JOURNAL OF ART AND LITERATURE
JOURNAL OF ART AND LITERATURE
Staff Editor-in-Chief: Brooke Poarch Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Meacham Managing Editor: Jou Lee Yang Layout Editor: Kori Koehler
COMMUNICATIONS TEAM Blog Editor: Liz Stemwell Blog Writers: Kassidy Smidel and Janelle Fisher Social Media Editor/Copyeditor: Sofia Terranova Newsletter Editor: Janelle Fisher Chief Copy Editor: Sofia Terranova
Travel Itinerary 1
A Letter From the Editor
Christina E. Petrides
At Evening, From the Portuguese Coast
A Little S’more Time
Photograph of an Abandoned Garden
Time To Go
Cycling the Cirtuito Lago Llanquihue, Chile
Travel Itinerary 28
After Fighting with My Husband
A Cure for Apprehension
Ayesha F. Hamid
The Chair of the Table Where I Live My Life
David P. Miller
Circles of Return
On Visiting Augusta Hot Springs, Virginia
Travel Itinerary 55
Call My Name
Japan In Transit
Christina E. Petrides
A Jar of Jelly
José’s Directions to Jemez Hot Springs, 1994
I Traveled This Far Because I Love You
Fuck Laura Ingalls
Letter to the Bougainvillea on my Terrace
A Song of Winter Roses
The House Plant
Cody Reeves Kayla Wagner
Travel Itinerary 78
Final Station of the Cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
By the Beach in Vietnam in November 2019
Mountain Hare, Saddleworth Moor
Letter From the Editor As COVID-19 continues to be a looming presence in the world, conversations revolving around what people missed began popping up online. It fascinated me to see the mixed emotions many had about travel and how their perception on travel had shifted. Some wished to have the ability to jump on a plane to see a loved one; others began to grow afraid of traveling far and getting stuck miles from home. Regardless of what people felt, one could not escape this intense desire to escape the mundane and see the world again. I wanted this edition to focus heavily on wanderlust, this intense urge and desire to travel. In our call for submissions, we asked for pieces that focus on a variety of topics revolving around travel, including the exploration of emotions that may be tied to travel (such as joy or fear) or how traveling affects our relationship with the world. I believe it is our jobs as writers and artists to be the voices for the voiceless and to hone in on the emotions of the masses. We use our skills and talents to create spaces where people can sink into our creations and find comfort in knowing they are not alone in their experiences. The response we received was astronomical. The nonfiction piece “Airport Relay” is a tense, awe-inspiring piece that explores the anxiety that comes with catching a plane and the impact one act of kindness can have. In the poem “The Adventuress,” we are reminded of the freedom that comes when we live without limits and explore all that the world has to offer without fear. In the visual arts piece “Galactic Wandering,” we see a painting of an immense sky riddled with stars. It serves as a reminder of the vastness of the universe and how it is up to us to decide how far we are willing to go during our lives.
When I was approached with the opportunity to serve as Editor-inChief back in May, no one had any idea what this issue would hold for us. I want to thank this semester’s staff for taking this journey with me and for all their work on our first-ever summer journal. We have created something truly remarkable during our short time together, and I am in awe over the amount of love and support that went into this beautiful journal. And to our readers, I hope that everyone who picks up a copy of Sheepshead Review is able to find a little piece of themselves in these pages. Sincerely,
The Adventuress Christina E. Petrides She refused to be put upon. She simply did everything no one thought to mention was impossible. It wasn’t a matter of overcoming, but of her always moving towards the sun. The world was her pearl, her unexplored ocean floor, and she dove into action as if born flying. Her spiritual household numbered in the thousands, she maintained a dozen friends, and kept no lovers. Many would have followed her if they could; her path was too swift and terrible for ordinary men. For her struggling sisters she cut a bright trail of what could be when fearless passion guides an unfettered life.
Galactic Wandering Kelly Sargent
Oil on Canvas
At Evening, from the Portuguese Coast Andrew Gudgel And as the stars appear, I turn my thoughts, Imagine you with coffee, enrobed, While I sit, pensive, upon this dusky beach, My twilight fled to become your morning. Endlessly marching waves in ranks between. While just beyond the southern horizon, Ephemeral pulses--a lighthouse unseen Calls from afar, beckoning sailors home. We're growing closer, a hair's-breadth a year, And if we had but space enough and time, I would wait, granite-like, enduring, Till I need but step over the ocean To take your hand again.
A Little S’more Time Jesse Friend An aggressive knock on the front door stopped Vaughn from finishing his last drink. Setting the icy cocktail on his notepad, he stumbled through miles of shag carpet towards the noise. The pounding came again before he could reach the front of the house, persistent and jolting, like the police serving a warrant with a battering ram. “Whaddayawant?” Vaughn barked at the uninvited visitor. It had been weeks since he’d pulled the blackout curtains shut. He’d convinced himself the world had ended for everybody, not just for him, and was surprised to see a tiny girl silhouetted in the sunset. She was no taller than his waist, with three right hands stuck out to introduce herself. “Hi there, I’m Tara with Troop 1331...” She pushed on without waiting for his name, nearly breathless, “...and I’m here tonight selling cookies, do you wanna buy some?” “No.” Vaughn shoved the door, but a white light-up sneaker and two sweaty little hands kept it from closing. “Wait!” Her voice was a helium balloon about to pop. “Why not?” “What?” The pink and purple lights on her right shoe were still flashing in the door frame as she repeated, “Why don’t you want to buy my cookies?” His truth was biting, like a fierce snake with fangs dripping venom. He wanted to say, “Well, ya see, when you’re old as shit, and you have to watch the woman you’ve loved for 35 years slowly die as she’s eaten alive from the inside by malignant tumors, leaving you more alone in the world than it turns out you can live with, guess what, Buttercup? You won’t give a shit about cookies either.” But the voice in his head was still Becca’s, and she wouldn’t allow it. The glass waiting for him in the kitchen was beginning to sweat. A ring of blue words he’d scribbled on the notepad was starting to bleed, and Vaughn didn’t know what to do. “I’ll tell ya what.” Tara put her hands on her hips like a used-car salesman and stood up straight. Looking Vaughn in his bloodshot eyes, she said, “Since we’re neighbors, I’m prepared to give you the friends and family discount. That takes a box of Slim Minties from $25 to $18. What do you say to that?” “I don’t have the money,” Vaughn lied. He was paid under the table for working
nights as Whitby Cove’s gravedigger. Or, he used to be. It paid $25 a plot. Most of the cash was still in a wicker basket shoved under the sofa, but now that Becca was buried in the cemetery instead of in her art or upstairs in their bed, he wasn’t sure he could work anymore. He wasn’t sure he could keep getting up in the morning. “That’s okay,” The little scout interrupted, oblivious to his struggle. “I can take orders. I have the slip in my backpack.” She dropped the pink and white bag off her shoulders. Rainbow-colored stuffed animals bounced from every zipper as she tugged them all open to find a tri-colored order form. “All you do is fill out the boxes. You keep the pink one, and I take the other two. When your order arrives, I’ll deliver it, and you can pay me then.” “I don’t like Slim Minties.” It was nearly dark now, but her little smile was still shining bright. “I have seven other kinds of cookies if you don’t like mint. I have Sammies, or Thirdwheels. There’s Hokey-Pokeys, Lemon-Lips…” Glancing around the porch like Santa might be eavesdropping, she whispered, “I don’t recommend the Lemon-Lips.” instead.
Vaughn couldn’t help but laugh when Tara tried to wink but shut both eyes
“Um, Sammies, Thirdwheels, Hokey-Pokeys, Lemon-Lips…” She bit her tongue, trying to remember where she’d left off before exclaiming, “Oh! Um, we also have ToffeeCoffee, Carmel Drops, and S’mores.” “Don’t you have to go home now?” Vaughn asked after she’d exhausted her list. “Yup!” she said, still unmoving. The streetlights finally buzzed on as the last of the sun fell beneath the trees. Vaughn was sure that somewhere this kid’s mother was looking for her. There’s no way a clean, confident child like this didn’t have one or two parents who gave a damn. He and Becca never had children of their own, and for the 1,000th time since the apocalypse of her absence, Vaughn was desperate for her. She was the kind, Good Witch to his flying monkey, the innocent bride to Frankenstein’s monster. She would’ve loved the guts on this kid so much that only God knows how much she’d have spent to reward Tara’s courage. “Why do you want me to buy a box of cookies so bad? Doesn’t your mom sell these for you at her office or something?” Vaughn was growing nervous. Sweat was beading on his forehead, and he was anxious to finish what he’d started in the kitchen before Becca’s ghost could talk him out of it again. The girl dropped her head. Her dark hair tumbled in frizzy waves over the badges on her brown vest as she finally knelt to zip her bag shut. Worried he’d offended her, Vaughn was actually relieved when she looked back up at him with her snake-oil grin and asked, “If I tell you the truth, will you buy a box of cookies?”
Defeated, Vaughn snatched the paperwork from her and held his hand out, waiting for her honest answer and something to write with. Her pen was gel, and purple, and glittered. The fuzzy ball on top bobbed on a spring as Vaughn scratched his information into the ballot-style boxes. She didn’t answer until he was finished and even then only started to speak when Vaughn refused to let go of the order form. “Fine.” She pouted, keeping her grip on the paper too. “Every year the Scouts hold a contest for what troop can sell the most cookies and every year stupid Myla Babbis and Troop 419 win, and the winners get a week at summer camp totally paid for with horses and a big lake raft thingy.” Sucking in a deep breath, she continued, “And every year Myla Babbis comes back to school and does her ‘What I Did This Summer’ report on how some pop-star came and did a concert or how some actor did a volcano-making workshop, and I’m so sick of it!” Trying not to laugh, Vaughn asked, “So, how does my one box of cookies win your troop a trip to summer camp?” She shrugged her backpack on and stood up. “It might not, but I know Myla is afraid to come here -- no offense -- because she thinks you’re a serial killer, and any sale I get that Myla can’t has to help at least a little. Right?” The windchimes laughed like Becca used to. Every time she came home from errands in town, she’d have a new rumor from some grass-stained kid about how Vaughn was a serial killer, or a ghost, or a zombie. Becca would say, “It’s your fault, you know.” Putting groceries away on pantry shelves, she’d tease, “You’re the Bigfoot-sized recluse who refuses to clean up the exterior of this big ol’ murder-looking manor. What are those poor kids supposed to think?” Sighing, Vaughn pulled on the form until Tara let go again. The puff-ball pen bobbed as he scratched out and rewrote a portion of his order. Tara ripped the pink copy off and ran down the drive, yelling over her shoulder, “Thank you!” “Hey!” He yelled after her, and she turned around, stepping backward but not stopping completely. “What if I was a serial killer?” Without hesitation, she shouted, “At least I wouldn’t have to hear Myla’s ‘What I Did This Summer’ report!” Giggling, Tara and her light-up shoes ran off without seeing that his order had been changed to $900 worth of S’mores—Becca’s favorite.
Vaughn finally returned to his unfinished drink, watery and separated now with sediment curdled on the bottom. The condensation had blurred his note, and its words had lost their meaning. Ripping the page off the pad, he crumpled it up and threw it away, wondering how long it would take the scout to deliver 50 boxes of cookies. Putting the bright yellow box of rat poison back beneath the sink, Vaughn took one more look at his ruined cocktail and, for tonight at least, poured his last drink down the drain.
Bits Carol Barrett My daughter has wanted a drill and drill bits for years. Finally I cave in like dry rot, a top of the line Dremel (the undrilled, beware) in lieu of dance lessons, sequined costumes, and group photos (there, she’s smiling, no, not her braids) that always poke from the album. I ask her contritely just what she’s going to make. Doesn’t know. Necklaces, maybe. (I guessed that.) Or cat toys, wall hangings, curtains of novelty beads (too large for my imagination). She reads the instructions aloud, bit by perilous bit, introducing attachments (extra) for carving, engraving, routing. Yes, routing. Thankfully, this set comes ready to cut, grind, sand, sharpen, clean, and polish. She has spent our seaside vacation searching the ground for bits of shell and driftwood or bark, an occasional bottle cap or green plastic chip (origin unknown) smoothed by the blue force of tides. She ignores the foam, resplendent waves. Artist at work. She dries gems on the woodstove, turning them twice like pancakes. I wait for breakfast, bowl of edible chips my guest. (It will be a long wait.) She leans to the call, sorting these saltine treasures, drill shifting gears from whir
to zzzt to whining, glossy shells and whorled wood holy in hand, fishing line stringing them smartly through the smoky space by the cabin window. Why did I wait so long for this rapture? She dreams spangles and spinners, dancing in the light, double knots her prime elements in place like words in a poem, no longer lost in sand. And thus she finds her way, bits of one life transforming another. Wishes fulfilled, hers, mine. Admonishment (I have to say it): she’s happy.
The Journey Christie Page
Photograph Of An Abandoned Garden J.F. Merifield this window scene has lapsed the crushed sky buried by the day’s weight every overgrown weed has vined up in tangle to encase each leaf working to abscond the light
Daisy Staircase Kayla Vasilko
Dog Wanderlust Jim Ross I’d hiked to the small village Noailhac in the Aveyron, in France’s midi-Pyrenees, but nothing held me and said, “stay.” The restaurant was closed until Spring and it was now mid-October. I couldn’t even find the bed & breakfast for pilgrims and walkers. Perhaps I should have called ahead, but that ran against the grain. Moreover, for over a millennium, pilgrims had no means of making reservations. Trusting that The Way will meet your needs is integral to being a pilgrim—by definition, a self-imposed exile. Instead of trying to plan out every detail, I would surrender to The Way and let it work its wonders. For most of human history, people died in or not far from the villages in which they were born. Not counting those who left their home countries to escape persecution or famine or as part of an invading army, true Wanderlust wasn’t really an economic or social possibility. Throughout the Middle Ages, however, people in most of Europe were expected to make at least one major journey in their lives—to the east in the form of a Crusade or to the west in the form of a pilgrimage. The towns I was passing through had been built largely in the 11th through 13th centuries to support pilgrims on their westward journeys and then on their returns home. I’d grown accustomed to walking twelve to fifteen miles a day. The pilgrimage trail knits together roads—often the ancient pilgrim’s route paved over—with dirt or grassy trails cutting through forests and farmers’ fields. Judging by the sun, I had six hours of daylight left. The next village was twelve miles away. Having walked through Noailhac, I paused at the town line, contemplating my next move. The brown eyes of a tired, lean German shepherd caught mine. Ten feet away, she turned, took a few steps, stopped, and turned her head toward me again. She seemed to say, “Follow me.” What did I have to lose? I followed. We walked together up a long, muddy hill. Periodically, she looked back to confirm I was still there. Atop the hill, we approached a small stone chapel dedicated to St. Roch, patron saint of dog lovers (and dogs). I told her, “This looks like your place. Please go right in.” She sat in the second pew on the right, with me behind. After a few minutes of apparent meditation, she wandered toward the rear door, so again I followed. I suggested we share lunch. She wouldn’t touch stale baguettes but liked the hard cheese and kept asking for more dried blueberries. After lunch, I stood and said, “Good to meet you. Thank you for bringing me here. I’ve got to be on my way.” However, when walking right alongside me, the shepherd said, “Where d’you get the idea you’re going anywhere without me?”
