Mercyhurst College Creative Arts Magazine 2008
What if...WWII Series, Steven Puskar............................................4 Fishing Industries, Megan Jell..............................5 Falling, John Ladd...................................................6 Wild Carrot, Alissa Mutton.............................................7 Retalhuleu1, Tomas Ayuso...................................................8 After Church Sunday, Tomas Ayuso.......................................9 Åutumn On the Dock, Joe Dipasqua.........................................10 Duck and Cover, Joe Dipasqua...................................................11 The Love Song of R.J. Reynolds, Joe Dipasqua..............................11 Falling Rain Upon My Mind, Sarah Mastrocola.............................12
Man in the Moon, Kacie Rea........................................................12 Straight, Sean O’Reilly................................................................13
Gray Marble and Faded Phrases, Joe Dipasqua...........................13
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A Lovely Status In the Trees, Kelsey McGuire............................14
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Delicate, Succulent, Balanced, Melissa Pomeroy......................15
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In the Rotary, Lindy Smart.................................................15
Aptenodytes Arrive on Time, Sean Michel Whaling...........16 Elephant; Peacock, Amanda Kaiser .............................17
u Shower time Epiphany, Maeve McGoff..............18-19 erman-T Zoey Ald phanie Barker Overwhelmed with Compelling Distress, Ste ianco Lakyn B ings n Maeve McGoff..................................20 azel Jen Sarah-H ustine Keltz J er ha Ketn Samant Kuhnlein Amy y Pomero Melissa ie Pyrdek Jack tanek Melia S k Wzonte Leanne
Death Resort—Space Available, Shelly Manison....................................20 Meat Math, Jason Sepac................................21 The Gunman, John S. Torrelli........................22-23 Coffeehouse Conversations, Lindy Smart.................24 Just Like Always, Kristen Erickson...........................24 Contentment, Samantha Ketner...................................25 On Guard, Stephanie Barker........................................26 On Call, Stephanie Barker............................................27 Officer, Sean O’Reilly..................................................28 Thief, Kristen Erickson..............................................28 Dehumanize, Lindy Smart........................................29 Hazzardous, Stephanie Barker...............................29 Shadows of Umber & Sienna, Esther Claros..........30 Bicycle Ride, Emily Elizabeth Campbell..............31 I Think He was Right, Leanne Wzontek.........32 Don;t Bee blinded Bye Ur Pwn Inteligence Oar Edjucashun, John S. Torrelli.......33
s t n e ont
Testing Dreams, Melissa Pomeroy..........34-35
Counter Clockwise Christmas, Finella Annand......................................36-39 Absolution, Julie Whan........................................................40-41 A Long Hike in Winter, Hazel Jennings..................................................42 Seduction , Alissa Mutton..............................................................................42 Stonedhenge, Jay Nortman....................................................................................43 Hurricane Rising, Rachel Porter..............................................................................44-45 Emission Nebulae in an Open Cluster, Matthew Seifert.........................................................46 The Many Faces of Katie Diley, Katie Diley...........................................................................................47 Speak No Evil, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Denny Porter..........................................................................48
What If...WWII Series Steven Puskar
Digital image manipulation
Black and white photography
Fishing Industries Megan Jell
Black and white photography
smile when she noticed his rapture. He set his head back and closed his eyes. How far he had come from the postcard days; how eager he had been to escape. What a promise he had been to his parents, the precocious first grader who knew all the times tables. His mother still mentioned it as if it was yesterday. Now a steady job and quiet anonymity, with no sign of sparkle behind the eyes that once gleamed at the sight of something new to learn. Now they drooped and sagged at the sight of more work, more responsibility, more weight on already shaky shoulders. He hated the poets and their “dying embers” of autumn and their calling up of Thanatos and the River Lethe like zombies to destroy his memories of fall. Autumn swallowed fall in their work, as it seemed to in his life. When his father came home at the start of the semester with new books for his shelf and new lights for his mind. Sitting up with a flashlight at the end of October, cup of cocoa gone cold, but his mind running hot with lines of Poe and Frost. When did it become okay for autumn to steal fall away? When did he resign his life from Northeast to Midwest with no return ticket? When did knowledge replace wonder? Where did he go wrong?
It was one of those irrepressibly cheery fall days, the kind that make you want to stay outside crunching leaves under your feet for hours, until your fingertips go numb and your ears are red from windburn. The kind of day when the sun shines more than beats, when the afternoon is finally the time to be outside again instead of cowering in the shade. The kind of day that deserves to be ended with a mug of hot cider and refreshing lover’s lips. He walked resolutely toward the office, remembering. Williamstown, Connecticut. What a magical place for upbringing. Never more than on a day like today. But there were no leaves in his reality, only the cold concrete, the same old deli, and the icy fall wind of Chicago. He crowded onto the L, thinking of the sweaters of his father on a sunny fall day, of his fullbodied laugh and the pungent pipe smoke. He had lived a postcard: fall in New England, the Professor’s son. As he reached downtown, more crowded onto the train. An overheated plumber to his left, and a mother of four under five to his right. The smell was a far cry from the pie of his youth. The pumpkin and the apple and his mother with her smiling face and her modest disposition, willing him to take a bite and smiling that contagious
Wild Carrot Alissa Mutton
You painted all of the Queen Anne’s lace, all of the snow-white northern lilies red, and put a mask on your harlequin face. With fingers and thumbs, you took off their heads. The ocean, you said, turns blue in my eyes, but those words will drown in the dark and deep; I’ll throw them to fiery tides that rise, to waves that collide and hiss and leap. The summer lilies will rise from the dead when you think you’ve escaped your memories and you’ll see my face among the threads of Queen Anne’s lace I left in your sheets. Some day, I’ll walk in the foam on the coast and think of the year I swam with your ghost.
h Re t a l
You were cursed from the moment you were named. Born behind the cloudy mountain tops under the smoldering breeze of that damned coastal town. For thirty years and a half, the pulsing vines that choked your motherâ€™s house made a prisoner out of you. Through the windows of the mud house, the humid air crushed grandmaâ€™s spine and the laughter you brought helped her stay alive. But the town was tying you down, asphyxiating you to stay. Then you left. You had to. It was your fate to leave that obscure place and let it rot in the jungle. You wanted to run away from the certainty of what you were sworn was your destiny. A decade after you fled, you came back with a wife and two daughters. You settled in a city with no trees, far from the green mountains that raised you. Nine months after you moved, I was born in June and named after you. One night, a month later, you stopped breathing. Alone, at the dinner table.
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Cracked fingers clawed the asphalt like a bedspread; the wrinkles on his skin have been made still and eternal. Take a step back. The solid panes of glass are now small stars on the black back drop of the seatâ€™s faded leather. Take a step back. Angled shirt sleeves are caught on the raw metal. The crowd that gathers, hide me behind their sweaty legs. Take a step back. The smoke starts to Stand as tall as it can. The plumeâ€™s warm palms hold the hot jagged wreck, separate from all the rest. Take a step back. A puddle of oil snakes toward my feet. My mother picks me up and tells me not to stare. Her tears fall on my cheek.
