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OXFORD MAGAZINE

ISSUE 41

FALL 2018

“Train He Was On In Manhattan,” Rebecca Pyle


Table of Contents Dick Bentley ¨¨ Health Care ..................................................................................................... 3 Alison Cundiff ¨¨ Dear Baby ..................................................................................................... 5 Colin Dodds ¨¨ Late Train ......................................................................................................... 6 Taylor Feld ¨¨ Sad Stuff............................................................................................................. 7 Ken Haas ¨¨ Einstein ............................................................................................................... 12 Ken Haas ¨¨ The Downlookers ............................................................................................... 13 Matt Nagin ¨¨ End of Romance .............................................................................................. 14 Eva-Marie Sher ¨¨ Beans ........................................................................................................ 15 Kathy West ¨¨ Say Something ................................................................................................ 16 Brandyce Ingram ¨¨ Time Well Wasted ............................................................................... 19 Brandyce Ingram ¨¨ Dating Like We Don’t Care ................................................................ 19 Ken Tomaro ¨¨ Fifty Percent Cotton ..................................................................................... 21 Rebecca Pyle ¨¨ Beauty of Mid-Century Moderns ............................................................... 22 Levi Andelou ¨¨ Selection from State of the Wards ............................................................ 25 C. E. Cardiff ¨¨ Passages .......................................................................................................... 26 Paula Persoleo ¨¨ Facebook Official ..................................................................................... 38 Faiz Ahmad ¨¨ Chameleon...................................................................................................... 39 bil forshay ¨¨ Grandad ............................................................................................................ 40 Natalia Zvereva ¨¨ wet dream ............................................................................................... 47 CONTRIBUTORS .......................................................................................................................... 48

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Health Care Dick Bentley

On this hill, in this clump of trees at the edge of the golf course, I sit with the wind swaying the daisies. Now distant Bernardini's milky eyes are focused on the golf ball as he bends down before putting. He studies the ground. He analyzes the lie, the turf, the wind. Bernardini is the President of the Health Group that has denied me treatment. The treatment is too experimental for my tumor, the bean counters said. So I am to die. And so is Bernardini. The sun oozes across the sky; the breezes undulate over my skin. Like warm bandages, my heart beats with the systole and diastole of waves against a breakwater, and boredom creeps over me like vines. I know what I want: an event, by which I mean a squeeze of the trigger of the weapon now aimed at Bernardini's distant heart, as he kneels over his tiny white ball on the eleventh hole. His golfing partners, more health care executive Pension plan investors, insurance dealers. A little acidic gossip. A little high-tech megadeath, a sharp thing that will wake them up. Then run a street sweeper over the eleventh green, turn the breeze up to hurricane so the daisies' heads tear off and hurtle through the air like bullets. A melon-burst, the tomato-colored splatter, Bernardini raises his arms as he kneels as if sniffing the air. His wings are spread for flight. He's howling like a siren, and he finally has everyone's full attention, before he rolls over like a noon pigeon.

Everyone gets a turn and now it's mine. But some get more turns than others, and I've

never had a turn, not one. You think I didn't hate their pity, their forced kindness. They are pointing now toward this clump of trees. I could have a few more of them by the time they sentence me to death.

I'll already be dead. You can wipe your feet on me, twist my motives around all you like,

dump stones on my head and drown me in the river. What we want, of course, is nothing more than the same old story: the trees pushing out their leaves, shucking them off; the unfurling of slugs; the

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worms vacuuming the dirt; the daisies and their pungent slow explosions. We want it all to go on and on again, the same thing each year, monotonous and amazing.

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Dear Baby Alison Cundiff Dear baby who is crippling my own, low left sciatica baby, dawn sick water baby, belly cramp in the deep baby tailbone fracturing baby perineum splitting of a girl baby: While you were busy being born, your mother, her once tiny waist, lay, smallish in the bed, her blood pressure dropping, twenty two hours into labor. It was three am and I was alone at her feet, rubbing, kneading. The alarms going off, the nurses in scrubs rushes in, and I thought you should know I thought of how I might make myself die soon after. I knew I would if anything happened to that girl. Here’s what I remember: Years ago when my hair was a heavy braid down my back there was a boy who would come to the hall down the street from our gravel road. He was tall and not handsome. He would dance with every girl. His feet moved so fast he seemed to blur, all the lines of him collapsing into makeshift stage where the man who combed his hair in between every song, the lines of tonic neat and their scent strong in the barn lights. One night I snuck out late to meet him. I got dressed at ten pm, smoking a Kent stolen from my mother’s purse (one to smoke while at home, one for the walk to the hall). Before though, I stood with my hair in curlers and in my bra and looked at the line of clothes in my closet and chose the skirt that would look best when his arm circled my waist. When I was that age I didn’t know that one day I’d sit rubbing the feet of my daughter giving birth to you, her heart in trouble. In a northern Missouri college town there’s a house on South Franklin I’d pass when walking home from the library late at night. The house had been boarded up for ten years, no one inside. I’d always make the sign of the cross when walking past since sometimes you could see a shadow in the window on the third floor and a person there reading in low light. It feels good to light a match, to push your hand deep into a good glove. There are things that don’t feel good too. One day the girls’ pet fish got lost in the disposal and I had to put my hand deep into the hole to cup his damp floundering, but he lived. My husband’s hand was too big, and he just looked at me, expecting me to let it die. But I did reach in. I do like the earthy smell of the slouching puppy lifted from his cedar warmth. Like your body, from my daughter’s.

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I think of you born now, and the girl’s heart turned out alright and I tell myself I should write a poem about that too.

Late Train Colin Dodds

In spring, when trees draw leaves from their sleeves the tunnels are crisp and cool New perfume in ancient nostrils like being nineteen when every friend is a genius every woman an unbearable beauty Summer rolls in and the train’s breath is the inside of a prostitute’s knee brace Winter’s burning chapstick, the lining of some troubled stomach Damp and too sweet like something alive but not right The express roars past caves where dinosaurs shot heroin The local blinks dirty doorjambs on the throne room the slaughterhouse and the sanctum The late train forgives more than we can muster But patiently demands an answer beyond the faith misplaced in STEM courses for reformed prophets in wealth, youth or health Ghosts shuffle aboard in clothes they didn’t choose Like everyone who’s excited to be here, they’re bad news Living men wear coats embroidered with insignias of armies that would never accept them This Door is Locked For Your Safety But believe what you want—it’s still locked A skeleton-raw woman eats Tupperware salad at midnight and scratches imaginary mites from her scalp allowing time to continue, the infants to draw breath the doors to open and to close

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Sad Stuff Taylor Feld

I tried so hard not to write about this. The last month of the summer, I ate little more than green tea ice cream and whole wheat Eggo waffles. Green tea ice cream soothes; you can almost eat it without noticing. Whole wheat Eggo waffles are what Luke Gallagher and I ate by the boxful when we were younger. We had a system: get up early before your parents are awake, wrap eight waffles in paper towels, put that delicious whole wheat tower in the microwave, 2-ish minutes, butter them while they’re warm, tear them up, inhale them. Nicole says: What is that thing? That thing they have at funerals? You know, the ball. The thing they wave around. The smelly ball. There’s this video of Luke and I when we were really little. I’m sitting on the step leading up to his house, and Luke comes toddling up to me with binoculars and a spyglass. He hands me the binoculars and sits down next to me. He looks through the spyglass backwards, and I tell my mom we’re looking for “dustbunny birds.” My dad comes home and surprises me with another tub of green tea ice cream, and it’s freezer burned, which is a shame. Luke died this summer. He died at 5:36 pm on August 8th. I haven’t yet been to the place he died, but I’ve seen pictures, and it’s just a bunch of green. A nice spread of grass, a curb, and the stump of the tree. 65 miles per hour -- not slow but not stupid fast. Fishtail, fishtail. Motorcycle hits the curb, stops, Luke keeps going. Luke keeps going. Tree. I still don’t know the full story. I need clinical detail. I need to have been there. “Look,” my brain says. “All I’m saying is you don’t die if you’re a good rider and you’re not being stupid and you’re wearing your helmet and your jacket and your boots and your pads and no car hits you. You don’t die from a little twig of a tree.” And I say, “Well, he did, so...” And my brain says, “You don’t die in a place with nothing but grass.” Luke was not reckless. He was preoccupied with practice and mastery. Juggling Archery Dart-throwing Soccer Fiddle Flute Rubik's cube Graffiti Parkour Billiards Baseball Stilt-walking Acrobatics Record collecting and more and more and Guitar Drawing more I cannot Knife-throwing Online gaming remember.

