Masthead Editor-in-Chief Leslee Chan Managing Editor Joe Squance Fiction Editor Matt Weinkam Nonfiction Editor Evan Steuber Poetry Editor Jonny Lohr Staff Readers Kasey Butcher Kelly Goss Melissa Kerwood Alice Ladrick Siobhan Watson Artwork Amy Chan Ryan Van Dyke Cat Lynch Cover Image: Sinking and Shrinking by Cat Lynch.
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Special thanks Erica Bernheim Amy Chan Ryan Van Dyke Eric Goodman Eugene Gloria Dana Leonard Margaret Luongo Cat Lynch Jonathan Rylander Also, Gary Busey
Established in 1984 and still currently produced by the graduate students of Miami Universityâ€˜s English Department. The views expressed herein are those of the authors, not the editors or sponsors. After first publication, all subsequent rights revert back to the author. Copyright ÂŠ 2011 by Oxford Magazine. 3
Contents Fiction ZANE BIEBELLE Obligation
EILEEN BORDY Things Heard and not Seen
MICHAEL GARRIGA The End and the Mean
ERICA BERNHEIM Summer at the Terra The Superstition of the Clean Glass Roadside Masterpieces Television, High Definition Appetite
9 10 12 13 14
JOHN F. BUCKLEY Automatic Cartography Anybody Can Live on the Moon
BILLY CANCEL iâ€˜ll be parked on bourbon
JIM CHAPSON Whoever
KEITH GAUSTAD Iron Sty
EUGENE GLORIA Death and the Barber The Provinces Psalm of Arrivals Psalm
53 54 55 56
EDWIN PERRY what hums?
PAUL VOGEL Some of my best friends are little Eichmans
Nonfiction COLE FARRELL The Moon
PAUL R. HUNDT Buying a Christmas Tree
Interview JOE SQUANCE Undercurrents: A Conversation with the Subterraneous Ron Hansen 23 MATTHEW WEINKAM Boxing with Padgett Powell
Multimedia RUST, LTD. M!ndsweeper
BILLY CANCEL i’ll be parked on bourbon with my pendulum absent & that week‘s artificial insemination comedy holding my gaze like a fish trapped beneath ice sad boy wandering the dandelion fields i wrote him not even prisoners would take an interest in his ten views of perfection & to get over his own scream camera complex he replied i‘d have to candle my way through many an insect summer night & furthermore oh baby when you talk like that i wanna throw a woman on the tracks but i wish he‘d told me the origin of those who thrive amongst the orchid pavilions of this marrowless town was more dead cat bounce than polaris breach a sensorized kick start in great dismal swamp not one of them had seeked where there‘s no galleries & the full is half glass
MICHAEL GARRIGA The End and the Mean: Celestun, Mexico, October 11, 2009 The church bells toll to tell us all another marriage has begun. I can hear their pealing all the way down here on the beach, where I follow the tracks mules have left in the dry sand, the wind erasing them one grain at a time. I walk past fishermen in wooden dinghies, which bob in the water like coffins; past kids who kick soccer balls and fly kites composed of yesterday‘s newspapers, their laughter carried off by the same wind that holds the gulls and their calls; past the two restaurants, where tourists sit and drink sangria, their legs splayed in the sun and tan; and so on past the icehouse, to turn off at Calle Vida and, as I‘ve done every Sunday since Katrina destroyed my Biloxi home and I moved down here, walk one block north to the town‘s only cemetery. Here I join the other women, the older ones wearing starched huipils, pressed and austere and white with embroidered roses and a pleachment of thorny stems. They sweep dirt and salt off their loved ones‘ crypts and light candles and bring fresh cut flowers to place in cement vases, which rest forever on top of the bright painted tombs—pinks and pale oranges, light blues and yellows—that resemble stunted houses, really. I walk to the back of the cemetery, where the salty smell of sea life grows dim, ever so far back to find the poorest graves, the ones I‘ve never seen visited. Some are nothing more than mere ash in a Mason jar or a lone crucifix stabbed into the earth. And then there‘s mine, the child and its grave that I have adopted: a small pair of faded blue pants and a red and blue striped shirt, both folded sharp as surgical tools, creased, and all held in place against the blowing wind by an ash-filled plastic bag. A bone that didn‘t quite burn has pushed its way through the faux skin, and I put my finger tip on it and push it back, gentle as I can, yet some ash spills out over my finger and onto the clothes. I usually brush away the leaves and say a prayer to Mary for this child and for mine who‘d be about size enough 7
now to wear these clothes. But today I notice that one of the small shoes, marshaled as ever before this grave, is askew. I lift it, balancing its weight in my palm, and I straighten the tongue and tie tight the strings and set it back right as before.
ERICA BERNHEIM Summer at the Terra A command. There are people who give pity and those who take it. Others will select those they hope to be someone else. More flexible than the skin you thank yourself for cultivating, all the world still dearly loves a cage. There are spider puppets on each of my hands, as we alight, peripatetic, from top to bottom floor, the white shifting new of the banisters the uncooked dough a short shrift, things I know not how to pronounce and feel none the less for it. It is ignorance, shape-shifting or time-traveling, back to a week spent atop the second tallest building in Chicago, stricken mute with something not longing for this hereafter. Breath included, I will keep you stuck. This is a theatre. This is run amok. This is desire at its most noisy. Anything is comfortable and comes with a view of parks in electric panels. Earthly summer, and the heat wears me like thirty years of incarceration, like moss beaten into confessing its last few drops, our troubles are lit from behind, the swirls contraband around a frosted glass tinged with deep green, consumed as if in secrets.
The Superstition of the Clean Glass A cross-section of a tough person seems touched in the middle of an island, and we like it. No matter how hard we try, if it is hot, your cheek will be required. A tongue will be sacrificed for the sake of the sour. Two hands will be filled with garbage, filed without caution in a cabinet without curiosity or folders, the companions of your childhood: your trombone, your Suzuki Method, your guitarsâ€˜ protection against bad news, things you wish would turn true, you are most beautiful from any distance that allows the audience to avert its eyes. How brave and dangerous to use a glass, at all, to dreamily cleanse the rim with lip-mute bridles, to raise the hereticâ€˜s fork lipwards, to lie down on the unmade bed in the madeup house, to burn your fingers on the turbanshaped nightlight. The last creature swallowed you whole. Each memory is hoarded, taken out like an extinguished light-bulb: with care for what could happen if dropped, yet utterly useless: sixtyfive gallons of orange glaze in a blue pick-up truck, the fifth leg of a lonesome cat, the horse imposters, the other sides of fruit, the last time we were chased, a farm outside Ohio, confirming in your mind the things you always wanted to think. Some of you
went shopping. Your feet avoided cracks. In the sick bad darkness, you were the bad sick darkness, the raggedtooth shark turning three times in the entryway every time it swallows whole. Cobwebs, massive and empty, youâ€˜ve had your chance. Your heart is perfect. If you can picture it, Iâ€˜ll meet you there.
Roadside Masterpieces It is useless to imagine the damage before you have seen it. Think of the most interesting pants you have ever seen. Think of a little boy in Buddy Hollyâ€˜s pants and glasses. Everything changes. Nothing changes. I am glued to the keyhole, awaiting your arrival. In this version of a lighthouse, the lens is cracked. No mysteries are ever really solved. No phones ever fail to ring.
Television, High Definition And after all, what is this business other than the best part of housesitting, a new life circadian in other people‘s dirt, watching it skim the surface of a dusty bathtub mess, colder than your own, your body less soft and rippled than the water inside a thread of silk beads, an anchor, different movies here than the ones at home, the tree of woe, the treachery of the prehistoric bikini, the furor of each lamentation forgotten, food you buy just to watch it rot, destabilized and obliterated, rudderless, led by the sun, the room, and the sky, the same things sprung. Watch the fight scenes again in ―Conan the Barbarian,‖ how the men on horseback anticipate their own falls, young enough to ask if your cod has too long worn its same piece, that stench of mildew, what was it and who are you to recall nothing of it? None of this is what you expected to see. None of it will leave, but who wouldn‘t want to try it on for size.
After Denis Johnson’s “Surreptitious Kissing”
Appetite No room for tenderness in a bathroom, only bodies so tenuous that to touch them is an economy of words and an appetite that buckles like please say nothing if you must and asks the hand to touch the face, against me, tell me, things I want so badly: outside, this evening, inside a phantom series, discarded planetary faces like transparent mirrored gluttons, and I introduce myself as I should have been: breezy and simple, lost in spaces no bigger than the heart‘s feigned gesture, now so lewd, that this would be something you might on some other time or this place remember me worth forgetting.
Black dog by Amy Chan
ZANE BIEBELLE Obligation The ground, gritty with a rare two inches of snow, crunches under his feet. It is so cold his breath hangs in the air for a second before dissipating, and he fears his hands will freeze to the shotgun. The bright country stars shine, but their faint light does nothing to illuminate his path, and the moon is already set or in the wrong phase. His wife walks next to him, on his left side, one hand on his shoulder and the other moving a flashlight. The beam of light sweeps forward in small arcs, the shotgun warms in his hands. His mother-in-law is on his other side, quiet. His wife whistles a long, piercing note that startles him. They stand listening, and the dog growls out in the field. His wife swings the flashlight and the beam catches the dog‘s green glowing eyes. A muffled growl from the back of the dog‘s throat carries across the frozen ground. The man brings the shotgun up to his shoulder and looks down the top of the barrel at the animal, its gleaming eyes caught in the flashlight beam. His wife is always expecting these things of him. At the beginning of their relationship, she had brought him home during the roundup and had expected him to ride with the cowboys. He had gotten on a horse at six o‘clock in the morning and rode for two weekend days, and weeks later he‘d told her that he‘d never ridden a horse in his life. ―That‘s not true,‖ she said. ―You‘ve been on a horse before. Everybody has.‖ ―Not me,‖ he said. ―That was the first time I‘ve ever sat on a horse‘s back.‖ ―Well, that‘s stupid. We had no idea that you‘d never done it. I thought everyone—didn‘t you have any friends with horses, growing up? Didn‘t you go to summer camp or something?‖ He shook his head.
