Copyright © 2013 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 reviewed 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 communities 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. © 2013 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® CS6. The typeface for the body text is 12 pt. Perpetua and the typeface for the titles is 48 pt. Didot. Cover art: Vadim Fainberg C/M/Y/K screen print on canvas, photo by Colin Brooks Inner title art: Vadim Fainberg C/M/Y/K screen print on canvas, photo by Colin Brooks Epigraph: “Publication - is the Auction” by Emily Dickinson, The Poems of Emily Dickinson ed. R.W. Franklin. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999. 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 | SPRING 2013 ARTS SELECTION COMMITTEE Hannah Bernard Hannah Condon Thomas Foley Abraham Kohrman Claire Lowe Caleb Neubauer Quinn Underriner Gavin Warnock
EDITORS Andy Delany Danny Penny
WRITING SELECTION COMMITTEE Alex Bazis Clare Boerigter Thomas Foley Geovanni Gomez Linnea Hurst Claire Lowe Emily Mester Drew Ohringer Kelsey Roebuck Eleanor Stevens Emily Sue Tomac Quinn Underriner Leah Yacknin-Dawson
Jeanette Miller Recast in Gold 74
Three Strangers 86
On Knives 63
Clare Boerigter Naomi 75
Sam Dunnington Presentation Day 41 The Grocery Store 25 Becoming 82
Ducks for Dinner 46 Anaadar 57
Linnea Hurst Memories of Monongahela 16 Winter Afternoon 48 Accident 62
The Printer Demon and the Haunted Furby (Part 1)
Lauren Teixeira Fifteen 64
Emily Mester iv
Blind Tasting 28 Turkey After Sandy 63 S.W.U.G. 64 In Protest 73 Pet Show Sonnet 80
of women and gods (of learning how to pray)
Gross 29 The Majestic Plural 48
Leah Yacknin-Dawson 8965B3 11 Smoke 28 Blue in New Orleans 32
ART Corson Androski Turbine at Huber Breaker 33 Untitled 37
Hannah Bernard The Egg 26
Lorraine Blatt Kew Gardens 72 Picadilly Circus 85
Gregory Brookins Hinton Feather Fairy 84
Colin Brooks The Gulf Between 22 Untitled 81
Hannah Condon Autophagy 21 Kiri 39
Andy Delany I AM SAFE (Artifact from Video) 54 Trolled 65
Elle Duncombe-Mills Athens 23 Helmsley, United Kingdom 52
Becky Garner Unititled 36 Wisps 67
Lea Greenberg Spoons 21 Sich Bem端hen 55
Eliza Harrison Bear City 49
Lily Jamaludin Belmont Avenue 68
Clara Kirkpatrick Midas 53
Andy Lange Breathe, Breathe 30 Sandbar 31
Elena Lynch Poolside Beer 27
Matt Mertes Yeah I Think it’s Fair to Say I Liked Andy from the Start
Clint Williamson 70
Danny Penny Squat 40 Untitled 88 Bridge 17
Rebecca Rea-Holloway Kolkata 72
Na Chainkua Reindorf Waste & Drought 20
Christopher Squier Trio 66 Cut and Torn 69
Eleanor Stevens 38 38
Cassidy White Beach Bum 49 Of the Gods 50 Trachea 56 vi
Grace Withmory Blue Series 18
Mary Zheng Dolores 24
Señora en Abrigo Azul Llevando Agua Señora Llevando Agujas de Pino
Letter From the Editors So this is our swan song. Andy and I have stood at this podium at the end of the semester a few times, now. We have seen how the sausage is made—Andy even lost a finger—show the good people. We are delighted to present to you this spring issue of the 42nd volume of The Grinnell Review. Cradle the book in your arms; it’s our sausage-baby you’re holding. Of course, now—if you’ll permit the extension of this metaphor—we’re giving this delicious baby up for adoption, or perhaps it’s going to Kindergarten, though we have a hard time imagining a forty-two-year-old publication squatting to pee in front of one of those tiny Kindergarten urinals. In any case, somebody else will be at the helm of this publication in the fall. And we will be like one of those couples that buy a dog when their youngest child goes off to college. We will let it sleep in our bed, take its great big slobbery kisses on the mouth, and happily wipe the spit from our faces. Some people call this unemployment, or grad-school. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank a bunch of people: Joe “The Iron Purse” Wlos, Zack “Mad Ducats” Villa, Ji Soo “Making it Rain”Yim, and the rest of SPARC for funding this project. We’d also like to thank the English department for providing The Review with a generous spread of tasty desserts; we’ve been eating nothing but sausage for days. We cannot forget Clare “Eagle Eyes” Boerigter, who proofread like a crusty old pan-miner looking for a bonanza. Lastly, we’d like to thank all of our fellow students for submitting to The Review, for chairing its writing and arts committees, and for turning up to this release party. Without you, this publication would be mostly blank pages speckled with a few sonnets and picture of a troll’s behind.
With warm regards and some anxiety, Danny Penny and Andy Delany
Publication – is the Auction Of the Mind of Man – Poverty – be justifying For so foul a thing Possibly – but We – would rather From Our Garret go White – unto the White Creator – Than invest – Our Snow – Thought belong to Him who gave it – Then – to Him Who bear It’s Corporeal illustration – sell The Royal Air – In the Parcel – Be the Merchant Of the Heavenly Grace – But reduce no Human Spirit To Disgrace of Price –
Publication – is the Auction (788) Emily Dickinson
Leah Yacknin-Dawson Alive in Third Grade To say I do not have a father is simply untrue. Of course I have a father, just as everyone does. Whether he is dead, or addicted to coffee, or porn, or beats your mother something awful, so that she has no choice but to kick him out for good, for forever—we all come from some holy combination of sperm and egg. I mean, when you think about it, even Jesus has a father. And if you believe it is God, or simply a man, in whatever version of the story you choose to hold close to your heart or line through your gums during morning prayer, the fact is that Jesus has a father. Everyone does. And so, what I really mean to say, what I mean to explain is the reason why I punched Samantha Brenner in the face in the third grade on the playground during recess. It is because she told me that, she insisted that, I didn’t have a father. It’s why you’re going to hell, she said.You are a child of Lucifer. She made my heart shrink and my cheeks flame in that permanent way only eight year olds can. I met Samantha in kindergarten. Her mother packed her sandwiches on white bread, a point I envied. We had the same pants and she was taller than me, a point I appreciated. We learned the curse words together. Her older brother stuffed them like cotton into our ears; soon we could hear nothing else. He whispered to us and the world became charmed. Not a sky, but a fucking sky, and that teacher, well, what a shitty teacher. Hey, did you do the damn homework?
My parents say you are an a-bom-i-nation. The last word came slowly, halted and studded on her tongue: tastebud speed bumps. I remember that I crossed my legs; I thought I had peed my pants (something else I could not control) the way I felt sticky, hot and ashamed. You have no dad! So I guess what I’m saying is, I really had no choice but to punch her. She bled a little, I think. Bruises bloomed beneath her eyes, I think. Parents were called, and acted appropriately mortified, and it was not until years later that my mother pulled me aside during a walk after dinner, and told me, Bee, I was proud of you. When your grandma found out, she laughed until her teeth hurt. I was proud of you then, and sad. Facts Instead of a name, you rely on facts. Like his number. Maybe not his number—it does not belong to him—he has no knowledge of this number. Just the number of his sperm, I guess. (Sperm. What an interesting word. Just the word becomes, I imagine to everyone, a visual trigger for little circles with tails and smiley faces traveling on an upward trajectory. Swimming, swimming. Just keep swimming.) How my family is a recipe of estrogen, consisting only of: one biological mother (Mom), one adopted mother (Ima), and a number. I imagine a sheet of paper, neatly creased, with printed type: 8965B3 Caucasian, French, Native American (¼ Iroquois) UC Berkeley, BA (intended PhD) Disease and infection free upon time of donation Fluent in English, Spanish, French Permission for child(ren) to contact donor after 18 years of age:Yes
I imagined us together, composting in perfect harmony, a synchronized swim of rotting turnips and mushroom heads. In the theatre, my There is a stranger in your life, a stranger you will meet, who you are tied to, mothers were the only people not crying. A movie that cheers you up! proclaimed the Chicago Tribune. But deeply. Be open to this person, they are important in your life. This is bullshit. they would not move, they sat rigid and afraid to breathe. Eighteen dollars. This stranger holds answers to your past and questions for I, on the other hand, cried openly. Afterwards, a man came up to your future.Your meeting marks a turning point in both your lives. Venice where I sat and said, God bless you, and your beautiful family. He was very tan, Beach, a quack. No way to know.You are closed off to this person, for a and wore cowboy boots and a purple mesh tank top. When he walked away, I reason I cannot yet see. Perhaps this explains why your aura has grown dull. saw that stamped on the back of his pants in glitter was the word Cowboy. Should have bought the incense.You are scared, nervous to experience a loss Later that night, when I woke up and knocked on their hotel room a of control. Be open, embrace this person and accept them into your life. A few doors down from mine, I learned that my mothers wept in private. vibrant gold, now mustard yellow. When was the last time you made love? Less about Mark Ruffalo; I’m sure they hardly considered compost swims. More that the film had been made, that this was Mark Ruffalo, or “The Kids Are All Right” something now to be discussed. That they were not When he walked away, alone, anymore, that they had not been alone, although Hilarious and heartfelt! said Rolling Stone. It’s that one I saw that stamped on the there had been stretches of time, stretches of blue, movie, made in 2011, with Mark Ruffalo and Julianne back of his pants in glitter where families did not speak and friends were lost. Moore and some other people, where the kids are all Where eggs were thrown at windows and red skulls right. There’s a few moms, a few children, a spermwas the word Cowboy. painted on cars. Where daughters came home crying and donating dad, who—after the kids procure him, pluck asked, Are you faggots? Where is my dad? him from testosterone fields—may or may not become a (I am sorry, Mom. I love you, Ima.) permanent fixture in Julianne’s life. Family members recommended that my parents and I watch it But something happens this night. together, because it spoke to our condition. Maybe it is because the moon is brighter here, or the sky has turned Laugh out loud hilarious! declared Vogue. The kids are all right? Are to velvet. Maybe it is because we are in Massachusetts, and I am tan in such a the kids all right? One of the most endearing and genuine cinematic portraits way that makes my skin crackle when I swim out too far, how even now I grin of a contemporary American family! insisted the New York Times. naively, happy and embarrassed, every time Ima exclaims,You are a fish! The HEY EVERYBODY, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. ocean is your home. Who doesn’t like Mark Ruffalo? I creep down the hallway, through heat and salt and velvet, that When I saw the movie—with my mothers, in Provincetown, in a this is it. That this is the night I crawl into their bed to say, It’s time. This is room full of twinks and bears during Family Pride Weekend—I imagined something I have wanted. Please understand, the thought of my very own Mark Ruffalo was my father. I could visit Hollywood and dye my hair blonde Mark Ruffalo—it thrills me. Eyeballs align, and furtive stares communicate a hidden language.When I and live rich. Or it could be even better maybe, like if my father loved organic was younger, they would spell out words to each other, or converse in Spanish, or farming or owned a super hip! restaurant, like Ruffalo’s character. A Tarot Card Reader’s Thoughts
Hebrew. But they are good parents, they have taught me well and I know how to spell, how to speak, how to recognize these small and precious secrets. Funny, smart and sexy! promised Entertainment Weekly. And the ways you have protected me, all the ways I am aware of, and all the ways I am not. How I have chirped, I am the first – the first child to be legally adopted by a same-sex couple in Pennsylvania, the Tristate Area, the Rust Belt. My picture was in newspapers, mentioned on radio shows. A miracle child, a local newscaster announced to Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and eventually, the rest of Pennsylvania. A miracle child, she marks a certain shift in America! America is changing, and this child is the reason! Did you know, they told me once,The Appalachian Times wrote that you were a star. A star! Amidst swastikas and death threats, I suppose I was a star. How politics are sterile, though broken glass is not. You cry then, for those evil thoughts that gnaw at your guts and soak your brainsponge. A real family, and how painfully the words are pushed into their nostrils and throats. A real family, and how hollowing it is to swallow this knife. I try again. It is not because I don’t love—I am not lacking—You are my mothers, my mommies, and I— They say, We love you very much. I say, And I love you, and I love you. But sometimes it is time, and sometimes we are dramatic. Sometimes we all just want a story to tell. Funny and sexy—a great date film! said Vanity Fair. Manicures with Friends from Home I Don’t Like Anymore You’re really going to do this?You really want to meet him?Yes. Like you’ve called the agency and everything?Yes.Well, sort of. Sort of? Well, no. Not yet. I will though.Today, maybe.Tomorrow, maybe. It just seems so morbid. No offense. Won’t your parents be like, so mad? I don’t really—Excuse me, sir? I asked for three (not two) coats of the Paisley Pink. I mean, what do you think he’d be like? Is he even alive?You literally have to text me the entire time.There are many ways I imagine him to be.
