Issue 3: Secret
Moonshot, a magazine of the literary and fine arts, was conceived in 2009 to provide an equal opportunity space for writers and artists based solely on the merits of their work. Moonshot’s mission is to eliminate the social challenges of publishing—encouraging all types of writers and artists to submit their work in the pursuit of exposing their creations to a wider range of audiences. It is our goal to utilize traditional printing techniques as well as new technologies and media arts to feature voices from all over the globe. Moonshot celebrates storytelling of all forms, embraces the dissemination of media, and champions diverse creators to construct an innovative and original literary magazine. Subscriptions and issues of Moonshot can be purchased online at moonshotmagazine.org. Complete submission guidelines are available on our website. For all other inquiries, please write to email@example.com. Copyright © 2011 Moonshot. No portion of Moonshot may be reproduced without permission of the magazine. Authors retain the right to reprint their work on the condition of Moonshot being credited with initial publication. All rights reserved. Elizabeth Mikesch’s “I Go to the Trees” is reprinted by kind permission of The Literarian. Moonshot would like to extend a special thanks to PULP Projects for generously curating the fine arts found in this issue. We also extend a special thanks to Devin Sioma for allowing us to use “Dance Around the Golden Fire” as this issue’s cover art. PULP Projects is a curatorial practice that seeks to promote a hybrid of artistic production and creative dialoguing. The founders are dedicated in their promotion of emergent artists not only as a means of visually representing contemporary cultural production, but also as a means of cultural navigation. PULP Projects is resolute in their belief that it is only through the transcendence of mediums and a sincere dedication to cross-collaboration (what others might deem the seemingly shapeless mass of material, i.e. “the PULP”) that we are able to access the core of artistic production and achieve an increasingly integral sense of collective conscious.
Table of Contents Fiction & Poetry Graham Cotten
And Peace to His People on Earth
Heat Wave, 1956
My Mother, the Somnambulist
Geoff L Johnson
View from the Porch
Dance Around the Golden Fire
Steven Leyden Cochrane Untitled (A place that is not a place)
Jeramy Fletcher Eldorado
Fiction & Poetry, Cont. Elizabeth Mikesch
I Go to the Trees
In Warm Waters
Red Hot Gloss So Tacky on the Teeth
Future kitchen maxim
Ben Fama Lady of the highways, I don’t care about the insanity
For Immediate Release: “House of Goodbye” Opens at Museum of Enteric Representation
T.M. De Vos
Editor’s Letter ⚔ Secret After finishing our Summer release, I started thinking about the direction I wanted to take the magazine for our third issue. I had recently seen an exhibition inspired by Dungeons & Dragons in a gallery on the Lower East Side as well as attended talks at Brooklyn’s Observatory on topics such as the history of Ouija. I was impressed by others adventurously discussing those subjects that were considered “fringe” by the general public. Also aware of Sylvia Plath’s love of tarot cards and James Merrill’s communion with spirits through Ouija (such sessions with the board led to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Divine Comedies), I was curious to how these mysteries still inspired our creative works. I approached a number of different people, saying, “I think our next issue is going to be on the occult and esoterica.”This was the test. Most reactions to this announcement were, “Oh, really?” in a tone bordering puzzlement and concern. In response, I proposed that we widen the theme into more of a mood board, asking for all sorts of secrets: from glimpses back to the strange world of childhood to those everyday stories where the unrevealed is revealed—all the way to the magic and incantations we seem to fear so much. The challenge was accepted. And so, for this issue, “Secret,” we take you through a journey of literary and visual works that explore the uncanny, the hidden, the immeasurable. I hope you put an empty glass to these pages and listen to the words that allure, beguile, and possess. -JD Scott Editor-in-Chief Moonshot
Graham Cotten ☛ Plans Across the soy fields he could see the storm’s gnarled, black finger reaching down from heaven. “Look at that thing,” he said, yelling over the wind. “I think we stayed out too long. Let’s stop in here.” “Yeah,” the girl said. “Maybe we did.” They slid off the four-wheeler and went for cover in an old cow barn. She walked ahead of him. “On second thought,” he said, turning, “I might pull your dad’s fourwheeler behind the barn, chain it down to something back there.” Then it would be out of sight from the road. He didn’t really know why he went to the First Presbyterian Church. It seemed like the thing to do once you got to a city: to meet people, get established. And he was always looking for God. So the Greene’s invitation in the church lobby to their farm had seemed forward, but he was new and still a little light-headed from all the introductions. Mrs. Greene smiled. She was a plump nurse. “I’d like that,” he said. “Today?” “Oh no,” Mr. Greene said. “We’re going down there next Saturday.” “Ah.” “And you’ll get to meet Sarah,” Mrs. Greene said. “The older sister. She’s fourteen.” “She stayed home faking sick,” said the girl standing next to them. “Oh Reece, shush.” The girl shrugged and leaned down, lifting her dress slightly to scratch her knee. “Next Saturday is fine.” “Great. We’re going to smoke some chicken,” Mr. Greene said. “You ever smoked chicken?” He shook his head. “It’s divine.” They gave him their phone number and left out the glass double doors. Mr. Greene opened the passenger door for his wife in the parking lot. The heat off the asphalt made their legs swim in the air. “They’re a nice family,” a voice from behind him said. “Nice children.” He turned. The preacher offered his hand. “Pastor Richards.” “John Ross. Looks like it’s just us two,” he said, glancing around at the empty foyer. “Where two or more are gathered,” the preacher said, smiling. 6
Driving to work the next morning, he put the radio on scan. But he was too distracted to stop its slow rise and sudden drop through the FM. By what, he wasn’t sure; his mind drifted like an orange bobber in a brook, waiting for something to grab hold. At his bank he almost gave a mother with a child swung on her hip an extra hundred. “Five hundred?” she said. He looked at the splayed bills. “I’m sorry. Four hundred,” he said, pulling one back through the slot in the glass. “I’m lucky you’re an honest woman.” She pulled a lollipop from the basket on the counter and nodded toward her child. “I’ll take this for her. You like grape, honey?” She looked up. “She loves these grape ones.” By Friday it was all he could do to keep track of the time, accidentally packing up for lunch at ten fifteen, spending ten minutes in the bathroom letting the water get hot and steam the bottom of the mirror. He was a meticulous man. He felt altered, like he was occasionally striking an empty space in a keyboard that had lost a letter, the ghost of the key still on the tip of his finger. At 5:02 he was in his car, already beginning to feel the dampness of sweat on his lower back, and by seven that night he’d eaten and bathed and sat by the phone for three minutes. He thought of the phrasings he’d use. He called. They told him where to go, to turn right after the bridge with the road sign that says Hatchet Creek, to follow a dirt path for just a ways. The house was on the left, half stone and half wood. They’d be waiting. He noticed that Sarah looked not so much young as new. And he noticed her legs, smooth, even legs that glowed with summer’s first sunkiss and stretched like twin strands of warm molasses. She wore a black tennis skirt high off the knee. “I was sick last Sunday,” she said. “She was burning up,” Mrs. Greene said. “Let me show you around the property just a bit,” Mr. Greene said. They walked to the edge of the yard and onto a trail, where Mr. Greene pointed at things, explaining them. “Used to be an old grist mill,” he said. It was a stone structure mostly ripped apart; the fist of time had punched straight through its walls and raked its guts down into the ravine. “I think it’s War era.” “Quite a piece,” John said. “You ever poke around inside it?” “Oh, no.” He showed John a pit he thought might have been a stone mine at one point, and where they’d cleared the trees two years ago and sold the 7
lumber to a paper company. They walked into a deer field, green with new pine needles, and to a salt lick and a well whose water tasted of the faint iron sting of blood. Back at the house Mr. Greene tended to the chicken in the smoker. They stood on the porch. John watched him, nodding and saying, yes, yes, when Mr. Greene paused in his explanation of the technique. “Don’t bore him to death,” Sarah said, standing in the doorway. “Not many people smoke chicken,” Mr. Greene said. “I’m not bored,” he said. “What do you do?” she asked. “John’s a banker,” Mr. Greene said. John raised his finger. “I count other people’s money.” “How much money do you need to start?” she said. “I have seventyeight dollars.” “Are you wanting to put your money in his bank?” Mr. Greene asked. “I don’t know.” “That might be a responsible thing,” Mr. Greene said. “To learn how to use a bank. ” “You could start with your seventy-eight dollars,” John said. “And we have free checking.” “We’ll talk about all that later,” Mr. Greene said. “It’s Saturday. And it’s time to eat.” He pulled the two chickens from the smoker and cut into their white breasts with a long knife. It smelled sweet in the air. “Mom,” Sarah said in the door. “Ready.” They ate and talked, licking their fingers. “It’s good,” he said. After lunch they all went to the pond to fish with crickets. Reece caught them in the tall grass lining the water and held them pinched between her fingers as she baited the hooks. “You’re a little Tom Sawyer,” he said, watching her cup the crickets under her palm and pick them up. “I have two girls that know their way around a fishing pole,” Mr. Greene said. “They do ballet,” Mrs. Greene said. “So they’ll stay girls.” “I’m going to quit next year,” Sarah said. They reeled in little finger bass and flat, sunny brim. He didn’t like to touch the fish. He imagined their slimed bodies had a nuclear quality, covered in toxic oozing waste. Reece took them off the hook for him. “You catch more when it’s overcast like this,” Reece said. She threaded another cricket on his hook. “If it rains, even better.” “Are you looking for a church home?” Mr. Greene said. 8 ⚔ Graham Cotten - Plans
