Mount Holyoke Review 02

Page 1

the MOUNT HOLYOKE REVIEW ISSUE 02 SPRING 2021





THE MOUNT HOLYOKE REVIEW


Copyright © 2021 by the Mount Holyoke Review. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior permission in writing from the owners of the copyright. Mount Holyoke Review can be contacted via email at mountholyokereview@gmail.com. Submission guidelines can be found online at mountholyokereview.squarespace.com.

Cover art “Blue Manakin Dance” by Jenny Kirk ’24.


“Hope” is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops - at all - Emily Dickinson


Masthead Editors-in-Chief Olivia Brandwein ’22 Flannery Langton ’22 Liz Lewis ’22 Poetry Editors Kylie Gellatly FP ’23 Elle Provolo ’22 Prose Editors Rose Cohen ’22 Rebecca Kilroy ’23 Layout & Web Directors Morgan Sammut ’22 Ella White ’22 Promotions Director Ava Provolo ’22 Business Manager Renee Russo ’23 Faculty Advisor Andrea Lawlor

Readers Gaby Barber ’23 Brynna Bartoo ’24 Margaret Connor ’23 Marjolaine De Simone ’24 Amandine De Simone ’24 Emma Devereaux ’24 Bryn Healy ’24 Ansely Keane ’23 Jean Klurfeld ’24 Woodlief McCabe ’23 Emma Pope McCright ’23 Ali Meizels ’23 Sofia O’Bryant ’24 Ava Provolo ’22 Renee Russo ’23 Morgan Sammut ’22 Sage Sanderspree ’24 Hannah Thukral ’23 Rebeca Villatoro-Alvarez ’23 Emma Watkins ’23 Rachel Wood ’22 Earl Wren ’24 Mira Zylali ’21 Copy Editor Margaret Connor ’23

The Mount Holyoke Review would like to extend special thanks to Kelsey Thomas ’21 for copy editing this issue and Bryn Healy ’24 for her help adding content to our website. We would also like to thank the Mount Holyoke College English department for their support and encouragement in our events, publications, and growth as a literary organization.


Letter from the Editors Dear reader, Welcome to the second issue of the Mount Holyoke Review. This year we had the joy of watching the publication blossom beyond its roots. This is our first issue to include works that directly address the world in which we have all lived since last March. It is also the first issue to include both writing and artwork in conversation with each other. The featured artwork came directly from the authors and from Mount Holyoke artists responding to their words. This issue explores themes not seen in the first publication. The pandemic is written about directly with references to Zoom, quarantine, and COVID. It also shows up in subtle ways through explorations of identity, isolation, and imaginative adventures we can’t currently experience. This letter is also our small farewell to this publication because this is our last semester as editors-in-chief. Being a part of the Review has been incredibly fulfilling and, frankly, just so much fun. We look forward to continuing to be a part of this organization while seeing how new leadership can invigorate the publication. Next year will be the first full-year publication cycle and the first time many students will step foot on Mount Holyoke’s campus after the derailment and substantial changes that took place over this year. We’re excited to see how the publication will reflect these and future transitions. The Mount Holyoke Review will continue to be a platform to uplift the voices of the writers in this community. We are confident that this will continue for many years to come. Warmly, Olivia Brandwein ’22, Flannery Langton ’22, & Liz Lewis ’22 9


Table of Contents This tangle of thorns / Lu Yang Modern Fugue / Lu Yang  Your Death / Emma Nguyen  Silver and Blue / Avery Martin can’t believe it was There / David Nejezchleba  Las relaciones / Ava Provolo  This Is Not a Letter / Avery Martin  Presence / Olivia Brandwein  Presence (artwork) / Liz Lewis   Untitled (Tiny mortal writings ...) / Lily Reavis  Plastic Spring / Embry O’Leary I will lose my mind / David Nejezchleba  My Mom Says Just Stop Picking / Woodlief McCabe  Portrait / Emma Nguyen  Room / Emma Nguyen haiku #1 / Ava Provolo Sunrise Pulse / Embry O’Leary haiku: body / Elle Provolo  “Jupiter and Saturn may leave marks...” / Nadia Niva  Ladybug Brigade / Jean Klurfeld  Birth/Rebirth / Ruby Henry  Birth/Rebirth (artwork) / Ruby Henry Untitled (hurricane) / Meryl Phair

13 14 15 17 24 25 26 28 30 33 34 35 37 39 41 42 43 44 45 47 48 49 51


Letter to 妈妈... / Peiyun Jiang  I think there were tears ... / Jean Klurfeld  cuore del mio cuore (heart of my heart) / Elle Provolo  we made risotto on friday / Elle Provolo  Tea / Nora Carrier  Singles Quarantined / Lu Yang THE FISH SWIMS AWAY / Nadia Niva  WHEN I GET LONESOME / Nadia Niva  Roadkill / Amandine De Simone  Untitled (We pass a sequence...) / Margaret Connor  A Clearing in a Wide Oval Bowl / 김효리 Hyo Rhi Kim  Murmurs Under the Roof Window / Lu Yang  He gave me Fire / Amandine De Simone  Untitled / Regis Reed Demolition Lovers / Regis Reed On Monsters: Self Reflection / Regis Reed  Untitled / Regis Reed Bathroom / Jean Klurfeld  Untitled (chaos) / Meryl Phair Another Zoom Meeting / Rebecca Kilroy Job / Protiti Rasnaha Kamal  Citizen Luka Maro / Margaret Connor  Contributors

52 55 56 57 58 60 61 63 65 66 76 79 81 82 83 85 87 88 89 90 92 94 106



Spring 2021

This tangle of thorns After “Modern Fugue” Lu Yang 13


Issue 02

Modern Fugue Lu Yang Faith turning sour on a raining afternoon, Thunderless. I suck the music from white man’s jazz And dance to Louis Armstrong’s husky beats. All the people that failed at love, I take the pain from your chests And endure with tender moans. Somewhere a moaning becomes a prayer That apologizes for those unbendable knees That grew on me these past few acid years. The pureness of thought has long been Diluted into elite nonsense, how I Long to murder my own mind The pest of modern uncivility! Broken stanzas carry this raucous soulness Mess of an angel, with da Vinci’s oil striken Colorful wings and the evasive smile of Mona Lisa I remain and wait, wait and remain, For a mist of confused chaos called Dawn.

14


Spring 2021

Your Death Emma Nguyen The cool night was low on our age of sixteen We were broken into youth, Dropped into our dresses Smooth and aggressive, triumphant and wonderfully queer I remember you by the beach seeing through my vapor’s eye Your alien palms white like chalk on the sidewalk Into the black holes in my squirming sheets We took our hands, snuck around lighted streets Brought our years to the table, learning and smuggling Through the gutters and past my mother’s screams Past our ankles blew the breeze, small and dreaming Dumbed down, filthy and pretty We were really on a roll Oh! How I took pride in your tender cries Guitar in hand you’d sing of your death The shades of your hair suspended from dark highs Saw you as the only one, as you saw me too Must’ve known what you meant in your song When I froze downstairs, crying at your glittering feet Your death was the life of our days Now you sit at your piano, Mumbling of your death Playing quiet notes the color has changed in your song While I stand backstage, your song empties me in my bed

15


Issue 02 The sound is not music but a noise A screech in a gray garden, Now, not one kick in the beating white light

16


Content Notes: mentions of child and infant death and burial

Spring 2021

Silver and Blue Avery Martin The ring slipped off my finger when I jumped into the water, attempting a cannonball to impress a girl named Emily who intrigued and annoyed me in almost equal parts. It wasn’t a precious ring, just a thin band of silver without any stones, but it had belonged to my grandmother. As I watched it tumble through the dark blue water I was filled with an impossible need to retrieve it. Emily forgotten, I filled my lungs and ducked below the surface, following the mossy cable that anchored the dock as it snaked down to the bottom of the lake. The end was tied to a broken cinder block, also lush with algae and wedged between stones. I picked over these rocks, rounded by centuries of currents, one at a time, smoothing my fingers over each and lifting the looser ones to look in the cracks beneath, until I ran out of air. I returned to the surface, bursting into the air and drawing a deep breath. My legs beat the water as I considered my options. I had to find the ring. The bottom of the lake wasn’t too deep around the raft, only fifteen feet or so, and the cinder block made a useful landmark. Remembering the search patterns drilled into my head at junior lifeguard camp the summer before, I felt more assured. I flipped to my stomach and pulled a few strong arm strokes – one, two – then angled my torso downward and lifted my legs above me, allowing their weight to propel my body down into the cool blue. This lake isn’t like most lakes. Or maybe it is, just exaggerated to the point of absurdity. Picture a mountain lake in your mind – a big one. Now picture one bigger, deeper, bluer, colder. Deeper still. 1,645 feet deep at its deepest, in fact, and clear enough to see fifty feet down. Deep enough that they say that Jaques Cousteau went on a single expedition below its calm 17


Issue 02 surface and reported that “the world is not ready to know” what lay in its depths. This raft floated in the tamer shallows, but cold currents still swirled across my skin and twisted the rough cable like a whip through molasses. The temperature seemed to drop with each rock I inspected as I made my way in a thorough spiral out from the rope. I kept my eyes open, hoping for a glimpse of silver The prospectors who first invaded these mountains were here for silver too. They laid railways, fished and hunted the cutthroat trout and wild hare, blasted through the mountains and the lives of the Washo people, clear-cut piñon forests for lumber to support their boom towns. The story of this lake is a violent one, of course, like every story of this country. They say the lake holds this violence close, preserves it. There is some certain depth in the lake, with some certain combination of temperature and pressure, where a body doesn’t decompose. No bacteria can survive there, nothing that will eat flesh and fart out gas and float a body back to the surface. At this certain depth, hundreds of feet below the fishing boats and kayaks and jet skis, they say there is a layer of human bodies, preserved perfectly by the cold or perhaps crushed and shrunken by the pressure. Floating. Waiting. But the lake is too deep, and too wide, and too cold, for anyone to grab a frozen hand and pull them to the top where the light penetrates. My chest should have been bursting by the time I had spiraled my way out to a few yards from the rope that anchored me to the surface, but I was strangely comfortable. I could have noticed, in retrospect, that this wasn’t normal. I was a lifeguard and a swimmer but my lung capacity has never been anything to brag about. But I was focused on the task at hand, inspecting each gap between slippery stones that my fingers explored, searching for silver. The water held me cold and close as I made my way in circles, swimming parallel to the rocky floor. I shivered, 18


Spring 2021 and maybe it was the sound of my own teeth grinding within my skull amplified by miles of water but I swear I heard a scream echoing through the deep blue. I froze, a rock clutched in one palm, the other hand pressed into the lake bed to hold me steady against the currents. It came again, a sharp cry distorted by the water. it reverberated through the water around me and terrified me. Every year at that camp was an intense combination of peace and terror. When I closed my eyes and sucked the air into my lungs, breathing in pine and sagebrush, my mind quieted and my heartbeat slowed. But it’s hard to feel at home at church camp when your head keeps echoing with “I don’t know if I believe in God” and “Maybe I’m bisexual” and “Sometimes I want to die.” I was awkward, stuck between kid and teenager, all scraped knees and too many limbs for my own good, but Emily and the other girls who I called my friends let me join them as they gathered in the dark on the cement floor of our cabin to tell ghost stories. Many were boring, tales we’d all heard before. One, though, passed down from camper to camper, stuck with all of us. It went like this: One night, many years ago, a little boy walked out of his cabin at night after the sun had set because he wanted to go swimming. He misjudged the distance between his cabin and the stairs down the bluff to the beach and veered off the path in the darkness. He ran through the birch trees above the cliff, thinking he was heading for the steps to the water, but instead he ran straight off the edge, into the open air above the rocks and waves below. The counselors found his drowned body crushed against a boulder the next morning. If you wander too close to the birch grove at night, the story goes, you can still hear him screaming, immortalized at the moment he realized that there was no longer ground beneath his feet. 19


