Bread Loaf Journal, Vol VIII, Summer 2022

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ART BY BRENNA THUMMLER: I drew this piece before I knew what I was drawing. On a visit to Vermont, I accidentally stumbled upon what would later be my summer home. At the time, they were just cool yellow cabins, and I was a graphic novelist who wanted to live in a cool yellow cabin. The pencil I used for this illustration is now the pencil I use to take notes in class. The computer I used to color is now a means to engage with literature, inside the buildings that almost made me swerve off the road with awe at first sight. This place is, appropriately, my new refuge.


THE BREAD LOAF JOURNAL

VOLUME VIII | SUMMER 2022

WRITINGS FROM THE SCHOOL OF ENGLISH



2022 Bread Loaf Journal CONTENTS Foreword | MINA LEAZER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Appalachian Gap String Band | BRENNA THUMMLER. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 For My Appalachians | KAYLA HOSTETLER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 The First Year | KEELY HENDRICKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Loitering As High Schoolers Do | AHDYA ELIAS ATTEA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Oman’s Khareef | RABIAH KHALIL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Whisper | BO LEWIS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 A Pail of Stars | TYLER O’KEEFE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 The Passenger | ANGELA JONES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Westtown, PA | MARVIN J. AGUILAR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Bug Bites | CHRISTINE ARUMAINAYAGAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 The Artist | CLEO AUKLAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 thirst | MARIELLA SAAVEDRA CARQUIN-HAMICHAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 My Girlish Monster | MARA BENEWAY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 To Aspen: Chapter 19 | CULLEN MCMAHON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Moving Weekend after Robert Hayden | KURT OSTROW . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Of Nightingales | BETH ROBBINS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Marsh Meditation | MERIWETHER JOYNER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Excerpt from a Letter to Matt, half-remembered | JENNA RUSSELL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 “I Take You, I Take You In” (22 Years Without Communion, 52 Without) | KATIE PARROTT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Shelter | LAURIN WOLF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Squidgy Mom | TRISH DOUGHERTY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 When you fold laundry | CAITLIN ROBINSON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 WHY I BRING THEM | NATASHA WILLIAMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 In Praise of Nick-at-Nite | GREGORY J. CAMPEAU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 The Lost Pleiad (excerpts of a work in progress) | KELSEY HENNEGEN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 A Way Back | DANA LOTITO-JONES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 after you drive me home I invite you up for 2 bowls of alphabet soup | LILITH BLACKWELL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Morning in December: Two Months Since You’ve Left | DEIRDRE KOENEN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Home | LAUREN DAVENPORT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 To the Grill Master | DONTÉ S. TATES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Topography | SARAH SCHULZ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Mountain Affairs (Sestina) | MARISA E. TRETTEL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Afterword | RACHEL NOLI. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66



WRITINGS FROM THE SCHOOL OF ENGLISH

Foreword: One Person’s Refuge is Another’s . . . It has been a strange season of refuge at Bread Loaf. California is only just beginning as Vermont is hitting its mid-point in the midst of a COVID outbreak, and Oxford is experiencing a record-breaking heatwave which is undeniably attributed to climate change. Many of us looked forward to verdant hills of retreat and hallowed halls of exploration, but as with all things, we have been met with reverie intermingled with more grating realities. The fallout of racial equity injustice has not been checked at the door. The individual desire still manages to trump community public health. And we continue to grieve losses like Uvalde, Highland Park, and Jayland Walker while mourning the passing of a beloved provost. We are poets, playwrights, writers, and artists. When the juxtapositions of life arise, we cannot help but peek behind the curtain. We examine. We pry. We tease open the wounds that try to heal because in that, we find ourselves. The selections you see here are writers who have sought refuge; not to run away, but to gather our giftings to point a mirror back on our society. We reflect what we see. We observe and create step ladders to alternate realities. We release the anguish by creating euphoria for the minds. I am so truly proud of the collection you are about to tuck into. We asked for a vast interpretation of how we find refuge in times like this, and you responded by creating an expansive cave of solace where hearts can weep and wail, grieve, and ultimately, celebrate.

Mina Leazer, Coeditor

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Appalachian Gap String Band BRENNA THUMMLER

Sketch of a live performance in the Barn, Summer 2022

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For My Appalachians KAYLA HOSTETLER | VERMONT History and society has written you down as uneducated, simple, abusive, addicts. As hillbillies, mountain people, As destined to be barefoot and pregnant. As less than. But you are greater than. You are the sounds of folk music. Stomping and clapping that fills the holler with thunderous joy. Reverberating back and forth between the mountains. You are laughter exploding from family picnics. As hundreds of years of oral histories come to life. As Uncle Chester delivers a performance better than Broadway. A poetic story master. You are the earth and dirt. Generations of skill and love, poured into planting, growing, and sprouting new life. Self-sufficiency perfected. You are the mountains. Mothers that are unmovable. That are love and grit mixed together, producing offspring that will survive. You are the creek. Flowing and fast in speech and action. Adapting to changes that rise and recede. Knowing life if full of unexpected bends. You are mystical.

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Sharing Granny Magic, Cautionary tales, Home herbal remedies, Knowing the call of the Screech Owl. You are our ancestors. Resourceful and strong. Making a meal out of toast and coffee, Handing down and hanging out clothes, Collecting droplets in rain barrels. You are wisdom. Knowing the outside world has its priorities mixed up. Knowing that the children that abandoned the hollers and mountains, will eventually come back, to seek refuge.

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THE BREAD LOAF JOURNAL

The First Year KEELY HENDRICKS | VERMONT “What is a farm but a mute gospel?” — Ralph Waldo Emerson The old cabin had shrugged its shoulders and yielded to decay— the rotted walls bowed out and the wooden porch rolled with planks that arched their backs against the nails. The cellar had become a gapped-tooth grin of missing cedar blocks, a perfect refuge for pregnant raccoons. Here, you smiled, I stake my future. There will be no nails in our home. I love to watch your hands at work, like two small animals— at night they warm up to me, shy, soft creatures, fast to sleep in the heat of the burrow. You’re an honorable man, as careful in the act of destruction as in the act of making. Love your land and you can only make her more bountiful, even though you must burn wood to warm your hands, pluck the tobacco slug, string up the coyote, shoot the pig you watched suckle from its mother and open its warm heart. The whole world watches the way you

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sweep your scythe, and decides to love you back. The collards in the skillet, blackberry moonshine, honey from your fingertip— all these things you fed me, and the timber grew to protect. The clouds are angel wings, our pelvis bone of the rabbit. Whatever you touch bears meaning.

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THE BREAD LOAF JOURNAL

Loitering as High Schoolers Do AHDYA ELIAS ETTEA | CALIFORNIA I was genuinely—and surprisingly—bummed to have missed my high school’s ten-year reunion. Hear me out, I was starved for social interaction during the pandemic. In fact, I am proud of that decision to cancel. If only I could make responsible choices for the betterment of public health. Perhaps it’s wise that I’m single. Best to stay out of everyone’s way. But, freshly single during a pandemic, this sitting with my feelings, yes literally sitting because there is little else to do right now, has most of all, left me obliterated. Worse, I regressed into, maybe, my adolescent self. “Why am I wanting so badly to go to this freaking reunion?” I text the old high school group chat. The typing bubbles rise and fall without any actual response, but I can feel my friends rolling their eyes. “Horny, huh,” Charles responds. My old friends know me too well. I stare at my phone a while longer responding to the group thread. We share updates about our life and bat away the gravity with callus humor. Yet, there’s only so many jabs in the vein of “Hey bro, have you even left your house in a week?” until we’re seriously worried about everyone’s emotional stability. No one wants to open up because is it worth complaining? We haven’t spoken in forever and this is how we want to make our new introductions? We know we’re all in the same boat. “But, hey, you’re all my friends and you should feel open to talking.” We text a little more. Open up a little more. Someone shares, “it’s easier to talk about this stuff in person, I guess.” A suggestion goes out that we have our own reunion, maybe sometime in July when Molly, in from Seattle, will be visiting family without her wife and kids, and most likely, just like in high school times, bored and likewise starved for social interaction. It was agreed: second weekend in July. Meet at some bar none of us have ever visited, meet everyone’s–or most everyone’s–significant others, make plans for next time, and call it an early night. That’ll work well. Perfect, actually. Charles, just back from his road trip cancelled mid-way by wildfires in California; Callie, who was dragged home from New York by her father after the love of her life died by suicide; Adam, who much to his character (god love him), had never left; Patrick, who we would have Skyped in, but by some magic, managed to return stateside despite the blacklisting of flights by each and every country; and myself, now single, whose world has halted in its own way, with little else going on.

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It seemed on the day I drove to Nashville to see everyone, the mimosa flowers, which indicate midsummer, nearly gave up on life. Then, the rain came in. A three-hour drive later and wiper blades shoving back storm clouds the entire way, I made it to the first signs of Nashville. The rain made the air smell something not quite renascent, but more nostalgic. Petrichor is somewhat universal, could that be it? I couldn’t tell what that familiar feeling was, and it was even harder to tell even as the clouds started opening to reveal new buildings, interstate exits under construction, and if you know anything about Nashville, more construction in general. Before I knew it, the interstate opened its mouth wide to devour every commuter. Lost, or rather disoriented–and stuck in traffic—I opened Maps to navigate through a city I used to know by heart. Directions along a new set of roads to some sports bar. Whose idea even was this place? It didn’t matter. As I turned into the parking lot, I saw Adam, Callie, and Patrick all leaning against one of their cars. “My friends,” said my eager heart, slipping through my open smile. It was a thought I hadn’t had to think about in a long time, and a feeling of security I hadn’t felt in such a long time. The sun was now peeking through the break in the storm, but it couldn’t compare to the way my friends stood next to each other, illuminated. Once seated, we leaned onto the table, leaned heavily on our drinks, smiled heavily at each other and just exhaled. Vaccinated and without insecurity around breathing anymore we just said, “Wow.” And then, “Well, this feels strange to be at a bar together.” (Yes, yes, the pandemic. By now you, the reader, and us, the characters in the story are aware we are in a pandemic. But no, no, we mean to be together, drinking, so formally—at a sports bar). It was this unfamiliar feeling against the evening cicadas settling down while the world remained in calamity. It was this unfamiliar feeling against a once recognizable city paved over and over again. It was this unfamiliar feeling against where we were in time, or rather the last time when we all drank together: Maybe freshman year of college? Maybe high school? By “wow,” we mean feeling the sense of distance finally recognized on an emotional level. We try our best not to utter a defeated sounding “remember the old times?” Of which, none of us want to say. None of us want to turn into a generation that reminisces. We continued to catch up, talking about where we are living now, how difficult it was getting here or there, quitting and finding work, or even new movies out. Our conversation loitered like high schoolers, as if out in the parking lot again leaning against cars, looking like trouble in a suburban town after the streetlights went on, not a care about time.

