r 2013 spring/summe
PENUMBRA MAGAZINE VOLUME TWO ISSUE ONE SPRING/ SUMMER 2013
EDITORIAL STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF – EVA SAGE GORDON SPANISH EDITOR / COPY EDITOR – AMIR EFFAT FICTION EDITOR – ANNA GARCIA LAYOUT / DESIGN EDITOR – MARIYA SHCHERBININA NONFICTION / FLASH EDITOR – KELLY RUMMEL POETRY EDITOR – JESSICA QUICK ASSISTANT POETRY EDITOR — RAELYNNE HALE WEB EDITOR – ALYSSA RASMUSSEN ASSISTANT WEB EDITOR –MORGAN SMITH
COPY READER CARY BARNEY
ALL COVER ART FOR VOL. II ISSUE 1 BY ANA ZDRAVKOVIC´ ALL IMAGES AND LOGOS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE GENERATED BY PENUMBRA MAGAZINE STAFF AND CONTRIBUTORS. THIS SELECTION COPYRIGHT © 2013 PENUMBRA MAGAZINE PUBLICATIONS. FIRST SERIAL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED TO THE INITIAL PUBLICATIONS OF EACH WORK; ALL RIGHTS REVERT TO THE AUTHORS UPON PUBLICATION. QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS? PLEASE CONTACT US AT PENUMBRAMADRID@GMAIL.COM. WWW.PENUMBRAMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Dear Readers, After long editorial delay, we give you Penumbra, Volume 2, Spring/Summer 2013. This issue comprises works of written and visual art with a strong bent toward the immediate present, the events in café’s and traffic-filled streets and the uncomfortable conversations happening this year, in places as far apart as New York City and Abu Dhabi and Berlin. As the title of one of the photographs published here suggests, a major theme of this issue is listening. The vital need to be listened to, and the realization that we must learn to listen better, came through loud and clear over months of submissions. The rage in the air this summer around the world, from Egypt to Turkey to Brasil, seems to enact this theme across the political landscape. As we close out this editorial cycle for a summer reprieve, I wonder about the submissions we may receive for the fall/winter 2014 issue (to be published close to the new year)—where they will be from, what common languages will take shape. For now, I invite you to make some space for the offerings of the writers and artists who have chosen to speak through our small, fledgling journal. I hope you enjoy what you hear. -Eva Sage Gordon, Editor-In-Chief
Guillaume Babin: Last Family Reunion >>> p. 32 This Side Up >>> p. 12 Damjana Jokic: Arrival >>> p. 18 Sara Kohgadai: Listening >>> p. 14 The Human Brain >>> p. 24 Dennis Pearson: Starbucks #3 >>> p. 10 Starbucks #4 >>> p. 30 Luke Wallin: Holly and Cedar >>> p. 34
Drema Drudge: World Hunger and Shit Like That >>> p. 6 Dr. Joseph E. Kraus: Outside an Orbit of Mourning >>> p. 15 Shiva Mishek: To Poland >>> p. 20
Anna Cherry: The Best Time I Was Publicly Humiliated by a Colleague >>> p. 11 Ellen Rose: Work in Progress >>> p. 35 Luke Wallin: Cadillac Psychic >>> p. 25
Cole Bellamy: A Complicated Daydream about Charles Darwin’s Luggage >>> p. 40 Paint >>> p. 10 Valentina Cano: Portal >>> p. 14 Jim Davis, Jr.: Nearly Risen >>> p. 9 Darren C. Demaree: EMILY AS WHERE WE FIRST FOUND WET STONE >>> p. 24 Amir Effat: Juegos Bellos >>> p. 41 Anna Garcia: Frustration Swirling Thickly >>> p. 31 Matthew Gasda: Night Swimming >>> p. 19 Marjetta Geerling: My Mother’s Heart Stops >>> p. 23 Raelynne Hale: Incenciones >>> p. 41 Art Heifetz: Pavane for a Dead Princess >>> p. 38 Alice Jennings: Catherine on the Royal Progress North >>> p. 33 Stephen Lindow: ICE LIFE >>> p. 18 Taylor Mann: A Simplification >>> p. 42 James Murdock: Observations of a Park Employee >>> p.28 Jake Shane: Ahuehuete >>> p. 34 Tim Suermondt The End of Fame >>> p. 14 Brendan Sullivan: Into The Woods >>> p. 39 Small Deaths >>> p. 19 Jessica Tyner: Call to Prayer >>> p. 33
WORLD HUNGER AND SHIT LIKE THAT The garbage truck hissed to a stop. Joe’s brown eyes didn’t even look up from the belly of the dumpster where he bowed his black hair over the food, though he thought he heard something. He didn’t need the food, no more than he did when he became obsessed with it last week, but once it came to his attention he couldn’t stop hearing his mother’s wail at how he used to throw things away, her complaint about world hunger and shit like that. Last week he carted the perishables from the produce department to the trash: a package of strawberries with one moldy one at the bottom, assorted, barely flawed fruits and vegetables. What about the bread and pies he had seen the deli counter carting up to toss out? Before he left, he helped himself to that as well. At the meat counter he loaded up on the packages with the red x on them, mumbling to the surprised-looking attendant that he would throw them out. When he got home, he put all of the food away with the satisfaction of knowing he had saved something. So what that he lived alone? The bread and donuts were good the first day. He ate three donuts while he watched Weeds, and after he sampled some of that show’s signature product, he ate the rest of them. Though he wasn’t a big man, he wasn’t small, and his stomach distended, reminding him of a cow. When he rooted through the produce, he discovered he had brought home many items he didn’t like, such as bell peppers and broccoli. Waste. Total waste. Now what? How was it any better to bring them home and watch them wilt? Unless... He took a photo of them every day as they rotted. But the vegetables weren’t smelly, not like the steaks when he did the same, putting them on the counter and watching them turn white and green and then watched worms appear. The bread grew hard and stale; he no longer wanted to eat it. It, too, grew mold, and yet every night he brought more home. It wasn’t enough. He quickly learned that too much is never enough. It took lack, he thought, staring at the sun, in order to recognize enough. The warning of the truck in reverse, the glare of backup lights penetrated Joe’s frantic hunt, and he sped up. If he didn’t save it, then it would all go to waste. There was time. They fired him when they found out he was taking everything home, and he felt again as he had after losing Nora, the one he had never had anyway, well not in any significant way, except for that one time they had sex and she hated him, the end. Every evening when everyone had left he dove into the brown container, surrounding himself with not-yet-dead things. These tomatoes he held in one hand, why, these tomatoes came from tomatoes that had been eaten and shit out, the seeds scattered or replanted. The smell reminded him of the garbage can outside high school where he used to smoke, where he pushed Nora up against the metal on a scorching May afternoon and pretended not to know her gasp was the pain of flesh against metal. Pretended not to see the way her elbows jutted helplessly against the scorching steel. Instead, he put his nose into her
hair and sniffed the faintly fruited smell. As he sorted through tins of squashed tomatoes and a case of applesauce with only one jar broken, he thought of how she had bled. When he held up the broken jar that interested him more than the whole ones, he remembered how she had cried after he had taken her virginity against that odiferous metal container. After he came, he pretended to kiss her as he wiped himself on her skirt, that red flowing skirt that he had followed outside, thinking of how very easy it would be to convince her to follow him behind the school with her where there were no windows and little traffic. She was a quiet girl, lonely, sort of pretty but in an unkempt way with hair that hid her face. He couldn’t even remember what words he had whispered, but they had worked. Something about the birds and the clouds being so beautiful, a flower he wanted her to see, when what he thought was beautiful was the sweep of her ankle as she crossed her legs in the seat before she followed him. He grabbed a yellow Styrofoam container wrapped in layer after layer of plastic wrap as if squeezed into a huge condom. He hadn’t worn one that afternoon, because he hadn’t planned on taking her against the dumpster. She followed him afterwards, her legs slightly bowed, flipping at the hem of her skirt, straightening her hair. “Go away!” he said, but she ignored him. They rounded the corner of the school. In another twenty feet they would be around the front, where there were windows. He picked up a rock and tossed it behind him, not turning when she howled. He picked up his pace, running for the buses lined up out front. He headed for the first one, not caring that it would take him blocks out of his way. He heard her behind him call out “Joe.” He didn’t even know her name. Leaning over, he picked up another rock and threw it behind him, hoping it would send her away. The truck came closer, and somewhere in him Joe knew he needed to get out, but there was a white paper bag of peaches just out of reach. Even over the scent of rot, he could smell their innocence. Sometimes he saw her at school after that in the few weeks before summer, but he pretended not to. Why should he feel guilty? He had seduced her, not raped her. From asking around he learned her name was Nora and after that day, even he could see she changed. He wished something dramatic would had happened – like if she had tried to kill herself – tried but not succeeded, or if she had gotten pregnant or an abortion. If she had an abortion, he never knew about it, and by watching her waist he knew she was not pregnant, or if she was he didn’t know about it over the summer. Nothing like that happened, except she began sleeping around as if looking for whatever it was she had followed him to that dumpster for. What would make someone so desperate that they would follow a man to a dumpster
and let him fuck her against it? He tried not to think about her eyes, how they had closed and opened, both watching him and then not as if begging him for something he did not have. He hated her then, and that’s when he didn’t care if he hurt her, because he didn’t have whatever it was she needed from him, he was sure of it. He followed her home one day in late May, far enough back so that she didn’t know he watched the sad way her elbows refused to touch her body. Why had he never noticed how graceful her neck was below her hair that was gathered in a messy bun? He wanted it around him again, but this time he wanted to smell it and not the odor of rotting cafeteria food. If he let himself he could remember what she had smelled like above the scent of garbage, but he shut it off, preferring to remember the stench of cholesterol and decaying meat. All summer long he found ways to bump into her. After three such encounters he said hello when he found himself behind her in a grocery store line (on purpose, of course) and said his name as if they hadn’t met, extended his hand. She brushed past him, not even picking up the items she had just bought. He grabbed them from the counter and carried them outside. “Nora! Nora! Please, can we talk?” “Are you sure you know who I am?” she asked. Her eyes didn’t raise from his feet, did not search his for something no one could give, least of all him. Why hadn’t he been able to tell her that he had been just as disappointed by what she couldn’t give as she had been with him? Why hadn’t he given her some pleasure, instead of taking his and leaving? But what pleasure was to be had up against hot, stinking metal with all of those people so close and yet so far away? He had needed to connect, had wanted to know he wasn’t all alone, but when he walked away from her, he was more alone than he had ever been. Every night he dreamed of her, and he tried a semester of college, sleeping with a series of women, always, always slowing down, though his body did not want to. None of them searched his eyes, but he searched theirs, and no one had it either, damn them, and their eyes told him he didn’t have it either.