Issue 02 A few years after the last time I heard that story, we buried a baby under those birches. I was an acolyte, robed in white, struggling to stand steady under the weight of the brass cross I held overhead. It was fall and the wind blew cold onto the bluff from the water. His mother, a priest, was the first to cry, and most of the altar party followed soon after. The cantor tried to hold the key of the hymn in spite of the rushing wind and the tears and each person took turns to dust a handful of earth over the tiny grave. It looked too small to be real, I almost didn’t believe a baby would fit in such a little hole. I never asked his mother if she knew the story about the boy in the birches. The birch grove was hundreds of yards away but the sound brought that story immediately to my mind. Panicked and suddenly desperate for air, I planted my feet on the rocks below me and pushed myself upward, frantically kicking towards the light. I sucked in a breath and found the raft, further from me than I expected. My arms splashed violently as I sprinted towards it. I hauled my body out of the water, the plastic mini-golf turf that covered the top of the raft leaving stinging patches of rug burn across my stomach. Emily raised her head from where she lay sunning herself, annoyed. “You splashed me,” she said. Between breaths I gasped out, “Sorry.” This seemed to satisfy her, and she closed her eyes and lay back, water droplets drying across her pale stomach. As I caught my breath, I tried to seem unbothered, although she wasn’t paying any attention to me. My heartbeat slowly calmed. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. Kids still splashed by the shallow buoys. Counselors sat on the rocks, gossiping. The tops of my shoulders warmed in the sun and I shook off my discomfort. It was a beautiful day, I was a strong swimmer and a brave sixth grader; my ring was down among the rocks and it would be silly to leave it there when I could just dive down and pick it up. 20


Spring 2021 Five years after that summer I returned to the camp as a counselor. The lake was still as majestic, the trees as tall and inviting, but I could see then that I wasn’t the only one who felt out of place. The first day of a session, as kids reclaimed cliques and chased each other around the chapel and dragged suitcases out of cars and up the dusty hill to the cabins, a mother pulled me aside. Her daughter Alisha, she said, was here for the first time. She was here because her older brother had loved the camp and he had been murdered a year before. This week was to be a healing experience, her mother told me, to make her feel closer to him Alisha cried often, and I was the only person she’d talk to when she was sad. She’d slip her sticky little hand into mine and choke out between sobs, “I miss him,” and I’d rub her turtle shell of a back and wish desperately that I could do something for her pain. Sometimes I could convince her to join the group for a game or a story and sometimes she’d just cling to my hand and watch, but she never went swimming. She got dressed for the beach with the other girls, the whole flock of them in brightly colored bathing suits and flip-flops, but when we walked them all down the cement stairs to the sand she always stayed sitting on the bottom step. She wouldn’t walk out onto the rocks, never joined the ritual of picking over the beach for a flat enough spot to lay a towel. I didn’t ask her why she didn’t like the water. One night she woke me in the dark with a tap to my sleeping bag, her round face hovering just inches away from mine, and pointed wordlessly to her own cot. She had wet the bed. We quietly peeled up her sheets, tip-toeing through the cabin. I asked her to help me and her quivering bottom lip stilled, determined. We each held one end of the bundle of blankets and picked our way down the path to the laundry room and the spare sleeping bags, silent together under the stars. 21


Issue 02 Alisha didn’t last the week. Her homesickness was too strong, her grief too fresh to face in a group of strangers. Her brother died far away in Vegas but too much of him was there at the lake for her to meet alone. Back on the raft, I set my jaw and slipped back into the water, careful not to splash Emily as I did so. The lake welcomed me back, sucking my body down into its cold embrace with a satisfied gulp. I swam a sloppy breaststroke to the place where my search had left off and sculled there for a moment as I got my bearings, pushing down the dread that threatened to spill out of my stomach. A deep breath in, a few overhead strokes – one, two – and I kicked my legs into the air. The fear in my gut was a lead weight pulling me down to the bottom. I hovered just over the lakebed, looking for a landmark that would orient me to the areas I had already examined and those I hadn’t. At the murky edge of my vision I thought I saw a flash of silver. Unease forgotten, I pulled my body towards it, hand over hand on the rocks below me. The raft and the shore slipped away behind me as I flowed through the water towards this glint in the darkness. It seemed to grow further away the closer I came, but then again, distances always contract and expand underwater. Try it sometime: stand in a stream, look down at the landscape around your toes, and pick out a spot on the bottom. Remember that spot, really burn it into your brain, lean down and stare at it, then close your eyes and splash your hand into the water to touch it. You’ll always miss. Location is more of a suggestion down there than a fact. As I swam closer to the glimpse of silver I thought I’d seen, my muscles tensed in the cold. I was determined to reach it. The hum of miles of boats and fish and currents, usually muted at this depth, pounded in my ears. The water pressed in, crowding me with clammy hands. My gaze narrowed, focused only on the shiny metal ahead of me. I didn’t notice that the 22


Spring 2021 rocks I pushed myself forward off of were getting softer, smoother, less solid. I didn’t notice when the algae became finer, longer, tangled strands instead of spongy vegetation. The thing that finally broke my concentration was the movement of a jaw, hinging open under my hand as I propelled myself forward off of it. I wrenched my eyes away from the beckoning glimmer ahead of me to look, terror rushing up from the pit of my stomach. My body reacted before my mind could unravel what I was seeing. My feet shoved into a sickeningly soft mass, launching me upward. My arms and legs beat the water. By the time my mind caught up I was breaking the surface, choking, thrashing towards the shore. Each stroke of my arms sprayed water into my eyes but I refused to put my head down into the lake. My heartbeat thrummed in my ears and my arms felt like jelly but I didn’t slow until I reached the shore, ran across the beach without a thought for how badly the stones would bruise my feet, and collapsed onto the safe haven of the bottom stair. The surface of the lake stretched into the distance, my ring vanished below it. Emily, still lying on the raft, removed her sunglasses and rolled over to tan her back. Crawdads burrowed between pebbles. And some distance away, refracted by water and time, a jaw slowly recoiled to rest, nestled in a tangle of arms and legs and torsos.

23


Issue 02

can’t believe it was There David Nejezchleba how you stood at the counter like Michelangelo’s David. your allure was enough to make me wish for new eyes. i kissed your face with my gaze, hands that held your perfection in my daze; not from love did my eyes turn to your excellency that struck me green-eyed, knowing of the others that were born to want you, i felt jealous of them too, my hands bound by the impossibility of my situation and you smiled at me sweetly, while envy pierced through the window of my eye. still, memories of you linger, forming shadows of branches crawling against my window at night like spiders. and wished i could be a real man like you.

24


Spring 2021

Las relaciones Ava Provolo Friends: they are our hands that have created the society that we hate so much and each inch is covered by the evil flowers of our art. Milk, white syrup of the gods, and a bedroom in which all the feelings are hidden. We need to understand the point of the corruption of the human machines in the city. Liberty, the moon that we cannot touch, and the paradise that we will never feel, therefore we will begin to tie, strand by strand, the rope to the stars, the skies, the infinities Friends, we only have the right to suffer! Our creation is here in the middle of the destruction. It rose like the phoenix from the ashes and caused the fall of joy.

25


Issue 02

This Is Not a Letter Avery Martin I want to write a poem that is my own. These words, these lines, this rhythm is tainted still with you. Your smell follows me, hesitating in the curtains of my senses, waiting for a cue. Well here is your cue — run. Leave me like a demon to a herd of sheep, like tears like sweat like vomit after a long night. But leave like a breath of smoke never to be recaptured. I wrote you poems. I wrote you love letters. I wrote you stories and stories and stories. Even my english teachers knew your name. Sometimes I wonder how you stayed so real, with so many words diluting you. how dare you? I think sometimes. How dare you haunt me still? No matter how many scales I shed, how many pumice stones I fill with my own dust. How dare you linger? Your shadow waits behind each left unturned, blank pages made heavy with its presence. And yet — am I the one pacing outside your door, tempting memory?

26


Spring 2021 We don’t talk, now. That creek bed, once swollen with storms, is long dry, but I remember. Those letters, days and days of letters and writing and words. So many words for you. In the cramp of my hand, the squint of my eyes, in the ink smudged on my palm I find you. Turn the page and there you are. Again. After all these words, how many more will it take until you no longer run with the ink of my pen? I long for the day when I sit, staring at a blank page, and your form no longer emerges like a mirage to taunt me. For the day when instead of you, my own body takes shape, slowly, alone. When from this avalanche of pages, some day, I am unearthed.

27


Issue 02

Presence Olivia Brandwein Peter cranes his body over the bathroom sink to get a closer look. The sunshine through the window and the light coming down from the exposed bulb overhead highlight the deepening creases across his forehead and the long parentheses that frame his mouth. Never mind them, they only help make him more expressive. Sandy gray hairs peak out from underneath his jet-black dye, and others have decided to abandon his scalp all together. But today is Saturday. Today they won’t matter underneath his hat. He begins the careful ritual of brushing his teeth, shaving, and moisturizing so that no spot is left uncleaned and unanointed. And then it is time. First, he coats his face in white powder. These days, he orders it specially from France. The stuff from Sephora won’t cut it anymore. Then, he drags his black eyeliner into diamonds around his eyes and creates his new eyebrows. He tests them out, raising one then the other, watching his wrinkles ripple with satisfaction. Finally, a pop of color. With his red lipstick in place, he returns to his bedroom and shimmies into his black tights, black and white striped shirt, and black suspenders, careful not to disturb his masterpiece. Pierre dons his hat, no, his beret, and then he’s off. The walk to Columbus Park is pleasant and brisk. Pierre is a fast walker and, even on weekdays, he enjoys miming his frustrations behind the backs of those cretinous slow-walkers that now crowd the city. As he crosses the busy Court Street traffic, the gleaming white stone of Borough Hall comes into full view. Fuck de Blasio, he mutters to himself, almost betraying his craft and parting his lips. He doesn’t quite remember where his hatred stems from anymore, but he’s sure it is correct and finds it a heartwarming unifier of New York’s diverse population. 28


Spring 2021 Pierre is not one to copy the crowd, but everyone hates de Blasio, and isn’t that something special? Pierre loves Columbus Park. He loves the way the grand government buildings block out the Starbucks and McDonald’s that now seep into every neighborhood. It’s a shame those damn glass buildings are creeping up behind them. Today the sunshine has made everyone forget the cold and people sprawl across stone steps, wooden park benches, and fencedoff greenery. Tomorrow the yuppies will swarm here for the farmer’s market, and Peter’s annoyance will be assuaged only by the delightful chèvre he’ll purchase. Something about eating his nice cheese with some fresh jam on some warm bread just makes him feel…civilized. But that will be the cherry on top. Today is the main event. Pierre assumes his position. Having secured his usual spot by the towering, tiered fountain (facing away from the bus stop and street traffic), he begins to stretch his long, nearly sixfoot, frame. He’s only a little bit shorter, and his belly a little bit rounder than when he started this ritual some ten years ago. But his skill, he now possesses much greater skill. He closes his eyes, cocks his head from side to side, rolls his shoulders, and breathes deeply. Upon opening them he sees the elderly gentleman in a patch of grass doing his T’ai chi. They’ve never spoken, but Pierre considers him a friend, a kindred spirit. The air around Pierre is filled with potential. From it he plucks objects and pantomimes pranks. He’s at a cafe sipping his cappuccino. He’s unwrapping a gift. Oh, you shouldn’t have! He’s confronting his father. You really shouldn’t have. He’s singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again! “Ayyooo Frenchie, where’s your box??” Pierre brings his fists to his face and then twists them to squeeze out big, fat, phantom tears. Boohoo, prick. This kid (this kid is at least 18) wouldn’t know culture or subtlety or art 29


