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The Merrimack Review

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Spring 2015 | Issue Three


! ! Editorial Staff"

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Managing Editors: Jacques Denault & Michelle Athena Norton " Nonfiction Editor: Julia Lemieux " Art & Fiction Editor: Samantha Myott " Poetry & Assistant Fiction Editor: Emily O’Brien " Advisor: Andrea Cohen"

The Merrimack Review is a student-run literary and art magazine. We accept submissions from undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of academic institution or program of study, with the purpose of giving new and emerging writers/artists a space of their own. We are a proud member of The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, and are sponsored by Merrimack College’s Writers House: www.merrimack.edu/academics/the-writers-house."

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Artwork provided by Ernest Williamson III" (front cover) The Love Seeker | (back cover) The Madness of Opera" ____________" www.merrimackreview.com" merrimackreview@gmail.com " @MerrimackReview "

! ! ! ! ! ! A special thanks to Gail Caldwell for her time and a wonderful interview. ! ! ____________"

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Contents "

! 4 | “A Wing and a Prayer, and the Passion to Keep Going” — Interview with Gail Caldwell" ! 9 | Land Outside of Heaven — Luke Rollins" ! 10 | Artisan— Clayre Benzadon" " " " " 11 | Gasoline Woods — Sarah Strickland"

! 18 | “Artist Delving Into Her Craft” — Dr. Williamson" ! 19 | Frozen Bliss — Elise Ozarowski" ! 20 | Mammal in the Snow — Savannah Sevenzo" ! 21 | Cold War and Sinner Woman — Jessica Ramer" ! 22 | Owl Vision — Sarah Rush" ! 23 | Primal Kingdom! Puppermaster — Sarah Rush"

! 24 | “in this labyrinth of thorns on a windy autumn dusk” — Sarah Rush" ! 25 | “Regardless of What You Face” — Dr. Williamson" ! 26 | Lifter — Angel Eduardo " ! 37 | Monophobia and The Talk We Never Had — Kayleigh Turgeon! ! 38 | Eve — Kelsey Grimmer" ! 41 | “The Master” — Dr. Williamson" ! 42 | The Krampus — Bob Sykora" Ship Souls to Starlight — Jocelyn Mosman "

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43 | Travellers — Jack Christensen" Graving — Savannah Sevenzo!

! 44 | Beginnings — Laura Michaels " ! 47 | Contributors’ Page " !

48 | The Back of the Image — Mollie Chandler" !3


A Wing and a Prayer, and the Passion to Keep Going ! " " " " " " " " By Julia Lemieux"

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Editor Julia Lemieux had the opportunity to speak with Gail Caldwell, former chief book critic for The Boston Globe and author of three memoirs: A Strong West Wind, Let's Take the Long Way Home, and most recently, New Life, No Instructions. While Writer-In-Residence at The Writers House at Merrimack College in April 2015, Caldwell gave a talk about her memoirs, visited writing classes, and met with students in the Writers Circle on campus to discuss her experience writing memoirs and reviews.!

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(Interview transcribed from digital recording and edited for clarity.)"

JL: Some writers write in a variety of genres, and some prefer to focus specifically on one genre. You have done both book reviews in The Boston Globe as well as memoirs. Has your time as a book reviewer helped you in writing your memoirs, and were the experiences connected for you?"

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GC: Absolutely, I think they're connected. I thought you were going to ask if I’d ever written fiction, and the answer is no. I think that writing essays and critical narrative was, for me, a very long introduction into memoir writing. They are connected complementarily, and one naturally begat the other. If I had written a memoir without having spent years writing in a more distant and analytic tradition, the memoir itself would have suffered a great deal — my internal editor would not have been as distanced or discerning. "

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JL: Often, writing helps me to work through things, or to clarify my experiences or problems. Do you feel like you've been helped by your writing, whether through healing, clarification, or anything else?"

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GC: The healing is probably unconscious for every writer, but it can't be the primary purpose as a writer; it can't be the first thing. For me, one of the things that happens, especially in writing autobiography, is that telling the story shapes the story. There is this odd sacrifice that's made, and it was certainly made in The Long Way Home, when you distill the memory into a tellable form, and then that tellable form affects the memory. There is a way that it is both hugely cathartic, and it also transforms both the thing itself and you. It's a dance that one has to be aware of when you're undertaking it. "

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JL: I definitely agree. It feels very cathartic, as you were saying, but you can also look at it differently than you had before."

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GC: I think this is also true in therapy, it's the reason therapy and writing are so similar in some ways: as soon as you retrieve an unspoken memory, and turn it into a story, written or verbal, then the story translates the memory, but it also contains it. There's a way in which it stops being so pure and private. That's a good thing in some ways. It's like that saying: pain shared is pain halved, but also you're messing with fire. "

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JL: Do you ever feel like you are not portraying something the way that you intend, and if so, what do you do when you have trouble translating your thoughts?"

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GC: I've been talking this week about shards of memory, and I learned something as a writer, probably during the writing of A Strong West Wind. I discovered something incredible when I was trying to spend just a couple of months in silence, taking notes on my own memory, because I felt like I had opened the archive and I didn't know what was going to be in there, and I often had memories that were disconnected from the story. "

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For instance, I had a memory of the color of the living room walls in the first house I grew up in, and I remembered it from a certain height, and I realized that I was remembering being three years old. I felt then that some otherworldly guide had said, "Pay attention to the visual image that you have, and it will tell you something." It's a therapeutic device, and I suppose it is a literary device, but it's a very unschooled one. "

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The same process occurred when I was trying to write about my maternal grandmother, and the farm that she lived on in Breckenridge, Texas. Once I remembered the smell of the rock fence that ran alongside the house, everything followed. I had this image of my mammaw as being this wonderfully tall, formidable grandmother. Years later I realized that I had her as this giant because I was so little, and also because she was grander than life to me, but she was only 5'4". We would walk and feed the chickens together, and I would be really frightened, because when you're tall chickens just fly at your knees, but they were flying at my face. I had these wonderful little mysteries that I got to solve, because I was trying to retrieve memory. "

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When I wrote about Caroline, the hardest, darkest, saddest parts of that book were in some ways like opening a spigot. I just sat down with a pencil and a legal pad, which is how I often write, and it just came out. So, I often have the opposite problem, which is, now that you've got this mess of words, you turn it into a smaller mess of words, with the commas in the right place."

! JL: When and why did you decide to write your first memoir? Was there any specific reason? " !

GC: I tricked myself into writing my first book. I backed into writing Strong West Wind because I had the cerebral illusion that I was going to write a book about how literature had shaped my life. I started writing Strong West Wind and I had this notion that it was about me and the books that shaped me, and then my own life kept eclipsing the books and my editor said, "I don't care about the war novels; I care about your dad." I have a great fondness for the memories when I read from that book because I remember that struggle and how it emerged. "

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For years I thought I would never write The Long Way Home. I was convinced that it was a blasphemous notion. And then there came a time when I couldn't not write about it. Voice and insight and time are what shape a memoir, the story is mostly irrelevant without those three things. I somehow needed to contain the essence of what Caroline and I were to each other and the life that she had taken on inside of me, after she was gone. As I said somewhere near the end of the book, her death was what I now had instead of her, and that becomes the story. It was precious, and I wanted readers to know that it was precious. It was about a year after her death, and I was so stunned and disheartened by the cultural lack of attention to what I was going through. I asked myself, "Where are the books on this, why is it that people don't tell you what !5


this is like?" I was fifty years old and I had not gone through a grievous, personal, life-changing loss. My parents were still alive, and I had lost relatives and I knew people who had died, but nothing like this relationship. A friend of mine, who had lost his dad at a young age, had said grief was as though you've been parachuted into another country, and you look around and everybody's an alien. I was so stunned by the paucity of emotional information about that process, and I thought, "Maybe I should write the book that I want to read." This was right before Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking had come out, and so grief didn't seem to be a part of the dialogue. Of course I think I did what all writers do, which is that I wrote to fill a vacuum. Then it became very clear to me how much of a necessary labor it was. "

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JL: I think people sometimes don't want to face that loss, but your writing has opened up many people to want to think about it."

