Editorial Staff Managing Editors: Jacques Denault & Catherine Tenore-Nortrup Editors: Lauren Bertoni Emma Leaden Rachel MacKelcan Advisor: Andrea Cohen
The Merrimack Review is a student-run literary 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 the Writers House atMerrimack College: www.merrimack.edu/academics/the-writers-house.
www.Merrimackreview.com Merrimackreview@gmail.com @merrimackreview
A special thanks to Andre Dubus III for his time and a wonderful interview. Front Cover:“Tracers” by Lexia Ortiz-Melo Back Cover: “Untitled” by Jenna Rutkey
Table of Contents 3| Interview with Andre Dubus III 6| When the Green Man Comes …………………………………………………….. Samantha Yarto 7| ten-cent store …………………………………………………………………… Emily Hillebrand 8| Poem Beginning With………………………………………………………………... Nat Froiland 10| New Mexico ………………………………………………………………….. Nickolas Whitmore 11| American Typewriter ……………………………………………………….... Kathleen Stoughton 12| Ruined……………………………………………………………………………….. Scott Laudati 14| BLUE MOON ……………………………………………………………… Mary Ann McSweeny 16| Resurrection ……………………………………………………………………. Emily Hillebrand 17| he never was one for conversation …………………………………………………. Scott Laudati 19| For Rose ……………………………………………………………………….. Nicholas Yingling 20| The Gardener …………………………………………………………………….. Samantha Yarto 21| Youth ………………………………………………………………………………... Daniel Rader 22| Shipwreck ………………………………………………………………... Charlene Ashley Taylor 23| Contributors’ Notes
Interview with Andre Dubus III Conducted by Jacques Denault and Catherine Tenore-Nortrup Interview transcribed from digital recording and edited for clarity (Interview questions written in bold.)
Violence played a large role in your youth, and in Townie on page 192 you write, “I began to meditate. I skimmed a book on it at the campus bookstore… I’d sit cross legged on the floor in my room with the lights off and my eyes closed. I’d concentrate on my breathing…” Looking back on it now, what do you see that changed in your mind to cause the switch to peace? You know a big part of it, and hopefully this was in the book, really was creative writing, which kind of surprised me when I wrote it. I have the belief that most of us, unless there's some horrific trauma that we’re dealing with, don’t have repressed memories. Most of us pretty much know what’s going on and happening in our lives, but just because we know what happened doesn’t mean that we know what actually happened, right? The word to “remember”, if you actually take it apart, actually means, well do you know what the opposite of remember is? Forget? You see that’s logical and what we always say, but it is actually “dismember”. Remember means to put the pieces back together again. Isn’t that beautiful? So when I was putting my pieces back together, I got into that scene where I’m boxing as a way to control my street violence and one night something made me sit down and get a piece of paper and pencil and write a scene. Even that night, it was as if I could feel steam coming out of a valve in me, and I found another way to express myself. Almost immediately the desire to keep fighting started to die down because I had found another way to express my hurt, my rage, and my confusion. Years later I read a line from Hemingway. He said that “The job of a writer is not to judge, but to seek to understand,” and I found out very quickly, every morning as I tried to slip into the private skin of another human being and character, it made me start to see the world in greys. I didn’t look at people in black and white anymore. I didn’t see him as a villain or her as a good guy, everyone became grey. There’s a great line from Tom Waits in a song called “Heart Attack in Prime”, “there is no devil, there’s just God when he’s drunk”, and I love that because I think we’re all born full of light and we mess it up. So it was writing. You know it sounds so reductive to me, but it’s true. It was the daily act of trying to be other people through my pencil that opened me up to a more compassionate way to be. Frankly, I think I was always that kid, but he got beaten down and I hid behind a masculine facade, and then I found it again. It was writing, and it has continued to be writing. I haven't punched anyone in twenty-nine years, and the last one was a guy who was beating up his wife in the street in Newburyport. You often stuck up for those who were being picked on. Was fear a factor in what made you who you are? You know it’s fear and it’s also, I hope this is true and hopefully you’ve gotten this from reading, I hate violence. I was intimate as a victim of violence and then I became a victimizer of victimizers, and the only reason was that I had to prove to myself that I was no longer a physical coward. I would force myself to be in situations where I’d be in a fight, but I hate cruelty, I hate injustice, I hate bullies, I hate the powerful lording over the powerless. I especially hate violence against women by men, and so I would go to places where it was easy to find that bad behavior, because the only way I could morally justify punching someone in the face and kicking him in the head is if he had just done that to his girlfriend \or wife or someone smaller. But you’re right, about the fear, I was always terrified. I was 3
