Ivory Tower is the art and literary magazine of the University of Minnesotaâ€“ Twin Cities. We are inspired by a belief in the necessity of artistic expression and its power to enlighten, challenge, and captivate.
Artwords Ivory Tower 2017 The University of Minnesota–Twin Cities undergraduate art and literary magazine Copyright © 2017 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–Twin Cities campus. Ivory Tower University of Minnesota Department of English 207 Lind Hall 207 Church Street SE Minneapolis, MN 55455 www.ivory-tower.umn.edu firstname.lastname@example.org Printed by Versa Press, East Peoria, Illinois Front Cover Art: Reaching for the Light, (detail), Myka Ann Betts, digital
letter from the editors In our mile-a-minute world, it is easy to turn on cruise control as life blurs past us. We grab our coffees, worry about our bills, and check off boxes on our to-do lists. When we move mindlessly, we get stuck. Taking this into account, for the eleven-year anniversary of Ivory Tower, we found it fitting to dedicate this edition to the theme of “Momentum.” Through these pages, we hope to pave the way toward a new decade of innovation by celebrating the growth of the magazine and, more importantly, the growth of the individual and the community. The chronology of our pieces embodies an arc of personal momentum. Part I reflects an almost childlike sense of naivety and whimsy. Part II depicts what we refer to as the “college years”: a time of endless possibility and newfound defiance. Just as these years fly by, this feeling of invincibility is fleeting. Part III illustrates the fall from idealism as reality hits. These pieces reflect a sense of grief and hopelessness—a complete loss of momentum. This loss renders two options: either we give up and settle, or we endure and adapt. In choosing the latter, we propel ourselves forward. Finally, Part IV exudes self-liberation from the rut of lost momentum. Through our experiences,
we grow stronger. We accept who we are, flaws and all, and we triumph. It’s important to note that contained within momentum is the word moment. Even as time races forward, there’s always a chance to simply stop, breathe, and truly live in these moments. Whether it’s listening to a One Direction album on repeat (“Wagner Didn’t Make Me Queer”), pondering your reflection in the water (“The People in the Fountain”), or having tea while the world rots around you (“Black Cherries”), these brief moments in life are universal. We can’t have momentum without moments. We hope this issue serves as a rejuvenating reminder that the writers, artists, and editors whose work is represented between these covers are not merely college students who are present in class, but individuals who are present in our own lives, finding our footing in the limbo between past and future. As you turn the page, we encourage you to acknowledge your personal growth. Whether we are losing momentum, gaining it, or stuck in the humdrum, we must look inward before we can move onward. Catherine Dang, Sammy Brown Editors in Chief
ivory tower 2017 Staff Editors in Chief Sammy Brown Catherine Dang Managing Editors Gavin Arnold Dani Barber Jordan Kohs Andrea Nelson Development Director Hannah Carls marketing Director Aubrey Asleson Publicists Jordan Kohs Mila Ly Anna Rosin Online Editor Danielle Sidhu Chief Art Editor Maggie Benson Art Editors Jordan Kohs Ally Paitl Danielle Sidhu Chief Fiction Editor Annie Burdick Fiction Editors Aubrey Asleson Sammy Brown
Gabby Granada Natalee Gustin Chief Nonfiction Editor Anna Rosin Nonfiction Editors Gavin Arnold Dani Barber Kate Hokanson Andrea Nelson Chief Poetry Editor Lisa Tolles Poetry Editors Hannah Carls Mila Ly Ben Schroeder Copyeditors Dani Barber Annie Burdick Hannah Carls Natalee Gustin Kate Hokanson Andrea Nelson Ben Schroeder Design Manager Maggie Benson Designers Dani Barber Ally Paitl Anna Rosin Danielle Sidhu
contents part i 3 4 5 6
Photographic evidence Ariana Samaha First Ballet Maria Soroka franc Annelise Rittberg Crispy Fried Sunscreen Gina LoPresto
7 11:30 a.m. Morgan Madison
9 10 11 13 14 15 16
A Plastic bag Kidnapped by the wind Shereen fahrai The People in the Fountain troy shizuo yamaguchi Rhinoceros Ian GOrdon Blue Skies v1.2 maureen amundson Another Lifetime taylor robers blinking out Carter Blochwitz Poison Me Softly emily hill
part ii 19
The Multiple Purposes of a mugShot brandon Hackbarth 20 to a warm bed â€“ iambus louie-paulo darang 22 2 girls brigid mcbride 23 Cyprus Sanicle madeline harpell 24 Gold hannah nurmi 26 Mellow Coma taylor daniels 28 Outfits that elicit catcalls emma runnoe 29 Together meg jenson 30 On Being thirdâ€“gen claire kim 32 landscape as Body (2 of 4) Emily russell 33 Ansel audrey pound 34 at dirty cat tail lake/catharsis/protect it Ella Darger 35 A Garage in new Jersey jim ellis
36 38 39 40 42 42
Wave of Chance olivia crowell Floating Carter blochwitz Misunderstood solitude hannah nurmi Matthew and Madison, Milwaukee Hayden Selingo Things to do at the University of Minnesota Emmett Bongaarts Iâ€™ve been here before Alec lossiah
part iiI 45
The Nest e. n. Carroll 47 The plague is upon us aaron musickant 48 Fleeting sam batistich 48 Cape cod hayden selingo 50 Becoming Zero nadia ravensborg 50 wRung Out kaitlyn kugler 52 impetus: a beckoning payton west 53 Becoming a memory devon tuma 54 Two Years and Two Months lydia hollen 55 Day One morgan madison Day Two morgan madison 56 57 Day Three morgan madison 59 Day Four morgan madison 60 Rites of passage for a mamaâ€™s girl claire fallon 61 March 23 louie-paulo darang 62 Overcast kate drakulic 63 Overlay Ariana samaha 64 Who is in Control? koryne martinez 67 Identity chelsea laughlin 71 Moon Dogs joe cristo 72 bedbugs zoe korengold 73 optimism erika bloomdahl 74 Ideas in Fire Control luke roberts 75 Bitter louie-paulo darang 76 Black Cherries omwattie nerahoo
Asphyxia juliana que Bath Soap ren novitch
part iv 83 84 85 86 88 89 90 91
94 95 98 100
My Mother, My Riddle claire fallon Tidepool olivia novotny His hands were warm andrew zhou Reaching for the light myka ann betts Vortex megan hoff A Strong Base devon tuma deface me emily hill Home nadia ravensborg Pancake Ass claire porter Where Iâ€™m from patricia thao Wagner didnâ€™t Make me queer z makila Legacy nina kostic The Ritual is Mine emma brunette
ARTwords 105 a
box to hold lianna matt 106 Pedicord, mononah louie-paulo darang 109 On Patriotism mike corrao
Ghost Stories 112 The
surefire vigil evan block
photographic evidence Ariana samaha
My young father lies on a worn patio. His head rests on a garden fern. Smiling easily in his dress shirt. Sleeves rolled for grilling. He presents a mirrored gazing ball in the web of his hands— no wrinkles yet. I am struck by their resemblance to my own. I wonder what else he has given me that I haven’t noticed. The globe reflects a long-lensed camera where a woman’s face would be. My mother’s face. Blown out, henna brown. I can’t mistake the hair. A fisheyed horizon, the yellow and blue of seven o’clock’s halo. She’s a day in the sun. She’s healthy trees and lake water. I imagine the smoke and tonic breathing out of her. The teasing way she must have positioned him for the photo. A careful click. She sent him into the future like a letter on a roll of film. As though she knew we would need proof that he did things like smile on the dirty ground, holding her image above him like a trophy.
First Ballet, Maria Soroka photograph
I hiccupped and swallowed a pocket of air that settled and grew in the space behind my belly button I sprung a big pregnant belly, hard like those papier-mâché balloon masks we used to make in art class I drew a face on my stomach with fangs and a strong brow— I named him Franc after some long-dead relative from the Old Country He would peek out from the space between the buttons of my shirt and squirm against my liver One day without warning I heard a pop and my stomach deflated; out came bubbles and placenta and the bagel I had for lunch.
Crispy fried sunscreen gina lopresto
No one ever expected this. Everyone thought of KFC as a place to go with their families when they had the desire to eat chicken dipped in fried, greasy batter (and what batter it was!). And now, KFC had done the ultimate. In some faraway building where executives dream up their astonishing (and sometimes revolting) ideas for their famous restaurants, someone had the most astounding idea: a sunscreen that smelled like fried chicken. The news soon spread like wild chickens. Target and Walmart started making room on their shelves for the coveted product; kids began to anxiously turn and shuffle in their seats at school, dreaming of summer, when they could smell like fried chicken. Parents even considered taking money out of their children’s college funds to stock up on this crispy fried sunscreen miracle. Finally, summer arrived, and sixteenyear-old Ana was at the beach, holding a small bottle of crispy fried sunscreen in her hand. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” Ana’s friend, Maggie, asked. “I don’t see why it wouldn’t be.” Ana shrugged. “I mean, what can go wrong while spending a day at the beach?” “It’s not that,” Maggie glanced over her shoulder. “I mean, I don’t want anyone to catch me wearing that.” She nodded toward the sunscreen in Ana’s hand. 6
Ana stared at the dark red bottle. Underneath the words “Crispy Fried Chicken Sunscreen” was the kind, smiling face of Colonel Sanders, as if to ask, “Why would I ever let you down?” “Fine then, don’t wear it.” Ana squirted the sunscreen into her hand. It came out a light brown mixture, looking a little like chocolate ice cream. “It looks gross.” Maggie winced. “How can you even think of wearing it?” “I don’t see anything wrong with it.” Ana smeared some of the sunscreen onto her arm. “Be honest with me,” Maggie said. “Why are you really wearing it?” Ana took a deep breath. “It’s because of Evan.” “What’s Evan got to do with this?” “He works at KFC.” Ana hid her face so that Maggie wouldn’t see her blush. “Are you kidding me?” Maggie’s mouth dropped open. “You’re wearing a sunscreen that smells like it came out of the garbage can just to impress Evan?” “It doesn’t smell like a garbage can.” Ana sniffed her arm. Normally she would’ve liked the smell of fried chicken batter, but it seemed strange to smell it on her arm. Ana glanced around, trying to spot Evan. In school, she heard Evan and his friends mention that they were going to the beach this weekend, and she decided that now would be the best time to try out the
sunscreen. “He’s not even here.” Maggie glanced around. Suddenly, she gasped. “Wait, there he is!” Ana stared where Maggie was pointing. There was Evan in dark blue trunks, standing near the edge of the water, talking to a few of his buddies. Maggie grabbed Ana’s arm. “Don’t do this. Let’s just go home and you can wash this stuff off.” Ana pulled her arm out of Maggie’s grasp. “No way. This might be my only
chance.” Maggie sighed. “Okay, I just don’t want to see you get hurt if this goes wrong.” Ana smiled. “Thanks, but I’m not worried. Want to come with me?” “No thanks. I think I’ll just watch from here.” Ana took a deep breath and marched toward Evan. Evan spotted her walking his way. He waved to her and grinned. “Hey Ana.” Ana gulped. “Hey Evan.” For the next few minutes they talked
11:30 a.m., Morgan Madison oil on canvas
fiction / visual art
about school and homework, but right when Evan was halfway through explaining a difficult calculus problem, he suddenly stopped. He scrunched his nose. “Do you smell something?” Ana felt a twinge of excitement run down her spine. This was it: the moment of truth. She was tempted to tell him that it was her sunscreen, but she decided to wait and see if he would be able to smell it on his own. “Oh, I don’t know.” Ana shrugged. “What does it smell like?” “It smells like work,” Evan said. “Really?” Ana asked. “Yeah.” Evan made a face. “It’s terrible.” “How could it be terrible?” Ana asked, her heart falling toward her legs. “I thought you liked working at KFC.” “I do, I just hate the smell,” Evan said. “I’m sick of it after working there for six months.” Ana didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t reveal her secret about the sunscreen now; Evan would think she was an idiot and never speak to her again. Ana was about to run home and cry until her eyes
were sore when she heard Maggie shout, “Ana, look out!” She saw the air raid of seagulls flying toward her, but it was too late. She was knocked to the ground by the swarm. For what felt like days and days, Ana lay in a mess of squawking, white feathered birds that pecked at her arms and legs. Most of the birds landed on top of her, their talons scratching the back of her body. She could hear yelling and screaming above her. Ana closed her eyes, silently praying that it would be over soon. When she opened her eyes, Ana saw Evan crouching over her, with Maggie standing behind him. Evan looked concerned. “Oh my gosh— are you okay?” Ana wasn’t sure what the right answer to that question was. The seagulls’ talons had dug into her shoulders and back, and she ached terribly. Her legs and arms had been pinched by their beaks, and felt sore. Yet somehow, with the sound of the waves, the sun shining down on her face, and Evan asking if she was okay, the right answer didn’t seem too hard to think of after all.
a plastic bag kidnapped by the wind shereen fahrai
For my ancestor, Rokh Gol Fakhrai O, you feral thing, slipping from my grasp, when we’d play hide -andseek on the concrete. But the black, thick air, wrenching as the waters of Lethe, seized you. I’m sorry I could never feel your labyrinthine folds that time molded on your polyethylene skin. Now, my arms, sore, severing themselves from my torso to save you, my legs scuffling to trace your tempestuous ballet above, and I, knowing you’ve been taken away by a fatal wind of a Winter’s dawn and knowing you could only dream of this fate because all you knew were the brown, translucent walls of your hollowness, I still try—I still wonder about the currents of the wind and where they left you.
The people in the fountain troy Shizuo yamaguchi
Andy was a sallow boy. He stood peering into the fountain water, palms pressed flat against the tall marble lip, and observed the moon-pale face that peered back. Its two great black eyes danced and wavered, pulsing gently as gray ripples washed them over. Those eyes, that face, always followed him. If he swayed left, they followed. If he nodded right, they followed. And if he stepped away—carefully, casually—before darting back to catch his reflection, well, there they were: eyes and a face to match his at every moment. This left Andy with only one direction. If he couldn’t go left, couldn’t go right, and couldn’t go back, well, he could only go forward. He got on his tiptoes, pressed his palms back upon the cold white stone. He lifted one stumpy leg up and atop, dragging the other to follow. And then he was perched. He stared into the other Andy— who stared right back into him with indifference. The other Andy’s world was cool and muted. And very, very dark. And there was no air there. He wondered, with a spot of panic, if the other Andy could breathe in his world. Andy threw himself from the fountain, terrified that he had just drowned his new friend. A voice sprang across the crisp, winter-whispery air. “Andrew!” the voice called. “Mom!” cried Andy, in the squeal reserved for children who have, in their 10
minds, just committed a truly heinous act. He ran toward her, shivering, wiping water from his eyes. Andy’s mother was a sallow woman. She squatted in front of him, looking rather upset. Andy’s fear deepened to confusion when she reached out a hand and began to right his clothes. “Oh, you,” she scolded. “I can’t leave you alone, can I? What if you’d drowned . . .” Andy was beside himself. “Mom, wait!” he said, batting her hands away. “Mom, the fountain, and the other—” “Shh, hold still, you.” When Mother had finished rearranging her son, she stood up, put her hands on her hips, and bent down at the waist to look at him. It was a very adult gesture—but it wasn’t a mean one, Andy decided. She smiled at him. “Okay, now what is it?” Mother asked. “The other Andy,” he explained. “He follows me. When I went in there, I couldn’t breathe. I made it back all right, but I’m worried about him—if he made it back.” “That’s very considerate of you,” said Mother. Her voice was light, but a crease appeared at her brow, and her mouth formed into its “concerned” shape. “Let’s take a look, then.” They moved to the edge of the fountain. Andy was scaling the ledge when Mother swept him up with an exaggerated grunt of effort. She cradled him in her arms, and
Rhinoceros, Ian Gordon smoke on paper
they both looked into the water. Relief washed over Andy in a cold wave of electricity; there they were, other Andy, joined by other Mother, safe as could be. The other Andy’s face looked scared and small and strained in the other Mother’s arms. Andy was thankful that she had come to save the day, and tried his best to look apologetic. “Well how about that,” said Mother with a smile. “They’re doing just fine.” Andy nodded and then waved to the other people. He was pleased to see that the other Andy waved back, and that the other Mother gazed at her son with such a fierce affection that it made him want to cry. Andy wondered why—why did he want to cry? He asked Mother, and she looked at him with worry. “It’s okay to cry, Andy,” she said in a bright but very adult voice. “It’s a hard day today.” “No,” said Andy, who was not having a hard day at all, “that’s not it.” “Then I don’t know,” said Mother, sounding tired once again. Mother readjusted her grip on Andy, and they both looked back to the fountain. They saw two sallow figures: moon-pale skin and great black eyes. Both were magnified against their clothes, which were the finest they had. And they both—the figures and their doubles—cried.