―You could have been hurt. That‘s scary.‖ She grabbed his hand and squeezed, her palm soft and warm. ―You should have said something.‖ And now she expects him to look down the long barrel of the shotgun and shoot this dog. He can barely see it—it looks like some kind of chow mix. It casts a shadow on the snow under the flashlight beam. The women stand on either side of him, holding their breath, waiting. The dog had come up to the house looking for something eat, drawn probably by the turkey carcass his motherin-law had thrown outside for her dog, a fat Queensland heeler, and her herd of outside cats. The heeler was lazy, a remarkable trait for a breed known mostly for their high energy, and didn‘t work except as a guard-dog around the house. All the animals were stuffed from their own holiday feast of leftovers, and this stranger dog had come from their neighbor‘s a mile across the creek. Their neighbor‘s dogs bred indiscriminately and their inbreeding and the neighbor‘s lack of concern made them mangy, vicious, almost feral. Months before, three of them came across the creek and attacked the lazy heeler when his wife‘s parents were in town shopping for the day. The heeler had to get nine stitches. His hands ache from gripping the gun and his arms burn from holding it up and his finger twitches on the trigger. He can feel the women‘s eyes on him, waiting for him to take the shot, just as he imagines the dog can feel his one-eyed gaze, and that is part of what holds it there. ~ ―There‘s a strange dog outside,‖ his mother-in-law had said. ―It growled at me when I went to check the water.‖ He and his wife had been sitting in the living room, watching the late local news and yawning, full and warm, made more comfortable by the terrible conditions outside. His fatherin-law was upstairs, sleeping off an all day drunk.
―I spoke to it and it made a noise.‖ She made a gruff barking sound, imitating the dog. ―We need to get the gun.‖ The shotgun was outside in the pickup, frozen cold. Frost crystals sparkled under the porch light as he jogged out to the truck. The gun was loaded, was always loaded. They stepped outside, the three of them, and he could feel his wife‘s excitement as they went around the side of the house, towards the field. His wife had the big cop‘s flashlight, and it twitched elaborately in her grip, illuminating snow, trees, the fence, the field in quick flashes. His wife‘s hand is on his shoulder, her quiet breath so close he can feel it, hot and moist on his neck. She contracts her hand, impatience flowing through her fingers and into him. He puts his finger on the trigger. He might only wound the stray, and have to listen to it pant and whine, have to track it to where it twitches and growls and finish it off, up close. It is what the men do. Her brother and father are hunters, and with them he has brought dozens of quail down out of the sky, has admired the quick flight of the birds, the way the barrel of the shotgun traces their arcs, and the chummy atmosphere in the cab of the old ranch truck as they bounce down dirt roads. He likes these outings, likes drinking warm Coors Light from a can, but he doesn‘t particularly care for the way the birds flop in the dirt, wings beating frantically, or the grating crunch of broken bone when he twists their necks. His wife has approved of all of this, the beer, the hunting, the tiny bird carcasses lined up on the tailgate, even though she enjoys the way the quail run down the road in front of the truck. She told him once they had little families, coveys. But she likes the taste of quail in the fall. He looks at the dog, its mouth open stupidly, and he pulls the trigger. He hates the dog and his wife‘s touch. The barrel flash dazzles his eyes, and his ears roar like an ocean as the echo from the cliff comes back to him, breaking up the silence, the deep country silence that makes it hard to sleep. He always hears his blood rushing out here. 18
PAUL VOGEL Some of my best friends are little Eichmans For Julian Assange and Rupert Murdoch Let's hope the automusk of information And other current truths now Will cure us of these collateral and their Secularcentrist yearning bullshit This current lo-fi drama Leaves us in the dark NY Times Howl Come home Narconarcissus And rap the last communiquĂŠ Of Childhoodâ€˜s End the Bright lights another Waco Kareshing us in morning sickness Flaming horses trampling policia In the dust against oncoming Traffic yellow skin clouds swarm Around a small blue circle In the age of science tuk-tuks Bikes and trucks in heat oh heat Of unprotected intercourse From the agrarian blood frenzied Insurgents simmer to a boil as Outrage dressed indigenous Blinkered boy toy soldiers and Catatonic catamite tongue puppets Come home in a box
EDWIN PERRY what hums? go on and burn it. fucking hereditary back-wash, lint trap excuse for an excuse. there is something hissing under the back porch and there is gas leaking up from the earth through the cracks in the basement concrete. we get little notes throughout the day, sweet things, simple like sweet things are, and we mark the sun pitched across the sky. the hissing thing sleeps and the fumes escape through the open windows and into the greater atmosphere. night-time shuts us in, only braving the cold to smoke in a robe on the porch above the hissing thing. otherwise we dizzy from the gases begging us to re-light the pilot light. stupor in and out and when will the hissing end?
Originally published in Burdock.
KEITH GAUSTAD Iron Sty Where the cigarettes are hidden ―This chick‘s jewelry‖ on the side of her breast flipping lights to eyelids so the accident comes lovely – you can see up my skirt and it waved at me The mystery moved on voices in the kitchen she‘s a farmer‘s daughter I walked her home to her sugar farm with the iron sty Goodnight, I tell her I have to go to church tomorrow so she didn‘t have to lie Goodnight
Man Animal by Ryan Van Dyke 22
JOE SQUANCE Undercurrents: A Conversation with the Subterraneous Ron Hansen
Ron Hansen operates beneath the surface; if you want to understand him, you need to dig. The author of eight novels (including Desperadoes, Mariette in Ecstasy, Hitler‘s Niece, and his most recent, Exiles, which chronicles the life of Gerard Manley Hopkins), twice a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Atticus), a finalist for the National Book Award (again for Atticus), and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the John Simon Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Foundations, Ron Hansen is a bona fide Literary Figure. However, to meet him is to know none of these things. On the surface, he is simply midwestern: warm, welcoming, affable, and completely uninterested in playing the role of accomplished literary academic. It’s as if he were raised in the same small, dusty farm town as Clark Kent and taught, similarly, that sometimes it’s better to keep the white shirt buttoned up over the bright blue jumpsuit. In addition to all this, Ron Hansen is an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, though this part of his identity, too, runs deep beneath the surface. In his life, as in his fiction, Ron Hansen is not a preacher; he does not proselytize. He is as eager to talk about a craftily designed golf course or a well-made martini as he is about the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is not to say that Hansen ignores his faith; instead, he is content to let it run, subterranean, beneath everything he writes, permeating out from the center so fully and so subtly that by the time it reaches the surface it doesn’t look like anything at all. It’s just there, invisibly.
JS: There was an interview where you said: ―Each Mass has a plot.‖ And you also said that you attend daily Mass. And so I thought, ―Well, that‘s a lot of plots.‖ RH: (Laughs) It‘s usually just the one basic plot. JS: Just over and over. RH: Yeah. JS: Well I was wondering if you‘ve ever considered writing fictional representations of scripture. You do a lot of historical representations, I wonder if you ever considered doing stories of the Bible. RH: I have considered it, though I haven‘t seen many people be successful at it. The stories are simultaneously so well known and so little known that your imagination of it could be good but it often doesn‘t translate to other people very well. It seems like something you can meditate on better than you can write about. JS: The way you‘ve described it as being so well known and so little known seems like it might be an interesting challenge. RH: Right. It would just take so long to work up the material and be effective. JS: I think it was R. Crumb who recently published The Book of Genesis Illustrated, where he just used straight text from the Bible but added his own visual twist, and just that one extra tweak seemed to make it spring forth in a new way for a lot of people. Is there some way that just a little tweak could really make the stories new? RH: I could imagine doing something visual more than something written. I could do a screenplay about some biblical stories—I could imagine doing that more easily, and it would probably be easier doing something from the Old Testament 24
rather than the New Testament. It‘s always interesting to let your imagination run wild, but I just don‘t feel called to write them. It‘s too hard. JS: That‘s probably the simplest answer. RH: Yeah. JS: You‘ve described your work as ―confrontational‖ in its approach to issues of spirituality and religion, but you also seem very careful to avoid proselytizing. So for a reader like myself, a secular reader, it doesn‘t feel very confrontational to me. It feels very open-ended. RH: Oh yeah. I think those are two different things that I was talking about there. To face squarely I think of as confrontational. And at the same time, I don‘t try to solve anything. And that would be proselytizing. Where it becomes dogmatic. Instead, I try to lead you to the brink where you can go any direction you want. It‘s what Kierkegaard talked about: you get to that chasm and you make the leap of faith or you withdraw. JS: The word ―confrontational‖ feels very aggressive to me, I guess. RH: What I really meant to say, I think, was that to take on issues that people think about and be overt about it, rather than always making it subterranean to the text. JS: That was my impression, that you may be more comfortable raising questions than nudging readers in a certain direction. Do you ever have specific issues or answers in mind when you write, or are you just happy to raise the question? RH: Was it William Carlos Williams who said ―No ideas but in things‖? When I approach these issues, or scenes or characters, I try to make them living entities and have the reader provide part 25
of the plot, because the reader is going to carry those characters and scenes around with them and they‘re going to make of them what they will. As soon as you start saying ―You must read this this way‖ it somehow destroys what fiction is about for me. It‘s like when you do a dream interpretation and somebody asks you what you think. You could say, ―Well this is what I think it is, but what do you think?‖ Because dreams mean different things to different people. And what fiction is doing is suggesting opportunities for you to draw your own conclusions. JS: Do you think that approach is how you‘ve been able to avoid being categorized as a certain type of writer—being put into the genre of Christian Fictionalist or Christian Novelist? RH: I think people would see me as a Christian writer, but not ghettoized. I‘m not in a specific section of a bookstore. I tend to be with all the other literature. But I think maybe one of the advantages I‘ve had is that I‘ve written so many different kinds of genres—I‘ve done westerns and historical novels and have been all over the map in kind of an unpredictable way. So I think part of it is that they can‘t quite put their finger down on it. And nobody wants to be pigeonholed as a writer. Even though I‘ve written about things that are specifically Christian I think that in some cases it doesn‘t show its head that much. It‘s, as I said, subterranean. JS: Has that been a conscious strategy? RH: No. I have no strategies at all. It‘s just what feels right. My friend Tobias Wolff has kind of resisted ever treating specific Christian themes; that has been on purpose, even though there are certain elements of his memoirs that address those subjects. But in his fiction he doesn‘t. It doesn‘t come up, but it is there beneath the surface.
