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THE COURANT | WINTER 2012


The Courant 2011-2012 Board Apsara Iyer and Matthew Mattia Editors-in-Chief

Arts Editors

Fiction Editors

Poetry Editors

Tafarii McKenzie Cameron Hastings Deena Butt

Raeva Kumar Veronica Harrington

Shannon Adams Dennis Zhou Juli Brandano

Layout & Design Jing Qu Marketing Katie Benvenuti Arianna Chang Kim Sarro Casey Durant

Faculty Advisor Paul Tortorella


Table of Contents Movement I NoĂŤl Um Eau de Parfum, Givenchy III 9 Letters to Penelope 12 East of Back Bay 16 Floating Whispers to the Ancient Lagoon, Post-Gravity 19 Nicholas Tonckens Shards 23 Echo Chamber 26 Isabel Knight Glass of Milk 29 Two Haikus 30 Tailor Dortona Two Haikus 33 Ryan Ramos Mixtape 34 Terrence Arjoon Pretty Girls 36 Henry Kennelly Untitled 39 Saranya Wallooppillai Glitter Dreams 40


Jean Kim October 27th Is 42 Letter to My Amphibious Self 43 Jared Newman Emergency 48 Pictures 51 Soha Sanchorawala Shotgun 53 Ezequiel Davila Ese DĂ­a 54 Matthew Mattia Chinese Book Poem 56 Dust, Wind 62 Li Bai, translated by Matthew Mattia The Way is Hard

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Movement II Sam Peloquin Untitled 70 Untitled 76 Annika Neklason Silently 80 No. 018 82 Apsara Iyer No. 191 86 Moving Up 92


movement I

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Eau de Parfum, Givenchy III by noĂŤl um Wafts of pale nails, soft wooden moonlight and the occasional piccolo, glassed into a one point seven ounce flask that Givenchy knew would match my leopard mohair cardigan on Terrible Tuesdays. Glass shaped probably in the half-light of dawn by a goddess or a mermaid or maybe just a someone with warm hands, weeping droplets of muted musk, jasmine bergamot and freesia: one rub, merely the succulent afterthought quivering against a pair of wrinkled knuckles. ~

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Letters to Penelope by noĂŤl um I Magnolia tree branches next to redwood, nude, milky flowers strung abalone words from sandy earth, cold cream and dry clay insulate the copper clad fourth. Stains drip down cement walls shimmering repulsively, shapes through magical contortion, water stains like bleeding foxes or like crying whales. Tomorrow, they will hinge and pool around sturdy kisses that break and ooze crusty waves, muddying the illustrious memories of our painful and quiet youth.

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II Seashells from the coast of Nice kept me guarded. Muffled please, spliced propriety and the maroon taffeta curtains rustled in sync with the rain. You don’t remember the peach orchard, when quivering letters wobbled on my tongue, those curious lizards. Glimmering threads of abdomen flexing slung sturdy stems through overripe carnal exposure, visible only by virtue of light or the slightest wind. That day, you wore a slip of coral cotton that sloped over and around your freckled shoulders; together sound and sight parrots can promise trembling vows, too.

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Letters to Penelope cont.

III Foggy dreams corked with leather strings and shattered sunlight. On the perilous edge, champagne lust roasted against sun-dried tree roots and the purging of pancetta bread with swollen cheeks. Botched words articulated in lovely demeanor, intent carved into maple alcoves and the backs of birch trees down Barbery Street. Mind lies like river-gale eyes, breaking water to collect in a forgotten satellite dish alongside stranded twigs and drowned centipedes. Lights flashed a sinful Amazonian blue; you tasted berry poison while the unraveled cassette tape of AC/DC shakes in my upper left drawer.

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IV Slipped somewhere pink between tax returns and skin-thin bills delicate veins pumping, pushing of morning beads round in circles: empty now, gleaning fallen hair. Silently bleeding silver-slate woe onto the kitchen floor mediocre roast over linoleum counters, cardboard crates lingering like wounded ghosts at the peak of whipped dusk. Fingertips crawl to meet with the urgency of urban escapades half-bitten lollipops, a synchronized irregularity. Soapy surface awake we all abandoned ~

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East of Back Bay by noÍl um Like fresh fingerprints, criminal black propped against slabs of seventeenth century stone, narrow alleyway where wax and rubber veins fling to the violent jazz of city crickets perched atop garden-roofs. Six hours past midnight the back door’s heavy creaking wakes shags of thick, raw beef dragged to second slaughter, heavy drafts from the blackened brick chimney stack coax pink slips of light further out of view, almost rose. Smoke sighed silken breath, curved like frozen waves against charred windowpane. A pair of lost glasses, wedged between wobbly-headed camellias Tomorrow, the smog will smell like broken paper embers cooled by the frozen pecking of rotten apricots. Tongue black, and when it rains, the city air clings to my skin, wet underwear against the rusty fire escape. ~ 18

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Floating Whispers to the Ancient Lagoon, Post-Gravity by noĂŤl um lover slipped through braided ridges in wrinkled wheaty twisting death, suspended in the webbed spaces between my fingers, drier from the half-light and the simple emptying of hollow growth which shook firmly against the chill of November, those nights you comforted me with your cupped palming of my rubber boots, my legs with vein-shaved cartilage in scraps of beetle dung and slippery worn-bare strips of bark falling in blitzed trapezoids, mellow through my hands and onto my face, your light which at once warmed and frightened me now hacks with a phlegmy feebleness, ground sound lunacy which I can only imagine you fell with a silent boom and a flutter of brittle leaves breezed against the coming storm. ~

