issue thirteen / spring 2018
issue thirteen / spring 2018
ISSUE 13 Spring 2018
Mount Hope is published bi-annually in Bristol, Rhode Island, by the Roger Williams University Department of English and Creative Writing. Individual subscription rates are: $20 annually or $35 for two years. Mount Hope ÂŠ 2018, All Rights Reserved. No portion of Mount Hope may be reproduced in any form or by electronic means, including all information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission of Mount Hope magazine or authors of individual creative works. Any resemblance of events, locations or persons, living or dead, in creative works contained herein is entirely coincidental. Mount Hope cannot be held responsible for any views expressed by its contributors. www.mounthopemagazine.com Individual Issue Price: $10.00
Submissions Guidelines We accept electronic submissions of fiction and nonfiction up to 5,000 words, poetry up to 5 per package, and photo or graphic stories of 10-12 images or panels. Send a note telling us about your work. We take up to 6 months to respond; no paper submissions, please. We consider translated work. Submit via our online submissions manager at www.mounthopemagazine.submittable.com Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
STAFF EDITOR Edward J. Delaney WRITER-IN-RESIDENCE Adam Braver DESIGN EDITOR Lisa Daria Kennedy Massachusetts College of Art POETRY EDITOR Jen McClanaghan Salve Regina University
ASSISTANT EDITORS Nicola Alexander Katie Battaglino Kyle Gravel EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Lauren Calabrese Courtney Dellâ€™Agnese Marissa Peloso Cameron Pierce Gavin Thill ADMINISTRATIVE INTERN Hannah Little
CONTENTS FICTION 13 Mother’s Day
POETRY 20 Thursday Morning
by Allen Kesten 43 Back to the Garden by Anthony Kane
on the Mainland by Joannie Stangeland 26 You Inhale this Way and Sand... by Simon Perchik 52 Adopting a Highway by Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb 59 Emily as her Syntax Ensnares Me by Darren C. Demaree 60 Emily as she Declares Herself a Bounty by Darren C. Demaree 61 Emily as I Preferred the Mercy Stop by Darren C. Demaree 62 Oral Glucose Tolerance Test by Cameron Morse 63 Sciatica by Cameron Morse
NONFICTION 5 Down to the Marrow
of Our Bones by Kirtan Nautiyal, M.D. 53 Homework by Jane Carroll
TRANSLATION 64 Haikus from Narila
by Aurora Luque translated by María Elsy Cardona 65 Eau de Parfum by Aurora Luque translated by María Elsy Cardona 66 Interior by Aurora Luque translated by María Elsy Cardona 67 excerpt from Exile: Women's Turn by Nabile Farès translated by Peter Thompson
INTERVIEW 21 Poet Vijay Seshadri Interview by Nicola Alexander
PHOTOGRAPHY 27 Left Behind by David H. Wells
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Down to the Marrow of Our Bones by Kirtan Nautiyal, M.D.
Most mornings, my white coat lies on my bedroom floor or crumpled in a car seat. The inside of its neck has a ring of grime that I have not been able to remove no matter how many times I’ve sent it in for dry cleaning, and its bottom half remains deeply wrinkled from the hours I spend sitting in a chair typing notes. Between washings, the smudges from my fingers slowly become apparent around its cloth buttons and its cuffs, which are too long. On the left breast, my name is embroidered in blue thread above a small pocket that’s outlined by spots of ink from all the times I’ve forgotten to click shut my pen before putting it away. Sheaves of crumpled, folded papers are crammed into all available pockets, scribbled notes reminding me to call a patient’s relatives or schedule a test interspersed with orderly recordings of my patients’ daily vitals and laboratory findings. It is a symbol of my profession, the white coat, but as Dr. Mark MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Hochberg notes in a 2007 historical perspective, this has not always been the case. Until the late 1800s, doctors dressed in black, as did many other professionals, including clergymen. Medical practice was dirty, with limbs hastily sawed off and the germ theory of disease not fully understood. It was not until Dr. Joseph Lister introduced antiseptic surgical technique in the 1860s that doctors and their patients began to value cleanliness in medicine, and bright white coats and freshly laundered sheets became the expectation in all the best hospitals around the country. After medical education was standardized in America following the Flexner Report of 1910, white coats were institutionalized not only as a sign of proper practice but as a vestment of the vocation, to be given to young men upon their initiation into the field. Over the decades to come, the white coat became ever more imbued with cultural significance, to the point where pediatricians no longer wore them due to their effect on small children, who reflexively realized that the presence of an adult wearing white likely meant something painful coming soon afterward. Even now, we routinely diagnose the condition of “white coat hypertension,” in which adults demonstrate falsely elevated blood pressures in our offices, the specter of prior childhood traumas perhaps not quite as buried as first thought. Though not concretely present in my thoughts, there is a part of this weight that stays with me always, and it was with a sense of responsibility ignored that I examined the sad state of my poor coat before slipping it over my shoulders and heading off to meet with the family of Bernice Jackson; a patient of mine, now dying of multiple myeloma. I don’t know what her mother or siblings thought about what I was wearing as I explained there was nothing more I could do to treat her cancer. Not much, probably, their thoughts more likely devoted to ways to wrap around the news I was giving. But maybe they saw my dirty cuffs and were subconsciously impressed by the connotation of working so hard I didn’t even have time to wash the thing. Or maybe they saw instead how the cloth had turned permanently not-quite-white and recognized in my slovenliness a sign that I didn’t read enough, study enough, care enough. I told them what I had to tell them, and they thanked me for that, then asked if they could speak to my boss as well. I shook her brother’s hand goodbye, but it was perfunctory, his eyes glazed as if already mentally looking forward to the real news—someone who knew more than me—had in store. Dr. Maxwell walked in with me a few hours later, her coat fresh and pressed from the cleaning service, a single capped pen slipped neatly in its breast pocket, no papers spilling from its every hiding place. We exchanged pleasantries and then sat down. She shook her head sadly and repeated that there was nothing more we could do to treat the cancer in words that were hers and not mine. “Jesus” slipped from the lips of Ms. Jackson’s mother and her sister held back tears, but after several minutes of mostly silence, they finally agreed 6
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
that proceeding with hospice care was best. That night, after another long day of clinic, I did the dishes that had been piling up in the sink for days and finally threw my coat in the laundry for the first time in several weeks. § To fight a disease, you must first name it, but as Dr. Robert Kyle notes in his history of the illness, what we now call multiple myeloma escaped our words for centuries. It was not until 1844 that the English surgeon, Samuel Solly, first published the case of Sarah Newbury, a middle-aged woman suddenly struck by debilitating bone pain and fatigue. Over a period of several years, she suffered spontaneous fractures of both clavicles, of multiple ribs, and of her femur, all of which left her bed-bound and in constant, agonizing pain. Against her objections, her husband had her admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, where despite treatment with rhubarb pills, opiate preparations, and orange peel, she died five days after presentation. On autopsy, Solly found her bones to be brittle and broken, their marrow replaced with a curious red material, which under the microscope was found to contain numerous oval-shaped cells with bright central nucleoli. Soon afterwards, a 44-year-old grocer named Thomas McBean came to the St. George’s Hospital in London. He too had been in perfect health before the sudden onset of pain and progressive fatigue. He traveled to the countryside to try to rebuild his strength, but while vaulting out of an underground cavern, he felt his breastbone give way and was rendered helpless by an excruciating thunderbolt of agony through his chest. Thus began several years of treatment with tonics, plasters, massive bloodletting, the application of leeches, courses of steel and quinine, Dover’s Patent Powder, acetate of ammonia, camphor, and warm baths. Despite the efforts of the best doctors in London, by the end of 1847, McBean found himself on his deathbed, his legs swollen, unable to sit up, and racked with coughing. Puzzled by the cloudy appearance of his urine, McBean’s physicians called in the London consultant Dr. Henry Bence Jones, who at 31 years old was already renowned for his expertise in chemical pathology. He confirmed that the addition of nitric acid to the urine formed a reddish precipitate that disappeared with heat and reformed on cooling, identified the precipitate as a particular protein he termed a “hydrated deutoxide of albumen,” and conducted precise calculations which led him to the conclusion that McBean was losing sixty grams of protein per day through his kidneys. To this day, the typical urine finding in multiple myeloma is known as a Bence Jones protein. Despite Dr. Bence Jones’ groundbreaking work, Thomas McBean soon died. His autopsy also revealed bones so weak they crumbled with the touch of the scalpel. They too were filled with a gelatinous red material composed of the characteristic cells first described in Dr. Solly’s paper several MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
years earlier. His frustrated doctors did not know it, but in a few short years they had already discovered all the major pieces of the disease process we now call multiple myeloma—an explosion of so-called plasma cells in the bone marrow that produced tremendous amounts of a specific protein in the blood and urine causing anemia, fractures, and renal failure. The incredible effort that had gone into piecing together that puzzle over the century following these obscure beginnings was almost beyond my comprehension; the subsequent transformation of myeloma in the years that followed from a largely untreatable condition into something like a chronic disease was for many patients, nearly miraculous. They shuffled into my office every month, their disease stable on a combination of pills mailed to their homes. Some, like Theodore or John, felt so good they probably wouldn’t even have come to their monthly visit except for the opiate prescriptions they needed to manage the pain in their bones. Others, like Eduardo, a sturdy, largely oblivious 48-year-old, were able to go back to work laying drywall, driving trucks, or raising kids. When the pills stopped working, there were shots. When the shots stopped working, there were infusions. There were always “options,” as we termed them in our discussions. After all, we were past the days of using roots and bugs and bloodletting—there were instead histone deacetylase inhibitors and SLAMF7 immunostimulatory antibodies, proteasome inhibitors and CD38-targeted drugs. Our most trusted treatments were referred to with nicknames––lenalidomide was branded as Revlimid, and we called it “Rev,” bortezomib called “Vel” for a similar reason. Elotuzumab became “elo,” daratumumab “dara.” I’d tell my boss, “She’s been stable on Vel/Dex for two years now,” and together we would marvel at the powers of our old friends. It was our dazzling science that made cases like Bernice’s so tough to bear. Our successes obscured the fact that, in the end, myeloma was still an incurable disease. When our patients’ families read online that five new treatments had been approved in 2015 alone, it was no wonder that they were incredulous when I told them there were no more chemotherapeutic options left. In those cases, I would always try to explain how much more we could still do, about how effectively we could still address symptoms like pain, nausea, and shortness of breath. Yet, inevitably, there would come a point where a mother or brother would abruptly sit up as if waking from a dream and say, “So—you’re giving up?” We had come so far with our words, and yet there remained so much I could not explain. § A few weeks later, it was an explanation I had to provide as I scrambled down the brightly lit hospital hallway wearing a shirt, tie, and no white coat on the way to the surgical ICU. There lay Peter Hoang, a 49-year-old man who’d been diagnosed with myeloma only a few months 8
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
earlier. He’d blown through first-line treatment and come back to the hospital with a bowel obstruction; a CT scan had shown cancerous masses throughout his abdomen—a very strange manner of progression for myeloma. Conservative management failed, and the surgical team had to take him to the operating room to resect the largest obstructing mass and decompress his bowel. In the three weeks since, he had remained in limbo between the ICU and the floor—unable to fully recover, yet still fighting on. He could not tolerate solid food without vomiting. His bowels were still not working, and a large plastic tube had been inserted into his stomach through his nose to continually suction out all that was not traveling properly through his intestines. His kidneys had failed and dialysis loomed. Fevers raged off and on, his heart rate hovered around 130 at rest, and he was so weak he could not hold his head up straight. Most recently, he had been on the ventilator for several days, exhausted and no longer able to breathe on his own. Now with a slight improvement, the breathing tube was out, and he waited with his brother and close friend for a meeting called by the ICU team to decide what we would and would not do going forward. As I rushed past confused family members dazedly wandering around trying to find their loved ones’ rooms, I probably should have been solidifying the details of his case in my mind. Yet, I could not help but remain preoccupied with the ongoing search to find a decent eggless cake for my upcoming wedding, which is what I’d been working on in the few free minutes I had after morning rounds, calling half a dozen bakeries before suddenly realizing I was late for the family meeting. As I scanned into the ICU, its doors silently folding open in front of me, my mind reeled––prices per MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
As I rushed past confused family members dazedly wandering around trying to find their loved ones’ rooms, I probably should have been solidifying the details of his case in my mind.”
