moonshot #2 summer 2011
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Moonshot would like to give a very special thanks to Cristina Gomez for her graphical contributions to this issue, especially for the front and back cover. Cristina is a New York-based graphic designer and illustrator. You can find more of her work at ohcristina.com. ISBN: 978-0-9837890-0-0
Table of Contents Editor’s Letter George Davis Cathcart (Illustration) E. K. Gordon, The Smell of Gas
Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán, The Lover
6-8 9 10
Lyn Lifshin, Alma Karmina
Hing Chui, A Factory Man
Vaidehi Patil, In Sepia
Dawn Raffel, The Cat
Gianna Russo, In The Fatherland
Brian Tierney, Pipedream from a Distance
Peycho Kanev, The Real Thing
Florence Ma jor, Elegy for Rifka
Genevieve Dimmitt, Pools (Photography)
Miriam Cohen, Skills
George Davis Cathcart (Illustration)
Katy Doughty, Mockingbird Guthrie
Blackout Poetry Feature
Austin Kleon, (Newspaper Blackout Poems)
Austin Kleon, Interview
Jon-Michael Brothers, The 72oz. Steak
Richard Kostelanetz, Single-Page Chapbooks
Craig Reynolds, Compositions (Photography)
Nicole Treska, An Account of the Oracle at Sundown
Kenneth Pobo, Late Summer Nursery
Casey Francis, This Town is Nearly Dead
Whitney Egstad, Night Kids
George Davis Cathcart (Illustration)
Mary Harwell Sayler, Commune Occasion
Ruth Foley, Bat
Editor’s Letter ◯ Summer Issue Some people use seasons and weather as a gap between high points in a conversation, or as a way to feel out their voice in a room of strangers. For me, I am obsessed with how a change in temperature, a transition from one month to another, invokes an explosion of color, imagery, smell. If we were to release our first issue in autumn, why not thematically tie the work together through that? The end of summer: sweating, a cigar hanging out of your mouth. Last trips to the beach in September. And then: harvesting, preparations to hide indoors. Día de los Muertos, November, a last look at the leaves on the ground. Our second issue of Moonshot constructs a story of a different summer. Youth, memories, markings on the wall…and visual media, whose relationship to literature comes alive in these pages. This is an exploration of how visuals tell their own stories, ranging from a still photograph’s capture of a single moment or a comic’s sequence twisting the narrative panel by panel. Whether it’s Dawn Raffel’s evocative story about her family’s cat heirloom accompanied by her son’s drawing, or Richard Kostelanetz’s portrait of relationships through visual fiction, there are countless ways that the ocular can change our perspective on storytelling. Our editor, Sam Samson, delves into the world of Sharpie markers and newspaper clippings in Blackout Poetry, a special feature with new work from Austin Kleon. It is always fascinating to see how a group of writers and artists is affected by the ebb and flow of seasons, how an issue’s theme tends to shape itself. Compiling this season’s submissions into a single issue was like connecting fragments of a conversation. We hope that as you read this issue, the varied voices complement and highlight each other, making you feel the warm sun on your shoulders, the cool sugar of a cherry popsicle dripping down your face. -JD Scott 5
E. K. Gordon The Smell of Gas In 1979 . . . , while Exxon’s net income rose 56 percent to more than 4 billion, three-thousand small independent gasoline stations went out of business. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States
Near the entrance to Sunrise Golf Village Fred pumped gas for his dad, squeegeed windshields smartly, wiper arms when he dropped them popping the glass like bra-straps. The bullet exited out the back, like with JFK except Fred’s father lived, did custodial work, eyelid jammed in a wink, suicide attempt a speck on a blip in a system built to powerlift the few, the rest of us crouched in fumes ratcheting handjacks, Fred loving the smell of gas, inheriting that
Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrรกn The Lover In time the lover will notice the way coins are turned over so as not to reveal the heads of dead presidents. The way nothing nowhere has a price tag labels are removed. The way there is no TV. The way bowls and spoons are used not forks or plates. The way the outside world does not enter this one. Books not placed on the floor. The way he remains apart.
Lyn Lifshin Alma Karmina Past small villages Diego Rivera might have painted, past huge leaves, wildly colored textiles, farther than rose walls, a clothes line of vibrant blues, purples, scarlets where women with thick braids kneel in shadows, past star trails, volcanoes of Lake Atitlan where flowers cover every thing, Alma Karmina in a pink bunting, deep past flowers that bloom in the night, eyes darker than cardamom, waiting for her new home, the ones whose hearts melt like spoons over flame.
12 ◌ A Factory Man
Hing Chui ◌ 13
14 â—Œ A Factory Man
Hing Chui ◌ 15
Vaidehi Patil In Sepia They look at me from their frames, four corners neatly tucked into the diamond-shaped paper slots. The dusty leather-bound volume has creased black paper pages, and each displays the last few links of the parallel chains from the recent one millionth quarter of my evolution. The Homo sepians. Their antiquity is perhaps justified, thanks to the cuttlefish which died for the dye. The grey-haired great-grandparents are in brown scale, and I think that is why they are smiling. No one likes to look old, certainly not in photographs. My brother wants to know why I am making a family tree, or revisiting the old album for the hundredth time. He wonders what use is it to anyone. He wears these ‘use’ glasses all the time. Doesn’t see why stories, dogs, cats, children, books in general, and the game of cricket exist. For him, the only useful thing in the world is the internet. I ask him if he’d delete half of the hundred similar digital pictures he clicked at a party without much thought. He says no, what if he loses a really good one? I turn the butter-paper divider, wishing he would go away. Yet he hovers around because he wants to look at the young grandparents and baby parents. I wonder why. The oldest ones are the most interesting. I have not met most of them, at least not in person—but I have seen that nose in some cousin, those eyes in another and my brother is a bit too much like that scowling great-uncle who appears in just one photograph. The smiling ones appear on more pages, and I think of them fondly even though I’ve never known them. The fittest ones because they’ll survive in my memories. I secretly wish my brother good luck.
Dawn Raffel The Cat The black and white china cat sat on my Grandmother Raffel’s window ledge all the years she was an invalid. The cat seemed to watch the world through glass. When she was younger, my grandmother raised two boys, kept the books for the family furniture store, held office at half the clubs in town, melted her silver down for the war, survived the telegram telling her one of her sons was badly injured (it was my uncle, who’d broken his back parachuting out of a burning plane; his cousin would soon be dead), read the entire library of Reader’s Digest condensed books (she wasn’t disposed to slog through a whole book when you could get the gist quickly), entertained her many friends often and enthusiastically despite being—forgive me—an abysmal cook (she burned frozen entrees by forgetting them in the oven; neglected to buy ingredients for baking and substituted anything at hand, such as Smucker’s jelly for cake frosting; made Jell-o molds that failed to gel and wept in festive red and green and yellow pools on platters, forlorn chunks of fruit bobbing up…nobody came for the food). She thought nothing of taking three or four or five of her grandchildren to an amusement park for the day, or out for Chinese New Year, such as it was in Milwaukee in the 60s, (neon drinks adorned with paper parasols; celery-heavy chop suey), or on a boat ride, or to the theater (she insisted on front row seats) or to hear music under the stars. I have two pictures of my grandmother. In one, she is striding purposefully down the street while snapped in a 1930s candid by the photographer, her gaze intent and confident; in another, she is in a rowboat with my grandfather and she is the one rowing. She wielded fierce opinions on everything from politics (she cast an absentee ballot for Richard Nixon, then died of a heart attack the week before the election) to hot pants on girls (she was in favor and wanted to know 17
why I wasn’t wearing them). By her late sixties, she was largely confined by heart disease to her house. On Sunday nights, she marked up the TV Guide for the week—talk shows, news, no soaps. My grandfather continued to work, long past retirement age, in the furniture store, and to sneak out to the Big Boy for pie. The phone rarely rang. My grandmother’s last few years went in a circuit from the bed to the TV chair to the kitchen and back to the bed. “They shoot horses, don’t they,” she said. I had the cat on top of my china cabinet when my older son, born 30 years after her death, asked me about it. Then he reached up for the cat and put it in the window, facing out.
