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QUARTO The Literary Magazine of the School of General Studies Columbia University 1998


EXECUTIVE EDITOR Rich McHugh

SUBMISSIONS Current and recent undergraduate creative writing students-including nondegree students and students enrolled in other divisions of Columbia University who are taking undergraduate creative writing courses-are encouraged to submit to Quarto. We welcome poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translations, and drama, including excerpts from longer works. Each subniission should be accompanied by a selr-addressed stamped envelope. Please include your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address on your manuscript. Manuscripts may be submitted elsewhere while under consideration at Quarto. Please notify us of acceptance by another publication. Address all submissions and correspondence to: Quarto 612 Lewisohn Hall 2970 Broadway Mail Code 4108 Columbia University New York, NY 10027

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MANAGING EDITOR David Hamilton ART DIRECTORS Roje Augustin Phyllis Grant SENIOR EDITORS Scott Conklin jana Fay Ragsdale Natsuki Yoshida EDITORS Roje Augustin Jane Cha Teresa Clark Gloria Hwang Mat Johnson Phyllis Grant Pip LaChance Soo-Min Oh Tammy Quinn Greg Thorson

For information on becoming a patron of Quarto, please call the office of the Creative Writing Center at (212) 854-3774.

FACULTY ADVISER Leslie T. Sharpe

Quarto 1998 wishes to thank the General Studies Student Council, without whose continuing support its publication would not be possible, the Provost's Fund, and the Forbes Foundation for their generous grants. .

DIRECTOR, CREATIVE WRITING CENTER Alan Ziegler

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Copyright Š Quarto, 1998 All rights are reserved and revert to authors and artists upon publication. ISSN 0735-6536

The Editors of Quarto gratefully acknowledge Tom Donald for sharing his design and technical expertise.


Quarto Prize 1998 FOR LITERARY EXCELLENCE

Dan McHugh Hostile Invasion

Colin Patton Salt


CONTENTS Quarto at 50

The Editors

1

Old Miners'

Kelcey Nichols

4

Glass

Aimee Taub

17

Salt

Colin Patton

18

How to Get Someone's Number

Tim Donoho

20

On the Side

Anne Potter

24

Sometimes Husbands Have Wings

Anne Potter

26

Riding the Wind

Stephen Page

27

Sleeping with Machines

Abigail Frankfurt

36

Preface

Gordon Haber

37

War Story

Miranda Hope

41)

Back East

Marta Rodriguez

42

Polish Sonnets-v4i/ÂŁi<sf 16, 1997

Judy Brzosko

52

Betta Splendens

Portfolio

Missing Pieces

Melissa Marrus

53

Lobby

Ken Rus Schmoll

58

Stacy's Neurasthenia

Cordon Haber

59

Fowl Weather

Aimee Taub

69

Hostile Invasion

Dan McHugh

70

Cousins

Idra Rosenberg

80

The Rumbling

Chris Smith

82

Homenaje a Borges

Silvina Weihmuller

86

from Midan Kit Kat-n novel in progress

Angela Fernandez

87

The Quarto Interview/ Joanna Murray-Smith

Phyllis Grant

96


The Editors dedicate the 50th Anniversary Issue to Leslie Woodard Writer, Teacher, and Friend of Quarto


Quarto at 50

The Editors

W

hen it came time to assemble the fiftieth anniversary issue of Quarto, we editors were faced with an important question: Should we pay tribute to Quarto's fiftyyear legacy with an issue comprised solely of reprints of the prize-winning and famous stories from Quarto's five decades? Inevitably, this led to much larger questions: What exactly is Quarto? and What does Quarto represent? Most agree that Quarto is the literary magazine of Columbia University's School of General Stuciies. But for us, Quarto is more than just a magazine. It is a celebration of student creativity and initiative. Quarto is a forum for new writers to show their work. It is a success story, a proclamation of the excellent writing tradition for which Columbia is known. Throughout its storied and tumultuous history, Columbia has remained an epicenter of writing. In the past, the Writing Program has boasted such names as Pearl S. Buck, Lillian Hellman, Susan Sontag, Spalding Gray, Phillip Lopate, and Terry Southern as faculty. Today's faculty is no less remarkable, including A. M. Holmes, Colin Harrison, Nicholas Christopher, and Dani Shapiro, among many notables. Such a distinguished faculty inevitably attracts a


The Editors

host of aspiring writers into their classrooms. New writers, both young and old, flock here in the hope of discovering their voice, their genre, and, ultimately, how to express themselves through words. After all, it worked for J. D. Salinger, Carson McCullers, Mario Puzo, and Richard Yates-to name a few. Where does Quarto fit into this? Each year some of these new writers find what they came in search of. They find their voice. They write a noteworthy piece. These writers need a forum in which to be recognized. And in 1948, students in the GS Writer's Club created that forum with Quarto, a magazine devoted to quality writing by Columbia students. Each year brings the birth of new literary magazines and publications, but Quarto remains unique for several reasons. Not only is Quarto the oldest student-run literary magazine here at Columbia, but it is also one of the oldest stuclent-run literary magazines in the country. More important, Quarto remains devoted to the principle by which it was established: by students, for students. The list of new writers published in Quarto is distinguished. This tradition of excellence continues today. Renowned poets William Carlos Williams and Louise Gluck have given way to up-and-comers like Melissa Bank, Edwidge Danticat, Joseph Connelly, Joseph Ferrandino, and Kim Wozencraft. Granta recently ranked Edwidge Danticat among the top twenty new fiction writers in the U.S. Ferrandino's Quarto story, "Ink Blots," became a SoHo Press novel in 1995. Current GS student Joseph Connelly's stow, "Bringing Out the Dead," published in the 1993 Quarto issue, has led to a novel published by Knopf and a projected film to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Kim Wozencraft, Quarto '86,

Quarto at 50

wrote the acclaimed novel and film Rush. So why not republish these fantastic pieces from the past? We decided it was not fair to the current students and would not have been in keeping with the principle upon which Quarto has survived for fifty years: by students, for students. Columbia students produce excellent work, and they need recognition. To this end, we gathered each week to select the year's "best" work. Yes, we encountered financial roadblocks and we had arguments and debates over certain pieces, but it was a great experience and now we have some exceptional writing to share. Many thanks are due: to the Writing Program and faculty-especially to Alan Ziegler, Director of the Creative Writing Center-to the General Studies Student Council for their extremely generous funding and, of course, to the newest generation of student writers for their contributions. The Editors QUARTO, Columbia University May 1998


Old Miners' Kelcey Nichols

I

t's been days since I lost my watch. Tom tossed it over a cliff when we stopped at a dusty viewpoint to stretch the knots from our spines. He simply reached out, took my wrist, undid the band and flung. Neither of us is able to talk about time anymore; it would prompt us to calculate the months left. Tom's eyes are riveted to the twisted shapes of the Joshua trees. The branches curve in knots like maimed limbs of soldiers, frozen. "We're a great pair, the two of us," Tom told me yesterday. "You a junkie and me an alcoholic dying of a heart condition and neither of us twenty-five." I mentioned that I wasn't a junkie but a diabetic. "It's all the same-when you get right down to it. You use those needles all the time, piercing them into your skin. And I'd guess we're both manic depressives though personally I'd bet it makes us much more interesting." Tom loves to divide life into binary systems: in college he took all the furniture out of his room for a monastic effect and then furnished it with a lavish bar. Sometimes he would go on binges and see how many objects he could steal or break from the dorms before security caught up with him.

Old Miners'

We stop at an Exxon station. It is late afternoon and my tanktop-one of Tom's white undershirts-sticks to my skin as unforgiving as if it were wet denim. My sweat makes the material transparent and I suddenly feel embarrassed by my bra-less breasts. Even at night the heat never quite dissipates. In the bathroom I plunge my head under the cold water. 1 stare into the mirror and think of how kidnap victims always write messages in lipstick in TV movies. I have lost weight on this trip; it shows in my chest. I return to find Tom in the driver's seat, rooting around in the back for his bottle of Glenlivet. He looks up as I open the door. "Hi, bunny!" "What?" "If we're going to be married we ought to have pet names, don't you think?" "No." "Pumpkin? Sugar? Muffin?" I make that awful Valley Girl gasp of shock even 1 hate. "Muffin? My father used to call me that. I refuse to marry you if you call me Muffin." "See, that's the thing. We'll never be bored because we'll always drive each other crazy." I look down without meaning to. Tom takes my hand and kisses the antique diamond ring on my finger. "Keep this ring," he says. "No matter what." He turns his eyes away from me and starts the car. We don't look at each other. The front seat is spacious; we can sit about three feet apart when we wish. "Have you said anything to Natasha about this?" I speak into the wind. Tom waves his hand in dismissal. "She's in Africa. And anyway, I think I officially broke it off with her at some point." Since I have known Tom, Natasha has been his


Kelceif Nichols

girlfriend "in title only" though, occasionally, when guilt overcomes him he remains faithful for two-month stretches. Once he had leaned very close to my neck and asked "Do I seem asexual to you? I'm supposed to be asexual while my girlfriend is in England." I could smell the cigarettes and liquor on his breath mixed with a gentlemanly scent of fine soap. Tom hums as he drives. The sky is turning orange in the west while the east has become a storm of blue and purple. I can sense rain, almost feel the electricity in the air. The thunder is still far away; the lightning comes not in bolts but horizontal flashing streaks. The road remains dry. My sunburned skin is chilly, aware. I can see a few stars but it is still light from dusk and the storm. I am reminded of a dense August night I spent smoking on my roof. I had my knees bent against my chest in my standard melancholic pose. People passed on the street, exchanged secrets in soft gasps of laughter, and did not know I listened. That night Tom arrived on the front stairs of my building: ruffled brownish hair, tripping on his own knees feet legs, sipping Stolichnaya from a sterling flask and in his other hand (tucked safely in his pocket) his grandmother's ring. Tt had been two years since I last saw him. I spotted him from the roof and dashed down six flights of stairs (two at a time almost twisting my ankle). By the time I got to the front door he had already buzzed everyone in the building and was screaming my name. "I forgot which one was yours." He grinned at my neighbors who were glaring from their windows. For a moment, as Tom and I stood on the stoop laughing, our eyes shining, I believed I had two choices-then I realized how afraid Tom was to die alone, that nothing

Old Miners'

other than marriage would suffice. We hear the first loud crack of lightning. "Have 1 ever told you the story about the hummingbirds?" Tom asks and I shake my head. "There was a man-an absolutely brilliant professor. A man who understood Nabokov. When he was bored in conferences he confessed to pretending all of the participants were chess pieces." Tom traces the place, the hairline on my neck, making the tiny hairs stand in a shiver. "The professor would play the game out in his mind until something happened that captured his attention. Someone once asked him which piece he was and he said, 'I'm the white knight. Always the white knight but no one realizes it.'" Tom runs the tips of his fingers across my neck and I let my head drop. "Anyway, he liked to sit on his porch and watch the hummingbirds come to his feeder for hours. He knew all the different kinds-the emerald green males, the ruby-red throats, the males who were shy, the females who were flirts. He knew how many times a minute their hearts beat-" Here he pauses to drum his fingertips. "How many times they flapped their wings." Another drumming. "Eventually one summer he stopped going to his lectures." Tom circles patterns on my skin with his stubby nails. I am reminded of the game I used to play at slumber parties where a friend draws shapes on your naked back and you try to guess them. A circle, a square, an oval, a heart, a face. "Was this a Camden professor?" I mumble. "Maybe." Tom's hands are now rubbing my neck. "The students came to his house to observe him. Some thought he had just gone crazy. Others thought he was a kind of maharajah. At the end of summer he was gone. So were the hummingbirds."


Kelcey Nichols

"Is it true?" My neck is completely limp. Tom's fingers could almost meet his thumb if he were to tighten his grip. "Some of the students thought that the professor had played a joke on them and were angry. Others were just bewildered and many didn't care except that it made interesting lunch conversation. The professor-they discovered in a letter he had written-thought the hummingbirds were all engaged in a tremendous game of something like chess. But you had to play by instinct instead of logic. He felt he had become a hummingbird." Tom paused. "I don't know if it's true. It's something my father told me when I was a child and he was going through one of his postmodern obsessions." "That's what he called me-postmodern." "And my mother thought you were just amoral." Tom lights a cigarette. "Am I? Do you think? I didn't used to be," I say. "No more than me." It has begun to sprinkle. Tom leaves his hand on my neck. I place one of my hands on his thigh and trace circles on it. Touching Tom always makes me feel as if I'm cuddling just after making love. We stare ahead at the double yellow lines, let their constancy erase our thoughts. From behind the windshield of this old Mercedes, we plan to travel the world as much as possible. Tom's grandmother wires us money whenever we need it; we have already grown tired and used to spending it. His family humors me as Tom's fling all the while hoping he will return to the high-class British Natasha. Tom and his father are my only allies. We began our trip in Vermont. In Idaho I met Tom's parents, who live as ex-patriots taking refuge from British academia and Tom introduced me with a clumsy bow: "Absolutely, the finest, truly the most

Old Miners' brilliant-anyway, Mum, Dad, this is Ally, the woman I'm going to marry." We then headed south to Joshua Tree. We will curve toward Vegas so that we can get married with Tom in an Elvis costume. On principle, we always stay at the nicest hotel in town. Tonight it's a Four Seasons. We sit at the bar with our vodka martinis. "The thing is," Tom tells me, "that Othello really is a chess move. A queen's gambit. You sacrifice the white queen to kill the black king." Tom waves his arm over the bar and knocks over both of our drinks. His eyes get bright. "Showtime," he mutters. I quickly mop up the spilled vodka with cocktail napkins and place the broken glass in my hand. It's time to get Tom out of the bar. I give the bartender a hundred-dollar bill. "Let's go drink in the room," 1 suggest. "I'm sick of martinis." "How," Tom's voice booms, "could you be sick of such a fine cocktail?" He takes my hand. A piece of glass cuts my palm. I try to put the broken glass back on the counter but Tom won't let go. A thin red line of blood bends across my fingers. I stand up from my chair and try to get Tom to take my arm. "Come on." Two men and a woman having drinks at a table eye us nervously. One of the men stands. "I want to go drink the rest of our scotch," I insist. I wrench my hand away from Tom and dump the glass on the bar. "Are you okay?" The man from the table stares at Tom. He hands me a paper napkin for my hand and I mouth thanks. I just want to get Tom out of the bar before he breaks anything else. "Sir, it's obvious to me that you are indeed a spy," Tom


Old Miners'

Kelcey Nichols

Outside our room Tom spots an emergency telephone at the end of the hall. Before I can do anything he has gleefully ripped it out. "Five light fixtures, one bar stool, twelve glasses, two doors, a window and one telephone." He smiles hugely at me. "And we've been traveling less than a month."