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When we were little, it felt like he could do anything without even trying. And he never bragged. It made me so mad. It’s okay, he’d say. Just try again. We once kidnapped our little sisters’ dolls, took them up into the treehouse, and sat on the trapdoor. My brain says: “Once this dulls, you will be far away from him. You will have nothing left.” He and his dad, Mark, taught me to ride a bike. That was on Northwestern Avenue. My mother (Tracy) and Luke’s mother (Treacy) are best friends. Both mothers struggle with depression. Both older children take after their mothers. Luke was depressed the first two years of high school; I didn’t see him much then. At the time, I described it as “the phantom ache of a missing limb.” Junior year, Luke started electrician training at the tech school. For the next two years, he came to all of my plays, and I went to both of his circus performances. Our families got together more, like we used to. Senior year, he started dating Nicole. We’re talking honest-to-goodness love. The first time I met her, we told stories and laughed a lot, and I thought: Yes, thank you. This is right. You belong here. Some vocabulary Nicole and I have developed: easier -- There’s no such thing as “better.” Just “easier.” sad stuff -- Note the difference between talking about something “normal,” with the constant underlying fact that Luke is dead, and actively talking about the fact that Luke is dead. The latter is “sad stuff.” phase -- The flavor of hell you’re experiencing right now. And at first, there were only two phases -- numbness and sobbing. Nicole joked: “It’s a good thing we’re taking turns.” When one of us was numb, the other was sobbing. And the minutes passed. Laughter is different now. It’s around 4 am, Nicole leans over to other photos of us one of those nights me in the middle of making weird faces, without sleep, and the funeral. They’re rendered in stark my mom says, “I bringing out the relief by the flash. could be in my bed swinging incense My dad is driving us right now, with my burner, and she has home. We are little white dog and the audacity to howling. We are my little white whisper: howling. husband, but The smelly ball. noooooo.” Luke’s sister Rylee and I send each

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The dead are not cold. In books, it’s always “his cold hands.” His hands were not cold. They simply had no warmth. They felt fake. (My whole life, I have struggled with shame over my own emotions. “So, you’re feeling that, but isn’t that kind of silly?” Such an outlook is now untenable, and I must swiftly eradicate it. Because what I’m feeling is already enough to demolish me. I cannot also weather shame.) We once stayed up all night drawing dragons with colored pencils. I’m sure that at some point in our eighteen years, I told Luke I love him. But I cannot remember doing so. And I say “I’m sure,” but really, how can I be? There were long periods of time when we didn’t see each other, but when we did, it was just like it always was. My mind often tricks me into thinking this time is no different. This is just another span of separation. This is temporary. Soon, my brain says, and lies. We once turned an entire abandoned construction site into a giant mud pit and wallowed there for hours. A pickup truck full of teenagers rolled past, and they whooped joyful encouragements at us. They must’ve been younger than I am now. They looked like demigods to us. He and I never talked about anything so serious as emotions. We just laughed. His laugh his laugh his laugh his laugh his laugh. He had a petrified piranha on a shelf in his room. I could never fall asleep with it there, looking at me through glassy yellow eyes. When I slept over, he’d hide it in his dresser, beneath the t-shirts. You didn’t know him. You didn’t really know him. Half the articles called him Local Man and half called him Local Boy. The car ride takes 45 minutes. Treacy is alone on the porch. She’d called my mom first, trying to tell her on the phone, He’s dead, but her voice she was we didn’t know until

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Time:

on the porch with Treacy on the porch with Mark and Treacy on the porch with the neighbors asking me, “I’m sorry, who are you?” on the porch alone while Treacy tries to reach Nicole’s mom in the kitchen, calling my boss because my best friend my brother in the backyard, looking up at the stars and at nothing on the living room couch with Mark in the kitchen while my dad calls funeral homes on the living room couch with Nicole in the entranceway, leaving in the car, leaving in my room here

Nicole told me: The day after it happened, I was in the car and I burped and I just started crying. Because if he’d been there, he would’ve said, “Ooh, so hot.” And we would’ve laughed. So I was crying over a burp. This colonizes everything. Every little thing. Rylee was away at summer camp. When her parents drove up to get her, she decided to stay. The first time I saw her was at the memorial, wearing one of Luke’s shirts. She told me later that one of the camp counselors had brought her out to a field in the middle of the night, given her an axe, and let her throw it. She told me she took the axe and she threw it and then she went and picked it up and hacked at a nearby tree and hacked and hacked and see? There it is again. “Isn’t this a bit much? What you’re feeling is ugly. This is all so ugly.” Shut up shut up shut up shut up Luke and I decide we want to take a walk around the neighborhood. We’re five. Our parents say okay. They equip us with watches and say, When the numbers say one and two and zero and zero, I want you back here. We take huge bags of pistachios with us. We take a walk. We go home. Luke and I decide we want to get on top of his backyard shed. We gather all the lawn furniture we can find, and we build a tower. The tower is rickety, and the roof shingles are scalding hot. Luke goes up first. Luke always goes first. Luke and I are swimming with our families at Beaver Dam. Luke takes off his socks, fills them with rocks, and lets them drop to the bottom. He dives down after them. The water is dark and I cannot see him or follow. When he resurfaces, socks in hand, I ask him not to do it again. Why? It’s fun! And he lets them drop, and he dives. And I wait. Luke, Nicole, and I are at our graduation party, at Luke’s house. We take a silly photo, and we eat the cake with our names on it. The badminton net is set up over the tightrope. Luke and I team up to play against Nicole and Uncle Mike. Every time we score, we assume power stances and let out a

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triumphant Wah! I remember thinking: This is more like it, this is the right way to be, this is what has been missing. When we leave, I hug Treacy and tell her that I love her. I hug Nicole. I hug Mark. I hug Rylee. I hug Luke and I say, See ya later, man! I told my co-workers “one of my closest friends died.” I usually tell people my best friend died. Sometimes I explain that really, he was my brother. When I spoke at the memorial, the list of speakers called me his chosen family. I just don’t know. We didn’t see each other often, towards the end. I don’t think he ever knew about my depression. I only learned about his because his mom told my mom, who told me. If I think too hard about this, it becomes a spiral. It becomes: “See? You are unworthy.” But here is the core: this is the phantom ache of a missing limb. It’s okay, he’d say. Just try again. And I’d tell the truth. I’d say, I love you I love you I love you.

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Einstein Ken Haas He could have just told us the scientific truth. That E equals m. c squared? He made that part up. It’s a constant so if smaller units of measure are picked for E and larger ones for m c just disappears into the pure equivalence of energy and matter. He could have fixed on any fixture: furlongs from Venus to Mars, combined weight of oceans, girth of a pin. In choosing as his fiction to mediate between E and m a figure in the billions marking light and speed he was making an artistic decision, telling us the way, say, Beethoven did how small things are relative to the forces that drive them (the sun’s mass a dog bone to its own hellfire, the thousand-year oak a scrag to the wind that wants to get crazy) how insatiable the love between energy and matter and how dark the human harness, how useful light would be, lots of it, squared, how wise it would be to come quickly.

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The Downlookers Ken Haas

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back, is how I became one, on the daily march to junior high, policed by the Dyckman gang to warily skirt every sidewalk line. Friends from the burbs and even darker hoods joined in their own ways, back before owners had to scoop up after their hounds, back when having the wrong guy think you were looking at him wasn’t just a bad movie. We’re the brooders, the schemers, the director at a Hollywood pool party with the foot fetish, the golfer who has no idea where her drive went but always picks up the tee. We’re not chatting in elevators or going to air shows, dropping pencils to peek up the cheerleader’s skirt, or pointing at heaven after a goal. Go ahead, color us hostile, skittish, shamed. But it’s a life. One not without pride. And there are more of us now, driving while texting, texting while crossing the street, panning the beach for coins, checking the cup for alms. Watch out for us. The puddle makes more sense than the rain. We know the price of connection, the vanity of seeing what’s coming, the broken glass, the rusted key in melting snow, the blade of grass that has won its war with the street.

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End of Romance Matt Nagin

swarming, the grim precipice, fiery forethought, bees without wax, cliff, jailhouse, horizon unfolded in gelatin x-ray dreams. turning, mysterious telescope, conquered alien beings, detectives announcing the stench of tomorrow, reptilian brains dissected for meat, anguished politicians deeming the barbed wire campaign a triumph. swirling, mephitic sun, penumbra over angel’s jilted wings—toddler in the flophouse, curmudgeonly rhinos, prey eating itself for breakfast. thrashing, sacrosanct omnipop, haute couture spirit, defeat of lonesome empire, boundless chasms, predator at the altar— goodbye and goodluck my dear!