18 ◌ Dawn Raffel
Gianna Russo In the Fatherland 2006
At one a.m. the moon is a white hydrangea in bloom in Piazza Spoldini. I rise in my dream-gown and see the shutters huddled together, tall as ghosts. On my little balcony, smaller than a bed, I smell the scent of stars and hear their thin chorus. I want to say this is how I got here, with a man standing in a field in the last century listening to longing. I want to say that the night-time sky played a dark opera and he wanted his own part. But what do I know? Only that in Pomignano dâ€™Arco there was a farm, the work was hard, he was young. Later, his passage ship was wrecked and sold for scrap, but by then my grandfather was safe in the kitchen of his compara. Now, eighty years on, Iâ€™ve come awake in Italy. Because he left, I can return to where fountains murmur my name across the slip-stone. In silk-blue hills, verbena rustles with peasant poems, each leaf a verse in the language that was kept from me. Now my tongue tastes a libretto of vowels sweet as sugared almonds. Oh, America, his siren of stellar streets and alleyways of plenty. He never told me a thing, only fixed on me his black eyes, jack-lights that froze me every time, only drank his dark wine from a cup, grunted when the spaghetti was gone, and pressed a hundred dollars in my palm when I said my goodbyes.
Brian Tierney Pipedream from a Distance Paris melts into its artery Seine we have never seen before or since we thought of going years ago and did not did not chisel from the cold world our castle in a snow globe our little city preserved in the glaucoma of years like a pickled finger pointing back where we can no longer go
Peycho Kanev The Real Thing My grandmother and I were sitting in the living room, in front of the TV, watching the speech of the Chairman of the Communist Party with the rest of the country. The teeth of my grandma were grinding. I asked, ”What’s the matter, Granny?” She sat there, quiet for a while, and then she said, “This man should die. I just hope someone to kill him!” And after a few noiseless minutes she told me, “If you, my boy, tell someone what I’ve just told you, I will kill you!” Then she smiled with her bad teeth, but I noticed something in her eyes that made me silent, until now.
Florence Major Elegy for Rifka Zhvanetz in Ukraine
In a distant yesterday They were there, two men sitting tall, their greatcoats black and wearing hats inside, it was a winter day or just a Russian afternoon. The wooden chairs were doweled and runged each placed beside the unlit Franklin stove, I felt no fire but saw the fat black pipe leading up into the outer wall. The room was etched in shades of charcoal grey, light fell from a window’s dappled beams but where I crawled was shadow, dimly cast; I touched my arm and saw how small I was and felt the wooden floor beneath my knees. I knew that purple flowers grew outside, and that an earth-packed road with cobbles on each verge made way for carts piled with hay, and farther on were stables with the horses and their carts. My mother was not here. Was she making p’tcha1 or fetching radishes and onions from the shed? The men were tall, I knew that by the height of chairs, the room was plain, austere, of modest taste. The words I heard were textured, ringing clear like music in your hand, a language carved from bread. One man looked down at me from his great chair, smiling, he saw me near his feet. Rifkaleh, he said. Then I trembled when I heard him speak; I knew the words he spoke were not to me, They were for the child I had become. And yet I knew her, I knew this dim lit room was where she lived and played and I was in her life, before mine had begun. 1 23 Jellied calf’s feet
Genevieve Dimmitt - Pools
24 ◌ Pools
Genevieve Dimmitt â—Œ 25
26 ◌ Pools
Genevieve Dimmitt â—Œ 27
Miriam Cohen Skills Better they should end up with skills. This was the mantra of the school, and would have been etched somewhere in Latin, were it only not so trite. These words of wisdom came from the principal, a man who had aged so poorly he looked ninety, but was somewhere in the range of sixty. He had a daughter in the schoolâ€”a granddaughter? Miss Jane had tried to clarifyâ€”idiot, idiot that she was, upon that first introduction. A daughter. The parents of these private school girls were all philosophers and historians and thinkers who rifled deep into time for an older logic: that children should be seen but not heard, that childhood was really adulthood, but in curious miniature. Their brothers were off at military schools, taken care of. But the girls were another story. The etiquette schools where they might have been sent had adopted, over the years, leniencies in the name of modernity, certain allowances. So they had all together founded the school, these go-getter parents. Here it was, the time-tested usual: drills and recitations, neat columns of girls. They were to read certain handpicked books until they lined their minds like wallpaper, tracing their fingers down the index whenever they wanted to find something to say. The school was, of course, private. There was another school in the town, public, and filled to bursting with children. They roamed freely in a cement lot, tossing a ball that only sometimes went over the sides, and they would call then, loudly, to some passerby: Throw it back! Their gritty, scabbed arms raised in wait, a Please never passing their lips. The girls were, of course, not to speak to them. The private girls were, if they bustled past the public children on the townâ€™s narrow streets, to carry on. The overheard shrieks were compared in the stone walls of the school, invisible trading cards marked in the currency 28
of remembered tenor and pitch. Miss Jane was instructed to have none of that. She slapped her ruler on her desk for silence. And they would take their seats and fold their hands, chins to ceiling—chin-up, how their parents wanted them. My god, better they should have skills. They were delightfully dim, these girls. Miss Jane would tell her friends, routinely, about the flickering-to-dead bulbs that were the brains of her students. She had intended, always, to become a teacher. Teddy bears in front of a small blackboard and all that. But now that it was happening, she had second thoughts. Reservations. As in, I’d like a reservation somewhere else. Meaning, in the classroom, had lost all its umph. She used words and hoped. Pity, she said once, and corrected herself, quickly enough, to petty. The class did not flinch. Her subject was English, and she hand-picked books that were what she’d begun to call clean. As in, no sex, violence, or feminism. Scrubbed. But at least there was the principal. He was married, he had the daughter—Felicity—and also a military son, a house. Teeth yellow as a rat’s. A few strands of white sticking wildly up from the back of his head, gnarled hands. The two of them were friends, of a sort. Miss Jane went on blind dates and they were always worse than she expected. Because she expected—a prince! No, this was what her sister said. She did not expect a prince. Take the last young man who’d sat across from her, for instance. He’d had a doe-like, forlorn look to him, as if he’d been carved from soap. She’d expected less of that. Regardless of who was across from her, they were always a bust; always the same. Where was she from, where was he from, and wasn’t something funny, didn’t it just bring them right together so they could fumble now in the dark. Last time the something was a movie they had both seen. She hated it; he found it visually compelling. Her principal was different. She met with him in his office, and it was like the daughter wasn’t roaming the school, possibly inches away. As if the wife, in her forties, 29
the sewing teacher, and with a ponytail to make her look fourteen, ceased existence entirely. Today they were meeting about a child—his actually, god—whose behavior was aberrant. Aberrant was the worst, it was right there under Unsatisfactory. The meeting with the principal began with Miss Jane recounting recent extracurricular misadventures. This suitor was a want-to-be photographer, arriving at their date equipped with a camera that dangled, necklacelike, from his slender neck. He’d stopped, periodically, on this date, to snap what seemed to Miss Jane arbitrary photos. “It’s like you having interesting thoughts,” the principal said. “His taking pictures. It equates.” He twirled a wayward white hair around his finger. “So are you seeing him again?” Miss Jane found herself giggling. Her students worked their way into her like this; she’d also become newly fervent about popping zits. “I think probably,” she said. “There isn’t much else. Have you heard, there’s this saying, the odds are good, but the goods are odd? Well.” He smiled in encouragement. He liked to hear about her dates. It was like a hobby for him, she figured. “Odd goods,” he mused. “Well if you want my sperm, you should know it’s old and rotten. Which brings me, naturally, to Felicity.” “Felicity is infelicitous,” said the principal, beaming. The pun was the thing. He acted as if she were any student, and this made it better for Miss Jane: like cherry medicine, so good she’d top a sundae with it. Miss Jane laughed in perfect falsetto. He was older than her; this made her a damsel in distress. “Indeed,” she said. She filled her knuckles with her fingers, had an uncouth thought, rearranged her hands to palm open on her lap. “She brought up some feminist thinking.” Miss Jane was taken—now that the classroom of girls was gone to memory—with boundless love for the sullen, pimpled girl, 30 ◌ Skills
