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T Main H E Street Journal SPRING 2010
Editor in Chief Dave Brown Managing Editor Jillian Kuzma Short Story Editor Art Editor Poetry Editor Assistant Editor
Maddie Thomas Sarah Morgan Brittany Hayes Jessicca McKnight
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k Cover Design of The Green by Dave Brown Layout by Kristina Markman Copyright ÂŠ2010, The Main Street Journal
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Contents POETRY Clair de Lune Ryan Conaty The Fly Emily Meussner A Secret Untold Rachel Diehm Writing in the Sand E.H. Brogan Tatters Larry Kelts Black Ice Matt Paparone We the Civilized J.M. DeMarco Why Hellmut Ludwig Sp채th...Destroyed His Garden Ben Morrison Chimera Morgan Winsor Shades of Grey Caroline Womer Socks Rachel Gearheart Boylston Street Daniel Levine Speech Therapy Ryan Shea The Resevoir Andres Cerpa History Repeats, Or How I Learned...Groundhog Day Joe Bennett El Bronx, Nueva York Andres Cerpa E.E. Cummings Courts the Grammar Teacher Zack Liscio Intelligence as Burden- Or The Heming Way Conor Fitzgerald Dreams Colin Schmidt Jocelynn Edward R. Jones
6 7 16 19 23 28 31 32 35 40 41 43 56 60 62 69 70 72 78 80
The View From 3 A.M. Alexandra Duszak Control Lindsay Nichols Moses of Main Street Sean Arthur An Epiphany In Tavistock Square Lana Schwartz Nailed Knees Sean Ulman Vapor Trails Bryan Adelman The Dog Bridge James Smith This Is Not a Love Story Samantha Brix Beginners Eric Sweder Corporate Policies Gretchen Spencer A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words Brian Smith Jesus Christ- Crazy Homeless Guy Matt Singer
9 14 20 24 30 36 39 44 63 75 82 85
Gucci Justin Sadegh D.istant C.louds in Washington Jonathan Kam Teeth Laura Szklarski Pitseleh Nicole DeLeon Capture Molly Mooney Left Behind Rachel Pomeranz Nirvana = Being a Tree Anne Yoncha 00 Agents Olga Dymtrenka
8 18 29 34 42 59 74 81
Clair de Lune RyanConaty I remember Vienna in the stark heat of mid-July. I remember throwing up into the Danube, imagining my lunch crossing international borders, like a world weary wanderer. I remember Florence and its cathedrals, its narrow streets filled with specters and littered with half-smoked cigarette butts. I remember Botticelliâ€™s Venus under museum lights. I remember dancing through the Parisian rain in the heatstroke days of early August. I remember drinking too much and walking home, making eyes at beautiful strangers. I remember the way September melted into October while I lingered across the English Channel, I remember the aftertaste of Earl Grey tea and the frigid water at my feet. I remember calling you from a pay phone for 3 euros. It went straight to voicemail. I remember how the dial tone harmonized with the violin-toting street performers. I remember the melody quite clearly, like something out of â€œClair de Lune.â€? And then I tried to remember your breath on my neck, but new things came to mind instead.
The Fly EmilyMeussner We shared the feeling of a family, filled with love and filled with laughter. Filled with love and filled with laughter, we anxiously waited. We anxiously waited for Wednesday night. Wednesday night was our Apache Race and we lived for it. We lived for it as evening activity ended, OD was avoided and the chaos commenced. The chaos commenced and we observed the Red-Headed Sluts. Red-Headed Sluts had Sex on the Beach as we watched Blue Dolphins. We watched Blue Dolphins and raised our glasses and made a toast. A toast we dedicated to STARFISH and the smell of Roscoe summer. The smell of Roscoe summer hung in the thick air of our favorite House. The thick air of our favorite House was full of cheap perfume and smoke from cigarettes. Cigarettes dangled from fingertips, decadent hands gripped cold glasses and we gossiped. We gossiped about him, her, them and us: together. Together we were divine. Divine like flight. Flight, we are. â€œDo you have a light?â€? We are the Fly. We laughed. We loved. We lived. Thank you, Tommy. And we danced through the night.
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The View From 3 A.M.
Sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep, I used to go running. I ran pretty far — five miles, six — in the dead of night, the balls of my feet striking the pavement in succession. I didn’t think about much while I ran, I just relished the silence of the night, save for the sound of the cool air rushing around my body, and the silence in my mind. If I felt myself getting tired, I’d run towards the little diner down Willoughby Road. The place was always open, except for an hour around 4 a.m. on Sunday mornings, but I never ran at 4 a.m. on Sunday mornings. I’d end my run in front of the diner, stretch a little, go inside and get a cup of coffee. There was this one guy who worked there who never looked at me like I was crazy for walking into a diner all sweaty in running shorts and a bandana at 3:30 in the morning. He was a little older than me, 25 maybe. His name was Nick. Nick and I would talk about all kinds of things, sometimes about running — he used to be a big runner in high school — or his little girl, but mostly we’d talk about pressure. The pressure to fit in, to provide for one’s family, to do well. It always made me so sad to leave, because it was usually almost five by then. Time to start the day. I’d walk back to my apartment, shower, get my books and drive an hour to my mom’s house to take her to chemo. At 10:30, I had chemistry with Hilary. I always got there before she did, and would watch as she crossed the lecture hall with her sunglasses on and her hair still messy from sleep. “Hiya, cuz,” she’d say as she plunked her cup of coffee down onto my armrest. She fascinated me, or rather, the differences between us fascinated me. I had been up since this time yesterday, and she’d just gotten up, probably after a good night’s sleep. The TA passed back the exams we took last week as the professor began to speak in monotone about carbon bonds. Hilary doodled in the margins of her notebook and sipped her coffee, while I took copious notes. When she got her test back, she covertly flipped it over so only she could read her score, but I still saw what she got. A 93, to my dismal 72. She would go to med school. She would get to treat cancer patients if that was what she wanted to do, not just drive them to their appointments. I hated her. On Saturday afternoon, I called Hilary to see if she had any plans for that night. She didn’t, not really anyway, did I want to get a few of our THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 9
friends together and find a party? Sure, sounds good, come over around 10. She did, she and two of her roommates and a friend of hers from work. They were stunning — all charm and confidence and heroin-chic. They drank Absolut and cranberry. My buddy Mike and I drank Keystone and tried to keep up as they babbled about President Clinton and Julia Roberts and how much they hated the Tri-Delts. (Who were the Tri-Delts?) Mike knew enough about Washington to keep Hilary’s interest. At her father’s insistence, she was pre-med, but Hilary’s real love was Beltway politics. Ever since the Lewinsky scandal broke a few months ago, she’d been in her glory, eating up every last bit of news and opinion and analysis with a spoon. They were pretty cute together, or at least that’s what Tara, one of Hil’s roommates, said. Tara was pretty cute too, and I agreed with her about Mike and Hilary, if for no other reason than to keep a conversation going. It wasn’t too hard, really, especially not once we got to the party, your standard mid-size college get-together with some forty people, a pong table and a keg of shitty beer. I knew only about half the people there, and so did Hilary, but she worked the room like she was the hostess. I stood in the corner with Mike, who asked me if I thought Hilary was into him. “Sure she is, as much as she’s ever into anyone. You should get her number.” It didn’t occur to me when I was five beers deep that it would be pretty awkward if my cousin and my roommate were seeing each other. Whatever, that’s college — one big string of awkward and bizarre encounters, softened with a little alcohol. Hilary was proof of this; she once sat down in the library next to a guy she’d hooked up with the night before. They said hi, then sat side by side and studied for almost four hours, never saying a word. She said it would’ve been too awkward to move. “Yeah, but wasn’t it awkward pretending you didn’t know him?” “Yes, but if I moved, it would’ve been worse the next time I saw him.” “Oh.” I rarely studied in the library. When I was there, it was to re-shelve books instead. I studied at the doctor’s office or on the couch at my mom’s house. I could never really concentrate; I always had to be ready, in case something happened to Mom. Mom and Aunt June were both lifelong smokers, which surprised neither Hilary nor me. They were twins, best friends. Our moms did everything together — they’d gone to the same college, bought houses in the same neighborhood, had babies just a few months apart. But while Aunt June spent the summer my freshman and sophomore year of college training for a 10K, Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. At our family barbecue on Labor Day, Hilary’s dad announced he’d been transferred to California, 10
and he and June moved away. For the first few rounds of chemo, Mom was okay. She just needed someone to drive her to her treatments, no big deal. Anyone who can do that for his mom and doesn’t is an asshole. The chemo didn’t make Mom better, though. It may have been killing her cancer, but it made her sick as hell in the meantime. She started asking me if I could stay at home some nights, in case she needed anything. I remember one night, I was laying in bed and reading for class. It was kind of late, and I was thinking about going to bed. Wordswordswords — they were all running together. And then I heard this awful sound, a sound I had previously associated with weekend nights and too much booze. I jumped out of bed and ran down the hall and found my mom clutching the toilet and retching like some idiot kid who couldn’t hold his alcohol. But this wasn’t her fault; there was nothing she could do to help this. In fact, she needed it — nausea was a side effect of chemotherapy, but death was a side effect of untreated cancer. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to help her. She didn’t have any hair to hold back, she hated when people touched her when she was distressed. So while my mom puked her guts up, I stood there and stared. “Get out of here, Jimmy,” Mom said. “Go back to school, I’ll be fine. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” I couldn’t leave fast enough. I drove back to school — usually an hour’s drive — in a little over half an hour. Back at my dorm (I lived in a dorm then), the door was locked and I could hear my roommate and his girlfriend. Hilary would be asleep, the guys from the team would be asleep. I didn’t really talk to anyone on my floor either, so I put on my shoes and ran. It felt so good to move like that again — I hadn’t since cross country season ended and Coach told me I ought to quit the team. It felt so good to have the wind rushing past my body, to hear nothing but the pounding of my feet and the thoughts in my head, and God, there were a lot of them. I think I ran for an hour, maybe more, before I realized how damn hungry I was. That was the first time I was in the diner on Willoughby Road. Nick was sitting behind the counter, reading an old copy of Rolling Stone. When I walked in, he glanced at me briefly, then went back to reading his magazine for a minute. “Can I get you something?” he asked as he folded the magazine in half and put it in his back pocket. “Yeah, can I get a cup of coffee? And something to eat? A burger or French toast or something.” “It’s gonna have to be a burger. No way I’m making French toast at this hour,” he said as he put the coffee down on the bar. “What’re you eatTHE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 11
ing at 3 a.m. for anyway, if you don’t mind me asking? Doesn’t exactly look like you’ve been out with your friends.” I don’t know why I told Nick the truth, I really don’t. Maybe it’s because he seemed young enough to see things my way. It wasn’t like calling Aunt June and telling her how sick her sister was and asking her to come home, please. I found myself telling Nick how I had to take care of my mom, how my coach told me that if I didn’t have time to train, I shouldn’t run. I told him I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gone out on a weekend or the last time I’d gotten with a girl or the last time I’d even had any fucking time to think about any of this shit. “Wow dude, I’m sorry. I am,” he said when I seemed finished, his shirtsleeve sliding back to reveal a tattoo as he collected my plate. “What’s your tattoo of ?” I asked him. “It’s for my little girl. My girlfriend got pregnant our sophomore year of college and decided to have the baby. She’s a sweet little thing.” “How old is she?” “Almost five.” “Are you and her mom still together?” “Yeah. It kind of sucks though. I don’t know, sometimes I wish I could just do my thing, you know? Keep running, get back with my band. But I’ve got Tori and I’ve got Jess, so here I am, making you a burger at three in the morning,” he said with a resigned sort of half smile. We’d been out a long time — long enough for the party to die down to a few kids smoking on the couch and long enough for the whole town to go quiet. Hilary and Mike were walking a little ahead of me and her roommate (I don’t know where the other ones got to), and I knew they were going to hook up. I didn’t care, I had the other girl and I was pretty sure she would hook up with me too if I made the first move. When we decided to stop for pizza, it was nearly 3 A.M. and it hit me that it was also Sunday morning, and in about four hours I’d have to be up to take my mom to church. “Hey guys, I’ll meet you back at the apartment. I don’t feel so good.” “Are you sure? Do you want one of us to come with you?” “No, it’s fine. I’ll be fine.” I turned in the opposite direction, and headed back to my apartment, almost running. I didn’t want any damn pizza. I didn’t even really want to hook up with Hilary’s roommate. But I wanted to be able to do either of those things, and whatever else it is college kids do, if the mood struck me. I never could, though. Thanks a lot, fucking cancer. You know how some people are strong? I don’t mean muscle-y strong, but strong- willed. They have strong hearts. They know who they are. They can see the whole damn forest, even when they’re in the middle 12
of the trees. Nick’s like that. I’m not. I knew what I had and I knew what I wanted, and let me tell you, they were not the same thing. They never would be, and after and year and a half of trying to make them that way, the least I can say is that I was sick of it. I wasn’t like Nick, except that I was strong-willed, I guess, but fuck that — where does being able to run 10 miles without stopping and without thinking about it get you? Nowhere. Except maybe 10 miles away from where you started, and that just makes you someone who runs away. A coward. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t do it, I thought as I walked into my darkened apartment and felt my way to my room. It felt so small and dark and suffocating in there, and I knew I could be free from all of it in just one second if I wanted to. And I wanted to. I unplugged the extension cord from my space heater and tied it to the exposed pipe that stuck out of the ceiling in our bathroom. I pulled my desk chair under the pipe and climbed onto the chair. I held the cord in my hands, stared at it for a minute. My hands didn’t shake. I slipped the cord over my neck like a gold medal and stepped off the side of the chair. A few days later, Nick sat in usual position behind the counter at the diner on Willoughby Road, reading a back issue of Rolling Stone like always. His girlfriend walked in, their daughter on her hip. It was still early and they spoke quietly — who would watch Tori for today and tomorrow? Did you pay the doctor’s bill yet? How about the rent? What do you mean you didn’t? “Hey, did you hear about that kid who killed himself ?” Jess unfolded a copy of the local newspaper and began reading an obituary. “James John Price, age 21, passed away suddenly on Saturday, November 5th.” “He had to have offed himself; why else would it say he died suddenly? Says he was a big runner. He doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who would do dr—” Nick snatched the paper from her hands and stared at the tiny photo of a good-looking young man with wavy brown hair and big, light eyes. Nick knew it was Jimmy, but besides their late-night conversations in the diner, that was all he would ever know.
