P ACIFIC L UTHERAN U NIVERSITY T AC O M A , W A S H I N G TO N
P ACIFIC L UTHERAN U NIVERSITY T AC O M A , W A S H I N G TO N
Copyright © 2011 Saxifrage Paciﬁc Lutheran University Tacoma, Washington A LL RIGHTS RESERVED
Saxifrage Volume 37
Saxifrage is an annual anthology featuring the work of students, faculty, staff, and alumni from Paciﬁc Lutheran University. A volunteer staff of students selected the work in this edition from a shortlist of 95 works selected by the co-editors from a pool of 355 submissions: 118 literary pieces, 235 visual art pieces, and 2 musical pieces. All pieces were judged anonymously. Saxifrage was created in Abode Indesign CS2, set in Baskerville and Baskerville Old Face, and printed by the Johnson-Cox Printing Company of Tacoma, Washington on postconsumer recycled content papers. Cover art & ﬂysheet, Topography I & Topography II, designed by Jonathan Post.
“A Sort of a Song” by William Carlos Williams, from The Collected Poems: Volume II, 1939–1962, copyright © 1944 by William Carlos Williams. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. “October” by Robert Frost, from A Boy’s Will, 1915. Work is Public Domain, not covered by copyright.
Foreword A list of things to come: a child, night, chariots, a house, a pine, vodka, bombs, friends, Stegosaurus, rice, palabras desconocidas, certainty of night, jewels, a letter, the rooftop, pictures, music, romance of the white oak, water, her cello, lists, the sound of a gun, two worlds, the unseen, perspective, skin, sapphire, darkness, more darkness, and fruit. Here, in this book (as in life), you ďŹ nd what you ďŹ nd as you go. We wish you fruitful travels. B ETHANY N YLANDER & J ONATHAN P OST Saxifra ge 37 Co-Editors
Early Autumn, H ANNA M ARIE G UNDERSON
Night Like This, J EFF S UWAK
The West in Three Modes, D E F E L L I
Regarding the House in Bishop’s Sestina, A L E X A N D R A S M I T H
Vitality, A LLISON L ANSVERK
Broken Bird, A LICIA Z ACHARY -E RICKSON
What I Know, K ENDALL P EPPLE
The Four-Way Stop, F LETCH J OYNER
Muddy, D AVID S T E E L E
Over a Vietnamese Dish, C ORINNE E ASTER
Palabra Soup, C LAIRE E LLEN S MITH
Journal Entry in Terza Rima, M ALLORY S PADARO
The Jewelry Box Abeyance, K RISTIN W ALKER
Marine, K ATIE S CHINNELL
Palpability in Three Parts, K ENDALL P EPPLE
October, M ICHAEL R YAN C LARK
Night Waltz, D AVID M ATLOCK
Pet Crow, E MILY A LGIRE
Cold, CORINNE EASTER
In Transit, M ARK H ENGSTLER
Talks of Home and Travel, H ANNAH H UTCHINS
The Race, J ILL E SCALERA
Conﬂux, R ONALD E VANS M ARTIN -D ENT
On the Young Girl Holding the Garter Snake, A NNA R ASMUSSEN
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Potted Plant, H ANNAH H UTCHINS
Skin White as Snow, K ENDALL P EPPLE
We The Beneﬁciaries, DEFELLI
Shadow, A NNA R ASMUSSEN
Beware of Shadows, A LLISON L ANSVERK
The Crabapples, M ALLORY S PADARO
Contribut or Biographies
A Sort of a Song WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS Let the snake wait under his weed and the writing be of words, slow and quick, sharp to strike, quiet to wait, sleepless. –through metaphor to reconcile the people and the stones. Compose. (No ideas but in things) Invent! Saxifrage is my ﬂower that splits the rocks.
H ANNA M ARIE G UNDERSON I am seven, and I can spell almost every word I know. The leaves make tunnels for me in the backyard woods. Inside I am invisible to all people and sounds are airplanes, scratching, voices, and chainsaws. Sometimes birds ﬂy up close to me if I am quiet. When I move they ﬂy away. I am seven. Mom and Dad have voices that taste like rubber bands. I will sing for you if you want. Under my bed is a secret box of marbles that I found in the garage. Today at school we learned about rhymes which I already knew but couldn’t name. Listen to me. Bird eyes, lies, surprise.
Night Like This J E F F S UWAK
I wake up and know, right away, that it’s going to be one of those nights where I can’t get back to sleep again. One of those nights where I toss and turn in my sheets for hours listening to the broken refrigerator motor drone on incessantly in the kitchen which, in my one-room efﬁciency apartment, is next to my bed. Yeah, one of those awful nights where I lie staring at the streetlight beaming between the slats of my Venetian blinds as I try to logically deduce the meaning of life. As I try and rationalize my way out of loneliness, knowing the whole time that those efforts will only drive me crazy. So, rather than bear the torment of that masochistic introspection, I slip out of bed and into my pants, boots, coat, and step outside. Nothing stirs on the darkened street, nothing in the windows of the apartment buildings or houses. A cold wind rattles the last dead leaves in the trees lining the sidewalk and ﬁlls the night with a sound like rattlesnakes and maracas. Sitcom laughter drifts out from some open window somewhere. Hell probably sounds something like that. No, Hell probably sounds exactly like that. I bury my hands in my coat pockets and start walking. At the end of the block is the Cannonball Tavern. Three girls stand outside the front door smoking cigarettes. I see their type everywhere these days: blonde hair, leather jackets, they like to talk about being bad girls and shopping. They laugh like a pack of hyenas about someone named Mitch’s crooked teeth. I don’t have to ask to know that Mitch is a friend of theirs, and probably a good friend. I could use a drink, but holy shit I don’t want to drink with people like this - these robbers of their own graves. I keep walking. I cross the bridge over the river into air stinking of dead ﬁsh and sludge. The reﬂection of the city lights waver over the black, oily surface of the water like torches of the damned signaling from the shore of some distant netherworld. I stop to look over the rail at the lights, wondering at the world they beckon towards, until a taxi enters the bridge and I turn and keep walking. Just over the bridge is an upscale art gallery. I stop to look at the paintings in the window. An impressionist Paris nightscape, moored yachts at dawn, a golf course shrouded in mist. The pictures are like postcards to countries I can’t afford to go to – and don’t want to. Art like that does nothing for me. All technique and no ﬁre. Not an ounce of guts in any of it. Art for me has always been the broken knuckled hand with dirt caked beneath the ﬁngernails; a battered violin with one string left; wildﬂowers sprouting out of an abandoned boxcar door. I keep walking. Fantasies of a girl roaming through insomniatic streets drift through my mind. Some sleepless, vagabond angel wandering the city like me looking for that beauty that 2
stirs only after the gods of commercial advertising have fallen asleep. That beauty that hides in the shadow, sleeps in the gutter, goes mad and hungry in isolation rather than gets captured and paraded around in a cage, wearing someone else’s suit. But I know, like every sleepless night before, that I will not ﬁnd her. That I will never ﬁnd her. Fog settles over the city. No life but the television lights in the windows. I think of knocking on a door, any door, and telling whoever answers that I am having an existential crisis and need help. Just a cup of coffee and a quick talk, I’ll say. They’ll just call me crazy. Maybe I am crazy, but what does that even mean in the midst of a life guaranteed of nothing but death? I would scream at the absurdity of it all, but what would it even matter? At this very moment, millions of voices are ﬁlling the airwaves and ﬁber optic cables with their problems—what would one more voice drowning in the cacophony matter? It’s funny how every new communication platform leaves me feeling more muted, and every new networking technology more anonymous. In a world of constant connectivity, I feel completely disconnected from the world. I can’t go home alone on a night like this. I’d go out of my head. I keep walking. The streetlights disappear past the houses and shops and I walk in darkness along broken roads into the old industrial district. Miles of abandoned factories stand dead in the starlit mist, the glow of furnace ﬁres extinguished forever from their windows. Rusted smokestacks stand silhouetted against the sky like the ancient monoliths of some ruined civilization. Pigeons - it sounds like thousands of them - coo and chirp and ﬂy around inside the towers, echoing in the empty space like some malignant life left to fester in the bowels of the city’s memory. I imagine the people that once ﬁlled this place, men and women full of love, hope, dignity. All gone now, the fruits of their days forgotten. And nothing has changed, really. Here we are still: working, ﬁghting, praying, making art, making babies, doing everything we can to take a stand against time and proclaim that these moments of our lives mean something. I think of the lives of those people disappearing and can’t help but think about how mine will someday do the same. This night, this walk, this passion and these questions, will someday evaporate as though they had never been. Of course that’s just life, but on a night like this I can’t help but wish that it was not so. I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of all my love and passion disappearing as though it had never been. I don’t ask for anything as grand as heaven. I just want to know that my time in this life, and the time of those I love, means something more than biology. But I’ve been out in the city asking these questions on so many nights like this, and the answers still have not come. Maybe I’m a 3
fool for trying. Maybe wisdom is giving up. I turn the street corner and stop. Standing at the edge of the industrial ruin is an all-night diner with every window lighted. A buzzing neon sign reads The Lighthouse in twenty-foot tall vertical letters. I stand a moment to make sure I’m not hallucinating, cross the street, and walk inside. There is a waitress sitting behind the lunch counter and a man at the bar reading a newspaper. I take a seat and ask for a coffee. The waitress huffs, sets her crossword puzzle aside, and pours me a cup. Her cracked nametag reads Debbie. Frayed red hairs stick out of her head like broken clock springs. She has a faded tattoo of a rose wrapped in barbed wire on her forearm. I smile at her but she doesn’t smile back, doesn’t even look at me, just ﬁlls my cup and saunters back to her seat. I look to the guy reading the newspaper. Medium height, medium build, bland expression, everything about him so dull I feel like I’m forgetting what he looks like even as I’m looking at him. Like a stool or a curtain, he almost isn’t there at all. “Any news?” I ask the stool. “Nope.” “No news is good news, right?” “Nope. All bad news.” Debbie chortles but doesn’t smile or look up from her crossword. I want to grab them by their shirt collars and scream in their faces. Why do people insist on being so goddamn indifferent to each other, to themselves, to life? There’s not enough time to live such a disposable existence. If I’m only here once then I want to be here all the way, to think and feel as deeply as I can, not to scoff and snicker my way through all the ﬁnite days. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I shrug my shoulders like everyone else seems to? I can see time’s signature scrawled into this place, in the cracks of the linoleum ﬂoors, the stains in the porcelain cups, the jagged names carved into the countertop. Time is short and it’s been short since the day I was born. I want to spend mine doing something worthwhile, but I’m not sure what that even means. And I know the waitress and the stool feel the same thing, or have felt it at some time in their lives, but like everyone else they don’t know how to talk about it. Maybe nobody knows how to talk about this empty space or these hungry ghosts, this remorse without memory, the haunted past of our inevitable future, the silence that wakes us up at night. I ﬁnish my coffee in one gulp and motion for another. Debbie gets up and pours and this time I don’t even look at her. I’m tired of trying to ﬁgure things out and tired of being friendly. It’s the easiest thing in the world, really, to turn your eyes ﬂat and retreat from life, to put your passion in some closet of your heart with broken umbrellas and old comic books. This is the dying before death that the poets warned me about, and that’s just ﬁne. One more cup of coffee and I’ll go back home, give up 4
Night Like This| J E F F S UWAK writing and get a job in some corporate ofﬁce somewhere. To hell with all of it. Glancing toward the back of the diner I see a jukebox against the wall. It’s one of those classic models that you don’t see anymore except in movies, a remnant of the age of bunny hops, polka dots, and soda malts. Built like an old Cadillac or a spaceship. Sleek, aerodynamic, ready to explode into outer space, glowing with shades of red, blue, and yellow that don’t even exist, anymore. Shades that were pulled out of production after JFK died. I walk over to the jukebox and run my hands along the cool, chrome sides. I cycle through the songs, ﬂipping across album covers until I ﬁnd Buddy Holly smiling as though he’s been waiting all night for me to show up. I smile back, drop in a quarter, and the music begins. Bopping back to the lunch counter I pull two bills from my pocket like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. “Ten dollars in quarters and a slice of lemon meringue,” I tell Debbie. “Get yourself a slice, too, whatever you want. And him.” Debbie gets up, looks at the money as if it’s up to something, takes it and slides over my quarters and my pie. She takes chocolate for herself. The stool waves her off, hesitates, and asks for cherry cobbler. Everything in the diner seems to brighten. Even the jagged letters carved into the countertop are punctuated by hearts. I take my pie to the jukebox and drop the quarters in. Debbie takes a bite. “Mmm,” she says, “better than sex. Well, better than bad sex, anyway. The best is both at the same time, though.” “Sex and pie?” the stool snickers. “Sex and chocolate.” “At the same time?” “Honey, you haven’t had sex until you’ve had sex and chocolate at the same time. His name was Bruce. We were in the Keys. I don’t remember how I met him, don’t remember what happened to him after that weekend, but I remember that weekend, and that chocolate. He’ll sure as hell never forget. He’s got my name inked on him to make sure he doesn’t.” “He got your name tattooed after just one weekend?” “Honey, one weekend with me and you’d have Debbie tattooed on your ass, too.” She takes a bite and points her fork at him. “And you’d never regret it, either.” We all laugh. I select songs while Debbie tells tales of lovers and chocolates. The stool says his name is Andy. He beats time on the countertop with his fork and shakes his head, “Goddamn, I love that tune.” “Nobody cheats death like Buddy Holly,” I grin. Andy lets out this mad, hooting kind of laugh. Debbie and I both look at him and he freezes, looking surprised that the sound came out of him. Our eyes shift amongst each other and then all of us bust up laughing. It sounds a little mad and 5
Night Like This| J E F F S UWAK hooting, too. We listen to every Buddy song the jukebox plays and then we listen all over again. We take turns telling our stories and all of them seem interesting and important. Three strangers, friends, alive together in The Lighthouse at the heart of the universe. For a moment I can actually feel the earth spinning beneath my feet, the stars spiraling out around me in space, the magic, mystery, the immensity of life. And of course this night must end, and we must all eventually return to our beds where time and death are always waiting, but right now, man, right now I’m laughing while Buddy Holly sings “Rave On”, and “That’ll be the Day” isn’t far behind, and maybe the music can’t last forever, but I’ve got a whole pocket full of quarters and I can make damn sure it lasts a long, long time at least, and on a night like this that’s more than enough, because on a night like this, man, one more song is all I need.
