Cover art by: Vaughn Panek-Sweet Fortaleza, Cearรก 2009 Fortaleza, Brazil
sheepsheadreview University of Wisconsin - Green Bay's Journal of the Arts
to our readers Some critics say that everything original has already been created. Could this be true? Could what we read be simply the same stories told again and again, generation after generation? The artists and staff of Sheepshead Review are pleased to find, each semester, new and exciting work comes to us from places near and far. There are many things left to say. We receive hundreds of submissions each semester from artists hoping to see their pieces in print —each hoping he or she has crafted something original. As we review each piece, we are keenly aware that sitting among us may be that next Angelou or Pollock, the next Faulkner or Sedaris. What we read and what we view helps define who we are and what our history becomes—the photo that captures a moment perfectly, the novel that changes the way we look at life, the poem that completely rocks our world, the exposé that moves us to action—all impact who we are at our very core. This passion to impact people so deeply is yet another reason we come back, semester after semester, to produce a quality journal. This semester, as we put the finishing touches on our fall issue, we saw the excitement of the new artist as well as the charm and sophistication of experienced poets. In this issue, we are proud to feature a number of authors and visual artists appearing for the first time. Some of these artists celebrated their acceptance via Facebook entry, while others went old school with a simple jump for joy. We hope Sheepshead is just the first of many future appearances of their work. Also in this issue, we feature an interview with a Wisconsin memoirist whose background is similar to many in the Midwest—as a small-town farmer. The interview provides a glimpse into the complexity within the normalcy of rising talent Michael Perry. Former Wisconsin Poet Laureate and retiring UW-Green Bay Humanities professor Denise Sweet is the focus of an entire section of tribute. In collecting the comments and poems celebrating her life’s work, it wasn’t lost on our staff what a unique vantage point we had. It is a circle of life for a writer to create a lasting, worldly voice and to hear and hone the voices of the next generation. Denise Sweet has certainly done this. We celebrate her voice as we celebrate her retirement by showcasing poems dedicated to and inspired by her work on campus, in the community, and all over the state. As you read through this issue, keep an eye out for that piece that may change your life. At the least, we hope that you find a piece that challenges you, moves you, or simply entertains you. Linger long within our pages. We welcome you here. Inspired,
Jennifer Stallsmith Editor-in-Chief
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stallsmith Assistant Editors-in-Chief Paul La Brosse Mindi Vanderhoof Managing Editor Amanda Klukas Assistant Managing Editor Greta Jordan Layout Editor Chris Livieri Assistant Layout Editor Mindy Obry Promotions and Publicity Directors Hilary Bullock Dan Beckwith Historian Ashley Borman Futures Director Paul La Brosse Special Sections Editor Mindi Vanderhoof
Assistant Special Sections Editor Charnae Walker Special Sections Staff Amber Bassett Kate Brown Ashantae Burton Ashley Kaster Alyse Marczak Nonfiction Editor Katie Myers Nonfiction Staff Kate Brown Ashley Borman Greta Jordan Kimberly Danielson Samantha Smith Fiction Editor Mary Stravinski Fiction staff Erin Wiley Heather Gracyalny Brooke Teegarden Michelle Gach Lindsay Benaszeski Christopher Durocher Amber Bassett Kimberly Grogan
Poetry Editor Nick Reilly Poetry Staff Ashley Kaster Charnae Walker Marena Erickson Ashantae Burton Jordan Jerabek Visual Arts Editor Chris Livieri Visual Arts Staff Mindy Obry Dan Beckwith Nick Jenquin Christina Kingsfield Michelle Berceau Kristine Albrecht Kyle Moseng Mary DeCleene Alyse Marczak Chief Copyeditor Christine DeNardis Copyeditors Christopher Durocher Marena Erickson Amanda Klukas Paul La Brosse Jennifer Stallsmith
fiction Web Editors Christine DeNardis Erin Wiley
Adviser Dr. Rebecca Meacham
The Glass Railing
93 Amber LaFave
The Game Kimberly Grogan
63 Stephanie Arnold 67
The Day Schmitty Put One Over Napa Zachary Taylor
So-Called Glitter Amy Manske
96 Erica Nottestad Fog
Prelude to the Silver Hammer Hilary Bullock
70 Jessica Baehman
98 Kate Brown
The Motorcycle Ride Amber LaFave
3 Rs in Human Life
Hands Tim Rhodes
76 Cody Guyette
100 Jeff Ott
South Dakota Morning
Lucky Break Kate Brown
With Michael Perry 81 Interview Mindi Vanderhoof
25 Minutes to Go Katie Walkner
53 Lillian Roffers
Special Section: Tribute to Denise Sweet
Disk Read Error
FabergĂŠ Egg Rod Zinkel
Worth Waiting For: An
102 Alyssa Holschbach
Maida Vale Mary Sawyer
Haiku Adam Wiesner
Murderabilia Auction House Hilary Bullock
105 Greta Jordan Rice
117 Jennifer Ewald
Pickled Pigs Feet Jamie Buss
Milwaukee Zoo 09
Playing With City Lights Chloe Scheller
107 Vanessa Smith
119 Rebecca Meiller
Death of 3.14
Put A Smile On Josh Braun
Primrose Hill, London
Kayakerâ€™s Horizon Samantha Bunker
110 Megan Peters
121 Rebecca Meiller
Untitled Nicole Opiela
112 Vanessa Robinson A Good Lift
Untitled Nicole Opiela
123 Scot Wallace
AIDS in Africa
Marx und Coca-Cola Emily Evenson
114 Andrea Frederick Retired
Ball of Energy Amanda Bartelt
The Pain Body Jeff Ott
Denise sweet tribute
tribute to denise sweet Festschrift: a volume of articles, essays, etc., contributed by many authors in honor of a colleague, usually published on the occasion of retirement, an important anniversary, or the like (dictionary.reference.com). Retirement is something that most everyone works toward. It brings people together through group investments, pension plans, even a national organization—AARP. But on an individual level, retirement is less easily defined. And when your life’s work is poetry, working—and being creative—doesn’t simply end. For many artists, retirement offers new wellsprings of inspiration. In the pages that follow, the recent retirement of UW-Green Bay professor Denise Sweet (Dee) has inspired former students, fellow writers, and colleagues around the world to pay her tribute. As a poet, Dee’s work is deeply reflective of her pride in her Native American heritage. Much of her writing celebrates her heritage as a member of the Bear clan of the Anishinaabe (White Earth). Throughout her career, she has used her poetry as a vehicle to make both political and social statements. Her work has been widely published in anthologies, national journals, chapbooks, and collections, and has been featured in museums and art exhibits. Her poetry can even be found on buildings: her poem, “Constellations,” is etched into the granite wall on Milwaukee’s Midwest Airlines Center. In recognition of her talents, Dee was named Wisconsin’s second Poet Laureate, serving from 2004 to 2008. Dee’s dedication to her art has transformed students and friends alike. At UW-Green Bay, she was an Associate Professor of Humanistic Studies and First Nations Studies, teaching creative writing, mythology, and literature to hundreds of students for twenty years. Her poetry workshops were simultaneously close-knit and expansive, venturing off campus for raucous readings at coffeeshops and “slam” poetry contests in Chicago. Today, in classrooms, on stages, and in various walks of life, “Dee’s Minions” continue to give voice to the lessons she instilled and do so proudly.
UW-Green Bay’s credo asks us to “connect learning to life,” and in her teaching, Dee traveled borderlands far beyond the classroom. To increase UW-Green Bay’s outreach to Latino and Asian American communities in the 1990s, she brought first graders to campus for the Young Writers’ Workshop. She conducted a travel seminar for UW-Green Bay students to study among the Mayan peoples of the Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala. In addition to serving as the chair of the American Indian Studies program, she was a director of UW-Green Bay’s first self-sponsored, precollege program for students of color. Her commitment to integrating oral histories into Wisconsin classrooms resulted in several awards, most notably a $10,000 grant from the Institute for Learning Partnership. For these efforts and countless others, she was twice honored at the UW-System’s Women of Color annual ceremony.
While in Green Bay, she regularly spoke out for causes she believed in. She provided both encouragement and education on topics of women’s wellness, on eating disorders among Native Americans, and on substance abuse prevention. At the same time, Dee was also a business owner running Sweet Associates, a communication and consulting group. On campus, in the community, and in her travels throughout the state as Poet Laureate she believed everyone had something in life to say, and she delighted in showing others how to creatively communicate. One of Dee’s poems, “All the Animals Came Singing,” appears in this section. The final lines of that poem read: While you nudged your brood into thicker, safer confines, we sang songs once again, worshipping the ground you walk on --- and all the animals came singing. In this special section of Sheepshead Review, a chorus of voices—young, seasoned, lilting, laughing—sing in praise of Dee’s work as a professor, activist, colleague, and poet. Each voice is distinct, yet they join together in gratitude. Together, we are thankful for Dee’s poetry, those clear and stirring melodies—and we thank her for guiding and coaxing our own songs.
Denise sweet tribute
The Power of Words An interview with poet Denise Sweet By Ashley Kaster The importance of language is apparent to those who appreciate the meaning and impact of words. To exemplify their true significance, poet Denise Sweet tests the boundaries everyday with her poetry. After talking with Sweet for a matter of minutes, it’s evident that her poetry isn’t simply literary art, but an opportunity for positive change. Since elementary school, Sweet has understood the value and power of words through her tribal heritage of Anishinaabe (Ojibwe). Sweet has utilized her love of poetry and the oral tradition to express her political and humanistic views in order to make a difference. Since writing her first publicly broadcasted poem, “Home of the Brave, Land of the Free”, inspired by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), her poems have brought great awareness to various causes she supports. Sweet is known throughout the state as Wisconsin’s second Poet Laureate serving from 2004 to 2008, in which her prime duty was to spread awareness of poetry. However, Sweet’s claim to fame here on UW-Green Bay’s campus has been as a professor of Humanistic Studies and creative writing as well as the former chair of the American Indian Studies. Her work has been featured in many publications all over the world and has received many awards including Woman of the Year in 1985 by the Positive Indian Development Center and the Wisconsin Women’s Council as well as the Outstanding Woman of Color award by the University of Wisconsin system. With a long list of awards and accomplishments under her belt pertaining to her poetic and educational career, Sweet has retired from teaching and is moving on to the next chapter of her life. She plans to move home to Northwestern Wisconsin to be closer to her family and community members. She plans to devote her time to several projects, including poetry collections and a novel. Sweet will also continue to expand her understanding and practice of the Ojibwe language and inspire her grandchildren. I caught up with Sweet in the midst of her big move. “I am not good at moving,” admits Sweet. “I stop to read every card or gaze into each photo, look at every memento, open books to read favorite passages, and suddenly I look up and realize I’ve squandered another day of packing.”
After arranging for someone to come and pack for her, she is now surrounded by 102 cardboard boxes filled with memories of the past. In a matter of weeks the boxes will need to be unpacked at her new home, which will provide her with fresh inspiration to continue her work as a poet.
Sheepshead readers, I proudly present Denise Sweet. AK: What do you think makes a good poem? DS: A poem is judged by its ability to evoke feeling in the person who is listening or reading the poem. Some poems fail because they’re telling us how to feel and not trusting us. Those are the poems that must trust the human’s ability to feel emotion. A good poem is one that evokes feeling, whether it’s laughter, whether it’s sadness, whether it’s joy, ecstasy, or sorrow. Flat poems are poems that are not finished or are not accomplishing the job they are set out to do. It’s because they’re too abstract or vague or not colorful or musical. AK: How do you feel your poetry connects with your heritage? DS: I have a strong appreciation for my language. I believe poetry is a language of its own. When I was a little girl, I was raised around elders and they would tell me stories and have me write nursery rhymes for songs that they would teach me and so on. In a way, when I write poetry, I am reconnecting with that oral tradition. It has an effect on me. Poetry helps me remember the importance of those times I spent with the elders. I think there is a strong respect among tribal people for those who can sing, for those who can make art, and for those who are great storytellers. I think it all goes back to that oral tradition. AK: How did you discover your love of poetry? DS: I’ve always loved being read to and having elders in my family teach me nursery rhymes. But I think it first occurred to me that I had a love for poetry when Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) died. I was so devastated when I heard he was killed. I remember I put my head on the desk because I didn’t want anyone to know I was crying, and then I went home and wrote a poem (“Home of the Brave, Land of the Free”). I think he was a great man, not perfect, but he certainly had an impact on my life. I realized after I wrote the poem that I wanted to find a way to get it to his family. The teacher took that poem and she submitted it to Wisconsin Public Radio, and the day of his funeral the poem was read over the PA system at my school. I was just mortified. I didn’t know she took it. When I heard it go through the radio, I realized I really did reach someone else and someone else heard that, and in 1982, I met Coretta Scott King. I then had the opportunity to tell her that the work of her husband is the reason I’m a poet. I guess in a roundabout way that even though it was due to a tragedy, I realized I loved poetry because it helped me deal with ideas and issues in a way that was truthful and beneficial and that I could share that with somebody. AK: Why did you admire Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so much?
DS: I know that it was at that same time when there was a lot of civil unrest in the Minneapolis-St. Paul tribal community and I listened to some of the things he (MLK) said.
Denise sweet tribute
Vaughn Panek-Sweet Thistle Forest 2008 Wisconsin
The feelings he had about racial relations meant something to me because I have relatives who are Puerto Rican, I have relatives who are African-American, and so he wasn’t just a leader for the African-American community, he was a leader of all people who believed in [a] peaceful struggle for justice. Even as a little kid, I just thought that was so cool. I grew up in an era where I saw riots. When I was in sixth or seventh grade, there were people being lynched and a lot of eerie things and here was a man who stood up and said, “We’re going to make things right, but we’re going to do it in a non-violent fashion.” He just helped me deal with something like that without violence. I think that same way about Gandhi, and I think that same way about people now who are leaders of non-violence with civil disobedience and the protection of all rights, and people who preach about the freedom of religion and free choice. I admire anyone who is willing to step up and speak out, and MLK was one of them. AK: How do you think your poems have brought awareness to the various causes you support? DS: I have learned and experienced the futility of anger and that when I feel strongly about something, ranting and raging against that something is wrong. I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work, so what I try to do is grasp social justice in a very interpersonal way. I affect change by having people pause for a moment and asking them to consider another point of view through imagery and the emotional style that I think I have in my work, rather than running for politics, or writing topics for the newspaper. I write poetry and I hope to draw people into the emotion through the lyrical or the narrative poems that I write, and I hope they feel how I felt and the poem will transmit a message from heart to heart. AK: What was it like being Wisconsin’s second Poet Laureate? DS: Once I was named Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, the calls were coming in. My email was just out of control, and it wasn’t just me because the previous laureate had experienced the same flood of requests. I think people really want to hear poetry and the teachers feel the best way to teach poetry is to get an author to come in and read his or her work. What was the sweetest and one of the finest moments for me that just touched my heart was there was a little girl in one of the classes I was speaking to about poetry. She came up to me and she put out her little hand and she said, “I have never met a real writer. I’m so excited that I can finally go home to my momma and tell her that I met a real poet.” I think that being an author, poet, filmmaker, or artist...kids are so in awe of that and it was humbling to me. I just really liked that. I like when little kids come up to you and say could you sign this book or I want to be a poet or a writer. Kids hold this high esteem for this trade but they don’t realize that sometimes we write some bad poems, too. Not everything we write is gilded or golden.
AK: What do you hope people can take away from your term as Poet Laureate?
Denise sweet tribute
DS: I’m just another human being who had the nerve to write a few words down and tried to cause you to pay attention to the power of the spoken word. You know, I’m just a human being, just like all of you, and you can write poetry, too. None of us can write a perfect poem. I think writing, whether it is fiction, nonfiction, memoir, biography, journalism, poetry, or lyrics, the act of writing itself, going outside ourselves and putting down what we feel and how we view the world is an oddly liberating experience. As Poet Laureate you let people know that it’s [poetry], not just something they can experience themselves but can become more aware of by at the very least reading more poetry, keeping a journal, and trying their hand at writing fiction or nonfiction and seeing what that feels like. AK: What advice would you give to other poets or writers? DS: In order to be a successful writer or a successful poet, you have to think of it as a job. I get up every morning and after I go do my exercises, and I set my timer and I make myself write. I’ll take breaks because I need to move around, but I will write for three hours. It might not be the best way, but I force myself. My advice is to think of it as a job, think of it as your trade and this is what you do, whether you’re an evening person or a morning person, think of it as a job and believe in your work. Sometimes you have to lower your standards and sometimes you won’t be satisfied with what you’ve written, but it trains the brain. By keeping a journal and writing on a regular basis, it trains the brain to keep imagining and being creative. AK: What accomplishments are you most proud of when it comes to writing poetry?