He reached frantically yet tenderly for the peaches. Flies flexed on the fruit.
“Get out of here,” he yelled. He cradled the bag against himself, waving his hands to the driver, not at all sure he could be seen. Now he could get out. He had dropped out of college then, convinced it was all a waste of time. He lost track of Nora and her earnestness. Just last week he had seen her in this grocery store with a child, a blonde-haired little guy who was maybe one. Her clothes said she was happy, as did the way she put her arm around the little boy, but her eyes still looked into space at nothing and he had set them like that, hadn’t he? When he approached her she recognized him (he was sure she had), but she slid on her sunglasses with one hand. Joe hadn’t dared do more than nod to her. When he went in the back to throw out the trash, he smelled the mingled smells of all of the foods, and he was back in high school again. The dumpster rumbled as the forks of the truck shot out and embraced the container. As it tilted, one n he grasped it, raising it in the air. He touched peach rolled out of the top of the bag toward Joe. Triumphantly the fruit to his lips, as the scent of garbage rose to meet him.
jim davis, jr.
Cabinet of concealed nostalgias, oatmeal cookies. Popcorn kernels ground into the fibers of the rug. Fruit flies hover like morning fog. She pulls a box of toasted oats like a book from a shelf. We walk. We find some rhythm to begin with. Some grind. Some beat. The neighbor’s beagle paws at the trash. Vile, she said, falling in love with the advertised sadness. She said the train smells like effort, sings like angry histories. She remembers that winter when the blackbird fell, striking each snow-lined limb of a pin oak. Trembling with cold soft thuds. On the way, some familiar thumping. This is a good one, she said, you’ll love this as we found a seat outside the vegan eatery. You’ll never forget the texture of grilled portabella. Streetcar tracks suggest that most every preconception is false given the nature of its projection: inherently uninformed. What Godforesaken weather might we expect, she asked, tracks flashing thundercloud heavy, reflected in the dark lens of Foster Grants. On her phone, sifting through messages and confused, greatly, by nostalgia, her spring shadow appearing in early August. She told the story of kittens collected in a burlap sack, a kid on the bench at the tracks they were thrown to. She’s missing one eye from a childhood accident she isn’t quick to speak of. She can see clearly, but is clumsy through depths of field. Still, he kissed her on the soft veil of flesh above what’s missing. Tender, deep with intention. She cried hard over the missing kittens. She blew her nose with a quick honk, barely audible over the shaking of the train. The waiter came with plates stacked along his inner arm. The eggplant parmesan? That’s me, she said. Thanks. She started talking about pregnant classmates, can you imagine emerging with the strength to hold your own weight? your own bobbing head? A pigeon picked at scraps of crust. She might have been crying. Someone take me home, she said, I’ve been awake since Friday, she said and this must be the version of the dream in which I think I’m dying.
dennis pearson, STARBUCKS #3
I have invented a new kind of paint That can color the air itself So we can spray-paint words in front of our eyes And have them float down the sidewalk alone Just yesterday I stood on the street And wrote my name in purple letters Seven feet high so that it could Waft triumphantly Through the city And last night I painted A string of dirty words In phosphorescent orange And let them go in the park Ass Piss Shit Dammit Scattered like butterflies And floated silently Drifting low to the ground Like soft fog Moving away on the breeze Blazing neon Under the streetlights
THE BEST TIME I WAS PULICLY HUMILIATED BY A COLLEAGUE I sometimes say that a woman feels most vulnerable when she is either a.) naked, or b.) eating, so when the sentence dropped into my silence, I was afraid. “You’re so much hotter than you let yourself be.” She was studying me with a look that felt penetrating, pan-searing. I’d done an editorial internship the summer after graduating college, and she’d been one of my rope-teaching superiors. While I was no longer associated with the magazine, I was still hanging around town and so continued to be included in the party e-vites. These were events I went to with gusto, and some fear. They were stocked with all the culture I’d generally accused my hometown of lacking; but for all the import beer, Whole Foods, obscure music, and tantalizing literary types, there was the inkling that I was an imposter in such a circle (and furthermore knew nothing about anything). Also, side-room pep talks with the editor—a sporadic mentor—could equal parts inspire and deflate me; telling him that I was still living at home and working at T.G.I. Friday’s was not at the top of my to-do list. My ex-superior and a guy I’d never met with the Mississippi River system tattooed on his forearm had started speaking French on the back patio, at which point I retreated to the kitchen. Ginger beer (alcohol-free, I would discover after it was too late) required no author opinions nor grungily-romantic hobo stories. Somehow they’d found me here, though, my eyes full of fear, my mouth full of lemon cookies. “Uh,” I said, laughing, because she was joking, right? “I’m not sure if I should take that as an insult or a compliment.” I remember it like a matriarchal face-off before a rumble—her directly across, the only other female in the room, flanked by strange men. There was the new associate editor, a gentlevoiced guy from New York; his friend with the tat, who’d come here to write a novel; and a visiting author from New Orleans, camera in tow. I was meeting them all tonight for the first or second time. “I just mean, you could be so much more attractive than you allow yourself to be.” Coughing-laugh noises from the audience. “I disagree, for the record,” the new associate editor offered from his corner of the bar top. I was regretting my decision to wear the 80s-lesbian-power-suit jacket. I’d wanted it to say “casual and bold!” But I wasn’t all that bold, and maybe I looked better in skirts. Maybe the suit, along with antisocial snacking, was not becoming. (“Not becoming”: words the editor would use to describe my current lack of direction.) More nervous laughter from my side. She finally indicated her beef: I didn’t act as intelligent as I was. I only dated dumb, traditionally attractive guys.
guillaume babin, THIS SIDE UP I might have pointed out here that her boyfriend had the jaw structure of a 90s rom-com heartthrob and that she had never met a single one of mine. But I had grown up in the Bible Belt and was inclined to submit. Maybe she had my best interest at heart. “Really? Do you think so?” I did seem to have a thing for men who were into sports instead of reading. Men who snapped, “Spit it out!” in a no-nonsense way that felt justified, if a little jarring. “Yes,” she said like she was blessing my heart. “You act like a dumbass.” There was something about the word—dumbass—the texture of it in the room. Toothed, slapping, like a big, cold fish hitting me in the face. I’d noticed that breaths and voices had been sucked up, as if the vents were hoovering tension. Mississippi River guy had made a quiet exit. “I don’t think that’s fair...” I began. I’ve been told there’s something about me that invites destruction. Friends and lovers have corroborated the claim, in one way or another. When explaining it to me, my college roommate used the illustration of sibling rivalry. Her younger sister would cry, recoil, fumble words—and this made my college roommate angrier. It fed something in her, a mean little flame. “You do. You act like a dumbass so boys will like you.” I might’ve begun with the defining infatuation of my youth: an aloof boy three years my senior who listened to indie music and wore church polos ironically. I’d tried to become more sophisticated. Affect the alluring melancholy of Sylvia Plath. Later I would swear off trying to win the approval of someone who would throw the fourteen-year-old version of myself out on her heart. (Sure, she was bubbly, and posted Avril Lavigne lyrics on her AIM away messages—not ironically—but in many ways she was more earnest than I could ever hope to be.) I might’ve mentioned the time my (female) tenth grade English teacher took me out in the hallway to ask, had I used the Internet for the poem analysis assignment? Had I gotten outside help, maybe a family member? Was I sure? The time my (male) political science professor told me I was a talented writer, but called me a flake and advised me to step up and “stop being a goofball.” (I’d been making As in his classes. Did he possess some sixth sense for my all-nighter crams, my serial procrastination? Or was this just his shtick to keep students on their toes?) I might’ve mentioned that, during the internship, I’d taken to reading articles with titles like “Subtle Ways Women Undermine Themselves in the Office” and trying to be aware of how often I cocked my head or said statements like questions during magazine meetings.
Instead I opted for the panicked, soupy, “I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but I suppose it’s possible—” “You act like a dumbass, and it’s sad.” She was collecting momentum or righteous indignation. I remember being surprised at the number of times and with what delight she seemed to wield the word. My mother is possibly the most hard-working, self-sacrificing, kind, and all-around cute woman I know; taking advantage of her had been second nature. She’d surrender her portion of dessert, never demand help with the dishes, habitually allow her sleep to be interrupted by us, the dog, my dad’s snoring. It was like her life was spent in hopeful waiting that other people would be benevolent enough to restore her, and the older I got, the more I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and tell her to stop being so ladylike before she withered away. I considered aloud the possibility that I had inherited some sort of learned helplessness. “Isn’t your mom, like, a professional housewife?” she asked. Once, I’d noticed this ex-colleague silently wiping tears from her eyes while sitting at her desk, catty-corner from mine. I’d felt for her an intense tenderness, the kind that occasionally punctuates resentment. I’d found her irritating—her frequent use of the word “gauche” and predictable disdain for Kings of Leon songs—and intimidating. She talked back, achieved a charming balance of fierce wit and self-deprecation, seduced hipsters at music events. I thought she was ridiculous and incredibly cool. “Maybe I do do that, I don’t know. I mean, I could spend forever trying to analyze how much of my personality is authentic,” I said. “But at some point you just have to accept that you are the way that you are, you know?” She had no idea how many times I’d taken this train of self-reflection; it could only wreck itself in the is-your-blue-my-blue? pretentiousness of an intro philosophy class, the kind that could move one to extol the virtues of an Adam Sandler movie. Here, her boyfriend chimed in. (He’d started listening from the doorway at some point.) He explained in a consoling psychologist’s voice the importance of examining and challenging aspects of yourself in order to improve. This was the second time we’d met. “I had to spend three months in a room with you, trust me, you do,” she said. “And, I mean, I liked you—but god, you were so annoying!” I wondered if she’d forgotten that we were still talking about me. My entire personality. Before leaving with her boyfriend, the associate editor, and the friend, she and I agreed that that we had to have a Guinness milkshake party. After she was gone I was surprised to discover that, more than share in a Guinness milkshake party, I desired to never see her again. She never apologized, unless you counted the curious embrace before her exit wherein she held my face and assured me that she “didn’t mean it bad.” Later, the author from New Orleans would admit he’d thought we might kiss. It would’ve struck me as an appropriately bewildering finale to the evening. Monday I got an e-mail from the managing editor of the magazine with a link to an article by the author whose piece I’d obsessively fact checked and co-edited during my internship. It was an ode to fact checkers in which he admitted to taking my work for granted, even apologizing to me by name. I was thrilled by the validation. I even relished his earlier depiction of me as a ruthless, meddling force, since “brazenness” was something I possessed in my face-to-face professional dealings only in my most ass-kicking daydreams. In the forwarded e-mail, I was able to see how the managing editor had been alerted to the piece’s existence. “I don’t have a sub, but is this about what I think it might be ?!?!?!” my ex-colleague had written. It felt deeply satisfying, her discovering the article, one that contained someone’s perception of me as competent, dignified. And, if not like an apology, at least a shared nod—even if there would be no milkshake party in our future. n
It happens every time the flowers pop-up.
