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THE AESTHETICS OF RESEARCH COLUMBIA COLLEGE CHICAGO LIBRARY

MASKS FALL 2021 | ISSUE NO. 2

LiteraryMagazine


editorial Mission Statement MASKS Literary Magazine is an independent, non-profit literary magazine committed to amplifying the voices of emerging writers and visual artists. We're eager to publish new perspectives. MASKS provides a meritocratic space for individual artistic development, with the larger goal of fostering literary thinking in our culture through our biannual publication. MASKS was founded in partnership with the Columbia College Chicago Library and the Aesthetics of Research Program: an ongoing series of exhibits and events dedicated to exploring the role that libraries play in the artistic process, creative community building, and resource-sharing in the arts.

masks Aesthetics of Research Columbia College Chicago Library 624 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605 maskslitmag@gmail.com (312) 369-7900 Fall 2021 WWW.MASKSLITMAG.COM

Managing Editor L.A. Hawbaker

Poetry Editors Nisha Atalie Christie Valentin-Bati

Fiction Editors Bernie Groves C.T. Lisa

Nonfiction Editors Meg Jerit Samantha Lopez

Editorial Assistant Noah Zanella

Art & Layout L.A. Hawbaker

Interviews C.T. Lisa

Cover Image Self-Portrait (Shift #8) 2021 | Turnbull


Editor's Letter

Self-Portrait with Assorted Masks (2020) | Turnbull

Quarantine lifts. We emerge from our cocoons and venture outside. In this latter half of 2021—after over a year and a half cloistered in solitary quarantine—we reexamine what it means to be social. To engage with others—not just other people, but the outside world. We relearn relationships. In this issue, our writers, poets, and artists delve into relationships of all kinds. Intimate, personal relationships between children, mothers, fathers, friends, and potential lovers. Abstract societal relationships and relationships with our pasts, memories, and self-image. Between humans and nature. Between citizens and cities. Between patients and healthcare. Our featured artist Miya Turnbull's mask making deconstructs portraiture and explores one's relationship with self. The connective thread that tethers us to the interior and exterior world is significant; MASKS Literary Magazine is thrilled to present how creatives have plumbed these relational depths.


EXHIBITS & EVENTS WITH THE

AESTHETICS

OF RESEARCH Columbia College Chicago Library

Through the active exploration of ideas, the Aesthetics of Research at the Columbia College Chicago Library has found new ways to make the library a point of connection for the College’s artistic community. CONTACT KRISTY BOWEN FOR MORE INFO (312) 369-7900 / KBOWEN@COLUM.EDU


contents

masks lit mag | fall 2021 | issue no. 2

poetry

artwork

On days when I am a mother Clara Burghelea | pg. 9

Egg 1 | Lightly Bruised Darcy Melton | pgs. 24-25

Lunch with Mary Wendell Hawken | pg. 23

Untitled 1 | Untitled 2 Melody Rose Serra | pg. 28-29

Cosmo Asks 18 Women to Describe Childbirth Stephanie Pritchard | pg. 26

Annie and Lauren at My Parents' Emilie Plunkett | pg. 35

relative value units Mary Bowman | pgs. 31-34 Shoot Sean Swogger | pg. 69 Lime Tree in Michigan Wendy BooydeGraaff | pg. 70

Featured Artist Miya Turnbull | pgs. 42-47 Me | Untitled Muchen Wang | pgs. 36/41 Curiosity | Swimming Out of Lockdown Serena Piccoli | pg. 48 in the weeds Daniel Watkins | pgs. 58-59

fiction

nonfiction

The Librarian Alyson Mann | pgs. 4-7 Going Away Ryan Everett Felton | pgs. 15-21

Something I Learned From My Father | I am Buying a Pair of New Balance Shoes Sarah (Qiuqi) Bovold | pgs. 10-12

the railings on the sea path Arden Hunter | pg. 49

Rome is Lost Nathaniel Mellor | pgs. 28-30

Lovers in Arms Aisan L. Afshar | pgs. 56-57

Belly Salon Muchen Wang | pgs. 36-41

Cottage Industry Jody Rae | pgs. 60-66

The Time to Prepare Jennifer Liss | pgs. 50-54


The Librarian A l y s o n

Y

M a n n

ou have lost your friggin’ mind.”

She could almost hear Len’s voice, see the shake of the few hairs left on his head. He would have been proud of avoiding a swear, but completely unaware of the irony, using the word, “frig.” Here she was, 64-years-old, standing in line with her grandson, blushing at the thought of just speaking with a children’s librarian. The Librarian. Len would have loved that. Isn’t that rich, he might have said. Well, Len, you dropped dead at 63 so you can say whatever you want, and it’s only so much smoke. Jane knew the history of the word frig, though it seemed as antiquated as she felt. To perform lesbian sex, when the genitals are rubbed together. She had been researching. Yes, porn the obvious first step for the curious. Watching it felt ridiculous. It seemed as artificial as a couple blow ups dolls pressed together by unseen hands. Plus, she couldn’t help thinking of how young everyone in the pornos seemed. Were they coerced? These thoughts really took all the fun out of exploration. Not that it hadn’t turned her on. The body slides easily into things even as the mind chafes. After her dabble in porn, she turned to where she had always turned: science and history. She looked at the explosion of science around sexuality in the early 1900’s, starting with discussions of sexual deviance. Laughable descriptions masqueraded as data. Ogling doctors intent on measuring the length of the clitoris recorded every salacious detail of sexual interaction between women. They filled pages of “scientific” literature. Men trying to prove what they already believed to be true rather than discovering what they didn’t know and couldn’t possibly understand. The white male scientist of the day thought the Black female and the female homosexual were overly masculinized versions of the correct female prototype. The men in charge took out their rulers, pens, and 4


notebooks and illustrated their fantasies of the “deviant” female. Jane imagined the flesh-and-blood women staring back at the scientists, jarring them from their academic sterility with salacious, hyperbolic details. “Why yes sir, my clitoris can become nine inches. Makes the ladies howl. Now about that fifty dollars...” Lost in thought, foot by foot, Jane and Declan moved closer to the desk. Now only one mother stood in front of them. “Ouch grandma.” Declan twisted his hand out of hers. “Too tight.” “Oh, I’m sorry sweetie.” She ducked to his level, smoothed his hair from his eyes, then stood again. The Librarian had grey and black curls swirled together, long coils that bounced during story time with her exaggerated movements. On more than one occasion, while sitting in the circle with the other caregivers and children, Jane dreamily envisioned taking a coil and gently, lovingly tugging it, just to watch it bounce back into its natural state. She could feel the soft tickle of it as it trailed her bare chest while they—damn these intrusive thoughts! How old was the Librarian, with her smooth skin and heavy black glasses? Grey hairs didn’t tell Jane very much. Over thirty, under sixty. She felt lecherous, wanting this woman while sitting in a children’s story hour every Tuesday at 3 p.m. Jane blushed and grabbed her grandson’s hand again. He protested mildly, then gave in. Finally, their turn. “Can I help you?” said the Librarian. Such a brilliant smile, full lips, a slight gap between her two front teeth. Brown butter skin. Jane said nothing. Her grandson tugged. “He loves dragons,” Jane ejaculated. The Librarian, “Well, who doesn’t?” “We read Fablehaven.” “And... you’re looking for something like it?” The Librarian nudged Jane’s sentences in the right direction while offering encouraging looks at Declan. “I like fantasy and magic,” he said helpfully while Jane stood staring. One to three words seemed to be all she was capable of. “I believe we have a few books you might like. Let’s go take a look.” The Librarian gestured for them to follow. The pair shadowed closely as the Librarian wound her way through the bookshelves, glancing back with a kindly smile to make sure they were keeping 5


up. Declan managed to slip his hand away from his grandmother. “Sticky,” he grumbled. Sweaty palms, heart palpitations—Jane hadn’t had butterflies in thirty years. A one-minute walk to find a book might be the death of her. She would never have to figure out how to pick up a woman. She hadn’t even picked up her husband. During a college English class, Len had approached her with enough confidence to make them both believe he was the biggest catch this side of the Mississippi. Jane loved Len until his last breath, but he never exactly took her breath away. Then he died and she grieved. A year later, sitting on her daughter’s couch, drinking coffee while watching Declan smash Lego pieces together, her eldest daughter asked, “What now, Mom?” Jane inhaled sharply at the question. The first thing that popped into her mind was: the Librarian. She finally let herself admit that her excitement on the mornings she was scheduled to take Declan to the library had nothing to do with a building full of books or having special time with her grandson. She took care of him every other Friday for his parent’s date night anyway. It was about the woman behind the children’s desk. Why else would she and Declan ditch the library as soon as she saw the Librarian—her Librarian—wasn’t there? That was three months ago. Since then, Jane insisted on continuing to take Declan once a week to kindergarten story hour, even though Declan was starting to protest, now having become a very mature six. Her guise of “grandma time” was wearing a little thin. He had told her recently in his most adult voice, a startlingly accurate version of his own mother's, “Grandma, there are other things we can do.” Now, watching the Librarian’s hips gently sway as she deftly navigated through bookshelves to find the collection she wanted, Jane desperately thought of ways to engage. So far, in her heightened state of blunder, she only came up with, Are you a vegetarian? which was both an odd non-sequitur and huge stereotype that would provide no actual information she cared about. “Ah, here it is.” The Librarian reached down and pulled a book from the shelf. She faced Jane with what seemed like sensuously direct eye contact and showed the cover of the book to Declan. The illustration was of a young boy holding a sword while standing on top of water and staring toward a lightninglit city in the distance. “This is a wonderful series that contains all sorts of mythological references. There are lots of mythological beasts, adventures, and engaging situations. It would be too old for him to read on his own, but if you're reading 6


it to him, it should be enjoyable for the both of you. Especially if you liked the Fablehaven series. Was the Librarian smiling more than necessary? Jane remembered her grandson, “What do you think?” “Yes,” he said in a can-we-just-go? sort of whine. Looking back at the Librarian, Jane said, “Does your husband enjoy it?” The most awkward question for this type of situation ever uttered. The Librarian cocked her head and looked quizzically at Jane. “Uh... I don’t have a... well his father would enjoy reading it to him as well I think.” Jane thought the Librarian was trying to do her best to understand where Jane might be coming from. But was Jane imagining the look of “you usually seem so unremarkable during story time, are you having a stroke?” It didn’t matter. She had found out something relevant. No husband. Jane grabbed the book, “Thank you, Thank you, so much. We’ll read it right away.” She abruptly turned on her heel, swinging Declan in the air by his arm as she headed toward the checkout desk, all burning cheeks and rapid heart. ​Waiting in line, still clutching Declan's hand too tightly, she said, “Declan we are coming back for one more story time next week.” Next week she would ask the Librarian something, something more practiced, more to the point— what that point was she didn’t quite know yet. Declan gave a grumbling sigh and stubbed his toe at the ground. “Whatever” he said with the practiced apathy and eye roll of his future pre-teen self. Jane didn’t have much time with him left as her beard. She was determined to make good use of it.

