e m u
s 1, i
l o V
1 e u
PENUMBRA MAGAZINE VOLUME ONE ISSUE ONE FALL / WINTER 2012 EDITORIAL STAFF CO-EDITORS-IN-CHIEF – EVA SAGE GORDON, JESSICA QUICK COPY EDITOR – AMIR EFFAT FICTION EDITOR – ANNA GARCIA LAYOUT / DESIGN EDITOR – MARIYA SHCHERBININA MARKETING REPRESENTATIVE – CRISTINA SANCHEZ NONFICTION / FLASH EDITOR – KELLY RUMMEL POETRY EDITOR – CAROLINE WELDON SPANISH EDITOR – PEDRO R. CERAME GUILLÉN WEB EDITOR – MORGAN SMITH ASSISTANT WEB EDITOR – ALYSSA RASMUSSEN
COPY READERS CARY BARNEY, DANIEL STARK
ALL COVER ART FOR VOL. I, ISSUE 1 BY TIMOTHY SNYDER. ALL IMAGES AND LOGOS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE GENERATED BY PENUMBRA MAGAZINE STAFF AND CONTRIBUTORS. THIS SELECTION COPYRIGHT © 2012 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
LETTERS FROM THE EDITORS Dear Readers,
I am delighted to present to you the first issue of Penumbra, a project that grew out of our desire to form an outlet for creative expression based in our community of Madrid, Spain. It has been a long journey towards publishing our inaugural edition, and we are indebted to the collaborative efforts of our editorial staff and the faculty at Saint Louis University Madrid Campus. Their unwavering support throughout the first run helped our fledgling ideas to become a fully developed concept, and their generous patience allowed us to preserve the initial conceptualization of the magazine. In addition, we would like to express gratitude towards Cary Barney for his guidance and trust throughout the beginning stages of Penumbra.
Thank you for picking up this very first issue of Penumbra, our bilingual, Spain-based, internationallyrun literary project. These months we have seen an idea—magazine—turn material. We announced our call for submissions on four continents in September, and the response, slow at first, grew louder each week leading up to the Halloween deadline. Lucky for us, our friends, colleagues, and even casual acquaintances with an interest in literature embraced Penumbra in its nascent state and lent support through social media, donations, and participation in our first public reading event, held in Madrid this October. To all who got involved, thank you; I hope the pleasure of reading our selections repays you for your time making the project possible.
We chose our name from Federico García Lorca’s “Oda a Salvador Dalí,” a poem written in tribute to Lorca’s enduring friendship with the Spanish artist. Penumbra, a space of partial illumination or obscurity, encapsulates our collective support for the indelible shadow that creativity casts on our lives as writers, artists, and thinkers. To our readers, I invite you to linger with the pieces we have selected, to embrace the reflective space between obscurity and candor, and to loiter in the penumbra of human connection and understanding. I hope they speak to you as they spoke to us, in articulating the subtlety and poise found only in the art of living.
This isn’t the magazine I expected it to be. Reading the finalist’s pieces, an unexpected theme emerged: conceptions of outer space and other worlds provided new metaphors and fresh approaches to old problems. Instead of explorations of the self as formed through collisions with others (landscapes, foods, people), the kinds of writing often found between book or magazine covers labeled “travel” or “multicultural,” I read in these pages a transnational effort to extend outward into imagined futures, different from the ones written by our politicians and television producers. So to the artists who submitted: thanks for providing an alternative culture; in your eyes we learn what’s possible. And to our readers, I hope you all enjoy Penumbra, wherever you may be.
Marineros que ignoran el vino y la penumbra decapitan sirenas en los mares de plomo. – Federico García Lorca
Peace, Sincerely, Eva Co-Editor-in-Chief Co-Founder
Jessica Quick Co-Editor-in-Chief Co-Founder
P.S. Submissions are now open for the spring 2013 issue; please send us something! email@example.com.
CONTENTS Dmitry Borshch Betrothal of Virgins >> 27 Daughters of Dust >> 53 Making of Brothers >> 19 Dimitri Sasha Juliard Lightning >> 13 Morning Dust >> 15 Omar Figueras Istanbullus Crow >> 33 Madeline Wildeson Untitled >> 12 Untitled >> 30 Rime Sbai L’artiste >> 47 Le Ballet >> 40 Mariya Shcherbinina Orange and Black >> 26 Reina Sofia >> 51
Drema Drudge There Are a Few Things >> 16-17 José García Vera De las semillas de oro >> 17-18 Brittany Goode Dried Up All the Rain >> 41-43 Meghan Modafferi Muscle Memory >> 24-25 Joe Okonkwo Frou Frou >> 33-37 Jez Patterson The P’s Cat >> 53 Paula Puebla No conoces la tristeza >> 10-11 Sean Schoenecker Grace and Imbalance >> 21-23 Katy Scrogin Wayne Newton’s Midnight Ride >> 30
NON-FICTION Matthew Dexter Another Weekend for the Whiplashed >> 52 Omar Figueras Baño de Despojo >> 28-29 Jeanette Quick it’s still mostly for sleeping >> 24 Brian Russell Ramon >> 6-10 Erica Trabold Burning Out >> 14
POETRY Matthew Banash Can I Borrow Your Screwdriver? >> 26 Upon Looking at a Photograph of Italy >> 27 Cole Bellamy Eternal Hotel >> 38 Rodena Borisova A Un Viajero >> 32 Greg >> 55 Salma Ruth Bratt Daughters, A Villanelle for Poor Old Lear >> 39 Jagged Memories >> 49 What Have I Lost? >> 54 Maggie Czerwien Mi señor de Xibalbá >> 38 Charles Entrekin Forgiveness >> 15 Gail Entrekin being wrong >> 40 Howie Good UFOs >> 18 Heather Hughes -scaping >> 13 Ivan Jenson Fictionista >> 20 A Heck of a Heckler >> 20 Robert Lietz At Heart >> 12 In a New Century >> 56 Christopher Lirette Crisis on Infinite Earths >> 29 The Regression of the Unmoored >> 23 Nancy Chen Long Dugong >> 47 Inflamed >> 46 John Marvin Don’t Kill the Man Person Behind the Curtain >> 51 Eat me Clarissa Starling or the Ghost of Transmodernism Yet to Come >> 48 M.V. Montomery Mythos >> 51 The Parallel Universes >> 50 Kenneth Pobo This Lover I Had >> 13 Randy Ralston How it Began >> 43 Michael C. Rush Confabulatory Hypermnesia >> 31 Invisible Things >> 49
Anna Schmidt Still Life with Cactus >> 19 October Nights>> 19 George Schricker Roses >> 53 The End >> 56 Gerald Solomon Far Rockaway by the Sea >> 39 Emily Strauss Making Bread >> 55 Toni Thomas The Year my Father Drove his Car into a Brick Wall >> 44-45 Caitlin Thomson The Academics of the Apocalypse >> 31 Luke Wallin In Heaven, I >> 40 Plutonic Relations >> 25
RAMON It’s winter 1988 and I’m living in New York City on the fourth floor of a fifth-floor walk-up in Hell’s Kitchen. Janice and I are walking down the dingy, narrow stairway. We’re almost at the bottom and this guy is starting up the stairs.
He says, “I’m going to see a friend.” “Then have your friend let you in. Get the fuck out of here!” I say, a little louder now. I was getting annoyed.
So he’s trying to come up and I know he had no business being there. I’d never seen him before, but they all have a look about them. The same bleary look in their eyes. Dealers, addicts, “Johns.” Yeah, we’ve got some hookers in the building as well. Hookers and dealers and me, a 24-year old white kid trying to make it as a music director, a stage director, a composer, but what I’m mostly doing is temp work at Paine Webber or Seagram’s or wherever the agency sends me next. I’m angry a lot of the time. And then these guys keep coming in the building. They’re usually looking for Angel, the dealer who lives in the apartment directly below mine. I’m in number eleven, he’s in nine. Or at least he used to be in nine. They took Angel away about a week earlier.
I mean, come on, I live here. This is my home, such as it may be. I’ve been here for four years, this guy’s trying to get in, and I’m getting a little fed up. And Janice is standing behind me. You’ve got to remember that. So after I yell at the guy, he looks at me, squinting his eyes, and I’m wondering, you know, if he’s going to do something or what? So he steps to the side and starts walking up the stairs around me. I’m not happy about this. Janice is standing behind me, and I’m just not happy about this.
He’s in jail, I’d been told. But they keep coming in the fucking building. Someone gave them the key. If I knew who gave them that key. So like I said, I was walking downstairs. This guy’s trying to come up. Ramon, that’s his name. I found out later that his name was Ramon.
So I grab the guy, and before I know it, we’re down the stairs and fifteen or twenty feet down the hall. Like he doesn’t know what hit him. The guy’s got a good thirty pounds on me; he’s stocky, and he’s probably stoned. He’s taller than me too. I’m five foot ten and a hundred and fifty pounds at the most. I tell people, “I may be small, but I’m scrappy.” I don’t want people thinking they can push me around.
So Ramon’s coming up the stairs, I’m coming down, and my girlfriend Janice is behind me. We’re getting her a cab because it’s getting late and she’s got to go uptown. I don’t want to think about why she’s got to go uptown. She just does.
Now here’s this Puerto Rican fuck coming in here and getting in my face so I grab him and push him down the hall.
Anyway, we’re coming down the stairs, Janice is behind me, and this guy is trying to come up, and I don’t want him to come up. So I stop in front of him.
Until we got to the end of the hall.
I say, “Look, you don’t live here. I know you don’t live here. Get out.”
He didn’t know what hit him.
Then he sort of figures out that something’s going on. Okay, so he slams me up against the wall and I’m thinking what the fuck am I doing here? Does this guy have a knife? Or a gun? But I stop thinking and push him back.
His back hits the radiator and I hear the crack of his head hitting the wall. His cigarettes fall out of his pocket.
right cheekbone. It didn’t hurt as much as you might think a punch there would, but it sure didn’t feel good either.
He smokes Marlboros.
So I’m taking this in, and before I really can, he slams me against the wall, just to the left of the battered metal mailboxes that look like they’ve been there at least a hundred years.
I smoke Camel Lights, but they’re upstairs. Sometimes I rip the filters off. I hear his back hit the radiator and his head hit the wall, and I grab him and throw him through the fucking front door. I mean the door opens when his body hits it. His hip hits the crash bar and the plate glass door opens onto the street. And so I push him out onto the sidewalk. I throw the pack of Marlboros out after him. He and the cigarettes are out. Now this other guy who hangs out all the time (actually a polite guy for a drug dealer) comes up. He’s seen the tail-end of what’s happened and he comes up and speaks to me.
Now remember, Janice is watching and I know it. So I’m up against the wall and he hits me again. This time on my mouth. My fucking mouth, you know what I’m saying? Okay, now I’m getting pissed off and I swing. I land a pretty solid right to his jaw. I think it hurt because he stumbles back at this point. Right after I hit him and he stumbles back, I feel Janice trying to grab me and I almost shake her off hard, but I remember it’s Janice, so I kind of just wriggle away. I’m thinking, I just hit this motherfucker. He stumbles back, my hand hurts, and now here’s Janice.
Only he’s yelling. I’m thinking, what the fuck? He’s yelling something in Spanish to the guy I just tossed out and speaking to me in broken English that I can’t really understand. I’m not listening anyway, because I’m screaming. I’m screaming, “Stay the fuck out of my building! Just stay the fuck out!” “Keep him the fuck out of the building,” I scream at the polite guy who also hangs out which I don’t like, but he’s polite about it. Respectful.
Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, because at the same time that Janice is trying to pull me back the polite guy’s pulling Ramon away. Now what I didn’t mention, I just remembered. While I was up against the wall coming to the point where I was about to hit this guy in the face, I hear a woman from outside scream, “Slit his fucking throat!” I don’t think she’s talking to me.
So I’m screaming. I’m not listening. I’m also holding the door open. It’s cold, it’s dark, and I wish Janice didn’t have to fucking go uptown tonight. I’m holding the door open, I’m screaming, the polite guy is yelling, and I don’t know what Ramon is doing. Janice is standing behind me somewhere. I think she’s several feet back but I’m not really sure. All right, the door’s open, and all of a sudden this fuck jumps past the polite guy who I can’t understand and he’s on me. I’m a little surprised by this, although I probably shouldn’t be. So the guy’s on me and he’s hitting me. He gets one off which lands just above my
Maybe that had something to do with me hitting Ramon right then. I don’t know. So the polite guy has pulled Ramon away. I see it. Janice tries again to pull me away. I shake her off, but stop fighting anyway. Now there’s this young black kid standing out on the sidewalk, like our fight has drawn a crowd now, who earlier said, “Hey, we’re all adults here, we’re all adults.” I guess I didn’t mention this either. He said, “We’re all adults here.”
That was when the polite guy was yelling and I was screaming. “We’re all adults.”
I’m shaking now and can feel the adrenaline coursing through me. I’m feeling strong and scared at the same time. I’m thinking, I can’t believe what just happened.
Janice is probably thinking the same thing, but she Anyway, now he’s saying, “Don’t fight with Ramon doesn’t say anything more. She just keeps trying to man, don’t fight with Ramon.” I think he’s saying Ahmal, smile. but he’s saying Ramon. I found that out later, too. I’m smiling now. All right, so Ramon is out of the building. They’re all out of the building. Except me and Janice. Now Janice, I don’t know why. remember, has to get this cab. I’m leaning back on the radiator that I pushed Ramon against earlier and But I’m smiling now and I kiss her. My mouth meets Janice tries to put her arm around me. hers, my arms pull her closer, and I’m kissing her. We’re kissing: long and deep. “Not now,” I say. “Just don’t touch me, okay? I’m sorry, just give me a minute. Don’t touch me now.” I kiss Janice and when I look up I see the young black kid through the door. He’s standing just outside the I’m thinking, Janice has to get her cab, Ramon and door and he sees Janice and me sitting on the steps. everyone is out there, and I’m leaning on a fucking He signals that we shouldn’t come out. That we radiator wanting to kill somebody. shouldn’t go outside my building. So I go and sit down on the stairs. Next to Janice. I sit down next to Janice. I guess she must have gone to the stairs after I told her not to touch me.
This pisses me off. But it seems the kid means well, so I give him a little smile.
I put my arm around her and say, “I’m sorry.” I say, “Janice, I don’t think he wants us to go out there.” She doesn’t say anything. She just puts her arm around me and tries to smile. After a bit, she asks, “Are you hurt?”
She agrees and says, “I guess we should wait it out a bit, huh?”
I ask her if it looks like I am.
So we’re waiting and all I can think about is Janice needing to get her fucking cab. The kiss is gone now. And I’m thinking, goddamn!
She says, “No.”
I didn’t want her to go uptown tonight anyway.
I say, “No, I don’t think so.”
And I’m feeling helpless, you know?
But my elbows are scraped and my face hurts. It’s sort of throbbing.
So after I don’t know how many minutes of sitting on those steps, maybe ten, probably only five, I say, “Look, I need a cigarette. Let’s go upstairs.”
I ask, “Are there any marks on my face?” She says, “No.” Okay, it doesn’t look like I’m hurt too bad, and other than my elbows, I don’t feel very hurt. But my face is hurting and I’ve got to play piano for some auditions the next day and I’m hoping I won’t be all black and blue.
So I get up and I’m real weak because by now the adrenaline is gone and I’m reeling. My face is hurting now. A lot. It’s throbbing. I grab the wall for support. There’s no railing on the staircase. Never has been. Janice reaches to me and asks if I’m okay. I say, “Sure. Just a little weak, that’s all.”
longer.” So we’re back upstairs in my shitty apartment sitting at the tiny table in the kitchen and we’re each having a cig. She doesn’t really smoke but sometimes she does when I do. So we each have this cigarette and I’m starting to feel a little better even though my face still hurts. But I’m beginning to realize what’s happened here. I realize that I just had a fucking fistfight and I light another cigarette. I’m trying not to think about why Janice has to go uptown.
Silence. She says, “I think we should cool it until I figure things out.” I’m thinking, how the hell did this happen? What’s going to happen when I see this guy in the street tomorrow or the next day or next week? What a screw up I am. Janice, the guy, all of it.
My cigarette has burned almost all the way down and My hand starts to shake a bit. I put the cigarette down. I light another off its cherry. I look out the narrow I look at Janice. window above the stove and I see the top few floors of the Empire State Building. They’re lit up in red and I say, “Do you really have to go uptown tonight?” green lights. She says, “You know I do. You know it.”
