Indicia 5.2 Winter/Spring 2022

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a journal curating literary arts Volume 5.2 Winter/Spring 2022

indicia a journal curating literary arts Volume 5.2 Winter/Spring 2022 Collection © May 2022 indicia Layout by AJ Urquidi. Cover: “untitled 2, from series night dot surrender” by Henry Hu. All authors and artists retain rights to their individual pieces. This journal must not be reproduced, in part or in whole, without written consent of the contributor, except when cited partially for reviews. Contact to be put in touch with contributors, or for other inquiries.

Executive Editors: Marcus Clayton & AJ Urquidi Poetry Editors: Toren Wallace & Jax NTP Prose Editors: Krishna Narayanamurti & David Diaz

in this issue: editors’ introduction 1 2 3

Breathless Electric Silence – James Croal Jackson Afterdeath – Nolan Lee Blue Bridge – James Croal Jackson

5 7 9

white, from series 21, flip – Henry Hu Bibliographic reservation – Joshua Martin Polaris – Paige Dombrowski

13 15

untitled 3, from series night dot surrender – Henry Hu Until the Quiet Come Back – Joliange Wright

25 27 29

untitled 2, from series night dot surrender – Henry Hu They Come to You Still – Paul Ilechko Man Behind a Face – Phillip Shabazz

33 39 40 42

Compliance – Mark Blickley & Amy Bassin Autosuggestive Transmogrification – Harrison Fisher Time Squeezes Us All to Doll-Size – Bobby Parrott Ode to Missouri – Savannah Cooper

45 47 49 50

stone air earth – Brian Michael Barbeito One on Top of the Other – Larry O. Dean Wolftone – Byron Xu Pink Mashed Potatoes always – billy cancel

51 53 54 56

ducks – Brian Michael Barbeito At the Hotel – Olivia Soule Every Year the Future Begins in 1888 – Jeff Mock Pet Names – Donald McMann contributors

editors’ introduction indicia: in-DISHy-yuh n. pl. (1) differentiating marks, characters, or signs, or (2) a biannual literary arts magazine

— featuring poetry, flash and short prose, and art — that says “out with the old guard, in with the noobs.”

For each issue of indicia, we seek poems, art, and short prose that hunker down at the fringes of the experimental and the accessible, with a special emphasis on developing their own sense of play. What we generally receive fills out the vast spectrum of these qualities, and the ones that make the biggest impression on us as vibrant, necessary, and/or bizarre are presented within these pages. This issue is a landmark for indicia: the big #10!!! Who would’ve thought we’d make it this many issues deep, just publishing new and interesting work from creative strangers on the internet? Well, we did, so we’re proud of ourselves. After 10 issues, the passage of time is really put into perspective. Likewise, the work in this issue contends with temporality and its brethren — explorations of ancestry, historical accounts, the process of grieving and moving forward, the evergreen sense of identity tied to certain places, and the way people we love can make us transcend the burden of time slipping away beyond our control. (We hope you like it.) Until next…time… AJ Urquidi & Marcus Clayton Executive Editors

The lost ones keepin’ me up at night The world be remindin’ me it’s danger I’d still risk it all for a stranger If I told you who I am, would you use it against me? — Kendrick Lamar, “Die Hard”

Breathless Electric Silence James Croal Jackson the dead friend you are thinking of says the sky’s no longer the limit inside there are good spaces between us you wanna press the green button on your existence. that is what he would have wanted: to arrive. one day you will awaken barefoot under a leafy blanket in your dress shirt & blue tie and he will live inside your eyes the way ants share summer crumbs


Afterdeath Nolan Lee BIOGRAPHY: is livedstopping, in a dreamless hole. Livingstopped, once livedness had always been a hole without a surface. Not early yet, and can’t be late if persisting in waiting, biography. Rejoins the chill chamber of an empty womb, unsleeping, gone. Prove that: visited the hospital. a priori, there is only Construct a sentence with a gone subject: “ visited the hospital”, then. Alright. Prove the object could be — an unpatronised hospital? then Prove that: ever visited the hospital. EULOGY: No, I cannot see blindness either, nor etch a hole inside a hole.


Blue Bridge James Croal Jackson sometimes curtains blocking sunlight are only ghosts sometimes ghost light in windows only a brightness beyond the blue bridge I work beneath only the bridge will lift us over the Allegheny only the bridge will float us into the grit of the city the people I used to know I don’t know them anymore what is a bed but unmade sheets soft silk I must become a bridge to get myself out of bed in morning sunlight beyond the ghosts of days I used to possess I was a curtain blocking the trajectory of my own light



white, from series 21, flip Henry Hu



Bibliographic reservation Joshua Martin Open short scissor , then vanish through regenerative incognito sessions [veteran seasonal packages curse hermetic spleens] , little less loose pinching commentary =biblical proportion scrounging= ./ Density rearview palm oil representative as an orange tho reassured through lens flare. Collaborative defectors sigh. Organists price gouge the magi. Re-gifted plagues utter reindeer after dinner mints hanky-panky steroid strike , sequential pictures like thermometers , interior essays enhance hourglass subtle first annoyance kisses forehead,.


Wistful hunger grinds humble park bench marvelous soundtrack for sustenance ground to a halt heart monitor debate curving as sweet as honey galaxies.