“I liked Pastor…” he waited for the name. “Richards,” Mrs. Greene said. “Isn’t he wonderful?” “Richards. I used to go to a Methodist church in Montgomery.” “I think you’ll grow to love First Pres,” Mr. Greene said. “And they have a good young singles group.” He nodded, raising his arm and casting. “I know,” Mrs. Greene said. “Why don’t you girls take him out on the four-wheeler?” “Perfect,” he said. He handed his pole to Mrs. Greene. The girls lay their poles on the bank and started up the sloped yard, first walking and then running. “I keep the four-wheeler in a metal shed over there.” Mr. Greene held up a brass key from a ring and shook it, chiming the other keys together. He smiled, handing it over to John. He thought of some verse from grade school, about the keys and the binding and loosing of heaven. But he didn’t remember those things any more or think they were real. At first it was the three of them on the seat. Reece sat driver in the front, wearing a pink Bell helmet speckled with flowers and ponies. Sarah sat in the middle and held her sister’s waist. John had to scoot up close to Sarah to stay on the vinyl padding in the rear. “You can hold on to the rails,” she told him. He gripped the iron grid behind him and they jolted into gear, sending the girls back into his chest like dominos. He held on tighter. He felt the inseams of his jeans warm from the heat of the engine underneath. Sarah’s loose hair floated against his neck in wind whips. They took a road through the core of the property, a main artery with capillaries of footpaths and deer trails and thin rabbit runs breaking off into the woods. There must be a million ways to go, he thought. Every time Reece kicked the gear peg to shift, Sarah bumped back into him. She said sorry the first couple of times. Then she just let it happen. Reece didn’t drive fast enough for Sarah. She kept mashing her sister’s thumb against the accelerator and shouting “Come on.” John laughed into her neck, holding tighter to the railing. After a while of their back and forth, Reece turned around. “I’m going back. You can drive however fast you want.” “Fine,” Sarah said. The clouds were turning darker from their milkish grey. Birds were nested. When they got back to the house Reece jumped off and left the motor going. “I hope it rains on you, then you can’t go fast.” 9
Sarah pulled on the handlebars and slid up. “Can I drive?” John asked. “Sure.” They changed spots. He thumbed the gas and then felt her hands grasp his shoulders. Small hands, he thought. “Go fast,” she said, and squeezed her legs. He did. They zipped down the path they’d taken before, leaning on the turns, letting the engine whine and fit. They passed red clay gullies and trees bent over. She directed him, straining up and against him to speak into his ear. Her breath was hot child’s breath, sweet with the chicken. He tried to imagine how close they were, her legs cupping his, her crotch at the small of his back when she leaned up. He felt patters of rain on his arms at some point but didn’t mention it and she never said anything either. He asked himself what he was doing but no answer came and he didn’t want an answer. Someone else asked. Some part of him that knew the answer and wanted to see if he would say it. He saw an old hunting camp made from sheets of aluminum rested against each other, drooping in the middle. “What’s that?” he asked. “Stop.” He pulled in the small clearing and turned the engine off. “I’ll show you,” she said. They walked through weeds laced with thorned webbing and chiggers. She lifted her feet high at each step like a show horse. Beer cans lay strewn on the ground, sunwashed and rusted. They must be the people’s who owned it before, he thought. Or poachers. “Me and my sister went back in here one night and checked it out. Spooky. They used to use it to hunt.” “You two should camp here one time.” She laughed. “It’s too scary!” To get through the door they had to climb over fallen slabs of plywood spray painted green and black. “Watch out for nails,” she said. He saw an iron kettle and a busted light fixture overhead. A pine bartop ran across the length. The smell of stale sawdust lifted as their steps disturbed the ground. “I wonder what went on in here,” he said. He fingered the bar. The aluminum above them began to mumble. He looked out the door and saw the dirt of the road jumping with rain. “Can we ride in this?” he asked. “I have before.” 10 ⚔ Graham Cotten - Plans
“Does it hurt?” “When you go real fast. Cause the rain hits your face and it feels like little rocks.” “Pebbles.” “I guess.” “Let’s go,” he said. It was lighter outside the shed but not much so, clouds heavy with water, rolling over each other like drunk wrestlers. The air flashed. “Was that lightning?” she said. “Just heat lightning.” “It looked real.” “Heat lightning is real.” It only got worse as they backtracked, the wind shushing their ears and driving pellets of rain in their faces and arms. He noticed the tornado first. Its tipping vortex disappeared in the treetops, causing some casual and unseen destruction. When he was a child, a tornado had ripped through their county and torn the tops off of all the trailers, leaving clothes and furniture and even people scattered around like the devil’s confetti. Is it God or the devil that causes the weather, he asked, or does God hold the sun and the devil the water and wind? His mother wouldn’t answer him. They lay together in the bathtub chalked with calcium and covered by a twin mattress. She said be still, be still, over and over. After it passed they walked around like sleepy tourists in an imaginary world, letting their hands wander the surfaces of cars or sinks or split trees. Their shirts were wet against each other as she held onto him, stretching and thinning the fabric until he felt like he could trace in his mind the contours of her chest on his back, the ductile bow of her ribs. They approached a soy field and the rain let up. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. He could feel that she was. They drove in silence past the khaki rows. At the barn, he didn’t bother chaining down the four-wheeler behind the building. It was dark inside but the pipes spanning above the stalls shone like crushed lead on dark paper. This is a blueprint I made, he thought. I have made it before. Or God or the devil made it or God made it in the devil who passed it to me. It has been made over and over again and I have drawn it and cannot stop drawing it. They were scared but for different reasons, and neither reason mattered much. What was happening was happening and it, for one, was real. As real as fear ever was.
☛ And Peace to His People on Earth
Before the Cherokee traced a feather along the tip of my nose, he twirled it between his finger and thumb and spun my future. I was told I would feel the knife or avoid it, leave quietly—exit now. He insists I know the way my grandmother unfolded a handkerchief, limp pile of yellow wavy hair from 1952. Her small pursed lips told me how babcia dreamt it: David falling head first down the stairs, awoke to a malignant growth on his brain, death of the first-born son, age three, birth of my mother. I know rituals, rhyming, the silence when striking a broken piano key, the butter lamb with the peppercorn eyes, and how to honor the Divine Mother. I know how to beg for guidance, and fall from grace over and over. Outside I kneel into dampened silver blankets that stretch with nightfall. Praying is like holding a gun, one hand gripping the fist of the other, thumbs stacked. Join me in prayer, white moonflowers: pray that when you bloom moths, birds, bees, and bats will find you in the dark. It is wrong, I know. A shame—Mama at church, selfless tears for each of her children, hands clasped, fingers interwoven— never to know good from bad.
☛ Heat Wave, 1956
Even though I knew girls weren’t supposed to, I’d put on my brother’s cutoff jean shorts, then get to work, mix up cornbread, fix purple hull peas, tomatoes. Alone in the house, I’d put the forks and spoons in the icebox the school let Daddy have when they got a new one. Cold spoon back in the crook of my knee, delicious cold fat fork handle rolled up and down my arm, I listened to Elvis, my shoes clamped shut with hog wire, my shirt tied in a knot above my belly button, my hips swaying, covered in pink oval spoon back marks. I would have never stopped. But once, Daddy came in with an empty water jug, stray cotton in his wild, blonde hair, and he grabbed my hot arm, hollering what if it had been another man who caught you that way, ain’t you got no shame? pulled me into the yard, chickens scattering, cut a hickory switch, and striped my legs good, until it drew the blood, drew out every riff I’d danced to. The denim shorts soaked up the mess and that summer, my brother wore them every day to the swimming hole where boys went after picking cotton, after supper, where they shoveled peas into their hot mouths, and didn’t know they were tasting my eyelids on the underside of their spoons.
☛ Word Study
We hear the school bus honking its horn. Oops, you forgot to hurry up! “What on earth is wrong with you?” Obviously something must be. “Why aren’t you ready for school?” You do not know the answer to this question. The kids from your stop are already on the bus when you get out there, and they jeer and laugh with lots of noise as you climb on. Like always. You laugh like you don’t care. You see Nathan, but you don’t sit together on the bus. He sits with the boys in the back, where they alternate between urgent whisperings and explosions of sarcastic glee. You sit nearby alone, the only girl on the block. You look out at fields, fences, trees, creeks, houses, the clattery wooden bridge on Walnut Hill Lane you’re afraid will break down and crash into the creek below. You hope it’ll happen, because you haven’t done your word study homework. You imagine how you all might save each other escaping from the wreck, getting to know each other and becoming friends. You look at the other kids at each stop, each one climbing on to the cheers, jeers, jokes or silent looks from the boys in the back. It’s the same every day. Your Walnut Hill Grade School has just been taken into the Dallas city limits. It’s small, and your class includes all kinds—from a couple of rich kids whose big houses are hidden behind trees and gates, to a family of dirty-faced, tow-headed boys who, it’s said, sleep three in a bed and get beat up every Saturday night. Their pale thin-lipped faces look out the windows or at the floor. A boy named Timmy with glasses and flat hair gets on every day to complete silence. Everyone looks at him. Someone whispers, His dad was killed in The War. He glares redly back. You live with The War still, not really knowing anything about it. The boys draw fighter planes and tanks with their crayons and call each other “Nazis” and “Jews” and “Japs.” Then the teacher gets unusually mad. Your teacher’s young and pretty and has red hair. She writes numbers on the blackboard, while you look around for somebody to ask what to do. Not the teacher—too busy. Not Nathan—too far across the room, and you don’t talk much at school. Not any of the boys. They’ll laugh. Not Gloria—the only one you talk to, and only because she talks to you. She sits across from you at your work table, has naturally curly hair and patent leather shoes, and isn’t really your friend, because when you draw pictures in your workbook she says in a certain kind of voice that 14
you’re not supposed to do that. But you have to do it. The pictures need you to draw them. All of a sudden the teacher’s handing out sheets of paper with numbers on them and saying you’re supposed to do them, and you have ten minutes. You stare at a long page of arithmetic problems. You missed something. “You better hurry up,” Gloria whispers. You don’t know what they want. You don’t know what to do. You weren’t listening. You’re afraid to ask. You sit with pencil over paper, not moving, head pounding, clock ticking. Why do you have to do this? You want to sneak out, run home, hide in the woods, but you’re trapped. “What is wrong with you?” says Gloria, “You better hurry up!” She’s finished hers. How does Gloria always know what to do? The teacher says “Time’s up!” and starts gathering papers. Gloria hisses, “You better hurry up.” Then the teacher’s standing there, looking at your blank paper with drawings in the margins. She looks worried. Gloria looks like she feels sorry for you and is glad. “Is something wrong?” says the teacher, leaning down to see your face, which you’re trying to hide. She puts her hand on your forehead. “Do you have a headache?” You nod. Yes, that’s it—a headache. She tells you to put your head down on the table. You put your head down again and wish you could escape like those kids in books. You try to remember the words for word study, but the pictures you need to draw to keep from crying are flying around on the ceiling. You hate school! Gloria keeps looking. You can feel her seeing whatever it is that’s so shameful about you. It seems there is something wrong with you. You missed something. You keep waiting for something. There seems to be a part of you that refuses to allow the whole of you to move forward one single inch if certain other parts are not saying okay! Okay, we got it that time! Okay, it’s time now to move onward with all of us, every bit of us, all accounted for, ready and here in step at last, and all together now! Other people do not appear to be having this problem. Grownups of course, but even other kids seem to know what to do and just join in. You keep waiting to be told. You keep thinking someone will explain things to you, but it doesn’t happen that way. That somebody who will be your friend never comes. So what can you do but pretend, and hope no one will notice? This is the day of the Christmas Assembly. When the part with the shepherds comes and you see Nathan walking out far away up on stage, 15
