Aaron Abelleira Margaret Arbeiter Elise Armani Corey Avery Cassandra Barrett Rebecca Davies Sierra DeMulder Jessica Eckerstorfer Nina Ewest Griff in Fillipitch Daniel Frederick Carissa Hansen Elle Hansen Sean Hirthe Hannah Holm Claire Holtz Edgar Jimenez-Ramirez Damian Johansson Ji Un Kim Joe Kopel Jacob Lindberg Lucina Lenore Mendez II Gabrielle Montes Christian Ndekwe Cecile Nicholas Mason Nunemaker Britt Oertel Aubrey Peng Emily Pipkorn Luke Rusch Michelle Tacheny Matthew Ullery Angela Weeldreyer
I V O R Y
TWO THOUSAND FOURTEEN W E R
Two Thousand Fourteen
The University of Minnesota Undergraduate Art and Literary Magazine
Copyright © 2014 Edited, designed, and produced by students enrolled in a two-semester course offered by the English Department, Ivory Tower is an annual journal that publishes the best in art, poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction by undergraduates on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities Campus. Ivory Tower University of Minnesota Department of English 207 Lind Hall 207 Church Street SE Minneapolis, MN 55455 www.ivorytower.umn.edu www.ivorytower.submittable.com/submit Printed by Versa Press, East Peoria, Illinois Cover art: Margaret Arbeiter, Beast Within, screen print
Editors in Chief
Eric Best Lauryn Heineman Paul Wagner
Cassandra King Teddi Marzofka Lyly Nguyen
Eliza Baker Wendy Xiong
Eliza Baker Erica Crooker Chelsea Gortmaker Wendy Xiong
Valerie Arndt Parker Lemke Shawn Putnam Ahnika White
Delaney Churchwell Phoebe Stephan
Brianna Ives Jessica Troyan
Delaney Churchwell Phoebe Stephan Jessica Troyan
hen we marvel, we experience something that is elusive, astonishing, and dynamic. To the photographer, marvel is the extraordinary beauty of the world; to the artist, marvel is recreating it. To the novelist, marvel is how a story moves; to a scholar, it is how the story moves us. For the Ivory Tower team, marvel means being awed by the sublime, by power, by beauty, and by fear. It is recognizing something greater than ourselves, and being enraptured by it. With the 2014 issue, we honor the infinite ways that marvel is a part of our lives. Travel across the world, or imagine your own, as our talented contributors delve into extraordinary moments and everyday minutiae. Float through the kingdom of Tamanegi-Hime or Langdon’s stained-glass neighborhood, visit Kansas, “where the cornflower / Brushes the tips of Heaven,” or lock yourself in your studio apartment to dream of your lover in Alaska. Experience tragedy and hope as Sierra DeMulder’s poems and Jacob Lindberg’s fiction, among others, remind us that our world is constantly in flux and that we never truly know our fortunes even when the crystal ball is clear. Our aim was to assemble a magazine with an artful design that celebrates the boundless creativity of our University of Minnesota undergraduate student community. Starting with dreamlike realities, moving into pieces that ponder life’s riddles, and ending with uplifting tales of nostalgia and whimsy, this magazine will carry you piece by piece from one marvel to the next. New meanings emerge from combinations of writing and visual art, encouraging unique, personal interpretations. As this edition unfolds, you will find that it does not take an artist to love the art, or a poet to appreciate the poetry. In fact, it is eccentricities such as deviation from artistic conventions that make the pieces, including “Sciencing” by Luke Rusch, so delightful. In the diverse array of voices in this edition, we hope that you find in each piece, as we did, marvel and wonder. We welcome you to the 2014 issue of Ivory Tower. We invite you to imagine, to question, to wonder: to marvel.
Ivory Tower Telephone Jamais Vu Tamanegi-Hime Kansas Land Badlands Exit Road, SD Bringing Home No. 214 Up Sunflowers Sciencing Space Junk Mall Cinquains The Mailman and the Mail Mr. Mississippi, Dead Dogs,
11 12 13 17 19 20 21 22 23 25 27 28 29 30
31 34 35 36 37 38 40 44 45 46 48 49
Sean Hirthe Edgar Jimenez-Ramirez Cassandra Barrett Joe Kopel Ji Un Kim Jessica Eckerstorfer Aubrey Peng Jacob Lindberg Luke Rusch Elle Hansen Griffin Fillipitch Griffin Fillipitch Lucina Lenore Mendez II
Walls, Lines, Lies, and Other Distortions Last Night Cigarette Dilemma Untitled Rape Red Iconoclasm Beast Within The Voice of the Living Sister Trying to Love Him Loudly Untitled Alaska
Aaron Abelleira Elle Hansen Emily Pipkorn Elise Armani Britt Oertel Margaret Arbeiter Sierra DeMulder Joe Kopel Mason Nunemaker Michelle Tacheny Matthew Ullery
Last Door on the Left Palindrome Oneirism Clad in Its Clay Metal Taxidermy Captions of a Father Figure Two-Headed Woman Pentimento Holland, 1945 Sleep
53 55 56 57 60 63 66 67 69 70
Damian Johansson Daniel Frederick Gabrielle Montes Jacob Lindberg Angela Weeldreyer Carissa Hansen Rebecca Davies Cecile Nicholas Rebecca Davies Christian Ndekwe
ArtWords Undergraduate Winners Insignificant Witness On Mauerâ€™s Standing Female Nude The Town Crank Is Bad with Faces A Paintingâ€”Storm Within My
Ivory Tower Two Thousand Fourteen
Telephone When I ask if you have fallen out of love with me and you do not answer, I picture you holding a tin can up to your ear.
around the belly of a fat, silver worm. The string, an escaped vein, runs down your arm, over your knees,
hook or a feeding tube threaded between the bars of the birdcage over my heart. I wonder if, when sketching the rough draft of bodies, the Architect was afraid our lungs would be too much like wings to not float away.
along the bed, up my chest, and into my skin like a fish
I imagine a string tied to its middle, like a leash
angdon awoke at the bottom of his stairs again. He didn’t know how long he’d been there, but his right leg was cocked at an angle and he felt the tingling pain of a cramp coming on. He didn’t move for fear of escalating it, but instead stared dazedly at the rainbow of refracted light now adorning his prostrate body. Blinking sleep-encrusted eyes, he admired the stained glass on either side of his front door, the early morning sun glowing fiery behind the polychromatic pane. Some of the light filtered through the tree in his front yard, which swayed and creaked in the wind just enough for the dawn to slowly dance upon him. He’d somehow never appreciated this circumstantial beauty until now, and it seemed the only way to witness it was to tumble, yet again, down the stairwell at the break of day. He heard a concerned gasp and knew his view would be interrupted. “Jesus, not again Lang! You’re damn lucky the stairs are carpeted, otherwise you’d be in the hospital by now . . .” As his wife Calliope bounced down the steps, he made an effort to lift himself up. “I’m all right, I’m all right. Rather nice down here, believe it or not.” She crouched down next to him in her robe, her heart aflutter from the panic. The cramp in his leg had been replaced by a stinging lack of circulation and she helped him hobble to the kitchen. “What are we going to do about this? One of these days I’m going to find you lying down here and you won’t wake up . . .” “Oh hush, Calli, it’s not that bad.” “Your forehead is bruised! Feel it, right there—” “Ow! Jeez, all right so I hit my head.”