DS: A lot of my poems have been transformed into plays, and some of my poems have inspired artwork that’s been etched into walls, and I’ve had some of my poems bring about fundraising to different foundations. I’ve gotten a poem published in Hungary and I’m going to be part of an anthology of Aboriginal writers. All of those things are so cool, but what one of my most cherished accomplishments is that my son asked me to help him develop a curriculum for an island school in the Apostle Islands. I tell you what, you go to the Apostle Islands, there’s no way you can’t be creative or have an imagination just walking around. My grandchildren are my legacy and they love to hear me read poetry. That to me is my crowning achievement: the impact that poetry has had on the lives of my sons and my grandchildren, and that they like it. My grandchildren love storytelling, they love poetry, we love making up songs together, and my sons are that way, too. Passing that on to my children and then to my grandchildren is my greatest achievement. As far as the public is concerned, that’s all nice too, but I think the legacy part that will stay with me when I’m older and greyer is the fact that my children and grandchildren also love literature, especially poetry.
AK: What do you feel is your edge as a poet? DS: Perhaps my role as a mediator between cultures gives me a bit of an edge. Also, I don’t take myself really seriously. I do take my work seriously, but I love making people laugh, so I do write a lot of humorous poems. It’s not “goofy” poetry, and I hope that they have more than just a layer of humor. I think that not only do I have a culture that I love and that I love to write about, but I hope people will get the message from that. I also know words and phrases in my native Ojibwe language and there is a meaning of transferring poetry into different poetry in the English language. My next collection will be translated into the Ojibwe language, which is exciting to me. AK: How much political power do you feel poems/literature/art can have on policies and people’s opinions? DS: I think it has tremendous power. In the days of the great civilizations, poets were the legislatures of the world. Poets were there expressing to the people through poetry and lyrical ballads. They spoke in an artful way, and they could change history. Why do you think that there were so many poets who have been in prison and have had people try to destroy them? It’s because the word is so much more impactful than any weapon, than any sword, than any military. I love and see how poetry was much more obvious in civilizations, especially in Greek and Roman civilizations, the great empires that had poets would speak to the people, and how some of the most important poets in the world were politically orientated. AK: Are there any poets you admire?
DS: Many of them are the modern poets like Simon Ortiz and Joy Harjo. I could name tons of poets that have directly helped me in my career, have read my manuscripts, and I have exchanged poems back and forth with, but among all the great ones I would have to, of course, name Uncle Walt, Walt Whitman. He, and many other great poets, broke rules. They wanted to go deeper than just turning a fanciful phrase. Each of them, in their own style, wanted to make complete authentic poetry of the day that was not defined by the norms and the principles and the rules of British verse. Walt Whitman was the first, and era after era, we all kept breaking the mold. I must admit that how [the] subsequent free-speech movement and the feminist movement were [based] on some of the poets that were associated with those issues. They were also talking about suicide, words and phrases and experiences that were not written about previously; they were written in a sort of veiled way. I really like that. I like how Walt Whitman wanted to have America’s authentic poet voice and not just the voice of the people. I also like international poets as well, but I particularly go back to the moderns. Some people say how they don’t like poetry slants, but I say however you get those words down and you engage yourself or you use the carefully spoken word, I say have at it.
Denise sweet tribute
Vaughn Panek-Sweet Cattails 2008 Wisconsin
AK: What will you miss most about teaching creative writing at UW-Green Bay? DS: What I am going to miss most is hearing my students read their poems for the very first time. It’s almost like watching children for the first time hop on a bike and away they go and what fun it is. The best times in my teaching career were seeing my students get up there in front of an audience and read a poem and realize it wasn’t going to kill them— they weren’t going to die from public speaking. I’ve actually had students who have gone to different countries and taught poetry. I’ve had students here from UWGB win literary awards and students who have gone on to write books of poems translated into many languages. That rocks. It impresses me what they went on to do. That, to me, is also a part of what makes me feel good about what I try to do as a poet: seeing them succeed. AK: What do you believe is the future of poetry?
DS: It’s an exciting time to be a poet, to witness the ways in which poetry readings help strengthen the identity and solidarity of a community, large or small. I celebrate the development of new ways to express poetic inspiration such as multimedia approaches, slamming, collaborative performance pieces, and street readings. At the same time, I realize that some of these approaches are not so new at all, are they? Poetic expression is that powerful urge within some of us to sing the truth. But it does seem now more than ever, people are coming forward to respond to that life-affirming act of self-expression in a beautiful and a heartfelt manner.
Denise sweet tribute
all the animals came singing denise sweet Somewhere between nowhere and shadow you held still and quiet; a quick slip and you would totter over the edge of the world, taking with you ancient songs of love, of devotion, of longevity; songs that celebrated the simple elegance of living in balance. So many whimpered in your absence: The throatsingers tried in vain to call you back, other winged creatures felt lost and cut off from the harmonious cranesong that once trumpeted across the marshlands It was in our ignorance we fell silent. Helpless, anxious to be of use; We began to think of bogs and swamps as eerie, ugly and useless. We drained those windigo wetlands, paved them over with asphalt or planted crops that floundered or refused to take root Believe us, aashigsug, we tried to fill and give function to the emptied camps of the Whooping Crane. Or were we fumbling to fill that empty nest in our hearts shaped by your absence? â€˘ â€˘ â€˘
We are told by the Old Ones that it is inborn in all beings alive to return to the place of its beginning, to rise and sweep with what strength is left and begin that wondrous trek towards home, no matter the distance no matter how difficult the passage.
And so it is, aashigsug. Shy, secretive and cryptic in coloration, one day you appeared in the bright mist as in your own emergence account, you stood before us, waiting for us to send out a simple prayer, to properly greet you by simply standing still. You stood before us elegant, erect and majestic in form. You stood before us, a hooded shaman from the farthest sky, a stellar space out of range of the naked eye. Through the bulrushes and overgrowth of slender reeds, your mate steps forward and with a slight but mutual bow and brief address, you wander together, winding through the wet meadows, springing unto a sandbar and then suddenly a flawless lift into flight punctuating the sky with prehistoric angles come have never seen. It has been 100 years since you have presented a clutch of chicks, treasures of necedah. Some indispensable guiding spirit came into the hearts of humankind and coaxed you out of the shadows. This joyous birth is a ripple away from the impossible. While you nudged your brood into thicker, safer confines, we sang songs once again, worshipping the ground you walk on— and all the animals came singing. Aashigsug is the Ojibwe word for “crane” A windigo is a malevolent spirit
Denise Sweet was the Wisconsin Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2008.
Denise sweet tribute
for denise sweet ellen kort Take me to the river when the full moon is shining and tell me again how the wandering water caresses the world Tell me again the stories of your people You the speaker You the voice You the instrument of a thousand words Take me to your Mother Tree where earth welcomes the splendor of roots where the raucous Shadow Bird sings and rustling leaves spill like a womanâ€™s long hair where branches open to passing clouds and all the spaces in between Take me back to that one moment when we became sisters when I cupped your hand in mine and nourished you with poems in those long hours of darkness I saw the river of light in your eyes and I knew even then you were a survivor Take me to the circle of grandmothers who dance with their arms wide open who come to you again and again hungry for the warm breast of your words You the speaker You the voice You the instrument of a thousand words Tell me your new story Start from the beginning Already the horses wait eager for your touch
Ellen Kort was the Wisconsin Poet Laureate from 2000 to 2004.
The Virtuosos Among Us Marilyn Taylor For Dee Sweet, who is clearly one of them. They take us by surprise, these tall perennials that jut like hollyhocks above the canopy of all the rest of us—bright testimonials to poetry’s green world of possibility. They come to bloom for every generation, blazing with extraordinary notions from the taproots of imagination— dazzling us with incandescent visions. And soon, the things we never thought would happen start to happen: the solid fences of reality begin to soften, crumbling into fables and romances— and we turn away from where we’ve been to a new place, where light is pouring in.
Marilyn Taylor is the current Wisconsin Poet Laureate.
denise sweet tribute
To A Person of Color David Galaty
I watch my friend, as a cascading cataract of ebony-red hair, vibrating icicles coning through a shimmering blue-gold aura, slides past her fuchsia lips tip-licked by a chartreuse, candy-lacquered tongue which happens to match her slinking crimson thoughts snaking over a beige-mist chameleon congregation gape-mouthed wondering how long this unrelenting magenta magician will display her coalition-seeking chromo-tricks to the kaleidoscopic spring.
Vaughn Panek-Sweet I Would Be Crabby, Too 2009 Fortaleza, Brazil
Denise sweet tribute
Banal repetition Catherine A. Viste Repetition will kill me. We are the horses on the carousel with metal rods up our asses, circling each other like vultures over the rotting flesh of words from tongues and worn movements, scuffing our blank and eyeless shapes. Repetition is killing me. Safe in its confines, which conforms our linesâ€”that metal rod greased up and down and moving us round and round, and the boys and girls that ride kick and piss while we bare our teeth on the bride bit.
Repetition has killed us. Plastic and meaningless, our voices muffled and ignored as the operator flips the switch and stops us from going around, the music stops, the lights pale, and balancing on that metal rodâ€” I quietly wait for the carousel to break and be melted down into some other shape.
Without a Bullhorn Paul ML Belanger Slapping mud with the regularity of beads of sweat off cheek bones high and broad, Manuel lays block at a meditative pace. With a rule above he spades and stacks two simple words, barro and bloque, into walls for rum-drunk domino men and their destitute doll-makers. There is no complaint of corded muscle, no mention of his smoldering brow, and no indictment of the idle. Building houses of blocks and mud, he raises roofs with crooked beams and calmly leads through example. Some ignore him. Others mock the effort. Hardly any heed his call to mix cement or hoist and shoulder cinderblocks.
So the few build a city for the many, and Manuel bows to those who color skin and clothesâ€”like hisâ€”with dust, those who hear words in the slap of mud and the deliberate stacking of blocks.
denise sweet tribute
World in Brown Wooden Bowl Mary Mattson for Dee Sweet with love and admiration you taught me how to ignore time how to be without needing how to breathe between syllables how to listen and what to listen for you taught me how to break rules, and to bend them how to know which rules to break and which to keep and make sacred in the silence of roll-your-own fingers against thumbs the crinkle of thin paper you said that what matters is not the truth but what we believe in you showed us the world in a brown wooden bowl write what you see write what’s there—or what isn’t… you said
the reality is, that this is all we have our beliefs our truths our world our words four corners of where we are, you looked over half-moon lenses and the edge of a burning cigarette as if this weren’t enough
The Muse and Then the Words Grant Cousineau for Professor Dee Sweet Poetry is burgeoning spores, souls refined into granular graduates, trained to affix our noses to book spines and called them home. We must be inspired by our past, such as camping trips to Bear Paw Lake the half-mile to Potawatomie site how Dad sliced his thumb the year after Justin bloodied his jeans stabbed his thigh carving a leader-beater, cut into an artery. Such as playing football with kids I didn’t know we lost the game I had the gall to tell a girl how she threw like a girl and then I got blitzed with a barrage of insults and iceballs— Mom picked me up, and I never went back.
Such as how I’m inspired by cotton shirts and see words in colors.
denise sweet tribute
I can still forfeit my fingers to a whirlwind at the keyboard, with no map for the canvas for the soul’s geography, the visual vernacular the muse and then the words, respectively for songs you sing, to the flow of discharm. Poetry is patience, Sweet demonstrated while never actually saying it. Four years, and I wonder if she ever wondered: “Will you (someday) write poems about me?”
Water Women Haven Julie Strand for Denise Sweet Where the sea shoulders the sky, dawn gifts twin birds then tears, their charms not everlasting. The women of the water pocket shells and stones, throats of whales and pleading notes in their currents deliver them to the sand for eyes and hands
to find. Instead, the woods walk again. At the beach they ask for help. Collected, chopped, burned, emptied of their smoke they need a way to be trees once more. And the water women lap the shore filling the treesâ€™ tracks like empty cups.
denise sweet tribute
Vaughn Panek-Sweet The View of Fortaleza From My Window 2009 Fortaleza, Brazil
Clorox Treatment Lisa Poupart Standing above my father three and a half feet tall carried home from a bar floor after playing softball Immobile in bed face bruised and purple Alcohol seeps from his pores A crazy glued virgin mary statue on the night stand next to his head her back turned away Drunk and incoherent Begs my mother for forgiveness Swollen lips Slurred speech weeping weeping “Rosie, honey we had to fight those white guys said things about Indians” Eyes rolling back into his head Standing above my father three and a half feet tall
She reminds me in shame and disgust “This is what is means to be an Indian— Drunk. And baby, you’re an Indian”
Denise sweet tribute
While all she can think is “I’m the one who has to clean his goddamned ball uniform” Bleach out the red blood brown dirt invisible tears Like she wished she could bleach out his dark skin
Like Denise Sweet, I am Anishinabequay minowa makwa dodem. Together Denise and I share a common ancestry and a common struggle. Over the years, I have filled scores of journals and drawing books with words, in an attempt to decolonize my own heart and mind. My written words have carried me through the depths of personal and cultural loss and despair. The poem that I share here is one that Denise appreciated. She always called me a “poet.” I never thought of myself as a poet, especially not when compared to Denise. But like Denise, I use written words to survive colonization.
A Collective Apology from "Pigeon 2006" Chad Faries -Katowice, PolandÂ January 28, 2006. The snow-covered roof of a trade hall in a southern Poland mining town collapsed Saturday with as many as 500 people inside for a racing pigeon exhibition. Collectively, we want to apologize. In our breasts the blood is warmed by white plumes and we stand guard over the wreckage. We have enough warmth for a thousand nights because we have seen our brothers freeing themselves with blood tattered wings rising from the rubble like brilliant puffs of smoke from an evil magicianâ€™s crumpled hat. And with the fleeting animal life comes the fire brigade with axes chiseling away at the wreckage in hopes of finding a mortal gesture. Our breasts are the same cuts as statues of great ancients placed in your museums. The lives of this town are sustained by digging in the ground with picks and shovels and driven by fear of collapse everyday. Collapse above ground rather than below crushed the equilibrium and architecture of body and building and all sentiments are now lopsided.
When we launched from our coops we flew high into the rafters and threaded them with swoops and dips for effect. Anything we could do to dazzle. Exhilarated by the cupped hands or warm currents inside the exhibition hall, we flew in formation and competition.
denise sweet tribute
When the splintering came, we were in a formation and mouths were stretched open in awe as we split the air with our beaks, smooth as alabaster, collapsing the distance. Usually we just soar to the hum of wind, yet this time sound was pollutedâ€”broken like the arm of a small child fallen from a tree. But then the tree itself fell, and then the sky, and then space itself imploded and spit its life out of a lung of galaxy. Are we crushed under that rubble and dreaming, or soaring freely? Such realities may never be distinguished. Amid this destruction we helped facilitate should we be remorseful for finally feeling free? And this is the image we want to covet, freedom at your expense, and you pay us with the ahhs and gasps. It is enough. Let it be enough. After escaping the wreckage we circled the gnarled steel down of the convention center. The windows, unbroken, were a sick joke fawning escape. People were hitting the panes with chairs and pieces of broken cage. And we, pecking at the glass from outside, could be seen as nothing more than mocking freedom and liberty. We have always been delightful and diligent. We submitted to the control of man and are to be trusted with its liberty. The equation is always the same: Our task, our brief freedom, and then home with our message. This is what anything wants; to see the beauty of delivery, something pure and white delivering, a manifestation of a metaphor gone array.
People flipped open their cell phones like tiny wings spanning, like broken and stiff birds squawking for help, voices riding an electronic wave in a final effort to communicate their perceptions of love and emergency.
One man lay pinned, his head and shoulders projecting, under the giant tail feather fan of corrugated iron roof. Our cages are strewn about smashed and abandoned. We brave the cold and huddle on a splintered rafter and monitor the scene. Some of us still have tiny pieces of cigarette paper strapped to our legs, and we wonder what they might say and who to tell. We answer to the demand of the governing impulse of nature—the love of home. The snow falls in fat flakes like the fluffs of our fallen’s feathers. What you don’t know is hundreds of people came to the exhibition dead and we were there to make them alive.
This piece is submitted as a living tribute to the teaching and friendship I continue to receive from Denise Sweet. Denise came to read here in Savannah, GA where I am now an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing. We had a private reading in my home, and we read from one another’s works. The “Pigeon 2006” poem is one that she was particularly moved by.
denise sweet tribute
Spirit World Nancy Rafal after viewing the painting â€œGoing to the Spirit Worldâ€? by JoAnne Bird at WASEDA Gallery, Baileys Harbor on June 19, 2001
Many have passed this way before but not this way Some have tried to map the path but they do not see with your eyes You must walk this way alone Four figures wait, mounted ready always ready, always waiting As a child you saw them clearly now your world-weary eyes need time to focus You must tread this way alone Trilliums of youth are gone gaywings have left the dance Chickadee and nuthatch invite you to song the old ones drum the beat You must chant this way alone The summer wood calls you the riders wait You drink in the fragrance of milkweed monarchs circle You must taste this way alone. Ancient writings and sage words have been flung in your face Messages mingle in a brew of your own concocting always stirring, always straining You must make this way your own
Vaughn Panek-Sweet Tree 2009 Wisconsin
Denise sweet tribute
all my relations JD Whitney From a sequence titled All My Relations COUSIN COWBIRD: Whose eggs these aren’t I think I know. COUSIN COTTONMOUTH: I’ll take you at our word. COUSIN CRAYFISH:
Don’t not watch where you’re going on my account.
