Raleigh Review Literary & Arts Magazine Vol. 4 (Winter/Spring 2014)
Raleigh Review, Vol. 4 (Winter/Spring 2014) Copyright © 2014 by Raleigh Review Cover image, Geri Digiorno’s “Butterflies and Birds” Printed by: Sheridan Press, Hanover, PA Library of Congress Control Number: 2014900088 ISBN: 978-0-615-94755-6 Printed and bound in the United States of America Raleigh Review Box 6725 Raleigh, NC 27628 Raleigh Review is supported by United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County with funds from the United Arts Campaign, as well as the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, and, in part, by readers like you.
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Editor & Publisher Rob Greene Managing Editor Karin Wiberg Editors Sierra Golden | Poetry Hao Nguyen | Fiction Craig Lincoln | Fiction Henry Kivett | Art Editorial Staff Tyree Daye | Poetry Tasha Pippin | Poetry Sejal Mehta | Fiction Susan Shah | Fiction Board of Directors Joseph Millar | Chairman Dorianne Laux | Vice Chair Karin Wiberg | Secretary Susan Shah | Treasurer Rob Greene | Member at Large Angelika Teuber | Member at Large Raleigh Review Founded as Rig Poetry Robert Ian Greene February 21, 2010
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EDITOR’S NOTE I’m excited to announce in 2014 Raleigh Review is moving to biannual publication. As we make this shift, I would like to take a few lines to thank our founding board members—Joseph Millar and Professor Dorianne Laux. Four years ago, when the precursor to Raleigh Review was Rig Poetry, my “harebrained blog,” I approached Dorianne and Joseph to tell them my plans for the organization with the magazine serving as a precursor to a writers’ studio. Thanks to Joseph & Dorianne’s continued support, advice, training, and confidence, and thanks to Raleigh Review’s artists, poets and writers, our subscribers, our talented staff, and to United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County—the magazine is the foundation for our 501(c)(3) nonprofit literary arts organization. Poems, stories, and artwork from our first three issues have won Best of the Net, as well as a Summit International Award at the gold level. We believe that great literature inspires empathy by allowing us to see the world through the eyes of our neighbors, whether across the street or across the globe. Our mission is to foster the creation and availability of accessible yet provocative contemporary literature. Raleigh Review speaks best through the works we publish. We believe fine art should challenge as well as entertain. —Rob Greene, editor
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CONTENTS ART Coffee Talk Series Musician Pen & Ink Series
Debra Wuliger Ruby Newman
CREATIVE NONFICTION Scrimshaw
FICTION Room 44 A Night With No Moon What Remains Flight Over Paris Danny Came Home Courting the Fairest Lady
Gregory Josselyn Jacqueline Doyle Dani Sandal Susan Frith Alisha Karabinus Mark Rosenblum
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POETRY Romance Soliloquy of the Chicken… Moving the Raleigh Review [from August on] A Tiny Bird Penelope Cicadian Just Before Dawn Wingbert Winter Aubade Moon Shot Kidnapping Mary Elegy, for the Immortal Second Trial The Lifting Play House Genesis of a Jet
Dorianne Laux Eric Paul Shaffer Joseph Millar Emily Wilson John Balaban, Translator Karen Harryman C. Wade Bentley C. Wade Bentley Susan McDonough-Hintz Jill Coyle Andrea O’Rourke Buckley & Ott Marsha Mathews Rick Rohdenburg Panagiota Doukas Kristin Laurel Debra Kaufman Elizabeth Breen
6 10 16 18 27 28 29 30 36 37 41 42 48 52 53 57 59 62
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POEM | Dorianne Laux
Romance I know we made it up, like god, but god it hurts. Like phantom pain in a leg that’s been taken what’s gone throbs, aches. Nothing there, and still the pain makes a shape.
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ARTWORK | Debra Wuliger
Coffee Talk Series
I Greet Woman
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ARTWORK | Debra Wuliger
Coffee Talk Series
Friend Gives You Smile
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ARTWORK | Debra Wuliger
Coffee Talk Series
When Peace Came I Showered Under Streaming Light Raleigh Review | 9
POEM | Eric Paul Shaffer
Soliloquy of the Chicken Sexer Cocks crow. Hens lay. You want eggs, you gotta draw the line. You know, gotta separate the sheep from the goats, the potatoes from the tomatoes, the p’s from the q’s. Speaking of goats, my high-school English teacher told us about Greeks and goats. Not like that. You know, he said the Greeks called tragedies “goat songs,” but he didn’t even know why. You believe that? Dum ass. Anyway, the chicks roll down the conveyor belt. I pick ‘em up, one by one. Flip ‘em over, squeeze the belly, take a good look you-know-where. Anyone says “If you seen one, you seen ‘em all” ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s thirteen ways
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of looking down there. This one’s a girl. Fine. Here’s another girl. Back on the belt. Oh, here’s a boy. Yeah, a male is another story. There’s a big plastic garbage can next to me. I flip the boys in there. That can gets full, you seal up the bag and drag it to the dumpster. And, oh, man, when you get back, do not forget to put a liner in the can. That’s one unholy mess.
