Raleigh Review Vol. 1 (2010)

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Raleigh Review, vol. 1 (2010) Copyright © 2010 by Raleigh Review Cover images by Eric Flood Printed by: Sheridan Press, Hanover, PA Library of Congress Control Number: 2010913893 ISBN 9780615402512

Publication Cycle Reading Period Year Round Publishing Schedule Online: Homepage (Weekly) / Archive (Monthly) Print Issue: Once Yearly Response Times for Submissions Four to Six Weeks Print Issue Preparation and Distribution August to January Please expect slightly slower response times


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Raleigh Review Publisher Rob Greene Editors Will Badger / Fiction Smriti Jaiswal / Fiction Rob Greene / Poetry Associate Editors Cassie Mannes / Poetry & Fiction Jake Young / Poetry Matt Wimberley / Poetry Sierra Golden / Poetry Kari Smith / Poetry & Art Katie Prince / Poetry Laura Giovanelli / Fiction Eric Gregory / Fiction Emily Howson / Fiction Special Projects Intern Eric Flood / Graphic Design Board of Directors Joseph Millar / Chairman Dorianne Laux / President Walt Wolfram / Vice President Wilton Barnhardt / Secretary Rob Greene / Treasurer Raleigh Review Founding Editors Will Badger / Fiction Smriti Jaiswal / Fiction Scott Brownlee / Poetry Rob Greene / Poetry Federal 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Incorporation May 21, 2010 Will Badger Rob Greene Raleigh Review Founded as Rig Poetry February 21, 2010 Robert Ian Greene


CONTENTS ART The Perfect Wife Ruby Vale What Planet Are We On

Geri Digiorno


Paul Weidknecht Annie Zaidi James Robison Stephen Williams Josh Eure Emily Howson Roland Goity Lawrence Rouse Nick Bertelson Lisa Lopez Snyder Danny Pelletier Diane Kimbrell Emily Rose Adam Mrozek Gary Sprague Ajay Vishwanathan

11 15 20 30 34 40 44 48 53 62 67 72 75 79 83 88

Amy Sargent Sandra Hoben Michelle Hartman Dane Cervine Robert Peake

7 8 9 10 13

Without God Threesome Gelding Trying to Sell the House Weightless Bob’s Magazine & Tobacco Shoppe in the Internet Age

Dorianne Laux Michael Kriesel Lee Bradbury Joseph Millar Heather Stevens Will Badger

14 18 19 27 28 29

Pastime Lounger Acrostic

John Lambremont Sr. Larry Lefkowitz

32 33

FICTION A Story Spell Phillippines Rodeo Days The Cash Man It’s Sci-Fi Crawl Space Balance Ocean Something Better Be Wrong Sea Creatures Waiting for the Parade To Save My Soul Unsatisfiable I, Rose Fly Rod Scouring the Plumes POETRY A Toast No Figures of Speech Enlightenment is a Bitch Las Vegas, Age Fifteen (National Open Chess Tournament)

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POETRY CONTINUED Teaching Ruby the J Hey Bartender The Well The Highlight of the Tucson Street Fair

Jennifer Lambert John-Michael Velez Laura LeHew Mather Schneider

37 38 39 42

Poem to be Read Arriving Late on the First Day of Class

Scott Owens


Men Who Should Have Loved Me Captive to the Wind, Predator of the Deep

Rae Rose Gavin Wisdom

46 47

The Semiotician and the Poet Rest Stop, Eighty-Seven Miles from Asheville

Paula Mendoza-Hanna Linda Blaskey

51 52

At the Reunion Dark Harvest Starless For Vilma, Berlin Are You Cool Enough Now Clique-Bound The Art of Therapy In A Bar, You’re Alone Casual Interaction Bombay Summer On Becoming the Best Poet in the Room

John Grey Joseph Millar Renée Ruderman Annie Zaidi Jessy Randell G. Tod Slone Dane Cervine Robert Greene Caroline Fish Gayatri Makhijani Alan Gann

55 60 65 66 70 71 73 74 77 78 81

Barn Dance The Form Cycle Selections from “Self-Improvement”

Alan Gann Geordie de Boer Nene Giorgadze Dan Boehl

81 82 86 87

Eight Wide States Away

Amy Sargent





Editors’ Note The fiction and poetry in Raleigh Review vol. 1 reached us here in the City of Oaks at distances ranging from just a few steps to as far away as Mumbai. While the journal speaks best through the work it has published over its first eight months, the editors wish also to acknowledge the support and guidance we have received from the community, our board of directors, contributors, faculty, and from Sheridan Press and the United Arts Council. Raleigh Review wouldn’t exist without you. We hope you enjoy some of these selections. At the same time, we believe art should challenge as well as entertain.

Will Badger, Fiction Editor Smriti Jaiswal, Fiction Editor Rob Greene, Poetry Editor

Raleigh Review is an e-text, e-audio, art and literary magazine registered, based and incorporated in the state of North Carolina and operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization under the U.S. Internal Revenue code. For more information, visit us at: www.RaleighReview.org

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Amy Sargent

A Toast To our secret currency— afternoon meetings, hurried letters, even this brief poem. To every time these fingers spread like legs, or these legs spread like fingers. To bartering for attention, our hands busy with the fumble of lust.


Sandra Hoben

No You underestimated me the way an inexperienced lawyer might underestimate the time. The judge lets him talk. The clock ticks to five, then one minute past. In the docket, the city clerk signs into overtime. But the lawyer goes on, taken with the music of his own voice. He pleads for more money, more time, even more starched white shirts. But the judge has the last word: he’s read all the papers and heard nothing new. Men have offered me Paris, gold pins from Tiffany’s, advanced degrees. One offered the locked door of a '57 Chevy and I’ll get you outta this, just gimme the keys. I watched his hands as he tried to say what he wanted to do to me. Another jammed me the words of John Keats as a charm against kept promises. But I opened the door and got out. I jogged past the shadow under the street light. At fifteen, I rolled the log-weight of my brother off of me, and in the morning slipped the wrapped condom back under his bedroom door. So what makes you think I’d say yes to you?

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Michelle Hartman

Figures of Speech For some time I’ve used exaggerated body language hip bumps, hand touches and euphemisms to get my point across. Stomped up to obvious line in the sand with, I bet you can… yet, nothing has happened. Although figures of speech are indirect, they are designed to clarify, not obscure. But you were absent that day and I am growing older. I say tonight we go to my house and take off our clothes. You, lying on the bed will be Pearl Harbor and I shall be a Japanese Zero. In days to come when we are questioned about our limps we can go back to speaking in metaphor.


Dane Cervine

Enlightenment Is A Bitch† At first it isn’t so bad—a taste of ecstasy, the world covered in honey. Even snails scrawl the names of buddhas with their silvery trails. But then, too much. Pears become unbearable, wet white flesh so tender one could perish contemplating the first taste. Meditation becomes oddly redundant, attention now like water, absorbed in tree root, plumbing; even fire hydrants with their red stubby arms become mandalas, and, worse, the police siren revving its wail behind my slow-moving car sounds like a mantra. Even my wife’s complaints about me finally sound true. I just bow. Kiss her slender hands. Carry the garbage outside, but, damn! The moon!

First published by The Sun Magazine.

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Paul Weidknecht

A Story Nammescong Creek flowed into the backs of my thighs as I fished, pausing between casts to secure my balance in the current and admire a new hatch of pale yellow mayflies lift from the stream. Over my shoulder, the sun dropped into a farmer’s cornfield, the final patch of orange light on the water enough for me to spot the small, vaguely metallic object at my feet. A credit card? Retrieving it, I ran my thumb over its raised lettering, rubbing away the mud and a string of algae. A name appeared, along with an expiration date. June 1984. I had discovered arrowheads here in the past, so it didn’t seem misplaced to find a tool used by modern man to obtain a meal. I took a moment to consider how the card had come to rest in the bed of the Nammy. I thought maybe there was a story in it. I was curious to know if the owner had lost his wallet while fishing, the whole trip ruined the second he’d inventoried his cash or dug out his license for a game warden. Over time the leather would’ve rotted into fish food, with the scoured plastic remaining. I wondered how many miles the card might have ridden on spring floods over the past quarter of a century. For all I knew he could’ve been robbed, the thieves stripping out the money and tossing the billfold away later as they crossed a bridge. Looking him up and phoning, I recited the card number and issuing bank. He laughed, recalling it as the first credit account he’d ever taken out, a line of imaginary cash in those years when he had no real money. But that finally changed, he explained, after an industrial accident cost him his left eye, the payoff from the plant enabling him to retire eight years earlier than expected and move to a small hobby farm in southern Virginia. He told me a glass eye wasn’t his style, so he had taken to wearing an eyepatch, which his wife still hates and his grandchildren—ages three, five, and seven—have always loved, as it makes Grandpop look like a pirate. He called them his Miracle Grandbabies, born to a daughter who struggled with


alcohol and drug addiction for years—her rock-bottom in 1984, a year before she cleaned up for good. But in the end the man couldn’t remember ever losing his wallet, either by accident or theft. He said he’d never fished the Nammy, that, in fact, he'd always thought the sport a little boring, and so I came to realize there was no story here.

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Robert Peake

Las Vegas, Age Fifteen (National Open Chess Tournament) I am the sound on the opposite side the rhythmic thud on the hotel wall— not lovers, or kids on the bed—I am the head of a man just been beat by some kid with a well-placed pawn. I am the coach of the teen boy who won. My marriage is sinking like the desert sun. I have pinned my pride to the felt underside of a child's well-placed pawn. I am the father who said, “Don't go,” having suffered tournaments with wife in tow, and unborn boy in utero. I am the man when the boy was born who uncurled his fingers and slipped in a pawn. I am the cigarette girl with sequined breasts, I live by good shoes and I die when I rest. I am the slot machine's rolling eyes, and I am the man in an Elvis disguise, waltzing squares of carpet just like a pawn. I am the boy in the bathroom stall, planning moves on a tiled wall, unable, years later, to step on a crack, I will stride the pavement saying “white,” saying “black,” arranging a perfect pattern for the unseen pawn.


Dorianne Laux

Without God we are ants grown enormous. Clumsy, sap swollen, stumbling one over another as we rush through crumbling tunnels, sugar in our veins, the dead cradled in our tender mandibles. If that’s all isn’t it enough? The glistening larvae no less dear? The pinhole of light entering the chambered vaults through which the scent of our lemony sweat spirals, no less delicate? Are we not miracles? Rivers of us pressing forward, gathering as we go, singing as we ascend, stopping to roll down a grassy slope, our eyes closed, our arms crossed over our hearts. Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that terrifying and magnificent enough?

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Annie Zaidi

Spell Phillippines Philippines. Phillipines. Which is it? Phillippines? I can't ever get them right. The doubles. Like illicit. I kept spelling it illiccit. And like occasion. Ocassion? It can get really difficcult because you have to use the words all the time. Like On the occassion of our daughter Lekha's fifth birthday party. I had invited twenty of our couple-friends, the ones with kids. Three came. Lekha's class teacher came. She's divorced. The widow upstairs came too, though I was not expecting her to. She does not even have children. I'd only sent her an invite out of courtesy. Minisha and Tanya called to apologize. The rest of them were his friends. They would have called to apologize to him if they had to apologize at all. But then, his phone doesn't work. Not since he went to the Phillippines. Why did I say 'Phillipines?' Of all the difficult places to spell, I had to pick that. But they say the women there are called Filipina. Not Philipina. Why are they Filipina and not Filipinians? We're Indians. I think Filipinas must be nice. Sweet, like custard apples, round and small. They sound nice. I can see it happening: him going there and falling for a Filipina. It's hard to think of them as “other women.” They sound like they deserve to be wives. The kind of women who love gently and responsibly and wait for the men who are lost to war, and who work till their backs break but even then, their hearts are solid. He went away on business, I told the upstairs widow one day when we met on the stairs, even though she hadn't asked. I shouldn't have done that. She just nodded in a kind sort of way. She held my hands a long time before saying goodnight. Maybe I shouldn't have invited her to the party. Ever since then she stops to talk to me on the stairs. One of his office friends called before Lekha's party, wondering where he'd dissappeared, and if he was going to be back in time for the next stragety meeting. I expected that sort


of phone call, though I'd thought his parents would be the ones to call first. On the phone, I just said, “Oh?” and I went silent. Then I said that he had told me he was going away on a business trip to Manila. At the last minute, I added that he had said it would be an intensive training visit and wives were not allowed to come along. Then his friend said “Oh!” and went silent. Since then, it's been a loaded word: Philippinnes. Nobody says it to me, because word has been going around about what he might have told me and what I should be told now. But the company has quietly gone and terminated his services. They sent a letter saying they have adjusted his notice period against dues etcetera and something else in abstentia, reason stated: failure to show at important client meeting in Phillippines without due cause and failure to attend work. Lekha has stopped asking. At first she wanted to know why he wasn't returning. I just told her that he didn't say. And he didn't. He never said much to me and I had never asked much—where he went, what for, with whom he was going. I knew, he knew. I considered asking Lekha's class teacher about vacancies at the school. But there's no need yet. Besides, I'd make a terible teacher. My spelling is atrocious. The doubles, specialy. Specially? I also get very confused when the same letter appears twice close together in a word. Like strychnine. I had to spend half an afternoon over that. Strynchnine? Or strychninne? There is no logic to this, you know. Is there any point to having two letters in the same spelling? I understand about vowels. Like two o's or e's. But why would you have two l's or two n's? It is a nonsense system. But I worry. I don't want Lekha to grow up and think her mother is stupid. Because I am not. I know how to do things. How to manage things alone. Spelling isn't everything. But in her school, they make it look like that.