Polaris Paige Dombrowski Julia moved through the grass like a bug across water. The moon illuminated trees in purple hues, the night serenaded by chirping frogs. She stayed in front of me, dragging her feet and leaving a faint path. The ground transitioned into soft soil before I looked up and noticed that we were in a garden. “My mom picked it up when I was in high school,” Julia said, leaning against a brick wall that held a bed of toad lilies. She placed her glass down and brushed her fingers gently against the petals. “Something she can take care of.” “That’s sweet.” “Is it?” Julia pushed her lips out. “Or is it an obsession with the beautiful and controlled?” I sat down next to her, sipping beer and feeling it warm me. “That seems like that might be your call.” She shrugged. The flowers were placed in neat rows. Even the colors were balanced. I couldn’t see a weed or loose petal in the soil. It must have been cared for daily — for hours — just for it to look pretty for a brief part of the season. The sky was clear in this part of the state, so I assumed Julia was looking up. When I glanced towards her, though, she was fixed on the side of my face. Even in the night, I could see her darkened cheeks, and the way her eyes hung open softly. My heart drummed against my chest. It’s the alcohol, I told myself, taking in cool breaths. 9

She may not have been the beautiful that her mother desired, but she was an unruly jungle of sweet-smelling fruits and pink skies, her eyes like deep mossy ponds. Polishing would have dulled the life that dripped from the hair softly cupping back of her neck. Her beauty was home-grown, messy, and inviting, nothing that could be replicated by the most careful, obsessive gardener. I hoped my rushing thoughts would fade into the hazy starlight. I spotted the bright, north star, its light immeasurable next to the others that relied on their combined efforts to glow. Julia’s eyes followed down my arm and to my fingertip. “Polaris,” I said. “It’s, a really bright star.” Julia laughed. “Is that all you have to say about it?” It’s all that could break through the other thoughts I was having. I nodded. “It’s a very pretty star,” she hummed more than said. I felt her head touch my shoulder. “A very pretty star, Margaret.” Margaret, I thought, why does it always feel like she’s pulling something out of me when she says my name? “Hey, so I’ve been meaning to ask, but what’s with the Sigourney Weaver poster on your side of the room?” Julia’s head shifted. “Oh, that’s my aunt —” I replied, “— oh, no! Not — no, Sigourney Weaver is not my aunt, but my aunt loved the Alien movies, and we’d watch them together.” “She sounds really cool, even if she’s not Sigourney Weaver.” “She was.” The air between us cracked, and I felt her smile drop as she realized what I meant. “Margaret, I’m so sorry.” I heard her scrambling for words like most people did. 10

“Sophomore year of high school.” I placed my hands on my knees. “I try not to think about it a lot, but, that just makes me think about it more.” It was a weight that was always with me. Julia placed one of her hands over mine, making my stomach roll in a different way now, one that was less sinking. “Do you —” she paused, “— want to tell me more about Polaris?” One of her fingers rubbed against mine. “Uh,” I said, “well, it’s really big, too. Like, 50 of our suns.” The thoughts in my mind swirled like a whirlpool, so I stared at the star, it winking back at me. “It’s so far away that it just looks like a brighter, tiny star.” “Sexy.” She laughed, and I laughed with her, our voices effortlessly rolling through the flower beds. I was grateful for the growing gravitational pull she had on me — how, like bright and singular stars, she could drown out dark and empty space. I felt this urge to pull her, too.



untitled 3, from series night dot surrender Henry Hu



Until the Quiet Come Back Joliange Wright After six or seven days, the doctors down at Cleburne said there was nothing else they could do for him, so we brought him home. At this point, Alford’d been at my house for about six months. He hated giving up his independence, bull-headed as he was, but I believe he was grateful for the help. He had a daughter Roberta up north who said she’d take him too, but he didn’t want to go there. Said she talked too much. Ray tried not to smile when he said that, because Roberta was his sister. She’d always been a thorn in folks’s side, but it ain’t Christian to say that, so I didn’t say it. We made up the extra room for him. All he brought was that old yellow suitcase and his dogs and his guns. Course he knew the dogs could live outside with ours in the pen. That wouldn’t be no trouble. The guns, I don’t know if he brought those because he wanted to go hunting with Ray, or if he was afraid somebody’d break in to his house and steal them. Maybe he just liked having them close by. Over those six months we had us a pretty good time. Alford was getting weaker but nobody let on about it. The boys still took him out to the garage to watch them work nearly every day, and on Saturdays Ray’d get up and say Pap get your pole we’re heading to Freemont Dam. They’d been fishing out there for Lord knows how many years. Alford’s only living sister Deannie always went along and heard tell they’d sit all day reliving stories while Ray was trying to catch fish. When it was just us here, Alford’d be out on the porch in his winter coat watching the kids play. He took a blood thinner that made him cold, even in this heat. I kept all my grandkids while my kids were at work, and he liked to watch them climb trees and run around in the yard with the dogs. I noticed they did that more often while he was here. They’d get some sun and get to sweating and come up on the porch for a glass of tea or whatever I had, and he’d pull a quarter or a piece of 15

candy out of his pocket and give it to them. Then he’d put his old finger in their face and tell them they’d better study hard. Alford never learned how to read or write. Said pencil work was the only kind of work he never did. Course we didn’t none of us get too much education. My daddy kept me home to take care of the house after mama died. I finished the eighth grade though, and as bad as I wanted to keep going, I’d never run into much I couldn’t do on my own. My daughters now, they both graduated high school and Sarah got her Associates. If I run into something, they’ll help me with it. But Alford was smart as anybody. He knew the kids were going to need a lot more book learning than he did, now that all the jobs worked on computers and such. Even working on cars, you had to use computers, or so we heard. My boys were the best workers anybody’d ever heard of. They could build or fix anything you asked them to. Even built this house with Ray when they were just teenagers. Tommy put in the rock wall out by the road. I’m awful proud of them, but truth be told I wish they’d never tasted alcohol. Alford didn’t allow no drinking, so they had to keep it hid or wait until he went to bed. I never told nobody this, but that was the best part of him being here, far as I was concerned. We had to take him to the hospital a few times. He was quick to get pneumonia, even in the summer, and once he did he couldn’t get shed of it. He’d lay out there on IV’s watching westerns on the little TV, and I’d take my quilting over and sit with him. One thing I noticed was, he never seemed scared of what was happening. It was plain he was getting sick more often and taking longer to recover — Lord they come in there every hour taking his blood or checking oxygen or whatever — but he never let on like nothing was wrong. I asked him about it one day and he told me plain, if it was his time he’d lay right down. I don’t know if that’s what folks mean when they say ready to die, but that’s what it brought to mind.