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Shards by nicholas tonckens This is a gentle way to break the sky To keep the light locked up In old spaces between buildings We can imagine that churches owe themselves to these trees The ones with fern leaves Matrices that cut clouds into cubist daydreams I once saw St. George in one of these windows He wore red and bore a lance Into the breast of a snake These are godless times Old troubles, encased in wood or slate As shards in the soil At the heart, a bouquet of cinder stems I would cover myself in bark The Gallic druids made habits of pine But we use stones now ~

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Echo Chamber by nicholas tonckens Tonight I ride a tiger into sleep Consumed with the fire of days Spent dancing in the parking lot Toes sore from the tin frenzies That hold a conch shell to my fears Marbling missed words and dropped glances Turning up the sunlight tongues Which now my eyes mistake For night and all its nonsense ~

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Glass of Milk by isabel knight A tall glass of cold milk; Kind of chalky, kind of sweet. Cookies optional. Secure, helpless, calm communal animal instinct, a gentle yielding— I have never been more dependent, never more free. The pressure of the cool bottled air washing onto the roof of my mouth condensing into an almost-taste until that train-crash, raw-blue feeling— when the icy liquid thunder hits my tongue and a synapse in my brain turns on: I am a fetus, a nerve ending. I take a breath and swallow. This is what it is to be alive.

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Two Haikus by isabel knight

above cars rushing through the dark streets of Moscow a red kite flutters ~

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sandy-kneed children eat mangoes on the seashore their mouths glistening ~

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Two Haikus by tailor dortona

Not spoken on lips Reigning over mindless chat The ultimate truth ~

The wheels how they spin The gin, it cascades down Preacher don’t approve Neither does my kin ~

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Mixtape by ryan ramos “I’m going to get shot” was my only thought when Kyle said we were going to explore The Ave, but I heard The Hood. The train there swayed severely, rolling coke cans and beer bottles across the scuffed floor, like it was on a track that had just been built and a few kinks still needed to be worked out. Outside, black town cars without licenses, workers changing from maid to Mc Donald’s uniforms, and shops selling shoes, jewelry, caps and cashmere on a single shelf, all replaced the hustle of taxis, businessmen, and department stores in Manhattan. The gun pop of an exhaust pipe made me hit the floor thinking, “I’m going to get shot.” Passing parks and deli stores, we were fazed by the bitter gaze of kids our age, hanging out on the street corner. With plants sagging and t-shirts hanging loosely like the oversized chains weighing down their necks. These kids were covered head to toe in the color of their crew. 36

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The Crips think they bleed blue because they skipped Biology for How 2 Be a Gangsta. The “Soo woo” Blood call echoes for blocks, but only matters within a 10 foot radius. What are they fighting for? But when walking down to the subway, a mixtape was forced into my hand. A boy swore this rapper was a prodigy and it was hard to see any doubt in his eyes. I expected at least a mention of “party and bullshit” in each line, but this artist painted pictures with words as watercolors, and puns as pastels. This wasn’t the song of a thug, owning his neighborhood and the clothes, cars, and women in it, but the verse of a poet, giving a voice to The Ave. ~

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Pretty Girls by terrence arjoon I tried to speak to a pretty girl once And tripped over a rock The sad thing is, we were in the library I tried to ask a girl for coffee once She didn’t say no But she didn’t say yes She wanted me to bring her back a hot chocolate. I asked a pretty girl to dance once And by dance I mean grind she doesn’t dance with her friends. The sad thing is I’m not her friend. I asked a pretty girl to do our homework once Together She didn’t have her book She did it with the next guy who asked. A pretty girl told me she loved me once I know she didn’t mean it in that way But there was the tiniest hope That maybe she did. ~

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Untitled by henry kennelly He steps through the threshold, Mind breaking from flesh’s hold, From hatred and contrast, to All things sacred on Comcast. Diatonic directions on donning diabolic deceptions, Stopping reflection on things not convention. Not caught up in discrimination between white and black, There’s no grey area delimitation, no fight or fall back. Entering a world swirled with the curls of flawless pearls, But devoid and sick, He hurls, eyes seeing in plural. There’s love for a girl without meaning to unfurl, His love just a burl on a tree, a referral, Engraved by two, “To the grave and through,” He thought heaven was true With just “me and you.” But seeing the light, sight returned in the night, Blind to the fight of the resting, and Blind to his plight. At the tunnel, he finds it a funnel, Leading over-side a cold and slippery gunnel. Cannonball in hand, standing tall in the sand, He truly tastes death, but after all, it was bland. ~

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Glitter Dreams by saranya wallooppillai Golden fingers touch her face Leaving a trail of warmth, casting a glow on her cheeks and nose She yawns, her tiny hands and toes curling In and out Swinging her legs she is startled Her feet do not feel the spark of ice Instead the warmth of sun Turning round quick she hears a sound A light tinkling, a silver bell She grasps the sill Her toes stiff, lifting her face to the glass Her eyes crinkle, squint, strain Not to be trusted Sparkles fill the air, tiny faces smiling She feels their hands, soft tingles on her fingers Pulling her closer to the glass Fairy wings tickle her cheeks, shimmering feathers in the wind Smiling she nods Dainty hands gently lift her A hum of butterfly winged flutters Up she floats, a mass of blue cotton and caricature sheep Far behind she leaves reality Through the looking glass she goes And where she emerges no one knows ~