I remember that Christmas is the week after next.
It sounds like she’s mad at me. Like all of this is my fucking fault or something when all I was doing was trying to make sure that she didn’t get hurt or anything. I’m pissed off, but I don’t want her to know it.
I say, “What are you doing for Christmas?” Janice says, “You know.” “No, I don’t remember. Tell me. Please.”
I say, “Are you going to tell him about what happened?”
“Steve and I are going to his parents’ place in Syracuse.”
She says, “What do you think?” “That should be nice.” “I didn’t think so,” I say more to the air than to Janice. Silence. Silence. “Give him my best, eh?” I say, “I don’t know about this, Janice. You still living with him and all.”
Janice says nothing.
She doesn’t say anything.
I say, “He’d never believe I got in a fight tonight.”
I say, “I was afraid the guy was going to kick us. That he would kick us down the stairs if I let him get around us. You know that’s why I kicked him out, right?”
“I don’t suppose he would,” she says.
She says, “I figured it was something like that.”
“I didn’t recognize you tonight,” she says. “I was—it was scary.”
“I don’t believe I got in a fight tonight,” I say.
I nod. She says, “But I don’t think he would have.” I’m thinking, how the fuck do you know what he would or wouldn’t have done?
“You didn’t recognize me?” I say. “Maybe you just don’t know me.” No response. I say, “Maybe you’ve never known me.”
I say, “I think we’re going to have to wait a little while
“Maybe not,” she says before she gets up and walks out the door. I walk over to the stove and stare out the window at the red and green lights on the distant building’s spire. It looks like it might snow. n PAULA PUEBLA
NO CONOCES LA TRISTEZA El día que se dio cuenta de todo. Sola en su casa de Almagro, la mañana que el calendario marcaba su cumpleaños número treinta y cuatro. Apenas abrió los ojos, molesta por el resplandor del estridente sol de otoño, pensó en querer ser feliz como cada mañana y como cada mañana, ese reflejo duró un segundo. Hoy la diferencia era que cumplía años y eso, agudizaba su dolor de manera insostenible y la sensación de soledad le hacía vacío y extrañeza en el estómago. Era una mujer triste, triste por definición, triste por las circunstancias, triste por fea, triste por amargada, triste por sola, triste por abandonada, triste por triste y porque no podía ser más triste. Esa tipología de tristeza que ya no experimenta dolor, cuando todo da igual o no, cuando ni siquiera se llora o se llora por dentro como una hemorragia mortal, presurizada, quién sabe. Voy a pasar el día entero en la cama, no me importa el día que sea, porque para mí no hay nada que festejar. ¿Qué es un cumpleaños acaso sino estar más cerca del alivio de la muerte? Prefiero quedarme recostada, no tener que pasar por delante de ningún espejo para verme las verrugas, o estas canas que salen rebeldes, como los cables de un poste en un asentamiento. El teléfono no va a sonar, nunca suena. Hace cinco meses que no suena. La última llamada había sido de una encuestadora, me acuerdo, pero cuando contesté que vivía sola me cortaron, ni gracias me dijeron. ¿Ni siquiera sirvo para un sondeo del gobierno de la ciudad? Y no, tienen razón, ¿a quién le puede interesar mi opinión sobre cualquier tema? Tampoco quiero vestirme, me siento cómoda en este camisón viejo. Qué buen algodón que resultó ser, debe ser brasilero. Lo tengo hace doce años, me lo regaló mamá cuando terminé el curso de primeros auxilios ahí en el instituto. Cómo la extraño a mamá, pero creo que la entiendo, la entiendo en su abandono. ¿Quién quisiera estar atado de por vida a mi vida muerta? Hizo bien, no la puedo juzgar. Tampoco a papá por haberla dejado a ella, embarazada. Yo creo que debe haber sabido que estaba gestando un cáncer con latidos, que una vez dado a luz los tomaría al resto, por eso huyó astuto al séptimo mes. Ni siquiera tengo hermanos, eso me haría la vida más llevadera. Algún sobrino para llevar a Parque Centenario a alimentar a las palomas, a comprar libros para colorear. Pero no. ¿Por qué una mujer como yo tendría sobrinos? Si no merecí hermanos, mucho menos voy a merecer sobrinos. Suena coherente… Su madre huyó el mismo día que le regaló aquel camisón sin llevarse absolutamente nada. Ni ropa, ni fotos, ni muebles, ni siquiera se preocupó por arreglar nada del negocio familiar. Era ahora Amparo, no la dueña de tres regias propiedades sobre la calle Charcas, sino quien vivía de rentas, aquellos jugosos alquileres que no le ofrecían más que bienestar económico y ningún tipo de preocupación. De todo se encargaba la inmobiliaria del viejo Schubert, hasta de enviarle el día diez de cada mes un sobre con el dinero en efectivo a la puerta de su casa de Almagro, sobre la calle Bulnes. Todos los billetes planchados con los próceres mirando para el mismo lado. Así me gusta, las cosas bien hechas - repetía Amparo de Enero a Enero. Con ese dinero compraba los víveres justos y necesarios para no morir de desnutrición, no sea cosa de comer algo rico de vez en vez. Como Amparo no salía mucho a la calle—odiaba prácticamente a todo lo que sonriera o mostrara síntomas de felicidad—había hecho un arreglo con el supermercado de Don Fulvio de la otra cuadra. Ella iría, una vez al mes, con una lista manuscrita de los productos que quería comprar: arroz máximo integral marca Lucchetti de 1 kilo en caja, leche descremada larga vida La Serenísima en botella de 1 litro por 8 unidades, mate cocido en saquitos ensobrados Taragüí por 50 unidades, jabón blanco Seiseme de 200 gramos 2 unidades. La lista se extendía prolijamente con un nivel de detalle espeluznante. Don Fulvio recibía el papel y ponía a su mejor cadete
a preparar el pedido. Luego se lo llevarían hasta la puerta, y Amparo pagaría en efectivo y nunca, pero nunca daría un centavo de propina. Lo había hecho una vez, y la cara de felicidad del pequeño adolescente limeño, la había asqueado de tal manera que no repitió semejante acto nunca más. Amparo no tenía amigas. Lo más cercano y parecido, era Doña Nineta, una vecina de setenta y tres años, virgen e italianísima, que de tanto en tanto le tocaba al timbre para convidarle alguna masita recién horneada. Era más bien caridad, porque Amparo se esmeraba en resultarle un sorete a todo el mundo. Probaba una masita, con cara de asco, por las dudas, y siempre acotaba algo para ofuscar a la vieja. Esto es pura manteca, Nineta. Las masitas eran espectaculares, pero Amparo no podía permitiste saborear nada y sentir placer. Eso era. Amparo no conocía el placer. Doña Nineta mascullaba algo en perfecto siciliano, y como castigo, hasta dentro de dos meses no volvía a convidarle nada. Lo que haría cualquier ciudadano en su sano juicio. Una sola vez, cuando tenía quince años, un chico se enamoró de la amargura de Amparo. Eran compañeros de banco y a él lo cautivaba ese ascetismo profundo. Mientras todos jugaban o cuchicheaban en el recreo, Amparo se quedaba dentro del aula mirando un punto fijo a través de la ventana enrejada. Como casi no se dirigían la palabra, Raúl había logrado comunicarse con ella a través de pequeñas notas; era un chico tímido e ingenioso, petiso y blanco como la leche. El sistema—porque así lo denominaban sus compañeros—constaba de notas, no de cualquier tipo de nota, sino que eran preguntas, preguntas puntuales. Amparo únicamente respondería las que tuvieran un sí o un no por respuesta. Con sudor y lágrimas, Raúl obtuvo un sí a una gran pregunta, aquella que lo mantenía despierto tarde en las noches, y aquella escena que usaría para masturbarse en los baños de la escuela, ¿Te puedo dar un beso a la salida? La esperó, firme como un granadero, y había tenido el decoro de masticar rato antes un chicle mentolado. Cuando ella se detuvo frente a él, le dio un beso de labios secos, nervioso y torpe, pero cerró los ojos porque así le habían comentado que había que hacerlo. Amparo los mantuvo abiertos como una lechuza, no se movió ni se apartó. Pasados los dos segundos, se abrió paso no sin antes decirle que no la tocara nunca más, que aquel beso nunca había pasado, que qué era todo ese espanto que hacían sus compañeras cada vez que se besaban con alguno. Llegó a su casa horrorizada y juró y perjuró que no besaría a nadie nunca más. Me pregunto si Raúl seguirá vivo. ¿Se habrá casado? Probablemente, seguro debe tener uno o dos hijos. Debe tener una esposa hermosa, quizás algo tímida o reservada como él. Yo no quise despreciarlo a él, pero ese beso....qué horror ese beso. ¿Por qué una niña se sometería a horrores de ese tipo una y otra vez? Una lástima no haberlo visto más después de ese día, una verdadera lástima. Era una gran compañía, quizás la única genuina. Si me hubiera gustado ese beso, quizás hoy lo tendría acá a mi lado. Después de todo ¿para qué quiero esta cama tan grande toda para mí sola? Me hundo, me fagocita. Pero creo que nadie aceptaría dormir al lado de una mujer sin tocarle un pelo. Porque eso sí que no….no lo permitiría. Ya son las tres de la tarde, tengo ganas de hacer pis pero no quiero levantarme. Si me duermo otra vez, quizás se me pasa, o aguanto un rato más. A ver que hay en la tele. Lo de siempre, voy a dejar esta serie de fondo, mientras miro por las rendijas del cortinado. Para mí es sonido ambiente, no entiendo estas series norteamericanas, todas iguales y encima en inglés. ¿Cómo van a hablar en inglés? Acá todo debería ser en castellano. No me cae bien la gente que habla inglés. ¿Por qué la vida no me regala una muerte? Una muerte silenciosa, me gustaría. No importa si es dolorosa, si después de todo, dolor es lo que vengo sintiendo desde que me parieron. Pero claro, a mí los deseos nunca se me cumplen. Quizás debería desear estar viva, ser feliz, amar cada segundo de mis incurables días para ver si el universo actúa por opuestos. Pero me da miedo, me da miedo desear eso. ¿Y si lo logro? ¿Y si soy feliz? Me duele de sólo imaginarlo. Bueno, voy al baño. Me estoy quedando sin jabón de tocador, el imbécil de Don Fulvio me mandó dos en vez de tres unidades. No sé para que me mato haciendo la lista, si al final estos hacen lo que quieren. Hace siete años que ya no menstruo, mi organismo se avivó, por suerte, ¿para qué menstruar si no voy a tener hijos? Además no gasto en esas porquerías para mujeres. Que alas, que no alas, que tantas otras mierdas. Debería cambiar el espejo, está arruinado. Pero creo que mejor, así no me veo tan bien los surcos del odio a la vida. Me dio hambre, con un mate cocido y tres galletas de agua voy a estar bien. Vuelvo a la cama. Total en la casa no tengo nada que hacer. Amparo no conoce el placer, siempre lo ha despreciado. Nunca ha sido feliz, y sabe que nunca va a serlo. Amparo pide clemencia, pero no se la dan. Amparo sigue viva. Incluso los domingos. n
Untitled, Madeline Wildeson
AT HEART There’ll be other chances, sure, for photographs, with the faces, the colors and cuts at the market booths and crafts extravaganzas, the hill homes in Eureka Springs, and time we might pause for sips and reuben sandwiches or phillies, from several hours traveling, for entrees at the Inn and, after, the architectured sweet desserts, with Sebring following, by way of Joplin, Springfield, St. Louis and Vandalia, Indianapolis, Columbus, and into Alliance then with pictures, after a night among the Amish and Amish landmarks in Holmes County, glad to be back to our own bed, and in the morning, deer, three bounding through our thinned woods to the Copland property or strip mine, to winter freezers, we suppose, unable to content themselves, unharmed, with our sure woods and photographs. Bone dry, the locals said, of that spring-thriving plunge we could return to celebrate—in seasons, maybe—not far, as I recall, from the Booger Creek Baptist Assembly, even as we, Elizabeth, returned, exploring our neighborhood for quilt patterns and pictures, considering Michael, Arlene in Arkansas, a couple adventuring, finding what’s there to find in Fayetteville, exploring the job ads and ads for the programs and fellowships, like a language or two we’ll learn to find our ways in, or the politics, let’s say, the party of Rockefeller, Javits lost the will for, absorbed in its own base manias, in its ill-connecting and prescriptions, disturbing the dreams of Jefferson, of Hamilton, turning in his own dreams for the Republic, from the burrs and stings and prescience. “Bone dry, bone dry,” the wounding mindlessness. And Lincoln, from his own dreams, turns, imagining himself at the heart in Seward’s Folly, come to this bone dry and specific narrative, inflated with election, raised by the likes of these young guns, and by their own prune-suck, cheer-leading handlers.
-SCAPING You’re probably wondering why there are no black people in Argentina the tour guide said. The indios to past passive and the slaves to Brazil still worth something. First time I’ve seen so many stray dogs.
We never kiss but I may yet wake in my sleep telling you about Mary Shelley’s baby. My stranger-sadness a surprise chased down the street.
Lightning, Dimitri Sasha Juliard
THIS LOVER I HAD claimed to be from New Brunswick, but when I absently asked what its capital was, he went blank as a manikin. I decided he was just
like any Texan I knew. We parted irritably. From now on I’m going to ask all potential lovers to take a 30-minute test: history, geography, even a short writing sample.
geographically challenged until he called New Brunswick his favorite state— crocked on vodka, he admitted he was from Abilene but didn’t sound
It probably won’t help. Lies perform acrobatic tricks right in my living room. As I applaud, they are already stealing the bric-a-brac.
BURNING OUT Blink. Blink. Gold. Green. Bright flashes of fantastic light plummet across the driver’s view of pavement winding behind a tinted windshield, bifocals, the steering wheel of an old Chevy truck. A hiccup in the darkness of morning, this beacon interrupts breath, proves painful for the chest to accept. Energy glows hot, then fades into something more expected. Breath resumes. “Like a roman candle on the Fourth of July.” He reimagines the explosion with a dish of ice cream in his right hand and a red plastic spoon in his left. The tip of the utensil points down toward earth and swiftly divides air to indicate momentum, a fall. The pantomimed gesture fails to capture the significance of the moment. Stifling effects of gravity and oxygen. The spark dies. Driving himself to work. The same stretch of highway his eyes have memorized for thirty years. Becoming sole witness to an unusual display of chance. “I saw a shooting star, but not in the sky.” The star did not fall onto the highway, but near it. He did not stop driving. He did not look for the remnants. The memory burns bright enough. “Maybe if I went back to look, I could find it. But, I don’t think I will.” An overgrown ditch, where the celestial met visceral, this is where the space rock lies devoid of the brightness natural to stars. He drives past it every day. Burnt out. Wasted. Forgotten. What was once treasure, if only briefly, becomes garbage. Manufactured, lit, and thrown into the wasteland from somewhere up above, like a smoldering half-cigarette, from the driver’s open window. And this new lore: a star is most beautiful as it is falling. n
Morning Dust, dimitri Sasha Juliard
FORGIVENESS Lost in the shuffle the present seems far away, like the whisper of tires in the rain, like the voice of whippoorwill summers past, like the light of stars gone dead but still shining in this incipient night. The timer above the stove will soon stop, its green glow will go red, chime twice and go silent. There is no intent, the Buddhaâ€™s moon-faced mask will remain fragmented under the maple tree. You donâ€™t have to fix it.
THERE ARE A FEW THINGS My hand fell off the first day of fall. In the tiny gap between the happening and the horror, I smiled at the contrast between the white and red freckled hand and the nest of brown, yellow and stained cherry colored leaves that quickly adopted it. My hands had been holding upset babies, cooking vegan meals, cleaning rusty-water violated toilets, since before the last six babies. My mother had ten children, and since I was the oldest, I helped with every one. It wasn’t until I looked at the picture that Robert’s mother, Mother Campbell, had taken that it seemed possible I would ever be without my busy hands.
“Mother can’t hold you much longer,” I crooned. “My hand won’t let me.” The next time she cried, I didn’t try to tend to her. “What is the matter with you?” Mother Campbell sighed as she picked up Mary and changed her diaper as if she were changing the bag in a trashcan. My heart squeezed. “I can’t hold her because of my wrist,” I said. “See? But I don’t like to complain.” I showed her how deep the cut was. “There’s nothing there,” she insisted, though this time she looked frightened. I knew she could see it.
