Mojave River Review Spring/Summer 2018
Mojave River Review Volume 4 â&#x20AC;¢ Number 1
Publisher/Editor Michael Dwayne (aka MD) Smith Associate Editors Jennifer Glover Bonnie A. Spears Arlene White Contributing Editor Epiphany Ferrell Contributing Photography Editor Frank Foster “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” —C. S. Lewis “Some adventures are so small, you hardly know they’ve happened.” —Anne Michaels JUNE 2018 Cover image and all other photographs copyright © 2018 Frank Foster unless otherwise noted. Journal design by MD Smith. Copyrights to individual works published herein belong to respective authors and artists. Mojave River Review is published by Mojave River Press, an imprint of Mojave River Media, Inc. All rights reserved © 2018. Guidelines at MojaveRiverReview.com. To be alerted when MRR re-opens for submission, “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.
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FEATURED WRITER Kate Gehan Interview! The Girl & The Fox Pirate New Story! Secret Jungles New Story! Life Guarding Kenneth Pobo Wandawoowoo on the Ferris Wheel Know Anything Rink Wandawoowoo Carol Ellis Shaking on Sunday Wood Screen Door Wanted Daughter, Lost Dave Petraglia Keeping Up with Cait Bill Yarrow Arcade Nouveau Temperature Visiting Our Slab Beate Sigriddaughter The Bible L.A. Freeways Marvin Schackelford Prepping Ahead of the Wilderness Don't So Much as Shake Maximilian Heinegg Casino Signs Election Day Whitnee Pearce Mr. President, Please Keep Your Tiny-Man Hands to Yourself At the Grocery
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Audra Coleman Qué quiere decir? Copyright 1953 Bruce McRae A Seven-Headed Love Story Cold Flame The Play of Shadows Michelle Hartman Did You See Her Lotte Lenya Finally Speaks Ryan Quinn Flanagan It Doesn’t Take a Leprous Bird to Beak Off One Way Streets Are Misleading Brianna Pike Roofless Church Sparrows Susan Tepper Blind (excerpt from her next novel) Jeff Santosuosso We The Whites of My Eyes Diane D. Gillette Date Night on the Couch Holes Catfish McDaris The Cat Burglar Camels in Baghdad Dylan Thomas Ann Howells Yellow House Dennis Mahagin Reverse Auger Las Vegas Francine Witte Next Time, Louis Better Listen
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Separate Beau Boudreaux Married Mary Crawford Mr. Hatoff Phillip Brown Florida Faith Heath Brougher Vestiges of the Iraqi Oil Orchards Joan Colby The Art of Drones True Believers Keith Moul A Nap at Rum River Hope Nisly The Things He Read Mike James NaĂŻve List of Demands Reading Sandburgâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Lincoln While Getting a Pedicure Eran Eads Rest Day Exercise VI Robert Beveridge Picacho Peak Sara Comito Texas Radio, 1971 Denise Tolan Divisible by Thirteen Michael J. Galko Egrets as Intermittent Mileposts Dianna MacKinnon Henning In Memory There are Many Hives Childhood Summer Home Fronting Lake Seymour
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Michael Minassian Between Design and Desire Judy Shepps Battle Notes from an Underachiever K.W. Peery Thunder in the Wind Route 66 Motel Kevin Ridgeway Join the Band Carolyn Adams Our Dream Marriage Nick Dante Hoodoos Leslie E. Hoffman Haiku XXIII & XXXX Brandon Marlon American Massacre Grim Reaper in Therapy Vivian Wagner Crater Lake Syo-ro Robert Boucheron Ritterburg Christopher Hopkins North American Butterfly Catherine Arra Between the Butterflies Blood is Thicker Douglas Cole Thank the Wind Alive Penrose Staircase Maryfrances Wagner Black Bird Walking Sticks
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Shirley Jones-Luke Otherness David M. Harris Jail Visit Jonel Abellanosa Escabeche Candace Meredith The Message of My Elders Marjorie Maddox To Conjugate Lewis Ellingham The Maw Landa wo In the First Place Comes the Dream Fall and Tombs From the Depths of My Prison Pia Taavila-Borsheim Thaw Wisp Jeremy Nathan Marks Fish Fry Kevin Tosca Three Tastes of Zucchini Carla Schwartz Photographs of My Mother Phone Call to a Functionary Frederick Wilbur After the Asking Solace Kirsty A. Niven A Stone Dianne Olsen Maiden Mother Crone
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Peter Schireson She Followed Me Plan B Margarita Serafimova Novemberâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Foyer Donald Illich Forest Love Innocently Barbara Hunt Ephemeral Co-operation John Hicks Tanka Adios Contributor Notes
Mojave River Press & Review Spring/Summer 2018 Featured Writer
The Girl & The Fox Pirate KATE GEHAN was born and raised in New York City and is a graduate of Haverford College and Emerson College’s MFA program. Among many publications, her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Split Lip Magazine, Literary Mama, People Holding, and as a winner of Midwestern Gothic’s Flash Fiction Summer 2016 series. Kate read as a cast member of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, and Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions. She lives with her family in the Midwest. Mojave River Press is thrilled to announce the release of Kate Gehan’s debut short fiction collection: The Girl & The Fox Pirate. Kate’s debut collection of thirty-four stories is a wry, tender, and inventive exploration of the ways we manage relationships with our siblings, spouses, children, and even ourselves. Qualities of magic realism permeate her writing as characters navigate problems in a world where tumultuous emotions may literally burst into flight. In “Now They Would Behave” a family’s discord manifests as an escaped dragon they must tame. In “It Grew to a Certain Size,” a mother blames herself for her daughter’s death and 11
finds solace conversing with her talking pet pig. In “New Wavelengths” a woman harnesses unexpected natural power to seek revenge on her harasser. Gehan also lasers her insight to critique narrow definitions of female beauty, ultimately inviting us to envision a more glorious society. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to what some of today’s best fiction writers have to say about it… “These stories by Kate Gehan are by turns searing, delightful, and heartbreaking. Here, the ordinary soon becomes extraordinary. Beauty is reclaimed. Darkness, triumphantly beaten back (or not). Gehan's voice is brimming with candor, deft humor, and intelligence. The Girl and the Fox Pirate is a collection by a writer in full command of her craft. Highly recommended.” Kathy Fish, author of Together We Can Bury It. “The Girl and the Fox Pirate fills the reader’s heart with wonder and pretty, arresting little stories exploring the dreamy, the magical, the mysterious, the unexpected. Kate Gehan is a fantastic, delightful, never-wastes-a-word writer with a knack for punchy, killer endings. This is a charming, keen collection of creatures and treasures where even the darkness crackles and zaps with tiny electric lights.” Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Every Kiss A War and Whiskey & Ribbons “In her collection The Girl and the Fox Pirate, Kate Gehan crafts deeply emotional and magical tales—stories of talking pigs and mermaids and punk rockers and suburban parents run amok. Through these dreamy landscapes, she brilliantly catalogs the 12
absurdity of modern life, forcing characters to push back against the social order, to question their existence, and to ask us, too, why we’re complicit. Gehan’s voice is captivating and comical, taming from the wildness of the world folk heroes for a new age, commanding us to march in time right along with them. A stunning debut collection.” Robert James Russell, author of Mesilla and Sea of Trees We asked Kate a few questions, and she was kind enough to throw some answers at us—plus (lucky you!) she gave us two new stories to share. Check out the brief interview and read the stories. We think you’ll want to use this pre-order link for Kate Gehan’s The Girl & The Fox Pirate, a dynamite collection of stories proudly brought to you by Mojave River Press. Enjoy! (This is where you turn the page to the interview…)
A Conversation with Kate Gehan Mojave River Review: What drives you to write? When did you start? And when did you begin to take it seriously? Kate Gehan: I’ve always been drawn to loneliness, our desire for connections, and the ways we reach out for love and compelled to express those tensions through writing. I began writing stories in the fourth grade as a journaling assignment, where my encouraging teacher gave me feedback and edits in the notebook I turned in each week. I’ve journaled ever since, but only took short story writing truly seriously when in my late 20s I gave myself permission to ask for what I really wanted: time to write in an MFA program. But that was just a launching pad experience, as my most meaningful years of writing have been post-graduating. MRR: Can you tell us how The Girl & The Fox Pirate came about? What was the process like, putting the collection together? Did you learn anything during the work or feel like you grew as a writer? KG: The title story was really and truly inspired by Leesa Cross Smith’s Every Kiss a War. I wrote it immediately after lolling around in her infectious, romantic vibe. [Editor’s note: Every Kiss a War is a Mojave River Press title, available at our online store and as an ebook at Amazon.] A few years after “The Girl and the Fox Pirate” appeared in Pithead Chapel, I realized I had enough material to create a coherent collection. 14
I’m thrilled to say my book has morphed into something quite different from the original manuscript I compiled. Michael and I worked on it intensely, and his edits sharpened my writing and shaped many of the stories into what they were always meant to be. I replaced some with stronger pieces I wrote during the whole process, and I learned to use Michael’s poet-perspective in my revision process. It’s helped me immensely in being more critical while also trusting my artistic instincts. MRR: Can you share the names of books and authors that are particularly meaningful to you? What is it about them that gets under your skin? KG: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and Cowboys are My Weakness by Pam Houston may have been the first story collections by women about modern women I fell in love with. The authors’ distinct, powerful voices and command over narrative structure were as important to me as the emotional effect of their writing. After reading so much literature by men, their work made me feel understood and included in their points of view. Books that have nestled into my mind and taught me about the effective use of fabulism include Michelle Tea’s Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. There are so many writers I adore, but I read everything I can by Kathy Fish, Percival Everett, Lauren Groff, Donna Tartt, Kate 15
Atkinson, George Saunders, Zadie Smith, Haruki Murakami, and Jesmyn Ward. MRR: No doubt you’re going to be busy spreading the word about The Girl & The Fox Pirate. What appearances do you have coming up this summer—in person, in print, online, and so forth. KG: You’ll have to check my website for details! MRR: Of course. Let’s throw that pre-order link out there one more time, shall we? And now, without further ado, let’s all read two new flash fictions by the incomparable Kate Gehan… (here’s where we turn the page)
Kate Gehan Secret Jungles MATILDA DOES NOT KNOW when she will leave and she wears guilt like horns and gores the children when they come close to say goodbye. Some mornings the boys grimace, but other days they reveal nothing of their wounds. Matilda saves their kisses in the pockets of her robe for later. From bed, she watches them wait for the bus, jumping in their neat uniforms from one safe square of sidewalk to the next to avoid hot lava. Matildaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s medicine helps with the colors of pain but tastes like the pennies she rolled into bank papers when she was small. Hawks circle overhead and watch her through the windowpane, as if it is their most important work, instead of tracking the neighborâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pet chickens on the roof of the building. Matilda has not been doing her job, staying in her body. She loses track of time. Behind her eyes, she watches herself as a little girl dressed in pink sequins, performing backyard plays before green and white striped sheets strung between the cottonwoods. Matilda leans against rocks so hot her skin burns and on the canyon walls far in the distance, women hop from one crevice to another like spiders. Sometimes they hang by their arms for a moment before swinging their legs like pendulums to reach the next position. Matilda is dying, wants to reach the next position. When she opens her eyes and returns to her bed, the venetian blinds are closed and she mistakes the fragrance of molding flowers on the 17
nearby table for sex. At the water line, blue-green fluff is forming on the clean-cut stalks. When she cheated on her husband, Julius, she had been careful to not plant roots. She still tastes the dark warmth of her lover, how the transgression sifted fecund topsoil down her throat to prepare for new growth inside of her. With him, Matilda had been feral, needy and ashamed, not thoughtful or proud, and their kissing raked over all of lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s disappointments. Many years ago Julius had proposed marriage and babies during a picnic lunch, and Matilda had been so certain in the ease of her youth, and said yes, giggling and shooing away sparrows as she and Julius fed each other cannoli from Hanover Street. Matilda is not so old but feels the plunge of age in her spine. Oh, how it creaks. She reaches into her pockets. * Julius runs me off from my balcony perch to tend to the plants, which sprout proudly, a secret jungle above the city. What does he feed them, now that Matilda is gone? We have lost one of our chickens; she was too sickly to feast upon even if weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d had the chance. Julius pours mysterious copper-colored medicines into the pots. He leans over the ledge and looks to the street below before raising his head and screaming up at me, his open mouth a canyon. I soar above to follow the white-stockinged women in department store suits clicking down the pavement on lunch hour where they will meet their lovers for springtime picnics. The couples will battle with aggressive geese for a plot in the park, as if the plans they make in the grass could grow into anything lasting.
Kate Gehan Life Guarding JENNA VOLUNTEERED for the early lifeguarding shift at the YMCA to avoid mornings with her parents. When her father still was not home at midnight, her mother spitefully rearranged the furniture in the dark, dragging the couch to the middle of the carpet, repositioning armchairs, and scattering books with inscriptions reading Happy Birthday My Dearest Love, and Merry Christmas Sweet Pea. Jenna slipped out the front door at five thirty and her father was floating on a small sea of paperbacks, passed out exactly where he had tripped crossing the threshold, his feet clumsy with scotch. At six, with the lights still low, the YMCA pool contained mysteries. The black lanes painted on the bottom outlined resting whales, and the hair clogging the drains formed shapeshifting creatures that darted playfully in the jet streams. Jenna dropped in the pH testing instruments and disrupted the gray-blue surface, and then she poisoned the shadow world with chemicals, tossing in more of one or another depending on the reading. When she unlocked the metal locker room doors to the public, Linda was waiting on the other side of the Ladies’, as usual. The middle-aged anorexic’s sunken eyes implored they not speak of it and she greeted Jenna warmly. Linda tucked a stray curl under her white cap and placed her rolled towel on the bleacher. She sat down at the edge of the fast lane and her thighs did not change size, did not smoosh out onto the tiles the way Jenna’s did on her orange plastic chair. Linda looked like the children on the 19
news with her spindly appendages and her belly round and bloated against her functional suit. She was first in the water and the last to leave for the two-hour lap swim. After work, Jenna would rip open a sleeve of buttery crackers and watch television and contemplate Linda’s power over her stomach’s wants, how Linda refused its growls and clawing. Jenna would tiptoe to the pantry to hunt for more to eat and find her father behind the slatted door, sipping vodka. He would put his finger to his lips. Signal silence. Only a few hours before, her parents wrestled and cried together amongst the books on the floor, making promises on a life raft with no real buoyancy. No one was able to control their bodies’ desires in Jenna’s house. Jenna sat on her hands and inhaled the aroma of bleach and chlorine. The whistle on the long cord around her neck gently swung against her torso as she fidgeted. Familiar men in revealing suits wandered in from the Men’s. A beefy but muscular man in a red Speedo made his way to the stack of kickboards next to the lifeguard office and glanced down at Linda’s frail body fluttering along, a purposeful goldfish, a starving shark, her arm strokes crisp and her kicks tight. The man glanced back at Jenna’s chest before telling her he liked girls with meat on their bones. He turned away before she could say anything in return or knock him into the water where a whale might roll on top of him. Jenna reminded herself the lap swim’s rhythmic splashing and hushed voices were a meditation compared to counting the heads of screaming children during free swim. Nina turned up in the second hour to get a workout in before she and Jenna had their Mommy & Me class to teach. Nina swam on her high school team and her impossibly sculpted legs 20
made Jenna’s look like tree trunks. Before slipping into the water for one hundred laps, she pointed at Jenna and told her it was her turn to teach the late morning water aerobics class. Nina hated the seniors in their floral swim caps and the way their underarms waggled when they jumped. Jenna returned her smirk but willed the shapeshifters to tangle themselves around Nina’s toes. At eight, Jenna blew the whistle to end lap swim and the sound startled the man in the red Speedo, who was already out of the water on his way to return his kickboard. He yelped and fell backwards, hitting his head on the deck with a smack. As Jenna flew from her chair, Nina popped out of the water like a dolphin and knelt beside him to listen for breathing. He cursed and tried to sit up, knocking into Nina’s forehead so she stumbled back and nearly into the pool. He grabbed at Jenna’s arm for leverage with clammy fingers and called her a bitch under his breath. Blood gushed from his hair and the red diluted to pink as it mixed with the puddles on the floor. Linda appeared with her white towel and Jenna coaxed the man to return to the floor and use it a cushion. He complied and apologized to Jenna while she checked his vitals. He did not like surprises and it just hurt so much. He thanked the girls for their aid. He had just wanted to return his flotation device. After the EMTs took the man away and Jenna filed the accident report in the Director’s office, she passed the gym on her way back to the pool. There she found Linda walking briskly with wet hair. Linda usually did this for another hour before she joined the aerobics class. Jenna waved and thanked Linda again for sacrificing her towel. The next morning when Jenna opened the locker room door, she would tell Linda it was time to stop moving in circles. It was time to find open water. 21
Kenneth Pobo Wandawoowoo on the Ferris Wheel I’ve never trusted that wavery up and down, an egg carton rocking back and forth. At the top, I puke, ask my guardian angel Florence to rescue me. Sometimes she does. Often she’s tattooing clouds—today she pulls me out like an earring from a jewel box, sets me down gently, a moon sliver aching in my thumb.
Know Anything Aunt Rose told her she’d never be a normal girl. She meant Wandawoowoo wouldn’t get a prom date—no scrapbook pictures. Aunt Rose was right. No invites came, a relief. She did date, got married twice, to guys who seemed quite normal, if normal is watching the Giants and talking about fifties cars. She thinks normal is more of a vacation spot for her. Two weeks tops. Then she returns to setting a place for Poseidon and Athena— you never know when they’ll pop in. You never know anything.
Rink Wandawoowoo Dad admired Mamie Eisenhower and our preacher’s wife, Mrs. Brunny, who walked three paces behind her “hubby.” At ten I found his Playboys behind a brick in the basement bathroom. These women didn’t look like china in a cabinet. I skated away from Mamie and the centerfolds, my own swerving legs keeping me going, almost effortless—that’s how it looks, not how it is.
Carol Ellis Shaking on Sunday Earthquake. Hurricane. Impending monster. Scold of sky. Loading tobacco leaves out of the wheelbarrow into the drying barn. Blankets. A choice of shoes. Some no longer fit what the feet have become. Where they walk is my business. I keep to crosswalks. Step quickly away from snouts of trouble that arrive as silent engines and a book unread. If I answer the phone I will have to talk. Chatter. A mouth chatters into a mouthpiece. I see the same black smoke from the sugarcane fields. Word after word and someone to change the burnt out light bulbs against the ceiling with new light bulbs high up there but nothing to see inside except inside is requested ocean view something to read about not seeing the view I asked for of ocean slam and trust of wave after waves like a good long walk of footsteps of monster come to beach on a trail of seaweed moving toward an empty house whose new ceiling light bulbs shine down on down to the drowning beach under the ocean taking in swimmers who pull on the surface end of breathing.