slice, cake topper designs, and whether or not we wanted fondant icing were mixing freely with the still-hazy details of Mr. Hoang’s disease and what we could not do for him anymore. I could always tell how burned out I was in any particular month by how much I resented the other members of my team; by that measure, the massive grudge I was building against Taylor, the fellow I was working with at that time, meant I needed a serious break. Mr. Hoang was her patient, someone she’d been following as an outpatient for months, and yet she had agreed to a time for the family meeting when she would be out of the hospital at her weekly continuity clinic. I was convinced she had been purposely avoiding time-consuming family meetings and bone marrow biopsies all month, and though I cannot now recall whether any of my paranoia was actually justified, at the time, my annoyance and anger only further scrambled my faculties. I distractedly made my way over to Mr. Hoang’s bed, where his family was waiting anxiously. I shook their hands and nodded hello to the ICU and palliative care attendings, the social worker, and the various other residents and fellows that ringed around in a loose semi-circle. Mr. Hoang himself was slumped sideways, the head of his bed raised so he too could participate in the discussion. However, when I asked him how he was doing, his reply was so faint I had to ask him again and again, leaning closer and closer until I finally made out that his cracked lips were shaping the word “fine” each time I asked. The video monitor behind him beeped insistently, multi-colored lines continuously tracing out his vital signs. Innumerable bags of fluid hung heavily from the IV poles behind him, antibiotics and nutrition and hydration flowing into his tired veins. Dr. Pereira, the ICU attending, laid out the salient points. “The question we are gonna have to figure out is if you get sick enough to come back here whether you want us to put a tube back down your throat to help you breathe or do chest compressions if your heart stops.” Mr. Hoang remained still, his lips telling us nothing. “Is that what you would like?” “Can you tell us what you want?” His eyes darted between us. Though I hadn’t paid as much attention on rounds as I should have, I knew Mr. Hoang had implored us on several different occasions in the weeks prior to take the tube out of his nose, stop pricking him with needles to draw blood, and just leave him alone. It seemed that at least a part of him wanted a way out of the endless loop of suffering in which he was trapped. Yet every time we would attempt to have him formally sign the paperwork to change his advance directives, he’d ask for another day to think about what he really wanted until time had finally run out and he’d ended up back here in the ICU. In the continued silence following Dr. Pereira’s questions, I 10
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
hesitated. The few minutes I’d spent going over Mr. Hoang’s chart before the momentous meeting left me with an understanding of the broad outlines of what was going on, but still unclear on many of the finer points––specific lab values, a hard and fast timeline, thorough knowledge of all the treatments he’d already received. Yet, I knew the family needed more information on his cancer, and that there was no one else to provide that context but me. So I took a deep breath, looked up, and plunged into what I had to say. I knew the rules, how I was supposed to act, and the gestures, the furrowed brow, the turns of phrase––my stock-in-trade gave me the space to gain my feet. I continued to speak, and my words papered the gaps in my knowledge. Sentences turned into paragraphs, and paragraphs into what I hoped was an understandable explanation of Mr. Hoang’s whole hospital course––the continued bowel obstruction, the kidney failure, his crippling weakness, ongoing infection––and how all of these combined made it impossible to give any therapy for myeloma. I shook my head, the look in my eyes grim, and I added that not only could we not treat him now, but that the lack of improvement we’d seen over the last few weeks made it exceedingly unlikely we would ever be able to. In that case, I finished, it would be perfectly reasonable to forgo further aggressive medical treatment, ICU care, and life support, focusing on medication for pain and other symptoms. The silence resumed. I never knew the ICU could be so quiet. His brother, long and lean, wearing a tan driver’s cap and a neatly tucked in shirt, stood with his hands clasped in front of him, head bowed. His friend, also dressed smartly, cleared his throat, “Myeloma? How long has he had myeloma?” I almost took a step back. The self-satisfaction I’d gained from my high-wire act just a second before immediately drained away. What had our patient actually told his family about his condition? Why had he told us to call them in for this meeting if they were so completely in the dark? What were we all doing there, and why the hell wasn’t Taylor the one dealing with this mess? The turmoil with which I had entered the room crashed down on me again, and I felt a bone-deep tiredness––at that moment, nothing seemed quite as appealing as a long, long nap. “He’s… he’s had it for quite some time. It’s why… It’s why he’s here, really. Everything that’s happened in the hospital for the past three weeks, everything I just talked about… is all due to his cancer and the fact that it’s all throughout his belly…” Mr. Hoang seemed to be shrinking further and further with every second I spoke, a snowman in the desert sun. He closed his eyes, and I wasn’t even sure he was listening to us anymore. Dr. Chavez, the palliative-care guy, stepped forward to try a slightly different tack, his voice a placid alpine lake: “Another option would be to continue antibiotics and intravenous feeding and if you get well enough for MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
the oncologists to give you treatment, to go ahead and do that. But to also make clear that if you again get sick enough to come back to the ICU, you don’t want to go back on life support. How does that sound?” All of a sudden, Mr. Hoang seemed to pull himself together. His eyes fluttered open. A barely perceptible movement of his head. Then again. He was nodding yes. “Is that would you would like to do?” The question hung in the air for a few seconds, and I was about to ask again when his brother broke the silence, “I do not know if he understands. I will ask him in our language.” They murmured back and forth, no special intensity in their manner. After a short minute, his brother turned back to us, “He says he wants to do everything. We have faith in God that he will perform a miracle even if all seems hopeless, and that he will save my brother in the end.” “Wait a second…” I looked back at Mr. Hoang. There was desperation in his eyes, and I did not understand the secret forces at work, the latent power and buried history in his brother’s few whispered words. As physicians, we have trained that the best care at the end of life was the most comfortable, the most painless. But what happened when what a man needed most was to suffer for those he loved? The momentum we had built quickly sputtered to a halt. Our meeting soon came to a close. All of us were somberly bidding goodbye to the family and shuffling away, now resigned to stay the course. Not even Dr. Maxwell, who returned later in the day for a further discussion with the patient and his brother, radiating assurance in her resplendent coat, was able to change anything. On our way to the next room, she remarked on how he’d never had trouble speaking English before. Later that evening, long after the workday was done, I sat in front of the TV eating spaghetti and watching a program on the exploration of the solar system. On the screen, a probe hurtled past the far moon of Jupiter, and I thought more about role models and history, the space between where I was and where I wanted to be. Lost in this reverie, I would not remember until the next day that I still had not put my clean white coat in the dryer, and so it remained where it was all night, damp, musty, its wrinkles ever deepening.
Kirtan Nautiyal is an oncologist in Houston, Texas. 12
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Mother’s Day by Allen Kesten
The woman is on the floor. Her children have gathered in the bedroom. Her youngest son, Ben, is there on speakerphone. She rearranges her nightgown, worried that some of her bits might be exposed. It’s not clear if she rolled out of bed or dropped while trying to get to the bathroom. Her husband, George, who came into her life when most of her children were adults, is in the kitchen making his cup of instant coffee. “Rituals are so important to old people,” comments the eldest daughter, Beth. “Let him keep to his routine.” Robbie stands by with an ice pack, condensation dripping down his arm. He’s waiting for instructions as to where to apply it. All their mother will say is, “I’m fine. I just can’t get up.” “It was so awful to find her like this,” Beth says, as she has twice already, hoping again for some comfort from her siblings. “Would you like something to eat, Mother?” Robbie asks. “Are you people kidding me?” asks Ben through Beth’s cell phone, which lies on the bed beside Maya. She’s propped up against her mother’s pillows, reading the book she brought. MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
During his first weeks in the new city, there was, of course, debris on the streets, but it seemed as if everything was glued in place, or that when the wind blew, it blew away from him.”