white-faced, red-eared, with a shepherd’s crook in his hand, your heart pounds so hard for him you can barely breathe. But when his voice sounds out loud and clear, saying, ”We were just tending our sheep and we saw this star!” you’re amazed at how it cuts through the place. Nathan’s is the only voice in the play that sounds real. After that, on the playground at recess, you’re just let loose, the teachers leave you alone, and everybody runs wild, chasing, capturing, fighting, and the boys always pulling the sash off your dress. It’s a big, bare field of a playground sloping down from the small stucco building. There’s a bank of swings on one side, a bank of black walnut trees on another, and a chain-link fence all around. There are old seesaws, heavy and splintery. There’s a dingy sandbox, a jungle-gym. All is gray steel and weathered wood on cracked black dirt with patches of Johnson grass, clover, chickweed, stickers that cling to your socks, dandelions, and here and there an ant hill you can scuff into and watch the ants panic. Once in a while some kid rides a horse to school. The girls play hopscotch on cement sidewalks next to the building, using found white rocks that last longer than the store-bought chalk you steal from classroom blackboards. Sometimes you play hopscotch, but mostly you watch the boys. You see Nathan out there with other boys, playing ball, and he holds his own. The boys seem to have a lot more fun. A girl named Georgeanna plays with the boys, and you watch her, wishing you could be as fearless, but you don’t know how to join in. She leads a pretend-adventure game, and you follow along, asking, “Can I play? Can I play?” until she turns around and looks at you, blank, distant. One of her eyes is green and the other blue. “What’s wrong with you?” she says. You go over to the sandbox where two boys are digging holes and piling up sand. When you sit down, one of the boys looks at you and says, “Are you rich?” in this sneery voice. “No, uh, I don’t know….” You don’t know what to say. “Then how come your mom drives a Cadillac?” he says, looking like he knows something bad about you. You go play on the swings. You can swing by yourself. You can swing so high and so hard you feel the swing’s chains pop at the top and the back legs come out of the ground. Out in the center there’s a heavy steel Maypole-shaped merry-goround that spins and wobbles, swings not just around and around, but also loosely in and out toward the center post, the seat often banging into the center post while careening around, constantly in motion, a whirlpool 16 ⚔ Diane DeSanders - Word Study
of excitement, kids dangling off. Mostly the bigger kids play on it. A couple of the older boys will position themselves around inside the rim, taking the job of keeping the wooden seat away from the center post. There are Maypole-type steel supports holding this circular seat to the top of the pole that you can hold onto, but you have to be ready at all times either to jump away if your section swings into the center post, or to quickly take over the keep-away position. There’s a wide rut in the black dirt all the way around, so it’s hard to roll away if you jump or fall off, and you get kicked by all the feet going around. For most of the boys and a few of the girls, riding this thing is a test. It’s always in motion, and every rider affects its shifting orbit. You have to run and jump and hope that someone you’ve already signaled will help you scramble onto the splintery seat. You have to spy a space, a moment, an ally, and you have to be fast, or another kid will grab it. There are accidents and fights. Some kid is hurt on this thing almost every day. If his tears fly fast from a stony face and he brushes it off, then everything’s okay. If that kid cries or whines in a babyish way, or blames somebody, or goes in to tell the teacher, he is branded weak and unworthy from that time on. The same with everything on the playground—if you want to be out there with any respect, you follow the code. Unless it’s a matter of life or death. If there’s blood, or a broken bone, evidence of something serious and real that has to be dealt with by the world of grownups, then the kid gets some respect, and everyone’s his friend and writes on his cast. Today there was a compound fracture, complete with blood, screaming, and white bone sticking out. The littlest of the tow-headed kids. You were standing right there, watching Nathan grab onto a steel support in motion and then stand up on the seat, giving it a push, and you were trying to get up the nerve to do the same, but the monster was too full, swinging too fast in its unpredictable orbit, bristling with arms and legs. You saw the kid about to get caught between the swinging seat and the steel post. You saw the kid stick out one skinny leg to try to stop it. You saw the world crack open, POP!—the red blood and the white bone, like a snapped pencil, so fast—and the screaming, the screaming! Not like your normal screaming. You wanted to go back and see and hear it all again and again, because you couldn’t believe what you thought you’d heard, thought you’d seen. All the kids jumped off, stopping the thing’s motion, older girls playing jump-rope came to look, ran to get teachers, many grownups running out, and you were able to stand with Nathan in a group of the 17
big boys. You saw the whole thing, and with the boys you talked about it, relived it, reviewed it, acted it out, and with the boys you laughed about it. One of the teachers named it. And then everyone, kids and grownups, went around speaking the wordsâ€”compound fracture, compound fracture, compound fracture. The teachers told us in class how compound fracture means that the bone is not only just cracked in two, but also bent and then split and sticking out through the skin for everyone to see. Scars that will be there for life. Everyone in school had to say compound fracture as many times as they could. You said it to yourself over and over. You sang it into a little song on the way home. You thought about the boys and you laughed all over again. You ran into the house to tell those words to your mother, compound fracture.
18 âš” Diane DeSanders - Word Study
Josh Gardner ☛ My Mother, the Somnambulist The cops have been called to my family’s house only twice. I say only because we’re screamers, not talk-it-outers and it’s amazing those thin walls never just went kaput, blown out like some cartoon when we got into the groove of one of our screaming matches: me against Tina, Tina against Donald. Donald screaming at mom, more like at a child than his own wife, and mom just sitting there with her voodoo eyes. And because sometimes I could hear the screaming from way down the block on my way home, and the neighbors would look up at me from watering their lawns or walking their dogs and then just as quickly look back down. What’s funny is, both times they’d called the cops were after silences—once right before Tina finally ran off for good and once when Donald heard me whispering on the phone to another boy and broke my nose. Both times, there was our usual noise followed by nothing. Hollering followed by smashing followed by nothing. The first time, Tina’s time, came after she told Donald to fuck himself. She was sixteen and brazen, and backed up by her boyfriend’s invitation to come live with his family. She was late coming home and when Donald asked her where the fuck she’d been, she turned to him and said, “Jamie’s” and kept on walking. “Dumb little bitch,” he called her for the millionth time. And for the first time, wild-eyed and manic, Tina stopped. She stopped and she said “Go fuck yourself, you piece of shit,” emphasizing every single syllable like it was the most important of them all. Donald ran up the stairs and grabbed her by the hair, all the while screaming more obscene things than even I was used to hearing. And Tina screamed and kicked. And I yelled, begging for him to stop. And after he smashed Tina’s head into the drywall, he did stop. Everything stopped, just for a moment, and we all floated there in adrenaline confusion, wobbly. “Get your fucking kid,” Don yelled at Mom, who stood silently at the end of the hall, and went back downstairs to his throne on the couch. Mom edged closer to Tina, almost like she was afraid of her. Tina brushed herself off and stood up with chalky wall dust in her wild brown hair. She looked at Mom, her face a bloated red contrast to Mom’s deflated one. She looked deep into Mom’s drowsy eyes, past them and into her skull. “I’m leaving, Mom. I’m done.” “I think I’ve got some boxes if you need them.” Halfway through packing up the few armloads of junk a teenage girl keeps, the doorbell rang and it was the cops. They saw Tina packing and 19
Donald just sitting there not giving a shit and after a lot of “What’s the story here” and “Everything okay, ma’ams” they just took off. None of us gave them much of anything to pursue. Tina was just packing silently with her cat in one of her arms and when they’d asked me what was going on I just told them I’d been sleeping. And Mom. She may as well have been sleeping because when she told those officers everything was fine anyone would have thought she hadn’t experienced a bit of it, she was that believable. She helped Tina pack like it was for summer sleepaway camp. For a while after that, it was like the whole house had taken a big breath in and held it there, all of us suspended and waiting for it to exhale. It was weeks before we saw Tina again, and by then she’d dropped out of school and was working at the snack bar at a county pool. We took her to the mall, I guess because Mom felt bad and wanted her to have some nice new things. She wouldn’t invite us into Jamie’s parents’ place when we dropped her off because she said they were too different and we wouldn’t understand and Mom just nodded and brushed back her hair like she always did. “I think she’s embarrassed,” Mom said during our drive home. It wasn’t the nicest house, but it didn’t look that bad to me. “Yeah,” I said. Without Tina around, things were a little quieter since she wasn’t there for Donald to yell at and since he and Mom had practically stopped speaking. I figured his attention was going to turn to me eventually, though. The second time the cops came, I was about the same age as Tina was when they’d last paid a visit. In the time between, Donald and I had our spats, usually when he was drunk or had lost money at the dog track. Or both. I tried to keep to myself as much as possible. When I was out at friends’ I would call ahead before coming home just to see if he’d answer. If he did, I would hang up. If Mom answered, I’d ask, “Is he home?” because that’s all we ever called Donald, was he. I just wanted to know where I stood, walking in the door, because being ready for one of his moods took preparation. I walked more rigidly and manly and if I was stoned I’d put in Visine even though it was a buzz kill. But when Donald wanted to hit something, he always found it. And by it I mean me and Mom. Usually me. One of those nights, I was on the phone with a boy. My first “experiment” I guess. We’d met at school and even though we didn’t get along that well, sometimes you just have to get first things over with. I was quiet as I could be on the phone as we decided when to meet that weekend, both of us giddy and sickened at the prospect. Then I 20 ⚔ Josh Gardner - My Mother, the Somnambulist