THE END OF FAME
Every time sunlight slips through the shadows with the precision of a jeweler’s hands. Every time a man and woman
( alone or together ) sit down for dinner.
It happens every time a pigeon pecks at and shits on the marble head of the little Roman boy god in the Palais-Royal. sara kohgadai, LISTENING
A door. That’s what your face reminds me of. A gate swinging open and shut on metallic syllables, on hinges worn out by consonants. I’ve tried (I’m trying) to find the right words, the ones that will let your face open again, your smile the sigh of long-bolted rooms.
dr. joseph e. kraus
OUTSIDE AN ORBIT OF MOURNING “Cenotaph,” Emily tried to explain again into the phone. “C-E-N-O-taph. Not a real grave, but a” she paused, “…a fake. Just a headstone over a grave but there won’t be anyone buried in it.” The insurance representative at the other end made a throat-clearing noise like he was judging her. “That’s irregular. I don’t believe your aunt’s policy covers something merely ornamental.” “I wouldn’t call it ornamental,” Emily said. “I know the policy covers burial, but she’s not coming back. This is the closest we can come to burying her.” “What do you mean she’s ‘not coming back’?” the representative probed. “You can’t exercise a burial policy if the subject is still alive.” “She’s not alive,” Emily said, biting each word with distaste. “She’s most certainly dead. It’s just that she’s not coming back.” “I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific,” he said. “We can’t honor a policy on the basis of your certainty.” “Look,” Emily sighed. “Do you read the newspaper? Do you watch the news? Have you heard about the Mars mission?” “Yes…” the representative said, and then Emily heard his tone shift. “Are you telling me your aunt is the astronaut? That astronaut?” “I am,” said Emily. “My aunt is that astronaut.” “She’s a hero,” the representative said, “an American hero. I’m sorry for your loss. The whole country is sorry for your loss.” “Does that mean you need any further information from me?” Emily asked. “They won’t be issuing a formal death certificate for a while yet, but can you use this conversation to get the claim started? As you can imagine, it’s been a trying time, and I’d appreciate taking care of this with as little distraction as possible.” “I am certainly sorry for your loss, Ms. Kaplan, and I’ll do what I can to make this process easier. I will personally see if it’s possible to waive the requirement of a certificate for now. Still, I’m afraid we will need you or your representative to indicate the type of headstone and the fees of the funeral home you’re working with.” “Of course, I can do that,” Emily said, seeing her way to the end of the conversation. “I’ll make sure someone contacts you once we settle those decisions.” “And, Ms. Kaplan,” he said, “I know it isn’t much consolation after such a dramatic loss, but you should save a lot of money since you won’t have to buy a casket or utilize the digging equipment. In fact,” his voice was on the brink of cracking, “I think you’ll find your aunt’s policy will cover all the costs. Especially if you can arrange to have the service some day other than a Sunday.” The NASA official at the televised press conference described the loss of Allison Kincaid as “an instance of one of our finest giving her life for a cause greater than any one of us. In her bravery, Major Kincaid helped sustain the Mars mission at the price of her own survival. As she floats in the vastness of space, a kind of human satellite, we can look to her for an inspiration that calls us to the stars and beyond.” The investigator from the National Security Agency, the one who called Emily in the hours after her aunt “became de-tethered,” wanted to know whether Allison had “been depressed, angry, or cynical” in the months before launch. “Did she,” the agent interrogated, “express any sympathy for elements hostile to the present elected government of the United States?” The Wikipedia page for Major Allison Kincaid, updated by multiple anonymous contributors in the minutes after the catastrophe was announced, described her as “the seventh American and second American woman to set foot on Mars. As the result of an accident during a space-walk – reputed in some circles to sabotage and in others to Kincaid’s carelessness – she is the first human being in history whose uncremated remains exist beyond an orbit that will return them to Earth.” The blogger who identified himself (or herself) as NASsAssin suggested unverifiable detail. “Kincaid knew the agency’s secrets, and that meant she had to go. In space, no one can hear you squeal, or that’s what the
big-shots at the agency figured, so they cut her loose, really cut her loose. Those tethers ought to be able to secure an elephant. You tell me, how does one of them just detach unless mission control has something to do with it?” The respondent who signed his post Anonymous saw it differently. “No way, Mr. Conspiracy Theory. This is what you get when you put wommen in space. She just wasn’t strong enoughh to deal with all that sh*t up there.” And Emily’s father called from Jerusalem with warm, generic support. “I’ll be there if you need me, sweetheart, and I’m sorry you’re the one this is falling on. Let me know if I can help you somehow.” By law, Emily stood as next of kin to her Aunt Allison, but she felt like a fraud with the attention that settled on her in the wake of the disaster in space. The Kincaids were less a family than an idea of family, four siblings dispersed like fissioned material from the nucleus of their parents. Each child found death in dramatic, premature fashion. The only brother, a motocross prodigy, died at 22 in a race mishap. The middle sister, a medical researcher in a tropical area famous for incubating new strains of influenza, succumbed to exotic infection in her early 30s. The oldest, Emily’s mother, survived marriage to Emily’s Zionist-crazed father and several years in a West Bank settlement before, divorced and working for her father in Michigan, she was killed in a hit-and-run accident. And Allison, so much younger than the others that she sometimes seemed like an older sister to Emily, simply walked into the black of outer space and didn’t return. Emily supposed she loved her Aunt Allison, and the two of them had kept alive the fiction they were a family in the wake of everyone else’s death, but it had been months since they had spoken. Now Allison was gone altogether, gone in a way that no human had ever been gone before, and Emily needed to perform a public ritual in her memory. Given her choice, Emily would have done nothing but imagine herself talking with Allison, asking her to describe the view from so unimaginably far away and complaining about current and former boyfriends on Earth. Emily did not have a choice, however. At least two of the supermarket tabloids and one of cable’s better known celebrity profile shows had indicated they would have reporters on hand. The cenotaph made sense, Emily had decided, and she had little but sense to guide her. The vague Methodism of her grandparents didn’t cover the eventuality of a child lost beyond Earth’s atmosphere, and her father’s orthodox Judaism, which specialized in worship built on arcane loss, didn’t apply to the agnostic Allison. NASA promised a statue somewhere on its grounds, but an associate director implied there ought to be some unspecified “family tribute” as well. The cenotaph, a showy but empty thing, would have to do the trick. It would serve as the central prop in a production where nothing was quite what it seemed: where the hero might not have been a hero, where the family wasn’t nuclear, and where the next of kin wondered precisely what it meant to be “next.” Emily arranged to have it set in a cemetery plot near her grandparents’ final resting place, and gave herself three days to adjust the tableau. She decided to have the sexton turn up the soil to give the illusion someone was buried there, and she sketched and resketched where to place the largest floral arrangements to give the best impression of substance to the memorial. She prepared herself to shed some tears, tears from a sorrow she indeed felt, but she did so more in the role of director than actor. The situation demanded a show, and there was no one but herself to stage it. And the people came. They filled the high school football stadium beyond capacity, and then they comprised a cortege to the cemetery longer than the annual Fourth of July parade. Emily rode in front in a hearse that the burial insurance covered, but she felt more like a grand marshal than a mourner, like she ought to give a princess wave to the cars that trailed hers. Old friends, acquaintances, and total strangers embraced her and offered condolences that seemed to come from a magnetic poetry set missing all but a handful of words: hero, brave, tragedy, proud, and never forget. Emily did miss Allison, and she understood her aunt’s role as symbol of humanity’s drive to explore the unknown. She understood even that Allison, the Allison who’d always rooted for the Detroit Tigers and could never get the hang of restaurant chopsticks, was apotheosizing into a national myth, an Amelia Earhart for
the middle 21st Century. She saw that the country – and certainly NASA – needed such artifice, needed to fit the generally ordinary woman into the spacesuit of myth. So Emily played along, struck her John F. Kennedy, Jr. salute to the coffin (even if there was no coffin) and returned the onslaught of proffered condolences with a patience that would probably have made Allison laugh. When it was over at last, when the Vice-President, Governor, junior United States Senator, and head of NASA had all had their telegrams read aloud by more local dignitaries, when the last of the dozens of cars pulled away, when only the sexton and a small crew of cemetery workers remained to address the residue of the service, Emily let herself break her assigned character at last. Looking around to be sure no one was watching, she gathered up the bottom of her dress, turned her posterior to the cenotaph, and quickly flipped a glimpse of her underwear. As she smoothed down her dress, though, she realized that even such lightheartedness felt contrived, that even clownishness failed to express her unprecedented sense of loss, pride and detachment. They called a display of your rear end a “moon,” but Allison was, now and forever, beyond the moon, and Emily could do nothing to change that stark and strangely compelling truth. Two weeks later, Emily could not suppress the sudden impulse to visit the cenotaph again. Her father would have had her place a stone atop it in remembrance of the loved one buried beneath it, but there was no one buried there. Besides, Emily wondered whether rocks of this earth would really communicate her mixed emotions. She looked instead at the dozens of floral tributes that remained angled against the stone, and she noted most of them were browned and curling at the edges. How many of the recent throng had moved on without further thought? How many of those who had hung on every broadcast or given a thumbs-up to every blogpost on Allison’s disappearance even remembered her name? In the midst of that flowery decay, one bouquet stood out so fresh and composed that Emily thought at first someone must have brought it more recently. When she looked closely, however, she discovered it was simply made of plastic. Artificial as those flowers were, they were the only ones that seemed still to keep the monument fresh. In their unreality, they seemed more real than all the others. Emily picked up the false bouquet and, trying to imagine she was clowning with Allison, brought them to her nose and inhaled. She smelled nothing, of course; the flowers offered only an illusion of beauty. Against the backdrop of the cenon taph, a monument that gave only the illusion of closure, the illusion that she’d had the chance to bid farewell to her aunt, they seemed somehow appropriate: false blooms for false comfort, a farewell to someone who, flickering out of consciousness as the oxygen depleted in the artificial atmosphere of her suit, would never quite die as others died. Emily carried the plastic flowers back toward her car, letting them bump against her thigh as she walked, willing herself to feel some connection to the aunt who, in some inutterably real way, looked down on her. When she got back to the parking lot, she tossed them into a garbage pail. They rose and descended in an arc that answered the insistence of gravity. Then they fell out of sight forever.