Haircuts I call the agency; the website says I may call today, between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm. I explain my situation, and immediately I am put on hold. I twirl my hair. It is a nervous habit, an incredibly annoying habit, my parents inform me constantly. Hello? Yes, hi, I’m calling in regards to 8965B3. I was just wondering, I was told that—Oh, yes, I’ll wait. My parents would brush my hair when I was younger. They learned to braid in pigtails, in single plaits down my back. (No, they did not know how to braid before I came along, you were right to think that they kept their hair short, and went to barbershops.Yes, it is true that Ima introduced Janis Joplin at a peace rally in San Francisco in the sixties, and Joplin tugged on her hair and said, Hot damn, you are just about enough to turn this girl dyke.) Hello? I’m still here. What form of contact information? Um, e-mail? I’m not really—Yes, I’ll hold. They learned to pick lice off a scalp attached to the body of a six, seven, nine-year-old girl. They learned to stroke hair as a means to vanquish fears, different monsters of the night. And so what? So what if I meet him, and he is real? If his hair has not fallen out, and it looks like mine, brown and significant? And if we meet, if elevator music stops oozing from the phone, if we share the plight of Samson and I am not alone, can I say to him, Tell me the story of your scalp. Has your hair been stroked, by hands that comfort when you are hurting over dead friends, or vomiting because you drank too much, or scared because you fucking hate needles and why the fuck did you think getting this piercing was a good idea? Has your hair also been pulled, by little sisters who are angry over stolen Barbies or half-eaten cookies, by lovers who whisper, I have wanted you for so long? Does your grandmother send you desperate emails, too, that she has typed unsteadily, shaking, her fingers unsure how to catch up to her beautiful, drying brain. Do those emails plead with you to brush it, just brush your hair, please honey, if you don’t do it for me, for a husband or a job, or anything! 13
If, in the summer, his hair becomes curlier and, colored by sun, turns red. My hair is such a part of me, really, it seems silly but—Hello? I hang up.
time since I left for college—I could not help it, I cried in his hospital room. I cried in his room, although his mother begged my face to stay unmoved. Do not cry in front of him, he thinks he is dying. I cried in his room, although the Cancer nurse firmly said, If he sees your tears, his heart rate will skyrocket. How I walked outside when my eyelashes grew soggy. How I said, Aaron, I Probably my parents hope that he is dead. I suppose this would not be awful, need to pee. (I always need to pee.) How he did not move, he stared at the as long as he left smoothly, as long as it was uncomplicated, and absurd. wall and said, Okay. And here was the nurse, the one who had signed me in, who had asked The problem is, if he is dead, he will not have died absurdly. It will not me, So how do you like your boyfriend with no hair? He was joking, he smirked happen from an accident involving elephants in Thailand, or playing with fire before he realized it was the wrong thing, the most horrible thing, to say. in Russia, or having a penny dropped on his head that has fallen, fallen, fallen He is not my boyfriend. He is my best friend. He is my best friend, down from the Empire State Building. (Really, does that even happen?) The problem is, if he is dead, it is because of cancer. and he is dying. His mother will not look at me, and her only son is dying. The agency will call me, they will say, We regret to inform you, and, How this nurse, this stupid nurse, found me slumped and vomiting in a It happened about two years ago, and, His funeral was attended by many. hallway. Watercolors spilled from my mouth, my eyes, my nose, and I wailed. I will hang up the phone, gently, and when I fall asleep that night—when I Watercolors painted the hallway; they flowed onto the floor before splashing finally will my eyelids to slide down, and find a way to dam my thoughts— the walls, and covering the ceilings. How I cried paint, and the nurse held onto me, so that I did not I will dream of cancer. Hello, old friend. become a mural. I did not think I would see you again so soon. How you have taken But Aaron was nineteen, he was much younger than your father from me, what you have robbed from me already. (father, even now, cloaked in memories, a delicious word) when I met him. Cancer, if you do not know, is pink and very happy. Cancer is here, he is plush and content. Hush now, and let me tell you how he died. Aaron was weakened, by the chemotherapy, the constant pneumonia. He was ready. Or, it was all quite unexpected. Or, he went through Remember how his morphine made him talk to the animals on the walls? two rounds of chemo before his hair fell out. How he never liked the tiger, and his feet were always itchy. How he brushed Cancer will sit back, squishy and satisfied. I will remember, and your fingers once and said, Do the animals talk to you, too? try to relate. I will ask questions, and rake my thoughts back to a time I How I could not answer, I was silent and my throat became mud. I hate to paint, I hate the colors, the feelings, the boxes I have stored. have closed, a time that I keep closed, in a box, in a box in my brain like watercolor paints. I will think of Aaron, and pictures will appear. Watercolors, But Aaron didn’t stand a chance, you knew that. With your father, there was and how he, like paint, suffered through all of the seasons. White and blue and hope. This was a small gift I presented to him, the first time tests came back, the first time doctors looked him in the eye and said, There is reason to hope. green and red. Aaron’s hair fell out almost immediately. This is what surprised me There was hope with your father, the way there was not with Aaron. most when I visited him. Before I left for school, and later, during winter and You understood. His mother promised him he would not die, I saw that you hated her for this. Resented her for not accepting what you summer breaks. Overnight, he was bald. How when I saw him for the first 14
understood the first time you held him in the hospital, too many bones and tubes and bedsores.You knew to feel relief at the funeral. To feel gratitude, to embrace me for completing the job. Alas, your guilt was boring, and I tried not to bother you for the remainder of college—believe me or don’t, I saw that you were broken.You were gone a year! Hardly enough time! A year before you slipped back into my dreams, and stole from me again! Your father fought. Like Aunt Julie, I never saw such a fighter. No more, please. Don’t you want to know how he compared to Aaron? To Julie? To Zach, or Grandma? I don’t care. I do not want to know, anymore, I wish now that I had not searched for you. Yes, if my father is dead, it is because of cancer.
or those of higher authority, well, these things are wrought to haunt. Like how the first person, the first man—I mean the first boyman, the first nongrandpa or uncle or creepy cousin—who said, I love you, who said I love you to my hair and ribs and thighs, was a little too old, a little too big, a little too bearded for my reflection not to scoff, Daddy issues every time I walked past a mirror, window, or ice puddle. Two Secretaries on a Smoke Break
I always wonder what these people want, when they call. What they’re trying to find. It don’t make sense, and everyone just ends up disappointed. Trust me, you’d think people would realize: these boys were just If He is Fuckable babies. They’re not thinking about the future like this, what ... His posture is just the here and now means.You look at a Playboy, earn a few Truly, this is the thought that scares me most. Obviously. I such that you know he is bucks, ba-da-bum, you’re on your way. have considered this since I was thirteen, since I saw Kate suppose that’s true. wearing matching socks IThis younger generation, they think they need all the Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio making out in the car on and clean underwear. answers. The internet and such, with their facebooking, the boat, since I first saw a person over the age of whatever I’m telling you. is appropriate and imagined him naked. I walk into a bar, and he is there, with silver hair and a black suit, Ah, the internet. and his posture is just such that you know he is wearing matching socks and I’m telling you. Still, you’d see how it’d be nice, is all, to meet a person, maybe add clean underwear. How he is drinking whiskey, or something else that you have learned to think is sexy, because it is expensive. (Nothing under eleven dollars.) some excitement to your life. Patty, Patty, are you hearing what I’m telling you? This isn’t family, How he glances at you, and you see your eyebrows, or the freckle above your they’re just numbers. Meeting someone this way, after however many years, nose. I walk into a coffee shop, and he is there, in a beard, in a flannel, you can’t expect it to fix a life. drinking lattes. How he is reading Neruda or Faulkner, or something so I’m just saying, is all, I’m just saying, you know—you can see perfect and horrible that it is impossible—just impossible—to squash the little how it’d be nice. beetlethought that creeps into your scalp, down through hair pores and crawls into your skull to say, Well, hello. Some perfect blend of Freud and coffee beans and cinnamon. He will read, and take notes. He is, like me, left-handed. Our eyes will meet briefly, before a flicker of recognition or perhaps a lack thereof. And for every man I’ve flirted with, every senior to my freshman, 15
Memories of Monongahela Linnea Hurst
Sweaty limbs separate from leather as our Aunt pulls over the van—the door flies open to reveal West Virginia in all her glory. Our hair is frizzy from the humidity—the hills are ridges on a dragons back, a hot spine. We are drawn to the cool breeze radiating off the river, the soles of our feet fitting around stones. We forget ourselves, where our feet stop and stones begin, lose ourselves in the purple sky until our Aunt’s voice beckons and we bid our farewell to the river and rush inside, avoiding the buzzing halos above our heads, flies that hover and moths that dance around hot light—until it is turned off and frog’s voices fill the night air. The summer days evaporate into thin air, a puddle that boils slowly, stones seems to liquefy, melt into the earth. The hot ground and sky close in against our skin, even the ants don’t move—the sun revolves around us and we watch the days fly by swift as the twigs caught in the relentless current of the river.
Then flip flops, swimming suits and memories are packed, the river now a blue thread stitching hills together out the rear window. Our necks no longer hot with the breath of secrets late at night—the lullaby of flies and crickets fading into silence. Now snowflakes big as the stones under that cool river water litter the ground—I hear my Aunt has broken her hip slipping on ice, fallen into unwelcoming air. I miss the smell of the sky, the lightning bugs flashing yellow in midair— when I close my eyes the sound of the rain turns into the rush of the river. For just a moment. I hear my Uncle and my Aunt fighting over the inner tube without the hole and I try to remember the hot hot sun, but realize I have forgotten. Forgotten the feeling of stones on my feet, which have been softened by rain boots and carpets. I would fly there if I could, and I would watch the kids and flies dance around each other, caught up in the smell of the air, the children throwing clumps of dirt and stones until they were told to go clean off in the river— and they would, with grateful sighs as water washed away grime on their hot little hands until they were cold and clean as when they arrived with their Aunt —the air conditioning in the van chilling the outside world, the ants and the grass.When they came they pressed their fingers to the glass, thirsty for new air and when the van door slid open all they saw was the river.
Bridge | Sivan Philo | C-Print
Grace Withmory | Monotypes
Waste & Drought | Na Chainkua Reindorf | Dutch Wax Print Fabric and 3-D Paint on Plexiglass
Autophagy | Hannah Condon | Digital
Spoons | Lea Greenberg | Silkscreen
The Gulf Between | Colin Brooks | Digital Photograph
Athens | Elle Duncombe-Mills | Digital Photograph
Dolores | Mary Zheng| Digital Photograph
The Grocery Store Geo Gomez
My Grandmother prays to Santa Guadalupe, The one embalmed on her nightstand candle, and I wonder what she prays for. I’ve wandered Through crowds of these candles in grocery stores, Shelved into congregation, with their faces Contorted in phrase. I looked into the eyes of Decapitated lambs behind glass. They stared lifelessly back, and I walked
The grocery stores of my childhood Are expired visas, where echoes of Home sound from the tomb of my tongue. Last summer, I helped my grandmother with her Citizenship test. 100 questions about presidents, Wars, and doctrines, things I didn’t even know. She answered each question slowly, in English, her voice hovering like a halo. That was the closest we’ve come to conversation Since I was 5.Yet every Christmas and Thanksgiving, She greets me with “¡Ah, mí corazón!” and I respond with Nods that bob my head up and down and Smiles that glow bright and empty.
Quickly down the aisle. Near the milk and the juice, A cold aura inhaled my words into mist. Piñatas floated in the ceiling like stars, With masks of confetti and wax. I watched Snow White through my father’s Whispered translations. I wished someone so Beautiful spoke Spanish, the lullabies My mother cast. Someone shushed my father. The tide of September washed and redrew My sky in dotted lines. I clung Afloat to a plastic, golden star. 25
The Egg | Hannah Bernard| Digital
Poolside Beer |Elena Lynch | Digital Photograph
Smoke Leah Yacknin-Dawson
we smoked in the kitchen; the loveliest breakfast spliffs. loose tobacco flitted around the sink’s corners.
Pour a can of hot bacon grease down my throat. Cook my innards good.
marlboros often numb my lips, and I remember the times I wondered if my mouth would move again around your throat, in your hair and on your shoulders, back or arms. there were eggs on the counter, I cried and the holy combination of smoke and sun betrayed my dignity. left streaks on my face where I thought of you and mourned. my lover, the one that I had fucked the night before, turned to me. I touched her thigh, she moaned greedily, self-consciously. she was eating cake and said through chocolate coated teeth so are you like, in love with him or something? I am angry at you, I am angry at the sun.
Blind Tasting I’ll wallow in your hog jowl lube. Suck the marrow, guzzle concentrate. Tenderly—lick a white cube of tofu; might as well be cloudy lard. How do I taste, rioting in your gut?
Gross Emily Mester Raccooning the riches of your garbage can I find that beautiful is not always soft or clean.
The monarch has his piles and watches the piles and counts and stacks and guards them. But know— that is not what I want.
It is sometimes grime sometimes sweat snarls, teeth, slimy mouth, sometimes ragged bliss.
I want to be the piles. If wealth sits high and dry, I want to sprawl rich, and low.
All day I watch, and what I love, I want to steal and tuck in my cheek.
According to myth rats who knot their tails together are stuck, and called a king. I imagine them breathing close warm scratching scamper tangled like necklaces.
Pink potted cacti gold snarls of hair tinfoil, bottle caps gasoline shimmer.
This is how I want to be royal.
Your beady eyes I would set like gems in a ring. Your bitten nails— a hard, sweet candy. Your tongue’s scurrying words sound of vaults unlatched. 29
Breathe, Breathe | Andy Lange | Scanned Laserjet Print on Transparency
Sandbar | Andy Lange | Scanned Laserjet Print on Transparency
Blue in New Orleans Leah Yacknin-Dawson
Actually, Picasso was a time traveler. A cycle, art inspired by modernity inspired by art. Painted bodies and palm trees motivated by Jamaica in the early twenties, captured images of Berlin in the nineties (an enlightening time, to be sure). Picasso pushed his luck one day, pushed his body farther into space, into time, than he had before. He arrived in New Orleans in 2005, a millennium that, before now, had seemed overwhelmed and misted. He squelched down onto muddy tulips; his body ached, he was not young. Alcohol bloated his face, his arms and belly in ways that showed he drank from loneliness, rather than anticipation. He noticed her through incense, through the smells of seafood and woman, which clogged his ears and smoothed his lines: finally, a tingle. Later that month, after they had not left bed, after he had shared personal, disposable secrets, and she had carved strings between their hands, Picasso overthought, and decided it was time to leave. It is too much, and I cannot. She was eating shrimp, or something equally expected. The way she sucked the shells no longer quelled insecurity, a lullaby manifest turned wicked. You used to be so beautiful, and I was not so scared. He clutched a paintbrush, the carcass of a lobster. They had moved the dining table into the bedroom. They ate languidly and naked, always with their fingers. A bookshelf postured in the corner, she had remarked to herself, to her feet: I cannot remember 32
if we moved this shelf ourselves. If we scraped the wood across the floor, so that scratches stand as testament to lust. I imagine that it moved itself. Picasso stretched his skin. He stood and dressed. His throat began to glimmer; cactus tear ducts. Such marks had emerged, time after time, as dependent signs. That it was time to leave, time to remove himself from any particular situation in any particular context that perhaps he was not truly fit to witness. Please don’t go. Let me be enough to make you stay; voodoo toothpaste tastes better on the breath of two. She had stripped herself to him in such a way that fashion was no longer of interest. To be rejected, time and time again, it wears on souls, if we are cloth—she panics—I cannot! I do not have working laundry in my building at this time. And of course she did not say these things. She did not know how to express —how to sculpt with words, it seemed impossible, expected. So she bit her lip, and there was blood. So she held his throat and grabbed his wrist, and instead, they painted blue. Her, the room and him, her, of course, of course it would be her. She painted blue to staunch the pus, the hurt, it oozed from nail beds and eyelids and sat, encrusting her tears. He turned her blue into a painter’s penance, a confession to drown her words, or veins, or dreams. Finally, when both jobs were complete, Picasso disappeared. She lay in bed, and tried to move, but she was blue and very cold. The rain came. The bed broke, she saw the table sink with wind, and the dresser stoop from sand. A storm. In 1903, somewhere in Paris, Picasso painted blue.