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Speaking of time, the bill had been paid. We were welcome to leave at any point. This is a sports bar, remember? But, no one was moving. No one wanted to be that asshole to kick the high-schooler-in-us out. “So, guys.” Molly interrupted, drumming her hands on the table and smiling adoringly at each of us. “Ah, look. I know we all said we were busy tomorrow, but but but but.” She laughed at herself tripping over her own words. “What if we move this conversation to my parents’? Old attic hangs, anyone?” “Oh, so you hate the sports bar atmosphere? I was just easing into it. I think I rather like this thing called sport,” I teased. “Yeah, sorry guys, I haven’t paid attention to anyone all night. Hockey’s on,” Patrick chimed in, face glued to the screen. Charles wheezed in laughter, elbowing him in return. “And, some of us are stand up citizens who have work obligations in the morning,” Adam declared, leaning forward and holding his hands on his hip like some John Wayne character. But as he puffed his chest up to tower over us, he held his breath scanning the table. “Are you fucking me, Adam?” I slurred a little too bluntly, feeling only somewhat tipsy. “Listen, y’all. I think everyone should–responsibly,” Callie whipped her eyes at me. “Get in their respective cars, or hop in mine if they don’t feel okay to drive” Callie’s glare still fixed on me. “I get it! I have sinned!” I interjected followed by a burp. Callie continued, “Whatever, I think we all should drive to Molly’s. And I don’t know, just take a nap tomorrow after work if we need it.” “Ah, fuck, fine,” Adam exhaled, throwing down his hands. “Come on, let’s go!” Callie and Molly cheered. We all loaded cars and remembered the usual routine: park before the house, don’t let the headlights peer in, and don’t wake the dog. We slowly cracked the door to Molly’s attic to reveal the wall-towall carpet which still held stains from the last time we drank, and barfed up, Smirnoff Ice. Or was it zinfandel? This was the room that raised me. It was the room I spent nights in when I didn’t feel like going home for an entire summer. It was where my friends and I confided about incorrigible parents, impossible crushes, and the insurmountable insecurities, whether we really talked about them or not. This was our rendezvous spot after we slipped through liquor store registers undetected with our older siblings’ expired IDs, cruised on bikes after curfew (yes, in fact my hometown had a curfew, or so the cops told us), threw fireworks like hand grenades (months out of season), explored apparently the

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“World’s Largest Treehouse,” or spun mud trails in undeveloped cul-de-sacs in a bout of Waffle House imbibed mania. If it weren’t for this room that brought us together, and reminded us we were welcome somewhere, I do not know how we’d survive. Sure, maybe if a single adult reached out as a mentor to me, then I wouldn’t have gotten into such recklessness. I would have believed a long time ago that I, for instance, didn’t need to be single for the sake of public health. But that wasn’t the case. Besides, sometimes we didn’t do reckless things! Sometimes we hung out and did nothing. So, what did we do once we got there to Molly’s that night? Nothing, of course. Talked. I think we played a board game. Someone probably farted. Hell, I don’t know. I look at teenagers now and think the same thing, “What are they doing? Nothing?” It’s not even about differences in generational behavior. I understand now that this doing of nothing, this loitering, is like sunbathing in the safety and comfort of, hopefully, a feeling of belonging. No wonder my friends shined like sunbeams when I arrived. They are a warmth you can’t get lying out in the sun or released in capsules of Vitamin D. This meetup was everything, especially after thirty years that include multiple major declarations of war, summers of political unrest, economic depressions, domestic attacks, climatic catastrophe, late-stage capitalism, 24-hour digital communications, pandemonium—remember Y2K, those Left Below books, or those asteroids that were supposed to obliterate everyone— and, yes, a pandemic. I know every generation believes the world is going to end in their lifetime. At this rate, who knows about ours. The odds seem good. But we were born at the end of the Cold War. Where did that hope and possibility in humanity go? Right now, I am practicing what Maslow taught us about self-care, of needing to belong, of needing familiar—and hopefully positive—surroundings. I am running my tired (and probably dirty) toes across that carpet. I am opening my smile wide like a satellite catching the beams from my friends. I am most definitely not drinking Smirnoff Ice, but I will crash here tonight to enjoy the brief moment of pause during a bottomless time, where the hands and hearts of my friends are there to assure me that I belong.

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Oman’s Khareef RABIAH KHALIL | VERMONT In a tri-sidereal span the thirsty Boswellia are nursed by the engorged winds of Gujarat. Sand is shodden in marsh-rosemary slippers and adorned with shawls of sea-lavender. Rosettes of the Dhofarian jaguar spotted prowling the bewildered camel in the low and sated fog. Its hooves steeped in the sweet mud of Darjeeling.

Author’s note: Inspired by the monsoons of Oman and the beauty of Salalah

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Whisper BO LEWIS | VERMONT In the first year of the plague we built a chicken coop, dug a root cellar, and watched our son grow four inches. When we’d drunk up all the wine, Mitch consulted the homesteading book on mead. When Adam’s clothes burst at the seams, I made him culottes from the drapes, smocks from the percale bedsheets. “Is that Maria von Trapp?” my husband said, and kissed my hairline. “Is that my very own Mrs. Wilder?” It was no sacrifice, making do. It was part of the adventure. We’d left the city in the second wave, when a handful of doctors broke the gag order and confirmed everyone’s fear: the vaccine wasn’t working. The president went on claiming total victory, but the leaked photos told another story: there were the cadavers, their limbs swollen from the virus, their shoulders bearing the vaccine’s telltale crescent of scar tissue. Bodies photographed just before the soldiers trucked them off to the incinerators. By dawn the next day, we’d loaded what we could into the station wagon and split. Mitch’s parents kept a fishing shack in a holler off the Shenandoah River—“Gun country!”—where we could monk ourselves away. “It’ll be like camping,” we told Adam, “only better.” Mitch promised the running of trotlines, the chopping of firewood, the growing of vegetables—everything we hoped the book would cover. In the little town we bought a maul, a rifle, a dozen kinds of seed. For a good long while it really was as we’d described it. A summer of fishing and grilling and watching things grow. An autumn that smelled of hickory fire and venison roasts. But winter fell, and Adam’s nightmares began. A whimper that rose to screaming, to thrashing—and never the faintest memory of what he’d dreamt. At first we chalked it up to so much darkness— nights so black you wondered if the earth had slipped its orbit. Then came full moons, then spring, and no change. Now it is June. The days are long and there is much to do, but the nights leave us tired. Still, Mitch says, tired is no excuse. I rise at first light, scoop extra coffee into the percolator. Mitch paddles out to set his trotline. Adam resumes his war against leaf-eating beetles, picking tenderly through the vegetable patch like a school nurse checking scalps. We’re low on salt, propane, and hen feed, but Mitch says to hold off on supply runs. He was in town last week and overheard two locals, a few aisles over, talking about us.

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It seems our nearest neighbors—a pair of empty-nesters called McKay— have both fallen ill. No one in the area has been infected since the first wave. “Makes you wonder,” Mitch heard one of them saying, “who could of made them sick.” Mitch rounded the aisle and found them: the store’s owner and another man he’d seen before, leaning against the gun counter. They looked up. “Yeah,” the owner said, his eyes fixed on Mitch, “. . . who.” As a parent, you learn how to soothe, to turn your voice into pure velvet, even as the nerves rattle in your spine. I used my art on Mitch; and he, I’m sure, on me. All is well. An accident of awkward timing, nothing more. Just as we evolved to detect eyes in mere patterns of shadow, so we can’t help but invent hidden meaning in benign words. It is only logical. And yet. The other day Mitch ran up from the riverbank, shouting that someone had cut the trotline. When Adam came around front, we explained that it must have been a boat’s propeller. But Mitch sets the line too deep for that. “And anyway,” he later whispered to me, “look how clean it’s severed. Nothing like the dull slashing of a prop blade.” Then, yesterday, Adam found all the corn pulled out at the roots, the stalks arranged in a neat line on the grass. “Those damn deer!” Mitch said, glancing my way. He decided we needed handguns and drove into town. “No can do,” the store owner told him, one elbow on the glass display case. He claimed they were fresh out of forms. “Forms?” my husband asked. “State law,” he was told. “If I don’t file everything just so, I’m in it deep.” Mitch asked if the man really didn’t have a single copy of the paperwork, if he was really going to turn down a nice fat sale. “How about I pay cash?” he pleaded. The man clucked his tongue. “You wouldn’t want me to break the law, would you?” Today, nothing. The heat wakes us before dawn. I find the hens still sleeping in their roost. Mitch compliments my coffee, gives me a flirty pinch. I smack his hand away, smiling. It is like we’re newlyweds again—before Adam, before the plague. We take turns fawning over Adam, teaching him lessons in our haphazard way. Mitch takes a leg of venison from the deep freeze and, while trimming it into smaller cuts, explains how the ancient Greeks would disguise their sacrifices to the gods: how they would wrap the thighbones in strands of fat, keeping the meat for themselves. When it is my turn, I ask Adam if he’s in the mood for French. Nous sommes heureux, I tell him: We are happy. Tu es heureux. Papa, il est heureux. Moi, je suis très heureuse. Dusk waits. The solstice is just a few days off. We read to Adam—a chapter book with illustrations on every other page. Our hero rides into the

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long-suffering town, his armor glinting in the sun. Where has everyone gone, he asks. Why is there no one at market? A withered old man—a charcoalburner, covered with soot—scrabbles out from his hovel. It is the dragon, my lord, the dragon has laid waste our once-prosperous town. All our men of fighting age have perished in his nighttime raids. Where is this contemptible beast, our hero wants to know. Up yon mountain, says the charcoal-burner. In his lair, curled atop the riches he has plundered from us. Our hero sets off at once, climbing by hand and foot once the crags grow too steep for his courser. At last he reaches the mouth of the cave. Drawing his sword, he peers inside . . . But it is time for bed. As we kiss our son goodnight, his eyes begin to glisten. “I promise,” he says, “I swear I’ll try not to scream.” In our room, Mitch tosses his shirt over the lampshade. We swig from a bottle of mead, wincing at the tartness. We whisper, giggle, try to have sex. It is late now. The trill of katydids floods in through the windows. Mitch checks the rifle, leans it against his nightstand. I click off the lamp, and for long minutes we are completely blind. We do not sigh; we do not fluff our pillows. In the dark, we listen.