"And a gas pump." "Christ, I almost forgot that. But that was an accident." I open the door for Tom and he gallantly motions for me to enter by swinging the telephone a few inches from my forehead. For good measure, he smashes the TV with the telephone so there is a huge hole in the middle of the screen. "It's just a thing I'm going through," Tom says. "This breaking things. A phase or something. Really, it's very liberating. You ought to try it." Tom lies down on the bed still clutching the telephone. "Why don't you do the bathroom mirror?" I take off his shoes and lie down next to him. Tom stares at a spot on the floor. "You know what that reminds me of?" I shake my head. "My uncle, right before he died, coughed up a lung on my grandmother's carpet." "Ugh." I press the paper napkin into my palm. "He was staying with my grandmother. And he was very sick and literally just coughed up a lung on her carpet. Then he went out and found this Yugoslavian whore and married her the day he died. Because he was a kind of tax shelter for my grandmother and he really hated her so he willed everything to this Yugoslavian whore but she had the same initials as my grandmother. So my grandmother just crushed this poor girl and had her deported and she got absolutely nothing." Tom keeps staring at the spot on the carpet. "It's ridiculous," he tells me. "This whole business of dying. I'd rather get on it with it." I move on top of Tom so we both lie with our stomachs facing the mattress, as if my body could provide a shield. I wrap my arms around his shoulders and hold him. It seems to me that he is shaking. I clutch him more tightly and real-

10

11

announces. The man puffs himself up. He looks like a pretty typical Western man to me: jeans, cowboy boots, buttondown shirt, broad shoulders and blue eyes that might seem caring under different circumstances. "What the hell-" "I know this from my experience with the CI-" I kiss Tom to shut him up. I grew up in the West: I know how popular all conspiracy theories are out here. Tom tries to pull away from me but I reach my tongue into his mouth. "Excuse us," I say to the gentleman and then press my mouth to Tom's as we stumble like a single injured creature from the bar. Tom collapses in a lobby armchair, knocking over a lamp and breaking the lightbulb. "What the hell was that about?" he asks. He stares at my lips, which I have painted with pink lipstick. "You're looking rather lippy." I take Tom's hands in mine and pull him up from the chair. The man from the front desk comes over and helps me get Tom to stand. It's not so much that Tom is too drunk to walk as that he doesn't feel like it. Once he is up and cooperative, I slip the concierge another hundred. In the elevator Tom says, "I should have joined the CIA. Then maybe this would all be different." Tom took the CIA test as a joke his junior year in college and scored so highly on it that they kept trying to recruit him until his mother called to explain his heart condition.


Old Miners'

Kelcey Nichols

ize that it's the muscles in my arms that quiver. We spend dusk on a back road, naked from the waist down on our picnic blanket. Tom rocks inside me and 1 close my eyes. He pauses. "I can see the first star." I crane my neck backward to see a twinkle of light in the midst of crisp blue. I laugh. "It's Venus." "I've never seen it before," Tom whispers. "I mean, I have, but I never knew I was looking at Venus." He resumes his quiet rocking and I sigh. "It's perfect here," I say. "It's one of the only places I've been that feels like home." "Right here?" "This moment." "You're right." We make love the way an old man sits on the porch on a swing w7aiting to hear the crickets, a singing that echoes more beautiful, but elusive, memories. I could inhale this balance between light and dark in time with Tom's thick breath. When he rests on top of me I ask, "Do you remember that philosophy class? What was it Heraclitus said about dusk?" "That it's never the same river twice?" I swat Tom's butt. The ring has twisted around on my finger and he yelps. "Or maybe it was something about stars being like diamonds." "No, that's a bad pickup line. 'Was your daddy a thief? He stole the stars and put them in your eyes.'" "It worked on you." "Are you sure?" Tom takes my hand and gazes at the ring again. "Indeed," he tickles my ribs, "my great-grandfather was a thief and he stole these diamonds for this ring." "Is that how your family got their money?"

12

"Old miners' diamonds? No. The ones on your ring have more cuts in them so they're actually worth less. But they sparkle more." The car swerves and my neck is thrust forward, then back. I feel the car thud into something and Tom stops on the side of the road. I get out because Tom has gotten out, because it is what he expects from me. The accident snaps us both into complete sobriety. I want to throw my arms in front of my face and blind myself. Tom kneels over the twitching body of a doe. Once 1 look my eyes can't leave the black eye swirling wildly in its socket. Tom strokes the deer's neck standing behind it to avoid the thrashing legs. The deer is trying to get up but it is too injured. There is blood on its black nose, covering the fur on its belly. "Fuck," Tom mutters. If Tom were the kind of man I grew up with he would have a shotgun in the car. "What should we do?" he asks. I say nothing. "You grew up out here. What are you supposed to do when this happens?" His arms have tightened on the deer's neck. He doesn't want it to get up and scramble off the side of the road to die. "It never happened to me before." I've never seen a live deer this close. I'm surprised by how lovely its body is, the muscles surging under its fur. I think of how powerful it must have been and think of it bounciing through the brush. "Can you hold it for a second?" Tom's voice cracks. I move around to where Tom is standing and put my hand on the deer's neck then take it away. "We shouldn't touch it. We're scaring it." "We could bring it to a vet," Tom says. I hate the idea of us

13


Kelcey Nichols

Old Miners'

I

cramming its injured body into the backseat of the Mercedes. Tom starts rummaging through the car. "I'll make space for it," he tells me. "We can find a vet." I let go of the deer and try to coax it up. Don't die here, not like this. Not with us. The deer gets its two front legs up but its hindquarters are too injured for it to stand. Still, it starts to drag itself away from us. "What are you doing? Don't let it go. We'll never be able to help it." I cluck to the deer as if I was urging a horse into a full gallop. It turns its head to me and it doesn't seem quite as afraid now that no one is trying to touch it. "Didn't you see it?" I say to Tom. The deer scrambles frantically. The tears fall hot onto my cheeks. "it just ran out. I tried to swerve...if you hadn't been asleep-" "I wasn't asleep." "You might as well have been." The deer is dragging itself, an inch at a time away from us. I close my eyes and count to twenty. I can hear the terrible sound of its hooves against the dirt. It still smells like rain. I convince myself that when I open my eyes it will be dead. It isn't. "Tom," I whisper. "It's not going to make it." "Are you sure? How can you tell?" I stare directly at Tom's eyes and can see them glisten. He paces without realizing it and runs his hand through his hair. "We should kill it then. I suppose. We don't want it to suffer." "How?" I ask. "I don't know. A rock maybe. Do you have your pocket knife?" I stand. My body trembles. "Can you just stay in the car for

a minute? Please." Tom leans against the back of the Mercedes and lights a cigarette. I try to remember stories that my uncles have told me about killing deer. They always had guns. T get my pouch writh my insulin and syringes. The deer isn't that big. It can't weigh that much more than a human. 1 fill a syringe all the way with insulin and walk slowly toward the deer. It tries to move faster. If a person takes too much insulin they go into a coma. I have no idea if it will do the same for the deer. I insert the needle into its neck; the deer's flesh puts up more resistance than my own. Some of the terror goes out of the deer's eyes, it's not quite dead but it has given up fighting. I put the syringe in the back pocket of my jeans and get into the car. Tom doesn't move. "Come on," I say. "We're leaving."

14

15

"We can't leave it like this." "Then what's your solution?" I start the car and he gets in. There is no moon tonight. Even with the smell of rain hanging over us, the land is dead. Empty. I suddenly feel the opposite of claustrophobia, as if there is too much space around me, as if that openness will collapse over me, suffocate me. I take the bottle of Glenlivet out of Tom's hand and swallow. "I can't do this," I say. I slam the brakes on the car. I'm glad we're both wearing seatbelts because the skid marks must be twenty feet long. The engine dies and I leap out of the car not bothering to shut the door. Sprinkles of rain fall on my body as I run away from the car. T look up and see a flash of lightning. The thunder comes a few seconds later. The storm breaks and it starts pouring. I stand in the desert letting the rain soak my skin. I can't see even one star.


Glass

Kelcey Niclwls

I decide: You love people when you have to. And if you're lucky you'll be left with more than a burned shell that sears with the pain of memory before it goes numb. Only when it has stopped raining do I return to the car. "I'm sorry," Tom tells me. "You don't have to do this. It was too much to ask." His voice is gentle; he has been crying. "Come on," he says. "I'll drive." I can't say anything so I try not to start crying. We drive in silence, both of us jumping at the shadows on the side of the road. The Joshua trees look even stranger at night. In the wind, their limbs make broken gestures. I put my hand on Tom's leg. "I can't die with you." "I know. I don't want you to." Tom wraps his hand around mine. 1 see the car as if I was not inside it. I see it moving across the desert, getting smaller in my line of vision. I watch it disappear without actually getting anywhere. I'm aware of the syringe I put in my pocket and I take it out, put it on the dashboard. Tom squints his eyes as if he were trying very hard to see something far away. His hand reaches for the syringe. He turns it over between his fingers, one hand on the steering wheel, as if he were distractedly fumbling with a pencil. Then he taps the syringe on the dashboard as if he were packing down a cigarette. "Ally," he begins, "if it gets-" another tap of the syringe. Tom opens his mouth as if he were about to finish his sentence but doesn't. I cover his lips with mine and flicker my tongue.

16

Aimee Taub

That morning everything she touched was glass turned fragile and clear splintering underneath the slightest weight. As she started to dress, her garments turned obviously transparent to her downstairs neighbors who were able to see through their glass ceiling, her glass floor. She ran to cover herself but the floor crashed down, slicing the nosy neighbors into brown blood and red entrails. She fell through floor by floor, breaking glass all the way down to the concrete foundation, which after a moment's hesitation, gave way, sending her through the firmament and cracking the world in half. When she fell out of the other side of the split planet, she floated about space, turning sun and stars into glass until there was nothing left to shatter.

17


Salt

Salt

Colin Patton I went to the sauna And stayed for twenty minutes One man was there when I came in, In the lotus position, arms akimbo It was just the two of us

Then more arrived And it so happened that

Uncomfortably

We waited for the salt to Collect on our lips To shake it off again, Sweating it out Preserved by the dry heat of a wood cabinet

The circumcised sat on the left and The uncircumcised sat on the right Sweating it out

One man had yellow skin And rubbed it with aloe Another, reclining, rested his penis On the Sunday paper

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How to Get Someone's Number

How to Get Someone's Number

Tim Donoho

T

he big-tittie girl first came between me and Danny in early February. On the past Christmas Eve, I had worn just a pullover, and the following December days found me lollygagging the warm streets with a tall can of Budweiser, not a fleck of snow to be seen amid the discarded trees. Now in early February, the spring seemed to be beating winter completely, prematurely ejaculating sun-stroked streets, long afternoons and the largest pair of breasts I or Daniel had ever seen, tightly held in a white ribbed T-shirt. We both perched our necks from our sidewalk cafe seats and began to size up. She was no more than a block away. T personally objected to Danny's immediate moniker of "big-tittie girl." It was unimaginative. It didn't do her justice. It vulgarized a girl who really was the holder of something unique. She was an oddity, a two-headed goat, a bearded woman, but her deformations were beautiful. She herself had a beautiful face set in a dark freckled complexion, and her frame was relatively thin. But her breasts must have been beyond cup Q, large and round enough to fill salad bowls. The strain on her must have been enormous. I stood up from the cafe chair, the street was beautiful with

20

its sunrays coolly warming us. People milled and shopped. I caught my reflection in the restaurant's window. I needed a haircut, but my jumpsuit made up for any drawbacks. It was dark and slick, not a week old. She walked with some sort of purpose, as if when she arrived home, she would lean against her heavy bolted urban door and let out a sigh of relief. Perhaps she would place her groceries on the table, walk to the bathroom, lean over, dropping her gorgeous moons to a wonderful hang over the bathtub, and let the warm water run. Man, how I wanted to see that! I wanted to watch her arch her back, slowly wiggle that T-shirt over her head, shaking her hair in a slow motion as the orbs relaxed without any constriction. I felt the familiar burn in my esophagus, the urge to turn away, hide and go home, to not make the effort and simply masturbate. I also felt the primal need to jump on her, to touch her and do all the things I so desperately wanted to. She stayed with her head slightly down. I distinctly felt that she was trying to ignore me. She seemed to sense me, to know what I was all about, to despise it and think me cheap. "Miss, I know that men probably come to you every day with manifestations of their love for you and protestations that they are the one you should be with, but I'm not trying to tell you any of that. Listen, 1 know this is weird and 1 know your parents probably told you to never talk to strangers on the street, but T have to stop you, even if it's only to say this to you just this once. I really, really think that you should go out with me." For the first time she stopped her determined fast pace beside me, and looked up into my face. "I don't think so," she said. There was no welcome in her face. She looked like she

21


Tim Donoho

How to Get Someone's Number

was from the Northeast, maybe Westchester or Long Island. Connecticut maybe. She had money, had probably gone to a big state school like Michigan or Wisconsin. After getting a degree in poli-sci or English, she was now living in Manhattan, most likely with assistance from her father, who was no doubt a pussy-whipped dentist. She probably knew how to ski and found the subway confusing, owned a cellular phone and only knew or had experience with people exactly like herself. "Listen, you're right not to think so. We shouldn't go out. Going out is a bad thing, I try not to do it with anyone I like. I mean, what is going out? What would we do? You would spend time at your house, trying to get ready, wondering about this guy you met on the street and then we'd go somewhere, and spend astronomical New York prices on something not worth it at all, only to have our most important task of getting to know each other drowned out by wack music and the chatter of fake people. Look, what I'm saying to you now is that we are two people in a very large city who should just get to know each other. What's wrong with that? We owe it to each other." I found myself convincing. There was still nothing in her. She had very white tennis shoes on. She moved them faster on the concrete, turning her head away as if she crouched a phone on her opposite shoulder. She swung her large leather bag straps on the shoulder near me closer together, as if I now would see no opening or reason to continue. "Excuse me, ma'am, is this man bothering you? You have to understand, he has a condition, it's quite serious." Danny fell in step along her other side, not missing a beat. "Yeah, I know he only looks a little weird but...if you don't go out

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with him he might rocket into a downward spiral of self-hate and degradation and, you know, as his friend I just don't think I can go through that again." I kept my pace just a little bit out of her view, and Danny worked his magic. We were a wonderful team. "Why don't you just give him your fucking number!" Danny sprayed out in an uncalled-for blast of rage. With this she jumped, her tennis shoes beat harder and she yelped, "Fuck off!" We were at an intersection now, the light was flashing "Don't Walk, Don't Walk" and Danny gave me a little look, and I didn't even nod, I probably only moved my bottom jaw out a tiny bit, but we'd been doing this so long that Danny knew immediately that I had her wallet and it was his turn to move. "Ma'am, have you seen my friend?" "Leave me alone!" "Miss, I think he's gone, he might have took something from you. He's done that before." I fell into a smooth backpedal and disappeared among the scaffolding and the crowds before she had a chance to look for me, but she didn't care. She was almost running now, this little street pickup had turned into something more like an incident, something she'd tell friends about when she got perspective and she sank into that bath at home. "God," she'd say, "you won't believe what happened today. These two fucking assholes-" but she doesn't know the end of the story yet.

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On the Side

On the Side

Anne Potter Today a man on a street corner drinking beer from a can proposed to me. The sun was shining and this doesn't happen too often, the proposal I mean, so I laughed. "I'm already married," I told him. "1 can be your thing on the side." I decline. I know a thing or two about things on the side. My own husband was once my thing on the side when I was with a painter who refused to leave my house. He had hands like lilies and his forearms had such fine bones. He wanted to mesmerize me, but he tracked paint and left fingerprints everywhere. He found out about my husband who was then my thing on the side and threw me into

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his truck heading out into the desert, screaming. I thought, "This is what it feels like before you get murdered. Your mouth is dry and someone else is driving." He left fingerprints blooming on my arms, left me there in the desert, shivering under a thicket of stars.