Turbine at Huber Breaker | Corson Androski | Scanned Negative
Clint Williamson | Separated Animated Gif
Untitled | Becky Garner | Steel, Synthetic Fabric, Glow Fabric Paint
Untitled | Corson Androski | Scanned Negative
Se単ora en Abrigo Azul Llevando Agua | Eleanor Stevens | Colored Pencil
Se単ora Llevando Agujas de Pino | Eleanor Stevens | Colored Pencil
Kiri| Hannah Condon | Silver Gelatin Print
Squat | Danny Penny | Digital Photograph
Presentation Day Sam Dunnington
When Zach Henderson walked in with teeth poking out of his forehead, they stuck there like jagged barnacles. The whole class gasped and Derek Perkins stopped dead in the middle of his presentation on fluorescent light bulbs. Zach didn’t realize what was wrong, and walked towards the table where I sit with Lexy and Tim. Ms. Hamlin didn’t say anything, just made a little squeak. Nobody else said anything because what we were going to say? It looked like a mouth was trying to gnaw its way out of his forehead. By the time he got close to our table, he knew something was wrong and started to reach for his head, real slowly. When he touched the front incisors, he shrieked, which made Derek Perkins drop the fluorescent tube he was holding. The light bulb shattered all over the floor and everyone started screaming. The teeth in Zach Henderson’s forehead were just the beginning. AllMyFriends.com selected our school to participate in a trial of their new editing feature, and let me tell you, it was amazing. As long as you could find the right profile, you could edit any other kid at our school.You took the little stylus and chose a body part and a person, and clicked save. Kids were walking around with extra fingers sticking out all over, and weird patches of hair, and two heads, plus plenty of headpenises (I came up with that and people laughed. It’s the word for when a penis gets edited so that it sticks straight out of someone’s face, like a rhino). The kids who brought their phones everywhere jumped on it right away. I didn’t have a phone like that, just a crummy one that could play music and some videos. I didn’t get to see the new feature until lunch when I tracked down Chris and he showed it to me.
Someone edited Lexy’s tongue until it stuck out almost ten feet. She had to go to the nurse, who curled the tongue around an old IV stand so Lexy could carry it. It hung above Lexy like a deflated pink inner tube. I have always had a pretty big crush on Lexy, but I admit I had slightly less of a crush on her now that her tongue was ten feet long and hanging from an IV stand. When we got back in from lunch Ms. Hamlin pretended like nothing was happening. She told everyone to put away their phones, and she started up the projector with a lesson about geology. But a third eye popped out of my forehead and she jumped badly. Then she got really serious. “Class,” she said, “This has got stop.” I was still sitting with Tim and someone was editing his belly. It kept swelling until it was huge, popping out of his shirt and pushing against the edge of the desk. Ms. Hamlin tried to ignore it. “Do you remember,” she continued, “When Deborah left?” We did. “The same thing will happen if you keep playing with this new feature.” Well, that shut us up pretty good because what happened with Deborah is this. Two months ago the District was trying out a new lunch program at our school, with more fortified minerals because we got rated ‘substandard’ on the statewide fitness test. Everyone was excited, because people were totally sick of Turkey Tetrazzini every Monday and Chef Surprise on Thursdays, but no one was as excited as Deborah. Deborah loved school lunch. I don’t think she always ate super well at home so she’d show up extra early before the cafeteria even opened. The lunch ladies loved her. I thought she was sort of a weirdo but we knew each other from kindergarten so I never said anything. Anyway, the day of the new program, as sort of a special treat to Deborah, the ladies let her have a first helping before anyone else. So by the time we got into the cafeteria, Deborah was already eating, only she didn’t look so good. At first I thought it was just the old lights. They can kind of flicker and make anybody look not their best, but Deborah’s face was changing color. It was a splotchy white, kind of like when pipes burst in the winter and leak down the school walls. One of the lunch ladies ran over and grabbed 41
Deborah, told her to breathe deep and take a drink of water, but we could hear Deborah kind of rasping for breath. Fifteen minutes later the Moderators showed up. The Moderators are big guys. They wear pale blue District suits, and they’ve got big hands, with hair plastered down pretty close to their heads or else shaved to peach fuzz. One had a briefcase which he pulled a syringe out of, and he knelt down next to Deborah. Another one of them got real close to me, and he smelled like burnt plastic. They forced us out of the lunch room. Chris got real angry and tried to fight the Moderator, but the Moderator was way bigger than Chris. He kicked Chris in the stomach and they slammed the door to the cafeteria shut. After that, none of us saw Deborah again. The teachers won’t talk about it, and when Tim dared me to ask my mom one time, she started crying. Anyways, Ms. Hamlin was about to say something else when our classroom door banged open and there was a guy standing there. He was the one who gave us the presentation on Cyber Safety last year. He had a big black beard, and a tight yellow short-sleeve button up shirt, and a red tie. He smelled like Beef ‘n’ Cheese sticks. On the blackboard, he wrote in big letters, MR. FRANDINO. He started a PowerPoint which just had one slide:
steps.” He lifted a thick, sweaty arm and pointed at his PowerPoint, moving his hand slowly down until it stopped on: We all have to be very, very careful. I admit that what I did next was not the right thing to do. If maybe if I had not done it, the rest of the ruckus would not have happened, but he was talking to us like we were still in the 3rd grade. So I tapped Tim on his belly and pointed to Chris. Tim tapped Chris and Chris turned around. “Hey, Pass me your phone,” I whispered.Chris raised his eyebrows at me but I knew that he’d pass it. Chris and I have been friends since 2nd grade, when Chris got a concussion in soccer, and I walked him home to his dad’s house. He is the first person I knew with divorced parents, and I told everyone to shut up when they tried to make fun of him about it, so we became friends. He passed me his phone. I opened up AllMyFriends.com and hit “search.” I typed in MR. FRANDINO, under the table where Ms. Hamlin couldn’t see what I was doing, and I found that his profile wasn’t even protected. On one of his pictures I clicked “Nose.” The Nose button appeared, and I used my finger to drag it over to his forehead. I knew it worked before I even looked up because the whole class gasped. The nose pushed its way slowly out of Mr. Frandino’s forehead, like • AllMyFriends.com is a privilege fleshy silly-putty. It was a pretty big nose, and by the time it was all the way • Just because you can, does not mean you should out, howls of laughter filled the room. When Frandino figured out what was • We all have to be very, very careful happened he started bellowing at us, leaning forward, spit flying out of his Then he turned to the class. mouth. I felt bad for Derek Perkins. He sits in the front row and caught a real “I understand that some of you are having fun with this new feature that faceful of it, plus Mr. Frandino’s 2nd nose was dripping on his desk.Frandino AllMyFriends.com released but it is not fun, it is terrifying. Look at yourselves.” started pacing back and forth. He screamed that we were freaks, and sociopaths A lot of us giggled. We could see Mr. Frandino’s sweat through his and maladjusted. Last month, we watched a video about dogs that catch rabies yellow shirt, and new fingers or patches of hair popped up on people. When from raccoons, and that’s exactly what he looked like, all red-faced and foamy. Dicky Hastings waggled his headpenis at Lexy, Frandino screamed at us that He tore down a poster that Ms. Hamlin had put up, the one that described how we needed to stop. to get the square root of a number that wasn’t an easy square. “What you are doing is not fun, or funny, or even a little bit amusing. After he raged and fumed for a while he kind of wore himself out. I You are hurting each other. We are working with AllMyFriends.com to get mean, no one stood up to face him, not even Ms. Hamlin, so he just kind of this shut down but until then you need to be sure you are following these stood at the front of the room. Maybe one of us should have jumped up to
distract him, but no one wanted to get in the way of that extra nose. So there ugliest, with big uncovered stadium lights hanging from the ceiling. Right in he was, sweaty, hairy, kind of at a loss, and that’s when he took out his cell the middle of the basketball court, which we use sometimes, you can still see phone and turned to Ms. Hamlin. a stain where Dicky Hastings tripped me and I fell and split my lip last fall. “I’m going to call them. I don’t deserve this kind of disrespect.” I bled all over the place, and they haven’t been able to clean it, which I am Frandino waved the phone at her and she jumped up. She came around the secretly very proud of. Mr. Bilger, the gym teacher, opened the doors and the desk, looking really angry, and stood right in front of Frandino. She jabbed Moderators walked in. They came in single file with their blue suits on. Each one put up a him in the chest with her finger. “You will not call them to this school.” sign that said LAST NAME A THRU D or LAST NAME L THRU P on the Frandino smiled, which turned out to be pretty horrifying with the walls of the gym, and they opened up their briefcases. Inside there were little nose on his forehead. It crinkled up like a sponge. He punched something into silver instruments that had points and sharp edges. One of the Moderators his phone and then he left the room, slamming the door. had a microphone, and the feedback made everyone squirm except for Ms. Hamlin looked like during the Spring Choral Concert, when Ernesto Rodriguez, because his ears got edited off. kids lock their legs for too long and tumble backwards off the risers. I don’t “Students, report to your station by last name and we will attempt to sort this out.” get nervous as much as I did when I was a little kid but All the Moderators were pulling on gloves that this made me nervous. When Deborah got taken away, ... they opened up their made a wet thwap sound when they stretched them on. Ms. Hamlin was the one who told us to stay calm, so if she was scared things must not be so good. She reached briefcases. Inside there were Zach Henderson was at the front of the D THRU I line. up and yanked the cord out of the projector and the little silver instruments that The Moderator sat him down and ran his hand along the row of teeth that was still sticking out of Zach’s PowerPoint finally winked off. She opened her mouth had points and sharp edges. forehead. He said something to Zach and I saw Zach and got ready to say something, but just then the P.A. shake his head. Then he reached into his case and pulled system crackled on. “An all-school assembly will be held this afternoon. Teachers, clear out a pair of pliers. Zach started to get up to walk away but the Moderator your schedules.” grabbed him by the shoulder and held him there, and while Zach squirmed the Moderator gave the pliers a yank. Zach screamed and the tooth, a big old * * * canine, popped out with a crack. Well, that about did it for me. I am not one to stand around waiting The gym was packed by the time Ms. Hamlin walked us down for something awful to happen so I grabbed my friends and said Come on, there. Chris and Lexy and I got a seat near the back because Lexy’s IV stand let’s GO. We dodged two Moderators and pushed Mr. Bilger out of the way. took up too much room with her tongue hanging off it. The kids all around A good tip for not getting caught in the hallway is to walk like you have a us were yelling, screaming, extra limbs and hair and eyes and teeth and purpose, not just hang around, but that was pretty hard with Tim dragging headpenises still multiplying at an explosive rate. When we don’t get a lunch his big belly around and Lexy trying to keep up with her IV stand. Big globs recess outside because it’s raining we come in here, to the gym. It smells like of sweat were rolling off Tim and Lexy’s tongue flapped around even though wrestling matt foam. It’s the biggest room in the whole school but also the Chris tried to hold it still. We made it to the door of the soccer field before I 43
could hear that they were following us. The Moderators charged towards us and I knew we had to get outside. Chris and I shoved Tim from behind and Lexy heaved her IV stand and we all went crashing through the door onto the soccer field. Two years ago the school got a deal from a fertilizer company that said they could grow our grass much thicker and greener than it was already. Men and women wearing white coveralls and masks sprayed the field for a month. The field did get real nice with grass but only for a few weeks, and when we came back next fall the grass had died, just a few clumps of tough brown stuff and the rest was dusty and hard. When Lexy bumped into me I fell over and scraped up my palms on the hot dry field, but Tim pulled me up and we kept running. The door burst open behind us when we were half way across the field. The Moderators were close, their blue suits bright against the off-white of the school and the beige of the scorched-brown field. They all had long metal sticks in their hands, and they were sprinting towards us. I wanted to keep running but Tim heaved himself around in a half circle to face them. When they got closer I saw they were sweating in the sun. Chris already had his phone out and I yelled at him, “What are you doing? Put that away!” But he didn’t. The Moderators were all around us now, five of them, all pointing their sticks at us and warning us to Be Very, Very Careful. Tim’s belly was shaking, and he started screaming at them, “Where’s Deborah? Where’s Deborah!?” Then they were on top of us, smacking Tim and Lexy over the head and grabbing me around the middle. I tried to fight, I really did, but he had me up under his arm, my face pressed against the fabric of his suit. Up close there was the crackle of ammonia in my nostrils, making me dizzy. I squirmed to get free but he was roaring at me and his arm was too tight. He held me down and raised his stick above my head. One time during recess, I was behind the goal posts, squatting in the grass, which was still thick and green, looking at a bug. The bug was large, almost as big as my palm, moving slowly along the ground. Its back was orange, and I couldn’t look away because of its iridescence. We had just 44
learned that word in science, iridescence, and this bug was a prime example. I followed it through the grass. I so badly wanted to see where it would go, to see if it lived on the field, to see if there were a hundred or even a thousand bugs just like it living somewhere nearby, in an enormous humming nest that crackled with energy and orange iridescence. But then a stray ball flew through the air and womped me in the side of the head. I didn’t see stars but flashes, and my face stung. I waited for the same pain from the Moderator but it never came. When I opened my eyes I saw the Moderator getting lifted up by a giant hand, kicking and screaming. And then I saw what was lifting him. Chris towered above us, the sun gleaming behind his head. He edited himself! He edited himself so big that the Moderators could not control him. Chris was taller than all of them, taller than the school, even. He scooped up the one that tried to beat me and squeezed his palm until I heard a little popping sound. Another one pulled out a gun and aimed it at Chris, but Chris lifted his car-sized foot and brought it down on the Moderator who splattered all over the dry brown field. Chris was laughing now, swinging his huge palms to scoop up the last of the Moderators who were running for the door. Chris spun in circles, gaining momentum until he released the screaming men, throwing them so high into the sky they disappeared into the late afternoon sun. When the last one was gone, Chris stood breathing heavily, looking down at all of us. He lowered his palm and we all climbed on, Lexy with her 10 foot tongue, Tim with his swaying belly. I brushed back the copious hair that was covering my third eye and said, “What now, Chris?” He smiled a brilliant smile. “I do not know, but I am sure it will be fun.”