JS: When you‘re writing a book, about any topic, are you looking to reach a certain audience? Is that something that you think about? RH: No. I think I write for my friends, and then hope others like the same things. JS: You seem uniquely positioned to raise issues of faith and spirituality with secular readers. Do you ever feel any kind of obligation to that end? RH: I‘ve always said that the idea of fiction is to entertain and to educate. You have to teach readers about something, and sometimes I‘m teaching them about history but also I‘m teaching them about matters of faith. And I think there‘s a yearning in almost everybody to have a religious faith, that some people do have a religious faith—they listen to its tenets, they violate them at their peril. And some people have no faith. I think Adolf Hitler obviously is the antithesis of a faithful person. So when I was writing about him, for example, I was trying to get at what it is that convinces somebody that this is the right way to go, and for him it was seeking power and fame and all those other negative characteristics. Those subjects just kind of gnaw at me for some reason and that‘s why I end up writing about them— not because of strategy or gamesmanship at all. And since they‘re issues that concern me, it‘s natural that they would come up in my writing. But I don‘t try to figure out an audience at all. JS: Do you ever get pressure from publishers to do that? RH: No. I almost never talk to them about what I‘m writing. It comes out of the blue to them. I might say a sentence or two about what I‘m working on, and they just tell me they can‘t wait to read it. They never see it in progress—it‘s always a finished manuscript that I send to them. There‘s a greater liberty in doing it that way. They‘re free to say yes or no, and I‘m free to go someplace else, which I‘ve done. I want to have as few
constraints as possible, which is why I don‘t take an advance on a novel before I‘ve actually finished the manuscript. JS: Really? RH: Yes. I‘m like a trapper going out and getting his pelts and bringing them back to the trading post. JS: That seems like an unconventional way to work. RH: Well, John Updike has never had an agent and he never took an advance until the book was finished. He probably lost out on millions of dollars doing it that way. He had a very nice career but he might have done better. But I think he did it for the very same reason I did it: it‘s a clean slate. JS: You‘ve described the issues in your writing as often being subterranean, and that‘s been a source of frustration for you in the past when some reviewers, you felt, hadn‘t caught all the things you had to say. You‘ve said that you‘ve brought some of those ideas more to the fore since then, but are there still things that certain readers—or critics—are missing? RH: Most of the time I try to be accessible enough that readers know what‘s going on. Sometimes there‘s some hidden aspect to it and then when I say what it is they say, ―Oh yeah. I get it now.‖ There‘s that aha! moment. But most of the time I‘m dealing in an accessible enough way that there‘s a surface understanding. JS: You don‘t worry about being too subterranean? RH: No. My friend Jim Shepard is the first reader of a lot of my stuff, along with my wife, and he always thinks I‘m too obvious. He‘s always wanting me to cut back, saying ―People are going to get this,‖ and I‘m always saying he‘s too hermetic—that he has to explain things more than he does. And partly he just assumes that people will know more than they actually do. He will just 28
assume that you know who Otto Von Bismarck is. And I say, ―He‘s the German chancellor, maybe you should say that.‖ But he thinks I try to spoon-feed people too much. And maybe I do. But I‘m aware, as a teacher, of how often I say things in a classroom and I can see that some people are just not getting it. And so I have to fill in that information. JS: Have you gotten any feedback from readers who think that you are too subterranean, that you ought to address issues more directly? RH: No. I haven‘t heard from them, at least. Maybe I lost them. (Laughs.) JS: You are the Gerard Manley Hopkins Professor of Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University. RH: Yes. JS: What is it about Hopkins, do you think, that takes you beyond admiration and into scholarship? RH: The beauty of his language. He was very aware of etymologies of words and he had a tendency to pick exactly the right one. That‘s why, when you read his poems, you can read them over and over and over again and find something new each time. There‘s an incredible depth to all of his poems, and it‘s because of the way he put words together And also, I just appreciate the fact that he was so dedicated to his multiple professions—to his poetry and his priesthood and so forth—and how he just kind of forged ahead with it even though he wasn‘t rewarded in his time. So, for me, he‘s kind of the patron saint of obscure writers and people who don‘t get published. I like him for all those things, and that he died too young, and that he was incredibly charming and intelligent and confident, and that he recognized his own genius and knew that nobody else understood that he was a genius. And it must have been terribly
frustrating, but that‘s the fate of all geniuses, or most geniuses, that they‘re not understood in their time. JS: As a writer who is celebrated in his time, how does that influence your perspective on what he went through? RH: I just feel enormously lucky. And I‘ve served on enough juries to know that it‘s a coin flip to determine who gets the prize. That I‘ve been recognized at all, or nominated for things, is just amazing to me. It doesn‘t feel like that long ago when I was wondering if I was going to get published at all. And then suddenly you do get published, and then other good things start happening, and you realize that it‘s quirky, that my style works for some people, or the topics I write about interest people. That‘s not true for everybody. It‘s just luck, more than anything else. JS: Does it change the way you think about Hopkins? Was he unlucky? RH: He was just ahead of his time. And he didn‘t capitulate. He was just so confident in himself that he decided he wasn‘t going to change just to suit other people. JS: There were parts of your novel, Exiles, where it seemed like Hopkins would feel very disillusioned or frustrated with himself that his work wasn‘t catching on. RH: Yes. He talked about Christ being the only literary critic. Meaning, that‘s the only voice he counted on. Of course, it‘s easier to do it that way—if you‘re just writing for yourself you can write exactly the way you want. But once you decide, ―I want to be a published writer,‖ you have to be aware of an audience even if you‘re not writing for an audience. You have to be aware that this is privileged information you‘re conveying, and you have to make it accessible.
JS: There are sections of Exiles that read like straight biography. Had you considered just writing a biography of Hopkins? RH: Some of the most interesting parts of the novel for me are when I‘m speculating, and I couldn‘t do that in a biography. If I wrote as straight biography or straight journalism it would be just like every other book about him and I wanted to actually get a glimpse of what he must have been like. So hearing him in conversation, hearing him telling jokes—I had to make those up because they don‘t exist. Especially with the nuns I was dealing with, there was almost nothing known about them so I had to invent them. And I just wanted to get a picture of what it is to be involved in a shipwreck and what the feelings are like, and how Hopkins‘s life was its own kind of shipwreck. How the feelings he had were analogous to theirs. JS: That definitely comes through. The book seems to function as a type of biography, taking just one experience from his life— trying to write his poem, ―The Wreck of the Deutschland‖ and being fascinated by the story of the shipwreck—and using that as sort of a window into his life, rather than write a traditional biography. RH: At one point I was going to do a whole biographical novel, and I think I wrote about thirteen pages just on him getting off the train in Oxford and meeting his tutor. And I thought, ―Geez, I‘ve got so much to do.‖ So I needed to focus, and I decided that ―The Wreck of the Deutschland‖ itself was enough of a focus to get his whole story across, plus the story about what happens to these nuns and to get at the whole concept of what people feel when they suffer, and how a lot of us are put in extremis, and what our responses to those situations might be. JS: It seemed to encapsulate his biography, just that period of his life. I was trying to parse out if your writing of Exiles was some kind of window into the legend of Ron Hansen.
RH: (Laughs) I don‘t know. I was curious about Hopkins and about those women, but I don‘t remember having anything come up in my own life that they were a mirror to. I think I was just curious about the idea of being a writer in the world and not being recognized. JS: Do you ever miss the days when you were an unknown struggling up and comer? Is there something more pure about it? RH: There‘s a book by Cyril Connolly called Enemies of Promise. He talks about how, once you find success as a writer or an actor, or in any of the arts really, more demands get put on you and so you have more obligations. People are hounding you all the time. You get emails and phone calls and letters… JS: And people wanting to do interviews during the one hour you get to yourself… RH: Exactly! It‘s part of the job, really, but when you‘re first starting out there are sometimes limitless hours you can devote to writing. And maybe you don‘t have family obligations, and you‘re living cheaply, so there are all kinds of freedoms in your writing. There are compensations for being more established, of course: your bills are paid, etc. And also, you do learn your craft after a while, so it‘s probably easier for me to write a book now than it was when I was younger. I know what to avoid and that sort of thing. But in some ways it was more fun when I was younger—everything was new and exciting, and I was driven, obsessed with writing. I‘m not as obsessed now. So that‘s the balance. But gone are the days when I write something and it‘s not accepted. And that‘s the real struggle of being a writer. Donald Justice eventually started sending out his poems under anonymous names, or a pseudonym, because he didn‘t trust the fact that a good poem was being published, that maybe they were just publishing Donald Justice. And I think all writers wonder about that. I mean, I don‘t think I‘m writing bad stuff, but who knows.