Issue 02

Presence After “Presence” Liz Lewis

30


Spring 2021 if it smacked him in the face. Pierre chuckles thinking about smacking him in the face, but he won’t have to stoop that low; he’s too busy stooping to see what could be hiding under this curtain! But this kid. He’s part of a bigger problem. No one appreciates real art, live performance, the kind of art that makes you think. No one’s really alive. They don’t stop to listen; they can’t shut up. No one really knows how to be truly creative; they’re too busy being distracted. If it doesn’t scream at you with bells and whistles it doesn’t get the time of day, except to be the butt of some stupid prick’s joke. He sees it at the bank too. Peter stands there nine-to-five, five days a week, waiting, waiting on other people in his three-piece suit. They’re all too checked out to check the right boxes on their forms. Too plugged in to their YouTubes and Twitters and Facebooks. Peter made a Facebook back in 2010. It was the thing to do. But as old high school classmates and even bullies began “friending” him, he quickly became uncomfortable. Who are these people? It’s a privilege to know him. He’s a goddamn delight. Why should these random people know his marital status (single) and age (56) and likes (Downton Abbey) and dislikes (de Blasio)? That’s not just something you go telling people. He didn’t like how everyone’s face looked in those little squares, least of all his own. Pierre picks up a bag and struggles under its weight. He begins unloading its contents and tossing them up in the air. His eyes follow the arch of their ascent and descent and occasionally, when an object gets too close, he crosses his eyes and reels from the impact. A flock of pigeons begins to swarm near the fountain. Some schmuck has decided to share his bread. Don’t they know that pigeons have plenty of garbage to eat as it is? The number of pigeons grow and grow, and the flapping of their gray and 31


Issue 02 purple and white and iridescent wings becomes more menacing. It’s a bloodbath. They cock their heads back and forth and one points its piercing orange eyes at Pierre who is now dangerously close to a thrown bread crumb. “We’re the same. You and I,” coos the pigeon. “We’re both out in the cold doing a little dance for crumbs.” They are not the same. Pierre doesn’t “dance” and he doesn’t do it for money, for crumbs. This is passion, dedication, art. “Art? Is that what you’re trying to prove? Is this because the improv kids bullied you? I mean that’s a pretty low blow. They’re improv kids.” They didn’t bully him. Did they? Did they tell the pigeon about him? Are they still talking about him? On the Facebook? “No. No. You’re right. We’re not the same. You eat your crumbs alone.” “Shut up!” yells Pierre and then he quickly covers his mouth in such an exaggerated manner it could have been part of his routine. Did anyone see that? No, it’s a public park in Brooklyn. No one cares. Unnerved, Pierre goes to sit on a box he forgets is not real. He sits on the cold pavement instead and leans his head back on the edge of the fountain. He closes his eyes, cocks his head from side to side, rolls his shoulders, and breathes deeply. Today is Saturday. Today it does not matter. Right T’ai chi man? You know how to be present. Look, another present! What could be inside the box? Who could be inside the box?

32


Spring 2021

Untitled (Tiny mortal writings ...) Lily Reavis Tiny mortal writings in the flesh tea garden Wisp away into shreds of air, Float past this moment of Softness & Memory & Cadence dripping sweetly. Like honey until they are rediscovered, Uncovered by a form of shadow Which dances between aspens and Falls below bookcases. I did not come here to miss you. One day this tea garden moment will loosen In the minds of readers and explorers. Morning ends & mourning ends & A flesh garden turns to bone. This is the last moment I forget. Arms stretched and unfiltered, Bathing in the sun and basking in The river which takes me next. Perhaps I came here to miss you.

33


Plastic Spring After “I will lose my mind” Embry O’Leary


Spring 2021

I will lose my mind David Nejezchleba look at these seeds I have planted them carefully. they have just barely sprouted into translucent green. I will water them into spring softness and watch them change. I am asking you to look at the sign. it’s near the garden bed, it reads: “to the season when birds lovingly sing and the fields of dandelions grow, summer will soon propose his ring and spring will have her Romeo. my garden, now waiting to be filled in the vernal months gleams with hope, if the plants are not callously killed by brutish hands that blindly grope. on my face, flowers tenderly bloom while vines twist and grow around my arms but sorrow drowns a painted smile, and familiar death rings his faint alarms. sorry this sign was so terribly long, I am not too skilled in the art of song,

35


Issue 02 and with poetic forms I am not too advanced but for you, my words were meant to entrance. just be careful where you place your feet, my endeavors to grow you don’t want to defeat. to hurt my plants is to hurt me, because they are both who I was and who I plan to be.”

36


Content Notes: self-harm

Spring 2021

My Mom Says Just Stop Picking Woodlief McCabe The skin on my lips is always bleeding or broken, dry, and cracking. When asked, I tell people something about the season or the air. It’s all my fault though. When I am alone my hands find themselves on my face, gently trawling the surface for new texture, the rough edges of peeling skin. The fingertips are one of the most sensitive areas of the human body. So are the lips. Sometimes I use my teeth. I start at the bottom of my lower lip and graze it slowly until it finds purchase, then bite and pull and wince until a flake of dead skin is between my teeth and a drop of the reddest blood in my body forms at the corner of my mouth. Sometimes I let it sit there, wondering how big it will get before it starts to drip and endanger my clothes with a permanent stain. It never does. The lips are also one of the fastest healing parts of the body. It takes only twenty-seven days for the skin to fully regenerate on its own. That’s less than a month. Less than February. If you kiss me on Valentine’s Day, you’re gone from my body by my birthday. I don’t wear lipstick. I like the look and it covers up the scarring, but it doesn’t taste good and it dries my lips out even more. I end my day ripping the pigment out of my body and the makeup mixes with the blood under my fingernails. As I run my hands underwater I spend too much time aware of the rawness against the air when I inhale and the stinging pain when I finally take a tissue to wipe the color off completely. I don’t know if it’s a compulsion. I’ve never asked anyone. In front of the mirror, I dig my nails into the softest skin I have. I rip myself apart and eat the day off of myself without even thinking. I cannot bear to speak with the mouth I had yesterday so I make it painful to speak tomorrow. My lips 37


Issue 02 are very red. Angry, even. The freshly-healed, taut skin covering my teeth gives away all sorts of secrets. The ugly cracks and inconsistencies scream that I can’t keep my mouth shut. I tear my lips apart in retaliation against the shapes they’ve made. I only know how to bite my lip when it is too late.

38


Spring 2021

Portrait Emma Nguyen Last night I arrived home with soaked bags and bottles Coat torn to strings that wrapped around my knees You weren’t there to greet me but I saw your painting, A portrait of me Passionate and sincere on the kitchen counter Sleeves still dripping, I dropped my bags and gazed over the beating chaos Mouth agape and crying silently: I saw a smile that grimaced back to me, that Wailed against the wet dirt of my shadow And even then, I knew where you sat: In my room and next to a dim glare Expressionless but feeling my heat and Quivering beneath your foam skin You, the dream that fell down with me, A paper glow that breathes my breath: Whenever the sky turned purple, You’d help me break apart then watch me Glue myself back together again Like a print of churning stars

39


Issue 02 Out in the kitchen I unrolled onto the oil colors Kissing, licking frantically at the honest face Whose eyes were vague And sitting above a jaw warped by tornadoes Paint everywhere Your eyes couldn’t tell me From the pearls of my walking shadow

40


Spring 2021

Room After “Portrait” Emma Nguyen

41


Issue 02

haiku #1 Ava Provolo fingers prodded in to skin, praying for firmness maybe i’ll survive

Sunrise Pulse After “haiku #1” Embry O’Leary

42


Spring 2021

43


Issue 02

haiku: body Elle Provolo i have been drowning in the bitter ocean’s tide my body is hollow

44


Spring 2021

“Jupiter and Saturn may leave marks on the sun’s corpse” Nadia Niva I stand here with the bug on my chest I stand in front of her, in front of them in the room with blinding lights I bow to the bug with yellow eyes with a small green face with a heart made of lead I can be a lesbian this way I can be an simple form of gay I can be a knight this way I can be handsome I can be stunning I can be a man this way I can be braver than the window I can be the window this way I can walk out to the stream and consider how it runs and consider the light in my palms and consider the space between bodies I can carry myself down the stream this way losing warm air from the window losing memory of life before fucking before sitting in the living room watching TV with a small green face with two eyes like mammals with the fat heart of a frog when finally the door opens the kid steps onto land away from the darkness into the amusement park 45


Issue 02 where all the lights are red where all the books are free where all the alphabets are tangled the kid finally comes home

46


Spring 2021

Ladybug Brigade Jean Klurfeld All of the ladybugs in my room died yesterday. Some lay by the one small flower on my windowsill — also dead. One died in the pot, on the dirt, next to the stem. I can see them across from me in my bed. There used to be almost 40 around my windowsill. I’d send you photos. One day I woke up because a ladybug had crawled on my cheek, almost into my mouth. They enter through the vent under the window, a gray box that sticks out through the wall. Now that the weather’s getting better, there’s no reason for them to stay. They’ve all left, and the ones who didn’t lie in tight, silent curls on my windowsill and carpet. Every now and then, one that was still alive and crawling up the walls drips to the bottom and crisply falls to the ground. They pass the vent as they fall.

47


Issue 02

Content Notes: pregnancy and childbirth

Birth/Rebirth Ruby Henry That night we watched Moonstruck and ate Anchovy pizza and my body groaned and creaked with the weight of 40 extra pounds, 41 weeks in. At 11pm the contractions began. Full force. There was no counting the minutes or testing the water: he was coming. We called the midwife and she told us to rest, rest as long as we both could. I would drift into a lumbering, dreamless sleep for three minute stretches before being roused by the pain in my stomach. Sharp pain. Not an ache or a cramp like I expected, but a stabbing. I breathed and moaned and made scary, awkward, qualmless noises, my discomfort made tangible and expelled into my environment. I leaned into this cycle for the next five hours. At 3:49 he said I sounded different. More intense. He texted the midwife, and I said, no, call. Call now. My body was pushing independently. I could feel the baby’s head vibrating down and out, like rubber against rubber. The midwife arrived and kneeled next to me before setting up her equipment. I remember thinking how beautiful she looked. So calm, and strong, and trustworthy. I felt safe and cared for. For the next two hours, the labor progressed with no stalls or hiccups. I flipped from my back to my hands and knees, and the relief was instant. I pushed, and screamed, and rested. I was in awe of the pain and how loud I could be. My throat was sore for the next week from screaming, screaming against the pain. He massaged my wrists and brought water to my lips and waited and watched with me on the bed. I felt my water break. I felt the snap of my inner labia tearing at the seam against the pressure of the baby’s head. In one push, his head came out and he writhed, 48


Spring 2021

Birth/Rebirth After “Birth/Rebirth” Ruby Henry

49


Issue 02 half-born, until the next, final contraction. The midwife caught him and laid him on the bed between my legs. I had pictured this moment for nine months. Seeing his face, touching his skin. I knew I was supposed to pull him up to my naked chest, victorious and exhausted, breathing together. Instead, I kept my shirt on and stared at his naked, blue body, afraid to touch him. He was so small, so real, so neutral. So separate. I grazed his cheek with my finger, in awe. He had grown from a cell to a human in 9 months. I had gone from pregnant to unpregnant in the span of 7 hours. Here he was, a piece of my own flawed and sinful self, unattached. A miracle.

50


Untitled (hurricane) / Meryl Phair

Author text

51


Issue 02

Content Notes: sexual assult

Letter to 妈妈 after you’ve been told to get married to an American dude and have an American baby and read George Orwell the 4000th time Peiyun Jiang 妈妈, How do I explain to you why I cannot lay myself beneath an American dude and let him into my body-land? Do you remember the night when I screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed your name? You and 爸爸 patted and patted and patted and patted my face wet and slimy with tears and sweat. You soothed my crying, telling me it’s just a bad dream. You never asked me what I dreamed of. And I forgot time and time and time and time again. But forgetting doesn’t mean They’re not here: Your screams. The red sun and their scorching light on sword. 爸爸’s rolling head. The red sun on top of you. Your screams. My dead brother coming to life, coming on top of you. The red sun behind him laughing laughing laughing laughing How do I explain to you why I am no longer going into English, why I refuse to have Orwell’s gaze on the red sun that he had never lived under, the scorched bones that he could care less about, but nevertheless is famous by? That the bluewhitered cannot and will not save our scorched body-land. Do you remember how I refused to talk to you after you told me never to return home? I was not mad at you, but I had to shield you from the reality of this bluewhitered world that your Yellow spirit has long been floating on while your body is still back home. Well, you don’t consider our scorched Yellow land home. Or not you would not 52


Spring 2021 have dragged my Yellow spirit with you and pushed me out of your Yellow womb into this bluewhitered world. 妈妈, I cannot tell you that this bluewhitered world is not and will never be my home. I cannot tell you that I was thirteen and was slapped in the face and was told that from now on I had to do things the American way. I cannot tell you that I was eighteen, 160cm in height and 50kg in weight, and was asked if I was pregnant when going through customs the first time of the many to come. I cannot tell you that I was twenty, having lived afloat on the bluewhitered for eight years, and saw the plea, “Please don’t categorize Asian Americans, Koreans, Japanese, South Asians with those stupid people,” and frantically looked through the folder of my high school and college straight A transcripts, Mock Trial and Debate prizes, 116 TOEFL score, and listed the things that I have eaten my whole life one by one by one by one… until I saw my blood red passport, until I realized that the blue passport wouldn’t make a difference. I have a bat sewn to my tongue and a lotus for vagina. How do I explain to you that I am already a mother, like you? As I am birthing Them the way They birth me And I will not exile Them, uproot Them, hide Them, be ashamed of Them, abandon Them, kill Them, forget Them ever ever ever ever again. The way I did when you dragged my Yellow spirit onto the bluewhitered, when you pushed my Yellow body into this bluewhitered world, when you told me to never never never never return home. How do I explain to you that I live through my children as They live through me?