Kitchen Art Estella Lauter I opened the oven door today and found a tray of hardened cherry juice left from my daughter’s pie. It was delicious full of this year’s fruit though lined with store-bought crust and assembled in less than one-half-hour. When she was a child, she watched her grandmother and me make pies. No more than four tablespoons of water to moisten the dough before it rested in the fridge for at least an hour. Then mother stroked it from the center with a heavy wooden rolling pin until it was as thin as possible, and slid the ragged circle from the floured board. After we pressed the edges to seal in the juice, we sprinkled the scraps with cinnamon sugar and formed them into small fingers to bake and taste before the pie was served. Mother made the flakiest crust. My daughter left the nest too soon. We had more hours together over books than in the kitchen. I teach her twins my mother’s ways. Be sure you have what you need on hand before you begin to mix. Measure carefully. Clean up as you go so you know what you’ve put in and left out. But we don’t even try for the flakiest crust.
“Kitchen Art” parallels some of Dee’s early poems about her mother and the art of canning.
denise sweet tribute
BATHING IN ASHES Mike Kriesel The voices all agree: I need to bathe in ashes, so I kneel and fill the tub with crumpled poems and photos, unribboning a roll of toilet paper over my memorabilia. Flicking a match, I watch my funeral pyre rise…blaze…collapse… and leave an inch of moth wings, settling. Easing into lukewarm porcelain, ashes coat my ass and back. I close my eyes. Pretend to die. Feel lighter, meditating on the toilet’s chemical blue pool, and Buddha’s bowels voiding the abyss. “Odin gave an eye for insight,” one voice offers. “Christ took a spear in the side,” a second echoes. Having observed a moment of silence for my ego’s death, the voices return, meshed like a chain-link fence. “Water nourishes the living, hastening decomposition.” Mellow wisdom. Following each vowel’s hollow they swoop and glide like swallows, turning perfectly at every consonant, flowing like a feathered serpent. Their speech’s mellow buzz bizarrely comforts me, covering my nakedness like folded hands before genitals in medieval Flemish paintings of Eden. “God took the first and biggest bite of apple.” The voices stroke my brain, reading my mind. “God named angels. Adam christened animals.”
Believe me; this is better. When they’re out of phase the voices scatter, squeal like truck brakes, screech like bats in a warehouse, circling with no way out. The sound’s a mirror hit so hard it smithereens to silver powder. Phantom hands lift me from the tub in a chair of air, placing me on a white Kohler throne.
Purged demiurge, I waft on a cloud of cacophony, smeared with memory’s cinders, ego’s charcoal smudge. I am my own abyss. “Welcome to solipsism,” the voices chant, attaching Internet porn, eBay auctions. Ashen flesh fused to toilet, I’m some kind of asinine avatar. All that babbling, burning music gurgling through me.
denise sweet tribute
tributes Dee Sweet used to come into my Women in Literature classes to read her poetry. Her appearances were magical. Lives changed when she read: students realized that poetry was wonderful, spoke to them, and was accessible. I’ll always remember that attitude shift. -Catherine Henze Dee Sweet is the only colleague I have ever had whom I knew for her scholarly reputation before I even met her. I used her poetry in a class long before I ever met her or dreamed we would become colleagues with adjoining offices. I felt honored to be on the same faculty as such a wonderful, creative talent. Years later, her being named Poet Laureate of Wisconsin simply confirmed my judgment and appreciation. I also came to appreciate that Dee’s personal qualities are even more wonderful than her poetic talent. She is one of those people I cherish because I have learned from their example. She is deeply passionate not only about her art but about people and about helping build a more just world. People with such deep passions, particularly about things with political dimensions, often become angry and critical of those who disagree. Not Dee. She is remarkable for her genuine care about all people and her gentleness toward those who disagree with her values, and even those who do things she considers harmful. She is a living example of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s injunction to “cut the chain of hate” and love even those who do injustice. She urges understanding and compassion for everyone. Not only does she not express anger, she seems not to feel it. She appreciates the humanity of every person and always insists we must heal divisions, not increase them. She does not have enemies, only people with whom to improve communication. She is a model to aspire to emulate, to struggle to emulate. We will miss her deeply, but many of us will be better people for having known her. And, of course, since she is only going to the other side of the state, we hope we will still have the opportunity to see her often. Megwetch -Pete Kellogg
Dee Sweet was the first person to visit me in the hospital after I had my baby. She brought a bag of small, wrapped gifts and presented us with a poem she had written to our
daughter, Sophie. It was a snowy day in March and her poem was all about the coming of spring. It was a wonderful poem that we—and Sophie—will cherish always. -Aeron Haynie I do recall one time many years ago when Dee was asked to speak at a celebratory dinner honoring minority students just before their graduation from UW-Green Bay. There were a number of people who spoke, saying nice things and handing out tokens of recognition. The mood of the group was warm, and I’m sure the thoughts expressed were sincere but they were fairly ordinary. Then Dee spoke. She used some of her poetry but everything she said sounded like poetry. Her delivery was especially measured and powerful. She talked about the power of the well-chosen spoken word, and she thoroughly convinced me. She very simply demonstrated how language alone could move, honor, and unite people. I’ve been a fan of her work ever since. -Cliff Abbott The other night, Dee told me that “we’ve known each other for a hundred years.” And she’s right, all those hundred years’ worth of friendship, mutual support, and warmth—packed into a smaller year-count but a century’s worth nonetheless. I’ve held close her voice and vision, her writing and person, her teaching. Of course, she’s always teaching, teaching her big-knowing, which is always bigger than any classroom can contain. My life is richer for her presence in it, on this great earth, among the wonders of all creation. -JD Whitney Professor Denise (Dee) Sweet had an unconventional teaching style. She was not of your typical lecturer variety. Armed with texts, papers, magazines, and the occasional cartoon, Dee would bombard her students with poetry, both good and bad. One of her favorite weapons of choice would be the X-Acto knife. She would take any bit of paper that was blessed with language and carve it apart like a crazy eyed murderess and piece it together again. Voilà, a poem.
A firm believer in the cult of Uncle Walt, Dee feels everything. She is a poet who agonizes over all the little bits of what consists of reality, and a carefully manipulated reality. Most of her students could not keep up. Things that exist in the classroom realm, such as guidelines and syllabi, are not in Dee’s reality. In my experience as Dee’s teaching assistant, we tried several methods in attempt to satiate the student’s needs for structure. Ranging
Denise sweet tribute
Catherine Henze, Dee Sweet, Chris Larson September 2009
David Coury, Dee Sweet, Cristina Ortiz, Lucas Coury-Ortiz, Lucia Coury-Ortiz September 2009
Denise sweet tribute
from a color-coded filing system to Feng Shui, we made that harsh syllabus and broke it within a week. How does one stop the nature of poetry as it flows both inward and outward? A syllabus cannot contain the dimensions of poetry. It only can stand as an arbitrary guideline; when you’re lost, you use it as a map from Walt Whitman to Lucille Clifton. You trace your steps backward. Dee is a witness. Not of the religious variety, but with the same fervor. She instilled the power of witness into her students as a means to stand sentinel for everything that breathes, and frankly, for things that do not. She showed us poets; she made us eat and breathe poetry. Of course we rejected some of it, but I believe the most satisfying thing that Dee gained from her students, aside from X-Acto knives, was seeing when clarity hit. The clarity of addiction that she passed on. Dee senses poetry everywhere and sniffed it out of her students. Self-admittedly, I was on the route of becoming an anthropologist and Dee gave me this ability to believe. By leaps and bounds, she nurtured my ability to see everything from a different perspective and reflect it in writing. Dee was a huge part of my academic career and I am wholeheartedly thankful for everything she has done for me and my fellow students. -Catherine A Viste Movers and Shakers Denise has never been afraid to agitate for poetry. And in refusing to bow before the altar of academia or tremble before the canon of English literature, she has helped numerous poets and writers find their voices as well as the courage to let those voices ring free. She understands that the job of creative writers and those who teach them goes far beyond technique and style. The real work involves inspiration and empowerment, empathy and observation. Aside from this, she also understands that there must always be those willing to do poetry’s dirty work. There must be those brave enough to spout off on street corners and bar stools, those willing to bring poetry to the people. So long as these movers and shakers are in our midst, poets and writers who—like Denise—refuse to submit to the niceties of polite society, poetry will never be confined to the prisons of textbooks and anthologies. For when poets breathe into their words, when they share their love of life and of language, poetry has the power not just to entertain, but to enlighten and transform.
Of all the writers I have been fortunate enough to know, none have helped shape me as a writer and as a person as much as Denise Sweet has. She taught me that to live like a poet
means to dream lives and live dreams, that each of us is a verse in this ode to humanity, and that the immediate pregnancy of language makes its birth immaculate. Thus, as the writing community of UW-Green Bay says goodbye to its resident poet, it is my sincere hope that something of her spirit continues to reside within these halls and embolden the young writers who roam them. -Paul Belanger A View of Dee Sweet When I think of Dee Sweet, I first think of the distant beauty of islands in Lake Superior. Dee is drawn to nature, to near-wilderness, to solitude—but she is also drawn to cities, culture, stimulation, and companionship. Dee is a poet, a Poet Laureate, who was hired by UW-Green Bay to continue and foster our writing program. But as she settled into her position, she was also called by her colleagues to help develop a program in American Indian Studies. She felt the tension between being an active poet, developing a creative writing program for students, and facilitating the work of others in American Indian Studies. Program development and memo writing often obscures the view of the inner workings of life depicted obliquely in poetry. So Dee is a woman stretched between poles—an ancient medieval form of torture. Dee’s poetry sought the true in the everyday. Her everyday was often reservation-based. As she wrote about what she saw, what she heard, what she felt, a reader like me could also find images and experiences that were illuminated by hers. In one sense she was often a Native American poet. In another she was a universal poet. And in many ways her poetry exposed (and exposes) the universal human in a particular culture. For several years Dee and I (joined by Cristina Ortiz and other colleagues) led the Yucatán study-abroad program. Dee worked to foster journal writing and acute observation among the students. Dee emphasized that the students write truly, and she promised not to read that which they did not want read, as long as they wrote what was important. I remember some of our visits to Mayan healers and leaders in which Dee sought for common grounds in the midst of differences. I could feel that Dee saw Mayan life from a different angle than I did—and being next to that different angle pulled me a little bit from my perspective into a head-canted glimpse of the many-faceted culture that is the Mayan.
Dee Sweet has been one of the enriching aspects of the UW-Green Bay. She chafed at the institution, and of course any “academic artist” feels the inherent oxymoron in that phrase. At her best she is life itself, undefined. It is the job of a university to define, to understand,
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Jennifer Ham, Dee Sweet, E. Nicole Meyer September 2009
Heidi Sherman, Caroline Boswell, Dee Sweet September 2009
Denise sweet tribute
that which is as yet outside of understanding. It is the job of the poet to defy definition. Ultimately, Dee is a poet. -David Galaty Dee Sweet once called herself an N. Scott Momaday “groupie.” I would like to consider myself a Denise Sweet “groupie.” The thing I enjoyed most about her in class was her genuine and enthusiastic appreciation of her student’s talents. She kept so many of the projects I made in her class, and she would show them off and tell people about them, years later, like they were the greatest things ever made. I loved it. She was empathetic and understanding. She changed things that needed changing, and never stuck completely to a list of what should be done. I loved her for that also. Her teaching style fit my learning style. And I enjoyed every minute in her presence. There was always a story. And many I still tell other people. There is one I have used over and over. Dee told us about feeling overwhelmed. There was so much going wrong in the world, and it was like a huge weight. What could she do about it? I believe, she went to a tribal elder. And he told her to walk as far as she could from her home. And then turn around and walk back. That was the radius of the world she could change. It’s a ripple effect. And I sincerely believe that Dee Sweet has changed the world around her. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dee. Much love to you, always. -Kara Counard
I’ve only known Denise during her last few years at UW-Green Bay, but her impact is clear and enduring. Her students have been a loyal bunch—vibrant people who learned, through Dee, to be exacting, nuanced, attuned, and bold in their writing. When our paths intersected on campus, Denise would come swaying down the hall in a beautiful, bright skirt, saying, “Hey lady,” then cracking a joke. Our time as colleagues was short, but during these moments, like all writers, we laughed and kvetched and gossiped.
Denise was a tireless advocate of other artists, always handing me chapbooks from budding writers and asking for work of my own. She constantly brought writers together and introduced them to multiple audiences. As an early advisor to Sheepshead Review, she not only gathered student artists and writers together on the page, but also connected the journal’s editors to local first graders in her annual Young Writers’ Workshop. When I became Sheepshead Review’s advisor in 2002, Denise shared her wisdom with me in wickedly funny anecdotes. Later, when her Poet Laureate duties sent her traveling around the state, she’d stop by my office and collect copies of Sheepshead to distribute to her crowds. In my mind, I will always see Denise like that: making her way down our office hallway, tiny, resplendent, her long skirt flaring, carrying a heavy box of Sheepshead issues in her tanned, thin arms. “Can I help?” I’d call. But she’d just laugh. “No. I’ve got it.” And she did. She had it. Always. But luckily, she shared it with us.
Denise sweet tribute
Chuck Rybak, Dee Sweet, Rebecca Meacham, Madelyn Rybak, Gwendolyn Rybak September 2009
The Glass Railing Lillian Roffers The sun was setting on the shoreline; the water reflecting pink and orange colors as the waves lapped against the rocks. This was the view I wanted to see. Instead, I was leaving an old, ivy covered church, surrounded by people I didn’t know. The only thing we all had in common was the color of our dress, black. The cool lakeside breeze fluttered through the surrounding oak trees, rustling the Japanese lanterns that had been forgotten from a wedding several days before. My mother walked beside me quietly, and I thought a bit reflectively. There weren’t many people around us. We quickly spotted the new widow. Upon our approach, her nephew stepped beside his aunt as if sheltering her from some danger. He was a tall man of twenty-five with a long face and light brown hair. He glanced at my mother, then at me. His expression was blank. The widow herself was a woman in her early fifties. She had a round face with tight gray curls. Her face, which normally would be kind and bright, was puffy and red today. She stopped where she was as we approached her. I’ve never been good at offering sympathy, and now was no exception. As my mother and I stopped in the dusty driveway, I knotted my hands behind my back and rocked on my heels. My mother stood beside me stiffly. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Margaret.” The words fell from my lips, their texture like stale bread. They sounded cheap and generic, and I found myself embarrassed by them. Margaret’s nephew put a hand on her arm. Margaret, who had glanced my way, turned her face away from her audience and fought to get a Kleenex out of her pocket. She hadn’t noticed my mother at all. Putting the tissue to her face, Margaret gasped, “I know. And I’m just so confused right now. I, I have to go. I’m sorry.” I turned to my mother, who was shaking her head. Margaret and Gerald had been our business neighbors. They owned a cute little bistro two shops down from my mother’s art shop. Over the past year, the four of us had become close friends.
Gerald and Margaret were both in their fifties. They had been married more than twenty years. It was an immense shock to me when Gerald asked Margaret for a divorce. For a while, Margaret kept it a secret, but word spreads fast. Only a choice few, I included, knew the reason for Gerald’s sudden discontent. Gerald wanted a younger woman.
I was horrified to hear that Margaret suspected it was my mother. I knew this was not true, yet I could not find a way to prove her innocence. Instead, I kept it secret from my mother, who was horrified when Carlie, one of our artists, let it slip. Despite all these events, Gerald and Margaret celebrated their wedding anniversary on Friday. It was a big ordeal. There was fancy food, live music, tailored dress and garden walks lit by lamps and torches. Margaret’s nephew, James, gave boat rides along the lakeshore. Before midnight, Gerald was dead. The obituary stated it was a heart attack. Poor Margaret was in shock and didn’t know how to react. Today was Sunday. The ride to the art shop was quiet. My mother had briefly commented on how awkward things had become. I bit my lip, a nervous habit I had acquired. Dusk had settled by the time I put my dusty Chevrolet into park. The light pouring from Margaret and Gerald’s bistro two shops down was a sharp contrast to the lightless art shop. It seemed strange to me that Margaret would be serving the funeral dinner here. I glanced at my mother. She was tapping on the window with her short nails, her hair cascading down around her square face. I had been told countless times that either of us could pass for the other, despite her being twenty years my senior. With a sigh, I opened the car door and tossed her the keys. “I need to talk to her,” I whispered as I left the car. My mother looked at me in confusion, opening her mouth to protest, but I shut the car door. Entering the dining area of the bistro, I felt a dead weight surround me. Usually the bright yellow walls and European flair left me feeling energized and happy. Tonight was different, however. Margaret was at a corner table, surrounded by her closest relatives. None of them seemed to take notice of me. Quietly, awkwardly, I drifted to them. My hands were shaking as I tentatively paused at an empty chair beside James. Sitting down, I felt like I was somehow intruding upon them. James slowly turned his face to look at me. His blank expression from earlier melted away. It was replaced by a look of confusion. He tilted his head as if to get a better look at me. He was on the verge of asking me something when Margaret cut in.