It had been a few weeks since I left home. A year ago, my life felt perfectly in balance. Then a dire threat, bereft of conditions for its execution or cancellation, from the most implausible and implacable source, threw me careening off balance. I walked to restore balance not by ruminating but by focusing on The Way itself. Leaving home was hard because my unravelling already burdened my family. The moment my feet touched the trail, I was able to exhale. Being so terribly, blissfully alone brought an extraordinary sense of relief. She and I walked together along a rolling, asphalt road. Occasionally, she scooted under barbed wire and ran across vast green fields in wide, interlocking circles. If she ran ahead, she either waited for me or ran back to place herself like a shield between me and oncoming cars. A long-horned, brown-and-white cow caught my eye. I stopped to take her photo. Irritated, she kicked up wads of grass with her hind hooves and charged. I’d been warned that barbed wire wouldn’t hold a cow charging full tilt. The shepherd darted under the barbed wire and counter-charged. The cow reared up on her hind legs. Then the shepherd and cow exchanged glances, the cow exited stage right, and the shepherd glided under the barbed wire as if nothing extraordinary had happened. Over the next few hours, we only once encountered other people—two bent-over, smiling old men and an old woman donning a sunhat—who welcomed my dog like an old friend. “Mon cheri,” one addressed her. If other dogs paced and barked furiously to guard their property, my dog did not engage. We ran out of water long before I began questioning: How much daylight remains? Where will we sleep tonight? The path emptied into a dirt road. The first fruit trees we’d noticed all day—apple, pear, fig–stood by the roadside. I helped myself to apples and pears off the branches; the figs had already turned moldy. My dog picked over the fallen fruit as if she’d hunted it down. With residual light fast diminishing, we had no choice but to follow the path when it turned into a forest. My companion seemed as unperturbed by darkness as she was fending off the fussy cow. She sensed barbed wire and scooted under it. She led. I kept talking. She stayed close. Repeating “steady now” kept me calm. As we approached an “electric fence” sign, she strolled beneath safely, so using a limbostyle maneuver I followed without removing my backpack. As long as I focused on my connection to my companion, my feet somehow eluded the fallen chestnuts littering the trail. “My dog is my shepherd. I shall not want,” I joked. Then, I repeated: “Dog is love.” I began to envision spending a night in the forest, with all its uncertainties. Just as my adrenaline dipped, we saw a house abutting the forest. The full moonlight made the tips of the tall, pampas grass surrounding the house look like flames. “We’re almost there,” I told my companion, feeding her dried blueberries. We came upon a road of smooth asphalt running mostly in a straight line, with adequate overhead lighting. It became apparent my companion was unaccustomed to
such roads, especially after dark. She wandered into the road and when cars intermittently came through, she didn’t have the sense to run. Drivers didn’t seem keen on slowing down either. One driver saw her late, swerved, temporarily lost control, slammed on his brakes, shouted at us, and drove on. I tried an experiment. After I saw or heard a car coming, I commanded firmly, “Come here now.” My companion ran to me immediately and stood by my left side as I faced the road. When it was safe, I told her, “It’s okay now,” turned, and walked forward, thereby granting her license to roam freely. I added an element: when she came and stood by me, I took my left walking stick and held it in front of her to demonstrate, symbolically, I was protecting her. She then cuddled my leg for the first time. That became our modus operandi. When we reached town, we stopped at the first bar. The bartender said they were closed but not to lose hope, there was another bar down the block. Two minutes later, when we reached the next bar, a mug of beer waited for me and a two-liter bowl of water awaited my companion, who splashed water all around, but cleaned up before leaving. I continued walking as if the sun were rising. I had no glimmering how to find shelter or what to do about my companion. I worried that she had wandered so far from where we met. Would she be safe on the street alone at night? What if she wandered back to the busy road where she’d nearly gotten killed? Assuming she survived the night, could she find her way home come morning? Was someone worried about her? I preferred the prospect of snuggling with my companion in a cold alley over finding a warm bed and being separated. A car pulled up on my left, driven by the only English speaking staff member from the Monastery where I spent the night before. She asked: “Why are you out so late? D’you need help?” She jumped out and put my walking sticks and backpack in the hatch. As I sat down, she said, “I don’t know what to do about the dog.” My companion whined, jumped into the car, squeezed into a little ball, and sought refuge under my legs. “I guess that settles that . . . for now,” she said. I reached down and held my companion, who seemed frightened. After finding the town’s only two hotels were shuttered until spring, the monastery staffer said, “We have one more option. I just left a meeting at the priest’s house.” We drove there, she spoke with the priest, returned to the car, and said, “You’re in. I’ll take her home and keep her outside tonight. In the morning, I’ll bring her back to the neighborhood on her collar, Les Ingles.” I squatted down, held my companion, read her name on her collar, and said, “See you again, Zita.”
The priest led me upstairs, gave me a sheet of yellow bubble-wrap to use as my mattress, led me to the kitchen, and pointed to the floor. Many times during the sleepless night it crossed my mind that it would have been softer, warmer, and kinder huddling anywhere with Zita. Come morning, my first thought was, “Where’s Zita?” Then, I remembered, we were no longer together. I wondered, was she home safely by now? Would I be safe without her? *** Throughout the homebound flight, I thought about Zita. I fantasized going back, finding her, flying her home. Once home, I felt connected, could hear what my wife Ginger said and remembered how to eat, sleep, breathe. Eight months later, after starting a new job, I contacted the person from the monastery who led me to the priest’s house and took Zita home. I thanked her and asked after Zita. She said that when she brought Zita home, she refused to budge until she called her in English. She said she drew the conclusion that Zita spoke English and that’s why she responded to me. She also said we’d have no trouble finding Les Ingles. After reaching Noailhac, we’d just have to follow the marked green signs. A few weeks later, Ginger and I flew to Toulouse, then drove north to Noailhac, hoping Zita would be waiting to lead us uphill to St. Roch’s Chapel. But, no Zita. I said, “Maybe she’s already gone up.” We hiked up the muddy hill but no Zita inside the chapel either. Wasn’t this her place? I felt empty. As we pulled up outside Les Ingles, Zita ran to greet Ginger as a familiar friend, even though they’d never met before. Moments later, we met Zita’s owner. After I recounted my Zita story, he palmed his forehead, and explained Zita ran off repeatedly to accompany strangers on far-flung journeys and got back home only through the kindness of strangers. Zita ran big, interlocking circles on a deeply green pasture as she herded a neighbor’s cows. She charged at cows not readily cooperating. Her owner took us inside his home overlooking the pasture, served us tea, displayed his wondrous library, and told us we could rent his home anytime for 450 Euros per week. When I asked whether Zita came with it, he laughed, “If you take Zita, the price goes down to 350 Euros.” The following week, my wife and I, accompanied by our two children, resumed the pilgrimage where I left off nine months earlier. Since it was summer, all the bed and breakfasts for pilgrims and walkers were open, but there was vastly more competition for these beds. As we were four, not one, and in consideration of my mixed experience in finding a bed when I needed one on my solo trip, this time I made reservations. With that one concession, we trusted The Way to work its magic.
Fever Maw Em Walling We are so thirsty— looking up at a cloudless sky. The weather apps and meteorologists may lie; the dry, cracked earth does not. Swooping plovers attacked me a few weeks ago, my peaceful walk interrupted by their defensive cries and dives. A nest tucked away by the stream. Food. Water. Family. Home. In the same cradle. I walked to the same spot yesterday, and the birds were gone— the stream fizzled as quickly as a dream. The grass browned, cracking beneath my footsteps. Food. Water. Family. Home. Dissipated. The hike to a magnificent, cascading waterfall was silent. We thought we walked too far, distracted by the bird calls that translated to distress. We encountered rocks instead of water. The disappointment matched those of the snakes, lizards, birds, and marsupials craving nothing more than to drink. My footsteps were heavy as I climbed among the rocks, across the dead waterfall—a sacred space now filled with spiders weaving spells between the gaping cracks. They hoped to catch a dream because reality dried up months ago .
A fuzzy baby bird shrieked from the sidewalk, and I had to stop. Sometimes, we can only be heard if we scream. I talked to the bird— whispered my love—but she blinked those frantic dark eyes and screamed at me again. I unscrewed my water bottle and filled the cap with liquid; she cried as I placed the lid in front of her, head craned toward the clouds. We turn our heads to the sky and scream. There are no clouds to capture our request—only the sun, the demon jaw of fever.
Time to Go Daniel Meinhardt
Wired Ashley Heatherly Excitement’s for the birds. The pelicans, the hoity-toity cardinals and their secret robin partners. Hanging on the lamps on wires, waiting for electricity to jolt their hearts and send their bodies flying down to earth like a snowflake, a rocket, a husband with a cheating wife. Let the birds chitter, waiting for that feather singing shock. Beaks burn in the sun, swallowing starlight, closer to the stars than any person in a spaceship. That’s what these birds are. Excited, hot, melting down to their little bird bones.
Cycling the Circuito Lago Llanquihue, Chile Simona Carini February 28, 2020
“See you in Frutillar,” said Cristián, one of the guides, and we were finally off on our bicycles—“we” being a group of cyclists participating in a trip organized by the nonprofit Climate Ride. The distance between Llanquihue, our starting point, and Frutillar is only 15 miles. I was not excited about the early stop, but our Ecotours Chile guides insisted on transferring us by van between the lakeside section of the town, Frutillar Bajo, and the elevated one, Frutillar Alto, to save us from pedaling up a steep hill and through some confusing intersections. I had never considered myself a cyclist and if at the start of the trip someone had told me I’d be riding a long distance two days in a row I would have said, “No way I can do that.” Yet there I was, the day after my longest ride to date, 73.2 km (45.5 miles), from Puerto Varas to Ensenada, setting off to go even further, possibly to break the 100 km (62.1 miles) mark. The distance was only one aspect of the feat. When asked whether the route would be flat, the previous morning Cristián had answered, grinning: “Hilly Chile,” a perfect description of the flat-free route awaiting us. The town of Llanquihue is located on the shore of the homonymous lake, the largest of two in the region—the other being Lake Todos Los Santos. Lake Llanquihue is a wide expanse of water, brilliant navy blue when it’s sunny, dominated by Osorno, a perennially snow-capped, conical volcano located east of the lake. I love volcanos, so immediately fell for the idea of having one as guardian angel and marker to orient myself. We got started under a lightly overcast sky promising to clear up. The road around the lake includes a bike lane, which makes cycling more comfortable and safer. When we arrived at Frutillar Bajo, my husband decided to press on. Differently from me, Robert enjoys the challenge of a steep climb. I overheard Cristián warning him about identifying routes on Google maps: “See this one? It looks like a nice road, starts paved, then boom! unpaved.” When I stopped on the lakeshore in Frutillar, I had cycled for only an hour and a half, so I was neither tired nor hungry. A good number of my fellow cyclists went into a coffee shop, a white wooden cottage that looked cut out from a town in the Bavarian Alps, with a gabled roof, ornate mouldings and lace curtains covering the large windows. The reference to Bavaria is not hyperbolic: starting in the mid-nineteenth century German immigrants settled in the region around Valdivia, Osorno and Llanquihue as part of a state-led colonization scheme.
Besides the architecture, the ubiquitous advertisements for Kuchen (German for cake) and frequent ones for Strudel, the words Oma (granny) and Tante (aunt) on store signs and food labels all point to a connection between Germany and this region of Chile. Rather than heeding the call of Kuchen, I walked along the lakeshore towards the Teatro del Lago, a large wooden building that extends out onto the water, like a ship ready to set sail. The theater houses a stage theater and a concert hall .I imagined the charm of attending a concert there, of seeing the lake turn darker blue in the evening and watching Osorno across the water slowly fade into the night. We finally got into the vans and after a brief ride were deposited at the top of the hill, from where we started cycling again. “Next stop for lunch,” Cristián announced. “Before Puerto Octay. You’ll see the vans, can’t miss it.” The distance was less than 15 miles. When the guides turned right into a dirt parking lot, I stopped just long enough to tell them, “I’m skipping lunch, I’ll see you on the road.” For the first time I was on my own and immediately got confused. In Puerto Octay, I arrived at a stop sign and could not continue straight because the road turned into a one way the opposite way. Caught by surprise and surrounded by cars, I turned left, the only direction open to me, then right at the first chance, hoping I’d be back on a northerly course. I could not trust my non-existent sense of direction, so stopped to ask Google maps for help and received confirmation that I was not lost. After a steep uphill I saw again the reassuring bulk of Osorno, its head crowned by wispy clouds. ‘Hilly Chile’ describes the average situation, but a couple of times I encountered signs warning about Pendiente fuerte, which Italian speakers like me quickly understand to mean forte pendio, steep grade. At the next large intersection, the road to the right looked promising: newly paved and heading towards the lake. I called my husband, who by then was well ahead of me: “Did you turn right at the U-925 sign?” “What?” I didn’t know how else to explain where I was. I recalled Cristián’s words, though, and chose to continue northward. (Later, I learned that Robert had indeed turned right, and the U-925 road had become unpaved. While the ride was uncomfortable, he got some nice video footage of a cattle herd crossing the road in front of him guided by the owner on horseback.)
I finally reached the intersection where I turned right, south-east, towards the lake. The road crossed a verdant countryside dotted with small farms surrounded by gardens overflowing with flowers in full bloom, mostly tall, large-headed dahlias, their petals exploding in bright colors—yellow, orange, red, magenta. Almost every farm had a sign next to its driveway announcing Empanadas del dia (turnovers of the day) and some also Kuchen. I had already noticed the local preference for hand-written signs. There was no attempt at precision: the words started with large letters and ended with cramped ones, lack of space sometimes forcing the last letter or two to drop on the lower line. It was as if the more amateurish the sign, the more the food offering would be taken as genuine. The food writer in me was tempted to verify my inference and wondered what the empanadas’ filling of the day was, but the cyclist kept the focus on the road. For on-the-go nourishment I carried extra-dark chocolate and local walnuts, fresh, crisp, and with the clean nutty flavor too often missing in store-bought walnuts in the US. A headwind picked up. While I welcomed the cooling effect, I would have preferred for the wind to die down and let me pedal in peace under the blue sky, with Osorno straight ahead, watching over me. After miles up and down ‘Hilly Chile’, my legs started to fatigue and at one point, for no immediate reason, I lost hold of myself.
This is crazy: what if I fall? Nobody knows where I am. I don’t speak a word of Spanish. What am I doing? My eyes clouded, Osorno faded into a ghost. I kept pedaling out of desperation: what else could I do?
Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out… Osorno reappeared in my field of vision, its cape of snow sparkling in the sun. I laughed: what was I afraid of? I passed yet another farm with its empanadas del dia sign: food was at hand and in case of emergency, I could turn an Italian cry for help into approximate Spanish. The sound of an engine behind me came accompanied by the familiar rattling of the van’s trailer. It felt like hearing the gurgling of a spring while stranded in a desert. Cristián pedaled up to me: “You OK? Couple of people behind you, the others are in the van: they’ll start riding from Las Cascadas.” “I’m OK,” I answered. “I’ll get there,” and pedaled on. There is a waterfall in Las Cascadas, but I didn’t have time to look for it. Once I passed the village sign, the only thing my eyes focused on was the van parked on the side of the road. I needed water and could have used a snack. I stopped and got off the bike next to the van. The driver offered me a bowl of fresh, local blueberries: plump, juicy, sweet with a hint of tang in their skin. I started eating one at a time, then two, then picked up two in each hand taking turns dropping the giant purple pearls into my mouth.
“Cómo se dice?” I asked, pointing at the blueberries with a purple-stained index “Arándanos.”
“Arándanos,” I echoed, letting the three a’s resonate, the r roll and the two n’s bounce. “Arándanos,” I repeated, wanting to etch the word in my memory. Beaming, I said: “Thank you, they were perfect! Perfetti.” I snapped out of the fruit-induced daze, filled my bottle with cold water and got on the road again. I knew I was behind, but the only thing I cared about was getting past the 100 km mark and establish my personal record in terms of distance. I had stopped my fitness tracker while we were in Frutillar then again while I feasted on blueberries in Las Cascadas to preserve the batteries and save the partial data: as a result, I did not have access to the total distance traveled. At the busy intersection with the sign to the Petrohué Waterfalls, our destination, worry wormed its way into my head again: What if Robert continued towards Ensenada? I stopped and called him but got his voice mail. As I was leaving him a message, the other guide, David, stopped next to me, like a saint emerging from a fresco in the flesh. I stared at him: I’m safe, I thought. We started riding again. A sign I glimpsed at put the waterfalls further than I expected. “David,” I called. “How many more hills to the waterfalls?” “Two... No, wait: three.” A voice inside me pleaded on behalf of my barely responsive legs: Stop. It seemed sad to end the ride there but pushing myself beyond what was already a big feat did not sound appealing. We would be flying to Patagonia the following day: the last thing I wanted to do was hurt myself. “David,” I called again. “This is it for me. Can you ask the van to pick me up?” He understood and did not try to make me reconsider. As he was talking on the phone, I realized that the stretch of road we were on did not have enough shoulder space to allow the van to safely stop and load my bike. When David finished the call, I said: “I’ll ride until we get to a safe spot.” And so, I rode up and over the first of the three remaining hills. By the time I got in the van, it was a five-minute ride to the waterfalls. The first person I saw there was my husband, intent on eating ice cream. I wanted to scream.