Mother cried because she didn’t know. She didn’t know why her son wanted to cry, or why he had stuck his head into the fountain. And she didn’t know when the next time she “wouldn’t know” would be. And this was a dark, stifling thing. The fear there was nebulous. It could grow. It was black smoke carcinogen. It was the moribund fist of “eventually.” To be alone, and afraid of the possibilities, meant that the possibilities were endless. Meant that they just went on, and on, and on . . . no end in sight. Andy, meanwhile, cried because he did know. He knew, after a bit of reflection, why he wanted to cry, and that had pushed him over the edge—snapped his resolve like a thin needle of glass. He had caught the other Mother’s gaze, which had seized the beating in his chest. The feeling was a syrup feeling: warm and sticky. It swelled up and spilled into his fingertips, toes. It dissolved and turned inside of him—nourished something to breathe, live. And he found solace in this sensation. As he looked into the other Mother’s gaze, Andy realized that he was feeling what she was feeling. And he knew, that because the other Andy’s eyes were his, And the other Mother’s eyes were hers, That Mother looked at him with that same, grasping love, which melted all else away.
Blue Skies v1.2, Maureen Amundson print
Another Lifetime, Taylor Robers oil on canvas
My father and I used to watch stars go out, Up on the hill. We would pull the soiled recliners, Out from under the barn, And walk them up the driveway. I always bruised my shins. In the summer chill we would huddle, Tight to the coarse fabric. Sometimes we would bring crackers or Oreos, Whatever was on sale, And tilt the chairs so far back, I felt gravity return me to Earth. We would count satellites, And listen to the coyotes howl, In the field below. Then the night would become still, Save for the frogs in the marsh. My eyes would blur and they would lull. Inevitably, I drifted to sleep. â€œYou missed it! Another one just went!â€?
Poison Me Softly, Emily Hill multimedia collage
The Multiple purposes of a mugshot Brandon Hackbarth
Preface I. Romans were from Rome. Everyone bashes the X-ity, world don’t care. Ever since his death all I’ve been listening to is SLAYER. It’s been good. I gave two of my Grand pa’s teeth for that LP. Hardcore times. Our only salvation was the music. II.
That song was actually about Crowley.
Filling an aura with wafer and blood.
Coda As I grow older, all of my idols continue to die. I want to go back to when we were all still alive, jamming forever
to a warm bed â€“ iambus, Louie-Paulo Darang watercolor
Two girls at a softball game. One with silky golden hair and one with red shoes. It’s one of their boyfriend’s games, one of those interchangeable boys—maybe he has long hair, maybe he has a nose ring, maybe he’s in a band, maybe he wants to be a chemist, maybe he loves her—it doesn’t matter. The girls don’t watch the game; they drink lots of water and sit on the ground with their legs crossed and talk about the horror film they’re writing—the one where a two-foot-tall Yoda doll kills their interchangeable boyfriend(s). Two girls at a coffee shop. One with Adobe InDesign and one with a notebook and a pen. It’s a self-aware kind of coffee shop, with recovered wood tables and framed burlap coffee sacks on the walls and bearded baristas with endless banter and delicate tattoos up their arms behind the counter. The girls don’t do their homework; they drink too-expensive coffee and speak in soft conspiratorial voices about their futures—Costa Rica and fancy new laptops and pseudonyms and foreign grad programs and no babies! Two girls on a porch swing. One with wine in a mug and one with beer in a can. It’s a party, but it’s really just a bunch of boys getting stoned on a couch and listening to boring jam bands and watching psychedelic YouTube videos. The girls retreat outside to talk about why this gross house is better than the last gross house these boys lived in; it has three floors and a loft and beautiful stained glass windows in the dining room and a gray cat named Wednesday. They swing their legs, back and forth, back and forth, and laugh defiantly with bared teeth into the night. Two girls in a bar booth. One in a gray hat and one in a green skirt. It’s Halloween but neither is in costume—they dressed up over the weekend, as a martini and a Stephen King character—and they split a pitcher between the two of them and Ed, who went to get more quarters for the pool table. They say that they feel as though they’ve been ferried into another time period, one where the lighting is cozier and the beer is cheaper and life is simpler, where the pinball machine in the corner has relevancy, some modified ’90s where there’s also a Buck Hunter game and the curly one can still use her smartphone to take a selfie in the window glare. 22
Two girls on a dock. One in her boyfriend’s t-shirt and one in her bra and underwear from the day before. They’re mad at each other, but they never say why. One is upset that the other didn’t wait for her to take acid the night before, leaving her alone at the height of the trip, and the other is upset that the one didn’t tell her she was coming to the North at all. They both pretend otherwise, and they hold hands as they jump into the freezing October lake. The girls scramble out and wrap a giant towel around both of their thin shaking bodies, smiling as the resentment dissolves, and they step lightly to avoid pine needles pricking the rough undersides of their summer feet on their way up to the house. The cool breeze through the trees whispers: It will never be as easy as it is right now again.
cyprus sanicle, Madeline Harpell photograph
nonfiction / visual art
1. I think I was nine when I started to notice the texture of life. I remember sitting on a tiny floral couch in a tiny blue house— my Grandmother’s—crying. I remember forgotten, over-processed chicken-noodle soup, covered in a sort of golden-soup film. I think that, when I was nine, I watched my rusted spoon turn into gold. 2. I once fell in love with a color, and I didn’t even know I was falling in love. I think our subconscious haunts us. Hauntings are curious, though. Are you curious? 3. I always go to overdone weddings and drink champagne, and I always think, why champagne? 4. I cry when I see sunflowers, sometimes. Sunflowers make me want to drink champagne. I try to get drunk when I see brides with sunflowers. 5. I think that I don’t get upset when people ask if I’m okay because I know that I’m not white or black or even a rainbow of colors; I’m golden. I think most people want to be rainbows, though—which is funny. I want to ask most people if they’re okay. 24
6. I road-tripped to Chicago in a minivan with a friend when I was eighteen. I wondered why the Bean wasn’t gold. I wondered why more art wasn’t gold—why I hadn’t spent more time making gold art. 7. Sometimes, when I see birds, I wish I was God. If I was God, I could paint the tips of ravens’ feathers gold, and then I wouldn’t be scared. 8. I believe that I am haunted. 9. I remember reading somewhere that it’s important to assimilate—I don’t understand why more people don’t talk about kinky sex. 10. When I look at the sunset, I wish that I was softer—prettier. I wish that I was less awake. I know that Heaven is terribly far away. I know that hauntings are real. 11. Did you know that it’s impossible to find gold acrylic paint? They don’t make gold acrylic paint—at least, their fabricated gold is not my gold.
12. I buy magazines. I wish I lived in a magazine. I once saw a model in a magazine with gold-foil eyelids. She was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. I wish that there was a magazine-reality, maybe a Givenchy-reality.
ter. I don’t think that anything could be so naturally beautiful.
13. I have a statue by my bed of a golden elephant and sometimes the golden elephant tells me that I should read more.
19. I see rich women and their furs. I know what status is.
14. I wanted sunshine and sunflowers on a canvas—autumn and popcorn and golden chiffon. I broke a paintbrush today, and my thumb is aching. 15. I think that giggles are gold. Sometimes I sit in the bathtub and giggle because I want the bathroom to be covered in gold. Sometimes I think that if I laugh long enough maybe the bubbles will turn gold and I will be able to take a champagne bath. 16. My neighbor is gay. I stand underneath his window and whisper amens. People are mean to him. I think that maybe he will be happier if I whisper enough amens. I don’t know if God is real but I do know that amen is a gold-word. Gold-words are close to God. 17. I went to the city once. The city makes me cry. I thought that I saw fingertips in the skyline, like New York had a puppet mas-
18. I once fell in love with a boy. I once felt like total disorganization.
20. I have a golden tambourine. Usually, I play it to make music. Sometimes, I play it to make noise. Sometimes, I think that maybe music is just noise, though. 21. My favorite movie is Dracula—Christopher Lee’s Dracula. I watched it with a boy. He didn’t like it, and I didn’t speak to him again. 22. I was walking today, and I saw a bouquet of sunflowers. I don’t know why, but I didn’t cry—I think I’m distracted. 23. I’m failing, I think. Have you ever failed? 24. I always think about how I would feel if I opened a golden fortune cookie. I think maybe I would be more sure about myself. 25. They took my paint brushes from me. It was warm, sunny—April. fiction
26. Today, I’m leaving. They decided I should go somewhere where I am safe. I don’t think that there will be ravens or champagne or sunflowers where I’m going, but I’m not sure. I hope that my neighbor will be okay—I’m sure he will miss me. Will there be magazines where I’m going? They told me that it’s okay—things happen, but I need to take care of myself. It is hard to know when to walk away. 27. I once fell in love with a color.
fiction / visual art
Mellow Coma, Taylor Daniels acrylic on canvas
outfits that elicit catcalls emma runnoe
A white tank top soaked through with beer he spilled on me and a scowl on my lips. A baseball t-shirt with light-blue, high-waisted shorts, and a girl only half coherent on my shoulder. Rain dripping from the fabric that clung to my being. Mascara running along with my feet, begging to be indoors. My father’s sweatshirt and hair unbrushed. The whistles got caught in the tangles. I could still hear them when I returned home. Eyelids closed, long sleeves, and shoes without backs. My heels are my sexiest feature. Khaki pants with a blue sweater my mom bought me because she thought it’d look flattering. Scratchy fabric designed to match a cartoon character I used to watch when I was younger. I was mistaken for a Playboy Bunny. Laughter bubbling in my throat, walking with friends. Glittery flip flops reminiscent of water in sunlight. A dress I’ve worn once. The sleeves sat too tightly on my shoulders, and the collar tickled my neck. Youth under my eyes with pajamas I was too exhausted to change out of. My skin natural and soaked with placenta. A bucket hat, a tie-dyed shirt, and locked knees. If my hair was up, maybe they would have mistaken me for a boy. 28
Together, Meg Jenson digital
on being third-gen
inspired by chang-rae lee's native speaker claire kim What are you? 가자, gaja, let’s go, 사랑해, saranghae, I love you, 안녕, annyoung, hello These syllables flow easily across my tongue, but too many others feel foreign in my mouth. I have to try hard to position my tongue, throat, jaw just right. I think my 리을, a sound between r and l, will always be imperfect. Some phrases are automatic when I hear and speak them but many I must translate first, from my native tongue: English. Some people worry that they will never sound like a native English speaker. I worry that I will forever have an American accent too rigid for the language of my ancestors. I am not fluent in the cultural cues, the subtle gestures, looks, movements. I can’t hide my emotions so easily. I do not have the same degree of body control, the art of resistance in the presence of others. I am so awkwardly American, conditioned to express and not to repress, to articulate all my thoughts as I think them. Silence is the hardest battle. Closing my lips, the most difficult task. Because of all this, the American me, I stick out like a sore thumb. I care, but not enough. I care more these days. I want to look Korean. I want to be Korean. I have to remind myself that I already am. But I buy the white Adidas sneakers anyway, swipe on some bright lipstick. Accept me. I look like them. But they know 30
I am not one of them. I am an imposter. How do they know? My parents speak better English than Korean. I’ve heard that the second-generation want their kids to appreciate Korean culture and like Korean food but that they never want their kids to struggle in their communication the way they did with their parents. This constant struggle to understand each other. Perhaps they would always have that slight trace, that giveaway of a Korean accent, but their kids would have perfect American English. My own parents raised me in a very similar manner to how they were raised, but without so much pressure and with lots of spoken I love yous. Education was still of high importance, but I knew that their love for me was not tied to my performance, and thankfully, I was not forced to become a doctor. Growing up, I think I thought I was white. I knew I was Korean, but that didn’t really mean anything to me. I walked the smooth, easy road paved with the blood, sweat, and tears of my ancestors. A spoiled American child. I did not know pain or hunger. I was only familiar with the comforts of American life, of movie theaters and McDonald’s, shopping malls and football, money, education, cars. No one had ever called me “chink” or “Jap” or “gook.” I hardly knew any Korean games besides rock, paper, scissors—and there’s an American version of that. The most Korean
thing I did was eat Korean food. But I was always, without exception, different from my non-Asian peers. It was only after I started learning the language that I finally realized where this social distance came from. I realized that all of the small things that separated me from my white peers came from someplace, a place where those differences were the norm for everyone living there! I stopped feeling weird and inferior and started feeling proud. Thus began my passionate exploration into my heritage. The hardcore first-gen 할머니s and 할아버지s, grandmas and grandpas, admire me for wanting to return to my roots. I was born here, a native English speaker, a master of the language in ways those that came before could not be, and yet, I’m interested in looking back for once instead of ahead. But there is still a divide between me and Korea. My Korean roots are thousands of miles and decades away, and Korea has changed immensely since my immigrant grandparents left their home. So if I truly
want to keep my Koreanness, I must be intentional about cultivating the culture of a home that once was, and never was, mine. I am one of the first third-generation Korean-Americans. No one has yet examined our generation, so I look now with fresh eyes, a first look, at my kind. When I look at other third-gens, I see that they are only Korean by blood, not by culture. We pronounce the names of Korean dishes like we are American tourists. We don’t know how to spell our names in Korean. We’ve lost so much of our cultural identity, and yet, we want to shed more. Because being Korean means losing our chance at full acceptance into the American mainstream. It’s a craving hard to deny. The cultural treasure chest that our grandparents carried with them across the ocean has been emptied so that we might stay afloat in America. But was the cost of fitting in worth it? America of the West. Korea of the East. I am neither because I am both.