Wood Screen Door Wanted The screen itself black metal not many bugs against it because it is very new just off the roll then nailed into this pine wood stained darker with a metal lizard as a door handle this is a true description of the other grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s back door apparently at one point in time we drank vodka together while she lit massive fires in her fireplace I never understand fully other peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s technology but today is such bright spring that the insects gather at a door I no longer open and close although remember doing so this memory thinks with pleasure and pain the hurt a healing of a journey to here where now is a vanishment a quick banishment of time only if she breathes this close to the end stuff throws her for a loop every time she behaves nervously at funerals she promises to be still at her own and that is one more promise kept than she ever kept in her life.
Daughter, Lost I look for her everywhere and she is everyone. I never say her name which would call the full drawers of memory pulled open overflowing. Or stuck a drawer askew a pull broken into resistance. One day a while ago we loaded a chair into her truck she drove away never returned. I think she left waving the air away. She left one jacket behind good in cold weather. Her photographs. Her shadow gone who sees a stance between sun and earth. An interruption of light of coincidence the drawer Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m cleaning out gives me one sock. Of two. The terrible greeting between living and dead. I wave her away. I beckon her. Where do we sit in the many rooms?
Dave Petraglia Keeping Up with Cait ONE LOOK AT THE PICTURE gives Will no hint of the heroic Olympic pedigree. Or their history. He sees in the photo no naughty Miley, cheery Gwyneth, brooding Klute, or even a steamy Kim Novak. This is pure femme fatale. And it resonates most with a certain ‘Eisenhower’ demographic. Will’s. Backed into a shimmering golden corner of some intimate space, Caitlyn could be an exile in a gilded cabana on the Côte D'Azur, the strapless crème fraiche Waspie the pinnacle of postwar swimsuit couture. Though strapless screams ‘now’. From under that nostalgic, cascading, caramel-highlighted brunette tousled wave with high, swooping side-swept bangs: at him? The arms arrested, held behind in a pose submissive, or just shyly vulnerable? Anatomically, it works perfectly to further pucker that corseted suit and project those pale, bony shoulders outward. Pale, bony shoulders? A vaulting, throwing, heaving champion Decathlete? Will saw the signs back in ‘76. In Montreal he (Bruce) seemed to never have his eye off those cameras then, too. Especially during the longer races, when he seemed to know that the slo-mo replays would key on his long, flowing hair, his overthe-top huffing and puffing. 28
And that hair. Even for the hirsute 70’s, for an athlete to sport such an abundant coiffe was excessive. But he seemed to enjoy the wind in his locks, and always gave the camera its best angle to showcase his mane, that decidedly center-parted bob. He saw Bruce make the Olympic team in Eugene, losing a gear on his VW bus, a tooth, and a girlfriend, keeping up with him all the way to Quebec where the din of Parc Olympique rang the Embassy mortar shells back into Will’s head, and he froze, till long after the seats had emptied and security carried him out. He woke that night aside a buff Québécois EMT with peach-fuzzed six-pack and Sen-Sen breath, beat him to within an inch of his life and never set foot in Canada again. Will looks again into the face in the picture for something, anything familiar, any hint of Bruce-ness. But as he searches the eyebrow arch, the sharp, pencil-thin lips, the high cheekbones, the warm, inviting eyes, he finds...nothing he remembers. Nothing of the beaming Wheaties Olympian, the friendly, leaping jock, whose histrionics were nearly painful to watch at the time, starting his victory lap flailing at the sky with that comically small American flag. Was he telling us even then that size didn’t matter? Until he grabbed that much bigger one, and pranced around the track. And waved it, Will wondered then, at him? Will smiles. Guys, Caitlyn’s smile tells Will now, are so dumb.
Bill Yarrow Arcade My father owned a penny arcade. I worked for him every summer all during my youth. My job was to hand green tickets to customers who achieved a certain score on Skee-Ball or shuffleboard. The coupons could be redeemed for merchandise which we had on display on shelves on the walls and in showcases surrounding the cash register. It was a boring job, walking up and down the rows of games, handing out coupons to kids and adults, trying to be there when they finished their game, explaining when I had to what the coupons were for, how many you needed to get something, etc. Every day was the same, except for the times when the buses came in. The buses brought in the groups. A group of hearing-impaired students from a nearby college. Their hands were flags, like the semaphore flags of the lifeguards on the beach. They signed their excitement to each other. A group from a mental institution. Microcephalics mostly. Some kids with Downâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Syndrome. Other conditions. But happy. 30
And then there were the Thalidomide babies, all grown up, handsome boys and beautiful girls, playing Skee-Ball with flipper arms, throwing balls up the lane toward their numbered targets with their feet. I gave them their coupons as I did all the others but inside I shuddered. It was 1963. I was twelve. I didn’t understand what I was looking at, but my dreams did. For the next twenty years, I had recurring nightmares about Thalidomide babies playing Skee-Ball, their stunted arms and feet becoming more and more marine, blending with images of puffer fish and shark fins and shiny black mussels and horseshoe crabs. Wikipedia: The drug, developed by Heinrich Mückter, began distribution in 1957. Used to treat symptoms of morning sickness. Withdrawn from the market in 1961 for causing birth defects. About 20,000 babies worldwide developed phocomelia. Was later used in the treatment of leprosy. Used today in the treatment of cancer. Drugs never die. The heinous becomes the useful. In our arcade, the arcade that was torn down in 1978, twenty grown-up Thalidomide babies are still playing Skee-Ball. —“Why are their arms like that?” I ask my mother. — “Their mothers took a drug that caused birth defects,” she says.
— “Why are they bowling with their feet?” I ask my father. — “It’s the only way they can play,” he tells me. — “What would you like for your coupons?” I ask them. — “What can I get for this many?” they ask me.
Nouveau Temperature She learns on the news that relocation is not an option, innocence no longer a defense. What will she do without her body? There are no good choices. Accusal is serious business, but no less so than forgiveness. She survived puerperal fever in her youth but that’s a badge long forgotten. What’s that waving on the horizon? Loneliness, she imagines, but it’s not. It’s the sun setting in her heart. It’s her heart melting in the sun. Who can she call now that her voice has been beggared by the weather? The forecast is for night. Followed by darkness. With increasing periods of unpolluted immaculate black.
Visiting Our Slab Watch this space: sanded, painted, and polished like a braggart, calibrated like an artisan pipe bomb. The future in camera. What goes away stays away. One can't Google redemption but go ahead and try. Pretend the marshlands arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t haunted. Pretend the buzzer wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t beat the half-court shot. Pretend happiness. But as you gather the gorse of your longing, as you reticulate your infantry, as you huddle your missiles yearning to bereave, on the way out, leave us the legal recipe for the accelerant of hope.
Beate Sigriddaughter The Bible Before I left the cathedral after a friendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s funeral, I turned around once more and saw the Monsignor tenderly kissing his bible. My heart responded to the tenderness with longing to be devoted like that. But the concept of original sin cost its original sponsor eighty Nubian steeds payable to the Pope then in session, and now we all still pay off interest. In this culture of kissing bibles, beating women, and possessions overly important, I still yearn to dance with God, but I am old now. Chances are even God would let me sit at the edge of the dance floor unwanted. I watch the dance of devotion from my amazed distance, always wondering what that kiss felt like in the celibate Monsignorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s soul.
L.A. Freeways Trust. At eleven PM. So many intentions interweave from where they are to where they want to be. A string of fairy lights and slick impatience threading around some caution in the center. Oncoming yellow, receding red. Faith. No matter how tired, everyone will in the end reach the desired destination. Unharmed. So many souls still simultaneously dream of somewhere else. I too wish I were far away from this ache of not belonging. Goodnight, my friends. Goodnight.
Marvin Schackelford Prepping Ahead of the Wilderness The cans of beans take up one whole wall of the basement. Triplestacked—corn behind them, those little mishmash meat sausages behind that. The opposite wall and the end away from the stairs, and up underneath the stairs, is all water. Plastic-wrapped cases of small bottles and gallon jugs. It’s hard to say how long it all would last. Probably not as long as you’d think. The basement is finished but unwindowed, bare, concrete. Helen’s brought a shaggy rug and a short stack of blankets. Candles. Camping lamp and the batteries to run it. A deck of playing cards—she never plays solitaire but imagines it might be nice to pass time. Several boxes of books and photo albums, those she couldn’t stand to leave under any circumstance. She’ll bring more if she has time. She checks the boxes on her list. It’s as prepared as she’ll ever get it. On TV at night they’re still unsure what they’re expecting, but Helen flips through the stations and gets a pretty good idea how the world will end. Those half-wits in office, the ones in the street. She checks at the windows before she goes to bed. Nighttime takes for granted that everyone will settle in. She touches the pistol by her bed, the rifle beneath. She climbs into the sheets. She has this dream of building a machine—part throne, part war, maker of manna in the desert and preserver of peace. Through the long stretches she lies helplessly awake each night she thinks about, pictures assembling the pieces. At its core Helen loosens her lifeblood to run it, lets 37
her monster drink. No one ever explains all the metal and earth, money and meal it takes to move a body anyway, how far she goes to make ends meet. She tosses and turns ahead of sleep. When the sun rises she’ll start it building again. She’ll live forever if she’s careful enough.
Don’t So Much as Shake We wake in the morning, less in love than we were, and the volcano is angry. We dress in the dark, rouse the children, and make our way up its face. Its lips pucker and warm above the ache of its throat. The kids reach down, pretend to jump, cover their fingers in ash. We feed in basketfuls of berries and figs, old family photos, titles and deeds and written records of the promises we’ve already failed to keep. The fires don’t so much as shake. The wind rises, lifts smoke off the caldera. Stay close, we call. Don’t let it breathe you in. Back in the city tourists huddle on the beach, load up, and motor into the sea. They pale against the horizon, necks out, chins tilted back. There’s brief conversation about which could be virgins, who we might make up real nice, but it goes nowhere. They eye the sky and keep entering the waves. We close up our house and wrap our faces in wet sheets. We push off from a cove of rocks up the coastline, head counter the sun and the sightseeing refugees. The kids play at pumping salt water to fresh, their back turned to home and the flickering beast waking to its faults. We row until the world grows weary and dark, until we’re in open sea. In the emptiness we stake out a new covenant to carry us forward. We count down the old standards—love, honor, obey—and what we’d like to add. Amuse, distract, aid, flee. We erase death and talk only of the end of the day. When the tide starts to slack and the sun gives in. The children go to sleep. We twine hands and drift. In the distance gray and flames take up the air, ruin all we’ve been. The colors and chords in us begin to change.
Maximilian Heinegg Casino Signs After the bleakness of Bethel, Stella pipes up, laughing in her soda as we pass Poland, Maine. She says she knows someone Polish. I say us. We see logs stacked for sale, under grey tarpaulins by pre-fab houses. Snaking roads, & St. Patrick’s Day, presaged by McDonald’s fleeting Shamrock Shake. DUI signs line the road to the casino, a reminder of risk & its familiars. Sin’s one-stop, no lodestar to lead the town through lucre’s filthy watersjobs for construction, taxis, prostitution framed for graft. They come to us, & we come to loathe our time at their table, the house playing first hands to feel us out, see if we’ve got sangfroid before calling our bluff. We don’t. Through the rural greys, we fail to find a song to agree on- the kids want polish, a purr of surface, auto-tuned melismas, drum loops & reverb. Mr. Seacrest, more human than human, asserts by endorsement, talent is a flawlessness. The casino signs of twenty-somethings, toothy, sheeny, mid-toast, aren’t what we found in the bloodless room at the family reunion in the Catskills- afloat in smoke, un-buoyed by Vegas oxygen, eternal high-balls making aged rounds, levers striking a seldom spill of chips, laughter after its echo- Fortuna dipping, as the next hand came out.
Election Day Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d resist the broad winged hawk circling the memorial as symbol. Solitary, looming, I caught his shadow on the cannon inside the chained walkway, clearer from the street than the school, or the temple Bloomberg repaired for Charlotte, who at 100 still greeted the neighborhood kids with Halloween largesse. I follow him above the steps put in for senator Kerry to sing the sacrifice of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s working class, before his own service was smeared. I remember the Swift-boats, his Silver Star his Bronze Star with a V for valor, tossed in the wake. Instead, votes for the child of a competent father, a familiar family name. Outside, his eyes scour down the sky for soft animals, as muted partisans guard their own tightly held signs, tamping anger in the ground.
Whitnee Pearce Mr. President, Please Keep Your Tiny-Man Hands to Yourself Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had too many hands vined across my body like foreign-kudzu killing the native plants that once thrived. Too many hands have poked around the town of my body pointing out my realityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s worth and stolen from my front yard. Those hands, large, wide, small, bony tan, white, with dirty finger nails pushed, grabbed, pinched, and tugged me down to carpets, against ivory painted walls, and into the creaks of mattress springs. Rough calluses, moles, rings exploded into the smallest parts of me. Hands I never asked for. These hands took, raped, cracked my ribs, pressed thumbs 42
into my throat, lassoed my hair, cut me open, and left me to air dry with ripped shirts, lost bloody panties, and purple-petal bruises. So excuse me for not wanting your Cheeto-puff fingers near my body that has taken me 28 years to accept, love, and know is only my own, no matter how many invaders have tried to conquer me.
At the Grocery As you watch the child with its mother in line at the next register, you envision your father— a man you have never known— who has shoulders, branch-like, and Parisian blue eyes that do not match yours. Growing up, your mother often said that in the right light, or when you had done wrong, you looked just like him—cheeks rounded with each spill of a white lie. Sharing in the blood the love of a barstool, always a sip away from addiction. Just a goodbye short from hurting someone. Lying in the beds of those, beer drunk, who promise to capture the moon just before morning creeps through cheap blinds, or girlfriends call for their whereabouts, you picture your father as he is in the photograph you keep in your nightstand, tucked beneath poems and other things you don’t want to forget. Your father sits at his mother’s kitchen table, in a white tee shirt as he picks at his black beard. He stares 44
to where, at the age of three, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re walking in red heels. The look in his eyes, the gaze, almost, of a man watching someone elseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s child while waiting in line at the grocery. You smile crookedly, look away. Feeling relief--when that child in the next aisle screams for a bar of chocolate.
Audra Coleman Qué quiere decir? Copyright 1953 Abrir, to open 1. Los niños abrieron los ojos. The children opened their eyes. 2. No abrieron la boca. They did not say a word. 3. ¿Por qué están abiertas las ventanas? Why are the windows open? 4. Nos preparabamos para abrir fuego. We were getting ready to open fire. Morir(se), to die 1. Se está muriendo de miedo. He is very much afraid. 2. Él teme morirse. He fears that he is going to die. 3. Él muere por verla; muere de amor por ella. He is very anxious to see her; he is madly in love with her. 4. Muchos muerieron en el terremoto. Many died in the earthquake. 5. Los muertos quedaron enterrados debajo de las ruinas. The dead were buried beneath the debris. 6. Estaban muertos cuando llegaron los medicos. They were dead when the doctors arrived. Oír, to hear 1. Han ido a la iglesia a oír misa. They have gone to church to hear Mass.
Bruce McRae A Seven-Headed Love Story I love your ankles, Mrs. Anderson. Your underwear drawer. The pins in your hair. Mrs. Anderson, I love your dishwater. You’ve a wholesome bosom. Missus, our star signs were destined for one another. Our exhaled carbon molecules co-mingle. Our scars match. We even smell like each other, our thoughts coming together, but our lives apart. It’s about your husband, Mrs. Anderson. The water on his brain. That unavoidable accident. My imperfect pearl, it’s about your children, none of whom shall ever bear my name, my pain, my martyred flesh, my blushing genes in the mansions of hubris.
Cold Flame I’m coming home to be with you. After the blizzard of the bottle and waist-deep in black snow. Post-traumatic stress syndrome. Much later than death first expected. A pin, I wrestle with a needle. I’ve carved your initials into the tree of my arm. Our photons are jangling like cheap costume jewelry during heartache’s Mardi Gras. We lie beside tumultuous rivers. Here, sip this sweet illusion. My beautiful outcast, drink of me.
The Play of Shadows Shadows are all that we have left after a long telephone conversation. Shadows are other people, but in retrospect. Today, my shadow ran on ahead, its mouth bloodied from an iron bit, frothing like a maddened stallion— and yet as curious as a puppy. Tonight, it’s a melody worming in my head or a dream-door slamming in the pantry. It’s all these words my left hand has written. Oh shadow, evicted from the House of Fun. Dear shadow, your chuckles like a pulley creaking or bottled-up emotion or dog’s squeaky toy. The fifth of nine essences.
Michelle Hartman did you see her the wind queries my little sister breeze used to lift her garnet hair and cotton dress choreographed dance she’d stand in doorway eyes shaded watching eager to catch glimpse him driving the cows home returning for breakfast overgrown bushes rustle did you see them jenny with her mother’s green eyes on loan mama said petey same grin as his father running always running door banging a contrail shephard’s pie or irish stew the house settles, creaking did you see him no matter the weather or tired a grin on his face sunshine days all three rush to greet him while evening creeps up to peek through kitchen windows windows lisp jagged teeth did you see them roll her out the door quiet eyes closed her song the house’s song is done the door whose threshold supported them whose side joints protected them says nothing as juniper bushes grow across his lips
Lotte Lenya Finally Speaks They’re all gone now. Macky first of course, Sukey and Jenny committed suicide, but Lucy Brown just disappeared. Maybe she found a farmer who thought she was low mileage. But me, I was holding out for Macky— in that zoot suit, hat cocked to one side, black curls awry, map of Ireland on his face, lying so fast he nearly lost track of his name. Lotte, he’d say, you’re so beautiful it’s killing me. ‘Til Louie Miller come ‘round flashing a big engagement ring. Macky didn’t share. After that he didn’t have time of day for me. Dancing blue eyes and slow grin didn’t turn my way no more. That’s why I grassed on him. Why, when he was lying on that slab, peepers closed in the total absorption of the dead I put one last kiss on those sweet lips. Whisky or men, Lotte don’t share neither.
Ryan Quinn Flanagan It Doesn’t Take a Leprous Bird to Beak Off It doesn’t take a leprous bird to beak off. Head down to your local watering hole if you don’t believe me. Some asshole know-it-all and his friends will hold court at the bar, wanting to live your life for you. And when you object, the festivities begin. They will have the numbers and you will have the crazy. And a blade if you are smart. No one fights fair these days.