That last time they come in there, the doctors and everybody, me and Ray were both sitting there with him. He’d taken a fall because he wouldn’t use his cane and got to where he couldn’t eat hardly nothing. Just wasn’t hungry, he said. I cooked every dish I could think of and he’d say thank you Edith but never touch it. The doctor told him he could stay in the hospital or go but either way, he wouldn’t be feeling much better from here on out. The way he put it, we all knew what he meant. Alford said, all right then I’ll go on home. And we knew what that meant too. We put Jacob on night duty. He’s my youngest and loved Alford with every bit of his heart. All my kids did. It was hard to see them hurting over it. Jacob was proud to get up in the night if Alford needed something. He’d hear him jostling the covers and be up and next to the bed before Alford could even turn over. Jacob’d help him stand up and relieve his self in an old milk carton he’d cut the top off. It was hard for Alford to walk to the bathroom every time, and he was too proud to lay there and soil his bed. I didn’t blame him. Jacob’d get him a sup of water and tuck him back in, quilts up to his chin, and ask if he needed anything. I’d hear them talking sometimes, I was sleeping pretty light then, and Alford’d give Jacob some piece of advice that had come to him. I don’t believe you ought to put that transmission in the truck by yourself, he’d say. Or you better quit smoking them old cigarettes. I swear I could see the smile on Jacob’s face in the dark from two rooms away. At some point people started coming with guitars. Playing music had always been something we did. Lately it seemed like nobody ever had the time, but Lord, back when my kids were home they’d be out there on the porch singing all night long. Used to be old church songs we brought the kids up on, and then it was whiskey drinking songs. Hank Williams and George Jones and the like. It didn’t matter really — the point was just being together. I reckon it was Jacob started it. I heard him in there one morning picking an old Waylon Jennings song. I hadn’t heard him sing in years, he was shyer than the rest of my kids. I walked past the bedroom acting like I couldn’t hear and saw Alford in there in the bed with his eyes closed, just listening. When Jacob was done I heard him say, that’s 17

good music. Good music. So, Jacob started another one. Before long Ray was in there too and then here come Tommy. He was good on the fiddle and could sing just about any song you gave him. It was around that time I started calling folks. I called Alford’s sister Deannie and told her what the doctors said. She was strong in the church, and she’d bring her Bible and sit by Alford’s bed and pray with him. Alford never did take to church, Lord knows I tried to get him to go with me, but I guess that’s what Deannie was called to do for him. I got in touch with Ray’s sister Roberta. She thanked me for calling and got off the phone before I could say much. I told all my kids, these might be the last days with your Pap, and they started trickling in. Janey’s husband was good on the banjo, and he brought it. That bedroom wasn’t no bigger than a tool shed, but I bet you they had a dozen people in there at one point, all playing and singing. Alford’d lay there underneath that old red quilt just as still as he could be, no matter how long they played. When they were done he’d open his eyes or move a little bit and say, that’s good music. Good music. We stopped bringing him out to the living room all together. Seemed like he was just more comfortable in there in the bed. He wouldn’t allow us to spend money on a hospital bed, so somebody brought a thick piece of foam and put it on top of the mattress. If he wanted to sit up, we’d wedge as many pillows as we could find underneath his head. It wasn’t but a few days before all he could do was lay there with his eyes closed. Sometimes we thought he was asleep and we’d just be talking and he’d open his eyes and say something sharp. He was hearing everything! One night somebody turned on the country music awards and we were going on about Taylor Swift and the dresses they were wearing. Just country people talking. Alford opened his eyes and took one look at the TV and said, rich people can’t sing. Then he closed his eyes and didn’t say another word. We laughed until we couldn’t hardly stand it. About that time my oldest girl showed up and said we were having a wedding. Sarah got married when she was eighteen and raised up two boys with her first husband. But they split a long 18

time ago and now she was engaged to Arlo Smith. They’d been planning it for the spring when they both had time off work, but Sarah said she wanted Pap there, so she was gonna do it that weekend. I told her Alford wouldn’t be able to come outside for a wedding, but she said that wasn’t the point. So, we went to work getting ready. I called my pastor to come in and meet them. He was a northerner who’d come down here with his wife twenty years ago — but he’d never been nothing but good to me. I went to work on the food and cleaning the house. I called a friend from church and asked if she had any card tables. There wasn’t room in the house for everybody, so we set up an aisle for Sarah to walk down in the yard with some hay bales for seats. Ray and the boys smoked a hog the night before, so all I had to do was get potato salad and cole slaw and macaroni ready. That morning before the pastor come, I heard Sarah and Arlo in there with Alford. He was sitting up on the edge of the bed in his long johns with his fists digging into the sheets to hold him up. He said, I hope you’uns enjoy all the happiness of this life and told them he loved them. At some point Jacob started sleeping on the floor in Alford’s room. I made him a pallet of quilts and he wouldn’t hear about nobody else doing it. Said Pap wasn’t sleeping good and might want somebody to talk to in the night. I prayed Alford would say something to Jacob that might help him. Since he got laid off, it seemed like there was no way to get to him. I did everything I could think of and I know Ray did too. But you can’t help somebody out of a place you don’t understand. That day the air in Alford’s room changed and his breathing got further apart. It didn’t feel right for people to be in there playing music no more, so if they came I told them to play on the porch and he’d hear them from there. But nobody stayed too long. Couldn’t none of them stand to be here when it happened. I noticed Ray was spending more time out in the garage and less time in the house when he wasn’t at work. I knew he’d be drinking, but I hoped at least he’d come in and spend some time with his dad. I called Deannie and the pastor to come and pray with Alford and told them both I thought Ray could use some prayers too. He never come in though. There was a 19