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GC: I think one of the reasons is this is a very primordial emotion, and there is a way in which we flinch. It's like, "Oh the memorial service is over, I should call and see if she's okay and take a casserole over." "

! JL: But you just don't want to get involved‌" !

GC: You just, you can't bear it, you cannot bear it. And so the waters close over this absolute universal pain unless you're the one in it. I felt like someone had lifted the curtain between two worlds, and once that curtain's been lifted, you don't drop it again. So I feel now very proud of myself that some part of me led me into doing that. " " JL: What is it like writing a memoir and reexamining each experience and the emotions that go with it, since memoirs are so much more personal and introspective than other kinds of writing? What is it like to bring those memories back and to have to deal with them again?"

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GC: Writing is so much my friend, and in writing Long Way Home I never felt that I was in some bubble of despair or sorrow that I couldn't bear when I was writing about it. The writing was actually the consolation. When I read it in page proof, I remember standing in the kitchen with tears streaming down my face. You have this dissociative channel of memory and emotion that's very pure when you're doing it and after it's over you are able to realize it. "

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When we come to a work as readers, we've laid down our swords. Interestingly, I had several people tell me privately or embarrassedly, "This is so weird, but I cried harder when Clementine died than when Caroline did." I think what happened was that people were so steeled against losing Caroline, they got blindsided by another loss. Of course, I didn't mean to do that, but I think it spoke to me about how vulnerable we are as readers, because you go in thinking, "Well this can't hurt me, it's somebody else's story." It's one of the magic things about reading."

! JL: What is your writing process like?" !

GC: I'm really glad I was trained in a newsroom, because I learned how to both trust my instincts and also trick myself into certain areas of performance. The newsroom is a trial by fire occupation, and if you don't deliver, then you open a fish market instead, because you just can't say, "Oh, it just didn't work today." Then when I started writing books, in some ways I missed !6


the external pressure of deadlines because they are so demanding. I write in longhand, it's one of the things I totally trust now about the way I work. I did not write in longhand when I was working as a critic, I worked always before a computer screen, and the difference between them is profound. "

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I have a blank wall that's covered with post it notes, and they're often ridiculous, but I keep them. I tend to have stuff everywhere; it used to drive Caroline crazy. Sometimes I take notes when I'm rowing because I get these epiphanies when I'm on the water. I'll get in the car and write it down, and later I'll go, "that's so stupid." But it was really fun to go through the process of realizing it, and maybe one out of four will be really useful. "

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There's an awareness that is demanded of a writer, that you have to be on the clock all the time. That's why you should always carry a little piece of paper or a cell phone and then you do your voice memo. And, you have to be willing to live with failure, because I find that about one of four is good."

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JL: How have you used what you've learned from writing your first book in writing your second, or were they completely separate? "

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GC: I remember one time reading an interview with Barbara Kingsolver, and she said dismissively about her first book, "It was my first book, so everything but the kitchen sink was in it." And I thought, "that's it, that's how I feel about Strong West Wind," because I do remember the feeling that everything had to be there. Then I went through this period of a couple of years after it was out, and I thought if I had to do it again I would go back and take out thirty percent of it. I don't feel that way anymore; I have a much kinder assessment because I know it was my first book, with the pyrotechnics of a first book. "

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Oddly, the last book in many ways was the hardest because I think that when you start to write memoir in the present, time becomes an uninvited guest at the table. And it was much weirder to be writing about a story that was changing, and so that was a difficulty that I don't want to have to go through again. When I was finished I said I will never write memoir again but what I really meant was I would never let the story bite at my heels. "

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JL: Do you think that last book was more reflective? The other books were very memory based, and there were absolutely memories in the last one but there seem to also be reflections on what you've also written in the past. "

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GC: I don't think that I tell straight stories, and I remember having a disagreement with a friend of mine who's a novelist about the beginning of Long Way Home. I was worried about how to begin the book because I knew that many people knew that Caroline and I were friends and that she was an author whose work had affected a lot of people. And people knew that she had died, and so I thought it was coy to begin the narrative the way my editor wanted me to: with the story of our friendship. My friend the novelist said, "you have to begin with the story of the friendship," and I was like, "no, you're wrong." I think that you have to make a tacit, respectful pact with the reader, which is here's the train-wreck coming. For me it was on the first page, it was the only way that I could begin that book. Once I did it and I shared it with my friend the novelist, she was like, "I can't believe you did this, it's right, it's the only way it could have !7


worked." For me, I can't say, "In the beginning was innocence." There's always a way in which the story is some thematic river and then the facts appear around it, and I don't think that's always a good thing, but it turns out to be the way I write."

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JL: How do you feel you've grown as a writer from the very beginning of your career to now, and did you reflect on if your process has changed in writing your newest book? "

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GC: I think one lives a life, and there's this odd thing that happens when you look up and you think, "I'm forty-three, right?" and you realize you're not, and that you have accrued these numbers of years, and in some ways it's almost the same question as, "How have you changed physically in thirty years?" A lot, but not that much."

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My writing over the years has gotten simpler. One always wants to become less show-offish as you go on. You start off trying to prove what a good writer you are in every sentence, then you do it every paragraph, and then finally you get out of the way and tell the story. "

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JL: I'm going to finish by asking the clichĂŠd question: what advice do you have for aspiring writers?"

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GC: I feel this now as a teacher and as somebody who has survived many decades of transition in journalism and criticism and book publishing: the one tool that I have had for forty years that has served me well is reading. And I say this in a way not to discourage people who are writing and involved in the endeavor. But I did not come to writing by the university, I didn't take creative writing classes. I was an English major along with being many other different kinds of majors over the years that I was there, and I took a back door into writing. I discovered that writing was the thing I felt the most passionate about, and in many ways saved me. I do not think I could have ever been the kind of writer I became without the background in reading that I had. I bring that up now because one of the things that's happened in the last fifteen years is people often write more than they read. They say, "well I've written my first novel and I have a series of essays," and I’ll say, "yeah, but have you read Virginia Woolf or Henry James or George Eliot," and they haven't. And I think, "How did they know what was good?" If I didn't know what Middlemarch was, I would have had nothing to aspire toward. That's not going to hold true for everybody, but for me it was crucial. "

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I used to read The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books and Mary McCarthy's theater reviews and Lionel Trilling and James Agee on film and all the great old critics and I was like, "Oh, that's how you do it." My best instructors were in print, for many years. The rest of it is a wing and a prayer, and the passion to keep going. "

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! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Land Outside of Heaven! !

I didn’t know I loved The South," because it never had been mine," nor would it be."

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I did see its pine-dappled mountains" and mossy lowland oaks," haunted and abandoned."

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I did taste its pigs, smoked and soaked" in spicy red vinegar, and swallowed" with whiskey to torch my stomach."

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I did smell its sweet viburnum," thick and decadent, spilling into" the wake of an afternoon squall."

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I did feel the oppression of a Georgia sun" baking an entire history and" basting an entire people with blood."

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I did hear Ida and Charlie sing" close harmonies for Kentucky" and those the world has left behind."

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I didn’t know I loved road beers" poured out under the dashboard" by a mischievous blonde native" whose daddy was a lawman." We smuggled those beers in styrofoam cups" and sipped them through straws as we" ricocheted between Confederate towns" and marched with Sherman's Army from" the mountains to the sea and back again," foraging liberally on the country," devastation in our wake."

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Alone now in a parked car, idling" somewhere in Spotsylvania County" somewhere after the speed limit hits 75" somewhere awfully lit by" the numinous red glow of a soda machine" fluorescent blue pancakes" and the whites of a few headlights." Somewhere miles from yesterday," and miles yet until tomorrow." Sometime after midnight and before dawn." Sometime after an eternity of wakefulness."

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I know if I don’t get some rest," I won’t make it to the wetlands in time" to see the butterflies and watch the Rapture."

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— Luke Rollins


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! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Artisan! ! -To Mom" !

She is the hush sound of rain against palm breeze," the clouds’ pacifier, a pacifist, pools tranquility through" streams of sleep." She needs only to touch sound before" it silences between her palms."