JS: Probably not. RH: But to some degree, somebody is publishing your name rather than your story. And young writers have immense hurdles to get over. All kinds of things militate against them succeeding. Jack Leggett (director of the Iowa Writer‘s Workshop) said, ―This is a business that rewards survivors.‖ Everybody tries to keep you from writing and getting published and being successful, and if you can somehow make it through all that you‘re rewarded. I think that‘s the story of most writers I know. If you just stay with it, you‘ll succeed, but the trick is in how you stay with it, getting over the discouragement and the rejections and just the sheer poverty. JS: Yeah, poverty. That‘s a tough one. RH: So many people, and so many of my writing students think that they would like to follow me in the profession of being a teacher and all that stuff, but it isn‘t definite that just because you‘re a teacher of writing you‘re going to be a published writer. I see so many people in academe who give it up after a while. Or they don‘t get published and they‘re very good teachers of it maybe but they really haven‘t arrived at what they might have done if they were house painters or lawyers or something else. I know just as many lawyers who are being published as there are people in academe being published. JS: Really? RH: Yeah. And a lot of doctors are published. They have full time jobs and everything, but it‘s so different from what they do. Plus, they have something to write about. I think in some ways teaching can be so insular that you don‘t have a subject you can write very well about, or you simply don‘t have the time because you‘re working the same muscle over and over again and you get overtired by the end of the day. That‘s why I‘ve taken to teaching more about film now, because it doesn‘t bother me so much when the writing isn‘t good. And I know a screenplay is a 33
completely different animal, and I don‘t have to look at the language or the style or anything, I can look at the simple things like character and dialogue and story and it doesn‘t offend me as much to see bad prose. When John Gardner was writing he taught ancient languages, and he said it was because he didn‘t have to devote so much time to student writing. He still did it voluntarily, just because he really liked helping people with their writing, but if he didn‘t want to he could do lots of other things in academe. JS: Is there a relationship, ultimately, between spiritual fiction and historical fiction in the way that they both strive to create meaning from difficult and complex events? RH: I would say what both of them have in common is that they both act as if life matters, and that what we do here matters, and that ideas have consequences. And that there‘s a tally at the end, that all these things accumulate in your life and come down to: did you do a good job of it or not? Were you loved? Were you a lover? All those things kind of add up in the end. And that‘s what history looks at—this thing happened and there is lots of causality, and a lot of choices that are made, and they‘re all critical. That, I think, is what they have in common. JS: Thanks for your time. RH: Thank you.
Ron Hansen‘s new novel, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion, is due to be published this summer, by Scribner. 34
The following images are screenshots from an interactive multimedia project by Buffalo media arts collective RUST, LTD. To play, visit http://afeeld.com/mindsweeper/
RUST, LTD. M!ndsweeper M!ndsweeper is a re-imagining of the classic game Minesweeper as a neo-dadaist concrete poem. The informational numbers have been replaced with groups of consonants, and those consonants change after each round of play. To play the game is to engage in a kind of purposeful forgetting in the tense space between competing acts of signification. M!ndsweeper was recently installed as part of the Oct. 2010 "Adjunct+1" show at Tulane University's Carroll Gallery.
JOHN F. BUCKLEY Automatic Cartography No heroes, cultures, pastries baked according to traditions. Spin the mandala just like a Spirograph and keep the spyglass at the ready. Swallow compasses and pride. You put the pen-nib to the paper, listening inside for waves that swish and cattail banks that switch from near to far and back, to margins shifting, marking sketchy continental limits, yours or ours, if only for the sake of arguing our selves. The ink that marks us all is liquid squidache, source of fear that stays unsettled. Draw this anyway. And blue is where we started, blue before we traipsed across and downwards, out of watercolor paint sets, into crossword puzzles; latitude and longitude, they part our hair and outline all the cuts of meat on butchers charts. This golden, shadowed channel marks the path between a man and woman, picker/flower, toothpick/molar, welt and bee. Donâ€˜t stand astride the middle but continue, pass on through to one side or another, pick a team. And let your eyes reflect upon the shapes within the playbook, dancing their instructions, how to get from bloom to bloom through gaps between the rocky teeth they call Charybdis, strung on lines we pluck with buzzing fingers, humming anthems. Here be tigers, where Iâ€˜m pointing. Do not feed the bears. But toss the coins and read the signs. Establish lines that split our ears from noisy rackets, power saws that help
to build expansions in apartments next to ours. It could be that she knocks down walls or builds an obelisk for Ashtoreth: enormous-breasted, raging, massive, oddly chicken-legged, admitting sundry devotees that come and go all day, this neighbor drives us crazy, keeps the door ajar to show her gaping-topped aquarium and let the kitty out. She entertains within her own homemade veranda, playing crappy classic rock until the sun and leasing managerâ€˜s sedan appear above the blithe horizon. Over here, these dotted lines delineate the countless counties claimed by them and us or you. Each place has two names, one the government accepts and one made by the people, each name perpendicular across the other one. The field of Xes marks the spots, which calls to mind the questions: where do rainbows end and who is tilting prisms in sunlight? To the right is mounting age and swelling guts, is graying phantom pregnancies, are infants found, in fact, only in theory. On the left is further age, ancestral gravestones, stubbled lathers from our first shaves, saved by mothers, kept in Baggies, spoor from dinosaurs that acts as paperweights, coiled copralites that hold down deerskins marked with charcoal. Meanwhile, green lines lead to Starbucks, where I only purchase soy chai lattes, having heard that coffee equals tyranny; the great professor told us once, but I cannot recall just why. Suffice to say, the Western nations put the squeeze on secret colonies, tectonic paradigms that form espresso. That I know. Saint Christopher falls down and out of sight;
heâ€˜s lost within the crumple zone. Amerigo Vespucciâ€˜s crashed Corolla marks the thousandth mile in both directions going down the only highway listed. Trace the spider webs which emanate across the windshield onto tumbleweeds and parchment folded up in eighths inside the glove compartment, spreading capillaries outward from the major artery in red and black, in crimson dirt and dust. We trace our route and fall from trances, looking at our destinations, knowing only that the map, our territory, are the same.
Anybody Can Live on the Moon Anybody can live on the moon. Anybody can get there and set up a homestead, a yurt made of quilted American and Soviet flags. Up in the sky is a spot where the rents are not crushing, with Roquefort rocks free for the chucking or crumbling on salads, where lost socks commingle with rabbits mixing liquids of life, immortalizing broths from their own braised haunches. You fear the alleged airlessness but overlook the hardly serene selenic atmosphere, provenance of halos buzzing around the heads of lunatics, lovers, poets, it‘s true, but also cheesemakers, drag-racer pit crews, Monday charcoal barbecuers, and bus drivers‘ wives. Think about the fizzing galas to stage in the craters; maybe some can be yours! So get in the empty refrigerator box tucked in the catapult bucket. Hold onto your carryon luggage and pull the cord. Something will almost certainly occur. After the time of utter blackness, there you‘ll be, in a new place different and shining, unbounded from the weight of the waking earth.
JIM CHAPSON Whoever Who first inserted the equal signs between the letters of LANGUAGE, whether the mighty Silliman, Bernstein the behemoth, or some other hero yet unheralded, no one now can know. Let us accord to whoever claims it the measure of fame that invention merits, and to whoever first severed words from their meanings, let that one, too, a full measure of fame bespatter.
Pollinating by Cat Lynch
EILEEN BORDY Things Heard and not Seen A week ago, Lily was pregnant, swollen with blood and life. Her feet were two puffy loaves of dough, her belly a universe where Abraham, her healthy baby boy, had orbited. Now he was kicking around on the changing table and she was deflating. Someone had stuck a pin in her. Her belly hung in loose folds. She leaked fluids. She‘d wake up in sheets swampy with breast milk and sweat. As she carried Abraham around the house, blood emptied out of her and her tears moistened Abe‘s head. She was drowning. She was tired. When Abe fell asleep, Lily would stare out the window at her neighbors washing their cars or backing out of driveways to grocery shop or buy new shoes, astonished at their energy. Then Abe would wake up. She walked him in a pattern—around the kitchen island, down the narrow hall, loop in the bedroom and back again—a figure eight, the symbol for infinity. While she walked she sang the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies and imagined she looked like one, too, with her stringy hair and dirty pajamas. Even though he was a little over eight pounds and completely dependent on her, Lily was afraid of Abe. He was unpredictable and irrational. She didn‘t feel like she could comfort him. ―I think he hates me,‖ she told her husband. ―He‘s just a baby.‖ ―Are all babies like this?‖ ―I think so.‖ He cried when he was hungry or wet, but sometimes he cried for no reason. Was he born with existential angst? Was he depressed? ―I‘d be depressed too if I had me for a mom,‖ she whispered to him. ―Join the local mothers‘ group,‖ her doctor told her and shoved a brochure into the diaper bag. Lily went to a meeting. It was held at the rec center in a room with high ceilings and buzzing fluorescent lights. There were two blocks of metal chairs 44
facing a podium. The other women were flitting around, pollinating each other with information about babysitters and preschools. Lily felt like a toad, a slug, a lichen-covered rock in a bubbling brook. She sat for a moment trying to look bright and inviting, then got up and left. Her husband was sympathetic. He took Abraham from her arms as soon as he got home from work, although that was increasingly later and later. ―Go out,‖ he‘d say. ―See a movie. Go shopping.‖ ―The mall is closed.‖ ―Safeway is still open.‖ Lily got in her car and drove to the market. The thought of all those strangers and bright lights and colorfully packaged food and shiny produce was overwhelming, and she sat in the parking lot, then drove home. Abe was awake and in his bouncy seat. ―He likes you better.‖ ―No, he doesn‘t. You‘re his mother.‖ She began to want her husband to come home earlier so he could put Abe in his bouncy seat. Abe cried when she tried to put him in it. ―I‘ll try, but I have a big project,‖ he said. She would call him at work, scream at him for not being on his way home, and then hang up. Lily knew something was wrong with this picture; that something was missing. The things that were supposed to hold her together were disintegrating. Her bones were getting soft; her foundation was cracking. Lily began to worry about the house. They had lived in it for two years, but she had been working during that time and hadn‘t had so many hours to examine its flaws. She found several large cracks in the dining room ceiling and was afraid the roof was going to collapse. She would stand in the driveway, looking up at it, waiting for a wrinkle in the tiles to appear. She heard pipes knocking and banging under the floors and imagined that sewage was flooding the crawl space. No matter how many candles she lit, the house reeked of a Goodwill store, that smell of somebody else‘s unwashed clothes. She sent her husband into 45