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But Lekha is going to be okay. She's going to be fantastic. She's not insisting that I sleep with her any longer. The class-teacher says she is doing better than most others. And I've started her on Kathak too. Things will be okay.


Michael Kriesel


Paul does


Cat wants


Paul wants

Patti gets

Cat wants

Patti gets

Paul loves

First published in RATTLE.

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Lee Bradbury

Gelding Scalpel, four forceps, contusion pliers, two syringes, a needle like a burnt snake fang, and plastic thread, all in a pink tub of alcohol. The pretty redhead vet calls the pliers “nut crunchers.” The testicles are not damaged, not bloody when cut out of the scrotum, but white, spidered radial blue with veins. Big as peaches. They weigh eight ounces each. That’s one pound without the furry scrotum you can wrap around your hand. The damage is done to the spermatic cords, each thick as a finger, an artery and vein that will not clot if cut, unless pulverized first, the white membrane around the testicle pure nerves, what makes men curl on the ground, the cords wrapped in it, too, the paths this milky, metallic, menthol agony takes from the testicles into the gut, where, at wretched last, all the nerves meet in a plexus, putrefy the agony into misery, and from diaphragm to mid-thigh the body rocks exquisite. They’re more durable than gristle, and the sweet, strawberry redhead has to clench the pliers with both hands to crush the cord through. It sounds like crushing an entire head of frozen celery wrapped in rubber bands, and the testicle bounces on the cement. Then they have to crunch the other one off. Ten minutes, altogether. The horse curls up each hindleg and lightly stamps his hoof. Muscle reflex. He can’t feel them. And he doesn’t know any better afterward. When I was a kid I wanted to be a horse.


James Robison

Rodeo Days She rolls up from the bed sheets for the radio dial, twisting off a cracker song about hard luck in a mobile home, tracking and tuning along a fine path of hisses and whoops while I add up her ribs and the notches of her bowed spine and touch the wadded muscles of her skinny back and Kyra goes Stop it, Joe and settles on Beethoveny music and we go to sleep. “Maybe today,” I say next morning while it’s still pale blue because the sun isn’t much, “we could do something.” Her smile’s a white chip in the dim and she’s like, “Do?” With nothing to do here in the wild west great plains we go to Becky’s ranch, to the fish-smelling pond with the beige pigs felled around like tipped-over barrels to meet Tico. In the house is a picture of god and we’re sitting under that and looking at the metal desk with its wooden top on which is a coffee cup full of yellow pencils and passing the bottle. I go, “That guy that raped everybody, remember?” “Boys or girls?” says Tico and I’m like, “Does that matter? Both! And babies and children and like he sawed off one’s head.” Kyra says, “Don’t get all self righteous at him, Tico didn’t do it.” “He destroyed a patrol car with only his hands and feet, seven thousand dollars damage they said and he’s surely the one who took Elizabeth Carrie Lindquist plus Sherry Black Feather and they know he killed at least that Colorado girl. O.K.?” Kyra sees a radio and she has to turn it on and screw with its tuner. She gets the university station for a college and a blues artist named Slim Harpo is playing now and the sound is wires and she goes, “Pass the bottle. Don’t let Tico get any, warning.”

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“Here,” I go. “What about the baby raper is my question,” says Tico. “Well,” I say, “they arrest him and try and convict him and then they’re transporting him to this super-max thing, this prison in New Mexico? Or whatever but for some reason they take him to Nashville first and he escapes! From the prison van.” “Who were the dumb fuckers who managed that?” Tico goes and I go, “I know.” “They’re such totally dumb fuckers,” Kylie goes. “Pass the bottle again.” I do. I swig first and the bourbon is cedar varnish. “So he escapes and he’s loose,” I say. “Somebody said they saw him in New Belfast is my point.” Did you ever get drunk abruptly with no build up or foreshadowing? I have to suddenly sit in the big green chair with the Navajo blanket. The windows are silver with morning. Raging hell-winds batter our tiny town with its two lucid rivers. It’s raw, this life. Maniacal winds tear at the beet fields and corn fields and rivers. So monstrous is the wind up here near the border that we drink ourselves crazy or some build meth labs or we even ride in rodeos in cowshit-smelling arenas. “Let’s see if we can hunt down this baby raper,” I say. “But he’s not even here, I thought. I thought they said he was in Texas or someplace,” Becky says. This is her room. This is her ranch. Sweet of face, with beautiful eyes, she has pillowy arms and fat legs in Addidas warm ups. She is Kyra’s half-sister by Walter Koerner of Saddlehorn, Wyoming. Where Becky is fifty with salty lines in her hair, Kyra is twenty-four. Walter had a long career with women and in the rodeo ring as cowboy then clown. He’s deceased. I say, “What else have we got to do? Besides he might be here. Might.” Becky’s granddaughter, Courtney, has a life-sized cutout Frankenstein Monster on the storm door for Halloween. I zip up the leather jacket. The Copper Beeches and Aspens spangle goldenly against the steel-blue sky.


“Oh look at what you did. You can call it what you want to, I call it messin’ with the kid,” sings Junior Wells on the radio. Puck puck puck. About a billion chickens are raving. Brown cows are bawling Bwaam. Becky’s dog Tulip is flowing like water in a dark gallop, chasing something fast. Kyra’s windy hair is like tree shadows whipping around inflating and falling. Tico, in his boots with their long tongues lolling, has just bristles for hair. Becky’s husband, Chicken Bob, has his Arctic Cat Panther 550 snowmobile black and glaring lime and up on a trailer behind a 2007 Ford Lariat LE Edition Super Duty Diesel Pickup. You can still hear the radio blues, now a woman singing, “Oh God above, bring back my love.” We go down to the grove where there are cherry trees and black willows and big crows and our motorcycles. “Let’s ride around and hunt for this motherfucker.” “We find might fee—might hime heem.” “I’d like to find him just once, man, let’s go, man—” We’re saying such things, pulling on our gloves and zipping up and laying on our helmets. Mount the saddles, with Tico and I on classic British Speed Twins—he’s got a Royal Enfeld and I have a 650 Bonnie from 1967, which I got at Hankshaw’s Classic Motorcycles, in Liverpool, U.K., when I was over there and Kyra’s in leather chaps on a Ariel Red Hunter 350cc which she located in Florida, using Hankshaw’s address listings and we went down to Key West to buy it and on the way, that trip, I swam in a lagoon with a dolphin named Shiloh and two other boring dolphins for 99 dollars in a snorkel mask and fins. As for the bikes, we are poor but up here we will work and save and spend on something timeless and inspirational like Arctic Cats or motorcycles. I know a guy with a Bigfoot 4X4 monster truck and no place to sleep for example. We’re zipping up our sleeves and I’m reminded of the SCUBA class where I learned everything in the YMCA deepend pool and then after six weeks flew down to Playa del Carmen in Mexico for the tests to take to become a certified diver who can rent air tanks, and I had to go down so deep for

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one test that you couldn’t see anything. The sun was blinded out. It was scary and felt like death by suffocation, almost. And I still went down farther, until a mighty fist squeezed my chest and guts and temples, squeezing until I thought I might implode in the deep winter of dark. I was reaching around for a line that had my depth/pressure gauge, a nylon tube that waved tentacle-like attached to my vest. I pulled it down and thumbed the light button, but I couldn’t see from my facemask to the gauge, all I saw is a lit up flecky-brownish mess in the blackness and a smeared turquoise square, too smeared to see what was necessary just like the turquoise pool in the desert. This was intensity. My teeth ached in my jaws as if I had all cavities. I think the baby raper feels now this intensity. I think he is in a dark pressured place, wondering if he must go deeper yet. How far down? You cannot see where you are or what is upwards and there can be anything right behind you. You are running out of air and deep and I hope the escapee is loco with this intensity. We’re shooting through the world. A yellow Case excavator with shovel claw poised sits beside a crater it’s gouged in the black dirt. I’m boringly drunk. A British Speed Twin will chatter and buck on a corner with any ample acceleration so that you must put out your boot like a rudder to steady you on the tip while holding the shaking bars. You are putting down the boot with the steel bottom. The wind cuts through everything. I’ve got leathers and Kyra does and Tico has trashman’s heavyweight Carhartt’s, the big 100% canvas duck overalls and windproof mittens. Nevermore, summer. We’re pacing one of the rivers here, tea-colored with a pintail duck on it and geese in a > up against the clouds and rocks and tumbleweed, everything looking obdurate. Down and around the hump to Mandano and the razor wire marking the rez, through Tyree and Cochise into New Belfast by the Great Northern tracks, the roundhouse, the foxtails, the rutted roads involving sticky oil-partly dirt.


Yesterday but one, I think, at the Project Head Start School across from the apartments where Kyra lives with me but we aren’t intimate anymore and she is looking for another boyfriend— even though she sleeps in our bed still, her heat and how like silk is her hair is a problem, a challenge plus with her supple sleeping thigh aligned with mine, by accident —never mind, I saw kids about a yard high each in candycolored parkas. The grass was blond from autumn. The tree branches were orange leaves and black twisty lines with a royal-blue sky the other day. Tattered tan leaves speckled the soccer field and blacktop. The beautiful children of the wild plains included here, in the early morning of their lives, Sioux and Apache, Thai and Irish and Russian and all babies really. There stood a monster man looking at them in a hunter’s camouflage coat and blaze red hunter’s hat and he froze my blood. But he was just a dad of one of them. I went, “Hey, man, can I help you?” And he was like, “I’m just the dad of one of those kids, but thanks for being wary, man.” And he goes, “See the one with Broncos hat? Richard? Hey, Richie!” And one of the kids swings around with his upper lip shiny with snot and red rough parts on his face which kids get for no reason I know in cold weather. And the hunter guy goes, “Which one is yours?” And I’m like, “Well, none of them. I just live over there basically and I was out here, you know?” “Doing what?” “I don’t know.” And he goes, “So. You don’t know what you’re doing?” And I go, “Actually I don’t.” But we laughed it off and we were glad somebody was looking out for these kids this morning at least. We three on motorcycles riding through Outpost,

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beside houses with shrubs and pumpkins to the Junior Community College of brick buildings, through the piney campus, past the Geology building and Stable Isotope Lab, where there is a brontosaurus, metal, life-sized, out front. Bordering the campus are railroad tracks with lines of cars saying Burlington Northern. The disadvantage of lightning speed today on the bikes though, is after eighty miles here we are in New Belfast and even if the baby-raper were here and taunting me and mooning me I’m too cold to do anything. These arms are fragile as glass and there is no hot blood left in me and I got the permanent jawface and am a shell that will shatter in pain. Throw the left leg off the bike. Make it into the brakeman’s shed, which is a shingle-roofed tiny house, in which the union keeps a stone-finish cast iron wood stove with a coffee percolator on top with lava hot coffee smelling and Tico’s brother, Juan “Tiger” Munoz, who has a 5,000 BTU Ruffneck unit heater also and four deep cushioned chairs, all broken, to fall into, and he’s deep in one now. Tiger’s asleep with the newspaper open to a page all orange and black for Halloween. There are sales on sacks of Snickers bars and Three Musketeers and Mars bars and down the page cotton socks and garden spades and bubble gum and fish scale knives and deer skinning knives and mad bomber hats and packages of panties and cartons of Pepsi. All the products are pictured in orange or black half-tones. “Man, I could use some rum to warm fu-fucking up or teck-teck-tequila,” says Tico. He being shaken by unmerciful cold. He’s saying yuh-yuh-yuh and then his teeth are teletyping tick tick tick together like in an old movie. “Tico, if you ever touch tequila again.” “I know, Kyra, it makes me nuts.” “It makes you out of control! You are completely out of control! You just go so totally berserk. You’re a danger.” “I know, Kyra, it makes me do stuff.” I ask, “Rum too?” Kyra’s like, “Not as bad but not good.” “Beer,” Tico goes and belches passionately. His brother is asleep like a dog in the warmth of the heaters. Bundled all


around his brown face are mufflers. Tomorrow we might go back to Chicken Bob’s and Becky’s ranch again. We might go after the baby raper some more. Look. A sphinx moth still alive comes out of that bundle of red dresses where girlfriends of the Munoz boys left their clothes to go to Goodwill. Nothing to do, is our situation. The flatness and great wind. I learn a new word a day. Three weeks, maybe before the snow comes in and everything is: WIPE OUT. SHUT DOWN. We might then go to Orange, Texas, or someplace warm, where Kyra rides in rodeos with her Kevlar vest, purple hat.