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October 27th Is by jean kim powder snow like sugar from the sky, soft slow backwards hurricane and i am in reverse, disoriented, not quite scared but it’s just now all at once my mother says be responsible and i am, i am, iamdizzyandsmallandyoung, so young not quite oldenough to be out in the cold alone but i am, i am, i am so small and strong and making angels in the snow, will you stop and watch them fly with me, fly with me, with me, me? ...my teeth are sharp, and colder even than your fingers. ~

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Letter to My Amphibious Self by jean kim darling, often have I thought that you and I were born for the water. we drown and burn upon the sand; you and I and perhaps he and sometimes she, we are by and large amphibious, lovely. thus spoken, thrice unheard, you’ll leave me for the wine-faced sea. save me from the things I must do and cannotó as I cannot love you, so you must leave me. as I cannot leave you, so you must love me. ~

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Emergency by jared newman Trying to feign feeble duties, We starve and stare at strangers Sufficient and with our random snickers. As the moon rides the sky, facing a squealing liberty and flaming in its verdant longing. Deposits of knowing fill the head with visions of rushing greatness. And bolder fragments of safety somehow slither into our square homes. The jagged maple leaves swaying like golden hair crave our slices of roofed world and grails of alarms, our medicated certainty. Strutting proudly while the wind is down. Will laugh and drown our lungs with beakers of streaming wine. Will bellow and cough rolls of We can evade you. But like the tender wrath of afternoons and its mild furies you scour our ample, flowing kitchen tables. A dim squint at one another. Who knows what stands just round our walls, as we entangled in our dainty collapses can bandage our bodies but may be unknown by touch. Our nights enforce those pretty grins and the outlines of ourselves that are foreign and irregular like maps. Brought ashore and done through help. 50

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And you will rise before the sheets split with the torso. Chasing our mounds of unrecognizable life but slipping like red silk. We all wait, looking for traces, but I know that your shadows are only breathed out in the dark. Shaken from beneath the ribs and shiny tears dribble down from broken eyes. Too sad for resolution so silence tells me fervidly that vaulting these clashing seas will only make a trophy of false conquest and drunken blood in the alleys of solitude to comfort. You will come, walking now, and noting all our smirks. Our memory is more than yours, though you might contest. The rain slips softly here. and now. and onward too. Let the moonlight here. I look at what I see and I am grasped in myself. Let it here. ~

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Pictures by jared newman Those summers—living in crooked houses My thin wood walls basting in the sun, moist with the rides of tides of rain, slanted sideways. I cannot see but in the tenderness where once I was young. Wrong in the decade, right in the carpets and flowing silk nostalgia blankets. What if I came upon other homes. Cold and symmetrical homes with glass and white floors. Abandoned by angels, caught. I wish I lived there. I wish I could walk, full stride waving my neck forward. The crimes of my breast smack dab upon my grin. My wrongs pregnant and my liberty whipped. Those should be my beginnings. I started strolling up long distances and all. Soft and draped. This house’ll be gone soon. Not painting its beauty. Too bad. ~

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Shotgun by soha sanchorawala In Saudi Arabia, a woman caresses the leather of a steering wheel not another man, just one wheel and she gotta kneel and beg for your mercy it aint like she stealed and be pleadin for Allah’s forgiveness, she at her man’s feet, or worse, the police’s treat. you see, if she aint on the ground, she aint a worthy mother, if she attempts independence, her brother’s astounded at this profound attack, a knife into society’s back. to state equality is a crime worthy of stone after stone, until head hung not in haram but because the bruised bone gave in to what they call a “sin”. They say oppression is the true path to heaven, the squashing of all free expression, to subdue something due, something owed, like for you getting your car towed. you see, it’ll hinder those women, but never for long, oh you wait they’ll come back strong, with a fire burning bright when They put their seatbelt on. ~

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Ese Día by ezequiel davila Conozco ese día Sé que Ese día Será feliz Sé esa día tan bien El día que yo no puedo sentir mi piel O sentir mi peso Ese día, cuando una sonrisa es real Ese día, sé que sólo un aroma llenara mi nariz la única sensación que sentará será la del estómago Yo lo conozco muy bien ese día Cuando traza de la curvatura de la espalda con el dedo sé que usted va a recibir mi toque en el disfrute Ese mismo día. Ese día, que yo sepa. Sé que La hierba y margaritas se mancha nuestros cortos Ese día yo sé el sol no caerá

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Yo conozco ese día cuando mis nervios resuelven cuando ni una parte de mi cuerpo mantiene la tensión en contacto con los ojos ese día Sin embargo, cerca o lejos ese día En el que nuestros oídos sonarán ese día En la que vuelve dulce julio Ese día, yo sé Vamos a compartir el amor ~

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Chinese Book Poem by matthew mattia I. a coffee stain reminds me that big sister gave it to me her thoughts fell all over the pages making rivulets between letters, words, lines

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II. the cover is thin sheets and the bicycles that disappeared into smoke and cars and highways and a market just for birds and flowers; plastic bags of lychee nuts and sticky hands afterwards; hanging clothes to dry on the sun porch by too many potted plants––

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Chinese Book Poem cont. III. pale dust kicked up car-side lifts up across the pages and slips into the spine

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IV. And I press myself down into it this wind of sand and fog of words: this cover, grooved red and sleepy the color of the feeling by the fireplace when we watch the X-files and know everyone and the blankets are there and the winter is long and no one will leave. ~

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Dust, Wind by matthew mattia I. There’s a way that the dust whispers to the ground a way that it comes to stay. I’d like to be dust too sometimes, to know someone as the dust knows the floor.