She was obviously upset, and I knew what about before she spoke. “How? How could your mother do this to me?” Fresh tears started and she buried her face in a napkin.
I turned my face away from James. My gaze dropped to my lap once I saw that the entire table looked uncomfortable. A chill seemed to descend the already stifling room. My hands continued to shake, but my mind was sharp. I was determined to clear my mother’s name. “It wasn’t her,” I looked up at Margaret, who turned away from her napkin. My tone was flat but determined. When no one said anything, I shifted my weight and continued. “Besides, Gerald was the one who lusted after another woman. Who’s to say that the woman reciprocated those feelings?” My face began to feel hot when I noticed James leaning into the table, as if to catch my words before they hit the dark wood. Margaret looked disgusted. She shook her head, not believing my words. Her voice suggested pity at how little I knew. “What are you saying?” A small smile lifted the corners of my mouth. My hands found their way to my ponytail and tugged the elastic band away from my blond hair, which fell loosely around my face. Just like my mother. I studied the hair tie in my hand for a few seconds. I wasn’t sure what words to use. “I’ve had men pursue me when they are already involved with someone else. I have always turned them down. Even then, these men would sometimes continue to attempt to persuade me to have feelings for them that I didn’t have. I couldn’t have.” Someone at the table coughed. A cold feeling was settling in my stomach. This thought apparently had not crossed the mind of Margaret. She looked perplexed. “Still,” she continued despairingly, “It had to be your mother. James,” she waved a hand to him. “He saw her with my husband at the anniversary celebration. He was asking her to…” She didn’t finish. But she didn’t have to. I already knew. I stole a glance at James, who looked dumbfounded. A light had turned on in his brain. He knew, too. I didn’t want him to ask me. Standing up, I turned to the exit. In a barely audible whisper I said, “It wasn’t my mother he was with.”
Nearing the door, I heard the table erupt in confused questions. Chairs scraped the floor, but the sound was draining away. As I touched the door handle, the room dissolved and I found myself outside, along a river, two nights ago.
I had been avoiding Gerald all night. I hadn’t wanted him to see me at all, but Margaret was so adamant that I come. Walking the empty torch-lit trails along the river, I finally felt relaxed. The gardens here were spectacular. Flowers bloomed in the hot summer night air. The trees rustled in a breeze which felt like a hug from an old friend. The melodious sound of the water lapping at the bank lulled me. I leaned over a cool glass railing to catch a glimpse of the moonlight reflecting on the water. In the background, I knew there was a dull rumble of people chattering ceaselessly. Everyone was enjoying their evening, and Margaret was handling things quite well. I caught a glimpse of the boat making its way out to deeper water. It was a long, thin boat, and it reminded me of pictures of Venice. James was a spectacular navigator. I hardly knew him, but he was quite intriguing. I found myself wishing for a ride alone with him. The breeze turned cold, and I clutched at my arms. When I decided to wear a summer dress, I should have known to bring a wrap. Like a movie cue, a dinner jacket was draped across my shoulders. I stiffened and turned slowly to see who the jacket belonged to. I shuddered and shrugged out of it when I saw it was Gerald. I handed it back to him, “No, thank you.” As I started to walk away, his hand grabbed my wrist, stopping me. I didn’t want to hear his words. “I need to talk to you.” I bit my lip, closed my eyes. It was about time I sorted things out. Turning to him, I was once again reminded that he didn’t look fifty at all. He hardly looked forty; it was his hands that gave him away. I had suspected that Gerald was fascinated by me for a while. I hardly knew him until summer came when I was relieved of attending college classes. I tried my best to keep him at a distance. I never thought that he would go so far as to ask Margaret for a divorce. Frustrated, I tried to pull away. “I have already told you,” I kept my voice steady, “I can’t be with you. I don’t have feelings for you.” He let my arm go and threw his hand into the sky. I took a step backwards and felt my back hit the glass railing. I let out an involuntary gasp.
“Why?” His face was pleading, angered, confused. “If it’s Margaret, I’m willing to fix that! You already know I’ve asked her for a divorce. It’ll be a quick paper signing, nothing more.”
I attempted to tell him no, but he cut me off. “What else could you want?” His hands flew up in gestures towards the moon. “I have money from the bistro. What more is there?” I grasped onto the railing. What more did I need? I needed to escape, “I’m so sorry, Gerald. But I have no feelings for you. Nor will I ever have feelings for you. Please, leave me alone.” The words came out in a whisper. They hit the ground like shards of glass. Gerald stood in front of me, his face contorted in pain. Suddenly, his hand grabbed at his chest. I watched in horror as he doubled over and crashed to the ground. My breath came fast and my brain moved slow as I knelt down beside him. It was already too late. Numb, I stood up and glanced over the railing into the water. James met my gaze from the boat briefly before I turned and ran, screaming for help. The party was dispersed by sirens and bright lights. The past melted away, and I found myself in a dark, empty parking lot, my shadow spread out from the light pouring from within the bistro. It was Sunday, yet I was out of breath like it was Friday. I clutched my arms before turning around to face the following footsteps. It was James, his face shadowed from the light of the bistro. Behind him, I saw my mother.
No lanterns, no music, just three people dressed in black.
the game Kimberly Grogan The girl was youthful and beautiful. Her pale complexion and vibrant blonde hair shone brilliantly through the moonlight. She wore a white dress that expressed her innocence and profoundness of the world. She appeared, a vulnerable spirit hovering over the water that stood before them. The stream led through the park peacefully, the trees surrounded them, and a traditional stone bridge crossed over the river downstream. The girl stood there plainly underneath the light post. A sullen expression raced across her face, almost like a cry for help, and they stared in awe and anticipation of her presence. There was an indistinct haze behind the girl, a sudden movement. The light above her flickered, suddenly faded, and seconds later she was gone. A tear ran down Wendy’s face as the world began to spin around her. The tangle of blonde hair and arms violently struggled to reach the surface, blood spilled out into the waters. A grimace, somber expression found home to Wendy’s face as she continued to stare out into the dark waters before her. Her eyes burned, and she struggled to keep them open. She gave in helplessly and closed them but only for a moment. As she reawakened to the world around her, she was no longer at the riverbank. She was running, and she could feel the panic seep into her soul with every move she made. She could hear the heavy breathing behind her, and she knew it was the others. Her heart pounded violently, and she felt her chest tighten as if two tons of weight were being added. Allen slowly succeeded her with a grin on his face as he passed. She could hear Amy and Nikki behind her begging for air. Allen led them into the graveyard and slowed, lounging himself across a bench. Nikki and Amy collapsed on the grass beneath him, and Wendy stared peculiarly around the cemetery.
It had been three months since that night she stood at the riverbank and stared out at the youthful beauty. A lot had changed since then, but boredom and lingering minds never went too far away. For their imaginations had struck them boldly, telling ghost stories of great magnitude, only to return to the very same riverbank to see the young girl. They had returned to the riverbank on a daily basis, just hoping to see a glimpse of her. And although they all joined in and laughed and pretended, it had begun to go too far. As Wendy unraveled her hallucination at the riverbank, the others began to claim that they, too, could see her. It had become clear that Nikki and Amy enjoyed the attention and the game; they had begun to make up the stories for entertainment and those brief moments of an adrenaline rush—running away from something that wasn’t even there. There was no divine intervention or spiritual connection, and Wendy was certain of it. The fear that
emanated that night at the riverbank had now been turned into a game of excitement and adrenaline. In a few weeks time, the four of them had pretended to such an extent that reality was fading and the gray shading between reality and fantasy was unclear. Wendy looked around her, forgetting the world she was in. The cemetery was quiet but not peaceful. Thousands of souls hungered for life beneath her. But life surrounded her, the friends that had stuck through hardships together. This summer was different; it was utterly boring, and the most interesting thing to do was to scare each other with the haunting of this girl they had all claimed to have seen. Wendy finally caught her breath and turned around to face Allen. “Tell me again why we ran all the way out here?” The tone of her voice was bitter and cold. “She was chasing us,” Nikki replied. “Please…” Wendy laughed. “This whole thing started because you saw her. And now that she’s beginning to let us see her too, you’re saying she isn’t real? Well, someone’s looking for attention,” Amy snapped. The words stung Wendy fiercely, and the hostility and need to defend herself roared within her. They were the ones looking for attention, not her. “Of course not,” Wendy said smugly as she sat down on the grass, leaning up against a headstone. Allen laughed at the catty girls surrounding him and let his thoughts consume him. His face soon shifted as he looked at Wendy. “What?” she asked as she noticed his blank stare. “Say, how old do you think the girl is?” he asked eagerly. “Please, not you too,” Wendy sighed. “I don’t know, maybe about our age?” Nikki suggested, giving in to his childish games. “Exactly our age?” Allen asked. “What are you getting at?” Amy laughed.
Allen pointed toward Wendy. She raised her eyebrows in confusion and then realized he wasn’t pointing at her. He was pointing at the gravestone she was leaning against. She turned around and read the stone carefully, doing quick math in her head to figure the age. Nikki and Amy gasped and walked closer to her. “Do you think it’s really her?” Amy asked.
“Please,” Wendy spat. Nikki, Allen, and Amy all gathered around the grave and stared down at the headstone in awe. “Riverbank, tonight at eight,” Nikki whispered. Wendy found herself at the riverbank once more, arriving shortly before eight. Allen and Amy sat with her, silently waiting on the bridge, dangling their feet off the edge. Something caught the corner of Wendy’s eye and she whipped her blonde hair around to see. Nikki was walking toward them, wearing a simple, white day dress, with a huge grin growing across her face. “Oh. My. Gosh. You look just like her!” Amy exclaimed. “Except for the brown hair and tan skin…” Allen laughed. “What do you think?” Nikki asked Wendy eagerly. “I think I want to go swimming,” Wendy mumbled as she stood up, ignoring their childish game. “What?” Nikki asked, appalled by Wendy’s lack of interest. “I’m up for that,” Allen announced. “But we were going to try and summon the girl again tonight!” “We do that every night,” Wendy tried to reason. “Come on, let’s do something different,” Allen agreed. “It’s getting really late, too cold to swim,” complained Amy. “All the more fun,” Wendy encouraged. The four made their way down the bank where the river became wider and deeper. Amy and Nikki dragged their feet in frustration. Wendy undressed quickly and submerged herself into the dark waters. The others followed, splashing each other and complaining about the cold.
Wendy thought for a moment. “Allen, do you actually believe this girl is haunting us, chasing after us?”
He shifted uncomfortably in the water as he pondered. After a few moments he turned toward her. “No, I haven’t seen anything,” he admitted truthfully. “It was her,” Nikki insisted. “We aren’t pretending. She’s haunting us!” Amy announced defensively. The four of them sat uncomfortably in silence for a few minutes, wading peacefully in the water. There was a whisper of sound near them. Someone was crying. The four waded silently as they tried to listen. A few seconds later, there was a loud bang; a gun had been fired. Someone screamed in horror and was then silenced with a second bang. Nikki’s eyes bulged from her head. Wendy mouthed for her to be quiet. Amy swallowed hard, beginning to shake. There was movement, and it was unclear how close anyone was to them. They stared around at the trees surrounding them. Movement jumped from behind one of the trees. Nikki screamed with horror and began to swim toward her clothing. The squirrel that had come from behind scurried to the next tree quickly and crawled up. Voices moved closer to them, and adrenaline rushed through Wendy as she realized they were coming closer toward them. She quickly resumed control, swimming to solid ground quickly. In the rush and in the darkness, the four scurried for their clothing quickly, grabbing what they could find and putting them on as they ran. Nikki led the way, throwing on Wendy’s black blouse as she ran. Wendy and the others panted behind her. Allen fumbled with his pants, stumbling to put them on over his damp skin. He fell to the ground with a thud, and Wendy whipped around to help him. She helped raise him through the panic. The voices were getting closer. Allen and Wendy stood up, searching for Nikki and Amy through the darkness. They were gone. Remaining poised, Wendy breathed in deep and began to run through the darkness trying to find their way back to the bridge. The minutes passed slowly as they tried to make their way out of the forest, following the riverbank toward the old bridge—closer to their homes and safety. They stood on top of a steep hill, staring across the riverbank where Wendy could see a blur of movement. “Allen, are you still here?” Wendy asked quietly, motioning forward toward the edge, staring out at the bridge. There was a light below her that illuminated the water beautifully.
“Yes,” he managed softly. There was a loud bang behind them that made Wendy’s eardrums ache. She twisted around and saw black shadows moving toward her. Allen fell to the ground before her. Wendy shrieked in horror, stepping backwards from the men.
Her balance was broken as she tumbled down the hill toward the water. She braced herself for the worst as she felt her body slam against the hard earth. She quickly raised herself and examined her surroundings. The path was narrow, all in open view. They would be looking for her. Her heart raged and her eyes began to fill with tears as she forced herself to move bravely. Still crying, she could hear the men above her, and all she could see was Allenâ€™s body. She could see Amy and Nikki more clearly now, and a blur of movement surrounding them. They recognized her too and were staring out toward her in wonder. Wendy looked up to the light and saw the men staring down at her. Tears trickled down her face as she looked down at her own tattered body. Wendy was wearing the simple, white day dress. Her blonde hair was tangled and a mess. She stared across the riverbank more closely. She peered intently at Amy and Nikki and could have sworn she saw herself and Allen standing next to them. There was another loud bang and the light above her flickered and then disappeared. She lowered her head in despair, she knew what would happen next; she had seen it all before. A sullen expression raced across her face and suddenly she felt vulnerable; there would be no use to cry for help. With one deep breath she closed her eyes, but only for a moment. The sound of another bang and the pain of her body helplessly sent her into the water. Wendy struggled to reach for the surface. Her hair twisted and her blood spilled out into the dark waters. Her mind spun around her and the pain burned every part of her body. She breathed for one last deep breath of air until she gave in helplessly and drifted away. As she reawakened to the world around her she was no longer at the riverbank. She was running, and she could feel the excitement in her seep into her soul with every move she made. She could hear the heavy breathing in front of her, and she knew it was them. She could feel their fear and uneasiness give her life. Amy and Nikki stared in horror as she came closer toward them. Wendy wore the white dress of innocence and profoundness and her blonde hair and pale skin illuminated in the light, beautiful and youthful.
Wendy would haunt them until they forfeited the game they had created.
Mountain Rose stephanie arnold Mama set the china on the wood table, near time supper was done. She keep that sort of thing for the holidays or a funeral. Not that anyone ever dies ‘round here, but there was the time old man Harlan had one them body ticks, goin’ all crazy like, and the Baker twins, well they thought he was dead come time he stopped. They ran all way into town for Doc Thomas and by the time they got back to that old geezer’s place, he was throwing up fuss ‘bout someone lettin’ the rabbits in his garden ‘cause of the gate was wide open. Doc said them twins was the dumbest box a rocks the town ever had pleasure to. Turned out old Harlan got some ill called ep-lep-si, or some crazy thing like that. Anyhow, he wern’t dead and only thing them boys had do was look up close to see he was breathin’. Not everyone round here has china, Great Grandma Clara passed down this china to Grandma Nadine. Now they belong to Mama, one day they gonna be mine. They’re made of bone china pottery the color of worn ivory lace with tiny rosebuds in just one corner. Papa says those rosebuds are like the right kinda lady, surrounded by plain and nothin’, yet still beautiful. When I was a youngin’ I thought he was just sayin’ my rag dress was perdy. I think he means a little more’n that now. I think he means for me to know where beauty is in folks. Papa named me Rose.