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Beans

Eva-Maria Sher

Wax bean green bean purple bean soy. Chickpea turtle and navy bean ahoy. Snap bean bush bean pinto bean whoa! Pole and runner bean don’t hurry so! Dwarf bean fava bean cow pea moo. Lima bean German and French bean too. Jack bean sword bean potato bean hey— A bean is a bean is a bean I say.

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Say Something Kathy West

Halfway through the school year, my eight-year-old daughter comes home and tells me about a new girl in class. Today was the new girl’s second day. And at recess, some kids found dog poop on the playground—and threw it at her. “What!?” I say. “What!” My daughter says, “Whoa, why is this such a strong reaction?” I say, “Because. Imagine you’re at a brand-new school. You don’t have friends. And on your second day, kids you barely know throw poop at you.” She says, “Yeah...” just now realizing how horrifying this is. I ask, “Did you stop them? Did you help her?” She’s silent and sheepish. My reaction has already demolished the possibility of an honest answer. I can’t help but preach. “You stick up for people. I hope you said something.” And what would I have her say? As an adult, I could shut down poop-throwing children with a single sentence. But what does a child say? I want to arm her with wisdom and courage and words, but all that comes to mind is a memory from my childhood. * In my fourth-grade class, Ted was the weird kid. We all knew he didn’t belong, with his buzzed hair and green, plastic-rimmed glasses that darkened in sunlight. He never stopped licking his lips. He shouted unexpectedly and boasted about taking medication and went to the bathroom at least eight times a day. He was an unpredictable presence we didn’t know how to respond to, and nobody showed us how. I didn’t feel guilty for ignoring Ted. I wasn’t on the bottom social rung with him, but my own status sometimes felt unstable. I got along okay. But early in the school year, Ashley Lewis had noticed the purple paisley stationary I brought to school—and decided to outdo me with pink paper, bright Lisa Frankstickers. She handed out stickers to almost all the girls, initiating them into her exclusive club. She gave me no stickers and told her club not to share with me. I didn’t know why. Defensively, I’d founded my own club with my best friend. But we named the club Twinner-Two-Twins—which eliminated the possibility of adding members. Ashley had nearly all the girls in class on her side and I winced sometimes at being left out. I told myself it was fine. I had a club with my friend and a crush on Scott Twede, who wore horn-rimmed glasses and liked Ninja Turtles and was nerdy enough to be in my league. Amidst all this, I never had reason to speak to Weird Ted. He never spoke to me. I considered him silly for caring so little about what people thought.

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I don’t know how the plot against Ted started, since the plan hatched within the ranks of Ashley’s club. But one morning, a whisper rippled through the classroom, telling every girl to meet back here after lunch, rather than running out to recess. In the cafeteria, I scarfed my rubbery lasagna and raised my hand to be excused. I ran to our classroom to be included. When I entered—one of the last stragglers—I saw the girls had converged in the middle of the classroom, surrounding Ted, who had come in after lunch to take his medication or drop off his lunchbox. Through a thicket of permed hair and scrunchies, I could see Ted’s face while Ashley told him a story that went, as I remember it, like this: Ten years ago, the principal at this school was horrible. He was mean to everyone. And one day, a boy named Ted wouldn’t take it anymore. He was a fourth-grader, like us. And this was his classroom. One day, the principal went to the bathroom. Ted followed him. And he STUFFED the principal’s head down the toilet and DROWNED him. Ted received this information from Ashley with a surprising measure of calm, perhaps wariness? He seemed to wait for more. Ashley continued. We wanted to tell you because you’re new, and you don’t know. Every year, on the same day, the principal’s ghos thaunts the bathroom. Every year, he’s looking for a boy named Ted. Every year, he finds one—and then he kills him. Last year, a boy named Ted got sucked down the toilet and he’s gone forever. Snickers fluttered in the crowd. Surely, Ted could not take this seriously. But he stepped backward, open-mouthed. I stood on the outer edge of the gaggle that surrounded him, feeling like an outsider, but being every bit a part of this circle as anyone else. This felt mean and I wrinkled my forehead at it, but I still let the story be told. Today, Ashley said. Ten years ago TODAY, Ted killed the principal, and if you go in the bathroom today, his ghost will kill you. Ted’s eyes widened behind his glasses. He licked his lips the way he always licked his lips. Ashley said, We’re telling you this to save your life. The story ended, the circle broke, the girls turned together like a school of fish and rushed toward the door to catch the rest of recess. I was swept out with them, running to be included. Someone near me giggled: Did you see his face? He’ll NEVER go in the bathroom. I can’t wait to watch him pee his pants. I stopped. The girls dashed past me out the double doors. And then Ted walked by, silent, hands in pockets, glasses shaded half-dark even though he wasn’t in the sun. I didn’t like him. But three years earlier, I’d peed my pants at school, back in first grade—the warm shame when my bladder gave up and let go, the unmistakable smell, the drip, drip of evidence onto the floor. Nobody deserved that. Not even Ted. More importantly, in a competition between me and

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Ashley, she might have all the stickers, all the friends, but I was nice. I couldn’t let Ted believe that Ashley was looking out for him. I returned to the empty classroom alone. I pulled out my beautiful notebook, filled with purple paisley paper. I wrote a note, telling Ted the story was a lie and that he should use the bathroom if he needed. The recess bell rang as I finished. Realizing that all those girls would pour into this room and be present when Ted read this note, I froze. I couldn’t sign Kathy. The girls couldn’t know I was the mole. They’d think I was his friend. But with the clamor of footsteps down the hall, I could not remember what you should sign when you want to remain nameless. What was that word? What was it? Louder, louder, my classmates’ voices approached the door. It seemed improper to leave an important note unsigned, so I wrote the only nameless sign-off I could think of under duress: your secret admirer. I tore the paper from the notebook, rushed to Ted’s desk, stuck the note in and returned to my seat, feigning nonchalance, before my fellow fourth-graders buzzed in, fresh from the monkey bars and asphalt. Ted would know the truth and be free to relieve his bladder. But nobody would know I saved him. From my desk, I watched Ted unfold the paper and read it line by line. And then, reading over Ted’s shoulder: my crush, Scott Twede. Anonymous. Anonymous. That’s how you sign something when you don’t want anyone to know who you are. Scott was reading the substitute phrase that had come to mind under pressure. I calmed the clutch in my gut. A secret admirer is, by nature, secret; I was still hidden behind an unknown identity. But then Scott leaned over to one of the girls—a girl who knew whose pretty patterned paper belonged to whom. A circuit connected in my brain that hadn’t yet fired when I wrote my wellintentioned note. I’d written on my signature paisley paper. I might as well have signed my name. I watched the game of telephone snake through the class, willing it to not reach me. The girl who sat next to me leaned over and whispered in dismay, “You like Ted?” My lungs constricted. My stomach shriveled. I wanted to climb under my desk. I concentrated on my worksheet, practicing my handwriting with unequaled focus, as if I hadn’t heard—which is something Ted would do. * If kids throw dog poop at the new girl, I want my daughter to shout at them to stop. But this memory reminds me how dangerous speaking up can feel, how full of risk and competing motives. I want a tidy, triumphant story to inspire my daughter to champion the outcast, but all I’ve got for her are my bumbling attempts to be good. That’s all we’ve ever got. We don’t know everything and we’re not always brave enough and we see in hindsight that we should have used lined paper. So, I tell my daughter, “It’s okay. It’s okay if you didn’t say anything this time—as long as tomorrow, when you see the new girl, you say something kind.”

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Time Well Wasted Brandyce Ingram

I keep staring at one thing without seeing it. I woke up like this: brick-skinned to the scenery reinforced concrete eyes lost in the nada-sphere and in lust with the psychotears yet to flood without knowing why. How much time has passed? How to live well in wasted time? And I assume everyone else is out saving kittens punching nazis MotherfuckinTeresa-ing 24/7 instead of: sitting drinking tea sucking cancer smoke contemplating the necessity of a coffin and scribbling thoughts no one will ever read (or care to) in my flayed blue robe. Because there are better beings to be saved and seen. Because that one thing is all I need to know I exist.

Dating Like We Don’t Care Brandyce Ingram Dating like we don’t care You wank off to hollywood surnames-- Brandyce Ingram 4 like they mean something. “ILikeApples.ApplesArePrettierThanOranges.” Blahblahbrownspeak-- don’t you talk pretty to me. How can I be more charming than yesterday? How can I better fake you with my mask?