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LindsayNichols “I’ve got this way of always saying I’m okay,” she said. Sitting on the fire escape of her overpriced apartment in an overpopulated town, she watches a soccer game on the field across the street. She’s talking to herself because she’s destroyed the relationships with the only people that used to talk to her. “My mind has become my only refuge,” she said. She’s talking out loud because thinking in silence makes her feel crazy. Talking out loud at least feigns a semblance of actual human activity. She’s smoking a cigarette and watching the soccer game and trying not to be so mind-fucked over the present state of affairs. Her cigarette burns so low it singes the filter. It smells really bad. She opens the pack for the third time in the past ten minutes and lights the end of another bad decision. “I wish I didn’t smoke,” she said. Her pack-a-day habit has been the most consistent thing in her life for the past three years. “It’s you and me, Marlboro man. Just you and me,” she said to her cigarette. It had no reply. The soccer game across the street goes into half time. She got distracted from being distracted and melts into a coma of reminiscent remorse; she recalls her past. Her first cigarette: Gold Coast Lights at age 18. She remembered how stupid she felt for buying a brand of cigarette she later found was reserved for hospice grandmothers and Louie, the homeless guy who sleeps on the corner two blocks from her apartment. She remembered the night she first fell in love. She replayed the memory: “I think I love everything about you, “ she said. “I think the same thing,” he said. “I love you, “ she said. “Does your sister have any weed left?” he asked. She remembered fireflies and neighborhood kids. She remembered sneaking to the pond behind her house, buying candy cigarettes from the ice cream man, and running around barefoot— She remembered her mom scolding her for doing all of the above. She remembered slumber parties and secret keeping; school dances, first kisses, and best friends. She remembered the days when she knew how to be a friend. Then she remembered growing up. She remembers her past because she wants to hide from her 14
present. She’s hiding from her present because her future is calling. Her future is calling and she not ready to answer. Not yet. Growing up, moving out, moving on. She tries to define her days of the present. Constant working. Constant schooling. Constantly trying to stay consistent in a life that’s lost all continuity. She’s treading water in a sea of nameless faces and forgotten friends. Her growth as a person has increased her height, her maturity, and her amount of responsibilities. Her growth has pushed her away from who she used to be. She knows she’s not the same. She knows she’s let people down. So she drinks to pick herself up. While her fellow college compadres drink for recreation she drinks for reconciliation. Every $4.50 shot of Jameson at the bar is an effort to reconcile her past with her present so that she can face her future. It’s not drinking to forget; it’s drinking to remember that things weren’t always this bad. Life wasn’t always so hard.
A whistle blew on the soccer field. Half time was over.
Her roommate popped her head out of the windowed entrance to the fire escape. “Are you okay?” the roommate asked. “I’m okay,” she said. Her roommate went back inside. “I’ve got this way of always lying,” she said. She didn’t finish watching the soccer game. She left her past on the fire escape and rejoined her present. She went inside and asked Jim if he wanted to hang out. He complied because he’s a bottle of whiskey and he really has no say in the matter. She asked the Marlboro man if he’d like come along. The three walked down the hall to her bedroom. She lit her cigarette and swallowed her whiskey and thought, “I’m okay.”
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A Secret Untold RachelDiehm
I went to the Hill, A short visit was, For spiders infested the place. “Oh!” I gasped, a spectacular scene, This mansion that so whispers “hush.” Inside I crawled With fear right behind me, A sensation so soft I could cry. This house was empty, and yet still scary. It aroused within me a dare. “Go inside, see what it’s like, Don’t be afraid; you are brave.” I told myself this, over and over Until all I had said was a whisper. Even though no one had lived here for years A presence still claimed these halls. It was dusty, very unlived in, This mansion that so whispers “hush.” “What happened?” I asked myself A secret untold lingers here. Was it a family that stayed in these walls, Or a man, alone and grieving? Was he always like this? Was he always alone? Or did a lady once live here with him? Yes, I think that I understand now. This story demised not a tale. For it was true, this man had a wife; She walked these halls without veil. Until one day, the story undone, 16
And all was lost, but one. This man was lonely without his bride. The house mattered not anymore. To him, joy was no longer existent; Life was cruel, unfair, and unjust. So now here I am, in this mountain of truth. No happily-ever-after happened here. Empty this place brings me to chills, A secret untold lingers here. A life that once was Left her story here, This mansion that so whispers â€œhush.â€?
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D.istant C.louds in Washington JonathanKam
Writing in the Sand
There was a time, once when you left your door unlocked and I stole in after 8 o’clock running and snuck under the covers next to you, my fingers still frigid from the frosty morning. “Mm cold,” you complained when I reached beneath your shirt, to hold your heaterlike body to mine, the smooth skin of your breasts marred by a mess of goosebumps I’d made. It was a perfect moment, stolen from the resolution of a romantic comedy, meant to be savored. Moments like those don’t come often, moments in which life outlines its poetical tendencies, and they go too easily. There’s no film to rewind, no page to revisit until with analysis the bloom can be gleaned from the plant. For you see, the bloom fades. Life is no photograph and memory, I think, no engraven stone but more a sandy beach with everlasting waves. So much of you and I has washed away! This small seashell, a conch or welk, whirling around itself like we were then, is the best piece I have left. It sounds in my ear of breath, of heartpulse, of “mm cold,” and I wonder if you have any sand dollars saved, or if you spent them all on movie rentals and museum visits.
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Moses on Main Street SeanArthur
There’s this guy, “Moses of Main Street” I call him. His guardian angel must be winged with despair. Ten thousand years ago he would’ve been the snowy bearded prophet of the sandy mounded Arabian Desert. People would’ve pointed and bowed before this man calling him a messiah, wandering and preaching to all of Jerusalem. But he was born into the 20th and 21st centuries and because of technology and science and skepticism we call him a crazy-old, gray bearded bum of the brand-new, wild city of Newark. This guy must be the reincarnation of some ancient Sultan sagehe’s middle eastern no doubt, has the long Islamic beard naturally warped with time, with curly coal black hair circling the crown of his head- probably leaving the top bald because that’s where his fallen angel’s halo belongs, or once sat perched atop his head for all of antiquity to see. I’ve always see this saint ever since I came to the University of Delaware about a year and half ago. He glides hauntingly yet serenely up and down Main Street, nowhere to go and no desire to get anywhere. I’m guessing he’s about 2087 years old, but he looks a saintly 65. I think he knows something we do not; some secret to a simpler life that only he possesses. If we would only give him a chance, Moses would warn us of the coming storm- he knows because he observes with Buddha’s eyes, and he listens with Allah’s ears, and he feels with Jesus’ hands. One spot you can surely see Moses of Main Street is the Burger King on South Chapel- he’ll just be in there always sitting at the same spot (why change routine if it works) eating a burger, drinking a coffee and reading the newspaper. Reading the newspaper he must sense all the evils in our world, he must understand that his world’s guardian angel was winged with ecstasy someday long ago and far forgotten- before wars, before religion, before poverty, and before property. He has these large framed glasses (resembling that of your grandfather’s) tinted slightly yellow- because, as he knows, that’s the aura of the earth anyway. These lemon shaded lenses hide his soothsaying eyes from the pain around him; without his glasses he would surely be blinded by what the world has become- one large laconic gray city. I bet Moses just wishes he could go back to the oasis of the Arabian Desert and live quietly- away from all the drunken self-righteous college kids and away from all the drunken power-hungry politicians. I’ve seen Moses a lot, at first he freaked me out. I wondered “who’s this disheveled derelict;” “Whatever,” I used to think, “he’ll be dead in a gutter on Main Street in about a month.” But the more I saw him, the less 20
he changed. And the more stoic he became-never once looking deranged like some of the other holy hoboes, always looking content with his defeat. I came to the epiphany he’s just a lost prophet of the road, of the despondent, and of the crestfallen. I’ve never heard him mumble a word- not like some of the archangel bums that travel through Newark drunken with some evil, rambling unto themselves. No, Moses doesn’t cry a word- I suspect he’s done all his crying and proclaiming centuries ago, facing the monarchs and the armadas. Sometimes I see Moses with an umbrella. You see though, the way he holds the umbrella is ethereal- like some type of scepter used to crutch up his tragic gait and the world around him. Most of the time, I simply see him sitting at the seats outside Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street. He sits at the outside picnic area hunched over as he bears the brunt of his story and thousands of others, staring deeply into nothingness because that’s what the world has become to him- one core avenue, a microcosm of the ever-changing and ever-fleeting Golden Eternity. I’m not sure where he sleeps but he’s always alone, besides everyone he ever truly knew died ages ago. His face has predominate high cheekbones and a broad Persian nose and a strong forehead where his third eye sleeps. His skin is bronzed and leathery; the direct result of an abbot like lifestyle, hiding within the alleyways- the caves of the city. Just last week I had a Moses spotting- he was strolling down Elkton another central road in tiny Newark that runs parallel to Main Street. My buddy and I were cruising to Wawa when I saw him floating down the sidewalk. I rolled down my window and called, (I didn’t yell as I did not want to disrupt or disrespect a holy relic like himself) “Moses!” in a revered, curt tone. He stopped dead in his tracks and looked up at our truck passing by. I couldn’t believe he looked up- the split second his neck craned toward me, and his shielded eyes met mine I felt my soul cringe. I didn’t even really call out “Moses” directly toward him. I guess I just wanted to see if he would respond and he did- like Moses heralded by God he stared at me with surprised yet awakened eyes- pleased and dissatisfied that someone figured out his secret spirit. Moses of Main Street meanders with the wisdom of a dead man; he moseys about the streets of Newark, Delaware like a desert dried prophet leading his people toward salvation- only the people do not believe him, the people do not even see him. Thus, Moses bears the stigma of a perceived lunacy because he chooses to live a monastic lifestyle- amidst the trains, jets, cars, skyscrapers, dimness, ghettos, suburbia towns, suits, rags, the urban jungles; Moses chooses a monastic life. I guess I find him so holy because he pushes onward in spite of having already, light-years ago, seen the end and start of the perpetually ancient Nihilism River. Oh yea and I almost forgot to mention Moses’ apostle, this portly, round, decimated looking man I deemed “Sickly Saint Nick,” or “Bobby Bottles” as I’ve heard him called. He’s tragically jovial, with a head of white, THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 21
ear length hair, and lamely shaven white beard with long white mutton chops- reminiscent of Santa Claus. I used to see this bizarre Christmas angel fumbling his chubby muck stained fingers through the garbage and recycling outside my dorms last year- Dickinson, the ghetto of U-Del. Well, this guy would rummage through the waste and recyclables like a rabies ridden raccoon, staggering from recycling unit to recycling unit, dragging his two stolen shopping carts filled with cans, bottles, newspapers, coats, shoes- anything he may be able to flip for a couple dollars down at the city waste management center or local pawn shop. Saint Nick pushes his steel framed sleighs morosely up and down Main Street, gathering up all the gifts that others have thrown away so carelessly. A cleaner of the earth this robustly damaged soul picks up after you and I- who inebriated with entitlement, toss beer cans, whiskey bottles, shot glasses, fast-food bags, cups and wrappers into the streets of Newark. Now, Moses is holy and quiet, whereas Saint Nick is righteous and loud. I saw him today actually, pulling his four wheeled sleighs- absent of reindeers and wingmen for they had left him to polish the earth on his own. It was on Main Street of course, where all the sanctified crying souls suffer toward salvation, I witnessed Saint Nick blubber coated for winter, dirty partly shaven white beard scrounging in between two of those automatic paper vendors-reaching with his tired stout arm toward a single can lying wedged between the New York Times machine and the Wall Street Journal machine. It was as if his life and loot depended upon retrieving that last aluminum container. I kept walking and chuckled a bit at how tragically jovial he looked, how he stuck out his tongue and appeared to slobber at the struggle and prospect of having that shiny five cent metal cylinder. For Saint Nick everything is treasure- I think he understands that the earth is a treasure, and that heâ€™s doing a service by sweeping the streets clean of the trash- except something haunts Saint Nick, the sad fact that he cannot cleanse these sidewalks of himself. He deserves something hallowed when he dies, which, judging by his sickly face, will not be long. Saint Nick is loud because he is moaning as he bears the brunt of survival and revival of Mother Nature. There are homeless all over the world, only the ones I see at this college town amidst all the future leaders, innovators, healers, ambassadors, and heroes of this earth glow gray and angelically while they are overlooked, under-appreciated, and demonized by us lucky few. Theyâ€™re ecclesiastically correct and terrestrially wrong.
LarryKelts Your great-grandmother pieced quilts from outgrown shirts and pajamas. She made you one when you were a baby, before you knew making was her way of expressing. On that quilt lay my childhood in stripes and fading figures. She pieced strips together there, padding between layers, then stitching to hold the pattern together. You wrapped yourself in that quilt, holding until it tattered into torn fragments and left pieces of itself scattered about the house. I remember how one night, after youâ€™d fallen asleep, I took that tattered quilt out back, sprinkled it with kerosene and set it afire from fearing prolonged exposure, to such soiled remnants, unhealthy. But time brings it back, and now I piece together torn strips of memory for something to hold as the blanket of our universe expands, something to pattern the scattered pieces of us in my tattered expressing.
