Copyright ÂŠ 2011 Regents of the University of Minnesota Ivory Tower University of Minnesota Department of English 207 Lind Hall 207 Church Street SE Minneapolis, MN 55455 ivorytower.umn.edu Graduate Advisor: Josh Morsell Journal Design: Sarah Schiesser Postcard Design: Whitney Hermes Cover Art: Kara Sweeney, 2010 Interior Art: Alexandra Sobiech, 2011 Special acknowledgment to Phil Hart, Brandy Erickson, Clare Gawronski, Meena Mangalvedhekar and Heather Peterson for their hard work and commitment to the magazine in our early stages of production. Ivory Tower would also like to thank the following individuals and organizations who helped to make this yearâ€™s issue a success: The Regents of the University of Minnesota, the Department of English at the University of Minnesota, Ellen Messer-Davidow, Katherine Scheil, Terri Sutton, Paul Taylor, Carol Waldron, the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, Student Unions and Activities at the University of Minnesota, Elisabeth Kaplan, Erin George, University Archives, Kevin Parker, the Minnesota Daily and Radio K. Ivory Tower seeks to serve as a creative outlet for emerging artists and writers at the University of Minnesota. By publishing only undergraduate students, we are giving an underrepresented source of artistic innovation a resonating voice within the community. We never forget the smallest names because they often leave the biggest impressions.
Editor-in-Chief Grace Gouker Managing Editors Nora Evans Anastasia Scott Production Coordinator Stephen VanThournout Fiction Editors Ashley Bostrom Stephen VanThournout Nonfiction Editor Christianna Fritz Poetry Editors Devin Eichler Alexandra Sobiech Art and Special Content Editor Brittaney Ingram Design and Layout Editor Ashley Bostrom Publicity and Outreach Coordinators Jessica Bies Eric Ferson Marketing Assistants Hanna Kjeldbjerg Andrew Halverson Grant Writer Leigh Anne Stein Web Editor Sophie Frank Assistant Web Editor Kevin Florenzano Special Event Coordinators Breanne Krzyzanowski Leigh Anne Stein
Letter fro m the Editor Home. A place where family gathers, intimate relationships are wrought and minute comforts make us feel we belong. To be home is an experience of security, whether in a place, in the company of another or in a nostalgic state of mind. I am home in Minneapolis, and I miss it when I am gone. I am not the only one. One individual, generation or population may grow off of another, develop, assert its individuality, go to college. The diverse writers in this year’s issue of Ivory Tower coexist on the same campus, sit in the same classes, participate in the same heated discussions. Almost five thousand international students walk the Mall alongside students who grew up less than fifteen miles away from the Twin Cities campus. We all desire to feel at home, and sometimes we try to suppress our pasts in order to feel we belong in the place where we are, but that is a mistake. We cannot escape our individual histories. Like Tracy Schultz describes in “Somewhere These Words Are Swimming,” we are given our identities at birth, we grow into them and try hard to part with them, for the supposed betterment of our selves. But the student body at the University of Minnesota is bettered by its overlapping, clashing, juxtaposed personal histories. Home is the tessellation of these disparate people, ideas and objects—of the odd uncle at holiday get-togethers, of the shirt you smell to remind yourself of someone absent, of the chipped porcelain plates in the cupboard. By honoring where we come from, we create a new place where we are comfortable to grow. We are capable—as exemplified most recently in the Middle East—of engaging in progressive language while continuing to embrace cultural inheritances. We at Ivory Tower hope that this issue bolsters a renewed interest in your roots and the desire to reveal them to others, while simultaneously offering a rare glimpse into the personal histories of your peers. Turn the page, and welcome home. Sincerely, Grace Gouker Editor-in-Chief
contents That Barren Hill 02 Rania Abuisnaineh Intermission 03 Nicholas Clark Detergent from Armenians 07 Michael Barthman Speaking to a Future 09 Ivory Tower Staff Harvey’s Bride 11 Mark Brenden On Plumbing 15 Courtney Schauer De-Composition 16 Kestutis Micke Closer 17 Megan Sharp Landlocked 18 Marissa B. Torres-Bertram Skin Gliding Over Skin 24 Michelle Cunningham In July 25 Sarah Mann I’m Fine 26 Taylor Trauger Maps and Atlases 27 Ivory Tower Staff Jon 31 Chloe Ahlf Egyptian Love Song 34 Chloe Ahlf The Pieces of a Happy Man 35 Taylor Millikin The Ungrateful Father 41 Chris Bomba Somewhere These Words Are Swimming 42 Tracy Schultz mom and dad and mom and dad 44 Megan Sharp An Apology Letter’s Chicken Scratch 45 Michael Barthman In the War 48 Emma Nelson Sambo’s Town 51 Nicholas Clark Squash and Sugar 52 Miranda Kriesch
That Barren Hill Rania Abuisnaineh
long before we ten children. Long before the earth cracked, giving in to whimpers and screamless voices and the scorching of that barren hill. Decades passed, and now I remember how exotic produce still grows from that parched terrain: the luscious leaves of grape vines, the basket of cactus fruit father would bring back after a morning in the market. He is older now, yet streaks of youthfulness parade brightly through his head of gray. He retained his brisk stride, each leg like the root of the firmest olive tree. Do you remember how, together, we would stand on the rooftop every morning, peering innocently at that forbidden hill. An obsession that occupied our Palestinian veins, now buried under a little boyâ€™s yarmulke, within the bareness of that hill, stained with auburn blood, a hill carrying the life of a single tree. A forbidden tree. Or as we called it, the Rafiki tree. Remember? It was like watching the dead give birth to life.
those tales he used to share? Ancient stories of little boys exchanging salaams and shaloms while figs and olives grew alongside grapes, together, under one sun and one rain shower, serving to nurture old, dampen soil. That was long ago,
Do you think father remembers
Young had always wondered how Mickey Mouse could bend his arms that way: around and around. One moment his little mouse finger tapped the 1; soon it would be at the 10. He supposed the real question was not how, but why the little mouse arm could bend to such extremes and fail to snap against the glass. He’s a cartoon, his bones don’t snap. My bones snap. Yes, that was true. Young’s bones could snap, but they never would. He might sustain a cut lip, a bruised cheek or a ringing in his ear that always came back when the moon was full, but never a broken bone. What really mattered at this moment and time, late on the night of November 26, 1955, was whether Young was ever going to become a man. Whether he was going to be the alpha dog his father had so hoped for the night he bent his mother over a trash can outside a boxing match, hoping he could make a tiny Jake LaMotta of his own. Rolf brashly squeezed through the aisle of boys, completing his journey to the seats expertly chosen by Young. “Where’s the candy?” asked Young, louder than he had hoped for. “What candy?” Rolf replied, dropping his body into the seat. “The candy my mom gave us money for.” “I didn’t get candy.” “Then where’s the popcorn?” “I didn’t get popcorn either.” “Oh,” mumbled Young. Young’s eyes returned to the watch, the Mouse once again inexplicably avoiding the breaking of bones as his arms rotated, smiling, encouraging. Something nudged at Young’s leg, something long, thick and masculine. “Take the goddamn bottle,” whispered Rolf. “What?” “The goddamn bottle I’m rubbing against your leg.” Young reached below the seat and discreetly grasped for the bottle. “You got it yet?” interrupted Rolf. “Yeah, I think so. Are you sure no one’s going to get hurt? I mean, these bottles don’t seem like they’re gonna break easily,” Young tried to ask quietly. “Goddammit, can’t you see the newsreel’s starting?” whispered Rolf, his eyes anticipating the screen that was about to come to life. It didn’t matter though; none of them had really paid to see the newsreels.
The Blackboard Jungle had begun, or more importantly, its song that they had all come to live within. The boys began to make their way toward the center of the theater, over and around the seats, pushing one another until they had no choice but to lift one
4 cl ark
One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock, rock, Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock, rock, Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, rock, We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight!
n ichol a s
“Just make sure I don’t break any bones, okay?” Young squeezed in, making sure to project his words directly into Rolf’s ear. “Yes, all right! No one’s going to get you too bad if they know you’re with me! Now quiet.” “Wait, you mean they ain’t going to get me at all, right?” Despite the newly dimmed lights and miniature spotlights that accused countless boys of disrespecting paying customers across the theater, nothing changed. Every boy across the theater couldn’t sit still, or keep his mouth shut either. “Stop worrying, you’re going to be fine. These kids are probably in the same position as you,” reminded Rolf. Some boys were beginning to stand up; others were elbow-deep in the long tube socks they had worn especially for the occasion, struggling to find the pocket knives they had robbed from their older brothers. The few adults that had mistakenly wandered into the theater looked around in confusion. A group of teenage girls began to leave while they still could, murmuring about how the rumors must have been true. “Just remember to lose your mind, okay? Never think about what you’re doing.” “I can’t hear you,” Young tried to say, his voice smothered by the closing horns of the Hearst-Metrotone News Symphony Orchestra. “Just remember to punch like your dad, but don’t get careless like him either.” The music continued to swell, each boy beginning to stand up as if the National Anthem had suddenly begun, the miniature spotlights now shining even more accusatorially upon their faces. Something was about to happen, adults in and around the theater could and would tell that for years. But for a moment there was only silence. The theater disappointingly became black, the screen, unexpectedly empty, and the usher’s flashlights just hung. Somewhere, not too far back in their lifetimes, the projectionist spliced the newsreel and film with carelessness, and now the boys all lived within his mistake, if only for a moment that was over before it had begun. It’s never going to happen, Young thought, we’re all just going to be nothings.
