Issue 4: 2013
A publication of The Millay Colony for the Arts www.millaycolony.org
Dear Readers, Welcome! We are delighted to be communing with you through and with and within this magazine. EDNA is an annual compendium of work from artists-inresidence at The Millay Colony for the Arts, artists’ residency program and artists’ center extraordinaire. The occasion of its composition and publication is always an incredible pleasure for us on the staff of The Millay Colony because it is so exciting to share with you, lovely readers, some part of the complex, abundant, rigorous, joyful, serious, hilarious, ruminative, spontaneous work, and community of work, that takes place at the Colony each year. This issue of EDNA is particularly exciting because it marks two occasions…first and most scarlet of hue, this EDNA you are reading marks the 40th (or RUBY) anniversary of The Millay Colony, which was established in 1973 and has been welcoming writers, visual artists and composers for residencies with all the trimmings ever since. We are celebrating becoming a residency program d'un certain âge with a special section of the magazine featuring work from alumni artists, workshop teachers, and all-around friends and lovelies who have spent time at our gorgeous Colony over the past forty years. The work in this special section was created here, or addresses the time spent here, or maybe it just wouldn’t have come into the world in quite the way it did without the nurturing and support that our Colony offered. We call this section VINCENT. You may ask Why call it Vincent? And I can tell you why! Because EDNA, our namesake, liked to be called VINCENT. And we like offering her multivalent multiplicities as a frame for these forty years and the many people and voices and configurations of people and voices without which we would not be celebrating. The second occasion marked by this issue of EDNA is our switch from paper to cyber publication. We hope that, although we will all miss the pleasures of perusing an actual book-style magazine, this new format offers both greater access and a smaller carbon footprint. As we negotiated the switch to cybermag, we took some extra time so this issue not only has VINCENT, it also has two years of residents’ work – 2011 and 2012. Abundance thy name is EDNA… Three of us worked together to develop this issue. I worked with EDNA editor (and writer and performer and teacher and…) Cara Benson and our special friend, alumna, and juror in fiction, the lovely Amanda Davidson. Working with two such smart and generous colleagues was the kind of creative and intellectual pleasure that Millay so often facilitates. I thank both ladies so much for their great work.
So, here we are, the staff and Board of The Millay Colony for the Arts, forty years young and raising a glass to all the artists, from Edna/Vincent who bought this gorgeous property and made it her home, to her sister Norma who lived here too and created the Colony, and all the dazzling and bedazzling people who have been here since, working, playing, eating, drinking, walking, inviting, conjuring and otherwise inhabiting this space with us â€“ Cheers! Here is to many more anniversaries to come, xo, Caroline Crumpacker, Executive Director
Jen Silverman Bath 9 Bath 9 (Austerlitz) For weâ€Śare as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. [Samuel 14:14]
These are the days when I live in a barn. It is drafty. The mice run laps. The owls let them do it. Goldenrod is morning. Burnt coffee is also morning. One morning my hands awake and open: I let you go. How is this thing: to live without fists? How is this thing: the constant kiss of air on naked palm. I sleep on barn boards, wake up cold. Try to get lower, low, into the dazed earth. This thing of beds, I cannot remember it. This thing of speech, too human, it evades me. By September, the mice are convinced I am furniture. They circle me, lap me. I become object. I become lead. I lie at the bottom of the air. I dream that my hands will seal back up, hold you in like a cry. When water is spilled, there is no containing it. Red wine or coffee, iron or blood â€“ a souvenir-stain at the least, at the last. Not so, here. The barn is silent. The owls sleep. But you, only you: immaculately gone.
Michael Forstrom from like a lizard crawling
Nachtleben (afterlife). Not just the way one lives on through physical traces and recollection and memorial rituals, but in life, through chance, at the mercy of resemblances and associations, the color and cut of a woman’s hair, the color of her skin, her clothes, the familiar sounds, the sirens, wailing and paralyzing, approaching and departing, announcements over loudspeakers, footsteps, sucking through a straw, the T.V…
Mischief. As a form of rebellion, moving from play and fiction with one’s own belongings, childhood toys and things, to the outside world, most often with friends, done from a distance and with a means of escape, even if the group must scatter at the sound of a car breaking or shattering glass, the panic and rush of flight over surfaces one can’t see in the dark, asphalt, grass, and concrete.
Despite the children, the household activity and noise, abruptly, with no build up, which might then need to be explained and for which there’s no explanation, in the basement, standing, pressed up against the washing machine, or when the house is quiet, after the children have fallen asleep and before they wake, having deferred to others, deferring, tired.
Alex Weiser Ebb
A live performance of Ebb can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/#alex-weiser/ebb
Fiona Templeton from The Blue
Scene 6 A & B: B:
you’ll do doing is all there is even refraining is not not doing
A & B:
but do it with me ~~
Scene 7 They are very close together – possibly her lying or sitting The words are ventriloquised on each other, but one speaking onto the other’s body in a whisper or silently, the other saying the words aloud. This makes the words slow down. A:
com ply with the terms and conditions it’s marked in red I’m holding a pen image of a pen writing
B: (simult. with prev line)
image of a needle sewing
Catherine Taylor from Inanimate Subjects
The drone hovers. Invisible and menacing. If you get a glimpse, you might see the bulging head with its swiveling eye. Maybe it’s looking at you. Maybe you’re looking at it. Or through it. It depends who you are. My brother is an Air Force pilot. Not long ago, he called to say that he was being transferred to begin flying drones. Actually, I don’t think he used the word “drone” as he says this is a media slur freighted with fear. He uses the term “RPAs” or Remotely Piloted Aircraft. I think he prefers this to the military’s other commonly used acronyms—UAVs, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAS, Unmanned Aerial Systems—as it keeps the pilot in the picture. Also, looking back, I’m not sure if he said he would be “flying” them. He may have said “operating,” because, of course, you can’t slip the bonds of earth from behind the drone pilot’s video joystick. My brother would no longer feel the plane vibrate within his body. He would no longer look out and catalogue the clouds. Billow, banner, arch or anvil. Nimbus, cirrus, veil or wall. He would no longer be moving through the air as birds do. But his plane would. * In the darkened bedroom, a shadowy bird flies by. It disappears into the black. Someone adjusts the flashlight and the silhouette of a rabbit twitches it nose; a knot of knuckles. Think of nighttime and childhood. Think of puppets. Shadow, marionette, rod, sock, finger, avatar, persona. Think of bug-eyed Ernie in his stripy shirt saying, “Gee, Burt” and snickering behind his hand. Or big-nosed Punch and Judy whacking and pummeling each other on their little stage. There are pregnant puppets full of others, there are puppets made of ice that melt, and there are puppets of paper that burn. Think of Indonesian Wayang Kulit with its oil lamps and amber screens. Gamelan gongs hammered and clanging, rising and chiming. The black silhouettes of lacy, angular gods looming as they enter their epic battle. Figures sharpen and blur. Heroes go in and out of focus. Everything is handed over to the moment. Think of the swaying paper maché giants of political street theater gliding through their oversized world. * Puppets and drones: it’s not really an odd pairing.
* Puppets are only puppets when they seem to have no masters. When they seem to act on their own. Autonomous. Alive. Once we glimpse the master, the puppet becomes merely an object. A doll. Puppets are only puppets, are only truly themselves, when they seem not to be themselves, when we forget that they are puppets. This is the paradox of puppets and our pleasure in them lies within this paradox. We are enthralled by their power even as we know it is not truly theirs. * Like a puppet, the drone is both an extension of the operator and an object unto itself. Something manipulated. A body with a distant mind. Like a puppet, the drone enthralls us with a power that is not its own. Drones have the strange appearance of autonomy found in robots, automata, and puppets. Unlike a puppet, a drone is not expressive. It likes to hide. It leans more instrumental than performative. Or does it? The bulging head, the high-pitched whine, even the nasty nicknames (Predator, Reaper, Vulture, Demon) slick back into the spectacle (that “autonomous movement of the non-living,” as Guy Debord writes). Drone potential, even if invisible, is part of the theatre of fear in the theatre of war. As is their tenacious vision. Their grainy trailers. Snuff film surveillance videos or “drone porn.” The blurry insurgents, black or white, in heat sensor mode. Running. Stopping. Running. The cross hairs flashing. Sparkle on. You are cleared to engage. A pixelated black cloud. Then the deadly ending we came for; the figures now prone. Here, the drone as puppet slips behind the curtain and instead produces the stage itself, the proscenium screen framing the view from the pilot’s naughahyde barcalounger or from our own comfy chair.
Theresa Coulter from ELEPHANTS MAKE FINE FRIENDS
Landscape (2), 10” x 10”, Oil on linen
Child (3), 12” x 12”, Oil on canvas
Alta Ifland from Speaking to No. 4
The following day I took a very brave decision: I went out. It had been almost a week since I’d last ventured into the world—an adventure with such a pitiful ending. The reason why I went out is that I’d gotten sick of room service and wanted something else to eat. There was a small grocery store at the street corner, and I was salivating just contemplating the possibility of tasting something new. After a week in the curtained darkness of my room, the sun seemed shinier than ever. I kept blinking, and noticed with surprise that it felt good to have the sun linger over my body. I’d thought I was done with the “joy of living,” and was getting ready for the joy of dying, but life is very stubborn. It clings to us even when we think it has left us. That’s what I was thinking when I returned to the hotel with a bag of groceries, and experienced an unusual tension and negative excitement in the lobby. The faces of the two female receptionists were warped with worry, and hushed whispers came from their taut mouths. A third person, a man, was on the phone, explaining something in an urgent tone. I asked the receptionists what was the matter, but they just stared at me with blank faces. As I was about to call the elevator, a guest whispered, “There was an accident…A woman fell…” There was something in the way he said it that made my heart skip a beat. I took the elevator and, as I stepped out of it on the sixth floor, a foreboding took hold of me. I couldn’t articulate what I was afraid of, but I knew, or rather, my stomach knew that something horrible had happened. I opened the door, dropped my groceries on the floor, and went straight to the balcony. And I knew the truth before my eyes could regain their focus and see the body flattened on the ground like a drawing, with the white dress fluttering in the wind—an abandoned flag clinging to a soulless pole.
Isabelle de Mullenheim Millay Collage
Two of Isabelleâ€™s original Millay Soundscapes can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/#isabelle-de-mullenheim
Charlotte Holmes Philadelphia Winter
I paint the little wooden box Cadmium Yellow Medium, Sunlight squeezed from a plastic tube— Though not the sunlight of this place, Where a watery haze glints off The factory windows next door, Bounces back too weak to make A shadow for the razor wire That protects us from our neighborHood. Inside a box sheathed in such Pure pigment, I might hope to find A reservoir of happiness I seldom feel in this gray city Where yesterday a local kid Doused a stray dog in gasoline And lit its fur, auditioning For a gang, doubtless proving to All who watched he wasn’t yellow. A box of sunlight’s big enough For ashes. From my cold window I watch pigeons on the powerLines, kids walking home from school. That the dog survived, rescuers Say, was luck beyond all reason. I set the box down on the sill To dry in the late-day light That’s neither sun nor luck, only Common for this place and season.
Maria Damon The Millay Sisters Learn to Cuss
Catherine Wagner and Evie Shockley BURNS AT BOTH ENDS
Both ends are burning, little refugee, both villagesâ€” Urgent flames to claim you, if and when you sleep Raise flame to new powerâ€”raise flame without oxygen Night sky glorious with your raging transgression Suck night sky like teat and sleep on the run Amplify voice, extend echoes of shelter Throat sky tunnel, now think what to sing Bellow an aria, air out a torch, jazz a growl Or whisper definitions Technique, ruthless crooner, technique Hisses round your song, shines like barbed wire Eats at the mystery, pulls at your gut Notate the wire stars, turn them to letters Document the process and nail it to the wind Save all drafts.
Dustin London Untitled, 12â€? x 10â€?, Micaceous iron Oxide on Panel (both images)
Alexis Clements from UNKNOWN
CHARACTERS IN EXCERPT SYDNEY ANDERS (nee ISABELLA RICCI) – 87 years, an Italian-American woman SOPHIE – 30 years, a white woman THEA – 15 years, an African American teenage girl
SETTING An old brownstone in Brooklyn, NY, that was converted into an archive twentyfive years ago. The set should not be realistic—it should not try to literally recreate an archive. There should be a focus on categories, types, or archetypes in the design, rather than on specific objects. And the scale—too tall, too wide, too something— should help emphasize the fact that there is both too much and not enough to be contained in the space—that categories change and are revised or shift too often to keep up.
EXCERPT PROJECTION An image of SYDNEY washing her hands slowly in the sink. She is washing ink from her hands. SYDNEY (Only her voice.) They have no use for me anymore. They have no place to put me, no category to slot me into. They lump me into the miscellany. Just another addition to the shapeless pile of others who have no place. I can’t work anymore. I can’t keep up. They don’t want to spend time with me because they think I’m dull and talk too much about the past. There’s only me now. They’re just waiting for me to die, so they can sweep me up and drop me in the bin. Wipe away this house, wipe away the things inside of it, wipe it all clean and start from scratch, as if I was never here.
SCENE 8 THEA is sitting at the table reading one of the journals while SOPHIE is busy processing them—emptying each box, writing down the information for each item, then laying the books out on the table. THEA Why do you come here so much? SOPHIE Why do you? THEA I asked first. SOPHIE Because I like it here. THEA But why? SOPHIE It makes me think about my younger self. I think about how much I would have liked to have had a place like this to come to when I was a teenager—to help me figure out who I was. I probably would have been a little like you, hanging out in here a lot, reading the books, looking at all the pictures. I couldn’t ever find any of these stories when I was younger. I think it would have helped me a lot if I could have. This could have been my hiding place. THEA Is that why you think I come here—to hide? SOPHIE I don’t know why you come here. I don’t know that much about you, Thea. You don’t tell me much about yourself. THEA I come here to get away from the other kids. My parents think this place is just a library, so they don’t care. They think I’m learning or some shit. SOPHIE Do they know you’re gay?
THEA Who says I’m gay? SOPHIE Sorry. Pause. THEA Do I look gay? SOPHIE Nobody looks gay, Thea. You look like a beautiful young girl. THEA Really? SOPHIE Sure. Don’t you think so? THEA I’m not pretty like you. You probably get asked out all the time. SOPHIE That’s not really how it works with lesbians. THEA What do you mean? I bet Imari worked extra hard to get you to go out with her. SOPHIE I probably shouldn’t talk about my love life with you, Thea. THEA Why not? That’s all anybody ever wants to talk about when they come in here— who’s dating who, who’s single, what happened in somebody else’s relationship. SOPHIE I don’t tell most people about my love life.
THEA Whatever. Beat. SOPHIE How is school going? How are your parents? THEA My parents don’t understand me. I don’t have any close friends, and my teachers hate me. SOPHIE No one understands fifteen year olds. THEA What is that supposed to mean? SOPHIE Just that everybody has a hard time at that age. THEA Yeah, well, I’m not everybody.
1st Almagamation, 48” x 48”, Acrylic on canvas
Jeneva Stone Our Bodies are Our Temples
Moving to artificial food intake, nasogastric and, within months, gastric tubefeeding, was psychologically difficult for us, although it saved Robert’s life. The bright reds of tomatoes, the texture of rice, the colors and shapes of other foods were still there for us, and visible to him, but the substance was gone, replaced with an oily, thick formula the unpleasant smell of which was covered up by artificial flavoring, with an odor that pretends too hard to be something it’s not. What food meant changed for all of us. Robert had been an adventurous eater—a photo of him at eleven months shows his smiling face and raised hands smeared with tabouli. For him, food became a lost language he recalled with the occasional taste we smeared on his lips and tongue. For us, cooking became the late-evening ritual we performed with ceremony and care once Robert was safely settled, as when parents spell words so their children won’t understand.
In his commonplace book on language and rhetoric, the Renaissance poet Ben Jonson translates a well-known passage from Cicero, “No glass renders a man’s form, or likeness, so true as his speech. Nay, it is likened to a man: and as we consider feature, and composition in a man; so words in language: in the greatness, aptness, sound, structure, and harmony of it.” As Renaissance writers liked the analogy, you are what you say (or how you say it), a modern commonplace states, you are what you eat. Talking and eating appear to be distinct activities: the first an indicator of intelligence, controlled by the higher functions of the brain, and the second an animal function so basic that even brainless organisms like sponges, coral and bacteria have openings to gulp and ingest food. But speaking and eating are
two sides of the same coin, an output and an input, respectively, of the mouth and throat muscles. Speech therapists categorize basic language as ins and outs: receptive and expressive, what a child understands and what a child can communicate. Receptive skills are hard to gauge, murky, like our attempts to measure how much food Robert ingests and how much he spits out. Expressive language, however, shows off the talents of the tiniest gourmets, whether their alimentary aptitude rises to the diction of shrimp scampi, or stops at peanut butter and jelly. Colloquial speech perpetuates analogies between talking and eating— sometimes people refer to speech they don’t like as “shit,” the end game of digestion, and the association of talking and defecation goes as far back as Rabelais, if not farther. Furthermore, any opening can be dubbed a mouth, a maw, into which something can be inserted for processing or from which some byproduct issues. My maternal body has ingested gametes and delivered with all the complexity of thought, a child. We talk about the process of thinking as digesting information or gestating ideas, and so the brain’s byproducts, thought and speech, can be expressed in abstractions that link eating and thinking and, also, child-bearing: ingestion, consumption, composition, gestation, digestion, elimination. Our bodies are our temples, runs another commonplace of modern thought, and if we don’t nourish ourselves properly during pregnancy, or our infants optimally after birth, we might damage their brain development. We are what we eat: the pregnant body both an animal emblem cultivating our fear and an iconic standard for those women who believe reproductive control is the same as mastering destiny. All the parenting magazines show women how to make appropriate nutritional choices during gestation, and, afterward, how to master the right techniques for feeding picky toddlers. When your child says his
first word isnâ€™t something you can predict or guarantee, but you should be able to encourage the kid to like broccoli or carrots. Yet, in contrast with the brain, the stomach still seems one of the simpler organs: food goes in, digestive juices mix with it, and food mash is prepared for nutritional extraction. Presto. Cue the small intestine. Shaped in drawings like a hobo-style handbag, the stomach also bears a resemblance to the drum of a cement mixer, industrial, a unit into which things are placed to be mixed and broken down. Anything seems simple until it breaks down.
Hold, (preliminary drawing & finished work), ceramic, 5"x4"x4"
Animal Magnetism, (preliminary drawing & finished work), shirts & neodymium magnets, size variable
Žibuoklė Martinaitytė from Gridlock
To listen to her work: http://www.zibuokle.com/
Elizabeth Lara When You Left This Afternoon, It Was Still a Beautiful Day
They told me there was an accident – The friends who came by around ten I didn’t know what had happened I let them in, said, “Please, sit down” Just a few months in the country then They said there’d been an accident They said they would take me to town I froze, afraid to ask where, when… I didn’t know what had happened When I saw you, you weren’t alone Beside you – in uniform, two men They told me there was an accident You took off your ring, said “Take it now, “Keep this money until I see you again” I didn’t know what had happened The sergeant, I noticed, wore brown “The victim”, he wrote, “a seller of plantain” I didn’t know what had happened Our car? The victim? An accident?
Francis Weiss Rabkin from Yay! Synchronicity in the Universe
ARCHER: Dear…Leo—Oh fuck. Dear…Dear empty room. Dear sunset. Dear need. Dear young genius. Dear never. Dear never again. Dear eye color I can’t remember. Dear rest of my life. Dear I need a cigarette. Dear new and hyper-present sense of mortality. Dear air with no smell. Dear shadow. Dear darting thoughts. Dear stop. Dear don’t stop. Dear why now? Dear how long? Dear forever. Dear Dead Leo. Dear Leo, I would like it if you would come back now. I don’t know how to write this play without you. I sit down and watch as the sun fills up the blank page with orange light and then with shadow. Then I throw out the dark page. It’s wasteful, I know, I don’t even recycle it. But the page knows too much after a day with me; I can’t face it again and pretend like today I’ll do any better. Some days I think, I must write for the both of us. Some days I think, how could I? If I knew anything about magic, I would do a ceremony to draw you back into the world. Just for a night. We could have a dance party. You’d float in through the window, or walk through the wall, or maybe just ring the doorbell. I don’t know how this works. We’d get a little drunk, turn the record up loud, and smoke cigarettes in our underwear. And as you started to get a little sleepy, I’d tackle you and pin you down, my knees on your wrists. When I got you pinned, I’d cuff you to the desk and then we’d finish this play. Write all night and when we were done, I’d let you go, and maybe you’d let me go too. There are some flaws in the plan I guess. For one, I don’t think I’m strong enough to have pinned you while you had a body, and it’s probably even harder to pin a ghost. Plus, I’m not sure we’d get much done. I’m not convinced this world is even where it’s at. It’s those liminal places, outside of regular time, where the creative part happens anyway. Also, if I saw you again, I’d probably cry a lot and maybe need to punch you where your heart once was, you fucking jerk.
Venus 30“ x 22” Collage & Acrylic on Paper
Pretty Little Lies 30” x 22” Collage & Acrylic on Paper
Brenda Coultas from The Tatters
I found a pearl and wore it in my ear Deep ocean echos sing like a seashell
A girl promised a purse filled with jewels, if I would be her friend Purses open secrets as priceless as pills in a jeweled box
Loose pearls, enough to imagine what a great loss that necklace was or was not
I like to see metal turn red and glow and to hear its hiss when it meets the water. Leather bellows, suspended from the ceiling, pump air into the fire. Long handled tongs and picks forge mostly nails. I open all the old purses. There might be change left in one.
I built you a tree of light to see by To listen to digital libraries in your palm. Renamed myself writing this book, renamed myself after building this tree
I burnt candles all night to grow these leaves.
I fed books to the flame, to make a blaze to read by Mined libraries to power this tower of light
built sparkling branches with flaming pages for leaves dense as the weeping willowâ€™s cascade of curls
On the mountain ridge my tree stands head and shoulders above the hardwoods. Along the roadway wooden poles, bathed in chemicals, hold up a network of wire
I built a tree, more cell than sweeping pine or black walnut, as natural as pink pine needles or a silver mylar holiday tree. Glittery pine boughs glue-gunned on.
No needles on the floor No forest smell
My gift is glittery and eternal Even in synthetic shreds dumped on a landlocked city sidewalk it finds its way to the sea
So Yoon Lym
Love Letters I, 9” x 12”, Ink on Paper
Love Letters I, 9” x 12”, Ink on Paper
Lindsay Packer Yes and No, 12” x 13”, Gouache, graphite and collage
Claire Donato Cannonball in Blue, B-Flat Minor
Gracie gave her promise to the cat, he is more than I in this restless water soluble condition
To place emphasis upon the lives of those who’ve been rebuked by someone else’s I, I say and think and strike up silence worthy of the river’s muscles that, by definition, lay atop the rising waters with mind-body ghosts
Of alphabets that visit me alone from time to time in black, non-photo blue, and red, the wall of conversation comes back down to cling, to hold on to
Cristián Flores Garcia
Sister answers to the sheriff after being pulled over while driving under the speed limit, having left many houses immaculate Did you know your left headlight is not working? No Sir. Can I see your driver’s license, registration and insurance? Yes Sir. Registration and insurance. No driver’s license? No Sir. Where are you going? Home. Where are you coming from? Work.
Do you have anything illegal in the car? Just us.
Stick Study I-IV, pen & ink on paper, 8" x 5 3/8" (each)
Stone Wall Study, watercolor on paper, 7" x 4 3/4"
Karen Kanan CorrĂŞa Suite Mechanique During my residency at Millay I composed a set of pieces for music box and strings called "Suite Mechanique." The music box works similarly to a player-piano in that the compositions are transcribed to holes punched in paper sheets which are then fed through the box mechanically. By flipping or reversing the music sheets I create instant variations on the original score. The effect can be unexpected, even to me: sometimes beautiful, sometimes dissonant, sometimes both. An accompanying semi-improvisatory string duo adds even more variation and can elevate a simple melody to something more romantic, playful, or haunting. Because the tempo fluctuates with random variations in how quickly the box is played, the string players are forced to adapt on the fly, creating a dynamic interplay between the "programmed" piano part and the performing musicians. The ability to adapt and to appreciate diverse outcomes is part of the magic of this Suite.
Ching-In Chen Composition
I want to know how to make myself color. Wassily Kandinsky looked sideways, then the sky. Sitting still. The first time since she's been away from home, putting her head down to rest, waiting for you to finish, for you to exit. How comfortable she makes herself, on the bed, lying down. If you bring out an instrument which pours out the voice, will she remember from a different city, that time we walked on the road in muggy summer. Years later, this memory alters into something without the eye. We took a small scar around the island and that's how we knew â€“ we were meant to walk together partway. The other across the ocean cut himself to boxes. To explain, they said it was a conversation. I doubt either was talking. Some love poems do not die. A straight sentence, even music disobey the eardrum. Don't look at my mouth, she said. It doesn't make my decisions. From a distance, anything is possible.
Brian Dunn Lawn, 2012, canvas collage, acrylic and latex on canvas, 20" x 24"
Abeer Hoque from Memory Alone
The Wrong Room He is sitting in the wrong room. The chair is felt and hard, the arms holding his up. Without moving, he looks at himself. His hands are old so he is old. Brown pinstripes reach down his legs, a tracing remaining of the middle crease. Without moving, he looks inside himself, fixes himself in time, coming into his body like awakening. The knife in his hip sharpens. He closes his eyes, zeroes in on it. It’s always the same one. The sharp silver pours into its shape, balances and tunes. An equal pitch hums along the skeleton of his body, rimming the withered bowl of his hips, the edges thin as teeth. The bone absorbs the silver, stirs it into itself, anodyne diluting. As the picture clears, so does the pain, the old trick still tricking. He has been able to wish away pain his whole life, by painting it into the scene, defining it as an object, diminishing it. He can feel her there, sitting beside him in the chintz armchair. He turns his head, but there is someone else sitting there, a stranger. He looks to make sure it’s his house. The clouded bay window, the swayback divan, the mirrored mantle. It’s all there. “Who are you?” His voice is newborn, sodden. “What are you doing here?” The woman turns to him unperturbed. Her face is lined, her hair lustrous. “I’m here to keep you company.” “I don’t need you.” “Then I’ll go,” she says getting up, her motion slower than he expects. Still he expects. Her body straightens into a shape he foresees before he sees. He has an inkling. He irons it flat. “Good.”He hears the petulance in his voice, unable to stop. He knows he is growing smaller with time. Not just his body, but his mind. Not just his mind, but his heart. He cares less. When she returns, he says nothing, as an apology. As she sinks back into the chintz, from the corner of his eye, he recognizes the swing of her hair, the slant of her jaw. Again he turns to her and sees a stranger. Again he turns away. If he doesn’t look her way, he knows who she is. If he does look, he doesn’t. If he lets his mind wander, there is no fleeting, no clutching. Happening passes through him as if he is another way to pour. It’s only when he tries to remember that he floods with fear, the unknown, the mistaken. How long has he been here? Where is his daughter? Is he dying? Somewhere a door slams. The dam of his brain engages, stopping both method and madness in their tracks. The merry go round empties, and starts again.