the attic and under the house. ―Everything looks all right to me,‖ he reported back. Then she found termites coming out of a baseboard in the bedroom; a writhing swarm of agitated bugs, pale as ghosts. ―This house hates us,‖ she told her husband. He hired an exterminator who injected chemicals into the foundation. ―They are perfectly safe,‖ said the man from Terminix. He had acne and was missing teeth. Still, Lily could smell the fumes that were collecting in Abe‘s lungs, clinging to his tiny capillaries, strangling him. If that didn‘t make him sick, Lily thought, the mold in the bathroom was sure to give him asthma. She tried a toothbrush and bleach and a shelf of products from Walgreens—Mold Away, Grout Buster, Tilex—but still it clung like a cancer, procreating in an ever more hostile environment. When she dropped things in the kitchen, they‘d roll to one corner to join a growing mound of peppercorns, cat toys, and golf balls. She recalled that in their homeowner‘s insurance there was a clause specifying no coverage for geological abnormalities such as sinkholes. At the time, she‘d never given sinkholes a thought, and now one was about to suck them all into a muddy grave. After they‘d left their one-bedroom apartment and took ownership of this house, it felt huge—two closets and a garage to fill. But now the hallway was too narrow and the rooms cramped with furniture. The house was shrinking—shrinking and sinking. She pulled into the driveway one evening and the house looked like a skull leering at her: the two front windows burned like fiery eyes, the front door and the brick steps looked like bared teeth. She sat in the driveway, too afraid to go in until her husband came out looking for her. Lily started sleeping on the sofa so she could leave the TV on to drown out the house‘s moans and complaints. Early one morning, voices talking about harmony woke her up. According to the people attached to these soothing voices, trouble in the universe or the body began when things were out of balance. To restore equilibrium, all you had to do was 46
rearrange things. One of the voices had written a book about this technique. She opened her eyes and looked at him on her television screen—a wise, kind-looking Asian man. Maybe this was Lily‘s problem; she was out of balance. When she was pregnant with Abraham, she gained 40 pounds. She‘d look down at her belly and say, ―It looks like I swallowed a watermelon.‖ After she had Abraham, she lost 30 of those pounds in four weeks. She didn‘t want to remain fat, but her body had changed too fast. Mentally, she was still 180 pounds. It was as if she‘d been a balanced scale and somebody had come along and ripped the weight off one side so that it fell dead to the ground, and the other side—her physical body side—swung wildly in the air. This was why Abraham was cranky and she was so tired and her husband preferred working to being at home; the equilibrium was wrong. She wrote down the name of the book—Fast Feng Shui. The next morning she drove to Barnes & Noble and purchased it. ―You‘d better be careful playing around with stuff like that,‖ her mother said when she saw the book on Lily‘s counter. Lily‘s mother was a born-again Christian. ―You‘re dabbling in the occult, just asking for demons to enter your house.‖ Lily thought they couldn‘t be any crankier than she was. Lily read. She learned that her bed was in the wrong place in her bedroom, Abraham‘s bedroom was in the wrong place, and her sofa was blocking the house‘s chi, causing negative energy to coagulate in the corners. She could fix this by rearranging furniture and hanging crystals and mirrors in appropriate places. Lily imagined her house would shimmer and sparkle after the chi flowed properly. It would be a new start. Abraham would sleep through the night; she‘d throw a dinner party. It was as exciting as the day she got her braces off her teeth. ―We have to move our bed,‖ she said to her husband when he walked in the door that evening. ―Can I have dinner first?‖ ―The reason we aren‘t having sex is because the bed isn‘t facing the door.‖
Her mother stopped by the next day as Lily was hanging crystals in the corner of a hallway. ―There isn‘t any sunlight there,‖ her mother said. ―It‘s not for that,‖ Lily said. ―It‘s for improving the chi.‖ ―What‘s chi?‖ ―The natural energy of the universe.‖ ―That‘s horse pucky.‖ Lily remembered that years after her family had moved from the house in which she grew up, her mother told her that the previous owner had hung himself in the garage. This is why they were able to buy the house below market price. Now Lily thought they paid too much, considering what they got—a box of stagnant misery. When they lived in that house, her older brother had been arrested three times and her father‘s business had nearly failed. ―Does the house feel any different?‖ she asked her husband one night. ―How so?‖ ―Does it feel, you know, pleasant, like you want to be here?‖ ―Sure, Lily.‖ The next couple of days with Abraham weren‘t any different. He was up all night, fussy during the day, and still cried for no apparent reason. ―Didn‘t you get the memo?‖ Lily asked Abe. ―Things are supposed to be different around here. I moved your crib.‖ He stopped crying and looked at her, his face red and streaked with tears. ―That‘s better.‖ Her brother and his wife bought a house and Lily went to see it. It had two stories and a full basement. There was an incredibly high ceiling in the foyer, and Lily couldn‘t imagine how her sister-in-law would keep spiders from moving in and taking over. The cavernous space made her want to run away. She wanted to ask her sister-in-law if the house made weird sounds at night, if she and her brother still had sex. Instead she asked, ―Do you like it?‖
―I just spent almost two million dollars on it; I‘d better like it.‖
Lily‘s brother was a successful stockbroker. He hadn‘t been arrested in 25 years. ―Of course there are things we want to change, the bathroom tile and stuff like that,‖ her sister-in-law said. ―Yeah.‖ ―We can‘t wait to fill it with children and love.‖ Lily handed her a crystal and pointed to a corner where it should be hung. That night, Lily decided to sleep in her matrimonial bed. Her husband looked surprised to see her there when he got home. ―The sofa isn‘t that comfortable,‖ she said. ―Welcome back,‖ he said. ―Do you want to fool around?‖ ―One thing at a time,‖ she said. She listened to him fall asleep then start to snore, a long, ragged suck of air drawn into his nostrils. It built to a crescendo. At the top, there was a microsecond of silence before the descent, which was a deeper warbling. The finale was a small, almost sweet puff of air from between his closed lips, like a period—puuuuuh. Then it began all over again. Behind the snore, underneath the bed, she could hear dirty water rushing through the pipes below the floor. The dishwasher was on. Occasionally the pipes would ring, as if someone had banged a hammer on them. What made a pipe ring? Did a fork get sucked into the drain? She wondered if she should start counting the silverware. After a while, she noticed the sounds weren‘t random at all. They melded together into a song. It went like this: Snore. Swish. Clang. Snore. Swish. Clang. It sounded like this: Good niiight, Lily. Good niiight, Lily. She fell asleep. The next day Abraham started crying. Lily changed his diaper and offered him a breast, which he looked at, tasted, refused, and continued with his tantrum. He was a hard, red ball of baby. She walked him and patted him, then put him in his crib and watched him cry. His wails went like this: ummm waaah stop 49
uuum, waaah stop. They sounded like this: I’m tired. I’m tired. She watched him until he fell asleep. That evening, she was sitting on the toothy steps of her front porch with Abraham in her lap. He was cooing like this: doodle doodle do, doodle doodle do. The air was cool and the sky was smoky. In a window in the house across the street, she watched the profile of her neighbor, a woman. She was standing at a stove, stirring something in a pot. In the next window of the house, Lily could see the profile of a man facing the woman, but he wasn‘t watching her. Lily could tell by the blue flickering shadows on his face that he was watching TV. It didn‘t matter. They both knew that the other was there. She would provide a meal, he would tell her what was going on in the world. This was how it worked. There was nothing to be afraid of. Nothing at all.
COLE FARRELL The Moon This afternoon, this hotter-than-it-should-be October afternoon, I pass a young teacher who is waiting for silence. With one hand lifted in the air, he stands as a dozen elementary students work themselves into a single-file line, their voices rising and clashing and fading with the loose sounds of an orchestra warming up. Once they are quiet, he turns and begins to lead them down the sidewalk from one museum to the next. As he walks, I see him turn to look at his flock. ―How you doing, Michael?‖ he asks. The student, with a concerned look on his face, bursts forth with a question. ―Mr. Rivers, is it true you have to pay to go to the moon?‖ The teacher lets out a staccato laugh, a one-note exhalation of air. Though I pass too quickly to hear his response, I imagine my own: Michael, I would tell him, it has been two months since my fight with Robert. At the height of our argument, I had shouted ―by any means necessary!‖ when what I actually wanted to say was ―by all means—‖ a slip of the tongue that didn‘t seem funny at first, but eventually had both of us laughing so hard that we collapsed onto the couch, our mingled bodies joining to do things that only adults do. I would say, when you grow up, you become responsible for so much. Not just your own life, but the lives of other people. Just think of your teacher, this morning, when all of you loaded the bus with your brightly-colored backpacks and small suitcases and foil-tinted lunchboxes. Not only is he responsible for all of you, he must keep track of all your things: your tiny shirts and little mismatched socks, rolled down into donuts by mom or dad. This doesn‘t mean you should worry, I would tell him, many tiny things have visited the city and survived. And you get to a point where ―by any means necessary‖ just becomes ―by all means,‖ and Robert and I have swapped them out so many times that we both struggle to remember which one is which. We invite friends over for dinner by any means necessary. He is 51
going to get me into the graduate program of my dreams by all means. We cannot run from our memories, Michael! On my last trip to D.C., a strong wind blew through the Eastern Market on a Saturday morning, knocking over an entire display wall of a vendorâ€˜s large, colorful photographs, shattering the frames. I stooped over to help pick up the pieces, and as I reached to grab a frame, the perfectly spider-webbed glass pricked my finger. A drop of blood rose to the surface, reminding me of my father and the evening blood sugar tests my mother would put him through. It reminded me of the boxes of Dots and movie theatre gummy bears that we would find in the trash can in the morningsâ€”souvenirs of his late night binges. I would tell Michael about my short-lived turn as an activist, down the National Mall with a sign held above my head. I would tell him about the time I had to have two teeth pulled and I cried off and on from the time I made the appointment until three days after the teeth were gone. I would tell him that my tongue is still drawn to that spot in the back of my mouth, a tooth graveyard, a constant reminder that I never learned how to brush properly. Robert left, not that long ago, I would tell him. He is gone forever, Michael, and of course you have to pay to go to the moon, of course you do.