Fresh turtle dribbles off my lips and Anvik laughs like a Geiger counter inside our greening igloo. Our sleeping breath stalactites from the roof. I put on another animal and trudge outside, past my huskies, kicking pissicles. The moon is a birthmark and south stretches to a white everywhere. Walrus growl like jackhammers. Crowds of auk argue at the top of their snores. We’ve had noon since October. My thermo-watch reads minus forty-two: so cold you could swing on a dog’s breath. At the third hour of noon, a bear catches the scent of our frost-burnt runt. I follow a frozen earthquake to the eels that I’ve hung --they tinkle like wind chimes. My lead dog snuffles my mitten for a slippery heart as Anvik gestures for a new igloo. I carve and stack and fresh fridge-dome for March.
Such a small death, really it hardly seemed worth the price of a coffin or the sorry white gardenias weeping brown in the vase by the door. A handful of mourners their thin black suits drooping in the heat tried to stay awake, gloves crushing the hymnals that wilted in the pews while wax candles shrunk yellow, swallowing flies. Did you know she had no children a neighbor yawned, rubbing her belly swollen like a summer tick just ready to burst the afternoon. The preacher chewed his sermon like a cud dreaming of turning water into wine and breasts like apples and let the grace of god stumble over her name on his way out the door to Sunday dinner. And in the loft, amazing grace died on the keys as the choir mopped their brows, their thoughts turning to gossip and elderflower wine; and the pallbearers carried their terrible load, tripping down the empty aisle and out into the scorching noon of nobodyâ€™s heaven.
NIGHT SWIMMING Comb straight through the tangle of deadness, Mock oranges, and bitter flowers. Call me inside after the quartet in the park and buckle me to The side of the bed. If you crush the skull between Your teeth, the blood, brains, and imagery will Swim across the floor. All this is so impersonal, So much more inhuman than Schubert or religious Love. The woman on the stairs counts The dark waves of sleep seething from the room Above. The bones of the stars are picked clean Before weâ€™re done.
When she died, she wanted to look like the city: a sun-bathed mausoleum wrapped in furs, glorious, neck craned at the upside-down bowl of Berlin’s sky, mortal milky clouds and all. The train window framed Kreuzberg in a curator’s dream. Daylight left quickly. She saw some government buildings; someone had told her that, in a symbolic gesture of reassurance and transparency, all buildings related to any part of the government had glass walls. Nice enough for the administration to peer out of, she supposed, but the point was that the public felt like they could peer in and observe at any given moment. These were the things that made her love the Germans. The train cabin, on the other hand, was an American’s bad joke, a kitsch sitcom of some Eastern bloc train ride. The man across from her ate smelly greenish cheese from a lace handkerchief, staring lustily at the triangular tits of the girl beside her. His face was a leering unbaked pie. Two women jabbered in what she guessed was Polish, laughing often in a sharply hysterical fashion. One of the woman’s hair jutted from her head sharply, with stiff tangerine strands. Her lungs coughed, creating the sound of boots stomping on snail shells. She let herself cough, a voluntary cheese grater, bringing forth mucus she had demurely swallowed while with him. She spit gobs into her jacket sleeve. The blood hid in the crimson wool pattern of her coat; the sweet metallic stench began to mix with that of the goat cheese. Vomit rising to her throat, she slid open the door of the cabin and stepped across the hallway, struggling with and then opening a train window. She closed her eyes and plunged her head out, loose cheeks now peeling back from her skull and mining her closed esophagus. She screamed long. Snot clapped her throat shut and flew onto what she guessed was the cabin window beside hers, because a gaunt man came into the hallway and began to lecture her, irate and incomprehensible. She listened for a few moments and then stepped back, cocking her head coldly, and spit on the floor between them. The man paused, only unfreezing to laugh nasally. Pulling her own cabin door open, she stepped clumsily over the legs of pieface and collapsed in her chair. She slept. The train stopped every couple of hours, sometimes jarring her awake, but her body seemed merciful, seemed to understand that its survival was more insured by keeping her mind cradled in cotton. In Poznan, she considered turning back, Kutno, Warsaw, especially in Warsaw, with three hours to pass until the connecting train. She had been asleep when they arrived at the station, just running off before the last whistle sounded, only making it because the girl with the triangular tits had poked her head with her stiff chest. A bullet bra she fuzzily wondered, pulling her backpack from the overhead compartment and running through the hallways. Tripping down the stairs of the train, she landed on the cement platform, catching herself by the wrists. The suspended electronic sign read -5 C. She entered a nearby stairwell and walked down the short flight, entering the long cement tunnel that led to the other platforms. A newspaper stand lined half of the cold passageway. The air was hard to breathe, frozen and hardly worth it. She saw pie-face buying a Polish smut magazine, a lollipop stick jutting from the left side of his mouth. Ducking her head, she skirted past him shakily and found the platform for the commuter train to Krakow, climbing the stairs and then tossing her backpack onto the ground. Her stillborn fingers were neglected pomegranates, blue with the cold, little streaks of blood from hangnails running excitedly over the knuckles, a purple palette of winter. ___ He said, “No purple prose.” Admonishing himself. She looked up from her own writing. “I do that. Purple prose. When I’m nervous or under deadline.” He leaned back from the table and threw his pen down on the floor theatrically. She picked up the rusting tin where he kept his tobacco, covered in enthusiastic white advertisements from the 1950’s, and handed it to him. Arching his right eyebrow, he began to roll a seamlessly thin cigarette, looking at her mockingly. She lit it with a match, only slyly watching his movements as he strode to the stove and finished cooking their dinner. When he started pulling plates from the cupboards, she stood up and walked to the full bookshelf, a distraction from staring. Benjamin, Adorno, some anthology about the Greek and Roman gods, Occult, Occult, a ukulele, a shelf of whiskeys and bourbon. Fleurs du Mal, he even had Baudelaire. He said, “Will you come and eat?” A gallant.