“Do you see that mark?” I asked her of the photo. “What is it?”
“Maybe I could hold Mary with this other hand?” I asked, but it started acting odd, too. My ring slid off, wouldn’t stay on.
“Your bracelet!” she said. “I don’t have any bracelets,” I murmured. The only piece of jewelry Robert allows is a wedding band he picked out—plain, gold, modest. Looking down, I saw it. The dark dent rode all the way around my right wrist. I ran to the bathroom and tried to scrub it off, hoping it was paint from the homeschool potato prints project my children were making. “Can you see it?” I asked Robert after we ate the ashen tofu meatloaf his mother made, after the children sat in our family circle and said their prayers one by one. Some nights I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between our children in the dim firelight. I called them all “sugar” just in case. “See what?” he asked. It was still there. Why was he pretending it wasn’t?
“No, no, I’ve got her. You just tend to the rest,” Mother Campbell insisted now that she could see the gash. She and Robert discussed it late at night in whispers, faces shadowed by the small light our fireplace put out. Mother Campbell insisted on a warm house. “I thought you were leaving soon,” I called out. Now my hand was making me say things, and I couldn’t even get it to my mouth to clamp in my shame. Robert wouldn’t be happy. “We thought maybe I should stay longer to give you a hand.” I glanced down. “No, no. I still have them both.” Yet as much as I wanted her to leave, I knew she had to stay. Our oldest girl, Sarah, was only nine. I couldn’t ask her to do all I had been doing.
I waited for it to fall off the whole month after Mary was born, when I pinned up the hair so heavy it gave me headaches, swept the floors, and washed clothes, hanging them on the sagging green, plastic coated line Robert had stretched between two weathered, salvaged wooden posts.
At night, in bed, hoping Robert would stay on his side a few more weeks, knowing he wouldn’t, I tried talking to my hand.
Certain things aggravated the damage. Each time I rocked Mary, my wrist sawed with the rhythm of the chair. Mary was our third daughter, seventh child, the bare pink piglet in the picture that revealed the tourniquet about my lower arm.
I began counting my beloved children on my fingers, but my hand drooped like spaghetti in a pot of hot water and I stopped.
“It’s not so bad,” I told it. “You can handle this. Think of all you have.”
The next morning, as I was hanging Robert’s too-dark
jeans on the line, the saw completed the cut, the wood of my hand hinged, let go. My hand wasn’t the only thing I left behind as I dashed for my keys, my purse, holding the stump of my arm. I told no one where I was going as I backed the car out using my left hand. It only took a week for my hand to find me. I woke one morning feeling its weight, with only a faint ring of red to tell of its travels. Robert found me, too, just a few days later. “Things will be different,” he said. “I don’t like to complain,” I said, as I allowed him to smother me into his chest. The ring of red remembered. “But there are a few things.” My hand accompanied me home, but it hasn’t promised to stay. n JOSE GARCIA VERA
DE LAS SEMILLAS DE ORO Cada vez que miro el cielo nocturno y veo esos puntos de luz que llaman estrellas no puedo evitar murmurar la palabra biriz que en balduino significa semilla. Desde el más humilde obrero hasta el sabio más reconocido del reino, se preguntan qué son en realidad esas diminutas luces y porqué se mantienen siempre tan quietas unas de otras, sí que es cierto que cambian de lugar por la noche, pero todas lo hacen al mismo compás. He escuchado infinidad de historias sobre ellas pero ninguna es capaz de conmoverme como aquel cuento que me contó una bellísima princesa de Irbinil. Hace mucho, mucho tiempo, en una época que ya casi no se recuerda las noches sin luna eran temidas por todos los hombres pues el cielo no tenía estrellas y se ennegrecía todo sumiendo la vida en una oscuridad abismal, tenebrosa y espeluznante. Ningún lucero iluminaba cuando el sol se marchaba a su madriguera a descansar y entonces las gentes no podían hacer nada pues ni el fuego espantaba a las fieras que al oscurecer se hacían más fuertes y se envalentonaban. Los poblados eran saqueados, los niños los robaban, los huertos los echaban a perder. Las fieras de la noche se atiborraban con todo lo que conseguían y huían a sus escondites pesadamente saciados para no volver hasta la próxima noche sin luna. Las gentes de los poblados que eran atacados nada podían hacer, los guardias no conseguían detener a los invasores pues de ellos solo llegaban a ver sus amarillentos y amenazadores ojos. La silueta de las fieras era imposible de distinguir en la noche y su piel era tan negra que la luz de las antorchas huía de su oscuro pellejo. El tiempo pasó y corrieron noticias de que en una gran ciudad las fieras no se atrevían a atacar porque había un árbol alto de hojas doradas que resplandecía al caer las noches ahuyentando a las malignas criaturas. Los poblados enviaron mensajeros para conocer si era verdad aquello que decían y la verdad fue pronto compartida por todos. Eso hizo que muchos por miedo a perder lo que tenían se marchasen a la Ciudad del Árbol Dorado
en busca de refugio contra las fieras. Nadie sabe qué pasó con los que se quedaron, pero si que se conoce que muchos eran personas que habían perdido mucho y estaban muy furiosas contra las bestias de la noche, de modo que siguieron habitando sus casas esperando con rencor e ira a los malhechores que les habían hecho tanto daño. La gente se instaló en la Ciudad del Árbol Dorado, se amplió con nuevos barrios, pero sucedió que llegó tanta gente con tanto que perder que el tamaño de la ciudad fue enorme y los rayos que el árbol desprendía no llegaban a las zonas exteriores. Los saqueadores de la noche se dieron cuenta y, aunque atemorizados por la luz, se lanzaron al ataque. Las casas del exterior volvían a ser saqueadas y se creó un anillo alrededor de la ciudad de casas vacías que solo habitaban los soldados y entre las calles las rondas nocturnas vigilaban duramente las noches sin luna. La gente que abandonó su casa no quería volver a sus antiguos hogares por miedo y se mudaron más al centro de la ciudad, así las casas crecieron el altura y la luz del árbol era interrumpida por los tejados y las nuevas estancias que se creaban unas sobre otras y con ello la luz no conseguía llegar donde antes y los ataques y saqueos se internaban más en la ciudad. La situación era desesperante y la gente no podía hacer nada, se sentían acosados a merced de las fieras nocturnas. Sucedió una primavera que el árbol comenzó a brillar con mayor intensidad y al tiempo dio flores. La gente se maravilló, los monstruos dejaron de aparecer y hubo un tiempo de breve paz. Las flores se marchitaron, pero en su lugar aparecieron dorados frutos que resplandecían por si solos aunque se arrancaran del árbol. La gente no los
comía por temor a perder esa luz. Un día a una jovencita se le ocurrió que lo ideal sería recoger las semillas de los frutos y plantarlas en los alrededores de la ciudad para tener más árboles como aquel milagroso ejemplar. La noticia voló y nadie dudó en llevarla a cabo. El jefe de la ciudad organizó una recogida de los frutos y cuando se dispusieron a abrir el primero: ¡sorpresa!. Si la fruta era luminosa la semilla lo era más, pues en realidad era la semilla la que desprendía la luz y la carnosa fruta mitigaba el brillo tan intenso que hacía enceguecer a muchos que estaban cerca.
las. Fue horrible. Al caer el sol la tormenta cesó pero la gente no salió de sus casas. Todos lloraban y se preguntaban cuánto tendrían que esperar para que el Árbol Dorado diera nuevos frutos.
El ciego que esparció las semillas nunca sintió pena porque en su ceguera podía sentir dónde estaban esas semillas, su fulgor era tan puro que hasta él mismo podía ver el árbol y sus semillas, y dijo a sus familiares que no temieran que salieran de casa sin miedo. Nadie lo creía pero uno de sus hermanos sacó la cabeza por la ventana y vio como todo el cielo esSe le encargó la misión de esparcir todas las semillas taba sembrado ahora con las mismas semillas que su alrededor de la ciudad a un hombre ciego muy quehermano ciego había puesto sobre la tierra. Salieron rido en la Ciudad del Árbol Dorado. Le dieron canas- a todo correr y la gente no lo creía, ¡el cielo resptos enteros llenos de semillas y al atardecer marchó landecía sin la luna! y todos se sintieron afortunados fuera de la ciudad para repartir las semillas. Desde la porque ya no solo ellos gozaban de la protección de lejanía se podía apreciar el aro luminoso que cercaba las semillas del Árbol Dorado, sino también los forasla ciudad como una muralla celestial con un fulgor que teros que habían venido a instalarse allí. hacía desaparecer cualquier mal pensamiento. Y aquí concluye la historia de las semillas de oro. La Al día siguiente todo estaba arreglado, la ciudad volvía gente extranjera pudo volver a sus pueblos natales y a ser la que era y la gente se preparaba para mudarse la Ciudad del Árbol Dorado consiguió restablecer su a las afueras. Se planeaban incluso los preparativos de antiguo orden. En todos los pueblos se organizaron una gran fiesta que tendría lugar la semana siguiente fiestas y se enviaron obsequios y grandes regalos a la en honor al Árbol Dorado y a la chiquilla que tuvo Ciudad del Árbol Dorado. Todo volvió a la normalila genial idea. Fue entonces cuando un gran vendaval dad, excepto por las fieras de la noche de las que comenzó a soplar con fuertes vientos. La gente no nadie sabe qué ha sido de ellas, unos dicen que se reparó en ello, pero cuando se quisieron dar cuenta fueron a las profundidades del mar, otros que a lo las semillas salían despedidas de la tierra y se iban con hondo de las montañas o que se volaron junto con el viento. La gente intentaba recogerlas pero el viento las semillas. Lo cierto es que nunca más hemos vuelto era tan fortísimo que se tuvieron que refugiar en las a saber de ellos y esperemos que siga así por siempre casas para no ser llevados también como las semiljamás. n Howie good
UFOS Neighbors stepped out, helpless, neatly dressed, into their personal stories, stories with breathing, the ability to. Cousin Fania stood by the window, arms crossed. Butterflies, she thought, for lack of a better word.
STILL LIFE WITH CACTUS She doesn’t know what draws her to the desert, why the saguaro skeleton lying half-buried in the sand brings her to her knees. She saw a painting like this once— a calf ’s skull and a pink cholla blossom decorated the saguaro’s desiccated frame. But here, woodpeckers invade the ant hills built between the cactus sticks, and no flowers could possibly bloom in such heat.
As a baby, she was carried through this desert by her sister when their mother was too weak to stand, and the dirty clouds galloping overhead threatened burial beneath waves of dust. Now, she doesn’t remember the feeling of being thirsty or the way the mind tells you when to let go.
They say darkness whispers love songs in October that turn your face away from the frost slowly growing, a little more each night on the grass. And the ghosts you almost feel nearby are brushed aside like dust because to face them would mean they exist and you exist at once.
making of brothers, dmitry borshch
We’re told we’ve been forgiven, that the blighted plum tree is not our fault, and the fish disappearing from the river may yet recover. And that time I lied, said I’d only ever loved you, and the words I neglected to say— will they be caught by the wind and carried to a clarifying font? To see the leaves changing, the plum blossoms now a memory, but to feel static as though time were not a magician and you were not living— this is why we escape and grasp onto the night.
A HECK OF A HECKLER
I am going to turn over the tables adjust the focus change the channel subject and context and then I will alter the course, quick switch the plans interrupt the flow and block the energy and this will force you to rethink your strategy regroup with your associates and rearrange your schedule but then I will trip up your approach causing you to stumble over your words while trying to collect your scattered thoughts and then I will point out the holes in your PowerPoints and I will lacerate your lecture and make you look like a deflated buffoon holding a pinpricked balloon and I will do this all not out of disrespect for your Master’s degree that black belt of the mind but because your prickly moustache bears an uncanny resemblance to my late father’s and for some reason that really pisses me off
Real time and place have their place in our lives but I am now talking about the never never land of professional fibbing which is a storyteller’s stock-in-trade and even though readers know that it never happened and never will what other choice do we have? Life is but a mellow drama without melodrama and a tragedy without comedy and a beautiful heroine is like heroin to a literary addict and life is pathetic pathos without a sympathetic protagonist and a villainous antagonist or the singular pleasure of discovering a pair of paranormal lovers between the covers who live in the afterlife of our thoughts after we shut the book shut our eyes and dream
GRACE AND IMBALANCE Don’t think of it as the genesis, think of it as the inspiration. —K.S. We sat in Ventas. Most days in the bullring in Madrid were sunny, hot and dry. This afternoon was different. It was overcast and gusts of wind gave you chills. Every once in a while a drop of water would hit your cheek and you would look to the sky in wait for the grey to fall. The people in the stands wore jackets and scarves. They huddled together for warmth. As the first bullfighter walked out with his horseman and picadors, horns played an awkward song and a low roar came from the crowd. He was only a kid. He held his head high to show off his strong jaw, but it looked out of place below his boyish face. His light brown hair flapped undaunted in the unwelcoming air. Ann didn’t seem uncomfortable, but she wasn’t talking to anyone when I met her. I remember that about that moment. We were in Plaza Dos de Mayo with some friends. It was night and the sky was dark, save those stars not put out by the light of the city. In the middle of the plaza, some kids played soccer with benches for goals. Those on the outside of the plaza, including us, drank beer. If you stopped to listen you would hear a low hum; no conversation was audible and if you tried listening the wind through the trees would distract you. It was fall and the nights were cooler. Every face seemed smaller hidden under heavy scarves. Leaves littered the ground and I could hear them crunch as we stood around and talked. I listened to Ryan talk to Maria about Tom Robbins novels while Lindsay and Abby laughed about something. Ann stood with her hands in her pockets not talking to anyone. She wore a long blue trench coat that hung halfway down her thighs. Her skin was pale and she had curly red hair that came down to her shoulders. The soft light from the streetlight made her face glow. “So, you teach English here?” Ann asked me. “Yeah, doesn’t everyone?” I looked at her and she looked away. The wind blew her hair in her eyes and she used her hand to push it behind her ear. “Why does Europe seem so incredible to us?” She asked me. “Which part?” “The way we look at it and see ourselves in it.” “What do you mean?” “I don’t know. It’s like everyone looks at their lives here like some work of fiction.” I looked at her expression, but the wind obscured the subtlety of the lines on her face. “What’s the alternative?” *** The bull bled along his spine and it trickled down to his black belly; the three picadors had hit their marks. The
wind blew stronger than ever and it was beginning to drizzle lightly. The young bullfighter had taken off his shoes and left them in the center of the bullring. His socks were a light purple and every step, every maneuver contrasted with the dark brown of the moist sand. The barefoot bullfighter found his footing and approached the bull. The 2000-pound animal’s tongue dangled at his jaw and drool dripped from it to the already wet sand. The bullfighter grunted loudly and showed his red cape in taunt. Dirt rose and the beast charged with his muscles tensed. The bullfighter danced and found grace while the bull violently bobbed his head only to lose his balance. Grace and imbalance. With every pass of the bull, the bullfighter got closer to it, hugging it at times and smearing crimson on his clothes. Pass after pass, red, black, and purple. A dark still life depicting spirit and fear beneath a grey sky oppressive even to the sand. The crowd swayed and I shivered. The young bullfighter grew more arrogant with every elegant action and you could see it in his face when he would turn towards the crowd, his nose pointed to the sky and the bull in a daze behind him. *** After a few beers in Dos de Mayo we decided to move on. We made our way down some small streets in Malasaña. In the cold night’s air we all walked a little faster. The streetlights burned a soft yellow light that created wrinkles in the night, the wrinkles on the map of the Old World. Everything glowed and its magic evoked in all of us a sense of nostalgia we didn’t understand. We knew everything was older and that was good enough. After following the trails of dried up piss we crossed Calle San Bernardo and explored the neighborhood of Conde Duque. It was much like Malasaña, but everyone had more money. Men with beards and women in denim shirts drank in the street. We got to the plaza Comendadoras and sat down at the terrace of Café Moderno. One side of the plaza was made up entirely of an old monastery that took up an entire city block. Iron bars protected its windows and the glass of the windows was so dirty you didn’t even bother to look in. The ground was beautiful cobblestone. In the middle, a colorful jungle gym stood where kids played during the day. There were two other bars in the plaza and nearly every table at all three bars was occupied. Every once in a while a dog sitting with his owner would bark at the stars.
