Vol. LXII | 2010-2011 LITERARY MAGAZINE OF THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY UNDERGRADUATE WRITING PROGRAM
E D I T O R S ’
N O T E
Dear Readers, In a time when we fit our stories into 140 characters and post love letters on each other’s walls, there is much to be said for a tangible text. A magazine you can read and hold—with ink and pages and binding—carries new weight. The stellar writing of the Columbia University undergraduate community housed within Quarto Literary Magazine is here to stay, in our readers’ minds, your minds, and on the pages we print. The changes Quarto has gone through this year have morphed the magazine into its own living, breathing Creature: we have a new Alumni Editor to get in touch with our old past, an additional Visuals Editor to help make the beautiful more beautiful, new events complete with short-shorts beachwear and the incomparable Alan Ziegler, a renovated website that will soon take another leap into its own virtual domain, and a new home on the Interpublications Alliance (IPA). But with every change, we strive to keep Quarto traditions alive: we are a green magazine for the second year in a row, our third annual S&M (Submit and Mingle) Competition housed more readers and audience members than ever before, our editorial board continues to read every submission anonymously, and we’ve strengthened our relationship with an international consortium of undergraduate literary magazines, with whom we exchange pieces to help both our writers and their writers reach a wider audience. As far as Executive Editors go, we are like smushed marshmallows: short, sweet, and a little pasty. And, in our true style, we’ll keep this note that way and let you get to reading. Have an adventure or two and don’t forget to keep it thrashy. With love, Jared Frieder and Shira Schindel Executive Editors, 2010-2011
R e d w o o d
O c e a n
Feels like I’ve been afraid of the ocean my whole life, but it’s been since my sister almost drowned under a wave—I was five when I first saw CPR; she was nine and didn’t breathe so well after that. Now seeing bodies of water makes me anxious, want to move, have panic attacks. Unfortunately, the Pacific channels into Humboldt Bay, which can be seen from most points in the county; but my family was “situated” there, so my respite was the woods. I got to know the parks, the paths and the secret places no path could get to. Out there were the redwoods, the biggest living things except for whales, which are in the ocean, and can hold their breath, unlike my sister. I’d ride to the park on my bike—once among the trees, I’d imagine what the world could be to me…One day I move to a place in the middle of a place where I forget about the blue parts, cut them out of my maps and leave land-mass silhouettes on my walls.
Twenty feet into the forest and we’re surrounded by auburn redwood bark and shadowed by emerald canopies two hundred feet high. With the concrete skies, it’s a dreary scene of beauty. Fall here doesn’t involve
O ISAIAH EVERIN
I slam my brakes—Jake Meyers and Niles Brook are sitting at a picnic table. “Didn’t see you in homeroom.” “Wasn’t there.” “No shit.” Friday afternoon, maybe a year since I saw them lighting up in the woods—we were all in seventh grade. “Ian brought the pipe.” I nod; we were using sixth-grader Ian Morris for resources. It’s not like we weren’t his friends, but it’s also not like we were. The playground is populated by small children and parents; a black Labrador marches past us with a Frisbee. Ian is rocking back and forth on the spring-mounted zebra, cackling to himself; Jake cuts “fucking pussy” into the table with a Swiss Army knife; Niles stares at his shoelaces; I wonder what we’re doing here. “Fuck this.” We call Ian over. “We could go later?” We drag him along; my bike brings up the end of the pack. “It’s got these swirls in the glass—my mom, like, just leaves it out…like, on the table.” “No shit.” He’s a year younger than us, but our moms don’t leave pipes out on the table—no harm, no foul.
orange-brown leaves; the county is wrapped with rain and a curtain of evergreens. Seasons blend into one perpetual year. We go through lengths just to toke up—jump ferns and balance-beam on fallen trunks. A husk of a lightning-struck stump smells of our previous engagements; the insides are charcoal midnight. Ian shuffles his feet in the moist detritus, kicks up dirt; Jake crosses his arms and acts cool; Niles leans back and is cool; I wonder what we’re doing here. “Give it here.” Ian sighs and takes the pipe out of his pocket; his averted eyes spell a smack upside the head waiting for him at dinner. A click of a blue Bic has the herb glowing. The smoke is Humboldtbrand sex as it crawls the blown glass of the stolen pipe, past our preteen lips, dipping our brains in vibrating honey to make us forget math lessons we weren’t paying attention to—we forget we weren’t paying attention, we forget attention, we giggle and become our own innocence incarnate. Ian runs and hugs a redwood bare-chested, alabaster skin on burgundy chocolate; Jake smiles and nods, cuts “fucking pussy” into the hollowed-out trunk; Niles shuts his eyes and squeezes his fingers to his palms like he doesn’t know he’s doing it; I forget what I’m doing here. I forget that my sister can’t breathe so well and whales are bigger than redwoods. These trees speak land and ground me to the earth’s core. I’m on my back and the ferns tickle my nose. “Woah, this is so high!” “No shit you’re high.” “No, this is so high!” Their voices beat against me in tremors as I’m pulled under the livid earth. The clay embraces me; decaying leaves churn around my body as I sink further and further in; worms carve paths through my head; I descend into the midst of great roots, the coiling limbs of gods, and there I am held in the grasp of land’s largest living things.
ISAIAH EVERIN O 8
“Fucking idiot.” My composting underworld spasms, spitting me out as a newborn to screaming—Ian’s screaming. He’s crying and I feel like crying, but I sit up in the dirt and learn to be sober as I make out the shouts. “The bone’s poking through!” “No it’s not.” “Call an ambulance!” “We’re in the middle of the woods.” “Who’s got a cell phone?” Niles is staring into space like an astronaut, Jake shrugs a shoulder. “Mine’s for emergencies?” “This is an emergency!” I take control of my body and call home—my sister can’t breathe so well, but she can drive fine. She has sympathy for our drugged state even though she doesn’t know what smoking is like. “You owe me big time.” We wait; Ian clutches his limb and squeezes his eyelids; Jake picks up the pipe like infected evidence, mutters “fucking pussy” and throws it in a creek; Niles stares at the broken arm like a resurrected Christ; I wonder what we’re doing here. She arrives quickly but it feels like forever. It takes her and Niles to carry Ian to the car, I have my bike, and we all pile in. My sister
is nice, but she pulls out her full arsenal of curse words—it’s bigger than any of ours because she’s in high school. My sister is a teenager and a hero—she can drive past Humboldt Bay and not care because it’s just a big puddle; almost drowning never bothered her, she was determined in the face of it. For me, seeing the bay makes me anxious, want to move, have a panic attack. She reaches in the glove compartment for my pills, stops. “You can’t take these when you’re high.” “It’s okay, it’s not that bad.” Not that bad means hyperventilating for five-minutes while my friends learn that I’m a coward of the utmost degree. I can see Ian shake and sweat; I can feel Jake carving “fucking pussy” into everything I own, into the back of the leather seat, into my forehead; I can hear Niles dozing off into snores; I wish that none of them were here. My rapid breathing puts the whole car on edge. A parking lot is salvation and the hospital is blinding after the cool embrace of the woods; it’s not white like in the movies, but it’s sterile and painful and worth escaping.
O ISAIAH EVERIN
My sister never tells about how it really happened, but Ian isn’t allowed around us anymore. We don’t care, we hardly knew him; we sign his cast. Our parents set curfews and boundaries—mine don’t want me wandering the forest. At first I’m angry. I run out one day, but then… well…the forest is dirty and windy, its beauty, dreary and grey; branches fall off and crack, leaving snapped limbs and broken trunks all around. Now seeing redwoods makes me anxious, want to move, have panic attacks; my parents buy me video games, which just makes me lonely. I saw a counselor, but they couldn’t help. My parents weren’t going to live anywhere else because they’re “situated.” I might be older now, but I don’t know another home, and even though my sister is the one who almost drowned, and Ian is the one who fell off the tree trunk, I’m the one who has panic attacks. I smoked pot in the forest because it made me feel okay, and now it makes me sick. I tried living in a place in the middle of it all…but I missed the clouds, and I missed the ocean…I want the redwoods.
A p r o n m e n
The worst men are always apronmen: Apronmen with gloved hands and bare arms and hair; butchers, doctors, dishwashers, men from the morgue. Apronmen fling thighs against the side of the broiler, skin down, pepper smearing with fat and dust. Apronmen want me to open wider. Apronmen at night lead to the curtain, the seat, the stirrups and open their palms with paste-eating grins. Apronmen good in this light. Apronmen in street sell green and farm shares, raw honey flecked arm hair, biting soy pods and sighing to themselves. Apronmen always want to touch and try to pass my girlfriend samples. Apronmen serve punch at the Sadie Hawkins dance, locking elbows, watching her move and sip. Apronmen wait to smoke in the parking lot and wave as we pass. Apronmen patient but sure, pour her three fingers and ring off the rim of the glass. Apronmen waking up and leaving and winning.