One Way Streets Are Misleading Verlaine set his wifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hair on fire and stabbed Rimbaud almost to death, and together they put feces under the pillow of a friend, laced the drink of another with sulphuric acid, but to be fair, Rimbaud got drunk on Absinthe and stabbed his lover Verlaine, too, which is why one way streets are misleadingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the absolutism of kings. Hell, even Rocky had an alternate ending where he took money to throw the fight so Adrian would have the start up cash to open a pet shop of her own in the city of brotherly love.
Brianna Pike Roofless Church The roof of the world stretches high and wide as birds slip through its blue like boats with sails of every color: red, gray, black, brown and blue bodies coming to harbor in green leaves that filter the light like stained glass, but in this church the windows are always open. They swoop and dip along imaginary paths only they can see and yet despite the abundance of rose bushes and poplar trees, they choose to roost inside a man-made dome, where layers of sound echo off the walls. I imagine they sing to their children, eggs nestled in twigs and hay, the gentle vibration of newly beating hearts just beginning to tap out their own steady rhythm.
Sparrows …And fine birds brought you, Quick sparrows over the black earth Whipping their wings down the sky Through midair— ~Sappho Perhaps they followed Sappho’s sparrows, clusters of soft brown feathers guiding their boats across the Aegean. Children arrive cold and damp, deep gray sand erasing their footprints. One girl, salt crusting the cuffs of her pants, confides she wants to go home, but the doctor cannot tell her there is no home left across the sea. She cannot tell her the young boy she held hands with at night, their arms swaying against the sides of the wooden boat, drowned. Instead, the doctor presses warm metal to her chest: listens for inhale and exhale, each shared breath building a new home full of sparrows and sun and calm water at dawn.
Susan Tepper Blind (excerpt from her next novel) THE TRAIL CLIMBED then swung to the left in a split fork, one slice parallel with the waterfall, the other, narrower and more overgrown, disappearing into the woods. Russell paused there leaning against the wooden barricade. He felt a shortness of breath. It was a freezing day. Windy. He watched the crashing waterfall below. Couldn’t imagine Old Billy pushing his walker getting this far; even with Sonia at his side. Billy way too frail and wobbly. How would he manage to push it uphill? Despite the layer of thermal, sweater and jacket, Russell felt chilled. If Billy didn’t make the climb what did it mean? That he made the plunge? The old man would never kill himself. Would he? Yet for all practical purposes Billy was MIA. Sonia he no longer cared about. After she used him that one night for sex in Indiana, Russell had written her off. That was four states back, he calculated over the roar. Four states back and how many left before they reached Colorado? If they reached Colorado. Even the car seemed spent by the effort of pushing through snow and sleet. One old man and three twenty-three-year-olds. And, him. It was unbalanced. Fuck you Sonia, he thought. Turning toward the other two, standing there wide eyed and shivering, Russell said, “What do you want?” “Why are we waiting here?” said Tim. “Why are we?” Peaches echoed. He glared at them. “Go back to the car.” Tim looked particularly skanky. It explained the foul smell in the car, and for a second or two took his mind off Billy. Get a grip, Russell was telling himself. People went missing in action and died in wars; he’d seen all that at Desert Storm. Not 57
at a water fall in a national park. Certainly not a foxy blonde like Sonia, who claimed to be a nurse, and a cranky old ex-country western singer. They had to be around here somewhere. He stared down both trails, musing aloud, “Where the fuck did Sonia take Billy?” Tim snapped his fingers. “You want to decide which trail then flip a coin.” Flip a coin over Billy’s life. Sonia’s, too. God how he despised this kid. All three of them. Big pains in the asses from the moment Billy invited them to come along. Russell knew before he knew. That cowboy bar in Ohio – huge mistake. “How’d you like me to flip a coin over your life?” “My life ain’t worth a buck,” said Tim. “Every life has value,” said Peaches. The wistful girl looking jittery. Value. Russell chuckled. These three were fleecing Billy at every opportunity. Clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, food, stuffed animals – you name it. Any kind of shit that struck their fancy. The old man shelling out wads of cash from his suitcase. Russell narrowed his eyes. “Didn’t I just tell you to wait in the car?” Peaches, patting Tim on the arm, was ignoring Russell’s orders, per usual. “You should never feel life is worthless,” she was saying. “Life is a great gift. Look how the black people suffered, and you don’t hear me saying my life is worthless. Do you?” The beautiful girl seemed younger every day; while the rest of them appeared to be aging on this goddamn road trip to hell. Who drives from Jersey to Colorado during winter? thought Russell. Only the blind. Maybe Sonia did plan on killing herself; as Tim so casually mentioned. “Jesus!” Russell yelled. Startled, the kids jumped. Killing herself and taking Old Billy along for the ride. What they’d all been doing for weeks; just taking a ride. 58
Colorado lost in the shuffle of suitcases, plastic bags, lousy food, crap motel rooms, terrible weather. Colorado — almost beside the point now. Russell tightened his scarf. “Next time, dude, bring a ski jacket,” said Tim. Next time. What a joke. Russell shoved his hands in his pockets. “I don’t know what to do.” “Always the same with you,” said the kid. His phone vibrated in his shirt pocket. Nina. Russell knew without picking up: Nina hot on his trail. A week, now, she’d been sniffing him out, phoning every few hours. Nina, his employer who owned the car service. The black Lincoln he was driving. A big mother, that car, complete with rear wheel drive. Slipping and sliding on the ice. Two weeks late at its arrival point. The whole trip a disaster from the get-go. First Old Billy, cranky and farting and moaning, the endless stops for food and bathrooms, then these three from Ohio, who Billy insisted on bringing along. My kids as he called them. The constant bad weather. So bad. “Who drives rear wheel anywhere other than Florida?” said Russell. His phone stopped vibrating only to start again. Like a pacemaker acting up; reminding you that your days are numbered. He’d been ducking Nina; would continue. Nina had no idea about the kids in her car. Russell not about to open that can of worms. “Dude would you like me to take over?” Tim looked spacey. “No, I do not want you to take over.” He coughed into his palm shaking off the phlegm. “Ew! Gross, Russell! You’re gonna spread germs in the car!” Ignoring the kid’s outburst, he thought about phoning his brother Stan. Or, better yet, Clara. Clara being a psychic might know where to find Billy and Sonia. He pointed a cold finger at them. “I’m telling you for the last time. Go back and wait in the 59
car. If Billy shows, you blast the horn a bunch of times. You got that? A bunch of times.” And he stared down at the crash of plunging water. “What if Sonia shows?” said Tim. “Well obviously!” As soon as they were out of sight, he grabbed his phone. The wind had picked up, beating his hair in his eyes. Weeks, how many, since he’d gotten a haircut? His brother sounded cold and remote; far away. As far as you could be and still be reached. Russell deciding that made no sense. Hopping up and down to keep warm, he shouted into the phone. “Billy’s missing! Billy and Sonia! I need to speak to Clara, it’s an emergency!” “What do you mean they’re missing?” “We went to the falls, I mean we’re at the falls, the waterfalls, and Billy gets a clog in his super-pubic tube and Sonia takes him away to fix it.” Russell felt a sharp pain move through his own gut. “What’s she doing fixing Billy’s tube? Bro, it doesn’t sound Kosher.” “It’s Kosher! Sonia’s a nurse!” He scanned the distant trees. “I think she is. Anyway, I can’t find them. And Tim thinks Sonia might have offed herself.” “Now why would a foxy chick like Sonia do that? She is foxy, right?” “Jesus, Stan. I don’t know why. She’s been acting possessed or something. Her eyes. Like almost a yellow color.” “Yellow eyes?” Stan whistled. “That doesn’t sound good.” “She may have picked up AIDS from treating some guy’s knife wound. Or Hep C. I don’t know! It’s complicated. Look, Stan, I need to find them and fast! Clara might know. Weeks ago she warned me about the falls. When I phoned her.” There was silence on the line. “Stan! Stan!” 60
“You phoned Clara?” “It was nothing personal. I’m a thousand miles away!” “I still have feelings for her.” “Well it’s not like I’m gonna jump her bones or anything. I should’ve listened to her. Damn.” “Did Clara say Sonia is possessed?” “She said possibly. Possibly? Who the fuck could deal with that?” He fumbled in his pockets for a tissue. Not finding one he coughed phlegm into the snow; noticing blood. Maggie’s miscarriage crossed his mind. Their miscarriage. Maggie his ex. Ancient history now. All of it. Maggie, the war, the strutting roosters on his kitchen wallpaper. Russell knew he’d never see those roosters again. He heard Stan speaking but couldn’t make it out over the roar. Then he pushed it all away. Into the snowy trees. The falls. “Gone,” he said. Relief draping his tight shoulders. They were dead; Old Billy and Sonia. He could live with that. You go to war you learn to live with death. His relief was extreme. He almost did a jig on the path. It was a type of euphoria – he couldn’t explain. Not to Stan or to himself. Then he heard a woman shouting, and saw them making their way down the trail.
Jeff Santosuosso We Speak when spoken to. Speak softly. Speak up. Speak out. Drop your eyes. Drop your chin. Raise your hand. Raise your fist. Stand aside. Stand back. Stand together. Stand with us. Walk away. Walk this way. Walk with us. March on. Close your doors. Close your windows. Open your mind. Open your mouth. Keep quiet. Keep to yourself. Keep your traditions. Keep going. 62
Stay, together. Stay together. Stay together. Stay. Together.
The Whites of My Eyes Write drunk, edit sober. – Author unknown I don’t do drugs, I am drugs. – Salvador Dali I’ll write as sober as I want, stretch my mind with imagination, visual clarity like a never-ending view beyond the edge of the Grand Canyon past Red Rocks, up the Tetons over buffalo herds wooly at the throat, shouldering our Western heritage, rolling out to the Cascades, Rainier piercing cloud tops, lording over valley, pitch, and slope, snowy white like my eyes, through the Yukon, gold and winter, to Denali, memorialized as our nation’s summit, barely seen, rarely visited, legendary and looming over everything beneath it for thousands of miles to our volcanic tropical paradise, over the swells of the Pacific then east to Florida’s ebbing Atlantic, spanning all that we contain, as if like some mountainous god, I could perceive all, omniscient and pure. 64
Diane D. Gillette Date Night on the Couch SHOTS ARE FIRED over the popcorn bowl during Saturday night date night on the couch. She’s apathetic toward bowling. He’s too cheap to pay for dinner out. The couch is the scene of their supposed rekindling. He picks at a scab that should have long healed over. That one time she didn’t do that one thing that he really needed her to do. She’s tired of it. Out come the big guns. She slept with a stranger on that business trip last month. The popcorn bowl just misses her head. It hits the china cabinet. Glass and popcorn kernels embed themselves in the shag carpet she always hated. The dog hides upstairs. Things escalate over his duffel bag from college. In goes his favorite sweatshirt, clean underwear, his toothbrush. She tosses their wedding picture into the bag with a sneer and rude gesture. He says he’s taking the dog. She assures him he’s not. He says she’s always been apathetic toward the dog. She reminds him he’s too cheap to pay for canine dental cleanings. The dog’s tennis ball goes in the duffel bag. Tug-of-war ensues. The bag he’s had since college rips wide open. The dog grabs his tennis ball and runs downstairs. Steam rises from a mug of peppermint tea into the eye of the storm. She cries. He pushes the honey bear toward her. Pats her hand. She confesses it wasn’t a stranger. She slept with her high school crush. The one she secretly fantasizes about still. For a minute she thought she might be pregnant. She wasn’t. He 65
removes his hand. His silence is too big for the room. She realizes she doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t care if he leaves or not. He realizes he has nowhere to go. He doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to pay for a hotel room. The peppermint tea grows cold in the mug. The dog rests his chin on her knee. He pulls her high school yearbook from the shelf in the den, demands to see the picture of the man she screwed. She refuses to take it from him. He rips out a page. Is this him? Is this? He tears out another page. He reads the messages scrawled for her some fifteen years before. He reads too much into them. Crumpled pages litter the floor. She wonders when she became so empty inside. He stares at the mess and wonders what love costs. The yearbook is nothing but scattered pages and shallow memories. The dog sits between them and howls.
Holes THOSE OF US WHO COULD HANDLE sharp objects had the option of gardening. “There's something in the soil, you know,” Margaret told us, handing out plastic trowels. (I mean, they trusted us, but no one was getting gardening shears or anything.) “A bacteria that can help you heal. Mentally.” She added the last word to clarify, as if any of us thought we were there to heal in some other way. “The work will be good for you.” Margaret was big on doing work. After sessions she likes to tell me, “You worked hard today. You should feel proud.” I exist in a world where talking is my work. But I guess all my work allowed me the privilege of wielding a garden trowel, so that’s something at least. My trowel was a bloody scarlet with a green handle. I laid in the grass and studied it. I’d never gardened before. “It’s for digging holes,” Milo shouted at me. He shouts at everyone. It keeps his ghosts at bay. Vanessa shrugged. “You can fill in holes with it, too.” She likes to see both sides of things. Margaret calls this empathy, and Vanessa garners many gold stars during circle time. I know a lot about holes. Chunky holes blown out of you by atomic words going off. Deep fathomless holes where a dropped pebble never makes a sound, carved with infinite darkness drip, drip, dripping through your soul. Holes. I have them. 67
The trowel felt good in my hand. The hard plastic smooth and cool with grooves for my fingers to melt into, I pressed the shovel end flat to my heart. I beat against it and waited. “You gonna help us do any work?” Milo shouted at me. “Shh,” I whispered, stroking my trowel. “I’m filling holes.”
Catfish McDaris The Cat Burglar Went to Hemingway writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; workshop, a hurricane hit, two of his six toed cats were having sex in a bush; they flew out and knocked me cold. I woke up naked on the beach. I had twelve toes on each foot and a tail; climbing trees was easy.
Camels in Baghdad The center is near the edgeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the matador approach works. Ask the dust in the art of war. Nowhere to turn, no corners left to hide in, bent, broken, chipped, dented, kills flies and mosquitos with hand grenades, lights his Marlboros with a flamethrower, wears an eleven-gallon red sombrero even when he bathes and sleepwalks. It takes all kinds on Hump Day.
Dylan Thomas The big brick house surrounded by shrubberies was used for poetry readings. Dylan Thomas almost got arrested for pissing in the bushes. Lady Luck just crossed her legs and put a tangerine zinnia behind her ear. Starving ghosts come for souls during Nightmares; you can’t glue my heart together like a broken vase. The jaguar is doing the Funky Chicken, Lazarus shattered my mirror, I went down, she whispered, “Meet me in Cheyenne.”
Ann Howells Yellow House “In this I can live and breathe, meditate and paint.” —Vincent Van Gogh I could tolerate that small hotel no longer! The disagreeable innkeeper complained constantly that my equipment usurped his space, requested I pay more. I, of course, turned my back, hissed at him through my teeth. He argued, red-faced, vehement, gesticulated violently, went so far as to seize my property. I was forced to appeal to a justice-of-the-peace. I have since located a small house that rents for just 15 francs; it is the perfect place -- home and studio. It has two rooms up, two down, and a bath just next door. It is painted the yellow color of fresh butter on the outside with glaringly green shutters; it stands in the full sunlight in a square which has a green garden with plane trees, oleanders and acacias. I call this my house of light; it is quite lovely: whitewashed throughout, with a red tile floor. And, ah, the sky above it is so intensely blue. I plan to establish 72
a commune here where artists gather, live and work together, share ideas, expenses, profits. I will invite Monsieur Gauguin. He will direct our little group. He will make bouillabaisse and cassoulet; perhaps Theo can arrange a small stipend. I have begun a series of garden paintings with which to decorate his room; my own will overflow with paintings of sunflowers. To save money for frames, I eat only bread and eggs, fill my belly with innumerable cups of coffee.
Dennis Mahagin Reverse Auger Still comes back to me, inescapable memory, plucking ice from a Big Gulp cup, the scatter of miniscule cubes on a white-hot sidewalk, seconds before the thunder hit. Busted flip-flop sandal on a power wire, oh cumulus swells, darker, twisting higher. Popcorn, I thought. Gone, and bought it. Birdseed and bread crumbs to mark the way back. I was 43. Or six; tossed a fistful of ice like wedding rice, tiny sarcomas melting, on impact. Timelapse polka dots; transitory dimples of a clown.
Las Vegas the only real clarity is desperation, some fatal gesture, passing from an anorexic croupier—he feels it with long fingers a-flutter, like money or testing some silk hem, climbing for the orgasm, also, solo or a signal, see?—the honking of geese with his Ichabod head all tipped all the way back, see, he—see, do you see the mirth, prescience, sliver of light in a doorway? do you see the cheek turn, dusk purple and vermilion razor burn?—he says something in pigeon French, half Indochinese, half raining, mocking too, sparrow wings that can’t get out of there fast enough. Terrified, terrified, they sing of the deep green felt, coming up so final to meet the falling from some massive fucking height and no more time; so you bite down on the last red chit, slam it on 33, as if the wheel could fix everything, mesmerizing, the little stick—clicking, clicking so, yet so could a kiss... see? deep wet truck tires on pavement, under streetlights
someone out there, getting it blind, unconscious luck â&#x20AC;&#x201D;the only deprivation on earth, is dearth of movement, underestimation of the grave, of the worth of guts; turn from this desperate reading, reading, and the wheel, go into the terror of the real town, strip to skivvies, scream, wave, run the lover down.
Francine Witte Next Time, Louis Better Listen BECAUSE SHE TOLD HIM what she wanted was a sweater. Instead, he bought her a kitchen knife. Yes, it could slice a tomato, but it was useless when the drafty wind forced its late-October way in the door. She tried to forget, but she couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Dreamed about the knife growing in size and sprouting armholes. How instead of sharp, serrated metal, it was made of stroke-y cashmere. Each time, she woke up, though, it was still a kitchen knife. She finally got tired. Tired of the way, Louis had ignored her simple request. Tired of Louis altogether. She decided to end it. Called Louis into the kitchen and hurled the knife directly at his chest. Just the way she would have, if it had been a sweater.
Separate THE BOYS AND GIRLS SWIM in separate pools because it became evident that stray sperm could break free, defy the chlorine and reach the eggs of the unsuspecting girl host. This was bad news for Mike as he looked at Marilyn over there in the girl pool. Her shoulders, wet and inviting. Worse part was, he knew she liked him back. She showed this in many different ways. One being the apple she once gave him during school lunch, so heart red it could have been a valentine. He would think about this as Billy Fredericks, early chest hair and butt crack out of his board shorts, cannonballed a hundred pounds of water out of the boysâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; pool. Mike would be sure to tell Marilyn about how annoying this was, the way he did every night when they met in the back of her fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s van.