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Joseph Millar

Trying to Sell the House You’ve buried Saint Joseph’s statue upside down in the yard and placed a geranium by the front door, since you don’t want to paint it red, as the old women instructed. Yesterday you climbed the porch roof to gouge out the dry rot eating the sash over the bedroom window, hoping the green wet-patch epoxy we used on the boats years ago will hold out the Oregon rain. Smoke from a wildfire miles to the east has turned the full moon dark orange and your wife sleeps easily wrapped in her robe, elephant gray like the dawn. No one else hears the bird-moth tapping drawn by the undersea glow of the clock. If this is night, where’s Orion the Hunter, where’s the cold light of the Pleiades? Where the gold beer sign over the market, where’s the blue rosebush climbing the wall? Something keeps humming away in the dark rasping against the old plaster rustling the ivy and honeysuckle this last week before you leave. Is it the highway, is it the river stroking the sides of its bed? Something the dog growls at, sunk in his dream, deep in his rough black fur.


Heather Stevens

Weightless From the underbrush in our backyard, we were scavengers of hope, my imagination was installed just as an engine mobilizes a car, innocence left from me as the tool-belt of time dismantled my youth. The kitchen was my place of solitude. My early ideas were fried up with scrambled thoughts. Smoke curled from my frontier just as the birds scattered north and then I hid in the pool-house, caked with chlorine.

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Will Badger

Bob’s Magazine & Tobacco Shoppe in the Internet Age No one needs ID on the net. Or courage, like back then when a kid had to slouch his shoulders and think old thoughts, and slink through the smoked glass doors into the section marked STOP! Adults Only where sweaty, shuffling, doe-eyed men pawed the glossy nubilities and looked beneath their lids at one another praying, “Dear God, don’t let me end like him.”


Stephen Williams

The Cash Man On the outskirts of a FOB, Tikrit, Iraq An old truck body lies in the clay dust of the yard and serves as a market, a meeting place for locals and truck drivers who serve the base. On the other side of the rusted carcass is a kebab stand, and the rest of the yard is filled with trucks and rocks and equipment, men and machines ferrying the war effort north and south. I came as a favor to my friend, Mike the Punjabi, looking for tea and to get gone. I make my way through the cut plastic strips that serve as a door, and the smell hits me, the sour smell of too many unwashed bodies in one small place. I try not to breathe and push through the crowd of Arabs until I get to some multicolored cardboard boxes ripped in half, set atop a rickety swayback card table lined with everything from tennis shoes to pirated DVDs. This is the tea I have been looking for, and I call out to the cash man over the din and ask for the price. “One dollar!” he yells at me, really hacking it out. “You have any of that spiced left?” I ask him. “No, we no have spice!” Hack, hack. I grab four boxes and hook a hat off the spindle. The hat says 7th Heaven Sports. Everything’s a knockoff in this country. I start to the front, back through the narrow aisle crowded with dusty goods and sweaty people. The place reeks of leather and perspiration. Turks clap me on the back and smile, while the Iraqis try to stare me down with violent disinterest. It’s a well-worn trick around here, and I smile heavily back at them. The counter is crowded with barterers; I can’t tell who is actually paying and who is just bullshitting. I lay my stuff on the glass display case, and the cash man looks at it with sparkling eyes, a smile creasing his lips, as if he has never seen these items before, and he cannot believe his good fortune now that they have appeared in his shop.

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“How much?” I ask. The cash man makes some vague gesture in the air with his hands, as if this were a very grave decision; his cigarette makes smoky, lazy rings in the air as he calculates. “Seven dollars,” he says. “Seven dollars?” This crap is not worth seven dollars. I just want out of there, though, so I concede and hand over the money. The money clears the glass display case into his stubby fingers, and the cash man grabs the bills and dumps them into the cardboard box used for a cash register behind the counter. Standing with my hand in the air it finally dawns on me; the twenty I had folded up in the seven one-dollar bills is now in the cash box. Leaning over the glass, I see Jackson looking up at me from piles of Turkish lira and Iraqi dinars. I glance at the cash man, and then take a look around at all the unsmiling and unsympathetic faces. Asking will not get me my twenty back. Quick as a snake I reach and fetch my twenty up from the pile in the cardboard box. “Fucking American,” the cash man says, no longer smiling. I hold the bill up between two fingers and tell him, “My twenty.” He lets loose with a tirade of profanity. He knows more English than I thought he did. I grab my bag of tea off the counter and walk back outside quick, wondering if this is the sort of thing that got us Americans a reputation.


John Lambremont Sr.

Pastime Lounger I'm just a quiet anachronism, like a late date in a stained-glass prison.

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Larry Lefkowitz

Acrostic§ L eave off bickering over poetic merit A nd seeking the laurel when R eigneth one who R ightfully or not Y earns for just such honors, L acking, perhaps, the poetic tools, E ven the poetic sensibility. F or striving may exceed skill and K nowledge may exceed competence. O that desire and ability W ere one and I nitiative sufficient T o earn the laurel without need to Z ero in on truth.


Self-Congratulatory Theme.


Josh Eure

It’s Sci-Fi Leary’s high already. “I’m writing something,” he says to me. “You write?” “Not yet. Anyway, tell me what you think. Ok, so there’s this guy. He’s a low-level fellow for a company, bottom of the barrel, right. You like sci-fi?” “Sure,” I say. “Good. So this fellow’s bad-off looking, real pale. He’s always tired, and skinny as hell. Guess why.” “Drugs?” “Shit no. His name’s Noah, like on the ark, and how it’s sci-fi is that there’s this technology we come up with to let people put off sleeping. Give it to someone else. Like I could sleep for you, so you’d get more shit done. And Noah, he works low-level for a company selling it. Refresh, Inc.” “Selling sleep?” “Hours of it,” Leary says. “How?” “It’s sci-fi. Anyway, they call them sleep technicians, and folks’ll drop loads of sleep hours on them, doctors, truckers, lawyers, old people putting the end off, whoever ain’t got time for shut-eye. “Noah’s a technician, and he gets hourly pay for the time he sleeps. Not his regular sleep. Transferred, you know? But, he doesn’t get much of his own, really. I’ll work that out later. “So, Noah meets this girl Cindy at the office, ’cause she’s got loads to transfer, and he’s her technician. Right off, Noah wants to fuck her, ’cause her body’s like a high-schooler, real tight like that, you know. And she’s got short hair like a waitress, and blonde—short, spiky and blonde. She doesn’t do eye contact real well, either. Noah likes that. Secrecy in a face. “But this girl’s different than most of his clients. Of course, right? She drops six or seven hours on him every other night. What Noah suspects, but hasn’t got settled yet, is that this whole damn deal is bad for you. Like he’s getting sicker and sicker, and what else could it be? Lack of sleep, too much

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sleep, both are bad, right? So this fake snooze business has to be double bad, maybe more. “After a while, Noah gets to having a real crush on Cindy. I mean heavy. He figures it’s probably from their transfers, that kind of sharing links people in ways we can’t guess. Knowing her dreams, dreaming for her. Every hour he’s asleep, she’s there with him. Dreams of fucking in cafeterias, garages, airport bathrooms and pre-school playgrounds. Everywhere.” “Finally it all gets too much for Noah, so he calls her in to his cubicle, tells her it ain’t working out. Then Cindy, she flips her shit. Says since the whole thing’s started, she never felt better. What Noah didn’t know was how Cindy was an insomniac. She was looking for a cure.” “Sleeper and the Sleepless,” I say. “Right. But now it gets worse. Noah’s coworker’s just died. What they found after looking was this guy used to be a speed-head. And ’cause of that, an insomniac.” “Like Cindy.” “Exactly. So Noah’s got to figure a way to work the sleep trade out, thin it down maybe, ’cause what killed this other guy was the overload of forced sleep, after living so long without it.” “But Cindy’s not getting the sleep,” I say. “Noah is.” “Right, so they’re both in danger.” “I don’t get it.” “It’s sci-fi.” I nod. “There an ending yet?” “No. I’m thinking someone’s got to die.” “Why?” “Not a story without it.” “So who gets the axe?” “Well, they work on the surviving thing together. Fuck each other good the whole way, and wind up beating it. They break the transfer addiction and all. But after that, I don’t know. Maybe Noah kills Cindy. On accident, of course.” “That’d be a surprise.” “Yeah, and it’ll fuck him up, so he’ll take some painkillers. A shit load. Fall asleep forever.”


“What’s the title?” Leary turns to me with a wide grin. “‘Sleep When You’re Dead.’” “Right.” “Damn right,” he says, chewing at a fingernail. “Hell. And then he could be a ghost, or something. That’s the thing, there. Just anything at all.”

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Jennifer Lambert

Teaching Ruby the J She is building you paper kingdoms today, practical shrines, as she practices your figure in the alphabet over and over in wobbly orange crayon. I show her your form in strict black ink, and I notice your rigidity— steady straight top soldered to your ramrod spine. But your curved belly gives away that you were meant to cradle things: water, sweet apples, the tiny buttons of a spine holding together a whole dark universe.


John-Michael Velez

Hey Bartender I’ll take a Jack on the rocks and a pint of your finest. Here’s a twenty, keep the change and some water to keep me standing. And a pint of your finest. What else you have on draft? And a water to keep me . . . No make it a tall one. What else you have on draft? Any white ales or stouts? And make it a tall one. Looks to be a long night. Any white ales or stouts? Oh, that’s right I forgot. Looks to be a long night. No, I’m cool, I’m not driving. Oh, that’s right I forgot I need a couple shots too. No, I’m cool, I’m not driving. You know what, make it four shots. I need a couple shots. Here’s a hundred, keep the change. You know what, make it six shots. And I’ll take a Jack.

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Laura LeHew

The Well Hands parched raw, clawing dust to dig my way out. Withering at the bottom of the well. Rubble tumbles down, a wooden plank bucket fractures. Only the sunny days hold me together.


