ITALICS MINE Featuring: Grace Mahony Kristen Manchenton Ryan Majors Jordan Meiland Mars Mendez Alyssa Monte Trisha Murphy Taryn Nasuta Isabel Parades Stella Picuri Angel Ramirez William Ramirez Joseph Restaino Sonya Rio-Glick Ben Roffman Ravneet Sandhu Michael Schmitt Xingyun Wang Jasmine Yanase
Kalila Abdur-Razzaq Nana Achampong Olivia Adams Mitchell Angelo Alexander Atkinson Rachel Bevacqua Edison Caughey Sarah Couture Mathilda Cullen Olivia DeBonis Nicholas Dinielli Cerissa DiValentine Jordan Ford-Solomon Nikita Gotov Bailey Hummell Skylar Jennings Katie Lamar Lianna Lazaros Jakob Lorenzo
Italics Mine showcases the new, creative literary voices of Purchase College students — majors and non-majors alike — through print and web. The diversity of the student population is reflected in the pieces we have chosen to share here with the entire college community. Italics Mine is a notable addition to the Lilly B. Lieb Port Creative Writing Program at Purchase College. The program’s close proximity to the cultural life of New York City and its numerous writers in residence make it unique among undergraduate programs. Purchase College is the only institution in the SUNY system to offer such a major. Special thanks to the Purchase College Affiliates Grant for their support in the printing of this issue. The Creative Writing Program at SUNY Purchase College, in Purchase, New York 10577, publishes Italics Mine. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of either the magazine staff or any institution. Following publication, all rights revert to the authors and artists. Cover Art A Gift by Mitchell Angelo
CARLY SORENSON MEAGAN SWEENEY
CHANNA GOLDMAN AMY MIDDLETON SAVANNAH LOPEZ KAYLA LUNDEN WINNIE RICHARDS KEEGAN SAGNELLI
VICKTOR BUENO JAIMIE GASKELL DYLAN MCKENNA COLIN SHARP-O'CONNOR
DANIEL GALASSO PATRICK JENNEJAHN KRIS RUBERTONE TANNER SHIRKEY
KRIS RUBERTONE COLIN SHARP-O'CONNOR
DANIEL GALASSO DYLAN MCKENNA AMY MIDDLETON
MARKETING PATRICK JENNEJAHN SAVANNAH LOPEZ KAYLA LUNDEN
EVENTS VICKTOR BUENO CHANNA GOLDMAN WINNIE RICHARDS
WEB JAIMIE GASKELL TANNER SHIRKEY
DEVELOPMENT KEEGAN SAGNELLI
FACULTY ADVISORS MEHDI OKASI WARREN LEHRER MONICA FERRELL AVIVA TAUBENFELD
TABLE of CONTENTS POETRY Returning Quanta: Bodies Sinking Again As They Must Haikus on the Home A Refractory Swan Song A Place Without Walls Buckets and Buckets East Harlem Rumble Gespenster The Sound of a Mind Taping Over Itself; Coming to Terms with the World I Will Never Birth [Word Collage #4] Crush The Chair The Vulnerability of Letting My Mouth Hang Open 3218 W. PI. In My Garden Answer's End My Language Drops Like a Snake From the Forked Tongue of Desire Playing Solitaire as Night Falls I asked to dig her up
Mathilda Cullen Nicholas Dinielli Michael Schmitt Ryan Majors Olivia DeBonis Mars Mendez Mathilda Cullen Mathilda Cullen
11 12 18 25 30 40 42 43
Nicholas Dinielli Lianna Lazaros Jordan Ford-Solomon Taryn Nasuta Olivia Adams Lianna Lazaros Ryan Majors Mathilda Cullen Nicholas Dinielli Jordan Ford-Solomon
51 54 63 64 70 73 84 88 92 94
Katie Lamar Ben Roffman Grace Mahony Ravneet Sandhu
15 32 57 76
FICTION The People Who Watch Me Caring for Animals Midnight Snack Find Your (My) Mother
NONFICTION Penrose An Interview with Skylar Jennings Already Home An Interview with Ben Roffman Language is Power The Drumstick Incident An Interview with Lianna Lazaros Do Houseflies Mind the Dust An Interview with Xingyun Wang An Interview with Ravneet Sandhu An Interview with Mitchell Angelo An Interview with Jakob Lorenzo Drowning the Sorrows of Ville Rose (Book Review) The Logic of Illogic (Book Review) An Interview with Trisha Murphy
Skylar Jennings Sonya Rio-Glick Cerissa DiValentino Jordan Meiland Edison Caughey
Kristen Manchenton Michael Schmitt
20 23 26 39 46 52 55 67 74 82 91 97 98 100 110
ART COMEIN Collage Self Portrait Dazed Go, Gently For a Moment Untitled Subliminal Addiction Connected Birth Control (series) Morning Bird Stellanova (series) Waning Lady Tomato Sandwich Owani Manducate Slash Her Amsterdam, November 2019 Feverhead Comprehending
William Ramirez Kalila Abdur-Razzaq Rachel Bevacqua Xingyun Wang Bailey Hummell Sarah Couture Joseph Restaino Nana Achampong Olivia DeBonis Jakob Lorenzo Stella Picuri Jasmine Yanase Sarah Couture Kalila Abdur-Razzaq Rachel Bevacqua Angel Ramirez Alyssa Monte Xingyun Wang Rachel Bevacqua
14 17 24 29 31 35 36 41 44 48 50 56 59 60 66 69 72 75 78
ART Family Portrait Island (series) White Mana Diner Business Transaction Misbehaving Youthless Connie Nu-T'Err: Patron Saint of Shit-Talk Florence, October 2019 Her Happiness Wanted Palace Diner
Kalila Abdur-Razzaq Alexander Atkinson Isabel Parades Mitchell Angelo Nikita Gotov Jasmine Yanase Jakob Lorenzo Alyssa Monte Nana Achampong Isabel Parades
81 85 89 90 93 95 96 102 107 109
Trisha Murphy Trisha Murphy Trisha Murphy Trisha Murphy
104 105 106 108
ITALICIZED Breathing In My Year of Celery and Carrots and Onions Tea for One Today, the world is not ending.
Italics Mine ISSUE 17
Look! A Pig Xingyun Wang Oil on canvas
Congratulations to Mathilda Cullen First place winner for her poem: "Returning Quanta: Bodies Sinking Again As They Must" &
Nicholas Dinielli Runner-up for his poem: "Haikus on the Home"
Inaugural Writing Contest on the Theme of Home â€œPerhaps home is not a place but an irrevocable condition.â€? -James Baldwin (American novelist, playwright, and activist) Is home inherited or won? Is it one place, or many, or no place at all, but in the imagination? What does it mean to be at home, whether in body, spirit, or place? And what happens when home is lost, or remade? Whether crossing literal or figurative borders, we at Italics Mine invite your work with the impulse for home at its heart for our inaugural writing contest. Send us your poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction engaging with this theme, in however you define home.
Returning Quanta: Bodies Sinking Again As They Must Mathilda Cullen Billboards advertise a new format of skyline and tell us itâ€™s time to leave. A streetlamp gives way to smoke, announcing the collapse of our faith in local infrastructure. Gas leak again. A hawk softly circles over the interstate, saying that this is the only way to cope. As I lie awake, the crickets are a clock ticking toward sunrise. When the birds turn on we are reminded of what itâ€™s like out here in the nowadays; the hot bubbling of horizon and geese. Grounding myself as in never leaving. Where else to go but the living room, but the endless strip mall that is this island. To the end of dislocation, of the miles of sewage that open beneath us. Here, in the only house we'll never own. You know what waits in the woods to keep it from us. A country is only as large as the cops maintaining it. All land is stolen. Soon it will return our theft.
Haikus on the Home Nicholas Dinielli [Scene: nighttime; late, and dark. The buzz of the overhead street light is an incessantly ringing doorbell, the arrival of a thousand unsolicited guests who refuse to accept that no one is home, or, rather: those who are home refuse to answer.] Dried up baby's breath scatters across the table when windows open. Morning, glorious Flowers planted evenly an unfurled, blooming, immobility. Frozen, with a lost Terror, unable to cope Vernacular bricks, a responsibility of preservation. Sunny Afternoons I once had something to do and children played There. Great-grandpa had dreams: a tenement couldn't last, it wouldn't sustain Grandpa turned to crime as a form of expression, never writing well -
he could hardly sing, although he beat up the guys who crooned on corners. Daddy: the last hope he would be the redeemer, the one to succeed. "Move him up, northbound where trees outnumber people" the teachers engaged his affinity for numbers - (came from bookies who taught him to bet when business was slow) then, he crafted his own codes and built a desktop. I am left with this legacy of binary in my own new form. Faded nostalgia: the potential energy lingers in silence. Inherited space, a story of love and loss the heirloom; gold cross.
COMEIN William Ramirez Digital (scanned), shot on 4x5 camera
The People Who Watch Me Katie Lamar
pull up slowly into the driveway, turning my car headlights off before I even I hit the brake. It is the dead of night, and rain is lightly pat-pat-patting on the hood of my baby blue June Bug. It is the brightest of colors. Of course it has to be bright. I am so seen out here. The bushes are high around me, and the trees bend and twist over my car, simply looming. When I peer over at the front porch to my house, my throat tightens. The door must be at least forty feet away. The trek seems impossible; the journey far too great. But I know, deep down, I am too old to be this afraid of the dark. I lock my doors from inside the vehicle and hold my breath, listening to the rain outside. I try to decipher between footsteps and droplets, but it’s so hard when my ears are ringing and my head is in the gutter. I slowly reach out and turn my key to kill the engine. Everything feels vulnerable. The windows easily smashed, my skin sliced, my bones broken. My body feels like one big eggshell. A tree snaps above me and a branch falls down beside the car. I would scream, but I am so petrified that I cannot move an inch. So I just scan through the windows with my eyes, keeping all of it, everything, inside of me. I reach for my phone and turn the brightness down immediately. I text Eve, “I’m home, can I call you?” and wait. Even the mere seconds between ‘Delivered’ and ‘Reply’ are excruciating. I need her to be awake, alive, here for me. Her reply is not a text, but a phone call. I answer before it can make a noise. “Okay,” I whisper, “I am going to unlock my door and head to the house.”
“Alright. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” she says. There is pop music blasting in the background of the call. I hear laughter and glasses clinking. I remember that it’s a Saturday night. “Are you at a party?” I ask, eyebrows furrowing. We have been best friends for over ten years, and have never gone to a party without each other. My heart deflates in my chest. “Yeah I am,” she says, “but don’t stress. You’ll be okay.” “I know I’m going to be,” I glance at the door handle, and then back out into the darkness, “It’s just that I’m worried.” “You’ve explained before.” “No, I know, I know, I’m sorry,” I say. The music on the other end of the line grows louder, and I hear Eve start giggling. “The door just seems so far away,” I give a small laugh, trying to match her energy. I hear no reply, “I just...gotta run to it.” I look down at my phone. It reads 1 AM.
"Everything feels vulnerable." “I know I’m weird,” I say. I unbuckle my seat belt and grab my purse beside me. “Even just a phone call makes me feel safe, so thanks.” And with this, my heart beats so quickly inside my chest I feel like my own instrument. I look at the entranceway to my house, and see the rain falling from the illumination of the outdoor light bulb. I wish the light reached over here. “It’s okay. I just think you need to speak to someone about this,” she hiccups drunkenly, “I can’t keep doing this every night, Meg. I got a life to live.” “No, you’re right, you’re totally right. Okay, I gotta go. See you soon, nighty night,” I say quickly and pull the phone away from my ear. I wait for the, “What? Are you okay?” and am met by a much simpler, “Alright, goodnight.” I hang up the phone and push it into my pocket, looking out through the glass at the darkness. The rain has become a downpour, but I have to face it at some point. I
can’t go another sleepless night trapped in this car. I close my eyes and try to remind myself that he has been in jail for over a year now. He can’t hurt me anymore. Only I can hurt myself. So I take a deep breath, pushing a loose sob down my throat. I open my car door, and bust out into the night. “Screw you,” I say to the man behind the basketball hoop. I slam the door. “Fuck this,” I hop over the man crouching beside the car. “You’re dumb,” I tell him. The rain pours over me as I strut up my sidewalk, into the light of the entrance way. “You think you’re so clever hiding in those bushes? Well, I SEE YOU!” I tell the three guys dressed in green, eyes glued to me, unmoving. I fumble with my keys for just a moment, and terror strikes me in the gut. Shaking, I find the right one, and open the door to the house. I turn around, to everyone waiting on the lawn, all camouflaged. “Go home,” I say. “This is my house.”
Collage Self-Portrait Kalila Abdur-Razzaq Collage on canvas, 24"x30"
A Refractory Swan Song Michael Schmitt Non-stop cars flood along the cracking street Encircled by gulls and a kid in need Of a character trait. The noble steeple Still pleadingly stands; bells drumming a song While the kid traces the circular bird As invisible as a traffic light. He mounts his undersized bike, deft and light Which can outride a cop in these streetsBut only at night, “Maybe a great bird I shall endeavor towards? All I would need Are wings and a beak and a hefty bird-song!” Away, people clutter under the steeple. He rides fast. Triangles atop the steeple Hide bells in their prism, twisting sunlight Into color and, perhaps, a sort of song. Straddled on these shapes, stories above the street, He rends the prism apart as one who needs Dimensionality. Every laughing bird Fails to greet this strange, new, triangle-winged bird. But the people who flocked to the steeple, Mice to a sewer, can’t/won’t/don’t need To notice how, inspired by the way the light Glides through the stained glass, he swoops to the street And clamps down on a crack, tender as a song,
To create the instrument for his song. He flies back up, eager as the dodo bird Meeting hungry sailors, or a young street Performer looking to make it big, and steeples His wings. Silence. Furiously in the light, The bird/kid glares at the bells while a dark need Bristles through his wings. “Surely, they don’t need Their inanimate music?” He savors their song in the air; sees it reflect off the light of cars humming like the termites on his birdbody. His prize is as strong as the steeple, However, and as endless as the street. The people, in need of hope, point out the bird Battling the bell’s song from atop the steeple. Mute, he flies to the light; drowns in the street.