The West in Three Modes DEFELLI D
Chariots came to eliminate the chivalry, to ride across and burn imitators into the sky. Gunpowder moon. RiďŹ‚e barrels smooth. Sometimes birds plummet and fall like severed heads, you can see they fear for the change of colors, that they have gone heavy, have given up, gone awry. It was too wild. This thick west. Somewhere, in the white of eye, at some point along the line, nausea set in, the chariot horse dead, the idea began to turn on its maker, to starve the leaders, to wrinkle and even twist, tortured in its frantic writhing. Nowadays we forget, we cannot hear: you only see remnants of phosphorescence, the ďŹ re sculptures of salmon this interminable divide
Regarding the House in Bishop’s Sestina ALEXANDRA SMITH
How can I reveal myself to you when others write only of almanacs and teakettles? What can a wood stove explain about me? I have never chopped down a tree or lived a single day without the help of electricity. What is there to tell you about my history? There is so much more that I do not know. So when he asked me to write my life down on the page, I panicked. My life was plaid skirts and white collared shirts. At school a nun with a ruler measured skirts from the ground and explained that knee caps exposed are a sin. Explain what is remarkable about that? There were days I couldn’t tell the ﬂoor from a wall, and girls were just lips and backpacks, when time moved in the same way I did, slow and unnoticed. Nothing worth remembering. The life I’d like to have writes itself in the margins. In my home, almanacs explain themselves without consulting wood stoves and grandmothers. Teakettles sing and let birds rest. There, outside my house, water shoots upward when it rains, how a ﬁreﬂy leaps from a
blade of grass. There are chartreuse cupboards, a dog, a rug, an antique chandelier. The bathtub has feet that can walk away when I give the word. The square mirrors explain a beauty I never knew before. There is even a bowl of hard candy and fruit. In my home the books have no dust and the TV has been broken for years. A chime plays Clair de Lune every time there is a visitor at the door, though the porch does not see many faces. Explain why your house feels like a home, even when mine is a dream home—it’s ﬁlled with all the things I want, and yet it’s still empty when there is no child and no tears. Explain.
A LLISON L ANSVERK I have taken the pulse of a tree. A Cascade Mountains’ lodgepole pine. My taxonomy-driven mind immediately cataloged it, noting the ﬂaking bark and paired, twisting needles. It was a pine just like the hundreds still standing around it; but I was drawn to this one because of the audible lub-dub. I gently pressed my two ﬁngers between scaly folds to feel the steady beat which had guided me through the forest moments before. I had been hiking through the woods near Holden Village up in the Cascade Mountains when I ﬁrst heard the noise. There was no destination for my hike; it was only to escape the summer heat on the veiled paths that wound away from the village. The pine-carpeted trail dampened my footsteps and the canopy above shattered afternoon sunlight and laid it in shards on the forest ﬂoor. Nature’s hush, full of chirping insects and slicing bird calls, hugged the very curvature of the trees. Human-made noises—the clamber of voices and whirr of bus engines—faded as I melded into the woods. My ears were primed for squirrel chatter and creaking tree joints, and so when a loud human heartbeat resounded in the forest ahead, my own chest quickly hammered a response. My heart tap danced a painful rhythm across my ribs as adrenaline coursed through my veins. Maybe Poe’s tell-tale heart was hidden under forest instead of ﬂoorboards, my uneasy heart said. But not being one to leave mysteries unsolved, I warily wound on the trail farther and farther away from the village, letting my ears lead me through the trees. Finally, light and sound intensiﬁed as I reached the edge of the forest, which was abruptly interrupted by the ﬂow of Railroad Creek. And there it was. The source of the heartbeat. Nothing more than a fallen tree lying with its great arms splayed into the river’s current; the water pounding through the hollowedout interior was what caused the beat. The surprise that I felt at that moment still stays with me. It sounded just like a heartbeat, and there was something magically weird and intriguing about that. The tree is dead, my analytical, scientiﬁc mind stepped up to assert. What you are witnessing is merely the ordinary cycle of decomposition, a process which occurs shortly after death. Rampant water tore at the bark and needles; they fragmented into ever smaller splinters to be carried away by the ceaseless current. I watched one needle pirouette midair before swooshing down into the frothy current in a spark of extinguished color. From the path, the bark shimmered under the heat’s haze and the water’s ripples. What should have been folds of skin, had this been the humanoid I was expecting, were actually crevices, there to leave a greater surface area for microbial and detrivore to attack. This tree was being consumed from the inside out and from the outside in, the yin and yang of decomposition. In Lady and the Tramp style, these detrivores were 10
consuming the same bark-covered spaghetti noodle, slurping towards a recycled kiss. For a moment I could see through solid wood to where ﬁlamentous hyphae snarled in a tumbling embrace. Simply put, what you observe here is the initial step of decomposition accelerated by the fact that the tree happened to fall half into the water. My store of knowledge, fueled by three years of college biology courses, cut into my musings loudly. This step is characterized by the formation of liquids. And liquid did seep out of deep lacerations in the great pine’s belly trickling down to join the gush of the river. The tree was bleeding out. The second step, discriminated by the production of vapors, was yet to begin. And though I knew in biology terms that this step was merely the ﬁnal release of gasses, I imagined it as the tree’s last breath: its ﬁnal sigh as the last of the carbon dioxide is pushed from lungs to space by a woody diaphragm in an ever permeating slow motion ahhhh. As my breath went out with the tree’s, reality rushed in to ﬁll the void. The pulse continued but there was no buried heart, no concealed murder, nobody to help. Therefore, no need to linger. And yet. Persistent images of a living body bleeding out, emanating its last sigh, spurred my feet to action. My ﬁrst aid training from previous years kicked in, though it had not ever been applied to nature: wilderness ﬁrst response, nevertheless, seemed like a natural thing. Check for a pulse. Check for breathing. Check for spinal injury. And so I did. Why was I so concerned with checking the vitality of a fallen tree? The throb reverberated up my arm and my ﬁngers came away tingling. 70 beats per minute. A good resting heart rate. A good resting heart rate even though the tree lay in the kind of permanent rest that comes with wrenched roots and rent branches. Phloem veins no longer carried life-giving sugary sucrose to roots and leaves. So it was only water pulsing through its scoured veins that thudded the rhythm. I rested my hands on the expanse and hoisted myself up. I laid out fully across the fallen chest, still faintly warm from the late-afternoon sun, giving it even more of the illusion of life. Wood ﬁbers wedged beneath my nails as I curled my toes. A bit of peeling bark rasped at my cheek as I leaned in close. Wincing, I touched my hand to the spot, raw. I wrapped my arms down around the waxy and callused barreled chest. The heady scent of pine and earth pierced to the center of my brain, leaving my eyes tingling. Pressing my torso to the pine’s wide chest, the tree’s heartbeat mingled with my own until I imagined blood and sap fusing and ﬂowing through one entity. Soon, like sleeping lovers, my amped heart rate slowed to match the pulse of my companion’s, until I could no longer distinguish one staccatoed dyad from the other. The watery thumps shook the whole pine beneath me. My toes, stomach, and cheek all vibrated 11
Vitality|A LLISON L ANSVERK with the tree’s cadence. My inner ear, a place touched only by secrets, hummed softly. My reveries ended as my neck tingled from a presence I felt behind me. Warily I glanced up and around to see who had chanced upon us. Standing erect like sentries, the real living trees stood vigil for their fallen comrade. But their watchful poise was conﬁned to the edge of the forest. None of them had pushed the boundary of their ﬂank to throw themselves on their companion. None of them had rushed to check for a pulse that they did not have. But, though unlike my tree they gave no audible assertion of vitality, they were alive. So why was I not wrapping my arms around one of them in an attempt to experience a life force? Why was I pining for something less tangible? Why was I embracing a metaphor of vitality, a metaphor of a living tree when I was surrounded by a whole forest? I gripped the bark beneath my ﬁngers, no longer warm like the brush of skin. Isn’t this what it always comes down to for me? I am forever being harassed on one side by scientiﬁc knowledge and the other by metaphors. A constant war rages on in my mind. An internal battle between science and imagination: a regiment of facts and ﬁgures on one side facing off with a brigade of pink dragons. Whenever I tell people that I am a double major in biology and creative nonﬁction writing I get the “oh that’s an interesting combination,” to which I inevitably reply, “I like to balance the two sides of my brain.” But really, what if the fact that I can’t ever give control over to one side or the other prevents me from being in equilibrium? Both sides pull on the reigns in my head, and everyone who has seen wild horses knows that no one wants to be tied between two going opposite ways. And so to stop my brain from ﬁssuring I wrapped my arms tightly around the trunk to anchor myself. Because the scaly bark that nipped at my knee caps and the pulse that knocked against my chin hailed to both science and metaphor. It was something in the middle, something that balanced tenuously on the equator between the two poles of my brain. Scientiﬁc knowledge and imagination pushed in on either side—detrivores assisting in the decomposition of the longitudinal ﬁssure that separated the two hemispheres of my brain. In my mind’s eye, the deep groove of the ﬁssure, which had the scaly contours of my tree, opened as the two sides merged and synapses sparked in greeting. Clearly there is elegance and truth in the combination of science and metaphor. Sometimes I ﬁnd myself working too hard to ﬁgure out which side of my brain deserves more attention, when really it’s enough to give into the synaptic ﬁrings and musings of both. And so once again I released my tensed lungs and my breath rushed out with the tree’s. There was still tension, but the taut ﬁbers in my mind allowed for fathomless chords of music. It was enough to lie hugging the tree and let sap and blood, bark and skin, science and metaphor fuse as the two sides of my hyphaed brain entwined in an electrical embrace. 12
A LICIA Z ACHARY -E RICKSON I remember Grandma Carol’s Elegant drags on her Virginia Slims all day, Wishing me goodnight with minty breath. Smoke would curl out of her nostrils Like tendrils of decaying elegance, A relic of an Edith Piaf era— “Non, rien de rien, je ne regrette rien.” A dash of red lipstick on thinning lips And she is ready to face the world. I brush her white silk curls and she softens And melts like a young girl. Brittle bones shift under a once ample Frame. Like a restless bird under the eaves Of Notre Dame, she yearns to take ﬂight Away from a sick body and unrequited love. Instead she ﬁnds solace in the clink of ice cubes In a tangy glass of vodka. When the pearls of her ovaries Dissolved in vinegar And she breathed one last choked Breath, my heart dove— A Parisian pigeon With two broken wings.
What I Know K ENDALL P EPPLE
I know there are places where the bomb is God, where the fathers give the bombs to the mothers and the mothers give their lives to the bombs while their children pretend to pretend that pebbles are bullets and ﬁngers are guns. They know the black smoke with ﬁre but none without. I know gray dusts without the hot curls of citrus hair, the anemic green concrete of power plants resting on riverbanks, the paper mills regurgitating reek and white clouds endlessly cloned, and Mount Saint Helens on the history channel spitting out the sulfuric chalk of earth. I know billions imbibe the new Lethe and nepenthes, taught to thrive off of the sorrows forgotten. I know that I have grown up with America from a lost childhood, pretending that death is not here with us and that our prisons hold it in. We stay lost because we know and fear the truth. We stare at black smoke and blood-red buildings that melt to the ground, sometimes facing facts; the world is an adolescent with the sun in one hand and a ﬁrecracker in the other, waiting for a solar ﬂare to reach the wick so that they can toss it into themselves with a smile, laughing as it cracks. Maybe that is why I am a pyromaniac in July, smiling as I lob ﬁrecrackers onto a giant hill of ants. Even when I was younger, I shot squirrels, birds,
and cans with the Red Ryder BB gun I got from Dad on my ninth Christmas. When those kids get their bombs, will they be wrapped in prismatic woven cloth or glowing paper gilded with pictures of polar bears and evergreens? Will their fathers give them their gifts because their mothers lay dismembered at the gates of an embassy? Now, I know I still sit behind those soldiers on my television set, pressing buttons as if I were the modern American military man killing from his computer screen. But I know my losses are virtual in video games, where, countlessly, I have strewn about the limbs of my compatriots on pixilated pavement, you know, reenacted every war. So, surely I know that there is something missing when those children dream of ash while others dream of Christmas morning snow.