Mama was sayin’ she wouldn’t have Miss Mable spreadin’ ‘bout town we got a penny to spare and then some. She was talkin’ to Papa, who was remindin’ her that it’s wrong to be selfish nor vain and we ain’t got nothing to spare, but this is Joe’s weddin’ feast and if his bride’s mama is gonna say anything ‘bout it after, then let her take it up with the Lord come Sunday. Papa said for Mama to use the china and don’t think more ‘bout it. I don’t see much how havin’ china makes anyone too good for, even though not everybody has some. I wanted to yell out that it was Great Grandma who really bought the china, and that was a long time ago. Maybe when money was used different, maybe when there was more tradin’ goin’ on. Now I don’t mean Great Grandma was some sort a cave lady or nothin’, I just mean maybe Great Grandma’s china don’t have nothin’ to do with how it got bought. I kept my mouth shut, I never dare let Mama see no sass out of me. She don’t approve of a girl makin’ fuss the way boys do. She says the Lord made ladies to be calm and know right. I suppose that sounds right, but maybe the Lord forgot that when he made Miss Mable. I don’t know how she can be Sara’s mama neither. Sara is the sweetest thing you ever knew. Nothin’ at all like Miss Mable. Joe caught love the second he saw her return to the schoolhouse in the eighth level. They been sweethearts ever since. This spring we was sittin’ in on church Sunday and when the preacher invited those to be washed of sin, Joe got up and walked to the front. He was stranglin’ his cap in his hands and he spoke out that he weren’t a perfect man and he made best he could to follow the Lord, but if the Lord
and everyone else could forgive him that, he would right like to do his best at bein’ Miss Sara’s husband, too. Tomorrow they get hitched, and Mr. and Mrs. Alister, that’s Miss Mable, are comin’ along with half their kin to celebrate them love-birds’ weddin’. I just know that old hag is gonna let on about town how our linen cloths are itchy and Mama ain’t a proper housekeeper, although she can scrub the dirt off God’s green earth iffin’ she wanted to. Or how Mama wastes the good nature’s idea of fresh laundry by usin’ the good lemons in the lemonade rather than squeezing them into the wash. I really hate the smell of lemon wash and Mama has the best lemonade in all of Ludiwici County as Miss Mable well knows. But Papa’s right, it’s wrong to think ill of others just ‘cause they do you. So I think of tonight instead and how Papa will play his fiddle and how Joe will dance with Sara, and how one day I’ll find a beau and get hitched too. I grab the basket of fried chicken and Mama raises up her palm at me to double check the table settin’. It’s gonna be a tight squeeze but there’s just space for everybody comin’. She ok’s the supper table, though I don’t reckon she’s too happy about how small it is. Anyhow I set the food. My brothers come runnin’ when they smell Mama’s fixin’s, Joe givin’ Mama a kiss on the cheek and thankin’ her, Benjamin tryin’ to grab at some of the fixin’s. Mama and I are quick to smack at their hands, remindin’ them ‘bout their manners and they ain’t the only ones this food was made for. The house is full up of the smell of Mama’s ham hocks and lima beans, mustard greens with them little bitty onions, fried okra and cornbread, and all the good eats you can think of. Mama is teachin’ me how to make supper the way she does, but no one can best her at it. When Mama cooks, the air starts droolin’ over it. She pulls out a sweet potato pie from the oven and sets it to cool. Pappy Richard likes the sweet potato pie. He takes out his false ones so as he can feel it squish in his mouth. Which is the most disgustin’ part of suppers with Pappy, there’s always one plate or other he likes to squish for everyone to see. I always make my place next to Pappy, he lets me get away with foolery and hushes Papa when he tries to scold me. Pappy calls me Rose Bud.
The boys start gettin’ upsided crossed the back a’ the head ‘cause they start tastin’ the supper after we already told them to wait ‘til the kinfolk arrive. Mama warns them they ain’t gonna get a lick a food iffin’ they touch another scrap. She asks Joe how that’s gonna look to all his new kinfolk, his starving at his own weddin’ feast. Mama pats me on the shoulder and says that’s why us ladies are ‘round, to tend after them ornery menfolk always causin’ trouble. I would steal a taste, too, but I’m not stealin’ fixin’s ‘cause I’m a girl, I just know I can’t get ‘way fast as them boys can. ‘Specially when I have to help finish up the settin’. It’s real hard to resist the temptation of Mama’s tater mash and gravy when you have to carry it to the table. Her greens, the mustard or the collard, crawl right up your senses and make your stomach start a-growlin’ like a wildcat. I can’t wait for the kinfolk to get here.
Mama sends the boys to fetch fresh milk since it’s almost time for everyone to arrive. Benjamin says something ‘bout the menfolk and gin, Mama gives him a hard glare and tells them they best be makin’ their way into that barn for the milk or she just might have to take up use of Papa’s switch herself. Benjamin lowers his head and apologizes to Mama, he knows better than to talk of sin-makin’ in front of Mama. She ain’t no fool, there’s gonna be plenty of gin drinkin’ tonight by the menfolk, but she ain’t gonna have pride talk from any of hers ‘bout it. Papa says a man can drink all he sees fit so long as he remembers himself and the Lord. Well I don’t know nothing ‘bout all that, but it sure is a riot to watch them forgettin’ themselves to a jig and song and the occasional tap on the backsides of their missus. There’s a knock at the door and Mama grins at me. She rubs her hands on her apron and looks over the settin’ to make sure she didn’t forget nothin’. It’s all there, hot biscuits and honey butter, maple glazed carrots, a roast beef with garden vegetables and citrus. Mama’s done good, there’s a little of everything and it smells like heaven. She looks to the door, Papa is shakin’ hands with the kinfolk and thankin’ them for comin’ to celebrate the union. Sara walks in just as Joe is bringin’ back the milk. She has a store wrapped package with her. Joe sets down the milk and they walk over to me. Sara hands me the package and tells me how Mama and Papa pitched in with a little that Joe set aside. She says that she won’t ever have to be an only child again and since she is gonna have a sister now, it’s only fitting that sister be her maid of honor. Joe nudges me to take the package and stop lookin’ like a bug-eyed rabbit just caught in a cabbage patch. I took it. Inside was the most beautiful dress I ever seen in all my life. It was ivory colored with eyelet lace trim on a low neckline, and it had tiny rosebuds spread about it. Sara grabs hold of my arm and tells Joe us ladies need to go try a thing on and see how it fits for tomorrow and she leads me off to my room. It was beautiful. I thanked her again and again, but she kept remindin’ me that it was my folk who really done this for me, she had only suggested it to Joe after she came across it in the store catalog when she and Miss Mable was pickin’ out the material for her weddin’ gown. Sara said I should wear it tonight, too. She says there was no reason to let such a special thing be hoarded away for rare times that don’t come often enough. I thought of Mama’s china.
At supper everyone was talkin’ ‘bout what Joe and Sara got to look forward to in their home. What their kids would be like, how they would have Sara’s eyes and Joe’s curly hair. There was talk about startin’ them out with a cow from Sara’s folks and some of the kin had waitin’ for them quilts and cookware at their new home which was sittin’ off a ways new built. They would spend their first night as man and wife there tomorrow. Some kin had waitin’ seed and even a couple of newborn chicks to start out their coop. One would grow to a rooster. Pappy told Sara that he had made her a rocker, just like the one he made Mama when she got hitched. He said it would be strong and last her through all her youngin’s and keep her comfortable the way she would keep her new family comfortable. Sara said it would be her most treasured belonging, aside from Joe, and whatever youngin’s they would have.
After supper everyone gathered ‘round while stories where told ‘bout times past. The menfolk found the gin and Papa found his way to his fiddle. I watched as everyone was havin’ themselves a good time. Oliver come up and sat next to me with a couple of raisin-oat cookies his mama made and offered me one. I took it. He was Sara’s cousin on her Papa’s side. I see him two rows back at the schoolhouse in eighth level, I’m almost there myself. He says how his mama does alright by raisin-oat cookies, but he likes when she makes burnt-sugar cake. He says she figured cookies would be more fittin’ to bring since Mama would make Joe and Sara a cake, it is a weddin’ feast after all. Oliver likes burnt-sugar cake. But, I knew that. He said it once, long time ago during the harvest picnic in town. It was one of the first things I learned from Mama ‘bout sweets and bakin’, meltin’ the sugar just right, takin’ care to use the special cake flour. Oliver says my dress is real nice, asked if it was made special for the weddin’. I told him how everyone pitched in to get it store-bought and how it was a surprise. I told him how I was Sara’s maid of honor. He don’t talk much, but he tells me how I remind him of the mountain roses in my dress. He tells me how he passes a patch of them on his way to the schoolhouse and he says they ain’t nearly as perdy as me. I look right at Oliver when he says that, he turns red-faced and kinda grins at me. Mama and Sara are close by talkin’ over somethin’ ‘bout the weddin’ tomorrow, they smile and look away.
That’s how I come to be Oliver’s Mountain Rose.
The Day Schmitty Put One Over Napa Zachary Taylor It happened sometime in early June, just after school got out for the summer. Each of us had eleven in the field and a few guys on the bench, flirting with the girls who were watching us on the bleachers. Schmitty had called one of us early in the morning saying he was running late but to wait for him, so we did. He eventually made his way down to the park, huffing on his bicycle with sweat running down his forehead and into his eyebrows. His shorts stuck to his bulging legs and he tried hiding his body underneath his father’s old t-shirt. Schmitty threw his bike down near the right field fence and walked down the line and around to the dugout. “Hey Schmitty’s here, let’s play already. You musta eaten two breakfasts to be this late, fatty!” yelled Josh from left field. “Yeah, yeah, no I didn’t. You guys start up, and I’ll hit next inning,” replied Schmitty. Schmitty didn’t play the field. Most of us didn’t think he was physically capable. Even when Schmitty was hitting and made contact, he wouldn’t run to first unless he put one in the gap or down the line. One time, Jimmy threw him out from center and he vowed to lose weight: he had gained thirty pounds since that day in grade seven. Schmitty was fat and there was no kinder way to say it. While Schmitty was on the bench lacing his cleats, he must have seen her open her patio door and lay down on her pink lounge chair. Jessica Silvers lived with her grandmother on the fourth floor of the apartment complex overlooking Broadway. Every once in a while, she would lay out and sunbathe while we played, giving us that much more motivation to go down to Broadway and play ball every day of the summer.
Jessica was far and away the most attractive girl in grade ten, but she mostly dated guys from the community college a few miles down the road. She had the most beautiful complexion; her intricately curled eyelashes accented her gorgeous blue eyes and reddishblonde hair, everything falling comfortably in place, perfectly symmetrical. But her face wasn’t what most guys so badly wanted: it was her body. Jessica was mature in ways unknown to any other girl in grade ten, her curves arranged precisely, up from her legs to her tight midriff and large, sultry chest. She was the envy of every girl and the object of lust for every guy, possessing a sort of quiet persona, making her that much more irresistible. During the school year, guys would slowly learn her schedule throughout the semester and then follow her around the hallways, taking calculated drags from the perfume left in her wake. At one time or another, we were all late because of Jessica Silvers.
“Hey, I gotta go to the bathroom, I’ll be back,” said Schmitty, who sprung up from the bench and jogged toward the utility building behind the dugout. “Bathroom’s locked Schmitty,” I yelled. “If you gotta go, you gotta go home.” “No, I don’t,” said Schmitty, as he paused for a second and wiped the sweat from his brow. He turned from the utility building and walked toward the parking lot adjacent from the apartment complex. Schmitty slowly made his way through the cars and to the door leading to the lobby of the apartment complex. A few seconds later, Jessica got up from her lounger and went back into her apartment. It had been two innings until Schmitty came out of the complex, walking through the lot with a hint of a limp and pit stains on his shirt. He continued around the bleachers and then opened the fence and walked to the plate. His pale white legs were covered with bright red scratch marks and as he turned to face Mike, you could see that his neck was bleeding badly. “Gimme the goddamn bat, Mike,” ordered Schmitty, as he held out one hand and pulled his fingers back quickly and repeatedly, motioning for it. As he held his hand out, I noticed Schmitty’s fingers were bloody too. “Dude, I’m up. Wait for your ups,” said Mike, in a tone that was both assertive and very, very cautious. “Gimme that goddamn bat, now,” replied Schmitty, as Mike looked at Schmitty’s hand, glistening in the sunlight. Mike’s eyes opened wide, and he gave the bat to Schmitty without saying another word. He walked to the bench, grabbed his glove, and then jogged out to left. “What’d you do Schmitty?” “Nothing, just throw the goddamn ball.” “What did you do Schmitty? Right now, what did you just do?” “Throw the damn ball or I’m taking this bat to your bike.” “Jesus Christ man, what did you do?”
Schmitty took the bat down off his shoulder and held it parallel to his torso. He took two steps towards me and at that very moment, Broadway was totally silent. I looked back at Mike and he nodded at me. He mouthed the words, “Do it.”
“Fine dude, fine. Fine. Get up there and I’ll throw to you,” I said, as I turned around and toed the mound. Schmitty stepped back into the box and took his stance. I wound up and the first pitch I threw was so far over his head that he wouldn’t have been able to touch it with a tennis racket. “Sorry dude, I’ll get this one over for ya,” I said, nervously. The next pitch I threw was right down the heart of the plate and as the ball was in the air, Schmitty’s eyes lit up like a child’s do just before they blow out every candle. Schmitty let out a huge grunt and took the hardest swing I’ve ever seen anyone take. He absolutely hammered the ball toward left center, and I turned around to watch it go, climbing higher and higher as it flew. The ball seemed to almost disappear in the cloudless sky, but then reappeared as it soared over the fence, over the street beyond the fence, easily clearing the Napa billboard on the other side of the street. The ball didn’t emerge from the other side of the billboard, it just kind of vanished. I looked over my shoulder, back towards the plate and saw Schmitty standing there, staring into the vast blueness, searching for the ball. The blood from his neck was running down the front of his chest, staining his shirt, but Schmitty just stood there, looking for something in the sky that he knew was lost and gone forever.
Schmitty didn’t run the bases, and no one asked him to.
Imaginary Frank Jessica Baehman “But of course ‘decimate’ literally means to destroy specifically ten percent of one’s forces,” Joshua said with a huff of a laugh. Amanda thought his laugh was a shadow. There was no real ease or flavor to it. It, like Joshua, was self-conscious and forced. And if Amanda had been any less self-conscious and forced than he, she’d have left a while ago. Amanda was on a date. A terrifying social outing of an uncomfortable, romantic nature. She was on a date that had been set up out of charity by her sister. The guy’s name was Joshua Belinski. As far as she’d been able to glean, Joshua was defined by his status as a smart nerd. Like most smart nerds, he had the residual baggage of a childhood filled with hazing and casual bullying. It was easy to tell by the suspicion in his eyes most of his relationships had been qualified by what he could offer, not what people felt about him. He was awkward, uncomfortable, judgmental, slightly bitter, and relied too much on what he thought was pithy, intelligent speech. It didn’t take Amanda long to figure this out. She had many of the same weaknesses from the same wounds. Unfortunately for her at this moment, she also suffered from the homologous girl-nerd affliction of excessive timidity. She wanted to walk out. Or tell him to chill out, or to have more faith in himself, or even just to shut up. But that would’ve turned the scrutiny light on her. So she didn’t. She reassured herself that she was better off than Joshua because A) not only did she not care what decimate used to mean and that it was no longer really applicable because, essentially, common use defines the definition, but B) she was above the kind of bitterness that made her want to point out that knowledge set to people. Besides, putting up an argument wasn’t worth the hassle. After this, she could forget about him. After this, she could tell her sister she tried and nothing more than trying could be done. After this, she’d be left alone for another five months or so. After this, she could go home to Frank. Joshua smiled, “But you know, most people are morons.”
Amanda smiled and the back of her mind sunk into a cool, dark room, possibly in her stomach, in a coral veil. There were no harsh spotlights to see her. No strangers muttered
their thoughts under breath. And the creeping spider vines of fear and doubt didn’t follow Amanda across every thought. This is where Frank Delahoy lived. There were firm, irrefutable facts about Frank. There was the aspect and the explanation. This wasn’t a frivolous game. Frank had dimensions and she could list off any part of him. He was allergic to cats and peanuts, for example. Baseball was his favorite sport and he played third base in his league at work. His hair grew fast, so he didn’t shave very often. He was a little compulsive about having his movies and books in alphabetical order. Three of his top five favorite movies were from the Coen brothers. But most importantly to Amanda, Frank had an appetite. She liked to think about him eating and what he liked to eat. It made him ravenous. It made him more real. Frank liked Hawaiian pizza with Canadian bacon and extra olives. He liked chocolate chip cookies and bacon cheeseburgers. He liked spaghetti with red sauce, lamb korma, raw green peppers, candied apples, and Amanda. It made her smile and moan with a girlish keen. She loved his delight. She savored his affection. To him, she was the crisp air of winter hitting the back of his throat and arousing his senses. He wanted to have her, to touch her, to chase after her. And she, too, wanted him. She wanted to feel the weight of him—his heavy shoulders and long arms and solid thighs. Her body froze in desire of him. The frenzied neural impulses scattered over her blood and fat and muscle, under her loving skin. She was fuller and better and healthier when Frank was there. With Frank, she could shut off everything else. There was no disappointment or loneliness, only the dull heartbeat-thump of contentment. She knew if she could only touch him, she’d be entirely complete, entirely at peace. It was the touch where it all fell apart. It was the open wall of her room, where thousands of probing eyes undid Frank. All the other answers could be supplied. He had thick, black hair and heavy brown eyes. He smelled vaguely of cotton and Old Spice and a walk past the deli and rain. His voice was low but fast. But there was no touch. Whenever that naked light hit, which was forced on her a thousand times anew, it was Amanda who crumbled into dust. All the wet, soft parts of her were vacuumed out and she was left with the husk. She was dry, leathery cadaver skin—taut and recognizable only by what she ought or used to be.
Whatever tools she used for her delusions—minor delusions, she would argue—would never make him whole or real. Amanda could stack up the wall of her bower brick by brick with facts about Frank, but it could only ever collapse again.