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You answer with glittery eyes, entranced in all the bullshit I leak from my lil lovemelovemedeargodlovemerightnow lips. And isn’t it cute? This stupid game we play? I’m on a date with my own disdain-- been steady for a while now. We’ll make it-- and you’ll take my stupid name because hatred is a long-term relationship. I, warrior of a dying art. Upon waking, I inquire: Who needs to cry today? My power lies in cultivating sorrow-- holding up a spattered sad mirror to the masses who wear easy smiles. They cannot see their bleeding teeth nor the patchwork beneath, for this is a fearsome breed-- running always running-- from that __blank-“who”-space__ they are toward the next __“who”-dom__ they are not. Only those who take the warrior’s dare to peel back the comfy mask are rewarded with the grace to see their pain is not their own. How kind of me.

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Fifty Percent Cotton Ken Tomaro

Francis Francis of West Virginia gave birth to eleven children four of which made it to adulthood and the ones who died she buried one by one on the hill by her house one died when his nightgown burned as he walked by the fire pit another died when she coughed herself to death the four who had survived made it to Ohio Zelah whose name was from a bible story went to school with the famous writer Toni Morrison who was named something else at the time Francis was married to Golden Mills, an alcoholic and every week she went down to the coal mine to get his paycheck before he could cash it at the bar and I tell you this now before I am too old to remember or maybe no longer here to tell you

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Beauty of Mid-Century Moderns Rebecca Pyle

Listen, it was a sunset dinner. Twelve at the table, everyone gray, Eyes overlarge and distant, or thinnish and red, Don't show a mirror to me. The light fixture like a bowl upside down, Our hosts giving us foods that Reminded us: picnics. Baked beans In their slurry of rivers murky with memory Cole slaw with the flecks of pepper On the vegetable slips--- Cabbage lightning bolts--- Jagged single flower petals Deprived of their matching petals, Their centers, their soul. But stray from the talk of souls. Go to the currant bush her mother Made her pick currants from for hours. His three homes in California he'd Lived in once then discovered No longer existed when one year he went looking. Drive-bye. That currant bush, she said----that I thought Enormous---was probably really not that big. I rode a turtle in our neighbor's backyard; there was A banana tree, now there's an overpass. Encino. They lived in Scotland two years, named their son Ian, Had no number address: it began Flower Bank---that was their House. The most honest of names: begins with I. Another, thirty years in the department of Polly Sigh, Except one in Hilo. Gave up The old rut then. Now lives by the Giant U the college students painted on a rock on our Hill. On the cliffside, he said. Last night they brought out The Japanese drums. They echo, they really really echo. My grandfather was a jeweler A shop in Kansas narrow as a Horse's stall. A doorway, a hallway, And countertop. A safe

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Taller than a man and as richly decorated as a turkey. A board carefully hung by the door with many nails Held the stately watches, some Florentine and gold. Dropsy trickless hearts of watches that said You saved the dance for me. But no more, darling. No repairs for me or you: Like love, too expensive. Buy new. Surprise: the one who wanted to run away from home Each time her mother sent her outside To pick currants, thousands of currants, was in Australia then: the Bush. Another spoke only one sentence at the table--- She grew up in Sweden. Parents were studying medicine, she said Another said the worst the worst thing about living By the zoo was the mothers throwing their children's diapers In her yard. Remember Gary Powers, that year his U2 crashed? When That happened, she found her long lost childhood friend---her cousin Moved next door. Later Gary Powers, he crashed in The helicopter, California, empty tanks, making traffic reports For the news. My stepfather lost his cover after Powers went down with his You-Too, Had to leave Burma, return to Langley. He liked telling the story that Gary Powers had crashed in California with empty tanks. Boo Hoo. You can crash with empty tanks, sure you can, said one man. All the damned time in Korea we were landing on empty. All the damned time. His hands are massive. It could have just been accident. For sure, for sure. So an accident, I said, maybe a helicopter's simple accident. Drop diapers on Russia, please, all enemies, Bring Gary Powers back. Let traffic knit the coastal cities, worry Itself. If you are happy helicopters look like flying flowers. In acres of garbage lie Resistant temples, Angkor Wat ruins of watches, ticking sometimes Like a remembering dying thing as they go back farther into earth. But not rusting:. Tell-tale gold! They have such Turnable dots, the watches, their impromptu circular plazas Pointing to terribly unrealistically limited hours, Terribly limited towns.

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Or do we, as Martin often said, Live way too long? One tune on a perfect violin, My imperfect violinist, my Martin, Who always loved death more than anyone I know: Each daily rehearsal a death, thus hearse in its middle. Forget, faraway, long ago Martin, what your website says, Your playing violin across six continents with The opera's orchestra: it needed you, but it buried you. Play alone. Tune obscure only, and only one, One none of them know or ever will, Roll your fingers, sightline the bow, Set violin to strange waters . So each currant could, should, will, burst into its own currant-oil Flame, as we surround you and Australia's burning currant bush in the dark Dingos are barking, barking in the dark. But flames spatter and spark--- Thank you, Martin---now this tuned chandelier of shrub in desert night. Once faces inexplicably troubled about dessert, its finalness, its goodbye, Troubled, though it was just dessert. A slice of pie that looks like too late, Homemade ice cream that looks like worn out hammocks of dreams. But spatter, spark, Now there is fire: play, get through it, Martin, So each watch sighs And forgives it's forgotten. So Sweden remember the little girl who Lived there, opens its red-panelled doors to Joni Mitchell finding her last song, about reindeer. Already written. Their antlers candelabra. Joni queen for a day, Her last day on earth. So houses that became overpasses all over California Come back to life without grudges, Are restored : blooming so many-jewelled with what Magazines call Dramatic Plant-Lined Entryways. Banana trees and tortoises? Only part of one. Mine. So jagged stones like hundreds of flagstone crumbly hearts Line rustic pathways and are capable of rearranging, changing their minds.. So Elle Decor and Garden Living photograph young couples And their friends---showing them loving the beauty of mid-century moderns, Holding so many full, blood-red filled tulip-like glasses, Way too tall, Way too full, Each glass an apology For sunsets, for death. Accept, accept.

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Selection from State of the Wards Levi Andelou

The qualities of the human voice most favored for their persuasive power: Volume. Liquidity. The narrative devices most valued for their ability to capture the imagination: Speculation. Volatility. Leveraging of emotional pitch through subtle modulation of interest. Inflation of perceived value by strategically postponing the revelation of cause and effect. Great loss that sets off great gain. The best nights of our lives, we fell asleep to the sound of a story that became real as it was told.

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Passages

Cheryl Cardiff

I thought at first that I had a wound in my stomach. I thought, internal bleeding surely. And funny how I didn’t even feel weird getting out of bed. I didn’t kowtow quickly, hands to my stomach, howling in pain. I received no warning, no premonitions, no black butterflies. I just sat down on the toilet, and there it was, like a rose right on the crotch of my underpants.

Mom was excited. Now when she gets excited, her eyes widen and she starts to talk fast, and

starts to mix her tongues, her voice getting so high you’d swear she inhaled helium. After I told her, Mom ran off, quick as lightning, gathered up the boys, bundled them up thick as a Michelin man in their winter clothes, and shoved them out the door, into the cold and winter.

“What was that for?” I asked her.

“Boys around make you bleed harder,” she told me matter-of-factly.

“But don’t these things last a week?” I asked, thinking what weird place did my mom come

from where the presence of males endangered the life of a menstruating girl. Mom’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. In her ching-chong-you-think-you’re-really-funny-don’t-you kind of look, she asked me, “How do you know that?”

Like most kids, I wheedled out what information about sex I could get from wherever I

could get it, taping together those facts into my own Frankenstein of knowledge. Women’s magazines. Movies. Television. Lingerie catalogs. Many times I yanked away those glossy lingerie booklets from my brother’s hands, with the pages ripping easily in half as they stuck to his clammy fingers.

“Hey, I’ll tell,” my brother would say.

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“What are you going to tell?” I’d ask back, narrowing my eyes at him the way Mom did when

she searched out the guilt that only she could apparently see and that we had no idea was already there.

“Suit yourself, bitch,” my brother would retreat.

Other sources: talk. My friends and I were fond of talking about sex and kissing and stuff.

We believed that if you kissed a boy, open-mouthed, a baby would, out of nowhere, drop like a bowling ball in the pit of your stomach.

This was before Tanya, you understand. Thank god for Tanya, whose mom was a midwife.

Tanya was our fearless leader. She had red hair and green eyes and freckles people would kill for. And she had a bad girl attitude about her that made her seem so cool and worldly to us. She got to do darn near anything she wanted. Wear heels to school. Wear lipgloss. She bragged about dating a boy from high school once. She started smoking for a while too but quit soon after her mom found out. For weeks she told us how she couldn’t go home without her mom sticking her nose down her throat to check her breath. “I’ll bite that witch’s head off one of these days,” she teased then, baring her incisors. Anyway, Tanya was always the one with the straight facts.