Penrose Skylar Jennings
eople say time feels slower when you are a child because you are experiencing everything for the first time, constructing memory after memory, making time seem like it's moving slower. Think about times when you go on vacation and how long that first day feels or how a weekend in the summer away from your normal life can feel like a year going by. For this reason, most people have some of their most vivid memories as a child; everything is new. As we grow up, life becomes more predictable, and we fall into more patterns, which make time appear to be accelerating, producing nebulous strings of memories. I grew up in New York City. I lived there, went to school there, and have spent the majority of my life there. My memories of growing up there as a kid are going to the park with my dad and my older brother, getting blisters from climbing on the monkey bars for too long, or the way my mom would drop me off at school in the morning, and I would cry because I didn't want her to leave. The regularity of these ceremonies has sculpted these memories together in my mind, intertwined and indistinct. But there was always Santa Fe. It was where my grandmother lived. We called her Bibi, but her real name was Baleine, which she hated because it meant whale in French and it made her insecure about her body. Bibi lived in, what I thought as a kid to be, a museum. Never-ending hallways, rooms with 20-foot ceilings, and a view of the desert and the distant mountain ranges that later in my life guided me to Georgia O'Keeffe. It had to be that large because Bibi was an art collector. Each of the long hallways and 20-foot ceiling rooms were packed with a skillfully curated
combination of Native American art and the more modern abstract expressionist pieces which she collected throughout her life. She built the house for the artwork and put it on the top of a small hill, which was accessible by a winding gravel road through the front yard. In the back of the house was a little garden oasis in the desert, lined with colorful flowers. At night, the house would go black, and the faint noises from each room would echo throughout the quiet hallways, turning the long journey to the kitchen – for a late-night snack of ice cream or sopapillas with honey made earlier that day – a perilous affair where every statue became a ghost, and every mask became a face staring back at me in the dark. The walk back upstairs was always the worst part because the voice in the back of your head tells you to run, but there is something about running in the dark that only makes it scarier. Alzheimer's is a neurological disorder that leads to the loss of nerve cells in areas of the brain that are responsible for memories as well as language. It's a slow death: one of those contrived statements that people say whenever the disease seems to be brought up. This statement always felt strange; at least, the choice of the word slow made me wonder if it meant it was slow for the sick or slow for the ones watching. You first see them forgetting your name, then they forget what day it is, and slowly, more and more of them is eaten away. Supposedly your oldest memories, childhood memories, are the last to go. When I learned my grandma had it, I was young and didn't know what it meant. As I grew up and we kept going to Santa Fe, I saw the impacts of the disease on not only on her, but on my mom. Luckily there were distractions for both of us. For me, I was more than lucky that for many years all I remember about Santa Fe was how big the house was, how great the food was, and how much fun it was to go into that giant room where my brother and I stayed, with a quadruple bunk bed carved into the wall. I remember waking up in that daze of post-travel sleep where you're not quite sure where you are, but with my eyes still closed I could tell by the smell of pinion, mothballs, honey, and
fresh flowers that I was in the top corner bunk above my brother’s in that museum on the hill where my grandma lived. And early on, I would look out from my bunk and see Bibi sitting on the chair across the room, waiting for us to wake up. We would talk and tell her about school and our friends, and she would listen and occasionally read to us from Robin Hood or other fairy tales. At some point this ended, and I would wake up and look at the empty chair and think maybe she slept in, or that we had grown out of her early morning vigil. When everyone in the house was awake, we would make our way downstairs for a breakfast of huevos rancheros then run out to play knights in the garden. Later in the evening, as the sun went down, the sky turned a darker purple and the temperature dropped, creating a kind of aura only found in the desert, and we all would head out into the garden for dinner. After, my brother and I would go out into the grass and put on little performances ripped from the scenes of Monty Python. He would pretend to cut off my limbs one by one as my parents and Bibi drank wine and laughed until I lay on the grass with my arms tucked into my shirt and my legs into my pants, now just a body and head screaming “just a flesh wound!”
"She built the house for the artwork and put it on the top of a small hill..." As my brother and I grew older, and my mother knew we would be going there more and more, she asked the caregivers if they had any kids that they would like to bring to the house. One of them did; he was around our age, and we became close friends from an early age. The three of us were inseparable when we came to Santa Fe. Many of the times we would come he had school, so we would think of elaborate ways of getting him out of going so we could stay in that giant museum and play video games or build inventions or go into the garden and play games. My parents made the times my brother and I spent
there some of the best I have from childhood. I waited for every visit, and for the feeling that I would get after arriving late at night at the little airport, sitting half-asleep in the back seat of the rental car, listening to U2's Joshua Tree (because that was a tradition) as the desert flew by the window. The short drive only ever got us about three tracks through the album, which is probably why now whenever I hear the song "Where The Streets Have No Name", I can't help but think I am about to wake up to the car ignition turning off and my mom leaning back telling us we're here. My parents were always busy. My mother never wanted to put her in a home and believed that keeping her in her house around people, places, smells, and objects she knew would keep her alive for longer. Each visit there were new tasks; find the right doctor, hire part-time caregivers, get rid of the car and her license because it was too dangerous for her to drive, hire full-time caregivers, childproof the house in case she falls. The house that my grandmother built transformed with her as her condition deteriorated, and when she could barely remember who we were, my mom began selling the art so that she could pay for all the expenses. Every time we left and came back, there would be fewer and fewer statues and masks that haunted me as a child, until they were all gone. I never really knew how much this affected my mom, but for every piece sold, she tried to keep the house feeling the same for Bibi, who never noticed anything changing. The antique rugs tracing the halls were replaced with ones from IKEA, duct-taped to the floor, and the paintings and murals that draped the walls were switched for knock-offs. Even in parts of the house she knew Bibi would never be going to again; someone else without her eye for art would never say a word. For me, I didn't realize the impressions all this had until much later. I think it's what led me to writing: the greatest weapon against a disease that steals your memory and use of language. Maybe I saw it as not only a way to fend off the fear that something like this would happen to
me or someone I love, but also to use the very devices that were taken from my grandmother as a sense of tribute. Even though the fight may be futile, the fortress of memories I build on the page can outlast me when I'm no longer there to remember them. Bibi lived for a while after all the artwork was sold. She had people that knew and loved her keeping her alive. When she died, we didn't know what was going to happen with the house, and for two years, we continued to go and see all the people who were family at that point and stay in the big empty museum. The last time I went, it was just my mom and I. We knew it was going to be the last time. I had just gotten my driver's license, and my mom let me drive to the house from the airport. Seeing my dad do it so many times, I knew the way by heart. A few days later, standing in the bedroom before I left for the last time, all I could think about was that my brother was never going to say goodbye to the house, and for some reason, I couldn't cope with this fact. It was our childhood. It was the place where I remember growing up more than anything. It was my grandmother. For me, it only really felt like we were saying goodbye to someone when we left it that last time.
An Interview with Skylar Jennings
Author of Penrose
ITALICS MINE: Do you have a vision for a completed piece before you begin? SKYLAR JENNINGS: Sometimes. IM: When did you know this piece was done? SJ: When adding something new didnâ€™t feel right. IM: Did you have any artists and/or writers in mind when you crafted this piece? SJ: Joni Mitchell, C.P. Cavafy, Jonah Hill IM: If this piece could have a soundtrack, what would it be? SJ: "Seigfried" by Frank Ocean
Dazed Rachel Bevacqua Silkscreen (on paper)
A Place Without Walls Ryan Majors The only being in the field that feels comfortable talking about me is not myself, fear of the beans. All the time in my cells in my cells to confess about myself. Ask questions, I’ll explain them with selves and then beans, I tell myself. My bean bag explodes, taut in my fists, and it’s all confetti drooling onto my feet. The field feels afraid of the field, alone, but myself. I feel comfortable fleeing alone in the field fearing beans and their many selves, because they’re many selves. A lone bean gingerly in a bag of many selves. Feeding my head with beans and my head, and the field fears for me in my many cells. The beans in my impulses confess fear of their heads. Sweeping up the wet confetti and sleeping in the field bays deceit away from my sensitive selves. Talking to the beans with selves in hand, I heard from the comfort of my cell, and feel my head explode. My beans splatter my feet, I swallow the smell of ginger.
Already Home Sonya Rio-Glick
“Where’s home for you?” is a deceptively innocuous question thrown around by college students trying to place their peers. “Albany.” I’ve answered reflexively more times than I can count. But after all these years, Albany holds no real place in my heart. Instead, it is the backdrop of a complex childhood; a provincial box that never really had the room to hold all the things I was. When I went away to school one week after I turned 18, I broke up with Albany and did not look back. So no, Albany is not ‘home’ for me; not the creaky four story row house at 17 North Main I learned to walk in, with its red screen door and wood floors that splintered tiny hands and knees. Not the perpetually damp soccer field half a mile away that I ran down with reckless abandon, red walker reluctantly trailing me each Saturday morning from 2002-2006. And not the suburban ranch house with that quaint breakfast counter we’d move to when I was nine, the one with the dining table I’d cry all my tween and teen tears to, and the elementary school just beyond the backyard fence at which I would begin to understand I was different from the other children in body and soul. It is not Albany’s fault it is not my home- it did its best. To the unknowing eye, it had all the makings of a home: loving parents, early morning squabbles with my sibling as we shoved cereal into braces-laden mouths before school, family pets and school plays and first jobs and first periods and coming outs and wanting-to-go-back-ins. But Albany had a few fatal flaws; landmark heartbreaks too deeply cutting to come back from, or come back to.
There was a boy in Albany that was my home. Which is to say, when he was there I thought Albany was my home and then, when he was not, I knew suddenly it was not. He had big, soft hands and big, soft eyes and a big, soft laugh. One of my earliest memories is roughhousing with him, his little brother, and my sibling in his family's back room with the colorful rug and big TV. We’d pounce and tumble until we could no longer pounce and tumble. As we grew, our roughhousing shifted to Deep Talks about crushes and the state of the world and everything in between. When I had my big surgery at 14, he came over and met the sadness in my eyes. He told stupid jokes and did not ask stupid questions. As 14 became 16, 16 became 18, and then 18 became 20 he became more distant. I rationalized college as he having stepped into a world I was unmistakably outside of. Then one morning when I myself was a college student, I was told he had died from a heroin overdose. His name was Shaiyah. He was 21. My home had died.
"To truthfully write about ‘home’ I must touch on her: the woman who was my home until she, too, was not." I went to Albany for two days before going back to school because the fresh understanding that my home was not my home was too much to bear. Albany cannot be my home because an old private school taught me exactly how to doubt myself. The experience I had there is too sad and too complicated to live anywhere but those marble halls. So while I choose not to recount it all here, the evidence that Albany is not my home lives on in the moments I hide in the granola bar aisle of the food co-op, because a former classmate and tormentor is turning the corner. Or when I have to force myself to name three things I can see, touch, hear, and smell to convince my mind I am not back there; alone in those marble halls.
In the years since Albany, I have racked up a list of places that are not home either: the multiple dorm rooms of Emerson College that I hopped from like an expanded game of musical chairs, in one of which I made up a boyfriend named Kevin to avoid the raised eyebrows of a hateful roommate; the back room of the house of a 57-year-old masseuse/alternative healer in Denver, Colorado, where an air mattress and a room divider were my resting place as I took three buses each day to work unpaid at a theatre company; the bougie downtown apartment with a walk-in shower the theatre company put me in the following summer while I played a maid in a production of Annie and worked part time at Dick’s Sporting Goods; the masseuse/alternative healer’s back room that I moved back into when Emerson cut my financial aid; the too-clean student apartment with a very small kitchen I then moved into as I worked a human services job I was not qualified for; the multiple dorm rooms at Purchase College, a few of which I thought I was going to die in when the fire alarm went off and I could not get out; Purchase College at large, with its looming brick and hills made of pavement; the second-floor Bushwick apartment I sublet from an artist which was so hot I was sure I was going to melt, in which I told my best friend I loved her and then immediately saw a mouse run across the living room. To truthfully write about ‘home’ I must touch on her: the woman who was my home until she too, was not. I was not looking for a home when I walked through the door. We fit together so simply and so immediately, I at once had a fuller understanding of ‘home.’ Home became days-long volleys of text messages, far away FaceTimes after long days of hard work, and then tight hugs and park benches, matching PJs in front of Christmas trees, eyes to find in a crowded room. We created our own space when we were together. The world felt safer, more accessible. And we went on like that, in our own space for two years. I think I got stuck in that space; a little too happy to stay home. And so I told her in not so many
words that she had become my home in a way that felt more confining than warm. The moving out and moving on that followed was painful as I packed boxes of all I had given her: secrets and and struggles and stolen moments and dreams that felt too ridiculous to come true. Time. I took so much of my time back, as she stood in a wooden door frame and watched with sad eyes. I realize that while she may have been a safe place to land, she was not home because I cannot actually find home in someone else, in a city, in a school, or a house. I am my own home, physically and metaphorically. This disabled, at times tortured vessel is mine to inhabit in all its states. I am home when I am in my body fully, feeling every spasm and itch and fall and giggle and moment of pleasure. I am home when my mind spirals, looping around past hurt. And I am home when my mind is at peace, listening to soft music. I am home in those times when a strange voice calls after me some invasive question and I keep walking, holding myself as comment after comment is hurled. I wrap myself in the warmth of self assurance in those moments I am alone in the forest, no one to hear the sound of my tree falling. I am home when I triumph and I am home when I allow myself to cry. I am already home, and really, I always have been.
Go, Gently Xingyun Wang Acrylic on canvas, 20"x 16"
Buckets and Buckets Olivia DeBonis My fear is imagined, radically. Journal entries turn out to be prophecies themselves, and writers confuse to make with to say so I send you these buckets of me. Guitar Genius Finger-Males make me storm my own phalanges. Eventually, I stop seeing fingers and start seeing knots. While 20 years clicks in my ear, You started too late. Counting all doughy mealtimes without protein, or leaf. The Philosophy of Eating. The Philosophy of Being Hot (my cowardly competition, against Women of Clay). Iâ€™ve stained a new hangout irreparably. Ditched the holy script for upstream improvising. My mouth, a deflating balloon, blows reputation away. I dreamed of you, with my professor, your naked bodies. 50 missed calls and loving it. Iâ€™d love you begging at my bedside, to allow you to stay. My fear is imagined, entirely. I send you these buckets, and buckets of me.