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She’s restless while I’m dreaming," sewing up the remnants of family" patchwork in the midst of setting up" palatable artwork on the breakfast table:" She even gives food a soul," " composing cuisines as gracefully" as she holds her head up, weighing it" between my sister’s dramatics, my brother’s " frat-boy mentality, and my own juvenile college attitude," a falling pyramid only she can balance between her artisan hands."

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! Gasoline Woods! by Sarah Strickland"

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Daddy wore his red flannel, drove the pick-up with me in shotgun. Windows down, blasting banjo bluegrass hauling couches and tools in the bed, heading to fix up another house. I was tagging along, he took me out of school. We stopped at Nester’s, bought a coconut snowball and a nutty bar, a chocolate slick on all my fingers, lips, my spit browned like his after dip. In the summer heat there’s cicadas and humid pollen making all our stops a sun-drenched haze. They’re blurry, those moments, the dashboard at eye level, daddy’s brown-bag beer in the cup holder, the cup holder homemade from a soldered old coat hanger." It is sudden. Gravel catches in the tires and dings up the wheel-beds and daddy yells GD as he pulls over. And then there’s a single siren whoop and daddy says the S-word and gets back in, slams the door. The truck lurches and I say daddy I feel sick and he keeps moving the stick on the floor and we keep lurching until the truck’s flying on windy streets. I keep seeing the edges of cliffs coming at me so close I can touch them and the green branches push them back and I’m spinning in the seat. There’s dirt in the sheen on daddy’s forearms. Daddy says, you better not puke Cass, and the siren gets louder and the reaching branches flash with blue and my whole body is circling my spine’s axis. I can smell daddy’s beer and the gasoline dripping on the road and you better not puke Cass and I sit up, get my knees up on the seat and I lean out the window. I heave once and daddy’s pulled me back in. Against him, my chin’s on my chest, his hand a fist in my dress." Your mam set the law on us Cass, stick close." He took me. Mam dropped me at school and daddy took me. Waiting in line to go in, he ran up from the blacktop. He lifted me in his arms, I felt his thumbs pinch my ribcage in my !11


armpits. It hurt and I couldn’t tell him, too wedged in escaping another day of school, and having to go back home to Mam and explain. " Come for a ride with daddy.! I can still smell that summer as I lay down my head, tears sticking to the bar. Semi-dried liquor saturating my bangs. My head’s resting on the wood, peeling lacquer on my cheek, watching drinks ripple with footsteps. It is night, and I’ve been here for hours, had enough refills to feel submerged. " I came home from work to see three police cruisers, lights spinning shadows on the front windows of Mam’s, and I thought, maybe she’d gone somewhere and she couldn’t come back. Maybe she was the one bleeding for once. " Cassidy Metcalfe? As I live and breathe, you look just like your father." I nodded fast, still hoping, still approaching the door. Can Mam be dead?" When’s the last time you seen him?" I stopped in my tracks. " Jim Kimble saw him headin’ down to the old mill church, do you know where that is?" By the creek, by the water, by the slippery rocks. By where the older boys drank and cracked bottles in the moss. Where that kid turned up dead, and that girl plunged through thin ice. " You just gettin’ home? Have you seen him? We got search parties. " They’d been looking for hours, Mam’s house their last stop. " It’d come to a close, their trawling the woods. I’d come up with a handful of places he’d be, this bar, the one club, maybe Nester’s, or our lot – the spot in tall grass where he’d build us our house, just for us two, Cass. You tell the courts you pick me, Cass, tell the courts you pick me." !12


I tell them look by the water, hazy memories of some puddles, pot holes I jumped in back when Mam held my hand, drug me to the courthouse and back. A splash on my boots before she took me for good. Away from the dream house and the waterfalls we didn’t go to, the trip daddy packed for and Mam locked me in my bedroom. Told the police he said he’d kill her, kill us. ! And I sit in the bar, pouring my body over glugs of amber into glasses, telling no one who listened that daddy took me once, he did, and we ate snowballs and nutty bars before they took me to Mam and I can’t eat chocolate no more. But I still ride on gravel, pump gas, I still see those branches but they don’t reach for me, they don’t move. They think it’s the booze when I say trees don’t move." Clock says it’s been hours. Four hours since they called off the search. Three hours since they fished out my daddy from the old mill church creek. His white body swollen, his work boots still dripping. Drowning in whiskey felt right, holding that burn in my mouth to try to know his pain. Feel that burn fill me up. Every part of me hurts. " A new stranger moves in, gaze set, wearing a camo toboggan and he’s got dirt in the sweaty sheen of his forearms. He spins the stool next to me, sets himself down. " You lost?" He looks like my memories. I don’t respond, I just lie there, spinning my empty tumbler." Let me get you another. " I won’t say a word, I decide as I stare. He’s a soul wound distraction. " My tongue’s on his tongue and I taste the stale beer on his breath and I run to the bathroom. I make it in time for sea green tile to hit my cheek, the white bowl in my elbow. It keeps flushing itself. " His boots are beside me, and he reaches to take my hair, his fingers elastic as I heave again. The water fills up with burning amber bananas, acidic scotch numbing my gums. He !13


kneels down behind me, wipes stray tears with his thumbs. His cargo pants bulging, an angry point in my back. When his lips hit my neck I lean over again, more liquid leaves me as he says he can taste me, every drink I drank is around me, and on me. My skin’s his dessert. " I’ll take you home, darlin’." My body leaves tile, moves into his arms. I’m still retching, now seeing that hazy sunlight with daddy in the park rolling down the hills, the crack bang of daddy’s steel toe on my forehead. " I was in his arms too, lifted lifeless, like this, blood dripped to my eyes, the red like a lens. It’s all red, the beginning of Mam’s screaming. Seeing my scar in court was the first time he lost me, Mam says this world almost lost me. " I see Mam’s hatred, her words the gavel for guilty, the court in cheers as daddy collapsed. Daddy’s shoulders shook, his fingers pinching between leaking eyes and I wanted to be where he was. Mam took me from him ‘cause he took me from her. Mam cried more than me, said now you’ll be mine, baby, always." Something drips in my eyes, more water, warm raindrops. He carries me through cars from the bar to his truck. I try to reach up, to adjust, and he opens the door. His truck’s got a rear seat, and my head’s on upholstery when he starts to lattice his fingers in my hair, jerking my neck back, slimy lips on my throat. He’s moaning and already I need it to be over, for him to just take me, then it will be over. " Over before starting my hands are held down, down my throat he pours clear lightning. You lost too much baby, this’ll keep you spinnin’. " Aristocrat’s smooth baby, just like me. " I cry at his knife, when the teeth tear my jeans. " Shush now. Don’t make me get tape now. ! !14


Mam used to say I could only be hers. At eighteen I left, lived in daddy’s spare bedroom, she’d thrown bricks through his window. She’d called self-defense. What defense did I have, against that raw hate? " The man’s up by the wheel now, he cranks the key. I’m in his periphery. Callouses scratch the skin of my knee. There’s no beer now, just booze, a sharp smelly stale smell and I spin in my skull. Vodka handle to my lips, thirsty for something else, something that’ll keep me still." I’m his, he tells me as he drives, side-glancing at me he licks his lips, and it’s like I can hear the pulse banging between his legs, readying for the space between mine. " It is sudden. Gravel pings in the wheel beds and I smell gasoline. It’s too dark to see outside the beams of his headlights. " Ever been in these woods, baby? All woods look the same, same trees, leaves and pines in the dirt. There’s crickets and rustles and the darkness don’t scare me. I’ll run. " I’ll run like after that fight with Mam. I was nine and I climbed the trees for two days. Got woken up in a branch by the librarian and his flashlight. The search party took me. " You’re fixing to run. They all do. " His trucks parked between trees, and he pulls me out by my feet, and I feel all I’ve drank still warming my skin, my instincts two paces behind his. He drops me in front of his buzzing white headlights. " I replay that kiss, our tongues in that bar, how my silence again argued some invitation. Mam beat into me, silence, but daddy plucked out my words. " I stand up on my sea legs, my back on his front bumper. He’s like daylight in the headlights, and I’m a trembling shell. He tugs at his buckle." It’s not a question of if, but a matter of when. "