7


I

AM

THE ANY

-

REPELLED WORD TRACE

ODILON

BY

THOSE

'NATURE,' OF

IT

REDON

IN

WHO

WITHOUT THEIR

VOICE HAVING

HEARTS.


ON DAYS WHEN I AM A MOTHER

I no longer carry a child on my hip, and actually, wash my hair, I even enjoy coffee dates with other mothers, where I swear, we either talk about our sex lives or parenting. Both, a matter of strict coordination. I should know paradise, it smells of tantrum-free afternoons, except this is my limbo, where I am caught between longing a foreign body’s weight against mine, the open-throated sky above, no misplaced breath of motherhood, and Thermomixing my way into the cool evenings. There is language lapping at my feet, the heady scent of sea in my nostrils, all folded nicely inside my poems that won’t bend to the burden of the mundane, yet cut out all the things—people, chores, body parts—that no longer serve me. Outside these shredded bits of the day, the city moans and swirls.

Clara Burghelea

9


Something I Learned From My Father I am Buying a Pair of New Balance Shoes

Sarah (Qiuqi) Bovold

I

like to measure things with my index finger, which I learned from my father.

I am purchasing a pair of new sneakers at New Balance. For a long time, I’ve felt all the shoes from this brand look similar: a big letter N printed on both sides with a toecap as round as a baozi— —as my father usually says. I find a purple, white, and navy-colored pair displayed on the middle shelf under women’s footwear, and I love how simple the color scheme is. I don’t like a shoe that has more than three colors, just like I don’t like writing a story that has more than three characters. I don’t need that many colors to prove the gorgeousness of a shoe, and I don’t need that many people to join this story about me and my father. I check the shoe size: It’s an 8. It isn’t my size, not even close. I am honest to the young lady working here; I don’t know what size would fit me perfectly, since I’ve never had a pair of New Balance before. I tell her that I wear size 9.5 in my Nike running shoes. She nods and tells me I can start by trying on the 9.5. When I was a kid, my father liked buying me a pair of new shoes every other year. He said a pair of sneakers would wear out after two years, assuming I wore them a lot while jogging or walking. We shopped in many different shoe stores, but we had never been to a New Balance store. Whenever shoe shopping, my father would ask me to pick

包子

10


whatever I liked. Young kids’ feet grow fast. So after I picked one, my father would ask the worker there to bring two sizes for me to try on: one that was the same size as the one I was wearing, the other one is a half size bigger. I watched my father take the shoe for the right foot from the shoe box, loose the ties and take the fillers out, then put it down on the floor, gently motioning for me to put it on. I slid my foot all the way to the front—my big toe touched the toecap. After that, my father poked his index finger vertically into the space between my heel and the shoe: If it could fit a finger exactly, it meant the shoe perfectly fit. I like to measure things with my index finger, which I learned from my father. I have heard New Balance is well known for their President Jogging Shoes, but I am wondering if the President has time to jog around. Anyway, I know I will jog a lot in my new shoes, assuming I can find a pair today. I don’t know what happened that made me walk into this store, since I have never been a big fan of this brand. If I give it a guess, it may be because I just want to try something different. The young lady hands me a pair of shoes, size 9.5, that she found behind the display shelf. Before she helps other customers, she tells me to let her know if these don’t fit. I grab the shoe for my right foot and loose the ties. I take the fillers out of the shoe before I put it on. The shoe is a bit tighter than I thought. Or, since I have never worn New Balance shoes before, my foot may not be used to the shape of the shoe, I’m not sure. I slide my foot to the toecap and put my index finger vertically behind my foot: There isn’t enough space for my finger. So I tell the young lady that I may need a size 10. The first cooking lesson that my father gave me was about making rice. He told me water is an important factor in rice-making. The “wellmade rice” standard should be neither too soft like soup nor too chewy. I watched my father wash the raw rice three times, until there wasn't any dirt floating in the water. He leveled the wet rice at the bottom of the pot

11


and added water, slowly. He stopped pouring after a certain amount of water and dipped his index finger in the pot. He asked me to take a closer look, and he pointed out that the water level had not reached the first finger joint, which meant he needed to add more water. He asked me to remember this method and use it whenever I needed to make rice. My friend gave me a measuring cup that showed exactly how much water you need for a cup of rice. It makes life way easier, my friend said. But I have never used it as a measuring cup. I treat it like a normal cup. Whenever I make rice, before turning on the rice maker, I dip my index finger into the water to see if the water level reaches my first joint. I like to measure things with my index finger, which I learned from my father. The sneakers that I am wearing now, I got them about two years ago. Even though they look fine and are still comfortable, I feel they are starting to wear out, and I cannot wait to have a pair of new shoes. After a while, the lady hands me a size 10. I guess there may not be many size 10s left, and it took her some time to find one in the store-room. I thank her for her help. Then, as usual, I set my right foot in the shoe, and my big toe touches the toecap. This time, there is more than enough space, too much space, after I poke my finger behind my heel. I tell the young lady that neither of the two sizes fit perfectly due to the results of my finger-measuring method. “You can put both shoes on, then walk around to give them a feel,” she recommends before I give up.

12


THE

SHOE

PERSON

-

CARL

THAT

FITS

PINCHES

JUNG

ONE

ANOTHER.


THIS

WEB

OF

EMBRACES

TIME...

EVERY

POSSIBILITY. NOT

EXIST

THEM. EXIST IN

IN

AND

-

DO

NOT I

DO

MOST

SOME

OTHERS

YOU

WE

IN

OF

YOU I,

DO,

WHILE AND

NOT.

JORGE

LUIS

BORGES


Going Away R y a n

E v e r e t t

F e l t o n

B

en had these little soaps I’d pick up and smell in his bathroom. They were like little seashells. Looked like white chocolate, smelled like I don’t know. Flowers or something. I’d always take one into my hand when I was peeing and think about taking a bite out of it. The night of Ben’s going-away party, I was like, I don’t know, maybe I should really do it this time. I’ll never be back here. I’ll never hold this little scented conch again.

But somebody knocked on the door and I flushed and left. Everyone was there. People I hadn’t talked to since freshman year. People you wouldn’t think even remembered or gave a shit about Ben. But I guess everyone was pretty curious. We got this big banner printed at Kinko’s for him. It said Get Out Of Here Already. They let me design it, since I’m pretty good with Adobe stuff. Anyway Ben was standing under the banner when I came back down. He had his phone out and like 20 people were crowded around him. He’d go, “And this is my new apartment. It’s already furnished.” And everyone would lean in, all impressed. “Oh my God, that kitchen!” “Those French doors are too cute!” Stuff like that. Then he’d be like, “Here’s what they got for Arby’s over there. They call it ‘Marby’s.’” I’d already seen all the pictures so I just drank on my Pilsner off to the side. Fiona asked if Marby’s still had curly fries or what. “They’re angled. Like sevens, little crispy sevens,” Ben said. “And the

15


logo is a mariachi hat instead of a, y’know, like a cowboy hat.” A bunch of people said, “Crazy!” and things like that. Ben loved the attention. I thought, good for him. “So when do you leave?” Reg or someone asked. “My Gate call is at 6 o'clock in the damn morning, so I’ll be stepping through while you assholes are all still asleep.” “Oh, that sucks.” “Well, there’s no jet lag with a Gate like you get with a plane here. And if I’m hungover, I’m hungover.” Ben snapped his fingers and pointed at me. “Nick, dude, what are you doing drinkin’ that? I got beers from over there. When I had my job interview I brought some back. You gotta have one, man, it’s a trip.” He handed me this weird brown bottle shaped like a genie lamp. “What do I do?” I asked. “Just like tip it into my mouth?” “Yeah, yeah,” Ben said. And everyone I noticed was watching me when I popped open the long nose on this oblong bottle and started drinking it. When it hit my tongue and I gagged and spat it out, I knew why. Everyone had a good laugh. I grabbed Holly’s water right out of her hand to wash the goatcheese-and-motor-oil taste out of my throat. “Nasty.” I put it on the table. “Hey, don’t waste it.” Ben took it and chugged. “I don’t know how you do that,” Heather said. “Better get used to it now.” Ben wiped his mouth and burped and held his phone up again. “Now, do you wanna see their freeways? It’s, like, so scary. You actually aren’t allowed to use a turn signal…” I already knew all about the freeways in Kansas City-X7, so I went to see if Zane or anybody had a spliff or anything down in the basement. Zane was easy enough to spot, being a head taller than everyone else and with that neon green trucker hat he always wore. Like he didn’t stick out enough. A couple guys were down there with him smoking. He handed the joint over before I could ask. “Can’t believe Ben’s leavin’ us,” Zane said. Between hits I said, “Yeah, it’s hard to believe.” “Why’s he wanna go all the way to X7 anyway?” “Well, he got a job out there.” “Yeah, and what is that, anyway?” He started coughing like crazy.