“Don’t start Ben,” roars Larry. “We care about what Mother wants, and she may want some breakfast. I’ll never forgive you for making that dinner last time you were here, forcing Mother and George to eat vegetarian when you know they like meat.” “The peach pie was good,” offers Maya, looking up from her book. Maya is wearing a sweater with a voluminous cowl neck that she stretches over the bottom part of her face. The sweater is so thin, the yarn so fine, that her nipples are quite apparent. Her siblings have taken turns staring incredulously. Larry wants to say, “Maya, for goodness sake, wear a bra,” but today is going to be about making and keeping allies, so he doesn’t. “Maybe I’ll go check on George,” Robbie says. “I can make some toast for him and Mother.” “Toast at this time of day?” their mother asks. “Yes, Mother, it’s still morning,” Beth responds, making her lip quiver to show her fear and concern. She asks her siblings, “Should I ask her if she knows who the President is?” Ignoring Beth, Larry orders Robbie to the kitchen to make breakfast. “With real bacon, Robbie. Hear that, Ben? Mother likes bacon.” Before Robbie leaves, the sound of scratching comes from the attic and the siblings look up—Except for Maya. Beth exclaims, “Robbie, when you come back, bring the flour canister.” “What the fuck?” asks the voice of Ben. “Squirrels. There may be squirrels in the attic. I had one in my guest room last year—chewed right through the window screen. Saw it out of the corner of my eye and was horrified. I called animal control, even though I was pretty sure I scared it back out the window. The officer who came 14
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
said I should put flour down. That way, if the squirrel was still in the house, I’d see tracks in the flour. Clever, huh?” Beth likes an anecdote with both calamity and useful information. “There’s a silk flower on the dresser,” the woman responds, wanting to contribute to the conversation since the children were nice enough to come for a visit. She raises a hand and it floats a few inches from the floor. Robbie, standing over her, is confused and doesn’t know whether she wants him to stay or go. “If you guys don’t do something right now, I’m calling an ambulance,” cries Ben. “Pretty embarrassing if the call comes from 800 miles away. It’ll be great telling the dispatcher about all of you and your complete incompetence.” “You can’t call 911, you know. Unless you want the ambulance to come here from there.” Larry laughs at the absurdity of this, in case Ben missed the point. When Ben was seventeen, he came out to his siblings. Larry, fourteen years older, responded by saying, “No surprise. And by the way, you were the reason Mother became pro-abortion.” Their mother was forty-one when she found out she was pregnant with Ben. “Maybe Ben’s got a point,” Beth suggests. “Maybe we should try to get her up at least.” “It’s easy for Ben to give advice. He’s not here, as usual, to deal with the family messes.” “The same old refrain,” sighs Ben. All throughout high school, Ben was attacked by things moving through the air. An empty rubber garbage can fell on his head after being sent airborne as Larry drove over the curb while exiting the driveway. There was also: a roof tile from a neighbor’s house that hit him in the forehead, resulting in five stitches; various plastic bags that stuck like suction cups; a lit cigarette butt that burned his shin while wearing shorts; sheets of newspaper that wrapped around him as if he were armature for a papier-mâché sculpture; and even a chicken bone to his sternum like a wish gone terribly wrong; all launched by the eddies of wind that stalked the streets and yards of their suburban town. There was also a garden hose, which in a sudden burst of water pressure attacked him, like a cobra rising from a basket, as he followed a cute boy he’d seen at the library. After high school, to escape projectiles and family, Ben decided to go to culinary school three states away. He bought a used car and left home with his knives and favorite Le Creuset Signature Flame Dutch oven. During his first weeks in the new city, there was, of course, debris on the streets, but it seemed as if everything was glued in place, or that when the wind blew, it blew away from him. He began to seek and have sex with men in earnest while mastering knife skills and the five French mother sauces. Now at twenty-nine, a chef with aspirations for his own restaurant, flying debris MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
reminds him of where he came from, but rarely leaves a mark. On the floor, their mother yawns. Beth fetches a pillow to put under her head. Maya doesn’t look up, despite the movement beside her. She continues reading. Beth once said Maya suffered from Attention Surplus Disorder. It was only a good-natured joke, but her siblings adopted the phrase with a vengeance. When she was four, Maya began regular infusions to treat an immune deficiency. She always brought a stack of picture books from the library with her to the hospital. Before the needle was jabbed into her arm and taped in place, she put a book in her lap, opened it, and lost herself in the illustrations. While the immunoglobulin dripped, her attention remained focused on her books, to the exclusion of the nurses checking in and the other patients moaning behind their curtains. Usually it was her mother who sat with her, sometimes Beth, too, but they learned not to try to break through her concentration. Maya never talked to them about the books she read. Instead, once home, she drew pictures of herself, a needle in her arm and a circle of tubing like a lasso around various characters from the books. She tucked the drawings into the inside flaps of their shiny book jackets before returning them to the library. Walking past the den one night, Maya overheard her father on the telephone complaining to someone about all the time his wife “wasted” at the hospital. “There wasn’t any dinner on the table again when I came home just because that damn juice takes its sweet time dripping.” By then, Maya was reading chapter books. “Reading around the clock,” her mother often said. After hearing her father’s complaint, Maya took to writing to the authors she liked with imaginings of herself in their books. She tuned out her family altogether. “I think I’ll go to the kitchen now,” says Robbie, rolling up his wet sleeve, now soaked by the ice pack never applied. He’s been imagining his mother’s fall, how she felt going down, the surprise and fright, and the moment of impact. As he walks down the hall, he sees himself, at six years old, lying in the street. Hands were unpredictable to Robbie as a child. Hands could caress or hit; the difference was in the magnitude and speed of their touch. Fists could shake in the air or punch. As a child, he thought his vast fears made him supernaturally vigilant, but they actually clouded his perception or distracted him altogether. Years of therapy helped him to understand this. Other hands were inscrutable sometimes. The mere twist of a forearm, the show of a palm, or the curl of fingers were all nuances that challenged little Robbie and made him feel guilty for not being as smart as his big brother and sisters. On the first day of second grade, the crossing guard’s hand was directed toward him, but was it stopping him or beckoning him? A lunch pail like his father’s, ribbed metal and curved top, was in his hand, 16
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
leading the way as he stepped off the curb. A car zoomed past, just missing him. Its momentum pulled the lunch pail away and it hit the ground with a clatter. His arms broke his own fall, saving his face from being bloodied. The crossing guard rushed over and helped him up. His elbows and knees were scraped. As she brushed the road sand off him, he thought, I don’t want Mother to know what I did. He made himself fall again once he reached the school grounds. Then he waited for the teacher standing on the school steps to come over, someone to corroborate a less dangerous incident, the lie he’d tell his mother. She was always saying, “I should cover you in bubble wrap before letting you leave the house.” Then she’d pull at that patch of hair at her right temple, which was shorter and thinner than the rest. Larry’s face is red with frustration now. He doesn’t want to give in to Ben, but can see that some action is required. Eight years ago, Larry was a successful, confined space specialist, working inside commercial HVAC systems. He wore an orange jumpsuit when he climbed inside boilers, vents, and crawl spaces. Stepping through iron portals into those small worlds eased his stress, made him happy. The tighter the space, the fewer decisions one had to make about which way to go, and you were free to get down to work. Confined inside, he breathed air purified by his respiration apparatus, heard the echo of his tools, and got lost in his amplified heartbeat. When his partners bailed on the business and vanished, leaving back taxes and debt in their wake, it felt like he had been shot from a cannon into a wide-open field. He was mortified that he had been taken advantage of, played for a fool by men he thought were his friends. (It was the same as when the neighborhood boys ran off instead of hiding, while he counted, eyes closed. When he realized they’d abandoned him, he sat dejected on the back porch. His mother’s clothespins bag, which hung from the porch rail, rested on his head, a lumpy crown, while he whimpered. When he remembered that his father was always calling the neighbors’ children “trash,” he felt better.) Larry’s mostly unemployed now, enclosed in body fat instead of small spaces. He weighs over 380 pounds. The only place he can sit safely in his mother’s house is on an iron bench brought in from the garden for him. Orange snack foods have replaced his orange jumpsuit. Yesterday, he bought five bags of Doritos on special at a convenience store. Beth continues to kneel by her mother. She wishes she knew how to take a pulse or assess someone’s breathing. She’s not even wearing a watch. As a child, Beth had never mentioned an imaginary friend to her family until she announced during the first week of second grade that it had died. She felt both grief and guilt, for no matter the ever-changing circumstances of the deadly harm that had befallen her talking pygmy billy goat—she played a role in its demise. She had tethered the goat to a stake close by the driveway, but should have known that her father, an infamously fast and careless driver, MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
would back out of the garage without looking. Then after a lull, it was the case that she had postponed the bath run by her mother to watch Wheel of Fortune, and the goat fell in. She discovered the goat’s bloated body floating on the surface, its head—oh its sweet, little beard full of flakes of soap—underwater. This went on for weeks, new tales followed by recrimination and tears. Her mother would rub her back as Beth sobbed, “My friend can’t be gone.” Then, over Thanksgiving weekend, fighting with her brothers, playing with her cousins, and watching over her little sister filled Beth’s days; the goat was finally laid to rest. The woman kneads a handful of her nightgown. “Would you like me to make pizza for dinner, the way I used to?” she asks her children. She and the children’s father divorced thirteen years ago. Afterward, she became more relaxed and even a little dotty, as if she could finally let go of control and responsibilities. She spent less time doing housework, running errands, and worrying over her children. Stopping for a donut and coffee after dropping her youngest Ben off at the high school became a treat she frequently allowed herself. That’s how she met George, a retired civil engineer eating at the counter. He was wearing a miniature slide-rule tie clip that he moved to amuse the help. “Dough with too much memory needs to relax,” the woman mutters into the still air of the room, her children frozen in place. “What did she say?” asks Ben through the phone. Larry, who feels the pain in his knees and lower back from standing too long, replies, “We’re getting her up.” He yells for Robbie and Maya, although his sister must be jostled before she closes her book. The children gather around their mother and fumble for where to grab hold. A hand, an elbow, her waist. Larry counts to three and they lift. Once she is upright and able to test if her legs can bear weight, they walk their mother to the bed and lay her down. They unbend her like their father’s old wood-and-brass folding ruler until she is lying straight from head to toe, arms by her side. “Ben, she’s off the floor and seems okay,” Robbie says into the phone. “She’s in the bed next to you.” Robbie never knows how to talk about technology. Robbie and Larry turn their heads so Beth can examine their mother. She pushes the nightgown above her mother’s knees. Bruises and abrasions color her skin red, purple, and green. “Maya, get a marker. Time for some of your doodles,” Beth says. Her siblings, though confused, say nothing. Beth saw Maya putting her drawings into the flaps of library books, but never questioned or stopped her. For years after, Beth thought about those self-portraits circulating through the library, into the hands of other children, frightening some and fascinating others. Did children recognize Maya at school, the curly blonde hair and perpetually bruised arm, approaching her as if she were famous? 18
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Maya retrieves a Sharpie from her book bag. “It’s nice to be together,” their mother says with a sigh. For the first Thanksgiving with George, the woman decided to host her large family. After the meal, once all the plates were cleared, multiple stains were apparent on the new ivory tablecloth. She threw the cloth in the wash, but traces of red wine, cranberry sauce, and gravy remained. Over the course of many late nights, while George watched television, she embroidered designs over each stain—even writing in thread the family member’s name behind the spill, when she could trust her memory. Her young nephew, Harlan, had left a ring of tiny stains around his plate. She stitched a circle of racing cars for him. By Christmas, the embellished cloth was ready. Plates and glasses were lifted as the family searched for and discovered the embroidered flowers, leaves, and names. Harlan made motor noises as his finger traced the wreath of cars. Thereafter, the woman’s alchemy played out after every holiday; thread transforming stains. There are three tablecloths now, as cherished by the family as photo albums. Maya draws on her mother’s skin, the convergence of marker and body, like hands on Reiki touch points, releasing revelations and pronouncements. Maya makes a diagram of an acorn next to an abrasion on her mother’s shin, a space between the scaly cupule and the nut. “There aren’t squirrels in the attic,” their mother says definitively. “Old things creak, resettle.” Maya draws a Band-Aid over a bruise just above her mother’s right knee. “Your father may or may not have raised a hand to me.” Maya finds an old scar on her mother’s wrist and covers it with a tiny piece of pie. “Family is always there, like a part of you. Separate your fingers, though, and you can see beyond your hands.” Maya’s marker picks up speed. A skull-and-crossbones flag flies over a contusion on her mother’s upper arm. “Your father’s got a lot to be ashamed of, but why he’s ashamed of any of you is beyond me.” Ben, listening to his mother all those miles away, honors his siblings’ silence and just nods his head, dislodging the tears that gather in his eyes. Robbie, Larry, and Beth continue to watch Maya, mesmerized by the flow of the marker and her steady hand. Their mother, quiet now, feels as if something she’s long wished for is seeping in through her skin.