whole day where it was just me and Alford in the house and I was scared, Lord help me, but I talked to him just the way I always had. I told him the cucumbers were coming in and I was going to have to get out there and pick them and get to canning. I told him Sarah and Arlo were gone on their honeymoon up to Gatlinburg, and I sure hoped they were having a good time. When I heard somebody knocking at the door I was surprised. People don’t knock at my house, they’re either family or coming in with family. I thought maybe it was a salesman, but the dogs usually kept them away. I hadn’t seen Ray’s sister Roberta since we got married nearly thirty years ago. She’d married a lawyer and ended up going to college and becoming one herself. She had a whole other kind of life, no kids, and she’d been all over the world helping governments come out with big agreements. At least that’s how I understood it. She never came to family gatherings, not even her mama’s funeral five years ago. It seemed like she never wanted much to do with us, or her father. But you never know what somebody’s thinking. I said long time no see stranger and hugged her and offered her a glass of tea. She was wearing a fine-looking suit and high heels, but her eyes were red and puffy. She said she was sorry she hadn’t come sooner and could she see him. She didn’t even take off her coat. I took her back there and left her alone for a while. The house was so still I couldn’t hardly stand it. I went to bringing jars up from the basement and washing cucumbers, anything I could do to keep moving. I went to see if Ray or the boys was out in the garage, but I couldn’t find nobody. I walked by Alford’s room a time or two, to see if they needed anything. Roberta had her face down in the quilt and her fists balled up and I could hear her crying. Alford wasn’t hardly moving at all by then, and I knew she’d be hurting to see him that way. Ray finally come in around suppertime drunk to high heaven, and it wasn’t five minutes before the two of them got into it. I shooed them out on the porch but he was louder than a devil when he was like that. Roberta wanted to know why he hadn’t called hospice. Don’t you know how much 20

pain Pap is in? That his organs are shutting down? He needs morphine, she said. Ray just smoked and interrupted her, like she didn’t know what she was talking about. Pap was comfortable as could be, he said. Edith’s making sure of it. Said he didn’t need strangers coming down here, telling him what to do. Course she was a lawyer and knew how to argue. How dare you choose your own pride over his comfort, she said. Roberta came in the house swearing under her breath, high heels clicking, and let the screen door smack shut. I tried to act like I was washing dishes. You agree with this? She asked me. Well I didn’t, truth be told, and I was ashamed I hadn’t known better. I just shook my head, but I was the one that had to live with Ray! I knew why he didn’t want people coming to the house. She got on her cell phone looking for something and then here come Ray. He had this way of talking when he was drunk, real high pitched and smart alecky, like he was spitting the words out. Little sister, you been gone a long time, so maybe you forgot — a man’s home is his castle. I won’t have you throwing big words around and accusing me. He stood there smoking his cigarette even though I didn’t allow them in the house. Roberta had her phone up to her ear like she was on hold, but her mouth was arguing with Ray. He mocked her with his free hand up to his ear, wagging his backside. I was ashamed to see him that way. That’s enough, she said. I’m calling. Well that done it. Before I could throw my rag down, Ray went after her. He flicked his cigarette at the wall and reached for Roberta’s neck and pushed his knee into her belly. Her ankle rolled off to the side and her phone went sliding across the floor. I screamed at Ray and went after him from behind, grabbing his shoulders and trying to pull him back. I could feel the heat coming off him through his shirt as he staggered to stay upright. Roberta was hurt, but she was madder still. You miserable bastard, she said. I’m not a little girl anymore. Lord help me, I knew what was coming and I didn’t want to hear it, and I didn’t want Alford to hear it neither. Then Ray’s elbow hit my face — right in that tender spot off the side of my nose — 21

and down I went. My head and hip both on the floor. Roberta kept screaming but I couldn’t tell you what she said. After all those years, Lord only knows. When I got my breath, she was kneeling down in front of me in her stocking feet and I heard the screen door smack shut. He’s gone, she said. Are you all right, Edith? I didn’t know if I was or not. My head was swimming awful bad. I was thinking about Ray out there in the garage drinking himself to blackout. I was thinking about Alford laying in there in the bedroom, hearing his only kin fighting like mortal enemies. Me and Roberta got ourselves together. I made a pot of coffee and she made a phone call and we set down at the kitchen table for a while. I told her I was sorry for the way Ray acted and she said, Edith that’s not on you. I wanted to tell her I hadn’t known him to act that way, but there wasn’t no use lying to somebody who knew better. After a while I took my apron off and we went into Alford’s room. The sun was down but there was still a little light coming in through the window. We set two chairs next to his bed, it was plain nobody else was coming. When his chest finally moved, it was so quiet, me and Roberta both let our breath out like we’d been holding it. It’s funny, if you’d asked me before that night if me and her had anything in common, I would’ve said no. But we set there together with him all night. He never opened his eyes or said a word, but I believe he knew we were there. At first, we didn’t say much neither. Every little bit Roberta’d bend over her knees and cry, and I’d put my hand on her back. She wasn’t but a few years younger than me, but I wanted to give her comfort somehow. I could feel the bones in her spine, her body shaking with nerves. After a while we started telling stories. She told about Pap teaching her to bait a fishhook when she was a little girl, and how she hated the guts squeezing out. But she wanted to do it right for him, she said, so she just winced up and pushed. I told about first meeting her at church, when we were all so young, and how pretty I thought she was. Jet black hair straight down her back. We told things just the way we thought Alford’d want to hear them. 22

Then, deep in the night, she got up and went to the bathroom and come back different. Daddy used to drink like that, she said. When we were little. I felt cold wash over my body. I knew she had to get it out, but I didn’t want to hear it. His hands were hard too, she said. Alford had given up drinking years ago, but nobody ever talked about how he was before. A lot of times, living with Ray was like watching somebody try to keep the lid on a blowing gasket. But I never could get him to talk about it. He beat Ray too, she said. Every now and then Alford took a breath, but they were coming farther and farther apart. I don’t know how many hours it was, but we talked and laughed and cried until the quiet come back. Before any light showed through the window, Roberta turned and I saw how tired she was. I saw the fear in her eyes. Edith, she said, you still sing any of those old church songs? You always had such a beautiful voice. She looked at her dad. That’s the only part of church he ever liked, she said. Ain’t nobody asked me to sing for years and years, Lord help me, but I could tell she meant it. We set there a little while longer, it was so still, and finally I found a song and a key and I started in. I knew it might be the last thing I could do for him, so I did my best.