16


“Professor of History?" “It’s a good job." “They don’t got the same history!” I shrugged. “That’s what makes him a specialist.” He kept going. “And it’s a stupid universe. I looked it up. Beyoncé isn’t even famous there. She’s like a postman or somethin’.” “Postal worker.” “Whatever, I don’t know.” One of the other guys took the joint. Zane rubbed his eyes. “Where’re we gonna have parties now? Whose car am I gonna borrow? He doesn’t even have friends over there.” “I think he just needs a fresh start,” some guy I’d never even heard of said. He looked super stoned. On his back and all. Zane said, “That’s dumb.” And that was that. Nobody said anything else. That was more like it. Usually Zane didn’t talk at all. I was getting in my own head, feeling buzzed. This basement and Zane turned inseparable in my brain. I couldn’t picture him anywhere else. I couldn’t picture the room without him in it. He was always here. He always should be. Now it was being taken away. I wanted to hug him. Invite him to my basement, if I’d had one. Anyway, that was sort of where my head was at. We both wanted some pizza, so we went up to the kitchen to see what was left. This big crowd was all blocking the food, huddled around a laptop. Hooting and hollering. I thought they might be watching the game so I pushed through. Joanie was manning the computer and had Phasebook open. There was a profile up on the screen. It looked like Kurt. I say “looked like” because, you know, it wasn’t really Kurt. It was a Kurt, I mean. “Now do me!” this girl said. Joanie pulled up another page. She looked back at the girl. “You’re married over there!” Everyone went, “Ohhhhh!” The girl leaned in. “Oh my God, I have a baby. He’s so ugly!” Only she was pretty drunk so it sounded more like, “Ommagaw I’ve baby! Heesogly!" Zane nudged my rib. “I’m so sick of this game, bro.” I was too. Every party since Phasebook came out, it seemed like we were checking to see what we all were like on the other universes. It never makes

17


anyone feel good. I’m, like, a trust fund kid on K-19. My brother died on Z-Z1. It just kind of sucks to think about. “And Zane?” Joanie said. She clicked around and hunched over, all serious. Everyone got kind of quiet, like, waiting. Finally Joanie went, “Weird.” “What?” Zane shoved some guys out of the way and leaned over her. It was funny to me. I mean, for all that talk about not caring, and then he got all serious and charged Joanie? She said, “There is no you on X7.” “Seriously?” Zane reached over and clicked around. “Are you sure?” “Yes, jerk, I know how to work the internet.” She yanked her laptop away. “Who’s next?” Zane was like white as a sheet and it really stood out, you know, because his eyes were so red. About a year before, Ben had thrown a party and forgot to invite Zane. He showed up anyway. Had that same look on his face then. He marched right into the living room. I followed him. Ben was still in there, under my Kinko banner. He had his little circle around him, holding court. The man. But Zane went in there and—well, he’s normally this real quiet guy. But he went in there and just stopped everyone cold, the loudest I’ve ever heard his voice get. He went, “Ben, what the hell, man?” Ben looked over. “What’s up?” he said. If you ask me, he looked surprised to even see Zane. “There’s no me there.” Ben put his drink down. “No you where?” “On X7! On your new, your little—! Your shitty little universe you just can’t wait to move to.” Zane took a long drink. Several gulps. “They don’t have a me.” “Well, that’s weird.” “You move to a new plane of existence and don’t even check to see if they got your best friend there first?” Ben walked over to Zane and put an arm on his shoulder. “I really never thought to check. Look, man—” “Oh, right! You didn’t check.” He jerked his shoulder away. Some people were starting to whisper and stuff. “So, what, you’re gonna get to your new

18


apartment and invite all those fakes over there and all hang out? You and X7 Joanie and X7… um. Um, um, Reg? And you’re all gonna have a big X7 party! Is that what you’re gonna do?” Ben sighed. “I don’t know, man. Do you want to step outside?” “Only if you don’t." So Zane did go outside to the porch. Ben held up his hands and gave me this sad smirk like, Eh, what’re you gonna do? And I gave him this little nod like, I’ll see about it, you keep having fun. It’s your night, bro. You forget how loud and smelly a place is until you step out of it. It was nice and cool on the porch. Late enough to kill the traffic. Zane was leaning with his arms folded over the rail a few feet away from all the porch smokers. He spat a big hocker into the bushes and dragged his hand across his nose. He acted like he didn’t see me coming. I said, “Hey.” “Oh, hey,” he said. I let him think I thought he didn’t know I was there already. I said, “It’s so stuffy in there” so he’d think I came outside because I wanted to, not to check on him. We were both standing there for a long time, all quiet. Inside, they’d turned up the music. A bunch of voices singing along, all rowdy. Finally Zane went, “Maybe I’ll move to X7, and then X7 will have a Zane Donaghan. Imagine the look on his face if I showed up.” He pounded the rail a few times. “Ha! The look on his asshole face.” “You aren’t going to any X7,” I said. “What if I am?” “It’s like ten grand just to go on a scouting trip. Just to walk through the Gate for like an hour and poke around. That’s not even for all the screenings and vetting and red tape. I’m sure the Ben over there got a big payout to sign off on our Ben moving in. His new company pays for all that. You got that kinda money?” He didn’t say anything. “Second,” I said. “You don’t know why there’s no you over there, or what would happen if all a sudden there was." “Man, screw you!” Zane kicked a rail, and it popped out all splintered. The smokers started watching us and pointing. “He’s just leavin’ like it’s the easiest thing in the worlds. And I’m stuck here—nothin’ goin’ on, nothin’ to wake up for. If he didn’t wanna hang out anymore, he coulda’ just said so.” He

19


spat again. “He didn’t have to wipe himself outta reality.” “That’s not it,” I said. “That’s not why.” “Sure. Yeah.” “And if you go to X7, what are we left with here, huh?” I clapped him on the back. “We need a you.” That, I felt good about. Happy I thought of it. He just kind of snorted. “Whatever.” All the gawkers went back inside. So it was just me and Zane looking across the street. There’s that gas station there. A bunch of us would always sit out there and watch the people come and go. “Hey, remember when that skateboarder ran into the glass door?” I said. Zane smiled a little bit. “His Combos went everywhere.” “And that prom limo where three girls all poked their heads out the top and started puking?” “I wasn’t here that night,” he said. “Oh.” Someone walked out of the gas station with a kid in a Spider-Man mask. It wasn’t even close to Halloween or anything. I think the kid just liked SpiderMan. I said the first thing that came to mind. “You know the number one movie of all time there is Batman Versus Superman?” “Where, X7?” “Yeah. And all their Marvel movies bombed.” “Well, is their Batman Versus Superman, like, really good or somethin’?” “That’s the thing,” I said. “They’re the exact same movies.” “That’s the stupidest shit I ever heard.” Zane laughed, I thought, a little too hard. “And I told you about the Beyoncé thing, right?” “Yep.” I balled up my fist and showed him. He did the same. We bumped. “I’m goin’ back inside,” I said. “I wanna say goodbye and stuff. It’s his last night.” Zane got on the ground and started trying to reach through the rails to pick up the one he’d busted up. “I’ll be in in a minute,” he said. “This adorable old lady just walked into the gas station and I’m, hm. I dunno how to explain it. I’m super worried if I’m not here to watch her walk out, she won’t be able to leave? She’ll only exist in the gas station, forever.” He blinked a bunch. “I dunno, man. I’m really stoned.”

20


So I told him, “All right. Hang in there. I’ll see you later.” But you know what? It’s been a couple months and I still haven’t seen him. Hasn’t texted back. Doesn’t pick up on calls. Everyone else says the same. Reg told me he showed up at Zane’s apartment once and thought maybe he saw someone moving around inside, but— Okay. Remember that theory, it was around for years and they debunked it a while back? Goes like this: Every decision a person makes creates a splinter universe where they made a different decision, and that’s where all these worlds were coming from. I never really bought into it myself, even before they disproved it with that algorithm thing. I mean, how could some asshole like me, like you, really have that much power? To create a new reality every time I open another beer or jerk off or don’t put my seatbelt on? No, that’s stupid. No one matters that much. Still. I can’t help but wonder. That night, at Ben’s party. If I had found the right thing to say to Zane. Had come up with the perfect words to make him feel better. Y’know. Just something small. Something to make a difference for him. I could’ve done that much. And if I did. Where would we all be now?

21


I

WANT

TO

BE

TUNESWEPT STRING

THAT

THE

MASTER

AND

SNAPS.

-

AMEDEO

A

FIDDLE FEELS MELODY,

MODIGLIANI


LUNCH WITH MARY Plates awash in leftover jambalaya, We drag chairs to face October’s thin sun, Warmth quieted to blue jay squalls. Fox-tail tassels shine With tiny flying things you only see If you sit still. A cricket crawls onto my set-down plate, Works her mandible way across What sauce I left. By now she has set her rows of eggs. The male has died. Mary sighs, Says she might re-marry, Hands me her sauce-streaked plate To set down for the cricket.

Wendell Hawken 23


Spotlight

Darcy Melton


a found poem

COSMO ASKS 18 WOMEN

TO DESCRIBE CHILDBIRTH

This feeling is permanent, like someone else has taken over. Look for a way to escape your own body.

Stephanie Pritchard

Hours have passed. Pushing a baby feels like hot peppers: pressure breath pressure pain I was dying. I could do this every day. You can’t tell the difference. A twist against my spine like fire, a forceful push from inside and hours have passed. Abdominal muscles seize, a pause before the rest crawls out of my skin, bone-on-bone as their heads grind through the birth canal. Remember this moment: a shake. a knock. I left my body. I lost my mind. 26


THE

BODY

MADE

-

FOR

HENRI

OF

A

BEAUTIFUL

LOVE;

DE

IT

IS

TOO

WOMAN

IS

NOT

EXQUISITE.

TOULOUSE-LAUTREC


Rome is Lost N a t h a n i e l

R

M e l l o r

ome is lost.