So she went on a blind date, half-grasping at what other people seemed to hoard without thought. Amanda wasn’t blind. She knew Frank wasn’t appropriate. She should’ve wanted to embrace the human air. She should’ve wanted to look people in the face and taste them. But she was afraid, then she was lonely, and then she was desperate. In the observation of everyday life she was constantly bombarded with careless couples that clutched each other so publicly, so effortlessly. Those hands staunchly interlocking or casually brushing precipitated no fear in their eyes, no warmth in their breath, no sweat on their palms. She would savor every moment. She’d be more appreciative, more giving, more receptive, more cognizant of the importance of touching. She would be more. She would know more. Instead, she had to forage inside her imagination, while others seemed to get it gracefully and naturally. All these couples, all these happy partnered people were all so goddamn flippant. So lucky and unaware. Amanda had spent years wondering what she did wrong. She didn’t want much. After all, when she decided she needed the comfort of Frank, she didn’t create a model. She didn’t make some Austenian paragon of fantastic, cold beauty and immaculate, airbrushed manhood. She made hair and sweat and muscle and fat. But only a simulacrum of that. Her chance at reality was Joshua. She had tried to get herself excited during the week beforehand, grateful that her sister had even considered her to be interested. Traditionally, Amanda was seen as neither heterosexual nor homosexual, but something akin to a passionless plastic doll. It was more likely, though, that Danielle was afraid Amanda would grow prematurely into the role of Old Maid and soon turn to cats as a buffer against the solitude. Still, despite wanting to try, Amanda found the whole affair distasteful even before she let Joshua’s voice drone over her barely attentive ears. She objected with contrived sympathy for Frank. And she could not and did not stop comparing this real man, this actual person, genuine and tangible, to Frank. She nodded herself through the date with non-committal affirmations of whatever he said. All the while, she wondered what it would feel like if Joshua touched her. It’d been a long time since there were other, real hands. She was curious if he’d be more nervous than her. She wondered if he’d think of thinner and tanner unattainable blond women saying his name to get him excited. She wondered if he would look her in the eyes during sex. It was terrifying.
When Joshua walked her to her car, hesitatingly summarizing the night as a vaguely pleasurable experience, Amanda followed him but felt more alone and ashamed than she ever had. With every step out in the world of staring eyes and hazy social rules and unsure futures, she really did prefer her chimera. It was a thought that turned the world dark. It was looming and dangerous. She felt like the one gazelle that walked towards the lion’s den.
After a few feeble, embarrassed attempts, it took Amanda two days to invoke Frank after her date. Of course, Frank didn’t care. He understood the reality of his illusion. No one could compare to him. “It’s not fair to you,” he said. “It’s not your fault.” Amanda closed her eyes and let her hand slide over her stomach. “But he was ridiculous,” he added with a smirk. “He was the same end of the magnet.” “Oh, please,” he said. “You’re amazing.” She picked up her hand mirror before her at the dresser. She looked doubtfully at her skin and hair. She touched her neck with the reserve of someone not entirely sure of the effect it will have. Her hand was cold and almost foreign. The phone rang with suspicious timing. Her stomach tightened up and all the light came flooding in again. It was Joshua. Her fingers twitched at the side of her phone. The buzzing of the ring was starting to churn her intestines. Her face was hot. But on the other hand was the cold comfort of fictional Frank.
And it was so easy and comfortable to let the phone fall from her hand. The tension fell away. The bright lights fell away. Amanda began in the quiet resumption of rebuilding her bower-wall. Frank’s smile became clearer. His shape grew more obvious, and his scent stronger. It was like she was drifting or flowing over nothingness. Then everything could become quiet and enclosed and safe.
the Motorcycle Ride Amber LaFave The underarm from wrist to elbow is one of the most sensitive and intimate paths on which a lover could meander. Hiding in plain sight, the slightest touch reveals the nerves networking through the body. A slow drawl of a fingertip is a silent, suggestive murmur. Fragile, the veins and arteries are exposed through smooth skin, pumping the blood, energizing the heart, beating to the tempo of a quickening pulse. Even more, a kiss, soft lips against the sensual surface, infuses the soul in ecstasy. Murmurs become inward aching moans. The breast swells in rhythmic motion. Delicate wrist to subtle fold, a slight perspiration breathes anticipation. I cruise down the highway, the rush of speed abolishing all thought and worry; I am caught in the intensity of the moment. My knuckles, white, cling tightly to the handle bars. A draft from the SUV ahead rocks my frame, a sharp, jabbing motion to the chest. I bend my head forward, challenging the invisible force. I press on, invincible, dancing a fine line between mortality and eternity. Changing lanes, the bike tilts right to left, passing blurred cattle carts. Rising to the top of the arched bridge, hard concrete and steel bear me over the plunge of the river below. Life whistles past me, a strip of red against the open blue. It proves to be little less than a one night stand. The speed limit drops and I loosen the throttle, dropping the gears down to third. Once in the high of my plight, I suddenly realize true satisfaction of the experience was impaired. The rumble of the engine against my thighs, the smell of leather, and the feel of the wind against exposed skin was lost in the momentum. The world around me slows, becoming visible, and yet I have never been so focused within. Little things elicit extraordinary attention to detail. The sensation of a loverâ€™s kiss trails up the underside of my arm; the wind travels up the sleeve of my thick jacket. It circles my wrist and tickles its way up the underside of my arm, a slow, methodic waltz. I shiver. Such a caress triggers tantalizing tremors to my core and my pulse to beat with hasty ferocity. Repetitively stroking my senses, the stream lingers and retracts, but insistently moves beneath my armor. Then it blows gently against the crook of my elbow, as if bumping into a final resting point after a brief embrace and dispels. A smile spreads as the radiant afterglow of a loverâ€™s trust fills me.
Nothing can be more sensual than this simple pleasure. I flex my fingers against the handle bar, relishing a moment to keep and to recall at leisure, and thinking that love and life were really just a matter of how fast I take it all in.
South Dakota Morning Cody Guyette As the ginger sun broke over the rolling fields, the morning frost shimmered like diamonds in the grass. The glow warmed our sanctuary of the car backseats, adding to the welcomed lethargy brought about by our early rise. I watched my brother next to me; his eyelids sank as he drifted back to sleep with me wishing I could do the same. “So beautiful, the sunrise, isn’t it?” my grandpa said from the front seat, staring down the endless road ahead. His gaze was matched by the equally exhausted eyes of my uncle in the passenger seat. “Yup,” I said in my drowsy daze. The truth was that it was one of the most beautiful, amazing things I had ever seen. The gleaming, red disk hovering above the horizon gave the feeling that one could simply dive into it. It brought about such an exquisite feeling of content; I wished I could have watched it forever. The unset radio-clock in front flashed twelve, but I knew it had been an hour since we left the dilapidated motel at 5:30 that morning. My grandpa liked to get up early and hated driving long distances; the perfect combination to get us on the road as soon as possible. The previous night had been a sleepless one full of broken air conditioners and not enough pillows. After much strife and dispute, we moved the old mattresses to the floor where it was cooler. Heat is tolerable if you’re not in South Dakota in the middle of July. My attention was called back to the side of the stretching highway. Amber meadows droned by outside my window. A dead tree or an arid bush occasionally interrupted the barren landscape. Then it slowly began to change. Large mounds protruded from the ground and went by one by one, and then became more numerous; like russet shooting stars on a golden sky, they went by us. The mounds were shaped like miniature volcanoes of which the lava was brown and furry and went in and out, up and down. I watched the prairie dogs poke their heads out of their volcanoes for a minute. They seemed oblivious to the highway four feet from their doorstep. “Oh, jeez…” I heard my grandpa sigh. I turned and looked out of the dusty windshield. Blurs of brown fur dashed across the road, crossing this way and that, displacing the dust swirls that hung above the concrete.
“Do they have a death wish?” my uncle asked, as we narrowly missed ending a small, fuzzy life. They did their acrobatics across the highway for a mile or so; every so often we would see the broken, hollow shell of a prairie dog struck down by an automobile Angel of Death and tossed to the side of the road. Being a poetic fourteen-year-old, I thought about this
for a while; about how past nose twitchings and dirt-mound head pokings could be gone in an instant—forgotten like the dust swirling above the crumbling highway. We passed a large sign stating that we had entered Nebraska.
“We’re almost to Colorado,” said my grandpa to no one. Down the road, we stopped at a small diner in an even smaller town and ate a quick breakfast. We finished quietly and got back in the air-conditioned car. As we drove on, I again went back inside my thoughts. I reflected for a long while and stumbled upon a question. I wondered how a prairie dog could spend half of its life poking its head in and out of its hole looking for predators but would not think twice about running freely across a busy highway. The world, I realized, was filled with analogous, furry corpses falling prey to raptors and the occasional vacationing family’s sedan tires. The paradox of nature and its ways seemed so far from my mental grasp that I gave up trying to understand it (however, wondering, I will never relinquish). The circumstances put my taken thoughts even farther into the blazing, fluorescent orb that rose higher and higher over the woven fields and dirt-mounds that went on forever to our left.
Lucky Break Kate Brown Teachers spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to separate kids. I’ve seen them try to separate by gender, by hobby, by economic status, and even by the area code in front of our phone number. But nothing will tell you more about a kid than where they play. Really, there are three types of kids. There are the kids who dig down into the earth, looking for truth and fun in grime, the kids who want to see China through a deep enough hole. Then there are the kids who run as far as they can away from the teachers, away from supervision. These are the kids who will always be chomping at the bit for freedom; the kids who will grow up to either be in prison or change the world in the best ways. Then there are the kids like me: the kids who climb up; the kids who believe if you climb high enough you can touch a rainbow, escape this hell and make dreams come true. I grew up in a town with 2.5 kids per two story house, with a dog and white picket fence, and where every kid knew where to score pot by the time they hit double digits. We were sent to school in pigtails and let our latchkey kid selves in with mysterious bits of contraband makeup smeared on our faces and hair long let loose. Yet through all of this, we had a strange sort of innocence. We tried to look older because we associated being older with being allowed to leave, the dream of every kid from a small suburb in Wisconsin. Violence was a huge part of my school career. By the time I was seven, I was strong enough to fight off two fully grown women. Not because I am particularly strong, believe me when I say I’m the opposite, but because of necessity. See, I’m not just a latchkey kid. I’m a bully victim. For the most part, I got by just fine. I went to class early and stayed late, as classrooms were safe zones. But then recess came, always a mixed blessing. I loved the feeling of sky and rain surrounding me, but the teachers could only do so much to prevent me from getting hurt. Nearly every time, if they noticed at all, they noticed after. Now, not that punishing kids for bullying isn’t a good idea, but it really doesn’t help the little kid who’s crying. It’s already too late for them. However, one time it got really serious.
There are inherent risks to being a climbing kid, especially if you’re the kid who has offended the world by existing. If you run far, nobody can catch you; if you dig, nobody will care; but if you’re a climber and a dreamer, well, then you’re screwed. To this day, I’m not sure if it was an accident when she pulled me down. I don’t know if she meant for it to hurt or just meant for it to scare me, or even if she was telling the truth; she said she thought I was part of the nearby game of lava tag. Really, it doesn’t matter. Either way,
when she pulled me down from the monkey bars and I broke my shoulder, it wasn’t the worst hurt that was done to me that day. Like any kid, I cried a bit and ran to the nurse’s office. But upon arrival, I was told that it was just a bruise, here’s an ice pack, take it and go back to class. Now as a kid who by this time has had 15 surgeries, I was well aware that this wasn’t just a bruise. However, any confidence I had was long beaten out of me, so I sucked it up, accepted the ice pack and sat through class, nursing my left shoulder and willing myself to not cry. And then, as if life itself was out to get me that day, it was time to stand up and walk the distance to the music room. Now, normally music class would be the best option of all the classes we could have had. Better music than art, or, heaven forbid, gym. However, that month was some sort of cultural awareness thing, so what better way to teach kids about culture than play random games while playing ethnic sounding music in the background. I swear that game was invented just so I would feel the maximum amount of pain possible. The game was to take a bean bag from the person on your left with your right hand and pass it to the person on your right with your left hand. I think the theory was that it would foster community and fun in a cheap and safe setting. Well, it fostered something. Well, let’s just say that I think everyone in the school lost a little hearing that day. My music teacher sent me to the nurse’s office again. I was given another ice pack. Finally, the day was ending. I ride the bus home. That did not seem like a good plan at all. I mean, if I couldn’t fork over a stupid bean bag without screaming bloody murder, the bumpy bus ride was not going to be fun for anyone involved. However, when I went to the office, they said they were sure I could handle it. Well, even at eight I was manipulative. The best way for a blond haired, blue eyed girl to get her way? Cry. Loudly. Believe me, they’ll give you the phone to call your mom. To say that Mom was extraordinarily pissed would be a gross understatement. She immediately saw what two nurses had failed to see: my shoulder was broken. While I’m sure kids fake injuries to get out of class, it still blows my mind as to how a nurse could pass off an eight-year-old’s crying as nothing, as an overreaction. Kids aren’t the smartest people in the world, they can’t be, but they sure do know when it hurts. So one trip to the urgent care later, I had some Tylenol and ice cream for dinner. My mom put in my favorite movie, Aladdin, and my sister looked on in envy. I was in pain, sure. But yet, I look on that night as one of my favorite times with my mom and sister, the first time we had a girls’ night.
Maybe they shouldn’t try to prevent injury in school.
Worth Waiting For An interview with michael perry BY Mindi Vanderhoof I sat in front of the Orpheum Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, waiting for Michael Perry. He said he’d call when he arrived. The first call came at 3:25 pm, five minutes before the interview was supposed to take place. He was running late; he’d be there in twenty minutes. The next call came ten minutes later; this time he wasn’t sure when he’d be there. He apologized profusely and assured me he would call me when he actually arrived. At this point I had moved inside to the theatre lobby. Finally, at around 4:30 pm he called again, this time to tell me he was there and to ask if that was me sitting on the couch. I looked over and there was a man wearing work boots, a pair of jeans, a red flannel shirt, and a Carhart stocking cap. A man who looked like he just came in from doing chores and not like one about to give a book reading from his latest best-selling memoir. As out of place as he may have seemed to others, his wardrobe, oddly enough, put me at ease. My nerves about interviewing a nationally acclaimed author immediately disappeared when I saw the flannel shirt; my dad wears flannel, my grandfather wore flannel, and my great-grandfather probably wore flannel. He was just a normal guy: a normal guy who is an author. Perry is probably best known for his first memoir, Population 485, a story about the small Wisconsin town of New Auburn and Perry’s experience on the volunteer fire department. His other books include Truck: A Love Story, Off Main Street, and his latest memoir, Coop. I sat down with Perry and chatted about everything from sneezing cows to being a writer to being a Packers’ fan. This conversation proved to be worth the wait. MV: For those of us who don’t have a lot of experience with cows, why shouldn’t we stand behind a sneezing cow?
MP: Well basically it’s a situation involving several properties of physics including contents under pressure, ballistics, the path of least resistance, and of course inertia. Although in this case you might refer to it as manurtia. If it [a cow sneeze] has ever happened to you, and it has happened to me, by the way, growing up on the farm, it is a jaw-dripping experience. [laughter] But that would not be your best move is what I like to say. This is very real. I do that joke and it’s very funny, but if a cow sneezes while you’re standing behind her, especially if she’s been out on pasture, fresh pasture, you’re going to need a shower. Just for the sake of accuracy, I should point out, I had a couple of old-
timer farmers come up to me and say, “You know cows don’t sneeze, they cough.” And just for the record, they are absolutely right. I knew that as a farm kid, but I have to say, as a humorist, a sneezing cow is much funnier than a coughing cow. I have to take a little bit of liberty. MV: That brings me right into my next question. Your books are in the nonfiction or memoir sections of most bookstores. What percentage of the material would you say really happens exactly the way you write it on the page? MP: I make every attempt, and if you read Truck or Coop, especially, I have at least two pages at the beginning of those where I lay out the ground rules because, as you know, there has been a lot of controversy about memoir. I do my utmost to get the facts right. If I say it happened, it happened. Now, number one, I make mistakes, and the way I deal with that is if you go to my website there is a tag called Oops. If you click on it, my response to a mistake is to say “hey, I made a mistake and you should know about it.” Then, of course, there are issues of perception. For instance, if I’m writing a story about my childhood and I get my three brothers and a couple of my sisters together it is surprising how people with no reason to speak anything other than the truth, nonetheless, tell a little different story, and it’s not about anyone trying to deceive anyone, it’s just about how it is imprinted on your brain pan. In cases like that, you have to just do your best. I try to get many versions of the story and then I need to decide to go with what is most accurate, but I really am pretty sensitive about that because a lot of damage has been done by just making stuff up. I think that’s fiction, and I love fiction. MV: But is it a fine line being a humorist within the genre of memoir?
