hide and everything is darkness and breathing and waiting
GHOST IN THE GRAVEYARD and you’re running and you see nothing clearly and you could sprain your ankle but you don’t stop
the crickets are screaming as you run the twigs and dried leaves crunching and snapping under your feet and you can feel the lemonade moving in your belly
then, safety. but this is the last game and it’s time to go home
car on and you’re seventeen not seven and the headlights cut into the dark and change it and you know it’s not right as you drive away
The Surface of It Grace Mendel
I used to be a wall of temperate air pressed against your mouth. We used to laugh and dangle each other over the edge of something finite. I’d make your earth in little stones (a palmful each). They’d fall from my throat, from my mouth and knit together beneath your soles, rumbling. Then you ate a tooth; the screech and grunt as it slipped between your molars, the grating rasp as you locked your jaws to break it. I thought: inside it, once you’d finally cracked it open, would it be pale milky succulence? Chalky follicles of coral? Ash? A pressurized socket? It turned out to be grey and slack: a pinched balloon. I climbed out of a silt tourniquet, only to watch you in some seascape through a shaking lens. I blurred your face until I couldn’t tell your skin from breaking tide. Think of me as surface; an underside, the shaded arc of a rusting bridge, oil on your hand, blue light quivering beneath the aqueduct—just out of reach. I am the water rushing over your brittle brim.
Untitled | Colin Brooks | Digital Photograph
And Now the Bells Once Rung Are Rusted Thin | Andy Delany Manipulated C-Print
Discovery (Archaeology in Modern America) | Corson Androski Digital Photograph
The First Time Clare Mao
The first time my mother tried to tell me she loved me she said too many things neither of us could forgive. It was an attempt at an apology, but it sounded so angry and unwilling— there was too much teeth for me to even think it could be love. In my family, no one says, “I love you” to indicate loving. Instead we say, “I’m thinking of you,” “Study well,” and “See you soon.” I realize how cold, how clumsy it must sound in English, how much the mouth has to move, and, even after it all, how unsatisfying.
The first time I had to ask if he loved me, and I savored it on my tongue like a piece of sugar. How easy it must have been to say, and how easily it went down. Now, I ask him if he thinks of me, and when, and if he wants to see me and, if so, how much. I realize how clumsy that must sound, how it must seem as if I am asking for too much too often, but loving my mother has taught me always to ask for more.
as the sun rushes out above the highway, you are all bruise and hangnail, gritting your teeth to splinter in this rattling car. abandoned cows moo and decay as we pass. you lose your jaw to your silences.
Margot places her hand on my stomach and looks at me, eyes wide and concerned-like. “How far along are you?” she asks. Shit. I forgot how this works, when is it you start showing? I smile a half-smile, my most attractive smile, and in a hushed voice say, “thirteen weeks or so.” Margot nods at this and I cover her small hand with my own two and lean in significantly. Margot hesitates and then asks, “And you’re happy? Right?” I nod, right. I’m so happy, I’m over the moon. I move her hand from my stomach and onto my thigh. I lean in a little more.
tradition unclots itself. did you think I was talking about my life? a tree lit glows blue in the skyline. a lamp reflects itself in its shadows. you have such high hopes for me, to think that I could be like any one of them. metal unfurls as the car slams solid into median, not something we’re going to think about right now.
Margot stands up, pulling her hand away. “Well,” she explains, “I better be off.” I nod again and move to stand up too but am overcome with a dizzy spell so I plop right back down on my chair and close my eyes, breathing slowly through pursed lips. Margot sits back down, “Are you alright?” I turn my face to the side and mumble something, eyes still closed, about low blood sugar. I roll down the window and let the gas-soaked highway air course through the car, burning my cheeks and throat with its sharp cold. I smile, a full smile this time, into the night. My stomach growls.
Family in Pond | Danny Penny | Scanned Negative
Mike’s Ladder (an excerpt)
Drew Ohringer The spring of freshman year I made the tennis team. I would only play JV matches—as Coach Berg explained to me after shaking my hand and saying “welcome aboard”—but my success was still a big deal. My new friend Dan and I had spent all winter practicing at his tennis club on the Hill, on clay courts that you had to sweep in between sets. Dan was embarrassingly shorter than me—I always noticed, when he wore his small bright white tennis shoes, how close his feet seemed to the rest of his body—but he was better, in the end, I think. His solid little body produced politely forceful forehands and brisk, dependable backhands. I could scare him back with serves that shocked even me, but only when I wasn’t stuck sweating over every little possible failure. So I could demolish him in a game every now and then, but he always got the sets and matches. Somehow I wasn’t surprised, then, when Berg had Dan and me play each other in the first game of the first round of tryout matches. It was late March and grey snow still hung around on the shaded parts of the courts. I would have been cold had I not been palpitating away at the thought of going up against Dan. I might have been able to hit one successful good serve that way, too, but instead I double faulted and tossed him meatballs that he quietly put away with angled forehands. “What happened?” he asked me as we came together to report the score to Berg—he’d won all three games. But the following guys had had no lessons and I beat them with reassuring ease; and then I was welcomed aboard, a member of the Fremont High tennis team. I even got a black team track jacket with my name stitched onto the right shoulder: Bruce, it said, in white cursive. I wore it every day
that spring. Dan did too, but the sleeves on his flapped past his hands and he had to take it off before playing. “You love that thing.” Mike Austin, the senior captain, was grabbing onto my name. He could have been a girl I liked—every time we passed in the hall I prayed he’d acknowledge me, and, moreover, that other freshmen would see him do it. I made sure always to prepare witty lines for him; he led the school’s comedy troupe as well. “I have a thing for nylon, I guess,” I said. His smile pushed his big nose up towards his red hair. I’d done it. “You’re a funny guy, Bruce,” he said, and was off to his advanced history class. The track jacket became important for other reasons, too—namely that I spent most matches serving as little more than a cheerleader in the cold. If there was time after the varsity matches, Berg would send some of us out to play other second rates, but even then I often stayed sidelined. It all, I learned, came down to the ladder—the guiding document that placed each of us into our spots of glory or shame: first, second, third singles; first and second doubles; and then the JV rabble. Mike, who played with a polished power that looked practically professional to me, was of course at the very top; and he only lost to players from the two wealthier towns. “The ladder can lick my hairy red balls.” This was how Andrew Tutsky, the junior I usually played with, cheered on our better teammates. “And so can Berg.” Tutsky alleviated my sideline boredom, but I never could quite engage his complaints; I was happy to be pushed aside, really. As soon as I walked on the courts to play, I wanted to go back to sitting around and shouting the occasional encouraging remark. I almost always started double faulting right away and had to make it look like my serve was soft, a giveaway, when, at its best—when I was all alone on the courts three block down from my house—it was a booming weapon. Then Tutsky would catch it—they were contagious like that, my downfalls—and follow suit. “Choke on my fucking nads!” he’d yell at that awful ball. 41
At every practice Mike would go around hitting with everyone. It felt like tryouts all over again every time he got to me. One practice in April— the snow was gone, I no longer had to use my inhaler before every practice to defend my lungs against the cold air—Mike rallied with Dan and me for longer than usual. His topspin tutored my own shots. Maybe I was a much better player than I thought, maybe it just took someone else’s skill to bring it out. After fifteen minutes he walked across the court to me. “You should play some varsity, “he said. “I’ll talk to Berg.” “I’m not sure about that,” I said. “You’re not that funny, Bruce.” And so two weeks after Mike’s intervention Tutsky and I found ourselves on the ladder. Second doubles, the customary spot for JV visitors, against Woburn, a town that we more or less wrote off as competition. Their school didn’t even have its own courts; they were based at a rubberized tennis facility which I thought Dan would mock. “You know what to do, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge,” Berg told us before the match. But, for me, the challenge was never in the other team, usually a pair of untrained players of varying degrees of ineptitude. Berg never caught on to this, but Mike did. Or maybe I just wanted him to. He found me as Berg sent us off. He was holding his racket, about to go play himself. “Don’t think too hard,” he told me, and brushed his hair out of his face with the rim of his racket. Then he donned his headband and, victory assured, went off to pummel his poor rival. Needless to say, we blew it. We had an opportunity to tie it up at one point, and Berg took us aside: “You need to get this one,” he said. It ended in more generous obscenities from Tutsky and a kind of stunned shameful silence from me. “What happened?” Dan asked again, and for the second time I didn’t have an answer, or not one that he could understand. That night, Friday, I was in my basement watching Apocalypse Now for the third time when my mother yelled down to me. The phone, somebody from the team. “It doesn’t sound like Dan, though,” she said. It was Mike, he and a few guys from the team were hanging out. “We’ll be over to get you in ten,” he said. I hadn’t gone out with friends in ages; when I told my mom 42
what was happening she seemed incredulous. But she’d registered the trauma of the afternoon’s loss and didn’t spend much time asking questions as she would have with my brother. “Have you read The Philosophy of Tennis?” Mike was driving us—me, his girlfriend Laurie, and John, the junior captain—to his house. “I think I’ve heard of it,” I said. “This tennis pro, he connects each part of tennis to a tenet of Taoism. Good stuff.” “I think it’s Buddhism babe.” “What’s the fucking difference anyway? Form is form, emptiness is emptiness. My dad has a copy of it on tape and sometimes the day before matches I’ll get stoned and listen to it.” “Mike’s secret to success,” said John. “Getting Better” came on and Mike started air-guitaring at a stoplight. “The secret, boys, is hard work and dedication. But you knew that, ” he said. “We all want to know how you do it,” said John. “I don’t. I don’t do a thing. Do you have the stuff?” Mike’s house was dark and smoky; his parents were of course away. I heard voices coming from downstairs. All those nights sitting watching Apocalypse Now and now here I was. I wondered if Dan would show up and then hoped he wouldn’t. “Bruce, don’t be in the shadows. Come down here.” He’d opened up the door to basement: light and smoke and music oozed forth. As I followed him down, he asked me if I’d gotten high before. I said I hadn’t. “Well you’ll learn one approach to the philosophy of tennis then, tonight,” he said. Had he found the answer? He never trembled, his feet never screeched or stuttered. Only against the best players did he falter. “There’s some girls down there, too. They might like you.” When I got home everyone was asleep and my eyes were demon red and my lips were swollen from making out with another freshman from the
girl’s team. She’d had hair just like Mike’s, maybe even redder, and the whites of her green eyes had reddened, resulting in a kind of optic Christmas. Mike had practically shoved us in a big closet down there. As soon as he left I felt like I was up for a serve, buzzing. “What’s his deal?” the girl had asked, after coughing some. “What do you mean?” I said, but then her wet weedy tongue was in my mouth and tennis balls were just smelly felt, courts just boxes painted on concrete.