NICHOLAS SANZ-GOULD O
K i l l i n g
F i e l d
The earth is most fertile when the soil, upturned by the slice of a plow, is briny and darkened with rubbish. The sisterhood of fine grains, oats, barley and wheat, grow wildly in this soil into decent, sustaining food. William Son knew this, because Cordelia Mother knew this, and she had taught him. They were in the same places that they stood each year at this time, on the lowly, banked hill, under the grizzled shade of the single tree, watching the steppe stretch out eastward. William Son thought it might go out forever. In the distance, the town clumped against the landscape, splitting the otherwise even wind patterns of the land around it. It looked different this year, a bit bigger and yet run down, the painted buildings faded just a shade lighter than the year prior. If he listened carefully, William Son thought he could almost hear the bronze tones that came at regular intervals from the tall building in the center of town. Cordelia Mother called it a clock tower, he remembered. “Why do we do this, Cordelia Mother?” “We have talked about this before, William Son. Sit there now, and watch for the right one. You do not listen. I tell you, but you do not listen. I will not be here with you to choose the right one forever. You know this.” “But why, Cordelia Mother?” Cordelia Mother did not move to answer, simply allowed her eyes to fall over the shapes of men, women, moving in the fields, reaping. Choosing was very difficult, William Son knew, so he carefully pressed his jaws together, tongued the grooves along his teeth as they matched up, top jaw to bottom, and knew not to speak any more for the time being. William Son thought of just one thing now, a half-thing remembered with the faint crackle of a smile over his whitened, skinned lips: Before the sun was to set that day, they would have blood on their hands. The pair had been sitting on that hill for a very long time. The color of their skin had slid into auburn, like that of tanned, taxidermic wildlife. The unceasing rays of the sun and the constant assault of dust specks carried on the wind had blasted the indigo from their dilapidated clothes, the black from their hair, even the green from their irises. Corde-
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T h e
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lia Mother reclined against the tree, wearing a dress, once beautiful but now tattered, now the same beige, rusted tones as the rest of her. Her fingers were drawn out and knotted, like thin roots that snag toes in the forest at nighttime. William Son did not recline. He stood and leaned against the tree, his disproportionately heavy, long limbs dangling from his scooped torso, a marionette. He was crooked, through and through. The sun was almost at the critical angle where its sharp beams, the flatness of the steppe, the silent footfalls of Cordelia Mother and the sinewy grip of William Son would conspire against one of those fragile fingers toiling away, unaware. But of course they were aware, William Son reasoned. They had to be. People did not forget that he and Cordelia Mother visited their town once every few years, did they? This thought upset him, the magnitude of the feeling immense, the quality of it like a child, simple and vicious, and he buried it. He did not want the townspeople to forget, not after all that he and Cordelia Mother had done, would do, for them. William Son blinked, looked down at Cordelia Mother and wondered what he would do without her, how he could keep doing what they were supposed to do if she was not there to remind him how important it was. He did not remember things so well sometimes. “I envy this town’s tomorrow, William Son. It will be the best awakening of their lives.” “Why do you say that, Cordelia Mother?” “Every soul there will wake up, knowing, not taking for granted, that they are alive, William Son. They will stand in the guilt of that feeling against the knowledge that one of their own is gone, for them, for their harvest, but they will rejoice in secret in the pure delight of knowing that they are alive. They will know this only tomorrow, and only tomorrow will the fields be darker. That is our gift to them, William Son, that is why we are here, why we always return, to remind them what it is to know life, to know a life-giving harvest. Do you remember? Do you remember now?” “Yes, Cordelia Mother. I remember. I remember now.” Cordelia Mother spotted the girl standing apart from the other townsfolk, bent over the strawberry patch, a basket laden with crimson fruit under the crook of her arm. She had been chosen. Cordelia Mother moved slowly though the wheat opposite the strawberry patch, low to the ground, bending with the wind that sifted through the golden stalks of wheat. She was well-practiced. She knew that the townsfolk were wary, that they remembered what year it was, and carefully scanned the vast fields for the silent disturbances made by stalking figures. They knew what was to come, but they could not afford to pause the harvest, not even a day, it was too important to collect the ripe fruit of the earth and the fields too vast to be kept under watch. Still, they watched.
O BORIS VASSILEV
William Son looked down at his hands, his fingers long and sinewy, and willed them to flex open and then slowly close, his forefinger and thumb forming a quickly-shrinking circle, practicing. He would need his coarse grip to hold, steady and fast, he knew. The slowly swaying sunflowers, their golden faces peering down toward the rapidly descending sun, kept his tall frame hidden as the girl walked past him, her arm systematically travelling between the ground and the basket, slowly adding to the bounty of her harvest. His gritted fingertips could have brushed against the fabric of her dress had he moved his hand out from behind the stalks. He looked across, through her, at Cordelia Mother’s eyes hidden in the wheat across the way, and waited. The girl was plain, her looks dirtied from the day’s hard toil, her eyelashes dusted over from the ceaseless drifts of topsoil, her fingernails darkened forever from the years of tilling the earth. Her face was simple and long and yet possessed pleasing contours and a delicacy of skin that could have been called beautiful, but William Son did not know this. He did not possess a concept of beauty, of fairness of face. He paid attention to other factors, to the girl’s blind spot, to the soft patch at the side of her neck, to the exact distance to the closest farmer, a heavyset man standing in the distance, peering over his moustache at the rows of wheat he was cutting down. The time was almost right. Earlier, as they were still settling on the hill, William Son had tried to select the one for the year, but as on many previous occasions, he had chosen poorly. “What about that man, Cordelia Mother? Will he do?” He had pointed to the man with the moustache, who had then just arrived, carrying his heavy scythe with him, and was surveying the field and the day’s work. The man had stood a long while, surveying the fields, peering out into the distance, then raised his hand and waved to the other townsfolk, signaling the start of the day’s harvest. “No, William Son, he will not. That is not a good choice, he is not a good enough man. He will not be missed. One body is as good for the earth, for the harvest, as another, that is true. But the good of the one we choose must be greater, so when we take him, the suffering of the others will be stronger, and they will know a greater happiness from it.” “Yes, Cordelia Mother. I understand.” The mass of strawberries flew apart as the girl tossed the basket into the air. This was his favorite part, William Son knew. Time seemed to crawl teasingly slow as he took another step out of the sunflower stalks, brushing aside blossoms heavy with seed, and fully faced the girl. She was already turning to run, but Cordelia Mother stood flanking her, having also stepped out of her spot in the wheat, and in the girl’s moment of panicked hesitation at being the sight of both of them, William Son was upon her. The force of his hand grabbing and pulling her arm back almost dis-
BORIS VASSILEV O
located her shoulder, and she screamed. He wrapped his palm around her open mouth, cutting off the sharp sound, and she bit into the tissue between his forefinger and thumb, her teeth sinking into the fibrous skin. He pulled her down to the ground, watched the slow motion as her skirt billowed down after her frame, gathering in a tuft at her ankles. As her body settled heavily on the ground, strawberries still rolled on the ground around them, the richness of their color deadened by dusted earth. To an observer a distance down the field, it would appear as if the girl has suddenly fallen through the ground and disappeared. Droplets of blood slipped down the side of William Son’s hand, her teeth still dug into his skin, and dripped down onto the ground as he held her. Each drop darkened the dry topsoil, splashing out radially as only single drops do, then was quickly absorbed. The fingers of William Son’s other hand wrapped themselves around her throat, and he felt her pulse rocket uncontrollably as he increased the constricting pressure. Cartilage shifted under his grip, and he felt the blood pumping in the veins under the skin as her hands scrambled futilely to push back his hands. Her life ebbed in his hands. William Son stopped squeezing her throat as something intangible caught onto him. Her hands were just like his, abrasive as they pushed against his arms, weaker with each press. He did not know that anyone could have hands like his. He wanted to touch hers, to know that they were real. Her eyes were verdantly green, like his had been, once. Her pupils were widened tremendously, and she held an oddly calm gaze that was penetrating right through him. Her cheeks were stained with her fear and his blood and he did not even feel the pain of her bite anymore. He felt that crackle again, that tint that he could not identify as compassion, as he lacked that capacity of understanding, but that stayed his action nonetheless. Hesitation pushed its way into his actions, when previously; he would have already choked the life out of his victim and dragged the body through the undergrowth by now. “William Son. Do it now. You know why.” William Son knew it, yes, but instead, his hands relaxed, and he felt a tinge of uncertain delight as the girl sharply drew in a desperate breath. Her lips were blue, but he did not mind that. He caught her arm, and traced its length with a fingertip, down to her palm, fascinated with the similarity to his own. He identified the traces of beauty now, he understood something born from within himself. He did not even mind when she opened her mouth and screamed again, the sound resonating clean through him. “William Son, what are you doing?” There was a sound like cracking, rolling thunder, and Cordelia Mother’s shoulder jerked oddly, blood spraying out in a tight arc from the exit wound in her back. She looked surprised. The bullet had simply punched through her like wallpaper, and like so much paper, Cordelia Mother folded up onto the ground. William Son looked down at the girl as she jerked her hand back from him and tried to crawl away, and became
O BORIS VASSILEV
aware of the townsfolk running toward them from the surrounding fields. He saw the puff of gunpowder from the gun that one of them was hoisting, the weapon now hastily being reloaded. He stood up, imposing, and ran to Cordelia Mother. He picked her up, instinctively, inhuman, and holding her uncomfortably frail stem to his chest, he ran back through the sunflower fields from which he had emerged with her moments earlier, when everything had been different. He broke stalks with his bounding strides, crashed through rows upon rows of foliage, ran until the sound of his own heart beating overwhelmed the yells of the townsfolk, Cordelia Mother’s labored breathing. The sun had set, and William Son had blood on his hands. Cordelia Mother was on her back, her eyes taking in the rapidly fading blaze of the autumn sky, and watching her, he tried to reason for himself. He did not know what he thought he knew before. He looked down at his hands, the ones that he now knew had a match. He knew that he had to give back to the earth, as Cordelia Mother had told him was their purpose. But he has nobody to give; they had not retrieved the one that had been chosen. Thoughts linked up, conclusions were drafted, measured, scrapped, re-derived, decided upon. Maybe he could, maybe he could still make it all work. Maybe he could even once again taste that delight, the one he had felt when his grip had loosened, when he had touched something like him, when he had known. He looked at Cordelia Mother, wondered what she would do to save them all. William Son stepped toward Cordelia Mother, gently brushed the side of her face with his rough fingertips. The blood had stopped flowing from her wound, but whether it was because she was healing, or had simply run dry of it, he did not know. He had lost count of how many years they had done this, ensured the harvest and happiness of the town, but all of her words suddenly came back to him, reminding him of how important it was, they were, he was, to the people of the town. They had to keep the townsfolk safe, keep their fruits bountiful, make them cherish life as only he and Cordelia Mother knew how to. Except it was just him, for Cordelia Mother no longer told him what to do. It was just like she had said: he had to make the decisions, he had to choose now. “One body is as good for the earth as another. That is right, isn’t it, Cordelia Mother?” Her eyes, pooled with fear, devoid of color, had no effect on him as he reached down and broke her neck. Her withered, sunken hands, so different from his, did nothing to stop him. She did not struggle as he had expected, as all the others had done before, she just kept looking at the sky. “Do you see, Cordelia Mother? I have made it work again. You are the most good person to me, the most good person I know, how can they not be the most sad tonight and the most happy tomorrow now that you are gone?”