Not physically lost. It’s still where it’s almost always been, about halfway up Italy, just a little inland, sitting between the folds of the Tiber and the swell of the seven hills. It still has cars narrowly missing pedestrians around tight corners, though the cars are now Audis and BMWs, no longer the whimsical Fiats and Peugeots. Old men still gather on plastic stools and benches around cafés that have been there longer than Western democracy, and old women still file through green markets under unfinished roofs made from green tarps and unusable bed sheets to buy vegetables (in season only) and dried meats (from last autumn). Rome is lost in the same way the immigrants of the Esquiline district are lost, adrift in a place so determined to make them feel unwelcome, unable to return to a place that only exists in their minds as a remnant of childhood. But there are days

28


when the smell of wood smoke mingles with fish, or the smell of hot stone and sand from one of the countless Roman neighborhoods devoid of trees and plants sends them back to the barest edges of those memories. Rome is somewhere around the edges of the Tiber, in between the willow trees and rushes, under ducks and coypu nibbling riverweed and mud. It’s in the last few calzolaia run by Indians or Bangladeshi in markets and small storefronts stuck in the cracks of the city, creating only a pair of shoes a month. In the Senegalese, Ghanaians, Dominicans, and Jamaicans who work in the green markets, freely giving information on the best ways to use plantains or yucca to an Italian woman who’s never seen either. “Authenticity” is a word often thrown around when someone visits a city they’ve only dreamed of. Are there flowers really sold in the Campo di Fiori? Can I really eat a plate of cacio e pepe in front of the Pantheon? Or was it the Parthenon? I always get them confused. But I can’t wait to figure out which one it is! Come summer, Rome is overwhelmed with do-ers looking for authenticity. Those that are here to do. Let’s do the Forum. Let’s do the Vatican. The Coliseum. Maybe we can even do a museum or two if we have time. I pretend to be impartial. I pretend to see every traveler as the same, born of an open mind and willing to kill their prejudice as Twain claims it will. But they aren’t. And I’m not. Nearly eighteen hundred years ago, Saint Augustine wrote to Janarius

29


and gave a piece of advice that has survived the centuries. Saint Augustine explained that when one travels they should do as the people of that place do. Specifically, Janarius was traveling to Rome and inquiring about fasting on Saturday, to which Saint Augustine recommended he do as the Romans do. In truth, I don’t know Rome, and I can’t find Rome, so how should I do as the Romans do? Naples, not two hours away, can be found in a day—in an hour if someone is a particularly open-minded traveler, willing to set aside preconceptions about how an Italian city should look. It’s in the graffiti on walls that have been there since its name meant “New City” in Ancient Greek some three thousand years ago, a few hundred years before Rome gathered around the Palatine Hill. It’s in the volcanic stones that lead up to Castel Sant’Elmo and through the Spanish Quarter. In the Roman palaces sunken offshore, washed away by wave and wind. It’s the pickpockets that have turned sticky fingers into high art, pizza into a phenomenon, grunge into décor, and fear into the flavor that runs deep through the streets. Rome has scrubbed off its graffiti save for the few neighborhoods where it’s been left to add authenticity. It paved over its stones, and then changed its mind, deciding to dig up the stones and flip them so the asphalt faces down, but it’s obvious. In the old coastal cities, the cities of cart and carriage, there are deep lines etched in the street where wheel after wheel has slowly ground away the stone until deep ruts form the veins of the city. Rome has erased those lines. Buried them and burnt them, covered them over with anachronistic stucco and invasive vines and said, “This is who we are.” The sky, once solely occupied with stone spires and concave monuments to human engineering, are now joined by metal cranes building even taller monuments to the eight-hour workday. Myth and legend have created a new Rome that started with Remus and Romulus and a creation myth of invented kings to lend authenticity to an upstart swamp village. It became a heritage of theft under the guise of improvement. Along the wrought-iron fences of monuments sit plaques, complete with artist renderings of how the monument would have looked if not for the Fall, if not for Christianity and failed conquests from men too proud to back down, and misplaced blame, and unwavering devotion to the concept of “too big to fail.” When Rome rose from the swamps, capping Juturna’s power and offering her nothing but a stone plaque in return for every spring that feeds every fountain of Rome, it killed the seed that creates the life, the soul, of a city. It killed the magic. And now Rome is lost. But someone, someday, will find it, if they haven’t already.

30


relative value units M a r y

M

B o w m a n

edicare uses a physician fee schedule to determine payments for over 7,500 physician services. The fee for each service depends on its relative value units (RVUs), which rank on a common scale the resources used to provide each service. ⁠— National Health Policy Forum, January 2015

birth control makes me crazy, i was drunk, i’m not having sex. is there any chance, how do you get that, he took it off, will i see the baby, i never asked him, i should’ve known. what would you do if you were me

is there anything i can do to make this more comfortable, is there anything i should know. that is totally normal, that is not herpes, everyone has herpes, it’s not your fault. is there anyone you could talk to, are you out to anyone yet, do you feel safe at home

31


everyone knows except my dad my wife my boss my family i have no one, no one knows. my boyfriend will be there for part of it, my girlfriend’s gonna give me the shot. i am not like this, i never thought i’d do this, i’ve been thinking about this for years. you mean i can start today, why do i have to come back, i just want to get this over with, she answered all my questions. can i ask a question, sorry i do have a question. sorry i didn’t shave, sorry i didn’t shower, sorry you have to do this, sorry i’m bleeding, sorry i’m shaking, sorry for crying, if i faint keep going, if i start crying just ignore me, i’m going to cry but it’s okay, is that it, i hate this part, this always hurts

this is what too much bleeding looks like if you go to the hospital please call i will call you tomorrow to see if you got in what’s the number, i will call and tell them that they have to, that’s illegal don’t get your meds in indiana, they don’t like us, don’t go to walmart, they don’t like us, tell them it’s for your cousin, you don’t have to tell them. your parents might surprise you, is there somewhere else you can stay

32


does my vagina look normal, how does it look, does my vagina look like a real vagina is that normal, my life is over, he told me he didn’t, he told me he did. i can’t believe he did this to me. he told me to get checked, he told me he could feel it, he doesn’t like it, he said there’s something wrong with me. can i get some for him, can he come here, he had work, he doesn’t know. when i told him, he insurance is awful, insurance is trash, you don’t have insurance, is cost a concern insurance won't cover it, what kind of insurance, that depends on your insurance, oh good you have insurance, i don’t know how much it will cost, treat it like a bad period, you don’t want to do it at work, i can give you a note for work, when do you have to work, are you out at work, what kind of work do you do you can do it overnight but you might not sleep the worst will be over in time for work​​ i just had a baby, i have kids, my kids are grown, i have two babies. i can’t have a baby. i lost my job. but i’m 40. but i’m 50. . here’s the paper my mom signed. if it were his, i’d keep it. my mom said keep it. i threw up. i had no idea. is it bad if i was drinking, can i drink tonight sorry if this is a stupid question, i don’t want to talk about that. you have to watch me take it, right i can just take it, right

33


i don’t have any questions, i did a lot of research. i’m on my parents’ insurance, i stopped when i lost my insurance, my insurance didn’t cover it. i couldn’t afford it, my friend had a lot, i ordered some on amazon, i read something on reddit. my voice. my chest. my skin. my face. my hips. my hands. i started saving, i found someone to pay for it. does insurance cover it, i’m going to florida, california, thailand, arizona. i need a letter, can you sign this i’ll sign whatever, i know what it says. i’ve known ever since i was

the most important thing for you is to rest and relax i’m so excited for you stress is a hormone in your body you have to wait 24 hours, 4 to 6 weeks, 7 to 10 days, 20 minutes, 2 to 3 years we’re putting you through the right puberty you’re doing a good job, you didn’t do anything wrong. there is no cure. you deserve better. it’s very rare. you won’t always feel this way. we don’t know what causes it. we don’t have any research. i don’t go over all this to scare you. how are you feeling do you have any more questions

34


T

Emilie Plunkett


Belly Salon M u c h e n

M

W a n g

orning news.

The morning news is on at 5:49 am. That’s when I hear my mother walking around the apartment along with the sound of the television in the living room. She sets a kid stool in front of the sofa chair, as well as a bowl of water slightly warmer than room temperature and a hairbrush, combs, hair pins, and scunchies on the wood and glass coffee table in front of the television. I sit there on my stool, listening to the obvious sound of the news, the less obvious static noise from the old-time speaker and screen, and the even less obvious sound of the ceiling’s florescent lights—all before I’m even awake. This is when my mom does my hair.

36


She dabs the water before she combs it in my hair. She says it will help the hair “unify.” The water takes my hair by surprise. Before my hair can fight to curl back up, the thin, hard, black, invisible-in-my-black-hair hairpins pin it to my scalp. On the news, I keep hearing the word “ ”—the three characters mean “old” (in a chummy way), “hundreds of,” and “family names.” In the news, these together mean “civilians.” My mother teaches me how to read and write later than the other children. She thinks I’ll have a better experience in school if I enter it empty-headed. I learn to write my name on my own, but backwards and mirrored, maybe because I am left-handed. At four-years-old, other kids can recite ten Tang poems. Or at least how to count to a hundred. Some can name different fruits in a second language. But by the time I enter grade school, I know only about three Chinese words. One of them is “Mulan,” because my mother bought me that Disney DVD, and Mulan kind of sounds like my name. My mother laughs when she sees that I write or read or pick up random words I know nothing about from the news (as well as anything else, from car plates to neon signs), but she never pressures me to actually learn anything. “Ma-ma-” I say. “ are so pitiful!” They must have it hard, I think as I watch the news stories. Why else are they always so happy when they get free grade school access? Why would they be so cheerful when the military gives them food? So happy when there is a new highway? Civilians must have it hard: no school, no food, no roads. My mom doesn’t know why I make this “pitiful” comment about civilians when I watch the news report. I don’t think she watches the news during my hair time. She only cares about the traffic and the weather forecast. “Ma-ma-” I say. “We should do something to make lives better.” My mother laughs as she brushes my bangs. “Chen, that’s great. But we are civilians too.” My mom once had coupons so I could get a discounted cornrow

老百姓

老百姓

老百姓

37


braid. The following two weeks were the best two weeks for her, because she didn’t have to wake up to do my hair during the morning news. “No, but we’re not!” I say. Are we civilians? I’m not happy being referred to as a word on a news report... instead of myself. “Chen, do you actually know that word?” “Yes Ma-ma-,” I say. “It means people-s and people-s who are n-o-t us.” “Yes! We, are civilians.” No, I am not, I think. I don’t remember when I learned that yes, I am a civilian. I belong to a group summed up by one word.

I

mpossible stubborn curly hair.

We do different hairstyles on different days. Sometimes I decide which hairstyle—if I am awake in time. This is rare for four-year-old me. I like two ponytail bundles on each side. That way, when I arrive at kindergarten, I can see the ponytails in the mirror at the gate. If my hair is only a single ponytail behind my head, I can’t see it in the mirror. So my mother has to zig my hair from the middle, roughly fix one side just to keep the zig separated while we really work on the hair. Then she does the water combing on the other side. When that side is all pinned, fixed, and upped, we go back to the rough side to repeat the process. When my hair is fixed, it is the closest it will be to looking like the other middle, inland, Han-ethnicity, Chinese girls who go to kindergarten in the morning. Sometimes I have to do a jokey bit. It happens at the end of the week, after my mother picks me up from kindergarten and we go to the food market. We wear our hair down—natural. Because no matter how much water combing and brushing we do in the morning, in the afternoon my hair gives out. No pins or scrunchie can hold it in anymore.