I walked with others from our group to the vista point. Osorno, majestic in its snowy cape, stark against a cloudless sky, towered over the Petrohué River rushing through a gorge, the water foamy, white as the volcano’s peak. I saw people as faded figures, heard their voices muffled: tiredness was taking over.
I trudged back to the van and have little memory of the return drive to Puerto Varas on the section of the Circuito we had cycled the day before. I day-dreamed of drawing a hot bath in the spacious hotel bathroom, drip a few drops of bubble bath into the water and slide into its warm embrace. Words from the conversation around me drifted into my ears: drinks, dinner, meeting time. I was not hungry for food, my body ached for hot water. I also thought about my late father, who taught me to cycle when I was a child and for years checked my feet to make sure they were in the correct position on the flat pedals. I wished he could see me and maybe be proud of what I had done. When I got a Wi-Fi connection in the hotel room, I uploaded the three segments from the tracker to my iPhone and added together the three distances: the total was 109.43 km (68 miles). “I did it!” I squealed, “I did it!”
The Affair Tanni Haas He arrived at the agreed-upon street corner 15 minutes early. It was awkward to try to stay in place with the constant stream of passersby from both directions but he didn’t want to run the risk of getting there later than her. Also, she’d insisted that they meet in a busy, public place. He’d always been attracted to her but hadn’t acted on it for good reasons. He sensed that his feelings were reciprocated but wasn’t entirely sure. When he finally decided to make his move at a large family gathering she reacted very strongly, saying that she couldn’t do that to her own sister, that it was morally wrong and would make her feel incredibly guilty. But the way she responded made him think that she was secretly intrigued by his proposition. He kept calling her over the next couple of weeks and, when she finally relented, she suddenly seemed eager to have a say in the practical arrangements. She decided when and where to meet, at what time, and most titillating of all asked him to pay for a room at a nearby hotel. All the color drained from his face when he saw who turned the corner and headed towards him with rapid strides. There came his wife in all her glory. That was the only part of the plan that they, or rather he, hadn’t properly prepared for.
After Fighting with My Husband Marie Hoffman I've never seen such sadness in your eyes, the grey round irises soft and filling to the brim like a cup, overflowing. My hands can't hold your hurt. You say you can't catch breath above the waves, your body tired from swimming against the tide, and I have yet to pull you up. Your heart drops, a ship's anchor, pulling you under instead of holding your place against the rocking of water. I want to plunge below with you, to reach into your chest, separate rib from rib, to pull your heart from its cage, lift it above the sea, placed against my chest, mine in sync with yours.
Skál Sarah Spaulding you shared a beer with strangers you’d known for two days watching grass grow on the roof of a posh restaurant in Iceland you returned glass drained to a home you could no longer resurrect
Grounded Noé Piña
Acrylic on Canvas
Urban Haze Gabrielle Beck
Airport Relay Emily Pate For the first time in a month, I was alone. Elsewhere in China, whole swatches of the country were flooding, pointed-bow boats being rowed down the streets, but here in Ningbo, the rain was still just a storm tapping an irregular tune against the airport windows as I waited for my flight to board. I was only in China because my friend Yilin had invited me along on her research expedition. We’d crammed side by side on buses winding up mountain roads, packed onto the underground railway in Shanghai rush hour, and watched Wuxia on bullet trains cutting across whole provinces, but now she was gone, already boarding a flight of her own. The rain outside fell harder; the tapping on the windows became knocking. I glanced at my watch with its small white face and pink faux-leather strap. I was early, but I had run for far too many connecting flights for that to ease my worry. I was ready to be home, even as I already craved bamboo rice and spicy Chongqing noodles, all the things that would never be as good back in the States. As the storm built, bruising afternoon into almost night, the airport transformed into a sea of waiting, restless people as flight after flight was delayed or cancelled. The first of my two flights was a short two-hour hop to Guangzhou, a major hub for international flights. The next, to San Francisco, would be far longer at just over 14 hours. My watch ticked in time to the rain. My layover in Guangzhou was supposed to be six hours, but as the second-hand on my watch flickered forward, that time was slowly eaten away. It took three more hours and two gate changes before my plane boarded. As I took my aisle seat, I worried my bottom lip between my teeth. Outside the plane window, the black runway was cut through with the watery reflections of windows. Another hour passed before an announcement in Mandarin crackled through the plane. A burst of yelling overtook the English that followed it, so all I heard was a few familiar words, including a fuzzy apology. I took a sharp breath between my teeth and looked around for any sign of what might be happening, but all I saw were worried and tense expressions that matched my own. For the first time in my life, I pressed the button to call a flight attendant. A flight attendant in a blue skirt and matching blazer approached. Pinned to her collar was a hot pink pin shaped like a spiky speech bubble that said, “I speak English!” “How can I help?” “Sorry,” I said, “I didn’t quite hear the English announcement.”
“It’ll be at least another hour before the storm allows us to take off.” An hour. After so long standing in the airport, the plane was just a new location for purgatory. My feet flexed inside my Vans, wanting to run, to hurry, when all I could do was wait and hope. Another hour passed, and a new announcement came. This time, the flight attendant came to find me before the English announcement had even ended. “We don’t know when we can take off,” she said. “We’re allowing people off the plane. Would you like to go?” “No,” I said, glancing at my watch, as my connecting flight’s departure time crept closer. What would it matter if I went back to the airport and waited there instead of here? Even if my connecting flight took to the air without me, Guangzhou was another step along the trip home. “I’ll stay. Thank you.” An elderly white man wearing elbow-patched tweed, along with a few others, left the plane, hands clutching tight to their carry-ons. Just 20 minutes later, the plane lurched forward, and sailed down the runway. I had an hour and 45 minutes until my second flight left to cross the ocean. My current flight would take exactly that long. I fidgeted, turning my music on and off, opening and closing my book, and staring at my watch. Thunder cut jagged wounds through the sky, each strike another jolt of anxiety. As we landed, I pulled my backpack onto my lap, patted my pockets for my passport and ticket. A Mandarin announcement came over the speakers, then an English one. “If you need to rebook a connecting flight, please see a gate agent.” Did I need to book a new connecting flight? I looked down at my watch again. I’d definitely need to book a connecting flight. My flight to San Francisco was already boarding. The plane stopped and all the passengers stood, heads bent under the low ceiling of the overhead compartments. A woman with a bright silver suitcase shouldered her way down the aisle, looking down and mumbling apologies in Mandarin and English as people glared. “We all have flights to catch,” someone said, blocking the aisle. The woman halted and hunched in on herself, fidgeting with the handle of her suitcase. Eventually, like a river undammed, we started moving, emptying out of the plane onto the gangway. My heartbeat quickened. How far was it to my new gate? Was there even a sliver of a chance I would make it? The English-speaking flight attendant stood by the plane door, smiling. Her lipstick was a darker, deeper red than the rest of the flight attendants, and she had a calm that rippled out through the frantic crowd as we shuffled off the plane. As I reached the front of the aisle, I held my ticket out to her. “My flight is boarding. What do I do?”
She pointed out the door and said, “Run. There’s someone waiting for you.” I ran, pounding up the gangway. Other people sluggishly walked from the plane, rubbing tired eyes, a few others running along with me. I forced my jaw to unclench, taking deep breathes. The gangway came to a curved elbow, where a cluster of three flight attendants stood, next to a door that hung open to reveal a set of well-lit stairs. One of the flight attendants had a laminated sign that read, “San Francisco.” I skipped to a halt in front of her. “I’m going to San Francisco.” “Do you have checked luggage?” she asked, voice quick. “Yes.” “Do you care if your luggage arrives at the same time as you do?” It felt like one of those word association tests, with how fast she was asking me questions. “No.” She slapped a circular green sticker, three inches across, on my shoulder, pointed down the stairs, and said, “Run.” I ran. I’ve fallen both down and up quite a few staircases in my life, but by some miracle, I made it down intact. A bus waited at the bottom, engine rumbling, the windows warm rectangles of light. A man in a pale pink collared shirt stood in front of the open door. “San Francisco?” he asked. “San Francisco.” He gestured at the bus, and I climbed aboard. The man in the pink shirt hopped onto the bus after me. Four other people were already aboard: the young woman who had tried to push her way out of the plane, and a mother with two young boys, deep bags under her eyes. The bus doors slid shut and started to move. I couldn’t help laughing a little to myself. There was no way we would make this plane. The mom laughed with me, her hand on her younger son’s shoulder. A private bus, just for us, and our plane was probably already done boarding.
Only a few minutes later, the bus parked next to the terminal. As we climbed down onto the tarmac, the man in the pink shirt sprinted forward, waving a hand to urge us to follow. We ran too, off the dark runway and into the blinding glare of the airport’s fluorescent lights. Then, customs. My lungs were tight in my chest as I tried to still the race of my heart from running. “I’ll meet you on the other side,” said the man in the pink shirt. I nodded and got in the line for international travelers, thumb tucked into the page of my passport with my travel visa, as everyone else stood in the fast-moving Chinese passport lines. Only two people were in front of me. I tried to take deep, slow breaths as one and then the other went through.
Hurry, I chanted in my head, hurry, hurry. I handed over my paperwork and finally was on the other side. Past the checkpoint, my fellow passengers were already running down the empty terminal. The man in the pink shirt, waiting for me, gave me the gate number and pointed down the terminal. “Run.” I took off, sneakers squeaking against the linoleum. The terminal stretched away from me, a large hallway covered in dark windows. It didn’t end, just curved until I couldn’t see any further, a false horizon that looked like the edge of the world. I kept reaching that curve and finding there was still more to run. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is the 13th busiest airport for passenger traffic in the world. According to the airport’s website, over 65 million passengers passed through it in 2017, the year before I was there, and the building alone is 523,000 square meters. The airport, in short, is big. It feels even bigger running through it at full sprint, passing gate after gate, my heartbeat loud in my ears. Faces blurred as I rushed past them, and the neon signs of airport stores dimmed and went out as they closed, just one long line of dying lights. In high school, when I was dragged along to one 5k after another, my cousin and I would pretend zombies were chasing us to force ourselves to keep moving quickly. It never worked. We always ended up walking most of those five kilometers.
Maybe, I thought as I ran, my bad ankle twinging, my tendon a bowstring pulled too tight, I’d do better in a zombie apocalypse than I thought. I passed the young woman with the silver suitcase as her sprint slowed. In the distance, still running, I watched as the last passengers stepped out of the waiting area and onto the gangway, and the final boarding call rang out. I wasn’t going to make it. After all that, and with all the people who had helped me along the way, I wasn’t going to make it.
The mother from my plane, with her two sons, reached the gate just in time, as the doors started to close. She paused, looked back at me, and spoke to the gate agent waiting for her boarding pass. She started patting down pockets, looking through her purse. Her younger son huddled close against her, hand clutching at her skirt, but the older boy moved away from the gate and out of the waiting area. He swung both his arms in huge, pinwheeling circles, so enthusiastically his whole body titled forward, baggy basketball shorts flapping around his legs. “Jia-you!” he yelled. “Jia-you!” I didn’t understand, but it was enough to urge me forward out of a defeated jog into a flat-out sprint. He yelled as I picked up speed, his arms windmilling faster. My lungs heaved, my backpack pounded into my back with every step, the sharp corner of a book banging against my spine. The boy cheered as I reached him, jumping up and down. His mother met my eyes, smiled, and pulled a stack of three tickets out of her jacket pocket. She had stalled for me, a stranger. She stepped away, down the gangplank, her back straight and her dark hair swaying against her shoulders, a son on either side. My ticket was tucked into the inside pocket of my jean jacket, right where I always kept it. I glanced over my shoulder. The woman with the silver suitcase was still behind me, her face red and chest heaving as she ran. I patted down the pockets of my dress and my jacket, opened my backpack, and looked inside. Footsteps approached me from behind and stopped. The woman bent over the handle of her suitcase, breathing hard. I slipped my ticket from my pocket and handed it over to the gate agent. We were all going to make it onto this plane—every single one of us. As I walked down the gangplank and boarded the place, I was only just catching my breath, my hair frizzing out of my braid. Faces turned towards me, a sea of strangers all wishing we would just take off. Halfway to my seat, I passed the mother with her two sons as she slid a backpack under the seat in front of her. Relief and gratitude stung my eyes as she nodded at me. “Xièxiè,” I said. Thank you, the only phrase in Mandarin I had absolute confidence in. I’d said it at restaurants, to tour guides, and when buying souvenirs, but I never meant it as much as I did then. We’d never see each other again, and we didn’t share a language, but for the run across that airport, we had been something besides strangers. I would make it home today because of her. “Xièxiè,” I said again, and moved down the aisle to take my seat.
A Cure for Apprehension Josh Lefkowitz Anxious over upcoming travel, I worried about it out loud. You listened as I slowly unraveled, silent as a cloud. I paused finally to catch my breath. That’s when you took my hand. My fears single-filed towards their death. The evening proceeded as planned: We put on music and ate our meal, sorbet for dessert, then a kiss; And lived in the only moment that’s real: This one. Now this one. Now this.
Ash Heap Ayesha F. Hamid Don’t leave me in the places my heart broke, the places that took a little life, even the ones that gave some in return, but leave me in the trains where I gazed out, seeing the colors of towns the power of my eyes then infinite looking out those windows, I wore a crown. Leave me in the cities where I walked a traveler, surrounded, but always alone. Don’t leave me in the moments when my world shook, my soul sobbed. Don’t leave me in those places where slaps came hard sometimes in school, sometimes near home. Don’t leave me in those places, the spaces I wasn’t free those jobs where I slogged, facing stares and suspicion when I just wanted to be. Don’t lay any more blame, I was only human, just flesh, but now a mess of ashes, an ash heap full of memory. Please take care when you scatter me here or there. After I’m done burning, let me finally be free to go wherever I want, towards the sun, the sand, the city, or sea.
Hollow Gabrielle Beck
The Chair of the Table Where I Live My Life Alex Hardgrave
My soul is in limbo. Deep inside me, so deep I cannot reach it with my hand or my Skye’s grandma’s words felt warm but made her shiver as they flitted through her
The sun-bleached, pine tree air freshener swung back and forth on Skye’s gray Subaru mirror, its smell long gone. Skye didn’t mind that it didn’t mask the smell of Camel cigarettes. It made her feel like her grandma was riding shotgun. Skye’s palms were sweaty as they gripped the steering wheel. She was worried about who she’d find when she got to the mystery address. She looked down at her phone, which sat on the passenger seat. She dreaded the call she was going to get from her parents, wanting more of an explanation for her brief text “Headed out of town. Won’t be gone long.” A text from Skye’s mom had pinged as she walked into her English final two weeks earlier. It was the test for Mr. Bunner’s class. He was her favorite high school teacher because he encouraged her to apply to the college in New York he’d gone to for writing. “Can you call now?” The text read. The final was only supposed to last two hours. Her Grandma Lesley was in the hospital with pneumonia again, but her mom said this time was worse. “Going into a final. I’ll call you after.” It will be fine, Skye assured herself, turning off her phone.