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He goes on about if, he goes on about when. He talks about if I lay back, let the vines twine my hair down, let beetles fuck in my ear drums, spiders webbing my legs shut as he comes. He talks about when I will lay back, how sweet it’ll taste, sticky webs in my throat sling. He says if and when like one’s my idea and the other’s just pain. He’s honed in on pain, he’s seen it in my black eye and bruised hips. Hips holding up black lace so he thinks I want this." Every movement his choice. His tongue on my tongue, his lips on my skin, his vodka down my throat. It’s here and it’s now, green branches around moldy sticks on the ground and again it’s not if, baby, it’s when." He lunges. His knife at my throat. I feel the pressure pumping up my neck through my face, my sight goes brighter. Lips are on lips, my fingernails scraping the chrome of his truck. " He’s clumsy, clambering as he lowers me to my knees, pushing his weight to lower me down. " His knife presses harder, the cold blade feeling warmer. One hand knots in my hair and he steps closer toward me." Unbuckle it, slut." I do, and I move trembling fingers to his metal, releasing his cargos and his boxer-briefs too. His hand in my hair is a mire-stained elastic, he presses and pulls, moaning at my soft retches, screaming fuck! as I gag bursts of vodka through my nose." He tosses away his knife, both hands finally anchored to the back of my skull." I bite." He screams out as I whip my clenched jaw to the side. " When his hands drop from my hair, he collapses to the leaves. He kicks out as he screams and I clamber away, my arms waving above me to grab onto the door. " I lick his blood from my lips. "

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I’ll fucking kill you! He screams as he clambers up on wet leaves, and I heave myself into his truck’s bed and his bone cracks under my foot. He thuds to the ground and I pause to stop spinning, will my eyes to stop moving, for the sky to go upright." The adrenalines fading, my heartbeat thrums too slowly, the pressure shoots lightning in to the centers of my eyes. Each pump of my heart there’s long gaps in between. My eyes slide down to his travel can full of gasoline." I remember those hazy mornings with daddy, in his old leaking truck when the trees would come at me. Those times when everyone in town tried to save me, reunite me and hold me in a pine box with Mam. My back branded with whispers of my kidnapping daddy, and no one would hear me. Turning cheeks when I insisted he’d done nothing but love me. " This man stirs below me as I unclip his tailgate, willing the bangs of my pulse to keep up with my body, to support my intentions. " Uncapping the gas, for a second I travel, the smell my new ticket for remembering daddy. Rides together taking miles in exchange for our time. " Daddy drowned tonight, he did, and he’d inhaled that green creek and perhaps thought of me. Regretting instantly too, letting go of that bridge." This man in the leaves, his knife in the weeds, I turn down my wrist as the gasoline glugs out, splashes in every crease of his flannel. The final drops hit his face. I’m spinning in vodka, in the toxic gas smell, and there’s matches in the truck bed. " I open the driver’s side door, lift my soil-clad arms to strike a red match. To paint these dark woods in gasoline fire. I hate that word, mire, caked on me, inside me, and I set his flannel on fire. Then the leaves are on fire. His screams are on fire."

! ! !17


Artist Delving Into Her Craft

!18


! ! ! ! Frozen Bliss! !

After I drenched my throat with the last drop" of the homeless man’s 100 proof schnapps" (by the end of the bottle I mistook it for mouthwash)" I saw you."

!

Thank God it was 100 proof—I needed" any bit of numbness I could emphasize." I craved the feeling of not feeling." I wanted to live inside that feeling of not feeling" so that I could ensure that I wouldn’t" live inside you one last time."

!

Because the last time I saw you, I slipped into the" goddamned cliché we shared that summer." In that instant, the very fucking instant that I saw you," your calves protruding from your knees emphasizing" how short you are, carrying a banana," your thick, wiry plot of hair lacking a shine" even though it bathed in sun," reminding me of all the disproportions on your body," your body that always managed to tangle" like cursive with my body before you would put in your" ear plugs and turn away from me to sleep."

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That instant brought on a chill just like the one" I always complained about in your 85 square feet of frozen bliss" from the air conditioner that blew directly onto me" before you would croon that you knew exactly" how to warm me up and your words would slip" from your reckless tongue, doing exactly that."

!

Because the last time I saw you, I grasped for my" mind, reached out, begging pitifully to stay with me," rather than saunter back to you, coyly at first, all innocent," then running, out of breath but unable to resist" the rust of your magnetism. I failed."

!

So there I crawled, a mantis with its head" bitten off after getting laid, limp and worthless," mischievous and smug, until it soared, hurdled, back to you."

!

Slurring and sprawling over my words," I told you I wanted to catch up with you. If you told me you couldn’t" smell the homeless man’s liquor on my tongue, spilling over" my lips, you would be lying through" the gap I used to cling to."

!

— Elise Ozarowski

!19


! ! ! Mammal in the snow! ! So this is a white page." !

A lesson in how un-trodden" lemons in sunlight" become sea in the moon." White on the ground, a sinking silence" sighs in step, with our steps," and learning the new length of distance" in winter’s terrain."

!

In fascination, we long to expose our blood" in a single drop, just to witness it’s redness." We become subtly sodden, and begin to feel" the dishonesty in our knots of hair." We wonder if cold-law knows " it’s law is cold, and lawless."

!

This is a white page," where tired air turns to steam in our wheezes." our frozen words must thaw" to teach us how to write." We are the only redcurrants here:" the blankness is a chance " for our toes, finally," to sift through the sky."

!

! ! ! ! ! !

A long walk freezing is anticlimactic:" just learning what endless means" and how to disappear." When flakes fall faster we look up" and we remember we are spinning" in this moment." Our limbs and our stomachs" know how to behave" but we are not ourselves." — Savannah Sevenzo"

!20


! ! ! ! Cold War! !

In a room smelling like diaper rash cream," A woman lies in bed, the husky standing guard" Over her infant son. Gravel crunches on the road" Below her window. A car engine shudders and stops." The dog looks at his mistress and sotto voce woofs" Hearing no footsteps on the stairs," She slips into bedroom shoes. They tap softly" As she walks to the window. Kneeling to peer" Through the crack between curtain" And sill, she sees her husband" Hunched over the steering wheel." Aurorae dance over his fur-lined parka hood." She rises and returns to bed."

!

Sinner Woman!

!

! ! ! — Jessica Ramer" ! ! ! ! ! !

If I were a Holiness woman, my face would glow" With the peace of Christ as I clutched the belief" My daughter was in His arms after her brief" Months with me, knowing I would follow" Her as my old Sunday school fresco" Promised. Its pastel lamb motif" Mocks  photos bound in a ribbon-tied sheaf" Taken months-- and a whole lifetime-- ago." But I am a sinner woman mourning" A bastard child, her father unknown" Even to me, who watched the ocean stir" As the weighted casket sank, swallowing" An infant in an oyster-grey dress sewn" With faux pearls. I wear pearls at Easter for her."

!21


! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " "

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Owl Vision"

" " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " "

" " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " " "

Life is a buffet of paradoxes" " " " Spooned into the open mouths" Of those who search, as predators do," " " " For truth." The ones who cannot swallow assumptions" " " " Smoothly, for the clumps of" Contradictions leave the throat" " " " Scratchy and dry," Like eating mounds of dirt" " " " Or leaves in Autumn" When you’re told this is" " " " Spring water, pristine and" Clear. I will pick apart" " " " The clumps like owl pellets" And laugh myself to sweet" " " " Tears when calculations" Fail, when equal signs" " " " Entail inequalities," When bones no longer adhere" " " " To fur. Owls can look" You squarely in the eyes" " " " From two opposing directions" Without twitching a talon." " " " Is it so strange then to" Consider that it could be," " " " Just might be, possible" To gaze through the " " " " Lashes of owls?" — Sarah Rush"

!22


Primal Kingdom"

!