Beau Boudreaux Married A catcherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mitt, worn leather snug on the hand, palm toughened by countless evenings, our fastballs and curvesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; dinners where we dress out our china as the home team, smug heads of the table, long days of extra innings take their swings, garbage at the curb, pitch and catch from the mound, keep an eye on her signals, wordless nod, chance to steal or get picked off under blue horizons, occasional sunsets, our crowd chanting in the stands.
Mary Crawford Mr. Hatoff ONE MONK WAS PEPPER; the other salt. Two holes were drilled in saltâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head and three in pepperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. Often the aunts made salt and pepper promenade across the table cloth, skirting the plates and cups, side by side, best friends. How do you do, the monks said. Fine. Yourself? At times they sang, I Want to Hold Your Hand. In the front room a clock ticked, two brass pine cones hanging low, the ticking present into every part of the house. Hourly, a yellow bird popped free, to bow and bow and bow, depending upon the time. A miniature wooden man and his miniature wooden wife lifted mugs to their faces, again and again and again. It was more painful to be held up and wait for it. The hiss, the strange smell meaning DANGER. The uncle scratched the match against the wall to light a flaming ring. Each flame owned a heart of blue with a purple coat. They sang to each other. Here and there orange blinked itself free. Later the grandmother set out two bowls of spuds, one for each end of the table. Afterwards highballs were presented on a silver tray. Wee bubbles popping with a gingery smell. In the front room questions continued. How did the clouds in the sky get caught in your fingernail? And why all that time spent on the capture of a nose? Things grew too warm, followed by the scratchy strangeness of a cold new bed. What happened next were tires crunching over icy 80
ridges, cold air and a sharp smell through the open window. Hands flecked with tar. Mr. Hatoff, ten feet tall, stood on the corner, permanently welcoming. At night he was even better, green neon arm jerkily lifting, hat rejumbling, raised high in greeting, again and again and again.
Phillip Brown Florida We left Chicago with twenty-three dollars and a half of pack of Newports. She was seventeen. Me, a year younger. We walked to Lake Shore Drive and stuck out our thumbs. We had faith in something. I’ve forgotten what it was. A truck driver gave us a longer ride than expected. Almost a third of the way to Florida. He dropped us in The Smokies after the girl nudged me awake. She whispered we needed to get out. There was urgency in her voice. I believed her. She said the driver had made an advance by which she meant he touched her. I didn’t need the details. We stood on the side of the dark road. I’d never been in the mountains. Any kind of mountains. So many things were still new to me. We held each other close in the cold mountain air. I looked up at a sky littered with stars. I was young enough to believe one of them had their eye on me. Three rides later we were in Boca Raton. She liked the sound of it. Exotic, she said. It was to me, too. The names of places. The palm trees, their fronds moving in the soft sea breeze as if in a movie I was watching. We discovered a twenty-four laundromat and crawled behind a row of dryers. But not before I put coins in the slot and turned the temperature to high. We held on to each other as if for dear life while the dryer spun what wasn’t there. 82
Faith When she invokes faith, there is no arguing with that. It’s not a war of the roses we are in. It’s not a war at all. She, with her scientific genes passed down from father to her, and all but one of her four sisters. Me, not on a quest. Destination open. A life of the mind is what her father preached. She needed to explain it to me. In Farsi. Her father’s words. Speak them with his tongue, so her memories, what they shared, might stay intact. In the end, his mind’s life a weak soldier against his fierce heart. All he could not explain. What his heart could not explain. The Iman Reza Mosque, a beautiful construction. Erected by men and something bigger. A 9th century shrine, now the grand masque. Its library. Manuscripts, books. Art. The work of man seeking His blessing. This is something different, I told her, as we drove the high road to Taos. This is low-riders and sun-faded pickups. Brown heroin from Mexico. The Santuario where they leave their crutches and hopeful photographs. Perfect, she said.
Heath Brougher Vestiges of the Iraqi Oil Orchards Biblical bedrock beneath our feet, somehow, we can still smell the blood that ran rampant in this black, scorched dirt. My friend twisted her ankle though I could tell she thought it silly to complain given all the death that once enveloped these metallic orchards. As we walked away, my friend shielding her pain, we knelt down to let small creatures drink water from our palms.
Joan Colby The Art of Drones A zombie plane aims its ray. A monkey goes for the eyes, Raking a face to rags. What we despise is also what we live for. It’s 2 a.m. in the Mission District, A man has a knife. That’s that. Ambulances score the city In a symphony of revolving lights. The hostage’s hands in the window Hold a script. It could be politics. It could be evolution. Whatever it is, It’s meant to be read backwards. Say You can’t breathe. Say it over and over. A mantra. Streets of unappointed jurists. The poison pill in every doctrine. Sign off. Sign up. The photographs Of the madwoman have been discovered. It’s art. Disease of the hopeful. Translations that pit purity with’ Aesthetics. Island of donkeys and mangos. Accelerants fuming with the scent Of combustion. Orchids that will bloom As music wastes its perilous arguments In waves that winnow the white sands. 85
True Believers The sky floats like incense Over the heads of the faithful Who carry offeringsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;roses, Lambs, the gold teeth of their ancestors. Watch out for them, the believers Drunk on dogma and preachers. They will take up snakes if they must, Immerse themselves in oil. Give us this day, they pray over bread. The sour grapes of the unloved Fill the cracked bowls they bought At yard sales. They wear the broken shoes Of poverty. They teach their children A thousand beautiful lies. Drink the raw milk of the conspirators. These are the faithful, they gather Under the live oaks to sing Of grace that blesses the Credulous. They denounce the stranger At the door with his empty dish. What they have was given them By the most holy. The rains pour Upon their roofs, upon the shelters Where they ward off the neighbors. Every man with a shotgun. Every woman with gossip. They dream of being sucked up In a host of angels 86
While the forgotten labor On the damned planet that heats With the sins of reason. Belief is the tragedy Of these minds that seek Unconflicted answers. The faithful speak in tongues Like the mad in their barred rooms. See their naked feet in the old paintings As they ascend Free of troubles, their robes flapping.
Keith Moul A Nap at Rum River Who would not like to stop in the sun at Rum River and nap? In Minnesota, flat terrain offers no surprise, but altitude (called locally “geospatial extent”) seldom exceeds a tree. Endemic soil fans look up and point, intriguing the tourists who wrestle disorientation during upward gaze too high and so topple to what tricksters at these altitudes call “just rest.” Cold spring air leaks squealing, cat cries, into the troposphere; winds slow, not to end winter, but to end tasteless redundancy. By the way, I am neither native, nor a Vikings fan. If you repeat what I say, someone here (although very nice people in general) may try to sell your spleen to an organ hospital in Minneapolis. I moved here to win a bet; I learned all these facts at first hand; I did return home (I can’t reveal the location) every four months or so to send anonymous reportage to the New York Times, not once having my stories believed. So, I’ve started hiking through sunny Minnesota down the curlicue Rum River (check it out) that will not permit compass direction; often stopping to nap. If you read this poem, please be sure to then destroy it and live.
Hope Nisly The Things He Read Without obsession, life is nothing. -John Waters HONESTLY, HE COULD NEVER really say that he enjoyed reading, but he always knew that he liked what reading provided: information, adventure, and once even a BB gun. The gun was a parental incentive to read the entire Bible the year he turned ten. The reward was tantalizing enough to persevere from Genesis through Revelation. Other than Goliath and the psychedelic creatures of Revelation, he remembered little from this effort. His parents bought The World Book Encyclopedia from a traveling salesman and he worked through all twenty-six volumes with much more verve than he mustered for his trek through the Bible. His second-grade classroom included a four-volume science compendium that covered everything from space to electronics to weather. He read it so often that when his family moved, his teacher gave it to him saying that he read it more than all her students from the past ten years combined. With the move, he had to learn a new language. Adults assured him that he’d learn quickly because he was young. It was a lie. He became the class clown and was spanked by his teacher for what they termed his “lack of effort.” (In those days, corporal punishment was meted out in near-biblical proportions.) He read only what he had to at school and continued to scour his beloved science compendium at home. When he began to play piano, he read musical scores and the biographies of composers in German and English. His mother’s friend sent a box of Scholastic books so that he could read in English. Unfortunately, she sent sports stories 89
such as Break for the Basket which she thought all young boys liked. In fact, he hated sports and disliked those books. The science compendium continued to be his lifeline. In high school he read German classics: Goethe, Brecht, Mann, Musil, Grimmelshausen, whose stories often chronicled the Thirty Years War from the varied perspectives of either the mentally challenged or the elite of society. They were gruesome, but mostly worthwhile. Returning to the United States for college, he studied mathematics and music performance hoping he wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to read much. When everyone around him lauded The Screwtape Letters he tried to read it. He not only did not finish it, he never got beyond the first five pages. This was one of the rare times when he did not compulsively finish whatever book he began. C. S. Lewis was not to his taste. Upon graduation he moved to Berkeley where he worked for minimum wage in an electronics store. In the evening, he made simple meals (pasta, lentils) then spent evenings reading the dictionary through as if it were a novel in single words, each definition a micro-story. On Sunday mornings, he added the newspaper to his repertoire, for news and the want ads. With the advent of the internet, he became an online news junkie reading four or five newspapers and Der Spiegel every day. Where other middle-aged men might succumb to porn, he yielded to the allure of information and politics. In late middle-age, after reading Divine Comedy, he tackled Ulysses. This took him seven years, which, he liked to point out, was the amount of time it took Joyce to write it. When he talked about re-reading it, certain that he missed too much in the first goround, his wife threatened to destroy his copy. After Ulysses he read through the holy books of major world religions, beginning with the Qurâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;an. He discovered that, alone among sacred texts, the Book of Mormon was too tedious to bear. He harbors grudging admiration for the zealots who claim to have 90
read it. This was the second (and last) book that he started and did not finish. He continued to scour websites for news and politics while playing piano to get away from what he saw as the total insanity of the post-9/11 craziness of a homeland-secured world. When his son wrote from prison that he was reading the dictionary, he wondered if he had done his job of parenting well â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or poorly. He never learned to love reading. But, as always, he liked what it gave him: a feeling of accomplishment, information, and insight. He often wished he had kept that science set from his youth. Of all the things he ever perused, that was most meaningful. And after the BB gun he owned as a kid, he never purchased or held a gun again in his life. Yet one more benefit to add to the list of the benefits of reading, however reluctant.
Mike James Naïve List of Demands So, look…the sun follows the same boring path since before your grandma or country came along. Let it rise in the west for a change. (Copernicus and his science be damned!) Let’s adjust, on a now and then basis, the hours in the day. Encourage backwards walking throughout the month. Along the way, allow trained snipers to teach courses on politeness and grammar. Every police officer should wear a blue, green, red, yellow, pink, purple, orange, black, gray, white, or brown clown nose. That might cut down on violent crime while teaching children colors past the rainbow. And do something about rainbows. There’s no need for them to wait until after rain comes around.
Reading Sandburgâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Lincoln While Getting a Pedicure Though Egyptians painted their toenails centuries before Cleopatra seduced her first Roman, Lincoln, probably, never considered such a painterly act. What he knew of tenderness and color stayed above his feet. No one ever scrubbed away boot burnt, prairie dust from his giant toes. He was never offered the choice of flavored bottled water or even, yes, very sweet, very cheap white wine. All we know is he preferred boots to sandals. We know this from photographs. There are only a few photos of his worn-down, broken smile. Not one photo of his bare feet desk propped to display gold or silver toe rings.
Eran Eads Rest Day I mixed fat in a bowl of barley-carbs; my avocado mash was delicious. The grey of morning-sky lurked with strange afternoon warmth. The weather made me want to jog. I walked. It was my rest day. I walked. The river trail veered under highway and my body wanted to be moving. I forced myself to chew two cookies. Two hundred and forty calories! Even the geese grouped in twos, but I decided not to miss you. I decided to think of you somewhere as I geolocated myself with an app.
Exercise VI Even in the exercise I sleep in shapewear.
I am shapely.
I wake from dreaming; I touch every part of myself. It is best in the mornings. I like it when my stomach seizes; it makes me hop on my scale with my hungry body. The digits flash, make me confirm. I tap the scale, it syncs to the app. The application is happy with my loss. I drink 16 fluid ounces of water. I shower. I dress in the mirror. I make eye contact with my chest. I drink my apple cider vinegar. I do it with such pleasure. I think of ways to dis-enjoy it. I warm my millet. I honey my millet. I one-cup-of-skim-milk my millet. I put frozen cilantro in a pan; I put two eggs in the pan. I take the pan and flip it. 95
I stand in the kitchen and eat. Even in this eating exercise I do not prefer to sit. I wash my dish. I pick up my bag. I walk 2.3 miles and begin my day, the grey of the sky looking promising.
Robert Beveridge Picacho Peak rises up jagged behind the ostrich farm, halfway from Phoenix to Tucson, the false teeth of old Mother Earth tossed beside her broken nose. Cari and I, with twin cups of old corn, wander by a cadre of eager ostriches. I pour feed into my hand, hold it up, let the beaks as long as my middle finger close around it with a snap. Cari, instead, scatters the corn on the ground beneath the fence, and the ostriches jockey for position and feed. She watches a row of five birds bump and shove each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bodies away to get to the remnants of the corn in my cup. When itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gone I look 97
over and catch her eye, its glint above the sweet smile, that look of wonder at her first encounter with these big, ugly beasts, and perhaps relief we both emerged with intact fingers. It is a perfect and unbridled happiness, such a simple thing yet with the same solid majesty as Picacho Peak behind us.