Emily Howson

Crawl Space The cat just kept rubbing against me and purring. I was crouched down in the crawl space—dirt and bricks at my feet, tendrils of insulation tickling my neck—the world above had been torn apart by a tornado, and the cat was purring. I had no idea she’d even followed me. I’d barely had time to grab a flashlight and make it to the stairs before the tornado hit. The banister bucked beneath my hand. Even down below the wind sounded bad, like a vacuum cleaner run on high, and on top of that the windows blowing out, the furniture and god knows what else shuffling around, cracking and slamming. I wedged myself behind the heating duct and shut my eyes. When things settled, I was walled in by half the kitchen floor and the brand new washer my mom got us for Christmas. That's when I noticed the cat—I think she was Emma's fifth birthday present. The silence was huge after, except for her purring. As soon as I turned on the flashlight she jumped into my lap and wouldn’t leave me alone. Her eyes glowed yellow-green. I didn’t know how long I’d be stuck there. My wife, Deb, had taken Emma to stay with her folks in Tulsa, and our house sat far back off of the W. 3200. We’d bought cheap on a foreclosed two-story twenty miles from Ramona, because Deb wanted the countryside. Place was a blip on the map even before half of it got carried away. No one’s top priority. And I didn’t think Lisa would round up a search party after I just broke off three years of mutual adultery. So what was I supposed to do? I tried digging, but I only tired myself out, and I was bored. I couldn't keep the flashlight on round the clock. Couldn't stand, couldn't even sit too straight. And it got hard to ignore the rotten creek-mud smell that came up fresh every time I moved. So I did some thinking about my rescue. I imagined Lisa would come looking for me after all. I’d hear her shouting, “Ed! Ed! Honey, you alright? You in there?” The light would

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pour in, and fresh air. And Lisa would be there, crawling back to me, and I’d throw my arms wide and say, “Come here, kitten.” She’d hug me and tell me how sorry she was that she pushed me too hard about my wife, she missed me and could we go back to the way things were? I hadn’t always been fair to her—I’d admit it then—and she’d understand how I couldn’t just leave my family, that I had to think about Emma. We'd be holding each other, and she would press up against me, not minding the dirt or the sweat, and we'd make love right there. *



Lisa never came. Instead, Deb called a hotline and a team of volunteer firemen pulled me out about thirty-six hours after the twister hit. By the time they got to me, I’d started worrying about running out of oxygen. The air in the crawl space had grown close, heavy like when you pull the covers up over your head. The flashlight died and it was just us in the dark, with who knows how much time passing and her purring and purring, thrusting her head into my hands and making me pet her. I was panting, and the cat just kept on purring. What was I supposed to do? Before Deb showed up, I buried the cat in the corner of the crawl space. Later I held Emma in my lap as she cried because kitty got blown away by a tornado.


Mather Schneider

The Highlight of the Tucson Street Fair The mouse sits on top of the cat and the cat sits on top of the dog and the dog walks tongue hanging out and the long leash dips down and up to a wiry six foot six inch rocker chick.

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Scott Owens

Poem to Be Read Arriving Late on the First Day of Class Why are you here? If it isn’t to save the world, or make the world a better place, or at least make yourself a better person, to earn what God or nature or your parents or your forefathers or chance has given you, at great sacrifice to themselves, then what the hell’s the point? If you don’t hope for more and have a plan for how to get it, more power, more fame, more money, or better, more knowledge, more understanding, more peace, or better yet, more peace of mind, more appreciation, more hope, if you don’t believe you can write the next great novel, the irreplaceable poem, the song that will move them to tears, then aren’t you really just wasting your time, my time, God’s time, if there is a god, and if there isn’t, then surely you should have made one by now.


Roland Goity

Balance Carey Singleton was a daredevil sixth-grader, famous for his exceptional balance. In the soles of his Vans he was godlike. Every day walking home, Carey would perform for his friends as they crossed the Halverson Bridge. From the concrete walkway outside the vehicle lanes, he would hop chest-high up to the bridge’s outer edge, feet instead of hands on the steel nine-inch-thick handrail. It was fifty feet down into the rocky canyon, and only a faint trickle of water ran through Briar Creek below. But Carey completed the performance as routinely as he tied his shoelaces each morning. After crossing the bridge, his friends would slap him some skin. Carey would shrug. Traffic on the bridge was light, and those who noticed Carey generally waited until he was across before they dared to congratulate or yell at him. On the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, however, Audrey Singleton, Carey’s mother, happened to drive by in the family SUV right as her son was halfway through his high-wire act. “Carey,” she screamed out the window while slamming the brakes and hammering on the horn. “Are you crazy?” Carey had crossed the span dozens of times without a flutter in his heart rate. But his mother’s sudden scream startled him. His outside knee buckled, and the worn rubber soles of his shoes scuffed the handrail twice before he plummeted like a stuntman to the shallow, willow-shaded creek below. His friends hunched over the rail like fishermen at a pier. When a hysterical Audrey joined them, they’d already begun to sick up. After Carey’s funeral, a solemn line of people stayed to greet Audrey on the gravel-covered driveway outside St. Andrew’s. Mr. Selvy, a neighbor who a day earlier had celebrated his eighty-seventh birthday, came up to Audrey to offer his condolences. As he searched for the words, the sunken look in Audrey’s eyes struck a melancholy chord that choked him up. Literally. Mr. Selvy clutched his chest; his legs

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went limp. He writhed and convulsed, and his cheeks and forehead turned the color of lye. As he was about to go face down on the gravel, Audrey instinctively stepped back and gave him room, careful not to intervene.


Rae Rose

Men Who Should Have Loved Me My history professor - in your adorable black shirts and that strange click of your jaw that made you so thirsty. You said, "A one world Utopia sounds genocidal" and I almost dropped my pen. You blushed when you cursed, called my writing a joy and snuck looks down my cleavage in your office. Room Q 19, fourth floor. Your wife grows peppers and keeps chickens. She asks you to go to the store when you're out of plums. Saxophone player - all dimple, all clever smile. You loved my hair short and curly, drank with me at the bar and your wife never came to a show, well, once. Once she did. In tennis shoes with the laces untied and huge white tube socks and I called her "Socks" to feel better about myself, but it didn't work. You told me about your quiet Halloween, cuddling and handing candy out to kids and I can't imagine her like that, but I'm wrong. I hate that memory. Yours. Kevin Beck in 1st - 8th grade. We were the funny redheads. The first note you wrote to me as an adult was from jail. You shot a cop. I stared at the return address. You said you missed me. Everything was misspelled. There wasn't any punctuation. I wrote back. You didn't. The man who called me "Honey." Just that sound! Honey. You bought me dresses and nachos. I didn't love you either. You call me now, back from France and a mental break down. Your therapist says hi. Oh Freddie, you idiot.

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Gavin Wisdom

Captive to the Wind, Predator of the Deep Gazing starboard on a ferry between Hokkaido and Honshu, I watch seagulls catch the potato chips that Japanese children cast from the deck. The sun tucks behind China, the seagulls drift back to Honshu, and the children return to the cabin and retire on a tatami mat to watch a game show. I’m left alone to ponder the dimpled ocean, and the hull that cuts the sea’s cheek like a finger run through cream. I imagine the worlds I would discover if I cast my body over the paint-peeled railing, I imagine the sunken ships of seventeenth-century Samurai, the schools of tuna that wait to be wrapped in a roll of sushi, I imagine a time when the sea was still a vast frontier, when oil remained in the ground instead of spilling from tankers, a time when there were worlds undiscovered, and fortunate children could breathe the salty, sea air and didn’t leave an empty bag of potato chips captive to the wind, predator of the deep.


Lawrence Rouse

Ocean They had been walking, lost, for ten days. Time slipped. Stretched. Ducked into a bramble like a hare startled at the appearance of man. The boy in front stopped without warning, causing the one behind him to crash into his backside. The first barely noticed. “Here,” he said. Here was an open area in a forest of dark pines, water oaks, box elders, and an occasional low dogwood. The second boy recovered and peered around the slender back of the first. A third boy stepped wide of them both to see for himself. Here, too, was a beach. A black-soiled, loamy cliff-face that sloped dangerously below their feet into a wide, still, obsidian ocean of freshwater. To the boys, it might as well have been a chattering sea that talked from one shore to the other for days. “Bring it up,” ordered the first boy. The third, chosen as load-bearer for his neutrality, moved to the speaker. He took a knee and unslung a small, brown sack from his shoulders. The second boy watched as his hand disappeared inside the sack and emerged with a clutch of clear, worn nylon. “We need a pole,” the first boy said. The second boy looked away to avoid the first boy’s gaze. Shuffled from one bare, filthy foot to the other. Shoulders drooping, he walked a few meters in the direction of a tall, flexible-looking sapling of white ash. He returned with a makeshift pole to find the third boy sitting at the feet of the first, a round, rusted cylinder that might have once held coffee or shortening between them. Worms. Bait. The second boy braced himself for an insult. Took you long enough. Or one wrapped inside the polite: Thanks, slowpoke. Instead, the first boy, between the other two in age, but taller and more beautiful than either, reached out and took the sapling from his hands.

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The second boy examined the line, now stretched to its full extension. “It’s too short,” he intoned, as much to himself as to the other boys. “The shadow will frighten the fish.” The third boy answered him. “It’s all we have. We were lucky to find it. It has to work.” The first, silent now, finished wrapping the tip of the pole with the line. He bent low and pulled a meaty, brown-pink megadrile from the can. He baited the hook as if performing a ritual, and cast it into the ocean. A ripple broke the surface of the water and extended from the impact with a plop that reverberated through the trees. A cork bobber marked the portal into a dark, fluid world beyond their own. After a few moments, the cork sprang to life with an insistent, measured descent and re-ascent that told of a creature stealing away. The three boys glanced at one another and back at the line, the limbs of their thin brown bodies rigid with expectation. The first boy steeled his fists around the pole—pulled upward and back as he attempted to reel in their first meal in two days. A muscled length exploded the ocean surface. Black scales reflected a spectrum of color from a beam of light that slipped through the leaves above the water. His muscles tensed, the first boy flung the fish up and over the cliff. It landed wetly at their feet, flailing with the disoriented bearing of a newborn. Right away, all three boys could see this was no ordinary fish. Right away, it began to speak. Hearing its words, the second boy pounced on the fish. His fingers slipped on its scales, but he managed to hold its long thick form in his arms. He prepared to throw it back into the sea. Before he could free the fish, the first boy was upon him. Mute, they crashed to ground and wrestled as the third boy and the fish watched helplessly. The second boy was cowed. A knife was drawn. The fish was soon bleeding. Soon open. Silent. The third boy began to weep. The second sat several meters away, legs drawn to his chest with his arms, rocking himself slowly.


The first boy built a fire. “I’m supposed to take care of you,” he muttered to the other two. But by now it was plain; they all three knew it—at least one of them would never make it home.

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Paula Mendoza-Hanna

The Semiotician and the Poet My door is not a cipher, so you have not come. Though glyphs for sun had never urged dawn ‘come’. Your mind a crypt of runes, and mine, a gun. Here burns your apparition, and still you come to worship aureole, my pale periphery. An alphabet’s helix of sounds unravel that I might become another meaning to recover. Nothing more than Eros pressed in ink. Understand this: signs succumb fully, to a mouth, a tongue. Until word’s made flesh nothing you nor I can pen will ever come to anything. What use a lyric without first the lyre? And a poet is—undone—stroke by stroke. I’ve come to know, like the pianist’s fingers intuit the key, or how a cello moans the arc of her bow. The notes come not by scrawl on stave, but in the body’s bloom of song. Sun-starved, your Paula Jane blushes her petals to come.


Linda Blaskey

Rest Stop, Eighty-Seven Miles from Asheville The young man with the tattoo covering his face tells me he has ridden his `62 panhead from Oregon to Maine to pick up his girlfriend. Now they're on their way south, to who knows where, towing the old cycle, its bored-out engine used up. It's hard not to stare at the tribal swirls and stitches, the darts and dashes, the sunbursts that blacken his face; the lines that uncurl from under his shirt sleeves, his cut-offs— and I worry about the woman traveling with this man whose skin is a shield held against the world.