heard Donald come in from the garage screaming “fucking faggot” and slamming doors and feet and wall, but I wasn’t all that scared. He tended to call me that no matter what his mood, and yell it at other people, like on the TV and in the newspaper. And at nothing in particular when he was angry. But then my door flew open and, veins bulging and red in the face and red underneath his premature gray hair, Donald jumped at me and started punching me in the head as I hurried to hang up the phone. Face down in my bed, most of the blows weren’t so bad. I just tried to keep my face covered. I let out muffled pleas and ughs and he screamed “what faggot, what was that, what do you want to tell me?” and hit me some more. Then he got tired of it and, lifting my face up to the wall, he smashed my nose. I heard a crack and blood started gushing. That was the difference that time. He’d never broken anything before and the silence that followed the thud—with me slouched against the wall, dizzied, and him standing there as all his rage drained away and puddled at his feet—must have been the suspicious part that alerted the neighbors. I hadn’t fought back that time, or ever. Mom always told me it was better to let it pass, just like she said it was better just to deal with his occasional violent moments than to be homeless or too broke to eat. “Next time you wanna talk to your little boyfriend, you might wanna use a fucking pay phone. Because it sure as fuck won’t be in my house.” He spit on the ground like a teenage hoodlum. Like the boy redneck he never quite grew out of being and walked out of my room, brushing past Mom, who by that point was at my door in her bathrobe. “Couple of worthless freaks, you got,” Donald said from the living room. He said it like wisdom, like it was learned fact. “I think he overheard you on the garage phone,” Mom whispered. I had a t-shirt up to my nose, sopping the blood. “I think so too,” I said, not looking at her. Then the cops showed up, two of them. One questioned Donald and he did his good ole boy routine, told the cop his wife’s faggot kid came at him and he defended himself. The other one asked me my story and I said we just got into an argument and it became violent. “Who started it,” the cop asked me. “I think, I dunno, it just started. I can’t remember,” I said, my back was rod-straight but my eyes stayed on the ground. “Look at me,” the cop said, and when I wouldn’t, he grabbed my chin and pushed it up to shine a light on my bloodied nose. Then he shined it in my teary, red eyes. “How old are you?” he asked. “Sixteen,” I said. 21
His nostrils flared a little and he let my chin drop. Turning for a moment, then turning back, he asked me if I wanted to press charges. I said no. “Get it together, kid.” After the cops left, Donald sped off in his truck and Mom and I were left alone. I sat on the edge of my bed trying not to pass out from the sickening pain in my face. Mom stood at my door, looking at me, her eyes puffy with tears that refused to come. “I think we need to get you to the emergency room,” she said, holding out her arm for me to take. I didn’t respond or take her arm. I just put on my shoes and followed her out to the car. The wait wasn’t too long at the hospital, which was a nice surprise. I even laughed a little, thinking they had no choice but to see me quick because the other people in the room were so grossed out by the bloody shirt I had on my face. The doctor set my nose with a nauseating, meaty crack that made my whole head reverberate for days. He put on a bunch of tape and a metal splint and gave me a prescription for painkillers. On the drive home, I could feel blood flood into my face and down into my stomach. I had trouble getting the pill bottle open, so Mom opened it for me. “I look like Hannibal Lecter,” I said as I choked down two tablets. “That’s funny because you sound like The Nanny,” Mom said. We both chuckled. Mom gestured to the bottle of pills still in my hand. “May I?” Slowly, I handed her the bottle. She took out two—eyes still glued to the road—and downed them without even a sip of her diet Coke, handing the bottle right back. For the rest of the ride home, I stared out the window trying not to think about anything that happened that night. When we got home, he was still gone but Mom and I went straight to bed anyway. I laid there for a little bit, unable to breathe through my nose and choking on bloody snot now and then. But then the ache in my face began to fade and I stopped feeling quite as all-around bad about it all. Sleep came, deep and empty. The next morning was a Friday and I woke up groggy, the pain right back where it had been. Maybe I rolled over onto the splint while I slept. I took two more pills. I walked into the kitchen and found Mom there, frying bacon and wearing a t-shirt and jeans instead of her work clothes. “I think the two of us should take the day off and go see your sister,” she said. 22 ⚔ Josh Gardner - My Mother, the Somnambulist
I looked at her face, lined from an anguished night but bright behind it all. Hopeful, the morning after the storm. I just nodded and accepted a plate of stringy bacon I could barely taste. We picked up Tina and took her out to Tex-Mex. We all three ordered fattening salads with cheese and ranch dressing. Tina chatted about her new job answering the phone at a hair salon while Mom and I nodded. No matter how glad we were to see her, every time we saw her it was like a reminder of how fucked up things were at our house. All through lunch she didn’t mention the glaring evidence in the middle of my face. We sat there for almost two hours after they took our dirty plates away, just talking about nothing and chain smoking. Mom had been buying me cigarettes for a year or so. She said it was better than me stealing them from her purse or from the Gas’n’Go. I felt so giddy there in the sunny booth; my stomach fluttered from painkillers and that skipping school feeling. I could have sat there all day long. But Mom wanted to go, eventually. She said she wanted to get dinner started before Donald got home and excused herself to go to the bathroom. While she was gone, Tina’s eyes burned a hole through me. “You know nothing’s ever going to change, right?” she said. “What things?” I asked, fiddling with my drink straw. “You’re just like her, you know. And look at you! I think you should come stay with Jamie and me. Like, tonight. Just come. For as long as you want.” I stared at her and felt the pain and congealing of blood behind my nose and eyes. She looked back, expectantly. But I said nothing and then Mom was there by the table, clearly impatient for us to get a move on but not saying anything. But she just stood there and looked at us, waiting. Tina and Jamie had moved into an apartment on a side of town we never had reason to visit and when we dropped Tina off Mom gave her an envelope with money in it and told her to be careful, that the neighborhood wasn’t safe. She took the money and stood there, looking at me and kept raising her eyebrows like she was waiting for me to say something we’d planned beforehand. Mom just looked at the two of us like we were weirdos. “Dusty wants to tell you something,” Tina said on my behalf, just as Mom pulled away. Mom hit the brake and looked at me. I said nothing, just hated Tina for that moment. Even if she was right, she had no right to be. “He wants to come stay with Jamie and me,” she said. Mom demanded, in her telepathic way, to know if it was true. She 23
flipped back her hair and licked her lips and held the whole moment in her heavy eyelids. “Tell her Dusty.” “Tell her what?” “Tell, her, Dusty.” “I think I just want to go home,” I said, slumped in the front seat. “Bye baby, love you,” Mom said to Tina like the scene had been as normal as any. Like it hadn’t contained anything at all to take note of. But we drove home without speaking, anyway. The sun shone directly into the corrugated blue roof of our carport, so our house and yard seemed greenish as we pulled up, like a dream that is only in one or two colors. Maybe it was that, and I know the Vicodin didn’t help. But for whatever reason, I stopped at the front stoop, bent over, and puked on a half-dead azalea bush. I heaved and belched and felt turned inside out. But when I was done, I felt more clearheaded than I had in a long time. It was like I was vomiting up more than just snot and mayonnaise, but something more foul and from deeper down. I stood back up and Donald had come out front. He looked at me like it was his boots I had puked on. “Clean that up,” he said. I looked up at him. Neither of us moved. “Did you hear me?” Mom went to get the garden hose but Donald grabbed it first and pushed her away. “No. I want him to clean it. It is his fucking mess.” I didn’t move. He yelled at me to take the fucking hose, but I wouldn’t. I just stood there and felt calm and empty. He shoved the hose at me again. I remained still. “No,” I said. “Clean it…the fuck…up,” he said through gritted teeth. Donald had a handful of my hair and shook my head with every word. But I just stood there, denying him the pleasure of seeing me forced to clean my own puke. “No,” I said. And then Donald had me by the neck, first with one hand and then with both, screaming and cussing at me and Mom, who kept yelping for him to let go of me. I couldn’t help but wonder how this all looked to the neighbors. And for some reason, it wasn’t until that odd moment that I even wondered which neighbor it was that called the cops on us those two times. Could have been any of them, since we didn’t really know enough about a single one of them to rule anyone out. I wondered if they 24 ⚔ Josh Gardner - My Mother, the Somnambulist
would do it again. And when I heard a car idling up to the house, I thought they had. And doubly so when Donald let go. But I opened up my eyes and saw Tina standing in the yard with an empty gym bag and that same look on her face she’d had when she left at sixteen. “The fuck do you want?” Donald asked her. “I came because I thought Dusty might want a new place to stay. Looks like I might have been right.” She had driven Jamie’s old boat of a Lincoln and had it parked half in the yard. The calmness I felt before gave way to more nausea and all I wanted was for it to come back. “Get in the car, Dusty, I’ll go get your stuff.” “A slut and a fucking faggot, I don’t even know why I waste my fucking time.” “C’mon Dusty, you don’t need this. Just come and stay with Jamie and me and you won’t have to deal with it anymore.” Mom looked at me the way she had after Donald broke my nose. The same way she’d looked at Tina when she’d left for good. And I looked right back at her the same way, unable to move.
â˜› The Water
My hands darken when I put them in, and again. Darker, they make my all-day-shirtless grandfather look like a white goose by water. And I, with my more powerful hands, pluck him, his under-flesh blacker than my hands.
â˜› Self Portrait
This one Iâ€™m skipping, shoving plans in a drawer somewhere. An unfinished poem is a half-built house, windows of air through the scaffolding. I will live in this poem when I am older. I will not come back until then.