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Falling Rain Upon My Mind Sarah Mastrocola
The rain comes softly, gently falling down Washing away the sorrows of the day Such sparkling fancies form as droplets crown A troubled head, which cares upon it lay. The sound, the sight of rain’s descent, I find It wakes within the storm of consciousness A tranquil state of deeper thought and mind To quiet all of life’s duress. It calls to me, a song serene in tone It sings, with all its mellow splendor bright And when I sit and ponder while alone, The rain bears sway to meditative height. Oh, were it so that e’er at peace should be My troubled soul, as when rain comes to me. -
Man in the Moon Kacie Rea
My dad told me God didn’t exist; we lived then melted like rocks into the earth. But I used to look up at the moon and see his face looking back at me at least someone was out there. Sometimes my eyes would wander from the ground to the sky I would wonder if I could walk to the end of the earth, and if I did, would I fall off the Other side? I could fall into the solar system, Into uncountable galaxies, The universe, and then who knows Who can know? Yesterday I learned the face of the moon was the result of impact craters. Rock hits rock, and creates.
Gray Marble and Faded Phrases Joe DiPasqua
Somewhere between faith and fear time converges. History buried underfoot and carved in grey marble bleeds black, seeping through white classroom pages. Elegies and epitaphs sing requiems in faded phrases. Faint choruses of eulogies whisper stories of sins unredeemed.
Straight to the gate Straight from the wait Didn’t come to wait, To drop this weight To let you escape What you’ve had coming You’ll find out today you know you don’t know Bouncing back and forth To and fro, ready-set-go. Straight left, back right, That’s right, it’s fight night, You’re straight up at the light. Hand up, head down, I’m blood bound, cage crowned.
A Lovely Status In the Trees Kelsey McGuire
I was fourteen when we came to “The Meadows~ A lovely Haven in the trees.” “Girls our age don’t run in the woods,” the gaggle of my classmates informed me. When I did- with the six of my clan-, they whispered, “She is so juvenile.” On the school bus, every seat I wanted was saved for Tiffany and Melissa. Each day, as I stepped off the hellish, wheeled box, my mother’s contemporaries flocked by our mailbox and counseled her on the gravity of overpopulation. Later they whispered, “Seven children- that woman must be as loose as a harlot… like…like Mary Magdalene!” they tittered, congratulating one another on their collective wit and brilliance. Then they located their charges, their children, who pounded their thighs, called them stupid, refused to obey. “Come, darlings,” they summoned, but their progeny remained in the yards, pelting each other with stones and pinecones until the sun went down and there was no light left for play. Inside they dined on freezer food and drank in their favorite shows until it was time for bed. We saw the blinking televisions through their windows as we listened to my father’s perfected recitations of Yeats. If only we had been born to the next family down the groomed gravel pathway, we would have been happier and free… free to sass our parents, to sit on television thrones, to call our parents not Mama and Papa but Katie and Tom, to answer to beautiful names like Skylington, perhaps Rose-Destiny. After years in this locus, I climbed the roof with my brother. He and I looked down on the Haven. Not a soul, not a shadow. Down to the Meadow we cried: Is this my dream, or the truth? O would that we had met When I had my burning youth! But I grow old among dreams, A weather-worn, marble triton Among the streams. But we needn’t have asked--- the barren Meadow had already answered.
In the Rotary Lindy Smart
Delicate, Succulent, Balanced Melissa Pomeroy
Luscious, fresh and crisp Light, delicate blend Unique, mellow, easy-drinking Aromas of raspberries and plums Floral and rich Full-rounded Sensationally fruity Elegant German-style Classic pink beauty Catawba Chardonel Merlot Traminette Enjoy with fruit and cheese
Eileen hit my car on the driver’s side door just as we passed “Welcome to Cape Cod” spelled out in shapely bushes. I can call her Eileen. We are estranged acquaintances since we exchanged insurance information. You said you had to check something and snuck outside to take secret pictures of both cars. I stayed in the police station to keep Eileen preoccupied – to discuss anything but who was at fault. I thought of waving to Eileen when we drove off, but my hand would have curled into profanity. You crawled over the passenger seat the rest of the trip to drive us around your hometown. You were so apologetic. I said I could now buy a little red truck. That night we tiptoed barefoot out of your uncle’s house - my cigarette burned the way to the end of the grass and the beginning of gravel. We couldn’t see where we set our bottles; you told me there are no streetlights on the Cape. So this is an ocean’s sky and silence beyond passing cars. I sprawled out in the middle of the road to make concrete snow angels— to try and preserve what cannot be owned.
Charcoal on canvas
Aptenodytes Arrive on Time Sean Michel Whaling 16
Charcoal on canvas
Becca removed her cotton-candy colored underwear, and turned the taps of her shower to the left. She pulled the stopper up, and climbed in over the edge of the tub, brushing past the vinyl curtain. She stood directly under the stream, feeling her coarse chestnut hair become heavy, and her black mascara run down her cheeks. Becca ran her hands through her hair, pulling a few dead strands out. She examined them; slightly wavy and rough and wrapped around her left wrist. She pulled on them, yanking them tighter until they snapped. She ran her fingers across the skinny red line the strand had left on her wrist, then flicked the broken hairs away. I guess I should shave my legs, she thought. She reached for the can of raspberry scented shaving cream, and propped her foot up on the side of the tub. Becca leaned over and slowly dragged the razor up her shins, towards her kneecap. First her left leg, then moving onto her right. The razor slipped near her ankle, and she cut herself. Blood rose to the surface, and began to run down the arch of her foot. Becca pulled back and watched the bright red stream pulse down her foot. She didn’t bother sticking her foot under the water to wash the blood away. She just watched. The blood began to
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run down the side of the shower, moving towards the drain. Yet Becca still watched. For twenty minutes, she watched the blood seep out of her ankle and run down the edge of her shower, until it ceased flowing on its own. I’ve been in here for almost a half hour, and all I’ve done is shave my legs. And I haven’t even done that well. Becca reached back and turned the taps as far as they could go to the left. Heavy steam began to rise out of the shower. Her skin flushed a dark pink. The water was burning her flesh, but Becca took no notice. She just rolled her head back and forth, stretching her neck out. Her skin was beginning to sting, but she didn’t make any attempt to move away from the water stream or turn the temperature down for a few minutes. Finally, Becca turned around and switched off the taps. She stood there silently for a few more minutes, her arms crossed over her chest, staring at an unknowable spot on the shower wall. Becca slowly reached for her coral colored towel, and wrapped it around her torso. Placing her peach painted toes on the bathmat, Becca slipped on the remnants of blood and shaving cream that hadn’t found its way to the drain. “Shit,” she said quietly as she grabbed onto the magenta vinyl to steady herself. Pulling herself upright, she began to move towards the bathroom door. She grasped the knob, and pulled the door open, stubbing her toe. “Shit,” she said again. It was more out of habit than actual pain. Becca walked out of the bathroom and slowly padded down the hall to her bedroom. Once arriving in her room, she closed the door,
and stood in front of the mirror attached to her closet. Black mascara was streaked on her cheeks, and her flesh was still a burning bright pink. Her eyes were bloodshot. Her mother, a bleached blonde dressed in a rose coordinating gym outfit, knocked softly on her bedroom door an hour later. “Becca baby, are you ready for school? Becca?” Becca was sitting upright on her light pink bedspread, her towel wrapped haphazardly around her mid-section. Her hair hung in damp snakes down her back, dripping onto the satin bedding. Blood was streaked on her ankle, and the mascara lines were still present on her face. “Honey, are you all right?”
