Summer 2022 Issue

Page 1



Literary Magazine

editorial Editor in Chief L.A. Hawbaker

Mission Statement MASKS Literary Magazine is an independent print and online publication committed to amplifying the voices of emerging writers and visual artists. We're eager to serve as a gateway for creatives and publish new perspectives. As such, we've pledged to increase representation of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, women, disabled, multilingual, and other marginalized and underrepresented communities. MASKS provides a space for individual artistic development with the larger goal of fostering literary thinking in our culture. We were founded in the spring of 2021 as a part of the Columbia College Chicago Library's 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 resourcesharing in the arts.

Managing Editor C.T. Lisa Poetry Editors Nisha Atalie Christie Valentin-Bati Noah Zanella Fiction Editors Bernie Groves Rachel Martin Des Salazar Nonfiction Editors Meg Jerit Vonnie McClendon Tinia Montford Editorial Assistants Jeiyanni Hollings Avery Timmons Reader Samantha Lopez Art & Layout L.A. Hawbaker

MASKS Columbia College Chicago Library 624 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605 Twitter @maskslitmag | Instagram @maskslitmag Summer/Fall 2022 WWW.MASKSLITMAG.COM

Cover Image Pasta Melissa Meier

vape man | Ethan Bundy

Editor's Letter We want to be heard and seen. This is what stories, poetry, and art can do. The words of a poet or author reflect what is in our own heart, articulating parts of ourselves that we couldn't put into words on our own. An essay about cats and chronic pain captures unconditional love. A poem about poached pears and fig salad celebrates non-binary identity. Sculptural costumes crafted from eggshells, acorns, and lavender exemplify harmony with nature. A micro-examination of the pores of a face recasts imperfection as truth. Art helps us realize that we are part of a greater human experience. It is to see and be seen. Feel and be felt. To be enveloped by light, and emanate that light from within.




Library Providing the seeds for growth and support for fledgling, worthy projects that need a homebase.

624 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago 312-369-7900 |


MASKS Literary Magazine | Summer/Fall 2022 | Issue no. 3

poetry At the Laboratory... (Winner: 2022 Poetry Award) Abdulrazaq Salihu | pg. 8 * (i saw you in the tate st ives) Charlie Baylis | pg. 22 Awakening Mick Stratta | pg. 30


Men Always Go for the Meat Kimberly Beatriz Rosa | pg. 54

Blue Tyler Odeneal | pgs. 6-7

Salad Days Rachel Eden | pg. 64

Bloodtrucker Lauren Ramsey | pgs. 9-16

That’s It That’s the Poem Siera Carpenter | pg. 80

Red Callahan Charles Haddox | pgs. 25-28 Floating Arniecea Johnson | pgs. 70-77

It Is What It Becomes Amy Soricelli | pg. 48


artwork vape man Ethan Bundy | pg. 2

between two worlds Federica Colletti | pg. 49

Awakening II Pawel Pacholec | pg. 5

Good Anthropocene Jacqueline Staikos | pg. 53

little gods Dora Rollins | pg. 17

House of the Red Sun Cierra G. Rowe | pg. 65

Spotlight Artist Martins Deep | pgs. 23-24

BABADO Marie Hego | pgs. 66-68

First Glance Lee Davenport | pg. 25

blue blur Zaynab Bobi | pg. 69

Couple in Fantasy Maheshwar N. Sinha | pg. 29

Meeting at the Sun Judith Present | pg. 78

Self-Portrait of a Trichotillomaniac Audrey Williams | pgs. 36-38

Renacer Jesus Monsivais | pg. 81

Featured Artist: Melissa Meier C.T. Lisa | pgs. 39-46

Facesitter Jeff O'Connell | pg. 90

Love Is Gross (Winner: 2022 Story Award) Sara Watkins | pgs. 18-20 Jimi Hendrix and the Summer of Love Virginia Castlen Vertiz | pgs. 31-35 No Emergency Contact Mary Zheng | pgs. 50-52 Go Leone Gabrielle | pgs. 55-57 Interview: A Word with Kate Wisel L.A. Hawbaker | pgs. 59-62

Awakening II | Pawel Pacholec

Blue Tyler Odeneal


miss you.

The video plays over and over on MTV and BET and even the news and Momma keeps crying because Aaliyah died on her birthday. I was partying and then the DJ… Her voice trails off as she speaks, as if tasting death on her tongue. Grandma stands in the kitchen taking us in and I turn, burrow into Momma. Darkness surrounds, wraps us up like a cloak, like an enemy closing in, but the light of the TV fizzes, breaks through. It reaches us where we are, the light. Grants us this morsel of safety. We find rest on the living room floor. Bump, hazardously, into each other, careful and hands colliding as offerings of peace. Momma lies between us, turning toward Sister for a moment and I close my eyes, but Momma is wrapping Sister’s hair. I see it as a gift at Christmas. DMX gives tribute and I think about his bark but here he speaks softly. Almost silent. A flash. My mother turns off the TV, the last image of Aaliyah’s face translucent, as if overtaking the darkness—it takes my mother first, presses, knocks her out. I peek over her shoulder and Sister is sleeping, too. Grandma shifts in the kitchen. I cannot make her out fully, but she’s there. I watch as she floats toward us, lying on the floor in our living room, too afraid to rest upstairs where it happened. My eyes shoot open and Grandma hovers over me. Close. Even after she is gone, I feel her still. In the day, when the sun grants us light, we dance through the hallways. Grandma stands at the end of the hall, looking as she did at her homegoing. Still. Light coming in filters through her. She grimaces mildly, eyes closed and then they are open and linked to me, pulling me forward. I grab Sister’s hand, and she takes mine as part of the dance. We shake our butts to music emanating from nowhere. Sister hums are you that somebody? And I see Aaliyah dancing along in our bathroom, hair covering one of her eyes. The singer moves her hair, this beauty. Smiles. I hear Momma going on and on about a plane crash. See fire, smoke rising from the ground. Sometimes I cannot breathe. Sister’s eyes meet mine and they are glossy and wide but she is smiling and my heart bangs its fists against my chest. Exhale. I smile back. 6

At night there is a monster in my bedroom. He crawls out of the hallway, waits to strike. Tonight, though, Grandma hovers in my doorway. Momma wants me to sleep in my bedroom but I tell her that I cannot. She looks on with concern. The monster climbs the stairs at night, finds me relegated to the bedroom floor, family members that Momma took in like bears resting in my bed. The monster slithers next to me, grabs at my shorts, leaves its claw prints pressed against my neck. Outside of myself, I see Grandma when she was Grandma, reading the Good Book and listening to sermons about the end times on cassette tapes from her boombox and prostrate on the floor whispering to God and then face up as medics try to resuscitate. In the morning, the monster has slithered away, morphed into distant relatives eating breakfast at the kitchen table. I cover the scars, see Grandma grimacing, translucent, whisper take this to your grave, light flowing in from the window in the hallway. We want to play and Momma says we deserve play so we traverse the short path leading to the park across the street from where we live. A girl of Sister’s age goes missing when she walks to school, here and gone as if an autumn leaf. Momma watches intently from the porch. We are down slides and up swings, into darkness and meeting light in the air, laughing and laughing and we don’t even know why. We hum rock the boat, rock the boat and I watch as Aaliyah sways at the top of a hill. When we return there are cars flying by like eagles swooping to prey. We see Momma but her head is down as if sleeping. A boy we know but don’t know crosses into the street. We’ve seen him in the park, alone at mornings, nights. Grandma hovers, stands guard. The sight of her halts me as I trek. I reach for Sister, our hands collide. The boy steps out into the street and a car darts as if sprinting in a race and the boy is on the pavement, blood like rivers rushing from his head. The car is gone, it never stops. And Momma screams and screams and screams. A baby! Everything drifts to darkness. Momma watches a talk show and the guest speaks of releasing loved ones. She is psychic and her eyes are dark and so we believe her. Release them. Open the door and let them out. Tell them to get out. Night falls and Grandma stands guard and I tremble and find my breath. In the morning I open the front door. The light hits me and everything settles and I release her. We’ll be okay. I wave my hand, a swelling in my throat. Get out. Get out. Get out. Aaliyah drifts off, singing still. I see her sitting alone, slipped, sleep happened upon her, dreams a thing conjured, realized only of the self. A man follows her, an enemy closing in, so she runs and runs until she drifts into the air. She is floating high above. Darkness surrounds her, wraps her up like a cloak, but she is light. She floats higher and higher. Everything else drifts into the light.



I gave a stranger my faith and he understood Qada'a Wal Qadr

I gave a brother in Islam my sweat glands and Sebaceous glands and a covering of hair by the road. Wine and gingerbread cooked in chlorine, The body screams in glass wallpapers the theory of life And fig is date with a stench of macromolecules covering earth A chest cracks and the atmosphere is snowy again, Cells; not the simplest form pain can be, My hands, carry the aura of a damp windowpane Painting a silhouette red; my skin is leather shell Of liquefied chromosomes, plutonium in a throat, A brother swallows chaos and lays to rest, Glucose plus oxygen and I’m growing towards the breaking Dawn This brother steals my faith and his fate is now My Qadr wrapped in a Qada’a that I have never seen He swipes through my glass skin with fingers, Equal of length-left side—left-right side—right And all the omens of a kite on fire are owls with my eyes And brown transformations of heavens glow, tipsy, Blocked, breaking colours of grief by the Rose lip and all are soon kisses no more.


Abdulrazaq Salihu







"Bloodtrucker" is an excerpt from a longer volume of work. The next issue will be out later this year. For more information, visit

little gods | Dora Rollins

Love Is Gross Sara Watkins


e’s been naked for two days. I cannot stop wearing jeans. I’ve been up since 6:00 a.m., and now it’s 5:00 a.m. the next morning. I haven’t even unbuttoned them, because my body’s pulsating and throbbing; what’s one more uncomfortable thing?