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An Epiphany in Tavistock Square LanaSchwartz Every Thursday we did the same thing. Every Thursday, for as long as I could remember, it was the exact same thing. Sometimes I would ask my father, Jonathan, why we couldn’t shake things up a bit, do something different that week. I would say this, albeit jokingly, because I knew how much he treasured our tradition. However, my father would simply respond, with a slight smile, “You know, Jennifer, maybe I just find comfort in repetition.” This was undeniably true. My father consistently ate the same meals, watched his favorite movies multiple times, and always drank the same brand of coffee. As quirky and unconventional as my father could be, he had quite the fondness for the ordinary and the usual. Every Thursday afternoon, my father would pick me up from school, and instead of going straight home, we would sit in Tavistock Square. We would get food on the way there, eat, sit, and talk. It wasn’t incredibly complicated or extravagant, but it was nice. My father worked as a professor at King’s College, and whether or not this was really true, it always felt like those Thursdays were the only time he had for me. Naturally, I began to cherish our time in the park, and look forward to it every week. As I got older, you would think that I would want to spend this time with my friends after school, gossiping and shopping, but to me, there was never any question in my mind. Thursday afternoons were my time with my father. I wasn’t embarrassed about it either. All of my friends knew that I had the cool, liberal, hippie dad, and they were all jealous. It’s funny because even though I know we went there in the snow and the bad weather, when I think about going to Tavistock Square with my father all that really comes to mind are beautiful, sunny days. The birds are chirping and the flowers are fully blossomed. We would sit in Tavistock Square for hours, just me and my father, talking. Our conversations would range from the mundane, to the extraordinary, with mostly me contributing to the mundane aspects of it. I would tell my father what I did that day in school and what was going on in my life. Of course, as I got older, these problems went from being, “Reggie got everyone in class to make fun of me when I got a question wrong in Science,” to “Why Catcher in the Rye was my new favorite book.” My father was always patient and kind, and gave me advice, whether or not it was always what I wanted to hear. Besides from me whining about the woes of my daily life, my father would also tell me stories. To this day, my father is still the smartest person that I’ve ever encountered in my whole life, and he would tell 24
me stories about the different people who were honored in the park with benches, trees, and monuments. I think I learned more about Gandhi from my father’s stories than I did from any of my History teachers. Growing up, and going to Tavistock Square with my father every week inspired me. It was hard for me to fathom the weight of the accomplishments of these people. They changed millions of lives, but they started out like everyone else did. They were children once too, leading everyday lives, until at some point they grew up to be remarkable people. I knew from a very young age that I wanted my life to follow that same course. At the time, I might have been just an innocent schoolgirl, but I thought to myself, “Just you wait, world! Jennifer Rooney is here and there is no one that can stop me!” I still remember, unfortunately almost a little too well, the week that I was accepted into Williams College. My parents were so proud, my father, especially. I couldn’t wait to go to a tiny, liberal arts school in America, where I could expand my horizons in ways that I could not even yet imagine. When I told my father I was thinking of applying to Williams, during one of our usual Thursday afternoon talks, I told him I didn’t think I had even half a chance of getting in. He reassured me, however, that any school would be lucky to have me, and if they didn’t see that, “then to hell with them,” with a wink and a shrug. I just laughed and even though my fears were not entirely assuaged, I felt lucky to have a parent who I felt truly accepted me for me. Even though my father was a professor, and I’m sure he really did have high hopes for my higher education, he only expressed his pride when necessary and rarely his disappointment. That following Thursday, when my dad met me after school, I knew something was wrong. He didn’t have his usual spring in his step, he wasn’t smiling, excited to tell me a new story or some minute, but interesting fact about bees that he just learned. It only took us fifteen minutes to walk to Tavistock Square, but if anyone had asked me, I would have told them that it took us hours on that day. When we sat down, on our usual bench, my father turned to me almost immediately and said, “Jennifer, I’m leaving your mother.” At first I thought I had surely heard him wrong. My parents were married happily, or so I thought, for almost twenty-five years. To me, as a teenager, I just didn’t understand how you could spend more than a quarter of your lifetime with someone and then just decide one day, seemingly out of nowhere, that you were leaving them. I had naively thought that divorce and scandal were reserved for celebrities, after two years of estranged marriage and fake promises. I looked back at him, aghast and confused with tears in my eyes, and said, “Does Mom know?” “Yes, she knows. I told her last night.” Last night? My father told my mother that he was leaving her last night and I didn’t even notice any THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 25
shouting or door-slamming? Was I that wrapped up in my own little teenage world? The truth was yes, I was, and I was both embarrassed and ashamed to have to admit that to myself. My father then revealed to me that there was, of course, someone else (isn’t there always?) and in the tackiest, most repulsive of fashions, she was obviously a former student of his. He told me he would be staying with another professor friend of his for a while, until he could find a place of his own, big enough for the two of them. That was the last time I saw my father. Of course, my dad begged me to forgive him. I, of course, was siding with my mother through and through. Over the years, it was no secret that I was closer with my father than with my mother. I had given up trying to pretend like I didn’t play favorites years ago. My mother shared her world with my younger sister, and that was fine with me. She was still my mother though, and even more than that, I didn’t feel like my father only betrayed her, but that he had betrayed my whole family with his infidelity. We had been happy, and now this was a stain on our previously unblemished nuclear family existence. I left for Williams at the end of that summer. I did well at school, and then at law school, and then on my LSATs. I joined a top-ranking corporate firm in Boston and never looked back. I hadn’t even been back to London in years, until now, for my mother’s wedding to her second husband, Jonathan 2.0. I systematically ignored my dad’s calls, e-mails, text messages, and any other means of communication he might have used. Part of me is convinced that he learned how to effectively maneuver technology in the vain hope that I would be impressed enough to actually respond to him. Yet even though I refused to correspond with my father, I found myself channeling him in ways that I would have never expected. Where I used to love diversity in all aspects of my life, I found myself embracing repetition. I became a true creature of habit. I would eat the same breakfast almost every day, and I never found myself venturing into new stores, but making sure I always stuck with the old ones. I guess it was my way of keeping my father in my life, without actually keeping my father in my life. And here I am, on my first day in London, back at Tavistock Square, after all these years. I haven’t been here since the day that my father told me he was leaving my mother. I wonder if he still comes without me every Thursday. It’s strange, going back to a place when you’ve changed so much and it’s almost exactly the same. I don’t really know what I expected. It’s still wonderfully symmetrical, with the great Mohandas Gandhi in the middle. I love the irony of the Starbucks across the street outside of the “Peace Square.” Even though I haven’t been here in years, it still almost feels like Tavistock Square is a part of me. When the terrorist bombings happened in 2005, even though I was millions of miles away, I felt a painful sting in my 26
heart. It was almost as if a relative or a close friend was fatally injured and I was tempted to get on a plane and rush to their side. I still couldn’t bring myself to go back to London though, and back to that place that had been so special to me, and to my relationship with my father for so many years. And if I’m honest with myself, another reason why I couldn’t bear to come back here, for so many years, is because I never accomplished what I wanted to. I’m not brave or heroic. I don’t write literature that inspires people, like Virginia Woolf did, or even read literature that inspires people. I’m just another corporate lawyer making too much money to defend the bad guys, not the weak and the innocent. It’s like Tavistock Square was a third parent and I couldn’t, or wouldn’t accept its disapproval. I had hopes and dreams for my future. What happened? What always happens, I guess. I walked around the square, and looked around at all the different monuments, the tree planted in honor of those who died in Hiroshima, and the bench celebrating twenty-one years of Mothers for Peace that says, “World Peace Will Come through the Will of Ordinary People like Yourself.” Overcome with emotion, I decide to sit down on the bench and put my head in my hands. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing with my life, but I finally realize that I need to embark on a new path. I need to remember how the words, “The path of the just is as the shining light” inspired me so many years before, and maybe let my father be a part of my life again. I don’t know if I can change, but I want to, and I don’t know if a different kind of life will make me happy, but I know that whatever I’m doing right now isn’t working. Finally, I start crying, and laughing, all at the exact same time. The tears running down my face feel cathartic for me, as if I’ve needed to cry for so long, and couldn’t bring myself to. As if there was some release I was seeking, that I didn’t know how to find. While I’m sitting here, in this fit of both laughter and tears, a young boy comes up to me. Funny, I hadn’t even realized anyone was in square this entire time. He says, timidly, maybe even a little afraid, “Hey lady, are you okay?’” I said, “Yes, thank you,” confidently. And so I was. Finally.
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MattPaparone Silent ice on black winter roads spreads its viral surface tension through municipal neglect, silent in its violence, a mouth stapled shut. It passes under tires as easily as reading the paper with a shallow iris, with pendulum thoughts swinging unharassed, or as easily as sucking epiphanies through pipe stems, declaring lazy insights like “The death of nature is as satirical as world peace.” Families bless themselves, submerged in their own filth and huddled in Scapegoat worship, smearing faith across their eyes, fathers so willing to sacrifice their sons to Him, if only for a sure step and an early spring. In this new testament, He neglects to slip the knife from the father’s hand.
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Everett’s dreams seemed less interesting every dream. However, what he drew from the dreams upon waking seemed to have momentous consequence. His recent dream featured a single human leg floating in blank space, two nails hammered into the knee cap, flush to the flesh, rings of crusted blood around each nail head. When the knee hovered downward to his dreamer’s vague positioning, Everett was enthused. He didn’t know how, but he seemed to inherently understand that the nails belonged in his knee, as if they were holding things together, not the inner workings of his knee as a primitive surgery might, but bigger things, the balance of Earth or the fate of the universe or such concepts of broad-reaching significance. After waiting for the dream to advance for what seemed like an eternity but might have only been a mere dream second, Everett removed the nails. The metal spikes slid out as smoothly as if he were pulling weeds out of the soil, to the root. After another indeterminate amount of dream time, the two holes began to pour forth streams of frothy rich red blood. The pain was bearable. Yet Everett, aware of his foolish mistake prior to making it, tried to reinsert the stopper nails. This pain caused by the points in the open wounds was the most severe smarting he had ever experienced in a dream. He threw the nails far into the black beyond. For he knew he must. He knew that the excruciating pain paled compared to the collective universal gains of his sacrifice. The blood poured forth in thicker gluts and deepened in color, rose-red to crimson to maroon, finally black. Everett smelled oil. The stench ached his head at a level equal to the pain of the nails bored into his knees. He realized the symbolic suggestion. There is a lot, but only so much oil or resources on Earth. Earth’s blood, so to speak, is not a renewable resource. He carried such thought over to real life as he passed back. Technically in between sleep he thought, ‘Earth is on death row.’ Upon waking up all the way Everett felt a tingling dotting each knee cap. He touched his knee, disappointed not to blot blood or oil. It was three A.M. He looked out his window and saw two diluted stripes of lime green slithering like rivers above Mt. Alice. He went outside to view what remained of the aurora borealis display. To his surprise the rivers had emboldened braided and broken off in endless tributaries, like the roots and branches of a celestial tree. Cosmic curiosity was supplanted by crushing sadness. He wondered if aurora borealis, eclipses, comets and the like could even be seen by any other worlds – if the death of earth also meant the death of such views. 30
We the Civilized
We the civilized dig holes in the dirt Eat out of trash cans Deface ourselves Mutilate edifice Hide the leprosy Robots run the world Repeat the same nothing Eat the same gruel Measure the angles And poisonous pessimism chomps away Enough Enough Enough? Schism and shake the safe and warm Who are no safer than the make-believe soldiers We make our demons And let them beat us And we hide in the trees from the forest but we always win and when we lose we didn’t play Because it’s always day Except when we close our eyes Gays and cancered frighten us instead of the suits and masks The clouds seem so comfortable But they are so far away Metallic clangs and clatter Wake us up in the night And Roar and hollers give us fraternity We’ve made our bed but we’re wide awake It’s six o’clock do you know where your daughter is? Saints decry the cellophane and vacuum packed But they made us buy it Cut copy paste we the civilized THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 31
Why Hellmut Ludwig Sp채th, Renowned Botanist, Destroyed His Garden
de Brunz and I worked tirelessly all winter-he had children and I did not-cataloguing the winter blooming roses, trying to keep them alive against the growing storm of fanaticism, controlling what we could, all winter. Berlin, Berlin, the word curling in our lips to a smile, our chimney chapped lips steaming creation onto the world, into the quiet, falling air of the nationalist gardens of my father and his nation, as if nations could even dream of holding onto a garden. When we were given our new title, nationalist botanist, Nationalistischen Botaniker, I wanted to laugh. As good to be a nationalist botanist as a nationalist physicist or astronomer, as good to say proud Deutschland wrote the laws governing the universe. I thought it a joke, but De Brunz did not-and like any good nationalists, we prepared the silent garden, trimmed the blood red roses for the visit from Der Fuhrer, and I must admit that I pressed my finger lightly against a thorn, hoping. When Herr Hitler arrived for his visit, Goering and a girl in tow, I wanted to tell him the rose he was admiring was French in origin, as far as a flower could be of a nation. De Brunz, knowing what I was doing, stopped me; he had children and I did not. When Hitler touched the flower it did not shrink away, nor did it reach to him. It had no opinion 32
on the matter. It merely whimpered a bit in the wind, its petals red and delicate as the young girlâ€™s cheeks. The tyrant considered it a moment, then turned to another. I grew sickened. After his visit, I went to the rose, purer by far than its kin, and clipped it. I was afraid of its infection spreading, afraid of some irrational image of all my flowers in a silent heil, afraid of politics. When de Brunz saw me, he did not say anything. The next day, my journal was missing, and when I sat down to dinner, I saw him leafing through it, shaking his head. That night, he played no music, and I sat in my quarters, looking out the window onto the gardens, onto the flowers. In the night, I saw the flowers for their blackness, and the saw the blackness spreading through the tendrils, and all the way down to the cold, hard, silent earth, all of it black. I snuck out silently with my scissors, and beheaded every bud I could see. And when the sun rose on a bald garden, rose on winter breathing slowly, evenly, on what a truly nationalist garden looked like, barren and icy, and dead, cold and dead, de Brunz merely sighed and escorted the guards to me and I did not spite him. He had children and I did not, and in the wintry depths of Berlin, one could not afford to be a father and not also a Nazi, but I knew that one could also not afford to love beautiful things and call himself a fascist. And so I chose.
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Chimera MorganWinsor I look up at you from my seat at the table outside the Italian restaurant on the corner of second and fourth. I rest my head beneath your chin that tender cavity between your neck and your shoulder and nudge my nose against the grain of your midnight stubble. The skin beneath your ear is saturated from your cologne notes of musk, sandalwood, guaiac. Soft and dreamy. City life gleams through the glass of the apartment windows the light smoothly bending and refracting into our eyes. Your fingers gently twitch resting on my upper arm as nightlife echoes against the brick of the five-story building. Iâ€™m no match for city life. I listen as you sleep. The creek of the wooden floorboards and the slight sway of the velvet curtains in the zephyr from the ceiling fan. I look up at you. I look away for a moment then ask for the cheque outside the Italian restaurant on the corner of second and fourth.