clark nichol as
another up. There were no screams yet, but no one had broken any bones either. Young looked to his left, his right and as far back as the movie would allow. He realized he had fucked up: he had chosen to sit in the center just as he had been taught by his mother the first time she had brought him to see Fantasia. Here, the best seat in the house, was the center of the violence. Here was where the squeamish ushers would find the most teeth, the most fingernails and the most broken glass. Here, Young thought, was where they would find the tiny arm of Mickey Mouse that once was able to do what no man, woman or child could ever do. “WE’VE GOTTA MOVE!” yelled Young, inching closer to Rolf’s side. A boy with a hockey helmet tripped on the seats, a fate he had almost chosen by walking across them, and he collapsed on Young’s back. “Rolf! ROLF! I’M STUCK!” yelled Young, the words barely leaving his lips as the boy’s weight crushed his lungs. From the little he could lift his head, Young could tell Rolf was already having too hard of a time cramming a kid’s head in between a seat’s fold to hear. “Help, my head! MY HEAD, IT’S BLEEDING!” Young desperately lied. The crowd wasn’t large enough that no one could hear him; it was just that they all knew the trick. They had all been caught at the bottom before, whether at home with their brothers, on mom and dad’s date night, or at the whipping post of their father’s belt. “MY ARM, IT’S BROKEN, IT’S—” The boy with the hockey helmet lifted himself up, realizing he only served as protection for the screaming child underneath his body. “If you’re going to scream, we don’t want you here,” he half-heartedly whispered into Young’s ear, pushing his body back to the ground before he had the chance to grasp the seat for support. It wasn’t that Young didn’t want to be here, it was that he knew he didn’t belong. He had known it ever since his father read aloud the newspaper headline, TEENAGE DELINQUENTS SPARK FIGHTS ACROSS AMERICA DURING BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. He had known it when his mother discovered his soundtrack stuffed underneath the mattress, cursing Bill Haley, and especially the Comets, for ruining her boy. More importantly, he had known it when he had asked Rolf why the boys had fought, and all he received was an empty stare in return. No matter how hard he tried to convince himself that he could, he just couldn’t imagine himself hurting someone else. Young Harrington simply wasn’t the kind of boy to be in a place like this. Rolf was somewhere, Young had no idea nor did he truly care among the havoc. Some kids had grown bored of the limited fighting they had known, a few were beginning to pick a fight with the movie screen itself. Those that were still taking the
n ichol a s
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opportunity to hurt one another had moved directly in front of the screen, a place where they had never before had the courage to fool around. The police would be there soon, bringing a new expression of violence alongside them; Young knew that. And once the police came, each and every boy would be cleared out and sent home. They would all know what it was like, to act without thought, except him. I should just hurt someone, at least once, he thought, staring at the brave few that continued to fight. With Bill Haley still giving the boys something to make their own, Young lifted himself above the seats and stumbled forward to the front, the way he had always dreamed of doing during the movies his grandmother had brought him to. The closer he got, the more his eyes squinted from the screen’s bright light. How the boys up front could even hit each other without leaving it up to fate was anyone’s guess. And then there he was: the boy. He was tall and lanky, the kind of kid you would expect to love both God and the Army. And maybe he had never realized it before, but Young knew that this was the boy he had always wanted to hit. So he did. There was nothing to it really: no moment, no anything. Young stumbled down from up on the seats, walked up and slammed his fist, with the little force he had stored up throughout the years, into the boy’s face. The boy didn’t even care to look back as he stumbled towards the screen; instead, he took the momentum to push another no-nothing into someone else. It was like that, that Young could do something and it didn’t matter. And just like that, the movie could truly begin as it should, with characters, plot and action, something besides over-stimulating commotion and sound. It was the kind of stuff that good people cared about, the kind of stuff Young and the other boys could never create. Who really cared if you got cut in your eye? Who cared if Mickey’s arm never broke no matter how far it bent and stretched? All of the boys looked to the screen, realizing the music had stopped. Do I just go home? thought Young, searching but finding no answer in any of the boys’ eyes. Some remembered to grab their trash as they left; others attempted to spit as high as the balcony. Young looked for Rolf, but he was sure he ran off like he always did, usually without reason. Looking at his watch, he almost hoped to find Mickey’s arm detached from his body, victim to the violence each and every one of the boys had caused. But his arm just kept ticking, always there to make Young care.
Detergent fro m Ar menians Michael Barthman It was a Jew up the Street. a Pole who sold ground beef. each name you’d never call nowadays
but you said
mich a el
face to face back then. back then it was all whites at the creamery Grandma never bought detergent from Armenians. now dead you’re out-lived by the adjectives the improper nouns dealt with frivolity. they become Heavy they grind like meat sell us. still all whites at the creamery still no Black Men in the lion’s club. Grandma’s gone blind— somebody else buys soap.
at the high school kids never grip the ready hand of a Somali and hold conversation never hear the fragrant spindle of native Spanish SHOUTED across a kitchen
8 barthm an
this is heavy. These are War born fresh in a windpipe before being blown out of proportion.
mich a el
but they cross a planet to find face behind their improper nouns. place a Muslim in a crosshair. make adjectives a bit more accurate.
inklings of when mentally handicapped—Grandpa you’d call them retarded— are wired with explosives. told Go Shopping. i have not seen War. But i’ve seen its second cousin’s brother come home in one piece barely able to speak English.
i vory tow er
SPEAKING TO A FUTURE: AN INTERVIEW WITH TOU SAIKO LEE
tou saiko lee
Tou SaiKo Lee is an established local spoken-word and hip-hop artist who strives to empower and act as a cultural ambassador for the Hmong community. Tou is currently an emcee for hip-hop band PosNoSys (Post Nomadic Syndrome) and a freelance spoken-word instructor. Although he has more than enough to occupy his time, he still found a moment to share some of the foundations of his inspiration with Ivory Tower. Ivory Tower: As an artist, you don’t just represent yourself; you use your voice to advocate for your culture, for your family and for future Hmong generations. How would you define your artistic voice and your purpose for writing? Tou SaiKo Lee: I’m someone that grew up without a voice; I’m creating a voice that can exist, hopefully as a positive model to uplift and represent my culture. We’ve always been a people that have been oppressed and not given a voice, and I want to be able to communicate a voice outside of the Hmong community, being that we are survivors of persecution. I want to be successful and strive for a voice where we can be represented and not be diminished and not seen as less than human. There’s always a fight for that, representing the struggle. I always strive for a creative outlet that’s unique, not just as a Hmong artist, but from an artistic perspective. My purpose is to create an outlet through words and strive to be influential for youth. IT: You described the Hmong people as survivors. You yourself spent part of your early life in a Thai refugee camp—did your experiences in the camp and your move to Syracuse, New York clash? Were there certain Thai cultural cues that were suppressed or carried over once you were living in the United States? TSL: I was only two months old, so I didn’t get to experience much in the refugee camp. I only know what others have told me. People were escaping the war to eastern Thailand, occupying the space for the time being. There was a lot of inequality, a lack of opportunities and a lack of health education. Now that they’ve disbanded to villages, there are still issues, but they were able to build schools, at least. Other people have helped a little, so other tribes, not just Hmong, are able to access resources. For me, I grew up mostly in America, so it’s just making sure that I connect to Hmong people who live in villages and reflect them here in my poetry for other Americans. It’s important for me to gather those experiences and express them to the people here so that we have the consciousness to help the people there. IT: Which figure has most inspired you in your hip-hop career, and which figure
tou s a iko l ee
10 ivory tower
has inspired you most in keeping true to your Hmong roots? TSL: Initially, I was inspired by Public Enemy, Dead Prez and Tupac Shakur and the poetry of their music. Also, Saul Williams—a spoken-word artist—and local artists such as Bao Phi and Ed Bok Lee. And Lauryn Hill. All of these artists culminate and inspire who I am and who I want to impact through poetry. IT: You sometimes perform with your grandmother, Youa Chang, at your events. What are the similarities between the traditional chanting that your grandmother performs and the rapping you do on stage? TSL: Four or five years ago I realized that the traditional chanting, Kwv Txhiaj, is a spoken tradition that is passed on from one generation to the next, and hip-hop is a continuation of that tradition. I continue the collaboration to show the connection, to bridge the generations. The younger generations should honor, respect and acknowledge the traditions of their older counterparts, and [through this collaboration] the older generation can see hip-hop as a form of value and inspiration through words and not just as the negative stereotypes of what hip-hop is. I realize that [my grandmother] never had the opportunity to go to school and was never able to read or write, so she memorized poems or free-styled, and that’s where I saw a connection. IT: The Twin Cities are home to one of the largest Hmong populations in the United States and are consistently offering more and more events and opportunities for Hmong citizens to continue their cultural practices. In which ways are the Twin Cites doing this successfully and in which ways do they fall short? TSL: There’s just such a large population, and mostly youth. A lot of non-profit organizations, Hmong entrepreneurs and Hmong artists are starting to gain opportunities through organizations like CHAT [The Center for Hmong Arts and Talent], HAP [Hmong American Partnership] and organizations that have been bridging with the Hmong community. So I’d say they’re doing a pretty good job, but there has to be Hmong leaders pushing for it. IT: What should young artists keep in mind when pursuing a career in their field? TSL: Don’t sell out. Just kidding, it’s more about promoting positivity. Be more genuine, make sure that what you create is impacting someone in some way. It doesn’t have to be super inspiring, just give someone a smile, give someone a sense of joy that provokes their emotion and takes them away from their everyday life. Don’t be an arrogant punk-ass and act like you’re better than everyone. If you have an ability to captivate people, it’s important to recognize that and be confident, but I’m saying that I don’t feel like it means that you’re better. You don’t have to be humble—make sure that you bring value to those around you—but don’t feel that you’re above everyone. I do my art to connect to the community and those around me; it doesn’t make me better than anyone else. Network with other artists and learn from those before you.
Harvey’s Bride Mark Brenden
Harvey Buckthorn had seen his fair share of prairie flowers in his time. Jane Andersen bloomed fuller, smelled sweeter and died purpler than any of them. They sat once, on a lovers’ bench, which took its form in the rusty hitch of a frayed yellow Ford Ranger, somewhere between Yellowstone and the Missouri River, or moreover, somewhere between the West and the Midwest, somewhere between Jesse James and Red Cloud. Jane’s hair was like sand the way it stretched and scattered in the South Dakota wind. Her muskmelon lips provided a proper mosaic for her cowboy teeth as she spoke softly and unceremoniously. “Harvey, I tell ya, I don’t have a clue.” “I suppose not, peach pie, it ain’t somethin’ that’ll yield too many o’ them.” Jane licked the sticky part of her green cigarette and twisted it tightly by massaging her thumbs gracefully with her index and middle fingers. Outside the prairie wind broomed the dust briskly into a ball above the high thistles imposing on the dirt road. Jane sparked her cigarette and breathed the smoke delicately up to the caverns of her nose in a French inhale. This scene put a soft blanket over Harvey’s heart. “‘Eezus, would ya look at that wind,” Harvey said. Jane stared off at the bustling dirt fixedly, but it wasn’t the wind that was on her mind. “Harvey?” But the cowboy was preoccupied. A small, witty gopher had appeared like a furry spark in Harvey’s periphery and scurried across the gravel. Harvey was quick to grab his rifle from the bed of his truck, but the gopher was quicker as it dove swiftly and assuredly into a safety hole under the switch grass. “Goddamn critters,” Harvey muttered below the push of his breath, which quickly switched into a tobacco wheeze and then into a manly gravel-lunged cough. He turned around and looked at Jane. A mellow vibration floated from her coffeecolored hair, which continued to stretch in the wind and fall like a stage curtain onto her thin shoulders. The vibration blew with the wind into Harvey’s eyes as he closed them to usher it in. It seeped through his mind and out his arms through a prairie of goose bumps. “Whatcha got on that little mind o’ yer’s, sweet Jane?” “Ah nothin’, Harvey,” she lied. “That’s a quick little fuzzball.”