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Sometimes Husbands Have Wings

Riding the Wind

Anne Potter

Stephen Page I grounded my husband-bird for an acrobatic ascent from motorcycle pegs, up and over an oncoming Buick. Excellent execution, very poor landing. "Are you mad at me?" was the first thing he asked when I arrived at the hospital. He had black soot in his ears and the idea of "yes" was ridiculous. Both arms gone missing into gauzy chrysalides, hands curling like yesterday's daisies. "A bicycle, maybe," he said. I didn't buy the argument of no tokens, saving money. But no matter, that was not the essence of the thing. And 1 couldn't say "no" now that the arms have shed their cocoons emerging brightly scarred with the promise to "hold tight now," yet still the wild pumping knees remember the freedom of childhood and the arms of the soul spread wide flying.

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J

uan was driving his pickup, I was on the passenger side, and Isabel was in the backseat. The stick shift rattled between Juan and me. Juan had met us at the international airport in Montevideo and was taking us to his farm near the sea, a vacation that Isabel had pestered me into taking after three months of rattling on about how nice it would be for me to finally visit her home country and meet her oldest and dearest friend. The first thing I had noticed about Juan's truck, besides the winch on the back, was its dull, dark green color. The first thing Juan noticed about me, by the way he looked me up-and-down at the airport, was my clothes-an Army jacket, Hawaiian shirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes-the same easygoing style that Isabel always said a man in his late thirties was too old to wear. The backseat was a small pad bolted to the front seats, and it was barely big enough for one adult, maybe two children, yet the way Isabel was sitting closer to Juan's side of the cab, she made it look larger. She was leaning so that her left elbow was resting on the back of Juan's seat, her forearm pressing against his shoulder. They spoke English at first, but when I tried to jump into the conversation, they fell into their native

27


Stephen Page

Riding the Wind

language, Spanish. I was just learning to speak Spanish, and had only memorized a few nouns and phrases. Isabel's vocal tones rose and fell. Juan occasionally regarded me out of the corner of his eye and laughed. I glared at Isabel. Blood rushed to my face. I turned and looked out the passengerside window and watched some cows as they looked dumbly at our passing vehicle. The long lines of trees used as windbreaks between the plots of farmland were losing the last of their brown, curling leaves. I felt the onset of a headache and squeezed my thighs with my hands, imagining I was holding onto someone's throat. When we arrived at Juan's farm, I was still staring out the window. I had been thinking about the conversation that Isabel and 1 had a few months back, when she first told me about Juan. "He moved away from the city and settled on the land he inherited from his father," she said. "Built his own house, with his own two hands. Bought a few cows and now he's got a whole herd. Plowed up half of the land and planted beans, right before the bean market skyrocketed. Wait till you see his house," she said. "It's beautiful. He works wonderfully with his hands." Juan's house was finished on the outside with oak-wood slats, and on the north side there was a spacious sunroom faced in large rectangular glass panels. Inside, the sunroom blended smoothly into the living room. The furniture was rustic but rich-large, hand-carved wooden furniture that reeked of Spanish colonialism. Above the fireplace, there was a painting of an elderly man who had a J. P. Morgan stare. At the bottom of the picture was a gold engraved plaque that read, Soltero Juan Ladron de Guerra. "My Grandfather," said

28

Juan. On the niantel in front of and next to the painting was a bronze statue of a conquistador. Above a desk on the far side of the room was a coat of arms. Hanging on all the walls were horse whips and riding crops. Juan said we could have his room upstairs, since it had a larger bed, and he would take the guestroom at the end of the hallway under the stairs. As soon as we put our suitcases in the bedroom, where I noticed Isabel casually take a candy from a jar on the nightstand next to the bed, Juan started to grill us lunch. "From one of my steers," he said. "Cured by a neighbor of mine." He seared the slab of beef on a grill he had placed over the fireplace. Isabel went into the kitchen to get something, and Juan followed her, giving me instructions to "Keep an eye on the meat." Instead, I followed them, trying to pick up a few words of their conversation. They glanced at me, then back at each other. We sat down at the kitchen table while Isabel and Juan kept yakking away in Spanish. Isabel sat between Juan and me, her body twisted in his direction as she spoke. My headache was turning into a full-fledged migraine. Juan got up to check on the meat and Isabel got up to get the plates. 1 reached for the large wooden peppershaker that sat in the middle of the table and felt the heft of its weight as Isabel put out the plates. She laid out my plate last. "Why don't you ever help?" she whispered at me. Juan brought in the meat. "This is the cut we call 'tapa,'" he said. "Do you want a cut from the large end, where it is tender and juicy, or do you want a cut from the small end where it is tough and hard, the part the real men eat." Isabel watched for my reaction. Juan smiled at me. I narrowed my eyes and ordered a piece that the real men eat. Even though

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Stephen Page

Riding the Wind

they were still speaking Spanish, I could tell that the conversation had turned to the subject of Laura, Isabel's daughter by a former marriage. Laura was a beautiful, agitated bundle of postadolescent hormones that deftly managed, at least once a day, to get either Isabel angry at me, or me angry at Isabel. She had elected to stay home with the housekeeper, cook, gardener and private tutor to study for her college entrance exams while we went on vacation. I can't say I was disappointed.

her breasts into my arm. "And Juan has some errands to run. We have the entire afternoon to ourselves." I followed her back into the house. Juan was cleaning the fireplace as we went up the stairs. He watched Isabel's backside as she walked in front of me.

"Juan was there when Laura was born," Isabel said in English. "Yes. I called her the little princess," Juan said. "That's exactly what I always say," I exclaimed. "She's like a princess. And Isabel is like a queen." "Where does that leave you?" Juan said. "Are you the servant?" This time I looked at Isabel for her reaction. She was staring down at her plate, watching her knife cut through a fat piece of meat. Juan laughed. I glared at him and abruptly pushed myself from the table. I went outside and had a smoke on the back porch. This was going to be the last time, I thought to myself. I noticed Juan had a barn a hundred feet or so from the house. Funny I hadn't seen it when we came in, large and brown with two huge, gray front doors. The front doors were closed and above them was an open hayloft window. I crushed my cigarette out with the sole of my shoe. Next to the front doors and leaning against the wall of the barn was a pitchfork. Just as I was going to walk over to it, Isabel came outside. She took my hand. "Let's go take a nap," she said. "I'm not tired." "The bed is very big and comfortable," she said, pressing

When I woke up, I was alone. I opened the bedroom window and saw them walking toward the truck. They had their backs to me and Juan had his arm around her neck while Isabel rested her head upon his shoulder. They were walking slowly and Juan seemed to be speaking rather softly. I flew down the stairs and stepped out the back door just as they were arriving at the truck. I let the screen door slam shut. "My love," Isabel said as she skipped toward me. Her blouse was open to the fourth button. I stared intently at Juan. He was mocking me with his eyes. "You are awake," he said. "Yes, I am. And it seems to be just in time." "Oh, you mean to come with us," Isabel said. "We were just going to pick up Juan's kids. They live only ten minutes away." "That's okay," Juan said. "I can go alone. There's coffee on the fireplace if you want some." He got in his truck and drove off, the winch on the back rattling and bobbing back and forth. "Love, are you okay? You have a terrible look on your face." I lit a cigarette. "Where were you going?" "To pick up his kids, I told you." "Why didn't you wake me?"

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31


Riding the Wind

Stephen Page

"You were sleeping so well. Besides, Juan needed to speak. He feels comfortable speaking to me. Were old friends, you know that. He wanted to talk about his divorce. Hey, wait a minute, what are you insinuating?" She put her hands on her hips. I could see her bra and cleavage. "Why didn't he invite both of us to go with him?" "Because there are three kids and the cab would be full. You're being ridiculous." She slipped inside the back door. I stayed on the porch and finished my smoke. Then I went for a walk. After a walk around the barn, where I noticed the front doors were padlocked, I went back inside the house. Isabel was lying on a hammock in the sunroom. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat on the sofa. She leaned over and looked at me. The back door opened and three kids piled in, howling and yelling. They ranged in ages from three to eight. "Let's go to the beach," Juan said. "It's almost winter," I said. "Don't you think it's a bit nippy for a swim?" "We're not going to swim, just have a picnic. The waves are beautiful to see crashing on the shore this time of year. They're about five or six feet tall." The kids were running around the house and jumping up and down on the sofa. "Isn't it going to be crowded in the cab?" I asked. "Well, 1 have a suggestion. Isabel says you like to ride motorcycles." My mind escaped to thoughts of my Harley-that red and white Knucklehead that occasionally freed me from the stagnation of my marriage. He continued, "Well, I have a motocross bike. You can follow us. If you wear

32

a sweater under your coat you'll be fine." The road was overgrown with grass, but if I stayed in the wheel ruts, it was easy to ride on. I actually started to feel good after a mile or two. The sun was out, the wind was in my face, the briskness of the air was incredibly invigorating... After a meal of chicken sandwiches and red wine, and an afternoon of watching the kids build sandcastles, then watching the sandcastles get destroyed by the crashing waves, we headed back. Since I knew the way, I ventured out in front of the truck. I lost sight of them over some rolling hills, but I didn't care, I had my freedom again-the open road, the scenery passing by, the wind combing my hair and caressing my body through my clothes. When I saw the house loom up ahead of me, I slowed down. I looked over my shoulder. I slowed down some more. I stopped. I rode to the top of a knoll and scanned the road to the beach. The truck was nowhere to be seen. I rode all the way back to the beach. Nothing. I returned to the house at full throttle. When I arrived, the sun was setting. Around midnight, I heard the truck pull up and the doors slam shut. 1 went to the back porch with my hand around the neck of a bottle of bourbon I had found in the kitchen. "Mi amor, how are you?" Isabel asked me. "Sorry, we had a flat tire." Her hair was mussed. "I went back to find you." Juan interrupted, "Sorry, Jim, we took a different route. To drop off the kids." I lit a cigarette. "Let's go to bed, love," Isabel said to me. "It's late." She put

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Stephen Page

Riding the Wind

her hand over mine, the one that gripped the whiskey bottle. In the bedroom I confronted her. "Did the flat tire happen before or after you dropped off the kids?" She looked at me condescendingly. "Juan is my friend. Whatever fantasy you've concocted in your mind is just that-a fantasy. Besides, you know how I feel about infidelity." "Yeah, 1 know how you feel about infidelity. The same way you always feel about it. The way you feel about it every time we go on a vacation together. The way you feel about it every time we meet someone new. Even the way you feel about it with all of our friends back home." She stormed out of the room. I picked up the jar of candy and smashed it on the floor. I sat on the bed and looked at the grass stains on my tennis shoes. After a few moments, I got up, went down the stairs, through the living room, and into the kitchen. I couldn't find Isabel or Juan, so I walked, quite quickly, under the stairs and into the hallway that led to the guestroom. I found the door closed. I pressed my ear to the door. Silence. Too much silence. A light shone from under the door and onto my feet. A double shadow passed by the light. I grabbed the doorknob and drove my shoulder into the door, bursting into the room. No one was there. A window a few feet from the unmade bed was open a couple of inches and its curtain fluttered in the breeze. The lamp between the bed and the window was on and the curtain passed in front of it. I paused for a moment, then went through the kitchen and out the back door. The moon was full and the sky was clear, giving the outdoors the appearance of a silvery low-lit day. I could see the hills I had ridden upon earlier that day. A cold

wind was blowing. The wild grass in the field next to the house rippled and waved in the breeze. The main doors to the barn stood slightly ajar, and I watched as a white owl circled the barn twice then entered through the hayloft window. I glanced at the pitchfork where now it leaned within arm's reach against the side of the house. The truck, its exterior looking black and shiny, its chrome bumpers reflecting the moon, sat pointed in the direction of the road that led to the airport. The skin on the back of my neck burned and my scalp tingled as I stepped off the porch and walked up to the driver's side. Its keys dangled brightly in the ignition. I looked again at the dark slit made by the opening of the barn doors, over at the pitchfork, around at the hills, the wild grass, the road. The wind picked up and whistled in my ears.

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35


Sleeping with Machines

Preface

Abigail Frankfurt

Gordon Haber all the things we can stick in our selves our orifices the hole I can cum by blender button flashlight, simple finger and after all the bobbing about and porn enhancement, the music I find when the time arrives and a penis pokes its way in I move and spread and sweat and wet while he becomes an appliance with arms and legs in the way with breath that stings my eyes and stubble that scrapes my thighs I'd rather have a flashlight portable and clean

T

he volume that you hold in your hands, A Treatise on Comparative Analytics, is my attempt to resolve many unanswered questions concerning a field of study that defies easy description. I have undertaken this enormous task with considerable humility, knowing that I am like a little oil added to the great burning lamps of my predecessors. Therefore, any criticism or commentary is welcome, since it can only add to the lively debate that continues on in bastions of higher learning throughout the world. Since Dr. Spruell first tested his theories on the Schwabisch milliners in 1683, scholars have questioned whether comparative analytics is a liberal art or a science. Although eighteenth-century visionaries like Mishkin successfully applied scientific techniques to what had previously been considered a mere mode of expression, postmodern performance artists have appropriated many of the basic tenets of comparative analytics for their own work, causing much consternation in more traditional practitioners. (Who can ever forget the brouhaha caused by Henry Spark's shocking recitation of the Five Rules in Person with Fish?) I have devoted considerable space to settling this divisive

no lips, no cries, no S.T.D. surprise of man I make machine

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37


Preface

Gordon Haber

question of classification. I have also attempted to fill certain lacunae in our understanding of the development of comparative analytics by writing the first historiography to include the findings of the Birmingham Conference of 1916, which reopened many old wounds by requiring members of the Royal Society to cover their own bar tab. It is my sincere hope that this book will once and for all mend this bitter rift in our midst.

Finally, my sincere affection and gratitude to Hathilde, my assistant, muse, amanuensis, and friend. My dear, I can only assure you, once again, that the check is in the mail. Rudolphe Keene Monongahela, Pennsylvania May 27, 1963

However high my aspirations for A Treatise on Comparative Analytics, and however modest its actual achievements, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the efforts of the following persons and organizations. Firstly, I would like to thank my cousin Jacques for allowing me to make use of his prodigious graphic talents in the design of this book, and especially for providing me with unlimited access to his car. Merci, mon frere. I must also thank the rest of my family for finally heeding my repeated requests to never, ever call me. I extend my gratitude as well to the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Charles A. Dana Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Arthur Vining David Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Monongahela Rotary Club. Their consistent rejection of my grant applications only served as fuel for the fire of my determination. Fortunately, I can thank the Spruell Center for Comparative Analytics and Hat Museum for archival access and generous provision of a cot during my all too infrequent research trips to Schwabisch Hall. The President and Trustees of Monongahela State College of Pennsylvania graciously provided me with office space and unlimited legal pads.

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39


War Story

War Story

Miranda Hope I remember well the last war: I was at Harvard. My roommate, Older, wiser, and A bisexual Etch-a-Sketch portrait artist, Answered to Claudia.

had just broken up with me, and I needed that sense of purpose." She knew that sounded lame, but it was true. 1 closed my eyes and cooked silently With five naked women in Eastern Massachusetts As bombs destroyed Jerusalem.