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A Pail of Stars TYLER O’KEEFE | VERMONT You said it’s dark and heavy where you are tonight, and so I went to fetch a pail of stars for you: they were too light for me to carry, but let me talk about them for you. From the perspective of a star it matters not how far you are, how dark it is, nor count of hours past. The darkest nights I’m skyward-drawn to meet a crowd of stars who skirt the edge of space— and some would call them mighty spheres of burning gas a trillion miles away— and I will call them tiny windows in the dome of outer dark. And I will tell you there is out beyond the dome of outer dark a brightness past my telling. And it is older than the world, and it is sooner than right now, and it is closer than this breath, and it is younger than this night, and brighter, too, than any eye can see in full, wherefore it winks to us through little pinholes in the hood of night.

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When summer dawns I’ll bring you rafting down the river of the sun, in tree-lined wonder wandering in flow of endless light. For now I guess it’s winter: for now I’d like to sit beside you, empty pail in one hand and your hand in the other, and watch the black-draped theater of the night in star-pocked silence drifting over head.

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The Passenger ANGELA JONES | VERMONT I never learned how to drive. As someone who grew up in the Motor City, people are always curious how that happened, but I never seem to have a reason that makes sense to them. Perhaps it was that cars weren’t something we could ever rely on. My mother drove used car lot gas guzzlers that would break down at the most inconvenient times and places. In the middle of a snow storm or in the middle of nowhere. One night we were driving home from a late night movie and broke down on the side of a busy freeway. My mom, my brother, my sister, and me, walked fox-footed along the shoulder to the nearest off ramp, hugging the concrete median dividing the road. No one dared risk a pile-up to stop and help. But I imagine make-shift prayers being tossed our way out of windows like crumpled fast food containers. The silhouetted drivers from behind the wheels hurrying, lead-footed, to get home to their own families. At one point my mom picked me up and carried me the rest of the way. Looking back from across her shoulder I watched the blinding headlights of the cars speeding towards us, and felt the cold rush of wind on my face as they passed. I never learned how to drive, but I still needed to get places. So I resigned myself to being driven there. To class, to the video store, to the Tracy Chapman concert, to the wiccan retreat in the Cazadero Hills, to my apartment after spending the night in a jail cell. The ones who drove me around, they were always capable women like my mother who carried the weight of responsibility, which I imagined was a lot heavier than my guilt. I was never the one who had to worry about whether the gas in the tank was enough to get me to work in the morning. Or about the weird sound that the engine was making even though “I just got the damn thing checked. Must be the transmission”. About what I would do if I got a flat tire because “doggonit, I never replaced that spare”. About my expired license. My expired tags. Parking meters. Parking tickets. The guy in the Buick just ahead of me who was driving “like he’s out of his mind”. So many worries. So much weight to them. I was always just the passenger. I couldn’t even call myself a co-pilot because I wouldn’t have been able to take the wheel. Maybe the navigator at best but I was never very good with directions. I could reach into the glove compartment and “hand me that map” or I could “grab my bag, it’s in the back seat”. I could even hop out and “stand in that parking spot so that nobody else gets it”. I was good at that; hopping out, grabbing things, and leaning out

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of the window to get a better look. And listening. And talking. And spending hours watching the road rush by while we both listened to the music that took us to places beyond merely our destination. When Michelle and I were driving back to her place from the restaurant, I cued up Michelle, Ma Belle on the car stereo. We sang along, pretending that we spoke French. She had introduced me to her raucous friends and we drank too much saki. I asked her if she was okay to drive. She said that she drove better when she was buzzed and I was too smitten to argue. When Paul McCartney crooned “I love you” three times, I sang it with him. Loudly and off-key. The taillights on the highway twinkled softly as she cackled. The tires skipped over the seams in the concrete and they thrummed a muted percussive sound that accompanied the quickness of my pulse. I was high. Off of Michelle, off of the saki, off of George Harrison’s guitar, and off of the warm rhythms of the highway. I let myself be driven and it felt like floating home.

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Westtown, PA MARVIN J. AGUILAR | CALIFORNIA Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene, the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it, with delight. (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) I walk outside: Swallows and robins call out to each other, the cicadas chirping endlessly the prelude to a pastoral symphony. Dry bristly grass brushes against my bare legs the late afternoon summer whispers through the trees and shrubbery a carved trail, a sign someone has been here. The sun kisses parts of my exposed body it shares its radiance with me caringly the cicadas shift their pitch more loudly. Queen Anne’s lace calls me—Touch me. I gently caress the flat tops, acknowledging each white cluster. My shadow impedes on the flora surrounding me. I return to the trail, looking, discovering raspberries, a fiery red, dissolve between my fingers, a soft pleasure waiting to be eaten. I stop. An ant jumps onto my fingers, an unwanted invitation. I guide it back to the land. Something wraps itself around my left foot. This area is consumed by weeds. The crackling calls of dried leaves on the ground. The trail has taken a sudden shift. Endless grounds of withered wheat. I am frightened. The symphony has reached a melancholic moment. I cannot bear it. My pace quickens. A large tree nearby yells for me to seek its haven of long, leafy branches the summer winds whirl beyond the shrubs a field of rolling hills.

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The land fades into the blue sky it is hypnotic. My right foot slightly rolls into the ground, I disrupt a gopher’s burrowed home. A reminder: I am a guest. I ascend a small hill. The dust below powders my legs. Clouds lure the sun away at the top awaits six cawing crows dancing around a compost heap. The leftovers, the unwanted that reek. A medley of wilted sunflowers, spoiled vegetables, split watermelons. Their lives oozing away in a stew of the last rain for days. The flies interject with their funerary music. A whiff of Death intoxicates me, repulses me. I must leave. The hill flattens. I briefly look back, a crow’s gaze follows me. I make haste. The ground pulsates louder and louder. The hill rises again. The trail disappears. On my left are fields of endless rows of golden corn hidden and protected in their vibrant green husks. The sun emerges again, it walks beside me as I descend into a pathless meadow. A trickling sensation on my arm pauses me. My finger traces a drop of perspiration, gentle, soothing motions each hair craving for a second longer. The sun’s light illuminates my skin. Patches of reminders: An elbow of ashy white Pennsylvania bitter winters a forearm with tints of cinnamon and copper from the days of Miami’s sweltering summers. Miami—some days it is lost in crevices of memory. Some days its sights and sounds resurface, celebrate and trigger: Trailer park dreams,

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Mami yelling Oye, Que Pasa! The beats of Latin America permeating through the streets: Drumming, heels tapping, laughing, and yelling, a wave of spirits move throughout my body. I close my eyes. Remember, remember, remember. The blissful glow dissipates discomfort encroaches I am frightened. Anger, sadness, fear, frustration, anxiety wrestle and scream at one another. You thought you had forgotten. Pain, oh the pain. Uncertainties, insecurities. It still seems to never go away. Life was getting better some days. Talk listen allow yourself to heal. This surge reverberates too long. Open your eyes. I am out of breath. My chest compresses. My stomach knots. A deep inhale of summer afternoon air enters my body. The sun cloaks me as I sigh calmly. The sun slowly moves away reassuring me it will return the next day. The school’s clock tower rings from afar, I am almost back. Moving through the meadow, the bees negotiating their love with the flowers. Towering red brick masonry approaches me the edges of the meadow gradually sink below a paved parking lot. The last sounds of outside, stay behind. Maybe. You will continue to process with the most scarred and burning parts who want to protect themselves. I will come back later. For now, a familiar door awaits telling me work that is ahead. Yet lingering in my thoughts, dried on my skin and clothes, the remains of an afternoon solitary walk outdoors where no one goes.

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Bug Bites CHRISTINE ARUMAINAYAGAM | VERMONT I craved the itch and the blood, not the cooling lavender lotion the smoothness of it or your hands so I reopened them each of them when you weren’t there anymore and felt like me again.

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The Artist CLEO AUKLAND | VERMONT In the hazy morning, the plane bobs and dips, small enough to be buffeted by pockets of air. The artist stands at his bedroom window, watching; the clouds are pulled wool blushing pink and gold, and the plane slips between them as it putters toward the island. The artist yawns, closes his curtains which are in dangerously close proximity to his smoldering cigarette, and turns away. They’re early. He has been called moody by many people: reporters, fellow artists, spiteful photographers, neighbors, stylists, his mother. He broods on this: moody. Capricious is a word he likes better. He’ll sit and look out of the window with a burnt out cigarette dangling from his lips, feet in worn slippers, his hair unkempt. He’ll squint in brilliant blue sunlight, ponder depths of night skies. All on purpose. All with a very specific aura, of course, but also because it’s comfortable and what he likes to do. None of them understood why he wanted to go to the island in the first place, so he spent a lot of time squinting at them through his sheen of hair, shuffling. It gets very cold in the winter, they said. You’ll be cut off from the mainland a lot. You know you and your isolation drama, his mother had told him, rattling her bracelets. His apartment is one of twelve on Main Street in the village, and he lives on the top floor in a building which houses an ice cream shop on the street level. From his window, he can see the harbor, cupped in an inlet and pocked with lobster boats. Sometimes he wakes up early enough to watch the fishermen motor to their steers, start engines, yell greetings over the wake. They follow one another out of the harbor and the water froths for minutes after as though a myriad of angry monsters has been awakened. Or so the artist would like to think. He doesn’t understand their hardiness, the fishermans’. He can’t stand the cold that they know in their bones, mapped like constellations into their genes while he feels like a child when he layers sweaters and long underwear and scarves and vests and cashmere and things that seem too fancy, superfluous and insulting to the rudimentary port. You are lavish, the artist tells himself, sweeping one arm of the scarf over his shoulder and staring at the water with petulence. His cheeks redden in ugly patches and his hands crack, and he is careful to think that he should not become bitter. He has chosen this, after all. Capricious. Moody.