The Four-Way Stop F L E T C H J OYNER
“Let’s go eat somewhere.” Nathan tried a new tactic to persuade his mother not to make him return for the last hour of school. She was driving him back from the doctor’s ofﬁce in Denton, the nearest sign of civilization. They turned off Interstate 35 onto the long two-lane road that steadily inclined past dead grass and cattle until it reached Krum, Texas. “The doctor said you can’t eat until after three.” She wasn’t buying his negotiations. “Plus, you can’t miss getting your homework for the weekend.” He avoided her eyes and looked to the top of the hill. The abandoned grain silo greeted their return, a monument to a town with so few people that it had almost ceased to exist on at least one occasion. “We don’t have homework on the weekends.” “That so?” She raised an eyebrow at him. “Well, besides homework, you have to see if you made the talent show. Aren’t you excited about that?” “I doubt I made it.” Nathan pulled at the folds of his Smashing Pumpkins shirt. Silver letters across the front of a black background read ZERO, with a single star underneath. He did not think of the irony it labeled him with. Instead it made him think that learning how to play the guitar for the talent show would have been much cooler than his current stringed instrument, the violin. Last week he had stood trembling in front of a table of teachers from the different art departments playing Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major.” Though the art department of Krum Middle School seemed impressed by his rendition, he knew his peers could care less about dead, wigwearing German composers. Nathan’s mother pulled up to the four-way stop that made up the center of the town. Krum was the only town where you could say the four-way stop with no confusion as to the exact location you referred to. To the left was the one video store with its single copies of last year’s blockbusters. Straight ahead, more hot dirt and cows. They took the only other remaining option, turning right to pass the one convenience store for the town and the chamber of commerce. In no time at all, they arrived at the combination middle school/high school. It was arranged in a V shape - with one wing each for the divisions normally housed in separate buildings in any other town. “Dad and I should be home around six, so you’ll need to walk today.” She handed him a ﬁve through the window. “You can stop and get a snack on the way home.” She winked at him. “Love you, hon’.” Nathan took the ﬁve and shoved it in his jeans’ pocket. As he pulled up the strap on his violin’s gig-bag over his shoulder, he scanned for onlookers. No one 16
was around since it was the middle of the day, but he could almost hear new insults. Something about his glasses, or his violin, or that he didn’t constantly make his mother out to be an incompetent fascist as his peers so often did with their own. Sure she could be embarrassing sometimes, but she was his mom after all. The coast was clear, “Love you too, Mom.” His mumble was almost inaudible. Feeling no rush to get to his last class of the day, Nathan took his time sauntering to the bulletin board outside the band room, waiting to receive the bad news about the talent show. Not making it wouldn’t surprise him. His soccer team through elementary school only won a game a year. He never made it past yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do. And he had only attended one school dance; it was spent sitting at a table waiting for a slow dance offer while he drank punch until his stomach hurt. The memories blurred from one to the next, weighing him down as he looked at the list of those who had made it in. Nathan Alexander. There it was, right in the middle of the divas, the dance troupes, and the acting monologues. He wiped his thick glasses off on his t-shirt and glanced a second time. He wanted to take the list home and hang it on his wall. He knew he would practice every day until the show to make sure it was perfect. No more fooling around and playing along with his parents’ records when bored at home. He made his way to sixth period to daydream about the girls in the dance troupe backstage, telling him how well he had played his violin before they went on. Math was the last thing on his mind this day. ... Usually the afterschool crowd at McLemore’s Market was thick with kids. Middle schoolers picked up cold sodas to try to beat the merciless summer heat while sophomores tried to get anyone over eighteen to buy them some smokes. Nathan seemed to have beaten them there today as he went down the aisles of white metal shelving, picking out a snack. Amidst the smell of cheap hot dogs revolving for hours at a time, an older man in a plaid shirt thumbed through truck magazines with bikini girls. The man didn’t seem too interested in the trucks. The magazine voyeur seemed to be the only other person in the store until Nathan heard someone coming out from the restrooms near the door. Ashley, the only black girl in the middle school, made 17
her way quickly to the door. She said a quiet, simple thank you to the man behind the counter, gave a quick glance at Nathan, and then headed out the door. She was tall, taller than most of the boys in the grade and had a thick frame all around. She stood out at school no matter what she did to counteract it, being one of two black kids at the school and the only girl one. Nathan had always noticed the Prince t-shirt she wore. It was white with Prince straddling a maroon motorcycle from Purple Rain. He knew the album cover from his parents’ records that he listened to when they weren’t home. He had picked out a few melodies from it on his violin now and then. Ashley had the Prince shirt on earlier that day, but now it peeked out from underneath the coveralls she wore in shop class. Nathan would pass the shop on his way to band and see her, the only girl amongst all the boys, chopping wood and nailing things together. He worried she must be baking in the heat outside wearing coveralls home. Nathan took his Cheetos and twenty ounce Sprite up to the counter. Behind him he heard the bells on the door jingle followed by familiar, grating voices. “Master Nate! Saw you made the talent show.” Darby Roberts announced his presence, followed in from the heat by two other boys from his grade that clung to his acceptance. “Hope you aren’t before our group, stinkin’ up the stage.” He was the pretty-boy son of one of the few wealthy families in town. This enabled him to buy the authentically licensed NBA jerseys, not the cheap knock-offs. He wore these tucked into hundred dollar or more jeans, topped off by a confederate ﬂag belt buckle that read “Heritage, not Hate.” No matter how much Nathan tried to avoid him, Darby always seemed to ﬁnd a way to track him down and make him feel like nothing. “Why are you always followin’ me ‘round Nate? You got a crush on me or something?” Darby and his followers stood between Nathan and the door, blocking his escape to freedom. He tried to squeeze past them without saying anything that would egg them on further. They wouldn’t let that happen. Darby moved conveniently as Nathan’s arm passed, causing it to graze dangerously close to his crotch and the awful belt buckle. “Did you see that? He just tried to grab my junk!” he yelled. Darby took the excuse to push Nathan into the door. His forehead hit the glass as he fumbled for the handle to pull the door towards him and escape. He started his walk home. Darby and his companions were probably on their BMX bikes on the main roads, so Nathan took a short cut across a gravel path. The path went under an overhang of dried out trees before intersecting with the block that led up to his house. The sun beat down on his black t-shirt in the early May heat. He took a minute to cool off under the limited shade of the dried out trees. They hung over and connected, making a little sort of archway. Walking through it when he was younger he imagined it being a passageway into another world, a better world 18
The Four-Way Stop| F L E T C H J OYNER where people talked to him at school and reacted to his drawings of monsters and superheroes with oohs and aahs, instead of crumpling them up and stepping on them. The other side would always disappoint, just revealing the last of the gravel road and the paved block leading up to his neighborhood. As he had anticipated, on the paved road up ahead were Darby and his other two friends on their fancy bikes. He had made the right choice. But someone else was with them. The boys circled like hyenas around a ﬁgure at the center that had their full attention. Nathan abandoned his safe spot to see what was happening. Ashley was at the center of them, trying her hardest to ignore the pubescent testosterone whirlwind around her. He could see that they were saying things to her. He couldn’t hear what it was yet, but ﬁgured it couldn’t be good. They were relentless as she stared ahead, trying to walk as swiftly as she could. They dismounted and began to walk their bikes alongside her with their backs to Nathan. As he got closer he started hearing the things they said to her. Besides using names for girls and black people that Nathan’s mom had told him never, ever to say, he could hear them asking repeatedly why she was wearing coveralls now and why she left class early today. Ashley remained silent and continued to walk on quickly, but Chris, one of Darby’s trainees, was proving himself by getting closer and closer to her face, interlacing his other slurs with something about a time of the month. Nathan wanted to do something, but he knew he was half the size of all three guys. He wrapped one sweaty hand around his own bicep, noticing his ﬁngers could almost touch. His pulse quickened as he looked up at Chris shouting and grabbing at Ashley’s coveralls. “You shouldn’t even be in shop class, shouldn’t be wearing these. Whatcha’ got underneath?” Chris grabbed at her violently. Ashley tried to jerk away from him, but as he leaned in, her shoulder caught his jaw. The other two boys thought it had been intentional and went after her. Nathan started running forward as Darby grabbed a hold of Ashley’s hair. He grabbed his gig-bag housing his violin from off his shoulder. Without time to think more about it, the instrument met Darby’s face with a tingle in Nathan’s hands like he had just gone to bat. He didn’t know he had it in him, maybe didn’t want to. Something just kicked in. The violin case hit the ground as his trembling ﬁngers lost hold of it, spilling the violin onto the ground. He looked up to see Darby holding a bloodied nose. Little splatters were on his jersey and his confederate belt-buckle. The look on his face was a mix of fury and confused panic. Chris was already scrambling for his bike, holding his jaw, making for a retreat. Darby began scrambling for his own bike as the third boy in their group looked on in terror, knowing that this was not how things usually went. He pushed Nathan over and started heading the other direction with the other two following shortly behind him. Pulling up the rear, Darby gave a scowl back to Nathan before running his tire over the neck of the violin as he sped 19
away. Nathan sat in the dirt, the awful snap ringing in his ears, unable to take in all that had just happened. It was a blur to him. He stumbled to his feet as tears already began to escape from his eyes. His heart felt like a locomotive in his chest. A scrape on his elbow was already beginning to sting. He didn’t know what had just happened, so he continued to act on impulse. He ran. Tears were now streaming freely down his face until he could taste the salt in his mouth. He turned his head back once to see Ashley standing up and watching in concern as Nathan went full speed towards his house. He just kept running. The trouble he was in went through his mind - what his parents would say, what Darby would likely do next time he saw him - but the violin did not cross his mind until he reached his porch, panting and heaving from exertion. Tears began all over again as he realized that his chances at the talent show were gone. He sat there on the porch, covered in tears and dirt until he saw his mom’s Jeep Cherokee pull up into the driveway. He didn’t realize how much time had past, and suddenly realized that it was too late to hide the mess that he looked like. “Nathan, what happened?” She walked quickly up to his spot on the porch and put the denim jacket she was carrying around him. He shrugged it off since it was the beginning of May and in the nineties outside. She sat down beside him and started to clean him off with a tissue. He told her through sobs what had happened, waiting for her to tell him how disappointed she was. He looked up at her with snot all over his face, waiting for a lecture. “I’m sorry that had to happen,” she said instead. “But next time try to use your ﬁst instead of your only violin.” She gave him a cheesy grin and held a tissue up to his nose to blow. Once Nathan calmed down a bit, they got in the car and headed back to where everything had happened to see if they could ﬁnd the violin. It was nowhere to be found. Nathan’s mother did not seem nearly as upset about it as he was. “That thing was a piece of junk anyway, Nate. You’re getting a new one in the fall. Well, once we save up the last of the money for it.” She had gotten the violin as a starter instrument for him from her brother, Nathan’s Uncle Kevin. He owned a family bar and grill in Fort Worth that had random trinkets and items on the wall as décor. When the place turned a lot more sports bar and a lot less family grill, a lot of the trinkets got taken down. Among the items was an old violin that his mother had snatched up, knowing that Nathan had a growing interest in music. After a few alterations to the bridge piece and a new tuning peg, it was playable, though no Stradivarius. Once they saw that he was taking it seriously, Nathan’s mom and dad started saving up to get him a decent one. “The talent show is next Friday, Mom,” he hung his head in his hands. “There will probably be another one in the fall.” She tried to console him. 20
The Four-Way Stop| F L E T C H J OYNER “You will have a nice new violin by then.” “You don’t get it, Mom. This was it, my one chance. I don’t know how to play the guitar, or sing, or dance. It was just going to be ugly, weird me onstage with my ugly, weird violin.” Even though the violin wasn’t much to speak of, Nathan had felt a kinship with it. “I’m done. I don’t want a new violin.” He sat there in silence hoping that she would not bring it up anymore. ... The next week at school, Nathan laid low. Mom had called Darby and the other boys’ parents, but had to back down because they received conﬂicting stories from their sons, and the only hard evidence obtained was the damage Nathan had done. He had tried to avoid them and was successful for the most part other than one day when he entered the boys’ restroom to ﬁnd Darby harassing a Hispanic boy. Darby looked up when Nathan entered the room and stopped what he was saying to his latest victim. Normally he would shove Nathan or bump his shoulder on the way out, but this time he just adjusted his belt buckle with two hands, thrusting his shoulders forward as much as possible and simply gave his toughest, “What?” Nathan knew it wasn’t a guarantee of hands-off treatment by any means, but he took what he could get and went to ﬁnd another bathroom. He passed by Ashley once in the hallway. They were on opposite sides of a large group of people and he tried not to make eye contact. He felt ashamed for running away. She did not see him as he ducked into his classroom. All week, on his way to the band room, he peeked into the shop as he passed and saw her working. She had on her Prince shirt again with a shop apron, hard at work on something with the shop teacher, Mr. Levy. Everyday that week she and the teacher looked to be hard at work on something. She seemed to be doing well enough. Nathan wanted to make sure but didn’t feel like he had the right, so he continued on with his week, passing through the halls as a specter, waiting to get past Friday and the talent show. He had gotten so close to being on the stage. He just wanted the day to come and go as soon as possible. When Friday did arrive Nathan tried to fake sick so he didn’t have to go to school, but his mom didn’t buy it. She dropped him off in front of the school, the same as always. “Hon’, if you change your mind and want to stay after to watch the talent show, just give me a call and I can pick you up later tonight.” She scratched at the back of his hair and tried to encourage him with a smile. “Thanks Mom. I’ll see you at home.” Nathan headed for his locker to start counting down the minutes until he could get out of the school and go hide in his room again, unknown and invisible. He thought he might put on a record, something 21
slow and moody, and just lay on the ﬂoor. He wore a plain white shirt and gray pants, hoping to blend in with the walls and make it through the day. He crept down the hallway as the girls in the dance troupe passed him. They were already in heavy stage make-up. Their mothers must have had them up early primping this morning, anticipating their big moment later that night. Nathan approached his locker and noticed his combination lock was missing. The backlash must ﬁnally have come, he thought to himself as he wearily opened the locker, expecting any number of smells, awful sights, or creatures to meet him inside. Instead, sitting atop his books and papers, was the black gig-bag for his violin. He pulled it out and held it in his hands. He slowly unzipped the bag expecting the violin to fall to pieces, but there it was, all in one piece. Well, sort of. There were scratches and dings, but where the neck connected to the body he saw the remnants of a messy wood glue job and screw holes that had been started, but then abandoned. The strings were put back loosely and out of tune, but it was whole again. Out of the case a piece of paper fell to his feet. There are other ways to ﬁght. I hope this still works. Ashley. P.S. Sorry about your lock. Nathan looked down into his locker at his combination lock. It looked like it had been cut or pried open. He put the note in his pocket, and took off with the violin to the practice rooms of the band hall. ... Nathan stood with his patched together violin offstage watching Darby and his crew lip-sync to a rap song while wearing tank tops and matching, colorful pants. They were working the crowd and dancing inappropriately close to girls that were swooning over them in the front rows. The faculty were wrapped up in the performance too and didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Nathan waited for his turn to go on as the girls in the dance troupe argued with their sequined costumes and primped bangs, oblivious of him. The crowd erupted into cheers as the music stopped and Darby and his group exited the stage. They took little notice of Nathan as they jumped up and down and ﬁst-pumped the air, feeling their victory was secure. Nathan headed out onto the stage. He was announced by Ms. Turner, the band instructor. She had always been kind to him and helped give him tips to make his playing better. Ms. Turner looked down in concern at the sad looking violin and asked him politely if he was ready. 22
The Four-Way Stop| F L E T C H J OYNER Nathan nodded he was. Ms. Turner adjusted the microphone and left him with a polite applause and an empty stage. Nathan looked out over the auditorium that doubled as a cafeteria. It was the center point where the V that made up the school came together. There were four different white and blue levels with tables that made up an auditorium type seating. He pulled the violin up to his chin to start the beginning notes of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D major”. As the ﬁrst notes came out he looked across the audience. His mother looked on proudly. He saw a few of his teachers looking on intently. He had struggled all afternoon to get the violin to stay in tune. He had gotten it close, but all that the instrument had gone through recently affected the sound dramatically. Between the sad state of the violin and having little practice for the last week, off-notes began to intermittently ﬁll the air. He saw a few classmates follow the notes with cringes while they talked and didn’t really pay attention to him. Another wrong note. Under the blazing heat of the lights, he could feel sweat dripping down towards his eye. He tried to blink it off. As he did so he saw Ashley standing on the top level of the auditorium in the back, leaning on the rail. She had on her coveralls but the Prince shirt was poking out where it wasn’t zipped all the way up. Nathan began to panic as he realized he was reaching a part in the music that he couldn’t remember and he hit another off note. He could feel more sweat pouring on. A week off from practicing was meeting his nerves halfway, sabotaging his performance. He looked back up at Ashley and she met his gaze from beneath a Detroit Tigers hat. She put on white framed glasses calmly and looked on intently. As Nathan came to the part in the music that he could not remember, he felt a sudden wave of calm hit him. He was never going to win this talent show, the girls in the dance troupe were never going to look at him longingly, and he wasn’t even sure if he would ever get out of this town. This was just a seventh grade talent show. At the end of his main theme he launched into the upbeat string part of “Take Me With U” by Prince, at least as much of it as he could remember from playing along a few times. As little as he remembered of Pachelbel, he remembered this even less and it sounded worse. He ran out of what he knew from that and started to play as much of “Purple Rain” as he could remember. He kept playing the dramatic ballad until faculty members started waving him off of the stage fervently. Their gaze was like the cane in vaudeville, pulling him off stage. It was worth it as he looked up and saw the ﬁrst smile he had ever seen on Ashley’s face as she just kept on laughing. They had found their intersection, and that day, they were the beautiful ones.