As the March for Peace Slowly, loudly Paraded beneath our window, We ate Cream of Wheat and went to the gym To escape our television set. On parallel treadmills we marched, Claudia and I, And toughened our bodies, To prepare for a week of sitting in old lecture halls. Huddled in a crowded sauna, She wanted to know why everyone was marching now? Now that the war is in full swing. "Where were they in September, During the March on Boston?" She wanted to know. "Now that was a really great march," she said. "And it came at a perfect time," she said, "because my boyfriend

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41


Back East

Back East

Marta Rodriguez

B

oston was red the first time Sophy was here-and now, her second time, it is blue. There are other differences which do not seem worth writing in her journal. She is older now, and visiting a man. She came here from New York this time, not California. But in a journal these facts are implied, and so she writes about colors, the pale blue flannel on this man's futon and the deep brick red of the building where she stayed with her mother when she was nine. She is twenty-one now, which means he can take her to Irish bars where they can't hear each other. Last night they did that, and this afternoon Roland is sleeping, and tonight he will take her out again. Now Sophy is writing, her hip curled into the small of his back. She memorizes the room: his black hair on the light blue pillow, the blue futon on white carpet, clerestory windows that fill the room with light from the top down, like water in an aquarium. She'd read the word "clerestory" and never knew what it meant-windows near the ceiling, made for light but not for looking. It won't be this way again, she thinks-the bed like a wide cloud, the quiet electric fan. This is what she writes in her journal:

42

Roland: is breathing grows black hairs and white ones has soft ears won't touch me comes naked from the shower drinks smoky green tea worries about his bar exam owns furniture did not like New York did not mention the photos I sent him is sad and slow, won't say why he loved me last summer won't touch me yet makes me think She hopes that sleeping Roland will slide his arm around her, that when he wakes up he'll smile. Maybe he'll want to cook dinner together, she thinks, and decides to chop the vegetables and let Roland be chef. She hopes that later when some beer is in him they will lose this silence which had not found them last summer. And if the silence stays, she hopes they will be fish in the blue lake-bed, watercolor cartoon fish with graceful empty speech-bubbles floating above them. What will happen is this: Roland will get up and lock the bathroom door, won't smile. At dinner-Indian takeout-Sophy will watch him read the sports section. Later they'll go out into the pale orange evening, the air which holds a little warmth from the day. When Sophy's hand swings near Roland's, Roland's will hide in his pocket. It is September and a few leaves are on the ground. They will kick them a lit-

43


Marta Rodriguez

Back East

tie as they walk from bar to bar.

friends she wasn't going to the Grand Canyon. And now she would never use Victor the Volkswagen's special road trip furniture, the folding bed and the little curtains and the closet.

It was summer of her ninth year the first time Sophy was in Boston. She'd never been to New England before, never left California even for Hawaii or Reno. lone and Gary (her mother and father) were not the Reno kind of parents. Casino-places made lone sad, and Gary was too busy teaching to go anywhere. When Sophy was a baby, they went to Hong Kong but Sophy stayed home. Afterward they couldn't go anywhere for years, but they all three liked to plan road trips.

Now they are in DC, all three of them. Sophy and lone came here on an airplane ten days ago. Tone took Sophy to all the monuments and a EBI show behind bulletproof glass and they dropped a penny off the Washington Monument. Gary has been here for a long time, staying in the teacher-dorms at the university. He teaches here but Tone and Sophy are on vacation, and tomorrow they are driving north but he is staying.

Sophy remembers the yellow kitchen table in California, remembers eating there in June with a daffodil wind puffing out the curtains. Dinner was over and lone and Gary were talking about a Great Grand Canyon Road Trip. Sophy was drinking Ione's coffee (milk mostly) and Gary was drinking his own coffee (black mostly). They had talked about this trip before. It would be all three of them and Victor (their green VW bus). They would bring guitars, eat burritos, see sand and red cliffs and jackrabbits. Sophy would get pieces of turquoise and jars full of rocks. She told everyone at school. But now Gary was tapping his fingernail on his coffee cup. He said he got a teaching fellowship, he applied for it in March, it was in Washington DC and he was going there to teach Shakespeare. "We can visit him, Sophy," said lone, not looking at Gary. "You've never been to the East Coast." Where they were going was Back East, even though Sophy and lone were from Out West. Sophy would have to tell her

Gary likes to take walks. He has found, just for them, the best firefly place, which is where all three of them are now. The air is hot tonight and dark except for the fireflies. Sophy is excited-California doesn't have any fireflies. She had a book about a boy who caught fireflies in a jar, to keep them, but they died. She always thought the boy was stupid, the story simplistic. She felt tricked. "Everybody knows you punch air holes, and besides it's mean," she told her parents. The family is standing on a wide lawn. The building behind them is the university dorms, where they are staying. It is black with yellow squares. One of the yellow squares is Gary's room. His brown canvas briefcase is open on a desk, his shoes under the matching bed next to it. Sophy thinks it's weird that her dad has his own room like a kid. She went in there today, to show him her postcard collection. She has cards from all the DC places she saw, and all the DC other places she didn't see. It takes a long time to tell about them. When she finished, Gary said slowly, "That's the third or fourth time you've told me about that." He said it in his

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45


Maria Rodriguez

Back East

Explaining Voice. Sophy got very quiet and left his room. And now Sophy is dancing on the lawn. She hadn't thought Back East would be like this-the long grass wet on her feet, the air like after a shower, the tiny lights, which are animals, swimming between magnolias. They blink on/off, on/off. Sophy pretends they are spelling their names in the air. When they're off, they aren't anywhere, but if you had them in a jar, you'd know where they were. The lawns are green, the trees darker, the insects bright. Behind her lone and Gary talk quietly, a vague dark figure two people wide. Sophy notices that it hasn't been this way in a long time-there are no edges in their voices. What is Gary thinking? A picture forms gradually in his mind: lone home at her potter's wheel, clay drying on her arms and throat, her whole attention in the bowl she is shaping. "Her hair smelled like sourdough toast," he remembers suddenly. "I wrote poems about that." lone and Sophy are driving out of DC, 10 AM. It's hot. The rental car already smells like old cigarettes and Raspberry Hubble-Bubble bubblegum. For years after, those smells will make Sophy vaguely carsick. Sophy has dug herself into Gary's old Oliver Twist. Oliver Twist is a 1952 hardback that smells like dust and dead silverfish. Sophy is stubborn, reads every word. lone stares hard at the road. She is driving them to Connecticut to see her ex-husband Chard and his family. She is choky in her throat but her eyes are just plain empty. What is lone thinking? She knows she is moving forward in time and backward in husbands but she feels she is not moving at all. The view sure isn't changing, out the window-just the

46

road and the forest beside it, the skinny East Coast trees. Inside there are air-conditioner sounds and page-turnings. Sometimes Sophy asks lone about the hard words. lone would like to talk or play Geography but Sophy is busy. lone knows for sure that Sophy is the most intelligent kid anywhere, that she can remember and she can learn. But the truth is: she won't know a thing about Oliver Twist when she has finished reading all the words. Now Sophy and lone are in Connecticut, visiting Chard and Barbara. Chard and Barbara are lawyers. They are building an indoor pool so Alexandria, their daughter, can swim in the winter. Right now Chard and Barbara, Tone and Sophy are waiting to pick up Alex after her swim meet. Dusty maples lean over the swimming hole, dropping circles of light into the leaf-brown water. Kids are everywhere, making hoot-hoot noises and shoving each other in. The trees are green still but Sophy will remember them red and orange. In children's books the boy and girl live in a town, swim in a hole, sled in the winter. They eat chestnuts and play Capture the Flag. They catch fireflies beneath maples, which are always fall colors unless it is snowing. Sophy wonders: If lone and Chard had stayed married, would their daughter be half her and half Alex? Her name could be Alexy. Alexy would have mittens and know what a chestnut looks like. Actually: Alexy would listen in bed while lone threw the vacuum cleaner down the stairs.

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Back East

Marta Rodriguez

Sophy drops white paper on Roland's blue pillow. She is going to lunch with her friends. The card falls across Roland's black hair, makes a rustly noise. He doesn't wake up, just smushes his nose farther into the pillow. Sophy sees his cheek twitch. Is he dreaming? She stands for a minute looking. The card is a white sheet on a blue flannel day. It has a photo of sky and half a motorcycle reflected in a parking-lot puddle. Sophy shot it for her photo class, made a postcard size for Roland. The sky in the photo was just that way all summer in Manhattan. Sophy is the kind of photographer who spends hours in the darkroom and minutes shooting. Her negatives are low-contrast and badly composed. She prints with filters for more black and more white, shapes the photo with solar flashes, sepia tones, dodging and burning, scissors. She aches past midnight in the darkroom, and when she is done the prints emit light. She pads out in her socks and quietly shuts the door. She sits on the stoop, ties her shoes, wonders how Roland will wake up. Will he read the card but not look at it?

Maybe Roland is sad, wonders why he doesn't want this Sophy now that she likes him. He courted her last summer with orange lilies, and toast in the morning.

Will he think, "three hours" and go straight to the shower? He will not remember the sky in Manhattan. Her last boyfriend loved her, but she made him a photo-clue treasure hunt for his birthday and he never got around to following it. The boy before that spilled pickle relish on her negatives.

The first time Sophy was in Boston, she and lone stayed in the South End with Marilyn and Nancy. They all had funny names that week, something about when Marilyn and lone were in college together. lone was Eye-oony, Marilyn was Mary Lynny, Nancy was Nancy Rae, and Sophy was SoofyKaboofy or Soofy-K for short. Sophy remembers crossing a big street, eating rum raisin ice cream. Eye-oony is holding her not-ice-cream hand, and Nancy Rae is holding hands with Mary Lynny. They're all going from the brick red ice cream store to the red brick brownstone. Men in overalls push wheelbarrows of fireplace bricks up a ramp into a downstairs window. Mary Lynny and Nancy Rae bought the building together and are going to rent out the bottom part. Soofy-K is thinking that even though Mary Lynny and Nancy Rae aren't married really, they are like Chard and Barbara because Chard and Barbara are building an indoor pool. Soofy-K bites into her ice cream. She doesn't like rum raisin but she's trying to, because Mary Lynny said "Kid has guts!" when she ordered it. Eye-oony talks for a while and then her face goes sad. Mary Lynny takes her hand, so now they are all holding hands. These are the things Eye-oony says when Soofy-K is busy with her ice cream: "All this red brick is like the red clay I have at home. I was thinking about a big round water pot,

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Good morning! Have a lovely day. Hope you slept well. -Me PS see you at 4


Polish Sonnets-AuÂŁusÂŁ 16,1997 Judy Brzosko From the series Betta Splendens, 1998 by {Catherine McVety

The road to Gdansk eats people but only on big holidays like the Feast of Assumption. Two lanes turn deadly then. Any advantage gained by wide shoulders and the broad center, so accommodating to passing, is lost in a blur of travelers who ignore storks playing among jolly rollmops of hay and the tree hustling the breezy promise of the Baltic though we are still in the mouth of the Zalew Wislany... Ignore rules, hurry one another, until a cyclist, shirtless, his hideously scraped chest, left elbow akimbo, lies deadignored-while a policeman waits for EMS.

:::;

The photography department in Columbia's School of the Arts, Visual Arts Division, was established in fall 1996. Directed by Thomas Roma, the evolving program has expanded to include black and white, color, and digital media facilities.

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ead. The summer was completely dead. Dry grass hanging limply in the yard, scorpions scavenging for remains in the dust of the road, trees too limp to hold baby birds. And hot, so hot we couldn't move, sitting on the porch with tall dripping glasses of iced tea. There was wind, sure, it would rustle through the desert shrubs every so often, blowing up my skirt like a welcome stranger. The cat sat with us too, up on the steps. No one ever knew where that thing came from. A tabby, orange and white, not uncommon in Haifa, but we never had a cat and had never planned to. But there it was. Me, my two boys and the cat, spending sweaty days listening to gunshots over the radio. It wasn't too bad, the fighting, but that's like saying the ocean's not too wet. It's always there, in the background. There's always new press releases, casualty updates, terrorist bombings, civilian attacks. Here a husband, there a daughter, there's always someone. I've got two kids in the army, with two waiting to be old enough. Next door's got three in the ground. But these are old, tired stories, cleaned away and ignored. We're not sure where the cat came from. It had just

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didn't come back for three days. Isaac and Jordon ran off after him, actually tried to find him along the road, maybe even on the road, splattered. "But he's not eating the food. He's gonna die, Mameh. We need to feed him." "He's been living most of his life without you to give him food, Isaac, I'm sure he'll do fine on his own." He was a militant cat, that one, it was in his tail. The way it would whip through the air, rigid straight, not the snaky twirl of most cats. He was an Israeli, no doubt about that, and I can't say that I was surprised when he came back bloody. He walked up the porch, looked for his water bowl, sat down and waited by the front door. Jordon ran in to get the water and cheese, yelling and crying unintelligibly. Isaac peered from his watergun and walked over to inspect the cat. He started trembling. "Mameh, why is he missing a leg?" "The cat doesn't mind, so why should you?" It was a clean injury, just pulled right out of the socket, so 1 didn't pay him any mind. He got around just fine too, like he'd never had four legs to use. But the boys were scared he'd leave again, and put up wooden slats in front of the stairs to keep him in. I wasn't going to tell them that it wouldn't stop an Israeli cat. It was the same as it had always been, the cat lapping up water, lying by my chair. But the boys kept their distance, playing with their toys on the other side of the porch. They took up trying to climb the olive trees, see how high they could get. They even tried to build a bomb shelter up there, though they knew a treetop would be the worst place to go for protection. But with the placement of the first little foot,

wandered down the road and wrapped its little body around my son's legs, the day their daddy left home. Next day there was a bowl of milk on the step, until I explained to Isaac and Jordon that cats shouldn't drink milk, water was better with some cheese. He stayed with us for a few weeks. He liked us, I guess, and would sit there for hours, tail swinging back and forth. No reason why he shouldn't, Isaac and Jordon were thrilled to have a living toy. The boys took turns feeding him, combing, playing, dressing him up. They would stroke his ears and he'd purr softly. I said I wasn't getting involved-I needed a cat with fleas like I needed the mice in the basement eating through bags of rice. He would saunter around the porch, a master of his domain followed by his troops, my sons, who tried to pet him and teach him tricks. But he couldn't be bothered with that, just as he couldn't care less about chasing the mouse that would brazenly dart by his front paws. He would just have to lift one up and smash it down, but no, not the cat that drank bottled water. He was militant, though, clearly a cat of the streets. When he wasn't fanning himself with his tail, he'd march over to his water bowl or sit by the front door waiting for the day we'd let him in. It was one of these days when he posed by the screen door, perhaps the radio gunshots were too loud for his fine-tuned ears, that he darted down the wooden stairs and disappeared in the shrubs by the side of the road. Isaac and Jordon were playing with their action figures, trying to lure the cat into being an Arab soldier and knock down the barricade they had constructed out of Popsicle sticks. He ignored them, as always, looked bored. Then just ran away,

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the trees would bend over, hanging in space like ragdolls. It was just another summer day when the cat jumped down the stairs again, cleared the wood by a few feet, and disappeared for a week. The boys were pulling down the trees, to see if they would touch the ground like soldiers touching their toes. They called after him, when he darted off, but he didn't seem to hear. By this time, I was getting used to his company, I'd even talk to him when the heat wasn't too bad. He wouldn't answer, of course, just sat there quietly, at attention. The boys were horrified when he returned. "What happened to his ears?" "They're probably with his leg." The wounds were clean, no blood even, but we could see the muscles twitching, trying to move the little satellites that could turn full circles. But he wasn't in pain, didn't seem to notice. Isaac and Jordon wouldn't pet him, though, positively refused.