like any other aspirin bottle; I opened it to make sure. The oval pills were embossed with the number .25—they didn’t look like any aspirin I’d seen before. But I ran back to the bus: I was helping Mike, I was helping the team. I was doing a lot more good than I would in the JC backwater. At the country club-like courts in Winchester, Mike somehow won. I was glued to the sidelines of his court. He never lost focus, as he sometimes did—no fiddling with his tie-dye headband, no goofy between-the-leg attempts. He swerved with the ball, his racquet rode its inertia. When he The Fremont High courts were behind the parking lot, sectioned off served, all his particles, all his otherworldly atoms, seemed to flow with by a rusty fence; brown balls bulged out of a cell every now and then. The the green wisps of the ball’s felt. The philosophy of tennis, I thought. How school was to the left of the courts; to the right was a factory whose name no I wished I could give myself up to the court like that, empty myself to the one really knew—apparently it produced plated metal, and there were stories mysterious physics of the game. I rushed to Mike as he zipped up his bag after of green clouds emitting from its roof and hovering above the nearby softball the game. “You were a real Kant of the court out there,” I told him. His head fields. Behind the courts were the commuter rail tracks—on which, earlier swung back with the strap of his bag. “Who’s that,” he said? that year, a girl in my class had committed grade-related suicide—and every So the season went along, the raw, harborish afternoons out on practice a train or two ruined everyone’s shot. the courts becoming hot and languorous and thirsty. Mike’s red hair grew “I’m trying to perfect a train shot,” Mike told me as he took out his even longer, and in the sun looked even redder. Tutsky and I won games, racquet on the Monday after his basement event. occasionally, but mostly I panicked silently and he invoked his hairy balls, his I told him I’d been working on that all along and headed off to hit pasty ass and the retardedness of each and every ball we played with. Mike, with Dan, who was already at the court. “Mike reeks of weed,” he said. citing his back problems, swallowed a pill or two before his matches. Berg’s “Maybe it helps him play.” ladder was frozen, none of us climbing or falling or sliding. Then, three weeks “I’m sure that’s what he thinks.” before playoffs, Tutsky, tossing a ball back to me as I prepared to serve in a That Wednesday we had a match against Winchester, the best team practice game, said, “Berg’s about to bust our balls. He’s changing in the league. They played at a tennis club that was like a stadium, almost. As up the ladder.” usual, Mike was up for first singles; I was third or fourth on the JV ladder, a small improvement. As we loaded our stuff onto the bus, I saw Mike talking to Berg. He caught my eye and beckoned me forth with his racket. “Can you do me a favor? I need some aspirin,” he said. He needed to make the line-up with Berg. His back was shot. The aspirin was in his car. Could I get it for him? “I’m on it,” I said, and of course I was. His car was at the other end of the parking lot. The glove compartment. Or was it the side door? I unlocked the door and found a pill bottle in the passenger’s seat. It was plain white, 43
Once you give up the ghost, everything follows with shit and more shit. It’s 6:03 AM, as my second alarm reminds me with increasing certainty, and I light up a Marlboro Red as I fall back onto my mattress. Our landlord asked, as we “didn’t have the look of permanent residents about us,” that we not smoke in our rooms because it drove down property value. I wanted to argue that that was damn near impossible, but I wasn’t really in that position. I slap myself a little and take one of the little blue Adderalls that I took out of Jacob’s room when he went home for a weekend. He is still asleep. His parent-subsidized internship in music management doesn’t require him to drag himself out of bed until 9:30 AM. As I shower the speed kicks in and I feel a chemical excitement at the prospect of answering phones all day and getting to bullshit in the five different accents I think I have down: Canadian, Indian, British, Southern and slightly drunk Irish. As I dry off and put on the company polo, made of a sickly bright yellow to give us an unwarranted joyful air, I try to make as much noise as possible. Work passes the same as it does every day. Soon enough I am making the left turn back onto Sunset Lane. Pulling up into my white gravel drive at an angle, I see Jacob has already assumed his hammock sentry post. Unshaven and calm, Jacob looks up at me as I walk across the dead grass to the porch. “Long day, honey?” he asks. I join him on the porch, sitting in the torn-up easy chair we found in the basement. “Ah, you know, everyday is arduous for us campaigners for worktime masturbation rights.” “Have you ever considered that perhaps your true calling is as a Kindergarden teacher?”
“I think they do background checks for that; I don’t think I’m off the sex offender registry yet after that little public urination ordeal senior year,” I say laughing. My pocket vibrates and glows. I pull my phone halfway out of my pocket, see the word “dad,” and slide it back into my jeans. Jacob, slouching back into his chair, raises his eyebrows at me and asks, “Wanna smoke?” “I don’t not wanna smoke, you know?” He begins attempting to pull apart up some weed that he grabs out of a baggy in his pocket and I cringe at his dirt-crusted fingernails. Jacob had recently dropped the house’s communal grinder in between his legs when trying to both shit and roll a joint at the same time. Since then it has been labeled “forever unclean” and not even Jacob will use it. “Fuck. The papers are upstairs. Wanna smoke in your room and listen to records?” he asks. “Yeah, go get it set up, throw on some Dylan or something. I should probably call my dad back first, I have seven missed calls in four days.” I don’t feel any obligation to answer, but I am sick of my phone beeping at me, constantly reminding me of him. “What a perfect son,” he says in a high falsetto and tries to pinch my cheek. I knock his hand away. “At least I’m not milking mine for ‘food’ checks. Just go set up the record player, I’ll only be a sec.” Our kitchen hasn’t been renovated since the seventies and is all florescent light and cracked yellow tile. Over the years tenants have taken Sharpies and added crude pastoral scenes of trees and streams, using the cracks as river bends and branches. My phone is nearly out of minutes so I pick up the home phone and start to dial my dad’s cell number. Once I get past the area code I have to look at the list of numbers sticky-noted to the fridge to finish punching it out. The first ring stops halfway through and is completed with a deep cough. When my dad had his heart attack five or six years back he told me, like he was sharing a secret, that he had been given nitroglycerine tablets.