My prayers for all as I go make every day precious in some way. Be gentle with yourself along the way. Keep those close to your heart, and meet me in the light someday. The car was running low on gas, and Skye knew she’d have to stop soon. She was hungry, and she was still about four hours away from the city. She took the next exit, which had a Shell and a Steak ‘n Shake. “Can we go to Steak ‘n Shake soon, Grandma?” Skye was five, sitting on the porch of the duplex in Kansas where she spent the first years of her life before moving to Ohio. Even though her grandma always asked Skye to stay inside and watch cartoons
while she went outside to smoke, Skye wasn’t a good listener, and her grandma was the best kind of pushover. “Your parents will be home from work soon, and I don’t want to ruin your dinner.” She was careful to blow the smoke away from her granddaughter as they sat on the porch. “Please.” Skye batted her eyelashes and gave her cutest smile. Her grandma’s nickname was Yes-ley because she could be easily convinced to agree to things. Ten minutes later, Grandma Lesley was reluctantly snagging chocolate malts from the employee at the Steak ‘n Shake drive-thru with Skye bouncing along in the back seat. Skye didn’t even really like malts. They always tasted chalky. But her grandma loved them, and she wanted to be just like her grandma. Their malt trips had become a ritual when her family came to visit after moving away. They would go, just the two of them, and Skye would take the time to update her grandma about everything that was going on in her life. Back on the highway in the car, 18-year-old Skye ate the steak burger, but she washed it down with a Coke, not a malt. The food settled into her stomach like a bowling ball. She was getting increasingly nervous the closer she got to the city. Who was going to be there? It was possible the address didn’t exist anymore. It was possible it had never existed at all. She had just found it among the other writings that day.
There are memories; real and imagined; hope and despair; love and laughter...and life. She had begged her parents to cancel her graduation open house, but quickly realized it was a losing battle. They were trying so hard to keep things normal. Skye came downstairs from her bathroom to find the living room and kitchen decked out in decorations the colors of their alma mater. She’d been accepted to both schools, but had quickly hid away the letter from the school in New York. “I should have told them sooner,” Skye thought to herself for what must have been the tenth time that day, but now was not the right time. It was never the right time. She hadn’t been sure what she wanted to do when applications came around early senior year, so her parents had convinced her that business at the local university was the way to go. It didn’t help that they were so proud she was going to “follow in their footsteps.” But as she wrote more, she realized it was something she didn’t want to just be a hobby. The issue was telling her parents. She’d never disappointed them and wanted to keep it that way. She knew it was irrational, but every time she thought she had finally got her courage up to tell them, she’d chicken out. “Surprise!” Her parents cheered.
As she leaned in to hug her mom, she realized just how deep her dark circles were. Telling them of her decision to go to school in New York would add so much unneeded stress. Plus, she had never even visited the campus; maybe she’d hate it and change her mind anyway. A good time would come up soon, and she’d explain her decision to them. A good time had to come up soon. The party had felt like both a blur and a slow-motion movie. Skye listened to her parents tell their friends how proud of her they were. “She got direct admission to our alma mater. She’s so excited to study business.” “She’ll be working at a Fortune 500 in no time.” Then there were the condolences. Most of these people had never even met her grandma. “She’d be so proud.” “She will be greatly missed.” “You’re so strong.” That one was false, because all Skye had done was cry the last few days. Her favorite was, “She’s here right now.” Skye just wanted to scream, “No, she’s not. She died in a hospital in Kansas, and I didn’t even get to talk to her another time.” But instead she smiled and thanked them.
All my treasures surround me to remind me of a life well lived. The day after her graduation, the family left for the funeral in Kansas. Dirt had barely filled the grave when her family was cleaning out her grandma’s apartment. Her grandma’s life had been reduced to three piles in a matter of hours—keep, donate, trash. Skye had been given the Subaru two years before when her grandma had to start using oxygen 24/7. “There is nowhere I need to drive that's worth taking this tank with me,” she had joked during one of their visits. Even though she made light of it at the time, Skye knew her grandma felt sad about losing her independence. She had spent most of her life speeding around in fancy muscle cars, and now she’d never get behind a wheel again. Skye’s dad handed her a stack of completed crossword books. “Throw,” he said. Her mom entered, holding a pile of clothes from the closet and placed them on the donate pile. “I’ve boxed up the books in the study, but you should go through them and see if you want to keep any,” she said.
The study had always been her favorite room in the apartment, with the bright light from the window and the view of wildflower fields. The desk had been littered with knick knacks, paper weights, and a large vining Pothos plant. Three floor-to-ceiling bookshelves used to stand, heaving under the weight of her collection. Now in repurposed Amazon boxes were the old hardbound classics. Lesley had gone to college and majored in British Literature, but her collection had just as many Nicholas Sparks novels as it did Shakespeare. Skye picked up one that she knew had been one of grandma’s favorite books, Jane Eyre, and opened the dusty cover. A piece of paper fell out and landed on the wood floor. She scooped it up and began to squint to make out the handwriting. It was something her grandma had written.
“I am sitting in my car at the perimeter of the property of the apartment complex I live in. Having coffee and smoking my one cigarette of the day. I live in a non-smoking complex, which I was not told until after the papers were signed and the moving truck was on its way with my belongings.” Skye knew her grandma liked to write, but she had only ever shared a few pieces. This felt too personal, like she was reading a diary. Skye debated about putting it back into the book, but the thought of someone else buying the book and finding the writing felt even more invasive. She began yanking the other books out of the boxes and shaking them. About thirty minutes later she had checked the entire collection of books, leaving them haloed around her on the floor and producing twenty-three more writings. Most were on random scraps of paper like bank statements, old accounting sheets, receipts and grocery lists. It was as if inspiration had struck Lesley so forcefully she didn’t have time to grab a notebook. Some of the writings seemed autobiographical, like Skye was sitting on her grandma’s lap hearing about the “good old days.” Others were poems, both serious and funny. Then there were letters addressed to people she didn’t know. One, that included an address, caught Skye’s attention.
“Dear. Mr. Litgow, This letter is to thank you but please read on because it’s also a personal tribute from a “would-be writer.” When I say I would be, I mean I never was good enough to write professionally, but in my soul I was a writer since the day I was born — and I still am. For those who make it, I pray their words will be perfect. I hope you enjoy this novel, though I know it won’t be seen by others. Lesley 33 West Washington Park Square New York, New York
Who was it supposed to be mailed to? There was a novel? Why had she never sent the letter? Maybe she should ask her mom if she’d found any more writings while cleaning? But she felt a buzzing in her head that told her she should keep these to herself, like the malt trips. She also felt some hurt that her grandma, who knew Skye wanted to be a writer, had never shared a full novel. She could have asked questions and learned her tips and tricks. Now it was too late. She stuck the writings in between pages of a copy of A Tale of Two Cities and took it with her out of the study. “I think I’ll read this one,” she told her mom.
The chair of the table where I live my life is a place of joy and sometimes strife. The part of the city she found herself in was surprisingly quiet and calm; she couldn’t hear sirens or car horns honking like in the movies. She followed the GPS’s instructions to a narrow brownstone. Should she really do this, she wondered? What did she hope to find? She took a deep breath and knocked. She wasn’t sure who she expected to open the door, but was still surprised when she saw a tall blonde girl who didn’t look much older than her. “Hello?” the woman asked, with only her head peeking out of the door. “Hi, this is really weird, but I think my grandma either lived here once or knew someone who lived here, and I just wanted to…” she dug her shaking hands into her pockets and tried to collect her thoughts. What was she doing here? Did she think the person who her grandma wrote the letter to would still be here? She should have spent more of the drive planning what she was going to say. “I’m sorry. It’s dumb I came. I just found a few writings and letters and one had this address and I…” She started rambling and walking away. The girl’s eyes widened, and she interrupted Skye’s ramblings. “Oh...” She opened the door fully as an invitation to come in. Skye hesitated but went inside, where she was greeted by dark wood floors and yellowing plaster walls. “Wait here. I’ll be right back!” Everything else looked straight out of a Pinterest board. Plants littered all flat surfaces. The cabinets of the open concept kitchen were bright white and had marble countertops. A pink couch and green chair sat in front of a fireplace that looked new to the house. The girl pointed at the chair. The blonde girl came back into the beautiful but haunted feeling room, carrying a stack of papers. “So when I got here, there was a filing cabinet that the landlord said the previous
owners just left because they didn’t want to move it.” She talked quickly and moved her head a lot. “All of the other cabinets were empty, but the top one had a lock on it. I didn’t find a key anywhere, so I just watched a YouTube video to learn how to open it and when I did this is what I found. I had almost forgotten about them because that was like a year ago. It’s like a full book. Is it by your grandma?” She handed over the papers. The title page was typed and read, “My Time at Timberwood.” The following pages were also typed instead of the scribbled handwriting, but by reading the first few lines, she knew this was her grandma’s work. “This … I … thank you!” “There was also this,” she said as she handed over a magazine clipping. A woman stood in shorts but with skis slung over her shoulder smiling in front of an oldtimey ski lodge. “Visit Timberwood Lodge,” the bold letters commanded. Skye squinted at the woman’s face… even with the poor camera quality, she knew it was Grandma Lesley smiling back at her. “Your grandma must have been really cool. She is a hell of a writer.” The two talked for a while longer. The girl's name was Megan, and she was a sophomore at the college in New York that Skye was accepted to. “I’ve never actually visited the campus,” Skye admitted after talking a while. “Really? It’s only a short walk.” Megan said. “You should go check it out.”
Sometimes life is short, and life is long. We often wish we could do it over. Skye knew that was a smart idea and would help her, but now she was thinking about the possibility of driving up to Timberwood. The possibility of finding more out about her grandma made her heart backflip. She felt like she’d met a whole side of her this week she didn’t know before. She thanked Megan and stepped outside. If she walked right, she’d get back to her car, and she could drive to keep following her grandma, avoiding her conflicting feelings about college. Or she could go check out the college, and if she liked it, admit to her parents that that was her path. The summer before Skye’s senior year, Skye and Lesley both sat at a booth at Steak ‘n Shake. Even though Skye had offered to pick up the shakes and bring them back to her apartment, Lesley had insisted they go out. Her oxygen pack was perched next to her as the two drank their malts discussing Skye’s future. “Take this from your 85-year-old grandma, you don’t want to have any regrets at the end of your life,” she teasingly wagged her boney finger at Skye. “If you want to write professionally, you need to do that. No matter what your parents want.”
Skye shook her head. She knew her grandma was right, but it felt so much easier when she said it than it was going to be. “You wrote a bit grandma? Why did you decide to not pursue it more?” “I liked to write for myself. I never wanted to do it for other people.” Skye took a deep breath and sat down on the stoop of Megan’s apartment. Her grandma had always lived life, and she knew she wouldn’t want Skye dwelling on the past. I’ll do it for her, she thought, getting out her phone and calling her mom. ring.
“Honey! Are you OK? You had us so freaked out,” her mom answered after one
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m actually…” She knew it was now or never. “I’m going to visit the campus of the college I want to go to… in New York. I applied and got in for creative writing. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.” There was silence on the other end. Skye wasn’t sure if it was ten seconds or ten minutes, but she knew she couldn’t breathe until she heard her mom speak again. “Honey, we saw the envelope when it arrived back in March. We just didn’t want to push you on the situation, but we were getting a little worried with it being the summer now and all. It will take a lot more planning to move you there.” Skye felt ridiculous. Of course they’d been able to piece it together. They had always been attentive parents. “Listen. I have to get ready to go, but I’ll be home soon.” “Send us pictures of campus, please.” She put her grandma’s manuscript carefully into the passenger seat of her car. “Thanks for the help, Grandma.”
Thank you to my Grandma Lesley Thomas for your beautiful words. I hope I did you proud by using them in this story.
Ahoy David P. Miller To flee the landlocked summer afternoons of our automobile-encircled Boston block we set ourselves to go a-harbor-cruising. Locals incognito, we queued with tourists, pondered but rejected the standard proffered beers, girded sealegs for the voyage of some few breezy miles. The waves, with luck, were kind to amateurs. The winds were high, my visor cap was threatened. The company was hearty, as we dashed around the decks from port to starboard, starboard to port, in breathless pursuit of the enormous WHALE! We transfixed Leviathan with our wows and over heres, grappled the beast for future anecdotes, pressed its oil to lubricate our photo streams. *** Night falls, and I, daytripping sailor, crash to snooze across my mattress quarterdeck. But ahoy! my day of sail is incomplete. My inner ears’ canals, awash in fluid, stay faithful to their mission of keeping me upright. My brain, tossed in its billows, lists from port to starboard, starboard back to port. Land Ho! it calls from its crow’s-nest. Land Ho! as the synaptic shoreline slowly comes in view. I slumber in the sea’s dogged embrace.
Circles of Return Frances Koziar I don’t know why I’m going back exactly, except that that island used to be a place where you found answers, and I need those. I still don’t really know, and still don’t think it’s a good idea, even as I’m setting the canoe into the water of the lake—it’s a rental, which is wrong too. Wrong like everything that happened. Wrong like the island must be now, after so long. My wife died nearly 20 years ago, when we were 30. My beautiful, bright and optimistic wife. With her around, it had been easier to believe in something. With her around, I had the faith that my elders had once spoken with, that life was a gift and a blessing and a lesson. But who I was then feels like a blip against the rest of my life now. Against how, in the crash that took her life, I lost my ability to work, and was forced into a life of poverty on government disability. Of how now, hope seemed like some distant light shining from the endless parties of the financially privileged, just over that wall bordering our slums. The island was still intact when I was a child. Intact is perhaps a jaded word. Sacred the elders would have said. I only went there once, for my rite into adulthood. I was 12, and nonbinary and gender-fluid even then. We canoed there, a single elder and I. When we neared the island, we stopped speaking. As I climb into my brazenly green canoe now, at the age of 49, I close my eyes for a moment and remember. I remember climbing out of the canoe onto my knees. Remember crawling to the centre of the small island, covered with purple flowers and wild leeks and raw bedrock poking free. Remember praying for the blessing of the Divine in that sacred place, too sacred to stand, too sacred for more than the elder and I. I remember looking back over my shoulder after we had crawled back to the canoe. Remember the feeling of awe within me, that I can’t remember the last time I felt now. The waves around me sound the same as they did back then, lapping at the hull of the canoe, but then I hear a car in the distance, and open my eyes. My vision is blurry with tears, and I only feel surprised—weary, despondent surprise—that such things can still make me cry. I begin to paddle, and without thinking, I begin to sing, as we always did on long trips. The rhythm of my strokes matches the rhythm of the song, but singing makes me keenly aware that I am alone on this lake, in what they now call a park. My voice is not pretty, like me. It is old and broken and lost, but it still sounds. I am wearing a mismatch of ragged garments—some traditionally female, some male—and the bracelets on my wrist jangle slightly with each stroke. I think of the soup kitchens I frequent, and feel foolish to come looking for something that no longer exists. But I think of the shared house that is all I can afford, of never having the privacy to pray
aloud where someone won’t hear me, and I don’t want to go back. It was hard enough getting here. “An island where you ask a god questions?” an outsider had asked, and I remember that question clearly, from those days before. I also remember my final image and nightmare of the island: a line-up of people asking questions of someone claiming to be in contact with the Divine. All standing. All trampling the flowers and the untouched undergrowth as a cheap diversion. The elders are gone too, or I would have sought them out. They probably knew as little as the rest of us, but maybe it would be something. Maybe they could tell me what I’m hanging on for, here at the end of all I knew. But they died before seeing too much of what came of this place, and that, too, is a blessing. Now, things are quieter again, but my people are still gone, still pushed out, still lost to the memories that haunt me. I see the island ahead, and worry stirs in my gut. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see what it has become. The trees are still there, I note, my dark eyes darting back and forth over the tiny shape in the distance. Not cut down, at least. The arrowhead still speckles the water by the shore, where the bedrock rises up. But I don’t see the purple flowers. And of course, I don’t see my people either. No one is here to ask a blessing, no one is in the neighbouring village, long since destroyed by the people who now live in these lands. Two answers come to me as I near the island, as clear as meltwater in springtime, and I finally understand why I have come: I have come seeking memories of my people, memories of faith and hope and goodness, if memories are all I can have. And I have come because I am soon to turn 50: the age at which I would have become a young elder, would have moved into the role and responsibility of caring and teaching the community officially. It is laughable, now. I have no community but those I eat with: the outcasts of a world where whether or not you can work is the only thing that really matters. And I have no answers even if I had others to teach: every year in poverty makes it harder to remember what better means, and harder still to believe in it. I stop thinking before my canoe touches the shore—the way we used to stop speaking. Are they here? I wonder, my voice like the child I was. Could the Divine still be in such a place? I remember that elder, the woman who paddled with me to my blessing of adulthood. I copy her now, in my mind’s eye. I remove my shoes and step barefoot into the cold, ankle deep water. The water cleanses my feet, and yet still, I feel unworthy of this place. I stay low, pull the canoe up a bit from a kneeling position, and begin to crawl. It feels like I am a child, or going back to being one, and the position forces me to keep my head low, in deference. Maybe that was the point; I forget many of the teachings now. Perhaps I am to remember that I am nothing against the forces of the world, and that this world is everything: it is all of us and none of us and the spaces between.