He peered out from the tent door, and quietly asked, "Why?" "Because he's dead. I need the flag." Jordon stood inside the tent and refused to move, staring in fear at the cat. I was forced to get up off my chair, grab an Israeli flag from inside the house and cover the little body. Isaac peeked his head out, and the two of them looked like Siamese twins. He sniffled. Watched me drag the cat by his three legs down the stairs and out to the road. I dug a small hole at the bottom of one of the boys' collapsed trenches and laid the little body inside, twirling his tail around his neck to fit in the grave. I squatted down by the dirt hole, and the boys ran inside the house, letting the screen door close with a wooden thwack. The sun fell behind the mountains with vague blasts of red and orange, and the wind dropped off, no longer whipping dust around my bare feet. Even the radio was quiet, at least for a time.

The barricade became bigger this time, up to my thighs, yet he still managed to vault over it, landing cleanly on three paws. The boys ran down the stairs after him, yelling for him to come back, but fell over the wood and scratched their knees. Isaac dragged out his tent and he and Jordon slept out on the porch for twelve days, waiting for the cat. The tent was pointless, he returned during the day when I was on the porch, but this time he had no head. He darted up the stairs, lay by my feet and didn't get up again. The boys were hysterical, crying and shaking, they refused to come out of the tent. "Get the flag, Jordan."

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Lobby

Stacy's Neurasthenia

Ken Rus Schmoll

Gordon Haber I was in heat, wearing orange pants and climbing the furniture in the lobby. Jeanmarie smoked and empathized. We were waiting and talking, and when I told her I always thought I looked like a woman -was easily mistaken for a womanshe stopped, considered me, mouth open, and said, "If ever a man looked like a man, you do." And I remembered sitting in a deli-restaurant in San Francisco. I was thirteen and growing, and when the waiter brought my second cheeseburger, he said to my parents, "She's hungry, isn't she?"

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t's a sticky suburban evening. Recumbent on a chaise longue, I scan the patio of my parents' house, watching Mom and Dad's party guests and sipping a mighty powerful Long Island iced tea that my little sister prepared for me. The combination of the drink and the moist green Thai weed that we smoked earlier has created a dreamy, floating sensation. I push my sunglasses up my nose with my thumb and adjust my skirt. The bug zappers punctuate the drone of conversation and throw otherworldly blue highlights on the faces of the party guests at uneven intervals. I imagine myself rising above the patio, drifting on the chaise longue like it's a flying carpet, looking down on the bald spots and spreading behinds of the guests, watching the streets and subdivisions form abstract patterns as I make lazy circles in the air. How many times have I been stoned at this house? Hundreds, maybe a thousand. Pot has been my little helper for years; my fragrant, dependable friend since seventh grade. And besides, it's the only way to get through one of these parties and stay on an even keel. Mom and Dad's friends are all of a type. Let's take Big

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Frankie, for example. As a rule, Frankie's shirt is unbuttoned to the crease formed by the meeting of his chest and his potbelly. A golden Star of David on a thick chain lies suspended in the dense gray hair of his chest. His glistening, carefully combed hair is the inky black of a man who uses Grecian Formula. "He's a sweet, sweet man, Frankie is," my Dad is fond of saying. "Made a small fortune selling doorknobs to the Japanese. Doorknobs."

"You want I should give him your phone number?" "Describe yourself in fifty words or less," Dr. Finster says, handing me an index card and a pen. My name is Stacy Mintz. I am twenty-six years old. I am five foot nine, brown hair, brown eyes.

I think for a second, tapping the pen on my knee. Dr. Finster is pushing papers around on his desk with a studied nonchalance. I add:

Dad's friends are small businessmen, accountants. Men who sweat and bullied their way into the middle class. Some of their childhood cronies, the wilder ones, grew up to be hoods. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between them. Big Frankie sees me alone, lumbers up. He squeezes his great bulk into an empty chair next to me, mops his sweaty brow with a handkerchief. "What, you a big movie star now, Stacy?" I look up at him, utterly confused and too stoned to ask him what he's talking about. "It's almost nighttime and you still got your shades on." T take my sunglasses off, feeling myself smile idiotically. Big Frankie leans forward so close, his Star of David almost lands in my drink. He looks straight into my dilated pupils and chuckles. "Put your sunglasses back on, kiddo," he says. He starts to tell me about his son, Mark, a software designer in Silicon Valley. "Can you believe that? Twenty-nine years old, and the little SOB is worth more than me." Frankie pauses and fixes his eyes on a distant point.

Why am I writing like this is a dating service? I'd like to start over, but Dr. Finster will be able to see what I've scratched out anyway, and he'll read something into that. They always read into things, these shrinks. His office is in a brownstone in the East Thirties. The shades are drawn, the air conditioning hums soothingly. The books that line an entire wall were clearly all purchased before 1980.1 think it's supposed to be cloistered in here but it feels a little claustrophobic to me. He's about seventy, my shrink. Can I call him "my" shrink even though this is only my first session? But I like him, despite the stuffy office. I like his gleaming, bald head; his ready, youthful smile. A wonderful surrogate father for only seventy-five bucks an hour. Smiling, he takes the card from me, doesn't even look at it, sticks it in a file somewhere. He puts his fingertips together, padded elbows of his corduroy jacket on his desk. "So," he says, putting a serious expression on his face, "why are you here?"

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1 like to read and work out. But not simultaneously. I mean I do read at the gym, on the Stairmaster anyway, but then it's usually magazines.


Gordon Haber

Stacy's Neurasthenia

Why am I here? I'm here because my mother suggested it. Because she says I'm "detached," and that at my age 1 should be able to form a lasting relationship with a man. Of course this worries her, but it can't worry her half as much as it worries me. Because I only feel relaxed when I'm stoned, and I'm starting to wonder if this is a healthy psychic survival tactic. I tell Dr. Finster all these things in the course of my allotted hour, haltingly, inarticulately. I temporarily place my faith in this kind, grandfatherly total stranger. "Look," he says eventually, "I think what you're suffering from is nothing more than a mild depression, a neurasthenia." Well, that makes sense. No wonder I feel like shit all the time. "I think you should come here once a week for a little while. Do you have insurance?" Oh yes, Dr. Finster, I most certainly do. One half of your hourly ministrations will be paid by the Oxford HMO (at least the first fifteen of them) and the other half will come courtesy of those bountiful philanthropists, Mom and Dad. Why do I feel so good? Dr. Finster, you've cured me in just one session. I'm going to tell all my depressed friends about you. I whistle in the taxi all forty blocks north to my apartment, then rush inside to look up "neurasthenia" in my American Heritage Dictionary: a neurotic disorder characterized by chronic fatigue and weakness, loss of memory, and general-

ized aches and pains. What a lovely word! I imagine some Victorian quack scratching his long beard: "Young lady, I am afraid you are a neurasthenic. Nurse, get the leeches and a phial of laudanum! We must remove her uterus, immediately!" Then, my mood shifts with the suddenness of a car screeching to a halt: I remember that I've got a date tonight.

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I frantically throw my work clothes onto the growing pile of dirty laundry and ransack my overflowing closet (how I loathe it! I've got nothing to wear, nothing!) until I extricate a beige tank top, antique blue shorts, and black sandals. Is that too casual for a first date? But I don't want him to think that this is some kind of big occasion for me. White V-neck T-shirt, faded Levi's, white Keds? Heather gray knit crewneck, blue print skirt, Dr. Scholl's? Oy. I check the weather report: mid-nineties and humid. Looks like the tank top, shorts and sandals. On my way out, 1 manage to find some willpower and forego the bong, perched invitingly on the coffee table. In the cab on the way to the restaurant I find myself thinking about my sister. When she goes on a date, it's like a military operation: prepare, and be ready to adapt. Prepare by researching the guy. What does he do? What does he really want to do? Be ready to adapt by acquiescing to every suggestion he makes, with the exception of sex until the fourth date. Some people suffer from free-floating anxiety. My sister has free-floating love. It attaches itself to whoever drifts into her life, like a barnacle to the side of a boat. Her tenacity is awesome. She has loved philanderers, embezzlers, bigamists and the merely indolent with the same ferocity. Who receives her love is immaterial. She just has a talent for giving it. My love is more selective. So selective, in fact, that I can't say that it's ever attached itself to anyone, at least romantically. It's too "detached." My date is meeting me at one of those noisy family-style restaurants with old-timey decor. As I pay the cabby and step inside I wonder why these places are so popular for dates.

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Stacy's Neurasthenia

So many angry fathers, harried mothers and crying children. But mixed among them are the hopeful couples, the first-daters, their optimism undaunted by the tableaux. I'm looking at the girls in particular. Their energy, their skin. The way they smile coquettishly, so interested in the lame jokes of their dates. Their breasts are suspended in defiance of gravity. Reality or Wonderbra? The boys don't care. Nice teeth and a Master's in Comp Lit are not enough to get a nice Jewish boy with this kind of competition. And there is Joshua, my date, in jeans and a white buttondown shirt. Now I remember why I said "yes" to him, why I let him pick me up in the park. It's that chin. Who could say no to a chin like that? I present my cheek for a chaste kiss. A lock of my hair gets caught in his tortoise-shell glasses. We laugh uncomfortably as he extricates himself. He steers me by the elbow to a table in the back that he has already commandeered, holds the chair out for me while I sit down. From behind me, a stentorian voice: "You can not have two orders of chocolate mousse!" We turn to see a father's beetred countenance, six inches from the face of his plump son. "Looks like they could use a little family therapy," 1 say. Joshua wrinkles his nose, signals to a waiter. "I think therapy is a luxury," he says. "The only possible response to a world where leisure time is considered an entitlement. How about Cotes de Rhone with our steaks?" We're having steaks? I mean I love steak, but what if I didn't? What kind of a guy doesn't ask? And what has he got against therapy? The waiter approaches, and in one smooth motion, Joshua has opened the wine list and indicated his choice with his index finger. He continues, barely pausing to

take a breath. "Before the Industrial Revolution, who had time to sit around kvetching? There was too much work to do." Ah, I think. Uses Yiddish to indicate that he's Jewish, orders the wine, and gives his pithy punditry all in one sentence. Maybe I should have smoked that pot. Well, nothing to do but soldier on. "What line of work are you in, Joshua?" I ask. "Advertising. Pharmaceutical advertising. I'm working on the campaign right now for that new male impotence drug." "What was wrong with the old one?" I ask (they like it when you ask them about their jobs). Joshua smiles, encouraged. "The previous male impotence treatment involved a doctor-administered injection," dramatic pause, "directly into the male organ." "Yikes," I say, perking up. Now this is interesting. "This injection created tumescence which lasted for four hours. An uncontrollable, four-hour erection." "Sounds like every boy in junior high school," I say. Joshua is not amused. His attractive jaw clenches slightly. "Male impotence is a serious problem," he says. "Not that I suffer from it, mind you, but lots of men do." He takes a sip of water. "Lots." We stare at each other for a moment, and the wine comes. Joshua sniffs the cork, swirls the wine around in his glass for a moment, examining its color, I suppose. He sticks his nose in the glass, takes a big sniff. The waiter looks at me and rolls his eyes. Finally Joshua takes a dainty sip and pronounces the wine satisfactory. The waiter pours out a glass for each of us and beats a hasty retreat.

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"What line of work are you in, Stacy?" he asks. "Publishing. I'm an assistant editor." "I think advertising is the literature of today," Joshua says. "I thought literature was the literature of today," I reply. "That's where you're mistaken. Nobody reads literature anymore. As a form of mass media it just doesn't generate the kind of income that it could a hundred years ago." "What was your major in college?" I ask. "Media Studies," he says smugly, signaling for the waiter, who is wisely pretending not to see Joshua's outstretched, beckoning index finger.

food too much. "You see that picture," he says, pointing toward a photograph of a bearded man in a cracked oval frame. I nod, chewing. I know what story is coming, but that's okay. "That is your great-great-grandfather Chaim, my grandfather. A writer, a translator, and a journalist of the highest caliber-he worked with Herzl in Vienna. But a godawful translator. Did you know that he translated Shakespeare into his native Romanian dialect? He did such a lousy job, to this day, people in Transylvania think Shylock was a goy."

Grandpa's apartment is hot and smells of old books. It's always warm in there, but it's particularly hot today because he's cooking dinner for me. He's my height and whisper-thin, but his bright blue eyes still see everything, and his silver hair is thick on his head. "Shaynn punim," he says, holding me under the chin. "A face like this, you should be married already." T allow him this. Though vital at eighty, he's of a different world, one long faded into sepia like the ancestral photographs on his walls. We sit in the living room because it's cooler. "Where's your sister?" he asks, setting a glass of soda water down in front of me. He vigorously stirs a spoonful of raspberry syrup in the glass, exposing the numbers on his arm. My sister, who finds it too much to spend one summer evening a week here and does not respond well to guilt. "She's a busy girl, grandpa," I say. He nods and shrugs, goes into the kitchen for challah and chopped liver. He sets it down in front of me and starts to talk as I eat. And eat I do. I experimented with eating disorders in college, but I like

How can my sister not want to visit with this man? We eat comfortably in silence. "Grandpa," I say, after a few minutes, "what do you think of therapy?" "What, you mean with a headshrinker?" He cocks his head at this, thinks for a second. "I never had much use for it, but your grandmother might have done well with some. Are you having it?" I nod. He strokes my hair once, smiling. "Such a serious girl. Well, whatever you think you need, you need." After dinner, he insists on paying for a car service to take me back to Manhattan. A Buick comes for me, huge and smelling of piney chemicals, driven by a genial middle-aged Latino. Grandpa waves goodbye from the curb. "You mind if I put on the radio?" the driver asks. "Not at all." The joyous sounds of salsa fill the car as he turns onto the Major Deegan. Grandpa has gone from Romania to Poland to Israel to the Bronx. Tn a destructive and violent world, he has seen more

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Fowl Weather

destruction and violence than most. But I can't remember a time when he ever second-guessed himself, when he ever expressed regret or remorse. It's the people like me and my sister, the soft and privileged, the semi-damaged. We're the ones who have to pay strangers to listen to us spill our guts. Okay, 1 think, there's a little something wrong with me, with the way I live. Best not to think about it tonight. I watch the other cars on the highway, whizzing by, filled with people on some errand of importance known only to themselves. When I get home I'm going to turn on the TV and fire up the bong. Tomorrow there will be plenty of time to worry.

Aimee Taub

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he rain was coming down in buckets. He offered to bring the chicken from his house. We tried to talk him out of it, but he was quite forceful about it. He quit his job, he told us, in order to raise chickens. He forgot, however, that you had to feed chickens twice daily, and so they all died. He suggested that I write a how-to book on raising chickens in an urban environment. He looked forward to collaborating with me, he said, and he was sure that the book would be a bestseller. He was having a hard time coming up with a good title, but he had a few ideas: Don't Count 'Em Before They Hatch, and his personal favorite, Fowl Play. Later that spring he allowed us to visit the gravesites. He kept the tombstones graffiti and weed free. Each tombstone was engraved with the single word "Chicken" followed by a number. He seemed particularly saddened when we passed the grave marked with "Chicken #7." He explained that we were required to get down on our knees and offer up a prayer for #7's soul. When we had finished, he instructed us on how to flap our arms and utter "bok, bok" to ward away the evil chicken spirits. We were not allowed to "cock-a-doodle-do," for that was sacrilegious, it seemed.