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Nick Bertelson

Something Better Be Wrong Norma’s bloody nose made her mattress look like a prop in a slasher film. “What’s all this?” she asked when Marta and I walked in. We had a place for bloody things, and after wrapping the mattress in a biohazard bag, we lugged it to the doors by the loading dock downstairs, where it waited for men in a van to come haul it off. Nine years ago, Norma would have remembered her daughter's name, but nine years is long enough for Alzheimer’s to wipe out even the intrinsic stuff, the stuff that makes us human. Still, on her good days Norma had a personality. She told me the same joke twenty times: “I bought a book on how to improve my memory, but I forgot where I put it.” It was funny to both of us every time, more so to Norma. To be fair, even I didn't remember Norma’s daughter’s name. I only knew her as the Druggie, because that’s what all the techies called her. On the night Norma's nose was running like a faucet, Marta had to call the Druggie up because we were sure Norma’s nose was in need of a good cauterizing. The Druggie’s phone rang more times than Norma re-realized her nose was bleeding. Not even a machine picked up. So Marta and I sat in the Alzheimer’s lobby at two in the morning stuffing Kleenex after rolled-up Kleenex into Norma's bloody nostrils. Finally Marta stormed off for the front desk to get hold of the Druggie any way she could. “What’s all this?” Norma asked me when Marta had gone. “Don't touch your nose, Norma,” I said. After five minutes she pulled the napkins from her nostrils and the blood flowed again, dripping into the hair she no longer realized stuck out from her chin, down her wrinkled chest, and all over her hands, which she wiped across her nighty. In the nurses’ lounge I found my purse, and in it, my last tampon. The tampon worked, and when Marta came back from the front desk, she couldn’t help laughing, which made me laugh—and that made Norma laugh a laugh that sounded like a syphon.


After five minutes of laughing, she leaned forward and said, “What's all this?” “The Druggie’s on her way,” Marta said to me. I had no idea I knew the Druggie, but fifteen minutes later, in she walked with her husband. I wonder if seeing her, my eyes changed like his did when he saw me. The husband stared at me like I was a mistress his wife was never supposed to meet. His eyes went unblinking. To him I was an apparition. The Druggie had been my patient at the med center three years prior. They found her face-down, ass-up on the carpet like a monk in front of an idol. In her stomach: eight Ativan and half a bottle of gin. I couldn’t remember her name, but after three years, I could still picture her naked body in that tub and see her stare, the same sightless eyes her mother looked through every day. Before I even said a word, the Druggie seemed exasperated with us nurses. We were the women who'd woken her at two in the morning. As she and her husband approached us, Marta pulled the tampon from Norma's nose. “Do you know what time it is?” the Druggie asked me. “What’s wrong with her now?” “Don’t worry,” I said. “Everything is fine.” “Something better be wrong,” the Druggie said. Her husband stood behind her, trying to place me. Three years ago I had told him the same thing I was telling his wife now, “Everything is fine.” The only difference was that he had believed me then, or rather, he had wanted to. Now, he glared silently at me as I tried to avoid his eyes, and the Druggie tried to find a reason for being pulled out of bed. “What have you done to her?” The Druggie stepped forward, pointing at the tampon in Marta's hand. Marta hunched over Norma and didn’t look up. She wiped Norma's cheek. “Don’t worry,” I said, wishing her all the worry in the world. I glanced at her husband, hoping now that my eyes hinted at who I was. “What is all of this?” the Druggie asked. And like a schoolgirl chiming in with the answer no one expected her to have, Norma said, “Blood.”

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John Grey

At The Reunion We form in packs, not the cliques of thirty years before but new cliques, expensive suits, cheap suits, and the few who didn’t care to know the event was semi-formal. It’s no longer jocks versus geeks, cheerleaders versus spotty faces, but success, doing well enough, just getting by and thank God for the cheese tray and those flaky, rolled, unnamable, hot things. The ones whose family contacts assured them the top rung welcome in the ones who made it on their own initiatives. Those who failed, despite all their advantages, hang out with the guy in overalls who’s living on the streets. We’re all surprised at how easy the remembering is. The taking stock is harder but even that’s accelerated by the wine. One glance around the room and it all comes flooding back, it all keeps moving forward.


Volume 1 ART Collages by Geri Digiorno “The Perfect Wife” “Ruby Vale” “What Planet Are We On”

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The Perfect Wife


Ruby Vale

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What Planet Are We On


Joseph Millar

Dark Harvest** For Annie You can come to me in the evening, with the fingers of former lovers fastened in your hair and their ghost lips opening over your body, They can be philosophers or musicians in long coats and colored shoes and they can be smarter than I am, whispering to each other when they look at us. You can come walking toward my window after dusk when I can’t see past the lamplight in the glass, when the chipped plates rattle on the counter and the cinders dance on the cross-ties under the wheels of southbound freights. Bring children if you want, and the long wounds of sisters branching away behind you toward the sea. Bring your mother’s tense distracted face and the shoulders of plane mechanics slumped in the Naugahyde booths of the airport diner, waiting for you to bring their eggs. I’ll bring all the bottles of gin I drank by myself and my cracked mouth opened partway as I slept in the back of my blue Impala dreaming of spiders. I won’t forget the lines running deeply in the cheeks of the Polish landlady who wouldn’t let the cops upstairs,


First published in Joseph Millar’s Overtime (EWU Press).

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the missing ring finger of the machinist from Spenard whose money I stole after he passed out to go downtown in a cab and look for whores, or the trembling lower jaw of my son, watching me back my motorcycle from his mother’s driveway one last time, the ribbons and cone-shaped birthday hats scattered on the lawn, the rain coming down like broken glass. We’ll go out under the stars and sit together on the ground and there will be enough to eat for everybody. They can sleep on my couches and rug, and the next day I’ll go to work, stepping easily across the scaffolding, feeding the cable gently into the new pipes on the roof, and dreaming like St. Francis of the still dark rocks that disappear under the morning tide, only to climb back into the light, sea-rimed, salt-blotched, their patched webs of algae blazing with flies in the sun.


Lisa Lopez Snyder

Sea Creatures The first time they saw him sitting on their stoop, on their way to the bus, Gloria whispered to her little brother, “Tranquilo,” and Carlitos’ tiny brown fingers squeezed her palm, his curious eyes turned upward. “Tranquilo,” he repeated. Gloria glanced at the man’s face when they passed him. He sat hunched in a worn jean jacket in the cold rush of the early spring, his hands tucked in pockets ripped at the side openings, his skin dark like her ceiling at night. “Good morning,” she says to him now, for he is like a friend who cherishes the greeting with quiet acknowledgment. He nods when she and Carlitos walk by. “Good morning,” Carlitos echoes. Gloria imagines that the man is waiting on a friend, maybe someone down the street who will give him work on the old houses they are knocking down at the end of the block. Mamá says there are plans for some new shops and restaurants, and that very soon they’ll have to move. There’s a big university with lots of college kids around the corner, and Gloria knows that has something to do with it. She and Carlitos see them when they get off the bus at the end of the day, gathered around the brick courtyards like flocks of pigeons. This morning is just like all the others as the two of them walk to the corner, their backpack straps flapping in rhythm to a tune Gloria has made up in her head, the one about the feel of rain on her skin. High above them the moon is just a sliver of a nail tip in the sky. When Gloria and Carlitos get home, the kitchen is hot with the frying of frozen potato slices Mamá bought from Safeway and the pork chops she got at the Mexican tienda. Gloria is trying to tell Mamá about the upcoming class field trip to the city science center and what Mrs. Price has told them about the deep-sea creatures and the movie that will be shown on the big screen.

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“They’re amazing,” Gloria says, twisting at the waist, her sticky hands on the counter. “I can’t wait!” She hops up and down, and her stomach growls with the hot snaps of the frying pork. She pictures the photographs in her science book as they might appear, the sea creatures with their bizarre skins and appendages, on the big movie screen. She wonders if they’ll show the see-through worms floating in long pink tissue coils and the big jellyfish with strands of flashing color. Mrs. Price said that everyone will get a permission slip mailed to their homes, and Gloria makes a mental note to check the box every day. “They live at the very bottom of the ocean where it’s so deep no light ever shines on them,” she tells Mamá. “Some of them are fishes with big bug eyes.” “Big bug eyes,” says Carlitos, and he waves his small airplane from under the kitchen table. Mamá is usually a careful listener, and she sometimes sings when she fries the pork, but today she neither sings nor smiles. “Basta!” she says, wiping a strand of hair from her face, and when she says that Gloria knows it’s time to take Carlitos outside until dinner is ready. The backyard is mostly dirt and Carlitos jumps on an old plastic yellow slide that he and Gloria found by the curb. They had scrubbed it clean with dishwashing soap and with their father’s help, they fastened it with thick ropes to the slats of the small deck off the back door. Gloria sees Papá’s head under the hood, a greasy hand bracing the edge, and she moves her shoulders in time to the quick lusty pump of accordion as Los Tigres del Norte sings from the small portable radio on the gravel drive. The heavy sounds of bulldozers have stopped for the day. In her head she is floating on clouds around her father, asking him her questions: When will we move? And where? Will we have a house or apartment? But he is silent and furious at his task, wiping his hands on his work towel with an awkward vigor, all of which now makes the evening sun, a color he teasingly calls “Gloria” because of its purple and orange tinge, have a rather dull shine about it.


She squats before a flat dusty spot of earth, and with a used popsicle stick maps the contours of the neighborhood— the park, the main street, their street and the Safeway. The man on the stoop comes to mind and Gloria wonders if he’ll still keep watch when the new shops are built, and if their backyard, with its bits of weed, dirt and gravel, will be dug and churned by the big machines and smoothed with tar until it is a parking lot with black asphalt and bright white lines. She draws the make-believe lot in the dirt and places twigs down to make spaces for the lines and pebbles for the cars, and when she’s finished she studies it for a while, its abacus pattern near a patch of weeds. Carlitos is calling to her, but she stands and brushes her hands on her jeans and walks toward her father, her fingers toying with the worn popsicle stick. She leans under the hood and breathes in the familiar comforts that define this space—her Papá’s sweat, the oily rags and the open can of beer. Her father lifts his face and the stubble from his rough beard glistens when it catches a glint of sun. In a soft voice she asks, “Will we have a mailbox?”

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Renèe Ruderman

Starless The moon is half. My son is gone. The linden blooms dangle like tiny spoons. I put his glass into my hand, close the door. The hall goes dark. I make my way. I always have. I hear my breath from another ear. I don’t recall his tiny fist, the nighttime snorts that made me flinch. Gone is my son. The room is dark. Sleep will serve no dreams tonight.


Annie Zaidi

For Vilma, Berlin If I was a polar bear in a zoo, would I eat my cubs? It would not do, I suppose, to leave them under some rock. These hand-fed zoo-folk, how queer they can be. Feeding, feeding, feeding. As if a polar bear lived for nothing but food. And to be photographed and shit and stud or breed and, basically, just stick around. In a zoo if I was a polar bear I would rather sleep. And nobody would know the weight of dreams that keep you alive through snow and starve. And my cubs, I would eat.

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Danny Pelletier

Waiting For the Parade I understand the enormity of the situation not by the sterile OXYGEN IN USE, NO SMOKING sign taped to the front window, nor by the newly rented hospital bed in the living room, there because my wife’s grandmother has had such trouble walking-even with her cane, she has trouble; she gets around only with the aid of Amanda’s mother and uncle, neither of whom has worked or slept in days. Nor do I understand by the phone conversations between Amanda and her mother, conversations about the secret movement of cancer through lymph nodes and into the lungs. These conversations make no sense. They’re like war movies about infiltration and silent alarms. I picture the cancer as an infestation, termites hidden in the walls of her body. How could our flesh betray us this way? And though it’s raining, the weather doesn’t influence my mood much. It’s the light. I feel the sickness in the house from the light, the yellow glare of the lamps like bruised or jaundiced skin. “These lights make me sleepy,” I say. Amanda’s mother, Amy, moving with the slow deliberateness of one underslept, asks if I’ve been sleeping okay. “You look tired,” she says. “It's just the lights,” I say. I start a banal conversation about the light bulbs Amanda and I bought for our new apartment to conserve energy, about their pure whiteness, the intoxication of their burn—one of those rare cloudless days after a snowstorm. When you turn them off, they still glow, like when you close your eyes after looking at the sun or when you turn off a TV in the dark. Amanda’s uncle Patrick finally raises his eyes from his mug. His sandy hair is flat, and he’s wearing a dirty t-shirt that has a faded picture of Homer Simpson on it. There’s a connection between his mother and him stronger than between the rest of Amanda’s family; he’s the most like her, with his garden, his homemade wine, his love for animals—both domestic and wild. Amanda told me once about how her uncle


and she had driven past a dead raccoon. He asked, “Do you want to go back?” And they did. I feel the most for Patrick, who drives to his mother's before work every day, then visits her again on the way home. He mows her lawn every weekend. He gathers her tomatoes, brings them inside, washes off the dirt. He cradles dead raccoons in burdock leaves and buries them beneath trees. When Amanda’s grandmother, heavily medicated, coughs in her sleep, all three family members slip—like parents newly burdened with child—into the living room, where she dozes in her recliner. From the dining room, I can only glimpse her bare, white feet. Grandma’s suffering isn’t bright and sterile, in a nursing home or hospital room, but dark, chaotic, earth-toned. She’s surrounded by her books, wicker baskets, and antiques: all things brown and simple. Dirty hands don't bother her, but hers are now clean and pale, unused. How bothersome, this orderliness. She misses her garden, misses cultivating life—this woman who’s birthed and raised six children—so Amanda mounted some pictures in a large, matted frame, which now hangs on the wall over the couch. Who knows if she’ll ever see them? Since her doctor changed her medication, she’s always sleeping, sleeping . . . Amanda told me that her grandmother said she wished she could just fall asleep and never wake up again. While I watch Amy take her mother’s hand and pat it lightly, saying, “Mom, Amanda is here. Do you understand this?” and I see my soon-to-be-grandmother-in-law’s eyes—in my mind— fluttering open, like I’d imagine a dying flower to bloom, not with pain but hunched over with weariness or weighted with the first snow, I am unaware that the idea of disturbed sleep, of waking surrounded by people who weren’t there upon falling, this loss of control and continuity, will symbolize for me the agony of dying. Nor do I know that my own sleep will be disturbed by nightmares and restlessness. I’ll wake to find Amanda by my side—sleeping, I’ll think, but she won’t be; she’ll be like the light bulbs or the television screens that glow after dark, asleep but awake. Rain’s still falling when we gather on the porch: Patrick beside the morning glories, where he picks seeds off the vine;