“Yeah, Mom. I’m fine.” “Do we need to take you to see Dr. Reuben again? You’re worrying me.” “No. Really, Mom, I’m fine.” Becca stood up and moved towards her dresser. “If you say so, honey. I’ll write you a note for school since you’re going to be late.” Becca’s mom glanced at her daughter’s towelclad form one more time, then left. Becca waited until she heard her mom’s footsteps in the kitchen below, then resumed her previous position on her bed. She continued to stare at the wall for the rest of the day.
Death Resort—Space Available
Overwhelmed with Compelling Distress Maeve McGoff
My palms sweat and my knees become motorized. The anxious feeling overcomes my body once again. While I simply sit, my stomach starts to twist and ride, Deep breaths, relax. Three manic minutes until the end.
Hugh penetrated life. His family chose the largest phallic tower allowed in the resort. I remember Hugh. Wasn’t he the first Erie man to bare himself near Perry Square? I think that was him.
Mary was wed to P.W., A husband who commemorated Mary’s existence by years, months, and days. Aged: 20 years, 6 months, 18 days. She was that woman with brown hair and green eyes; You know that girl— Mary, the one who married P.W.
Relief and satisfaction, it comes in an obsessive form as the books on the desk are ordered tallest to shortest. The smell of Clorox and disinfectants overtake the dorm, while germs drown in a pool of Purel, laying angst to rest.
Earl was the son of J. Steele, a member of the granite cartel. His memorial mosque towers over all the others in the resort.
Check the faucet, the locks and the switches for the third time, touch the wall’s corner and frame but not a sidewalk crack. The feeling vanishes until the next ritual conquers the mind then I’ll complete and control the commands as they attack.
Earl had one gray-blue eye. Didn’t he live and breathe during the Great Depression? No, wait—he was the one who stepped in front of Erie’s trolley on third and state. I think.
Meat Math Jason Sepac
“Would you like me to cut the shoe in half, Madam?” The door slammed. Steak knife sales were down this year in Ginger Valley. Ralph began to wrestle with his disappointment as he walked to the next house. “People just don’t value a good steak knife like they used to. Goddamn vegetarians and their sushi. What kind of country is this when a man and his family don’t sit down with a bloody steak and slice into that slab of meat with a freshly sharpened utensil? You either like steaks or you hate God.” The next house had a crayon green, evenly mowed lawn with a twenty-foot flagpole in the center of the lawn displaying an American flag. The pole towered over the modest ranch house. “This son of a bitch needs a knife,” Ralph thought to himself. “Bastard with grass this green gotta love meat.” A man with a clean-shaven face suitable for a propane tank advertisement answered the door. “What can I do ya for, partner?” the shaven man asked. “Well, sir, you look like a sharp individual, but I’d like to ask you, could you be even sharper?” “Umm, well…” “I’m just yankin’ your chain there, sir; just a little joke I tell to all my customers to lighten up the mood cause after all, nothin’s worse than cuttin’ tension with a butter knife, right?” “Well I think the expression is actually - ” “Sir, the fact of the matter is, a sharp knife is better than a dull one. Am I right, or am I right?”
“Yeah, well… sharp knives are definitely… sharp.” The shaven man was rubbing the side of his face and squinting. “Sir, you like steak don’t you?” Ralph asked. “I suppose…” “Well, sir, I’m no mathematician, but let me do a little equation for you. You like steak. In order to eat a steak, I bet you usually cut it with a utensil of some kind. Usually that utensil is sharp. And that utensil is usually a…” “A… A knife,” the man said nodding his head. “Very good, sir. I knew you were sharp!” The man smirked as he glared out of the corner of his eye, catching a glimpse of the television. “Red Sox are having a hell of a year, aren’t they?” I asked. “I don’t really watch baseball.” “Yeah, me either. Those pants are too tight. But ya know, I sure do enjoy the steak at Outback down by the field. Only problem is those goddamn knives. Just aren’t sharp enough - ” “I agree,” the man interjected. “So you know what I’m talking about! I actually bring my own knife when I go to any steakhouse. You’d be surprised how many establishments won’t let you bring your own knife. But you obviously understand the importance of slicing steak. You’re a logical man. Man plus Steak equals Knife! So I gotta ask you, how many of the ‘Strongman 5500’ steak knives can I put you down for?” “Well, actually, I just bought this electric knife! If you like knives, you gotta try this thing!” I stared at the man for a moment, squinting. “I’ll say a prayer for you, sir.”
The Gunman John S. Torrelli
“Three more buses just pulled up!” The words are meant to illicit some response of disgust or sense of being completely overwhelmed. They are meant to break a spirit that has been broken for so many years it is hard to remember when it wasn’t broken. The fire has burned out, and even the ashes no longer smolder inside of me. I am empty. “Can I please have all cashiers to the men’s side registers.” The page is forceful and distinct. I push the customers through like a robot without even being able to look them in the eye anymore. A female customer approaches with a little boy in the child’s seat of her cart who is chewing on the stuffed animal she is going to buy for him. I shudder to envision how I am going to scan it while it is drenched with saliva and snot. Her order comes to $392.84 and her Mastercard is declined, so she puts through another credit card. “Oh, can I pay on my Kohl’s Charge while I’m here?” “Sure,” I say in a monotone voice. She hands
me a bill for $1794.68 and writes out a check for $50 . . . the minimum payment. I grit my teeth and put it through the check reader while trying my best to appear at least tolerant. “Oh, I forgot to scan your stuffed animal,” I say. “Oh, thanks for reminding me. Actually we changed our minds on this,” she says ripping the soaked rabbit from the little boy’s hands and setting it on the counter in front of me. “I just used it to keep him quiet,” she whispers as the boy bursts into tears and begins screaming. “Can I please have ALL available cashiers AND baggers to the men’s side registers!” The page is louder and more panicked. I see him making his way toward the front of the store. He looks just like he would in the movies. He’s wearing tight black jeans and a long black trench coat. The gunman throws open his trench coat as he approaches the misses’ side registers and pulls out a glistening shotgun. Its shaft catches the fluorescent light perfectly as he wields it. “Attention associates, I need ALL AVAILABLE CASHIERS AND BAGGERS TO THE MEN’S AND MISSES’ SIDE REGISTERS, IMMEDIATELY!”