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Hostile Invasion Dan McHugh

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hree decades as a professor ought to inspire a less emotional conclusion, but the truth is that my kitchen was a goddamned war zone. Admittedly, talking about war does not conjure images of a professor in a kitchen, and this of course is where Columbia focuses their argument. They contextualized war on a battlefield in East Germany, and the skies above Japan. War is not for kitchens, they said. And I said, 1 am old and gray and a little bit goddamned impatient, but war has nothing to do with location. War is about sacrifice, and how many of you would be willing to sacrifice your kitchen, much less your job, in order to fend off a hostile invasion? The fall semester began in the middle of a heat wave. The humidity was thick and pressing, the open window in the corner offering little relief. I stood there fanning myself, trying to forget about my kitchen. It had been weeks since the first incident. Just over five weeks, and now I stood in the corner of a classroom in Hamilton Hall, watching the students hurry to their seats. In a fit of inspiration, as I wiped a bead of sweat from my temple, I thought of Canada. "Canadians," I said to the quieting students. "Who would've

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thought it possible." I turned to the blackboard and reached for the string, pulling it down to reveal a North American map, colors separating the countries. "A military laughingstock, we thought. Well, today is the day for the Canadian military. With relative ease and strength unforeseen, they have crossed our northern border and sacked a number of our cities. Seattle is now under Canadian rule, as is Tacoma and Billings, Montana. And the gas," I said with an extended pause. "The gas had no effect, and our special forces were destroyed last night. The President is waiting for our phone call. We have twenty minutes to reach a decision." By this point, the students were blank-faced, all eyes on the map in front. No shifting of chairs. No rustling of books or papers. Just my shoes against the tiled floor as I walked through the aisles, my finger scanning the computer printout for a name. "Janowick?" "Here." The voice came from the back. I located his raised hand, and our eyes met. A small fellow, Janowick. Small but presentable. "You've been following this invasion, Janowick. You seem to think that these Canadians are very tricky, or so it says in your report." "My report?" "That's right. Right here on line three," I said, flipping through an empty notebook on the podium. "Very tricky, you say." "I remember now," Janowick said to a chorus of giggles. "Of course. Very tricky. I believe that was an understatement, given that they just sacked Seattle." "We never needed Seattle, you realize. Rains too much

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there. But tell us, Janowick. What are you going to tell the President? He's quite concerned." All heads turned to Janowick. T walked to the window, feeling the breeze slip under my sport coat. Mugginess is their lifeblood, you know. Cockroaches infest buildings according to the presence of water, with temperature and air movement having a more limited effect. And when the)' came to this country, by ship and plane and arguably through other means, the climate was rather ideal, particularly in the hotter, wetter environs. You see, humidity and New York City are like unfriendly relatives. Every summer brings the obligatory picnic, and it's always a disaster. Sweaty buses. Hot winds blowing through the subway stations. Sewer stench. Air conditioning is enough to keep me mobile, but not much more. "The President is waiting," I said from the window. "Canadians?" Janowick blurted. "That's right." "I must be missing something. We could block an invasion with our Air Force. Our Air Force would be too strong for them." "Fair assumption," I said turning to the class. "Yet we have deployed our Air Force, albeit in a limited capacity." "More innocent victims in an air attack. More footage of bleeding civilians. Wouldn't bode well for the President." "He may not have a choice in a situation like this." "Millions of viewers, Janowick. ABC. NBC. All of them showing Mrs. Crabtree bleeding from the temples because our F-14s bombed the Canadians that were behind her house." "Maybe Mrs. Crabtree has to die," Janowick said, sitting up

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in his chair. And there it was. The answer. Didn't expect it. Students seemed surprised by it. But there it was. Maybe Mrs. Crabtree has to die. Quite an answer for a Columbia student. And you could see the unrest that it caused in the class, but Janowick, he didn't seem to care. Didn't even flinch. That's how it happens, you know. In a blink we become killers. We stand there looking at the bloody mess, the torn bodies and battered ranks, and we give the order. We raise the notch in order to ensure victory, and we know that people, maybe even our own, will perish in that last, explosive assault. Send in the planes. I heard that order many times. I lost dear friends to that order. You see, Janowick's answer grows from an American tradition, a noble combativeness in our cultural fabric. I called him to the lectern after class because I was moved. Not moved because his decision was novel, it wasn't. But because Columbia students are notoriously liberal. They still talk about the campus takeover, you know. We professors were scapegoated, and it's never been the same since. Government pawns, they said. Co-opting the classroom for capitalism and war. That's why I gave him my address after class, "If you're free next Tuesday," I said casually, "stop by for dinner. I eat at seven. Are you afraid of cockroaches, Janowick?" "What?" he said as I handed him my address. "Bugs. How are you with bugs?" "They don't bother me," he said with a shrug. "Why?" "Maybe we'll eat out. If you're free, that is. No obligation here, Janowick. Just thought your answer in class was worth exploring. If you don't make it, no problem."

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Dan McHugh

Hostile Invasion

Was that proposition inappropriate? Thirty years ago, happened all the time. Dinners. A walk through Riverside Park. Now it's good afternoon, glad you could make it to my office hours. Different place, higher education. And the students, they welcome the chance to meet informally. They show up early, thank you for being so unconventional. Then they thank you again, and you begin to wonder how educational policies managed to wedge their way into dinner. Take Janowick. The bug thing might've thrown him for a second, but he left with an air of indifference. A dinner invitation. Not a crisis.

appear as you reach for a can of baked beans. More Raid, you think. More Combat, cleaner countertops, less food in the cupboards. But days later two walk right past your plate of linguini. Another falls from the ceiling, hitting the back of your neck. And then you see one climbing out of your box of Wheaties! You see, this is what I faced. My kitchen was under siege. Periplaneta americana, Blatella germanica, Blatella orientalis. A

Cockroaches, on the other hand, they come uninvited, and educational policies never mention cockroaches. Pests are a farmers' problem. And let me be perfectly clear about this issue, because if there's one goddamned thing I know about, it's cockroaches. You wouldn't believe what they can do to a kitchen. You wouldn't believe it, and I've been through quite an experience, and Columbia can say whatever, well, you decide for yourself. Travel back two months. You're standing at your kitchen counter, and before you are two pieces of bread, some peanut butter and jelly, and a knife. Just as you finish making the sandwich, you see something out of the corner of your eye. From behind the breadbox have emerged a pair of antennae, and then the full body of a cockroach. Quickly, you smash the knife down, missing. The next day you see two of them, and within a week they've become commonplace. No problem, you think as you pay for a can of Raid, a box of Combat, and some cleaning utensils. And then you see one on your stove a week later, and one in your sink. Another scampers up the wall by your refrigerator, and two more

total of six different species, and all were displayed on a poster board in my living room. Pins through their heads, and precise information written below. Reddish-brown, 3540 millimeters in length, originating in Africa and South Asia. Pale-yellowish brown with a pair of dark longitudinal marks on the pronutum. What's a person to do in that situation? You'd think that over-the-counter methods would be effective, and that two dehumidifiers placed in the kitchen would starve them of their necessary moisture. And you'd think that sealing the cracks and holes would prevent their entry, that plastic wood, calk, spackle, and Elmer's glue would block each opening of 1 millimeter or more. There wasn't a way in, and not only did T clean the place twice a day, but I removed all foods that weren't sealed air-tight. Over-the-counter methods just don't work sometimes, and I didn't know this until I turned my office at Columbia into a center for pest control research. I know how that sounds, but cockroach books were stacked everywhere, clultering my desk and shelves. Advertisements for exterminators hung from the door. Full-color pictures adorned an easel in the corner. In between classes I would go to work, spending a halfhour grading tests, a half-hour preparing lectures, and three

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to five hours learning about pest control. My secretary, Geraldine, she just raised her eyebrows. Didn't know what to say, particularly after I told her about the Egyptians. "Embalmers may have been the first," I said, "used fumigation to control mausoleum pests." "Really," she said, ruffling through a stack of papers. "Geraldine, I know you don't find this very interesting." "Of course I do," she said turning. "I just think you should call an exterminator." "I did." "Good." "I called fifteen of them." "Fifteen?" Fifteen exterminators, and they came at all hours. Gas masks, tanks strapped to their backs, tarps to seal off the kitchen. This one guy, Shakelburn, he wore a full body suit, came back three times. I said to him, "All of these pesticides and yet an increase in the Blatella germanicas."

which have been known to feast on cockroach heads. And then you have a number of lizard species, the Anolis leachi being the most preferable. I ordered two giant toads, ten bluebirds, and two hundred Anolis leachi lizards. The toads and lizards were shipped to my apartment via UPS, and the bluebirds I found at a store in Chinatown. All of them were in my living room now, sitting, crawling, and flapping in their respective containers and cages. The toads I moved into the corner of the kitchen by the window, the birds I set on the table where I ate, and the lizards I put next to the refrigerator. Then I hung a thick painter's tarp in the doorway, and I taped a large cellophane sheet on the outside. And when I opened the containers and cages, I hurried through the opening and sealed it shut.

"Shakelburn," I said looking at the poster board, "it may be our approach. Perhaps we should enlist some help." "Oh, I don't know. I always work alone." "Have you considered using predators, Shakelburn?" "Excuse me?" Exterminators don't know anything about predators, but that didn't prevent me from making a few phone calls. It took some time to track down the right pet stores, one as far away as California, but I found what I needed. You see, cockroaches don't have too many enemies, but there are a significant few. Buto marinus, a giant toad found in the West Indies, the Pacific Islands, and Central America. Then the bluebirds,

You see, I had removed every bit of food from the kitchen. Cockroaches were the only food left, assuming the predators didn't eat each other. I really didn't plan to leave them in there for more than a week or so. Animal cruelty is not a passion of mine, but considering the severity of the situation, I didn't remove the tarp until three weeks had passed, just to be sure. And there they were. Two sick-looking giant toads, ten or so lizard carcasses scattered around them, and the remains of each bluebird on the table, the floor, and by the window. And then I saw the cockroaches, and they weren't dead. They were alive and kicking, climbing around inside of the poor bluebirds. The damned things were having lunch, and I knew right then that it was time to end it. About an hour before Janowick knocked on my door, I went for something in my bedroom. Just a small something I had acquired from a guy in Little Italy. His name was

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Faruzzi. A friend of a friend, you might say. A Vietnam veteran who's quite proficient with explosives. "Faruzzi," I said into the phone, "what can you spare in terms of dynamite? I have a cockroach problem." "Cockroach problem," Faruzzi repeated softly. "That's right, and I want to be sure." "How many cockroaches you got?" "How many?" I repeated. "A goddamned million." "Sounds like you need half a stick." That's what I liked about Faruzzi. No fuss with this guy. No time wasted. Kind of guy you wouldn't want to face across a patch of tall grass, and here he was at my door, half a stick of dynamite in his hand. The Janowick thing had slipped my mind. Simple lapse of memory was all, and by the time Janowick showed up for dinner, the dynamite was taped to the wall under my sink. The fuse was already lit. That's the point I've been trying to make here, that Janowick was a victim of bad timing. And when I opened the door, fully aware that in thirty seconds my kitchen sink would be flying into the living room, I said rather surprised, "Janowick!" "Is this a bad time?" "Of course not," I said regaining my composure. "But we should take a walk." I put my hand on his shoulder and said, as we were walking down the hall to the lobby, "Janowick, there's a little situation occurring in my kitchen. There's no reason to be alarmed, because in a few seconds, everything will be just fine. My kitchen's having a little work done." "Renovations?" "That's right. They're replacing the sink. Let's just wait here on the sidewalk and..."

That's when it happened, and the blast was much louder than I had anticipated. Janowick, he was caught off guard a little. His whole body jerked. His hands shot up to protect his head. And after the noise echoed off the buildings and stopped, he pulled his hands down and looked at me. "Holy shit! Was that your kitchen?" The rest of it, the aftermath, you can imagine how that went. Fire trucks, police, neighbors coming up to me for answers. By the time Geraldine bailed me out of jail, Janowick had notified Columbia, and a few days later, I was sitting in the corner office of Low Library. The president, the dean, others that I knew. They all sat there rather smugly, and I knew that the whole thing was a waste of time. "Professor," one of them said, "there's a major safety issue here. Dynamite is not a reasonable solution for-" "Reasonable," T huffed. "Reasonable is what the press wants." "The press? Professor, dynamite is way beyond the norm here." "Of course it is. I should have served tea and crackers. Talked things over." "Professor, dynamite threatens lives, and as far as we know, people do not use it in their kitchens." "Listen," I said. "My goddamned kitchen was under siege, and it had to be done." "Under siege?" "Yes." "These were coackroaches. We are talking about i ockroaches, are we not?" "We are," I said. "Write that down so you don't forget it. And write down that I stand by my decision, and that I knew you wouldn't."

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Cousins

Cousins

Idra Rosenberg The Aztec calendar disappears when he stretches his arms. It folds into the skin between his shoulder bladesa tattoo of time winking. Salvador pounds to the dawn charming the sun by drum. Martin watches him, arms wrapped around his body tattooed by civilizationtan line boundaries on his skin. He brushes his teeth religiously. Salvador cleans his beads in his mouth; ritual clicking of stories against molars.

Slowly swinging, Salvador offers deep within his hammockif they grow I'll send you one with the poems you forget when you leave.

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The men write lying in hammocks, toes curled around the knots of rope. Something is crumpled but true the dismissed the discarded poems like cockroaches they skitter across the wooden planks with each indolent sigh from the coast. They eat watermelon sometimes just to pick out the seeds pushing enough of them between the planks to warp the boards beneath them.

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The Rumbling Chris Smith

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t seemed that the rumbling came not from the tracks, but from the center of the earth. Knees sunk in gravel, cheeks pressed to the cold steel rails, we could hear the train from more than a mile away, the way Indians used to listen for cavalry, or cavalry scouts for Indians, trying to count the horses from the echo of hoofbeats vibrating through the soil. We never tried to count the cars, because a lone engine would have been enough. (Though it was never a lone engine, always so much more than we expected.) When you thought there'd be twenty cars, there'd be thirty, when you thought fifty, there'd be a hundred-coal cars full and empty; box cars with open doors, closed doors, no doors, drifter eyes peeking from the shadows; flatbeds carrying flatbeds or nothing at all; tankers with long lines of oily crud caked from top valves to rusty undercarriages, logos barely visible through the filth-Santa Fe, Illinois, B&O; always industrial, never passenger, small-town Oklahoma worthy only of freight (undeserving of humanity). At the first quiver of the rails we'd launch to our feet, swipe at the tiny pebbles clinging to the knees of our jeans, and rush down the hill to inform the others waiting at the

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house. The bored teenagers and stoned artists gathered around the yard, waiting for something to happen, would grab extra beers and mob up the hill to watch the show. By the time the crowd reached the tracks and assumed their positions along the grass, the engine would just be peeking around the curve. I'd hide in my shadow by the ditch, prone, inches from the rail, facing the oncoming train as it barreled toward us, always from the north. The other five or six boys that played this game would face south so the train would sneak up behind them, but I always liked to see it coming. A quarter-mile-long four-hundred-ton locomotive looks daunting from a safe distance, but when your face is buried in gravel and you're staring at the first wheel about to pass within inches of your soft head, it is a downright petrifying sight, and every other second you shuffle your feet another inch from the rail to make sure you're not going to end up with a story to tell your grandchildren, how grampa lost his leg on a dare. Every time we went through this ritual-every Saturday night of that otherwise dull summer-I would stare at those oncoming cars in their diminishing perspective and think of Abdul Kassem Ismael, a thousand years ago the grand vizier of Persia, who never went anywhere without his library, all 117,000 volumes, carried by 400 camels trained to walk in alphabetical order. I would wonder what order these cars were in. I knew that to someone, each was placed before one and after another for a very specific reason, but to us, they were simply first to last, the end eclipsing the means and reasons, as if the train were simply born that way. The first wheel would scream past, and then be echoed by its hundred or thousand-odd thundering siblings as I'd spin

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in the dirt to watch the engine vanish into the horizon. The bored and the stoned poised along both sides of the tracks would hurl rocks at the coal cars and watch them bounce not just off, but forward, the velocity of the cars doubling their momentum. When the empty flat beds rumbled by, they would hurl rocks over the unoccupied surface at each other, bare skin offering only stillness to repel the jagged stones. As soon as the caboose neared, we'd all scurry to our feet and begin running alongside the train as the last of the rocks were hurled over our heads. The rear of the caboose would pass at twice our speed, and we'd let ourselves get sucked in behind it, hurtling the rail so we were literally chasing the train, a dozen young eager hands grasping for the metal bar protruding from the back, just out of reach and disappearing further with each step. Occasionally a lucky finger would brush the bar, making the owner the hero of the hour. But more often, an overly confident leap for fame would miss it entirely, sending the dreamer face first into the gravel, only scrapes and splinters as medals for his courage. But no one, no one I ever saw, ever caught that train.