For a Moment Bailey Hummell Digital drawing
Caring for Animals Ben Roffman
put on my tough gloves, which is S.O.P. in this type of situation, and get a grip on the free antler, but the other one’s jammed tight in the chain-link fence and all the while it’s making these brutish grunting noises, inelegant noises for what’s supposed to be such an elegant creature, and I’m tugging and tugging trying to dislodge the problem antler by sort of jiggling it up and down but it won’t give because said problem antler has two hooked protrusions which make extraction seem less improbable than how-did-it-get-stuck-in-thefirst-place and all the while it’s kicking and its eyes are all wild and I can smell its glands exuding pure chemical fear and I can’t possibly communicate to it that I’m not trying to hurt you dipshit I’m trying to free you. I have to brace myself and lean in with my pelvis as far away from the front hooves as possible while still gripping the antlers with both gloved hands, because if I’m poorly positioned, with soft underbelly exposed, I could sustain serious abdominal injury from a foreleg kick. For an instant I picture my entrails strewn out in the snow like a Mariana Trench grotesque, lab preserve yellow and steaming. Then I see its pupils dilate and it inhales sharply and it rears up on its hind legs and sends me flying through the air. I land on my back in some dirty snow. Then it’s me and it staring at each other for one slow-mo millisecond. Huge brown eyes, pink at the edges with animal fear that are either so fucking brain dead or infinitely cognizant, like each eye is a brown pink planetoid older than the Earth. Then it stops struggling. And it just slides its antler out of the fence. As if it was never stuck. And it turns. And it looks back at me, nostrils smoking, and canters off into the tree line. Now I’m just lying here over-heated and panting in my soaked
flannel. My limbs feel heavy. I can’t, won’t move. All I can see is an opaque white ceiling of sky. It’s beginning to snow. I let it cover me for a while. The memory of the deer running off into the forest is playing over and over in my head. It turns and runs, white tail flashing into a black forest that grows darker each time the deer goes in, each subsequent repetition blurring the realness of the memory until it’s reduced to Playstation video quality. A fuzzy 3D model of a brown quadruped pausing in eyeless judgment and then accelerating phantom-like towards a black wall which absorbs it. Suddenly I feel very cold, in regions of my body that I didn’t think could get cold, like my brain and stomach. That day I drive an hour and a half south to see my therapist in the outskirts of Columbus, OH. Stan arrives on time to his therapy appointment. The scene: a windowless room in the old industrial sector. Master’s degree framed and hanging on a yellow wall. No family photos. An oil painting of a southwestern U.S. landscape in the last rays of western daylight. It’s a very lonely picture. Stan can never take his eyes off it. He gets lost in its bleak, treeless expanse when eye contact with Dr. Dahlberg becomes emotionally strenuous. Dahlberg is a dizzyingly tall Norwegian with blonde hair, massive hands, and tiny spectacles. Stan finds it difficult to imagine Dr. Dahlberg doing ordinary human being-type things like washing dishes or taking a shit. “How do you think it got stuck?” says Dr. Dahlberg. “I’m not entirely sure. Sometimes they rub their antlers on stuff.” “Hmm. And it just… freed itself, you say?” “Yeah.” “Isn’t that what you wanted to happen?” “I wanted to free it.” “And now it’s free,” says Dahlberg. “Yeah.” “So what’s your issue?” “There was no point in going out and trying to help it. All I did was scare it.”
“Well, I won’t deny the possibility that it was pointless, as you say, but don’t you think the impulse that compelled you to help is, on its own, a good thing? Maybe frightening the deer was the only way to get it to shake itself loose.” “I wonder if I injured it. I was kind of rough with it.” Dahlberg is familiar with the tendency of clients to rationalize every scenario in which everything is terrible and will never get better. “Well, perhaps you’ll see this deer again. Then you can check. But animals tend to take care of themselves. They know what they’re doing.” “Yeah. But sometimes they don’t,” Stan says. Dahlberg chuckles, though Stan wasn’t looking for it. Then he stares at the ground seriously and folds his hands together. “What happened with that snapping turtle you took in last week?”
"It all seems like a distant unreality." “It died. Yeah. I put it in a clean tank with a hundred-watt heat lamp and fed it crickets dusted with calcium powder. But it wouldn’t eat. So I had to force feed it. Which is hard to do with snapping turtles, obviously. It died overnight. I came in that morning and turned on the lights and it was dead. Sunk to the bottom of the tank. There’s not much you can do when they come out of hibernation too early. I don’t know why it didn’t just hibernate with the others.” “I’m sorry to hear that. At least you gave it a good last night alive,” Dahlberg says. He sees Stan looking at the oil painting of the western landscape. He looks down at the floor again. “It must be terribly sad to witness so much death.” “Well, it’s a fact of life, I guess.” “Are you used to it?” “I’ve been doing it seven years.” “So you are used to it? Trying to save something only to watch it die?” Stan feels immobilized. The couch is too comfortable. Somewhere, a clock is ticking. Insane murmurings of heat pipes.
“You don’t have to answer that,” Dahlberg says. “It’s okay. We can discuss something else. You want to talk about sailing again?” Talking to Dahlberg is like talking to a very old tree. He lives epoch to epoch. This impression is heightened by the fact that Stan knows pretty much zilch about Stefan’s personal life, if he has one. In fact, the only thing he does know is that on the weekends, Dahlberg goes sailing. The doctor discusses his hobby like so: “I went out in the sunfish last weekend. Bitterly cold but worth it.” Or: “I bought a Gore-Tex jacket for $300, hoping it would block out the wind chill. It does seem like a lot of money for a jacket, don’t you think?”
"There are no family photos on the walls of the cabin. There are no places where they could be hung. Instead, most of the decor consists of wide, unpeopled landscape paintings." Stan always smiles and nods attentively. There is something centering about Dahlberg’s sailing adventures. Sometimes an hour-long session will be entirely occupied by nautical discussions, and no progress is made. Dahlberg will speak for a few minutes, lost in his own recollections, before asking, “Am I going on too long? Do you want to talk about something else now?” meaning: do you want to get your money’s worth and actually talk about what you’re here to talk about, or do you want to sit there in stupefied silence and pay a hundred bucks for it? Contrary to Dahlberg’s voiced or unvoiced concerns, the sailing talk is a big part of the deal. Stan enjoys imagining his therapist waking up at six a.m., rigging his one-man vessel, tying complex sailing knots, putting up the main sail, shoving down the keel, gliding smoothly on black lake water. He enjoys picturing Lake Erie and its vast, unfettered surface. He enjoys imagining Dahlberg on his weekend
retreat, enjoying simple rugged pleasures. It all seems like a distant unreality. The unreality of it for Stan being the idea that tranquility actually exists somewhere. That he could reach out and touch one who has known peace. Peace is what you get when you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do, which is never. Peace is the grave. “Actually, I’m not used to it, to death,” Stan says suddenly, mid-Dahlberg anecdote. Dahlberg looks surprised for a moment, then adjusts his spectacles. “I’m supposed to be used to it. At the clinic we take in all sorts of injured animals; stray dogs and cats, raccoons, skunks, baby birds, snakes, eagles with lead poisoning, and vultures that crash through the windshields of eighteen wheelers. And we save a lot of them, which is good, when you fix a cracked rib or a broken wing. But then every other animal that comes in is doomed. And there’s nothing you can do. You just have to watch it struggle and die. I’m supposed to be used to it, but I’m not.” “But don’t you think it’s a good thing that you feel so strongly for the animals?” says Dahlberg. “You do it because you care, don’t you?” “Well. That’s the reason I started doing it, I think. I’ve always liked animals. But it’s so taxing. And I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing it. Most people go to work and it’s tiring and stressful, but then that’s it. You go home and watch TV and forget about it until the next day. It’s not like that for me.” “Me neither,” Dahlberg says. Why do I always think of things to say to my therapist on the way home? When I went in for my appointment, I read the small engraved plaque that says: “Dr. Stefan Dahlberg, Psychotherapist,” which I always read as “Psycho the Rapist” regardless of how many times I look at it. And every time I read it, I’m reminded how Stefan isn’t technically a doctor because he doesn’t have a PhD, just a master’s. And at that point, compulsively reading the plaque on my way in, the only thing I’d wanted to discuss was the deer, how it ran out of the clearing and into
Untitled Sarah Couture Oil on canvas
the forest. Now I’m driving back north through snowy cornfields, with billboards for fireworks and the denouncement of evolution and it’s only now occurring to me that I should’ve told Stefan about the time when I was nine years old, when I spent the summer at my father’s house in rural southeastern Ohio, and it was early evening, and my father was preparing dinner, and he told me to go out back to the woodshed to fuel the stove and I went out back to the shed, which was cool and damp, and I picked up a log from the pile and underneath, underneath the log was this big yellow rat snake curled up in a big yellow pissed off heap. Everything, the air, objects, blood, became static; the only entity that could move was the snake. It uncoiled and slipped off deeper into the woodpile. My hand moved before my mind and grabbed its tail, stopping time. Time
moved when the snake moved. Then I started to pull it in, hand over hand like a rope, the snake protesting with threatening hisses which I ignored, until its head at last came into view with that fixed reptilian smirk, bam all of a sudden whirling around and striking my hand, leaving tiny twin puncture marks. It didn’t hurt at all. I felt massively, carnally alive. I decided to keep it as a pet. My dad approved of my new acquisition, and set up an old aquarium in my bedroom. The snake immediately burrowed out of sight beneath the wood chips. Dad said he looked hungry, and I agreed. I told him I’d read somewhere that snakes prefer live mice. Dad got one from a trap in the basement. I watched as he opened the lid of the aquarium and dropped the mouse in, and I watched it sprint from corner to corner on little pink feet, breathing hard. It froze,
little black eyes gleaming. I tried to think of its eyes as just little cameras, its legs as just little wheels, its breathing the work of finely tuned motors. Then I watched as the snake poked its face out of the wood chips, tongue flicking, and I watched as it caught sight of its prey, and they stared at each other, and I witnessed the uncertainty of flesh, the weakness and the hideousness of flesh, and I felt Dad’s hand on my shoulder, he was watching me watch. Then I watched as it struck again, and didn’t miss, and threw its coils around the little hyperventilating body, and I watched its little pink feet struggling, kicking out for its life, so vital and pink and doomed. I watched as the kicking stopped. Then we went downstairs and had dinner. Between mouthfuls, Dad was saying that keeping a pet is a big responsibility. I said I could handle it, and he smiled. Then I said that I wanted to feed it pre-killed mice from now on, because I read somewhere that they’re safer for the snake. They came frozen in little plastic packets. Every week I’d lay them out to thaw until limp under the lamp in my bedroom. Stefan glides out from the dock, gripping the tiller in his right hand. He pushes it away from himself, listing to portside, to slip by a rock. There’s no wind in the bay, so he sculls his way out into the open water. It’s ineffective and exhausting. He breaks a sweat under his Gore-Tex coat. Stefan is thinking about Stan, how he doesn’t think he can help him. He’s scared of giving advice. Giving advice is scary. Sometimes, Stefan observes, we give advice that we wouldn’t take ourselves. He uses 'we' and not 'I'. The mainsail flaps wildly as he slides out of the bay. Stefan pulls it in, drawing it taut against the wind. He can’t help grinning as he picks up speed. It’s one of the only sensations that stimulates an involuntary grin from him anymore. But it’s a chemical, a muscular reflex. The wind shifts north, and the smile turns into a toothy squint. Was it winter or summer of ‘98 when Natalie Briggs killed herself ? It was summer, yes, because Stefan remembers what he was wearing when he got the call, one of those massive
Subliminal Addiction Joesph Restaino Acrylic on canvas circa 1990s aloha shirts. That was the first one, wasn’t it? Then Christopher Alehouse. Which was... let’s see... ‘02? Then Jennings... Oscar Jennings, in ‘03. Stefan tacks upwind, ducking under the boom as he shifts his weight from starboard to port. The term “One-Man Sailing Vessel” is a stretch for someone of Stefan’s height and build. How had Jennings killed himself ? He’d slit his wrists with a fillet knife, like what you gut a fish with. Why would he use a fillet knife? Stefan couldn’t stomach fish for a few years after that, more out of physical repulsion than grief. He had liked fish. What was a Norwegian without lutefisk, after all? And then in ‘05 there was that Panamanian
girl, surname Vasquez, first name... Alicia, Elisa? Can’t remember. No, Alicia. He remembers her signature from the checks. An A and not an E, followed by a squiggly line. She hung herself, with rope. There are lots of ropes on a sailboat. They’re called lines, though, when you’re on a boat. The wind is dying. Stefan heads back towards the bay. He pushes the tiller out, ducks the boom, and slacks the mainsail, a nautical technique known as running. What if I just keep driving? Just keep heading north? I could get to Detroit in four hours. Less. Then I could head east to Toronto, or Niagara Falls. Right? Couldn’t I? I’ve never been to the falls. I could sleep in the car, eat at gas stations. I could be back by Monday. Or not. Or I could just keep going, up and up, into the great white North. Up through Quebec, to Newfoundland. I’ll live in the middle of nowhere. Find work on a fishing boat and crash on some friendly Canuck’s couch until I can save up enough for my own place. I could sell my car. Or not. Maybe I’ll just subsist on wild berries and carrion. Drink deeply from clear cold streams. Doesn’t it sound good? I’ll forget English. The language of my thoughts will be pure images, no words. I’ll make my own snowshoes, rabbit traps, ice fishing holes. Deerskin tents—they’re overpopulated anyway. I’ll become an apex predator, finishing off the weak for the good of the strong, and when I’m weak, or old (if I live to be old), I hope something will have the good sense to come along and finish me off too. I’ll find a way to make smokeless fires so the helicopters won’t find me. They won’t search for me too long. My desertion won’t be felt. The animals will die with or without me. Why should I bear the weight of their little pains? Let stags get their antlers caught in the chain-link fence. Let them writhe and free themselves. They never needed me. Stefan’s Lake Erie cabin is not centrally heated, so he sets about making a fire as soon as he gets back. The heat conductive slate floors are still cold under his feet as he stands in the kitchen, boiling water for his tea. He looks
freakishly tall even in his own home, but he’s so used to the size disparity between himself and regular household objects that he doesn’t even notice. The kettle boils and he pours himself a cup. He brings it into the living room and sits down in his armchair, the springs of which were shot long ago. Stefan finds it more comfortable that way, actually. There’s a pencil and a pad of paper on the table beside the chair. He picks them up and writes a stark, four-line poem. He taps his pencil on the edge of the pad in thought.