The lines have grown to almost eight deep. I know I am the first one to see the gunman, but terror soon strikes everyone in sight. The screams are deafening as people race to the doors and dive for cover. I am the only one that stands my ground. The gunman walks toward me, and I feel a sense of relief and closure growing inside of me for the first time in years. I’ve seen the gunman before in my dreams, and on days like this, when I close my eyes hard enough, he is there on the inside of my eyelids. No customers or employees are in sight now, and if not for the incessant whimpering, I might even believe I am alone in the store with the gunman. He walks into my line as though he is checking out and raises his shotgun to aim at my face. He is just another customer to me, so his face is blurry and I can’t bring myself to look him in the eye. I’m not sure if he’s looking for money, has some vendetta to settle with me personally, or is a mentally-disturbed individual about to go on his killing spree. But I see in this gunman such a ray of salvation and hope. He is my savior, my way out, my scapegoat. He can end my pointless existence and do the one thing I have never been selfish enough to do myself. My family and loved ones will have someone to blame . . . someone to direct all their anger and hate toward, and I will be free. I force myself to make eye contact with the
gunman and grin. “You could save 10% today if you wanted to apply for a Kohl’s charge.” “Are you crazy?” The gunman asks as he lowers his shotgun to my chest. I refuse to answer and wait for my overdue punishment. The gunman pulls the trigger igniting another round of screams as I am thrown backward into a mirrored pillar and slump straight down into a sitting position. The pain is minimal . . . the equivalent of a few simultaneous bee stings to the chest, but I know I am on my way out. I want to see him one last time before I pass on, so I struggle to lift my head. The gunman’s blast leads to a mass exodus from the store by those who initially only dove for cover. Now, it feels as though it is just me and the gunman peering down at me. I feel like he is a figment of my imagination . . . something I wanted and wished for so long that my sheer power of will allowed this gunman to manifest himself within my reality. Once I pass away, the gunman will disappear and my murder will remain unsolved. As my eyes meet his for the second time, I smile. I know my last breath has been drawn and want to extend my appreciation to the gunman before it is too late. With a quiet whisper I drift away. . . . “Thank you. . . .”
gnize o reco man t e s u hu ef You r etition of ow. fl p e i r h e tc t Th t. Wa ing words e r g e R mis ons. mpro Unco ltered acti r fi y fo Kristen Erickson Un at eas oved? h t t i m e Is r y l e t b n rse to nsiste Remo nd then co peaks as On the way to the party ch s lly a , you brushed my knee Initia mpty spee values, with your hand. I moved away, but my fac e y n r a u e turned red like it alw . t i t e Yo h f g r ays does. fi o Before the party, I sippe You f the moral d a beer in the shower. It g tur be ned warm w for n e i I o co l uld s finish it, but I drank it Lo by b anyway, because I always Blow d guiltier on Be for do. e the shower, I let my dad’s new girlfriend help me rsati ier an pick out something to Guilt ivial conve ur wear. We shared glasse s of red wine, has tr and my dad sat on the co int yo uch shaking his head. I What lt here? Po self. laughed rebelliously, feeling the to Bui warmth of wine that I alw r back al ays feel. Finge your glob t is t c Forge until respe al At the party, drunk gir ls and boys jumped int loc ern o a backyard pool. I watched you dis Conc ected from appear behind the hous r . r s u e s e with your ex-girlfriend, but I held Re ectiv my tongue like I always Persp have. Before the party, I prom ised you I wouldn’t sm oke. But when a boy offered me a cigare tte, I let him light it up for me. After the party, you sm elled the smoke on my clothes. I told you I only had one, bu t you knew I was lying like you always know. On the way home, you slung your arm around me in the backseat of a stranger’s car. I pr omised my dad I would call him if I wasn’t coming home, but I let him worry, lik e I always do.
s on rt ati Sma ers Lindy onv use C 24
Just Like Always
Contentment Samantha Ketner
Bending over and straining her body to reach the game controller hiding under the coffee table, Sarah remembered the time when she promised herself that she would never pick up after her children. You also said your kids would never play video games. Look where that got you. She scanned what she could of the tiny townhouse she and her husband had occupied for nine years. Miserably citified. At least she had convinced him that their loft apartment was no place to raise a baby. She sighed. This was their compromise. They moved into the townhouse when she was about three months pregnant. He had never been exactly careful and she had never been particularly adamant, so here she was with a daily-expanding stomach that paralleled her growing anxiety. Now they had a child when it wanted to arrive, not when they scheduled it. In a rush to settle quickly near work, Sarah’s husband Robert spent way too much for this domestic imitation in a noisy city in an attempt to please his wife. God, all I wanted was a yard. Sarah had never been terribly domestic; she just kind of fell into it. Once at the top of her field, she was now simply the homemaker. She still burnt dinners on occasion and often let the dishes pile up, frequent reminders of her one-noted focus on career. She would have returned to work after the baby, but the thought of
climbing back up just seemed so . . . daunting. Robert broke her train of thought as he closed the door behind himself. Late again, she thought. His quick kiss on Sarah’s cheek left the scent of Chanel No. 5 lingering over her. She’s no cheap whore. It disgusted her that she pored over stain removers in the grocery store, debating which would best remove the makeup smudges from his shirts and help her save face. She couldn’t divorce him, despite his flaws; she couldn’t be responsible for blowing down the house of cards she had wanted to build from brick. Meandering into the kitchen, Sarah mindlessly checked on dinner and set the table. Her eyes wandered to a FedEx package tucked under Robert’s briefcase sitting in the entryway. Curious, she slipped it out and read the label: Smithfield Jewelers. Inside was the most beautiful bracelet, laced with diamonds and other stones that Sarah had only ever dreamed about. At first, her heart jumped; then it sank and tears crept into the corners of her eyes, reality giving her a brutal slap in the face. He had never showered her with this kind of affection, and he certainly wasn’t going to start now. This was hers. She heard clomping footsteps coming from Tyler’s room, so she quickly stuffed the bracelet away as she stuffed away her heartache under her contented façade. Sarah’s son leaped over the last few stairs, gasping a “Hi, Mom” before sprinting to the dinner table. Calling a practiced “Dinner!” up the stairwell to Robert, Sarah kissed her boy on the head and returned to domesticity, returned to her contentment.
On Guard Stephanie Barker
You resemble the Rockies you try to represent. Combating the slowly approaching darkness with light from above, the heavens bathe your grieving back and try to lay to rest your troubles. Shadows mask the crevasse of your steep unyielding mountain range. A river valley flows from your straining neck with a liquid of perseverance.
That neck resting serenely atop the deep cut shadows of reliance. Your shoulders where you carry the weight of existence and that upon which the world depends. Peaks and valleys reveal your contours. Born of action and reaction. Like the ripples and imperfections of sand dunes; hills of power blanket a world of strength, veiled muscles, like creatures in motion, awakening. Your scar, a blemish of harsh reality, protrudes just beneath the raised mark of divinity, your permanent ink defacing the vessel of your soul. Your troubled head above your burdened shoulders. The pedestal of imagination, the throne of knowledge. It dips now in exhaustion, grief and pain. Gravity snatches it, forcing it down to the core of the earth from which it came. The world embodied where your ancestors were once whipped while being chastised. Now the weight you must bear in an un-accepting existence.
Turning your back, smooth as if eroded over ages by the same wind that rustles the hair on the grieving head you hang. Reflecting the ignorance of the world you reject the universe.