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II. It’s the way the wind waltzes on the shoreline breathy, panting by the chanting sea like some sighing duchess in stale-draping finery. The way it knows the dance and knew it long before the songs of light and water became the songs of man and candlewax became nothing more than decoration for smoke and laughter and wine and money. ~ winter 2012

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The Way is Hard by Li Bai translated by matthew mattia I. a gold vessel of sake for thousands a glass. jade trays of delicacies for countless thousands more. II. I put my glass aside and throw down my chopsticks: I cannot eat, so I draw out my sword and look around, hazy-hearted.

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III. I long to pass over the yellow river but it has been stilled by the cold, I yearn to journey up taihang mountain yet the wind is woolen with winter snow. IV. I let down a line onto the jade creek; idle. then in seconds slip into reverie: riding a boat back along the margins of the sun. winter 2012

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The Way is Hard cont.

V. the way is hard, the way is hard: countless paths diverge, only that is sure. VI. but there will come a time to ride the stretching wind and cleave the waves: cloud-sail straight-hanging as I sail cross the boundless sea. ~

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movement II

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Untitled by sam peloquin

The first moment I doubted I was having a good

time occurred while I was holding a piece of crystal stemware, my hand raised and askance, aloof, yet at the same time somehow posed self-consciously. The glass contained about three ounces of 1998 Côtes du Rhône, which to me tasted far too bitter and tannic, but perhaps that was due to my unrefined palate. Our host and hostess lived in the fine chasm between too young to hold such dull dinner parties and overwhelmingly old, (a purely psychological condition). She had gone to a women’s college, (visions of too-cheerful, slightly plump young women in 1930’s bathing suits naively beaming up from a black and white photograph plagued my thoughts), and was now the Editor-in-Chief of an acclaimed magazine that focused mainly on Victorian pottery. He taught mathematics at the local community college and had attended Harvard as an undergrad, and Yale law school, (at his parents’ expense). I suspected that attending two rival schools in succession had been an indication of his self-loathing. I was wearing a charcoal turtleneck under an open camel blazer and had opted for horn-rimmed glasses over contacts. I wanted to appear as though I knew what I was doing, appear as if I were steadily employed and a broodingly intellectual. I had consciously selected clothing that had been recently dry-cleaned and did not smell of sweat, mothballs

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or marijuana, (this proved to be more difficult than I anticipated). My wife’s dress was an intense shade of coral, and I liked the flattering cut, as well as how it was neither red, nor orange. We looked like an early 1970’s academic, young, professional pair with progressive ideals and a skeptically liberal ethos. In reality, I wrote more blog entries than salable pieces of art, and she had recently been fired from her position as a legal assistant, having discovered taking one-toomany surreptitious hangover naps beneath her desk. The hostess leaned over to offer me a revoltingly pastel-pink caviar pinwheel. Her scent was unmistakably old-lady perfume; it was wool peacoats and diaphanous permed hair and funeral parlors in which the air was stiflingly floral to mask the mysterious odor of death laced with formaldehyde. It was reminiscent of thrift store brooches of amber, sapphire and gold; gaudy elegance, the likes of which had once belonged to a bona-fide cruel woman. There was no denying it. My stomach felt horrible because I had been continuously drinking expensive, acidic wine and declining each hors d’oeuvre tossed my way. However, I suspected that consuming the foie gras deviled eggs had the potential to put me in an even worse position. I drained my wineglass. In approximately one hour we finally sat down to dinner. Our hosts had prepared a wholegrain penne pasta with organic, locally grown Swiss chard and humanely raised sausage. These dubious facts were made explicit to us, repeated whenever possible by the jittery hostess. While I was wondering what exactly the nondescript sauce was, the hosts attempted to reel me into a turbulent political discus-

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sion, which was thoroughly vexing because I had been under the impression that all of the guests were of similar political opinion. It turned out that moderate liberalism was composed of a near-infinite number of fragmentations that were, miraculously, almost all equally represented at the table. The sauce seemed to be basic garlic and olive oil, but a peculiar creaminess in the back of my numbed throat made me suspect a trace of dairy. This was unsettling because I knew at least three people there kept kosher. My wife had dived headfirst into what had now become an all-out debate; I lingered at the edge of the pool, pale and flabby and desperate for a mai tai, or at the very least a bottle of SPF 45. I was reminded of the dinner party we had attended two weeks before. My wife’s best friend from Bard had moved back from Los Angeles and was now a raw-vegan; she had masqueraded thin strips of zucchini as noodles and topped them with a sort of tomato tartare that was vaguely reminiscent of marinara sauce. There had been no alcohol. Instead, she had had us sample her homemade kombucha, which was overly cultured and clouded with wispy strands of bacteria. There had been no dessert. I’m not sure I would’ve even tried it, had there been. Before I could brace myself to enter the discussion, the topic had alarmingly switched to religion. I began to fantasize about what I would do when I got home. I initially anticipated writing about the mild discomfort of dining with near-strangers, but quickly realized how many times that scenario had been employed in works of varying quality, many of which attempted a sophisticated humor that the writer was convinced was their own invention. It was now almost inevitable