The Printer Demon and the Haunted Furby (part 1) Eleanor Stevens
1. Nayeli’s family In the waiting room, Nayeli takes my hand and tells me the story about her sister and the blackbird, the one that flew in the open bathroom window last summer and alighted on the shower curtain rod to stare with a beady eye at Nayeli’s sister washing her long, black hair until Nayeli’s sister threw a towel over the blackbird and carried it out to the balcony, and tossed it into the air, and stood watching it fly away over the rooftops with the wind in her face and as naked as the day she was born, just watching that blackbird disappear, and I laugh for the first time in weeks and am so glad that, last Spring semester when Nathan’s Printer Demon was wreaking havoc with the heater, Nayeli and I were forced to become friends by spending all of January, February, and March huddled together under Nayeli’s down comforter with sleet dripping outside, and Nayeli pointing one by one at the photographs on the corkboard of that most exotic jungle-land, suburban Chicago: pictures where her sister leaps like something out of Dante through the steam rising from the sidewalk vents downtown and where her Crazy Tío Paco rides his motorcycle through
the neighborhoods where you never hear a word of English from morning till night, and of her, Nayeli, boarding the southbound Greyhound to spend the summer in Puebla with her abuelitos… I think about all this as Nayeli tells me the story of the blackbird, and I say to her that if I only had the strength to run I would take off like that blackbird did and run until I lost myself in a cornfield the way Nathan does weekday nights when he goes out there so the Zombie Kid won’t catch him smoking weed and drawing his fantastic interlocking animals, because out there, Nathan says, you leave all your problems behind and float on your back, all alone, in a sea of murmuring green leaves.
Ducks for Dinner Aditi Roy
It is a December morning. I am twenty-one and home after a long year away from it. The table is set for breakfast, and my parents find themselves in the rare company of all their children. When we are done complimenting the city of Kolkata on its comfortably cool weather and golden skies, my father clears his throat. “I have purchased two French ducks,” my father says. I pause before I ask him the question he is expecting. “Alive or dead?” “Dead,” he says, with a wide grin. “Frozen. They’re in the fridge right now.” I open the fridge later to see the dead ducks on white Styrofoam trays, covered with plastic wrap, heads intact. Years earlier, my father had brought home two live ducks for us to eat. His announcement that we would have these ducks for dinner was met with passionate resistance. My siblings and I were the only creatures that could protect these ducks from certain death, and by God, protect them we would. We would not let my father kill the ducks. We were small, but our voices were determined and loud. “Baba, these ducks are alive! How can you eat them!” we said. “We won’t eat them, and we won’t talk to you if you do.” “You decided what those ducks would be named in five minutes flat,” my father remembers. “I had never seen the three of you agree on anything before that.” This was my father’s clause in the duck adoption process: If the duck-protectors cannot form a consensus on what the ducks ought to be named and where they will live within five minutes, the ducks will be 46
my dinner. When we reached this unlikely consensus with ease, my father conceded his elaborate duck dinner. My siblings and I gained two pets. “What were their names?” I ask my siblings. No one remembers. “They were fake names, Baba,” we tell him, “we didn’t care what those names were, so we don’t remember them.” “Did we ever rename them?” my brother asks. No one remembers. I’m not surprised that we don’t remember their names. We were attached to those birds for the first week, when our hearts were still swollen with the pride of saving something. As the swelling subsided, it became apparent that loud voices and good intentions do not make good pet owners and that ducks do not make good pets. The brown duck and the black-and-white duck were well-fed and watered, but they kept their distance. They seemed to think that our intentions toward them were suspect. Once in a while, when I wasn’t overwhelmed by the chore of their upkeep, or disgusted by the thick smell of duck feces in the courtyard, I stared at the ducks from afar and congratulated myself on being on the right side of history. I had prevented the death of a duck. Meanwhile, ducks slaughtered covertly in factories and street shops still found their way to our dinner plates. Their dark meat made for delicious leftovers. “Duck meat is best when consumed the day after it is cooked,” my father says, “if it lasts that long.” Their crisp duck skin made pâtés and pancake-rolls. They were covered in Hoisin sauce or touched with a drizzle of sweet Balsamic vinegar, or immersed in a Thai red curry, or roasted by my mother’s recipe. “Try the duck,” my father would say, “Who hasn’t tried the duck yet? It’s really good.” We’d ask him to serve us seconds. When the dishes were cleared and we sat, slouched in our chairs, contemplating dessert, my father would sometimes remember the meal we had just finished fondly, “Aah. The Duck was excellent, no?” Meals at home were distinctly boisterous, but I learned to enjoy quieter meals when I moved away. Twenty and traveling alone, I sat down at a restaurant in Fiesole, Italy. The seat across from me was empty but I saw the city of Florence beyond it. My glass of Chianti cast a red glistening
shadow onto my white plate. I had been thoughtful with the menu—I read it comprehensively, looking at prices and descriptions, and made calculated decisions about what I would like best. I was served a plate of Rose Duck— the duck meat was still pink in the middle and sliced thin, a layer of fat and crispy skin along the circumference of each slice. The slices of meat sat beside a serving of pearl-barley risotto. I was heady with independence, but it took me a single bite of the supple meat to miss my father. I imagined him sitting opposite me with a less fortunate order. “Hey,” he would say. “Would you like some of my dish? It’s really good.” “It doesn’t look good,” I would respond, “you’re just trying to make me reciprocate your gesture and offer you some of this duck.” “No no no. That’s not what I’m trying to do, but if you want to give me some duck, out of the love of your heart, I would not be opposed to it. I don’t want any of that pearl-barley rubbish. Do you want to serve me the duck on my side plate?” We rarely talk about the story of our duck-adoption when my father is not present. You remember, Baba, when you brought those two ducks home? The courtyard they lived in was behind my father’s study. Their noise and smells did not reach our bedrooms, but they made their way into his sanctuary. Is it possible for me to forget? my father teases. He rarely brings up the cacophony and odor. He talks about our spirit and spunk, our ability to cooperate under pressure, the excellent-bordering-on-ridiculous argumentswe made to “rescue” the ducks. I sometimes acknowledge the other side of the story. The black-and-white duck was the last to die. It did not die quietly of disease or old age like its friend, the brown duck. We heard its hideous cries pierce through a quiet, dewy Christmas morning. When we got up to see what was going on, it was already too late. A stray cat had finally figured out a way to come into the courtyard. When we opened the door to the courtyard, the cat ran away with what it could. It left behind a dismembered head, a flurry of white feathers, all tainted with a touch of red. Cats, I hear, like to play with their food. We scooped up the feathers and threw them in the trash. “Who will cook the ducks?” my father asks. I think about the blackand-white duck as we agonize over the fate of the dead French ducks. I can’t
remember when I started eating duck again. We all know that my mother will cook these ducks, but she feigns ignorance. With a short smirk spread across her face, she answers Baba. “I don’t know.You?” My father laughs nervously. The French ducks swim, posthumously, in a golden curry that my mother has prepared. I sit in front of a decorated ceramic plate, across the table from my father. He has already served himself a bed of rice. When my grandmother arrives, the meal will begin. The air is thick with conversation. My parents talk about us, we talk about our new lives. Indro has been working for a Tech company in Seattle for more than two years. Rhea has been working for a member of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi after her year-long Masters program in London. I am studying at a liberal arts college in a place my family calls Middle-of-Nowhere, Iowa. My father looks at the duck, and then he looks at me. “Raka and I,” he says, “the two of us, we’re very similar. We like the exact same pieces of meat. She doesn’t like the legs, I don’t like the legs. She likes the wings, I like the wings. She likes the breast, I like the breast. She doesn’t like the neck, I don’t like the neck.” I smile at him before I respond. “All of our survival instincts come out at the dinner table. It’s always a race to the best piece of meat.You’re halfway through eating a piece of meat before you realize it’s the one I want. And I do the same thing!” My grandmother arrives, and the meal begins. It is appropriate to first eat the bitter vegetable stew, shukto, as a palette cleanser. Follow this with the neutral taste of ghee and rice. Follow that with rice and yellow lentils and fried vegetables. Follow that with the cauliflower curry. The climax of your meal will be the duck curry. After that, you can move onto the sweet part of the meal – a bit of bread with mango chutney, and then Kolkata’s famous brown-sugar yogurt, and finally, you may end your meal with a rice pudding with raisins and cashews. As the dish of bitter vegetable stew does the rounds, I stare at the duck curry. My father catches my gaze and smiles. He picks up the ladle and serves me a piece of duck. It’s the one we’ve both been eyeing all along. 47
The Majestic Plural
it is just your freckled white skin and erect nipple beyond that angular branches and gray sky smoke wafts upwards, it’s trail seductive
mostly it’s me, you, you, again, us mostly there’s a headcount but ugh, the pronouns when joy squishes tongues with the soft patois of a drunk once sharp and each once a we now heaps sweet pulp moony and mushed like a warble like slurred like iiiii will alwaaaays love yoooooush
we are puzzle pieces, pockets of warm skin. you exhale smoke as i exhale comfort. i do not think of us again like this until I watch a flock of geese interrupt the fleshy pink of sunset.
they separate and converge fitting back together seamlessly, every time, to continue on their way.
Bear City | Eliza Harrison | Digitally Manipulated Pen and Ink
Beach Bum | Cassidy White | Digital Photograph
Of the Gods
Cassidy White | Digital Photo Collage
Helmsley, United Kingdom | Elle Duncombe-Mills | Digital Photograph
Midas | Clara Kirkpatrick | Painted Plaster, Plexiglass
I AM SAFE (Artifact fromVideo) | Andy Delany | Paper, Emergency Road Flare
Sich Bem端hen | Lea Greenberg | Silkscreen on cotton
Trachea | Cassidy White | Digital Photograph
Anaadar Aditi Roy
When I sit down with my first cup of tea in the morning, the city is still asleep. I hear the same sounds every day: my wife’s gentle snores as she lies asleep on our bed, the neighbor’s air-conditioner working hard, gurgling water as it breathes air, the bristles of a sweeper’s broom against the concrete of the street outside. At six in the morning, I hear the large clock at St. Joseph’s School ring six times. That’s when I leave the house for work. Almost five years ago, as I was waiting to hear that clock ring, I heard an unfamiliar sound. It was the doorbell of my own house. I didn’t have visitors often, but I had certainly heard my own doorbell ring before. At that hour, it sounded peculiar, obtrusive. I left my cup of tea and went to the door. With my hand on the doorknob, I rehearsed a reprimand: “What are you doing ringing a gentleman’s bell at this hour?” I had decided that I would be very firm. But as soon as I opened the door, I swallowed those words. The man who was at my door, before six in the morning, looked just like me. The stranger had large ears with attached earlobes. I had often looked for those ears in crowds. When I saw a pair of them, I would allow myself to dream. I would dream that the owner of the ears would find me, come up to me, pick me up and hold me in his arms. He would say “You are mine,” and then, I would be his. When I was ten, I saw a man at the fruit market with those same ears and my fat lower lip. I had waded through the crowd and grabbed his hand so tightly that Naren and Rimi, my adoptive parents, had needed to drag me away, apologizing to the large-eared shopper. I had left the imprints of my nails on his hands.