38


The joke happens when an older lady—she might have a crazy, machine-permed head—approaches me. “Aren’t you too young to get your hair permed, little girl?” or “Where did you get that perm, little girl?” My mother is busy, focusing on products. But I think my mother might actually be pretending. Because she doesn’t know how to cook! We buy whatever the farmers sell to us. Later, as she washes and chops and stirs, my father critiques what we bought. I tell the older lady, “Yes, Old Auntie, but I got a perm anyway,” or maybe, “Ask how I got my perm.” “How?” the older lady says. “In my mother’s belly!” She laughs every time at that line. Sometime she follows up with, “Oh, I thought that would be painful for a little kid like you... to get a perm!” or “Wow, you are a natural curl,” or “Your baba must be a Xinjiang-er right? My neighbor is a Xinjiang-er. They have hair just like yours!” After a few times of this happening, I wonder if I can keep up the joke, using the same lines. I try to keep my enthusiasm so none of the three people involved—Mom, Old Auntie, and me—will feel awkward. Because some stranger is judging my mom for “giving her child a perm."

W

hat Chinese are you?

I try to do the same water combing process when I’m older and enter grade school. It is way harder than it looks. I can’t work fast enough to surprise my hair. It always fights back and curls even harder, and I end up going to school with a messy ponytail. Kid strangers touch all the fuzzy, perm-like curls on my forehead. (There’s this one annoying kid who runs away really fast, so I cannot tell him off). It feels like this has been going on forever and will continue on forever.

39


Thankfully, I only have to deal with this for a few more years. Years pass and I look a little older, old enough to be the go-to-thehair-salon-on-my-own age, without strangers coming up to my mom and judging her for “perming her child’s hair.” My hair starts to grow down instead of growing out and up. My small city starts to have more jobs and investments that attract people from all over China—even the world. I notice more ethnicities besides Han: Han-Jewish descendants, called “Yehude” in Kafeing city, and Han-Muslim called “Hui.” But I only know this because they tell me their ethnicity, either in that phase when we are getting to know each other, or because they are shop owners who sell me their special snacks. I don’t feel as alone when I see a few curls around their ears. There are different ethnicities and nationalities in my home city. I don’t have to do that belly salon bit or receive unwanted attention. However, every summer when I go back to my home city, I sometimes still get a few “Are you Chinese?” followed by, “What Chinese are you?” It haunts me for a while. Did I dress wrong? Should I wear my hair differently? Is it because of my size? My skin complexion? I reply with a polite smile. “Well, yes, yes I am; yes I was born and raised in this neighborhood. In fact I never left this district.” (This is a lie, because they are strangers). And then I smile at their shocked awkwardness, and I wait until they give me food or an ice-cream cone or a bag of groceries. In the United States, I have had plenty of practice answering this kind of question—thanks to Uber rides. “What Asian are you?” Over and over, for seven years. I still give a smile that won’t flip. I don’t have a 4.91 Uber rating for nothing. I know I love my hair. Or at least until maybe the next wave of hating myself comes around again. I’m just really glad I don’t have to hear myself tell the belly salon joke with that upbeat cute voice to a stranger anymore. That jokey bit won’t be upbeat or cute on a 25-yearold Chen.

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T U R N B U L L MIYA

Featured Artist

Self-Portrait (Woven/Coming Undone) (2021) | Turnbull

Interview by

C.T. Lisa


W

hat drew you to the medium of mask-making?

It's not a very common medium, but you'd be amazed how many mask-makers are out there now! It combines a lot of things that I love—sculpture, photography and collage. I took a class in university through the drama department, learning basics like casting my face and using paper-mâché to make lightweight but strong masks. Then I began developing my Photo Mask technique on my own. Using photos for the final layers of the masks brought life to them. [It] was instantly realistic yet uncanny.

I love masks as ornamental art pieces, but also as something I can wear to cover my face and change the way I look... it touches on performance art. I animate and do projections, so that gets into new media and digital work. [Masks] intersect with so many different disciplines... They're the perfect metaphor for representing identity. Masks come with such a rich history and tradition. It almost feels like "cheating," because when I make new masks, I'm drawing from all the significance already imbued... So I carry all that symbolism in my work and then use it to dig deeper into my explorations.

E

ach of your masks manages to evoke a very nuanced tone—

campy, creepy, flippant. Where do the faces come from?

They're all self-portraits, even if they get completely abstracted in the process of trying out different techniques. For example, if I've learned a new sewing technique or Japanese calligraphy, it's not long before it gets incorporated into my masks. Or if I shift my face on top of the mask's structure in one way, then I also try other similar ways. I might discover a new material to work with, and the potential of that leads to new faces. But my face is always the constant... There's always some tether and something familiar threaded through all the faces—even though my collection of masks has now grown to over 100!

I want [viewers] to see all the different faces as variations of “me.” Or even more abstractly—I want them to see “me” in the space between them all. Even though the masks are self-portraits, I want viewers to actually see themselves in that space too.

D

o you spend a lot of time planning out masks before execution? Or do you improvise and follow your intuition?

Some of the masks are planned out initially—sometimes I see something very clearly in my mind that I want to make, or I've gotten ideas from the last mask that I made and can't wait to try another variation. But sometimes, I'm stuck for ideas, and then I'll just start the process anyway, not sure of where it will go. Often I try something on the mask that makes me cringe or that I find interesting, and then I go with that.

43


Self-Portrait (Split) (2020) | Turnbull

Self-Portrait (Shift #9) (2021) | Turnbull


Self-Portrait (Letting Go) (2020) | Turnbull

Self-Portrait (Feeling Discombobulated) (2020) | Turnbull


Y

our artist statement says that your work explores "where the outer

persona turns inward or where the line between 'beauty' and 'grotesque' becomes blurred." Do you see your work primarily as an exploration of authenticity?

I wouldn't say that I'm primarily exploring authenticity, but that's definitely something I am exploring, especially when it comes to comparing the outer persona—the face we show the world—in contrast to our inner world.

Sometimes I show contrast between the two by misaligning my features on the mask, where the surface of the mask doesn't match the structure. Or I will depict a different face or expression on the concave space inside the mask. In [the artist] statement, I am more interested in exploring that "in-between" space, whether it's between the outer and inner, or that shift between beauty and grotesque and also between two cultures, since I am a mix of Japanese-Canadian and Caucasian.

W

hat advice do you have for emerging artists?

My advice would be to work at something daily, or as regularly as possible. Even just five minutes a day will amount to something substantial over time. And apply for everything— submit to grants, exhibits, publications, and any possible opportunity. For every "yes" I get, there are at least five rejections, so you do need to develop a thick skin, but if I didn't apply to anything, nothing would happen.

It's definitely hard to maintain creativity, especially during a pandemic or stressful situations, so be kind to yourself. Whenever I get stuck I try and learn something new, and eventually something clicks. Also, I just start the process and try things out, even if I have no idea where to go with it. If I don't like the results, I just cover it over with another idea.

W

here else can we find your work?

I post regularly on Instagram @miyamask, and I try to keep up with my website at www.miyaturnbull.com, which is full of photos and videos and information. My last major exhibit just finished at the end of August at Gallery 101 in Ottawa, Ontario. Right now I'm taking advantage of social media to post new work.

Read the complete Miya Turnbull interview in the Fall 2021 online issue | www.maskslitmag.com

46


TIARTROP FLES

Self-Portrait (Photos as Masks) (2020) | Turnbull

"Where the outer persona turns inward, or where the line between 'beauty' and 'grotesque' becomes blurred."

- Miya Turnbull

47


Serena Piccoli


the railings on the sea path A r d e n

T

H u n t e r

he railings on the sea-path around Scarborough headland are almost rotted-through with rust.

Salt batters them when the storms come, scraping away at the tough exterior, turning them first white, then brown, then orange, as if burning from within. The headland, this mouldering outcropping where Romans built their castle, bears the brunt of the sea; snarling whirling hurling itself against the shore. It has waged this campaign against the town since it was not Scarborough, but Skarðaborg, and it pitched the Viking raiders, too, against it. The new concrete defenses prevent the sea from stealing more of the soil and exposing more of the skeletons of soldiers, so it pick-pick-picks at the metal rails instead. So straight and strong, rigid and uniform, the sea screams at the rails until they become land-corals; pitted and twisted and alive. If you go there on a calm day, the weary railings leave a trail of rust on your hand. Gulls scream in defiance overhead as only gulls can, while tourists stray too close to the edge, warning signs ignored for the thrill of a rusted orange brand. The odds are against the sea these days. It becomes less likely that it will ever succeed in rotting clean through the railings, rampaging over the road, and demolishing the castle. It seethes and boils and takes what it can get. Don’t stand too close.

49


The Time to Prepare Jennifer Liss

T

here are things in nature that engender an awful quiet in the heart of man.” -N. Scott Momaday

You lean back on your elbows under an ancient oak. Below you, the 101 snakes north. Just west of the highway is the beginning of the entire Pacific Ocean, inky in the end-of-night light. You’ve been stoned for hours, maybe days. You swam in the warm bioluminescent sea, rode your bike up the hill. What do you know? Hard to say. You’re just thinking about yourself and the other barefoot kids you run around with in your coastal town. You aren’t thinking about the hills and the

50


creeks and the rivers and the sea and the sky, because it would be like thinking about your own blood, and who does that? You can’t imagine how fucked it’s all going to be. It’s not because you’re young. You’re spitting distance from the obvious yet inconceivable outcome of decades of mistakes in a dangerous golden place. You don’t know what you don’t know. But in 1995, you don’t even know that.

On a single day in 2020, 367 fires burned across California, throwing up enough smoke to be captured by NASA’s Terra Satellite. By the end of the year, 9,917 fires had raged. Whether they charred meadows, neighborhoods, or vineyards, each was given a name. Those names take up residence in your vocabulary. Creek 5 and Laura 2. Snow, Dome, Sheep, Salt, Rattlesnake. The Lightning Complex fires: CZU, SCU, LNU. Smoketree and Bitterwater. The Castle Fire was one of those blazes. It extinguished a tenth of the world’s giant sequoias, most of which were thousands of years old. Less than six months after the 2020 fire season ended, the next began.