always afraid, there was always high adrenaline that I could get killed, and then I got really good at it. I got good at stepping into that fear, and the irony is that I haven't been a fighter in years, but I think fighting taught me something that’s helped me as a writer, which is to step into the unknown. When you’re squaring off with some stranger in an alley or the sidewalk or some bar or what-have-you, it could go south terribly fast for you. It takes a lot of nerve to step into that, and it takes nerve to step into the blank page with your pencil or your keyboard. It really does. You don’t know what you're going to find, every time I write about that membrane. Getting in someone's personal space is something you violate instantly in a fight, but I think it’s also something you have to violate when you’re writing. You’ve got to step into the private space of your characters. There’s a bridge between the two that I would have never thought about. Taking a shift away from Townie, how do you feel, as a writer, about the notion that all of a person’s characters are aspects of themselves? Do you believe that? I think that’s absolutely true, especially if you’re writing deeply and if you really are freefalling into it, which is what I try to teach in my own classes. I try to ask people not to outline and instead to just freefall into your subconscious and your imagination with words to see what you find. When you write that way it’s terrifying, but it can be quite exalting and beautiful. It’s a descent into the dream world, I think all of this is a descent into the dream world, even in the dream world of memory. The House of Sand and Fog was on a list of Oprah’s picks. It was lovely and I was on her TV show two or three times, and she said that she hated that woman Kathy. I think I said, “Well that’s because you’re a strong woman and she’s not. She’s an addict and she’s not as strong as you are,” and then she said, “Well, where did you come up with her?” and I said that it’s because she’s me. She said: ‘“What, are you an addict?” I don’t think so, but she’s me, I see parts of me in her and I see parts of me in this colonel. I've never been a military man, I’m never going to be an Iranian, but there are parts of his tyrannical discipline, his rigid nature, that’s me. There’s part of Kathy’s addicted, dependant nature that’s me. There’s part of the other character in the book, Lester, that for those of you who who don’t know, is a guy who’s not sure of his power and authenticity who carries a gun, and I know I’m in there somewhere. You know it’s interesting, my father was a great writer, and we were talking about another writer's book not long before my Dad died suddenly, and he said “Well, I like that guy’s sentences, I just don’t know if I like his soul.” And it was a novel, and that underscores my belief that when you write creatively you can run but you can’t hide, you reveal yourself. You can learn a lot about yourself. I remember my first book as a collection of stories that came out in 1989 and one of the reviews said something like, ‘these characters who are vulnerable to drink and violence and sexual desire,” and I thought, well that’s me, I’m vulnerable to all three of those. It’s us, and not everyone is up for that.
“Untitled” by Jenna Rutkey
When the Green Man Comes When the green man comes, crisp and paper thin, like a slice of skin left to dry in the day’s cracking heat, his brittle white hands will caress each of your kids, giving them ponies, and always offering himself to babysit. He is known to boast, never out loud, but in the language of chrome and glitter dust on your sweating eyelid. At first glance, his glistening skin will captivate you, a delusion in the night all too fantastical, and all too vile. If you open your eyes a little too wide, then with a few swift stitches he weaves them shut, this time for good. Take me, he cries out Abandon all hope and wake up to an empty boat, alone on the endless sea. ––Samantha Yarto