Dana Gentile - Tornado 445, collage, 8.75” x 11”
Billy Norrby - Broken Glass, oil on canvas, 20” x 30”
Laurie Lipton - Face Lift, pencil on paper, 21” x 16”
Laurie Lipton - Love Bite, charcoal on paper, 54.5” x 38”
Geoff L Johnson - View from the Porch, silver gelatin print, 14” x 20”
Devin Sioma - Dance Around the Golden Fire, oil on canvas, 72” x 84”
Steven Leyden Cochrane - Untitled (A place that is not a place) Lead white oil ground and fluorescent oil paint on various objects, stretch velvet
Jeramy Fletcher - Eldorado, mixed media on canvas, 60” x 42”
Jeramy Fletcher - Howl, mixed media on canvas, 46” x 34”
☛ I Go to the Trees
My skin has nicks. There are languages, pages and numbers, stars and charts, all forbidden by Gram—oh dominion, mystique! The books are bibles, thick and noxious, hearty and weighty. Jehovah is unhappy with me. Gram blabs of dark magic, says I do not believe. Snakes! she says. Dangerous. I am too young to get it—the priestesses and the religious agree. I wish I were psychic, but still am no mystic. All old ladies are witches. They say bedeviled! Possessed! I hide catalogues under serpentine springs, coiling jagged and snagging my scripture. The pages worn, torn out, charged. I am made by quincunxes, septiles and planets. My knowingness singes the edges of pages up skyward. They curl beneath the covers. The texts are quilted: hideous, beaten. A good harvest. That is darkness, worship. Almanac, I say to Gram. I skip back to bed and uncover my creed, mesmerized by recitation-rites. I take blades to my sides to draw arrows, twins—Oh, the sting! Would that I could sustain. Saturnine children dare not be adorned in dark hues lest the devil will pick them for plagues, say they. I am sick with the dictums that sing to me, the pages infectious. I sit through what they call the meeting. I am hauled to the Kingdom Hall fuzzy and sleepy and sore from my Saturday scarring. I have listened too long to their tellings. What sustenance is heretics? Disfellowship for transfusions, for cheating, for gambling or drinking. 38
I cannot say birthday without hisses—the elders, the littles. I get asked what for and what is this? My birthday, I ask Gram again and again to tell palmists my sign and my rising. Winter, she says. I need the certificate. Lost it, she lies. I am tired of the shouting, the shunning. We march down the lanes, knock on doors. We leave papers in hands of neighbors who hate us. Pamphlets. I sit outside classrooms when kids give allegiance. Not one intuits my lesions. I roll down my socks to see Neptune—ruler of undoing, colored sea blue in crayon. I drew a man in wax with fins to hook on my headboard. I will call him a fish to my Gram. Should she find him, I will not be nice. It is not nice, says Gram, to be starry. Press. The heat of the glyph flushes red. When I wash, I lock and unlock the brass knob. I do not let Gram in to talk. She knocks. Water runs. I make a splash. You will prune. Soon, I will get out. Hear this: I witnessed nothing. Read me now—soothsayers, prophets, tarotesses! Oh, clairvoyants, if you only could give me my fortune. I would puncture my numbers and adorn them. Moons and mercuries staining up my side, poison midheavens for liveries. Insignia of luscious Venus and martian birthmarks could deliver me. You have heard our knocks. Were I you, I would keep the door shut. There is a box of spilt papers, yellowdogs, and there papers sit—signed by my mother. Should I have the natal hours, I should know which sign, but 39
should Gram find me finding—I will not be nice. Oh, Jehovah. I am a witch in my wishes, I am saying. There have long been locks betwixt the mattress. In the dark, she pulls her out her partial plate and brushes it clean and it clinks in the bowl. I have seen her mole on her nipple, have seen how her nose points arrowed out. I have seen how she lies, how she dyes her hair yellow. She cuts it up and cuts it off. She dabs her mole. There is a glass on the sink where she soaks her fiddled-out gabber. I have put my fingers in it. In her mouth, on her tongue, there are bumps that make maps. That tongue is a sesquisquare—a biquintile. It makes a locomotive. In her holes, there are some gums. Way behind, there is silver and it chimes and it clanks our forks banging around in the back. There are metals. She is loud. There are sharp smells. I have teeth to lose. I have took her teeth, worn them in. I have lost some teeth, put them beneath, betwixt my mattress. I have waited and nothing comes. No coins and no bills. No fairies. Pagan, says Gram. No Santa—he is of Satan. I did not get pillow presents. I hid what fell. On my skin, I nicked Wicca spells. Gram puts her partial plate in in the morning. In night, she takes pisses. I hear her up reading, hiding. I am slicing a node on my torso. Beneath go my bibles, my ologies, myths. She sees my lights on. I nick. I have laundered our linens. There are odors in her unders. A knock is on the door. I make it dark. You get to bed, she says. I lie, I am.
40 ⚔ Elizabeth Mikesch - I Go to the Trees
The moonâ€™s yellow blinds me through the blinds. Gypsies, they do not go knocking on doors. They do not go knocking on wood. They do not go rapping on glass, or tut-tutting. Mystics, they have birthdays, they have big rings, their wrists bemetaled. Mystics wear tangled hair in braids. Gram says, Rat nest locks. With the kitchen scissors, she cuts my hair clean off. Now I look crooked. Gram, she cut her hair to her ears when she chose the Truth. I want long hair, braids that coil and spring, long pigtails hennaed, unbrushed. I dig my locks out of the garbage, saved for Sabbats. I go to the woods sometimes. I go to the trees sometimes and lean. I read my Liber Linteus that tells me when trees sponged up my full mooniness and made me go deeply, wild and unwell. I lean on the tree and touch my fingers together. I take my fingernails to my belly and open up a nick and push down harder on the parts that are hairier. I do as I should not. Sometimes, I scare myself by those trees. Oh, Jehovah. Oh, the doorbells are what I would rather ring. Do you like for no names to knock at your place? This is why we are ding-dongs. They hate us. This is why. Cults, they say of the coven. I do not, in school, like how I must sit out. I do not like pageants where they all sing songs. Oh, to be alone on cold linoleum! Oh, to peer down the lane and through the gates and see cakes! Service disservices. The thrust of oak doors closing is always old, unwelcoming us. The lion face knockers are what I would not knock. I do not wish to knuckle the oak. I do not like to look in the eyes of what we call the goats in the congregation, Goats, they do not know Jehovah. Could we not leave them alone?
Listenâ€”I am no pioneer. I have scrolls that show hemimoons crescent, waning and waxen. I have charts of the stars, the lists of the switches. I have not knocked since Sunday. I would not knock again. I will sing still, though, my un-ode. Are you familiar with? I say to the families, the unholies. I will render for them Armageddon. Listen. My heaven is in bed with my sect. I will say no to the waters, to the tests. I will stay unbathed, take no baths. The baptism will not happen. I would sink. Did they float in Massachusetts? Did they die, then? Oh, I would stay dirty, oily to reek of a conjuror, and aura. I will say no to the elders. I will lie in bed on Sundays. I will stay in bed on Sabbats, my bibles surrounding. Oh, to sleep in! I would hide away from the doors with their deadlocks, curse the New World Translation. Oh, to knock nevermore! I have Ouija and tarocs, the Crowley. I turn a Celtic cross. Jehovah is unhappy, says Grammie. I flip the Devil, the Sun, reversed swords, a reversed wand. Spread spreads on my bedspread, spells, rapture. The smell is burntherbs. I chant verbatim verse. Do you know what they did in Romania? Bohemia? You have shut us out. You have told us no. We go back to our vehicles. Saturdays full of no-one theres and nothomes. She boils the water, Gram does. I have seen her pluck. The potions she has in bottles, her powders make her look less witchish. Concealer on her 42 âš” Elizabeth Mikesch - I Go to the Trees
moles pat and click compacts blare silver mirror and she can see where she should use some rouge where there is pallor. Her perfume blooms reeky. She is saggy. She is leaky leaving stains at the crook of her and on the ottoman, on the couch. I have done the dirty linens. I have laundered. I have seen her bleed like me. I found it between and looked for a rag, for a stopper, a tourniquette, something. I did not go see a doctor. No doctors, no blood. I went to the trees. I scare myself there in those woods. The spring stings me dizzier, ill with the whiles, the charms, incantations, the bewitchment, the chants, the charts, the jinxing, the hexing, the vex conjuration, the go, the tour, enravishments rumble, the lure, the lore, the rapturous canon, the sacrosanct ascendants, the aspects, the cardinal Ariens, Cancerians, the Librans. Listen. I am saying of zodiacal conjunctions, the Vedic, the Venusian, the modes and the moons, numerologic, ephemeris, descendants, decans, orbs, horary, nakshatras, grand crosses, squares, and M. coeli. I am moved by mutables. I am not without ruinous runes, fixeds, triplicities and trines, rods and wands, transits and querents, discs and pips. I would not stop at progressions, part of fortunes, divinations, cartomancy and diviners, retrogrades, the page, the signifiers. What is the wish but to have?
It was just a trim. That’s how she convinced herself, just a trim. In the morning light, harsh and inflexible like bone, the truth was not what she’d counted on. As she gripped the desk in front of her, her eyes traveled into the sap-soaked backyard. She saw where the beheadings had taken place, where the deflowering, where the butchering had happened. Leaves left over like limbs coated her patio, the tiles triumphant over the dirt and roots. Victory glinted, unshadowed, on the bricks. Her stomach clenched. It was just a trim. Her feet took her down the stairs into a living room filled with light, like static. She hoped the curtains had managed to stave off the army. They had put up a valiant defense, all dark cotton resistance, and yet they’d failed. Her skin felt hot. Her eyes flickered towards the bare windows, once covered in soothing balms of green and browns, thorny vines that did not keep the princess in, but kept everything else out, including the sun. The limbs would grow back, she knew, but it wouldn’t be today. In her glass bowl, she suffocated. She sat down, knees in a knot, and tried to read. Her eyes swallowed words that scraped against the inside of her mouth, down her throat. A wave of sun crackled against the windows. She flinched as its foam brushed her legs. And up she went, up on her feet, into the kitchen. Pulling, yanking, pots clattering down onto the wood with metallic squeals. She wasn’t really thinking anymore, as she mixed the flour, just a bit removed from the snow she wanted between her fingers, no coldness relieving the steady rise of temperature. She cracked eggs, shucked shells, enjoying the disintegration of the yellow: not the sun itself, but close. Ingredients called to herm, and she added them like words, hoping they described her thoughts, hoping they communicated just a bit more. When the calling stopped she turned to the oven. Silence filled the kitchen; nothing ticked, no birds picketed outside. The heat bubbled again, acidic, filling her veins. She turned the oven on, stuck the pan in, avoiding the breath of more heat. The hour passed, as most do, with peaks of horror and dull beeps and twists of machinery. The smell from the kitchen was sweet, mixing with the yellow around her, making her feel entombed in pale dough. With a padded hand, she flung the oven door open and brought the cake out. Its surface was yellow, its smell was yellow. She ran a knife around the edges and rattled the pan loose. She stared at the domed monstrosity. Crossing the room, past the windows, past the fridge, past the couch 44
and the TV, she opened the back door. Out. Facing the shining armor of sun that looked down on her, she placed the cake on the cackling tile floors. With a last look around, she crossed her threshold and closed the door. She sat down on the floor. An hour, then two passed, and still she watched, oblivious now to the light, brushing it off her sleeves and pants with careless swipes of her hand. The first one came down, a rickety grackle, one leg held close to its body, yet its hop filled with self-assurance. She held her breath as his beak gleamed closer. His eyes fixed on hers, oily pools. He squawked with a voice of silver and pecked a piece off the cake. He swallowed it in silence, took another chunk. More came. Crows with night in their voices, mockingbirds making trouble, blue jays with invisible crowns on their heads. Each one with a story, each one with a beak-full of demands. She watched as they ate and fought, the sun slowly disappearing, swallowed in a tousle of feathers.
â˜› In Warm Waters
You lean like an egret and lick peanut butter from the knife. The knife, I swear, leans too.
â˜› Red Hot Gloss So Tacky on the Teeth
Deviate from the script. The most salacious words stale in the scrying smoke when the moon is bigger than your thumb. Corrupt yourself with streaked mirror truth. Look back over your shoulder and become the kind of margarita I like. I rage at the didactic but here I am inflicting my brand all over your thinnest skin. In a more gentle and lovely way I would like to turn the shadows inside out and give more glow to the gloaming. There is a rabbit no a baby bunny named Orchard and it is April all around him and the lemons look like slow down lights. I could translate this into a calling card, a casual invitation to my parlor warming. We read things in the tea and play them on the piano. You donâ€™t have to bring a gift.