a love that cleaved her chest like heartburn, or else was heartburn, actually, if you took into account her cafeteriabought lunch. “She said, ‘If Shakespeare had a sister, her name would be Julie,’ and then quoted from memory. I had to say, when she was done, before the reprimand, ‘Judith,’ and they looked at me like I was bonkers, so I let it go. Now they’ll always think Woolf, hammering away in that room of her own, wrote down, after careful deliberation, a name as peppy as Julie—Julie!” Miss Jane wondered, as she often did, if she’d gone too far. The principal raised one eyebrow. It was his way of laughing, but letting her know he also thought she was kind of dumb. “The punishment,” he said, fingers nicely steepled. “The punishment must of course fit the crime. How about she writes Judith a hundred times until she gets it through her misguided, feminist head?” He was smiling like a Jack-o-Lantern. He loved the school, but disagreed with its basic principles. Miss Jane was like that also, mostly. ◯◯◯
A doll in the classroom. It was like a bomb. Get rid of it, get rid of it fast. The rubber body, the stiff cap of straw hair, so susceptible to breakage, and besides, this one with nipples!, slits between the legs one could not pry open if one tried. And one had tried. This much was evidenced from the subtle scratchings on the chambers of the plastic vagina. The scratches looked like healed scars. The culprit was Felicity. The other girls clustered around, sure, but she was the one who held it in her arms like a real baby, in need, in need. For Miss Jane, when there weren’t blind dates it was just her and the dog, who took the place of a baby quite nicely: the dog was untrained 31
Miriam Cohen ◌ 31
and given to fits of vomiting. Miss Jane folded her arms as she imagined she must. Now Felicity was worse even than Aberrant; she was a generalized Problem Student. “Is this doll appropriate for our classroom community?” she said, as if she herself wondered, and was in need of confirmation. Confirmation. Reservations. She wanted to take a trip. The girls giggled. She had never met girls so giggly before these brother-deprived creatures, these girls who spun bottles in basements and reached only other versions of themselves. They were sweet when they giggled: not so menacing. Sometimes she looked out at them, the twenty or so faces, and it really did seem they might rise in unison against her. Giggling, she could take them. They were like little sisters this way, or even daughters, conceived in a womb impossibly young. They would not help her now, and call out “No!” as they sometimes did when the questions she asked were rhetorical. She could only ask them—Felicity—to put it away. Put it away. It was as if there were a penis on the grounds. She would talk to Felicity after class. She immersed herself in Victorian manners books to best understand her role in the school, and she thought now of what she might say to this preadolescent about the doll. Sometimes her speech in general, outside the school, became strange; Fie! she would laugh to some suitor. I’ll take a condom please! And there it was, the pervasive Victorian manner, even where she didn’t intend it in her thoughts—suitor was not the word; it would be sweaty boy. Felicity complied, shoving the doll into her knapsack, but grinning wildly, as if a bet had been won, and racehorse money were her due. The girls recited poetry for the remainder of the period. Shakespeare for real; a nay so subtle elbow in the ribs at Woolf’s imagined sister. 32 ◌ Skills
After class, Miss Jane pulled up a chair next to Felicity’s. “Why would you bring in a doll like that?” Felicity shrugged like a cat in sun. She was alarmingly beautiful when she shrugged, her shoulder rolling in a move almost coquettish. “Because.” All at once she was a girl again. Stubborn. Unwilling. Miss Jane felt a sort of relief. “But you know it’s against the school rules.” Miss Jane just checked. Felicity nodded: solemn as in prayer. “I just wanted— ” Here, of course, was Miss Jane’s moment. Here she could apply just enough pressure and get it out, like a pimple on the verge of willing. “What did you just want?” she said, and there it was, wrong as wrong. “Nothing,” said Felicity, but of course. ◯◯◯
The last straw was an uncomfortable one. Seated among the rose blossom patch of girls was a boy. He must have been commissioned from the public school. He was gangly and hunched in his chair. All the students were silent. Waiting, she supposed, for her to order him out. His neck was tense, certain tendons flickering in soft defiance. Oh, but she did not want to send him out! She didn’t but know him! And, she realized, like realizing hunger, she missed boys. The certain sweaty energy, the mustaches that meant, instead of an ignorance about the ways of waxing, something wonderful was on the cusp. “I see we have a guest,” she said, but it was all a riot after that. The students, seeing discipline thrown, as it were, to the wind, burst themselves out of their seats, a wild
Miriam Cohen ◌ 33
flailing of limbs like geese peddling, airborne, for crumbs. Flouncing—flaunting?—their braids and hand-sewn frocks, they rose in a kind of dance at her desk. “Miss Jane! Miss Jane!” the better ones shouted, as if to alert her. The boys about whom they were not allowed even to speak—one of them had entered their midst! “Unacceptable,” she said. But it was not nearly enough! She tried to think of what a teacher in an ordinary school would do—for surely there, this transgression would be absurdly large as well. Possibly it was illegal? Would trespassing charges be pressed? Felicity reached across her desk and took the boy’s hand. “This is my boyfriend,” she said. The riot escalated. No one was in her seat, not even the best ones. Skirts opened like umbrellas in ebullient rain, darting, twirling, out of their chairs, quills culled from fancy magazines sprawled akimbo at desks, the ink in one dripping in a most expensive mess, girls up near her desk, misbehaving. It was happening, finally, her nightmare revealing itself in flesh. Miss Jane found herself curiously still. Were these really the girls who must be seen and not heard: sewing? They were so different now it was like an entirely new crop, as if the public school boy had infected them all with his outside filth. Oh—but to look at the boy, uncertain, hovering at a desk, hand clasped tightly in Felicity’s, palms perhaps white, she felt for him! He didn’t belong here. He didn’t know the nature of the classroom, the little codes embedded in the demure fluttering of eyelids, the rulers that authoritatively rapped…Miss Jane remembered herself all at once. She would have none of that! She slapped her ruler on her desk for silence. And she felt in that moment, the weight of how she oppressed her students. They sat. She took the boy out to the hall—not by his ear, but wouldn’t that have been something?—and in the hallway, she put her hand on the boy’s skinny shoulder. “Well,” 34 ◌ Skills
she said, and tried not to feel the stretch of new muscle, exuberant beneath her palm. ◯◯◯
Miss Jane scheduled a home visit, because this was the protocol for a Generalized Troubled student. She had never been subject to a home visit as a student, of course; her school was no Victorian recreation, but she’d endured terrible conferences during which she’d been made to be present while the teacher and her parents discussed, solemn-eyed, just what in the hell was wrong with her. Because it wasn’t that she didn’t like school! She simply forgot assignments, forgot rules about when to speak and when it was a terrible crime to do so. She handed in elaborate dioramas when all the befuddled teacher had requested was an essay—two pages, typed. What she remembered most from those meetings was her father. Bald and austere, crying once, in a gentlemanly way, with sniffles and no tears. She couldn’t go on this way, he’d said. They’d called her Special in those meetings. It wasn’t until college that she got to be Ordinary, and what a thrill that had been! Gleaming lines of ‘B’s, an assortment of ‘A’s like candy in a dish. Good enough. She would now inflict this same special pain of her school days on Felicity. Never had this happened in her fantasies, not with the teddy bears and chalkboard, not even with—she cringed to remember; maybe one day it would be a joke—the dog. It had happened only once, the night before she began teaching, the marble eyes listening and intent, head tilted just so, tail a-wag. She rang the doorbell. (The house, very nice, was a Victorian.) The wife answered. Her mouth was a straight line. “Come in,” she said. They sat, all three, around the kitchen table. So: there was the Woolf, the doll, the boy. It might have been an Aesop’s fable. 35
Miriam Cohen ◌ 35