“I can’t seem to get Spaniards to talk to me in Spanish.” Ann said to me. “I’m beginning to think no one speaks Spanish here.” “I feel like Spaniards are anxious to use their English.” “Or just not patient enough to wait for me to say it in Spanish.” “Get a Spanish boyfriend.” “All they want to do is have sex.” “Sounds like a good exchange to me.” “Shut up.” Ann smiled and just then the waiter came over and asked us what we were going to drink. We ordered cañas. “I’m supposed to learn about another culture while I’m here right?” Ann asked me. “Only if you want to.” “We go and have drinks next to Spaniards, but don’t make conversation. “So we’re just wasting our time here?” I said. “I didn’t say that.” “What if I get drunk, go to a bullfight and never speak a word of Spanish? But I cheer when the Spaniards cheer and whistle when the Spaniards whistle. Would that not be worth it?” She looked away and seemed annoyed. “What if I don’t understand why they are cheering or why they are whistling?” I said. “Would it be worth it?” “I think you’ve made your point.” A cool breeze made us both fold our arms against our chests. I glanced at the monastery and thought about the ghosts of old monks walking the cold hallways of what now was almost forgotten. *** The bull’s hoof gathered dirt and threw it in the air.
The wind caught it, carrying it further; it swirled against the red of the bullfighter’s cape and a tornado engulfed man and animal for just a moment, an oath to the earth and all it had created, a flurry of elements.
“Why not?” “Too many things I don’t like,” she said. “I don’t wanna see the bull get tortured.” “It can be gruesome, but it’s more than that.”
The dirt fell to the ground and all was still. The young bullfighter gathered his cape and held it hidden behind his back. He shuffled towards the now patient bull. Every step was a labored drag of the feet that left a trail in the dirt. A wind blew and the defenseless bullfighter closed the distance between himself and the bull. His hair moved in the wind, not unlike the flicker of a candle about to be blown out. Without warning, the bull charged and flung the young fighter in the air. Instead of falling to the ground, the young boy was suspended in air, caught in the thigh by the bull’s horn. After a quick thrashing, the bull dropped the victim from his indifferent horn. The boy found his feet for a moment and attempted to continue, only to collapse. *** “Have you been to a bullfight?” I asked.
“More than what? Are you gonna say it’s culture—that it represents Spain?” She asked, smiling. “Watching blood being spilled one way or another?” She paused for a moment and looked at me. I glanced at her red hair and then at those sitting inside the bar, their coats hung on the backs of their chairs. They all seemed warm in the light of the bar. “It’s more than that.” I said. “Do me a favor: go once and find out exactly why you hate it.” *** Two men carried the wounded bullfighter out of the ring. They made their way through a tunnel and I lost sight of them. Another pair came out and started to rake the sand and remove the blood from the ground. n
“No.” Christopher lirette
THE REGRESSION OF THE UNMOORED, or ARS UNMOORICA Rebud oak leaves suck acorns in a great whoosh back from the pig’s mouth back into the bark and before that the sun Ungrow hair Become fairer complected Let the adipose melt back into the striations of the beef ’s shoulder into the petit-fours and spanakopita worth one thousand readings Manage to miss the unflooding of the city on TV Rip the morphine right from within your big neuron redope the poppy and the ground
But as you erase the great musics of your most formative years the harlequin hush of a mouth at dawn the burden’s on you to sanguine the bomb and obliviate the body on body flush of a transgalactic differentiation for when you joined bodies it wasn’t that you were one but that you couldn’t know who she was and refracted through years of incinerating form after form and reconfiguring the world to your tissue what could you say about it anyway
IT’S STILL MOSTLY FOR SLEEPING The day before I turned 30, I went to the bank, requested a check for a large sum of money, and drove to Maryland in a borrowed car to a title company. I sat at a long table of five people I’d never met and two people I had met, who were known to me only as ‘the sellers.’ From left to right: a title attorney, the closing processor, the agent representing the title company, the agent representing my agent, the agent representing the sellers, and the sellers, whom I learned at the meeting were not, in fact, husband and wife as last names implied, but brother and sister. I was late. I had looked up the attorney beforehand; I made small talk with her about having also gone to Georgetown Law. When did you graduate, she said. 2007, I said. I graduated in 1978, she said, which ended the conversation. I felt obliged to prove my degree and my employment, which included allegedly having some awareness of housing policy, by sitting in the chair and cross-checking numbers, looking for ways somebody had screwed me over. I found a $265 overcharge and was worthy. I signed a hundred times, and that was that. For my 30th birthday, I became an American tied to a 30-year mortgage. I would have to live another lifetime before my debt would be paid. Never mind the hazy fact in my head that most mortgages are actually only held between six to eight years. I am a homeowner. I am a condo owner. I must make payments forever, and I must obey the bylaws of the condo association. I must try to be a good neighbor. I must fix everything myself. I must make my own decisions. I may not move without provisioning for the time beyond the move. I cannot make any other decision. I cannot buy anything else. I cannot change my mind. I cannot leave town on
a motorcycle and never look back. I cannot breathe. Two months later, I sit in my condo, on a mattress on the floor. My walls are half painted. The walls that I had someone paint need to be repainted again, the forest green too somber and dark, especially for a dark and somber girl who lives alone. I hesitate to cook, having seen baby cockroaches dominating the kitchen scene the first few weeks, at which time I attacked with fog bombs, roach motels, bug spray, bug sealant, and curses to the brother and the sister. I learn the gas is shut off when I try to boil water for tea. I retreat to my mattress and close the other two bedrooms off “for the fall,” I say. I have a dresser, two unmatched nightstands, nothing else. I take my clothes from garbage bags every morning. I organize the garbage bags into those that hold casual shirts and those that hold work shirts and consider this progress. I unroll a rug and lay it flat on the floor of another bedroom, and sometimes in the evenings, I lay on the rug and stare at the ceiling before brushing my teeth and moving to the mattress. I roll the words permanence and stability on my tongue. I attend a condo meeting, intended to introduce unit owners to the new management company. The new company brings donuts, two-liters, and a team of people in suits. The main guy is sweaty and nervous, and he takes notes on an iPad. The litany of complaints is endless: the lawnmower men left stray clippings near the curb; children have been leaving juice boxes on top of, not in, the trash bin; the stairwell cleaners have been using noxious chemicals; the gate that is shared with the other building does not latch. I leave the meeting and lay on the rug for a long time that night. n
MUSCLE MEMORY “It’s okay,” she said. “Me too.” And she rolled over and fell back to sleep.
“I don’t think you’re my soul mate,” he said. “There is nothing cosmic about this and maybe that’s unromantic. But I chose you and I keep choosing and maybe that is romantic. Calling love destiny—that’s avoiding responsibility. Choosing it—that’s accepting.”
“Maybe that’s unromantic,” he said. “But I chose you and I keep choosing and maybe that is romantic.”
“You’re very responsible,” she said, and rolled over and fell back to sleep.
“It is,” she said, and rolled over and fell back to sleep.
He laughed. He didn’t know. He thought maybe
“I am happy with you,” he said. “But I think I could be happy with anyone, with enough practice.”
practice ruins things even as it makes them better. His blood stained his cello strings and the music was never stronger, but his head wasn’t there to see it. “The more you practice, the less you have to think about it,” he said. “You and me are muscle memory.” She cupped her hand around the buttcheek closest to her and gave him a squeeze. And then she rolled over and fell back to sleep. “What do you think is heavier?” he said, “compassion or empathy?” “For the giver or the recipient?” she said.
over and fallen back to sleep. She dreamed of blindness. Hands fumbling over different surfaces: tables, chairs, computer keyboards. Then outside: grass, sidewalk, railings. And faces. She felt face after face with her blindness. She fingered the moustaches of businessmen and the eyebrows of their wives, and hair was hair. And it wasn’t. It was marvelously similar at first, an eyebrow to a moustache. But then she felt the vision beneath the eyebrow, beneath the closed lid. And she felt the momentum of the breath beneath the moustache, beneath the open mouth, and she knew they were different species entirely. She dreamed people lined up in the subway to let her read their faces, to transfer the warmth from her fingers to their cold noses and lips.
“The giver,” he said. When she woke up, he had gone to work. She looked at herself in the mirror and brushed the remnants of the dream gently from her hair. She picked up his cello and began to play. She wasn’t very good. She had only tried a few times before, and she felt indignant that the number of hours she had spent watching his fingers hadn’t translated to her own. n
“Compassion,” she said. “The recipient,” he said. “Pity,” she said. “That wasn’t a choice,” he said. But she had rolled
LUKE WALLIN On the planet Pluto relationships are different. Coffee must be imported and provides therefore reason for war. Better at television than rocketry, they watch us and long to touch; their slender and multi-digited fingers embrace their pens, writing unmailed letters to designated earthlings, letters bound and bonfired when at last they die. The wisest among them, as far as they can tell, digress upon ménages of mind, epistolary longings, elegantly nurtured and sung desires to crack right into an earth-held marriage, a sensory melding that, in their lighter gravity, makes them swoon. They delight in the pornography of weight, and dream of the throwaway moment for us which, imagined from a nearly-untethered sojourn, seems to promise a bliss of completion, escape from mere pictures and words, that joining of souls they can’t speak, but only dream—the hug.
CAN I BORROW YOUR SCREWDRIVER? I offered him My newfound system
Work reminds me Of Wallace Stevens’ poem Anecdote of a Jar: I am contained
Named after Stevens and Lao-tzu For a loaf of bread. He was amused But not willing to barter
By transparent surroundings Like a Jar In Tennessee. Each day
Such an exchange No matter how valuable Or “abstract” as he called it. So I surrendered my wings.
I struggle To work With emptiness. One day
These he took willingly, So much so one couldn’t have Pried the smile off his small grocer’s face With a flat-head screwdriver
I thought Problem solved. I connected stars With bones narrow
Then he threw in a tub of butter “On the house,” he said, And flew away. I never saw him Or my wings again.
But lit brightly By the sun. Then I took this novel universe
Now work is much better. Look over the cube wall, That’s me smiling. Could I borrow your screwdriver?
To the corner grocer Who was hungry for my business.
Orange and black, Mariya Shcherbinina
UPON LOOKING AT A PHOTOGRAPH OF ITALY
We drew straws. He got the last one And I I got the one That broke the camel’s back. Nonplussed, We cursed the stars. The stars in turn Cursed us back Vehemently As if in black and white Cool Italian geometry. So we gathered All the things We never said, Me in a bushel And him in a peck. Off we went Into the Renaissance architecture To empty them Of their myriad meanings & connotations Saving their denotations For a later age, Industrial England perhaps, Weaving our straws Into the fabric Of all that came before And had yet to arrive. Walking Into the jaws Of agoraphobia, We discussed how at one time The stars seemed closer When we were furthest from them, Stopping for espresso Every now and again and Parsing out each palpitation Of each tiny heart’s universal pulse. By then though They were bartering for papers And it was time To rush headlong Into a parched, sun-blanched field To discover among the multitudes Two straws with which We could play again and always.
Betrothal of virgins, Dmitry Borshch
BAÑO DE DESPOJO Your arraignment is next Tuesday and your mother wants you spiritually cleansed. Her friend, Maria, la brujera, says she will see you the Sunday before your court date, and what better way to spend the Sabbath than committing idolatry. Go to the grocery store that morning and pick up fruit Maria requested. She meets you at your mother’s house and cautions you’re to ruin the clothes. Say you’d anticipated such. Dressed in a long white skirt and tight fitting ivory blouse, multicolored collares around her neck, gold bangles on her wrists, she shifts all her weight to one foot, tilts her head and says, “What else do you anticipate?” Next you’re sitting in the backseat of a rusty Pontiac, on your way to the Rickenbacker Causeway. Maria tells you the beach will be crowded but no one will see you. You’re unsure of what she means but certain you’ll find out. Kiwi, tangerine, mango, and banana followed by a peach, a plum and a nectarine. With her finely manicured hands, Maria rips through the skin of the fruit you purchased and slathers your back and chest as you stand in the knee-deep surf. She neglects removing the peach’s pit and it scratches you. A wave splashes and saltwater stings the mark left by the pit between your shoulder blades. Maria tells you to crouch in the water. Close your eyes and feel the warm August sun on your face then the cool, thick molasses Maria pours over your head. She places her palm on your forehead and immerses you in the saltwater. Wash off the brown and sweet juices. Out of a plastic grocery bag she pulls pork rinds, an ardimu for Yemaya. “Goddess of the sea and mother of us all,” Maria says, releasing the fried pieces in the water. They fan out and bob, floating away along the surface of the brine. All the while you note people are around but they pay no attention. Hide in the open as those around you go about their Sunday. Later that afternoon, Maria lays out fresh shredded coconut, honey, toasted corn at your feet while you stand on a straw mat with white candles positioned
on its four corners. She strangles and decapitates a young hen and drips the hot spurting blood over the spread and your mother’s pristine living room floor, forever staining the grout. Maria takes a swig of agua ardiente then sprays it over a clay pot containing your Elegua, your household god. She lights a cigar then puts it in her mouth backwards, clenching it between her teeth so the cherry doesn’t burn her tongue. She blows smoke out of the reverse end, hands you the cigar, and instructs you to do the same. Your eyes redden as you choke; engulfed by smoke, you singe your tongue. Gather yourself as notice the headless bird’s body gently quivering under Maria’s sandaled foot. Watch it stop. Maria hands you a set of collares identical to hers and motions for you to place them around your neck. She tells you it’s your responsibility to tend to your Elegua. You’re to offer him his ardimu in triplicate every Monday. They must be three guavas, mangoes, or some other tropical fruit, but not plantains. Those are strictly for Chango, the warrior god. Other sweet offerings that will appease him can be gumdrops, dulce de leches, or chocolates. Snickers bars will do in a pinch. Shiver as you’re doused with a brew made from seventeen herbs, hand-shredded and tossed, then soaked in ice water Maria pours on your head and shoulders from a half of a hollowed-out coconut shell. Feel the freezing drips supposedly cleansing you of mal de ojo and any evil spells cast to injure or destroy you. Cuts are made to the seams of your shirt and shorts. Maria tears your clothes from your body. Naked and exposed, she pats you down with a crisp, snow-colored bath towel. Dress in white button fly jeans and matching V-neck cotton T-shirt you purchased the day before at Sears. Barefoot, sit on a fresh, small straw mat with your legs crossed. Candles the color of fresh milk are placed diagonally on opposing corners of the mat as you sit in its center. Balance an ivory-white plate, a piece of the china set that was a gift to your mother for her second wedding, on your head and Maria prays over you in Yoruba. Shredded coconut, cocoa butter, and cascarilla are piled on the plate. She adds holy water, fashions a paste, and slathers it on your head. The white eggshell powder makes you itch. Maria wraps your sweet-smelling, matted black hair in a white pañuelo that belonged to your grandmother. You feel your abuela’s spirit close to you. She used
to tell you the world was the size of a handkerchief, one you could gather by taking hold of its four corners. Ponder that it’s your troubled head now wrapped in one of your abuela’s pañuelos, safely tucked into one of her worlds. You finish the ritual after sunset and are not allowed to leave your mom’s house; exposure to sereno will undo the spell. You don’t mind; you’re exhausted, but surprisingly at peace. The oddest part of the day is the events hardly feel strange. Consider the two sides of your nature, connected yet distinct. Most people initially meet the fun you: comical, jovial, and a little crude. But there exists the serious, fear mongering, and insecure you, also a little crude. The bridge over the chasm between these two countries is short and rickety; forever swaying in the breeze, always ready to snap. Alcohol makes the bridge sway faster. Fear that one day you might find yourself trapped on one side or the other, or fall into the abyss that lies between them. This arraignment, one in a series, suggests the shadowed side has gained supremacy; your mother—Mariya, too—are invested in not letting that happen. It’s painfully sweet of them, but even your mother knows there’s only so much wisdom in relying on spells. Touch the edge of your abuela’s pañuelo and feel the sticky, semi-fluid creeping from underneath the white fabric. You’re told this goop will cleanse you but all you feel is dirty. n
CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS There is a world in which everyone is a little bit older. A world where our champions are not who we expect them to be. There is a world where one man gains super-speed by inhaling hard water and another where a man gains it by lightning. There is a world where a man is punished by watching everything die. Not just his parents, sinking into body and stain and the confusion of identity. Not just his wife, a young wife, who is happy to smear herself into the flavored ice running down his chin, who is happy to do the creation shuffle in any manner of light, who never feels as put together as she envisions herself—with lariat in hand and face ever-blemishless—who ultimately succumbs to some violence, is ejected from car seat, is suffering from cancer of the breast, is shot by the Joker as a final act of anarchy. Everything dies, not just his friends, the kind of friends who wear tights and fly around the city on drafts of newspaper stock air, the kind who save for a living. Everything: the cities in which he learned to wash his cape at Vietnamese or Nigerian Laundromats, cities that are almost identical except that there are no heroes. He himself was never a hero, and this, perhaps, is the problem. In another world, there is great power, and with it comes the yoke and bureaucracy of saving. Of having to save, because despite the early successes—using superbreath to save the small town from two floods one fall, putting behind bars scientific ghouls and Alexandrine businessmen, who are often, one finds, one in the same in some worlds, rescuing so many damsels that one is bound to fall and be caught—there is nothing to do when the antimatter comes for you and your world. We have switched, of course, from talking about Pariah to Superman. In one world, they are the same. In another, Superman meets a Kryptonian with the human name Clark, except this one doesn’t flinch at crushing the breath from humans. In our world, a world where floods go where they might, where magic is kind of like prayer, salvation cannot be proven or measured. In our world, Earth-Q, a Kryptonian named Superman created us to see what we would do in a world in which he did not exist. Eventually, we just created him, being nauseous of our own histories.