Landscape as Body (2 of 4), Emily Russell photograph
Ansel, Audrey Pound photograph
At dirty cat tail lake ella darger
where highway runs the middle sun and dusted palms on legs I didn’t go grocery shopping again. To stare at the thin, pick-up stick crosses looming the canopies while cars splice the view In waves, sandy waves, it keeps coming back
catharsis ella darger
I am being called to write, to pour out my insides they are ripe. I put them in the fridge
protect it ella darger
Like it is a child’s head soft and dehydrated, taking shape— a water chestnut to a lily pad you sleep on one side for too long and your skull shows the plains you built. Vast, flat, tasteless
a garage in new jersey jim ellis
Four thrones surround a table Determining your view: A record collection, a workbench, A fridge filled with carrots, Or the view of a cul-de-sac Ashes glide along the concrete floor— The old bowl being used As an ashtray is obsolete Cards smack the table Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” roars Invading the room With soulful echoes There is a bitterness in the air Tomorrow I drive nineteen hours For Minnesota The ritual ends tonight The sweetness serves itself in memories And though many may say, “It’s just a garage in New Jersey” To us, it’s much more than that It’s a temple
Wave of Chance, Olivia Crowell watercolor
Floating, Carter Blochwitz photograph
Misunderstood solitude hannah Nurmi
Your tongue is a key—perhaps a dagger of black and white stares: emptiness, dust; you are weeping in the weeds. I have always been puzzled by cherry blossoms and metal and bulges of denim— absence: nothing but eyelashes. You are a poppy on a pillow of gray edge seduction, haunted by the watercolor blue of tear stained irises. I am a clouded moon of open protest— a palomino mare of lamentation and misunderstood solitude.
Matthew and Madison, Milwaukee, Hayden Selingo 35mm photograph
things to do at the university of Minnesota emmett bongaarts
Microdose LSD and read Confucian odes at work Go to parties held in rooms full of flashing lights and strangers Eat Adderall in stairwells while reading beatnik ramblings Send frantic misspelled notes To friend in California Coast to coast and questioning The truth of time and mayhem Talked to and be kissed by mysterious girl While quoting Karl Marx Smoking cigarettes and hallelujah Rings throughout the air Get stoned and give way To nonsense conversation Disappear in what-if Family Guy flashbacks And back again and Laughing Lie awake till morning lost in paranoia Palpitations ringing through Brain flash phantom pain and Cankerous confusion Reduced to and become Too terrified to sleep For fear of dying in the night. Iâ€™ve Been Here Before, Alec Lossiah print
poetry / visual art
the nest e. n. Carroll
You are hatching. It’s a slow sort of violence. You chip, chip, chip away at your womb until you see light streaming between the cracks. Eventually you burst forth like a yolk, covered in slick membrane. You flap helplessly, each breath forced into a cry. Around you are five brothers and sisters, a cacophony of screams—related not by blood, but by shared experience. You’re yelling at the world, excited and overwhelmed. You were driven from your enclosure by instinct, but once outside, you’re left with confusion and fear. You did what you were told, now what? In time, the world sharpens and quiets. Your siblings huddle around you, comforting and warm. Eggshells are discarded clothing, strewn across the floor. You feel your heart beat, beat, beating in your tiny chest. It’s your first memory of existence, the rhythm of your heart. It soon becomes clear you are missing a sibling. There is an egg lying on its side, isolated from the flock. It looks deformed, with slashes of brown speckles covering its small curves. From a distance you can see the egg is dimpled and soft. You look closer and your siblings follow suit. The egg is wiggling, not aggressively, as you had, but ponderous and pulsing. The shell expands and contracts: slow inhale, slow exhale. Chattering amongst themselves, your siblings come to a conclusion. Without
knowing how, you agree with them. This isn’t natural. The egg should have hatched by now, should have cracked and crunched its way into the world. Alone, you would have stayed away. You would have left it in its solitude, uncertain but without accountability. You are not alone. You have your flock, wingtip to wingtip, and together you surround the egg. A silent decision is made, not by any one chick, but by the multitude of you. One by one, you lean forward. You wobble under the weight of your head, but your aim is true and your beak smacks against the egg’s skin. The sound of pecking fills the air. With each strike, the egg squirms but remains unyielding. With each strike, your flock increases its pace until you are a whirlwind of terror. The heart you found comforting is now beating hard in your chest, driving you to dig your way into the egg’s center. Inside, inside you’ll find another chick, just like you. The outside is different, ugly, but if you burrow deep enough you’ll find the slickness of damp feathers, the claws of curled feet. As one, you and your siblings will uncover the natural in the unnatural, the familiar in the foreign. It does not occur to you, in your driven state, that anything beyond you could exist. A neophyte, there is nothing outside your singular perception of the world. If not you, then who? fiction
Under the flurry of attacks, the egg splits. No cracks as anticipated, but a single, ripping seam. You and your siblings stop and watch, expectant. A moment of brief silence—the hesitation, you assume, of being born. Spilling from the shell is not a yolk, but an oil slick. You stumble away, caught up in your flock. The creature in front of you writhes from side to side. You watch in horror as it opens its mouth and devours its womb in a single, massive gulp. Your gizzard twitches. The world is shaking, and you realize it’s because you and your flock are trembling. Feathers puff in a way you’ve never felt, uncomfortable and stiff. The creature is done gorging, and it turns itself to you. It seems to grow bigger, vaster as it approaches, its head weaving from side to side. It becomes abundantly clear that you will die. Death, like life, is a new concept to you. Pounding in your veins is the rapid desire to live. Seared into your bones is the
knowledge that you will die. Faced with the twisting figure of the snake, you recognize your mortality. Your siblings experience this revelation with you; at least you’re not alone. The snake is upon you. Your line is unbroken, each chick stunned into immobility. The snake rises, sleek and armored. Taller than any object, it glares down and bares its fangs. They were right to be afraid. They were right to think the egg unnatural. You wonder, briefly, if you hurried this process along. Would the snake have hatched if not for you and your siblings? Had you, in your haste, accelerated yourself through life and into death? The snake hisses, lunges, and sinks its fangs into you, hot and searing. The world darkens until only threads of light seep in. If this is death, it is a lot like birth. The snake twists around you, crushing. Inside, you crack. You are hatching.
The Plague Is Upon Us, Aaron Musickant linoleum relief print
From the train, I depart and stand beneath a canopy of immeasurable darkness. Cold droplets materialize on the span of my skyward cheeks and abscond in desperation beneath the neck of my windbreaker.
poetry / visual art
Rolling ever more rapidly onward, the cars of the fleeting train, their wide, reflective windows, blur the contours of my countenance as I divert my eyes to a haphazard illustration of a face streaked with rain, hair astray, a conflicted gaze.
And then, suddenly, I am an eight-year-old again, in the the primitive hours of the youngest morning of summertime. Oversized housing developments queue in succession forever beyond the gated community pool, their phosphorescent green lawns,
a bitter breeze lifting the fragrant mingling of dew and green leaf volatiles to a nose, the centerpiece of a face reflecting utter despair, glaring at me from the foot of a translucent, glacial blue stretched for fifty meters of forever beyond me. And then, I am here once more, twelve years of life spent, and I am aware in this moment that nothing has changed, that, evidently, I am but the child I was then, standing in silent contemplation, my toes curled off the brink of the pool deck, underwhelmed by destiny, loathing the man who stares back at me for never jumping in.
Cape Cod, Hayden Selingo 35mm photograph
poetry / visual art
becoming zero Nadia ravensborg
It is my thirteenth birthday. At the lunch table, I sit facing my friends with a ten-calorie bite of vanilla cake marinating on my tongue. Amylase is breaking down the microscopic sugars, sending them sizzling down my gullet where peristaltic movements smush and squeeze them into my stomach. I feel pangs in my chest, and I recognize the hydrochloric acid and pepsin dissolving my food. I am at the lunch table, and a ten-calorie bite of vanilla cake is almost too much to handle. I know where it goes. I can point to any locus on my Wrung Out, Kaitlyn Kugler body and trace lithograph it to a moment of weakness: the subcutaneous lump where my arm touches my breast is a raspberry jam sandwich on white bread, the protrusion of my hips a manifestation of eighty percent lean (twenty percent fat) ground beef. It is my thirteenth birthday and I have 50
nonfiction / visual art
been cold for six months. I am thirteen and a half and I take deep breaths when I stand alone in the kitchen at night. I cut up an apple into twelve pieces (72) for tomorrowâ€™s breakfast. For lunch, I fill a plastic Tupperware container with twenty grapes (32), and I glue two rice cakes (60) together with one tablespoon of peanut butter (90). Dinner will be another apple (72). I am thirteen and a half and tomorrow I will equal 326 and my guts will glisten squeaky clean like my report card. I am fourteen and the clinic hallways are too bright. Splashes of neon stain the inside of my eyelids when they close. The ceilings are swirls of cerulean and phthalo blue, the backs of turtles peek out between the waves. Fish with silver scales and glistening eyes swim freely above our heads. Nobody looks up in the hospi-
tal. I am fourteen and I focus on the white and black dots that speckle the linoleum. The woman on a couch across the waiting room is busy swiping on her phone, busy pretending that her son isn’t the only bald boy at kindergarten. I listen to the noise her bald son is making as he reads a picture book aloud, the way it slices through the silence that my parents cast my way. The air is heavy and still. I am fourteen and I am not supposed to be here. I am fourteen and I trail behind my nurse as she waddles down the hallway to the corner where I will remove my shoes, step up onto the scale, and succumb to the numbers that have never made sense to my food-clogged brain. I pick a giraffe on my nurse’s scrubs to stare at, praying she can take the fucking hint but she can’t, and she announces my number to the world. I am fourteen and my doctor leans forward in her chair with her ankles crossed. Her lips are thin slits and she smells musty, like someone who drinks too much coffee and not enough water. She asks me if I know that twenty percent of the energy I consume goes to powering my brain. I pick a speckle to stare at. There are no fish on the ceiling of this room. No, she scolds, one hundred calories is not enough to power “what’s inside my thinkin’ cap.” I shake her hand, collect my new treatment plan, and try not to look at the floor. I am fourteen and then some and I pray for the courage to press down; my fingers tremble as they squeeze my soft stomach. I
release the scissors; a cherry lesion emerges from under each blade. I am leaking. Saccharine muscle fiber drips down the front of my thighs and smears my cinnamon sugar insides. The girl at school with purple hair and rain boots that kiss her kneecaps tells me about the outpatient program she’s just completed. She reads to me her new notebook full of numbers (766, 912, 794, 1021 . . . ) and I show her my anthology of hospital bracelets—nine. She eats bologna and mustard sandwiches on white bread (??). I eat ten baby carrots (40) and one banana (95). I am fourteen and then some and I don’t want my sticky syrup body. I am fifteen, and I go to a new school, and I discover that my toothbrush fits perfectly in the back of my throat. Christmas is in three days and I sit on the couch in my grandparents’ living room, staring at the deer heads mounted to the walls. I’m imagining the angry blood that mats their fur and stains it red as my thirty-three relatives laugh in the wide, flat register of country folk with freezers full of venison. I am so cold but my cheeks burn hot when they talk about how strange it is that I cut my meal up into tens, hundreds, thousands of itty-bitty pieces that never bridge the gap between plate and digestive tract. They tell me they’re just making a joke, hey now, no need to get fussy. They pat my pudge and show me smiles that swallow their teeth. I am fifteen, and recovery is a lifeless word that seeps into the cracks of my chapped lips.