The principal held his wife’s hand in his and was transformed. Miss Jane thought: Oh. The two of them were married. They were founders of this school. He would not talk to her now, in his joking way, because he was a married man and she was a woman never to be his wife. The women would talk instead, among themselves. “This is behavior we just can’t have,” said the mother. “It reflects poorly on the school as a whole, but you can imagine, on us in particular.” So it was Miss Jane in trouble again. She looked at the principal, but he offered nothing, just a bowed, white head. The gnarled fingers clasped—so like her own father’s had been when it was her in this kind of invented trouble. She wanted to shake them both: it’s not like it’s sex! But then, their girl was twelve, and all that was to come. Miss Jane understood: this was preparation. This was the beginning. She could understand the Victorians, better than she wanted to: be pregnant, fine, but don’t talk about it. They called in Felicity. “What do you have to say for yourself?” said her mother, prim hands locked in her lap. Felicity bowed her head. “I’m very sorry, Mother. I’m very sorry, Father.” “And Miss Jane,” pressed her mother, summoning the apology like scarves from the mouth of a clown. Felicity recited, “I’m very sorry, Miss Jane.” And so quickly, Miss Jane might have missed it, Felicity locked eyes with her and crossed them. Miss Jane felt a sudden shock of indignation. It wasn’t her fault! She was just in it for the paycheck! Cross your eyes, she wanted to say, at your damn parents. But she couldn’t help, at the same time, feel a wave of amusement, even joy, at this girl who would learn, over her lifetime, more than just skills. She would go to college, get her assortment of grades, maybe teach, with fiery passion, and have a student hate her. 36 ◌ Skills
George Davis Cathcart ◌ 37
38 ◌ Mockingbird Guthrie
Katy Doughty ◌ 39
40 â—Œ Mockingbird Guthrie
Katy Doughty ◌ 41
42 â—Œ Mockingbird Guthrie
Katy Doughty ◌ 43
With this issue exploring visual media’s relationship to the written word, we’ve put together a feature that marries these two arts: the blackout poem. Writer and artist Austin Kleon has garnered attention for exhibiting this form online and in his highly-publicized Newspaper Blackout. To create the blackout, the poet begins with a page of found text, in this case a newspaper or magazine article, and begins blacking out words. The remaining words form the poem. This past fall, Moonshot’s poetry editor, Sam Samson, taught a blackout poetry class to the students at Community Stepping Stones in Tampa, Florida. CSS works with the youth of Sulphur Springs, a neighborhood in which more than 40% of households live in poverty and 25% of households make less than $10,000 annually. Through the arts, students at CSS gain the creative and critical thinking skills they need to succeed in school and make important life decisions. Along with inspiring youth to respect their community, their voices, and themselves, the organization works to ensure that every child who goes through CSS’ arts curriculum graduates from high school and is prepared to go on to college. In this poetry class, Sam showed students examples from Newspaper Blackout and lead a brief discussion about the unique aspects of this format before guiding them through their own poems. In the following feature you will find new work from Kleon, original art from this class, and an essay by Sam Samson on her experience at CSS. In addition to the poetry, there is an exclusive interview with Kleon, who shares his personal insights on inspiration, craft, and the future of publishing. 44
Austin Kleon ◌ 45
46 â—Œ Austin Kleon
7 Questions for Austin Kleon Interviewed by Sam Samson 1. When teaching your poetry in my class, I found that blackout poetry was empowering to students who were not confident in their own vocabulary because they could use existing language. How else can blackout poetry encourage students to tap into their inner creativity? In my experience, writing is best when you think about it as something you do with your hands—when you think about language as something that comes out of the body that you can move around in space. It’s just like pushing around Legos—you have these little simple pieces, but you can build something as simple or as complex as your imagination. 2. What writers and artists have inspired you the most? I love so many writers and artists, but I’m especially drawn to those who both write and draw—people like Lynda Barry, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Steinberg, and Charles Schulz. 3. You seem to be able to balance your 9-to-5 job and writer life very successfully—what advice would you give to those who feel like they don't have enough time to write? It’s really simple: you just figure out what time you can carve out of every day, and you write every single day. Repetition is the key. If you write a page a day, it doesn’t 47
seem like much, but at the end of a year, it’s 365 pages —enough for a book. I wrote my first book in 6 months, on the bus ride to and from work and on my lunch break. 4. You've worked with blackout poetry in everything from newspapers to the iPad—what is the difference between working with print media and digital media? Working with paper still engages the most senses—you get the smell and the touch. With the iPad you only get the touch. Print is permanent—you make a mark, you can’t get it back—and digital is endlessly editable. Paper, you can spread across the room; digital, you only see what’s on the screen at any given moment. Both good and not so good. 5. In your TEDxPennQuarter talk, you advocated for a restructuring of the publishing process—how do you envision blogging and social media affecting publishing? It just means that authors can speak directly to their readers instead of waiting on a middleman and the slow process of book publishing. It also means that an author is expected to gain an audience first, and then publish a book. Again, both good and not so good. 6. Out of every huge pool of writers blogging on the internet, only a few go viral. Which qualities separate these people from the rest? I suspect it’s the same thing that separates all writers: good work that resonates with readers vs. work that doesn’t. 7. We imagine you carrying a Sharpie with you everywhere you go. What's the craziest thing you've blacked out? I’m a pretty boring, law-abiding guy: I stick to newspapers.
48 ◌ Austin Kleon Interview
Sam Samson Blackout at Community Stepping Stones On the banks of the Hillsborough River, in a wooden bungalow known to local kids as “The Art House,” Denise scribbled on a newspaper clipping with a thin, purple marker. Denise was one of twelve students I taught in a visual poetry class this past fall at Community Stepping Stones (CSS) in Tampa, Florida. In this particular visual poetry lesson we focused on blackout poetry, using examples from Austin Kleon’s book, Newspaper Blackout. At the beginning of the class I handed out photocopied examples of blackout poetry from Kleon’s book. After passing the papers around the room, I asked if anyone could tell me the differences between writing traditional poetry on a blank page and writing blackout poetry. After a short silence, Emily raised her hand and said that blackout poetry allows you to “scribble scrabble” all over the news. Some other students answered that blackout poetry is useful because it can help spark creativity and it allows the writer to create art out of something that would have otherwise been thrown in the garbage. After our discussion, I passed out newspapers and magazines, letting the students pick out their own articles. I then instructed them to circle the words they wanted to keep and color with pen and marker over the remainder of the article. Having picked out her words, Denise went at the thin newspaper clipping with an orange marker, then waited for Marquisha to finish up with the black marker so she could use it. Kathleen, one of the staff members at CSS, sat next to Marquisha’s brother, Marques, and helped him pick words out of an article on a high school football game. Antnaizha took a minimalist approach with her article on the Disney Store, blacking out the full-page article and leaving only, “As they walk into the castle/they can wave/at Cinderella.” 49
“Food,” by Denise, Age 10
Edwin, one of the youngest students in the program, squinted down with fierce concentration at the sports article he’d chosen, his tongue peeking out from the corner of his mouth. When I asked him how and why he chose to black out the words he did, he told me he was simply blacking out the words he didn’t know. At first, I thought it frustrating that he would cross out all the unfamiliar words without first asking an older student or me what they meant. I soon realized, however, that once Edwin blacked out all the words he didn’t know from this article, he was left with the many words that he did know. In many aspects of children’s lives—at school, at home or in their community—they are constantly reminded of what they’ve yet to learn. By providing a bank of words to choose from instead of a blank page to fill, this writing exercise gave my students the option of picking and choosing the words with which they were familiar. The blackout poem empowered Edwin by providing him with an occasion to create something beautiful out of what he did know. After finishing, each student pasted their clipping onto construction paper and decorated around the poem as they wished. As a final aspect of the project, I told the students that I was submitting their work to Austin Keon’s blog, where he regularly features blackout poems from guest contributors. A few days after sharing their poems, Austin emailed me back with a link to his blog where he’d featured Denise’s poem and linked to poems from a few other students. The ability to have their poetry published online for the public to read really encouraged them to keep making art. Taking this a step further, several of my students at CSS now have their poems published alongside Austin Kleon’s pieces in this issue of Moonshot.