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that I would sit on the couch in flannel pants and a holey t-shirt, reading a magazine and drinking non-artisanal beer, or perhaps a wine that cost less than ten dollars a bottle, (or, heaven forbid, from a box). I pictured the refreshment as I stood, finding slight solace in it, a reward after enduring the strain of this situation. I took a bite of sausage, and a fennel seed wedged itself painfully between my back teeth. I contemplated the things that I would rather be eating: tepid three-bean salad; twelve rice cakes one after another; kiwis scooped from their fuzzy brown skin with a grapefruit spoon. The host had been an alcoholic and was drinking Perrier with a fat, dry wedge of lime. He took a sip immediately after each bite he took, as though refusing to acknowledge the flavors of the food, engaged in some act of rebellion or catharsis the likes of which only he was aware of. I was having difficulty spearing more than one piece of pasta at a time and was becoming vaguely frustrated, if not miserable. The other guests were now over-sharing the details of the forced exoticism of their sex lives, which were all based entirely on Kama Sutra desk calendars from Barnes & Noble. I excused myself to go to the restroom. The sleek, spacious balcony off the master bedroom looked out over the West Side Highway and the Hudson River. The glass-walled penthouse seemed miles above the metallic moving vessels, excitedly and in pairs or small groups, briskly along the sidewalk, quickly making their way to colorfully lit, smoky parties, or to basic apartments probably going to have sex. I thought of our walk-up across the bridge, of the moderately priced alcohol and common snack foods in our kitchen in contrast to the borderline unsettling goat cheese canapĂŠs

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and overpriced wine we had just consumed. I looked out over the river for longer than I meant to because it did something to the light, feigning constant motion and originality. When at last I felt my wife’s hand on my back, my mostly psychosomatic stomachache has dissipated and I felt an inclination to participate in performative, exaggeratedly civil conversation and consume a marjolaine, accompanied by steaming black coffee or possibly a flute of Brut.

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Untitled by sam peloquin

He went out on the porch after sunset with a tum-

bler of scotch in one hand and a lit citronella candle in the other. He had to open the screen door with his body because his hands were full. The few dark hairs and pronounced blue veins on the backs of his hands and wrists belied his youth. He was twenty-three but could have been older. It was too dark to read but the horizon was a faint stripe of blue and he could never feel alone again. Come to the bad place with me. There were deep parentheses around his mouth and wrinkles on his forehead and he could never hide the reasons for them being there. He imagined the world as a prehistoric lagoon or the dark, mysterious ocean floor: strange creatures, and few that escaped extinction. Ichthyosaurs, Eurypharynx pelicanoides, Plesiosaurus. Photographs taken by robotic submarines miles below the photic zone, where light is consumed as in outer space, and the aquatic fauna seem startled by the attention. They appear almost ashamed of their bioluminescent tendrils and their inevitable inadequacy in comparison to human technology. The Loch Ness monster, alone at the bottom of a lake, questioning its own existence. The horizon was darkening and he decided to take a walk to the beach and smoke a few cigarettes there. He felt very young and agile but also languid and viscous as though he were being poured from one dream into another.

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Just take it easy. At the bottom of the sea there is no oxygen or light, crushing pressure, nearfreezing temperatures. Nothing is ‘difficult to handle’ in comparison. He is walking alone on the dirt road at night and is still holding the candle and drink. Billions of stars seem to be visible and he breathes in the effortless minimalism of the moment. He would tell her tonight that he had no desire to be someone’s husband now or maybe ever, and it would be satisfying because everything would be blurred just enough by alcohol and the codeine tablets that he had found in his jacket pocket but did not remember acquiring. He already dreaded her eyes before he would begin to speak and the hope that would be there, tinged with fear like urine by rusty blood or a Manhattan by a few dashes of bitters. The etymologies of spirit names are mainly in agreement upon “water of life”: eau de vie, aquavit, aqua vitae. The beach is getting close because he can see it and smell the quiet salty wind feeling it against his body pushing. “Please don’t use your heartbreak as a weapon” but he will say nothing. There are bruises on his neck and scratches on his back and chest from the boy he played tag with in second grade. Nothing had ever felt so good and probably never would unless he admitted something. The fact that it needed to be a confession and a risk was a flaw of society and he relinquished his exasperation with it. It took him six tries to light his cigarette because the wind off the water was so strong. He had been taught that doing things alone was a sign of addiction, but realizes with a drink in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other that that is an adolescent paranoia to be gotten over directly. The flame flickers in the briny gusts but is protected by the glass

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lip of the jar. Two men in a narrow bed in a small house, quietly deceitful, entwined, ready to escape to glass walls, white lighting fixtures and a chrome spiral staircase. Soon she would be going to sleep, and he had no desire to sit paternally by her side on the bed and wake her up to tell her he had packed his suitcase. One would think this would be enough to get him to stand up on the damp sand but the blackness of the water and the brightness of the moon made it an inescapable certainty.