I had no idea what they were really, only some vague idea from movies that they had explosive qualities. I imagined him swallowing it, its homing mechanism starting immediately and heading straight for his heart. I assume there is a direct line from your mouth to your heart somewhere in that tangle of anatomical wires. It would twist and turn and pick up speed and then there would be a miniature explosion that would cast a yellow glow that could be seen through his skin, through the black and green cotton of his shirt, and his heart would restart, pumping furiously, as he gasped like a drowning victim who had just been given violent CPR. Every time I hear him cough with age, I imagine him needing to be restarted by one of these pills. I hope he has quit drinking. “Hey, sorry I missed your calls…” He cuts me off before I am forced to give a feeble excuse. “Don’t worry about it. I was hoping to take you out for lunch. Maybe Steak and Shake, like we used to? If you are at your place I can pick you up.” “Yeah I’m here. See you then.” Forgetting about meeting Jacob upstairs until I am already on the porch, I sit back into the faded chair. Jacob doesn’t come back out to look for me and I smoke four cigarettes before my dad pulls up. He doesn’t get out the car so I walk over the passenger side and get in. “Good to finally hear from you,” he says. There is more defeat and less passive-aggression in his voice than I am used to. “Good to see you too, Dad.” He smiles a little, nods to himself a few times and then reaches forward to turn the radio on. It is not like him to have been driving in silence. My dad’s car only has a tape deck. For most people this would be infuriatingly inconvenient but he seems to enjoy being limited to music that came out while he still understood what was going on around him. The tapes are kept, mostly unlabeled, in a dilapidated cardboard box that has the musty look of something that has survived many humid Midwestern summers. My dad grabs a tape with a translucent blue case, carefully inserting it into the player and the John Prince song Illegal Smile starts playing. When my dad sings, under his breath and slightly off-key, along with the chorus “fortunately,
I have the key to escape reality,” I think of the first time we ever listened to this song. I guess I was about seven, or at least that is the age I give to all of my early memories that I can’t tie to a specific school year. We were on our monthly pilgrimage to Subterranean Books, the local bookstore and my dad’s temple. As the chorus came around the second time I asked my dad, as I used to do religiously, to explain what the singer meant. “Well he is an adult, and when you are an adult you will find there are, if you want them, special keys you can buy. Keys that take you far into alternative universes. Kinda like opposite day you know?” “So does it open like a portal?” “Exactly, you just step right through it.” “Is it like this floating yellow and blue swirl thing that doesn’t hurt to walk through?” “Yes, exactly Michael, exactly like that.You touch the key to your lips, hold it out in front of you and you hear a loud bang and the portal appears.” My dad lets out another one of his sickening coughs. It sounds much harsher than it did over the phone. He doesn’t mention Steak and Shake again. His brown eyes keep darting around like someone who drank too much coffee, but I know it’s not that; he always says he hasn’t been able to drink coffee since he got out of the Army years and years ago. All beard and worn flannel, my dad momentarily looks over at me from the passenger seat. I often wondered what he would look like clean-shaven. Then again even though he promised to shear it all off when I was born, not even my mother had seen what he looks like under there. She died years ago, blindsided while driving home from buying organic groceries at the new Trader Joe’s on McKnight. We never acknowledge this. We get on the interstate, but only briefly. He gets off at the next exit that advertises for food. I don’t think he knows how to get to any of the restaurants in Jefferson where I live and just didn’t want admit it.We pull into the first diner we see, Mama Frieda’s. Like so many Midwestern diners it has black and white tile with some Elvis and James Dean portraits that have an air of sad idolatry.We walk in and per the sign’s instructions, seat ourselves. 45
As soon as he has sat down he asks, “Have you read The Pale King yet? I think it might be Wallace’s best.” “I don’t wanna read something that was abandoned and unfinished” I say. “That isn’t right.” I actually did read it, but the days of me wanting to talk to him about literature are long gone. “Listen, Michael.” He pauses and looks away from me, his eyes tracing the veins visible in his skinny arms. “The reason I brought you out here was to tell you that I am going away for a while.” He quickly looks at me to see if this pronouncement has had any sort of effect. Does he expect me to be surprised? He hasn’t really been dependable for anything since mom died. Nervously, he plays with his keys and then slides one of the two off of the ring and puts it in his grey corduroy pocket. I don’t flinch and he continues: “There will be some logistical things for you to figure out you know. You will have to find your own insurance, stuff like that.” I don’t know what other things he is talking about. Being on his insurance is the only tangible benefit to being his son I have enjoyed in years. “So are you going to quit your job?” “Already have.” He finally looks me in the eyes again, smiling in a way that makes me more uncomfortable than losing my United Health Care card. “What about your students?” “Oh, they’ll find a replacement soon enough. Everyone is a high school teacher in this economy. Michael… I just need to get away for a while. You know I have never left the country before?” “Dad I…” He cuts me off. “Never left the Midwest even?” “Yeah, Dad I know.” Whenever he got drunk he would listen to the Rolling Stones and talk about envying their escape to France that birthed Exile on Main Street. I’ve never asked him why he never learned to play music himself. The waitress comes by to take our orders, but we both just order decaf coffee without looking at her. “You know you will have some duties with me gone right?” I can only imagine what this means. He has never asked anything of me, which 46
seemed fair given his hands off approach to helping his son navigate life. “I need you to make sure your mother’s grave always has fresh flowers.You know how she loved to garden,” he says. “Since when do you visit Mom’s grave?” “The fuck do you know about anything?” He stares at me intently and scratches the back of his neck. “Have you even been there since the funeral?” I don’t answer but start spinning the salt shaker on the table, little granules scattering out the side. He looks as if he readying himself for some grand soliloquy that he has been practicing; he leans back and runs his hand through his hair, grabbing it at the top and giving it a little pull for self assurance. I brace myself. He shakes his head a little, as if thinking better of it, and puts his car key on the table as he abruptly stands up. “There is a great florist named Dotty in Springfield. You should buy some hyacinths.” I give him a weak smile and don’t respond. I watch him walk out the front door, struggle for a moment as he tries to push a pull door, and step out onto the concrete. I want to call after him but the door has already closed. I watch him out the front window until his shadow has all but disappeared on the side of the building. There is a momentary blue and yellow glow and the sound of bottle rockets. Like that, he is gone. Into thin air I guess. I have never really understood where he goes but I really shouldn’t have expected anything else. I pick up his car keys and drive myself home. John Prine is still playing. When I arrive, Jacob has returned to the porch. That must have strained him. “Where’s your dad?” “He took a trip to see some relatives” I say. “Then why are you driving his car?” I walk past Jacob without answering, confident that he is too stoned to follow me, and go up to my room. Getting on my laptop I print out the map to Rose Hill Cemetery. I lie back on my bed and light another cigarette. I wonder how long he will be gone this time. In a more affectionate past, I remember my father coming home from work with flowers, hyacinths, and jokingly
curtsying and kissing my mom’s hand as he gave them to her. He always claimed that she was the only thing that kept him tethered to Springfield, but that it was a rope made of the greenest and the strongest ivy, like the kind my mother painstakingly cared for, that wrapped around the white pillars out front of our old house. He loved her so much there wasn’t room for anything else. I walk out back to my car, and follow the directions in my lap. I am the only car in the parking lot as I pull in. I haven’t been here in years but I remember where to go. My pace quickens as I see them; there are beautiful blue and yellow hyacinths, hundreds of them, shrouding her modest gravestone. I don’t know which direction to turn.
Sleep Varun Nayan
And I too have come to know Of the smokey nest of hours That stretches across midnight And how you rest in its palms. 47
This Is Not a Love Sonnet
Translucent at best, haze dulls our awareness, permeates deep as the late summer’s shandies channel through our exposed torsos, careless, tracing fingers barely skimming bodies
I think of you drenched in Lake Echo, or some pond out of town: we do what we know before we know what we do.
like trying to read Braille through a tapestry and its translation will never be true. As sleep, the mind’s curator, anxiously frames and connects randomly fired cues, in spite of myself it all seems to ring clear, that odd mix of lines, no more spark in the eye.
Some mornings in the bathtub I kiss my own knees as if I’m someone else, someone who likes my wet skin.
Sunburnt collarbone, salmon pink. Tiny nipples, freckles like a connect-the-dots game that someone dropped in a puddle. On each glossy limb sticking out of the lake, water disappears in enlarging spots. How does skin still look dry underneath? I could smack the water with a flat palm and toss you with kicks and crazy arms like a sheet, flapping,
I’ve become the stray cat who only fears fear, skittering away before saying goodbye.
left out to dry on a clothesline held up by two shut windows in Logan Square, with some saggy
So I’ll continue this precarious dance, to write a sonnet without a romance.
underwear, maybe a dress, too. I remember your dress, striped with a zipper you let me unzip down the back. Tongues, tongues, tongues, big wet ones, mouths full of long hair. I wash my hair and think of you. What face did your boyfriend make? We do what we know before we know what we do.
Bare Bones | Hannah Condon | Mixed Media
The Uncertainty Principle I&II Diptych 50
Corson Androski |Digital Photographs
Growing Up | Colin Brooks | Digital Photograph
Self-Portrait at the Dig Site - Anthropologist or Looter? Corson Androski | Digital Photograph
Greenhouse Reflection| Hannah Strom | Digital Photograph
Walmart 3 | Lauren Flynn |Embroidery Thread, Plastic Bag
Saoirse | Cait De Mott Grady | Silver Gelatin Print
Ben on Back | Danny Penny | Scanned Negative
Exo/Endo | Devon Gamble | Linocut
Fall Semester Leah Yacknin-Dawson
And if English could sound like music. Or French, where it rolls. And then it can be liquid, or how skies swerve. Why winters go better with night feelings. And when gin sews lullabies into brains. Or if you’re lonely, you lie in bed and think of gold. And you know this is the time.You know it is right now, it only is right now. So you’re scared because it’s wasted. Why I must absorb the moon. You roll your tongue and move away. Like a dance. Like keeping time. Like clocks. Your eyelashes are long: silk and wheat. So if they rope me in, and make me dance, and make time slow, then gold is temporary. And the music and the music. So you’re lucid and it hurts. Like when you look up and are all, “But what does it mean?” and it’s different because it’s you, and no one else, and time is gold.
Twenty-four carat clocks. To wake you up and help you fall asleep. To drink, and write, and stretch, and lust. You make some eggs and sit. To feel less lonely, is why I guess. So if you burst open and your guts spill out, they are pink and gold and soapy. So if you sit and cry and think, then your brain becomes a clock. And if dried violets appear along your toilet, you will know your heart is shrinking. Why brains and hearts, and gold and music. Like when time. Like when time. Why I dry out. Like when I type and bathe, and clocks and gold, and I stop and think this is fucking dumb, and I’ll never get a job.
itâ€™s raining. iâ€™ve been waiting for this.
I peel my skin off first, Translucent, I hold against the sky How thin it is, (that which contains us) Folding neatly As it hits the ground. I shiver, Forgetting how raw I am inside, Running until all my muscles have fallen In large chunks, Laying forgotten Amongst poppies. And I plunge into the river Until bones are all that remain, Their smooth edges distorted Beneath the surface, Free to drift downstream With the current.
i lie down in the road, as good a place as any, so i can soak in the rain and the rain can soak in me. iâ€™m laughing. a car comes, sees me, slows. i up and run, because most people have forgotten that one can be drunk on only rain.