Sam Samson ◌ 51
“River of Heaven” by Victoria, Age 17
It’s October, and the leaves have started to fall in southern Illinois. We rake our leaves and set them to burn. The floodwaters still come up to the doorsteps. I’m glad to be safe and dry here like Apple Blossom and Cherry Blossom and Peach Tree. He knows my life. I wish I could believe that he does. He knows. We share it. Misery of men living alone. You and me, Jesus. We’re a pair. But my life is not his, I’d tell him. I had the heart. What it is to love someone all the time and to lose them one day without warning. We lived alone. 52
â€œChina isâ€? by Emily, Age 11
China is and and Chinese have marked occasions or Chinese writing upcoming anniversary of English on the facing page.
Jon-Michael Brothers The 72oz. Steak The restaurant was more dimly lit than usual, something I hadn’t planned for, but appreciated nonetheless. I was on my third date with Lydia and she was wearing this very sexy black dress that rode high and showed off her incredible legs. There were little dimples on her thighs when she crossed them. I could tell she had bought the dress just for me because she had forgotten to remove the tag on the back of her neck. She didn’t seem to notice, and I wasn’t going to say anything about it. They sat us at a four-person, not a two-person, and Lydia sat next to me—not across. I didn’t like that too much. I would have preferred she sat across so I could stare straight into those eyes of hers and maybe ride my foot right up that dress. Most people are unimpressed by brown eyes, but every once in a while I come across a pair that is nearly impossible to call just brown. It sounds too ordinary. Lydia’s were different. I could have suffered multiple sexless dates with her and still been satisfied. Lydia ordered a glass of Merlot and began to laugh a bit as she picked up a menu to browse. I asked her what she was laughing about. “Oh, no,” she said. “Not important. Just thinking about something else.” That was irritating. I started reevaluating how many sexless dates I’d really be willing to go on. Not too much longer if she kept doing shit like that. “What’s good here?” I asked. “Everything. Get the steak, though. I get it every time I come.” She had short black hair, right down to her ears, and a very pretty face. The smoothest skin I’ve ever seen—not a blemish in sight. She swiveled her neck a bit to crack it and then put her scarf on the back of the chair. She smiled. “You have to get the steak,” she added. “Don’t even look at anything else.” 54
“The garden salad looks pretty good,” I joked. It wasn’t a good joke. I get nervous on dates, I really do. People would be surprised if I told them that, due to my usual demeanor. I seem calm, mostly. When I get nervous, everything becomes a joke to me, and more often than not I make a complete fool of myself in front of beautiful women. She smiled a bit and licked her lips, which looked dry. The waiter came out with the drinks. He had a face like a mule—big, straight teeth, and a mouth that wouldn’t close all the way due to their size. He placed her wine on the table, along with the beer I had ordered. She took a long sip. I asked her how it was. “Damn fine wine,” she said. “Here, try.” She handed me the glass. It was pretty good, but nothing special. Merlot is fine here and there, but it’s nothing to spend too much on. I’m more into Pinot, or a nice Syrah. I usually have white wine if I’m going out so I don’t stain my teeth. “So what else do you like about this place?” I asked. “The atmosphere. The lighting, I guess. I like the people.” “Me too. A little older, but nice.” “They also have some fun things here. It’s fancy, but they do other things that you’d typically see at diners or dive bars. Like trivia nights.” I took a sip of my beer, which tasted a little skunked. “They also have this competition,” she said. “I’ve seen it a few times. There’s this giant steak people can order, and if one person finishes it by themselves, they get some kind of prize.” “Oh yeah?” “Yeah, it’s great. I’ve seen a few people fail at it before, but I’ve never seen anyone finish.” I searched the walls of the restaurant and saw a small bulletin board that read: The 72oz-steak Challenge Hall of Fame. Underneath there were a small amount of Polaroid pictures. 55
“Seventy-two ounces, it says over there. That’s not too bad. I could probably do that.” She laughed and rubbed the tip of her shoe against my calf. “That’d be pretty hot.” Jesus, this girl lit up when I said that. It was the oddest thing. Is that what she judges a guy on? How much meat he can put down? I tell you, at that point, all I could think about was my fat friend Donny and how perfect this girl would be for him. I wish he discovered someone like her. I tried to look around and find someone else attempting the bastard, but couldn’t see anything. I didn’t actually know how big a 72 ounce steak was. Then I tried remembering what kind of steaks I ate back home. I remembered filet mignons, the medallions, are usually 4 or 5oz. or so, which put me in a bad mood. Then I did some math, and realized that eating it would be like eating 18 average-sized filet mignons, which didn’t seem too bad. “I’ll do it,” I said. “Really?” “Yep.” She put her hand on mine. “This is so exciting,” she said. The next time the waiter came around I told him to get me a whiskey on the rocks and a water on the side. Beer would just fill me. I asked him about the challenge, and he said that in addition to the steak I’d have to eat a side salad, a baked potato, and that I wasn’t allowed to leave the table for any reason, not even to piss. I told him I was going to do it, and I put on this fake confidence that Lydia just seemed to love. “Not a problem,” I said. “I’m starving.” Lydia asked the waiter what the prize was when I finished. She thought she was so clever using the word when rather than if, and she couldn’t get over herself. It was somewhat cute, though, how she laughed. I really wanted to take her home, and this would only help, 56 ◌ The 72oz. Steak
I figured. The prize: your meal gets paid for, you get a t-shirt, and your picture is put on the bulletin board for everyone to see. I liked the last one the best. There was something about putting my name and face on something that got me excited. Out of one hundred and sixty-six to try it, only seven had been able to finish. Not the best odds, but just looking at Lydia and wondering what she looked like naked made me pretty damn hungry and confident. I even rolled up my sleeves—that’s how confident I was. Confident people always seem to roll up their sleeves. Turns out it takes a decent while to cook a steak of that immense size, and there were a few lulls in the conversation I hadn’t prepared for. I mentioned politics to fill one of the lulls, but that’s when I realized I didn’t care about politics. She went on about it for some time. She’s a little too liberal for me, but that’s forgivable for someone as young and dumb as she is. She’ll grow out of it. I zoned out at some point. “How’s that stomach of yours?” Lydia asked. “Empty as a bucket.” “A bucket of what?” “A bucket of nothing.” When the waiter came out, an entourage of about three others followed him. He was carrying a very large, steaming tray, which he placed in front of me. Another man placed a normal steak in front of Lydia, who lit up again, smiling and turning red. She gave a few close-chested claps as I stared at the heap of cow in front of me. Damn, the thing was huge. It was about the size of a human thigh. “How’d you flip this thing?” I asked. “Fireplace tongs.” One of the waiters explained the rules to me and told me I had one hour to eat it all, which was a little surprising. He raised his voice and told the entire restaurant, who all joined in with cheers and clapping. The pressure was on. That, mixed with the heat of the enormous steak in front of me, made me sweat a ridiculous amount. 57
Jon-Michael Brothers ◌ 57