The sun took refuge behind a cloud, successfully deluding the two to overlook its God-lengthed attendance in the cheap seats of the ever-abiding Earth. This recess of sunlight was uncommon in the hard South Dakota July. The sun shines harder on the prairie in July than in any other month, with the possible exception of August. But that was only a week away. And there is nothing new under the sun. II.
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Steady and rumbling was the wind as Harvey and Jane sat despondent in Harvey’s yellow Ford Ranger. They had been comatose for nearly thirty minutes in a road construction debacle with what Harvey saw to be an unacceptably negligent pilot car. “I think I just watched that tree grow,” he said as he turned to Jane. He reached to his dashboard and scooped his can of Skoal snuff, wedged it between his middle finger and his thumb and slammed his index finger directly on the Skoal label, before throwing in a big one. He rolled down the manual window and spit on the highway. Then he leaned to Jane for a smooch. “Harvey, yer kiddin’ yerself if you think for one second I’m gonna give you a kiss with that gunk in yer mouth.” “Oh sweet thing, it’s not what’s in my mouth that counts—” “It’s what comes out, huh?” “You got ‘er, sweet thing.” Jane was licking the sticky part of her green cigarette when Harvey felt a jolt of ambition and snatched it into his palm and tossed it out the window. “Whaddya need to be constantly smokin’ that shit for?” Jane was noticeably revolted. “Gosh dangit, Harvey.” “I ain’t gonna be shootin’ the breeze with no permanent resident o’ La La Land.” “It ain’t La La Land, Harvey. It just ain’t.” “Well then what is it? And don’ you say en-freakin’-lightenment, cuz ain’t no such thing.” “Ah really, Harvey. You sure know ‘bout it, dontcha?” “Don’t claim to. Neither should you.” “Ya know, maybe you oughta try it, Harvey.” Harvey exhaled loudly. “And why’s that?” “Maybe if everybody smoked it we wouldn’t be in this shit storm in ‘Nam.” “Oh ‘Eezus.”
br enden m ark
“Oh yeah. Oh ‘Eezus, Harvey. Always oh ‘Eezus. You know what? Maybe if you’ d tried it ten years ago ya wouldn’a…” She flinched. “Ah forget it.” “Wouldn’a what?” “Ya don’t wanna hear anyways, Harvey, so I ain’t gonna say it.” “Wouldn’a what, Jane?” “Maybe ya wouldn’a hit yer father that way. That’s what, Harvey. Maybe ya wouldn’a did that.” The inertia of northward cars started to cease at this moment, and the pilot car led the yellow Ranger up the dirt road. Harvey didn’t respond to Jane’s declaration, at least not with words. His mind so full it felt empty, he looked upwards at the sun spilling through the open slit of the window. He turned the handle to let it all pour in. “Ya ain’t gonna quit, is ya?” Harvey groused low enough for Jane not to hear, but loud enough for someone to. I’m still here, the sun seemed to reply, as it always does. III. The two bandits of love arrived in Bemidji, Minnesota, one of several alleged homes of the mythic giant Paul Bunyan, whose existence Jane found amusing, but Harvey scoffed at. They were headed to Jane’s father’s scenic lake cabin on the mucky shores of Lake Itasca, at the birth of the Mississippi River. But only one would make it there. “All right then, sweet Jane,” said Harvey. “Let’s try a puff o’ that then.” She gave an energized giggle, then sparked up a joint and passed it Harvey’s way. Harvey tried to grab the non-burning end of the joint, but something went wrong with the exchange. It was unclear who let go first. Nonetheless, it all went crashing down in between Harvey’s seat. “I’ll be damned if that shit’s gonna burn down my entire operation,” Harvey said gruffly and reached into the crack between the seat and the middle console. It is not uncommon for a man to try to salvage his truck at any cost, but even a man such as Harvey was not prepared for the size of the imminent fee. Finally he saw the orange glow of the burning joint in the impenetrable dark of the car floor. “There ya are, ya bastard.” Before he reached for it, he glanced up at Jane in full bloom—beaming delicately in the sun, following it adoringly like a sunflower, with the ephemeral beauty of a geranium the very second before its blossoms start to decay, the second at which it reaches its striking pinnacle. He reached downward.
Perhaps the driver of the perpendicular-traveling Chevy was similarly distracted by one of the many eyeball comets with which the earth presents its people daily, but, years later, Harvey doubted it was as ineffaceably gorgeous as the flower that distracted him. IV. Presently, Harvey sat, this time alone, on the rusty hitch of his yellow Ford Ranger with his curved palm shading his perceptibly wet eyes, not yet ready to call the authorities to report the two deaths he just witnessed. Ahead, a dust cloud was dancing high above the dirt in a taunting maelstrom. A furry gopher emerged from its wake and frantically tore away from Harvey as the high sun ripped downward like hail. â€œâ€˜Eezus,â€? Harvey sniffled.
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On Plu m bing sch au er
What happens when martyrdom loses its meaning? And what happens when the pit in your stomach Becomes the epitome of feeling? The same thing that happens when the water cracks crack through your ceiling: You learn to hold your breath.
De-Co mposition Kestutis Micke
spaces are attractive they speak nothings An empty sound screaming more loudly than THE WORDS ON THIS PAGE. He sees only hours of work lines out
We see the beauty curves and down
the lines and curves
16 mick e
He is a literary genius We see the beauty the lines and curves even
An architect spent nights hunched over a drawing board staining his thumbs gray shadows cast by the warm lamp What is the point we ask That is the point Pointing to a series of lines and curves out and down The oversized paper contains contemporary art no bottom only sides no top Reaching out in an embrace abstraction
Closer Megan Sharp Itâ€™s weird to catch people in other smoke covered conversations their syllables biting with the breeze just like itâ€™s scary the way skin drips from your bones the leaves are all suffocating I see them struggling to breathe in fogged plastic bags as we drive down the road wind kicking up at our wheels.
Landlocked Marissa B. Torres-Bertram
m a r iss a b.
18 tor r es-bertr a m
It was two in the morning and my feet were uncovered, forcing me to wake up and readjust. The East Side train ran faintly in the distance, an urban howl. I looked out the window at the splinter of a moon. It winked, assuring me that everything was right with the night. I looked over at Laura contently curled like a question mark. I had so many questions of my own for her. She looked peaceful. I would have given anything to feel like that. As I jostled and resituated under the covers, Laura rolled over and threw an arm around my waist. I held on to it like a scared child. “I’m sorry,” I whispered in the faintest confession. “I’m so sorry.” Even in her sleep she looked like she forgave me—a gentle smile across her face. I was drawn to Laura because of this smile. Eyes may be windows to the soul, but eyes deceive. You can always tell a real smile. Looking back, I realize that’s why I loved them both: they shared the same smile—lopsided with a single dimple. It wasn’t the only reason I loved them, just the first reason. The East Side train howled its last goodbye, and I stifled my guilty thoughts. I imagined the places it was headed. I wondered if there were some on that train like me, thinking about people they loved too much, and ones they didn’t love enough. I wondered if they too were consciously breaking someone’s heart. I wondered where they were traveling. Was it home, or just a house? Was it to someone they loved, or were they just beautiful? More importantly, where was I? I shifted on my back and stretched my arm around Laura: she slid right into place. I promised myself telling her now wasn’t worth it. I reassured myself. Not today. Hushing my thoughts, I closed my eyes. “It’s the way you scrunch up your face from the sunrise peaking through the blinds,” her voice started. “It’s the way you remind me of a summer day. This summer day.” I drowsily opened my eyes. Laura was standing facing the dresser mirror, clasping her silver wishbone necklace. “A sweet summer day,” she went on. “Maybe too sweet, even for me.” She adjusted her necklace and turned around, her smile welcoming me to consciousness. Her pale legs waltzed to the side of the bed, a hue I knew well. It was the color of the moons of fingernails; it was something else they shared. I drifted to other thoughts, other thoughts involving an “other.” She broke my bittersweet reminiscence as she leaned down and kissed me. “But that’s why I love you.”
tor r es-bertr a m m ar issa b.
I stretched the full length of the bed. “Come back to bed,” I groaned half-heartedly. Laura sat down, and I wrapped my arms around her waist. “Please.” Her fingers stroked my hair. “I’ve got breakfast to make,” she announced in a blasé manner as if wanting me to try harder to pull her away from this duty. If it were any other day I would have, but today I stayed silent. I missed Noah the most whenever I dreamt of him. It may have been easier to forget that dream, but the previous day I had seen someone who looked like him. Lithe and plaid ridden. I wanted to walk up and slap the stranger. I wanted to hug him tight. I wanted to blame him for all my problems. I wanted him to sing to me. I wondered if this stranger also sang sweet nothings to people, if his touch held empty promises, if he had an untraceable drawl, just like Noah. Another kiss from Laura broke my concentration, and I snapped back to the present. She stared at me as if waiting for an answer to a question she had asked, but she broke the silence first. “Where were you just now?” she questioned almost hypothetically. “Ah, nowhere.” I paused. “Just thinking.” “I will never have you figured out, will I Sam?” she stated too enjoyably. She gave me another one of her smiles and walked out the door. I rolled over and faced the alarm clock. I reverted to thinking about an excuse not to go in to work today. I’m sorry; I’m not feeling well. Too fake. I’m sorry; I have a funeral. Too unplanned. I’m sorry; I had a dream about you and now I miss you more than ever. Too honest. The taunting alarm finally went off as the fiery numbers flashed in my face. Time to get up. I tried to motivate myself. Time to make eggs for the person I wish was you. I walked down the wooden stairs skipping over the creaky second step. Lethargically I shuffled into the kitchen where Laura had started breakfast. I stepped onto the linoleum, and she turned toward me, our unsmiling eyes met. “Is everything okay?” She furrowed her eyebrows then looked back down at the hash browns sizzling in heart disease. God that made me love her, the way she always took back what she said. Not even Noah did that. Laura would always ask a heartfelt question only to trivialize it with the dismissal of a hand or break in stare, as if she didn’t want to know the answer to what she asked. “I’m fine. Why?” I shrugged hoping she wouldn’t call my bluff. Silence.