"The language of my thoughts will be pure images, no words." There are no family photos on the walls of the cabin. There are no places where they could be hung. Instead, most of the décor consists of wide, unpeopled landscape paintings. The only framed photo with one or more human beings as the subject is sitting on the cluttered bureau behind him. It pictures Stefan, younger and blonder, laughing with his grad school friends. He’s sort of forgotten about that photo. He stops tapping the pencil and starts doodling. He doesn’t know what he wants to draw yet, so he starts with long, straight lines, from one end of the paper to the other. He fills up one page with lines, then turns to a new page, and fills it up too. Then another page. Then another. The lines begin to resemble the bark of a pine tree. At first the bark consumes the entirety of each page. With each new page the tree narrows. Branches appear. His hand moves steadily; there is no hurry. At last the trunk thins to just a few lines, the branches grow sparse and scraggly. His hand is tired and smeared with charcoal. He compares his hand, which is old, to the oldness around him. Book-shelves crammed with well-loved tomes, trinkets collected from journeys abroad. Every space occupied by old things made somehow arcane with age. It’s too intimate to be a home. It’s a nucleus. It’s the inside of his head. Stefan puts down the pencil. With the same, now cramped, charcoaled hand, he reaches for his phone and calls his secretary.
Three hours later I’m being led into a white walled room with a stainless steel table in the center. My car is impounded outside. Turns out you need a passport to get into Canada. Fucking idiot. A burly Canuck in a tactical vest pats me down, asks me to take out my wallet, keys, phone, chewing gum, etc., and places them on the table, says, "Sorry, but this is just a formality, we believe you, we believe you’re not carrying heroin or anything in a balloon in your ass, but we take border security very seriously up here, people don’t seem to realize that, Americans think they can just stroll into Windsor like it’s just more of Michigan, I deal with it every day, people like you who drive hours to cross over, with an excuse like ‘I forgot I had to bring a passport,’ as if we’re supposed to just take that on good faith and let you in." He rambles on and on, this big Canadian cop. I don’t say anything. Everything that comes out of my mouth sounds insufferably idiotic right now. "Ya know," the cop says. "It’s real easy to apply for a passport. Real easy," he says. I say maybe I will. I know I won’t though. By then the feeling will have passed. It’s passing now. I take off my shoes and place them on the table, the cop’s latex-gloved hands searching for bags of drugs or knives or nuclear warheads in there. All they find is sweat. I’m just standing here on the cold linoleum floor in my socks, feeling empty and stupid. My mind is literally blank, like the walls. "You can put your shoes back on and get your stuff," he says. I do this and am led out of the cold white room and into a waiting room. The cop is telling me that I’ll be discharged momentarily, as soon as the lady in the booth calls my name. I ask if I can make a phone call and they say yes. My phone’s nearly out of juice. I call Dr. Dahlberg. It rings and rings and goes to voicemail. I don’t leave one. The next morning, I eat my colorless motel breakfast and drive back home. It’s one of those sunny late fall/early winter mornings where the sky is that washed out blue. Good day for a drive. There are red tailed hawks in the sky, circling on the updrafts. 'The following week felt different. A goose with a broken wing was brought in Monday. I’ve never worked on a goose
before. I improvised a larger splint for the wing out of some scrap wood and bandages, and it’s been steadily improving. I decided to not tell my co-workers about my Detroit-Windsor border scrape. Out of shame? Maybe. I don’t know. It’s not a story that would make sense to anyone. On Friday I got a text from Dr. Dahlberg which said: “I am taking a long vacation. Not sure quite how long as of now. Everything’s fine. Hope you are doing well. I can refer you to a few of my colleagues in the interim if you are interested.” I don’t think he’ll be coming back. Later that day I returned to the section of fence where I’d found the deer, not bothering to convince myself that it was for any other reason than to see if he was there. He wasn’t. Why would he be. The forest is dark and the fence runs deep into it, all the way to the highway on the other side. I rattled the fence, imagining it vibrating all across its length. Animals detect disturbances that we are deaf to. But nothing happened. I stopped rattling. The forest was silent.
An Interview with Ben Roffman
Author of Caring for Animals
ITALICS MINE: Did you have a vision for the completed piece before you began? BEN ROFFMAN: No, I made it up as I went along. I find it impossible to think up plots. I might have a scene or a picture in mind, but that's it.
IM: When did you know this piece was done? BR: I don't think I had a moment where I knew this piece was complete. After working on it on and off for a few months, I think I lost perspective on it. I definitely knew when I was through with working on it, though.
IM: Did you have any artists and/or writers in mind when you crafted this piece? BR: I always think about Gunter Grass when I write, because he's my favorite writer, and a master of the sentence. All objects and places are symbols to him. Also, Grass' characters tend to be strange, obsessive people, who are driven more by carnal impulses than sound reason. I was also influenced by this TV show called Patriot, written by Steven Conrad, because the protagonist has a traumatic job that he feels morally compelled to keep doing, despite how much it hurts him. The show also pays very close attention to word choice and cadence in dialogue, especially distancing language, which I tried to do in Caring for Animals.
IM: If this piece could have a soundtrack, what would it be? BR: I wrote this piece while listening to a lot of ambient music, especially this guy Fred Frith, who does these solo concerts where he makes all of these haunting, droning sounds with his electric guitar by playing it with bits of string and brushes and mallets and all sorts of little props. I think it would be a good soundtrack for "Caring for Animals".
East Harlem Rumble Mars Mendez 112th between 1st and 2nd children scamper up the stairs skipping steps with dirty public school uniforms tossed over to single mothers who swim in endless papers of taxes food stamps and bills While abuelas stir arroz con salchicha with wooden spoons older than time itself and feed the bellies of aunties cousins brothers and sisters in homes hotter than las playas de Puerto Rico Magic potions and healing herbs brujas de las Botanicas promise wealth and prosperity while snatching Fridayâ€™s paycheck
Surfing on the 6 line watch me take off with only two dollars and seventy-five cents and the East Harlem rumble in my soul
Connected Nana Achampong Digital drawing
Gespenster Mathilda Cullen It was an hour chewed by the clock, days wedged between the brain’s teeth. It was this mind fastening to another in an attempt to overwrite its history. It was a world I’d never birth, please don’t mention it. It was how the midnight put itself inside you and said work. It was a town called Hauppauge and the land was all flat and swallowed. It was this fact I threw at every other moment of my life. It was a sapling pushing up through concrete, the waking up at the bottom of a fall. It was how the ground inverts as you pass through it. It was sitting so long in the dark our landscapes rendered bare, our landscapes not our landscapes. It was the sky, someone’s property. It was another collage against wasteland, another nail in his fucking cantos. It was a mind and the mind is not capital. Listen, we will haunt you into memory of this.
The Sound of a Mind Taping Over Itself; Coming to Terms with the World I Will Never Birth for Như Xuân Nguyễn Mathilda Cullen I remember the first time I forgot. Elsewhere was a constant, then. Estradiol is another word for this is your body, and a needle is how the sun is spelled sown as it’s ripped into sky, how I was digging for something in my skin and found remorse — memory awake to this all too sudden somewhere. From these windows, I attempt a theory of trees, how they mushroom like these breasts I forget to remember, how the officer saw heels, dress, tears, and decided: ma’am. How do you look at me and say that when you know? Tell me, again, what you know.
Birth Control (series) Olivia DeBonis Sculpture
Language is Power: An Interview with David Means Cerissa DiValentino
David Means is the author of four story collections, most recently Instructions for a Funeral (2019), as well as a novel. His short fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including Esquire, The New Yorker, and Harperâ€™s. His work has been recognized with several awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction for his second collection, Assorted Fire Events, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Pushcart Prize (2001), and the Frank Oâ€™Connor International Short Story Award (2005), among others. He currently lives in Nyack, New York, and teaches at Vassar College.
ITALICS MINE: What writers were you reading when you first started out and how did they shape you as the writer you are today?
of this story and how it dives into the future, years after the fight occurred. How should beginning writers go about capturing time in their own work?
DAVID MEANS: That’s a huge question because I was reading all over the place when I was a student. I loved poets: Garcia Lorca, Adrienne Rich, Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett, and most of all, I think when I was an undergraduate, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. Don’t be afraid to love a writer who isn’t fashionable, or cool, or whatever. You don’t have to talk about your influences to other people. I was also big on Stephen King and science-fiction writers and, well, the Bible and books about nature.
DM: That’s a good question. I think the important thing for a young writer to understand is that you can do almost anything in a story as long as you’re being truthful to the material and the characters you’re creating, and as long as you’re actually telling a story. Fiction is magical. You can leap forward months, or years, or you can slow a scene down. But again, the most important thing, of course, is that you tell a story. Something has to happen to someone. Someone has to be in a specific predicament.
IM: What do you think is most important for beginning writers to know when they are trying their hand at short stories for the first time?
"I know it’s a horrible thing, but studying grammar is important."
DM: There’s no one thing you need to know, but it’s important to read as much as you can—not just current, contemporary writers, but also all of the classic writers. And you should also know that there just isn’t a magical key that’s going to unlock your talent, one single bit of advice that’s going to make it happen. You have to write and write and write and begin to find a voice that is your own voice, something only you can create, and you need to keep thinking about stories. What’s a story? When I hang out with my friends, and we’re telling each other bullshit stories, what makes them funny and interesting. But you also have to learn to trust the power of your imagination, to daydream a lot, to listen and look, and to make things up. You have to train yourself to think differently, to think like an artist, and also you should draw from music, from artwork.
IM: In your story “Two Ruminations on a Homeless Brother,” some of your sentences run from a paragraph to a page-and-a-half. Beginning writers are often taught to avoid run-on sentences. When do you think is a good time to start breaking the rules?
IM: The structure of your story, “Fistfight, Sacramento, August 1950,” from Instructions for a Funeral is so interesting in the way it deals with time. You write, “A punch lives and dies in a flash, but continues on as a tactile memory...” and in a way this sentence summarizes the slow-motion effect
DM: I don’t think you should see it as breaking rules. Those sentences in “Two Ruminations” are still grammatical sentences. A sentence can go on and on as long as it sticks to the rules—subject and predicate. But as a young writer you should learn how a sentence works. I know it’s a horrible thing, but studying grammar is important. A long sentence draws a reader in and keeps them reading. On the other hand, a number of readers aren’t really equipped to read long sentences. The two things go hand in hand. Learning to read long sentences—to really read them with care—and learning to write. IM: In the opening line to “Confessions,” you write: “I’ve been writing stories for thirty years now, many published, others not published but trashed, put to bed, dead in the
water, so to speak: lost to me, to eternity, or whatever.” When and how do you know a story is simply not working and you must walk away? DM: Like anything else, you have to trust your own taste, your internal critic. Nothing is ever wasted. You can work on something and revise it and spend a great deal of time and then realize, suddenly, that it’s not going to work. Then you take something from that story—a line, or a character—and use it somewhere else, later. The important thing is to pay attention to how you work, to the way that you, as an individual, go through the process. I know a story is finished when I’m starting to put lines back in, to go back to early drafts.
"You have to trust your heart." IM: You said in an interview with Mr. Porter that Instructions for a Funeral took ten years to complete. When do you know when something is ready to be published? DM: I publish each story one at a time, and then when I have enough, I put them together into a book. But I also have to have the right combination of stories—they have to be able to work together. I’ve said this before, but it’s a little like putting together a record release—at least back before the days of Spotify—and you want the songs to work together, to resonate off of each other; maybe you have smaller narratives between the songs. IM: In an interview with Nyack News and Views, you said that your stories “take place in an imagined place that happens to have certain aspects of where I live….it’s an imagined sense of locations that draw from real ones.” As writers we tend to combine what we know with the imagined, but how do you approach writing place? Do you have a method?
Morning Bird Jakob Lorenzo Letterpress print
DM: I use my imagination. I mean I don’t really write stories about Nyack, or about Michigan, but an imagined place that uses things that might appear in those places. I put characters in places—along the Hudson River, out in LA, in Duluth—and the landscape pushes against them. IM: What does your revision process look like and do you have any advice or suggestions for beginning writers in their own revision process? DM: You want to put your work under pressure, scrutinize it from a distance, looking down on it as something that you didn’t create. Again, you have to pay attention to your own process, which is going to be unique. I see revision as a way of covering your tracks. The reader won’t see the things you remove, or edit. You have to learn to cut things away, to carve out the material that actually
allowed you to create the story. And it helps to have a really good reader, someone you trust, someone who isn’t going to lie to you.
IM: Do you ever feel like there are times when you’ve hit writer’s block? If so, how do you go about finding the inspiration to continue writing again?
IM: You also write in “Confessions” that, “It isn’t a matter, really, of being afraid to expose my family–my sisters, my mother, my now-dead-father–but because to find a way into the truth in fiction I can do so only by protecting them, working around them…” What do you suggest to young writers when writing about personal matters in their own work? How should they go about “protecting” these personal matters?
DM: I don’t really suffer from writer’s block, although I can imagine what it might be. Mainly because I just see blank spots, and procrastination, as a natural part of life. If I’m having trouble writing, I just write anyway, or listen to music, or go see an art exhibit, or read. I think it’s important to go easy on yourself, to take care of the muse, to feed it, to let yourself become artistic in other ways; I don’t think there’s a line between, say, listening to Chance the Rapper, daydreaming, and doing the writing. One thing that a young writer has to do is figure out the right form. Sometimes a fiction writer really wants to be a poet, or a playwright, or a screenwriter, and just doesn’t know that yet. Other times—this was my case—you start a poet and then turn to writing fiction. The most important thing is to immerse deeply into challenging art. Raise the bar as high as possible when it comes to reading: don’t just read contemporary writers, or listen to one kind of music, or look at one kind of art. Educate yourself and see your own life as a long, continuous education. You’re going to hear voices all around you that say: don’t be so smart. You have to ignore those voices. Get off the internet for a while if you can; that’s important, too, because you have to learn to be alone, completely alone, and to daydream, to conjure up stories that only you can locate. And don’t forget that the world wants you to remain stupid; it wants you to be just smart enough to work but not smart enough to question, to have visions, to look closely. Without the language to say things, you can’t say them. Language is power.