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Vapor Trails BryanAdelman I have to tell you about this dream I had last night. My flight was delayed until further notice. For all I know it may not be departing at all but I still see no reason why I should leave these terminals and all the other people behind, just barely keeping awake because they want to wait for the ok. The crackling mechanical voice on the intercom that gives heads up and you always know it’s coming when your ears go deaf for the split second as the clerk lifts the receiver. And then the click, like pulling the plug on a stereo midway through play. No click, I can only hear some ladies coughing and some papers shuffling and then more distinctly, a hundred miles of baggage rolling down the corridor. They have a collective hum that rampages through the corridor like some white squall or a dozen roman candles strapped to a freight train; my ears unable to separate each one. For a second there I thought they were rolling on the walls and ceiling. Someone must’ve been too impatient to walk at an even pace with everyone else. I don’t blame them. I smell doughnuts, fresh ones, being baked at the shop next to the soda machines, and next to that is the mound of waxy bakery wrappers piled up near the trash can. The janitors are nowhere to be found. I don’t want to sit around and wait, I wasn’t built to wait, you know that. I want to light up a cigarette, can I smoke in here? Of course I can. There are, afterall, no signs letting me know I can’t. I only see them at terminals. I guess the new arrivals must not want to be engulfed in smoke the first few seconds they’re in town. They don’t want to get a bad impression. I’m horrible at first impressions; you of all people should know that. You were there to see me off but that won’t be anytime soon so you took the opportunity to stay with me as long as you could. I lit a Camel, my favorite and you preferred menthols which you know I’m not crazy about. But no matter, there are no signs down the corridors and escalators, lets make our way through there, we’ve got plenty of time. What the hell am I talking about, I don’t even know where it is I’m going. I don’t even have a fucking ticket, just my transcripts and those are good enough. I can feel them riding up and down in my back pocket as I walk. Our footsteps are being traced by the vague reflection of ourselves on the chrome walls and glass advertisements. Imagine somebody making up their mind to spread us out with a butter knife. And the people ahead, I can’t make out their faces or the color of their skin; their shapes are silhouettes from the feed of the comatose sun. They’ll never reach us and we’ll never reach them because 36
their flights are never delayed and they’ve got far too much on their minds to wander around. You’ve gotten skinny. I mean, you were always skinny but when I put my arms around you and my right hand rest on your top rib just below your coffee filter breast, I close my eyes and feel a little girl standing beside me. You must’ve been adorable then. I can shut my lids and still feel that child’s sternum. You said once that you wish you knew me back then but I have to tell you, you probably would’ve been disappointed. Its still a lovely thought. Its feels as if, if I wanted to, I could break you in four just by a tight squeeze. I don’t wanna do that, I only want to talk. I only want to take with me on the plane, sitting next to some silent kindergarten teacher, the last thing you ever said to me. The last things always stick out like a corrosive form of graffiti. Whose paint was mixed with menthols and stirred with your index. Both of which are bitter in my mouth, yet distinct enough to bring back vivid dreams. Like the taste after you eat a girl out. That taste stays in your mouth for days, even after you wash it down with a couple drinks. I can still taste this lesbian I fucked once. But I never cared about her, no matter how much I probably should’ve. She was an easy decision. It only took me five minutes, if that. She tried unsuccessfully, to use the days old stubble around her cleft opening to plant her pods into my hips, to pass on whatever residue of pain was left from her troubled childhood and give off to me. I didn’t want to share that, though and I wanted nothing to do with her. It wasn’t mine to take. I need to stop a minute, see where I am. I turned around and noticed a loose row of cigarette butts on the floor trailing behind us, almost like breadcrumbs. Has it been very long? We’ve left all the usual terminals behind. There is no more corridor left. Only this abandoned departure gate. It must serve as a dead end of sorts to people like us. There’s no one else, nobody sitting around. The seats are loaded with taped up boxes, stacked two or three high. The windows are wrapped in, I guess, cellophane and some of them, rolls of bubble wrap. Didn’t you ever love popping those when you were a kid? I used to do it all the time. My brother taught me an especially noisy way to do it, you just have to wrap it up like a poster and turn like you were giving an indian burn. They go off like firecrackers in April. My brother once dropped me off at an airport just like this one near the end of summer after I’d spent two months with him up in Biddeford, Maine. I remember sitting on the floor against the wall clasping my ticket. The place seemed so unreal I never spoke a single word, not even a hello to the stewardess who was actually rather cute. My childhood is always scattered with visions of freeways and airports like this one, and always with that sound as a gentle set of nails down the back of my neck. To tell you the truth, I’d like nothing more than to hold you tighter but I’m afraid I’ll break something. I’d like nothing more THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 37
than to empty my saliva in you right now. Trust me, I won’t miss my flight. We’ve got all the time in the world. Its always when you’re about to leave that you start getting that magnetic pull towards the people around you. I keep looking around and catching sight of your vapor trails. I counted three of them last time. Do me a favor, though. Before I leave, keep the water hot enough so that our skin will drift gradually to the surface and leave behind what they have kept hidden free to dance against the corals. We’ve got all the time in the world. And don’t worry, I don’t need to remember my gate number. We’ve got our own little vapor trails to follow, so we’ll never lose our way.
The Dog Bridge JamesSmith In a few days I will be gone from this place. A woman, a nurse, had asked if I wanted anything else. She was talking about Jell-O or fruit juice, but I misunderstood. I keep misunderstanding people, which is no surprise. I thought she meant: do I want anything else? In general, before the few days are up, do I want anything else? I know you’re gone and you probably are still mad at me for what I did. I would be mad, too. I wouldn’t visit me and I certainly wouldn’t bring the kids because it would just make you all uncomfortable, being how I am now, being like this. I know I deserve it, too. But it’s still hard, and I just wanted you to, I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. I’ve been watching a lot of television. There was this one show, this probably won’t interest you, there’s not a lot to be interested in now. But they were talking about this one bridge, I think in Ireland or Scotland. Every now and then, dogs go to this bridge and jump off and die in the river below. And it’s always the same place on the bridge. There was something like over 600 recorded dog suicides there. I had no idea dogs even did that. And they found this one dog who survived only somewhat harmed, but as soon as they let him loose, he went right back to that bridge, same place, and jumped off and died. Thought it was the strangest thing. Been thinking about that dog a lot, like what made him go back the second time? Hell, what makes dogs do that in the first place? Anyways, I don’t want to bore you with that. Just was on my mind. My room here is pretty small and well, I shouldn’t complain. How is the house? You don’t have to answer. I hope the police or whoever cleaned up the bedroom so you didn’t have to. I should have done it in the attic. What am I saying? I shouldn’t have done it at all. I just thought, I don’t know, I didn’t want anything else. Everyone gets like that, you probably have. And then today the nurse asked me if I wanted anything else and now I do. At this moment I do want something else. This room has a window overlooking a playground, but my bed is too low to see out. I asked the nurse to raise it so I could see out, but the beds don’t go that high. In the afternoons, I turn off the television and hear the children playing outside. You can hear swings and laughing, the sounds children make when they play. But I can’t see them. Please don’t tell the nurse this and hopefully they aren’t reading this, but tomorrow, as much as it will hurt, I’m going to try and stand up so I can see out the window.
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Shades of Grey CarolineWomer Black and white. Your fingers grace the ivory keys in rhythms so fluid that water can’t compete, alternating between “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” and my Heart and Soul. You try to teach me the blues, but all I can comprehend are your eyes of a similar hue. And we play side by side. Unequal. Your perfection outweighs my lack of grace. You wished I had more patience. I wish the same. You play me so adeptly, your fingers uniting with the black and white ever so tenderly, perfect consonance. Key of C. I play you imperfectly, dissonant chords echoing harshly in the small white room, leaving much to be desired. Key of G. But I try so hard. And from the depths of your beating vital organs, you compose a poetic tragedy of sorts, that when you perform it, I know I’ll never want another. But I am a mere rest in your catastrophic piece. And I want to be every measure, breaking up the chaos in the sky of your clouded life. I feel things for you that no one is capable of. Just look at you, Mr. Piano Man. I don’t need saving, but I’m the slowly sinking Alexa.
Socks RachelGearheart I still feel a dim tingle every time I step into your socks socks that I stole from the top drawer of your dresser every time we were in bed and you complained about my feet being too cold Socks that are 3 times too big like my heart was for yours And just as my feet fit in your gray toed Haines your heart once fit inside mine like the mittens I made you one Whoville Christmas without packages and boxes and tags It’s funny how you still manage to warm me even though I am treading on that warmth with every step I take away from you And although it was our favorite poem I’m not treading softly I’m stomping through the Rolodex of cocktail napkins marked by digits that aren’t yours I’m plodding over the obstacles you resurrected to keep me knitting you things that you never woreNever wore like you wore these socks worn down so our naked soles blister from touching the ground Worn down like me from the wishes that never came true despite all the kisses I blew going through yellow lights yielding to nothing but the thought of stepping into your size 12 shoes You always claimed your shoes were too big to fit so I found someone else to fill them and I settled for these socks These tattered reminders of how unrealistic the affirmations are that I tell myself every morning when I wake up and my feet are still cold Truth be told, I would choose to breathe water over air, if it meant, these socks that have now taken shelter in the top drawer of my dresser would somehow become nothing more than rags. THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 41
Boylston Street DanielLevine It is sharply cold and windy in Boston, and the Commonâ€™s trees are strung thick with lights I brush a trench coat, a fur, slip past a leather glove and retract to a fist inside my pocket. The city needs a cigarette, or glass of bourbon to calm its twitching digits. From a mile above the spotted streets cut between apartments, and the aching lonely flows without fissure, clashing and eroding: The breaking down to a core. The cadence has been perfected, and the stone faces set. We, the population of winter keep our feet moving, eyeing suspiciously a grin or nod, hocking loudly and spitting off the sidewalk careful not to cause a commotion with our sickness. We push our own sleeves to our mouths with every neighborâ€™s wretching.
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This Is Not A Love Story SamanthaBrix “She’s alive!” Kerri screeched, and almost body-slammed me, throwing her arms around my stiff body in the saddest excuse for a hug. My arms were glued to my sides but when Kerri peeled her body away from me, I contorted my face into a sort of smile. “You look great, Marce! We miss you.” “I…” my voice was cracking. “I miss you too.” Over Kerri’s shoulder, I saw Jim. He was standing with a beer in his hand and was leaning against a table, wobbling slightly. He was drunk. He was also tan from the South Carolina sun, and the T-shirt he wore bearing the word Marines clung tightly around his biceps. The last time he wore that shirt it hung loosely over his skinny arms. His head was almost entirely shaved with stiff, straight lines where the shortest of hairs met his bare scalp. I pulled away from Kerri and stared at Jim. “Marcelle,” he said with a smile fueled with booze. “Oh my God. Jim, you look so different.” My brain told my legs to walk toward him, but my barely-functioning body parts didn’t obey. He walked slowly toward me, stumbling a bit, and stopped just inches from my face. He smiled, tight-lipped at first, and then widened it to show both rows of teeth. He lifted his two stone arms around my body and mine somehow reciprocated, feeling the newly-sculpted shape of his chest and back. Involuntarily, my arms tightened around his torso. When he pulled away suddenly, I almost lost my balance. “How was boot camp?” I managed to say quietly. “Fuckin’ sucked,” he said and spit on the ground. He stepped on his spit and started to fall over a little. “You’re drunk,” I said and hit his shoulder lightly, which didn’t feel like flesh, but like a carved statue. I noticed some black beneath his sleeve and rolled it up to reveal a tattoo of a bald eagle sitting atop a globe, surrounded by an anchor. The Marines symbol I had come to know and loathe. “It’s huge, Jim! You didn’t waste any time.” “It’s sick, right?” He stumbled a little. “You know I hate it,” I told him. “How long have you been drinking.” “We started at like noon at the barbecue. I deserve as much alcohol as I can get, after the hell I just went through.” A shiver ran up my body to the top of my back when I thought of how Jim’s hell was the same one Dan is enduring now. The same Dan that used to fall asleep on my bed in the middle of a TV show with my one cat 44
nestled in between his legs and my other cat tucked in between his chin and shoulder, stealing my spot. “Do you know if you’ll have to go to Iraq yet?” Boot camp was barely horrifying next to the possibilities that could come afterward. I tried not to think of after boot camp, though. I tried not to think beyond today. “I don’t know shit yet, but I hope to go as soon as possible,” Jim said with a voice a few notes lower than I remembered. He spat out a harsh, quick chuckle. “Jim, you don’t mean that.” “We’ll get them back for what they did to us on 9/11.” “I don’t want to talk about this. Never mind. It’s good to see you, though. I missed you.” I hit him again lightly and he lost his footing and grabbed for my arm to hold him steady. His hand on my wrist was rough, and bigger than I remembered. I laughed at him, realizing it was the first time I laughed in two weeks. I found the cooler of beer, cracked one open and found Kerri playing a card game. I sat next to her but didn’t play. Instead, I sipped at my cool beer, picking at a cuticle on my thumb, thinking about what Dan would look like when he returned home just three weeks later. My mind went back to the sound of nine weeks earlier. The sound of three knocks. My body froze. My eyes couldn’t close. They stayed open, dry. My throat wasn’t there. Dan’s dad stood up from the computer chair, looking away from the computer for the first time that morning. It was 3:45 A.M. Mr. Adamo walked to the door and opened it. “Sergeant Chasen. United States Marine Corps,” I heard a voice, familiar but with a foreign tone, say. And with his words, the first of many little pieces of me died. Sergeant Chasen stepped into the dark living room in a stiffly-pressed, beige button down and trousers and hard-framed cap, a uniform I would later learn were called Charlies. I would later learn the names of many new things given normal names to make them seem less scary. But they were never anything but frightening. Sergeant Chasen walked over to Dan with quick, rigid steps that came to an abrupt stop. He shook Dan’s hand with a robotic tightness. The smile that was usually planted on Sergeant Chasen’s face wasn’t there. The wild, laughing look always gleaming in Dan’s green eyes was gone. Just a few minutes before Sergeant Chasen arrived, Dan and I were holding each other in the dining room. We were wrapped in each other’s arms, unable to speak, knowing these would be the last moments we could see and touch each other in real life, not in pictures. I kept trying not to take one moment for granted; I kissed Dan’s lips, and he kissed back. I rubbed the lower part of his sides where I knew it elicited the kind of tickle that THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 45