At school, in Mrs. Adams class one time, our cheeks turned purple with embarrassment and

our insides shook nervously as we tried to contain our laughter whenever Mrs. Adams held up the book she thought would enlighten us about just how babies were made. She was pregnant with her first child and had wanted it to be as glorious an occasion for everyone else as it was for her. She encouraged all of us kids to ask her questions about it. We never really did. Not out of embarrassment so much as the pure and simple fact that there was really nothing out of the ordinary about a grown-up being pregnant.

There was also that time when Tanya tried to impress us again with how tough she was by

telling us another of her stories. This one was about her grandfather. How he always bothered her whenever he came to visit.

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“My grandmother does that to me, too. I totally hate that,” I said.

Tanya rolled her eyes at me and shook her head.

“No, no. What I mean is, he bothered me?”

Tanya’s palms were toward me, gently helping her meaning as if it were an old woman into

my brain.

“You get it now?”

We all didn’t then, of course, but we all stared at Tanya over our lunches of tepid brown

gravy and mash potatoes, pretending as if we did.

Other sources: our own bodies. My friends and I had faithfully charted the changes, real or

invisible, that was happening to us and kept each other informed of them. In the same room where we draped blankets over our heads and bodies, and carried white, tapered candles as we pretended to be nuns, we gazed in awe at a wonderful black brassiere Tanya had smuggled from her mother’s dresser drawer. Excited, we balled up pages of newspaper in our hands, rushing to get to wear it first.

Out of all of us, Tanya had been the first to develop, and she was thankfully unashamed to

tell us what it was like to have growing breasts -- "It doesn't hurt. It's like all of a sudden . . . whoomp. They're just there -- and she’d been eager to point out the hair that sprouted from her armpits. “That’s not the only place it grows, too,” she winked. Her private joke. # My mother now stood in front of me, a fresh pair of my undies in one hand. In her other hand, the biggest sanitary pad that I had ever seen.

“Watch carefully. Watch now,” she said, hands out to her as if she were showing me a magic

trick. She was holding my underwear inside out with the crotch part flat on the palm of her hand. Without a third hand, she stripped the adhesive backing off with her teeth and spat it out to the

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floor. She attached the pad to the underwear, did this big motion as if she were about to pray, and sandwiched pad and panties between her palms. She turned it inside out and showed me her work.

“Did you watch like I said?”

Dangling between her fingers, it looked like an empty hammock. I didn’t want to tell her

how I already knew about tampons.

I waited in my room, wearing a sanitary pad that felt like a diaper on me, while Mom

telephoned Gran in San Francisco. She’d been living there with her new husband, a retired banker who loved to gamble. They went to Reno a lot to gamble. From my bedroom upstairs, I could hear my mother’s voice rise an octave higher through the floorboards, excited again, and I could imagine Gran’s voice too, rising to an inaudible squeak. I began to fear the neighboring dogs knowing too and dreaded the prospect of having to defend my crotch against their prying muzzles. And surely the banker would get a hold of that information some time and pass it on to his other retired banker friends at rounds of Mah-Jong and bourbon.

“How could you tell her that?” I told my mother, arms waving around like a madwoman. “I

didn’t tell you to do that. I didn’t tell you to go blabbing it all over the place!”

“I didn’t blab all over the place! I told your Gran,” my mother said.

“Same difference!” I cried out.

Mom rolled her eyes.

“You’re being overly dramatic.”

Then, she pursed her lips like an old schoolmarm and peered down at me. She grasped my

shoulders. “Let’s start,” she said.

Nervous now, I started to laugh, not knowing what strange voodoo this woman was about to

do to me.

Mom twirled me around. We headed to our staircase.

“Now climb up. To the third step and then jump,” she instructed.

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I looked at my mother, a bit skeptical. I wondered if she was putting me through this just to

torture me. I wondered if she was lording all of her old country ways over my new world ignorance to get back at me for all the ruses and mean things I’d done to her, for the lies I told her, for being a bad daughter.

“Why?” I asked her.

Mom was persistent. “Just to the third step and jump. Go on. Do it.”

I climb to the third step, and then, turned to face her.

“Okay, now jump off and land to where I am. Go on,” she urged.

Our staircase was a tight, circular structure of eighteen steps and of a medieval cast-iron

painted black. The steps were carpeted over with a rough wool blend the color of rust. Every winter both steps and carpeting became a constant source of fear for my brothers and me who dreaded static electricity. My father had tried to remedy this by placing shallow pans of water all over the house or by giving each of us a penny that we could tap onto the railing before touching it. It didn’t help matters. How many times did we trip over the pans, spilling water over my mother’s floors and garnering her grumbling disappointment that day. And more often than not, those pennies remained in the pockets of our jeans, or were left and forgotten somewhere in the vicinity of the house. In any case, the threat of being zapped was enough to keep my brothers and I walking with our elbows turned in as we briskly walked-ran up and down those winding steps.

I looked at my mother standing at the bottom of the steps. Inside of me, there grew

something new to be fearful about. The end of the railing. The way it followed the turn of the stairs and veered right. How was I ever going to avoid meeting that from where I stood and had to jump?

“Jump just like this,” Mom said. She was making one of those quick, semicircular sweeps

with her arm, and whooshing noises, thinking it would help.

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“That’s easy for you to say,” I said. And again, I laughed so hard from being so nervous that

fat tears began to roll down my cheeks. Mom ran a frustrated hand over her face as it knotted into itself in frustration like the wrinkles of a sour plum.

“Oh, you with your back-talk,” she said, voice heavy.

I forced myself to stop laughing. But still the muscles around my mouth twitched, and I was

certain I was going to shatter into a million pieces from the nervousness and the laughter shaking my insides.

“What are you waiting for?” she asked me.

So, whoosh down I did. My elbow hit the banister and made it ring out like a gong. I wanted

then to stop breathing to stop the pain. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t seem to notice any of this. She moved on as if she were racing to finish within some magic window of time.

“Where’s your underwear from this morning?” she asked then.

“What do you need them for?”

Mom scratched her head in frustration.

“Stop with the questions already!” she said. “Just go get it.”

The boys were banging on the door, calling to be let in. The littlest had to go to the

bathroom, but Mom wouldn’t let either of them in just yet. Instead, she hollered back at the older one to help the younger one with his pants, instructing him to point the littlest to the oak tree growing out back. I heard the littlest howl like a forlorn dog then and I heard the sound of heavy footsteps marching across the linoleum flooring of our kitchen and my mother warning the boys that if they didn’t behave themselves they’d get it. I returned to her, underwear between my fingers.

“Wash them yet?”

“No,” I answered.

“Good,” she said approvingly.

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I followed her to the kitchen sink. She turned on the tap. Pointed for me to run the piece of

clothing in my hands under it.

“No soap,” she instructed.

I ran the fabric between my knuckles under the water. A shiver ran through me. Too cold. I

turned on the hot tap. With renewed energy, I rubbed my knuckles raw as I became obsessed with washing and stamping out the blood completely, of not wanting to be reminded of it ever again.

“Oh my goodness, what are you doing?” Mom asked.

“What?”

“What are you doing running hot water on that?”

“Washing it clean out like you said.”

“Stupid girl, you’ve cooked it in!”

Mom looked at my work, the line between her brows showing. I thought then that I had

maybe done something wrong. Maybe I had thrown whatever forces that were supposed to be in my favor out of sync.

“So what’s going to happen to me?” I asked, not wanting to know really.

Mom looked at me, black-grey eyes rounding in surprise.

“Nothing,” she said. “Just don’t ever wash blood out with hot water.”

I nodded. “So what now? Are we done?”

“No, we’re not done.”

“So what now then?”

“Now you wipe your face with it. Just like this.”

Mom gestured with her palms going in circles over her face. I stood there frozen, underwear

steaming in my hands. The corners of my mouth twitching again.

“Is this a joke?” I asked her.

“Go on,” she coaxed me, “Wipe your face with it. Like this.”

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Her hands went over her face to demonstrate.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“I’m serious,” she said.

“Don’t be funny, Mom.”

She was still pretending to wipe her face with her palms to encourage me. It reminded me of

the time when she would coax the littlest of us three to pee into the toilet bowl by making the sound psss . . . psss . . . psss. . . . No frills. That must have been how Gran taught Mom, the same way Gran’s own mom had taught her before that. I wondered how Mom had handled herself as a young girl against Gran when she got her period for the first time. Probably she hadn’t protested as much as I did.

“That’s gross, Ma!” I freaked.

“It’s not gross. It’s the way it is!”

I told her that I wasn’t going to do it and that we lived in a world of science and modern

technology, and that this was America, Land of the Free, where people didn’t go around washing their faces with their underwear.

“I see,” my mother nodded gravely. “So you want to grow up with pimples on your face? So

you want to spend the rest of your life squeezing zits?”