Sara Comito Texas Radio, 1971
with a little help from Jim Morrison Out here shadows escape their makers and scale into snakes. You can see them only in the perimeter, fleeting. No one can let loose their focus for more than half a second. I’ll tell you this: we are hard-wired for wasting the dawn. Our shadows do not attempt escape, for we are not the trees, whose shadow-snakes eat stars before morning and rabbits all night, before again holding down the shaky roots of trees. Out here in the perimeter there are no rabbits. Out here snakes eat stones immaculate. Now listen to this: anarchy is a rusted bus full of flowers. Silence, silk, spider-spun. Cactus stabs the air forever. Tumbleweed somersaults in search of shadow, wandering, wandering in hopeless night. You and I know: it’s coiled under a ledge perennially full of strike, sudden fury of divine messenger. I’ll tell you about Texas radio and the big beat, the last big beat and the slow bathtub ripple in a Paris apartment that tells us this: out here we IS hard-wired for shadow. 99
Denise Tolan Divisible by Thirteen Italy, 1973 I turned thirteen twice that year. The first celebration began at five o’clock in the morning after me, my brother, and our mother carried our suitcases downstairs and stacked them by my nona’s front door. The suitcases were lined up like we soon would be in the plane – my brother by the window, me in the middle, and my mother at the aisle. We were flying back to Texas after five weeks in Italy. “Sedere,” my nona said, pointing to the heavy chair at the head of her kitchen table. She placed a small Italian crème cake in front of me. “Buon compleanno.” A used, nearly transparent candle glowed in the center of the cake like a torch in the arctic. After I blew out the weak flame, we took turns passing around a fork, each of us taking a small bite of the sweet, white desert. My mother took a bite, then made a face to let us know she thought the cake was too sweet. She walked to the stove for a cup of black coffee. Like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, my nona reached into her apron pocket and held out a package wrapped in gold foil. She moved the cake and put the box in its place. “Per te,” she said. For you. I tried not to tear the shiny gold paper as I opened the present. I wanted to take it home to use as a bookmark – a souvenir. Inside the wrapped package was a pink plastic box with scalloped 101
edges that opened like I imagined a clam shell might. On a creamy satin pillow inside the box was a tiny gold cross. My mother turned from the stove and watched as I held up the cross for her and my brother to see. “Quanti carati?” my mother asked. “Diciotto carati. Cos 'altro?” “Your nona bought you good eighteen karat gold,” my mother said, scolding me as if I’d already done something wrong with the gift. “You better take care of it, mi senti?” You hear me? I nodded reverently. I didn’t know the difference between eighteen karat gold and any other gold, but clearly there was a big one. The tiny cross suddenly felt heavy in my hand. My nona took a used tissue from her apron pocket and wiped her nose. Then she pulled a thin gold chain from the other pocket. I threaded the cross on the chain and handed it back to her to clasp behind my neck. While she tried to connect the chain from one end to the other, I held the hair off my neck and felt the familiar sting of building tears. I cried because the cross was the first piece of nice jewelry I’d ever received and I knew she must have saved for a long time to buy this gift for me. I cried because I realized when she reached into her apron how her rounded spine made it seem as if she was forever looking into her pockets. I cried because when I saw her again next year, she’d be even older. Another year seemed like a lot for her to endure. "No cry," she said, turning me so she could see how the cross looked on my neck. “No cry,” she said in English with her heavy Italian accent, rubbing the back of my head, pushing my face into her shoulder. "No cry," she said again and again. I was grateful she never said the words in Italian. 102
In the background my mother held a camera in front of her eye as if she intended to take a picture, but changed her mind at the last minute. Texas, 1973 The taxi idled by my nona’s front door while my mother finished the call to my father. She was making sure he knew what time our plane would arrive in San Antonio. Before hanging up she held the phone out for me. “I’m not wishing you a happy birthday yet,” my father said. “It’s still August 17th here. We’ll celebrate when you land in Texas. Then you’ll be a real thirteen-year-old.” I fingered the soft gold of my new cross as we headed in the taxi toward the bus station and then to the airport. I boarded the plane in Milan as a thirteen-year-old, but somewhere in the air between Italy and Texas time fell apart in a way I didn’t understand and for a while, I was twelve again. When we landed in San Antonio, my father hugged me before anyone else. “Now I’ll say happy birthday,” he said, handing me a wrapped present shaped like a perfectly square box. The box turned out to contain a round Panasonic ball and chain radio. He wore a pair of slacks with a collared shirt tucked in and his good shoes without laces. He looked like most of the Italian men we had just left behind: dark wavy hair, confident eyes, a cruel jaw. My brother and I walked together toward the parking lot while he and my mother walked behind. They held hands and smiled shyly at one another like a couple who’d been separated for the summer while they attended camp. When my brother and I spotted our dog Bianco sitting like a chauffeur in the driver’s seat of my dad’s truck, we began to run. 103
I opened the door and Bianco licked me crazily, hungrily, without restraint. He had been my twelfth birthday present. My brother got in the truck and held up an empty McDonald’s bag. Bianco sniffed it. “You ate at McDonald’s?” my brother asked, suspiciously. My father hated McDonalds. “The dog likes their milk shakes,” he said, shrugging. “What are you going to do?” We all laughed. The moment felt like a scene from a situation comedy I hoped to watch again and again. In the tight back seat of the truck I held Bianco and tried to smell the milk shake already dry in the fur around his snout. At a stop light a family in the car next to us looked into our truck window. I was proud of what they saw – my beautiful mother wearing fresh lipstick, the American Eskimo dog licking my chin, and my father, singing loudly and beautifully with the windows wide open – “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s amore.” I would have been jealous if I’d been in the other car. For the first few days of my thirteenth year, I thought it might have worked – the candles, the prayers, the trip to Saint Anthony’s grotto. Then my father woke in the middle of the night. He might have tripped over the dog or an old memory but whatever hit him started the familiar descent into his unique brand of madness. Italy, 1973 During the school year my mom worked in a daycare center so she could buy the plane tickets that would take us back to Italy every year. My father never went. He had to work, or 104
watch the dog, or be home in case of an emergency. No one ever pushed too hard. Italy was ours. We always left Texas in July, flying from San Antonio to Atlanta, then to Milan. In Milan we boarded a small airplane to Ronchi. From Ronchi, we took a bus to Udine. The first few days at my nona’s house were recovery days from the travel. We happily confined ourselves to my nona’s dark, quiet row house playing briscola, eating handmade gnocchi, and watching television shows we hadn’t seen in a year. In the mornings my mother would carry a warm pitcher of water upstairs so we could take a sponge bath. There was a toilet downstairs, but no shower. We adapted quickly. Left on my own, I would sneak into my nona’s bedroom, open her armoire, and look at her slips. She had folded them all so beautifully. Between each slip was a delicate piece of tissue paper like the kind fine department stores wrap clothes in. I’d discovered the slips while I waited for her to change clothes for mass one morning and she asked me to get her one. “Nona,” I’d said, startled to see so many slips. “Ci sono troppi.” There are too many. “Look on the left and count three slips down. That’s the one I need. Avanti – come on.” When I told my mother she shook her head as if the story was one she hadn’t heard in a long time. “She always said it was important for her to be able to find her slips even in the dark. I guess it was from the War when they had no electricity. She puts the paper in between each slip to help her count,” my mother said, then sighed. “Slips are the only nice things your nona ever owned.” 105
When I was sure no one was looking for me, I’d unfold my nona’s delicate slips and wrap them around my shoulders like they were mink stoles. They felt rich and a little decadent. I pretended I was the heroine in an old foreign film who had done something brave to keep her family together. In my movie, we never went back to Texas. Across the street from my nona’s house was the University of Udine. I’d sit for hours in her bedroom window with a slip on my shoulder watching the students come and go. I studied them, trying to figure out what made them Italian and me so American. Was it the way they kept talking as they greeted each other with a kiss on one cheek then the other? Was it the way they held their chins slightly upward as if to say they were listening, but still believed their own ideas were the best? Was it the ease in their step as they walked the ancient brick streets never looking for places they might trip? In Italy, people would always stop my brother and me and ask, “Americani?” Even when we answered in perfect Italian they would smile; “Si, si. Americani.” In the afternoons I walked up and down Via Superiore pretending I had a mink stole on my shoulders, mimicking the chin, and the walk. I wanted to be a part of this motherland so when I returned to the fatherland it would feel like the foreign place. After a week or more in Italy, when my mother must have sensed a shift in our energy, she’d wake us early in the morning to begin our annual pilgrimage to the grotto of Saint Anthony. Even though by then my brother and I were usually ready to leave the house, we were never excited about the first stop of the trip, which was in the small village of Ciseriis. 106
“I hate this place. It’s so boring,” my brother would say, looking out the window of the bus. A wooden picnic table beneath a chestnut tree was a marker letting us know we were getting close to the village. “Stazito,” my mother would whisper, pointing to my brother with her long, skinny finger. “Ciseriis is our village. This is where our people come from. This is where my mother was born, where I was born, where your sister was born. Ricorda.” Remember. This stop was important to my mother and my nona, but don’t look for Ciseriis in a guidebook. The bus drops passengers off in front of San Carlo Barromeo Catholic church because there is nowhere else to drop anyone off. Each year when the bus stopped in front of the church, the priest would run out as if he’d been looking out the window waiting for us since our last visit. And each time he would perform the same routine – he’d shake his head, hug me tightly, and exclaim, “Olgetta – you are so grown up.” Olga was my sister. She was the first-born child of my mother and father, but she was fourteen years older than me. There were no siblings between her birth and mine. She had lived in this village until she was eleven years old when my father returned to reclaim my mother and was forced to take his daughter as well. Once, when my mother was talking to one of her friends, I heard her say that my father had left her alone in Italy six months after my sister was born. He did not return for ten years. For the entire ten years she had no idea where my father had gone. She thought he might have gone to America, because he always talked 107
about Washington D.C. and the cherry blossoms he swore bloomed in colors so bright you had to wear sunglasses to look at them, but she never found out, even after his return, exactly where he had been. My mother said those had been hard years because he never sent any money to her. What he did send, every few months, were letters written by him, but mailed from Udine by someone my mother never knew. “I’m watching you,” the letters would say. “If I see you with another man you and your daughter will be sorry.” The “your daughter” part stayed with me for a long time. I knew my sister had to be his child because out of all of us, my sister looked just like my father. It took me a few years to realize that my father’s beef with her went way beyond any question of paternity. She might have been his by chance, but my brother and I were his by choice. “No,” my mother would say to the priest. “This is Denise. Olga is already grown with a baby on the way.” The priest would look disappointed, as if I were to blame for my sister’s growing up and his ultimate aging. My nona, not one to treat priests with much reverence, would leave us behind and begin walking down a dirt road toward a small enclave of houses grouped in a circle around a fountain. My mother’s cousin Primo lived in one of the houses and even though my nona refused to speak to Primo’s mother, her sister Teresa, the house had once been her family home. She was on her way to claim the best chair at the kitchen table. My mother would linger at the church, speaking in Friulian to the priest. It was a dialect I despised because my mother only 108
spoke it with my father, her sisters, and her mother. It sounded nothing like the Italian she spoke with everyone else in our lives. “Bing, bing,” she would say softly to the priest. “Buona,” I would say loudly to my brother. “She means buona.” When she spoke in Friulian it felt like she was talking behind a closed door. Once in a while, I would hear a catch in her voice and then my father’s name. The priest would take her hands and they would pray. But I always wondered why my mother cared so much about what a priest who could never remember who I was thought. At Primo’s house my brother and I would drink fizzy seltzer water from an old refrigerator then chase chickens around the yard. Primo had never married and seemed nervous about having children in his house. Boys named Primo were always the first-born sons, but my mother told us that this Primo was actually the second Primo. The first one had been in the War and when he came home he fell in love with a woman from a neighboring village who was poor; even poorer than Primo’s people. When his parents forbade the marriage, the first Primo said he respected their decision. A few days later Primo number one came in from the field, ate his soup, took out a pistol, and shot himself in the head. In English, so Primo number two couldn’t understand, I asked my mother if the table they still sat around was the same table Primo number one sat at when he ate his soup then pulled out his pistol. “You ask too many questions,” my mother said, but I noticed she didn’t like to sit around the table either. 109
While my nona sat at that table looking at old pictures and talking about the land with Primo number two, my mother found ways to entertain us. She showed us the closet in the hallway where there had been a hole in the floor they’d used as a bathroom when they were children. She’d walk us to the fields to see the aging grapevines and pet the goats. Occasionally she’d walk around the circle of houses while my brother and I played in the fountain. I’d catch her looking toward the house where her childhood friend Concetta still lived. A few years back, when we’d gotten off the bus, there was Concetta waiting to board. My mother dropped her purse on the ground to hug her old friend, but in the blink of an eye my nona pulled my mother back and placed her palm on Concetta’s chest, pushing her away. My mother reached down to pick up her purse and never looked back at Concetta. When I did, Concetta was crying. “Why, mom?” I asked as we followed my nona to the village. “Why wouldn’t she let you talk to your friend?” “When my father got black lung disease from the mines,” my mother whispered, “Concetta told people he had tuberculosis. Everyone shunned our family. My mother has never forgiven her.” I loved my nona, but the list of people she wouldn’t forgive never seemed long enough to include my father. Whenever I tried to tell her how bad things were at home, she would turn her back to me and say, “Non parliamo contro i padri.” We do not speak against the fathers. After walking around the village, my mother took us far up the side of the hill so we could see the houses from above. She promised to show us where she and her sisters had spent hours 110
looking down at a house on the far side of the village, laughing at the antics of the people who lived there. “One of the men had a little hat and he would take it off and tip his head to the wall,” she said. “We laughed so hard, Maria Luisa almost pee-pee’d in her pants.” When we got to the ledge my mother showed us how to lay on our stomachs and push ourselves forward to see down the side of the hill. In the courtyard below were several men and women wearing what looked like hospital gowns. I figured out very quickly this was not a house, but a hospital for people with mental disorders. “Mom,” I said. “You were laughing at disabled people.” “I didn’t know,” she said, her face red with embarrassment. “They wore regular clothes back then. We didn’t know.” For the first time, I began to question her judgment. Texas, 1973 Sometimes the neighbors would call the police. Sometimes not. When my father woke at night and the gear in his head got stuck on rage, he would rip the pictures off the walls, toss the contents of drawers on the floor, and fling plants and coffee cups at the furniture. Someone in the house was always a bitch or an asshole, and none of us deserved all he did for us. By the time I was thirteen twice, I had a sense of what he’d given up for us – an education, the hope of a good job, his opportunity to fish alone by the ocean. I just wasn’t sure what he was willing to do to have a chance at those things. 111
On a lucky night, my father would wander into the backyard screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs. My mom would spring into action, grabbing my brother and me and taking us to the car where she’d drive us to one of her friend’s homes for the night. On unlucky nights my father would storm through the house listening for anything that would call attention his way. On the mornings after, we’d walk to the kitchen ignoring the debris in the house and on each other. Our house looked it had been ransacked by a burglar, but we sat next to the burglar at the table like it was just another day. Italy, 1973 After a few hours at Primo number two’s house, another bus would come to take us to Gemona. Gemona was a larger city and there we would eat a late lunch before walking the few blocks to the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony. I always thought it was an awesome coincidence that we lived in a city in America named after my mother’s favorite saint. “I thought it was a sign,” my mother said. “When we came to America your father asked me if I wanted to move to Virginia or San Antonio. When I heard the name, I said San Antonio.” I wondered a lot about what life would have been like in Virginia. My mother held my hand as we walked behind the newer, grander church toward the ancient ruins in the back. To get to the grotto of Saint Anthony, you first walked through a rock hallway – something like an ancient pedestrian tunnel. The smell of grass 112
instantly became the smell of stone covered in age and smoke and the touch of thousands of fingers and hands. A long line of people slowly shuffled single file through the tunnel, stopping often to read the notes of thanksgiving on the walls. These had been left to Sant’Antonio for miracles delivered. There were pictures taped to the notes as well. One picture was of a small boy without legs sitting on what looked like a brokendown tractor. “Thank you, Sant’Antonio for saving our son after he fell from the tractor and was run over.” After a few dozen notes, I felt hot and sick to my stomach, overwhelmed by the intensity of the emotion stuck to the walls. My mother never let go of my hand. The closer we got to the end of the tunnel, the stronger the scent of incense became. Once past the notes and pictures, we entered a small, dark room. There were rows of hard wooden kneelers stretched across the brick floor. All the kneelers faced a white statue of Saint Anthony. Candles burned in dozens of votive racks, and on hastily constructed shelves on the walls, and at the feet of Sant’Antonio. The statue looked on fire from all the shadows thrown by the lit candles. It seemed like all the air in the room was taken up by people and smoke and sorrow. Once on my knees, I began poking holes in the stories from the pictures in the tunnel, faltering in my faith so quickly. Even though the boy who’d been run over by the tractor lived, he had no legs. I wasn’t sure it was a full miracle. My mother would squeeze my hand, perhaps sensing I was about to bolt. “Pay attention,” she’d say. “Pray for your father. Pray for Sant’Antonio to make him change. He makes miracles happen.” 113
And then I would. I would pray as hard as I could. My nona bobbed her head back and forth while moving her lips in a stream of words I could not hear. My mother pressed each bead of the rosary to her mouth. If I happened to catch my brother looking around or trying to read a hymnal, I’d pinch him. I was not about to let his lack of attention stand in the way of a miracle. Texas, 1973 No matter how angry he was, my father always walked past my room. I had seen him break my brother’s arm and kick my sister down the driveway. I’d seen him bite my mother on her breast. I was the only one my father never hit. “Is he really my father?” I asked my mother. “Don’t be stupid,” she said. “He never hits me, Mom.” She sighed. “It’s because you were born under una buona stella – how do you say – a lucky star.” Somehow, in the light of day, that made sense to me. But in the middle of the night, I’d blame myself each time I heard a voice plead with him to stop. In the dark, on my stomach, I memorized every sound flesh can make when it is struck. I accepted that each punch/slap/hit was because of me – because I had faltered in my faith of Saint Anthony. Texas, 1973 “Your mother doesn’t love me as much as I love her,” my father said, picking me up from my first youth group meeting after our return from Italy. I noticed a scratch under his chin from the night before. “She only loves your bitch sister.” 114
I sat quietly in the truck. I was thirteen twice now. I’d learned that saying anything at times like these was like swearing you’d only throw one rock at a hornet’s nest. Italy, 1973 We were filled with a sense of hope when we left the sanctuary of Saint Anthony. We boarded the bus, headed back to Udine, and ate dinner at my nona’s solid table made from the wood of the chestnut trees that grew in the forest near Ciseriis. Each time we made this pilgrimage my mother believed our rituals would be enough to make Sant’Antonio heal my father; make the impossible possible. And each time I wanted to believe it too. Although everyone knows Saint Anthony as San Antonio de Padua, not everyone knows that he visited Gemona in 1227 to build a chapel honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. Antonio never completed the building, but the ruins remained. The tunnel leading to the grotto was built from those ruins. In 1976 a great earthquake demolished the tunnel and the grotto and the little chapel. I imagine all the notes, all the pictures, all the miracles were lost too. We never returned to Gemona after 1975. And there never was a miracle for my father.
Michael J. Galko Egrets as Intermittent Mileposts One in the shallow of the bayou, erect, alone in the reflected orange of the morning sun. Wear your survival like a coat of long white feathersâ&#x20AC;&#x201C; join us again when you are ready. Another on the distant green of a golf course, its bodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s white ellipse tapering into a needle that feeds the larger and dirtier whiteness of the sky. The pleasures of others are for you just a good walk spoiled. Walk on, three-toed. One in a field of longhorns, picking at the bugs that rise from their patient steps. Choose large and steadfast friends whose very presence is sustenance. And finally, as you approach your Austin homestead, one alone in a barren fall tree, resting from some unknown labor of flight. Rest up. Better days are ahead, across that field.
Dianna MacKinnon Henning In Memory There are Many Hives When the God Ra wept, his tears turned into honeybees, prolific as they struck ground. But bees make only half a teaspoon of honey in a lifetime. All that pollen gathering, two hundred wing-beats per second. O, to sip and sip again from the cup of a petal rimmed flower, to push into the pollen basket of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s self such sweetness that being bursts open to flower into a multiplicity of bees.
Childhood Summer Home Fronting Lake Seymour Mornings when the sun seared our shoulders we sprinted to the lake’s edge bellowing, First one in, screen door slamming, towels streaming off shoulders. Back then we were all first, our legs dark as Manila rope, arms flailing, water’s sweetness making us light. I didn’t see who dunked me, bubbles forming their noose, nor how that someone’s legs, strong as oak, kneed me away. When finally reaching air, the culprit vanished. Back on the beach, a cousin told everyone I’d made the dunking up, that no one would ever trouble a girl with nails as long as mine.
Michael Minassian Between Design and Desire I am writing this simultaneously in English & another language which cannot be read by anyone now living. I have disguised these words and lines, or overlaid them; the dead language resting comfortably both under & on top of the living, intertwined like lovers from different centuries. As you are reading this, at least one other language has become extinct at a faster rate than birds, mammals, fish, or plants. What is gone between an abacus & an Aztec or even between toast & a toothbrush? How many words are there for snow or rain or love or skin? Covering a dictionary with my tongue 119
I discover ten words between design & desire moments before they disappear.
Judy Shepps Battle Notes from an Underachiever At age ten I stopped trying, stopped pretending I was like other kids in school, at home, dark depression merged with creative dissociation taking me nameless places, drifting fugue irrelevant time all alone in a family of four plus a dog, content to die but not to suicide. Human angels wept, swaddled my despair, reached out in love, urging me to hold on 121
one more day, one more minute, promising daylight, warmth and healing at end of dark and frozen tunnel, insisting that Eros would one day triumph over Thanatos or at least learn to coexist. Sixty-four years later I write this small poem as a belated thank you and as testimony to the possible.
K.W. Peery Thunder in the Wind There’s a small part of me in Joshua Tree… still searchin’ for the strength to sing the Brass Button blues… Where her words burn eternal in the warm evening Sun and Gram’s voice is like thunder in the wind
Route 66 Motel Two days after hittin’ the California Coast Credit Union in Temecula… we were holed up at the Route 66 Motel… with a case of Evan Williams and four Black Bear burgers… It was a perfect plan… to let the heat die down… while we waited to make our next move in Escondido
Kevin Ridgeway Join the Band I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have any friends yet and could hear the bumping grind vibration from the campus visual arts building, where I wiggled my way up the icy steps to the front door before an amateur bouncer stopped me with five dollar cover charge demands that granted me access to a very potent batch of high gravity Canadian keg lager, which I gulped down in three tall Styrofoam cups until I was drunk enough to strip naked and jump on stage with a mop bucket handle apparatus as though it were an acoustic instrument, jamming with the band, who werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t amused by the unwanted auxiliary side show, especially when I took two steps back and tripped over the chord to the lead guitaristâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s amp, causing him to stop at the climax of a Parliament Funkadelic cover song, and they threw me back
into an audience of pseudo hippie groupie chicks, who ate me alive just as he ripped back into a solo in championship form, my clothes unaccounted for and scattered across the frozen Vermont wilderness that surrounded our bored, tiny liberal arts snow globe that nobody else in the world could find on a map.