53


Issue 02

I am a mother, like you.

54


Content Notes: allusion to physical abuse

Spring 2021

I think there were tears in her breast milk Jean Klurfeld for everything that we would be loving and yelling, holiness sealed in the rusty glass of her mother’s perfume this is for you, our loving and yelling and alcohol. a holiness that only women know with each other so after we are hit and feel like we have never been loved or we just weren’t built happy the nest of beads and fabric that we build eternally for & by each other will prove that fear is nothing compared to the tradition of touch then she gave us little pots of chocolate and coconut with familiarity that could never be lost because it was tied with millions of other lovethings then, we were happy.

55


Issue 02

cuore del mio cuore (heart of my heart) Elle Provolo it is the peak before dawn when the clouds have loosened their grip around the sun and i’m breathing you in il sigaro fuma senza il fuoco il fuoco brucia senza la fiamma the window is inexplicably open carrying the weight of a breeze laden with mystery and seduction and your warmth keeps me home tu sei il luce il sole è geloso del suo splendore you provide rhythm to the morning’s monotony a heartbeat, complementing the rapidity of mine and i know that you are alive sto sempre ballando con te nel mio sogno a smile is reborn, eyes awaken soft words are spoken through whispered laughter and the room is bathed in your sunlight ti amo tanto sempre per sempre

56


Spring 2021

we made risotto on friday Elle Provolo i’m in the kitchen the proverbial heart of the house encased in a dichotomy of wonder and dread and i’m listening to jazz (soft, like i’m in an elevator trapped in perpetual motion) and my sister is tearing herself apart (piece by piece until she no longer has flesh to hold on to) and i’m thinking about dave grohl (the tonality of his words a foil to the timbre of his music) and the dough is being kneaded (something beautiful from something broken) and peter sagal’s voice can be heard from the living room (wait wait...don’t tell me that my fears have been invited to the table) and onion and garlic marry in a hot pan (my definition of home, a tectonic plate eager to start shifting) and my arms and legs are erratically moving offbeat from the rhythm (i learned how to dance from my father) and i’m in a realm of yearning, an appetite for light (all fires expire into embers)

57


Issue 02

Tea Nora Carrier It is cold in this house and I wish to be warm. It’s rounding two and my roommates are sleeping –– we debated this, staying up, and I know we will not get results but part of me wants to be awake, to see. It is cold and I am sitting on this leather couch alone, my eyes glued to cable news. I hate cable news. I wrap the big white blanket around my head and my arms –– the blanket Renee got me, Renee my 60-year-old Trump-supporting cousin, Renee who’s worried about abortion and the destruction of ‘our way of life’, Renee who does not know I am gay. But the blanket is warm. I want nothing more in the world right now than to feel truly warm. I want nothing more than for Bella to be here –– Bella in Pennsylvania, Bella in Allegheny County, a registered Democrat who voted by mail, CNN says she is important. I want nothing more than for her to be here, to feel the warmth of her head against my chest, her arms around my waist, my lips on her warm, warm forehead. She is sleeping. I cocoon myself in the blanket, anything to simulate human contact. We are out of herbal tea, and it is too late for caffeine or too much sugar. My hands are cold. I scurry to the kitchen and fill a pot with water. As it heats, I grab a lemon and ginger! Ginger is warm. I slice the lemon with a dull utility knife. Juice spills in a tiny cut on my cuticle. It stings. I pick out the seeds of the lemon with a fork, tossing them in the sink. I squeeze the juice into the water, start peeling the ginger with a spoon. The ginger is old. It is partially rotted. I scoop out the greyed strands of ginger at the center, hoping to 58


Spring 2021 salvage the rest. I start to mince the ginger. The smell prickles my senses, and I tire of cutting, driving the knife into the root. I settle for roughly chopped. I am too impatient for a dull knife, for rotted ginger, for impartial results. I scrape the quarter-inch pieces off of the cutting board and drop them into the pot. The water bubbles, the ginger floats. What is the count now? I peer into the living room at the television. 220-213. This mixture needs sweetness, I think. I grab an apple; it is unwashed, waxy. I cut out the core, careful of my fingers. The last time Bella was here, she sliced the tip of her thumb off on this very counter, this very cutting board. We were cutting onions for butternut squash soup, my mother’s recipe, when I watched the blade miss its target by a quarter of an inch, leaving a scrap of skin and droplets of blood on the countertop. She ran the wound under water, then wrapped it in a wad of paper towels and sat on the floor, her hands above her head, just waiting for the blood to stop. I slice the apple as thin as I care to, again growing weary of the repetitive motion. I add the slices to the water. The mixture boils. It is a dull almost-pink. The steam warms my hands. What time is it? 2:13? 2:20? I pour the mixture into a french press. Droplets spill on the stove and hiss as they evaporate. I wait.

59


Issue 02

Singles Quarantined Lu Yang All the days and nights depart from my wet brows, Death harrows at my heels, The girls talk of being virgins still–– Love––a candy they had not chance to unwrap, Hidden sweetness they pocket in heart pits, Pity, pity! Their sharp eyes of dignity; Red lipsticks they put on only to be drinked down with instant coffee With ceremony. Those long forgotten gazes And not even the shadows of their crush to step upon. Far, far away, their shoulders, their soft hands, The magic of absence is burning low.

60


Content Notes: mention of AIDS/HIV and death

Spring 2021

THE FISH SWIMS AWAY Nadia Niva I WONDER WHAT EARTH WILL LOOK LIKE FROM MY ROOM WHEN I GET HOME. IF IT WILL LOOK ALL WHACKED OUT AND WAVY IN THE MANY COLORS OF THE NIGHT, HOW IT WILL FEEL TO BE UNDER THE COVER OF THE RAINBOW’S SHADOW, CUPPED BY THE WINDOW, THINKING OF NOTHING. A Fish Wriggles Beneath The Surface And I Motion To Catch It Between My Fingers. I Palm The Water And The Fish Swims Away. TONIGHT THERE IS A MIDNIGHT SUN AND IT IS SNOWING BUT THE POND IS UNFROZEN SO THERE CAN BE DUCKS AND OTHER ANIMALS. THE GREEN SCENERY CASTS ITS REFLECTION OVER THE SCUMMY POOL OF WATER AND THE WATER CASTS ITSELF INTO THE LUNGS OF FISH WHO SWIM WITHOUT KNOWING QUITE WHERE THEY ARE GOING BUT WHO STILL ENJOY THE SWIM. I Remember Being A Kid, Living In Houses With Stale Air And Noticing The Bugs Crawling In The Room With Me. I Figured Each Of Them Felt Life The Way I Felt Life, In My Heart And Mind. I Couldn’t Imagine

61


Issue 02 That Bugs Saw The World Through Different Eyes And That It Meant Something Different To Them Because Of It. NOW THAT I AM OLDER THE WORLD IS A DIFFERENT COLOR ALTOGETHER. HISTORIES COME UP, AND I READ THEM, AND I SLEEP MOST NIGHTS WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN. I SEE PAINTINGS IN THE BEAUTIFUL FACES OF THE DEAD. It Takes So Many Words To Talk About AIDS In A Poem. To Talk About That Loss. What Do I Win For Saying Nothing? What Do I Win For The Price Of My Identity? How Do I Squeeze The Shoulder Of This Country? It Takes So Many Lives. It Takes So Many Poems To Say Nothing.

62


Spring 2021

WHEN I GET LONESOME Nadia Niva MY HEAD IS TWIRLING INTO THAT LITTLE PIT INSIDE ITSELF AGAIN. SITTING IN THE PRE-RAIN HEAVY AIR, HARSH BREEZE. ALL THESE THINGS BUMBLING IN THE BRAINWAVES, COCHLEAR HALLWAYS AND VENTILATION SYSTEMS OF THE MIND. IT IS EXHAUSTING TO SIT AFTER SO MANY HOURS SPENT THINKING ABOUT DEAD AND LIVING PEOPLE WHO I CARE FOR ALL IN DIFFERENT WAYS. WHO MEAN A DIFFERENT THING TO ME. I FEEL LIKE AN UNDERWATER ANIMAL NESTLED IN SOME CURRENT. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN I GET LONESOME? WANDER BACK TO LAND? WHERE I GREW UP THERE ARE ROWS OF IDENTICAL HOUSES, SO FROM AN AERIAL VIEW YOU GET THE SENSE OF HOVERING ABOVE A BOARD GAME. I CAN ONLY REMEMBER THE FEELING OF THE ROOMS I SLEPT IN. WARM, WITH PUDDLES OF LIGHT FORMING IN THE CORNERS. I AM NOT LONELY BUT I FEEL AQUATIC AND PRESSED UP TO THE GLASS OF LIFE.

63


Issue 02 A DOOR OPENS ONTO THE ROOM OVERFLOWING WITH LIGHT. A CIRCUS OF DUST MITES COLLECT IN ROWS ON THE FLOOR, PRESSING THEIR SHADOWS INTO THE CEILING. THEIR TWISTING ARMS CROWN IN MIST ABOVE MY SEVEN TEMPLES. I REMEMBER ALL MY DREAMS NOW. THEY COME AND GO BETWEEN MY EARS LIKE FLIES. A FAMILY OF DEER HANGS LIKE A FEATHER BETWEEN THEM, BODIES STRETCHING INTO THE DARK. I SLEEP NEXT TO THE OPEN DOOR, UNDERNEATH THE RED LIGHT, DREAMING ABOUT UNDERWATER ANIMALS FLASHING BETWEEN FORMS, HERALDING THE NEXT DIMENSION, SPLITTING THE ROOM WITH SOUND. I MEDDLE IN THE FISSURES. I HOLD MY FINGERS TO THE SKY.

64


Spring 2021

Roadkill Amandine De Simone The sun and moon watch double sentry tonight. Each illuminates as well as yet it might, and the fireflies contribute to the cause: their flickering — blink, rest, blink, rest, ignition, pause —, the wailing wavering of a funeral-candle-light. The frenzied fires defame each unsteady vehicle. They know intentionality is impossible — (for it must be so! no malice could deprive the precious entropy of something still alive) but carelessness is sufficiently detestable. The animal’s mother waits, tree-shelter-hid, to grieve. The mother of all, she endeavors not to believe — repressing each invasive thought of fear and dread, she stares out at the ugly barren field instead: her straying son has not returned to her this eve. Her silent sobs come only from her wounded black eyes. Helpless, she, without the words to eulogize, unconscious of her only consolation, (if called such): her child’s living force was never one part as much as his endless power now to shock and traumatize.