Take me home dear savior, take me home I’m alone in this world, I am weary of life I’m alone in this world, I’m alone I’m alone in this world, I am weary of life Take me home dear savior, take me home Around nine o’clock that morning the lady from hospice knocked on the door, but Alford was already gone.



untitled 2, from series night dot surrender Henry Hu



They Come to You Still Paul Ilechko They come to you in your amplitude

in your magnificence

their hands positioned just so angled and smooth-skinned their motion sharded into anger invested in a desire that leads to fulfillment reddening sun at daybreak

a prophecy of dispersal

they come to you stillness

retracing steps into indigo

river water in a bottle


heading into the

piled waves across the boarded slipway

gussied up for marriage

still unbroken

the final outcome of policy

yourself on horseback

they come to you in transit sharing the water stones as regular and fractioned as dreams of vehicles jazz smeared the map until you lost your way monster

loitering beneath a

squeezing noise from pocketed flesh

the bones of your chest the collage of your torso days of willow and forsythia

birdsong was only ever spillage

metal and glass in the shapes of

the path taken into a city

they come to you with mouths filled with words swallowing the lump of their hatred it was always a theory of abandonment

raised feet of pound horses

dancing with the

inhumanity at the edge of night glass-green and blistering in the

vacuity lead them into the depths of exhaustion the daffodils always stretching the definition of “species” mangoes they came to you in finality

their feet torn and wormed like beetles amidst

trapped on their island

wandered into austerity


wet sand and ripe

scarred by experience.

Man Behind a Face Phillip Shabazz Alone, he lies in a cemetery somewhere unknown, away from our family, from a jim crow spell once upon the town. In my hand, his picture remains. Our grandfather poses on a patch of ice. A pose so head straight, his brown fedora tilts, without which I cannot help but muse on my resemblance to him — a pose unveiling two-tone cap-toe shoes. Not a wrinkle in his white shirt. Suspenders fit to a T. His gold wedding ring covered by shadows on a one-way street in the Derby city that does not flash his smile. The bebop of Sunday after church, decades gone. The same spot where he stands in the picture I stand at the front gate of my grandmother’s house. Catch a sense of him, whose facial lines descend into my eyes. Focus on his shirt, shielding a secret beneath his ribs. If I were that secret, no longer secret, our family might see how he abandoned grandma and our father subjected to good ole boys of moonshine and armed sneer, drunken stare and tobacco-soiled teeth who hid behind police badges, sworn to serve and protect them of bone-narrow shoulders strange to his ghost-gone gravedigger like a picture without a picture passing through the clouds in December.


I, a budding griot whose grandfather hopped a night train to the north, look long at his face. Finger a scratch in the picture, or instead, the curve of his jaw. Daylight turns up with something dark in it. Cannot find from this neither deportation nor Garvey, neither Booker T. nor DuBois. Since I never met him, I’ve forgotten his name, but his name stays there somewhere in the same summon of absence, the same face fading into oblivion, the way a leaf falls on my shoulder as grandma sweeps the porch and sunlight dashes air into whispers, into what I hear at the front gate, where I try to see the man behind a face taken by the silence that shows a fog I’ve seen in the Headless Horseman. The shared morning soaks her eyes as though she sees in me his face, as though I breathe the breath of their breakup, the hour she sat squeezing cries out, black seas pressed into her Kleenex, the first to go, as though the picture carries a misery of its own, the picture a stay of misery that succumbs to his face like a fish tangled in a net, or the broken For Sale sign in the yard at a vacant house next door, the window holding my aura walled in the square of glass. I guess I’m off base to wonder what happened to him now since he has drifted from this picture, turning into a wind on wind that always happens. I wonder how he lived out the confines of a veiled life. Did he ever smile as he brushed his hair, or curse the haircut through his eyes, and did he ever know how to right the wrong he saw when facing the mirror? Did he ever burn out like an unscented candle, one spark or flame diminished to ashes, or say the last word snapping in his throat, or choke on the dust in a small room while he read the newspaper.


Did he ever wash his hands in dishwater, or speed up the minutes, his time on the clock from working the second shift in a kitchen, or did the bones crack in his body after he swallowed the threat of being fired by a boss who chewed a cigar. Did the stench sting his eyes or shock him, stain his hair into dirt and grime as if he got yelled at, put on notice, shortchanged on his paycheck, or did he fix his fingers to flick a cigarette while on break — that picture, when only his face was a pot in the porcelain sink. Or did he tell the boss to go to hell? Or say it in a whisper over his pistol and smoke a joint when he bore the bus ride back to his room after work, or soft-shoe, or hammer his heart into a buckshot or pellet of a mothball. Talk to the walls. Did he clench his teeth into an abscess, or sip bourbon from a bottle where too much bourbon had been, and then more to wash out the grease, the cigar, the stench. Or blow his high or sleep off a drunk through a bloodshot snore buzzing in a chair or on the sidewalk, lips bloated and pants slouching half off his behind — that picture, when it rained or when it snowed, or hid the night behind his eye in its one red alarm. Or damn near cry, and could not click off the headache of a hangover and not tear his t-shirt, but grabbed from his pants pocket an empty bottle, the top missing like a chip of neck-bone split by a blade when a lone wolf falls on his own sword, or scrapes with a toothbrush the torch of his tongue. Did his hand tremble when stirring the coffee he could not drink from his cup.


I wonder. What to do with this picture in my hand? Rip it? Hide the image of his face from grandma like a switchblade, a razor, or put it in my wallet, or leave it in the vacant house next door. For now I keep it while another picture appears as she rocks in a chair on the porch, how air elevates the December light in her eyes. I wonder if history explodes behind her, and the little gate squeaking voices of yesterday turn second-sighted, in which she sees another picture where my grandfather walks in the door to another house of another woman he loves.