He’s keeping me company through the worst of my autoimmune disorder’s vengeance. I’m pretending I’m alone, because I don’t need help. Kellen the cat enters and curls up close to his daddy, his rump backed into hairy chest, his snoot rubbing wiry beard. Kellen always smells like poop, and now his daddy smells like poop, so we look at each other with our mouths sinking toward our chins. “You smell that, right?” the daddy asks. “Did Kellen shit on me?” “He got his shit on you. It’s different. We need to take him to get his jellybeans squeezed again.” Last time we took him, Kellen cried. They called in two orderlies to express his anal glands—plopped this 12.7 pound quivering mess of a boy on his side like jello, ripped open his legs, gripped their fingers tight around the tiny glandules below his ass, and pressed and pressed. Daddy waited in the car, because he can't stand to see Kellen hurt; I waited with Kellen, because I can’t stand to see him hurt alone. The vet said, “I’ve never seen anal glands this impacted,” and Kellen said, “MeOWWW,” and I said, “You know what, it’s fine. I think I should just take him home,” and then the vet said, “MeOWWW,” because Kellen got her good. His scent glands projectile vomited shit and fart seven feet across the room, right into the eyes of the vet tech. I was so proud. We took him home and fed him salmon. We spent hundreds of dollars on special food; they ran diagnostic tests; they stuck a needle in through his side and pulled out a fresh syringe of pee just to tell 18

us that they had to do it again; they had to take blood; they had to intubate him. Give us your credit card again, and maybe we’ll tell you what’s wrong. For an additional three easy payments, we might even tell you how to treat it. Just like my treatments: painful and inconclusive. “On second thought, let’s not get his jellybeans squeezed,” I say. Instead, let’s do the thing where we buy the Extra Sensitive Paw and Bum wipes, then chase the cat around the house trying to wipe his ass; let’s take showers before the sun comes up to wash the stink off us; let’s complain about how the cat is a poopy boy who should live his best pain-free and happy life. “Go wash that shit off your chest so I can lay on you, babe,” I say to the daddy. In the morning, he hennas my hair in the kitchen. We cut up trash bags as makeshift tarps, and he piles pungent mud onto my head. “It looks like poop,” the daddy says. I am Poophead for the next three hours while it sets. We trade positions so I can shave his head. Every light in the house is on, illuminating the cracks in the dirty kitchen floor, the splatters of henna, the crumbs from brunch. I run a razor from his neck to his shoulders, seizing the opportunity to tame his hairy back. “You’re shaving my back,” the daddy notes. “We are WAY too married.” “I am shaving your back,” I confirm. “I’m the one who has to look at it.” While I’m there, I pop a particularly juicy pimple. Razor forgotten on the counter, I am neck-deep in sebaceous fluid, squeezing the jellybeans. Later that day, I am in bed, still in jeans. My body has given out again. I’m out of commission. I crawl to the bathroom. The daddy tries to help, but I push him off me. I take over the only bathroom in the house, illness expunging itself from both ends. I’m holding the trash can so I can throw up while I shit. Flushing the shame, my penance is karma—the plumbing has given out. Everything is overflowing. I am in a ball on the floor. The daddy enters with every towel in the house, scooping and scrubbing, clearing and cleaning. He hands me a bag so I can continue hurling my guts. MeOWWW. I am sobbing my sorries. He rubs my back and unbuttons my jeans. I close my eyes and let him remove them, my body limp and clammy. He leaves with the dirty laundry. Kellen boops me with his snoot. His brother Milo has entered, too, trilling his concerns. “I brought you comfy pants,” the daddy says. I cannot move, so he lays them on me like a blanket, “For when you’re ready.” More time passes before he comes to carry me back to bed. I am still pantless; he is still naked. He tucks me in, whispering something about burritos as he pushes the comforter under my hips, my knees, and in between my toes. Then, he grabs a blanket and walks to the window. I watch him stand on the blue fabric chair,


tucking the blanket into the blinds to blot out the sunlight so that I can rest in darkness. His butt is big and round, and his balls ooze out from between the backs of his thighs. Even sick, I let out a low whistle. I cannot whistle, so it mostly sounds like an eerie wind passing between us, but he picks up what I’m putting down and smacks his own ass before crawling into bed beside me. The boys are not far behind, and they settle in by our feet. “I probably won’t come out for days,” I tell him. “You never have to come out at all.” And no one meOWWWs at all.


Crouching Nude in Shoes and Black Stockings, Back View | Egon Schiele

* i saw you in the tate st ives eating an iced bun completely naked worth your weight in wind chimes the man on the moon is faux you whispered as you waxed golden pubes in neat little strips i wrote my name under your portrait charlie baylis

Charlie Baylis



Martins Deep

First Glance | Lee Davenport

Red Callahan Charles Haddox


ran into Lily Morton and Nieves Olague at “Red” Callahan's funeral.

They were standing in front of the cathedral, at the bottom of the stairs. None of us particularly liked Red, but he was a neighbor, and no one in El Paso will pass up a funeral. The obsession with paying one’s last respects to an unfamiliar cousin or remote acquaintance started as a way to get out of work, but now it’s a thing. An El Paso thing. If you hear about a memorial service or a burial or whatever, you feel compelled to go, even if you never really knew or liked the deceased. Poor Red Callahan was a neighbor, but hardly a friend. And I never understood his nickname. He didn’t have red hair. Callahan? He barely spoke a word of English. Red was born in Mexico, so maybe he was the great-great-grandson of one of the San 25

Patricios or something. A lot of people in El Paso whose families were originally from Mexico have German surnames, but Callahan? Lily told me that Red died in an automobile-train collision, which I knew. But what I didn’t know was that the train didn’t run into his vehicle. He ran into the train. And he’d just gotten out of jail for drunk driving a week before. “Guajolote que se sale del corral, termina en mole,” Nieves said. “You should have given the eulogy,” I said to her. Nieves smiled guiltily. Red and Nieves’s partner used to fight all the time about his dogs. Nieves was sick of playing peacemaker—and having to feed Red’s dogs when he was in jail for public intoxication or DWI. Hence, the dig about Red being like the turkey who left his pen only to end up covered in sauce. His dogs would occasionally get out of his backyard and terrorize the whole neighborhood. “How’s Jessica?” I asked Nieves. “She’s in Jalapa visiting her family. Her mom’s turning sixty.” “Man. You should have gone.” “Uh huh. When that money tree I planted finally sprouts, I will.” “And who’s watching your mom?” I asked Lily. “My sister. Hey, did I tell you that Mom dreamt about my father last night?” Lily’s dad died a year and a half ago. “How was he?” “Not too bad. He told her he’d left behind a fifty-dollar gift certificate for Superior Auto Parts that was still good and that he’d hidden it under a pile of underwear in his top drawer. He wanted me to have it ‘cause I need new wiper blades. And sure enough, that’s where we found it. I think his brother gave it to him for his last birthday.” Lily lived with her mom just down the street from me. Next door to Nieves, who lived with her girlfriend. Lily was divorced. I moved into the neighborhood after it was all over, so I never met her ex. According to Nieves, “Morton” was not a real fun guy. “We all used to call him ‘the moper’—back in the day,” Nieves told me once. “Lily should never have married an Anglo.” “Hey, my mom married an Anglo,” I said. “Oh, yeah. Sorry.” I’d known Nieves off and on since we worked together at Big N Buns ten years ago. We finally ended up neighbors. I remember telling her once how this teacher I had in elementary school used to ring a bell to call us in from recess. Whenever she rang it, somebody would inevitably yell “nieve,” and we would all laugh. Nieves just smiled politely, leading me to suspect that she was too young to remember the ice cream bikes with bells. “Let’s have lunch at the R&R. I’ll treat,” Lily said. The food at the R&R is pretty good, but the portions are small. I usually order a


side—guacamole or queso fundido—but since Lily was paying, I didn’t want to push it. We sat near the fountain, under the plastic macaws. “When do you have to get back to work?” I asked Nieves. “It’s a funeral day. Why would I go back to work? How ’bout you?” “I don’t have an uncle for a boss. And Danny’s worthless without me. I’ve got to get back after we finish eating. And hey, Nieves. Why didn’t you order mole? You know, in honor of Red.” “I’m vegetarian. All the mole dishes have meat.” Nieves said. “But I’m sorry for the crack about the turkey ending up in mole. Poor Red. He was a jerk—but let me tell you a story about his first run in with the law. Lily, I think you know a little of this saga, so feel free to add your two cents to the pot.” She went on, “Red and his mom moved here from Mexico when he was ten. I don’t know what ever happened to his dad. His mom was the one who told me this story when she came by to visit Red a few years back. Red never really learned English as a kid and apparently didn’t do well in his studies, so it’s no surprise that he dropped out during high school. After that, he got mixed up with some pretty wild kids from the Devil’s Triangle in Northeast and started getting into trouble. First it was little things: tagging, getting drunk on Mickey’s, shoplifting. But in the end, he got mixed up with some guys who’d done hard time for burglary. Yeah, real loquillos.” “I think Red’s mom kicked him out, too, at some point,” Lily added. “She just couldn’t handle him anymore. I guess they made up later, but back then she was barely scraping by working as a maid at a motel. She couldn’t afford to be bailing him out all the time—literally and figuratively.” “Yeah,” Nieves said. “I’m sure it was tough for her. But it was tough for Red, too. He came here, ten-years-old, a stranger in a strange land, and there weren’t a lot of people looking out for him.” Our server brought us chips and salsa and took our orders. I asked Nieves, “So what happened when Red got mixed up with those guys from Northeast?” “They broke into a few hardware stores and stole tools and things they could sell to vendors at swap meets and stuff like that, but there was no real money in it. Red got the idea to burglarize Reardon’s TV and Appliance that used to be on Dyer and steal a bunch of brand-new TV sets. This was back in the eighties, so TVs weighed a lot more than they do now. One of ’em borrowed a van from some tío or other and they broke into the back of Reardon’s warehouse. Just as they were filling up the van with some high-end sets, the cops pulled up, lights flashing, and those vatos decided to make a getaway with the back door of their ride still open. But there was no way they were beating out the cops at that point. The van was a broken-down hunk of junk, and it was filled with at least a dozen TVs and three big, strong guys.” Lily chimed in. “Somebody, probably Red, got the idea to start throwing the TVs —still in the box—at the cop car.”


“Holy shit,” I said. “Yeah,” Nieves shook her head. “It was a shit storm. Smashed TVs all over the road. And one through the cops’ front windshield. Their patrol car ended up crashing into a wall, and both cops had minor injuries—whether from the TV or the wall, I don’t know. Of course, Red and his friends got caught a couple of miles down the road by pretty much the entire Northeast substation. The ironic thing is that Red nearly got away. He jumped out of the car even after they were surrounded and ran into the playground of a middle school. Unfortunately for him, he got tangled up in a volleyball net and ended up sprawled out on the ground like a fly in a spider’s web.” “That’s how he got his nickname,” Lily interjected. “After the big bust, people started calling him by a Spanish word for net, red, and eventually folks ended up pronouncing it like the English word.” Nieves continued, “When the cops extracted him from that net, Red knew it was over. And it wasn’t just burglary anymore. Assault on a police officer—two, in fact— destruction of property—city and private—evading arrest, you name it. Even though he was a teenager, they sent him up for ten years. Poor Red. He worked in construction after he made parole, worked super hard, but never really got his act together. ’Cause he was only a kid when they sent him up, and he wasn’t all there when they let him out. You know what he was like. The guy got married a couple of times, but neither of ’em lasted, and, in the end, it was just Red and his half-wild dogs. Oh, and the bottle. There was plenty of that.” “Hey, what ever happened to Red’s dogs?” I asked. “I called Animal Services,” Nieves said. “They’re at the shelter. Though I have no idea who’ll want to adopt them. You know, they say that after his arrest, Red couldn’t stand the sight of a television. I mean, he really despised ’em. A couple of times he knocked on our door and asked me to close the curtains of our living room because he could see the TV through the window. He hated ’em that much.” “When I saw the accident that killed Red on Channel 4 and heard it was him, I have to admit I felt a little guilty watching it,” Lily said. “The whole time it was on, I kept waiting for his ghost to kick in my mom’s door and attack the screen like a rabid wolf. Whatever Red had done in his life, he didn’t deserve that final insult. ‘Mauricio Callahan, fifty-three, collided with a train on the 1500 block of Magoffin,’ with that obnoxious reporter who used to be on Channel 9 saying it. And yeah, Red’s real name was Mauricio. Mauricio! It’s so staged.” “What is?” I asked. “Life.” ​ “Mauricio Callahan,” Nieves said, raising her glass, “despite it all, we’ll miss you. So now I’m going to ask our server to refill my soda, and I’m really going to enjoy this meal, because hey, it’s Red’s funeral day, and I don’t have to get back to work.”


Couple in Fantasy | Maheshwar N. Sinha


coffee steam chasing the slippy tail of a dream i was kissing the nape of your neck everything was perfume was

Mick Stratta


Jimi Hendrix

and the Summer of Love

Virginia Castlen Vertiz

Virginia Castlen Vertiz (1967)


here was magic in having turned eighteen just prior to the Summer of Love, especially since we lived less than three miles from Georgetown and nearby Dupont Circle.

New friends included hippies traveling back and forth from Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, local band members playing in favorite clubs, and famous musicians visiting Washington. Everyone conversed and mingled before and after concerts. Clothing styles were not far behind those of the Mod subculture that had begun in London and spread throughout the United Kingdom in the midsixties. Life in the fifties and early sixties had been black and white. Valedictorian in kindergarten, my grades slid throughout public school and early college. After the devastating departure of my greatest advocate, my father, just after my fifteenth birthday, my mother purchased a color television. The appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show jettisoned me from Beatnik leanings to a kaleidoscope of other possibilities. 31

I abandoned the conformity of the preppy collegiate clothing that the prominent high school clique wore and found myself in the company of the coolest girl in school, Linda Sue Dawley (LSD!) She had rejected conformity, and her long, silky light brown hair, straight bangs, and high, brown suede boots were reminiscent of Pattie Boyd and other famous British models. Back then, I went by “Gini.” For my early March birthday, I really wanted a sports car, but Mother insisted that I buy her Mercury Comet instead. I brightened its dull beige with multicolored flowers cut from sticky plastic, leftovers from an art project that Linda and I were paid to do. Having a car enabled me to go to Georgetown and Dupont Circle and take my friends along. I loved going to the Corral, a bar and band venue with another club, the Frog, downstairs. The dance floor was in a bay window. I could dance all night to my favorite bands right there on M Street: first to The English Setters, who changed their name to The Cherry People, and then to The Mosaic Virus, originally called Elizabeth Fagot’s Revenge. Lead guitarist and special friend Edwin Lionel Meadows, “Punky,” went on to form Angel, which created quite a sensation on the West Coast. After I returned from a June/July trip to Europe with my mother, The Mosaic Virus had become the house band at the Ambassador Theater in nearby Adams Morgan. Their drummer, William “Duke” Ayres, told me that their band wouldn’t be playing the second week of August, because Jimi Hendrix had been kicked off The Monkees’ tour and would play that week instead. Duke invited me to go with him, and we went all five nights that Hendrix was there: August 9th to the 13th. The cultural revolution was well underway. If the Beatles woke us up, Hendrix shook us up. His lavish, colorful clothing, left-handed playing of a righthanded guitar, smoke streaming from a cigarette impaled on one of his guitar strings—it all presented a sharp contrast to his humble, quiet demeanor. And as if his mind-blowing mastery of the guitar, his original compositions, and his new arrangements weren’t enough, he played the guitar behind his back and with his teeth, with apparent equal ease. The Ambassador’s huge interior had a wood floor that made for a tremendous sound. Not a studio sound—rather, a reverberation off the walls. A light show projected pure psychedelia all over the stage and in time to the beats. Marijuana and incense seasoned the air. There was no seating. Only about fifty people attended the first night. 32

Virginia Castlen Vertiz (1967)

Virginia Castlen Vertiz (1967)

At the Ambassador I shadow danced with a friend behind a curtain above The Jimi Hendrix Experience. We also milled around on the floor. Few people carried cameras, and there were no cell phones, much less phones with cameras. I took along a Kodak Instamatic. Film, developing, and printing were expensive, so I shot only four photos of Jimi Hendrix. The Who were playing at nearby Constitution Hall on the last night, and when they finished, two members came to the Ambassador to see Hendrix. Lead guitarist Pete Townshend stood to my right and bass player John Entwistle to my left. In those few months during the Summer of Love, famous musicians were just other people enjoying the scene. I never thought to ask for autographs, and selfies were a thing of the far-distant future. Townshend had begun smashing his guitar into his amplifier, and apparently Hendrix was determined to outdo him. Hendrix had lit his guitar on fire at the London Astoria earlier that year in March and at the Monterey Pop Festival in June. The first time, no pictures were taken, but there is video of the second. On his last night at the Ambassador, Hendrix placed his guitar at the front of the stage, poured lighter fluid on it, set it on fire, and swung it above his head. Camera ready, I snapped a picture just as he turned to smash it into his amplifier. I didn’t think the pictures I’d taken, including that one, would have any special significance. But Linda told me they would become iconic. I gave her one set and kept the other. Over the years, she showed them to people. They implored her to let them make copies, but she respected my rights and never allowed it. Word of my photos got around to Jeff Krulik, a DC-based director/producer who was planning an event in 2017, the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. He contacted me several times about the photos, and I finally agreed to look for them. I had given away a few more copies of the photos to two or three special friends, but I’d digitized most of my media and no longer had hard copies. As the years passed, I wasn’t even positive I’d taken a picture of Hendrix burning his guitar. Linda was certain. I didn’t respond to Krulik immediately. I had thousands of negatives packed into two shoeboxes. Sorting through them would be a challenge. But Krulik was persistent. If a photo of Hendrix burning his guitar existed, I must still have the negative. I found it. I had all four Hendrix negatives printed and was featured on two television shows. Local reporter Mark Segraves came to my house and interviewed me. He also invited me to a local television studio where I talked about the photos. Bill 34

Bentley, the author of Smithsonian Rock and Roll Live and Unseen, said that nobody believed that Hendrix had burned his guitar that week, that it was a local myth. He called my photo “the Holy Grail of lost artifacts.” The Ambassador lasted only six months as a concert hall for hippies. We were a small group compared to those in San Francisco, and not enough to support such a large venue. Nevertheless, the Ambassador made a significant contribution to the Summer of Love. ​I unveiled my photographs at the Ambassador’s anniversary celebration. I invited Duke, whom I had found in the audience, to join me onstage. Had it not been for him, I wouldn’t have the story to share. And had it not been for Linda, I might not have ventured into the halcyon days of the Summer of Love. When I met him that summer, Hendrix was soft, sweet, and shy. I was shy as well. I never would have guessed how important those moments would be or how soon he would leave the world. Hendrix would have turned eighty this year. Coincidentally, he shares my daughter Carrie’s birthday, November 27th. In July of this year, Carrie took my husband and me to Renton, Washington—to Hendrix's gravesite and memorial —so that I could say farewell to the greatest guitarist of all time. Virginia Castlen Vertiz (1967)

an artist's statement Self-Portrait of a Trichotillomaniac Audrey Williams


y work serves as a counterargument to the pressures and demands of modern culture, as well as the ones we inflict upon ourselves.

I create portraits of the mundane, the ugly, and the boring in order to celebrate and memorialize them—to undo some of the damage done to young people in an anxiety-ridden, information-saturated world. My inspiration is often drawn from body dysmorphia. My own trichotillomania and OCD highlight imperfections. I explore these flaws and combine them with the mass media and society’s expectations of beauty, which young women must face daily. The supersized scale of my portraits amplify pores, cuts, bruises, and asymmetry. This is not an attempt to find beauty in ugliness, but to celebrate ugliness and imperfection as their own truth. My portraits’ exploration of meticularity and nitpicking of single features encourages viewers to let go of some of their own self-consciousness. As a young woman who produces realistic representations of the human form, I’m compelled to create an alternative to the mainstream images we are force-fed through popular media. 36

Rice | Melissa Meier

Featured Artist

Melissa M e i e r Interview by C.T. Lisa


ou work in portraiture, sculpture, costume design, and visual poetry. Is there a specific discipline you see yourself most closely working in?

This is always a hard question for me to answer, since I don’t want to be categorized as doing one thing in particular. I do like the “visual poetry” description though! I think I’m always trying to express a mood or tell a story with my art, no matter what the medium. I am drawn to sculpture, but photography became an important part of my process, because it was critical for me to capture the work before it decomposed. Having my art worn also excites me because it comes to life [and offers] an additional layer of narrative. Recently, I have begun to incorporate film and am excited by the combination of movement and music.


ou were inspired by indigenous myths, as well as fashion and costume design. How are these ideas interrelated? ​

My Skins inspiration came from Brazilian Carnival and Native American skinwalkers. I was brought up seeing beautiful parades of costumes in Brazil as a child. These parades sometimes take more than a year to organize and create. There was something so magical and powerful about watching these shows. ​I was also inspired by the legends of indigenous people and how they used the skins of animals to transform into them, creating a bridge between the human and animal worlds. I wanted to create my own bridge with organic materials and watch the work come to life on the human body. As my work evolved, I became equally interested in the future of fashion as an extreme form of kinetic sculpture. 40

Eggshells | Melissa Meier

Pinecones | Melissa Meier

Acorns | Melissa Meier

Lavender | Melissa Meier


as it labor intensive putting Skins together? ​

I was using fragile, organic materials that have limited life spans before they start to decompose. The hardest and most frustrating part of Skins was just trying to preserve the art as I continuously fixed and refreshed it. Actually, I have a love/hate relationship with the process: I love that the materials are organic, and they will return to their original state when I am done. But I hate the delicate nature of the construction, that the materials are always in a state of flux and disarray. It’s for this reason that my photography—the documentation of the art—is so important.​


ow do you find balance in your compositions?

The materials I use often dictate what mood the piece is going to have, and I spend a lot of time “getting to know” the traits and characteristics of the material before I begin the construction process. It’s a challenge, because the material is always different in shape, fragility, and texture, and I have to know its limitations before I can actually make something out of it. This part of the process is incredibly exciting—it’s when I’m starting to discover, appreciate, and become a part of the art. It’s wonderfully meditative. By the time a piece is completed, I have become an expert with the material. ​One additional note is that I research all of the materials I use to see how they have been incorporated and symbolized in different cultures—both old and new.


o you spend a lot of time planning pieces before execution? Do you have a team or do it yourself? ​

Planning is an extremely important part of my process, since the work is exceedingly time-consuming. Because I do it all by myself, there is little margin for error—a failed piece can cost a month of lost time. I don’t mind not having a team, because the process is personal and spiritual to me. My family helps during my photoshoots: my daughter is often my go-to model, and my husband and son help with the logistics of the staging and set up.​



hat is the most fun part of your process?

The most exciting part of my process is seeing the work come to life on a model. The second most exciting part is taking the photo and capturing that exact moment. ​


o you have advice for emerging artists and writers trying to sustain a creative practice? ​

I think the most important thing I learned in my career as an artist is that one needs to be disciplined, curious, and excited to take risks. I make art every day, even when I am not in the studio. If I can’t physically make something, I’m thinking about or sketching ideas. Curiosity opens one’s mind to discovery. To me, making art is like exercising or eating. ​And taking risks and not being afraid to fail is equally as important. So many of my ideas come from making mistakes. I think a lot of artists find something that they’re good at but never break away from it. For me, growth happens when I challenge myself.


here else can we find your work?

I will be having a solo show at the Oceanside Museum of Art in March 2023 in Oceanside, California. It will be curated by Kate Stern. I am hoping to not only display my wearable art and photography but also fantastical animals and natural environments. | Instagram @melissameierart

An artist needs to be disciplined, curious, and excited to take risks. Read the full Melissa Meier interview in our online issue.

Quills | Melissa Meier (Porcupines were not harmed in the making of this art. Quills were sourced through natural shedding.)

View from the House of Henry Briscoe Thomas, Baltimore | Unknown

IT IS WHAT IT BECOMES When I point to the highway from our window you don’t think that’s it. There is more to the eyes and under the hood of our cars. You stopped buying the newspaper. We have no fish to wrap in it, no words to leave dying in the bones. We listen to the Beatles when I eat lunch and we sit breaking cheese into small squares. We don’t point to the dead person on the television who isn’t dead yet. Sometimes on the days when there is no light or sun and the curtains stay open or never got closed, we can believe it isn’t inside with us. You asked for a book of opposites; for pages of right and wrong, voting booths and mail slots. You ask about dinner and how the sun feels through the window. It feels like war.

Amy Soricelli 48

between two worlds | Federica Colletti

No Emergency Contact Mary Zheng


am a social worker in an emergency department.

My job is easy. After people are admitted, I gather their story, and then I ask them questions to verify their address, phone number, preferred pharmacy, and other slivers of innocuous information. They are simple questions, basic and painless. My job is hard. On perhaps the worst day of someone’s life, I rip open the curtains to their room and wrestle them from what little comfort they’ve gleaned in the sterile setting. I pester them with unexpectedly intimate questions, each one a loaded pistol. It helps me plan for a safe discharge; it helps me know how to help. Do you have a walker, or a cane, or anything like that? Because most people brought in by ambulance don’t have time to grab walkers, canes, or anything like that before the EMTs scoop them onto the stretcher. I have to ask. If the answer is yes: a reminder of how brittle their bodies have become. If the answer is no: an insinuation that they are too weak, that they are bounding toward a silver sickle that glimmers in dying light. Do you live with anyone? If the answer is yes: why would they not? Why would I assume they don’t have any family or friends or lovers? If the answer is no: a reminder that they will return to an empty house where loneliness will cradle them to sleep. ​And my favorite: Do you have any emergency contacts? If the answer is yes: name, relationship, and number, please and thank you. But if the answer is no: an irrevocable admission that there is not one soul they can count on on this planet of 7.8 billion people. Nobody cares that they’re here, that this is perhaps the worst day of their life.

It’s possible a patient’s emergency contact needs to be updated. When the patient is suffering from addiction, that possibility is as high as they are. This is part of the contract, a tacit condition agreed upon when they dance their first dance with heroin. 50

The chart for 23-year-old Matilda says what she already divulged to the doctor: she began running away from her parents when she was seventeen, running and running until one day they stopped chasing. She has a five year old who stays with her mother. She has a boyfriend who gives her drugs. She also has a social media page where she crowdfunds her daily habit of fourteen bags of heroin—most people do three or four per day—along with three to six green bars (“Those are Xanax,” she explains) laced with fentanyl (“I love that shit,” she proclaims, as if she is talking about Caramel Macchiatos or when the metro doors open right where you are waiting). With only a few shifts under my belt, I am too new on the job to go in alone, so I follow my supervisor. We draw back the tan, checkered curtains and see a young girl with blue, blue eyes that do not rise to meet ours. Matilda stares vacantly into the bleach-soaked air. She has one glitzy stud in her nose and one piercing under her bottom lip—crooked, more to the left than the right. She is bird-like with spindly bones, pummeled effete by addiction. She’s so skeletal, the blood pressure cuff winds around her arm four times. She is fragile, bone white, her tie-dyed leggings hanging loose like sagging skin under a grandmother’s chin. We ask more than just perfunctory questions to patients with substance use disorder, so my supervisor asks Matilda about her drug usage. Does she want help? Has she ever had sober time? “I’ve gone to rehab a few times but never stayed,” Matilda answers. “What keeps you from staying?” my supervisor asks. “Boys,” she admits, whispering the word soft and flat. After we leave Matilda’s room, my supervisor and I will look at each other with swollen hearts. We will wordlessly lament about how she is at that age when she chases both boys and drugs. For now, my supervisor reads from a sheet of paper splattered with information culled from prior hospital visits. “And is this your address?” “Pft, not for years. I stay with a friend now.” Matilda brags with metallic brashness. “That old place? That was when I was still a kid—I’m not a kid anymore.” Noted. The address on file is crossed out and replaced with nothing, because she can’t recall her friend’s address. “How about an emergency contact? We have on file that it’s your mom. Is that right?” Matilda’s swagger curdles and clumps into fetid shame. She shakes her little head, no. Her silence is drenched in dread. Her blue, blue eyes stare into the corner and are draped in a heavy cloak of regret. She recognizes that right now, she has nobody. After my supervisor and I finish with Matilda, I sit behind my laptop and swivel in my chair. Something about Matilda gnaws like a dog. She is so young, her eyes so hollow. I ask my supervisor if I can go back. Just to talk to her, to see if I can learn anything else that might help with her recovery since she started to dissociate earlier.


I peel back the curtains. “Hey, Matilda… you probably feel like shit right now.” Silence, as if she hasn’t heard me. She focuses on the air, perhaps on something ahead of her, but certainly not right now. I think about Freud and PTSD and everything I’ve read about how people dissociate when they are faced with something they don’t want to face. But they come alive when the topic changes. I change the topic. “Want some water?” “Oh, I would love some.” She exhales in relief, her gaze pulling to mine like a magnet. She has come alive. I grab her two cups of water. She guzzles them down and speaks about life on the streets. She may not want to talk about how awful drugs make her feel, but she sure is willing to share how great they are. She needs about four Xanax bars laced with fentanyl per day to keep withdrawal at bay, she says, but some days she’ll just take three to avoid “going to work.” Those three words launch out of her mouth and slice through the air, piercing me. I know what kind of work she means. It is the kind most women on the street engage in, and it is not the kind most do willingly. Four or five times in her life, Matilda has taken twelve bars all at once. “I don’t swallow my pills,” she stresses. Instead, she chews. “It hits you harder that way.” ​Once, after she stuffed all twelve bars in her mouth and was chewing with the hunger of somebody starved, a man said something to her, or gave her something— she doesn’t remember—so she opened her mouth to say, “Thank you,” but all that came out was a puff of green. It engulfed the man’s face. He almost beat her after that.

It’s been months since Matilda. I see patients by myself now. I’ve learned to ask questions that will draw out their lives. Some people are like Matilda, with dozens of bridges to rebuild but zero begun. Their untouched hammers and nails glitter under the sun; they dare not look down at the charred planks strewn in the gorge of their addiction. There are also those who have put their materials to use. They have laid out planks for their base, or they have securely bolted the beams down. Their bridge is taking shape. Or perhaps all that’s left is the handrail, so people who have fallen off before can now safely walk across. Holding close to my vision of what a patient’s bridge might look like, I am sometimes able to answer questions about their lives without asking. When the image is clear enough, I do just that. ​I don’t want things to hit you any harder. Names have been changed.


Good Anthropocene | Jacqueline Staikos

MEN ALWAYS GO FOR THE MEAT Kimberly Beatriz Rosa I remember waiting for M one Saturday night. I am in Manhattan standing in front of a Starbucks. It is chilly during this time. While waiting, I buy a bottle of water and a fruit bar. M is on his way to pick me up. But he has been running late for a while now. The streets are empty, the green and red signals gloss over the cement as cars rush by. My body stands in the same position the entire time. M finally arrives. I step into the car holding my bag and a half-drunk bottle of water. His car is warm, cozy enough to sleep in. M smiles in my direction as he sets up the GPS. He’s attractive under the dim lighting, I say to myself. I am trying my best to not look flushed. He takes me out for dinner, we pick up our meal, and go by the water to eat. I laugh a lot when I am around M. I like the attention he gives me / like a cat playing with yarn. I like the way he says my name / how it cradles into his tongue and comes out like a singing angel. A woman like me has never felt so much appreciation.


The Strange Thing Kiosai Saw in the River | John La Farge

Go Leone Gabrielle


oldfish sing

Sometimes like flycatchers. I don’t listen. Because. Because I allow myself to be forgiven.

Once, I cut the legs off a sink spider. Not all of them. The spider had not done anything wrong. How did Mother know? Was she cleaning the sink, noticing legs? I used scissors. Hair cutting scissors. She embedded into me a fact, that by cutting off the legs, I am decently bad. I must have been very, very angry. To do that. Though I felt no anger. Just a weird, curious, compulsion that came instantly from nowhere. I never cut anyone’s legs off after that. 55

Because I need to be loved it’s hard not to listen. The goldfish are drowning, but if I listen, I’ll suffocate.

That’s the future my sunshine walks into, a winter nesting in autumn’s memory. If I keep letting memories lead me, I’ll arrive at an extinction prison. Breaking branches, cutting off legs, my progress. I could build something nurturing for a change. A creative inclusion, not really radical. A circle. So, I keep rolling on.

As a dog I live inside my selves, trying to get a piece of biscuit. Something to fit into, as I have no real shape that I can call my own for long.

It’s not the wind but my mind which waves as breath. Breath that is no longer easy for lungs. I feel the night pull at my elbow. The moon is asleep. But I am here with my mind and the teasing air. The breath of spring, turning warm, turning leaves like a sea swelling its skirts in the rain. I am not asleep in bed but asleep here with You, the universe. I am the birl wind, twirling, whirling handfuls of cash in the air. I am forever manipulating my reality to find an anchor to pin myself down, but I am only water, only air, only a piece of donut aquatic. Ephemeral. As a sister and a mother, a daughter and a niece, as an aunty and a granddaughter, but not a grandmother. I am here for now, but now is not infinite. Like the scratchings of a bird, an accumulation of scratches on a long, long place. I am lost and not lost. I make a life. Love this life but it is not one that I expected. Disappointments and wonders build my story. Creative narrations are needed to grow and grow into strengths, gifts, joys, a budding self-understanding, all one strange song. I am an integrated wishing cache, a catch of breath, sinking into the bones of history. I write like sand into air and then let the scratches remind me of what is possible.

Terra gardens have many flowers as I have had many faces. As flowers hunt the sun I wait to face myself. 56

Like a blanket wrapped away until understanding meets me. Listening to the sound of the night. Reminding me that I am nothing but the stories that light my way. Like the moonlight defines shadows in the dark. Inside of self. The self of a thousand voices. Shells within the universe, tap, tap, tapping the light and dark, rasping away like moleskine tongues of mollusck snails. The history of years understood by language and caught within the structure of power. Bound to reality. To greed. Hoarding lies and parasitic deceptions, my own cowardly cowries. Heated survival, life’s creativity gardening. Invisible. Though you may recognize me in yourself. How to weather the sirens of golden fish? I mix myself in so many layers. Never look underneath, next to skin. There lives a hatred hot. Sour breath, flaccid hairy lies. A getaway. Spidery wish to be embedded. Little blond spider with needle legs. I cut, a horrible me inside. No help. Lost, loss, losing. The spider broken. As I am broken. Broken enough to keep going. Could I have told her? She. Timing blamed me for her difficulties. Too much going on for a child. In that spider, myself, mother. Enemy threat. The rocks to stone. She. I admire her resilience. I get what she has to give. That is enough. Satisfied with broken vessels. Being awoken. Wake apart into the whole. A life’s journey.


Hands and Thimble | Georgia O'keefe

Georgia O'Keeffe

I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me—shapes and ideas so near to me—so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't occurred to me to put them down.

Kate Wisel

A word with

Interview by

I wrote a story about getting my ears pierced.

L.A. Hawbaker

Kate Wisel recounts an early writing experience, a vignette-style piece of fiction published by her school newspaper in fourth grade. “There was also a gun, diamonds, a character about to get shot... and then she got her ears pierced.”

Wisel pauses for a moment. “I think I was trying to talk about something that frightened me. Trying to translate my experience. I continue to do that.” Since that fourth grade story, Wisel has gone on to become an award-winning author. Originally from Boston, she's now in Chicago. She’s been published in Gulf Coast, Tin House, and New Ohio Review and served as the Carol Houck fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her linked story collection, Driving in Cars with Homeless Men, won the 2019 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Wisel is now adapting the collection for a miniseries pilot with Bad Wolf and Pearl Street Productions. Here, Wisel shares her thoughts about writing, developing a craft, finding a literary voice, and the importance of creating a writing community.


ow did you start your writing career?

I dropped out of [Emerson College]. Then I took a creative writing night class. The teacher was an angel, Jenn De Leon. An actual angel. She saw me, really looked at me. She recognized that I wanted to write stories and encouraged me to come to Guatemala with her for a writing workshop. She encouraged me to go back to school, which I did [to UMass Boston]. She told me about all these literary magazines that I should submit to... she’s been in my life ever since. My trajectory would not be the same without her. 59

WHEN THE COPS CAME, they came to find us. We huddled by the glittering green sign that said No Loitering. Mozart Park after midnight, on the sidelines in our long-ass sleep tees, watching the boys make free throws in the dark. We were fourteen. We had stubbed butts in our pockets and no curfews. excerpt from "Hoops," Driving in Cars with Homeless Men (2019) by Kate Wisel


riving in Cars with Homeless Men captures the grit of Boston and the unique perspectives of your characters so beautifully. What was your process in creating that voice?

A character’s voice is just the way they’re observing the world. Their observations are unique to their own set of experiences, so just like rose-colored glasses, there are a lot of different-colored glasses, and everyone owns a pair of glasses. One character sees a car and sees freedom. Another sees danger. It all depends on where [the character is] in their life and what’s happening in their interiority. Interiority is where the real ideas are. “Seeing in the mind” anchors you in the concrete.


s someone who wrote a full story collection in your twenties, do you have advice for other young writers?

Being in the world in a curious, open way is just as important as sitting down to write. You may think you know what you want to write about... but your observations about the world itself will tell you what you’re interested in. You are the only one who can notice what and how you notice it... Your imagination will lead you to a place of truth, which is the only thing I want to discover when I read and write. I like the idea of relinquishing control when it comes to material and then letting your mind work at and play with the material in the revision phase. Keeping a journal is interesting because you can track observations, and patterns often emerge. Wallace Stevens said, “God and the imagination are one.” The word "present" feels like a buzzword right now, but especially at a time where capitalism and social media externalizes our experiences, it’s important to protect our inner life. Reading and writing, it’s not always comfortable, it’s often demanding. But it’s the place we can locate truth, and if you can locate truth you can transform.


hen it comes to craft, how do you develop your writing?

People enter an experience through details. A narrative universe is located in the specific. For example, it’s hard to think about “love” as an idea, but when you see people grasping hands, it feels more meaningful for whatever specific kind of love you’re writing about. For what love is for those specific characters.


My sister-in-law, as a reader, was talking about why characters in books are so often described as physically beautiful, when ugliness feels more realistic and compelling. She read a book—I think it was [Wally Lamb’s] I Know This Much is True—and the mother character had a scar on her lip. She had been in an accident, and she always put her fist up to her mouth when she spoke. Something traumatic had happened, and her fist was shaking by her mouth. That kind of specificity helps intuit so much about the character. Describing the gesture and the habit [is much better] than if you just said, “This is a woman who’s insecure” or “she’s in pain” or “she has sadness.”


ou earned your MFA at Columbia College Chicago. Could you talk a bit about your MFA experience?

I do have some cold, hard advice about that. This is just from my experience—I would say to anyone who’s applying to an MFA, think about scholarships and being fully funded. There are programs where you can get fully funded, so unless you’re a trust fund baby or have some kind of idea of how you’re going to make money and pay back the loans while still being a writer, I recommend getting into a program where you’re at least partially or fully funded. Obviously, an MFA program is really ideal... if you can swing it. In grad school, you produce, produce, produce as much as you can, and [you’re] afforded the time and ability to just explore. ​The most useful thing about an MFA program is the time and community. The community provides ideas and exposure to stories, or writers, or workshops. But you can also forge that on your own. It’s just a matter of effort.


Driving in Cars with Homeless Men (2019) is published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Learn more about Kate Wisel and her work at Read the full Kate Wisel interview in our online issue.

ny final words of advice?

Writers need to create luck. Keep pushing yourself in the direction of luck.



Poached pear with blistered fig salad Swim back into your salad days Mud-rubbed elbows and tricycle knees salad Ensalada de cinco de mayonesa Mylar blankets with plexiglass salad Decadent decades on decaying planets News of other worlds wrapped around Blue Fin salad Pink lips under purple wig Fuck your binary, gender is pie to me, blueberry and ice cream salad Frisked greens salad Peach pits plum embarrassed

Rachel Eden 64

I often wonder why it is called “painting.” Maybe pain begets creation.

House of the Red Sun | Cierra G. Rowe

Cierra G. Rowe

an artist's statement

BABADO Marie Hego


abado, in Brazilian Portuguese, describes an unusual and attractive attitude, something vanguard and at the same time a bit freaky.

The term originated in the Queer scene and is now frequently used by everyone. My BABADOs are animal head sculptures with piercings, grillz, and gold teeth. They are the result of two distant universes clashing within me. Both shine at the margins: the alternative community and Carnival. The BABADO Project explores the relationship between urban contemporary humanity and animal subjectivity. Through sculpture, performance, and paste up street art, I propose projections of the animal figure and investigate the symbologies of nature in today’s urban societies and collective unconscious. Using photographs of my friends posing with the BABADOs, I create posters, which I’ve collaboratively displayed on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, and Cincinnati. I’ve worked as a sculptor on Carnival floats since my arrival in Brazil in 2018. My artwork and the BABADO Project were developed in Rio de Janeiro.



Marie Hego

blue blur | Zaynab Bobi

Floating Arniecea Johnson


he lake was Nair’s idea.

Ideas like that always seemed to be hers, and for once in Robby’s young life, he didn’t feel he was failing or unimportant. He didn’t feel the brunt of his arrest earlier that year nor the rhythmic chime of an ending childhood. In a gap among the evergreens near the edge of the deep lake, Robby and the older kids lay. The waters rippled with mild excitement and trees outlined the long lake stretch amid the still and stunning day. The scratchy taste of tobacco stuck to Robby’s tongue as he sat, hunched, trying to press weed into a Swisher. Across from him, Lexi peeled potatoes over a big white bowl. T pushed fat, fragrant drumsticks and rounded patties, not yet sizzled to burgers, on the short charcoal grill. Jackson stirred conversation and drowned out the serious-ass rap music that played from the round speaker. (Robby called it unknown and serious because it wasn’t Rich the Kid, or Lil Pump, or at least some damn Migos.) By the dock, Robby’s sister, Mini, rolled on her pink bubbled float. A Robby! loosened from her glossed, pursed lips. The float was garnished with a print of slate-mouthed, funny-looking frogs. Her curly hair, a softer grade than his, was pushed up in a neat bun. Two tendrils fell to the side of her pale-honey skin. Big bubbled pink glasses—the same as her float—covered most of her small face, and a compacted light pink umbrella rested on her shoulders, blocking the sun as she avoided work. Robby rolled his eyes. And there. Where his attention wandered in curious spurts, down the dock and past his older sister, was Nair. She half-floated, half-backstroked around in small pools, her chocolate arms swooping. Her pretty, big legs bobbed in and out of the water. Her bright yellow two-piece popped out of thick blue. Long, thin braids every so often tangled around her graceful arms. Weed was all Robby could offer the college kids, his specialty extendos: two blunts rolled in one long thin one that you had to hold with both hands. But his fingers were sticky, temper metering—the picnic table beneath him too cluttered


with seasonings, tobacco stuffings, red cups of whisky, tubs of dollar lemonades, uncapped, nagging flies, and other moving hands. It was also jitters. Robby had never been to a lake. Certainly not Parks and Martys, a dying lakefront accompanied by toothless fishing men or families that didn’t know a more reputable lakefront was just up the road. If we go early enough, no one will care, Nair had said. Robby put down the blunt and stretched out his limbs. He grabbed the fullest whiskey cocktail on the table, not caring about its true owner. “Are we sure we can smoke out here?” Lexi, the psych major, said. She split a skinned potato into three chunks. Her elongated blue nails frightened Robby more than her mean gaze. “And who gone beat our ass? Boy scouts? The grill smoke will mask it,” said T. He twisted his lips at Lexi. Lexi lifted eyes shaded by thick, artificial lashes toward Robby. This time the look held and swept up a light air of shame. Towards the end of his junior year of high school, Robby got busted smoking in an abandoned building on Penne Street. Two cops found him in a warehouse. Glocks clicked back and keened, and Robby—light-skinned, freckled-faced, with nappy brown kinks—sat holding a blunt the length of his thumb. The holes of the pistols, like bottomless eyes. The last thing he remembered. After a night in jail, a five-hundred dollar bond, and a note on his record that permanently marked him as somehow violent—all the things Robby’s mother worked hard to prevent—she decided it was best for Robby to move in with his sister. Tired. Mother worked for her four girls and two boys, but she couldn’t get to Robby. He was nothing like his siblings. But who was he? Kansas City wasn’t for Robby. The city was big, and Robby’s friends were looking for trouble. Distractions and danger filled the cracks. There was nothing more Mother could do. She was done with his friends and thought a small town with no trouble to get into would do him good. A few phone calls between Mini and Mother, and Robby was sent off to live with his sister in her one-bedroom apartment five minutes from campus. Mini was always warm; the move might even have been her idea. She wasn’t intrusive or controlling. She had a green couch the color of mold. The extra teal sheepskin pillows irritated Robby’s allergies, and his long legs extended well past the armrest. And when friends came over, Robby slept on the floor beside Mini’s bed. They were siblings and used to oversharing. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends, she’d bring him to his busser job at Red Lobster. Sometimes he didn’t say a word his whole shift. Any party Mini went to, she’d take Robby. Since it was summer and very few students were in town, that usually meant Nair and Jackson’s apartment.


Mornings, they ate breakfast: his frosted flakes and her avocado toast. And evenings, after Mini returned home from her internship, they’d smoke blunts in her car and giggle up rememberings. “Member’ that time Melindie got that bead stuck in her nose,” Robby would start. “No, member’ that time you almost set the house on fire by putting paper on top of that Mary candle,” Mini said. Her Missouri accent thickened with each hit. “I was tryna show Melindie a trick. The paper kept only burning up in holes. Didn’t expect it to burst in flames.” “I miss that. I miss that.” And then a pause, and then an inhale, and then for the first time since his arrest, an acknowledgment in her ole’ Mini way. “You’ll figure it out, Robby. You will. We all do.” She gripped the steering wheel. Her eyes always reddened so easily. And from there, it looked as if she was driving, and he liked that. He wanted her to drive, keep going, keep going, let’s go nowhere, let’s just run. But Mini’s hands dropped. “There’s really no choice,” she said. Robby remembered the last words his mother said before he left. She folded his clothes and tucked them in a duffle bag. Take care of yourself. Don’t be a burden. Clean your room, wash your sister’s dishes, wake up early, find hobbies to do besides sitting around smoking that damn weed. Routine, we hate it, but it's good for us, Robby. She still had on her tight bun and nurse scrubs. As the burgers browned and chicken finished, Mini returned from the dock. The college kids filled the afternoon with dialogue of which he could never be a part. T said, “Soon as I announce a BSU cookout coming or 90s Throwback Party— Rob boy, hand me that pepper—everybody in, everybody down. But once the Black Hair Appreciation Rally came, all of a sudden ain’t nobody around. I ain’t seen that many Black people missing from school since the day after Trump’s election.” T tasted his whiskey, then placed it down, spatula still in hand. Jackson had the big arms of a strapping athlete. “All I’m saying, T, does that really bring people out? You lectured them about it for a whole hour. Talking about what Black people do and don’t do on campus. Who Black and ain’t Black enough. Doing all that fussing isn’t going to bring a single person to the Black Student Union meetings. I mean... Robby, would you want to hear all that shit?” Jackson took another hit before handing the blunt to Lexi, who frowned and gave it to T. “Yeah, yeah. I don’t recall you being at the rally either,” T said. “Well. Uh. I had football practice.” “Master wasn’t gonna let you go anyway—he already shut that kneeling-for-theflag-shit down.” “Now, T!” Lexi said. T twisted his lips again. “All I’m saying is what made you think you’d be storming the halls of Vanderland Food Court in a durag?” 72

“I was down for the rally and all, but the bonnets? I couldn’t do that.” Mini studied her green nails and leaned back on her green folding chair. “Do you know how many fine brothers are on our campus?” “Now, I was there, T,” Lexi said. “But it was the durags and bonnets for me? Black women can’t afford that type of attention.” “And we can?” Jackson always fed off of a debate. “Yes, the politics of Black hair weighs more on the Black woman than the Black man.” Nair eased up behind Robby. “Is this seat taken?” She plopped down and aimed a playful smile towards Jackson. Her braids hung in her face, and despite the towel wrapped around her, her limbs dripped. Robby shuffled toward the end of the table and indistinguishably muttered. He tried not to gaze at Nair gathering her braids by a bundle and releasing it of water— the bones in her bare shoulders tucking out. “Hmmhmm,” Mini agreed. Nair went on, “... Black women’s hair, Black women’s features, our bodies, our skin type—all experience more scrutiny.” “We were trying to make a statement,” T said. “To start a conversation on race relations, since Mr. Anderson singled out Darrel in physics, calling his durag inappropriate, and management told Tonya she would have to straighten her hair to work in the damn cafeteria. And only a handful showed up—and only half of them in a durag and gotdamn bonnet! Had us looking crazy as hell in that cafeteria!” They laughed. Robby grinned. “Scared the shit out of all of em.” Robby’s head bounced from one end of the conversation to the other. While the word “college” set off a shiver of shame and indifference in Robby, these college kids would go off to be engineers, business owners, psychiatrists. They were going somewhere that wouldn’t be here nor the hick town. And where would Robby go? He hadn’t decided. Nothing in the picture fit together. Not his prissy sister. Not the psych major and her blue nails around the paring knife. Not T, in his Jesus sandals, who would probably become both valedictorian and the best person who ever lived in Saint Joseph to fry chicken. Not Jackson and his somber rap music, who loomed over everything with a regal dominance—especially his girl Nair. And not Nair, her body an orchestra to the waves like those Olympic swimmers Robby once saw while flicking through television. Only, she wasn’t racing against the water; she was a part of it. All against the background of the lake and evergreen trees, this venture his friends at home would have called a “Caucasian activity.” This was not what Black people did in his mind. It was a commercial that ended with a white family in warm tones and smiling faces, everything looking so bright and easy in


their lives. There were a few moments Robby felt close to this. In sophomore year of high school, he made sure he was in class for the times they watched BBC Earth shows in earth science class on Fridays. He’d fold his arms and rest his head, watching keenly. The colors of the birds and bright world were stunning. He wondered if they felt like him—if they were ever bored, unamused, fussy, or indifferent. Was their duty always to do? He’d feel a tug toward the screen. Another year, he painted a picture in art class, and it wasn’t bad, not bad at all. He liked the stroke of the brush against the page and the thick paint made smooth and streaked, spots of blue, dots of purple, specks of blackness. He mushed the colors into a deep green, and the teacher walked by and said not bad, raising her eyebrows at Robby. “Gay,” one of his friends laughed beside him. And they snickered at lunch about his painting of the yellow-burnt sun, and blue sky, and green swamp, and they still joked about it from time to time when there was nothing to do and no one to roast. And Robby took it quietly and played light-heartedly, because that’s what Robby always did. Robby thought of the painting. He thought of birds. And the lake. The college kids ate, sipped whiskey, their chatter rising and falling. And when the eating slowed, they puffed more on blunts, the day fading into night, the music louder (now playing some rapper Robby assumed was Common). Everyone was three or four drinks in (Robby still on one). The water glowed as the sun set with a bashful pink. Nair sat at the edge of the bench next to Robby. Her braids still dripped water onto her lap. The big blue towel she hadn’t bothered readjusting draped around her. She moved the cup to her lips. “Let’s see who can swim out to the landing dock,” she said. Everyone looked out at the little brown square a few feet from shore, and silence settled. Lexi spoke first, “Say what now?” “Ain’t nobody tryna swim in that lake. Tryna catch bronchitis,” T said. Nair said, “Do you even know what that is?” “Nope, sounds like something you get swimming in the lake, though.” She asked Robby, then Mini, and finally Jackson, “No one wants to swim?” “Not in dirty lake water,” T said. Nair stood up. “I ain’t never heard of people going to the lake and not taking a swim.” Jackson remarked how he would’ve been fine at their place. “We’re always at our place.” Jackson shrugged his shoulder. “We been drinking anyways—”


“I’m going for a swim.” “No, you’re not. You’ve been drinking.” “Relax. I’ve only drank a cup.” That was a lie. Robby saw Nair chug three cups of whiskey down like water. Jackson let out a sigh. “I’ll come then.” “No. It’s fine. You hate swimming. Robby’s coming with me; you can swim right, Robby?” Everyone waited for an answer Robby felt too culpable to annunciate. “Yeah, go with her.” Mini fanned her face with a hand like a tired-out mamma. Before Jackson could argue anymore, Nair dropped her towel and made her way to the lake. Robby fumbled in stupid surprise, trying to take off his grey tee. They swam out, swooshing, bodies merging with the dense water. And when they reached the dock—Nair before Robby—they panted harshly. They were four years apart. Nair’s beauty was mature, thoughtful. Her rounded lips, perplexed. The bigness of her shiny nose balanced the thinness of her angular brows, adding authority to her otherwise childish face. Robby enjoyed the nights when Nair and Jackson picked him up from work when Mini couldn’t. That one time when Nair’s hand floated out the passenger window and how she looked at him from the rearview window. She asked about his school life and then something that no one had before: Are you happy? It was a big question. In the water, Nair waited. But for what? Her mouth submerged under the water. Robby said, and immediately regretted saying, something he’d heard from television or a drunk uncle. “Trump’s gonna run this place to the ground.” For a long time, Nair said nothing. Onshore, their friends laughed. Something funny had occurred. Jackson, as always, was at the center of it. “E’s not bad… ya know,” Nair said. “Uh?” “Jackson… ” There was a slight slur in her words. “He’s not bad. He’s got an idea, a job opportunity in Indiana. Good money… wants us to move down there but I don’t see myself…” she rested her back against the dock, “like whut? I’m gonna work at a library, cook dinner, and wait for him on our porch. I can’t think of nothing more tasteless.” She let out a chuckle that carried into a somber laugh. “I don’t want him to run with me though; it’s like the more he tries, the less I’m able to be... I hate him for trying.” She paused. “Can I be honest with you?” Robby nodded. “Sometimes I’m scared that I won’t get what I want in life. I’ll settle with what


I have, and it makes me so angry. There’s too much… routine… to living…” she muttered. “I wish to be a bird—cliché, yes, but there are no rules keeping them on the ground. They float in n’ out of things, no one questions them for leavin’, too.” Robby knew the feeling. This hopelessness. He thought back to the birds on the Earth Channel and the never-ending loop of his mother’s nags and the eternal buzzing around him, and for a moment, something in his mind strung the two together and his mouth loosened. Even birds. “What?” Nair said. “Birds have routine.” Robby cleared his throat. “My mom was always telling me this back home. She said routine, we hate routine, but it’s good for us. I don’t know what that fucking means. But I … I don’t know... I watched this Earth video in science about these types of birds—these cool, multicolored birds. They migrate in the winters. And… I don’t know … after watching the episode and thinking about it, it makes me feel better that they have places they need to be and things to do to live and shit. They’re not just out there floating around aimlessly. I guess it’s a sort of equation.” Nair said nothing. Robby went on, “I mean… I don’t know. Don’t birds gotta fly south or some shit? They do what they do for a reason. I guess. So when my momma said it was good for me, I can see what it means. I can see the little freedom it can give me. I can see what it might feel like to bite the bullet, but I don’t want that. I want to do nothing and everything.” Was he happy? He had never answered her question. Every moment of euphoria was shrouded in mockery, every moment to push outside of himself. He didn’t know why he had to hold on to these moments, tuck them in the inside of his pockets like a love letter. But more than that. It was particularly his arrest, the warehouse that smelled familiar and lost, and how the men pointed bottomless-eyed guns. But it was more how the men looked at him. Like it was expected. Like he was nothing more. Like every day, they pulled out confused, lost, and frazzled brown boys from warehouses, and it was more of a nuisance than a shame. It stuck something sour in Robby, disappointing his mother, worrying her. To be lost, so lost, so lost. To have fear and shame soil your high and feel that behind that high was nothing. Numbed, altered, but not changing. Still. And worse, how the moment soiled his high eternally, how he’s only nervous when smoking, after smoking, when about to get smoked, and he despises it and maybe even hates himself. What was worse, Robby? That the world had expectations you didn’t know if you could meet, or that they expected you to be unruly, intractable? And more. Robby floated in the water with Nair, and the magic of the lake waned, and he started to feel himself fully and loudly. He wanted to tell Nair that he could let her fly—he could be her bird. He could wait in their nest—he wouldn’t


mind waiting. And when she returned, she could talk about the things she’d seen while flying, and he could feel them and also take flight. He could be that for her. He really could. But the words, they were escaping him. The words. The shine of the sun dwindled. And Nair’s eyes were wet with something Robby could not quite read, her face shifting, lips parting— “Nair! Robby! Come on y’all, we’re about to leave.” Jackson stood by the edge of the lake, hand to mouth. Nair popped up and swooshed into the water without another look at Robby. And for a moment, Robby drifted, staring out at the waving waters and wicked trees. He would never forget this moment. Under the pink sky where anything could happen, where he was no longer failing and unimportant. Where Nair and Robby existed in a space together, and everything brewed with possibilities. He would never date Nair or anyone like her. All his girlfriends and his baby mother had beauty that came with ease. They would be content with the same restaurant on payday Fridays and not swimming in dirty lakes or dreaming of flying. And if they did, he never got close enough to know. What would he be? That’s no one’s story to tell but his own, but at the lake, Robby could be anything. He could be one of the Olympic swimmers he saw as he clicked through his sister’s TV. Walk fast-paced in a suit and tie to work in skyscrapers. He could ride a bicycle down walkways and plant flowers under the sun. He could be things that made him happy.


Meeting at the Sun | Judith Present

THAT’S IT THAT’S THE POEM Siera Carpenter this morning i rolled out of bed and by rolled i mean woke up from a succession of intense dreams i couldn’t remember if i tried then grudgingly turned on a dim light because in the morning i have sensitive eyes i made myself a cup of cheap black coffee that tasted pretty bad debated going out to buy an overpriced lavender latte but instead i put on an oversized sweater so i didn’t have to put on pants fed my cat and sat with him on the couch for awhile while he slept i texted Christie about how much i hate writing poetry then i wrote a poem warmed up leftover thai food that i ordered on wine night with Lin put on my cheetah print slippers so i could step out onto the balcony feel the sun on my face i smiled and basked in the abstract that is existing and being alive for some time then i came back inside my cat was still sleeping so i packed a bowl got high took a shower and i didn’t feel empty inside for any of it


Renacer | Jesus Monsivais

Contributors Charlie Baylis

* (i saw you in the tate st ives)

Charlie (he/him) is from Nottingham, England. He edits Anthropocene and serves as the Chief Editorial Advisor to Broken Sleep Books. His poetry has been nominated for the Forward Prize and his most recent publication appeared in Invisible Hand Press. He spends his spare time completely adrift of reality.

Zaynab Bobi blue blur

Zaynab (she/her) is a Nigerian poet, digital artist, and photographer from Bobi. She’s a medical laboratory science student at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto and a member of the Hilltop Creative Art Abuja Branch. Zaynab’s work has appeared in Blue Marble Review, Barren Magazine, Isele, Type House, Harbour Review, Salamander Ink, and others. Twitter @ZainabBobi

Ethan Bundy vape man

Ethan (he/him) is a writer, artist, and musician living in Portland, Oregon. His music can be found at Twitter @ethan_bundy | Instagram @themanwhofellinbuffalo |

Siera Carpenter That’s It That’s the Poem

Siera (she/her) is an MFA candidate and instructor at Columbia College Chicago. She’s been published in The Vehicle, 30 North, and Allium, A Journal of Poetry & Prose. She was a featured writer at the Metro’s ARISE: Raw Artist Showcase in Chicago. Siera is a certified yoga instructor who expresses herself through language and movement. Instagram @shesweetmagnolia & @feelourspace

Federica Colletti between two worlds

Federica (she/her) is a Rome-based artist who creates free-associative, paradoxical, surreal collages. “Of some of these thoughts... I am not aware. But it is of relative importance. I like the observer to be able to decide what [the work] means for them. There is a different meaning for each pair of eyes...”

Lee Davenport First Glance

Lee (he/him) is a Queer visual artist who is deeply inspired by artwork that tells visual stories and explores narrative. Utilizing bright and contrasting colors, his work creates an elaborate puzzle of interpretive story elements. His images allow the viewer to get lost in the scene and connect to a narrative unlike their own. Instagram @SpooktoberStudio

Martins Deep Spotlight Artist

Originally from Orogun, Ughelli North in Delta State, Martins (he/him) is a photographer, digital artist, and poet based in Kaduna, where he studies at Ahmadu Bello University. His works have appeared in Magma Poetry, Cutbank, Strange Horizons, FIYAH, Lolwe, Agbowó, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Chestnut Review, and others. Martins won the visual art category of the 2020 AYNM Creative Contest. Twitter @martinsdeep1 | Instagram @martins.deep

Rachel Eden Salad Days

Rachel (she/her) is a working parent from the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago. She edits Rampant Magazine and supports the Ronald Johnson III Memorial Foundation.

Leone Gabrielle Go

Leone (she/her) is a writer of poetry and prose. She lives in Seymour, a snaking river town in Central Victoria, Australia, on Taungurung country. She has been published in Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry Journal, Pure Slush, and Plumwood Mountain. Leone is the creator of several community art and poetry installations.

Charles Haddox Red Callahan

Charles (he/him) lives in El Paso, Texas on the US-Mexico border and has family roots in both countries. His work has appeared in several journals including Chicago Quarterly Review, Verdad, Folio, and Stonecoast Review.

Marie Hego BABADO

Born in Paris, Marie (she/her) is a French artist now based in Rio de Janeiro. She holds degrees in fine arts from the University of Paris 1—La Sorbonne and art from Urban Space at La Cambre in Brussels. She previously served as an assistant in a moulding studio and restorer in Paris. Marie works as a sculptor on the floats of the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. Instagram @maskbabado |

Arniecea Johnson Floating

Arniecea (she/her) is an emerging fiction writer from Chicago. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. When she’s not writing and reading, Arniecea enjoys brunch with friends, solo dates in the city, and horror films. This is her first fiction publication.

Shelby Lerner MASKS Logo

Shelby (she/her) is a Chicago-based artist currently completing her master’s degree at Columbia College Chicago. In between tutoring her fellow students and finishing assignments, she sells stickers and prints through an Etsy shop and at

Melissa Meier Featured Artist

Melissa (she/her) is a Swiss Brazilian artist. She received her BA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She has exhibited in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and São Paulo, and she was chosen by Sotheby’s for the Young International Artists group show and auction in Tel Aviv, Vienna, and Chicago. Melissa’s work has recently been shown at bG Gallery, the Oceanside Museum of A ​ rt, Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, Caporale/Bleicher Gallery, and James Gray Gallery. She has a forthcoming solo show at the Oceanside Museum of Art. Instagram @melissameierart |

Jesus Monsivais Renacer

Jesus (he/him) is a Chicago-based artist. He’s worked with various mediums and is currently exploring the intersection between graphite illustration and collage. He will have his first exhibit in Chicago at Firecat Projects. He can be contacted at

Jeff O'Connell Facesitter

Jeff (he/him) is an artist living in Los Angeles, where he has worked and taught for many years.

Tyler Odeneal Blue

Tyler (he/him) is an MFA candidate in fiction at Columbia College Chicago. He was a finalist for the 2021 Arthur Flowers Flash Fiction Prize. He’s had fiction and poetry published or forthcoming in Furrow Literary Magazine, Genre: Urban Arts, 580 Split​, and elsewhere.

Pawel Pacholec Awakening II

Pawel (he/him) has exhibited in Poland, China, Australia, Spain, Israel, Indonesia, the US, and elsewhere. He studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk and photography at the University of Arts in Poznan. Pawel’s work is influenced by Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg, and Raoul Hausmann. Instagram @paul.piotrowicz | Facebook @ppacholec3 & @CollageArtPosters

Judith Present Meeting at the Sun

Judith (she/her) is a photographer and fine-art digital artist. She’s a playwright and director for her own theatre company: Presentarts brings historical characters to the stage for fundraisers and special events at historical societies and museums. Judith lives in rural New York State, in the town of Hancock—which is famous for the Delaware River and fly fishing. |

Lauren Ramsey Bloodtrucker

Lauren (she/her) is a Chicago-based animator and comics artist. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has since explored a range of artistic practices, finally circulating back to her interest in sequential mediums. Her work is sold at Quimby’s, Gallerie F, and other Chicago shops. Creating comics is her escapism, fueled by daydreaming dumb scenarios until she makes herself laugh.

Dora Rollins little gods

Dora (she/her) views collage very much like poetry—she looks for unexpected connections via imagery that both complement and contrast one another. Her inspiration comes from whatever grabs her attention and might fit in a collective statement. Dora has been published in Unlost, Corvus Review, and Right Hand Pointing.

Kimberly Beatriz Rosa Men Always Go for the Meat

Kimberly (she/they) is a writer from the Bronx who now lives in Chicago. She’s been published in The BX Writers Anthology Book Vol. 1 and Allium, a Journal Poetry & Prose. She is also the creator of the Internet Archive’s “Interviews on Writers." Her work focuses on movement of the mind and memory. Instagram @_kmberlyb.r

Cierra G. Rowe House of the Red Sun

Cierra (she/her) is a painter, writer, and experimental artist from rural Kentucky. Twitter @Paintingsofrowe | Instagram @Paintingsofrowe | Facebook @paintingsofrowe

Abdulrazaq Salihu

At the Laboratory... | Winner, 2022 Poetry Award

Abdulrazaq (he/him) is a 17-year-old Nigerian poet who has been published nationally and internationally in many journals. He won the Nigerian Poetry Prize for Teen Authors and the 2022 Splendors of Dawn Poetry Foundation Poetry and Short Story Contest. Twitter @Arazaqsalihu | Instagram @abdulrazaq._salihu

Maheshwar N. Sinha Couple in Fantasy

Maheshwar (he/him) is a self-taught artist from Ranchi, Jharkhand, India. “Nature attracts me, because it’s infinite and wild and contains layers of meaning which are never-ending. The creation of art is like playing with a kite—fly high, yet remain rooted.” Twitter @sinha_maheshwar

Amy Soricelli

It Is What It Becomes

Amy (she/her) has been published in The Westchester Review, Literati Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Rumblefish Quarterly, The Bronx Magazine, Glimpse Poetry, Dancing Girl Press, and others. She’s been nominated for the 2019 Aspen Words Emerging Writer’s Fellowship and twice for Best of the Net.

Jacqueline Staikos Good Anthropocene

Jacqueline (she/her) is a contemporary artist working with inks, acrylics, oils, and mixed media. She has exhibited work in several Ontario galleries and had shows in Toronto, Kingston, and New York City. She currently works from her home studio in Trenton, Ontario. Twitter @jackie_staikos |

Mick Stratta Awakening

Mick (he/him) is a British Italian writer. He’s published short stories and poems and is currently working on his first novel. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Galway Review and Skylight 47. His non-literary activities include playing football and guitar pretty badly and fathering two lovely rascals. Twitter @Mick_Stratta

Virginia Castlen Vertiz

Jimi Hendrix and the Summer of Love

Virginia (she/her) has worked as a teacher, social worker, administrator, researcher, editor, and systems consultant, among others. She’s authored many articles, book chapters, and professional papers. Virginia is now turning her attention to genealogy, historical research, and telling personal stories— particularly those of her mother, who was an editor, writer, and aspiring author. Twitter @vcvertiz | Instagram @womanonedge | Facebook @VCVMoomy

Sara Watkins

Love Is Gross | Winner, 2022 Story Award

Sara (she/her) is a writer who's been published in Parliament Literary Journal, Bitchin’ Kitsch, Vast Chasm, and others. She’s the Editor in Chief of Spoonie Press, a small press for disabled, chronically ill, and neurodivergent individuals. Sara’s writing explores themes of disability and autonomy by talking about weird stuff. Twitter @saranadebooks | Instagram @saranadebooks |

Audrey Williams

Self-Portrait of a Trichotillomaniac

Audrey (she/her) is an oil painter from Dallas, Texas. Her work explores unseen trauma and sheds light on alternate forms of beauty that contradict societal standards. Audrey is an MS in counseling candidate at Southern Methodist University and holds a BFA in studio art from the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches at the Creative Arts Center Dallas. Instagram @audreyxine

Kate Wisel

Interview: A Word with Kate Weisel

Kate (she/her) is the author of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men, winner of the 2019 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, Tin House, Los Angeles Review, New Ohio Review, Best Small Fictions 2019, and Redivider—for which she won the Beacon Street Prize. She was a Carol Houck Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wisel lives in Chicago, where she teaches at Columbia College Chicago and Loyola University.

Mary Zheng

No Emergency Contact

Mary (she/her) is a first-generation Chinese American writer, Reiki practitioner, and social worker. She lives in Philadelphia, where she works at an inner city emergency department. Her work has appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review, Cutleaf, and elsewhere. Twitter @pshaow | Instagram @vitamixforever |


MASKS Cover Pasta by Melissa Meier via The Rooster | model, Annie Rollinson Inside Covers Drawing graffiti by Sergeeva via Getty Images Masthead | Back Cover MASKS Logo (2022) by Shelby Lerner Editor’s Letter | pg. 2 vape man by Ethan Bundy Library & Contents | pgs. 3-4 Books on Wooden Shelves Inside Library by Stanislav Kondratiev via Pexels Abstract Wallpaper by Anni Roenkae via Pexels Blue | pg. 5 Awakening II (2022) by Pawel Pacholec

At the Laboratory... | pg. 8 This poem originally appeared on Feb. 12, 2022 in Arts Lounge Magazine.

It Is What It Becomes | pg. 47 View from the House of Henry Briscoe Thomas, Baltimore (1841) via the Metropolitan Museum of Art No Emergency Contact | pg. 49 between two worlds (2019) by Federica Colletti via Mikeshake Magazine Men Always Go for the Meat | pg. 53 Good Anthropocene (2021) by Jacqueline Staikos Go | pgs. 55, 58 The Strange Thing Kiosai Saw in the River (1897) by John La Farge via the Metropolitan Museum of Art Hands and Thimble (1919) by Georgia O'Keeffe via the Art Institute of Chicago A Word with Kate Wisel | pgs. 60, 62 Photo of Kate Wisel by Sara Cutaia Driving in Cars with Homeless Men (2019) via the University of Pittsburgh Press

Bloodtrucker | pgs. 9-16 Bloodtrucker, vol. 1 by Lauren Ramsey

Salad Days | pg. 63 Exotic Vegetables Minimal Art Design by Porechenskaya via Canva

Love Is Gross | pg. 17 little gods (2021) by Dora Rollins

I often wonder why it is called... | pg. 65 House of the Red Sun by Cierra G. Rowe

* (i saw you in the tate st ives) | pg. 21 Crouching Nude in Shoes and Black Stockings, Back View (1912) by Egon Schiele via the Metropolitan Museum of Art

BABADO | pgs. 67-68 Carpa Surfistinha (2021) by Marie Hego Atlantis (2021) by Marie Hego via Arlo’s Art Therapy Journal

Spotlight Artist | pgs. 23-24 3lsewhere girl by Martins Deep Girl in flight by Martins Deep

Floating | pgs. 69, 78 blue blur (2021) by Zaynab Bobi Meeting at the Sun by Judith Present

Red Callahan | pg. 25 First Glance (2021) by Lee Davenport

That’s It That’s the Poem | pg. 79 Smoke Coming Out of a Person’s Mouth by Jorge Fakhouri Filho via pexels

Awakening | pg. 29 Couple in Fantasy (2021) by Maheshwar N. Sinha Jimi Hendrix and the Summer of Love | pgs. 31-35 Four untitled photographs (1967) by Virginia Castlen Vertiz (Contact Vertiz via social media for reprints.)

Contributors | pg. 81 Renacer (2019) by Jesus Monsivais Donors | pg. 90 Facesitter (2018) by Jeff O’Connell

Self-Portrait of a Trichotillomaniac | pgs. 36-38 Self-Portrait of a Trichotillomaniac (2022) by Audrey Williams via The Gallery, “Mujer Manifesto” (vol. 1) Featured Artist | pgs. 39-46 Rice by Melissa Meier via American Craft Magazine, model, Sofia Macdonald Eggshells by Melissa Meier via American Craft Magazine, model, Sofia Macdonald Pinecones by Melissa Meier via The Rooster, model, Sofia Macdonald Acorns by Melissa Meier, model, Sofia Macdonald Lavender by Melissa Meier, model, Anya Banerjee Quills by Melissa Meier, model, Sofia Macdonald Porcupines weren't harmed in the making of this art. Quills were sourced through natural shedding.

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

donors Abby Ariana Katherine Avant Garnett Cohen Michael Glascott Em Green Gary Grossman Andrew Gunsch J.R. Hawbaker Jhon Freddy Hernandez Ana Ingles Jeff Thomas Jurgens

Kathy Kimberly John A. Knox Tom Layman Sean Larson Trevor Lisa Patty Klikke Sietel Heather Timmons Binder Kelli Van Antwerp Bill Welter Zachary CharlesValdez Wilson

This project was partially funded by The Albert P. Weisman Award, a private trust of Columbia College Chicago.

Facesitter | Jeff O’Connell

Charlie Baylis ∙ Zaynab Bobi ∙ Ethan Bundy ∙ Siera Carpenter ∙ Federica Colletti ∙ Lee Davenport ∙ Martins Deep ∙ Rachel Eden ∙ Leone Gabrielle ∙ Charles Haddox ∙ Marie Hego ∙ Arniecea Johnson ∙ Shelby Lerner ∙ Melissa Meier ∙ Jesus Monsivais ∙ Jeff O’Connell ∙ Tyler Odeneal ∙ Pawel Pacholec ∙ Judith Present ∙ Lauren Ramsey ∙ Dora Rollins ∙ Kimberly Beatriz Rosa ∙ Cierra G. Rowe ∙ Abdulrazaq Salihu ∙ Maheshwar N. Sinha ∙ Amy Soricelli ∙ Jacqueline Staikos ∙ Mick Stratta ∙ Virginia Castlen Vertiz ∙ Sara Watkins ∙ Audrey Williams ∙ Kate Wisel ∙ Mary Zheng COVER ART Melissa Meier

MASKS Columbia College Chicago Library 624 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605 Twitter @maskslitmag | Instagram @maskslitmag Summer/Fall 2022 WWW.MASKSLITMAG.COM