Colorful Nude | Lauren Flynn | Pencil, Acrylic
Something Calming | Andy Lange | Digital
Father’s Father’s Father’s Alex Phillips
The only time I have seen my father cry is when my great grandmother died. He took one look in the open casket and his face decomposed. His cheeks jumped into his eyeballs and he sounded like a wounded dog. She didn’t look like anyone he knew. She would have done her make up better. My father was asked to write the eulogy--he works as a public relations consultant--he can do these kinds of things well--but was unable to recall many concrete facts about her life. Someone asked him how old she was, but even that was lost. And so he said, with a flip of his hair, “A woman who will tell you her age will tell you anything.” That was one of her favorite lines, and she pulled it out whenever she wasn’t chewing raw coffee beans and discussing Ronald Reagan, or recalling the story where she smooched John F. Kennedy, or was it Lindbergh? She loved America, lived alone in a large house in Washington, D.C., and went through five or six toy poodles. Every poodle bore the name of an ancient philosopher. I fondly remember rubbing Aristotle’s pink belly. With her death, the Phillipos/Kopsidas family saw the end of an era. She was a classic kind of woman. In the last three years of her life, at one of our thanksgiving gatherings, she picked up one of my adolescent cousins and threw him down a ravine to prove a point about vitality. Then she turned to me and said, “Never forget you’re Spartan.” We are not Spartan.
At least no more Spartan than we are Etruscan or Ottoman. But Yiayia’s are never wrong, especially not Proyiayias, and she invested similarly unchecked primal energies into making her daughter the perfect American woman. And perfect Greek woman. And anything else she could think of. So, from there, everyone had a complex. The two brothers paw at each other in the front room, and I watch, as my father re-remembers the days when he wasn’t quite human. His brother, Chris, pushes him. They are like bears or dogs or some other hairy mammal. Chris seems to be frozen in a developmental state and likes to get drunk and tell his mother (betraying no sense of shame, but relishes in it with full knowledge of his bestial splendor) about all the knives he threw at his coworkers in the kitchen of the Washington, D.C. Marriott Hotel. Chris’s home is ten minutes away from his mothers, my grandmother’s. He has a large dog, a Sega Genesis, and a history of failed relationships with various Asian women (one time I found myself in the passenger seat of his Suburu, and after he reluctantly listed the merits of rock climbing, his eyes got very wide and serious. He turned to me and said, Asian. Women. Then he went back to watching the road.) His current partner is a Filipino woman from Hawaii, and she makes him baked goods weekly. I can only focus on her questionable teeth, and writhe in my own skin when I ask her what her job is, and she responds, with a knowing nod to my grandmother, “Oh! Taking care of Christopher is a full time job.” She looks to my grandmother with her mouth and eyes gaping wide; my grandmother looks at her, opens up her face crevices, and they both laugh uproariously, leaning in and touching their foreheads together. Chris says, “How’s it going, Sis?” and pinches my mom’s ass. She tells him to grow up, and my dad has already left the situation. He plays a lick on the piano of his brain, and fixes his face so that he doesn’t appear to be absent. I’m fifteen here, but I could be any age, and this could be anybody’s thanksgiving anywhere, riding that fine line between disaster and regular family behavior. Chris hands out his homemade wine that smells like rubbing alcohol. Everyone gets comfortable, except the blonde wives of the Greek men, who watch their asses.
“Christopher, tell us about you and Steve sneaking out to all those jazz clubs.” Steve, my dad, who gets paid to respond to the things no one else can, burrows deeper into himself and really gets to work on that brain piano. These are the stories that he never tells me, but relives whenever he’s not dealing with an AT&T media crisis. “They thought I was a retard”—My dad said this. He was talking about when he repeated the first grade. “I didn’t talk, and I couldn’t answer any questions.” He was on the phone. I pictured him gripping a glass of scotch, surrounded by his vinyl, as his jazz music saxophoned up to a drum solo. But I think he was in the car, and I must have been hearing the radio. “I had this stuff in my ears, kind of like earwax. I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. It took them a while to figure it out.”—One time he picked me up from school in his silver 1988 Saab—all Saabs are silver or dark blue—and I guess I yelled too loud. It made him an animal. He barked, showed his teeth, and his eyebrows flexed. His ears are delicate, and I have never mastered nuance. I like to say that my father looks like me, but with a different color palette. We’re tall, and have large dark eyebrows. We have other similarities. He sends me emails, with just the subject lines filled out, in all caps: AJ PHONE HOME...OPERATORS STANDING BY.. ALL LINES ARE OPEN Or brief, cryptic zingers: “Not much to see, but lots to listen to. Try to control yourself.” By the time he went to college he had given up his dreams of becoming a pianist, and instead lived a monastic life. He told me that when he wasn’t reading Marx, he used to sit in his dorm room with the lights off and listen to Coltrane. To him I must be a little Beastie Boy, whereas he is the fully evolved human. My parents display modern art in their living room, there is a picture of an anonymous fat family hanging ironically in the kitchen, and the dining room record player is always spinning during meals.
Yet, despite his effort to sonically sate his ears, they always want to hear more. They miss something. They are searching. It’s only natural. He sent me an email after Spring Break: “Where did you hear squirrels? I have kitchen lights; duct in our bathroom and floor underneath your desk. Any place else Commander Stimpy?” The exterminator didn’t find any squirrels. He told me that it was probably because it was springtime, and they were out digging up nuts. His father met my grandmother in Chicago. It was found out they were from the same island, so someone arranged for them to marry. Two decades and sons later, they were divorced. My grandfather invested all of his money in a pickle factory that went under, and then decided that Chicago was too cold anyways. I call him sometimes on Sunday mornings. He built himself the perfect little stucco house on top of a mountain overlooking the Aegean sea. Through our shitty Skype connection he whispers his mantra, like an O.G. Philosopher, and I feel his hand on my shoulder, “It’s all the view.” One time, all the fathers met in Greece, on top of their mountain, and found that the oldest father had sold his house. He said, “What’s a view? The eye doesn’t focus, it wanders and looks at one thing or another or nothing at all.” My dad said, before my grandmother visited, that I couldn’t mention our visit to Greece to her. She arrives. I go out to dinner with my grandmother and her husband. His name is Lloyd. Lloyd attends a gentlemen’s club in downtown Washington, D.C. Called The Cosmos Club. He pays a fee to be a member. One time Lloyd worked with a group of architects to construct some building. It was notable enough for admittance. Lloyd also attended Princeton University. 63
One time I got to stay in a sister branch of the gentlemen’s club in Chicago, IL. They had rooms with enormous mirrors. I stole a letter to the New Yorker out of the printer tray. Lloyd is slow moving. He makes calculated puns and discusses Architecture, his area of expertise. Or he can talk about the days when he almost became a thespian. I shudder at the possibility of someone watching him say something. I watch him say things all the time. Let me be perfectly clear with you: Lloyd wears bow ties and glasses that can only be referred to as “spectacles.” They rest low, near the round tip of his nose, so that when he looks through them it’s like he is aiming a gun. We went to the art museum, before the dinner, and he bought a new bow tie with one of Monet’s Water Lilies printed on it. At dinner, a pair of black lesbians sat down at the table next to us. Lloyd ordered tongue as an appetizer for the table. My mother was there. Talking about the Lourve, in Paris, she says, “I get over stimulated.” The black lesbians burst out laughing. Lloyd, after his meal, said it was delicious, but found the restaurant’s atmosphere pretentious. I couldn’t stop staring at our table’s neighbors, longing for their approval. The next night I went to dinner with my grandmother and her husband, Lloyd, again. She begins the conversation: “Your black president . . .” She pauses, and says, “Are you listening?” My dad and I respond, in unison, “No.” “If he gets killed, the blacks are going to start an uprising, like the Muslims now. And you know who is going to help them? The – ” “Me.” “What did you just say?” “Me.” “I’m not impressed, young man.” “I don’t find you very impressive either.” “How old are you?” “Twenty-one” “Huh, thought you were younger.” 64
“Black power.” And I raised my fist in the air (That last part’s a lie. Whatever gusto I had, I couldn’t sustain. That’s the problem with irony, it tires). My mother positioned herself in front of my grandmother, like a white blanket signifying peace, and we broke eye contact. My father and Lloyd gulped their wine. I did too. Lloyd has my dad drive him to his hotel, a block down the road. Lloyd is going to pick up a picture for me. He takes a half an hour to retrieve the image, a print out of a motivational poster that you might find in an email attachment. It is of a fox standing in a herd of hounds, undetected. It reads: If you’re in trouble, just act like you know what you’re doing. “Well, do you see it?” “Yes.” “It is perhaps the most magnificent photo I have ever seen.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him about Photoshop. He had a glimmer in his eye, though, and I had a feeling that I wasn’t in on the joke. My grandmother came in the room, and began ranting again. This time it was about heritage. The Greeks were slaughtered by the Turks. My great uncle was a palace guard, and some Muslim, she emphasized, slaughtered him. She went on. I tried not to listen too closely. Maybe that uncle shouldn’t have left the island. They left yesterday evening. This morning, for the first time in months, my father had his black binder out, with that same hand written Greek alphabet he copied down when we lived in Cleveland, seven years ago, and I can’t tell why he is so diligent—guilt, passion, or duty. He bites his lip and his eyebrows are tensed, thicker than usual, and I can’t help but compare his glasses to Lloyd’s. They are both circular. He’s listening to Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, and hears things you couldn’t dream of.
Porch Song Linda Beigel
I am a sex goddess, here on this porch on this sultry summer night. Mm-hmm, a goddess, with lank hair and dull eyes— Nevermind, nevermind, It’s only a disguise. This is how I grieve. Me, I assimilate your sins. add every stinging cheek, turned to every bridge I’ve ever burned, two idle hands that reek of smoke, the perfume of the flames we’ve stoked… and candy-colored cuticles lacquered bright blue; you said fake it til you make it. I just make do. You know you can always call “Always” is for show, I know. Now is never the right time.