My vision blurs again as I crawl, because it has been so long since I marvelled at nature. It has been so long since I gave thanks. So long since I felt I could. The earth bears the marks of human damage. An old campfire. Brush worn away by the tramp of feet. A piece of tinfoil, and a plastic bag caught on a bush. For a moment, I wonder if someone is here, and if they will see me, a middle-aged person crawling on my knees. I imagine them laughing at me, and me paddling away in hopeless shame. But I pause, take a breath, listen to the wind through the trees above me like the echoes of my people’s voices, and I keep going, not knowing if this is bravery or madness, but knowing that it feels like truth. I reach the centre, where the talisman once stood. It was like a shrine made of sticks and woven circles. It helped to centre the forces of the world on this spot, so that you could centre yourself too. It is not there anymore. I crawl to that spot, dappled in afternoon sunlight reaching through the canopy. The wind blows gently, tenderly, as I put my head to the ground.
Forgive me, I think, though I can’t say what for. For not being enough, maybe. For not believing enough, too. Help me, I wish, needing something, anything, from my world, my people, so long gone. I wish to wear my clothing and speak my language and practice my faith in peace, in a world where no one will laugh at me. In a world where I don’t need to worry anymore. In a world where I could turn fifty and be proud and full of love and pass on my teachings to the young. I straighten back up to sitting. Give me hope, I mouth silently, turning my tearstreaked face up toward the sky. A loon calls in the distance, and a crow looks down on me from the trees. I am not alone, I remember. I close my eyes, and feel the softness of the earth below me, brush my calloused fingers over the fragile moss I kneel on, feel the life in the rocks and the air and the trees above. I don’t know how long I sit there, listening to the sounds of the world I once knew, of a world that is different, and behind financial barriers still, but not gone. For a moment, I push aside my poverty, my disability, the life I never wanted, and I simply feel. When I begin to crawl back to my canoe, I don’t have answers, exactly, but I feel like answers aren’t as necessary as I thought, and somehow that is a comfort. When I am almost back, my knees protesting as I crawl across a patch of bare bedrock, I stop, and blink, and stare, thinking, for a moment, that this is an apparition from my memories. I crawl a couple meters over to it, reach out with broken hands to touch the soft purple petals.
One flower, still here. One flower, like me, in a world that doesn’t remember when things were different. In a world that doesn’t remember when this island was covered in them, and when my people danced and sang freely, and held it as the most sacred of spaces. And as I look at that one flower, I am filled with love and wonder and I smile, truly and deeply, even as I drop my head into my hands and cry, for a broken heart in a broken world.
Forgotten Whimsy Tara Thiel
Digital Print Infused on Aluminum
On Visiting Augusta Hot Springs, Virginia Ryan Youell Flakes peel from the centurial fingers Whose adagio creeks like erosion. The wizened bark, cupping the lane, lingers As praying palms in silent devotion. Verdant vines strangle the outstretched digits, A kudzu rosary idolizing Branches that, when the wind whispers, fidget As the breeze wakens them, vitalizing. The oaks, once, waved jostling carriages Of hypochondriacs and newlyweds Towards cure-all water to toast marriages And heal from the miracle spring’s hotbed. There remains an ornamented footpath That led hundreds to a simmering bath.
Call My Name Cody Reeves I would tell you my name, but it would change by the next time that I told you. See, my name is unique. It has no predetermined amount of letters, it has no specific chronology of sounds and no proper enunciation. Most of you don’t know how to talk; you just know that you can, and you do. Most of you don’t know the mechanics of speech. You don’t know that the back of your tongue snaps off of the rear roof of your mouth to make the ‘C,’ learing a path for you to pronounce the bellowing ‘O’ with your lips as the tip of your tongue taps the front of the roof of your mouth for the ‘D,’ simultaneously changing the pitch in your throat by raising the back of your tongue up, almost to the starting position to make the ‘E,’ even though you do it every day. A name is nothing but a short collection of sounds that represents the substance of the named. My name, unlike most, changes as I progress. Sometimes, my name is Cody. Usually it’s C-CCody, or Uhhc-c-c-cody. Perhaps Mike, or Nick if it’s easier to say at that moment, and the inquisitor is somebody of lesser importance that does not need to know the word on my birth certificate. The way I pronounce my name this time is my real name, to that person at least. I never quite felt like I had a learning disability or was ‘retarded’, as they often called me growing up in a public housing development, but being seen walking into a special room with the therapist every week didn’t convince me, or my classmates otherwise. Being born with a stutter, I am a medical question mark. There is no rhyme or reason for a stutter, nobody knows where it comes from and nobody knows how it is triggered. All I know is that I can never order what I would really like at a restaurant, or tell my parents about my day because of the pending humiliation. Speech therapists, who speak fluently, attempt to pick apart this phenomenon with little success. The only thing that helps is practice, just like any other sport. I would read books aloud, sing along to rap music, and analyze speech patterns of stand-up comedians, practicing each syllable 100 times, then move on to the next. 100 ‘at’s, then one hundred ‘but’s, then 100 ‘Cody’s, all the way to 100 ‘why’s. Why? That’s the disadvantage I was awarded and it is the battle that I lose every day. But failure breeds success...so they tell me. Easy for them to say. Literally. You can say whatever you want when you can say whatever you want. What you do subconsciously is a war for C-C-Cody. I would sit in my room, hours on end and study the movements of the jaw and the tongue, confounded how I could not seem to speak as fluently as I murmured to myself under my breath. I was obsessed with where the tongue would strike inside the mouth to make each particular sound that comprises each word of each sentence of each introduction. In a class of 26 students including the teacher, it only takes 15 seconds to make 25 first impressions, and with a condition that withdraws my status as a regular student, and replaces it with a stigma of being defective. A condition that can not be visibly forewarned, like most disabilities. I seemed sufficient in society until I attempted to communicate. I sit in astonishment as a student flawlessly, effortlessly introduces himself; it’s like watching a great athletic
display when somebody can speak perfectly. My turn to talk was rapidly approaching and the voices of the other students steadily faded out, I was too focused on trying to slow my cyclic heart rate to pay attention. It was my turn. My vision had become blurry and seemed to zoom in and out like I had been too close to an explosion. A silent, but thunderous discharge rattled my own brain from within, giving the sensation of passing out from blood loss as I stood to address the class. “I-I-I-.... M-My name is C-C-C... Reeves. I play ba- ba... football and I like to wrrrrr-wrrrite...”. My name had changed yet again that day... Nobody spelled her name correctly. Her name was Ariana, with one ‘N,’ everybody spelled it with two. Her ‘A’ was soft, like her sensitive emotional entity. Not how everybody else pronounced it, with a hard, aggressive ‘A.’ She’s the girl I had been hopelessly dreaming about all year, and she’s at her locker as I roam through the middle school hall after class. She’s the kind of girl who would give you her seat at the lunchroom so you wouldn’t have to stand alone, despairingly searching for an open table, trying to dodge the piercing glare of 1,000 sets of eyes. She was popular, she could sit anywhere she pleased. She would read the poetry scattered throughout the school bulletin boards and whisper endearments toward the anonymous artist softly past her divine lips. Long brown hair as sleek as China’s finest silks, skin that could sell the most luxurious lotions and complexion of crystal. I loved her as much as I hated my disability. Even more. My heart spoke louder than my brain which was urging me not to make a mockery of myself as I approached her, humble. Against her neighbors closed locker, I leaned, and I tried, oh, I tried to make my speech as charming as my thoughts. I relaxed; I was so calm that I should have known a storm was coming as I formulated the lyric in my mind that would convince her to ignore everything she already thought she knew about me. To her I was Cody. I gazed into her infinity pool eyes so deeply that I touched bottom. I went into her mind and I could see the hope she had for me to be able to break the barrier between classmates and our potential future... I looked at her lips, parted mine, and began to think of everything I had always wanted to tell her. I would finally tell her that she was my sole inspiration to set my alarm each night, because in the morning when the teacher called attendance, I wanted to be there when she answered. “Here!” in her voice was my favorite song, and I got to listen to it for one second every morning. That was enough to get me out of bed. I would tell her that nothing else mattered except the privilege to wake up before her in the morning, run my fingers through her hair, behind her ear, and gently kiss her sleeping lips as she lay safely, comfortably on my chest. I would tell her that even the word ‘her’ sounds more beautiful when she is the subject, and that every poem on the school bulletin board was written around tear droplets on the page on my desk... for her. In that moment, I was normal. Not even normal; I was my own hero. I had overcome my greatest crutch, and I could envision the euphoria that I had given her because of it. Before I knew it, the bell had rung to start the next class. I had been by her locker for almost three minutes, too trapped in my imaginary bliss to realize I had been stuck on the same sentence and never finished it. The last morsel of strength I had remaining was a desperate attempt to retain any dignity that I was clinging on to. “Well... I should probably get going to my next class...” She excused herself with a pitiful inflection and a short, sympathetic chuckle as I silently nodded and let her go... I let her go, and we would never speak again. My name had changed to her, like it had to everyone else. I was still C-C-CCody, the dreamer who tried and failed at even the simplest of tasks. Even still, I would rather be a failure who dreams, than a success who would have been content with mediocrity.
Having a name with a number of ‘C’s in a row is a textbook example of how to become a target of relentless verbal, and physical bullying. With nobody on my side, and the presumption that I would never report to an authoritative figure, I had no defense when my classmates decided to throw me into a trash can and roll me down the hallway. The labeling theory suggests that if a person is constantly branded, they will eventually come to believe that the distinction is true, and develop the very characteristics of the label assigned to them. While my head is submerged in semi-spoiling milk from that morning’s breakfast, and warm ketchup sneaking its way into my shirt collar, it was hard to ignore the symbol of what they perceived me as. There was seldom a day I came home from school with less than a few bruises, cuts, or fat lips, but that’s what I’ve come to expect being named a grotesque, submissive stutterer. Not a man, not a student... a stutterer. I was beginning to surrender hope that I would ever be adequate or have the ability to be successful. I would never have a distinguished career or even a conventional relationship because nobody had the patience to listen to me, and I didn’t have the self-abasement to ask them to. I would eternally be at the mercy of anybody who was socially inclined to me, which was the great majority, if not all people that I had met to this point. It took years of involuntary body hardening before I decided to do something for myself, so I began illegitimate boxing and other martial arts training. The next time there was an upperclassman suffering from a superiority complex waiting for me as I stepped off of the bus, I wasted no time. I remembered what my step-dad had taught me: “grab with the left, swing with the right. Once you’re holding him up, let him drop.” I didn’t have many other options, so I did exactly that. As he went to shove me, I reached between his outstretched arms, grabbed a hold of his name-brand fleece jacket with the grip that turned my knuckles as white as the snow on the ground beside us. I balled my right fist like my fingers were glued to my palm and thrusted at his face. Connecting with his upper teeth, I left a scar on my knuckle, and a dental bill in his mother's mailbox. I continued to swing as I felt the overpowering rage from years of torment blitz out of my heart, into my gritting teeth and into my fist that was creating a drum roll on his fracturing bones. He could no longer see my punches coming, and I almost forgot about the “let him drop” part of my step-dad’s quote. When my vision had cleared, and my mind slowed down to a comprehensible pace, I let his semi-conscious body fall into the snowbank, not realizing the whole right side of the bus got to witness a live boxing match. The driver wasn’t quite as entertained as the students, but she still let me have a two-week vacation from going to class. By the time I reached high school, with more than a few suspensions on my record, the bullying had stopped entirely, and that was an epiphany for me. I was more powerful than I ever had given myself credit for. I had become accustomed to being incompetent, but I wanted to be forceful now. I wanted to be a Marine. The pinnacle of physical perfection and moral, ethical sacrifice. Honor, courage, commitment. Marines had respect, something I had always longed for, and desperately needed to acquire. Still in high school, I had gone to the recruiter to begin my process to joining the Marine Corps, until I was denied because I had too many ‘C’s in my name when I was being interviewed at the processing station. Once again, I had to overcome the everevolving mountain that had grown inside of my own throat. I was ordered to see a speech therapist, but this time I had a greater incentive to cure myself of this disease. As I speak, or even as I write this, what I am saying is not made up of words, but rather individual sounds that make up a longer sound that people then refer to as ‘words’ and ‘sentences’. Words and sentences are man made inventions, the sounds that structure these words
are natural, and those are what I needed to master. There’s 31 possible sounds that can start a word. Whether it be a hard ‘E,’ or a soft ‘e’;the soft ‘e’ happening to be the catalyst sound for a lot of other letters. This mental deconstruction of speech allowed me to trick my brain. For some inconceivable reason, when I sang or rapped, I could have been mistaken for the recording artists themselves, but if I were to speak those same lyrics, you would miss your reservations waiting for me to finish talking. When I attempted to say my name, my jaw locked unless it came after a vowel sound, and I could pronounce words that started with a ‘K’ easier than words with a hard ‘C,’ even though it was pronounced the exact same way. I needed rhythm, and I needed to change the spelling of the words in my own mind to believe that I was attempting a ‘K’ instead of a ‘c.’ If I swallowed just before I had to speak, that would activate the muscles in my throat so that I could force the next syllable out of my mouth before my brain realized that I was talking. To accompany all of these mental deceptions, I had to consciously control the finite movements of my tongue and jaw to produce the right sounds. After months of practice and speech tests, I had gone back to the civilian who told me I was unfit to be a Marine. Armed with my test results, I was granted the opportunity to go to boot camp. “Take the fucking cock out of your mouth, bitch!” A Marine Corps Drill Instructor requests as I didn’t answer his first question to satisfaction. Maybe I had not relinquished my stutter entirely. Even so, I thought it was hilarious, much more creative than the generic “broken record” insults that I had been so used to from high school students. “Everybody get out to the sand pit and get on your fucking faces! Except you, PitterPatter!” There is no shortage of clever ignominy in the Marines. “Electric Tongue is gunna say the Rifleman’s Creed, every time he fucks it up you’re all gunna do 25 burpees now scream ‘Aye, Sir!’” The Drill Instructor directed. “Aye, Sir!” We all confirmed. I still know the Rifleman’s Creed to this day, I had plenty of time to think about it while I bear crawled to and from all of the trees around the squad bay, apologizing to each of them for working so hard to provide me with the oxygen that I was wasting by stuttering. Again and again, I rushed back to my comrades to assume whatever piece of the punishment that I could. Their cammies bestrewn with sharp sand eroding their skin into a raw, shaved steak appearance; sweat turned to tears halfway down their afflicted faces with genuine struggle in their eyes. I had expected retaliation by nightfall, all I’ve ever known is to fight out of the corner I was predestined to be backed into. I quickly felt gratified in the Corps; it was a community of fighters, warriors. All that the Marines cared about was how thick my skin was, and after my childhood, it was. Before long in the cult, my speech impediment wasn’t of any concern. The tough love had been a better remedy for me than the state-mandated coddling from Massachusetts public school faculty, which only led to a harsher communal response. I had even enjoyed the slandering to some degree. I had never believed in euphemistic language, and neither did the Marines. I am and always was a stuttering, socially rejected outcast, so why should I lie to myself and pretend that I’m not, instead of addressing the problem and finding a solution? My story is not about accepting who you are, that’s fine for some, but not for me; to take my situation at face value and use it as an excuse to be substandard. My story is about surpassing your obstructions; putting yourself into an advantageous position regardless of what hindrances are between your circumstances and your objectives. A combat Veteran had said to me: “It’s not where you’re at, it’s what you’re doin’ where you’re at.” To me, this summarized how I still had the courage to go to one of the hardest training camps in the world, indifferent to my crippling impairment, while everybody back home on their self-proclaimed pedestals are yet to consider personal sacrifice into the repertoire of their character. Criticism is not a factor of courage, and tyrannizing the weak does nothing but reverse the status of the significant and the false.