That morning, the stranger who stood at my door didn’t just have those large ears. He had my wide-based blunt nose, my thin upper and fat lower lip, my dimpled chin. He could have been my twin if he hadn’t looked at least ten years older than me. As he stood there, I stared into the eyes hidden behind his thick brown spectacles with bifocal lenses. I decided that this was no coincidence. “Anaadar?” he said. He knew my name. “Yes,” I replied. “I am here quite early,” he continued in a clear and melodic voice, “I apologize for that.” He shook my hand with a pleasant, sturdy grip. “My name is Umesh Choudhury. I am the brother of the late Prabeen Choudhury.” As I looked at him, I remembered my days at the Shishu Bhaban Orphanage. They all called me Choudhury there. “Prabeen Choudhury is, of course, your father,” he said. I wondered if I accepted that – “father” without the preceding “biological.” My first instinct was to ask him why he hadn’t come looking for me earlier. I would have shouted that question at him as a young-blooded twenty year old. Then I remembered that I was fifty-five, a married man. I closed my front door behind me, matched Umesh’s soft tone, and asked him, “So, how did you find me?” Umesh seemed grateful for this question. I had given him an easy one. “Oh, let’s see,” he said. “My son works at the phone company and you can look people up by their first name on the computers. Anaadar is a unique name.” He cleared his throat and told me all about the technology. His son had typed in the seven letters in my first name and hit a button, and that’s all it took. That’s how far away I was from them: seven letters and the click of one button. I wondered why my uncle had suddenly come to see me. Why are you here? I ought to have asked. In that moment, the question had seemed rude. “Would you like me to bring you a cup of chai?” I said instead. “No,” he responded. “No, that’s okay.You see, I was hoping you could come to your father’s funeral this afternoon.” He said the words quickly. Then he stood up tall and his body began to look stiff again. I had not imagined my father would be so freshly dead. 57
“Why do you want me there?” I asked. wondering if I should mention the invitation to the funeral. I decided not to. “I want you there,” he replied, “because your father wanted you “Was there someone at the door this morning?” she asked as I was there.” He pulled out a piece of paper from his front pocket. It was the Xerox leaving, as though she could sense that I had a secret. “Oh.Yes.” I said. “Someone who knew my father.” copy of a typewritten letter, written in English. “I thought you might want She said, “Is it someone I know?” to read this.” I took the letter from him and bid him farewell. “I will try to be My father, I had said, and I knew she would think of Naren. “No, it there,” I said, “but I might not make it.” He told me he understood. He did wasn’t someone you know.” I wonder if she would have told me not to go to not try to coax me. As Umesh turned to get into his car, I asked him the question that the funeral. Now that she knows, she says she doesn’t know what she would had been bubbling in my brain since I heard the words late Prabeen Choudhury. have done. “Umesh,” I called out, “is my mother alive?” He shook his head. “No son,” he The city was still asleep when I stepped outside. The rain had kept said. “She died as you were being born.” He got into that little red sedan of my potential customers in their beds a little longer. The rainwater felt heavy his, and he drove away. I went inside. That was the first time I really looked at that letter in on my shirt. I remember feeling overwhelmed and exhausted after that my hand. I could not read English, so I could not read this letter.You may short brisk walk, but at least I reached my establishment quickly. My small think it was stupid of me to not tell Umesh that. I should have chai stall; it had been encroaching on the same piece of asked him to read the letter to me. But there he was, standing I had not imagined pavement for the last sixty years. I looked up at the sign and under the tin roof that covered my doorway, looking at my remembered, for the ninetieth time, that I needed to change my father would be dull, cheap shirt. He was looking at my greasy nose and my it. It read, “Naren’s Chai and Snacks.” In reality, it had been so freshly dead. small house. He saw that I owned no car and had no air“Anaadar’s Chai and Snacks” for the last three months, but I’d conditioning. He saw that my wrist watch had a plastic band never really got around to making that change. Even though I was at least a half hour late, my helper-boys had not and that the gold film that covered the buckle of my belt had chipped away arrived. They were perpetually late: Arun as a sign of disrespect, but not Ajit, to reveal the rusted “steel” underneath. At least he thought I had a quality who wanted to be there on time but was just unable to do so. education. I sat down and finished my cup of tea. I only realized that I was late I opened the packet of Sunflower oil and wore my watch. I unlocked for work when my wife came out of our bedroom and asked me why I had the stall and placed my wallet and the letter on the back shelf, away from not left. “I suppose I did not hear the clock go off,” I said. I don’t remember prying hands. I brought out the eggs and the milk and set the first pot of chai what I was thinking about right then, but my wife had brought me out of on the stove. I always have to do this work myself, but typically, it’s all I do. a daydream. I finally heard the rain on my tin roof. It sounded like drums The years are catching up with me. Once the boys take over, I sit on the bench next to the stall. I built beating. “Your umbrella is broken, dear,” my wife said. We looked for resealable plastic bags in the kitchen together and that bench myself, when I was twenty, out of wood and bricks. The bricks my wife found one that had originally held Sunflower oil. She had washed it had changed and the wood had changed, but I would tell customers, “The and kept it safely for a rainy day. I packed my wallet and watch and the letter idea of constructing it is still mine!” I sit on that bench and talk to my in it. I tied another plastic bag around my head. “I’ll be off then,” I told her, customers. How are their wives and children? What news of their jobs and 58
grandchildren? Have they tried the new cookies at my store? They always our halls, every expression of joy felt like a show. Naren saw me sitting quietly come back for the conversation, I think. and called Rimi over. “Look Rimi,” he said, “our son could have your beautiful On that day, I did a lot more than just set up. I thought I could work eyes.” A few days later, they took me home. They knew my name by then. all day – stand by the stove and make egg-toasts and put on pot after pot Less than a week after I had moved into their home, Naren sat down of tea, clean dishes – and no one would notice that I was trying to avoid conversation. I felt like it was going to work too, for a bit. Arun came in first by my side and asked me the question. “Anaadar, perhaps we should change your name?” I did not want to change my name. I did not want to tell Naren and saw me working. He didn’t say a thing. He just poured himself a cup of tea, found the morning newspapers, sat down on the bench, and said, “When why either. I held a fantasy close to my heart, from the age of four, and for a longer time than I care to admit. My name, I used to think, had clues hidden you need someone to do the dishes, just call me.” Ajit came in a bit later – I saw him running as he turned the street within it, planted by my real parents to find me when I am older. Change corner, his spindly legs flailing. When he arrived, he was out of breath. your name, he said, and I looked down at the new clothes they had carefully “Sorry,” he said. “Sorry, because today I am really late. Really late.” Ajit is selected for me, and I felt the oil they had rubbed into my scalp, and the a sweet boy. As he caught his breath, he looked at orderly manner in which Rimi had parted my hair me with all of my work, and then at Arun who was into two distinct sections, and I screamed. I was not “Please, please stop, the reading the newspapers like a customer, then back at the scruffy little boy I was at the orphanage, and I neighbors will think we’re me, before he said, “Is everything alright with you?” screamed for everything that boy was losing. I nodded without looking up at him. My eyes were killing you. You can have your I sobbed loudly, filling my cavernous lungs with large draws of breath after every sob. I leaked water by beginning to fill with memories. name. We want you to have the pint. And then, through my teary-eyed gaze, I saw what you want, that’s all.” Ajit washed dishes by my side and I could feel Naren hide behind Rimi. I saw him clasp her hand and his burning gaze against my right cheek. He never fix his gaze on her shoulder. He let me cry for a while looked away. My clients looked up at me and said, “Excellent chai, Naren, can and then he came up to me and whispered, “Please, please stop, the neighbors we have another?” They didn’t know my name. “Aw-naa-dor,” I said it out loud will think we’re killing you.You can have your name. We want you to have for them, under my breath. what you want, that’s all.” I cried for many more hours, but I lowered the It felt strange to even say my own name when that letter was just decibel. sitting there behind me. I knew I couldn’t read it, but I knew it had the single The day I found out what my name meant, I wished I had let Naren truth of how I was who I was. That letter would know why I was called change it. An older boy had spat the meaning at me at school. I crouched in Anaadar. Naren and Rimi didn’t know my name when they decided to adopt a corner, waiting for my body to stop hurting. I had started the battle, and I me. Naren fell in love with me for my gray eyes. They were just like Rimi’s. I had been beaten. “Neglect, you little shit,” my attacker told me, “someone decided to was seven when they first met me. I was sitting in a corner of the orphanage’s common room. Other children were drawing and dancing, but it felt like they give you a name that means ‘neglect.’You won’t be loved or respected. Think weren’t really doing it for themselves. As prospective parents walked through about that the next time you call someone else a goddamn bastard.” 59
I went to the library before I went to the bathroom. I walked in with my bloody nose and asked for a dictionary. I knew he was right, but still, I had to confirm it. “Anaadar(n): neglect, without courtesy or affection” I had wondered, then, if I had been carted into the orphanage nameless. I decided that I had come in with a dozen other children. I had come in with barely any flesh, frail skin, brittle bones. I was destined to die. Maybe the nun who received me had named me. She saw that I would be neglected, and so she named me Anaadar.
The day I had to stop going to school, the headmaster gave me a letter to take to my father. I carried it in a sealed envelope in my backpack and wondered what it said. I still don’t know what the letter said, but I remember what I thought it said. “If your son wasn’t such a nincompoop, perhaps he’d have half a shot at life. Sadly for you and your wife, this doesn’t seem likely.” I gave the letter to Naren. Perhaps they should have waited for another grayeyed boy, I thought. I wondered, then, if I had been thrown away. My father had looked at my hideous little face when I was born and decided he wanted something better for his wife. He had wrapped me up and left me in a garbage truck and yanked I remembered the day I stole a large hunk of bread from the corner the numbered bracelet off my wrist. Maybe he had placed that bracelet around store. I was fourteen and hungry. I ate it on my way home, and the flour left the hand of some pristine girl that lay silently in some abandoned crib. Naren hugged me when he finished reading the letter. “It’s okay,” he its incriminating trace on my face. I walked into the apartment, still chewing told me, “you can come work for me.” on the last piece of bread. Naren and Rimi were home. “Where did you get that?” Naren asked me. But Naren knew the truth; “At the store,” I said. When I lay down with a woman for the first time, he raised his hand and “Did you pay for it?” he asked me. I remember I was twenty-two, and she was committing a sin. As we struck me on my jaw. clearly how angry that question made me. Naren knew I lay there in the aftermath of her mistake, I pondered could not pay for the bread, and still, he asked me. mine. Had I passed something onto her that I could not “Yes,” I said. “I paid for it.” But Naren knew the truth; he raised his be responsible for? She returned to her husband and her family soon after, and hand and struck me on my jaw. I lay there in bed, naked, wondering if I had created misery. I wondered if my I wondered that day if my parents had died when I was born. Their mother had taken a lover too, and her child was born with her lover’s eyes. car crashed into the side of a bridge, they tumbled down a hill while flying I still didn’t know the whole truth of what had happened to me, just kites, they slid down the slick stairs of their house, they suffered a bout of that my father knew my name. That my mother had died as I was being born. dengue in tandem. They went into a hospital as damaged goods. Their doctors quickly realized they had three lives to save and not The letter knew everything else. And my father, he was going to be burned in two. They tore open my mother and extricated me from her. As I wailed in the afternoon. He had wanted me to be there. At about half past ten that morning, I had no customers.That’s when I my new crib, my parents died their unfortunate and inevitable deaths. The picked up the letter and sat on the bench. Arun was a few yards away, smoking a doctor looked down at me. He scrawled the name Anaadar onto my birth cigarette. Ajit was stacking clean tumblers. I was sitting and staring at a piece of certificate before filling in their death certificates. When I stepped out of my daydream, I heard Naren crying audibly in paper. the kitchen, but I did not forgive him. Ajit knew I could not read English, but he never bothered to make me admit it. “Here, hand that to me,” he would say, whenever he saw a piece of paper 60
The day I came home with my wife for the first time, we were both with unfamiliar letters in my hand. “You’re straining your eyes.” I let Ajit have the letter. twenty-three, and she was nervous. She had lowered her eyes in fear. She “Don’t read it,” I told him, and Ajit frowned. “Don’t read it out was afraid my parents wouldn’t approve of her. “Not approve of you?” I asked loud, that is.” her, incredulously. “They took in this big good-for-nothing oaf and loved him “Ok?” Ajit said. endlessly. How could they not love you?” “I just have a few questions. Can you answer them for me?” Rimi had smiled at this awkward girl, and with a touch of her finger, “Yes,” Ajit was beginning to read the letter. “Prabeen is writing this lifted up my wife’s chin and banished her fears. She had welcomed her to the letter, Anaadar. He’s writing it to Umesh.” Ajit told me. family. Naren had wrapped his arm around me and given my shoulder a loving “Did he name me? Did he give me the name Anaadar?” I asked. squeeze. I could hear him say, “You’ve done well, boy.” Ajit scanned the words quickly. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, Prabeen did.” He There were at least twenty people huddled around Prabeen’s body at found the words and read them: “The name I gave him was cruel, so you might the crematorium. I only knew Umesh. It had taken some work to get to this understand why I didn’t tell you about him earlier.” corpse. The mourners howled and wailed, their white clothes colored by the “Why does he want me at his funeral?” I asked. mud puddles created by the morning rain. I had looked just like them the day “I realize, as I grow older, that I cannot do without Naren died. I waded through their sweat and tears. The smell of his forgiveness. I shall never attain eternal peace without his The mourners howled and vomit and charred flesh hung in the air. Amidst the sea forgiveness.” wailed, their white clothes “Why didn’t he try to contact me before this?” colored by the mud puddles of white clothing, I was dressed in a checkered green Ajit flipped the page and saw that there was nothing on and blue shirt and brown pants. I was calm. created by the morning rain. When I came to Prabeen’s incinerator, I saw his body the other side. He shrugged. “Should I go?” I asked him. The answer to this laid out on the ground. A little old woman crouched was not in the letter, but Ajit was looking down at it anyway. I had not asked down beside it and moaned loudly. Umesh looked at me and said, “Oh, my wife if I ought to go. I had scarcely asked myself if I should go, and now, Anaadar, you decided to come. This is Anaadar.” They all turned to look at me. here I was, asking a seventeen-year-old boy. He laid down the letter and Ajit was wrong. It mattered a great deal whether I was there or not. pulled up the bag that was sitting at his feet. He opened it up and found his I was the scandal. The one neighbors would talk about the next day. They had lighter. “Let’s burn this piece of paper,” he said, dangling the letter to be gracious to me, for although I was Prabeen’s mistake, I was his family’s dangerously close to the open flame. I took the letter out of his hand. mess. “Should I go?” I asked again. “You are Anaadar?” his younger son told me. “No,” he said. “It won’t matter whether you’re there or not. He’s a “Yes,” I said, “I am. What is your name?” dead man you don’t know in a city of four million people.” “Indra” he said. Indra–the warrior king of the heavens. “I’m sorry for what he did,” he said, eyes sullen. As I walked to the crematorium, I remembered walking the very At funerals, people sing praise of the dead. At Prabeen’s, no one same route the day Naren had died. I cried then, for him and Rimi. could say a good word about him without apologizing to me profusely in the 61
same breath. His wife was the only one that crouched down by him and said, “He was a good husband. He was a good, good man.” She thanked me for forgiving him even though I had said nothing of forgiveness. The rest stood around talking about logistics. “When are we going to tip the ashes into the Ganga?” Umesh asked Indra. The corpse lay in front of them, unburnt. “This evening itself, I think, if he burns before sundown” Indra responded. “Best to not drag this out.” The priest chanted the first hymns and then looked up. “Who is the eldest son?” Indra locked eyes with me, and asked that I go forward. Eyes brimming with tears, he said, “He wanted you to perform his last rites.” I had performed the duties of the eldest son at Naren’s funeral. I had dropped clarified butter into his open mouth and lit him on fire. In doing so, I had given him the best hope of escaping the cycle or rebirth and attaining eternal happiness. As I had set fire to Naren, my insides felt twisted. Rimi and my wife had sobbed heavily beside me. We cried for the man we knew and loved. Prabeen’s family looked on as a stranger dropped butter into Prabeen’s mouth. They stood awkwardly around me, while Indra yelped and cried. Then they all cried. They cried for themselves. The man they knew and loved had never really existed. He had done to Indra and his family in death what he had done to me in life. He had made it hard for them to love him. I set fire to him.
Accident Linnea Hurst
It is while I am watching the neighbor’s dog That I wonder who invented clapping. How she must have been sitting In a large room With a high ceiling, And overcome with emotion For words spoken, She brought her hands together Wildly, with abandon, The sound of skin meeting skin Echoing off the walls, While the crowd stared, As I stare now At the puddle Created by the neighbor’s dog That steadily spreads, Darkening the carpet. And although I am not proud Of the dog’s feat For a reason I cannot explain, My palms collide In solitary applause.