Oh tomorrow, always tomorrow— I am hopeful, you see, for I am here and will be here ‘til tomorrow at least. Though the ink on my wrist is a promise to outlast, I will find my loopholes. I will take another drag. This is my downfall, nocturnal revelation: The gift of introspection: The curse of mirrors. Reflection finds me, though I hide God believe me, I tried. Are you listening? I smoke you to the filter. And I cannot bear to part so soon— Just you and me and the light of the moon.
Nat Firework Double | Danny Penny | C-Print
Pour | Hannah Bernard | Mixed Media
Jsi Krรกsnรก | Daniel Agostino | Digital Photograph
La Gracienda on Saint Patrick’s Day Danny Penny
It’s as if all of Bologna were drunk: thousands of ragazzi milling about the piazza, stumbling out of the Irish pubs with cartoonish hats, sloshing pints of milkshaky Guinness. Beer! a petit Frenchman screams in his best American accent— too many layers of imitation to parse.
Salut’s ring out in the square, and caught up in the commotion, we raise our glasses, too, not sure what to toast.
I drink my wine from the bottle, cut my tongue on the foil, and smile with a red-stained mouth at the graduates wearing wreathes and dancing in the streets.
They call this place La Dota, La Rosa, La Grossa,
A doe-eyed girl keeps her cigarette filter perched on the edge of her lips like a first-grader’s tooth crazily jutting out and hanging on by the roots.
but I say none of that. I drink my three euro wine and watch the towers sway, my soul slowly swooning as if I were really Irish.
One straight-backed and the other pitched over at an impossible angle, two stone towers wobble over us like skeletal grandfathers, somehow managing to stay upright. 68
Roll Slow Alex Phillips
Coffee cools too quickly. Nuzzle the bosoms of our orange juice to quell bubbling October pumpkin whiskey dull throb. Lament and fart, donâ€™t vomit when counting roadkill on a drunk bike trip along a hillbilly gravel turnpike. Mourn for the hedgehog, cherish the mist filled headache. Manufacture mist, exhale clouds through the teeth.
Beijing | Andy Delany | Silver Gelatin Print
Greenwich Connecticut | Andy Lange | Digital
The (Imagined) Lover Clare Boerigter
Was Gabriel there? A closed coffin has no one to tell. Unreliable narrator: I should tell you. What I said about Gabriel wasn’t true. Or it wasn’t right. The facts, anyway, were unclear. He taught me that.
Fictive dreaming: Gabriel, mi amante imaginado, was shot in the head on 12th Street. He was thinking about mangos and murciélagos, and then he was thinking about nothing at all. That’s how death is. I didn’t see the bullet. It was closed casket. I imagine victims are the morticians’ nightmare. A bit of blush doesn’t do much when half of your head is caved in and your mouth isn’t the biggest hole in your face anymore. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the young man behind the desk at Rogenheim’s was born with just the kind of hands for building back bodies. Something in the shape of his fingers reworks skin like masons’ mortar and he spends nights waiting for gunshot wounds. But I doubt it. He has a weak look to him, not much good for pinching and molding. I met Gabriel when he was twenty and I was twelve. He seduced me with language, got me off on his words. Perhaps I should not say “seduced.” That lends the wrong impression to my meaning. And what I mean is that he took off my clothes, peeled away my skin like a sunburn to my bones, stripped me bare of systems of veins and organs. Gabriel built me backwards. Gabriel unearthed me out of my body. Gabriel, my beautiful Colombian writer, knew me. I stand at the back during the funeral. I carry one of the books he had written and wear Lula’s lattice-worked earrings. They drop my lobes and make my 72
ears feel as heavy as the rest of me. I see many of his lovers, see the things they leave for him. I do not cry here, not with the perfume and the airconditioning, not in this place created for a corpse.
After the funeral, I eat my aunt’s cake with a plastic fork and hide in Frida’s room with my books. Her duvet muffles the downstairs sounds. In a family like mine, someone is always coming or going, getting baptized or getting pregnant. Birthdays bully me around and Aunt Dorotea’s small hands are perpetually tipped with frosting. Today she has shaped the sugary paste into pink rosettes and hippos. At the party, no one will notice. I wrap the duvet around my head and neck. The sky pleads but the rain waits. I wait too. Wait for these feelings to lessen, wait for Gabriel to return to me. I’m half asleep when I feel Eveline lifting up the corner of the comforter. She moves around, ties my hair into tight braids, says nothing. I don’t look at her, don’t need to. She lost her Maman when she was my age. She knows grief and how it builds inside. She once told me that some of grief’s structures are beautiful if you figure out the right way to go about looking at them. Grief in small spaces, she has said, grief in small spaces is my specialty. I believe her. I saw a pin-up of Rita Hayworth at the diner where Eveline works, and she looked so perfect and so sad. If you imagine Eveline, think of her like that: perfect and sad. Eveline cut her hair off when we were in middle school because she is too beautiful most of the time. The thing is though, whenever I look at Eveline, her beauty is always the last of what I see. I look
at her and I think that she is curious and complicated and more herself than anyone I have ever known. Eveline settles beside me in her old jeans and t-shirt. Her arm around my waist smells like diner grease and ketchup. She whispers to me in French, things her Maman used to say to her. When I fall asleep, it is with the warm impression of Eveline smoothed flat against my back. I wake up and Eveline has slipped back into the pages of the worn book beside me. Hardly anyone has read it, and sometimes I feel as if I’m the only one who knows her. I am now alone.
The Friday after the funeral, Borges asks me about Gabriel without pretext. He wants to know about the bullet that killed him. I tell him I didn’t see it. A shame, he sighs, a shame. Borges believes there was a story in that bullet. He wants to know what kind of mangos exactly, and were the bats brown or black? Gabriel didn’t have to die, he says with a shake of his head, he didn’t have to die. I tell him everything as he edges words onto the board. When I am done, Borges looks at me with his milk-and-coffee eyes and nods at the table covered in our letters. You know, he says, Gabriel is here. Gabriel is here and always will be.
Well, Frida is here. She purses her lips at me, which frightens me because of the lipstick congealed to them. I feel bad for Frida. She has tried to like me for so long, but even though we’re cousins, she can’t stand my books or how it is I never brush my hair. Right now she’s looking at the gooiness of her mother’s cake still stuck to my chin.
There’s a blue-eyed boy. It’s his wrists actually, his wrists and his hands. They’re beautiful. The most exquisite shapes I’ve ever seen bone-bound. The curls, the rise of veins, and how his hands fall outwards, fingers cut to grasp long.
I don’t try to tell her about Gabriel. She wouldn’t understand.
I’m fairly sure he has a name. I call him Wrists.
Allusion: An Argentine writer and I play Scrabble, or as Borges says, “escrabble.” We sit around the card table in the attic on rusty folding chairs I carry up from the garage. Occasionally he complains about the dust going up his nose. Borges is old and a little bit blind but with a tongue that makes his own gums bleed. That’s what you get when you spit too many barbs, I like to tell him. He just tilts his head and tsks at me, the tiles inches from his peering eyes. We spell words like capricho, quixotic, parataxis. I never win, and it’s because he is an incorrigible cheat. Borges likes to think he’s Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare and Cervantes, which is why he creates new words with such authority and riddles the board with his imaginings.