She began to mime squeezing imaginary pimples on her face with her fingers. Then, Mom

threw up her arms in despair at me, her disbelieving daughter.

“Fine! Go ahead. See if I care. It’s your face!”

She left me standing there to decide my fate, still cooling undies in my hand, body warming

and heart racing, mind completely in confusion. As I stood there, I started to imagine a life with a face to the world plagued with acne. I thought of how unloved I would be for the rest of my life if I didn’t do what my mother wanted. I thought of a life where I would be derisively called “Pizza Face,” the way we girls called Freddy Spungeon “Pizza Face” to his face all the time at school. I

33


thought of a life where boys would mention my name and stick their tongues out and shiver the way we girls often did when any one of us would say the name “Freddy Spungeon” and teased each other about being Freddy Spungeon’s girlfriend. How we would gross each other out talking about kissing Freddy Spungeon. Going at it with him, nose to nose, cheek to cheek, skin to skin. How gross, we always said before sticking our fingers down our throats and pretending to gag ourselves. At that moment, I shivered at the thought of being Mrs. Pizza Face. Imagine, Freddy Spungeon and me and our pepperoni-faced twins. Perish the thought.

Other things that ran through my head in that moment: How many times had I looked up at

the pictures of those beautiful, dewy-faced women that my friends and I had taped to our walls, picking and choosing the parts of them that we wanted for ourselves like the way we skimmed Christmas catalogs for toys? With all of our being we girls prayed to God for beautiful skin, for porcelain skin, for luscious hair, for long legs, for blue eyes, for breasts. We prayed to God to make us beautiful. To make us rich. To make us famous. To make us be loved.

Maybe it was because Mom and I were doing something so out there that there was

something so primitive and so sacred about it. The things we girls had prayed for — they seemed so simple to achieve, and yet, not so simple.

Between the panic in my head and the underwear in my hand, my arm and heart ached from

the weight of it all. I held my breath, relaxed my arm, and closed my eyes. I brought my hand to my face and felt the cotton of my underwear scratch against my skin. Warm and liquid shame filled my body, rose to my cheeks and my eyes and the pores of my skin. I felt the solidity of Mom’s hand on my back. My mother’s voice hovered above me. But I wasn’t listening anymore. # “It’s true. I had to do it. I’ve even got this bruise on my elbow to show for it.” I told Tanya this over the phone, confessing everything but the underwear incident, which was something I didn’t think she would understand.

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“I didn’t even know that you hadn’t had yours yet,” Tanya said.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, I’ve had mine already,” she told me.

My heart sank and my nose grew warm. We girls had promised to tell each other

everything.

“It’s not really something people go around telling, you know,” she said, her voice flattening.

I heard the sound of her snapping the gum she had been chewing. “In any case, darling, I was cool about it when it happened. Mom gave me the straight facts, you know. I never had to do any of that stuff you went through. I’ve never even heard of that.”

My stomach dropped cold when she said that.

Night came; my mother was standing in my room.

“I want to give you this,” she told me.

In her hand, a blue felt bag. She opened it and up-ended it to empty the bag of its contents.

In her palm dropped an old brooch of rhinestones and black beads shaped like a feather.

“What’s that for?” I frowned at it.

“You don’t remember?” my mother asked, genuinely surprised. Then her face turned sad

again. “Maybe it’s a long time for you now, I guess.”

But of course I remembered the brooch, though I didn’t want to admit it.

“It used to be Gran’s. Then, it was mine. I’m giving it to you now. I thought you might want

to have it.”

I looked at my mother’s hands, her fingers calloused and at work on wearing down her

cuticles the way I do whenever I’m anxious. The brooch seemed out of place in them. When I was little, I stole it from her vanity and hid with it under my bed, turning and turning the brooch in my hands as if it were a pirate’s booty. I wanted the stones, thinking them to be diamonds. With a hairpin, I pried a bunch of them from its setting. Surprisingly, Mom never punished me for that theft

35


and destruction of something likely so precious to her. She never even told Dad. But for two, she had been able put the stones back into place. It looked now that those two had been replaced. The stones looked different. Newer. Off in color from the rest. The brooch didn’t look the same though, and it didn’t anymore look as enticing as it used to when I stole it the first time.

“Do you want it?” Mom asked.

“I guess,” I shrugged. I held out my hand and accepted the gift so she wouldn’t feel bad.

“It’s very old. So take care of it. Gran gave that to me. She got it from her own Gran.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Do you have any questions? Don’t need to be scared to ask.”

“No,” I said.

“This is an important time in your life. Pretty soon you’ll be all grown up. Husband and

children of your own. You know, Daddy and I won’t be around as much by then.”

My mother looked different then. She wasn’t the same woman she was earlier. She seemed

sadder, in fact, as if I had already left her behind and had a family of my own. The truth was that, in that moment, I wished not to consider it, not if it meant they wouldn’t be around anymore.

“I don’t understand why you talk that way if it makes you so sad.”

My mother chuckled.

“But you will one day, it’s inevitable.”

I told Mom that I didn’t have any questions and that I wanted to go to bed. Mom nodded.

“Well,” she said. “You know who to come to if you do.”

It took her forever to get to the door.

Outside my window, the snow started to fall again. I felt my grasp of all the things that I had

been wishing for loosen, and I let all the things that I had been wishing for let slip like a ball rolling out of my hand. I didn’t want them anymore. Instead, I imagined a point when the footprints my brothers made earlier that day hadn’t yet been made.

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#

One time I watched my mother mop up the mud and water that my brothers and I had

tracked in from outside. It struck me how lonely she seemed there, on her knees and hands. Even as she grumbled at how spoiled we were, she was patient at her task and too methodical, almost as if she wanted it never to end. A rich kind of guilt washed over me. Then, anger. Why did she need to do things so deliberately, so slowly, despite that she obviously did not like what she was doing? At least with my dad around, he simply would yell at us for not having much sense in our heads, and then, order us to clean up the floors. That was normal to me. That day I helped her just to end the ordeal already. Busy at work, I heard Mom grumble.

“Someday, you will have children who will not care.”

“Care about what?” I asked her.

Mom had simply shrugged, continuing to work the floors, wiping and wiping away our

carelessness and lack of consideration.

“Well, don’t you worry,” I back-talked. “I don’t plan on having children. I don’t ever plan on

growing up. I’m always going to have clean floors and never will be miserable.”

My mother stopped what she was doing then and looked at me, eyes full of wonder. Then,

she started to laugh.

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Facebook Official Paula Persoleo

for C. E. It’s your birthday, and I scroll back through three years of comments to find you alive again: reading in a hospital bed after the final surgery; sporadic regularity for a month, then despair; poems, politics, unleashed dogs, deviled eggs; abandoned architecture, iambic tattoos, burned books; angels, Dickinson’s white dress, chemo’s first of five— hair growing longer as years lengthen. But there are three years of birthday posts (from the same person with saccharine font who finally was told “She’s dead”) that remind me how little I knew you. Yes, I watched the waxing cancer until it took your brain, mourned when your death was announced, posted a tribute with thanks for kind words about my undeserving poems. The difference between me and those who still wish you “the best Birthday week EVER! and... many many more!” is that I know you’re ashes.

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Chameleon Faiz Ahmad

man – infernal man! sleeps with his corpse goes to the market driving his corpse purchases a cigarette that he shares with his corpse returns with a bag full of his corpse unties the brown laces of his corpse off his feet eats a heavy dinner seated on his corpse bites the overgrown fingernails of his corpse dials a white number to talk to his corpse even drinks abstract water from his corpse and then dies afresh each night to inch closer to his corpse

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Grandad bil forshay

Grandad never set out to be a troublemaker, although Aunt Ella seemed to believe he did the things he did just to vex her. He just thought that a man had to do what was expected of men, and he lived that way. This upset Aunt Ella a lot, because she lived in a world where the Bible had laid down everything one ought to do, and anything else was wrong. She was one of those pious bigots who believed that heaven would be populated by good Southern Baptists, and that the ruination of the world was in the hands of the Catholics, Jews and, worst of all, drunkards. I first realized that Grandad wasn't the kind of man the rest of the church people were when I was about six years old and Grandma died. She was forty-six at the time, and had ten living sons and daughters, and two children that had died at birth. She had a fall in the seventh month of her thirteenth pregnancy, and the subsequent miscarriage took her life and the child's as well. She had been a proud woman of part Cherokee stock, with long black hair that reached the floor from her tiny five-foot height. She usually wore it up in a bun in what she called her "Christian" fashion. My brother and I would drop everything to run and watch her comb it. Being so short, she had been an odd yet strangely appropriate match for Grandad, who stood six feet, eight inches, and was lean and wiry. When the two of them fought the air got filled with mountain oaths and the occasional guttural murmur in Cherokee, and, often enough, with flying pots and pans. She threw things and sometimes swung at him, but he would never hit her. He did whale on every one of his children and grandchildren though, except Aunt Ella. Most of his sons and their families lived with him at one time or another during the Depression due to the unsettled working conditions in the South. He was always tender with Grandma though, and his grief was real when she died. There was a big Southern funeral with lots of flowers and ten cars and a long sermon and five kinds of cake at