Compliance Amy Bassin & Mark Blickley



Compliance Amy Bassin & Mark Blickley March 24, 2022 OCCUPANT of Apt. 2K 1509 Boulevard East West New York, NJ 07093 Dear Neighbor: Just because I HAVEN’T (any) APPROPRIATE TIME to speak ORALLY to you, therefore I took the liberty to write directly to you in the hope that you’ll be kind enough to take into consideration the following request: Consequently, if you permit me, I’ll ask you (right now), as follows: Did you (ever) anything hear considering someone, or (did you) see) somebody who was looking for me (in front of (my) Apt. 3K, (in the hall) in connection with any message, news, or information) in the past days, weeks, or during the last months, or within the past several years, (somehow, somewhere in the building), ANY TIME? Thank you for your very kind attitude toward the matter. In expectation of your reply IN WRITING EXCLUSIVELY in the near future, I remain, Sincerely, (Q. Shabraya)


p.s.: I would not want to create the impression that you’ll not do me a favor that I just requested. If you’re interested regarding our ORAL CONVERSATION AT YOUR AND MY EARLIEST CONVENIENCE, if that is the case, I’ll be glad to talk to you as one gentleman to another, to exchange our views, to discuss about subject that you and I wish. Your (eventual) any FRIENDLY remark, CONSTRUCTIVE objection, LOGICAL observation, RATIONAL comment, etc., WELCOME! It’s not only an APPROPRIATE, BUT HIGHLY DESIRABLE Thanks, again.


March 25, 2022 Dear Mr. Q. Shabraya: Thank you for taking the time to write me a letter and to slip it under my door. I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, as we have been next door neighbors for close to five years now and we’ve only met three times in the elevator. I’ve appreciated the hello you’ve given me on those three occasions. I find the uniform you wear quite fascinating. As we descended the eleven flights to the building entrance, I inspected your uniform for some insignia, some identification to its origin. Am I correct in assuming that it is the military uniform of an officer of a foreign country? Is it beige, Mr. Shabraya? Its color is quite faded though you’ve kept it in superb condition. I know it must be an old uniform and the proud manner with which you carry yourself when you wear it must mean that it is a uniform that has participated in some grand historical event. Am I correct, sir? Many a time I’ve been tempted to ring your doorbell, Mr. Shabraya, during harsh storms or when the ground is covered with ice. I am younger than you, sir, and on the three occasions that we’ve shared an elevator ride I couldn’t help but notice your pallor. Although you look fit and strong, and by no means do I think of you as someone not able to take care of himself, I’ve wondered if I could not be of assistance when the weather rages. Even before the Pandemic, I’ve helped out a few other residents of our building during such emergencies. I have not contacted you to see if I could be of assistance because of the typewritten message taped over your doorbell that firmly states — DO NOT RING THIS BELL UNDER ANY CONDITION OR OVERSIGHT. LEAVE THIS BELL ALONE! LEAVE COMMUNICATIONS WITH SUPER OR RECEPTIONIST ON FIRST FLOOR. THANKS! Mr. Shabraya, during our five years as neighbors, I have not come across anybody seeking to deliver information to you. If I should observe someone trying to contact you, is there some procedure you’d like me to follow in order to relay this information to you? I shall only be too pleased to oblige. 37

Sir, as the walls to these apartments are paper thin, I cannot help hearing you from time to time. I think it is healthy for a man to scream occasionally. I believe it purges the soul the same as water purges the body. Your screams are never disruptive as I am a sound sleeper. Mr. Shabraya, I was wondering, do my screams disturb you? I try hard, very hard, to muffle them with my pillow, but I don’t always succeed. Your screams are never whimpering outbursts of selfpity like mine. Your screams never seem to deteriorate into tears. I know it is unmanly to cry and I hope I have not embarrassed you on the occasions when this has happened to me. You never cry, do you? I have the utmost respect for you because you do not. Please do not judge me harshly. Once again, thank you for your unexpected correspondence, and I look forward to hearing from you again. Respectively Yours, Lawrence “Kit” Cantrell


Autosuggestive Transmogrification Harrison Fisher I ate the plum that was in the refrigerator. It was too cold and hurt my trouble tooth. I suppose I should thank you. Try not to keep fruit in the refrigerator if you can help it, my sweet. [Signed] Louis Pasteur, who wassailed the pastor in a pasture: “Beanie, Beanie, Chili-Beanie. A hefty Beanie-Beanie, a hefty Beanie-Beanie. “Every day in every way I am becoming Emile Coue´.”


Time Squeezes Us All to Doll-Size Bobby Parrott Loiter too long at your own funeral and you’re bound to get your feelings hurt. Rather, use this optically regenerated opportunity to impregnate memories. See if you can sip from the savory derangement of non-existent fairy-tale soup kitchenry they tried to erase at the monastery. Note how we praise the earthworm’s opinion when the latest video from Saturn shows a flickering rain of diamonds laughing to undo our faceted concepts of weather. How could you think to adjust my frequency from haywire to hapless when, like the longforgotten combination of your high-school gym locker, Big Ben breaks open repeatedly, spills his battalion of black beetles across the Thames, green and yellow antidepressants spiraling us through this ironic timeframe dubbed tranquility? So the noose loosens, and I look up from my place in the Orchestra of Clocks, and see God prying your clenched teeth with the sharp end of a clarinet.


The tuxedoed woman in the next chair shows me the galaxy of nerves in her cellist’s hand just to defy my opinions of cyborg dexterity. And somehow the laugh-cycles your pinkest wading-pool babies corkscrew into air, squeeze their plastic limbs into a chorus, beehive a quantum denial of time.