It is the season to prepare. If you live up in the hills, you create defensible space around your home. You’ve been at it for months now. Clearing vegetation. Creating fire breaks. Building trenches. Raking and pruning. In the suburban flats, you focus on fleeing. Gas in the tank. Bags by the door. Shoes, masks, phone chargers, cash, medicine. Dog leash. Your designated evacuation zone. Plans A, B, and C.

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When there is a high wind advisory, you will stay up, windows open, nose raised, lips curled, banking on your animal instinct to sniff it out before the apps blare the alerts. Your husband will get on a roof with the other men to see what you can already smell. In the dry dark, families will come out, toddlers in arms, adrenaline quickening their midnight shuffle down the driveways. Up and down the street, trunks will pop open to receive passports, birth certificates, grandma’s gold—whatever else has been deemed irreplaceable. The neighborhood will leave quietly toward the 101, toward Plan A or Plan B, the fire on the ridge a thin, bright line in the rearview mirror. The incoming smoke, a palm poised to slap.

Some events stand in the middle of before and after. The moon landing. The last spike on the transcontinental railroad. Wuhan. When faced with the after, the before seems so naïve, so deprived of imagination. In 2017, fire sailed out of the Mayacamas on 80-mile-an-hour gusts and charged across the eight-line 101, as if hopping a narrow creek bed. On the other side, near a beleaguered Kohl’s department store, fire consumed Coffey Park, 1,200 detached single-family homes. “After Coffey Park” is a sentence starter, used widely to express the understanding that fire is possible anywhere and everywhere—despite whatever you thought before.

Your son is scared to death about fire. He cries in his bed. He begs you to promise you will not forget Snowball. You can’t promise anything. He sleeps with Snowball zipped into his pajamas. You argue with your husband. How much longer can you live with this? He wants to know. He wants to talk about moving. His attachment is not like

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yours. He hasn’t been here his whole life. He has practice reinventing himself. Where will we go? You parrot this question over and over. Maine? Minnesota? You don’t speak the language. You don’t understand. Where will 40 million people go? You ask this question a lot too. As if the sheer magnitude of California’s population will stop the destruction, not create more of it.

Is it still a forest if the trees are burnt, jagged stumps? Is it still a forest if the trees grow back as bushier versions of the grand giants they once were? When do we stop calling it a forest? And then, what do we call it?

Other people’s Harry Potter books, condoms, tires, quilts, motorcycles, bones, watercolor paintings, crackers, couches, pets. When you get back from your Plan A, as ash, it’s all the same. A shawl of ash on each late summer tomato, ash in the screen holes, on the flip-flops by the doormat, in the crevices of the picnic table, on the smooth leaves of the lemon trees, in your lungs, in your throat, on your tongue. Smoke, vomit-colored, presses against the windows. You won’t let the kids out, everyone sweats inside, air filters chug, and you monitor the API with addict-like focus. How much sleep have you lost, imagining your kids, when grown, asking: Why did we live like that?

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Look at the hills. What do you see? Blaze. But they’re not on fire, not now. They’re golden with dead vegetation. Your imagination has other plans for those hills. What should be done about your imagination? Should you make it stop imagining the hills on fire? What happens when the hills are actually on fire? Exactly what should your imagination conjure up then?

What have you learned if not to be grateful for the peace of skycolored sky? Most days. Repeat, most days. It’s not a peace you’ve earned. But peace, just the same. On most days, you have the ability to find this peace elsewhere. A tangerine that peels without a problem. A breeze that is neither too cold nor too dry. Mosquitoes that don’t land. In 1995, this was one place. Now it’s another. Those are the facts. How much time can you really allow nostalgia to steal from you? How much time can you really spend imagining the worst, praying for the best? There’s only so much time, and you must prepare. It’s the season.

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A

HOUSE

BRIDGE ROAD THERE DO

YOU

YOU

YOU IS

CAN

A

TREE

LOUISE

REBUILD;

A

RESTRING;

A

FILL

NOTHING

ABOUT

-

CAN

CAN

IN.

YOU BUT

BUT CAN

MOURN.

DICKINSON

RICH


Lovers in Arms A i s a n

F

L .

A f s h a r

ear and its detestable acrid scent just clung to a place regardless of time. Regardless of location, regardless of other feelings pushing and pulling in the race to remain.

Fear stays in that it poisons the same air of its bearer, so that person breathes in the same thing they’re trying to expel. Leon breathes in fear and exhales it right back. The scent is mingled with the bitter aftertaste of soil under his tongue as a result of chewing on his fingernails, which are smeared with the remains of dirt and debris from digging this hole. They buried themselves, not out of fright, but out of desperation. They lie side-by-side and tangled in each other, and they listen to the sound of chaos that emerges and roars above them in tandem with the screams. There is a massacre raging above. 56


Death is a scent that also lingers. When Atelasia strokes her hand over his hair, and when he tries so hard to control his breathing lest they run out of oxygen too soon, as his lips graze her neck, he can feel it. They both can. It’s rotten and grotesque with twisted teeth and peeling skin. It smells like burnt flesh. It is slow, like their embrace in the dark amongst the squirming, wriggling worms interrupting their hold. And it is rapid like the people above, people they know, people of their land who are ablaze and running to their deaths, not knowing, or perhaps not caring that they are already dead meat. Dead, flaming meat. Souls on fire. Leon thinks perhaps they are lucky in comparison, having chosen the slow kind of death. The creeping kind that doesn’t involve being trampled underfoot by the enemies’ horses or burnt by the running flames. Underneath the tree where they used to meet, just in that groove, on the slope of a hill no one but they used to occupy once, death will find them. Death will find the dirt under their chipped, bleeding fingernails, and death will smell of the acrimonious scent of terror that clings on them with the heaviness of a cloak, shivering and afraid. Not fear of death, but rather the fear of losing the other. There is no other alternative to this, other than flames. They couldn’t run, they couldn’t fight, because each of these options constituted letting go of one another. Of finding death alone and leaving the other behind. They chose to welcome death on their own terms, and Atelasia, being the more optimistic of the duo, promised him that there would be light after the savages ran out of bodies to tear apart. Leon wanted so badly to let her know that there was already light. Everything was alight with the screams above. She calls him, “Amore Mio.” As in, My love, it will be fine. They will leave. We will lean against our willow tree underneath the sun once more. And Leon tells her how even if they don’t, and even if death arrives sooner than they can leave, then they will be like this, holding each other and whispering, for years and decades and centuries, long after the flesh falls off and decay sets in. Because they both know, just as the scent of fear remains so too will the scent of love. On two opposed battlegrounds, where fear remains bitter and gripping, love is a breath of crisp, fresh air and sweet apricot enjoyed under the billowing breeze and the sun.

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in the weeds

Daniel Watkins


Cottage Industry J o d y

R a e

T

he photos of the Congressional members were discovered first. Then a slew of elected officials and various public figures faced a similar indignity, and from there a national debate sparked which instantly garnered global attention.

The founders, a husband and wife team who met at an Olan Mills studio in the ’90s, opened their first photography studio megaplex in downtown Des Moines, Iowa using an inheritance. The megaplex was a welcome anchor in a newly renovated department store that failed after decades. Promising a self-guided, funhouse-style of photography sets, visitors at the megaplex could pose for selfies with their own phones and cameras, or choose professional family portraits against modern and stylish backdrops designed to look like real places. Most important to all visitors, however, was the digital camera technology the founders developed, which made everyone appear stunning and properly lit in every photo without the need for touch-ups or enhancements. The patented technology was the single factor that differentiated the couple from all of their competitors. In order to secure the patent and the copyrights of each photo in perpetuity, the founders agreed to upload the original digital images to a database housed in the Library of Congress. Visitors signed a lengthy release form upon entering the premises, disavowing their rights to privacy or sole ownership of the images created by the company’s elaborate camera equipment. At no additional cost, visitors could store and access their portfolio on the megaplex’s digital platform and select public or private settings. 60


In honor of the great-aunt who left the inheritance, the founders named their enterprise “Rococo Row” after stately seaside mansions dotting the cliffs where one of the founders spent childhood holidays scrambling the grounds of an estate or creeping the halls of an old manor, expecting ghosts around every corner. The indoor sets offered realistic scenes that included a hipster diner, dance clubs, grand rococo staircases, soap sud rooms, a marvelous baroque banquet hall, a trendy bar, and a concert stage. For professional headshots or websites, Rococo Row offered stark office scenes and a podium. For an extra fee, crowds could be Photoshopped into the audience or background to create more energy. There were seasonal sets, including living rooms with garish Christmas trees in which families could pose for annual holiday cards. There were private bedroom sets for boudoir sessions. But perhaps what put Rococo Row on the map was their realistic green screen outdoor scenes. The outdoor scenes became popular for marriage proposals and engagement photos. There were thousands of backdrops to choose from, including golf courses, waterfalls and pools, English countryside mansions and castles, Scottish moors, Bangkok markets, African safaris, and oceans in every shade of blue. There were scenes from fourteener summits, so a group of girlfriends could pose with their backs to the camera, inexplicably topless, their arms raised overhead. Each scene could be adjusted for blue hour, golden hour, yellow filter, and white balance. The couple worried their business wouldn’t survive the pandemic if the Governor issued a shelter-in-place order, so they took necessary precautions for their visitors. With a little ingenuity from their lighting and design department, they installed ultraviolet light scanners and self-cleaning surface mats to mitigate the spread of the virus. They expanded their cleaning crew and reduced their foot traffic by 75 percent. They promoted these precautionary measures on social media and their website, uncertain if the investment would be worthwhile. They soon learned that their customers were willing to risk it all for a flattering photograph. The line wrapped around the entrance and extended along the sidewalk, where pods of people huddled six feet apart and leaned on rolling suitcases filled with costumes.