Stephanie Barker The days were frenzied and we knew our mother looked forward to night time. She would zip up the pajamas on our wriggling bodies and then listen to the patter we made in our footsies as we raced across the linoleum to the front door to wait for my father to come home. Smelling like aftershave and antiseptics, he would remove his white coat and booties while we waited impatiently for our hugs. Together we would hold up the tattered old book that had been in the family forever. I can remember the darkness peering in at us on our overstuffed brown leather recliner, which snuggled the three of us perfectly together. I recall the sweet bakery smells of candles lit by my mother before she retreated upstairs, giving us our time alone. Pumpkin pies, sugar cookies, gingerbread and cinnamon buns drifting under our noses. The popping of the fireplace was the only other sound besides
the steady, smooth, familiar voice of my father reading of blustery days and what Tiggers do best. Knowing these few short hours were all we had of him, my brother and I, perched on either knee, would listen intently although our eyelids would betray us and droop with fatigue. When the chapter was over weâ€™d whine but receive a kiss on the forehead and in one strong swoop weâ€™d be slung over his sturdy shoulders and carried upstairs to our bedrooms. Once the closets were cleared of monsters, there would be one more kiss, and a buzz from his pocket. Heâ€™d recite his apology, and then he would go back downstairs and put on his white coat.
The sign said twenty as my dashboard screamed fifty. Four more lights turn left then a right I will be home free. Shit, he caught me. Flicking the red and blue lights his sirens Wail, “Pull over.” Yes, sir, no, sir, right here officer, sir. He takes my info and walks back to his car, While I try to figure how I have been so far, Smiling politely and nodding my head. He comes back with my ticket, places a hand on my Car, that dips and shudders. Over the sound of creaking tire axles I can’t hear what he says To me it’s a garble of language in unholy tongues. I’m sorry, sir, but could you repeat that? Now the veins in his arms pulse and the words belch out Boy, do I stutter. Your insurance is expired. Tipped aviators reveal red-orange coals in his sockets, Shiny black boots dig firmly into the asphalt. Yes, sir, sorry, sir, I just made a payment. A mouth full of fire and fangs billows clouds of speech Rebuking me, cursing, putting me in my place. Warning me to do no wrong if I came back around Or he’d see me downtown. Just like that I sat, Alone on the side of the road as his patrol car roared My car creaking and groaning trying to right itself. Yes, officer, I sure will, officer, thank you, officer.
n Er icks on
I try to c my forev breath, b atch u er. Y ou st t it’s gon o e l e it Y pillo ou took from me w, to my . did, b o. I know unde ecause it you ’s r yo not m ur head ine. M quilt is y arou tucked fi nd yo r ml I lay ur body y s as h i v unco e vered ring, , nex you tt taken . You’ve o from every m t nowh e. My de hing fense ere t s are I hav o be fo nake e to offer und. All d y you’v vulnerabi ou is lity, b e tak en th u at, to t o . It’s n ev so sa er been t isfy to be the v ing a rob ictim of bery.
Dehumanize Lindy Smart
I could smile if you want, and I will because I am taught not to blink and to repeat your required words. Please don’t drum your fingers on the table. I swear it was the gunman knocking. I am sure the police are breaking down the door. I could sit still if you want. I am used to waiting all day, until I am told to move or I am forced by a stick, a fist, a paddle. I am patient for my pills. All eight are shoved to the back of my throat. I am allowed a sip from a cardboard cup. I lift my tongue to prove my obedience. I could pose if you want. I know how to cross my arms. I struggled in a straitjacket for hours. I was not permitted to finish my dinner. My wrists and ankles are scarred from the restraints. A constant reminder to not take too long in the shower.
Hazzardous Stephanie Barker
Daisy Duke has discarded her image and her zipper. Those long legs, once as reliable as Dr. Roessner’s paisley ties have become riddled with cellulite and spider veins. Her tight abs now hang loose over her confederate buckle. The voluptuousness has been suckled out of her wilting breasts. Her sinuous sandy curls are now limp and dull - thinning and graying like her nicotine saturated skin. She sits on a torn and stained sofa outside her trailer sucking on unfiltereds. Behind her - countless offspring scream and whine. Her cousins have gone the way of moonshine and General Lee now sits on cinder blocks like a bad advertisement. Her adventures have turned domestic and her days are drowned in despair. Uncle Jesse long gone now - left only his debt and his air conditioner. The one Daisy smashed with a baseball bat after the paternity tests.
I could change if you want. I could put my paper gown back on. You could cut my hair, make me unisex. Nameless, I could be given a number I won’t remember. You could put me on a cot in a hallway and keep me out of your eye-pleasing scenery.
Shadows of Umber & Sienna Esther Claros
Acrylic on wood
Emily Elizabeth Campbell
Acrylic on canvas
I Think He was Right
18: I go upstairs with Chad, a frat boy. The bed has cartoon character sheets. 7: On a first grade field trip, I overhear Craig talk to Mark about sex. I ask my mom what it is when I get home. She explains while teaching me to braid, using the ribbons on the ring-bearer pillow from her wedding. 14: I kiss Blaine in a hotel hot tub. We’re on a church mission trip in Milwaukee. Thirty seconds later, his uncle comes around with a video camera. Later, the tape is shown to everyone in our church. 20: Jay and I drink a fifth of cheap tequila. I tell him we should get married. He shakes his head and tells me I’m ridiculous. 8: During a family dinner, my Uncle John tells me that boys only care about two things: food and sex. I think he was right. 12: I slow dance with Brandon at a Friday night school dance, standing two feet apart from each other. In French class on Monday, three people ask me if he’s my boyfriend. 13: My father discovers that a seventeen-year-old boy has called me. When Dad finds out he informs me that I’m not allowed to talk on the phone for a month. 19: Brian’s girlfriend calls me at 2 am and tells me they’ve been together for three years. I spend the rest of the night in the fetal position on my bedroom floor. I didn’t know she existed. 11: Nathan gives me a tulip during lunchtime and asks me to be his girlfriend. He breaks up with me on the bus-ride home.
14: While vacationing in Scotland, I read Outlander. It’s about a Scottish highlander who would die for the woman he loves. I cry every time I read it.
Don;t Bee blinded Bye Ur Pwn Inteligence Oar Edjucashun John S. Torrelli
eye Right inn this manor to expoze, suttle anoiyances in comon proze. R i jumps to them an feels clever, Superior and grand. But we shood never embrase this fad. Donâ€™t childishly plase urself above others to find blis. Realeyes that we can learn from all, intellects great and intelecks small. Lurn from the aunts, plants and mushrooms; Lern from the birds as they sing there toons. Learn from your ants, cuzins and sibblings. Garbij men and fast food workers bring nollege that snobbs cannot imajin and help us make our own decisions.