impetus: A beckoning payton west
she is tumbling downhill open wounds in her sides collect the earth she stops as the hill plateaus and lies there on the ground she touches her wounds and wipes the mix of blood and earth across her cheeks mama told her to get home, itâ€™s gonna rain she is still the rain starts, just like mama said she lies there on the ground some more and lets the rain wash the dirt from her face she has twigs in her hair and dirt underneath her fingernails her feet take her back to mama but the earth calls to her relentlessly come home come home come home
Becoming a Memory, Devon Tuma painting
two years and two months lydia hollen
The clock on the stove blinks 12:00 a.m., but I know that it’s actually 4:52 p.m. I’ve been meaning to reset the clock since the electricity was shut off temporarily a month ago. “Put your tights on, girls.” I don’t have to yell; they are only a thin wall away. My apartment only has one room, a bathroom spacious enough for one regular-sized man or two small girls at a time, a kitchenette, and a patch of carpet that fits a single loveseat. Jeanie would tell me that their legs will freeze without their tights. She would tell me that it’s winter and it would be ridiculous to let them leave the house with bare legs. But I won’t fight them. They hate putting their tights on and Jeanie isn’t here, so I’ll just hope the girls listen. Carolyn is twelve and Ruthie just turned nine last week. They scoot into the backseat, knobby legs covered in sheer black and freckled faces flushed pink. In a couple of seconds, Carolyn will complain that it’s cold, so I flip on the heat. Cool air blasts from the vents. “Brrrrrrr! Daaaaaaaaad! It’s cold!” “Wait for it to get warm, Carolyn. It takes time.” It takes exactly three minutes to get from my house to the church on W Street. That is, if the only two stoplights stay green. And if Ms. Wilkes isn’t crossing the only four-way street in town, headed to 54
Love’s for her weekly carton of menthols. It takes Ms. Wilkes a full minute to cross the street. She visually assaults me whenever I press the gas before she’s reached the other sidewalk. Ms. Wilkes was my teacher for second grade. She hated me, but she hated all her students. There is no Ms. Wilkes today. Thankfully. We arrive at the church in exactly three minutes. “Can we just stay in the car, daddy?” Carolyn thrusts herself between the front seats and cranes her neck up at me. Last month she had to get her eyeteeth pulled— Jeanie insisted that I pay that bill before the electricity. She looks silly and much younger without them. Her permanent teeth haven’t made an appearance yet, so with her face pushed close to mine, all I see are gums and freckles. “No,” I reply, leaning into the door, putting distance between her gums and my nose. “It’s too expensive to keep the heat on that long.” Carolyn and Ruthie whine in high-pitched unison. We shuffle down the stairs and into the basement. There is a small hallway before the church’s theater doors. The girls seat themselves across from the wife of an older man named Paul. Carolyn, Ruthie, and this woman are the only people to ever tag along to the meetings, sitting the full ninety minutes. The woman is peeling the plastic off her smokes. I lean down, kiss
their chilled cheeks, and turn to go into the theater. Blocks of fluorescent light illuminate the veil of loitering blue smoke. Both the hallway and the small theater room are clouded as a result of fifteen sober alcoholics chain smoking. I don’t smoke, but Jeanie does, so it never bothered me. I’m not one of those snooty hypocrites who thinks their lack of an additional addiction makes them
Day One, Morgan Madison charcoal on paper
superior. I beeline it for the coffee cart. Despite being a member for a handful of years now, I find that the only real connection I’ve made is the acquaintance of the church coffee cart. It doesn’t ask about my anxiety of addressing alcoholism and provides ample amounts of caffeine—although burnt and grainy. •••
“Stop it, Carrie,” Ruthie hisses, snatching back the carnation pink crayon. She draws the outline of a sun. “The sun isn’t pink, you idiot.” Ruthie ignores me. “Now, now, ladies, let’s be kind,” Loretta, the old woman on the bench across from us says, not looking up from her crossword puzzle. She has her third cigarette in ten minutes hanging from her chapped lips. Loretta smells like bacon grease, mint, and hairspray—and not the nice version of these smells. A whiff of her will make you scrunch your nose and take three steps back. Loretta is a waitress at The Barn, one of the oldest breakfast places in town. She has been since she dropped out of high school, Dad says. She always reeks of an unwashed apron. “Any chance you pretties might know the name of a town near New London, Connecticut? Eight letters.” Ruthie and I shrug. I look down and see Ruthie drawing Loretta with long, yellow teeth with big gaps. Loretta once told us she fiction / visual art
the restaurant at all this week. So unlike her!” “I don’t know. We’ve been with dad all week. We’re going to mom’s after this. But I think she’s been going on some dates.” I try to say this confidently. Beside me, Ruthie stops coloring. “Ahhhh, I see! Oh la la! Well tell her she has to buy double the pie next time she comes in to make up for leaving me out of the loop!” She cackles and looks back down at her crossword. •••
Day Two, Morgan Madison charcoal on paper
hadn’t been to the dentist in ten years. We can tell. “So, sugarplums!” she exclaims, while scratching her head with the lead end of her pencil. “How’s your beautiful mama?” “Good,” I say. Ruthie ignores her, scribbling a blue sky. “Oh c’mon, give me more than that! I’ve been worried sick! She hasn’t been into 56
fiction / visual art
My eyes bore into the scuffed blue and white linoleum squares, sipping at my lukewarm coffee. Our group is made up largely of people far older than me. The elders have a very tight-knit group, impenetrable to anyone younger than sixty. Otherwise, I only know two people familiarly, and we avoid speaking directly to each other and instead exchange polite smiles and a “hello.” The group’s facilitator, Clayton, is notoriously late. Despite knowing this, everyone else shows up on time. “Hey, Greg.” I detach my eyes from the floor and look up to see the only person who continues to engage me in conversation. “Hey, Vincent,” I respond, downing the rest of my coffee. As I stand to get more coffee, Vincent also rises. Vincent and I aren’t friends. Maybe acquaintances. He is the only person here who doesn’t greet me
by saying how many goddamned seconds Vincent begins to speak. Whenever he it has been since his last drink. However, does, given his proximity, I stumble out Vincent has filled me in on most of the base of my stupor. “Well, this last weekend my, level, personal information that defines ac- uh, work held a Christmas party. We had quaintanceship. He has a devout, supportto wear ugly sweaters. I didn’t realize until ive wife and two sons in college. He is in his that night that the party was being held at late forties—almost a decade on me—and is Shep’s Bar.” Murmurs of recognition ripple a higher up at a grocery store. through the room. “Hah, yeah. So, there The double doors to the theater slam were a couple younger kids at this party, so open. Clayton comes bustling in. His face I just stuck by them the whole time. You is blotched with red and white spots, sweat wetting his receding hairline. “Oh, I am so sorry, you guys! Time just got the best of me! Please refill your coffee cups—” Clayton hesitated, just minutely, glancing at my isolated pastel patterned cup. “Finish those cigarettes; we will be refraining from clouding the air with anything but positivity and support this evening.” Everyone had already refilled their cups and pressed out their smokes. Clayton drones on through the ritualistic requirements to starting every AA meeting. Some people sit stiffly upright, eyes attentively scanning his face, with a tightlipped smile. Others, the veterans, one might say, play snake on their flip phones or scrawl in a notebook or just daydream until Clayton finishes reciting the same words they have heard so many times before. I fall somewhere in between, experience-wise, and thus, resort to counting the miscellaneous stains Day Three, Morgan Madison on the popcorn ceiling. charcoal on paper fiction / visual art
know, since they couldn’t buy anything. I just realized that, uh, it wasn’t so much hard for me to avoid alcohol as much as it was hard to force conversation with these teenagers. I mean, they’re even younger than my boys.” As Vincent speaks, I watch as he flicks the lid of his Tic Tac box. He always toys with it when it is his turn to speak, occasionally popping two orange candies into his mouth. “Greg!” Clayton stares at me, with a frustratingly eager smile on his face. I didn’t realize that Vincent had finished speaking. “Would you like to share?” “Um, I think I’ll just listen today.” I always choose to pass. It’s basically in the rulebook that you are not forced to talk, no matter how many sessions you’ve been to. “Oh, c’mon, Greg! We are all dying to support and empathize with your struggles. “You’ve been with us for two years and—” he pauses, jokingly looking at his watchless wrist. “—two months or so?” I wasn’t aware. “No, I think I’m good.” “I think everyone would really enjoy hearing from you, Greg! Wouldn’t you all like to know more about our fellow sober friend, Greg?” There is a collective agreement. I exhale loudly, glaring into Clayton’s greasy gray hairline. “Alright. What do you want to hear?” “Just start wherever you’d like!” He grins. “Alright. I’ve got two daughters sitting out in the hall. Their names are—” “Wait, wait! Let’s do a formal introduction. Name?” 58
I struggle to sustain composure at this request. “Greg. I’ve been sober for two years, I guess.” “Hi, Greg,” greets the group, all smiling faces and sharp eyes. Clayton claps his hands together in joy. “Oh, wonderful! Now, go on.” “My daughters’ names are Carolyn and Ruthie. Uh, they are twelve and nine. Let me think . . . I’ve lived in this town my whole life. I probably had my first illegal drink in the basement of someone you know. Thankfully, it wasn’t any of you, ’cause that would be awkward. So, yeah. What else do you wanna know? Well, I’m a mailman, but many of you probably already knew that. Your houses might be on my route. Hm . . . Well, I guess I should put this out there . . . I only come to this because my ex-wife said she’d stay with me if I got help. She didn’t stay with me.” I stop. Out of my periphery I can see Vincent’s mouth agape, his Tic Tac container paused, flipped open, near his lips. My words are met with an increase in leg shaking, but everyone’s faces are warm. Clayton’s eagerness has taken a hit. “Thank you for sharing, Greg. I wasn’t expecting you to share so much! I never knew your daughters’ names. Would anyone like to respond?” •••
Loretta’s husband Paul, a hunchbacked, bony man, is the first to exit through the double doors. He always is the first in and the first out. Loretta has been talking our ears off about the trick to baking perfect pie crust, expecting no responses. At this point, her pack of menthols is half gone. Paul
him to turn on the heat. “Hey, Dad?” “Yeah, Carrie?” “Can we go to The Barn with mom this weekend?” Ruthie looks up from her drawing. “The Barn? You like that place?” “Yeah! Loretta said she would give us free pie!” Ruthie chimes in. “She’s offering free pie, you say?” We nod, Dad smiles into the rearview. “Well, you’ll have to ask your mom. It’s up to her.” Mom’s house is three minutes from the church, in the opposite direction of Dad’s. We pull into her driveway. Dad gets out and opens the trunk. We sling our bags onto our shoulders. Dad leans down and wraps us in a hug. “Let me know what she says.” •••
Day Four, Morgan Madison charcoal on paper
shuffles over to her, his slippers smearing her ashes into streaks of gray. “Ladies, always a pleasure. Stop in and visit my wrinkly butt soon. I’ll give you the pie of your choice on the house!” She blows us two kisses, loops arms with her husband, and saunters away. Dad comes out and silently takes our hands in his. We get in the car and I beg
I watch the girls file into the brick house. I can see Jeanie in the bay window, her face lights up as the girls scramble in. She has a fireplace and an espresso machine, things we didn’t have when we were together. I watch as Jeanie’s expression becomes reprimanding, surely because the girls had dropped their bags on the floor and not put their shoes in the closet. I don’t yell at them for those things. As I pull away, I reach under my seat and pull out a can of beer. When I reach the four-way stop, I attempt to open it, but the tab won’t budge. Frozen solid.
fiction / visual art
rites of passage for a mama's girl claire fallon
The cornfield takes her in easily, like he does, and future interpretations of her womanhood use the blood commanded out from her arms by the stalks as proof of existence. Her back is turned on the house when he closes in. During a 2008 Super Bowl party, she confessed to me that even the pizza couldn’t soak it all up and once outside she tipped into the snow, moved her arms up and down until she’d made a self portrait. Your mother thinks she’s funny Dad hissed, a real knee-slapper. She’d toss the embarrassment back with her unfinished martini sans SSRI and gurgle out laughter rusted with apology. Since lying in her childhood bed I’ve developed a taste for chalk, but only in outline form, and I carry a spare stick in my bag in case of sudden and fatal collapse. I sharpen a knife and hand it to her—offer her my sugared heart, my ripest arteries, my soul that I’ve polished like one prepares fruit for a still life. If there was more than one place in town for men to buy their aftershave he wouldn’t have smelled like her father, and she lurched clumsily forward because that’s what any smart Baby Girl with even an ounce of dignity would do. His arms find her, and she notices that the earth has forgotten to shudder beneath them, forgotten to swallow him whole, to crumble him to dust. There is a milky line stretched across her calf like cellophane and if she could give me one piece of advice, it would be don’t look in the mirror while you do it because then, more than ever, you’ll look like your mother.
march 23, Louie-Paulo Darang painting
overcast, Kate Drakulic painting
My young mother’s face is moon white under a feathery turquoise cap. Her eyes are lashless almonds. Leaning into bird’s-eye brushstrokes in river-stained clogs and a broad Guatemalan jacket. She is only twenty-five, but her heart has been places. I can feel my father’s jealous wonder in the way he lowers himself to the floor to get a better angle. In the way that she doesn’t know that she has been photographed. The paintings took years, sometimes she would yank one off of the wall and cover its familiar brightness with blood orange and basil green in large, frustrated movements.
Please stop, I would beg. I liked it. It was finished.
I suddenly feel wrong for having the photo at all, but I don’t look away. When I tilt my head, her eyes tease their corners as though she may look up at any moment.
They are never finished, she would say.
Who is in Control? koryne martinez
It is a constant, internal routine. I go through the same questions, pondering my self-worth. I feel so uneasy with myself. My stomach is in knots and I cannot scathe this feeling of self-hatred that is blanketed over me, suffocating me, haunting me. My shoulders sink heavily with the doubt that I have placed upon my own body. I feel unworthy and completely undeserving of love or affection from another being. My physique congests the entirety of the room, and I become a burden to all those who surround me. I struggle with even being touched. I deprive my skin of simple grazes from another’s hand, solely because I fear their dissatisfaction that might come over them if they glide over a part of me that isn’t smooth and toned. I want so badly to enjoy the simple pleasure of someone else’s stroke, but the fear that I have trumps all possible desires. I am an embarrassment. I am always asking myself, How could I ever expect a man to feel proud of me, and want to show me off? All I would feel is guilt. Sorry that he would have to tote me along and reveal to people that I am all he could achieve. I find myself submitting to others, and I want so badly to be validated by them, to know that in their eyes, I am accepted. I think that is what I struggle with the most, wondering why I care so much about what someone else thinks of me, why I try so hard to please, and why I can’t find comfort 64
in my own self validation. The tall one with the green eyes and fluctuating hair styles. That’s what always helped turn me away in my moments of weakness, that stupid fucking hair. When it was nicely groomed, short on the sides, a little longer on the top, he looked so handsome and clean. I was into it. But then it would grow and grow, and he would let it flip around and swish it to the side with his fingers. The strands on his forehead would get heavy with the grease from his hands, and those were the moments I thought my attraction was gone. And then he would cut it. In class, he sat three seats to the right of me. I could be there all day, just staring. I don’t recall much from that AP Government course, other than the way the little scar on his chin would stretch every time he smiled. That was one of my favorite parts of him. His chin had some destroyed nerves, so every time someone or something touched it, he would lose his shit. He had a flaw that made him feel vulnerable, and that made him more real, more like me. He wasn’t even that impressive or outstanding at, well, anything. He was on the basketball team, but he rarely played. When he did get put in, he would choke. Grades? They were average. Half of the time he would ask to copy my homework, and of
course, I obliged. Why wouldn’t I? I loved feeling needed, even if he was just using me. His family went to the same church as my grandparents, which is also the church that my mom grew up in. I had this glimmering sense of hope that this meant that he would eventually grow out of his asshole ways. It is just a phase, he’s a man of God. But I was naive and still thought that being religious automatically made someone “good.” Now, the thought of him makes me shudder with fear, but in the same moment I am allured and crave the attention that he can provide me. Our story is as follows: I am a sixteen-year-old girl, pure and vulnerable. He is a sixteen-year-old boy, hungry for his prey, careless of who he destroys in his path. He fills me with confidence. He makes me believe that I am what he wants. I submit myself to him and do all that he asks of me. “Send me a picture of you in just your bra.” “Touch yourself and send me a video.” And the worst command: “Don’t tell anyone. This is our little secret.” I drop everything and follow the instructions. In my mind, if he is satisfied, then I must be too. At the end of the day, the same one command will linger. Why does this have to be a secret again? It isn’t clear to me, but I will obey because the satisfaction of his attention tastes so sweet. I am addicted. School is small, word begins to spread, and I am shamed. Isn’t he lucky that he reached his friends to defend his honor before I could even come to terms with the fact that he was embarrassed of me? He tells
his friends that I have been harassing him, I flood his phone with messages and he only replies when he begins to feel bad for me. He says that I am obsessive. He finalizes his argument by simply asking “Guys, look at her. You think I would go for her?” This secret that we shared was created to protect him from humiliation, but what I didn’t realize was that if it were to escape the two of us, I would end up being the predator, and he, the victim. It doesn’t stop here. Until graduation he continues to ask these things of me, and what is worse, I grant every wish. Overwhelming, that is what he was. One of the loudest humans I have ever met, and that is saying a lot, considering I am rather loud. The mixture of his funky sense of style and his echoing voice meant that it was nearly impossible to not notice him. He was always dancing, or doing something strange for attention, but his ability to be so true to himself was refreshing. Aside from all of this, he also suffered from a plethora of insecurities. His skin was never clear, and his ears were rather large. A lot of times he would let these things take control, becoming extremely sad or angry in the most unexpected moments. Because of this, he would end up saying a lot of irrational, spur of the moment things, all of which were hard to believe. Love is in the air, or at least he says it is. I don’t believe him. It has been over a year and he has yet to show me any affection publicly. He hasn’t hinted to me about meeting his family. He only invites me to his home when it is vacant. For me, it is just nonfiction
protocol. It isn’t perfect, by any means, but his words fill my emptiness just enough to keep me near. It is prom season. I am excited and crossing my fingers that I will be asked to a school dance for the first time in my life. It sounds trivial, I know, but to me it was a rite of passage. I was loyal to him; I did all that he asked of me. I think for sure that a prom proposal will be our solidifying moment. He doesn’t ask. Well, he doesn’t ask me. He asks Danielle. Crushed, but sadly not surprised, I watched the two of them flourish together, and soon enough they were dating. This unexpected relationship didn’t mean that he was done with me though, and I willingly let him drag me along. The two of them went on to date for two years; I still went on giving him what he wanted for two years. My need for affirmation was so heavy that I let him continue to pull the strings and puppet me. Sure, I would attempt to quit him. I wouldn’t respond to his messages and in return he would block me on all platforms. Silly me, thinking things were done. When he grew bored he would add me back. I would be lonely, and then I would be his again.