EUGENE GLORIA Death and the Barber A Filipino barber with sharp trousers visits Ninnaji Temple on Sakura season. While admiring a squat omuro tree, the barber is approached by an old Japanese man who commences to recount a tale about a monk murdered long ago exactly where he is standing. The barber though seeming to be interested in the old man‘s story is actually wondering about blue things. And so he begins to take stock—. Delft ceramic plates, blue carnations from Turkey, blue-booted angels in Dante‘s poem, and blank sheet of sky, celestial ceilings of cathedrals—things that he has often heard repeated many times—. The barber is about to open his mouth, but the old man is still telling his story. After a brief pause, the old man reveals to the barber that he was that murdered monk. The barber hands him his camera and asks the old man to take a picture of him standing upright under the omuro tree whose broad shade of white blossoms is illuminated by the midday sky.
The Provinces The chemo made her hair fall Smothered her taste for food; her medsâ€” All colors of the spectrum tore her guts to shreds. In her smart skirt, she places a call, Assumes that all the human elements Of style must emanate from the roof of her mouth. Why is it that longing always draws south, That the body must respond to its constituents? To order and name just as the first woman and man Who roamed the valley of God must have done. Haunted in the provinces, her ancestral home, Where sea and clouds are framed by the transom. Desiccated spirits wallowing in a welter Of nuisance, their livelihood of water, no water.
Psalm of Arrivals How you esteem their sense of surfaces. Cunning how the natives mask contempt. After three weeks, each day turns into lines you are waiting to write. But you are less conflicted, less estranged, and though not less the leave-me-the-fuck-alone loser than when you arrived, you have located a little corner for yourself. Feet scuff the pavement geography, divining what‘s merely odd from the strange. Hide in the facet of a semiprecious stone, and on your walk after dinner remark: ―This is how it must feel to be you.‖ See the fallen pink petals in a heap. So many pink petals gathered on the street. A group of women meet after work. They brush by like wind-jostled branches, petals scurry like snow. One lands on the lunar landscape of a bald man‘s head.
Psalm At 8:00 a.m. still dark, intrepid businesses: tellers counting their tills, a mechanic lighting up his lube bay, dust, decorum, nest of bees, fireflies, albumen splatter, comb, fan, umbrella, lathe, knife, bees of appropriation, objects of the late world. An ocean is the sound of tires on rain swept asphalt. Home is a road of trailer parks in one end, an auto parts factory in the other. Out of the back lots of ruin, rises a resilient island. It is a town called the present where my headlights are tunneling north.
Say by Amy Chan 57
PAUL R. HUNDT Buying a Christmas Tree On this particular gray mid-December afternoon, scruffy, unshaven men stand around a four-foot high ceramic stove in the twenty degree temperature. We are in a small nursery in one of those upscale New York City suburbs where the school board knows no fiscal restraint in assuring that the brilliant offspring of the brilliant residents receive the equivalent of a private school education at public expense. In this town the number of soccer fields with Astroturf is politically more important than a Presidential election and those who work with their hands come from somewhere else. And so it is with the Christmas tree business. These workers from nearby, less affluent locales hunch their shoulders inside heavy parkas, shuffle their feet, and put gloved hands over the stack for the slight warmth that the fire inside gives off. They eye the few customers desperate enough to brave the cold and wander through aisles of frozen balsams and firs staked upright and spread out for display. It is late. The bottoms of their dungarees are ragged and wet; their clothes are caked with dirt and pine pitch. They are cold, tired, and waiting for their day to end. My feet and hands are frozen too. For some time I‘ve walked up and down the rows recommending various specimens to my wife. To me, any one of these trees would be more than adequate, but she remains undecided. Now she is off by herself stalking through the lanes once again looking for the ―best,‖ exercising her customary thoughtful, seemingly indecisive, yet inevitably successful approach to matters of taste and decor. As far as I am concerned, this outing has deteriorated into another exercise in separating the fly shit from the pepper, but I know my role by now. She likes things done nicely and she doesn‘t like doing them alone. I, husband, have to wait as patiently as I can, exercise no judgment whatsoever, and agree that whatever she ultimately selects will be fine. Thereby, I will have somehow 58
―participated‖ in this process and peace will reign in our household. So I drift over to the stove and take my place in the circle of cold, bored men. Despite the fiercely burning fire inside, the sides of the stove are barely warm to the touch of my bare hand. Whatever heat the fire gives off is going directly up the stack but putting bare hands over that is too risky because big sparks are flying up. My wife eventually settles on a tree so frozen that its branches are still swept up close to the trunk in the configuration it left Canada several months ago. To me it seems more of a gamble than the others but the guy—he‘s a ―guy,‖ not much of a salesman and in this cold not much of a worker either—assures her that the branches will come down in the warmth of the house. Then, in his filthy gray jacket, hood up, his face buried behind the flaps, and wearing a Mohegan Sun watch cap (apparently a gambler as well) he takes the tree over to the netting bench. He cuts a few inches off the bottom to break the seal of the sap on the old cut so we can get some water into the tree at home, and pulls it through the netting circle to further compress the branches for the trip back to the house. Then he lugs it over to our SUV and ties it on the roof. The tree costs sixty bucks and I give him another five because that‘s what I have always done, just as my father did before me. I have been engaging in this ritual since I was a child but back in my ―old days‖ Christmas tree shopping was not something you did with your wife. Back then, it was a ―guy‖ thing and I can still remember going out to forage for a tree with my father in middle class Queens in the late 1940s and early ‗50s. My mother, who was such a perfectionist in everything else that her Brooklyn Irish in-laws feared her invitations, stayed home and had to put up with whatever we brought back. Pop always put off our tree-buying expeditions until the last minute because he didn‘t like the risk of a dry tree. Our tree stand did not have a water cup, just a spike on which to impale the base. Dry trees quickly became drier in the steam heat of our apartment, and he had heard of too many tree fires over the years. (My father seemed to have an inventory of disaster stories 59
for every occasion. If I was going for a walk, he could always recall a recent news article about some child who had been squashed on the sidewalk by a runaway tractor trailer. I was to be careful.) My father was enthusiastically cheap too when it came to Christmas trees. He looked forward to negotiating with the tree dealers to get the lowest price. He usually ventured out just before Christmas Eve as the dealers faced that Cinderella moment when their inventory of unsold trees would become instantaneously worthless. Of course, there wasn‘t much left by then, either. Eventually, Pop found a small blonde fellow who sold trees in front of a delicatessen at the corner of Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard some distance from our apartment in classier Kew Gardens. He had thick glasses, buck teeth, a pea jacket and sometimes a white sailor hat. The pea jacket was never enough to keep him warm. When he wasn‘t talking, his teeth chattered. He had been a student at John Adams High School in Ozone Park, where my father was the Dean of Discipline. I don‘t know whether he had been one of Pop‘s service aides, or what Pop euphemistically called one of his ―regular clients.‖ He didn‘t seem very bright but he was very friendly. From the pea jacket and sailor hat, I gathered that he had spent some time in the Navy before he enlisted in the seasonal Christmas tree business. They would shake hands, and the little ex-sailor would call Pop ―Mr. Hundt,‖ and then pick trees out of what remained leaning against the delicatessen‘s wall. After he banged them on the sidewalk a few times to get the limbs spread out, he and Pop would inspect the trees and confer on which one would do. Price was the major consideration, but when the negotiations were over and we were about to leave, my father always gave him an extra quarter, in those days a decent tip. Those Christmas tree-buying expeditions were always a trip down Memory Lane for my father. Each year he told the same story about when he was a child and his German-American parents would have German Christmas. On Christmas Eve the children would be banned from the parlor until all the live 60
candles on the tree had been lit. Then they were allowed to run into the room to see a tree with real candles burning, just like in the old pictures. But, ever safety conscious, he also always told me that his father and his uncles would stand by with buckets of water to douse the tree if the candles caught. He‘d tell about the magnificent tree he bought when he and my mother were first married. It turned out to be a shedder. When they lay in bed in the still of the night they could hear a steady drizzle of evergreen needles, interrupted only by the occasional ―plop‖ of a Christmas tree ball as it slid off a denuded branch and shattered on the floor. Then there was my first Christmas. My mother sent him out to buy the perfect tree. (After all, I was six months old and would really appreciate it.) He came back with a fourteen-footer. It was so big that after he cut enough off the top to be able to stand it up in their ten-foot ceilinged apartment, no one could get into the living room. When good trees were between $1 and $2, and a really good tree might be $2.50, Pop‘s negotiated ―fifty-centers‖ were always the best. They were scrawny, scraggly, misshapen things, short of branches and usually with one or two gaping holes where branches should have been. We either filled those spaces with tinsel and large hand-colored paper plates that I had made in kindergarten, or drilled holes in the trunk and stuck in extra branches which we then tied up to make them look normal. Once we brought home a tree with such an S-curve in the trunk that we had to lash it to the living-room railing to keep it from pitching over. As we struggled with those trees, we laughed till we cried. We knew they were awful and my mother, who always wanted things perfect for her relatives on Christmas Day, would be furious—until she finally relaxed, gave in and laughed too. The process of going out now to buy a Christmas tree in the bitter cold of a cloudy December afternoon may seem essentially the same, but in these suburbs women, with men in tow, seek beauty. Delicatessens, to the extent they may exist, do not sell trees. There is no banging a tree on a sidewalk to shake it out; each tree is separately staked in a nursery for better display and all the trees have been carefully raised and shaped to provide 61
the ―Oh Tannenbaum‖ effect. Cost is not a major factor either. It‘s fifty, sixty or even one hundred dollars per tree, depending on size. No negotiating, take it or leave it. Thus, there‘s little chance to be out with your father as he tries to get the most for his money, and then to be able to laugh so hard when you bring a prized balsam wreck home to your always proper mother‘s dismay.