“You can do it,” Lydia said, leaning over and kissing me on the cheek. She put her hand on my thigh, close to my penis. It made me even hungrier. “Just eat it,” she said. “Eat it good.” “Alright,” I said. “Let’s do it. I can do this, no problem.” I cracked my knuckles. Confident people always seem to crack their knuckles. A few of them just wouldn’t crack, however. The waiter gave the orders, and the countdown began. Sixty minutes. I dug in right away, cutting into the thick, fatty part that was nice and charred. It tasted great, but I knew I wouldn’t think so in forty or so minutes. I was chewing loud and fast. “Don’t forget the salad,” Lydia said. “Eat some of it.” “I’m getting to that.” My mouth was full. “It stretches your stomach out.” My handkerchief was drenched with sweat after a few minutes. Lydia would chime in every now and again, pointing out the falling beads on my forehead and racing them, she called it—seeing which one would land on my brow first. Then she’d have these little one-liners, ranging from sexually subliminal messages about steak and meat, to the cruel and unjust treatment of slaughterhouse animals. “This cow was alive not two weeks ago,” she would say. “Oh, god.” “The poor girl. She had a family, I bet—her cute little calves. God forbid they become veal.” The steak was so juicy I almost didn’t need water, but I kept drinking whiskey, sipping it slow in between bites. I powered through the salad and baked potato relatively quickly. Everyone in the restaurant seemed to be watching. I’d catch a look from someone, egging me on with their eyes, and I’d try to kick it up a few notches, taking bigger mouthfuls. I even picked up the steak at one point and started chomping meat right off the bone, but my arms and jaw could only take so much of that. Just 58 ◌ The 72oz. Steak
about twenty minutes in, I was really starting to feel it in my gut. Cramps. “Too easy,” said Lydia. “Right? Is it too easy? Say it’s too easy.” I coughed, choking a bit on a thick piece of cartilage. “It’s too easy,” I said. I was slicing faster and chewing harder, taking sips of water now just to help slide it down my throat quicker. Like swallowing pills. Lydia began rubbing my knee at some point, which turned into her blatantly rubbing my crotch. She grabbed it and just left her hand there, but the amounts of grease and fat I had consumed must have impeded the blood flow to my penis. It wasn’t having it. My jaw was sore and stiff from chewing, and my lower back was raw from being hunched over my plate. I had trouble breathing, and I knew then I wouldn’t be able to finish or even come close. “There isn’t a lot of time left,” said Lydia. “Are you gonna finish or what?” “I don’t think so.” “Oh,” she said. She slid her hand out from under the table, and I called for another drink with less ice. “That’s okay,” she said. “That’s not a big deal.” She poked at my steak with her fork. “You barely ate half. What’s the matter?” “I just can’t fit anymore. I’m sorry.” “No,” she said. “You don’t have to be sorry.” “Thanks.” I smiled. “But,” she added. “Was it your stomach? Or you just didn’t feel like it, or? What was the matter?” I told her, but she still pestered me a bit about why. The waiter announced my defeat, and a loud ahhwwwwww sounded from the crowd, followed by the continued clanking and clashing of silverware. Then the waiter came back over and took a quick picture of me with a Polaroid. “But I didn’t win,” I said. 59
Jon-Michael Brothers ◌ 59
“This is for something else.” As much as I ate, I wanted coffee, so we got some. “Put some authority in it,” I told the waiter. “And bring some on the side, with ice.” He went off. “Man, I’m full,” I said. “Yeah, I bet,” said Lydia. “Did you enjoy your steak?” “It was okay,” she said. “It was small and wimpy, is what it was.” I smiled. She nodded. Something had changed. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “Nothing. Just tired I guess. You getting the check?” “After my coffee, yeah.” I tried sparking another conversation here and there. Reeled out some boring topics, but she wasn’t biting. I drank my spiked coffee and my whiskey on the rocks as quickly as I could, then I paid for the check. My steak alone cost almost a hundred bucks. She didn’t even say thank you. I didn’t hear it, at least. I looked around the place and saw many people glancing and staring, especially the young. They weren’t courteous enough to glance away when I looked up. People were pitying me, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t need pity. It was a 72 ounce steak, for Christ’s sake. I started to panic, worrying that she wouldn’t come home with me or that she wouldn’t want to see me again, but the alcohol helped calm me down. “Okay,” I said. “Be honest with me. Would you like to see me again?” “I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not sure the chemistry is there. I really, just…I don’t know.” “Yeah? Okay.” We stood up and left. Outside, it was cold. I was walking to my car, but Lydia wasn’t following. “I have a ride,” she said. “What? I have a car. C’mon, I’ll take you home.” “No, I’m fine. I have a ride.” She got on her phone, and said, “I’m ready,” then 60 ◌ The 72oz. Steak
hung up. After a few minutes of bullshitting, a limo pulled around the corner. “I’ll call you,” I said. “Yeah,” she said. “Okay.” “You alright?” She was talking to someone through the rolled down window of the car. “I think you drink a little too much,” she said. This confused me. “I’m sorry I couldn’t finish the steak,” I said. She got in and drove away, and I could only imagine what she was doing behind those tinted windows— laughing, probably, or maybe calling some guy she recently met, asking him if he’s hungry and exactly how hungry. Shit, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was screwing the limo driver around the corner. Looking back, I should have told her I had a late lunch. That might have softened the blow. I had indigestion and gas. I was too uncomfortable to sit down in my car. The car seat was broken anyways, and I had trouble moving it back so it wouldn’t press down on my bloated stomach. I stayed standing awhile. For a good ten minutes I asked people in the parking lot if they had any Alka-Seltzer, but no one seemed to listen. “Alka-Seltzer don’t work much for me,” this one guy said. I was able to laugh a bit, because Alka-Seltzer works for everyone. Three young and fat Latino women came out at some point and they were drunk and laughing. I rolled down my sleeves and started to ask them if they had any Alka-Seltzer, but before I could finish my sentence, I threw up a small geyser of vomit that peaked at the top of my throat. I was able to swallow it back down but the stench was awful and the taste wasn’t too fun and the Latino girls just laughed and looked at each other and tugged their huge earrings and kept walking down the street. I pounded on my chest a bit, hoping to loosen something up. It took awhile for the taste on my tongue to settle, but I suppose I should stop worrying about little things like that. 61
Jon-Michael Brothers ◌ 61
NONSEQUITUR PROSE It was on my birthday that I returned to my house. My birthday falls on the fifteenth of April. The fifteenth time I tried the borrowed key it worked. The key to understanding prose such as this is disassociation. This is prose rather than poetry because the sentences suggest a narrative. Narrative differs from poetry in suggesting movement from one place to another. Writing such as mine depends upon propulsive movement even if it doesn't evoke a superficial sense of going anywhere. Without this sense of propulsion there is no art. What more can I say within a single page? Nothing more. Nothing.
62 â—Œ Single-Page Chapbooks
BEFORE & AFTER: AN ASYMMETRICAL FICTION He: Yes, at last. It was so hard to wait. She: Do you want me to leave? He: No! Don't even think about it. She: Do you love me? He: Of course! She: Have you ever cheated on me? He: No! Why you even asking? She: Will you kiss me? He: Yes! She: Will you abuse me? He: No way! I'm not such kind of person! She: Can I trust you? She: Can I trust you? He: No way! I'm not such kind of person! She: Will you abuse me? He: Yes! She: Will you kiss me? He: No! Why you even asking? She: Have you ever cheated on me? He: Of course! She: Do you love me? He: No! Don't even think about it. She: Do you want me to leave? He: Yes, at last. It was so hard to wait.
Richard Kostelanetz â—Œ 63
A A A A A A
64 ◌ Single-Page Chapbooks
B B B B B B
ANOTHER MARRIAGE One bed, one bedroom. Double beds, one bedroom. Twin beds, one bedroom. Two beds, two bedrooms. Two beds, two houses. Two stones, two cemeteries.
Richard Kostelanetz â—Œ 65
66 ◌ Compositions
Craig Reynolds â—Œ 67
68 â—Œ Compositions
Craig Reynolds â—Œ 69
Nicole Treska An Account of The Oracle at Sundown Loretta’s likeness stretched long across the pavement. Her silhouette caught about her feet and unraveled out and away from her down the sidewalk, her head far from her heart, her heart far from everything. Lovely Loretta, composed of fine lines, stood very still as the day died around her. Music played loud, and old men and children yelled in the summer streets, but Loretta heard none of it. She was gone. One Loretta becoming many, becoming a shadow, becoming a woman who would stand alone on sidewalks. Across the street, the bus flashed her silvered reflection between passing cars. Loretta looked familiar, and at the same time distorted. She wore the same clothes she had always worn; the skirt that fell just below her knees, the silk blouse from her father with the mother–of– pearl buttons, nylons dabbed with nail polish and running top to toe. A portrait rendered in charcoal, a study in shadows, darker than she must have been and smudged. Men in blue pinstripe and gold watches, and women with wide hips and patchwork kerchiefs moved past her, while lonely Loretta, artfully drawn to break your heart, stood unnoticed in black and white. Still life on sidewalk. Loretta lived in another medium, scratched out against a landscape of broad strokes, stark against strident color. Unlooked upon for the risk in looking, she was surrounded by lives she would never know in a world that would always spin past her. A wonder how it remained on its axis, she thought, unbalanced as it was. Lost Loretta, the sunless moon, wished for the earth to be flat—for mythic beasts and divine intervention, for the sea to go rushing over some edge with uncontained force, with somewhere, anywhere, to go. She had nowhere to go. She was there on the corner with the train tracks and the traffic and the chain 70
link fences that ran off into the horizon, where the barbed wire unwound and rusted toward infinity. She endured there on the street with telephone and electrical wires running cross-hatched against the boundless blue, caging the sky. There stood Loretta, under the statue of the Madonna. Loretta who ached to leave her heart there, a shadow on the sidewalk. She longed to step out of her frame, or paint the ma jesty she was sure existed, but she could not, for Loretta did not know how to draw. She could not sing a song to voice her sorrow, or work a piano to make its timbre match her hurt. She could not write words in an order that would make people understand, and so there was no way for her to explain. Loretta, achromatic and backlit by brilliance, died a little along with the light for want of resolution; there under the eyes of the goddess, with the deluge of life threatening to drown her, and the curve and constant turn of the earth close to throwing herâ€Śthere stood Loretta. She thought of the lives she would not have. Of lovers, and maybe what that would be like. She thought about taking up smoking. She thought about how her mind had left her, her senses capable of the flight her legs were not. She thought that it was good that she thought this at all. That was good, at least. She thought of her mother; her head a thicket of wiry gray hair, her back to Loretta as she did most things. She thought, then, that her father must be sitting on the porch, watching Hancock Street for her return. She was never going home. She thought that, truly, in her mind, which was flawed. She thought she could leave, though she could not even move. She thought there was a way out, but there was no way out. She did not think this. She did not think about a life spent alone; hair turning gray, fingers turning yellow, mind turning away from a world that refused to stop turning. She did not think of the house on Hancock Street becoming the only largess in her world, of her shadow 71
twisting up the staircase and inhabiting the dark places within. She did not think of these things, because she did not know that they could beâ€”there were no oracles in her modern world. Lamentable Loretta did not know what her life would become. Trains moved through the spreading night, sounding their egress as they withdrew from the city. Moaning like Lorettaâ€™s awkward soul, they pulled her back from a mind swiftly becoming baroque. Loretta watched the trains and wished for herself a voice like the sirens. A voice that would deliver her from insanity; a voice that could express her want and fear and sorrow with astounding clarity. She wanted a voice that would stave off death. She saw the trains, bound for elsewhere, bound by their tracks and bound to announce their comings and goings with ground shaking enormity. She raised her arms, and lifted her eyes and stood on the corner in nylons punched with holes and tried to sing. No words came out, no tune recognizable, but rather a sound that spiraled like barbed wire; sharp and eaten by the ravages of the passage of time. It spun out away from her and wrapped itself jagged around those who heard it. The streets emptied as the sky darkened, and the children returned home dirty and pleased with the end of a day at the end of the summer. The old men sat languid on benches and looked to find the source of that cutting sound, and a woman walking on the other side of the street strained through the dimday to identify that which struck her still, before moving on. Loretta saw none of it. She was gone. She imagined herself a train pushing through, wailing toward freedom. She saw herself clinging to a rock, sounding her woe until every passing vessel was crazed by the immutable truth of her song. She heard from her throat the wishes she could never give a name, the fears she only acknowledged in dreams. Lilting Loretta, screaming on the sidewalk had twilight tangled in her hair.
72 â—Œ An Account of the Oracle at Sundown
When her lungs flapped empty in her chest, and the last light of day fell down behind the statue, Loretta quieted. Dusk had come during her lopsided aria, and in the early dark she felt far from transcendent, and she could no longer see her reflection. She touched the mother-of-pearl buttons; the little shells up and down her chest. Loretta thought it must be tiresome to hold tight to the ocean floor, for fear of being picked up, or carried off, or caught in a drift that turned into a current that turned into an inundation. Loretta, the silkscreened woman stood on the corner with the voice of a siren. Little good it did her, there with her agonies piled up in a heap at her feet. She felt pristine for only the most painful moment before new fears began to impress themselves upon her. Loretta the lithograph, a girl soft as copper, thought she might never be empty, only alone. She thought that she may always carry the weight of her solitude, but at least that was something. She thought to herself that this had all been of very little useâ€Śvery little, and that though it was dark, she could see just fine. She turned from the corner and started to walk home, following the ever uphill bend toward Hancock Street. The old men had retired to find their supper and the trains were far off. Loretta walked with no shadow away from the gaze of the Madonna, high above the city on her golden perch, frozen as the girl had been, and unable to move.
Nicole Treska â—Œ 73
Kenneth Pobo Late Summer Nursery It shrinks like wax paper before a lit match. Aisles of petunias, gone. Lilies trashed or hidden away. Some flowers still perform—dahlias in frilly hats, Japanese anemones like budding antennae. Mums, heavily budded, get ready to break into autumn’s house. Back in July I’d dodge bees as I swerved between pots and plots. A few linger, late customers. I think of spring bulbs not quite ready for sale. And Christmas, such nervous joy.
Casey Francis This Town Is Nearly Dead The few mothers and grandmothers with cats scrounging at their doors must fear you as your car rumbles past, not slowing for the small town the highway cuts in half. Opera singers past their prime sang in a brick building on Main, now tore down. Roy Pounds lived here too—a near baseball great who threw his shoulder out. Kathy Barnes, a nurse who lost her license, still lives here consumed by meth. A young, green-eyed woman flags you down from the long stretch of a highway billboard to remind you of a librarian from your own hometown— she always left you blushing when her helpful hand rested on your back. A small elderly man, or perhaps a tired child, draws a yellowing curtain back as you brake to avoid a raccoon, or maybe it’s a large cat. What else could he expect of you approaching, cutting through, blazing past?