feels good, and he lightly scratched my upper back where I was always itchy. I pawed at his strong chest and stared deep into his green, scared eyes. He stared back, his eyes struggling to be brave. From the living room, I heard the crinkle of the potato chip bag his mom was holding. She sat on a faded, moldy-smelling couch looking at a magazine, eating chip after chip, licking her fingertips in between. She would open her mouth wide, parting her uneven lips, the top one crooked and slanted, to let in a handful of chips. Not a sadness about her, not a tear in her eyes. She never told Dan she would miss him. She held that bag of potato chips closer than she ever held either of her sons. Mr. Adamo hadn’t looked up from the computer since I had arrived, and Eddie, Dan’s little brother, was sitting in the corner silently, picking at his nails, something I came to understand far too well later on. Dan and I let go of our embrace at the same exact time, and I looked up at his eyelashes, which usually slanted slightly upward, but that morning were stuck straight out. The outer rim of his eyes was turquoise, petrified. Knowing for months and months that this morning would come, we had nothing left to say. We had said all the words. My mind was short-circuiting with memories and images of us. The night we got drunk and passed out on his kitchen floor and slept there through the night, waking up to his appalled parents standing over us, home early from North Carolina, his mom’s uneven lip quivering, furious. The bracelet he made me for our two-month anniversary out of rope and beads. How he made every gift he had ever given me. The parallel slides we were laying on at the playground when he lit a blunt stuffed with flowery, fragrant marijuana, the smoky tip a silhouette against the cold, blue-black sky. We got deliriously high and started making out when I suddenly thought he was dead. He got mad at me for saying I felt like I was kissing a corpse. The fight we had after he read my diary entry where I wrote I thought his mother was mentally ill, incapable of loving him or anyone. He had put on his raincoat, picked up the camera he had just used to take pictures of me, packed away the lenses, batteries, and tripod and walked twenty minutes home from my house in the rain. The night over the summer we found each other in the same hiding spot in my neighbor’s garage during a game of Man Hunt. We kissed while they looked for us. The night we were watching TV on his bed when he starting undressing me without speaking. I had told him to wait and set up his small video camera, and his kisses got more intense and my clothes were off very quickly and he was setting up the camera and kicking his pants off simultaneously. He moved slowly toward me with the corniest strut and leaped on top of me, making the mattress hinges squeak. “Let’s do it in my parent’s bed again,” he had said. “That was my first and last time having sex on a water bed. No thanks,” I had retorted. When we were done, we watched the video which didn’t have sound. In the grainy camera screen, we watched Dan reach over to dresser for a condom 46
and bite the wrapper off with his teeth. He placed it carefully on his penis looking at me, and then looked down in frustration. I sat up to see. He flipped the condom upside down and it rolled on with ease. When I laid back down, his body was the only one visible, moving up and down, forward and back. He arched his back up and then I’m in view of the camera—I reach for a box of tissues on the floor, blow my nose, and toss the tissue which landed just short of a wastebasket. Dan continued back and forth, unfazed. When I lay back down, I was out of sight again, and the video had about five minutes left. About three and a half minutes of watching, I was checking a text message on my phone and he was picking dead leaves off a plant on the floor. “Exciting!” I laughed, and he pounced on me, dead leaves still in his hand, to kiss me. And then came three knocks. And Dan said three words, but the words were petrified. Would they ever sound the same, ever mean the same, after this? “I love you, too,” I told him, my eyes concentrating on the stiffness of his eyelashes. I walked next to Dan down the driveway to Sergeant Chasen’s car, his family following at what seemed like a great distance behind us. He hugged me last and tightest, and meant it the most. I watched his face through the window as the car rolled out of the driveway and when I lost sight of him, I felt a physical hole in my chest for the first time, a hole large and deep, with tiny zaps of sting coming at random, without notice. I woke up after three hours of sleep and immediately grabbed at the gaping hole in my chest, trying to cover it and fill it with my hands. Like a zombie, I walked to the bathroom and in the mirror, I saw that my cheeks were damp and the black of my mascara had painted shadows all around my empty eyes. My reflection wasn’t me. I was realities away. The first week that Dan was in boot camp was by far the hardest. After spending nearly every single day together for the last year and a half, the first seven we spent apart seemed all wrong—not only sad, but uncomfortable. When I drove my car, a hand on my leg was missing from the direction of the passenger seat. My cell phone received about 70 percent fewer text messages and calls. The dinner my mom spooned onto my plate that I could never finish was thrown in the garbage instead of scraped onto his plate. On the seventh day, his first letter came. I carefully opened the envelope, my hands shaking. I pulled out United States Marine Corps stationary and released the air I’d been holding in when I saw his familiar handwriting. “Marce, this is the first time they let us write letters home. I miss you so much. It’s not so bad here. We do so much running every day, I should THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 47
be in really good shape when I get home. I can’t wait to come home. I like my rack mate. His name is Billy and he’s from Alabama, but the drill sergeants call him Anus because his last name is Tainus. They have names for everyone here. They scream and spit in our faces all day long. I don’t get it as bad as other guys because of how much I worked out before I got here. But some guys can’t keep up and it’s pretty brutal for them. Yesterday was one of the hottest days I think I’ve ever lived. Had to be at least 105 degrees. And we must have run over 15 miles. A bunch of guys were throwing up, which sucked for them because the drill sergeants forced everyone who threw up to run an extra mile when we were all done. Billy threw up twice and had to run two more miles while the drill sergeants screamed “pussy” at him. Oh, if I didn’t tell you—don’t send me any food! Don’t send me anything at all except letters. One of the other guys in my room got a package from his aunt with 20 bags of Cheetohs inside. The drill sergeants made him eat all 20 bags in one sitting. He was vomiting orange the rest of the night and the next day looked like a mess, but was still forced to clean the bathrooms after the cesspools overflowed. Tell all our friends not to send me anything except letters, okay? I think about you all the time—well mostly at night, because during the day there’s too much going on and I don’t want to associate you with anything that goes on here. How is everything? How are your cats? I miss them too! I didn’t get any letters from you yet. I’m sure you’ve written and I just didn’t get them yet. I can’t wait to hear from you. And send me pictures—we’re allowed to get pictures. But don’t send any naked ones or anything like that. Another buddy I made, Ian, his wife sent him naked pictures of herself, and she’s fingering herself in one of them and now it’s taped on the door of the drill sergeant’s office. That sucks for him. I’d kill someone if they did that with a picture of you. Tell me what you’ve been up to. I hope you’re okay. I hope you’re not crying too much. Miss you. Love you so much, Marce. Love, Dan.” I read the whole letter again. And then one more time. And then three more times before I went to bed. And then when I woke up the next morning. Without any communication with him for a full week, I had begun to think he wasn’t alive. I wrote him four letters back and stuffed seven appropriate pictures of myself inside. In the week Dan was gone I barely spoke to my friends. I didn’t want to go to the bar with them, go to any of their parties, or even talk on the phone. My mom and my two cats were my only company. My mom loved Dan. He called her Mommy. She bought his art supplies for a course at community college when his parents said they didn’t have enough money to pay for them (but spent $200 the week before on Allman Brothers Band tickets). My mom would sit outside my closed, locked door waiting for me to be ready to talk, but I never was. When I opened my phone and found a 48
text message from my friend Kerri saying that Jim, Dan’s best friend, was home from boot camp for a week and she was having a party for him that night, I wanted to go. I was friends with Jim too and wanted to see him, though I hated him for talking Dan into enlisting after they both failed out of community college four months earlier. I put on a short, pink, strapless dress and wedge sandals in an attempt to feel real, and pulled Dan’s dog tags over my neck, which fell in line with my heart. I was turning the dog tags over and over in my palm when Kerri nudged me, almost sliding me off the bench we shared. She pointed up at Jim. “Helloooo. I said, we should go to Welwyn tomorrow with Frank, play some Frisbee or something,” Jim said, the smell of cheap beer flowing out of his mouth into my face. “Ok, yeah. Sure.” I wondered how many minutes I had sat there silently. “See you tomorrow, Miss Marcelle. I’m out of here,” he said squeezing my shoulder with his heavy hand, almost crushing it. Welwyn was Dan and his friends’ favorite hangout spot—it was a Holocaust Memorial and nature preserve with acres and acres of woods and a private beach. The winter before, Dan, Frank and I ate mushrooms in those woods. We had found our campfire spot and sat on logs, looking at the moon until it started to look lumpy. We walked through trails while vines and Scarlet Oak branches danced at our sides. The summer before that, Dan and I laid on the shell-covered sand and I read him articles and quizzes from an issue of Cosmopolitan. We tried out the suggested sex positions on our towels and then tried it in the water, which turned out to be too cold for him to stay hard. I woke up the next day excited to go to a place that held our memories, a place close to Dan. Jim drove, me in the passenger seat and Frank in the back, speeding through the windy, tree-shaded streets until we got to Welwyn. As he drove up the long driveway, we both stared out the right side of the car, a ritual we did each time we entered or left the park since this old, rickety gate looked like a flip book if you drove by it fast enough. Jim parked in the usual spot. “Are you trying to?” I turned around when Frank spoke. He opened his backpack and retrieved a transparent orange bowl, a ziplock bag overflowing with weed, and a red lighter with a black skeleton on it. “Mmmm, yes,” I said. I watched while he crushed the green leaves in between his fingers and gently pushed them into the bowl. He handed the bowl to me and I brought it to my nose and sniffed. I covered the carb with my thumb, snapped the lighter hovering over the dried herbs, and breathed in wholly, as if I was taking a breath of the freshest air. I let my thumb off the carb and breathed in even more, closing my eyes. I let the bowl slip away from my mouth and held the sweet smoke in my mouth, letting it travel THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 49
throughout my body. I opened my eyes and turned my head to look at Jim, and finally let the smoke creep out slowly. “Aah,” I murmured. “Fuck drug tests,” Jim said. Frank and I passed the bowl back and forth until we both felt airy and fantastic, and then took a Frisbee out to a green field. The sun was warm and I felt the best I had in three weeks. I watched the Frisbee move across the air in glorious spins, and felt connected to it. After what seemed like hours of tossing this Frisbee I was now convinced held spiritual powers, the three of us lay in the warm grass and stared up at the pale blue, cloudless sky. Frank rolled over. “Oh, there’s my ride,” Frank said as he sat up, yawning. “I forgot Alan was coming to pick me up. We’re going to Utopia so he can buy a water pipe.” “I thought we were going to go swimming,” I said, tapping Frank’s shoulder. “Sorry,” Frank said. “Jim will stick around and go with you. I gotta peace. See you guys. Keep your head up, Marcy.” “You down to stick around?” I asked Jim. “Sure,” he said with his eyes still closed. The sun was much lower in the sky when we woke up. “Nooo,” I groaned. “We fell asleep. I wanted to go swimming.” “What? Oh, fuck.” His voice was groggy. “We still can, I guess. Let’s go.” We hiked down a small trail until we reached sand. Jim picked berries from a bush at the end and popped them into his mouth. He tugged his shirt off and his deep golden chest was more sculpted than I could have imagined. I grimaced at his unfamiliar, large, black tattoo. I pulled my tank top off and stepped out of my long, blue skirt, fixing my bikini in place and took off after Jim down the sand. I slowed down, screaming, when I came to the rocky part, but Jim kept speeding through until he reached the bay and dove in. I waded in after him, screaming when the cold saltwater attacked my thighs. He grabbed me and threw me underwater until I fought my way out of his embrace and to the top for air. “You dick!” I screamed at him, invigorated. We floated on our backs and he suddenly grabbed my foot. “You’re bleeding,” he said. “You probably cut your foot on some shells back there.” “Oh my God!” I screamed. “It doesn’t hurt though.” He was still holding my foot, gently rubbing his fingers over a wide cut. His short brown hair was cut into the formal Marine “high and tight” cut which made them all look eerily alike. Up close, his jaw was more defined than I realized and his cheeks were peppered with tiny hairs a little early for a 5 o’ clock 50