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The silt that flowed from his hand quickly absorbed into the moist surface of her still-open eyes and fell into the pores of her face. The fine sheen of rusted soil gave her the appearance of a woman sculpted from clay. William Son kept slowly sifting soil onto her body. He had done this many times before, he knew what to do now. He would make sure she was part of the land, the soil, the happiness and health of the town. The rising sun illuminated the steppe, abruptly as it always does in lands so flattened and worn smooth by the natural elements. William Son walked slowly, his pace unhurried, deliberate. Somewhere back in the distance, a small mound of moist earth marked where he had saved the townsfolk, the harvest. He walked towards the town, walked toward the sensation of connection he had felt the day prior, hoping to recover that delight, and now that everyone was the happiest they would ever be because of him, maybe they would oblige him. He was looking for humanity, though he lacked the vocabulary and notions to properly describe it. William Son stretched his arms out as he walked through the wheat field from which he had run only the day before, the heads of the seeds catching the still-sticky coagulation on his hands. A headwind made the stalks run in waves around him. The repeated frictions of the grains against his skin slowly wore the blood off, and he stepped out of the fields, onto the road to the town, with clean hands. He felt a fear, a good trepidation, as he walked past the borders of the town, past where Cordelia Mother had told him never to go. She was not there to tell him anymore. His face was all mirth as he saw other people, real people, saved, happy people. He looked at their faces, and then to their hands, and back to their faces, searching for reciprocation. The townsfolk stopped or stared or turned and ran. William Son did not know whether to laugh or be upset or run after them. Soon he was in the town square, sorely standing out, towering over anyone left on the streets. Slowly, people gathered on the edges of the square. Nobody spoke. William Son looked around, giddy at his clever decision, happy that he was among people that Cordelia Mother would have warned him so sternly about. There was a momentum gathering in the townsfolk around him, but he did not feel it. He did not see the man walking down the long street until there was a small crowd following him, egging him on with muted stamping in the dust. William Son turned to him only when he heard the man call out, an angry tone of words that were lost on the gathering wind. William Son smiled widely and raised his hand above his head, cocking his shoulders awkwardly, as he had seen the man in the field do to the others. “Hello, hello! I am William Son, I have saved you for another year! This is the best morning of your lives!” The man did not stop for William Son’s words, but brandished the gun from his holster. William Son’s body crumpled like that of a reprimanded string-puppet to the tune of the gunshot. He fell into the darkened earth.
R i v e r
S n a i l
O REBECCA TAYLOR
Under the skin of my right knee, Thereâ€™s a small hard knot Where the bone grew wrong. Could be itâ€™s not bone at all, But a river snail From that summer I fell, Cracked both knees Open on river rocks. Could be while I watched My blood mix with river, A snail crawled in, Made a home in it.
T h e N e a r e s t F a r a w a y P l a c e
WEI-LING WOO O O 18
The garden in the back of my grandfather’s house in Singapore has always remained mysterious to me. It is the nearest faraway place – a blank on the map, a swathe of unknown and unexplored territory. At times it seemed that the house – last outpost of a civilized world – could be standing on the edge of a whole new tropical continent, one which did not end at the fence where the neighbor’s swimming pool and garden began. As children, my siblings and I were timid explorers. We always stuck to the tar, riding our bicycles around and around the circular driveway until we got dizzy. Now clockwise, now counter-clockwise. Beyond the garage, the jungle seemed to invade into a private space. (Rumors of snakes kept us at bay.) To the untrained eye, the garden revealed nothing interesting, just empty land ringed by tall fruit and rain trees, hiding puddles of stagnant water where mosquitoes were thought to be breeding in abundance. The garden was surprisingly fertile. At various times of the year, the fruit trees that grew – no one knew who planted them – gave way to ripe tropical fruit like mangoes and rambutans, lychees and durians. The durians were my favorite – green, spiky round fruit with creamy yellow flesh whose metal counterpart could have been wielded as a medieval weapon. As children my siblings and I were never involved with the fruit harvest. We were only interested in the small, bright red and stone-hard saga seeds that littered the floor of the garden. The seeds are poisonous if eaten and we carried the threat constantly in the back of our minds as we picked the seeds like forbidden treasure. They exploded from dry and cracking seed pods, falling to the damp earth where our eyes discerned them beneath the fat stalks of grass. The memory of holding those small, stone-like seeds in my hand comes back to me now, the hardness and smoothness of them. They aren’t perfectly spherical, but a much more pleasing shape, rounded and somewhat flattened like pebbles worn down by the surf. If you run your finger along the seed’s edge, you can feel the tapered ridges. Perhaps the Chinese thought they looked like miniature beating hearts, when they named them xiang si dou. Dou is a generic word for bean, and xiang si describes the love sickness of parted lovers. In ancient India, the seeds, correspondingly dense, were used to weigh gold. Their color was the
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exact hue and brightness of the small red dot on the forehand of my grandfather’s Indian gardener, Tumbi. One day I watched with wretched fascination as he killed a wriggling garden snake with the sharp edge of a metal dustpan. I have never been able to reconcile the fact that people who met me after I’d left Singapore could never see the jungle. Gradually my accent changed, and nothing marked me as foreign any longer. People assume I was born and grew up in the United States, or that I moved here at a young age. But the whole early part of my life and consciousness was formed against the backdrop of rain falling on tropical rain trees and the cicadas that whined and died. Coming to America was as much about adjusting to the cycle of seasons and deciduous trees, to squirrels and robins and raccoons, as it was to the culture or people. I now understand the desire perhaps, that some of the great unknown explorers must have had, for all their memories and experiences, the paths and continents they walked, to be drawn and mapped on their bodies as they continually moved, unable to settle in one place. Not like the British, who felt the need to settle and name the land itself, so that years later in the twenty-first century one might ponder the absurdity of finding road names in Singapore such as “Prince Edward” and “Mountbatten” and “Canterbury,” or find oneself still able to dine at the British Club. No, I believe those explorers understood the meaninglessness of leaving behind the legacy of a name on buildings or countries or roads. They knew the importance of carrying the personal with them. One day, perhaps a little late, you find that such incongruous things as the weight and shape of a small seed, or the padded sounds of a particular insect’s delicate feet on a leaf, or the splash upon impact of monsoon rain on swimming pool water has burrowed deep into your brain and seared a path along your consciousness.
H i ya h - H i a y
a n d
. 4 5
[Pray. You. Undo. Button. Thank. Sir You. See. This? Look. Her! Look. Lip. Look. There. Fuck. Look. There.— He real dead. ]
Farewell speech with what we filled the trees my Grandmother buries a time capsule when she washes up on shores of an America unfamiliar as savage, groomed for a prompt-fixing on the cross. At Columbus’s-landing site there’s a song for each future I’ve misplaced because of my Fatherof-the-Year-runner-up to television-bourbon. Unrobbed of futures, it will hit me and when it’s rid of cobwebs, I’ll sing the tribe to sleep in my Grandmother’s backyard by the lilacs. Unearth your guns. Watch the plumes of history’s smoke for the dank, the message supposed etched on the walls: we reds treat scalp and head separate, we whites ditch the scalp to poison heart. Dig out your heart from behind its gates and bury it in Custard’s suburban backyard where there’s a hidden picnic table behind the teeth of his barking-bitch Queen of Residential Schools, real-nice-American-lady to donate her free time, offer to cut my crazed locks, straddle my lobes. Rotten wood, the words of my poems break, grow out of Mister Tiresias’ summer house, graffitied tomb: Y-O-M-A-M-A was H-E-R-E, Day of Remembrance, 1994. I’ll be there at lunchtime, Kawenoke 1990, somewhere after the Crisis at Oka but before I was born hairless, straight into now, our nation’s heydays—unlit trailer parks in a Summer of Myths like look at the moon outside of our window: it laughs and kicks pigeon cans down the sidewalk. Lucky moon to be so far from the reservation. Luckily time’s winding down, stripped of its buffalo hide, faster, headfirst into the languid belly of a puckered-face gyre to the moment they tongued Grandma eyes right from anchor in the center of a make-shift Episcopalian church. Here it is, they say Great Truth, they say Here. Water and you are safe from two-headed deer, from loin cloth, forest, dark—Bang, got me a squaw. My pearly-whites shall ever be heathen; unlike pearlwhites of pioneer, we are sleepier than usual. Bang. Whiskey make chief dead. Chief no brains. At the gun, there is no doctor for those kinds of things, at least not while wearing a headdress. Crises identity, not I— I am too New Roman, confused into whitewash by the time. Oh Great Myth of Beer Can, I will be memorized by all, remembered by few.