DM: You have to trust your heart. If you write something that is truthful, that reflects the world in a way that is real, then you’ll be OK. Certain things you might want to hold onto, to protect, but mainly because you’ll use them—and I’m talking about painful things—as a fuel for your creative process. Young writers give things away too quickly, in some cases, or they hold back on writing about things that are painful. IM: As young writers, it is sometimes rather difficult to hear the voice of our own work or how our story sounds. How do you suggest they find and hear their storytelling voice? DM: You want to find a voice that you like hearing. I’m not saying you should find a voice that sounds like “you.” But you do want to write in a voice that appeals to you. I’d suggest finding writers you admire and trying to imitate them if you can. On the other hand, it’s natural to not like hearing your own voice when you read something aloud.
"The most important thing is to immerse deeply into challenging art."
Stellanova (series) Stella Picuri Collage
[Word Collage #4] Nicholas Dinielli redefined, pre-war: not just a place to shop anymore. customize your transitional space, make room for mischief, explore life in the city. all featured passions & televised journeys will be attitude, forgotten. I will not leave a body once shattered. The circus is leaving, amassing the object of the new game, taking a fresh look at you, one not quite expected. I only wanted to navigate the uncertain waters of the academy, and perhaps the rapid-fire personal business crisis.
The Drumstick Incident Jordan Meiland
oing to a The Wonder Years concert is a special occasion. They’re my favorite band, so seeing them in the flesh is like Christmas to me. I get to sing along to Dan Campbell’s songs of depression, anxiety and self-loathing (the only songs I’ll sing along to). I lose my voice and strain my arms after screaming too loud and pointing too much (you do it to get the singer’s attention). I cry tears of joy during songs like “Local Man Ruins Everything” and “The Devil in My Bloodstream.” I become a different person at these shows. Their sold-out Webster Hall show in February was special. In addition to their regular electric set, they played a stripped-down acoustic song. During both sets, they played songs I’d been dying to hear for years, specifically “You in January” and “The Bluest Things on Earth.” The crowd was full of people feeling the music as much as I was. I was screaming along so much that I lost my voice by the fifth song of their electric set. I had one of the best nights of my life. As the last note rang out and the band left the stage, people began making their way to the exits. Of course, as usual, a small handful of fans stayed behind, screaming and pointing wildly at setlists and guitar picks left behind by the band, myself included. Emily, my friend who came along, held my side bag as I waited at the barricade, trying to get whatever I could. After some unsuccessful attempts to get a setlist, I was about ready to leave. But suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a stagehand walk onto stage carrying a drumstick, which I assumed was one of Mike Kennedy’s (drummer of The Wonder Years).
It had to be his. Every other drummer thus far kept their sticks. I waved in his direction and shouted “Yo!” He saw me, nodded, and tossed the drumstick in my direction. As it flew through the air, the adrenaline kicked in and I reached out to snatch it. I caught it. She caught it too. A young woman about my height went for the stick as well. When she realized she wasn’t the only one that caught the stick, she started yanking with all her might, trying to pry it from my grip. For the next 20 seconds, I stood still, keeping a firm grip on my end of the stick. While she tried to get the stick, I looked around the room, making eye contact with onlookers as if to say: “are you seeing this?” I wasn’t going to emulate her and make a bigger scene. I’d hoped she’d give up and just let me have it, but she didn’t give up. In fact, she got more aggressive, to the point where she started snarling at me to hand it over. That’s when I had enough. “You know what,” I said firmly, “Let’s play Rock-Paper-Scissors for it. Best of three.” She glared at me before nodding and letting go. In that moment, I could’ve turned around and walked away with the stick. But that would’ve been a cheap shot, so I stuck to my word. With the stick tucked under my left arm, I turned to face her, and we started playing. I won the first round. She won the next. Tied one-to-one, the final round would determine who’d go home with the stick and who’d go home disappointed. As the pressure built, I got more and more anxious. I started shaking at the knees. I bit my lip hard and started breathing heavy, dreading that final round. In that moment, my world stood still, and I’d never dreaded anything more. We never had that final round, though. I forfeited. “You know what, why don’t you just take it?” I asked, holding out the stick for her to take. With an excited yelp, she snatched the stick and jumped forward, throwing her arms around me. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she exclaimed, hugging me. When she let go, I stood back and watched as she walked away. I turned to Emily and we started walking towards the exit.
Why’d I do it? Why’d I forfeit instead of playing one more game? Put simply, if I lost the stick in the last round, I’d remember the concert as the one where I got cheated out of a piece of wood and went home disappointed. Instead, I remember it as another superb The Wonder Years concert where I screamed my heart out. A concert where I got to see my favorite band at the barricade. A concert where I displayed incredible kindness towards a complete stranger.
"That’s when I had enough. “You know what,” I said firmly, “Let’s play Rock, Paper, Scissors for it. Best of three."" In a deli a few blocks away, as Emily waited on her grilled cheese and fries, I sipped lemonade and we talked about the incident. It left me confused. I couldn’t stop talking and thinking about it for the rest of the night. That incident, which couldn’t have been more than 90 seconds, has had an incredible effect on me. It has raised a number of questions I’ll never know the answers to. What would’ve happened if I won that last round? Would she have gone berserk and tried to snatch it from me again? Would she have started crying, making me look like a jerk? Would I have felt bad for her and given it to her anyways? On the other hand, what would’ve happened if I lost that last round? Would she have snatched it from my hands with a wicked laugh and ran away? Would I have started crying? Would I have turned away and made a mad dash for the exit? I got no answers in the deli. Instead, I had a strange feeling of relief as Emily got a grilled cheese.
Crush Lianna Lazaros You lie on my left side, the last time we share a bed. Your thigh presses against mine too comfortably, sending numbing shivers through my veins. Get off of me, I want to say. You’re making me ache. Paralyzed by a pleasant pang from your sweet, suffocating stance, my thigh hangs by a nerve; held together with safety pins and needles. I pry what is left of my leg out of your tight hold. Staples being ripped from my skin linger for a minute too long; unable to shake my mind free from the agony you cause me— You’re depriving me of sensation and I want it back now, baby. I want it back.
An Interview with Lianna Lazaros
Author of Crush and In My Garden
ITALICS MINE: Did you have a vision for your completed pieces before you began? LIANNA LAZAROS: Both of my poems are entirely different from their first drafts, and even their original ideas. Having a set vision sometimes disrupts my writing process, so I try to stay in the moment when I write and see where my words take me. It's freeing and it allows me to make mistakes without getting frustrated.
IM: When did you know your poems were done? LL: I knew my poems were complete when I was able to read them after countless days of revision and feel proud of what I wrote. If I continued to revise them, I knew I'd start to hate them, or their meaning would get lost upon me. It's all about knowing the right moment to stop.
IM: Did you have any artists and/or writers in mind when you crafted these pieces? LL: Definitely Richard Siken. I titled one of my poems after his book, Crush. Later in my revision process, I included a line from one of my favorite poems of his, "Dirty Valentine." The violent eroticism in his poems is heartbreakingly beautiful and left an impression on me. I love his work.
IM: If this piece could have a soundtrack, what would it be? LL: "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division
Read In My Garden on page 73
Waning Lady Jasmine Yanase Pencil on paper
Midnight Snack Grace Mahony
he only customer that night was a lady bawling her eyes out. This was hardly the worst thing that came through the doors of the McDonald’s during the graveyard shift. “Hello. May I take your order?” asked the cashier. “I wanna die!” wailed the lady. Her blonde hair was falling out of her updo, and her designer handbag looked like it had seen better days. “That’s not on the menu,” the cashier replied. “I can’t take it anymore! Everybody I know is an asshole! And my mom never understands me! She always says I’m picky and intolerable. I can’t stand it!” “We have a special two-for-one deal on ice cream cones.” The lady somehow managed to cry harder. “My date skipped out on me at the restaurant and left me with the bill! It was over a hundred dollars!” “We have a dollar menu.” “My last date was just so creepy and smelled weird.” “What time is it?” the cashier wondered aloud. “This is so cruel. The universe is just farting at me in the face!” “I’m taking my break now if you’re not gonna order anything.” This finally got through to her. The lady was speechless for a moment. “You’re not gonna listen to me?” “You can talk,” said the cashier, “but I’m not gonna listen.” “What the fuck kinda service is this?”
“It’s not a service that I’m offering. I don’t owe you anything and neither does the universe. It can fart on you all it wants.” The lady’s mouth flapped open and closed like a fish. “I wanna speak to the manager!” The cashier looked her dead in the eye. “I am in charge while the manager’s away.” “No, you’re not. You look like a teenager,” said the lady. “I am, in fact, fifty-one years old,” said the cashier. “You’re fucking with me.” “I assure you I’m not.” She threw her hands in the air. “I don’t have time for this.” “Good, then don’t waste it.” “What the fuck do you know? My life is over now.” “Is it really?” “What the hell do you mean?” “You’re breathing. You’re walking. You have a tongue that can taste food and warmth in your body and eyes that can see color. You have time.” “I’m already thirty,” said the lady in a small voice. “So what? I’m fifty-one.” “I’m still calling bullshit.” “And I’m taking my break.” “Wait! Fine, I’ll order something.” The lady rubbed her arms. “I’m already here in this middle-of-nowhere McDonald’s. That stupid dinner cost so much cuz the fucker ordered down the menu like it was sorted price high-to-low... All I got was a salad.” The cashier sighed. He actually hoped she would leave, but he ended up inputting her order and made the food himself. The lady munched her food and drank her shake right at the pickup counter. “Will you listen now?” she asked. The cashier tapped the tip jar. The lady dumped her change into it. “I’ll give you twenty minutes,” said the cashier. “And then I’m taking my break.” The lady began her story. It was so like what the cashier had heard before. She had overbearing parents,
no luck at her male-dominated job, and a recent string of bad dates. She recalled every man she’d dated in the last six months. Her storytelling could’ve used some work, in the cashier’s opinion. She had a habit of retroactively going back to correct details. While she was talking, she tore a napkin to shreds with nervous fingers.
"“Do you really want to die?” the cashier asked. She sniffed. “No... I’m just— I’m just tired.”" The cashier was paid to listen, though that didn’t stop his mind from drifting to his lunch cooler that was waiting for him in the break room. “The point is I’m miserable,” she moaned. She dunked a pair of fries into her shake. “I got that much.” “Everyone says I shouldn’t be though. Everyone says I should be grateful because my family is rich and I’m white and straight and my parents are still together...” “Fuck ‘em. Be miserable,” the cashier said before he could stop himself. “Then be done being miserable.” “If only if it were that easy.” “It’s not.” “I’m just so tired of it all.” The cashier checked his watch. “You have one minute left.” “Wait!” The lady grabbed his sleeve. “Have you ever thought about dying?” The cashier’s lips pursed. “I’m not paid to respond to personal questions.” “Cut me some slack,” the lady urged. “I just lost a shit ton of money.” “Well,” the cashier started, “I am in the middle of a midlife crisis.” He picked at a loose thread on the hem of his work shirt. He should really find some scissors to cut that. The lady let out a breathless laugh. “Ah, ha, yeah,
Tomato Sandwich Sarah Couture Oil on canvas okay. Well, you look great for fifty years old or whatever.” There was a lull in the conversation. The electricity in the fluorescent lights thrummed. The lady sucked on the last of her milkshake. The cashier cringed at that awful slurping sound that rattled in his eardrums. “Is my one minute over?” she asked. “Yeah,” the cashier replied. He took off his hat and ruffled his sweaty hair. She let out a long sigh. “I don’t know what to do now. It was just one bad thing at a time, and now... It’s just... I’ve never felt this way before in my life. Everything all at once.” “Do you really want to die?” the cashier asked. She sniffed. “No... I’m just—I’m just tired.”
The cashier resisted the urge to sympathize. “Then, go home, take a shower, and go to bed. Say hi to the sun for me when you get up tomorrow.” The lady looked at him with an eyebrow raised. Before she could reply, the cashier left the counter. He heard her heels clicking away and out the door. He entered the stockroom and sat on the upturned crate that was his break room. He let out a long sigh as if he’d slipped into a hot bath. With eager hands, he pulled out his lunch cooler from behind a shelf and took out his food. The feeling that shuddered through his body when he finally sank his fangs into the hunk of raw, bloody meat was nothing short of euphoric. The cashier thought for a minute as he wiped the juices from his chin. This was the last of his stash. "Kinda wish I packed that lady up too," he thought."Maybe I’m getting soft." He glanced at the garbage bags that sat by the back door and checked the time. He had to bury the old manager before sunrise. Then the cashier had an idea. He smiled and licked the blood from his lips. The fire department had one hell of a time trying to contain the burning McDonald’s, and the police couldn’t wrap their heads around the human bones found buried in the rubble. Reports afterward stated that even the neighbors who lived miles away could see the flames, burning like the sun.
Owani Kalila Abdur-Razzaq Silkscreen, 22"x30"
The Chair Jordan Ford-Solomon they stood in a La-Z-Boy with their state and federal tax returns burning a hole through the maternity overalls that would be worn on and off for five years and then at the end of it all they would have a grey suede, wide armed recliner at first meant for twin boys, then for a little girl named Hannah, each leaving before they got the chance to be held by my mothers it was the chair I was brought home to that New Mexico September the chair I would spend every morning until I was far too big for its two wide arms and the chair I would drink tea with my mother from a honey chamomile sippy cup, until the moment that sippy cup would be accidentally sacrificed to the dishwasher until I was afraid to stay so long Iâ€™d break it and even though, one night, the chair popped a screw in the living room under my mother while she slept, no harm done just a broken piece of furniture that now even the dog is too scared to stay long in, I thank god that they didnâ€™t buy the bed instead.
The Vulnerability of Letting My Mouth Hang Open Taryn Nasuta Mother always told me stories of a sinister world. One filled with soot and grime. With mold and crime. She said I could open the door, but to always leave the screen shut, To keep out the pests, to keep warm and safe inside our nook. So inside I stayed as mother said. I watched the world from three steps back. But the world I observed from behind that screen was more than I could ever dream. Birds sang soothing siren songs that tempted my escape, To lay on the dewy, chartreuse floor For the breeze to wisp itself around my frame like ivy vines pulling on a tall cedar stalk. The opal sky melts into rosy clouds as the sun disappears over the distant hill. All if only for a moment of forbidden bliss. But from behind that lattice door frame, I never got wet. I never got scratched. I never got hurt. What was it worth? Opening the screen. Disobeying my mother's words. Was the dirt I buried myself into that night worth this worm in my ear? This worm that whispers the same sweet repetitive nothings about futurity. Was the night by the incandescent porch light worth the burns on my cheek? Or the spider bite on my neck? A bite that could poison me; could kill me
What was it worth? To stand in that grassy field, paralyzed by natural beauty, To let insects, fly into my mouth, agape To let my teeth rot. My gums make a new home for the larva. My tongue twists around itself like a cherry stem. My tonsils grow leaves and branches. A caterpillar cocoons itself at the roof of my mouth. The world swallows me whole, consumes me until I am nothing more than a toadstool or a dandelion. Until I am just another pest in the field kept out by the screen.
Manducate Rachel Bevacqua Film photography
Do Houseflies Mind the Dust Edison Caughey
o houseflies mind the dust? These inconsiderate insects have been the only residents of this home for several months now, spending their short lives defecating on heirlooms and old newspapers. They shit on the plates that my grandma would use to serve us chicken nuggets and the television that would play the shows we could watch nowhere else. They shit on the liquor cabinet filled with foul tasting spirits with sips stolen from each bottle by teenagers who thought they had nothing better to do. They shit on the dusty futon I slept on many times, waking up to the blaring sun intruding on my dreams and creating sweat in every pore. They shit on the special rack that my grandfather built for drying towels and wet bathing suits after hours spent pruning our fingers in the lake at the bottom of the hill, the lake that taught me to swim, the lake that taught me to fish, the lake that taught me to dive, the lake filled with sea monsters, the lake that traps ice fisherman and snowmobilers sinking them in cold and confusion, the lake where I learned sinking rocks send you to the hospital, put staples in your skull and sit your ass on the shore because the thought of them rusting paralyzes you, the lake built by rich men to protect their factories from floods despite the families and villages settled there, the lake that holds my grandparentsâ€™ ashes, the lake with five islands, the lake where my friend Shawn died. The flies shit on me. They shit on the sad sunken imprint in a suede armchair left by my bitter uncle, my lonely uncle, who moved in without a word after my grandmother died, who kept things exactly as she left them, who spent his military checks on lotto
tickets and more beer, who dwelt with the dust covered objects of halcyon days, who spent years eating Subway sandwiches in front of the television, who avoided contact with his siblings, contemptuous of him living there and not paying his share of the taxes. I lock the door behind me, leaving the house to my mother and her brothers, to my grandparents, to the flies, to ruin. It’s ours now but we don’t live there. When it’s time, the walls will come down. There will be no more days spent in the enjoyment of doing nothing in a beautiful place with people I love. There will be no more late nights spent on the front porch smoking pot and listening to records. There will be no more corn husking on the back porch in preparation of a modest feast. Our memories will be just that, intangible; no longer attached to a physical place, they will be set free.
Slash Her Angel Ramirez Multilayer woodcut
3218 W. Pl. Olivia Adams I spent One year in a home of abundance, seeking Space where bedroom forts became blanket refugee camps us kids could
ourselves in when the world became too much, refusing to stop spinning. at least we knew each other then. this christmas, we spread ourselves thin across a country divided. an abundance of bodies make a warm home, but western ny winters send snowstorm spirals blowing through bodies unaccustomed to cold. the skies are clear here,
though without heat I am reminded that temperature does not translate over telephone wires, that the absence of heat is Cold, that despite my desire for warmth this world owes us Nothing
Amsterdam, November 2019 Alyssa Monte Digital photography
In My Garden Lianna Lazaros I wrap my fingers around the stem of a wilted daisy, ripping it from the rooted ground, taking each petal between the tips of my nails, passionately picking: She loves me. You plant a forget-me-not that I forget-to-water. I watch the shrivelâ€” colors drain, memories fade. My palm suffocates its bulb, disconnecting the deadhead from its body: She loves me not. I ruin my garden for you, green thumbs turn brown: She loves me. Piles of petals freshly plucked, I flick the last one from my finger: You love meâ€” not.
An Interview with Xingyun Wang
Artist of Feverhead, Go, Gently, and Look! A Pig ITALICS MINE: Did you have a vision for the completed pieces before you began? XINGYUN WANG: No. I see making art as a reacting process, so I always make new decisions while I paint.
IM: When did you know the pieces were done? XW: When I settle down with a compatible title for a piece. I think the title to a piece is like a period punctuation mark to a sentence.
IM: Did you have any artists and/or writers in mind when you crafted this piece? XW: Maybe, but I could not find it out exactly. I always look at artists and poets for inspiration. But when I start making a piece, I could not think of anything else except the action of making.
IM: If these pieces could have a soundtracks, what would they be? XW: :) I have no idea.
You can find Go, Gently on page 29 and Look! A Pig on the inside covers
Feverhead Xingyun Wang Oil, soft pastels, and acrylic on canvas, 60"x60"
Find Your (My) Mother Ravneet Sandhu
o find your mother, go to the supermarket. Take a shopping cart from the front. Be careful of the wheels running over your sneakers. Wipe down the handles. You have seen too many children slobber over them. You don’t know where people’s hands have been. Leave the gloves on. It’s still winter. Flu season. Are you inside now? Good. Take the list out, the one you made, like your mother taught you to. Did she not? Your father, perhaps? Any parental figure? (I should give up the second-person narrative, it fools no one. It lasts only for so long until the familiar runs out and new memories are made unwelcome. Then it collapses under its own weight. Like you in this new land you are beginning to call ‘Mother.’) *** The supermarket has fresh produce on the left side. It looks green and the aisle smells like dirt. This is the closest you’ll get to the earth. You came to America and all the produce looked perfect. You tell your mother in your head that the capsicums are called “bell peppers” and mushrooms are the fastest to cook. She doesn’t speak a word of English, so it doesn’t matter anyway. Back in India, back in a flashback, back in an alternate setting, your mother’s feet are wet in the monsoon rain. A chunni covers her hair. The cloth end is held between her teeth to prevent it from falling. Her hair is drenched so it does not make a difference if it falls. She should let it fall.
The vegetable seller sits on a sack. His feet have dirt on them. You think he has come from a faraway field where there is no electricity, and everyone wears shades of brown. Your mother wants to bargain the price of tomatoes. No one is in the mood for bargaining, not even her. His exasperation runs like the sweat on his upper lip. He says he will throw a kilo of potatoes for twenty rupees, but that means nothing because farmers have been throwing potatoes on the street. His younger associate, who is older than you—with rugged hands and darker eyes—gives him a cup of hot chai. The tea is displaced by drops of rain. You want to cup it and make it stay inside. You look up. A raindrop falls into your eyes. You blink rapidly. The makeshift shelter of a plastic sheet thrown over some branches is not protecting anyone, and if your mother was in a better mood, she would tell you to stop. You carry that sack of potatoes to the trunk of the car. Your father takes one bite of the potato-pea curry at night and pushes the plate away. He doesn’t want it. You try to eat his share after yours, trying to swallow your mother’s crestfallen look with big drinks of water that fill you up faster. You pick up another sack of potatoes under the bright fluorescent lights. The potatoes still have small buds. It brings a small satisfaction to you. Even America hasn’t figured out how to make vegetables grow uniform in the dirt. *** The slices of packaged meat call to you. They smell like chemicals. You feel an unnatural clump of dry cells when you touch the plastic. You don’t want to eat it, but slaughter is cheaper than anything else. Your mother told you that meat is polluted. Meat is unhealthy. Meat is the mark of an impure person. Better to eat vegetables and lentils to feed your soul. You found the calling card nested in pleather seats of the public bus. It promised love and fortune. You wanted a spell to break the deathly squall in the household. You
wanted your father to walk again after two months bedrest. When your father became so sick that the doctors couldn’t help him anymore, your mother called the pandit’s number. The pandit told your mother to water the tulsi plant every day after her morning prayer. She had forgotten this ritual. Or her mother had forgotten to tell her. There was no tulsi around your house. Tulsi plants are pure; they don’t grow near the smell of meat. She went to the nursery alone and bought back two potted plants on the city bus.
"Microwaveable meals. The aisle your mother would love but should hate." The cat got into a fight with the neighborhood dogs that night. As you and your family slept under the whirring fan, stray dogs broke the fence and entered the patch of grass. The cat came at night to drink from the milk your mother left outside, but it was getting old and couldn’t move as fast. The dogs ripped the cat to shreds. The morning light lit up the red blood on the dewkissed grass. Red on light green, red on dark green, red on concrete, red in your eyes as you closed them fast, red as you blinked, blinked, blinked, red as you screamed to your mother and your father answered instead, your mother is in the bathroom, could you please bring him a cup of lukewarm water? The tulsi plant died that night. You skipped the meats. *** Microwaveable meals. The aisle your mother would love but should hate. The potential of these meals—the lesser time spent, the cheapness, the decreased amount of human labor—cannot make up for the lack of nutritional value. You, who had never even had leftovers more than a day old, were
Comprehending Rachel Bevacqua Aquatint etching
eating food that could be stocked up for months. When your father died, you had Maggi noodles daily. Your house was gone, sold off in a wink, and you were staying with your mother’s brother. His wife let you eat rotis rolled up in jaggery and butter. Your mother stayed in front of the television all day, watching whatever the uncle’s wife had on. You liked to turn the bathroom tap on and stand underneath it until someone called for you. Sometimes this took hours. Your hands would crinkle up with the soft sadness that permeated the house. They have instant noodles in America, but the spices are not the same. You take a box of ramen just for old time’s sake. ***
The pharmacy section is wedged awkwardly between the ethnic food and the spices. You have read that, in America, the supermarket is an ingeniously designed trap to make you buy things you don’t need. You imagine psychologists manipulating miniature food models in bluelit rooms. It’s at times like this you take back the faith you put in America. Your mother would support you if she were here. She would tell you that the Americans have made a mistake, and that those are unacceptable. Mistakes are not for the land of free, they’re for the land where the roads are cleaned when Obama visits. But your mother also has the strength to forgive. Your mother would tell you to forget and move on. More indignities are always on their way. She would tell
you to take the tiny dignity you have, roll it up in a capsule, and swallow it with a big portion of the humble pie. Be grateful. You could be playing on the street with the migrant children who have no home and broken toes. Do what is asked of you, whatever the uncle says, and be grateful we still have a roof on top of our heads. *** Go down the ethnic food section. You’ll see white people there and wonder if they are ethnic. Admonish yourself for judging, you don’t know their story, they don’t know yours. Look, they are smiling at you, their lips pressed tight, isn’t it nice of them to smile? You give an honest smile that reaches your eyes and they look away. Under the yellow Indian banner, you see the cherub with the bob cut, a style of a bygone era your mother grew up in, yellow and white lines printed on the thinnest plastic. These biscuits were treats, but the cheapest in the store, used for dipping in chai, a national habit reinforced through dark-lit advertisements that interrupted your favorite songs. Oh sorry, you mean cookies. You have been substituting them with the Spanish-titled Marie but today is your lucky day. You mutter Ram-Ram Hare-Krishan Hare-Ram Wahrguru Allah Akbar Jezus Bless Me and then take them. *** The last aisle has toys stuffed into the shelves like an afterthought. Your mother always told you to seize each opportunity, so you wheel your cart in. Your mother won the lottery to America. This is the only thing of significance that has happened to her after your father died. You bristled under her tight grip at the airport, in the line that stretched longer than you could see. As soon as you learned to read, she took you to the nearest big supermarket, and asked you to translate the
items off the aisle. She wanted to know what sauerkraut meant. She wanted you to know the foods you had never eaten; but you didn’t know. All you wanted were those Lunchables and the chicken nuggets, but even she knew they had meat.
"Somedays she asks you why she isn’t in America. Other days she rolls over and stares out of the window." The friendly uncle at the Indian store met you both on the street. His eyes looked away when he asked why you hadn’t been to the shop. Your mother tried to hide the Walmart bag that held your Social Science textbook. She told him she was too busy with you to go grocery shopping anyway. It was a bad lie. You could tell. But the shopkeeper had been thugging her those months you were learning English: charging for single boxes of soap that came in cartons, high premiums on bags of rice, produce costing an arm and a leg and a nose too. You see a collection of arms and legs folded together. They look so real that you avert your eyes. Disembodied hands call out to you. Not one of the nail polish stains are out of place on the unmoving fingers. Verisimilitude for anything but verisimilitude crumbles into shock-value that pleases no one. This is a big thought. You like big thoughts. Most importantly, your mother likes big thoughts. She told you to keep thinking them, that they would get you out of sticky situations, that America would value them. You want a more broken-down doll. You want an inaccurate representation of the female body with stiff arms and unblinking eyes. You want the iris off-center, no moles of any kind, a mouth that smiles and doesn’t speak. You go to the check-out aisle where there are three cashiers and one customer. They rush to service you. Unlike the stoic mask your mother wore to work at the Indian
jewelry store, their smiles hang like commas of inconsequential sentences. You don’t even bother smiling. *** Walking out of the automatic doors, the chill hits your face, traveling through your hood to the bottom of your heart, where it meets the loneliness you had forgotten about and sudden tears (from the chilly wind? from the hot spices?) brim over your brown eyes—the ones you share with your mother, and that is it. That is it. You wish she were here with you. But the loneliness gets to her first, your sixteenth year, fifth year in this country. It kills her brain until she becomes soft like the molding on the roof, until she’s a body in the bed—like your father had been—until she doesn’t recognize you anymore, and you are all alone in this promise of a country. Some days she asks you why she isn’t in America. Other days she rolls over and stares out of the window. You find your mother once again when you go back home from the grocery store. You let her hold the boiled potatoes. The room smells rancid. You will have to clean up the mess under the bed later. But for right now, the potatoes are the same as in India and she laughs as she peels them, leaving soft pressures behind on their bumpy surfaces.
Family Portrait Kalila Abdur-Razzaq Oil and collage on canvas, 28"x35"
An Interview with Ravneet Sandhu
Author of Find Your (My) Mother
ITALICS MINE: Did you have a vision for the completed piece before you began? RAVNEET SANDHU: I knew it was set in a grocery store and involved feelings of being far away from home.
IM: When did you know this piece was done? RS: This was the first piece I have written in which I set it aside for years and then went back to look at it again. It's much more polished. When a piece doesn't make me cringe anymore, it's done. IM: Did you have any artists and/or writers in mind when you crafted this piece? RS: Jhumpa Lahiri and Nella Larsen. Definitely Lana Del Rey to get the quintessential American aesthetic. IM: If this piece could have a soundtrack, what would it be? RS: Lo-fi of the current top dance beat when you are in a party and go to the bathroom to question the meaning of your existence with the mirror.
Find Your (My) Mother starts on page 76
Answer's End Ryan Majors If tomorrow our sky is no longer blue and our clouds cease to linger like the drifter and the seeker, I’d follow the lumps in my throat. There’s enough to rebuild the kingdom from lamps and live on its seventh floor. Above the village a visage of creation hums biotic and furious, open fire of pleading oaths. Couldn’t tell you, but telling you all at once. Ships of fools sail across the world famous Pacific Ocean, large processions of birds whisper bigger rumors of a fickle scale being traded for exact slivers of gold. Settled in our low spirits, there’s not enough time for sorrow, but if I squint may I see prophetic poetry and dead things lying around, burred and stabbed among lovenests of bowerbirds. Here, between gin and logic: an egg’s value, four fewer infernos, sterile compromise. How would you rise? Busy lungs to breathe another funny joke and choke.
Island Water Alexander Atkinson Film photography
Series continued on next page
Island Alexander Atkinson Film photography
Island Tower Alexander Atkinson Film photography
My Language Drops Like a Snake From the Forked Tongue of Desire Mathilda Cullen The margins are not justified. Chromatic unbecoming: Ice sheets pulled over our heads. There is a people: We, who have shoveled a great hole in the sky. Documents strewn over the table. Come again. Thought the water sunk into us. Porous, meaning: The slow fade of city into morning. How you drink it in like any other bird: First the astonish, then, the guilt of knowing nowhere. Bending is how the sound goes around a corner. It had properties of shadow and a taste of iron and told me I precipitated time. Bumped into a memory on my way to the fridge. The enjambment of avenues and crosswalk; to lineate the city, to make it more palatable. A wolf set loose in this virginia. Skin would begin itching on contact with water and then fire spread across. A senate bored of form, organized in couplets. Why night is a curtain strung between the ordinary. Tongues wriggling on the ground aching to be embodied. It was the lyric I spilled all over the table. What sung against a hole in what home was.
White Mana Diner Isabel Parades Reduction linocut, 22"x30"
Business Transaction Mitchell Angelo Digital photography
An Interview with Mitchell Angelo
Artist of Business Transaction and A Gift
ITALICS MINE: Did you have a vision for the completed pieces before you began? MITCHELL ANGELO: I definitely didn’t have a wildly solid vision going into it - but I knew I wanted to make my friends stick their hands through the zippers of their pants. You know, for art. For both “A Gift” & “Business Transaction” I really wanted to play with bright colors and try something sillier than usual for my photos.
IM: When did you know the pieces were done? MA: I think I knew this piece was done when I started showing people the last edits I’d done of the photos and they laughed – a good sign. IM: Did you have any artists and/or writers in mind when you crafted this piece? MA: Consciously, I don’t think so! Subconsciously, for sure. I really admire the work of both Ben Zank and Laurence Philomene - they both use a lot of high saturation in their work & Ben Zank’s portfolio is almost exclusively models in silly or strange positions, and I wanted to try both of those things here! IM: If these piece could have a soundtrack, what would it be? MA: Definitely "Crocodile Rock".
A Gift is featured on the front cover
Playing Solitaire as Night Falls Nicholas Dinielli I am here alone in conversation with ghosts â€“ their voices echo in these empty halls, the steps creak with the strain of their silent footsteps as the light flickers; as though my long forgotten family lingers here. They shuffle the cards, lightly dealing me a hand, grinning from afar.
Misbehaving Nikita Gotov Film photography
I asked to dig her up Jordan Ford-Solomon out of the soft soil left long enough to boast new grass, yellow marigolds grow on the steps of the granite castle she slipped under silently, the coroner's hands marching a road I had traced with my pinky C to shining C, Cervical to Coccygeal as he used sign to say goodbye for me years later, when her case is no longer cold, the state strings the thief of her life-light up in union square so little girls will start to fear pride as much as their mothers do I asked to dig her up because no longer was the cause ambiguous, a cosmic wound you needed stars to stitch when they lifted the oak door that I had slammed on sadness she was waiting for me, her hair a golden yellow like the fields we almost burned
with our fireworks and weed dreams sheâ€™s all colored in chrome a pierced eyebrow, a gallery of fresh tattoos a baby brother with a coke addiction a list of ex lovers I never knew a spine I once traced with my pinky There have been many, she says And all of them looked like you
Youthless Jasmine Yanase Pencil on paper
Connie Nu-T'Err: Patron Saint of Shit-Talk Jakob Lorenzo Digital collage
An Interview with Jakob Lorenzo
Artist of Connie Nu-T'Err: Patron Saint of Shit-Talk and Morning Bird ITALICS MINE: Did you have a vision for the completed pieces before you began? JAKOB LORENZO: I had somewhat of an idea at the beginning, mostly about the general message and composition. I like to keep room for my vision to shift as I go along, as sometimes I accidentally have a better idea than I had planned.
IM: When did you know the piece were done? JL: This is actually the second take of this piece. when I had finished the first one, I felt as if the background wasn't doing enough to tell the story i was trying to.
IM: Did you have any artists and/or writers in mind when you crafted this piece? JL: I guess I was inspired by Wham City Comedy's "the Cry of Mann" when designing the gown. IM: If these pieces could have soundtracks, what would they be? JL: As on the nose to the piece's concept as it sounds, I had Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" & Mindless Self Indulgence's "Revenge" blasting on repeat the whole time I made this.
You can find Morning Bird on page 48
Drowning the Sorrows of Ville Rose: Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light and Its Distracting Connections Kristen Manchenton
Edwidge Danticat, Durst Distinguished Chair in Literature for this year, is the author of
the 2013 novel Claire of the Sea Light. While the story of its titular protagonist Claire is explored only in the first and last chapter, we are led through the twisting threads that connect the town of Ville Rose like a spider web. The narrative gets lost at times, but the side stories are beautifully composed to help set the stage. It’s filled to the brim with descriptions of the people and places of Haiti, even if it feels tangled at times. Claire of the Seat Light would work much better as a collection of short stories instead of the all-too-thin premise connecting the characters. Each chapter of Danticat’s novel is a whole, concise story on its own, exploring the full life of whichever character leads it. It quickly moves to different characters, often briefly mentioned in a previous chapter. All of the stories are so fully explained and laden with life that it’s easy to forget about the titular character herself. Often, I wanted to hear more from these characters, only to be shuffled to the next resident of the town. The connections between these townsfolk were somewhat faint and almost trivial, however, the connection to Claire felt weaker as the story continued. Everyone felt like their own protagonists of their own stories; it would have worked much better as a short story collection that explored the residents of the town outside of the connection to the titular character. The characters are interesting enough in their own rights, more than enough to not warrant such a distant connection stringing them together. Let’s state the obvious; Edwidge Danticat is a writer of description. Every possible setting that could be seen in Ville Rose is written down, almost catalogued to create a
perfect replica of the town, (“He had attended birthdays, weddings, and funerals, watched soccer matches and played epic games of cards and dominoes after countless Sunday dinners”) but this tone occasionally gets old. The novel’s main quirk is the different narrators leading every chapter, but every narrator tends to sound the same. While it does make the overarching narrative a bit more cohesive, that shouldn’t be one of the strongest points connecting the characters together. I found myself craving any other kind of voice from some of these fascinating characters. In spite of the frustratingly consistent tone, Danticat excels at her worldbuilding. You grow to hear many of these characters as if you were running around the streets and hearing bits of gossip about the lives of their neighbors, never getting the full story. Brief mentions of a friend or an interaction between two townsfolk would develop into a chapter of its own later in the book. Max Junior, a narrator in a chapter entitled “Home” has a brief role in his friend Bernard’s chapter, for instance. The reader gets to read the introduction of Max Junior, simply described in “Ghosts” and later, we get to see a much larger picture into his life with the chapter he narrates. The characters know one another but still have full, rich lives that are explored in their own chapters. Everyone in Ville Rose has a story to tell: Danticat only explores some of the more dramatic ones. As one of the most famous Antillean novelists of the 20th century, Maryse Conde wrote, “When you write, you give your version of reality.” One of her earlier novels, Crossing the Mangrove, is eerily similar to what Danticat is attempting to do here. Like Claire, Mangrove deals with a collective trauma of a small island town in the Antilles, with each chapter being narrated by a different person that knew a recently deceased man. Where the two novels split (and this is crucial to the success) is that all of the narrators has strong opinions about the dead man; they all grow through the connection. In Danticat’s novel, Claire isn’t that important to many people. Sure, she’s known
in the small town, but no one truly knows her yet. Take notes from the master of the Antillean novel, please. I didn’t hate this novel, not by a long shot. The worldbuilding alone is a triumph of her form, allowing the readers to truly get into the town of Ville Rose. The thread connecting the stories is slight––a missing little girl––but maybe that’s the point? We will never really know, just as the people will never know where their Claire has gone. While this book frustrated me to no end at times, Claire of the Sea Light is a story about people. The people of Haiti are varied and Danticat manages to capture their actions, their lives, but it left me wanting more. Some individuality, maybe.
The Logic of Illogic in Dean Young’s Newest Poetry Collection Michael Schmitt
n his newest collection, Solar Perplexus, Dean Young flickers between logic and illogic as seamlessly as LED Christmas lights in a synagogue. While for some poets this rapid strobing may result in confusing and erratic poems, Young walks the fine line between these two polarities masterfully. In doing so, he creates a rich and vibrant world within each poem, wherein logic and illogic play off each other and vibrantly merge together. The first two things one notices about Young’s poems is the lack of conventional narrative and the imaginatively disparate imagery, which are connected by a unique and inspired voice. Take the self-aware poem which adorns the back cover (a staple of Young’s), “Fair Warning." The poem starts with the question, “Have you too been taught to slow dance/ in a burning barn?” proceeding directly into another: “How about chased off/ at dawn, trousers wet with dew/ after failing to draw a nude rectilinear/ enough to get into art school?” The phrases, “Have you too” and “How about” imply a connection between both questions which, contextually, have zero logical connection. Despite this, his tone encourages connection between these differing images until the reader recognizes the juxtaposition between a “burning barn,” which introduces fire, and “wet with dew,” which introduces water. The poem’s opening five lines also showcase Young’s masterful wordplay—for instance, using the word “rectilinear,” meaning “relating to straight lines,” in place of the more conventional word when describing a nude (recliner). This semi-homophone appears frequently throughout the collection, emphasizing the myriad ways Young’s imagination and relationship with the intricacies of language create the world his poems occupy.
The poem “Parthenogenesis” displays this semi-homophonic relationship by morphing four words into each other in the poem’s first lines: [..] The goat eats god. Good for the goat, good for god, especially good for the cheese. Here, Young subtly tinkers with the relationship between the words “goat,” “good,” and “god.” The three words exhibit this semi-homophonic relationship, all starting with a “g,” centering around an “o,” and ending with a “d” or “t.” Young keeps the words close together, allowing only one or two shorter words to stand between them in short, pithy phrases, emphasizing their similar homophonic qualities and how these words can morph into each other. This homophonic wordplay is paralleled by and compounded with the logic of illogic. While goats will attempt to eat almost anything, in a literal sense, a goat cannot eat god. In spite of, or perhaps because of, this illogicality, when the goat does eat god, it is beneficial for both. What Young pulls out from this illogic is that because the goat ate god, the cheese from that goat’s milk will be tasty. One can read these lines in a plethora of ways, with maybe the interplay between god and the goat’s cheese representing the absurdity of religion (are we the goat that eats god?). It is this freedom to choose how to interpret each of his poems, either focusing on following and interpreting the logic or the wordplay or the interplay between both, that makes Young’s poetry so rewarding. Throughout the collection, occasional references to Young’s life pop up. For instance, Young makes explicit
his cold feelings towards English departments multiple times, asking in “Daily Apocalypse”: “Is Beatlemania/ at last dead? How about English departments?” Or in the aptly titled “The Institutionalization of American Poetry” where he declares, “My studies in human potential/ collapsed when I joined an English department.” On the one hand, this motif can be a way to connect the wildly varied poems in the collection by repeatedly referencing one specific topic that weaves its way in and out of multiple poems. On the other hand, this motif, along with multiple others (deceased poet Tomaz Salamun is reverently referenced multiple times) puts Young explicitly in his poetry, intertwining himself inside the logic of illogic which guides his work. This is seen clearly in the poem “Infinitives,” which begins: To pick up where Tomaz left off. To pick off another oniony layer down to the eye. To chomp. The poet implicitly suggests that he will be the one to “pick up where Tomaz left off.” In what terms, though? We assume Tomaz’s poetry. But Young then flies in the face of this by continuing with his own poetry, using imagery with its own set of logical rules. Young incorporates Tomaz into his poetry, and in doing so, gives us slight glimpses of the poet as a person, a person who misses a fellow poet. After all, this labyrinthian collection is devoted to Tomaz Salamun. To say labyrinthian might place the collection in a negative light. Unlike the maze at Crete, a rope is unnecessary, for the reader does not want to escape. Dean Young’s poetry lives in ambiguity and illogic. His gorgeously absurd images and scenes both hide and reveal a plethora of emotional depth, if one has the patience and willingness to get lost in the maze.
Florence, October 2019 Alyssa Monte Digital photography
ITALICIZED Breathing In Trisha Murphy At Queensborough Plaza the world returns to me. It feels like coming up for air after diving to the bottom of a pool, it feels like coming back into my body. I beat the sunset home for the first time this week and do not go home. On a bench in the park, watch it turn red, orange, then navy over the skyline I just left. Last week, the heat clicked on and my downstairs neighbors swept leaves into garbage bags for the men to pick up Monday morning. In the morning, I will hear the truck come, idling underneath my window before turning down the street, and across the street, the trumpet player in their top floor apartment playing so close to their window, I cannot tell if it is open or closedâ€” all of Astoria stops to listen.
My Year of Celery and Carrots and Onions Trisha Murphy For Christmas, my brother-in-law gave me a set of twelve stainless steel pots and pans because I told him I didn’t have any large enough to scream into. Some days I cannot leave my apartment, and most days I cannot stop screaming, but if I can just make it to the kitchen, some days I can make soup. My sister emailed me a recipe for a salad to make when you're angry, the first step is smashing cucumbers with a rolling pin the subject line was “thought of you…” Sometimes it feels like there is an ocean of sadness just behind my bellybutton, and there is almost always spinach wilting in the bottom drawer of my fridge, on Saturdays, I like to make Cream of Vegetable, an attempt to remedy both. Carla Lalli Music says you only need four ingredients to make a meal, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. I only really need a bad day, or two, or a week. Lately, I cannot write poetry, but I can chop onions and garlic, let them sweat in the bottom of a brand new pot. I can make something from nothing, I can make soup.
Tea for One Trisha Murphy When you die, I will keep your ashes in a teapot above the fireplace. Resting on the mantel we hoped to one day own, in a house like the one we dreamed up laying on our backs, when the cherry trees were first blossoming, and your hair was still long. Painting pictures of the decade to come, closing our eyes and seeing children, small and rosy cheeked in a front yard. We would watch them from the porch, tea cups cradled in between the hands cradling our necks. When you die, I will write your eulogy because I like to think I know you best, I know that blankets can feel too soft, and your hands get clammy when you think too much, and how it doesn’t really matter if the house has a mantelpiece or not. And a front yard can be a side yard, or a park three blocks away, and we can bring our tea in travel mugs and sit with them all the same— When you die, I won’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know what pictures look like without you in them. And my tea won’t taste the same if I make it in a smaller pot. Maybe, if I poured you into the fireplace, I could turn you into a Phoenix, wait for you to rise out of the flames and join me on the front steps, When you die I will bring you back to me.
Her Happiness Wanted Nana Achampong Photography
Today, the world is not ending. Trisha Murphy I donâ€™t mind the mosquito bites on my ankles, at least I made it outside. Left my headphones home almost-on-purpose this time, deciding to listen to the birds instead, finding not birds but 12 year olds with lacrosse sticksâ€” running, ruddy cheeked and happy to be just where they are, and I am just across the street, ankle deep in grass surely filled with mosquitoes and they are eating orange slices. Flashing smiles full of rinds at their Mothers, making music with screeching voices, and high-fiving with sticky hands and I watch them not worrying, if the bites will leave scars this time, not worrying how long it will be until the sun sets, just waiting to watch it happen.
Palace Diner Isabel Parades Watercolor monotype, 11"x15"
An Interview with Trisha Murphy Featured Alum
ITALICS MINE: You worked with multiple publications while at Purchase (namely Gutter and Italics Mine). How did that influence your post-graduate work at the Princeton Review? How did they shift your perspective of publishing and what work (if any) would you like within the publishing field going forward? TRISHA MURPHY: Working with publications like Gutter and Italics Mine while at Purchase taught me how to be a better editor. I learned how to look out for small errors, keep to a publishing schedule, and work with a team.
IM: Your poems deal a lot with self care and finding calm and small joys in what is not always a joyful, calm world. Where does writing fit into that self care routine (if it fits in at all)? How has your relationship with writing changed since you graduated?
TM: Writing for me is not self care, it more so feels like a necessity I must perform in order to continue living my life, so I guess writing for me is like doing my taxes? Editing feels a bit more like a part of my self care routine, sometimes I'll take weeks or months on a single poem, but usually it feels worth it. I have found writing more challenging since graduating because it is incredibly easy to put off, but I am learning how to force myself to do it. After all I have to do my taxes.
IM: I love your intimate images of home, especially the way you evoke light and sensations, like smell or touch. Can you talk more about why you are drawn to these things and how they become so integral to your poetry? How does a poem come to be for you?
TM: My aim is to write poetry that is accessible. If I write about the senses, then the reader can see, taste, touch, the world I am creating. Poetry sometimes gets a bad wrap, it can be difficult, and confusing, and frustrating, but my goal is challenge that. I want to make poetry feel welcoming, that way more people can fall in love with it, just like I have.
IM: Poetry often feels like an overlooked part of writing, especially with the ways instant gratification has become so common in our day to day lives.
TM: Honestly, I wish I could write fiction. I love disappearing into a good book, and falling in love with characters, but I am not very good at writing it. I do think poetry is necessary though, it has taught me how to say what I mean because it doesn’t allow you the space to not, and I think that’s something everyone should learn how to do. And besides that, what’s more cathartic than writing a shitty poem about a bad experience? Nothing.
IM: Which creatives have had the biggest influence on your writing? Whether books, music, TV, or other art. What are you currently reading and watching? Does this work find its way into your own writing? What would you like to recommend? TM: While at Purchase, I loved the Durst Distinguished Lectures. Since graduating, I have continued to attend free lectures in the city. I’ve had the chance to see authors whom I love and admire like T Kira Madden, Carmen Maria Machado, and Alexander Chee. There are few things as inspiring as hearing writers I love talk about the writing process. Every time I feel like giving up, listening to them makes it all feel worth it. I would recommend finding an author you love, then find the authors they love; chances are you will love them too.
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS KALILA ABDUR-RAZZAQ (b. Brooklyn, NY 1998) is a Fine artist who works in oil, collage, and silkscreen. Abdur-Razzaq's work explores the evolution of Black Diasporic identity through genetics and rememory. NANA ACHAMPONG Nana is a born and raised New Yorker. She enjoys creating both digital and physical artwork. Nana is a recent graduate of Purchase and had a really great time there, making friends and learning more about herself as an artist. She wouldn’t trade her experience and lessons learned there for anything. "Every day may not be good, but there is always good in every day." OLIVIA ADAMS is a second-year student at SUNY Purchase, where she is double majoring in Creative Writing and Playwriting/Screenwriting with a focus in Fiction and Playwriting. She’s from Niagara Falls, NY, where she spent a good chunk of time in the local library and eventually found her passion for writing. She’s very excited to be submitting to Italics Mine for the first time. MITCHELL ANGELO (he/him) is a Senior Creative Writing major and the Managing Editor of Gutter Mag. His work has previously appeared in The Westchester Review, Gandy Dancer, and on his mom’s fridge. ALEXANDER ATKINSON is a Photography student in his junior year looking to explore the marks humanity has left on its landscape. Color film is his choice medium when it comes to capturing the vast landscape we are still trying to tame. RACHEL BEVACQUA is a current junior in the BFA Photography department. EDISON CAUGHEY is a junior Studio Production major. He’s just a man with a shaking hand and no concrete plan.
SARAH COUTURE is a senior in her final semester at Purchase College. She depicts specific personal memories with slightly warped forms to inflict an uncanny feeling upon the viewer. The subject matter is joyous, but the uncanny existence of the figures creates a discomfort reminiscent of the painful nature of nostalgia. MATHILDA CULLEN is a trans woman, poet, and translator. Her works include the chapbook Trace Happenings and a translation of Ernst Toller’s Poems of the Imprisoned. She runs marlskarx, an anti-press dedicated to publishing queer poets of the left, and Prolesound, a podcast and archive of contemporary leftist poetry. OLIVIA DeBONIS is a writer, musician, and multimedia artist from Los Angeles, California. She currently attends SUNY Purchase College and expects to graduate with a Philosophy degree in Spring 2021. She doesn't know what her plan is after she graduates, so don't ask. NICHOLAS DINIELLI is a senior at Purchase with a major in Literature and a minor in Political Science. His creative writing started off in the realm of song lyrics, and has slowly branched out into other poetic structures. He holds a strong interest in form, but does not feel constrained to or confined by it. CERISSA DiVALENTINO is currently studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing at SUNY New Paltz in New Paltz, NY. Their work has appeared in Cathexis Northwest Press, Chronogram Magazine, For Women Who Roar, Two Sisters Writing and Publishing, and more. When they're not writing queer stories, you can bet they're reading queer stories. JORDAN FORD-SOLOMON is a SUNY Purchase sophomore Creative Writing major. Coming from western Massachusetts, she has studied both fiction and poetry since she was in elementary school. Conway is rural so Jordan didn’t have a lot to do but live in a world of her own making and then, used college to strengthen her craft. She wants to be a writer, she has always wanted to be a writer, she’s really close to being a writer. JAKE FRISBIE (they/them/theirs) is in the Media Arts MFA and Entrepreneurship in the Arts MA programs at Purchase College and expects to graduate May 2021. Their artistic research concerns queer experience and alternative economies. They believe vulnerability allows greater intimacy, and hopes their confessional work leads to greater understanding within (and without of) their community.
NIKITA GOTOV is a junior Graphic Design major at SUNY Purchase. BAILEY HUMMELL is a sophomore Graphic Design and Printmaking student from Buffalo, NY whose work is inspired by street graphics, art history, current events, and their own effervescent queer identity. SKLYAR JENNINGS is a writer and filmmaker from New York City. KATIE LAMAR has always been praised for her writing abilities. In kindergarten, her class had to write their own sentence at the end of the year. Some kids wrote, “I like flowers,” or “Dogs are nice.” Katie wrote, “The trolls took Mrs. Fogarty and she fainted.” She has been a hit ever since! LIANNA LAZAROS is a Creative Writing major at Purchase College. They began to write poems during their classes in high school and haven't stopped since. They love to play the guitar, hang out with their friends, and abide by the Oxford comma. JAKOB LORENZO, also known Monoculus Rex Murum, is a multi-faceted artist/musician who is most known for their series of self-portraits. There is no solid evidence this person exists. If you have any information on the whereabouts of Monoculus Rex Murum, please contact your local Monoculus Rex Murum. GRACE MAHONY is a Creative Writing junior. They think about 100,000 thoughts per day, which is too many thoughts for a human to have. They enjoy writing fun stories to keep the darkness at bay. KRISTEN MANCHENTON is a senior Literature student at Purchase College with a penchant for the Sims, hiking, and occasionally cooking. She loves to read memoir, creative nonfiction of all kinds, and literary fiction with LGBT representation. She also cares for her house plants as though they are her children. Enjoy reading! RYAN MAJORS is a Creative Writing student currently working on their senior project, Frogmouth, a collection of poems dealing with the creative process and mental illness. When they're not writing poetry they can be found deep under the ground mining for shiny things.
JORDAN MEILAND is a sophomore Journalism major from Brooklyn, NY. He serves on the Student Senate and reports on concerts on campus. He enjoys skateboarding and playing music. MARS MENDEZ is a sophomore at Purchase College and is a BSVA major with a minor in philosophy. Mars grew up with no poetic or literary background, but instead found herself immersed with music lyrics which inspired her works of poetry. Mars's process consists of her carrying around a small notebook and jotting down scenes from everyday life and composing them with certain emotions and themes. ALYSSA MONTE is a junior Photography major with a minor in Journalism. Along with photography, she enjoys writing poetry and exploring other mediums such as drawing, graphic design and printmaking. Writing has always been her go-to creative outlet and allows her to sort through her stream of consciousness in an imaginative way. TRISHA MURPHY graduated in 2019 and is currently working at The Princeton Review as the Editorial Assistant. Her work has been featured in Italics Mine in the past and she is overjoyed to be part of the magazine once again. TARYN NASUTA is in the Screenwriting/Playwriting BA and she has immense respect for all collaborators and creative thinkers. Sheâ€™s been writing down her thoughts ever since she learned to express them. She believes sharing all kinds of work connects the artistic community in a beautiful way. ISABEL PAREDES is based in White Plains, New York. She is currently studying to attain a BFA at Purchase College, School of Art and Design. While the majority of her studies are focused towards printmaking, she is trained in several aspects including drawing and painting, paper making, and book arts. Her work focuses on domestic life and themes of blue collar work. Her recent works explore the shared culture found in diners across America and NASCAR. STELLA PICURI is a wanna-be designer and creative from Upstate New York, who loves the color red and making no sense. ANGEL RAMIREZ lives in Brooklyn, NY and is currently working to obtain a BFA from Purchase College School of Art and Design. While he is trained mainly in contemporary and traditional printmaking and fine art, his practice ranges from photography, video, and sound, to graphic design, installation, and drawing.
WILLIAM RAMIREZ is a senior studying photography. He is currently commuting from Bushwick, Brooklyn and his work is based on hidden moments he discovers when wandering around in his neighborhood, documenting the mundane but also what feels nostalgic. Brooklyn will always be his home. JOSEPH RESTAINO is from Stony Point, New York, is studying Communications at Purchase College, and considers himself to be a self taught painter and visual artist. SONYA RIO-GLICK's Already Home is a personal essay in which she chronicles finding home within herself through an ongoing process of elimination and trauma reconciliation. A senior Arts Management student, Rio-Glick authors Where She Stands, a blog about disability and queerness. http://www.where-she-stands.com/ BEN ROFFMAN is a Creative Writing major at Purchase College. They are from Yonkers. They first started writing at a young age, when they discovered that using big words made them seem smart. RAVNEET KAUR SANDHU is a graduate student who loves thick novels and sugary coffee. She is originally from India. Her short stories have been published in The Offing, Gordon Square Review, and The Rectangle. MICHAEL SCHMITT is a third-year student and is originally from Queens. He is double majoring in History and Literature and occasionally writes poetry and book reviews. He is bad at short bios. XINGYUN WANG is a Painting and Drawing junior. JASMINE YANASE is a classical violinist, with a love of all arts. She is thinking about how having a cat could possibly boost her creative juices. She has been planning out how to successfully kidnap the bodega cat down the block.
Italics Mine ISSUE 17
Issue 17 of Italics Mine featuring new fiction, poetry, nonfiction, art, and interviews, including the winners of the inaugural writing cont...
Published on May 11, 2020
Issue 17 of Italics Mine featuring new fiction, poetry, nonfiction, art, and interviews, including the winners of the inaugural writing cont...