Whitney Egstad Night Kids Dark as bandits and cricket-quick, we haunted the oaks of eleventh street, our humid lungs as breath-machines, churning steam in gusts. We scaled the knobby bark with lizard grip, crouched on hidden branches, savored the danger of tender boughs. We climbed to shield ourselves from lightness, flee the milken eye of moonlight at our backs, reach the false dominion of altitude in a Florida flatland town.
George Davis Cathcart ◌ 77
Mary Harwell Sayler Commune Occasion The media went to Babel and back where they learned to unspeak, like a speechless fortuneteller after a stroke, saying Sinnatribe, Sinnatribe enough times that, yes, the people said, we now know what you mean.
Ruth Foley Bat It opens itself to tiredness, opens meâ€”too tired, the light too bright, its wings not black enough to blot the false yellow shine, not strong enough to batter it through to fullness, to the white moon. It comes to the window from the inside, something like Godâ€”aware, rapt, ceaseless. Not elation, nothing like revelation, but holy. Ugly and delicate. It tries again for freedom, for safety in numbers. A fine powder of dust shimmers down from its wings, a sharp taste of something not quite remembered. Something stirs in the garden. Itâ€™s late, but I make myself rise again, force myself tall in the dark, refuse to bend and cower. Soon it will be over, and I will be free to lie down. I turn myself cold in the autumn hours before dawn, barefoot, fold a robe around my shaking shoulders. Pieces of us cannot be loved at all. We cover what we can. I recognize those flutters, the words that come for them, those few spare cries. Truth tells itself in the night. We rarely listen. I open a window, turn off the ceiling fan, the light. I close the bedroom door and wait behind it. Something speaks to me.
Biographies Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán is the author of Antes y después del Bronx: Lenapehoking, winner of the New American Press Chapbook Contest, and is the editor of an international queer Indigenous issue of Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art, and Thought. Bodhrán received his B.A. in Women Studies from San Francisco State University and his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Michigan State University. Jon-Michael Brothers grew up in New York City, and is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing ma jor at Emerson College. He loves film, his family, literature, writing, camping, and has a strong affinity for whiskey and beer. He prefers cats to dogs, but will never admit it. George Davis Cathcart is a native of Manhattan who spent a short stint in Baltimore at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) before dropping out and enrolling in the illustration program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he is today. He has interned for illustrator Maira Kalman, photographer William Wegman, and The New Yorker. Hing Chui was born and raised in the state of Delaware, where growing up, he was fed a diet of manga and European comics until drawing and telling stories became the only thing he wanted to do. His narrative image work can be found in his internet stomping grounds at hingchui.com. Miriam Cohen received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her short story “Naughty” appeared in the 2010 issue of Black Warrior Review, where it was chosen by Brian Evenson as the winner of the 2010 Black Warrior Review Fiction Contest. Her fiction has also been published in Storyglossia, The Fiddleback, and was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s 2009 Fiction Open contest as well as Glimmer Train’s 2008 Family Matters contest. She lives in New York City.
Genevieve Dimmitt is a Brooklyn-based photographer, sky writer, canoer and curator. Raised in Florida and swimming at age 2, she has an affinity for water and a thrives in the heat. Genevieveâ€™s ongoing Pools series chronicles her nostalgia for summer time, diving boards and hand stands. Katy Doughty is an illustration student at the Rhode Island School of Design. She enjoys painting, graphic design, and of course comics. You can find more of her work at risd.digication.com/kdoughty/Welcome Whitney Egstad lives in Tampa, FL. Her work has appeared in West Florida Literary Foundationâ€™s online journal, The Spill, and is forthcoming in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival Anthology. Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her recent work is appearing or forthcoming in River Styx, Measure, The Ghazal Page, and Umbrella, which nominated one of her poems for a Pushcart Prize this year. She also serves as Associate Poetry Editor for Cider Press Review. Casey Francis has received a BA from Quincy University and is currently finishing a graduate degree in English at New Mexico Highlands University. He has published or work forthcoming in A Prairie Journal, Boston Literary Magazine, Verse Wisconsin, Red River Review and the Blog for Rural America (www.cfra.org/blog). Find out more about Casey at about.me/caseyfrancis. E. K. Gordon lives in the Albany area of New York and teaches creative writing at RPI. She is currently working on a novel called Real Moon. Peycho Kanev has been writing poetry for the past 10 years. His poems have appeared in more than 400 literary magazines. In 2009 his short story collection Walking Through Walls (Ciela), and in April 2010 his poetry collection American Notebooks (Ciela) were both published in Bulgaria. His new poetry collection, Bone Silence, was released in September 2010 by Desperanto, NY.
Austin Kleon is a writer and artist. He’s best known for his Newspaper Blackout Poems—poetry made by redacting newspaper articles with a permanent marker. His first book, Newspaper Blackout, was published by Harper Perennial in 2010. New York Magazine called the collection “brilliant” and The New Yorker said the poems “resurrect the newspaper when everyone else is declaring it dead.” He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Meghan, and their dog, Milo. Individual entries on Richard Kostelanetz’s work in several fields appear in various editions of A Reader’s Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, Contemporary Poets, Contemporary Novelists, Postmodern Fiction, Webster’s Dictionary of American Writers, The HarperCollins Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, NNDB.com, Wikipedia.com, and Britannica.com, among other distinguished directories. Otherwise, he survives in New York, where he was born, unemployed and thus overworked. More at richardkostelanetz.com. Lyn Lifshin has over 130 books, including: Black Sparrow’s, Cold-Comfort, Before It’s Light, Another Woman; horse books about Ruffian, Barbaro. In 2011: Ball Room and All the Poets Who Have Touched Me: True, Especially the Lies. Florence Ma jor is an artist/poet born in Montreal, Quebec, and living in New York City. She has poems in Chaffey Review, Cerise Press, Quarrtsiluni and has been a contributing editor to various print magazines. Vaidehi Patil is a graphic designer who likes to write and works out of Pune, India. She collects odd names, trivia, and old printed things. Her blog can be found at vaidehipatil.wordpress.com Kenneth Pobo has a new chapbook out from Thunderclap Press called Closer Walks. This fall, Deadly Chaps is bringing out a chapbook of his micro-fiction called Tiny Torn Maps. He likes cats, martinis, Tommy James & The Shondells, and salmon-colored four o’clocks. He doesn’t like malls, most politicians, mechanical stuff, and people who misjudge Odin. 82
Dawn Raffel’s most recent book is Further Adventures in the Restless Universe. Her next book is a memoir, from which “The Cat” is taken. Her son, Sean Evers, created the illustration that accompanies “The Cat.” Craig Reynolds was born in Providence, Rhode Island and received a BFA in photography from the Savannah College Of Art and Design in 2007. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Gianna Russo is the founding editor of YellowJacket Press, currently the only publisher of poetry chapbook manuscripts in Florida. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has publications in Tampa Review, Ekphrasis, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, The MacGuffin, and Calyx, among others. She is the author of a chapbook, Blue Slumber, and the full-length poetry collection, Moonflower, published in 2011 by Kitsune Books. Mary Harwell Sayler’s writing credits include 24 traditionally published books of fiction and nonfiction, 4 e-books, and 3 self-published chapbooks. Over 1000 of her articles, children’s stories and poems have seen print in journals and e-zines. She recently received word that Hiraeth will release her book of nature poems in 2012. Brian Tierney is a freelance writer and editor based in Pittsburgh, and currently teaches composition and literature at Duquesne University. His poem, “Shadow Puppets,” is featured in the summer issue of Weave. Nicole Treska lives in Harlem and teaches writing and literature at The City College of New York. She turns up early to most things, and is rarely prepared for the weather. She is susceptible, and loud, and working on it.
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