DALTON LABARGE O O 20
N o .1
O MAURICE DECAUL
sunup’s the best time for raids this morning I’ll shield Ferrier’s flank three nights ago Chatterton saw a boy throw himself from a window he wasn’t injured but startled Chatterton spun around & sighted him in we’ll push north shortly we’ll lose guys I love you the morning sky’s pockmarked with tracers appearing elegant for the moment
C r o s s i n g
B r i d g e s
We inhale air foul from fresh fires smoldering near city center Thereâ€™s no fight just felled structures & burnt tanks in ditches should we slay these men standing along the side road? Ahead Camp White-Horse & clean beds belonging to specters & men bore-punching rifles
MAURICE DECAUL O 22
D o g
O MAURICE DECAUL
Inky evening our senses overdrive reeking sewage contouring streams ratattat drops him ratattat heâ€™s quiet
S n a p
Moonbeam leaves me sightless in Nasiriyah 7.62s snap like baseballs fucking bats Patrols last minutes but feel like days Today I woke on a bridge thinking today was seven years ago
MAURICE DECAUL O 24
S e c t o r s
F i r e
O MAURICE DECAUL
Machine guns cover Mk19s picking up dead space tangle foot claymores pointing To Enemy After crossing this line thereâ€™s no God just morose reticence & spontaneous mirth
W h e r e a r e y o u w h e n y o u g o t o s l e e p
KARA FREEWIND O O 26
Life has stopped. The space of the apartment sleeps while I’m on the couch, on my back, stiff, hands at my sides, turned upward, all slits on my face closed. No light or air except through my nostrils, that’s the way I like it. Roberta, black and bones, is a small circle of hair on the floor near the window. There is a knock, and a pause, but we don’t stir or move. Ana. Deep in my brain I know it is Ana. It has been two months and one week, maybe two or three days more than that. I knew this moment was inevitable, and now she is on the other side of the door. Our door. She’s tapping her foot and looking anxious. Her hair is frizzy and big like it always is on the days she’s stressed and doesn’t have time to shower. She’s carrying her charcoal-colored handbag with enough toothpaste and makeup and extra clothes for her to spend the night before she goes back to her sister’s to get the rest of her things. She’s here because she wants to spend the night. And, most of all, because she misses me. I turn over, eyes still closed, and remember the fruit I left on the counter that I bought last week. It’s rotten and deteriorating, and I think I can smell it but I’m not sure. I see what the maggots would look like if they came. The nudeness of it. An armless, undulating dance against a peach pit. This could go one of two ways. Number one: I open the door and arrange my face to say “stern” and “annoyed.” Ana looks at me pleadingly and asks to come inside. I sigh. “Fine.” She steps in. She pours herself into my arms and begins to cry. Not a soft, weepy cry but a full body ocean thunderstorm. She heaves and rattles and her small frame attaches to mine like velcro. I press back against her. She is so sorry. She doesn’t know why she ever left. She feels crazy. Can I forgive her? I let my face unclench and whisper, “It’s okay, Ana, it’s okay.” She comes inside and we kiss for a while through all the salt on
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her nose and mouth. We kiss like we did on the nights she would come home from work with her tired smile and sit on my lap and put her lips against my ear and tell me what kind of underwear she was wearing, even though I had seen her put them on in the morning. But this time she would be proving to me that she was sorry, and this time, she wouldn’t leave. Number two: I don’t get up. I let my body paralyze and listen to the sounds she makes from the hallway. She’ll knock again. She’ll wait. She’ll knock louder. She’ll call “Miles!” and all I’ll feel is that little tingle of hiding. I won’t breathe. I’ll want to laugh. The floorboards will gasp. And then she’ll be going down the stairs, pretending to hurl herself off of twenty tiny cliffs. But I don’t stay on the couch. I can’t. I get up. Roberta looks up at me, purring, and I shuffle to the door barefoot. I’m in my pajamas but I don’t care. I open it. It’s not Ana. “Hey!” “Hey.” “I didn’t think you were in there! How have you been?” “What?” “How are you?” Casey. She lives next door in 2C. We bump into each other in the hallway once in a while and trade facts about our jobs and families and where we’re from. She’s a vet assistant from Milwaukee, which makes sense, because it’s really easy to picture her in a lab coat, hugging one-eyed dogs and cats, helping them get better, holding charts. “I’m okay. How are you?” “Good! See you later at the party?” “What?” “I just wanted to stop by to remind you about our party? The one I told you about last week?” I remember. I had walked up the stairs behind her as I carried my mail and she carried her laundry, the breadth of her hips moving from side to side in her stretchy Saturday pants. She chirped about the building and her roommates and the how it was raining and she wished it wasn’t, and I watched where her blonde hair grazed her ass. It was a gradient, brown to yellow, like that special kind of corn on the table at Thanksgiving that no one ever touches. She had said something about a party—her roommate was moving somewhere. Bon voyage. I told her I didn’t know her roommate but she said there would be a lot of people. I had heard their parties through the wall before but had never been invited, probably because Ana was never particularly nice to neighbors. “Oh yeah.” “So are you coming?”
KARA FREEWIND O O 28
“Um yeah, sure. What time?” “Ten.” “Should I bring something?” “Maybe to drink? But don’t bother if you don’t have a bottle around already.” She looks at the rotting fruit bowl. “I’ll see you later?” “Yeah.” She waves her fingers and smiles before turning to leave. I realize that I’ve never noticed how small her nose is or how soft her lips must be. I hear her opening up the lock next door and saying something to her roommates. They laugh and talk like they always do in their deep, muffled nonsense voices. The day before Ana left, I’m pretty sure they heard us fighting. Ana had just gotten home from work— she’s a product photographer— and she had had a really shitty day taking pictures of fancy shampoo or Egg McMuffins or whatever she was shooting. She had a lot of shitty days. Anyway, she comes in and I’m laying on the couch reading a book and she gets this look on her face like I’m her sixty-year-old alcoholic father covered in my own vomit and it’s all she can do to even stand in the same room as me. I say, “What?” “It’s nothing.” “Come on.” “Okay,” she says. She asks me if I ever fucking do anything, and I say yes, I just did the laundry, there just isn’t work right now and I was with her when she wasn’t working and she should understand. She asks me if I love her and I say yes. She asks me if I even know how much I am killing her but instead of answering I turn over on my side. She goes into the bedroom and I hear her opening up drawers and crying. She comes back, now her hair is down and her eyes are wet and black. She’s holding a handful of socks and perching on a stool in the kitchen. She looks desperate for something. Hollow and hopeless like a starving animal. I should have guessed it would happen. I knew there had to have been some truth or point that I was missing. I knew that she was more attractive than me and she was smarter and made more money and had more friends. But the question was whether she knew it, had always known it. The first time I kissed her in public— outside the Vietnamese restaurant where I took her on our third date— I remember her looking around to see who was watching, like maybe some tall fucker in a trench coat would come and say “What is a beautiful girl like you doing with a guy like this?” and take her away and give her what she wanted. Then when I kissed her at her apartment she said I was doing it too hard with too much tongue, but all I was trying to do was say this is
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how much I like you. Her hands are in her hair and she’s shaking. She’s sorry. She can’t do this anymore, it’s not me, it’s her, and she knows that’s a cliché. She didn’t mean to say I was killing her. She has to leave for a while, she’s going to stay with her sister, but her building doesn’t allow cats. Can I take care of Roberta? She’ll be back in a few weeks. She goes back to the bedroom and starts ripping her sheets off the bed and I’m still on the couch, wondering where I’ll sleep and how I’ll sleep without her and when the next time we sleep together will be. The next morning, most of her was gone. I woke up on the couch feeling the weight of Roberta on my chest, her paws on my neck, oscillating. I couldn’t believe Ana left without her. A few years ago she bought the tiny, even skinnier kitten version of Roberta after seeing her in the window of a pet store and since then had spent hundreds of cumulative hours fawning over her bony black body and bright green eyes. “Bertie, Bertie, who’s the prettiest girl?” she whispered, handling her in the rough way that children treat pets they love too much. Sometimes I wondered if Roberta would be better off in the country or outside eating rat guts and sharpening her claws on tree bark. But she seems to like living in the apartment and watching the things that move in windowpanes. It’s 10:10PM. It’s been three hours and I’m still on the couch. Muffled music starts and so does the party. I’ll go but later, when everyone has had something to drink and I can lean along the wall and bob my head and wait for Casey to talk to me. I’ll wear something like nice jeans and a button down so it looks like maybe I just got back from another party or maybe I’m going to another party after. Every few minutes I hear the door creaking open and banging shut, new guests arriving and yelling and talking in tongues. I go to the closet and sort through all of my clothes, along with all of Ana’s residue— the underwear she forgot to take out of the hamper the day she left, the small solitary socks at the bottom of drawers, the hair bands still suffocated by black wiry strands. Now I’ve gotten used to living with these things, but for a while I tried to temporarily erase them in every ceremonial way I could think of. I put the lacy pajamas and pilling sweaters she left in a cardboard box and wrote “A” on top so I could tuck it away under the bed and she would know it was hers when she got back. I cleaned out the ball of hair—a mixture of Ana’s and Roberta’s— that I found in the vacuum filter and put it in the garbage disposal. I let her food — soy milk, spinach, egg whites— stay in the refrigerator until everything turned rancid and limp and I had to take it outside to throw it in the garbage can. I get dressed and put on my nicest leather shoes, brown with buckles, a gift from Ana. The music coming from the wall is getting
louder, so I look through the cupboards in the kitchen, take out an old bottle of whiskey, and pour a glass so my brain will loosen up before the party. It tears through my throat like I imagine lighter fluid would if I were dumb enough to drink it, and I watch my reflection gag against the blackness in the window. For a second, I imagine someone watching me— a child in a tree, spying, a future version of myself, remembering, my parents, looking disappointed. Ana, peering through the shadows and trying to decide if she should come back and if she even wants to and if there is any part of me worth loving unconditionally, forever. I take another drink and spill a little on my shirt. I imagine the people outside, it’s a crowd now, glaring at me, disgusted. That’s your last clean shirt, they say in unison, watching my window like a television screen. Don’t you know how to take care of yourself? I close the blinds.
KARA FREEWIND O O 30
It’s 10:47PM and the noise is louder now. I drink another sip of whiskey and put my ear against the wall. I hear the music and try to picture what Casey’s party dress looks like. It is bright and stupid and beautiful, with sequins and butterflies hanging off the fabric. She is dancing and I want to be dancing with her, touching her hair. This could go one of two ways. Number one: I dry off my shirt, turn the light off and leave the apartment with only my key in my pocket. I knock on Casey’s door, and her roommate answers. She doesn’t recognize me. I ask her if she’s the one who is moving and she says no, who am I? Casey sees me before I have to answer and drags me through the loud, stumbling strangers, into the hot core of party. She is drunk and her eyes are sparkling and she is smiling like she has never, ever done anything wrong. Their apartment is draped with Christmas lights, and we rub against each other, not caring, feeling. I whisper every thought I’ve ever had about her nose and mouth and body. She tells me about a cat whose life she saved. We laugh and hold each other closer until the music stops and, suddenly, everyone is gone but us and we collapse on the floor, below the Christmas lights, under and around each other’s skin. Number two: I finish the whiskey. I move to the wall and press my body against the sheetrock, pretending that it’s both Ana and Casey, wondering where Ana is and who she is sleeping with. How Casey is dancing and who Casey is dancing with. I pretend I can push through the wall all the way to the party. I’m running my hand across Casey’s waist, and she’s smiling her guiltless smile. And then I get tired. I slide down onto the floor, next to Roberta, touching the wall and the vibrations. Then I lay on my back, hands at my sides, palms up— the only way I can ever fall asleep.
Ve r t i g o
O BECCA LIU
All day you have been reckless. You have shattered your mother’s teacups and eaten phosphorus fishes by the schoolful. You pelted speckled fruit at passers-by and embraced the aged Ethiopian man with arms outstretched at his balcony. At night you stalked into the schoolyard to climb its broken trees and metal scaffolding, spitting seeds at the fountains stained black, and swung backwards over the city to emerge on the other side with watermelon grins and gin bottles swaddled in yesterday’s news. You, in bony two-step beats braced yourself for boldness, delicate mulch of drunkenness, and climbed the ladder to the roof. Once you were there, you envied the stars their height and wouldn’t get down.