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Silently by annika neklason

When she’s fourteen, Hanna tapes notes to all the

furniture. “Kkkt” says the refrigerator door handle. “Ttttttttttthhhhhhhh” says the fan. “Ti ti ti ti ti ti ti ti ti” says the clock. “Zzzzzzzt” says the door bell. “Uhhhhhlm” says the old chair. Her mother watches her secure the edges of “hhhhhhhh” above the radiator. “What are you doing?” she asks. “Writing down the sounds,” Hanna replies. “So that Graham can hear the house.” For a month when she’s eight, she tapes over her mouth and no one can make her speak. A laughing-eyed older boy tries to draw the words out of her, and when she won’t acquiesce he carves them into her arm instead. She wears sweaters to cover the scars, but one night Graham slips his fingers into her sleeve while she’s tucking him in and feels them. She signs it’s nothing it’s nothing it’s nothing until he closes his eyes, and then she signs it against his arm until he pushes her away. The next day she utters first one hoarse word, then another, and then she’s speaking again. When summer comes she bares her arms hesitantly and the word is almost-invisible in the stark sun. dumb. She whispers words against Graham’s skin so that he can feel them—the breath behind them, the shape of them, the way she lisps her Ss almost imper-

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ceptibly. She takes his hand and presses it against her heart so that he can hear that, too. She learns to sign when she’s six and they find out Graham will be deaf. She learns more quickly than her parents, her young fingers shaping thoughts as soon as she thinks them. Her hands are like birds, their teacher says. It’s like she was born for this. What a terrible thing to say, Hanna thinks. That she was born to have a deaf-mute brother. She teaches Graham to hear all the world’s sound. He teaches her to hear the silence, reaching out to still her signing hands so that, for a moment, they can just be wordless.

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No. 018 by annika neklason

He will come back a man, or not at all. He does

not know which to hope for: the death of his conscience, his principles, what Jara calls his “aristocratic sensibilities,” or the death of his body. He wishes he had attended medical school instead of majoring in English and bullshittery. He wishes he had been born a day later (God, he wishes he had been born a day later). He wishes he had applied to graduate school. He wishes he knew the first thing about surviving. He wishes he could stay. Jara clips out newspaper articles and passages from library books about Vietnam and makes him a scrapbook. She calls it “Dossier for Soviet Ruination” and glues sequins to the cover. On the first page, she writes “if you must be a monster, be an erudite one” in precise script. On the last page, she pens an obituary for the American soul. His mother drives him to a meadow and teaches him to shoot because his father won’t. It’s a stark day in February and the snow has formed a delicate crust over the dark earth. He goes gloveless and revels in the aching cold of his bared flesh. In his head, he drafts poems about the glory of carnal suffering while he fumbles bullets into his grandfather’s Lee-Enfield. It takes him fifty minutes and thirtyeight shots, but he brings down a grackle as the pale sun soothes away the ice and softens the thin snow. They trudge across the length of the field and find

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the bird, broken-winged and bleeding, among the brush. He composes a lamentation while his mother cries quietly. “You could go to Canada,” she whispers. He considers the tragic romance of war and the shame of cowardice, and shakes his head. The only thing worse than going to Vietnam is not going. The only thing worse than dying for a pointless cause is surviving without any cause. The only thing worse than war is the relentless tedium of peace. He kills four more birds before darkness drives them home. Each shot leaves him breathless, full of musings on vitality and flight. He delights in the failure of dead wings. He thinks that he will write a book someday. He will call it “Via Dolorosa” or “Fractured Minds” or “An Erudite Monster,” and it will begin “I am gravity.” The New York Times will dub it the best war story since Gone with the Wind. That night, he dreams not of leaving but of coming home. He departs for Vietnam on an April Tuesday, and regrets the banality of the date. The boys in his platoon call him “Shakespeare” and “Dickens.” He writes long letters to Jara in a carefully slanted scrawl, meditating on the charged air and the profound and mercurial bonds between soldiers. He fills a journal with his musings and reads a dog-eared volume of Whitman’s poetry by flashlight in the early hours of the morning. The first time he kills a Viet Cong, he swears he sees God in the curve of the boy’s spine. For the first time he feels the heft of the weapon in his hands, the unrelenting ache of his knees, the sparseness of the air that makes his lungs burn with the very effort of breathing. He drapes his flak jacket over the corpse, too weary to bear its weight any lon-

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ger. He writes no journal entry that night. For hours, he rubs away the dirt on his hands. He cannot make them clean. Three months later, the flying shrapnel of a mine triggered by a nineteen-year-old private in his platoon imbeds itself in his knee, and he is excused from serving the remainder of his tour. He comes back broken, without words.