My tough upbringing influenced my compassion for others and quickly led me to the rank of Corporal, and after three years of opposition, I had achieved the Military Occupational Specialty of 1st Degree Black Belt, Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor. The significance of this title was not the belt, nor the fighting ability that it symbolized. Not even that I would be able to use this skill for the remainder of my life... It was that this title meant, for the first time ever, people cared what I had to say. U.S. Marines, who I had respected so immensely growing up, were now standing on the tips of their toes just to hear the tip of my tongue tap the front of the roof of my mouth to make that sound that they needed to hear, no matter how long it took me. This title meant that I had done with disability what most people could not do with all of the advantages in the world. My name had become ‘Sergeant,’ ‘Instructor.’ No matter how many times my name has changed, and will continue to change in time, these names among others make up the entity that is subconsciously seen and felt when you hear the pitter-patter of ‘C’s that always come before the bellowing ‘O.’ Sergeant, a masculine, ferocious leader of war, or a sentimental caretaker for his subordinate Marines. Instructor, a knowledgeable, seasoned fighter and martial artist, or somebody who has suffered remarkably and eager to assist others with his story any way that he can. Cody, a boy born a man, who would venture to surpass impediments that defined his dreams as fantasies; or Uhh-C-C...Cody, a timid, stuttering idealist who lusts of premature partnership. I have more names now. Though they have no predetermined amount of letters, no specific chronology of sound, and no proper enunciation, I know what my name is. So call my name. Whatever name I am to you.
Butterfly Effect Kayla Wagner
Japan in Transit Christina E. Petrides Surgeons’ masks and gloveless hands on bicycles carve fast striding winter crowds that collide at clanking intersections whose lights bleed out green to red. Walkers and riders and drivers stop just short of fringe-jointed gates and bells that block cold pavements from speeding trains. Sliding over oily rails on thick velvet benches, passengers sit against viewing windows or stand plastic-cuffed and ready to break onto chilly platforms and through thronged tunnels to reach the narrow confines of mat-floored apartments and sorely-earned white cotton shikibuton.
Malaika Edward Belfar On the last night of her holiday, Penny Nelson drifted again toward the ocean. Drawing on a cigarette, she settled herself in a plastic chair at the edge of the lawn, beside the wooden steps that led down to the beach. Though elsewhere on the hotel grounds the heat lingered, here the wind that agitated the palm fronds carried a chill, and she had buttoned her sweater to the top. A full moon beamed through a sheer veil of clouds, and its silver light bathed the outriggers moored nearby. Farther off, where the breakers hammered the reef, the ocean was shrouded in darkness and mist. Twenty meters or so to her right, dressed in a heavy white cloth jacket, as if for a winter day that would never arrive here, a knock-kneed security guard in a cricket helmet stood at attention. Penny did not much care for him. The other night he had approached her to deliver a warning. He had seen her earlier, he said, talking to one of the young men who occupied the beach by day, selling wraps and animal carvings and offering rides on glass-bottomed boats. At night, he had hinted, those men became predators, seeking out women from the hotel. That he had meant women like her, or the kind he assumed her to be—middle-aged, unattached, European and, therefore, randy—did not need saying. She wondered how Bobby, her married lover of just over a week, was faring back in America. Poor Bobby. He had spoken the truth that lugubrious night in Lyon, their last together, when, amidst his copious tears, he had said that he loved her. He did—as much as his circumstances and his nature allowed. And even such a brief and stunted love as his was something to be missed keenly when it had gone.
“Buona sera, Signora Giovanna.” “Hello, Juma.” Giovanna, the name of her tour guide in Florence, was but one of the aliases Penny had adopted for sparring with this most importunate of the young beach hawkers. She had told him, too, that she came from that city—a place she wished she would be going home to the next day rather than dirty, dreary Hull. She had not fooled him, though. While she could just about manage a greeting in Italian, Juma, through his interactions with the guests, had acquired some proficiency. Hugging himself and shuffling his feet to keep warm, the young man wore his usual black dungarees and a second-hand navy blue t-shirt that bore on the front the fading likeness of an American pop star who had died of an overdose many years ago. Outlined against the moon and the vast Indian Ocean, he seemed somehow smaller and younger than the Juma of the daylight. At night, a woman could almost pity this wild child of the beach, want to cuddle him. Or go to bed with him. That would be one way to forget Bobby. Idly, Penny wondered what Juma’s going rate was and how one went about broaching the subject.
Far behind her, on the patio, the house band, playing later than usual tonight, had struck up yet another rendition of “Malaika,” that ineffably sad, sweet ballad that always enfolded her in sorrow, though she understood not a word of it. She fiddled absentmindedly with the top button of her sweater. “Why is Mama sitting out here all alone on such a pretty night? Where’s Papa?” “There is no Papa.” The watchman, she saw, was staring at the two of them. Penny scowled at him, and he looked away. “Mama is sad tonight. Mama should come walk on the beach with Juma. She’ll forget all about her troubles. Hakuna matata.” “Don’t talk your rubbish to me, Juma. I’m much too old for that.” She wondered, though: why not? She was thousands of miles from home and never would come this way again. Swaying now, Juma began to sing along with the band in a light, fragile tenor, nothing like his robust speaking voice.
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika. “The boy is singing to his angel, his Malaika. He sings, ‘I would have married you, Angel. But I have no money. What can I do, my love?’” “Sometimes it’s money, sometimes, a wife,” she answered sourly, recalling again the green eyes and soft, soft hands of her married lover who, for a few days, had brought her a lightness and contentment that she had not known in many years. “Maybe that rubbish sounds better in Swahili. Good night, Juma.” Flicking away her spent cigarette, she rose as if to leave, turning her back to him.
Nashindwa na mali sina, we, Ningekuoa Malaika. She felt his song pulling her back and slowly turned around. At the top of the steps, she hesitated. The watchman was eyeing her again. She shot him another glare. “Juma, why can’t you let me be?” But already, she was halfway down the steps.
Albany Samantha Malay
A Jar of Jelly Don Noel Almost broke, I’d arrived in St. Augustine needing work. I’d spent the summer of 1951 zigzagging north to south but generally eastward, aiming to drive my 1931 Model A Ford coupe through 48 states (all there were, then!) before we fetched up in Ithaca to take up studies at Cornell. *** I’d worked my way from California, aiming for a few days’ work here and there that would earn a $100 grubstake to fuel me and the car through another few weeks and states. My first work stop was to thin pears in an Oregon orchard. I easily found the street corner in town where men looking for day work stood in the pre-dawn stillness; farmers came, looked us over, spoke to a few and had the chosen sit in the back of their pickups. I was an oddball in an assemblage of middle-aged men, some nursing hangovers. The second farmer took a chance on me and let me follow the pickup loaded with another half-dozen. It was easy work: The bees had pollinated too many of his huge orchard’s blossoms, and some of the tiny fruit had to be thumbed off. He showed me the art (the men were all veterans) and watched a few minutes to be sure I wasn’t going to overdo, then left me. He let me sleep in a barn, and after three days I was on my way again. My next work, picking cherries in Utah, was close to disaster. This time my fellow workers were women and even children, most of them Mexicans. We climbed into trees with baskets slung around necks, instructed emphatically to pick by the stems. When we took basketfuls to be weighed and recorded, our handiwork was examined carefully: If there were more than a few stemless cherries, we earned half as much per pound. My co-workers, even though twice as fast, were never so penalized; experienced, they never pulled cherries off their stems. I too often did. I couldn’t make my hands pick right—so I almost never had a full-rate basket. After two days, although well short of my target $100, I gave up and moved on. Minnesota was more successful: A pea cannery, most of whose workers were teenagers from the town. The work was easy, mostly monitoring machines and conveyor belts, so there was time to make friends. And bonus: I was invited to bunk in a barracks with a crew of Jamaicans who got up in the dark, breakfasted on eggs kept overnight in a steam table, and were out in the fields early enough to have wagonloads of peapods at the factory when we canners started work. Back in late afternoon, the Jamaicans played cricket with loud gusto. I persuaded an older man to give me lessons in patois, which helped me make a new set of short-term friends. Then on Sunday my factory pals invited me to a lakeside picnic. My strongest
memory is of their envy at my travels. We were less than ten miles from the Iowa border, where I was headed next. “Wow!” several said. “You’re going to Iowa?” None of them, in that long-ago insular era, had ever crossed that border. Somewhere in Nebraska I stumbled into a one-man job unloading a railroad car of hundred-pound sacks of flour, a backbreaking day. Then, emboldened by the ease of finding—and doing—seasonal factory work, I tried at a tomato-and-ketchup cannery when I reached Illinois. What was available turned out to be the very hot work of stoking the coal-fired boilers that ran the place, while my much-older supervisor smoked his pipe. I hardly saw a tomato in three days, but I made my grubstake and moved on. And then my luck ran out. A dock strike on the entire Gulf Coast had rippled through the southern economy; demand for transient labor had evaporated. I soldiered on, offering myself for all manner of jobs and being routinely turned away—trying not to be discouraged, hoping Florida would be different. *** It was not, so far. I invested in a city map and spent an hour trying to memorize it before applying for a taxi job, but they saw through me. I drove to an out-of-town dairy pursuing an advertised milking job, but it was already filled. I would have to tap my reserve: Ten-dollar payments from the Newark Sunday News for articles about my travels, sent each week to my parents’ home in Akron, Ohio. At a pay phone outside a suburban restaurant I put in a collect call, insisting on talking to both parents. Dad wasn’t home yet, so Mom declined the call; the operator let me hear her suggest that I try again in an hour. I went back to the car, opened the trunk for my supplies, and sat on the bumper to make a sandwich from a nearly-empty jar of Skippy peanut butter — and a huge, almost-new jar of store-brand grape jelly. I dropped the jelly. The jar broke neatly, spreading a blob on the pavement that looked salvageable. I reached into the trunk for a plastic bowl and began spooning jelly off the street. I was interrupted by a chorus of giggles. Three young women, hardly older than I but dressed as though homebound from some office job, had seen my catastrophe, and thought my effort to salvage some jelly was hilarious. When I looked up, though, their smiles turned to sympathetic grimaces and expressions of regret. I should explain that I — or at least my Model A — was colorful. I’d painted it bright blue, with its name, The Strugglebuggy, prominent on both doors. I had a simple luggage rack over the roof, its front and rear faces emblazoned with 48 States or Bust! And on the trunk lid I had an outline map of those states, each one painted solid as I reached it. I gave up on the jelly—I couldn’t seem to get much without including road grime—
and explained my travels, with the trunk map as guide. After a pleasant few minutes, they went on their way, and I sat down again on the bumper to see about my sandwich. I’d hardly gotten started when I heard the tap-tap-tap of heels on the sidewalk, and one of the three appeared before me. “Put all that away,” she commanded. “We’re taking you to dinner.” I needed no coaxing. I washed up in the restaurant men’s room and joined them for a glass of wine and the best dinner I’d had since leaving California. They were indeed “office girls” who’d hardly been out of St. Augustine; they were fascinated by, and envious of, my travels. I probably did most of the talking. It was well more than an hour before we parted company and I went back to the outdoor pay phone to call the folks. Dad was home, and we had a long conversation. Had I completed that call earlier, I’d have had difficulty disguising the fact that I was more than a little lonely and depressed. But after that dinner, I was back on top of the world, optimism restored, confident I could make all 48 states and not bust. Dad went out that night and did whatever one did back then to send my newspaper earnings—$80, I think—to the Western Union office in St. Augustine. I slung a hammock in an out-of-the-way corner of some park for a good night’s sleep. In late morning I found the telegraph office, collected my money, and started north to visit a classmate in Birmingham and then wander north along the Eastern Seaboard and the Appalachian states. I found another job somewhere along the way, made Maine number 48, and doubled back to Ithaca in time to start classes. It was one of my best summers in a long life—and dinner with three “office girls” was surely the best night of the whole expedition.
Diving In Mark Steudel
I want to go to Chile and eat grapes. My dreams are haunted by them. Those large, otherworldly ones you want to photograph Seven times and at least twice in black & white. I have enough for a one-way fare To Santiago. I’ll worry about the rest when I get there. I want to insist on speaking sputtering Spanish To frustrated shopkeepers Who know perfect English. I want to wander the streets through Doors mostly forgotten by street lights, Drink myself cheaply into something I’m not, To finally approach la dama at the bar – The one the whole place Has been gazing at from the corners of their eyes – To get points, at least, for my courage. I want to accidentally board The wrong bus Heading God-knows-where into the countryside. Drink dark rich wine and eat meat carved off a stick. (They do that there, don’t they?) I want to dive into a cool but muddy country lake Knowing nothing of what lies beneath, The dangers or pleasures, The beauty of freshwater anemones. I want to lose my passport, lose my wits, Rack my brain for the word “doctor” in Spanish. Lose myself on village roads Where gringos are rare but not the stares That gravitate to gawky white men with backpacks. The world isn’t flat. How the hell’d they figure that Out? I want to cut this cord and float Far, far away, To where unsavory sorts peek from alleyways. I want to awake some morning and find myself Battered and bruised, perhaps, but awake And alive in this world I’ve been dreaming of.
José’s Directions to Jemez Hot Springs, 1994 Mary Senter
I Traveled This Far Because I Love You Zach Murphy
“The Antarctic cold definitely feels a lot different from the cold in Idaho,” Adam
“Sure does,” Rodger said as he flicked the mini-icicles off of his thick mustache. “Once we cross this next glacier wall, we’ll have reached the edge of the earth.” Adam and Rodger trudged on with their overstuffed backpacks through the wintry terrain, looking like a pair of snails with shells full of climbing equipment and survival supplies. “I really think we should turn around,” Adam said. “But we’re almost there,” Rodger said. Rodger pulled out his map. A harsh gust of wind swept it off into the snowy distance. “See!” Adam said. “Even the wind is telling us to go back!” Rodger checked his compass. The red needle was frozen stiff, as if it had given up on doing its one and only job. Rodger tapped the glass face of the compass, but the needle wouldn’t budge. “It’s so cold that the compass broke,” Adam said. “If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.” “It’s not broken,” Rodger said. “It’s just confused.” Adam sighed and rolled his eyes. “How much further do we have to go?” Rodger pointed ahead with the focus of an Olympic athlete. “If we keep moving, we should get to the glacier wall within an hour,” he said. Adam came to a halt and forcefully planted his boots into the snow. “I have something to tell you,” he said. “What?” Rodger asked as he hiked on. “I don’t really think the Earth is flat,” Adam answered. Rodger choked on his own snot from laughing so hard. “You’re kidding,” he said.