Carolyn Adams Our Dream Marriage Of course, you like men, and we’re only friends. That didn’t seem to matter in the dream. You told me it was over; you explained carefully what I would never get from you again. I wondered why you’d given it at all, in the early years of our dream marriage. The how and why of our complicated relationship. I was forced to consider our problem from a distance. Like an abstract painting. Like breath on glass. Like a fleeting thought that doesn’t carry past your lips. 127
Nick Dante Hoodoos She doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t speak as the car veers off the road into a gutted rest stop on the outskirts of nowhere-special, Utah. The early morning offers light enough to see cracked cement stairs. Every step is a montage of graffiti that leads to a platform facing desert, not yet awake. She kneels and closes her eyes. Low humble hills rise to the north. I look down at the backs of her folded hands with burn marks and the pale strip of skin on her finger where last week she wore a wedding ring. The discolored line winds around like a wound still healing. Now she rises. Her full lips find mine. The moment is a collage of colors overlapping; there are no true cities or people here and unfaithful breath scatters stiff air. This isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t a place we expected to be 128
so soon. Everything looks too clean and definite. My body blisters to stay. There are no cars on the road, but she sees a wake of vultures gliding behind us. I squint to catch a glimpse. The shadows in the sky look like remnants of something already beaten.
Leslie E. Hoffman Haiku XXIII mesquite bends eastward thunder wakens the valley rain thumps on concrete XXXX Moon sextiles Venus Apache cicadas buzz sing their rhymes of love
Brandon Marlon American Massacre We the people enjoy the inalienable right to be slain in cold blood like fodder in our various streets, schools, campuses, cinemas, and concert venues, even at any hour of day or night, with readily obtained weapons of war in the hands of arms-bearing civilians though they be livid, bitter, depressed, insane, or (to cover their bases) all of the above, because it was for this very reason that our nation's founding fathers toiled by the dawnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s early light to plant the bullet-spangled banner and bring forth on this continent a new nation, establishing these colonies and territories as the land of the free gunned down and the home of the brave mourning, that semi-automatic and automatic assault rifles and ammo magazines shall not have been purchased in vain, so that shooting sprees and mass slaughter shall not perish from the earth. May God the NRA continue to bless hold hostage these United States of America.
Grim Reaper in Therapy It isn’t even the long hours, to be honest, or relentlessly being on stand-by. Besides, it’s not like I’m unionized or anything. I confess, as far as vocations go, It’s sometimes incredibly satisfying; some lowlifes I can hardly wait to grasp in my clutches! But, if I’m being perfectly honest with you, there is a certain tedium, an eroding ennui that sporadically gnaws away at me, diminishing my capacity to proceed, you know, business as usual. And, occasionally, a few qualms, which I find dreadfully disorienting and which tend to impair my purpose. Of course, I never volunteered to be the Angel of Death, per se; had I had my druthers, I would have surely preferred the exalted role of archangel, actually, which, admittedly, affords a trade-off: less publicity, more esteem. So be it. That’s a compromise I could live with. Naturally, I never bring my misgivings upstairs, so to speak, because I’m not normally so solipsistic, and I don’t want to be a bother, and it’s not as if He doesn’t already know, you know what I mean? I mean, really. He’d probably just say I’m overthinking things, and in that divine tone, full of casual finality. 132
Whatever. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fine. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m coping. I suspect the others second-guess themselves at least from time to time, no big deal. Who knows? Maybe they even get a little depressed sometimes, too. Whatever... I recognize that antsy look of yours, doc. My time is up, I know, I know. As is yours, by the way.
Vivian Wagner Crater Lake It’s a deep blue-purple mirror contemplating a sky even deeper, surrounded by cliffs that remember the mountain they were. You get there by driving many miles and hiking through pines, up to its edge. From there you’ll look out over water and stone, maybe have a first kiss with someone you’ll spend the rest of your life with, if you’re lucky. The lake understands the certainty of uncertainty, reflecting an infinity that’s shaped like a volcano, collapsing inward.
Syo-ro This ink begins blue and turns greenâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; dew on pine trees. I want it to keep sheening on the page, drying in the cold breath of distant granite cliffs.
Robert Boucheron Ritterburg WALLS, ROOFS, AND BATTLEMENTS of a medieval castle are printed on sheets of heavy paper, a reproduction of drawings in color, with details of wood and stone. The colored shapes have white tabs at the edges, letters and numbers, and instructions in German. Age eleven, I study a picture of the completed castle. I don’t know German. Evidently, you cut out the shapes, fold on straight lines, glue at the tabs, and glue the three-dimensional pieces together. The printed sheets recall the dress patterns that my mother buys. She pins the paper patterns to cloth, cuts paper and cloth in one stroke with shears, and sews the pieces together on her electric sewing machine. Ritterburg is the name of the castle. Is it a real place? Where did this paper kit come from? A company called SchreiberBogen Kartonmodellbau has a catalog of castles, cathedrals, and famous historic buildings, but where is Ritterburg? Someone must have given it to me for Christmas or a birthday. Grandparents give me presents that are beyond my age—books on archaeology, a wrist watch, a model of a clipper ship to assemble. Our family moves to Schenectady, New York in the 1960s. Soon after, perhaps while unpacking, the printed sheets resurface. Am I ready for the paper castle? Midwinter, the season of ice and snow, is a time for indoor activities, board games, and crafts. I find a large pair of scissors and a bottle of Elmer’s Glue-All. I sit at the 136
kitchen table and start to cut, slowly and carefully, holding my breath for fear of cutting wrong. My father sees me and offers advice. Use an X-Acto knife for some cuts, and work over a scrap of cardboard. Fold along a straightedge. Use straight pins to hold a joint in place until the glue dries. Wipe the excess glue before it dries. The pins leave tiny holes that are scarcely noticeable. Glue sticks of balsa wood here and there on the back to stiffen the paper. The liquid glue is white and creamy and smells like sour milk. The bottle has a picture of the head of Elmer the Bull, who is somehow related to Elsie the Cow, both of whom live in the Borden barn. The glue is non-toxic. It dries clear and peels from my fingers like old skin. Do my father and I work on the paper castle together? No, I tell him that I want to build it on my own. Secretly wounded, he retreats to the garage, where he has a shop full of machineryâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a table saw, a jigsaw, a drill press, and a lathe. He brings me a small metal tube with one end sharpened, a circular punch. The diameter of the circle is that of the printed machicolations, the little arches that overhang the walls. Instead of laboriously cutting them out with scissors, I can use the punch and get the job done faster. Even so, the job takes many hours, spread over days and weeks. I have built towns that use a dozen decks of playing cards and sprawl over the carpet. They require a steady hand and a long attention span. But the paper castle tries my patience. The geometry is complex, and the folded and glued pieces accumulate errors that make them hard to fit together. 137
Or impossible? One last joint will not close without twisting the whole out of shape. I leave the tab unglued. It does not occur to me to break the rules, to improvise, to adjust the drawing to the reality of construction. This lesson will come years later. Ritterburg has a gatehouse with a drawbridge, a lower keep with a stable, a transverse ramp, an upper keep, three or four square towers, and a curtain wall. The upper keep has a manor house and a chapel. All the buildings are connected, and they all have stone walls and steep slate roofs that make for a spiky profile. The castle rises from a crag on sloped foundations, a defensive feature called the glacis. The model is about eighteen inches long and twelve inches high. I keep it in my bedroom. Ritterburg plays tricks with scale and detail. It suggests more than it shows, like a stage set. And it teasesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a massive stone structure made of flimsy paper, a large object that weighs a few ounces. There is the added marvel that I made it. The paper castle follows me to college, where it stays in my dormitory room, then to graduate school, where I become an architect. I begin work in New York. I live in small apartments, and the castle takes up space. I expect visitors to notice it and ask about it, but they never do. Each time I move, I dust it, put it in a cardboard box or carry it by hand, and install it atop a bookcase or a refrigerator. Corners get dented. I turn the unfinished part toward the wall. I never take a photograph. Stymied after years in New York, I move to Virginia. At the age of thirty-six, I buy my first house, a tiny cottage with a huge yard in back. Thrilled, I move at the end of May. In the grass, I find a sloughed snakeskin, a good omen. 138
The house comes with a detached one-car garage built of concrete block and a barbecue in the back yard, also built of concrete block. The barbecue resembles an ancient altar, out in the open and askew to the house, or mystically oriented to the sky. On a warm spring day, I place the paper castle on the rusted metal grate of the barbecue. No one is around. I pronounce no curse or blessing. I strike a match and hold it under the gatehouse. Flames engulf the model. In a matter of seconds, it burns to ashes and a few charred curls. The sacrifice is pleasing.
Christopher Hopkins North American Butterfly Beauty is a wave. Like radio out near Jupiter singing to the storm. Maybe I see these things as fire, waiting. Maybe I should call them todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s miracles. The birds have lost their voice and settled in to another yesterday. Under the shade of chaos feeding on a split mango, in the collage of butterfly wings, my first find of the day. My jewelled wave. My second is a ricochet ring, of the echo of running feet, the hard pings off concrete. The sound has no horizon, and nothing without perspective. I never question their haste. I catch only the flow of a new accent in passing, and only a numinous flash in the mirror-ball valley of a tender sun passing fast in a taxicab.
I have to wait until the city is in the plumb, with wine and surrender. Then I find them easy. I find my you.
Catherine Arra Between the Butterflies I’ve come to plant the urns with flowering annuals scrub moss from the family stone as I do every Mother’s Day. How did it happen the first time? Was it in the cradle of your daddy’s lap his long need reaching under the hoop of your baby-girl taffeta? I empty the urn beneath your name, fill it with fresh soil. Then the opposite urn. How could you have known this is not what good fathers do? How could you have said it? I count equal numbers of pink and white begonias for each side. How long before the length of his longing took that piece of you? Hypnotized you into a trance-induced void his face descending between butterflies floating in the mobile above your crib? I plant and weed, talk to you, chilled by the cool wind the shade of pines. 142
How long before the damage was invisible, the collateral a sum I could never pay? The morning his gnarled fingers reached my sprouting breasts I told you. The explosion of your outrage, your demand from one so compliant, so forever amiably absent, told me your secret. I did not plan to unearth his nearly buried footstone but I do, brushing away the dirt leaving you both clean.
Blood is Thicker THE WEEKS BEFORE the procedure were a tightrope strung taut above faith and feara fall either way. For years I’d prepared for the end. Now I wondered how it would be to truly say goodbye or I love you for the last time, and to know it. To know his face, his voice, the way he slouches to the right, holds his hands in the same curved shape as his mother did … would all disappear. The weeks before, I watched his every move determined to remember what the years and my own aging would blur. Loss teaches attention. Christmas morning, I watched him leave, watched as someone or something from long ago came back like an apparition and pulled him away, watched as he followed the winding tributaries inward. I waited … waited … waited … until, fearful of a stroke, I summoned him back … again, louder, Dad! And he reluctantly returned. From where, I do not know. He wouldn’t say. The hollow, watery stare, and involuntary tears told all. The weeks before we were tolerant and gentle, though we’d always been at odds: he durably practical in his old-world sexism, I the visionary idealist and feminist; he the conservative republican, I the progressive democrat. I thought the 2016 presidential election would be the end of us, he all Fox News and Trump, and I, well yes, so outraged I stopped talking to him for months. But what can you do about blood? For decades his blood had been back-flushing into the upper left chamber of his heart, widening the gap in the mitral valve, 144
weakening him, causing chest pain, stealing his life force, diminishing him pound by pound, breath by breath. Too old and medically compromised to sustain heart surgery, he was preparing his end game. The weeks before, he sold his stocks, got out of the market, checked all final arrangements, sat in the chair feeling cold and aggravated. And waited. News. Technology. A possible procedure. A mitral valve clip snaked up through the groin, into the heart to close the gap, redirect the blood. Not a cure, but a fix. Not longevity, but quality. And he being a gambler in spirit, gambled. The weeks before, you make eternal peace. The minutes before, you try to remember everything from the green pinstriped gown with small purple mandalas, the bulbous blue hair net, and his hopeful eyes to his last smile, and very last words. “If anything happens,” he told the nurse who was verifying phone numbers, “call me, too, 725-4695.” The good news is he made it through. We both did.
Douglas Cole Thank the Wind Alive I tell stories to nothing but the walls, and the photographs are floating away. The old ones said that threeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a crowd, and I got used to thinking that way, figured there was a bad vein inside me, silent kid just observing at Thanksgiving, bewildered and climbing onto the bus, heading into serious enemy territory, ghetto with violent eyes in dirt yards. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tough to mythologize basement pipes in gym class or the last five minutes we kept silent to get out and the afternoon gauntlet, home safe at last with the best gods I knew coming through the glow of a television set.
Penrose Staircase How can you be here and somewhere else at the same time how is a particle a wave I work the timber into place wedge it up by shoulder into its spot against the porch this is the way the stairs begin I thought through every move and for two days I measured and cut measured and cut and still it comes out different that I imagined no precise line is exact though I believe in the math of it but the more I go in the human world the farther off the angles seem and though mathematically impossible two parallel lines do in fact meet at the door of the house of my dreams
Maryfrances Wagner Black Bird
“The blackbird whistling or just after.” —Wallace Stevens The black bird whistles from Chau’s roof each morning as my dog and I pass. Whistles and stares. He isn’t a crow, a starling, a grackle, a cowbird. Not a raven, doesn’t caw, but he is involved in what I know. If anyone joins us, he doesn’t call. He adjusts his feet, tilts his head, taps sideways like an old typewriter. His call is half a whistle of a boy for a girl passing by. Every morning, half a whistle, sometimes two or three. One morning, as I rounded the cul de sac without my dog, he completed the other half. Was he waiting for this moment? The next morning, after a thunderstorm, he whistled over and over, his same half
whistle, only faster as he danced back and forth on the ridge of the roof. I looked where he was staring. A nest lay in the grass, the robin eggs broken. The unready birth of wet curls stirred in the wind, and the black bird called over and over all morning long, and then he was gone.
Walking Sticks Linda and I have been making collages all afternoon and eating chocolate. Among the pages we browse for ideas, she finds a page of insects—silkworm, luna moth, patterned beetle. I tell her I saw a walking stick on the patio light last night. She says she’d love to see one. It’s been so long. I say let’s go look, the patio light on, the night black, but she shakes her head. A gin and tonic has rendered her listless as a queen bee. After we tidy up our papers and glue, she leaves. I take the dog out for one last walk. Two walking sticks on the lamp are mating.
Shirley Jones-Luke Otherness after Alex Dimitrov We’re on the moon. Floating. Together then away. Years ago, I saved you from hate. You became my lover. Despite our union, I tried to save more people. But it’s easier to say it than to do it. The moon is stoic. It doesn’t approve of my lover. Without your love, I am just a shadow in a room. The moon senses your deception. Hate is a fox trying to trick a rabbit. Do you love me? I must tell my lover that I’ve failed at loving his paper bag ways. Plain and empty. You wanted a deep passion from me, but I could not give that kind of love. I know my lover is disappointed. The moon won’t abide by my tears. Hate is the vacuum of space. Hate is suffocating. I am breathless. I reach for the lifeline that is you. There is no hand reaching back. My lover confuses me. Finances keep hounding us like bounty hunters. Our money is not infinite like the oceans. But even oceans lose their currency. Money runs dry. Banks fail. Our money is better off under a mattress. Besides, we don’t sleep in the same bed anymore. We haven’t in years. I don’t miss the warmth of your body. It went cold when my heart did. We must refuse evil. We must not abandon our hearts. We must end the hate, the debased, racists, religious terrorists and the elite. 151
They exist because we allowed them to. They exist without love. Their love is warped. But we arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pure either. We are coal disguised as diamonds. I wish this otherness would end. But there seems to be no ending. Our love struggles onward, life support, breathing tube, ineffective medicines. Oceans are dying. The rich continue to get richer. The poor labor with only love to sustain them. What will sustain us? Something beyond this otherness.
David M. Harris Jail Visit Check in by 12:30 for a visit that starts at one. Then we can wait, and if we’re lucky they’ll start calling the roll at a quarter to. Empty our pockets into the lockers, take nothing but the key into the visiting area where we are separated from the prisoners by two thick slabs of Plexiglas. Unless you’re an attorney, not even a piece of paper. Then the wand, to make sure we haven’t forgotten some metal object that might be used as a weapon, or to dig through the window to the prisoner, or through the concrete blocks of the wall in the hour of our visit. We might be able to poke a smuggled unbent paper clip through the grille that speech can penetrate only with effort. Past the steel doors, we examine the low stools, check which grilles are less clogged with paint, and wait for Bill and the other prisoners to file in. One vogues for his family, but most trudge. They will be here for months, guilty or innocent, lacking bail. Lacking anything to do but wait, for us or for the attorneys. These are the men who have not yet been convicted, presumed innocent but still under guard, still incarcerated, still waiting. Waiting for judges, waiting for prosecutors, waiting for meals or lights-out, waiting for the hour, two days a week, when someone might visit. If you remembered to put the names on your list 154
and it is convenient for your friends to come into the city, you may get a visitor. We may bring news, or greetings, or descriptions, or anything that we can shout through the grilles that flank the slabs of Plexiglas. And with luck the roll is called and the visitors wended and released into the visitation room not too long after one. The visits end promptly at two. We are forbidden to talk about the one great fact: the case. And what else is there? Prisoners don’t get newspapers, don’t have hundreds of channels of cable TV, or much choice of what to watch. We can talk about sports, about what we’ve been doing that he can’t— careful to avoid certain topics too sensitive to bear. Too often, we have seen this man in tears. We stand by the stools, wait for him to stop, shuffle our feet and look at each other and sneak guilty glances at our watches.
Jonel Abellanosa Escabeche Another dish I learned from Ama, My eagerness batonnet cut like carrots. She taught me ways to cut ginger, Bell and green peppers into allumettes. Dredging the red snapper in flour, I think of Enjoyment, harking to my grandma. Frying the Fish, I remember her lessons, cooking wisdom Golden as the canola oil. I turn the fish, the oil Hissing with delight. I smell crunchiness, as I place the cooked fish on an oval platter. Like Julienne slices of light, her insights I as a boy Kept in mind. I prepare the sauce the ways I Learned, with my own experiments, this time a Marinade of vinegar and citrus, tomatoes, her Numinous presence evoked by the pungency Of garlic – the smell of her kiss, the smell I’d Perceive when I saw her. Cooking is like a Quest. I appeal for her presence, begging her to Return in the flesh and dine with me again. In Silence I pour the sauce onto the fish, with a Tablespoon arranging colors, slivered toppings. Understanding like water to corn starch, the Visual blending with tastes. But how does Wonder fill the voids of absence? How does Expression find the ear and the open heart? Yearn is impossible to satisfy, if company’s Zestfulness is not possible anymore.