D AVID S T E E L E Recall how water swims through peaches, how a thousand rusts worship simple becoming on their skin. Simplicity in rope swings. Life coming in handfuls, each cupped in the chop of late afternoon glare on the lake. You feel as if the potholes are swimable, that you ﬁnally can ﬁnd the quiet erosion of splash, splash, that it does carve, anyway. No one around to snap for or on or against, no sales tax on her smile. Leaning into the headache leads nowhere, so you grab the beer that you know will make it worse, thinking “Muddy road, splash of a tire, incense in the spot of sun cooking rain from the ferns.”
Green ferns. Patient in their green. Green with a DNA that once saw the dinosaurs through a muggy humidity. Brontosaur of a headache. Stegosaurus, stegosaur with crash cymbals. Splash. Swear you can see, see the gold disks swim up from the beerâ€™s bottom, and there the poem ďŹ‚ops down exhausted, grateful, wishing for the headache to stomp away, just to lie in the sun on the rug.
Over a Vietnamese Dish C ORINNE E ASTER
Her chopsticks demand a wide berth as they dart around the small, black bowl ﬂecked with rice. They snap together over a dish, picking and discarding everything she dislikes. Her authentic ways are visible in the speed she clacks the wooden eating utensils together. Her hands and words mimic the motions. Open and up in the air with playful sarcasm and wit, down and clasped tightly when she complains. She eats her rice with a little bit of everything— only a little white peeks through all of the mint leaves, soy sauce, and shrimp. I watch the chopsticks ﬂy around the table, plate to plate, into the air and back again, while a fork sits heavy in my pale hand.
CLAIRE ELLEN SMITH My host mamá carefully places una bowl de alphabet soup en el plastic tablecloth. Sopa de ﬁdeo with letras que se mezclan. A chaos of consonants. Una locura de letras. Is this soup in inglés o Spanish? I want to preguntarle, But no sé que harría with la respuesta. To my hermanitos no les importa the tongue of the sopa. They sink in their cucharas y unabashedly slurp the salty caldo, Slopping oily partitas de understanding all over la mesa. Miranda is telling me que aprendió en la school today – Los colores in English. But con la sopa esloshing en her mexicana mouth, She may as well hablar japonés. Mauricio is llevando sus shorts de Bob Esponja Y babbling excitedly about Krismas. Valeria purses her labios to mostrarnos que sexy es su make-up. En la tele, there are noticias de un boicot in Washington, y Commercials for Coca-Cola Zero. Y el ringtone de mi host mom ́s celular Es una canción by los Jonas Brothers. As I lift the cuchara de mixed-up sopa to my boca, Me parece heavy with potential palabras desconocidas. The salty letras mull around en mi boca. Mi tongue escoge its own palabras.
Journal Entry in Terza Rima M ALLORY S PADARO
Last night I left work in a bad mood because my boss kept me an hour late. Then there was no food in the house so I went to the store for canned soup, bread, and a magazine with a teen mom on the cover— something about the glossy sheen of the pages made me feel a bit better. Lately I’ve been picking under my nails with a razor blade or sometimes the tip of a pencil and my sister says I remind her of a crazy person. I think I am a little crazy, to be honest. Today I bought a hot sandwich and an oatmeal stout at the Rosewood Café, which isn’t too irregular, I guess, but then the alcohol got all the gray
in my life looking somehow fresh. When the waiter asked if I wanted another I said yes, and then yes again. So I was three beers deep, thinking it might be sensible to try alcoholism as an exterior manifestation of my pathology. And what’s that thing I kept thinking as I walked to the grocery store to sober up? It was something about wanting my life in a knot. So maybe it’s all just conditioning that makes me look at this sunset— or anything else that’s pretty and good— and see only the certainty of night.
The Jewelry Box Abeyance K RISTIN W ALKER
By the time I moved from Kennewick, Massachusetts to Peoria, Illinois for college, the jewelry box moved into the crawlspace. And after all these years, my mother’s jewelry box and its contents still remain in the basement collecting a veil of dust. It has stayed there because I don’t know where else to put it. The jewelry box was placed in the crawlspace not because I didn’t understand its meaning, but because I don’t know how to deal with it. At twenty-six, there is still suspension on my processing of its contents. I have found that there is a word for this - a word I ﬁrst learned while working in university archives at Peoria. Abeyance: delayed understanding or processing. In the archives, we would write “abeyance” on the boxes of acid-free ﬁle folders when we did not have enough information to process or place the boxes in their proper location yet. When I got the jewelry box, I had subconsciously labeled it “abeyance,” and for years kept myself from thinking about it. I was six years old then, and had purposely hid it away on the top shelf of my closet where I couldn’t reach it. Ironic, because at ﬁve I thought my life would be complete if only I had my mother’s jewelry box in my hands. This desire to hold it started when I ﬁrst saw the jewelry box through a crack in the door at our home in Kennewick. The town was located three hours east of Boston. We lived on a street of townhouses. Ours was the blue one - the dark, navy blue one. My parents’ and my bedroom were both on the second ﬂoor with a long hallway in between. The hallway’s carpet was soft and I would lie on the carpet outside of my parents’ door hoping to be let in. On this particular night the door hadn’t been shut all the way, a mistake on my father’s part. Lying on the ﬂoor coloring a cat that the babysitter had drawn for me, I noticed the diagonal, sharp yellow line of warning light that now ran across the carpet. I wasn’t allowed to go into my parent’s room, per my mother’s rule. Although sometimes my father would let me go and lie on the ﬂoor while my mother was away. Mother didn’t like to be home at nights; she was always home in the day. On nights when Mom was gone and my father was on-call, he would let me into the room to watch Westerns with him. Lying on the bed watching TV, his eyes squinted so I couldn’t tell if he was asleep or awake. He looked like Clint Eastwood. For the longest time I thought my father was in the movie that I now know to be The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. On that particular night, I wasn’t allowed in, because my mother was behind the door. Curiosity led me to following the line of light to the crack of the door. It was just large enough for the width of a single eye, my eye. I saw my mother, wearing a tight, strapless yellow ball gown preparing for a gala. It was for a hospital event. It was 30
always a hospital event which required the attendance of my father, the cardiologist, and his lovely wife. Even at ﬁve, I knew my mother was lovely. Her lips were always the red of an apple. I had once tried to rub a watermelon ﬂavored sucker over my lips to make them as red as hers, with no success. She also had high cheekbones, which I could trace the lines of to her nose. Her hair was auburn, while mine was only brown. At the exact moment I put my eye in the door my mother pulled the jewelry box towards her on the dresser and into my view. She unhooked the butterﬂy shaped clasp. Above her head rotated metal pieces of the fan, like circling whale tails. The opening of the lid revealed a twirling ballerina spinning to her own music. The box was silent. Seeing this jewelry box for the ﬁrst time, I was ﬁlled with longing to not only touch the gleaming butterﬂy, but also to have the jewelry box as my own. I was ﬁlled with a word learned years earlier: mine. She must have heard the gasp of my breath, because her head snapped to the crack in the door and she saw my glazed eye. She closed the butterﬂy clasp and in a ﬂurry of tulle headed towards me and shut the door an eyelash’s length from my nose. The day afterwards I was ﬁlled with boldness and asked if I could see it. Mother told me that jewelry boxes and their contents were only for grown-ups. I asked my father and he told me it was not his to give away. I stopped asking after a week, but I would hang out by my parents’ door hoping for a peek. But the door remained all the way closed. There was a time a few months after I stopped asking for it when my mother would let me see the jewelry box. She would carry it underneath two ﬂat palms to the coffee table in the living room, set it down gently on the table runner. Had I been older I might have noticed a change in my mother during this time, but I just accepted it back then. I sat cross-legged on the ﬂoor clinking pearls together like an adult might clink cups of champagne, watching the ballerina spin with fascination. My mother sat on the opposite side of the room, perched on the edge of the couch meant for one person. “Gently, Remi, gently,” she said holding her hands to her temples. I do not know what happened to my mother’s opinion that the jewelry box was only for adults. It seemed to ﬂoat away. But even though I was allowed to see the jewelry box, there were limits. Only for an hour a week and never when I asked. The rules were always changing. One day I was trying on jewels, the chain drooping in a U at the collarbone. I went over to show my mother, trying to climb up her legs onto her lap. Pushing myself on the sofa, I cocked my head so she could see the reds and greens of the rubies and 31
emeralds in the necklace. Surprisingly, the hand of my mother guided my head into her lap. “Gently, Remi, gently,” she said in hushes. I sat there with my head in her lap and she stroked my hair gently, looping a curl around her ﬁnger and unwinding it. Something must have struck her, because she stopped abruptly and pushed me out of her lap. “Remi it is far too hot for that,” she said, her hands now free to trace the water rimmed circle of her coaster. Following this episode my mother put the jewelry box permanently on her dresser, and even went so far as to forbid me to open or touch it ever again. What once I was allowed to hold in my hands, was now out of my reach. But I was so determined to see the jewelry box again. The opportunity came one afternoon when my parents were out and I was left with a sitter. When she asked me what I wanted to do I told her of a video that my parents kept in their bedroom. I told her I knew where it was. I was resourceful for ﬁve, taking the step stool from the bathroom and carrying it to the front of my parents’ bedroom. The jewelry box lay behind the forbidden door. I placed the step stool against the dresser and with a little, reaching hand patted down the top of the shelf. Eventually I found a leg of the jewelry box and yanked as I would pull another child’s hair. I could see neither what was coming towards me, nor had any control over it. The box tumbled off of the dresser and onto the ﬂoor upside-down, nearly missing my head. The fall opened the butterﬂy clasp and left an imprint of wings in the carpet. Crouching down to turn the box right-side up, all of the contents remained on the ﬂoor. Instead of rubies, emeralds, and dangly earrings there were thin willowy wisps of auburn hair. I was a little girl reaching down to touch it, pet it. I picked it up to ﬁnd that it was soft, like a rabbit I had once petted. The babysitter came running to see what the noise was and that I was okay. When she found me I was still stroking a soft piece of hair that was on my palm. It was so soft. I didn’t think about where it came from. I don’t remember the rest of the night; I’ve only been able to piece bits together from what my father told me years later over coffeehouse biscotti. My mother came to my room after I had fallen asleep, leaning a hip on the doorframe and watching me sleep for a minute. In her own room she twisted her ﬁnger around a strand of hair and gently pulled until the netting was no longer covering her scalp. She never mentioned the jewelry box episode or the contents inside. I am fairly certain she knew about it. The jewelry box remained tucked away out of sight, but not out of mind. When my mother would sit in her chair, I would sometimes climb into her lap trying to get close to her. She would give me one condition - gently, Remi, gently. 32
The Jewelry Box Abeyance|K RISTIN W ALKER The funeral came along with everyone’s expectations but my own. It was about a month after I had found the hair in the jewelry box, a month before my sixth birthday. It was an open casket funeral and my mother wore hair that was brown like mine. My father gave me the jewelry box complete with the butterﬂy clasp that was made out of jewels, and a bag of what was left of my mother’s real hair - the color I would always remember her having. I have fragmented memories of lying on my back on the carpet of my room, watching the ceiling fan circle. The jewelry box is open beside me; I hold one ﬁnger above the outstretched hands of the ballerina in ﬁfth position. That way I could pretend that I helped the ballerina pirouette, continually spinning. After college, I stayed in Peoria and continued to work as an archivist. It is a bad archival practice to store things in a crawl space, even those items labeled “abeyance.” Besides the thick layer of dust on the jewelry box, there are some scratches on the wood. Pieces of the jewels on the clasp have since chipped away. The last time I opened the box the ballerina got stuck mid-pirouette before twirling on. Only a few people know about the jewelry box, not including my father. Sometimes they will ask me why I keep it when I’m not preserving it. I want to tell them that the jewelry box is still being processed. I do not yet have enough information to understand it yet. I may never understand it. Tonight I am going to take a shovel out into the dark, dig a hole in the backyard, and gently set my mother in the ground.