Ode to Missouri Savannah Cooper Things I hear from people who have never seen my homeland — There are no trees. A view from a plane window, brown and gray, distant rivers. An abstraction. Snowless and ever-warm. Sweet tea and Southern accents. Stretches of flat plain. Whitewashed fences. Farmland as far as the eye can see, pastures of cattle, silos breaking the blue. Winding one-lane roads through ugly countryside. No hills, no bluffs, no views. An in-between place, a rest stop on the way to somewhere else. The flat non-accent of news anchors. Front porches and tobacco stains, tractors in high school parking lots. Half-truths and rumors, a confusion of places and movie sets, none of which are — my first shot of vodka in a sticky-floored piano bar, fireworks over the roof of a house next door to the public library, a kiss on the hood of a Grand Marquis. So much more than the view from a cramped airplane window, more than stretches of farmland along the interstate. My first pair of in-line skates on the cracked sidewalk, a hundred games of mini-golf, the deaths of my grandparents one by one. Too many churches I’ve seen the inside of, too many hymns. The houses I’ve lived in, the playground where I lost a tooth. Not home anymore maybe, but place of origin, motherland. The old aunt whose car smells of smoke but who always sends me a card full of cash 42

on my birthday. The sound of trains passing in the night, graffitied freight cars rumbling along tracks older than all of us. I may never return, but still, twenty-seven years is time enough to know she made me, birthed me, raised me, knocked me down and spit me out and wiped the blood from my scratched knees. I owe her something, a fondness at least, or rage. Depends on the day and the weight of each memory. But still I love her somehow, some way, stooped queen of the Midwest, doorway and anchor.



stone air earth Brian Michael Barbeito



One on Top of the Other Larry O. Dean ¢s hats kites yeast books bricks plates bowls Jenga® blocks pallets LEGO® lumber kayaks glasses shelves baskets barstools pancakes firewood bunk beds shoe racks dumbbells letter trays wine racks credentials quail cages ammo cans flower pots patio chairs 47

queue poles Dixie® cups newspapers poker chips rolled coins storage bins utensil trays hydroponics Tupperware® cooling racks playing cards ice cube trays moving boxes vegetable bins velvet hangers UTÅKER bed Mother’s rings Bentgo® boxes vertical garden Minecraft items olives in martinis upholstered chairs washer and dryer set under sink organizers double-cheese burgers mattresses in a warehouse multi-scoop ice cream cones bones in the Paris Catacombs


Wolftone Byron Xu You’re afraid because the Dear Abby column read What you are at 25 is what you are for the rest of your life. Your left brain knows this is silly. The other half for many months now has felt melancholic and caught like a deer, and worries the basket of dirty laundry, or the ghosted therapist, or fondness for Fireball all sum up to foreboding. This summer you distanced yourself, not from unwellness or trauma but because it was easier, because who you’re pretending to be hides one hell of a mess of yarn at your heart: you are frightened of how the Rio Grande could learn to carve, to be set in her own way in layers of rock.


Pink Mashed Potatoes always billy cancel & bullshit vortex forever who even believes in autopilot or air conditioning excuse our funny turn into the funny unknown hold the fish sticks less confusion changing speeds once engaged in the Doom Loop there was both pre & post valdez a fairytale menace then denial by omission captain capslock i didn’t see through the storm for 8hrs straight never felt less neptune scrambled waves shall herald the move from maritime sadness to Creek Work won’t be a case of go outside cry about it more grabbing what you can running back Boom Boom Boom TIDE & get out


make the

ducks Brian Michael Barbeito



At the Hotel Olivia Soule I was in middle school or maybe younger the night my father turned into a beast in a hotel room in Vegas. In town for Brother’s basketball tournament, Father still entertained notions of being stronger than his own heir. Brother, a little too hostile, pushed Father away, and he gouged his forehead on the cabinet. Blood-dripping and red-eyed, he rambled and paced his way around the room, raging out into walled-in night. I went down to the ground floor to take Mom, who was sitting with the other players’ parents, aside. She left her Chardonnay and conversation unfinished and came back to the room, and when she got there, Father appeared again. She always had a way with him. The next day, he was back to being Father again, only with a white bandage on his forehead. He drank his coffee as usual. I hid all the butter knives under the rollaway bed.


Every Year the Future Begins in 1888 Jeff Mock

A man pedals a wooden unicycle and so lights An electric lantern in each hand. In the hours Between the start of his experiment and its completion, The Schoolhouse Blizzard freezes children In the Northwest Plains and in Washington, DC, the National Geographic Society Is founded for our armchair adventures. Death And vicarious life — and between them, our hero Learns that if we don’t keep moving, the lights Go out. It is night, and it is night again, And a lone crow alights in a mythical tree. Our hero unicycles with his dim glow into the dark Because he must. The dimmest bulb, it seems, Is often on our shoulders and still it lights our way, Sort of. Even the dimmest light defies The darkness. Let the snow fall. Let The great explorers explore their foreign lands. Some of us will die. That’s the way With life, vicarious or not. The lone crow Has waited and still waits. The snow falls


And piles up and the mail carrier brings The latest issue of National Geographic with photos Of another place we’ve never heard of and can’t Find on the globe. It’s snowing there, too, And the children there are shivering, but maybe Our hero will lead the explorers through the dark To find them in time. Light a candle and, see, There’s hope. We’re so lit and jazzed for tomorrow.


Pet Names Donald McMann When they were dressing, she told him she was hungry. “Scrambled eggs?” he asked. “No. That’s not it.” She paused. And then, inspired, she said, “Butter toast.” “Buttered toast it is.” “No. Butter toast. Butter toast — it’s a thing. An item. Like butter chicken. Only, toast.”

The next day, he called her at the office. When she couldn’t take the call, he left a message for Butter Toast. And so it went. “Good morning, Butter Toast.” “I’ll be back soon, Butter Toast.” “I do, Butter Toast.” “Merry Christmas, Butter Toast.” “Look at our little boy now, Butter Toast.” “I love my Butter Toast.” Forty-seven years with Butter Toast.