The august king rests serenely on his throne" Of matted tawny and green pillows," An olive canopy of shade ruffling leisurely" Overhead. Through golden eyes, he" Surveys his kingdom: a lawless empire" Governed by uncivilized instinct," Where the currency is sweetened with blood" And only the dead are unemployed." His subjects thirst not for vengeance when" Death is served, no sugary imitation of" Honorable justice. Only a taste for life." There are no mirrors or manacles here," And gore runs through the cities like " Crimson rivers in which they fill their goblets." Basking lazily before his nation, the great king" Stretches his paws and yawns carelessly," Fangs gleaming in the warm sun."

! Puppetmaster" !

This influence behind my eyes" tugs the marionette strings" " threaded along my fractured acrylic" " " bones—i can feel it."

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My skin chafes against splinters in the air" exuded from the stranger:" " its stink bleeds into my fingertips" " " and tastes like stolen whispers,"

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as doubt drips its wonderings" into all my serrated surfaces." " i’m now stained with erratic question" " " marks and splattered ink blots"

!

that resemble eyes." A thief wearing my clothes" " stretches my folded, tattered limbs" " " and screams our name"

! " ! ! !

"

"

in some detaching silence." — Sarah Rush!

!23


in this labyrinth of thorns! on a windy autumn dusk"

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i slink from tree to tree like" some restless shadow" as i sludge through " the crunchy blanket of leaves" my footfalls" make no noise"

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i may have passed this way before" because the splintered branches below" my dirtied toes whisper faintly through" the growing silence:" they tell me how"

! !

the blurry memories of trails and maps" flit eternally between my gnarled" fingertips like hurried air" and my confusion stems from a" mind that forgot many hikes ago" how to navigate a wood" cloaked in shade."

! the words are no compass" !

i cannot help but beg the lightning to strike" to illuminate the thick twilight"

!

!

[no—to light a forest fire]"

and my words slice through the rain like" an axe through a dying tree" but the sky"

! doesn’t answer." ! ! ! ! ! !

— Sarah Rush!

! ! !24


Regardless of What You Face !25


Lifter! by Angel Eduardo " "

!

Omar watches from the aisle’s end as she wraps her fingers around a paintbrush. He sees

her cool blue eyes inch closer, reading the print on the thin plastic sheath. “Hmm…” She grips the handle tightly but doesn’t remove it from the rack. “Twenty-eight bucks. Jeez.” Her fingers slip, her hand returns to her side, and she sways casually out of the aisle. Omar waits a beat, then approaches. He stops where she was standing and pulls the paintbrush off the rack. He eyes it for a moment, runs his finger across the bristles, and furrows his brow. A deep sigh lasts one…two… three seconds, and he mimes putting the brush back as he lets it slide into the sleeve of his overcoat. When he jabs his hands back into his pockets, the paintbrush slips in with them. His heart picks up. His legs buckle. A chill runs through him and he presses down on his feet to steady himself. He turns to face her. She’s browsing the acrylic paints, one hand running through her shoulder length blonde hair. She pauses to look at him, and he smiles." ❖ “Omar, right?” He looked up from the book he was reading and lifted a hand to shield his eyes. She stood tall over him, and it took a moment to focus on her face. “Uh…yeah. Yeah. Hi, Megan.” Her head dipped into the sun and she grinned. He noticed her eyes cutting through the summer glare and meeting his. He tensed in his cargo shorts and t-shirt, curled his toes inside his white Adidas. He felt her watching as he nervously pulled on his nappy brown hair and uncrossed his legs, dropping his book. A hot flash ran through him, and the hair on his arms stood straight up. Idiot, he told himself. !26


She covered her mouth to hide a giggle. “How’s it goin’?” “Uh…good!” He scrambled to grab his book, and leaned back on the bench. “Good. How’s…uh…how’s your summer been…so far?” “It’s been okay. You still at Bergen? I haven’t seen you since History class.” “We were in English Comp together last semester, actually,” he cleared his throat without needing to. “Really?” “Yeah,” he forced a smile, then, feeling himself unintentionally exaggerating it, let it fade. “Wow.” She looked down, bemused. “So you must be almost finished, right?” “Yeah. Yeah. I…uh…I should be out in the spring.” She smiled again, leaning on one hip and folding her hands behind her back. Her eyes cut away for a moment, then locked with his again. Omar felt a sudden pressure to pick up on a subtlety. Then, he noticed he was taking up the entire bench. “Oh, I’m…I’m sorry.” Omar nudged over, and she skipped up to sit beside him. He suddenly felt her warmth competing with the sunshine. His skin rippled as she moved, goosebumps rising and falling as she swayed casually in her seat. He didn’t know where to look, so he turned his head down to his feet, kicking away stray pebbles. He noticed the scratching sound his sneakers made against the pavement, and found himself forcing them into a steady rhythm. A breeze rustled the leaves on the tree a few feet away, and he stared at the shadows shimmying on the patch of grass underneath. He tried to remember what page he was on in his book.

!27


Megan leaned in to bump shoulders with him. “So what’re you gonna do after?” “Uh…oh…I dunno…but Associate’s degrees don’t get you very far.” She smirked and swung her legs out in front of her, holding them there. “Yeah. I mean… I’ve been slacking, but I think I know what I wanna do, finally.” He noticed her black nail polish and studded belt. As she brushed her hair back, he saw six rings running up her ear. Tears in her jeans revealed the pale skin of her legs, and he watched them cross as she leaned forward to rest on her hands. He turned away to keep from staring. The sunlight beamed down, cooking the pavement. Behind them, a couple grunted through a heated tennis match. Kids ran around the playground across the way. A dog barked on the other side of a chain-link fence, and it took a minute before he realized she was staring at him. “Oh…uh…and…so, uh…what do you wanna do?” “Megan!” They both turned to meet a pair of aged, hollow eyes widening from the window of a rusted black pick-up truck. The engine rumbled and the chassis shook, as though at any moment the entire thing would crumble into a steaming tetanus heap. A large, sun-reddened arm waved her toward it. “C’mon, dammit! Your mom’s makin’ dinner…” The voice fell into a disgruntled murmur, swallowed by the roaring under the hood. “Oh. Sorry, I gotta go. I’ll see you around.” “Okay.” Omar watched as flip flops clacked against her heels. The pick-up’s rusted door creaked open and slammed shut, and she bustled for a moment in the passenger seat. Omar looked down

!28


at the sun singed pavement. The pick-up released one last rusty roar, and a girl he never thought would notice him was driven away. ❖ The clerk at Pearl Paint slumps over the front counter, yawning wide and thumbing through an issue of Sports Illustrated. Omar keeps him in his periphery. There is no one else in the store. At the end of every aisle Omar pretends to have an itch on his neck, casually looking up while scratching. No cameras or curved mirrors on the ceiling. Nobody in uniform doing the rounds. None of this stops his heart from racing. His thick green overcoat is open, and he’s slipping a set of small canvases inside. He coughs to mask the sound of the zipper and puts his hands back into his pockets—now filled with twenty tubes of acrylic paint and a half dozen paintbrushes. He’s feeling the weight pulling down on him, and beads of sweat begin to form at his hair’s edges. He curls his toes to still the shakes running up his spine. He thinks of how he’s always hated dealing with clerks. As a kid, and even now, he made a habit of angling into stores, head down and eyes on his feet, hoping not to attract the attention of the staff. Their sincerity grated him, and he found himself squirming when he was inevitably cornered and supplicated. “Can I help you with anything?” “No, thank you,” he’d always mumble, shaking his head and avoiding eye contact. Even if he couldn’t find what he was looking for, he’d decline. Instead he’d wander the aisles alone, hands in pockets, feigning certainty and purpose, mentally mapping the store’s layout. He’d memorize the locations of his favored items; future trips would be quicker, and staff members more easily avoided. It never occurred to him that he looked suspicious.