65


Issue 02

Untitled (We pass a sequence of gas stations ...) Margaret Connor We pass a sequence of gas stations rising out of the dry, red earth, each more phantasmic than the last, signs in the windows announcing Ice 10¢ and Mustang Blaze Cigarettes 50¢. The air cries out for a thunderstorm. Somewhere in the distance, the warped, tortured shapes of the local flora cross the horizon into the sunset. Beside me, Isaac lies limp in his seat, head slumped sideways onto his shoulder. His lips are parted. I can see the white scar trickling down the inside of his bottom lip. I stop the pickup at a PetrolExpress. We’re the only car there, save the bluish green truck I assume belongs to the redfaced man seated in an old lawn chair at the attendant’s station. “We’re not too late, are we?” He shakes his head emphatically. “The shop’s closed, pumps are still open.” The red faced man looks over his shoulder. Someone’s emerging from the cinderblock building designated as the women’s toilet stall. She’s about his age, half his size across, walking gingerly across the gravel in her lambskin boots. The woman, brushing her straw blonde hair over her shoulder, smiles pleasantly at us. “You two need a fill-up, sugar?” she drawls. The man nods to her as well as he can. His neck is subsumed under a double chin and a broad, barrel-like chest. “If you please, dear.” The three of us get to talking while she fills the gas tank. “There’s Beauregard Hotel, down in Batersville, but it’s a mighty fancy establishment. Most of the gentlemen there are bankers or lawyers or some-such on business trips,” the man tells me, arms crossed in thought. 66


Spring 2021 “Now, Donald, you know how the Batersville people can be. You two would do better to keep on until Waltner and find a place there.” Her eyes dart from my face to my hands, divining from their color my prospects across the county. “Waltner, Chester, Sidner, and I suppose Riviera might be best, but they’re not so much a place for out-of-towners. Chester’s real nice. You won’t pass through it going south, though, you’ll have to get off in ten miles at that big gray sign that says ‘In Honor of So-and-So.’” Donald and the woman—Posie, she tells me—throw out a few more place names that blend together into a soup of ville, beau, and Saint. Posie mentions that they’ve a daughter, Meg, who’s married to a mechanic in Provenance. I hit the road with a full tank and a handful of lodging suggestions. The ibis-red sun is a thin sliver between the mesas, winking goodbye before slipping beneath the desert sand. Its last light dyes my hands scarlet. The people who lived in this part, the people before the ham-faced gas station attendants, made red dyes from the roots of the yucca palm. They used it to color their pottery. Some of this pottery, or its imitation, is sold at curio shops along the lowland basin. The bulbous, gordlike things with narrow flared necks sit languidly on their side next to soapstone camels and turquoise beads marked with yellowing price stickers. Ask for assistance with items on top shelf, the sign reads. Neither camels nor soapstone dwell within a hundred leagues of the air conditioned clapboard cabin. Yesterday, on the advice of a waitress, we stopped at a longhouse-style building known as the Museum of Northern Cholla Valley. Here, everything, including museums, is a gift shop. Culture, history, the landscape itself. Buy a yucca-frond sandal, just like the natives used to wear. Buy a scale plastic model of the Tablelands. Buy a genuine bullet casing from the War of the Bluffs. 67


Issue 02 Isaac stirs, bringing his outstretched arm to his chest. You can see the powder burn marks on the back of his hand, too small and too clustered to be freckles. He’s wearing a pale chambray shirt, army issue. There’s a sweat stain in the shape of a crescent below the collar. I exhale as we pass a mile marker, the first in half an hour. Everything is far apart in the desert. The night is dark and cool. I roll the windows down despite the cranks’ protests. I have to reach across Isaac to get the passenger-side one. Even asleep, he flinches when my wrist brushes against him. Twitches pass over his face. The wind smells sweet. I feel it on my cheeks. I feel it in the sweat stains under my arms. There was only one person at the museum. She was thirtysomething with the pessimistically placid expression of a single or near-single mother. Sitting behind the information desk, she reminded me of a pharaoh in his throne, or the doomed terminal ruler of a verdant island kingdom. This museum was her territory, her land in lieu of her land. She had the tall, convex nose and the copper skin of the sandal weavers. A blue silk scarf held her gray-black hair in a low ponytail. It tumbled over her shoulders and down her back, twisting and turning with the churning flow of a river. The desert guards its water like a mother guards her young. The desert’s children are her yucca palms, her onceblooming orange blossoms, her myriad cacti. This is to say nothing of her grandchildren. The coyotes slink in the shadows of the cholla, rat tails swishing. Rust red beetles, emerald hummingbirds, patient rattlesnakes, gargantuan clearwing hawk-moths, jumping mice. Every desert denizen inherits its share of bitter water, but none take it the same way. Twenty miles from anything, I bring the Landeater to the side of the road, slowing to a stop across from a burned out shack. The split rail fence, even if it wasn’t flame-scalded and 68


Spring 2021 years decaying, would not pose much of a barrier. The top rail, where it hasn’t fallen down, only comes up to my hip. It might be enough to keep the cows on one side and the vagrants on the other, though. And Isaac would find it more of a challenge, if he wouldn’t decide to slip through the slats. A muscle in my side burns as I approach the hand pump. My legs are stiff with sitting, my feet clumsily trampling the inch-high chaparral brush. I’m lucky I don’t step on an aptly named night snake. Even in the scant light of the stars, I can see the coral snake burrows in the corner of my eyes. I don’t dare look. I’ll scream, and that will wake Isaac. Remembering the garter snakes who curled around the spigot back on the Mendale family farm, I reach for the hand pump with great trepidation. Trepidation comes from the Latin word trepidare, to tremble. There are tremors in the sky as air molecules rub against one another, exciting themselves into an electric charge. There are tremors underground, deep beneath the burrows of even the most reclusive kangaroo mice, invisible streams of filthy water nourishing the roots of prickly pears. I tried one that grew on a bush in the museum garden. It was fat and robust in my palm, less a fruit than an unusually pink lobe. Isaac said he thought that it tasted like warm watermelon. I didn’t say what I thought, that it tasted vaguely like ‘pink.’ Later that day, after vacating the museum grounds with a novelty beach blanket, we stopped at a roadside tent for cold drinks. The boys running the stall, the farmer’s sons, introduced themselves as Bucky and Hunter. Both were heavily freckled and neither wore a shirt nor a pair of shoes. Hunter poured us prickly-pear juice with a handful of melting ice while Bucky played with a smooth beige dog. “How old’re you boys?” I asked. Hunter squinted at me. “Twelve and thirteen.” 69


Issue 02 I wouldn’t have guessed. They were small scrawny things with pinched faces and sloped shoulders, nothing like the hardy-stock farm boys in Asher. Malnutrition is not uncommon in these parts, I think to myself, drinking from my cupped hands. The underground streams are never too warm, never too cold. They move through the red earth with the speed of mustangs, but despite this are somehow stagnant. The water is tangy with iron. When I dry my hands on my jeans, I half anticipate the red of bloodstains. Above me, every star in the night sky is burning, surrounded by half-visible companion stars seen only in the dark of the desert, against the not-seen-but-felt glow of the Milky Way. Stars, textbooks would tell you, are unfathomably hot. And in their own realm they are, but here upon Earth, they shine cold as ice, glint like the iron point of the pick. I have thought about taking an ice pick to Isaac’s temple. He is still deep asleep when I return to the pickup. The engine turns over, and we continue down the bare, silent road. I am grateful that the headlights did not give out as they threatened to do in Anapac. The moon is new, my car is old. The chill of the constellations does little to illuminate the brave and suicidal wildlife making their late night crossings. It is now well past midnight. The air no longer smells of agave nectar and far-blooming wildflowers, but coalesces into cold itself, a dry, raw sensation in my lungs. The sandal weavers have a psychopomp in the desert. His job is a necessary one not unlike a patrolman or a divine civil servant. By a burnt-out telephone pole, three brown vultures hold forum around the body of a dead fox. The headlight lingers on the scavengers for no more than an instant. I have a great respect for these birds, stewards of the sands. In the flash of light, they appear as a photograph, three noble creatures about to take wing. I swerve just in time, preventing 70


Spring 2021 them from meeting the same fate as their fox friend. My mother was terribly nightblind when she was alive. What I’m really hoping to see, what Hunter and Bucky told me to look out for, are desert quails. Bucky, the younger one, informed me in a very serious tone that while quails look like grouses, they are rather gamey and not so good to eat. Sometimes they travel at the side of the road, between the cracked asphalt and the dry desert buckwheat, in a caravan of ten or twelve, little pilgrims on their way to the holy land. The Museum of Northern Cholla Valley possesses one thousand three hundred and fifteen baskets and basket-like woven objects, approximately fifty of which were purchased legitimately. The gray haired woman had a purple lanyard clipped to her trousers, from which she produced a ring of keys. “These baskets,” she explained, unlocking a great glass cabinet, “are the smallest in the collection—not woven to serve any real purpose, more for showing off.” She gestured to a vessel in the shape of a squat tomato, about the size of a chicken egg. “Basket weaving was a social thing, remember; women would be working on a piece for hours, days, even weeks.” She noticed the one I was examining. “That’s one of the newer pieces, made by an artist down in Donesa. If you look on the inside, you can see the pattern better.” “Butterflies?” “Or moths. She made the beaded ones on the lower shelf, as well. Her name is—gosh, what is it, Marion Alfonse?” In the corner of my eye, I saw Isaac fixed on something with his monomaniacal glare, deaf to my conversation with the guide. I turned my attention back to the cabinet. “Christ, how were these made?” Six yellow-and-black baskets, each smaller than the last, the first as wide as a cherry and the sixth no larger than a 71


Issue 02 hummingbird’s white egg. Woven from fine tan leaves, its weft was as smooth and uniform as any of the ornamented bridalgift baskets hanging on the far wall. The woman smiled to herself, recognizing this part of the script. “Some young woman with incredibly thin fingers. And a competitive streak. Most of these would have been made as a sort of contest.” She stepped to the side. “Look closer.” I stood in the spot she left vacant, pressing my face to the cabinet window. There, on the inside of the basket, I saw it. “Arrows?” “Yessir. Even on a piece the size of my pinky finger, she managed a pattern.” “I can’t imagine.” “Me either.” She sighed. “She’s long dead. Those’re from over a century ago, bought by the museum when it first opened.” A frown crept onto the woman’s jaw as she shut the cabinet. She spoke softly. “I’d like to meet her, though.” I turned to look at Isaac. The sun was high above us, shining in through the skylight and onto the cherrywood floor. Though the museum was no larger than a cabin, something about its architecture made it seem much taller than it actually was. “Shall we head along?” He did not appear to have heard me. “Izzie, let’s move along.” His brow was taught, jaw was set. In the heat of the afternoon, a bead of perspiration had broken on his forehead. I stood perpendicular to him. Following his gaze, my eyes settled on a particular object much like its neighbors, save one characteristic. It was no larger nor smaller than the head-sized pieces to its right and left and did not vary from their rounded, squat shape. But its form was obscured by the adornment of perhaps two hundred dark feathers jutting out between the tightly woven beargrass stitches. 72


Spring 2021 “Quail topknots,” he murmured. In the gift shop, which occupied half the building and seemed to be its true purpose, I bought a beaded owl charm and a women’s teeshirt that read I Left My Heart at Cholla Springs. At the register I picked up a postcard photo of the Desert Maiden rock formation. The postcard I would send to Damien, instructing him to go fuck himself, and I thought the shirt might look nice on Isaac. Or, if need be, I could strangle him with it or use it to wipe up blood. I pull the car over to let a troop of coyotes cross, and finish the scant handful of salted peanuts rattling in the tin can. I have a feeling I’ve overshot Sidner by now. The desert’s lack of landmarks always leaves my head spinning. It’s strange how opaque the rust red bluffs are. What should be a god’s trailblazes upon the land are no help at all in distinguishing mile one-hundred-fifty-two from mile three-hundred-ninety. The coyotes haven’t moved. They’re sitting in the road, staring at me with the intent to commit insurance fraud. The horn doesn’t work, so I unclip my belt and step out of the Landeater. I can feel the ozone-scented night air build up in my sinuses. “Scram,” I tell the coyotes. The largest one turns to me and bares his teeth. It looks like a yawn—he’s no larger than a beagle, and while I would be worried if I were a housecat, I’m not intimidated in the slightest. “Shoo.” I approach them slowly, flapping my arms in front of me. Languidly, the pack rise to their feet, and, tossing me a nonplussed look, meander across the roadway, their rat tails swinging in annoyance. I’m almost sad to see them go. I’ve interrupted something, ruined a coyote-family vacation. I watch them slip into the underbrush, the last glimpse of beige disappearing behind a tuft of slipbush. I stand in the night. The slipbush grows in a long line, each plume like a stepping stone. Casting a final glance to the 73