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He’d come to visit for the first time during the summer, not a surprise, then, that he’d fallen in love while the ocean wasn’t choked with craggy blocks of ice, when lilting trees sang sweet words to him and he liked leaves falling on his upturned face. He liked the quiet dirt roads, the wildflowers which he cut and arranged into vases, Queen Anne’s Lace, lupins; the sound of the sea. He liked thinking of the town across from his island as “the city” though its population hovered around 7,000 and all but shut down during the winter too, save for bars and the ferry terminal and the public school and library. He liked the people on the island, kids who jumped, shrieking, into the quarry, the kind parents that gardened, the bearded men. But it was the coast. Those jagged outcrops of land, tree, stone, water, and he spent hours studying the pines giving way to the curve of sandstone to the ocean, slimed with algae and seaweed before it met the saltwater. It looked like the pines were lopped mid-sentence, their secrets vulnerable and close to the edge, in danger of spilling into the water and the artist wanted to press them back into the lines of sentinel firs, into pine beds and mossy boulders. He painted stretches of Maine coastline hundreds of times, sometimes reminding himself of Marsden Hartley with bold, bordered shapes, sometimes sketching, sometimes using the lightest of watercolors. He set up canvases on the most precarious of rocks, fitting the legs of his easel into grooves and ruts in the boulders. He’d balance palettes on the crook of his arm and worry at the shape of roots, at the serpentine curve of seaweed studded with pearly pockets but was careful to not spill any paint on the rocks. And then, when that siren summer grew frost in the evenings and the landscape he’d studied gathered thin layers of ice and snow, he floundered. He was sullen, irate with himself that he’d been fooled by the seasons. His mother had crowed, told him she knew he wouldn’t do so well outside of that sticky Floridian town, and he’d wonder why the snow, gentle snow floating in unhurried twisting winds, pausing outside his window, made him so wrathful. He knew about the seasons, obviously. He wasn’t a dolt. He’d known that his new residence would put him in drastic changes in temperature and a departure from the stagnant palms which spattered his first successful paintings, but it was an irksome surprise how much it angered him. He felt silly at first, journeying to the water’s edge to make sense of the seascape shrouded in white, feeling lost at the ocean which, when it hadn’t frozen overnight, lapped at the edge of snow-covered stones and a wintery forest. He’d pause in the moment, couldn’t figure out where to go next. How strange to be lost in a landscape he knew so well.

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It reminded him of a moment, years ago in the era when the artist’s head only just reached the top of the bathroom sink and ate pickle and mayonnaise sandwiches for most meals, a thing that happened when he walked in the kitchen on a Tuesday. The woman, a mother, his mother, had just paused in movement, and the artist saw; he saw disturbances in the atoms hovering by her elbow, reverberating off the sink, off her bony hands, off of the broken plate, and the artist wondered whether she’d thrown the plate on purpose. The air settled around her and her hair was shoulder length, dark brown. He read the uncertainty, the rash action, her almost imperceptible guilt, and it was the most vulnerable he’d ever seen her. She looked so lost. The artist wondered how it was possible to get lost standing still. He thought about forests in his mother’s mind, her thoughts winding through boughs and over roots, around trunks and suddenly pausing, uncertain. He wondered if anyone would answer if he knocked on the door in her head, whether he’d pause in the doorway, vulnerable in waiting, whether she’d recognize him. He does like the seasons though, he has decided. They break up the monotony of waking each morning to a bright blue sky, plastic happy, though occasionally steely and steaming as though left by some rumbling piece of machinery. He finds that he is able to structure his mind, divides it into quadrants and habits necessitated by each season. Summer: garden, dry. Fall: boots, leaves. Winter: more clothing, inside. Spring: squinting, planting. How good to divide the brain in such mechanical ways, in large sweeps which change without our go-ahead so that we are rushed along with them. It’s summer: garden, dry. And summer, this summer, the one when they are here. For a wild moment he thinks of the plane crashing, nosediving into the sea and thinks it’d be a shame to bother the barnacles and sturgeons and harbor seals. They never asked for anything as unpleasant as his sister and brother in law. Or, or, his mother. There’s a paper bird flying outside his window. He looks closer at the kite which swoops and wings over town, a bald eagle, perhaps, though it’s brown, but the only eagle he knows is the bald one. He sees the little family below, the ostensible mother and father flying the kite to the delight of their child, who leaps. Quickly, he thinks sourly, how quickly his island has turned to a pack of cards.

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thirst MARIELLA SAAVEDRA CARQUIN-HAMICHAND | OXFORD what happened when the healthiest woman in the world died? I see her chewing her tongue swirling catching the grease from the octopus and white sauce taking a swig of water or sauvignon blanc and exhaling/ hard ahhhhhhh how that sound frustrated made me lean away/ embarrassment when I close my eyes now she lies with her wig maladjusted to the left the clothes we picked out the baby pink bra and matching undies the professorial blazer, blue and her dress, a mess of purple flowers that my dad called youthful she lies her mouth covered in rouge shut what I would give to hear her exhale once more one ahhhhhhh after a swig for her hand to raise towards the sky salud for her tongue to moisten at the refreshment to come her eyes won’t open that’s for sure I don’t need that just the sound of how thirsty/how quenched she became

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My Girlish Monster Mara Beneway | Vermont

mother of monster girl has a broken leg. broken mother. monster girl’s brother puts his head through a wall. all he wants is a snack. father of monster girl is. make believe. dreamfather. brother asks to see my girlish underwear. I show him. worn cotton. cartoons all over. girlish monsters. we paint our tongues with nail polish. share a bed. molest frogs. torture them until they bloat into small planets. we think them dead. only dream dead. we spread open barbie’s plastic legs. spread open. play dreamhouse. play dream girls. play dreamtime. push barbie up to barbie. me and monster girl make believe. dream makers. girlish monsters. we eat blue eyeshadow. we unblink. we watch a mother hamster eat her pink-skinned babies. baby pink meal. mother monster is a hungry mother. we sleep in broken beds. hide in closets. night mare each other. my monster girl holds open my eyelids. girlish fingers. won’t let me miss a thing. girl monster makes me wade the sewer which tunnels under our street. underneath monster 28 | VOLUME VIII


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girl’s shirt there’s a raw back. she shows me pink skin like baby hamster. mother hunger makes monster girl. she won’t leave my head even though I asked nicely. she is only a monster because her mother. her brother. her make believe. monsters are only monsters because we make them so. I said goodbye to my childhood bedroom. monster girl followed me out the door.

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To Aspen: Chapter 19 CULLEN MCMAHON | VERMONT The urge to leave struck him one day in the bathroom on the forty-eighth floor of a Midtown office tower that is the headquarters of Kirkhoff Partners, LLP. Kirkhoff handled some of the world’s most complex merger transactions and this, the present deal Niles was working on, was the largest transaction of its kind. The merger, once consummated, would earn Niles’s bank a fee not less than four hundred and twenty-five million dollars. The fee owed its size to unusual terms, terms Niles negotiated, and which included preferred shares that massively ballooned the final payout. He’d been in this bathroom often during the last six months because he’d mostly lived in this building during the last six months. Work was relentless, and he went home strictly to sleep, or to change before or after a flight; had his house been further from the airport he might have never gone home. And so the bathroom at Kirkhoff became a refuge, like an airport lounge or the men’s grille at X-wich Lawn & Racquet. In the circles in which Niles moved, the space itself was unremarkable—large, quiet, clean, with accents in expensive woods and stones—but for one slightly discordant detail: it contained a library. Why put a library in a bathroom? On first seeing it—the custom shelving built into the walls opposite the latrines—Niles marveled at the idealism and whimsy of it all. A library in the bathroom of a law firm! What lawyer (or banker) had time to read? The best you could hope for was a Bloomberg article while taking a shit. The germaphobe in him suspected there was something deeply unsanitary about the whole arrangement. And the cynical side of him questioned the motive for such an expense, which seemed strategically akin to in-house “amenities” his own bank offered its employees: the espresso bar, the yoga studio, the gym, the showers, all of which drove productivity which drove profits, making them not really amenities but rather investments. The collection was a hodge-podge of paperback thrillers (Turow and Grisham), popular histories, and old copies of the Harvard Law Journal and the Yale Law Review, back issues of the latter uniformly as pristine as the day they were printed. There was decent turnover, though, and occasionally a new title would pique his interest. He took home a book on crypto currency, another on fly fishing. Two weeks before the deal was to be announced publicly, he entered

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the bathroom feeling unwell. Perhaps it was something he ate? He snatched a book at random and brought it with him into the stall, sat and evacuated violently into the bowl. He cleaned himself and flushed and then, conscious of how unsanitary the library was, nevertheless lowered the toilet lid for a seat and picked up the book. It was Emerson’s Essential Writings. Very little of what happened to Niles in the moments, hours, and days that followed was explicable to himself or to other people, including his wife or the senior bankers at Goldman. Something had tripped, like a fuse, or perhaps broken, like a gear. Metaphor wasn’t really useful, especially to bankers. “I just need some time,” he told them. “I’m still figuring this all out,” he told Charlene. “Figuring what out?” “Everything. All of it.” “Is this a midlife crisis? Jesus, Niles, are you having a breakdown?” “No,” he said. He was sure of that. This wasn’t a crisis. But he did feel some urgency, especially about the money. The houses and the art and the cars were physical and so harder to deal with, but the money—that was simple. By Thursday of the following week he’d resigned, and by Friday he’d made the necessary liquidations and withdrawals (the accounts had long been in his own name, no co-signatures required), so that on Saturday morning, at approximately three-thirty, everything was ready. He lowered the duffel bags and the shredded newspaper and the kindling into the in-ground hot tub and soaked it all with kerosene. The tub was ceramic and could handle the heat. Or it couldn’t, which would be a bonus—one less possession. He dropped the match. As he watched the fire grow, he remembered something his father once told him. They were standing at one of those machines that, for a quarter, will stretch your penny and stamp it with Big Ben or Mozart or the Statue of Liberty. Niles wanted a quarter and his father wouldn’t give it to him. “These things should be illegal,” he said. “Destroying money. I can’t think of anything stupider, Niles.” Standing above the hot tub, Niles didn’t smile at the irony of the memory. It brought him no pleasure to burn $19,843,325 in cash, only relief. He was setting himself free. And Charlene, and the kids. He was setting them all free.

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Moving Weekend After Robert Hayden KURT OSTROW | OXFORD My father drove the U-Haul up I-95 and in the wet-whistled heat, legs worn out from chemotherapy, lifted and loaded boxes of my mostly worthless stuff. It was his birthday. Sunday morning I woke up achy, congested with a neon mucus. He brought me cold medicine and begged me to stay—to leave the work to him, like so many dishes in the sink or my unmade bed, but too embarrassed by this regression, I made the drive. After we unloaded all my books and ratty furniture, I passed out on the couch. My father mowed the lawn. Pal, he said, don’t get old. Then I gave him a houseplant. It sits in the kitchen window.

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Of Nightingales BETH ROBBINS | OXFORD Sappho writes that the nightingale is sweet-voiced. The boy hears the song and when he is close to the end of his life and is no longer a boy he allows the song of the bird to fill him and take him out of his sorrow and on a journey that transcends his pain and despair. Shelley says the poet sings in solitude. Like a nightingale. A small bird singing into the night. Its song restless. Compelling. Surprisingly loud for such a small creature. Joyful and mournful. Both. And encrusted with mythology, to quote Borges. The boy read. At school after his mother’s return he worked his way through all of the books in the library. Pausing at Ovid, he discovered Philomela. The horror. Rape. Betrayal. And then silenced. For a time. Her tongue cut out. Not able to tell her tale. Mute. But the gods offered comfort. Of a sort. She was transformed into the nightingale. A plain bird something like the hedge sparrow in shape. Red brown in color. She was given flight and song that communicated deeper than words. That allowed her to sing her betrayal and pain. But also of beauty she could experience and that had always been there. The boy heard the bird. Unseen. It took him out of his own despair. The fear and knowing that his mother had returned but was sick and could die. The song fractured the silence into a space in which he could find comfort. SUMMER 2022 | 33


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He was troubled by the story of Philomela. The unfairness of the story. The ravishing of the young girl, then the mutilation. The inarticulate howl that spoke to agony. How would it feel to be metamorphosed into a bird. The wings emerging. The arms shriveling. The reforming of the face of the girl into a beaked creature. It had to hurt, he thought. At least at first. The song she sang as the bird is without words. But it speaks to her pain. A call. And a response to herself. Then, silence. Before beginning again.

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Marsh Meditation MERIWETHER JOYNER | VERMONT The scene stands still nary a breath of wind to disturb the gentle marsh. An absent moon has paused a moment between push and pull of the evening’s flood tide. A soft blue sky fades, reflected back in the expanse of silver river below. And the worn dock among the reeds is framed by a silhouette of oaks. Everything stands still— Except you, white heron a cutout from the painting a gap from stroke of brush. My eye tracks as you􀀁fly to each new perch eyes scavenging the mud for movement, racing the light for one last minute last second last catch last success.

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White heron, so defiant a contrast to your surroundings, so unyielding in your movement among the solitude. White heron, is there anyone who knows the lightning loneliness as we do?

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Excerpt from a letter to Matt, half-remembered JENNA RUSSELL | VERMONT It seems God has given me a perfect day, after all that storm and bluster. Everything is green. The weather is so calm as to be unnoticeable, like moving in water, and there is a breeze that carries the sun. A fuzzy bumblebee hums near me. I see a yellow and gray bird land on a tree. Seconds slip by slowly, one tenth their usual pace. And it’s that alive kind of quiet. Life is here, thrumming underneath the dirt. It’s all life. Being in love with you has given an extra sweetness to my love for life. Sharpness, actually, now that I think about it— like tasting a green apple. Sharpness like putting on glasses for the first time and seeing the leaves again like you used to: crisp, outlined, fluttering. I like looking at a black sky full of dry lightning because I imagine looking at it with you. I see a mushroom and want you to see it. I want to bring you these things like a magpie collecting shiny items for a nest. Besides, we love the way life— the divine spark—comes out in each other. You like my fingernails. I like your handwriting. I can’t put the rest of the magnitude of it all down in words. But it’s not you I’ll be in love with forever. It’s not even me. The longest relationship I’ll ever have is with life. Please forgive the corny sentiment, but life and I are monogamous and we’re going all the way. Life brings me flowers—a lilac blossom I cupped in my hand and, feeling only a little silly, kissed, feeling last night’s rain run over my lips. Life asks me to be an adult, and to bring my full self to the table. Life asks me questions and expects answers. And lets me change my mind. Life kisses me. Life sings duets with me and dances with me across the wood floors. Life requests that I save the spider and put it outside. Life does the dishes with me—I wash, life dries. Participate, is all life asks. Be involved. And I will. I am here, barefoot in the green wild of life itself, and I intend to live in it, for as long as life will let me.

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“I Take You, I Take You In” (22 Years without Communion, 52 Without) KATIE PARROTT | OXFORD I take communion for you Unleavened body, in your stead Two discs, the flesh - the bread Two cups, the blood - the wine I hold them, put them inside. I take baptism for you Holy spill around me laps My prostrate form collapsed Sublimed hands hold misdeeds down Our whetted souls by God be found. I take you with me in prayer Sweet smoke, your name to Her Petition of sweetgrass and myrrh For all things past, and close to come Our hands clasped in unison. I take you to the altar Our lust, burnt sacrifice On Eden skin those doves alight First fruits lain, the Spirit groans Worship rises from our bones. I take you in my mouth To serve you, wash your feet Eyes toward heaven, your eyes greet Three bells ring there nevermore Love, joy, mercy hereafter yours. I take you to my tomb In sacred mountain my body splayed Ash to ash, but for a day! Eternal refuge, in ether, ours We live on amongst the stars. 38 | VOLUME VIII


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Shelter LAURIN WOLF | VERMONT When I first saw her, she was curled up on her little pad, her back to the gate of her enclosure, presenting a stark contrast to the tiny chihuahua mix next door who was maniacally pawing at the linoleum, trying to dig itself out of purgatory. As I looked around for someone to facilitate an introduction, one of the volunteers took a larger dog a few stalls down away on a lead. Suddenly, she leapt up and began barking wildly in their direction, in what I interpreted as an encouraging vocalization for a fellow wayward traveler; “Godspeed!” perhaps. In retrospect, I surmise that it was probably closer to “Fuck you.” She had been in and out of the shelter. She’d gone home with two different owners in the last four months. I’d lived with as many men in as many years and was achingly alone once again. I figured there was something to this numerical synergy; it felt as tangible as anything to hold onto. I accepted the leash and led her outside. Her passivity turned to frantic, nose-to-the-ground sniffing. I sat, doing my best to embody centered energy amidst her chaos, when in a fleeting moment she placed one paw on my chest and looked into my eyes. I had built relationships on less. Her eyes were gummy, her coat greasy, and her mouth was a land mine of rotted nubs passing as teeth. Her massive ears stuck straight out from her little head, and her round, taut trunk made for a solid drum with nipples, reminders of a litter of puppies she’d had at some point along the way. There was a large tumor tucked into her right armpit which, though benign, required removal in order to avoid a full amputation of the limb. When I took her to behavioral classes, the trainer described her as having “no skills.” The “fuck you” I’d misunderstood at the shelter now became exceedingly clear. Many outings ended with me carrying forty canine pounds across varying distances, sweating and fighting tears. I’d wake up sore and battered, and then refuse to make eye contact with neighbors who looked on with gentle concern while we “walked.” The inevitable question arises: did I keep her? Of course. Rather than hinging on a single, pivotal moment, her continued presence represented a series of yeses I just kept saying during a period now blurred by grief. Each day was a new day; each walk, a new walk. But as a chronic saver

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of relationships past their prime, this was more than a perpetuation of personal precedent. To keep her was to find shelter in my own decision and regain a belief in my instinct to find goodness amidst confusion. With no honeymoon phase to shroud the realities to come, my dedication to her and our shared existence is honest and devoid of pretense. Our struggles are free and open to the public. She knows nothing of my perceived failures or my fears around the bleak present and the inscrutable future. I am the human with whom she begrudgingly shares her couch, the warm body against which to curl on occasion, her access to the world of plants to smell and spots to mark and other dogs to vocally harass, a purveyor of peanut butter, popcorn, and the odd sweet potato fry. I am the one she needs; I am the one who stayed. When a thunderstorm is brewing, she looks into my eyes and paws at my face and chest. To be near is simply not enough; it is as though she wants to crawl into my body. I attend to her flailing limbs and needful gaze, and she relaxes ever so briefly, allowing us a moment of stillness. Knowing it won’t last, I lean in, anchoring us both for what is to come.

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Squidgy Mom TRISH DOUGHERTY | OXFORD Squidgy mom snakes her marshmallow arm around you in the kitchen as if she’s proud of your knife skills, of how you slice the bread when she’s the one who baked it. Squidgy mom is proud of you -full stop, period Tall and strong you are the best thing she has ever grown. Perennial like the oceans cycling around this planet, circling around the sun. Squidgy mom wishes this for your future, someday may you be the squidgy one next to another tall and true. May they love you enough to allow the random squeeze.

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When you fold laundry CAITLIN ROBINSON | VERMONT no item is forgotten pant legs paired in a snap wrinkles wriggled out corners crisped from rounded bedsheets each item sorted, even the smallest baby sock and I lie there next to you picture each pop and snap oscillate through waves with your anchor, anchor, anchor

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Why I Bring Them NATASHA WILLIAMS | VERMONT My father answered the door standing naked except for a wet diaper sagging down to his knees. A multicolored DNA helix tattoo I didn’t know he had was etched on his sagging chest. “Oh, you’re here,” he said offhandedly, as if we had disturbed him. As if he hadn’t called us for help. My daughters, eight and ten at the time, by then stood next to me and averted their eyes. “We’ll wait outside,” Cora said. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I shouted, stepping inside. “You asked us to come! Why would you come to the door looking like a pervert? Put something on for Chrissake,” I said, pulling a shirt out of his dresser and forcing it over his head. Then yanking the soaked diaper down to his knees, I roughly pushed his feet into a dry Depends, wondering if this punishing act could be considered care. “Get me my cigarettes, would you Baby?” he asked, sitting dressed now, diffusing my anger with his dependence. Acting like every moment offered a cycle of restoration, like we have and will always take care of each other despite his transgressions. I handed him cigarettes and signaled through the window for the girls to come in. Usually, he was coherent, insightful even and he loved his grandchildren. Cali was part of a modern dance troupe; she danced like she had lived years beyond her age. And Cora played Piano concertos without the music because it lived in her once she learned a piece. My father always came to their performances and clapped like he had witnessed something great, with great big claps till everyone else had stopped. But if he wasn’t taking his medication or was having a bad day he might yell at us about the snipers in the yard or show up looking homeless. My daughters came only because I compelled them. Because this is how families take care of each other. I wanted them to feel as fortified by his view of them, as I did as a child. To see the valiant parts of my father, the way he appreciated the success of loved ones, even in the face of his own dissolution. Like the time we sat around the table for his birthday dinner and my balding husband complimented him. “Frank, I sure wish I had your thick head of hair,” my husband had said. “Well Ken, I wish I had your life,” he’d responded, and we all laughed grateful for the life we had. I brought them because, despite his schizophrenia, I wanted them to know their grandfather. I signaled for the girls to come in SUMMER 2022 | 43


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and they joined me standing in the living room like his royal subjects. A king now, seated by the window, perched on the edge of his recliner, a lit cigarette between his thick nicotine tarred fingers, my father held court with my daughters, his courtiers. “Girls, I was hoping you could help me with this predicament I find myself in.” “What’s that dad?” I asked, putting myself between them. “You see, I emancipated my goldfish from my fish tank into the church wishing well next-door. Then I noticed a great blue heron at the water’s edge looking for something to eat.” He looked at Cali, mischief in his eyes, cocking his head to the side to convey his sense of irony at the unintended consequences of his good deed. “I’m afraid he may not survive. Do you think you girls could help me rescue him?” “Why did you put the fish in the well in the first place?” Cora asked. “I was hoping it would grow big and bring prosperity to the townspeople,” he said, like a prophet off his meds. Happy for a mission, the girls agreed, and we went outside to gather our tools. Since Cali was an avid pond skimmer and net fisher, we had what we needed in our car trunk. Fishing gear in hand, we walked slowly, to keep pace with his ailing knees to the church next door. My daughters and I stood at the wishing well dipping our nets as he found a seat on the bench, watching us as if our efforts were his own. “That a girl,” he encouraged us universally, our net empty except for a skim of slimy green algae that covered the well. After several attempts, ready to give up, I said, “We’re never going to find a tiny goldfish in this slime, Dad. Plus I’m sure it’s better off here, than in your smoky apartment.” “We can’t leave the fish to be eaten!” Cali said “I’m sorry, love, we can’t see anything below the surface.” Undeterred, she flashed me a look and continued dipping her net into the bright green overgrowth. Until finally, our doubt her biggest obstacle, she tossed her net to the side in frustration. My father watched Cali until she looked him in the eye. He patted the seat next to him. “I’m disappointed too, Baby,” he said gently, making the connection I loved him for. It’s not that he wanted to make it all better, but simply that he recognized her disappointment and was able to join her in a way that made it possible to leave the job undone. She took his hand as he hobbled back to the apartment, leaving the lost fish to work its magic. This is why I bring them. 44 | VOLUME VIII


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In Praise of Nick-at-Nite GREGORY J. CAMPEAU | OXFORD As a youngster, Rocko’s Modern Life and Aahhh! Real Monsters simply didn’t—and couldn’t—hold the same appeal for me as a restless housewife’s thwarted attempts to get rich quick and become a star of stage and screen, or an astronaut’s desperation to keep his beautiful live-in genie a secret from NASA. Each day, I could hardly wait for that late hour—8 o’clock maybe?— when the fast-moving swirls of color and irksome clamor of the cartoons on Nickelodeon would give way to the quieter, simpler monochrome of Nick-atNite. As it turned out, I, too, loved Lucy and dreamed of Jeannie. Why I was drawn from a young age to classic TV is unclear. But it did accord with some of my other quirks. In my teens, while my peers were listening to the Black Eyed Peas, Fallout Boy, Beyonce, and Bow Wow, I was investing in Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole CDs. I didn’t know what a badonkadonk was. I did, however, know what made Chicago Sinatra’s kind of town (answer: it has razmataz) and why you ought to get your kicks on Route 66 (reason: it goes west, and it is, of the routes going west, the best). My favorite movies, meanwhile, were the campy 1966 Batman and snappy midcentury musicals like The Music Man. Like these things, classic TV moved at a pace I was more comfortable with: it was more self-assured, and, I daresay, classier. I was born in the late 1980s. What I most remember from TV was decidedly un-classy. I remember watching OJ Simpson flee from police in his white Bronco. I remember seeing the grim aftermath of Columbine. I remember Bill Clinton testifying that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman.” I remember watching the second passenger jet fly into the World Trade Center. I remember the orange lights of American warplanes dropping bombs on Baghdad in the middle of the night at the start of the (second) invasion. I remember my dad regularly switching on a doomsday preacher who pointed to all this dark, upsetting news and, looking right into the camera, warned that the world’s end was at hand—which, mind you, I earnestly believed. You don’t have to be a psychoanalyst to suppose that by resorting to Nickat-Nite, and all my other backward-looking tastes, I was trying to escape. Escape the complexity. Escape the instability. Escape the terrifying tokens of imminent apocalypse all around me.

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(Not to mention I was fast realizing I was gay, which felt like its own kind of end-of-the-world scenario.) An always-simmering cauldron of panic, my mind could never reconcile itself to the prospect of doing anything physically reckless. Riding dirtbikes down steep hillsides, among boys my age, one of the more popular routes to find release, filled me with prostrating fear rather than exhilaration. Ditto for football. Ditto for hunting. Ditto for paintball. I did once try to run away from home—according to a certain literary concept of childhood familiar to me as a youngster, this is de rigueur, a rite of passage. But I made it only a few houses up the street before my anxiety and sense of filial duty restrained me from proceeding any further. Instead, I plopped myself pensively on a large rock in my neighbor’s front yard and there reflected on my ill-conceived adventure and how worried my parents would be if I were discovered to be missing. Soon I was ambling home, heart palpitating, legs like jelly. On arriving, I announced to my parents and sister that I’d at last come back. They hadn’t noticed I’d run away. Rather, my rebelliousness was quiet and largely invisible from the world. It was a radicalism of interests, demeanor, aspirations. Very early on, I began constructing an inward bulwark of idiosyncrasy, of intentional backwardnesses and quirks, strong enough, and secret enough, to keep me safe in a bewildering world. In college I majored in history; I was obsessed with, and always halfliving in, the past. It’s hardly surprising that during the pandemic, when most of us of necessity became escapists of one kind or another, I sought refuge again in classic TV. This time, it was far easier to find; one needn’t wait for the appointed hour for Nickelodeon’s giving way to Nick-at-Nite. YouTube, that limitless wonderland of pirated delights, has full episodes of all kinds of shows I had only ever seen little clips of before. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and The Dick Cavett Show became special favorites: smart hosts, a parade of interesting guests, everywhere (with few exceptions) marks of gentility and charm. But neither of those can hold a candle to my real pandemic-era obsession: What’s My Line? The show, which started airing in the earliest days of television and lasted for twenty-five seasons, has a simple premise. Each episode, a panel of (usually minor) celebrities encounters a series of contestants whose “lines”—i.e., jobs, positions, or claims to fame—have to be guessed. Typically, the lines being guessed are amusing in some way, either because they’re uncommon (girdle fitter, bread-box maker, astronaut, Congressman)

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or because they seem not to fit common gender stereotypes of the time (a shy, small-framed woman who works as a circus clown, or a big brawny man who tends roses). Each episode, there is also a mystery (major) celebrity contestant, for whom the judges on the panel are customarily blindfolded. Panelists have to judge only by listening, which many of the celebrity contestants attempt to circumvent by assuming unfamiliar and often amusing voices. Lucille Ball, whose voice is so well-known, affected an alien squeak to avoid detection during one of her appearances. Colonel Sanders, on the other hand, was not so recognizable at the time of his first appearance on the show (1963) as to merit blindfolds at all. To sit down and watch an episode of What’s My Line? is to be treated to a very fine parlor game played by sophisticates, writers, journalists, and stage actors, all of whom are serious in their play and playful in their seriousness, using language and logic to amuse each other foremost and the audience secondarily. It doesn’t quite have an analogue today (except on public radio), and I think that’s largely its charm. And I’m not alone in thinking so. All you’ve got to do is look at the view counts and the comments on these videos on YouTube to get a sense of how many folks are finding and enjoying TV that aired 60 and 70 years ago. Can you imagine people in the 2090s caring one whit about watching old episodes of Is It Cake?, Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, or The Kardashians? I can’t. But maybe they will; maybe, during their own political tumults or global pandemic, they’ll take comfort in the simplicity of cake and Kardashians.

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The Lost Pleiad (excerpts of a work in progress) KELSEY HENNEGEN | VERMONT Between belonging and the void I float the sky-crowned lake but I’ve a wanton will for ocean a thirst for danger and salt. Rip tides a luxuriant undercurrent and waves—the wreck of them. Their absolute weight. What happens to a pair of lungs and how my scalp strains hair tangling the flood with every dive to dodge the break. You became a burr in my brain prickling your way. Barriers into blood. Between my body and a sea of yearning I float the Pleiades because every daughter needs like an urge for surety and sun to be nearer her ill-fated father.

my father titanic : an atlas of strength & pain secreted : west to earth’s edge : my father holding heaven my father : leaving me prone & lonely : heaving

In indigo I figure myself a nymph the youngest of seven sisters I am miraculous and merciless made mortal in his grip marooned in the world of men I am ontological and ridiculous thrust down against oceaned sky transmogrified my flaking flesh luminous one long vein bowels to belly to brain neither girls nor doves : we shoulder the sky we : a fistful of stars under adamant night desperate : daughters : yoked celestial You shut your eyes open then shut furious irises abrupt in pungent silence and in the silence is possibility a monstrous sun unfurling itself because I came to you 48 | VOLUME VIII


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furrowed brain and all. Inviolable. (or at least I’d believed myself to be.)

the fact of him : huge : a hunter well-arrowed : the fact of a prick : & its puncture the wound : o how it binds me to this : the fact of a body

Me: orphaned and alone. Enter: Him. Cocksure. Savage. I became catastrophe. Rigid-spined and brackish. Gravel vivid in my gut. Mouth full of velvet. Green heat ionizes then police. Then memory as ink. A fumarole-licked lobe then the exam as cotton on pelvis. Limbic a dumb blank full of light. my mother : abundant : the daughter of oceans she too knew : the sea & how lean : its protection can be : she knew to flee she : taught me how : hunters haunt : tireless : without awe Now the taste of sour milk. Now the fantasy as a lie we choose to make true. Today I am flushed ample with ghosts. This is to say that aweless I will myself to forget the father. Forget precarity. Forget the fact of a sea soon to roar and rend and woe when homesickness for land overcomes me. There is no more land. There is no dipper. No sisters. Orion unfastens his belt. Undoes his zipper.

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A Way Back DANA LOTITO-JONES | VERMONT The gentle punch of blackberry-scented sunscreen hits first, thrust around me like a hug I’ve craved, though I’ve never smelled it before. The hips of these mountains are new, their curves, lovely and grand, pillars for this cathedral sky. This lake a baptismal font for a failing faith. A rebirth of an old life, one I crumpled and mashed into glue, spackling the cracks within me. Little balls of light dance a jig on the water, performing just so my heart will catch their magic and glide on the thread back to the place I’ve clung to where once I laid on a dock and let the water lick the sides and lull me to sleep under a sunset. Do you know what it’s like to be healed? When you rebuild your heart, stitch it back together, swaddled and tender? When you listen to its cries and give it lake water purling around your ankles, a girl eating a hot dog, goggles her crown, enthusiasm spilling from her mouth like candy, rest with a book? Like bathing in a soothing balm. I cry. I have given myself a homecoming on new soil. The ladybug scales the mountainside of my backpack. And stays with me on the ride home. Wings separate—shape: a heart.

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after you drive me home I invite you up for 2 bowls of alphabet soup LILITH BLACKWELL | VERMONT

a a a a a a a already and and and and and apartment are as at balanced beer bright bottle car careful check cup darkness dead dew down drove empty farmland for for for forest from fuck full glass grass green hand heat heavy highway hum I I I I in in invite is is is knew last man maybe moon morning my my next night of of of of of of on on only out outside prom played quiet raccoon radio road service sex slick so so song station stiff stop stretches summer tea tells the the the the the the the the to to top unwaning up us very very wait we wet wheel whisky wine with would you you you you your your

. . . there is only one reason I look at you that way…I did nothing this time… you smell so good even when you sweat…we are both sunburned farm tanned indoors outdoors kinda people…

and and and as at at at away away away before blonde blonde blue cream cream dress dress dripping everyone far far far felt from green green good hair hair hazy hesitated i i i i i i i ice ice in knew like like look look looked mountains my my next never onto peroxide said shop shop short smile so something stood stopped teeth that that the the to to tottered too want watched watched white with with you you you you you you

you said that you were afraid by how much you like me…how much I like you . . . I still do not know how you look in the morning . . . heavy nights heavy nights heavy nights . . . stripped away

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Morning in December: Two Months Since You’ve Left DEIRDRE KOENEN | VERMONT I named you for the goddess of the moon, the light whose white hung as a lantern for my nine months trapped in my own heavying body as you grew, overtaking my womb, my strength and then my heart when you surfaced bloody bawling to the world; you shrieked and sung your way through seasons untethered by fear, shame or love in the spring of life. You raced barefoot, blue-eyed, crowned in the flowers of youth, strewing lilies behind me until you fell behind, distracted from my path to other calls, and a chasm cut the cord between us, laid you bare to the stares and words of red-lipped glares and snickers, drove you to the arms of a dark stranger who took you, forced a warped vision of love deep into your soul, hungry for acceptance, comfort, ease that your mother couldn’t give you. Because I saw a strayed rebel where a frightened daughter hid and carried the parasitic load of a man’s lust in silence, feeling it grow like fear until its weight pushed you on a morning in your seventeenth fall to tie a noose, encircle your throat, step off the ledge and swing your soul to the underworld, making me a Demeter in a new kind of winter, grey-haired and sleepless at my empty table, fingering pomegranate seeds and hushing the urge to follow.

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Home LAUREN DAVENPORT “Something in the Way”—Nirvana Today’s Headlines There Was a lot of Blood Texas, I mean. I was in NYC. In my own classroom. Teaching Lady Macbeth. She would not let anything get in her way. She was cold-hearted, cutthroat. She was ambitious. CEO material. It must have been infuriating to be held back by her time. The kids giggled when she said, “Unsex me now.” If you are figuring out why you have breasts, it’s a funny line. We could all do with a little less gender and a little more magic. This was what I was thinking at 3:09. I grabbed my phone to scan the Times headlines; there was a lot of blood. At 5:52 a.m. That Morning I saw a red cardinal in the park as I walked my dog. It announced itself, bold, not to be missed, an influencer, an extrovert. It was 9/11 weather. Gorgeous, sweet air, calm skies, whimsical clouds. A kindergarten sketch of a sky. 9/11 weather is eerie in its foreboding perfection. Crisp skies to raining ash. I see it when I blink still. The cardinal was more than I could handle before coffee. Did I Say I Love You? I checked my phone to see if I’d texted my daughter and my son this morning. I leave before they wake up. I smell them before I go. She smells like lavender and vinegar and he smells like tar and citrus. I send them headlines from papers that they don’t read just as my mother used to mail me newspaper articles which I ignored. I send them texts about their homework, dentist appointments. I send them memes which they say are stupid. When I try to use a trendy word, they say, “Mom, eww, cringe. You are the worst.” I reply, “The worst? The actual worst? So Hitler was better?” They say, “You are such an English teacher.” I say, “accurate.” I made myself a promise to end my texts with “I love you” because that should always be the last thing they hear from me. In real life they say “yeah, we know, we know, you love us” before I can get the words out, but they can’t stop my texts. Mwa ha ha. It is my love power and it is fierce.

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I Am Afraid I Cannot Remember Jamie wanted me to grade something that was eight weeks late, just now. “I can’t stay, I need to get home, I’ll grade it tomorrow.” Chris wanted to show me his new Michael Jackson move. Chantal needed to talk about “all the kids who want to beat her ass.” Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. My locker combination. 37-08-24? Fingers, remember. Muscle memory. Fingers, remember please. Fingers, remember! Fingers, damn it. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. She’d been a monster to my mother but with a mushy brain came a gentler woman. Would Lady Macbeth have softened? Hard to imagine. Complaining about age spots instead? Out, out. It wasn’t just the combination I was forgetting. There were words lately. I couldn’t remember the word “clipboard” for a week. I got around it. Circumlocution. A word I did not forget. But I saw myself as my grandmother, the way she’d pretended to know my name when she didn’t. Circumlocuting. Pretending to know me as an act of love. Finally opened, I grabbed my tote bag, I headed for the elevator. A student had pushed every button slowing my trip. The Subway Commute is Always A Hero’s Journey so these days I carry mace. I carry it on a blue plastic key chain which I know I will never figure out how to use in an emergency. I got it from another state because you cannot mail order mace in NYC. I like that. I like that it is hard to get a gun here too. Except that anyone can get anything by going elsewhere. I appreciate it the way I appreciate airport security. Make believe. A man is talking to himself. He is bobbing and weaving, he is punching the air. When he punches, he exhales and a force consumes everything around him. The world goes flat for him like paper and his fists go right through it all. He is punching too close to faces. A thin white man in a plaid suit crosses his legs. He is nervous. A black woman grips her cane. The boxing man shouts, “Ah yah ah yah ah ya,” and I believe he is calling his ancestors and this is the reckoning and he is Jesus or someone who will die for us. Or maybe he is here for us, for our souls, we are the sinners and he has come to wipe us out. Twelve more stops. He is now pounding the glass on the doors with his fists. Which will break first, the glass or his fists? Ah yah Ah yah Ah yah, the train burps and he stumbles away from the doors. He punches again and screams, “That’s right, Lucifer,” and I think yeah Lucifer, you’re done for buddy. But it’s actually my face that is about to get a taste of knuckles. He is punching right at people now. Wince. Wince. Wince. Stopping just by their noses. A man says, “Cut that shit out mother fucker.” But he is now talking earnestly

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with Lucifer, the ghost. My face is next. I hear my inhale. The train lurches, a hiccup this time. He misses my face by a breath. He bobs and weaves. He and Lucifer are now in some kind of boxing waltz and it is elegant like candle wax and the doors open and he leaves as every single person on the train exhales in a giant collective sigh. We are one now, our sweat, our souls, our hearts. I think “I LOVE THIS FUCKING CITY” and I think “I HATE THIS FUCKING CITY” at exactly the same time. I have eleven stops to go. I Sent Him to the Social Worker on a gut feeling. Always trust your gut, my mom told me. Never trust your gut, my dad insisted. These mixed parenting messages explain why I am incapable of executing a single action without thinking about every possible and several impossible outcomes. To say I hate this quality in myself is a lesson in understatement. A kid in my class was squeezing a tension ball and there was something about it. I don’t know. It wasn’t unusual. Lots of kids have them. But the squeeze was so tight, the leg of the desk squeaking each time he pressed. There were twenty-three other teenagers, I didn’t have hours to think about it. I don’t know. I will never know. If I believe in God. It was God. Maybe? It’s been a rough year. I love these bratty teenagers. I love Shakespeare. But. There was just something in the way he squeezed. Inner me said, send him to the social worker. I walked over to his desk, I bent down and I whispered so no one else would hear, “You seem frustrated today. Why don’t you go see Ms. K?” He sprung up, reminded me of a pogo stick, the way he popped up with his bouncy ball and out he went. I didn’t think about it again. But later, when I was trying to get home, I learned that he was squeezing the ball because he was trying to stop himself from taking the pencil that he had in his other hand and stabbing me in the neck because he would enjoy watching me choke to death on my own blood. I’m His Favorite Teacher the social worker was trying to reassure me. I hadn’t done anything wrong. He wants to kill everyone, it’s not just you. You’re his favorite, that’s why he was trying so hard not to hurt you. Umm, thanks? He wants to strangle a kindergartner, apparently, to see if she will die fast because their necks are small. I do not know if I believe in God.

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We Are At War I am off the train but there are too many of us so we have formed a single file line trying to exit up the stairs and—my ankle. Remember, ankle! Remember, ankle! Remember please. My son left a basketball outside the bathroom door. In the middle of the night, I went to use the bathroom, I tripped on the ball. I sprained my ankle. He does this shit all the time. He leaves his shoes in the middle of a room. His scooter in the middle of the kitchen. His bookbag lands somewhere like the wreckage from a bomb. He says he just forgets. He loses a pair of house keys every week. Sometimes he can’t get inside because no one is home. He has to go to the playground until someone arrives. My heart tries to escape my chest in these moments. These Ukrainian stories. Especially the refugees who are trying to bring their Irish Setters with them, or staying because they are too old to leave. I hate the clashing colors of their flag and I, too, have fallen for their handsome actor-politician President. The pregnant women listen to the sounds of explosions while they are in labor. War is stupid. It is hard enough to get home. Let’s Hope She Doesn’t Get Pregnant The garbage trucks must have just come, which is odd because normally the cans are in my path on the way to work, not now, when I am trying to get home from a long day of Macbeth and imaginary daggers. The cans are like those barrels in an old video game, Donkey Kong, the player must jump, jump, jump over them. I pick a few up because I AM A GOOD PERSON. I AM A CITIZEN, because I LOVE this FUCKING CITY and I HATE THIS FUCKING CITY. But after a while, I quit. I am just zigging and zagging, bobbing and weaving, like the boxer but not at all, I am almost home, and the air now, it is not 9/11 it is sticky and it smells like blood. It smells like the headlines and I hope my daughter will not get pregnant and need to have an abortion because there will be so many things in her way. I hate thinking about all the students, my babies who had babies and how the men, they are never there, they are demanding ghosts. My phone is buzzing and there is more blood and I gather that the teacher knew and she tried to warn people and they ignored her and I know that this is absolutely true even though I do not believe everything I read in the headlines and I am not sure I want to teach anymore but in two blocks I will see my kids.

56 | VOLUME VIII


WRITINGS FROM THE SCHOOL OF ENGLISH

The Key, of Course, Is Stuck in the Gate which happens all the time, if it is too cold, or too hot. Sometimes I have to reach my hand through the gate and put the key in the other side of the lock and open it in reverse, which hurts my arm but we have to have lots and lots of locks because this is New York, because this is America, and because there is lots of blood and I finally open the door and my dog jumps on me and the dishes are piled so high that I wonder if I could call Guinness Book of World Records, the house smells faintly of piss and old newspapers and my son has left the milk out on the counter from his cereal and my daughter comes down the stairs and takes one look at me and says, “my skirt didn’t come, are you sure you ordered it” and then she walks away and they are everything, they are the why, and this is my refuge and at last there is nothing in the way.

SUMMER 2022 | 57


THE BREAD LOAF JOURNAL

To the Grillmaster

Upon arriving on the Mountain for Bread Loaf inspired by the independence of Lovecraft Country and the 4th of July DONTÉ S. TATES | VERMONT must I sear my skin for you marinate in the dark and cold make tender your pounding soul onyx my skin to old obsidian must my flayed flesh fall for you to see meted sadness replete with blanched fears and layered drippings on a catching grate piece by piece crestfallen hisses onto imprisoned fire skewered upon the barbie what more do you want from me like Eve must I be a rib grilled for your pleasure breathing in my burnt ends savor my char blackened outside inside red raw perfection achieved slow-cooked in the juices of your preparation would you see my supple color decadent you fork apart my deadenedness am I done never done you seek more crackles in the flame have you thought what burns me burns you

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WRITINGS FROM THE SCHOOL OF ENGLISH

you think you control the heat light the match and we all go up in smoke plated and served do you even chew or merely sup on and swallow sorrow sass substance sovereignty my sauces and seasonings stewed for your stymied taste mouth dry does the itchy roof of your mouth yearn for soothing and succulence scratched with prettyfied niceties and performed meanings licked from inside your cheek and jowl marked gums receding from truth bloody lies salivating in your throat coated with remnant mucus tracing my long memory downward eyes glazed can you see past consumption consummation with your meal can you stare into my fried eyes your smile with fork in hand then fight your fraught unfeeling separate butchery from your foodways base your impossible taste in only plants and paste fingers sticky prod yourself not me

SUMMER 2022 | 59


THE BREAD LOAF JOURNAL

the yield in my meat fleshes your curiosity are you done yet did you string me up your knots of love losing yourself casing me In resplendor repulsed would you prefer no gluten no dairy no MSG you cannot relegate me to clean up the upset in you wet naps or a tongue towel will not bleach your grafty appetite hide your dark gluttony bloated and taut with the fill of me beyond your gnashing teeth down your gagging throat do I sit well with you burned blackness do I tingle and tinge your digestion onward I possess you before you process me burp me into the air did you get enough when you find sate what more pleasure can I bring you the duodenal slurry post-stomach the slow jejunal crawl I must take to pass to progress to prosper Ummm

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feeling ill


WRITINGS FROM THE SCHOOL OF ENGLISH

in testing you: do the spices of society a queer pinch of justice the meritocratic meatiness the broiled brilliance outraged at it all keep you lighting a pyre for me pilot sparked challenge accepted the meal makes the master too don’t forget your IPA wash down your feast feed your fellow clan for you made me the main course there will be no quinoa no salad living in your bowels I will loose move with celiac discomfort compel with agitation and undulation wriggle out from your wicked insides bubble them with guttural delight exploding in a new world born through tasting a devout unwishing your delectable sin undoing you baptizing me revealing you

SUMMER 2022 | 61


THE BREAD LOAF JOURNAL

Topography SARAH SCHULZ | VERMONT I. Draught drains the September landscape to shades of dust. We search the rocky creek beds for hidden water. Suddenly you smile. Tiny rivers crease the skin around your eyes when you spot a forgotten stream II. What is this bruise on your bicep? This storm cloud of gray blue purple the size of my thumb, changing shape and color each time I spy it What caused this imprint? This painted painful pleasure? What greedy hand or mouth gave it life? III. Your collarbone turns to crater catches rain that patters through the tent when we foolishly forgo the fly. I wake to wetness, your soft flannel damp.

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WRITINGS FROM THE SCHOOL OF ENGLISH

Even still I press my nose to your chest brim of bone pooling deep shadows I yearn to sip IV. At first I think the moth that settles on your big toe is a fleck of ash as we dry our feet by the fire Its tiny legs tangle with wisps of hair, inquisitive antennae flick the air, proboscis questions skin. V. We drive east fleeing the setting sun, the mountains disappearing behind us, your left hand steady on the steering wheel, your right resting on my thigh Curiously my fingers climb the ridges of your knuckles like the range we promise to return to another day

SUMMER 2022 | 63


THE BREAD LOAF JOURNAL

Mountain Affairs (Sestina) MARISA E. TRETTEL | VERMONT Week six begins, a signal of the end soon you’ll pack up your car with disheveled desire leave the intoxication of the mountain air, but first, once more to the creek to swim where you can not see the other undiscovered bodies before you go back to your home in large cities, go get out, it has come to an end back to the street lights, the late night trains, the see no stars sky. Back to the place where you only desire to get through, survive the times, take care of that creak developing in your back, scale that mountain of paperwork building on your desk, the mountain of bills rising from your overstuffed mailbox, go dream only of the fervent flowing creek in those sparing moments before the end of your long, laborious day. Do not tell him of your desire to be elsewhere. Tell him, I am happy to be here, see? Show him. Pretend. Do it until he says I see. Do it until you can escape back to the mountain Maybe this time will be different? Yes, but your desire will bubble up inside you until you go Let it. There is no other way to make it to the end but to brew it and bring it back with you to the creek. In more tormented moments, you’ll listen for the creak of bed posts and floor boards, search for something you can not see I’m not happy anymore, he’ll say, I want this to end You’ll wonder, did it begin while you were away on the mountain? You’ll know the exact moment you must let him go when it’s time to pack away the decaying truths of your desire After all, what is desire but that which washes over you, like the creek? Once you accept that, then you can go for good. There is nothing else to see

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WRITINGS FROM THE SCHOOL OF ENGLISH

here. You have lived a small time, the mountain looms large, and all things must end. But there is one need that will lingers: you want to see all in the darkness of the creek, the looming mountain above you before you go, hesitantly, once more, towards the end.

SUMMER 2022 | 65


THE BREAD LOAF JOURNAL

Afterword: Where Do We Go From Here? You have come to the end of the 2022 Bread Loaf Journal of Student Writing. In it, you have read about refuge, and maybe for a moment, you have found that very thing between these pages. I would like to leave with you an experience I had in one of my courses this year. In Cheryl Savageau’s Speculative Fiction class, we read an amazing novel about Lesbian vampires (as one does at Bread Loaf) called The Gilda Stories. At the end of the book, Gilda and her family live in a world facing extinction. Vampires are being hunted for their immortality, and the select rich and powerful are leaving for other planets. I’m sure you can see how this parallels our world today. The titular character and those around her must decide if they too will flee–but they choose to stay. They decide that this world, despite its flaws, is their home, and they will stay and fight to rebuild what is theirs. I noticed, as many of you did I’m sure, that some of the submissions this year explored the loss or absence of refuge. We live in a world that feels like it is dying. At every turn, the news tells us that things have simply gotten worse. But it is my hope that as we leave the beautiful, various campuses of Bread Loaf, we remember that, like Gilda, we must fight for that refuge. We must create a world where refuge can be attained. I would like to thank each and every one of you that submitted to the Journal this year. We know each word was a labor of love, and we enjoyed reading your experiences. Thank you for sharing the joy and the sorrow, and allowing us into your creative process. I hope that any refuge you may have found this year at Bread Loaf will sustain you through the year. Rachel Noli, Coeditor

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