MATTHEW WEINKAM Boxing with Padgett Powell
Padgett Powell by Amy Chan
There’s no question about it; we are finally entering the era in which robots take over humanity. While we could live in blissful denial before, IBM’s Watson (cleverly disguised as a helpful, if sarcastic, doctor) has just begun its systematic destruction of Jeopardy champions, thus attempting to plant its flag and declare a Robot-Spain victory in the war over questions. Humanity’s only hope now lies in the preemptive interrogatory strike of Padgett Powell. The latest of Powell’s five novels, The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?, is written entirely in questions. Like all his writing, the book defies categorization. Lyrical, comical, experimental, heart breaking, strange, southern—Powell’s fiction is all of these things and, of course, more. But where a lesser writer would have faltered, overreached, or reduced to gimmick, Powell thrives. And perhaps it is this kind of wild success in the face of what should be certain failure that has lead Powell to be called “one of the few truly important American writers of our time.” (Sam Lipsyte) After studying under Donald Barthelme, Powell rose to national attention after the publication of his first (and award-winning) novel, Edisto. The recipient of the 1986 Whiting Writers' Award and the 1987 Rome Fellowship in Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Powell has taught writing at the University of Florida since 1984. He recently visited Miami University and read excerpts from The Interrogative Mood. I sat down with Powell in the faux-decadence of a lounge at an inn on the edge of Miami’s campus where Powell was staying during his visit. There was a fireplace with an actual fire going though, after an hour or so of talking, we couldn’t help but notice the logs never seemed to burn.
MW: You‘ve been writing for quite a long time and not always in academia. For a while you were a roofer in Texas before you went back to graduate school. How much of what you learned about writing do you think you learned inside the classroom versus how much you had to teach yourself?
PP: I sort of taught myself to write over the years. I probably began to learn something serious and real about English when I took Latin in eighth, ninth, and tenth grade. I was a sports reporter in the eighth grade. I was giving a reading in Columbia, South Carolina, a while back and a fellow comes up at the end of the reading with a manila folder and handed me my own clippings from the eighth grade which were articles about the football team on which he had been the fullback. He was then a lawyer. This was thirty years after the fact. So in one sense there has been a long apprenticeship. MW: But you were a Chemistry Major as an undergraduate? And you even went on to graduate school for Chemistry? PP: I was an English major for some time until a professor gave me a D on a paper in Tudor Poetry and Prose because he said I didn‘t believe in it. And that was true. I didn‘t really invest heavily, with what we‘ll call my intellectual fundament, in assonance and dissonance in Thomas Campion ballads. That was true. So in some sense this critical paper was satirical of a critical paper. But it was sort of like Pierre Menard‘s Don Quixote. It was identical to a critical paper, it‘s just that I didn‘t believe in doing that like the other boys in the room did believe in doing that. And they got As for lesser criticism, as Quixote‘s book is lesser than Menard‘s. This professor, who knew that I was some kind of son-of-a-bitch who was making fun of something, gave me a D with nothing overtly wrong with the paper. When I found this out I was outraged and I went over the chemistry department that same day and said, ―Dr. Gibson, do you have room for a late major because I can‘t be an English major anymore?‖ He said, ―Yeah, sure.‖ Ironically, or not, he was the best amateur poet in South Carolina, this Chair of the Chemistry Department. MW: So you were still writing while you were doing chemistry? PP: No, I wasn‘t really writing yet. But I was the editor of the school newspaper, which was a de facto literary magazine, and I
wrote the whole thing. It too was a newspaper in which one didn‘t believe. There was no news. I had a masthead of pseudonyms, one of whom was Scruff Taurus. MW: I‘ve read a lot about these rules you have for writing. The Gosling rule, the Doozie Quotient, and so on. Do you get a lot of pushback on those? Are there people who don‘t think there should be rules in writing? PP: There are people who think that until they realize what a naïve position it is. It‘s my job to let them see what a naïve position that is, to tell them that they‘re going to be able to break these rules once they know what the rules are and how to break them. MW: Which sounds similar to the other arts, like painting or music or dance. PP: Even Picasso, in his six weeks in art school, was shown some fundamentals. The paint either needs to go in sharply or blurred together, but you need to know which one works best in this moment to achieve what you want. Those are rules. And there are rules of harmony and rules of perspective, all of which Picasso then broke, but he by god knew them. He said, ―By the time I was nineteen I could paint like Raphael.‖ And he wasn‘t lying, he wasn‘t bragging, I‘ve seen the work. By nineteen he could paint like anyone, and he didn‘t get there without knowing some rules. MW: So at this point, in your own writing, have those rules been internalized so that you don‘t have to consciously think about them? PP: They must be internalized. What you should be thinking about with the not quite conscious part of your brain is the only thing you‘ve got the capacity for: the next right word.
Let‘s say we want to box. When the fight starts, all we can think about is what‘s coming and what we‘re going to do with it. There are whole sets of fundamentals and schemes–-correct-form punches and combinations and so forth–-in our training, which we better know, but what we‘re engaged in at this moment is here comes this thing and I have to deal with it, not my training sequences and my rope-a-dope plans. Curiously, I just met a guy who fought Roberto Duran. MW: That‘s a great description because you hear athletes talk about that all the time. The more they think about whatever it is they need to do the less able they are to do it. The fundamentals have been worn in to the point where they don‘t have to think about them any more. PP: That‘s why you see all these boxers do this shadow boxing, and bobbing and weaving, and looking at themselves in mirrors, and hitting a heavy bag until they know precisely the way this punch should be delivered. And then when the bell rings and it‘s holy shit and you have less than two-tenths of a second to react and no time to think, these fundamentals operate. They had better. MW: Do you find these rules or fundamentals are now things that tire you? Does the convention of them frustrate or bore you to the point where you find yourself breaking them? Because your writing has become less and less conventional with each passing publication. PP: If I hear you right, what you‘re talking about is moving along the spectrum from realism to something we‘ll call surrealism. We can call it a number of things and they‘re all not quite accurate—nor is realism a particularly adequate term for that matter—but on one end of this spectrum you‘re asked to suspend disbelief. There is fiction that is to be believed. ―Mrs. Mays‘ bedroom window was low and faced on the east, and the bull, silvered in the moonlight, stood under 67
it, his head raised as if he listened—like some patient god come down to woo her—for a stir inside the room.‖ [Flannery O‘Connor – ―Greenleaf‖] This is the beginning of an almost unbelievable story that we are nonetheless, by this sentence, asked to believe. To suspend disbelief, in Coleridge‘s phrase. And at the other end of this spectrum of credulity are things like this: ―Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby for a long time, because of the way he had been behaving. And now he‘d gone too far, so we decided to hang him.‖ [Donald Barthelme – ―Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby‖] You are not asked to believe that; you‘re told in fact not to believe it. You‘re told, Do not bother suspending disbelief. You‘re told, Actually, children, I‘m going to talk to you in an adult way now and not bother with the little game that this actually happened. Those are the two end points of the spectrum of credulity as I see it. I began on one end and have gone to the other end. Largely by getting tired of the end I was on and finding the new and stranger end more attractive. I was thirty years old and innocent of the surreal end and embarrassed to have just discovered it. How had I not known something that big was out there? MW: That seems like a more natural progression, however, than moving from the surreal to the more real. Jeffrey Eugenides said in an interview, ―My generation of writers grew up backwards. We were weaned on modernism and only later read the great 19th-century masters of realism. When we began writing in high school and college, it was experimental fiction. I think now that a certain kind of academic experimental fiction has reached a dead end.‖ That backwards movement seems to be more the standard these days. 68
PP: Barthelme himself was more and more realistic with his later work. His very last stuff was more pedestrian than the early work. ―My wife wants a baby. I don‘t see why we have to get the damn baby a dog. My wife wants a dog, she already has a baby. The baby wants a dog, I don‘t see why we have to get that damn baby a dog.‖ No ―Robert Kennedy Saved From Drowning,‖ no ―Conversations with Goethe.‖ Just: Does this dog have papers? No 35-year-old man in the third grade. ―Miss Mandible is in many ways, notably about the bust, a very tasty piece.‖ He‘d begun moving back to something that was attractive because it was essentially new to him, I will hazard. MW: Your most recent book, The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?, was born out of a kind of accidental process. You‘d received a few emails entirely in the interrogative mood and it drove you to begin writing in that form as a kind of response. You‘ve also said this was never intended to be a book, you just kept writing questions until one day you had over a hundred and forty pages of them. I‘m curious to know the process of writing these questions. Were they questions that would come to you during the day that you‘d jot down or remember for later or was it a more deliberate process of sitting down and punching them out? PP: I wrote these the way you do any writing, you put on your pants and sit down and pretend to be a writer and you write them. I wrote them as writing, not as note taking. I am suspicious of note taking and outline making. I don‘t even credit that Faulkner thought his books out on a steno in the woods squirrel hunting. I would write a couple of pages of these questions in a sitting and I‘d feel pretty good. I‘d feel chipper and fine after delivering myself of a hundred of these. I don‘t know why. MW: And you didn‘t do too much editing to them. PP: That‘s right.