Testing Dreams Melissa Pomeroy
“Deep in the mountains, far away.” The voice of Lee’s mother drifted to her on a sleepy wind, just as she was falling asleep, book in hand, at her desk. After hours of studying for an English test that awaited her the next day, barely able to keep her eyes open, she gradually stumbled over to her bed, and within moments was curled tightly within sleep’s grasp. In the midst of sleep a mountain range began to appear, mountains Lee had heard of so many times in bedtime stories. As snowy peaks gave way to let trees and rocks be seen from above, a sudden movement, just south of a cascading waterfall, drew Lee’s attention. Two blurred figures were racing towards the cliff face and the waterfall, rushing, neck and neck, down a rough hewn path, just feet apart. Torn clothes and worn knapsacks swam into view, leaving faces blurred. Both figures tore silently through the wooded path, panting from lack of air, just as trees gave way to the open brook. Both figures, suddenly thrown into the sunlight, charged forward into the stream. They turned towards the falls giving one figure the lead. Unseen behind him, the second figure swept down to grab a
stone from beneath her feet, only to send it flying, in one complete motion, towards the back of her companion. He stumbled and quickly turned away from his goal, charging back towards his adversary, puling a glinting shard of metal out of his pocket as he went. Seconds later, the two collide, the knife disappearing into one of the struggling figures. As the knife is unburied from its target, Lee’s mother steps back, only to fall into the waiting creek. The water wavers, giving way to the carpet growing out of the banks. Walls grow silently out of the forest as trees mold themselves into dressers, two wicker chairs, and the distinctive, carved bed frame that had always been in Lee’s parents’ room. As Lee’s mother struggled on the floor, Lee’s father comes running forward, bat in hand, as if it could stop the bullets that ripped through him as he lunged towards the masked figure in the doorway. Barely a breath later, footsteps resounded down the hall and Lee’s sister appeared around the corner clad in school sweat pants and a t-shirt, squinting for lack of glasses. Lee awoke screaming, the shots that ripped her sister’s life away still ringing in her ears. Lee sat awake, clasping her grandmother’s necklace (given to her at birth), trying desperately to forget the scenes that she had just dreamed. Before she could even recognize the dorm room in front of her, a loud, wail-
ing siren made her jump anxiously as her alarm went off beside her bed. Lee hastily silenced it and climbed out of bed to get ready for class and the illusive test. As she got ready, she cast a jealous eye towards her roommate’s empty bed. Her roommate was already enjoying the spoils of an ended term while Lee was still on campus waiting for the brutal brigade of questions that tried to persuade 15 weeks of knowledge to record itself in two hours. As Lee rushed through the kitchen to grab a cereal bar, she thought about her roommate waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and pancakes. As she was slipping on here shoes the phone began to ring, “Let the answering machine get it,” she mumbled as she blew out the door. * * * “Finally, I just about thought I would have to take this test on my own.” Lee nearly jumped out of her skin before she recognized the smug face stepping out from behind the trees. “You’re in luck. If you had come out earlier you would have been pelted by snowballs!” as Lee rounded the corner she could see James’ wool coat covered in white powder, and the glasses that occasionally covered his sparkling green eyes still had a few lacey flakes clinging to the corners of them. Lee was about to ask why he was wearing them; he usually avoided wearing them at all costs, but she changed her mind. “Who was it this time, or did you run into another tree?” Lee laughed as they started walking towards their class. James made to nudge her off the path as he responded.
“Nope, your neighbors must be celebrating the end of the term; if only we could be so lucky.” “Just one more and we are done too. Then it is home sweet home for the break.” “That reminds me, how are you getting home? Surely your aunt and uncle aren’t driving all the way out here when my car is already heading that way.” “Well, Uncle Dave was going to pick me up tomorrow, but it would be fun to surprise them for once!” As soon as the words left her mouth, she felt the cold penetrate her down coat, and the image of her family lying scattered in their night clothes came swimming back into view, stopping Lee in her place. “Lee, you okay? You look pale.” James walked back the few paces he had walked ahead, grabbed Lee by the elbow and looked straight into her eyes with the piercing stare that made Lee look away. “I’ll be fine, just nervous.” Lee hoped he wouldn’t realize that it wasn’t the test she was worried about. In the past few months odd things had been happening to people she had dreams about. Just last week her best friend broke her arm falling from the top bunk the morning after Lee dreamed she had been in a car accident. Now her parents, who she had to tell people were her aunt and uncle, but it was only a dream. . . . James must not have been convinced, as he kept a firm grip on Lee’s elbow the rest of the way to the exam. Lee was careful not to think about what might be waiting at home as she finished her test, packed her bags and climbed into the passenger seat of James clunky blue Thunderbird.
Counter Clockwise Christmas Finella Annand
No snow had fallen this Christmas in Nairn. Instead, a cold biting fog hung over the terraced council houses. It swallowed most of the drab grey buildings on Queens Road: the street Andrew Mackay lived on. Andrew and his best friend James sat in Andrew’s mother’s house and waited. James pulled the smoke-yellow net curtains to the side for the third time in as many minutes and peered out at the foggy street ahead of him. He pulled a bent cigarette from his pocket and blew a large mushroom of smoke into the boxy living room. Andrew’s German shepherd Boisty jumped up on the door that separated the kitchen from the living room and scrambled frantically at the handle with his paws to escape the polluted air. “Will you bloody calm down and stop looking out that window, you twat,” said Andrew. James pulled the curtain to the side again and aimed a finger of defiance in Andrew’s direction.
“He’s here!” said James. A devilish grin grew across his young face. James stood clapping his hands together like an excited child waiting for Santa to arrive. He had shot up in height this year, growing from a short, chubby sort of boy into a tall, wiry, and rather awkward-looking adolescent. He looked as though he had been forcefully stretched, and his boyish frame hadn’t quite managed to fill out his adult height yet. He was certainly the tallest boy in their year at school. Watching James dance around the living room reminded Andrew of the day he filled his three-year-old nephew’s bottle with Redbull for a laugh. In light of his friend’s hyperactivity Andrew made an informed decision to handle all the dealings with the man outside. “I’ll go,” said Andrew, “give me your tenner.” James handed Andrew his ten-pound note grudgingly, and walked back towards the window. “Stop pouting like a little fucking girl,” said Andrew. “I’ll be back in two.” The door to Percy’s beat-up, neonorange Vauxhall Nova opened with a creak. Andrew closed it softly in the fear that the piece of shit would fall from its rusty hinges if
he dared to slam it. “All right, boy! What can I do for you?” said Percy in his nasal North Eastern twang. “Just eh, a couple of pills, like,” said Andrew. He scratched his nose nervously and kept his head down to avoid Percy’s small twitchy eyes. “If you are going for a couple you may as well take five for twenty-quid, son,” said Percy as his car stalled noisily. “Fucking hell, this Scottish weather would bite the arse off anything.” Percy turned the key three times before his Nova revved back to life. He shifted his small eyes back to Andrew. “All right then, I’ll take five,” said Andrew in the deepest voice he could muster. “Sound,” said Percy. He leaned closer to Andrew and dangled a small plastic bag of white pills in front of his face. His breath smelled of stale beer and cigarettes. “Don’t you boys go taking them all at once now!” Percy let out a small cackle that revealed two rows of thin yellow teeth. Andrew grabbed the bag and ran back into the house. Percy spluttered into the thick fog and disappeared behind a row of grey buildings.