Tom Zoellner from A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America
What is the true essence of a friendship? What draws us to certain selected people on a level that goes beyond the fact that they merely amuse us? I have never found a satisfying answer to this question in a general sense, but I can say without a doubt that what I most respected about Gabrielle Giffords was the way that she was able to turn herself into the kind of rooted person that I was never able to be. My inner strategy had been always been one of escape, a silent self-declaration to the lasting failure of my adolescence and every other disappointment, Well, hey, I don’t really belong here anyway, and never have. Gabrielle chose instead to dig a foxhole and fight. I was not at all her only friend, of course; she had multiple confidantes and collected people in her life like treasured artwork, but this, too, was a trait I admired, and maybe because the way she did it was similar to my own way, which was to keep archipelagos of friends from different eras that didn’t necessarily intersect. Once she showed me a stack of her old homework from Tanque Verde Elementary School, stored up lovingly in a cardboard box by her mother. Amid the colorful construction paper and drawings was a short essay on lined paper, written with the kind of thick pencils that can fit into a child’s fist. The question from the teacher had been what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she hadn’t answered with an occupation like firefighter, dancer, or politician. She wrote instead that the point of life was to try to be a good person “and not think about death too much.” That last part I can quote directly. Perhaps this essay had come immediately after that awful moment in childhood when the intellectual reality of dying finally hits home—not just for Grandpa but for us, that beyond this experience of light, sound, and color there may be nothing waiting on the other side but silence and darkness with no end. Gabrielle’s first coping strategy for this inconceivable possibility wasn’t a bad one, and, in fact, it would later shape her adult life. Yeah, but was there any such thing as a benevolent God or a life after this? I asked her this in the back corner of a Fourth Avenue bar called Che’s Lounge. Were we really going anywhere? This was a question that has haunted me ever since my own awareness of my inevitable death, which had been
prompted at age nine after I read a Peanuts Sunday strip in which Snoopy tells Woodstock that he has decided to stop worrying, because most of what he was worrying about wasn’t going to happen anyway. A little voice then sounded up from the murk of my subconscious: Well, except for death. That always gets you. No compromise or negotiation. The sudden thought of a silent forever not too many years away, nonsight, nonhearing, nonexistence, non, non, non, so terrified me that I cried all evening long, head in my arms at the kitchen table. There was a distinct possibility that all the churches and their soothing words were just a bunch of socially constructed nonsense covering up a howling nothingness. Ever since, and into adulthood, it has been one of my primary frustrations (I believe I speak for many here) that positive empirical data about this question is denied us, lying beyond the furthest edges of sensual perception. Whether that’s by clever design or by the intrinsic meaninglessness of universe is yet another maddening riddle. I believe the evidence favors a God, but the best we can do, beyond having faith, is to guess. So what happens, I asked her, when we come to the end ? She shook her head over her untouched beer and smiled, almost playfully. “Game over,” she said. Her belief at that time in her life—in her early thirties—resembled an idea that dates to the ancient Greeks: that death is the thing that gives life its essence. Without an opposite, a thing has no meaning. There is no wet without dry, no warm without cold. The purpose and texture of life was highly charged because it had to come to an end. Beauty is only beauty because it cannot last forever. Everyone had to decide at some point what their life is supposed to mean in this extremely valuable context, and she had made the existential decision after getting out of the tire business that her purpose for being born was public service and helping other people. That was the unified field theory of her life. All of her waking actions were going to be guided by it henceforth. And she meant it.
Adapted from A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America (Viking/Penguin, 2012)
Amanda Davidson Incident Report
What we remember: gaps in the narrative, a panicked aftermath. One of us feels guilty. One of us feels scared. One of us writes a letter and doesn’t send it. One of us secretly keeps an undergarment discovered only hours later at the foot of the bed. One of us avoids dinner the next night. One of us tries to take a moral high ground with regards to the Other Person. One of us suspects and/or accuses the other’s declarations of ardor of being insufficiently authentic due to lack of a proven track record in certain key subgenres of flagrante delicto. One of us becomes frustrated and/or angry that her declarations of ardor are being invalidated and/or dismissed. One of us senses a phantom gender pushing through the skin. One of us feels at the verge of a transformation, but doesn’t know into what. One of us experiences a nascent maleness as a phantom lack of breasts but has little in the way of language available to describe this unformed self. One of us gets mad at Freud. One of us makes a gesture of reconciliation using art. One of us asks the other to perform contact improvisation with two headless, limbless mannequins exhibiting contrasting smooth bulges in the groin-and-pec regions. One of us consents to be video taped executing these moves wearing a beige unitard. One of us makes a short movie using the footage. One of us has to go to work. One of us is nervous the next time she talks to her parents on the phone. One of us gets a job passing out fliers on the street. One of us doesn’t tell the whole story. One of us hooks up with someone else’s girlfriend at a party. One of us hears about it the next day. One of us feels sorrow. One of us feels justified, and then regretful.
One of us kisses a boy and then gets annoyed when her friends say I thought you were completely, you know, the other way now. One of us is like, I didnâ€™t know I had to choose. One of us attends a political demonstration where she receives a sunburn. One of us knows her rage can multiply and bear fruit in a crowd. One of us goes on what she considers a fairly moderate drug binge, concealing her indulgences from those in her immediate environment. One of us writes a story for the first time in several months. One of us keeps feeling like sheâ€™s just about to run into the other one in the kitchen, or on campus, or in fact anywhere she happens to be. One of us feels lost most of the time. Even in her own bed, she wakes up at odd times of night feeling lost. Sometimes she feels lost inside of her own body, like her mind is just a vapor drifting in and out of her skin. One of us keeps a minute record of such disturbances in a sketch book that she eventually and unintentionally leaves on a Greyhound bus. One of us tells the story so many different ways she can no longer separate what happened from what she made up.
Grandfathered, pencil and watercolor on paper, 21" x 27"
Him/her, pencil and watercolor on paper, 21" x 27"
Compositions in color and b&w, C-print, 2012.
Dear deer, C-print, 2012.
Jaime Karnes from The Great Darkness
In the orphanage we were bastards, unwanted children. Many of us had been at St. Patrick’s our entire lives. Our home. A place we’d memorized inside and out: the square windows sealed shut during winter, the sledding hill on Mount Royal, our classroom that smelled of mildew and mothballs, and our dormitory, on the west wing, with its long and narrow row of single beds. A few newer beds had been brought in over the past months and smelled of steel, of freshly made screws, and we fought over them. Rock, paper, scissors. Some of us really needed the newer beds. We grew each day. We ate three helpings of Father Hartigan’s boiled potatoes—often raw in the center. Father Hartigan wasn’t an especially good cook. He’d no formal training. He kept the grounds neat and the pipes of the orphanage in working order. He cleaned; he cooked. Rumors existed about a wooden leg and, as Father Hartigan always wore pants and walked with a limp, we believed them. In the orphanage we were the oldest. Three of us were ten, the other two almost eleven. We called ourselves the Lost Boys.
They say when the Sisters of Mercy found Ahern it was a dark and stormy night, like the way scary books begin: It was a dark and stormy night when we found you in the garden, a piece of tattered silk taped to your chest with His name is Ahern, the words in cursive, written with the blunt end of a tube of red lipstick. You were so small and wet from all the raining it’d done that night, and we had no idea how long you’d been laid out in the garden. You didn’t cry. Someone had taken care to swaddle you in the remains of what looked to be a terry blue robe – of which the belt was tied about your midsection. Wrapped as if in a butterfly cocoon, weeks before it’s birth. Only a mother would know to do this, we thought—to swaddle so delicately, to calm her baby, to make him comfortable. Bastian, born to an unwed mother—a whore—at the Sisters of St. Francis Hospital, was immediately transported to St. Patrick’s. The story goes that the sisters gave him his name because it sounded like bastard but was appropriate for roll. He, of course, said he was named after his real father, a scientist, nuclear or some such story. That his father couldn’t marry his mother because of the secret service mission he was on in Germany. He told us that his
father would one day return for him. We wanted to believe him. We wanted to believe that if a boy like Bastian could have a real family then we could, too. Pomeroy and Margot came to St. Pat’s on one of the hottest days in August 1948. Sister Mary Donald escorted them through the front gates and along the steamy paved drive. Pomeroy, barefooted, scooted like Mexican jumping beans we’d seen for sale in Boys Life. Margot seemingly dragged behind—her thin pink lips cracked from chewing and crying. Sister held them each by the hand; we’d all come to know the strength of that grip and were secretly glad it wasn’t us as we watched from our single dormitory window—our bodies climbing over each other for a better look, weaving in and out like some kind of human basket. Later we found that Margot was four and Ahern six, and they’d come from a well off family in Joliette, some forty miles east of Montreal. Their parents died the night before in a car accident, apparently on their way home from Mass. Good Roman Catholics. Thierry had been at St. Pat’s for eight years; he came just before his second birthday. His mother said she couldn’t care for a deaf boy, especially when the doctor said Thierry would never hear, would never grow out of it. Thierry often shouted, or moaned in his sleep, and we couldn’t risk him waking Father as he’d done in the past. The few times we’d been caught we never blamed Thierry. We liked him. Liked how he followed us around, and the stranger way he spoke as if a sock had been lodged deep in his throat. His hair was white like the snow leopards in our geography books; he had one eye turned in that spectacles couldn’t fix, so we only looked at the left side of his face when we spoke to him.
Celina Su Una Abuelita Para Cada Plaza Pública Based on the testimony of, for D.R.
—I was working, I was wearing a black suit and commuting from the Lower East Side to the Upper West Side, I was moving up and over like a knight, I was telecommunicating. I was getting out of here, por que, aunque, sin embargo ella me dijo que, Sin el pobre no hay rico. (¿Por que? It was a day like today, daylight gray, the climate changed version of a romanticized Vermeer haze, cast on my claustrophobic tableau, still-life with glass carafe signifier of, stigma, stroller.) I was playing telekinesis with my grandeur-colored bag. —I was trying to climb upstairs, but this crowd stood in my way, obstructed my view. (Yo no sé, ¿estabán luchando? So I stayed still and watched the blockade. And in my mind’s eye, the colors of a panoramic vista marbleized into clouds of soft focus blur, a ribbon of a longer time horizon tied into itself with frayed knots. To work towards what we have lost, a redress cut from what social fabric.) —Mira, ella fue una seamstress, pero ¿de cual fábrica? She worked in so many, manufacturing these hope-shaped cloaks. Me recuerdo mi abuela, quien me dijo tambien: En el día de mañana we will know those no one else knows, we will be attached at the hips, we will become Siamese. Ojála, to devise these projects, draw and color in this sphere, in this square, to shape these privatized polygons: (¿Donde, cuando? When we bow our heads in contemplation, let us raise our voices. For we peer at the sidewalk with eye-feathered planes—
Rebecca Wolff Death in Copenhagen
Why do I teach my daughter to type? Like there’s no tomorrow. Magic leaden characters striking the papery cumulative. I dunno, because it’s one of the few things in the world I know how to do has served me well made me fluent it has made me money it has given me words to speak, with which to hear the best translation available Because it’s outlaw and I’m an outlaw I accept Death I accept Skills, measurement in length and width most importantly Death. I am unlikely to meet my Maker here in the Copenhagen airport, I make my connection. Statistics do not lie: safer to fly than to drive; upon arrival find the Jews not “decimated,” that is understatement, but “liquidated”; panoramic views of orange tiled rooftops raise spirits precisely 2 to 1; you cannot just stick a writer in a room in Vilnius and tell her to write—this is Death Vilnius, long
white room’s iniquity damaged collaterally hysterically confirmed genocide, occupation in an almost Western-seeming context. Superficially so. Bio groceries and foul local honey—medicinal—bees hung over vodka—and bath salts, baby, bath salts. Baby needs collegial action, assurance of mealtime. This is why colonies form out of despair. I came here to this white renovation to be alone with my lost lover, to sink into the nowhere no one will go with me, I go everywhere I go so I can be alone with him. I meet him there. No one will laugh at me here I think or will they, I brought my own spirits, maybe they are laughing even now. They cannot contain long suppressed amusement, plain language in white paint on dark impressive statuary in a small park occupied time and time again, virtually comical—slapstick of occupation—bang on the head when it raises its head, if you like that sort of thing; virtually abstract public art—long obsidian sisters in public space depose the heavy heart, the head-and-shoulders of Stalin and his brethren now disposed to lie in rubble in the garbage. Can. of History. That word should be abolished. Nothing dies. “Love Lust Faith Dreams”—it is of legend. Why do I teach my daughter to type? Like there’s no tomorrow.
How Much Longer, 2011. Graphite on paper, 20 x 30"
You Own Nothing, 2012. Metallic oil paint on slashed canvas, 30 x 40"
7 STAR* performed by VaVatican can be heard here: http://music.promnightrecords.com/track/7-star
Taro Hattori A Little Tepid Pool Drying Inward From the Edge During my residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts, I found a abandoned swimming pool which was once Edna St. Vincent Millay's. In the ruin of her swimming pool where she had asked everybody to be naked, there was a secluded society of thousands of frogs, true bugs, newts and a snake surrounded by 7 feet tall concrete walls. The society in the pool was totally self sustainable without any possibility for them to get out. So, I decided to give them the choice for freedom, which might be totally unnecessary, and to sing a song "Stairway to Heaven" for the community members to be encouraged to be free.
2012. Wood, performance, video, sound. Karen Kanan CorrĂŞa and Taro Hattori.
Stephen Motika As landscape (in memory of Adrienne Rich)
Earlier this morning I dreamt that a video of me masturbating went viral on the Internet. The scene was choreographed, some post-pastoral night scene (a landscape) featuring me fucking the grass. Surrounded by dozens of other boys? All out of my touch. What was this clarity? This rose light? The mint-green night lawn? My taut, unblemished body before me, before the world. I guess my torso was see-through because I could see my cock and bush and backside. Visible: the body’s surfaces, the body’s parts. In parallel, in praxis. I said several monosyllabic words. The realm of the performative and pornographic equated a dream state. Repetitive, I quivered, ending in the panic and anxiety of revelation. Does our desire implicate us in the catastrophic endgame of sociality, the long gazing public? I felt warned away by new words, new visions. The old sat so well here, that I confused it with life itself. Reminded then: the living crawl towards illness & death, maybe blindness, so that when we ask to have our favorite books brought close to us we know we’ll never be able to read them again. They read to us then, if they care to. The enclosure is surrounded by the world: touch the edge of it through this thin membrane. People still visit, a parade of something funny, like love, like honor. The last time was after the rains had arrived. Didn’t live to see the end of them. The world was a quieter, but not gentler, not any calmer, this summer.
Kenneth Calhoun from Black Moon
They enclosed Kitov’s large head inside a metal frame, locking it into position with pins that bored into his skull. Felicia, who had mastered the use of a syringe when injecting countless rats and dogs for Lee’s research, was recruited to administer the local anesthetic at the four points where the pins penetrated the scientist’s papery skin. Lee and Porter moved in, locking the electrode driver onto the frame. Using a joystick, Lee would ease in the electrodes with the precision and steadiness of a machine. For guidance, he would listen to the firing of nerve cells, which were picked up by the electrode and amplified. He would also ask Kitov to count, or list animals, or raise his arms, in order to determine the location of the implant as it traveled to its destination. There was some blood when they drilled, even though they had flapped the scalp. Felicia was ready with gauze, quickly sponging off the area. The drill’s high-pitched whine filled the room. A wisp rose from the contact point and Felicia couldn’t tell whether it was mist from the liquid coolant the drill expelled or bone dust. Before long, there were two nickel-sized pieces of skull in the tray and two openings, like a peephole for each eye, in Kitov’s skull. They could all see his brain under the lights—a slick, pale coil of fat worms, thinly stained red. “And so,” Kitov asked sportingly, “what do you see? My childhood is there? My Vera there on bench by river? See how we found so many mushrooms? I hurt my shoulder falling on the ice in front of the Institute.” “It’s your head,” Porter said, “not a View-Master.” Lee asked Kitov if he was comfortable. The older man laughed. “My face has before been trapped in tighter places! But, yes, soft places.” Lee sat and studied the driver monitor. With a small joystick, he lowered the recorder electrode lead so that it sat only millimeters above the brain tissue. Then, with a nod to Porter, he edged the joystick forward and the thin, stiff tendril of wire slid slowly between the wet convolutions with a faint electric hum. He paused. “All good?” he asked his patient. “Yes, of course,” Kitov growled. “Start it already!” “We have,” Porter said with annoyance.
Now the hard, slow work began. Lee advanced the lead in micrometer increments, listening for the firing of nerve cells, which crackled like static until Felicia helped move Kitov’s legs and arms. Then the waveform on the monitor spread across the screen like a dark stain, and the resulting firing of nerve cells was voiced with a loud, sustained creaking—a cathedral door slowly swinging open. Because they did not have the live scans of Kitov’s brain, Porter crosschecked the coordinates against a generic model of a 3-D brain—a preset from the application’s library. When they decided on an exact location, they swapped out the recording electrode for an actual pulse lead and again slowly advanced as Felicia monitored the EKG and observed Kitov’s response to Lee’s tests: extend the index finger of your right hand, tap your feet together five times, look to the left, to the right. This went on for three hours, until by all available calculations they believed they had arrived at proper placement of the sleep electrode. “You ready for some downtime?” Lee asked Kitov. “When I see Hypnos,” Kitov responded, “I will persuade him not to abandon us.” Then, when Lee gave the nod and Porter manually triggered the sleep pulse, they watched as Kitov’s eyes dropped shut. They checked the EKG. The heart marched on. All three looked at each other, eyebrows raised. It seemed as though it had worked. They were removing their surgical masks when Felicia noticed the tremor in Kitov’s legs. They watched it move up his body, into his hands, into his chest, where it caused a flutter in his breathing. Then spasms hit, the body convulsing. Lee threw himself over his mentor, trying to prevent him from tearing out the pins on the stereotactic frame that caged his head. But Kitov’s body kicked and bucked, knocking over bedside machinery, the rolling tray of tools. Felicia screamed as Porter pushed her out of the way and tried to wrangle their patient’s scissoring legs. The pins tore into Kitov’s head as he twisted. Minutes later, the celebrated scientist died behind a veil of blood.
Jason Gray Platt from Ye Bare and Ye Cubb The social order of the Virginia Colony threatens to break down when three men decide to do what has never before been done in the American Colonies: put on a play. Based on historical events.
REGISTER Will you deign to sit with an old man and his supernumerary, Evelyn? EVELYN Only if you promise to tell me lurid tales of crimes and their consequences. Did you dispense with much evil today? REGISTER Today I did not. The devil approached me around noon, claiming to be spread rather thin in his duties recently with the world getting as large as it is, but he promised to provoke someone within the next two or three days. DOGSON Did you see the devil, then, your honor? REGISTER I did. DOGSON What did he look like? AMY Bit of a mustache, yeah? Bit French? REGISTER The devil always comes in a form you can trust, itâ€™s why they call it a familiar, he never wants to make himself conspicuous, you see. Because I trust only myself and no other man, he always comes to me as my image in a glass. He is a handsome devil.
CASS Trust only yourself? Isn’t that pride? REGISTER Why do you think the devil comes to me? AMY If our justices flirt with the devil, there can be very little hope for us. REGISTER Living here I’m quite sure we’re all flirting with the devil.
Photo by Bernice Abbott
SPECIAL GUEST EDITED SECTION OF EDNA
Some Notes on VINCENT by Guest Editor Amanda Davidson
We decided to call this special journal-inside-of-a-journal Vincent after the poet’s chosen name, and there she is, in certain photographs, a little more Vincent than Edna, bending sartorial conventions the same way that she bucked other norms, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, as a feminist, as a great orchestrator of social events (nudity was purportedly requisite around her swimming pond). i matter to my arrival —Sarah Gambito
I’d like to draw a connection here between Vincent’s public disregard for convention (because she was a very public figure in her time), and the risktaking work the Millay Colony supports. While there is precious little nurturance in the main-stream for investigations of form, power, and representation, Millay aims to make space for this gorgeous variousness. I’m not certain how I came up, or why, or how I would feel in a room full of others who did not look like me, or who were me, but I realized that I looked into my hand and saw. —Ronaldo’ V. Wilson
Vincent offers an ample sampling of the delicate, sturdy, expansive, and necessary work engendered by Millay. Some of the pieces here reflect directly on the residency experience, or mine site-specific histories, or collaborate with the environment. Other works bring other worlds into focus, whether tracing urban histories, addressing the dead, or exploring the range and limits of a person’s chosen medium. By way of introduction, I pay homage to each of these brilliant pieces by weaving excerpted quotes through this account of a day spent in residence— a sort of thank you note turned narrative love letter for the Colony.
The Steepletop Barn was built in the mid 1920s by Edna St. Vincent Millay from one of the classic kits designed by Sears & Roebuck.
We would de-notate and detonate. At breakpoint, we would close our eyes. —Katy Lederer
The person is, by all appearances, doing nothing, or doing very little, lying on her back on a picnic table in full sun, eyes closed, brushing away occasional mosquitos, gnats, bees, horse flies. Or else she’s dragged the table to catch the shade cast by the Sears kit barn, and she’s gazing at the clouds, which are active today in their bunching and dispersal, their urgent trajectory toward—where? I sat at the window of the building’s small library and instead of working watched the sun on its course, a great, misplaced basket of light. —Christian Nagler
She’s immersed in a working-through that requires attentive stillness, although someone passing by might think: what kind of work is this? And boredom—true boredom—should not be viewed lightly. —Kara Lee Corthron
The trees shift in and out focus. She’s here and elsewhere, in the space of an essay that she hadn’t planned to write, although it’s been sneaking up on her daily, or she’s been sneaking up on it, slouched on the couch in her studio (her studio!), ancient laptop on her knees, making perhaps too many visits to the tea rig in the hallway and the bathroom down the stairs, each step and door-slam vibrating throughout the barn, whose partitioned innards she shares with three others, whom she scarcely sees during these days of work and stillness. We were defining our differences and similarities in terms of narrative versus conceptualism, poetry versus fiction, ideas versus feelings, and the general wobbliness of such dichotomies. Emails trail her, deadlines for paid work and bills that don’t go on retreat, so the person rouses herself from the picnic table, fetches her phone from the car (even here, she has to she hide it from herself). She’s had a good morning (if morning means whenever she woke up until this late-afternoon tabletop) of writing (if writing can stretch to include the morning coffee and the book, the daily floor-sprawl she calls a meditation practice), and now it’s time to check in on the other order of time, in which an overworked nonprofit staff awaits her press release edits. Sorrow like a ceaseless rain Beats upon my heart. —Edna St. Vincent Millay
She passes a painter on his phone, pacing back and forth on the rutted stretch of dirt road that catches a patch of reception, and thinks he must be checking in on the Problem, as discussed at the dinner table last night. Nobody knew each other prior to arrival, but now they offer council for crises of family and art and love, they clean up together after dinner, they paint each other’s nails and binge-watch Twin Peaks while taking notes for the movie they’ve decided to make. it’s a riot, love, a candy store, the sea’s delicious mess —Betsy Andrews
They know it doesn’t always go like this, they’ve all experienced drama/ alienation/&c. at other residencies, and also in the world, of which, in fact, this is a part, not a pure away as much as an extra-special node in reality’s continuum, and, as such, they know such conflicts can be necessary, the good, hard work of speaking across histories and differences that don’t go offline just because they’re in the woods. But mostly, this month, their dramas have unfolded offsite, or else in their studios, as they wrestle with processes. In the common space, a group body forms in the space of two weeks. One crowd stands searching through another. —Nora Maynard
She trudges up hill past the blueberry meadow, stands on the picnic table, waves her phone at the cell tower, visible on a sloped fold of mountain across the New York-Massachusets state line. These are state-protected lands, the residency director tells the assembled new comers on their first-day tour, pointing out the too-flat field that used to be Vincent’s tennis court. The other half shudders, exposed to the elements. —Celina Su
The playwright in residence has been devouring Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, copies of which live in the barn and the main house, and she delivers tidbits over dinner: The poet preferred to go by Vincent! She was really, really famous! And bisexual! In the parlor, the mouth of the world and the mouths of girls were pressed unusually close together, so the girls got to trick out something precious, something which the world didn’t want girls to have: information. —Camille Roy
The playwright opens the book to show everyone photographs of Vincent in drag, of her husband Eugen, who encouraged her lovers, of Norma, the sister who moved into Steepletop after Vincent’s untimely stair tumble, and preserved the poet’s stuff as-was, down to the laudanum bottles on the bathroom sink, artifacts of Vincent’s addiction. Norma, who turned Vincent’s legacy and property into the residency. A corpse is a falling horizon but I can lift the meadow—nettles and flowers, bugs and wind—singing her back on the rhyme of death and breath. —Robert Glück
The person pockets her phone. There’s no reception today. And it’s later than she thought. Dinner will be ready soon, that preposterously amazing five-nighta-week phenomenon. There is a chef! And a grocery list crowd-sourced from the seven residents! These luxuries embarrass her, and feel like pure magic, but they aren’t magic, they issue from visible streams of human labor, for example, there’s Chef Donna cooking another home-run lasagna, there’s the staff in and out of the office, writing grants, doing laundry, fielding their needs. The daily work of sustaining this self-directed, hard-to-monetize labor of thinking-withmaterials: space, paint, stillness, sound, light, dust, and history. I tried to imagine just who frolicked up here with Vincent during the Roaring Twenties, if a bit of the Harlem Renaissance found its way to the outdoor bar under the grape arbor, into the nude swimming pool near the theater circle. —Tisa Bryant
On the horizon now, at the threshold, the others appear. They’ve been on their own strange gallops today, some of them out of doors, others doing research, or working with the materials they brought from various elsewheres, or in conversation, online, with collaborators abroad. Jimmy's eyes scanned the cracked walls covered in white sheets and drawing paper, the jars of multicolored paint scattered across the scratched hardwood floors, and finally came to rest on an easel in the far corner. —Nicholas Boggs
They are at the midpoint, now, as far from one end of the month as the other, and she worries, taking her place at the table, that whatever is happening here will vanish when she goes back, that the work means nothing, speaks to no one, will be absorbed, unread and unfinished, into the distracting pleasures and crises that define city life. It’s easy to drop something so small into the dust when you mean to hold on tightly. —Melissa Sandor
Everybody starts to talk and eat, and she remembers, with a rush of relief, that she believes in their work, believes in them, even when faith in her own output flags. The feeling carries over for weeks when she goes back. Another small world’s end. —Melissa Febos
She thinks her way between spaces: what are the connections between what they do out here and the back theres they all return to, eventually. She watches people reading while she rides the train to work, sees them flipping codex pages or tapping a device, and she thinks that a book is a temporary immersion into a different order of time, she wants to propose that maybe writing is social practice for loners and the shy, and though she doesn’t know if she’ll ever find a publisher as willing as Millay was to encourage the queer forms her writing takes, she’s still fired with the afterburn of camaraderie and solitude, the temporariness of that time away sharpening the effect, and so she publishes her essay anyway, reader by reader, from her email outbox. To help us understand that in absence there is force. —Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
With gratitude, Amanda Davidson, Guest Editor Brooklyn, NY September 2013
Nina Katchadourian Sorted Books
The Sorted Books project began in 1993 and is ongoing. It has taken place in many different locations over the years, ranging from private homes to specialized public book collections. The process is the same in every case: I sift through a collection of books, select particular titles, and eventually group these books into clusters so that the titles can be read in sequence. Taken as a whole, the clusters from each sorting aim to examine that particular collection’s focus, idiosyncrasies, and inconsistencies—a crosssection of that library’s holdings. Ultimately, the book clusters function as a kind of portrait. The photograph here is a snapshot from a quick book sorting I did with some things I found in the main house's library, a collection donated to the Colony by Nancy Graves and now located in the Director's office. This is a wide-ranging collection of books, many of which are art-related but the collection also includes many wonderful books on philosophy, music, astronomy, fashion etc. I spent time in the library when I visited in the Winter of 2010. I had arrived the evening before, and was still unused to the solitude and sounds of the countryside. Mildly spooked.