Allen Kesten is a writer and educator living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His stories have appeared in The Sun, Bitter Oleander, Zahir, The First Line, The Maine Review and other literary journals. MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Thursday Morning on the Mainland by Joannie Stangeland I saw a guy crossing the parking lot carrying a flat box, like for pizza, but it’s too early for that, so I thought donuts—and because I was nearly done with my first cup of coffee and because I never ate a donut or fritter or cruller while I read the donut book, and because it’s still my birthday week, making me eligible for small extravagances, and because I ache chronically, because I have become a web of walking pain, a net of knots and snarls and it’s too early for gin, and even though I am no Richard Novak, I thought maybe one deep-fried donut might if not save my life at least give me a little sweet comfort and good reason to drink more coffee then in the company kitchen I saw no sign of a bakery box, no donuts. I had the coffee anyway—Hawaiian Blend, which made me think of you.
Joannie Stangeland is the author of In Both Hands and Into the Rumored Spring from Ravenna Press, and three chapbooks. Her poems have also appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, The Southern Review, and other journals. 20
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Interview: Vijay Seshadri Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Vijay Seshadri discusses the art of poetry with Mount Hope’s Nicola Alexander
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Vijay Seshadri is one of the foremost poets in the country, as evidenced by his 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for 3 Sections, a book that includes nonfiction prose and was cited by The Pulitzer Committee as being “in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.” Seshadri, who is on the faculty of the Sarah Lawrence College MFA program, was born in Bangalore, India, but came to the United States at age five when his father became a professor of chemistry at Ohio State University. Seshadri graduated from Oberlin College and from the graduate writing program at Columbia University. He has been an editor at The New Yorker and has been the recipient of many awards, including a Guggenheim Foundation grant. He was interviewed by Mount Hope’s managing editor, Nicola Alexander ‘18.
in the mail, interestingly. I saw him when I was 16 and was completely taken in. That was a great time for American poetry. There were just magnificent poets around, really compelling. The art itself had expanded tremendously through the Vietnam War era. It was very much a part of the politics of the time. I kind of caught that wave. I had, though, imagined that I was going to be a fiction writer, and in my early twenties, I wound up spending a lot of time writing a very, very complicated novel, which failed at about page 400. NA: How long did it take? VS: It took me a few years to realize the novel was never going to work. It was extremely experimental. I was influenced by the French New Wave novelists and American writers like John Hawkes, and the Pynchon of pre-Gravity’s Rainbow, and Beckett’s trilogy All models that weren’t really right for a 20-year-old, which I was when I started writing the book—at least, the 20-year-old I was. Even though I thought they were. But, yes, that whole coming-of-age period walked me into poetry.
NA: What compelled you to become a poet? VS: I think I wanted to be a writer, sort of obscurely, from very early on. I didn’t “lisp in numbers,” as Pope famously says about himself, but around the time I entered adolescence I imagined myself as a writer. I didn’t get into poetry until I was around 16, when I heard some contemporary poets, and connected with them. NA: Who were your favorites then?
NA: You have said in the past that as an immigrant, you observed the world from the fringes of society, but also in panoramas. How has this informed your work?
VS: Galway Kinnell was the first contemporary poet I came to know. I just received his collected poems
VS: If you’re outside the social order in some way—and you don’t have to be an immigrant, you can be 22
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
I have—some of which is finished, but most of which is not finished— that had to do with five years I worked in the fishing industry on the Oregon coast—down the coast all the way to California and up to Alaska. Those years were when I had the great adventures of my youth and I’ve written a lot of what are essentially memoir fragments about those them that has yet to resolve into a book.
someone who sprang out of the soil and still feel yourself to be entirely outside the social order—what you see is the mythologies by which people construct their lives. You have an understanding of that because you’re removed, you have an observation post, and you can look at how they’re fashioning themselves, and fashioning their own narratives and stories. The roots of those things become evident to you. I think they do for everyone eventually. But outsiderness gives you a certain precocity when it comes to seeing the way people manufacture the fiction of their lives. When you’re inside, you’re living that narrative and so you can’t quite see what’s happening to you because you’re right in the middle of it. And that early alienation, I think, is really crucial to developing the conscious, the self-aware appreciation of thing, to separating your consciousness from what is going on around you. Does that make sense?
I’ve had a hard time getting that narrative down because of its complexity, so I write fragments. That was one fragment I had written while I was writing these poems that are in 3 Sections. It is a part of the book for a couple of reasons; when I wrote the long poem, “Personal Essay,” which is 16 pages and ends the book, I felt its interiority was extreme. It had to do a journey of consciousness. And I thought to put the prose with it as contrast. The prose is the opposite of interior, it’s documentary. It’s journalism of the self, with a lot of externality to it. It has a plot. It occurs in the world, our world, not the mind.
NA: Yes, it does. In 3 Sections, you include formal poetry; specifically, I’m looking at “Three Urdu Poems;” for prose, “Pacific Fish of Canada;” and pieces that include elements of both forms, like “Nursing Home.” How does one idea become one form or the other?
The book I wrote before this one— The Long Meadow—has a long prose section in it, too. That prose was a memoir about going to Civil War battlefields when I was a kid. I put that in the earlier book as a literary homage. I always revered those books from the mid-century that had prose in them—W.H. Auden’s The Sea and the Mirror, for example; or A Cold Spring, by
VS: “Pacific Fishes of Canada” is different in the sense that it isn’t really derived from a poetic impulse. “Pacific Fishes of Canada” is like just a fragment of a big body of writing MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Elizabeth Bishop; or, most famously, Life Studies, by Robert Lowell. Both Bishop and Lowell were looking at Auden. They liked the texture of prose in relationship to lyrics in a book.
They make us work hard at Sarah Lawrence. We have a conference system, a tutorial system, so we’re always having individual meetings with students. But, still, best job you can have as a poet—if you have to work. I don’t think it would be better for me if I didn’t have to work because I think I’d probably waste more time.
NA: As a long-time faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College, how has your experience as an educator informed your work?
NA: How do you see your poetry and contemporary poetry, in general, being influenced by things like social media, slam poetry, and other, newer factors?
VS: I like to just talk about literature, and I get paid for doing that, basically, which is just amazing, and you kind of feel like, “I have really no qualifications other than the fact that I can just go on and on and on about writing?”
VS: Slam poetry—or, rather, performance poetry, because slam poetry is a subgenre of performance poetry with a specific gladiatorial character—is a development out of the same roots as mainstream American poetry, what they call now, page poetry—a conceptualization I find dubious— as opposed to “spoken-word” poetry. Historically, both phenomena developed out of a much greater orality in American poetry, which started in the ‘60s. But nobody made a distinction between spoken-word and poetry that was read off the page. All poetry exists on the page. And it’s as much a sonic experience on the
Also, I’m not one of those people who resents teaching because they feel it takes away from writing. In fact, the process of talking about writing and talking about literature and exposing its structures and reaffirming my values in relationship to the history of the art seems to be crucial to the writing process. It doesn’t seem to be distinct from it. In some sense, all my writing is about writing, so talking about writing is an extension of my writing process. And, of course, it’s great to have three months off a year. 24
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
page. Poetry is not a spoken art so much as it is a sonic art, and you can hear a poem more deeply if you hear it on the page.
wisdom you have gleaned from the world onto the page. He of course never did anything like that. He was writing away and trying to publish. That book is wonderful to read and dream about, but you have to take it, as practical advice, with a few grains of salt.
Much of American poetic practice now, poetic culture, springs from the great expansion of poetry in the ‘50s and the ‘60s, starting with the Beats and their big readings in San Francisco and New York, and spoken-word is a descendant of those happenings.
My advice to young poets would probably be, Learn about literature from people, but don’t listen too deeply to anyone when it comes to shaping your life as a poet. Just figure it out for yourself. The only obligation you have once you walk through that door and become a writer is to write. Tt seems tautological and sort of mindless to say a writer is someone who writes, and if you want to be a writer you should write, but it’s the only advice I’m confident in giving, and if you want to be a poet you should write poetry.
As for social media, I don’t quite know what the effect is going to be. I think the influence of social media is probably unfortunate, on literature and on society. Fragmenting attention spans can only be bad for literature, can only be bad for the ability to sustain one’s interest to the extent that a text like, say, The Four Zoas, by William Blake—a difficult text, one that requires concentration—can be mastered to the extent its very great beauties are revealed.
You can have poetic thoughts. For a long, long time, I would read a poem I really liked and it was as if I had written it, so I didn’t have to write one. That wasn’t helpful to the pursuit of my vocation.
NA: My final question is, in the style of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, what words of advice or encouragement would you give to budding young writers and poets?
A couple of other things, I guess. It’s helpful to know another language and read in another language—or a couple of other languages. You don’t have to know fifteen languages and master ancient Greek in order to be a poet, but inhabiting occasionally other linguistic worlds will enhance your English, though of course there have been great monolingual poets, too. What foreign language did Homer know? §
VS: That’s kind of an elaborate piece of writing, and also an incredible piece of self-invention on Rilke’s part. A lot of things that he’s saying that he thinks of as advice are a form of the self-apostrophizing that goes into the art of making a poem. He says you should wait a long time, until you’re old, before you commit the distilled essence of the MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
You Inhale this Way and Sand... by Simon Perchik
You inhale the way this sand is filled with saliva half salt half doubling back, forgets the waves
no longer have a season –is forever harvesting the rain, the gusts or boats criss-crossing the same shoreline
while your belly drains and the Earth swallowed whole by driftwood and longing –you return to sand, lie down
with these small stones and pollen ripening as if a root so enormous would never again be thirsty
would caress your cheeks with grass that has no other home, is thinning out its great rivers and later on.