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20 tor r es-bertr a m
“I wish I didn’t have to work today, but I need the shifts so I guess I should just suck it up, huh?” She kept looking down and nodded acknowledging my pitiful attempted answer. I stared at her as she cooked. I analyzed every angle in her body, every trembling feature on her face and her eyes—her beautiful hazel eyes. I called them rainbow eyes. I could find every color in the world in those eyes. They always told the truth. It was just another reason I loved her. I mentally traced her face and lingered on a scar on her cheek. I remember her telling me how she got it. It was a month after we met, and we were at a park swinging like the little kids we emotionally were. Laura said that when she was seven a dog bit her in the park. She smiled but was still very serious as she continued. “Dogs are eternally innocent, you know. Even though I was seven and momentarily devastated, somehow in my little ADD brain I rationalized that it was just a dog, and to it, I was just a rambunctious little girl. And I was gonna be okay.” I had never wanted to hug her so bad in my life. I kept staring until she broke her pose and served up a plate of the food I should have helped make. She sat down next to me. “What time you hafta work today?” “Two to close. I’m closing with Noah and Will.” I tried to make it sound as unimportant as anything. But it was not just anything. “How are you getting home? Can you find a ride with one of them?” The concern in her question made my heart hurt. “I’m sure I can figure something out.” She smiled that smile of hers and stood up. “Good. ‘Cuz, I’m hanging out with Marie and Katie tonight, and I’ll probably be exhausted when I come home. So don’t be surprised if you find me in bed.” I knew there would be a spot for me in that bed when I’d come home. I knew the next day she’d wake up and make me breakfast. I knew that I would see her smile and that she would still love me. It made everything that much easier. The gorgeous day that it was, I walked to work. I thought about Noah and Laura. I wondered what constitutes love and if it’s the same for different people. Love makes everything you think you know all of a sudden become false. You realize there are people you think you love, who you really don’t. The sun warmed my face, and I was sweating by the time I got to work. Will was having a smoke out back, and I gave him a friendly nod as I headed inside. I had a long shift ahead of me, and an even longer night. “Hey Sam!” a distinguishable drawl shouted from the office. “Hi, Noah. How’re you?” I tried to sound composed.
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“Eh. Work is work. Sucks we gotta stay inside today.” “Yeah I know, it’s gorgeous out. I walked here.” “Nice! That’s a bit of a walk. You gonna be up for that after closing tonight?” “Don’t have a choice really,” I said almost begging for the offer I knew he’d make. “Well, I can give you a ride. Your place is sorta on the way,” he grinned. God, I loved that. I think he knew that got me every time. I acted as if it was imperative I head to the front so he couldn’t see me smiling but yelled back, “Yeah, I might take you up on that!” The ride after work was quiet. We both knew what the destination was. I stared out the smudged window at the silent streets covered in a mist that let out the secret of this evening’s summer shower. We came to a stop. A song Noah once sung to me came on the player. I recognized it but said nothing. I swear we hit every red light on the way. We finally pulled into his driveway. I sat on Noah’s bed as he got out his piece. Pulling out a baggie, he flashed me that lopsided grin. God, that made me feel special. Lighting up, I immediately drifted back to simpler days. Overtaken by memories, everything flowed back to me as delicate and smooth as the smoke that wafted across the room. I flashed Noah a dopey grin. He knew how I felt. I was seventeen again, and it was the summer I had started smoking— the same summer my best friend’s brother had been born. It was a summer filled with hazy days and lazy ambitions. I had lied to my parents, twisting bonfires into bongs and tires—tires of the cars my friends and I had sat in and talked about sex and how broke we were. We stared out foggy windows and thought that was a world that wasn’t going to change. As I cashed the bowl I thought about how things were never simple anymore. From where I was sitting, I had no intention of changing that. I looked across the room at the slim figure hunched in the corner switching records. Suddenly baby-making music delighted my ears as the soul sound of Marvin Gaye filled the room. Noah whipped around and grinned, knowing how much I approved. My glazed eyes smiled in appreciation; my dry mouth curled upwards. Noah sat down on the bed next to me. We didn’t need to say anything to each other; we knew how we felt. That was enough for both of us as we simultaneously started disrobing. After, we lay quietly on his bed. This was the moment I hated most. I always knew what would come next. I closed my eyes and waited for it. “You wanna take a shower?” the drawl inquired. “Yeah,” I responded. “Together?” Noah added the insult. My automatic response to this question played like an answering machine.
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22 tor r es-bertr a m
“I only take showers with people who love me.” I tensed my jaw and looked at him, silently begging, but he would never respond. Some nights Noah would sing me to sleep, some indie song from a band he liked or a lullaby his mom used to sing him. His sweet tenor voice would whisper words his mom taught him, “Dip, dip and swing her back, flashing with silver. Swift as the wild goose flies, dip, dip and swing.” Other nights, we’d talk about life and movies and family, or whatever people in half-assed love talk about. But this night, he stayed silent. I think he finally realized why I asked that question, and that he could no longer get away without an answer. In that moment, I finally realized I had heard enough of the same silent response. I scanned his milky body one last time and mentally said goodbye to all the places I had kissed and all the crevices I would miss. For the first time I noticed what spindly legs Noah had. I was almost taken aback. Then I thought of Laura. I thought of how her curvy legs were soft and smooth. I thought about the warmth her skin held and how silky it felt. I thought of the freckles and tiny imperfections that grazed her back. I thought about the scars and moles and the exact places they hid. I looked at Noah. His eyes did not hold colors. He never told me the stories behind his scars. He didn’t love me. He looked concerned as if he knew what I had realized. I searched his face for one small omen that I was wrong, that I should stay. All I could see was something better to go home to. I climbed out of bed, nakedly picked up my belongings and started walking to exactly that place—home. I approached the slanted concrete steps and appreciated them more, now in the moonlight, than I ever had before. I found myself almost surprised that my key opened the front door. I crept inside and made my way up the wooden stairs making sure to step over the creaky one. As I opened the door to Laura’s room, I saw the harsh moonlight highlight the room. It was so bright, so accusatory, like a police flashlight that spotted my crime. I undressed and slid my naked body under the covers comforted by the warmth of Laura’s body. I saw the tiny vessels on her temple silently beating. I kissed her forehead and held her close. She was so much warmer, so much softer. I told her this in my inaudible whispers. I told her how much I missed her, and how sorry I was. I told her I wouldn’t leave her. I told her I was in love with her. I could only hope somewhere in her dreams she got my message. Her face held that smile, and I told myself she understood. It was just supposed to be fun; I never knew it would turn into something else. I decided I would tell her in the morning, everything that happened. I would tell her about Noah and about how I felt, but that I didn’t feel like that anymore. I set away my resolved guilt and let my eyes close.
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I didn’t dream of Noah that night, or for many nights after. The next morning the sun beamed through the half pulled-down blinds. It distorted my vision, and I rolled over, reaching for another pillow to put over my head. As I reached I felt the empty space next to me. Laura was gone. I jumped up and looked around the room. I hurried to the bathroom and surveyed the hall. Nothing. I bounded down the stairs. Atop the coffee table, a note: We’re out of eggs, be back soon. You looked so peaceful I couldn’t wake you J I could feel the color rush back into my face. I was worried she had found out. I was worried I was going to lose her. I hadn’t. I ambled back upstairs and collapsed onto the bed. I don’t remember falling asleep. I do remember being woken up. “Scrambled with onions and lots of pepper, just how you like it.” The smell alone was almost enough to wake me. I opened my eyes and saw Laura stooped over me holding breakfast, showing me all the reasons why I loved her. It wasn’t just breakfast in bed, or the curve of her pale legs or the one-dimpled smile always adorning her face. It was the way in which she would never hurt me, the way in which she loved me so much, the way in which I felt so guilty about the things I had done, that I decided I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her anymore. I kissed her neck. “I love you.” She crawled into bed next to me. As I ate, I stared at the suggestive pattern of cherries on the sheets. “I don’t think I ever asked you, but what’s that picture about?” Laura nodded to an ink sketch lying on the floor that I had drawn a couple weeks earlier. My eyes lingered over the memory. I remembered the exact moment and how it meant so much at the time, and how now, it didn’t mean anything. “Nothing.” I blinked away the resolved lie. “But isn’t that you? Who’s the guy in the car with you?” “No one,” I replied. “Just some guy who gave me a ride once.” Laura sighed. “I like it.”
Skin Gliding Over Skin Michelle Cunningham
24 cunningh a m
The heady fragrance of perfume mingling with sweat warm pineapple sliding onto the tongue, sand blowing against calves Time taken apart, an engine in need of repair. To find the s p a c e between m o m e n t s , the moment of initial contact Leaf crunching under foot, lead waltzing across paper moist lips pressed to the corner of his mouth The satiny touch of a well-used cotton dress, carbonation fizzing in the throat.
mich el l e
Rain soaking through a sweater, the smell of peanut butter melting into toast the arch of her back. The first four beats of a song replayed over and over precariously, in a limbo As if time had a storage box where you could leisurely sift through remnants
We’d fallen asleep watching a movie, woke to the flickering chroma-key blue and cushions knocked onto the floor. I sat up, rubbed my hair smooth. He asked if I was hungry, and I was. I asked for pancakes. “I think that can be arranged.” I got up, and he grabbed my wrist, pulled me down to him and kissed me. We both fit on the couch, my body half pulled over the flat plane of his chest. I pulled away after a minute, whispered, “That didn’t taste like pancakes…” and he just smiled at me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, but it made me nervous; I didn’t know what I was doing. No one had ever kissed me before him. We went upstairs. In the kitchen it was dark, the cabinets sparse. We had to go to the all-night convenience store for Bisquick—he wouldn’t eat the organic buckwheat mix they had in the house. He buttered the scratched silver pan, and we talked. I was raiding the cupboards for chocolate chips. I never found them. Instead, we used M&Ms that stained the batter Red 40 and Yellow 6 and Blue Lakes, 1 and 2. It was late when we finished, and he walked me to my car, parked under the canopy of maples that filled the yard. The leaves shifted from time to time and little pinholes of sky showed through. He wrapped his arms around my back. I had to stand on tiptoe to reach his lips. He pulled me in, all maple sugar and chocolate, and I was not nervous then.