Turkey After Sandy Danny Penny
Our talk is peripatetic, never wants to settle. Fifteen lilting voices avoiding Israel and gun control. The weather, its caprice, how the carpet is still moist, where Aunt Pearl got the turkey, the dryness of the stuffing. Our tongues dance around the room in a sticky waltz. The guests feign shyness; they stare at their phones, smooth faces pale blue. Howard is in rehab—a stroke from the yak. My shrunken uncle looks a locust husk waiting for a boot. My aunt has grown fat. We bought or baked more cakes than we can cut. The den is dyed indigo: the tarp shell for the hole in the roof where a birch fell.
On Knives Anonymous
I still remember the first time my parents allowed me to hold a real knife. I was watching cartoons from the kitchen table—trying desperately not to remember a particularly embarrassing episode from earlier in the day— when my father requested something sharp for the steak lying in front of him, a thin film of blood still covering a neat china plate. I descended to the wooden floor, and made my way to the drawer. In it, I found two knives. They were identical in every respect but their handles. In my left hand, I found a flat handle, and in the right, a ridged handle. The left knife unnerved me. Its boxed, rigid edges pressed themselves incessantly into my palm, cutting circulation, the metal outlining itself in whitened skin. I became suddenly aware that this thing was unnatural, dangerous. This was not just a tool—this was something sinister. But the ridged handle felt so beautiful, its curves perfectly fitted to my stubby fingers. I cut back and forth through the air with it, the sound of suddenly empty space being filled, satisfying some primal logic. The slice came effortlessly, intoxicating in the immediacy of its cause and effect. Villains crumpled before me. I forgot the flat handled knife, and made my way back to the table, wading through a sea of invisible enemies. I began to slice the air again, and suddenly felt the ridges brush past my fingertips. The knife threw itself at my foot, and with a thunk, found itself embedded in the floor, an inch away from my ankle. Blood tickled my Achilles’ heel. As an adult, I own only flat handled knives. I take them out on occasion, when I feel particularly powerless: to grip tightly and move slowly through the air, just to know how flesh should feel. 63
Fifteen Lauren Teixeira
I’ve started to think again About the hours we spent waiting by the creek And on the bleachers in the heat: Gentle June, sultry July, and sopping August; Before the boys with biblical names, before Your bare bones betrayed your secret And the dainty dots on your forearm had Yet to materialize and the future Was not just wholly undetermined But inconceivable.
S.W.U.G. Danny Penny
Door left open, floor sagging like old tits. Moldy NewYorkers, ashtray pyramids: cigarette butts upon cigarette butts. Next to #SWUGLIFE carved deep in the table, sits an underlined copy of “The Dead.” Winter in Ireland and Gabriel jealous of a stiff tubercular boy standing in the rain—his Gretta, a slut.
April now; where are my fucking flowers? Have half a mind to sprawl on the loggia, breath smooth as sunwarm butter scraped on bread. Listen to Otis, watch the kiddies, coy as can be, smoking blunts—tour guide glowers. Your friends make out and talk about closure.
Trolled | Andy Delany | Digital Scan
Trio | Christopher Squier | Digital
Wisps | Becky Garner | Glass Bottles, Wax, Glass Etching Cream, Gouache and Water
Belmont Avenue | Lily Jamaludin | Digital Photograph
Cut and Torn | Christopher Squier| Digital
Yeah I Think itâ€™s Fair to Say I Liked Andy from the Start
Matt Mertes | Digital Paintings
Kolkata | Rebecca Rea-Holloway | Digital Photograph
Kew Gardens | Lorraine Blatt | Digital Photograph
In Protest Danny Penny
It was supposed to be a kind of protest. As far as he knew, no one had ever attempted it before. He announced his intentions at their usual Monday morning meeting: he would not urinate until their prisoners were released. It was a simple request, really, but one which had so far been met with heavy batons and the tweezers-in-the-eyes pain of tear gas. Also the disappearances. The disappearances and the hovering robots that fired rockets into their beds while they slept would have to come to an end. And no more fluoride in the water. Given more time, he could tack on additional demands, but this was what he had so far. The group seemed supportive. “Good for you,” a young bearded man said. On the first day, he established a new sleeping area in a corner of the third floor of the embassy near an ornate set of white french doors that opened onto a small brick balcony. The rest of the building thrummed with the usual activities: doors slamming, phones jingling, men shouting. He felt the telescopic eyes of photographers in the office building across the street as he folded himself into a cross-legged position: hands on knees, spine tall. He drank water very sparingly and thought of deserts. Outside, bare trees rattled in the wet breeze while the bundled crowd below went about their usual business. Some held signs. Others shouted. Sirens whooped and chirped. He could hear the soft tut-tut of a helicopter somewhere nearby. He closed his eyes and concentrated on counting grains of white shifting sand, the way the wind picked up the fine powder and twirled it in miniature cyclones. Waking up in the morning was the hardest part. Later in the day, he could marshal the necessary will to hold back the contents of his swollen bladder, but in a state of half-consciousness, his animal instincts would attempt to betray him. Opening his eyes, he screwed his nipples into endless
spirals, rousing the sentry of his mind before the gates could open. The twisted red lumps of flesh reminded him of nautilus shells. Using a penknife, he scratched the shell’s design into a wall and tracked the days with hatchmarks: three. Other members of the group began to take interest in his strike. Initially, mostly lower-ranking types passed by his corner and snickered among themselves or gave him a weak smile. He did not care about them and their important errands and committee meetings. Now, however, visitors from all corners of the building were taking time away from their important duties to make an appearance by his side—even the wizened Head of Education and Media, who could barely make it up the steps since both of his legs had been broken by police years ago—even he stopped by to offer words of encouragement. “Your restraint is admirable, brother.You have done much to elevate the people’s awareness of our cause,” the older man said, clapping him on the back. Then the Head of Education and Media turned to face the window and held a dignified pose: a slight frown, flinty eyes, thick salt and pepper hair swept back in unstudied elegance. The sitting man’s face was stretched back like a sweater on a department store mannequin, his skin cinched tight in a knot on the back of his head. His gray eyes bulged from their sockets. A chorus of shutters crawled through the crack under the french doors. He clenched his sphincter and concentrated on the dunes at dusk, their endless undulations. Something was under the sand; it moved as if a man were trapped far below the surface. He tried to scream, but the sand funneled down his open mouth, clogged his throat, filled his guts. Sleeping becomes very difficult. The days turn to nights turn to days. He no longer bothers with the hatch-marks. Bright-eyed men, really boys with only a few corkscrew hairs on their chin, appear at regular intervals announcing he has arrived at such and such a day, that his story has appeared on this channel or the front page of that paper. They tell him he his trending—ethere is a hash-tag. He is glad to contribute to the cause. From the window, he sees black-clad policemen, their padded shoulders, 73
their bulbous helmets, their jagged-toothed assault rifles. A group of them stand in a semi-circle, smiling and pointing at his balcony. One appears to be fumbling with something in his black cargo-pants. A droopy pink rat emerges from his fly followed by a thin stream of clear urine which he uses to draw a semblance of a smiley-face in the snow. The others holler and guffaw, bend over in laughter. The urinator holds up a gloved middle finger and makes faces of ecstasy aimed at the third floor. His skin begins to turn a strange yellowy-brown, like the color of dijon mustard. He can no longer feel much bellow his navel. His teeth have been ground down to smooth ivory cubes. Strange white circles dominate his vision and remain even when he closes his eyes, though he sometime confuses them with camera flashes. He can no longer summon the sand. The sounds of chanting filter up from the street. Many hands touch his shoulder, caress his back: smooth and moist, hard and cracked, some missing fingers, others covered in hair. His body seems to harden, to calcify in his cross-legged pose. A megaphone squawks incomprehensibly over the screaming mob. He wants to wiggle his toes, but they do not respond. He tries twisting his back: nothing. The world around him bends into strange contortions. The ripe smell of the floral wallpaper like a wild pear grove, the angry hum emanating from the dark brown desks piled in a corner of the room, the burning nails that rake his chest with each whirl of the helicopters’ blades as they circle the embassy in long listless loops. All of the liquid in his body slows, thickens, becomes a viscous paste. His lips will not part, cemented shut with dried spittle. His veins harden and his bones sag like rocks in a burlap sack. The world recedes into sand, and he sits by the window, a rough-hewn figure shaped like a man. One of the goat-bearded boys reaches out a trembling hand to touch his dull forearm: it feels gritty and course, like a tan hunk of kurkar.
Recast in Gold Jeanette Miller Laying across an aged divan: gray and white flowers stitched together, loose as our arms. George hums “Here comes the sun.” A cherry limeade and a roll of Rolos. Cute gestures, sure, but then they seemed so effortless. Ours is the fall I’ll remember the most, now too scared to climb nearly as high. The Tin Man was the most careful not to tread on beetles; doesn’t that prove he still has a heart? Now one lank figure sprawled on a couch by the curb: free. Eyes heave up to catch Jenny in the wind.
Naomi Clare Boerigter
She had gone. Sofía had gone. The media luna impression of her body on the sheet was cold under José’s thin hands. It was not yet a year since they’d first arrived here—man to tend the fields, woman to tend the man—at the furthest outpost of the plantation, the finca. She had not wanted to come even then, not into the mouth of the jungle where the tilled land gave way, unable to hold its ground from morning to morning. But he had asked—not begged—and she had come. And now, all these months later, she had gone. He went out to the garden, shucked a spindly jointed length of sugar cane, set his teeth to the white banded meat, and sucked. He did not know where she would go. North from the river on Cacique’s bony back, north along the edge of the palm fields, then east across the rotting bridge, twenty kilometers east by way of the road that wove up and out of the jungle. But then? Would she leave Cacique in the plantation’s stable? Would she walk to Bananito on her broad black feet, sit in the back on the noon bus, step out into Limón, into Heredia? The dog Ceiba lay snuffling under the young lemon tree where Sofía had left her. Her legs had been bound together with a horse lead, her long jaw shuttered with a cloth. José had taught Sofía those nudos, his fingers full of ropes and patterns, he had shown her how. The dog’s body heaved for a moment, her strong neck rearing before she fell back against the tree roots. José thought she must have lain and breached like this for hours, the print of her body on the grass like the footsteps of a mountain pig on the riverbank. She had too much force, Sofía would have known this, to be tied any other way, and Sofía had not wanted the dog to leave him. José cut the knots slowly, deliberately. She had taken such care with each. The dog ran silently, desperately, her ears flattened to her large skull. She was not long in disappearing into the jungle—the pure, savage selva.