K ATIE S CHINNELL 1. Promise Me The dock is shaking. Splinters needle their way into my shoulders, but if I sit up I won’t be able to see the lightning. Not that it’s visible anyway with you dancing over me like that. You with that goofy smile, crooked as it may be. Distant thunder plays the bass drum for your midnight dance, announcing the end of training for camp. Only June, but time needs to slow down already. Soon you’ll be at another training, the one where they cut your hair, hand you guns, and name you “Recruit.” That is who you’ll be in two months, but I like you now, even if you are blocking the summer storm. Back and forth, back and forth, your hands are upside-down pendulums. “This is my windshield wiper dance!” You goof. The Marine Corps necklace bounces off your chest with every step, in rhythm with my head resonating against the dock. It’s jumping with you. Ka-plu-clunk. Ka-plu-clunk. Promise me something. Promise me that when you come back, you will still do the windshield wiper dance.
2. Connections As I step out of the shower, your necklace (my necklace?) is cold on my bare chest. The dull silver an accent mark on my pale skin, surrounded by goosebumps. It looks bigger on me than it did on you. You’re on the phone, returned from a week in the ﬁeld, sweaty, hungry, exhausted. They built you fake cities, gave you blank ammunition, bandaged your counterfeit wounds, all for a twelve-hour battle in the California desert. Private First Class Walker, bullet-proof vest and buzz cut, ready for action. Of course you were grinning the whole time. This real life video game is what you love. You had tanks, you had enemies. The dust stuck to your face paint and your pants caught on barbed wire. It was like Black Hawk Down, you say. Have you seen it? Yes, I’ve seen it, I say. People died. I don’t say that. The string has been on my wrist for a year now. Please tell me you are invincible like string.
I protect it like I wish I could protect you. You tied a good knot.
3. When You Go I was standing by the mailboxes in Harstad. Now Iâ€™m crumbling. Mail is supposed to be fun, but this letter is heavy, sinking into the carpet like I am. It fell before I could obliterate it, drown it, make a paper grenade and pull the pin. It screams white, but instead of surrender it slays me. Huddled against the wall, the mailboxes carve into my head, but Iâ€™m motionless. In one sentence, I was paralyzed. I want to fold the paper up, place it neatly into its envelope and send it back, demand a return, this letter for your life.
Marine |K ATIE S CHINNELL
I’m walking by the pond, on the path with the two cracks that have met and made love and then multiplied into crevasses in the concrete. My body shudders like your mom’s voice on the phone. Why, why would you ever make her say this? Color drains from the world around me, or maybe it drains from my face. I am numb, hard like the pavement. I want to jump inside the crevasse, bury my head and let my tears water the earth that has lost its color.
I am in my room. No phone, no letter, but I can feel it. I know. Emptiness is tangible as the autumn air sneaking past the cracked window. It tickles the hairs on my arms and whirlpools around my soggy face. Every once in awhile, my heart pretends to try. Thump, snifﬂe, thump, thump, gasp. When I know you’re not breathing, sometimes I forget, too. Absence suffocates me.
Palpability in Three Parts K ENDALL P EPPLE
1 Some days are infused with an essence, with lemongrass, radiant lemon rinds being torn, bursting into citric mists. Most are not quite as yellow with sunlight or fruit and scents but I sense that they are a grayness, like radio static, sounds stinted, buzzing like myriad ﬂies, the smaller ones feeding on carrion. It isn’t hard to grasp the ceilings of restriction. I stare out at puddles of rainwater and rain’s soft strike petting the window in drops, drop after drop, then wonder when the weather will let boredom go. If it does, I might dance this time, maybe unbutton my pants a little. 2 My skin ripens in the warm, red glare of the summer sun, lounging on 123rd Street. Look: from above the roof of the 420 house one can see, as apparent as people ﬁlling up the world with things, Mount Rainier, glistening, and the moon rising out from the summit, all pallor as it breaks away from the earth like the ﬁrst grassy shoots of spring. Just as life is like the arcs of orbiting both solar and lunar, lightness and darkness, growing out from and settling into all things, so too is feeling, ﬁlling up all things until our shoots can no longer stay straight and our yellow stems bow back into the soil.
3 Allow yourself hit-or-miss days; it’s due to you to let air pass by normally, as it does in your lungs, expanding like red and blue balloons. It’s impossible to have known the days already, known them all—each sluggish start, each heavy heat of summer noontime light, each breakfast bowl and expiration date. I doubt it all already. . . . These are mere statements of my youth. Resigning to impossibility would deplete the sap leaping through my bones and the possibility that ﬁre might become the ignition of me. Oh, let us unite the ﬂames of chance and shift.
Art Gallery Sunrise Gulls, R OGER I VERSON , J R . Untitled, S HEA E AKES America, A ARON B IZIER Time, J EN J EPSEN En Route, K EVIN K NODELL Relic, K EVIN K NODELL Color, J EN J EPSEN Man and Sea, S HEA E AKES Tale of Two Cities: Tacoma, S ARAH W ISE Koi Wheel, K ARLA D AWN C. V ILLANUEVA Textured Plates, L I I S A N ELSON Shuksan, T HEODORE C HARLES Crater Lake, S AMUEL H OSMAN Westlake Center, K ELI B OOHER Peony, M EGHANN S UNWOLD Somewhere Close, N ICOLE L AUMB
Sunrise Gulls, R OGER I VERSON , J R . Digital Photograph
Untitled, S H E A E A K E S
35mm C-Print, Photograph
America, A ARON B IZIER
Time, J EN J EPSEN Digital Photograph
En Route, K EVIN K NODELL
Relic, K EVIN K NODELL
Color, J EN J EPSEN Digital Photograph
Man and Sea, S H E A E A K E S 35mm C-Print, Photograph
Tale of Two Cities: Tacoma, S ARAH W ISE Digital Photograph
Koi Wheel, K ARLA D AWN C. V ILLANUEVA
India Ink & Watercolor Calligraphy
Textured Plates, L I I S A N E L S O N Glazed Stoneware
Shuksan, T HEODORE C HARLES Digital Photograph
Crater Lake, S AMUEL H OSMAN
Westlake Center, K ELI B OOHER
Peony, M EGHANN S UNWOLD Negative C-Print, Photograph
Somewhere Close, N ICOLE L AUMB 35mm Silver Gelatin Print, Photograph
Excerpt from - October M ICHAEL R YAN C LARK WITH TEXT BY
“O hushed October morning mild,
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all. The crows above the forest call; Tomorrow they may form and go.
Make the day seem to us less brief.” R OBERT F ROST - October, 1913
October|M I C H A E L R Y A N C L A R K
October|M I C H A E L R Y A N C L A R K
Night Waltz D AVID M ATLOCK
Night Waltz|D A V I D M A T L O C K
Pet Crow EMILY ALGIRE
Treeﬁngers is tracing soft spirals up my back. Out under the oaks I felt the moss on the edge of the path. Here it grows in place of the grass, slipping into the bog. Here, from the pores of the piled pavement of the trail, shaved down by students’ footsteps. I explored your valley chest again, on the edge where the feet won’t touch, where it grows wilder and unscathed. The cold, ﬁbrous moss twisted up in spirals toward the sky, on the night-side of your body where the sun won’t bake it dry. It must be life without them that aches me. It must be their pruned domesticity squished between the lawns and the concrete and the asphalt. As though I had ever known it at all, or ever loved it either. I grew up in a steel desert, trimmed and polished. This is how I remember you: Parkland was an open plain. It was fenced off and the river diverted once and twice for ﬂood prevention and agriculture, but beforehand it was burning ground. Here was the tree: White Oak (Quercus garryana). Here was the other: (Arbutus menziesii) Paciﬁc Madrone. Arbutus is in the heather family Ericaceae. This clan is the best I know, and now I offer it to you: sexual Rhododendron, umbrella Teaberry and ghostly Indian pipe. Madrone is the queen: leathery dark arrow leaves and its bark. Its bark is ﬁrstly red. Red-brown, then red. Peel back the layers. Then orange and yellow, sometimes green. She sheds like wet eucalyptus. Her ﬂowers shoot out in bell ﬁreworks that mature to rough cherries. There are sickly ones on campus. I see them dwell at the edge of a forest hill, soaking up dry sun betwixt biomes as we drive down the highway. Other places, I have seen Arbutus: Lake Crescent, my god in the teal-blue glacier waters framed by the golden-red starkness of the Madrona, wet and slippery on her branches, moaning and wrinkling under the weight of her leaves. She wants to be Arbutus, but is Vine Maple instead - thin, mossy, malleable. Funny leaves, ﬂattened hands reaching to pet what passes by. Vine maple is forever a sapling youth, tiny spunky ﬂowers birthing whirligig seeds. No care for what she stands on as long as she still stands, still procreates. No concept of 68
time beyond her lucky glimpse, sagging and dying before forty. She sinks into oblivion surrounded by progeny, those who resurrect and evolve her genes. Thus, she has lived and died for millennia. She’s weighed down by long-haired club moss which drape her thin branches through the rainy season long after her many hands have fallen to the ground. Vine maple doesn’t belong on the open plains, or the meadow hillsides at wood’s edge. She belongs in the undergrowth. Her place is at the legs of the evergreen stands, palms raised for water as it ﬁlters down through a thick canopy of needles. At the sexual night she dreams of Redcedar, tall, ﬁsh-spine branches and candleﬂame seeds. She lives forever. She rules the forest. She can be Vine Maple’s Shadow. But here is the White Oak, far removed from the damp forests of the mountains, soaking up summer sun in the vanishing plains of the Northwest. When all the grasses have dried and burned to yellow and brownish summer sun colors, the White Oak maintains the darkly leather leaﬁng and stark-white bark like smoke in the ﬁre. It bleaches rather than bakes, but its leaves harden in thick heavy shadow against the sky. Lighter than the steel sky bringing fall rain. Darker than the damp forests threatening at the fringe. White oak lives to an impressive age, estimated by his width at chest height. There’s a rumor that every ten inches is one hundred years. They stand as witness to the power of time. Their slowness of growth is marked by the solidness of their interior, their strength. A patient, loving strength snaking outward from the core. White knight knows the yellow grass and ﬂowers. Dark knight knows the fertile plain’s ﬁres. On breaks between classes I would head for the hillside and stare up from the base of the largest tree, hoping to fathom from this stance the incredible age of the oak. I wanted to love them, rough-barked and furry with moss shaped into the crevices of his body. Thick twisted lichen limbs creaking toward the Southern sun. Shivering through its branches as the breeze spoke to the back of his neck. Bark like cork I’d want to spit on to erase the squeaking of my nails. There’s a grove out behind the music hall, with living fossils of the time before the ﬁre 69
stopped. Douglas ﬁrs from the forest have shot up and eclipsed them, and will probably die and fall before them, to rot below them. By then, shade-loving Hemlock and Cedar will rise up to take their place, another sunlight-stealer from the patient, aging, giving oak. The oak will crumble, bit by bit, until the day comes and a raven that landed too quick brings the rotting hollow bark of a trunk down to the ground. Hemlock and Cedar stand victorious, heirs of the ﬁght from their forefather Fir. Such is the succession of the introduced forest. And what will grow at the feet of their victory? Vine maple. Of course, I am speaking of a future that won’t exist. If I could, I’d take myself back to the days slightly after I’d left, wounds still raw from the places you’ve touched me, compressed and unfolding like foam from a mattress. At night I could curl up into myself and remember where your ﬁngers were, still feel the soft parts of your body, and the ﬁrm. The slickness of your tongue against my darkness, my softness, my squish. Your wool against my ﬂaccid ﬂesh, wrinkling me, making me old. I could rest my ﬁngers where yours were on my stomach. I could place a pillow where your head slept on my waist, recompress and hope not to alter. Here I am at the edge of the forest, walking astride its walls, feeling the familiar magnetism, the familiar pull of the sirens inviting me back to the womb from whence I sprung, hungry. I thought I saw you move between the trees. I looked and there was nothing: just the softly falling fog - sinister, sensuous, slow. I crawled under the root ball of a conifer where it was bloodstained wheat chex and dry Red Cedear soil. I thought I might sleep there under the heavy arches of her feet. Noah, one black and white knight spinning under the lighthouse, his soul and body both, mind, veins, liver, cuticles, I died that night and was resurrected a new sapling youth, I started over green and soft and hoping for Arbutus, stretched under the weight of my Shadow, sucking affection from Noah, pristine cold and rotting White Oak alive and breathing drunk on my stomach. Noah. I woke up alone again. I woke up surrounded by echoes and echoes of myself. My own offspring growing where I threw their seeds, anew and green and half as tall as me, gazing up at the rain. Not caring for the Redcedar or the Hemlock, not caring for the Madrone, not caring for the tattered remnants of the oak - White Oak - who twines his twisted root-legs with mine and breathes Hannah, Hannah, Hannah into my ear. Hannah! Hannah of the ﬁery plains, Hannah whose love haunted him through the 70
Pet Crow|E MILY A LGIRE years since her ﬁre burnt out. Oak has lived and died here in his memories, he’s buried in the memories of his own red ﬂames, his burning temperament, his long lost lover, dark ﬁngers shaking in the plains-wind under the unplumbable stars, dripping sap in sacriﬁce to Hannah’s sweet grasses and long lost spring ﬂowers. Now in the dark it’s misty Vine maple who clings to his rotting feet, oblivious and obsessed with herself, scrambling for something to own, to pet, to eat. Vine maple, sucking up nutrients from the great-great-ancestors of the worms that fertilized those once magniﬁcent yellow plains, yellow plains under a grey sky, encloistered under the canopy of Hemlock and Cedar, rising from the tattered roots of the long gone plains father, yellow plains grey sky, and the dark stark-brightness of the White Oak. Vine maple, cowering under the protective ﬁsh-ﬁns of the Cedar, the spreading hairy ﬁngers of the Hemlock, guarded at the gates by brazen Arbutus, conqueror and watchman, leering toward the valley plain lustful for colonization. I’m forgetting now. It’s rotting in my mind, the gnarled wilderness of his valley-chest in soft animal hairs curled black-tight against his skin under twig-twisted clavicles, ﬁngers tracing wings up my spine and out my shoulders, folding back and diving toward my waist, Night-dark Noah, star-bright black-hole sunlight Noah, universe and nothingness Noah, glacier-lake eyes Noah