He sits beside me in the city library with its claw-footed tables and uses his hands to cover pages in pencil sketches. Some days they are better than others. I write down the titles of the books he reads: Johnny Got His Gun, Heart of Darkness, A Separate Peace. After he returns them to the shelves, I collect them to write notes in the margins. Little things like Who are you? Why are you here? Do you like horchata? Two Sundays after Gabriel’s funeral, I find a page lined with lead in the back of my book. The eyes are too wide-set, the nose more manageable, but it is my face, or rather, a perception of my face. I have never seen myself like this before: the downward scrape of pencil twining into hair, an ashy smudge marking the hollows of a throat, the fleeting little lines insinuating the rise of bone beneath cheeks. Each bit is integral to the next, his pencil point building 73
from the hazy base sketch, filtering in and fluttering around, illuminating a face from whiteness: my face. I am swallowed by the feeling of doubleness, of magnification and duplication, of existing beyond and outside myself. I do not take the drawing with me when I leave that afternoon. My fascination with it is met only by my fear of it. It implies that I am not the only one capable of watching. It implies that Wrists would like to be more than the boy whose life I like to fictionalize. It implies that he is, after all, quite real. And yet for days I am plagued by the thought of his wrists and the designs they made while he beckoned over empty paper, teasing out my likeness with soft pencil lines. Death of the author: The man in the box. That wasn’t Gabriel. To be honest, I don’t even remember his name. He may have died from a gunshot wound. Some people do. The casket was certainly closed and the door to the funeral parlor was certainly open. He didn’t have to be Gabriel. Mi amante imaginado. It could’ve been anyone, really. “I didn’t have to walk into that funeral and make the dead man Gabriel,” I think as Lula curls my hair, “But then, why did I?” Lula arranges me before the large vanity mirror, clucking to herself as she rubs kohl around my eyes and turns my lashes into a strip of grasping spider legs. She is merciless in this, and when she is done coating my face in makeups and my body in fabrics, Lula will declare me beautiful. I do not feel beautiful, but I do not mind what Lula, my kind, sweet cousin, has done. Somehow this hour with her makes it easier to swim in my sea of relatives, to let uncles and aunts and nieces wash over me ceaselessly. Frida says that Lula is stupid: sweet, but stupid. I think that Lula is kind and if she knows me as little as everyone else, at least she plays her fingers through my hair, brushes kisses over my split ends, and tells me I am beautiful. I may 74
not believe it, but she does, and looking back at myself in the mirror, I am Lula-rendered, all glossed lips and satin hair. Downstairs in the kitchen, it is the face Lula made that will give and receive the learned double-tap of cheek kisses. Outside in the yard, the legs Lula covered in buttery chiffon will relent to a dance. I will eat my aunt’s cake with Lula’s polished nails and the flush on the bones of my face will really be Lula’s powder. At home afterwards, I will wash Lula and the party into the old bathroom sink. My own eyes will again appear in the small mirror, and on my birthday, I am the only one who will see them. I will be seventeen, and Gabriel will still be fourteen days dead. Narrative: Gabriel called me Meme, which is my name shortened. Meme: an abbreviation of me. He called me Meme and sat on my bed smoothing the patterned duvet, laughing when I called him Gabo. He liked to come at night and tell me stories. We’d lie under the blankets and block out the house, this ugly room. His face was vibrant against the clean white backdrop of the sheets.Years passed like this. Him and I like kids under the duvet, hiding from I don’t know what. Then one day I didn’t feel like a kid anymore. I loved Gabriel. And how could I not? We talked for hours about alchemy and whether it was technically a lie when Frida said I love you. I spoke of Boston and he brought us to Buenos Aires. Gabriel built towns for me, conjured lives from little more than muffled air. Most nights, I wanted nothing more than to exist in his head space, but as that was unreasonable to ask, I settled for his forehead on my shoulder, my lips against his hair. I loved him. I had loved him.I think maybe one day I’ll try to tell someone about Gabriel. I don’t know who. Maybe Lula. Maybe Wrists. The way Wrists looks at me sometimes, it’s like he thinks he knows me. Actually
knows me. He’s wrong. Of course he’s wrong. It’s just, the way he looks at me. Sometimes I forget that Gabriel didn’t have blue eyes. Subtext: I have meant to stop coming to the library. I decided it wasn’t good for me. Of course, it is not so simple. Three weeks after my birthday, I find myself at a table admiring dust suspended in the thick sunlight. Borges once told me that snot came from just this phenomenon: that passing through such a space, the particles fled up your nostrils and caught themselves in those tiny hairs. Then he would blow his nose. Wrists slides out one of the heavy chairs and sits down across from me. He does not have paper or pencil or any other reason to be here. I look at him through the block of light. Wrists pulls at the books I’ve piled up like walls around myself and turns them over in his hands. He traces the faded lettering on the many times broken spine of Gabriel’s book. Wrists looks at me as if he’s actually seeing Meme, and a slow smile begins to pull at his mouth. Leaning forward into the sun he asks, “Did you like García Márquez?” My laugh is unoiled, more of a bark than a bell.
Reconfiguration Ryan Halloran
skin peels crinkly off my back again. I wake with gasoline in my mouth, you holding my hand. crouching beneath my sternum, limbs roped around bone, you pull me: the momentum of my face hitting the dashboard of your car, a long time ago now, and not necessarily true in the sense of my remembering it. wanting to feel my face as complete as when we started this, not caving around all the bones you chose and never gave back.
“I loved him.”
Serpentâ€™s Egg Danny Penny
They wear grandpa sweaters and grandma glasses and apply lip-balm with a martial discipline. I watch them, limbs akimbo, hair a tangled, sitting in a pair of reclaimed movie theater seats, pouches of tobacco almost touching. There is something inherently conspiratorial about two teenage girls. With a great hacking fracking sound one of them summons an awful loogie and turns her eyes in my direction.
She flashes a phlegmatic look and spits into a rumpled tissue, which she proceeds to open and admire like a mucousy butterfly. She folds it delicately, and tosses it towards the trash. Nothing but net. Brittany and Cassie, Cassius and Brutus, you seem so adult and disinterested: texting with the left hand, rolling a cigarette with the right. But it was only a few years ago that you learned to kiss by practicing on each otherâ€™s chocolate-ringed lips.
Cereal Brothers Linnea Hurst
“If the kid is under seven, I wink at them,” Griffin says. “No you don’t, that’s so gross!” Payton isn’t actually disgusted. She is smiling, and her sharp hips turn away from me and towards my brother. Her hands flit from the ice cream cabinet to her hair; adjusting and readjusting. “No I really do, their parents are always too busy ordering to notice. I got that pedo-swag,” Griffin says. Payton laughs; her hands covering her lips like they are glass, or candy. “Griff you are too much,” she says and punches him in the arm. I watch Griffin’s mouth flicker, not enough for anyone else to catch. That fleeting smile of his, indicating another victory. Payton was not an easy one, either. She had a boyfriend when she started working here. He waited at the counter while she helped customers, watching her as he ate. He was always eating a burrito that smelled like porta potties after days in the sun. At the end of her shift Payton would make a scene of whipping off her apron and hopping over the counter, which wasn’t allowed, and onto his lap. The two would then leave and walk towards her apartment, his greasy hand in hers. Griffin serves ice cream with more vigor now, “Hi! I’m doing well, how are you? Would you like to try any of our flavors?” He says. I watch his calf muscles define and relax again as he does squats. Customers don’t notice since the counter is so tall. Griffin is always doing squats; he is trying to bulk up. “Well my favorite flavor right now is ginger cookies and creme. Oh, you want something fruity? We have really good strawberry sorbet, here
let me get you a taste,” Griffin says. I want to laugh. He is almost never this friendly with customers. He isn’t unfriendly either, but expertly treads the line between apathy and exhaustion.Yet customers still love him, older women ask him what he is studying in school, and tell him be better have a pretty lady to come home to.Young women stand a little straighter and laugh at things that aren’t funny. “Two regulars and one milkshake, will that be cash or card for you?” Griffin says. Payton slams open the back door, hugging two jars of clean spoons against her chest. She is the only girl I’ve seen with athletic cleavage, her breasts like mandarin oranges. I stare a second too long, and she shoots me a look. “Working hard, Travis, as usual?” she asks. She is teasing, but I imagine her voice would taste like metal. I never know what to say to Payton. “Yeah, you know me,” I say more to myself than her. She is already out of earshot, scrubbing down the front door. “Hey, Griffin, are we still drinking at your apartment tonight?”she asks. The door is perfectly clean, she just goes over there so he can watch her. “Yeah, that’ll still go down, Trav, does the 7-11 by my apartment ID? I don’t remember,” Griffin says. I should feel annoyed with them both. Mad at Payton for asking Griffin and not me about hanging out later. Mad at Griffin for referring to it as his apartment, not ours. But now Payton is looking expectantly, and so is Griffin. The whole store is quieter. Customers are babies to be fed, their spoons held suspended outside of wet pink mouths. “That one is pretty chill, especially if you get the Asian dude who works the close shift, he never IDs.” I say. Everyone smiles and continues to eat, and Payton keeps bending down and standing up again, her arm swiping back and forth like a violent windshield wiper. “Travis, I saw you look,” Griffin says, his breath is hot and sudden in my ear. Griffin has a theory. Never look at the clock, and a work shift will go by fast. The catch is, if anyone on duty looks at the clock then the shift is doomed to pass unbearably slow. The rules are strict; not even a single glance. Once Griffin became shift manager he created the game. If he caught someone looking at the clock, they would have to drink out of his Nalgene 77
bottle constantly half full of vodka. No one ever accepts his challenge, all of us valuing our employment. “Damn Trav, well I’ll sacrifice my sobriety for you on this one,” Griffin says, laughing at his own joke as he walks back to the dish room. The bottle is barely a quarter full this late in the day. I need him in the front. The last ten minutes we’re open are always busy. He doesn’t come back out though. Payton and I work in silence, Payton filling mop buckets while I help the last customer. We quickly establish a routine, each of us going through the motions while our minds amble.. “Yo Payton, have you ever held a mop before?” Griffin’s voice interrupts our shared silence. The smell of vodka mixes with the smell of mop water as he leans over the counter. “You’re insulting my mopping skills? I don’t see you doing anything, so fuck off Griffin,” Payton says. Payton is the only one that fights back, and sometimes even wins. Griffin cracks his knuckles. I played piano as a kid. In a stuffy room with carpet the color of salmon I would pound at the keys, desperate to create something. At the big recital in May I wore a tie for the first time. My teacher’s hands felt like tissue paper on my neck as she tied it. She didn’t ask why I needed her to help with the tie, when I came straight from my father’s house. There was no spot light to blind me, and as soon as I walked on stage I began to scan the crowd. I spotted Griffin’s brown hair first. His hair used to stick straight up on end, no matter how furiously he tried to gel it down. Dad sat in the chair next to him, and the paper bag occupied the chair next to dad. My stomach quickly synched itself into a knot which tightened as I announced my name, sat down, and began to play. I watched the paper bag move from its place on the chair, and then back again. I still remember Dad’s sweater that day, blue and orange, stripes, stretched by Griffin’s little white arm started pulling and pulling on it. But dad got up and left before finale chorus. He stopped to steady himself on a stack of folding chairs before swinging open the door, bright sun illuminating the room for a moment. The paper bag was left on the chair, forgotten about. There were new paper bags, but the liquor store closed soon. Griffin and I walked the eight blocks home after, breaking into a run when we 78