26 tr auger
I shouldn’t have worn these heels. My legs tremble as I climb the steps of the bus. I flex my calves tight. Faded blue seats have been torn open and reveal yellow foam beneath. They are a comfort to my aching feet. A homeless man sits on my left, drinking vodka from a 20 oz bottle of Sprite. The smell burns the inside of my nose like an unexpected nosebleed—when you swear you weren’t picking it or anything. Across the aisle sits James. His hands are folded and his eyes are out the darkened window. Next to him is a woman in red. Her red lips scold the crying baby on her lap. Shut the fuck up, will you? Two men behind me argue in Spanish. I lean back to listen, but I haven’t retained much since high school. Tráfico…tarde…We are late too. The bus jolts to a stop. Vodka spills on my dark green dress. I shouldn’t have worn this dress. That stain will be on the silk forever. Let’s go. James stands, and I groan. I follow him off the bus. He hurries. Streetlights reflect in the rain puddles. I dance around them to stay dry. Headlights and neon signs brighten the city. I shove my hands in my coat pockets. I shouldn’t have left my gloves. At the next corner, “don’t walk” begins to flash. I pause, grateful for the break. James continues. We can make it! I struggle to keep up. His brisk stride has a few inches on mine. I love watching him walk. His confidence. The back of my right heel slips out of my shoe. My right foot is slightly smaller than my left. I collapse on the ground, legs out right in front of me, toes pointed up. I sit in the middle of the intersection, soaked. Are you okay? James helps me to my feet. I try to laugh. He laughs. He holds my hand when we cross the next street. Yes, I’m fine.
i vory tow er
maps and atlases: an interview with katrina vandenberg
k atr ina vandenberg
Katrina Vandenberg is a St. Paul poet and activist whose work has appeared in several journals throughout the United States and internationally. A Fulbright Fellow in the Netherlands from 1999-2000, Vandenberg has written her most-recent work, Atlas, to connect the American working-woman to the Dutch Vermeer, and blood relations in one kitchen near the Mediterranean to the vapor of a grandmother in Michigan. Seamlessly, the poet connects the AIDS virus, hemophilia and the frailty of humanity back to the vigorous compassion felt for fellow human beings in the most strained circumstances. Her interconnected narratives bring the threads that connect us all to the forefront of a global conversation. Ivory Tower: The way you describe several scenes that occur throughout the world never feels disparate or alien—there is always a feeling of “home” within the book, regardless of where the poems take place. How did you manage to make these situations feel so familiar to readers? Did you feel that same way when putting together material for the poems? Katrina Vandenberg: Hmm. I wonder whether that might be because when I write about places, I usually write about them from memory. When I was in the Netherlands, for example, I took lots of notes about living there, but anything creative I wrote was usually about the United States. It took a year or two after I returned to be able to start writing about the Netherlands. I’ve always wished I were different, that I was able to write about things as they are happening, but I’m not. I think I’m more like Hemingway, who sat in the cafés in Paris and wrote stories about Michigan, and said something to the effect of, “Perhaps when I am in Michigan I will be able to write stories about Paris, as in Paris I write stories about Michigan.” And I also wonder whether some of that feeling you get might be because I spend a lot of time in the process, though not initially, thinking about a reader as I write. Lots of my poems spend some time in their creation as letters to a specific editor or reader I know is attentive, someone I deeply trust. When Frank O’Hara said, “A poem exists between two people, not two pages,” I really took it to heart. IT: When you moved to St. Paul, which experience or collective experiences made it become home for you? KV: St. Paul immediately felt like home because the angle of the light, the trees, the lakes and the sky remind me of Michigan, where I grew up. And although my husband didn’t grow up here, everyone else in his family did— his great-great-grandfather became a United States citizen here in 1856, two years after
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28 ivory tower
St. Paul became a city, and ran a grocery store and saloon in downtown St. Paul; we also have a copy of the invitation to his great-grandparents’ wedding in Assumption Church, downtown. Because St. Paul is John’s ancestral home, it also feels, by extension, a bit like mine. We had one perfect moment here a month before we moved, when we came to town to rent an apartment. We had gone swimming at Cedar Lake with friends, and there was a community arts puppet show of “The Ugly Duckling” going on in the water. A flute player and drum player played music to accompany it on shore. It was a clear and sunny day, and everyone was so happy. I remember standing in the water, my long skirt tied up around my thighs, thinking, What a city, puppet shows just appear here at public lakes. IT: Were the winters in Minnesota ever a deterrent in moving here? Were there other deterrents? KV: This is really the first winter when I’ve questioned what I was doing here. I usually get sick of it by late February, but the growing amount of light in the mornings and the sound of the birds singing tell me to hang in there. And when spring breaks, I know we will all be euphoric. The Twin Cities is one of the few places I’ve ever lived where I’ve never felt anything but glad every day that I’m here, and never feel the urge to leave. I felt the same way about Paris and New England, but we’re very happy here. IT: How do you view the literary scene in the Twin Cities? Do you feel like it instigates creative growth in its relatively small city setting? KV: I’ve never been part of a literary scene anywhere else, except maybe for a couple of college towns, so it’s hard for me to know how it would compare to, say, New York’s—but we’ve been surprised by how welcoming and generous the Twin Cities’ literary community is. It always feels as if there’s room to start one more reading series or press. The generosity of local philanthropies like the McKnight and Bush Foundations makes a big difference, too. IT: You’re an inspiring AIDS activist whose passion for the individuals affected by this disease is incredibly powerful in Atlas, your newest work. “On the Fate of the Tulip Sultan” is particularly shattering to read. What was your process in linking the Netherland tulip trade to the AIDS epidemic in the United States? KV: When I was able to make that connection, I knew I had found the metaphor that would make the whole collection hang together as a book, not just a group of poems. It came late in the process. I had been reading a history of the tulip trade by journalist Mike Dash called Tulipomania, and when I read the phrase “mosaic virus” I just knew. The seventeenth-century Dutch didn’t actually know the tulips they preferred
i vory tow er k atr ina vandenberg
were infected with this virus, by the way, but must have at some level: they called this kind of tulip a “broken” tulip and tried to ensure that other bulbs were also “broken” by cutting them in half and tying them to the bulbs of tulips they knew to be infected. At any rate, once the metaphor came, the rest of the book was written quickly. This wasn’t the book I set out to write. I had wanted to write a book about the women in Vermeer’s paintings, in part because I had had enough of grief and illness. I don’t remember now whether it was conscious, but I think I applied for my Fulbright to the Netherlands because I thought that forcing myself to write about something four centuries and an ocean away would make me feel better. But when I got there, I didn’t write very good Vermeer poems, and I was captivated by the bicycle and flower cultures—the flowers are basically a waste product to bulb producers, and at outdoor markets just blocks from your house, twice a week, you could get big bouquets of fresh tulips for $3—and I loved being able to bicycle past the tulip fields. When I got back to the United States, I found myself thinking about those experiences a lot, because they were ones I had not just with my mind, but with my body. IT: Though there is a focus on the strain felt in romantic relationships between AIDS-afflicted persons and their partners in Atlas, another thread that seems to connect these poems is the constant tension in letting oneself become devoted to another; it is just as scary to be contaminated by love itself as it is to physically come in contact with someone with a serious illness. Have you had an experience where that tension was as salient as trying to avoid contamination? KV: The situation with Tim’s [a former partner] illness turned out to be more complicated than simply being in love with someone who was eventually going to get sick and die. We were connected to a big community of men who were all infected at the same time, and everyone started dying at once. Or their wives would die—a lot of men had unknowingly infected their wives before the men knew they were infected themselves, and their guilt, and grief, was terrible. One night Tim and I made a list at the kitchen table of all the friends we’d lost (described in “Fate of the Tulip Sultan”) and the list just kept getting longer and longer. Tim’s older brother, Greg, had hemophilia and HIV as well, and died seven months after Tim did. Halfway between their deaths, their mother was diagnosed with leukemia; she died three years after her sons did. I had been very close to their family, which had been kind of big by today’s standards, two sons and two daughters, and to watch half of it disappear in three years was devastating. Avoiding infection with a fragile virus like HIV is relatively easy if you’re very careful and responsible. Dealing with long-term illnesses and grief is much more difficult.
k a t r i n a va n d e n b e r g
IT: The use of flowers in Atlas seems to bridge the generational gaps felt in a double-edged, bittersweet sense. In “I Meet My Grandmother in Italy” there is an opportunity for you to meet your grandmother, and soon after your grandmother hands off the flowers, she passes away. The action of passing the flowers also seems to be an omen of sorts; is it hard to have a tangible representation of a relationship, especially one that is so short-lived. Have you had an experience where you’ve kept the materiality of a relationship successfully? KV: “I Meet My Grandmother in Italy” is based on a dream I had about my own grandmother the night before she died, which I report in the poem almost exactly as the dream unfurled. I was living in Arkansas for graduate school; she was in Michigan. When I half-woke from the dream, for a moment, I thought she was sitting on the side of my bed, stroking my hair. She hadn’t been sick, but when I found out the next day that she had died, I wasn’t surprised. I don’t know whether I’ve kept the materiality of any relationship successfully, except maybe through writing. Maybe that’s one reason people write: to try to hang on to things.
30 ivory tower
“I want to take a photo of the Mississippi from this bridge, every day, for a year,” he mused, his cigarette-smoke voice humming along with the breeze as it rippled through his blonde, wirey hair. My eyes traced his delicate face, then his stringy, veined arms all the way down to his dirty fingernails, which clutched the side of the bridge we sat on. He turned and smiled at me, his crystal eyes piercing the sun. I smiled softly. This was Jon. I found him in the arcade fixing Ms. Pac-Man, who would break every day, and writing poetry on the back of unwanted receipts. He was one of those extraordinary people whom no one could wrap their mind around. At one time—at this time— I thought I could. He took my hand, holding it lightly as he sifted through all the charms on my bracelet. “This one is my favorite,” he said, separating the sad-eyed donkey from the rest. I smiled at him, a sad smile. “I wrote a story about a girl who kept a charm bracelet, with a charm for every place she’d been in life,” he smiled. “A souvenir, for every person she met, every museum she walked through, every hand she held and every hand that held hers.” I’d be crazy not to smile at that. Jon was talking about me. Souvenirs: you can carry those with you forever. The sad-eyed donkey was from a road trip to South Dakota when I was ten. The donkeys came right up to the car with their round, black eyes, pleading, so I rolled down the window to pet their scruffy manes and fed them some trail mix. I looked at my friend sitting next to me now and wondered what souvenir I would have for him. With Jon, I’d never want to forget his pretty-boy mullet or his indescribable eyes, like icicles or the night sky. But I didn’t need to worry about
that, because he was here and my charm bracelet was designated for memories. I need to keep all my memories strung around my wrist, because the things that you really want to hold on to will always escape you, and those things that you want to forget, those will stick with you forever. We decided to walk to the little drugstore a few blocks away to get drinks and escape the July sun. Jon and I sat there, me with my lime phosphate and him with his Coke…. Jon was always drinking Coca-Cola out of that slender bottle with the red label twisting around. It’s hard to picture Jon without that bottle in his pale skeleton hand. We sat on the red vinyl stools at the drugstore counter, and Jon told me about how he went rock climbing that weekend. He told me about his three dogs and growing up in the South. He told me about road trips to New Mexico and North Carolina and wherever his little truck could get him. I just listened and asked questions, feeling lucky to know this boy who was so genuine and full of heart. When I was ten, I used to go to the arcade and play video games almost every day. A few months ago I walked by that same arcade, looked in and saw that they still had Dig Dug, Galaxian and even Ms. Pac-Man. I went inside and played them again, using all my spare change. It brought me back to the days when I had blunt bangs and my sister babysat me after school, letting me eat popcorn and watch Scooby-Doo. I started going back to the arcade every day, and every day, there was Jon, drinking his Coke and wearing his sunglasses, a cigarette resting between his slim fingers. Jon had come up here on a whim, liking the sound of the Great North. He was just a kid, like me. A dropout who had spent his life working odd jobs, living with friends, family and whomever else he found along the road. When I’d stop by the arcade after class or after work, we would talk about getting tan in the sun, the state fair in August or wearing long underwear in the winter. Jon was the type of person who could talk about anything and always sound like he’d given it a great deal of thought. One day, I asked to try on his sunglasses, so he took them off and handed them to me with that warm sugar smile of his. But hiding beneath those shades was a bruise, big and blue, circling his eye. I didn’t mention anything, and every time that I’d go by the arcade after that, I’d notice some new mark on him. Every week something new, but I never asked him about it. Once, I asked him why he wore sunglasses inside, and he just said that he was tired of people asking about the marks. So I left it at that, not wanting to be one of those people. I wanted to help him, but I didn’t understand…. Who could ever hurt such a lovely boy? And then one day, Jon was gone. I asked a different employee at the arcade about him and was told, “He’s not here anymore.” When I asked where he went and how I could contact him, they just told me that I couldn’t—he was gone.