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Amy on the other side of the porch with a baby monitor in her hand; and Amanda standing beside me near the gate—we all gather here, in a small town whose one General Store (family owned and operated) shut down not two weeks before from bankruptcy, to watch this pageant of polished yellow fire trucks, a marching band with no instruments, poorly inspired Renaissance Festival actors, a girl in a pretty dress throwing candy, and clowns pulling in a wagon a toy drum that one of them bangs off-rhythm with a walking stick: this motley parade, creating noise while there's someone inside sleeping, for they are celebrating the day the town became, the day its boundaries were drawn on a yellowed piece of paper and named, this dying town celebrating its own life; and at the end of this procession, since this day is about displaying what this poor town with no grocery store has (very little), an ambulance parades by, while Amanda, who left to check on her grandmother, returns and says, peacefully, as if talking about a baby who has had colic, “She’s out like a light.” Weeks later, the hearse will come, parading our grandmother away, but for now we enjoy the celebration. For now we find comfort in the community. For now we wait. grandmother’s garden abuzz with early evening life embers of fireflies


Jessy Randall

Are You Cool Enough Now Is the hospital as cool as you dreamed? Lying there connected to machines. Your brain all swollen up. Is that what you had in mind when you bought that leather jacket? You replaced dirty diapers with Thelonious Monk. You said no to all the trappings of fatherhood. You literally wrote “coolness” at the top of a list of what is important. You were thirty years old, younger than I am now, when it all started to go down the coolest toilet of all time. Drinking, drugs, sleeping on the sidewalk, getting arrested, being dubbed a “problem patron” at your local library. That’s so cool! And soon you may be even cooler—the coolest there is.

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G. Tod Slone

Clique-Bound The poet to be respected, at least by someone like me is the poet who dares stand alone and apart from the vast herds— literary, academic, racial, PC, people-pleaser, or whichever— as opposed to the poet comfortably grazing. Jeffers comes to mind, though academic, his Double Axe pushed the academics away from his sides at least for a while. Few poets dare stand alone and away from today's clique-bound versifiers shaming the métier.


Diane Kimbrell

To Save My Soul When Homer got up to go to the bathroom, I scattered some seeds around the lumpy cushion in his favorite chair. I got a whiff of something when I opened the pack, but I had to work fast, so I hoped and prayed it was just my imagination. Homer hated the smell of any kind of toiletry. But this was a peculiar odor—not flowery or perfume-like. It reminded me of the smell from our kitchen pantry when I was a little girl—the time that huge rat died inside the wall. According to the website, the Morning Glory seeds were supposed to ward off evil—transform Homer into a rational, Godly human being—bringing peace and harmony to our household, but they didn’t do a thing to change my husband’s shitty behavior. In fact, I believe they made it worse. One day while searching for change he’d dropped down the side of his chair, he accidentally found a few. They looked like watermelon seeds—only smaller. “What in the name of Jesus fucking Christ is this crap? What’s in my chair?” he demanded, holding them out in the palm of his hand. His bloodshot eyes bulged and veins stood out like blue ropes in his neck. My knees shook. Making a face like I’d just seen a pile of dog poop, I lied and said, “I have no idea.” Homer opened the screen door and before I could stop him, tossed the seeds out in the front yard. If they took root, I wondered what would grow. Remembering the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, I almost laughed out loud. Homer knows I have a bad back—can’t bend over. And yet, he ordered me to get out that heavy vacuum cleaner to suck out whatever was in his chair. Now the rest of those little black seeds are in the vacuum not doing anybody any good. We don’t even need the vacuum cleaner any more, because our electricity will be cut off soon; I used the last fifty dollars in the checking account on the seeds. So what in the Hell am I supposed to do? To save my soul, short of killing Homer, I don’t know where to turn.

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Dane Cervine

The Art of Therapy On the opposite wall in my office, I contemplate three wooden panels with muted mountain scenes from Japan. Towering forested cliffs, a small house at the bottom, two men in robes dwarfed by immensity, lost in conversation amid cherry blossoms. It is how I think of therapy, traveling through immensities lost in conversation, the dangers of sudden cliffs, of becoming more lost, of falling. Of failing to run one hand then another through the fallen cherry blossoms littering the ground with beauty.


Robert Greene

In A Bar, You're Alone†† stench of citrus vodka outlasts the smoke signals


First published in Tar River Poetry.

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Emily Rose

Unsatisfiable Perhaps it’s because the sun doesn’t come out. July 3 and the sun hides behind the familiar gray clouds, shrouding our valley in shadows, keeping our skin white as the snow that never falls here, painting our lives gray as the rain that always does. Perhaps it’s his statement again last night that he wants to be a surgeon, the confusion and fear that rises in my heart at these words. If only our roommate weren’t a surgeon, if only I didn’t know what it’s like: lifetimes of allegiance, every hour of the day, all hours of the night, spouses raising children alone, weekends at the hospital, four-a.m. procedures, flying to Europe for the weekend to give talks. Very prestigious. Lots of money. Awards, honors, action, heroics. Fine if that’s what he wants, but what about me? I should have more to do, he says. I should get out of the house, I should make more friends. Also I should make him cookies to take to his team. And it is nice when I do his laundry. I put other words in his mouth and make him demanding and contradicting when it is me, really, who is demanding and contradicting. It is me who makes my life difficult, and no matter what profession he chooses, I will continue to make our lives harder than they have to be. If he’s a family doctor I will worry that he’s bored, that there’s not enough money or not enough action, that we can’t travel as much as I want, that he has too much time to make nice with the mothers and the ladies of the city who come to him with their physical ailments, their soft skin and their ample bosoms. If he’s a dermatologist I will pronounce him shallow, accuse him of caring only for money and boats and not being idealistic enough, not even a real doctor, just in it for the wealth and the lifestyle, lacking substance. If he’s a radiologist I will complain he’s becoming boring, sitting alone in a room all day, talking to no one but the janitor and machines. I will worry that the radiation is getting to him, and when he wants to play video games at home I will claim his brain has really dried up, his capacity to interact on a human level totally deteriorated. If he’s an ER doc I will charge that he feeds off adrenaline, feels


himself too much a hero due to the fast pace and the excitement. I will wonder if all that energy doesn’t swell up in certain members of his body, and whether—since he has to stay at the hospital for long hours at a time without me—he doesn’t make new friends, new paramours, with his fellow doctors, with nurses, and relieve himself of his sexual urges in broom closets, patients’ rooms, empty offices, like they do in certain TV-doctor dramas. I will get annoyed with his constant retelling at dinner parties of life-or-death procedures he’s performed, of the wild wounds that have come to him to be remedied. I will worry that nothing slow and solid is interesting to him anymore, may claim that it never was, will feel myself getting older, safer, prosaic in comparison to his hospital life, his real life. I will wonder whether he even knows what’s real anymore, and I will consider whether or not I know what’s real but will believe I can control myself. I will think him far more dangerous than my own imagination, this entity central to my existence, over whom I have no control, limited power, questionable understanding. None of the options will be acceptable to me, the unsatisfiable one. Why shouldn’t this man, who has wedded his life to mine, choose an intense and difficult profession? He’s chosen that kind of wife.

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Caroline Fish

Casual Interaction I am with you in the violence; I let you work me to a hunger, something awful with your body and I'm magnificent with my tongue, legs, smile; everyone says so; I make you rise like helpless, dry earth when I crawl into this room with you; this is how I've learned to be a woman and you're vile to me when you're voiceless, breathless. Hunger, I’ve had it before, known it on your skin and smelt it disappear in the dark after you’ve chosen me, not my will, hunger. Between the bookends of the bed is knowledge and hatred, soft apologies in the morning for the questions we didn’t ask, answers we didn't wait for, knowing something like satiation, and I will burn quietly in the morning on the edge of you and your thoughts.


Gayatri Makhijani

Bombay Summer The sun bursts open another day quenching hope, parched hearts now litter Bombay’s broken streets. Machiwalis clamber up the train, beads of sweat laced sari blouses, the purple patchwork and lime-green pinstripes dripping down to tired feet, and well-worn shoes that shuffle in and out of the train, too quickly, too weary to greet another day. These days smell foul and furious, these days stifle us still with the sun breathing down dust upon our children lying naked in the streets, their skin scabbed. You’d think the summer would thaw passerby hearts and vanquish poverty, but it only spills into curtainless homes and matchbox cars that shine out the rancor and breathes down its fury.

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Adam Mrozek

I, Rose‡‡ I was the queen of my lady’s garden. Her most wondrous, beloved flower. She adored speaking to me during pruning, and because I hung on her every word, I learned early on that I was special. She assured me I was the very symbol of love, but at the same time, that I could wound—hearing this, I both blushed and sharpened my thorns. Although I couldn’t feel suffering myself, I loved to take advantage of this peculiar gift of nature. Not that I didn’t sympathize with humans. I simply idolized the sweetness of their blood. My lady showed me off to all her astonished guests. At no other spot in the garden did they pause for so long. They would stop, lean over, and for the most part fail to resist the temptation to touch me. I cunningly arranged my thorns to make them undetectable to the average person, lightly pricking the pads of their fingers. Many didn’t even notice; others pressed the barely visible wounds quickly to their lips. Best of all was later, when I spent hours savoring the taste of the tiny droplets of blood clinging to my thorns. My lady never discovered my secret. *** That day began with powerful gusts in the garden. I didn’t like being tugged by the wind. It’s very unpleasant knowing that such a mighty force exists, impossible to resist. I was afraid for my delicate petals, that I would be disfigured if the wind tore away even one.


Translated from Polish by William Badger. This story first appeared as “Ja, Róza” in the December 2009 issue of Science Fiction Fantasy i Horror.


As the wind began to die down, my lady ran into the garden. She was distraught. Her body shook as she screamed. She cried. She stopped above me, knelt, and lightly touched my dewy stem with a quivering palm. For the first time it entered my head that it might be worth trying, after all…I’d never pricked my lady before, never sampled her blood. I hadn’t yet succeeded in throwing off this treacherous thought, when something strange occurred. I heard an awful crash, and my lady fell right to the ground beside me. From her head a wide stream rose—God, I’d never seen so much blood in all my life! I wasn’t able to stop myself: my deep roots started to fish the delicious confection out from the soil, while into myself I absorbed several pure drops running along my stem. My lady’s blood was the sweetest in the whole world. Some time later a crowd gathered. They shot pictures, argued. And they took my lady. That wasn’t the worst of it. On the second day a mournful fellow crept into the garden, and without deliberating too much, he squatted, muttered something beneath his nose, and cut me. Immediately I lost connection with my roots; in the place where moments before I had been growing, I caught sight of a low stub of stem. In rage I longed to stab the vile man, but he was wearing gloves. *** I am now with my lady once again—lying between her clasped palms. I feel weakened, and while my thorns were able to pierce her hard, cold skin, they didn’t find even a droplet of blood. My lady lies without moving and isn’t interested in me at all. Many people approach and bend low over us. They are different from the people in the garden, who were sincerely amazed by me. These are clothed in black, sobbing, unwilling to speak even a word. Because of this I am relieved when at last the lid falls over my lady with a click.