She ate with a leg pulled into her body, head leaning on her right knee, arm weaving around her thigh and gripping the fork. He could cook; he told her that he had worked in a restaurant for months to afford the ticket to Berlin, to live in this little studio, a squashed grandchild of the DDR. She said, “Thank you for inviting me to dinner. I’m glad to see you again, after Sunday, before tomorrow.” “What’s tomorrow?” She said, “I fly back to Madrid. I’m not sure where I’ll be living, of course, but I’m expected nonetheless. And this weather isn’t helping my bronchitis” tightly. “Why don’t you stay? Vagabond around town here, in Berlin?” Pause. She said, “With you?” “Well… yes, why not? There’s a certain devil-may-care tinge to it I like.” “Fuck. I don’t know why I thought you meant I could stay with you. I’m sorry to impose. I’ve made things rather awkward now haven’t I? I have a return ticket already anyway.” “No. I have an air mattress. I charge by the towel, of course. I may try to seduce you again. These are the charges for staying in my hostel.” “Alright, I’ll bring my things tomorrow.” And they finished dinner and she shyly stood to go, slipping her fingers into creamy suede gloves, quiet and unsure, only looking up when he said, “Stay. Give me your sickness.” ___ All the loose tobacco kept flying out of the thin white paper, the wind and her swollen fingers resisting dexterity. She left her backpack, quickly reentering the cement passageway and walking toward the newspaper stand. Five zloty for smokes. She resolved to pass the time like a queen in Krakow, an internal dry laugh accompanying this thought. As she dug into the fetid woolen coat pocket, her phone chimed, MoviStar reminding her to buy more saldo. This message reminded her how he hadn’t checked on her, hadn’t asked if she had made it alright. And it was like a slow cruel boot to the chest, realizing that he wouldn’t. She dropped the zloty on the magazines in front of the vendor, her face laced up tight, until she reached her backpack in the stairwell. The next moments were hideous. Breaths came hard like pulls on arsenic ice cream through a straw, but quiet as a waltz. A ribcage opened with dynamite. She chain-smoked in the stairwell until the train came, sometimes coughing blood into her hand and drawing little pictures with it on the wall next to the stairs. These moments, the bereavement of it all, struck her as eerie. The commuter train was almost empty when she got on. She half-stood for many minutes, unconsciously deciding whether to run up and down between the chairs, imposing the rotten radish rage she felt upon unsuspecting Poles. A beautiful blonde girl sat down in the aisle across from her, thin and cruel and undeniably Slavic. The Pole stared at her, bemused and seemingly disgusted, until she finally sat down and arranged the dirty backpack next to her, hoping the pretty Polish girl would look away. I looked like that in the States. Clean, maybe even hawkish, she thought. Scrambling for distraction, she pulled out the first book the backpack yielded. Herzog. She looked at that funny etching, an angular man hiding behind brambles, on the yellowing cover. She began to read, an eccentric respite, until she reached the ninth page, when the last paragraph slapped her eye. Tucking the book away in her bag, she curled into the fetal position in her chair and began to pray. How the fuck does it go? Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy and she couldn’t finish, because she couldn’t remember, and because the skipping record player that was her worn down scratched mind wouldn’t let any moments of peace get through, and she started again, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, fuck, please come please come, please God help me please God help me please God please God please God please God please God please God please God where are you? Please please please please please until it all blended with the train wheels and her quieting coughs until her body let her sleep Thank you God. ____
She picked her way through the pebbled paths of Dorotheenstädtischer, the crumpled map flapping in her hand, coffee-stained and typed in crude English. Hegel, Mann, Fichte. And she finally found it, Brecht. The headstone sat, almost lackadaisical, near one of the skinniest skeleton trees in the graveyard. She looked over the high brick wall into the wan sun, almost gone although it was 2:30 pm. The brothy light shone against the windows of his old study next door. She had gone there yesterday, taking an informal little tour of his dusty and regal final quarters. Although she had gone in loving the playwright, she emerged with an aching love for his torn dedicated wife. Particularly striking was the photograph of the actress beside her bed, standing in the couple’s garden. The guide said Helene was about 45 when the picture was taken— but she looked to be in her eighties, wrinkled and dark, with hardened black eyes of rotting glass. The woman had left her husband’s study untouched after he had died, referring to his rooms as “Brecht’s” until she passed away. Helene Weigel was now buried under the headstone next to her wayward lover, now and always to lie next to the man who told her, in later years, that she was losing her touch on the stage. Insult to a streaming procession of younger ingénue injury. She left upon twilight, hesitating through the cemetery’s heavy iron gates, then making her way to meet him in Kreuzberg. Taking her time getting to the thrift store, she stepped into an antique shop across from the metro exit, black nails fingering old minks and chipped Bohemian tea cups. The mirror across an aisle told her she looked beautiful that day, despite her dancing knotted hair and chapped face. The Turkish owner started to close in with hospitable but claustrophobic offers, so she hastily went back onto Bergmannstraße and turned left, walking toward Colours, where they sold clothes priced by the kilo, a meat market where vintage went into convalescence. He found her there, circling in front of a mirror wearing oversized wool trousers, embarrassed by his sudden appearance. He said, “Let’s go to some bookstores. You’ll need reading for the train ride.” The first one was for expatriates, stacked to the ceiling and filling two rooms with English books. She found many worth buying, only to find a spidery script reading, “Not For Sale” where the price should have been on the inside cover. Frustrated, she made her way through a kitchen separating the two rooms and found him sitting in a floral armchair in the back room, smoking a cigarette. He said, “I found a book on the history of Cornish smugglers. Can you believe it?” Digging some coins out of his trousers, he made his way to the cashier, a burly man donning an unenthusiastic toupee who was watching what seemed to be the German version of American idol. She went outside and waited, clumsily rolling a cigarette and coughing into her sleeve, straightening as he busily left the bookshop. He said, “You didn’t find anything? There’s another one, more worthwhile, close by.” She debated touching him as they walked in the street, finally looping her left arm through his crooked elbow, his hand jammed into his coat pocket. It was a constant question she had, his affinity for her, why he chose to call her Meine Liebling. He had taken no other lovers in Berlin, so their friends told her, and his rough animaln beauty made this romantic absence altogether baffling. She had outgrown, younger than most women, the over-valorization of being a unique presence in a man’s life. So this knowledge about his isolation meant nothing essential. She wondered how much she had forced herself upon this man, who had joked that he happily barricaded himself in Berlin, choosing to suffer internally the way a good Jewish expat ought to. The next bookstore had an English section in the back. They grew competitive, informal intellectuals asking whether the other had read this book, knew the background of that author, sometimes detailing the story behind their first encounter with some novel. On the back wall, while looking for Durrell, she found a ratty copy of Herzog by Saul Bellows, a paperback she had seen the day before shoved in among the thousands of Brecht’s books. She scanned it and, showing him the delicate little copy, read:
“He went on taking stock, lying face down on the sofa. Was he a clever man or an idiot? Well, he could not at this time claim to be clever. He might once have had the makings of a clever character, but he had chosen to be dreamy instead, and the sharpies cleaned him out. What more? He was losing his hair.” She smiled widely and hid her hands in his curly hair, fingers hidden in an unruly field waxed with pomade. He kissed the side of her neck and said, “I’d like to read that when you’re done. You should get it.” And she did.
MY MOTHER’S HEART STOPS She wakes, on the floor, alone, one thought on her mind: Funeral arrangements to make. Rises from her collapse, slip showing. She’s embarrassed, forgot to put on a bra. finishes dressing, skirt zipped, tugged too tight sensible rubber-soled shoes. Scoops the phone up from the carpet, places it back on the nightstand. How long since the call? Ten minutes? Twenty? She doesn’t know. Her mother. Pancreatic cancer. In the end, she wouldn’t have felt it, all that morphine.
Mother felt it, though. The ache of orphaning. Pierced or shattered? Either way, her heart gave up. After, she straightens her earrings, star sapphires my dad spent months matching after Mark, the rottweiler, ate one. Runs the boar bristle brush once through her peppered hair. Drives to the hospital, signs paperwork, says the right things. Cries only in the bathroom, alone. Doesn’t tell me, never mentions that I almost lost her, too.
sara kohgadai, THE HUMAN BRAIN
darren c. demaree
EMILY AS WHERE WE FIRST FOUND WET STONE They looked like distant islands, those two circles, the pile of circles, smooth rocks that had been raised, never batted by the slow tide of creek water. It was beautiful, the water looked dead or in appreciation of such art & our bodies, large in the shallow stream, did nothing to take away from the worship we found in those formations. We each took one stone. We were young. We still needed to believe that we could own the intimacy of nature, our nature with each other. I think the last time I saw those stones, they had keys on top of them. I think the last time I held one, I took it up so tightly it kept me from leaving. I think the first time we found those stones, we did what had to be done, and we continue to.
North Mississippi, 1978 My sister gave me the gift of an appointment with her psychic, M., who was up for a few days from New Orleans. M. received me in her room at the Holiday Inn. M. seemed out of focus. She shimmered in place like a leafy shrub, quaking in a breeze. She was small and stoutish, roundish, about fifty. Her dress looked like she had made it herself while doing other things. One eye drooped, but I felt she could see plenty. She was busy and yet warm, and bearing along under some burden of trouble; I connected with her from the start. My chair faced hers, knees almost touching. She brushed my fingertips with her own, looked me in the eye and I mean straight in the eye, which made me afraid to think the wrong thought. She fixed her eyes just above my head and closed them. “You’ve had a hard time,” she said. “A woman hurt you. Children miss you. But you labor in the vineyards.” She exhaled and looked blank. Then another vision seized her. “Oh!” Her eyes snapped shut. “I see your guardian angel. He’s huge. A Catholic figure. He’s right above you! He’s an angel with blue wings. Blue wings! I’ve never seen that before. He’s been watching over you for many years, and it is he who has led you into your writing and music.” Then the flow stopped. “It’s like I see a TV screen over your head,” she said. “There’s static, and there’s noise. I see pictures. I don’t know if they’re past or future, I can’t tell.” She breathed a little desperately. “It makes me crazy,” she said. I next saw M. a year later. June days were scorching; humidity swelled the brain against the skull and tightened people up. Afternoon thunderclouds made promises, grew dark and crackled, then drifted away. M. had driven up in her white Cadillac for a week of readings. My sister said I was to go at a certain time, and focus on what I wanted revealed. I wanted to know when I would hear from the three editors who had my manuscript. But when I got there what M. wanted was a ride. Her car had been serviced. The summer sky was dark and rumbling. Lightning arced between the clouds. On the way she asked for a cold drink so I pulled in at the 7-11. As I returned with Dr. Peppers the sharp smell of ozone filled the greenish air. This time the sky wasn’t kidding. A drop landed on my face and the water world turned loose before I opened the door. In a moment I sat beside her, wet and happy to share the moment. We drank from the cold bottles and listened to gushing water and the cascade of hail, grains of white ice rattling on the hood of my Chevy. Then someone pounded on my window and a wet face was screaming. The back doors flung open and three men in their 30s filled the back seat. They were friends of mine, more or less, and their car had died. They were soaked and unhappy. Their arms stung from the ice, and they rubbed them up and down. “Hail,” M. said. She spoke quickly and seriously. She addressed the man who had banged my glass. “There was hail like this the day your mama proposed to your daddy!” The fellows were silent. I began to introduce everybody. “M.,” I said, “is a gifted psychic…” Before I could finish her eyes closed and she tranced into a reading. First she spoke to the man who had knocked. “You have a lot of money,” she said, “and you’re good with people.” This was oh so true. Then she turned to his brother-in-law, in the middle. He was a handsome guy, a guy of few words. He’d played quarterback in high school. “You are not the smartest man in this car,” she said. “But people like you. Women like you.”