José left the cut ends of the rope on the ground. He turned back towards the house. Vaulted into the air on slender stilts, boards greening with fine-haired lichen, it stood wobbly-legged beside the river. He would need to find the burro that she had named Valentina. It was a long walk to the fields of palma without Cacique. The burro could bear him. * * * José’s dreams that afternoon were of his niece, Naomi. She had forgotten him again. He knew this, as he always knew this, because of her eyes, which were afraid. His sister Isa was washing shirts in the sink in the family home, the wish-wish of her brush covering the sound of Naomi’s crying. He reached out for his sister’s daughter, for her small hands, watching as her feet kicked at the ground. She was trying, he realized, to back away from him. He looked again to Isa, but his sister and the clothes had gone. Sitting low on a stool was his grandmother. I am going to tell you about the water lion, she said in Cabécar, her mother tongue, and you will listen. The congos erupted in that moment, the beating howl passing from one monkey to the next until the canopy echoed. José rubbed the sweat from his eyes and stood up.The burro’s shadow had lengthened on the ground.The high sun of noon had passed. He had not seen Naomi since he had come to this house on its stilts. Before, when he had worked with the others on the main part of the plantation, they had slept—nine men for working, one woman, Sofía, to cook for them—in plaster buildings near the road, and on the first of every third month, he had been given four days to go home. Naomi would be almost six by now, with Isa’s flat teeth and her father’s dark skin. José had never known Naomi’s father, who had been called Santi. He had died before she came, and though Isa did not say, José felt Santi must have been a good man. José liked to think about these things, about his mountain village and his niece. It was his daydream, to be for Naomi what no one had been for him. But he was not given much time to go home now. He was needed here, at the farthest reaches, to tend the palma, the garden and the young saplings. 75
José remembered what he had thought first, which was that Sofía * * * had strong arms, dark as pitch. She had arrived during a week of rains, when even the fish in the river asked for dryness, nearly three years ago. It was soon Sofía was still gone when David brought the horse back five days discovered that she would not take up with any of them. In those early evenings, later. The dog came too. They arrived in late morning as José was steadying a she would lead the blind milk cow to water, and her white dress would spread, mango tree. drifting like ash or smoke against the wide horizon of the animal’s soft flank. “Hija de puta,” David barked as he slid, fat and sweating, from the José would watch her from his window—the only cabin with a view to the saddle, his palm thumping Gotas’ wet haunch. This was all that was said about white stone riverbank—watch as she took each ear in turn, ran her fingertips in it. He’d brought sacks of beans, rice, sausage, coffee, and they burst from circles through the warm, delicate hairs. He would often wonder then why she Cacique’s back like burlap growths. was only ever like this, gentle, when she thought herself alone. “More food this time,” José said curiously. He gestured toward the El jefe liked that she would have none of them: a cook whose guts chainsaw wrapped in wool blankets, “¿Y la motosierra?” would not mound up just five months after she had “El jefe wants you to rebuild the bridge,” David José was in the middle of been delivered to the plantation. He told them to let replied through a throatful of pear. “I come back for her be. the saw in three weeks. He thinks the food should last,” the river when he saw her— José remembered her in his room that first night. From the doorway, he stared at her, aware of the smell David spat, bits of pulp on his lips. “And if el jefe thinks Naomi on the bank. of the fields on his arms and his chest. She held a it, we know it must be so.” “But if el jefe, in his grandeza magnífica, is wrong?” José asked dully. candle in her hands. Her lips swollen from where Antonio had hit her. David’s mouth brushed gently, “Thank you,” she said slowly. “They say I am too fat and you, José, will be too skinny.” “He should not drink so much,” he replied as he came into the room. The routine for re-supply was every nine days. It took five hours to He felt her eyes on his shoulders, his neck. When he looked back at her, get up the sharp hills, through the dense weave of white cane, beyond the she stared at his moonish face—round, flat—as though he were the sky, close heat of the jungle. This was the first time that it had ever been different. something to be read in the morning with care. They say, ‘José no es Tico.’” She lowered the candle, light sliding off her “There isn’t any salt,” José fingered the slick corner of the plastic rice bag. forehead, “‘He is not like us.’” A pause, “‘He is indio.’” The other man shrugged; then, wistfully, “She always had something for me José did not know why she said these things. He did not know what when I arrived…” “No sal,” José mumbled. The dog stuck her nose under his hand. she wanted. I can help you,” she told him at last. “You can help me.” David waited for the young afternoon to pass and left before the late afternoon had arrived. It was tricky, between the heat and the early-setting * * * sun, to choose the right time to leave. * * * 76
On the tenth day before David was to return, José waded waist deep through the river with a slab of manú wood on his back. He moved slowly,
flame. He had laughed, tipping the fruit into her arms so that she could carry the rocks rolling beneath his toes like slick folds of fat. He had been days in it around the kitchen, held close to her belly like a baby. The rains had started finding the tree, its weighty carcass laid under close hung vines, and days in again—José was dripping delicately—and he had grinned and said, “My sobrina dividing it—the good from the rot, the unsharpened teeth of his saw kicking back long curls before the engine bogged down, clearing its throat deeply over and Naomi likes sandia too.” Sofía was nesting the watermelon tenderly on the middle shelf. When over again.The wood was hard, heavy. It was the best for making bridges. José was in the middle of the river when he saw her—Naomi on the bank. she turned back she replied quietly, “Then, I think, she must be good.” She was wearing red, Isa had always liked to put her in red, and she looked, José José nodded. She did not like to talk about these sorts of things. Sofía began cutting the coil of sausage into thick medallions, flicking the meat in thought, like a bird or a banana flower, condensed and alive. He called her name, long arcs into the greased pan. José’s socks left dark streaks as he walked to and his mind, which had been turning over in a dull, wordless rotation, seemed to the plastic chair in the corner. He did not mind her silences. He thought that scream as though some part of him was in pain. The board slid backwards off his shoulder as he it was nice for there to be two of them, for her to cut straightened, the edge dragging against the hot skin of his and for him to sit watching, because even when The manú had opened his sausage neck. José caught, staggered, fell, his mouth open with she said no words, Sofía made him feel not alone. Naomi’s name as he entered the water. He struggled, hauled neck almost exactly as the “She likes beetles,” he spoke to her back as she leaned over the gas stove, “and the candy wrappers my the wood forward—this was the biggest slab, the most chainsaw would have: sister gets her. I think it’s the colors, because they have important—but when he shook the wet from his eyes, she an unclean, messy line. all those colors.” Sofía hadn’t moved, other than her had gone. Naomi had gone. He sat down. He was breathing hard, his chest forearm, which was turning in circles as she stirred. rising and falling like footsteps.The manú had opened his neck almost exactly as the “My grandmother tells her the old stories just like she told me,” he paused, chainsaw would have: an unclean, messy line. He pressed his fingers to it, and they but there was a rush of things in his throat. “And she loves to touch the trembled slightly with his pulse. After a moment, he thought to look.There in the sheep, and Isa caught her once with her fingers in the sheep’s mouth, and mud, something had lain down prints, soft and shallow huellas. my grandmother laughed because she has such chispa, the same spark my grandmother says my mother had too, which made my sister very happy * * * because she’d named Naomi after her, Naomi Augustina—Augustina was my mother’s name.” Under her breath, Sofía would hum as she cooked in the plantation’s Sofía was looking at him without blinking, her eyes like pebbles set kitchen. She wore cloths over her hair and tied her skirts up around her knees, back behind her brow-bone. “José, why are you here?” she asked evenly, and her sandals snapping against the white tiles. José hardly ever saw her smile those José wished that the rains would end so that sunlight could fall through the first few months, but it was a thing to see, the way it would rise up on her lips. kitchen windows and illuminate her face, because he could not see it really, so He had taken to stocking the shelves for her. Out of his backpack, he pulled far away in the half-dark. “I am here like you are here, Sofía. To work. To bring money to my sucker-mouthed araza and rubber-spined mamon chinos, papaya slotted beside family.” She began to fix him a plate—she did that sometimes, for the fruit piña, the cucumbers laid gently against half-cut rounds of coconut. The first time he had brought her a watermelon, she had lit up like a and things—and José could not keep himself from asking. 77
“There must be someone that you miss?” At first he thought she would not answer, but a moment after she had laid the ladle against the lip of the rice pot, she looked at him and said, “Yes.”
knots. The horse moved to the river, pulling in great swallows of water as José, sweating and light-headed, stared into the sky. He was thinking about Limón, that city of brightness. Four years ago, he had taken Naomi with him to see the city’s markets and its great white * * * cemetery. He had thought she would like it, all the color and the noise and the gente, so different from this, from the mountains, the greens, the jungle. José had sorted the manú boards into longs and shorts on the muddy It was a place he would have wanted to see when he was young. He had bank. It was quite a stretch from this bend of the river to the section where bought her a little necklace with a painted shell. So that when she grew up, the bridge spanned with its rotting beams. He led Cacique to the piles, tied she could remember. José was carrying Naomi towards the beach to look out at Isla the horse’s lead to a thick, quick-rising root. He’d laid three saddle blankets Uvita—Little Grape Island, he said to her, you are my little grape too. He wanted across the horse’s ridged back, then a wooden frame to which to fasten the them to imagine together where it was they said the golden warships of manú. The slabs would have to drag. He bundled up the boards in twos and threes—heavy, but not to break the animal—laying one set against the horse’s Colón had landed, when the police tried to take her away from him. She was too dark, or he was too light, and the policeman said, La estás robando. He left side, then another across the right flank, so that they crossed just behind stopped them there on the street and said:You are stealing Cacique’s damp neck, the ends sliding along the ground. He worked the stiff ropes tight, settling the weight as best He stopped them there her. José had spoken loudly with a dry tongue. El papá era he could. It was difficult, this, for a man so alone. on the street and said: The horse, at first, did not want to walk. It would negro. She is my niece, please. She is mine. set its muscles as though to rear, blowing out great streams You are stealing her. It took him an hour, men and women looking on with strange faces, to convince the police to let him keep of air, and José would yell, flicking at the horse with the her. When at last they let him go, he went without thinking to the green hard end of the lead, and only then, in a great shuddering motion, would Cacique move. José followed the path he had beaten earlier, and everywhere, and orange buses that would take them home, the salty winds cooling on his forehead and his neck. Naomi in his arms like a hot stone. She was too young. he began to see Naomi. José cried out to her until the sound of his voice She could not speak, could not say: ¡Es mi tío! No, no, ¡es mi tío! cracked, the horse flattening its ears: “Mi sobrina, ¡espérame!” José shuddered from the memory. He watched as the horse stepped She was always just ahead: darting between the tall stalks of white forward and put its front hooves beneath the surface of the water. He was cane, the red of her dress like a bird’s wing. trying. He was trying to make things better for Naomi. He blinked once, “I will be better if you wait, Naomi, ¡por fa!” twice, the red of a vine-hanging flower catching like an ember in his eyes. If he could just see her, if he could just see her clearly, then he could go to her. “I will bring money, and grandmother will be well again, but you * * * must wait—espérame…” When they came at last to the bridge, José could not think properly José did not think, as long as he lived, that he would forget that with the shadow of Naomi around him, and he ripped his fingers on the smell. He would eat with the others—Roberto laughing as David scraped the 78
pot for the last of the beans, Jorge frowning absently into his cup, Antonio in his throat, dragging tracks down into his belly, but then it would suspend sitting back on his heels, watching—fire bugs and cigarette tips sparking in the air into lights and darks, and he would have to move through them: the new dark. He would drink his coffee, ignore the whining of the dogs, get through the sunlight to the shadow, and he would feel it. Feel it under his up and go to the place where he slept, the one-room plaster cabin with its palms, below his cheek—the lump like an orange in the old woman’s guts, his cement veranda. grandmother making small noises as she pressed her hands to her stomach. She had dragged her mattress into his room when they’d all been out It is growing like a child, she would say to the doctor in brokenin the fields many weeks ago, and he would find her there, asleep—the room down Spanish. José found the rum where Sofía had lain it, deep in the roots of the clean, his other pair of clothes laid out, tortillas and sausage wrapped and lemon tree. She had been gone nineteen days. He was making notches on one placed beside the door. He stood looking at her, wishing to see more than the round of her of the stilt-legs so that he would not forget. He was going to run out of beans. body turned away. He walked towards her, stopped. She kept her hair short He had no salt. The last of the manú planks was far too heavy. Some of the dirt like so many of the women with the Caribbean in their veins. It was the had gotten into the bottle, into the drink. He wiped at the glass with his shirt. animal smell of the milk cow, of lemons, of Sofía, and it burned in the air like He drank. “You need the money,” el jefe had said to him a year glow bugs, hung in this place that was his. José lay down ago. “More colones to pay the doctor,” he squinted into beside her, his hand finding her hip beneath the sheet. She had been gone There was no catch in her breath, as though she the sun. “They’ll want it soon now, maybe even before nineteen days. He was never had been asleep. She turned from her side to her the surgery. Tumors grow fast in the old.” El jefe was back and he felt the length of her against him. Her eyes not looking at José, but at the scar marking José’s right making notches on one shone in the dark like oil or black water, and she did not of the stilt-legs so that he eyebrow, a bit of moon’s shine against the dark hairs. “I’ll struggle but looked at him with an open face, as absent pay you more for being out there—of course I’ll pay as a horse or an old blind cow. José wondered, sinkingly, would not forget. you more—and you will only have to do the same work where it was that she had gone, because he could still feel you’ve always done.” José remembered the unease, the way those words had sat in his guts her, the warmth of her beside him. Beneath his fingers, her belly trembled. and grown. It had taken him two days to decide, a week to convince Sofía to go with him, and that is how they’d come to be at the ends of the plantation. * * * In the beginning, she had not seemed so unhappy. He dug up half the garden for the bottle of rum that Sofía had buried José lay on the ground beneath the spread of the almond tree. When there, the shadow of the stilt house on him. He could still hear the way she’d he turned his head, he could see the dog rooting around in the hole that he laughed as she’d spirited it away. had made. He called out to her. She looked at him with her black eyes, but You’ll have it all after one bad day, she’d said, hiding the bottle behind she would not come. her back. And then, where will I be? That night, he’d heard her get up, take the shovel, go out into the * * * garden. He knew it was better this way. At first it would burn like a live thing His grandmother was afraid of the water lion.You must be careful of the 79
river, she would tell him. You must watch for signs that it is near. José wrapped his shirt around his fist, dropped his arm into the water. The current pulled at him, playing a game with his muscles—up, down—as though he were waving. He drew back slowly, ran the cloth against his neck. He must take more care to keep it clean, to keep dirt from setting into the rift, from being closed over by the disks of scabbing. José reached again into the river. He could see into the depths here, see the silver-finned fishes as they trapped light on their scales. But further out, he could see no fish, no nothing except the dark water, silt stirred on silent underwater waves, the riverbed giving way to the deep. One of those mornings before they had come here, he had watched from his window as Sofía washed herself by the water. She must have supposed him asleep because she had moved with such carelessness. She touched her skin with the same gentleness she showed the dog and the cow. On the third arc of her rib, ink on her like a shadow laid over night, he saw the tatujae: a cat’s paw, or a puma’s, or a lion’s. It was like a print of what had once been there but was no longer. The dog had begun to bark. José looked at her, then stared across the water to see what she had seen. Naomi was a blot of red against the sweep and variation of green behind her. She threw white rocks, playing in the shallows of the bank, and when she saw him, she opened her mouth wide as if to call out his name. The air José had taken into his lungs seemed to catch and burst. He could see her so clearly now, far away across the river. She turned in circles, kicking up water that fell in half-moons, stopping to stare at him. The dog kept barking. Naomi held her hand out to him.
Pet Show Sonnet Danny Penny
Chicago pet expo at the racetrack on Saint Patty’s Day, the dull river dyed green with ground Leprechaun. Thin-ribbed dogs staggering like winos on the last train back to Skokie. Smell that hot dog-breath, cheese-fried; kiss the Malamutes and the yellow fog. Slam the door and there’s Argus barking at the neighbor’s chow-chow, poking his snout in a Chinese-food container of white rice, long tongue mapping a linoleum route. His eyes follow the gray squirrel darting in the yard, would turn him to red gristle, would bury him under the lilac twice, trot home, fur matted with blood and thistle.
Untitled | Colin Brooks | Digital Photograph
Becoming Geo Gomez
“You’re acting like your mother.” I once spat at an old lover. With eyes like crystal balls, my mother warned me, “That’s something your father would say. Do not become your father.”
My step-father wrangled her to a clinic where you can’t have shoelaces or belts. She screamed and grabbed hold of the house Like a number 2 pencil writing word after word.
My father inherited a palette of Anger and self-pity. He does what he can. People say that I look just like him.
I occupied my baby brother. We napped together and, Still sleeping, he plunged his hand inside my shirt, hoping to find the familiarity of his mama’s chest. He fell back to sleep like the sun setting.
Two years ago, my mom sobbed on my shoulder As a promise lay still in the nest of her womb. I blushed like she does when she laughs and Held her until her shoulders melted. My sister makes sculptures that I don’t understand. She used to yell until doors came loose. She did not cry when our first dog died. Maybe her grief poured inwards, waiting like a bottle of ink. I should have told my mother about the letter I found In my sister’s room. “Why did he leave me? I’m sorry God,” written on the page Like the red streaks trailed on bloodshot eyes.
Walking down the front steps of my porch, I realized My old lover had stopped responding to my letters. He took my kisses like a dove takes flight, while I was at the bottom of the stairs. Occasionally I’ll gaze at a girl’s chest—not her breasts or cleavage, but at her full chest—and I imagine my face Pressed to her bosom until she folds Inward to me like petals to a rose bud.
of women and gods (of learning how to pray) Lily Jamaludin I. The first verse I memorized I repeated over and over in my head for days My tongue tripping over the letters and sounds until they become mine. She teaches me new ones – (I’ve forgotten them now) – tells me stories from memory of the prophets and their wives, takes me around mosques in the land of smiles. They ran here because her husband used to beat her and her children. She smells of talcum powder and motherhood and she holds my hands and it is the first time I cry for someone else. II. There is an Indian woman who lives across our house, I see her in between the gates: she is wearing a purple shirt, taking out the trash, her hair up in a bun, and a red bindi on her forehead. She is so so big, colossal, I cannot stop looking, I think, she must be God. (even after all these years, I hope she is, still.)