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Alan Gann

On Becoming the Best Poet in the Room After shooting Billy Collins I took his last cannoli out of the oven and left it to cool by an open window then wondered what to do about Mary Oliver?

Barn Dance I believe in spoken word— pulse dancing with sound, cadence, and history, spun round in ecstatic quadrille— bow to your partner and do-si-do


Geordie de Boer

The Form This is the form to inform you that you will soon receive the Form. This form is not the Form. You will soon receive the Form, which you must fill out and return. Do not fill out and return this form, which is not the Form. This is the form informing you that you will soon receive the Form, which you must fill out and return.

82 Raleigh Review

Gary Sprague

Fly Rod The dead man lay slumped over a log by the edge of the water, his fishing rod still clutched in his hand. It was an Orvis, expensive, a hell of a lot nicer than my rod. The man couldn’t have been dead very long. I don’t know much about dead bodies, but he wasn’t bloated or decomposed. He was lying there, eyes closed, mouth open. Just dead. I glanced at Elmer. He looked at me and shrugged. “Looks dead to me,” he said. “Sure does,” I agreed. “Nice fly rod.” “Yup. Orvis. Must go for at least a grand.” “At least. How long you think he’s been dead?” “Hard sayin’, not knowin’. Probably this morning. Heart attack,” Elmer said. “Yup.” We stood there for a minute, talking it over. The sun was climbing and there was fishing to do. We wanted to get on the water before the sun got too high. We were in a very isolated area in northern Maine. On this particular lake there were no camps, and it could only be accessed from the halfmile long trail we stood on. A boat was tied to a tree was about twenty yards away. We had a hell of a time getting that boat down here, Elmer and I. We had boats at five or six different lakes in the area, kept them there year round. Saves us from having to haul one in every time we move. Most we just tied to trees. I’m sure other people used them, but I ain’t above sharing as long as they get put back. I reached into his back pocket for his wallet. Bill Shaw, born 1957. He had a Massachusetts license. That figured. I shoved the wallet back in his pocket. I didn’t want to stick around much longer. It was sunny out, but in the shade of the thick forest the mosquitoes were quick to find us. Huge mosquitoes up here. “We ain’t catching any fish standing here,” Elmer said, breaking the silence. “I say we leave him until this afternoon, and if he’s still here when we get back we can call a warden.”


“Sounds good,” I said. “Think we should take that rod? Bill Shaw ain’t using it.” “We’ll grab it when we come back.” We untied our little boat and pushed off. We had a fivehorse motor, just enough to putter around on the lake. The air was cool as we moved across the bright water, but it felt nice, refreshing in the early morning. I drink a lot of coffee back home, but I don’t touch it when I’m up here. Fresh morning air clears my head just fine. We stopped in a cove at the east end of the lake. We usually had good luck in the cove. The sun hadn’t yet risen over the tall pines on shore, leaving this corner of the lake shaded for a few more minutes. We got our lines in the water and sat back. Morning on the lake is best; no sound except birds calling and water gently slapping the aluminum boat. By the time the sun had risen high enough to warm our old bald heads, Elmer was asleep. He lay sprawled in the bottom of the boat, the buttons of his flannel shirt pushed to the limit each time he inhaled. I believe the fish heard the snoring or felt the boat vibrating; they sure weren’t biting. I was thinking of bringing in our lines and starting the motor—more to wake Elmer than anything else—when I heard a boat approaching. My eyes aren’t so good anymore, but I knew it was Warden Webster coming up fast. Mickey Webster went to school with Elmer and I, many years ago. He’d always been arrogant, and being a game warden didn’t help. Elmer and Mickey didn't get along very well. Forty years ago, Mickey’s fiancée left him and married Elmer. Forty years, and Elmer said Mickey could have had her back after three. Mickey held a grudge against Elmer for stealing his girlfriend, and Elmer was upset that Mickey didn’t win her back. Two old fools angry over one ugly woman. Didn’t make no sense to me. I gave Elmer a hard nudge with my foot. “Mickey’s coming.” “Are you going to tell him about the dead guy?” “Not until I catch something I’m not.” “I’m sleeping,” Elmer said. He grabbed his hat, laying it over his face.

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Slowing up as he drew near, Mickey pulled up alongside us and cut his engine. “Morning, Lyndon.” “Morning, Mickey.” He looked into our boat. “Elmer asleep?” “Nah, he’s faking,” I said. “Didn’t want to talk to you.” “That ain’t true,” Elmer said through his hat. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone.” “Anything biting?” “Nope,” I said. “Say, you guys happen to know anything about that dead body near the trail on the south shore?” Elmer sat up, placing his hat on his head. “We know that he’s dead.” “We saw him earlier,” I explained. “Looks like a heart attack. Since this is our last day of vacation, we figured we’d get in a little fishing before we reported it.” “You should have reported it. You guys are up here almost every weekend.” Mickey started his motor. “Hell of a nice fly rod that fella has. I'm sure his relatives will want that back. Nice of you fellas to leave it.” I watched Mickey pull away. “I knew we should have grabbed that fly rod.” “Yup.”


Nene Giorgadze

Cycle§§ The old woman— with her hair down, with slight, bone-dry hands, with a white, transparent nightdress through which her sagging breasts are seen— is barefoot. She falls down. Stands up. Falls down again. Stands up again… A childless, spouseless, lonely woman. From time to time she visits me, reaches into my guts with her hand and pulls out my nerves like a rubber band with her two fingers, then looks me in the eye, pauses, and releases those two fingers… The scene is shattered. I—falling back into time— drop down with a crash into my day-to-day routine and remember those minutes like a single frame, where silence coils like a snake. Now, voices enter the scene and move it forward and I— since dropping down to my day-to-day routine— have sobered up again.


Translation from Georgian by Nene Giorgadze and Timothy Kercher.

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Dan Boehl

Selections from “Self-Improvement” I saw some pictures of people hanging around Paris and thought, what the fuck am I doing with my life? Writing books that nobody reads. Riding my bike home in the sunlight. Thinking about sex and eating macaroni and cheese. Seems okay, really, when you think about how we're dying. * * * At a work dinner Tuesday night I sat next to a college senior who wanted to be a poet. Oh, I could have just wilted and died. Then the other kids at the table wanted to know what it took to be a poet. They wanted a list with check marks on it. I said this: you sit in a dark room alone. I said this: you move to New York and befriend other poets (pansies). I said this: you openly hate each other. Even while screwing each other in tiny apartments. * * * You can catch butterflies in Texas if you put out a bowl of day-old melon rinds. It's not going to rain in the summer, and no one is ever going to buy a poem. Anna's never going to put away the blender. Work isn't so much a chore as a way to kill time. I like email better than internet. I write with a mechanical pencil. Reading is the best thing in the world. And some other things.


Ajay Vishwanathan

Scouring the Plumes I see images I've never seen before, unless I've started forgetting things from my past. Like bright red fish trying to swim in shards of glass, shining in puddles of water; Mother knitting on her rocking chair that groans and squeals, groans and squeals as she rocks back and forth. I see images with my eyes open. They vanish when I shut them as if the images need light to come to life. Only when someone whispers close to my ears do I return to the dead bird in my hand. Cold, wide-eyed, its feathers cling to its body, syrupy, shiny, like a bronze statue that has fallen off the display case. I hear, "Drop it, move on," but moving on has never been something I've done well. My mind is still flush with scenes of the bird diving into the water, its cheer instantly smothered by gluey ripples. Flapping, weaving, it drowns, dragged down slowly by heavy plumage, the onceairy wings that powered its jaunts. My life has been uneventful, meandering around culde-sacs. I wish my mind were as barren, instead of trapping nuts, bolts, and cheerless dregs from forty years. My selfesteem is so hurt that my Gods are godlings, my fervent prayers, whispers. It is not easy to tell whether the new images I see are unrecognizable manifestations of the past I hold on to. They could be from the fumes rising from the water. The official watching us from the rock says they don’t have enough respirators for all of us. The ocean is sick and smelly, like Mother who wrestled with a distorted vertebra and a cancerous esophagus, lying neglected with bed sores the size of ruptured fruit, till she finally stopped moving one morning. My brother, Tim, and I lived with the smell for many weeks after that, the smell sweating from walls, the bed, the closet, the smell of her struggle, her death. They hand me a live pelican, toothbrush, pet dryer, and a bucket of soapy liquid. A bald guy with a loud voice shows us how to scour the feathers, peeling back every little layer and rubbing it delicately between our fingers. They give me a few

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more buckets of clean water. I scrub the bird, rinse it in the next clean bucket, scrub again, next bucket, till there is no more black dripping from it. I think of Mother’s back, her blisters that bubbled and oozed, the blood on my fingers as I tried to wipe down her wounds with a wet cloth, her screams ringing in my ears. I wonder if all this labor along slick coasts is worth it, if it is just one way of feeling human, less guilty, of showing the world the battle can be won, that we care. What good would it do to clean a hundred birds when the real damage is invisible, skulking beneath the water surface and seeping into land, into smaller life forms, killing them, maiming them, sterilizing them, their brood? It is so obvious that it is not: the blight will get to us, all of us, into our houses and on dinner plates, and linger like a sour memory for years. I know what a lingering moment is. I have many stashed away, have seen them collect like trash floating in the backwaters. But for a man who has achieved nothing, loved no one, made love to nobody, not even with cash, this tragedy is a landmark. I am part of history, even if it will be recalled with scorn and horror, even if it is not like losing an eye in battle, or running away from the rising fumes of a falling building. So these new images of red fish, rocking chairs, and shocks of grey hair, flickering in my head don’t bother me, the fumes and tar balls, the lack of gloves or proper clothing doesn’t bother me, the bald guy yelling into my eardrum asking me to stop daydreaming and hurry my ass up doesn’t bother me. I touch history when I run the toothbrush on the bird's head; I hold history when I hold the oily carcass. I am living in it, the moment that will be chronicled forever, something I can be remembered for being part of, even if there is no one I know who will think of me in the years to come. I wish Tim were here. I have his letter, my only piece of love, of kinship. He did better in life than me, caught a home-run ball during a playoff game, ran into the mayor when he was waiting tables at Gloria’s, and in death, paved the way for my job here along the shoreline. His employers probably felt guilty having lost him to the explosion on the drilling


platform; I felt terrible for him but worse for myself, having missed a chance to be part of a celebrity eruption. I’ve been hearing stories and plans. Some say they will bring microbes that eat grease, some are sure they will flood the plains and force the fat to rise, some say they will ignite a patch of oil. I like the fire plan, the possibilities; sounds like a dramatic effort, an in-situ burn they call it, setting it ablaze within large burn-proof rings before it reaches the coast. I will be one of the volunteers, if they need one, to boat to the site center and start the fire. They will want to return to safety, small explosions raging in the background, heart racing, air acrid. But I won’t. I will fling myself into the reaching flames as the world watches, my lone figure fading behind screens of wet, sooty smoke. I will dive into my brief moment of renown, and perish without a trace, becoming part of the combustion, becoming history. The old guy next to me coughs, and sticks his hand in his pocket. His handkerchief falls to the ground as he tries to catch it. He swears, and coughs again. He sat beside me yesterday during lunch. I forget his name, not his story: a shrimper, widower with five children, he came to help with the cleanup to make whatever money he could. They pay more to work with Corexit, some junk they add to disperse oil. He said that every night he goes back home preparing to throw up all he ate during the day. His kids then watch him lie stunned on the bed not unlike the creatures he helps clean. The officials made him sign a contract that sealed him inside his world of pain. He has asthma but cannot complain; he needs the job, he came for money. I came for glory, and don’t care if I die here coughing, lying among ochre-colored crude and dead migratory birds.