Issue 02 truck, Isaac is slumped back in his seat. Beatific. It’s looking more and more likely that we’ll be sleeping in the Landeater again. I need to clear my head. I take a step toward the slipbush, then another. The chaparral grows low here, and I follow its path a hundred yards off the road. Here, away from the car, the sky is a river of silver lights. I try to remember the guide stars I learned in the army, but all I come up with are constellations. The plow, the maiden, the little fox are shining bright above me. Every culture, from the basket-weavers to the red-faced gas station attendants to my brown-eyed great grandparents who raised olive trees and okra, have looked to the stars and watched their stories playing out. Someone is watching me. He’s standing to my left, perhaps fifty paces back. Now that my eyes have adjusted, I can see his form dark against the celestial urn-bearer. Steeling myself, I move to face him. “Who’s there?” I call out, shattering the porcelain stillness. “Who?” he echoes. The man is tall and lanky, a scarecrow shadow. I take a step toward him. “Where are we?” “Who?” Two more steps. He isn’t moving, save a jostle of his head. “I said, where are we?” “Who? Who?” Something compels me closer. Dry summerweed crunches under my boots, its thickly sweet sap protesting. In the constellations’ glow, my bare arms shine silver. Somewhere, a dozen coyotes are watching this play out. The vultures have alighted on a nearby felled yucca palm. They smell death, and will fight the coyotes for the first cut. I think of Isaac, dead 74


Spring 2021 to the world, and of my mother, dead in the ground. After thirty-two years, this is how it all ends, under a moonless sky, twenty thousand leagues from anything. I take a step forward. Lightning strikes. There, on the saguaro’s highest bow, perches the psychopomp, his yellow eyes wide and his claws glinting with starlight. “Hoo,” he says. And with that, he takes silent wing, rising, vanishing into the desert night.

75


Issue 02

A Clearing in a Wide Oval Bowl 김효리 Hyo Rhi Kim *In conversation with Esch in Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. I use language from the chapter “The Eighth Day” in the book.* Back then, we finished watching Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. A romantic comedy (though I found the movie lacked wit and cleverness to be considered comedy) about not seeking a friend for the end of the world. (I mean, the protagonists were kind of obsessed with romantic love rather than friendship, not that friendship needs to exclude romantic love, but I digress.) I went on a rant on why the plot was dissatisfactory and why I thought the ending was dumb. Spoiler alert: The woman, who through the whole duration of the movie desperately tries to get to her parents to see them one last time, ditches the one opportunity to do that (an opportunity only made possible by the man in love with her) in order to die with the “love of her life” she just met. “I would rather die alone, out in a field, (I might as well be naked) thinking of all the ones I have loved (and God, lichen, time, and all the things I won’t tell you) rather than one person I was temporarily fixated on. That person might not even be ‘the one,’ once the hormones have calmed down.” “You are definitely weird.”

76


Spring 2021 “Why? How do you want to spend the last days or hours before the world ends?” “Definitely not alone.” During a time of looming doom, I don’t want anyone’s smell on me. (Get Manny off of you, Esch.) No blessings for heroes. (I really dislike heroes, Esch.) Nothing to cloak. I want to think about people, and I don’t. Haven’t people crowded my mind enough already? Joe said he won’t let me die alone if I got covid. “Please promise me you will leave me alone,” I said to him. Firmly. Who wants to die having a man into the Hero’s Journey, hovering over you expressing his love and appreciation and what you meant to his life, when you just want to focus on feeling what it is like to die? Your own death. To the friend who I watched the movie with, I once said that I always get the feeling that he sees himself as Odysseus and all the people who cross his path as side characters that exist for his journey: his trials, his learning, his enlightenment. (I thought I loved him at some point, but the infatuation passed, Esch. No one died in the process.)

77


Issue 02 I said bye-bye to our friendship, because you can never be a friend to a hero. You can only play the role of a friend. A clearing in a wide oval bowl seems like a good place to greet Death. With nothing made to be known to another. Alone. Small and Immense.

78


Spring 2021

Murmurs Under the Roof Window Lu Yang composed at Saint Petersburg You are one step away from Falling face down on my roof window You are dressed warmly, You are both young and old. I cannot make out your face. You have not yet fallen And pressed your cheek on The snow powdered sorbet On my window pane: The torrents of pain Are yet to numb your soul. You stood as steady as a rock, I am doubting, Are you only a fantasy of my shadow? Or something more substantial? Like an omen yet to be deciphered By someone debating her belief In fate’s warnings, blessings, Games of hide-and-seeking puzzle pieces. The banister is behind you, Climb back inside and retreat 79


Issue 02 Into the purple-mauve abyss Of oblivion while The Northern lights and I Conspire another figure With the shadows of my eye lashes But your warm gaze, your solitude, And your body materializes forever In my shaded valley of memory

80


Spring 2021

He gave me Fire Amandine De Simone He gave me Fire. Burnt, blazing, bright In’t his desire illumed the night Along my chin his hands he traced It scorched my skin. It warmed my face And built for me my pyre—— He gave me Fire. He gave me Steam. Though burnt ’twas not A potent stream remaining hot A latent threat of bubbling o’er That boiling jet which came to soar And built for me my dream—— He gave me Steam. He gave me Mist. Brewed from within Its coolness kist my sunburnt skin Extinguished coal. Torrential rain It soothed my soul. It eased my pain And led me to exist—— He gave me Mist.

81


Untitled After “Demolition Lovers” Regis Reed


Spring 2021

Demolition Lovers Regis Reed OH FIRE! NEWS UPDATE: It is as feared → two lovers! Like this: his lipstick waxy and pink, skin shining that ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ sheen, legs held for the fishes. And this: bed unmade, sheets in a pile on the floor, perfume bottles and powder puffs, vanity mirror, vanity, necks connected to heads with gothic (t)ropes. And, perhaps, it went like: a fever unsweat, frantic hands frantic faces, lights, fogged mirrors, camera, the sound of a thousand widows, action, a flock of doves. Which is to say: dear listeners, I am lost to the sea. Creature, I call you, Lover, I beg you. THE LATEST: Will they ever learn → signs point to no! Flash: a movie, two unidentified persons, she says he tastes like acid trips and lucid dreams, party favour, call him piñata and hit hard. Flash forward: 1980s songs of power dust, clown laugh fish fish fish, pouty mouth potty mouth, do you kiss your mother with that tongue, it’s about the shoulder darling. Flash future, the bones: prom dressed and depressed and decomposed composition, he is rotted limb, corner stores, she’s gone and she took it all, all it was she took. Heed the warning: sweet patrons, lest thee gouge eyes three times blind. Lover, you call me, Creature, you beg me. 83


Issue 02 AND IT: The facts follow → look here! Is: tragic, smokey fingers, lace black gloves and veiled veil and off white wedding, stop the tape, rewind the videos, break it down, break— Is not: reproductive, nuclear, mini van smashing down the street, eight pairs of shoes muddied at the door, coffee stained husband, 10 virgins, a bottle of wine— Could have been: firecracker, midnight love drunk punches in parking lot, love made backseat lava skin daredevil rouge, fast fitting fingers, the body, a body, embodied— 404 Error Not Found: TRANSmission ended.

84


Spring 2021

On Monsters: Self Reflection Regis Reed i. when he left you i lifted your sorrow and bottled it like starlight, screwed the lid tight as it would go, and, on nights where the moon has become a black hole, your tears find their home in the space between darkness and the click of a light ii. on these nights you come to me, your sewn together skin breathing venus into divinity. i gather the pieces of you broken and mended and broken again, i call you holy and transcendent, call to you confidence and sweet fire. i hold you, like all worthy things ought to be, tender. iii. when morning brushes the tree tops and your heart is cold, decaying in this body you didn’t choose, breaking at the hands of those who made you, i will see you cast in her orange glow and know you beyond that. i will shoulder the weight only words can carry, will speak your truth, all celestial rapture, into existence, and bear witness to all that your kind of magic is. iv. After, in midnight baths i will look into the water and see your image peering back at me: your strong nose and thick brow, your edges. shards where softness should be, murky and abnormal, uncanniness warped into being and twisted into person. 85


Issue 02 i will see all the unlit alleys and half-truths you hide in. my fingers will move to touch the surface and the ripples made will break the spell. v. At the end it will be this: your hands wrapped in mine, the shared understanding that we are one story rising between us like the moon’s sweet shadow. that you are not simply a name in a book, that you are here. are me, are us. and at this end it will be our hands together. i will vow to see you, and that promise made will be the rapture.

86


Spring 2021

Untitled After “On Monsters: Self Reflection” Regis Reed

87


Issue 02

Bathroom Jean Klurfeld The dots around your eyes are still there, the slouching bags have gotten darker, too. And you red splotches all over you think about yourself too much. Touch your face too much. Touch the dots around dark splotch swollen eyes too much. Your bloated head face hair toomuch, too much your mouth cheeks small eyes fat nose pale skin too much. Cut nails too much. So don’t scratch too much. Mirror reflects too much, dotted swollen eyes look too much. Stop looking. Go to bed. It’s late.

88


cha c

cha c

os

chaos c

chaos c

os

chaos c chaos c

chaos c

chaos c

chaos c

chaos c

chaos c

chaos c

chaos chaos c c c chaos c haos chaos chaos v v chaocs chaoschaos c c chaos c chaos chaos v chaoschaosc oschaos chacovchaos chaos c cha cchaos chaos cs cchaos c chaos cchaoschaos c chaos v c v c os chaos chaos c c chaos chaos chaos chaos c chaos c chaos chaos cchaos chaos cha chchaos cc cchaos os chaos acochaos chaos chaos c chaos c s chaos v cchchaos c c ha c chaos cacoc chachaoschaos cvv chaos ccvchaos c chaos c vc chaos s c c c c o cha c c c cvcvchaos c chaos c c os cchaos c s chaos c s chaos c cvchaos chaos chaos c os o chaos c c a s chaoshao ch chcaosc c cchaos cha chaos chaos c cs c cchaos c c chaoschacochaos c osc chcachaos chaoschaos haocs cvvcvcchaos c s c vchaoschaosc hc c c o cv c chaos chaos aos cha c cc c chaos chaos c chaos c cc chaos chaocs c chaos s chao c c ch c aos chaos c chaos c

chao s c

chaos c

aos

cha os c

chaos c

chaos c

chaos c

chaos c

s chao c

chaos c

s chao c

chaos c chaos c

Untitled (chaos) / Meryl Phair chaos c

cha c

os


Issue 02

Another Zoom Meeting Rebecca Kilroy They put “meet” in quotation marks. Do you remember when that was funny? No, me neither. “See you there! Well, not see you. ‘Meet’ you there.” In those endless, grid-locked city blocks, storage rooms of thought, Where boxes and voices stack atop each other, And someone is always unmuted who shouldn’t be, but no one is ever muted who should. “Meetings”. If I were angrier, I would say, How dare you defile the ancient simplicity, the laid-bare bedrock of all human interaction, that is a meeting? To meet used to mean a possibility, a coming together. We met everywhere and with everyone! Lovers and strangers and friends, Formal and informal and “unplanned”. Like the way I used to meet my high school crush in the hallways “unplanned” as if I hadn’t memorized his schedule. Is there anything more ancient or true than the convoluted means by which an adolescent girl will contrive to meet her crush? How dare you then call these new glass boxes “meetings”? 90


Spring 2021 If I had it in me, I would shatter your “meetings” to glowing shards. But I don’t. I am tired. Tired as eyes that have looked at a screen too long and forgotten how to see. Tired as my walls must be of being stared at. Tired of pretending. Can we please just stop pretending? They try so hard sometimes it hurts. I have gone to “coffeeshops” and “dinners” and “teas”, where I sat in my bedroom surreptitiously eating cold ravioli with my video off. Stilted and staring and starving. What if we stopped? Don’t say you haven’t thought about it. We could stop trying to make this normal, stop straining our eyes and our patience. We could stop the nauseating routine of waiting rooms, and mute, unmute, “Can anybody hear me?” Argue with me if you’d like. I admire anyone who, at this point, has the energy to argue about something like this. But you can’t deny that there are days when you’ve thought we would be better to just let society collapse. And I’ll meet you on the other side.