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jing qu winter 2012

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No. 191 by apsara iyer

The kids are halfway over the fence when you see

them first. Mierda. Not again. You see two of them hit the ground, pad-pading along the darkened aisles, crouching in the shadows next to shuttered doors like they’re in freaking Mission Impossible. There’s one fat one still struggling, stuck halfway over the chain link fence. He has his one leg flung over, and you can see his plump lips sucking in air—uh huh uh huh uh huh uh huh—as he musters the final effort, that final push, to pull his other leg over the fence. He bellyflops to the ground hitting the mossy dirt at the edge of the complex. Should you get your whistle? This isn’t even your shift, and you just spent the last two hours organizing the place. Removing the whistle will throw the feng shui of the guardhouse all out of whack. It wasn’t easy qi-ifying the place, your deadbeat cousin Pablo—whose shift you were covering—had made a first class shithole of the guardhouse. Empty McDonalds bags, ripped out pages from 4 Ruedas (really, Pablo, you’re going to just saunter in and pick up the latest BMW on the minimum wage we earn at Storage-R-Us?), some lotto stubs, crumbs, a melted Snickers bar. A first class shithole. And now, now that you’ve got the whole thing in order—alphabetized the customer logs and Storage-R-Us pamphlets, cleared out the trash, found a cup for the pens, stacked the whistles and flashlights—now the little

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delinquents decide to show up. Mierda. The first two are edging towards storage units 131-245. They keep tapping almost a morse code on each of the large metal doors. There’s a hollow “ting” from some of the more emptied units, and a dull thwack from the more robust ones, jam packed with forgotten sofas, clothes, rugs, rocking horses. The fatty is trailing behind, wandering in 784-845, his large, round face reflecting the moonlight like it’s the first time he’s stepped out of his little sheltered home after dark. Should you get your whistle? You wish you were somewhere else, anywhere really, but especially at Tío Ricardo’s. The black lights would make everything glow fluorescent purple and the walls would pulse with the thud-thud of the latest Reggaetone beat. You can already imagine the girls, swirling on the dance floor, their tube tops a dizzying swirl of neon yellow, hot pink, their large hoop earrings bouncing as the beat grew quicker and quicker. You’d be in the back, probably where that deadbeat Pablo has set up camp, your new black shirt on, your swagger perfect—as always. There’d be a cool Coors Light in your hand—cause everyone knows only the real ghetto still drink Corona. You can already see the film of perspiration on the beer bottle, icy to the touch. But no. You’re not at Tío Ricardo’s. There is no black light, no dancing mamitas, no cool, crisp beer. You’re here, working the late shift at StorageR-Us, guarding over other people’s extra shit—stuff most of them never even pick up. Not only are you on the graveyard shift at a Storage-R-Us, you’re at this Storage-R-Us, the Arlington Ave. location. Famous for one thing, and one thing only. Fine, two things.

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It’s tenants incredible ability to forget all their stuff, all those things they tearfully pack away and demand you protect. And, the legend of unit 191. So what, it’s the oldest unit in the compound. Who cares that it hasn’t been opened since 1971, that it’s owner’s records mysteriously disappeared one day, that it’s the only one that makes a perfect, resonating ping when you tap on the metal door. All it means is that every week—more frequently in the summer, particularly from June 21st to August 7th—you have to deal with little idiots like the three that just scampered in. Sure, there was a time when it interested you. When you and Pablo would creep over the fence every summer night, run through the aisles, tap-tap until you hit 191. Heck, Pablo even started that first rumor. Screw Pablo. Through the narrow window of the guardhouse you see the fatty tripping on a loose piece of gravel. The kid flops to the ground like a little fish, squirming as he tries to stand up. The other two are edging closer to 191, pretending like they don’t see your guardhouse, like they’re the coolest thing since Hey Arnold. You should really get your whistle before they start making a racket. But with the fat kid running behind them, you actually feel kinda bad. Could they really do anything? It’s not like they would find anything new either. That last summer, the summer before you thought you were going away for college, leaving this tiny town, saying adios to Pablo, you guys entered it. Pulled back that rusty door and stared into 191. Fine, you didn’t quite stare. It was dark and you guys forgot your flashlights, see? And, you know, if your disclosing everything it was Pablo and your other

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older cousin Jaime who actually saw it. You were still a little way back, lost in the 700s. They were quicker than you then, more lithe and less pudgy. But they swore—on both their mama’s graves—that it was filled with these old books and vases. Later on, Jaime claimed he saw the glint of a few rubies, the sheen of gold bouillons. And Pablo, he later confessed it was filled with passports. Government issue passports from World War 2. Mint condition. It didn’t matter. So, you never saw what was inside. But, given Pablo and Jaime, it probably was a pile of empty coke bottles or bag of mildewed leaves. So fine—fine—you could say it’s a touch of sentimentality that’s stopping you from reaching for the whistle. You must admit it is eerily similar, the fatty kind of looks like you and the two up ahead seem to be make good progress, or, at least, better progress than most. But lord, what you would give to be at Tío Ricardo’s. See, you don’t care! You hear a breathy ping, an echo-ey, high pitched reverberation that makes the two smarties freeze and the pudgy one jump. They’ve reached 191. You should be used to it by now but you still feel that ache, that twitch in your left calf as you remember running to catch up with Pablo, Jaime, wishing they would keep the door open for you. You sneak out of the guardhouse, whistle in hand but yet to be pressed against your dry lips. The two are in motion again, pulling what looks like a tire iron from a beat-up black backpack. They’re wedging it under the door, trying to leverage the tire iron against the rusty panel. You really should blow the whistle now, they could break the door. You really should. But, but, something stops you. It’s the fatty running closer to the

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duo. It’s the fact your not at Tio Ricardo’s. It’s leaving college to support your sick mama. It’s wanting to see for yourself, with your own eyes, what’s inside 191. From your post, around the corner of the aisle, you see taller of the two bend down and give the tire iron a fervent jerk upward. The door shudders. The short one is shaking—excitement or fear? He pokes the tall one urging him to try better, try harder. The tall one jabs him to “shhhhh” gesturing wildly in the direction of your guardhouse. The shorty gives it a try. The whistle dangles in your left hand. From the corner of your eye you see the fatty edge around the other end of the aisle. He dashes forward as he sees the two, pulling out a second tire iron. The three push down, hard, together, and the door creaks open.