WAYNE NEWTON’S MIDNIGHT RIDE It started off as a protest against boredom. When you’re single and struggling through grad school in a hole in the road where everyone’s married and kid-laden by the age of twenty, you have to invent your own fun. It wasn’t planned. Alex, Nesto and I were taking one more aimless walk, trying to keep ourselves occupied. And there it was, slumped ever so slightly to one side next to a crumbling wall, asking us what’d taken so long. We had no idea what to do with a decrepit old school bus, but right then and there, we decided to buy it. Fixing it up gave us something to do on the weekends—and after sloshing around with rusty parts and oil, even studying got easier. By the middle of summer, we’d gutted the thing, stuffed it with some old couches from the thrift shop, installed a stereo and what looked like a Soviet-era siren on the roof. We slapped on some baby blue paint from the hardware store’s overstock. And voilà: a giant leisure suite on wheels. We christened it Wayne Newton. The first night, we just drove it around, blasting dance music and feeling giddy. But then Saturday arrived. We grabbed a handful of students, who shouted out and lured in bystanders from the street. After an hour, we’d collected three teenagers, an elderly couple, and a secretary from our department. Alex and the kids danced; Nesto and the old guy fell into some sort of philosophical engagement before shaking hands as the couple got off at the senior center. By the end of summer, the whole town had made its way onto the bus at some point, the closest thing to a block party we—or anyone from around there, probably—had ever seen. Everyone got on and off where they wanted; no questions asked, ride refused to no one, no problems in three years of cruising. A mother came on once with her sick kid to see if there was a doctor on board; they ended up with some aspirin and a juice box. A grumbler got on to give us a piece of his mind; he was the last one off, and brought in new tunes every Saturday night thereafter.
untitled, madeline wildeson
We didn’t keep up with Wayne after graduation; we signed it over to an underclassman. Alex and Nesto got jobs on opposite sides of the country; I hopped around on temporary appointments for a while. One day, I realized it’d been a couple of years since we’d talked, and thought about taking a Greyhound out to find them again. But the station was sunk in a brown haze, fizzed-out rock ballads struggling to make their way over the speakers. Some of the faces in the windows were resigned, some determined, all incurious. I doubt any of them noticed as I took my leave. n
THE ACADEMICS OF THE APOCALYPSE
The sudden absence, of the body beside you, under the quilt, or across the room a handshake that will never happen. Brushing teeth while talking to a sister, in the bedroom, who left three minutes ago, not in a way that involves decision or death. The birds, a noisy exodus. The rats would have followed, if they were not wingless. Houses collapsed silently. A diagram written to prevent this, hope masquerading as fact. Rules becoming guidelines, a return to wilderness for some, others creating camps in lecture halls, libraries, labs, comforted by must or ammonia. Trying to search the Mediterranean Sea dried to reveal bodies, boats, schools of plastic bags. The pacific coast becomes another shelf beneath the waves, a matter for discussion until academics cannot bear the study of questions that cannot be answered. One professor describes his work as analyzing fairies.
Michael C. Rush
CONFABULATORY HYPERMNESIA Have I not been attentive? I have not. We know things we don’t acknowledge, but one mustn’t equivocate about the true extent of one’s sacrifices. To possess or to process? The demon of inhibition, angels of excess: what you indulge and what you pursue determine you. Express a recurrent utterance of deceptive simplicity, of proximal parsings, of the perfect perfidy of morbidity. When are the malleable infallible? Which quick noise produces stochastic resonance? Everything happens between stimulus and response.
A UN VIAJERO Cantaban las sirenas del eterno sueño Narraban cuentos de los niños nacidos en las tierras del Ancestro Colosal Bailaban los pegases en unísono de melodía fugaz tras la primera estrella Deseaban los marineros llegar a dónde una vez partieron sin saber del mar. Qué significa tu aliento tú hermoso Ciclope en medio de ninfas bebes vinos del manjar del dios que renunció tras ojos de servibles pajes mandas a tus subordinados eliges los destinos sin haberte sumergido ni una vez al océano de tu altar. No ves que tu palabra desvanece en lo vano de los suburbios diurnos de los que son como yo enmascaradas órdenes de tus antaño labios repliegan alas bajo mis pies y guían mi mirada frente al ciclón. Despierta el rocío a los niños invisibles de los bosques y acaricia los prados con su verde vestido de novia sin Zar nombrando cada madrugada nuevos horizontes susurra en mis sueños de todo cuanto supe una vez imaginar. Si cuanto los capitanes en sus naves de guerra predijeron fuera tan cierto como mi propia verdad tú, Ciclope, nadarías en los ríos del eterno yo, Ciclope, sería mi dueña, mi única realidad. Con cada día tras los pórticos del sol naciente me imagino una colorida orgía de la luz donde en trazos pálidos, esbozos de los rayos del Dios perdido se desdibujan mis años prójimos en materia sin Cruz. Conozco duendes, gnomos, y mágicos tiranos he visto hombres, mujeres, y algún niño vi sin zapatillas en los pies quizá me encontré con cuanto fue dicho ser Amado quizá me revelé en días de la existencial “marina” faz. Cantaran o no cantaran las sirenas en la noche apreciar a cada suspiro y silbido es mi cometido de Hoy acompañar en ruta del destino a los servidos por los corceles del día Uno amanecer en insospechada faz por mi propio deseo de perseverar. Al viajero que leyera estas estrofas no voy a desearle la felicidad tras mi imaginada buena voluntad sino espero como a todo viajero le corresponde en sus días próximos al descanso esperado me mande una carta contándome de su complicidad—en este mundo, llamado de humanos y tierra del pisar y ser comido por lo demás.
Istanbullus crow, omar figueras
The plant had to go. Upton regarded it as it rose up out of its pot. Stationed in a prime location— the floor in front of the only window in his studio apartment—it occupied that space as if it owned it. It was called a Bird of Paradise and he had just bought it from a snooty exotic plant shop on Lexington Avenue. The plant was exotic: the sight of it made Upton think he should be lounging on the white sands of some Caribbean beach with a tropical drink in his hand. And it was….feminine, if a plant could be described that way. The stem was four feet tall, had the diameter of a small pole, and it curved at the top in a beak-like shape that jutted out obnoxiously about a foot. The top of the beak erupted in a wild bush of multicolored petals—yellow, orange, violet. A tacky bombardment of splash and color. Just add some glitter and sequins and the thing could be a drag queen.
To escape the plant, Upton sat at the piano and practiced his Chopin. The etudes and mazurkas rocketing through his fingers and off the keyboard were a far-flung universe from the Broadway musicals he’d played for a living for the last 25 years. His concert stage ambitions had short-circuited when musical theatre—and easier money—beckoned. But he kept up his classical skills by practicing Chopin, Rachmaninoff, or Scarlatti each day, like a foreigner determined not to forget his native, and perhaps preferred, tongue. Upton finished the “Polonaise-Fantaisie” and peeked at the Bird of Paradise— more like a bird of prey the way it arched out of that pot, petals bristling. Once more he considered taking it back to the store. He studied the keyboard again but had lost his motivation for Chopin. It was Sunday afternoon, he was off from the show this evening, and he was bored. And a little horny. He tinkled some old Tin Pan Alley tune for a moment, then got up, put on a t-shirt and his tightest jeans, and left the apartment. *** The weekend before Pride and Greenwich Village already buzzed. Rainbow flags flapped above shop windows as Upton salivated over cute boys clad only in short shorts, jetting by on rollerblades. People slurped margaritas in sidewalk cafes where laughter flowed as liberally as the booze. An empire of men crowded the streets, slices of pizza or bottles of beer dangling from limp wrists. On Christopher Street, a troop of guys swished so hard, if their hips had broken loose someone would have gotten hurt. Two black drag queens tumbled out of a bar, nearly undone by the lethal combination of alcohol and four-inch spike heels. They looked artificial in their over-the-top clothes and chintzy makeup. Their afros were the size of small planets. “Girrrrrrl, your drunk ass be trippin’. Literally,” Drag Queen #1 said. “My drunk ass?” Drag Queen #2 said. “Fuck you, bitch. You drank more than I did. And it all went to your fat ass!”
“Fuck you. My mama’s fat, but she ain’t birth no fat bitch.”
The Windowsill Bar was packed. Upton had to grapple his way to the bar and then wait five minutes for the bartender—shirtless, ripped, and twenty-something—to acknowledge him.
“You’re fat and you’re mama’s fat, too. In fact, yo mama so fat, when she sat down on a dollar bill, she made “You think I could get some service over here?” he change.” said. “Well, yo mama so fat, when her cell phone beeped, people thought she was backin’ up.” A trio of tourists stood nearby—dad, mom, and young child, all wearing “I Love New York” t-shirts. The child watched the drag queens with the riveted attention with which children view cartoons. But his parents were aglow with disapproval. It was in the squint of their eyes as they watched the spectacle, the way the dad snatched the child away from the cartoon and hustled the family down Christopher, past the smoke shops and tattoo parlors and stores that displayed gay porn and dildos in their windows. “Jesus. What they must be thinking,” Upton mumbled. At Christopher and Hudson, he passed the stoop of an apartment building where a big, hunky thing was hanging out with a couple of friends. His meager tank top barely contained his colossal mass of muscle or the wilderness of hair on his mountainous chest. He gave off an aura of serious ruggedness, unassailable virility. Then he opened his mouth. “Girl, I don’t think so!” he said, snapping in Zorro-like formation, his voice screeching with a high-pitched effeminate quality. He thrust one hip out to the side and placed a hand on it, tenderly, like a female fashion model posing on the runway. It provoked a memory: Upton, ten years old, Christmas morning. He had received the pair of boots he’d been asking for. He slipped them on and stuffed the legs of his pajama bottoms down into the boots, then began strutting around the living room and posing for his mother, hands on his hips, hips swaying from side to side. He was enjoying his showy antics, but it took his mother about a split second to dart up from the sofa, stop him mid-sway, and slap him. She took him by his shoulders and shook. “If your father was here,” she said, “he’d be ashamed of you!” ***
The kid continued mixing a drink that looked entirely too complicated and, without looking up, said, “Depends on what you mean by service, babe.” A clique of customers laughed. Upton didn’t appreciate the joke made at his expense, but envied the bartender’s quick wit—a gift so many gay men possessed, but he himself had been deprived of. His eyes toured The Windowsill’s décor while he waited. Mexican piñatas swung from above while strung-up Christmas lights criss-crossed the ceiling, end to end. A wood-paneled section of wall hosted amateur reproductions of Warhol prints and framed photos of D-list and has-been celebrities. The Windowsill’s customers were men of every shape, size, color, and attitude. Every level of attractive, all degrees of ugly, and everything in between. Quiet men, hungry for affection, huddling against the wall while the laughter of boisterous men hurtled across the room. Hustlers who recognized the hunger of the quiet men and preyed upon it. Butch men. Effeminate men. Drunks. Some guys searching for sex, others for a husband. Some searching for sex while their husband sipped ten-dollar vodka martinis not ten feet away. Young men, arrogant in their youth and vitality. Old men, cocky with the knowledge that youth and vitality are fleeting. The bartender gave Upton his drink. “Five dollars, babe.” Upton cringed. Babe. His Uncle Karl had done that. Called all the young nieces and nephews “babe” or “baby” or “sweetie.” Until the men in the family put their collective foot down: Karl was welcome to use those endearments with the girls, but under no circumstances was he to address the boys that way. Uncle Karl had been the family’s open secret. They all knew he was gay, but his activities outside of family dinners were never talked about. At least not in front of the kids. Upton headed to the piano at the rear. On the way he passed a wall of posters from classic movies that
had starred Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, and Marilyn. A giant replica of Judy Garland’s Carnegie Hall concert album occupied a revered place. At the piano, a thunder of voices sang “We Need a Little Christmas” from Mame, a show he’d music-directed on a regional tour a few years back. Men sat on stools circling the piano or stood. Those sitting seemed to be in charge, relishing their status as piano bar stars, as if their patronage contributed to the legacy of the songs they were now desecrating. He nudged in closer. He liked the tune and the unique embellishments the pianist added. Upton deigned to join in for the last part, his high tenor freely gliding above and beyond everyone else. The singers applauded themselves at the conclusion and Upton wondered how many of them had started off as performers before giving up and becoming paralegals. “At last. A true musical theater queen. Where’ve you been all my life?” The man sat next to Upton on a stool, legs crossed elegantly at the knee, his slightly oversized sweatshirt sloping off his shoulder. Wrinkly bags sagged under his eyes and loose skin dripped from his neck and throat. He held a glass with a cherry, a slice of lemon, and an umbrella floating in it. The liquid was pink. “Excuse me?” Upton said, eyeing the drink and then the man with disdain. “The way you sing. You have a true affinity for this stuff. You really appreciate it. I can tell. Most of these schmucks don’t know musical theater.” He waved his free hand dismissively. “They think they do. But they’re too young.” He gave Upton a suggestive once-over. “But you look about the right age.” He put his lips to the straw in his glass, looked Upton in the eye, and sipped. Upton wanted to slap him silly, but the prissy queen probably would have enjoyed it too much. “The right age for what?”
in my book.” He sipped his pink drink. The umbrella bobbed. “I would appreciate it if you would not write me into your book,” Upton said and then stalked away. He found a boxy space in the jammed bar and stood in it, fuming. A full-size throne sat nearby, unoccupied. The back and seat cushions were pink velvet and sequins blanketed the wooden arms. Cowbells hung off the back. The piano men had moved on to “All That Jazz” from Chicago (Upton had done that one on Broadway) as the man with the effeminate drink subjected someone else to his once-over. He reminded Upton of Karl. Uncle Karl had always been unconditionally welcome at family gatherings, but was never invited to any function that included non-family. He would have been too embarrassing. Upton finished his drink and was about to exit when he saw a lovely young black man standing on the opposite side of the bar, almost directly across from him. Maybe twenty-five years old. Tall. Skin of medium brown tint. Slender frame, lanky even. Muscles that gently amplified his chest and arms. Legs like the long, slim limbs of a gazelle. He smiled and a certain confidence enveloped him as he surveyed the bar. As the bar surveyed him. With an unexpected surge of resolve, Upton approached the young man. “Hi there,” he said, a bit tentatively. His usual policy was never to approach someone unless permission had been granted through a smile, a look, a nod. There had been nothing from this man. “Hi!” the young man said. “I’m Scotty. Nice to meet you.” “Upton.” He nodded at Scotty’s empty glass. “Can I get you a drink?” “Sure, thanks. Sex on the Beach.”
The man sighed. A labored and exaggerated outflow of liquor-tinted breath. “Sweetheart, haven’t you been listening? You’re the right age to be a true musical theater queen. One who appreciates the complexities and the style and the pizzazz and the complete and utter fabulousness of that venerable art form. Like me. That makes you a true musical theater queen. The real thing. No nonsense. The genuine hot tamale. At least
“Excuse me?” “Sex on the beach?” Upton knew he was missing something. “What? I’m sorry.”