I went home and put on my Janis Joplin record, letting her cigar-smoke, summerheat croon saturate the air. I sat on the sticky July kitchen floor, and I thought about all of my souvenirs. Put them in your pockets until no more can fit and they’re spilling out wherever you walk. Chain them around your wrist so they’ll never be free, just jangling there by little hooks. But eventually, you can’t enchain anymore around your limbs, and you can’t shove anymore in the pockets of your jeans. You have to let some go. Unhook each little token and bury them in the dirt. Maybe I will have to forget Jon’s silly mullet and skinny arms, or his rhinestone eyes and the smoke slipping from his lips. But I don’t want to forget anything about him. I changed my route so I don’t have to walk by that dingy arcade anymore, with the quarter-eating machines and the suicidal Ms. Pac-Man. I don’t need another reminder that people never hang around, that people are always slipping in and out. Today, as I walked across the bridge, I looked down at the dark, muddy Mississippi. I sat down on the edge of the bridge again, and I started examining my bracelet and each little souvenir one more time, remembering the South Dakota burros; the dry mud pueblos of New Mexico; the sticky seats of the Small World ride in Disney World; crying at the Vietnam War Memorial; my short-lived foray into ballet dancing; baking cupcakes with my grandmother in her stuffy apartment; my big sister, who was always there for me, six feet under; the little almond mouse named Henry whom I had for a year. I closed my eyes and held on to all of these, trying not to forget. I opened them and saw the hungry river below. I slipped the bracelet off my wrist and let it fall into the river. She swallowed it whole and roared for more, but that was all I had left to give.
Egyptian Love Song Chloe Ahlf My fingers flutter, like lightning bugs on a trapeze My mossy eyes open and crystallize like a constellation, sparkling into the east My black scarab heart, hard shell shining like moonlight, waxing and waning My lips tickle, wings dusting past them and flying Into the night perching upon those constellations holding up the moon
The Pieces of a Happy Man
“I am a happy man,” he tells me with a genuine grin and looks down. I laugh at the simplicity of his answer. It has been a long day, and his cheeriness catches me offguard. What a definition of one’s life: a “happy man.” My eyes scan the list of names I have interviewed today and find the man with whom I sit. Simon Fojas. “How long have you lived in Buckland?” “Never. I have lived my whole life up by Eagle River.” I make a note. The interview passes quickly, and I end early, deciding I have enough information for today. Simon holds the door for me as I pack up my laptop and tie my second scarf a little tighter. I am not made for this climate. We don’t speak much as we descend the industrial, metal stairs to the back parking lot. The light dusting has turned the gravel road into a seamless sheet of powder. I slosh over to my car. The illuminated Arctic Insulation and Manufacturing sign casts a rounded shadow of the snow drift that used to be my rent-a-car. I kick it. Damn snow. “Stuck?” a voice calls from the gate. “I think so,” I call back. “Why don’t you come grab a beer and warm up?” I sigh. Why not? The snow sticks to my thin professional pants and seeps into my socks. Simon takes me down the corner to a quaint-looking establishment called Moose Tracks. The windows are covered in a welcoming layer of condensation, and the sign in front casts a misty yellow light on the track-covered snow. Wood panels cover the exterior; a gush of warmth passes over my face as we step through the paintcracked door. My shoes squeak and slip on the black rubber mat in the noisy bar. I hold back, waiting for Simon to make a move. I have never been to a bar like this. I feel like an intruder in its booming laughs, clinking of toasts and rumble of some game on the television behind the bar. Simon peels off his bandana and uses it like a napkin to wipe the drips of now melting snow from his mustache. He runs one of his hands through his long hair and replaces his bandana across his forehead. A few stomps of his work boots and he shrugs off his thick Carhartt jacket, placing it atop a mountain of already drying coats hanging on a rack. I now see his cut-off T-shirt depicting a faded NASCAR logo. He crosses the room and seats himself at the bar holding up two fingers to the bartender. The beer is generic and warm, but still, I am satisfied. “Simon?” I say. “Hmm?” An outline of foam clings to his mustache. “Why are you a happy man?” I am genuinely curious. I don’t see any way to be a
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happy man in this horrid climate, laborious occupation and with his quiet demeanor. He considers me for a second and takes another long gulp of beer. A man whose patch name tag says Sal raises his hand in salute to Simon. He returns a three-fingered acknowledgment, mug still in hand. The nonchalant gesture brings me back to Global Markets 1021. The unspoken seating assignments in the lecture hall would guide me to the second row. Danny and Andrew greeted me each lecture with a high five and joke from the previous weekend’s drinking. The emails were treated as instant messages at first, but now it has been three months without response. My hand twitches on the bar counter. “I have a wife.” He laughs as he accepts the cliché. With the sound of his laugh, the curly red-headed bartender gives him an affectionate look. Simon is a mystery. His joy is subtly contagious; yet he works sixty-hour weeks, takes the bus in from an isolated town forty minutes away and sits alone in a bar while he waits for the 9 pm shuttle. I stare at the tilted foam as I finish my beer. I bunch my shoulders into my scarf as I wander outside. The red-headed bartender gave me directions to a small motel just up the road. My shoes softly smother the snow in my path. I haven’t seen snow since college. That was a long time ago, when ideas seemed endless and the only problem in the world was the lack of time to try them all. Now, all the snow tells me is that I’m cold (maybe I should stop for another drink), and makes me wonder how I ended up here, when just a few years ago I was ready to start a revolution. The next morning I return to Moose Tracks on my way to pick up my car. The soggy snow of last night has turned crunchy in the frigid morning. Dust twirls in the slice of sunshine that slides in the room as I open the door. I approach the red-headed bartender. She sports a flannel shirt. A thin silver chain adorns her neck. “Good morning,” I sit down on a stool. “What can I get for you?” she asks. “Coffee please. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about Simon Fojas?” “Is he in some kind of trouble?” she says. I laugh. “No, nothing like that. I’m writing a book. It is looking at the psychological differences between blue collar and…” I stop, realizing this is not my true motive. “He helped me out last night and I want to understand how a guy like him has everything figured out.” My last statement startles me. I hadn’t quite realized the real reason behind my curiosity. “In that case, do I have a story for you.” She puts down the grimy rag and leans on her elbows to look me in the eye. “I’ve owned this bar for a while now, so I have known Simon for a while now too,” she laughs. “Anyway, one night in early December, a few years ago, Simon came into
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the bar as usual before catching the bus home. He knew all the regulars, and some hockey game was on TV. The odd thing about that night was this beautiful little Chinese or Japanese or something girl sitting alone right over there.” She motions to a stool at the corner of the bar by the back wall and restrooms. “I don’t ask questions, but she arrived sometime around four and was still sitting there with a full glass of water in front of her when Simon came in around nine.” “She didn’t speak a word of English, so I just gave her a glass of water. I will never forget that sad look on her face. She didn’t attract much attention, but Simon noticed her. After a beer or two, he went over to talk to her. He sat next to her and asked her something. She just sort of looked up at him with sad eyes, and I think he fell for her right away. Something changed in him that night. He stayed until we were about to close without saying a word to the poor girl. He didn’t move from that stool though. He stayed there with her.” I take a sip of coffee. Simon, with his long hair and mustache falls for a strange, foreign girl in a bar? A girl who doesn’t speak a word of English? “Then what?” “Well, sometime later they got married, and they live up by Eagle River,” she laughs fondly. “They come by every week or two for dinner or to watch the game.” “How long ago was this?” “Well, the wedding must have been about four years ago, so four years ago.” A woman? No. I’ve tried women before. I once fell for a girl in a bar. Her name was Elizabeth. She had straight brown hair and perfect teeth, loved dogs, wanted a family and, best of all, loved me. One night, or, I guess several nights, I got too drunk and too friendly with other girls at the club. She’s married now and has the life she always dreamed of. And here I am. I cup my hands around the hot mug and gaze, without watching, at the muted game on TV. Later, I wander back to my car parked behind Arctic Insulation and Manufacturing. The door is frozen shut. I can’t even budge the handle. Great. I shove my hands in my pockets and start to walk. After a few blocks, I find a rusty mechanic shop. A small square sign that reads “Since 1958” creaks below “Jim and Sons Machine Shop.” I step into the garage and see one of the regulars from Moose Tracks. “The name’s Sal. How can I help you?” “My car is frozen down the street, in Arctic Manufacturing’s lot.” “Right. I’ll send one of the boys down if you want to wait here.” “Thanks.” “Are you in town visiting Simon?” At my questioning look, he adds, “I saw you two at the bar last night.”
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“Oh, no, I met him yesterday and didn’t want to dig out my car in the dark so he invited me for a drink. Do you know him well?” “Simon? God, I watched the poor kid grow up.” He looks down at his grease covered hands. “Poor kid?” “Yeah, his parents left when he was young. Mom couldn’t stick around this small town anymore. Suffocated or bored or something like that. Dad couldn’t look at Simon without a beer in hand. Sad, sad thing. His grandparents took him in until Arctic hired him on, but it’s not the same, you know? Simon was bright, but the loneliness tortured him. The whole town was worried. Then his grandparents died and he was left without anyone. Alone for years and years up in his old house by Eagle River,” he pointed in a northern direction. “Never left or moved closer to the factory, started drinking when Moose Tracks started serving and dug himself a real hole. Almost cost him his job, but we all saw his struggle. Damn shame.” He gives his head a shake and grabs a rag. I’m shocked. This is such a different side to the picture of Simon in my head. Sal continues, “Nobody’d know it now though. Snapped out of it. Got his life back on track. Fixed up the house a few years ago and is friendly with everyone.” Sal gives my hand a firm shake and goes back to his work. My parents divorced when I went into high school. I have to borrow money from my father to pay rent every month. I am not tan or muscular, and I pushed the only woman I ever cared for away. I have had my share of unhappy times. Where’s my share of the good stuff? I could use a drink. The boys bring news of my car, and I pay and leave. On my way back to the hotel, I pull into a convenience store to stock up on a few essentials in case of, God forbid, a snow storm. I roam through the aisles grabbing a pack of beef jerky, hand warmers, and a box of Pop-Tarts. “Did you find everything okay?” the cashier asks me. His name tag says Bobby, Owner and Founder of Grizzly Bear Convenience. “Yes. Thank you. It looks like another cold one.” I reach for my wallet. He laughs. “Where you from? The Bahamas? $13.50.” I laugh too. Point taken. “Do you know Simon Fojas?” “Simon? Course. Sold him a case of beer each week since he was of age. Why do you ask?” “I met him last night and I’m curious, have you ever met his wife?” I know I am stepping over boundaries, but I also know small towns talk.