shadow. His hand slid from my foot up my ankle, calf, and slowed as it reached my thigh, pulling me closer to him, my body frozen stiff. I sensed the waves watching us. The sound of them collapsing grew louder, trying to distract us. Jim put his hands, big and rough, on the back of my neck and moved his face close to mine until the brown of our eyes were locked together. His breath smelled like berries. I thought of the time Dan and I had tried to have sex in these very waters, his poor penis soft and little in the June ocean. Jim’s hands were now at my sides, gripping me tightly. I couldn’t move. His body pressed up against mine and I felt a hardness in his shorts. He moved his face even closer to mine and moved his icy tongue along my bottom lip. I breathed frantically. His breathe was slow, and sweet. Berries. I suddenly put my hand on his hard chest to push away, and swam toward shore, splashing out of the water. I ran up the side of the beach grabbing my skirt, tank top, and sandals on the way. I was sitting on the concrete in my wet bikini holding my clothes, leaning against the passenger door of Jim’s truck when he walked over a few minutes later. We got in the car without saying a word. He didn’t turn the engine on right away so we both listened to the harsh silence between us. We drove past the gate that looked like a flip book if you drove fast enough. But Jim didn’t drive fast enough, and neither one of us turned our heads to look. He pulled up to my house, staring straight ahead. I silently opened the passenger door and got out, and walked toward my house. I heard his truck pull away. I only liked it because Jim felt like Dan, I told myself. I would never do anything to hurt Dan, I kept repeating in my head. I took a hot shower and thought of Jim’s lips. I didn’t get a letter for over a week. I was constantly ripping at the skin surrounding my nails and biting at my cuticles. Dried, dark red splotches of blood were permanently painted on the sides of my nails. Red. The official Marines color. I awoke at least 4 times a night in between nightmares and in the morning had pale skin and dark circles under my eyes. I missed days and days of beautiful summer sunshine either under my covers clutching my cats, whose fur was usually damp with my tears, or at my desk writing letters. At least one letter a day, sometimes two. I checked the mailbox religiously. My mailbox was my life line, my one connection to Dan. Finally, inside was that small envelope bearing the American flag stamp and USMC logo. I handled it gently, like a newly-born bunny, and walked back to my room for privacy. “Marce!!!! I miss you so much I can’t take it. The time goes so slow here. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to write in the past few days. Our cabin has been getting in trouble and not passing inspection. Some fuckin idiots here still can’t make their rack perfectly right, or don’t sit with the correct posture at mealtimes. They screw up on the easiest parts, I swear. I love your letters and pictures. They are the only thing getting me through this. THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 51
The one of you by the stove is one that I took, right? I miss taking pictures of you. I miss being with you and kissing you, goddamn it. The other night I masturbated for the first time into a washcloth. I hid the washcloth under my sheets the next day and threw it out when the drill sergeant wasn’t looking. That was the longest I’d ever gone without masturbating, it was awful! I’ve been too scared to try it. One of the staff sergeants caught a guy doing it last week and he’s been paying hell ever since. Sorry, I have to stop writing, we don’t have that much time and I still have to write to my parents and Grandmom. I put one of my eyelashes in the envelope, do you see it?! Love you x 1000000000! Love, Dan.” I picked up the tiny eyelash with my index finger and thumb and held it right up to my eyes. I burst out crying. Nine days until Dan came home. That night I lay in bed fantasizing about Dan’s return. Would I run up to him and jump into his arms and kiss him, or would I be too shocked and paralyzed as I was at Kerri’s when I saw Jim? Jim had barely been able to stand on his own and grabbed my wrists for support. Was it really to hold himself up or did he just want to touch me? I shook my head to chase the thought away. Eventually I fell asleep to the tinge of a recurring nightmare. Dan and I were on the beach at Welwyn when an enormous tidal wave slowly rose up, a mountain of green and blue, fizzing with white at the top. Suddenly we realize we’re not alone as we thought, and that hundreds of people are frantically running away from the beach, running for their lives. But Dan and I couldn’t move; we were stuck to our towels, our extremities detached from our brains telling them to work, to move and carry us away to safety. The monstrous wave was about to crash on us when I woke up. A few days later I went grocery shopping. I was picking out potatoes to make hot German potato salad, Dan’s favorite, when I spotted Eddie, only about five feet tall, tiny for a high school freshman, and Mrs. Adamo towering over him pushing a cart. I must have been staring when Eddie turned around and caught a glimpse of me, then slowly, seemingly naturally, turned away and kept walking. I left my cart and followed them down the bread aisle. “Mrs. Adamo! Eddie! Hi.” Only Mrs. Adamo turned her head. I hadn’t seen her since that miserable morning. At the top of her head, mud brown roots spilled into her mangled, brassy, yellow hair. Her uneven lips faked a smile. “Oh hi there, Marcelle. I never come to this supermarket, I usually go to the one closer to the house, but I was in Sea Cove anyway picking up dry cleaning.” “Oh. Yeah. How have you been?” “Fine, fine,” she said, turning to Eddie. She almost began walking along down the aisle. 52
“Is Dan’s welcome home party still on for Saturday?” I asked her. “Oh, no. We changed it to Monday because Mr. Adamo and I are going to the Allman Brothers concert at Ocean Point Theater.” “Upstate? Isn’t that hours away?” “Yeah, we’re going to stay with a friend for the night.” “But Dan gets home on Saturday. You’re leaving…” “So the party had to be moved. It’s Monday.” “Oh. I see, okay. I would have thought you would tell me since I’m making the potato salad and picking up the cake, and,” my voice trailed off. “I’ll see you on Monday then,” she said, tugging at Eddie’s arm and starting down the aisle. “Well, probably on Saturday when Dan gets home,” I said. She didn’t turn around. Three days until Dan’s return. It was a Tuesday. I spent the morning putting my collection of his letters in order, and adding them to my box of everything Dan, which held every material thing that represented him or us—the construction paper pink heart where he wrote “Be my Valentine?” a few days before we started going out. A note he left on my car my first day of senior year in high school, the first day he wouldn’t be in school with me. Shoelaces he had taken straight off his shoes when he bet me I wouldn’t walk over to another table in the diner and take a nacho off of their plate and eat it. I did it and he lost. All the bracelets he made me for our anniversaries. His sketches. Photographs he had taken of me. His favorite chapstick that he dropped on the floor of Frank’s car before we started dating. I slid some of the chapstick over my lips and suddenly felt embarrassed, remembering Jim’s tongue sliding over my lips. I clicked the cap back on and threw the chapstick in the box. Jim was long gone, at a base somewhere in California. I never saw him after that day at Welwyn, and he didn’t contact me to say goodbye before he left. It was better this way. The night before Dan would be back, I went to sleep shivering, with excitement, with grief—grief for myself for enduring the last three months. My eyelids stayed open the entire night and at 10 a.m. the next day I drove to Dan’s house and waited two hours in his driveway until it was noon when he was expected to arrive. Noon came and no one pulled in the driveway. My mind was racing, my heart fluttering, my eyelashes taped to the tops of my eyelids. With each minute that passed, I wondered if it was all a dream, if Dan hadn’t really been gone, if there never even was a Dan, if I was just getting out of my mind. At 12:14 p.m., finally, the blue Jeep rolled into the driveway. I stopped breathing and froze. The passenger door opened and out stepped a tall, lean, tanned man I did not recognize, with hair so short and eyes so dark, and a mouth so still. He saw me. His still mouth turned upward into a smile that grew wider until I could see his teeth and he was walking toward me but I wasn’t moving. Like when I saw Jim and like in THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 53
the tidal wave dream, my legs wouldn’t move even though my brain kept screaming at them to. Dan walked all the way up to where I was standing and stopped right before me. The wind blew my hair across my eyes, and I lifted my hand to move it, thankful my body was working again. “Marce,” he said, his voice so deep, so terrified, so changed. I shivered involuntarily. He leaned down and kissed my cheek quickly and then wrapped his arms around me and somehow my arms rose up and fell around his neck. He was squeezing tight and I tried to but couldn’t. “I can’t believe it’s you,” I managed to say. We stood in the driveway, my arms like putty around his strong neck. I touched his collar and realized he was wearing a strange camouflage uniform. He was so unfamiliar. We walked toward his house side by side, our arms around each other’s backs. He kissed the top of my head, then stopped walking and kissed my lips. His lips were harder than they used to be, and bigger, fuller. I had never felt a kiss like this before. When our faces pulled away from each other, I saw that his looked confused, like he was thinking the same thing. Had my lips changed too? We continued inside, where his parents and Eddie were sitting on couches. They must have walked in past us, but I didn’t recognize their existence until then. I wanted to go into Dan’s room and be alone and kiss and have sex and talk and just hold each other. Dan started unpacking a big camouflage duffel bag, explaining what each item of clothing was and meant. His mom was holding a bag of potato chips that said Piggly Wiggly on it. She kept saying how her favorite part of the road trip was stopping in the Piggly Wiggly and how she wishes there weren’t locations only in the south. She stared intently at the bag, talking to herself while Dan explained how he was the best rifle shooter in his cabin. Eddie sat in the corner, picking his nails. I looked down at my crusty cuticles. Mr. Adamo sat at the computer chair but was facing his son. For some reason I could only focus on the hole in my chest. The hole I had been waiting to be filled on this day. Then the stings came. Later that day, we went to my house where we could be alone. Dan barely spoke in the car. I grabbed his hand while I was driving, a habit we had practiced for over a year, but he was looking out his window and loosely held mine back. At a red light I leaned over to kiss him, something we did at every red light we were ever stopped at, but his lips lightly touched mine and quickly retreated. At my house, I told him we should have sex. It lasted about five seconds, the entirety of which he was elsewhere. When it was over, he immediately began making my bed, tucking the sheets in perfectly beneath the mattress and spreading the comforter around evenly on all sides. Then he rushed to my mirror, which was lined with pictures of the two of us, him with long, scraggly hair in most of them. He began dressing, strategically, with a certain speed and rhythm. He turned to face me and 54
said he had to go see his Grandmom. He leaned down and kissed me. By the time I raised my arms to his neck, the kiss was apparently already over. Suddenly I was alone. My cat quietly walked in my room and leaped up on the bed. I felt a jolting sting in my chest where Danâ€™s dog tags dangled near my heart. I grabbed my cat and smushed him against my chest, and hisfur soon became wet.
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Speech Therapy RyanShea In 6th grade, Mrs. Weiss warped my tongue to the will of her cruel torture. She jammed it into the stocks and turned the screws until it hung shameful; wearied between the splintered vice of my lips. Beaten but never reformed. Twenty minutes of contrition passed each time, before she exhausted her supply of rotten vegetables and flash cards, leaving her with no spoils to throw at me. Except, “I’ll see you next Thursday; same time,” (same humiliation). For this incessant assumption of gratitude, I’d simply sin again attempting to “compensate” for her charity, “Th-th-thank you,” -- “Mithus Weissth”. My tongue would never be immaculate. Maybe the words were too big for my mouth then. Even now, there are still some that never seem to fit; won’t compromise their bulky gravity for the sake of being given voice. I pronounce them flawed, as this is still easier than swallowing them. Maybe the slurred slip-hiss placed involuntarily on the ends of words was meant to pluralize the things I wanted more of. But one day, my stutter outgrew its brace, and shattered the mold of its splint, healed like miracle. My lisp turned inside out like a kiss in reverse. Tucked itself in like the suction-cup mouths of starfish. Consonants quaked apart; my linguistic Pangea became a world suddenly worth expedition. See, I always had the words -- I just said them oddly. But Mrs. Weiss’ inquisition was just beginning, any new 56
world still had to be conquered. She made my phonetic butterflies dream longingly of their cocoons. Now, she crucified what I said instead of how I was saying it. She made martyrs out of every syllable I uttered. All because she heard the ‘yo’, the jive, the swagger. Heard me say ‘bad‘ and mean ‘good’. Noticed my pants sag low to match my phonemes, marked the plunge in my strut as equal to the jaunted lean of my diphthongs; all nasal -- brimming with cocky bravado. The roughest smooth she could not diagnose. So she questioned . . . Questioned the pride I had in the playground patented patois I had picked up. Asked me why I sounded so much like bounce, like metal rim, like corner, like blacktop. She let her words dangle like nooses, stall like Freedom Rider transmissions. Weighted in the front so they sled downhill heavy and barreling. Blacktop. Asked me if my parents, who had bought me those dungarees, that turtleneck, really thought my speech therapy was complete. Asked why such a bright young man like me would limit himself by talking like --
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Emendo meets me at Park’s Deli with ghetto fabulous handshake and “What’s poppin’ homie?” I tell him I can’t call it. We understand each other. His tank-top is flecked with dry blood. I say “Damn, son your pops is wylin again?” He could have said: “Yes, indeed you assume correctly -Sadly, of course you are right, Ryan...” Instead he says, “Word”. Then we kick it, attempt to forget for a while and despite the violent implication of the verb, no one got hurt. But affronted Mrs. Weiss is still bruised as if my description of hanging out with my friend was an actual roundhouse aimed at my future. She asks me why I speak like them. What could I possibly gain from a dialect so coarse and rudimentary? To answer: I say word. I mean truth. I say word up. Like a command resurrecting these verities. Bringing back to life this dead language. I say word is bond. I am making a promise. One that will be kept. Swearin’ ‘cause these phrases are sacred oaths. I tell her I can code switch, appease those who cannot comprehend this vernacular, but this language nursed me. Baptized me creole and accepted my pidgin-toed tongue. Understand -slang is my taste-buds blooming. Said this slang sho nuff is some fine poetry. I tell her it is from the heart and the hip and the lilted shoulders of our saunter. I tell her a word is only one something: a person, a place, an idea, an action, amplifier, descriptor, modifier. I tell her Word is one resounding Yes! A light penetrating the shadows cast by our tongues. I tell her I speak bad but I always mean good.
Left Behind RachelPomeranz
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The Resevoir AndresCerpa I sat on the edge of the reservoir most nights, slept there on summer afternoons and drank there every time I had no where else to go, which was often. When I was a child I was told it was the biggest reservoir in New York City, that every tap in the city poured drops of this water. So I threw shards of glass into it. Hoping, to shred those coarse throats of city dwellers– So New York wouldn’t be so loud. So New York wouldn’t be so angry. So it couldn’t say give me your money kid and it’d stop lying about how its streets are paved in gold when they’re paved in the flesh of foolish dreamers. So hostile streets and wild avenues could be as quiet as it is here. Where the only noise is the cracking of beer cans and the gentle laughter of daughters and sons who grew up to fast– To fast–from living in this city that never sleeps. Who tried to keep up by crushing crystals in their nose, but were only left bleeding. I come here with them, still bleeding– to try and reconcile the shards of myself that the city didn’t crush into its pavement. Just far enough that the only sirens are off in the distance and the lights are turned down so I know when its time to stop moving so fast. To a place where I’m hidden, hidden–from the death pouring from acrylic taxi cabs, their starving drivers relentlessly driving at dollar signs. I come here, a brutally beautiful child who grew up and got lost in the city’s 60
confusion, internalizing its chaos. Hereâ€“ I begin the destructively liberating pattern of pouring bottles into my throat hoping to drown the city from myself. I leave the edge of the water and Iâ€™m still loud, angry and lying sucking death from cigarettes and moving too fast as I push through crowded streets. But even if I fail I still come here, to hurl my empties and broken pieces into the reservoir and sit thinking, watching the ripples grow.