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scott diekema winter 2012

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Moving Up by apsara iyer

Always change the master bedroom sheets first,

and replace the cream sheets with the red sheets—or vice versa—every other week. When you clean the children’s rooms, wipe down the walls, especially the bit trapped behind the headboards. You will always find the crusty streams of dried milk, remnants from when the children lazily leaned their sippy cup against the top of their beds. Wash the children’s sheets on a light cycle but check and double check that none of their stuffed toys go in to the washing machine. Watch for loose change, iPods, crayons, retainers, magazines, and lone socks nestled among the sheets. This is how you clean their silver without getting bored: try to make the reflection of your face disappear under your polish-coated thumb, rubbing smaller and smaller circles. This is how you clean their kitchen counter in 2 minutes: stack all the old New York Times in one corner, line up all the empty wine bottles, imported vinegars, ceramic vases against the backsplash, and dash along the granite with your washcloth. Rinse and repeat. When you clean the floor, let your knees touch the wooden surface and wipe from side to side to side. Mama always said people feel you’re working hard when they see you on your knees. After a year, ask for a raise (say please). After another year, ask for another raise. After they say no, they really can’t with the third baby on the way and the older ones joining private school and can you

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believe the cost of gasoline, quit. This is how you burp a baby, hoist it against your neck with your hand resting against their back. This is how you change a diaper, breathe deeply into your shoulder to avoid the smell. Always prepare the Emacil formula—“one unpacked leavened scoop for every 2.0 fluid ounces”—around 10 a.m. for the babies’ mid-morning snack. Carry a Snickers bar to eat yourself between the morning session and the afternoon group. This is how you corral 15 rowdy preschoolers—tell them you have candy. Never give them candy. Always carry band-aids when you take them to the playground. And make sure you count them when you get back inside, someone will always try to hide under that back slide. After the kids leave, wipe down all the tables, the toys, the child sized plastic chairs. When you clean the floor, let your knees rest against the linoleum and run the rag back and forth, just like your old job, remember? Tell your boss that you checked and double-checked, that you had been positive neither boy was hiding under the slide. Promise your boss, I truly promise, that you were trying to separate the two after the older boy ran out from under the slide and tackled the younger. Tell him that you never would have given the younger boy a concussion, that he fell before you pried them apart. Say that you will try better, work for anything, nothing. When he tells you no, pack up your purse, put away your Snickers bar, and go home. Ride the red line downtown everyday to look for work. Start biting your nails again, drinking black coffee, eating alone—this is how you are unemployed. Avoid the man who always sits one row behind you with the tinted sunglasses. Even if you

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fight with mama until 2 a.m, wear your too-small black high heels, run six blocks to the subway, and don’t drink your morning black coffee, never ever sit by the man with the tinted sunglasses. Switch routes. Read the same advertisements for insurance help, credit card rates, a local university. This is the professor you should listen to, the one whose class makes taking out a loan, moving back in with mama, and working double shifts at your Tio Ricardo’s restaurant worth it. Fill your thin collegeruled notebooks with notes. Buy 10 more college-ruled notebooks at Jewel. Spend the night at the University library for your first paper on “Post-colonialism in the Zuni Sphere of Interaction in New Mexico 15791630.” Keep drinking black coffee. This is how you work as a student. This is how you react to your first paper being published in an academic journal for undergraduates: eat a Snickers bar, do your happy dance, wake your sleeping mama. This is how you apply for graduate school, take out more student loans and work longer hours at your Tio Ricardo’s taquería. When the University offers you the assistant research position—you know it means TA-ing for four undergrad sections, right?—say yes, most definitely yes. Move out east to Chapel Hill, then north to Pittsburg, then deeper east to scholarly Cambridge. Mijita you’ve come so far, they tell you. Smile and tell them sí but work even harder, with more nights at the library, more lectures, more conferences. Keep nursing your black coffee. Get nominated to chair a peer reviewed academic journal and then awarded the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for your first book. Get tenure—this is how you work as a professor. Jam the copier when you’re running late to class. Let the visit-

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ing scholar who is waiting for his printouts help you fix it. When, three weeks later, you drink just a little too much at a faculty party, tell the visiting scholar that you worked cleaning homes with your mama when you were 15, got fired form a nursery, and once was felt-up by a man on the Los Angeles subway. Tell the visiting scholar his brown hair seems soft, shiny. This is how you feel mortified at the next faculty meeting. Wear your new black heels with the red underneath on your first date with the visiting scholar. After a year, wear the same black heels the day he proposes. This is how you leave Cambridge, your students, your classes, because the visiting scholar gets a job in England. This is how you are unemployed. Start accumulating furniture, new cotton sheets, forks. This is how you occupy your days at home. Remember, always change master bedroom sheets first, and replace the cream sheets with the red sheets every other week.

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fin


Courant: Winter 2012