!29


Megan turns the corner toward the back of the store. Omar takes the long way around. When he meets her, she’s on her tippy toes, hands resting on the riveted metal shelf, perusing the stacks of sketchbooks. “You were right. This place really is a dump.” He leaned on the shelf—his version of nonchalance. “Yeah,” she chuckles, “the people who work here aren’t even artists.” Omar nods. “That explains a bit.” “This place is in the middle of nowhere, too.” Megan runs her hand down a stack, scrunching her lips, deciding. “I don’t even know how they stay in business.” “Yeah,” he clears his throat. “Yeah. It’s…it’s crazy.” Megan pulls on a thick spiral sketchbook, leaving it jutting out from the pile. “Mmm,” she sighs. “$40? That’s obscene.” She turns away. He watches. Flip flops clack against her heels. “Okay,” he winces as he reaches up to grab the sketchbook, fighting the weight of his overcoat. “I’m running out of room in this thing.” He can feel the canvases shifting against his side as he stretches out, and contorts to keep them underneath his coat. Another cough to mask the unzip, and a light tapping on the metal shelves to cover the zip up. He draws the pull string to tighten the coat around his waist and begins to walk slower, more carefully. Hands in pockets, arms pressed against his sides, he widens his gait. ❖ “I think that’s a great idea. Teaching art.” Omar mumbled his last planned ice-breaker, and it competed with the creaking of Megan’s rusted car door opening. He felt something in him sink, and wondered whether he should repeat himself once they were in the car. !30


“Yeah,” Megan shut the door and smiled. “I’m taking a few classes at BCC in September. I love kids, so I think I’d be good at it, too.” Omar smiled and nodded, relieved. “Cool. That’s cool.” She shifted in the driver’s seat to face him. The Dairy Queen parking lot bubbled with activity. Teens clustered around the hoods of their parents’ cars, assuming their most casual stances, enjoying their nascent autonomy. Music pumped from every stereo, the different songs and sounds mixing together to create a rumbling din. Through Megan’s closed windows, all Omar could hear was the muffled bass. He tried to stay present and not wander off into silence. You always do this. Don’t be quiet. Just be cool. His hand shook as he shoveled his cookies and cream sundae into his mouth, careful not to let the hot fudge get anywhere in the car. Megan spun her waffle cone in her hand and stared, as though forming a plan of attack. He watched her take her first bite and quiver at the iciness on her teeth. They smiled. Omar ran down his list of ice-breakers, realizing he’s nearing the end of them. “So…your dad is scary as hell.” She laughed. “Yeah, everybody says that. He’s harmless, though.” “To you, maybe,” he jabbed, then quickly regretted it. She eyed him for a moment, then her eyebrows shot up. “Ohhh, that day at the park. Yeah, don’t worry. It wasn’t you. He was just mad he had to come pick me up.” “Oh. Well…he’s still scary.” “Heh.”

!31


They sat in silence. Omar looked down at his sundae. Don’t do this. Don’t let it get weird. Outside, people were laughing. Through the windshield he saw a few couples together. They shared round tables under umbrellas. They shared ice cream. They smiled. Laughed. Reached across the table to touch each other’s hands. Megan leaned over and turned on the stereo. Come on. Say something. “I love this song,” she offered. “Yeah. It’s alright.” he muttered. He doesn’t listen to the radio. He’d never heard this song. You idiot. Come on. Don’t blow this. Say something. Now. NOW. He swallowed down another bite of ice cream, and a thought came to him. “So…are your parents psyched?” “About what?” she asked, as though it wasn’t a question. “About you doing art.” “Ah…they don’t give a shit.” Megan shifted in her seat again, her two scoops of strawberry swirl a smooth mound of pink and white. “Really?” “Yeah.” She took a bite of her waffle cone. “I’m lucky they even pay the bill to go to BCC. I’ll have to take loans out once I get in somewhere else.” “Where are you thinking?” He looked down at his dessert. The fudge was melting the ice cream faster than he could eat it. He stirred what was left with his spoon, leaving a soupy glob filling a quarter of his cup, then wondered what he was going to do with it now that he was done. “Rutgers, maybe.” “That sounds great. Yeah.”

!32


“Yeah.” She turned to look out the window. The summer air was cooling. Beyond the parking lot, the haze of chemical plant exhaust on the New Jersey Turnpike scattered the lights of houses in the distance. The moon hung over them, cut by a thin strip of clouds. There were no stars. She tapped on the steering wheel. “Shit’s expensive, though.” “Yeah?” “Yeah.” ❖ The roads were clear. Route 17 is usually a parking lot, even on a weekday afternoon. Omar took it as a good sign. He sat back in his seat and eased his grip on the wheel. The leather interior of his father’s blue Volvo squeaked under his weight. Megan twirled a golden lock of hair around her finger, watching the passing cars and storefronts from the window. Music was playing, but it was barely audible beyond the gurgles of the radio’s static. Omar pulled into the right lane, minding the signs outside the strip malls going by. “Okay…Pearl Paint. Pearl Paint. Pearl…Paint.” Megan pressed her back up against the window to face him. “Hey…are you sure you wanna do this?” Omar puffed up. “Yeah. Yeah. No sweat.” “I dunno.” She sighs. “I mean…” “Well, you need this stuff, right?” “Yeah, but…have you ever even done this before?” “Sure. Sure, I have.” He thought of the time, when he was seven, he pocketed a jumbo pack of Zebra Fruit Stripe gum from the supermarket checkout line when his mother wasn’t looking. They were five !33


minutes from home when she looked in the rearview mirror and demanded to know where the wad of candy in his mouth had come from. Ten minutes later he was sobbing in front of the stone-faced Pathmark store manager, confessing his sins at his mother’s insistence. Then there was the time in third grade he snatched a $20 bill from his father’s wallet and took it to school, where the cafeteria’s vending machine wouldn’t accept it. When Omar tried to sneak it back into his father’s pants that night, he got the whooping of his life. “I mean…I’m not a master thief or anything…but I can handle it.” Megan wrinkles her face, but said nothing. The highway stretches on. Storefronts begin to give way to more and more trees on either side. Where is this place? They pulled into a parking space when they arrived, and Omar shut off the engine. They stared at the store’s entrance in silence. No one came in or out. The whole plaza looked empty. Megan unfolds her crumpled syllabus, looks it up and down, and drops her hands into her lap. She sighs, “You really don’t have to do this, you know.” Omar braced. He began to feel his hands shaking. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel and took slow, deep breaths. “No, I want to. I want to. Just pick out what you need and I’ll take care of it.” ❖ One last thing: a set of charcoal sticks. Megan taps twice on the little black box and kneels to rifle through another stack of notebooks. Omar looks at it and exhales a bit, relieved at its size. He walks by Megan and quickly slips the box into his sleeve without stopping. He pauses at the end of the aisle, fakes an itch again, and scopes out the area before turning to face Megan. She grins and mouths, “That’s everything,” before getting up and walking toward him, a !34


book of watercolor paper in her hand. Omar darts his eyes around the store and looks at her again. “You sure that’s it?” he whispers. She nods. “I’m gonna go pay for this.” “Okay. I’ll head out and meet you at the car.” Omar sighs. His coat pockets are bulging with acrylic paints, pens and brushes. Sweat covers his brow, his underarms, and behind his knees. His leg is shaking, and he can hardly hear anything over the pounding in his chest. Okay. Okay. Almost there. He finds himself nodding and not being able to stop. It’s cool. It’s cool. We’re cool. She fixes her gaze on him and tilts her head to one side. Omar feels himself growing shyer, but can’t break eye contact. Megan’s face reddens at the cheeks. He sees her toes curl up, and she starts rocking from side to side. And in one, swift movement, she hugs her watercolor book tightly against her chest, leans in, and plants her lips on his. “Thank you for doing this. You're really sweet.” She turns to walk away. A rush of warmth sends jolts through his body. His eyes close, and he has gone completely still. Their lips met for only a second, but he stands transfixed, savoring the remnants of her kiss. He turns his own lips inward, sliding his tongue across them. Deep breaths take her in. The smell of her hair wafting against him, even for a brief moment, gives him goosebumps. His eyes open and he sees her skipping up the aisle toward the checkout counter. His nerves are gone. He floats out of the store. Despite the weight of his coat pulling down on his shoulders, his grin widens. His fear is gone. Despite his muscles aching, from pinning canvases and sketch pads

!35


between his arms and chest, he beams. His worries are gone. Even when a thick, heavy hand lands to rest on his shoulder. Even when a gruff, self-satisfied voice rises behind him and asks, “A little warm for such a heavy coat, isn't it?� Omar smiles, brimming.

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!36


Monophobia!