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As fewer people opted to travel over the next few months, business boomed. Visitors posed in opulent #ShelterInPlace scenes and fake #PandemicPosh quarantine sets, and by mid-May the founders opened franchises in every major city in North America with plans to expand overseas. Their biggest moneymaker by far were weddings. Using their advanced technology to render hyper-realistic settings, they inserted the faces of loved ones from the guest list into wedding photos, creating artificially composited memories for families who were otherwise spread across the country. What the founders didn’t tell the U.S. patent office, nor the FCC, nor the SEC when they registered their technology and various holdings was that the technology was much more advanced than the founders first understood. While the paperwork processed, the founders discovered a glitch that neither of them could identify or explain. After an indeterminate length of time—typically between six weeks and nine months—the original proofs, which at first appeared unblemished, began to show defects. The founders thought the images were deteriorating when, over time—just like watching a Polaroid image slowly emerge— their patented technology seemed to continue developing. Upon closer examination, however, the images revealed what appeared to be otherwise invisible physical and psychological maladies. The test subjects, mostly unknown models of all ages, posed as they would for any photographer, but the typically banal results eventually showed what would later be identified as any number of health issues. To the trained medical eye, the technology captured congenital heart defects, genetic disorders, tumors, evidence of plastic surgery, tooth decay, bone density concerns, diabetes, Crohn's Disease, and artery plaque. It was later determined that X-ray technology was not present in the device, although even if it had been, it would not have explained the rest. Because in addition to the bizarre human body imagery, Rococo Row’s camera captured psychological imagery, revealing not just the typical qualities of human nature and behavior, but individual dispositions. A single snapshot might depict a penchant for illicit affairs, mob dealings, bribery, or even a predatory nature.

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Since the paperwork was already processing and they had secured a lease for prime commercial real estate, the founders agreed to move forward as planned while quietly fine-tuning what seemed like an exposure glitch. By the time they opened their doors, they sincerely believed that whatever caused their prototype to overdevelop was no longer an issue, but just to ensure that the quality of their images endured, they tasked their staff with capturing screenshots of each photo before releasing it to clients, hoping to stall or halt any latent development. The workaround method was successful until a clerk at the Library of Congress pulled a set of images from the Rococo Row catalog for a reading room entrance display of notable figures. While searching for faces of politicians, military officers, and Supreme Court justices, the clerk scrolled through hundreds, then thousands, of what looked like defective images. The clerk printed a series of random photographs and alerted the Librarian, whose keen eye led her to believe the images were not defective at all, but possibly print negatives with partially inverted tones. The clerk, somewhat of an amateur photographer himself, politely reminded the Librarian that the image technology was digital, so in order to produce a negative image from a digital file, a technician must manually alter the image. This discovery led the clerk and Librarian to deduce that Rococo Row was either uploading defective content and would need to resubmit all files to their catalog or, possibly, they were altering many of their original photos before uploading them to the Library of Congress database which, if intentional, would constitute a breach of compliance at best and fraud at worst. The Librarian issued a letter to Rococo Row, informing the couple that following the discovery of “extensive discrepancies” in quality and inaccurate portrayals of the subjects, a complete review of the catalog was underway. The review would be in the best interest of Rococo Row’s legacy, she argued, and she invited the founders to discuss the progress of the review with her team. When a lawyer on the review team was summoned to assess possible outcomes if fraud was detected, the founders knew it was perhaps inevitable that a formal investigation would ensue. The appointed lawyer

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printed out the images at home, where she quarantined after spending the Fourth of July with 18 members of her extended family at Donner Lake in Truckee, California. She spread the printouts across her polished teak dining room table and surveyed the discrepancies. She stared at each image, one by one, noting their uncanny resemblance to X-rays, but she did not see cause for alarm until her husband, a renowned psychiatrist at Saint Elizabeth's, passed through the dining room, bow-legged and clicking across the scarred wood floor with his clip-in cycling shoes. One glance at the array of faces on the table and he was able to offer a preliminary psychiatric evaluation of each individual. This one suffers from addiction and that one suffers from a malignant narcissistic personality disorder, he declared. Well, that’s everyone in this town, his wife argued. The psychiatrist took a beer out of the fridge and popped the cap with the refrigerator magnet they’d had since grad school. He sat at the dining table, sipped, and looked closely at each photo. He built a mental profile for each subject. There were brain abnormalities in 30 percent of the portraits, some with violent behavior patterns. One had extensive damage to the cerebral cortex that indicated a neurodegenerative disease. Another photo quickened his pulse—the image indicated manipulative personality traits, and the subject was a senior member of Congress best known for carefully choosing battles and writing precise legislation no one else bothered to read before taking it to vote. The psychiatrist never would have guessed, even after watching decades of the Congressman's speeches—even shaking his hand once at a fundraiser in the Botanical Garden. Just in case he might be mistaken, the psychiatrist phoned a few colleagues and asked for a second opinion on the images whenever they had a chance. Their assessments all aligned with his. Inexplicably, the Rococo Row camera somehow captured the best version of a subject’s outward appearance, then slowly revealed their inner nature and motivations. The information was socialized through the proper channels, and the formal investigation began. Enough subjects spanned the upper and lower echelons of society and snagged the media’s attention. The joint Congressional Ethics Committee

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held an emergency meeting, which was questionable in and of itself because several members’ photos were embroiled in the scandal. The burdensome task of legislating responsible use of the device fell upon their shoulders, and the committee was torn about how to proceed. Already, there were charlatan evaluation services cropping up around the world, offering to determine individuals' capabilities or medical risks based on just one Rococo Row image. Social media influencers lobbied hard for regulation, given that their livelihoods were rendered near obsolete after average-looking people were able to photograph well with very little effort. The psychiatric community favored leveraging the technology to supplement patient evaluations, and the medical community was adamant that the breakthrough could be an affordable and simple health screening for lower-income populations. The pharmaceutical industry tried to lasso the shooting star, claiming more diagnoses would yield higher sales. The criminal justice community was fascinated by the possibilities yet cautious against false accusations. After all, they argued, a predisposition to harmful behavior did not signify a crime had been committed. How could the courts litigate with this brand new technology, which asked as many questions as it answered? The controversy raged as special interest groups argued the merits of leveraging the technology while others worried about Constitutional rights and privacy. The public, by and large, demanded the technology be widely available and accessible. They were not willing to consider reverting back to filtering and staging their own lives. Only a small portion of the public thought their portrait might eventually yield something sinister, although nearly everyone was mortified when their photos developed telltale signs of emotional or physical secrets. The copyrights still belonged to Rococo Row, but this didn’t stop the internet from registering domains and proliferating the frenzy around rapidresponse personal scans after uploading a single image. As more civilians received personal evaluations, the murder rate increased and crime escalated in every major city. Presented with the truth of who they really were, rather than trying to overcome their darker natures, people leaned fully into them. They fought for beautiful photos of them-

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selves, but the flaws that emerged defined them, no matter what positive contributions they otherwise made in society. The late-developing characteristics on camera gave people all the excuse they needed to perform at their lowest level. The founders were dismayed by the global crises ignited by their invention. Hounded by media outlets and stalked by up-and-coming podcasters, the couple absconded to an undisclosed location. They posted their selfies against fake backdrops using a VPN and managed to misdirect the most dogged reporters to remote Scandinavian towns and elite resorts along the French Riviera. One intrepid journalist went so far as to drag teams to both Basecamps at Mount Everest, hoping to intercept the founders upon their descent. In truth, the couple’s friend let them borrow a fishing cabin near the tip of Idaho’s panhandle, where they played cards next to a wood stove and read all of the novels jammed into some dusty bookshelves. They avoided watching the news and donned disguises before leaving the cabin to run errands. Meanwhile, dictators and despotic governments forbid the use of the technology in their countries. It became as valuable as nuclear technology, and just as delicate. Des Moines swiftly became the epicenter for the nascent cottage industry, a mecca for various stakeholders entrenched in the controversy. Real estate prices surged. Public discourse volleyed banter around a shifting social environment that predestined human behavior and personal opportunity. And yet, over time, as the media moved on to other controversies, as members of Congress were replaced with new members based on their Rococo Row public profiles, and as civilians slotted themselves into the social strata, their profiles determined irrefutable, the world grew accustomed to viewing itself through a lens that would eventually tell the truth—and resigned itself to the outcome.

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IN

A

FOR

-

PORTRAIT, THE

HENRI

I'M

SILENCE

LOOKING

IN

SOMEBODY.

CARTIER-BRESSON


S H O O T

the shit for the moon a look a gaze a glare a load daggers heroin BBs an arrow a target a deer a man a woman a person any other person me you a child.

Sean Swogger

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Lime Tree in Michigan W e n d y

B o o y d e G r a a f f

January snow falls wet onto grass still green. I’ve always wanted to live in a warmer climate. Michigan’s fate is semi-tropical in thirty, forty years. The lime tree spindles in my kitchen, its leaves are gone, and one juicy lime hangs from a flexible branch. The ball drops lower, lower. Once I pluck it, will it be the end? White mold creeps up the half-inch trunk. Just a stem, really. I spray the speckles with soapy water laced with cayenne. These purple hours of in between—it could go either way. Night or day? Life or death? Warm or cold? I pull sleep like threads from an old sweater. Out side the dark sparkles with cold flakes and I breathe in the front yard’s maple promise which I take to mean I have a future though the trees only watch out for themselves. And can you blame them? Come spring, the chainsaws march up and down the streets, replace branches with air and hundred-year trunks with grass.

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"Once I pluck it, will it be the end?"

71


Contributors Aisan L. Afshar

Lovers in Arms

Aisan is currently studying English Literature as an undergraduate at the University of Tehran. Her work has previously been featured in the Open Culture Collective, the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Furious Fiction, and clandestine lit. Instagram @quincy_wonders

Wendy BooydeGraaff

Lime Tree in Michigan

Wendy’s fiction, poems, and essays have been included in Another Chicago Magazine, South Florida Poetry Journal, The /tƐmz/ Review, NOON, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, she now lives in Michigan. Twitter @BooyTweets.

Mary Bowman

relative value units

Mary is a healthcare provider who lives in Chicago, land involuntarily ceded by the Council of the Three Fires in 1821. They hate your boss and love your outfit.

Sarah (Qiuqi) Bovold

Something I Learned From My Father | I am Buying a Pair of New Balance Shoes

Sarah is a nonfiction writer from Beijing, China. She loves good food, traveling, and writing. She recently purchased a pair of New Balance shoes and loves them a lot, so she wrote an essay about it. Instagram: ssssssarah_dddduan

Clara Burghelea

On days when I am a mother

Clara is a Romanian-born poet with an MFA in Poetry from Adelphi University. Recipient of the Robert Muroff Poetry Award, her poems and translations appeared in Ambit, Waxwing, The Cortland Review and elsewhere. Her collection The Flavor of the Other was published in 2020 with Dos Madres Press. She is the Review Editor of Ezra, An Online Journal of Translation.