hit the dark patches between street lights. Under the street lights Griffin held my hand, untying the tie from around my neck at the same time. “Travis? What if you manned up and cleaned a little faster, eh bro? One of you needs to actually get this shit done,” Griffin says. Payton gives the floor one final violent prod with her mop, leaving a pool of water. “I’m done,” she says. I soak up Payton’s mess and finish the mopping, returning the carts to their corner and ringing the mops out. After I finish I don’t know what to do with my arms. Without a mop or a handful of change my arms are dying fish, twitching at my side. I watch Griffin, and what he does with his. “Yo Travis, you have an opening shift tomorrow, right? Can you just finish cleaning this shit up then?” Griffin says, not waiting for a response. “I have to go check in with Carl about some business, but I’ll meet up with you guys at the apartment,” he says. I nod. If I stick my thumbs in my pockets my arms don’t flop around. Payton reemerges. Her coat collar partially covers her chin, and she dips her face in and out of it like a little turtle. “Sibling rivalry, how cute,” Payton says, glancing at Griffin, her eyes no longer flashing, but melting. “Griffin, were you always the bully older brother?” Griffin ignores her and switches off the lights. Payton and I stand in the dark for a minute, the hum of the freezer becoming deafening. “Dude, we’re free!” she says. “Do you wanna go buy the beer now, pretty please?” She swivels on one foot. The thing about Payton is she can treat you like shit, and then be your best friend. “Wait and you are twenty-one, perfect!” I remember not being twenty-one. After high school Griffin and I would go behind the Safeway and steal liquor from the loading trucks. We would pass the bottle back and forth in the public bathroom in the park. One time Griffin just kept drinking. I remember trying to get him to stop, “it’s not water!” I said. I think I convinced myself it was a mix up, and that somewhere someone was spitting out the contents of a supposed bottle of Dasani. As we wavered on the hot pavement on our way up the street I started to feel the familiar distance. Griffin was walking along side me, and he had done something bad, but it was okay now. I watched the sun reflect off car
windows and laughed a little. We walked into Borders, and Griffin suddenly started running up and down the aisles. I still remember the sound of him, like when someone screams into a pillow for no one to hear. Then he stopped in front of the magazines, and vomited all the way from Cosmo to Dog Fancy. I was behind distorted glass, just another one of them. The women, covering the eyes of their children. The group of girls, a mass of yellow hair talking low and fast; their lips were squeezing tight over braces to hold in laughter. It was the old lady behind the help desk who called the ambulance. She kept asking who hurt him. “Yeah I can get beer, you want anything else?” I ask as we walk up the street. Payton pauses for a moment, “Nah, that’s good.” She walks ahead of me. Her bra strap is peeking out from her tank top, and I stop myself from tucking it in. I imagine that now, outside of work and Griffin, she would simply slap my hand away, like a sister. “You and Griffin look nothing alike, I just realized that!” She says suddenly. “Yeah, people sometimes don’t believe we’re brothers,” I say. “Just let them believe it. I mean you guys totally don’t seem like brothers, Griffin is so quiet and you are pretty talkative,” Payton says. She nods to herself, and finally adjusts her bra strap. “Griffin, quiet.Yeah for sure,” I say. Payton doesn’t sense my sarcasm, already running up the street. “Dude, the 7-11, alcohol is in sight!” she says. She’s a little kid hearing the ice cream truck. For a second, I feel a pang of affection. “Slow down, you need me,” I say as I rush to catch up. I cringe as I open the door to my apartment, remembering that I left dirty underwear spread out across the floor. “I haven’t really cleaned much, and we just got the place—” “No, no this is awesome!” Payton interjects, slipping in front of me as I set down the thirty rack. She flits from room to room. She runs her hands along the walls, sticking her head inside the refrigerator and sniffing violently. “But I will say, you need to do some decorating,” she says. “Wait, there’s a porch? There’s a porch!” She says. She forces open the sliding glass door and leans over the railing. “Sweet view dude.
Seriously, how fucking awesome would it be to watch the sunrise from here?” She says. “Pretty sweet, I gotta try that,” I say. We spend the rest of the time waiting for Griffin sitting on the floor. We don’t have chairs yet. Payton talks about herself, “and I can just taste those little marshmallows, god damn that was the happiest time of my life. Just watching Sponge Bob and eating cereal,” she says. “I miss being little, don’t you?” “Sure, I guess. I mean I’ve never really thought about it.” I say. I never got why people obsessed over their childhoods. We all did the same shit when we were little, so what’s the point of bringing it up now. Back then we were just little walking fetuses, fueled by sugar and talking sea creatures. “Griffin will be here soon,” I say, more to myself than Payton. She sighs loudly and walks to the bathroom. I eye the kitchen and the mostly empty handle of Smirnoff. Quickly, I pour the remains into a mug, down it, and throw out the bottle. Right on schedule, the door bursts open. “Hello all! Ladies and Gents! Trav, where you at?” The apartment is smaller and brighter with Griffin here. His cheeks are flushed red and as he spots me he bursts out laughing. I try to look at him like Payton would. He is a good foot taller than me, but it is more than that. It’s his well-defined cheekbones, straighter teeth, thicker and darker hair. It still sticks straight up, but Griffin’s learned that girls like it that way. Griffin is the perfect blend of genetics that I missed out on. The only thing girls have noticed about me is my eyelashes, which are identical to his, long and dark and curling upwards. “Grif!” Payton exclaims, bursting out of the bathroom, trying to match his energy. “Dude, you already started drinking?” She takes the glass jar from his hand and takes a swig, coughing violently. “What is this shit?” She asks. “Vodka and water girl, it’s the only way. Take a drink! It’s only going to get better from here! This shit is magic, trust me. I’m a firm believer.” His face is one big smile now, inches from hers. I’ve watched this far too often. Payton doesn’t move for a second, and then bursts out laughing. “You are fucking hilarious when you’re drunk, did you know that? Wait, is this the same Griffin?” she says, realizing the daunting yet appealing challenge ahead of keeping up. She quickly finishes the rest of the jar. I sip a 79
beer and let their voices compete with my thoughts. Their bodies move throughout the apartment, playing a game of cat and mouse I do not know the rules to. “If I had to rank you with everyone else at work, like in terms of work ability, well you would come in last, Payton.You want to know why? You never fucking do anything.You just walk back and forth and clean the glass even though it’s already clean,” Griffin says. Payton laughs and sinks to the floor. I really do need to get chairs. “I know I don’t do shit, what do you think, I go into work wanting to do shit? Nah dude, I don’t fucking care about that job. It sucks, and I’m always so bored.” It was Griffin who first worked at Prince Puckler’s Gourmet Ice Cream. He wrote a two page cover letter detailing how much the shop meant to him, and what an influential part of his day it was. Our boss said she cried the first time she read it. I didn’t even have to apply; being Griffin’s younger brother was enough. Griffin doesn’t give a shit about Puckler’s. He cares about driving hundreds of cases of four lokos up from California where they are still legal. “You don’t have to fucking care about anything, that’s the secret. It’s like standing in the big freezer at work.You got to learn to get numb. I learned that shit from a young fucking age, fathers know best don’t they. Ha! Stand in this big freezer until you don’t fucking feel, until you don’t give a shit. It’ll freeze your balls off. That’s what you want,” Griffin says. “Wait, where is my jar, did you drink it all?” Griffin wants to be an accountant. He wants to make a lot of money at a job he hates so he can retire at age fifty and drink every day until his liver fails. He wrote about all of this for an assignment in 5th grade for Mrs. Sessions, on his “dream job”. She called my father in for an emergency conference. After the conference she gave Griffin extra hallway privileges, and sometimes slipped us her homemade banana bread. Sometimes we ate it, and sometimes we threw it on the roof, just to see who was stronger. “I didn’t drink your drink, I keep it classy, unlike some people,” Payton says. Payton goes to give me a high five, and I give in. Her hand is warm and moist as it collides with my own. We both snicker as Griffin careens around 80
the kitchen to unheard music. I can do this now, since Griffin no longer notices the little things. “Travis, remember Payton’s boyfriend? Payton, you remember that dude. Well he looked like a fucking badger!” Griffin says. He stops dancing and scrunches up his nose. He bears his teeth, flaring his nostrils. Perfect genes don’t get you far when you’re trying to imitate a badger, I take note of this. “Hey! That’s not very nice,” Payton says. She doesn’t even comment on his contorted face. Instead she pouts. Her bottom lip sticks out like she is some stupid clown, “Take it back. Kevin was nice.” Griffin ignores her, “Everyone listen up! Payton fucked a badger, and she liked it!” He addresses the empty room, his eyes unfocused. Payton then walks away from Griffin. She walks towards my beer cans, and my stool. Her hair is frizzy. I didn’t notice how frizzy her hair was before, or maybe it just got that way now. “Payton, you wanna try something?” Griffin shouts after her, even though our apartment is so small. He isn’t dancing anymore, but slumped against the wall. “The trick with this shit is to not be afraid. Gotta get out of the freezer some time, because being numb actually fucking sucks, I’ll let you in on that. I don’t have balls anymore.” “Jesus, what the fuck are you saying?” Payton says, sitting down on a stool beside me. “Choke me! Put your hands around my neck and squeeze. Squeeze as hard as you can, harder than you squeezed the badger’s tiny cock. Don’t let me breath,” Griffin says. He puts his hands around his own neck to demonstrate. His breathing is slow and steady, his eyes for once focusing on the two of us, his hands clasping and unclasping. Payton doesn’t reply. Growing up, my father’s house was made of wood and full of open spaces. At night the doors were left open, and little white moths would fly inside and towards the light. Loud men with their bellies confidently nudging over their belts would exit and enter, their eyes seeing past Griffin and me. We were supposed to go to bed, but we never did, so they gave us Fruit Loops for dinner and Scooby Doo to watch. Sometimes I would throw my bowl on the floor, fruit loops skidding across the wood. When I went
to Joe’s house for sleepovers we had macaroni and salad and ice cream for dinner. Cereal was for breakfast only. Griffin and I would finally fall asleep on the couch, still sitting upright. In the morning, Griffin would wake up first, careful not to wake dad up. He would pad barefoot through the house, a multicolored dust sticking to the soles of his feet. Dad would stay in the reclining chair until the afternoon cartoons started, mouth open and eyelids spelling out an angry Morse code. We could never watch those cartoons though, because as soon as I woke up we would go play outside. Dad liked it quiet and all the lights off. The apartment is getting smaller, I shift on my stool and bang my knee on the counter. I want to ask Payton to carry some jars of clean spoons again, because she is deflated. She probably wants to talk to me, about cereal and big couches and bad babysitters. I bet Payton ate macaroni for dinner when she was little. I bet when she was little, someone would clean up the cereal if she spilled it on the floor. So it wouldn’t stick to people’s feet. She had no reason to throw it there, but it might have spilled. “Trav, Travis, hello sleepy head!” Payton’s face is inches from mine, “What are we supposed to do with your brother?” Griffin lays sprawled out on the floor now, but for a second I see him in that same reclining chair, in that same orange and blue sweater. Payton’s face is still here, she doesn’t seem like my sister anymore. “We do what we always do with Griffin,” I say, yet I do nothing. My underwear look likes dead doves, and I want to ask Griffin if he killed them. “Well then, now what?” Payton asks. She steps over Griffin’s smiling face and looks back at me. Her hand moves up and down the sheets of the bed, smoothing and unsmoothing. I bet she wants to clean them. “Griffin, come to bed,” She says. She doesn’t notice her mistake, smiling as she tilts her head bent back until her hair brushes the sheets. Payton is used to getting what she wants.