Candace Meredith The Message of My Elders THE PORRIDGE SEEPS from the bowl my grandmother used to say. I wondered if the porridge was like honey, nearing the porcelain dish like a slowly oozing fountain, or watery – an avalanche bursting forward in some momentum explained by physics. When my grandmother died a little blue bird flew through the window and landed on the church pew across from me and ruffed up its wings, howling with a subtle tweet before darting off over the chest of my grandmother and landing once again, this time on the branches beside a rosary. In the weeks that ensued the neighbors, family and friends talked about my grandmother’s infidelity; they talked about how she posed in her bra and panties for an artist who drew her in an image they had not seen – they always said she was lovely but deserved to be shunned by them. It was the artist, according to the legend of my grandmother, who wooed her into a relationship that was not my grandfather. They divorced early in the year 1967 and my mother was pregnant at the age of twenty. My grandmother’s husband, my mom’s step dad, was an artist whose landscapes adorned the walls; he would tell me stories about how God made the weather – his tears rained from Heaven. It was upon his death when the neighbors talked about his exquisite art – how skillful he was in creating the masterpiece that still hangs on the wall in the local church. They said she just didn’t have talents to compare but my grandmother taught me every 157
stitch that strings together my own daughter’s nursery blanket. My grandfather, my mother’s father, used to take me on pony rides and told me once if you wish upon the red bird (the Cardinal) that God would be listening and my wish would come true. The town said my grandfather was too broken to ever be mended but it was he who fixed their carburetor or an axle of some diesel engine. On the day of my grandmother’s death my grandfather etched her image that radiates from her headstone in the light of angels made of glass, and it was my grandfather who said she was an angel that he couldn’t love her enough – that he never showed her compassion, the way he did finally, with me. The town said his grievances were her duty to mend but he always said that love is to be shown through compassion, understanding and even sympathy; it was my grandmother who said he was always a man of his word – he did change, as he said he would, if not for her but for another. She died before my grandmother and her love was thick – and extended to the children that were not her own; the town said how she was too much the rebel, but it was she who taught me the strength to keep going past the blood, the sweat and the tears to become more than a medical student – but a great mother to a little girl who always said her grandmother gives her the best hugs. The town didn’t know but the porridge always seeps from the bowl as my grandmother said, and that little blue bird took with it the messages of my elders.
Marjorie Maddox To Conjugate And this is what itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like when the dead still sleep in your house, fill up their travel coffee mugs, then sail off in their spray-painted clunker cars to haunt your house long distance, absence thicker than the moldy crusts of pizza stashed under their bed, than the condoms still tight in their square packages stuck in boxes of discarded tea; than the three-month layers of calls stacked unanswered on your lowbattery phone. You have been here before, but what has that to do with wisdom or the howl gnawing in your belly where the dead once grew? Alive and not, eventually youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll join the stench of the discarded stapled to the air; become the wail that hovers in every room, stretches toward the locked window, the one that no longer is, unable now to swing wide to broken horizons and the view of what still breathes without even the past tense of you.
Lewis Ellingham The Maw step by step, holding the brass railing, down the steps, I’m cautious, I’m old on my mind somewhere lurking is a fall yesterday, throwing a ball back into a game at my neighborhood park — it had flown over the high wire fence of a court where a skate-hockey game was in progress, I’d thrown the hard little ball back, and not only missed getting it returned but fell on the cement path in the effort, someone got the ball back, not me — step by step Civic Center public transport station has a number of sidewalk underground entrances along Market Street — I’m lugging a bag containing the books I’ve just checked out from the Main Library here at Hyde Street over one shoulder, my other arm free to hold the rail — half way down a landing midway, the steps, the landing filthy, his eyes the young man’s eyes, Munch’s Scream in his eyes, he’s tottering, barely balancing on one foot, his face frozen in the effort to maintain balance, he’s losing the struggle, still upright, there’s confusion there too, astonishment I’ve entirely missed the other man, middle-aged, he screams, tearing at his hair, “I’m going bald,” he yells, “bald! …” — he’s also on the landing by a wall, everything filthy, the tiled wall, the composite floor — I get it, the two have just infused drugs, no, shot up a drug, it must be that, they are frantic, I’m so close now I’ll have to go between them, the frenzied soul by the wall is still shouting, “bald! … bald!” — spit reaches my face 160
the younger man doesn’t fall, he’s paralyzed, frozen in place, his arms akimbo, staring at me, his eyes huge I pass between them, shock and sorrow, a spurt of empathy as I hurry on, this is awful, ‘I’ll take the Market streetcar next time, this awful place, the darker depth at least almost silent, I still hear “bald! …” fading
Landa wo In the First Place Comes the Dream In the first place comes the dream I have seen the princes of the Ngoyo kingdom rise up I have seen a mountain tuck in its shoulders long enough to let the breeze of Mayombe pass The murmur has become a cry I have opened my beak to cry My broken wings prevented me from carrying this country In agony since the seasons without dawn
Fall and Tombs The Cabindan rebel falls in a ravine of leaves. Then. Then rolling against the walls of mist he discovers that which already resembles the tombs, filled with the bent hopes of his murdered people. Fall shivering Cabinda. Fall Cabinda standing up, in the empty tombs of oppressed peoples.
From the Depths of My Prison From the depths of my prison I sail on vast stretches of hope. I am sheltered. Cabinda is seated on a nonchalant lawn. From the depths of my prison I sail on vast stretches of hope. I am sheltered. The present is my prison. Poetry is my refuge.
Pia Taavila-Borsheim Thaw The pine-needled branch shed its ice-sheathed caul in spring. Its tears slipped through snow.
Wisp Come to me like a bell on a breeze, quietly. In an unexpected moment, like the flash of a cardinalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s red wing in a snowy forest. Or like a memory, unbidden, private, yet to which you are wholly present. Come to me as you will in the middle of the night, creeping along the floorboards and walls, silent and stealthy. Like lilacs in full bloom, resplendent with each bud opening to the air, infuse the shorelines of longing. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nothing to discuss, endlessly expectant. That calm, that easy, without preconception. Come to me as you will, your cap in your hand, your bike against my cabin, your breath in my ear. 166
Jeremy Nathan Marks Fish Fry It’s a ZooCorp with animal telemarketers an antelope receptionist lemming board of directors and a northern White Rhino CEO One-of-a-kind last in his bind this doesn’t matter on the boulevards they shoot up his hype Carrying the carcass on a joist the crowd says the shooter is bound for the White House (bipartisan mooting) Guns! Hunters’ Rights! A big fish, yes(!) but there’s bigger fish left to fry
Kevin Tosca Three Tastes of Zucchini Repeat After Me Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy... Wait. Somebody already wrote that. I forget who. No, I remember. Let me start this again. I pledge allegiance to the nothing of nothing, and to the nothing for which it stands, one nothing, under nothing, divisible, with nothing and nothing for all. Fresh
Thus far it is difficult to say if I have contributed anything new to the Wide World of Ideas. Actually, I have no idea if I have contributed or not, never having (until writing this little whatever this is) given this serious matter any serious thought. As a serious writer, however, I must. Think and contribute, that is. So here goes. Though the two films have nothing in common besides Vietnam (the country, not the war), there is an uncanny and troubling resemblance between Jeanne Moreau’s voice-over in The Lover and Martin Sheen’s in Apocalypse Now. Do, dear Reader, with this idea what you will, what you must. And love thy neighbor for fuck’s sake. Jesus may not have been God, but he sure as shit wasn’t stale. I Don’t Want No Satisfaction I just extracted thirteen seeds from this here organic clementine. I usually don’t count them, but that’s more seeds than segments. 168
Without exaggerating, I can go so far as to say I hate seeds in my clementines. I loathe them. I can say that they, with their mess and texture and the vigilant care it takes to keep from swallowing them, ruin the whole clementine experience. And I know I have choices. I know I can buy the seed-free kind from the regular grocery store right next to the organic one. Buy them cheaper. Often much cheaper. But I don’t. I don’t because inconvenience matters and there’s a price we must pay. Because personal satisfaction isn’t only overrated, it’s suicidal.
Carla Schwartz Photographs of My Mother Here you are, in pink, before chemistry, and here in your fleece, resting at home, full-faced, smiling. Here you are in orange, in hospital, your white hair balances the gray light. Your eyes stare off to the distance. You know why I must document, like you did your last visit to your brother. Here you are back at home, home to die. Everything hurtsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; your knees, swollen, the only part of you that seems filled, so we hug your knees. You are always cold, now. Each day of life, more sadness. Your lizard eyes donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t look at the camera, as if to say, I loved you once, now go away.
Phone Call to a Functionary She says I’m sorry, but doesn’t specify. She works for a failed corporation.
My amaryllis is starting to bloom. Its two trumpets blare at the sun. They have my worst interest at heart.
She only reports the job that a computer much smarter A computer is only a servant. than her I didn’t specify, either. has done. I know now, today is not yesterday. She tells me I will review your record, and you must call those, who said to call us, who told you to call them.
She asks Is there anything else?
The fresh air is good for my health. The government agency has a short, and I am frazzled. If only I could teach her to take notes. Her voice is all hyacinth and honeysuckle. The anything is thrown into the ceramic urns 171
hand-made, by my mother. The phone calls crackleâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; loose vestiges of twisted copper.
The practice urns â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Throw, until you get one right. Each vessel, its flaws. We only die once. Line the failures up against a wall
Frederick Wilbur After the Asking Before Before
birds drain the silos of seed, and disappear into the aspire of words themselves, clouds crash into their eventual emotion to argue with earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stone, loam, silted shoals, take them jolly into cerulean, manganese of night.
city avenues cherry their blooms and the in between relents, if only for a moment, and while petals are rain-pasted as haiku posters, take the path that is always underfoot, take the rummages of riddles for the snicker they offer.
Sweeping clean the obsoletes, residues of transgression, expression, confession, take the stethoscope to the heart, the kite to the lungs, take 173
the thwartwise to your straight purpose, sing lullabies to horse-wild questions. Before
you answer, anxious as the unopened sweep your mind cleanempty. the wherefore, and from whence, the is-to-say, the nevertheless, or some other damn thing, take what leaves are in your hand, take only what is necessary to hold, wait.
“Man is the artificer of his own happiness.” Thoreau (Journal, 21 January 1838) Loggers clear-cut the skirt of Pebbles Mountain a decade ago leaving pines where they fell desiring instead the profit of poplar and oak. Now scars are filled with brambles, snares of honeysuckle that thwart my climb toward an understanding of height— peace in this world is beyond the commerce of men. Ascending, I struggle free of worldly regrets and sorrows. To trespass onto the neighbor’s forest domain, I cross the blood-red blaze, subtract out ownership. Switch-backing the ridge, I thread the fabric of hickory and ash arriving at the summit peaked, sweating out dark patterns. I am a pure stand of one, but have hiked beyond my fitness, collapse into leaves emeritus to ease a pounding heart. Skyward, persimmons glow, a vulture glides, clouds float out their own fragility.
Kirsty A. Niven A Stone I found this stone amongst the bark chips of the play park – a solid lump, potato shaped, big enough to smash in a skull. I traced my fingers along its smooth surface, feeling for the slightest flaw. It sparkled in the sunlight, a glittering band of creamy white around its thick waist. A girl told me that it was a diamond, that it was just like her mother’s ring. Even then I knew better. I took it home right away and polished it, hoping to reveal its stony secrets— placing it in my tin box with the others, a child’s collection of jewels. It would never be a diamond.
Dianne Olsen Maiden Mother Crone I am the same child with muddy kneesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; reader of books, motorcycle rider, helmet-less freedom fighter, midnight driver to the sea, finding sanctuary in libraries and scotch, almost cat lady, sort of scientist, semi-academic, sometime writer, not-quite goddess, half-formed crone, still a lover, listener, mother, now maiden in a new world, still sinking my hands in deep soilâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; willing the rhythms of earth and sun to restore me.
Peter Schireson She Followed Me I was halfway home from the market when I noticed her, a complete stranger. She walked behind me at first, then alongside. When I reached home, I left the front door ajar behind me, and she simply walked in. I motioned to a chair, she sat down, and immediately fell asleep. When she woke, she arose as if at the end of a long illness. We ate grilled fish and sat together in silence. She spent the night and the following day, which turned into another, and soon a week had passed. We got along. She stayed. She came and went as she pleased, I never knew where. I often watched from the window as she ambled off, never sure if sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d return. I was certain one day she wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, and one day, she didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Looking back, she both was and was not what I needed at that time. Some days, it felt as though the two of us had been shipwrecked together, a random companionship. Other days, our union felt inevitable. She lived deep in herself, spent hours sitting still, museum-quiet, in a posture somewhere between dignity and disdain, like a cat. I realize now, in retrospect, that she was, in fact, a cat.
Plan B In the future (in which I’m fully formed in which I have a sense of purpose which will also be a sense of hope that the world was made for this but also for something else in which the phone rings an old friend speaks indistinctly voice like a scratchy violin he tells me he loves me— not what I expected it floods through me— a future in which I remember a different childhood one without tumors spy satellites lobotomies in which the bedroom curtains stir but I show no signs of fear in which the table’s laden— black grapes spilling over the bowl’s edge pale-red peaches bathed in blonde light worm-holed leaf pendent spur of quince— future time, slow honey in which we move toward each other weft of bodies as pleasure in which I lift you up nervous giddy over my shoulders ballerina and I stumble however this time) I will not drop you. 179
Margarita Serafimova Novemberâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Foyer It was our unionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s birthday. Deep, inaccessible inside me was the heart of sun we shared. The dark forest was full of a spirit of its own.
Donald Illich Forest Love In all my life I had never reached the forest. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d galloped on a horse toward its trees, drove in a tank through fields to its groves. Walking through weeds and thorns, running on a dirt trail, I attempted to attain my destination. But despite all my forward momentum, the forest shrank back, like an animal that tried to become smaller to avoid predators. There was no coaxing it to behave, like promising never to cut it for firewood, or to send compliments towards its branches' ears. The truth was that I love it with all my heart. On my notebook I doodled our names together and pretended I kissed it when I smooched my paper. Except it didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to be my partner in this world. It wished to keep its owls flying through it, and its deer scampering away from wolves. Its needles dropped on the ground, forming a carpet it feared would catch fire. I offered to save it if that happened, but the forest did not trust me. It would rather burn in darkness,
than fall in love with me. It would turn to ashes before my body hugged its trunks, smelled its pines. It would change into smoke before it held me.
Innocently The boys didn’t want to grow up. They fastened themselves to toys, nailed their feet to Lego castles, roped themselves around bikes with training wheels. We offered sexual maturation to them, the one thing that could make things better, but they cursed its name. That explosion of bodily feeling frightened them. They knew it ended up in marriages and coffins, responsibilities and death. We tried to lure them with things they wouldn't give up— video games and TV, wrestling and music. They scoffed at our attempts. Only in childhood could they lie all day in front of cartoons, or play in the pool for hours on end. They would always be in a state of becoming, with no final result. Soon, we believed we’d have to drag them by their arms to the right destination. They disappeared on us, from heart defects, virulent flu.
Before we had a chance to force them to meet mortality, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d gone there themselves. Their small plots would fill with grievers and flowers. Their names and dates would show they lost themselves innocently, while we have to decide on evil and good, all the gray between.
Barbara Hunt Ephemeral
For James Brunt, British land-art creator Could we not move through life – the world – our days with Bruntian symbiosis plying pattern, texture, shape to all those natural elements in our path – say twigs or rocks or leaves of everyday and in our breathing-spaces create mandala-like, concentric circles or spirals to hold the moment back…out…up, even if only in our minds making art to display as tribute to this home, this earth; to cheer, inspire fellow travailers on their way; to grant peace and then sweet release by allowing the universe or perhaps God to reclaim us all.
Co-operation For Gary Snyder
Pluck ply on ply of hemp to spin tightly snugging twists clockwise against contrary weft to wrap firm strength borrowed from divergent coils bound in a beggarâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bargain to each other. Splitting. Unifying. Sheepshank. Clovehitch. Bowline. Nets having many knots yet striving still in tandem for coverage, supple capture and heft.
John Hicks Tanka Found my irritant Lying behind the dresser Last summerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cricket Unrequited sound shadow How loneliness stays awake
Adios Small, this word of regard, three syllables compressed, one consonant hard for sincerity, the others softly trailing after you. It doesn’t take much breath, but put your emphasis on the “o” and push with your lips. Lift it lightly with your chin. In Hawaiian and in Thai, one word welcomes and sends off: Aloha or Sawadee. A flowing with flowers, or a prayer of palms pressed. But here when you leave, the word doesn’t linger beneath the rough-barked willow overhanging the bench where we sat. It goes with you to the street, hugs your neck: one end looking back, the other against your chest, rising and falling with each breath of your journey.
Love lives in long vowels, but with Adios I send you with God.
CONTRIBUTOR NOTES Ann Howells has edited Illya’s Honey since 1999. Her recent books are: Under a Lone Star (Village Books Press) and Cattlemen and Cadillacs, an anthology of DFW poets she edited (Dallas Poets Community Press). Her chapbook, Softly Beating Wings, won the William D. Barney Chapbook Contest for 2017 (Blackbead Books). She has poems upcoming in Chiron Review, Slant, and Perfume River. Barbara Hunt applies her poet’s heart to many genres (along with a decade overseeing a writers’ conference in Ontario, Canada). She has to her credit literary journals, anthologies and magazines across North America, U.K., and Australia. Current writings (free) are on WATTPAD, and she enjoys kudos for her second release, a poetry/coloring book called Devotions (2017). Beate Sigriddaughter (Sigriddaughter.com), is poet laureate of Silver City, New Mexico. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and poetry awards. In 2018 FutureCycle Press published her poetry collection Xanthippe and Her Friends. Červená Barva Press will publish her chapbook Dancing in Santa Fe and Other Poems in 2019. Beau Boudreaux’s second collection of poetry, Rapunzel’s Braid, was published in 2016 by Five Oaks Press. His first book of poetry, Running Red, Running Redder, was published in 2012 by Cherry Grove Collections. His poetry appears in many journals, including Antioch Review and Cream City Review. He teaches at Tulane University and lives in New Orleans. 190
Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and an editor at Blue Fifth Review, is the author of The Vig of Love, Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and five chapbooks, most recently We All Saw It Coming. He has been nominated eight times for a Pushcart Prize. Against Prompts, his fourth full-length collection, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press in October 2018. Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 225+ publications in 28 countries. See BrandonMarlon.com. Brianna Pike is an Associate Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College. Her poems have appeared in So to Speak, Connotation Press, Glassworks, Gravel and Heron Tree among others. She currently serves as an Editorial Assistant for the Indianapolis Review. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and son. Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a Pushcart nominee with over a thousand poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy (Cawing Crow Press) and Like As I (Pskis Porch), all available via Amazon.