ten-cent store they’re selling words by the bushel down at the ten-cent store. my mother sends me with a dollar and a preemptive reprimand – I don’t want any brought back with their edges broken or their meaning frayed. close your eyes and run your fingers around each whorl, be certain of the strength in the loop the letters, fit the sounds into your mouth like a kiss or a bite – before handing the note over. when I arrive the bouquets are arranged in the display like stories all spelled out. I watched her spin a fable in our sauce pot this Sunday, a hundred years of spice and metal melting into the tone of speech at the dinner table. its dark wood expanded into a Mod-Podge map of forested fairytales, wherein the women speak and the witches aren’t always warty, and a cottontail can be as deathly as a crow. she needs the words to construct the revolution sizzling on the stove, words by the bushel sowing what we won’t yet wish aloud. ––Emily Hillebrand
Poem Beginning With my brothers and I the dog a puppy then maybe ten in dog years equaling my human decade a football pocked with bite marks passed between us until laughing at her eager failure to distinguish feint from throw one of us loses focus drops the ball beginning her favorite part of the game chase tug-of-war devolving into tackle smother wrench ball from jaw ending when she returns the favor gently nips a forearm is told with a sternness made invisible by elevated pre-teen tenor that she’s a bad dog no bad dog no biting and then the ball is recovered the game begins anew she tore her ACL around this time and we’ll never know if we caused it she’s fourteen now and prefers a quiet afternoon bone nestled under her paw following the sun from window to window first to lay claim to any light that enters still she vacuums fresh snow through her snout or bounds for the car hoping enthusiasm might swing the door open these flashbacks are becoming more rare and witnessing a slow decline feels premature perhaps because our concept of time is rooted in our own lifespans so the fourteenth year feels like an inappropriate place to begin an ending ––Nat Froiland
“Tracers 3” by Lexia Ortiz-Melo
New Mexico On an evening such as this, it is easy to forget the hum of automobiles cutting swaths of orange across the interstate, chasing invisible ghosts on AM radio stations they move with phantasmagoric fluidity until they burn out, lost amongst the ramble of the foothills. â€“â€“Nickolas Whitmore
American Typewriter “Do you love me?” I don’t look up as I say it. My head is bowed, and my eyes sweep the ground. “Of course.” He does not look at me either; I watch him from the very corner of my eye. His long-fingered hands are busy whispering to his typewriter, and as the seconds click away on our old grandfather clock, the sound is overpowered by the w hoooossh DING of another paper complete. I hate that chunky typewriter. I loathe it. The memories of my time with him are riddled with bullet holes of sound. Click. Clack. Whoosh. DING. *************** “Hello.” It was the first word he ever said to me, and in the debauchery of our undergraduate campus, that single word held more intelligence than the Preamble to the Constitution. “I’m a writer,” he later exclaimed, and the puzzle pieces began to come together in my head. I thought the typewriter quirky, like he was a throwback to a time of beatniks and turtlenecks and dusty roads. I would fall asleep in the stiflingly mustiness of our first apartment to the rhythm of ceiling fans and Click. Clack. Whoosh. DING. *************** We had our first fight the summer of ‘14. “Don’t let all the little things pile up,” the self-help books say, but when a relationship consists of the non-confrontational and unobservant, one tends to tell the self-help books to go to hell. At the end, when the war fire had burnt itself down to embers, we sat on opposite sides of the room, veils of disillusionment fluttering at our feet. I watched out the window the activity of a humid Chicago night, and the hair at my neck fluttered as if moved by a fleeting caress. But when I turned around, I saw only his back and the way his hair faintly glowed in the false light of our thrift-buy desk lamp. Click. Clack. Whoosh. Ding. *************** My suitcases are all packed; I’m going to miss the view. Lake Michigan displays herself best from the twentieth story apartment. I wrote him a letter, though I swore to myself I wouldn’t. It’s understood: he’s always been the writer. “‘Do you love me?’ ‘Of course,’” the letter begins. “‘Of course.’ And you call yourself a writer, sir.” Dropping the envelope to lay propped up against the bowl where he throws his keys, I grab suitcase handles and my jacket. I can’t help but take one last look at the object placed in its position of glory on a desk in the middle of our living room. Its keys are worn down, the letters gone and the black knobs shiny. In the silence of an empty apartment at noon it looks small, shabby. I turn away. Click: the door shuts on my way out. Clack: my heels on the wooden floors. Whoosh: the sound of my suitcase swaying gently in my hand. I press my hand against the elevator button and wait. Ding. ––Kathleen Stoughton