folding into itself. “Well if you want me to go that’s what I’ll do, thanks for a really fucking awesome evening ,Travis.You two really out did yourselves. But see? I know who you are, asshole. I know your name,” she says. She shimmies into her coat with the high collar, a turtle retreating into its shell. I think of telling her to drive safely, I think of telling her I’m glad she knows who I am. I think of asking her why she called me Griffin. The door slams behind her, and then it is just Griffin and I. The two of us, and Griffin’s glass jar. I tilt my throat back and let the remaining liquid burn me. I swallow and swallow until I don’t think about dad’s hair sticking straight up anymore. Then I sit down on the floor, and then lie down. The room begins its slow familiar spin, the overhead light butter that floats back and forth across a cottage cheese ceiling. When I think about Payton I just think of that terrible burrito. I imagine if I kissed Payton it would taste like beans and toilet water. I wish I could have told her, though. Wish I could have told her that when Griffin falls asleep, I fall asleep. Just like on that big couch, it always had room for us to stretch our legs all the way out. Grif and I are underwater now. We are in the public bathroom, passing bottles back and forth, on the street with sun glinting off the glass, and grabbing and grabbing for fruit loops.
My name is Travis. “I’m not Griffin. Do you even know my name? Or am I just Griffin’s fucking kid brother? Jesus if you can’t even tell us apart then just go home.” I say. Payton jumps off the bed like it kicked her, her brow
a tweet in the night washes up the next morning bloated and gummy.
(Untitled) Danny Penny
Burnt Smokestack Quadtych
Andy Delany | Silver Gelatin Prints
Chipped Paint and Outlines of Dreams Jeanette Miller
Before she scratched them off so no one could see, we bumper stickered and painted on her old Chevy the words that once wove between us. To think
before then we only cared to paint fingers and cheeks: we prudently plucked eye brows, found ridges of zits in a crease, and she scratched them off so no one could see,
for vanity too once held us in conceit, but we opened up and wrapped ourselves in the fleece of the words that once wove between us, uncreased.
We tried to paint mountains (we’d never before seen), but her hand stroke ceased, she said we were naïve and she brushed them off so that no one could see.
We want what we can’t have, strive for what once was, cycle like the seasons and learn not to believe the words that once wove between us, empty,
But the clock out rhymes the song in beat, and its monotone chime makes all hopes cease, so she scratched them off so no one could see the words that wove between us, in memory.
A Saturday Night at Harris Kelly Pyzik
There is an awareness, in the blinking colors and buzzing bodies, that the two of us are closing in. There are questions shouted into the ringing ears of friends. But you have a girlfriend, And I have someone back home. So you push deeper into the numbing mob, and I wonder if I should have worn the other skirt.
Bacon | Devon Gamble | Silver Gelatin Print
The Brain is Wider | Lauren Flynn | Silkscreen
Truth to Materials Alex Phillips
The rain means well, but I’m left wishing I had that soul of mine. The doctors took it out, fused it with a favorite action figure of mine. The pencil fiddlers sketch faces starting with the eyes, but I start with the teeth, the nose, then the floral wallpaper. Chicken scratch are these lines of mine. I don’t lie on my rug and listen to fuzzy guitars anymore, marinating in my melancholy, imagining myself a teenaged Jesus. Hear these sins of mine. My grandfather had a donkey, but he fucked it like a horse. He said it was like riding a bicycle with the seat too low. He sold those Mediterranean mountains of mine. Every woman I’ve ever loved came and asked me why I was such a bastard. My instinct was to sleep with them all and sing “this little light of mine.” The woman inside of me is freezing on the moon, drinking hot water with lunar twigs and berries, calling it tea, and keeping a diary on leftover gas station receipts of mine. My television might be full of organs and blood, but my soap opera was taped over, and now it’s just a home movie of the mother named Alex Phillips giving birth to a baby of mine.
A New Class Danny Penny
Their flesh seems so taut and lean in the light of early September. That new-car smell lingers about them like a perfume: bright, pungent and plastic. Trees yet to be felled. How our teeth have turned brown in four short years. Tea-bag bodies piled high on a dirty plate: limp and clammy. Let us count the beers we drank like alumni pushing thirty. Driving across the parched plains I wonder what will become of this nubile crop whose dry throats cry out, “Give us your Thunderbird,” then flop on lawns like groceries dropped. Perhaps, I’ll read this at convocation to twenty-sixteen, post-fermentation.
Contributors Daniel Agostino ’13 has great humility.
Cait De Mott Grady ’12 buys superfluous things with her superfluous wealth.
Hannah Fiske ’14 is from the wilds of Massachusetts, but at present resides in the House of Food.
Lauren Flynn ’12 is a visual artist whose work stems from the joint Corson Androski ’16 meekly insists that the world is mysterious and cultivation of patience and presence. She is fascinated by lines, light and unconquerable, even the weird beauties we have a tainted hand in.
Linda Beigel ’14 is triple-majoring in French, GWSS, and Feelings. She has a tattoo of a manatee on her right arm.
Hannah Bernard ’15 is in safari mode. Clare Boerigter ’14 is almost 5’7” and happy. Colin Brooks ’13 believes the fundamental unit of the universe is probably some sort of euphemism for a much dirtier one.
Hannah Condon ’16 is disturbed by the fearless squirrels of Grinnell because they are so unlike the skittish mountain squirrels of Colorado, her home state.
Isabel Cooke ’16 is a real person. She says and does all of the wrong things, but writes some of the right ones from time to time.
Eva Dawson ’14 is actually honey boo boo child. Andy Delany ’13 thinks play is art. 90
Devon Gamble ’15 is a GWSS major from Maine who loves housewife activities like sewing, cooking, and playing outside.
Lea Greenberg ’14 is like a magpie because she likes to collect shiny, pretty objects.
Ryan Halloran ’16 is a first year from California who dislikes writing about himself, and thus is reluctant to write this bio.
Linnea Hurst ’15 is a good-for-nothing. Elani Irrera ’14 spends the majority of her time surfing food
blogs, thinking about cats and unsuccessfully pondering the meaning of life. Sometimes, she makes art as well.
Andy Lange ’13 is a visual artist and designer. Grace Mendel ’13 is a senior English major from western
Massachusetts. She looks forward to a lucrative career as an avocado farmer upon graduation in May.
Clare Mao ’14 is from Queens, NY. She interns on Tuesday nights and weekend afternoons for Chuong Garden.
Varyn Nayar ’15 crashes into things in the dark, even when the lights are on.
Andrea Nemecek ’14 is an English major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was once stung by a jellyfish and has a mild corn allergy.
Caleb Neubauer ’13 recently acquired some well-deserved gumption.
Quinn Underriner ‘14 believes that Pizza Ranch is over-hyped. Anika Wasserman ‘15 was born to Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Cassidy White ‘14 Sidways itch, acidity shews, daisy witches, wayside chit, sadistic whey, washy diestic. Leah Yacknin-Dawson ’13 only thinks seapunk is cool when Rihanna does it. Hates cheese.
Drew Ohringer ’14 is from Boston. He writes fiction. Danny Penny ’13 is that short blonde guy you might’ve seen lurking in the back of Burling.
Alex Phillips ’12 is a virtuoso with poetry and prose. His intricate symbolic order is akin to that of Joyce’s Ulysses.
Kelly Pyzik’16 is an intended English major from the Chicago suburbs. The suburbs part is important, they say.
Kim Steele ’13 is an English Major from Wheaton Illinois. She likes snow, oatmeal, and going to bed early.
Hannah Strom ’13 likes taking pictures of landscapes, animals, and friends. She mostly takes pictures when she travels.
Julianne Thompson likes learning (and also fortune cookies, color, belonging, sunshine, snow on tree branches, and the smell of moth balls).
The Fall Issue of The Grinnell Review's 42nd Volume. The Grinnell Review is Grinnell College's student run semi-annual literary and art maga...
Published on Jan 21, 2013
The Fall Issue of The Grinnell Review's 42nd Volume. The Grinnell Review is Grinnell College's student run semi-annual literary and art maga...