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Amy Sargent

Eight Wide States Away The smell of this house— fresh basil, jars of preserved Moroccan lemons, wild fennel from the train yard, my husband’s sweat on my skin— doesn’t include any reminders of you. You have never sat on this low couch, one ankle crossing the other knee. You have never stared through my linen blouse during a small dinner party. You have never stood in this bright kitchen, complimented my husband and his shallot-and-chopped-herb salad dressing. You have never eaten his lamb. Here, where you’ve never even visited, I keep opening the front door, I continue to let you in.



Nick Bertelson writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His work has appeared in Denver Syntax, Ditch Poetry, The Coe Review, and other publications. Linda Blaskey's manuscript, Farm, won the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize and the Delaware Press Association Communication Prize in poetry and placed third nationally in the National Association of Press Women Communication contest. She is the recipient of a fellowship from Delaware Division of Arts and is on the editorial board of The Broadkill Review. She lives on a small horse farm in southern Delaware. Dan Boehl is a workshop fellow in the Creative Capital Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program and a founding editor of Birds, LLC, an independent poetry publisher. His chapbook Les MISERES ET LES MAL-HEURS DE LA GUERRE is now available from Greying Ghost. He lives in Austin and works for The University of Texas. Lee Bradbury is an MFA student at NC State and would like to be a writer when he's through with college. He loves horses. Dane Cervine's poems have appeared in a wide variety of journals, including The Sun, The Hudson Review, The Atlanta Review. His work has received awards from Adrienne Rich and Tony Hoagland, and his book The Jeweled Net of Indra was published by Plain View Press in 2007. Geordie de Boer, a rambler and writer of fiction and poetry, lives in Washington State. He has been published most recently by Leaf Garden, Deuce Coup, PANK and Right Hand Pointing.

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Geri Digiorno, Sonoma Poet Laureate (2006-2007) and artist, is founder and director of the Petaluma Poetry Walk, an annual literary event celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Geri has studied art at College of San Mateo, Solano College, Sonoma College and Santa Rosa JC. One of her wall pieces was accepted at University of Santa Clara (1960's). She had a one-woman show at Benicia Art Gallery in Benicia, California (1985), and a collage show in Paterson, NJ, where she also taught collage and poetry. She has worked at the Homeless shelter in Petaluma, teaching both poetry and collage. Josh Eure fronts thrash metal group Armored Uprise. He lives in Raleigh, where he is pursuing the MFA in Fiction at North Carolina State University. His story "We Were Real" won the Dell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing (formerly the Isaac Asimov Award). Caroline Fish is a feminist and is currently an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studies both Psychology and Creative Writing. She is originally from Raleigh but spends all her free time and money traveling the world. She wrote the poem "Casual Interaction" on a summer train-ride between Amsterdam and Paris. Alan Gann teaches creative writing workshops in at-risk schools and sex ed at a Unitarian Universalist church. He is on the board of the Dallas Poets Community and is a poetry editor for their literary journal, Illya’s Honey. Gann's poems most recently appeared in Main Street Rag, Sojourn and elsewhere. Nene Giorgadze was born in the Soviet state of Georgia. She received her MA in Georgian Literature from Ilya University (Tbilisi, Georgia). In 1999, she moved from the Republic of Georgia to the US, and she now resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Her work in Georgian has appeared in several literary magazines. Her translations of Georgian authors into English are forthcoming in The Dirty Goat and Los Angeles Review.


Roland Goity edits fiction for the online journal LITnIMAGE. His stories appear in many journals including recent or forthcoming issues of Fiction International, Necessary Fiction, Metazen and decomP. John Grey is an Australian-born poet. He has been a U.S. resident since late seventies. Grey works as financial systems analyst and has been recently published in the Connecticut Review, Kestrel and Writer’s Bloc, with work upcoming in Pennsylvania English, Alimentum and the Great American Poetry Show. Michelle Hartman is on the Board of Directors for the Dallas Poets Community, and is the editor for the newly resurrected online journal, Red River Review. She's been published in San Pedro River Review and in several other journals. Sandra Hoben's poems have appeared in journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Antioch Review, Partisan Review as well as the anthologies How Much Earth: The Fresno Poets, and Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California. Her letter-press chapbook, Snow Flowers, is currently available from Westigan Press. Emily Howson is a recent graduate of the University of Dayton currently earning her MFA at NC State. She lives in Raleigh and doesn't miss Ohio's weather. She has published flash fiction in WOW! Women on Writing, snagging 2nd place in their Summer 2008 contest. Timothy Kercher is in the process of moving to Kyiv, Ukraine from the Republic of Georgia, where he has been editing and translating an anthology of contemporary Georgian poetry. He completed his MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts in January 2010. His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in the Atlanta Review and several other journals.

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Diane Kimbrell has lived in NYC for many years, but was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her literary credits include Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, River Walk Journal, SF Writer's Journal, Plum Biscuit, Subtletea and Muscadine Lines. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she has also attended Columbia and New York University. While attending Columbia, she was awarded six Woolrich writing fellowships. Diane is Editor-inChief of the literary magazine Pages from Sages. Michael Kriesel lives in central Wisconsin. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Progressive, North American Review, Rattle, Antioch Review, Crab Creek Review and Alaska Quarterly. His reviews have appeared in Small Press Review and Library Journal. John Lambremont Sr. lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Lambremont earned his BA in creative writing from LSU and his poems most recently appeared in Boston Literary Magazine and A Hudson View (2010 Pushcart nomination). Jen Lambert is a wife, mother, and poet. She lives and teaches in Omaha, where she is co-editor of the forthcoming The Untidy Season: An Anthology of Nebraska Women Poets. She has poems forthcoming in Two Review and The L.A. Review. Dorianne Laux teaches poetry in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University. Her fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award. Laux is also the author of Awake, What We Carry (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award) and Smoke from BOA Editions, as well as Superman: The Chapbook and Dark Charms, both from Red Dragonfly Press. Recent poems appear in Cimarron Review, Cerise Press, Margie, The Seattle Review, Tin House and The Valparaiso Review. Her fifth collection of poetry, The Book of Men, will be published by W.W. Norton in 2011.


Larry Lefkowitz's stories, poetry and humor have been published widely in the US, Israel and Britain. Laura LeHew resides in Eugene, Oregon. Her work appears in a myriad of national and international journals and anthologies. She earned a MFA in writing from the California College of Arts, residencies from Soapstone and the Montana Artists Refuge, interned for CALYX, and was nominated for a Pushcart. She edits Uttered Chaos. She has one husband, eight cats and never sleeps. Gayatri Makhijani dabbles in writing and digital advertising. Until six months ago, she lived all her life in Bombay, India. Now she lives in New Delhi and juggles reading, book reviews, poetry and blogging with her day job. She has been published in a number of Indian publications and Chicken Soup for the Indian Spiritual Soul. Paula Mendoza-Hanna is a graduate of The University of Texas, and is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She’s the proud mama of the Austin literary arts group RIOT Ink and founder of UT’s undergraduate literary journal, Hothouse. Joseph Millar is a poet and teacher in the low-residency MFA Program at Pacific University. His work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Triquarterly, and most recently, River Styx. Recipient of a 2008 Pushcart Prize and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Millar is the author of three books of poetry: Overtime, Fortune, and his newest collection, Blue Rust, which will be published by Carnegie Mellon in the fall of 2011. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife, the poet Dorianne Laux.

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Adam Mrozek was born in 1968 and debuted in 2002 with his story "Milenium," published in the monthly Nowa Fantastyka. His work has also appeared in Science Fiction Fantasy i Horror, Science Fiction, and Czas Fantastyki. Currently he is concentrating on flash fiction, but he also continues to work with longer forms. He works in an elementary school, where he teaches Polish. Besides literature he is interested in music, specifically jazz, rock, metal and classical. Scott Owens is the author of six collections of poetry and over 600 poems published in journals and anthologies. He is editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review, Vice President of the Poetry Council of North Carolina, and recipient of awards from the Pushcart Prize Anthology, the Academy of American Poets, the NC Writers’ Network, the NC Poetry Society, and the Poetry Society of SC. He holds an MFA from UNC Greensboro and currently teaches at Catawba Valley Community College. Robert Peake studied poetry at U.C. Berkeley and in the Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at Pacific University, Oregon. His poems have appeared in North American Review and are forthcoming in Poetry International. Danny Pelletier lives with his wife and two childen in central New York. His work has appeared in Contemporary Haibun Online, Pear Noir!, Quarterly West, Monkeybicycle, and Night Train. He holds an MFA from Goddard College and teaches writing at Hartwick College.


Jessy Randall's collection A Day in Boyland (Ghost Road Press, 2007) was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Ted Kooser chose a poem from it, "Superhero Pregnant Woman," for his American Life in Poetry Column. James Robison has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Grand Street, The Mississippi Review and elsewhere. Emily Rose studies literature and teaches writing at Portland State University. She expects to complete her Master's degree in Literature in English in the spring of 2011. Rae Rose's poetry and fiction has been published in literary journals, including The Pedestal Magazine, Cicada, THEMA, Earth's Daughters and The San Diego Poetry Annual. She resides in Portland, Oregon, but she is not a hipster. Lawrence Rouse, Jr. is a Special Forces medic currently serving in Afghanistan. He has been writing, on and off, since he was twelve years old. He is married to poet-artist Kristin Holmes Rouse, the woman of his dreams. Last year they gave birth to a laughing metaphor who already calls himself Holden. Everything from here forward is a big joke. Renée Ruderman, born in New York City, is an assistant professor of creative writing at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Her first poetry collection, Poems from the Rooms Below, was published in 1995 by Permanence Press, San Diego. She has won national prizes for her poems, and some of them have appeared in The Bellingham Review, Eclipse and New Millennium Writings. Renée has been a Writer in Residence at The Vermont Studio Center (1997) and The Woodstock Guild, NY (1999).

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Amy L. Sargent lives in southwest Oregon with her husband. Currently working as a writing and literature instructor, Amy earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her poems have appeared in several journals, including Wicked Alice, The Pinch and The Dos Passos Review. Mather Schneider is a cab driver by trade and lives in Tucson, Arizona. Schneider's poems most recently appeared in RATTLE, River Styx, New York Quarterly, and elsewhere. G. Tod Slone has a doctorate from the Universite de Nantes and is founding editor of The American Dissident. Gary Sprague lives in Maine with his wife and two sons. He has stories awaiting publication in Spilling Ink Review and The Linnet's Wings. Lisa Lopez Snyder lives in Columbia, South Carolina, where she is at work on her first novel. Her short stories have been published in The Scrambler, Foliate Oak, the Birmingham Arts Journal and Quill & Parchment. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of South Carolina. Heather Stevens completed her BA in Film and minor in Creative Writing at NC State University in 2010. John-Michael Velez is originally from Long Island where he attended Stony Brook University. He received his MA in Literature and Creative Writing from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and his MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University.


Ajay Vishwanathan lives in Georgia with his lovely wife and twin girls, who wonder why he has so little hair on his head when Mommy has so much. Two-time Best of The Net nominee, Ajay is the Chief Editor of the Foundling Review, and has work published or forthcoming in over seventy literary journals, including Smokelong Quarterly, 34th Parallel, elimae, and The Potomac. Paul Weidknecht's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Yale Anglers’ Journal, Potomac Review Online, The Oklahoma Review, Stymie Magazine, Outdoor Life and elsewhere. He has been awarded a scholarship to the Norman Mailer Writers Colony (Summer 2010), and lives in northwest New Jersey where he's at work on a novel and a collection of short stories. Stephen R Williams is a writer of short stories and poetry. He is currently in Iraq running water for our military, trying not to get blown up. Gavin Wisdom is an undergraduate student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. He is a student intern for Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts and is an associate editor for There and Back Magazine: Colorado’s Outdoor Magazine. Annie Zaidi writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, blog posts, reports, reviews and (in a dark, distant past) recipes she never actually tried. She is the author of Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales, a collection of essays (Tranquebar, 2010) and a collection of short, illustrated poems, Crush (Jaico, 2007). She has been a journalist for the better part of a decade and has written for several newspapers and magazines including Frontline, Tehelka, Mid-day and Biblio. She currently lives in Mumbai, India.

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