Ruined it was one of a kind i thought back then, and it happened just in time. i didn’t turn out like the other’s who missed out on a young love and spend their 20’s obsessed with finding it. i knew it existed and i knew i didn’t want any part of it you did it to me and i didn’t understand until years later how much i owed you for this lesson we took long walks at night around our town looking in windows at wagging dogs and lizards under lamps and i knew that those lizards dreamt of more heat and in those long winter nights so did i i dreamt of your heat under clothes under red hair and pink skin under blankets i felt so trapped with all that heat but i never took them off. it was your heat. i wanted it to suffocate me and one morning we both woke to a song bird
sitting on your father’s flag pole. “it’s looking for a lover”, you said. and i knew i’d found mine so i said that. i said i love you. and you weren’t as sure as me, but you said it anyway. we stopped those nighttime walks when we became a couple. we caught up on every season of every show. and at night i didn’t sleep quite so close because i had you now, i didn’t need to suffocate anymore and one night when your parents were gone we sat on your roof and smoked our last joint. it just wasn’t fun anymore. we’d taken the dream and made it ordinary. “we had it all”, you said, “and the we had to ruin it by falling in love”. we had it all and we made one mistake. we could’ve lived in a time suspended. the weightless. the warmth. but then we fell in love and time started moving again ––Scott Laudati
“Artichoke” by Alexia Ortiz-Melo
The surprise of it— This year To see a washed-gold full moon In the black shadow box sky Just where the blue moon shone its rare light Last year And the man in the moon Eyes bruised, mouth round and dismayed Last year Because you were dying This year Because you are gone— Brought bemused recognition Of time’s habit of melding Past into present into future, all one Surely that is you Still bright with delighted laughter Whether I can hear you or not ––Mary Ann McSweeny
“Untitled” by Jenna Rutkey
resurrection a year ago I laid my parent’s marriage to rest. now I am back at the cemetery digging into their dirt with bare hands, watching black creep under the nail. the dark won’t hide in my eyes: its limbs ghost over my body, calling my name from six feet under, buried dreams fighting to break ground. so I capitulate, and when I block the moon in its glass frame, I can hear him saying nothing exists in the dark that isn’t there in the light. shadows begin to lurk against the walls of my bedroom like wisps of memory I might have made up, grey mourning clouds fading in and out of recycled light. sleep won’t come and the pain is stale, exposing the graveyard for what it really holds: the bones of who they used to be, no more tangible than night. ––Emily Hillebrand
he never was one for conversation he was straight edge until twenty one and six months later they found him in the backseat od’d for the second time my best friend but he wouldn’t die even though they seem to so easily now. he tried. he kept his demons close and just as his eyes started to cut out the light they would step in. no retreat for my friend. they wanted just enough of him alive to keep feeding it was his birthday i remember that we got him to drink. twenty one years and we undid it with a bottle of johnny double black. i was always one of those who could do the line, smoke the pack, and then wake up with nothing in my head telling me- just one more. but i never had any trouble with living, and i think that’s more rare than a kid twenty one who’s never touched booze and six months later i was on line with a couple dozen black mothers and their kids, waiting to see those that hadn’t done
any worse than anyone else, but in a country that makes everyone a criminal we were waiting to see the ones who got caught the guards pushed mothers, called little kids “animals” right to their mother’s faces, and when they got to methe only white kid in line, everyone just looked confused. i was a part of their world now and neither team wanted me my friend had followed the junkie script. he robbed his brother’s kids and pawned all of their toys. and so dope sick with nowhere to find help he went right to the corner, he went right for the needle i don’t know what his mother’s face looked like when she found him full of puke or when she sent him to jail but i remember my mother’s face the first time the world made me cry, when she realized 17
she couldn’t save me anymore. it probably looked something like that it was my turn eventually and i got to see my friend. he was a man now, heavy from the weights and the bologna sandwiches and blue milk. and so pale the phones were broken so we had to bend over and talk through a little slit in the glass. i couldn’t really hear him but his skin was so pale and he said more than anything, his loss of respect and freedom, they took the sun from him.