Simon Perchik, born in 1923, published his first collection of poetry in 1964, and twenty-one more after that. Mr. Perchik is an attorney whose most recent collection is The Osiris Poems, published in 2017. His poetry has appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker and elsewhere. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” visit his website at www.simonperchik.com. 26
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Photographs by David Helfer Wells The noted photographer David Helfer Wells took on a challenging task in documenting the wave of foreclosures that accompanied the economic downturn of the last decade: To tell the story of peopleâ€™s foreclosed dreams by the spaces abandoned and left behind. Through several years and across the United States, Wells documented these sites of abandonment, and often-telling choices of what was taken and what was left behind. Hardship is no new condition in the human experience, and so as an accompaniment to these photos, weâ€™ve chosen an array of timeless literary observations on the pain of choices made and lives in transition.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave. â€“ Dakota tribal proverb
Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. - Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. â€”Hippocrates
The world forgetting, by the world forgot. - Alexander Pope
Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality. â€”Lewis Carroll
All partings foreshadow the great final one - so, empty rooms, bereft of a familiar presence, mournfully whisper what your room and what mine must one day be. â€”Charles Dickens, Bleak House
The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins? â€”Edgar Allan Poe
David Helfer Wells
David Helfer Wells is a visual storyteller based in Providence, Rhode Island whose photography and filmmaking straddles the lines between fine-art and documentary work. His hybrid work is created on assignment and through grant-funded projects. The final work can be seen in editorial publications as well as on the websites of non-profit organizations and multi-national corporations. Wells is affiliated with Aurora Photos and past assignments have been for Life Magazine, National Geographic, the New York Times Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, and many others.
Back to the Garden by Anthony Kane
Between Hancock and Callicoon, the sun began to shine. The rain that punctuated so many August days in Upstate New York had lifted, and the humidity was breaking. A light haze of fog drifted off of the roadway in front of them. Even with the improving weather, Ben drove cautiously through the ever-increasing bends in the road as they went farther into the Catskills. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was playing on the CD player coming through the stereo. Peter, his only son, sat beside him mouthing the words while looking out the window; following the rushing water of the stream that ran parallel to the road. Ben looked over and smiled briefly, careful not to show too much external emotion to his teenage son. Peter was at that age where it seemed to pain him to acknowledge that he had parents, or that he cared about them. Any look in Peter’s direction could bring out a look with the right mix of condescension and embarrassment that only a teenager could master. Ben focused back on the road ahead of him as the ethereal harmonies washed out into the surrounding forest. “You excited for today?” Ben asked, careful not to probe too deeply and risk having Peter shut down for the remainder of the trip. “Yeah,” he replied, not averting his gaze from the passenger-side window. Outward enthusiasm wasn’t Peter’s strong suit. MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
“I think it’ll be a lot of fun. I mean, it’s not the biggest names from Woodstock, but there’s still going to be quite a few acts there. David Crosby, for example—” “Dad, I know who’s going to be there,” Peter interrupted. “Can I just listen to the stereo right now?” “Sure.” Ben gunned the car up a steep hill and as it broke over its top, the sunlight hit the car straight on. The warmth filled up the car fast as Ben and Peter nodded to the majestic harmonies. Ben figured the concert was his best shot. Thirty years ago, half a million young people descended on quiet farmland belonging to Max Yasgur in Bethel, New York to attend the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival. Ben and his girlfriend, later his wife and Peter’s mother, were two of those half a million. Now, a local developer had taken over Yasgur’s farm and was putting on an anniversary concert, the first significant one that Ben could remember. The lineup wasn’t exactly the cream of the initial bill—death and the simple passage of time made that a complete impossibility. There would be no Jimi Hendrix, no Janis Joplin, no Who, and no Creedence Clearwater Revival. Those who would be present had their moments in the sun decades before and were now mostly forgotten. Richie Havens, Melanie, Mountain, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe McDonald; names only baby boomers and nostalgic refugees like Ben would have any interest in—and Peter. In the months since the divorce, Peter had shown little interest in anything outside of music and the Woodstock festival in particular. The kid had always had an interest in the family record collection, but now it occupied all of Peter’s time. He watched the concert film nearly once a week. He listened to the expanded box set of the festival Ben had given him on his birthday. He read anything he could on the event, often dragging Ben to the library on their weekends to scour the shelves for any piece of music journalism that discussed Woodstock. If Ben wanted some obscure fact of trivia, such as, “Who was the second act to perform after Richie Havens?” Peter would answer: “Sweetwater, a folk group that because of a serious car accident to its lead singer, disbanded just days after their appearance.” Ben thought it as nothing more than an intellectual curiosity in Peter, mitigated by a pair of unique factors. One was that the festival was practically in their back yard, less than a hundred miles away, about ninety minutes through these winding, rural highways. Another was that both of Peter’s parents had attended the festival, even though Peter never asked Ben about his particular experiences. Ben found it strange, seeing Peter was a kid who wanted to know everything. Ben also found it strange when he was called into the school psychologist’s office at the end of the school year to discuss Peter. There had never been any problems with Peter in school before. He never even knew that there was a psychologist present in the high school. When Ben arrived to meet this man, he noticed a deep look of concern on this man’s face, all furrowed brows and squinting eyes, like it pained him to have this discussion. 44
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
“Is this disciplinary?” Ben asked as he took a seat in a chair. Instead of sitting behind the desk, the psychologist sat in the adjoining chair, taking that extra step to express the casualness of the conversation. “Heavens no,” the man quickly replied. “My name is Dr. Laing, by the way.” He stuck out his hand and Ben shook it briefly. With his sleeveless cardigan and wire-rimmed glasses, Laing reminded Ben of his colleagues at the University, only younger and more congenial. “No,” Laing continued, “Peter is not in any trouble.” He paused, another furrow etching across his brow. “But I do have concerns with Peter’s performance in class recently.” “How so?” Ben questioned. “Peter’s grades have been slipping for the entire fourth quarter—in everything. Talking to him, he seems completely uninterested in schoolwork. Now, he won’t tell me anything about what’s going on at home, but I have a feeling there’s been an upsetting event in Peter’s life that would explain this unusual change. It’s usually the case with students with no track record of difficulties.” Ben shifted nervously in the chair. “What exactly has he told you?” “Practically nothing,” Laing said. “He only says that nothing’s wrong when I ask him directly.” Ben thought of himself as forward-thinking. He wanted to be helpful to this man who seemed to have a genuine interest in his son’s well-being, to show that he had nothing to hide. He couldn’t help but be truthful in the presence of this earnest man. “Peter’s mother and I are going through a divorce.” A bolt of relief shook through Laing as the words left Ben’s mouth. “Have you discussed this with Peter?” “We have.” “And has Peter told you how he feels about this?” “I’ve gotten as much out of him as you have,” Ben replied. “He’s always been somewhat of a quiet boy. He rarely tells me anything.” Ben was shocked how easily the truth was leaving him. It actually felt cathartic. “Have you noticed any changes in Peter’s behavior since you told him of the divorce?” Laing said this as he rummaged through a pile of papers in a folder on his desk and pulled out a thin card with various dots penciled in. “No.” Though it was accurate, Ben knew it wasn’t the truth. Peter had been staying with his mother since the announcement had been made. In the past few months, Peter had spent only three or four weekends with his father. Peter always gravitated towards his mother. She was the one who could handle the outward affection. Ben knew the only reason he was here was that his ex-wife could not leave her job to have this talk. “Mr. Adams, Peter’s history teacher, passed along an interesting story,” Laing said as the card flopped back and forth in his hand. “ApparMOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Those who would be present had their moments in the sun decades before and were now mostly forgotten.”