R o c k C a n d y & C i n n a m o n R o l l
ACT ONE: Bump & Grind
ERIC INGRAM O
(Man waltzes into psychologist’s office. Man sits down. Dr. Arm looks up from some papers.) DR. ARM: Richard, I presume? RICHARD: You presume what? DR. ARM: I presume, Richard. RICHARD: Go on. (Richard waves hands. Dr. Arm stands, begins to exit.) RICHARD: What are you doing? DR. ARM: Why, did you not just tell me to ‘go on’? RICHARD: Yes I did. DR. ARM: Then yes I have almost did. But you have done interloped me. (Dr. Arm walks back, sits down. Richard and Dr. Arm stare, then blink many times. Dr. Arm shuffles papers.) DR. ARM: (Without looking up) Why don’t you tell me about yourself, Richard? RICHARD: I don’t know, I guess I don’t really have a conscious reason for it. (Dr. Arm looks confusedly at Richard. Richard casts a sincere gaze at Dr. Arm. Dr. Arm gasps. Both turn away from each other.) RICHARD: I am hungry. DR. ARM: There’s a patch of marshmallows growing under the middle cushion. (Dr. Arm bats an eye.) DR. ARM: Go on, investigate! (Richard begins to move, hesitates, confused. Scratches an ear.) RICHARD: You said the middle cushion, right? DR. ARM: No, the middle. RICHARD: Yes, the middle. Got it. (Richard ponders, pensive for a moment. Looks up.) RICHARD: Your middle or my middle? DR. ARM: (Quickly) Mine, of course! (Richard uncushions the couch to find, from left to right, a plastic baby, a package of marshmallows, a stack of papers
O ERIC INGRAM
with the current date on the cover page. All the while Dr. Arm mumbles: Of course it’s my middle, it’s my office after all! Rich- ard lies down on cushions, now on floor. A moment of tranquil- ity.) DR. ARM: Tell me about Richard, Richard. RICHARD: (Aside) What should I speak of he who is me? (Two specters appear, one red, one blue. Red and Blue walk across stage.) RED: (Spitefully) Why don’t you tell him you’re an asshole? (Red and Blue exit.) RICHARD: I’m an asshole. (Dr. Arm thinks for a moment.) DR. ARM: You know, Martin Luther used to throw his feces at the devil. (Red and Blue enter, throwing a plastic baby [not the one on the couch] back and forth. Richard puts on a jacket.) RICHARD: Well, what else was he gonna throw at the devil? DR. ARM: Up? (Richard jumps up, intercepts the baby from Red and Blue, puts it on couch with other plastic baby. Red and Blue fall down, like dead.) DR. ARM: Do you like dogs, Richard? RICHARD: Only the left-handed ones. (Richard glances from side to side, sighs nervously.) DR. ARM: Richard, what is on your mind? RICHARD: A song is stuck in my head. DR. ARM: Oh, which tune? RICHARD: Well, to tell you the truth, I heard it in a dream I had. (Richard glances to the left.) DR. ARM: Now, I wouldn’t be a good psychologist if I didn’t tell you to tell me about this dream. Tell me about this dream. RICHARD: (Emphatically) I am fleeing the Nazis, and I wind up in a hotel run solely by Chinese. I go to the pool area, there are two floors, the level with the pool is slightly higher in elevation, and I stand there. DR. ARM: Yes? RICHARD: I stand there, and six Chinese men and six Chinese women, all workers at the hotel, waltz into my view. The men wear spee- dos, goggles, and swimming caps. The women wear onesies, goggles, and swimming caps. All of the colors are dark dark navy blue. (Richard pauses.) DR. ARM: Go on. RICHARD: Suddenly, the twelve break into a well-rehearsed synchro- nized swimming routine, set to music. One of the men is the
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lead swimmer, and sings the song. The song consists of a horn section playing the a chord progression similar to This Magic Moment and the lead swimmer singing the words “Ain’t noth- in’ wrong with a little bump and grind” repeatedly. The funny thing, though, is that he puts the emphasis on the second syl- lable of the word “little.’ That is really the kicker. And I’ve had this song stuck in my head ever since the dream. (Red and Blue crawl up to couch, pick up strewn papers, hand to Richard.) DR. ARM: Can you read? RICHARD: It depends. DR. ARM: Oh, hot ice! Depends on what? RICHARD: What language it’s in. (Richard shuffles through the papers. Dr. Arm hunches over in defeat, also in de chair.) RICHARD: Do you know what this is? DR. ARM: (Piqued) No. RICHARD: (Pacing) It is a transcript of this entire conversation. DR. ARM: That’s quiteDR. ARM and RICHARD: (in Euna Son) Remarkable. (Richard still looks down, at transcript of entire conversation.) RICHARD: Richard, I presume? DR. ARM: Presume what? RICHARD: Presume, Richard. DR. ARM: (Motioning with hands) Go on. (Richard pauses, staring intensely at papers. He picks up marshmallows and throws them at Dr. Arm.) DR. ARM: (Ex post facto) Why did you do that, Richard? (Richard looks up.) RICHARD: It’s what the papers told me to do. (Dr. Arm looks confused.) RICHARD: I know you’re confused, it says so on this page. DR. ARM: Let me see it! RICHARD: No, I shouldn’t DR. ARM: Why shouldn’t you? (Richard shuffles through the papers.) RICHARD: Looks like I don’t really explain anything to you, ever. DR. ARM: (Pauses) Well, do you understand any of it? RICHARD: Of course! It says it all on this paper. DR. ARM: Even the words we are exchanging now? RICHARD: Yes, and yes. DR. ARM: Why did you say yes twice? RICHARD: I was answering your next question pre-emptively. (Richard looks down, and is silent. A moment’s pause.)
DR. ARM: Well what now? (Richard still silent.) DR. ARM: Richard? Richard! RICHARD: Honestly I don’t know. This is the end of the last page. DR. ARM: What does that mean? (Richard shrugs. A moment’s pause. Man in suit walks in, goofy, hands a paper to Richard. Richard looks down. Man exits. Richard, somber, shakes head.) DR. ARM: (Anxiously) What does it say? (Richard looks up, somberly.) RICHARD: It says I’m supposed to kill you. (Enter three mighty beasts: Ronald MacDonald, Oedipus Rex, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Richard glances left. Mr. MacDon- ald waves. Scene fades away, except for the waves of Ronald MacDonald…)
(Dickface approaches the door & knocks four times. Richard opens door.) DICKFACE: What the fuck are you doing? RICHARD: I’m writing. DICKFACE: (Confusedly) I thought you were left-handed. RICHARD: Why did you think that? DICKFACE: Well, you told me you are left-handed. RICHARD: Did I? DICKFACE: Yes. (Pauses) So are you? (Richard, tracing letters “R” “U” in the air: “M” “I?”) DICKFACE: “R” “U?” RICHARD: Whatever do you mean? DICKFACE: Left-handed? RICHARD: Yes I am left-handed. I write with my left. DICKFACE: So you write– (Raises right hand) –with your left? (Raises left hand) RICHARD: Yes, I left– (Raises left hand) –with my right. (Raises right hand) DICKFACE: That’s not what I asked. (Richard looks confused.) DICKFACE: I said “right.”
O ERIC INGRAM
ACT TWO: Two Important Phone Calls
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RICHARD: You mean “correct?” DICKFACE: Yes. RICHARD: Well clearly it wasn’t correct if your question didn’t elicit a suitable response! DICKFACE: What does formal dress have to do with it? RICHARD: A good response, to be appropriate, needs to be fitted. This it needs to be suitable. (Dickface looks to Richard’s papers.) DICKFACE: What are you writing? RICHARD: A play about Reservoir Dogs. DICKFACE: Oh – do you like Reservoir Dogs? RICHARD: Well, I think so. DICKFACE: What do you mean? RICHARD: I haven’t actually seen it yet. (Dickface spins around in a circle of disbelief.) RICHARD: (Apologetically) I’ve seen Pulp Fiction, though. It’s one of my favorites. (Dickface gives Richard a look.) Well, most of it… I fell asleep halfway through. DICKFACE: How does one fall asleep during Pulp Fiction, exactly? RICHARD: Well, I didn’t fall asleep asleep. DICKFACE: What did you actually do, then? RICHARD: I drank wine & ate cheese. Not that much actually. Probably five-eighths that much. DICKFACE: So you drank wine & five cheese during the middle of Pulp Fiction? (Conversation interrupted by a knocking at the door. Woman enters.) WOMAN: 你好，你家有问题 RICHARD: (Confusedly) 没有 WOMAN: Ah - 对不起！ (Woman leaves. Richard looks confused & he is confused by the nature of the woman’s inquiry. Dickface looks confused, by the nature of the situation.) DICKFACE: (Mouth agape) You speak Chinese? RICHARD: Yes. DICKFACE: What did she say? RICHARD: She asked if my house has any problems. DICKFACE: (Looking around) So what did you tell her? RICHARD: I said that there is a crazy man holding me against my will, forcibly. DICKFACE: How do you say that in Chinese? RICHARD: Why does it matter? DICKFACE: So I know what to say if she comes back… (Dickface’s cell phone rings.)
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DICKFACE: (To Richard, not the phone) Here–I’ll just go outside & take this call. I’ve actually been expecting an important call. RICHARD: Ok. (Dickface walks out the door and closes it. Dickface picks up his phone.) DICKFACE: Hello. RICHARD: Hey Dickface, this is Richard. DICKFACE: Oh – I’ve been expecting your call. RICHARD: Have you? DICKFACE: Yes, actually– [interrupted] RICHARD: Have you? DICKFACE: I don’t know, have I? RICHARD: You just told me you have. DICKFACE: Well, then I must have. RICHARD: Ok. DICKFACE: Unless I haven’t… (Richard looks confused.) RICHARD: Are you trying to confuzzle me? DICKFACE: Yes. RICHARD: Really? DICKFACE: No. (Pauses) Yes. RICHARD: Ok, well, let’s get down to binness. DICKFACE: (Knowingly) To defeat the Huns. RICHARD: Have you been listening to Wu Tang? DICKFACE: I don’t know, have– RICHARD: Oh, fooey. I shouldn’t have asked. DICKFACE: (With dramatic timing) Or should you have? RICHARD: (Pauses) Do you want to meet in person to discuss? DICKFACE: Ok. Where shall we meet? RICHARD: Well, are you anywhere near my area? DICKFACE: (Looking around) Well, I was slightly closer 20 minutes ago… I guess I could go over to you. RICHARD: Do you know my address? DICKFACE: No. RICHARD: That’s too bad – I need it for some papers I’m filling out right now… (Dickface knocks four times. They both close phones.) RICHARD: I wouldn’t have done that if I were you… DICKFACE: Done what? RICHARD: Knocked like that. DICKFACE: Why’s that? RICHARD: I only knock in odd numbers. DICKFACE: What if you want to visit your neighbor? That would re- quire you to knock in an apartment building, not in an odd number?