MP: You’ve hit on a great point because the truth is, of course, I don’t have to make things up but you turbo-charge the language; you may engage in flights of fancy. Like I love to do Walter Mitty scenarios where I envision myself as some grand character and of course the punch line always is that I hooked the battery cables up backwards and fried my pick-up truck battery. I’m trying to remember a specific example. Well, I think in the book (Coop) I talk about artificial insemination of cows, and I talk about when the breeder man, as we called him, came into the barn. When he stepped into the barn, I was reminded of a pirate boarding a ship because he had these high rubber boots and he had the insemination straw in his teeth like a dagger. Well, the truth is I really obviously clearly remember that image and so do my brothers and sisters, but at the time I was pretty young and I’m not sure I really thought he was a pirate; it probably just struck me as funny later and I added it. Yeah, there are times when in Truck: A Love Story, I write about dating and having an old farm truck. I write about having my girlfriend there and about how the big danger is that she’ll open the vent and all the dead horseflies and chaff and everything flies out and I describe that happening. Of course it really did happen to one of my girlfriends. Her hair was covered in feed dust—it really was—there were pine needles in her banana clip—there
really were—and then it says there was a junebug stuck in her braces—well you know by that time I’ve made this thing bigger and bigger over a series of about five or six sentences. By that time, you should realize I am winking. It was a mess but she didn’t really have a junebug in her braces. MV: David Sedaris comes to mind and he has really walked that fine line [between humor and memoir]. That’s where that question comes from. MP: That’s why I take those two pages in the front, just to let people know this is what I’m shooting for. I’m imperfect. I’m going to blow it sometimes. I had a wonderful story in Population 485 about my mother facing down a giant neighbor who came to get his dog. She met him at the end of the driveway and sent him away and he was quite threatening. But my mother, this tiny little woman, stood her ground. When she read that in the final draft of the book, she said, “Oh, that’s a wonderful story but it never happened.” What happened is, the guy did come for his dog but it all happened over the phone and somehow in the intervening years I had created this very, to me, believable scene of my mother at the end of the driveway and it took her to say no. So I took it out. Now I could have left it in and no one would have known except my mother, but I got to live with my mother too. [laughter] MV: Who do you feel your target audience is, or do you even feel you have a target audience? MP: I try to write with a person over my shoulder and one day that person lives in California and one day North Dakota and another day it’s a rural person and another day it’s a city person because I’ll read the part about artificial insemination, and in a rural area people laugh because they go, “Oh yeah, we had a breeder man” and all this stuff. Then they’ll come up to me and say what on earth happens when you read that in San Francisco, which I have. “Well,” I tell them, “you get a big laugh; it’s just the laugh comes from a different place.” For them it’s more a laugh of shock. I think you can trap yourself if you start trying to imagine who your typical reader is. I just try to move the reader around all the time. Whether or not I’m successful at that is another discussion. I remember writing about firefighting in Population 485 and just thinking “I gotta remember that yes there are going to be some people in the big city who have never heard of volunteer firefighter, who have never picked up a firefighting hose, who don’t know what a halogen is, who don’t know what backdraft is, who don’t know about flashover, and they don’t know about the fire tetrahedron so you have to make it accessible and interesting to them as well.” MV: You have a lot of fans who relate to Population 485 and the small town picture it paints, but do you ever have readers who come up to you and say you got it all wrong?
MP: Occasionally, I’ve had people. I’ve had one woman who has written about Population 485, the ex-wife of a friend of mine who didn’t deny anything I had written but said that
I didn’t tell the whole story. In the book I quote him saying he knew the marriage was in trouble when she quit showing him the checkbook. She never denied that but she said, “Yeah, I told him he could see the checkbook when I could meet the girlfriend.” [laughter] He didn’t tell me that part of the story. In subsequent editions, I added a little thing in there about that. The truth is we’re talking about nonfiction and trying to get the facts right, but your perception of a place and your take...that’s as individual as the number of people who make that assessment. Sometimes I’ve had people say, “Oh, you’re the spokesman for New Auburn,” and I say, “no, I’m one of 485.” That’s my perception. And yes, I occasionally do have people write me and tell me when I write about faith or politics that I got it wrong. [laughter] And I have reviewers who say I got the whole book wrong so it’s just part of the gig, you know? [laughter] MV: While you were writing Population 485, did you ever think it would speak to so many people’s similar experiences? MP: There I can tell you I was caught completely off guard. It was a very modest printing of a modest little book and I had no idea I would still be talking about it now. It never went boom. It just had this extended quiet life. And what’s nice is that yes, I get a lot of rural people and that’s fun because that’s my background but I also get all kinds of emails and letters from people in New York or San Francisco who grew up in a small town in Iowa or who had an uncle who had a farm and they would go to visit him in the summer. So, city people are interested too. MV: What is your take on the fact that so many readers can relate to your stories and essentially, then, your life? MP: I hope it’s because I’m trying to write openly and honestly and with a bit of a sense of humor, at least about myself. Part of what it is is that a lot of the stories aren’t mine. I’m writing about people I know or have observed so the readers are relating to them as much as they’re relating to me. I don’t see myself as the focus. MV: With the notoriety as an author, you could be successful writing anywhere. What keeps you in Wisconsin? Is it the farm? Do you see yourself being in Wisconsin the rest of your life? MP: I’ve learned to never say never. So who knows? Also, you’re very kind in what you said, but you must have a much more rosy view of the publishing world than I do. [laughter]
Things are changing rapidly. But yes, barring something truly unforeseen, I see myself in Wisconsin for the rest of my life. The reason I stay there is because that’s where I’m from,
the little town of New Auburn, Wisconsin. I always say no matter where I’m standing when I say it, I am of and from New Auburn, Wisconsin and I’m grateful for that every day because I was raised by farmers and loggers and just solid people. The reason I stay there now is because A) I am happy there and B) I can go home. Like tonight will be this wonderful experience; we’ll get to read and we get to share our work and people say nice things and I get to play my music, but tomorrow when I get home, I gotta feed the pigs. I moved their fence right before I left—I was knee deep in pig mud. I’ll put on my pager and if my pager goes off, I will make a call somewhere within the county to someone who’s my neighbor and needs help and that will remind me that whatever went on in Madison, whatever else is going on, it all comes down to neighbors and mortality. It’s important for me to never lose sight of the fact that I am just a common guy who accidentally wound up writing and I should treat it like a craft just like my brother is a logger; my other brother runs heavy equipment and his own saw mill and those are things they worked at. I just always want to keep my boots firmly planted on the ground and even occasionally in the pig manure. MV: Each of your novels chronicles a different part of your life. What stories are left to tell, or in other words, have you thought about what the subject of your next book will be? MP: Yeah, I’m working on the next book. I never know completely. I end up basically being assigned to write about a year of my life and so I have a certain framework. Like in Population 485, I knew I was going to write about small towns and fire departments. I had no idea what would unfold in that year. Same with Coop. That was supposed to be about my wife and our little family moving to the country to get some pigs and chickens. Well, it turned out to be that, but it also turned out to be a memoir about growing up on the farm and it also turned out to involve a tragic story that I never saw coming and was never part of any book. I would say about 75 percent of my next book is always a question mark. I have no idea what it’s going to be. My starting point for the next one is hanging out with this old neighbor of mine who builds his own cannons and shoots them on a regular basis. He’s 80 years old and he lives in the same house he was born in and he is a blacksmith and a self-taught machinist and a farmer. I‘m just trying to soak up some of his knowledge before he’s gone. MV: So, in a way you’re sort of a historian?
MP: I never lose sight of the fact that at the base of it all I’m trying to entertain folks and support my family. I’m self-employed, we’ve been buying our own health insurance since 1992 and so it’s important for me to not get too high falutin’ about the purpose with a capital P of my writing. The main thing I do is I try to support my family. But then I will say it’s a beloved privilege to act as a historian. For instance, I’ve told you how much I love New Auburn and it’s hard for me to express how happy I am that I was given the opportunity to take a snapshot of that place right around the turn of the millennium and
just dwell on it and examine it and write caringly about a place I love. So in that sense, I will accept the idea that yeah, I’m trying to be a little bit of a historian. Sure. MV: Can you imagine the day when your children read your books? Do you think they’ll remember some of the events in Coop the way you told them? MP: I think it will be just like we talked about before. I think many of their memories will match up exactly and then there’s going to be some they’ll remember completely differently and I worry about it in a sense. I’ve had some discussions with my editors. Calvin Trillin [a fellow author] is a father of two girls and he told his editors that when his kids turned 12, he wouldn’t write about them until they’re out of college because he said nobody deserves to have that part of their lives written about and I concur. I love writing about my children because they teach me, they give me a whole new perspective on life daily. But at some point, too, there’s an intrusion factor and I’m not sure where the line is. It could be that they’ll tell me. MV: So a question you probably get asked a lot—a farm, two children, a wife, freelance writing jobs, speaking engagements, book tours, the whole thing; where on Earth do you find time to write the novels? MP: I get desperate and scared. [laughter] I have contracts. I write all the time. I was writing in the hotel room before I came here. If I’m flying, I write on the airplane. I prefer to write at home in my little space, but mostly I write anywhere. And this simply wouldn’t be happening if I didn’t have the strong partner I have in my wife, and I will also say that in the next year or two we’re going to take a year off from the farm animals just because we want to make sure the kids get a chance to travel and see things. I’m gone a hundred days a year, but they’re at home taking care of the farm, so it may mean a hiatus from pigs. MV: Finally, being a Wisconsinite, completely off the topic of writing but I feel I have to ask you this question. MP: Sure. MV: Do you follow football?
MP: You know, I loved playing football in high school and then I really love watching the Packers but we don’t have a TV. A couple of years ago, I hit the point where if the game was on I would watch it and I loved watching it but wouldn’t seek it out. I will admit, we let our TV lapse when the digital thing went. We just had one little self contained VCR thing that gets four channels but my wife had the coupon for the thing [converter box], so she bought it and we didn’t put it together. But last Monday afternoon [referring to the Packer’s Monday night football game against the Vikings], I hooked it up to see what
channels we could get and found to my great despair that Monday night football is no longer on ABC. So yes, I love the game and I love to watch the game but if you’re from Wisconsin—I love them Packers, I mean you just do, it’s part of your heritage. I would classify myself as a solid long-term fan—good years and bad years but I’m not at all rabid. MV: So what’s your take on Brett Favre?
MP: Brent who? [Laughter] He was a joy to watch. It was a real privilege to have him for as long as we did. I felt he made it look like he was having fun, which you ought to do. What he’s done in the last two years, who’s to say? I’m not losing any sleep over it. Seeing him in purple, let me just say, it’s a little tricky. I have some issues with it.
Maida Vale Mary Sawyer I had a good day, and for me, a good day is perfect. This day was perfect not because things went exactly as I planned but because nothing went wrong. I remember that it was a good day because of the light; my memory of that November day glows with soft sunlight. I can still feel the sharp autumn air and see the clouds reflected in the wavy waters of the Thames. That was the day I wandered into Little Venice. I had been in London for almost three months and decided it was time to go to Maida Vale. For me going to London meant seeing the places I’d heard about. For Ashley it meant adventure and escapism. For Jessie it meant West End Theater—I think she must have seen every show London had to offer. And for Bethany it meant immersion. Bethany wanted to be British while she was in Britain—her goal was to understand the people and culture as best she could in the three and a half months she was there. Along the way, she fell in love...with the English lifestyle and a London bloke called Joe. But for me, England meant music and stories, authors and legends. I had to see what Jane Austen was writing about, what The Beatles were singing about, and what King Arthur was immortalized about. Something about these people and places fascinated me; in my need to understand them I needed to understand where they came from. That first weekend I went to Jane Austen’s house and was awed to be in the place where Pride and Prejudice was written. A few weeks later I went to Glastonbury and saw the supposed site of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s burial. I walked down Doughty Street to the place Charles Dickens called home and held an original copy of David Copperfield in my hands. I saw the Stonehenge of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the Scotland of Robert Burns’ poetry, and The Beatles’ Abbey Road. I went to the Borough Market in southwest London because a woman on the Travel Channel said it was a must see. I tried curry in Brick Lane because Anthony Bourdain did the same. And on one perfect day in mid-November, I went to Little Venice. Little Venice was not my planned destination; it was the only site near my destination. A few weeks before I left for England I bought a CD by a British singer called Duffy. I listened to this CD in my car before I left; I listened to it on my mile and a half walk from my flat in Hampton Hill to my university in Strawberry Hill, and in an effort to slip peacefully to sleep, I listened to this CD on the plane to London. This CD, those songs, that singer are completely wrapped around my experience in London.
I once heard of a singer described as a train. Her voice and her song build momentum until her audience arrives at the realization that she’s just not going to take it anymore. I think of Duffy that way. Not because she sounds similar to the other singer but because
of the train, because she’s fed up, because she’s not going to take it anymore. The song I listened to over and over again was not especially sad or strong. It was confident and decided because Duffy had come to an inevitable decision. Repeated over and over again was, “I’m leaving you for the last time.” Soon I would be leaving London, possibly for the last time. I didn’t know that day of light and cool air would stand out as one of those rare, perfect days. I didn’t realize that it was a good day until it was over. I spent a day walking along quiet canals and thought about Costa Coffee, prawn-flavored potato chips, Sainsbury, Pemberley, Chatsworth, and Waverley. Jessie’s blue coat, my purple room, Bethany’s wild hair, and Horace Walpole’s little castle…things that I would soon be leaving for the last time. I wasn’t sad and I’d like to say I wasn’t sentimental. I was just thinking. I thought of all these places and people alongside of my father, who was willing and possibly waiting to hear my stories of England. I thought of my mother who never let on how worried she was about me; I thought of my room filled with books, my sister with her first daughter, and the jeweled angel ornament on my parents’ Christmas tree. I knew I would be happy to go home, even though I would be sorry to leave London. By the time I left, I had claimed London as mine. It was mine because it was mine alone, mine completely. I would never have to share my London with anyone; the people I met there would soon be memories and I would never be able to make my experience in England real to the friends I was returning to.
“When I get to Warwick Avenue, meet me by the entrance of the tube.” I went to Maida Vale to see Duffy’s entrance to the Warwick Avenue tube station. I took a picture and took a walk. I took London with me. I had a good day, not because anything happened but because no matter how much time passes, I’ll remember that day and know exactly why London is mine.
25 Minutes to Go Katie Walkner The young woman stepped out of the bowling alley and into the crisp February night. She inhaled the cold, sharp air, burning her nostrils and rousing her brain toward clarity. She zipped her burgundy and grey plaid coat as high as it could go, cinched the belt a little tighter, and pulled the grey fur-lined hood up and over her long dark hair. Then she purposefully exhaled a hot cloud of breath and put one foot in front of the other over the cold pool of black asphalt. The parking lot, so full at the beginning of the evening, now echoed her footsteps. Her car, a ‘76 Comet in olive green, hadn’t seemed this far away when she arrived for bowling, but Tuesdays were league nights, and that meant the lot was filled to the brim early. She was lucky she had even found a spot in the lot—she hated parking on the street. As she made her way around the corner of the building toward the slope that led down to the basement entrance that the regulars had dubbed The Pit, snippets of the evening’s conversations floated through her mind. “Margie, guess who I saw last weekend? Lori from high school.” “Which one?” “The one who used to date Richie...” “Did you ladies hear about that guy that got in that girl’s car?” “Stop telling stories...” “No, I’ve got this on good authority from my cousin in Milwaukee.” “Alright then, let’s have it...” “Are you gonna have another drink Margie?” “Just one. I have a long drive home, and it’s getting late...” “Hey Marge, how’s Mike?” “Just fine, thanks...”
Margie smiled to herself despite the cold. She loved bowling night...the loud jukebox music that reminded her of high school, the free-flowing beer, the conversations that grew louder and sillier as the night progressed. She was a social butterfly, always had been. She wouldn’t have given up her Tuesday nights at the alley for anything. Even though she had to drive the thirty-minute trip from Manitowoc to Cleveland alone along the dark country roads, it was worth it. Besides, this was only temporary...soon the new interstate highway would be finished and...zoom...it would seem like a flash and she’d be home. Home in her
dream house...just as soon as the land deal went through she and Mike could get out of her parents’ house and start their new life together. Just as she began to feel the prickle of freezing skin beneath her jeans, she reached her Comet. Her gloved thumb clumsily pushed in the button while she yanked open the door. Not as frozen as I had thought it would be. Margie slid into the driver’s seat and quickly pulled the door shut. No frost on the windows. I’ll be out of here in no time. I might even make it home before 11:30. She dug her keys out of her plaid coat pocket and deftly shoved the right one in the ignition. The Comet fired up, the engine hummed louder than usual in the clear, cold night, almost as if the noise was bouncing back at her off of the darkness. Yanking off her gloves, she threw them onto the tan vinyl of the passenger seat. Her leather purse slid off of her shoulder and nestled in the crevice of the seat beside her. She adjusted her lights and cranked the heat. Scrambling in her deposited purse, she found her almost empty pack of Newports, pulled out one of the few remaining cigarettes, and in almost one movement removed her lighter from her purse and lit up. Her lungs almost burst from the combination of night air and menthol. She looked over her right shoulder to back up, only to see the burgundy lining of her hood. “Damn it.” In mild irritation Margie threw her hood off of her dark hair and backed out of the parking lot without another glance over her shoulder. Quickly, sleepy Manitowoc blended into the darkness around her. No houses were lit up at this hour. No businesses attempted to attract new patrons this evening. Not even the stars were twinkling because all the children and lovers who wished upon them had gone to sleep. Just cold, still, blackness. She finally reached the turn off for Highway 141. It’s just a straight shot now. I’ll be home in 25 minutes. Time for some tunes. Her foot steadily pressed the accelerator, her speedometer quickly closing in on the 65 mph speed limit. She slid the glowing butt of her cigarette out of the cracked window and watched in her rear view as the still red tip skipped across the black ocean behind the Comet. Hoping for some loud rock to keep her pumped for the rest of the ride, she reached toward the radio’s knob. As she leaned forward, Margie felt a tightening around the front of her throat. What the hell? She tried to turn her head to the right and then the left. The tightening was worse. She felt panic rise from the pit of her stomach. As a reflex she leaned forward with both hands gripping the wheel and tried to readjust herself, pushing down the accelerator as a result. She felt as if a cord was going to sever her neck. Her breath came short and fast now. Breathe. Breathe. Think. Think. She slowly leaned back and slowed the Comet to 60 mph. The tension was released. She scanned the rear view mirror. Blackness. She tried to turn her head again, and the tension returned with a vengeance. She immediately snapped back in her seat—relief. “Okay, there’s this guy that’s been climbing in the backseat of girls’ cars and following them home.”