C ORINNE E ASTER How long have I been out here? Jason Bergman asked himself. Right. Left. Right. Left. Jason kept kicking. His right arm joined in every once in a while, splashing along beside him. The sky started to turn black—darker than the deep blues of night that followed sunset. A swell of gray water rolled him down ﬁfteen feet, hiding everything from view before it rushed him up again. This was more dramatic than the rocking of the cargo ship, and it gave him a feeling of vertigo. Someone must have noticed by now! Where’s the Coast Guard? Where’s the helicopter? he again thought, shuddering from the cold winter water. His toes and ﬁngers tingled, but he continued his painfully slow crawl through the swells. He bitterly remembered one of the men onboard joking about how freezing was the best way to go. “You get so cold that your mind makes shit up,” the man had said, laughing. “You hallucinate so you don’t even know you’re dyin’.” They had all laughed. Another had joined in, “Y’ain’t dead till y’er warm ‘n dead!” Everyone had roared with mirth over their beers. Now, Jason didn’t laugh. He kept paddling. Jason breathed in long, ragged breaths. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been swimming up to his chin in Paciﬁc waters. He thought maybe it had just turned night when he had fallen. Why isn’t anyone coming? Fuck! His breath started to catch in his throat. His eyes started to well. His limbs shook. Jason was exhausted. The ocean water pushed and pulled against his every labored move. Stopping, Jason took a deep breath. He was quiet for a moment. Only a choked hum rumbled its way out of his throat on his ﬁrst attempt. Coughing, he tried again to form the words and string them into a tune. “Row. Row. Row your boat,” he huffed out quietly between gasps, “gently ‘round the bay.” He rolled his stiff neck and shoulders and moved his arm again in a slow backstroke. “Merrily. Merrily. Merrily. Merrily.” Another breath. He felt his pant-legs bob around his ears as his left arm clasped the waistband of his makeshift buoy to his chest. “Life is but a dream.” He almost felt foolish for singing such a childish song, but the sound of his own voice was comforting. The quiet of the open water was different from what he was used to: the sound of a boat, the sound of the beach and the surf. He started the song again. Jason was only nine. His father plopped him in a boat, gave him two battered oars, and pushed him out into the choppy water of the bay. Jason sat in frozen panic as the waves pulled him out. Herb Bergman sat on the shore and watched the rope attached to the gray, ﬁberglass dinghy tighten as the boat drifted further out into the water. The older Bergman had tied the other end of the rope to the bulkhead and lit a cigarette while he told his only son to “Go on, then! Row!” Jason spent hours crying, ﬂoundering, and ﬂopping around with the clumsy oars. But his father seemed to have 72
no sympathy. It wasn’t until Jason starting singing “Row. Row. Row your boat, gently down the stream” that he started to calm and coordinated the oars. Back and forth. Back and forth. In circles. Totally unfamiliar with the ways of the ocean, it was the only song he knew about water. “You’re in a bay, not a stream!” the weathered ﬁsherman shouted from the shore. Jason rephrased the tune and stayed in the dinghy until nightfall—until he had rowed himself back onto the gravelly beach. “Working a boat is all a man needs to know,” was all that his father said before dragging the boat to the bulkhead and tossing it over the concrete wall. Jason said nothing and followed his father inside their weather-worn house with shaky legs. When Jason couldn’t sing the rhyme any longer, he hummed, and when he was breathing too hard to hum, or choking on choppy waves, he just let it drift through his mind. The tips of the waves had frothed every once in a while from a stray burst of wind. However, the breeze now turned into a constant gust, and small white-caps curled on the tops of some of the swells. Not too strong yet, though, he thought. Yet. The wind blew the little warmth Jason had into the dark sky. As if watching it blow away, he looked up and saw the North Star glimmer off the end of the Big Dipper. Jason stopped to admire the night sky. The North Star, Cassiopeia, Orion, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper. He listed off all the stars and constellations he knew. Jason’s breath started to slow and his feet and hands ached. His body started to shiver. A chuckle stuttered through his lips. Just like old times. He would sit shivering in his father’s same old dinghy in the darkness. His father would sit across from him, drilling the names of stars into his head. When his father wasn’t paying attention Jason would drop rocks that he had picked up into the dark water. He would watch as the bubbles and phosphorous mixed, creating little diamonds that glowed like ﬁsh scales until the rocks disappeared. At the memory Jason ﬂopped his stiff arm around in the water. He tried to see the glowing bubbles around him, but couldn’t bend his neck enough to look down in the water. Jason sloshed around a little more, trying to see the phosphorous. After a moment he gave up and ﬂoated there with chattering teeth. Then, he started laughing. What would Ms. Mathis do if she saw me like this? he thought. Jason started to laugh louder. What would DAD do? He could see it now: that certain gaze that his father gave him whenever he did something particularly stupid or stubborn; the gaze that went right through him, as if his father’s grey eyes could see into the future. Jason bobbed erratically in the shifting water. His black hair fanned out behind him, the waves pulling through it like ﬁngers. 73
“Now, don’t you worry, Jason,” he heard Ms. Mathis’ soft voice tell him, on his ﬁrst day in Port Townsend. Her warm, short-nailed ﬁngers had worked his hair, ﬁxing it in place. “You won’t mind living with Herb. He’s rough around the edges, but he’s sweet on the inside.” There she stood with him for the ﬁrst time on the front porch of the greywooded house that would soon be his home. She was in a bright ﬂoral shirt with jeans, telling him all about the seagulls as he mumbled things about Wyoming. She talked to him along with the child services agent until Herb Bergman arrived in his white pick-up to learn that he had a son. There she stood in the kitchen, showing him how much ﬂour to put into the dough to make the best cookies on earth, while his father was away to work on a ﬁshing boat. There she was, patting his hand and chuckling in her hoarse, childish way, telling his teenage self that Herb didn’t mean it. “Your father is trying his hardest, but he just doesn’t know how to handle a child. He never had a chance to be one, you know.” Jason felt the guilt that had riddled his body when he left that Wyoming house to become a sailor. “You don’t need to do this, Jason.” He only responded with a sad smile, “Yes. Yes, I do.” He left his only true mother to catch the elusive gaze of the man that was never there. His father hadn’t been there when he won swimming competitions, or when he learned to drive, or when he graduated from high school. He was even late when Jason was delivered to the grey house after his mother disappeared for good. A smile curved along Jason’s pale face. He stopped shivering. Is this my life ﬂashing before my eyes? he wondered. His throat rumbled in something that resembled a chuckle. Well, that’s not a good sign. The water tugged Jason to and fro. It was disorienting. Everything seemed disconnected, but at the same time blurred together. Jason blinked furiously to try and piece together the aquatic world around him. He gave up when it proved useless. I suppose this is as good of a time as any for remembering things, he ﬁnally decided. I’ve got nothing better to do. He blinked his eyes at the sky and smiled blankly. Jason tilted his head towards the stars, as if they would tell him everything. The lights hypnotized him, and he would have stared at the sky forever, if something hadn’t itched at his brain. He cocked his head to the side and knitted his brows. Why am I here, anyway? His brain slowly whirled around, but communicated nothing. Where am I? The water around him made sloshing noises over his waterlogged clothes. Jason squinted his brown eyes, trying to concentrate harder. A wave broke on his face and he blinked away the salty water. His brain started to pound. The answer didn’t come to him quickly, but in slow, sloppy little images. He could hardly tell what order they went in, or the time that separated them. “Who are you?” a gruff voice asked. A brown wool cap came to mind, and 74
Cold|C ORINNE E ASTER the sound of wind and waves. The grey-wooded house was to his back. He vaguely realized that he had felt fear then. Then, another voice, “Mr. Bergman, are you aware that you have a son?” Jason’s face drooped into the chilly water. He jerked up. He jerked backwards too roughly. Slowly, his feet rose from the watery depths and ﬂoated on the surface of the Paciﬁc. His chubby hands extended outward, holding a colorful piece of paper towards the man at the wooden kitchen table. A quick glance up and a grunt. “What is it?” A squeaky voice, “A gift! I drew it.” A blank stare. “See! You’re the king, and I’m the prince!” A pause. “Hmm.” The squeak of rubber chest waders being put on. Jason’s hands extended outwards as he lay on his back, his left arm letting go of his semi-inﬂated jeans. He couldn’t feel his heavy layers of clothing weighing down on him. Red, shaking hands reach into the water and pull out a squirming ﬁsh for the ﬁrst time. The pole had been discarded on the ﬂoor of the dinghy. “That was good.” Something had tingled through his chest at the statement and he had smiled. A grey gaze, then a frown. Everything was cold, but as Jason looked to the stars he felt their warm light creeping into him. “Shit! Fuck!” the curses ripped out of his mouth. He reached up to rub his sore head. He glared at the car door of the white pick-up. “When did you start cursing?” Jason stiffened and looked as his father held him in place with his eyes. He stood half in, half out of the old truck. Jason felt naked. “What does it matter?” A frown. Jason’s jeans sank down into the black water. He didn’t look for phosphorus this time. “When are you going to get out of this shithole?” He felt the eyes on the back of his neck. His pencil scratched around his lined homework paper. “Why? Tired of me already?” He heard ﬁngers scratch a brittle, grey beard. Jason never got a response. Warm hands and the strong smell of cheap perfume. “Shh. Don’t worry. He’ll be back. He’s working. He ﬁshes on a big boat, you know. He’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Shh. Don’t worry. He’s not like your mom. I promise. He wouldn’t want you to end up like him. Shh. He asked me to take care of you. Shh. It’s okay. For now, I’m here.” Floral print. 75
Cold|C ORINNE E ASTER Jason’s lips were now blue, matching the skin under each of his nails. “So, when’s your graduation?” Jason’s shoulders stiffened and his ﬁsts clenched. “It was yesterday.” This time, the pause was from the other side of the room. Probably on the old, corduroy couch. “Have any plans?” He pretended not to look at his father, for something, anything, when he responded, “I got work on a boat. The Heron.” A throat cleared itself on the same stained couch. Eyes were watching him. The water continued to roll. However, either Jason had gotten used to it, or the wind had died down because he no longer felt the vertigo. A cough wracked his chest. Nightshift. Nobody around. Stacks of crates piled on the deck. The air was cold and the waves crashed against the sides of the metal cargo carrier—nothing to be concerned about. He took another inhale of nicotine. Suddenly the night became darker—engulfed in shade. Shit, he thought as the rogue wave put out his cigarette and pulled him away. Ahhh, so that’s it, Jason’s foggy mind ﬁnally concluded, pulling all of the images together. So that’s it. Offhandedly, Jason realized that he had the powerful urge to pee. Just go! another part of him pointed out. You ARE in the ocean. His breath wheezed in the attempt to laugh. That’s right, I AM in the ocean. Jason’s limbs got colder, heavier, paler. He couldn’t tell how long the sky had been black and he couldn’t feel his limbs. He wasn’t sure if they were still working. Jason’s breath came out in straggly clouds. He struggled to keep his eyes open. Something about the ocean reminded him of his father: cold, grey, and overwhelming. He hadn’t seen his father in a long time. I wonder what he’s up to. He heard no answer. Vaguely, he thought that the swells had lessened and the water had smoothed. Then, off to the side, Jason saw a light. It was the soft glow of a lantern, illuminating a small, now white dinghy. The familiarity of the size and shape, and even the sound of the patched-up boat, made Jason smile. He thought he stopped moving as he waited for the dinghy to approach. Jason’s eyelids started to droop and his breathing became shallow, almost stopped. As the boat drifted toward him he felt it brush up against his cheek. Jason called out without lifting his head, “Hey, what took you so long, Old Man?” A leathered hand reached down and rufﬂed Jason’s dark hair. Jason could feel the same, piercing gaze on the top of his head. He felt warm all over. It was burning him. “Come on, Son. We’re going home.” Jason smiled as his eyelids slid shut and froze together.
M ARK H ENGSTLER Her father is driving fast tonight and wants to be home to check on Sam. Something to expect with winter, he says, is colds colds colds. The tired Ford Pinto clicks its engine and the cello, hollow like a cofﬁn, is wedged between her legs. Missed a note in the Brahms, she mutters, skipped a line in the Schoenberg. Her father twists the dial some and Sinatra’s heavy breath seeps through dimpled plastic speakers. Now is when it happens: its ﬂank appears, brownish-white—exposed by high beams—and the car convulses violent engine-throbbing convulsions. First they’re sideways, then they’re turned around and somehow near the ditch but they’re not in the ditch, and her cello is ﬁne but she’s reaching for her seatbelt, trying to open the door to get out of the car, screaming we hit it, we hit it and have to save it, and her father is yelling no, sit down, sit down and stay in the car. But listen: the cello is safe. Later when she pours over the body she will ﬁnd no cracks or blemishes. In time she will learn to heal.
Talks of Home and Travel H ANNAH H UTCHINS Coffee Legend tells us the Ethiopian boy Kaldi ﬁrst discovered coffee. Alone with his goats on a mountain, Kaldi saw his herd prancing about with unnatural energy. Kaldi found they were eating unfamiliar red berries, and, curious and jealous, he took some berries for himself. Sometime later a passing monk saw the boy prancing about just as the goats pranced about with him. Curious and jealous, the monk took a handful of berries for himself. From then on the monks’ long nights of prayer were aided by the goats’ unnatural energy. Weather “The cows are lying down. It must mean rain,” said my mother. We drove past pale green ﬁelds of black and brown cattle. If they stood, of course, it meant we would have sunny weather. I always played along with this pretend belief. Whenever I pass cows, I still check the clouds. Romance Stories Jane Austen fell in love, wrote love stories, and died alone. 1 - She loved a man when she was young, but both were too poor to marry. 2 - Later she rejected a man because she did not love him. For years that’s all the world knew of Jane’s personal romance. 3 - Long after the author’s death, Jane’s sister confessed a third love story. On holiday, Jane met her perfect man. She was certain they would marry. Just as quickly as the two had loved, the man fell gravely ill, and died.