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It is the lone wolf that rarely howls." They may stretch their nose to the sky," but their cry stops strangled in their throats."

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Fear does that. They had seen others cling to their alpha," bowing their ears, licking the nose of the one who nips" the hardest. And yet, they traveled like an atom, magnetized" to this core. The pull on their hearts kept them anchored."

!

Though they’ve gone, it is still felt by those who are alone." It simmers and sinks, and then the cold pale glow of wishes" are not enough and they need more love than the moon can give." That’s when the longing for love pulls the cry past the fear in their throat" and the lonely ones risk the bite of fangs for the chance of being heard."

! !

The Talk We Never Had!

! !

Dear Mother," I read about a woman who hung herself on her purity" ring. We never had that talk, about abstaining, or not." I guess I never did give you a reason. If it wasn’t dire," Better we both sit in comfort than address the theoretical."

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But now I have chosen a reason to talk about it." He is kind, but he still makes me want to say Hail Mary’s," Just in case: Even a kiss frightens me. Every touch sends" my eyes searching for a spy. I’m afraid I’ll see you," But I’m also afraid of becoming that woman."

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I never made a promise. That’s what I say." But my nerves still criss-cross my heart." They itch even with an accidental vow."

!

So, what did you do, Mother?" You never told me what you did." I think you would say it is my own business" to lose it or keep it, but what do I do if" even keeping it to myself feels like lying." It would feel like two red scores scratching" into my name. But I want to be clean." I’ve always been clean. Haven’t I, mother?"

!

— Kayleigh Turgeon " !37


Eve! by Kelsey Grimmer"

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She always found it difficult to stand up straight. She was perpetually hunched, her spine a weak question mark. Leaning over the bathroom sink, she looked upwards to the mirror and decided that her face was much too small. It was small enough to make the glasses that rested on the bridge of her nose look comically large in comparison. Her mouth was pinched into a tight circle, as if she were always faced with making a difficult, life changing decision. Beneath her eyes lived a colony of freckles that had taken residence there the day she was born. They did not so much dance daintily across her face as plant themselves there, ugly and rigid. Her hair hung in limp ropes and stopped abruptly at her shoulders. Her lashes were short, and instead of curling up to the ceiling like they do in those magazine ads, they stuck straight out like soldiers standing at attention. Under her bottom lash line sat two dark half-moons, giving her the appearance of being eternally exhausted. This was evident in her eyes more than anywhere else, through her lackluster, colorless irises. It seemed as though she were impossibly comprised of geometric shapes, and she was by no means beautiful." Sunday in the suburbs. This meant bread, eggs, milk, deli meats, cheese. All items an ordinary couple in in an ordinary relationship would buy. Every Sunday they went to the market, a joint effort to restock their kitchen cabinets. Team work. This, probably, is what she savored the most about their relationship: the effort. The camaraderie. The companionship. “You’re my best friend,� he had said to her on more than one occasion. He worked it into their wedding vows and sung it into her ear that same night, as he gripped the hair starting at her scalp and tugged, hard. They spent half an hour removing the forest of bobby pins from her hair, and watched the curls tumble down. Another half hour was dedicated to unfastening the line of ivory buttons that traveled down her back and past her hips. After being newlyweds for what seemed to be an !38


eternity, the dress fell to the floor and she stepped out of it, a snake shedding its skin. Before her first toe had a chance to touch the ground, he hooked an arm around her waist and dropped her on the bed. And to this, she thought, there was not a possible better ending to their story." She noticed pairs of eyes on her, one after another, as if she were moving through a line of strangers on a conveyor belt. Meeting the eyes of an unfamiliar individual is testing, and uncomfortable. She did not know why they were looking at her, why a passerby would whisper, “Sorry about that,” while walking in her direction. She decided instead of being uncomfortable, she would play a game. The rules were simple: notice a man leering for just a second too long, and hold eye contact with him. First person to look away loses. The initial rounds of this game were difficult, as keeping eye contact with strangers for more than a second or two was unbearably painful for her. But soon, she found that it got easier. She stared into the eyes of the balding man standing in line at the deli. Bore into the soul of the man walking towards her down the bread aisle. She made multiple elderly men look away from her with embarrassment etched onto their faces, and she felt triumphant. By the time her cart was half full, she had become a seasoned professional, in a game that meant nothing to anyone but herself. No one could lock eyes for as long as she could. She wore the medal around her neck, a badge of honor. A statement. You don’t get to look at me. You don’t get to cause my discomfort. No man would look at her, graze their eyes across her body, without her consent." She was ready to leave. They stood in line, hands twisted around each other, waiting to “please scan their items,” as the recorded voice on the self-checkout computer would tell them. As if they needed a weekly reminder. They would then “please proceed to the end of the belt to bag their items.” They would pack the car, drive the ten minutes back to their house, and do

!39


whatever married couples do. She would tidy the kitchen, sweep the floor. He would watch her, study the art of her movements. She would pretend not to notice. " She looked down at the list, creased and crumpled in her right fist, and saw she had forgotten to grab the last item. Canned corn. She stepped out of line, promising to be right back. A minute, then two, then five went by, and she still had not returned. He was becoming increasingly impatient, and the line was growing behind him. Exasperated, he left the line, and shuffled up and down the aisles, looking for his wife, cart in tow. He rounded the corner of the last aisle to see her standing on her toes, reaching for the can. He watched her, tilted his head to the side contemplatively. It was then that he decided her legs were first carved from marble and then dipped in a vat of gold. It looked as though the artist who sculpted her took extra time with her legs, to ensure almost ethereal perfection. He paid special attention to the curve of her calves, her ankle bones, each one of her toes. Her lips were deep, red like rubies. An apple to bite into. Her cheeks flushed and contoured, kissed by angels. Her eyes, big and round and electric. Nordic, like she had spent her entire life lost in winter. The swing of her hips as she walked down the aisle perfectly mimicked the image of Aphrodite emerging from the sea. She was not a minivan, PTA suburban mother in baggy butt jeans, reaching for a nonperishable item on the top shelf. She was Eve plucking the apple in the Garden of Eden. She would never spoil."

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The Master

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The Krampus!

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Oma tells us about the Krampus" at dinner on Christmas Eve." She can't remember" if he had devil horns" or wore a uniform," but every December" one of the older boys would" smear coal on his face" and hunch through the village," dragging chains. And in" my head the boy's face" shifts from Dad to Mr. Lamar" to Tommy C from the 7th grade." He's carrying a shovel," the chains are draped over his clothes," as we examine a wasp nest" in the back yard and he swings" the shovel and hits my head." But when I wake up he’s gone" and it’s Christmas Eve " and we’re all laughing. " " " " " — Bob Sykora

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Ship Souls to Starlight! Ship souls to starlight," Watch the rowing of" Oars in choppy waters" Crinkle the refracted moon," Crying out for peace." Ship to starry night" The smooth stone skipping" Like a gentle heartbeat" Across ebbing lakes and" Plopping to the bottom."

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Sinking deep, sinking deeper," Until it fully drinks" Moonlight into its pores." A milky film pours" Out like moonlit eyes."

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Ship death to Tartarus" Under care of Charon," Drowning in the moaning" Of souls cut short" By winged spiteful Fates."

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Ship my soul, too" And let me explore" The vast, expansive universe" As we travel together" Ticking my time away." Beyond the sweeping heavens," Above the rolling seas," Atop the palatial mountains," Between the desolate plains," Over the unbridled hills."

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Let me be a" Pebble in calm waters" Finding the light just" Below the surface of" The dark, dark unknown."

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— Jocelyn Mosman

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" Done with Chambord and the patrician Loire," They stopped along the road on the outskirts of Tours" " " To lunch among sandflies on the banks" " " " " Of a rock-choked stream" " " With no chateau or cottage in sight."

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Travellers"

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— Jack Christensen "

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Graving "

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When summer gets tired," the children on our street go graving." In the late afternoon we take" our tense young muscles and tumble up" the hill to the cemetery."