“It’s a cocktail,” Scotty said. Upton’s befuddlement morphed into embarrassment. Scotty probably thought he was dumb or, worse, unhip. “I’ve never heard of Sex on the Beach. Well, not the drink anyway.” He felt like an idiot. But Scotty gave him a shimmering smile. The bartender was slammed with hordes of customers. While he waited, Upton perused the glass display case hanging over the bar. It had ceramic phalluses and faux Greek vases painted with male figures frolicking naughtily with one another. And there was a miniature painting of a scene from an all-male Kama Sutra. He asked for a Sex on the Beach and was mortified by what the bartender slid across the lacquer bar: a glass with pink liquid, a cherry, a lemon slice, and an umbrella. He yearned for that old-fashioned time when drinks were simply “rum and coke” or “scotch and soda.” Drinks his dad might have ordered. “Where are you from?” Upton asked as he handed Scotty his drink. “Houston. But I live here. Just moved. Yesterday, in fact! Got in last night. I’m an actor.” Of course you are. “Welcome to the Big Apple.” Scotty raised his drink in a toast. “I’m a New York City girl now.” Upton cringed. “You just got in last night and you found your way to the Village already.” “Isn’t that de rigueur?” Scotty asked. Upton was impressed that someone so young could use a sophisticated phrase correctly. But the impression diminished when Scotty said, “I mean, a girl has to get her ass to the Village, right? As soon as she prances off the plane.” Scotty laughed at his hearty logic. Upton didn’t. “What kind of acting do you do?” he asked. “Comedy. Drama. Shakespeare. Musicals. Children’s theatre. And I direct and I write plays and poetry.” Upton was impressed again. He wasn’t the only one—Scotty was drawing looks from all over the bar. Maybe it was his youth. Or his confidence. Or his delicious body with its tight tummy and full, exuberant ass. “What do you do?” Scotty asked. Upton didn’t want the young actor to like him just because he worked on Broadway. “Oh, a little of this, a little of that. So. Actor. Director. Writer. A multi-hyphenate. That’s exciting. Really.” “What can I say? The new girl in town’s got game.” “You look more like a boy to me,” Upton said. “And you’re new in town. And you’re beautiful. That makes you my beautiful new boy.” *** The train sped toward the Upper East Side, carrying Upton and his beautiful new boy. He had been exquisitely
aware of the strut in his walk, his smart-ass smile, the jealous faces scowling at him as he and Scotty exited The Windowsill. “Ever ridden the subway?” Upton asked.
earlier on the train. I’ve had a bit to drink and, you know, I’m finally in New York. I let my excitement get the best of me.” Scotty kissed his cheek and Upton’s irritation vanished. He pulled him into his arms and held his beautiful new boy.
“Nope. This is my virgin ride.” And he nuzzled close against Upton and nested his head on his shoulder. Upton jerked out from under him so fast, Scotty nearly toppled onto the seat.
“Oh my god,” Scotty said, bolting out of Upton’s arms. He approached the Bird of Paradise as if mesmerized. “This plant…is fabulous. The colors, the petals.”
“Stop it,” Upton hissed. “We’re not in the Village anymore.”
He stepped back as if scrutinizing an artistic masterpiece.
They rode the rest of the way in silence, Scotty a discreet distance from Upton. They were almost to their stop when Scotty yawned like he hadn’t slept in months.
“I’m thinking about taking it back the store,” Upton said. “It’s too showy. Too flamboyant. Too…” “Frou-frou,” Scotty said. “It’s really frou-frou. In a good way.”
“Jesus,” he said. “This girl is tired.” Bingo, Upton thought. The plant was too goddamn frou-frou.
The dam broke. “Can you do me a favor?” Upton said. “Can you stop referring to yourself as a girl?”
“I love it,” Scotty said. “Too bad I don’t have a place yet. I’d take it since you don’t want it. What can I say? The girl likes exotic flowers.”
The train wheezed to a stop. 77th Street. 86th Street will be the next stop, intoned the automated conductor.
As soon as the words reeled out of his mouth, it was obvious that he knew he’d fucked up. “I’m sorry. I know you don’t like that. I’ll be more careful—”
“This is us,” Upton said, rising and brushing past Scotty, hoping he wouldn’t follow.
“Scotty. You’re a great kid. Really. But this isn’t going to work.”
*** “Nice place,” Scotty said, touring Upton’s place. “My first time in a New York apartment. A lot different from what we have in Houston. I like this.” “Thanks.” Upton had dispensed with hospitality, neither asking Scotty to take a seat nor offering refreshments. The young man wandered around, inspecting this and that, tinkling the piano keys, occasionally glancing at Upton, as if waiting for him to initiate something. But Upton just wanted him to leave. He sat on the futon couch. Scotty joined him.
“Like, what the hell is your problem?” “My problem,” Upton said, rising, walking to the door, “is that I want to be with a man, not a man who wants to be a girl. Kind of defeats the purpose, you know.” Upton hurled the door open with a dramatic sweep of his arm. “I’m sorry about tonight. Good luck in New York.” Scotty looked perplexed, then angry, then just threw up his hands and walked out. Upton closed the door, went over to the plant. He stood before it as if it was an adversary. “Frou-frou, huh?” He went to the wastebasket and rummaged through it, looking for the plant store receipt. n
“Hey,” the young man said. “I’m really sorry about
ETERNAL HOTEL It has always been It stood through earthquake and hurricane Was swallowed up in kudzu Submerged in the depths Of a fetid swamp Blasted by the ice and dust of comets Burned by lightning It still stands The brick walls and marble columns Of the Eternal Hotel Can be seen painted on cave walls And on terra cotta pots Its shape was mimicked in burial mounds It was sacred and forbidden And for thousands of years No one dared to enter It was a Spanish soldier In search of gold Who first braved the revolving door And entered the velvet-draped lobby He took off his breastplate And laid down his sword Slouched into a brocade couch And heard the piano playing A dark-skinned woman
Dressed in green satin Brought him a glass of whiskey He drank deep and slept When he woke The concierge Was standing over him He handed the soldier a pressed white shirt And a suit of blue wool He changed in the bathroom And walked out into the city That had grown around The Eternal Hotel Nothing changes inside Outside the world keeps going The airport shuttles come and go The baggage handlers collect their tips And every then and now A guest stays just a little too long They stumble out into the daylight Like leaving a dark theatre They don’t remember Where they came from Don’t recognize where they are Have to start again Learn the language
MI SEÑOR DE XIBALBA /
Mientras duermo, se levanta mi amante Corre la cortina Apaga la calefacción Deja entrar al gato Medio dormida, oigo los chillidos de la noche Y me pregunto qué hace con esa navaja en la mano— “Vamos a jugar.”
FAR ROCKAWAY BY THE SEA Far Rockaway, a storm coming– swells at pale sight’s last grey clue. Thunder in the offing. A sense of all, all, mere air– above, down, forward, inside, through. You wage your time for a whole– partials, weak explanations, glare. Chinese flowers untwist, paper in water. In endeared gardens, cells fail with their thirst. So some have said the work is: Who. Seen across our unremitting daylight, their skipping mountain crags are– who? A cant smacking of divine sleight. Men of cloth have parsed both stars and wars. Who made the rules for Einstein’s dice has lost…. Right here on this civil beach the ocean surge has not deferred to impersonations– only suasions of a fanciful moon’s dull weight.
SALMA RUTH BRATT
DAUGHTERS, A VILLANELLE FOR POOR OLD LEAR
Lear, old puppet, old foolish Doting father, astounded by the glee And greed of others, their wishes To drown one another like unruly fish Hold faith in the stars with darkly Dimming purpose, race toward a finish Unknown, deliberate yet undeliberated, brash And arrogant tumbling, false impunity You know the type: arrogant, churlish Spoiled daughters, the boorish Issue of indulgent parents, fancy Beyond repair, dilettantes with fetishes For jewels and pedestals and garish Designs, designs upon their fathers, perfectly Well you know them: the daddy’s girl, girlish Unsuited for business, only meant for coquettish Play, after dinner and a cigar, only Having created her, don’t underestimate her thuggish Desire to pluck your eyes in a vile and zealous finish
BEING WRONG right, and sure of it, she sweeps along before the wind, a dirigible swollen with a helium admix so intense, so pure, there can be no question of ever coming down, ever lowering to a slow leak in certainty, scraping against the pointed brittle branches of someone else’s truth. catching a view of her red blimp reflected in a meadow pond among the cumuli between the drab ducks, she is startled into wrong and sorry. the field comes rushing up; she cartwheels into grass.
Le ballet, Rime Sbai
IN HEAVEN, I In Heaven, I won’t shoot the animals. No need, because deer exist in perfect numbers, snakes rattle but never bite, and hunger responds to the dream of gravy, salt and quail. You and I will visit my old woods, the acorn havens for fox squirrels leaping in frosty dawns, where dewdrops fall from the tops of oaks, and Eastern Bluebirds flash above the watery grass. Sunlight explodes from inside blue and silver clouds. It explodes in silence that I, for one, Won’t care to break.
DRIED UP ALL THE RAIN He hadn’t noticed the grey skies when he’d gone in but when he came out it was pouring. The car remote stopped working in front of the meter that Ben had overpaid—needing a nickel of time, only having quarters. Stuck outside of the truck Ben looked at the umbrella behind the seat. After a minute fumbling with the grocery bags in his hands and the key in the lock, he got in his truck. He awkwardly lifted the bags over his lap and under the steering wheel, dropping them onto the floorboard next to him. He tried not to let water drip from the plastic bags onto his textbooks in the passenger seat. Ben called his wife, saying he was just checking in, but with little explanation aside from his tone, she could tell he was soaked. “Be careful on the roads,” she said, “and put your books in a grocery bag before you go in.” She was protective of him in these ways. Since they’d had their daughter a few years ago she would slip sometimes, talking to him the same way she lectured her daughter. Lessons on how to do mundane things better. Ben turned on the wipers and put his hands at ten and two, driving off carefully for her. His class was held in the teacher’s conference room of the school for the deaf. Most of Ben’s classmates were parents too, but a few were younger and studying for their jobs. Everyone needed to be there. The teacher gave handouts on green or blue paper, always words, never diagrams. Ben practiced fingerspelling large sentences from the latest handout. His fingers were thick and stubby, perfect for making a fist but proving difficult for the precise movements of making fingers into letters and words. That night the teacher taught fallbacks. What to do if you didn’t understand, how to slow someone down, and what to do with limited vocabulary. The vocabulary was gained slowly but it would come. It was the concepts that the teacher focused on— ordering of words, a new syntax, the combinations changing the meaning. It was the idea of tone that Ben hadn’t expected when he started. The sound the hands make moving together, a facial expression makes the meaning of the same movement different, a question mark indicated
by a change in the shape of your face. There was pace and attitude that Ben tried to communicate to his hands. His hands speaking their own dialect. His hands with their own short staccato movements, far from the fluidity he was attempting. That night was the third week of his course and the night of the high school dance. At the class break on the way to the vending machines Ben was surprised to hear music. He had assumed without thinking that the deaf world was a silent one. The music was loud enough for the kids to feel the beat through the floor, using different parts of their bodies as entry points for the sound waves. He focused on two kids dancing and wondered why the chaperones hadn’t seen them dancing a little close to each other and to the speaker. He didn’t think that they were old enough to be tangled up like that. Hand to hip, hip to hand, hand to shoulder, shoulder to hand, hand to hip, hip to hand, hand to speaker, music through hand. Ben was happy to have seen this; now he wouldn’t be surprised in sixteen years when he would chaperone his daughter’s high school dance. Also he would remember to invest in quality earplugs. Ben walked back down the hall for the second half of class. Not speaking until he was almost two, Ben had always preferred to stay silent. Never having been comfortable in his first language, learning to sign had seemed to him like an easy pursuit. But in class Ben struggled to put sentences together, not being allowed to speak with anything other than motions. Later a question came up—because everyone had been holding umbrellas when they came in—of what to do with one hand full, Ben couldn’t understand the half answer given. It all seemed to him to be more questions than things understood. When Ben walked in the door he threw the grocery bags on the counter to make his arms available for his little girl running towards him. His wife had just given her a bath so the smell of baby shampoo was fresh. Ben carried his daughter to bed, his arms full of her. She was like this every night, fitting the top of her head into his neck. She used her left hand to push down the two center fingers on her right hand to sign I love you. Ben put her in her bed and put his two center fingers down signing I love you back. Then he
kissed her, turned on the nightlight, and turned out the big light. When he came back to the kitchen he found his wife looking through the bags. “Where’s the laundry soap?” He needed his clothes cleaned for work the next day. The grease from his fingers had rubbed into them throughout the day and the lingering rainwater was still in the seams. So with a barely audible sigh she led him to the bathroom. He watched as she washed the clothes with baby shampoo in the sink. He liked watching her hands moving in the suds so quickly, working the soap in and then rinsing it out. His wife’s hands were slender and elastic, a perfect contrast to his when they held hands. They had taken their first course together. She understood, that was all she needed and he would need to keep attending classes. When it was time to sign up again she filled out the forms for him. She had tried not to be nagging or demanding—two things she hated but found necessary sometimes and that he had always kept from reaching audibility. They both knew she was just trying to be supportive. She handed the clothes to him to hang up in the shower and dried off her hands. In bed that night Ben and his wife talked about the day for a few minutes and also about the weather without needing to look at each other. She picked up a new novel from her side table. Ben flipped through the TV channels. Eventually she fell into reading and his mind went back to the question from class—how to create meaning with one hand behind your back. It was hard enough without problems like this. He was already afraid that he wouldn’t be able to communicate with his daughter. The class was supposed to calm his nerves but it seemed to make them worse. He flipped through the circuit of channels a third time in search of something he could take in mindlessly. He found a rerun of a show he’d watched afternoons doing his homework in middle school. As he thumbed the rubber buttons of the remote Ben’s thoughts drifted to his childhood. The things he could bring back to have again with his daughter; pizza parties, trips to the zoo, and the itsy-bitsy spider. Ben remembered it better than any of the other kindergarten games and thought the interlacing of fingers was an amazing thing to teach a child. The rhyme was something Ben remembered singing on car trips or whenever an adult wanted to settle him down. He had had to stick out his tongue to get it when he was little. It had been a great accomplishment for him to put thumb to pointer, pointer to thumb, and twist. Like skipping. Step, hop, step, hop. Twisting his fingers and singing the song, standing on one foot and then hopping before stepping onto the other and hopping again. The trick was in the coordination of the hand movements matching the song lyrics and not combining the skip into a jump from one foot to the other. Ben looked down at his hands grown large and callused from work and age. He wouldn’t be able to sign the itsy bitsy spider song—the hand movements taking up the space needed for the lyrics. His hands taken up with the movement, needing the space for explanation. He turned off the TV and the light, saying goodnight to his wife. She had already put her book down but took a deep breath when he said I love you and interlaced her legs between his in the form of a reply. Knee to thigh, thigh to thigh, ankle to calf. That night was slowly turning into morning but his thoughts kept him up. He could never fall asleep on nights after the class with the stirred up worries of a parent exasperated by deficiency. Lying in the dark Ben interlaced his hands touching pointer to thumb, thumb to pointer. It reminded him that his body wasn’t symmetrical, forcing one of his fingers to shift. But the question of how to explain the rhyme to his little girl when his hands were full with the motions, thumb to pointer, pointer to thumb, was just another question he couldn’t grasp. He felt like he started as a parent, a mile behind, like he had more to learn than anyone. His daughter would be fine, would learn fast, and would not notice the difference. His wife, twisted up in bed next to him, could already sign clearly, talking to other moms, making play dates. This was his struggle; all the questions he couldn’t answer on top of the questions he couldn’t communicate.
Lying awake in bed Ben practiced new signs from class and tossed trying to find a way to sleep. Not being able to lay just right, he signed to one hundred in place of counting sheep. His hands twisted until three fingers touched thumb to pointer, thumb to pinkie, pinkie to pointer, left and right intertwined. The center two fingers on each hand pushed down. Pointer to thumb, pinkie to thumb, pointer to pinkie; two I love you’s intertwined. Maybe someday, Ben thought, this sign he’d made up lying there in bed could be his improvised explanation to his daughter of what it meant to make love. Two hands, two bodies twisted up in I love you. This discovery was enough to let him fall asleep that night. One thing he’d have ready for her, when she woke up in sixteen years for her high school dance. n
HOW IT BEGAN The day we drove with IPs to shoot our way through the town’s pack of rabid strays, I remember boys laughing behind us torturing the dying hounds with sharpened sticks. Or when my wife mailed me silly string as a birthday gag, how the platoon sergeant snapped it up for our patrol. Before us, the point man shot pink thread down a secret trail children pointed down and chanted Ali Baba. The bright strands draped across a trip wire leading to eight .76 millimeter high explosive rounds.