Christmas Our Christmas tree was not perfect. It had no glass bulbs of coordinating colors, clear white lights, or stunning angel with arms outstretched. Our tree was fake, decorated nearly comically. Multi-colored blinking lights. Mismatched ornaments: horses, angels, rabbits, Disney characters, anthropomorphic fruit. And best of all, on top a brilliant star ﬂashed in alternating patterns. Much about my cluttered home ashamed me. Yet this tree—this homely, crowded tree—I saw more beautiful than Rockefeller Center. Sonja Everything was taken, save her fur coat. Sonja turned the coat inside out, attempting to keep it hidden, hoping to keep her children warm. As she boarded the train for the concentration camp, a woman outside shouted, “Look at that coat! Take it. I want it!” Before a hand could touch her, Sonja tore the coat in pieces. “If I cannot have it, I will not see it on the body of our enemy.” Coffee II In ancient Muslim Turkey, men could not marry women unless they agreed to provide the most basic necessity of life: coffee. Tourism I visited Stonehenge while touring England. The familiar rocks impressed me with incredible scale and unknown history. Still, there were only so many photos I could take before growing tired of the same, repeated images.
The Race J ILL E SCALERA
Her mother had enough children running out of the womb desperate to ďŹ‚y. How graciously she was delivered. Enough, in a bunched up lacy skirt sitting on her hips like the imperial feathers of a running ostrich. The cooked Namibian earth leaves little room for exhaustion and girlish spirit. At the sound of a gun, her feet sweep smoldering stones as though protected by talons. Coffee-stained wings swing for momentum
barely ahead of a blond rival in paper white Nike’s. We don’t need shoes, Miss. The soles of her feet lift so I can match their color to the inside of my cheek. One foot in front of the other, tail feathers long forgotten as she passed the ﬁnish line.
R ONALD E VANS M ARTIN -D ENT Two Worlds: Land and Sea Forests of Trees, Forests of Kelp Wolf and Orca; Bird and Fish Two Worlds: Europe and First Nation Villages of Families, Villages of Clans Cars and Canoes; Computers and Chants Two Worlds: Human and Nature Fight for Control, Fight for Survival Knowledge and Instinct; Chaotic Order and Ordered Chaos Many Worlds, with all things connected. Hisuk ish tsawalk.
On the Young Girl Holding the Garter Snake A NNA R ASMUSSEN
The slick body, a black polished braid, coils around her pink hands. Its head squeezes through the crux of her ﬁngers. In the early evening, our father had caught the snake. Placed in the kiddy pool, it rippled through marbles and toy boats. She had leaned over the side, wide eyed, her braids dipping into the water. Now it is night. I stand in the grass watching her. In the pool, she cradles its belly. Inside I notice there are candles on the mantel, glowing like little gold cakes, or maybe moons. She splashes her feet suddenly and I see the snake is gone from her hand– ripples pulse at her ankles. Bending towards the dark wet, she peers at the plastic ﬂoor, I imagine its reptilian jaw biting at her little round feet. I do not trust what I cannot see. But she throws her head back– the opal shine of her eyes seems to brighten, as she laughs, come in, you can feel it on your toes.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Potted Plant H ANNAH H UTCHINS 1. The potted plant drapes its vines like a woman drapes a tassled scarf from her neck. 2. Stretching from dark, damp earth. Sprouting at every angle. Reaching for artiďŹ cial daylight. 3. Twenty-one years, fourteen houses, seven phone numbers, but only one potted plant. 4. The potted plant once hung from the ceiling by its light metal links, like a living chandelier.
5. potted adj (1646) 1: preserved in a pot, jar, or can. plant n (bef. 12c) 1: a young tree, vine, shrub, or herb planted or suitable for planting. (Merriam-Webster’s) 6. The ripples scatter the light on the pool– like light reﬂecting off the leaves of a potted plant. 7. Sitting on my desk amidst papers and trinkets and CDs and pens, the potted plant sees and hears every secret. 8. My plant knows I love it because I’ve always kept it, not because I take care of it.
9. The dirt-stained, rainbow-striped plate is a dollar-store throne for the potted plant. 10. “I can’t take care of it,” she said. She didn’t realize how much neglect the plant could suffer and still survive. 11. In the dark, a shadow army runs frozen down the bookshelf– thin snakes with giant heads made of worries and fears. 12. Plant beauty marks: yellow splotches brighten select leaves. 13. Potted ivy, Silver Vine, Philodendron, That-Plant-That’s-Still-Alive.
Skin White as Snow K ENDALL P EPPLE
We have each arisen from the ashes of crisis. We have inherited all past strife and confusion, miraculous mistakes that we are, passed down from gutters. Though thick with moss, turning green our thoughts of the world, together we stand bruised and beautiful in the unďŹ ltered light. I can see you now, dressed as if fans undress you from dark coals of ruin, your body looking perfect in each imperfection (seemingly symmetrical, amazingly untamable). We fray the fabrics of our lives immeasurably. We count down, breathing in the red rays of digital light from a clock, and record every destroyer that we seek to destroy. And we make love to kill them, in thought and in memory, erasing the black spotsâ€”festering smudges pressed into us. The amnesia is nostalgic, your perfume dissipating beneath me. Its smell deprives me of the strength to grasp it. I fall into the thought of you like snow.
We the Beneﬁciaries DEFELLI D
It began with we the beneﬁciaries, our cigarettes, Long-rolled tubes that empty into lungs, which If carried into the depths, bring vignettes Of paradox: grabbing scissors to mend the stitch, We the beneﬁciaries are sure to denounce The big-bodied business behind the trade, As to relieve the bent bodies breathing, ounce By ounce, feather-full clouds of chemical. To fade Into apathy while seated above so many others Takes a sophistication so sophisticated that We the beneﬁciaries rarely like to mention. It covers Our gold-plated shoes in arrogance, detracting From our attractive missions of silver ships full Of golden cofﬁns that lack bodies, those dull Marginalized things; we’ve stocked it with diamondOn-diamond, barrel-on-barrel, gems emblazoned
Over the holes where the eyes should be. Soon we The beneﬁciaries unrolled our theories of love, For we are not unthinking lords. We like the poetic bee And treacherous columbine ﬂower, the sacred dove: Oh yes, we have read. We do the poesy. And love went With women from the past, yes, we loved them As we did our columns erected from marble and cedar bent Towards the top. We ﬁnd the wounds and hem Our breaches of conduct. We the beneﬁciaries work For the people, we love because we lose, and we lose Because we love. We the beneﬁciaries ﬁnd the fork In the road and mend sapphire to it and choose How the most can get the most good. Philanthropy Has not been an easy trip, no, we the beneﬁciaries Brought art into the world, these museums to ﬁght entropy And worldless plight. Praise us! Praise great efﬁciencies.
A NNA R ASMUSSEN I ﬁrst saw my shadow in the house on Lightmoor Ct. As I reached to touch the elongated ﬁgure below me, it stretched over the clover garden and slipped away. I ran through the tall weeds, terriﬁed. Glancing back, the misty shape of a child chased me, grasping my ankles. Awake in bed I wondered– do we melt into the ground? I had forgotten all this till we walked through the woods, our ﬁngers intertwined, rubbing the scars on our hands. The night was lavender and pages of moon lit the ground. And against the willow tree, blue and lacey with lichen, we were unkind to one another. It was then I remembered. I am certain that if you had left me in that profound stillness, my body would have dipped into the dirt beneath your feet– another gesturing patch of darkness on the forest ﬂoor.
Beware of Shadows A LLISON L ANSVERK
I could taste the darkness on my tongue. Deprived of my other senses I opened my mouth and swigged in the damp night air. I ﬂicked my tongue between my lips hoping to catch imperceptible signals on the wind. Perhaps if I could capture these sensory cues, they could guide my way as they did for snakes in the biology videos. For a moment my legs melded into one and serpentine muscles contracted to slither me up the trail. I opened my mouth again, ready to see with my taste buds. Instead, the spicy smell of mountain orchids swirled incomprehensibly with the dewy air across my taste buds to mix with the astringent bite of adrenaline lurking at the back of my tongue–a place for bitter things. My thoughts belonged at the back of my tongue as well. It was one o’clock in the morning and though I had been looking forward to the hike for weeks, at that moment I had no desire to hike nine miles, gaining 6,000 feet to summit a volcano for sunrise. Summiting this peak—the highest in Panama—is a popular activity for tourists. It was the thrill of being 12,000 feet in the air as the sun rises over the clouds. But at that moment, I didn’t care about the promised enlightenment; at that moment, I wanted to sleep. I wanted to wrap my toes around ﬂeece blankets instead of wool socks and curl into the folds of hostel-issued sheets. In compromise I wiggled my shoulders deeper into the folds of my coat in an attempt to prevent the seeping dampness from contacting skin. My thoughts ground against my irritation and fear as my hiking boots connected with a rock and I stumbled up the lightless trail. None of my other fourteen hiking companions seemed to be having similar problems, and the dark forest ahead had swallowed any trace of their lighthearted spirits, leaving an oozing drip of anxiety for me to slog through. All I could focus on was my discomfort and the parting warning that a fellow hostel-mate had given us before we left in taxis for the trailhead. Back then we had only been in Panama for about twelve hours—a shorter period of time than that which we had spent on the bus. It had taken ﬁfteen hours traveling from our ﬁeld station in Costa Rica where we were living for the semester to get to our current spring break location. We rolled through customs that morning, where our American accents—and the large wallets assumed to accompany that—had gotten us a private bus from the border to the backpackers’ town of Boquette, Panama. After our arrival at Hostel Mamallena, the day had been a ﬂurry of shopping for hiking food, eating complex carbohydrates and proteins, and attempting to become nocturnal. I lay atop my sleeping bag in the brightly painted room of tree frogs and resplendent quetzals. Instead of sleeping, my mind whirred: I spun like a top on a dappled trail while shimmering leaves dropped to the ground around 91
me. Where they fell, shadowy chasms opened in the path. Soon a carpet of dark dusted everything, and when I looked down, my feet were on the stars–pinpricks of light holding up the ground. I bent down, pressed my eyes to a minute hole. The sunlight literally seeping into my eye leaked into my attempts to direct my mind to sleep. I wasn’t fooling myself. So with a sigh I huffed my legs over the edge of the bed and headed out to the common area of the hostel, resigning myself to the fact that the little sleep that I was able to steal on the bus would have to be enough to carry me through the night. Following an afternoon of journaling and eating, I entered the kitchen at eleven o’clock at night and began to assemble my pack. While I stuffed roasted almonds atop a banana and peanut butter sandwich, I attempted to chat with a middle-aged Costa Rican couple about what to expect. They had climbed the volcano for sunrise on a previous occasion. Mid-way through my botched attempt at seamless Spanish, the call came that our taxis were there, so I gratefully swung my backpack over my shoulder and said goodbye to the couple. As I exited the kitchen the man’s lilting voice called after me in English, “Beware of shadows!” I hoped something had been lost in translation. Because of his parting comment, shadows were all I could think about–well that and the newly forming blisters on my heels. What does that even mean? I grumbled to myself. There can’t be any shadows if there isn’t any light! And though no light was a slight exaggeration, the canopy did manage to sponge up most of the glint from above so it looked like the stars winked sleepily at me. My toe connected with another loose rock and this time my feet couldn’t win out over gravity and my knees ground into gravel. Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes. I’m only crying because this seriously hurts, I tried to convince myself, but I knew that it wasn’t only because of scraped knees. I pushed myself into a sitting position and uneasily scanned the darkness around me. I strained my neck forward, pushing against the dark that seemed to push right back at me to see if I could distinguish any threatening shapes in the surrounding trees. I half expected to see the glowing eyes of a jaguar, or maybe one of the notorious shadows. The fear of the unknown lurking through the trees was what made sweat slither down the small of my back. A dark shape like a wisp of smoke with a coal-topped grin swooped out of the cavernous gape of the forest. I opened my mouth to scream but managed to choke it back into a gurgled gasp. I squeezed my eyes shut and when I opened them, there were only trees. I set my jaw. There’s no such thing as shadows, I growled to myself, and when after another moment nothing menacing emerged from the swirl of grays in this pseudo-dream state, I unsteadily tottered to my feet and started forward once again. It was only the incline of the trail that gave any indication of increased elevation gain; I had no visible way to track my progress and so it felt as though I was moving on a mountainous treadmill. With every one step forward I fell two steps back. 92
Beware of Shadows|A LLISON L ANSVERK It appeared that the molecules in the boulders had relaxed their grip and skimmed into an oil slick, threatening to send me vortexing down to the bottom of the trail. I jabbed blindly at my watch until the face glowed eerily, bathing my hands and nose in an ethereal blue. It was only 2:00 AM – still within the witching hour – and though I’d only been hiking for two hours it felt like an age. The monochrome draped around me—wasn’t this supposed to be a place where birds had names that included “resplendent?” Nothing shimmered here. And so my mood and thoughts slipped further into the dark caverns of my mind, a place where doubts pooled like stagnant lakes, an anoxic place where things smothered. One thing surfaced out of the gloom. A mere two days after our return from the hike would be Easter Sunday. I had never once missed a Sunday service in my twenty years, but this would be my ﬁrst. For the remainder of our break we would be on an island that had one hostel and nothing else; there was no chance of ﬁnding a church. And out of that pool crawled my own Gollum. “My precciiouuss,” it hissed, “you have no need of such things; there are other ways to be enlightened.” I didn’t feel enlightened because surely if I was, I would be better able to handle the dark. I wasn’t sure that enlightenment was something that I would ever achieve. I hoped that I wouldn’t be one of those people so intent with watching shadows on the cave wall that I would strike down any who threatened that reality, but at the same time, my life was lacking in moments of lightning clarity. Illumination was a slow process, and one that usually created just as many shadows as it extinguished. As my thoughts turned to shades once more, my eyes slid uneasily in an unsuccessful attempt to part leaves and rocks to expose the identity of the forewarned shadows. But the shroud was as dense as ever and, I thought again as my eyes peeled the dark in front of me, there couldn’t even be shadows without light. I was constantly chasing shadows in the religious sphere of my life—but these shadows weren’t demons; they were unknowns sought after by my mind and imagination. I had grown up in the United Methodist Church in Bozeman, Montana. And by “grow up” I mean that the time that I spent in the church was signiﬁcantly more than just attending Sunday services. My mom worked as the Director of Christian Education, so my sister and I spent many afternoons after school bouncing through dimly lit corridors to go on quests to unearth mysteries and wriggling under pews in the sanctuary in an attempt to sneak into Smaug’s lair in the Lonely Mountain, otherwise known as the pulpit. Our adventures were always grand and elaborate, and we were always victorious. Church wasn’t only a place for the soul, but for the imagination as well. Even Sundays were for imagination. Our pastor, Dave McConnell, was a master at weaving sermons crafted from stories. He did not preach blind faith, but faith through an active engagement of the mind, imagination, and body, demonstrated in 93
actions and questions. He would incorporate Shakespeare and art and often baseball into an examination of scriptures and parables. There was never a “shut-up and believe” mentality in our church. If I had questions I was welcomed into Dave’s ofﬁce to talk things over. I would sit and run my eyes over the puppets and toys on the ﬂoor, the books on the shelves, and the stuffed armadillo on the table and we would talk about books and ideas and theology. And though it was the unknowns that always honed my attention, he wouldn’t bat an eye when I would come to him saying that I didn’t believe in a literal heaven and hell, or I thought that Jesus’s literal divinity was an uninteresting part of the overarching metaphor. As we got older, imagination was still an integral part of my church experience. One evening at youth group we were playing a hide-and-seek game in the basement of our church with all the lights turned off. I had wedged myself behind a row of stacked tables and through the dust I could hear the muted giggles in the dark. I felt the whispered touch of my eyelashes on my cheeks as I shut my eyes and my body sighed into the surrounding darkness. My hiding spot was a good one and I knew that I wouldn’t be located for a while. The velvety folds of the darkness around me caressed my face. I opened my eyes again. Sitting in front of me was a dim shape, black and deep as the depths of unending space. It was as if I was gazing into the soul of the universe; never before had I been able to see so far. And though I still couldn’t see it any more than I could see the answers to my questions about heaven and Jesus’s divinity, I felt my dimple tug my mouth into a lopsided grin. Across my taste buds whirled salted energy and solar wind. I didn’t need all the answers; I was content to submerge myself into the cool refreshing pool of questioning. Because even though I knew it would take a while for my friends to discover me, I felt as though I had already been found. And the dark embraced me. My mind glided through these church memories, since there was no new incoming visual stimulation as I trudged up the trail. A quotation from the oftensermon-referenced A Midsummer Night’s Dream slid into my head: “The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.” Maybe these shadows weren’t as threatening as my mind had made them out to be—it was in my creative power to determine what their purpose was. The monochrome was somewhat relenting and the cones in my eyes sparked to life to deliver painted signals to my brain. Purples and blues infused the gray. I glanced around and for the ﬁrst time in ﬁve hours the spaces between the trees were air instead of ink. I was nearing the tree line. In the downy light, the leaves of the last of the trees brushed like feathers against the lightening sky. And that’s when it ﬁnally occurred to me: maybe when the man had told me to beware of shadows he hadn’t meant be wary or careful, but to be aware of shadows. I had embraced the darkness before, so I should be able to do it again. Here, as at 94
Beware of Shadows|A LLISON L ANSVERK home in the church basement, there was a loveliness in unknown depths in the darkness beneath fallen trees and falling feet. It seemed to me that there were more shadows outside the cave than inside. Maybe I was drawn to them because they offered fertile grounds for my imagination. It wasn’t a warning; it was an invitation. Maybe I didn’t need church only as a source of enlightenment after all—maybe its importance came from teaching me to appreciate and embrace the dark. I opened my mouth and tasted the sharpness of height and awareness. My lungs ﬂamed with every step, igniting from the intensity at which I suctioned in air. I was nearing the top. The bridge of my nose between my eyes tingled with the altitude and my knees creaked with the last elevation gain. I kept my eyes trained on the trail as I pushed through ﬁnal veils of exhaustion. Finally I emerged onto the precipice, gazing out on a sea of cushioned clouds. I just had time to anchor myself to the image of sweeping circular darkness when the sun seared the sky, shattering the black. But instead of extinguishing the shadows around me, as I expected, yet still surprisingly and wonderfully, the light gilded and deepened them gloriously. And I was invited into illuminating awareness of shadows at this ascended sunrise.