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“I went to the wedding, if that counts. She didn’t speak a lick of English though. Sort of nodded her ‘I do,’” He laughs through a smoker’s wheeze. “I remember when she first came around. It was only a matter of days until Simon invited her into his home. I don’t think she had anywhere to stay. She seemed to drop out of nowhere, mind you. No family or friends in town. Not even a name we could get out of her. Anyway, Simon took her in. A few days later, he came in and asked if I had any tea. Green tea.” His eyes grew big, as if Simon had asked for a monkey or poison, or to dance. “I asked him what he was smoking, and he laughed with this big stupid smile on his face. That may have been the first time I ever saw an expression like that on his face. I laughed with him. For the first time since I met him, he seemed happy. I told him what the hell, I would order some next time I was ordering. He smiled again, waved on his way out like a happy fool.” Bobby leans against the counter with his thumb and finger on his chin. Another piece of the painting is revealed. I thank Bobby and return to my car. Simon, the happy fool. The next few days pass without event. I run into Simon during lunch and the occasional break. I keep a close eye on him. I relate to him and feel like if the conditions had been right, I could have turned out to be him. However, something is missing for me. Something that he understands that I can’t. Every laugh that booms from his mouth, every hint of a smile, I watch and try to decipher the motive. The snow is falling in globs on my way home that night. I bend over to pick up my fallen glove before it is buried in the encroaching drifts and catch a glimpse of a gaunt figure in the reflection of the convenience store window. He hasn’t shaved recently, has dark circles under his eyes and may or may not have just crawled out of a cave. I step closer to the window and watch my reflection disappear in the advertisement painted on the panes. The silence of the falling snow feels heavy. I place my palm on the icy glass. What have I become? My hand tremors and I feel the searing release of tears from my eyes. Four years ago, Simon met his wife. Four years ago I was a business major with a girlfriend. Four years ago, I had the world at my fingertips. Now look at me. I am blubbering on a street corner. I am on my knees and my back heaves in great sobs. It isn’t Simon who has nothing going for him. Hell, I would trade anything to be here working a dead-end job, cold and always craving a drink if it meant I would feel something. At least something more than regret and far away dreams of someone else’s life. “Will?” A familiar bandana defies the blankness of the flakes that swirl around us. “Hey Simon.” I am still on my hands and knees, but I don’t care.
The bandana moves closer and bends over beside me. He picks something up and brushes some snow off of it. “Is this your glove?” He hands it to me. I get up and rake my jacket sleeve under my running nose. “Yeah. Thanks.” “Want to go for a drink?” Yes, I do. I put on my cold glove and we walk down the white street toward a new beginning. On that corner, something changed between me and Simon. I get the feeling that I am not the only one who broke down on that corner. I am not the only one who needed a friend to pick him up. Somewhere along the path of our tracks in the snow lie the pieces of a new man scattered among the shards of men broken with no one to put them back together.
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The Ungrateful Father Chris Bomba
Inspired by “The Ungrateful Son” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
My son is a toad on my face. His shoulder blade dented the drywall when I scolded before school. He was tired reading literature until six AM I said, “You are weak,” with coffee on my breath. When I inhaled, his frail body wrapped around my face and started sucking life. My computer screen is obscured by his ribs. I bought a bigger monitor and trifocals to compensate. I wanted my son to engineer fresh software like me. If he wakes during the day, my face gets torn. Other men my age shy away from his bones, so I am doomed to feed him every day or else he feeds on me.
So mew here These Words Are Swim ming Tracy Schultz
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tr ac y
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Username: jsamson Password: apricots4324
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Somewhere these words are swimming in the head of a man Silent, dismissed to another room. Wife at the microwave, TV murmuring, he waits for dinner. He frowns at the blinking, the bleating black cursor and remembers he has already forgotten the password. Struggling letters current through dendrite to dendrite to dendrite, gasping— not to be saved, but to be blessed with the privilege of recognition. His pads work at the plastic.
What was it…. Apples4324 Dad called me Apples because that most hated protrusion stuck out like a cancer. He loved to joke around after a few beers. I despised him and his potato fingers and his radish nose and his rancid cabbage breath. His kindness unharvested, and a stench of plain meanness emanating, a cackle echoed his ambivalence. “Apples, hey Apples!” His rot reached my vegetation. And in my throat unexplored, it withered. Apples4324
s c h u lt z
Username: jsamson Password: apiary4324
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m o m an d dad an d m o m an d dad Megan Sharp
everyone is seeping wastes and children inventions on spring stuffed mattresses between threaded cotton quilts blood and youâ€™re born again and again and again.
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my parents are weathered breaking bodies making babies my parents are smiles on faces in photograph fragments fractured figures and skin soggy weak skin soft and soft soft soft leather cheeks my parents are burst seams
An Apology Letter’s Chicken Scratch
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It’s rare for you to explain. though today, somewhere outside the Illinois Stateline you begin to articulate how pills came about despite being delayed by cheek-puffing diction that usually keeps the world off your ass and life simple—even if Mom tickles your back before bedtime, even if i bug you about a seatbelt slid beneath your scrawny arm a hundred miles back. you articulate a smokescreen of jargon, a doctor’s office argument, insisting a breakdown in communication—labeling your failing grade a cry for help—which is probably the point discussion ceased. regardless, of any deal or any promise a report card broke your bargain. relinquished you to prescription. regardless, high school is tough. tough as avoiding the term Medicated, admitting pills help you FOIL & Soh-Cah-Toa. but not nearly tough as learning your smile wears off when pills wear off. learning to lie awake immune to caress on school nights impervious to a nameless hum Mom’s voice-box pooled around you. a lullaby that seems to—yet never does sound familiar.
a lullaby i heard in the backseat while a seizure unstoppable careened us through traffic delivering you, a bundle of pandemonium to the hospital. the lullaby Mom arranged to keep from bawling as a doctor tapped your lumbar, found an opaque bath of bacteria bathing your brain. buying four intensive days of finger-glowing care. two popsicle-weeks on a medical floor—weeks spent hovering at your crib—years Mom watched you throw fit after fit. she’ll smash mosquitoes the rest of her life
a doctor told us you’d be blind or deaf incapable as a text-book is to complain. Now, hearing you complain from the passenger seat picturing you at breakfast, waiting for a smile to metabolize seems so backwards it leaves my smile stiff as a cadaver. but i remind myself why we have interstate—this is why we have passenger seats. we all need to complain. you know more than anyone we all need a getaway. that’s why we have Brothers who may not but still try to relate. who treat a brother like a Brother, insist you wear a seatbelt the right way—
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We ate our impatience like take-out. We had to. You kept hearing even if you couldn’t listen.
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same way you smashed napkins in your ears to escape the silverware-jabber of every restaurant we fled.
do your homework—Stand Up for Yourself—Brothers ready to dry the dishes of your punishment if you do. proud a bully’s black eyes, an apology letter’s chicken-scratch baffled your physical therapist—Brothers who know you who knew you were too young to end a sentence with such authentic exhaustion, with a question mark
aching and arthritic for proof as the question mark asking if you’ll amount to more than a side effect.
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Brothers. aware you came close to dying of something more deadly than embarrassment. So they know your limit continue to ridicule everything—except of course Mom helping her baby boy get some sleep.
In the War Emma Nelson
You somehow neglected to tell me about your uncle. The way his ears stuck out strangely from his head, the way his jeans were vaguely too tight and stretched uncomfortably when he sat in the corner, legs splayed. His foreign name, which I forgot as soon as I shook his hand, caught up as I was in the way he squeezed my fingers and looked hard into my eyes. I had heard all about your grandmother and had been given a collection of images: her seventeen-year-old body on the floor of a barn, the hooves of horses inches from her head and the sounds of Russian fire in the distance. Her husband, the dancer, wearing white tights and holding the waists of tiny Latvian girls. “My husband was much older than me,” she began, her words enveloped in an accent that tasted like smoke. “And he drank, but people did not worry about those things then. If he was with friends, socially, you know.” “He didn’t drink alone,” I offered. She ignored me. “Johnny doesn’t drink. Not like kids these days.” “I don’t either.” She glanced at me, as though surprised by my voice. “He is a good boy, Johnny. So smart.” Your uncle came up behind her, a glass of white wine in his hand, crackling with ice. She said, without turning, “My dear, I cannot talk to you now. I hardly ever get to see my grandson. You understand?” He nodded slowly, then placed the glass on the table before her and went to a chair in the corner. You came into the room then, and sat beside me, leaning forward with your elbows resting on your knees. I found your foot beneath the table, and ran my bare toes over it. “My darling, tell me what you’ve been doing,” your grandmother said, leaning forward like you, her eyes sparkling. “Yeah,” you said. “I don’t know.” As you spoke, I glanced off into the corner, at your uncle staring into the carpet. He moved only to take an occasional breath, quite deeply, as though coming to the surface before diving to the bottom once again.
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“And I realized that we totally fucked Afghanistan over,” you were saying, your grandmother nodding emphatically. “As far as I’m concerned, Obama is Bush all over again. I mean, Bush and Cheney were evil fucks, but Obama’s a fucking fascist.” She had a way of furrowing her eyebrows just so, nodding in all the right places. Your parents were in the kitchen, moving methodically, pretending not to hear you. I realized that your foot had moved on top of mine, and was pressing down, grinding my toes into the floor. I tried to pull away, but you held fast. When we sat down to eat, you opposite your father, your grandmother at your left hand and I at your right, your mother said, “Well, John doesn’t want us to sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ but let’s all take a minute to be happy that he’s here.” I looked at you, slouched in your chair, your eyes dark. You smiled slightly, and I reached under the table to put my hand on your knee. Our eyes met briefly, and then we all smiled at each other and passed the food around. Your sister heaped chicken onto her plate, chicken that you refused. Her gentle giant of a boyfriend sipped Coke and spoke to her quietly. “Am I going to have to do the dishes by myself?” she asked loudly. “John never helps, he’s always like, ‘I want to talk to Grandma.’ ” “Well, it’s his birthday,” your father said, smiling at you. She rolled her eyes, and you sulkily started in on your rice and salad. Your parents bought a pie for you, which you didn’t want. “Well, I’ll eat it,” your sister said and began to cut it with a butter knife. We all watched as she leaned halfway across the table to fight with it, turning the knife on its side to try and scoop out the slice. Suddenly, your uncle, sitting next to me with his fists clenched in his lap, opened his mouth for the first time and said through gritted teeth “You have to use a pie server.” He stormed into the kitchen and returned with a plastic spatula. By then, your sister had already finished and was gulping down decimated forkfuls. No one else wanted any. “No one?” your father asked quietly. “I’ll have some,” I said, and he cut a slice for me and scooped it out with the spatula. “That’s way too big,” your mother said. “Does she look like she eats that much?” “It’s fine,” I said, reddening. “I can eat it, trust me.” “John, how much does she eat?” “I don’t know,” you snapped. “Enough to sustain life.” “In the war, we didn’t have food,” your grandmother reminded me solemnly. “Do you want ice cream?” your father asked me, standing behind my chair. “The pie is fine, thanks.” “Just have some.” He was already scooping it, about to set it on my plate.