Andrew and James sat and stared at the small bag of white pills on the table. “So, what do we do now?” asked James. “Well, sometimes my brother snorts them, but I think we should just swallow them with water. What ya think?” said Andrew. A glass of water sat beside the bag of snow-white ecstasy tablets. Perhaps snow had fallen in Nairn after all. “Fuck it,” said James. He made a lunge for the pills and gulped two down with a large mouthful of water. Andrew followed suit. “How will we know?” asked James. “My brother said we’ll just fucking know,” replied Andrew. Andrew followed James as he walked clockwise around and arounnd his mother’s coffee table. His jaw was grinding like crazy and small isolated rushes danced across his scalp, but at that moment in time Andrew felt as though everything in the room and in his life was moving in the right direction. “This is fucking amazing!” said James as he trailed his hand across every surface he could find in the room. Andrew did the same and ran his right hand across his mum’s bare
woodchip wall. It softened and reacted to his touch as though it were a cat bucking its back at the touch of its master. “I have an idea,” said Andrew. “Let’s get a sheet of paper and write down everything that’s good in the world.” Andrew scrambled in his kitchen drawers and eventually found an old A-4 size envelope and a felt-tip pen. The pen was running out of ink, but it could get the job done. Andrew placed the envelope on the coffee table. “First, though, we need some direction,” said James. He took the pen from Andrew and drew a spiraling circle on the paper. “Now we can just write whatever we want on the lines of the spiral. It’s like fucking art or something.” The boys walked around and around the table writing words like, ”bicycle,” “biscuits,” and “football,” on their makeshift spiral of positive energy. The smile on Andrew’s broad jaw grew wide, displaying his unusually straight and white teeth. Along with his large blue eyes, and smooth
baby-like skin, they had helped make him the first of his young friends to lose his virginity. All right, it was to his thirty-year-old, alcoholic neighbor, but when you’re young, horny, and bored, who the fuck really cares? “Why don’t we turn the paper round and try writing counter-clockwise,” said Andrew with a grin. “Fucking right, boy,” said James. “You may be ugly but you are fucking smart.” The two boys began to walk the other way and immediately the light in the small room appeared to dim. Jamie took the pen first and printed the word “HUNGER.” Andrew looked at his friend with wide eyes but said nothing. He took the pen and wrote “CLIFF.” The boys continued to walk counterclockwise and continued to write despite the poisonous words that were spilling from the pen. In a hypnotized state they walked faster and faster until they broke into a slow jog. The words
continued to spit from the pen. “WAR.” “FIGHTING.” “SMACK.” The boys were sprinting now and the scrawled black marks of misery covered the envelope. The room was spinning out of control. The bumpy woodchip wallpaper was rippling as though it were alive. The bumps grew and extended into talons. They reached for and grabbed at the boy’s ankles. Andrew tried desperately to wrestle the pen from his buddy’s hand, but James’ long fingers had a firm grip. The light in the room had given way to darkness. The walls were encircling the boys tighter and tighter. “Stop writing, James,” said Andrew. “For fuck sake, stop writing!” “I can’t,” shouted James. “I just can’t.”
Andrew couldn’t contain his panic any longer and dove at James’ ankles bringing himself and his friend crashing to the ground. The pen flew from James’ hand and burst against the wall. The boys lay clutching each other in the darkness of the room. Boisty ran into the back-garden and howled into the dark Nairn night. Andrew sat up and looked at the one remaining pill sitting on the table. His jaw was twitching like crazy and his breath was short and fast. Gradually Andrew’s heartbeat slowed to a normal speed. “So…you wanna’ half that last one?” he said.
Absolution Julie Whan
Bella is a fat name, she told herself as she stood, white and naked, in the middle of Exam Room #1 at the Leonardi Renewal Center. She breathed inward, catching a faint scent of eucalyptus. The doctor and his statuesque assistant stood together, looking at her, assessing the possibilities. She tried to stare back at them, gazing instead at the eggshell blue walls and remembering the confessions she had uttered in this room when it was still the St. Stephen parish rectory. The marble floor was still there, and she could recall kneeling to receive her penance, the smell of incense hanging in the air. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” The doctor’s voice made Bella look up, but he and his assistant were looking past her. She turned to see that they were admiring the framed photo of a pristine brindle greyhound, its head tilted slightly against a soft green background. “Three years, and she hasn’t lost a nanosecond. I think I’ll keep her,” he chuckled. Bella noted that his teeth were perfect, as were those of his partner. The two looked up in unison, their gazes slightly different as they, again, examined her physique. Languid, she thought. Water ballet. It seemed that their every move was pre-planned. “I want to show you Carmen’s pre-surgery photos. You don’t mind, do you, Carmen?” he asked. The woman shook her head, her eyebrows raised in slight amusement. She looked too young to have had any surgery, but Bella felt the need to see flaws in such a perfect woman. The doctor handed a manila folder to Bella, and she opened it, scanning the images of a woman who had obviously given birth some time before. Striations crossed her stomach below
the naval, and there was some residual fat around the hips. This could certainly not have been the model standing before her, but the facial features were quite similar. “Show her what we’ve done, Carmen.” The woman opened her lab coat unabashedly, surprising Bella with a nude body that should certainly have had some scarring, but there was none. Carmen turned in a pirouette, and smiled at her, saying nothing. Does she have a string to pull so she can speak? Bella thought this, but nodded in admiration. Her 20th high school reunion was a few months away, and she wanted to turn heads again, as she had when she was the prom queen. Although slightly rubenesque, she knew she had been a knockout. “Bella, we’re going to fix you,” he said in a paternal voice. She could almost hear the priest assigning her prayers. “Give me the pen, Carmen.” He stepped forward and began circling her problem spots, beginning with the dimpled flesh on her buttocks. Bella felt her face growing warm, imagining what her son might think if he knew where she had been before his soccer game. The marker was cold, and she wondered if it was a permanent ink. No matter. They would probably cut it off, she thought, smiling. “Am I tickling you, Bella? This is the first we’ve seen you smile. I’m glad. Remember, this is a beginning.” He moved closer, whispering in her ear: “The gamma procedure is your key to perfection. No knives anymore, just your approval, and you can put this day behind you.” He held out his hand, accepting some forms from Carmen, who wore no name tag. Was she a nurse? “Just fill this out, and we’ll do the rest. I’m going to step outside while you dress.” His
breath was warm. Carmen had buttoned up her coat, waiting for the next request. She was, indeed, a beautiful woman. He turned one last time to look at Bella, his gaze traveling from her feet up to her face. She felt a slight urge to go to the bathroom. “This will all go away . . . what you have done. No one will ever know,” he smiled. Bella looked at the clock on the wall above the door. There was no second hand. It only made a slight scratch every sixty seconds. She could hear the scratch. Her son’s face suddenly transposed itself over the hands of the clock. Brindle greyhound…..nanoseconds. She shivered. She caught the last flash of his saccharin teeth, detecting fine, dark stains between them; flaws that had not been polished out. Flaws. The doctor was gone.
She turned to Carmen. “I think I’m going to need some time,” she stated, looking into two empty, azure eyes. Carmen said nothing. No one had pulled the string. ************* Bella did not stop at the desk outside. She held the thick packet of unsigned papers in her hand, forcing it through the sleeve of her corduroy L.L. Bean stadium coat. She stood outside, looking at the old rectory: floor number three of St. Stephen parish, where penance was made. She gently knelt on the stone steps, laying the papers down, and looking at her corduroy arms. Carmen would never wear this coat.
A Long Hike in Winter
This soft silence of a grey December amplifies the sounds of my steps on the scattered autumn leaves that litter the trails they make. Their hues of brown and evergreen huddle around mounds of melting snow Clear, cold water splashes, rushing south toward the Susquehanna. shoving sticks and my water bottle back. And I, crouched and shivering, can still feel the sun shining on my hairâ€” telling me that the muddy charcoal colors of this quiet cold see me truly without the hesitation of heat.