MW: Do you find that in most of your writing you simply edit on the go or do you go back and revise or rearrange? PP: This book in particular is just the way I wrote it. I didn‘t do anything to it. The publisher may have done something to it, I don‘t know. I didn‘t want them rearranging things and I didn‘t want them pulling things out so it was discontinuous. The ostensible discontinuity is what this book has; it has a hidden continuity. The book is on its surface overt non-sequiturs but they are covert sequiturs. If someone went in breaking that up, moving the order, then the invisible connective tissue would be lost. I think it is this invisible, or partly invisible, connective tissue that gave me pleasure in writing the book. It relieved depression. MW: So the actual process of writing was coming up with overt non-sequiturs with covert connections? PP: It was developing the overt non-sequiturs, period; the covert connections take car of themselves, are in fact unavoidable. That‘s what writing this was. Sitting there in a nice relaxed state— MW: With your pants on— PP: With your pants on, saying the next thing that pops in your head in a more or less unforced way, in an overt non-sequiturial way. MW: In the phrasing of the questions did you feel you had to get each one right before moving on to the next? PP: Yes. There is no rewriting of them. I wanted each one to be a nice sound, a wholly contained satisfying little unit by itself, independent of what‘s on either side of it. It should be a nice sentence. ―How do you stand in relation to the potato?‖ That‘s, just by itself, a pretty supportable utterance. ―Should it still be
Constantinople?‖ is the next question. That is an overt nonsequitur: Do you like potatoes, is Istanbul as good a name as Constantinople? However, covertly, there are connections. ―How do you stand in relation to the potato?‖ is arch language working a low idea, and ―Should it still be Constantinople?‖ is simple language working a high idea. Potato, Constantinople rhyme a bit. MW: Did you feel like you had to surprise yourself as you were going along? PP: The idea of surprising oneself is a tad comic–-I can see an R. Crumb panel of writer surprising himself--but it is necessary at least to say things one has not thought of saying. If this isn‘t happening you will be boring yourself and it isn‘t going to go very well. MW: You‘ve talked about this book as something you couldn‘t have planned; that you just found yourself with a book on your hands. PP: I did this for two years and had a hundred and forty-two pages and said to myself, You better stop. MW: Do you think there is something beneficial in that, the unplannedness? PP: Yes. While this may be more ―unplanned‖ than some narratives might be, all good writing, in my view, is without plan. MW: Do you feel you‘ve gotten to the point where you are comfortable enough that you don‘t need to plan it? Did you feel, when you began writing, that you had to know what you were doing? PP: No, I never knew where I was going. With Edisto I had in mind a kid who could say almost anything, who was smart, smart 71
enough to go to Harvard at, say, thirteen. That‘s what I had in mind. I knew the basic contours: that his mother wants him to be this way, he‘s been given a license to talk like this. That‘s what I knew. With respect to planning, the only thing I‘ve ever heard that sounds right to me is some Hemmingway: Never say everything you‘ve got to say on a given day. Always stop with something else you want to say in mind. Leave it for the next day. Don‘t exhaust everything you‘ve got. That sounds correct to me. A number of things he said sound right. He said, ―If you can‘t write, don‘t.‖ That‘s a good one. MW: Have you ever thought about this book less as a novel of fiction and more as a memoir or autobiography of sorts? PP: It can be called anything it needs to be called. It‘s salubrious to call things novels; people buy novels. You can call it an autobiography or memoir, I suppose, though you can arguably call any narrative one issues the same thing with better disguises thrown in. In this case, the old Mood, I‘m the person asking the questions, it‘s my concerns, my obsessions, the little wave sets of obsessions that cycle through the book are mine. It‘s better to live in the 1940s. Blue jays are a maligned bird. I love the velvet ant. I wasn‘t aware of how many times blue jays appeared. That‘s what editors are for. MW: The thread about the 1940s I found particularly interesting. One of my favorite questions is the very long one that appears early on in the book:
―If I said to you, ‗I want to return to 1940 and have a big coupe with big running boards and drive it drunkenly are carefully along dirt roads never causing harm except for frightening chickens out of the road, and I want you standing out there on the running board saying Slow down, or Let me in, and laughing, but I don‘t stop, because of course you don‘t mean it, you think as I do that a big 1940s coupe and careful drunken driving and one party outside the car and one inside both laughing and chickens spraying unhurt into the ditches is what life was then, is what life was before it became ruined by us and all our crap,‘ and if I said to you, ‗I have an actual goddamn time machine, I am not kidding, we can get in the coupe in side thirty seconds if we take off our clothes and push that red button underneath that computer over there, come on, strip, get ready‘—would you get ready to go with me, and go? Would you ask a lot of questions? Or would you just say, ‗Shut up and push the button‘?‖ There is something about the earnestness of the second half of the question insisting on going back in time right now that, unlike the other questions, forces you to answer immediately, you can‘t move on from it, you have to make up your mind on the matter this second. And there is also an implied correct answer in the way the question in phrased. It‘s as though there is something wrong with you if you are the type of person to stop and ask questions first. This question had a whole mindset to it. What is it about that time period that is attractive to you? PP: Well, let‘s face it, there was a simpler time in this country not too long ago in which there were many fewer people. In the 1930s we had a hundred million people; we have 300 million now. India has gone from 300 million to over a billion in the same time period. So in the United States, back in the 1930s and 1940s, instead of three people per square foot there was one. You drove your car around, drunk, and it was okay because typically you didn‘t run into anybody because there wasn‘t anybody to run into. Phones, if you had a phone, didn‘t have an 73
answering machine, so to talk on the phone you had to be there or not. Doesn‘t that sound attractive? Now everyone has a cell phone, everyone‘s the president, reporting on crossing the street. How much of this can we take? The brain is not keeping up with the microchip. And some of us are just zoning out. We‘re fudds. MW: It‘s interesting that you‘re talking about this discontinuity of every day life. I think there may be a connection between that discontinuity in life and the overt non-sequitur/covert sequiturs of your book. I guess I don‘t really have a have a question there… PP: Well, I don‘t really have an answer. MW: Then I suppose that‘s as good a place as any to end.
Contributorsâ€™ Notes ERICA BERNHEIM Erica Bernheim's work has appeared in Boston Review, the Iowa Review, Gulf Coast, and VOLT, among others. Her chapbook, Between the Room and the City, is available through H_NGM_N B__KS. She directs the Creative Writing Program and the Honors Program at Florida Southern College. ZANE BIEBELLE Zane Biebelle was raised on a ranch outside Carlsbad, New Mexico. She received her BA from New Mexico State University and her MFA from the University of Oregon. She currently lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, Timothy Ahearne. EILEEN BORDY Eileen Bordy lives in Northern California with her two sons, two cats, and two guinea pigs. She whines about divorce, drinking, parenting and other cheerful topics on her blog: prelovedwoman.blogspot.com. JOHN F. BUCKLEY Born in Flint, MI, raised in the Detroit area, and ripening in California since the fall of 1992, John F. Buckley lives and works in Orange County with his wife. He teaches at local colleges, while chasing the poetic dragon. BILLY CANCEL Billy Cancel is a Charleston based poet/performer. He has been widely published in both the US (including Lungfull! Fact-Simile, 6x6, 580 Split, Indefinite Space) as well as publications in the UK, Canada and Australia. Billy performs in the poetry/noise band Farms & self-publishes through Hidden House Press (www.hiddenhousepress.com). His first collection, The Autobiography of Shrewd Phil, was published by Blue & Yellow Dog Press in September 2010. JIM CHAPSON "Jim Chapson" is a hoax perpetrated by Kent Johnson. 75
COLE FARRELL Cole Farrell is a hopeless romantic and recent alumnus of the graduate program in English at Ball State University. As a child, Cole would gather his neighborhood peers and force them to play classroom. While he no longer engages in playground lectures, they helped him develop a passion for the classroom that lasts to this day. He splits his interests evenly between critical and creative work, with passions ranging from Lyn Hejinian to Joan Didion and back again. Cole is currently applying to MFA programs and hopes to end up teaching writing at the college level. MICHAEL GARRIGA Michael Garriga's recent work has appeared in The Southern Review, New Letters, Black Warrior Review, Story South, and elsewhere. His first book, a collection of short fiction titled, Duels, will appear in early 2012 from Milkweed Press. He currently lives and teaches in Tallahassee, FL, where he earned a PhD in creative writing from Florida State University. KEITH GAUSTAD Keith Gaustad launders his ill-gotten earnings by editing the journal Burdock and publishing poetry chapbooks through his Teppichfresser Press. He co-authored the book, Songs On the Planes Carrying Hess From German, with the late poet James Liddy. EUGENE GLORIA Eugene Gloria is the author of two books of poemsâ€”Hoodlum Birds (Penguin, 2006) and Drivers at the Short-Time Motel (Penguin, 2000). His recent poems have appeared in Seneca Review, Indiana Review, Asian American Literary Review, and The New Republic. He lives in Greencastle, Indiana. PAUL R. HUNDT Paul Hundt received a BA in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1960 and a JD from the Columbia Law School in 1963. After two years of service as an officer in the US Army in Germany, he returned to practice law in New York City, retiring as a vice president and general counsel of a then Fortune 500 company in 1996. Since then 76
he has pursued whatever has interested him, including math, physics, traveling, writing, hiking, fishing and birding. He has previously published personal essays in Notre Dame Magazine, The Palo Alto Review, and DUCTS.org. EDWIN PERRY Edwin R. Perry drinks dirt. He roosts where it's cheap and serves as hospice for plumberries press. His work has been rejected by Arsenic Lobster, Lamination Colony, Pinstripe Fedora, etc. RUST, LTD. RUST, LTD. (http://rustltd.com) is a collective of media artists based in Buffalo, NY. During the past year, their collaborative work has been featured in the Carroll Gallery at Tulane University, the Humanities Gaming Institute at the University of South Carolina, the Post_Moot Convovation at Miami University of Ohio, and Play/Share: Beyond/In Western New York. Their newest game, "Robot Butler" (www.domestronics.com), can be played for free at Kongregate (www.kongregate.com/games/RUSTLTD/robot-butler). PAUL VOGEL Paul Vogel, in an ongoing effort to one-up Keith Gaustad, collaborated with James Liddy on two books of poetry, both translations of the works of Osip Mandelstam. He is currently in China teaching English and taking steps to joining the Party.