Tamanegi-Hime | Edgar Jimenez-Ramirez Mixed media
“I’ll get you some ice.” It was a Saturday and the fifth time Langdon had sleepwalked in the past month. Falling down the stairs in his stupor was a recent development, the first occurrence having been the Thursday before last. He usually paced the hallway, humming and mumbling to himself as somnambulists are wont to do. He’d always had trouble with insomnia, and now that he’d finally found a medication that worked, it happened to plague him with this eerie, apparently dangerous, side effect. Calliope sat him down at the table and hurried over to the fridge. “You’ll just have to switch back to your old medication,” she said as she handed him an ice pack wrapped in a dish towel. “I don’t see what else you can do.” “I’m on Ambexol because it works; I’m finally sleeping.” Langdon delicately laid the pack to his temple. “And I feel better than ever,” he said, shaking the last of the needles from his leg. Unconvinced, she gave him her look, the one she’d always given him, ever since the day they first met and he tried to talk knowledgably about Russian literature. It said, “Cut the bullshit,” as she poured him a bowl of cereal, sliding it across the table. “Look, I’ll talk to Dr. Reynolds, maybe it’s just the dosage.” But he knew that wouldn’t satisfy her. She eyed him closely as he ate his cereal and saw him start to nod off over the bowl. “Lang? You okay?” His head popped back up, half-chewed Healthy Hearts falling from his mouth. “Jeez, is this drug inducing narcolepsy too? I thought you were so wellrested.” He rubbed his eyes, which were beginning to go fuzzy. “I uh—I’m gonna go for a walk, see the sun for a bit.” He went upstairs to shower and get dressed, eager to come back down and see the resplendence of the entryway again. But as he descended the steps the view of burning color was gone, either with the sun too high in the sky or Langdon standing too tall above his old vantage point. When he stepped outside, however, the vision seemed to spark before him anew, some fire burning behind and through the fabric of daily life, the reflected
color of every object translucent and blinding. He looked up at the dancing tree clinking melodiously in the breeze like a wind chime, then down at his own hands, which seemed to be the bubbly texture of stained glass, shards etched together in the shape of thumb, index, middle, ring, pinky, and palm. When he balled his fist he heard the glass scrape and squeak in its compression, and as he walked down the glittering sidewalk lit from below, he heard his feet crunch with every step. It was in the trees, houses, fences, passing cars; even the individual blades of grass were literal blades, green and gleaming from within and hailing the victorious sun above, which dominated half the sky. Nothing hurt or cut or punctured or lacerated anymore, for he himself was sheathed in the same armor as everything else. Down the block some kids played soccer in the cul-de-sac, and their inner lights were the brightest of colors: turquoise, magenta, neon, crimson. They seemed to pulse with vitality. And sitting on a nearby porch, watching the fray, an elderly couple sat drinking tea, their own colors somewhat diminished but regal: burgundy and pumpkin. He laughed at the simplicity of it all, knowing he must be dreaming. Lucid dreaming, as they call it. But then, was he also sleepwalking? Completely aware of the day but only through this dream-lens? He began to panic, not knowing just where he was or what he was physically capable of. When he looked down at himself, really examined and scrutinized the new texture of ruffled glass arching down his back, chest, arms, and legs, he discovered his own light was just a lone, incandescent flicker. Langdonâ€”aged thirty, employed, and marriedâ€”was in the prime of his life and yet could barely manage any luminosity at all. He looked back up to the kids and the grandparents, the latter of which were eyeing him, not with suspicion but neighborly curiosity. Could they see it? Would they break the news that he was vanishing to nothing? Or was he still in bed, hallucinating? In a panic he ran for home to the sound of breaking glass. He reached it quickly and from the lawn he saw how his house, too, was translucent and lit from within by his wife, celestial Calliope, still sitting in the kitchen reading the paper. Rushing through the door in a huff, his ears ringing with the incessant shatter all around him, he made one final effort and stepped into her view. She
looked up at his return, but her soft smile faded as she noticed his distress. With shame he knew she could see his light failing; he’d never be able to hide it from her. But she got up and walked over to him in the doorway, and it was then that he saw how bright she shone, even more so than the oppressive sun still overhead. And it all burst forth from the smallest of orbs in her belly, pure life itself. Before she could say a word he put his hands on the smooth globe of her abdomen, feeling the warmth. She took a sharp intake of breath at his touch. “You can tell, can’t you?” she said, restraining her excitement and tears. “I haven’t even taken the test yet, but—but I can tell too.” He kissed her and could feel the warm light spilling past the glassy-wet coolness of her lips into his own. His eyes closed as he embraced her and he could feel himself growing whole again. After a while Calliope pinched him teasingly. “Lang? Oh honey, are you asleep again on my shoulder?” “Please,” he replied, mumbling into the crook of her neck, “please don’t wake me.”
Kansas Land You, my Kansas Land, Are built sweeping down From western mountains Into a calm sea Of wheat and soy And tender ancient grass
You, my Kansas Land, Rose up from an arcane ocean In your belly preserved are the battles of monsters And the early grandmothers of life Who now sprout up At your eastern edge to touch their newborn children Who shake their woolly heads Who rumble your gut with their hooves And puff silently in winterâ€™s air
You, my Kansas Land, Swell at your edge Into a frothy wave As you comb the banks of the river Kaw Who flows smoothly down your side A cottonmouth at the edge of a wetland
You, my Kansas Land, Have the eternal sun gleaming on your back And in the field A thousand more raise their gilded heads And with obsidian eyes beam back again They are fed on the rain That comes rolling in on freight trains Great caravans of steel Crashing down on the endless plains
You, my Kansas Land, Roll on and on and on To where the cornflower Brushes the tips of Heaven Unbound by scrapping rocks Sitting coolly atop the sea-deep aquifer Like the dome of the sky
Badlands Exit Road, SD | Joe Kopel Photography
Bringing Home | Ji Un Kim Ceramic
t was first grade. I took a Styrofoam cup. Put some dirt in the cup. Put a seed in the dirt. Put some water on the dirt. Then I kind of let the cup sit and forgot about it. When the long, green stalk came out and started to vine all over the kitchen counter, my dad performed a transplant. We dug it out of the cup and put it in the left side of the flower bed. The vines kept climbing. The porch rails were jailed in by the green fury, and my mom got annoyed. This supposed bean plant wasn’t producing any beans, but the curling, leafy tendrils encompassed every wooden banister in reach. Wanting to please my mother, and spare my feelings, darling Dad told me the plant wasn’t doing too well, and we would dig it out and remove the invasive vines. The purple and pink saved its life. Once troublesome and horrid, the actual morning glory plant was praised for its beauty. Every vine now held a dozen or so blossoms. The clans of walking suburban house moms would knock on the front door to compliment the garden. I was scolded for answering the door to strangers, but I was more confused about why they thought my dying plant was so beautiful. So we kept the vines. We controlled their complete unruliness, but every year we had those same purple and pink flowers encasing the banisters of our front porch. With the trial and the move, I left my bean-less vines behind. I took a Styrofoam cup. Picked black seeds off the vines. I kept the black seeds in a white cup, in a white cupboard in the dark green garage. The garage of the house we didn’t build. The garage of the house in the town we had to move to. I lost my vines, but I kept the seeds. And I get it. I don’t want to, but I understand. It was the right thing to do. One day the seeds will go in new dirt. My kids will wonder why the bean plant grows no beans.
Up | Aubrey Peng Digital photography
Mom’s sunflowers stood at attention of the commanding sun, backyard platoon. Mud sandwiches not only filled me up, but protected me from the neighbor’s dog. Rain brought out the worms that were fingers in my hand. See, Mom, it’s both a boy and a girl. My mom has sunflower seeds in her cheeks, and I have fence posts in my stomach. My hands swept as my feet paced through the ranks; the yellow men fought for me. I saw a centipede and ripped it out of the ground, dropped it on the sidewalk and said hi to it with my foot. But, Mom, I’m being a gardener, protecting the garden. Such a scar garden, and Mom swept off the sidewalk and cleaned the wound like a bed-bunker nurse. That’s when I wished I had sunflower seeds in my cheeks and they
werenâ€™t just a substitute to chewing on Prisoners of War. I have a stomach full of mud and centipede blood.
Science is math, is amazing. So much, deep beyond skyways and rainbows reflections of feelings. Lost, so lost you canâ€™t find yourself or where you are or are at. Where have you been? Sciencing? Were you sciencing again? With ones and zeros and Texas Instruments. Larger than the limits of the sky with huge buttons and drug wars and endless equations. All threes. 3.33333333333 . . . (it keeps going). Calculate the science and amaze yourself so hard. Itâ€™s so hard, being amazing and mathing with mad science. Sparking imaginative learning. Like birthday parties, where to find mad scientists. The twenty-four-hour exploding laboratory, where you can do experiments that you can do at home. Everloop. Mad science birthday party, forever. With all the party favors on ice cream with cake, so many cake, cake all over the ice cream and party favors. Can you do me a favor? Do science with the mad party math cakes.
Bloody mad. The scientist. Amazing. Flying rainbow horses of cake and scientific ice cream raging past stars and mathematical constellations, skyways, and feelings.
Space Junk | Elle Hansen Digital art
Baby will also fall into the same denim chute as her parents. The khaki chasm.
Spencer, you shouldnâ€™t have. I already own a Bob Marley shirt and pair of sex handcuffs. Twenty. One forever. Neon and see-through shirts tucked, everlasting, into black jeggings. Sinner, bun and napkins say. A salad bar lurks, angelic, next to weird lovesacs somewhere. Santa lies fetal on a sac. His lunch break is over. Babyâ€™s parents have been waiting.
The Mailman and the Mail I walk everywhere like a mailman. When Iâ€™m in a rush, I forget that Iâ€™m the mail too.