91


Issue 02

Job Protiti Rasnaha Kamal Some flimsy talk decorates my lips. My mouth, enchanted by the whispers of my inner dialogue, Leap into a presentation of an image That lacks a corporate attire. Supple and sweet is the dance of my tongue. Salsa or Waltz, we haven’t tapped into the intricacies of it. It showcases my inner life through an exponential growth curve. Where does it plateau? Wherever the asymptote finds the axis, My tongue pulls back tracing the vacuum Between it and my words. The vacuum feels full with some mad speech, heard until my tongue falls out. There’s a panel of interviewers looking at me. There’s that dancer with the broken heel. There’s that math prodigy with his self-defeating strategies. There’s that mime who I can relate to. And then there’s a patchwork specialist, who pities me. The unanimous vote: I have delivered an outstanding first impression. 92


Spring 2021 But the tongue that’s crawling on the floor knows, This job is not for me.

93


Issue 02

Citizen Luka Maro Margaret Connor Luka Maro was a small man in his middle thirties who kept quietly to himself and was prone to ulcers. He enjoyed easy listening music and was not fond of mustard. He lived in a little beige apartment in a little brown building in the middle of a little grey street and did not often have guests over. Luka Maro worked as a highly esteemed clerk at a big stately bank where, though his wages were nothing spectacular, he was entrusted with transfers of money so gargantuan that the average citizen’s eyes would goggle at the sight of so many zeros. When he managed an especially large transfer, he liked to read the little paper slip tied around the bills that said 3,025,000ƒ or 7,500,500ƒ and imagine what he would do with so much money. He thought of the newspaper advertisements for golden watches and country houses and smiled to himself, for he was content to live in his little beige apartment and wear nice, if plain, clothes. If one went to the Address Bureau and asked for the mailing address of one Luka Maro — Bank Clerk of the Seventh Degree, the pinch-faced woman behind the counter would flip through a great big binder before announcing, alas, that there was no Luka Maro registered with the bureau, and that one would do better to look him up in the phone book. Unbeknownst to her, however, there would be no Luka Maro in the phonebook. Only the post office had his address, to which every week they would deliver a small yellow letter and sometimes miscellaneous packages from a mail-order catalogue store.

94


Spring 2021 In his beige apartment, Luka Maro had a black tabletop telephone. On Sundays, he called his father for an hour and on Wednesdays he called his mother for thirty minutes. His phone bill was not terribly high, however, because they did not live far from him. An icebox in his small kitchen held a pint of milk, a half bottle of wine, six or seven eggs, and perhaps an onion or some oranges. The clerk took most of his meals at a cafeteria down the little grey street where he paid in bills and coins. Though he worked in a bank, he did not like credit. The citizen Luka Maro went on living his little life with a healthful sense of privacy and reservation, never causing a stir or making a scene, until an incident shorty after his thirty-fifth birthday utterly upended his life. It was on a Tuesday, a drizzling day in the slushy part of spring. He woke at eight o’clock, washed and dressed, gathered his affairs, and, adjusting his wire rimmed glasses, walked down the little grey street to the cafeteria. He ordered and ate a plate of sausage and scrambled eggs with rye toast. He was still basking in the glow of his birthday get-together the previous Saturday, feeling that in turning thirty-five, he had crossed over some invisible delineation and was now a changed man. He arrived at the bank at ten minutes before nine. The rain had not let up. He greeted his superior and nodded hello to the gaggle of lower clerks under his command. His superior, a man with an unruly auburn beard who spent his day sitting behind a high mahogany desk, was engrossed in a steel ring ledger. Luka Maro went about his day. He worked in a modest office on the second storey, except when he was called down for urgent or unwieldy requests. The Central Bank dealt with all matters its cadet branches were not authorized to handle. When at eleven an elderly widow appeared with a great sum of cash she wished to have changed from royals to florins, Luka Maro 95


Issue 02 was the one to count the rolls of golden coins and exchange them for a valise of large bills. At one o’ clock, Luka Maro returned from the café where he had taken his lunch. As he walked down the corridor to his office, he heard the raspy voice of his superior calling for him. He stood before the great mahogany desk. “Yes?” His superior looked up at him through hairy auburn eyebrows and cleared his throat. “Maro, are you handling the Héche account?” “No, Sir, Roan Walram is handling it.” “Walram is ill, unfortunately. Can you take over until he’s returned?” “Of course, Sir.” The bearded man cleared his throat again, pressing a pale pink handkerchief to his mouth. “Very good. Do you know where the Level Two Prioritized E-through-I Alphabetical Filing Room is?” Luka Maro did not. However, he did not like Roan Walram at all and would not let this opportunity escape from him. “No, Sir, where is it?” “It’s in the basement, second level. Down the north hallway, all the way at the end. I need the file on Héche, Horaume.” Luka Maro gave a curt bow. “Of course, Sir.” The auburn-bearded man returned to his sprawling ledger, and Luka Maro exited the room. Luka Maro entered the stately elevator and instructed the operator to take him to the basement, second level. The operator, a boy in a brimmed cap and red uniform, the clerk did not know very well as he did not use the elevator often, instead preferring the stairs. His office was on the second storey of the bank, and he did not much mind the climb. 96


Spring 2021 He had visited the basement in the past, yes, but only the first level, closest to the surface. He did not recognize the second level. Its ceiling hung low, which, in combination with its bare concrete walls, made him feel as though he were an explorer in a narrow uncharted cave. From the elevator room, hallways extended in three directions. He followed the corridor marked NORTH. This hall extends infinitely, Luka Maro thought, looking down the rows of identical steel doors. His footsteps echoed in his ears as he strode down the hallway. His throat was tight; he could not help imagining the ceiling caving in and burying him in that barren hall. The basement’s first level was darker and more sparse than the aboveground storeys, that was true, but the second level was like a prison or a hospital’s solemn surgical ward. Each steel door was shut tight, though from the outside no locks were visible. When at last Luka Maro reached the door marked Prioritized E-through-I Alphabetical Filing Room, he was slightly out of breath and cursing Roan Walram. Grasping the heavy steel handle, he pulled open the door. It was a plain, dusty room lined wall-to-wall with filing cabinets. He scanned the drawers, checking the slips of paper marked FIG-FLA or GRA-GRE until he came to HEB-HEN. The dust on the drawer handle had been wiped away, he realized. That was to be expected, with all the activity on the Héche account. He opened the cabinet, wincing at the squeal from the neglected drawer slide. He flicked through the folders — how many Héches there were! Agénne, Ander-Marem, Baiste, Brenauda, Caliche, Étiuome, Flaçentin, Horaume senior, Horaume junior. He frowned at the files. He would have choked Roan Walram if he could have. He flipped through the two folders and, after finding that Junior was a child of five, replaced the latter file. As he 97


Issue 02 returned to the hall, he realized he was not sure what directions he had taken from the elevator room, complicating the matter of finding his way back. Trying to follow his footsteps, the second level now appeared to be a labyrinth of sorts. He turned right and left, never sure of himself. He tried to steady himself by reading the signs on the corridor walls. The placards bore familiar words, assuring him he had not strayed too far. Prioritized P-through-R Alphabetical Filing. Miscellaneous Records, XX23-XX46. Meeting Minutes, XX39-XX45. But as he continued, he found the new placards related tangentially at best to the business of banking: Atlases of the New World. Fauna of the Highlands. Near Eastern Philosophy, 1000-1500. What was more, the concrete walls and floors were giving way to plain white brick. Luka Maro was quite sure he was lost. The massive steel doors remained the same, though. After minutes of confused wandering, he felt himself no closer to the elevator, and had a suspicion he had descended further into the earth. He continued down the hall, clutching the Héche file close to his chest, for it now seemed something alien and precious. Rounding a corner, he found himself in a corridor that was well-lit and colorful, with green and white chevron tiling and painted yellow walls. He had seen that sort of hallway before, he realized, when he went to the Central Bureau of Records and Information to update his listed occupation from Clerk of the Sixth Degree to Clerk of the Seventh. Of course — it all made sense. It was only natural that the bank and the Bureau should share a library of records. Both were collecting information, after all, and it was all for efficiency’s sake. Perhaps the Central Hospital kept its medical files somewhere in the same subterranean complex. It was only natural, Luka Maro told himself, shuffling forward. Luka Maro’s confusion grew as he wandered down the hallway. He 98


Spring 2021 felt sick and feverish, perhaps he needed to lie down. This was aggravating his ulcer, he thought. Onward went Luka Maro, now moving in a frenzy, following the twists and turns of the corridors, taking rights and lefts at random. The ceiling was cracking, he felt. The walls were closing in. Like a spooked mouse, he hurried on, delving deeper and deeper into the earth. He was no longer in the basement of the Central Bank; he was no longer in the basement of the Central Bureau. The halls were black, the lights were dim. He clutched the folder in his hands. The placards beside the doors were now nonsensical. Apocrypha, Heretical. Neologisms, Obsolete. A bead of sweat catching in his eye, his attention was arrested at one particular door exactly alike every other except in two key ways. First, it had no placard stating its purpose. Second, it was ajar. He was quite sure every door he had encountered so far was quite shut. Heart in his throat, he opened the door. In the glow of the electric light, he saw there were no filing cabinets, but walls of shelves packed with manila folders. He tried to find a sign — something! — to tell him what purpose the room held, but there were only shelves and files. Something tugged in his stomach, and his eyes fell upon a single folder, neither thick nor thin, that had just been replaced, for it was out of line with its neighbors. Even before he moved to inspect it, he knew what words would be embossed on its tab. Maro, Luka. He pulled the file and held it in his hand, not yet daring to open it. Perhaps it held his medical records, or was a list of his account transactions. Perhaps the bank kept files on its employees. It all made sense, or would make sense, he was sure. Luka Maro opened the folder. Luka Maro, Citizen. Male. Born XXX2. Lives at Apartment 404, 332 Trita Street. Occupation: Bank Clerk, Sixth Degree Seventh Degree. Telephone Number: 344.1091. He turned the page. Citizen Luka Maro lives alone. 99


Issue 02 Receives few guests; possible antisocial. Father [Maro, Chen] divorced mother [Altau, Vareaflor] in XXX9. Calls father 1 hr. on Sun, calls mother 30 mn. on Wed. Owns 33 books and 11 records. Eats every morning and evening at Cafeteria Marletter, known site for anarchist elements. Eats in afternoon at Café Hoerwint, known site for unionist elements. Maro is not registered with the public Address Bureau or public phone book. He felt sick to his stomach. The cafeteria, a site for subversives? Maro is not considered a seditionist. However, in XXX6, gave a sum of 50ƒ to [Quaren, Hodie-Enne], known nihilist. What stuff! He could read no more. He began to flip through the folder. Pages and pages of bills, he realized, phone bills and water bills and even copies of receipts from shops. Here and there he found a typed page, which he stopped to read. Woke at 8:00, washed and dressed (grey suit, brown tie). Ate breakfast at Marletter (eggs and sausage with yogurt). Took 32 Trolley to work. Some pages were detailed accounts of meetings he had had in his home, or else public parks and libraries. Maro likes popular films and popular music. Maro does not like children or geese, but is fond of street cats. He turned to the final page in the manila folder. Neatly typed, in proper secretarial format, were the “minutes” of his birthday celebration. Every word from him, his parents, and his two or three acquaintances was there for his perusal. It was like seeing a beetle under a magnifying glass or a distorted reflection in a dented mirror. He stuffed the folder back into the shelf and slammed the door shut behind him, dashing down the hallway. Luka Maro’s body returned to his quiet, unassuming existence, but his mind could not. He thought of that manila folder while tossing and turning in his bed after midnight or while managing the Manneken account at his slanted oak desk. What had the file wanted? He was not a subversive, the profile stated. He was just Luka Maro, Citizen. 100