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Or How I Learned the History of Groundhog Day
JoeBennett If the past history repeats itself then Good Lord let me go and make the same damn mistakes, for though she and I crashed and burnedI shall forever cherish that look on her face. It seems as if I go on and yet I stumble across the ghosts of Christmas past, Tiny Tim never gets his cooked goose from Sir Scrooge and Jacob Marley rattles his chains and pulls tight on my noose. Fading in and fading out feel so eerily similar- drinking too much with guests and making a fool of myself before the second course of dinner. It’s like snippets of time collide with limericks that rhymea cataclysmic kaleidoscope of highlight reels and bloopers, I fall prey to vibrations of a phone which proclaims I should’ve called you sooner. Insecurities like a tidal flood and love makes the fools rush in. With all the passion and all the blood and the cuts reopen to show the sins. Whether for a brief night or for a series of weeks, your halo’s light flickers and yet your voice can still make me weak. Getting past all this, the only way I learned howfifths of Jack swallowed continuously until I pass out. A mere acolyte at your temple of worshipI thought you were my defining point in the chaos of my lifea kind of divine purpose. All of that fell away and I saw your flaws and scars, I saw the one I fell in love with was not the one you really are. You held up a mirror and yet I showed no reflection, so enveloped within your shadow I didn’t know where I was. Pulling out the roots and salting the earth, I was never meant to grow againremaining crippled by the hurt. Well if history repeats itself then let me make the same damn mistakes, for though she gutted me with that tongue like a knifeI survived through the night. Wise with scars and images trapped within my headforever haunted, forever fleeting but so much more alive than dead—
Beginners EricSweder A boy and a girl drank cheap wine on a Monday night and watched The State of the Union. He was tall and slightly handsome in a way that only made him wish to be more handsome, and slightly smart and slightly funny to a degree where he could only notice and quietly complain that he was not truly smart or truly funny. Never was a young more haunted by adequacy — a nice phrase that he used once at the beginning of a poem. About once a year he got the urge write a poem or two. The girl was attractive in a sharp, composed and imperious way. Her face hovered between the borders of different feelings, never quite happy and never quite sad, but always impatient to move towards something more amusing, more grand. They made jokes about the president and mocked one particularly old and conservative senator whose face conflated, in the boy’s words, “a foreboding, over-tanned, jowliness, with encroaching senility.” “That’s so mean,” laughed Jules. “He can’t help the way he looks,” agreed Tyler. “Although those two do look like the critics from the Muppets…” “That’s too mean,” said Jules laughing. “Holy shit, look at the face that one just made. It’s his patented ‘tragic-mask’ face.” “Too mean…” Jules secured her drink between her knees and then doubled over laughing. Tyler finished his glass and reached for the bottle but found that it was empty. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment Madame,” he intoned. “But of course monsieur.” “Oui, oui, très bien.” He left the living room for the kitchen with the pink vapors of laughter hugging at his ears. Another bottle waited on the counter, resting in the shadow of a stout tower of unclean plates. He felt sorry for not cleaning up more before she arrived. There was little light in the kitchen but he could tell that the red shadow that painted the plates was Prego sauce. Disgusting, he thought, but her kitchen is just as bad. A box of macaroni was opened and turned on its side. The lid was off the trashcan and grinning over the brim was a half-eaten éclair. He took a draught from the bottle’s open mouth. A stream of wine fell from the corner of his lips and ran surely down his check onto his neck. He released the bottle, gasping for air like he had returned from the THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 63
ocean’s floor. “Fuck,” he yelped and turned on the kitchen light. The room swam again in halogen. Gazing at his reflection in the shined surface of the refrigerator, he grimaced at a large Idaho shaped stain that decorated his collar, proclaiming its arrival with bright magenta cocksureedness. “Son of a fucking bitch.” “Ty!” Jules’s voice arrived, piercingly, squirmingly, alive, rippling away the puddle of quiet where he stood. “Ty!” “Coming!” “You missed the end of the speech!” A moment later he reappeared in living room, wearing a new shirt. Jules looked up expectantly. Her body was lying practically horizontal, deflated and spavined, like the sofa was a soft crimson barge, like all connective ligaments supporting her had been snapped. She smiled with warm absence. “Vino?” Tyler shook the bottle. “Mmmmhmmm.” He poured her another and then another for himself. He sat by her, minding the gap between them. “This is sad.” she said. “What? I’m sorry?” “Everyone is savaging him.” “Ah.” “Fox was the worst.” “I would imagine, so.” “They don’t do actual news.” “Who’s doing the republican response?” He lifted a speck of lint from of the knee of his jeans and held it limply in the failing light of the television. “Bob Fucking Mcdonald. The lobotomized governor of Virginia.” “Ha.” “I don’t know if I want to watch all of it.” She released a long, musical sigh that narrowed with decrescendo. “Let’s smoke and listen to music in my room.” He had wanted this to sound promising. He had included a tincture of excitement. He had flavored it with invitation and curled welcome, like lace, around its sides. “Look at Joe Lieberman in the background with his stupid fucking face.” He heard people walking along the street outside his house. The square cough of a rubber heel smashing over a mound of ice. A trio of sneezes interrupting the torn leaflets of conversation. “Fuckin’ always…..Man, that guy, always with the…. Gimme the dutch…” He heard them veering dangerously close and then drifting away towards a cold dark place beyond hearing. 64
“Sorry, about that. It’s like you can hear every jerkoff in town sometimes. Thin walls.” He said. The air felt immediately uncertain between them and he felt ridiculous for apologizing for such a thing. “Huh?” “Nothing. Just the people outside.” Her face took on a dismissive expression and she sighed once again. “I’m sleepy,” she said. “Hmmm.” “I’m the sleepiest girl in the world,” she said. He smiled. “We should go to my room and listen to music.” He said. “Mmmm.” “We could listen to the mix you made me. I really liked it.” “This is sad,” she said. “I’m sorry?” “Look at Sean Hannity. He looks a melted action figure,” she said and giggled at her own joke. He laughed with her but knew that it was pointless. No amount of gentle agreement, or praise, or joking would be enough to steal into her confidence. He wanted to know about the things inside her, the little kingdoms, the sorrows, the garbage, the lyrical bits, the fear, the voices, the inner sap, yet he could not see into her. It was like looking through bad glass, the ringing clearness, the crisp outline of forms replaced with a milky black wall, an unlighted window, that mounts upwards towards the chimney pots. “I’m sleepy,” she yawned again and put her head on his shoulder. A feeling of almost unbearably poignancy swelled beneath his heart and was pitted there like an inflated balloon. “I guess I’m feeling tired too,” he said and pulled the lever for the leg-rest. He opened his eyes and wasn’t sure whether he had been asleep or not, or for how long. On the T.V. a man was standing on a dilapidated porch waving good-bye to a station wagon against the pale march of rolling credits. The clock said 3 a.m. He didn’t understand any of it. When he shifted his weight he heard a small yelp and remembered Jules. Looking down at her he followed a thread of her hair that ran from her temple to her neck. She wasn’t wearing her glasses. They were folded and neatly placed below them on a low pile of books. The light from the television outlined her hair and her gentle shoulder but her features were obscured by darkness. For a moment, she appeared to him as in a luminous dream, undulant and naked, waiting in some vague bedroom at the end of the night. The headlights of a car passing on the road outside flashed against THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 65
the windowpane. His train of thought slowed and meandered, wondering about whose car it was, about the lives of the people driving it. Whoever they were he felt fuzzy warmth towards them, a blurred goodwill, like the feeling of being a child looking at a toy plastic ship through the scrim of warm bathwater. His thoughts were interrupted by the realization that he must be very drunk. Jules was curled against the couch like a seed napping in a ripe pod. He tried to rise but wasn’t prepared for gravity. A sense of his body returned to him and he sat, waiting, trying to discover more about how he felt. He touched his face. It was like sand had been sewn in heavy pockets around his cheeks. At the center of the room, whose length and steadiness appeared uncertain to him, was Jules. She was the still point, the axis upon which the world outside them seemed to turn. He felt perfectly alright putting his hand on her shoulder and feeling the lovely warmness and felt equally alright putting his other handon her knee. She was statuesquely undisturbed, silence flowing rhythmlessly around her. He felt obliged to move his hand from her shoulder to her neck and his other hand from her knee, up to her thigh. He felt fine, and didn’t think, didn’t feel it was strange to cup her breast and sense the rising and falling of her chest. She stirred. He moved his hands off her quickly, as if she had suddenly turned hot like an electric coil. Her eyes fluttered open to see him leaning over her, his hands held up as if he was under arrest. “I think we fell asleep there,” he said in a pinched, groggy voice. She didn’t say anything. Her eyes were silently alarmed. For a moment she stiffened like a trolley-rod and all her loveliness and gentleness turned blank and unforgiving. “Did you have a nightmare?” he asked in the same pinched, unsteady voice. Her eyes suddenly took notice of him but looked upon him as a stranger. “I don’t even remember falling asleep,” he yawned unconvincingly. “What’s,” he stopped letting a thick pause intrude into the sentence, “What’s wrong?” She was frozen, looking angry and very threatened, yet also uncertain, like a something black with clawing paws had flown at her out of the darkness. Slowly fixing her eyes on Tyler, she recovered. Animation returned to her features. She let out the breath she had been holding. “Jules?” he asked “I’m fine.” “You look upset?” “I’m fine. Thank-you.” 66
“I think we drank a little too much,” he said and released a treacherous little giggle in to the air between them. “Yeah, a lot too much.” “How do you feel?” “Like shit. Thank-you.” “Would you like a glass of water?” “No.” her face was still clouded with bafflement. She looked like something foul smelling was being held below her nose. “What time is it?” “Oh geez, lemme see here.” He made a display of searching his pocket for his cell-phone. Jules noticed that the time was displayed clearly on the television. “About 3 or so. “Shit.” “Tell me what’s wrong.” “3 a.m. is what’s wrong. I have to get up tomorrow.” “You could sleep here if you liked?” “I’ve got a goddamn lab tomorrow.” “Like I said, you could…” She cut him off, “I’d rather sleep in my own bed, thanks.” “Okay,” he nodded and looked around. “Where are my boots?” “Over by the television, I think.” She got up and swiftly turned on the light, which he immediately wished she had not done. The light spilled onto him, in what was like sitting submerged in a cold, translucent, puddle. She was hurrying with her boots, not speaking. “You leaving now?” he asked. “Yep.” “Do you need somebody to walk you home?” “Thanks, Tyler but I think I’m okay.” Usually, he would walk her home, and usually she would politely protest his offer before, after his kind insistence, she would inevitably accept. Now, she protested, but not happily. “Are you sure? I don’t mind.” “I’m sure.” “I really don’t mind.” “It’s okay, Tyler.” “It’s really late, I really do insist. I would feel terrible if I didn’t walk you back.” She turned him, cutting a sharp angle in the air. “It’s really quite alright.” She gave him a curt, almost violent smile and then reached beside him for her coat. Her hair brushed against his face. He shut his eyes against them, the unhappy strands of hair. “Okay,” he said, “but only if you’re sure?” She didn’t say anything. “I’ll see you tomorrow then?” he asked. THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 67
She didn’t say anything. She collected her backpack from the chair and hung it along her shoulder with readiness. “We could get lunch tomorrow,” he stopped. Suddenly she was hunched and clutching her stomach. “What’s a matter?” “Nothing…” her breath was labored “I…just a sec.” A minute later he was pressing his ear against the bathroom door, listening to the sounds of wet heaving. Her retching was mingled it seemed to him, with ungentle sobs. He wanted to say he was sorry. He wanted things to be easy and honest between them again but he knew that the rupture would not, could not, be repaired. He felt like he was being punished in the worst way, like he was no longer the observer, but the observed, like an audience was staring at him unkindly from a great distance. He left the door, entered his room, and threw off his clothes. Flopping on his bed with all the lights on, he prayed to God, to let him be good again.
El Bronx, Nueva York AndresCerpa (In response to Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio by James Wright) On the bleachers of Harris Field, I think of Puerto Ricans sipping warm rum in Mott Haven, And the wretched porter carrying trash to the street, As the solemn bus driver turns onto the Grand Concourse, Dreaming of Roberto Clemente. Fathers stay at barbershops avoiding home. Their wives slave over arroz con pollo, Wishing theyâ€™d never married for love. And all the while, Los ninos do pullups on street lights, And through October, Swing with all their might.
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E.E. Cummings Courts the Grammar Teacher ZackLiscio Who, I asked, could lucky be owning those eyes whose vacancy in neon signs finds fords in empty streets hopping windshield glints, one-way mirrors under a film of dirt. What, she said. Where was I, said I, physically, I was standing somewhere beyond the realm of class, a clubfooted hurdler, I don’t mean to be a burden but beyond the pailful of stutters I have a question. When? she asked I’d passed, overcome my lack without tact, together enough to pass for someone to make her laugh. Why with Valentine’s context I didn’t suspect pretext in her Yes vexes my good sense. But my best sense has never been reason; it’s lingerie season time for highrises and high time for roses, rises. I think the correct history involves me and mental dystrophy entropy from the hips outward imagining her inverted pyramid. I did and I did and I did... Keeping introductions concise with pointed-feeling conclusions we exchanged premises until agreeing we were on the same page, the last in a chapter on fairytale mechanics with a footnote on sparks, I panicked pressing her with stammers and progressing into grammar: so I asked her to remember to put always I before each other except, after seeing my ballpoint penning words for her neighbor, 70
she left before midnight chasing set suns west. One run-on sentence later, kicking my commas and not buying the Nietzsche evasion she asked me again if ever she meant anything, specifically to me. Cleverly I one-eightied into Emerson immersing her in delusional effusions I hoped might contuse her acumen or at least induce confusion, but it wasnâ€™t meant to be; she was fuming like a hobo trash fire and not letting me warm my hands. Not happenstance, I blew my chance Liaisons with liars are an unhealthy liability, she parried parodying my harrying habit with a wealth of L words, leaving me alone with my style guide, sans serif, falling for a seraph in a nose dive. I came on strong but I fucked up the silent type, and she restricts her usage to the quiet guys.
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Intelligence as Burden-Or The Heming Way ConorFitzgerald
Hemingway said “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know” This one’s for you, you crazy depressed bastard Intelligence is a burden People think being smart makes life easier But it doesn’t No it just sets the bar higher It just gives you farther to fall Intelligence comes with an inquisitive nature We want to learn We can’t leave the unknown alone We cannot ignore the inconsistencies For some ignorance is bliss A bliss we don’t get to live with People come to you with their questions People come to you with their problems They come to you because you should know They come to you because you’re the smartest person they know But you don’t know And if you don’t know who will they turn to? God Lucky bastards I can’t turn to god I’m too intelligent I wish I was dumb I could get a B minus without feeling shame I could have a conversation without being lame I could see a movie without getting pissed about holes in the plot I could spend an hour not wrestling with thought I could be a lockstep Republican Going along with everything they say because God blessed America And lockstep Republicans are the most American Americans in America Yes I could be extreme right wing, or just as far left 72
And dispel your beliefs with a single breath But I value logical debate I think itâ€™s great Though too hard to find I could stop worrying about death I havenâ€™t had a single night without a breath spent on death I cannot cope with nonexistence But I cannot betray my intelligence It is my prized burden
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Nirvana = Being a Tree AnneYoncha
Corporate Policies GretchenSpencer “Can’t you make an exception?” shouted Jean Palmer, a large woman with a very pale face and a chicken bone lodged in her larynx. I sighed and shook my head. There are at least forty-five people who have already asked me that today alone, and I’ve only dealt with fifty cases. “Ma’am, as I have already told you, I do not make the decisions. You’ll have to take it up with one of the case managers, and see if you can get one of them to vouch for you.” “You make it sound like such a business! This is a matter of life and death!” she yelled, shaking one bright-purple fingernail at me. Again, I sighed; these are the days when I hate my job. Despite what some might think, it gets as tedious as any other. Every person asks the same silly questions, and I rarely receive any thanks. “I understand your concern, but I have very little power over the situation. There’s nothing I can do about it unless I get a signal from the Boss.” Those of us working in delivery rarely hear from the Boss; we get our information second-hand, from a supervisor or a case manager. Not that I can blame my Boss for delegating others to deal with our simpler concerns; there must be a lot of stress for someone in such a position. Ever since that ambitious young protégé started up his own company downstairs because he disagreed with a few aspects of the Boss’ pet project, things have been a little strained. “The Boss? As in…” “Yes,” I replied, hoping that we were finally getting somewhere. For what felt like the hundredth time, I held out the clip-board and a silverinked pen. “Now if you could just sign here and come with me, we can…” “But there has to be some sort of mistake!” Another completely unoriginal attempt to distract me. At this point in my career, I’m starting to wonder if that one fellow had the right idea, starting his own separate company. “You are Jean Alice Palmer, are you not? Born February 2, 1959, in Redding, Pennsylvania, as Jean Alice Orring to Mary Alice Hudner and Matthew James Orring? Married to David Michael Palmer on May 6, 1982? Gave birth to Nathaniel David Palmer on August 14, 1984, and never told your husband that Nathaniel is actually the son of…” “Enough!” Jean exclaimed. “I never thought this was what they meant when they said your life flashed before your eyes.” Her arms dropped to her sides, and her figure became a little blurry around the edges. At last, we were getting somewhere. Her physical form will fade once she THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 75
accepts the end of her mortal existence and signs off on my paper as well as Peter’s – Peter is the book-keeper; he’s very good at keeping things organized. “There are many misconceptions about death, ma’am,” I said. “But, as you are Jean Palmer, I have you in my files today. I have come to take you back to the main office, where you will be sent to the Boss for evaluation.” “That isn’t…that isn’t very comforting, you know,” said Jean, her brown eyes losing their fire. “Trust me, it’s been a PR nightmare trying to keep up with what people find ‘comfortable.’ Recent research has shown that these are the terms most people within my area are used to, but if you prefer I can use different terminology,” I explained, still trying to get her to take the clipboard. Jean crossed her arms. “What I don’t understand is how anyone could be comfortable around someone dressed like that! Why the black robes? What are you hiding under there?” “Nothing,” I said. “I have no physical form, and research showed that black was the preferred color for our working attire. It makes us easier to recognize.” “I’ll say,” said Jean, “you nearly gave me a heart attack when you showed up.” I have gotten rather used to people crying or screaming when I show up; it really is a bit of a downer. “Contrary to popular belief, we are incapable of affecting the living in any way. Did you want to know the details surrounding the event of your death? I have the notes in your file…” “No, no.” Jean waved me off. “I think I’ve had enough of files and details.” She looked around at the frozen scene of the restaurant, and reached out to touch her equally overweight husband, who was leaning over her physical body and incorrectly attempting to revive her. Jean’s hand went through him. “Am I really dead?” “Yes ma’am, and although I cannot give you a definitive answer, I have seen enough cases to say with some confidence that you will probably not find a case manager willing to help you return. You do still have the option to remain here forever, as is underscored in the Free Will Clause of the Boss’ project design, but I have been reassured that it is much more pleasant in the Beyond.” And now with one more obvious question, I should be done here… “What’s it like?” There it is! “I can’t really say, ma’am, it’s different for everyone. Are you ready to go? They are expecting you for a meeting…” 76
Jean pulled her hand away from the man and settled for blowing a kiss. “Love you, Davey, no matter what I’ve done. I guess I’ll have to answer for that now.” She turned to me and finally accepted the clipboard. While she signed her name with rapidly fading hands, I tapped my staff against the floor to call an elevator. Jean returned both clipboard and pen to me, and the elevator arrived with a light “bing.” We stepped inside and I tapped my staff again to get us moving. Music started playing; mostly strings and something that sounded like a xylophone. I groaned. “Yes,” I said before Jean could ask, “there is elevator music in the Beyond. For some reason, the Boss is rather fond of it.”