☛ Future kitchen maxim
A human bonbon from a stove is hot in the hands. Don’t put it down. You can’t put it down. Don’t ever put it down. A grain burns. A grain burns on the range. Not a grain, but actually a strange unraveling seed. Open the bucket and stir around the compost. Eggshells can’t be trampled if I don’t save them first but I haven’t saved them first this time.
Lady of the highways, I don’t care about the insanity
Lady of the highways, I don’t care about the insanity. The roads are getting snowed on—and everything else. When there is too much ice the structure moos like a trapped cow. Beyond selling lemon bars no plan exists. I mean look at yourself. Now look at me. If we get there and the graveyard has snow we’re going to drive past it twice. Rabbit moon. Bee moon. Dark dinner. Marka is the graveyard frozen? These are the white country houses of childhood. The golden hillside, and the creek. Marka is your head to the window? Are your eyes closed? This: the widows walk where feelings may snow down from. There was actually another person at the Opera, I would never know their personal vision of the world.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “HOUSE OF GOODBYE” OPENS AT MUSEUM OF ENTERIC REPRESENTATION The Museum of Enteric Representation today announced the opening of “House of Goodbye,” an installation by the theoretical artist and architect Nicholas Σ. The exhibition runs through 5 p.m. tomorrow, at which time Σ and a team of his students will destroy it in the presence of museum visitors. The piece occupies the entire first floor and half of the second. The second-floor portion is closed to the public. The artist, however, has created “Goodbye Means Goodbye,” a set of 501 23” x 29” multiples featuring black-and-white photographs of that section of the work. They are available on the second-floor landing at no charge. Elaborating on the impetus for “House of Goodbye,” Σ writes in an artist’s statement, “Here is the room of the bed of final things. Where a lifetime’s cookie jar of dreams and wishes is the last word of the last sentence of a paragraph. Science has advanced from background music to a concert program for a rapt audience. Religion is the coda, the diminishing strain as the bow decelerates across the violin strings. Silence, as John Cage knew, is itself a form of composition, notably when a lifetime’s cookie jar of dreams and wishes is the last word of the last sentence of a paragraph that strives to describe the room of the bed of final things.” The Museum of Enteric Representation is planning a retrospective of Σ’s aerosol sculptures. ##
50 ⚔ Joel Allegretti - “For Immediate Release: House of Goodbye” Opens at Museum of Enteric Representation
The only reason I’m on set is because it’s a cattle call. They must have seven hundred extras at this thing. At least. They’ve transformed the inside of Staples Center into an airport. And they did a good job too. Must have cost a ton. I’ve only done one other show before this— Samantha Who? And this show blows Samantha Who?’s cheap sets out of the water. Which means it must be doing outstanding in the ratings. I’ve never seen the show, don’t know a thing about it, am just glad I’m getting paid for a day. And all I do is stand here. Make sure nothing happens. When you have seven hundred people all in one room, it can get hot, people can get hungry, and they don’t do background checks for extras. As a matter of fact, there’s a prison I know in northern Arizona that they actually pass out information on Central Casting to prisoners when they’re released because Hollywood is always looking for prison types (which is true) and they don’t care if you have multiple felonies (which is true, as long as you don’t have any sex crimes). And Arizona is happy because it gets ex-cons out of their state. I don’t have a gun. I took a weekend course and got my California Guard Card. The final test was a joke. You turn in your answers and if you flunked, they have you take it again, with all of the ones you got wrong marked. It’s multiple choice with only three possibilities, so if you already got one wrong all that’s left is two more choices. If you still flunk, they only let you take it one more time. But you would have to be something beyond a moron to flunk the third time. So everyone passes. I found out quickly no one would hire me because I have a Masters and nobody wants somebody educated. Not in this economy. In security, they’re looking for potential lifers and having an education, especially in something as specific as Contemplative Psychology, makes it so that you have a big question mark hovering over your head. When the economy collapsed, I realized just how worthless my degree was, so I got the stupid idea of moving to L.A. My parents live in Baraga County in Michigan, which has the worst unemployment rate of any county in the entire nation. That’s where my parents chose to live, because my Dad miraculously found a job there, as a Shovel/Drill Maintenance Supervisor in the mines. And they told me that if I stuck around they might be able to get me a job in the mines too, in a year or so. I’d have to live with my parents for a year to possibly get a job. No guarantee. I packed up and headed as far away from Michigan as I could, which was southern California. Except I found I couldn’t get any kitchen jobs in L.A. No tutoring 51
jobs. No bartending jobs. The actors took them all. And there’s definitely no mining in Los Angeles. Nothing. Until this. They put me on post looking over the entire waiting area. The shoot started at 4 a.m., at least that’s when a majority of the extras had to check in for costumes. It’s an Eastern European airport scene—guys with MEMBERS ONLY jackets, slicked-back hair, travelers of every nationality. They’ve got Japanese here, Chinese, African, Middle Eastern, everything. There’s a whole lot of energy in the room. I like it. They serve pancakes and eggs for breakfast while everybody gets outfitted. The person in charge of the costumes—a woman probably in her fifties who looks angry at her job—has to eyeball every one of the seven hundred background actors. She grabs people’s collars, readjusts them. She examines someone’s pants, tells her assistant to have them change, lower the length. She has someone else put on different shoes. These are people who are going to be blurry in the background and she wants everything perfect. She looks at me. I tell her I’m not an actor. She says, “I know that,” pats me on the shoulder. I think she likes me because I’m not an extra. There’s a hatred of the extras. You get the impression these are poor people. The majority of them, you have that vibe. You can see poverty in their faces, especially their teeth. You can tell they don’t want to be actors. Although there are a few exceptions to the rules—the ones who look like models, who separate themselves from the rest, purely through orthodontics; they have their own lawn chairs they’ve brought to ensure they have somewhere to sit; they read plays by Ionesco and Rapp while waiting; they let you know that they’re card-carrying SAG members even though you don’t ask and don’t even know what SAG means. But most of them, that’s not the case. They’re non-union. They’re L.A.’s poor. They’re doing this because they didn’t have any other alternative, were dying for a job, any job. A man in African garb recites homophobic hip-hop lyrics to himself, rhyming maggot and faggot. I get the impression that this is something he wrote. Any time someone tries to sit by him he says, “Don’t sit here,” his dashiki draped over two chairs. And chairs are hard to come by. Any place to sit is hard to come by, except the floor. A lot of people camp up against the wall. And as the day wears on, I realize why I’m here. There is a feeling like a fight is going to break out. Not might break out, is going to break out. Luckily, an A.D. comes in, yells she wants a hundred volunteers for a scene. Surprisingly, a majority of the people keep where they’re at. I have a feeling hundreds of these people won’t be filmed for even one scene today, that they’ll sit there, late into the night, only to be released and then go home having done nothing except earn $75, have a 52 ⚔ Ron Riekki - Heroes
couple of good meals. The A.D. picks her faves from those lined up in front of her. People get excited when they’re chosen, not realizing they’ll spend hours walking up and down a stairway or hurrying to catch a flight on a nightmare sort of endless repeat, in high heels, sweating. And all of this effort for a second of screen time. They don’t care. They’ll still call home, tell their families, even brag. They want to see what filming is like. They want to be near the actors. The A.D. pulls me over. “You’re coming with us.” “I’m not an actor,” I say. She frowns. She knows this. The assistant to the Assistant Director tells me to hurry up. I do. We walk down the hall—the fake airport signs, the fake ticket counter, the fake security area. She introduces me to Wig. That’s his name. Wig. He’s probably 40. Thick, out of shape. An uneven mustache. He looks like he’s married, like he’s tired of being married. A hint of a Chicago accent. He’s the type of guy who plays softball, except a little meaner looking than that. “Guard card?” he says. “Yeah.” “How long you been doing this?” “Two weeks.” “Easy money, hey?” “Yeah,” I say, “You like it?” He shrugs. “What’s the scene?” I ask. “Don’t know. Don’t care.” The director comes over, has us move so we’re out of shot. I see Wig’s got a gun. He walks with his hip sticking out, as if he’s leading his walk with it, like that’s where all of his energy comes from. We lean against a wall. We’re not far from where they’ll be filming. It’s quiet, the director setting up the shot. An older stand-in with posture like he’s a professional yoga instructor holds his spot before the camera. They’re framing him. In the background, they start positioning the extras. They give them empty suitcases, briefcases, canes, various other props. The A.D. asks if anyone has a cell phone. Almost everyone raises their hand. “I need about six volunteers.” She points to who she wants. “During the scene, I want you talking on your phone. Only the people I just pointed to. And you’re not really talking. You’re pretending to. No whispering. Not a word. Just so it looks like you’re talking.” She has the people she pointed to practice. They walk around pretending to talk into cell phones. One of them doesn’t look authentic doing it. She tells him to put his phone away, to just walk, that they have enough cell phone people. The guy looks wounded, like he just got cut from a Broadway 53
show. The A.D. ignores him, moves on, setting up the choreography of where each person is supposed to go. Almost like a ventriloquist, Wig says, “As long as they’re talking, we can talk. But if they go quiet, if they’re setting up, don’t say a word. ‘Specially if she’s around.” He motions to the A.D. “OK,” I say, trying to not move. “Clockwork Orange is here,” he says. “Who?” “The guy from Clockwork Orange. The crazy guy. He’s a good actor. I met him. Nice guy. But don’t talk to him if he comes around. Don’t talk to any of the actors. Unless they talk to you.” “Not the extras either?” “Fuck the extras. Literally. ‘Specially that one.” He nodded towards a stewardess. He looked at me like he was trying to decide if I was heterosexual. “You ex-military?” he asks, as if my answer would swing him in one direction or the other. The room gets quiet. A cop walks out. Except he looks like a model. The A.D. rushes over to him. Wig whispers, “That’s that guy who’s married to that one hot chick. I can’t remember her name.” “Angelina Jolie?” “No, not her. One of those though. You know what I mean, where she’s always on the news and adopts black kids.” “Angelina Jolie.” “No, I’ll know the name when you say it.” I didn’t have any other names to offer. “Like that guy’d ever be a cop. Look at him.” I don’t know what to say. “You shoulda heard the crap lines they had him saying earlier. All this tough guy shit. I bet that guy’s never served in anything.” “I’m ex-Navy,” I offer up, “And ex-Air Force.” “Both?” “Yeah.” “What made you stupid enough to do that?” “I heard Air Force was better when I was in the Navy.” “I did the same thing,” Wig says, “Except I was Marines, then Army.” “Which you like better?” “I like being a civilian.” “Me too.” The A.D. announces she wants all the extras in their spots, that she doesn’t want anyone looking at the camera and that everyone needs to walk quietly, even if running. She tells everyone to get in their spots. One 54 ⚔ Ron Riekki - Heroes