Spring 2021 He resolved to do something, anything, even if it upset his ulcer. Someone had written — was writing — a very thorough and very exacting report on him as if he were some grand criminal! He had a right to that file, he decided, and would seize it at the soonest opportunity. The clerk found he did not have to wait long, for he had performed well on the Héche account, so well his superior had placed him on more such assignments. He worked resolutely at the accounts, eager to be done with each and reach the day he would be called again to go to the mysterious second level. He was soon given the Gerrine account, involving a family spanning five generations of scandal, and he was dispatched to the basement to pull the folder on Dalrimkat Gerrine VI, eldest of twelve heirs to the Gerrine Adding-Machine Corporation fortune. In his office, Luka Maro locked his door and took a deep breath. He stropped his paper knife on his palm and spread his jacket out on his desk like a tanner preparing a pelt. Holding the knife to the jacket lining, he made a surgical incision ten inches long. The paperknife was returned to the desk’s topmost drawer and the clerk was out the door, jacket around his narrow shoulders. His heart fluttered during the elevator ride. The boy in the red uniform had evidently lost his fear of bank clerks and now appeared bored and listless, eyes wandering along the perimeter of the chamber. At the second level, Luka Maro thanked the boy and stepped into the low-ceilinged lobby. He walked with measured ease until he heard the elevator doors shut behind him, and he broke into a jog. The north hallway was empty and endless, the buzzing electric lights reflecting off every steel door. Insurance Claims XX40-XX41. Public Utilities, AAA-DEF. Small Loans, XX90-XX92. He threw open the door of the Prioritized E-through-I Alphabetical Filing Room, 101


Issue 02 lights flickering on automatically. Not tarrying a moment, he jerked open GEA-GHA and found Gerrine, Dalrimkat VI. He checked the first page — yes, this was the right woman; two abortions and a history of gambling. He closed the steel door as quietly as he could manage, mentally blessing whoever last oiled the hinges. Striding down the corridor, he marveled once again at the odd placards. Dental Records of Known Patriots. Discredited Egyptology. Untranslatable Manuscripts, Ideographic. He found the unmarked room unlocked, as he suspected every room was. Perhaps he would come down again some day and investigate the other odd rooms, but most likely not. Luka Maro checked that no one was watching, and slipped into the filing room, pulling the door shut behind him. He set the Gerrine file on the floor and took off his jacket, holding it in one hand. With the other, he found the familiar Maro, Luka folder and slipped it into the pocket he had cut in the lining. It fit easily, he found, and when he re-donned the coat, it was as good as invisible. The hem fell as it should and did not sag awkwardly. He did not stop to look for his father’s file or his mother’s, or even the file of Roan Walram. He was sure they were there, and they were not his business. Luka Maro was in the elevator again before he knew it. He took a long, slow breath and tried to avoid looking at the boy. Though he was sure the file was well hidden, he stood with his back against the wall. When the elevator arrived at the second storey, he thanked the boy again and returned to his office, Gerrine, Dalrimkat VI in hand. Luka Maro did not truly breathe until he had locked the door of his apartment behind him. He poured himself a glass of cold milk and retreated into his bedroom, throwing his smart leather briefcase to the side. Sitting against the headboard, milk in hand, nothing made any sense. The file was still in his jacket, 102


Spring 2021 pressing into his spine. He set the glass on the nightstand and unbuttoned his coat. In its appearance, it was an exceptionally ordinary file. The folder could have come from any stationery store in the country, as could the paper within. The words could have been printed on any typewriter with any ink ribbon by any half-trained typist. He opened the folder and re-read the initial profile. His ears went pinkish at the sight of the word antisocial, but he felt more violated by the lengthy description of a visit he made to an analyst following his entrance into university. His paper trail was laid out before him. He took a deeper look at the lines of numbers. How regular a man he was! Of singular habits, of solid habits. How little changed! How rarely did he come across a receipt from a bar or an invoice from a department store! Was all of his existence confined to a cafeteria, a café, and a mail-order catalogue? Every telephone call he placed was transcribed before him, every letter sent, presented in mimeoform! How small a man he found himself! Luka Maro located a half-filled fountain pen and a sheet of lined paper. Bracing the paper against one of his thirty-three books, a forgotten volume of verse, he began to write a letter in comely, precise hand. The following day, Luka Maro, Clerk of the Seventh Degree, would return to his office on the second storey of the Central Bank. He would leave his briefcase on his desk and take the elevator to the second level of the basement. The ride would be silent. He would thank the boy. He would walk down the north hallway and enter the unmarked room, where he would reach into his jacket lining and draw forth the file on Maro, Luka. The file would be returned, set in line with its neighbors, all of its papers in order. The file would be exactly as it had been, save for the addition of a letter at the very end, handwritten on lined paper. It would read: 103


Issue 02 To whom it may concern: I have read your file concerning me, and I have some complaints. First: while I do not know how this record was assembled, I am quite sure I take issue with the transcriptions of my personal conversations and the copying of my letters. Second: there are several factual errors in this profile. It is true that I do not like geese, but not that I dislike children. I merely do not know what to do with them. Third: reading this file, I appear a miniscule, meager man. This is not a complete picture. I may be mild and meager, but I am not small. I am vast — I contain multitudes. You are watching me always and listening to me always, but now, from the vaults of the Central Bank and from the café at Argan Square and from this little beige room, I watch and listen in return. Sincerely, Citizen Luka Maro

104



Contributors Olivia Brandwein ’22 is a junior art studio major and French minor. When not writing works she wishes to be published, she enjoys scrawling in her LEGO journal and the notes app of her phone. Nora Carrier ’23 is a sophomore politics major who loves the outdoors. Margaret Connor ’23 is an English and film theater media double major with a particular interest in Americana and interpretation theory. She has spent the last year repressing her dim awareness of her own mortality by baking bread from scratch and reading the works of Franz Kafka. Amandine De Simone ’24 studies Italian and English literature. Her main interests in life include languages, poetry, art history, flute, musical theater, and ice cream. Ruby Henry FP ’23 is an multimedia artist based in Greenfield, MA. Her work is informed by motherhood, environmentalism, and intersectional feminism. Peiyun Jiang ’21 lives in western Massachusetts, a half-a-world away from home, and is working on a collection of hybrid texts called Plowing Cloud. Protiti Rasnaha Kamal ’20 is a young Bangladeshi poet and holds a BA in neuroscience from Mount Holyoke College. Her writings have been published in journals in Bangladesh and India. She lives in Dhaka. Rebecca Kilroy ’23 is currently a sophomore at Mount Holyoke double majoring in English and Spanish. She writes fiction and poetry with a focus on wit, history, and the undiscovered past. 106


She is a prose editor for the Mount Holyoke Review, and this is her first undergraduate publication. 김효리 Hyo Rhi Kim ’21 grew up in, outside, and on the edges of Germany, Korea and Turtle Island. Questions of identity, belonging, and resiliency in oppressive social orders led them to study anthropology at Mount Holyoke College. They write to contemplate and give voice to the joys and pains of being alive. Jenny Kirk ’24 is a 19-year-old traditional artist who works mainly with pastels. Kirk gets a lot of inspiration from the natural world, as well as children’s book illustrations. Jean Klurfeld ’24 has loved to read and write for a long time, though she is often too busy knitting to get around to it. She likes languages, bugs, museums, writing letters, and hearing from those who connect with her poems. Liz Lewis ’22 is a junior majoring in history and English. Her artwork tends to lean abstract and uses lots of color. In her free time she loves to draw, write short fiction, and look at photos of her dog Walter. Avery Martin ’22 is a writer, reader, runner, very amateur guitar player, and maker of many objects. They write about beautiful and messy parts of living in a body in the world including queerness, sensation, and making and breaking relationships. They love windy weather and prefer bitter drinks over sweet ones. Woodlief McCabe ’23 is a sophomore majoring in film and political science. They believe in radical love and the unharnessed power of cross-country public transit.

107


David Nejezchleba ’22 is a philosophy major and psychology minor. He is currently enjoying the warm weather and is excited that Big Time Rush was added to Netflix. Nadia Niva ’21 is a poet living in Easthampton, MA. They try to emulate goo in their poems as well as their life. Emma Nguyen ’24 is a Vietnamese immigrant and has been living in America for the last nine years. She has cherished writing creative prose and poetry since she was eight years old. Embry V. O’Leary FP ’23 is an art studio major currently residing in western Massachusetts. Their work crosses several disciplines and mediums, in an effort to keep up with their naturally excitable mind. Their website is https://evalentino.art/ Meryl Phair ’21 is a journalism & media major with a politics minor who will be pursuing her MA in magazine & digital storytelling this fall at NYU. Phair is a triple Aries, her spirit vegetable is arugula, and her favorite weather condition is rain. Ava Provolo ’22 writes poems, as well as dabbles in writing comedy for television. She can usually be found talking excitedly about music or embarking on another cooking/baking adventure. She is motivated by the alluring quality of parmesan cheese. Elle Provolo ’22 has enjoyed creative writing since her third grade teacher told her she had potential as a writer. Her poems, in many ways, are attempts to explore her complex feelings. She loves dancing in her room and the simplicity of a plain cheese pizza. Lily Reavis ’21 is a writer from Colorado who enjoys ghost stories, pinot grigio, and nice foggy blankets that lay close to the ground. 108


Regis Reed ’22 is a rising senior who is incredibly happy (and humbled!) to be featured in the Review’s second publication. Outside of writing, he enjoys going to bed early, forgetting to water his plants, and making food to share with others. He sincerely hopes you enjoy what’s been written and thanks all the MHR staff and other authors for their work putting together the piece! Lu Yang ’21 believes that poetry is a way for her to communicate with other human beings at a more profound level. Through poetry, she finds a shared existence and beauty emerges through the pain like a luminous mist.

109





Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook

Articles inside

Contributors

4min
pages 106-112

Citizen Luka Maro / Margaret Connor

17min
pages 94-105

Job / Protiti Rasnaha Kamal

1min
pages 92-93

Bathroom / Jean Klurfeld

1min
page 88

Another Zoom Meeting / Rebecca Kilroy

1min
pages 90-91

On Monsters: Self Reflection / Regis Reed

1min
pages 85-86

Demolition Lovers / Regis Reed

1min
pages 83-84

He gave me Fire / Amandine De Simone

1min
page 81

Untitled (We pass a sequence...) / Margaret Connor

14min
pages 66-75

A Clearing in a Wide Oval Bowl / 김효리 Hyo Rhi Kim

2min
pages 76-78

Murmurs Under the Roof Window / Lu Yang

1min
pages 79-80

Roadkill / Amandine De Simone

1min
page 65

WHEN I GET LONESOME / Nadia Niva

1min
pages 63-64

THE FISH SWIMS AWAY / Nadia Niva

1min
pages 61-62

Tea / Nora Carrier

2min
pages 58-59

Singles Quarantined / Lu Yang

1min
page 60

cuore del mio cuore (heart of my heart) / Elle Provolo

1min
page 56

we made risotto on friday / Elle Provolo

1min
page 57

Letter to 妈妈 Peiyun Jiang

3min
pages 52-54

Birth/Rebirth (artwork) / Ruby Henry

1min
pages 49-50

I will lose my mind / David Nejezchleba

1min
pages 35-36

My Mom Says Just Stop Picking / Woodlief McCabe

2min
pages 37-38

Birth/Rebirth / Ruby Henry

1min
page 48

Portrait / Emma Nguyen

1min
pages 39-40

Ladybug Brigade / Jean Klurfeld

1min
page 47

haiku: body / Elle Provolo

1min
pages 44-46

Untitled (Tiny mortal writings ...) / Lily Reavis

1min
page 33

can’t believe it was There / David Nejezchleba

1min
page 24

This Is Not a Letter / Avery Martin

1min
pages 26-27

Las relaciones / Ava Provolo

1min
page 25

Presence (artwork) / Liz Lewis

3min
pages 30-32

Presence / Olivia Brandwein

3min
pages 28-29

Your Death / Emma Nguyen

1min
pages 15-16

Modern Fugue / Lu Yang

1min
page 14

Silver and Blue / Avery Martin

12min
pages 17-23
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.