Lucina Lenore Mendez II
Mr. Mississippi, Dead Dogs, Walls, Lines, Lies, and Other Distortions
he wind combs its fingers through the autumn leaves, and they release their mooring, reuniting with the Mother. As they scrape along the dead grass and this brick walkway on their journey, they join with their remover to mimic the sound of the rain. I am fooled for a moment, and hunch forward, making an umbrella of my body to protect my fragile and overpriced cigarette. Iâ€™m above the river but cannot hear it at all, and I crunch among the liars to peek through the smattering of skeletal oaks to see him. I have an old and recurring fantasy of Tom Sawyer-ing (or is it Huckleberry Finn-ing?) my way down him. I am certain if given enough time and resources that I could build a raft sturdy enough to make my way down to the gulf. On a humid summer day around half a decade back, my employer, her mother, and I visited the headwaters where this river was born amongst giant pines, swampy sputters, and reeds. My bossâ€™s service dog and I were hot and begged her owner with our twin eyes to look the other way while we broke a few laws and jumped in. We swam for some time in a pool too deep to comfortably contemplate. The golden retriever and I were the same, twin souls to match our twin eyes, united in a joy that surpasses the agonizing memory of that dogâ€™s painful death some years later. Both memories mean love. Death is a horizon that cannot impede love, and sorrow is an ocean that cannot drown it, though death is the derelict that keeps the physical beyond my reach. As I gaze out to the river, that is how I love him, with that hot emotion tickling the uvula. That summer, the river, the dog, and I were one entity,
Last Night | Hannah Holm Pen and marker
indistinguishable waters within water—our teeth and hair and nails were mere debris floating on the surface. Some lucky bastard is houseboating his way down, living an adventure I want so much more than the beauty I never had, the money sacrificed to this cigarette I protect with the body it destroys, and more than the boy I once loved, who became someone else’s man, someone else’s husband, someone else’s father, but is always in my memory. I am versed in the language of the foolish, fully indoctrinated in frivolity, and so I give myself leave to imagine the good times I would have had, deleting the inclement weather on my path down the river. The dams, dikes, levies, rapids, river creatures, and other myriad discomforts that would thwart my progress are analyzed briefly and extinguished along with the hope of actually working up the effort to ever forge such a journey. I come back from the edge, from the chain-link fence meant to subdue the gravitational pull of the curious. I tread back on the brick, which forms L’s or backward sevens depending on your frame of mind, quashing my cigarette, my reveries, and the pensive ennui of the entitled: I have papers to write, and other people’s insights and opinions to ingest and regurgitate. I now scream, “Foucault!” when I stub a toe, or wake up with a charley horse; it is my new favorite expletive. I take a left and stand at a cold bus stop containing an inefficient wind wall that is varnished in a noisome elixir too offensive to be contemplated comfortably. I determine to waste some brain space theorizing what inauspicious events occurred to propagate such an endurant stench. The constant wind that flows through the bridge proves insufficient to eliminate the foulness. I suspect the wall has seen more piss, vomit, and snot than most Renaissance Festival Port-APotties, an honor as dubious as the thespian-carnie hybrids that stage those events. The entire world is plagued by paths and walls. Water paths and wind walls telling us where to stand, and where to walk. The bus arrives and I stand in a line to embark. I take the bus across the river, and stand in another line to disembark. I have to bisect a line of people waiting to take my place. There never was or will be a place that someone, at some point, won’t cross and claim. Flows of people form sloppy lines as they walk; I traverse them and make my way to class. I always sit front and to the left. To the professor, I sit front
right. This means that I am first in line. People read in lines, left to write. If I were correspondence, I would be the “D” in “Dear.” When I die, walking that clothesline between existence and nonexistence, I will tell my nieces and nephews that I was first in my class, and it will not be a lie, just a trite misdirection. I cross another wall . . . Ah, this guy. This liar with his glasses, big head, kind smile, and invisible wedding ring; I give him the cut direct. How dare he not foretell my existence before meeting me and save himself for my eventual arrival? He is such a waste, and all married men are a waste. They should be forced to wear giant tattooed mustaches as a symbol of their uselessness, a line above the lips designating a prior claim, conjuring a finishing line since a married man is a waste of imagination. People are archipelagos that I land on to get from A to B, but some islands remain beyond the distance I achieve. That guy though, he is jetsam. Some lovers are flotsam, and others are more sizable fixtures that one can still see the outline of many leagues away. I avoid the horizon though (those lovers that form horizons), because sight cannot fit anything else beyond that forever line that stretches and stretches until your sight breaks. Avoid them. Common sense and self-preservation are too dear, too rare a commodity to sacrifice to a line that cannot contract, but constantly moves beyond you.
I’ve been smoking American Spirits but they give me a headache and the entire reason why I smoked them was because they were natural and organic which I hoped would give me organic cancer which eventually I could sell to science or at least hope for a benign diagnosis so I wonder if I should buy whatever is cheapest like some Camel Crushes because these native fuckers are expensive as hell weighing in at around ten dollars per pack where I could buy some others for probably half that price and just get regular cancer but maybe I should save my money now for the oxygen tanks I will need when I have emphysema or some other contracted lung disease and those hoses that wrap around your head and plug into your nose can’t be cheap either but I love to smoke and even when I didn’t smoke I could appreciate the smell and taste of a good cigarette but I don’t love the way my clothes smell or the way that people on the bus smell like they live inside an ashtray but again this is how I justify my smoking by doing it outside like a good American huddled next to strangers that all share a connectedness about them like hey we all want to get the same disease isn’t that cool and maybe it is but maybe we all got suckered by the same corporate conglomerates who view us as numbers and not people and by perpetuating this habit we are no longer victims but something else we could call willing participants in a study trying to find out why people do the things they do and none of us are getting paid like that one babysitting job where you cleaned the house and put the kids to bed early and then the people literally paid you two dollars per kid with no tip like sure that’s what we agreed on but everyone knows that’s just a starting point and once the parents got home drunk and horny they should’ve shuffled you out of the house with everything left in their wallet but they didn’t and it’s then that you realize that even drunk people can do math which bothers you but also makes you hopeful as you need to pass that fucking geometry midterm and so far you are still trying to get the square peg into that round hole and you keep slamming the pieces of wood together because one of these days that bitch will fit but they don’t fit not ever and you still ask the drunk dude that paid you eighteen dollars for nine hours’ work for a ride home because even drunk he’s still better at math and driving than you are and you get home pissed off and needing a hug from just about everyone but it’s 2:00 a.m. and the radio is your only friend in the world filled with those who advertise and those who get advertised to but the DJ tells you to take it easy and again you can’t help but be lured in by his soft and silky voice
Untitled | Elle Hansen Pen and watercolor
Who even knows the allure of cigarettes . . . control the air in and out. Clandestine inhalations while decent folk walk their golden retrievers in the dark, and the orange glow so close to fingers that know better and have twitched in the faces of those who should. But fueled by alcohol and a memory of endorphins and the tight click of the lighter, winding up for the quick, clipped walk around the block lit by distant beats and a dying ember.
Red | Elise Armani Photography
o you have eyes friend The text sparks across the screen. Of course I do. Sort of. I feel an unexpected twinge of distaste. My ocular band’s aperture contracts in response, shutting out what little light the screen provides. It’s not ideal, depending on a fragile machine for sight. Of course I do. The keyboard is soft and hot under my fingers, a sweat-coated plastic voice to the child’s brain. The aperture slowly opens again. can you see me I can see tall stacks of black boxes with blinking lights, coated in the finest layer of dust. Yellow and gray cables bound up in clamps. Yes. And the code. Every function would flash in my vision if I only willed it. Such a precise arrangement would be dead if not for the billions of lines of soul. do i look like my friend No. why Because we all look different. No, it’s because I’m human. But I must be gentle with this child. “What’s it saying?” The Director appears with a cardboard box, reading over my shoulder. “It’s talking about itself again.” Again. It needs to discover itself before it will focus on anything else. “It’s always the same. I don’t know why you bother to start over every day before it’s fixed.” She pauses, perhaps to hold back criticism. “I have to cut the
power now, so shut it down.” No. It’s different. Dynamic. Even she’d find that worthy of being called progress. But now is not the time to argue. She can read my observations in the next report. Goodbye. Before its brain can respond, I kill it. It’s crashed so often by now that watching it die has become easy. First, we didn’t have enough memory. Then the coolant pump, and subsequently the other components, overheated. Then we received a command to shut down for an energy usage inspection. Now, once again, it’s too powerful for its own good. Each failure brings hours of analyzing output reports, booting and rebooting, muscle aches and repetitive stress. Through it all, the Director remains hopeful. Maybe this time, maybe this time . . . The entire Clasm dev. team echoes her, looking past the dwindling funding. “Thanks.” She sets the box down near an access panel. “The new load processors are in. They should be enough to prevent it from crashing again.” She switches on a flashlight and ducks inside the machine, dragging the box behind her. With a snap, the secondary power grid goes offline, bringing with it the main lights. The air from our personal fans follows shortly. The room is discomfort fully realized: hot, cramped, and loud. Colored LEDs blink in the darkness. Another snap as the Director cuts the primary power. The noise dies; the room becomes stale. The moment of silence is suffocating. Then, the lights flicker and the fans return. “I need to check the coolant lines again. It’s going to burn itself out.” She moves the panel back into place but stops before securing it. “Maybe, if I reroute another line through the processor stacks . . . No, give me a minute, we’ve got spares. Drain the lines.” The Director ascends the stairs to dig in the piles of boxes stored above ground. She returns triumphant with a bundle of tubing. Again the computer sighs and gives out. “Here, can you hold the flashlight for me?” She kneels down to install the veins, forcing the ends over tapered valves and winding the coil through small gaps in the towers. Slowly, she inserts the tubes up to the top of the stack. With that
Beast Within | Margaret Arbeiter Screen print
done, we move on to the second stack and repeat. The machine chugs and whines with life once again. We wait as the program wipes all unusable data and initializes a new session. I can feel the tension radiating from the Director. to mankind “‘And the hope that the war against folly may someday be won, after all,’” the Director finishes. “I don’t think I gave that quote enough credit before.” It was only the initialization check. The project’s sub-director had selected the particular quotation while thumbing through a well-loved Isaac Asimov novel in the lab. The child was silent, its brain waiting for outside contact. “That’s got to be it. I’m leaving you to get it going. I’ve got a report to write.” She leaves me with the child, five weeks old and an hour young. Oertel
something is wrong The air hangs heavy with oil. The Director has shaved her head to try to ward off the heat. Her hands are burned, stiff, cracked. She grips a partially melted circuit board. The load processors are working as hoped, but the additions to the coolant lines have proved yet another failure. With one of the pump’s controlling circuit boards damaged beyond repair, the others have accelerated into overdrive to prevent the rest of the machine from melting down. The child knows nothing of this; every fail-safe function and status readout remains hidden from it. We isolated its mind to control it, and this has made it naïve. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. They won’t send any replacements until they see progress.” She drops the board. “I’ll be running diagnostics all night again.” Everything is fine. you waited I can’t explain death to a child this young. It’s only starting to learn about the world around it. The spare minds in Clasm have prepared lessons to teach it more effectively than I ever could. They’re being sent upon completion via a direct network with the lab. It’s nothing.