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RICHARD: I don’t visit my neighbors. DICKFACE: Why not? Other than the knocking… RICHARD: They’re really loud & they drink a lot. Really old, too. (Pauses) They’re famous, though. DICKFACE: Oh – who are they? RICHARD: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre. DICKFACE: Oh, cheerio! Let’s pay them a visit, shall we? (Richard & Dickface visit the Fitzgeralds. The Fitzgerald’s are talking.) SCOTTIE: O, My love! I want to spend the rest of my life making you happy! Can you let me do that? Will you marry me, my sweet? ZELDA: (feminine cough) Well, Scotty, I don’t know. SCOTTIE: I’ll do anything for you, darling...please! ZELDA: I just have so many offers and my other boyfriend, Biff, has several books published and a yacht and lots of money... SCOTTIE: So you need fame and money? ZELDA: Yes, and then I’ll reconsider, maybe, if I don’t have better op- tions... SCOTTIE: Oh! I didn’t see you there. I was too busy trying to convince Zelda to marry me. & thinking about myself, of course. (Pauses) Well, sit down old sports! (Scottie stands up) Now who wants a drink, or three? (Stumbles) ZELDA: Scottie you’re drunk! SCOTTIE: (To Richard & Dickface) Come on now, introduce yourselves for heaven’s sake! RICHARD: I’m your neighbor… DICKFACE: (Pauses) Dickface. RICHARD: Richard. SCOTTIE: Oh, what dreadfully middle class names! I simply will not tolerate this. (Stumbles more) I shall christen you… Zelda, fetch the holy water will you? ZELDA: You mean the rum? SCOTTIE: (To the boys) I am an awfully good Catholic, you know… (Zelda fetches the rum.) SCOTTIE: (Dousing Dickface’s head with rum) You, Dickface, shall now & hereafter be known as… Amory Blaine! (To Richard) The name sounds well, doesn’t it? (Zelda’s eyes light up.) ZELDA: (Wistfully) Amory Blaine! SCOTTIE: Quite a name, I know. I invented it myself. Improv. (Zelda gazes at Dickface.) ZELDA: (Aside) Amory Blaine! The very name seems to capture wealth and influence with every inhalation–release fame & charm with every exhale. What an attractive name! Its got nothing on Ear-
O ERIC INGRAM
nest, of courseâ€“but it quite beats Scottie! What is this, Star Trek? (Zelda walks over to Dickface.) SCOTTIE: It appears as if my love has once again broken off our engage ment. Zelda my sweet? ZELDA: Scottie, I love Amory now and I always have. Its over. SCOTTIE: Rum, rum! Let me retire to Minnesota to spend my summer in a drunken stupor & write what will become my first novel & bring instant fame upon myself so that Zelda will marry me & we can have a famously tumultuous relationship that ends disastrously with my alcoholism and Zeldaâ€™s failed career as a professional ballet dancer & subsequent schizophrenia & eventual death which will all provide excellent fodder for my most famous novels: The Great Gatsby & Tender is the Night. Away, away. Beam me up Scottie! (F. Scott Fitzgerald runs away, presumably to Minnesota. Zelda and Dickface walk out the door. Richard pauses, looks around. Pours himself a drink.)
b l o c k t h e m i c , i a t e t o o m u c h h i p - h o p f o r d i n n e r l a s t n i g h t hedge fund green go get that cheese wedge rack up the crackers tack down the rafters hammer up this fence post keep the tents and the ghosts up we can create a green border around our garden don’t let the rabbits get our carrots fifty gold rings ten thousand carats my diamond is cut like your teething ferret your baby is feral your mind is sterile your loins too fertile next time wear a girdle it’ll keep the boys off you it’ll keep the noise calm you don’t need no kid now just watch tv pop the fridge fry up an egg dredge up your spirit from the farthest swamplike deathlands of your body your mind where is the flickering tube when you need it the fascinating rube the country oakey dokey hokey honky tonk like a floozy eating cypher sun sonk songs of freedom of deliciousness of delicacy rhyming is not a conspiracy it kinda is a conspiracy of sound the rhetorical illiteracy literacy of sonic youth streaming up uncouth crass like the grass we smoke trees grow feel flow like reaches of the galaxy like the fish roe like the billions of eggs swimming in this cold dark river towing down the line heavy tides rip tides like the seam of your dress when you’ve danced too much calves aching from the high heeled well heeled pumps up the volume like a dancefloor like the club that you caught me at shaking an ass and a dream be the next Jennifer Lopez flow this like a fly girl like a high girl like a my girl and the temptations are eternal and everlasting out in the wilderness there is no food just fasting there is no receipt just casting cashing the check you chased after fifty long years of work the bank deposit is not made of blood but vomit I am aching but still here still sound the floodgate is not noahs ark the bark made from a thousand beaver trees you can leave it to me we have build up a fine strong house kind strong bind these long winter nights warm inside light to hide the darkness shadow falls like a welcome stranger little flickers of joy like jesus in the manger
NATALIE KORMAN O
m u r d e r
s t e p s
I see what you can’t: the tufts of hair near your ears that grows horizontally, the stiff white collar on your wrinkled shirt, and the bump on your nose, like when two blocks of pavement don’t align. I would step on it, if I weren’t looking. Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. You are black, it’s the second thing I notice. First, your hands. They belong to an old man, but you are a young one. My mother says you can always tell someone’s age by their hands. Ten fingers, and each plays a different tune. They are as fast as spider legs, skittering across the black and the white of the keyboard. They shift between sleep and consciousness, awakened by a sound of their own making. I don’t know jazz, but I know your jazz is good. I hear your music, and I become a mess of hair and heart stuck to the sawdust ground of this Brooklyn bar. I want to dance (I can’t dance) and sing (I can’t sing) and close my eyes and let my arms jiggle. But how do you move to jazz?
Step in a ditch, your father’s nose will itch. Your music is a child—distracted and scattered and confused and eager and up and down to the side and, still, still, still, But not done.
O EMMA ROSENBERG
The guy next to me doesn’t know. He’s a tree in no wind; he stands motionless in his brown corduroys. I’m an awkward twig, swaying to a rhythm I can’t find.
It has a terrible memory. It trips and falls and trips again where it falls, but forgets to cry. I try to follow but I am tired. I wrinkle with every note. As easily as you started, with no notice at all, you stop. For a few seconds, my body sways to silence, continuing where you left off. You take a sip of water and motion for me to sit on the edge of the stage. Up close, there’s no sign of what came out of you, no sweat on your forehead. But your spiders still move, across the stage and up my knees. You stop because you tell me, “You’re out of tune.” Your lips are so big, your words sound puffy and swollen, like a bee stung your “p’s” and your “r’s” and they can barely make it out of your mouth alive. You talk only in questions, so many questions. You don’t even wait for answers. Just, what makes you happy? What makes you sad? What animal would you be if you could? You could, you know. You could fly if you wanted to, fly right out of this bar with me. I feel like I’m taking an online personality test. “I’d be a cat.” “Why?” “Because I like cats.” “Why?” “Because all they do is sit and eat and get their belly rubbed.” This answer seems sufficient to you. Next question.
EMMA ROSENBERG O
But there’s another woman there and she asks you questions back and dances like I can’t and I want your attention. I want more stupid questions. Ask away. And this bitch, well, I’m sure she’s nice. But this bitch, she keeps asking you more questions. She’s half Mexican and half Dutch and half beautiful and I want to ask her if she can just go away.
Step on a nail, put your father in jail. A man on the subway car with a torn brown shirt and a beanie hat uses a pole for his pillow. “Shouldn’t we wake him?” you ask. “He’s going to miss his stop.” How could someone be so naïve? He is homeless; he has no stops. You get quiet then, when you realize this is his home. “Oh,” you say. Oh. The streets are bare, and I imagine every New Yorker tucked away in a shoebox, sleeping to the sounds of the M60 unloading its ghosts. The wheels screech against the pavement, the doors swing open, and sleepers turn over in their sleep. The street is ours, and we devour the pavement, block by block. I stretch my feet from the edge one block of the pavement to the other, letting my arms fall to the ground. “Do you think that’s gum?” you ask, pointing with the tip of your shoe to little black circles on the pavement. I lift my head and stare at the dots. I think you’re stupid to think they’re gum. Stupid with a capital S. They are black tar filling the holes of the concrete.
I feel like a prime urban asshole. I’ve been blackened like chewing gum on the sidewalk. I looked it up online, it’s true—it is gum, after all. The reporter called it “a case of mass denial”, “a lack of anthropological curiosity.” Chewing gum, flamingo pink when it started, walked on over and over again, until it is not gum but a black star in a concrete sky. We are late, so we don’t notice the stars. But once, or maybe twice, when we’re not feeling in such a hurry, we will see the black dots and wonder again as we pass them by, what are they?
O EMMA ROSENBERG
Step in a hole, you’ll break your mothers bowl. “Oh” you say. “Oh.”
Step on gum, break your mother’s thumb. At Times Square, the man gets off. You look at me with a sigh of relief; even a homeless man has a place to go. We find a 24-hour donut place. I like it because its called “The Donut Place” and they make terrible donuts, sweet and crumbly and stale. When you bite, your tooth gets stuck. “Did you like my music?” you ask, the donut still in your mouth. “Did you?” You stare at my eyes. I stare at your donut. “Yes,” I say. “Yes, but I didn’t get it.” “What’s there to get?” you ask. You notice the crumbs in my crotch, and wipe them away. You offer me your scarf to serve as a napkin, but I refuse. When I stand up, the crumbs will fall. With one movement, I will be crumb-less. And, now, I’m here, with you, talking about my day, the one that hasn’t ended yet. I wish I could tell you something interesting, something fascinating, about a poem I wrote, an epiphany I had, that we’re all just black spots on the ground of a subway, but you have fallen asleep in my foreign bed, tired from too many questions. I am awake counting the dots on my ceiling.
EMMA ROSENBERG O
I n t e r n v e n t i o n Selected by the audience at Quarto’s annual Submit & Mingle Reading.
Will. you need help man. You are out of control. It’s hard to even look at you anymore without wanting to cry and tear my eyes from my head. You are destroying everything that you made for yourself and for what? A little fun at someone else’s expense? Use your common sense, Will. You need help.