Ryan Everett Felton

Going Away

Ryan is the writer of three novels and two short fiction collections. Along with editor Summer Keown, Ryan created the literary journal Non-stalgia. As a member of the Indianapolis performance art collective Know No Stranger, his work has been produced for stage and screen. His children’s book about armadillos was legitimized by much more intelligent people in the scientific journal Edentata. Twitter @ryanefelton | www.ryanefelton.com

Wendell Hawken

Lunch with Mary

Living on a farm in the northern Shenandoah Valley, Wendell’s work often reflects a rural lifestyle in which "AI" is assumed to mean "artificial insemination." She earned her MFA in Poetry at Warren Wilson’s Program for Writers. Her publications include three chapbooks and three full collections. A fourth collection is scheduled for publication in June 2022. www.wendellhawken.com

Arden Hunter

the railings on the sea path

Arden is an aroace, agender writer, artist and performer. They hold an eclectic range of interests from the horrific to the whimsical. The theme that ties all of their work together is an inexplicable and unconditional love of that ridiculous beast that’s called "human." Arden's words and art have been hosted by Farther from the Trees, The Bear Creek Gazette, and Half Empty's Exhibition, among others. Twitter @hunterarden

Jennifer Liss

The Time to Prepare

Jennifer works in educational publishing. She specializes in writing fiction for struggling readers. Jennifer lives with her family in Santa Rosa, California, a community that has endured significant loss of life and property due to wildfire. Instagram @bookmarkedbyjen | www.jenniferliss.net

Alyson Mann

The Librarian

Whenever she can find time, Alyson is a health and fitness professional by day. She lives with her wife, kids, and multiple pets. She is carving out more dedicated time to give life to the characters who live rent-free in her head.

Nathaniel Mellor

Rome is Lost

Nathaniel is a short story writer and poet who lives in Southern Italy with his partner. He’s had work published or forthcoming in Willawaw Journal, Second Chance Lit, and Henshaw Press. Twitter @MellorNathaniel


Darcy Marie Melton

Artwork

Darcy is a self-taught painter who splits her time between the United States and Italy. Her work can be found in private U.S. and U.K. collections, as well as group collections in Washington D.C.’s Cannon Tunnel and Savannah’s Jepson Center, among others. She is the Art Editor of Pigeon Review. Her work is forthcoming in Dishsoap Quarterly, The Bitter Fruit Review, and The Lumiere Review. Twitter @not_mr_darcy | Instagram @darcy_marie_melton | www.darcymariemelton.com

Serena Piccoli

Photography

Serena is an Italian poet-playwright-photographer-charlatan-cyclist-performerfeminist-lesbian-human rights activist-traveler-swimmer-chocolate lover. She writes both in English and Italian about political social commentary, always with a touch of irony. Twitter @piccoli_serena | www.serenapiccoli.wixsite.com/serenapiccoli

Emilie Plunkett

Photography

Emilie is a poet and photographer based in Chicago. Their practice focuses on the mess, comfort and materiality of the intimate environments found in domestic spaces. They enjoy long walks by the lake, Alice Austen’s photographs, and plums.

Stephanie Pritchard

Cosmo Asks 18 Women to Describe Childbirth

Stephanie received her MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches in the English and Creative Writing department at the State University of New York at Oswego, where she is the recipient of the Provost's Award for Teaching Excellence. Her poetry has appeared in Stone Canoe, Red Rover Magazine, The Awakenings Review, The River, Better Than Starbucks, and others.

Jody Rae

Cottage Industry

Jody has had creative nonfiction essays appear in The Avalon Literary Review, The Good Life Review, Red Fez and From Whispers to Roars. Her short story, “Beautiful Mother,” was a finalist in the Phoebe Journal 2021 Spring Fiction Contest. She was the first prize winner of the 2019 Winning Writers Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest for her poem, "Failure to Triangulate.” Twitter @JodyRae_ | Instagram @criminy_sakes_alive | www.criminysakesalive.com


Melody Rose Serra

Artwork

Melody has a passion for teaching and empowering others. She started a JavaScript class at the Boys and Girls Club of Visitacion Valley, helped launch an arts and crafts program at a children's hospital, and also taught at San Quentin State Prison. Melody hopes to inspire youth to explore and expand their creativity through web development, writing, and art. Twitter @melrserra | www.melodyserra.com

Sean Swogger

Shoot

Sean earned his Poetry MFA in 2021 at Columbia College Chicago. He was born in Ohio, where he attended Kent State University. Sean is searching for the perfect IPA and failing to train his new kittens. He frequently has nightmares about tornadoes.

Miya Turnbull

Featured Artist

Miya is a Canadian multi-disciplinary visual artist. Primarily a mask maker, she also works in painting, photography, screen printing, textiles, video, animation, and projection. She is of mixed Japanese-Canadian ancestry and works predominantly with self-portraits as a way to explore identity, persona, and self-image. She currently lives in Mi'kma'ki (Nova Scotia). Miya has exhibited across Canada and internationally, and she has won numerous grant awards. Miya would like to acknowledge Arts NS and the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting her work. Instagram @miyamask | www.miyaturnbull.com

Muchen Wang

Belly Salon | Artwork

Muchen is a cartoonist, artist, and writer. She was born and raised in a small city in central China. She tells stories with paint and words. She and her dog live in Chicago. Instagram @muchenwang07 | www.MuchenWang.com

Daniel Watkins

Photography

Daniel is a climate scientist, photographer, collage artist, and musician living in Corvallis, Oregon. His work draws inspiration from the mathematics of randomness and the small violations of symmetry in nature. Recently, he has been thinking a lot about a future in which nature is intertwined more fully into our living and working spaces. Twitter @d_m_watkins | Instagram @danielwatkinsart


credits

MASKS Cover Self-Portrait (Shift #8) (2021) by Miya Turnbull via Aesthetica Magazine #102 (Aug/Sept 2021) Inside Covers Graffiti by L.A.u.R.E.i.E. via Pexels Masthead | Back Cover Mask Icon Art by vectortradition via Canva

Editor's Letter | Pg. 1 Self-Portrait with Assorted Masks (2020) by Miya Turnbull via "Behind The Mask: Miya Turnbull" (Mixed Asian Media Festival, Sept 15-19, 2021) Contents | Pg. 3 White Lines (1941) by Irene Rice Pereira via the Metropolitan Museum of Art On days when I am a mother | Pg. 8 Pandora (1914) by Odilon Redon via the Metropolitan Museum of Art Something I Learned From My Father | Pg. 13 The Thinker - Portrait of Louis N. Kenton (1900) by Thomas Eakins via the Metropolitan Museum of Art Going Away | Pg. 14 1886 (1940) by Perkins Harnly via the Metropolitan Museum of Art Lunch with Mary | Pg. 22 Girl in a Green Blouse (1917) by Amedeo Modigliani via the National Gallery of Art Spotlight: Darcy Melton | Pgs. 24-25 Egg 1 (2021) by Darcy Melton Lightly Bruised (2021) by Darcy Melton Cosmo Asks 18 Women to Describe Childbirth | Pg. 27 Seated Clowness (1896) by Henri de ToulouseLautrec via the National Gallery of Art

Featured Artist: Miya Turnbull | Pgs. 42-47 Self-Portrait (Woven/Coming Undone) (2021) by Miya Turnbull via the "Alone" exhibit at the Acadia University Art Gallery and the Collection of the Art Bank of Nova Scotia Self-Portrait (Split) (2020) by Miya Turnbull via Art Reveal Magazine #59 (May 2021) Self-Portrait (Shift #9) (2021) by Miya Turnbull via Aesthetica Magazine #102 (Aug/Sept 2021) Self-Portrait (Letting Go) (2020) by Miya Turnbull via Art Reveal Magazine #59 (May 2021) Self-Portrait (Feeling Discombobulated) (2020) by Miya Turnbull Self-Portrait (Photos as Masks) (2020) by Miya Turnbull via the Collection of the Art Bank of Nova Scotia the railings on the sea path | Pg. 48 Curiosity by (2021) by Serena Piccoli Swimming Out of Lockdown by (2021) by Serena Piccoli The Time to Prepare | Pgs. 50-55 Allegory of Fire (1608) by Jan Brueghel the Elder via Wikimedia Commons Landscape with Dead Tree (1828) by Thomas Cole via Wikimedia Commons Lovers in Arms | Pg. 56 Tree Oil Paint by svsokolov via Canva in the weeds | Pgs. 58-59 in the weeds (2021) by Daniel Watkins Cottage Industry | Pg. 67 tintype by belterz via Getty Images Shoot | Pg. 68 Still Life with Swan and Game Before a Country Estate (1685) by Jan Weenix via the National Gallery of Art Lime Tree in Michigan | Pg. 71 A Winter Landscape Within a Jugendstil Border (1902) by Hermann Hirzel via the National Gallery of Art

Rome is Lost | Pgs. 28-29 Untitled 1 (2021) by Melody Rose Serra Untitled 2 (2021) by Melody Rose Serra relative value units | Pg. 35 Annie and Lauren at my Parents' (2021) by Emilie Plunkett Belly Salon | Pgs. 36-41 Me (2021) by Muchen Wang Untitled (2021) by Muchen Wang

The typefaces used within this issue consist of the following Canva typefaces: Amsterdam One & Four | Anton | Glacial Indifference | League | Libre Baskerville | Lucien Schoenschrift CAJ | Open Sans | Times Neau Roman | Spartan


new exhibit this


Aisan

L.

Afshar

Wendy

Sarah (Qiuqi) Bovold Burghelea

Ryan

BooydeGraaff

Mary Bowman

Everett

Felton

Clara

Wendell

∙ Arden Hunter ∙ Jennifer Liss ∙ Alyson Mann ∙ Nathaniel Mellor ∙ Darcy Melton ∙ Serena Piccoli ∙ Emilie Plunkett ∙ Stephanie Pritchard ∙ Jody Rae ∙ Melody Rose Serra ∙ Sean Swogger ∙ Miya Turnbull ∙ Muchen Wang ∙ Daniel Watkins Hawken

COVER ART Miya Turnbull

masks Aesthetics of Research Columbia College Chicago Library 624 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605 maskslitmag@gmail.com (312) 369-7900 WWW.MASKSLITMAG.COM

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MASKS Literary Magazine (Fall 2021)  

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