But here, in this place, no one could understand why every time they brought him the buttered toast he so often requested, he waved it away. And he wept. He always wept over the buttered toast.



contributors Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian photographer, poet, and writer. He is the author of “Indigo Gemini Seven,” a prose poem novelette appearing at the Notre Dame Review. He continues work on the ongoing visual and written nature narrative, Mosaics, Journeys Through Landscapes Rural. New York interdisciplinary artist Amy Bassin and writer Mark Blickley work together on text-based art collaborations and experimental videos. Their work has appeared in many national and international publications as well as two books, Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes from the Underground (Moria Books, Chicago) and Dream Streams (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York). Their videos, Speaking in Bootongue and Widow’s Peek: The Kiss of Death represented the United States in the 2020 year-long world tour of Time Is Love: Universal Feelings: Myths & Conjunctions, organized by the esteemed Togolese-French curator, Kisito Assangni. billy cancel is a Brooklyn-based poet, performer, and collage artist. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections: BUTTERCUP TANTRUM MUTTON ENCORE (forthcoming through Broadstone Books, 2022) and MOCK TROUGH RASPING CROW (BlazeVOX Books, 2018). His writing has appeared in Boston Review, PEN America, and Bombay Gin. With Thursday Fernworthy (Lauds) he makes up the noise/pop band Tidal Channel who morph poetry sequences into full-blown sonic conceptual works and beyond. Savannah Cooper (she/her) is a leftist bisexual agnostic and a slow-ripening disappointment to her Baptist parents. You can almost always find her at home, reading a sad novel or cuddling with her dogs and cat. A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet, her work has previously appeared in Ligeia Magazine, Capsule Stories, and Midwestern Gothic, among many other publications. Paige Dombrowski is a creative writer from southeast Michigan whose work has only appeared in her good friends’ hands. She enjoys pretending she knows how to swim, hiking, smelling like grapefruits, and listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash.


Larry O. Dean was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. His numerous books include Frequently Asked Questions (forthcoming), Muse, Um (2022), Activities of Daily Living (2017), Brief Nudity (2013), Basic Cable Couplets (2012), abbrev (2011), About the Author (2011), and I Am Spam (2004). He is also an acclaimed singer-songwriter whose latest solo album is Good Grief (2015); Product Placement, the sophomore album from his band, The Injured Parties, was released August 2019. Harrison Fisher has published 12 chapbooks, pamphlets, and full-length collections of poems since 1977. The four full-length books are Curtains for You (1980), Blank Like Me (1980), UHFO (1982), and Poematics of the Hyperbloody Real (2000). Henry Hu (b. 1995 Hong Kong) arrived at his practice through modern technological tools and software. Easily accessible, the digital medium served as an immediate resource. His early works engage aspects of digital arts, computer animations, and graphic designs. The years followed, in an attempt to shift toward a more physical manner. Hu took on new materials, working between formats to incorporate his digital creations into tangible forms. This ongoing exploration has manifested in multimedia paintings and assemblage. Poet and songwriter Paul Ilechko lives with his partner in Lambertville, New Jersey. He is the author of several chapbooks. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Night Heron Barks, Louisiana Literature, Iron Horse Literary Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Book of Matches. His first album, Meeting Points, was released in 2021. James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has two chapbooks (Our Past Leaves, Kelsay Books, 2021, and The Frayed Edge of Memory, Writing Knights, 2017) with one forthcoming: Count Seeds with Me (Ethel, 2022). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. ( Nolan Lee is a poet from New Jersey. He enjoys the work of Louis Zukofsky, Cathy Park Hong, and Anne Carson.


Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia-based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in a library. He is the author of the books automatic message (Free Lines Press), combustible panoramic twists (Trainwreck Press), Pointillistic Venetian Blinds (Alien Buddha Press), and Vagabond fragments of a hole (Schism Neuronics). He has had numerous pieces published in various journals including Otoliths, M58, Don’t Submit!, The Sparrow’s Trombone, Coven, Scud, Ygdrasil, RASPUTIN, Ink Pantry, Nauseated Drive, and experiential-experimental-literature. You can find links to his published work at For as long as he has been working, Donald McMann has made his living by writing. He’s written speeches, magazine articles, technical manuals. He spent time in public relations, which is possibly where he developed his interest in fiction. McMann has an MFA from Bennington and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. He’s currently an assistant professor of English at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada. Jeff Mock is the author of Ruthless (Three Candles Press, 2010). His poems appear in American Poetry Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review, New England Review, The North American Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He directs the MFA program at Southern Connecticut State University and lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife, Margot Schilpp, and their daughters, Paula and Leah. Bobby Parrott’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Spoon River, RHINO Poetry, Rumble Fish Quarterly, Atticus Review, The Hopper, Rabid Oak, Exacting Clam, Neologism, and elsewhere. In his own words, “The intentions of trees are a form of loneliness we climb like a ladder.” Immersed in a forest-spun jacket of toy dirigibles, he dreams himself out of formlessness in the chartreuse meditation capsule called Fort Collins, Colorado. Phillip Shabazz is the author of three poetry collections and a novel in verse. His poetry has been included in the anthology Crossing the Rift: North Carolina Poets on 9/11 and Its Aftermath. Some previous publication credits in journals include Fine Lines, Galway Review, Mason Street, Queen’s Quarterly, and K’in.


Olivia Soule has an MFA in poetry from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a BA in English and Italian from UCLA. She has published work in the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Pudding Magazine, and Q/A Poetry, and has also participated in poetry readings at the Beat Museum and Bird & Beckett bookstore in San Francisco. She studied abroad in Bologna during college, and she has written about Italian literature in translation. Joliange Wright is a fiction writer living in Los Angeles. Her stories have appeared in Lunch Ticket, Consequence Magazine, and Midwestern Gothic, who nominated her story “The Mother Church” for a Pushcart Prize. She is a doctoral candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, where she holds a Wallis Annenberg Fellowship. Her research is about modes of solidarity in early 90s lesbian novels. Byron Xu is an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Hunger, Lammergeier, Apricity Magazine, Scud, and elsewhere. He is an ordained minister and an atheist, and believes in the theodicy of anxious things.


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