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Dreams ColinSchmidt In January, a young woman, a woman I never knew If I’d loved or not, called for me to come down to the muddy bank of a black river. She squatted down to the quiet water, her pale face raw red, and with her thin pink fingers, reached into the burning cold, into that darkness, that reached as far as I can imagine the darkest sky, or mind can reach. She pressed her hands to my face, and then to my hands, one, then the other, and then both together, pressed flat against each other. And for all the immensity in which her hands had immersed themselves— all the worlds her submerged fingers had touched— I felt nothing but the cold, oh, the burning cold, and I knew, just then, that there was only one life I could live. I knew then, 78
that if I could dream in every moment, I would dream of this life. I mean, I would not dream at all. I knew then why, when the morning came up blushing in the window, its pink fingers all over her, she would not even once close a curtain to keep dreaming—why she would always groan light, please, more fucking light.
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Jocelynn EdwardR.Jones Risen from the dead like Lazarus She calls me forth from my tomb Without ever knowing Without ever seeing Unaware of what she’s being In the temples of my mind I’ve built a thousand silent alters Offered alms, burnt incense, sacrificed bulls. She makes me speak in tongues Dance in the spirit Handle serpents Fall to dust How little can she guess this rapture? A serpent in my garden inspiring sins How do you tell an angel you’ve fallen? Where would you even begin? Hypnotizing me like a snake hypnotizes a bird. I stand and wait to be devoured by her brilliance. Trembling like a leaf in the wind, I stand enthralled, frozen in the moment My tongue is stilled While my heart’s exploding Deer in the headlights waiting to crash I’m already burning Flying like Icarus To shatter on the curb Still she never knows It never shows I’ll never tell it Keep it hidden in my secret temple Hide it in my tomb How do you tell an angel you’ve fallen? Crashed into the serpents tree Inspired by your sins How do you tell an angel you’ve fallen? How would you even begin. 80
00 Agents OlgaDymtrenko
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A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words BrianSmith Develop the film and there you are, all your glory The negative’s dark and just like you, what’s the story? I wanna just rip down the walls and your photos around me And then there will be nothing left to hold, when I’m lonely. -Alien Ant Farm “Lord Knows” When I was much younger, I never understood art. As far as I was concerned, the only meaning it held was the crazy rantings of people with too much time on their hands. I thought this because I was an artist, a painter more specifically, with nothing to say. I was an Anthropology student at the University of Michigan who happened to paint pictures in my free time. I was quite good, so I’ve been told. While I have many paintings, it is my most recent one that stands out from the rest. The idea was a product of an epiphany I had while showering one day. That’s where I do a majority of my thinking, strangely enough. I began painting immediately, knowing just how fantastic it could be. The longer I worked, the more I withdrew into myself. I burned the candle at both ends with the intensity of a flamethrower. I can still see the canvas leaning on the easel in front of my dorm room window, a tiny one that overlooked the green. It was my transparent eye from the third floor, looking out at the world undetected. Every night as I drifted to sleep, the painting stared at me, taunting me, calling me to finish my work. The calls grew louder over the weeks, until I had no choice but to cover the painting with a thin, white sheet I had stolen from the art department—from the same room where I obtained my easel. One night, the night before I finished the painting, I remember waking up from a rather strange dream. I had dreamt that I was in my room. The walls were stripped bare, and the painting stood before me on its easel. A small staircase stood before the canvass, leading up to the rough, painted surface. I rose from my bed and made my way towards my masterpiece—I knew, even then, that I would never outdo myself once I had finished with it. There it was, glowing and whispering my name, and behind me I heard another voice, calling me back to sleep. I momentarily returned my eyes to the comfort of my bed, but no one was there. As I peered into the darkness, I gently placed my foot on the first step. As it creaked beneath my weight, the sound echoed through the room, shattering the rickety frame of my bed into splinters, the mattress to ashes, and the sheets to dust. All the while, the painting relentlessly called to me, seemingly grabbing at my pajamas. Leav 82
ing the debris behind, I continued up the staircase as the rest of the room faded into nothing. I was in the between, as I call it now. The canvass grew bigger with each step I took. Once at the top, I faced my creation, feeling my own breath against my face as it reflected of the paints layered on the canvass. I remember how my work seemed to glow, how it towered before me not as a painting, but as a mural of the greatest, detailed magnitude. I placed my hand against it in disbelief, running the tips of my finger across the small bumps of the paints and cloth. Taking a deep breath, I took one final step forward off of the staircase and into my painting, answering the ceaseless calls of my masterpiece as I walked into the blinding light. I awoke immediately, still aware of even the minutest details of the dream. The painting was right where I had left it, leaning on the easel in front of my transparent eye; however, the white sheet had fallen to the floor while I slept. I worked the rest of the night and through the following day, determined to finish my work no matter what. It was nine-twelve p.m. when I laid the last stroke of the brush to the cloth. Before me was the same young man I saw months before in the shower. His long, brown hair draped crazily over his shoulders, a book in his lap. Sweat dripped from his forehead, a small smile graced his face. The window behind him provided no relief from the relentless, summer heat. He was looking at something, something on the far wall hidden from the viewer’s sight, as he rocked in his chair. As I admired my work, the phone rang. I let it ring for a short while, deciding to hang the painting on my wall before I got caught up in conversation. “Katelyn?” the voice on the other end of the phone asked. “Jamie!” I replied, “I have something great to...” “Oh, thank God....” She spat these words out instinctually, cutting me off. “Jamie, what’s wrong? You sound terrible.” “Katelyn, listen. There’s something that I need to tell you.” At ninethirteen, the world as I knew it came crashing down. I don’t wish to relive the details, but Jamie had called that night to tell me that Paul, Russ, and April, three of my best friends, had died in a car accident about an hour ago. I will never forget the sound of my cell shattering, the tearing of the Reliant K posters from my walls, or my screams of agony echoing through the green. I had painted my way through Russ’s birthday dinner. The dinner that we had looked forward to for weeks. The dinner that they were driving to when they met the drunk driver of an old tractor trailer face-to-face. Hysterically, I tore through my desk until I found my photo album, clenching it to my chest, before I collapsed in my chair. My room was in shambles, but my attention was on the photo of four friends at the beach in THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 83
my lap. With tears smeared across my face, I looked up at the painting that now graced my wall. Through my tears, it was then that I had realized my mistake. I vowed I would never paint again. I had the story all wrong...
Jesus Christ- Crazy Homeless Guy MattSinger Imagine you’re on the subway in New York City, present day. You step onto the last car of the train and take your seat. A man wearing drab, plain clothing sitting several seats down from you walks over and approaches you. He sits down next to you and begins to tell you a story about his father, who was responsible for creating heaven and earth. The man claims he is the son of God. What is your reaction? “This guy’s out of his mind,” you think to yourself. “He’s clearly in need of some help.” The reason for this reaction is simply because, assuming you’ve had a fair amount of education, you understand that certain individuals have chemical imbalances and/or traumatic past experiences that can cause mental illness. This is the result of years of rigorous research and advancement in modern medicine, which has revealed that a signiﬁcant amount of these serious issues exist. When Jesus was around, if he actually existed, the term ‘mental illness’ certainly didn’t exist in the same way it does today. People living then had no idea about chemicals in the brain, cognition, or mental defects; science simply hadn’t advanced that far. So realistically, assuming a man named Jesus actually existed, how farfetched is it to consider that Jesus Christ was really just a crazy person? Not very. A man named Jesus most likely did exist. He was probably a very inﬂuential speaker; some considered his speeches prophet-like. He did not perform any miracles. The accounts of these ‘miracles’ were most likely the recollections of acts of kindness distorted through thousands of biblical iterations. Jesus, while mentally unstable, was probably a very generous guy who defended the poor and downtrodden. No, he never turned a loaf and a ﬁsh into a feast for hundreds of people, but he might have organized one of the ﬁrst soup kitchens of the time. He certainly didn’t raise Lazarus from the dead, but he might have given one hell of a eulogy at his funeral; one so powerful that it raised people’s respect and admiration for the man. If the people of Jerusalem had the medical knowledge we have today, do you think Jesus’ story would’ve been taken seriously? Of course not. He’d just be another crazy homeless guy on the subway (or on a camel in this case). No one can claim to be the son of the Almighty today and have any reasonable person take them seriously. THE MAIN STREET JOURNAL 85
Thereâ€™s no reason to discard the Bible as useless as a result of this; it has done many good things for many people (although it has also very effectively done the opposite as well). There are lessons in the Bible worth adopting to our society: kindness and generosity, compassion, refraining from murdering people, and so on. But we as a civilized and advanced society need to detach ourselves from this idiotic and childish notion that some guy 2,000 years ago, who claimed to be the son of God, was telling the truth.
Contributors Bryan Adelman will be going to Salisbury in the spring. Currently he attends Cecil College though he may be spotted occasionally lingering around campus eating, buying cigarettes, pretending to go to school there, etc etc. A.H. Brogan is graduating with an English major this Spring. Nicole DeLeon is a sophomore at UD, studying Visual Communications. She’s from New York and likes people watching, photography, chapstick and Arizona iced tea. J.M. DeMarco is a freshman at the University of Delaware, majoring in English, who has enjoyed writing short stories, poems, and plays for years. His favorite authors include George Orwell, Samuel Beckett, and Kurt Vonnegut. Alexandra Duszak is a junior at the university majoring in international relations. Although she mostly writes for The Review, she enjoys trying her hand at creative writing every now and then. After graduation, she hopes to become a foreign correspondant and see the world. Connor FitzGerald is an oil rig. Connor FitzGerald is Kevin Bacon’s best role. Connor FitzGerald is the poor man’s version of a rich man. Connor FitzGerald believes writing ones own author bio is too masturbatory to be taken seriously. Rachel Gearhart is a dual English and Psychology at UDel and will be graduating in May. She hopes to move to the west coast and pursue a career in publishing. Edward R. Jones was born in South Jersey and has been a poet and author since the mid eighties. He has been a Newark resident since 1995. Jonathan Kam is a sophomore nursing major at the University of Delaware with a minor in art. He recently started to expand his art and experimenting with different mediums. Zack Liscio grew up believing his parents who said they’d found him in a space-pod on the beach.
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L.W. Kelts worked as a research scientist in Rochester, New York, obtained an MFA at Bennington College and now lives in Newark, Delaware where he wanders the streets and writes poems. Daniel Levine is a junior English major. Emily Meussner is a freshman English major at UD. When she’s not circumnavigating the globe, she’s hiding from the paparazzi, hot-air ballooning or having dinner with the Queen of England. Ben Morrison is a Senior English and Political Science Major at the University of Delaware. An avid Smiths and Mountain Goats fan, he splits his time between doing Improv Comedy with The Rubber Chickens and writing poetry all shacked up in his room. Other than that, he likes reading books by John Irving. Lindsay Nichols is an English journalism major. She’s a full time student and part-time tour promoter at local record label. Rachel Pomeranz is a sophomore vocal performance major and a French minor. Unfortunately, mini biographies are not her forté; However, she does enjoy singing with UDel Opera and Chorale, cooking, bicycle riding, fiddling with crafts, and pondering questions whose answers are either elusive or entirely nonexistent. Justin Sadegh is a sophomore raised in Lorton VA, currently majoring in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management. He enjoys drawing a picture or two in his spare time. Ryan Shea is a senior English major at the University of Delaware who aspires to teach creative writing in a high school classroom one day. In the meantime, he has been writing and performing his poetry competitively in SLAM out of the Delawhere? venue. He has been an alternate for the venue’s 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam (IWPS) in Charleston, and hopes to continue competing in the future. He has opened for other acclaimed spoken word poets such as: Jared Paul and Andrea Gibson. Gretchen Spencer is a junior at the University of Delaware, where she majors in English and minors in women’s studies and psychology. She is currently experimenting with a variety of genres, and hopes to become a full-time author in the future. Eric Sweder is a junior at the University of Delaware, born in Colorado and 88
raised Newark. He writes short-stories and performs improv comedy. Brian Smith is a 2009 University of Delaware English Education graduate. He is currently teaching high school, writing as often as possible, and the drummer in the New Jersey-based prog-rock/jam band, Color the Sky. James Adams Smith has ADHD and writes microfiction because of this. He lives with a foxhound named Monroe, who has no plans to jump off a bridge in Ireland or Scotland. Morgan Winsor is currently a sophomore at UD and Classical Studies major, pursuing a Journalism minor. Caroline Womer is a UD senior majoring in criminal justice. She’s hoping to attend law school following graduation and loves pink hair and autumn.
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A literary magazine at the University of Delaware with works of poetry, humor, short stories and humor from university students, staff and N...