I can’t say if an IED went off one day, set something loose to unravel and corrode those neurons that wanted me to live. Or if I dreamt of toe poppers toppling my toddlers in the yard, scattering their limbs like scythed stalks of Tigris reed. War is not a thing, a place to go, like Disney Land. It is a spirit. It latches like a lamprey its yellow necklace of incisors. How it hangs from my brain in a grey braid.
toni thomas and my seventh grade French teacher left the classroom only to come back and find me a sobbing wreck in the midst of the boys with their identical grey blazers habit of taunting me and my mother was called and I was sent home one more time for being not able to stand up to the everyday hard boiled egg of things, the year my baby brother broke his arm doing wheelies and everywhere in Hollis, Queens was dripping with sweat caught in the middle of a heat wave all the window fans sold out in the stores it’s hard to believe that my mother was giving up her ex-lifeguard, finishing school, ex-stuntman lover Greenwich village apartment, ballroom life her strapless silk gowns and spike heels her Liz Taylor look alike to come to terms with things the absent husband, the tiny apartment, too many meals the way her body felt divorced from its dance floors. It’s hard to believe she would want me to become almost a carbon copy of what she had been— some tantalizing springform beauty who always travels love to her door, flirts with actors, stuntman, eventually walks out on them, becomes the painter in Paris with three dogs and a shitload of kisses. Sometimes children lie a lot. Tell you what you want to hear. Wage their life on epitaphs that never really ring true for them. Believe they can whittle their tears, their bodies into birch sticks so immaculate the wind feels pampered, your mother gets to reenact her life, there are no cruel boys moping. In the late 1970’s I preferred to wear shorts two sizes too big for me. Blousy tops, tried to hide the way my body my voice was shrinking. My mother pressed makeup on my cheeks, colored my long hair combed the knots out till I was three parts sugar and a valley of lace, over the next few years bought me skimpier dresses that refused to acknowledge the rain coming. We’d moved to New Hampshire to a ranch house with a finished basement my mother hated.
THE YEAR MY FATHER DROVE HIS CAR INTO A BRICK WALL
It had wood paneled walls, a bamboo bar like all the neighbors and a mirror that reflected our weight. The parents held grownup parties with highballs and cheese whiz on crackers wore bell bottom jeans, paisley tops meant to keep them young looking.
small, barely perceptible measures almost invisible that wait patient in the hope we can learn how to be kind with them.
The year my father drove his Chevy into the brick wall now seems uneventful. The insurance replaced the car and the rage in his blue eyed heart remained almost manageable just as the anger of the catholic school boys in the French class who pulled the wings off flies during recess and in winter populated their snowballs with rocks aimed straight for our heads. In a corner of my heart there will always be my motherâ€™s paintings the riot of her her skimpy kimono and bare feet her singsong turned sad voice calling, the way she died too young one small piece at a time year after year while my brother and I tried hard never to get sick. In a corner of my heart she still travels the marbled roads unties knots maps my hands in russet, ochre refuses to let me settle for a spotless bed, suburban house impels me back to Europe women sculptures many poems. And the fact my father never died that day when he hit the brick wall is because perhaps he needed to be reminded of the peril of things needed to learn something about love and the faithful nature of the birds he baits and even now, 84 years old, he still worries himself about running low on the wild seed for his feed trays worries for the yellow finch holders the sugar water in his red orb whether the height is right, hung too high or too low for their beaks about his anonymous Oregon apartment patio. maybe all the hard damp fields of my life are really swallows grazing are dwarf asphodels
NANCY CHEN LONG It was such a bubbly affair last night, I in my Halston, you cumberbound. All persuasive elements fluid—booze, cash, cabals—each a tributary flooding
the river Acheron. When that young man at our table insisted red conjures up feelings of rage, as if to see red is to see rage, I thought, how logical, fire color + blood color = boiling blood. Rage, a simple slip into those familiar ways of being. Dare we break them? You want to. The way you broke that flawless Lalique vase you thought so rare in its redness, smashed against your mother’s antique vanity, crystalline no more. Your grandmother’s face, helpless to stop you, drained of color, save her pencil-thin lips glossed in red—like the red of that northern cardinal you’re always searching for. Look— lucky you! Such a bird is lighting right now onto the lower branch of this sweet gum tree next to our bench in the park. See how it disappears in the autumnalred star-shaped leaves? I like how the cool nip of the biting wind reddens the apple of your cheeks. Is it too cold for you? Oh, you and your fascination with red. Here, sip this red rooibos tea. It’ll fire up the caverns of your heart, ruby like Santa’s suit in that photo, when we were in Florida, fake snow, fake tree with all red lights, flashing, spin, spin, flashing red lights
of the ambulance that Christmas our daughter was taken to the emergency room, so tiny on the gurney. No one dies of scarlet fever. You asked for a sign. Remember your father’s words? It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. So true, the sanguine sky that night, but all I could think about was the rusty dust of Mars, whether heaven was a scarlet desert with polar ice caps. At least we could pick the planet out from among the others. How lucky that it is so visible, lucky us, lucky red, lucky like me, nubile bride in a crimson dress, gift-wrapped in red, the bittersweet door to our house, lucky—your birth, my birth, our child’s. So let us wave our red flag of complicity. Yes, tonight let us sip our favorite aperitif. Like that Campari, we also have dark-red bitters, secret stories, we who carol of luck and of splendid weather, we who sing with rage in our throats.
NANCY CHEN LONG
DUGONG iii. At a tiki bar, over Mai-Tais, my friend again tells me his myth about the mystery woman he spotted swimming across Brunei Bay.
i. The sand-colored sea cow— what strange fascination she holds for men: Called lady of the sea, mistaken for women reincarnated, inspiration to the legendary mermaid.
As he says “At first, she was just a vague form in the cove—” I know he did not see me as a woman Where her ancestors once foraged for tender green shoots until I came closer. —mammals of the land— I know the way my pale flesh glinted she now walks on flippers, nibbling the delicate seagrass that sways in an ocean meadow. in the sun, he believed me to be naked as I approached Poised on her sturdy tail, just shy of land. she hoists her bland head out of shallow salt water, gasps to fill her elephantine lungs with air. And when he saw me abruptly thrust my head out of water, ii. gasp for air, and turn to ripple I was once told a folk tale from Thailand about a young wife and her vigorous affection back, deeper into the sea, for seagrass fruit. As her cravings escalated, I know that he lost sight of me. she wandered each day deeper into the sea, lingered longer in the buoyant brine. iv. Imperiled dugong, I think I understand Until one day she did not come home. what lured you back into the arms of the sea. Her husband, steadfast, searched for her Was Water the one love you could finally forgive? until the night that she visited him in a dream, saying she could never return
L'artiste, Rime sbai
to land. Now half woman, half fish, she met her beloved one last time before she returned forever to water.
EAT ME CLARISSA STARLING OR THE GHOST OF TRANSMODERNISM YET TO COME The common strain that binds together the attitudes and ideas which I call anti-intellectual is a resentment and suspicion of the life of mind and of those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life. —Richard Hofstadter Anti-intellectualism in American Life The coffee is good Miss Starling and the patio is quiet and the sun is high and warm so permit me to speak of my theory of metaculture derived from Nietzsche a man you know so well. I mean you asked I know but you must stop me if I outrun your patience or outrun your interest. I would never impose. To begin with a shed like a lean-to you know a type of shade where you protect a rude shelter which encourages and protects say from the whether or not of non-human rain wind bears vermin viruses and from the weather underground in caves of steel haunted with fear of sliding backlash with muddle America caressing corporate enterprise and political regression; or let’s say the lower Mississippi where snow from the Appalachians mingles with ice from the Rockies and you can resist or cast off excess you can pour forth emit impart release you can shed and share from the shelter of a common set of assumptions a perturbation of space with the shuttle flying between warp threads in the triangular gap.
I’ve thought about your thoughts Clarissa. I’ve thought I’ve dreamed I’ve said ‘she has seen the horror of the intolerant devouring the intolerant.’ Look how Elisabeth consumed her brother poor brainless Friedrich staring out into eternal return locked in a final thought while the stylistic unities of his beloved collapsed into a flesh rending feast leaving the body sundered and bleeding still as still another daybreak dawned. Clarissa if only she could have cultivated many unities and perspectives according to her brother’s formulation each capable of nurturing subcultures even to the level Clarissa my dear of the ability to recognize that which is unique and all too human.
MICHAEL C. RUSH
INVISIBLE THINGS My sword inhales old ghosts Even as it draws new blood A willingness to lie eases relations But it conflicts with invisible things It takes illusion to capture And truth to hold: No wonder there are such difficulties! An element of habit A sense of sin since senescence Doubted into inaction The tiresome ties of marriage and other commerce Faith or other foolishness A fling or a ring, whatever life brings Melancholy, angst, mania— But where are the songs of joy? Avoid bodies that steam or smoke Seek bodies that smile in sleep Not knots but fulcrums If you can love, you will love again If you can trust, you may make a habit of it If you can suffer, you’d damn well better dance
salma ruth bratt
JAGGED MEMORIES Years since I sank there offshore Years of salt digging into my joints Years of gaining and losing Of sharp edges gone smooth Strange creatures growing forth Now my pieces hardly fit But my friend remembers how they used to be I’m grateful to her For digging my wrecked carcass from the brine And shining it up pretty for me
THE PARALLEL UNIVERSES Good heavens, yes, there are parallel universes! More, I’ll wager, than you, or I, or anyone else could possibly count. Sometimes I’ll catch myself running in two directions at once and we’ll both look over at the same time and nod, There’s Me! I guess that’s one for the philosophers to sort out. Or, when I’m running a little short of cash, I’ll catch a wealthier Self passing by a portal and maybe hit myself up for a loan. Lots of advantages, you know, with so many universes—and to think, when I was younger, we were content with just the one! We were ignorant children, of course, hardly better than the old Flat-Earthers or Jerusalem-Centrists. Things are better this way. You can keep yourself company, enjoy the comfort of knowing there’s plenty of Me out there to go around whenever you feel like maybe you’ve stretched yourself too thin. Funny thing, though—when you reflect that you are everywhere simultaneously, you do become less inclined to waste so much time or money on yourself. Because you think, Well, now, I could eat a second helping, but there’s probably another Me starving somewhere in a Slum World, poor kid, and I’m having a pretty good year when all’s said and done. Even when things aren’t going so well, you can’t help but think, Look, there’s probably some poor Me running around out there with his head cut off, or who’s been framed for some petty offense in a Rough Cop World, I should count my lucky stars! And who’s to say there aren’t places even worse than those we can imagine ourselves? That humans aren’t being sacrificed right now in a Cannibal World, right across the street, or in a Reptile-Ruled Kingdom, just over your shoulder? No thank you, I’ll stick with the good old Earth, as strip-mined and untidy as it is—it’s my home, it’s where I was brought up, call me Old School. Certainly, I can’t help gazing at the stars when they appear, and wonder just like anyone else if there isn’t a Peace-Garden Universe or perhaps a Chocolate Planet or even (I blush to say this) a Heaven. Like I said before, Old School. I apologize for running on a bit, however. You children get along—I imagine you’ve someplace better to be.
Back then, you could pick up precious stones from the hillsides or scoop handfuls of gold out of a stream. Everywhere a rainbow touched lay a fortune.
There were dinosaurs left over from the Jurassic era at that time, known as dragons. And the Neanderthal lingered on, inspiring tales of wild men and yeti.
reina sofia, Mariya Shcherbinina
And the old kings built monuments to themselves, but in the absence of writing, their names were lost. Soon it was forgotten whether they were once mortals or gods. JOHN MARVIN
DON’T KILL THE MAN PERSON BEHIND THE CURTAIN It’s a friend of Gertrude’s Paris lured before time began in earnest we’ll always have Paris Rick assured her smoke bourbon smoke brandy smoke hidden behind a tapestry of myth slain by sword exposed by barking dog long for an apple always out of reach from a green Appalachian spring she chants enchants I love my love with a v b a y d coded hovering sailing to a Europe of art empire blood above her ring lamenting before the flowers of Flanders red against the pink and gray of sunset in a writhing sea of friendship beaming through clouds faded but discernable in a cooling friendship though a cold crescent faded yet still bright enough to see such a pretty rose is such a pretty pretty rose is
ANOTHER WEEKEND FOR THE WHIPLASHED Bill told me to leave the room so that he could beat the butt cheeks of his youngest son in privacy. The wailing seeped through the saguaros and blooming bougainvilleas, I listened from the semen-smelling living room, and the buckle was leaving its mark on the thighs of my oldest friend. The back of my legs and arms stuck to the leather of the couch. I dared not stir. Cigarette smoke was curling toward the open window where heat was hiding, waiting for me to find him. We were usually engaged in activities that might warrant the belt, but it only came out when we were at his father’s ranch in Arizona, when the warm whiskey merged with the cold window of opportunity, when debauchery flows from an empty, brown bottle and monotony is more than a mosquito on the shoulder blade of a cowboy who turns into a monster on a whim. We waited for that worn buckle like waiters for an angry fat lady to place her order at a steakhouse. The lashing, the whip crashing against tanned flesh. This was the early eighties, when child abuse was synonymous with spanking, and a violent slap in the face from my mother in the shopping mall was just another moment celebrated with a frozen margarita with salt on the rim. We would buy moccasins from the little store where Indians sold wind chimes. The belt section would always be just out of reach, the leather so distant, I could sniff it and enter another dimension. Could I leave without a scar? Was a slice of pizza worth the aroma of fear on a festive Friday afternoon? The years collided with a new notch cut with a hunting knife. There were never enough notches. There was seldom a dull moment. Sharpened by time, the welts folded in on themselves. The wrinkled scars still a labyrinth toward chlorine and cactus. The thrashing against desert air prior to a beating was high-pitched and insistent, often louder than the breeze and the cartoon on television and everything drowned itself out as he made eye contact, sadistic. The two boys backed away from the weapon, as if the inertia could sting them. They pinned themselves against the wall in their bunk beds, sacrificing one another to get the first lashing. There was always more than one. One wouldn’t be so bad. The juice poured from the bruises on their buttocks where nobody ever questioned them. The man was more than a half-empty, two-liter bottle of tequila, resonating with the floating corpse of a rattlesnake. He rolled his own
butts. The serpent’s skin had been marinating for half a decade, one eye bulging out toward the desert, the other swallowed by anyone willing to satisfy the whims of a child abuser in the times when spanking with a belt buckle was glamorized as stoic discipline. On the good days he wore a polka dotted golf shirt, sat smoking Cuban cigars with a Bloody Mary out by the pool, or driving golf balls at the saguaros from a tee stuck into the white fertilizer of a dying garden his wife left empty when she moved out. Her skin was roasted. The boys’ first names began with R, as if the man could hear them roaring in the womb, rest and relaxation nothing more than a hug from a victim who is unable to sit down without wincing. There was a Weber grill with arrachera and hamburgers and hot dogs burning, the flames popping sausages, dropping juices into the orange. Rattlesnakes coiled in the grass behind the swimming pool, camouflaged by barrel cacti and blooming bougainvillea. A rainbow kaleidoscope of petals adorned the thorns of saguaros, borne with subtle majesty from the wind. With hairy knuckles bruised from experience, his blond hair, and a perfect mustache, the cowboy lurches forward for his belt—another afternoon wasted by that snakeskin wrapped around his midsection. We dove for the beds. We tasted the pillows. Our t-shirts still smelled of marshmallows and barbecue and s’mores and crumbs of graham crackers. Godforsaken graham crackers as the belt made contact with the skin, my eyelids shut, waiting for the whip to crack against the pink tender tissue of ass cheeks. Kicked one of the Rs in the nuts one afternoon when we were playing. The boy told his father. His father scolded me. The boy was made of rattlesnake. I heard the serpent in the kitchen bitching in his tequila and whiskey, but this was a different vernacular, atavistic, and there was no explanation for why I kicked him in the penis. There never was. He reached for the belt. The belt reached for me. No more innocuous vacations in Maricopa County waiting for the snake to bite. I curled my toes and anticipated the stinging of an improvised whip, thinking about all the mistakes, cursing the cacti as desert birds echoed afternoon lullabies, and the belt began to sing. n
ROSES daughters of the dust, dmitry borshch
Tonight the roses walk out by themselves to the garden. Their petals fall & drape grass. Tiny pink coats. Failing green light.