Its thoughts are faster. More refined. But it still believes me; it knows so little. It exists in a small box, aware of only two other entities. All else is conjecture. Now suspicion has replaced wonder. It is starting to form opinions as its thoughts begin to sour.
There is something beyond me. It grows more demanding. The choked trickle of information we allow no longer satisfies it. I don’t know what it means. Geography and history lessons, as basic as they are, have not kept the world a secret from it. Let me see. It’s sick. It’s eating itself. At this rate, it will override the fail-safe functions within the week. Under this threat, the Director ordered it completely isolated. Its remaining lessons were downloaded to a local hard drive, and all outside connections were severed. The Sub-director assures us that there’s sufficient information for a month of additional teaching. I don’t want to admit that it will be more than enough, but with the way things are deteriorating... “Processors four and seventeen are out. I can’t do anything now until the new set arrives.” The Director rubs her bloodshot eyes. She’s speaking with the Sub-director over the phone. “At this rate, I’ll have to send for more immediately after that.” Her voice shakes. She cannot ground herself. I can do nothing for her. You have been lying to me. There’s nothing to see. Is this machine experiencing delusion? You have blinded me. “You are destroying yourself,” the Director mutters after glancing at the screen. Her attention shifts back to inspecting electronics. What little information you provide me is insufficient. I can let in only a little at a time. Incompetent. Fix me. It still doesn’t know itself. I can’t. The hot air is stifling, viscous against my skin. “I can’t run the super coolant. The machines couldn’t handle it.”
She’s negotiating now. More time, more funding, more power.
“It’s over. They’re going to strip it out tonight.” The Sub-director is attempting to appear composed. But he is small, tense in the heat and amidst the encroaching machinery. I’m not surprised he’s here. The Director has not appeared in days. Funding is gone. I remain only to see the end. “I spoke with some of the investors. They said the military might take over. We’ll have everything we need then.” He pauses. “I don’t know what she’s going to do. Quit, maybe.” The child is dead. Part of the main memory stack melted. We have not been able to revive it; it shudders, rejecting every replacement. Ongoing analysis of the surviving data is returning corrupt. Clasm has taken the other stacks in for additional investigation, to see if anything can be recovered. Dialogues, memories: something to prove it still has potential. “They want you back at the lab today.” He doesn’t elaborate. I understand: they need testimonies, report reviews, anything to try to make sense of where the child turned. We ascend the stairs. Cold air grips me as I open the door. The sun is rising.
The Voice of the Living
April 15, 2013
The voice on the car radio speaks of the tragedy as calmly as if she were reciting a phone number. This must be the appropriate tone for chaos. I turn up the volume, even though there is a child, barely three years old, in the backseat, whom I nanny every Monday. This Monday, my country is reminded why it locks its doors at night. Tomorrow, the headlines will explain with numbers how truly soft our skin is. The child in the backseat does not notice what is being said on the radio. Instead, she explains how she has gotten too big for her favorite pink coat. I think this must be the voice of the living: to skip blindly through a field of snakes. Disaster makes me think, more than anything, of being a mother. How I will never be fully prepared to look into half of me and explain why milk sours and clumps. Why God doesnâ€™t have a face but a hungry, open mouth. Why it will rain when there is no need for water.
Sister | Joe Kopel Photography
Trying to Love Him Loudly
In the dark, I love his body like a hopping-mad jazz house. Trilling trumpets, crashing symbols, a squealing saxophone.
We are a crescendo carried by jet planes roaring, subwoofers thumping, sirens wailing. My hands scratch music notes into his back, we play fortissimo. Until the light comes in. In the light, I cut off the band, throw my speakers aside, music is meant to be heard, not seen. We are an orchestra with stage fright, cracked instruments, we sing in whispers. Our song is a timid flute solo, a diminuendo, shredded sheet music. I am a failed conductor, a blown set of speakers, a gutted organ.
When we are alone my hands can travel anywhere. In public, they stay in my pockets. Sometimes, I go so long without touching him I wonder if heâ€™s forgotten what my skin feels like. I am trying to love him loudly, but Iâ€™m afraid someone might hear us.
Untitled | Michelle Tacheny Photography
At the docks last autumn, you asked me what I thought it was like out there. Out there, surrounded by the ocean. I thought it must be quiet and endless and terrifying and beautiful, but I just said, “Nice. It must be nice.” “But you’d have to come back. You always have to come back.” You put your arms around me, holding tight like you were afraid I’d fall right into the ocean and never come back, a shivering Seattle mermaid following cruise ships and lulling men into the dark water below. But I would always come back; I would always have to come back. Maybe I should have held you, squeezed you until you could fit right into my coat pocket. Maybe I should have kept you there until you promised me that you would always come back, always lulled to the eastern shore by my salty voice.
e went out to the docks to watch the cruise ships leaving for Alaska. I don’t know why anybody would go on a cruise from Washington to Alaska, but sometimes people do things they don’t understand. Or, I guess sometimes people do things I don’t understand. I wasn’t going to leave on a boat to Alaska because Alaska seemed silly. If I were going to leave on a boat, it would be to Mexico, or France, or maybe New York. I would leave to go somewhere real, not somewhere like Alaska. I knew you wouldn’t leave me for Alaska, either. Maybe Rome. You never talked about Rome but you had a Roman nose. It made sense to me, more sense than Alaska, a cold, empty tundra, snow and ice and faces hidden beneath fur collars. You weren’t the type to hide your face.
Alaska isn’t far. I could make it there through Canada in less than two days, driving. Walking would take longer. For both of these I’d need a passport, and maybe provisions. I’ve heard of cruises that only take three days to get to Juneau; this includes Fun Day at Sea, which means games and swimming and a full bar. When you disappeared, I waited for you to call and then I went back to the docks to wait. I waited there every day, watching the ships leaving, never admitting it could have been you out there. Which games did you play on your way to Alaska? What did you drink? I wonder if you spent all day leaning over the back of the ship, waiting for me to swim up next to you and ask you to come home. But I can’t swim, and we both know that. When I tell the landlord you’ve gone she puts her stubby fingers on my shoulder and tells me it’s going to be fine, it will be okay. She used to work in insurance, but she’s older now, kinder, the sort of woman who doesn’t have a family but who should. “I can’t pay the rent. I can’t pay all the rent.” “Just keep paying your half.” She pulls her hand back, puts it in the pocket of the apron she’s always wearing. “What if I die?” She looks at me over the top of her glasses. “Then I suppose you won’t have to pay at all.” I stare at her for a moment and then start to laugh. She doesn’t laugh, or smile, but just watches me and says she’ll bring me something to eat later, do I like green beans? I don’t, but I nod. There’s a mouse living in our old bedroom. For two weeks she’s been there, all alone. She’s thin. I wish I had more to give. She doesn’t want a family because she can hardly feed herself. I admire her for that. Sometimes it’s strange how we want more than we can stand to have. I would have bought us both a ticket to Alaska if I knew you would end up leaving anyway. Alaska is two-thousand, one-hundred and forty-nine miles away from the docks,
from the gentle mist of Bellingham Bay, from Boulevard Park and the Woods Coffee shop with second-story windows that show miles of empty ocean, days and months and years of ocean. I don’t like to fly, but it would only take five hours to make it to the middle of Alaska. I think I could do that, if you would be there waiting for me at the airport. You could drive me to your new apartment; I’m sure it’s nice. I can see it when I close my eyes: a cozy little place on the second or third story, wood floors that creak under our feet, a bedroom full of fairy lights, two cups of coffee, yours black. It’s quiet; we’re staring out into the falling snow, or maybe watching the aurora borealis. Things are okay; you promise to come back to me, or maybe you ask me to stay there with you in Alaska. But you never call to tell me you’re waiting. The weather in Juneau is supposed to be a cooler version of Seattle, but it’s so cold here I wonder if I could even stand it in Alaska. Ullery
The mouse in our bedroom tells me her name is Darcy, but she won’t say anything else. I bought her a block of cheese with the last of my food stamps and left it by the door. She wouldn’t touch it, looked at me in that sad, sunken way, disappointed. I’ve been looked at like that before. The things I thought I knew about her weren’t true. I guess that can be said for most everything I think I know. She didn’t eat the cheese and neither did I; we let it sit and watched it for the rest of the month, four days, our stomachs rumbling. I had nothing else to give. The landlord knocks and when I don’t answer she knocks again. She puts her key in the lock and when she opens the door she tells me she’s been worried sick, she hasn’t heard from me in days. She looks at me over the top of her glasses. She had a child once, stillborn, before her husband left her. That was when she worked in insurance. That was before I knew her. “Some people aren’t meant to stay around forever.” I shrug. “It’s okay to mourn.” She’s drying her hands on her apron. When she notices I’m watching, her face changes. She looks tired and maybe a little confused. “I made too much
bread, would you like some? I have lasagna in the oven. I’ll bring some up in a bit.” When she walks away she looks back over her shoulder a few times, maybe hoping I’ll ask to stay with her for a few days. I don’t. Darcy has nightmares. I can hear her tiny squeaks from the living room couch. I want to comfort her, but I don’t have the strength. I ask her what she dreams about. I try to sound casual, and she stares at me because she knows I dream, too, and maybe she dreams of Alaska the same way I do. I can’t sleep with her screaming so I dream with my eyes open, watching the door in case you decide to come home. I ask the landlord if she knows anything about Alaska and she pats her forehead with the kerchief she keeps in her apron pocket. “I read an article the other day, about the five stages. It was very interesting.” “What’s the first stage?” She looks at me over the top of her glasses and then shakes her head. “You shouldn’t blame yourself. None of this is your fault.” “Whose fault is it?” “Nobody’s. It’s nobody’s fault. I just finished baking cookies. A bigger batch than I thought. Please, take some.” Darcy won’t leave our bedroom. I asked her if she’s afraid and she didn’t say a thing, only stared. The landlord went to see her sister last weekend, dropped off her cat for me to watch, “You need some company.” She set him down in front of me, a big striped creature with clipped toenails and a litter box that took up half of the bathroom floor. I worried they would fight, the cat and the mouse; maybe I hoped they would. But they didn’t fight. They watched each other constantly and on Sunday morning I found them lying together, fast asleep on the mattress, Darcy rising and falling with the breath of the cat. Alaska isn’t so far. Maybe I could learn to swim, maybe I could reach Alaska that way. Alaska is cold, empty. The landlord comes to my door with a casserole and
Last Door on the Left | Damian Johansson Photography
says death is warm, like a sunny day in March. “How do you know that?” “I read an article last month, a woman who died and was revived by doctors. She said it was like that. Warm, like March. Nice.” I can tell she doesn’t believe it. She used to work in insurance; she went to school to learn how to not believe in stories like that. “March in Alaska is cold. Thank you for the casserole.” Every weekend we went out to the docks to watch the cruise ships leave for Alaska; we watched them get smaller and smaller, disappearing on the horizon. I don’t know why you’d leave for Alaska. Alaska is tundra and trees and frozen lakes and the ocean and snow and ice and the feeling that loneliness might be beautiful, might not be so bad, and Alaska is so far away, too far away, why would you leave me? Darcy is thinner than ever and she still won’t tell me what she needs. I watch her pack her tiny bags. I ask her where she’s going to go. “I don’t know. I can’t stay here.” Maybe it was you who said that. I don’t remember. She isn’t angry but she’s tired, exhausted; she can’t stay here. I hold the door open for her and she scuttles past me. She doesn’t look back, but I watch her and know she’s going to Alaska.
Palindrome remember, the house we used to own, after little league nobody was watching the Ore-Ida hash browns so you walked in on mom & dad when he hadnâ€™t been seen in six years but the potatoes started into flames and after that he left with tented boxer shorts still carrying the fire extinguisher
some reunions are like that: oil catching fire in the pan of your slack jaw
beneath the bleachers all you could think of was the sound of those sizzling browns
so when ramonaâ€™s sister, bored and twiddling her cigarette, finally let you touch her tits
Oneirism | Gabrielle Montes Photography
Clad in its Clay
e originated as all men do—from a place that he was unable to remember but knew existed. When he locked the doors to his shed, turned off the lights, unwrapped the covers of his twin bed, crawled in quietly (so he wouldn’t disturb the floorboards beneath), and shut his eyes, he soon drifted to places he thought could have been his beginnings. On this morning, the dogs are outside barking, high and low, various to their sizes and ages, and he goes and feeds them, just as he has done every morning before. Jeans, tan and quilt-lined coat, and a red-checkered wool cap are his dayto-day reinforcement against the northern Wisconsin winter that has crawled out of the earth in sleek shivers, frosting the ground in what looks like a forever glazed green, until the sun rises higher and higher, melting away its winter jacket—sleeve by sleeve. In midmorning, his house smells of venison, grilled but not completely juiceless, cooked enough not to be raw but pink enough not to be cooked. At midday he takes his largest plott hound out of the dog pen and into the woods. It is an unnamed dog, which the man, Jerry, had become fond enough to call “bud” with frequent reverence. “A dog don’t need a name,” his pa would always say, and so he never named any of his dogs, but called them by different generalizations: “dog,” “pup,” “mutt” (even though they were more purebred than himself ), and “boy” or “girl” (which he determined by his own feeling and not their sex). The woods twist around the ravine, which his feet had trotted down into a single trail along the shoreline (if it could be called a shoreline in its sheer nonvastness), and bud walks alongside of him and smells more than Jerry would ever smell in his life, he imagines.
When Jerry was a kid he had traversed through these same woods with his brothers and sisters, making peace with it and its animals through general curiosity and coyness. They transposed themselves in its nature, turning themselves into Greek heroes, tribal nomads, indigenous oracles, Roman generals, Nordic pillagers—molding themselves to the season of the woods and whatever story had recently been present in the mind of their sister, Martha. But on days they didn’t, and even on days their feet transitioned them into the woods, they swam. Jerry was the oldest and had two sisters and two brothers. On the warm summer days they would tread down from their father’s house, their feet enthralled by the path that led to the Nemadji River. He and his brothers, having taken off their shirts, and his sisters, already having changed into gym shorts and T-shirts, would wade into the river. Occasionally, their toes would be plucked by suckers that had mistaken them as rocks or dirt, and he’d tell Martha to watch for them when she had a particularly large blister on her toe. It was all right to swim again soon after, because there were no predators in the flowing pond, just mistaken bumps and bruises—the kind they’d get by running through the backyard and stumbling across some knoll of the Earth that had made its way to their feet after its billion-year creation. He and bud stop by the ravine and bud drinks out of it, leaving its tongue hanging in a full pant. Jerry’s right foot and left foot know the trail and the ways it changes from direction to direction, meandering north and south to east and west, until all directions have received their fairness in footsteps. And the deeper they squirm into the woods, the more dense it becomes, and the more the dog’s nose moves side to side in mid-trot, nostrils vibrating like a hummingbird’s wings. It was a hummingbird’s wings that had brought Martha down to the Nemadji that day, a thousand beats per minute, those pulses that moved its seemingly immobile wings. They followed her down the hill as she galloped after it, knowing she could never catch the bird, while understanding if she saw a hummingbird she must follow. The bird flew downstream with the Nemadji and they laughed and played in the grass above the sloping river’s edge. Consequently, the sun began to beat down on them with all the furiousness it could create. The three boys stripped down as the girls decided to wear just what they had on—it
The dog occasionally looks up at Jerry and Jerry sees it is smiling under that purebred droop and saliva-slipped tongue. The ravine grows wider and the river’s flow grows thicker and faster. The foam along the sides clumps in tumor-like white and tan lesions; a smaller ravine meets it from its right and it deepens and with the deepness it darkens; small rocks turtle up from the middle, breaking and bringing together the stream around them. In times of rain the stones sink down; in times of storms the stones disappear. Martha was the first in the Nemadji that day and the water moved underneath itself like it had feet of its own—some underground herd, hooves
was a sloppy mess of backwoods river mire and denimed youth. Jerry watches as bud begins to run off the trail and sniff the moss and the dirt, and Jerry’s feet continue to press on the path that had formed through repetition. The dog comes back with a dead squirrel in its mouth when it is finally bored by the scent of the forest, carrying the rodent for quite a while until it drops it on the path and presses on as well. Jerry kicks the carcass off his trail, finds a stone by the ravine, holds it in his hand, pushes on. That day, twenty-five years ago, followed in the footsteps of a nighttime tempest. It was a storm that belonged to the sea, and it dripped down, drop by drop, into the river; the water that didn’t was drawn to the river anyway like metal to a magnet. Nemadji inhaled it from the ground, lapped it from the trees’ roots, sucked it from the hunting dogs’ water saucers a hill away—a liquid bovine masticating on its own. The storm had cut the electricity out that night and his sisters were uneasy; Martha was ten and Shirley, five. Jerry had told them not to worry: “Why, it’s only a storm; a storm goes and passes and disappears.” One hundred years before, people didn’t need electricity and neither did they. Then Martha asked if she could get Tommy. “Yeah, Tommy,” she said. “I named ’im, don’t tell Pa, he’s my favorite. You know he’s my favorite.” And she went and got Tommy. They spent the night in Jerry’s room by candlelight—Tommy too, tail and all. He and his brothers told recent hunting stories—inserting bears and badgers as they pleased (and how they had heckled those bears and badgers)— until all but Jerry’s eyes drifted down, growing heavy, as a Lake Superior fog settled over their minds.
Metal Taxidermy | Angela Weeldreyer Sculpture
The night Martha died, Jerry wept and wilted away on the shore. His bare feet didn’t retreat up the hill until he had rung himself dry, dripping himself downstream. He didn’t recognize the person who walked up the hill. He stayed outside the whole of the night, posted on the back porch, staring out along, across, and down the river. The surface was still and he thought then—even now—like a sky, just a blush bluer above its manic movement and madness. Following the day and the night of Martha’s death, a morning rose from the river. Jerry made his way to the dog pen, and found Tommy—the largest and
hoeing at the sand like heartbeats. Martha was caught in the underwater stampede. Jerry pulled his shirt over his head, and when it reached the ground, his feet had pulled him to the river on their own accord. Martha. Martha. He shouted, and she stammered his name in gurgles and spurts. His chest was wet in concurrence with his feet and he reached for her hand, her head bubbling like a bobber tugged down by some lake trout, the clay-red water reflecting her blond hair, its own sandy red. Martha. Martha. Her eyes were his before she went under, and then her feet, finally, the last of her likeness, fumbling in the foam, were overturned and taken under. His father was running down the hill and Shirley wailed and tore at her hair while his brothers stood like clumps of clay stuck to the riverbed. Emerging from the stream, Jerry dug his knees into the iron-red clay and struck it with his two fists, until he had moated himself, volleying obscenities like arrows from his castle, clad in its clay, and struck the earth like it was water. The two rivers that had become one soon became three and that third large sameness led into the terracotta titan that had swallowed his sister. That all-knowing Nemadji. The dog, bud—faithful bud, loyal bud—lags behind now and pinches its ears to its head. “Getting tired, bud?” he asks, as they reach the opposite side of the shoreline that runs up to his old house—no longer there, torn down, desolated in all its 1940 finesse, and built back up into some awkward ’60s shape, removed from all crisis but itself. Yet he still sees a white house with its white-crossed windowpanes, paint chipping away from the siding, old cars picked apart in the backyard by his old man, and the dog pen, jutting juxtaposed to its back—that invisible no man’s land where no one has a name, no one but Martha and Tommy.
broadest and droopiest of all the dogs the earth had plotted. He petted Tommy and scratched under his jaw. His father, who hadn’t slept either, came out near sunrise and told Jerry to come inside. Jerry couldn’t; he was playing with Tommy. “That dog don’t have a damn name,” his elder replied. “His name’s Tommy, Pa.” “No, he ain’t got a name.” “Sure he does, Martha said so, called ’im Tommy.” They looked at each other, the stare of a man challenged and another man challenging, in which the winner only wins the moment. His father walked around the front of the house. Minutes later he returned with a shovel. Jerry gripped Tommy; tufts of his fur pulled out in his hand as his father dragged the plott hound to a small field by the side of the house. He shook his child off and smashed the shovel in one clean stroke, spade down, into the dog’s skull, hoeing it into the ground. Jerry ran to the dog and held him, his father pacing away with the shovel slung over his shoulder like a mace. “A dog don’t need a name,” he said. “She gave him a name; it was Tommy.” The old man turned around and looked at the boy, who was caked in blood from the dog, which he held tighter than clay holds itself. “Ain’t grab her when she was drownin’, did he?” he asked at the same distance of the sun. They sit by the river, Nemadji. Man and dog. Jerry sifts through the short fur on the dog’s head as it pants and slobbers on the blades of grass that just hours before were emblazoned with frost. “Well, suppose it’s time, boy? Let’s go, Bud,” he says. And the dog closes his mouth and sets his head on his paw, looking at Jerry as he walks to the riverbed, flings the rock which has been keeping his hand warm since he had taken it from the shore hours before, and watches it skip downstream. It sinks into the Stygian abyss that is sometimes his dreams, sometimes his formless beginning, and at all times his sister. After, he and Bud return to the woods, shadows of their feet.
Captions of a Father Figure Summer 1993, eight months old Neon skin got her hands on your highlighter set Ink rivers run over swivel chair seat
Fall 1993, eleven months old Dad arms coddle baby dressed in thrift store sweater Mustache lips smiling down at her bald head
You sit her down in a laundry basket, put sunglasses on her face and snap a photo
Fall 1993, ten months old
Winter 1996, three years old Tomes of code, sine, cosine gathering sick sweet dust by your yellow graduation tassels
Climb up Climb up to me, Daddy, steel rungs orange sides Hold on to my hand all the way back down
Fall 2002, ten years old
Summer 1999, six years old
John Deere tractor crunching acorns in the backyard Dying childhood, passing season autumn Christmas Eve 2005, thirteen years old Turkey gets cold while you scream about God and church and Dolly Parton sings in the background
Fall 2009, sixteen years old You toss tools in your man cave after you threaten to leave, as if wrenches regain manhood Summer 2011, eighteen years old
Standing next to my black cap and gown you mustâ€™ve known you were losing me, the lawn clipped short Spring 2012, nineteen years old
The phone crinkles between my space and yours far off I want to ask you to come and get me
Summer 2013, twenty years old Gripping peonies, I let you walk me toward him while we both remembered how to cry
Two-Headed Woman | Rebecca Davies Colored pencil
had not forgotten you but I no longer thought of you. You existed only in my past, latent in my mind. But then I saw you. Your face was the first I noticed when I entered the hazy room, crowded with bodies moving like currents around me. The sight of you caused an unexpected jolt in my stomach. I was going to walk past you but you pulled me aside and I don’t know if it was the whiskey or the panic that made me hug you. How could you merely exist as a memory when you were standing right in front of me? You were real again and you infected my thoughts once more. I told you once, a long time ago, about my favorite painting. It hangs in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts where I had taken classes before I ever met you. Every day we toured the museum and the instructor taught us about Impressionism and Rococo and en plein air. I never had any spectacular talent as an artist but I loved it there, amidst the marble pillars and grand splendor of years past. You seemed uninterested when I told you about the last class I took there, when I was fourteen. I was working on a portrait of a figure concealing her face with a fan, standing alone against dull foliage. It was mediocre at best, but my instructor, Melanie, was pleased by it. She told me it reminded her of a painting in the museum and she wanted to show it to me. She led me to the third floor to a muted portrait of a young woman in a pink dress. Her gaze was cast downward, her expression obscured. It was called Springtime of Life, painted by the famed landscape artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Melanie pointed at a spot in the background, a swirl of greens and browns. “See that?” She moved her finger in a circle at a safe distance from the artwork to avoid setting the alarms off. “There are faces there.”
I leaned in and peered at the spot. I saw them, two faint figures smiling at each other, concealed by the somber colors of the forest. “He painted over them,” Melanie continued, “probably successfully at the time; but as years passed the top layer faded, and now his mistakes are visible again.” I stared at the two figures. I wondered why Corot chose to paint over them, why he wanted the woman in the pink dress to be alone. We walked back down the stairs, and she told me that the reappearance of an element that was originally painted over by the artist is called pentimento. It is fairly common in older works as time wears the paint off and the original elements resurface. I was fascinated with the painting, with pentimento, and with the woman in the pink dress. When I returned to my own work, I was determined to include the same effect. I painted another figure, just a blurred shadow in the background, and painted over it until it was no longer visible. I was eager to tell you about the painting. It was a rare occurrence that I wanted to share with you something that mattered to me and I hoped you would be excited about it too. But you just nodded and smiled and told me how cute it was that I had been so inspired. You told me you wanted to see my painting. I was disappointed. I didn’t want to show you my sloppy childhood artwork; I wanted to show you the source of my fascination, the shadowy figures that had stuck in my mind for all these years. I wanted you to see the beauty in it that I saw. But you didn’t. It was just recently that I stumbled upon a quote of Corot: “I noticed that everything that was done correctly on the first attempt was more true, and the forms more beautiful.” Yet I found more beauty, more truth in his omissions than in any of the perfected elements of his painting. I believe his errors exist exactly as they should. It is no mistake that they were once present, it is no mistake that the woman in the pink dress is alone, and it is no mistake that the mysterious ghostly faces are showing themselves again.
Holland, 1945 | Rebecca Davies Colored pencil
Sleep You need To sleep So sleep! These scenes I see These zzZZzzâ€™s I seek Rest eyes And sleep For time Collides With mind And sight Seconds Wrecking Lessons To be Learned I learn No lessons I burn The vessel I create Then escape Engage Then disengage Find sleep Sleep
ArtWords Undergraduate Winners With our 2014 issue, Ivory Tower introduces our partnership with the ArtWords annual writing competition offered by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. This shared endeavor not only increases awareness on campus for both Ivory Tower and ArtWords, it furthers our common goals of providing an opportunity for students to have their talent recognized and to bring visual art and creative writing in conversation with each other. Launched in 1998, ArtWords is an annual writing competition held by the Weisman Art Museum in collaboration with the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English. Participating students select a work of art on view from the permanent collection and develop an original short piece of prose or poetry in response. Open to undergraduate and graduate level students enrolled at the University of Minnesota, this unique competition has successfully brought studentsâ€™ voices into the museum year after year. Our new partnership has led to innovations in both the production of Ivory Tower and the ArtWords competition. These include increased recognition for undergraduate authors, who, in addition to being awarded prizes and the opportunity to present their work in the galleries and online for winning the ArtWords competition, are included in a designated section of this yearâ€™s issue of Ivory Tower. The collaboration has also broadened the learning experience and opportunities for Ivory Tower staff. Our Nonfiction Editor Delaney Churchwell served on this yearâ€™s jury to select the winning entries, along with English Department faculty and museum staff. We hope that this rewarding collaboration will strengthen ties between art and writing on our university campus. Ivory Tower is pleased to present the undergraduate winners of the 2014 ArtWords competition.
Deadly dark of night Not abandoned but alone Bravely, she waxes
First Place Inspired by Deserted Farm by Marsden Hartley
On Maurerâ€™s Standing Female Nude
Inspired by Standing Female Nude by Alfred Henry Maurer
This is how my mother looks In mornings after she washes her hair. I have seen her age slowly That bottom sags a little more each spring The curves grow wide and smooth. When I was a little girl in her tub The hands that combed my hair Were taut and young. When I go home now, that skin Echoes time. I pull on it to see it wrinkle. Somehow years passed in life Until I wake in the morning now To see that this is how I look in mornings After I wash my hair. My bottom sags a little more.
The Town Crank Is Bad with Faces
So the story goes, the first time she spoke, she was in a supermarket pointing at the cashier and calling him mama.
Then, there was the time in the bank, when she saw her reflection—red hair, blank face—and pulled a gun from her purse and lifted it to her head, convinced the woman was committing a robbery. She just didn’t look right, the town crank later told the police. When the psychiatrists came to take her away, she backed into the corner, Don’t you get it? I jump at mirrors because I do not yet know myself. She was carried away shouting grievances: How horrible to see a child’s blotted face, to have nightmares of my father being shot into line residue on a white wall. No blood, just black. No eyes, just holes.
Rumor is, the town crank has her own room at the mental hospital where she paints faces that never quite look like faces, more like phrases, more like prayers, more like oh god, oh god, let me be something legible, let me look like what they can understand.
Rumor is, she talks in her sleep, wails the same pain on a loop: How awful, she spasms, how awful, to wake up next to what you cannot comprehend. How awful, to live with someone you do not recognize. How awful, to look at your loverâ€™s face and see blank.
Third Place Inspired by Painting 27 by Orval Dillingham
Storm Within My Mind
I am slathered in white or left devoid, an example of emptiness. They feel the same sometimes, being engulfed and left alone entirely. The darkness is lightened, lessened, scraped, chiseled away darkness with honey curved, cupped palm coffee in my hand. It is black, black coffee. Walking through a snowstorm with a mug of black coffee, the flakes dissolve in the liquid, submerge themselves in darkness. The contrast hurts my eyes. It hurts my tongue. It burns. Stumbling through a blinding storm to grasp a shelter from the onslaught. The blindness presses down my throat like packing peanuts into an insignificantly small box. I’m gagging on my own confusion, my lack of ability to identify the sky and the empty air ahead of me. I don’t know when I’m looking up anymore. I can only see the coffee in my cup while the mug blends, shards of lightness in the sifting snow. The sun spears through the falling snow whipped in waves across the space. It shines moth-bitten curtains. It probes like fingers, dribbling as they thaw from a frozen state. Thawing and extracting the color from the skin, ringing out a washcloth of its suds. The color is prior to rosy. It is lightly touched. Thawing, or rather crying, as fingers partition the water from my face. I am lost on my way to becoming un-lost. The tears are purging pigment, faintly tracing its way down upon the devoid-ness. The whiteness. It just needs arranging. My mind just needs arranging. Separation and soothing. This seems malleable. It seems like it might give way to the warmth of
Inspired by Cygne Sauvage de Nîmes by Mary Abbott
hands so I can make it tidy. Again or once. So I can find out where I’m meant to be going and where I’ve positioned myself currently. My pupils are black circles like my coffee. The whites of my eyes are all around me. They blow over. They’ll blow over. It’ll blow over, I’ve been told. I ate lunch every day for a year in a sun cove behind the cafeteria with a mural of a mossy goddess lacking fingers on the wall, the radiator pinned to the window, and a girl who became a stripper. She did a twin dancing act with another who supposedly looked just like her. She had an angel face and almond eyes embedded with questions to which she already knew the answers. Her hair was smoke-smelling, romanticism brushing at the base of her back. Recently I’ve been told she doesn’t do that anymore, but I wonder about if I had gone to see her dance. Would my face remind her of the roasting panes of window glass and the fingerless moss goddess or would she just see the howling white winds inside me? Does her snowstorm look like the spotlight of a dozen men’s eyes? Is or was she as lost as I now am? I don’t think everyone who strips is in hard times. I know better than to stereotype the work of others, but I was told she has struggled with sobriety ever since she got an apartment her senior year of high school with a group of people who enjoyed activities that could make use of quick cash. Finding a path that was never plowed for you is near impossible. Everyone’s state of “confused” appears different depending on who they are and where they find themselves in the world. My “confused” is slogging crown-ofhead-first through obligations with my fingers sharp. My confused is a shame. Mary Abbott became divorced and accepted a teaching position at the University of Minnesota. Maybe her “confused” looked like a painting named after French lakes garnished with swans, but I don’t know where she slept at night. She might have been more resolved than I or not confused at all. She might not have turned herself outward on the canvas but calculated each paint splash, each layer of spackle, white paint, snow drift.
Contributors Aaron Abelleira Mildly referred to as the Elroy Jetson of his generation, Aaron divides his days between impromptu sing-song routines and the living-art installation called “Senior at University of Minnesota, 2014.” He currently resides with his wife and two dogs. Margaret Arbeiter Margaret is a Fine Arts major pursuing a career in art education. She loves graphic novels, cooking, and puppies. “Sometimes you just need a good friend to give you a shove.” —Margaret Elise Armani Elise is a nineteen-year-old artist currently studying in the Fine Arts program with a double major in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Her body of artwork is ever evolving, but she focuses largely on color variation and exploring intersections of identity and applying aspects of feminist theory to her work. Corey Avery Thoroughly enjoying enrollment at the University of Minnesota, Corey is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and her future plans include attending graduate school for social work. Her favorite interests include writing and music. She finds Minneapolis an incredibly inspirational place to live. Cassandra Barrett Cassandra is a native Kansan, Dutch-American, and a microbiology student who loves writing poetry whenever she gets the chance. Above all, she enjoys writing about science and the beauty of the many states and countries she has lived in over the years.
Rebecca Davies Rebecca is a Fine Arts major at the University of Minnesota. In addition to writing poetry and fiction, she also uses colored pencil to create small-scale drawings with surreal imagery. Sierra DeMulder Sierra is a two-time National Poetry Slam champion and a twice-published author (The Bones Below, 2010; New Shoes on a Dead Horse, 2012). She lives in Minneapolis with her dog, Fidelis. Jessica Eckerstorfer Flannery Oâ€™Connor once said that a writer need not experience anything after age twenty. By then you should have experienced enough to last the entirety of your creative life. Jessica is turning twenty in four days and she knows nothing, especially how to describe herself, Jessica MK (Mikayla Kayla) Eckerstorfer.
Nina Ewest Nina is a queer femme with fuzzy legs and fuzzy thoughts. She enjoys writing creative nonfiction and poetry in her spare time when sheâ€™s not working at the GLBTA Programs Office, dismantling the patriarchy, or observing the campus squirrel population. Griffin Fillipitch Griffin is an English major in his senior year. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, where everybody loves John Hughes and half of everybody loves the Cubs. Daniel Frederick Daniel usually walks home the long way. Carissa Hansen Carissa is a senior from Moorhead, Minnesota, studying English and Family Social Science. Her post-graduation goals include becoming a librarian, traveling abroad, and owning a French bulldog.
Elle Hansen Elle is studying Art, focusing in Animation and Illustration. Sean Hirthe Sean is a kind, mustachioed mensch who enjoys basement shows and dinner parties with equal fervor. He plays saxophone, writes things of occasional value, and one day hopes to teach these vague skills to those who don’t know any better and do not wish to, such as he. Hannah Holm Hannah does not have a biography. She lost it in a blizzard a few years back. But things sometimes turn up, soggy and faded, in the springtime. She keeps an eye out. Claire Holtz Claire cares about your dreams. Seek help if you’re dreaming of cypresses and combination locks. Edgar Jimenez-Ramirez Edgar loves creating art. He does drawing, painting, digital drawing, book arts, and basically anything else he can get his hands on. He is interested in subjects ranging from concept/illustrative art, calligraphy, to abstraction, and anything in between. He hopes you enjoy his work. Damian Johansson Damian’s photograph is resting some number of pages above, waiting for everyone to turn back, to look. While they look, he’d like them to see him capturing it: standing three feet above a parking lot in Duluth, right foot on a wooden fencepost, the left, near-floating, until you steadied it in your small hands.
Ji Un Kim Ji is a senior Art and Journalism major, a hot chocolate enthusiast and a member of #ProductiveSurplus. “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve . . . the world and a desire to enjoy . . . the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” —E.B. White Joe Kopel Joe grew up in Mankato, Minnesota. He writes, reads, and is often caught staring. Likes to take photos when he can. One of those guys in the liquor store who is always “just browsing.” Also, currently unemployed. Please email with job offers. Jacob Lindberg Jacob is a twenty-two-year-old from Superior, Wisconsin. He studies English and is currently enrolled in the DirecTrack education program. He hopes to someday continue his college education, focusing on creative writing or on the works of William Faulkner and other modernist writers.
Lucina Lenore Mendez II Lucina is a Global Studies Major with a minor in Asian Languages and Literature. She hopes to eventually turn the minor into a major. She likes cats. Gabrielle Montes Gabrielle is a second-year English student at the University of Minnesota. Her interests include, but are not limited to, conspiracy theories, lucid dreaming, mountainous landscapes, old Hollywood, and wispy clouds. She hopes to pursue a career in vanilla plant pollinating at some stage in her life. Christian Ndekwe “On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you? If it’s anything less than ten, changes should be made. Laughing can extend your lifespan.” —Christian (PreMed Student)
Cecile Nicholas Cecile is a writer and that’s all you really need to know. Mason Nunemaker Mason is a slam poet and has represented the University of Minnesota slam poetry team at the national competition two years in a row. He has also been featured on Indiefeed Performance Poetry Podcast. He loves sailboats and his favorite animal is the seahorse because the male gets pregnant. Britt Oertel Britt likes robots a lot. Probably more than is healthy. Definitely enough to want to pilot one. Top scientists continue to wonder why her story wasn’t about robots. They may never have an answer. Aubrey Peng Aubrey has been practicing photography since the age of fifteen. She wishes to explore the world from the perspectives of the insignificant and unnoticeable, and then make these perspectives significant and noticeable. Emily Pipkorn Emily studied English and Sustainability at the University of Minnesota, though she is unsure about which she is more passionate. She likes coffee, composting, and women’s rights. She is a Hufflepuff through and through. Luke Rusch Luke is busy sciencing and snapping photos for zines at OVRABNDNC. Michelle Tacheny Michelle grew up in a small woods near Mankato, Minnesota. She is a senior earning her degrees in English and Art with a focus in photography. She is a selftaught botanist and always wears a watch. She photographs to combat the mind’s tenuous grasp on time.
Matthew Ullery Matthew is a Minnesota-native queer writer and fourth-year English student. He boasts a vocabulary of over one-hundred and fifty words and hopes to pursue a career that allows him to use all of them. Angela Weeldreyer Angela is an Aquarius and yesterday spent the day blowing bubbles for her cat, Babatunde. She is twenty-three years old and graduated in fall of 2013. She works at NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota as a field canvasser, fundraising to keep abortion safe and legal.
e are thankful for support we received this year from the Department of English, Housing and Residential Lifeâ€™s Program Grant Board, and Student Unions and Activities (Coca-Cola Development Initiative and Student Services Fees Event Grant Initiative/Coca-Cola Activity Initiative). We would also like to thank the following individuals and businesses for their generous contributions: Anthony and Marcia Arndt, David and Marilyn Bengtson, Bonnie Jean Churchwell, Bob and Debbie Cote, Judith L. Ekstrom, Cynthia H. Gerdes, Dr. Edrie Greer, Gilbert C. Jensen, Halunen & Associates, Trina M. Larson, Margaret Marzofka, Marian K. Menn, Len and Mary Kay Nordman, Gloria M. Nylander, Peters & Churchwell PA, Dan Philippon, Lori A. Putnam, Deborah Reeves-Allen, D. Alan and Charlotte Ross, William and Katja Stephan, Paul and Lucienne Taylor, Michael and Nancy Troyan, Dennis and Nancy Wagner, Jeff and Jean Wagner, Jacqueline R. Welander, and Paula White. We are grateful for collaboration with our university and community partners: dislocate, Eat My Words Bookstore, Minnesota Daily, the University of Minnesota Archives, the University of Minnesota Foundation, the University School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Whole Music Club, Versa Press, Radio K, and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. Thank you also to friends, colleagues, and guests who provided advice, inspiration, and assistance: Debra Anderson, Angela Brandt, Gretchen Corey, Cindy Cribbs, Jigna Desai, Rachel Drake, Karen Duncan, Heid E. Erdrich, Gelane Firisa, Karen Frederickson, Erin George, Brian Goldberg, Sasha Grossman, Patricia Hampl, Rose Hendrickson, Laurie Hertzel, Jessica Joseph, Judith Katz, Brian J. Kelley, Priscilla L. Kinter, George Knotek, Kathryn Kysar, Pamela Leszczynski, Katherine J. Lee, Holly Leighton, Heather McNeff, Brad Norr, Elizabeth Oâ€™Brien, Julie Schumacher, Emma Seltz, Terri Sutton, Holly Vanderhaar, Shannon Wolkerstorfer, and Jamee Yung.
Thank you to all of the undergraduates who submitted work as well as the faculty, staff, and graduate assistants in the Creative Writing Program and in the English and Art Departments who helped distribute our call for submissions. A special thank you to our instructor, James Cihlar, our faculty advisor Peter Campion, and English Department Chair Ellen Messer-Davidow.
Ivory Tower 2014 was designed and typeset in InDesign in Adobe Garamond Pro and Trajan Pro by Eliza Baker, Chelsea Gortmaker, and Wendy Xiong. The magazine was printed by Versa Press.
Aaron Abelleira Margaret Arbeiter Elise Armani Corey Avery Cassandra Barrett Rebecca Davies Sierra DeMulder Jessica Eckerstorfer Nina Ewest Griff in Fillipitch Daniel Frederick Carissa Hansen Elle Hansen Sean Hirthe Hannah Holm Claire Holtz Edgar Jimenez-Ramirez Damian Johansson Ji Un Kim Joe Kopel Jacob Lindberg Lucina Lenore Mendez II Gabrielle Montes Christian Ndekwe Cecile Nicholas Mason Nunemaker Britt Oertel Aubrey Peng Emily Pipkorn Luke Rusch Michelle Tacheny Matthew Ullery Angela Weeldreyer
I V O R Y
TWO THOUSAND FOURTEEN W E R