Margie tried to take a deep breath but short shallow ones were all that would come.
“My cousin’s buddy...saw a guy reach up with a cord...going for the girl...headlights...the guy ducks down...she gets out of the car...this guy dressed in all black...” Her eyes darted to the rear view mirror. Blackness. She remembered the joke she had made. “Maybe it was Johnny Cash.” They all laughed. She laughed. She didn’t laugh now. The more she remembered of the conversation the faster and more shallow her breath became. Don’t pass out. Don’t freak out. Think. This isn’t happening. She clenched the steering wheel, her hands at ten and two, her knuckles whitening. She frantically checked her rear-view mirror. Blackness. No lights behind. No lights ahead. No help. She leaned forward again and started a slow acceleration, hoping if she sped an officer on patrol would pull her over, but the faster she drove the tighter the grasp on her throat. She was beginning to see spots when she decided to slow down. He can’t kill me when I’m driving. Maybe he won’t kill me. Maybe he just needs a ride somewhere—to get away. Channeling all of her courage, Margie decided to take action. “Who’s back there? What do you want?” Silence. The pressure around her throat increased. She forced herself to sit back despite her overwhelming aversion to getting any closer to the back seat. There are no cars around. If I pull over he’ll probably kill me. Maybe I should drive to the police station. I can’t. He’ll know. How long can I drive around? The dashed center line ticked and each tick took her closer to home. Should I drive home? No. Maybe if I scream someone will hear me. I will have to scream. Maybe they won’t. At least my body will be home. Ma will want my body...
She found herself automatically turning down the familiar streets, winding her way closer to home, trying to peer through the darkness to see the neighborhood for the last time. As she squinted the pressure on her neck became unbearable. She couldn’t have cried out if she had wanted to. She was sure she was going to pass out. Suddenly she was pulling into her parents’ driveway and the brakes stopped the Comet. Margie threw the car into park and collapsed into the seat. The vinyl squeaked under her resigned weight. She waited. She breathed deeply as the tension completely disappeared from her throat. “What do you want?” Margie whispered. Margie waited. She summoned her last strands of courage. “I can’t take this anymore. If you’re gonna kill me, just fucking kill me.” She listened for a response but only heard the hum of the Comet’s engine. A silent prayer escaped her lips. Still nothing. Fuck it. She screamed, “If you’re gonna kill me, just fucking kill me!” Nothing. “JUST DO IT!” Margie flung herself around to the right to face the assailant in her backseat. Her throat, her eyes, her heart all burned in terrific anticipation. The sudden thrash of her body unleashed the grey fur lined hood from the driver’s seat head rest. Only then did she realize her only passenger that night was the darkness.
Absorbed Amber LaFave Drumming rhythm up and down— your fingertips gently insistent, quick, clicking pressure. The pumping beat, pounding out your satisfaction on smooth curves, molded by the wear of your touch. Your stare: invasive penetration beyond the apparent. You sort through life’s challenges, becoming more and more absorbed in the surreal. Living out the fantasies that dominate all rational thought— The shouts, the screams, the laughs, the jeers, The cries of pain and destruction. As you venture the Swamp of Sorrows, Plaguelands, and dungeons. Much like myself, as I stand in the doorway, frying pan in hand.
Wishing you would turn your caresses to the curves of my body instead of the keyboard, always beneath your hands. Speak to me of your fantasies, mold me to your touch. Look to me and see what this body can mean—your pleasure can be beyond the World of Warcraft.
So - Called Glitter Amy Manske Gasp Not your mistake, but your consequence, hold breath… You smash the brake into the floor, eyes wide trying to capture the scene, clench the steering wheel like teeth, crank it until it cranks no more, horrid screeching sounds echo through your eardrums—car and human blending together a sickening rhythm. Tension aches and covers your body like paint on an open canvas, hope that life doesn’t leave you, pray and sit, numb and clueless. Breathe tears break, scatter down your face, blood sticks like tacky glue slowly dragging down your arm, shards of glass bond to it like glitter, a disgusting piece of artwork, trembling begins, fear screams silently from within your body, bouncing rib to rib like a sharp ray of light, agony follows behind like a stray drop of paint, ponder, forever in a moment, his choice, eyes heavy, helpless, mind erases revealing a new white canvas, wait for decision. Wonder.
Why God chose you.
Fog Erica Nottestad
Itâ€™s at 3:30 in the morning When the fog is imperceptibly mixed With the smoke and steam Rolling off the streets When my mind drifts to you And I can imagine How you would be sitting next to me Writing a few stanzas Between drags off your cigarette About someone else Someone far from us And the fog would just keep rolling in
Prelude to the Silver Hammer Hilary Bullock Found poem inspired by The Beatles’ album Abbey Road I want you…I wanted you so bad and look at me now, Joan it’s driven me mad. Oh, Darling. You’ve led me down this Road before. Because everything’s old, new, all and you just attracted me, like no other lover but now you are just like every other. Doesn’t anybody tell you, that one and one and one will always be three and I’ll write it fifty times so you can see. After all, I’m just that joker, doing as he pleases a holy roller, shifting through diseases. The medicine major trying to avoid an unpleasant scene with you, right now, over me. So, lock your bathroom window up tight. Tell Sunday to tell Monday to tell Tuesday that it’ll be alright. Just keep playing with your test tubes and humming your heavy songs ignore the gleam from behind, that Bang, Bang Clang,Clang It’s just Maxwell making everything…
3 Rs in Human Life Kate Brown Call me out on what I am. Your slut Who hides in sweatshirts, Your whore With bruises and breasts that no one is to see. If you scream out slut, I cringe and look. Reduced Your hands go up my shirt. I cry, I run, Cursing myself for thinking today might be different, For hoping tomorrow will be better, Because deep down I know every day is the same. Reused With blood on my wrists and pills in my hand, I scream out a prayer, Begging to not die like this. Slowly, Iâ€™m shown that this isnâ€™t the norm And how to use what I have left to be newer, stronger, Better.
Hands Tim Rhodes tough hands. rugged hands. manly hands. my hands have gouges and torn calluses, scars from blisters, nerve damage, cigarette burns and shake for many different reasons. they can grip hot steel pull rough weathered rope prepare a nice meal and they quickly roll dope they hold like a vice, and can do so all day theyâ€™re hands of mass construction that have forgotten how to pray. i gripped my cigarette tip and moments that lasted forever passed before i felt the heat. she will never feel the same.
and neither will i.
Disk Read Error Jeff Ott CTRL fades as vitals go awry with corrupt data. Liquid crystals well behind plastic, overflow as a shapeless charge. ALT disk drives grind, futile thoughts fail to read. Cooling fan hyperventilates with volume control. MySonCantBeDead.MP3 loops. Cannot compute image. Critical error detected –File Folder: Local Disk –File Folder: 54304--1011 Wentworth St. –File Folder: Basement room/04-Andrew –CriticalHeartFailure.JPG DEL
…Rebooting…recovered from serious error… Press any key to continue… Return Return Return
' Egg Faberge Rod Zinkel
The diner with facade of Italy, with plaster of Paris Doric columns, and plastic ivy climbing the salad bar, with red and white checkered table cloths, and votive candles in crimson glass, offers a place for young lovers who have yet to see the states of heartbreak to know the difference. Why try to blend in this culture? Better the ugly tourist eager to learn than the poseur everyone knows. They seem so out of place— their love is so sincere— like children who think they can make a Fabergé egg out of PAAS.
Urban Poet Alyssa Holschbach A poet finds himself in nature; Connects his soul with the higher power As his words course through the roots And climb to the tops of trees— They shake Heaven So we can but taste a glitter of its drizzling splendor. This makes a good poet. Write it in your notebook.
But in you I find so much brilliance, Though from your mouth hangs a cigarette And not a shoot of sweet grass. Your words don’t flow with the brook, But seep down the gutter With the runoff and urine. You can’t be bothered with rolling valleys, With wildflowers or commanding oaks; Your trees are office buildings, apartments, projects, And your decay is not organic but urban. Your budding sprouts are confirmations of statistics And the misty haze that envelops you is pollution. You’ve never tasted Heaven, Won’t claim to have even smelled it, Or suggest that it exists. What moves you is the tangible and base. By such definition, you are not a good poet; A real poet. But in your verses breathing city curses I feel more stirrings in my soul Connecting me with all, Making me more real Than any leaves of grass.
haiku Adam Wiesner
77 99,000,090 10,013
Murderabilia Auction House Hilary Bullock Welcome…please follow me. I am sure we have something to satisfy… that unfortunate monster inside. See this…yes that right there, it is a genuine work of horror. Mr. Gacy assures me that it has been painted by the deadliest of hands. It took only thirty-three different shades of red to create the big rubber nose and bloodshot eyes. Price you say, it will only cost you a few measly years of bad luck. Well, if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, what about this…why yes, this is a vintage Volkswagon. Tan and detailed and smelling distinctly of bleach. A classic 1968 Beetle complete with a sailboat, once owned by my dear cousin Teddy. Wait…my mistake, no sailboat but a handy bundle of rope. This price, let’s just say it would take your breath away. No…ah…something smaller, how about a perfect two for one deal. A heavy red brick, still reeking of apartment 213, where my pal, Jeff, used to live and this rusted hatchet, from my Uncle Ed’s fascinating farm. It may look like junk but let me assure you things are never as they seem. The price…why, an arm…and a leg.
What’s that…you don’t think this murderabilia is right for you. Shame, I figured that you would be dying…
Rice Greta Jordan Rice My mastery Clean and crisp, Raw The viewer a wall no matter how hard hurl my craft always falls to the floor donâ€™t want to cook make a mush that could stick to a roof to make a wall understand
Pickled Pigs Feet Jamie Buss
It’s the odd things in life that binds past, present, and future together like pickled pig’s feet. The jar of disgusting hoofs brought out generation by generation —not one person wants to crack the jar and eat first. Each foot, pickled in vinegar, is handled then dropped back into their yellow-greenish slop by the uncourageous hands that turn the other way desiring something sweet. But I, I like the pickled pig’s feet coated in their own filth too disgusting for most of the world to eat. Only the strongest and bravest alive like I would dare to devour the delicacy in spite of their offensive and nauseating stench. Each one tastes worse than the last as the vile juices turn over the tongue and the insides of the gut twists in excruciating knots the first being too bitter for the senses the middle forces the feeling of pressing on and the contemplation of the last one is too much to take as it falls with its hoof making a splat back into its slime filled jar only to be eaten one day in the distant, but foreseeable, future that is predestined to become the present.
Death of 3.14 Vanessa Smith I like Pi. Itâ€™s okay sometimes. Cherry, quiche. Kicking up your heels. You have your likeable days. But you seem to be everywhere, Pi. Pi chart, Pi contest. I canâ€™t get rid of you. How your complexity irritates me. You think you are so wonderful You fucking limitless enigma. Everyone loves you, Cuz you solve their problems. Except mine. Hatred is instilled. And how dare you prance around, wearing That ridiculous hat. Being all panacea-like. Your random self will not run away Cuz I will find you, you are tall. And sly. But my kind invented yours. Even though we both have two legs, I can run faster.
Once I catch you, I will eat you And scatter your remains In a beef-based broth. Solve that, bitch.
Josh Braun Put A Smile On Graphic Art
Megan Peters Rebel Digital Photograph
Nicole Opiela Untitled
Vanessa Robinson A Good Lift Photograph
Emily Evenson Marx und Coca-Cola Digital Photograph
Andrea Frederick Retired Digital Photograph
Amanda Bartelt Ball of Energy Photograph
Jeff Ott The Pain Body Mixed Media
Jennifer Ewald Milwaukee Zoo 09 Mixed Media
Chloe Scheller Playing With City Lights Digital Photograph
Rebecca Meiller Primrose Hill, London Digital Photograph
Samantha Bunker Kayakerâ€™s Horizon Digital Photograph
Rebecca Meiller Venice Digital Photograph
Nicole Opiela Untitled C-Print
Scot Wallace AIDS in Africa Photograph
special thanks Sheepshead Review would like to give a special thanks to: All contributors to the Dee Sweet tribute section Vaughn Panek-Sweet John Landrum Nancy Matzke The Humanistic Studies Department OFO Students and staff of UW-Green Bay SUFAC Seaway Printing Scott Furlong, Dean of College of Liberal Arts and Science
David Coury, Chair of the Humanistic Studies Department
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Donations Have you enjoyed this issue of Sheepshead Review? We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it for you. Sheepshead Review is created by a dedicated staff of students each semester at UWGreen Bay. We work together on all aspects of the creation of this quality publication from soliciting submissions to reviewing those submissions, from budgeting the production of the journal to distributing it throughout the community. Each semester brings new ideas, new challenges and everincreasing quality.
Would you care to make a donation to assist us in our production? We welcome your interest, and as an added bonus to your support, we are able to offer a subscription to our journal for any donation over $25. The subscription schedule is as noted below: $25 – one year (2 issues) $50 – two years (4 issues) $100 – four years (8 issues) $200+ – lifetime subscription
If you have any questions relative to providing support to Sheepshead Review, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, attention: Managing Editor. We greatly appreciate your interest and your support.
Submit to your creativity. . .
. . . and to Sheepshead Review!
Sheepshead Review, UW-Green Bay’s Journal of the Arts, is accepting submissions of unique and original writing in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as distinctive works of the visual arts, including photography, graphic design, sculpture, painting and more. We are interested in exploring new areas such as: original works of translation, graphic novel excerpts, creative scientific essays, or any other form your creativity takes. If assistance is needed in submitting photographs of three-dimensional work, please contact Sheepshead Review. Some guidelines: • Each author/artist may submit up to three pieces per genre. • The name of the author/artist must not appear anywhere on the work. • Please include an artist statement with each submission. Submit your creativity online at www.uwgb.edu/sheepshead.
Submission Process Sheepshead Review employs a blind submission process in an effort to maintain the integrity of the artists and writers, journal and staff. All submissions that come into the Sheepshead Review website are coded and cataloged by the genre indicated. Every writer and artist is assigned a code to provide easy tracking of their works, while maintaining the anonymity necessary for the unbiased reviewing process. Once the submission deadline has passed, the submissions are then distributed to the appropriate genre staffs—visual arts, nonfiction, fiction and poetry—to be reviewed. Staff members rate each work based on the criteria that apply to that genre and his/her own personal tastes. The editor of each genre ranks them based on the reviews from the genre staff. After all the works that will be included in the journal have been finalized, the staff is then made aware of the names of the authors and artists. Sheepshead Review’s editors and staff work hard to protect the journal’s reputation and take pride in producing a quality journal of the arts. We hope that our readers will recognize those efforts and enjoy paging through the journal as much as we do.
In this issue:
Ste phani e Ar nold Jess i c a B aeh man Amand a B ar telt Jo sh Brau n Kate Brow n Hi l ar y Bu l lo ck S amant ha Bu n ke r Jam i e Buss Em i ly Eve ns on Jenn i fer Ew a ld And re a Fre de r i ck Ki mb erly Grog an C o dy Guye tte A ly ss a Hols chb a ch Gret a Jord an Amb er L aFave Amy Manske R eb e c c a Me i l le r Er i c a Notte st a d Ni c ol e O pi el a Jef f O tt Me g an Pe te rs Tim R ho d e s Vane ss a R obi ns on L i l l i an R of fe rs Mar y S aw ye r C h l o e S chel le r Vane ss a Smit h Z a char y Tay lor Mi nd i Vand e rho of Kat i e Wa l k ne r S c ot Wa l l a ce Ad am Wi e sne r R o d Z i n kel
• A tribute to Denise Sweet • Poetry by three Wisconsin Poet Laureates • An interview with humorist Michael Perry
Sheepshead Review Theatre Hall 331 UW-Green Bay 2420 Nicolet Drive Green Bay, WI 54311
Sheepshead Review’s mission is to offer UW-Green Bay students and the Wisconsin community an arts forum that showcases works and provides professional growth opportunities through the production of the journal.