But Will, it’s the new willenium and you need to step up your game some or else . . .we’ll have another ‘Wild Wild West.’ And I will not rest until you promise no more blond-haired, ill-prepared wack-ass nosed, same-old-jokes, Owen Wilson bullshit! Fuck Ben Stiller, you’re ten times the man he’ll ever be
Q BRANDON DESHIELDS
What happened to the Will we used to love? Smiling and laughing and bustin’ on Uncle Phil and teaching Carlton words like “dope” and “ill.” Chillin out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool and all shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school, man, you used to hunt aliens for fun, with guns that would make the NRA jizz themselves. And well, it just ain’t like that anymore. Sure, you’ve had your fun being a ‘Bad Boy’ once or twice and I’m sure flying around as a drunken-slurrin’ super-hero in tights was nice.
because you were ALI. You saved the world from aliens and robots and did it single-handedly when zombies blew up your spot. You got Matt Damon’s groove back as Baggar Vance, and you taught that funny fat guy in Hitch to dance, you gave white guys hope, Will. And that’s why we love you. Because we cried like bitches at the Pursuit of Happyness and we’re still rocking out to ‘Just the Two of US.’ But, Will, and I’m for-real. . . GET YOUR KIDS OFF THE SCREEN AND BACK INTO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. I don’t care how cool it is to have your entire family in the business The Karate Kid made no sense. Because Karate is Japanese but Jayden was in China and . . . I shouldn’t have to explain this. It was an awful, offensive mess. And Will, what is this shit (whip hair back and forth)? I don’t wanna see Willow whipping anything anywhere because I know this is not what you had in mind when you suggested to get jiggy with it. And Will, we’re getting sicky of it.
BRANDON DESHIELDS Q 46
What would DJ Jazzy Jeff say if his career was still alive, watching you and your family dive head first into this joke you call fame. There’s time to change, for we all know that when there’s a will, Will, there’s a way, way. So the next time you get an offer for a second Shark Tale, or when Willow begins to wonder what other parts she can flail, know this: you have played a hero because you are a hero. A Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar nominee – You played ALI man. Mother fuckin’ ALI.
S e c r e t a r y
G e n e r a l
i ALEX FEKULA
I met Kofi Annan on the way to the bathroom. I had Kofi Annan at a disadvantage because he did not know where the bathroom was. I did. Once we hit the stalls, Kofi Annan seemed to have a tough time getting his urine flowing. His stream was not steady and powerful, but more of an inconsistent trickle. Kofi Annan could have had urinal anxiety. The forced proximity of another body while unloading this kind of freight can become encumbering. When Kofi Annan was a child it is possible that someone would sneak up from behind and shake him by the shoulders causing urine to spray in all directions like a garden sprinkler. Kofi Annan could have seen horrible things in the vulnerability of taking a wiz. The Poaching of a Rhino While Peeing was a title chapter in his lumbering memoir. When Kofi Annan was young he once fell into the outhouse pit and was stranded for hours. His screams gave grim satisfaction to his battled scarred stepfather who listened with ghoulish pleasure. Though it really seemed to me that Kofi Annan was just being generous in allowing me to feel my stream was mightier than his. We shook hands and joked about how womenâ€™s bathrooms were known to have couches and flowers in vases and he smiled.
Notes on a Photograph by Diane Arbus
I. A tattooed carnival worker surveys the freak sky. Fastened to his flesh like tin milagros nailed to a church door are: a rose blossom, a shooting star, a boa constrictor, its eyes like keyholes, and a cracked skull smoking a cigarette, slack-jawed. II. Behind him, you see the traveling fair, unreal, half-queasy, like my dreams of stillbirth or of walking on the ceiling. They build cardboard cities in vacant fieldsâ€” the sword-swallower, the fire-eater, the magician and his wife who is sawed in half each night. III. Here, next to the Ferris wheel, they pitch a tent to house those things that float in jars, drooping under the weight of too many heads or arms, along with several prize catastrophes locked in velvet boxes like the hair and bones of a saint. IV. I have seen them all afterhoursâ€”how they drink gin around trashcan fires and undress one another in trailers; how once, just before dawn, the lovely aerialist with the gold teeth sloughed off her sequins and spit watermelon seeds into the dark blue air. ANDY NICOLE BOWERS h 48
T o r n a d o S e a s o n ( A f t e r a P h o t o g r a p h b y L a r r y C l a r k ) I. Oklahoma City, circa 1975, a teenage boy sleeps in a room full of dead air. Sallow, shirtless, he lies in autopsy-position, ribcage jutting like any crucifix. Against the dark laminate of motel furniture, objects emerge glowing in Technicolor: a pill bottle, five empty beer cans, a heart-shaped ashtrayâ€” orange, blue, and flaking gold atop a paper doily.
h ANDY NICOLE BOWERS
II. Halfway through a book of ghosts and garbage, I grope around in the dark of his life. Some things I know at once: the softness of old denim, the blue flicker of pornography, the footfall of a cockroach on his ceiling. Others come half-formed, like this vision I have of him burning rubber down I-35, the Red River aheadâ€” he is watching the August sky turn green, scanning the horizon for the wind that will unhinge the flatlands.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
ALYSSA LAMONTAGNE T 50
Mother looks like a zombie. Her ruddy skin is pale and her black hair is stringy. I imagine her chasing me around the house hungry for brains, but mostly she just lies beneath me and groans. She holds her flannelcovered arms tightly to her chest. Don’t move or I could die! she cries. Sit still and stop this dreadful shaking! I mark my place with the wet thumb I have been sucking on and say, Sit still, Mother, you are making it hard for me to read my book. Fact: Alcohol withdrawal is usually accompanied by violent tremors that last for hours or sometimes days. They are generally inconvenient to family members. I am small for my age and so I say to her, Couldn’t I just get the dog to weigh you down? Certainly she would be heavier, and she has not been playing outside today so she does not smell too bad. The dog is too skittish. What about these books that I have been reading? There are plenty of them. Your mother is dying, and you would pile books on her? I give up and stay where I am and sigh pointedly. I try to read my book about another, older Indian girl but I am distracted and in the white spaces between words and lines I think, without meaning to, No, Mother, you were dying when you crashed the car and bled everywhere and the neighbor had to move you in case the blood attracted wolves. The girl in my book is rescuing someone who is drowning at sea, but I cannot remember who it is and so I flip back a few pages to find the name. But that was only a cracked lip and you vowed to quit drinking and so it would seem that life and death are indistinguishable but that is okay. The name was Albert, and he is blond. Fact: Almost forty percent of deaths on the reserves these days are from suicide. I don’t know what they say about drinking yourself to death and whether that counts as suicide. Albert and the girl are lost in the bush. Her name is Christa Tsa’Che and she is from the Dene tribe and her grandfather taught her how to survive outdoors. Albert is white and knows nothing. Probably she will teach him.
T ALYSSA LAMONTAGNE
Mother has quieted and is sleeping so I slip down off of the couch to stoke the fire. We have no kindling but I saved the Sears Christmas catalogue and so I use that because everyone knows that dreams burn the fastest. The catalogue makes terrible toilet paper anyway. The fire licks the pages and I watch the brightly colored pictures turn to black. I hope that the smoke settles around the house and melts all the snow so I can go out and play again without wearing bread bags in my shoes. The bags slip around in my boots and feel strange and the thought of bread makes me hungry. There is Kraft Dinner in the cupboard but no milk. There is gravy mix but no meat and the three tomatoes in the fridge have molded. There is not even beer in the fridge. I find a can of Cream of Mushroom soup. I hate Cream of Mushroom, but I will eat it anyway. I cannot go eat at my friend Julie’s house if Mother may be dying even though her mother always gives me peanut buttered toast. Fact: Cream of mushroom was developed by Campbell’s the same year as chicken noodle soup but I think people really only ever eat it as soup when it is the only thing in the house. I heat the soup on the stove top and then bring it to the table. I don’t bother to take it out of the pot because table manners only count if there is someone to watch you. Mother is still lying on the couch. I think the fungus smell of the soup has woken her, but at least she is not shaking anymore. Girl, she cries, I am dying! I do not think you are, Mother, I say, and blow on a spoonful of soup. You do not know what this feels like. I know what death feels like, I say. I tried it the first time when I was nine. People think that no nine year old would consider it, but when you are snowed in with a drunk and you have already read all your books it changes things. It didn’t work though, and I threw up for three days because the pill bottle wasn’t full enough. The worst thing about suicide is failing at it. What do you know about anything? You are eleven years old! I know that you got yourself into this mess. I’m doing this for you. The effort of speaking plunges her back into sleep. I take my first sip of the soup and almost gag. I must take smaller sips. Now Albert and Christa are finding solace in each other. I count to see how many pages are in the book. Love in the North means moving in together and having a child and then fighting and gambling all the money away; when the drugs run out Albert will disappear. That is a very long story and there are only twelve pages left. Probably they will get rescued very soon.
Fact: Thirty percent of aboriginal marriages end in divorce, but sometimes the men just run out, and those people are still technically considered married. In the corner, the dog scratches the floor in her sleep and sighs and farts. I had forgotten her. I hope she is having happy dreams about chasing deer and getting dirty in the mud. I have not dreamed lately because the dream-catcher at the window keeps all the bad dreams out, and so there are no dreams at all anymore which is okay by me. I would rather read books than dream about things any day. Albert and Christa are rescued by an American hunter who will take them to an airport many miles away and give them the money to fly south, and they will live happily ever after in Vancouver. Christa will never have to think of her home on the reserve. I have only eaten half of this soup but I want to stop. There is no propane so I cannot put it in the fridge. Perhaps I can put it back on the stove and cook it until it burns and the smoke rises up as a sacrifice. The sacrifice of soup. But perhaps Mother is hungry instead. Mother, I say, there is soup for you. I shake her. Mother. Soup. The dog wakes and whines and walks over. Her nails click on the painted corkboard floor. She is skittish. She licks Motherâ€™s hand. Mother does not wake up. The soup spills on the floor. Mother, you have spilled the soup. Fact: Alcohol withdrawal can also cause stroke as a result of delirium tremens.