“Rodger!” Adam said. “It just doesn’t make sense!” Rodger stopped. “Wait,” he said. “You’re being serious?” “Yes!” Adam answered. “Did you not watch the YouTube documentary I sent you?” Rodger asked. “No one ever actually watches videos that people send them,” Adam said. “Especially when they’re two-hours-long.” “Then why did you decide to come?” Rodger asked. Adam took a deep breath. “I thought it would be a good bonding experience.” Rodger squints. “A bonding experience?” “I just feel like we’ve been drifting apart from each other the past few years,” Adam said. “Like, there’s this fracture growing between us.” Rodger took a seat in the snow. “I’ve always wanted to accomplish something amazing before I turn 30,” he said. “You know, to prove that there’s something special about me.” “Please don’t go all Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront on me,” Adam said. “It’s true,” Rodger said. “I feel like my life has been disappointment after disappointment.” “You’ve been my best and only friend for almost my whole life,” Adam said. “That’s a pretty awesome accomplishment.” said.
Rodger entered a deep stare. “I’d shed a tear right now but it might freeze,” he
Adam smiled. “Let’s go,” he said as he held his hand out to Rodger. “Let’s get to that glacier wall.” wall!”
Rodger grabbed Adam’s hand and popped up from the ground. “To the glacier Adam dusted the snow off of his coat. “After that, I’m not going any further.” “There is no further,” Rodger answered. Adam took another deep breath as they traveled on. ***
After scaling the glacier wall, Rodger and Adam pulled themselves to the top of the summit and gazed ahead. The sun’s faded rays shone a gentle glisten across miles and miles of frozen tundra. Rodger dropped to his knees. “It’s not the edge of the Earth,” he said. “But it sure is a beautiful view,” Adam said as he placed his hand on Rodger’s shoulder.
Fuck Laura Ingalls Ryan Youell At 5 I began to hate my mother Exiling me deep in a little house In the big backwoods of Appalachia. She woke early daily to cultivate Love of the land. She ploughed And the deeper she dug the graver She entrenched my resentment Like my friend whose Pentecostal Prayer circles, revival tents, and tongues Translated into deafening disbelief. Those invented tales she shared, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Harm, Anne of Green Fables, Charlotte's Web of Lies, Did not portend or portray poverty Stalking the fields—fields that sprung Animosity for anyone bent like me. I feared staying, fading grey, warped, Like our teetering barn barely standing Hollow guard at the dusty crossroad. Not until the shadow of five years Passed from that rippling blue valley Did my world pivot. She called late For her, early for me, to again discuss my father’s lack of opportunity— Interjecting, “Why not just relocate? Anywhere,” she replied with confidence, “I’ve always thought myself like you, Able to set down roots with ease, But he won’t entertain the thought.” Listening, I finally saw her Varnishing the world as moving While staying simultaneously still.
Letter to the Bougainvillea on my Terrace Satvik Gupta Why you stood out to me in a plethora of plants, I may never know. Perhaps it was your coy look, or the fact that you chose to hide behind a tall hibiscus shrub, or maybe because you braved the initial inhibition and offered me a magenta flower. One magenta flower, singular, because that was all you had - a lonesome flower, and you offered it to me. The roses behind you smirked and maybe labelled you a fool. Roses are cynical; what do they know? But I was so moved by your selflessness that I decided to take you home with me. Home that was hundreds of miles away in the orth. The caretakers at the nursery advised against it. You wouldn't survive the infamous NorthIndian winter, they said. But I had decided; we had decided. We flew across the country, spanning geographies, religions, and even climates. And here it was, home. When you met my father for the first time, he too expressed disappointment. He called us a whimsical disaster. Perhaps that was all we were. Destined to be doomed, star crossed lovers; if we were bound to be a tragedy, then it had to be Shakespearean. We ventured up on the terrace and I prepared a cement pot for your coronation. It was 15 inches in diameter. Once the earthly rituals were dealt with, I counted your leaves. 17. 17 frail leaves and one stubborn flower. I can vividly recall the way you beamed at me. The contagious grin had etched across my face as well. And then you swayed with the beat of the wind, and abandoning propriety, I did too. We danced in unison with arms reaching out to the pale blue sky. We were intoxicated, and so was the wind. It lost control, and you, inebriated with joy, were perhaps a little too careless. Your crown jewel of magenta fell and we stared at it in denial. The wind came to a halt and whispered apologies. I sat by your side and wished to bear the weight of your monumental grief. We held hands, you and I, and that miscreant wind, and bowed our heads in mourning. The lonesome flower had drowned in the delight of dancing; a bacchanalian end, I suppose. Your loss brought us closer. Your grief subsided as I began to share stories with you. You already knew about the sun and the moon, and their comings and goings; I taught you about the constellations. Your eyes would widen with wonder as stars turned into familiar shapes. Orion was your favourite. I recited to you the poems of Rabindranath Tagore and you became more hopeful. John Donne's metaphysical conceits made you more romantic. And Pablo Neruda made you yearn for something inexplicable. Eventually, you learnt to bloom and in over a month you wrapped yourself in a cloak of magenta. It was September and you had taken it upon yourself to bloom. I was overwhelmed by your defiance. The impending winter was going to be formidable but not frightening. You rose against the dropping temperatures. And from the depths of your resilience, you would squeeze out a new flower every day. But of course, as is told by a multitude of artists, beauty and transience are forever intertwined.
December arrived and brought with it icy winds. The old Himalayas had awakened from their seasonal siesta. We shuddered together, you and I. The sun, which used to be ubiquitous, suddenly became scarce. It shied away, like an ex-lover. Your leaves succumbed to the wails of winter. And soon you were left bare, naked, and presumed dead. For months you were bereft of leaves and laughter. I was asked to bring someone else in your stead, someone who could easily acclimatise. Heedless to their pessimistic persuasion, I paid you regular visits under the nonchalant gaze of a distant sun. I knew that poetry would resuscitate you. Instead of giving in to grief, I recited poetry to you as tirelessly as Orpheus had sung for his departed Eurydice. So I showered upon you decades and centuries worth of love, longing, despair, and rapture entrapped within the words of poets, who had settled for nothing less noble than immortality itself. You, along with the discordant wind, and the indifferent sun listened in silence as poetry poured into your being. At night, the Greek hunter Orion would offer you his magnificent bow, in return for something as inexpensive and as prodigal as a simple smile. And you did smile. February faded and the miracle of March materialised. You whispered to me after the longest time. You traced the silhouette of a bear, a lion, and a scorpion in the night sky as a watchful hunter flexed his bow in sheer ecstasy. Laughter and leaves, aided by the gentle hand of spring, found their way back to you. Ophelia, Desdemona, and Cordelia taught you how to love and pay no spare thought to what it may entail. In the middle of April, you were twice as green as you were when we had met. And on one hopeful morning, you offered me a magenta flower, just as you had so many months ago. Nietzsche was right about the theory of eternal return after all. By the end of May, you were big enough to leap over the parapet wall. And in time, the monsoon sailed across the Bay of Bengal and soared through the peninsula, soaking jungles and cities alike. Drenching the fathomless history of Delhi and the timeless architecture of Chandigarh in its wake, an exhausted monsoon sat at the feet of the ancient Himalayas. July and August were accompanied by a symphony of unrelenting rains. Each shower was followed with the youthfulness of life. Young, soggy leaves were left in your care. And what can I say about your flowers except this: there was not enough magenta in the world to satiate you. It is December now as I write you this letter. Life and laughter are a thing of the past. You are again mistaken for dead. But this time the despair of your death is accompanied by a hope of resurrection. The other day my father looked at you and said, “He'll be fine come spring. He's a survivor.” I have described more than a year in this letter so that when spring arrives, and you rouse from your slumber, shaking your invincible locks, just as England had in the words of Milton, I can narrate to you a tale of infinite hope and unending resilience. Until then, I shall await your return.
A Song of Winter Roses Sara O'Connor
The House Plant Mark Steudel Something starts in this life. Something grows, something turns its face towards the sun. And yet, there's more to it than that. Outside that same sun is dragging its hand over the earth as if through sand, and if we head west we just might catch it. Let's quit our jobs. Today. This very instant. There's no reason to be unhappy when there are so many other things that we might be. A road cuts through the middle of this country, offering to take us places we've never been. Simply you, a change of clothes, and that house plant you keep insisting isn't dead. Everything else on Craigslist. Somewhere in the dustiest part of the panhandle, a motel stands steady in the wind, still propping rabbit ears atop its TVs. Even if that's as far as we get, eating boxed diner food and watching old reruns on a sagging mattress, it will be worth it. Let's drive off today singing all our songs of tomorrow, and consider it no loss if the rest of our opus remains unfinished.
Final Station of the Cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher Nicholas Karavatos
Stir Joseph Lezza James Bond ruined the martini. That is an unequivocal fact. And, he did so with three words: “Shaken, not stirred.” That iconic line has led to the bastardization of what was once a dignified drink. Now, with very few exceptions, and I emphasize very, a martini should absolutely always be stirred. Sure, it might not be as showy as a bartender twirling a shaker around on the tip of his finger like a Harlem Globetrotter before chucking it over his shoulder from behind and catching it with the other hand. But, when did slinging drinks become such a production? I’ve always found that the more theatrical a bartender is, the less practiced they are in the actual art of mixology. The golden rule when mixing a cocktail is as follows: only drinks that contain citrus or egg must be shaken. See, if you were mixing a screwdriver, the act of shaking allows for the vodka to penetrate the citrus, allowing the sufficient intermingling of the two ingredients. A martini, however, contains only spirits and, thus, should be stirred so as not to allow the ice in the shaker to soften the drink by diluting it. Not only does shaking diminish the taste of the drink, but it also harms the texture. A martini should be smooth and velvety; that’s why it’s served up in its own distinguishable glass, so that the body of the beverage can be displayed and admired. By stirring the martini you’re not only facilitating the coalesence of the spirits, you’re also carefully preserving its authenticity. By tossing the mixture in with a bunch of ice and violently shaking it, you’re sinfully aerating the drink, and the end result is fizzy, frothy, unpalatable swill. Now, if you’re a martini drinker that’s worth your salt, you will already know that the proper martini is made with gin and not vodka. Gin, with its fragrant aroma, is the perfect complement to the vermouth. However, if one insists on ordering a vodka martini, they’d be wise to instruct the bartender to use as little vermouth as possible; preferably none, in fact. You see, vodka is a rather toneless spirit and, because of this, too much vermouth will wind up overpowering the drink, leaving you with a slightly saccharine cocktail devoid of the delicious bite that the sophisticated connoisseur demands. With every rule, though, comes the inevitable exception. Though time has led to an endless list of variations on the drink involving dessert liqueurs and all manner of tropical fruits, I won’t dare to delve into that list of liquid travesties. No, the only deviation any developed palate should even consider is, of course, the Vesper. Not the Vesper martini, mind you. Just, the Vesper. This particular concoction, coincidentally named after a Bond girl, combines both vodka and gin along with a splash of Kina Lillet, a French aperitif wine. Since the Lillet is a blend that, in and of itself, contains wine, citrus liqueurs and sugar, you could argue that the inclusion of citrus would beg that this drink be shaken and not stirred. And, in this situation, it would technically be allowable. This now brings us to the topic of garnishes. Something that has gotten quite out of hand, if I may say. From blue cheese and pimento-stuffed olives to thyme and sage leaves, the garnish station in most of today’s lounges has begun to resemble the salad bar at a Ruby Tuesday. In reality, there are only three suitable options: a single cocktail onion (for the Gibson), a lemon twist, or the traditional green olive. When it comes to the
olive, it should be a singular, green Sicilian-style olive. On occasion, two olives are admissible but anything more than that is, frankly, offensive. It is imperative that the olive be placed in the glass prior to pouring in the cocktail mixture to allow for the proper infusion of flavors from the very start. If ever a bartender should offer you a martini with a skewered olive laid across the rim of the glass, it is well within reason to grasp it firmly and toss the drink in the dizzard's face. But, we’ve gotten off topic. To answer your initial question, Officer, no, I do not know why you’ve pulled me over….
Dolabela Engineer Guilherme Bergamini
Rapa Nui (Easter island) Karen Poppy Caves hold and drip secrets, In pitch and damp, of many ways civilization Can contain and cannibalize its pale young. A child, red-haired, virginal, and female Never slaughtered, thrust from these cliffs To crater lake below. Story apocryphal Of what we sacrifice, slice from this earth Or force into free fall and destruction. What we bring down: flowering tree felled, Bodies buried to neck and chin, salted and pecked By lichen. Stone-blind eyes staring out to sea. Three volcanoes now burned to extinction, once embryonic. Born with flames leaping, igniting against red throat of sky. Still rising up, openings in our planet that cradle life, outlast the conquerors.
Naples Nelson Lowhim
Lilith Maria Bond-Lamberty some sins are a necessity. some sins, like the feeling of your body pressed against mine, are a temptation too sweet and too dangerous to be resisted. i could not resist this if i tried, these little things that make up our divine passion: the way we sneak off into dark corners at parties or how your devil-red lipstick looks smudged across my neck. the apple does not fall far from the tree and i have not yet fallen far from grace just enough to taste you, darling, my forbidden fruit my heavenly lucifer.
Kitchen Table Matthew Downing Alexa cranked up the heat; she’d been sitting in her idling Prius, blocking the crosswalk in front of Walmart, for 15 minutes. A whooshing wind swirled fat snow droplets around the shivering, red faces of three sniveling kids out shopping with their mom. He’s only late on the days I pick him up, Alexa thought. Ungrateful patients on her afternoon shift at Loyola Medical had left her feeling like she could slug the next person that called her sweetheart. She was regretting telling her father she’d work extra shifts to pay for an apartment during grad school. Tom had already said he’d cover tuition, and she was sure he’d have covered rent too. An impatient shopper crept up to her bumper and laid on their horn. “Drive around me, you ass,” Alexa shouted. Smirking, she scrolled through her favorite witch personalities on TikTok. One self-proclaimed witch gave a tutorial on how to grow an extra ear out of your hip. Alexa shook her head, bouncing her black, braided hair against her stained nursing uniform. “These people need professional help,” she snorted. The passenger door opened, and Derrick collapsed onto the seat next to her; he looked like he’d barely survived a day in the trenches on the Western Front. Even exhausted, his cherubic face and hazel eyes made Alexa smile. Derrick heard the end of the TikTok video and groaned. “This shit again; I promise you she is trying to sell you something. Culture is truly dead, babe. Unless we want to discuss the latest Marvel movie, all we have left in this broken society is buying the latest influencer’s bullshit. Then, once little Johnny buys, he can share it on social media for all his friends to see.” Too embarrassed to admit she liked Marvel movies, Alexa ignored her boyfriend’s rant. She’d already tossed her Starbucks cup onto a snowbank to avoid another lecture on corporate coffee consumerism. Instead, she tried to steer the inevitable fight onto her turf. “If they’re going to make you stay late, the least you could do is text me.” mirror.