ently, Mr. Adams occasionally plays music during the tests he gives. It’s usually older stuff, what we all grew up listening to.” Ben was surprised over this, given that Laing looked, at most, thirty-five. “What exactly?” Ben asked. “You know, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joan Baez; Sixties songs mostly. Anyway, Mr. Adams usually asks one or two bonus questions based on what he is playing during a certain test. According to him, these are questions that very few kids know the answer to. This past test, Peter scored a thirty-six on the actual test, but he answered the bonus questions correctly, as well as another question that Mr. Adams asked him later. These were all questions based on the Woodstock festival.” There was a pause while Laing waited to see if Ben wanted to say anything. Ben told him what he knew. “He has been very interested in that the past few months. What were the questions?” “One was ‘Who was playing in only their second live performance at the festival’?” “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” Ben answered. “You can learn that watching the movie.” “It seems to me,” Laing interjected, “that Peter has retreated into this certain area of expertise in order to escape any negative feelings he’s been having about the divorce. That, in turn, is also having a negative effect on his schoolwork. Besides the bad grades, there is a feeling, and this isn’t just myself speaking, that Peter has become emotionally detached and uninterested in interacting with others.” “The problem is that he seems to want nothing to do with me at the moment,” Ben responded. “Perhaps try to find some common ground in this new passion?” Laing stood to 46
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
go take the seat behind his desk. As he searched for something on his computer screen, he began, “I did a little research and found that there’s going to be a Woodstock thirtieth anniversary concert coming up in August. It’s called ‘A Day in the Garden.’ When I mentioned it to Peter, he instantly lit up. I think it may be a beneficial experience. All the information is right here.” § Route 17B ran from Callicoon right to Yasgur’s Farm. Back on that August weekend in 1969, it was certainly one of the busiest roads in America. What Ben remembered as bumper-to-bumper traffic and confusion was now transformed. Green farmland, lush from the recent rain, surrounded the car as they continued on. It seemed nothing like how Ben remembered it. The tranquility of the pastoral landscape felt reassuring. The Band was now playing on the stereo to match the setting. Ben couldn’t help but think this is the Woodstock that the group inhabited, before all the mythologizing. Tranquility in its purest, most immediate sense. Not far from their final destination, Ben spotted a white clapboard farmhouse back off the highway about fifty yards and surrounded by open pastures. A dozen or so cows dotted the landscape. Even though its white exterior revealed years of abuse to the elements, Ben recognized it immediately. He pulled the car off to the shoulder and faced Peter. “This is as far as your mother and I got back in 1969,” Ben explained. “We couldn’t have moved more than twenty feet in four hours. We finally abandoned the car in that field and walked the rest of the way.” For the first time in many miles, Peter appeared to show some interest in what his father was saying. He got up out of the car and picked out the camera that was in the pocket of his shorts. He quickly began taking pictures of the house and its fields. “So, were cars parked all over these fields?” The sudden surge of interest in Peter’s asking infused Ben with some excitement. “Cars and people as far as you could see. We were still about five to ten miles away from the site. The larger traffic jams were coming from the east—from the Thruway, but there were still more than enough people finding their way down this direction. People had given up, parked their cars here and started walking. We just followed everybody else.” Peter crossed the road and began to walk into one of the fields that separated the farmhouse from the road. “How did the people in the house react to having cars all over the place?” Peter asked. “I never remember seeing anyone,” Ben recalled, a bit winded from attempting to catch up. “I never really thought about it. We did leave our car on these people’s property for four days. It must have been a shock, all these long-haired hippies gathering on their land.” Ben looked back at the weatherbeaten house. Time had taken its toll MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
on both of them. Thirty years ago, Ben stood here, awash in young love and rebellion. The love was mostly his and the rebellion mostly hers. On one of their first dates, she had made mention of wanting to attend a big festival happening downstate. Ben had no serious interest in rock music, but he was serious about her and willing to adapt. He bought a ticket and convinced her to ditch her friends to head out together. Being here again, he could feel a wave of nostalgia creep in. Everything seemed perfect back then. There were differences between the two of them but Ben thought they could make it work. She was always into helping people, and that’s why she became a nurse. It wasn’t long before the hospital became the top priority. He kept it all to himself: the long hours, working on holidays. Ben got the feeling that she cared more for her patients than she did for him. He went back to school, got a Ph.D. in History, got a teaching job at the University. They became lost in their careers. After years of saying they didn’t want children, she changed her mind. Ben, hoping it would re-energize the marriage, agreed. Peter was born and nothing much changed. They had stayed together for his sake, but after thirty years, Ben finally admitted he had been beaten. His stomach turned sour knowing that this house still stood while his marriage couldn’t. “Dad, get a picture,” Peter said as he handed Ben the camera. “One, but make it quick.” Ben snapped the picture, tossed the camera back to Peter, and briskly walked back to the car. His wife had also taken pictures years ago. The camera had become lost in the miasma of mud and trash left behind by half a million people. Ben remembered posing for one as the sea of humanity sat behind him. It was apt; he was there, but apart from everyone else. Less than ten minutes later, the site appeared right off the highway, a gently sloping bowl that made a natural amphitheater. A state trooper motioned the car over to a temporary parking lot just off the asphalt. They parked and began to secure their belongings. Peter marched forward excitedly while Ben was somewhat bewildered. Nothing looked like it had on that weekend long ago. Where they stood now was pretty much the outer reaches of where that massive crowd congregated. Where once sat long-haired kids eager to drink from the cup that said that music would bring about change and revolution now walked their graying, complacent older selves. There were still a few who seemed to never have left the Sixties: tie-dye, the long hair and beards still intact, just salt-and-peppered with the passage of time. Most looked like any suburban parents: khaki shorts, polo shirts, Capri pants, casual sandals, sunglasses, and lawn chairs. Ben found it funny how they had managed to become squares like him. For them, this trip wasn’t about defining a generation. It was simple nostalgia, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, something about it felt awkward to Ben. Rebellion was long gone. Maybe it was all the Mercedes and BMWs in the parking lot. Ben hurriedly grabbed a blanket from the trunk and set after Peter. 48
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
They followed the others through a makeshift village of tried-and-true hippies selling whatever crafts they had to offer. There were tie-dye dresses for the ladies, shirts for the men, hemp jewelry, Indian and Native American crafts and books, local produce, honey, and herbs. One stall had all the standard smoking paraphernalia. Peter stopped at one stand selling photographs of performers from the original weekend. Ben stayed off to the side while Peter looked through the photographs. He watched as Peter pulled one out of a stack and handed the woman behind the table some money. He took the change and walked back over to Ben. It was the first time he had seen a smile on his son’s face in as long as he could remember. “The Band,” Peter said, handing him the photograph. “It’s from the Big Pink house.” “Your favorite, huh?” Ben said examining it. “Just as I remember.” He handed the picture back as the two went with the crowd. They walked until the pastures of Yasgur’s farm turned into a majestic, natural bowl. It was perhaps the most perfect, natural amphitheater one could imagine for a festival the size of Woodstock. It lent itself to a fantastic reveal as the two hit the point where the earth began to gently slide towards the stage at the base of the bowl. The stage was in the same spot as it was in 1969. Ben marveled at the beauty of the rolling hills that dotted the horizon beyond the stage. Without the throngs of people and acres of mud, the beauty of the setting could really be appreciated. “Is it about how you remembered it?” Peter asked. Ben thought about this for a moment. In terms of some of the physical landmarks, it all looked the same. Fewer people for sure, but the land he walked on thirty years ago hadn’t changed. It was all there, and yet it wasn’t. These memories brought upon a certain nostalgia, a certain past that had all so recently crashed around him. He thought about his ex-wife and how she shared this past with him. None of it could be seen without her in his mind. It pained him knowing it couldn’t be escaped. At least Peter didn’t have that baggage. “Pretty much,” Ben replied as he placed his arm around his son’s shoulders. “Definitely not as many people though.” Peter smiled somewhat bashfully, and for the first time in months, Ben saw something in his son that had been missing - simple happiness. The two found an empty spot off stage right back, away from the mass in the center. The intense summer sunshine had broken free of the remnants of the morning’s clouds. Peter was busily snapping pictures at the stage and the surrounding crowd. “You’re, by far, the youngest person here, Pete.” “You’re probably right,” Peter said. “It’s funny though. In some strange way, I feel like I’m closer to your generation than people my own age. I don’t know… this feels like a place I needed to see. Unlike that ‘Woodstock’ in Rome last month.” MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
“I always knew you were an old man trapped in a young man’s body,” Ben responded, with a little laugh. “You found something that you really have a particular interest in. Who cares who it belongs to? I, or any of these dinosaurs, don’t own this event, land, or music. It’s not just for your father’s generation you know. You like it? Enjoy it.” Ben knew he was talking too much, but he just wanted Peter to feel like this was something that he could belong to. Let the kid be an idealist. The music began soon afterward and the afternoon gently passed. Ben didn’t really pay close attention to much of it, but he did like hearing “Mississippi Queen” and Country Joe McDonald break out the “F-U-C-K” chant, even if it had lost most of the relevance it once had. Peter was particularly enraptured by Rick Danko. The Band, Pete’s favorite. He sang quietly along to everything. Ben recognized most of the songs because of Peter, and thought Rick still sounded pretty good. “Let’s go for a walk,” Ben said after the set. The two of them walked out towards a far corner of the field towards a point almost parallel to stage right where groups of people had amassed all day. The two of them weaved through lawn chairs and blankets until they cleared the crowd. “Been a nice day, huh?” Ben asked. “Yeah, the music’s been really good,” Peter replied. “Sounds better than thirty years ago.” “Really?” Peter asked. “To tell you the truth, Pete,” Ben said, “I really didn’t have that great of a time back then. Of course, the weather was lousy. We got here so late on Friday that we were so far back, we couldn’t hear or see much of anything. Your mother and I were stuck in two soggy, muddy sleeping bags for three days with hardly any food or room to move. It wasn’t exactly my idea of a great weekend. It was entirely your mother’s idea to go. She has that love of music that was obviously passed on to you. “Pete, I know you and your mom are close,” Ben said. “And I know that these past few months have been difficult for all of us, particularly you. I’m sorry that I haven’t been around more. That’s all my fault. I simply didn’t want to deal with your mother.” “You know, she’s always at the hospital,” Peter responded with a hint of accusation. “You know there has been plenty of time we could have spent together.” “I’m sorry for that,” Ben said. “I thought this concert would be a place to make a new start. It’s not my idea of a great time, but it could at least be a good time for you.” “So you only did this because you knew I would like it?” Peter asked. “Well, your Mom always got to do the fun stuff,” Ben replied. “Being back here is showing me how far apart your mother and I really were. I’m sure the two of you would have much more to talk about. I’m just trying to 50
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
do one thing right.” “You know, you were the one that left,” Peter stated. “And that this one little trip isn’t going to make up for all that.” “I know I’ve got a long way to go. Just give me the opportunity.” Peter’s gaze went towards the ground, and after a few seconds of silence, an “O.K.” emerged out of his mouth. “Thank for today,” followed as the two continued their walk. As the sun began to set, the two of them reached the area that had been drawing a small crowd all day. In front of them was a concrete block, sculpted into a memorial. It read, “This is the Original Site of the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair Held on Aug. 15, 16, 17, 1969.” Above it rested a white bird perched on a guitar—the festival’s logo. Peace through music. “You want a picture, Dad?” Peter asked. “Just you?” “Sure.” Ben rushed around the back of the stone and stood with a weak smile as Peter took the picture. He saw his ex-wife in Peter, taking his picture thirty years before. He understood some of it now. Seeing Peter enjoying himself made him realize that it’s the connection that really matters. The traffic, the mud, and the people they had become didn’t hold any weight for someone like Peter. It could never be the true experience for him, but perhaps for someone like Peter, that was for the best. Nostalgia tended to bring out the best in everyone. “Did you enjoy yourself today?” Ben asked as Peter trailed behind. Peter stopped and turned to look back at the remnants of the crowd. “I know it’s not the same as 1969, but it sure was cool just to see this place, to know what happened here. Mom was jealous when I told her you were taking me here.” Ben laughed as he joined Peter at the crest of that gently sloping bowl. There was so much more of his mother in him than himself, there was no denying that. Ben, again, just went along for the ride. Peter and his mother both had a joy for this place that Ben couldn’t really fathom. Instead of attempting to deconstruct the moment, he just let Peter’s happiness spread to him. It wasn’t so bad a place now.
Anthony Kane was born and raised in Upstate New York, which has had an extensive influence on his writing. He received a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. His work has previously appeared in Corvus Review and and Foliate Oak Literary Journal. He lives in Binghamton, New York. MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Adopting a Highway by Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb
Being the proud benefactor of a stretch of hillside highway was an accident, the gag gift to me from well-intentioned friends who thought, rather, didn’t think all the way through this adoption in my name. So here I am with my trash stick, tumbleweeds scratching, black flies biting, antelope avoiding me and watching suspiciously the orange-vested danger lurking along the road.