M. twisted to face the remaining wet soul, Jordy Cain. He had hitched into town a few years ago, and managed to hang around by house-sitting for lawyers, tending their flower beds and pools. Jordy had a long face, self-protective. But his eyes were vigilant and I had always been careful around him. “You are the smartest man in this car,” M. said. She turned to me. “You can write, but this is the smartest man in this car.” Then she attacked him: “Why do you have those little coffins floating around over your head?” “Coffins?” “Little coffins, with little dead people in them. Why do you have them?” Jordy blushed and twitched. “You have magazines with dead people in them,” she continued. “Why do you have magazines with dead people?” Jordy Cain’s face darkened; his arms knotted and the knots rose and fell. “Anybody can have magazines!” he screamed. He opened his door and stepped into the wall of rain. Straight-backed and mechanical, he walked into mystery, into the grey roaring waterfall, and disappeared. A year later my sister’s friend Flomay Simmons was murdered in her hairdressing shop, inside her small house by the tracks. Two .22 wounds, one behind each ear. Flo was known as a free spirit, charming and fun. Who would shoot Flo? “Well,” my sister said, “she had a lot of boyfriends. Some were married.” “Oh.” “Also, she was a pot dealer.” “She was?” “Un huh, and”…my sister came close and spoke softly…”she told somebody…one more big shipment…one.” “Shipment of grass?” My sister nodded. “So maybe the people who were supplying the grass didn’t want her to quit?” “We might find out tonight,” she said. “M. is on her way.” “She was a friend of Flomay’s?” “You just wait.” M. called me herself this time, and said we—she and I—were going to Flo’s neighborhood. “I’ll be able to tell,” she said. “Uh, okay.” “And one more thing, have you got a gun? A pistol?” I hesitated too long. “Bring it,” she said. “Make sure it’s loaded.” My old Ruger .357 Magnum with the 6 ½ inch barrel lay in the gun cabinet; when I slipped it and a box of cartridges out of the house I asked myself ‘What are you doing?’. But I was under M.’s spell. Afraid to disobey. We drove up to Flomay’s house, and M. made me hush while she listened, or maybe psychically felt, in the direction of the front porch. Then we walked down the hill to the neighborhood tavern. She ran her hands along the redwood bar, and when she opened her eyes she studied the bartender with his Hawaiian shirt. “This is where the killers drank,” she said. “I can smell their car.” The next afternoon I met with the chief of police. He was a giant of a man, with a giant’s calm. He never moved as I talked about how psychic detectives had helped police, a subject I knew nothing about. His black
shoes were shined, and his silver handcuffs hung from his belt. His face revealed nothing. I laid out the theory that Flomay had been a dealer; she’d wanted to quit but two men up the chain had said no. They were both dating her. This revelation got an eyebrow to move. The picture I presented had been spliced together from the gossip of my sister and her friends. They suspected those two, had never liked them, and now M. had confirmed their guilt. The chief thanked me as he engulfed my hand in his own. His steady voice was deep and polite. He watched me closely. Arrests in the case were never made. I never saw M. again. But someone in my sister’s web told me a story at a party one night. “How do you think they got the pot from New Orleans up to this town?” she asked. She had a nice sloshed smile. I shook my head. “M.!” she said. “She was their courier. She packed it inside the hubcaps of that white Caddy of hers.” “Are you sure?” “She was perfect. If she ever got stopped, she could talk her way out of anything. But she never would get stopped, because—” “She’d knew where the cops were waiting.” “Her mind, honey, was like a radar gun.” n
OBSERVATIONS OF A PARK EMPLOYEE She sinks back Behind the shoulder Of her Also bewildered companion And shrieks. The reaction comes With the sight Of a malicious groundhog. The only question: Will it viciously attack? By claw or by disease? I try and guide her to Be paralyzed no more, but Stretch carefully around it And please...please Do not stop to Gaze in horror upon the Common Garter Snake; The woods need not More deafening screams ‘Do you have a map of this park?’ I give him the printed sheet Then pause A test of his awareness To catch any sign of Cartographic Intelligence He pauses There is silence His eyes comb over the paper Frantic in their searching For some meaning There must be some meaning, Right? Broken lines, bold lines Strange Archaic symbols Of fire and shelter Dear God The panic of wanting To know He scrambles [of] everything With exception to The map’s key. I give him a calming look In his eyes As to say,
‘It will be okay, sir, I’m here to help’ His nervous smile Twitches I chuckle Inside and out Entertained in part Frightened in part This exchange has been Taking place Too often. They share a shy groan At passing The unrefined Forest-polished Grass-roots couple Coming down the mountain Having never known The scent of Wild Ginger And a Natural body Then share a laugh Through their teeth The quivering jaws of Yuppie buffoons Sadly, I think They will always laugh At the type of Authentic Experience They will never Be acquainted with ‘Does the store here sell bug spray?’ ‘No ma’am, We do not advocate Covering your child’s body with Pesticides.’ (Huff...) ‘And it is February So...not many insects.’ Europeans and pink trash Stare into the face of the falconer As if seeing God For that first moment
‘This must be the Master of the Wild!’ A shocked German: ‘Ve do not habe animals in my country.’ ‘You’re an animal.’ ‘But ve do not habe schnakes.’ ‘Yes, you do. Germany is not Ireland or Antarctica.’ What is it with these people?
You damned people have Buried it all!’
‘So, you guys, like, Have a, like, waterfall In this park?’ ‘We don’t have a Like Waterfall; It’s an actual waterfall.’ It becomes more difficult Not to revert To rudeness
A deep breath And a good thought: I can go home to my valley Gentile souls will greet me And attend to my tales Of grief
I argue for five minutes With a fast-talking, Slow-witted Bostonian About which direction The entrance of our park is Persistent, he looks Into the Lustrous Silver Screen Of his GPS And is completely lost I recommend Buying a map
I then silently Thank God That Georgia’s rivers do not Flow North From that Concrete cesspool
I can drink beer With my dogs They are like children That it’s okay to Get drunk around And there Beneath the Hemlocks I can cling to the earth And all that is True.
More children with The Disney Syndrome More patriots Seeking converts More buses bringing The city’s Tarnished masses Stand before me With your Subdivision clubhouse Plastic nametag Reading, ‘Atlanta Wildlife Society, Master Naturalist’ ‘What wildlife?
DENNIS PEARSON, STARBUCKS #4
FRUSTRATION SWIRLING QUICKLY Yes, I know that they are called false cognates And I know that we are Serious Academics And that we are mature, and above base humor But I still laugh at words like molestar and duchar. I can remember sitting in Spanish 2 at Elk Grove High School, Señor Giordano explaining that molestar “es to bother, to annoy, no es como Michael Jackson.” I’ve lived in Madrid for two years now, but I still can’t believe that people say they shit in the milk, Or on someone’s dead relatives. I’ve taken countless Spanish lit classes, But if you ask me what I remember most from them, It is the giddy delight I felt when I first learned that anáfora and metáfora rhymed. The same glee I feel when I hear or speak certain Spanish words: sínfin, cocodrilo, hablaba, refunfuñar. Those I love based purely on sound. But some words’ sound fits their meaning better in Spanish, some better in English. Sin is smooth, quick, shiny. The “s” hisses. The short “i” akin to a whisper. The “n” sets teeth together into a piercing bite. Sin, something evil and bad and spoken softly. Pecado, a clunky, heavy word all too similar to pescado, or fish. Flor is delicate, monosyllabic, and beautiful, beginning with the sensual f that sets teeth on lips, ending with the trill of the r, stopping the o sound short. Flower has a fatter vowel sound, reminiscent of pain or of a pregnant cow. I love how putamadre has the same amount of syllables as motherfucker, rapid successions of four syllables so perfect in the rhythm of insult. I love that te quiero means “I love you” but literally “I want you.” I love how I hate blindly groping and fumbling for language when I cannot say what I mean. I tried to tell the story of my great-grandfather, Asención Garcia, digging up and reburying his father (who was shot by Pancho Villa in Mexico), but as I made frantic digging motions with my arms, I could not remember enterrar. I love ‘ñ’s.
I love that words have so many connotations that you can never wrestle them and pin them down, or hold them at arm’s length to try and get a good look at them. They squirm out of your reach. They wriggle, writhe, and bloom, florecen, into other words. Sometimes living in a foreign country makes me want to shout from the hilltops, Maria von Trapp style, WE ARE NOT SO DIFFERENT AFTER ALL! WE ARE ALL HUMAN! Other times I still feel strange giving two kisses on the cheek. Don Quijote famously says “Yo sé quien soy,” but I don’t. It’s that cliché— “the older I get, the less I know” and I know less and less and do not know the answers to any questions. “You live in Spain—are you fluent?” bothers me as much as the universally loathed “So, what are you going to do when you graduate?” At times I want to murmur, at times scream, frustration swirling thickly on my tongue, I don’t KNOW quien
GUILLAUME BABIN, LAST FAMILY REUNION
CALL TO PRAYER Sick with fever in Abu Dhabi, I curled retching in his empty bed like a cat hell bent on grooming myself out of existence, throat hairy and tongue thick as pregnant fig. Across the sand-coated street, an oil-black man crept across a rooftop, one inch tall and limbs strong as ropes to rub and knead and love another perfect window frame on another perfect villa swollen with gaud and waste. If I could dredge up the strength, I’d have pulled that damp t-shirt with its sucking threads over my sweat-knotted hair, pushed your weary boxers down my hips, bones protruding like fins, and pressed my bare breasts against the window, hot as a frying pan, my gift, my offering, to that sinewy miniature man as the sun tore through his skin and the loudspeaker from the mosque down the street blared the third call to prayer, making the men march like wind-up soldiers, mats cradled like tired children in their arms.
CATHERINE ON THE ROYAL PROGRESS NORTH
08.08. 1541 After “Poem Not to Be Read at Your Wedding” by Beth Ann Fennelly You ask me for a poem about seduction, how to lower your gaze and glance up to catch his eye at the proper moment, how to finger his sleeve, let your lips linger on the hairs of his cheek imperceptibly longer and make his member full, wanting to burst at the mere mention of your name so you too could be [handfast] to a lord, the highest bidder. For three nights I’ve lain under these eaves full of drenched disappointments, mounting fears and considered your request. Well Charyn, I would rather give you my ruby-filled brooch than tell you what I know. Let me write a poem about youthful passion, and firm thighs. Don’t make me warn you of pus-filled legs, impotence and foul odors that seep through the lips of snakes, the court and even your brothers when you do not deliver what they promised. That would be a bare and citric womb.
AHUEHUETE I. They say this tree is probably the oldest in Madrid and that is not the only legend grown through centuries of sun and water soaked from sky and earth and manifest in ancient wood. They say the night that Cortez built a bridge, fled from Tenochtitlán and saw his soldiers’ backs filled with arrows he wept beneath this old tree’s bloodline, brought the seed as treasure back, and later Philip watched it grow with memories of Aztec blood. They say when Napoleon waged a war against this country’s independence Spanish citizens were shot unarmed as French troops placed a cannon like a vigil candle glowing in this wooden wind-carved candelabra. II. But what of that they do not say? Of she who has stood awhile beneath this grand cathedral, stared among its hundred-thousand hanging spires? Of he who has looked and loved and lost and found a shelter straddling these cracked dry branches?