Derrick ripped off his face mask and hung it over Alexa’s mask on the rearview
“You won’t believe my day, babe Jake keeps making me stay late to scrub the rotisserie clean. I keep reminding him I had back surgery six months ago. Still, heaven forbid employee-of-the-century Riley has to do manual labor.” The car slid across the icy parking lot as Alexa stuck her head out the window to try to see the turning lane through the blizzard. “I’m serious, babe,” Derrick continued. “It really is—” “The hardest job you’ve ever had,” Alexa finished for him. Derrick had been working at Walmart for a month, and he never let a day go by without complaining about it. He’d been fired from his marketing job at the start of the pandemic, and he was too stubborn to let Alexa’s father loan him money until he could find another job in his field. “You know how many of those mouth-breathing assholes had their masks around their chins today? I mean, how does it make sense for me to die so Ricky Bobby can get a half-pound of salami? If I’m essential, why don’t I get an hourly hazard pay?” Parallel parking on the curb in front of Derrick’s dilapidated apartment complex, Alexa made another attempt at picking a fight. She knew recognizing her bad moods wasn’t Derrick’s strong suit, but she needed to let out her day’s pent-up steam. “Mmmhmm. My day was fine; thanks for asking me, babe,” she murmured sarcastically . Derrick leaned forward with a mocking grin. “How was your day, my queen?” Alexa felt her neck relax as he brushed his finger over her collarbone. She rested her head on his broad shoulder. “It was whatever, I just wanted you to ask,” she sighed. At 22, there were advantages to dating a man ten years her senior. She’d met Derrick at a party, where he’d been her friend’s weed hookup. He wasn’t financially stable, and his ADHD gave people the impression he lacked maturity, but he had the relationship wisdom of a man who’d dated countless men and women in their twenties. “What else can I do for you, love?” he asked, more genuinely this time. “I thought I’d make that salmon you have in the freezer for dinner; then, maybe we can watch a Netflix movie?” Alexa suggested. Showering Alexa in kisses, Derrick fervently agreed. They both knew watching a movie meant Derrick was guaranteed sex. Alexa wasn’t in the mood, but she could fake a fast finish with better vocals than a soprano at an opera if it meant Derrick would cuddle
with her for the rest of the night. Rushing out of the car, they sprinted through the heavy snow and into the complex’s lobby. Derrick stopped in front of his rusted mail slot, then shuffled through his bills as they made their way up to his fifth-floor apartment. “Wi-Fi, electric, water, and another hospital bill,” he said. “I’m about to be broke as Fyre Festival.” Already stripping as he opened the apartment’s front door, Derrick started his after-work routine by jogging straight toward the shower. Alexa entered the dark apartment, which was covered in a layer of dust that made her eyes itch no matter how many times she tried to vacuum. It was a cramped, single-bedroom apartment with a small living room and kitchen that Derrick had furnished with junk he’d found dumpster diving. Two steps inside, Alexa turned on the kitchen light and froze. “D-Derrick,” she called, her voice cracking. “Derrick, what the hell is this?” “What the hell is what?” Derrick sprinted out of the bathroom, wearing only a red towel. “What the—” He followed Alexa’s stunned gaze to the wobbly kitchen table, where a pyramid of $100 bills was stacked so high it grazed the ceiling fan. “Holy shit!” Dropping his towel, Derrick rushed over to the table and started jumping up and down like a kid who’d won a carnival game’s top prize. “Are you seeing this right now? There has to be over a 100k here.” “Don’t touch it!” Alexa cried. The shock had frightened her so badly she was struggling to catch her breath. Giggleing like a hyena, Derrick skipped back over to Alexa and tried to dance with her. She pushed him away. “It’s a miracle, a miracle, I say,” Derrick cried to the heavens. “I … Do you not know where this came from? It’s not from one of your dealer friends?” Derrick scratched his eyebrow.
“Yeah, my weed connection, Erik, the college RA, has mountains of cash he likes to store at my place.” “Well, I don’t know,” Alexa replied. “This is crazy.” “Crazy awesome,” retorted Derrick. “Think of all I can do with this money: no more medical debt, no more slumlords who won’t fix the washing machine, no more scrubbing the rotisserie!” He was vibrating with a manic energy that reminded Alexa of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Alexa felt infected by his enthusiasm: she could buy her own Peloton instead of using the family one, take a gap year in Paris, or upgrade her entire wardrobe. But her moment of elation was deflated when Derrick started counting the stacks of cash. He stood on the table and lifted a panel in the kitchen ceiling, stashing a rubber-banded handful of money in the ceiling each time he counted up to $5,000. “We’ll keep this shit hidden and spend a chunk at a time,” he said. Derrick’s naïve joy jolted Alexa to her senses. Only two months ago, he’d tried to buy a quarantine puppy after waking up with a runny nose. How could she trust him to handle something this delicate? “Can you please put some clothes on? Then we can talk about this,” she gently suggested. He looked at her like she’d taken his favorite Xbox game and cracked it over her knee. She knew he sensed a trap, but he reluctantly agreed. Waiting, Alexa held her breath until Derrick returned in boxers and a torn, white tee shirt. “Listen,” she cautiously began, “for all we know, this could be mafia money. Maybe, someone hired a hitman and dropped the cash in the wrong spot. We have to call the police and turn this in. It’s the law.” Derrick squinted at her like she was a deadly bacterium he’d seen for the first time under a microscope. “You sound ridiculous,” he vehemently spat. He didn’t yell, but the disdain in his tone brought Alexa to a darker place than any fight they’d ever had. Her stomach dropped like she was riding a rollercoaster at Six Flags; she could taste his anger like it was a toxic gas leaking out of his pores. “You want me to give this money to the pigs?” he asked. “This is some typical rich girl bullshit. You have no idea what this money would do to change my life. This isn’t your money; it showed up at my apartment, understood?” Alexa thought he was painfully unfair. Of course, it was a lot of money, but no money was worth risking their lives. She could feel the hot sting of tears ready to burst out of her eyes and down her cheeks, but she fought to hold them back. No matter how
scared she felt, she couldn’t show emotion: Derrick needed to see she was making a logical argument about what was best for both of them. She wasn’t sure what the law was, but she’d seen enough shows about money laundering to know it was too much to spend safely. “Okay, let’s say no one is looking for it, and you could get away with keeping the money. How are you going to spend all of this without the IRS finding out you have a bunch of untaxed cash? It’s not like you can put any of this in a bank.” One step ahead of her, Derrick pulled out his phone. “What are you doing?” “Looking up how much I can deposit before the IRS is alerted.” Alexa lunged forward, trying to knock the phone out of Derrick’s hand. He grabbed her wrist and started to twist until it hurt. crime.”
“Derrick, stop it! You can’t look that up on your phone; that’ll leave a record of the
Shoving Alexa back, Derrick let go of her red wrist. He had a crazed look in his eye like a boar hunting a rattlesnake. “You can’t leave a record of the crime,” he repeated, mocking Alexa’s high, panicked voice. “Don’t mess with me on this, you understand? This is about survival.” He flipped her off as he continued to type his question into Google. “It isn’t like Siri isn’t already reporting everything we say to the highest bidder,” he added. “You go sit on the couch while I think up a plan.” For the first time in her two-year relationship, Alexa felt unsafe. Still, she loved Derrick, she knew Derrick, and she wasn’t about to let him make such a huge mistake. Derrick turned his back on her and resumed counting his new fortune. He kissed each stack before he tossed it into the ceiling. “Talk about the American Dream,” he shouted, maniacally laughing as he swayed back and forth on a wobbly chair. Alexa slowly crept back toward the front door, pulling her phone out to call the police. If she told them it was Derrick’s idea to report it, there was no way they’d arrest him; he’d probably get a reward for being such a Good Samaritan. Her eyes still on Derrick. She reached for the doorknob, but her arm accidentally bumped the switch for the ceiling fan. The fan’s gust of wind blew a money tornado across the kitchen floor. “Where are you going?” Derrick shouted, turning around as Alexa stumbled against the front door.
Tripping over her nervous feet, half of her body fell out onto the complex’s stairs before Derrick dragged her back into the apartment. She tried to scream, but he stuffed a wad of cash down her throat. Shutting the door with his elbow, he held her down with his knees. “I can’t go back to Walmart,” he tried to explain, tears and sweat rolling off his face and into Alexa’s eyes. He wrapped his hands around her throat and started to squeeze. Alexa tried to kick free, but he was too strong. She wanted to take it back, tried to promise she wouldn’t say a word to anyone, but she couldn’t speak. Still, even as her vision started to fade, she believed he’d stop. The money filled the air like the snow pelting the kids in the parking lot. “I’m sorry, so sorry,” Derrick whispered. He squeezed harder and harder until Alexa moved no more. ***
r/FindingDerrickEilis Pinned by Moderator: Posted by u/AlexaJustice2021 This Reddit is dedicated to finding Alexa Carter’s suspected murderer, Derrick Eilis. Here is what we know so far: on January 12th, 2021, the day Alexa’s father, Thomas Carter, reported her missing, and three days after her last known sighting, police reported their first big break in the ongoing investigation. Upon his second search of the apartment being rented by Derrick Eilis, Alexa’s boyfriend, a crooked ceiling panel caught Officer Allen Meadow’s attention. Movement of the panel caused the collapse of a deceased female body. Though the corpse’s face was too disfigured for the Carter family to identify, dental records were a match for Alexa Carter. According to the Chicago Police Department (abbreviated CPD in posts below), Derrick Eilis continues to be missing to this day. Several Reddit detectives have reported sightings of Derrick in the jungles of Costa Rica, but CPD has refused to comment on these reports. Please, do not use this thread to speculate on a motive for Derrick Eilis’ actions or to spread ongoing conspiracy theories regarding Thomas Carter and the rest of the Carter family. In honor of Alexa’s memory, we encourage you all to continue to post any updates on Derrick’s location. Together, we will find Derrick Eilis and receive justice for Alexa.
By the Beach in Vietnam in November 2019 Stuti Pachisia
I am not yet twenty three. By the sea, the water turns In expected ways, in unexpected colors. My mother is rooted to the sand, Predicting which wave will foam by her feet. She is never right; she laughs each time. There is rain. This is not a day for the beach, But we planned today long before we knew All that would come. My father hates the rain, insisting we move. I put an umbrella over us, and rest my head On his shoulder. For a few weeks now, we have barely spoken, He is confused: he remembers me Much younger. We have slowly been quieter, our conversations Growing awkward limbs in all directions: Spiders, webbing in rooms whose walls we cannot identify. I watch the sea turn green and white and rising. I look for dragons of curling breath, white tails And drawn claws. We are in perpetual battle. The dragon recedes and resurfaces. I imagine a younger Me, the Version who fought, scratching, wrestling
Out of my father's arms, into the water. He never could watch. I wonder if this is what my father Remembers, whether the prediction A stranger once made, that we Are at Great Risk of the ocean Washes over his mind before the ocean. Whether he Thinks of my younger self, uncontrollable, slipping like A lemon drop sunset, disappearing into water. I hold his hand quietly. We avoid conversation about the Minor cataclysms that the sea augers, The foaming in the ebb and flow, the shallow sleet That follows us as we go. My grip tightens. I forget my age often. I say I am twenty three, As if by anachronism, a year forward, This is exactly how things will be.
Transfer Jim Ross
Wedding Crashers Kayla Branstetter We walked slowly, admiring the faces staring back at us. They were images of youth, age, passion, devotion, beauty, and wisdom. As if for a moment, we had somehow come to know them. The streets were alive with a mixture of faiths, languages, and people. Visitors who had traveled thousands of miles, like us, to be in Jerusalem. Each time we stepped, we entered deeper into the ancient sun, we walked around—a blended mixture of spices, perfume, and hookah in the air—and liked it more and more. All along the streets, artisans advertised their products. As I glanced inside, I believed the ancients continued to practice their crafts. As we devoured pizza at the Armenian restaurant, we observed people walking the narrow streets--where Jesus might have carried the cross. The afternoon sun changed the streets to gold, sienna, umber. In places, the rugged stone exposed a long and tumultuous past. Exhausted from the afternoon’s outing, I wanted to rest, so I opened the glass sliding doors from our hotel room and sat on a chair overlooking the hotel courtyard. It was late afternoon and the sun strived its last burst of energy before fading into the evening. I rested my hand on my stomach and smiled. There was a breath of silence before I heard voices coming from the courtyard. It was as if the voices suddenly lifted the courtyard from stillness and gave it a soul. Everything seemed in flawless focus. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. My heart pounded. I refused to move a muscle, hoping to blend in as the uninvited guest. I sat quietly, fascinated by the perfect moment. An ancient breeze entered the stage and all the leaves fluttered like clapping hands. Even now I can feel the slight breeze grazing against my arms as I observed the individuals below. White chairs stood in perfect rows and in the distance, a wedding canopy, a chuppah I later discovered, perched in the distance. The faint smell of something cooking directed my attention to the edge of the courtyard. Individuals dressed in crisp white chef’s attire prepared the meal. I watched the courtyard fill with guests arriving for what appeared to be a wedding. Shortly after, the ceremony began. The groom, chatan, along with his parents, walked to the chuppah followed by the bride, kallah, and her parents. I stole a glance at her vibrant white dress--the wedding was coming together wonderfully. The courtyard was grand--a symbol of life, commitment, and love. Twilight arrived making the lights twinkle and illuminate the ceremony. The kallah’s path to the chuppah felt like a familiar friend--my own wedding. I walked slowly down the church’s aisle staring at my soon-to-be husband. Everything seemed in perfect focus. My dad kissed my forehead as I handed my matron-of-honor my fuchsia Calla Lily bouquet. Locked eyes with my groom as he nervously caressed my hands. A breath of quiet before the rabbi announced, “let’s pray.”
The kallah arrived to her chatan--later circling him seven times--standing on his right side. I researched the customs for a Jewish wedding and discovered her actions were a symbolic action to God building the world in seven days and a feeling of wholeness. From the balcony, I couldn’t hear, nor could I understand the language, but like my own wedding, a form of prayer or blessing appeared to take place. We were mesmerized by the ceremony. Our eyes followed the kallah and chatan when we noticed two cups. From the distance of our balcony, I struggled to hear the rabbi speak but, when he began, I immediately perked. I listened to him as he spoke an ancient language--I couldn’t understand the words but I felt the holiness of the meaning. After his blessing, the couple drank from the cup. I admired the beauty of this scene. I was fascinated, too, by the language and the custom. In my fascination, I discovered the cups housed wine, and wine is precious in Jewish tradition for it symbolizes joy--an association with kiddush, the sanctification prayer. A Jewish marriage, kiddushin, is the sanctification of a man and woman to each other. I smiled at my husband and I remained silent when the chatan turned toward the kallah. There was a breath of quiet before I heard the chatan speak. Based off my research, he slid a simple gold ring on his kallah. In a traditional Jewish wedding, the chatan declares to the kallah, “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” Unlike my own wedding, where my husband placed my wedding band on my left ring finger, the chatan placed the ring on the kallah’s right forefinger and the couple was fully married. A glass was placed on the floor, and the chatan shattered it with his foot. It was hard to imagine what the future would bring for us--the newly married couple, and my husband and I expecting our first child. We waited until the newly married couple disappeared into the hotel, the yichud room, before we returned to our room. I learned that beauty and life exist where I least expect it—in this case, that beauty rests in the memory of a Jewish wedding. A short moment later, we heard music playing from the courtyard. I slightly pushed back the curtain and stared down, the couple entered for a mitzvah, a celebration of joy. I walked away from the window taking this memory with me, as if in the short time I had somehow come to know this newly married couple.
Mountain Hare, Saddleworth Moor Simon Zonenblick Where the moor is cleft Into a gulleyed curve I see you spring Emerge electric-nerved From a corridor of cottongrass Fur white as the chalky clouds Fat in this February sky You dip and flip mid-leap A bending quaver Tumbling of jumps Through humps of heather draped In snow and crowberry, Thick, rain-gulping mosses Cobbling the clough Gorse golden as a spiky sun Svelte frost-wanderer Rippling through fallen leaves Your winter pelt looks soft as swallows' down As you forage through the frigid vista Of the owl's eyeline The hungry heartlands of the hawk Misted sleetscape, winter-stitched in scrawls Of brittle branches, reed and rock. You dart at angles, Waxy-eyed Stop to sniff an air Which stinks of danger Pause as still as a stopped clock Lurch into undergrowth And your coat of milkwhite mint Melts into the moor.
La Passeggiata John Muro Daylight drawing down And a meager light lingers Enticing the curious Out into a confluence Of sun and shadow – Older men inclined To reverie humming To themselves and Women moving from Behind the solitude Of windows licked By early evening sun To take in the recurring Dream that forms near Dusk when summer air Cools and bestows a Blessing to each sense: The sputtering gurgle Of fountains; the scent Of cypress, cedar and Thyme; the faint song Of a wingless thrush; And the late spooling Of clouds slowly Giving way to the Purpling of air and Bronze rivets of stars Boarding up the sky.
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