The stones here are our friends," and we are not so saddened by them." In place of tears we leave" salted rocks we found in the sea," and wilting daisy chains" that don't look so hip anymore;" and sometimes a sucked out lolly stick" with traces of sweet," that we say is ‘probably’ biodegradable. "

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At the gates our stomping" strides slip into patters:" graving is what we use" to change ourselves." We still find reasons to laugh" because one of the surnames" on the stones is ‘Twat,’" and after all, death is absolutely" irresolvable. We feel light because" nothing at this moment is our fault."

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When graving gets tired" we let our voices peek into the silence" then shout each other down" and sometimes, mud pies are involved."

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When we begin to feel" stern eyes on our backs" we crumble the mud back into earth" and leave," mocking each-other brutally," promising to visit again. "

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The graves in our cemetery" are in rows. They still the day" but cannot hold us there:" We think beyond them," of the dead in the air and in the ocean" and in the unmarked ground." These strangers make us shiver" and we want to meet them properly."

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— Savannah Sevenzo

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Beginnings! by Laura Michaels " "

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It was raining at sun down. At least, I think the sun was setting. It was one of those

overcast days where the clouds overlapped each other. The clouds had continuously blanketed each other until they were so heavy with rain that they unburdened themselves. I had seen them gathering in the morning, but had miscalculated, thinking I wouldn’t need an umbrella, so I rushed out of the house without some form of cover." "

Later that day, or the beginning of that evening, the clouds shook off their extra weight,

and I ducked under a florist’s awning to seek shelter. The incessant pelting drops sounded on the Kelly green canvas covering my head. Behind me there were buckets upon buckets of flowers. Some of the flowers were bundled into bouquets, while others were free. It was a cornucopia of colors. I can barely tell the difference between a peony and a mum, but I spotted roses, sunflowers, hydrangeas and tulips, to name a few. My eyes roved over the arrangements until they landed on the man, well maybe the young man, standing next to me. He was watching me with determined eyes. I didn’t think his determination was anything malicious; I just thought that’s the way he looked at the world. His whole face had a determination to it, from the expanse of his forehead to the set of his lips." "

I watched back at him, waiting for him to turn away, but still he held my gaze. I arched

my eyebrow, questioning his stare. That’s when his determined lips cracked into a slow smile. I think he saw me as a challenge." "

“They’re pretty flowers,” he commented, his head gesturing behind us."

"

To be polite, I gave a small smile and nodded. I didn’t know why I was sabotaging

myself; he was attractive and the determination wasn’t off putting. I had seen it on the faces of all the men in my life before. They see something they want and they go for it and they get it." !44


"

“Which one is your favorite?” I ventured. I guessed small talk never hurt."

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“I wouldn’t know the difference between a peony and a mum,” he replied, his smile

spreading wider across his cheeks, perfectly indenting them. “What do you like?”" "

“I like hydrangeas. They’re such a pretty shade of blue.”"

"

He nodded and turned towards the florist. “Could you make up a bouquet of blue flowers?

And make sure to include hydrangeas, please? Thanks.”" "

My cheeks flushed a shade that is usually reserved for when I drink too much. I looked

down quickly, so he couldn’t see. I had never met a guy like this before. His manners were nothing I’d ever encountered." "

“Here,” he said, handing me the bouquet. They were stunning. On the outer rim were

dark blue flowers that were more delicate. It was like a reverse blue ombré effect; the flowers became lighter in color as they got closer to the center. It ended in the middle with a bunch of hydrangeas. I think the bouquet may have been twice the size of my head." "

“They’re beautiful,” I smiled at him; a genuine smile this time." He returned the favor and stuck out his hand. “I’m Michael.”"

"

“Maggie,” I replied, moving my hand towards his. His gripped mine. There was an

assurance there. I’m not sure how to describe it. It was like goldilocks: not too loose, but not too tight. I felt like he would let me go if I wanted, but that he would also hold on for as long as I wanted. I looked into his eyes and I could still see the determination. He looked young, but I could tell that his age didn’t define him in the slightest. If anything, it spurred him on." "

“Maggie,” Michael said my name, savoring every syllable, “Let me take you out to

dinner.”" "

“Alright.”"

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"

He grasped my hand a little tighter and pulled me out from underneath the awning. The

rain had stopped and the moon shone clearly."

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Contributors’ Page !

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Clayre Benzadon is a sophomore at Brandeis University, majoring in Psychology and Creative Writing."

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Mollie Chandler is a student at Suffolk University. In the fall, she will continue her study of poetry in Lesley University's MFA program. Her work can be found in the latest issue of The Critical Pass Review and will be appearing the August issue of Sediments Literary Arts Magazine."

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Jack Christensen is an undergraduate student at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where he is pursuing a combined degree in English and environmental studies. A writer of poems and essays, his work has previously appeared in The Quaker literary journal."

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Angel Eduardo is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Hunter College. Angel has been published in Label Me Latino, Women's Entertainment Today, NJCU's PATHS literary journal, and various issues of Instigatorzine. More of his work can be found on his website, angeleduardo.net."

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Kelsey Grimmer is a senior at Merrimack College and is originally from southern Connecticut."

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Laura Michaels is in her senior year at Mount Holyoke College. While she plans to go into marketing/PR, she wants to spend her free time writing a screenplay."

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Jocelyn Mosman is a junior at Mount Holyoke College, studying both English and Politics. She has been published in a number of anthologies and literary magazines, along with performing in multiple open mics and poetry slams. She is interested in pursuing a career in international human rights law, and will be studying in England in the fall."

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Elise Ozarowski is a senior at Colby College studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She has a strong passion for the written word and hopes to explore this passion with a graduate program for a Master of Fine Arts."

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Jessica Ramer is a student at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. She has taught algebra at both the high school and community college level."

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Luke Rollins is a veteran of the War in Afghanistan. He studies creative writing and linguistics in the CUNY Baccalaureate program and lives in Queens, N.Y."

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Sarah Rush is a graduating senior at Brandeis University, studying English and Philosophy. Two of her poems and one short story have been featured in Laurel Moon, a student-run literary magazine on campus."

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Savannah Sevenzo is an exchange student from the UK, currently studying at Mount Holyoke College. She studies English and Philosophy. "

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Sarah Strickland is an MFA student at Adelphi University on Long Island. Her fiction has previously appeared in ink&coda. She is a member of AWP."

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Bob Sykora is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the poetry editor for Breakwater Review. His recent work can be found in Devilfish Review and The Monarch Review. He can be found at bobsykora.tumblr.com."

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Kayleigh Turgeon is a graduating senior at University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is a recipient of the Jack Kerouac Memorial Scholarship for creative writing, and she has had several works published in the campus literary magazine, The Offering."

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Ernest Williamson III has published poetry and visual art in over 500 national and international online and print journals. Dr. Williamson is an Assistant Professor of English at Allen University. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English/Creative Writing/Literature from the University of Memphis and a PhD in Higher Education Leadership from Seton Hall University."

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The Back of the Image!

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In the dirty light, the books" That once we flipped through" Are doubled in the window." It’s dark outside, "

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And where you really stood," I couldn’t tell. If you had gone" Or stayed behind me, I couldn’t " Make it out."

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What is on the back of a reflection?" I am idly constructing" Some mirror-faced monster" That takes on your colors."

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The solution would have been" To break the glass. I could be" Sure of what was real, looking out" A paneless window,"

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But the cashier is watching me," Not the enforcer, just someone else," With other interests. Sanity means living in" Uncertainty. I wonder."

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Searching through the poetry stacks" This is where our dusty monster dwells," and he stays as you no longer" Turn my pages."

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Meanwhile, the metaphor—a little too direct—" Goes walking toward the windows" Asking where. And what is on the back" Of the reflection?"

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He is not my pet. Like books," They do not come when they are called," And this metaphor is scratching" At the glass,"

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! — Mollie Chandler" !

And your reflection is retreating." Back into the stacks or out" Into the evening. I cannot say." I cannot even guess." !48

Profile for The Merrimack Review

The Merrimack Review - Spring 2015 - Issue 3  

A literary and art magazine dedicated to providing a unique space for undergraduate and graduate students to publish their work. This is the...

The Merrimack Review - Spring 2015 - Issue 3  

A literary and art magazine dedicated to providing a unique space for undergraduate and graduate students to publish their work. This is the...

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