Candace Meredith’s works of poetry, photography and fiction have appeared in such literary journals as Bittersweet, The Backbone Mountain Review, The Broadkill Review, In God’s Hand/ Writers of Grace and Greensilk Journal. She currently works as a Freelance Editor for an online publishing company. Carla Schwartz is a poet, filmmaker, photographer, and blogger. Her poems have appeared in Aurorean, Fourth River, Fulcrum, Bluefifth, Cactus Heart, Leveler, Long Island Review, Mom Egg, Gyroscope, Naugatuck River, Paddock, Solstice, Triggerfish, Varnish, among others. Her second collection of poetry, Intimacy with the Wind, is available from Finishing Line Press orhttp://amazon.com/ Amazon. Her CB99videos YouTube channel has 1,700,000+ views. Learn more at CarlaPoet.com. Carol Ellis was born in Detroit, Michigan and lives in Portland, Oregon. She’s been around the academic block with her Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa. Her poems and essays appear in anthologies and journals including ZYZZYVA, Comstock Review, The Cincinnati Review, Saranac Review, and Cider Press Review. She is author of I Want A Job (Finishing Line Press 2014). In 2015 she spent time in Cuba writing a book and giving readings. Carolyn Adams’ poetry and art are widely published. She has authored four chapbooks: Beautiful Strangers, What Do You See, An Ocean of Names, and The Things You’ve Left Behind. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, as well as Best of the Net, and was a finalist for Houston Poet Laureate. Recently relocated from Houston, TX, she now resides in Beaverton, OR. 192
Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. He’s from Albuquerque and Milwaukee and won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. He’s been active in the small press world for 25 years. He’s recently been translated into Spanish, French, Polish, Swedish, Arabic, Bengali, Mandarin, Yoruba, Tagalog, and Esperanto. Catherine Arra is the author of Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014), Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015), and Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press, 2017). A native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York and a former English and writing teacher, Arra now teaches part-time and facilitates a local writers’ group. Find her at CatherineArra.com. Christopher Hopkins resides in the Canterbury area of Kent with his wife and daughter. His debut chapbook, Take Your Journeys Home (Clare Songbirds, 2017), received a nomination for the IPPY book award for poetry, and two of its poems received nominations for the Pushcart Prize. He has appeared in many publications, including The Morning Star (UK), Riggwelter Press, Backlash Press, The Paragon Journal, The Blue Nib Magazine, and Rust & Moth. Dave Petraglia is a Best Small Fictions 2015 Winner. His writing and art has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Cheap Pop, Crack the Spine, Five:2:One, Hayden’s Ferry, Medium, McSweeney’s, Necessary Fiction, North American Review, Per Contra, Pithead Chapel, Prick of the Spindle, Prairie Schooner, Popular Science, Razed, SmokeLong Quarterly, Up the Staircase, and others. His blog is at DavePetraglia.com. 193
David M. Harris moved to Tennessee, acquired a daughter and a classic MG, and got serious about poetry. His work has appeared in Pirene's Fountain (and in First Water, the Best of Pirene's Fountain anthology), Gargoyle, The Labletter, The Pedestal, and other places. His first collection of poetry, The Review Mirror, was published by Unsolicited Press in 2013. Denise Tolan is a graduate of the Red Earth MFA in Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma City University. She has been published in places such as Hobart, Apple Valley Review, Lunch Ticket, The Tishman Review, and Reed. Her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, was long-listed for Wigleafâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Top 50, and was included in The Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Fiction Contest 2017. Dennis Mahagin is the author of two poetry collections: Grand Mal, from Rebel Satori Press (2012) and Longshot and Ghazal (Mojave River Press, 2014). Dennis is also the bassist and backup singer for a blues band (as well as a rock band) based in Deer Lodge, Montana. Diane D. Gillette lives, writes, and teaches in Chicago. She is a founding editor at Cat on a Leash Review. Her short fiction and prose poetry has appeared in many literary venues, The Saturday Evening Post, Maine Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine and others. Find more of her published work at Digillette.com
Dianna MacKinnon Henning has appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Lullwater Review, The Red Rock Review, The Kentucky Review, California Quarterly, Fugue, Clackamas Literary Review, South Dakota Review, and The Seattle Review. Her chapbook, Cathedral of the Hand, was in published 2016 by Finishing Line Press. Through the William James Association’s Prison Arts Program, she taught poetry at Folsom Prison, as well as other CA prisons. Dianne Olsen is a freelance writer, poet, and garden consultant living in the northwest Berkshires. She wrote the weekly “Valley Gardener” column for the Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal for four years in the mid-2000s. Retired from a career as an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension, she volunteers at a teen center and a food pantry garden. Her freelance work has been published by Taste of Home, Writer’s Resist, Colloquial Poetry and Postcard Poems and Prose Donald Illich has published poetry in journals such as The Iowa Review, Fourteen Hills, and Cold Mountain Review. He won Honorable Mention in the Washington Prize book contest. He recently published a chapbook, The Art of Dissolving. Douglas Cole has published four collections of poetry and a novella. His work has appeared in anthologies and in The Chicago Quarterly Review, The Galway Review, Chiron, The Pinyon Review, Confrontation, Red Rock Review, and Slipstream. Twice nominated twice for a Pushcart and Best of the Net, he has received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry and the Best of Poetry Award from Clapboard House. His website is DouglasTCole.com. 195
Eran Eads is a graduate of the Iowa Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Workshop at the University of Iowa. He teaches writing at the UMUC and is Social Media Editor at Coldfront Magazine. Born and raised in Whitestone, Alaska, he received his BA from University of Alaska, Fairbanks. His poems have appeared in Juked, Berkeley Poetry Review, and SOFTBLOW; his chapbook, Fat, is available from Atomic Theory Micro Press. Check out his Instagram @eraneads. Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two flash fiction chapbooks. Her full-length poetry collection, CafĂŠ Crazy, has recently been published by Kelsay Books. She is reviewer, blogger, and photographer. She is a former English teacher. She lives in NYC. Frederick Wilbur is an architectural woodcarver and has authored three dozen articles and three books on architectural and decorative woodcarving (Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, Lewes, UK). His work has appeared in many literary journals including: Shenandoah, The South Carolina Review, Southern Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Poetry Quarterly, Greensboro Review, Snowy Egret, Verse-Virtual, and Silver Birch Press. His fourth book, a collection of poetry, As Pus Floats the Splinter Out, (2018) is published by Kelsay Books. He lives with his wife and family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia. Heath Brougher is co-poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine, winner of the 2017 Saboteur Award for Best Magazine. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominee, he is the author of 196
the full-length collections About Consciousness (Alien Buddha Press, 2017) and To Burn in Torturous Algorithms (Weasel Press, 2018). He edited the anthology Luminous Echoes which donates proceeds to help prevent suicide/self-harm. Hope Nisly’s works (creative nonfiction, memoir, and personal or historical essays) have appeared in DreamSeeker Magazine, CMW Journal, Pacific Journal, Labor’s Heritage, and others. Her stories have been accepted and aired on Valley Writers Read, a program of a local NPR-affiliate station in Northern California. Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and poet living in Pensacola, FL. He is Editor-in-Chief of Panoplyzine.com, an online journal of poetry and short prose. His chapbook, Body of Water, is forthcoming from Clare’s Songbirds Press. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in San Pedro River Review, The Lake (UK), Red Fez, Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, Texas Poetry Calendar, Avocet, and many other publications. Jeremy Nathan Marks is an American living in London, Ontario. Recent poetry has appeared/is appearing in The Blue Nib, Chiron Review, I-70, Muddy River, Ariel Chart, The Wild Word, The Black Lion, Morel Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, The Blue Hour Anthology, and Word Fountain. Jeremy is a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry and was a featured poet at The Blue Nib. Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship 197
in Literature. She has published 16 books, including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press, which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize, and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press, which received the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Colby is an associate editor of Good Works Review and FutureCycle Press. John Hicks is an emerging poet who has appeared in I-70 Review, First Literary Review East, Panorama, Midnight Circus, The Lincoln Underground, and The Society for the Preservation of Wild Culture. After retirement, he completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Jonel Abellanosa resides in Cebu City, the Philippines. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Anglican Theological Review, Poetry Kanto, and The McNeese Review. His fourth chapbook, Songs from My Mindâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tree, and full-length collection, Multiverse, are forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York. He is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Dwarf Stars Award nominee. Judy Shepps Battle is a retired psychotherapist and sociology professor. A New Jersey resident, her poems have appeared in a variety of publications, including Barnwood Press; Battered Suitcase; Caper Literary Journal; Epiphany Magazine; Joyful; Message in a Bottle Poetry Magazine; Raleigh Review; Rusty Truck; Short, Fast and Deadly; the Tishman Review, and Wilderness House Literary Press. K.W. Peery, an Americana songwriter and Kansas City based storyteller, is the author of five poetry collections. His collection 198
Tales of a Receding Hairline was a semifinalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards Best in Poetry 2016. His poems appear in The Main Street Rag, Big Hammer, San Pedro River Review, Blink Ink, The Rusty Truck, Ramingo's Porch, and Apache Poetry. Credited as a lyricist and producer, Peery’s work has appeared on more than a dozen studio albums over the past decade. Kate Gehan was born and raised in New York City and is a graduate of Haverford College and Emerson College’s MFA program. Among many publications, her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Split Lip Magazine, Literary Mama, People Holding, and as a winner of Midwestern Gothic’s Flash Fiction Summer 2016 series. Kate read as a cast member of the 2014 Listen to Your Mother show and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, and Wigleaf’s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions. She lives with her family in the Midwest. Keith Moul’s poems and photos are published widely. In August, 2017, Aldrich Press released Not on Any Map, a collection of earlier poems. These poems are from a new work about prairie life through U.S. history, including regional trials, character, and attachment to the land. They may parallel in some ways Spoon River. They are collected now in Voices beneath the Winds, seeking a publisher. Kenneth Pobo is the author of the book Loplop in a Red City from Circling Rivers and the chapbook from Grey Borders Press called 199
Dust and Chrysanthemums. Forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Press is a book of his prose poems called The Antlantis Hit Parade. Kevin Ridgeway lives and writes in Long Beach, CA. Recent work has appeared in Chiron Review, Spillway, Nerve Cowboy, San Pedro River Review, Lummox, Misfit Magazine and Cultural Weekly, among others. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He is the author of six chapbooks of poetry. His last is Contents Under Pressure from Crisis Chronicles Press. Kevin Tosca’s stories have appeared in Bateau, The Frogmore Papers, Litro Magazine, Paper Darts, Flash: The International ShortShort Story Magazine, and elsewhere. Poetry in Motion, a fiction chapbook, is forthcoming from Červená Barva Press. The same press will publish Ploieşti, a story collection set in Romania, in 2019. After a decade in Europe, he now lives in Canada. Find him at KevinTosca.com. Kirsty A. Niven is from Dundee, Scotland, where she lives with her husband and two cats. Her poetry has appeared in The Dawntreader, The Machinery, GFT Presents: One in Four, Sarasvati, A Prince Tribute, LOVE: A Collection of Poetry and Prose on Loving and Being in Love, Poetry Super Highway, Artificial Womb, the Ground Fresh Thursday series, Journeys Dundee and numerous other publications. Landa wo is a poet from Angola, Cabinda and France, whose work has appeared in Cultura Jornal Angolano de Artes e Letras, Blackmail Press, Boyne Berries, Cyphers, ROPES Literary Journal, 200
Nashville Review, Raleigh Review, Poetry New Zealand, Star 82 Review, The Cape Rock, and Weyfarers, among others. Leslie E. Hoffman is an independent copy editor of fiction and nonfiction who moonlights as a poet. She has appeared in Mojave River Review, Helen: FNS, Nevada State College’s 300 Days of Sun, The California Writers Club Literary Review, Caesura, The Journal of Poetry Center San Jose, Mused, BellaOnline, They Said, Black Lawrence Press, and various anthologies. Lewis Ellingham was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, eventually migrating to San Francisco. With Kevin Killian, he authored the biography of Jack Spicer, Poet Be Like God (Wesleyan, 1998). Author of The Birds and Other Poems (Ithuriel's Spear, 2009); new writing continues with a series of self-published books. He blogs at “The Ellingham Digest” LewEllingham.wordpress.com. Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017. She has two collections in the Bulgarian. Her work appears in Agenda Poetry, A-Minor, Waxwing, Nixes Mate Review, StepAway, HeadStuff, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Poetic Diversity, Harbinger Asylum, Punch, Tuck, Ginosko, Peacock Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, and many other places. Marjorie Maddox is Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Lock Haven University. She has published 11 collections of poetry, including Wives’ Tales (Seven Kitchens Press), True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series and Illumination Book Award Medalist), Local News from Someplace Else 201
(Wipf & Stock), Weeknights at the Cathedral (WordTech Editions), and over 500 poems, stories, and essays in journals and anthologies. Please see MarjorieMaddox.com. Mary Crawford has stories appearing in Ghost Parachute, Potomac Review, and Salamander. Marvin Schackelford is the author of the collections Endless Building (poems, Urban Farmhouse) and Tall Tales from the Ladies' Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming from Alternating Current). His work has, or soon will have, appeared in Kenyon Review, Hobart, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. He resides in Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture. Maximilian Heineggâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, December Magazine, Free State Review, and Crab Creek Review, among others. He lives and teaches English in the public schools of Medford, MA where he is also the co-founder and brewmaster of Medford Brewing Company. Maryfrances Wagner books include Salvatoreâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas, Pouf, and The Silence of Red Glass. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book, An Anthology 202
of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation). She co-edits I-70 Review. Michael J. Galko is an Associate Professor of Genetics at MD Anderson Cancer Center and has lived in New England, California, and Texas. His poems have appeared in The Red River Review, Poetry WTF!?, One Sentence Poems, Dos Gatos Press, The Ocotillo Review, The West Texas Literary Review, The Red Eft Review, and Right Hand Pointing. Michael Minassian’s poems and short stories have appeared recently in such journals as Comstock Review, Evening Street Review, Evansville Review, Main Street Rag, and Third Wednesday. He is also a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual, an online magazine. His chapbooks include poetry, The Arboriculturist (2010), and photography, Around the Bend (2017). See MichaelMinassian.com. Michelle Hartman’s new book, The Lost Journal of My Second Trip to Purgatory (Old Seventy Creek Press) is a first-of-its-kind poetic look at child abuse and its effect on adulthood. It’s available on Amazon, along with her other books, Disenchanted and Disgruntled, and Irony and Irreverence from Lamar University Press. She is the editor for the online journal Red River Review. Mike James lives and works in Chapel Hill, NC. Recent poems have appeared in Soundings East, Laurel Poetry Review, and Third Wednesday. His eleventh poetry collection, Crows in the Jukebox, was recently published by Bottom Dog Press. He has served as the 203
associate editor for the Kentucky Review and as the associate editor for Autumn House Press. Nick Dante is a recent graduate of Chapman University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. He’s a native of the San Gabriel Valley and when not writing or working at his day job as a project archivist, he spends his time scouting out the most inappropriate places to write. His work has previously been published in the East Jasmine Review and TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics. Peter Schireson’s writing has been published in Post Road, Quiddity, Hotel Amerika, Pleiades, Painted Bride Quarterly, and other journals. He holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. His chapbook, The Welter of Me and You, won the Coal Hill Review 2013 Chapbook Prize. Phillip Brown’s fiction has appeared in Voices West, Farmer’s Market, and Strong Coffee. His story, “Helpless,” won a PEN Syndicated Fiction award (selected by Mona Simpson). His short story “Sun in the East, Sun in the West” won 3rd prize in the Typehouse Literary Magazine open fiction contest, and recently appeared in issue 12. He has poems forthcoming in Subterranean Blue Poetry. Pia Taavila-Borsheim is a tenured, full professor in the English Department at Gallaudet University, Washington, DC. Her first poetry collection, Moon on the Meadow (2008), is a 30-year compilation of her published work. Two Winters was released in 2011, Mother Mail in 2017, and Love Poems is forthcoming in 2018. 204
Robert Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in The Literary Yard, Big Windows, and Locust, among others. Robert Boucheron grew up in Syracuse and Schenectady, New York. From 1978 to 2016, he worked as an architect in New York City and Charlottesville, Virginia. His short stories and essays appear in Fiction International, London Journal of Fiction, New Haven Review, Poydras Review, The Short Story, and other magazines. Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as: Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Mojave River Review, Ramingoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Porch, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review. Sara Comito is a naturalized citizen of the beautiful, odd country that is Florida and a Massachusetts native. Besides poetry, her two big loves are her stonemason husband and teenage son. She has also recently started writing fiction. [Editorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s note: Sara was founding editor of the exhilarating online journal Orion headless, which the editor misses very much.] Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet from Boston. She has an MFA from Emerson College. Her work merges poetry with memoir. Her work has been published in several journals and magazines, such as 205
Anti-Heroin Chic, BlazeVOX, Cadaverous Magazine and Deluge. She was a 2017 Watering Hole Poetry Fellow. Susan Tepper is the author of seven books of fiction and poetry. Her current title, Monte Carlo Days & Nights (Rain Mountain Press) is a novella set in the south of France. She is an award-winning author with hundreds of stories, poems, interviews, and essays published worldwide. Her book What May Have Been received a staged reading at The Ivy in NYC, and Tepper is currently working toward full production. For more please visit SusanTepper.com. Vivian Wagner grew up in California’s Mojave Desert, and she’s now an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her work has appeared in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, McSweeney’s, Creative Nonfiction, The Atlantic, Silk Road Review, and other publications. She’s the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (CitadelKensington), a poetry collection, The Village (Kelsay Books), and a micro-chapbook, Making (Origami Poems Project). Whitnee Pearce currently lives in Rapid City, SD where she teaches on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at Oglala Lakota College. She won the South Dakota Poetry Society’s annual chapbook contest with her chapbook, Cicurate, published in October, 2017. Her second chapbook, Kintsukuori, was published from Finish Line Press, also during October, 2017.
Mojave River Review Volume 4 • Number 1
Spring/Summer issue, June 2018 To catch our next submissions period, “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter. To read previous issues, visit us at MojaveRiverReview.com. To purchase books by our writers, visit the Mojave River Press online store, which includes MRR editor Michael Dwayne Smith’s Roadside Epiphanies: Jeffrey Alfier, Kithara Book Prize winner, writes: “There is much to admire in the depth and breadth of Smith’s lines. His striking and eloquent control of language and image make this collection of poems a delight to behold.” Susan Tepper, author of Monte Carlo Days & Nights,” writes, “This new book of poems is an intense yet down to earth read, infused with mysticism, love, humor and the search for what is crucial to decent existence. A highly recommended book.”