“No, really, I’m fine.” “It’s really good…” “I’m fine, I promise.” “Are you sure?” “She doesn’t want any!” your mother shouted, and everyone went quiet. He was shocked. “Why is everyone so upset?” He returned to his seat, the Breyer’s container still in hand, and offered, jokingly, “Are you sure? It’s lactose-free!” “Jesus Christ!” you yelled, sitting up suddenly. “She said no!” I looked at you, then at your father. You would tell me later, as I pressed myself to you in the dark, that your father had begun to cry as the two of you stood in the kitchen. “Well, John,” he had said, “It’s been a good run.”
Sam bo’s To wn
Nicholas Clark I always wanted a child who would stutter. Never one that could. Or a daughter, born uglier than her mother’s grandmother. One that never grew out of it. I wanted a child with no soul. I would crown them a prince of a small town. A small town Where All Are Nothing. Nothing is something. I would build their throne on the dead-children’s bones.
People would ask why,
Of Great-Grandma, Great-Grandpa, and them boys.
I would always say:
why they ever got the chance.
That’s it. Chance. They were born to a boy named Sambo because he was dark, black! Born with the name tattooed on his bare back. Chance. And they had had a Father, who wanted to make it right, right for them on the land that that was due to their I always thought they had… filthy, white skin.
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52 kr iesch
Squash and Sugar Miranda Kriesch I cook squash with my grandma as she tells me that she used to eat it all the time in Puerto Rico when she was a little girl. I sprinkle brown sugar over my squash as my grandma tells me how she would get off her horse to pick a piece of sugar cane on the way home from school. She loved the taste when she licked it; she refuses to eat sugar now. I tell her she should eat some squash, but she says sheâ€™s full from four grapes. I remember when she used to be round like a marshmallow, telling me stories about when she was little. How she would climb trees to sit there eating fruit all day. How her favorite sound in the world was the pitter-patter of the raindrops on her little tin-roof house, as we listen to the rain, sitting on her porch. I would always sit on her lap as she told me her stories, her belly my soft pillow. I was her little angel then. We sit in silence. I eat my squash. I see her eyes longing for home.
Contributors Evan Abrahamson was born in Brainerd, Minnesota in 1984. His mother is an artist, who was instrumental in providing him an early introduction to art. His father served in the military, allowing the family to travel extensively. A former student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Evan enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 2006, where he continues his study of the philosophy of art, as well as sociology. Evan constructs visual allegories about the nature and significance of perception. Manipulating the mores of figurative painting, he creates corollaries for occasionally arcane philosophical and historical concepts. His subject matter expanded to include figures from philosophical, political and art history. As an inspiration for painting, he searches for ways to present tensions, conflicts, oppositions and parallax. His work seeks to typify the complexity of our epoch, when certainty appears more equivocal. Rania Abuisnaineh could be classified as a Palestinian American, a Muslim with voice, or a(n unofficial) writer of no specific genre. She is proud member of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Raniaâ€™s hobbies include writing poetry, Islamic articles and twelve-page papers moments before theyâ€™re due. Although typically content, she is easily irritated by squiggly red lines that blemish her name as it is typed. Thanks Microsoft, she says, for not recognizing her name. John Allen, a senior BFA student, is originally from Neenah, Wisconsin. His work explores a variety of ideas, but this particular piece takes on the project of remapping his home town into a place that not even he understands. He is interested in taking something that is comfortable and making it confusing and unknown. Chloe Ahlf is just a Minnesotan girl with a bad case of bed head, who was raised by former hippies with high tastes for Motown & lefse. She writes love songs on French tests, stays up all night watching Fred Astaire movies and enjoys holding hands. She likes chocolate-covered gummy bears and hot chocolate in the mornings. She keeps her horoscope in her pocket and sometimes pretends sheâ€™s in a Listerine commercial when she uses mouthwash.
Amanda Anderson is a senior this year and an individualized studies major with concentrations in design, mass communication and retail merchandising, with a minor in Danish. Her hobbies include photography, painting, baking, going out for coffee and knitting. She describes herself as a cat enthusiast with a not-so-secret nerdy side. Michael Barthman is a junior in the English department, focusing on creative writing and pre-medicine studies. His background includes years of experience working in restaurants and emergency departments, being a big brother, a little brother times two, an uncle times four, clinic coordinating in Haiti and his mother loving him far too much. Poetry is his genre of choice. Chris Bomba is a transfer student from the Chicago suburbs. He’s an English major. This is the third time Mark Brenden’s work has appeared in the Ivory Tower. His writing, like everything else in his life, is influenced by his South Dakota upbringing, the sport of basketball, his family, whiskey and country music. Nicholas Clark is the writer/director of two local Minnesota Fringe Festival Productions, The Failed Voyage of the Failed Ororo (2010) and Mutant Squad! (2009). He is currently a PSEO student from the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists. Emma Cook was homeschooled growing up. She didn’t then, nor will she ever, wear candy-cane turtlenecks. Michelle Cunningham says she just wants to get away and travel the world into exotic environments—with brash smiles, gestured communication and sore feet. To places with cheap wine and deep secrets. Until the awaited adventure comes you can find her hunched over a nursing book in the library biding her time.
Kati Mae Duesler has been studying art at the University of Minnesota for the past four years. Themes of the past, present and future are conveyed in her work along with the ideas of impermanence and fragility. She views art as a way to instill tranquility in herself and others. Emily Hadfield is a senior, graduating with a BFA degree this spring. Her art focuses primarily on painting and sculpture. These submissions are based off her travels from a recent study abroad trip to France. She is interested in place, especially architecture, and the place it holds in the past, present and future in relationship to the people and events that have existed. Matthew Klas thinks it’s a bit early in life to have a bio. Miranda Kriesch is a junior with a major in Spanish and a minor in English. She is recently married. Sarah Mann is 21 years old, which makes her an adult in theory, though not necessarily in practice. She spends most of her time finding feathers on horseback and has approximately 3.5 friends, not counting a manic Airedale Terrier and every hawk in the state. She has been recently described as “brassy” and is pretty okay with that adjective. Kestutis Micke is a sophomore majoring in genetics and English. He is especially fond of water and plays water polo for the University of Minnesota. In his free time, he goes swimming, wishing for gills and webbed feet. Taylor Millikan is from Mendota Heights, Minnesota. She loves to read, watch movies, nap and play the piano. She is majoring in microbiology and plans to go to medical school, but she also enjoys writing, especially fiction. Emma Nelson is not a fashion designer, astronaut, professor or diplomat. These are all things that she once considered being, but then she realized that, at the end of the day, she just wanted to write. Besides writing, she is also very passionate about music, foreign languages (she speaks Spanish and a little Arabic) and women’s issues.
Last semester, she helped to run the Sheila Wellstone Institute, a non-profit organization that organizes trainings for women and men affected by gender violence. When she grows up, she would like to be Nicole Krauss. Courtney Schauer may have problems with coordination and balance but also thinks life is more interesting sans-equilibrium. Tracy Schultz is a junior studying English and psychology. She enjoys cooking, poorly covering David Bowie songs on the guitar and sighting large dogs throughout the city. After graduation she aspires to be employed and hopes to be reincarnated as Kurt Vonnegutâ€™s ashtray. In her spare time, Megan Sharp gingerly trains her beloved PokĂŠmon in various wild fields and forests. She likes to collect tons of berries to use in her delicious poffin recipe. Her Oddish just loves to eat her treats! Taylor Trauger is pleased she no longer submits Harry Potter stories to FanFiction.net and has moved on to Ivory Tower. She is a sophomore majoring in English and French, a reader, writer, alphabetizer, a lover of pomegranates, NBC Thursday and rolling ball pens. She is still an avid supporter of Ron and Hermione. Marissa B. Torres-Bertram is a first semester senior who built her own individualized studies degree in film production, incorporating the areas of English (specific focus on creative writing) and studio art. Born and raised in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Marissa is an only child, aside from a very spoiled yellow lab, and comes from a very loving and supportive family. Marissa hopes that, in blending her interests and talents together in a profession, she will showcase social issues through different forms of art, primarily film. Sarah Winkler is a sophomore graphic design student whose aspiration is to someday become an animator for Disney. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, talking to her crazy parakeet, making bracelets and baking cookies.
is proud to support the
along with the talented authors and artists here at the University of Minnesota that contribute their time and work!
AMANDA ANDERSON Reflecting
AMANDA ANDERSON Reflecting email@example.com
EMILY HADFIELD Arles, France Oil on Canvas; Fall 2010 firstname.lastname@example.org
EMMA COOK Study of Three Sisters
EMMA COOK Study of Three Sisters Oil and Enamel on Panel; 22x30 in; Summer 2009 www.underbellywomen.wordpress.com
EVAN ABRAHAMSON Building to the Rank of Central Value
EVAN ABRAHAMSON Building to the Rank of Central Value Monochromatic Oil Painting; 72x108 in; 2010 email@example.com
JOHN ALLEN No Man’s Land
JOHN ALLEN No Manâ€™s Land Digital Print on Butcher Paper; 34x34 in; 2010
KATI MAE DUESLER Constellations
KATI MAE DUESLER Constellations Mixed Media; 18x24 in; 2010 firstname.lastname@example.org
KATI MAE DUESLER Fruit Flies
KATI MAE DUESLER Fruit Flies Acrylic; 36x48 in; 2009 email@example.com
KATI MAE DUESLER Spike Theory
KATI MAE DUESLER Spike Theory Acrylic; 18x24 in; 2009 firstname.lastname@example.org
MATTHEW KLAS A Little Lower Than Angels
MATTHEW KLAS A Little Lower Than Angels Digital Photography; 4x6.5 in; February 2009 email@example.com
SARAH WINKLER Cheshire Grin
SARAH WINKLER Cheshire Grin Pen and Ink on Paper; 9x12 in; November 2010 firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the Ivory Tower Literary Magazine for 2011 from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. This version includes image postcards.