The Crabapples M ALLORY S PADARO The crabapples fall in July. They are clustered against the fence like ping pong balls lost in corners of basements. They are chartreuse as parrot bellies. Am I the only one to have paused at their small forms?
The cars do not stop. Sunlight catches their streamlined glass. And the crabapples will never again be as they are in this moment: each mealy center brown where the worms have fed, white where the worms are feeding.
Biographies E MILY A LGIRE (Contributor) would like to thank the boys for their love and support. Y’all are the best friends a girl could ever have. I know, it’s so sappy! A ARON B IZIER (Contributor) is from a wood of 100 acres. He is a bear of very little brain and long words bother him and he loves the sweet tasting nectar of life. K ELI B OOHER (Contributor) is keeping her ﬁngers crossed that one day she’ll ﬁgure out how this whole life thing works until then she just wants to keep taking pretty pictures, making people smile oh and petting puppies too. That’s all. T HEODORE C HARLES (Contributor) is an anthropology major with a passion for Indian food. He hails from Blanchard, Washington and has raised chickens for the past 10 years. After PLU, he hopes to pursue historical archaeology and photoethnography. M ICHAEL R YAN C LARK (Contributor) is a sophomore Bachelor of Musical Arts and Sociology double major at PLU. In addition to composing, he plays the piano and various percussion instruments. October was written for and dedicated to Alex Domine, for performance at his Junior Vocal Recital in March of 2011. (Contributor, Judge, Copy Editor) thanks the Queers - Charles Joseph Janicek, Timothy John Borsini, Grant Christian Stanaway, and Zachery Steven West. And, with incomprehensible gratitudes and impossibilities of (write it!) love, I thank Liisa Nelson for nourishment, sustenance, and teaching. I may learn wu wei some day.
C HRISTIANA D ONAHUE (Copy Editor) is a senior English Literature major and Publishing and Printing Arts minor. She is graduating in May and has plans to pursue both a Masters and Doctorate at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. S HEA E AKES (Contributor) writes stories, songs, beats, history papers, takes photographs and likes languages. He also has a passion for education. C ORINNE E ASTER (Contributor) Here is a young woman who never let go of those childhood tales; they just became more elaborate. This is the result of her escapades. She would like to thank everyone who has ever shared a story with her, especially her family. 99
J ILL E SCALERA (Contributor) is an annotated romance novel. H ANNA M ARIE G UNDERSON (Contributor, Copy Editor) wants to thank Saxifrage for being so nice to her for the past three years. Auf Wiedersehen! M ARK H ENGSTLER (Contributor, Copy Editor) hopes that it gets easier and easier to listen. S AMUEL H OSMAN (Contributor) is a ďŹ rst-year that hails from South Dakota and enjoys music, design, and good food. He often reminds himself that in a world of variables, art is one of the only constants. H ANNAH H UTCHINS (Contributor, Judge) is a senior at PLU. She is a writer in love with a photographer, and she hopes to live in an exquisite cardboard box in Great Britain someday. Anything good from her life she credits to God. R OVER I VERSON, J R. (Contributor) met his brilliant bride in front of Eastvold in 1983. She plays the violin and he plays on the stage. Visit him at: www.RogerIverson.com. J EN J EPSEN (Contributor, Judge) is a _________ (verb) that loves _________ (adjective) _________ (noun, plural). The only people for her are the mad ones. F LETCH J OYNER (Contributor, Judge) is a Luddite with a silly name from Memphis, TN. He thanks you, fellow space travelers, for still reading something that is not on a screen and 160 characters or less. He thinks it is neat to dream, imagine, create, and lovingly encourage others to do the same. K EVIN K NODELL (Contributor) is a history major at PLU, a staff photographer at The Mooring Mast, and a contributor at warisboring.com. He is an active supporter of the PLU Student Veteranâ€™s Association, and three times organized PLU drives for Operation International Children (OIC). A LLISON L ANSVERK (Contributor) is a collector of moonlight, Montana agates, and words. Originally from Bozeman, MT, she is currently a senior biology and English writing double major at PLU. After graduation she plans to lead a nomadic life as a hunter-gatherer and continue her lifelong love affair with lab coats and em-dashes.
N ICOLE L AUMB (Contributor) is a Senior at PLU majoring in Journalism with a minor in Sociology. Her interest in photography started when studying abroad in London, and she takes the majority of her photos with the same 35mm ﬁlm camera her father used while photographing for his army unit. A LISON M ANDAVILLE (Copy Editor) teaches writing, literature and women’s studies. And comics. She learned to read through poetry! Dr. Suess! R ONALD E VANS M ARTIN -D ENT (Contributor, Judge) is living somewhere between the past and the future. D AVID M ATLOCK (Contributor) is a music composition major because that seemed easier than math. He thinks he’s pretty cool, and so does his mom. He also likes drawing things, especially to a close, like this sentence. L IISA N ELSON (Contributor) thanks her teachers Steve Sobeck, Spencer Ebbinga, and Louis Komjathy for their contributions to her understanding of the way of things, her family for their unending love and support, her dear friends, especially defelli d for his lessons in practicing softness, and the numinous utter stillness at the root of all things. B ETHANY N YLANDER (Editor) often doesn’t know what to say. Says thank you and means it. Dwells on John 1:1 N ATHALIE OP DE B EECK (Copy Editor) is an associate professor of English at PLU, where she administers the minor in Children’s Literature and Culture. She is the author of Suspended Animation: Children’s Picture Books and the Fairy Tale of Modernity (U of Minnesota P, 2010). [K ENDALL P EPPLE (Contributor, Judge, Copy Editor) is always hoping to ﬁnd something or someone to exhilarate him each day. The moments that stop, challenge, or change him both face him with certainty and vanish silently beyond him. What he takes to be experience are the thoughts that linger afterwards.] “Why are we here?!” asks J ONATHAN P OST (Editor), in a voice heard only by an early spring corridor and a sole set of ears. “You’re here because I forced you to be here.” “Why are you here then?” “... Because I forced myself to be here.” And a book was born, and a legacy was left. 101
A NNA R ASMUSSEN (Contributor, Judge) said she would buy the ﬂowers herself. K ATIE S CHINNELL (Contributor) is an English Literature major who fears poetry almost as much as she fears Honey Buckets. Her favorite things are kids and brownies - both to play with, but only the brownies for eating. With her One Wild and Precious Life, she plans to feed all the starving children in Africa and ﬁnd out whether ﬁsh are ticklish. J ASON S KIPPER (Copy Editor) thinks you can. A LEXANDRA S MITH (Contributor) loves music, chai, and wool socks. Gallimaufry and bivouac are her favorite words. One day, avoiding curmudgeonhood, she will retire in a log cabin in the Oregon forest with her books, guitar, baking supplies, and a swing set. C LAIRE E LLEN S MITH (Contributor) is a junior who loves language. She is proﬁcient in American English, Mexican Spanish, Classical Piano, Liberal Arts College Student, Paciﬁc Northwesterner, Acoustic Guitar, Knitting, Yoga, and Cedar Tree. Mil gracias to my familia oaxaqueña for giving me a home and being the center of this poem. M ALLORY S PADARO (Contributor) is a fourth year student at PLU, majoring in English and Chinese studies. She intends to graduate in December and move somewhere. J ESSICA S PRING (Advisor) is the proprietor of Springtide Press in Tacoma, where she designs, prints and binds artist books, broadsides and ephemera incorporating handmade paper and letterpress printing. She also teaches at Paciﬁc Lutheran University’s Elliott Press, encouraging students to share her love of heavy metal. D AVID S TEELE (Contributor) is a skier who does a few other things. His work has also appeared in Conifers and The Whiteﬁsh Review. Heartfelt thanks to the students and faculty of PLU for their love, time, and teaching. M EGHANN S UNWOLD (Contributor) “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 J EFF S UWAK (Contributor, Judge) “What should people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” — Kurt Vonnegut
K ARLA D AWN C. V ILLANUEVA (Contributor) is a sophomore in PLU’s nursing program. Yes, science inclined people can be creative too. She absolutely loves calligraphy, drawing, and painting but unfortunately she goes through creativity dry spells and this is why she cannot pursue art for a major. K RISTIN W ALKER (Contributor, Judge) is currently a junior at Paciﬁc Lutheran University. At a young age she decided she wanted to either write or be Nancy Drew. She decided to go with writing because she thought she would get knocked unconscious less frequently. S ARAH W ISE (Contributor) is a senior graduating with a BFA in design and a minor in Publishing and Printing Arts this spring. Born and raised in Tacoma, Sarah is passionate about her hometown, which is frequently reﬂected in her artwork and her writing. A LICIA Z ACHARY -E RICKSON (Contributor) doesn’t know what she’s doing or where she’s going, but she’s enjoying it all the same. She wishes to thank everyone who is wondering and wandering with her.
Thank You Saxifrage 37 extends immeasurable thanks to the Contributors, the ones who made this book. To Judges, who volunteered their time and thoughtful critique of submitted pieces. To Copy Editors, who helped make the book the best it could be. Our advisor Jessica Spring can’t be thanked enough. Innovative, encouraging, thoughtfully critical, inspiring, helpful, and generally marvelous! She’s the real deal! Thanks to Sarah Wise and Corey Gilles for designing a fantastic fall submissions poster for us on Elliott Press. Thanks to Craig Cornwall for lending screen printing materials to use at our Night of the Arts event. And thanks to ASPLU for working with us on the Cave reservations. Leadership Advisor Amber Baillon helped us ﬁnd our feet and run this year. Media Board provided the forum for growth, accountability, and teamwork. For this, and more, we say thank you. Kenny Creech of Johnson-Cox Printing Company was our printer extraordinaire. We thank him and the staff of Johnson-Cox for constant communication, patience with our requests, and a job well done. To past editors of Saxifrage, you gave us the tradition and passion. To educators who train and encourage – all thanks to you. We needed the support of our friends and family, and are so grateful for it. And last but most, thank you reader, the reason for it all.
B ETHANY N YLANDER & J ONATHAN P OST Saxifra ge 37 Co-Editors
P ACIFIC L UTHERAN U NIVERSITY T AC O M A , W A S H I N G TO N