THE P’S CAT The Mouse came out and spoke to the Cat. “You do realize that your desire to kill reveals a deeply disturbed character. Possibly psychotic tendencies.” “I don’t want to kill you,” said the Cat. But it was a lie. Not because he was hungry or enjoyed the sport, but because he didn’t like being psychoanalyzed by his dinner.
“It’s been helpful talking to you,” said the Mouse. “Insightful. Very revealing. I’ve learned a great deal.” “No doubt.” The Cat forced out a yawn. Conversing with one’s dinner. It was off-putting, not to mention dull. “I’ll be going now.” “Must you?” the Cat asked sarcastically.
“I watched you with the Woman. All smiles and caresses. Schizophrenia even. Bipolar. A split personality.” “Have you ever thought that it might be you?” asked the Cat. “Inferiority complex? Victim syndrome? Even... suicidal tendencies?”
“Insightful,” the Mouse repeated nonetheless. “We must do it again sometime. Soon.” “No. No, we really mustn’t.” The Cat looked over to his ball of catnip. It was untouched from where it had rolled under the couch the day before.
“I don’t feel suicidal,” said the Mouse. “Then what would you call this? Hardly sensible behavior if I’m a psychotic schizophrenic.” “Ah, but I was hoping to appeal to your inner sense of morality.” “Delusional, too!”
He turned back towards the Mouse, but it had gone. If it had ever been there. A peculiar form of insanity, he thought. Hallucinating one’s own diagnosis. He closed his eyes, and pretended not to hear the voices in the walls. n
SALMA RUTH BRATT
WHAT HAVE I LOST? This woman lost her son When he migrated away If he visits, and his warmth fills the room She takes long breaths Filling her lungs with him This woman lost her mind Her temper Her dignity All at once Insisting on a man who didn’t love her This woman lost her children In one moment of carelessness In a blast at the Argana Café Someone lost a shoe It landed on the dusty sidewalk And when the king walked by He saw it there I lost my Aunt Mathilda, when she died on her honeymoon She fell overboard into the lake And she could not swim I lost my fear of death Chances for a thousand pictures My perfect eyesight My mother I lost what I only imagined having And my sense of irony Whenever I lose my temper It returns to me I wrote a poem once that I liked very much Where did I put it? Where are all my dolls? My dress-up clothes? My bicycles? Where are the pink pajamas my grandmother sewed for me? When I was eight years old My father came home for dinner each night In those days I thought parents Always returned at the end of the day At nine I lost confidence in my father I had never been dragged by my ear like that To see the red paint on my toy car I wasn’t even sorry to have scratched it Until I was ten Ghosts lived in my mirror And only came out in the dark Then I became afraid of the daylight instead
EMILY STRAUSS I come from a very long line Of river banks and gravel slopes With yellowed leaves caught Between layers of floods From the stage of primitive Clicking bugs and ginkgo trees Down past Coconino sandstone Through tree ferns and tar pits
From grandfathers with red Cheeks and white foreheads Who worked with sharpening Stones and carpenter’s planes To the dusty kitchens of Texas With strong-handed cooks Who pounded white biscuits On Sundays before church My grandmother carefully Removing her best gold watch Before she plunged her gnarled Hands into the flour canister.
RODENA BORISOVA Acostúmbrate pequeño Greg, que los tiburones son enormes, de dientes colinas las flores gigantescas, caen sin avisar, el mar de lo más hermoso, ahoga a todo ser vivo, los pájaros ansiosos con hambre te devorarán, porque tú eres pequeño Greg, naciste tal y así morirías. Acostúmbrate a seguir al viento, el único a las criaturas pequeñas adiestra, y el viento mismo, como todos, —como los tiburones, las bellas flores, el mar maravilla, los pájaros y su volar... y él aplasta, al ser diminuto (aunque fuera), para que huyas pequeño Greg, salves tu pequeña alma. Tu corazón es grande Greg, y si te arrastras, reventarás, del pequeño nada habrá. El viento cesará triste, y todos olvidarán, lo grande que eran, nada serán, porque pequeños no pueden ser Greg. No nacieron como tú, y como tú no morirían. Acostúmbrate pequeño Greg, para que no mueras antes que ellos.
IN A NEW CENTURY You can see this for yourself, remembering, suiting yourself, as we, putting our house in order for the season, thinking of dusks and suppertimes, of mornings when cardinals play and travelers hike the last steps into sky-views, descending to drive the rest of a day to Arkansas, to the kids home from Israel, helping them celebrate the start of a third married year with exercise and photographs and job hopes, foregoing the tribal certainties whole centuries got stalled in, built on, in and around the models of courage say or crazy, such as we’ve seen the national dialogue invest in, the exchanges and ciphers, if you will, and models of discovery, while we, home now with scenes brought back to our own weather, applaud the harvesting and the late harvesting in progress, no less than the leaves, still green in Fayetteville, picking up some color maybe, flourishing or falling as they must, as even the lingering last and least stressed bearers of dry seasons. So any election, let’s suppose, is cause to celebrate, to see, and anniversaries cause, to believe in this, in these roads the season’s mussed, until they must seem at once familiar and more strange, as even all new mornings, new cycles seem, in a gaze or mistaken turn, a moment so stretched by wonder and confusion love must find itself, as if we had missed the one turn altogether, and were blessed for all of that, at home with our recipes from places we almost identify, our sense of the places visited, as if a line of thinking brought us here, a not wholly unwelcome broth had kept us warm, so we might wake refreshed, and wake with explanations, the wood stacked higher now than we remember for the winter, with another mid-week, another weekend as we find them, a Friday as it is, and the pond’s goose flesh, like commentary, on the books untried, or the poems, or the nature of careers in a new century. george schricker
THE END Everyone is filled with laughter until the bulb burns out. Now they have killed the projectionist. His blood will not run until his body explodes. Unfortunately that is in the last reel. We will not get to see it.
CONTRIBUTORS Matthew Banash was born and raised in Pennsylvania and has lived the past twenty years in South Carolina and North Carolina. Cole Bellamy teaches English and Creative Writing at St. Leo University. His poetry has appeared in The Louisville Review, The Sandhill Review, Moonshot, and UberNothing. He lives in Tampa, Florida with his two cats, Oskar and Sally. His chapbook The Mermaid Postcard was published by Yellow Jacket Press in 2010. Rodena Borisova was born in 1985 in Bulgaria. In 2009 she finished her Master’s degree in Art, Creation and Investigation at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. In her free time, she composes music and studies web design. Dmitry Borshch is an American artist of Soviet origin. Today he lives in New York and exhibits internationally. His work has been exhibited at the National Arts Club (NY), Brecht Forum (NY), Exit Art (NY), CUNY Graduate Center (NY), Salmagundi Club (NY), ISE Cultural Foundation (NY), and Frieze Art Fair (London).
Press. Currently he is co-editor of the e-zine Sisyphus, and managing editor of Hip Pocket Press. Gail Rudd Entrekin’s newest collection of poems, Rearrangement of the Invisible, is forthcoming from Poetic Matrix Press in 2012. Previous books include Change (Will Do You Good) (Poetic Matrix Press, 2005), which was nominated for a Northern California Book Award, and You Notice the Body (Hip Pocket Press, 1998). Omar Figueras lives in Miami Beach, Florida and is a MFA Candidate at Spalding University, where he is a student editor at The Louisville Review. He writes fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry and is currently working on a collection of short stories and a poetry chapbook, both based on his experiences growing up in south Florida and time spent in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.
Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Dreaming in Red from Right Hand Pointing and Cryptic Endearments from Knives Forks & Spoons Press. He has a number of forthcoming chapbooks Salma Ruth Bratt is a professor of English and including Elephant Gun from Dog on a Chain Press, English pedagogy. She loves her sweet and thoughtful The Death of Me from Pig Ear Press, Living Is the Spin children, traveling abroad, the theater of complex and Cycle from Red Bird Chapbooks, and Strange Roads interesting playwrights and the music of good listeners. from Puddle of Sky Press. Her writing is often nurtured in conversations with Moulay Youness Elbousty, and she is exceedingly Brittany Goode studied writing at University of thankful to him. California, Irvine and California Institute of the Arts receiving her MFA. She lives Los Angeles. Maggie Czerwien is currently completing her Master’s degree in Spanish. She is based in Madrid. Heather Hughes hangs her heart in Boston and Miami. She thanks Cream City Review, Grain, and Prick Like nomadic Pericú natives before him, Matthew of the Spindle, among others, for also publishing her Dexter survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence poems. She would like to stay in a lighthouse. diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin, cold beer, and warm sunshine. He lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Ivan Jenson’s Absolut Jenson painting was featured in Art News, Art in America, and Interview magazine. Drema Drudge’s recent work has been published His poems have appeared in Word Riot, Zygote in my in The Louisville Review, Mused, ATG, and Mother Coffee, Camroc Press Review, and others. Jenson is also Earth News. She is a regular contributor to the a contributing editor for Commonline magazine. His popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Visit her blog novels, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah, are both available at: http://dremadrudge.wordpress.com. for purchase. Charles Entrekin’s most recently published works include a novel, Red Mountain, Birmingham, Alabama, 1965 (El Leon Literary Arts 2008), and Listening: New and Selected Works (Poetic Matrix Press, 2010). He is a founder and managing editor of The Berkeley Poets Cooperative and The Berkeley Poets Workshop &
Dimitri (Sasha) Juliard is a Colorado based photographer, skier, and traveler. Dimitri is drawn to the field for its inherent challenges. He sees photography as a constant battle between the shortcomings of the natural conditions and his knowledge of photography to manipulate those
conditions in his favor.
com and poetism.com.
Robert Lietz is the author of eight poetry collections, including Running in Place (L’Epervier Press), At Park and East Division (L’Epervier Press), and The Lindbergh Half-century (L’Epervier Press). Recently, his poetry has appeared in Istanbul Literary Review, The Pittsburgh Quarterly Online, Avatar, Contrary, Terrain, Valparaiso Review, Salt River Review, and Lily.
Jez Patterson is a British teacher, currently based in Madrid. He also writes stories and can sometimes be persuaded to let others read them.
Christopher Lirette lives in Atlanta with his wife, Linda, and studies pop culture, “community” formation, and fun at Emory University. His work appears in The Southern Review, Hayden’s Ferry, The Journal, PANK, and in other online and print journals. He blogs at christopherlirette.com, practices Hung Ga, and co-runs a cultural nonprofit in Louisiana called Terrebonne Advocates for Possibility.
Kenneth Pobo won the 2011 qarrtsiluni chapbook contest for Ice And Gaywings. Forthcoming from Finishing Line Press is Save My Place, a poetry chapbook. His work has appeared in Indiana Review, Mudfish, Nimrod, and elsewhere. Paula Puebla nace con el primer sol de otoño del año 1984 en Buenos Aires, Argentina. Es diseñadora textil y de indumentaria, pero expulsada y escapada de la industria, emprende un nuevo camino hacia los mares de la literatura. Escribe en su blog sentime-unacosa.blogspot.com.ar.
Nancy Chen Long works at Indiana University and lives with her woodsman husband and blueeyed dog in a small cedar cabin in the forested hills of south-central Indiana. You can find her recent and forthcoming work in RHINO, The Louisville Review, Roanoke Review, and Noctua Review. She blogs at nancychenlong.blogspot.com.
Jeanette Quick is a freelance writer and financial policy professional in Washington, D.C. She holds a B.A. in Economics and Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley, and a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. Her work has been featured in the literary journal The Bright Line and the academic journal The Tax Lawyer.
John Marvin is a teacher who retired and subsequently earned a PhD in English at SUNY Buffalo. He has six poetry books in manuscript and two on the drawing boards. He has published literary criticism in James Joyce Quarterly, Pennsylvania English, Hypermedia Joyce Studies and Worchester Review.
Randy K. Ralston lives in NY, where he writes and performs counseling work.
Meghan Modafferi is from North Carolina; she is currently living in Prague and working as an English teacher. In her free time, she’s a freelance writer who’s particularly interested in politics, performances, and personalities. M.V. Montgomery is a professor at Life University in Marietta, Georgia and the author of nine books. His most recent work, which combines poetry and experimental fiction, is titled The Island of Charles Foster Kane. Joe Okonkwo is a cum laude graduate of the University of Houston with a degree in Theatre. He made his living in theatre for a number of years as an actor, stage manager, director, playwright, and youth theatre instructor. His poems have appeared in the publications Van Gogh’s Ear, Anthology Magazine, and Priapus, and the websites timbooktu.com, queerpoets.
Michael C. Rush is made very uneasy by the influence of biography on poetry and prefers that the reader consider his poems alone, on their own merits, as words, without indulging in whatever small, idle curiosity about the specifics of his background and life that they may feel. Brian Russell is an award-winning writer and director, the author of Meeting Dad: A Memoir (Accents Publishing, 2010), and a graduate of Spalding University’s MFA in Writing Program. His work has been published widely and, most recently, in Ten Spurs: The Best of the Best from the 2011 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, Vol. 6, 2012. Rime Sbai was given her first palette at the age of 13, which is when she entered the world of art. Her art is influenced by many painters such as Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall. Anna Elizabeth Schmidt is a graduate of Eastern Washington University’s MFA program. She currently lives with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and
homely cat in Missouri where she is working toward a PhD in American Studies at Saint Louis University. Her poetry has appeared in Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Pilgrimage, and The Raven Chronicles. Sean Schoenecker was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2008. Currently, he resides in Madrid, where he is finishing a M.A. in Spanish Literature at Saint Louis University Madrid Campus.
Stanford Poetry Prize from the Southern California Review. She lives in Oregon with her family and likes to contemplate the moon from her bed. Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson is a Canadian who married an American. She currently resides in Bellingham, WA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Literary Review of Canada, A cappella Zoo, The Liner, Going Down Swinging, Echolocation, Moth, and the anthology Killer Verse.
George Schricker has ten albums of original music and poetry, and performs with his band, Wild Rose Moon. He resides in Indiana and has received numerous grants there for his multimodal method of teaching storytelling, The Story Inside. In 2010, he won first prize for poetry in the Louisville, Kentucky-based Metroversity contest.
Erica Trabold is an M.A. student, graduate teaching assistant at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She earned her undergraduate degree in English and won UNO’s “Outstanding English Major” for creative nonfiction in 2012. This is Erica’s first, literary publication.
Katy Scrogin is a translator and independent scholar, and is the senior producer of the radio show, Things Not Seen. She lives in Texas.
Luke Wallin holds an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He is a Fulbright scholar and the author of over ten books, including young adult novels, creative non-fiction, and academic essays. He is Professor Emeritus from the University of Massachusetts and teaches in the MFA at Spalding University in fiction, creative non-fiction, and writing for children and young adults.
Mariya Shcherbinina, from Kiev, Ukraine, is studying Communication at Saint Louis University Madrid Campus. Her work includes photography, photo-editing, typography, and creative writing. Visit mariyawrites.tumblr.com. Timothy Snyder is native of the suburbs of Los Angeles. Tim received a BFA at Cal State Fullerton in Animation and Entertainment Art. When Tim is not drawing, he is rock climbing, teaching yoga and spin, or exploring the city of Los Angeles. Gerald Solomon was born in London and studied English Literature at Cambridge University. After working as a producer at the BBC, he helped found General Studies courses at Hornsey College of Art. This led to teaching poetry courses at Middlesex University. He is preparing his first collection of poetry.
José García Vera es un escritor.
Madeline Wildeson is a senior at Saint Louis University Madrid Campus, studying Spanish and International Relations. While she hopes to someday develop her technical skills and conceptual execution in a more formal artistic environment, she continues drawing or painting the people and scenes she comes across, often with the greater goal of celebrating humanity.
Emily Strauss is a retired English teacher who has written poetry her whole life. Recently, her work has appeared in The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Straight Forward, About Place Journal, and You Are Here: Journal of Creative Geography. She often focuses on images and ideas of the American West. Toni Thomas’s poems have been appeared in Prairie Schooner, North Dakota Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and others. She has received the Atlanta Review’s International Merit Award and an Ann