III. They say this tree is probably the oldest in Madrid and that is not even a thought as children stand beneath its crown, rub and fix their eyes again.
LUKE WALLIN, HOLLY AND CEDAR
Of these children, necks strained up to see the top and marvel while they all discuss the building of a giant fort among its forks in which to live and watch and sway the centuries away?
WORK IN PROGRESS My dad called my phone as I was stepping back onto Broadway after having eaten lunch by myself at the Hot & Crusty Bakery on 87th street. In retrospect, I should have just let the call go to voicemail–called him back when I was in a better state of mind, but instead, I cleared my throat and answered. After exchanging the perfunctory “hello-how-are-yous” he paused, and the tone of his voice changed. “Can I ask you a discreet question?” he said. I stopped walking. Recoiled. Panicked. The day-after, hungover nauseous mix in my stomach instantly dropped a few inches lower, from my stomach into my intestines, and straight into my rectum. Blood rushed into my head, creating a bloody, cloudy storm of confusion and dread. How could he have known? Had he somehow intuited it from across the river in New Jersey? Or had I stupidly given him all the clues--accidentally calling him from the party or the taxi or the strip club or the apartment afterwards, treating him to auditory glimpses into the debauchery I had incited the night before? I tried to retrace my steps in the few milliseconds I had in which to answer. I had to think of something clever, something evasive and ambiguous. Something that would appease my dad and leave untarnished the vision he had of me as a perpetually pre-pubescent, innocent twelve-year-old girl. Why did I feel that compulsion to protect him, I wondered. Certainly I had already given him ample reasons throughout high school to destroy that pristine version of myself. Especially now that I had moved to Brooklyn, to a dilapidated, poorly converted toy factory and declared myself independent, what did it matter to him what I did with my life? But this was an exercise that I had to perform for myself: reconstruct last night’s events in reverse and try to ﬁgure out what had happened, while also trying to think of something to tell my dad that would cover it all up. I had started that process only a little while before, as I sat in bed alone at 1p.m., in the waking semi-consciousness of a morning after drinking too much alcohol. Except that it was no longer morning. And it wasn’t even a bed that I was in, but rather a slapdash collection of sheets and blankets on top of a foldable camping mattress on the carpet of the living room of the apartment that my mom and her partner share on the Upper West Side. Had Grant kissed me in in the taxi on our home? I asked myself. My brain strained to remember, but failed, so I got up, washed my face, and began to clean the apartment. I discovered one of my earrings on the pillow of my mom and Hugo’s bed. As though a witness to some exciting mystery, the earring triggered the memory of how Grant and I had initially begun taking our clothes off in their bed, but I halted it, saying that I was uncomfortable doing anything in my parents’ bed. “I respect you for that,” he replied. I probably laughed in his face with that comment. Respect amidst an act that warrants so little respect for the both of us. Ha! So then what had happened in our makeshift bed on the ﬂoor? I tried to piece it together: the two of us, naked; me, hesitant; him, persistent. What I remember most was feeling conﬂicted. I had returned from India no more than one month prior, and I was still desperately trying to negotiate the lessons I had learned there with my once familiar, now foreign, hyper-sexualized New York environment. I left for India two months after graduating from college with plans to volunteer at an NGO school for slum children in Bangalore. I wanted so much from the experience. I wanted to clear my head; to do good deeds and to feel like I was making an impact in the world; and to absolve myself of the guilt I felt for having been
born with so much opportunity. My days in India were long and profound. I walked an hour each way to the school from my spartan accommodations, spent the school day tutoring young kids in English, and conducted an afterschool art class for the middle-school aged students. I cooked my own dinners, read books, went for explorative walks in the neighborhood, and savored the indulgent sweetness of a ripe mango. After only a few weeks in to the experience, I had absorbed the conservative righteousness of Indian culture–a culture by whose standards movie star couples don’t even kiss on camera, but innocuously hug instead. The ﬁnal week of my trip, I spent in Goa, a place described in guidebooks as “Diet India or India Light,” and was aghast at how these Western heathens were conducting themselves: getting drunk, ﬂirting, kissing, taking drugs, and dancing at raves on the beach until the early morning. I felt like an observer of a lifestyle I would have condoned at any other time in my life. In fact, I was so submerged in this fabricated Indian identity that I when I went to a beachfront rave I dressed in a traditional Indian kurta tunic, and realized that I looked ridiculous compared to the European girls with scarves tied around their breasts as makeshift bandeau tops. Back at home in New York, I cleaned up the two plates littered with mushy crumbs and an empty glass that were on the countertop–leftovers of the foie gras and gin we had had late at night. I was able to reconstruct most of what had happened in the apartment, but the taxi ride home might as well have never happened because I had no memory of it. Before the taxi scene then, was the strip club. That was still vivid. The strip club was far classier, more sophisticated and tamer than I had imagined it would be. The dancers were all moving slowly, vertically writhing like snakes and lizards on hot desert sand. The women would roll their small tube tops and lacy shirts down their torsos to reveal their breasts, and then kick the garment off with their platform-clad feet as it reached the ﬂoor of the stage. At the end of the song, they would roll their clothing back on and walk away. On and off. Off and on. On and off. Watching the shirts slide off over and over again made the action lose all its impact and attraction. The shirt lost meaning. Why did they bother wearing one at all? Everything loses importance when it’s repeated over and over. Even important things. It reminded me of how quickly desensitized I had gotten at the bullﬁght in Madrid with Winfield two years ago. I cried when the torero drove the lance deep into the ﬁrst bull’s hide, and it died. The second bull’s death brought but a tear in my eye, and by the third, fourth, ﬁfth and sixth spectacles, I was numb to the inhumanity of it and enjoyed the show. From our bottle-service perch at the Hustler’s Club, I looked down at all the men in lounge chairs, and each one had the same fatuous smirk on his face as he was getting a lap dance. The smirk was the only way that they could manifest their excitement as they sat there languidly and motionless: it was established as you walked in that touching was clearly against The Rules. I could sense that they wanted to shout, “Look at me! Fuck! I have buttocks in my face! The buttocks of a beautiful, topless, foreign girl. Buttocks fucking grazing my nose! I’m a goddamn king!” But they behave because they are familiar with The Rules. I remember Grant paying for me to have a lap dance from a svelte Brazilian woman. The act was so personal, so intimate, that I felt rather uncomfortable. I could focus on nothing else but her skin and her thighs. I started to wonder about who she was, what she was like before she came to New York. How old she was, whether or not she was happy. When she ﬁnished, she put her skimpy clothes back on and joined us for a drink. I remember vaguely having a conversation about travel and culture shock with a different dancer, an Australian woman. The Brazilian girl’s English was pretty bad. I got the impression that the girls were actually enjoying our company. I mean, we were a group of young, good-looking people, very much unlike their normal clientele I would imagine.
Oh God. What if my dad had somehow discovered any one part of that whole night? I thought about how good our relationship had been lately; how just a week ago we met at Penn Station to ride down to D.C. for Thanksgiving with our extended family. I told him stories of India, and he listened intently, and then we watched Juno on my laptop. I guess the movie’s plot line of a young girl forced with adult decisions and relying on her family’s support, tugged at my dad’s heartstrings, because at one point, I looked over, and I realized that he was crying. I poked fun at him, which made him a sheepish and defensive because he’s such a sensitive man. Back on Broadway, the cold winter air stinging my hand that held my phone to my ear, I waited for his question--his “discreet” question--and prepared my rebuttal. “I hate to ruin the surprise,” he started, “but I wanted to know what kind of iPod I should get you for Christmas. There’re so many types--different storage capacities, colors, styles...I just wanted to ask you so I don’t get the wrong one.” A Christmas present! He wanted to know about the details of a Christmas present! I couldn’t believe just how sweet and innocent his question was. My heart melted. I was looking forward to Christmas with my family. Christmas Eve with my mom and Christmas Day with my dad, as it had been since when I was seven, the year they divorced. I wanted to go home and feel like a little girl: warm, protected, comfortable. I couldn’t wait to give my family the gifts I had brought back home for them from India, and to tell them stories of my adventures, and the things that I had learned. “Oh I don’t know...just any old iPod will be great. Thanks for asking!” I answered. I told him that I was looking forward to coming home. It had been a while since I was last there. I hadn’t opened the armoire in my room since graduation; hadn’t jumped on the trampoline in the backyard, or petted my cat Friskey since then either. “You know I haven’t seen Friskey since before I left for India,” I told my dad. “How’s he doing?” “Oh, I thought you knew.” he responded ominously. “Knew what...?” My voice trailed off. My breadth suspended in a frozen nebula in front of my mouth. “I had to put him down a few months ago.” he replied. “I thought I had sent an email to you and Todd about it, but I guess I forgot.” So Friskey had been dead for some time, apparently; had finally succumbed to his feline cancer and diabetes. It wasn’t an unexpected death, clearly, but still, a second wave of dread and confusion rushed over me as I tried to process the sudden news. He was a proud cat; a robustly masculine outdoor cat who had a secret life outside of the house, but was always tender and affectionate with us at home. We always postulated about his life outside of the house: what rodents he killed, what cats he befriended in the neighborhood, and what other humans fawned over him. The two of us played a role in one half of each other’s double lives, and as much as we knew, and as much as we postulated, we never judged because we didn’t speak the same language.n
PAVANE FOR A DEAD PRINCESS she had the good grace to die young before the grueling desert sun melted the kohl around her eyes and creased her face like a crumpled paper bag her beauty’s sealed up tight beneath the bands of linen like a Christmas gift you leave unopened her body’s hollowed out like a tin drum all that remains is her child’s heart, ready to be weighed against a feather and found worthy. the other organs lie in canopic jars with gods-head lids beside the small clay figures who keep close watch. she was about your age, I tell my daughter as we file past she raps gently on the glass half- expecting her to stir but it’s been centuries since she sailed away in her slender wooden craft her speech and limbs restored by the high priest’s adz she reclines now on the other side, surrounded by familiar objects, her combs and scarab amulets, nodding to the servants who bathe her feet with lavender and rose and anoint her with spices that you and I can only dream of
INTO THE WOODS The world looks very different today the old cabin by the creek has moved once more, taken itself to higher ground, and the deer have left to haunt the hollow, their haunches quivering like rising sap. We venture out, knowing we will lose our way again, waiting for dogsÂ Â to ambush our feet as we cut a path through the sumac and watch the reeds breathe minnows through the cold blister of water rushing through the trees. Your hand closes, a lonely animal in mine, and the leaves can smell our fear thick as spoor while we pick our way through the thickening blur of green, wondering which way is true north.