he said that’s what life needs and even if he couldn’t change who he’d been at least under the sun he could grow and maybe someday bloom i walked out of prison and touched every tree and thought about the signs and the bad moons and my friend who went to sleep and came back under the same fluorescent lights. the squirrels the car horns the mail man. it was like staring at a diseased mirage. but they were free to be nothing so i stared and i was grateful ––Scott Laudati
“Untitled” by Mariah Schlueter
For Rose Somewhere, a boy has lost the arbor In a fox’s urn a weave of chicory blooms For Rose The Christs have wilted The moon on a forks tine For Rose
The Gardener Entering into the farmhouse of my mind I hide behind hibiscus and risk being caught. They are not supposed to grow here. I fear for the woman who bathes in geranium. In time with morning’s sweet rooster she moves her gloves into the ground and digs until she catches the glimpse of my entrance, and I recoil backward, afraid to be seen beyond hydrangea, bougainvillea. My sweat, a viscous honey, drips down, unnoticed for now. Panic swims in my iris, but still she insists on plunging her faith into mud, while she prays on High that she might in the ground still build life. ––Samantha Yarto
Youth The barrier between us knows no bounds Our exchange adolescent, yet sublime Still we both create suspicious sounds Two worlds apart, becoming entwined You speak of a perilous realm of dread Yet gawk at the prospect of salvation Still you weep, numerous insanities fed By your peoples’ lament and frustration Do not fret my friend, Do not fear the truth For all that blinds you is the bliss of youth ––Daniel Rader
shipwreck the harpy trembles with a distant rhythm pulsing and scratching at the curl of my ear she sheds her skin to unravel the scales revealing muscle and bone wound with salt she breathes into the nape of my neck teeth tilling the weave of tiny hairs on end I close my eyes to the siren as she whisks heat between wings tongue as obelisk her chassis morphs to birth spikes like snapdragon petals nectar creeps from a curved lip down my chin to pool in my palm mouth tethers plexus to belly, hip to thigh body as beacon I grip the gulf of her clutching flesh to force us into the shore â€“â€“Charlene Ashley Taylor
Contributors’ Notes Nat Froiland is an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he has yet to declare a major, but is leaning toward English, with a focus on Creative Writing. This would be his first publication. Emily Hillebrand is a junior majoring in Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College. She has been published in two of the college's literary magazines, Gauge and Black Swan, and is a poetry editor for the online literary magazine Persephone’s Daughters. Her favorite poet is Sharon Olds. Scott Laudati studies journalism at Ramapo College. He is the author of Hawaiian Shirts In The Electric Chair (Kuboa Press). Mary Ann McSweeny is an MFA student at Fairfield University. She is the co-author of several lectionary-based meditation books published by Liguori Publications. Lexia Ortiz-Melo is currently attending Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA, aiming towards a BFA with a concentration in photography. She spends most of her time focusing on shooting food photography, but also works with clients doing weddings, engagements, etc. She primarily works with digital photography, but is also experienced in dark room processing. Daniel Rader is a full-time student working on earning his Bachelor's in Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati. His poetry is written with the goal of appealing to the better nature of humanity, as he believes that each and every individual is born with untapped potential for positive change.
Jenna Rutkey is a senior at Merrimack College, majoring in Communication and Media Studies. She hopes to pursue a career that combines her passion for photography and writing, as well as helping the world around her. Mariah Schlueter is currently pursuing her BA in Theatre and English at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. Her hobbies include photography and being a living statue. Kathleen Stoughton is a twenty-one-year old student at Indiana Wesleyan University and an aspiring children’s author who is looking forward to graduation and the ensuing years of exciting but pitifully paying jobs. Currently about 43% fluent in French, Kathleen loves traveling and experiencing other cultures. In her leisure time you can find her dancing, reading, or binge-watching BBC period dramas. Charlene Ashley Taylor earned a BA in English with a Minor in Linguistics from the University of Louisville. She's a former editor of The White Squirrel and mentor for the Sarabande Writing Labs. Her work has appeared in Aphelion Sci-Fi Webzine, The Bitchin' Kitsch, Limestone Journal, Coe Review, Transcendent Zero Press, The Bitter Oleander, Poplorish, The Chaffey Review, Yellow Chair Review, Spry Literary Journal, and others. She is currently a MA student in English at the University of Louisville, working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the University Writing Center and interning as a leading editor with Miracle Monocle. Nick Whitmore has rollerbladed professionally, traveled across the globe, and split most of his life between New England 23
and San Francisco. Nick currently teaches at a boarding school in New Hampshire and his work has appeared in Niteswimmer, Gravel, Blast Furnace, and Be-Mag. He is currently enrolled in the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. Samantha Yarto is a senior at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. She is majoring in Education, as well as pursuing a minor in Writing. Her passion for the versatility and complexity of the English language influences her songwriting and poetry. Nicholas Yingling currently attends the MA program in Poetry at UC Davis. He likes to write devotional poems about the violence of gods and sex.