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the comforting after the service. For the next three months Grandad didn't have a drop to drink and hardly ever cussed. In fact, he behaved so well that he was made a deacon of the old Baptist church on Cookson Creek. That was considered quite an honor in those days. At that time the whole family lived on the northern side of the Ocoee River in a large white frame house that'd been built by the same railroad company Grandad had worked for most of his adult life. I remember it as a rambly building with a tin-roofed front porch and an old iron wash pot for which my uncles chopped railroad ties for firewood to heat water for washing every Monday. There was a dam to the left of the house made by the TVA, and from the porch you could see all sorts of mountains, from the high and famous like Lookout, to the low and funny-shaped like Sugarloaf and Little Frog and Big Frog. Across the valley and to the right was a railroad trestle which spanned the shallow Ocoee, which had lots of catfish and sunfish, and even some mudpuppies. We crossed that trestle every Sunday morning to walk to church, a procession of as many as twenty-five and seldom as few as fourteen. We bore to the right about a mile to the Underwoods' cabin (whose daughter Maude later married Uncle James) and then left across a hogback ridge and down a dusty road with fig trees on the side. There were really honey locust, but we called them figs. We'd gather the flat, black fruits and split the pods and lick the sweet pulp while Aunt Ella warned us not to get our Sunday clothes dirty. Then we'd cross Cookson Creek and stroll past the spring with its tin cup, and the womenfolk would lead us in hymns as we passed the new Sunday School building (built in 1925, but still called "new" in 1937). After a while Grandad started failing to attend the services every Sunday. He complained of minor ailments that made the distance too far to walk with his cane, and he didn't want to take the care the twelve miles the road would take. It took Aunt Ella three whole Sundays to decide that he wasn't just staying home. On the fourth Sunday she made Woodrow stay behind to watch the house and see what Grandad was up to.

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Aunt Ella was the oldest girl in the family, twenty-six at the time, and well on her way to being an old maid. When she got older she claimed that she had turned down some fine young men in order to do her Christian duty by helping Grandma to raise the rest of the children. After Grandma passed on she took over entirely, even to the point where she could argue with Grandad and make him do what she wanted even if he wasn't willing. She never threw things, but she could pray a body into anything. Once she said, "I'm going to pray over this," you could be sure she wouldn't just appeal to God, but that her prayers would be public enough that the whole household would get no peace 'til she had her own way. Grandad was pretty touchy about this, but he generally went along with Aunt Ella's wishes after about three days of prayer. So on that fourth Sunday Woodrow stayed behind and watched the house after pretending to leave with the rest of us for church. He watched Grandad slip out the back door and walk, leaning slightly on his cane, all the way down the hill and across the trestle. He turned right on the other side and went on past the Underwoods', down toward the Turner house. Jeff Turner lived there with his wife and daughter and three female cousins who were "no better than they should be," everybody said. Grandad went up to the house and gave Jeff some money, then went on inside, while Woodrow hid by some trees near the water and waited. Grandad came out in about two hours and went home, "looking cheerful but a mite peaked," Woodrow said. When Aunt Ella heard the story she had a praying fit that lasted a whole week. Grandad gave in on Saturday night and allowed as to how he'd go to church with us on Sunday. I thought the whole thing was settled, but Aunt Ella didn't work that way, and neither did Grandad. When we got to the church the next morning, Grandad sat next to Aunt Ella instead of in back. We sat through the long Sunday School and the piano playing before the services began. By then the ladies were already swishing their paper fans with Jesus on them, and brother was settled by one of the tall open windows, trapping horseflies. The minister was droning on and on about Beulah Land, and how we would meet our loved ones there if we didn't sin:

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O Beulah land, sweet Beulah land! As on thy highest mount I stand, I look away across the sea Where mansions are prepared for me And view the shining glory shore My heaven, my home forever more! I got to wondering if we'd meet Great-Aunt Hettie, who'd died the year before, and was the first real dead person I'd ever seen. I really didn't remember her too well from when she was alive, because she didn't trust her legs well enough to come across the trestle over the Ocoee to visit. She was ninety-eight then, and couldn't do no more than keep her cabin spotless, plant a truck garden and a half-acre of cotton a year in addition to making her own jam and cutting her own firewood. She had lots of freckles, and I wondered if God would let her keep them, since I'd never seen a picture of a freckled angel. Then the minister got on the repentance theme, and made his usual call for sinners to come forth and confess their sins and be saved. Aunt Ella gave Grandad a little nudge and a look, and he gave her back a stubborn stare like he wouldn't, but then she whispered something soft that sounded like "I'm praying," and Grandad got a look on his face like an old coonhound that got caught killing chickens. Then he straightened up real slow, stood up, walked up to the preacher and said in a loud voice, "I done it. I been over the Ocoee every Sunday for the past three weeks and paid Jeff two dollars every time for the use of his cousin Sarah. I lied about being sick." Well, the minister just stood there at first, and then he tried to say his usual words about the lost sheep being found and for the Lord to bless Grandad, but the scandalized noises from the ladies and the snickers from the men got too loud and drowned him out. The service just sort of dried up after that, so finally he signaled the old lady who always wore a purple dress and sang through her nose. She started to play something, and the minister walked right past Grandad and went to the door to shake hands with everybody. When we got to the door the minister told Grandad that he wasn't going to let a man like Grandad be deacon

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anymore. Grandad said something soft about the first stone, and the preacher's face turned bright red and he shut up. He didn't offer to shake hands, neither. Despite Grandad's confession, Aunt Ella started praying when we got home and asked the Lord to forgive the family and not to punish us all for the sins of Grandad. Grandad got mad and roared at her to stop her whining and sniveling, but she didn't stop for almost two days, by which time Grandad had made up his mind never to go back to that church, and he never did. It wasn't until the family moved to Cleveland, thirty miles southeast of Chattanooga, that Grandad started back to church. It was a caution to see him all spruced up and leaning on his old hickory cane that he sometimes used on his kids. He had a polite and sort of elegant way of talking to any of the ladies who happened to catch his fancy. He start out with some innocent line like, "Good afternoon, Missus Brown," this to usually a fortyish-to-fiftyish widow, "You're looking pretty as a picture in that hat. I'm afraid I didn't keep my mind on the sermon today because I saw so much of heaven just looking at an angel like you." Then the lumpy little women would kind of simper and tell him how he carried on, and, as often as not, invite him home to have Sunday dinner with them. Sometimes he didn't get back from "Sunday dinner" 'til after nine o'clock, and that meant Aunt Ella was due to pray for two days. She didn't pray about what Grandad had done since she wouldn't accuse any upstanding church ladies of anything, but she did pray about whatever had been on Grandad's mind, and that kept him there so long hoping. Grandad was retired by then, and it bored him to sit around the house, with Aunt Ella praying all the time, and the noise of us kids, and the constant sound of chattering women. My Aunt Nora was there, and Aunt Jeanette, who took snuff by chewing on one of those big wooden matches we called "barnburners" 'til the end was feathered, then dipping it into the snuff and rubbing it inside her upper lip. Grandad chewed, but he didn't believe in a woman smoking or taking snuff, so

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Aunt Jeanette stayed out of his way most of the time. Both Aunt Nora and Aunt Jeanette were on the way to becoming old maids, although they did finally get married. Uncle James was in the CCC, Uncle Elmer and Uncle Wayne were in Phoenix. Woodrow was in his last year of high school, and he stayed away from the house as much as he could, 'cause when he was there Grandad laughed about the smell of the rose water he was using on his red hair. My father was working in Indiana for the power companies and trying to save enough to bring us kids north. Aunt Mary and Aunt Betty had just entered high school. The house, with so many of the men gone and the constant man-hungry air of the older aunts and the burgeoning man-awareness of the younger ones, together with Aunt Ella's constant praying that all their thoughts might be pure on the subject of marriage, was a continual annoyance to Grandad. Sometimes he would keep the pension check the railroad sent him and take his railroad pass and ride up to Chattanooga for a couple of days to visit his old friends from the railroad. When he came back he wouldn't be so grouchy for a few days. Then he'd sit on the porch and whittle and drown stray flies with the most accurate spitting I ever saw. He made me a bow with his whittling. It could shoot all the way across the street and up on the hill where Willard lived. Willard's mother said I was trying to kill her little bow, so Aunt Ella took the bow away and burned it and told Grandad not to make any more for me. One day, along toward late summer, we were sitting on the porch and I was pestering Grandad to tell me a story about the railroads, when all of a sudden this woman came stomping up the walk with a baby on her arm. I say "stomping" because she was putting one foot down hard in front of the other. She looked hot and tired and mad. When she reached the bottom of the steps, Grandad stood up and said, real soft and polite, "Why, hello Marylou. What are you doing here?"

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She kind of glared and then started to cry, but kept it real tight so that if I hadn't seen the tears, I wouldn't have known for sure that she was crying. She was a plainish woman in her thirties and looked hard-used. Aunt Ella was in the room where she did her sewing because it looked out on the porch and she could keep her eye on us kids and on Grandad. She was leaning on the screen so she could hear. I saw her sort of jump when the woman pointed to the baby and said to Grandad, "It's your'n." Grandad was just as polite as could be and asked her to sit down. Then he said he wasn't denying he'd "been there" (though I didn't know what that meant 'til a long time after) but that there had been others there both before and after him. Then he noticed me and chased me into the house, but he didn't see Aunt Ella sitting there at the window. She told us later that she heard him say that he didn't care if she gave the baby his name, but that he wouldn't pay her any money. She said he also told the woman that he'd agree to come up to Chattanooga and sign some kind of paper, and so the woman went away, still crying. Aunt Ella said that was the reason for all the powerful prayers the family would be making. Aunt Ella blamed Grandad something awful, but she tried to pray him out of going to the city because she said the whole thing was a family disgrace, and that nobody should know that a man Grandad's age--and patriarch of the family no less--carried on thataway. He went anyway though, and when he came back he looked a mite happier than when he went away. But then Aunt Ella started in to praying and his happiness just faded. She kept it up so much that finally he stopped yelling and asked her to please stop just as polite as you please, but she wouldn't. Afterward he started to decline, but still she wouldn't leave off and prayed even harder. Two weeks later, on a Sunday morning, my brother and I were playing on the porch with bottlecaps and marbles just before it was time for church. Aunt Ella raised the window and told us to play quietly because Grandad was dead.

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The doctor said it was his heart, but I still believe Aunt Ella prayed him to death.

wet dream Natalia Zvereva

every so cobalt moon i get Real real high pretending that i'm a Swedish gangsters' wife that empty dark space in the painting On our wall? it's where the dead live. and when we fight i delight in keepin' my third eye awash in the moonlight. cocking his loaded gun to my face i like to whisper "Baby Baby I'm a 666" right before he pulls the trigger (my daddy never loved me).

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CONTRIBUTORS FAIZ AHMAD is a final-year student pursuing his Bachelors-Masters in Biological Sciences, IIT Madras. He believes in poetry as the ground of bewilderment, of amazement at simply ‘being.’ His poems have been published in Salamander, Indian Literature, Off the Coast, Trumpeter, Anima and others. LEVI ANDALOU'S work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mid-American Review, The Minnesota Review, Lake Effect, Spillway, BOMB, Virga Magazine, The South Carolina Review, Sugar House Review, DIAGRAM, F(r)iction, Cleaver Magazine, Sonora Review, Phoebe, Ruminate, Pembroke Magazine, and Tampa Review. He was a finalist for both the 2018 Greg Grummer Poetry Award and the 2018 Puerto Del Sol Poetry Contest, and a semifinalist for the 2018 Boulevard Emerging Poets Contest. A reading of his work was featured on the literary podcast “On the Edge.” The Poetry Editor of Black Warrior Review has said of his work: “These poems and their linguistic turns reinvigorate the prose poem.” The Poetry Editor of Washington Square Review called his work “hypnagogic, surreal, and incantatory.” He graduated from Brown University, where he studied with C.D. Wright, Michael S. Harper, and Ange Mlinko. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read more of his work or contact him at LeviAndalou.com. DICK BENTLEY’s books, Post-Freudian Dreaming, A General Theory of Desire, and All Rise are available on Amazon. He won the Paris Writers/Paris Review’s International Fiction Award and has published over 260 works of fiction, poetry, and memoir in the US, the UK, France, Canada, and Brazil. He served on the Board of the Modern Poetry Association and has taught at the University of Massachusetts. Check his website, www.dickbentley.com. C.E. CARDIFF was born in the Philippines, and spent her childhood both there and in Northern California. She has degrees in Comparative Literature and German from the University of California at Irvine, and an MFA from The New School for Social Research. Currently, she is at work on a novel. ALLISON CUNDIFF is a Professor of English in St. Louis. Her publications include three books of poetry, Just to See How It Feels, Otherings, and In Short, A Memory of the Other on a Good Day and articles in Pragmatic Buddhist, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, Feminist Teacher, In Layman's Terms, and Chariton Review. COLIN DODDS is a writer. His work has appeared in more than 300 publications, been anthologized, nominated and shortlisted for numerous prizes, and praised by luminaries including Norman Mailer and David Berman. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and daughter. See more of his work at thecolindodds.com. TAYLOR FELD is a theatre and creative writing student at Northwestern University. She is a graphic designer by trade. She is trying her best. BIL FORSHAY is an eighty-seven-year-old Tennessee-born artist currently based in Portland, Oregon, who writes plays, short stories and poems in quantity. A professional tenor soloist, bil also plays guitar and lays claim to knowing over 3,000 songs, though thankfully no one has yet asked him to prove it.

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KEN HAAS lives in San Francisco where he works in healthcare and sponsors a poetry writing program at the UCSF Children's Hospital. His poems have appeared in over 50 journals, including Clare, Freshwater, Helix, Natural Bridge, Nimrod, Poet Lore, Quiddity and Spoon River. You can visit him online at http://kenhaas.org. BRANDYCE INGRAM is a writer, tutor, and jazz-head in Austin, Texas. Her written musings have appeared in The Austin Chronicle, The Esthetic Apostle (Chicago, IL), Sand Hills Literary Magazine (Augusta, GA), and The Northern Cross (San Francisco, CA). She prefers questions over answers, quantum chaos over order, and cats. MATT NAGIN’S poetry has been published in Antigonish Review, Dash Literary Journal, The Charles Carter, Grain Magazine and Arsenic Lobster. In 2018, his poem ‘If We Are Doomed,’ won The Spirit First Editor’s Choice Award. His first poetry collection, "Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight," has obtained very strong reviews. PAULA PERSOLEO is a 2011 graduate of Stony Brook’s MFA program in Southampton, NY. Her recent work has been accepted by Philadelphia Stories, Panoply, and SWWIM Every Day. In 2018, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by Beltway Poetry Quarterly. She lives and works in Delaware. REBECCA PYLE lives between The Great Salt Lake and the beautiful once-silver-mining mountain town where Sundance film festival now takes place each winter. She writes (Cobalt Review, Lindenwood Review (forthcoming), Map Literary (forthcoming); she paints/photographs (Watershed Review (forthcoming), Hawai’i Review, Permafrost). The Underwater American Songbook, a new chapbook of poems by her (publisher: Underwater New York) has her chalk-andcement-on-Masonite artwork, “Mermaids, Violins, Relics," on its cover. See rebeccapyleartist.com. EVA-MARIA SHER was born in Germany before the end of WWII. She emigrated to the United States at seventeen and lives on a farm in Clinton, Washington with her husband Ron and their two Leonberger puppies Minnie and Tasha. She thoroughly enjoys playing with the language of her adopted country. KEN TOMARO is an artist and writer living in Cleveland, Ohio. His work has been published in several literary journals. He has also published three collections of poetry, Your Dog Called, Your Wife’s on Fire,Drowning in My Shorts and How To Tape a Snickers to the Wall (So You Can Take a Nap) available on Amazon. He writes with the bitterness of Charles Bukowski, the peculiarity of Harvey Pekar and his work centers around everyday life with a heavy dose of depression. KATHY WEST holds an MFA in fiction. Her stories have been published in Apalachee Review, Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere. As an introvert who likes talking into microphones, she has read her work on stage for Lit Lounge and Bar Flies in Phoenix, and Dirty Laundry Lit in Los Angeles. NATALIA ZVEREVA arrived in New York City in 1992 as a refugee from the Soviet Union. A professional actress for over a decade, she has appeared in various films, theater and television shows. Her poetry has been recently published in The Write Launch, The Gambler Magazine and The Platform Review.

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Profile for Oxford Magazine

Oxford Magazine  

Issue 41 Fall 2018

Oxford Magazine  

Issue 41 Fall 2018

Profile for oxmag
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