of the extras asks if he can use the bathroom. She says no. “The other lead actor’s in his trailer, so I don’t know what she’s getting all worked up about,” Wig says, his best ventriloquist act. He’s good at it. The director and actor talk while setting up the shot, intense, a lot of hand gestures. Nearly all of the extras watch the two of them, transfixed. “You in the war?” Wig asks. “Yeah.” “Afghanistan?” “No.” He looks disappointed, so I add, “I did combat telecommunications. We had six guys die from my base though, but I wasn’t front lines or nothing like that. Just B-52s.” “I was Afghanistan,” Wig says, “Army and as civilian.” The actor playing what I figure is the bad guy in the scene comes out. He looks like a model too, but a model who’s done drugs since he was a kid. The A.D. announces that there will be gunshots in the scene, asks if anyone has any problems with that, if anyone wants earplugs. She says to do everything exactly as she told them, to head to the exact spot where she said to go, that as soon as they hear gunshots, they are to get down to the ground as fast as they can. “React just like you would in real life.” The director goes over, whispers something to her. She yells to the group, “OK, we’re going to practice this. I’m going to say ‘bang-bang’ and that’s going to simulate gunshots. In the scene, you’ll hear actual gunshots, or what’s going to sound like actual gunshots, but for now I’ll say ‘action,’ you go to your spot, I say ‘bang-bang,’ and then get down as realistically as possible.” Everyone understands. She yells action. “You ever shoot anyone?” Wig asks. I shake my head no. “Bang-bang!” All of the extras drop to the ground. “OK, good. We do it just like that, we should be good.” She looks to the director. He seems pleased. “Back to one!” she yells. They get up, dust themselves off. The fake stewardess is not happy that she’s had to get down on the ground where everybody has been walking, but all of the other extras are excited, whispering comments to each other. They feel like they’re stuntmen now, doing this simple action. They’re glad they volunteered. “No talking!” the A.D. yells and most of them stop, although not all of them. There is too much excitement now. Flirtations are happening, comradeship. 55
“I shot two people,” Wig says, “And I ended up doing PTSD counseling for three years because of it. I got out and—” He motions drinking from a bottle. “Drinkin’,” I say, trying to sound cool, nonchalant. “Almost to death. Almost.” Wig nods to the scene. “And they’re acting like this is all a game.” “Yeah, I was suicidal when I got out of the military too,” I say, regretting as soon as the words come out of my mouth, a slight pull in the stomach. “I wasn’t suicidal,” Wig says, annoyed, “I’d never be suicidal. I have a wife.” I don’t. The director sees us talking, says something to the assistant to the A.D. who approaches us. “We need you to move further back, in the corner. We have to make sure you’re out of the shot.” We move to the corner, where we can barely still see the scene. “The director doesn’t want either of you talking.” She says it serious, where we can tell we could lose our jobs if we say a word, so we don’t. We wait for her to leave. She does. If I step deep into the corner, no one can see me. So I do, lean into it, relax. “It’s going to be hours,” Wig says, “They fucked this shot up yesterday and have to do it completely over.” “Great,” I say, “What’s going on?” “They’re setting up.” He leans around the corner, watching, his ass bent over. It’s sickly, his body. The type of body you wonder if it could even have sex, if it’s completely lost the ability. “Let’s switch,” he says, “You on lookout.” We do. The scene is exactly the same, everyone frozen, slight signs that people are even alive—the scratch of a nose, the blinking eyes. “Hey,” Wig whispers. I look back at him. He’s got a devil look, something exciting in his heart, finally, someone who usually is so dead looking that it annoys you. “You’re not like a narc, are you? Like a rat?” I shake my head no, wondering what the hell this means. “Some security people, they start believing the job too much. They forget we ain’t cops. We’re just low paid fucks.” “Yeah,” is all I can think to say. “You wanna do some gun?” Wig asks. “What does that mean?” Wig takes out his gun, does some fancy move with it pointing at the ceiling. “The safety’s off now,” he says, “We can get fired just for that.” His face is partially covered by a large fern jammed into the corner. 56 ⚔ Ron Riekki - Heroes
It’s just him and the fern, the cyanotic blue walls. All I can do is watch. “When I’m bored with life,” he says. He looks me over, deciding if he should finish his sentence, decides that he will, “I like to stick my gun in my mouth.” And he does it. Sexual. But sad. It feels like gay pornography. Something very forbidden about it. Because it is. This is old military shit. What would happen. Crossing the equator in the Navy, Marines, out on town in Thailand. You learn to live your life the opposite of how you always have when you’re in the military. It turns you into this. I can’t help looking. He pulls the gun out. “It’s loaded,” he says, “Very.” He wipes the barrel on his pants. He holds the gun up for me. “Do it,” he says. “Why?” I ask. And I don’t understand the human mind, the chemistry in our systems that makes us do what we should not, but I put my hand out and when he placed it in mine it felt like a dead bird, the same weight, colder, and I got a shock through my body and he told me to wait, not to do it now, to wait until every single fake gun on the set was being fired, to put it in my mouth then and to close my eyes and the rush would be like I was killing myself fifty times over but without all the death and so I waited, not knowing why, just doing it, just like I’ve seemed to have done everything throughout every second that has ticked away since my birth.
☛ Three Encounters
Wednesday, lunchtime: I meet my guardian angel in a Times Square fast food place. It’s our first ever “sit-down”—I’ve been trying to make this happen for years. George 418 turns out to be a rather seedy Englishman in his mid-60s wearing an ancient, scuffed Aquascutum raincoat. Tobacco-stained teeth and fingertips. A home counties accent. In person, he appears—how to say?—rather less well-connected than he does on the phone. He orders a burger and fries. I have a beer. (Those bright fish eyes, those bushy eyebrows! I’m reminded of old dust jacket photos of Graham Greene.) After beating around the bush for a while, George offers me $500 “as a gesture of goodwill”; a tacit acknowledgement that “mistakes were made.” At first I’m too surprised to say anything: Heaven’s messenger is offering me monetary compensation—$500!—for my lousy life. “Take it or leave it, old boy.” I wave aside his offer and ask instead about reassignment. He eyes me reproachfully. What? Still harping on that? He shakes his head. “Sorry, old man. Nothing doing. I’m telling you, this new commissioner is a piece of work—” At the next table, a pair of red-haired children—ten-year-old males, twins, seemingly without adult supervision—fight furiously with spoons over a huge syrupy dessert. Something is dying at the center of that mess, so white and purple, but of course the boys don’t see it. George 418 blows his nose, looks at his watch. “Good God, is that the time? I must make tracks…” He stands up, holds out a hand. “I wish you’d reconsider. No? All right, we’ll be in touch then… And do try to keep your knob in your pants, there’s a good chap.” Sipping my Amstel Lite, I watch him leave the restaurant. He’s walking past the George M. Cohan statue when his snow-white wings unfurl, clipping an old lady who stumbles and falls. I watch her hit the concrete hard, on her knees. Pipe clenched between his teeth, George takes to the air. Suddenly, I want a cigarette. Maybe I was too proud, too hasty? The fact is, I could really use that money right now. *** After Pu Songling A few years ago, I was having trouble with a family of fox spirits. They had got in under the fence and taken up residence in parts of my house. I don’t need to tell you what havoc foxes can wreak. Things went missing; food, jewellery, an ink stone, the scrolls Master Chen gave me. A beautiful old vase had been smashed. One morning, a fire broke out in the east wing. My servants were frightened. Several had run away. Clearly, something had to be done. 58
I went down to the market place. There I saw a girl; a young girl, standing under a yellow parasol and before her on a small card table, the paraphernalia of magic. She was small and slim with long black hair and a pale oval face. I walked up to her and I bowed. I said, “I have a feeling you can help me.” And I explained to her about the foxes. When I had finished, she said, “It’s true, sir, I do have some experience dealing with foxes. I’m prepared to help you but you should know it will cost you dearly.” And she looked me dead in the eye. I said, “Money is no object. I’m a wealthy man, influential, a close friend of the provincial governor. When can you start your work?” “Right away, if you like,” she said, and she smiled at me. When she smiled like that, I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Something stirred in my chest… Some time later, after the foxes had all been driven out and things had returned to normal, I made a fearful discovery. The girl—who was now my wife—was not what she appeared to be. No, she was not at all what she appeared to be. My beautiful, my talented wife was not a human being; she was a ghost. By the time I discovered the truth, it was too late. So great was the trouble I found myself in then—indeed, my life was in danger—that I could think back almost with nostalgia to a time when foxes had the run of my house. I cling to this hope: if I can provoke her, she may, in anger, turn me into a bird or a bat. In which case, I will fly away, never to return. *** For M.B.T. Yesterday I spent part of the morning with Mr. Blake at Hercules Mansions. Mr. Blake, the engraver and poet, is an exceptional man; he understands matters pertaining to the spiritual world far better than most. I explained to him that on the spiritual plane there is a woman of great beauty who always stands with her back to me; or else, to my inner eye, she always appears to be walking away from me. At other times, no sooner do I turn my head to look in her direction than she disappears around a corner. I know the lady is conscious of my gaze but 59
feels nothing for the lovelorn gazer. I told Mr. Blake how distressing this is; how, shellacked by her cold indifference, my soul feels itself devalued: all hopes of future happiness seem blighted. I cannot tell if Mr. Blake feels any great sympathy for my suffering but I do admire his perspicacity. I confided in the gentleman that in my despair I had even begun to entertain the notion that there was “a devil between us.” (At present, I am listening to Pixies’ Dolittle every day; especially the songs “Hey” and “Number Thirteen Baby.” Mr. Blake is quite familiar with Pixies, as the record shops on the spiritual plane are very well stocked.) After giving the matter some thought, Mr. Blake remarked that there might indeed be a devil between the woman and me but that I should look inside myself to explain why the meddlesome fellow is abroad and making mischief. I hastened to explain that, vis à vis the alleged devil, what I really meant was that I found myself identifying with the sexual agony of Black Francis. Such is the egoism of suffering that sometimes I almost fancied Francis and his rocking friends, Ms. Deal and the others, come swimming up the time stream—via The Time Tunnel—to reflect my despairing mood and succor me, with fine melodies and spirited ensemble playing from 1989. “1989? A bit before my time,” remarked Mr. Blake with a wink. Not long after that the gentleman bade me good-day. Whistling up a passing cloud, he stepped aboard and was soon lost to my sight.