Ronaldo V. Wilson from LUCY 72
1. Lucy Begins To Speak One ear is stuffed with Styrofoam, the other open in air. The car floats up a hill, but in my head, heat rings. Birds collect outside a room. A tic folds in the split tree. When will I decide my wool skirt is too small for my hips? I slipped down a flight, or was I gliding on a moving sidewalk, or was I falling down a gorge? There are no waterfalls in my dreams, only the strangeness of a family, being strange with one another. One member wipes a table down. The table is black. The family is black. I’m not, but I dreamt about them. One was driving another to work. It was 6:30 in the morning. A boy was being mean to his sister. Maybe after a fight: “Are you mad?” I saw her, curly haired, in a sweater vest jammed to the steering wheel. My name is Lucy. I am small and thin. What he feels is close to speaking. I do not speak, unless I have to. I am forever white, which means I am forever sealed. I don’t feel entitled. I feel more or less, normal. When I think about being, I don’t think about being white. These black people – a sister and a brother – my dream family – are beautiful. I want at least to believe so. I am beautiful, not by default, but by the nature of what exists. My story is not long, and in it, there is a river. A river in my head that spills over rocks: When my hair, left in a shower or in a pool, or in anyone else’s mouth, the thought occurs: a sister, fabric in a car.
2. Lucy Embodies Her Own Practice If I lean slightly forward, my lower back won’t hurt. There’s no-one around, not even myself, because I’ve decided to ignore my own arms. When that Black called me “Whitey” in the street, or when I thought he said this, my hair was shield enough against the encounter. The name caller manifests from within a dream. He could have been lying. Maybe he was too smart to throw a brick. I’ve read about the brick throwing. I read about one, homeless, picking up a piece of a building and breaking it on a blonde, who was unfortunate to be moving down that street. But still, we rise. We survive. When he yelled “Whitey,” at me, I thought he yelled, “Beauty,” Not “Sexy,” “Bitch,” not “Mommy,” nor “Lover,” “Ho” or “Honey.” Does he have a face? Am I as temporary? In the mirror, I want to ask, “Is that me?” Is that the person he sees? My own beauty, I realize, is connected to his naming. That uncontrollable speech that emerges, rotating around the edge of manner – such activity, as he clears his throat is mine. I am rounder than round, skin wound around flesh and a mane of grey. I am nearly as white as the two horses at the top of the hill, who, if given fright, may attack. My time is succinct, my curler, a fragment, fly-backs shifting in feathers. I brood, my racing shoes slip away from my feet. I, burning sun, I, pink face, particleboard smack up against the house – In the morning, I walk on the edge of a spring, veins shooting from the soil.
3. Lucy and Regret In the hour, when my wine has begun to melt, I feel loss. What self have I undone to become? After my body fell out of a puddle of water, I thought I’d care. Of course, I would not, nor could I care less. I told someone about my existence. She was black. I’m not certain how I came up, or why, or how I would feel in a room full of others who did not look like me, or who were me, but I realized that I looked into my hand and saw. I saw the sea, a river with a hole in it, stairs that lead into a lake, a river below that, and then inside of that chasm, a parapet, then a rim around my head. Tonight, I looked at my shadow. I never really thought about it before. In my swim cap, what was I but a pull of currents against my form? If I thought about it, hard enough, what would motivate me to stop turning inside of myself, to stop looking for the point where my whiteness begins? My urgent hair breaking near the edge of forest, the whole of my face cracking into pieces as I shift. What body do I own, gesturing? Imagine, an image where the body slips outside of the frame of the self, one where I think less about being a runner, and more about running, becoming even less. What gores back into me is only the space of my body, drilling against my life – I am made up, but if someone were to walk up on me –
4. Lucy in the Morning I have to eat. The eggs in Montreal, no matter how hard I asked for them to be poached, hard, someone in the kitchen makes them soft. Iâ€™ve since decided to give up on eggs, save scrambled. Too, I like my bacon crisp. I like my toast crunchy. And at lunch, I need chips. I respond to my need for hardness as a matter of consequence. Iâ€™m not sure how this is connected to my identity, or if it has anything to do with last nightâ€™s dream. There were rows of stables underwater. I was submerged within them. Who was I in my water dream, in my weightlessness? What mattered was that I could breathe. Today, I am eating eggs that are perfect, shiny in their hardness, and toast that is also right. A version of me is eating a plate of eggs. This surface is where the dream embeds, a flat place where upon which fits my hope about what I perceive as race. I thought I saw stars the other day, but I realize there are no stars, only the sound of my cheeks and the skin around my eyes wrinkling. A sculptor just told me that the brain and the hand are connected to one another with immeasurable speed. I believe him. I believe him because he did not smell like he did during the day when we last ate together. A part of me would like him, if he did not stink of work.
5. Lucy Tells I have no biography. I did not come from anyone, or out of a body. I am an idea, or at least a recognizable thought connected to an event. I can be a fact, stranded. My existence – white lady – in particular is driven by gesture. It’s as though I am in a cycle, stuck behind the dryer door. My hair, which in the morning is jet red – at least that’s how I imagine it – is connected to gravity, so that if I peek out, it swings freely in a wash of radiance. “She’s pretty,” is what people say behind my back, especially in the morning, when my gait is not connected to my weight. I will never “work it,” or get fat. What I am is one small flash out of a window for a sec, say in a city, to check the weather. I understand, in this timeline, I am safe. What would it be like if I were black? What would I do or feel, leaning outside of a door. Would the wind drive in various directions against my face? There are so many versions of me I see: round, chaired, big-haired, bleached, glasses, khaki-cropped, lo-jeaned, naked, biked, fanny-packed. But if I were alone, surrounded by concrete bricks that had gaps, light, grey, ready to defy their use, would I fret? If I were only a maze, or a field of wildflowers struggling to fill the air – would I hinge where I no longer imagine as I turn, shuffle in focus. In a dream I had, I saw tunnels, but did not walk into any of them. What do I embody as I flick my imaginary hair to one side? What do I care of the diver discovered, preserved, at the bottom of the freezing lake – “what age was she?” – and what age am I who has no start?
Sarah Gambito Second Born
glow-in-the-dark grasses fulminate around the velcro shrub to hold the ballistic self a gorgeous alien with a million headed eyes i matter to my arrival i mean what my mother is frightened of blacklights into a million fisted flower inside leaving the leaf-weak leaf-bright
Chris Kardambikis From Out of This Planet Earth 2008 - 2009 Ink, Gouache, Pastel and Marker on Stretched Paper
Melissa Sandor Mula – An excerpt from my memoir “Sibling Rivalry” January 2013 – written during Winter Shaker sojourn
Mula’s head is shaped like a small nut, wrapped in a head scarf and grazed by his dark beard. Abdul Aziz holding a photograph of his brother Mula Abdul Hakim, the caption reads. I have taped the photo above my desk. It’s in black and white, but when I think of it, I remember it as blue. Waking from a dream at 4AM, wondering where I am for a moment. And then I remember. Thinking about the photo is like that. His ears stick out from under his scarf, the way my father’s ears stick out from his Yankee’s cap. I think they have nothing in common, my father and Mula, except for the ears and the fact that they have both been in a war. Maybe Mula is a father, as he is a brother. My brother never went to war. He hanged his body before dawn, his blue shadow restless, then still as the morning broke open in bird whistles and the shudder of the bakery’s metal gate on East 11th Street being lifted below. The telephone lines hovering above littered fields and city streets, bearing the stiff weight of his girlfriend calling the apartment all the next day. The small portrait dangles in the gray space of the larger photo, except for Abdul’s fingers that hold Mula’s portrait at its whitened edges. Its size reminds me of the pearl earrings I used to dress up in when I would get into my mother’s jewelry box as she cooked dinner in the next room. I could almost feel the warmth of the pot’s steam as I fingered the creamy white stones. Abdul’s fingertips grip the edges of Mula’s portrait, rounded edges, trimmed to fit into a wallet or book for safe keeping, so Abdul can take it out, look at it, hold it up into the lens of the camera. It’s easy to drop something so small into the dust when you mean to hold on tightly. Abdul might never have known Mula, except through family stories, and this one photo he carries with him. Maybe Mula died in war from sickness. I’ve
looked at this photo so many times that I have to remind myself I don’t know Mula or his brother Abdul, or the one who takes the photo. There are creases on Abdul’s fingertips, the pale white of a desert moon under his thumbnail. I could sleep under this moonlight. A warm nest that smells of lemons and sweat, the taste of salt on my tongue. …and this is what generates my astonishment. Why is it that I am alive here and now? Barthes wrote. I am attracted to Mula. Not in my usual way which is forceful, and then it fades, more quickly for me, than for others. This attraction lingers and I long to touch Abdul’s hand.
Melissa Febos Call My Name This is an excerpt from an essay that is also a chapter from the book I’m working on. I wrote these passages in my studio at Millay while teaching a memoir retreat.
I hated my name growing up. The hum of M, soft L, hiss ending open-mouthed. It was a ribbon of sound, a yielding sibilant thing. Drag it along a scissor blade and it curls. I wanted a box, something whose corners I could feel. Zoe, Katrina, Natalie. You could press your fingers into Melissa. It was hum and ah, and ess— more sigh than spit. It was so girl, and I was already too much girl, or not enough. I was already spilling out, grasping for edges, lidless. When I was six, on vacation in Florida, after days pickling in the hotel pool, my toes and fingers softened and shredded on the concrete bottom, eyes pinked from its blue brine, body stinging sweet chemical clean, my mother asked me, Melissa, why, when the ocean was steps away, Why the pool? Because the pool has sides, I told her. You don’t always want the ocean when you are an ocean. How old was I when I first asked why Melissa? That is, how old when I understood words as symbols? By six, I knew that Jessie down the street fit her name. Fast and blond, a wisp of rage, Jessie was a streak of girl, hook of J, dot of I, bared teeth of long E. My father had two names, neat Robert for the merchant marine, and rounder Bob for his intimates. Bob, so close to Dad. Perhaps all children conflate other people with their names, but feel estranged from the soft sounds to which they answer. When I asked my mother why, I already wanted a new name. Jackie, Britt, Tina. You could drill a hole with Jackie, slingshot a rock with Britt. Even Tina could hurt somebody. Melissa was bringing a ribbon to a swordfight. Melissa was leading with my softest part. * For a short time, I rechristened all my toys Melissa. The ones with faces. Stuffed animals, dolls, action figures, those long-lashed sumptuously plastic-smelling ponies: all Melissas. If She-Ra could become Melissa. If Lego men could bear its kissy syllables. It might have simply been childish narcissism, but I suspect also an effort to expose myself to the strange bareness of it until I no longer flinched. Words mattered to me, even then, and this one most mine was a mystery. Why Melissa? I would answer it, if I would answer to it. *
As a child I read the dictionary, curled under a blanket, soothed by the endlessness of its onionskin pages. Finishing books killed me every time. Another small world’s end. Another return to this one, to myself. I read so fast, hurtling toward those dreaded endings, anxiety growing as the thickness of remaining pages shrunk. The twilight of stories fell like those of late autumn: all sweet and scary in their slipping, purpled shadows and smell of winter. There was no slowing, still isn’t – my hunger always greater than my dread of ending. In middle school, I read Gone with the Wind three times for its length. Roots. Clan of the Cave Bear. Someone should have given me a Bible. But the dictionary was also words, a humming hive of words. The potential of their infinite variation pulsed from that low shelf in our living room, more magnetic than the crap black and white television that sat on the old Singer sewing machine, than the fetal pig jarred in our science classroom. Etymology fascinated me like no other science. The way a word could be broken down, not only by its sounds, but limb by limb, its rings readable as the books it built. Mnemosyne. First generation Goddess, namer of all things. Titanness from whose own name we derived mnemonic, a word I loved for its wave of sound, and how it broke. Its swell and hum and ic. A word that moved, but knew its own end. Mnemosyne bedded Zeus for nine nights, creating the nine Muses. True, she had no sharp corners, only that red mane of hair. But mother of the Muses doesn’t need a box to contain her – her business is the infinite. More interesting, still, her night job as mistress of the river Mnemosyne. The dead had a choice: drink from the river Lethe, and forget the terror of this human life; or drink from the river Mnemosyne and remember. Those who drank to forget were reborn – consigned to another ride on the carousel. Those who chose to remember moved on, carting their dark histories across the western ocean, to paradise. Around the same time that I first drank to forget, I stopped caring where words came from. I stopped wondering what had made them, and began wondering what I could make them. * Words are all symbols. But words are also sounds, are also mouths flexed with intention, with want, with wondering. A word is also a shape to hold in the mouth, one that becomes the shape of want, of wonder, and of their objects. It is no wonder that to hold Jessie in my mouth came to feel like holding Jessie in
my mouth. That to hear one’s name can feel like a mouth, like holding, like teeth. I used to repeat words – under my breath, on the way to school, in the bath – gnawing their sounds until they detached from meaning. Mnemonic. Mnemonic. Knee-mawn-ick. Nuh-muh-nik. Nummanic. The moment when those sounds fell free of their object—like the moment the swing hung horizontal to its frame, the body weightless, just before gravity clutched it back—giddying. It unlatched something in me, the proof that anything could be pulled apart, could scatter into dumb freedom, a bell ringing not for dinner or church or alarm, but for the simple pleasure of its ring. Anything could be shook like a crumpled skirt, motes of meaning swirling into miniscule autonomy. I chanted my name, too, maybe for a different reason. To teach it meaning. To remake its shape into something more, or less, me. Or to make me more it, more Melissa. And then, at 15, I read Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. As Franny studies The Way of the Pilgrim, I read it over and over, mesmerized by the idea of incessant prayer, Franny’s incantation of a set of words—the Jesus Prayer—in hope that their intention, the meaning shaped by their sounds would syncopate with her heart’s beating, the surge of her blood, turning even the mysterious work of her organs holy. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, goes the prayer. Jesus, my father said, was a cool guy. But religion was not cool. The nuns who had beat him with wire hangers in Catholic school were not cool. Shame had undone him, and praying to Jesus was not for anyone in our family. I recoiled from Jesus, as I’d been taught, but I loved the word mercy, which seemed another kind of password. The idea of prayer, of falling to one’s knees, moved something in me that I tended like a secret. I left out Jesus, left it at have mercy on me. I whispered it—under my breath, on the way to school, in the back seats of cars, behind the mall, beneath strange hands—waiting to detach from the meaning of my daily life, to feel the blooming quiet of something holier. What an idea. God-consciousness could be summoned through prayer, could be generated in the self, in the saying. In the body. One didn’t have to make sense of it. Even those ancient monks, writers of the Philokalia, believed that the repetition of words, and willingness, was all one needed to start. One didn’t
need to believe in God to walk toward God. I only had to believe in a word, maybe any word. The idea that faith could come to you through a word, or words, gave me a strange and secret hope. It confirmed what I already knew. Salinger, that recluse, that misogynist, that asshole. He gave me permission to pray, to believe that any word could be a prayer, even my own name. * Hearing my name still shocks me. In other mouths, its soft shapes shift, become arrow when it touches me. Part cuss, part secret, part promise, it strikes me as both stranger and skeleton key, my secret password. Melissa, and I startle, as if the sayer has seen and named some hidden part of me. Melissa, and I open sesame. To be called by name scalds, is being seen, a searing baptism every time. When my beloved first called my name it closed my eyes, arched my back, shook my insides with the sweet terror of being recognized. I no longer want to change my name. I never did, really. I wanted only to lessen myself, and I still do, sometimes, in those oceanic days, those most grasping, gasping moments. It hurts to remember, to hear everything my name holds, but I choose to drink from that river now, to carry that dark history, to choose ocean upon ocean upon ocean, and trust that it will carry me. Because if a name is a prayer, it must hold the softest part. My prayers are wishes and wants, but more than that, they are the raising of my barest self to powers greater than me. They are small gestures of surrender, the moments in which I admit my own smallness, my own brokenness, my own wholeness. Call it grace. In all these utterings, I have not always found answers. But I have found that every name is a word for God.
Holly Hughes Six Acres
Tisa Bryant The Deep North, or, The Art of Possibility August 9, 2010
Residencies are not for everyone. I understand that. I’ve had hilarious conversations with friends about how unappealing, at best, being in a remote area sounds to them. I recall Richard Pryor’s skit about black people in the woods and give myself a good laugh. But I guess I can thank my parents for unknowingly giving me a head start in appreciating the woods. First overnight camp, a respite from our increasingly rough neighborhood in Dorchester, then the boondocks of Plymouth, MA, where we moved when I was 11, much to my despair. I’ve said repeatedly how much I hated living in Plymouth, but I should make clear that wasn’t because it was ugly. Or noisy. Or polluted. I admit that city life, which I’ve spent many years vaunting above all else, takes care of my conceits, my intellect, my vanity. Proximity to the dense vibrations of people, especially a full-spectrum of Black people, while walking, on public transportation, in the bank or at the park, ear- and eye-hustling language and gesture, absorbing the complexity of African-diasporic affect and aesthetics, is a crucial affirmation of who I am, who I love and am accountable to. Being legible is key to keeping one’s spirit bright. But it’s clearly not the only thing. Why else all the ‘getaways’ to Mendocino, New Hampshire, Russian River, wherever? I’ve only had such a writing specific getaway three times, and only one was a residency, at Hedgebrook. Some writers don’t need such escapes. I do. Being at Millay for a month is such a gift, as the intensity of this beauty, this solitude, all this space and sky, the stars and stardust at night, will go a long way in balancing out eleven months of freeways, file folders, smog, junk mail, and all manner of other ambient violence, including the neighbors’ criminally loud televisions and their equally spoiled and heinous babies (yeah, I said it). Sometimes I wonder if I’d need a mouth guard after six months in the country. I definitely wouldn’t need the earplugs. What disappears along with the noise and distractions are the excuses for not writing. If anybody or anything is in the way, it’s me or fear. Even my big crutch, lack, is gone (if my studio were only....if I just had a curtain here...perhaps if this chair...this clutter....etc.). It’s ironic, because my studio at
Millay has only the bare essentials, a desk, a work table, a couch, some lights, a fan, a window with a little view, and I need nothing else. The time is mine, too. I have plenty of it. I can use it, or waste it, however I please. I can be utterly selfish. So far, it’s all good use, and feels very precious, because this is it, in terms of days of uninterrupted time. This time is quite a luxury. I like how slowly it’s moving here. I hope for slower, and slower still. It spurs me on to look at the doorjamb of my studio and see so many familiar names, Angie Cruz. Jibade-Khalil Huffman. Bob Glück. Suki Kim. Maggie Zurawski. Tracy Grinnell, and know they did their work, left some magic and some vision, the trace of their time, in the space for those of us coming after. I began my time here in Ronaldo’ V. Wilson’s “Archive & Ephemera” poetry workshop, and it was so invigorating, helped me lay new ground for my work, my understanding and relationship to my sources, my tools, documented, found, invented. I’m here now to finish an urbane novel about a black woman and/in cinema. I brought Yvonne Welbon’s Sisters in Cinema and Cauleen Smith’s films with me. A mix of early filmmakers from the rural south, contemporary makers and the deep space of the future. I revisited Oneika Russell’s piece "Scenes from a Fictional Film," and without planning to, I started making these little sci-fi vignettes from found objects, photographic paper, and the sun, using a Sunprint kit I bought at the Getty last year, and had the presence of mind to pack and bring with. I enjoy these little art projects between the words, watching dark and light, the hidden and the exposed, change places, exchange power. Perhaps one day I’ll write about the living in the country, the deep woods, and growing kale and tomatoes. Perhaps Parable of the Sower will be made into a film by a black woman, and it’ll be amazing. Maybe I’ll finally have a breakthrough, and learn how to “shoot” a film with words. So many journeys to make on this path. I like seeing butterflies, dragonflies, robins, bees pollinating the clover. My room is a lair for daddy longlegs. As with all spiders, I let them be. Could be ancestors. Mine. Someone’s. I saw a falcon on a fence, and pheasants sitting in the road. I love to pick my own salad from the garden, apples from the trees. I don’t want to see a bear, but I may. I’ll make a loud, joyful noise and it’ll shyly lumber away. I love imagining the bats devouring mosquitoes by the thousands as they soar overhead with their mouths open. I saw a meteor shoot across the sky.
Perhaps the presumed or stereotype of the incongruity of black people in the woods, one aspect of that “I’m not supposed to be here” feeling (not to be confused, but understandably conflated, with the “I’m not safe here” feeling), is specifically a northern thing, since it’s supposed to be southern black people who are, or are allowed to be, expected to be, country. In the north, it’s about living for the city. Inner city blues, and each Black presence in the northern woods is an anomaly, is expected to be explained. Yet Roscoe Lee Brown was one of the founders of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society. There’s a plaque for him in their main building, right next door to our Barn. What a lovely surprise discovery, as I tried to imagine just who frolicked up here with Vincent during the Roaring Twenties, if a bit of the Harlem Renaissance found its way to the outdoor bar under the grape arbor, into the nude swimming pool near the theater circle. W.E.B. DuBois was born less than twenty minutes away. James Baldwin, similarly, spent some of the last years of his life on the other side of the hills I see behind the Main Building here, the Massachusetts side of the Berkshires. My friend Chere sent me a dope screenprinted t-shirt that says "Freedom Fighter" on it, with an image of a wonderfully androgynous black person on it. I heard a magnificent singer, Fay Vincent, at Art OMI, make improvisational magic. I spied a book she had tucked in a folder: The Art of Possibility. Something prescient in that. Maybe it’s sad, maybe I shouldn’t have to engage “archive and ephemera” in this way, but whenever I find myself in the woods, I do have to remind myself that there’s more of me in them than meets the eye, and that it’s not all nightmare. I have to remind myself and feel it out, dream it up, find them, these other contexts. Just to get comfortable. To be more than just possible. Just to get free.
Postscript, August 9, 2013: This reflection was originally posted as a note on Facebook, during or shortly after my return from my residency at Millay. At the time, I was rather unhappily living in Glendale, CA. It had all walkability and convenience I desired, and yet living there made me irritable. Its suburban-ness offered no peace; its verticality, the close and dense proximity of people, offered no urban sense communion. I was not Armenian, nor lace-fronted and painted into a Black Kardashian. I did not own a little dog. No one spoke to me in two years. I was
never simply a neighbor. My 562 sq. ft. apartment featured eleven doors, an infernal maze of tiny spaces. I revisit this piece now from a little casita, a back house, just as small, with an open floor plan, in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, one of the oldest in the city. From my windows I see palms, fruiting trees, succulents, the city skyline, the lights of Dodger Stadium. I walk out my front door into a succulent garden alive with bees in the palo verde trees, junebugs drunk in the zapote, patio table shaded by a turquoise umbrella, guava growing in the sun. Roosters crow in call-and-response with each other, and the bizarre squawk of a still-unseen peacock. The Gold Line train is just a few blocks away. It’s peaceful here, but not isolated, the perfect blend of nature and urbanity I first experienced living in Providence, RI, and what I’ve come to call ‘city-country.’ I’ve even given the vibe a theme song: “City Country City,” by WAR. My writing studio is in my garage. East Coast city friends invariably remark when they visit, “What a beautiful retreat,” at which I laughingly remind them that I live here. I’m not on vacation. I’m flattered, but well aware of how tenuously held this neighborhood truly is by the people who live here, and that I’m no more exempt from culpability for this tenuous grip as I am from displacement. Living as I do now doesn’t make me need a place like Millay any less, as rampant gentrification, driven by the current bizarre dandy-frontier fantasy ‘back-to-theold-ways’ aesthetic, shoves nonwhite people into a historically unsavory relation to it and everyone who can’t afford it to the edges of the city, or out of it completely. To the woods then, is it? Getaway, get away, get a way.
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich Cello When I went to Millay in 2010, I was working primarily on a nonfiction book I'm writing, but worked on other things when I needed a break. "Cello" was one of those other things. TriQuarterly Online published it in 2012 and nominated it for a Pushcart Prize.
I. A mutant violin, the poet Adam Zagajewski calls it, in the poem named for the instrument. It’s been kicked out of the chorus, he says, its low tones not quite right, too close to a sob. Sitting here in the dark-wooded reading room of the local public library, where thick shades blot out the light that should be heralding morning, I am struck by my need for the poem. Last night I leaned over a wooden table in a darkened bar to tell a poet she must read it. Many years had passed since I had read the poem, and I could not say why it came to mind just then. Perhaps I was too distracted by the effort suddenly required not to take her hands in mine. Her hands are small and white and look as though they would be cool as marble, but I have not held them and I do not think I will. She already has a lover. I do not. This difference defines the space between us. Still we met at the bar, our glances taut as tuned strings, our conversation intimate as whispers. In the end all I could say was, read the poem. Now, in the library, I open my planner flat on the table and survey the first pages of the new year. My pen hovers over blank squares; I carry already in my head some idea of the deadlines to come, some shape of what must be accomplished. But my mind goes only to her, to last night, to the forgotten poem. I find it on the second floor of the library, shelved in a bath of spilled sunlight. The edition is the same one I own, with the same black and white cover, and I am surprised that my fingers find the right page. They have held the space of the poem all these years. But I know less than they do, less than my body holds, for I have forgotten the poem’s ending: “I’m lonely/I can’t sleep.” II. My first lover was a cellist, an older Ukrainian man, and when I could not sleep he would steady his hand flat against my chest, not on my breasts but between them, in the crook held blank for breath, and tell me to breathe in. The weight of his hand cantilevered against the air I pulled into my lungs; by his hand’s rise I could measure that space inside me. Sleep becalmed, says another
poet. In the cellist’s arms, I did. As a child I sat at my wooden school desk when the older students came around to my classroom, lugging their instruments behind them like unwieldy, overgrown appendages. They’d been asked to introduce us to the sounds of the orchestra, to its each component part, and they took to their task dutifully: the winds screeching one day, the horns squawking the next. I waited, impatient. It has always only been the strings for me. It has always only been the cello. Perhaps I knew what Zagajewski did: that in the school-sea of children lifting their half-sized violins to play the Suzuki method, I would always prefer to sit the mutant, the long and low sort on the end. III. My fingers could not hold the vibrato shape; that was why I gave it up. I have always quietly liked my hands, imagining my fingers to be long and elegant, but once when I was entering my teenage years a female doctor with a stern face and a trim figure asked my mother if my fingers were always so swollen. I have remembered this and think that perhaps my hands do not seem to others the way they do to me. Older now, I have learned to add other things to this list: my hair, my hips, my heart. After the doctor’s words, my hands stayed stiff and cloddish on the long, slim neck of the instrument, as though they had only just then learned what they all along were. I heard what beauty arose from others. I gave up making my sad sounds. The body of the cello is made from wood that has been polished smooth and then bent into a curve by heat and pressure so unrelenting the wood can do nothing but acquiesce, ceding its straight line. I imagine that moment as an exhalation, the relief of giving up anything so rigidly held. When the tree was young, it bent in the wind. Sound is carried in those same air currents, and it seems to me that in the instrument we have returned the wood to this original purpose: to take on the weight of empty space, to help us understand that in absence there is force. Hush now, go back to work, if you are grieving it is not for this neverbeen love, I tell myself. I can hold this sadness for as long as it lasts. I can hold it longer. But that night, when I have left the library for the soft white den of my bed, the poem returns, again unbidden. “Not everything,” it reminds me, “turns into song.” I borrow the words I need to answer: I am lonely, I say. I cannot sleep.
Caroline MallonĂŠe Pangrams for piano (2008)
A pangram is a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet: The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog. Pangrams for piano is a collection of 44 short pieces of exactly eighty-eight notes. As a pangram is useful to test a typewriter or to view all the letters in a particular font, Pangrams are a way to test a piano and to reveal its idiosyncrasies. Some of the pieces are runs up or down the keyboardâ€“ short patterns repeated at different pitch levels. There are patterns of twenty-two notes repeated four times, patterns of eleven notes repeated eight times, patterns of eight repeated eleven times, patterns of ten repeated nine times (with two rests), patterns of nine notes repeated ten times (with two rests) and so on. By Jove, each Pangram in my quirky, showy collection utilizes every note of the keyboard exactly once! Pangrams was written in the spring of 2008 at the Millay Colony for the Arts and is dedicated to my now-husband, pianist Eric Huebner.
Camille Roy How It Began
Mostly, it’s boring to be a girl. You are a prisoner of your girlish appearance. You can’t get outside. You are either with all the other girls studying themselves in mirrors as they dream of devouring meat, their own excess flesh, anything to get rid of it permanently, or someone is trying to stuff something weird between your legs. It’s one or the other. I was clear on this. Being a mess gave me a kind of immunity, but it didn’t make me stupid. Far from it. In truth, understanding roared inside me as regards to the whole situation of girls, although it didn’t quite trouble me, because I ignored trouble even when I was in it. In my characteristically vague but stubborn way, I disregarded the situation of girls. After all, I had never been inside anything, including appearances. I was too skittish. I never said no, or yes. I trembled constantly, a hungry ghost. So when I pushed open the pink door of the massage parlor, and found its yellow sateen couch coated with girls and they were wearing brightly colored 70’s lounge wear and waving cheerfully at me, I leapt over the threshold. I threw myself through the door. As though to the accompaniment of tympana, a drum roll, the cacophony of hormonal triggers...It was the summer I turned twenty one. Some moments are perfectly lurid, but also fresh. That moment rose like a welt from its historical bed and I fell in it. I was in love with my times, and that meant hate was interesting. Vietnam was over, but it had left residue---the mob in the street, which included everyone I knew. Anyone could join, so we did. Political life was filled with spite, and much of it came from us, or our kind. Each day took place within the margin between the passing hour and imminent collapse, for that was all that many of us believed in. Even the corruptions of the state seemed exhausted. Any small act of rebellion might be the final straw. It turned private desperation into a kind of festival. I’m digressing now
from the specifics of the parlor, but I want to decorate this part of my story with another one, the story of Sara and Sand. Sara was political, in the paranoid style of the times, and Sand was younger, impressionable. Sara became involved in a particularly fierce ideological argument, and when she lost that argument, she claimed the entire revolution for herself. She turned herself into a cause. Sand remained faithful, really she clung to Sara. She became Sara’s party of one. For a few months, no meeting or demonstration could occur without Sara and Sand, bitterly silent, striking a pose that conveyed Sara’s heroic martyrdom and Sand’s abject loyalty. This was widely understood as Sara trying to haunt us with the ghost of her leadership, and it was annoying to everyone. Then, for a few months, they were rarely seen. When Sara surfaced, she announced that she and Sand were going to leave town in a van and travel as gypsy-witchcommunists. This was a bit of Sara’s trickery, an example of her inclination towards subterfuge, for instead of leaving town, they wrapped themselves in toilet paper and lit it on fire. Sara went up like a torch and died. Sand lost her nerve at the last instant, and rolled frantically around on the shag wall-to-wall. Still, her ear burned off, as well as the skin on one arm. She lay in a burn bath for a month, then she was shipped home to be cared for by her alcoholic parents. The war at home. It was luxurious, all that anger. It sprang forth everywhere like the weeds of a wet hot summer in Mississippi dirt. I still miss it. I believed in that anger, in its promises. I got through everything, any grueling adventure, because I was waiting for that anger to finally and completely arrive--a moment when the daily world would shimmer and crack into pieces, a broken mirror, and we would all run into the street, barking like dogs. Free at last. I couldn’t separate my ideas from my bad dreams. What was a good idea? A bright skeleton gleaming through burning flesh---but that was Sara. She had ideas. Once I dreamed that she came to my bedside, surrounded by dogs who were baying and leaping and quivering with excitement. I can’t remember if she said anything, or just looked into my sleeping face. Then they all ran off, flowing down the stairs in a pack, and out into the silent street. Gone. My eyelids slid up as I felt the pressure of her image.
If it weren’t for loneliness I wouldn’t have fucked anyone. I didn’t want to participate in anything. I wanted to just watch. I mean, Camille wanted that. And the parlor was the best place for that, for her... because, in the parlor, the mouth of the world and the mouths of girls were pressed unusually close together, so the girls got to trick out something precious, something which the world didn’t want girls to have: information. This is how the world works, baby. Camille wanted her life illuminated by the information which the world told her she couldn’t have. And whoring was perfect because it was like life, but more blunt. The world takes off its pants for every teenage whore. Is that real enough? Camille thought blunt meant no secrets, but she was wrong. There were plenty of secrets in the parlor, just different ones.
We would de-notate and detonate. At breakpoint, we would close our eyes. We would segregate abnormally. Would suffer from the rational. We would radiate excessively, fold into flats then flex our thighs. We would cycle then proliferate. Would implicate, psychologize.
We would segregate abnormally. Would suffer from the rational. Both balanced and unbalanced, we would call ourselves reciprocal. We would cycle then proliferate. Would implicate, psychologize. Our eyes would form before the splice. Our brains would not be typical.
Both balanced and unbalanced, we would call ourselves reciprocal. Our arms were short. Our legs were long. Our sex would be consensual. Our eyes would form before the splice. Our brains would not be typical. Both fibrate and synovial, homologous, we cauterized.
Our arms were short. Our legs were long. Our sex would be consensual. Weâ€™d radiate excessively, fold into flats then flex our thighs. Both fibrate and synovial, homologous and cauterized. Weâ€™d de-notate and detonate. At breakpoint, we would close our eyes.
He doesn’t think of you that way. You don’t think of yourself that way. We are schizoid and then paranoid.
Across the table, cheese and meats. When we eat them, we’re practicing heartache.
This midnight is a bright sample of stars. The stars have come out. Where are you?
Do we want to be married or not? Would we rather be more self-employed?
On the one side, there are fingers, on the other side the body, gone. So what are you taking, my hand or your measure?
Letâ€™s re-arrange ourselves. Our selves. Our legs, one on top of the other.
Within us teeth, and hair, and skin. We climbed the snowy mountain then discovered that we had no chins. Unable to continue, we harangued ourselves in parkas. Unlike others, who were poised, we were not ready for escape.
If re-absorbed, we could have cut the rope. If we had hemorrhaged, we could block. We could not talk. It was more typical in women that the engine would ignite. We were delinquent, lost a lot of weight.
Congenital, nocturnal, in our cystic diagnosis, we decided we would stay the night. We undid our skull sutures, like hats. We lay down on our sides on our mats and reclined. We were late and excruciatingly hungry.
Celina Su Notes on the Shape of Absence
Developers and planners try to make the city anew, to profit off the new venture and the new image, but despite their best efforts, they do not always achieve total erasure. We trace the dust lines left behind from the furniture or appliances, fumble for the brick foundations between the steel beams, peer at old scribblings or serrated stairlines where the wall paints stopped. In Gowanus, Brooklyn, across from the can factory-turned-artists’ studios, half a window is permanently sealed shut. The other half shudders, exposed to the elements.
After all, these spaces have reincarnated so many times before: In Manhattan’s Chinatown, tenement apartments become dance spaces without barres or mirrors, in the dank basement of a bank on Market Street, in anonymous greencarpeted rooms on Mott Street. A theatre under the Manhattan Bridge first produces Yiddish vaudeville, then stages Cantonese opera, then projects Jet Li films to the Angelika crowd, then gets demolished to make room for a shopping mall peddling cell phone accessories…. Though at night, the dim sum palace across the street hosts dance parties once a month or so—this time, replete with fog machine. There were three main theaters that my family and I would go to: the Music Palace on Bowery, the Sun Sing on East Broadway, and the third one by the Manhattan Bridge whose name I’ve since forgotten and which is now a Buddhist temple, I think. All of them had played crazy martial arts movies, ghost stories, and soft-core porn (there was some kind of two-for-one ticket thing to do with the latter).
Sun Sing and the Music Palace were the last Chinese-language movie theatres in New York City. Sun Sing started off as the Florence New Strand theatre in 1921, showing Yiddish-language shows. In 1940, a professional opera troupe from Hong Kong arrived in New York and got stranded here when World War 2 broke out. They took over the theatre and performed every night, with Claude Levi Strauss in the audience in 1941. The Florence became the New Canton Theatre in 1942. Life Magazine highlighted the Sun Sing that year, just as the opera company made its last appearance.
The theatre became a cinema and was renamed again as the Sun Sing Theatre in 1950. At a time when non-whites felt less welcome in many parts of the city, these theatres served as important safe spaces for the local Chinese community. Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the theatre began to reach out to non-Chinese audiences, with Chinese-language subtitles on top and Englishlanguage subtitles on the bottom. The theatre closed in 1993. In 1975, there were at least five Chinese-language movie theatres highlighted in New York Magazine: two on East Broadway, two on Canal, and the last holdout, the Music Palace. The Music Palace closed in 1998.
It’s a lonely job, but it’s a nice job. I like being the guy up in the booth. Haunted Karaoke. Fascination Amour. Kickboxer’s Tears. There used to be a lot more theatres. There were at least twenty more theatres out there. Now… this is the only one. One reason business is bad is because of pirated tapes. Chinatown is a very odd place. When the US is doing well economically, it does not help Chinatown at all. The factories are shutting down one by one. Everything is reversed. A Vitasoy is 75 cents. In the past, no seats were available. You had to stand to watch. We probably had one thousand people at a time. When you are here alone, without your family, you either rest or go to work, working overtime. You just have to buy one ticket, and you can stay here all day. And what becomes of the spaces that once held these theatres? The Pagoda became an HSBC bank branch, the Sun Sing became a mall. One of the Music Palace’s new owners, William Su, told Sing Tao Daily in 2005 that he found and put aside between 400 and 500 old film reels before the building was demolished. The 18-story Wyndham Garden hotel replacing the Music Palace also displaced about 50 low- and moderate-income residents next door, who are now fighting for compensation.
Our routine was to buy a packet of watermelon seeds and eat the entire bag while watching the films, and the seed husks would crunch beneath our feet when we left. Mom spent most of the time chasing me throughout the theater because I wouldn’t sit still. One movie that’s stayed with me was of Sally Yeh being gang-raped and then exacting a total and utter martial-arts revenge on the gang. (I think she fails at the first attempt, gets assaulted again, and then rises up again and finally kills them all in the end.) *** In real life, I am told, she was not a phoenix, for phoenixes do not exist. I cannot think of loss without falling into platitudes, specificities, Bishop. When rhythms provide a cooing, a rocking back and forth, tender pain a painful tenderness. I cannot think of Bishop without Dickinson, traipsing across the board at 45-degree angles, telling it slant. I remind myself: Hey! What’s up in the circle?
She told me to build a shrine to my jaw, that which I whittled away, ground to arthritis. Lying like a biological pile of carpenters’ off-cut, the width of that marked line that always curls to the ground, the part that is neither here nor. (This irrepressible feeling, a primordial pyrrhic catarrh.) It flares hottest along borderlands, only in liminal spaces, only in between. (Hence an Elean paradox, every moment I am nearly, I am merrily, I am alive.) And so, our hands are long. But she called narratives Sisyphian. Each time I pause typing, my chair rolls backward on the sloped floor. “Now we have the riot instead of the art,” they proclaimed. In a moment of magic, I thought that she simply withheld authorial power.
*** I was running slowly over the Manhattan Bridge, as I did every day in 2011, back when the process was the goal. I passed a young boy—five or six years old, on a bicycle with training wheels—talking to his father. “What about that park? Can we go there? It looks so cool!” The father glanced at the streets below. “Where? I don’t see it.” “There!” The young boy pointed.
The father turned red; his breath shortened. “You do not see that,” he declared, in Mandarin. “That park does not exist. Let’s go to the playground beneath the bridge. We’ll swing on the blue tires; we will spin around and around.” The boy ignored his father and instead, shouted at me. “You’re blocking my way!” He pedaled furiously, but I stepped to the right and sped off again, but not before his eyes locked mine, at what I have been eyeing—the park that does not exist to us, the park ringed with bakeries that sell only one type of chocolate and one type of croissant, clothing stores that are gleaming white boxes with barely any clothes in them. “The ghosts are sunbathing,” he whispered.
*** The facts do not change, for they are constantly rewritten. The Gowanus palimpsest I admired is now sidelined by a burgeoning Whole Foods store, complete with rooftop garden, atop a Superfund site. What remains from our past seeps into the soil, or our veins.
What happens when we light a match to memories? They do not fade. Hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen spin them into gray entrails, weaving lines of spice into the air. When the capricious gases are irascible enough, the social ties break apart, and the atoms breathe again to turn wet, to exhale carbon dioxide. In other words, they burn. Charred sweet, the carbs sometimes turn to cakey nostalgia, but this is a much slower reaction. This is why shish kebabs from Brazil linger on the mind’s tongue. Carbon atoms emit air. (But this only works when you dream that you are dreaming of nostalgia, or fire.) There are no madeleines. *** It was in Yogyajakarta, Indonesia, that alien creatures attempted to obscure Bruce Lee behind blue, a quartet of good girls behind pink. From behind, the gendered resist, exclaim “WatHaaaaa….”
In Thailand, in a corner of each plot of land, the owners build spirit houses to appease the spirits who once dwelled there, to commemorate what once stood there. Figurines overflow from the opulent ones. But the most striking ones are the simplest, built by the Burmese refugees on the edge of the forest, or those seemingly in the middle of nowhere. In ancient Rome, similar houses were built for Lares Familiares. Our dead mothers live there, but they do not move with us when we seek greener pastures, higher offices. They stay put.
I thought about these spirit houses in the context of local gentrification, if we could have miniatures on every block of the homes, say, that the Atlantic Yards Barclayâ€™s Center replaced, or those that Robert Moses demolished to make way from the Cross-Bronx Expressway, with overpasses too low for public buses to pass under, so that Jones Beach could remain classy [read: white]. But there are no city blocks in the stadium, or on the expressway; thatâ€™s their point. Who has been displaced, replaced, eviscerated? I read that this was once the home ofâ€”
I can never differentiate the homage from the lament. For I resign, I surmise. More often than not, whether via whitewashing or semiotic deconstruction, the erasure. *** Mothers at altitude / Mothers in solitude/ Mothers as platitude/ Mothers in spring// Mothers ashamed and Ablaze and clear/ At the end/ As they are/ As they almost all are, and then/Mothers don’t come around/ Again In spring
—from Red Doc> by Anne Carson Were we to name names alongside black rectangles to symbolize our mourning—I mull and articulate too slowly. By then, everyone else has covered the essential angles. I summon my voice to join the outrage, as if collective action could set anything ablaze. This tangential weapon of the weak, ersatz activism with the bend of an index finger. I “like” it because I am exhausted, because I long for polyphonic songs. Each of us sits, alone together, tracing the contours of what does not exist. But what is clear is invisible. What is weightiest remains intangible. The difference is not that I do not know, but that I never will. We track most carefully what we cannot see. Opening one’s eyes wide is not seeing, but believing. For there is no gruesome bear to witness, no witnessing to bear. As if we could listen to the silence (for silence has the cadence of one’s last gasping breaths, a synesthetic roar), as if we could palpably succumb to negative space.
When I was younger, I dreamt of shine. In my mindâ€™s eye, I glittered, an optical illusion nearing the truth, more truthfully an alluring asymptote. I refracted, proffered all I could, these shards of glass.
Notes: Photos in the first section are via Creative Commons or with explicit permission. Sun Sing pictures via Cinema Treasures (at http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/10396, as accessed in June 2013), Life Magazine pictures via Google Books, Music Palace pictures courtesy of Richard K. Chin (all rights reserved). All other photos are by Celina Su. With testimonies from Wah-Ming Chang (italicized paragraphs 1 and 3) and the staff of the Music Palace (italicized paragraph 2 transcribed from Eric Linâ€™s short documentary, with a trailer at http://www.eric-lin.com/director/music-palace/music-palace.mov). A Google map corresponding to these notes on the shape of absence is available at http://bit.ly/shape-of-absence.
Kara Lee Corthron The Caretaker on the Mountain
The Caretaker on the mountain lit a cigarette. Not her brand. Camel Lights was definitely not her brand. But one of the children staying over at the barn left a pack behind when he drove back to the city. She figured: Why waste? Though it tasted much like warmed-over ass, it gave her the kick she needed. That was all she needed. She sucked on the disgusting fag as she watched Geno, the hedge trimmer with the mind of a detective, inspect the damage done to her home. Sometime during the night, a critter had tried to bust through the front door. “If it’s a raccoon again, he’s one powerful raccoon,” she called to Geno. He joined her on the hillside. “Raccoons,” he began, “or something bigger.” “Coyotes,” she asked. “Or something bigger,” he insisted. “I’d be surprised if a bear tried to break my door down. It’s not nearly the end of the season, yet. There are berries in the meadow.” Geno sighed, impatiently. The Caretaker followed his gaze over to the barn where the children stayed during the summer months, escaping the city to write, paint, fuck, and smoke dope. At the moment, two of them—one in a bikini and one wearing nothing at all—were chasing each other with buckets of water. The Caretaker giggled. Geno did not. “Oh, gimme a break. They’re harmless,” she said, exhaling more ass. “I hope so, Ma’am. But you have to protect yourself. You’re a . . . mature lady. And there’s a lotta things in your house that could be worth some serious money. People ain’t always what they seem.” She scratched her white head and glanced down at her big toe jutting out of her sandal as a cricket hopped over it. She knew artists. She knew them too well. “They didn’t do this,” she said and stamped out the wretched cigarette. Without saying goodbye to Geno, she went inside the house and closed the wounded door—to the best of her ability.
Maggie, the cleaning lady who came on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, was a marvel. Far superior to her predecessors. She understood how to tidy a place without disturbing its contents, without changing anything. Today was one of her days off, but the Caretaker gladly continued the job Maggie had only just begun: dusting and polishing all metal artifacts in the storage room without altering any of their original locations. The Caretaker found joy in tedious tasks. They distracted her from her boredom. She was relieved that this chore would occupy her entire afternoon. Later, after consuming a remarkably unsatisfying dinner, the first rumbles of thunder rolled through the house. Yet another storm, the Caretaker thought. Terrific. A few seconds later, the rain came. As per usual, she ambled around the house, shutting all of the windows, grabbing some candles and a box of matches, setting out pots under notorious leaky spots. When she was convinced she’d waterproofed the old house as best she could, she withdrew to her withdrawing room and collapsed in her favorite comfy chair. She stared at the various portraits of her famous sister, who was the original owner of this house, but not for many years now. Her famous sister’s face adorned nearly every wall, though anyone who knew better would tell you that the Caretaker had been the real beauty of her family. That was long before her identity was eclipsed by her sister’s. And her mythic looks never won her fame. Or a Pulitzer. Her famous sister—the artist—died in this house. Her creative husband died while living in this house. And the Caretaker was tired and endlessly bored. Not so young anymore. She often wondered how much longer she’d have to wait before she could join the family plot out in the woods. Maybe a year or so, she imagined. Seemed like a fair estimate, all things considered. But then there were the rare days. Days when she’d wake in the morning with the energy and optimism of a toddler learning to walk. Where could such foolishness possibly come from? Maybe from those weird, naked artists down at the barn. She smiled to herself. Doubt it. Mostly she felt tired. Mostly she was plagued with boredom. And boredom—true boredom—should not be viewed lightly. For an eighty-two year-old woman, the Caretaker had a frightfully active mind. Perhaps a lot of eighty-somethings do. All her friends were dead, so she had no frame of reference. She just assumed she was unique in this. She craved adventure the way she once craved sex. So much so that she often
wanted to join her energetic land dwellers over at the barn when they engaged in their youthful silliness. But she was exhausted and used to a particular routine and she knew they were half scared to death of her. She was the spooky witch on the hill after all (a description that either distressed or thrilled her depending upon her mood). Besides, she’d led an active life in the past. That should be enough. But it wasn’t. And that’s why the Caretaker decided her time to join her famous sister and creative husband out in the forest must be nigh. The rain smacking the roof calmed her restless mind. Sleep was on the way, but sleep no longer had the power to just overtake her like a heavy blanket. No. Sleep would gallop up to her side like a gentlemanly cowboy but he would wait for her to step up into the stirrups and take her place on the saddle behind him, before he’d take her away into glorious unconsciousness. She needed a delicate image. One not too specific and not too stimulating. She thought about her creative husband. But she didn’t picture his whole body. Just his arms. He had solid, sinewy arms and he loved to prepare food for her. She saw his lovely arms kneading a mound of dough on a floury surface. This was all she needed. This was enough. She smiled and laid back in her favorite comfy chair, remembering a buttery mouthful of seeded rye bread her creative husband would bake. It was the best thing she’d ever tasted. She fell asleep. Then there was a crash. The caretaker jumped and felt around the nearby end table for her glasses. The rain had stopped and all was now quiet. But she knew she’s been snatched out of sleep by the unmistakable sound of glass breaking. She put her glasses on and sat still for a moment, listening in the blackness. Heavy breathing. She heard it out in the front yard. She stood and reached into her robe pocket for one of the candles. Now lighting it, in the dark, with one arthritic hand was not going to be easy, but she steeled her nerves, stopped her hands from trembling and did it. In only two strikes of the match. With the small glow to guide her path, she inched toward the window and looked outside. Nothing. Just darkness. Instinctually, she looked toward the stairs— those treacherous, murderous stairs—and saw the outline of the old Remington mounted on the wall. The last time she touched it, her hair was still blond
without the aid of chemicals. She’d won a marksmanship medal once, but she was against game hunting and had never needed to hunt for survival. Over the years, this piece had evolved into a merely decorative wall-hanging in the Caretaker’s thoughts. As she pondered this phenomenon, something punched a hole right through her wooden door. She ran for the Remington and ripped if down from the wall. Afraid to look at her intruder, who was making its way inside by tearing at the entire structure, the Caretaker quickly examined the weapon and was astonished to find it fully loaded. In her panic, she thought “My God! I coulda been dusting one day and blown my head off!” The roar brought her back to the present. Standing not five feet away from her was an eight-foot black bear. With no more time to think, the Caretaker carefully aimed the barrel, pulled back the trigger, and shot the bear, hitting it in the chest. She heard the blast. Then she heard the silence. She realized her eyes had been shut, because she had to force them open to see what she’d done. The bear was not dead, but damn near. It reeled backwards through the destroyed doorframe and staggered for a moment in the front yard before quietly falling down. The Caretaker had never shot an animal before. Her mind raced. Should I call the police? The fire department? Geno? She wasn’t sure. And why would a bear want to break in, she wondered. Maybe it was deranged, she thought. Or sick. Or just hungry. And lost. In her haze, she removed her glasses to wipe them off and this is how she discovered she was crying. And this made her laugh. And that made her cry some more. Eventually she sat down on the floor, still cradling the Remington and she decided crying was the good and right thing to do. All creatures deserve to be mourned. Just steps from the house, out in the yard, a black bear was fading. The bear remembered being a tiny cub in cold, white waters with her beautiful mother. Her mother taught her how to catch the delicious pink fish using her paws and rocks for leverage. This was all she needed. This was enough. She remembered the first fish she ever caught. It was the best thing she’d ever tasted.
Jane Fine from Sketchbooks Untitled, 2013, ink on paper, 6" x 8.25" (all images)
Betsy Andrews Excerpt of The Bottom
shrimp boats storm the pelican rock, toeing their cocktail-sauce line trawls like cuckoo clock pendulums, eleventh hour chimed something goes bump in the inlet night, nearsighted sea lion with a lump on its skull shies from the hull, barking into the dog-watch gloom you dream greetings at slipside, mermaids in estrus, a channel betwixt warm and wet I dream huddle in bull kelp, I dream holding my breath or I dream vernal pool, I dream fairy shrimp, I dream quillworts on beach you dream storm surge and shipwreck, you dream dashed on the reef we spiral like barracudas, gnashing our jail-file teeth at the bars on the brig in a sunken frigate christened the Stop and Frisk, “Reasonableness is a Murky Standard” the motto of the ship; in California’s fog-brained dawn, a hangover branded by Boeing, we brave, nonetheless, the destroyer’s soft corpse, all of its bones showing and we find it blooming with jewels: señoritas amidst the barnacles soliciting rub-a-dub-dubs anemones dandied in cerise and teal, the biggest draws in the club starfish splayed like porn on the decks, Garibaldis plotting unrest, dressed up as Molotov cocktails; it’s a riot, love, a candy store, the sea’s delicious mess why the ancients finished undersides? they knew the gods would check
Nicholas Boggs from Loving James Baldwin
Greenwich Village, New York City, 1940 At eight o’clock on a dreary fall evening, after a long shift at his afterschool sweatshop job on Canal Street, Jimmy pulled the slip of paper from his back pocket and looked at the handwritten address: 181 Greene Street. It was less than a mile away, walking distance to be sure, no matter how exhausted he was. But as he crossed Sixth Avenue and made his way through the lamp-lit streets, past cafes overflowing with white men and women drinking and smoking and laughing in clusters, he felt as if he was entering another country altogether. He was only fifteen years old, and yet, he had strayed so far from his home in Harlem that more than anything, the color of his skin that made him feel like an alien, a stranger in the village—and the way everyone seemed to stare at him with a fleeting curiosity mixed with the faintest trace of dread. Several times, in fact, he considered turning back, boarding the uptown train at Christopher Street, and returning to his family's apartment on 129th Street. But something about the insistent way one of his closest friends, Emile, had given him this address told him to press on. "I met this man in the Village," Emile had said after English class yesterday at their school, DeWitt Clinton, in the Bronx. "The most wonderful man. A painter, a Negro! I told him all about the short stories you’ve written for the school paper, how you want to be a writer, an artist. He can help you. Here." Then he shoved a white piece of paper into Jimmy's hands. "He said he'd like to meet you. His name is Beauford Delaney." The apartment building was no different than the others on the treelined block, with zig-zagged rows of fire escapes angling up toward the night sky. The front door opened, just as Emile had said it would, so he pushed his way through, then climbed up the decrepit wooden staircase to the top floor and knocked on the door. A moment later it swung open. A short, brown man was standing before him, examining him with X-ray intensity.
“I’m Emile’s friend,” Jimmy said. Beauford was only in his mid-thirties but to Jimmy he seemed ancient. “Please,” Beauford said, stepping to the side with an almost imperceptible smile. “Do come in.” Jimmy hesitated for a moment as he thought of his parents, who suddenly seemed so far away up in Harlem, how angry and bewildered they would be if they knew where he was, a stranger’s apartment in a far off neighborhood neither of them had ever been to. But then he entered the dilapidated, loft-like room and was instantly hit with the pungent odor of cigarette smoke and turpentine. Or was it something sweeter than cigarettes, a reefer perhaps? A pot-bellied stove stood between two shadeless windows overlooking the street below, and several lush plants and potted flowers dotted the terrace-like fire escape. But it was all utterly glamorous to Jimmy, a vision of the downtown artist’s life that he’d heard about from Emile or read about in newspapers and magazines he'd devoured at the 135th Street library. In one corner a worn sleeping bag and a half dozen small red velvet pillows lay on a sheetless single bed. On the bedside table an old Victrola phonograph was playing scratchy music that sounded like Bessie Smith. There was no kitchen to speak of, not even a sink, just a small icebox with unkempt dishes and an ashtray piled with butts. Jimmy's eyes scanned the cracked walls covered in white sheets and drawing paper, the jars of multicolored paint scattered across the scratched hardwood floors, and finally came to rest on an easel in the far corner. It hardly mattered to him that the oil on canvas painting it held--a gently lamplit city street not unlike the one that had led him here-appeared to be only half-finished. For he had finally found what he’d long been looking for without quite realizing it, until now: proof that a colored man could be, of all things, a walking, living artist.
Amy Jean Porter
Amy Jean Porter, Knabstrup, 2011. Gouache and ink on paper, 12 x 9 in. The buildings in the background are based on storefronts in downtown Chatham. Over the years, Iâ€™ve used various buildings from Chatham in my drawings.
Amy Jean Porter and Matthea Harvey, Of Lamb #101, from the book Of Lamb, 2011. Gouache and ink on paper, 10 x 7 in. My residency at Millay was in May, and I remember distinctly the forget-me-nots along the road on my daily walk to the post office.
Nora Maynard from Burnt Hill Road
BURNT HILL ROAD Cleveland, 1968
“Con-cessions.” Holly's re-entering the city. It took all night, as though sleep were the only way to get here. And now this kick awake. “La-st call. Con-cessions.” She’s stiff all over. Dry-mouthed, half-rested. She slides up the shade and cups her hand against the window. Sun coming up over rangy weeds and scrap metal. Dew hanging from the tips of the tree leaves. It makes the gravel in the rail yard shine black. Cuyahoga. Twisted River. Used to be her landmark coming back here, back when she used to come back here. It’s been three years, but nothing seems to have changed: Factories by the water. Gray gravel mountains. She used to steel herself at the sight of them, knowing she was almost home. I wish you could come with me. That’s what she said last night on the platform in Chicago. It was hard to keep from laughing, although Richard didn’t think it was funny at all. Right now he’s probably in their kitchen doing judo warm ups. A holey T-shirt and baggy boxers. Standing on one leg by the avocado plant, listening to public radio. “Con-cessions.” The cart’s wheels rasp and rattle. Someone knocks her seat from behind, a thump to the kidneys. Hair-smell and sour breath. The bodies of strangers. She cannot be this way today: whip-smart and reacting. She needs to draw up some old numbness, a kind of drowsiness to get her through the week. A cigarette would help a lot right now. It’s been weeks, no, months already. Ever since Richard gave her that book to read, Life Before Birth. But on a day like this, she’s kind of earned one. Just a five-minute smoke would set her up for the entire week. “Want something, Miss?” The porter pushes the cart up close beside her, although he looks as though he’d just as soon not stop at all.
“Coffee.” Richard doesn’t want her having that either. But it’s not as bad as smoking, so this is her way of being good. She breaks a five from the money she brought for this trip—a way to get things started. But when she tips the cup to her lips, the coffee smells acrid, and she can’t drink it. Nausea’s her new morning companion, come again like clockwork on this moving train. A woman ahead and across the aisle has a question for the porter: “Hey, you. Yeah, you. Yeah, here.” The man tips his cap and comes up close beside her. There is no face to go with the loud voice, just a queasy perfume. Thighs poured into double-knit polyester, frothy blonde hair molded into waves. Holly undoes the clip in her hair, shakes her head, then smoothes everything back together. She should have thought more carefully about the way she dressed for this arrival, but none of it seemed to matter last night. She’s wearing Richard’s army surplus t-shirt and a wrap-skirt, chosen mostly for their looseness. Thong sandals and a string of pottery beads. Just presentable enough to wear to her job at the Social Sciences library and then on the same day make her feel lame and square around people like Anna and Pete. But the rules all changed while she was sleeping. Over plain, flat miles of rail track and fallow fields. Overnight, without trying, she’d become someone pushing trouble. What meant one thing with Richard in Chicago would mean something altogether different to her parents here. Her body jerks forward. She cannot prevent it. The train is stopped just outside the station tunnel. The porter calls “Cleve-land.” Spray-painted cinderblocks say “FUCK YOU.” Everyone else has jumped the gun, bags in hand, but Holly waits until they clear. She hauls herself up from the seat, sway-backed, bellybutton leading. Funny how it is—that this is her now, one of those pregnant women she always used to see. She reaches to pull the duffel bag from the rack and is hit again with that awful perfume. The woman is standing now, and yes she’s staring. Brown eyes beneath blonde hair, mouth frosted a whitish-pink. The woman moves in, face lit as though she’s winding up to say something. Vanity case looped around her tanned wrist like a toy drum. Her eyes go from the ring on Holly’s finger to the bulge beneath her men’s shirt. She’s standing too close now and the perfume’s stifling. “Honey, I can’t believe you’re doing this. Like, I mean, shouldn’t you be in bed?”
As if by way of answer, Holly pulls Richard’s duffel down by the strap, trying not to balk at the weight of it, balancing the soft, lopsided load on her hip. The woman lingers. “You shouldn’t be carrying that,” she observes, though she makes no move to help. Not even at her parents’ yet, but it’s started already. Holly really needs a smoke.
Arrivals is a place where one crowd stands searching through another. But while the hall is filled with familiar faces: square and Slavic, sweaty, splotched, and lipsticked, Holly doesn’t recognize a single one. She puts the bag down and straightens her back out. Where are her mother and father? Usually they’re right up front, happy to see her, pressing up around her, bombarding her with questions right away. There he is. Just her father. Alone, over by the newsstand. Slicked-back hair, wide forehead, broad shoulders. Sunday stubble visible even from here. Eyes intent on this place now, and then another, every time the wrong direction and nothing but. “Pop! Over here!” But old Frank’s out of earshot. Her words just fall into the crowd with nowhere to go. He shifts his weight and braces a hand against his back like it’s hurting. He’s wearing that same old jacket with the bagged out pockets and elbow patches, even more shapeless than it was three years ago. There is something diminished in him, she can see it from here in faint outline. The kind of thing that goes back into hiding when you get up close. Holly bends her knees and hoists the bag back over her shoulder. She hopes his car’s parked somewhere near. A cloud of smoke and perfume comes wafting towards her. It’s that woman from the train again, and she’s dragging on a cigarette. That old brand from the old neighborhood. “Pell Mell” was how they used to say it. Holly’s almost close enough to snatch it from her hand. “Hey, you there!” the woman hollers, loud enough to cut through any crowd two times over. She turns her round rump to Holly. “Hey Frank! Yeah, you there—Frank!”
This can’t be right. Holly scans the crowd for some slick operator. Some greaseball. But no one’s looking except Frank her father. “Holy cow!” he mouths. At least Holly thinks so. She can’t be sure of anything from here. He comes pushing through. “Well if that don’t beat all! I'm here for my girl, and what do I find? The both of you.” Holly searches his face. It’s not just that he’s older. Something else has changed. “Where’s Mother?” She finds herself tearing up. One of those hormonal surges. Worse today from lack of sleep. “Getting things ready at home. But hey, where are my manners?” He gestures grandly towards the blonde, perfumed woman. “This is Holly. My little girl.” “And Holly, this is Margie. Remember Sam from the garage? Margie's his fiancee." Margie offers a limp, lotion-softened hand. “Yeah, we were just talking. We’re old pals by now, aren’t we?” There is a certain feral slyness about her—a pointed meanness—that hadn’t really registered before. Frank taps at the train case. “Need a hand with the luggage?” “Naw. Just got an overnight,” says Margie with a shrug. “You know me. Only overnight.” Her father laughs, but Holly can see a stiffening through his mouth as though he tasted something bitter. “A ride then? We’re going by the lakeshore.” Margie shakes her head. “I’ll tell Sam you—that both of you—send your regards." She winks, then turns her bare arms and plump rump to them, and pushes through the crowd.
Robert Gl端ck from Parables XXIX The resurrection When Image becomes an Image it wears a shirt like other men. The primordial element is the present tense, a multiplication of presents which takes the form of a flesh shirt for the Man made Image made God--as if the air were fabricated, the weave magnified so many times that his body passes easily between two bands of lightshadow. There are so many image-sepulchers to rise from!
XX Resurrection of Lazarus I visit a hospital deathbed to give breath back to the doubters and faithful. They hold their breathâ€”a corpse steals their death but I return it. I call la Accidentadaâ€™s name as bat wings bear her soul into the ground where never again. A corpse is a falling horizon but I can lift the meadow--nettles and flowers, bugs and wind--singing her back on the rhyme of death and breath. The people wait in the actual Daylight ready to shout: A miracle!
XIX The Transfiguration Perceive the True Mystery, god and the name of god. Everything is translation at every level in every direction, from word made flesh to flesh made word. White clothes and shining face: the ecstasy of translation. The mysterious solidarity of flesh and word. I have a star in my hand, not a fallen star but a star that is still living.
IV In the Desert The desert raises the mirror of my immensity and the infernal sand crawls forward, proudly converting. Time sifts through my hands. In the desert, shadow means temptationâ€”hence, tempted by my shadow. In my loneliness, I create a dog as faithful as temptation.
II In the Temple with the Learned Doctors
In the temple with the learned doctors: What is Love? A lie that fools the liar. Who is the Father? An iron monument too big to see. What is History? The ratification of the mustard seed. What is a fact? Heedlessness. What is a Revolution? The heedlessness of Facts. What is a Revolution? An inverted skyscraper. Immortality? The circulation of newsprint. What is the Afterlife. A breeze coming through the window. Heaven? Image replacing image. What is Heaven? The collapse of opposites.
Parables is a collaboration between Cuban artist Jose Angel Toirac, Meira Marrero and myself. Throughout his career, Toirac has used images of Castro purveyed by the government organs of propaganda in order to ironize Castro while avoiding censorship or worse. My job was to make a suite of poems that is also a bible, as though I had discovered these images apart from history and even apart from Christianity. This bible explores the ways that the Communist Party appropriates religious imagery, marrying Castro and Christ, to address the religious sensibility of the Cuban people. In the published book, the poems will be printed in gold on translucent paper, each poem sitting above the image it describes.
Sujin Lee Stills from Silent Films
Christian Nagler from Pull the Plough
Unwarranted warmth now seemed like a regular way, the seasons gifted out week by week, haphazardly, as if by a negligent parent who, yes, still sort of cared, but who no longer followed reliable sequences. To which people were becoming resigned, knowing, as all children do, that it was their fault, that it was none other than themselves who had brought disorder on the household. Or maybe this was projection. I was hyper-sensitive. I was spending a few weeks in winter solitude at an artist’s residency center during the off-season, and in my aloneness the weather had become my friend, as mythical cockroaches do for mythical prisoners, as single rays of light do for reclusive poets. Towards the stillness of the old house, where time seemed to slow and everyday actions—eating dishwashing teeth-brushing—became monuments to themselves, the weather could finally unveil the full continuity of its performance, knowing it could be seen in all its subtlety. All I wanted to do, eventually, was sit and look out at it. I watched it messing around out there, safe in some spot between sadness and nothing. It conjured swarms of ice-crystals up from the glistening field into the most extravagant patterns, and then seemed to dismiss them as silly things: what’s the use. Generally it seemed irritable.. But then there were moments of chill calm, as if the weather was repeating a self-help phrase to itself and was succeeding in feeling comforted. It was my friend and I was worried about it The last few days my work had not gone well, my mind distracted and full of thoughts I couldn’t pin down. I was supposed to be working on a novel I didn’t know how to write. In the evenings, I checked my email obsessively, composed long ones to old friends. I also lost myself in “research”: I scoured the websites of conservative think-tanks that made it their responsibility to present alternative views to “alarmist trends.” The Left has always had a messianic streak, they barked. The planet is a more ample bosom than we could ever imagine, she hardly even notices our most ferocious suckling, they argued. Our foremost responsibility is to care for each other, they reasoned, and the way to care for each other is to baptize each other in exchanged streams of petroleum and coal, the noxious
bounty that defines us, without which we would be lost from relation. Predictably, their PDFs sharpened my fears, both global and personal. During the day I stared out the window at the alternating currents of weather over the ground, wondering if I was doing it right, anything. And who was the judge? The last few days had seen a snowstorm load up the meadows, around which the narrow stands of forest—Birch, Hemlock, the occasional taller White Pine—seemed to fill themselves out, extending and ripening, as if to say: this is what we remember. But then, as weather.com predicted: five days of luxurious warmth in the lead-up to Christmas. Those five days, I sat at the window of the building’s small library and instead of working watched the sun on its course, a great, misplaced basket of light. Its clarity that day was a property of the soul, deep and fancy, but ill-gotten gold, disappearing the snow in fourteen hours and urging water into basements and through the cracks between walls, floors, and ceilings. The trees looked exhausted, as if they had been up all night playing cards. I had been invited to spend Christmas day at the home of my dad’s old college friend, Jack Hawkins, Hawk he was called, who I had not seen since I was three years old. He lived in Poughkeepsie, an hour or so south. My dad had told me over the phone two details about Hawk. The first, that he was wild. Too wild. We were all pretty wild back in the day. But, you know, most of us slowed down. I met your mom and she wouldn’t even touch a glass of wine. Me and your mom took up tennis. But Hawk kept going. He came to visit us in Cliffside Park right before he got sober. He was a mess. I think I remember your mom asked him to leave. The second: that Hawk had quit drinking and had worked for IBM for thirty years. As I drove down to Hawk’s house late Christmas morning, I was grieving, I didn’t know what for. I had reasons, but they all muddied each other, blocked each other’s passage through the doorframe of my awareness, or else refused to cross that threshold out of deference. It had not been an easy year; three love relationships—in which, in retrospect, I had been deeply in love—had ended badly. I was now involved in a fourth, long-distance, and again I was most probably in love, I thought. But I
watched myself making some of the same mistakes I had made before. It was the year of the mistake, compounded by the fact that I did not believe in mistakes. I was the only car on the Taconic Parkway. I went between driving in silence, trying to cry but not being able, and switching on the radio to midcentury recordings of dolorous, trombone-voiced men and women. I have no gift to bring Ba Rump-a Bum Bum That’s fit to give a king Ba Rump-a Bum Bum. The songs brought back childhood memories of running around the house with my brother, wrestling on the carpet in one-piece pajamas, while my Mom played Christmas records and argued lightly with my father, reading on the couch. And here I was an isolated adult on the highway in a world that was melting and everyone knew it, were beginning to hate each other for it. I saw a raven fly overhead and land in a tree, a brightly colored object in its beak, safety orange. At one point I had to slow to a crawl because of a large family of deer ranged on either side of the road. As I slunk past them in my car they didn’t run off, but stood still, at attention, like villagers around a government Land-Rover, and their startled staring out, instead of simple animal vigilance, seemed to hold an accusation: You. I got off the Taconic in Poughkeepsie and parked my car in the shopping center where Hawk said he’d meet me, the Manchester Plaza, with a POLISH DELI announcing itself in large red sans-serif letters, next to a Nail Spa in cheerless cursive. Hawk pulled up—“Look for a dirty Benz with an old man in it” he had said on the phone. We got out of our cars and shook hands in the parking lot as if we were making some sort of deal, with that same tense hope in the other’s trustworthiness. He was short, with the tubby, bullish weight of a comfortable, hard-working man in the twilight of middle-age. I noticed at once that his face moved strangely when he spoke, his mouth didn’t seem to have a full range, as if a portion of the nerves in the lower half of his head were thinking about something else. Hawk led me back to his house through a winding neighborhood of suburban streets. We parked in his driveway and as we walked to the front door, he pointed out to me a looping trail of green grass shoveled neatly through the snow of his back yard.
“That’s the poop path for Maureen’s Shih-Tzu,” he said. “I shovel it every couple days, so the dog can run around. Otherwise it’ll go crazy.” I tried to chuckle, but it came out more like a grunt. A grunt that was supposed to convey the sense of: yeah, I know what you’re talking about, buddy, these women and their dogs. I feel your pain, man. You’ve gotta do the work so she can have her little dog-baby. It didn’t feel persuasive. Inside, I was more Maureen than Hawk. I was worried the grunt sounded rude. But it seemed to encourage him. “Jesus, the way she treats that dog.” This time I was silent. Uncomfortable. Slight sense of wondering what I was doing there, but I was all right. I was impressed, at least, by Hawk’s ordinary confidence, his trust of himself to relate the details of his life, his house; that even if the facts he divulged—the dog, its poop path, his agitated indulgence of his wife’s sentimentality—might not change the world, it would at least offer something to someone who was listening. It was an ordinary faith I absolutely lacked. I felt like I had spent much of my life in hesitating silence, weighing the value of a possible utterance. Though I had noticed how often people—lovers, friends, strangers—seemed compelled to tell me about their lives in great detail during times when I was in pain. Like they could tell I was grateful for anything that arrived at me from the outside, redeeming a few moments, that I was unselective about these little saviors; being saved was, at the very least, having the sense that I was someone who notices things. Maybe, though, this was always the way people were: talking about themselves, staving off their own discomfort. Maybe, when I wasn’t distressed, I just didn’t notice the ordinary things people said, when I was filling the air with my own material. “See that rock?” Hawk said, as he searched his pockets for his keys, pointing with a glance at a car-sized boulder rising from the snow, a body’slength away from the house. “I built a waterfall on that rock. It’s not working right now, but in the springtime I get the pump going and water trickles down through where it’s split there. The rock’s why I bought this house.” This made me feel closer to Hawk. He had bought the house because of the rock. It was poetic. If I ever had the money or the wherewithal to buy a house, it would probably be for a similar reason. I thought of the rock in Steinbeck’s early seldom-read novel To a God Unknown, set in the California hills in a time of extreme drought. The
protagonist is a rancher whose cattle are turning to leather and bone before his eyes. At the end he slits his wrists in the forest and lies down to die on a cracked rock that trickles with a mossy spring (like Hawk’s) and as he dies feels the patter of rain fall on his skin, life returning to the parched land. I imagined Hawk lying down to die on his own backyard rock. In his loosefitting brown leather jacket, cell-phone in pocket, poop-path freshly shoveled, sacrificing himself to whatever it was he had pledged his spirit to, secretly and unconsciously. I imagined a whole nation of closeted animists, pagan-at-heart golfers, who had set up their hearths and their mortgages next to small blisters in the earth—rocks, ponds, oaks, pines and aspen, spots where a subterranean culture pushed up toadstools each year at the same time. These features, perhaps, spoke to their homeowners in languages they didn’t understand, and they either interpreted, by some miracle, and therefore paid their respects in whatever way they knew how, and so would go on to live happy lives, would prosper in their businesses, would sire grateful and successful children; or else they didn’t listen, failed to interpret, cutting down the tree whose roots were threatening the integrity of the concrete swimming pool, or scorching the mushroom-host carelessly one Sunday morning with Home Depot fungicide, and would thus suffer calamities that baffled and enraged them, cancers, deliriums, and drug-addicted offspring. A cruel, impractical vision. I thought of mentioning the Steinbeck novel to Hawk, but thought better of it. “Really?” I said. And it felt like my first authentic moment.
Sujin Lee Turtles Are Voiceless
Maud Casey from The Man Who Walked Away
It all began one morning when we noticed a young man . . . crying in his bed in Dr. Pitre’s ward. He had just come from a long journey on foot and was exhausted, but that was not the cause of his tears. He wept because he could not prevent himself from departing on a trip when the need took him; he deserted family, work, and daily life to walk as fast as he could, straight ahead, sometimes doing 70 kilometers a day on foot, until in the end he would be arrested for vagrancy and thrown in prison. Dr. Philippe Tissié Les Aliénés Voyageurs (1887)
It was as though he had always been there, haunting the landscape, if only you were paying attention. “If it were possible to see the final movement of Beethoven’s string quartet Number 16 in F major. That’s what he was like,” said the violinist from the Leipzig Orchestra. The man he saw walking along the Weisse Elster River reminded him of the note Beethoven wrote on the score underneath those eerie opening chords: Muss es sein? Muss es sein? And the note he wrote under the joyous faster chords swelling in response: Es muss sein! The walking man was the question and the answer. Must it be? Must it be? It must be! It wasn’t unusual to see a man out walking; even as the railways spiderwebbed their way across Europe, people still walked to get somewhere and to get nowhere. But the people who claimed to have seen him—this was later, after he became known as le voyageur de Docteur, after he disappeared altogether—agreed there was something different about this man. Everyone who saw him said so. “Oh, yes, I’ve seen him,” said the woman in the lowlands who spotted him making his way along a ridge as she hung wash out to dry for her brothers away carving Tournai stone into baptismal fonts. The coal miner in Liège, blinking into daylight, saw him walking in the valley; the baker in Coblenz saw him cross two of that village’s four bridges; the hotel maid in Mulhouse, that Alsatian city of a thousand chimneys, glimpsed him from the window walking through the public square as she snapped a clean sheet across a bed. “Even when he was right there,” she said, “he was somewhere else.” He shimmered, on the cusp of appearing. Or was he disappearing? It was not surprising that the violinist saw him walking along the banks of the Weisse Elster. The walking man was often spotted near rivers—making his
way up and down the hilly streets of Poitiers at the confluence of the Clain and the Boivre; striding through Bayonne at the confluence of the Nive and the Adour; through Valence dâ€™Agen by the Barguelonne; through Maastricht by the Meuse; through Cologne by the Rhine; through Prague by the Vltava. If anybody had asked, the man, whose name was Albert, would say the song of his body walking was a silky mist. Nobody asked. Il revient, the rivers called to him. He returns. The silky mist was his constant companion as he discovered himself walking, not knowing how he got there, under the soft spring sun, into summerâ€™s glare, through the muted fall, and into the hard chill of winter when the trees are bare. When Albert walked along the paths to forges; when he walked the tracks to mines and quarries; when he walked the causeways from village to farm to town to city; when he walked along the trails to market for glassmakers and the merchants of salt, flax, hemp, linen, and yarn; when he walked along the administrative highways; when he passed recruits and vagabonds, rag-and-bone merchants and chimney sweeps; when he walked along pilgrimage routes to miraculous fountains or the chapel of a healing saint; when he walked past men shouldering their dead along roads overgrown with tall grass to the cemetery; wherever he walked, he was filled with a wonder so fierce it was as if he were being burned alive from its astonishing beauty. When Albert walked, he was astonished. When he walked, he was the steam engine, powering himself like a great ship. He was the telegraph; he was the phonograph; he cut a swath through the second half of that century of invention and endless possibility. Still faster, he moved faster, faster than time.
Young Hwa Kang To listen to her sound works: https://soundcloud.com/#younghwa-kang-flora
Jamie Townsend COMMON PEOPLE
sheer artifice of the body – no new thoughts traveling back & forth across a steady line of narration – not even novel permutations of a self pulled apart or recombined by text but dire consequence – a world of raw materials where every action is also a performance – that night i wondered what you would really think when it finally got to the point where you’d see me naked – as at first i brutally objectify & deconstruct every aspect of my form so common to me at this point that even the best moments – my stomach flatter in the morning my hair a little untamed – messy – a sort of chic disorder the morning after i wash it – somehow they always break apart & taken together the parts don’t add up – what’s missing – a disruption in the rich flow of a vast physical life beyond me – in the morning – incapable of accepting or navigating this new tear – avoiding the thought of correspondence like that quote Thom opens his book with – ‘a thing is a hole in a thing it is not’ – i hate my legs – & looking at them now it seems so apt – uncanny – ‘in general what’s a form…some smooth plus some folds’ – fullness needing little details & so how to begin redefining a self when one’s most immediate community collapses – & then not to fall back on the shame of unforeseeing how the ends of something so open would eventually play out – is my story a hole, a fold in hers? – artifice of the body politic & the common place we eventually all find ourselves in – born to criticism – theorems – specialists forever sliding back into seeming universals like adding one & one together – some privileged indulgence – indifference – all prefaced by a self in the midst of bizarre social segmentation around loss – selfconsciousness imposed as if the hole weren’t a point of connection struck through all of us something we could pass a thread thru and tie ourselves together – where’s the community that distills confession and provides balance & shape to the bite of liquor? – shame of exposure – shame i guess of some ultimate equanimity – like we’re spoken into existence for now – spoken into each other but ourselves remain (or are forced to remain) locked inside aphasia – Robert, i can’t stop reading the problem of language & desire – its stars maps bound around limbs – histories – we speak ourselves into ecstatic positions where words eventually circle but never fully penetrate – & so the social must be
teased out in the indicative – the active – arrows or appendages exploring an interior space beyond description – ‘some solid thing to puncture the bustle of the mind’ Marissa wrote these strange balances between form & disorder – drawing out loss taunt as a poisoned limb – sucking on it all the while hoping the flesh will blossom and return – how could i attempt to make any type of definitive statement when each moment i feel our implacable problem looming here – to freeze this vague state we find ourselves in & sketch it like a cop by accrual – & what develops instead – a picture without specific history growing clearer – an opening toward the future – fraught terms traced out by a course of infinite reducibility – til we’re finally brought back to the persistent problem of clarity – beauty – worth an attraction to something unattainable but trained in – casted – hardened then later violently removed leaving flecks – remnants – little pieces of skin to actively examine a complicity – the perfect artifice of my body tied up with only a muscle memory of the knots – & the only way to get through it is to look at our social lives cleaving to the other side – negation – the utopic kernel beneath the ornate shell of its failure – the body inside the artifice without it
Mark Joshua Epstein
I can’t remember where I live, #1 Oil on canvas over panel 16 x 20” 2013
I can’t remember where I live, #2 Oil on canvas over panel 16 x 20” 2013
Karen Lepri from the poem “As If Bodily Eye” from Incidents of Scattering
To wait minutely, nocturn restive. That you learn Wrapped, shorn against wind, a best erotic Dream, you say, and most ordinary. Look A chrysalis built— still now and gossip Spin silver, fog, pitch
Some shells more calcareous than my poor flesh Scarab sheath envelopes your nothing And yet wind must travel me and oceans Pass for you to aggrandize each peculiar cell Hung like nets drying round this first I gave you remember
Oviparous & wanton, awaiting the touch of your other Half; river pulls, drags, edges your form a pebble. From nowhere, a flash caloric, a means to Becoming moral, entireâ€” Unhinged, you feast Like eddies of oxygen quick & cruel Against my sweet edges.
Version of Sweet Torment, Hand-cut romance novel book pages and gold thread, 8.5 x 11", 2011.
Bush Doctor, Carved Romance Novel (preparation for shrouding). 2011
Smouldering Flame, Hand-cut romance novel book cover, 4.25 x 6.25", 2011
Camille Acker from The Homegoers
If Nina kept the promise to herself not to go to any more funerals, her Homegoers membership would get revoked. You had to attend at least two funerals a month. “Otherwise,” the DC chapter’s President, Viola, reminded the members regularly, “any woman who goes to a funeral could call herself a Homegoer. The difference is that we are committed to the mourning in a way those women are not.” Now, Nina could be one of those women all she wanted. She would take her official Homegoer license plate off and her Going. Home. bumper sticker off too. Black people could turn tragedy into a good time, for sure. The Ladies of Homegoers were just working on trying to turn the tragedy into something better. But, in the pew at a funeral, Nina wasn’t so sure. After the service, Nina didn’t bother with her usual Homegoers socializing and information on where the post-funeral Homegoers only repast would be. She worked her way instead to the man’s mother, who was held at her elbow by a woman who must have been her daughter, their eyes and mouths made the same downward arcs. She stood, shaking her head to silence. Nina moved to her and touched her arm briefly to bring her shaking head to a halt. “Ma’am. I just wanted to express my deepest condolences to you on the loss of your son,” Nina said. The woman lifted her eyes to Nina’s. “Did you know my boy?” she asked. Her eyes were more vacant than Nina was prepared for. “No, ma’am,” Nina said. She should have maybe said on behalf of the Homegoers she wanted to express condolences. “Then, why are you here?” she asked. Her eyes began to focus and her mouth turned down in a greater arc. “I’m here with the Homegoers,” Nina said and smiled. “The who?” she asked. “The Homegoers,” Nina said. She cleared her throat and overannunciated it. “I don’t know them.”
“We’re an organization dedicated to providing solace to those who have lost their loved ones, as a way of helping our community to cope with its mourning.” “You all been by the house?” “Ma’am?” “If you’re helping me with my mourning, you all been by the house?” she asked, straightening up as she did. “We don’t go to homes, ma’am. We just come to the funeral,” Nina said. The woman began to look Nina up and down, her mouth turning deeper and deeper down. “So, you just come up to my boy’s funeral in your going-to-church dresses and pumps, so you can feel like you did something for somebody? Is that what you like to do with your days, Miss?” the woman asked, putting a kind of hateful emphasis on Miss. “We want to help, that’s all. We’re just trying to help.” “What’s his name?” she asked, and the slump that Nina had seen in her shoulders just a while ago fully vanished. She pulled her arm out of the grip of her daughter. “Maybe I should go,” Nina said. “Tell me his name,” she said. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I only wanted to tell you that even if you didn’t know me, that even if I didn’t know your son, there are people in this world who care that you might not even realize do.” “You don’t even know it. You putting on stockings and lipstick for somebody whose name you don’t even know. So, you can pretend like you’re helping somebody when you not doing a damn thing, but making yourself feel better. Don’t nobody need caring they can’t get to, somebody just taking space up in a church pew. That’s no help at all.” Nina could only nod. She took a few steps away from the woman before she turned to walk out of the church. “You don’t even know his name,” she said to Nina’s back. Outside on the steps, some of the other Homegoers wondered where she’d been and it was only when one of them asked where her purse was that she realized that she’d left it in the church. She found a side door, afraid to walk back up the front steps and see the man’s mother. On the seat of the pew was her purse and next to it, crinkled, was the funeral program of James “Jimmy” Howard. Nina hadn’t even realized she’d been sitting on it the whole time.
Gretchen E. Henderson INDUCTION from Caleographea (response to artwork by Val Britton) Thus the sea has been brought regularly within the domains of philosophical research, and crowded with observers. ~ Matthew Maury, The Physical Geography of the Sea (1855)
To collect every navigator as winds and currents of the ocean is to chart this (object, an appeal, a flight) ransacked log. As winds and weather yearn, seasons project blank tracks, needling: a line, black or blue mass, lines to the eye (of colors, comet’s tail, an arrow) broken and dotted for force and direction. By shape and position this tail — flight, faint, glimmering, blaze — sheds seas, charts, ships, a sail (terrible gale) then calms. A squall with rain; fogs; storms — (All this was seen on paper.) Corners go and come, meeting turned up outcropping veins (“Track Charts”), projected cut-up thoroughfares (no visible sign to guide the wayfarer) out to a crooked road home. The out-bound route is beat, bent to that turning point (by the wayside, blank untraveled vessels) at a cross-road. Haunted solitudes of wild rock or shoal hide hydrographic inquiry to follow the wake of those who led the way. (“Which way did you go? How lies the route?”) Handed down by legend, season after season, sweeping, iron-bound shipwreck, pressed dents, cross the ocean. Again. (Every body said that was the way, and it was so written down in the books.) Abstract logs chart minds, as winds and currents graph a corps of observers, philosophers and laborers, gleaning a rare spectacle: floating observatory. Beautiful seafarers: Adapt to coast, climate, river. Dwell on phases of ocean, storm, and calm. Circulate wonders, hidden in depths that surface as us, from time to time. Glean this field, the great deep.
James Blachly from Songs of Ishmael
To listen to Songs of Ishmael: www.jamesblachly.com
Harriet Clark from The Afterlife
One thing the prison rabbi liked to say was, “I can’t say I’m surprised.” If one of the women was written up or locked down and couldn’t come to the prison seder: “I wish I could say I’m surprised but I’m not.” When he brought his two sons with him for Passover one year I made them take their clothes off in the visitor’s bathroom and this too must have failed to surprise him. It was the year the superintendent decided we couldn’t have seder in the gym anymore and moved us to the GED room. There were never very many of us—beside my mother, four women, six women, one year nine—but there were women who came with the rabbi, women from his temple, and these were the palest quietist women I ever knew. Those wigs, those skirts, those thick thick tights. You had to believe in God to wear tights like that. I thought they loved us or were afraid of us, the way they skitted around the table getting food, fixing napkins. Like we were kings. In the visiting center and the units and the mess hall all the forks were plastic but for seder, for one meal a year, my mother and the other women used silverware. It made the meal feel fancy, even though I used silverware at home all the time. For years, with no other kids there, I asked the Four Questions myself, searched for the afikomen myself. “Remember to hide the afikomen,” my mother whispered to the rabbi as he went to his seat. Every year she said this, remember the afikomen, but the rabbi only put the matzah under his chair— there was no hiding at all—and when the time came, I circled the table once, twice, I looked at my mother and told her with my eyes, this is the last time I’ll pretend to find it and she looked at me and told me with her eyes, he’s an asshole, I know, but just pretend now to find it, and I pointed beneath the rabbi and said, “I found it.” The year we switched to the GED room the superintendent moved the service from six in the evening to nine in the morning and decided the women from the synagogue could no longer cook our meal. It had to come from Albany, from the state’s kosher warehouse, and it had to be frozen. Everything we ate that year—the smashed lumps of charoset, horseradish, the sprig of bitter herbs—came in small plastic containers still cold on the bottom. The other thing the superintendent decided we could no longer do was open the door for Elijah. The rabbi announced this at the start of the meal, right after he said to his sons, “Aaron and Daniel, these are those people I told you about.”
Most of the time the rabbi called us ladies. “Ladies,” he said, “you know we’re dealing with some changes this year.” Or, “Ladies, you understand, the door has to stay closed this year” With the two boys seated beside him he announced that this year, instead of opening the door, we would close our eyes and open our hearts to Elijah. He was so carried away with his idea that he forgot it was supposed to happen later, that the prophet was invited in at the end of the meal. The wigged women hadn’t even come around with our haggadahs when the rabbi began to count down like a take-off: “Three,” he said, “two,” he said, “one.” Everyone closed their eyes and I know this because I kept my eyes open. “Eyes closed, hearts open,” the rabbi said and it was then that I saw his son looking at my mother. I looked at him, looking at her. Then I looked at her and maybe that’s not something you should ever see—your mother with her eyes closed. Looking at your mother when she has her eyes closed is like going back to a moment before you ever existed. It’s that lonely, even if you’re right there and she’s right there and she’s holding your hand. I looked back at the boy and I told him with my eyes, stop looking at my mother. But he didn’t. I said, stop. And he didn’t. Then everyone opened their eyes and we ate the new terrible food and after that I showed the boys to the bathroom and told them they needed a strip-search. But for all the years we had seder in the gym, it was my job at the end of the meal to open the door. Slowly at first like I was afraid but I wasn’t afraid. With the door all the way open the last light of the day made its stab at us and the women looked at the light like that was the point, that was the miracle—me and the door and that last bit of light—that’s what everyone had been waiting for. Every Passover I stood in the doorway with the setting sun on one side and my mother on the other and this was the closest she and I came to being outside together. Then an officer closed and locked the door and I returned to my seat, to my mother, who looked at me like it was a real feat to open a door. She was so proud of me for opening that door it embarrassed me and I had to look away as we said all together, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Next year we were in the GED room. My mother, eyes closed, squeezed my hand. And even then, even when I made my own eyes close, I could feel my mother beside me opening her heart so wide I had to turn away.
Michael Ashkin from Architecture is for Creeps
Val Britton Infinite Loop: Art + Sound by Val Britton and John Colpitts. Site-specific mixed media installation of hand cut paper, ink, tempera, and thread at Secret Project Robot, Brooklyn NY. 2012.
Molly Reid The Bunnies
Gathered on lawns at dawn and dusk, the crepuscular hours of quiet longing. A bedraggled reticent army awaiting orders. Long endive leaf ears, glassy eyes, a creature too scared, too dumb, too bent on its own pleasure to care about life’s larger concerns. They are either a happy sighting for children breathless with any hint of wild nature in their otherwise exhaustively sanitized existence, or a problem, a nuisance, another item on the Association board meeting’s agenda, where everyone with a mortgage is an expert on matters of moral responsibility and animal control. She hesitates, sometimes, before she takes it all off. There is a moment in which, if I didn’t know any better, I would think she knew she was being watched, was considering whether or not it was worth it, measuring risk and payoff. Worried, I sometimes entertain, about my soul, my reputation, my marriage. But of course, she doesn’t know I’m here. I have the perfect hiding place and vantage point, between a neighbor’s standing trellis with its lavish crawl of bougainvillea and a tidy row of Japanese maple. She starts with her hair, pulling out pins and unclipping clips. Thick and dark, it falls past her shoulders, brushes her honeyed clavicle. She works downward; I assume she’s already removed her shoes. Her blouse she takes off hastily, her least favorite part of the whole endeavor, unbuttoning with brisk graceless navigations, or a crossed-arm over-the-head maneuver. Takes even less time with her bra – quick reach back, both straps down at once. If I take a long blink, I miss it entirely. After that she usually slows down. The curve of one breast: a waxing moon, something lit from without on its way to fullness. A hipbone. If she turns, I might glimpse a shoulder blade. Taper and slight arch of lower back, a contoured dip like an invisible fist pressing. Her fingers move over the buttons of her pants, following a sweet sad choreography, swaying to the slow unfasten, the gradations of release. Panties, expensive-looking, pale lace and ribbon, finally, finally come down. I have a right to be here, just as they. Once you open the gates and insist on compassion, you preclude the arbitrary cull. I will not trample the geraniums or soil the grass. I ask only for this quiet moment of poise in the foliage, to be moved only by my own breath, and the evening ritual of longing.
Brush #12, 20” x 14” Graphite & Watercolor, 2011
Brush #11, 20” x 14” Graphite & Watercolor, 2011
LeVan D. Hawkins APPLAUD, APPLAUD TILL THE ROOF CAVES IN
"Applaud till the roof caves in!" The female announcer's voice booms from the speakers. It's Psalm Sunday. I'm sitting aside my mother and brother at our church's annual Palm Sunday tea and fashion show. I'm not certain how old I am. Gary Houston hasn't told our group of fifth-grade friends about his sex-exploits yet. I haven't argued with him that there's no such thing as sex - he made it up - then decide I want to do this sex thing with him. That is two or three years away so I am eight or nine. An enormous runway starts from the center of the auditorium and juts out near the first rows of the audience. A model in clinging red vamps toward the back of the room, her bare back to the audience. She swivels and pouts. "Applaud! Applaud till the roof caves in!" The announcer urges. I obey her and applaud in convulsions oblivious to my mother, brother, and the audience: there's only the announcer, the models, and me. I am manic in my joy as the models do dramatic turns in colorful clothing. I'm too young to be aware of the subtleties of color; everything is viewed through the prism of the simple colors in my first crayon box. Blue! Red! Green! Yellow! Even the colors I think are boring thrill me. White! Black! Brown! A tall lady - a beautiful giant - her skin the color of bananas, floats in a sparkling gown down the runway. "Gloria's gown today is blue and red," the announcer tells the audience. Gloria floats and turns, floats and turns. "Applaud until the roof caves in!" If the gym's roof could cave in from my sheer delight, bricks, steel, mortar, and aluminum would blanket me. I take my enthusiasm home to my grandmother's where my brother and I stay during the week while my mother works. All day, I float and turn, float and turn. My grandmother must have found my sashays entertaining. "Show me again what the models do," she tells me smiling. I do the sashays through the house until I hear, "Sissy." This is from my cousin Lenny, who is visiting. I do what men do when they're insulted, even future gay men: I punch him in the face. We throw punches until my grandmother rushes in, my angry fist dangerously close to grazing her as she pulls us apart. As soon as my mother enters the door, a swarm of my young relatives including my brother, greet her with "LeVan and Lenny were fighting."
"Why were you fighting?" She asks the both of us. "He called me a sissy!" "He was acting like one. Doing all this." Lenny hatefully mimics me, inserting more femininity than I used in my turns and with much less grace. My brother joins him. My mother decides I will be punished. Not for fighting. In the past, she has insisted I defend myself, going as far as to threaten to whip me if I didn't. My punishment is for acting like a sissy. After my cousin and his siblings leave, she screams at me, "I don't want you acting like a freak! Go to the bathroom and get ready!" I battle my face from dissolving to tears. "Getting ready" meant by the time she entered, my blue jeans were supposed to be at my ankles, my hands gripping the sink. I go into the bathroom, drop my pants, and assume position. Before my mother can enter, my grandmother's elderly neighbor knocks at the back door. My grandmother answers the door. Their voices fade as they head into the front of the house. I remain in the bathroom, pants still grazing the floor, my hands still gripping the sink while the neighbor visits. I'm afraid to move my hands from the sink. Should I pull up my pants and leave the bathroom? I'm confused as to what I should do, terrified to make the wrong choice and anger my mother further increasing the intensity of the lashes from the extension cord that would soon sear my buttocks. My grandmother and the neighbor laugh as their voices move through the house. I peek through a crack in the door as they chat in the hallway. Though I struggle to block her out, the beautiful giant with the banana skin and magnificent sparkling blue and red gown floats towards me. Gloria's grown today is blue and red …Applaud till the roof caves in! I try to make her go away but still, she floats. "You know why I'm whipping you, don't you?" My mother asks me, extension cord in hand. "Yes, ma'am."
Emily Abendroth from
whereupon, the henchpeople’s ZEAL did SPUTTER some
~ Daughter colony within a daughter colony pollinating but dry-docked by a rockblasted holdfast outlasted until even the crass act of shattering exhibits a riveting division of segregated labor power. From the over-bordered channel least expected to chivvy comes a guttering indigence, a dickens of a disembroilment. The specimen is heard venting: “I was in a manner they didn’t believe was dignified, but then that was the very manner by which I was. And so an aesthetic homicide seemed every bit upon the table. It was as real as cable cars or fertilizer or Kaiser Permanente or courage.” The specimen thought, this is how important it can be to posterity to make an anomaly conform. vestigial lobe vestigial love vestigial oviduct vestigial cudgel
Originally published in the chapbook from Little Red Leaves, titled NOTWITHSTANDING shoring, FLUMMOX (2012).
Qian Li from One Journey
Teresa Carmody from My Spiritual Suit of Armor by Katherine Anne
How To Tell A True Friend by Katherine Anne 1. Do you feel bad after talking with your friend? The first step to knowing who your true friends are is to realize that some people are actually fake friends. A true friend will like you for who you are, a fake friend wants something else. Like to not be left out. Or the answers for her math homework. (By the way, even though I should use “him” and “he” because I am talking about people in general, and people in general are always “he” and “him,” all of my friends are girls, so if I use “he” and “him,” who am I referring to?) 2. Has your friend ever spread rumors about you, or made fun of you behind your back? If so, she’s not a true friend. If someone is truly your friend and she has a problem with you, she will tell you directly to your face and she will never talk about you behind your back ever. (I don’t think writing in a diary is the same as talking about someone. Do you?) I told Denise that I don’t like it when she calls herself stupid, and she told me that I sometimes act like I’m better than everyone else. I’m happy Denise told me that, because I don’t think I’m better than other people and I don’t want anyone to feel bad about herself just because of me. 3. Is your friend happy for you if you win a prize? I’ve had this problem a lot. (That’s “a lot,” with a space between “a” and “lot.” This is one of the most common spelling errors.) I don’t plan it this way, but I happen to win a lot of prizes. For example, the Catholic Diocese poster contest and the Project Business essay contest. I have entered other contests that I haven’t won, so I know what it means to lose. After I won the Project Business essay contest, Denise said, “Congratulations,” and we even went to Meijers together so I could use the $50 prize to buy us new sticker books, it’s best to use actual photo albums. But no one else in the class said anything. It was the third prize I won that year. Derek Cunningham told me no one else was dorky enough to enter the essay contest. He said if he would have entered, he would have won. Why would he say that? Also, I happen to get the best grades in the class, which makes Derek so mad. I never brag about it, but Derek always wants to compare grades, and usually I win. I’m not going to get worse
grades just to make other people feel better. I want to go to college, I do not want to live here forever, that’s for sure. 4. Does your friend act one way when she’s alone with you, and another way if you’re with other people? Will your friend sometimes ignore you, or pretend she’s too busy to say hello? True friends never ignore each other, and true friends don’t keep their friends all to themselves. Angie always says that her cousin, Cheryl, is so cool, Cheryl goes to Cedar Springs High School. One time, Angie told me she won’t introduce Cheryl to any of her friends from school, she thinks everyone would become best friends with Cheryl and she wants to keep Cheryl all to herself. If Angie would do that to Cheryl, she would definitely do that to me. 5. Does your friend invite you over to her house? Does she call you on the phone? These are signs that someone truly likes you. If you’re the only person making invitations and you’re the only one who ever calls on the phone, then it’s a one-sided friendship and maybe it’s not a friendship at all. On the other hand, does your friend invite you somewhere— Saturday afternoon all-skate, for example—then tell you while you’re lacing up your roller-skates that she was going to invite someone else, but she wanted to be the cutest girl at the rink. Jennifer Hartman actually did that to me last year; she was going to invite Stephanie Conroy to go skating, but she asked me instead. When she told me why, she used her whisper voice as if she were telling me a secret. But guess what? a.) I personally don’t think Jennifer Hartman is cuter than I am (I’m not calling myself cute, but I don’t think Jennifer is cute either). And b.) Jennifer Hartman is stupid for telling me that. That is definitely the kind of thought you keep to yourself. 6. A true friend loves you truly and truly wants the best thing for you. That’s why true friends share Jesus Christ with each other. If you know your friend is going to hell, you must do everything you can to try and help her. You must help her become born again. I want to be a true friend, I really do. Love, Katherine Anne
Rachel Eliza Griffiths The Reckoning of Relics Steepletop, 2012
This is the gristle of imagery. The need to see what is past. Not history, not the before or long ago, but the saint’s finger, the sarcophagus of imagery, the headstones of immortal phrases. Sometimes, a detail remains. Sits in the mind, brightly impenetrable as a mineral: lapis lazuli or diamond. It was June in Austerlitz & I was circling the stalls of my life, flinging kerosene over what I had done wrong, so much, & what I could do : never do it again. The stars slid over hummingbirds early in the evening. Deer neared me, turned away in the meadow’s lumina. Beneath apple trees I sat & rubbed my hands across my own skin, thinking of containment & the compass behind this cage. One afternoon Peter walked me through Millay’s house, asked me to imagine the house, the woman’s work, the parties. I was staying in the barn, invisible from her windows, taking the entire month to decide if I wanted to live. It had come to that & no one knew. I walked for hours, miles, became a vapor, came back, wrote to Tracy, climbed trees, met snakes & owls, breathed like a firefly, introduced frank sonnets to streams. Alone, alone. A frame in a museum, without a painting inside, without a self portrait. In the morning the grass floated beneath dew & if Edna wanted me to hear her new poems, I could. The listening saved me. Even when my ears bled & my heart leaked. I stood at the window in my head & looked out at the loping black bear, the pinions of black crows, the thickets of youth flattening beneath my whispers. Upstairs Peter held his palm out to me, the hush & eternity of a dead woman’s curls, faded with threads of red.
Mark Cannariato dryyolesaneshallows
Lacy M. Johnson from THE OTHER SIDE
The form itself is simple: my name, the police records I am requesting, the case number, the dollar amount I am willing to pay for copying fees. These fees can be waived if the request in some way serves the public interest. I was the victim in this case, I write on the form. I can think of no way in which this serves the public interest, but I would like to see the files anyway. A sergeant in the Public Relations Unit responds to my request within the week. Even after all these years the case remains active--there’s no statute of limitations on felonies--and the sergeant needs to consult with the city legal advisor prior to making a decision. Since, you know, it involves a serious active case. Three weeks later, after speaking with the law department as well as the lead investigator, the sergeant sends me a .pdf file along with a polite offer of further assistance. At first I decide I won’t open it while my children are home. (We all know how I can get.) Then I decide I won’t open it while I am home. I’ll wait until my trip to upstate New York weeks from now, in early summer. But then I spend whole mornings distracted by the possibilities. (Is the cat alive or dead?) After two days, when my husband is out of town, I open the file, thinking I’ll only look a little bit. Just a little. Just a peek.
The evidence file contains 85 pages of police reports, including an inventory of items collected from the crime scene: “chain,” “brown envelope with handwritten notes,” “two leather belts tied together,” and “film neg[atives].” It does not describe whether there are photographs on those negatives. It does not describe the results of any laboratory tests, or the emails or correspondence I sent or received, though they are mentioned. There are no facsimiles or
transcripts of conversations I had with prosecutors or the police. It does not provide copies of warrants, though it lists the complete set of charges filed on my behalf. The first half of the document reports the same events during the same time period on the same day, each report from the perspective of a different officer, each report in part relating the story I told to one officer or another. The writers do not reflect. They do not sympathize. They express no pity or outrage or disgust. Each report simply reports my story, and yet it is not my story, though it is the same version of the story I would now tell. Almost word for word. Like something I memorized long ago and can still perform by heart.
And yet, as I read the evidence file, I also see things I’m not expecting. Like how, according to the police reports, it was a female officer, not a male detective, who met me at the station, and the same female officer drove me to the apartment I’d escaped, and then to the hospital, and then back to the station. But in my memory, this role is so clearly played by the male detective, the man who looks vaguely like my uncle. I try to imagine my two palms pressed against the glass where the dispatchers sat, the locked beige door to my left. I imagine it opening, and try to see the female officer’s face instead of the male detective’s face. I try to imagine her dark blue uniform, every corner pressed and in its place, the black belt with its gold buckle, the gold buttons, every hair on her head tied back into a neat bun. I can see the long hallway behind her. I can see the little notebook. And the office. And the black telephone. The carpet in the hallway is beige, darker in the middle than where it meets the walls at the edges. But when I try to see the female officer instead of the male detective the whole image starts to collapse, and then there is neither a female officer nor a male detective opening the locked beige door. There is no opening the door.
Sticklines Palace, 2011 Oil on linen 12 x 9 inches
Fold Stick Line, 2011 Oil on linen 12 x 9 inches
Christopher Momenee from BONJOUR DUDE
A sparse-haired security guard named Jerry follows me to my cubicle where I gather up a few personal items, including a dog-eared copy of Moby Dick, a baseball card I found in the street (Manny Rodriguez when he played for the Dodgers), a pack of Big Red, a small notebook with email addresses, doodles, and random instructions to myself: Eat more fish Drink three glasses of water Read Moby Dick Do 100 50 25 pushups every morning While Jerry gives his nails a good once-over, I slip some Post-It pads and the Swingline stapler into my coat pocket. Parting gifts. I step into the elevator with Jerry. He stabs the L button and we stand there awkwardly in the metal closet. His walkie-talkie squawks, “Jerry, where are you?” Static. “I’m heading down to the lobby.” Static. “Roger that. Meet you down there.” The doors open on twelve and a stunner in a navy-blue business suit steps inside, her eyes never lifting from her BlackBerry. Just as the doors start to re-close, I dash out. “Hey!” yells Jerry yell from inside the descending elevator. I take the stairs two at a time and head up to the Sales & Marketing floor, where I stroll calmly, pretending to know where I’m going until I find an empty office. The plaque outside reads Ed Bialecki. I slip into Ed’s office and close the door. I figure five minutes should do it. They’ll call off the dogs and then I can walk out of the building without a security escort and preserve the little dignity I have left. I sit at Ed’s desk and check out all the framed photos of him with his wife and kids. They look so happy. A real family unit. They must do a lot of bonding stuff together. Ballgames. Theme parks. Chuck E. Cheese. I imagine he started out as a teller during college. After graduation, they transferred him to their main office where he was probably an assistant to the associate manager or whatever. He took evening classes and got his MBA. Started playing golf in the company league. Married some pretty-faced teller he met at the annual
picnic. He switched over to marketing; became a manager. A father. After their second child was born––Kyle or Ryan, something team captainy––his wife couldn’t lose the weight. She tried Jenny Craig and then yoga, but it was always ten pounds off, fifteen back on. As he became less attracted and she got more tired from dealing with the kids all day by herself, their sex life went from twice a week to once a week to once a month to Ed falling asleep on the couch somewhere between Leno’s first joke and second guest––that guy from the Animal Planet who lets him bottle-feed the white lion cubs. That’s about when Ed started noticing the younger gals at work. He began wearing Dockers, double-pleated, somehow convinced they made him look hipper, younger, even though they bellowed out at the crotch like an air bag any time he sat down. He slathered on the Rogaine, the cologne, and at the copier, all the charm he could muster until he felt a tug on his line––a new intern with dimples. It just so happened she was attending the same college Ed did fifteen years ago. Probably Owens Tech. That’s their common ground. He might’ve asked her, “Hey, is is Joe ‘the Stud’ McNulty still teaching there? Does he still wear those wide-collared shirts unbuttoned halfway down to show off his hairy chest?” And she’d go something like, “Yeah, I had a class with him last semester; the guy is sooo douchey.” He might as well have died and gone to heaven. Anyway, as I go on imagining Ed’s life, the door opens and there’s a white-haired, bespectacled man with a stunned look on his face. “Who are you? And what are you doing at my desk?” It takes me a while, but I realize––holy shit––it’s Ed Bialecki! He looks nothing like the pictures on his desk. I want to ask him what happened. Was there a tragic death in the family? Did he break up with his wife? Or is it just that all these photos were taken a really long time ago? Instead, all I think to do is remove the Swingline from my pocket. “Great news, Ed. We found your stapler.”
Mark Tardi from Attribution Error That all violence is contained in the precision of detail. â€“â€“Paolo Giordano, The Solitude of Prime Numbers
This morningâ€™s street carves some continuity of sacrament, taut remembrance swinging a ditty bag by its drawstring a hand attached to nothing, luminal like the raw core of the parsible or trapezoidal light wattled walls, dust flies crowded with stacked anatomies trying not to turn rancid no one to ask, no one to tell
Pray for the insides of things, men and batteries, that they be shaved to the coolest precision
There are no harmless motives, thinking detached from all consequence, it was guttered and channeled and sluices like a gnarled moccasin or some squat ungainly bird
the ligaments could have been flypaper revolving in slow spirals
Gone are quinsy, glanders, and farcy menstrual blood prettied with rosewater
You donâ€™t have to step on a body to carry death on your shoes, gesticulant and aimless, each day a relentless emptying out the whorl expanding in itself as if a tickle of electricity in mute chorus as if left trembling with success surrounded by a hawkbill knife, three stakes, hatchets and kettles, assorted rocks, a roll of copper wire
between a gulf and a toilet folding again into the murk beyond
Katie Vida Interactive Structures I (detail), 2011. Performance Still incorporating handmade sewn mask. Photos by Adam Baran.
Lydia Paar No Words
We can’t tell your mom I can’t have kids We can’t tell my dad you deal drugs But…(make a poem from this start?) There doesn’t need to be a poem They say When nothing’s wrong No one wants to read about a puppy in the sun Because it’s better just to enjoy the puppy in the sun So here there’s no poem But what a poem there would be Of us.
Fade, 2013, acrylic and acrylic spraypaint on canvas, 24 x 20 inches.
Paparazzi, 2013, acrylic and spraypaint on canvas, 12 x 16 inches
Jeanne Williamson Fractured Fence Repaired #6, mixed media on stiffened fabric, 43" x 38", 2013.
Cody Carvel Caravanimals
Mary thought I'll write for the ages A love letter, a testament And will, a new kind of portrait, A song of me (and you), and you And I will both be in it looking Straight ahead to the future Who holds us in her hands. And then Mary listened, waited, thought To interrupt, raise a hand, query, Can it be gospel if there is No good news, no good Reason or rhyme, no hint Even of the city and or nature? No, nature Is not a thing, not quite even An idea because one day An idea could be...one day So she tried instead to write An appeal, and it 'came An index or inventory, a musical Notation, diagram of systems. She kissed And pushed off, kissed Peg And while Peg slept, Mary wept, Howled into her pillow, took flight To the streets which were cluttered And empty, less and more than Mary who streamed out town. Quiet parade Silent anthem, skipping feet, bleating Pulse, the only dancing could be Done was inside her, and it seemed Even it a bit of an asshole's dance Without one or more partners, and She continued her march, or she gave Up the goat, was up goat's creek... Yet wasn't
About to fail, though perhaps doomed From the start, she stopped by a lake And drank up, stored the whole thing, made Plans for the contents now hers, a splash Of water balloons, a loaves of fishes, a crust of Minerals, a slip of shores, a Goddamn of amoebas, A perilous mess of disposed of everythings. A field Was left, presented itself as a map Or labyrinth, she laid down there, no blanket No Peg, rested until the sky revealed a New tribe of miniature cattle, Mary rubbed Their heads, told them they were not to be A herd, but instead a gang, or a giant baby And she joined them together, led them. They walked Left behind the field with its electro unified Dreams and for a moment lived in The moment before heading into terrain New and...stony...Mary was inclined to mason The rocks, make them as they ought to be Had been specially trained in the quarry To sing and swing a pick, smile and thank. But new Opportunities to leave alone the dust and rocks, The life and love and death that had been Mary shoved passed, was determined to go Alone or with these new fellers, fairies and others To a new kind of tier, not too crowded nor Too isolated there, and there, there would be Eventually more others, bad mothers, fringekins. But right Then an angelik, formerly known as crow Crooned a fuguelet, and Mary wondered Would the ancients know what this foretold-A million midnights of daylight? Constellations Reforming themselves into kinder joys? Traps Set by extinct sympathizers for extinct foes? Or the other way round? Not now she told herself. Thanked crooner Took it under her wing and thought no more On the subject of prophetics and omenations,
Hugged the newness shed had amassed, held Mass or a new ritual to be named later At a date when a new home could be Consecrated, or taken over The edge, maybe, where she had an inkling. The promised Land does not exist, but I can promise you One thing, littlemisster (as she often called Herself (and others) when it was time to Get serious about something at least Momentarily) we can't stay here birdperched Waiting, or, waiting is inevitable but we can't Just gawk and squawk and squeak on. Can we? Mary gestured Move it, and the slowly growing caravan Slowly moved, their creaking bones and breath Dirging happy dirge as polecats danced Atop the pole star, fiery animals all stinking Stars visible any time of day
Kasia Nikhamina from Wide Receivers
Where: under a wool blanket When: modernity What kind of weather: the snow that persists JOHN I think this IS a queen. EDNA It’s not. It’s smaller. JOHN Well I think it’s nice. Means we sleep closer. EDNA We start closer, sure. But we move apart in the night. And I dream I am an unhatched bird in a shell that’s too thin. And I wake up on the margin cold. JOHN We can get a bigger blanket. EDNA Thank you. JOHN You should’ve said something sooner. We’ve had this one for five years! EDNA I did say. But you said this one was perfect because it made us sleep closer. JOHN You shouldn’t always listen to me. EDNA I’d like that in writing please. JOHN I don’t have a pen. Don’t you?
EDNA Of course. (pause) EDNA Say, remember the cashier at the grocery store who said over the intercom, “Jose, Jose, I’m going on my break now?” JOHN Sure. (pause) EDNA It’s the planning that gets me. Paralyzes me. So that, I don’t want to do it anymore. JOHN Is this about the baby again? EDNA I just wish I’d had one when I was twenty-five. JOHN If you’d done that, I might never have met you. EDNA Uh, you already knew me when I was twenty-five. JOHN And you already knew the weatherman. EDNA Oh John I never knew him -JOHN I know, I know, you only quoted him. EDNA So then?
JOHN You quoted him a lot. (pause) EDNA I can’t sleep. JOHN You’ve been mainlining sugar all night -- of course you can’t sleep. EDNA It was just some frosting. JOHN It was nothing BUT frosting. That’s how it begins: the yellow jersey on the yellow brick road to a confession on national television. EDNA Oh John do you think he meant it? JOHN Huh? EDNA Don’t you think maybe he confessed to help Oprah? You know, drive up her ratings a bit? JOHN And then what? Recant the following week on Letterman? EDNA That’s brilliant! But I set that one up for you. I did. JOHN You have to go to work tomorrow. EDNA I know. JOHN So sleep.
EDNA Work -- is a four-letter word. JOHN Sleep! EDNA You riled me up! JOHN SLEEP! (The lights go out.)
Untitled, Oil on canvas.
Untitled, Charcoal on paper.
Prageeta Sharma SHE DID NOT WANT TO EMBODY CHEAP SIGNALING After Undergloom & Nassim Nicholas Taleb
1. In poems from her book she did not want to import a code of signals that took her father’s voice solely for her imperatives in which they appeared as grenades, taglines, or hashtags. And however she declares Missoula as a Western town, a city in which she struggles to belong— its wilderness of towering: the sighted and yet spindly pines, with their melancholia points of dry brush, and iron-designed trunks alongside ruined bridges drowned in solid ice. She realized she was losing people who quietly judged—or not so quietly— and who believe too solidly in their false benevolence, candy nurses and their do-good harm. Yet she learned how to deliberate under a sky big enough. 2. Now her family is far from distress, in a saddle of their own inheritance: immersion into a wholesome exultation— everything light and interconnected. What made her father’s otherness a painful recognition also made him a star witness to the truth of his own becoming, to his faithful and long-buried Hindu self—a now emotive force, far from untoward epistemic arrogance hidden in the language of authorial tumult. She moved from the confession to narration in order to construct an affect of irregularity so she could reckon with the affable truth of Black Swans and feelings of too many white ones, and the torpor resting in their probability.
Kim Church Palm Trees
I have heard them compared to women: tall, exotic, shabbily elegant, of uncertain age, wind-tattered, scarred, seductive, waving their feathers and fans at anyone, at no one. I’m in this weatherbeaten beach town, the kind of place you go when you’re too tired to go anywhere else. A last resort. There are two of us on the boardwalk: me in my t-shirt and jeans and ballcap, androgynous, which is how I travel these days, and another middle-aged woman, a stranger in a tie-dyed sundress, her graying hair in a ponytail, sunglasses blanking her eyes. She’s waiting for someone—I can tell by how she leans against the rail, the submissive dip in her back, the almost imperceptible turning of her head as she scans the beach, the boardwalk, the hotel pool where girls in bright swimsuits drink bright drinks through straws and read novels. Their flesh is shiny and young. Beyond the hotel swimming pool is a row of spindly palm trees. Years ago I went with my husband, when he was still my husband, to Mallorca, our last trip together. Palm trees galore; the capital city was named for them. And olive groves, whole hillsides thickly tangled with roots and branches. We drove up to the little mountain town where George Sand once spent a winter with Frédéric Chopin. Valldemossa. Craggy, ancient, beautiful— even my husband thought so, and he was usually allergic to tourist towns. (I wonder if this changed after he got sick. I’ve heard the dying appreciate everything.) How happy we must have looked, strolling on cobblestone streets, arm in arm, taking in the village, the hillside views. We knew even then that our marriage was over. Without saying it, we were saying goodbye. George Sand was not happy in Valldemossa. The locals shunned her for wearing men’s clothes and smoking cigars and living with a lover who wasn’t her husband. No one would rent her and Chopin a hotel room, so they moved into a damp cell in the Carthusian monastery. The room had no piano, so Chopin sent for his Pleyel upright, which still stands there, sturdy and imposing. (On certain evenings in summer, our guide told us, the piano is moved to the courtyard for open-air concerts. “So romantic,” I said, sorry for what we had missed by traveling off-season. Sorry for all we would ever miss.) To make the room more homey, George Sand bought a bird in a cage, a tiny fire finch with
bright red feathers and yellow-rimmed eyes. But the bird was aggressive, always pecking. The piano wouldn’t hold a tune. The winter was cold and rainy. Chopin coughed day and night and wrote his delirious preludes, twenty-four of them: preludes to nothing, George Sand called them. She came to hate his music almost as much as she hated his tuberculosis. She and Chopin argued endlessly. She lost all tenderness. She hated even the fire finch. Still, she did not leave Chopin, not right away. They returned to France and she stayed with him until he was too frail to compose, and wouldn’t have left him even then if he hadn’t betrayed her. Soon afterwards, he died. He was thirty-nine. (“So young,” my husband said; he would live to forty-six.) Thousands of people attended Chopin’s funeral. George Sand was not one of them. History may judge her harshly, but I do not. Some grief is too complicated, too intimate for public display. Still, I wonder if she came to regret her decision. If it was the one thing that, given the chance, she would have done differently. I wonder if, in her later, lonelier years, after she got sick herself, she ever came to miss Chopin. And the little bird, whose name she could not for the life of her remember, and there was no one to ask. Someone’s coming, I can feel it. There’s a charge in the air, a subtle shift in the tide, a flicker in the distance—some bright new moment, here to rescue us. The woman on the boardwalk tilts her head. The palm trees in her glasses tilt and wave.
Shanti Grumbine from “Kenosis”, Pakistani's Unite in Outrage, October 11, 2012, 2013, erased and excised New York Times page, 22”x12”
from “Kenosis”, Pakistani's Unite in Outrage, October 11, 2012, 2013, erased and excised New York Times page, 22”x12” (detail)
Evan Johnson from die bewegung der augen
Listen to Evan Johnsonâ€™s work at: https://soundcloud.com/#evan-johnson-17
John McManus Cades Cove
Picking blackberries was the only way Clay could make money. Three cents a quart. His aunts bought them to use in cobblers; his mother had always made the best cobbler. What was up in the trees going rudy-rudy-rudy? he asked, and his sister Laura laughed, because it was jarflies. The ice cream melted quickly; Clay could taste the sawdust grains. Listen, listen, the cats are pissin. He played horseshoes with his uncles until late at night. The summer passed like fading ironweed. There wasn't anything to buy with his twenty-four cents. Laura wanted a nickel, but he kept it all; he'd picked the berries himself. Sheâ€™d never even climbed a mountain. The moonshine jug was heavier than he'd imagined. He poured it onto his chest so that it dribbled down to his belly. By August all the corn had died. His uncles roasted the pig overnight in cinders and shot skeet while Clay's cousins played tag in the orchard. Fall was snake time; the sky was dark when he walked to school and dark when he got home. Kids built forts of snow, threw ice in one another's ears. Hey kid, said Laura, I'm gonna kill that cat. Stay the hell away from my cat, said Clay. Say hell again I'll tell Aunt Lottie. The snowflakes felt so cold against his face, and Piggott and the others watched Laura's pupils glinting. Kitty, kitty, right between the eyes. She pointed to her own chin. Free shot, she said. Clay didn't know if it was a trick. Snow tickled when it melted on his tongue. He didn't take the shot, and Laura didn't hit him. She was learning how to crochet. When she slipped on algae on the grist mill's waterwheel, it made sense, because Clay couldn't picture her grown up. He knew what he'd look like; every night in his nightmares he became an ancient man, but Laura wasn't with him. The cat hissed when he tied its paws to the highboy with twine. After the blizzard it came home with frozen eyes. He sat by the oven talking to it, giving it milk; he didn't care. I'll saw your arms off, he told Laura at the viewing. It was harder to breathe on top of mountains. God bless all my aunts and uncles, everyone, please forgive me all my sins forever.
The red bud trees bloomed three days before the dogwoods, and Clay built a dam with rocks and watched blossoms filling the holes between the stones. The government men surveying the cove poisoned themselves on indianberries that had burst up among the dandelions. That was a year.
Cades Cove was previously published in Born on a Train by Picador USA in 2003
Kendra DeColo THIEVES IN THE AFTER LIFE
Let’s return to aisles of mollusks and fire escapes, this world where bodies gleam in fresh supplies of moonlight and a DJ hems pulse to echo. Let’s return to fields of discarded knives. Infinite aquariums and fingernail files. Let’s re-enter and loot the sheen from every shade of blue, the curl of dissonance from tongued anthems. You say you only have room for sadness, smuggled over the border for when you need to feel human again, to remember the kiss of smoke and gin, cursive of rain between a woman’s legs. What does misuse and superfluous mean in this over-stocked world? The get-away car is revved, my dress camouflaged with streetlamps and crows. Won’t you take sips with me from this murk of bootlegged heaven, say fuck it to eternal sleep and fill our pockets with the canteen of every song, every monikered mouth burning in the choir? Won’t you stand with me, guiltless, praising all we’re still waiting to become?
Emily Hass 25 Shapes, 2012, gouache and ink on vintage paper, 64”x61” Made using archival, architectural, and technical details of the former residences of: Chaim and Cine Hass, Holzmarkt Straße, 65 Walter Benjamin, Nettelbeck Straße, 24 Peter Gay (Fröhlich) , Schweidnitzer Straße, 5 Kurt Weill, Bayernalle, 14 Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, Luisenplatz, 3 Leo and Manja Segall, Joachim Friedrich Straße, 43 Mike Nichols (Peschkowsky), Olivaer Platz, 4 Charlotte Salomon, Großbeeren Straße, 40 Lion Feuchtwanger and Marta Löffler, Mahler Straße, 8B
Louisa Armbrust Stills from Muller Variation No. 3
Nancy Coughlin from The Myth of Solid Ground
Henry’s father began to send me every New York Times and Wall Street Journal article he could find on the topic of autism or learning disabilities in general. “Doctors Report Breakthrough in Treating Autism,” reads the headline of the one I have in front of me right now. (It deals with a study in which the drug naltrexone, used more commonly in the treatment of heroin addicts, seemed helpful in alleviating hyperactivity in autistic children.) Meanwhile, my mother sent me first-person miracle stories from Reader’s Digest, Redbook, Woman’s Day. “Can Autism Be Cured?” is the title of the Woman’s Day article, and this is the blurb: “From birth this zombie like girl seemed hopelessly unreachable. Then a simple two-week treatment turned her into a normal young woman.” I used to make lists of the various treatments and therapies I read about, so that during our visits to Dr. G I could ask her about them. Dimethylglycine, fenfluramine, periactin, cloripramine, Ritalin, Zoloft, Prozac, Vitamin B6, Tegretol, clonidine, Dilantin, naltrexone, Risperdal, Luvox, Clonazepam, folic acid, gingko biloba, secretin, glutein-free diets, epsom salt baths, Auditory Integration Therapy, Music Therapy, Holding Therapy, Play Therapy, Sensory Integration Therapy, Dolphin Therapy. Dr. G listened to my questions patiently, and with an air of utter unsurprisability—I swear, amid my list of alternative therapies I could have listed “brain transplant” or “bathing in the blood of virgins” and she’d have kept nodding that dispassionate, professional, owl-eyed nod of hers—after which she would dismiss each item on my list, one by one. “That study has never been replicated.” “That treatment is supported only by anecdotal evidence.” Still, over the next several years we tried many of these alternative therapies, and more. In most cases there was no reason not to, after all, if you could afford the price of their implementation ($35 for a month’s worth of megavitamins was doable; $2200 for a five-day program at Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Forida, was not), if you were careful to monitor the side effects of the drugs, and if you tried your hardest to perform the therapies correctly. But the thing is, I made so many mistakes along the way. I didn’t keep close enough track of what we had and hadn’t tried already. I didn’t always
comply with the diligence some of the therapies required. I gave in to Hannah at times when I was supposed to hold firm. It turned out that while I could always be counted on in sudden emergencies—quick to put out the wastebasket fire, to swerve around the deer in the road, to grab the wine glass before it hit the floor—I was a clumsy, erratic wreck in the face of the ongoing, ever-changing crisis my life was becoming, day after day after day. And I could never tell whether that lack of discipline and consistency was the reason I was seldom able to discern any actual, sustained results from anything I tried. I still don’t know this, in fact, and it’s the question that’s continued to haunt me even as, through the years that followed, so many of the treatments have been, to one degree or another, scientifically debunked. It’s haunted me so pervasively, and for so long, in fact, that there were several points during the last few years since Hannah’s death when I might have ended this book right there, on that word: “haunted.” For so long, it was as far as I could go—my feelings about Hannah’s life and death so clouded and shivery, my thinking so overwhelmed by the ghosts of all the things I might have done differently. All the paths—from well-lit six-lane highways to jungle trails so densely overgrown you’d need a machete to get through—all the paths not followed to the end.
Casey Llewellyn from The Quiet Way
2. Fire Robert Llewellyn who is a Girl (by Others’ Designation): Left the house to put out the fire. The fire. The fire. In the forest in the house. Left the house to put out the fire. Travelled an hour. To see you. Left the house and walked and walked. Left the sitty sitty by the fire. And all the thoughts I was having. walked and walked and was thinking of you. In all the trees and the air. Left the house to let out the fire. Into the trees and then it burned for days. Left the fire in the house and cried and cried. The salt burned first. My tears put it out. I became hungry, ate my stomach. Inside was burning burning. Outside was empty and still. Thank god. I lived, thank god. A flame spoke. A spoke spoke. My voice was silent except for the smoke. In the fire, I sat. Watching. Nothing is right and it lets itself out. I don’t know how. I can’t say anything right and it lets itself all out. I don’t know how. I left the fire to the fire and sat and sat and thought of you and watched. The neighbors never came by. I let the fire out and it said, thank you, I want to live too. I was it burning through everything. Killing everything and saying I want to live.
Nora who is The Main Character: The house was cold because I had plugged up the heater because it woke me up from a good dream. In the dream I met my love. I don’t usually have one, but this time, I had a love. The Chorus of the Young who is Next: I asked him what he wanted, and he said, didn’t I know? And I had an idea. And I was curious. I’ve never done this, I said, do you want to talk for a while first? And then we did in that heightened way where everything has a different meaning. Sometimes I feel horrible, so I hide under the covers, I said. Or I ruin it. Or I walk out the door and into the trees. Or I go back to bed to forget about everything. Sometimes I can hear my own death when I come into a room. Oh, he said. Not always, I said. Right now? No. What do you hear now? Everything was a euphemism. I went with it. I hear the sound of us loving each other. He laughed. The boy in the bed was not just a boy. He was someone who had not agreed. He was self-made and insecure. Now’s a time for everything, I thought. Now’s the time. Lapdog: What I know is happening. I stand still. A real me is never. A real me floats above the whole world. Everyone says something, and that becomes me. Here is a poem I wrote about your hair: Dust: Your hair is what I want to feel entangled with. Your hair is something I can’t control but I take it as communication that YOU LIKE ME. But still I want I want. And I know that is not good. Dust crumbles. Lapdog rolls in it.
Donna Stonecipher Model City 
It was like noticing hotel after hotel going up all over the city with unstoppable force and imagining a city consisting only of hotels, a city composed solely of expensive emptinesses.
It was like remembering that you rented the apartment that you live in exactly because it felt like a hotel room, radiating a friendly indifference, because it felt like the right measure of the relationship between you and your life.
It was like thinking about the nights you walked through the city feeling threatened by the rampantly multiplying hotel rooms, as if vacancy were a disease invading the city’s — and therefore your — interior.
It was like wondering if the city has an interior, and if so exactly how much it costs, it was like wanting to add up all the prices for the hotel rooms and all the rents in the city to find out exactly how much the city’s interior costs.