III. Close to midnight, we pray in lines of white, the moon and my mother to one side, her mother and my sister to the next murmuring the same words, not just us, (it is as if God is here, our blood, our breath thick with it). A leech sitting on my knee for at least an hour My grandmother pinches at it with her wrinkled hands Throws it out the window, my blood staining our white prayer clothes. IV. My grandmother (my father’s mother) tells my sister to take me to the hospital. I don’t know until I get there. (You are never the same afterwards). V. My father never forgets a single prayer, a single day. 83
Feather Fairy | Gregory Brookins Hinton | Digital Photograph
Picadilly Circus | Lorraine Blatt | Digital Photograph
Three Strangers Caleb Neubauer
I need to get out of here—right now—the plane has crashed—I will drown very soon—I am swimming—I am tossing my arms in the dark waves—the sun is setting and I was supposed to be watching it fall into the Pacific from the air—we fell instead—I am treading water madly—I am growing weak—I am disoriented—I see the cabin torn around the rock it landed on—I am afraid the gasoline will somehow light and I’ll burn in the water—I am seeing the last surroundings I will see—I am hearing the last sounds I will hear—I am feeling the last sensations I will feel—I need to get out of here—right now.
The person seated next to me has a black garbage bag tied around their entire head. It isn’t clear if they are a man or a woman, but I’ll guess the latter. She is wearing khaki pants and a dark coat, and tennis shoes. She is still, and has her hands folded in her lap. I can’t tell if she can see out of the black bag, but I sneak a glance when it feels natural. The train is smooth for now, and the evening reflections produce bright squares with the buildings’ shifting. The glares linger inside the train. The garbage bag glints red, then gradually purple, then abruptly nothing—the train, entering a tunnel, screams. The SensationWhen One is Almost Clean I look at my feet, my crossed arms double out of focus. There is a long hair slipping into the drain, but my foot rests on top of it, so the hair curls like a sine wave with the water. I notice a fruit fly hovering between my legs. Cautiously, another one emerges from behind my calf. I wonder if they have been waiting for the shower to end, to explore. A third finds its way to the others. I spread my feet so as to avoid them. The droplets of moisture pass the flies on their way to the floor. A fourth fly joins the rest, and they begin to circle my legs, orbiting them in pairs. The leftover steam keeps my body warm. The flies lift in their rings, the halos’ circumferences widen at my 86
knees. The drain gurgles startlingly with the last pools of water, and the flies reach where my thighs meet. They begin encircling my hips. I don’t know what to do, if anything. I cover my breasts as they pass my navel, and widen to envelope my elbows, still dripping plump beads. The fruit flies are equally spaced in their rings, and arrive at my eyes. One stops slowly, directly in front of me, and the remaining three follow suit with each arrival. The hairs on my arms dislodge the last droplets.
A Familiar Man A familiar man looks at me as he finds his seat. His eyes appear as if they’re missing something, like glasses, though I don’t know if he ever used to own a pair. He looks away casually. His short, salted hair turns into his beard easily. I can’t tell if he’s ignoring me or just doesn’t recognize me. He stares at the passenger next to me, but doesn’t seem bothered by her covered face. I decide he’s clueless as to who I am, so I try to pretend I’m not focusing on him and avoid making a scene. I’m not sure where I know him from, anyway. I turn my head slowly to glimpse the woman seated next to me once again. The train lurches with a quick turn, and I nearly fall onto her shoulder, but catch myself by shifting my foot towards hers. As I rearrange my duffle bag, I feel as if I’m blushing, but can’t say for certain; the familiar man stares
at me, but doesn’t react. I try not to look back at him, or suggest an interest. I can’t help it after a few seconds and meet his gaze once more. He mouths something: “I want you.” Or, “I know you.” I can’t tell, so I squint a little. He mouths again: “I know you,” it seems. The SensationWhen A Chord Shifts in the DirectionYou’re Hoping The smell of blood has always perplexed me, how rich in metal it seems. I collected blood in bags, in pints, and sent it to those without enough. One woman passed out in four seconds—a complete waste of everyone’s time. One teenager had a dozen beautiful veins, twelve more than the average donor. One man told me he had never donated but was planning to do so five times, to make up for some people he knew who died. When we were finished, he pulled out a notebook from his shirt pocket. “What are you writing in there for?” I asked, too curious to not inquire. “That this was the last time I donated blood,” he responded. “I thought you were going to donate more.” “Well yes, but what if I don’t for a while, or ever? I still want to know when the last I did.” I watched as he wrote last time donated blood 3:13pm 9/4/72 and then folded the book up. “Do you write down every ‘last’?” He nodded with a smile. Drawings Here’s how I thought it might happen: On my third pint, I’d finally see you again. On my fourth pint, you’d tend the person in front of me. On my fifth pint, I’d ask you to tea.Your name is beautiful. On my twenty-seventh pint, I’d ask you to marry me. Your answer is beautiful. But on the third pint, you weren’t even there, and I couldn’t convince myself to ask you out on the fourth, and on the fifth pint you told me you
would rather not be seeing someone these days. I didn’t donate blood again. I can still feel the ocean trying to absorb me. The sensation is strongest when I sit in trains, or take a cold shower, or bend over to swallow water from a fountain. I still don’t know why I was rescued at all, much less first. I still don’t know why I didn’t drown that night. I KnowYou The familiar man barely smiles, as if we’re still unsure of one another. He pulls out a notebook from his coat pocket and starts leafing through it. In his diverted attention, I notice the absence around his eyes fades some, but I still can’t tell from where I know him. He looks at each page carefully, scanning them for something. My phone shakes in my hand. I pull it out of my coat pocket and see a text message from my husband: “On our way?” He’s left off the “y” in “your” by mistake, I presume. I conceal my phone without responding, and clasp my bag between my thighs. The familiar man finds another notebook and looks through that one. The train is accelerating along the bridge. The SensationWhen One is No Longer Clean I took blood from the man with the book of lasts twice more—he knew five pints-worth of lost life. He wrote in his book each visit, and I asked him what was next following his fifth. He suggested tea together. I couldn’t accept, and I never saw him again. I went home and stepped into the dark apartment and switched on every light. It was the only way I could sleep for weeks prior, and for years after. My son gleamed like wet metal when he was born.
last phone call from mom 4:46pm 7/3/71 last phone call from mom 4:53pm 7/4/71 last phone call from mom 4:40pm 7/5/71 last time donated blood 3:13pm 9/4/72 last doctor appointment 2:00pm 1/17/73 last date with sam 7:22pm 4/28/79 last time cleaning the apartment 11:22am 6/27/86 last razor cut 8:02pm 8/13/94 last visit with mom 10:59am 12/27/99 last visit to mom’s grave 4:33am 1/3/00 last train ride 1:44pm 4/2/00
Near the End We are nearing the final stops, but neither the familiar man nor I leave, yet. I doubt the woman next to me has any intention of getting off the train. The man continues to search through his books, almost frantically. I don’t understand why he’s so invested in them now, after acknowledging me like he did. What could those books possibly have to do with me? My phone vibrates again: my husband is calling me now. My eyes sear for a second and the train car blurs, but I keep my eyelids from closing so they cool in the open air. He can’t know what I’m doing. He can’t know where I am going. I let my phone quiver until it stops automatically. The man, the woman, and I are the last passengers in this train car. The SensationWhen A Chord Splits In A DirectionYou Didn’t Expect After swatting at the flies in the hopes they’d cease their bizarre coordination, I dry myself quickly, and head to my bedroom to dress. My shirt, sweater, and khakis lay folded on the bed, and my tennis shoes rest in the corner. I hear buzzing in my kitchen, but don’t leave my room until I’m 88
Untitled | Danny Penny | Digital Photograph
fully clothed. I walk down the hallway, past my son’s room, and step into the living area, and see them. Sprawling, the hordes of flies liquefy on surfaces, shifting like magma emerging from underneath the sea. The fruit flies are eating the walls, the sofa, the lamp, the blinds, the silverware, the sink, the table, the carpet, the doorknob, the sponge, the bowls, the kettle, the pictures of my son, the lace cloth, the stove, the aloe, the oranges, the oats, the vases. Their shifting produces faces, their wings lift into constellations of portraits, distorted and mutating. The faces are those who I’ve bled, those who have passed mostly anonymously through the clinic, the stations, the hallways. The weak woman, the thin teenager, the man with the notebooks. Finally, the man who clenched my wrists, who spat threats, who pounded against me, into me, through me. His face becomes my son’s, and he grimaces before he swallows the handful of pills. I don’t understand how the flies are doing this, or where they came from, or how there are so many, so I just back away, I head to the garage, but they are eating my car, the cement floor, the shelves of old toys, the bicycle I never use, the boots on the ground. My son slips into bed, I fall to the step, his breathing slows, I grab the closest thing next to me, he doesn’t wake to his alarm, I cover my face with darkness, I find him cold between the covers, I sprint outside. The flies continue their feast. Lost I can’t find her. I can’t find her name, or description, or reference. My books don’t carry her. Why can’t I identify her? Where is she? Who is she? I have seen that face, much younger, but I have seen it—the ocean is pulling—it is trying to drag me into the dark—I am struggling to stay above water—all I can hear is the sea—all I can see are the screaming passengers— the broken plane—all just white noise and sharp breaths—I look up at her and close my books—she is holding her hand out to grab me from the waves—and now I recognize her—finally.
On OurWay “You rescued me,” he finally reveals. My stomach jolts with the realization. Shelter Cove, June 28, 1971. The plane clipped the treatment plant after takeoff, and crashed into the sea. The passengers were drowning, bleeding, unconscious in the whitecaps. We pulled seven out of the water still breathing. The remaining sixteen were dead, and sank to the ocean floor or turned up in the surf the next day. The Lost Coast barely flinched. He was the first we found actively swimming. Even with the windswept surface of the water he swam violently, nearly exhausted and frigid. The spotlight seemed to cut him into pieces, but I grabbed him from the sea and hoisted him to the helicopter. I secured him to the gurney and let the nurses take over. I leapt into the ocean for the next survivor. The man looks at me from the water. I lean towards him from across the train. “What are those books for?” I ask. He holds my gaze, and then replies. “Ever since that day, I have written down every ‘last’ I’ve had, so I’d always know.” The woman next to me suddenly lurches in her seat. She seems to stare at the man, and he turns to stare back. My phone begins to pulse—my husband again, I assume. The woman lifts her hands to her face, and unties the knot at her nape. My phone buzzes more. She slowly unwraps the garbage bag, and removes it carefully. My phone is vibrating over and over. The woman’s face emerges from underneath, with an expression of shock, and shiny with sweat. Her dark lips tremble. My phone stops throbbing. The train slows and completes its stop.
Sam Dunnington ’14 is not always there when you call, but he’s
Corson Androski ’16 has convinced himself that he does not exist
Becky Garner ’15 is a Studio Art and Biology double major with an
and isn’t really upset about it.
obsession for surgery, driven by her desire to “know how stuff works.”
Anonymous ’16 has no further comment.
Geo Gomez ’15 keeps a dream journal, practices meditation, and does
Hannah Bernard ’15 took the bomp from the bompalompalomp. Lorraine Blatt ’14 aspires to be Tracy Jordan. Clare Boerigter ’14 would like to thank José for these words. Gregory Brookins Hinton ’14 is a Political Science & English Major.
not mess around.
Lea Greenberg ’14 will gladly dance on any table Eliza Harrison ’16 loves eating pickles and playing with her dog, Pedro. Linnea Hurst ’15 would like you to always have a call number when checking out a book on reserve.
Lily Jamaludin ’14 is a third year majoring in the art of life. She
probably some sort of euphemism for a much dirtier one.
hopes that her future holds notebooks of poetry, honesty, and South East Asia, pages full to the brim with meaning.
Hannah Condon ’16 is disturbed by the fearless squirrels of Grinnell
Clara Kirkpatrick ’14 is from New York.
Colin Brooks ’13 believes the fundamental unit of the universe is
because they are so unlike the skittish mountain squirrels of Colorado, her home state.
Andy Lange ’13 is a visual artist and designer.
Andy Delany ’13 will miss the Review; it’s been a good couple of years.
Elena Lynch ’13 is cheating the system.
Elle Duncombe-Mills ’16 loves dried fruit, raspberries, and the
Matt Mertes ’13 ate through four strawberries on Thursday, but he
sun. And really wants a baby owl. 90
always on time. He writes fiction and tells jokes.
was STILL hungry.
Emily Mester ’14 has replaced all her emotions with emoticons.
Lauren Teixeira ’14 is a Philosophy major from the malarial swamptown of Silver Spring, MD.
Jeanette Miller ’14 thinks, therefore she is. Caleb Neubauer ’13 recently acquired some well-deserved gumption. Danny Penny ’13 will graduate this May, and in an early-onset mid-life crisis, had a semi-colon tattooed on his forearm. He hopes his grandmother is not reading this.
Cassidy White ’14 is a native Iowan, who likes to run (not away, just around).
Clint Williamson ’13 wants to apologize to everyone he’s ever hurt. Grace Withmory ’13 is a Studio Art major from West Hills, California. She drinks tea more than she does any other activity.
Sivan Philo ’13’s right pinky makes a horrible cracking sound when he Leah Yacknin-Dawson ’13 is a Political Science major from balls his hand into a fist. His dream is to move out of his parents’ house.
Rebecca Rea-Holloway ’15 is a Kansas Citian who likes Shania Twain, brussels sprouts, and bamboo scented candles.
Pittsburgh, PA. She wants to thank Professor Bakopoulos for teaching her to love fiction.
Mary Zheng ’15 oozes swag.
Na Chainkua Reindorf ’14 is obsessed with the smell of freshly laundered clothes. Actually, freshly laundered anything.
Aditi Roy ’13 is made for rainy weather. Christopher Squier ’13 is a fourth year art major from the Pacific Northwest. He is a master chef with bruschetta and speaks a little bit of Russian.
Eleanor Stevens ’14 lives in Santa Fe, NM, loves her mother and father, and enjoys sewing doll clothes, and is proud of her ability to draw from life.
The 2013 Spring Issue of the Grinnell Review, Grinnell College's semi-annual arts and literary magazine