60 ⚔ R. Foggo - Three Encounters
Julie Stuckey - Collage Poem âš” 61
T.M. De Vos
☛ Romani Ode
I exist only in transit, inside the rolling caravan of my old loves, the animals that trot under the axles fast around me. When we stop, I pick worms from the mud of the new town, the blind tubes flexing against me: creatures who cannot see you still want to get away. It is not that I lie, I could appear to you in any dress and say, This is my story—meaning, this is what a man has done to a woman— I want you to pity me a moment before we commit the act that will take a little of my soul. I am from a nation of shifters: I can pass through beds and languages; I can lie with anyone and tell what it is like for him, then rise, the fucking cold inside me, and dress for the next mark who steps behind the curtain where his wounds loom colossal in the crystals and he pays to have them told. I gorge on what I have, and sleep it off: I can only camp, even between walls. I can only promise that humans will always do this, that they will draw someone aside when they can no longer stand the world. We have no books, no words for the fork in the heart, the too-large bowl of the town left behind. I will leave you with streaks of myself the way smoke stays in your hair after you fry. But you can live with pain— you can coax it from its tight packet and nurse it awhile, to the sounds of the night animals and your trained bears, huffing their chins onto their mangy sleeves.
What good is the good of all this, the new season, the orchards, the worms? We have spent so much time concerned with the science of slowing the sky until it ticks, literally, like a grand timepiece. Until it rolls and rolls, stuck on that one gloomy chime. Concerned with hatching our secrets like bluish goose eggs. You say Sudhana overcame his severe disability when he tried to save his teacher. Which is your way of telling me I ought to seduce you. To save you, to keep you from falling apart due to boredom. The old clock keeps our time in a new way, holding hands with the Hansel in his yellow suit, waiting for the cobbler to be cooked, the bird to cuckoo. Waiting for our hands, so far apart on the rail of the staircase, to suggest a case of rue. I am planning to come to you, although I canâ€™t admit it. Although the seconds seem, for the moment, nearly obscene in their length and weight. I am planning to get there by noon, some noon, high noon. Our noon and then, god help us, our night.
Elisabeth Alba is an illustrator living in Queens. She enjoys picture books, fantasy movies, and travel. Check out her work at albaillustration.com. Joel Allegretti is the author of three collections, most recently Thrum, a chapbook of poems and prose poems about musical instruments. His second collection, Father Silicon, was selected by The Kansas City Star as one of 100 Noteworthy Books of 2006, a list that included novels by Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Pynchon. His work has appeared in many national journals and was the basis of two song cycles composed by Naxos artist Frank Ezra Levy. Allegretti is a member of the Academy of American Poets and ASCAP. Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends free time either writing or reading. She also takes care of a veritable army of pets, including her six very spoiled snakes. Her works have appeared in many venues, including Cartier Street Press, The Corner Club Press, Generations Literary Journal, Super Poetry Highway, Stone Telling, Popshot, Perhaps Iâ€™m Wrong About the World, and many more. You can find her here: carabosseslibrary.blogspot.com. Jenna Caschera comes from the Detroit metro area. She received her B.F.A. in Photography & Intermedia and B.A. in English with a Creative Writing emphasis at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. She very much loves her family, her fat cats, and looking at photographs, which trigger memory and serve as reminders that we are a visual culture. She currently studies at Butler University in Indianapolis where she will receive her M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Steven Leyden Cochrane is a multidisciplinary visual artist from Tampa, Florida. Working in a broad range of media and exhibition strategies, he seeks to problematize received understandings of art objects as repositories of meaning and vehicles for personal expression. He earned a BFA in painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006 and in 2009 completed his MFA in studio arts at the University of Windsor. He is currently based in Winnipeg. Graham Cotten was born in Mississippi and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. His fiction has appeared in Whitefish Review, Evergreen Review, NPR.org and staccatofiction.com. His story was named a runner up in the 2009 Playboy College Fiction Contest. He is in law school.
64 âš” Biographies
Hannah Craig lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has recently appeared in the American Literary Review, Columbia Review, 32Poems, and elsewhere. Diane DeSanders is a poet, ex-History teacher, and sometime theater person from Texas who now writes, sings, and gardens in Brooklyn, New York. T.M. De Vos is co-editor-in-chief of Gloom Cupboard, where she curates “The New Хорошо,” a column featuring contemporary Eastern European authors. Her poetry and fiction have appeared most recently in Quiddity, Painted Bride Quarterly, Tidal Basin Review, Prime Number Magazine, Caper Journal, and the Hawaii Pacific Review. Her collection of poetry, The Dimestore World, is forthcoming from Patasola Press. Ben Fama is the author of the chapbook Aquarius Rising (UDP 2009) and New Waves (Minutes Books). His work has been featured in The Brooklyn Rail, The Denver Quarterly, jubilat, notnostrums, LIT, Poor Claudia, and on the Best American Poetry blog, among others. Jeramy Fletcher strives to break down his identity through the reconstruction of experiences. By isolating the everyday, symbols and memories both from childhood and adulthood become equally loaded with emotion, or lack thereof, as the search for self-reflection fights through an inventory of displaced memories. The dreamlike scenes Jeramy evokes in his works have no silver lining; the simplified imagery bears the weight of its re-assemblage. As the resurgences of experience form compulsively, Jeramy’s works not only question what makes art, but what makes the artist. R. Foggo was born in Dublin, Ireland. He has made New York his home since 1984. Heather Foster lives on a 144-acre farm in Tennessee with her husband, kids, and Ozzy the heavy metal rooster. She is currently completing her poetry thesis in the MFA program at Murray State University. Her poetry and fiction is featured or forthcoming in PANK Magazine, Monkeybicycle, Anderbo, and Country Dog Review. Josh Gardner lives in New York City where he attends the MFA program at CUNY City College and edits the school’s literary journal, Promethean. He is originally from the beautiful state of West Virginia, a place from which he draws much of his inspiration. 65
Dana Gentile lives and works in Germantown, NY. She graduated with a BFA from SUNY Purchase College in 2003. Her work has been exhibited at Capricious Space, Pocket Utopia, and Humble Arts Foundation. In 2010, she was awarded the Carole Eisner Award for Sculpture for her installation Plate Tectonics. In 2011, she exhibited twice in Ireland where four of her photographs were acquired for the Limerick City Gallery of Art’s permanent collection. Mark Jackley is the author of several chapbooks, including Every Green Word, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, and a full-length collection, There Will Be Silence While You Wait (Plain View Press). He lives in Sterling, VA. Originally from Washington, DC and now based in Savannah GA, Geoff L Johnson travels often for artful weddings and documentary work. He has over 20 years of varied photography experience, but the spirit of personal photography, and a passion for documenting experiences, is still at the heart of his professional work. Please visit geoffsphotos.com for galleries and information. Laurie Lipton was born in New York and began drawing at the age of four. She was the first person to graduate from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Fine Arts Degree in Drawing (with honors). She has lived in Holland, Belgium, Germany, France and London and has recently moved back to the States after 35 years abroad. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the USA. Lipton was inspired by the religious paintings of the Flemish School. She tried to teach herself how to paint in the style of the 17th century Dutch Masters and failed. When traveling around Europe as a student, she began developing her very own peculiar drawing technique building up tone with thousands of fine cross-hatching lines like an egg tempera painting. “It’s an insane way to draw,” she says, “but the resulting detail and luminosity is worth the amount of effort.” Elizabeth Mikesch has appeared in Unsaid, The Collagist, and The Literarian. Billy Norrby is a New York based artist. After spending several years working for the video game industry, he moved to New York to pursue a painting career. Billy Norrby’s artwork has been featured in a multitude of galleries in Los Angeles and New York and within annuals such as Spectrum, 3×3 and the Society of Illustrators. 66 ⚔ Biographies
Jacob Oet lives in Solon, Ohio. His poetry and images appear in Palooka Journal, Straylight Magazine, The Floorboard Review, The Honey Land Review, Superstition Review, and OVS Magazine, among others. His awards include the 2011 Younkin-Rivera Poetry Prize and the 2011 Ohioana Robert Fox Award. Student by choice, Jacob Oet is never sure which language he speaks. You may spot him in a park, forest or beach, with planted feet, arms stretched up and shaking in a breeze. But don’t let him see you; he likes to sing to strangers. He takes photos of snow and hates winter. Niina Pollari writes and translates and coordinates events. Hyacinth Girl Press just put out her second chapbook, Book Four. For more information and links to work go see her at de-cidered.blogspot.com. Misti Rainwater-Lites is the author of several collections of poetry. The latest, Expired Nickel Valentine, is available exclusively from Goldfish Press. Ron Riekki’s novel U.P. was nominated for the Great Michigan Read series and the Sewanee Writers’ Series. When he looks back at his life, he feels like Macbeth. Devin Sioma’s work is derived from cultural studies on ritual, sacrifice and altered levels of awareness. She is on a constant quest of developing an imaginative world, though a variety of mediums, based upon the feelings of foreignness as well as the social boundaries between what it means to be an insider versus what it means to be an outsider. Currently, Devin is pursuing her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 2011, Devin was hired by The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program as an assistant art teacher for the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership program within the Restorative Justice Program and has since had the opportunity to assist in classes at the Youth Study Center and St. Gabriel’s Hall. Devin is also assisting in the painting of a mural based on the work of Henry Ossawa Tanner, which will coincide with a major Tanner retrospective Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit to open at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 2012. Julie Stuckey grew up in Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Delaware in business and currently lives in Pawling, New York. She has had poems published in Verdad, Into the Teeth of the Wind and Punkin House Press, and in anthologies from Little Red Tree Publishing and From Under the Bridges of America (forthcoming). 67
Masthead Editor-in-Chief JD Scott Managing Editor Alia Tsang Fiction Editor Joshua Boardman Poetry Editor Sam Samson Contributing Editor Sterling Brody Art Editors Kelly Langsam, PULP Projects Charlotte Walters, PULP Projects Comics Editor Tia Lam Reader Mark Danowsky
Elisabeth Alba - Ravensâ€™ Watch, graphite
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Elisabeth Alba Joel Allegretti Valentina Cano Jenna Caschera Steven Leyden Cochrane Graham Cotten Hannah Craig Diane DeSanders T.M. De Vos Ben Fama Jeramy Fletcher R. Foggo Heather Foster Josh Gardner Dana Gentile Mark Jackley Geoff L Johnson Laurie Lipton Elizabeth Mikesch Billy Norrby Jacob Oet Niina Pollari Misti Rainwater-Lites Ron Riekki Devin Sioma Julie Stuckey