Seduction Alissa Mutton
You are A Venus flytrap with a soft, velvet tongue A poison arrow frog with Picasso-painted skin A shard of glass scattering Northern Lights on white walls A stinging, humming bee with a sweet honey-mouth I will not be swallowed. You are A jagged water-colored canyon ledge A dancing cobra with glimmering silver scales A leering tiger with precious, onyx eyes A temperamental ocean with a deep, lullaby mouth
I will not be swallowed.
Stonedhenge Jay Nortman
As the double decker bus got closer to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice a Rastafarian walked around the top level with a joint in his hand and a smile on his face, offering it to everyone. Passengers quickly closed all of the windows as the bus filled with smoke and smiles. I posed for a picture with a German who liked my beard. There were a lot of people inside the stones. It was raining and cold I think a girl named George was flirting with me but I was too busy avoiding the Hare Krishna to notice. The Mexican stand had some good burritos. It was pretty easy to sneak in front of the drunks who were waiting to use the bathrooms. It was cloudy so we couldnâ€™t see the sunrise. I think I saw a dead guy on the way out but I didnâ€™t stay to check. A Chinese guy slept on me on the bus ride back and I slept on a businessman on the train to London. Rush hour in the Underground is fun when you smell like beer and pot.
My entire life has been defined by the love I have had for someone of the shadows, someone unreal. His love is a swirling flood of mad, raging tides that fool you with a calm repose. So, I planted myself on the side of him, hoping to one day feel his tides against me, but when it did, I had no idea the devastation it would cause. As always, I need something from him. Something only he and I know. The futile, desperate attempts at controlling my environment leave only a secret communication of music, a common understanding between us. Our mouths can not say what we need, but we can sway to the distant sounds of what others have said for us. Except, the same music plays in my head, trapping me. I want to hear the music in my head through my ears. My damn head never stops buzzing with the ideas of others. He is the only one who has what I need. It is apparent that I am going to have to swallow my pride and ask for them. I walk slowly to his place, in limbo. The stinging wind pushes my back at a rapid speed that my feet can’t keep stride to. I stumble at his door and wait. Inside, the rotting scent of decay and swarming fruit flies does not subvert me. I am there, with him—he and I, together. So I sit on the couch while he plays his video game—knocking and fighting—reveling in the violence of masculinity. Minutes pass. Does he not notice me? I am here for him, but I am waiting. He loves to watch me wait. (I can see the secret glances out of the corner of his puppy dog eyes.) I am uninterested and tired. I play with my hair. “It’s beautiful,” he says, without moving his eyes
iPsoriteng R e n . a r M l e rric Rach
off his virtual world. “You’ve been growing it for so long.” Yes, I know. It’s mine after all. It’s long enough for him to climb, if he ever came to get me. I could chop it off if he needed rope to swing from tree to tree. So why does he say this? I know why. He knows I’m still waiting. I should have called FEMA long ago. He finally finishes. We go upstairs. He plays a song, something I’ve never heard. I know I should be moved, but I am unable to muster up any emotion other than anger and a desperate need to be understood. I’m angry. I look at him and I hurt. I am a melting glacier with pieces slipping away, causing catastrophic consequences to all around me, when he looks at me. I hate him. The song plays but means nothing. My mind is aflame with a whirlwind of electricity that will not subside. He’s under my skin. That’s where he lives . . . inside me. In my heart and iron lung—he is the muscle in my hand causing me to write. I would cut it off if I had a tool sharper than this pen. I want him out. “I’m not a good writer . . . I wish I were stronger,” he says as he tells me to sit down next to him. I do, of course. “Me too,” I reply, and I really do. He is the highest tip of the tallest mountain. Only the wind gets to feel him. But why doesn’t it just knock him down? “You are different. You have makeup under your eyes.” I don’t want to reply; there is no point. I say nothing. I sit and wait; that’s all I can do. “Why do you hate me?” he asks peering at me with his chocolate eyes. They pierce me; I can feel
a gust of coldness penetrate my bones. It’s quiet as he waits for me to answer. I could say so many things. Nothing will fit. . . . “I struggle with your existence.” It’s true. I can’t live knowing that he’s alive. “I do too,” he says. “I’m the one who has to live with myself.” How hard it must be to be him. Sure, he has to live with himself, but so do I. He’s the hand that feeds me and I want to bite it off. I’m still waiting for the music. Why is he taking so long? I look at him and he at me. The intensity of the things unsaid make the room unbearably hot. I think I am in hell. He looks at me, and for once, seems serious. His caterpillar lips open---what will he say? His girlfriend walks in. He quickly explains why I am there. “She just needed some music,” he says, rushing the explanation out like water to a fire. Her arms quickly embrace and wrap around him like ivy vines. As I watch, he disappears like a brick house under those green leaves. She runs her hands through his greasy hair and complains. She hates it. But I don’t. That hair, its oily shine, is that of a king. The histories of his days are carried in that unwashed hair. Each moment, each idea that comes from his head has permeated every fiber, leaving it full and rich. She doesn’t get it. I’m not sure he does either. She starts telling him something, but I can’t understand. He’s turned the music up so I can’t hear her. He is still going slowly, but now I know it’s on purpose. He grabs the cd’s and starts drawing on the cover “to make it special.” I don’t want it special. Being special means nothing. I feel just like spinning plates, I need it to stop. Special means
nothing to the people with no homes. Every time the words flow like poison from our mouths, the wind screeches and the tides rise, and only he and I remain. I jump up. I’ve had enough, I am leaving. My head is pounding with an intensity that astounds me. A hurricane of electricity swirls inside me; if I were weaker it would control me. I want to be someone else or I’ll explode. I want to run, smash, destroy. But I am standing . . . waiting. I want him to say goodbye. He hugs me with distance. She doesn’t like this. She smiles at me. What a broad, beautiful smile. Her teeth shine; perfect ocean pearls. She wouldn’t be so beautiful if I knocked them out. I grab the cd’s and make my exit. I am floating thanks to the help of the strong wind outside. It carries me with it. From inside of the whirlwind I can see it all from up here, all of our beautiful words surround me and pull me closer to this tumultuous storm, but it makes no difference. I have been in the center of this before, and the wind only changes my angle. It won’t carry me away from him. They are in my hands, these things for which I had to be there in the first place. I see them all; they are mine. This music belongs to me. No, it doesn’t. My head pulsates—I realize that it’s because the chord progressions still resonate in my head. I take the discs out of their cases. Slowly, I snap them into pieces, one by one. I don’t mind my bloody hands, one sharp edge after the other wounding me; I am bleeding him out. Just as the water rises and the wind blows, I realize one day I will be free but the burden of us will remain, because there is no turning your back on a natural disaster.
Emission Nebulae in an Open Cluster Matthew Seifert
Mixed media including modeling paste and acrylic on wood
The Many Faces of Katie Diley Katie Diley
Digital photo manipulation
Speak No Evil Denny Porter
See No Evil
lm a. edi
fo ive disc r bonus ma ract t er e t ial n ei a
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Hear No Evil
The Lumen is Mercyhurst college's annual publication of art and poetry. This is the 2008 edition.