Litter likes the wind at seven thousand feet on plains that might as well be ocean but not this wispy-crisp dry grass that looks like gold but smells like dust, crackling near the edges of heated asphalt. I define the center yellow line by my presence along it, as well as control which drivers will need to stop or just slow down if I yield, depending on whether they misbehave or wave.
Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb’s work has appeared in Clockhouse, Depth Insights Journal, Watershed Review, Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, SLAB: A Literary Magazine, Kudzu House Quarterly, Caesura, and others. She lives in Prescott, Arizona. 52
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Homework by Jane Carroll
One day when I was in the second grade, Sister Anna Thomas gave an assignment that seemed a little out of the ordinary: to tell our parents we loved them. “Not just your mothers,” she said, as if peering inside my sevenyear-old head. “Tell your fathers, too.” I put down my pencil, wondering if this was really our homework or just Sister thinking out loud, as she often did, pacing back and forth in front of the classroom, her hands tucked beneath her scapular as she expounded on the Soviets or some other threat to our godliness. My stomach tied itself into knots as I climbed onto the bus to go home. I had never missed an assignment, but could I do this? That night, after dinner, I followed my father to his red leather chair in the “TV room.” His eyes were fixed on the flickering screen—Mission Impossible or Perry Mason—and his breath smelled like cigarettes. I hesitated, and then climbed onto his lap––a rare occurrence––and said the three words, just as Sister had instructed. I looked at the wall behind him, not at his face, and told myself I was just doing what I had to do. He looked at me for a second and said the words back, a tinge of surprise in his voice. My heart pounded and my hands left streaks of sweat on the wood armrests as I slid off MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
the chair. The nuns had made clear that lying was a sin, and I made a mental note to tell the priest at confession. I didn’t love my father. I was afraid of him. My story is familiar enough: he was an alcoholic, a mean drunk, a frustrated, angry person who took out his misery on my mother, my three brothers, two sisters, and me. The eight of us lived in a small, four-bedroom Colonial in a workingclass town in New Jersey, hemmed in by highways. When I was very young, things seemed normal and peaceful. My father did the things the other fathers did, though with a few years of college under his belt, he had a whitecollar job at a chemical company. He came home from work at dinnertime and ate with us. He drove the car on family vacations. He mowed the lawn. He took out the trash. Sometimes he told jokes and drew funny pictures of Popeye on the kitchen blackboard. It’s not clear when things changed. My parents’ marriage had probably never been happy and I was too young to know. As I went through grade school, though, their arguments became shouting matches. My father began staying away from home until late, and before long my parents slept in separate rooms. My father drank and yelled and cursed. He made ugly scenes in front of relatives. He insulted my mother and belittled her school-secretary job—a job she needed, I later learned, because he drank his paycheck. He doled out insults and cut down the most tender shoots of self-confidence or aspiration any of us revealed. Many memories are sketched in my mind as second-hand stories, like the time he appeared in front of my oldest sister, Beth, and her friends in his underwear with a drink in his hand, or when he yanked my brother Tom out of Little League because he couldn’t come up with his own son’s birthdate at the sign-up table. As the youngest and a quiet kid, I usually escaped his notice and therefore his wrath, but sometimes the yelling reached the street where I played with the other kids on our block. One older girl always found excuses to sit on our front stoop and listen, ignoring my embarrassed attempts to draw her away. I hated it when my father put our family dramas on public display, like the time the police followed him home because he had sideswiped a parked car. Another time our dog, Dusty, got loose from the backyard and ran through the neighborhood. We kids formed a free-wheeling posse and corralled him home, hollering and laughing, only to stand in horrified silence as my father punched the dog at our front door, his fist landing with a hollow thud on Dusty’s ribs. My father’s moods changed like the weather, and I learned the art of watchfulness. Mistaking a bad day for a good day could bring a torrent of verbal abuse down on our heads. When I heard his car pull up to the house, I’d retreat to my room and stay there until I was pretty sure there would be no yelling, that it was safe to go back downstairs. Dinner-table battles erupted over politics. My father was a Nixon man, and my mother a Democrat who worshipped the Kennedys. She and 54
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
my three older siblings, teenagers and young adults by then, sparred with my father over the Vietnam War. In his mind, the anti-war protesters were practically traitors. “My country right or wrong!” he would rant, pounding his fist on the table. On a summer night in 1969, Vietnam and Woodstock brushed against each other inside our house. My brother Tom, 18 or 19 then, had driven to Yasgur’s Farm with a few of his friends and came home tired and dirty. My father didn’t like the fact that Tom had been there at all. He despised rock music and called us stupid for listening to it. Music festivals to him meant “drugs and nakedness,” and when Tom stepped out of the shower, his long hair clinging to his thin chest, my father picked a fight. It was late, he was probably drunk, and things turned ugly. Tom said something smartassed and it set my father off. With both hands, he went after Tom. My mother ran upstairs and pounded on my father’s back, screaming, “I’ll kill you!” My brother Jim, the oldest, was on leave from the army for one last weekend at home before being sent to Vietnam. He grabbed my father by the shoulders and wrenched him away from Tom. Awakened by the commotion, my sisters and I watched the tail end of the melee from the doorway in our pajamas. My father’s hands were rigid, his fingers curved, as they came away from Tom’s neck. Beth ran weeping back to our room. I thought I should be crying, too. But I stood still, frozen and dry-eyed. It was, thankfully, the only time I recall my father using physical violence. After that night, he spent most of his time in his room, emerging occasionally for another bottle of Johnnie Walker Red, his breakfast of choice. In my faulty memory, the incident with Tom marked a turning point that led to my father’s departure. But in reality, another year passed before he packed up his whiskey, his books, clothes, and vinyl records and drove away in his blue ‘65 Plymouth Valiant. After that, I never saw him again. Peace reigned—no more verbal Armageddon. My brothers and sisters and I emerged from our hiding places and stepped over the bodies of our hopeful selves. We could play our music as loud as we wanted; my mother rocking out along with us to Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones. I could walk into the house without first scanning the street for my father’s car. We pulled the TV up to the dinner table to watch Star Trek. My mom took a second job two evenings a week working the customer service counter at Bamberger’s department store, now that it was safe to leave us alone at night, and because we needed the money. But the silence of my father’s absence also revealed a menacing, lowlevel hum, like a temporary cease-fire in an ongoing war. Each of us had been burned in different ways. Sometimes, inevitably, the flames broke through and my brothers and sisters and I lashed out at each other. But mostly we took our anger out on ourselves through various forms of self-destruction. I went inward. I spent hours alone in my room every night drawing or playing my guitar. MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
In ways big and small, being fatherless pained me unexpectedly, like an old injury. During college I could crumble over minor troubles like a broken-down car—the kind of problems, it seemed to me, my friends’ fathers reliably swooped in to fix for them. I spent my twenties and early thirties falling in love with men who in one way or another kept me at arm’s length. Trying to earn their love, I molded myself to their wants and needs, always adept at reading moods. § My father heard my adult voice only once. At Christmastime, just before I turned 30, I had arrived back at the house, where my mother still lived, when the phone rang. I recognized the voice on the other end of the line, a voice I hadn’t heard for 18 years. My father had an odd way of saying “Jean,” my mother’s name, making it sound like Jane, and he thought he was speaking to her. “No, it’s Janie,” I said. “Oh, I thought you lived in Philadelphia,” he said. “I do. I’m visiting for Christmas,” I told him. A familiar tightness clenched my chest. After a few beats of silence, I passed the phone to my mother, who had stopped chopping onions and stood there watching me, her face a mixture of dread and curiosity. Why the hell was he calling? I knew that over the years he had occasionally asked my mother for money, but this time he wasn’t after a loan. He invited her to spend New Year’s Eve with him––to go out with him on a date. After all the fighting, insults, abandonment, and cruelty. His invitation was as unwelcome as the phone call itself, and my mother politely declined. It’s possible that he felt sorry for his behavior. It’s possible he reached out to her out of loneliness. But it’s possible, too, that he knew he faced old age alone and wanted someone, namely my mother, to take care of him. One night that January, he had a heart attack in a tavern not far from where we grew up, slid off the barstool, and died. When I heard the news in my apartment in Philadelphia, I put down the phone and did what I could never have predicted: I cried. I didn’t understand why. I hated my father. Why should I care that he was dead? My boyfriend came and held me as I explained all of this, and then he said, simply, “He’s your dad.” This prompted a fresh gush of tears, but it didn’t quite feel true. My father had never felt like a “dad.” Yet, apparently, a fantasy dad had been living inside me, and now he, too, was dead. My Irish Catholic parents had never officially divorced, and my father still carried my mother’s name in his wallet as the person to call in an emergency. So, dutiful woman that she was, my mother set about making funeral arrangements. We held a wake, and the local VFW guys got wind that my father had served in Army Intelligence during World War II, so they showed up with a perfunctory veteran’s send-off. They may have given my mother a flag. 56
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
We sat in the church pews the next day at the funeral mass, and the priest, who didn’t know my family’s story, said that my father would always be with us. I guess he assumed this would be a comforting thought. I shifted in my seat. My siblings and I cleaned out his apartment, awkwardly sifting through his belongings. We found an envelope with $156 inside, which we used to buy a new rocking chair for my mother. My inheritance? A TV set, a pizza cutter, and six yellow plastic corn-cob holders. I also took a Patsy Cline cassette. I was into her music back then, and it felt odd to think I had that in common with my father. I imagined him sitting alone in his apartment, and me in mine, listening to “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces” at the same time. § In the decades since my father’s death, my family knitted itself back together. My mother’s steady presence and doting love, and her sheepdog-like insistence on herding us all in one place for every birthday and holiday kept us from drifting apart. Our wicked sense of humor saved us, too. Family gatherings became raucous parties that were the envy of friends. My brothers recited whole episodes of Monty Python. One Christmas, Tom and I performed an interpretive dance to an entire Moody Blues album in the living room while my mom laughed so hard she could scarcely breathe. In recent years, I’ve seen friends mourn the loss of their fathers, and I’ve secretly envied the love they so obviously felt for them. I’ve wondered what my life would have been like with a good father in it. Not long ago, I was standing in my kitchen, slicing yellow squash for dinner, the late-day sun slanting in, when I thought of my father. I had always spoken of him with
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
My father heard my adult voice only once. At Christmastime, just before I turned 30, I had arrived back at the house, where my mother still lived, when the phone rang.”
bitter sarcasm, but this time I thought of him in a different way. He never knew me as an adult, never knew his grandchildren, and this thought made me sad. Not for me this time, but for him. I’d grown used to being fatherless, but now I saw him as family-less. It wasn’t quite forgiveness that I felt, but something approaching sympathy. I know little about his early life, other than that his own mother died when he was a teenager and his father—whom I only met once—was a mean-spirited man. How much these things or his alcoholism explain my father’s behavior, I can’t say. What I do know is that, as my brother Mike––himself a dad now––said not long ago, “He missed out on a lot of love.” § I was twelve when my father left—the age my daughter is now. Maybe that’s the reason he appeared in my thoughts that day in my kitchen, like a bird in my peripheral vision settling on a nearby branch. He’s a reminder of pain and loss, yes, but also that cycles can be broken. They say we marry our parents, but somehow I dodged that bullet. I’d learned that love shouldn’t hurt or make me feel invisible. When I met the man who would become my husband and began including him in family get-togethers, my mother asked when his birthday was. Her eyebrows arched at my answer. “Oh,” she said. I knew that “Oh.” It meant she disapproved, and it took me a second to register the reason. My husband shares a birthday with my father. Happily, the similarities stop there. My daughter is rich in father-love, and my husband is rich in daughter-love. He wakes her up each morning by reading to her. He makes her laugh when I can’t. He takes her on bike trips and roller-coaster rides. He helps her with her homework. I listen as he tells her he loves her every day, and she tells him the same. Their declarations are completely voluntary. And I know that neither is missing out on anything.