Contributor Bios: Emily Abendroth is a writer and teacher currently residing in Philadelphia. Her print publications include: ]Exclosures[ (forthcoming, Ahsahta Press); NOTWITHSTANDING shoring, FLUMMOX (Little Red Leaves); Exclosures 1-8 (Albion Press), and Toward Eadward Forward (horse less press). She is the recipient of a 2013 Pew Fellowship in Poetry. Camille Acker received the Kevin McIlvoy Fellowship at New Mexico State. She was a Finalist in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters competition and the winner of the Unpublished Writer’s Award by Go On Girl! Bookclub. She was an attendee of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Writer’s Week in Washington, DC. Liz Ainslie lives in Brooklyn and has an MFA from Tyler School of Art. Ainslie has had solo shows at Airplane, Brooklyn and Creon Gallery, Manhattan. Her work was included in shows at Parallel Art Space, Small Black Door, Sardine, 245 Varet, The Active Space, Norte Maar, and Lu Magnus. http://www.lizainslie.com Betsy Andrews is the author of New Jersey, winner of the 2007 Brittingham Prize in Poetry; and she is the author of the forthcoming book, The Bottom, winner of the 42 Miles Press Poetry Prize. Louisa Armbrust makes art about play. Awards include a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Swing Space Residency, Harvestworks Artist in Residence, Full Fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, Museum of Contemporary Art | Denver 2005 Biennial, and Honorable Mention at the Rocky Mountain Biennial 2004. Michael Ashkin has shown nationally and internationally including the Whitney Biennial (1997), Greater New York (2000), Documenta 11 (2002), and Vienna Secesion (2009). He was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Fellowship (1997) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2009). He teaches at Cornell University. New York City native James Blachly is the founder and director of the Sheep Island Ensemble, the New York City Summer Mahler Project, and the co-founder of the Youth Orchestra of the Lower 9th Ward. Recently named the 2013-14 Zander Fellow as a conductor, he can be reached at www.jamesblachly.com. Nicholas Boggs received his Ph.D. in English from Columbia and his B.A. in English from Yale. Current projects include a book-in-progress that explores the untold story of James Baldwin's collaboration with French painter Yoran Cazac and a scholarly edition of their out-of-print "children's book for adults" (co-edited with Jennifer Devere Brody). Michael Borowski is a conceptual artist based in Albuquerque, NM. His work incorporates sculpture, installation, performance, and photography to investigate themes of home, belonging, and mobility. Recently this has involved building interactive sculptures based on domestic objects, which transform daily personal rituals into communal activities. www.michaelborowski.com
Val Britton is a San Francisco-based artist whose immersive, mixed media collages and installations use mapping language to explore physical and psychological spaces. She received her B.F.A. from RISD. Tisa Bryant is the author of Unexplained Presence, editor of The Encyclopedia Project, and of the anthology, War Diaries. Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Animal Shelter, Bombay Gin, and Viz. She teaches creative writing at the California Institute of the Arts, and lives in Los Angeles. Kenneth Calhoun's stories have appeared in the Paris Review, Tin House, and Fence. Awards include the PEN/O. Henry Short Story Prize, the Italo Calvino Prize and the Summer Literary Seminars/Fence Magazine Fiction Prize. BLACK MOON, a novel about an insomnia epidemic, will be published by Crown's Hogarth imprint in March 2014. Maud Casey is the author of two novels, The Shape of Things to Come, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Genealogy; and a collection of stories, Drastic. The excerpt included here is from her novel, The Man Who Walked Away, which will be published by Bloomsbury in March 2014. Teresa Carmody is the author of Requiem (short stories) and the chapbooks: I Can Feel, Eye Hole Adore and Your Spiritual Suit of Armor by Katherine Anne. She is the cofounding director of Les Figues Press and a current PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Denver. Mark Cannariatoâ€™s projects include sound installations influenced and recorded during time spent in Westmoreland parish Jamaica. He also worked with many Cuban artists amongst the early stages of the West Tampa Center for the Arts. After receiving his MFA he relocated to Brooklyn, New York where he works now in Gowanus. Cody Carvel grew up in Oklahoma and West Texas. His work has been published in Four (ed. Kevin Killian) and Userlands (ed. Dennis Cooper) and he was a 2012 resident at the Millay Colony. He tends to write about the masses. MFA in poetry, University of San Francisco, 2008. Ching-In Chen is author of The Heart's Traffic, co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities and editor-in-chief of cream city review. A Kundiman, Lambda and Norman Mailer Poetry Fellow, they are a member of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. www.chinginchen.com Kim Churchâ€™s debut novel, BYRD, will be published by Dzanc Books in 2014. Her stories appear in Shenandoah, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has received fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, Millay Colony, VCCA, and Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Raleigh.
Harriet Clark received her B.A. from Stanford University, M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and returned to Stanford as a Wallace Stegner Fellow. She is currently at Stanford as a Jones Lecturer in Creative Writing. She has also been a Truman Capote Fellow, a Teaching-Writing Fellow, a MacDowell Fellow, and an N.E.A. Writer-in-theSchools Fellow. Alexis Clements is a playwright and arts journalist. Her plays have shown in the US and UK. She co-edited the play anthology, Out of Time & Place. Her articles and essays have appeared in Salon, Bitch Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, and Nature, among others. She regularly contributes to Hyperallergic. www.alexisclements.com Primarily a songwriter, singer, and bass guitarist but trained classically as a violist, Karen Kanan Corrêa has led her own “dizzyingly addictive” (CMJ) band, worked as a session performer and touring musician for national and international artists, and played with traditional and experimental ensembles. She is currently focused on her solo indie pop project, Futurebrite. Kara Lee Corthron's plays include Julius by Design (Fulcrum), Etched in Skin on a Sunlit Night (InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia), Alice Grace Anon (New Georges), and Wild Black-Eyed Susans. Awards include two NEA grants, the Helen Merrill Award, Lincoln Center's Lecomte du Nouy Prize, the Theodore Ward Prize, and New Professional Theatre Writers Award. Nancy Coughlin: "I'm a writer. My beautiful, troubled autistic daughter, Hannah, who died suddenly at seventeen, has taught me everything I've needed to know so far about both tragedy and miracle, and I continue to try to honor and transcribe these lessons." Brenda Coultas is the author of The Marvelous Bones of Time (2008) and A Handmade Museum (2003) from Coffee House Press. She has received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship and a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council residency. The Tatters, a collection of poetry, is forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press in 2014. Theresa Coulter works as a freelance writer and illustrator in New York City and has written scripts for Tina Fey and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. She is currently at work on a novel. You can find her work on The Rumpus or at www.tlcoulter.com Maria Damon teaches/practices/enables poetry and poetics, and chairs the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at the Pratt Institute of Art. Amanda Davidson writes, teaches, and makes performances in Brooklyn and elsewhere. She is the author of Apprenticeship, a fiction chapbook on New Herring Press, and other tales. Visit partedinthemiddle.wordpress.com.
Kendra DeColo is the author of Thieves in the Afterlife (Saturnalia Books, 2014), selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the 2013 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. She has received fellowships from the Tennessee Arts Commission, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Isabelle de Mullenheim lives and works as sound engineer in Paris. She studied at the Institute of Visuals Arts, in Orleans. She composes with her recordings. She plays with daily sound, with its shape, color and rhythm, and with memories and voices. This material is re-listened to create a new interpretation. soundcloud.com/isabelle-demullenheim/ Claire Donato lives in Brooklyn and is the author of Burial (Tarpaulin Sky Press). Recent writing has appeared in the Boston Review, BOMB, LIT, Aufgabe, Evening Will Come, and Octopus. For more information, visit somanytumbleweeds.com. Ariel Dunitz-Johnson’s work recently appeared in the cutting-edge San Francisco-based web magazine, The Bold Italic. She is currently working as the Illustrator and Creative Director for Michelle Tea’s upcoming movie project, Valencia: The Movie(s), for which she will be illustrating 21 different representations of the lead. Brian Dunn has exhibited in Boston, MA, Milwaukee, WI, Woodstock, NY and New York, NY. He received a Pollock- Krasner award to attend the Byrdcliffe Artist Colony In 2010 Brian worked with Paul Koneazny to present a hazy, 8-bit inspired installation of paintings, sculptures and curated debris at Chashama in NYC. Mark Joshua Epstein lives in Brooklyn. His upcoming show, “I can’t remember where I live” opens at Illinois State University this October. In December, Epstein is showing a new work in the group exhibition, “Where History and Progress Meet” at the West Chicago City Museum. His work can be seen at www.markjoshuaepstein.com. Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir, Whip Smart (St. Martin's Press, 2010). Her work has been widely anthologized and appeared in publications including Glamour, Salon, Dissent, The Southeast Review, New York Times, Bitch Magazine, The Rumpus, Drunken Boat, Hunger Mountain, and The Chronicle of Higher Education Review. Carl Ferrero received his MFA from Brooklyn College in 2006, and his work has been exhibited at Artists Space, Feature Inc., Vox Populi, Bronx Museum of the Arts, LACE, Elizabeth Foundation, Exile in Berlin, Artenova in Italy, and many other venues in the US and Europe. Jane Fine is a graduate of Harvard College and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Recipient of grants from New York Foundation for the Arts, Pollock-Krasner Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts, she was at Millay Colony in 1990. Jane is represented by Pierogi in Brooklyn.
Michael Forstrom lives outside New Haven, CT and works at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale. His published work includes film reviews, short fiction, poetry, a pamphletthe elusive object (Phylum Press), and the novella Four Seasons (Spuyten Duyvil, 2013). Sarah Gambito is the author of the poetry collections Delivered (Persea Books) and Matadora (Alice James Books). She is Assistant Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Fordham University. Together with Joseph O. Legaspi, she cofounded Kundiman, a non-profit organization serving Asian American poets. Cristian Flores Garcia’s poems and prose have appeared in PALABRA Magazine, The American Poetry Review, The Rumpus, and HerKind.org, among others. She is a Pushcart Prize XXXVII winner, named the 2013 Letras Latinas Residency Fellow. When she’s not making donuts, she’s probably writing, making art, running or making mischief. Robert Glück is the author of numerous books of poetry and fiction, including the novels Jack the Modernist and Margery Kempe. He co-founded the New Narrative movement in the 1980s and served as director of The Poetry Center at San Francisco State and codirector of Small Press Traffic. Beka Goedde is a sculptor whose work explores duration, change and relative position in space. She recently exhibited work in NYC at 80WSE, Recess, International Print Center, and PS122. Goedde received an MFA in Sculpture at Bard College in 2011, and was artist-in-residence at Joshua Tree Highlands in 2013. www.bekagoedde.com Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. Her fourth collection of poetry, Lighting the Shadow, will be published by Four Way Books in 2015. Currently, Griffiths teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn. Please visit: www.rachelelizagriffiths.com. Shanti Grumbine attended Penn Design (MFA) and SAIC (BFA). Select exhibition venues include MagnanMetz Gallery,The Dorsky Museum, and IPCNY. Residencies and fellowships include the LES Printshop Keyholder Residency, Ucross and the A.I.R. Gallery Fellowship. She will be in residence at Bemis this Fall, and at Wave Hill in 2014. Emily Hass lives and works in New York. Selections from her series Altonaer Strasse were exhibited at the Jewish Museum Berlin and are part of the museum’s permanent collection. Her work has been reviewed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, seen in the New York Times and featured in Der Tagesspiegel. www.emilyhass.com Taro Hattori is an installation artist. He was awarded residency from Headlands Center for the Arts, McColl Center, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Taipei Artist Village and others. He received his M.F.A from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his BA in Clinical Psychology from Sophia University.
LeVan D. Hawkins is a writer, poet, & performance artist formerly of Los Angeles, now based in Chicago. An MFA recipient from Antioch University – Los Angeles, he uses his experience in theater and spoken-word to turn standard literary readings into engaging demonstrations of the storyteller's art. (http://vimeo.com/73109872) Gregory Hayes is a contemporary artist based in Brooklyn. Exploring how paint can be used as a medium through various tools and techniques beyond the brush, Hayes reinvents what it means to mix colors and present patterns through everything from his mathematically inspired paintings on canvas to his precisely intertwined works on paper. Gretchen E. Henderson writes across genres and the arts. Her books include two novels, Galerie de Difformité and The House Enters the Street, a critical volume about music, On Marvellous Things Heard, and a poetry chapbook, Wreckage: By Land & By Sea. She can be found online at: http://bookunbound.wordpress.com. Charlotte Holmes has twice been a Millay Colony fellow. She has new poems forthcoming in American Poetry Review and The Women's Review of Books, and has published work in Tar River Poetry, Epoch, New Letters, and many other journals. She teaches creative writing at Penn State. Abeer Hoque is a Nigerian born Bangladeshi American writer and photographer. See more at olivewitch.com. Holly Hughes is a Professor of Painting at Rhode Island School of Design. She maintains studios in New York City and in Ghent NY. Her studio practice is multifaceted including paintings in oil, works on paper in gouache, prints made at her own Handshake Press and ceramics works, often done in Deruta, Italy. Alta Ifland is the author of two collections of short stories: Elegy for a Fabulous World (Ninebark Press) and Death-in-a-Box (Subito Press); and two collections of prose poems: Voix de Glace/Voice of Ice (Les Figues Press) and The Snail’s Song (Spuyten Duyvil). Evan Johnson (b. 1980) is a composer whose delicate but highly demanding works have been performed by some of the contemporary music world’s leading soloists and ensembles at prominent festivals and venues in the USA, Europe, and beyond. More information is available at http://www.evanjohnson.info. Lacy M. Johnson is author of THE OTHER SIDE (Tin House Books, 2014), Trespasses: A Memoir (University of Iowa Press, 2012) and co-artistic director of the multimedia project [the invisible city] (April, 2014). Current Director of Academic Initiatives at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at University of Houston. Young Hwa Kang received her M.A and B.A at Seoul National University and studied Eastern philosophy at Sungkyunkwan University in Korea. She has been teaching Korean Classical Music Composition Technique at several colleges. She participated in Creation Contents Project using Korean traditional music.
Christopher Kardambikis is exploring an absurd mythology for the future through drawings, paintings, and books. He has co-founded two artist book projects: Encyclopedia Destructica and Gravity and Trajectory. He has been artist in residence at Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony, and Pittsburgh Center of the Arts. Jaime Karnes, nominated for two Pushcart Awards, has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Millay Colony, and The Corporation of Yaddo. Her writing has appeared in GRANTA, and Adirondack Review among others. She is currently at work on her first novel "The Great Darkness". Nina Katchadourian’s work has been exhibited domestically and internationally at places such as PS1/MoMA, the Serpentine Gallery, Saatchi Gallery, Turner Contemporary, Artists Space, SculptureCenter, and the Palais de Tokyo. Katchadourian is on the faculty at NYU Gallatin School of Individualizd Study and she is represented by Catharine Clark gallery in San Francisco. Elizabeth Lara has been published in The Rose & Thorn, Persimmon Tree, damselfly press, Equinox, and Reflections, a publication of the United Nations writers group. Katy Lederer is the author of the poetry collections Winter Sex (Verse Press, 2002) and The Heaven-Sent Leaf (BOA Editions, 2008), as well as the memoir Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers (Crown, 2003). She currently serves as a Poetry Editor of Fence and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children. Sujin Lee has exhibited internationally. She has been awarded residencies from Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, I-Park and Newark Museum and participated in the AIM program at the Bronx Museum of Art and the Emerge program at Aljira. She was a 2012-2013 A.I.R. Gallery Fellow. www.sujinlee.org. Karen Lepri is the author of Incidents of Scattering (Noemi, 2013) and the chapbook Fig. I (Horse Less Press, 2012). Lepri received the 2012 Noemi Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in 6x6, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Conjunctions, Lana Turner, Mandorla, and elsewhere. She teaches writing at Queens College. Qian Li is a transmasculine, 1.5-generation Chinese immigrant, experimental composer, and agent of transformation. After graduating from Swarthmore College, he worked in environmental restoration and consulting before turning to LGBTQ community building and advocacy. He recently apprenticed in Indonesia for Balinese gamelan performance, tuning, and construction and is showcasing an Improvisation-a-day project on SoundCloud. Casey Llewellyn’s work interrogates identity, collectivity, and form. Other works include: Obsession Piece, The Mechanical Opera Company Presents: Zaide!, and Come in. Be with me. Don’t touch me. She is currently working on a play for The Foundry Theatre and her first novella. She makes theater as Public Emotions.
Dustin London grew up in rural Michigan at the end of a dead end road where he developed a love for the natural world and the pleasures of solitude, both of which have been critical to his practice as a visual artist. For more on his work visit www.dustinlondon.com. So Yoon Lym was born in Seoul, Korea, but spent the first seven years of her life in East Africa. She currently lives and works in North New Jersey. Lym received her BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA in Painting from Columbia University. Caroline Mallonée’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher, Symphony Space, and Town Hall. She holds a Ph.D. from Duke University, a Master’s from the Yale School of Music and a Bachelor’s from Harvard University. Internationally, her music has been performed in the Netherlands, Wales, England, Iceland, Japan, Italy and Mexico. Ohad Matalon currently lives and works in Tel Aviv. Studied for M.F.A. and B.F.A at the Bezalel Academy of Art. His works have been shown internationally in galleries and museums in London, New York, Hamburg, Rome, and Tapei. His work has been acquired by many public institutions and private collections in Israel and abroad. Nora Maynard is a freelance writer based in New York City. Recent work has appeared in Salon, Drunken Boat, and The Millions. She’s a monthly contributor to the Ploughshares blog. An excerpt from her novel-in-progress won the Bronx Writers' Center/Bronx Council on the Arts' Chapter One Competition. www.noramaynard.com A native of Lithuania and currently based in New York, composer Žibuoklė Martinaitytė has a growing reputation for her innovative chamber and orchestral music. Favoring unconventional blends of timbres and expressive virtuosity, she synthesizes it with intuitivism and existential pathos, sliding the listener down the very blades of emotions. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s essays appear in The New York Times, Oxford American, Fourth Genre, and other publications. A recipient of a Rona Jaffe Award and fellowships to Millay, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, she lives in Boston and teaches at Grub Street and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. John McManus is the author of the novel Bitter Milk and the story collections Born on a Train and Stop Breakin Down. In 2013 he received a Creative Capital literature grant and a Fulbright Scholar grant to research his novel-in-progress about gay refugees in South Africa. He lives in Virginia. Weston Minissali: “I am a composer and synthesizer player from New York. For each new piece, I try to develop a unique set of notation or ways of organization. This way, I find, I am able to more honestly explore/communicate my creativity. You can see additional music and scores at WestonMinissali.com <3”
Stephen Motika’s first book of poems, Western Practice, was published in 2012. He is also the author of two chapbooks, Arrival and at Mono (2007) and In the Madrones (2011), and editor of Tiresias: The Collected Poems of Leland Hickman (2009). He is the program director at Poets House and publisher of Nightboat Books. Christian Nagler is a writer and translator living in Oakland, CA. Kaveri Nair was born in New York and lives in Los Angeles. She has done artist residencies at Yaddo and Anderson Ranch. She received her MFA in 2007 from Rhode Island School of Design. For her CV and more images, please see www.kaverinair.com and http://kaverinair.tumblr.com. Kasia Nikhamina keeps TheMayorsHotel.com, a diary and word harem. She is writing a new play, WIDE RECEIVERS, while running a bicycle shop - Redbeard Bikes - with her husband in Brooklyn. Lydia Paar is the author of The Z(e) Scale (a novel she finished at Millay), and is starting her own worldwide arts residency exchange program. You can find her at lydiapaar.com and nomadinternational.org. Lindsay Packer’s work ranges from writing to collage to kinetic installations. She has created site-specific, locally sourced work at residencies from New Delhi to Maine. She will be Artist in Residence at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in fall 2013. Lindsay currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. http://lindsaypacker.com/ Jason Gray Platt’s work has been produced and developed by American Repertory Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Round House Theater, The Playwrights Realm, Page 73, Red Bull Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and others. Helen Hayes Nomination for The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play in 2013. BA: Vassar; MFA: Columbia. Amy Jean Porter has drawn more than 1,200 species of animals for her ongoing project “All Species, All the Time.” Her drawings have been featured in The Awl, Cabinet, Flaunt, McSweeney’s. Her first book, Of Lamb, a collaboration with the poet Matthea Harvey, was published by McSweeney’s. Francis Weiss Rabkin is a writer who makes multidisciplinary performances drawn from poetry, dance, visual art, and academic contexts. Rabkin's plays have been presented in Philadelphia, Chicago, and in New York at Dixon Place and HERE Arts. Rabkin has been honored to receive residencies at the Wassaic Project and the Millay Colony. Molly Reid has recently published stories in Indiana Review, Redivider, and The Literary Review. One of her flash fiction pieces was the winner of NPR’s first Three-Minute Fiction contest. She has just completed a collection of short stories and is at work on a new novel.
Camille Roy’s most recent book is Sherwood Forest, from Futurepoem. Earlier books include Cheap Speech, a play, from Leroy Chapbooks, and Craquer, a fictional autobiography from 2ndStory Books , as well as Swarm (fiction, from Black Star Series). She co-edited Biting The Error: Writers Explore Narrative (CoachHouse). Melissa Sandor is a fiction and cultural writer whose work has appeared in Ploughshares, BOMB, Buffalo Spree, ArtVoice, and EDNA. She is current Board President of the Millay Colony and a past resident (’08 and ’09). Sandor has worked for 20 years as a writer and development consultant for artists and non-profit arts organizations. Lauren Scanlon is a studio artist living in Los Angeles, California where she is currently studying traditional hand-lettering and sign painting in the last formal program for sign painting left in the country. You can view her resume and images of her work at: www.laurenscanlon.com. Prageeta Sharma is author of four collections of poetry; her recent collection Undergloom came out from Fence books this spring. She is professor in the creative writing program at the University of Montana. Evie Shockley is the author of the new black and a half-red sea, as well as two chapbooks and the critical study Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry. She teaches African American literature and creative writing at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Jen Silverman has been produced off-Broadway (CRANE STORY, Playwrights Realm), off-off Broadway (PHOEBE IN WINTER, Clubbed Thumb) and regionally (AKARUI, Cleveland Public Theatre.) She is an Affiliated Artist with New Georges, The Lark, Ars Nova, and a two-time MacDowell Fellow. BA: Brown University. MFA: Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Playwright’s fellowship: Juilliard. More info: www.jensilverman.com. Jeneva Stone’s nonfiction focuses on the conceptual relationship between body and text and the aesthetics of disability and writing. She has received fellowships from the Millay and MacDowell colonies, and is currently writing a memoir about her family’s 14year search for a diagnosis for her disabled son. Donna Stonecipher’s first book, The Reservoir, won the Contemporary Poetry Series competition and was published by the University of Georgia Press, and her second book, Souvenir de Constantinople was published by Instance Press. Her third book, The Cosmopolitan, won the 2007 National Poetry Series, and was published in 2008 by Coffee House Press. Celina Su (celinasu.net) was born in São Paulo and lives in Brooklyn. She is a professor of political science at CUNY and an author of 3 books on education and health policy. Her writing has appeared in journals including n+1, Aufgabe, and Boston Review. Her honors include the Berlin Prize.
Mark Tardi grew up in Chicago, has been a Fulbright Lecturer in Poland and currently teaches in Oman. He is the author of Airport music (Burning Deck, 2013) and Euclid Shudders (Litmus Press, 2003), and he guest-edited Aufgabe #9 (Litmus Press, 2010), devoted to Polish poetry and poetics. Catherine Taylor is the author of Apart (Ugly Duckling Presse), a mixed-genre memoir and political history of South Africa. Her first book, Giving Birth: A Journey Into the World of Mothers and Midwives (Penguin) won the Lamaze International Birth Advocate Award. Taylor is a Founding Editor of Essay Press. Fiona Templeton is an experimental director, playwright, poet and performer. Born in Scotland, she co-founded London's Theatre of Mistakes in the 1970s. Her performance work includes the pioneering urban theatrical journey, You-The City. In 2002, she was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. Jose Angel Toirac’s work focuses on history and memory. His work deals incisively with current political issues in Cuba and questions traditional historical narratives presented by political powers in the country. He often works in collaboration with his wife, Meira Marrero. They archive and recycle images from the press, history books, magazines, art documents, and original pieces of art. Toirac and Marrero live in Havana and their work is represented in many private and public collections throughout the world, including the collection of the National Museum of Cuba, La Havana, Cuba; the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA. For Vithya Truong, painting is a very reflective experience. Through the process of painting, he hopes to find out more about himself and his connection to others. Vithya is of Vietnamese decent, born in Bangkok, Thailand. He earned an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Jamie Townsend is the managing editor for Aufgabe, and the forthcoming Elderly, a hub of ebullience and disgust. He is author of STRAP/HALO (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs; 2011), Matryoshka (LRL Textile Editions; 2011), THE DOME (Ixnay Press; 2011), as well as the recently completed SHADE, his first full-length. In 2012 he was a Millay Colony resident. Catherine Wagner is the author of four books, most recently Nervous Device (City Lights, 2012). She teaches in the MA program in creative writing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Her PennSound page is here http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Wagner.php. Composer Alex Weiser writes music of dramatic visceral power and thoughtful introspection that has been called “compelling”by The New York Times. He has worked with ensembles and musicians such as the JACK Quartet, Argento Ensemble, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Dark in the Song, The Guidonian Hand, Lisa Moore, and Mellissa Hughes. www.AlexWeiser.com
Jeanne Williamsonâ€™s artwork is created with monoprints of construction fences, painting, collage, and stitching. Her work has been shown at numerous invitational and juried shows, in public art installations, and on her website: jeannewilliamson.com. She lives in Natick, MA. Ronaldo V. Wilson is the author of Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, from University of Pittsburgh Press, and Poems of the Black Object from Futurepoem Books. Rebecca Wolff is the author of three books of poems (Manderley, Figment, and The King) and the novel The Beginners (Riverhead Books, 2011). She is the editor of Fence and Fence Books and the publisher of the Constant Critic. Katie Vida is a visual and performance based artist living in Brooklyn, New York. She has presented work at venues including: Primetime, MASS MoCA, and Yale University Art Gallery. Recently Vida was a visiting artist and printmaking fellow at VCUQatar and Fanoon: Center for Print Media Research in Doha, Qatar. www.katievida.com Jennifer Yorke examines the uneasy relationship between consumption, identity, the physical body and the natural world. Her collages will be the subject of a January 2014 show at Packer Schopf in Chicago; the gallery will also feature her work at the upcoming Chicago Fountain Art Fair and Miami Context fair. Tom Zoellner is an Associate Professor of English at Chapman University. He wrote the majority of his book "A Safeway in Arizona" while at the Millay Colony in April 2011. His most recent book, "Train: Riding the Rails that Invented the Modern World," will be published by Penguin-Random House in February.
Millay Colony Board of Directors Melissa Sandor President Katy Lederer Vice President Rob Dennis Treasurer Virginia Sheridan Secretary Sunil Bald Nicholas Boggs Anthony Lacavaro Nora Maynard Betsy Rosenfield Samet
Staff Caroline Crumpacker Executive Director Calliope Nicholas Residency Director Cara Benson Program Manager Donna Wenzel Chef & Kitchen Manager Todd Hall & Evergreen Properties Building & Grounds Manager
EDNA Issue 4: 2013 Editing, Design, Layout, and Cover Photographs Cara Benson Guest Editing of VINCENT Amanda Davidson Additional Editing Caroline Crumpacker
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The Millay Colony for the Arts is an artistsâ€™ residency program on the former property of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay located in Austerliz, New York. Founded in 1973, the Colonyâ€™s mission is to nurture and promote the vitality of the arts by providing writers, visual artists and composers with a rural retreat that encourages creative intensity and exploration in the context of a nurturing and communal artistic community. The strength of the Millay Colony's resident program lies in its 18-acre campus nestled in the foothills of the Berkshire mountains, the intimate size and multidisciplinary nature of each resident group, and our faithful adherence to a policy of assuring complete freedom and privacy for residents.
The Millay Colony for the Arts-454 East Hill Road-Austerlitz, NY 12017-Ph (518) 392-4144--
Highlights of work made by a selection of artists in residence at the Millay Colony for the Arts in 2011-2013.