A COMPLICATED DAYDREAM ABOUT CHARLES DARWIN’S LUGGAGE I don’t really know I don’t know much about the man But I can imagine that he was In love with something That he found beauty in the workings of Small machines as well as in the hollow bones of birds It’s a complicated daydream Of scalpels and spyglasses Tortoise shells A bottle of finch beaks Samples of flowers pressed in the Bible Nets and poisons and shells of birdshot Rock salt and formaldehyde Bell jars empty And bell jars full Everything carefully labeled with Annotations and observations Deep in the holds Of Her Majesty’s ship
The dripping dark The cracking bone The taste of marrow Involuntary spasm The skin that bubbles in the fire The brief blindness of orgasm The hands around the neck We only have silence Black Silence White Silence Red Silence Staining the pages Locked away in a trunk Forgotten forever Black Silence White Silence Red Silence
Black Silence White Silence Red Silence
Staining the pages Locked away in a trunk Forgotten forever
Staining the pages Locked away in a trunk Forgotten forever They’re all love poems No way around it When I try The bleary-eyed drunk of lonely full moon night Or the imagined consciousness of deep trash The mysterious crying you hear sometimes Coming from somewhere in the blue powder morning There’s no way around it To make sense To be beautiful
INTENCIONES Intento entender el entendimiento de mi Corazón, pero ella no tiene ninguna razón. Ella intenta llevarme a un lado cuando ya estoy al otro pero sus intenciones me engañan, cuando ella me grita tantas veces las mismas cosas, que ya yo sé, pero no las quiero oír más, Yo le pregunto, ¿Cuál es tu intención chica mía? y ella no tiene ninguna respuesta para mi, salvo esta “ no sé ”
un tributo a Vicente Huidobro Ahora jugamos Una brisa suave que quema como el último respiro de una puesta de sol El último respiro de una puesta de sol que besa como labios ardientes Labios ardientes que saltan como ranas espantadas Ranas espantadas que se revienten como esperanzas decepcionadas Esperanzas decepcionadas que lloran como ríos profundos Ríos profundos que manchan como secretos murmurados en la silenciosa oscuridad de la noche Secretos de la noche que brillan como oro desenterrado del vientre del mundo Oro desenterrado que late como corazón recién nacido Corazón recién nacido que mendiga como vagabundo hambriento Vagabundo hambriento que flota como semilla de diente de león librada de sus hermanos Semilla de diente de león que se oxida como una moneda olvidada Monedas olvidadas que suplican como arboles en el desierto Arboles en el desierto que rompen como huesos lechosos Huesos lechosos que guardan tesoros como cajas de nácar que yacen en el fondo del mar Cajas de nácar que revelan verdades como manuscritos sagrados Manuscritos sagrados que se deshacen como un sueño Un sueño que se estropea como un alma sin amor Un alma sin amor que se pierde como los versos de un poema
A SIMPLIFICATION I cut off all my damn hair. Each lock falls lifeless as iron links to cheap wood floor of the apartment she called a manicomio pounding out bass notes that shake the walls. They debate it today in the department, choosing sides, weighing merits. Her own hair a frail false-blond remnant she calls me a marine. The teenagers wail and gnash their teeth in adolescent impotence and blurt out broken “befores” as their eyes widen in heartbreak. But I am above and walking, monk-like drifting, clear air smiling, pink skin gleaming and taken by how my eyes drift more easily upwards. The fresh pruned trees of the barrio are an awkward sight, but see how the water surges with new strength into the remaining leaves as the old limbs are swept away, so many half-green yesterdays. I’ve been at this a while now. Trinkets and gadgets that once hung heavy as regret are left along the way and two steps take me further. I lean back and look out. Here it is. A simplification.
CONTRIBUTORS Guillaume Babin is a french artist, currently living in Madrid. He’s working in a 3D company and is passionate about art, literature, comic books and baseball. Cole Bellamy is an instructor of English and Creative Writing at St. Leo University. His writing has appeared in The Louisville Review, Moonshot, UberNothing, and The Sandhill Review. His new book of poems, American Museum, is now be available from Beauty Is Beauty Press. He lives in Tampa, Florida with his two cats. Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time either writing or reading. Her works have appeared in Exercise Bowler, Blinking Cursor, Theory Train, Cartier Street Press, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Web and the Pushcart Prize. You can find her here: http:// carabosseslibrary.blogspot.com Anna Cherry graduated from Westminster College in 2010 and works in Madrid. Jim Davis, Jr. has recently been nominated for Best of the Net consideration by Lascaux Review, he has won the Line Zero Poetry Contest, Eye on Life Poetry Prize (2nd Place), been named Runner-Up for the Best Modern Poem by Chicago’s Journal of Modern Poetry, and has received multiple Editor’s Choice awards. His work has appeared in Seneca Review, Whitefish Review, and Blue Mesa Review, among others. Darren C. Demaree’s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Carolina Review, Meridian, The Louisville Review, Cottonwood, The Tribeca Poetry Review, and Whiskey Island. He is the author of As We Refer To Our Bodies (2013) and Not For Art Nor Prayer (2014), both are due out from 8th House Publishing House. He is the recipient of two Pushcart Prize nominations. Drema Drudge is an MFA student with Spalding University. Her most recent work has been published in The Louisville Review, Mused, ATG, and Mother Earth News. She is a regular contributor to the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series. For more information about Drema, please see her blog at: http://dremadrudge. wordpress.com. Amir Effat, originally from Philadelphia, PA, has recently completed his M.A. in Spanish at Saint Louis University, Madrid Campus. His is preparing to begin a PhD in Spanish in fall, 2013. Anna Garcia is Penumbra’s fiction editor. She has recently completed a master’s in English from Saint Louis University, Madrid Campus. Matthew Gasda is a writer. You can his writing sometimes, in some places. Marjetta Geerling is the author Fancy White Trash, a 2009 American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults and Rainbow List choice. She lives in Miami Beach, Florida where she teaches writing at several local colleges. Raelynne Hale studied Spanish and German at Missouri State University and is currently finishing her Masters in Spanish Literature and Linguistics at St. Louis University in Madrid. She loves language, writing and learning about new cultures. Art Heifetz teaches ESL in Richmond, VA. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia and also taught in Iran. He has had over 70 poems published in 6 countries. A sampling of his work is at polishedbrasspoems.com Alice Catherine Jennings is a third year MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Spalding University. Her poetry has appeared in Pyramid; In Other Words: Merida and the Hawai’i Review (forthcoming.) She is the recipient of U.S. Poets in Mexico 2013 MFA Candidate Award. Alice divides her time between Oaxaca, Mexico and Marfa/Austin, Texas.
Dr. Joseph E. Kraus teaches at the University of Scranton, and he’s published his creative work in, among other places, The American Scholar,Oleander Review, Riverteeth, and Birkensnake. He won the 2008 Moment Magazine/Karma Foundation Prize for short fiction and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010 by Southern Humanities Review. Sara Kohgadai is a 24 year-old college graduate living in Madrid. She has been writing since about third grade and is just taking a go at darkroom photography. She loves soap boxes and people with vices. Writing and photography will help capture both of these for her. Stephen Lindow moved from FL to MA in 1998 to squeak out an MFA from UMass-Amherst in 2004 where he taught, loafed, trespassed, and was diagnosed. He moved to Los Angeles in 2012. He’s published poems in The Massachusetts Review, Bateau, and Meat For Tea ARTillery magazine. He was a poetry editor for The Naugatuck Review from 2010-2011. Taylor Mann is originally from Seattle and attended the University of Washington. He is currently living in Madrid and working as an English teacher. He also makes music under the name Fala Gringo and can be found at falagringo.bandcamp.com. Siva Mishek is a writer. She attended UC Berkley. James Murdock is a poet, freelance writer, and songwriter currently residing in North Lumpkin County near Dahlonega, Georgia. He is a naturalist by occupation, and enjoys spending much of his free time in a state of exploration, living along the Chestatee River, in a quiet Appalachian valley. Dennis Pearson of Marshville, NC is a retired graphic designer. Most of his paintings are done at or within a few miles of his home. He holds a BFA in Advertising Design and has taught art at the University of Southern Mississippi and at CPCC in Charlotte. Ellen Rose is primarily a fine artist and designer based in Brooklyn, NY, though chronic journaling, vivid dreams, and an infatuation with Beat Generation fiction has led her to write and submit personal essays. Please see her website for more examples of her work: www.EllenHillRose.com Jake Shane is a graduate from Belmont University in Nashville, TN, with a B.A. in Philosophy. As a musician and songwriter, he released his debut album, Ancient Fire, in 2012. Currently, he teaches English as a foreign language at a high school in Madrid, Spain. Tim Suermondt is the author of two full-length collections: TRYING TO HELP THE ELEPHANT MAN DANCE (The Backwaters Press, 2007 ) and JUST BEAUTIFUL from New York Quarterly Books, 2010. He has published poems in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Blackbird, and Prairie Schooner, among others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong. Brendan Sullivan is a lifelong beach bum who has turned from acting to poetry. He also enjoys surfing, sailing and diving. His work has been published at Wordsmiths, The Missing Slate, Every Writer’s Resource, Gutter Eloquence, A Sharp Piece of Awesome, After Tournier, Bareback Magazine and Bare Hands. Jessica Tyner is a Pushcart Prize-nominated writer from Oregon and a member of the Cherokee Nation. Recent projects include copy editing for the London-based Flaneur Arts Journal and contributing to New York’s Thalo Magazine. She has recently published poetry in Slow Trains Literary Journal, Straylight Magazine, and Glint Literary Journal. Luke Wallin writes, plays music, and paints in Rhode Island and North Carolina. He teaches Creative Writing in Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Creative Writing program. Visit Luke at lukewallin.com.