about him thinking about me, and if we were competing, then he had to. There were times when his need to win or be perfect became too extreme. He always had trouble dealing with his emotions. I vividly remember him throwing a tantrum because he got a score three percent lower than me, and being sent to the hallway until he was finished sobbing and screaming. I was always attracted to the smart boys, even when I was younger. To me, being smart meant success was in your future. Success meant stability, and stability meant happiness. My brain has always been wired to envision the long run and what the future holds, and through the years, he continued to seem like a clear pick. My childhood crush from the age of eight, finally giving me the time of day at the age of eighteen. Seven words I will never forget, “I want to fuck you, so badly.” I would have bet my life that he would never say this to me. Disgust rains down, but only momentarily, until it morphs into a form of satisfaction that I was not previously familiar with. He wants me and I like that. Quickly, too quickly perhaps, I look past the objectifying nature of his words, I watched him through all the stages of only allowing myself to feel pleasure in development, because we went through knowing that he lusted after me. My body, them together. I can confidently say that my that had been rejected so many times need for good grades and being favored by before, was something that he wanted to authority is at least partially because of him. embrace, and I found that comforting. All through elementary school, we went His words amplify and become inhead to head on everything. He gave me a creasingly destructive as our conversations competitive edge, but I didn’t care if I ever become more frequent. Uncomfortable. actually outperformed him. I just cared Scared. That’s how he makes me feel. I stop 66
Identity, Chelsea Laughlin ink monoprint and charcoal
responding altogether, thinking that I am finally doing something right, setting myself up for success. He doesn’t get the hint. He violates my phone with unwarranted photos of his penis and words that degrade me, limiting my worth to a pair of breasts and a vagina. Maybe I should tell someone? Actually, I should definitely tell someone. So I do. I was wrong. At this rate, I should have known to simply seal my lips tight to avoid any chance of degradation. Almost as if someone had pressed the screw-me-over button, he found a way to weasel his way out, and place all of the blame at my feet. Yet again I stand perplexed by the ability of another man to be so embarrassed of who I am, that he must go to the lengths of utterly humiliating me and creating a string of lies, rather than admit his desire. I could lose myself in his thick, curly brown locks and cunning smile any day. It always made me giggle, how fast he could grow a beard. My mind is flooded with memories of him. A small, but cherished one, was the night of the rodeo. I arrived at his house around noon, sat on the couch, and waited for him to come downstairs from shaving. We spent the whole day watching stupid comedies and cracking jokes, killing the time together so effortlessly. It was six, almost time to leave, so he went upstairs to change. When he came down I couldn’t stop smiling and when he asked why, I told him it was because he had already started growing scruff that he tried to get rid of this morning. 68
I also loved his glasses. He didn’t wear them often, but when he did I would tell myself that he did it for me. He was talented at baseball. He was bound to be offered handfuls of scholarships. The only thing that would hold him back were his grades. He wasn’t the smartest, but it worked out for me, because his mom asked me to help tutor him. Once a week, during our sessions, he would walk down the stairs, glasses on and smiling, enchanting me. I had so many feelings for him. A best friend, and a fantasy all in one. I was in love with him and he knew it. Some moments I was almost sure that the feelings were mutual, but that would fade in and out, leaving me uneasy. I willingly surrender myself to him. He is different. He doesn’t sexualize me. He is genuinely interested in me as a person, and as time passes our relationship blossoms and I conclude that I feel something for him far deeper than any feeling that I have ever had for anyone else. He makes me feel safe and held, but because of that I feel vulnerable and afraid of giving too much and not receiving the same in return. I am willing to wait for him. But then time goes by, and he commits himself to two other girls, never once batting an eye at me. I decide to move on, and when I expect it least, he reappears. This time, he is the same as the rest. It is New Year’s Eve and I am completely inebriated. The night is nearing its completion and I suddenly realize that my friends have all abandoned me. Stranded, I call him. He picks me up and we head to
my house. He comes in after convincing me that I need company, and I find myself turned on by his attentiveness. Things escalate and I wake up the next morning burdened with the remembrance of giving myself to him. He never spoke to me again. I am not sure what came over me to think that Tinder, of all places, would be a good idea to find a quality guy, but I did. He looked like everything I dreamed of, but never had in front of me. Tall, meaty, and strong. Almost intimidating—but that made me want him even more. In the beginning, he came off like a gentle giant. I told him that I was nervous to meet with him in person, just the two of us, for the first time, and he offered to FaceTime so that I could feel more comfortable. Of course, out of fear of an awkward encounter, I rejected this offer. Instead, I requested him to come to my dorm and watch a movie with me and some of my friends from the floor. And he, of course, turned this down. I didn’t let that affect me too much. He was an athlete, so that meant he was busy, and I should cut him some slack. After all, he was still talking to me, and even though I would say no every time, he would invite me to come over every night, Ubers paid for courtesy of him. A rush of confidence runs through me. The excitement I feel from an older football player making passes at me is incredibly stimulating. In my eyes, he is the cream of the crop and I am so undeserving of his attention.
I put him on a pedestal. I create a stage that forces me to comply. I am infatuated, but I am also hesitant. I assume that I know what he wants from this inexperienced freshman girl, so I drag our conversations out for two months before I accept his invitation to see each other. Our first encounter is at his house and he is throwing a massive party for a friend. I am overwhelmed, but also feel a weight of pressure lifted off of my shoulders because it will not just be the two of us. He doesn’t acknowledge me all night. I leave feeling unsatisfied and unwanted. My phone begins to buzz with messages from him asking where I went and begging me to come back and go upstairs with him. I agree. I pay for a cab there and when I arrive he doesn’t let me inside because he is still waiting on people to leave. Forty-five minutes pass by. It is three thirty in the morning. I am cold and fed up. I turn to leave and conveniently enough he comes to my rescue. I know he didn’t let me in because he was ashamed of me and didn’t want his friends to know that I was who he was bringing home. Somehow he persuades me to forgive him. I give myself away again. He falls asleep. I call a cab home and escape down the stairs. The next day he tells me that he thinks we should just be friends. Weeks pass by and he completely cuts off all communication with me. After all of this, I am not left with much to enjoy about myself. I can’t help but put nonfiction
some of the blame on me as well, because time and time again, I let them in, knowing the harm they were capable of. How can I not think anything other than the fact that I am not something to be wanted and to be proud of? It’s a strange feeling when I look in the mirror and initially like what I see, but then remind myself that it is not what society perceives beauty to be. I crave validation, but I struggle to accept it when it is given. I allow myself to be controlled and convince myself that I feel pleasure when a man is degrading me. I am not trying to be self-deprecating, but rather critical about the way a man can set standards and expectations and society just adapts and normalizes them. I think that what I fear most is the pain
that my daughter might feel one day. When she comes running to me realizing that value that she has for herself isn’t the value that someone else has for her. Or maybe she won’t come running, and instead she will isolate herself in fear of another shameful moment, when she has nothing to be ashamed of. Where do I go from here? How can my society begin to take action in a world where men are more likely to be seen as a person and women are often minimalized to a collection of body parts? These are the things that my mind is constantly trying to grasp. My stories aren’t the only ones. However, I have found that being able to share them creates a sense of sanctity, and through that I have been exposed to the trials of other women who have also felt lesser.
moon dogs joe cristo
auroras strangle calico clouds moon dogs balance curses on their noses might kiss the stars to splinter light might flood your eyes with woken white and they sleep the sleep of stones because moon dogs devour time in delirium he’ll get to school at ten grab a girl and leave then blow moonbeams from cornet lips darts that drip with witty quips raze walls and pull faces closer most evenings spent peeling old wounds he’ll see a jetting rosacea reflection instead of her flush roseate complexion on gleaming pools of night’s edge glow moon dogs’ eyes and throat he’ll tell you he loves you sleep with your friends and leave moon dogs are always floating amidst the tired skies of your eyes
they rear near their ugly heads a dreading, a treading such ugliness to make such beauty is what i tell myself but who am i to say since i felt most beautiful with a pen in my hand at my desk and in the crooked coo embrace of a slap silly me look at the time constantly watching the clock watching myself watching the watch watching the waiting of the cruel, warm kiss of abuse they rear rear rear rear window endow me with this fear
that clutches me in the night haunting old dreams raping me in the crevices of old remembermories stories of those ugly shrunken heads haunt my very inner core i would gather them all up and feast them to the fire and roll in their ashes laughing as their crumbly eyes fall into my clothes and bathe me in their hard stone die die die
Optimism, Erika Bloomdahl print
Ideas in Fire Control, Luke Roberts collage
bitter, Louie-Paulo Darang painting
black cherries Omwattie Nerahoo
In the bubble of the world that I live in, Charlie invites me to tea where we walk in the thick grass and under pink leaves where Charlie grew cherry trees. The fruit rots at our feet, and their flesh festers with ants. When we walk, the seeds slip from under our bare feet, our bodies planted onto carcasses of black cherries. “Are there fresh ones to eat?” “No,” he says. We sit at a table laughing, pouring scorching water into ceramic cups as ants crawl between our toes, and I wonder if we’re laughing at the feeling of the bugs or at our graceless bodies slipping on rotten fruit.
Asphyxia juliana que
The room was almost exactly like one would imagine a therapist’s office to look. It was small and intimate, and the beige walls were decorated with nothing except for a few small paintings and a decorative quilt. The only notable differences were that it was constantly dark, lit only by a weak desk lamp, and that it had two armchairs instead of that long couchlike thing you saw in the cartoons. Between the two chairs there was still plenty of talk about parents and plenty of how does that make you feels, but today the regular clichés were far away from either of their tongues. “What do you mean by ‘tried to choke yourself ’?” Zanya, the therapist, gave her client a strong and steady stare, hands abandoning her clipboard to weave together in her lap. The air inside the office had become tense. Sitting in the other chair at nineteen years old, the patient made herself meet Zanya’s eyes, fighting the urge to bow her head to the carpet. “I mean, like—” She wiggled her fingers around the area of her neck, hands hovering just over the skin. “—you know?” She held her hands still, made little squeezing gestures, and then laughed. Laughing made what she said feel less ominous, less crazy. Zanya sat forward in her seat, her eyebrows knitting together so tightly the girl thought they would make a sweater.
Zanya was waiting for elaboration, so with great hesitance she continued. “I tried, but my hands were never strong enough. So I never actually succeeded.” Zanya’s eyes widened. “Juliana, that isn’t try, that’s do!” The therapist looked at her, incredulous, hoping she understood. She did not. As a child, one of her favorite games had been holding her breath. This usually took place in the bathtub, still big enough to swallow her whole. She would let the warm water relax her, chasing the tension from her muscles and her lungs, before she went limp. Her back would slide down the tub until her little round face slipped beneath the water, soft brown hair turning gold as it floated around a softer smile. Submerged, she would begin counting. When she broke her old record, she would rise from the water triumphant and grinning, happiness and soap suds dripping off of her in kind. There was a satisfaction in fighting against her sense of preservation, staying under even when her body screamed to stop. The ultimate goal was, of course, to pass out, to wait until her body bobbed back to the surface, at which she would no doubt reawaken fresh from a few seconds of blissful unconsciousness. Not that she had been able to test her theory. She never managed to win against her lungs. Childhood determination was nonfiction
weak against the burning that eventually ignited panic in her limbs, causing her to claw at the water’s surface until she rose up to meet it. Even so, she always tried again. Forced herself to stay under. She was not scared. The thought that she might stay submerged, face down and drowning, never touched her mind. Every year, death by asphyxiation appears in obituaries. Children choking on toys, suffocating inside plastic bags, breathing in toxic gases. The methods go on: choking, helium inhalation, erotic asphyxiation. Blunt trauma to the trachea. Drug overdose. Asphyxiation plagues a suicidal public. Sometimes the suffocation is something chosen, something bought and woven and tied to ceiling fixtures, but sometimes it is something brought by curiosity or desperation. You cannot find the death statistics for self-asphyxiation; they are hidden inside categories like accidents, suicide, drowning, and choking. The body knows no difference between food lodged in a throat and a hand’s grip; either way the lungs starve. Whatever the method, there is only one outcome: airflow is cut and carbon dioxide floods the system. Unconsciousness comes immediately; death comes soon after. These are facts she had never known. And yet, she was emulating all the death records she would one day need to read. As the years passed, the game started leaving the confines of the bathtub. It crawled into bed with her, got tucked in with the same sheets. Instead of counting sheep, she counted how many seconds she could go 78
without breathing. She hoped, if she just kept counting, that sleep would come quicker, a shortcut only possible for the brave. Instead, adrenaline filled her lungs to replace the air she denied them, and unconsciousness grew even further from her grasp. She was too weak to control her own breathing, she thought. Her will alone wasn’t strong enough; she started smothering herself with pillows. Then, she began using her hands. She focused on making her palms meet, squashing her airway between them. The two hands never managed to touch. Her throat was always in the way, too full of air and too thick to strangle with thin fingers alone. No matter how hard she tried, just a bit of air would escape in and out. Oxygen flow had never felt more like failure. Walking down the quiet city streets, Zanya’s voice echoed around her in the darkness. The words her therapist had left with her a week ago were still spiraling in her head: “Juliana, you realize strangulation causes death, right?” She had not known. It seemed so simple when Zanya had said it, so obvious, but somehow Juliana had never come to that conclusion. Shame painted her face as she remembered the childish ideas her younger self had imagined up, ideas she had never corrected even as the games turned into coping mechanisms. But now she knew. She tried not to think about her neck pulsating between her shoulders, the hollow of it aching and loud. In the darkness, she pulled her scarf tighter. Each hand held an end of the scarf,
a thin black material worn in two loops. Tugging downward, she felt the scarf encircle her neck like a constricting snake. The pressure was comforting, and as she drew it tighter it shrunk another size, a swallow just barely fitting down her throat. Her hands becoming fists, she pulled the two ends down until the long tails went taut; a familiar burn blossomed. She felt her throat close, felt the “O” of her neck become an “∞,” felt her mind reel as the two walls of flesh touched, but with a shaking, shuddering panic she was aware of another shallow breath. Her eyes zoomed in and out of focus like a camera lens—the wind felt sharper and sounds grew louder on the street. She stumbled like a drunk, careening off the sidewalk before swooping back on—she wondered why no one could see what was happening. How no one noticed suicide walking with them on the sidewalk. And as she was strangling the life out of herself she of course asked the question, the same question every mentally ill teen asks the neurotypical: “Why are you living?” “Umm” replied Katherine over the phone, her sixteen-year-old voice drifting back to the other sixteen-year-old’s ears. In this memory, Katherine was her last hope. The last one who could save her from what she hoped to do to herself tonight. “Like, I mean” she stammered to Katherine, trying not to let her voice shake, trying not to let the words reek of suicide, “why do you get up in the morning? Why do you choose life every day?” Katherine was too young for these questions. Maybe Juliana knew that. They
were both still in high school, but Katherine had faced a lot less death than her. She hadn’t had to wrestle these questions again and again. But that was exactly what she was looking for. She needed to understand how they lived. What kept them alive. What she was doing wrong. “Umm,” Katherine said again, clearly uncomfortable, “I don’t know.” “You don’t know?” She sat up, but it felt as if her heart had just sat down, steeled itself. “I don’t really think about it.” There was a silence, and Katherine hopelessly stumbled after it. “I mean, uh, I live because I’m breathing, you know?” And at the time she hadn’t understood, couldn’t have understood. Part of her still didn’t. She had survived that night, but she was still looking for a reason. While wringing her neck she asked herself again: what about breathing is so special? Why do so many people treat it like a gift, and why was she constantly trying to return it? How can so many people cling to life while the only thing she clung to was her own throat? And she realized, in the moment that the world began to spin, that she did not want to die. She had never wanted to die. She had wanted unconsciousness, yes, or escape, or a sense of control, but never death. And maybe, at least for now, that was reason enough. Oxygen starvation still dancing along the tips of her fingers, Juliana let go of the scarf. She felt the surface of the water rise up to meet her. She let herself breathe.
Bath Soap, Ren Novitch acrylic on canvas 80
my mother, my riddle claire fallon
Was that you there in the silken dress of dawn shaken off by morning when she smoothed my edges with her gold? Or maybe you were the woman on the bus with knuckles like knotted wood and a sweatshirt with World’s Best Grandmother in cracked and fading pink— though you said we should let you go if your eyes hardened into glass like that. I hesitate in stepping over sidewalk cracks and all my life have held my worried hands out to reach for your spine when it’s bent and sore. When I arrived to the world you split open and gave me your sweet clementine heart— when I bite down there is no juice, only dry skin that sits on the tongue, lets me know my fruit has not tumbled far from your tree. I found a small dark spot curled on my porch steps one morning. I kneeled beside the little brown mouse and willed her sides to be full again with breath. If I asked you today you would still say the animals beside the road were only sleeping, and I unzip your back to begin the disassembly.
Tidepool, Olivia Novotny acrylic on canvas
his hands were warm andrew zhou
Brandon was singing sweetly in the bathroom the morning before he died. “La de da,” his voice went, and his right foot tapped left right left, hardly even touching the recently mopped floor. As Alice passed from behind, she caught a glimpse of her brother’s face in the bathroom mirror, bright and smooth and strange. It hung there for a while, melody still spilling softly from its lips. “La de da de da,” it went, and then it stopped.
illustration of what he was supposed to be. Once, one of the few times he visited home, there was a tornado. They ended up sitting next to each other in the basement, watching little spurts of dust twirl from the ceiling as the world around them boiled over. At some point, Brandon looked down and saw that Alice’s hands were shaking. “Hey, look at this,” Brandon said, and as if by magic, a tiny match appeared lit between his fingers. In the basement it seemed to be made entirely of sunlight. “Pretty, right?” To Alice, Brandon had always been some It was a transfixing sight. Alice couldn’t sort of speck in the distance, a ship in a sea bring herself to blink, even as Brandon put of fiction. She’d dream about him, but only a cigarette in his lips and brought the match in silhouettes and glass frames. He’d stand to the edge of it. That warm glow turned in a doorway, framed by quivering light, into starlight, dying and igniting over and and she’d be forced to step on his shadow over again. It made Brandon grin, and to stop it from slipping away for good. And somehow, Alice couldn’t help but do the he was always walking, passing fields and same as he blew out a stream of smoke that barns and empty deserts until there was evaporated into the darkness. nothing left to pass. But even then he would “Mom said you stopped smoking,” she not turn around. said. “Hey,” she would hear him say as the “Nah, I couldn’t.” dream faded from her memory. “Hey, you.” “She says it makes black clouds in your When she woke up, it was all the same. stomach.” For a few years, she only recognized the “She’s probably right,” he said, the cigacolor of his eyes from faded photographs rette already halfway between his lips again. gathering dust in the basement. She only “But it sure is pretty, isn’t it?” understood the awful anger in his voice He puffed out another gust of gray wind from phone calls Mom made from around as the earth shook all around them, unnocorners and beneath stairwells. Everything ticed. that he was was secondhand, some painted fiction
The next year, he handed Alice a box of tissues. She was sitting on the edge of her bed, crying over some boy or another. “It doesn’t matter,” Brandon said. “Yeah it does,” Alice heaved. “Of course it does.” So they sat there, feet almost touching. Everything was still, and when he opened his mouth again, something had shifted. “Once, I went out on a date, and I slipped and split open my forehead right along the eyebrow,” he said, placing a finger on a faded scar. “No, you didn’t.” “The girl I was with had to drive me to the ER, and then she just left. So, you know, there’s always worse.” Alice felt something delicate in his words, like she was surrounded by porcelain. And for a few blissful minutes, she found herself reveling in that rare, beautiful knowledge that somebody knew she existed. And then it was a flurry of shattered windows, doorknobs rattling and slamming into place, screams that filled every crack. Everything after that was his fists and his voice. The fire of his eyes transformed into some rapid storm, hungry, and she never saw him anymore. And even when she did, everything shook and it wasn’t any use; even his name could bring Mom to tears. Once again, he became the outline of shadows and faint whisperings from above. But years later, when his wife left him and it seemed as though Mom was finally right, Brandon came home one last time. “Just for a week,” he said over and over again, never once giving Alice more than a 86
fiction / visual art
glance or muttered thanks. So, it was a little funny when she was the first to find him, an invisible aneurysm burst somewhere in his head. She did what she was supposed to do; the emergency operator’s voice was patient and exact. But as Alice sat on the sofa and waited for the flashing sirens to arrive, all she could think about were his eyes, which had been flattened out into sheets of ice. Staring out the window worked to distract her, but she was fully aware of his awful gaze boring straight into her ankles. The day they lowered Brandon into the ground, Alice crawled into the closet and felt cotton and denim brush against her shoulders. Brandon was a bad brother, she remembered realizing. “He was a bad brother,” she said out
loud, making sure it was true. It was. He was cold, angry, gone. Always, always gone. A terrible brother. The words loomed overhead. And then Alice pressed her palms against her eyes and cried until she couldn’t breathe. She cried until every piece of herself was shaking with sadness, until the walls and the floor and the ceiling all melted away into moonlight, until the tears were coming so thick and endless that she was sure they must have belonged to somebody else. That night, she dreamed about many things: a hunchback folding himself into suitcases, a roof caving into the floor and shattering stained glass, fingernails clawing at never-ending dark, a canopy of sunflowers, things that were meant to be but never were. But most importantly, she dreamed of him, her, and some odd half memory.
She is lying down in a tent, barraged by rain and thunder and fury. The wind is howling, but Alice is not afraid, because she has her head in Brandon’s lap, and he is whispering something soft, something simple into her ear. His fingers are dancing through the air, waving an invisible baton; his eyes are bursting in fantastic, fiery light. In the end, his hand is placed upon hers. It’s so warm. Alice could never figure out how his hands were always warmer than hers. She knew that her hand must feel like death to Brandon, so clammy and fragile. But he doesn’t mind. Of course he doesn’t mind. Because he’s still holding her hand. Isn’t that wonderful? Reaching for the Light, Myka Ann Betts digital
fiction / visual art
A Strong Base, Devon Tuma ceramic
Deface Me, Emily Hill digital
The first step into a new home is the worst step. You pause, and the hesitation in your feet ricochets from wall to wall. The first step feels like a tight squeeze in the front of your throat. Maybe it’s regret. Maybe it’s your dust allergy—the sun streaming through the window is a spotlight for the particles of grime that never seem to touch the ground. Where do they go in their looping, swirling lifetimes? Maybe your nostrils scoop them up when you inhale, and they find solace on the beds of your nose hairs. There are some things that you notice when you’re trying not to think about the looming emptiness and the smell of stale memories that don’t belong to you. The first meal—lunch from the McDonald’s drive-thru—is shared between you and the relatives who are helping carry boxes inside. Your aunt takes this opportune moment to share “something she read on Facebook” about how McDonald’s chicken nuggets are made from a cotton candy pink sludge of gizzards, eyeballs, and other animals (she’s not as sure about fact number two . . . she’ll have to get back to you on that one). In any case, she will not be putting that garbage into her body. Her red lipstick bleeds when she sips her Diet Coke through a plastic straw. Aspartame is calorie-free, did you know? The first night wouldn’t be so bad if only you knew how to assemble IKEA furniture. But the pictures are so goddamn
small, and you’re not even sure the directions are for the right product. It’s okay if your mattress is on the floor tonight. It’s not that awful. The landlords even left you an Alpine Breeze air freshener as a housewarming gift (Hey, if it smells clean, it is clean, amiright? Listen, the only difference between Glade and Equate are the price points. I’m not gonna pay fifty cents more for the same shit. Even in your imagination you can smell his skeevy cigar breath). When you sleep, you dream about the contents of the boxes stacked around your mattress. You remember walking across your parents’ plush carpet living room, the globs of fabric perfectly filling the space between your toes. Your carpet leaves indents in your heels that sting. The Softsoap bottle in your bathroom is half water, and most of it runs through your fingers before you even get the chance to lather. The sofa hasn’t arrived yet. It’s easy to be still in a house that is not yours; it is not your art, your photos, your clutter that breathes life into the room. You don’t expect it to be, which makes the calm and foreign air comforting. You can seep into their couch cushions and be okay with this temporary situation because you’ll be home soon. Soon, books accumulate on your shelves. Big ones about Japanese film history whose spines crack, revealing blinding white pages when opened. It’s seventy-six fiction
degrees outside and you spent fifty-four dollars and ninety-seven cents on candles that smell like cinnamon and Pine-Sol. Sometimes, you track dirt through your house with the hopes that the grime will make it appear lived in, but it only sticks to the bottom of your feet and irritates the shit out of you. Your house is lonely. You long to be full. You long for the kind of fullness that your lover etched into your mindscape, one which you occasionally trim and maintain—tidy up some regret around the edges, making it nice and shapely! You remember the smell of lemon and mint and lavender that penetrated their every pore. Even their lips tasted like the Whole Foods supplement aisle (lemon and mint and lavender).
Your intestines were warmed by their split pea and ham soup (Grandpa’s recipe). Your lover possessed the strange ability to stir things inside of you; the slightest graze caused a dry ice sizzle deep inside your belly. You remember when lemon and mint and lavender was replaced with weighted notes of cinnamon. You remember rage as it settled in the creases of your lover’s brow, dilated pupils revealing anguish and sweaty chagrin. You remember how their fingertips left frigid indents when pressed against your red-hot flesh, left inky blots of purple, green, and blue. Thick mucus clots of canned peas and cubed ham swallowed your spoon in slow motion. You packed your memories and musk into boxes that sat in silence by the door.
pancake ass Claire Porter
I looked at my reflection in the office building, shoulders back. My favorite dress helped me stand tall and be proud of the work of living, and proud of the body that helps me do it. I like me because I love you. When I look at photos of all of us I love to point out the similarities: Emma and I near-identical when Dad catches a photo of us studying in our glasses; Mom and I grinning the same grin, not quite opening our eyes enough for the camera; Dad and Liam and their broad, tall builds; all of us with big heads. We can never find hats that fit! I pierced my nose because it is too big; I want to point it out to everyone and say, “We all have this big nose!” Well, my mom and I have this big nose, and cheeks that close our eyes when we smile, and blue eyes. Hers are lighter than mine, and she looks like Princess Diana, chic in her bob and beautiful in her long blonde hair. Our high voices sound the same on the phone, everyone says so. I cringe and smile when I repeat her phrases or hear her big laugh echoed in my own. My wide hips and flat butt (affectionately referred to as my “pancake ass” by
my friend Gina): well, I got this pancake ass from Grandma JoAnne. JoAnne, who worked and loved and played cards and cooked and raised five children by herself with this flat butt; who swore and who voted; JoAnne, who loved happy hour and loved her friends and hated birds. JoAnne, who baked me an elaborate birthday cake every year. JoAnne, who loved South Dakota just like me; who loved having everyone over, just like me; who loved spring and poppies, just like me. JoAnne, who wanted her ashes in a can labelled Chock Full O’ Nuts, who knew nothing was so serious you couldn’t poke fun at it (or at least I hope so, as I have just written an essay about her butt), who knew tragedy and loss and disappointment and joy and redemption and cruelty and love. In my reflection I see all of you, and I can’t help but be glad. In all your triumph and sadness, in the lies and the lullabies you have sung and whispered, in your frustration and optimism and bravery; in the courage it took to keep going. Backs straight and tall, you have made lives you can endure. I catch my reflection in the mirror and know that I will too.
Where Iâ€™m From, Patricia Thao collage
Wagner didn't make me queer z makila
In 1907, a German pamphlet was released to help readers figure out if they were homosexual. One question asked, “Are you particularly fond of Wagner?”
group is a reminder to many that enjoying the music of One Direction and being queer do not have to be separate parts of someone’s identity.
The first time I saw One Direction live, I wore rainbow shorts. The second, I fashioned a rainbow flag into a cape. The third found me wearing both, complete with a rainbow sign. It was over the top. Absolutely. But I’m glad I wore what I did.
Sexologists studying the science of attraction in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries compiled testimonies from gay men who stated the German composer Wagner as a cause of their homosexuality. Or, if not the cause, a commonality amongst other gay men. Scientists thought the romantic and colorful sounds in Wagner’s music attracted homosexuals more so than heterosexuals. Some believed that music could draw out latent homosexuality by bending the will of men, and Wagner’s in particular seemed to have the power to do so.
Wagner’s opera Parsifal tells the story of Percival, an Arthurian knight. Percival’s character traits portray the stereotypical homosexual of the nineteenth century— traits that were feminine in nature, like the adoration of silk and fine cloth. Percival’s refusal of sex with a woman and open affection toward men was extremely uncommon in other contemporary operas. Parsifal became notorious for its homosexual audience members. Performances at the Bayreuth Wagnerian opera house became a pilgrimage oft made by gay men. No one brought rainbows to identify themselves, but they found each other anyway. Rainbow Direction is a fandom activist group created out of the need for safe places for queer fans of One Direction. Participants bring rainbows to concerts, have open and accepting blogs, and urge each other to treat everyone with respect. The
My first experience playing Wagner was at age seventeen. To celebrate Wagner’s 150th birthday, my two orchestras were performing several of his works. I struggled through the difficult runs at their seemingly impossible speeds at first, but when I started to get a hang of it, practicing Wagner’s music became one of the most exciting parts of my day. It was a musical challenge unlike anything I had faced before. One Direction’s music has been combed for queer-coded messages by fans since their first album in 2010. The overly affectionate nonfiction
relationship between Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson led many to believe that when they expressed their love for each other in promotional interviews, they meant romantic love rather than platonic love. When Wagner met King Ludwig II of Bavaria, he had already finished writing all the libretti for his operas except Parsifal. Ludwig’s first act as king was to summon Wagner to his court. Ludwig, then eighteen years old, paid off the fifty-year-old Wagner’s debts and settled him in a home nearby. The king provided compensation interspersed with additional gifts, allowing Wagner to write opera in near luxury. Initial funding for Wagner’s Bayreuth Festspielhaus, a lavish opera house, came from Ludwig. A statement from a research subject, published in a book on sexual pathology in 1886: I passionately love music, and am an enthusiastic devotee of Richard Wagner’s, which partiality I have noticed most homosexuals have; I find that this music corresponds so closely to our nature.
In 1865, Ludwig was forced to ask Wagner to leave Bavaria. The conductor for Tristan und Isolde was outraged to find his wife had slept with Wagner and gotten pregnant. Wagner left with the woman, and the two were later married. Ludwig intended to abdicate and leave Bavaria to stay with Wagner, but he convinced the king to stay. The two remained in correspondence while separated. Styles and Tomlinson moved in together soon after One Direction’s debut, but the public nature of their relationship was short-lived. Gossip magazines spread rumors of tension between the two, citing the incorrect read on their relationship as to blame. When the entire basis for a band’s success is their apparent romantic availability to young girls, being anything but a womanizer just doesn’t cut it. Many fans think that the distance between the two was forced by the band’s management. Despite their lack of interaction onstage, the two kept appearing with new sets of matching tattoos. Styles’ rose on his forearm prompted many to ask if Tomlinson would ever get the corresponding dagger, a popular tattoo combination. Most people weren’t seriously expecting him to, but then over a year later he showed up with a dagger—the same size and placement of Styles’ rose.
Being a classical musician, it’s nearly impossible to not like the music I play. People ask me if I listen to “. . . like, Mozart and stuff?” I don’t listen to Mozart for fun, to be honest. An excerpt of a letter from Ludwig to I like Romantic era music. I like Wagner. I Wagner: like the colors, the drama, I like the way that Wagner’s music makes me feel. It feels reasHow I love, how I love you, my one, suring, and calming, yet also challenging. But my highest good! . . . My enthusiasm it’s a challenge that’s possible to overcome. and love for you are boundless. Once 96
again I swear my loyalty to you till death! Eternally, eternally, Your Ludwig who burns for you Many authors who write about Ludwig and Wagner ignore the key role sexuality played in their relationship. They talk of Ludwig’s appreciation for Wagner’s music, how his support came from his desire for more opera. On the occasion that attraction is brought up, it almost always frames Ludwig’s love of Wagner as a one-sided longing. Comment sections and discussion boards are filled with defenses of Wagner’s straightness, as if any association with a gay man could taint his reputation. Wagner wasn’t gay, they reaffirm. An excerpt of a letter from Wagner to his brother in law, speaking of Ludwig: What he is to me no one can imagine. My guardian! In his love I completely rest and fortify myself towards the completion of my task. I rarely get to be in charge of music when I’m with my friends. So when my roommates told me to connect my phone to the Bluetooth speaker a few weeks ago, I took the opportunity and ran with it. I started playing short movements of classical pieces, explaining the history and cultural context, talking about the composer’s lives. I like talking about why music is relevant; I think it makes the experience of listening more enjoyable. I started with a musical representation of Stalin, written shortly after his
death by the Soviet-era composer Shostakovich. I compared the original Vivaldi Four Seasons to a minimalist re-composition by a modern composer. I told them to listen for the offstage trumpet that opens Wagner’s Rienzi. I prefaced the final piece by explaining that the song is about being gay and having to hide it. Instead of the instrumental music they were all expecting, I put on One Direction’s “Home.” Lyrics from “Home” by One Direction: So many nights I thought it over, told myself I kind of liked her, but there was something missing in her eyes . . . But you say you feel the same. Could we ever be enough? Baby we could be enough. Anything can be a queer anthem if you need it to be, I think. I can listen to One Direction or to an opera overture and feel empowered. It doesn’t matter whether or not Wagner was gay. Styles and Tomlinson might never come out, or they might not be queer. I can still hear their music and be reminded of my experiences, my challenges, my history and my future. It helps, knowing the creation of the music was surrounded by some degree of queerness. It definitely helps. But in the end, Wagner didn’t make me queer, and One Direction didn’t do it either. They just helped me realize it.
How many women have come before me? How many women, whose blood pulsed in their child Just as my mother’s pulsed in me And her mother’s in her Whose names I do not know, whose names Are overshadowed by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons Who engendered me within themselves, whose DNA And whose soul I carry within me still Whose voices claw at my arteries in desperate search for a conduit So the clear spring water flows out of my mouth The springs of the Moraca, the Zeta, the Lim Forgive me Mother for I have sinned Whose bodies carried firewood and pain Whose bodies were seen as amphorae for the sons they would bear Painted in blood and soot My uncle gave me a book on the history of our clan Did you know that at male births, they would rejoice But at the birth of a girl, the common response would be, “the darkness has come upon his house” I am a descendant of the darkness The descendant of the daughters that sprung fully grown like Athena From the sides of the black mountain, Crna Gora, Montenegro Carved from karst, into breasts and hips and a womb With dark eyes and dark hair and feet dyed black from the soil My great-grandmother is not buried in a churchyard She is buried on her land under the mountain with her sons Next to the old stone house where the corpse of her husband was brought when he was killed Next to where she bore her children alone, five of them Ljubica Gojko Dimitrije Vladislav Desanka Who had prophetic dreams, who was visited by forest spirits Who avenged her husband’s murder Shooting his killer through the eye as he ate at her table Who dismembered him limb from limb and scattered his remains 98
A bacchante not driven by lust and wine but for her duty to pay blood debt Who would never forgive The Jesus she prayed to was one of revenge, who demanded sacrifice The elongated Byzantine icon whose eyes leaked frankincense Blessing her hands as the oil flowed down mixing with the rose petals of blood She is the one who blesses me with herself Reincarnation but not only her, but all my mothers before her An unbroken chain, silver, thin, tenuous Their souls have taken up habitation within me And I am blessed by them Their silver hands press upon my brow in benediction And I am glad that I can scream for them Reclaiming their names from their hiding place.
The Ritual is Mine, Emma Brunette intaglio and monotype print
artwords ArtWords is an annual writing competition for undergraduate and graduate students of the University of Minnesota. Students select a piece of art on display from the Weisman Art Museum’s permanent collection and create an original piece of prose or poetry in response. Selected authors are awarded prizes, published online, and given the opportunity to present their work in the galleries of the museum. ArtWords is held in collaboration with the English Department’s Creative Writing Program and Ivory Tower art and literary magazine. A jury including Creative Writing faculty, Weisman Art Museum staff, professionals from the Twin Cities community, and staff members of Ivory Tower select the winning entries. Launched in 1998, ArtWords has a history of effectively encouraging students to analyze, reflect, and respond to the diverse and stimulating collection at the Weisman Art Museum. This is Ivory Tower’s fourth year as an ArtWords partner, and we are exceedingly grateful to be a part of this collaboration, as it continues to strengthen the interaction of art and writing on campus. Ivory Tower is proud to present the 2017 undergraduate ArtWords winners in this year’s issue.
judges Rosa Corral is the Registrar for Collections for the Weisman Art Museum. Gabby Granada is a Fiction Editor for Ivory Tower. Yana Makuwa is an Editorial Assistant for Graywolf Press. Lisa Tolles is the Chief Poetry Editor for Ivory Tower. Ben Schroeder is a Poetry Editor for Ivory Tower. Kim Todd is an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota.
Artist Unknown, gatjib (hat box) early 1900s, paulownia wood with copper fittings and oil finish Bequest of the Edward Reynolds Wright Collection
a box to hold lianna matt
First place winner, inspired by an unknown artist’s gatjib (hat box). The Subaru Tetris-puzzle of suitcases and boxes was unyielding to the hat box that wasn’t shaped like a box. Shotgun was reserved for the fichus. Packed in on the sides were tablecloths—lace for special occasions, gingham, laminated ones for crafts—no one had the heart to say they were no longer needed in the maroon-brick building filled with walkers and antiseptic and, hopefully for her grandmother’s sake, someone who liked jazz records and dice games. Before any silver linings could be discovered, her grandmother’s stuff had to get there. The box rode in her lap. Every time she leaned over to see past the parked cars on the street, its point dug into her sternum. She had opened the box when she was seven. It hung from a hook in the ceiling that her grandfather had screwed in and painted gold, and when she reached up to open it, the wooden bottom had swung too quickly and knocked her head. She had cried, and her grandmother pretended to clean the wound that wasn’t a wound and gave her a kiss. There was no hat in the hat box. Her grandmother said the man who had owned it had taken the hat when he left to return home. She spoke of his adventures across the mountains and the many miraculous ways his hat had saved him from magic and mischief—a physics-defying parachute one minute, a master disguise the next—all to see his love once more. Her grandfather had shrugged and said that the hat box had been empty since she had bought it from an antique store. In Room 204 of the maroon-brick building, as she lifted the hat box to the dresser, the latch broke and the smells of mountain mist and hibiscus permeated the room.
pedicord, mononah louie-paulo darang
Second place winner, inspired by Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz’s Pedicord Apts. the nature of these first things of last things of lingering things the linger of her taste & his touch & of last call & of dirty dishes of last things. between made-to-last & ready-to-replace of stifled sobbing of current tenants of cigarette stains of non-launderable stains & heroin spoons/ spilled instant coffee spoons— this is discord. this is rhythm. this is crossed legs & crossed fingers & poems of crossed staves & late nights watching the boys play & later nights watching the men play. this is maddening. this is total absence. sweet nothings. this is whispered silence & half there & rough and tumble & 3 days of pork and beans & sunday mornings knelt at short toilets and rose again & monday mornings doubled over 106
frantically furiously jacking off to a wrinkled page & a bookmarked webpage & stolen moments & storied nights & drunken tuesdays alone in the park & drunken wednesdays— a secret rendezvous squirreled away & my +1 thursdays & sloppy seconds in the unisex & thank god it’s friday morning & tied to the bed thrashing & hey are you okay in there & can you keep it down & the rhythmic thumping in time in kind from neighbors’ walls & sleepy saturdays sprawled out on the couch hallucinating nice to meet you good morning how are you & frail bodies and pale fingers curled and balled into tense nothings & thank god I’m alive & praise god praise god praise god praise god
& drunken sex with strangers. this is squaring the circle. this is the ditch song. this is the silent nine pm scream sitting in the dark on the sofa illuminated by the flashing red and blue through dusty windows from bus stop muggings & awkward silence of who are we how have you been what have we done? this is punk rock. this is folk pop. this is stuffed bodies and stuffed throw pillows & smashed plates and clinked glasses & dirty duvets & midnight showings of the dirty dozen to parcel out for drinking and singing & cool spring days & guitarists across the lawn. this is poverty & opportunity & inner city psychosis lower city cirrhosis & scheduled nights spent mourning and weeping & dancing and singing behind scratched lacquered doorsâ€” this is mononah. this is pedicord. this is ambitions sorrows sorrows love long lust tedium tedium tedium staining brick & plaster walls.
Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz Pedicord Apts. 1982-1983, mixed media Gift of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation
James Rosenquist, Worldâ€™s Fair Mural 1963-1964, oil on hardboard Gift of the artist
on patriotism mike corrao
Third place winner, inspired by James Rosenquist’s World’s Fair Mural. Americana: shaved legs dripping out the sides of a convertible [absorbing misogynistic gibberish from the wayside, trying to ignore predatory glances] Andy Warhol leans back in his lawn chair, drinking Campbell’s soup out of the can [crying over the haphazardly Stacked Brillo boxes] Uncle Sam laces his hat with nuclear bombs, sewed into the brim, popping like firecrackers [threatening immigrant crowds with police batons and senate laws] Capitalism tap dances across the moon’s craters, stretching them outwards [to make way for neon signs, advertising a newly constructed shopping mall, kiosks and peanut vendors] Marinetti smokes outside the bar on the sidewalk, nodding his head [as the street preachers shout hysterical sermons on the resurrected futurists] “Take the syllables off the table and scatter them about like shaman bones. Turn off the lights; let the assembly line run through the night.” Clusters formed around the preachers, speaking in tongues [rearranging used morphemes into new combinations, mimicking the sounds of construction] Inside, gray lines run parallel with one another, marching in cadence with the ticking knuckles of the front desk bureaucrat [falling asleep, tripping over soda ads, fantasizing about the day he can afford a six-pack] artwords
ghost stories in the gallery This past October, Ivory Tower teamed up with Student Unions & Activities (SUA) to host an event called Ghost Stories in the Gallery: a night of spooky tunes, cookie decorating, and ghostly storytelling from undergraduate students. The storytellers brought their unsettling tales to life at the Larson Gallery, located in the St. Paul Student Center. A team of judges from the sponsoring organizations selected the first-place winner, featured in this yearâ€™s edition of Ivory Tower. We are particularly grateful to SUA staff members Taylor Gaertner, Marketing Assistant, and Sam Levin, Visual Arts Chair, for their collaboration, and to English major Raven Heard, for her dedication to and coordination of this event. Read with caution . . . and maybe a night-light.
Judges Sammy Brown is an Editor in Chief and Fiction Editor for Ivory Tower. Gabby Granada is a Fiction Editor and ArtWords Judge for Ivory Tower. Lisa Tolles is a Poetry Editor and ArtWords Judge for Ivory Tower. Julie Schumacher is the author of seven novels, including Dear Committee Members, which won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. She is a professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English. Sam Levin is a senior at the University of Minnesota getting a dual degree in ecology, evolution, and behavior and Spanish studies. He is the co-chair of the Visual Arts Committee, part of the Student Union & Activities Program Board. He hopes to attend medical school after he graduates.
The surefire vigil evan block
The first to disappear was the candlestick maker. The following day a party of men was sent to search the woods, but they were never seen again. That night the townspeople spent their midnight hours in fear before their hearths. Only the self-assured woodcutter slept in the dark. They found his ax the next morning slashed through his featherbedâ€”but saw neither body nor blood. The warden went to speak with the priest, but found the chapel door unhinged and the sanctum in disarray. Only his handprints remained, smeared in holy oil on his open Bible. Next were the nuns, then the stableman and all his horses. Fear spread like wildfire. Word was sent to the capital. But the messenger never returned. It was fall in the mountains, and a storm was moving in. During the day heavy rains choked out the light, and no soul set foot out of town. At night none left their homes. All doors locked, every light left burning, children cowered under quilts, and parents paced the halls. After seven days the last candle burnt out. After twelve there was no more firewood. Thirteen twilights since it all began; the moon did not rise. That was when they arrived. In an hour when darkness held sway, when none dared walk the lonely, leafstrewn streets of the sleepless town, a song, sung low and in a strange tongue, echoed through the night. All eyes went to their 112
windows as the voices slowly grew louder, until a lantern was seen glowing under the gate. The others followed soon after, until twelve golden lights swung through the streets. Each pendulant flame was held by the skeletal fingers of a figure in black. Theirs were the voices, sepulchral and smooth. Their steps fell in unison, even as they diverged across town. Each approached a door of their choice. And knocked. When none dared answer, the figures began to turn the doorknobsâ€”effortlessly. Now the townspeople stood face to invisible face with the lantern bearers, who still sang in perfect, preternatural harmony. They extended their lights toward their frightened hosts. Some souls were drawn in and received the lanterns from the shades. Then the figures slowly turned and assembled again in the rain. They walked away into the darkness, just as they had come, singing their midnight song. The next morning the rain stopped. The sun shone once again. A quiet winter followed. It was decided to store the lanterns in the crypts below the church. There they glowed continually for centuries, never once fading out. Some years ago this crypt was discovered and the lanterns found. When taken above ground, however, they suddenly shattered. Had someone from that sometime mountain town been present when this occurred, they would have heard
the candlestick maker let out a blood-curdling scream—the woodcutter choke and gag—the priest moan—the nuns screech—
the stableman shriek—and all the horses neigh and groan. Their everlasting, surefire souls lay splattered on the cobblestone.
contributors Maureen Amundson
Maureen Amundson is a printmaker pursuing her bachelor's degree in English and art. Her favorite processes include screen, letterpress, and intaglio.
Emma Brunette is a third-year student completing a BFA in visual arts and a minor in anthropology. She is hoping to become established enough as an artist that her professors finally follow her back on Instagram.
Sam Batistich is a sophomore from Illinois pursuing studies in English and political science. He likes coffee and television. He is very grateful for Roy Guzmán’s help and encouragement.
E. N. Carroll
Myka Ann Betts
E. N. Carroll has a penchant for dark metaphors. In his spare time, he reads, gardens, and suns himself on warm rocks.
Dog mom and pro omelette maker, senior Myka Ann Betts hopes to work as an advertising creative after graduation. Her piece is inspired by the beauty and power that hands give us, as well as the overflowing stress that is college.
Mike Corrao is a student at the University of Minnesota studying English and film. He served as an artist-in-residence at the Southern Theater. His work can be found in magazines like Thrice, decomP, and Cleaver.
Carter Blochwitz lives on a small farm in rural Wisconsin. In his free time, he enjoys exploring natural and urban areas with friends.
Evan Block is a third-year college student at the University of Minnesota, where he studies English and philosophy. From Maple Grove, Minnesota, his primary interests include magical realism, metaphysics, and classical music.
Erika Bloomdahl graduated from the University of Minnesota in December 2016 with a degree in political science, urban studies, and art. She is currently looking for more work. You can find more of her and her art on Instagram, @treehuggerking.
Emmett Bongaarts is an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota.
Joe Cristo is a student at the University of Minnesota graduating with a degree in English. He works in poetry, prose, video, and music.
Olivia Crowell studies biosystems and bioproducts engineering. In her free time, she leads her Art for Birds club to prevent bird collisions and designs her future tiny house. This summer, she’ll intern at Biomimicry India where biological processes are her inspiration.
Taylor Daniels likes drawing and eating candy. Her favorite color is purple. That is all!
Louie-Paulo Darang is a Filipinx-American interdisciplinary artist currently based in Minneapolis. Through various abstractions, forms, and actions, his work extends into drawing, painting, printmaking, cast metal sculpture, performance, and poetry that explores the ambiguities of culture, the spiritual, and the metaphysical.
Ella Darger is from Minneapolis and currently a senior studying sociology and English. Her ideal day is spent eating lots of olives, preferably in a hammock.
Kate Drakulic is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing an individualized degree with concentrations in art, journalism, and design. Primarily working with charcoal and acrylics to define the human figure, her recent work addresses gender stereotypes and feminist concerns.
Madeline Harpell is pursuing an individualized degree in Critical Inquiry and Expression of Interdisciplinary Understanding: Culture, Design, and the Politics of Being. Her main media are film photography, collage, and drawing. In her work, she explores natural rhythm and connection.
Emily Hill is a second-year student at the University of Minnesota studying both graphic design and art. She has had work featured at the Soap Factory gallery in Minneapolis and hopes to continue making and showcasing her art.
Jim Ellis is a twenty-five-year-old writer from Westampton, New Jersey. He is a folk and hip-hop enthusiast. He is inspired by a myriad of writers, poets, and singers, including Paulo Coelho, Walt Whitman, Nas, and Damien Rice.
Shereen Fahrai is a junior pursuing an individualized degree with the concentrations of English, creative writing, and cultural studies and comparative literature. Besides writing poetry, Shereen enjoys watching films as well as performing music in her hometown of San Diego, California.
Claire Fallon is a junior majoring in English with a minor in Spanish. She is willing to buy a grilled cheese at a restaurant, even though she could make it at home—this annoys her friends.
Ian Gordon is a senior majoring in accounting. He formerly swam for the University of Minnesota and is now on the men’s crew team. Ian tries to incorporate non-traditional mediums into his work.
Brandon Hackbarth is a writer-bibliognost and coeditor of MUSH/MUM, an online literary journal. He lives in St. Paul.
Megan Hoff is a freshman majoring in English at the University of Minnesota. Poetry is her favorite medium of expression, and she always does her best work when she should be taking notes in lecture. Lydia Hollen is a junior studying English education. She loves to write, eat chicken noodle soup, watch John Hughes films, and fret over what to put for a bio.
Meg Jenson is a graphic design student at the University of Minnesota. She has a passion for social issues and attempts to reflect this in her work. “Together” serves to celebrate the diversity in America and send a message about solidarity.
Claire Kim is a third-generation Korean-American born in the United States and raised in Minnesota. Growing up with her first-generation grandparents in the house, she was exposed to the Korean language and culture throughout her childhood. Now, she returns to her roots to explore her identity as a Korean-American as an Asian languages and literatures major.
Zoe Korengold is a poet, artist, educator, Aspie, and abuse survivor. Her biggest, wildest dream is to show the world how liberating writing and creating is. Her soul stays gentle while her heart rolls and roars like thunder. Nina Kostic is a freshman at the University of Minnesota. She hopes to major in history and minor in Russian. She grew up speaking Serbian and visiting Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia, which proved to be very influential in her development as a woman and overall person.
Kaitlyn Kugler is currently a self-diagnosed coffee addict and art and psychology student at the University of Minnesota. Her experience in portraiture and psychology spurs her exploration of intimate found objects and gender identity.
Chelsea Laughlin is an artist based in the Twin Cities that makes use of traditional and experimental materials. She draws on personal experiences to exhibit the turmoil in the mindâ€” usually hers.
By day, Z Makila is a senior pursuing an individualized degree in music, creative writing, and psychology. By night, he can be found putting together puzzles with his best friends, grapefruit La Croix in hand, and shirt adorned with enamel pins.
Koryne Martinez is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota studying English and creative writing. She is a lover of all things pink, cat, and wine. One of her biggest passions is education, and she is an active member in Sheâ€™s the First. She uses her writing to create conversations about feminism, social constructs, and equality issues.
Lianna Matt is an aspiring journalist looking forward to graduating this spring. Hopefully in the time she will no longer do homework, she will be able to cook real food, run, and finally start going through her reading list.
Gina LoPresto is a senior studying English with a creative writing minor. She has been previously published in Normandale Community Collegeâ€™s literary magazine, The Paper Lantern, and she is looking forward to seeing her work in Ivory Tower.
Aaron Musickant is an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota.
Alec Lossiah is a calligrapher, printmaker, and muralist based in Minneapolis. His recent work centers his growing sense of social responsibility and the anxiety between success and indulgence. He hopes to own a dog someday to balance his mental health.
Morgan Madison is an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota working toward her Bachelor of Arts in studio art. She comes from St. Paul, Minnesota. She is interested in exploring the everyday in her work.
Brigid McBride likes to drink beer and ride her bike and write about her friends. She wants to be a TV writer when she grows up.
Omwattie Nerahoo is an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. She likes to write.
Ren Novitch is a queer, nonbinary Christian artist who dabbles in a number of mediums. Novitch is particularly interested in acrylic painting and ceramics and tends to work in series focusing on a variety of subjects. They live in Minneapolis with their cat, Cheddar.
Olivia Novotny is a student studying studio art, journalism, and graphic design, with a passion for humanism and social justice work. On the side, she’s a zine maker and mural painter who is always down for collaborating! Find her at cargocollective.com/ olivianovotny.
Hannah Nurmi enjoys words and sharing ice cream with her cat.
Claire Porter is an undergraduate student majoring in chemistry. She’s a woman of simple pleasures— namely, fried egg sandwiches, Law and Order, and walks along East River Parkway.
Audrey Pound is a sophomore from the outside suburbs of Chicago. She is studying to be a nurse, is passionate about photography, and loves spicy food and good music. Contact her at email@example.com, or find more of her work at audreypoundphotography.format.com.
Still treading the line between self-advocacy and candid overexposure, Juliana Que is a writer, artist, and activist. Under their pseudonym, they hope to organize their experiences in ways that educate, humanize the realm of mental illness, and benefit others.
Nadia Ravensborg is a senior at Minneapolis South High School and a PSEO student at the University of Minnesota.
This is Annelise Rittberg's second publication. She writes a lot of poetry about pregnancy and her arms. She lives with her fat cat.
Taylor Robers has won a Gold Key and Silver Keys in the Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards. She plans to become an art professor to help students explore their creativity and to share the mental health benefits of art.
Luke Roberts is a sophomore English student at the University of Minnesota. Aside from poetry, prose, and visual art, he writes and records music under the name Q-pup.
Emma Runnoe is a sophomore pursuing degrees in English and chemistry. While this combination of disciplines may be unusual, she believes that the world is full of interconnectedness and that this allows her to explore all different types of learning.
Emily Russell is an art major with a focus in ceramics and photography. She is inspired by oddities in life and the small details that a lot of people miss. Moving forward, she will be continuing to produce art and to write, read, watch, listen, and learn.
Ariana Samaha is a poet, memoir essayist, and journalist with a passion for creative nonfiction. She will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English this May.
Hayden Selingo is a senior studying English and creative writing. His photographic work is intended to cultivate awareness of the passage of time and the sense that one is looking through overlapping “lenses” in each piece.
Maria Soroka is an undergraduate student majoring in neuroscience and minoring in music. Besides studying, she enjoys jamming with pals, baking bread, and going on adventures. Upon graduation, she hopes to become a physician and ultimately work with underserved populations.
Payton West is a political science major in her second year, who spends too much time snapchatting videos of her cat. In addition to poetry, she enjoys listening to records and watching The Great British Baking Show.
Troy Shizuo Yamaguchi
Patricia Thao is an artist from Minneapolis who specializes in drawing and painting. During her spare time, she enjoys watching anime, reading comics, and learning K-pop dances. See more of her work at patthao.deviantart.com.
Troy Shizuo Yamaguchi is a student of psychology and sociology, emphasizing mental health within cultural subgroups. Born and raised in southern California, he enjoys actual weather—just not too much of it. You can find him and his words on Twitter, @TroyContinues.
Devon Tuma is a math major who uses art as a break from his overly logical courses. His work mainly focuses on the passage of time because it’s the thing that scares him the most.
Andrew Zhou is a freshman majoring in chemical engineering. He is a big fan of musical theatre, student advocacy, the English language, and above all, someday having hobbies that directly relate to his major and future career.
notes Blue Skies v1.2 —
Marbled paper made by Mary Holland.
The 2017 issue of Ivory Tower was designed and typeset by Maggie Benson in Adobe InDesign. The fonts used include Telegrafico by Salvo Nicolosi; Minion Pro based on Minion MM, the Multi Master version of the original Minion family designed by Robert Slimbach; Futura by Paul Renner; and AppleGothic by Apple. The magazine was printed by Versa Press in East Peoria, Illinois.
contributors / notes
acknowledgments We wish to express our gratitude for the support we received from the Department of English, Student Unions & Activities, and Minnesota Student Association. We are thankful for the continued collaborations we have with the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, The Minnesota Daily, Radio K, UCAN, and the WAM Collective. We thank our friends, family, and community members for their generosity and support. It is because of them that we are able to continue with the work we do. We would like to recognize the following individuals: Anton Altman, Sarah and Tim Arnold, Carol Ash, Theresa Barber, Elizabeth and Thomas Boyd, Dr. Willard and Susan Boyd, Nancy Broshat, Patricia Brown, John Burdick, Laura Burnes, Lars and Mary Carlson, Shannon Casey, Charles Casey and Barbara Muesing, Sonia Feder-Lewis, Barbara and Robert Gaertner, Stuart Goldberg, Susan Gould, Fe Granada, Gerald Granada, Anne Greenwood Brown, Brian and Diane Gustin, Lana Hall, Catherine and Rolf Hohertz, Karen and Stan Hokanson, Tim Jollymore, AJ Kabus, Dotty Klein, Kelly and Steve Klein, Chris and Kim Kohs, Janice and Robert Kohs, Renee Maxson, Cynthia and Michael Miller, David and Jolynn Nelson, Randall Nelson, Ken Paitl and Laura Demarco-Paitl, April Parham, Audrey and Jack Perkins, Barbara Perkins, Cathy Perkins, Huan Nam Phung, Kathleen Pulford, Cynthia Rondeau, Joy Rosin, Robert Sauer, Andy Schmidt, Lora and Tim Schroeder, Mary Lou and Ted Schroeder, Elizabeth and Stephen Smith, Madelon Sprengnether, Lucienne and Paul Taylor, Beth and Dan Tolles, and Eugene Yeates. Thank you to the following individuals, who spoke to our class and provided us with priceless information and advice: Terri Sutton, English Department; Paul Taylor, Department of English Advisory Board; Erin George, University of Minnesota Archives and Special Collections.
We thank Julie Schumacher, Creative Writing Director, for inviting us to assist with Ghost Stories in the Gallery, as well as judging the event, along with Sam Levin and Taylor Gaertner of Student Unions and Activities. We thank Jamee Young, Director of Education, Weisman Art Museum, for organizing the ArtWords competition. We would like to acknowledge Yana Makuwa, Graywolf Press; Kim Todd, English Department; and Rosa Corral, Weisman Art Museum, for participating as judges, as well as Brittany Vickers, Communications Associate, Weisman Art Museum; and Holly Vanderhaar, Creative Writing Program Coordinator, for their involvement with this project. Our instructor, James Cihlar, has earned our undying gratitude for guiding us through all of the ups and downs of this process, and making this publication possible. We would like to give a special thanks to Raven Heard and Rachel Mosca for assisting our staff with operations, and Steve Foley for providing invaluable expertise in design. We thank present and past English Department Chairs Andrew Elfenbein and Ellen Messer-Davidow for their commitment and support. Thank you to the following English Department staff members for helping with our endeavors: Rachel Drake, Coordinator of Advising and Undergraduate Studies; Judith Katz, CLA Regional Academic Advisor; Lauren Heavey, Administrative Assistant; Pamela Leszczynski, Department Administrator; Jess McKenna, Coordinator of Instructional Services; Brent Latchaw, CLA Executive Accounts Specialist; Karen Frederickson, Graduate Program Coordinator; and faculty member Daniel J. Philippon, Director of Undergraduate Studies. It is because of the combined efforts of everyone listed above that we were able to accomplish what we did this year. Ivory Tower is all of you, as much as it is us. Thank you.
Maureen amundson - sam batistich - myka ann betts - carter blochwitz - evan block erika bloomdahl - emmett Bongaarts - emma Brunette - e. n. carroll - mike corrao - joe cristo olivia crowell - taylor daniels - louie-paulo Darang - ella darger - kate drakulic jim ellis - shereen fahrai - claire fallon - ian gordon - brandon hackbarth - madeline harpell emily hill - megan hoff - Lydia Hollen - meg jenson - claire kim - zoe korengold - nina kostic Kaitlyn Kugler - chelsea laughlin - gina lopresto - alec lossiah - morgan madison - z makila koryne martinez - lianna matt - brigid mcbride - aaron musickant - omwattie nerahoo Ren Novitch - olivia novotny - hannah nurmi - Claire Porter - audrey pound - juliana que nadia ravensborg - annelise rittberg - taylor robers - Luke Roberts - emma runnoe emily russell - ariana samaha - hayden selingo - maria soroka - patricia thao - devon tuma payton west - troy shizuo yamaguchi - andrew zhou