ALYSSA LAMONTAGNE t 52
Yo u T o o k A l l O t t e r P o p s
t h e
All night the sound has hot orange streaks of sick stomach loathing, it comes back again in the morning when you drink the last Otter Pop and spend all sweat on your underwear, on the couch, and complain the curtains are too thin for summer. We take cold showers and you argyle my hair with hands, later nap with your teeth all sour and gemmed with juice, and a cushion crosses your head like a mitre. What are you pope of today? I have
You are intensely blue and patient like pie when you want me and this summer I donâ€™t know but you put one hand over me and that way can love me.
O NICHOLAS SANZ-GOULD
balled up gloves in my lungs and you know which ribs to hold when I cough.
S a n c t u s
National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods Indian River, Michigan We can’t listen to the radio in the car—we listen to Mom pray rosaries out loud. Sing-along Hail Mary. There is a big crucifix in the middle of the woods of northern Michigan. It is too tall for photos, but people try anyway. Domino’s Farms Ann Arbor, Michigan
The complex contains a collection of Degas paintings, the headquarters of Domino’s Pizza, and a full herd of American Buffalo who roam the extensive front yard. They held an exhibit on the Shroud of Turin. Mom gets upset when I say it’s fake. The actual shroud was not there, but they had plenty of replicas. BRIGID BABBISH y 54
The Shroud of Domino’s Pizza
Marie-Reine-du-Monde Quebec, Canada
There is a hotdog stand outside the front door of the brand new Cathedral.
The stained glass displays wild trout and herons. Bears, elk, moose, deer, squirrels, raccoons, the Virgin Mary, foxes, woodpeckers, turtles.
The gift shop was its own cathedral. I could buy a vat of Holy Water. Scapulars to guarantee eternal life for all of my friends Pieces of cloth touched to the tombs of the incorruptibles Books of prayers written by random people.
There were more people there than I had seen during my entire two weeks in the Quebec countryside.
St. Stanislaus Cathedral Detroit, Michigan
The church stands abandoned, along with the entire surrounding neighborhood system.
We lie to our parents and go to explore the ruins.
Jesus wonâ€™t find us here.
y BRIGID BABBISH
We perch ourselves in the twin bell towers high above the decay.
C O N SO R T I U M
o h n H o p k i n s J M a g a z i n e
U n i v e r s i t y ,
U n i v e r s i t y A n a l e c t a
T e x a s ,
C a m b r i d g e T h e H i l l
U n i v e r s i t y ,
U n i v e r s i t y o f S l i c e d B r e a d
C h i c a g o ,
R u m p e l s t i l t s k i n JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, J MAGAZINE
E BRIDGET HARKNESS
“We come from different sides of the universe.” I said, as your ear ate the beat of my heart. We laid like haystacks between the fingers of dark. The beat of my heart, it was spinning.
before the wavefunction collapses UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, ANALECTA
problematically, yesterday has been welded to today and we are the two children on opposite ends of a livid playground with the same gum stuck under our shoe. we are a chicken-and-egg problem that never hatched, a tree in a barren forest of thestral oak that never fell. we are a pair of Liar’s paradoxes, tightly wound in our self-referentiality, our legs cinched tighter than gears. and i have lost our coordinating conjunction, antecedents binding to empty jaws. we are two Legos rusted together, the propinquity of our tongues more due to holy moisture than any grandfather clock’s precedent we are a Japanese water wheel subject to two different currents entirely. you always perceiving our shallow surroundings differently, I revolving around you. we are two reporters with the same scandalous ice cream store scoop each working for a private diary’s after-thought editor.
DUSTIN CARLINO e 58
we are two pendulums with opposite phases clutching in that awkward moment of stillness before our masses carry us to warring horizons. you are the callus between my fingers preventing me from holding you more softly, and I am the emperor donning new clothes, unchecked by your homunculus gaze.
the spider you spared from last Sundayâ€™s broom has woven an intricate web between our neurons, and you have become entangled in a quantum state of occupying my arms. you are the idiom in the formal paper and i have taken up the obituarerâ€™s pen labeling the parts of speech occasionally emerging from your breaths. the gerund phrases still pulsate, a fierce parody of actions prior to vivisection. into jars go the acrylic stench of alchemy, the shotgun matrimony of always-twisting fingers, the tendrils marching upon our mutual backs.
E DUSTIN CARLINO
but despite this, I am the greatest common factor between us and the very least. omnipresence implies divisibility into oblivion with something still left on each side, arguably more balanced.
Horizontal Collaboration - a love song CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY, THE HILL
Touched fingers to the nape of my neck Feel your short back and sides But they can’t shave you from the curve of my hip From the hairless palms of my hands Or the locked soft flesh of my thighs. Jeers can’t cover the sound of your voice Muffled through cotton and feathers, Or clear morning calls as the centime drops And we reverse charges to Hitler; You read me to sleep in Winter. Pricking eyes force mine to the floor, I search for yours, green, in the pebbles, The sign they slap on me is heavy enough But I don’t lie flat for anyone else, I stand tall now you’re gone, though crushed. I leave the locks you fingered, dark Curls crushed underfoot. The screaming white horizon falls On hollow pain that spikes And jars, and, shuddering, stops.
LOUISA DUNNIGAN e 60
Autumn, Based on Fruit UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, SLICED BREAD
I began in the warmth with familiar, expensive bananas and apples from Wu Mart and the stand outside Wu Mart, not knowing yet to bargain down. Then there was an evening pomelo in my bedroom, fat chartreuse skin so wide Bradford wore half as a hat, and then the woman by the book-cart called “friend, friend”— she made me uncomfortable but gave low prices and put extra tangerines in my bag, after the scale. On the way to the eating contest at Joy City, I vomited in the lobby, in front of the desk girls: was it irony, nerves, bad citrus, or my horse pill vitamins? I stopped taking the vitamins,
and then I kept autumn, based on fruit, in the Frisbee on top of my cabinet and never forgot to wash the night soil off each piece with hot water. Leaves on the consumptive trees along the beltway skipped bronze and red, turned grey, and fell without rites, but hawberries were an extravagant finale, pincushioned on foam balls at the school gate in icy shocks of crimson under gold sugar.
E DENNELL REYNOLDS
and then sweet potatoes, charred in bicycle coal drums and eaten in the subway, were as rich as dark peaches. The bread-loaf van opened its bright guts on the cooling sidewalk in crates, and its husband and wife weighed a fair price per catty. I learned persimmons were not restricted to jam, but were a meal scalped between classes with my baby spoon, chewy lobes in salmon-orange liquid,
O ISAIAH EVERIN is a writer and novice filmmaker who voraciously devours all forms of creative media and aspires to author all kinds as well. OONICHOLAS SANZ-GOULD is a Columbia College senior who loves Boston Cream Pie. OO BORIS VASSILEV gets worried sometimes and forgets that really he just wants to write. He moonlights studying physics. O d REBECCA TAYLOR grew up in the Virginia woods. Her writing has appeared in The Believer, Love Among the Ruins, and last year’s Quarto. OO WEI-LING WOO is a senior in the college studying art history and creative writing. She was born in Singapore. O DALTON LABARGE was named after Patrick Swayze’s character in O Road House. His goals include Scientology Level 8 and becoming either a beauty queen or blind spirit medium. O MAURICE DECAUL is a student at Columbia University studying
creative writing. Maurice has been published in The New York Times, Newsweek.com, and Sierra Magazine. O O KARA FREEWIND is an English major with concentrations in writing and film studies at Barnard College. O O BECCA LIU, Columbia College 2014, hails from Michigan where she used to scale floor-to-ceiling curtains like nobody’s business. She has since moved on to climbing trees, but trees are few and far between in New York City. O ERIC INGRAM is a freshman in Columbia College and is jazzed about Stevie Wonder, smoked salmon, Olivier Messian, coffee, Kandinsky, walking, Andrei Tarkovsky, Little Wayne & primary colors.
OO NATALIE KORMAN combines fractious phrases into sparkling speech involving Carson McCullers, walking on The Pharcyde, fried food, divinity, and the distant smell of roses. OO EMMA ROSENBERG is a senior at Barnard College. When she is not writing, you will find her attempting to bake, speaking in haikus, and wandering the New York City streets. Q BRANDON DESHIELDS originally hails from South Jersey and is a Junior at Columbia/JTS. His passions include sneakers, hip-hop, slam poetry and Kosher meat. i ALEX FEKULA was born on Cape Cod and divides his time between San Francisco and New York. H ANDY NICOLE BOWERS is majoring in creative writing at Columbia College. Her preoccupations include art, nature, counterculture, and her native Arizona. T ALYSSA LAMONTAGNE is a jane-of-all-trades who wants to be a writer now. She thinks she likes it best. Y BRIGID BABBISH is a Michigander who is passionate about glaciers and the color orange.
M A S T E R H E A D
Jared Frieder Shira Schindel
Noelle Bodick Claire Sabel
Alumni Affairs & Community Outreach Editor
Sarina Bhandari Rowan Buchanan Amital Isaac Rega Jha Alisha Kaplan Leena Mahan Emma Stein Drew Westcott
C O P Y R I G H T
Quarto accepts submissions of poetry and prose. Send work to email@example.com Questions and correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org ÂŠ 2011 by Quarto Literary Magazine All rights are reserved and revert to authors and artists upon publication. Maps and charts courtesy of bibliodyssey.blogspot.com
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S
To Dorla McIntosh, our Goddess and friend who makes the world of undergraduate creative writing go round, we love you and your cookies. Alan Ziegler, for your generosity and expertise, we hope you enjoyed us in our short shorts. Barry Zucker, for walking us through the printing process–we are excited to work with you again in the future. Prateek Mehta and Jacky Yoon, for your time and enthusiasm. Jay Yencich, our own Scrubbleupagus, for always being the most electric and committed member of the Quarto family. Mark Hay and the entire IPA, for expanding our notions of what Columbia publications can accomplish. Green Umbrella–we like your racks. Consortium Members, for your wonderful pieces and the opportunity to widen the readership of our authors. Douglas Repetto, for always being available for questions and advice. Tami Epelbaum, for coming to the rescue. You are tremendous in all the right places. Edi Kearns, for helping us book space in Dodge. Arez Mardoukhi, for tirelessly wheeling the lovely Martha to the sixth floor of Kent week after week. Casey Black and Molly Morgan, for promising to be married underneath a ‘Q’-shaped chuppah. The faculty of the Creative Writing Department, for your continued support and mentorship, and our Readers, here’s to you (wink-face emoticon).
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The 2010-2011 issue of Columbia University's Quarto Magazine.