But I'd like to think that somewhere, in some small town, every once in a great while, a single young hand, a splintered, grass-stained, gravel-scarred palm got a grip on that bar and made it his, heaved his chest to the railing, swung his legs onto the platform to the screams and cheers of his friends, and then, to their amazement, never let go.

Although it never happened to us, I'm sure that periodically, in some small town, a mother's son with a bit too much to prove would lose his footing or forget to tie his shoe and become a victim of the cruel wheels, the subject of local folklore for years to come, the small-town tragedy on the tail end of the 11 o'clock news in a city a million miles away. And I'm sure that now and then, in some small town, the boys would simply become tired of chasing their manhood, and would return to the house at the bottom of the hill, content to watch the midnight express thunder by from the safety of the yard, the comfort of the porch chair.

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Homenaje a Borges

Midan Kit Kat a novel in progress

Silvina Weihmiiller

Angela Fernandez

There is a number for everything For doing things for the last time How many times do you think you'll be able to look at the moon? When will be the last time you smile, you kiss? There is going to be a last time that you'll see the people you love the most (What are you going to tell them?) When will be the last time you dance, you laugh? There will be a last time when another person touches you (Do you think you are going to notice it at all?) When will be the last time you argue, you shout? There is going to be a time when you walk your last step (Are you going to look back?) There will be a last time when you decide to hold your tears Will it be worth it? Think of the last time you heard your grandmother's voice

(Someone just felt fear for the last time)

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ara's muscles tensed as the plane fell briefly, suspending itself with a jolt like a marionette. She cursed her brother, Paul, for dragging her halfway around the world to his rescue. And she cursed Paul's wife, Betty, for being so weak. It seemed like it was only yesterday when Sara sat across the table from Paul and Betty as they presented his grand plan to Sara, a year ago. They were sitting at a cafe on the Upper West Side, his wife Betty blowing lazily on the foam of her cappuccino, as Paul explained that he had quit his job as a computer analyst. He needed to grow, he said. He needed to follow his dream as a writer, he said. He had to leave the city. He could only write in a parched, empty place. The Middle East, he said. Sara stared incredulously at Betty through the light steam that rose from their coffee cups. But Sara's tongue was frozen. It was not her place. It was Betty's place to keep him tethered to the fence that separates reality from fantasy. It was Betty's responsibility to watch over him. Ten months later, the tether had been sliced. Betty returned to New York-alone-begging Sara to go back and look for Paul, her missing Paul. The airplane doors slid open and the heavy Cairene air

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rolled in. Her fellow travelers, mostly young Egyptian men in freshly pressed Levi's, carried themselves somberly through the silent airport. As she walked toward the customs agent, her eyes were drawn to local men, who seemed to have only experienced foreign lands through peeks into newly arrived suitcases. She looked nervously at childlike, heavily armed guards who stared back at her under their tilted, black berets as she exited the airport. She walked out into the cool, violet night to an explosion of tambourines and loud voices. Hands, arms, chests and backsides collided as people greeted each other joyously. Wrinkled men in white galabiyyas embraced their voyagers from New York. Stout women with padded hips shouted jubilantly while young children splashed in the dry, powdery floor. The constant chatter, smoke and laughter clashed with Sara's images of a hostile people that had seemingly swallowed her brother in one breath. Her muscles relaxed while a blue, melancholy wrind whistled in the air. She noticed an army of taxi drivers aggressively surveying the scene. "Taxi, Taxi," said a short, clay-colored man. "How much to Pension Athens?" she inquired nonchalantly, trying to appear like a world-weary traveler. "Sixty pounds." Sara walked away as he yelled out fifty-five. She crossed a pack of drivers and approached a young man with black, curly hair and a wide, golden grin calmly leaning against the side of his taxi. "How much to Pension Athens?" "For your beauty I would do it for free, but as you know I must eat," he unfolded his arms. "Thirty pounds." She battled against her instinct to decline the offer from the flirtatious

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driver for the sake of cultural openness and aching joints. The cab's ceiling was lined in Christmas lights, a bright turquoise necklace with an Arabic inscription danced from the cracked, rear-view mirror, and the dead meter was cloaked in a thick layer of dust. The backseat leaned heavily to the left, forcing Sara to strain her thighs as she balanced on the middle hump. She had a perfect view of the driver's gold tooth through the rear-view mirror. "Here on vacation?" he asked in a familiar manner. "Yes." "Your first time in Cairo?" "Yes," she said, trying to gauge whether he was just friendly or lonely. "Are you married?" "No," she responded impatiently, remembering the string of lunatics she had once called dates, left on the other side of the world. "Are you traveling alone?" Their eyes locked in the mirror. She looked down at the car door. The handle was intact. She thought of the discounted fare and wondered if he would expect more at the end of the ride. She started imagining her escape from the cab at the next red light. "No," she lied. "My fiance is waiting for me at the Pension." Cars' horns tore into the black sky in a consistent, rhythmic manner. She was somehow calmed by what she saw on the highway. It was divided in the middle by small parks filled with tall, rotund women, wrapped in black cloth, tending to their children. The cool night here, she thought, must have pushed them out of their homes. Her visions of throwing herself out of the speeding cab dissipated when a white van filled with veiled women pulled up next to their taxi. In


Angela Fernandez

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unison, the women cupped their mouths, and pushed loud air out of their rosy, circular lips as they rapidly rolled their wine-colored tongues. Their yodeling sounded celebratory. "The beauty of marriage," the cab driver laughed. Her curiosity smothered her fear of the cab driver. "What do you mean?" she asked. "They are coming from a wedding party. You can not escape it. Cairo is always full of weddings." She tried to imagine New York full of weddings, streamers flying down Broadway, long banquet tables covered in flowers lining the sidewalks, people dancing in the middle of the streets. She was brought back from her thoughts when the car suddenly stalled. Horns honked wildly as the cab driver got out of his car and lifted the hood. A few drivers yelled at him as they slowly drove around him and his taxi. They became a fork in the road, like a clump of rice surrounded by ants. After a slight inspection he pulled a small rubber hose from the front seat. Sara watched as he stuck one end of the hose in an opening under the hood, and then stuck the other end in his mouth. He then proceeded to suck fluid into his mouth and spit it out on the road. He did this three times. Wiped his mouth with a handkerchief, slammed the hood shut and slipped back into the car. The cab driver laughed and said something Sara did not hear, for she was thinking about Paul and his love of inertia. She couldn't imagine her brother being this resourceful. She couldn't imagine him having the force of will to fix a stalled car in the middle of traffic. She imagined Cairo moaning and heaving while its people wove strings and tubes through the buildings to keep the city from fragmenting into the desert. It was the middle of the night and the city was in constant

movement. She began to understand how Paul could have gotten lost. The cab pulled into a wide dark alley and something soft began to melt inside of Sara. She noticed three mounds moving slowly in the shadows. The cab driver jumped out of the car, retrieved her bag and started walking toward a doorway. "Where are you going?" asked Sara. "Come. We have arrived." He stood in the doorway, which held a small, swinging light bulb. Sara approached the smiling cab driver cautiously, keeping her eyes on the mounds, which seemed to be sleeping. "Are you sure this is it?" she asked. "What is the matter? We are here. You foreigners are all the same, always afraid," he responded with a mixture of pain and offense. "The Pension is on the fifth floor. The elevator is broken so you must walk." Sara paid him and he wished her a pleasant stay and walked away. Sara watched the cab driver as he said something very jovial in Arabic toward a dark corner of the alley. Her eyes adjusted and she saw the mounds transform into three old, heavy men. As the cab driver disappeared into the shadows he said something else and the alleyway erupted into hearty echoes of laughter. She hesitantly climbed the stairs. The corners of the steps were covered in dust and rubble. Small garbage bags and ripped magazines stared back at her. Green walls, chipped, exposing a pink coat and then occasionally a bare white grainy cement. Each landing led her to a cleaner staircase until she reached the fifth floor, which shone wet and freshly mopped. She plunked her bag down with a thud and a

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young man in a white uniform came near her with a grin "Welcome to Pension Athens," he said, as if he had been waiting all night for her arrival. A thin, brown carpet, lined with potted plants, led the way to the bulky, wooden reception desk. The lights were bright, almost sharp. White, slightly transparent drapes covering long windows billowed in and out. "Yes, yes, yes hello. How can we help you?" asked the receptionist in a high, breathy voice. "Hi, my name is Sara Madden and I made a reservation about a week ago. I don't know if 1 spoke to you..." "Ah, yes, yes. No, you spoke to my brother Fadi. I am Amr. We have your card here. We, unfortunately, do not have a single room for you tonight but if you like, you can stay in a double-occupancy room." "Do I have to pay for the whole room?" she asked, considering the pittance left over from her salary as a high school teacher. "Yes, but you must sit here and wait for another tourist to share a double room. Then you can share the cost of the room. How long will you be in Egypt?" asked the receptionist. "I think a few weeks, at least." "A single room shall be available in a few days and we can move you there then. 1 suggest you wait because more guests are sure to come in soon." "My brother Paul stayed here for a few weeks about a year ago. Do you remember him?" Sara asked. "Ah, yes, yes, yes. A very nice man, very quiet. With a wife. Very nice, very nice," he said as he glanced at the bellhop. The bellhop grinned at Sara. Sara gently fingered the address of his last-known

residence. "What do you know about the neighborhood Imbaba?" she asked. "Very, very crowded," replied Amr. The bellhop stopped grinning. "Will you see him tomorrow?" asked Amr. "Ah..." Sara hesitated as she eyed the bellhop. "Yes, 1 will. I am very tired. Where can I sit while I wait?" "In the salon," said Amr. The salon was high ceilinged and white. Three Louis XIVstyle couches lay like a horseshoe around an art-deco coffee table. Spacious balconies jutted into the alleyway facing an abandoned building full of sand and rubble. The ceiling fan hummed quietly while the noise from the city wafted in from a distance. Sara saw an older man sitting next to a wiry, drawn woman. He smiled at Sara. He looked soft like a teddy bear that had been worn out by too many caresses from a lonely child. His face was large and brown and open with a tuft of gray hair growing out of his head like dead wheat on cracked terrain. "Waiting for a room companion?" asked the man in an English accent. "Yes," replied Sara, staring at the quiet woman next to him. "Dolores here has been waiting all evening. See, she has come to visit me and I would be happy to share a double room with her but the laws in this country control even the most innocent of intentions," he said. "What do you mean?" asked Sara. "A man and a woman can not share a hotel room together unless they are married. It is a preposterous law that the present government has recently enacted," he said. "But before we get involved in any political discussion,

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nearest the door and asked if it would be all right to turn off the light. Dolores said she could do whatever she wanted. By 5:00 AM Sara's eyelids began to fall. Dolores continued staring out onto the balcony. The city became unsettlingly quiet. The air began to cool as it does when the earth is about to start a new day. Sara stared at Dolores' silhouette against the growing light, which was getting redder by the minute. The air felt light through Sara's nose. The sound speakers from the minarets started to bellow out the call to prayers. As the sad wail echoed throughout the city, Dolores slipped out the door. Sara turned on her side and fell asleep.

introductions are in order." He stood up. "My name is Malamud and this is my dear friend Dolores." Dolores rolled her eyes back into her head and nodded noncommittally. Her lack of eyelashes and diminutive eyebrows made her face look like a hard-boiled egg. "Hello. My name is Sara." She looked at Dolores, worried that she may have no choice but to share a room with this woman. "Do you know how long it will take for me to get a room? Because if it takes too long I am going to another hotel," said Sara. "Patience, my child. Do not be misled by the speed and chaos of this city. You will get nothing accomplished in this city without patience," informed Malamud. "In any case, I think your problem has already been solved. You can share a room with Dolores." "Are you here on vacation or for other reasons?" asked Dolores in a halting German accent. "I am here on vacation," responded Sara, "and you?" "Are you deaf? You just heard that I am here visiting Malamud," Dolores exclaimed. Malamud chuckled and patted Dolores on the knee. Sara got that soft, melting feeling again. "Do not mind her. She is just tired from a long trip. Come, let us tell the receptionist that all is arranged." Malamud walked over to the receptionist before Sara could object. Sara's bags were carried by the bellhop into the bedroom. Dolores glided in with only her handbag. The bellhop did not seem pleased with the arrangement. There were three slim beds in the room. Dolores sat in the one nearest the balcony. She sat with her back to Sara smoking a cigarette and staring out onto the balcony. Sara fell into the bed

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The Quarto Interview/ Joanna Murray-Smith Phyllis Grant

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o celebrate Quarto's fiftieth anniversary, the editors would like to pay tribute to the Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith. Her play, Honour, which she began while attending the Writing Program, ran on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre and received two Tony Award nominations. The play concerns a middle-aged poet whose husband leaves her for a younger woman, and explores the emotional reactions of the characters. Not only did Smith's play bring Jane Alexander back to the stage after years away with the NEA, it also introduced a talented young actress, Enid Graham, as the poet's daughter. While the play was still running, Ms. Smith responded to Phyllis Grant's questions via email from her home in Australia. PG: It must have been such an exciting month for you, from the opening of your play Honour at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway to two Tony nominations. What has this time been like? Have there been any surprises?

The

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and I'm still feeling the emotional and creative reverberations on a very raw level. I know the experience has been profound for me, not just in terms of what it represents (having a play on Broadway) but of what I actually lived through! There were greater highs than I've experienced before and greater lows-I suppose that comes with the territory. In terms of surprises-well, I'm surprised by the "business" of the theatre. My plays have previously been produced by subsidized companies so the issue of moneymaking has not been integral either to the run of the plays or to their perceived success. With Broadway, so much of the life of the play is bound up with commercial issues that have no connection to the integrity of the play or the production. I think I was rather naive to begin with but now I realise that these commercial issues are a by-product of the connection between the arts and business in America. In Australia the arts don't generate much money for anyone (except, perhaps, for a few people in film). PG: You wrote Honour while attending Columbia University's Writing Program in 1995. Why Columbia? With whom did you study? What was it about the workshop format that worked or didn't work for you?