Jane Carroll lives in Philadelphia. Her work has been published in Cleaver Magazine and Literary Mama. 58
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Emily as her Syntax Ensnares Me by Darren C. Demaree Dark eyes, a wildfire that jumps from window to window, I fell in love with Emily when she took me to the bottom of the sea & all I could feel was the heat from her belief that fingerprints are useless, that you can identify any revolutionary from the songs they sing. She sang for me. She whispered to me. It was poetry & smoke above the silt & against, always against the slight tide that manmade bodies of water provide.
MOUNT HOPE â€˘ ISSUE 13
Emily as I Preferred the Mercy Stop by Darren C. Demaree I got a tattoo when Emily told me that I was a good man. I had the guy dig a bit into the rib while he traced my chosen font & when she first dragged her thumb against it she did the same thing. I earned that tattoo. Now, sober almost six years Emily is still rough with me most of the time, but I really wish she would cut that gentle shit out completely. I am moonless. I am godless. I decide not to burn the world every day. That is not a person that can be good without the flaying of actual love.
It’s when she threatens me that I know tonight will be just fine. It’s only when she thrusts pictures of our children in my face that I am any sort of person at all.
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Emily as she Declares Herself a Bounty by Darren C. Demaree I knew Emily was pregnant when she refused to put a robe on for twelve straight weeks. The neighbors never questioned her. Would you? Elbows back, fresh weight inching forward, she was keeping fireflies in her mouth to spit them out at the moon. She was Emily, even more so & she wrapped the new child inside of her with awe & hinges into this world she became the carnival barker, the champion boxer, the consumer of all fear. It was fantastic.
Darren C. Demaree is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently A Fire Without Light (2017, Nixes Mate Books). His eighth collection Two Towns Over was recently selected the winner of the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, and is due out March 2018. He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. MOUNT HOPE â€˘ ISSUE 13
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test by Cameron Morse Lili and I sit in the waiting room of the Independence Women’s Clinic, nurses calling Brooklyn, Hannah, Diana, Li. In the exam room, my wife keeps her eyes closed as the needle goes in again and again. She does not wince. Her toes lift as if she’s having an orgasm. Pregnant with our firstborn son, she may have gestational diabetes. She may be in danger of miscarriage. The only service I provide is I hold her purse. I watch the window light crest upon her face, a smattering of cirri adrift among the yellow icosahedrons of the Pepperwood Apartments. The platinum blond phlebotomist in hot pink scrubs reaches for another vial to load the vacutainer: another vial, another swab, another black blot of blood.
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Sciatica by Cameron Morse At Burr Oak Woods, Lili’s tissues relax and soften into a third trimester of pain. While she pauses, bracing her lower back, I stand beside her loosening joints. Sunset stretches our shadows on the rack of prairie grass, black-eyed Susan and Queen Anne’s lace. After the sun dunks into the treetops and red light bleeds out of the blacktop, we carry on below clouds that reflect a conflagration beyond the edge of the horizon, talking little, pausing often.
Cameron Morse taught and studied in China. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014, he is currently a third-year MFA candidate at UMKC and lives with his wife, Lili, in Blue Springs, Missouri. His poems have been or will be published in over 50 different magazines, including New Letters, pamplemousse, Fourth & Sycamore and TYPO. His first collection, Fall Risk, is available from Glass Lyre Press. MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Haikus from Narila by Aurora Luque translated by María Elsy Cardona Among the green berries the black dragonfly demands a haiku.
Entre las moras verdes
From that summer I keep the blue leather sandals.
De aquel verano conservo las sandalias de cuero azul.
October, the last birds in Gibraltar a toxic English whale.
Octubre. Últimos pájaros. En Gibraltar, una ballena inglesa venenosa.
While walking, the path becomes yours. Footsteps are the soul of your feet.
Ganas en los caminos el camino. Los pasos son alma de los pies.
Downpour. Something flows. Translate yourself.
Aguacero. Algo fluye. Tradúcete a ti misma.
THE POET Like an ant perforating the boundaries of its leaf.
POETA Como la hormiga perforando los límites de su hoja.
la libélula negra demanda un haiku.
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Eau De Parfum by Aurora Luque translated by María Elsy Cardona From childhood, the smell of moss in the streams, of mud, of berries and the extreme violence of getting to know yourself. From the sea, the last note from the last unfurled wave before giving up and accepting that there would be no mermaids. From the night, the soft fogginess of an Italian perfume still in fashion. From your body, the fragrance of an adventure book that you read again; but also of burning and desolate oleanders. It smells of burnt life. De la infancia el olor del musgo en las acequias, del barro, de las moras y la extrema violencia de aprenderse. Del mar, la última nota de la última ola desplegada antes de regresar y convencernos de que no habrá sirenas. De la noche, las leves veladuras de un perfume italiano todavía de moda. De tu cuerpo, el aroma del libro de aventuras vuelto a leer; pero también de las adelfas desoladas y ardiendo. Huele a vida quemada. MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Interior by Aurora Luque translated by María Elsy Cardona I often chat with my dreams. I invite them to step out of the night and they sit down, in their foggy clothes, by my table, untidy with papers. And I ask them about their syntax because they get offended if I talk semantics. Today, I recovered from their hands a fragment of you, as exquisite as a June evening in Gil de Biedma, an autumn of Keats or that flavor of orange sherbet on long-past Sunday mornings. A menudo converso con mis sueños. Los invito a salirse de la noche y se sientan, con trajes neblino sos, junto a mi mesa sucia de papeles. Y les pregunto sobre su sintaxis porque se ofenden si les hablo de semántica. Hoy he recuperado de sus manos un fragmento de ti tan exquisito como una noche de junio en Gil de Biedma, un otoño de Keats o aquel sabor a polo de naranja de las viejas mañanas de domingo.
Aurora Luque is a poet, educator, newspaper columnist, translator, editor, scholar and feminist, She is regarded as one of Spain’s essential poetic voices. Luque has written thirteen books of poetry and several translations of contemporary and ancient Greek poetry. She is the author of Haikus de Narila and Portuaria: Antología 1980-2000. Maria Elsy Cardona is Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Saint Louis University. Her bilingual edition of Luque’s Haikus from Narila and Portuaria was published in Spain by Luces de Gálibo in 2017. She has presented and published on Luque’s work at various academic conferences and journals. 66
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Exile: Women’s Turn by Nabile Farès translated by Peter Thompson Oh tear Of exile Springing forth
O larme De l’exil Jaillissant
Like an enigma placed somewhere nearby
Comme énigme placée aux alentours
Like a game of being, either fixed or inscribed
Comme jeu de l’être placé ou inscrit
Like a dream named with no name
Comme rêve dénommé sans nom
By the whims of language.
Aux caprices de langage.
The wandering, like a poem, bore the land with it Childhoods vanquished on sandy plains.
L’errance portrait lieu Enfances vaincues des plaines de sable
There where worship was born The married woman’s solar laughter.
Là où l’adoration naissait Le rire solaire l’éspousée
The world had already been parted out Between the Ogre of the mines And the Hydra of construction sites By the Lord of Cities Reached just in time.
Le monde avait déjà été partagé Entre l’Ogre des mines Et l’Hydre des chantiers Par le Seigneur des Villes Opportunes
Thus These women resembled
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Elles ressemblaient Ainsi
Clandestine Vowels Of unwanted languages.
Voyelles Clandestines des langues Indésirées.
On the near shores of the Levant Other sails swelled the group.
Sur les proches rives du Levant D’autres voiles gonflaient l’assemblage
The world clutched the stone in its belly.
Le monde tenait la pierre en son ventre
They rose straining on their toes Young women sick of so much waiting.
Elles montaient sur la pointe de leurs jambes Jeunes femmes irritées de tant d’attentes.
Lofting speech like a fountain of earth Oars split the sea swell In deep silent breaches.
Hissant la parole en jette de terre Les rames fendaient la houle En profondes brêches de silence.
First poppy of the season Plucked open by the eye
Premier coquelicot de la saison Que l’oeil prend ouvert
Your hand traced the design Of a broken moment The scent of coffee resting on the table cloth And this flower soon carried high In your mouth The bird denounced
Ta main décrivait le modèle D’un instant disloqué Un parfum de café posé sur la nappe Et cette fleur tôt levée Dans ta bouche L’oiseau dénoncé
For we liked to take our time As a memory came and went Amid the salt sprays Brought by waves
Car nous aimions prendre temps Sur le passage du souvenir Parmi les embruns Que les vagues portaient
And thanks to them We had heard news Of our brother the poet Still writing Some very fine things…
Et grâce à eux Nous avions eu quelques nouvelles De notre frère le poète Qui écrivait encore Des choses très douces…
Nabile Farès (1940-2016) was an Algerian-born French author. His first work is the novel Yahia, pas de chance, in 1970. Later works were both novels and poetry. Among these is the trilogy of novels La Découverte du nouveau monde and his greatest novel, Un Passager de l'occident, which arises, in part, from Farès's friendship with the American writer James Baldwin. Peter Thompson translates African poetry and fiction. Aside from many works by North Africans, he has published two anthologies: Littérature Moderne du Monde Francophone and Négritude et nouveaux mondes. Volumes of poetry include Shades, The Angle of Incidence and Late Liveries. His novel is Winter Light. 68
MOUNT HOPE • ISSUE 13
Mount Hope is published at Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI