Portland Review Vol. 63

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Spring 2017 | Vol. 63 Exceptional poetry and prose since 1956

Portland State University Portland, OR

Portland Review: Spring 2017 Copyright Š 2017 Portland Review Portland Review Portland State University P.O. Box 751 Portland, OR 97207 USA http://portlandreview.org Cover art: Alex Prince, Home Life Cover Design: Leigh Thomas Interior Design: Leigh Thomas Portland Review logo design: Rosie Struve Printed in the United States of America Portland Review is published by graduate student volunteers in the English department at Portland State University. Funding for this issue was also provided by the English department. ISBN: 978-0-9974617-1-8


CO-EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Kate Jayroe & Tyler Meese ASSISTANT EDITOR Patrick Brogan WEB EDITOR Benjamin Kessler FICTION EDITOR Rayna Jensen NONFICTION EDITOR Gloria Mulvihill POETRY EDTIOR Kellie Cook ART EDITOR Cassie Duncanson EDITOR-AT-LARGE Thea Prieto FACULTY ADVISOR Leni Zumas DESIGNER Leigh Thomas READERS Kate Garklavs, Alice Hall, Hilary Louth, Nicole Levine, Elizabeth Nunes, Patrick Rogers, Mike Schepps, Leslie Slape



ear Reader,

It is with excitement that we present to you the re-launched Portland Review. Now living under the auspice of Portland State University’s English department, the journal is adopting the style of an annual anthology. The formidably beautiful volume from which you read marks our first issue in this vein. So what’s changed? We are still run entirely by student volunteers, except now we have the direct support of faculty. Thank you, Leni Zumas, for your direction and attention in this transitional year. We’re still dedicated to publishing work we believe stimulates thought, provokes questions, and refreshes the senses. Thank you contributors; there are 35 of you in this issue. Know that all of your illuminating writing floored us over and over again. We have a new logo, brilliantly designed by another student volunteer, Rosie Struve, thank you. Finally, we are entirely indebted to anyone holding this issue. One final, big thank you, readers.

One of our goals with our first annual anthology is to honor the journal’s namesake: Portland, the city that elicits many opinions. One fact about this city is there are writers here, there are a lot of them, and they are all captivating. We wanted to use this space to highlight some of those writers. Shayla Lawson, Margaret Malone, Ed Skoog, and Alexis Smith are a few of these Portland writers you’ll find inside. This isn’t to say we are only interested in local voices. Pieces from nationally and internationally acclaimed writers appear in these pages too: Jennifer Firestone, Joanna Klink, and Matthew Zapruder amongst others. With more than sixty years in print, Portland Review has undergone countless changes and iterations. With this newest issue and relocation, we are striking new ground and widening our community. We are likewise entering a new era of the journal, and we welcome your enthusiastic readership. Sincerely, Kate Jayroe & Tyler Meese Co-Editors-in-Chief 2016-2017

CONTENTS Fiction SCRAPE • Maurice Irvin 38 WINCH • Erik Raschke 58 SCENES FROM OUR LIVES TOGETHER • Sara Kachelman 100 KRISTIN AND HER BROTHER, SHITBOY • Bobby Eversmann 112 HEAVENLY NOURISHMENT • Medhi M. Kashani 132 TAKING CARE • Melissa Ostrom 150 HIMALAYAN BLACKBERRIES • Alexis M. Smith 154

Nonfiction GODZILLA • Eric G. Wilson 12 IMPOSSIBLE THINGS • Erin Swan 22 LOVE AND COMPOST • Kris Wilcox 68 GRETA WILSON: THE SOUL SINGER • Kevin Sampsell 80

MORNING PILLS • Martha Grover 88 THEFT • Hilary Collins 90 THE GHOSTS OF WESTERN WOMEN • Lynn Mundell 120 THE PROCESS • Santi Elijah Holley 124 MALE BONDING • Daniel Elder 138 WE JUMP TOMORROW • Margaret Malone 170 INTERVIEW WITH URSULA K. LE GUIN • David Naimon 178


Lynn Domina 20


Ed Skoog 32


Jan Priddy 36


Shayla Lawson 66

FOR MURRAY AT 3 • Joanna Klink 76 CLOUDLESS •Joanna Klink 78

YEAR SIX • Philip Schaefer 86 FRITTATAS • Eliza Frakes 110 WETLAND • Mary Haidri 118 THOSE VOICES • Matthew Zapruder 122 FOUR UNTITLED POEMS FROM TEN • Jennifer Firestone 130 UNTITLED {BOATBUILDING} • John Sibley Williams 136 WATER CYCLES #32: THE RULES, MY LOVE • Bill Neumire 148 RR 2 BOX 141 VIII • Melanie Tague 152 RR 2 BOX 141 X • Melanie Tague 153 STARDUST WANTING • Elizabeth Pickard 166 TAKE • Elizabeth Pickard 168




HOME LIFE Alex Prince 15” x 8.75” mixed media collage

GODZILLA Eric G. Wilson


odzilla does not live in the now. I’ve witnessed him not. Go to Kyoto. Zen. Gary Snyder, the poet: “You sit, and you sweep the garden.” Somewhere Basho, the cuckoo’s cry. Into my heart please sing, bird being a bird being a bird. I am desire alone, what hurt happened, what next. The monk facing crosses his legs. Focus on your breath. I count ten. I count ten. My back tightens, bells far away, and barking, I want beer, unending is the quarrel with my wife. We push to Tokyo. Shin Godzilla, the creature’s thirty-first, plays. Japanese only, no subtitles. I am nostalgic for mindlessness, I am dying to see it. My wife and daughter fear confusion and look to Kabuki. “But it’s a goddamn monster flick. Easy to follow. Might as well be silent.” The politicians talk in conference rooms, offices, board rooms, warehouses, hangars, riversides. Godzilla in the bay arouses maelstroms. The men talk. Haruo Nakajima first played Go-jira, Gorilla-Whale. Between scenes in the one-hundred-forty-degree suit of rubber, he unzips and fires up cigarettes. He holds a black belt in judo and choreographs the fights.

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With computers, “they can create any monster,” he says, but it “is different from having someone act as Godzilla.” Critic Michael Atkinson believes “the artificialia of fantastic imagery—the zipper on the monster suit, as it were—has a distinctive, instantly antiquated luster that seamless visual effects cannot match.” When technology eclipsed Nakajima, he worked in a bowling alley. Herman Melville served as a pin boy in Honolulu. He reached the lanes via a jumped whaler, life among cannibals, orgies, a mutiny, beachcombing, jail. Melville published Moby-Dick; or, The Whale in 1851. Within two years Admiral Perry’s black ships thrust into Tokyo’s bay and forced commerce at cannon point. From Perry to Hiroshima historians argue is a devious line. In 1951 Ray Bradbury published “The Fog Horn.” An ancient reptilian sea creature mistakes the horn for wailings of its own kind and rises from the depths lonely and longing. The movie Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, ’53, surfaced from this tale. The sorrowful monster inspired Toho Studios to create Godzilla in ’54. Bradbury’s story impressed John Huston, who hired the writer for his ’56 film of Moby-Dick. I have a black belt in taekwondo. I am a ferocious sparrer, though slow. I break bricks. I fracture my wrist. I began the sport when I drove my daughter, then five, to her first class. In the parking lot, she cried. I bought her popcorn from a convenience store. The butter shined on her hands, I took the lesson instead. The Golden Apples of the Sun is the title of Bradbury’s collection containing “The Fog Horn.” The phrase is from Yeats. “The Song of Wandering Aengus.” I filmed my young daughter reciting the poem. Sing-songy and giggling she speaks of head-fires and girls glimmering. The professor who alerted me to Yeats’s poem was sardonic and gentle, very Southern, a runner. He conjured fever images while teaching Welty’s “The Recital.” He suffered a stroke, and he now lives in the now. Alzheimer’s victims live in the now. My cat Merlin. Maybe people once called retards. I run marathons. I have diarrhea for days after the race. I attend mindfulness classes. To help my marriage. The teacher

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is a Zen monk turned psychotherapist. He grew up in Pennsylvania and his golf handicap is three. We talk about Matthew McConaughey and True Detective. I am manic depressive and alcoholic. I confuse admiration with affection. That last from Birdman, directed by Alejandro Iñárritu, who also directed 21 Grams, about a woman who loses both daughters to a traffic accident and a terminally ill mathematician whose wife does not love him. The title refers to the amount of weight a body loses at death. After a lecture I gave on melancholia, a man with a crew cut said to me, “I am of the mind that at birth God scoops out a hole from our souls.” The cuckoo forlorn, paleontologists claim, evolved from a dinosaur. Mental illness is stigmatized in Japan. The blistered black skin on the first Godzilla resembles the burned flesh of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On March 1, 1954, the US Military tested a hydrogen bomb near Bikini Atoll. The bomb was ten times more powerful than the one that devastated Hiroshima. One hundred miles east of the blast, eighteen miles into the safe zone, sailed the Lucky Dragon No. 5, a Japanese tuna boat. Whitish ash snowed onto the deck. The crew vomited over the rails. Two weeks later, the ship reached Yaizu, its home port. The men were hospitalized in Tokyo. Six months later, the radio operator died. Japanese doctors concluded radiation sickness. The US government objected. Eight months after the tragedy, Godzilla opens. Sailors lounge on the decks of a fishing boat. A harmonicist breathes a plaintive tune, and a guitarist accompanies, and those close move to the music. Others play board games, some just sit around and bullshit. A glare enormously up-bubbles not a knot from the prow. Tables overturn, scatter the dominoes, the guitar twangs. The ship is burning. The toy ship. Godzilla destroys miniatures. When I was a boy, I watched the chintzy special effects on TV’s Afternoon Express, hosted by Sonic Man. He introduced old monster flicks, wore a cape and

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goggles, and spoke his own language. “Amserx Poxies.” Eiji Tsubuyara created what Godzilla destroys. Before his Toho Studios fame, he served as assistant cameraman on A Page of Madness, an avant-garde film, lost for decades, of a mother confined in an asylum. The father is the janitor there. The daughter’s arrival triggers tragic flashbacks. Still barely married I consult in secret a divorce attorney. “How will my suicidal tendencies, revealed in memoirs, affect my custody suit?” Seeing my daughter only half her life is self-murder enough. Say sentimental all you want, and you will, but she is it and nothing else for me to love, if love means terror of loss and of found-ness. To raise the $200 for the consult, I accumulated stray cash in the pages of Hitchcock / Truffaut. I scheduled a day to divorce. But it snowed, and my daughter’s crisp ecstasy erased my resolve. I have begun a new fund in Geoff Dyer’s Zona. Have you seen A Woman in the Dunes? The black-and-white can’t blanche the woman, the night-sand falls, glosses her naked skin golden. The insect-hunter she entraps remains when freedom’s ladder lowers. Her daughter and husband are buried in the sand. Only houses with men garner rations. Cigarettes and sake. Godzilla thunders through Tokyo, as uncaring of high-rises as we, on the coast, are of the grit. We desire the far pier. The arcade is there. Where is Godzilla bent? The tanks and planes fire on his (or is it her?) back. He stops. It is night. He turns his head toward his attackers. No one has witnessed this. He arches his back, gapes wide his titanic jaws, and he roars, fierce and pitiful, Promethean, Lear-hollow, Howl-abundant. From his gullet gushes hydrogen enough for a hundred Hiroshimas. Tokyo melts like a toy. Drag a resin-primed leather glove over a double bass whose strings are loose. Never in your small art use the word “Holocaust.” Now you are not a monster. ゴジラ

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Snakes, I mean, they look like branches in the grass I mean can’t you see the blades curve under their reptilian fur, emerald bend against the moccasin, what have I learned from years of camping, hiking through our boring arboreal small-state parks not national, even, notional, even, which made up my backyards for so long and far as nineteen, twenty-three, drunk, searching for a dark or quiet private place to stand a stranger’s fuck maybe this time in that seat-bucket of a tiger-colored construction grader, skid steer loader, dress-knee-pale flash against an excavator, I am wrong I must have known metal resists the heat. I shudder to trail one finger down its torso, a D10N in real size I mean I’m just so used to 1st grade model figurines it’s mean and surly orange this machine is just a man or I mean is like one: will not bury under but instead always plows over, this bulldozer implacable and grounded along the side of broken asphalt it took from being a road, a full half a mile’s hike down from the mouth of any byway a car would recognize. Deep in old familiar White Clay where I’ve never seen a ranger, had one stride along at precisely the wrong time to catch me, find me sleeping, tungsten steel scraped over, broken. Open.

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Instant Message to Germany Paige Riehl A quick congratulations, like a shout from a passing car, a package dropped from a helicopter. It’s laced with loss, such delicate, crafted work. Bobbins my bones. Woven memory. Inexpensive tools. Once we were a pair, passing across one another, twisting the threads of ourselves on soft pillows. Your daughter is beautiful, I write.

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WHEN I LAND Alex Prince 8” x 8” mixed media collage

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Northern Michigan, Late Afternoon, Early September Lynn Domina

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i. Among reeds, a juvenile crane stills himself, listening to thin splashes. One faint canoeist follows the shore. ii. Each crane takes slow care extending its leg, stretching through obscure water. iii. A loon invisibly calls. Cranes lift themselves, their shadows crossing the canoe. iv. Silence. A rustling breeze. Silence.

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Impossible Things Erin Swan


tanding over 11,000 feet above sea level, Cuzco appears as a miracle, a mirage born of mountains rather than desert. Circling in from above, at first it seems the plane cannot, will not, land. That brief cluster of ochre buildings nestled among the peaks, that narrow strip of runway, the impossibility of it. All around the verdure of the Andes in August, trailing away into distance and cloud, eclipsing the small efforts made by man. How to touch foot on such truncated ground? Won’t the plane skid off into nothingness? Won’t the mountains, in the end, eclipse us too? But then of course we do land, we do disembark. Bustle of luggage, sing-song of cell phones startled back to life. Release from the airport into the city, this unreal place of cobblestones, of Spanish architecture, of air so thin we might as well be breathing nothing at all. Routines settle into normalcy. Find a room in which to stay, a place to eat. Get one’s bearings: east, west, north, south. Admire the hem of the mountains, the stretch of the sky. Gasp once for air, then again.

In August of 2011, my husband, Peter, and I made this journey from New York to Cuzco, former capital of the Inca, now a magnet for

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tourists from across the globe. No strange journey was it, nothing out of the ordinary. We were simply another couple on summer vacation, come to marvel at the world both ancient and new. Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca: the destinations prized in Peru, readied for the arrival of visitors curious as we. We had two weeks, perhaps a little more. After that it would be back to work. Like all travelers returning, we would sigh a little upon reaching home, notice anew the gray sheen of JFK, the diesel tang in the air, the dull oblong of our apartment’s front door. Perhaps tack above our work desks a photo of Machu Picchu, a reminder of what had been. In August though, we were still in the thick of it. And Cuzco did not disappoint. Together we roamed the cobbled streets, glided in and out of cathedrals, bought some cheaply made blankets, strolled the open market for fresh fruit. Dined on chicken and fried potatoes in a crooked storefront at town’s edge, where a rooster ran out and circled our feet, before being chased back into the kitchen by the owner. Did what one does when on vacation, which is really not much at all. The Sunday after we arrived, we hiked up a mountain slope to reach a huddle of ruins at the top. It was a long climb, though civilized enough, paved with stones fitted edge to edge. On the way we passed a cheerful church festival, a stray llama or two, a stream of visitors—Peruvian and foreign alike—trekking the same trail. Every few feet we’d pause to catch our breath, our lungs forced to shortness by the altitude. Then, once more, we’d push on. At the top we found our ruins, the remnants of Saksaywaman: stretches of smooth boulders assembled into walls, steps, tiers of what was once a city, complete with streets and houses and athletic fields patched with grass. Over these boulders we clambered, followed first by two mongrels, then just one. Occasionally we paused to nibble the cheese and tremendous circle of bread we’d brought from the market, to feed a piece or two to the mutt at our heels. We made up stories and songs, snapped a plethora of pictures, laughed loud into the echo of the defunct city. August in Peru falls in their dry season, the middle of their mild winter; above us, therefore, only a blue dome, translucent and fine, patched here and there with a tumbled white cloud.

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All around us the tawny grass, the boulders mottled gray and brown, a field here and there where llamas bent their necks to graze. At afternoon’s end, we descended once more—exhausted but satiated, our senses singing with the beauty of the day—back to our guesthouse at the base of the slope. We’d chosen a place so popular they’d been forced to relegate us to their annex, a dim and basic building erected to house the overflow in busy tourist seasons. It was clean and comfortable, though with a certain vacant feeling, as of a house shutting down for the winter. That afternoon, though, we were glad of the place, glad of its location. The church festival we’d passed on our ascent had grown in size, tripled, quadrupled. It had spilled over into the surrounding streets with parades and floats and dozens of Peruvians marching with bottles of Quisqueña in hand, a river of merrymaking that flowed right past our door. We spent the lingering tail of afternoon there, outside our guesthouse with the townspeople, fascinated by the passing parades, the costumed men and women, the mysterious floats with their crucified Christs and fierce devils, their Incan warriors and fertility goddesses, the mishmash of influences joined in a medley we couldn’t hope to comprehend. With the onset of evening, the celebration continued, though Peter and I slunk away, worn out by the day. We went for dinner, a drink or two. Then, in the sudden quiet of the mountain night, we lifted our weary legs home. Picked our way over the detritus left by the revelers: empty bottles, confetti, an abandoned mask with eyeholes black and bare. Tiptoed into the dark annex. Crawled into bed with most of our clothes still on. Pulled up the scratchy blankets to block out the sudden Andean cold. Fell asleep, with the long golden day blinking vividly behind our eyes.

Sometime around 3 a.m., I awoke. Shivering in the night, I got up to pee, then wriggled back into bed. A second later Peter, too, got up. Stumbled, as I had, into the tiny bathroom. A moment passed, perhaps two. I felt myself on the verge of sleep. And then, a noise. A series of noises.

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How to describe them? I think now of the sounds I heard the morning my father died, when I was eleven and upstairs, and he was forty-two and down, when his cancer caused a hemorrhage, and he banged and banged on the wall for me or my mother to come, but died before we did, because neither of us recognized the sound for what it was. It was like that, but different. This time I went to see. Here is a portrait: a rectangular bathroom, dimly lit, with first the sink, then the toilet, then the shower, merely a stall, shower curtain swept to the side. In that stall, on its hard and tiled floor, a man. The torso of a man, his waist and chest, his shoulders, his neck, his head. His hip at the lip, his legs trailed off behind. Peter prostrate on the floor, face down, unconscious. Where his head meets the shower wall, a sharp bend to his neck. Spreading outward from the intersection of face and floor, a pool of blood. Adrenaline is a funny thing. It makes you do funny things, things you later recall only as blurs, dim outlines. I called out his name, some number of times. I believe I uttered the usual imprecations to a God in whom I’d never believed. I wondered why the tourists in the room next door couldn’t hear me through the wall. I wondered why they didn’t come to help. Perhaps I said his name again, perhaps I said other things, words now lost to memory. I saw the dangerous twist of his neck and knew I shouldn’t move him. Nonetheless I crouched down and pulled on his shoulder. Wake up, I must have said. Wake up. He did not wake up. The blood continued to pool outward, a dark shadow. Ignoring common sense, all I’d been taught, I tugged on his shoulder. Once, twice. I needed him to move. I wanted to haul him upward by the shoulders, force him back to life. Peter, I kept saying. Wake up. He did not. I knew he was dying. That blood leaking out of him was his life. I saw this truth, the true firm fact of his dying, like a wall, one I could push away if I refused it. This isn’t happening. That old cliché to which we cling in such moments. I could make this un-happen, but

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only if I tried hard enough. Perhaps we have listened too closely to the adage of mind over matter, perhaps believed too strongly in our ability to bend the world to fit our will. How much time passed, I couldn’t tell you. Probably just a few minutes, maybe five, maybe ten. I thought my first cries had been loud enough to summon our neighbors, but no one came. The annex breathed around us in silence, forgotten at the end of town. Just our two figures in that isolated bathroom, one prone, one not. My breath was short in my throat, the world distant and muted around me. What would I do if he were dead? How would I tell his parents? How would I tell anyone? It seemed such an enormous task, such an unreal one, impossible to execute. Resolutely, I tugged and tugged on his shoulder, shook him once, then again. Come on, I pleaded. Wake up. And then, he moved. He made a noise, perhaps a groan. How I helped him sit up, I don’t know. I only know that suddenly he was sitting, slumped against the tiled wall. His face a map of blood. I couldn’t tell what had broken, if anything had. Most of it seemed to be coming from his nose. Oh Erin, he kept saying. In his voice the echoes of my own distress. His eyes seemed loose in their sockets, filmed and foggy. He kept trying to lie back down. I kept propping him back up. I would not let him succumb once more to that floor. He was alive. I clung to that. He doesn’t remember this part, doesn’t remember swimming back to consciousness, slumping against the wall with that puddle of blood beside him, how often he tried to lie back down. He says his memory begins later, once I’d somehow maneuvered him out of the shower stall and onto the bathroom floor, propped his arms against the toilet’s closed lid. I thought I should clean his face, mop up some of the blood. We needed to know where the damage was. I wet a cloth in the sink, then paused. I looked at him. “Do you want me to take a picture?” It seems silly, I guess. Who would want to look at such a photo? He would, I thought. He would want to see what he looked like. I still couldn’t believe the fact of his existence, how miraculously he’d crawled back into life. I thought he, too, should see the near marks of

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death on his face, should appreciate how close he’d come to vanishing from this world altogether. He considered this question for only a moment. “Okay,” he said. So I got our camera and took a photo, him blinking upwards beside the bloody shower stall, his own face no less streaked. I was shaking so hard it came out blurry, but I didn’t take another one. He needed to be cleaned up. He needed to be put back to bed. What followed? I wiped off the blood as best I could, while he swatted me away groggily. Bit by bit, in tortured whispers, we pieced together what must have happened. He was dizzy, he said. It was the altitude, of course, the thin air. We’d been taking medication to prevent altitude sickness, but it hadn’t been enough. The air was too thin, the heights too extreme to be tamed by anything as small as a pill. As he’d stood in the bathroom, his head had begun to swim. He remembers thinking he should sit down. After that, he remembers nothing. He’d passed out, stumbled over the lip of the shower, collapsed face down in the stall. Only narrowly missed breaking his neck against the wall. Instead, it had merely bent, wedging his head up against the tiles. Everything hurt, he said. Once I’d sponged off most of the blood, I surveyed the damage. A cut over his eye, a deep one inside his mouth, perhaps something broken in his nose. But that was all. A concussion, of course. He wasn’t dead. That’s what mattered. Part of me still saw that wall bearing down, still thought I had to push it away. But for now, we seemed safe. Together we managed to get him back to bed. Together we crawled under the covers. Only then did I realize how terribly cold I was. I was wearing only a sleeveless top and shorts, Peter not much more. I didn’t even have my glasses on, had been half-blind throughout, though I hadn’t noticed until then. I thought I should take him to the hospital. It was somewhere before 4 a.m. There was no staff in the annex, no desk at the front, nothing. “I want to go to sleep,” he said. Of course, everybody says the last thing you should let a concussed person do is sleep. That it can drop them into a coma, or worse. But

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what else could we do? It seemed cruel to keep him awake until dawn, and who knew where the nearest hospital was, if it was even open? If we’d been in New York, it would’ve been a different story. I would’ve known what to do. But here in Cuzco I was unmoored, adrift. I barely knew any Spanish. My phone worked, at least, albeit slowly. First I researched hospitals, found the closest one, which was not too close. I had no clue how I would even get him there in his state. Then I looked up concussions, and learned that preventing sleep was an old wives’ tale, something that had been debunked years before. There were my options: attempt in my wretched Spanish to call an ambulance for something that might not be so serious, or let him sleep. I let him sleep. He dropped into it slowly, his face pulsing with pain, his body wracked, as mine was, with shivers. The room was so cold, the blankets not heavy enough. I’d pulled off his long-sleeved shirt because it was smeared with blood, but couldn’t drag another one over his broken face. So there we were, bare-limbed and freezing under the covers. Gradually sleep took us, though it was thin and patchy, barely sleep at all.

At dawn’s light we woke. He was still alive. The room had grown warmer with the onset of sun. Some dried blood flaked his face. His cut eye had darkened around its edges, though not as much as I’d thought. His torn lip was thick and swollen. I asked if he wanted to go to the hospital. He said no. We didn’t go. That day we spent in slow walks around Cuzco. Each time we felt our breath wheezing from us, we’d pause. Reconsider. Then walk on. It was Monday, with many of the townspeople at work. Our street outside was littered with confetti and streamers, a broken bottle here and there. Remnants of the previous day’s festivities. We avoided the tourist spots, headed instead to the outer streets. Spent some time sitting by a fountain in the sun. Just sitting there. How quiet we felt. How stunned. How easily it could’ve been different. Simply

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one inch in another direction, and he’d be dead, his neck broken. But here we were, in the quiet sun by a quiet fountain. A small girl and her grandmother feeding pigeons nearby. A circle of white buildings with blue roofs, blue shutters. The burnt brown grass, the tremendous boulders of the ruins the day before now a memory. Peter’s face a patchwork of bruises.

After that night, the world sharpened. The entire country, already vivid, tightened into focus. The ochre buildings, the green peaks, the stones fitted together in intricate patterns. Llamas in the fields, sheep up the hills, stray dogs by the roadside. Scarlet piles of apples in the market, oranges like little suns. Even the tastes solidified: chicken and potatoes, trout and quinoa, juice fresh through a straw. We stopped taking the medication for altitude sickness. We thought it didn’t matter. Later, in Puno, by Lake Titicaca, higher than Cuzco was, our heads grew light as air, our stomachs dropped at the ascent of any steps. Our brains burned with migraines. Still, we stopped taking the pills. Who needed medication? We were alive. That’s what mattered. Two days after Peter fell in the night and broke his face, we made it to Machu Picchu. Those ruins, more impossible than the impossibility of Cuzco, more impossible than anything. Cresting a hill above the site, we paused for our first true glimpse. How to explain such a place? The world both ancient and new. Poised in air despite all odds. It was too much. Unable to restrain ourselves, we began jumping up and down, yelling, arms flung to the sky. Trading the camera back and forth, we took ridiculous photos of each other with our arms raised, our legs, our thumbs up in exuberant gestures. Looking back through the photos upon our return, first we would encounter Peter’s bloody face, his dim and foggy eyes, and then those pictures of Machu Picchu. His face raw and swollen, his limbs outstretched with joy. Our wild human gestures on that impossible hill.

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*** In the months to come we would face it again, that wall bearing down. Once more we would whisper our denial, would attempt in our insufficient way to assert our minds over the matter of this world. This time, however, the wall would win, not we. At the time of our trip to Peru, Peter’s father had been ill for some time, his brain chewed by dementia, his body by Parkinson’s. In the months following our trip, his father, already weakened, would weaken further. In October he would collapse, then slowly shrivel up, and by the first of February he would eventually dwindle, horribly and gracelessly, into death. Throughout the long months leading up to his end, each night we would put a record on, pour some wine, sit down to dinner. Listen to the singers his father used to love: Harry Nilsson, Roy Orbison, Neil Diamond. Halfway through dinner we’d start to cry, usually midway through Hot August Night. First Peter, then me. Our dog crouched on the floor, staring upwards, uncomprehending our pain. The world would be awful again, the hard fact of mortality too true to disbelieve. This time our refusal to accept, our muttered this can’t be happening, would not be enough.

But in August, at the summit over Machu Picchu, we knew only that we lived. Peter’s face still throbbing with pain, my own mind still awash with images of him fallen. That slowly spreading pool of blood. That wall bearing down. But now, look at us. Arms and legs raised in absurd and fabulous postures. Below us the ruins, that unforgotten city nearly eclipsed by mountains, poised on its peak like some dream suddenly recalled. Saksaywaman, Cuzco, these places where humans have sought to bend the world to their wills. Machu Picchu. A man and a woman. Victory, brief and fleeting though it is.

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IT’S RARE Alex Prince 6” x 6” mixed media collage Spring 2017  31

Swim Lesson, East Portland Community Center Ed Skoog Where they are learning the swim strokes in squads they plunge under the kicked-white shoot up undisciplined where the instructor (Marvin, a former student of mine, who disappeared before the final) insists on their names, though it is like naming the water itself, —they are like sparrows at a familiar feeder, in another element, flitting around 32  Portland Review

making associations between the animal savagery of a pack, the stories of breath in a way they are learning to hunt the gestures that would maneuver them through strangeness Marvin’s got a poem tattooed scripted on his left pec and one child has a penguin printed on her swim cap while the other parents nap against the window. It’s a hothouse you could grow tomatoes in here though the snow’s not melting. The instructor holds a child a backfloater, like he’s nursing, not just the pieta but the grace that settles on the child the pacification, like a shark sleeping, all that momentum stilled, ears underwater, hearing the underwater sensorium. A listening post, the whole pool joined to the inner ear, it’s this way for water animals, even the surface tension becomes part of the membrane, a connection we don’t have in the air, never alone in the sea, tension, like between a sentence and a line the sentence a part of the body, perhaps the humidity of the pool area serves a kind of narcotic to us while the lifeguards, like herons pace beside the water watchful but indifferent. Spring 2017  33

Ed Skoog’s New Year Toast Ed Skoog Here’s to being flipped off by children in pizza shop and elevator, and photorealist techniques depicting crosswalks empty all night. I stand on asphalt stained with rust from the basketball hoop’s chain net and the shadow is a crown, and then the sun’s down and behind the backboard a darkness I suddenly remember from the house a friend would have me drive her to and wait outside of: no lights on in the interregnum: here’s to love, to it would be splendid to raise the dead who know more than I realize, and keep our decorative chalices raised to love’s bigoted triceratops, and yea also to the homes of the rich sunning themselves like vultures

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above the river, and yea uh-huh to viruses balanced on railings, and the gait of the teenager emerging from the automatic door with a job application—run, y’all! extinct feet are already coming down to cool in our shallows. It is a tool of authoritarianism to say I don’t know what the times call for it will not be enough to feed the invisible, spindly and deteriorating, but shouldn’t that be liberating? screwing up over and over? Here’s to next fire season, to the paper showing all over the west: step, ash, and chimney, while the oven, even the oven melts but the chimney you can still lean against when you discover them when you’re lost in the woods; puff away the house and the chimney stays for pigs trick the wolf with, so drink to the wolf’s new start, drink to the cradle, to the knot the time calls for knowing beyond the mild bemusement I put on this morning because it was slimming, and what everyone else is wearing this year at the convenience store, and to whatever has been suspended as it begins to fall, fan toward us, friends, but still may we return to withered vegetables, run into each other at AA, say Manitoba was fine, crowded. The alkali plain ok, and pet salamanders survive thanks to neighbors, or the grown kids who stayed behind and had large, boisterous sessions of vulnerability and wine.

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Pododesmus macrochisma: Metaphor for Girls Jan Priddy

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Each morning I walk the sand, searching for what my grandmother misnamed the “ugly clams” caught in foam left behind by a retreating wave or stranded high on shore from last night’s tide. Smaller than my thumb or filling my palm, they might come to rest among seaweeds torn from their beds, half buried by wind-driven grains. Often when I find a shell, there is another nearby. Is it too fanciful to think they gather to die? Perhaps because the first makes me alert to the next. Every one I have seen lies face down, resembling nothing much of note. Some thinner than drawing paper, sometimes thick, calloused like my toes. They lived wild in depths to three hundred feet, here adrift and dead, their softer life dissolved in the sea. Only rarely are the unequal halves complete, shaped back shell still attached to the round. Sometimes only shards remain, wholeness crushed by the careless heel of an earlier walker passing by, oblivious to the gift underfoot. One reason to search at dawn. Turn one over, see what hides—that nacre, sometimes scarred, dark glimmering, pearly sheen—alive amber and green, holding captive light.

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Scrape Maurice Irvin The sound of the car hitting the folding chair was like the sound of a thousand pop cans being crushed underfoot all at once.1 Evie watched as her brother, Dustin, who was older by a whole five years, rolled down the hill to the side of the road and lay in the grass. Her hands shot up into the air in a motion like the corkscrew in the kitchen. A moment before, Dustin had set up a metal folding chair on the shoulder of Butcher’s Lane at the top of the hill they lived next to. He’d had his skateboard and was going to show Evie a trick he’d said he had invented, named the “Triple Lindy,” where he’d jump off the folding chair, do a 360° in the air, land on the skateboard in a handstand and coast down to the dead end of the road. Dustin had been getting ready to climb up onto the chair, skateboard in hand, when Evie had heard the approaching car on the other side of the hill behind Dustin. The car stopped down the road and idled with the brake lights lit. Evie could see the faces of several people looking back at her through the rear windshield, too far away to be distinct. It occurred to her

1. This was the best approximation Evie could make when she was eight. Presently, as a twentysix-year old, the sensory impression that’s left for her whenever the memory resurfaces is a dull ache in her chest and sensitivity in her teeth, similar to the physical sensation produced by electric shock.

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that there were too many people in there for such a small car. The brake lights blinked off and the car took a quick left onto Sweetbriar and then was out of view. Evie didn’t realize Dustin had rejoined her at the top of the hill until he spoke. “Son of a bitch almost killed me,” he said, picking up a rock and tossing it toward the empty space where the car had been. Dustin retrieved the pieces of the folding chair and his skateboard from the road. Evie watched as the tiny white car reappeared and parked down the road where it had stopped before. A tall man got out, the group of people in the car no longer there. He plodded toward them, head down. “Hey, hi,” he said, as if he didn’t know which words were for which of them. Evie kept quiet, petrified of talking to strangers, especially adult ones. Dustin stood by his small pile of rubble. The man kept talking as he walked up to them. “Are you guys okay? What were you doing playing in the road?” “We’re fine, I guess,” Dustin said. Evie turned to him and they locked eyes. She felt as if she were floating somewhere outside of her body. When the man got closer, Evie could see that he wasn’t their mother’s age but not as young as anyone in their school, either. He had long hair like a girl and some scruff on his chin and wore a long sleeve shirt under a t-shirt, jeans with sandals. Standing downwind of the man, Evie could smell a funny sweet-sickly smell coming off of him. His eyes looked like Evie’s mother’s did when she had been crying a lot. He looked around and squirmed like he had to pee. “Listen,” he said. “You guys need any money or anything?” Evie and Dustin again locked eyes. “You broke my skateboard,” Dustin said. He pointed to the rubble heap at his feet. “Yeah, I saw that. Sorry, man.” The man reached for a chain hanging from his pocket and pulled an attached wallet out of his pocket. “What do you think that would cost?”

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Evie turned to Dustin, and he only for a moment met her eyes before turning to the man. “I know somebody that could fix it for like twenty bucks.” Evie’s eyes were glued to the man as his face hardened and his eyes got narrow. He looked down to Evie, his face dark in the shadow he cast over her. “Is that true?” Evie shook her head no, but she felt as though she were refusing the question. The man opened his wallet and took out a twenty-dollar bill, handing it to Dustin. “Stay out of the road,” the man said before turning and walking back to his car. Dustin held up the twenty to the sky and looked at all of the hidden words, grains and bands exposed by the sunlight. Evie’s voice finally broke free from her throat. “You don’t know anybody that fixes skateboards.” “Forget the skateboard.” “So, what are you going to do with it?” Dustin’s eyes became steely. “None of your goddamned business, that’s what.” That night after dinner, Dustin’s friend Jared came over. Jared lived on the other side of the rich houses in a trailer with his mother and sister, Whitney, who had Down syndrome.2 Jared was white but dressed and talked like he was black.3 The two boys waited until nightfall and then went out to the backyard near the tree line of the 2. The reason, Evie thinks, that Jared was always over at their house and not his own. 3. Jared only started acting this way after he and Dustin, who were both thirteen, had a run-in with who they claimed were genuine Latin Kings at P.J. Irvin Park, an experience neither of them elaborated on any further to Evie. The term for such a person during Evie’s childhood was a “wigger,” which Evie never repeats in the presence of most company in her adulthood. Jared later became straight “white trash” and lived in a trailer of his own while working steadily at Arby’s. That is, until he was caught stealing from the register and was fired, this happening in conjunction with wrecking his girlfriend’s car with their children inside after nodding off from a hit of methadone. Jared developed a serious meth addiction and introduced it to Dustin, who then developed all sorts of addictions of his own. While she was home from college one Thanksgiving, Evie learned in passing that Jared had killed himself at age 21. She doesn’t know the means by which he did it, having never pressed for further details, but imagines Jared alone in a dark room with a gun or a noose, the thought of a drug overdose, which is far more likely, not occurring to her. She stops short of thinking too much about his probable mental state,

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woods, stalking lightning bugs with a baseball bat and tennis racket. Evie followed at a distance and acted like she was killing lightning bugs too but clapped her hands around them before letting them go from her cupped palms.4 She tried to eavesdrop on the boys’ conversation that they had in hushed voices while looking over their shoulders at her. Every time they looked, she turned away like she wasn’t trying to listen. “I can get it,” Jared said. “I’ll figure out a way to dig up some scratch, holmes.” “I talked to Stubby. He said he’d cut us a deal. Sixty bucks for the whole thing.” “Stubby” was how their mother referred to Mr. Stubbefield, the owner and operator of the Convenience Store up on the corner of Morris Ave. and Six Points Rd., where Evie’s mother bought cigarettes and lotto tickets for herself and pop and beef jerky for Evie and Dustin. Mr. Stubbefield only had one arm, which Evie thought somehow made him seem more trustworthy and nice.5 Stubby invited Evie and Dustin to go swimming in his aboveground pool in the summers but they had yet to go.6 Dustin and Jared paused in their conversation to swing at a couple of lightning bugs, the tiny flying lanterns a space she is afraid to enter herself, and eulogizes him in her mind as a sensitive young man with extraordinarily sad eyes and soft face. 4. She knew other girls in her class tore the bioluminescent butts off of the bugs and attached them to their ears or noses as crude jewelry. Evie had tried it once and thereafter thought the practice barbaric. During successive summers, lightning bugs seem to become scarcer in Bloomington and Evie doesn’t know if this is the result of disappearing childlike wonder (thus, distortion) or an actual entomological phenomenon. Even as an adult, if she sees the odd lightning bug – a regionalism, she heard them referred to as “fireflies” at her undergrad in Iowa – she blames their dwindling numbers on the genocidal acts of her brother, Jared, and her classmates. 5. Evie now believes this character assessment stemmed from a misunderstanding of a joke her father consistently told, the humor of which was lost on her as a kid (in sum: it being preferable to ask a man with one leg for directions as he would know the shortest possible route to any given location). In her mind, therefore, all men with severed limbs became automatically reliable and knowledgeable, a concept she has yet to disabuse herself of despite her awareness of its fallacy. Mr. Stubbefield, long since deceased, lived alone and had had two small children of his own around Evie and Dustin’s ages. However, the children were incinerated in an accident involving the children being left unattended in the family car in the garage; a combination of the youngest child’s curiosity in turning the ignition key and a not-up-to-code water heater present in the garage proved to be fatal. Stubby’s absent arm and wife may or may not have been linked to the accident, but nobody ever talked about it. 6. They never did. Dustin said it was because Stubby could only swim in circles and that Dustin couldn’t watch without being in hysterics and he didn’t want to subject Mr. Stubbefield to such embar-

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either bursting into glowing confetti from Dustin’s tennis racket or else turning into single shooting stars from the impact of Jared’s bat. “So, we just need forty more. Split even…” Dustin broke off to do the math in his head, trying to conceal the fact that his eyes were looking at his fingers.7 Evie closed in, making a big display of slapping her hands together on a pretend-bug and looking confused when she found them not covered in bright guts. She attempted it again and collided with Jared. “Back up off me, ho,” Jared said, brushing his shoulders off. “I’m not a ho,” Evie said, picturing a garden rake. “What are you going to buy?” “Nothing,” Dustin said, turning back from his calculations. “Go inside.” “I don’t want to. I want to know what you’re going to buy. If it’s bad, I’m going to tell mom.” Dustin reached for the pressure point behind Evie’s ear that made her whole neck stiff and mouth water. “You’re not going to tell mom shit, you little brat.” Evie slinked away. “I am too. You’re going to buy girlie magazines and those are only for dads.” “You are so dumb. I can get those whenever I want because I’m like best friends with the guy that owns Playboy,” Dustin said. Evie was about to call him on the lie when he chased after her wrist with both of his hands for an Indian burn. Evie knew he was panicking. “Hang on, home-skillet. Maybe the ho can help us out.” Jared crossed his arms and stood like someone was pushing on his hip. He looked at her from underneath the bill of his Oakland Raiders hat. “She could work a corner or something and get us some more dough.” “She’s too stupid to work a corner.” rassment. Evie is convinced that Dustin had some sort of aversion toward amputees due to a grade school music teacher that removed his prosthetic hand and horrified students by waving his foul-smelling stump sock like an opera singer’s handkerchief. 7. He also had what became a lifelong tic of covering his mouth with his hand while reading to hide his moving lips.

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“I can work a corner. I can too.” “Shut up.” Dustin began to twist the skin of her arm and Jared pulled them apart. “That O.G. Stubby has a bucket of Atomic Warheads8 that’s hot and he’s trying to unload. He said we could take it off his hands for sixty large.” “Why don’t you just get a few for a couple dollars?” Evie asked. “That’s not the point, dumb ass.” “You are.” “Because, ho, we can flip them to our posse and make ourselves a profit. Say we pay sixty for a hundred and sell each at one dollar a pop, that’s forty bones straight in-pocket.”9 “You don’t have a posse.” “We do too!” Jared again stepped in. Evie turned to him. “Why?” “Why what?” “Why do you have to flip them to your posse for a profit?” Evie spoke slowly while she tripped over the words. “Gotta get paid, yo,” Jared said. He rubbed his fingers in the air and smiled. “You want in on this action, bitch?” “Dude, what are you doing? She’s an idiot.” “I want in! I want in!” Jared turned Dustin away in a semi-huddle from Evie, who was hopping up and down in place. “Don’t be trippin’, homie. This is the smart business move. Your sister can turn tricks and then we’ll be real pimp daddies.” 8. WARHEADS™ (Impact Confections) were a hard candy renowned for their extremely sour shells that when sucked upon produced contorted faces in the consumer. The label featured a cartoon face with puckered mouth, the top of the figure’s head shooting up into a mushroom cloud. Recently, Evie has seen a wave of television commercials with ‘90s-era nostalgia (including Atomic Warheads), an advertising campaign pandering to her generation specifically. This development fills her with the same feeling she had when first hearing Nirvana or Metallica on classic rock radio stations. 9. Evie is now astounded while thinking back on Jared’s aptitude with basic fiscal math. Despite being a virtual dunce, Jared in his late adolescence knew the metric system like the back of his hand.

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Dustin hesitated before turning back to Evie and growling. “Fine. But you’re on your own. No following us around like a tagalong.” “Deal!” Evie stopped hopping long enough to hold up her pinky. Dustin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “Like this,” Jared said. He did something complicated with Evie’s hand and his. At the end of it he said, “Word.” “Word,” Evie said. Being a part of Dustin’s gang made her feel older, sophisticated. She tried to strut like Jared as they all went back inside the house to watch a rerun of Yo! MTV Raps10 but she just ended up skipping.11

Next day, Mr. Cole gave Evie and Dustin their customary hair rubs and pennies. Once they rounded the corner of the house, Jared promptly pocketed his penny and Evie threw hers into the storm drain while making a wish. Mr. Cole, the old man who lived in the other half of their duplex, watched them during the day while Evie’s mother was at work at BroMenn Hospital since Evie’s mother couldn’t afford to send Evie and Dustin to summer camp anymore.12 Evie was 10. Watching MTV with her brother deeply affected Evie’s subconscious. Though she never actively watched the rap music videos, usually occupying herself with Legos or a puzzle, some twenty years later she can still recite verbatim the lyrics of most early singles by Dr. Dre, Snoop Lion (né Snoop Dogg, né Snoop Doggy Dogg), 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls). 11. At night, Evie was already in bed by the time her mother arrived home from her evening shift at T.J. Maxx. The summer before, when Evie’s father was still around and Evie’s mother didn’t have to work so much, Evie’s mother tucked her in and gave her a kiss goodnight on the forehead. One night, Evie turned her face upward and kissed her mother on the lips. It wasn’t an intentional act, but from then on, Evie’s mother didn’t kiss her goodnight and then stopped tucking her in as well, claiming Evie was old enough to put herself to bed. As a result, once Evie was in bed she refused to get out for any reason and pretended to be asleep even if she wasn’t on the off chance that her mother might come in and tuck the sheets around her or give her a kiss. Evie was so rigid about this practice that if she wet the bed – an unfortunate habit that continued until she was age ten – she moved to another part of the bed and tried to sleep in her wet clothes, not informing her mother of the accident until the following morning to great shame and inevitable tears. 12. Evie’s mother did clerical social work at the hospital, usually dealing with underprivileged minorities. Despite this fact, Evie marvels as an adult at the semi-racially insensitive remarks her mother can make without seeming to be aware of it (for example, distinguishing East Indians from Native Americans by saying “push-not-pulls” while miming pushing an invisible dot on the forehead and then

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terrified of Mr. Cole.13 But Evie and Dustin were left to their own devices as, after Mr. Cole greeted them in the morning, he read the paper and then fell fast asleep until lunch time and slept again until dinner time when Evie’s mother returned home before she left for T.J. Maxx. Jared came over and he and Dustin double-checked that Mr. Cole was asleep before leaving. “Where are you going?” Evie asked, trailing them as far as the front yard. “Nowhere,” Dustin spat over his shoulder. “And anyway, you can’t come.” “Why not?” Jared interrupted. “Bros before hos,” he said. “You have to stay here and work the corner.” He pointed to the intersection of Butcher’s and Sweetbriar, where the bus came to pick them up for school. “What do I do there?” Evie asked, whimpering to the thongs of her flips flops.14 Jared shrugged. “Turn tricks.” Dustin and Jared disappeared on their bikes and Evie stood helplessly for several minutes. A car passing over the hill by their house stirred her into action. She found that the propane grill was too heavy to move, rooted to the side of the house with rust and weeds growing up the length of it. She tried to think of other objects around the house that could fetch the same price as Dustin’s skateboard should pulling a feather behind the head, respectively). 13. Evie’s impression of Mr. Cole at the time was that he had a face that contorted hideously into an over-exaggerated smile. He didn’t, but she had conflated his image with a memory of one Halloween trick-or-treating when Mr. Cole answered his door wearing a clear plastic mask with clown makeup superimposed over it. Thus, in Evie’s mind, the clown face became Mr. Cole’s. 14. Now in her late twenties, Evie reflects on her constant need to be included in activities as due to a paralyzing fear of being left alone. Not going with her mother and brother on short car rides, say, to the Convenience Store, caused fits of rage. Evie’s mother recounts that a common form of punishment for Evie as a misbehaving toddler was not to send Evie to her room but for Evie’s mother to lock herself in her own room, little Evie howling outside the door.

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someone hit it with their car. First, she tried her bicycle, but found she couldn’t get it to not turn and roll down the hill, the training wheels making the bicycle’s weight too uneven on the kickstand for it to prop up freely.15 It then occurred to her that if Dustin could turn tricks on his skateboard for money, that perhaps she could do the same on her scooter. But she ran into similar problems when placing her scooter on the hill—which was no different than Dustin’s skateboard, with the exception of it having Pink Power Ranger graphics on the top and bottom surfaces and attached handlebars with tassels streaming from the grips. The scooter also wouldn’t stay still so that Evie had to lay it on its side in the road and any cars that passed simply swerved to avoid it. Evie practiced leaping from the side of the road and rolling down the grass embankment, but when she lifted herself to look, she couldn’t tell that any cars stopped or even slowed down. Her last resort was her jump rope, which when placed in the road didn’t serve as a formidable enough roadblock, drivers passing over it without noticing and the rope curling up from the impact of tires like a snake writhing in a field.16 A growing burning sensation began to fill Evie’s core and leaked into her limbs until she felt that she wanted to burst into tears. In the throes of her frustration, Evie lay down in the middle of the oncoming lane. Behind her eyelids was the glowing red of the afternoon sun and little else.17 15. The bike was in a state of atrophic disrepair. Evie’s mother and brother had both attempted to teach Evie to ride it at the cost of shouting matches and wailing. The training wheels were a source of embarrassment already by Evie’s age at the time. Another girl from her class, Emily Engan, had spotted Evie on the bike, complete with training wheels and tear-lined cheeks, as she attempted to ride with her family on the Constitution Trail. The incident resulted in Evie pushing the bike down several hills in pure fury and having to explain to Emily Engan in school the next weekday that in fact she was being forced to ride the bike belonging to her little sister – who did not exist – because her own was unjustly damaged and/or taken away therefore the tears, etc. Evie never learned to ride a bike, which became less important the older she got. 16. Around her late-teens to early-twenties this image would crop up often in her mind but be overlaid with the sight of blown out tires on I-80 during frequent road trips home to Illinois. Evie knows that truckers call the debris “gators” because of the similarity of a tire’s tread to the scaly back of an alligator and also because the tires, when run over, move in a similar fashion to how an alligator attacks. She does not, however, know how she knows this. 17. This memory fills Evie with existential dread as the prospect and very tangible threat of death only dawned on her years afterward. Looking back as a woman approaching her thirties, the act seems unfathomable as she has recently begun developing debilitating anxiety attacks that wake her from dreamless sleep with her own loud weeping. These attacks stem not from the acceptance but the rec-

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She had no idea that any time had passed until she heard Dustin and Jared talking and noticed that the light behind her eyelids was dimmer. She must have fallen asleep.18 “Is she dead?” “No way, yo, there’s no tire tracks on her.” Evie opened her eyes and frowned. Jared had a twenty-dollar bill he was rolling into a tight cylinder between his fingers. Dustin held several Pixy Stix. “How’s tricks, ho?” Evie sat up and looked around the road. There wasn’t so much as a skid mark to indicate that any car had passed and seen her. “Fine. I was just taking a break.” “You make anything?” Dustin asked, tearing the heads off of the Pixy Stix straws and pouring them into a plastic sandwich bag. Jared inserted the rolled up twenty into his nostril and mugged at Dustin. “No.” Evie rubbed her arm as if her brother’s question felt the same as a slug on the shoulder. “How’d you get that?” Evie pointed to the crisp bill that Jared removed from his nose, unrolled and snapped a couple of times between his tugging hands. “Some guy in the cemetery…” Dustin started. “Shut up, balla. You’ll make it sound whack,” Jared interrupted. “What’s whack about it? Some guy in the cemetery was sitting in his car and said he’d give us twenty bucks if we showed him our dicks.” “Your what?” “Our dicks,” Dustin spoke more loudly and slowly as if Evie didn’t understand English, grabbing the crotch of his pants and pulling with each word. Evie was mystified. “So, you did it?” ognition of her imminent death. The idea of physical demise is not the scary part, but rather the end of consciousness that produces such crippling fear. 18. Which was entirely possible. Evie’s ability as a child to fall asleep virtually anywhere bordered on narcolepsy and was well-documented. Several Polaroids her father had taken of her as a toddler passed out in various locations with empty beer cans inserted into her hands resurfaced in Evie’s teenage years, Evie having started sifting through her mother’s catacomb-like store of family memorabilia for reasons she can’t now remember.

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“Jared did. I was the lookout.” Jared looked away and fidgeted with the bill. “Do you think he’s still there?” Evie asked. “I could show him my dick.” “You don’t have a dick,” Dustin said. “I do too!” “You are so freakin’ retarded,” Dustin said. Jared punched him in the shoulder, and Dustin turned to him, shocked, angry, then apologetic. “I mean, mentally challenged. Guys have dicks and chicks have pussies. Everyone knows that. That’s why girls can do splits and stuff.” Evie contemplated this information. “What did the guy do?” “How the hell am I supposed to know?” Dustin dipped his finger into the baggie and rubbed some Pixy Stix powder over his gums. In so doing, he elbowed Jared, who was staring into the distance. Jared mumbled, “He just took some stupid pictures, okay? That’s it.” Jared then cleared his throat and shook his head. “Quit buggin’,” he said, turning toward the house, Dustin following. “Let’s hit up this coke and wet, gangsta. I want some grape drink.”

Evie apparently didn’t have a dick, but she thought she knew what one looked like from when she and Dustin still took baths together.19 In the morning, after Dustin and Jared left, she snuck into Dustin’s room and put on some of his clothes. They were baggy on her, but they were also on Dustin so she figured it wouldn’t make much dif19. When they still bathed together, Dustin liked to play a game that they hadn’t named, or if they had, Evie can’t recall it. The game entailed Dustin having Evie squeeze his erect penis while he closed his eyes. When Dustin couldn’t take the pressure any longer, he told her to stop. The next round entailed Dustin inserting his finger into Evie’s vagina as far as he could before it hurt, which was never far. Even when Evie told him to stop he called her a baby. Sometimes she bled. The game has only become unrepressed through progressive sessions of recovered-memory therapy (RMT). Both she and her therapist deduce that this is the underlying reason behind her not having communicated with Dustin for years, of which drug abuse and maltreatment of their mother is a convenient vehicle for displacement of psychological scars.

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ference. She wore one of his FUBU sweatshirts and put on a pair of sunglasses. Looking in the mirror, she thought she did look like a boy, which made her feel a little bad. She considered one of Dustin’s many magnetic ear studs, but decided against them as they seemed like they could have been vaguely girly. On the walk, down Butcher’s to Park Hill Cemetery she practiced her strut in case the man she was looking for saw her before she saw him. She entered the cemetery and started walking around the blacktop path. There were only a few cars, barely anybody there. She saw the headstones that Jared and Dustin liked—Needles, Slaughter, and Horney—but otherwise ignored the rest as it creeped her out to think there were people underneath there. Evie passed a car parked by the side of the path that she thought was empty until a voice came out of the open window. “Hey there, tiger.” It was an old man—not as old as Mr. Cole but not as young as Evie’s mother—with white hair and a shirt on that was unbuttoned at the collar so that more white hair came out of the top. One of his arms hung out of the window and the other held a small, bald dog that shook a lot. “How are you doing on this fine afternoon?” Evie shrugged, trying not to talk. She hadn’t practiced lowering her voice enough to sound like a boy. “Quiet one, aren’t you?” Evie tried it. “I guess.” “I was just looking for some company. We’re lonely!” The man hefted the tiny dog in his arm, the dog shaking more violently and its eyes bugging out. “Whaddya think, champ? You need a ride some place? We can go to the park around the corner.” Evie knew he meant Forrest Park, which was smaller than and across the street from Miller Park, where they had gone to summer camp until their mother could no longer pay for it. Evie and Dustin weren’t allowed to go to Forrest Park, especially not at night and especially not to the bathrooms. Evie rubbed her fingers in the air at the man, doing her best to imitate Jared. The man paused, a look

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crossing his face, then he glanced around and smiled and nodded, taking out and holding up a twenty-dollar bill. Evie went around to the passenger side door and got in after the old man reached across and pulled up the lock lever. The man’s car was clean and smelled like candles at the mall. Evie sat and closed the door. The man put down the dog on the seat in between them and set the money on the dashboard. Evie eyed the bill as the man stroked Evie’s hair. She reached out to take the twenty but the man put his hand on top of it. “Where’s the fire, Speedy Gonzales?” he said. “You got a hot date or something?” Evie looked away and petted the dog a little bit, which felt weird to her since she was rubbing skin and not fur. The man’s voice got softer as he continued to talk. “It’s pretty hot out today, huh? Why don’t we just get rid of this here.” The man tugged on Evie’s sweatshirt and helped her pull it over her head, Evie being careful to keep the sunglasses on. “My name’s John, by the way. What’s yours?” “Eddy,” Evie croaked. This was the name Evie would have had had she been a boy, her mother told her once. “Eddy, nice to meet you,” John said. “I bet we could get this one off too.” John pulled at the shoulder of the t-shirt Evie had on. It came off over her head. “There you go. Now you’ll get a nice tan on your shoulders. You’re going to be very strong when you grow up, I can tell. Look at those muscles.” John pumped Evie’s bicep with his hand. Evie had the urge to cover her exposed chest but knew that boys didn’t have to worry about that like girls did. “It is getting hot, isn’t it?” John unbuttoned another button on his shirt. Then another. “Can I tell you a secret, Eddy?” Evie nodded. John looked around like the secret was super important. “Sometimes, when it’s real hot out and no one’s looking….” John

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looked and smiled at Evie like he was about to say a funny joke. He reached down to his pants and undid the buckle of his belt, then unzipped the zipper. Evie could see that his underpants were purple. He let out a big sigh and waved his hand over his crotch like a fan. “Much better.” Evie realized that she was staring, which she knew was rude, so she looked through the windshield. A couple of crows sat on a power line that sagged in the middle, making it look like the crows weighed hundreds of pounds. “Those jeans must be hot, Eddy,” John said. “Why don’t you try it?” Evie shook her head no. There was something about being inside of the car that she suddenly didn’t like. It smelled too much like candles, she thought. “It’s okay,” John said, reaching behind him into the back seat. “It’ll be fun. We’ll get into our underwear and take pictures like we’re on vacation. You’ve been on vacation with your family before, haven’t you?” John paused to turn and look into his back seat. “It’ll be like that, like we’re on vacation together. You know men and boys in Europe wear swimsuits that look like underwear, can you imagine that?” John laughed into the back of the car as he stretched over the seat. “We’ll pretend we’re wearing swimsuits and that we’re on vacation together in Europe. Doesn’t that sound fun?” John pulled a camera out and fiddled with it while Evie looked at the dog and tried to pet it again, its skin bunching up in waves the harder she pressed. It still shook. “Go on, Eddy. If you’re shy, that’s okay, I can give you some privacy.” John set the camera on his lap and turned away. He even covered his eyes and counted. The dog looked at Evie with its big, black eyes. She could see her own reflection and she imagined the dog seeing itself in her sunglasses. She lowered her voice as she opened up Dustin’s jeans. “What’s your dog’s name?” “You guys are friends, huh?” John laughed, turning back and uncovering his eyes. “What do you want the dog’s name to be?”

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“Is it a boy or a girl?” John noticed Evie unbuttoning her pants and adjusted his camera, not moving his eyes much away from her. “It’s a girl. She’s a little girl.” “I like the name Evelyn.” “I do too. You know Evelyn was my mother’s…” John looked at Evie’s panties that she had stuffed with one of Dustin’s socks. He reached for her crotch and Evie grabbed for his hands as he pulled the sock out of her underwear. She could feel the air on her private parts and knew that he had seen she was a girl. “What is this?” he yelled. “Just take some pictures,” Evie said, dropping her boy voice. “I don’t mind.” “You lied to me, Eddy,” John said, his voice gone cold. He threw the sock at her. John reached across her and opened the door. He looked around before pushing her out and throwing her clothes on the ground. Evie fell onto the path and scraped her elbow on the pavement as John closed the door and sped off.20 Putting her shirt back on, tears welled in her eyes as she remembered the twenty-dollar bill that was still on the dashboard. On the walk, back, Evie cried the entire way without seeing anybody else. She tried to wake up Mr. Cole, who snored louder than she could cry, but he swatted her away like she was a fly. She stood inside of her empty house, filling it with her wails until she wore herself out and stopped.

That afternoon, Evie sulked in the backyard and kicked around rocks while Dustin and Jared pooled their money. “Look at all them duckets,” Jared said. “We gonna make it rain on Stubby’s counter.” “Dummy,” Dustin said, addressing Evie. “Where’s your money?” Evie didn’t answer. Jared spoke. 20. Lack of basic first aid and chronic picking of the scab produced a small scar on Evie’s elbow.

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“Ho, where your green at?” “I didn’t make anything.” Evie couldn’t hold back her tears. “What the hell do you mean?” Dustin said. Jared clucked his tongue. “I don’t have anything, okay?” Evie wailed. “I told you she wouldn’t be able to do it.” Jared stroked an invisible beard. “We can still cut a deal,” he said. “We’ll talk Stubby down on the price. But we need collateral, yo.” Evie perked up. Jared looked down on her after a moment of contemplation. “We gotta get that sticky icky.” Jared made an exaggerated smoking gesture. “Swisher Sweets. We’ll smoke some blunts to celebrate, you feel me?” They got one of Dustin’s old Starter jackets and put it on her. The sleeves dangled lifelessly from her arms. On the way to the Convenience Store, Jared explained the plan. When they got there, Stubby greeted them. Evie tried her best not to stare at the Swisher Sweets but to act like she was browsing and looking at just about everything else. “If it ain’t the Butcher’s Lane crew.” Stubby banged his one hand on the counter and leaned over it like how Evie imagined the post traders did in Oregon Trail. “What it is, son,” Jared spoke up. “Hang on a tick,” Stubby said sternly, raising his single palm. “Why don’t you try that again…son.” Dustin jumped. Evie froze. “Sorry, sir,” Jared squeaked. “Better. What can I do you for?” Evie took her place by Dustin, who had reached out and guided her to the Swisher Sweets stand in front of the counter. She had stopped hearing the words exchanged between Jared and Stubby, both at various points indicating the bucket of Atomic Warheads displayed prominently over Stubby’s shoulder. Stubby and Jared agreed on a price and Stubby turned around to retrieve the bucket. Dustin handed his twenty-dollar bill to Jared while simultaneously squeez-

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ing Evie’s wrist. It hurt, but she didn’t complain. She reached out and took a couple of packs of cigars in both her hands, feeling the crinkle of the cellophane wrapping, and slipped them up her sleeves. The first out the door, Evie restrained herself from running, the boys lugging the bucket of Warheads between them. They were well out of sight and earshot of the store, cutting through the low-income housing on their way back home before the boys asked to see. They whooped and hollered and Dustin even slapped her on the back, not in a bad way, but in a good one. She was a real thug now. They stopped at the playground equipment of the apartment complex and shielded the bucket with their bodies in a circle while Jared unwrapped one of the packages and fished out a cigar. She didn’t know what it was that made her face feel so hot.21 Jared produced a lighter and lit up the cigar and passed it to Dustin. They both inhaled and coughed, Jared saying, “That’s some tight chronic.” Dustin passed the cigar to Evie and she pretended to inhale.22 Jared, as a joke, acted like he was going to light a nearby tree on fire, holding up the lighter flame to a leaf, and someone yelled at them from a window, so they ran. 21. This is the only time in Evie’s life that she can distinctly remember shame producing a physiological reaction and wonders often if the response has never recurred due to desensitization or aging. Whatever the case, she can recognize this moment as when her lifelong aversion to theft and shoplifting began, Evie considering them the most despicable and senseless of petty crimes, tantamount to, say, arson or vandalism. She also recognizes that everyone has at least one act they consider a moral outrage – for some it might be infidelity, for others animal cruelty – and she believes all of these aversions stem from some past trauma. 22. Whenever Evie was around Dustin, the charade of participation became the norm. He gained some amusement from making his younger sister do whatever recreational drug he was doing at the time. In junior high, she took puffs of marijuana and sips of alcohol which were held in her mouth and then blown out or released back into the bottle. She even acted impaired for Dustin’s approval but knew she was faking. While Evie was in high school, when Dustin was in the beginning stages of serious addiction, Evie was staunchly anti-drugs and alcohol, a result of her growing resentment toward her brother. Dustin served as a negative role model: she could aspire to be anything as long as it wasn’t what he was. Even during college and briefly after she entered the work force, Evie’s experimentation with drug and alcohol use was tempered by a desire to never become addicted. She thought of herself as merely a social dabbler. By then, Dustin had already gone through various drug-related legal disputes, stays in jail (usually corresponding to the winter holidays), rehab and counseling before fleeing to Florida and joining a traveling circus as a manual laborer. Evie’s mother reports that Dustin sees the benefit of constant travel in not being able to establish drug connections, despite the downside of unsatisfied workers’ attempts to leave the circuit being duly met with stabbings. All in all, Dustin says he is happy and has found Christ, which Evie (who oscillates between agnosticism and atheism) thinks is analogous to her own play-acting druggie days as a grade-schooler.

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They returned to Evie and Dustin’s living room and divvied up the Atomic Warheads between them, Jared claiming they would only skim a little off the top to sample the product. Jared and Dustin ran their hands over the individual packages and threw them up in the air and fake swam on top of them. Evie only stared at her pile, not wanting to touch the candy no matter how pretty it looked. She watched as Jared and Dustin started eating and exchanging faces and laughs. After a while, the boys looked paler and they made fewer faces. They ate more slowly and then stopped altogether. Their color actually went green, which Evie had seen happen to Dustin before when he had found a corn-cob pipe by the side of Butcher’s and he put some grass from the lawn in it and smoked it. “I’m having a bad trip, holmes,” Jared said. “I took it straight to the dome.” Dustin leapt up and ran to the bathroom and Evie heard him getting sick. Evie saw that the noises made Jared feel worse and he got up and said that he had to go kick it at his crib before stumbling out the door. Evie took the Swisher Sweets and the rest of the Warheads and put them back in the bucket, empty wrappers and all. She took them outside and hid them behind the grill where no one would think to look for them. Evie sat motionless in front of the television that wasn’t on. When she heard her mother’s keys and the door handle twist, Dustin was still in the bathroom. Evie’s mother asked her where Dustin was and then Evie’s mother heard him. Evie didn’t move and couldn’t look at her mother, knowing that if she did she would burst into tears. Evie’s mother kept asking what was wrong, what had happened, but Evie couldn’t speak, couldn’t look. There was just too much to tell.

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WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE Alex Prince 10” x 8” mixed media collage

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Winch Erik Raschke


he rains had opened up a vortex on the Oklahoma side of the reservoir’s spillway bringing people from as far away as Ft. Worth. The Corps of Engineers explained the ten-foot swirl like a giant bathtub draining, but the locals deferred to the apocalypse as soon as the experts left. Pudge settled into his night shift by opening his second diet Dr. Pepper. He turned his floodlight over the steel footbridge. He couldn’t see the vortex, just hear it, a continuous thrum like the churn of the Madill steel furnaces. He smoked a cigarette as slowly as he could, then flicked it out toward that watery spiral. It vanished almost immediately and he imagined the butt drawn downward into the chaos, a black hole sucking in light, God’s great mystery compacted by sheer force. Later, Pudge drove down toward Buncombe Creek. The Buncombe hills, with their steamy ravines and cool tops, reminded him that while life was often stagnant, it was also open-ended; now that the state was cutting roadside shrubs once a year, a two-inch tubular grill was nothing against the eight-point bucks grazing roadside. The drive to Buncombe cut through Chickasaw land where the Tribal police were in charge. Driving through the reservation, he

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could enjoy the kind of freedom a subordinate feels in crises, responsibility diffused through Tribal’s obtuse command. Tonight, Pudge was out in the Ford Explorer with its determined momentum. Where the Crowne Vic bruised on gravel, the Ford Explorer bucked. He slowed and rolled down the window. Dewy cottonwood. Dried blowout grass. September was beginning to buck summer with cool, moist nights no longer drenched by the sounds of crickets. For most of his life, the end of a summer had left him fidgety. Her picture on his dashboard didn’t soothe much anymore. The cancer had shriveled his first wife into nothing, thirty years of constant devotion dissolving right in his hands. Over the police scanner, confirmation of his presence was requested. Julie had a nice voice, but she was impassive, unconcerned, and her hourly safety calls were often late. Ever since Julie started working for dispatch, Pudge had dreams of lying in the road filled with pellet, bleeding out, while the woman blithely munched a foot-long combo. He responded quickly, grunting one single word, “over.” Pudge fished around in his pocket for another cigarette. He had begun taking four cigarettes on his shift and only a couple dollars as well, enough for a cup of coffee, but not a pack. When he found the second-to-the-last Marlboro, he tapped the cigarette against the steering wheel and hummed a tune that he heard at the Arbuckle Mt. Bluegrass Festival. Two nights ago, he had also plucked it out on his electric, but it sounded canned and uninspired. He had good memories of that festival. He and Dina had made love in the back of his camper, cracking wood paneling, two seventy-year-olds without a care, thrashing about like bagged bats. Dina was a good woman and had been his wife’s lifelong friend. When he held his shirt collar to his nose, it was Dina’s detergent. It was also his wife’s. As Pudge turned down the hill that led to Buncombe Creek, he saw vague movement twenty yards away. His reaction time had never been exceptional. Age made it worse. He hit brakes and the Ford Explorer with all its gear shuddered to a stop. He waited, then leaned

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forward, pushing his glasses to his face. In front of him, the whole road was moving, branches jaywalking. Through the window, he could hear the sounds of nature running a destructive course. Little Buncombe creek was where armadillos went to die, but now, having swallowed the county road, it was crazed with power. It had ripped away the three-foot ribbed aluminum drain and collapsed the asphalt. Evergreens tottered. The shrub-puckered gulley banks were sucking red sand down the valley. The air was hanging over the road, a sticky nebulae connecting the elements. Buncombe creek was only visible by the size of the debris it carried. Flipping open his phone, he realized that he didn’t have any cell reception. He was tempted to call in his position, but, at this time of night, the dealers were glued to their scanners. He switched on the brights and red and blue swirling overheads, walked over to the edge of the water, aimed his flashlight into the foamy chaos. All the mounds of summer trash, illegally dumped by the Dallas weekenders, had been swept away, combustible underbrush raked clean. Even drunken Stu Charrips rusting Ford F-150, impossibly wedged between two oaks for years, had been rolled several hundred feet. The story of Noah was one of the few that transcended the Old Testament. Men losing everything, their mettle tested through reconstruction. All flood stories were as much psychosis as a chance at redemption. In this case, it wouldn’t be the righteous doing the mending, but the State, sending their orange-suited felons from McAlester with shovels and pickaxes to do the heavy work. The road would have to be closed for now, that was for sure, but the barricades were back at the jail. Pudge only had one spool of yellow tape in the Explorer. He switched off his flashlight and leaned against the Ford’s grill. The water was mighty. The words from Luke came to him, I baptize you with water… When he was alone and the spirit struck, Pudge closed his eyes and waited to see what other words might come. But this time, after Luke’s whisper faded, Pudge heard a moan, then a soft braying. The skin on his back prickled. He squinted through the darkness, shad-

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ows built into gray. Maybe thirty feet away, he recognized the dim iridescence of animal eyes. He trudged along the edge of the water, the banks already caving. He had been in so many of these dangerous situations and God hadn’t failed him once. Doubt might strengthen the intellect, but faith assured the flesh. He crossed the few treacherous hundred feet to a brown and matted beast, a primordial leviathan parting the wet violence with nothing more than its mass. The body, round and meaty, was at least the length of his Explorer. There was only one small black horn, no bigger than a kitchen faucet. Heat lightning flashed like live mica, coloring branches and leaves soaked from the week of rain, slick poliomyelitic skeletons. He adjusted his hat and took a deep breath of the silt-pungent air. The animal was swallowing huge volumes of air, lungs expanding then contracting in whooshes. Steam rose from its black nostrils, triangular ducts as big as his thumbs. He stepped away and turned off his flashlight. Although he had only seen them on television, he was sure that this animal was a buffalo. It could only belong to either the new biological-organic farm run by that couple from Houston or the exotic zoo owned by the printer cartridge king. The only other exotic animals in Marshall County were Bill Friendly’s ostrich and Sue Leen’s llama. Pudge reached out and touched the beast’s warm body with an open palm. The animal’s neck-hair was twine thick while the hair on the back and rump was silky. Its skull was oblong, prehistoric. He clicked on his flashlight and streams of muddy water went flying, the beast ringing himself like a massive shaggy dog leaping from a lake, frantically avoiding the beam. Sheriff departments wound up getting sued all the time for mishandling prized livestock. Deputy Richards almost lost his job last year when he put down a thoroughbred horse, lying half-dead, in the middle of Highway 58. One of their best sheriffs in Ardmore had been sued for shooting a rancher’s prize steer after it had been hit by a lumber truck.

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Pudge shushed the buffalo and put his hand on top of its rib cage. Like a Baptist summoning Moses, the animal let out another groan followed by a throaty wail. He trudged back to his Explorer, tucked his flashlight into his belt, tugged at the steel winch cable, spooling it outward. When he reached the riverbank, he could make out the animal by its broad outline and the way the silt rushed around its neck, eddying in the rear. He took a step into the water and almost lost his footing. The animal did not move. Pudge was close enough to make out the eyes, the same eyes he had seen in so many stuck animals before, compromise and resignation as a flatlined, banal emotion. As a boy he had worked for ranchers in the summer months. He assumed that buffalo weren’t much different. Most animals acquiesced when faced with mortality. The arthritis crept through his tendons and joints, but Pudge managed to loop the steel winch cable around the buffalo’s neck, then reach his hands under the water, and hook it under the beast’s belly. The buffalo, so big, so immovable, snorted, blasting steam into the small space that they shared. A crack pierced the night. Pudge looked up. A tree had fallen and was rolling toward them, slapping trunks. As soon as he got his footing, he scrambled onto the shore. Within seconds, the tree slammed into the buffalo, striking it squarely in the face, wood against bone. The tree began to push the beast under the water and it neither fought nor bellowed. As if calling to a friend across a busy road, he shouted “hey!” Pudge tugged on the steel cord with his own hands, pulling with all his strength, his arthritic elbows pincer-hot. If he had not put the winch around the animal’s neck, it might very well have been able to duck away from the log. The winch was pulling tight, dragging the Ford Explorer toward the flood. It was all happening so fast, faster than those last few seconds before his wife died, holding his hand, the bile sliding from the side of her lips. In this case, it was the buffalo, somebody’s idea of a pet, this magnificent creature that once roamed the high plains by

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the hundreds of thousands, not the stagnant Oklahoma woods, was expending its last breaths in a flurry of massive, red-mud bubbles. It was then that Pudge understood, not in any revelatory way, just knew, that the swirl at the dam was a sign. Here with the buffalo, he was bearing witness to the mystery of God. The whole verse of Luke came flooding back and he said it aloud, his voice cracking in the darkness: I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming‌ He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

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IL PANTALONE— THAT OLD SLACKS Shayla Lawson Listen up : Othello Iago was\n’t half as worrisome as everyone imagined What should a man do in the presence of destruction Wait? Don’t Wait \ I watch a young man blow smoke rings in air He wears a Donald Duck t-shirt I was a young man once : nubile as a statue I recall my mire was an active force I knew how to abuse it

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Stop\ Don’t Stop Leaning back on the heel of a chair I would pout my perfect teeth : Eat / \ Don’t Eat A pigeon chews his gloom along the pink of an upturned foot All of living becomes partaking eventually : a squander : a howling cat who wags his fist at dusk Here is an ink : // Get Well \\ : an infinite sadness all for you Open It! I have still another secret in these shale legs left

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Love and Compost Kris Wilcox “The rankest reality can be redeeming.” —Jane Kenyon


ver my husband’s objections, and breaking a vow not to, I bought a composter. No flimsy contraption but a dual-chambered, horizontally rotating Swedish import of nine cubic feet. At $400 plus shipping, the price was only slightly less obscene than the mess it would hold. When he saw the two enormous boxes delivered to our porch, Scott shook his head. “Leave me out of this,” he said, but after watching me struggle to open the boxes, he agreed to assemble it. Scott is an engineer who has designed robots to map the ocean floor, so he expected no trouble from a prefabricated tube for banana peels. It took him two hours and a great deal of swearing, but he had to admit, the composter was a beauty. With its green, octagonal drum and bright handles, it looked futuristic in a humble, Scandinavian way, like something the crew of the international space station might leave floating at the end of a tether. While Scott tightened screws and developed blisters, I entertained visions of myself turning the drum, placid as Vermeer’s milkmaid, then returning to the house trailing a fresh and fecund scent—Tess of the Composter.

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Together, we lifted it to my selected site between the garden shed and the fence, sheltered from wind and the neighbors’ view. Scott pointed out that this was exactly where the old composter stood. When we bought this house, the sellers left an open bin brimming with kitchen scraps, a single egg shell teetering on top and so foul-smelling that the landscaper we hired to cart it away still talks about it. “I always dump the composters at my buddy’s farm,” he said, “but even the cows ran away from that one.” Our suburban town is dotted with compost piles, many slumped in an infinite half-life of neglect. It’s routine business for landscapers to carry off the melon rinds and marital strain. For two years after the first composter’s removal, I left the matter alone. It was enough work keeping our two small children in the yard. But deep down I knew I could manage a compost project, and a million strangers on the internet agreed with me. The previous owners simply did it wrong (add to cart). That pile was never turned (provide credit card number). Rodents tunneled through it because it rested on the ground, while mine would stand high on silver legs (review order). As with many projects—buying a house, choosing a mate, having children—I did my research (click to purchase). And then I invested too much to fail.

Years ago, the minister at a friend’s wedding compared marriage to composting, using a small plastic bucket and shovel as props. I was enchanted. Composting and long-term relationships seemed like activities to which wholesome people could apply themselves with ease and pleasure. All I lacked was a certain inner purity, possessed by my friends at the altar, and surely that would come in time. Experience has taught me that both projects demand more effort than expected. One must constantly turn things over, adjust the mix, determine what’s missing, and be prepared to encounter the unexpected—even shocking. Too much tampering or too little will ruin the whole, and even a scrupulously managed project may defy you. Also, it smells.

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*** In August, I tossed the first bread crusts and apple cores into the lefthand compartment of the composter and then, somewhat pointlessly, gave it a turn. Within hours, a party of fruit flies had arrived. The next day there were dozens and by the end of the week, such a cloud of them rose up when I opened the lid that I had to cover my mouth and nose to keep from inhaling any. Vigorous turning didn’t bother them, but I tried anyway. When cooler nights set in, they diminished. Instead of swarming, they gathered at the edges, like spa-goers at a pool. Once a day, I brought out my silver pail and tossed in coffee grounds, cheese rinds, bits of chicken fat, broccoli parings, and shredded egg carton. I added dry leaves and straw to maintain the correct moisture balance. I was warming to the science of it, pouring over library books on microbial life and scouring the websites of university agricultural departments. I tried to engage Scott’s interest with my data—the good news, for example, that rising temperatures in the drum meant that the mesophilic bacteria had arrived! I showed him articles explaining how the mesophiles would eat, celebrate and belch beneficial gasses until it got too warm for them and the heat-loving thermophiles crowded in, turning the cocktail party of fruit flies into a pulsating rave. “Fascinating,” he said. Scott didn’t like knowing—had, in fact, asked me to please stop telling him—about the smells, but as the drum filled, it became my preoccupation and a source of almost maternal pride. Some days the smell was yeasty and grassy like a barnyard; on others, there was a spicier funk of citrus and coffee, with notes of old cheese. The odor could be personal, like the scent of familiar bodies, or carry the faint menace of strangers. After an October warming, the compost roiled, perhaps from the steak bits, or leftover tuna. When the wind blew, Scott looked at me with concern. “It’s fine,” I told him, “the thermophiles are on it.” But I had doubts. There were now black solider fly larvae—maggots—wiggling

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throughout the compost. My sources told me not to worry; the voracious eating of black soldier fly larvae breaks down compost speedily. The adults live only three days and do not eat, bite, or carry disease. These dark, thumb-shaped creatures made the fruit flies seem like wispy lifeguards, but I began to like them for their sheer ugliness. Within a week, they were my colony. By the end of the month, I bid them good morning and good night.

In their post-war households, my grandmothers waged war on bacteria and dirt. Waste was avoided, but when something was identifiably garbage, they made it disappear into waste baskets, vacuum cleaners and buckets of hot water and bleach. My mother, raised in such an antiseptic house, corrected course in the days of back-to-theearth. She went mushroom picking in bell-bottom jeans, with a kerchief over her braids and me strapped to her back. She sewed our clothes, baked bread with wheat germ, and had my father build her a three-bin wooden composting system from plans in Mother Earth News. When my mother and grandmothers were all back to earth, I took up a new form of housekeeping: making dirt from shredded bills, last night’s spaghetti, and the uneaten crackers from a lunchbox. Instead of flailing the dirt out of rugs with a broom, I studied the sweepings in my dustpan to determine how much was biodegradable. I did this despite the landscaper’s urging, as he hauled the first composter away, to never get another one. I did it even though Scott rolled his eyes, because I thought if I could just get the chemistry right, he’d see the romance, too.

On a mild November night, I found myself in the yard, glass of wine in one hand, compost handle in the other, fuming as I turned. We’d argued after dinner about who should wash the dishes. “You,” I said. “I cooked.” “No, you,” he insisted, because in making a simple meal I’d used

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every pot in the house, and cooking should include cleaning up one’s own mess. That would be fine, I countered, if we cooked with equal frequency. The debate had been playing on repeat for years; the kids knew it by heart, and it had years of life still. I stalked outside with my pail, determined to wash nothing. “I’m taking out the compost,” I muttered. “Good,” he said, darkly. Composting was supposed to reflect the peaceable melding of our marriage, but I often went there seeking peace, instead. The Halloween pumpkins refused to decompose, though Scott had chopped them up with an ax. In the drum I could see half a smile, a forehead, but no change in color. Within the house was no easy mix, either. The kids bickered. The cap was off the milk, everywhere I set my foot was a sharp piece of Lego and someone, goddammit, had left the front door open again. I spun the composter and three months’ worth of food scraps turned over with a thump and a sigh. How would I know if I was doing it right? The advice was confusing. On this day, you will join your lives as one, but continue to respect each other’s differences. Pine needles add nitrogen. No, they are far too acidic! Never add bones. Sprinkle bone meal to add vital nutrients. Don’t go to bed angry. Stay up and fight.

Through the winter, I leaned on faith. My books assured me that New England composters—even the Swedish immigrants—give in to cold for a while and it’s all right. After the scorching reactions of new love, there is another chemistry to be mastered: love in its long-term tenancy. I have been happy in marriage, as bonded to my mate as those cantankerous pairs of geese that fly over the house, shouting at each other on their way to the pond. But what happens when the temperature drops? The scraps I added in the morning were furred in ice by afternoon. What I didn’t know, when my friends wed all those years ago, is that there would be loneliness in marriage, too—as sharp, at times, as the loneliness without. As my parents discovered, and my

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grandmothers always knew, not everything mixes. Some scraps remain stubbornly themselves. Winter dragged. Then one morning I looked from my living room window at the snow quilting up quietly on top of the composter, and saw ribbons of steam rising from the air holes. Reader, I nearly cried.

In April, the fruit flies returned from Capistrano, and I joined the neighborhood squirrels in a frenzy of digging. They were looking for last fall’s food caches and I for a place to bury my finished compost. By “finished” I mean only that I had lost patience with waiting. Also, I needed space: the right-hand side of the composter was full, and if I didn’t empty the left, I’d have nowhere to put the kitchen waste. By then, it seemed unthinkable that we would throw away lemon rinds and bell pepper stems for even a week. Certainly not when I’d trained Scott and the kids to ask before putting anything in the trash, “Is this compost?” I tipped the not-really-finished but mostly unrecognizable stuff from the left-hand side into buckets and buried it around the yard, hoping animals wouldn’t dig it back up. I suspected a coyote had prowled through recently, after I found what looked like the gnawed hip joint of a cow (at least I hoped that’s what it was) on the lawn. I tucked the compost in carefully, mixing it with the existing soil and patted the mulch back in place, and when I looked out at the yard from inside the house, I could see every place I’d been digging, as though we’d hosted some sort of crazed Easter egg hunt. More worrying, I read that if the unfinished compost had a putrid odor, which some of it did, that this was anaerobic microbes at work. It seemed I might have created half a dozen wells of earthworm poison. The next batch, Black Gold Batch #3, was better. More leaf meal, less cardboard. I had taken to heart the words of an online lecturer who extolled the virtues of shredded dry leaves, the trees’ seasonal delivery of minerals from the earth and the sun’s energy above. And indeed, Black Gold #3 was crumbly like soil, with few of the road ap-

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ples that formed during winter freezes that I had to break apart by hand. Reaching in to touch these had required all my courage. Don’t be scared, I lectured myself. It’s only what I put there, food from our dinner plates, the same we put in our bodies. Everything changes, has to change. Even my mother, who carried me around the U-pick strawberry farm on her back, returned as a box of ash. I remember the day I watched her from a distance as she scattered her own mother’s ashes, over a field of sagebrush. She reached into the box and took some into her hand. Then she raised her fist to her mouth, kissed it, and let the ashes go.

By late spring I was confident enough to ask Scott to build me a sifting screen, so I could separate the finer product from chunks that needed more time. He sighed, but agreed to go to the hardware store. I’d kept my promise: the only person who touched the composter was me. And there was a subtle shift in his attitude. When a diseased tree in our yard was removed, he looked into the hole left behind and asked how long it would take me to finish another batch of dirt. When he burned scrambled eggs on a Saturday morning, he held out the pan and said, “Look, I made breakfast for your flies.” In May, the compost seethed with house fly larvae and the adults, unlike my black soldier flies, were a loitering nuisance. I shut the lid on them and sifted the nearly finished side for bark and pistachio shells, stopping to examine a chicken bone that resembled a tiny, primitive spoon. Scott reluctantly agreed to help me dig in compost at the base of the rhododendrons. The truly finished stuff didn’t smell bad. I tell you, it did not stink. It smelled fresh and clean and loamy. The best thing about a two-chambered composter is that one can immediately apply the lessons of failure from one side to fresh efforts on the other, simultaneously enjoying the high of new beginnings and the sagacity of messes already made.

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Before I knew him, Scott pledged himself to a different bride, believing love was unalterable. And now he is sworn to love me, without condition or limit, for the rest of his life, as I have promised him. Remarriage, said Samuel Johnson, is the triumph of hope over experience. Somewhere in this house is a photo album that Scott plans to show the kids when they’re older: the wedding of Scott and Diane. The two people in these photos are impossibly young, and appear happy but falsely arranged, as if they are still used to being told what to do: hold hands now, turn toward her, look up. It makes me sad to look at the album; I want to protect them from all that will happen, but I know that the dissolution of that marriage was the beginning—the fertilizing principle—of mine.

It’s June and the kids shriek as they run through the sprinkler and turn the water on each other. Scott kneels in the garden, reburying sections of the watering system that seasons of frost have heaved to the surface. Beneath the top soil is clay and under that, surprisingly large rocks deposited by the last retreating glacier. These rocks are the reason that fields and farms and suburban yards in New England are divided by rock walls. Not because anyone needed walls. They needed a place to put the rocks. In all likelihood, we’ll sell this house, and the garden and hulking green composter will be worries for someone else, but while we’re here I’ll try to return some of the spillover of our fortunate lives to this ground. I know that, at this late date in the human timeline, composting may be more distraction than practical art, yet I still want to live as if we were all going to keep on living. The top of the composter is hot in the sun and on the dark underside of the lid, mushrooms anchor on ghostly white stalks. I give them the grounds of my morning coffee. If I’m lucky, the black solider flies will return and this time I’ll know their simple lesson: to accept all I bring them. To gather patiently and wait, until their dark bodies fly.

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For Murray at 3 Joanna Klink For Murray at 3, singing from his plastic seat in the back of the car—a reverie, a worry. You can be sure he’s in a hurry to kick the ball across the whole front yard, plucking to please his father a chord of stars on the guitar. Murray all honesty and curiosity never cheating at cards, 6 or 4, trying not to use a napkin. Murray now 5 running a bath asking me to stay, fiery ships capsizing while all the men and animals live—a mere toss of water. A bedtime story after the chocolates before the messy blue dreams dock him in sleep. An evening for Murray, dinosaurs blended into the sprawling games and boards, blurry in the not-yet-formed corners of his pulsing heart, some memory of sadness curving through the evertaller body of Murray, now 5 having learned to read, slipping at 3 his tiny fingers into mine to descend the apartment stairs, Murray running through rooms, in hide-and-seek to catch at the base of the curtains my toes, Murray always in an interrupted hurry, wants to be part of the conversation, a sports-cap to

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sleep by, a bed to hold you through the night, Murray pronouncing words and zoos, not yet 4 hurled across the green couch cushions, Murray in a flurry of plush minutes before sleep, what chance did we have— before you could even really use a verb, before you painted ornaments in those fat stripes, a fury of color Murray, you can be sure I loved you, you can be sure I would not have let anything hurt you, Murray dreamy with shoelaces among the staggering adults, taken away again, for no fault of your own, for no fault of our own, perfect Murray in his habit of forgetting what he was just doing, Murray thinking of bikes under stars tacked to the ceiling in dubious dots, Murray in a wince of worry, turning in his life at all the speeds of pleasure, understanding what it means to say Good night.

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Cloudless Joanna Klink I have spent half my life in this town, hoping always for the raw cloudless-hour, the glow of seeing. I find myself now in a devotion emptied-out, aware of the end’s constant arrival. They must be lonely too, the ones I work with, who are so wretched to one another. The view of nothing from my window is not really that: I see a man crossing the street slowly with his child. But there is a haste inside disillusion—it wants to be brought quickly to the stakes of life. What will lift us above the brutalizing attitudes? What do I need to do to take leave of these mountains and the few friends who have carried me through. I ask no more than abundance, although I understand— the yellow leaves cut with white sun, the breeze around the weight of trees.

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What might have happened, what might have changed, presses each second at the skin wrapping the vessel-roots of your rich heart, which, if you are living, requires not just surrender but the presence of other people. Their deadness and deep light.

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Greta Wilson: The Soul Singer Kevin Sampsell


er name was Greta Wilson and she was born thirty years ago, in the tiny bathroom of a tour bus. Her parents were not musicians. They were the light technicians for REO Speedwagon. Their names were Irma and Garth. They were once the best in the business, but after Greta was born, they relapsed into old drug habits. They would drop three hits of acid each and then do cocaine while waiting for the visuals to kick in. Four years later, the couple accidentally drove into the Grand Canyon and died. Greta was also in the car, but she was seatbelted between two giant coolers of beer and miraculously survived. She was taken in by her loving grandparents and raised in a poor but supportive household in Oklahoma City. They would often remind her that it was a miracle that she was alive and that God was to thank for that. They asked her to say grace before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She was obedient and modest. She kept her strawberry blonde hair short and innocent. She did not listen to REO Speed-

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wagon, Sheena Easton, Aerosmith or any of the other bands that her shameful parents worked with. Her only friends were the girls she played games with in the church basement two days a week, while dour-faced parents watched their every move. When Greta was thirteen, she became the first white girl to sing in the choir of Antioch Baptist Church of Jesus Christ the Forgiver. She was driven, happily so, by a mysterious force outside of her control. On her fourteenth birthday, she became choir director. For the next four years, she was on the covers of several magazines, including Newsweek, Parade, and Reader’s Digest, and interviewed on Christian radio and TV. After graduating high school, she earned a lucrative record deal when she was the subject of a story on the CBS Evening News. It was her calling from God.

She bought her grandparents a new home, just outside of Memphis, where she herself relocated. She was going to attend Belhaven College but had to record twelve songs for her first gospel CD. It was released quickly and became a bestseller, winning numerous awards. Greta was a bona fide star, recognized by Christian and secular music fans everywhere.

But a year later, her second CD, Giving You More, was a flop, selling less than half of what her first release sold. Some fans, initially attracted by her rags-to-riches story, simply lost interest in her. Critics started calling her a flash-in-the-pan. But clichés aside, it did seem as if her 2nd release was noticeably weaker, maybe gussied up too much on the production end. The vocals sounded artificial and too saccharine, even for a Christian market. Instead of playing smaller venues on her 50-city tour, she simply cancelled 44 of her shows.

Greta spent the next six years on a spiritual vision quest. There were rumors that she sold all of her possessions, moved to Mexico, and

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then burned her passport. She lived in a cave after trying peyote for the first time. She shaved her head and tried to join a convent but she was rejected. The only reason she eventually came back to the United States was the death of her grandmother. At the funeral, she sang a song in public for the first time in six years, but this was a different kind of song. One overflowing with sadness and soul.

To keep her from returning to Mexico, some of her old friends performed an intervention and sent her to a psychiatric hospital. While receiving treatment for drug addiction and mental psychosis, Greta told doctors that she had three children that she was raising in the Mexican cave where she spent most of her days the past six years. Mexico police were sent to investigate the cave as well as several hotels she sometimes stayed in but found no evidence of these children. A doctor examined Greta after these claims and determined that she had not given birth to any children. She would not elaborate on her relationship to these alleged children, but she told reporters she would write songs about them so that people could learn more about their lives. These songs were written quickly, recorded at the famous Sun Studios, and then released as a CD titled Children of the Cave. The lyrics strayed far from the Christian style of her past and the music swelled with an otherworldly yearning that floated above a bluesy groove. The songs on Children of the Cave depicted death, desire, and discontent. Although Greta was still being treated for her delicate condition, the CD became a number one bestseller and remained in the top ten for two years. After her exit from the hospital, just days before her twenty-eighth birthday, Greta turned down offers to tour with other bands but would sometimes show up at small clubs unannounced and play a few songs to shocked audiences. After a show in Atlanta, she met a fan named Luther and married him three days later. He ran a carpet cleaning business. The marriage was annulled the following week.

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At one show in Detroit, she sang her most popular song, “Angel in the Cold,” and then wouldn’t play another song until someone gave her a warm jacket. The crowd watched, baffled, as she took an hour trying on different coats and jackets from audience members. After she finally settled for a giant green parka that swallowed her whole body, she played a three-hour set until the fire marshal came to shut down the show. Not long after this, she moved to Missoula, Montana and opened a jazz club, which went out of business in three months. She married a retired music teacher thirty-six years older than her and decided to focus on writing songs for her next album, which she was producing in her home studio. During this time, she was often seen at a local Goodwill store, where, according to employees, she felt it her responsibility to buy every piece of orange clothing in the women’s section. Despite her eccentric behavior, everyone in town liked her. Just days into the recording of her fourth album, Greta asked friends and reporters not to call her by her first name any longer. She wanted to be referred to only as The Soul Singer.

Soon after that, The Soul Singer got into an altercation with a man at the Goodwill store. He said something about her not going to church anymore and she threw him into a display of Tupperware. The Soul Singer was issued a ticket for disturbing the peace and subsequently 86’d from the Goodwill. When asked about the incident, The Soul Singer told a reporter that she was agitated by the man’s smell and that the fleas in her eyes were bothering her more than usual. She gave a long explanation about how orange clothing made her fleas calm but the smell of garlic made them angry. Fleas were not the only things bothering The Soul Singer. She claimed to her doctor that her dead parents visited her in her sleep. She could only see their silhouettes in front of an intense strobe light, but she knew it was her mom and dad. They told her that her new songs needed more horns and a dirtier bass sound. They told her to

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wear silver and gold and to stop taking mud baths. They told her to get a divorce and Lasik eye surgery. The Soul Singer did everything they told her and felt a freedom and happiness that she hadn’t felt in years. Her fourth album, titled Silver and Gold, was released to rave reviews. She played the longest tour of her career, with her ghostly parents giving her advice nearly every night in her sleep. At the end of the tour, she found herself driving to the Grand Canyon.

She arrived in the middle of the day. There were families all around, binoculars to their faces, cameras clicking, scared kids clinging to legs. The Soul Singer closed her eyes and felt the warm sun on her face. She heard the voices of those around her become hushed. She could tell that they recognized her. In the darkness of her head, she could feel the tears coming, as if seeping from her eyes, her ears, her nose, her mouth. Her head felt like a water balloon. Then her soul fluttered into her arms and she raised them above her head. The people around her backed away, frightened and overwhelmed by her energy. They knew of her history. Of her parents’ tragedy here. The Soul Singer turned toward the people watching her. Her back was to the canyon and her eyes closed. She looked like she was waiting for something. The sound of a helicopter landing close by became louder but everyone had their eyes on The Soul Singer. They saw her mouth open for air. They felt their hearts tighten. They heard her song start to soar.

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LIKE A WOMAN Alex Prince 8” x 8” mixed media collage

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Year Six Philip Schaefer Every seven years I burn something precious to me. The thick rhubarb hair of the girl whose ballad could fill a banquet hall with balloons. The coffee letters from Berlin, my old best friend. I am learning how to become a wick with my body. Each night I step into that whale fat sky and syringe my lungs like a broken glass of milk. I run my elbows along the sidewalk until they spark, until I’ve written a new name for each of these porcelain faces. If I’ve been good I don’t remember. The wild animal bares teeth beneath its teeth. Bone has a way of forgetting calcium, making mercy a brighter version of pain. So we drag the body home until the carcass is canvas. We bury candles and the earth fogs out pure myth. I am a dog whose whole life is another dog’s dream. I’m telling you my eyes are bright with butane. Go ahead, grab your bluest torch.

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FRANKS AND BEANS AND DREAMS Alex Prince 8.75” x 11.75” mixed media collage Spring 2017  87

Morning Pills Martha Grover


he genie grants me one wish and it’s the same every morning— to live.

When I take these magic pills, at the minimum, my pounds of flesh and bones locomote. The ghost in the machine, even that, understands someone—saying something like—could you pass the salt. I can fill out paperwork, get stuck in traffic and wait in line. I can watch TV and remember to wash my hands. I can check my voicemail. But there’s also this. There’s this—food when you’re starving. When I take my magic pills I have the energy of James Brown. I go on a natural high. I stay out all night dancing. I drink you under the table. I interrupt you. I get excited about documentaries. Listen to rap music loudly, spit when I talk. Chew with my mouth open. Lift weights until I kill a horse. I make up new words. I remember names and fuck on top. I notice things like foliage and plumage. When I take my magic pills, you’re so cute I want to eat you up. When I take my magic pills, I will take a bullet for you.

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Obviously, I have a superpower. When I take too many (when I haven’t suffered enough) I will bolt at the drop of the hat, the shadow of a snake. I will accuse you of being too admiring. Point out things about your body. I will blurt out my most humiliating desires. I’ll be paranoid and irritable. Hold grudges and read too much into it. Hibernate inside a bag of potato chips. I’ll make an escape plan and avoid my grandparents. When I take too many magic pills, I’ll stay up all night writing bad poems about my magic pills. When I take too many magic pills, I will devour my young. Still, either way, eventually I fall sleep. And, as death is peaceful, so is unconsciousness. All through the night, my fingernails and toenails grow, my skin thins, I wake myself choking. For a moment, I see the zombie in the doorway, I hear the wolves’ restless howling. But the pills have worn off—I’m not afraid. As I fall back asleep I know that somewhere in my body some other magic holds vigil until daybreak.

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Theft Hilary Collins I’ve now spoken for many who spoke to me. —Alice Notley I write to replace the deceased author. —Hélène Cixous


ere’s a story I stole: when I was 14, I idolized my violin teacher. She was beautiful and talented, and lived in a sunny, tasteful home with a husband I also adored. He was a pastor. Then one night the elders of the church came to his house in the middle of the night and told he him was removed from his position. That’s how you fire a pastor. I’m not sure why I steal stories. I think it’s because I feel them deeply, either because of their intensity and drama, or because of my connection to the person who lived them. What I mean by stealing stories is that I write about them as if I was the one who lived them, because in some sense I feel that I was. I stole that story because of how sure I was about the details: balding men in polos tucked into belted chinos knocking on the door of that lovely home at dusk, how immediately he knew something was very wrong, how the conversation happened in the attractive but stiff sitting area where I always had my violin lessons on Tuesday afternoons. 90  Portland Review

Of course I am not actually sure of those details. Perhaps there was only one man. Perhaps they sat at the dining room table, or stood awkwardly in the foyer. Perhaps it didn’t happen in their home after all: some trick of the telling or my memory of the telling changing the setting, the players, the time of evening. In my mind it feels like a scene from a Jane Austen novel: straight-backed chairs and dim lighting, the piano in the background. And this is true, because I stole it and it’s my story now, and that’s how I choose to tell it.

Here’s another story I stole: when my childhood best friend moved several states away, it was because her father had gotten a job as a youth leader at a church there. We wrote long letters back and forth for years, made phone calls as long and as frequent as our mothers would allow (they often kicked us off the line just so they could have their own long, loving conversations). One day at a church meeting the elders voted on whether or not her father would keep his position. Unanimously, they decided he would not. He was immediately accompanied to his office and they stood in the doorway as he cleared his office. Under the garish fluorescent lights on the off-white popcorn ceiling, he put his books and desktop ornaments in a cardboard box, shut his laptop and packed it in his bag, and left forever. They watched him pull away in the 13-passenger van I was so familiar with. He told the story to his wife, who told it to my best friend and her siblings, and my friend told it to me, crying into the phone about how she no longer got to see her friends from the church youth group, the one social circle she had. And I listened hungrily, my eyes also welling with tears, feeling as if it had happened to me. I felt as if I had lived his experience, and lived her experience, but of course I had lived neither. I had just heard about it, already filtered through two people by the time it got to me, muddied and weakened by each successive teller. And now I am telling you, and when my friend reads this, she will call to tell me that I was wrong about almost everything. I’m not going to acknowledge her corrections or change my story at all. I stole it, and this is my version of it, and it is almost definitely wrong. Spring 2017  91

*** Here’s a story that belongs to me: when I was growing up, I was emotionally abused by my pastor’s family. They held long meetings with me and my mom under the guise of repairing our friendship, tried to use our connection to force me into an accountability I wanted no part of. For years during my adolescence, I was censured for everything from my knee-length skirts being too short to listening to the wrong kind of Christian music. When I asked to teach the children’s Sunday School class the pastor sent me a letter which said I was more suited for “menial work.” I would sit for hours on end in the pastor’s dark and shabbily furnished living room and try to defend myself, until finally, under pressure from family or church, the two major institutions and social circles in my life, I would apologize and vow to be better. But it just kept happening, because they wanted complete submission to arbitrary rules, and I suspected at the time and am certain now that the most important of those rules was that I was supposed to love and marry and be faithful to their son, and that was the one thing I was sure I was never going to do. This is my story. It belongs to me and I’m sure that I’m right. However, it’s also my mom’s story. She was putting this pressure on me because she was going through the exact same manipulation and abuse from the pastor’s family, receiving the same censure for minor acts, according to their personal preferences. It took my mom a long time to see what I saw. She is sorry for what happened to me now, not least because ever since I left my family’s house I have kept as far away from church as possible. This is also the pastor’s family’s story, and in their version they are the heroes and I am the villain. In their story I am an unrepentant sinner, someone who wouldn’t accept their loving help, and in their story they end up being completely right about me: I got a DWI in college. I didn’t save myself for marriage. It took me eight years to get a bachelor’s degree. I spent two years in a clinical depression. I am not always sure if I believe in God and I am very sure I do not believe in a literal word-for-word interpretation of the Bible. In their version, they just tried and failed to save a sinner. 92  Portland Review

*** Here is another story I stole: Richey dated a girl after we broke up. He told her about me, explained our relationship by way of something one of his rugby teammates once said about us: You two are totally gay for each other. “We’re just gay for each other,” he told her. “I’m like a girl and she’s like a guy. We’re like the same person in different bodies.” Of course soon after that she told him she didn’t want him talking to me anymore. They reached an understanding that she would read all of our text messages back and forth and often the only way he could text me was if he dictated it to her. He told me this in a phone call one day as he was driving to work. I was horrified, but too busy pretending to be a cool girl friend who wasn’t still in love with him to be able to express that. Instead, I laughed and told him she sounded really controlling. They broke up shortly after that. This is my story because even though I wasn’t an active participant in this, I was a force in their relationship. I never met her, never saw a picture of her, just knew her name was Katie and she worked in a hair salon and made Richey feel bad because he was a barista at a coffee shop. “She can’t talk, she’s a hairdresser!” I shouted into the phone. “She works at a really nice salon,” he said.

When they broke up he lay on my closet floor with my laptop and my wine and told me all about his broken heart.

Now that Richey is dead, all of our stories are just my stories. He no longer gets to contradict my version of events. All of our phone calls, our nights together, the shopping trips, and the long drives, belong solely to me. If we were alone together, I am the only living expert on those stories. I am the only one who has any say at all.

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I don’t think writers are the only people who steal stories. I think most people do it, and many of them probably don’t realize they’re doing it, or notice the way they make it theirs. When they make mistakes in passing on secondhand information, that is the moment they steal the story. Gossips are story thieves. You can see the theft in the relish the storyteller takes in passing the story on, the way they relay the details, the joy in the reimagined dialogue. This is my story now, their eyes seem to say. I am the expert on this story. You can direct your questions to me. For a long time, I wrote fiction that was story theft. Even now, if I write a short story, it is usually a stolen story. Stealing stories seems more excusable in fiction. The invented details are inherent to the form, so I never ended up questioning what I was right about and what I was wrong about. If I imagined something happening after dark in the living room, what did it matter if it happened in the afternoon in the church sanctuary? It is my story, and I get to tell it however I like.

I kept a journal for most of my childhood and early adulthood. I didn’t embellish or invent, but when I reread my journals, I am always most interested in what I chose to leave out. Often I was more interested in relating information about my crush at the time than anything else. I was far more interested in recording things that made me look good than anything negative. It seems strange that I performed this kind of self-editing when there was no one to edit for but myself, the one person who should know what really happened. But these journals read as if my entire life was handsome boys flirting with me. When Richey died, one of my first clear thoughts was Now I have a story. Within hours of getting the news, I was already beginning the process of the theft.

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*** Here’s a story I stole: one of Richey’s friends got the call. He walked out of work, got in his car, and drove straight to the site of the accident. He believed he would find Richey there, that Richey would be okay, that everyone was wrong and it wasn’t Richey who had died. He stood in the gas station parking lot in the Houston afternoon sun and started crying. This is how I stole the story: I sent him a questionnaire full of questions about Richey, and some about me. In his response, he opened by cursing me for making him think about one of the worst things that ever happened to him. He answered all of my questions, and closed with this: Also if you are writing a paper from my perspective you might want to mention that I was on Jimmy Kimmel. I mention that a lot. Also talk about my wife and future kid, it’s going to be a girl! When I tell people I’m writing a book about death and grieving, they often immediately begin to give me their stories. At parties, in coffee shops, in mutual friends’ houses where we just met, they tell me about their losses and their methods of coping. Some people offer to be interviewed. They say, If you want to interview me for your book, you can. I don’t think I’ll ever take them up on it. I have found that people aren’t worried so much about me painting an unflattering picture of them. Instead, people are unhappy that their story never turns out to be the central narrative, that they are not the main character. They are unhappy because their story only takes up a paragraph or a sentence, or doesn’t make it in at all. They are not the subject; they are just an illustration of a larger point; they are just the recipients of my impressions and reactions. As June Jordan might put it, No One Exists As Number Two. Stealing other people’s stories makes them a secondary character. So does death.

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Sometimes I think writing down a story inherently steals it from the owner. Sometimes I think when I write down my own stories I am on some level stealing them from myself. Back when I journaled about my crushes, sometimes something really good would happen: a sweet kiss, a surprising compliment. I would hold onto it for days before I inevitably put it in my journal. Once I wrote it down, I felt at a slight remove from it.

Here is a story I made for myself: shortly after Richey’s death, I began to change my life. He died in October. I had dropped out of college two years previous to that, but the January following his death I went back to college. In May I decided I wanted to get back down to a healthy weight. I also decided I wanted to pursue an MFA in creative writing. In November, I was accepted into the first of three MFA programs I would consider. In December, I graduated with my BA. Before the New Year, I hit my goal weight, having lost forty pounds. If you read my story in a women’s lifestyle magazine, or a think piece online, or heard me telling it as an anecdote to an acquaintance, the story ends there. A stolen story, plucked out of time, graced with a narrative that is a steadily climbing line. The linearity is what signals its theft.

Most people think it’s wrong to tell a story that didn’t happen to you as if it did. See: James Frey. Is it worse if I write it down instead of telling it to you over cocktails? Is it better if it’s a story I stole from a fictional character instead of a friend? Does stealing a story silence or magnify the original story?

Here’s what I’m talking about when I talk about stealing stories: I am talking about presenting something as truth that, while not a lie, cannot possibly be the truth. But now I’m thinking that maybe

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the process of telling a story, any story, only puts it farther from the truth of the experience, whatever that is. Here are my stories, embellished by my own imagination (sometimes without my consent), picked over by my memory, forced into a timeline that will make sense to someone who has not lived them and has not known the characters, forced into a plot that does not exist, played to an audience I did not have. Here are his stories, told by someone who was perhaps the most biased reporter you will ever find. Here are the stories of the people I know, ravaged by time and retelling and the fact I never lived them in the first place. It doesn’t make sense to pretend that this book contains the truth.

Here is a story I stole: the pastor had a daughter, a few years younger than me. When I was in love with her brother, I would sometimes spend the night with her, curled up in her bed, hyper-aware of his presence in the house. She had three brothers but no sisters, and was painfully eager for a sister of any kind. At nights, she whispered how she hoped I would marry her brother and become her sister, and I was thrilled. I was in love for the very first time, or what passes for being in love between very young people, and I loved imagining our future together: a collection of adoring in-laws only sweetened the deal. And she was very happy to imagine this shared life with me. Our friendship didn’t survive my falling out of love with her brother. I didn’t give her a chance to stay friends. When her brother and parents began lashing out at me, I didn’t want to be around her. Because it wasn’t really a relationship, it wasn’t really a breakup, and there wasn’t really a way for me to say I don’t want this anymore. I wasn’t old enough to understand how to extricate myself gracefully, or even to grasp what I had been committed to. But in the pastor’s daughter’s story, I’m the villain. I lied to her. I hurt her brother. I disrespected her family. And I was a bad friend, and I didn’t act like a sister. And she’s right. That’s true.

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Here’s a story that belongs to me: one Halloween, I finished my shift at the dive bar I worked at. It was early evening and as I walked out across the patio, a group of college friends called to me from their table. I joined them and they poured me a beer from their pitcher. I sat in silence, listening to their chatter, as they quoted television shows and movies back and forth to each other: the pinnacle of humor. After a while, I joined in with a line from The Office. A boy I didn’t know, sitting directly across the table from me, locked eyes with me. He stood up, planted his foot on the table, and walked across it. He jumped down into the chair next to me. “Hi, I’m Richey,” he said.

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ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT Alex Prince 8.5” x 10.5” mixed media collage

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Scenes From Our Lives Together Sara Kachelman


y husbands decided on an intimate ceremony, to keep costs low. Just the family, we told the young Father, who counseled us quietly in the chapel’s back room. When we assembled before him, we made twenty-two. I saw to it that the sanctuary was spacious for all. Lenten roses and ivy twined the long, empty aisles. There was a carpet green and deep as moss, and the crucifix, bloodied, hung o’er all. I came down to my grooms in an off-white gown to the strains of Saint-Saëns’s “The Swan.” What a picture I made, descending to them, their humble bride. How handsome they looked, waiting all in a line! How American, their hair slick with tonic! How tall and straight my soldiers stood! Their suit coats formed a wall of white, a gold watch chain looped continuously. And when they smiled, I counted in my head, each one, each tooth, for me. Twenty-one husbands, all called Johnny Kidd. Each vow praised my various loving parts, for I had wed a group

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of individuals. I had a waist to fit a pair of hands, my hair frozen in finger-waves, perfection. My singing voice could bring the doves. My hands were long and thin and fair. Some husbands praised my translucent skin. Others, my noble brow. I had a heart-shaped mouth, an ample cheek, a sharp, and prudish, chin. Long arms to encircle the breadth of diplomacy, arms for all, to have, and to hold. My arms would hold them all together. I could be anybody’s wife. When they lifted my veil and kissed my lips, they made me the luckiest woman alive, twenty-one times. But there was hardly time for dancing before the boys had carried me off, over their shoulders, like a battering ram. They were quick. Already they worked as a team. That first year, the husbands dispersed, turning on taps, doctoring door hinges, bouncing on floorboards, each one eager to claim their corner of our loving Ponderosa. “But wait,” the lady callers would say, those early days when they dropped in with their biscuit-tins. “What about S-E-X?” Horror would light up their pink faces. Teacups trembled in midair. I would stiffen in my chair and take a long, slow sip. I waited until they regretted their presumption and expected to be punished. And then I gave them only a cherry-lacquered response: “I could tell you tales that would make your hairs stand on end, like quills upon the fearful porpentine.” Probably. I have experienced every manner of seduction. I have perfected many aerobic and yogic positions. I have gyrated like a woman. I have gyrated like a man. I have a herniated disk in my lower back. I am no longer able to do “the bridge.” I have shrieked red, and I have shrieked blue. Over the course of many late nights, I have made a study of human pressure points and nerve endings. I can name each bone found in the human ear. The hammer. The anvil. The stirrup. What each does when you breathe on it. I have baked three layer cakes only to sit on them for an audience. I have sewn feathers onto costumes designed for dancing, and I have danced to summon the gods. I have danced a lone pasodoble in a jerk circle. I will never regard a glass of milk the way I once regarded a glass of

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milk, as a child, at breakfast, before I knew the perversions of men. There are scents in this world that are both unnatural and godlike. I have accepted the comparison, “like butter.” I have spun slowly in a circle of masked bodies, surveying the various sizes and shapes of man’s weapon. I have given chase. I have given in. This is the role I have chosen for myself. But most weekdays, we employed a simple rotation. Five kings pushed together hardly fit us comfortably, so we all had to spoon. Much of our pleasure was vicarious. It is a truth of time that all marriages are bound to fall to masturbation. But of course I would never say that to my lady callers. I liked to think it was us they thought about before they went to bed at night. Our blinds were never fully closed. This was back when I had visitors. These are the conversations I have in my head. Husbands are a joy, especially when they are new, and know nothing about you. This I call the golden age of nesting. I used to wear bandanas in my hair. I never loved them more than when they mowed the lawn in identical stripes, diagonal-cut, like a baseball diamond. They all knew the paper boy, red-haired Chester, whose timid wave drew a chorus each morning. I never had to ask them to fold the laundry. They took pleasure in reenacting the model of the assembly line, pioneered by the father of American industry, Henry Ford. At first their willingness to serve the household made them look alike. But something began to happen when they got too comfortable with one another, a slow, creeping thing, like the kudzu that gnawed at the edge of the porch: my husbands developed hobbies. It was epidemic. We soon ran out of room. The living room furniture was eaten up with their tools. They added a loft, a turret, secret chambers, secret doors. There were dungeons devised for unknown use. I couldn’t tell them what to do with their own money. The boundaries I’d constructed with our papered walls soon fell away. They were growing apart from one another, and me. While precious few of my husbands were high earners, and drove to work in town, others were more sensitive, and preferred freelance

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occupations, unenforced by “the man.” The pursuits of these individuals were a constant torment only to grow with the years. Dealers and salesmen began to knock on our doors and drink my coffee, offering deals on nineteenth-century marionette dolls or mechanical reapers. There was an inexplicable interest in the Civil War. Sabers and muskets cluttered the mantle. The reenactors developed quirks in their speech, and odd grudges amongst themselves. Hobby scientists took root in the basement, storing vials of mercury in shoeboxes, household mice on ice. Noxious bubbles rocketed through endless tubes. Numerous library books were stolen, all pertaining to the subject of antique neon signage, a few articles of which had appeared around the hot water heater, which was proclaimed OPEN or VACANT. The painters took trips to the Native American museum, where they hoped to capture the American West on canvas. These glorified imitations I hung overlapping in the guest room. The intellectuals slept all day long in heaps of tissues and other trash, and I soon forgot to feed them. But the worst, the very worst of all, were those husbands who developed explicit obsessions with musical instruments, or, most repugnant of all, their own voices. A ceaseless racket overtook my territory and my inner peace. Four culprits announced an interest in starting a band. This I discouraged, but I reminded myself to stay positive, and let them fail on their own terms. The music floating up from the basement was in the teen dream style, as was the custom. But I couldn’t put up with so much pining. Were they so lonely? Music was an affront against my love. “O Johnny, you’re wonderful, just keep practicing,” I’d say, clasping my hands to my breast. I fanned out my skirts, and kissed them all on the cheek. “Do you really mean that?” they’d ask. But I’d escape to a carpeted room, and stuff my head with pillows. There was a period around year ten that plunged my unemployed husbands into a deep and lasting depression. They fed off one another. They just weren’t young anymore. Several of them buried themselves in historical exposés on great men like Theodore Roosevelt and Genghis Khan. All over the house, these bloated biographies.

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“Guess how old Genghis Khan was when he killed his own brother?” Johnny would ask me. “Twelve,” I said. He sighed and turned away. But it wasn’t my fault. I thought everyone knew that. It seemed like nothing I could say would repair the manhood of my partners. What would cheer them, I knew, was a baby. But then they would all want one. “Absolutely no babies,” I said, digging turnips in the garden where they had cornered me. “You are all my babies.” I threw out their Penthouses. I threw out their floozy films, and I threw out their floozies, too, girls stowed in storage closets, behind curtains, under the beds. When I reached for dishes to lob at Johnny, my other husbands joined in. “Floozies?” asked the lady callers, screwing up their faces. “What kind of floozies?” “No one you’d know,” I say. “Local girls. Very young.” It was a small town. They all had daughters. And that was where the suspicion began. There were not very many women who entered my house. And if they found their ways in, there was only one way out. “You’re gonna give us all the clap!” I shrieked, pitching a saucer as they ran out the door, half-zipped. “You scum! You leper!” “Pussy!” the other husbands cried. “Monster!” “Cheater!” the husbands growled. And the word pierced like a blade. The offending husband would pause there, shielding his body with a column or wall, peeking out for sympathy. But a cheater’s treachery was enforced with one punishment, if he sought to return. You didn’t have to be Genghis Khan to kill a brother. Afterwards some of them would drive me to Penny’s to replenish my dishware. Although my husbands could be absent-minded sometimes, I never cheated on them. Not once. Upon learning that I had lost one or two, the lady callers would appear on my doorstep, offering condolences, casseroles, but my husbands took too much pleasure in these visits. I decided to take the

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moral high road, and get rid of every woman I knew. Like Lincoln, I did it to preserve the union. I put bombs in their mailboxes, dirty messages spelled out on their lawns. HERE’S TO YOU, WANDA! A few timid knocks at the door, a few burnt offerings. And then nothing. Our world became, more than it ever was before, snowglobular. I digress. When I married twenty-one husbands, I’d never anticipated the aggression that one man can feel towards his fellow patriot. But the high-earners had formed a smoking club, and this I recognized as dangerous. There were five of them who started it, but like a malignant wart, it began to spread. “A Gang?” asked the lady callers. “A Gang,” I whispered. That was around our twentieth anniversary. They no longer helped with the laundry. They developed sneaky looks and obscene hand gestures. The painters had all taken up pot. The musicians had moved on to other things, like the consumption of full-fat milk. Like magic, they all grew chins, and more chins. Add to that the goiters, stomach ulcers, skin tags, high cholesterol, heart disease, psoriasis, HPV, and sleep apnea that settled on them like a flock of death-eating birds. All they drank was Michelob Ultra. Nobody’s dick was worth a damn anymore. The only mystery in my life was the gang that met in the dungeon near the neon light collection, where hordes of flying insects buzzed to their deaths. There were rituals down there I was not privy to. Tiny insignias on their undergarments. I did not think of them as a coup, but now that I think about it, they were a coup. I listened through the laundry chute. Little did I know, they were scheming to slay one of their own: sneaking Johnny. Who was sneaking Johnny? Well, he was middle-aged, like the rest of us. He had fallen to hemorrhoids. He used a C-Pap machine when he slept. It droned down the hallways like something out of Philip K. Dick. I didn’t detect a threat in him, but it is simple knowledge that men have unseen measurements they use against one another. In this case, Johnny had a Corvette with a silent engine. He snuck out

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at night. Out of all of them, some of whom had much flatter bellies, sneaking Johnny was the one to keep another woman. And this had gone on for years! How had he pulled it off? Their evidence was acquired in the usual way: we wore her panties to work. (Urinal). It was as if he wanted them to know. I had just come back from the farmer’s market when I found him splayed out on the parlor rug. In my shock, I dropped all my produce. So much blood, in jagged splatters! And the gooey, clotted lumps, blackened and menstrual. Gallbladder? Kidney? He looked at peace. His face had been massaged, apparently, for maximum effect. Was that my lipstick? “Who. Did. This?” I demanded of the gathering crowd. On cue, they upheld their red hands in a chummy lineup. In their guilt they looked more similar than ever. I exacted a quick head count: all remaining 17 husbands were present. An unsettling number, 17. “Brutus!” I shouted, jabbing a finger into each flabby chest. “Brutus! Brutus! Brutus! Brutus! Brutus!” Their faces were solemn, but unflinching. And the fallen soldier, poor dear, draining out on the carpet! I held his head in my lap. Poor sneaking Johnny. He had a jaw like Adonis. A braying laugh. It was that laugh, that one-hundred-year-old giggle, that I would remember. “I’d like to report a mass murder,” I said, high and clear, into the telephone. Though the boys insisted they had completed the act in solidarity, each stabbing just a little, I lost six husbands for ever. It was a loss of massive proportion. Our whole dynamic was off. We had to purchase a smaller dinner table. The lady callers, spurned but forever sympathetic, left us bouquets of chokey flowers. There comes a time in a woman’s life in which she realizes she is no longer an object of desire. How loathsome that must feel. At our fifty-year anniversary party, I wore a red tassel dress. We had decided on the Assembly Lodge for the venue, and as our numbers had slowly dwindled over the years, from half to a quarter of our wedding populace, we could easily pass for a sibling get-together, or a doo wop reunion. Throughout our lives together, my husbands had raked neighbors’ leaves, strummed guitars with local children, built

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model airplanes to fly over the lake. The sun was setting on our love, but underneath there was still the excitement of shared deviance, of mystery. This was why my husbands had defended our system for so long. It was the desire of their fellow brother that compelled them, through competition. I was forever unattainable to each man by virtue of our multiplicity. This would exist, as long as we kept up our numbers. With this in mind, we slow danced in a swaying mass. We drank sorbet punch, munched butter mints in little silver dishes. I mingled with my old decrepit lovers, who patted my shoulders and told me I could be Queen of England. Did we believe in love? There was only loyalty. “What’s your secret?” you might ask. “What’s the trick to fifty years?” “The trick to fifty years,” I’d say, my eyes growing misty, “is that we never fell out of love at the same time.” This, as the Johnnies carried me away. But really, we only ever just went home. And after that night, we rarely left it. In recent days I’ve been forced to lift my embargo on other women. They come every morning and evening to administer our pills, to shave our whiskers and stretch our limbs in those ridiculous squeaking shoes. I’ve come to flinch at the sound. Oh, my husbands love a good nurse. We watch them come and go, delivering spiders safely out of doors. Always in a hurry, up and down the rows of bleached twin beds. Once, I would have been jealous, but now, propriety is shot. We watch country westerns at an ungodly volume. Gun blasts and warrior cries punctuate our twilight hour. There are bags of sugar-free candy, half gnawed through, on our nightstands. We’re old. We’ve loved too much, for too long. We’ve fought for our right to live this way. Now we claim our peace. The house is the same house, but the light has changed. The pink of the early days has been sucked out, awash with antiseptic blue, punctured with the nightly injections of hospice. How will we repay the hands that torture us so tenderly? Normally a wife would do these tasks, but I have already mourned many men with as much preparation, as much care. I will not survive all of them.

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There is no such thing as communal death. Look at us now, the last jagged teeth in a locked hog jaw. The nurses have come to stick us again. The husbands twist in fitful sleep. Our loving Ponderosa had started so small. Year after year it grew in appendages, in greenhouses and garrets and outhouses and pleasure-dens, only to retract into one large room, with its row of narrow beds. The remaining five. Sometimes a hand will reach over and clasp another. Which one of us will be the last? After all these years, the thing we had wed to avoid has descended on us tenfold. Who knew we could sleep together all these nights, and still die alone?

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EVERYTHING YOU NEED Alex Prince 8” x 7.75” mixed media collage

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Frittatas Eliza Frakes Diana says it’s ok that I can’t seem to snap the eggs against the metal rim of a bowl or catch stray pieces with a shell’s carcass. She sighs as we beat the yolks in circles, gently dancing the knife’s finger along pepper bellies. Diana shows me how each burner lights, and where to stand in safety from the flame’s tongue, the click click click click the smell of propane leaching into fresh parsley and cream. I remember the hood fan circling her bald scalp, the way the air lifted and spun each fighting limb of hair swirling into an eddy We watch her knuckles bulge like porpoises along the rim of a whisk as she floods the liquid into the pan and pries at the edges with a spatula, letting the yellow drip down beneath.

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That morning she turned our faces, reluctant, to the sun. Wake up, I have something to show you. The disk leaps, as if it just felt the fire beneath. I can see it, halfway tipped in the yellow air in front of rows of garlic powder and turmeric suspended, indefinitely.

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Kristen and Her Brother, Shitboy Bobby Eversmann


risten was downstairs texting her boyfriend, Michael. Two boys from school came and knocked on the door. “My parents aren’t home,” Kristen said.

“It’s not like we’re going to rape you,” they said. She laughed and let them in. One boy, Brad, showed her a condom. Kristen screamed. She was joking. Kristen went back into the living room. She lay back on the couch and kept texting.

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Brad sat in the La-Z-Boy. Ben, the other boy, sat on the couch at Kristen’s feet. Kristen’s little brother, Kevin, was upstairs when the doorbell rang. He came out to the top of the stairs and watched the boys come inside. He went downstairs into the room where they were. Ben had his hand on Kristen’s feet. “Is that your little brother?” he said. Kristen kicked Ben’s hands off her feet. “Kevin,” said Kristen. “Where’s your patch? You’re supposed to be wearing it right now.” “I’m wearing it upstairs,” said Kevin. “Go upstairs then,” said Kristen. Kristen looked at her phone and said, “Michael’s such a faggot.” Ben said, “Your boyfriend’s a dick.” Brad said, “Tell him it’s an orgy.” “No,” Kristen said. “Tell him,” Brad said. Kristen told Kevin to make popcorn. “Kevin,” said Brad. Kevin waited. “What,” said Kevin.

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Brad turned around to face Kevin. “Hi,” Brad said. “Kevin,” said Kristen. “Make popcorn or I’ll tell Mom and Dad what you’re playing.” “What’s Kevin playing?” asked Brad. “Some game he’s not allowed to.” Kevin took a pack of popcorn out of a drawer. “Your sister can be a real bitch, can’t she?” said Brad. Ben moved his hands back over Kristen’s feet. Kevin opened the popcorn, put it in the microwave and pressed popcorn. Brad turned back around in the La-Z-Boy to face the TV. “What the fuck are we watching?” he said. Kristen looked at her phone and said, “Fuck you Michael. He’s always texting me fucking saying are u cheating.” “Tell Michael I said he’s a faggot,” Ben said. “Send Michael a pic of my dick,” Brad said. Kristen shook her head. “He’ll come over and kill us all.” She looked serious. Then she smiled. Brad threw the condom at Kristen. “Send him that,” he said. Kristen took a picture of the condom. She laughed. “You send it?” Brad asked. 114  Portland Review

Kristen laughed. The microwave beeped. Kevin took the popcorn out of the microwave and got a bowl. He poured some for himself and started to head upstairs. Kristen watched him. “Bring us some, dickweed,” she said. Kevin got out more bowls. “Hey,” said Ben. “Wait. Kevin.” Kevin waited. Ben didn’t look at Kevin. He looked at Kristen. “Is this the little brother with the shit problem?” Kristen kicked his shoulder. “Don’t,” she said. “No. I mean it. This is Shitboy right?” “He doesn’t have a shit problem,” said Kristen. She told Kevin to wash his hands. Kevin said he already had. Ben asked Kevin if he’d really washed his hands. Kevin ignored him. Ben laughed. “Didn’t you step in his shit once?” “Don’t remind me,” she said. Ben poked his fingers between her toes. She cracked up and kicked him. He laughed and leaned toward her. He ran his hand up her legs. Spring 2017  115

She sat upright. “No,” she said. He ran his other hand up. Kristen kicked him hard in the stomach and sat upright. Ben hunched into the kitchen. He leaned with his head on the counter. Brad laughed at him. “Kristen,” said Brad. He framed his hands on his crotch. “Two words.” “Dick. Pic,” said Brad. “Shit’ll drive him wild.” Kristen laughed. Brad got out of the La-Z-Boy and made eye contact with Kristen. Kristen shook her head and lay flat on the couch. Ben came over to Kristen but sat on the floor and leaned his head back on Kristen’s hip. Kristen groaned but adjusted herself and said, “There.” Ben ate some popcorn from Kevin’s bowl. “Your sister have boys over a lot?” Kevin muttered inaudibly. “No?” Ben said. Kevin shook his head. “Is that right?” Ben said. Kristen yelled and laughed with her hands over her mouth. “Fuck. Him,” she said. She showed Brad her phone. Brad got up on his knees and leaned over her. They read the text aloud together, “u fucking slut.”

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Kristen rolled off the couch laughing and Brad said, “Gimme.” Kristen dropped her phone. Kristen pulled on Brad’s hands—Brad saying, “Let me,” grabbing. Kristen gave up. Brad turned around and flashed a picture and said, “Sent.” Brad gave it back. A gray-boxed ellipsis under a crotch shot of jeans and a belt. “Whatever,” she said. “That’s not a dick pic, you pussy.” “Slut,” Brad said. He tickled her. She laughed. “Does he still wipe his shit on the walls?” Ben said. “Shut up, Ben,” said Kristen. Kevin started to leave. Ben grabbed the newspaper left on the counter and laid it out. “Shit for us,” Ben said. Brad looked for Kristen’s phone. Kristen had it between her legs. Brad pushed his hands between her legs and took her phone. He pointed it at Kevin and told him to shit. He videoed Kevin standing beside a spread of newspaper and told Kevin to shit.

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Wetland Mary Haidri What I want is the June we left there Kingfisher pond reeds and whistles rusty chair dragged from the ferns Want to be your bare feet in the silt The twig in Lin’s wet hair Sunk deep in soft dark Not faded water towers & beavertail cactus Light-bleached shirts hung on the line 118  Portland Review

We can blame me My thirst In love with bracken-black water & another girl’s ankles

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The Ghosts of Western Women Lynn Mundell creak the floorboards late at night. Their hands pull the quilts off my sleeping back, so I’ll grow cold and then tough, as they were. They, who gentled horses and then sold them, buried their husbands, some in graves, crossed borders trailed by little children, hungry, easily overpowering their own fear. Mornings they push their way into my commuter train, muttering over the miles of strip malls, pavement, eight-lane freeway. Sometimes we see the California they once knew, plain green hills dotted with new calves, a hawk motionless on a fence post. Then it’s gone, a postcard to be saved until it fades to nothing. They follow me around my heated office building, and I can almost hear their spurs jingle impatiently to the time of the copier, feel their bony fingers poke my soft middle during noon Pilates. At the weekend farmers market, I consider a one-dollar apple, and I can hear their laughter on the wind as they upset a pile of Gravensteins in my wake. Fruit shouldn’t cost anything, if you would just climb the fences, find the trees, take it. They whisper and I ignore them, for they

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have left me nothing but old photos from which they glare, posed in chaps with skinned rattlesnakes, shotguns, and one another. Grandmother, her mother, her daughters. They murmur that they passed on everything they had—thick hair full of sunlight, a long stride for covering ground fast, and a will like common metal, strong, close at hand. Long ago they left my sister, packing up their ropes and pans, softly whistling to their dogs, their weathered faces smiling faintly as they filed down the moonlit road. Sister hunts with bow and arrow, pays in cash, plucks lemons from a law firm’s front yard. Sometimes when she’s angry, our ancestors’ wintry eyes stare out at me. From her lips I can almost hear them, the ghosts of western women, asking what happened to our land, who minds the horses now, is there anything of us that still lives on in you?

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Those Voices Matthew Zapruder Into the day I walk I want to be full of voices ones that can tell me how to be angry and what about ones that know the thoughts of the last sentient trees and those of the peaceful river that floats its reflection through the decimated factories those voices could tell me if this is really the worst

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time or even no no not the end finally now I know just enough not to be ready and how to keep forgetting the optimal distance between myself and others so later whenever it is time in their paternal dying those voices will remind me and I in turn will tell the autumn child it’s ok his clear young sorrow will always legislate his dreams he will pick up the golden arrow in the grasses of a distant fable casually solve the war and ride a horse in brave androgynous glory armor away from money toward whatever he deems so beautiful he can no longer be silent

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The Process Santi Elijah Holley


n Durango, Colorado, I was one of only two or three people of color, though this was before “people of color” was the identifier of choice. I was a ten-year-old boy in 1991, and I hadn’t yet learned words like “biracial” or “multiethnic.” This was eighteen years before anyone outside of Chicago or Hawaii had heard of Barack Hussein Obama, and eleven years before Aubrey Drake Graham made his television debut on Degrassi. When pressed, I told people I was “mixed,” as though I were a bag of nuts or a cocktail. After meeting my mother, people assumed I was adopted. I’d often wonder that myself. I had my father’s height, his wide nose and kinky hair. What features my mother and I shared were modest enough to go unnoticed by any stranger on the street. People asked me what I was. “I’m mixed,” I’d explain. “Half-black, half-white.” But people don’t see in halves; we see in either/ors. We also don’t exist in halves. We pick sides. To be a full person, and not a half-person, I’d had to choose a side. For the sake of convenience, I chose white. After three years in Durango, my mother bought a house fifty miles west, in Cortez, an even smaller and whiter town. Cortez was a drivethrough town, a sneeze-and-you’ll-miss-it town. People didn’t move to Cortez; people escaped from Cortez. Kids at my new school didn’t

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know what to make of me. I was an ethnic curiosity, the Mulatto Who Fell to Earth. Rather than embrace my position as an outsider, as a unique individual who brought a singular perspective on cultural identity and racial complexities, I went the other way. I assimilated. I dressed white. I talked white. I listened to Violent Femmes and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I played soccer. My best friend was a Mormon kid named Jared. Also, when I was fourteen years old, I straightened my hair for the first time. For some reason, our local grocery store carried hair relaxer. Not the spray-in and leave-in conditioner, the type folks use to “de-frizz” hair, but the heavy-duty shit, Dark & Lovely, with a fierce black woman staring out at you from the box. There wasn’t a black woman within two hundred miles of Cortez, Colorado, but that didn’t stop City Market from stocking Dark & Lovely on their shelves, just in case one happened to be traveling through town and was in the middle of a hair emergency. My mother offered to help. She had done my father’s hair when they were married, some thirteen years prior, and she vaguely remembered how it worked. Back in my father’s day, it was called getting a “process,” and before then it was a “conk,” but these days it’s known as a “permanent,” or “relaxing” the hair, as though black people’s hair is naturally tensed up and nervous (and why shouldn’t it be?). I sat in a chair in the kitchen, with a towel around my shoulders, while my mother mixed up the batter, and began to heap the thick cream onto my head. The relaxer smelled like aloe vera and Crisco. My mother applied more cream, and dragged a comb through my hair. “How does that feel?” she asked. “Fine,” I said. “Cold.” “Let me know if it begins to burn,” she said. “Burn?” “I think I remember your dad sometimes burning his scalp,” she said. “It’s not supposed to burn, but you might feel a tingle.” I wondered why my mother had only now decided to remember this rather salient fact, but I didn’t let it worry me. Hair straightening

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has come a long way since my father’s day, and nearly a century has passed since Madame C.J. Walker made her millions of dollars burning black women’s hair. African American mobility and modern science have given us the miracle of “no-lye” relaxer. Seated in a chair in my mother’s kitchen, with a bath towel draped over my scrawny shoulders, I was having one hundred years of Negro advancement heaped like frosting onto my teenage head. The instructions said to wait five minutes before rinsing out the relaxer. Five minutes didn’t sound long enough. I wanted not a single curl to remain when it was all over. I wanted my hair to be straight as a blade. Vanna White straight. Al Sharpton straight. Six minutes passed, then seven, eight, and then I began to feel the heat. It was decidedly a few degrees more than a tingle. “How are you doing?” my mother asked. “It’s getting warm.” “I think we should rinse it out now,” she said. “One more minute,” I said. When it finally heated up enough to where I couldn’t stand it, I jumped into the shower, stuck my head underneath the cold water, and washed the greasy, toxic suds from my head and down the drain. I applied the specially formulated shampoo and conditioner, and ran my fingers for the first time through my new, sleek, straight hair. It was miraculous. I felt like I’d been baptized, born again. The shackles of kinky hair had been broken. Free at last, free at last, I once was nappy, but now I’m relaxed! I would go on to straighten my hair twice a year, for the next three years. Regardless of what Dark & Lovely claimed, that shit burned me every time, leaving my scalp red and irritated for days or even weeks afterward. But it was worth it. Everyone I knew had straight hair. My friends, girlfriends, and teachers had straight hair. I couldn’t change my dark complexion, my lips, or my nose, but, for less than ten dollars at the local City Market, I could have hair like everyone else.

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*** I graduated from high school in 1998. I was seventeen years old, and I’d had enough of Colorado. I packed a duffel bag with clothes, books, and snacks, said goodbye to my mother, boarded a Greyhound bus, and was deposited, three days later, back in the city where I was born. Ann Arbor, Michigan was everything Cortez was not—alive, verdant, exciting, diverse. The people were of as many different shades and hues as the trees that flourished throughout the city. In the time since my mother and I had moved to Colorado, my father had moved from Michigan to the South. I was now, for all purposes, on my own. I was without identity, without a history, free to reinvent myself. I rented a room in an apartment and got a job at Tower Records. I made friends with people with names like Esaoa and Gaurav and Panther. Being in the company of so many black people my age made me realize not only how much I had suppressed this part of myself in Colorado, but also how much I now longed to embrace it, to cultivate and flaunt it. I wanted to call men “brother” and women “sister.” I wanted to learn secret handshakes. I listened to De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, 2pac, and Too $hort. I read The Autobiography of Malcom X, Soul On Ice, and The Souls of Black Folk. I wore Fubu, Roc-AWear, and Tommy Hilfiger. Nobody asked what I was. Nobody took furtive glances at me, trying to fit me into some narrow, preconceived notion of either/or. And now it suddenly felt ridiculous to have straight hair. The barber shop was on the corner of Huron and Fourth. A small, nondescript building, with flaking white paint outside and a peeling sign that read “Rosey’s,” above a simple drawing of a comb and a pair of scissors. The venetian blinds were opened, revealing a lone, old black man inside, wearing an apron. I pushed open the door and walked inside. A bell chimed above the door. “How you doing, youngblood?” the man said. “Good, thanks,” I said.

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“What can I do for you?” “I’d like a haircut,” I said. “Have a seat,” the man said, directing me to one of two barber chairs. I sat in the vinyl chair and the man fastened a bib around my neck. He spun me around so that I faced myself in the mirror. The reflection that stared back at me was a stranger, a vision from an old life—a life of shame and confusion and questions and burned scalps. I was looking at a “mixed” person. Mixed in the blood and mixed up in the head. The deception on top of my head reflected the deception inside. For years I had thought of my straight hair as a mask, concealing my differences from the world. Beginning today I would begin a new process—one where I no longer hid from anyone, including myself. “So then,” the barber said. “What would you like?” “Take it off,” I said. “All of it?” he asked. “All of it.”

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YA BETTER TAKE WHATCHA GET Alex Prince 6.75” x 9.5” mixed media collage Spring 2017  129

Four untitled poems fROM TEN Jennifer Firestone How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself. —Virginia Woolf, The Waves

If I move toward the glass desk the building’s astonishingly white. I almost wrote blind. The sun’s effect. The two leafless trees operate by wind. Look happy. When one behaves the brain responds. The gesture hopefully absorbed. Two animals actively chase through rotten vines, giddy.

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Tiresome might be precisely it. Lit as a backdrop, drooping. The setting moves yet I remain fixed. The setting is orange and yellow. The setting sits, shifts. I am a tiresome sea. Surely, sight has value. Say it. Thoughts quaking. Quietly I shift. I broke the ten anxiously awaiting the end. “I am infinity,” claims he. Infinitely calm, he is everything. A he who claims it, confidently.

The bird buys time. Vine—a line to the bottom. I’ve forgotten purpose. This furied world. Word always comes next. Then back to bird. Absurdly wondering. To change the smallest balcony to a designated play spot. How to provide the right tools? First, clean. The argument goes slow. The inside messy.

The rumbling underneath. She called it a terrifying noise or terrific noise. An aquarium encapsulated her lower half all kinds of sea life swimming. Activity in the tiniest rings. To engage is to enter. One minute particle set the others off and then music.

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Heavenly Nourishment Mehdi M. Kashani


recious few people avoid irritating me with their eating and Leila was one of them. As if part of a ritual, she would meticulously chop her food into tiny morsels and unhurriedly usher them into her welcoming mouth. Once the food was inside and the spoon or fork outside, the gate of her lips would drop silently, she would begin to chew and her tongue would taste its guest, the effect of which was usually evident in her eyes. No matter how small or bland, she would take her time relishing every grain, leaving almost no work for the other organs in the process. She savoured her meals as if they were her last. “Well! One of them will be,” she’d say when I joked about it. Fortunately, she was my wife. Unfortunately, yesterday she died. Mourners arrived in groups of different sizes. My Kebab house was quite far from the cemetery and the rush-hour traffic caused a delay for some. I waited for all to arrive before signalling my chef to serve the food. My guests, their facial expressions, were forlorn, some genuinely and others out of respect. Men and women in black sat round

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white-clothed tables. The room was a chessboard in chaos. Except for the pink stroller of Leila’s friend’s baby, no sign of color existed. The restaurant drowned in my sorrow, in blackness. As much as the confines of the establishment allowed, I had the tables arranged together in a U-shaped form, women sitting on one side, men on the other. Only one round table was spared, in solitary, leaning on the wall. “You kept it intact,” Leila’s friend whimpered, pushing back the canopy of her stroller. “So sweet of you.” It was the table where they’d been seated, where I’d met Leila, where I had observed how gracefully she ate. I’m the owner’s son. And I should tell you, I haven’t seen anyone here so deft with food, I’d told Leila, never taking my brash eyes off her. Is that your usual pickup line, Mr. Owner’s Son? she’d asked, hurling a walnut-marinated olive into her mouth. Pickup line maybe, usual no! I was saving that compliment for the right one. At this, she’d hesitated, exchanging a glance with her friend, the silent witness to our flirtation. The taste of your food is bested only by your eloquence, Leila said. It was then that I introduced myself and drew a chair in between theirs, closer to Leila’s. Five months later during our usual clandestine meet up, I revealed I wanted her for the rest of my life. She giggled. My parents haven’t met you. Your parents haven’t met me. I didn’t care. No one could take her from me. And if they tried to separate us? I’d kill them all, I informed her. Yours is a passionate nature, Mr. Owner’s Son. She giggled. This, I learned, she did whenever she wanted to hide the fact that she was impressed. As Leila’s father had requested, I had borrowed a sound system. The melodious sad sound of the Quran was a constant reminder that our gathering in the restaurant was a continuation of the funeral, lest the guests forget and indulge in the food. The baby inhabiting the pink stroller began to cry, interrupting the Quran. Once again, the child violated the pattern of grief.

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That’s what children are, I have learned. They are violators of adults’ schemes, as too was my own child. Some months ago, Leila and I conceded it was time to blend and eternalize our genes. God approved and the seed was conceived. A girl, although she nourished herself from Leila’s flesh and blood as ferociously as any boy. As Leila grew paler, we guilelessly attributed her condition to the widely spread superstition that she was imparting her beauty to our daughter. The coup de grâce arrived yesterday, with the acute case of eclampsia. Our daughter, as loyal to her mother as girls are, joined Leila in the afterlife. The mourners seemed to be hungry. I hovered over the tables to make sure the stuffed dates and halva and yogurt appetizer were distributed properly. “You don’t want to eat, son?” Leila’s father had never called me son before. Next to him sat my own father, now retired and frail. Two old men deprived of their first grandchild by the whims of destiny. We hadn’t wanted a child; the rest of the world had expected it from us. The people surrounding me with their grim-faced condolences believed our happy life could only become happier with children. Those who preached that multiplying was the way of the Prophet, that contented as we were leading a sterile life, we couldn’t maintain it, that as the sole son of my father I was obliged to extend the hereditary line…they were conspirators in my tragedy. No less guilty, Leila’s friend, who in giving birth to that cute baby in pink, lured both of us into making one of our own. Dressed in white, the waiters began to carry plates filled with ground beef kebab, rice and cooked tomato into the dining room. As I’d ordered, once the last plate was placed in front of the last guest, they vanished into the kitchen. The symphony of cutlery commenced. Steam rising from the rice diffused in the air, the aroma of saffron titillated, forks pierced through kebab, spoons filled with rice, onions were sliced in halves and for a moment all murmurs died away. Everyone began eating, including me, excluding the baby. I could hear their munching, could see the grains of rice jumping from their mouths, could feel the crushed kebab marinated by saliva being forced down their throats. 134  Portland Review

I ate, mimicking their enthusiasm. Suddenly, a sharp pang of pain shot through my gut. I used the table as support to stand up and look around. I wasn’t the only one. People of all ages, men and women, rubbed at their bellies. Some started to cough heavily. I joined them, felt dizzy. My sight blurred. The baby cried. But she couldn’t be in pain. Her cry mirrored the sum of ours. Everybody began stumbling to the door. Most failed, collapsed to the floor, vomiting. Clamps bit into every inch of my skin. The poison, riding my blood vessels, was eating me from the inside out. Plates broke, the baby cried, relatives collapsed, heaven approached. Time passed, how much I couldn’t tell. How I survived, I wouldn’t know. Gradually my sight returned. It seemed everybody was recuperating, their faces serene as if the order of the universe had returned after an unfathomable halt. As I struggled to my feet unsure if I had experienced a miracle, the door opened and Leila entered. With a smile, she stepped towards the corner table, removed her coat and sat, gesturing for me to join her.

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Untitled {boatbuilding} John Sibley Williams And yes, we all learn to be boats by navigating our mothers’ sleeping chests. Calm sea of linen on lung. Two tiny oars growing less useless every stroke. And yes, our fathers stand taller than a hundred masts yet tremble when handed the frailest of bodies. Their heavy silence is a net dragging empty behind us. And yes, we’ll end up casting it all back to the sea someday. Someday it will be our turn to grieve, to distance. But how close skin feels, briefly, now, as we’re learning its edges.

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WELL YOU MISSED ONE HECKUVA PARTY Alex Prince 7” x 7” mixed media collage

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Male Bonding Daniel Elder


rowing up, there were just two men in my life. The man I called Grandpa, my Dyedushka, was my mother’s stepfather. He was bound to me not in blood but kisses, which he placed perfectly at the top of my head. He was an old engineer, a Soviet man, a hard man. And yet with me, he was gentle. Like clockwork, I got sick every December. Throat and lung ailments, mostly. Viral pneumonia. Bronchitis. Laryngitis. Bronchitis and bronchitis again. My mother says the first one came when I was just two months old. When I went down, I went down hard. I inherited her cough—deep and skeleton-rattling. Whenever I was sick, Dyedushka would sit beside my bed reading, doing crosswords, or watching TV while I lay in a fever delirium. I had a small blue pillow with white stars that I loved. Dyedushka would leave it sitting beside where I lay. When a coughing fit began, he would take the pillow and place it on my chest, pushing gently down. Soothing me. Teeha, teeha. Russian for quiet, quiet. We spent our summers at the Karnofsky Bungalow Colony in upstate New York. My sisters and I would go up with my grandparents, with our parents visiting on the weekends or alternating weeks. I

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didn’t realize, at those young ages, that our mother and father were avoiding one another. I remember Dyedushka smoking cigarettes in the kitchen. I remember him in his brown velvet tracksuit down by the lake. He was an old Soviet kolkhoznik, a farm peasant, with Kandinsky eyebrows and stained brown pants. One day I climbed on top of the monkey bars and disturbed a nest of wasps. They zipped and zoomed at me, and I ran back to our house at the top of the hill, close to the bungalow colony gate. My arms swung behind me while I ran, and I felt one and then another and then another sting. I arrived on our summer porch crying with welts swelling along my forearms. Dyedushka, with a Marlboro Red dangling from his lips, sat me down at the kitchen table. He opened the freezer, and when he closed it he was holding packages of frozen steak and chicken. He draped the slabs of meat over my arms to bring down the swelling. Then he washed his hands and ran his fingers through my hair. Teeha, teeha. My Dyedushka. He was the only other man in my life besides my father. And unlike my father, he always said those three little words. You know the ones. Dai mnyeh keppela. Dai mnyeh—Russian for give me. Keppela—Yiddish for top of the head. When I think of fatherhood, it’s that kiss. Right on top of the head. Our apartment buzzer would ring, and it was Dyedushka downstairs with something he needed us to see. We’d buzz him up and he’d invariably lumber through the door with some piece of furniture he’d picked up off the street. Seven times out of ten, it was a lamp. And every single lamp he scavenged was the ugliest damn thing you’d ever seen in your life. Did we want this? he’d ask. Nyet! Bojemoi. No. My god. My uncle, Dyedushka’s son, my mother’s half-brother, owned an arcade in Bayonne, New Jersey for a time. Dyedushka and I would

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ride the bus there on the weekends. On the way, he’d tell me about the war. I wish I’d listened more closely. I was giddy with excitement for the digital world of gunships and mutants, and an endless supply of quarters that awaited me at the arcade, where I could run around for hours before it even opened. So my attention drifted in and out of Dyedushka’s stories. Stories about the blockade of Leningrad. Stories about convoys crossing frozen lakes. Stories about bombs. Life and death stories. Dyedushka had been an actor, back in the old country. Before the war. He loved soup, and he couldn’t eat it without slurping every single spoonful. That slurp. I’m sure it drove me crazy at the time, but the memory is soft and warm. Those slurps were nails on the chalkboard of my mother’s soul. But she knew just how much I loved him. I was fifteen when he went into the hospital with meningitis. He was there for weeks and weeks. The whole time, my mother kept me from visiting him. She was protecting me. Though she confessed to me years later that she never much cared for her stepfather, she also took great pains never to interfere in my relationship with him. And Dyedushka wasn’t himself in the hospital. He was mumbling nonsense. Meningitis corroded his brain. Tubes were running all in and out of his body. He was a shriveled man. When my sisters went to visit him, one of them screamed and screamed. My mother wanted to shield me from that. And besides, Dyedushka was getting better. He was on the mend. He was coming home soon. Then her hand on my shoulder one morning. Waking me. Danny, Dyedushka died last night. From some things, there’s no protection. Until that moment, death had always been far, far away. His funeral was my first. At the cemetery, my mother and sisters explained to me that I should walk to the open grave, take a handful of dirt, and throw it on the coffin. A Jewish ritual, even though we were atheists. In the chaos of tears and incomprehension, this small task gave me some sense of duty. My earliest taste of sacrament. A light rain fell, and I stepped forward in my ill-fitting suit to take the damp dirt in my clean hand.

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Against the backdrop of my grandmother’s grief-stricken sobs, I felt the dirt like sludge between my knuckles. Then I threw it down into the grave.

That left my father. Our bond, one of blood, manifested itself not in kisses but in money. Like my mother, he was a political refugee from the Soviet Union. But unlike her, he possessed little humility or gratitude for how far he’d come or who had helped him along the way. He was rich, self-made to hear him tell it, and he held his money over all our heads and asked us to dance, with strings running from the currency into our backs. Nothing came for free. Not even fatherhood. He liked to stop in the middle of our apartment hallway and scratch his back against the corner of a doorway the way a bear scratches against a tree. With this came noises, man-noises, strange put-ons, like he was trying to remind us all of what he was, just in case we’d forgotten. We went about our business. My father was a dainty man who puffed his chest out and smoked cigars, but took small steps and wore tight clothes and Speedos that were one size too small at the beach like the Baltic creature he was. He would proudly tell the tale of how, on a trip to Italy, he fended off the advances of a gay man who came on to him at the beach. He said the man reached his hand between that tight Speedo waistband and skin, reached for my father’s cock. The degree, the sharpness of my father’s reaction, his disgust, his indignation, has always stuck in my mind, stuck right next to his dainty steps, that femininity of which he was entirely oblivious but that we all saw. He buried his feminine side under some idea of masculinity that he then tried passing on to me. After the divorce, we’d sit at a table outside an East Village restaurant. His attention would ebb and flow with the rhythm of the passing bodies of women on the street; his eyes narrowing, his tongue poised with an ill-concealed hunger. Back at his apartment, over whiskey, his eyes would thin even further, and he’d lean forward with a grin, sharing with me what he thought was the true bond of all men.

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“You’ve got to eat pussy,” he’d say. “It’s wonderful. But when you get down between a woman’s legs, you’ve got to make sure there’s good enough lighting that you can really get in there and take a good look. Make sure nothing looks funny. Give it a good inspection. Make sure nothing smells funny, that’s very important. Then you can get in there.” I was fourteen years old. He told me all about his conquests. He invited the twenty-year-old girl he’d flown in from his native Russia out to dinner with us. He thought that she and I would have a lot in common. He showed me the sex swing he’d bought for his apartment. He never picked up on the fact that I had nothing to contribute to these so-called conversations. He never tried to meet me in the middle. He rarely asked questions. He was always in broadcast mode, never tuned to receive. My father made his riches lecturing around the world, teaching people how to make money in the stock market. He took me traveling with him, but I had to work for my vacation. I’d stand at the back of the room and during breaks, beneath fluorescent Holiday Inn conference room lights, I’d sell books to his groupies, the middle-aged men intoxicated with dreams of being like my father: a powerful man who answered to no one. “Boy,” they’d say, “you must love traveling with your dad.” After the seminars, back in our hotel rooms, there it was: my father’s cock. Across the globe, from New Zealand to Singapore to North Dakota and all points in between, he loved to display it in the hotel rooms where we stayed. When I think of the decade it’s now been since we last spoke to each other, it’s this image that takes hold: my father in an elegant hotel room, holding a small bottle of expensive single malt scotch whiskey that he’s refilled with a cheaper blended brand, wearing a faded T-shirt and nothing else, his strange torpedo dick hanging out beneath the hem, erupting out of a crinkled bush of black hair that starkly contrasts with his bald head. Nothing untoward happened, mind you. It was just his dick: the way it hung, the display of it, the way he strutted from the bathroom to the desk to his bed, flaunting his . . . manhood.

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*** One night, just shy of my twenty-ninth birthday, my friends drag me out to a shitty Irish bar in Lower Manhattan. I hate Irish bars. They are such men places. But our new friend is there, our dancer, the one that all the girls fawn over and then bemoan his being gay, the one who was dancing half-naked when I met him, beautiful dancer, the one I want so secretly to touch. Watch how he moves through space. He straddles the spectrum of masculine and feminine with the most perfect grace. He seems to transcend binaries every time the light lands on his beauty from a different angle. I envy him and admire him and desire him. He’s on his way out to smoke a cigarette when he stops by me. He puts one hand around my waist and looks at me with the fondest smile. He shrugs, like what the hell, then leans down. Leather jacket. James Dean. Italian lips. I fold into him, with a hunger that’s been suffocated. I fall into his chest, my hand circles to the back of his neck, I pull him to me. I am starving. He leans back and looks at me with surprise. And delight. “I thought you’d pull away,” he admits. We kiss once more. The room, the bawdy prints with Irish jokes, the voices of our friends, the nineties alt-rock on the jukebox, all of it whirls into a background fuzz. Our kiss is the eye of the storm, until we’re brought backw down to earth, sharp landings, skidding on the ground as two burly hands come down, each on one of our shoulders. We unfurl our mouths to look into the glowering face of the bartender. He’s abandoned his station. “You can’t do that here,” he drawls in his brogue. “It’s not that kind of place.” Hands leave our shoulders and, message delivered, they return to the doling out of cheap, watery beer. I experience all of this from a remove, as if it’s happening to someone else. But beside me my dancer is livid, and after uttering a string of invectives, he touches me gently on the arm before letting me know he needs to go cool off. He heads downstairs to the bathroom and slams the door.

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I turn to a girlfriend, who’s seen what happened, and she wraps one arm around me as if I need consoling, but again, it’s like I’m one step removed from all of this. I’m aware that I should feel violated, that I have in fact been violated, but the feeling stands at bay. I’m not sure that I deserve it, so I’m not sure that I can let it in. The bartender is back behind the taps, laughing it up with his regulars, playing a role, wearing a costume. I’ve met men like him before. My dancer comes back up from the bathroom, walks right past me, and edges his way up to the bar where the bartender is standing. He plants both his hands firmly on the woodgrain, and leans forward, and the bartender leans forward to meet him, a world of friction in the inches between their faces. I watch their soundless mouths, the raising of eyebrows, the rising of tension even as talk gets quieter, until finally, stepping away, the bartender simply nods and raises his hands in a sign of defeat. “He said the owner is sitting in the back, watching the cameras, and told him to do that. I think it’s bullshit.” He was just following orders. “What did you say to him?” “I told him this is New York State, in the year 2012, and that for all he knows you could be my husband. I told him he didn’t get to decide who did and didn’t kiss inside this bar. I told him I would kiss you all I want.” And he does. Our group, perhaps ten or twelve deep, see their bar tabs shrivel up and disappear under the threat of litigation. Later, in the dark back corner of the bar, my hand reaches down into my dancer’s jeans, between waistband and skin, burying fingers in his scruff. “What do you want?” His hand on my wrist. “Take me home.” Out on the street, walking to get a cab, he keeps saying things that drive me crazy. “You’ve never been taken home by a guy before?” So he takes my hand and pulls me along. Like we’re Jules and Jim in the movies.

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“You’ve never been thrown up against a wall by a guy and kissed?” No. So he pushes me up hard against concrete, his hands pinning my shoulders, and he makes me wince with his mouth on mine. “You’ve never made out with a guy in the back of a cab?” No. But here he teases, opens the window and leans his head out while I nestle into him. My teeth scrape desperately at his throat as we sail over the Brooklyn Bridge. Then we’re naked. “You have no idea about stubble, do you?” And before I can answer he rakes his five o’clock shadow against all my softest skin, crooks of elbows, thighs, belly, my back arches in a way I didn’t know that I, a man, could or should, bend, I churn, twist, sheets all tangled in my fingers, fuck. “What do you want?” “Fuck me,” I say, breathless, and it’s like the words have been held hostage until now. “How do you want me to fuck you?” And crawling onto all fours, I feel completely safe. How strange is that? To feel safe, with a man. He plies me. He fills me. When we fuck, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. Penetrated, I am liberated. I’ve put my fingers inside of me but cock is different: cock is transcendental. In my hands, in my mouth, but most especially when my entire being is wound around it. I move in ways that feel like they’ve been locked up in my body for years. I toss my big head of curly hair like a Hollywood starlet. Like Madonna. Like a prayer. I fall asleep curled into his arms, my head on his chest, running my fingertips against the stubble on his chin. Held. And to think that I have been so afraid of this. Afraid of men. Afraid of what this intimacy could mean. Afraid it would unravel my sense of who I am, or how I am supposed to be. But in the morning, when my graceful dancer walks me to the corner and kisses me out on the street, in front of the world, I don’t feel different at all. I just feel more myself than ever. Our eyes, our hands, our whole beings move in rhythm as we kiss.

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We are men. The sky is crisp winter blue and the nearby elevated train is rumbling. Still inside his lingering kiss, I walk home. Feeling loose. Feeling limber. Feeling free.

SATURDAY MORNINGS Alex Prince 8.5” x 11.75” mixed media collage Spring 2017  147

Water Cycles #32: The Rules, My Love Bill Neumire

today there was a man with one arm fishing for fiddler crabs you can’t take the females & you have to cut the faces off the males while they’re still alive I can’t say we did what we could you cannot know a system by knowing its discrete parts

we swallow ourselves to make room for you who were lasting through the news if you see it through there’s a rewarding vision of the whole

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I can’t stop waking

today there was a man in the sea & no one saw him

the dog’s heavy snore &

disappearing except me but I was on a balcony far from shore & could only see

twitch my wife’s worried hair the part of my memory where I want you to study me to tell

an empty birdhouse swings

me & what I’m doing wrong the weathered couple next door doesn’t know anything

rain’s fallen & risen so many times how does one begin to hope the ladder & its sky

about my daughter’s restless cystic fibrosis or whorl of clinamen around them to sleep by the language you wake unwilling to speak

of the sea recorded years ago

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Taking Care Melissa Ostrom


hen the last bell rings at three, Lorrie maneuvers through the hallway charge, stops at her locker, stuffs her backpack with homework, and walks to the elementary school, past leafless trees, under a sky that is all cloud, to collect Jeffery and Cory Allen. The boys run ahead of her, but at each intersection skip back and wait for her hands before continuing and crossing. Then they tear loose and run. The passage to their house resembles twin yo-yos, spinning forward and snapping back. In the Allens’ kitchen, Lorrie prepares snacks according to the boys’ preferences, Jeffery’s something with dip, Cory’s anything cheesy. Four bowls with shallow pools of milk and bloated cereal sit by the sink. The boys wrestle, watch television, and play video games until their father returns at four. Then the children are allowed one hour, the hour before Mrs. Allen gets home, to play in the backyard. They are made to play. “Get some fresh air,” the father orders, waving them out. He shuts the door. Upstairs, Lorrie hears the boys laughing. When she removes her jeans and t-shirt, she listens to their shouts. The basketball bounces off the house’s siding. She waits for Cory to start crying. The boys’ games usually end with Cory crying.

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A little before five, she dresses, smooths her hair, and grabs her backpack. Then she leaves through the front door, so she doesn’t see the boys. The dusky sky has settled in the trees. The air feels like rain. She wonders what the fuck she is doing. Stop. Think about supper. Her kitchen isn’t the Allens’, but there are potatoes. They always have potatoes. She can fry, mash, and even scallop them. No one will be home, but she can take care of herself.

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RR 2 Box 141 VIII Melanie Tague VIII. Most days I move from right to left & think of films how once P told me in film the villain always moves from right to left across the screen & this unsettles the viewer— our eyes are so used to moving from left to right. I couldn’t go home much after that, radio static scratching through morning, TV flickering through night. You were always walking from west to east, from tractor to truck, from table to recliner. And I began to notice the way shadows hit your face. P once said, in film it is not so much that the shadow is evil, rather it is that it still has to be assimilated into consciousness. I am still not sure what that means: the shadow, P’s words. I am not sure where P went after one night & seeing where I came from P disappeared, I didn’t hear goodbye. I never saw P’s movement, the gesture.

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RR 2 Box 141 X Melanie Tague X. Remember, you never see everything. The winter I am thinking of (hoping you keep in mind the camera’s flash fails to illuminate all it could touch) is years down the road from where this all began & there was six feet of snow (Hopefully you know by now I am hyperbolic, even symbolic). What will a daughter do when both her and her mother lose a language (one figuratively, the other literally)? What is there to do in absence and decay? (Time will speak, I am sure of it.) We had nothing else to do so I threw dented corn and sunflower seeds (saved from two falls ago) onto the snow. We watched the blue-jays and cardinals fight for it: something to keep them warm and full. You kept talking of the bird’s beauty (I could have sworn there was more than birds, there was blood).

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Himalayan Blackberries Alexis M. Smith


f you don’t have the money, the county stores the body of your beloved in the morgue for ninety days, then cremates her and submits her to a mass grave. My sister and I don’t have the money for much, though we know we’re lucky: we have jobs; we have Aunt Hedy’s house. “Maybe we should put Hedy’s room on one of those vacation websites, or get a roommate,” I say. Jessie and I are washing the breakfast dishes. She sighs loudly and starts humming “Abide With Me.” She is also against cremation, which is the cheaper of the two options for Hedy, though still more than we’ve been able to save. It has been seventy-two days since Aunt Hedy died and fifty since Jessie found God at the Kinship Meetings up the street. We’ve settled into an austere domestic rhythm, full of weighty silences and vacant stares out the kitchen window. I’m washing today, so the best view is mine. I see Percy, the cat, slink through her tunnel in the blackberry

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hedge at the back of the yard, bounding through the tall grass toward the house. She has something in her mouth. It’s been so long since we fed her kibble; if I believed in God I’d thank him for making her half-feral. She kills pigeons and rats with ferocity and relish. She can scale a twenty-foot fir and knock a jay’s nest to the ground, carry all the veiny blue nestlings in her mouth at once. I don’t warn Jessie and she gasps when Percy darts through the catdoor with a baby rabbit in her jaws. She’s on the table in a blink, the wide-eyed cottontail still, but breathing. The bunny thumps its back legs at the final moment, but one killbite and it’s over. Percy doesn’t make a game of breakfast, she just does what needs doing. Jessie looks at me, mouth agape. I know she wants me to shoo Percy off the table; we’ve just eaten there ourselves and she has a weak stomach, full of oatmeal. “Maybe we should try to find Mom.” I say it gently, like Jessie’s sleeping and I hate to wake her. Jessie grimaces, throws the dishtowel on the counter and leaves the room without a word. “Don’t look at me like that,” I say after her, still softly. She’s older; she should be the one to say it. Percy saves the bunny’s face for last, the onyx jelly of the eyes, the velvety rhombus of nose. She hacks a bit on an ear, but chews it all down. All she leaves are the slippers of feet and a few fine tufts of fur with skin at the root, like dandelion seeds. Lucky, I think, stroking Percy’s back while she washes her face.

A couple weeks after her death, it became clear Hedy hadn’t planned for her demise—no will, no life insurance, no cemetery plot, no savings at all. I called the medical examiner’s office to explain our situation. There was one other option, they told me: we could donate Hedy’s cadaver to science. “No!” Jessie said when I told her. “Science?! So they can cut her up?! She’s not a cadaver, Emily!”

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There were long hours at the Social Security office, waiting to file for her benefits. But we aren’t her children; she never adopted us. Hedy’s next of kin and beneficiary is our mother, Libby, who hasn’t been in touch in a dozen years. So we pawned all the jewelry in the house, sold every thing of value, and some with none at all. But with student loans, and trying to keep afloat in the house and city we grew up in, our credit cards are maxed and we’ve only saved a couple hundred dollars. I wrap the rabbit’s feet in newspaper and drop them into the compost heap behind the garage.

Hedy fell asleep on the number sixty bus and never woke up. She rode around and around the city, slumped in the corner, before somebody noticed an odor and complained to the driver that a homeless lady had soiled herself in the back of the bus. She didn’t look homeless, and it bothered me, that they told us this. She was an older woman in distress, and she smelled of human waste. This was why so many passengers had ignored her, avoided her. Why the bus driver had driven another twelve stops before another passenger, a nurse, noticed that Hedy was unconscious, and in fact, not breathing at all. The social worker at the hospital told us the story, including the detail about her presumed homelessness, as if it somehow explained something about our aunt’s death. She might have been saved, if the other passengers had bothered to look at her just once, instead of letting their gazes skid along the scenery behind her head as if she wasn’t there at all. “But you know how people are,” the social worker said. I was too shocked to be angry then, that she would draw a universal truth from the story, and not even a decent one. We signed some papers explaining that the medical examiner would release the body to the funeral home or crematorium of our choosing, and someone handed us a clear plastic bag with Hedy’s purse and clothes in it. We rode the number sixty home with the bag between us on the seats. It had only been seven hours since she left the house.

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I imagined her last hours alive, from her steps down the front porch to the street, to the bus stop, to the seat she chose in the back by the window. The day was dry and bright for early June. She was dressed in a long patterned skirt of Indian cotton, a purple peasant blouse that showed off her freckled bosom, and an amber necklace that had belonged to one of our great-grandmothers. She had braided her silver and auburn hair into a tidy ring around her head, and wore a splash of lavender eau de toilette. She was sixty-seven years old and on her way to Pike Place Market where she would have filled her netted bag with vegetables and bought a clutch of sweatpeas, which she could never resist. “Flowers are my medicine,” she used to say. But a headache came on suddenly and she rested her forehead against the cool glass, closed her eyes to the bright sun; an aneurysm rupturing behind her left eye. Jessie stopped talking to me in complete sentences for awhile. She stuck to nouns and gestures, or left me notes. I’ve always known that her heart breaks differently than mine, but I’ve never known how to fix it and she’s never known how to fix mine. Hedy did, when we came to live with her for good. I was four, Jessie was seven. She was still visited by fleeting memories of our long-gone dad, and remembered every detail of what our mother had done. “Don’t you remember?” Jessie would say to me, exaxperated, after recounting some tragic scene (a fort of stacked books around us on a carpet; an woman’s face with owl eyes hovering above; the naugahyde smell of the patrol car). “I must have been sleeping,” I’d say, searching my mind. All I could remember was being tucked into bed over and over again, in sleeping bags, in the backseats of cars, in large soft grown-up beds in strangers’ houses. Hedy would respond with stories about our mom as a little girl, how there were ten years between the two of them and Hedy had carried Libby around like her own baby. In Hedy’s house, our mother was always Libby, a girl a lot like us. Libby, who hadn’t gone off the rails yet; Libby, who wouldn’t think of leaving her daughters at the downtown library and never coming back. It worked for Jessie. For

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as long as she was with us, Hedy held Jessie’s broken heart together with those memories.

On Thursday evenings Jessie and I often end up on the same bus home from work. About a month after Hedy’s death, on one of these walks home together from the bus stop, we passed the Kinship Mercantile, in one of the newly renovated brick buildings along the old train tracks. The whole neighborhood is transforming, with more young people moving in, more shops like Kinship, which sells repurposed wood furniture and vintage wool blankets and canning jar terrariums. It had just opened, but I had never been inside. That evening, the shop was lit up against the darkening clouds, a woman and young girl stood at the door. Jessie and I were both drawn to the glow, the twinkling of colorful lights and sounds of music from the loft windows on the second floor. The scene invoked memories of parties and wine, friends I missed, friends who had left the city, unable to afford it anymore, tired of the struggle. As we approached, a smell saturated the air around the shop: roasted chicken, garlic, herbs. We were tired of our sad meals at home, our outlet groceries and the day-old bread I brought home from the bakery where I work. We were hungry that night. As we approached the woman came into focus. She was Jessie’s age, late twenties, willowy and blonde, hair braided in a ring the way Hedy used to wear hers. The woman smiled and beckoned us over. “Good evening, ladies, would you like to come have supper with us? We’re having a community dinner tonight. It’s free, you’d be our guests.” The little girl at her side handed us each a flower from a basket. “Thank you,” Jessie said, examining the pink blossom. “It’s a cosmo,” the girl said. She was black, with a halo of natural curls. “I’m Alison,” the woman said, reaching a hand for each of us. “And this is my daughter, Calliope.” I collected myself first. “I’m Emily, and this is my sister, Jessie.”

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“Welcome, Emily. Welcome, Jessie.” She gestured up the stairs inside the entry, to the right of the Kinship shop. “Please, make yourselves at home.” In the big room above the shop a long table was set with linens, candles, hand-thrown pottery, vintage silverware, and more cosmos. There were more attractive young men and women scattered throughout the room dressed in clothes that looked both humble and expensive—skinny jeans with artfully worn patches, butter-soft cotton that melted over supple, sun-kissed skin—among people I recognized, like the neighborhood metal-collector, Heath, and his sometimes-girlfriend, Evie, whom I had always privately called “Scrunchie,” because she wore several of them at a time in her ragged, bleached hair. I looked down at my old khakis, dusty with flour, my Target hoodie, probably sewn by a child Calliope’s age, in a third-world country. Jessie’s black bootcut trousers might as well have been bell bottoms next to the skinny jeans. It was easy to tell which of the guests had been plucked from the street. Alison and her husband, Benjamin, a thirty-something man with a prodigious red beard, served supper from a kitchen off to the side. It was the best meal I had eaten in months, like restaurants we couldn’t afford anymore. I scanned the faces at the table. There were a couple besides Heath and Evie and myself who seemed as bewildered as I, but Jessie was calm and smiling. By the end of the meal she was animated, deep in conversation with Alison and Ben. I caught strands of their talk in my left ear. They had been aid workers, they explained, sent to Haiti after the quake; it was where they adopted Calliope. “Her entire family, gone, just like that,” Allison said, “Can you imagine?” When they came back to the U.S. Ben was ordained with some denomination or other, but no longer affiliated. “We’re more DIY with our worship,” he and Allison locking eyes. “We’re not into dogma.” “We’re about living intentionally, forging community,” Alison said, looking back at Jessie, who nodded slowly, skeptically, I thought. After the meal they invited us all to stay for “verse study.” I rose to leave with Heath and Evie, thanking Alison and Ben for the meal,

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telling them I had an early morning at the bakery. But Jessie stayed in her chair, turning her face up to me, cheeks pink. “I’ll be home soon, Em,” she said, smiling, reaching a hand toward mine and giving it a squeeze. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt her hand in mine.

I’ve seen Jessie less and less in the evenings since then. She sings with a Sacred Harp group, and attends Kinship’s suppers and verse study. She invites me along, but I decline, and think she likes having something of her own again. Hedy’s loss is heavy, and we don’t know how to carry it together. When Jessie isn’t around, I look for Libby. Calling numbers I find in Hedy’s address book, searching the Internet for “Libby Williams.” So far, not trace of her. Alone in the evenings, I make myself toast and jam for dessert. Hedy filled the shelves of the lazy susan with blackberry jam every September. We’re down to our last jar. I spread a stubbly spoonful over the bread. It’s the seedy, invasive kind of blackberry, the Himalayan—but that never bothered Hedy. She said it was the kind of food she and Libby grew up with: ditch berries and sidewalk chestnuts. She said our family was lucky, because we knew how to see food where others saw weeds and work. As I’m licking the last of the crumbs from my fingers, Jessie comes in, humming. She’s been at Sacred Harp and there’s a gleam in her eye. She sits at the table without taking off her coat and takes my sticky hand in hers. These fond gestures have become more frequent, if unaccountable. We don’t talk about anything but domestic matters, bills; our sisterhood is a machine we maintain but mostly take for granted, like the water heater. “We’re saved,” she says. “What do you mean?” I let my jammy fingers adhere to the top of her knuckle. “Benjamin’s a pastor.” She purses her lips, trying not to smile. “I know.” “I told them about Hedy.” She pauses, waiting for me to fill in the blanks myself. I pry my hand free. “They can help. He’s a pastor.”

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I shake my head. “So?” “He can collect Hedy’s remains.” “And then what, Jess?” She leans close and looks deeply into my eyes. With intention, I think, remembering the way Allison looks when she’s talking to someone. “We can bury her in the back yard,” Jessie whispers.

We meet with Ben the next day, after the Kinship shop has closed. We sit on the rustic wooden furniture with hand-stuffed woolen cushions that is for sale there. We smell like we are sitting in a warm cedar chest. Though placid as ever, Ben swears us to secrecy, because technically what we’re talking about doing is illegal. “People used to be buried at home,” he waxes, “in a simple wooden box or wrapped in cloth, close to their loved ones, and best of all, becoming part of the earth from which they sprang.” He goes on like this for some time: it’s wrong to pump our beloveds full of toxic chemicals, or burn them to carbon that pollutes the atmosphere and dust devoid of nutrients for the soil, he tells us. He has a sexton friend and a way to procure Hedy’s remains; but after that, we’re on our own. We must bury her alone. “In three days,” he says, “We’ll come to your house while you’re at work, dressed as landscapers.” I snort and roll my eyes, picturing Benjamin’s landscaper costume, but they ignore me. “When you get home, a resting place will be prepared by the blackberry patch. When you go to bed, leave the kitchen door unlocked. At midnight, your aunt will be back in her bed. You’ll see her to her final resting place yourselves.” Jessie nods, already sold. “You’ve done this before?” I ask him. He sits back in his chair and folds his hands in his lap. “I buried many people in Haiti,” he says solemnly. “Here in the

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U.S. most people are robbed of the opportunity to properly lay loved ones to rest.” “How much?” I ask. “Pay the fees to the morgue,” he says, “and the rest is for you to decide, by donation.” “We have $600,” Jessie volunteers. I turn to my sister. “You’ll buy anything this cracked pot is selling, won’t you? You know Hedy would say: this is batshit crazy, that’s what she’d say.” But she doesn’t respond to my anger, she’s pulling out a hankie, placing it in my lap, “Allison wanted you to have this. She makes them herself.”

I can’t eat for three days. Jessie polishes off the last jar of jam the morning of the third day. “The day Hedy comes home,” she says, and kisses me before heading off to work. That evening everything is as Ben described. We arrive home to find a deep trench dug along the edge of the blackberries. Beside it is the pile of dirt and two old rusted shovels. That night I lie in my bed, alert to every sound, dosing off around eleven to the sound of footsteps on the floorboards below. I hear Jessie singing softly. When I hear the kitchen door latch, I bolt from the bed. Jessie is already at the top of the stairs. She looks less sure of herself, but leads the way down to Hedy’s door. There is a body laid out on her bed, wrapped in muslin. We stand at her feet in the darkness for a moment, the microbial funk of decomp sinking into our lungs. Percy, undeterred by the odor, paws at the wrappings and mews. “We should make sure it’s her,” I say. “What?! No, I’m sure it’s her.” “What if it’s not?” I insist. “Why wouldn’t it be?” “Please, just look.”

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We’re both shaking. I turn on a lamp and gesture to the wrappings over the face. We each reach a hand to pull back the layers. It’s Hedy’s hair, her freckles, but her features are sunken in places and pale, bruised and bulbous in others, like someone who’s just had cutrate plastic surgery. Jessie turns to throw up in the corner. When she recovers I say, “We should just do this as quickly as possible.” She’s wiping her mouth and I expect her to object, to want a ritual or a ceremony or something, but she nods. I go to Hedy’s dresser, where her lavender eau de toilette still sits in a lacquered tray. I spritz the air over Hedy from head to toe. She rests on a canvas hammock of sorts, with dowels in the sides and two handles at each end. We have to pull the body halfway down the bed so that I can take hold of the handles at the top. She was a small woman, but when we lift her from the bed we both groan. Her body sways to and fro with each step and I imagine her limbs mashed together. Will they dissolve into each other? Are her bones moving around among the muscles and viscera? Will her skin hold? We make it to the hallway, sweating, and stop to rest outside the kitchen. I look to over the sheet as it settles around Hedy’s form. Her red and white hair peeks from the top and I resist the urge to pet it, to pat it down into the folds of cloth. Dark liquid seeps into the muslin around her mouth. The pungent odor of rot rises from her disturbed flesh. I suppress a gag, but Jessie cannot. My eyes tear up. “Faster,” I say. We lift her again and make it through the kitchen to the door, banging against the chairs and table, and half-shoving Jessie down the short steps. We agree to bear down and rush the yard, stumbling over lumps in the grass and sticks. Percy leaps ahead of Jessie in the grass, stopping short, and I swear under my breath, running into her, knocking her to the ground and losing my grip on my end of Hedy. We all fall, Jessie backward, with Hedy on top of her, and me sideways into the blackberries, where I come up with dewy spiderwebs and in my face and thorns imbedded in my right hand. A long, wet burble erupts from somewhere under the muslin.

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“Lord help us,” Jessie says, but continues to lie there in the dirt pile with Hedy draped over her lower half. I imagine her willing Jesus to float down from the Milky Way. He’s the best dressed landscaper you’re ever seen, with a perfectly oiled red beard. He lifts Hedy with two fingers on each hand, light as a feather, stiff as a board, like the old slumber party game, he levitates her into the hole. My nose hasn’t stopped running. I wipe it on my sleeve and rise, dragging the body off of my sister, my fingers sinking into Hedy’s shoulders. “Let’s gather some flowers,” I say. We pick the biggest, most colorful ones we can find, and meet back at the trench. We stare into it, as if to see the bottom. Then I turn my gaze up to the sky, to the faint city stars and half a moon. Over the fence on either side our neighbors’ houses are dark, cars fly by on I-5 two blocks away. We stand like this for some time, till a dog barks a few houses away. “Hedy,” Jessie whispers. “We were so lucky to have you.” She’s begun to cry, but I hear it in the rhythm of her breath, her resolve. We tuck flowers into the muslin, and we squat—there’s no other way to do it—and roll Hedy’s body into the darkness.

In the morning we wake and go on much as before, but we’re lighter. We drift through the days, like dust motes. We don’t talk about what we’ve done, but when we talk about Hedy, it’s always as if she’s close by. When we see Percy using the freshly piled dirt as a cat box, I laugh, and Jessie looks away biting her lip. She spends more time at Kinship and meets a man there named Lyle, a brewer, who takes her out for walks along the shore at Golden Gardens. I come home from work one night and they have made clam chowder from clams they dug on Whidbey Island. I’ve brought a loaf of day-old sourdough, which Lyle says is perfect, and we sit around the table, eating and drinking Lyle’s beer. We lose track of time and Jessie jumps up when she realizes they’ll be late for Sacred Harp. I tell them to go, I’ll wash up. And I fill the sink with soapy water, watch-

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ing sparrows flit in and out of the blackberries. They’re ripe now; we’ll be able to fill the lazy susan again. As I dip the soup bowls into the warm water, the landline rings. I consider letting it go, then I remember we canceled the voicemail. I dry my hands and walk to the phone in the living room. “Hello.” “Hello.” It’s a man’s voice, gravely but kind. “Is this Hedy Williams?” “She’s passed away,” I say. “Please remove this number from your contacts.” “I’m sorry to hear that,” he says. “But this isn’t a sales call. Am I speaking to a relative?” I want to hang up, but there’s a gravity to his voice that pulls me back. “Yeah,” I say. “I’m her niece.” The word catches in my throat and I swallow it. There’s a rustling of paper and a hum through the line. Not him— something else—a low fibrous chord, an E-minor, like the turn from verse to chorus in Jessie’s favorite hymn, the part that goes: Change and decay, in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me. The man clears his throat and the hum cuts out. “I’m sorry, Ma’am. I’m calling from the Skagit County Coroner’s Office. A Ms. Libby Williams was found deceased in Mt. Vernon. We’re trying to locate her next of kin.”

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Stardust Wanting Elizabeth Pickard I was 8 years 6 months 5 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I drank my way through miscarriage: green tea, swords, champagne. There was a toast to the past. The table was set with your best silver, but you prefer plastic, the present. In the newspaper, drones killed an American and an Italian and a slender woman sports a sleeveless top. When I was smaller, I wanted a horse. Am I good to help a man up when he prefers to sit? The woman smiles for new retirement against a green background, against the downside of reverse mortgage, against breaking news: pasture, golf course, unmown lawn.

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I am not supposed to notice the difference or to connect them. They live separately, the same space in my life: North American Ruby-billed King Thrasher, satellite dish, indelible ink. Her feet susurrate through scatterings of French chalk. My grandmother drank jars of milk of magnesia. She says the sweetness makes her teeth feel strong. Am I good to give her old bones a seat when she prefers to stand? But her sweater is casually flung. Her scapulae are warm, not L.A. warm, not Mediterranean warm, but her tan is proof of something. What do you do with a horse body? Beak, horn, keratin bone, beef, lek, lye, labneh, belly, bubbles. Will it keep going?

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Take Elizabeth Pickard Oceans shift. You, mouth open to details of the architecture terra cotta filigree webbed, hollow cast, the false sandstone, the glazed, carved clay,

capitulate. You take the podium glacier in saline

I remember, I remember spider mites on rhododendron

fat, muddy aphids too fragile to pluck

lemon dish soap water and not for a minute a lick of salt on my teeth.

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EAT CLEAN Alex Prince 6” x 9” mixed media collage Spring 2017  169

We Jump Tomorrow Margaret Malone


he day before I found out I was miscarrying our baby, I read an obituary about a man named Earl Cooley. I remember distinctly the juxtaposition of those two things, how they felt in my body—being pregnant/a man’s death: each one an inverted, reflected image of the other. Earl’s obituary caught my attention because of the headline Earl Cooley Is Dead at 98; Fought Fires as Original Smokejumper and because of the handsome black-and-white photo underneath. But a few paragraphs down there was more. When he was thirty-seven he played a role in killing a dozen men, led them accidentally to their deaths. The obituary said without saying that it haunted him, what he did, for the next fifty years. That’s the danger of living a long life, I guess. All the things you carry with you. All the things you wish you could forget.

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*** The morning after I read about Earl, I lay on an exam table in a white cloth gown, waiting to hear my baby’s heartbeat. It was supposed to be a time-frozen moment I would remember forever, a moment that would be woven into the story of my life, and I guess, in a way I wasn’t expecting, it was. There were three of us in the room, the doctor and me and my husband, all of us turned toward the black-and-white haze of an image on the monitor. The doctor was very quiet. Instead of saying, There, do you hear it?, she said nothing. Just her quiet mouth, the rustle of paper on the exam table, the low hum of the ultrasound machine. It’d be best to go down the hall for more tests, the doctor said. “Better resolution,” the doctor said. Her face like a face that knows it’s supposed to show grief, but instead shows a distant kind of sorry. I got dressed. A nurse came in and handed me a cup of water. “Drink this,” she said. I drank it. “Drink another,” she said. “Drink as much as you can.” My husband and I walked the short distance from one part of the hospital to another. What I was thinking as we walked was I don’t want to be part of a sad story. I can’t say what my husband was thinking. We didn’t speak, except one time when I said, “It’s probably nothing.” I was trying to obliterate the loud quiet between us. We’d already been through enough, the two of us—my husband’s brain tumor diagnosis and treatment, three years of trying to get pregnant and failing until now. What we thought all that history should get us was a pass—we’d had our share. We didn’t yet understand that the law of averages is not a real law. It is a mathematical imposter. A fancy phrase for wishful thinking. I drank more water from a clear plastic cup and waited for my name to be called outside the main x-ray/ultrasound department. I

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desperately had to pee because I need to pee when I’m nervous, but also because they had me drinking all that goddamn water, cup after cup of water, apparently so it’s easier to see the baby during the higher resolution ultrasound, or not see the baby, depending. We waited for one hour, and the second hour stretched in front of us. People walked by through the wide-open hospital halls, giant ceilings, windows out and up to the sky. A nurse in blue scrubs on her cell phone holding a paper coffee cup. A patient with a white bag from the pharmacy. The whole time what I was thinking was— No. No, this isn’t really happening. I was thinking, No, it’s going to be fine.

At last my name was called. The tech was young and petite with perfect straight hair in a bob. The room was dark, very low lit, as if setting the mood in preparation for the news we would receive. Her machine took pictures of the inside of me. Picture after picture. Images from every possible angle. She stopped. Moved the machine away from my belly. Flicked a switch turning it off, the buzz and hum replaced with quiet. She said, “I’m going to be honest with you guys.” Her perfect straight bob and bangs. “When I’ve seen this before, it’s usually not a viable pregnancy.” I can’t remember if I looked at my husband, or if I took it all in for myself. He squeezed my hand and held it tight. “I’ll show the radiologist the pictures and see what he thinks,” she said. “You can get dressed.” She left us alone. I rolled onto my side to get up from the table. My clothes hanging across the room on a metal hook. I stood naked from the waist down in the low-lit room. I couldn’t make my arm move to reach for my clothes on the metal hook. My arm was much too heavy. It was better to stay right here. To stay as still as possible. My husband was sitting in the chair next to the quiet machine. There were millions of things I could say, but I didn’t need to say any

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of them because it was obvious that he was thinking them too. If all those million thoughts could coalesce and then be whittled down to one perfect sharp point, all the God Nos, and the Why is this happenings, and the Please make it stops, they would all come down to this: “I’m so sorry,” I said. He was still sitting in the chair next to the exam table. Tears down his face. He said, “I’m sorry too.” Each long second of the whole horrible moment, all of it felt impossible the way that only the inevitable is. We spend three years trying to get pregnant. We finally succeed. We learn to trust the reality of the good news. And two months in, when our defenses are down, the small, good thing is taken away.

Earl says, “I don’t know why, but I was never afraid to jump.” The morning when I found Earl’s obituary, I ripped it out of the newspaper, trimmed the rough edges with scissors, shaped it into a perfect rectangle, and left it sitting on my desk. The black-and-white photo at the center shows Earl in 1940, nine years before those men would die. His head is not sitting on his body so much as emerging from the monstrous fire-fighting gear he wears. Big work boots; stiff, puffed bulk of a jumpsuit; tight harness over his torso; helmet with chain-mail mask clipped onto the heavy bag around his shoulders bursting at its seams; and over all of it, off to one side, the white tendrils of his opened parachute. There is someone else off camera to Earl’s left that is casting a shadow in the background. The black-andwhite landscape around him is short dry grass and dirt and rocks and far off behind him the tops of mountains covered in trees. Earl says, “Our training consisted of a man saying: ‘This is your parachute. You know what fire is. We jump tomorrow.’”

The night after the ultrasound, I couldn’t sleep. I traced back the days, trying to remember when I last felt really pregnant, when I was nauseous, when my breasts were sore. When did I last feel that giant

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open blood-rushing aliveness inside me? I wasn’t sure. It had been, at least, a few days. When Brian woke up next to me in the morning I told him I hadn’t slept. I said, “My body feels different.” Saying the words out loud, after a whole long night of being alone with them, the truth of it rocketed up at me, fast through my veins, and I started sobbing. One big cataclysmic wave of sadness. I felt such a deep empty inside-out overwhelming grief, all I could think was, I cannot do this. Please don’t make me do this.

The fire started around noon outside Helena, Montana on August 5, 1949. Earl was the spotter, the person that selects a safe spot to jump; he’s the guy that is up in the plane, judges the wind and tells the jumpers, Now, boys. Here. It’s time. They jumped in groups of four, as always. One too airsick that day to get off the floor of the plane. The pilot flying low circles back and around before each set of boys left the plane. They regrouped and the crew walked together in their heavy gear, following the foreman’s instructions to head down the gulch. Imagine: it was late afternoon and must have been hot, awfully hot from the heat of the fire and the heat of the day. Maybe they were talking about dinner or girls or maybe they were quiet and focused as they walked down the hill in Mann Gulch towards the Missouri River. They made it half way down the steep gulch when they saw the fire had jumped across their path onto the crowns of trees and was now blocking their way to the river. What should have been a typical allnight gig containing the fire, now, with a gust of unpredictable wind became ferociously dangerous. Underbrush, dead timber, and dry grass all around them. Everything flammable. That the situation was bad, very bad, must have hit them fast. Or maybe not. Maybe they didn’t realize yet how bad. Maybe they saw their path was blocked and simply thought, this is part of the job. Let’s get going. We’ll have to find another way.

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The flames caught most of them in about thirty seconds. A handful of men ran farther and were caught within a minute. Of the fifteen men that jumped off the plane that afternoon, only three survived. Everyone else lay dead, their bodies scattered up and down the gulch.

Earl says, “I am sure I did the right thing that day, but I still look at that map and have thought about it every day since then.” He said this when he was 83 years old. The boys died when he was 38.

The morning after there was no heartbeat, after a terrible, sleepless night, I had to go to the lab for blood work called a prenatal panel that tests for hormone and protein levels and STDs and glucose and blood type. Normal pregnant women get them all the time and since I hadn’t physically miscarried yet, my doctor had me go in for the lab work. I knew I was not pregnant, but the tests had been ordered from before when I was and I wasn’t about to cancel, I couldn’t, because that would involve me talking and saying out loud to some stranger on the phone that I wasn’t pregnant anymore. Also, I admit, a quiet part of a sad corner of my brain held out magical hope that maybe the tests would show something, some kind of life, a heartbeat could not. My husband and our dog walked with me in the November cold to the lab, just a few blocks from our house. They waited outside, and I walked in through the automatic doors. I was exhausted and sad and wished to speak to no one. A smudge with arms and legs and eyes, that was me. I handed the receptionist my insurance card, was ushered into the pleather blood-extracting chair, and rolled up my sleeve. The lab technician floated over, with a mass of curly red hair and well-aged pale skin. A congregation of smiley face buttons and cutesy happy bunny pins adorned her long white lab coat. She smiled a big open smile and I looked away from my naked arm, focused hard at the empty beige wall in front of me. The rubber tub-

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ing around my bicep, her fingers checking the vein in the crevice of my left arm. I could feel the weight of her smile. She said, “Are we doing a prenatal panel today?” I wanted to die. I said nothing, and then I said, “Yes.” “How exciting,” she said. “This is a wonderful time to be pregnant. You’ll feel a slight prick.” The needle into the crevice of my arm. I breathed my breath in and out, my eyes focused on the empty wall. She said, “Is this our first baby?” I kept breathing. I said nothing, and then I said, “Yes.” “Oh wonderful!” she said. “Almost done.” The blood out from my arm into the syringe. She switched out the filled tube for a fresh one. She said, “And first-time grandparents?” I said nothing, and then I said nothing, and then I said, “Yes.” “Okay,” she said. “All done. Have a fun pregnancy. Really enjoy yourself.” I rolled down my sleeve, put my coat back on. “I just had my first grandchild,” she said. “Such an exciting time.” I wanted to hate her and hate her and beat her with a metal rod. “Congratulations,” I said. “That’s great.” But I didn’t hate her. I just felt totally and completely alone.

Earl had known each man, had identified the bodies, notified the families. He made plain, concrete crosses by hand and placed the simple headstones where each of the boys’ bodies had been found. And every year, until 1994 when Earl was in his eighties, he would make the long hike up the mountain through the reborn trees, the remade forest, and he would check on each boy’s headstone. He would make sure each one was still standing, still clear of debris, still in the right spot, where that boy had been stopped and burned.

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And this is the thing that caught in my throat that morning I read Earl’s obituary when I thought my body was still carrying a tiny being inside—it was that annual hike up the mountain, his return every year for almost fifty years. I saw it so clearly, him making the trek. The smell of pine and dust, the tall dry grass against his boots. His body aging a little each year, his life expanding, the forest around him stronger and revived, those boys always forever in 1949. One foot in front of him. Another. The air getting thinner, the higher he climbs. The sun sharp through the trees, the sky unbearably blue. His breath breathing through him, his throat, his mouth, his lungs. Getting closer. Almost there now. He is almost there.

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Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin By David Naimon, from the podcast Between the Covers

URSULA K. LE GUIN is best known for her science fiction and fanta-

sy novels and her thoughtful, emotionally engaged, politically astute essays about writing. She has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, and twelve books for children. But Ursula K. Le Guin first started as a poet, and has a long-storied career as a poet as well, with six volumes of poetry and four of translation to date. These include the collections Hard Words, Sixty Odd, Incredible Good Fortune, and Finding My Elegy. They also include two collaborations with the photographer Roger Dorband. The first, Blue Moon Over Thurman Street, documents the forty-five blocks of the street Le Guin calls home here in Portland— its industrial warehouses, its poor and wealthy neighborhoods, its

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gentrification and nearby forested trails. Their second collaboration, Out Here, is inspired by the Steens Mountains in Southeast Oregon, including drawings and poems by Le Guin alongside Dorband’s photography. In addition, Le Guin has written the poetry of the fictional Kesh people from her novel Always Coming Home, set to the music of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival resident composer Todd Barton, and entitled Music & Poetry of the Kesh. Le Guin has collaborated on a book of poetry and translation with the esteemed Argentinian poet Diana Bellessi, each translating the other’s works in the bilingual collection The Twins, The Dream. Le Guin also did her own translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, and the first substantial English translation of the poetry of Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her latest book of poems, just out from PM Press, is entitled Late in the Day: Poems 2010-2014.

DN: You’ve talked about the phenomenon that happens sometimes when you’re writing a novel, that you hear a voice, the voice of another inside of you, a voice that becomes the character that tells the story for you. I was wondering if you feel like writing poetry involved a similar voice. UKLG: Well, that’s complicated. I don’t write very many persona po-

ems, which is the equivalent of the voice of a character dictating to you in a novel. I have written some, but poems come in their own, different way. It tends to be a few words or even just a beat, with a kind of aura about them and you know then that there is the possibility of a poem there. Sometimes they come very easily, but I’ve never felt like I was taking dictation with the poem the way I have felt with novels, like the voice speaking through me was so certain of what it wanted to say that I didn’t have to argue.

DN: I know you don’t write haiku, but there were a lot of poems in Late in the Day that I suspected might share a sensibility with haiku. Spring 2017  179

It drove me to Robert Hass’s introduction to The Essential Haiku to see if my instincts were true in this regard. Hass says that haiku are attentive to time and space, that they are grounded in a season of the year, that the language is kept plain with accurate original images drawn from common life, and that there’s a sense of the human place within the cyclical nature of the world. Do you recognize those qualities in your poems?

UKLG: Yes, I feel totally at home with that. The thing about haiku

is the form doesn’t work for me in English. I don’t think syllabically, I think rhythmically. The syllable count just doesn’t give form to me. That’s a shortcoming in me, not in the form, so my equivalent of the haiku is the quatrain, which is, of course, a very old English form, with mostly iambic or trochaic rhythm, and often with rhyme.

DN: Are there some particular examples of poets who write in qua-

trains that you love?

UKLG: A. E. Housman is the absolute master of the quatrain. I grew up with Housman from twelve or thirteen on. He goes deep.

DN: Booklist has a review of one of your earlier collections called

Going Out With Peacocks, and in it, it says that the book can be divided into poems about nature from which political concerns are not entirely absent, and other poems that are political where nature is not entirely absent. [LE GUIN laughs]. This seems true of the poems of Late in the Day as well. It’s interesting how even in the nature poems we get the sense, in the background, of either political concern or political uneasiness. You frame this well in the foreword to the collection, a reprint of a talk you gave at UC Santa Cruz, called “Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet.”

UKLG: How can you write about nature now without—well, I guess we have to call it politics—but without what we have done to our world getting into the poem? It’s pretty hard to leave that out entirely.

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DN: But if a reader were to skip the foreword and read some of the

poems, one might think, on first glance, that there is nothing political in Late in the Day. The foreword seems to suggest that the advocacy for stillness and silence and fellowship is, in and of itself, a radical act.

UKLG: Yeah, I suppose so. Yes. DN: There are many nods in this collection to the relationship to


UKLG: It is, after all, called Late in the Day [laughs]. It was written in my mid-eighties, so there’s a lot about that.

DN: At various moments you say “time is being,” “time is the tem-

ple,” and in “The Canada Lynx” you evoke the virtue of moving in silence through space without a track and disappearing. This sentiment feels very much akin to Taoism, to a Taoist evocation of time and space.

UKLG: There is almost certainly Taoism in it, because it got so deep

in me and everything I do. There’s some Buddhism, too, and of course “The Canada Lynx” is also an elegy, because we’re losing the lynxes—they are leaving quietly. So, there’s a mixed feeling there—it’s praise for being able to move quietly but also lament for the disappearance, for the going away.

DN: In the foreword you talk about the importance of fellowship with

the nonhuman other. And by “nonhuman other” you are referring not just to animals and plants, but also stones and even the objects that we as humans have fashioned for our own use. Your poem “The Small Indian Pestle at the Applegate House” is a great example of this. The repetition of words—hand, held, hold—really evokes this sense of repeated fellowship, not only with the object, but also with others who have used it before and with the person who originally made it. In

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that same speech you talk about being against the idea of the “techno-fix.” I bet a lot of people assume when they see this, a poem about a pestle, and a philosophy opposed to the techno-fix, that you are anti-technology.

UKLG: Oh, yeah. I’m labeled a Luddite instantly. DN: Can you parse that out a little bit for us? Because it seems like

the pestle is a technology just as language is a technology.

UKLG: Of course it is, it’s a great technology, and it lasted us for

hundreds of thousands of years. My objection to the use of the word “technology” these days is that people think “technology” means “high technology,” resource-draining technology such as we delight in. And of course, a mortar and pestle is a very refined technology and a very useful one. All of our tools, the simplest tools, are technology, and a lot of them have been perfected—you can’t improve upon them for what they do. A kitchen knife. It does what a kitchen knife does in human hands and you can’t beat it. You can get an elaborate machine that slices meat for you and so on, but there you go. You’re beginning to seek the save-time or don’t-touch-it-yourself thing that high tech leads us towards. I just keep finding this, people saying “you’re anti-technology.” Well, come off it [both laugh]. I write with a pen or pencil or on a computer. That’s my job. I use technology all the time, but if I didn’t have the computer or the pen and the pencil, I would end up scratching it on wood or stone or something.

DN: And it feels like the quote you have from Mary Jacobus, about

“the regulated speech of poetry,” that this regulated speech is a form of technology also, to aid us in moving towards fellowship or contemplation.

UKLG: I don’t know if you can call language “technology.” Technology is really involved with tools. Language is something we emit and we have to learn it at a certain period or we can’t. Language is strange.

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DN: In that same speech you talk about your mutual love of science

and poetry, how science explicates and poetry implicates. Can you talk more about this, and about your desire to subjectify the universe? I know normally, when people think of subjectification, they think of something interior, maybe even self-referential, but here you’re seeing it as a path towards reaching out.

UKLG: There was an article by Frans de Waal this week in The New

York Times about tickling bonobo apes and getting the complete, as it were, human response, of giggling, of drawing away but wanting more, and so on. A marvelous, subtle article. Many scientists want to objectify our relationship with animals and so we cannot say that the little ape is acting just the way a little human would. No, it’s responding only in ape fashion. We mustn’t use human words, we mustn’t anthropomorphize. And as de Waal points out, there’s this kind of terror of fellowship. We can’t, we’re not to, have fellow feeling with an ape or a mouse. But where’s poetry without fellow feeling?

DN: You have a poem, “Contemplation at a McCoy Creek,” that deals

with this issue of subjectifying the universe, of reaching outward really well.

UKLG: It’s a kind of philosophical poem, and I will say a word about it. I was out in Harney County without a library, wondering what the word “contemplation” means. It seems to have the word “temple” in it, and the prefix “con” means “together,” you know. So that is where I started, and then—this will explain the middle of the poem—there was a book in the ranch house, a kind of encyclopedia-dictionary, and it had a very good essay on the word “contemplation.” So it was sort of a learning experience, this poem.

DN: There is a line at the beginning of that poem, “seeking the sense

within the word,” that reminded me of something you said in an interview with Poetry Society of America. They had a column called “First Loves,” where they asked poets to talk about their first expo-

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sure to poetry. You talked about a collection of narrative poems, Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington Macaulay, and also about the poems of Swinburne, how you learned through those poems that you could tell stories through poems, but also that the stories are often beyond the meaning of the words themselves, that there is a deeper meaning of story that comes from the beat and the music of the words, not from the meaning of the individual words. Can you talk about that a little bit?

UKLG: That deeper meaning is where poetry approaches music, be-

cause you cannot put that meaning in words in an intellectually comprehensible way. It’s just there and you know it’s there, and it is the rhythm and the beat, the music of the sound that carries it. This is extremely mysterious and rightly so.

DN: Robert Frost talks about it, or compares it to hearing somebody

having a conversation on the other side of the wall. You’re able to tell what they’re saying through their intonation and their rhythm, but you don’t actually hear any of the individual words.

UKLG: You can tell what they’re feeling, but you may not know really what they’re talking about. You know how they feel about it by the sound—yeah, that’s neat.

DN: And when we had our conversation last year about Steering the

Craft, your craft book for prose writers, you also mentioned this with regards to Virginia Woolf, who I know didn’t write much poetry. Is that a similar phenomenon, do you think, what you learned when you were young with poetry, around the meaning of the sound, and what you’ve described of the meaningfulness of Virginia Woolf’s relation to sound when you write prose?

UKLG: When you’re talking about the sound in the rhythm of prose,

it is so different from poetry, because it’s much coarser in a way. It’s a very long beat, the rhythms of a prose work. Of course, the sentence

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has its rhythms too. Woolf was intensely aware of that. She has a paragraph about how rhythm is what gives her the book, but boy, it’s hard to talk about. It’s one of these experiential things that we don’t really have a vocabulary for. I wonder if there is a vocabulary for it. It’s like talking, again, about music. You can only say so much about music and then you simply have to play it. Some person can hear it and get it or not get it.

DN: Who are some of the poets that you love as an adult? Your cherished poets?

UKLG: I have to put Rilke very high. I had MacIntyre’s translation

of The Duino Elegies one summer when I needed help. I was in a bad time, and I kind of feel like some of the elegies got me out of it. They carried me through it, anyway. I don’t know German. So, Rilke and Goethe I have to get with facing translations and then just work my way back and forth and back and forth. Usually I end up trying to make my own crummy translation, so I can work my way into the German words with a dictionary. That is a very laborious way of reading poetry, but boy if you do it word by word, if you don’t know the German nouns and have to look up every single one, and the verbs are mysterious and not in the right place [laughs], by the time you’ve done that, you know the poem. You’ve kind of made your own version of it in English, and that’s why I love translating from languages I do know and even from languages I don’t, like with Lao Tzu.

DN: You also wrote the preface to Rilke’s The Book of Hours when

New Directions re-released it.

UKLG: Actually The Book of Hours is not one of my favorites. I like

later Rilke. He’s a very strange poet and a lot of what he says doesn’t mean much to me. But when he says things and it’s the music, even I know. My father was a German speaker, and I had heard him speak German, so I know what it sounds like even if I don’t know the language. It’s the music that carries it in reality. A strange rhythm he has.

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DN: Can you talk about your attraction to translating Gabriela Mis-

tral? You dedicate one of the poems in Late in the Day to her. What was it that you fell in love with?

UKLG: It was not exactly love at first sight. I didn’t know very much

Spanish when I started reading her. My friend Diana Bellessi in Argentina sent me some selected Mistral and said “you have to read this,” and so I labored into it with my Spanish dictionary and I just fell in love. I never read anything like Mistral. There isn’t anybody like Mistral, she’s very individual, and it’s an awful shame that Neruda—who is the other Chilean that got the Nobel—gets all the attention. But you know men tend to get the attention and you sort of struggle to keep the women in the eye of the men. Neruda is a very good poet, but Mistral just has a lot more to say to me than he does.

DN: And what about the endeavor of translating when you come back

to your own writing? Do you feel like you can trace influences from the efforts of translation?

UKLG: Oh, yeah. I can trace influences from individual poets and think “oh, I’m trying to do Rilke here, don’t try that!” [both laugh].

DN: I really loved the afterword to Late in the Day, entitled “Form,

Free Verse, Free Form: Some Thoughts,” where you talk about your long-standing poetry group, and also about the realization you had from doing the poetry group assignments, that form can give you a poem. By that you don’t mean to say that just by following the rules you’re going to get a poem. You mean something else.

UKLG: This is touching back on that same mystery of form, rhythm,

and so on. This is something that I think is clear to many poets, but I was very slow to realize it. By committing yourself to a certain form— let’s say a really complicated one, like a villanelle, which seems very artificial, and unbelievably difficult when you first approach it—certain lines are going to have to repeat themselves at certain intervals

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and you don’t fiddle with that. If you write a villanelle, by golly, you write a villanelle. You don’t write something like it and call it a villanelle. Take the rules seriously and somehow or other, as you follow them, you find that the necessity of having to do something gives you something to do. I don’t know how that works, and it doesn’t always work. The sonnet is probably the form most people think of when you talk about poetic form, and I find them terribly difficult. I write very, very few anymore. Maybe because there are so many very very good sonnets. I don’t know, that doesn’t usually worry me. It’s just not a form that I work with very well. The quatrain, on the other hand, is a straight form in a way—just four lines, that’s it. There’s no other definition, but you can make it just as strict as you please with rhythm and rhyme and so on. I think any artist in any medium will tell you the same thing, that if you’re working toward a certain form, whether you originated it or it’s something you inherited from other artists, you have complete freedom there. In a way, I find metric rhyming verse gives me more freedom than free verse. It’s a different kind of freedom.

DN: It reminds me of the fellowship with the pestle again in a way.

If you submit to a form, you’re also entering a conversation with a history around the form as well.

UKLG: There is that, yes, and that’s exciting, although you can’t think of that while you’re writing, because that would be scary.

DN: You said in your Paris Review interview that, in fiction writing,

you could also look at genre as a form, that sometimes by choosing to adopt a form in fiction, you will also discover things that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

UKLG: Absolutely. I think anybody who tries to write in genre seri-

ously, who isn’t just using it because it’s chic at the moment or they think they could do better than hack writers, they find that “oh, I have to do it this way, so how do I do that?” and that makes you—per-

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haps there’s a sort of commitment there that makes you take it seriously. It opens up evidence to you that you would not have thought of by yourself, that the form hands over to you. But again, it’s hard to describe.

DN: I’m curious about the absence or the relative absence of science fiction and fantasy in your poetry…. UKLG: I can’t put them together. There is a Science Fiction Poetry

Association, and some poets that I grew up with like Tennyson were very good at doing a kind of science fictional poetry or putting science into their poetry. My mind apparently won’t come together there. They’re different businesses to me.

DN: In the afterword, you talk about free form and free verse and

how you do both. Can you talk more about free form? You mention Gerard Manley Hopkins as an example of someone taking a given form but altering it.

UKLG: If you are a great enough poet you can make a curtal sonnet

out of the sonnet. Sometimes I wonder about Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’ve never understood his sprung rhythm. I’ve tried and tried and tried. It doesn’t make sense to me and I’m not quite sure that a curtal sonnet is a sonnet, but it’s a lovely form. That was one of our assignments in the group. I had to write one. I was terrified [both laugh].

DN: I looked up the definition of a curtal sonnet and was quickly lost

in the terminology of it. It is an eleven-line poem, but it consists precisely of three fourths of the structure of a Petrarchan sonnet shrunk proportionally.

UKLG: Yes [both laugh]. That’s kind of a complex way of doing it,

but yeah, and it has this very strange short last line. The rhyming is fairly complex, and that description didn’t say that it’s also broken

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into six lines and then five lines. There is a break, and that is similar to the classic sonnet, which has that turning in the middle.

DN: When you received the National Book Foundation medal for dis-

tinguished contribution to American Letters in 2014, you gave both a beautiful and blistering speech about the commodification of art versus the practice of art. A speech that became an immediate viral sensation.

UKLG: That was my fifteen minutes, my whole fifteen minutes. That was so amazing, when I woke up the next morning. DN: You end Late in the Day with a transcript of this speech. In it

you say that resistance and change often begins in art, and that most often it is in the art of words that you see the beginnings of resistance and change.

UKLG: After all, dictators are always afraid of poets. This seems

kind of weird to a lot of Americans to whom poets are not political beings, but it doesn’t seem a bit weird in South America or in any dictatorship, really.

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THE DREAM Alex Prince 8” x 8” mixed media collage

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ARTIST ALEX PRINCE is a mixed media artist who lives and works in Min-

nesota’s Twin Cities. After receiving a degree in studio arts, Alex obtained her MA in art history. Whether she is capturing photographs of antique figurines or collaging 60-year-old torn magazine pages, she seeks to investigate the concept of time and the fragmented nature of personal memories. Although she technically produces still images, her work explores the ever-shifting, ephemeral nature of the human experience. Follow her artistic endeavors on Instagram @theartofaprince.

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WRITERS Fiction BOBBY EVERSMANN has been published in SUSAN / The Jour-

nal and fog machine. He runs latenightpomes.com. Obtain a free book from him at Powell’s Books. He is co-founder of the Portland Philosophy Museum. He is at roberteversmann.com.

MAURICE IRVIN holds an MFA in Fiction from Colorado State Uni-

versity, where he is currently an adjunct instructor in Composition and Rhetoric. He lives, breathes, and grades in Fort Collins.

SARA KACHELMAN is a Dakin Scholar for Creative Writing at the

University of the South. Her fiction and poetry have been published in Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Liminoid Magazine, Capra Review, and Cactus Heart Press. She is from St. Florian, Alabama.

MEDHI M. KASHANI lives and writes in Toronto, Canada. His short

story “Elika’s Dream” won first place in the Sadeq Hedayat 12th Annual Short Story Contest in 2014. He also has work forthcoming in Hobart and the Los Angeles Review.

MELISSA OSTROM teaches English in rural western New York. Her

fiction has appeared in The Florida Review, Quarter After Eight, Nat.

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Brut, and Monkeybicycle, among other journals, and her first novel, The Beloved Wild, is forthcoming from Macmillan in the winter of 2018.

ERIK RASCHKE is an American author who has lived in Amsterdam

for the past seven years. His work has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Guernica, The New York Times Magazine, Hazlitt, Buzzfeed, De Volkskrant, and elsewhere.

KEVIN SAMPSELL is the author of This Is Between Us and A Com-

mon Pornography, among other books. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also runs the small press, Future Tense Books. His fiction, nonfiction, and collage art have appeared in many publications.

ALEXIS M. SMITH is the author of the novels Glaciers, a finalist

for the Ken Kesey Award, and Marrow Island, winner of a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award and finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Other writing can be found in Tarpaulin Sky, Bon Appetite, Portland Monthly, and anthologized in Lilac City Fairy Tales Vol. III.

Nonfiction HILARY COLLINS received her MFA in creative writing from Roosevelt University. She has been previously published in The Rumpus.

DANIEL ELDER lives and writes in Northeast Portland with his cat,

Terence. He hosts a quarterly reading series, The Discomfort Zone, at Post 134 on Alberta St. His writing has appeared in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Manifest Station, Origins Journal, and elsewhere, and he contributes a monthly column to Nailed Magazine titled Latency Period.

MARTHA GROVER is a writer and illustrator living in Portland,

Oregon. Her first book, One More for the People, was published in

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2011. Her second, The End of My Career, is a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in creative nonfiction. She has been publishing her zine, Somnambulist, for over a decade.

SANTI ELIJAH HOLLEY has contributed to Tin House, VICE,

SmokeLong Quarterly, Monkeybicycle, Pacifica Literary Review, and elsewhere. A recipient of the 2017 Oregon Literary Fellowship, Holley lives in Portland, Oregon.

MARGARET MALONE is the author of the story collection People Like You, a finalist for the 2016 PEN Hemingway Award, winner of the 2016 Balcones Fiction Prize, and selected as a best book of 2015 by Powell’s Books, The Oregonian, The Portland Mercury, and elsewhere. A co-host of the artist and literary gathering SHARE, Margaret lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two children. She’s happy to hear from you: hello@margaretmalone.com. LYNN MUNDELL’s work has appeared in The Sun, Tin House online,

Jellyfish Review, Hobart, Superstition Review, Five Points, Vestal Review, Eclectica, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Northern California, where she co-edits 100 Word Story.

DAVID NAIMON is a writer and host of the literary broadcast/pod-

cast Between The Covers in Portland, Oregon. His writing appears in AGNI, Tin House, Fourth Genre, Boulevard, StoryQuarterly, and ZYZZYVA, among others. His work has been cited as a 2016 Pushcart Prize Special Mention, a 2015 Best American Essays notable, a 2015 Best American Travel Writing notable, and anthologized in The Best Small Fictions 2016. His writing and podcast interviews can be found at www.davidnaimon.com.

ERIN SWAN is a writer of fiction and nonfiction whose work has

been published in various journals, including Asia Literary Review, CALYX, and Bodega Magazine. She holds an MFA from the New

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School and an MA from Teachers College at Columbia University. A resident of Brooklyn, she has worked in publishing, taught English in Southeast Asia, and is currently teaching literature and writing at a public high school in New York City.

KRIS WILCOX lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with her family. Her work has appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal, Cimarron Review, Cleaver Magazine, Tin House online, Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and Mutha Magazine, among others. She is a regular contributor to UU World. ERIC G. WILSON’s work has appeared or is appearing in The Vir-

ginia Quarterly Review, The Georgia Review, The Notre Dame Review, The Oxford American, Hotel Amerika, The Collagist, The FANZINE, The Vestal Review, Cafe Irreal, Prelude, Posit, and The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review. Among his many books are Keep It Fake, Against Happiness, and Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck (all published with Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). His most recent book, a hybrid fiction called Polaris Ghost, is coming out with Outpost 19 next year. He teaches at Wake Forest University.

Poetry E.H. BROGAN is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a

BA in English. You can read her poetry at places like Cider Press Review, Bop Dead City, FLAPPERHOUSE, the Sandy River Review, and Red Paint Hill. You can read her prose in PRIMITIVE magazine. Her house is built of unread books, and she pronounces it REE-see’s PEE-sees. Tweet @wheresmsbrogan for more.

LYNN DOMINA is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal

Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. Her more recent work appears in The Gettysburg Review, The Massachusetts Review, Arts & Letters, Poetry Daily,

196  Portland Review

and other periodicals. She currently serves as Head of the English Department at Northern Michigan University and lives on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior.

JENNIFER FIRESTONE is an Assistant Professor of Literary Studies

at the New School’s Eugene Lang College. Her books include TEN, (BlazeVOX, forthcoming), Gates & Fields (Belladonna* Collaborative), Swimming Pool (DoubleCross Press), Flashes (Shearsman Books), Holiday (Shearsman Books), Waves (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs), from Flashes and snapshot (Sona Books) and Fanimaly (Dusie Kollektiv). Firestone co-edited (with Dana Teen Lomax) Letters To Poets: Conversations about Poetics, Politics and Community (Saturnalia Books). Firestone won the 2014 Marsh Hawk Press’s Robert Creeley Memorial Prize.

ELIZA FRAKES After a nomadic childhood in rural Maine, London,

and Los Angeles, Eliza Frakes has found herself in Portland, Oregon studying English at Lewis & Clark College. Her work is informed by her travels, the natural world, fearless women, and the children she nannies. Though previously unpublished, her writing has been recognised by the Young Arts Foundation. Eliza is grateful and honored to have her poetry published for the first time in Portland Review.

MARY HAIDRI is the author of two plays, Every Path (La Jolla Play-

house) and Still Life (Keller Gallery). She is drawn to themes of nature and transformation, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

JOANNA KLINK is the author of four books of poetry, most recent-

ly Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy. She is the 2017-2018 recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship.


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BILL NEUMIRE’s first book, Estrus, was a semi-finalist for the 42

Miles Press Award. He reviews contemporary poetry for Scout, Vallum, and Verdad, where he also serves as poetry editor. His recent poems appear in Harvard Review Online and Beloit Poetry Journal.

ELIZABETH PICKARD will graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing from Portland State University in 2018. She has taught fiction writing to college students and poetry writing to children. Her work has appeared in Underwater New York and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel, a collection of poems entitled Pidgeon, and a genre-insecure book about hermits. JAN PRIDDY’s work has earned an Oregon Literary Arts Fellow-

ship, Arts & Letters fellowship, Soapstone residency, Pushcart nomination, and publication in the Brevity blog, The MacGuffin, CALYX, Work Magazine, Raven Chronicles, Ink Filled Page, The Humanist, and North American Review. An MFA graduate from Pacific University, she lives and teaches on the north Oregon coast where she is at work on a memoir, stories, and many poems.

PAIGE RIEHL is the author of Blood Ties, a poetry chapbook pub-

lished by Finishing Line Press (2014). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many publications, such as Crab Orchard Review, Meridian, South Dakota Review, Nimrod International Journal, and Thought & Action. She won the 2012-2013 Loft Mentor Series in Poetry and the 2011 Literal Latte Prize for Poetry and was a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. She is the Poetry Editor for Midway Journal and an English faculty member at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Read more at paigeriehl.com.

PHILIP SCHAEFER ’s debut collection, Bad Summon, won the Agha

Shahid Ali Poetry Prize from the University of Utah Press and will be released in 2017. He is the author of three chapbooks, two of which were co-written with friend and poet Jeff Whitney. He won the 2016 Meridian Editor’s Prize in poetry and has individual work out or due

198  Portland Review

out in Kenyon Review, Thrush, Guernica, The Cincinnati Review, Birdfeast, Salt Hill, Bat City, Adroit, Baltimore Review, and Passages North, among others. He tends bar in Missoula, Montana.

JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS is the editor of two Northwest poetry an-

thologies and the author of nine collections, including Disinheritance and Controlled Hallucinations. A seven-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include The Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Arts & Letters, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

ED SKOOG is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Run the Red Lights (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). MELANIE TAGUE is an MFA student and GTA in her final year at

George Mason University, where she works as the Editor-in-Chief for So to Speak, a reader for Phoebe, and a managing editor at Stillhouse Press. She received a BA from the University of Missouri–Columbia in History and Sociology. Her work has previously appeared in journals such as burntdistrict, The Cinncinnati Review, Weave Magazine, Rappahannock Review and Milk Journal.

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER is the author most recently of Sun

Bear (Copper Canyon, 2014), and Why Poetry, a book of prose about poetry, from Ecco/Harper Collins in summer 2017. An Associate Professor in the MFA at Saint Mary’s College of California, he is also Editor at Large at Wave Books. He lives in Oakland, California.

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