JMS: It's been an extraordinary three months. I arrived in NYC just before rehearsals and left two weeks after opening

JMS: T had a scholarship to take a year and think about my writing in any school that would take me. So I decided to go to the Writing Unit at Columbia. I didn't want to do a degree but simply talk to other writers about writing and engage with my own work in a reflective, analytical way (as opposed to writing for income). I took a variety of workshops with Alan Ziegler, A. M. Holmes, Loren-Paul

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Caplin and Eduardo Machado. I wrote some of Honour in Eduardo's crazy, wonderful play-writing workshops, which I adored. There wasn't a single hour I spent at Columbia that year that didn't thrill me. I loved every second of it and it gave me great sustenance as both a writer and a human being that there were so many brilliant writers amongst the students and that despite some enormous cultural differences (in terms of background) and stylistic differences, we were all struggling with the same things. PG: Honour deals with universal themes, that is, adultery, honesty, commitment, betrayal, family, honor, tradition. As an Australian playwright, why did you set the play in America? JMS: Although the characters 1 write are very specific, and the writing is rather idiosyncratic and "heightened" as opposed to naturalistic, there is a very classical quality to my plays. I strip back language and the naturalistic qualities of a story until I get to a very bare, very intense emotional core. It may sound pretentious, but to be honest I really think that this makes the plays "human" rather than "Australian" or "American" or anything else. I think my writing is often misunderstood, especially by critics, who think that I write about the privileged bourgeoisie, because the characters are articulate and smart. But really, all the things I write about-love, betrayal, responsibility, morality and so on-are very Greek. I think that's why my plays have worked in Asia as well. There is no issue in Honour that is more American than Australian. For me, the play is place-less and time-less. The Broadway production located it in New York, because

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QUARTO

Interview

Broadway audiences expect certain unambiguous resolutions. PG: How did the play actually get to Broadway? JMS: A fellow student at Columbia, Edward Napier, who is a wonderful playwright and one of the great people of our time, introduced me to his writing groups, in which I read Honour. John Patrick Shanley-another great writer and human being-mentioned the play to Leslie Urdang, a producer with New York Stage and Film and she and Peter Manning asked me if they could develop the play at their summer festival in Vassar in 1996. Ulu Grosbard directed a public reading there with Meryl Streep and Sam Waterston and Kyra Sedgewick and Francie Swift, which was phenomenal, and a producer, Ron Kastner, optioned the play for a commercial run in New York. Ulu had to drop out due to a movie commitment and Gerald Gutierrez agreed to direct. PG: I saw Honour with my mother and she was particularly moved by your play. We had a long discussion at dinner afterward about how familiar this situation was to her. Many of her middle-aged female friends have been left by their husbands for younger women. I (at age twenty-eight) am surrounded by women and men who are just deciding to take those first steps toward commitment. I feel somewhat caught between Honor's world view and that of her daughter Sophie's. I didn't know quite where to look, who to be angry with, or how to respond. What inspired you to take on such a subject, how did the story evolve, and what sorts of responses have you gotten from audience members and

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Joanna Murray-Smith

friends from different been unpredictable?

The

generations?

Have

they

Interview

pG: How exciting to bring Jane Alexander back to the stage after years away with the NEA. You're working with some of the best in your field. Perhaps you could conclude by telling us what that was like.

JMS: Broadway audiences seem to be responding to the play exactly as the original audiences did. There is something about this play that just connects with people and I suppose it is that we all experience aspects of this story in one way or another. The play is really about the cost of loving and who hasn't wondered about that? If you love someone, you both relinquish and find an aspect of yourself. It's rather wonderful for me that so many people are moved to speak or write to me that the play says so much about their own thoughts or feelings-men, older women, younger women. I think that older women tend to have a more resigned attitude to the story, since they have lived it. They remark about how "true" it is and how happy they are that their story has been articulated with passion. But for younger women who are more newly married (or thinking about it, or simply in newer relationships) the play seems to have a distinctly more disturbing quality. We all recognise the precariousness of leaving ourselves exposed to love, and yet the emptiness of allowing fear to triumph. We seem compelled to love (as we should be), but our generation of women is also very conscious of how the structure of loving in our society makes certain demands on women that are tougher than on men. We do have to give up more, and particularly if we have children. And while we may make that sacrifice willingly, we still worry about it. Those of us who are compelled to look into the future may ask: "Where will it leave us?"

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JMS: I couldn't be more thrilled by this production. It was a very rare working experience in the theatre, where the process was fascinating, hilarious, moving, and the production really sublime. I love the cast-I was moved by the fact that these very accomplished actors chose to do my play-but I only grew to love them more. I was thrilled that Jane chose Honour as her first play after the NEA, and I knew that Laura [Linney], whom I completely adore, had turned down some wonderful work to do the play. And Robert [Foxworth] and Enid [Graham] are such brilliant theatre-actors-it was such a privilege to have them. Also, Gerry [Gutierrez] is probably the greatest theatre director in the country. I had seen A Delicate Balance and The Heiress on

Broadway (long before his name came up in association with Honour) and I left the theatre both times thinking: This is why we're in the business! That is pure magic! So, purely professionally, I was amazed to have gotten so lucky. And it sounds very sentimental, but the older I get the more moved I am by unusual human connections and the less focused I am on professional accomplishment. Perhaps that is a function of having a child-you just know on a very deep, real level that the work is secondary. So for me, the beauty and grace of this experience was as much about the cast and designers and the producer and other crew as human beings-and Gerry Gutierrez whom I love in a rare way-as it was about the work itself. I learnt an enormous

L

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Joanna Murray-Smith

Contributors

amount-almost too much for my equilibrium!-it was not only about theatre, but about life. They were the most inspiring group of people and their faith in me and the play has affected me very deeply. I was so lucky.

Judy Brzosko is a fifth-year undergraduate, GS '99, majoring in Literature /Writing. She is an intentional schizophrenic torn between choosing graduate programs in art history or writing. Tim Donoho lives and writes in New York City. He is not a thief. Angela Fernandez graduated from Columbia Law School in May 1998. She was inspired to write a novel about a woman searching for her brother in Cairo after spending two summers there. The law firm she will work at is disappointed that she has postponed her start date by six months-but we are all hoping the novel will be finished by then. Abigail Frankfurt began Columbia University's General Studies division in fall 1997. She plans to major in Literature with a concentration in writing. Gordon Haber is a graphic designer and writer who lives in a rent-controlled apartment in New York City. Miranda Hope can be found delivering calves and playing acoustic guitar in the mountains of Rappahannock County, Virginia (when she's not working toward an MFA in theater arts). "War Story" is her second poem. Melissa Marrus is currently a Barnard College junior majoring in English with a writing concentration. After college, she plans to follow in the footsteps of her illustrious father, Judge Marrus, and attend law school. When not writing, studying or being extremely argumentative, Ms. Marrus likes to enjoy the finer things in life, like kickboxing.

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Dan McHugh received a Master's degree at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1998. He graduated from Columbia University in 1996. Katherine McVety has worked as a photographer and teacher in the United States and China. She is currently a graduate student in photography at Columbia University's School of the Arts.

Idra Rosenberg is a Barnard Comparative Literature major who is a poet by night and journalist and student by day. Her prose and poetry have been published in various magazines in New York City including City Limits and Spilt Ink. Ken Rus Schmoll is an MFA candidate in directing at Columbia where he most recently created The Green Ears, adapted from the writings of Kandinsky and Chekhov. He also is a contributor to the forthcoming anthology, Telling

Kelcey Nichols graduated from Barnard College in 1997. Her writing has appeared in The Village Voice as well as

Tales out of School.

Quarto '98.

Chris (Duck) Smith studies Philosophy and Cultural Anthropology in the School of General Studies. He is currently a freelance writer and an editor for Performing Songwriter magazine. He has spent two years following The Dead, four years on a motorcycle, four months at Rolling Stone, two years at the White House, six years in the Marines, six months in prison, six weeks in the Philippine jungle, and a lifetime at Columbia.

Stephen Page graduated from the Literature/Writing Program in 1997, and has had over thirty poems and short stories published. He lives and writes in New York City. Colin Patton is a poet and an observer of life in and out of saunas. Anne Potter is a senior at the School of General Studies majoring in Literature/Writing. She was recently awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Jess Cloud Memorial Prize for poetry. She and her husband are eagerly awaiting the September birth of their first child. Marta Rodriguez is from Oakland, California. She graduated from Barnard in 1998, with a major in Religion. "Back East" is her second piece in Quarto-thank you, Quartol

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Aimee Taub lives, works, and plays in New York City. Right after graduating from Barnard College in 1997 with a major that was not English, she was summoned for jury duty, which is where she wrote "Glass." She would like to say she composed "Fowl Weather" while tending sheep and raising chickens, but that would be lying. Silvina Weihmiiller is currently a student at Columbia University, and plans to major in Literature/Writing. She is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. This poem originated from a commentary made by the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, about his book, La Cifra.

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Edwidge Danticat, |ohn Everett Bird, Deborah Concannon, Benjamin Covelo, Elizabeth r Brooke Holmes, Ian Kahn, Daniel Lehrer-Graiwer, Molly McQuade, Kathy Pal Jamie Pearlberg, Nancy Ross, Sandra Vazquez, Kim wim, Chin-Chin Yap, Heather Fisher, Victoria Geduld, Yukio Gion, Dacia Grayber, Alba ix-liÂŤi Hernandez, Kafique Katliwari, Julienne S. Kim, Cinnamon McClinton, Craig Canapari, Man,) Olivas, David I'errin, Olga Promvshlyanskaya, Paul Schofield, lacqueline Leigh Snvdcr, James Starace, Barrie Stevens, [anice L. Sugarman, Abigail Susik, Ting Bell, Vlette Bom, Elizabeth COM Andrea Denny-Brown, David Dupuis, Gabrielle Fell, Sarah Gyllenslierna, Werner Hoefluh Jennifer Leigh, Sabrina Ora Mark, Alexandra McCagg, Zesty Meyers, Stacey Miller, u rzo Laure De Montebello, Marcella S. Nelson, fessica Nepomuceno, |ason E. Mocilo, Ana Ortiz, Lvdia Raurell, Grace Roselli, Nancy Ross, Charles Simic, Sarah Bernev Skutel, Noi'l Sutherland, Rupa Viswanath, Scott Miller, Edward Napier, I awrence Keilly, Creer J. Mcl'haden, Aaron Scharf, Leslie Woodard, Mike Kramer, Andrew Rivan King, Tom Regan, Sheelal Majithia, J. Feinstein, Bill Konigsberg, Gerry ViscoCapello, Red Green, Susan F. Quimpo, 1'ascale Roger, Susan Kelly, Raul Correa, Cherie Margarel Brooks, Cecilia Calderon, Rebecca Schuhnan, Melissa Bank, Melanie Conty, Richard Dragan, I lye Yung Park, Sally |ones, Gale Dick, Pierre De Vos, |o Ann M. Clark, Marylou Capes, Lynne Kassabian, Laurie Schalfler, Murray Nossel, R.L. Towne, James Brosnan, Leslie Holland, J. Valera, David Hauger, Janet Kaplan, Jeanne Dutton, Sean Daly, Amy Scheibe, Charles Ardai, Mela Bolinao, Rhya Fisher, Mary P. Burns, Christopher Caiazza, Malhew Caws, Alan Contini, Ramesh Deonaraine, Ellen Ferguson, Mary Firmani, Charles E. Graef, Lisa Horberg, B. Kettlewell, Pearvl Levine, John Lloyd, Michael Markowitz, Paul Mills, Gavin Moses, Janet Woodlev-Overton, Frances Snowder, M. Sorava Stilo, Anne Teicher, Njeru Waithaka, John C. VVechsler, Benji Whalen, Bill Valentine, Joyceann Masters, R. L. Kieller, I i> Charles Graef, Amelia Burgess, Kathryn Gross, Jeffrey Jullieh, DM, Dick Scanlan, Susan Sullivan Saiter, Harlan Breindel, David I, (iordon, Luba Burtvk, Rick Bruner, Russell Day, Mary Firmani, Mermer Blakeslee, I.M. Isohe, Pamela Pearce, Glen Hirshberg, Joy Parker, Catherine Mathis, Pamela Krafczek, Elizabeth Tippens, Frances Snowder, Alma Rodriguez-Sokol, Juan Julian Caicedo, Barbara : Li\ enstein-Kalin, Kimberly Wozencraft, Lynne S. Nathan, Richard Aellen, Mermer Blakeslee, Richard Bourie, Patricia Volk, Nicholas Samaras, Mona Morlarsky, Louisa C. Brinsmade, Franza Blanco, Deirdre I loare, Michael Crawford, Carmela Lanza, Susan Flogan, Jo Mallern, Maggie Bradely, Lori Stevens, i Russell McCallum, Nuala Cipriano, Douglas Nordfurs, Lynne Anne Schwartz, Elliot F. Bratton, [oseph Ferrandino, |ill I). Hard wick-Morton, Elizabeth di Cagno, Michael Schwartz, Michele Madigan Somorville, Myung-Hee Kim. Mia Nadezhda Rublowska, Greg Ilendren, James Kelvin, Flattie Myers, Theresa Maier, Sally Smith, Thomas I laller, Erin Mathews, Barbara Milton, Marilyn Grevnberg, Song look Choi, Charles Wesley, Joy Allen, Shelby Berrvman, Bill Christopherson, lohn Frev, Gloria Dubro, Robert Kleinbardt, Marcia Stamell, Helene Brandt, Steve Schra er, ludith Braun, Marilyn Creenberg, Steve Szilagyi, lames Smethurst, Maurice Stone, Pamela | nes, Preeva Adler, Margaret Ri'becca Lewin, Fstelle Gearci, Thomas Hailer, Barbara Harrah, Gerard H. Shyne, Gilson, Joey Trevisani, Patricia Volk Blitzer, Michael Stone, Adeline H per, Michaele L. VVeisstnan, Kate Cambridge, Davida Singer, Robert Bochroch, Louise Louise Napolitano, Napolitano, Andrew Andre R. Cohen, Tim Alexander Cambell, Dabid Richard 1 lagerstrom, M.K.. Darland, Claudia Thonnard, Robert Alexand LuKashok, Barbara Anne Kelman, Bruce Feld, Allyn Moss, Camella Camella Grace Grace Wing, Wing, Lynn C. I Ik kman, Louise Gluck, Linda Friedman, Denault Blouin, Noel Evans, Frank I light, Steve Sohmer, Jo Sinclair, Robin White, Clarence Alva Powell, V. Sheridan Fonda, Leon Surmelian, Charles Edward Eaton, E. E. Walters, Eli Siegel, LeCarde S. Doughty, Wendell B. Anderson, Sally Randolph, Waring Cuney, Jeff I awson, (.A. Fusca, Burl Sloane, Edna Kuriloff, Alan Gillies, D. Preston Boone, Vurrell Yentzen, Norman Bonter, Isobel Kneeland, Peter Yiereck, inda Eugcnio Florit, Vivian Newman, Judith Bishop, M. M. Daly, Chris Bjerkes, Delmas WAbbott, Charles Angoff, V. Sheridan Fonda, Guro Bjornson, Seymour Gresser, Nathan Rubin, Charles Eaton, Murray Kusmin, Keith Baird, Trevor Hellems, George 1 lecker, Williams Rossa Cole, Michael Cervieri, Neal Feinberg, Arny Talkington, Judy Wang, M.D. Edwards, Alissa Flcyr Sallv Jones, (oe Connelly, William Carlos Williams (the editors of Quarto regret that this li incomplete as over the years many issues have been lost).

50 anniversary  

The Literary Magazine of the School of General Studies Columbia University 1998

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