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FICTION | Gregory Josselyn
Room 44 I made this decision after my brother emailed me an article about how museums are not taking chances on new painters. You have to be a name, they said, and artists were interviewed about showing their paintings in places you go to collect test results. Apparently university professors are reading their plays in pubs. An East End writer in a wheelchair started taping his poems to shop windows. I want to bring poetry to the people, he said. As if, poetry, for the entirety of its existence, was for my cat. The article spent a long time talking about how a pizza shop sued him for harassment after he wrote a poem with permanent marker on their bathroom mirror: I found you under a bridge. Hidden. Like an old woman in a house of unanswered telephone rings. But we must divorce quickly— the pain of long distance will not only end but never finish. Call Daniel at +44 020 7478 0100. I have seen the same person pass out ﬂyers in Soho and he was not wearing a shirt. This made 12 | Raleigh Review
me uncomfortable. On the back of his wheelchair was a picture of his naked arms reaching towards the sun. It read Holistic Services. Let Light Heal. Sex Magick. Lots of Love to You. My boyfriend plays piano. I like saying that. My boyfriend plays piano. I like telling people at parties that the man who kisses my hip bone and pulls my hair out of the drain charges complete strangers £110 to watch him slam his ﬁngers on a bunch of keys. I do the usual things you would expect from a museum guard. I guard. I tell people to stop taking pictures and not to touch the paintings. This makes me nervous to use my own cell phone in public because I am afraid someone will kindly remind me to put that camera away, Sir! Absolutely no photographs! Pencils only. No pens or paintbrushes. Surely someone would accuse me of carrying a deadly weapon if I reached into the cave of my coat pocket. I imagine people at the Barclays cash machine are convinced I will steal their money so I stand as far away from them as possible. As if the gaps between each person are as large as an undiscovered solar system and we have forgotten how to say, You look great today, turn left at Bond Street, or, You make me happy. We even forgot the day we accidentally left our door unlocked and nothing happened. What if, you trusted me? Kept the window open.— with the purse sitting on the table. E-mail Daniel at email@example.com. Raleigh Review | 13
There is an amendment in the museum’s employee handbook that I cannot have a conversation with a patron for more than sixty seconds for fear that they are trying to distract me, while someone steals a painting. Once, a twelve-year-old had asked me, How does it feel to look at paintings all day? You must love art, he had said. I could not respond. It was a benefit performance called “Pianos for Peace,” and the collective wealth of the audience in Room 44 could solve my and the universe’s debt crisis alone. I set up some lights I found in the assistant curator’s supply closet. This was the first time I actually took initiative at my job. My boyfriend needed light. I will do this, I thought. When my boyfriend started playing the piano, I swear it was like falling for a stranger on the Tube again, and my destiny from this moment forward would be endlessly wandering the internet, searching for a connection gone missing. His pointed auburn hair draping his dark brown eyes and flushed cheeks and curved swan neck were things no one else could kiss but me. It was as though his chapped nose and unmoved jaw re-awakened the Renaissance. The ancient nymphs and fairies escaped their canvases, people were taking pictures of everything with glorious ﬂashes, people were taking pictures of people taking pictures, art critics were naked feeling the brushstrokes, dogs with berets ran through the corridors, the curators re-recorded audio guides with sounds of old people falling in love, and children painted 14 | Raleigh Review
over masterpieces with interactive computers that let you see the insides of your body. It was my job to hand my boyfriend roses that, in the next hour, would begin decomposing in our trash. I would take them out to the dumpster next Thursday. He’ll be in Croatia. And in that eight seconds, the audience, like a chorus of Degas’ ballerinas, turned in perfect unison and studied me, not the Seurat, the Renoir, the Pissarro, or my boyfriend who plays the piano, but the son of a toll booth attendant and an administrative assistant in a 2001 Dior suit and faded name tag, all while applauding, like I was a subliminal message hidden in a yogurt advertisement, impossible to decode. I was like a desirable but undetected scent overpowered by the portrait of the man they all paid to see.
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POEM | Joseph Millar
Moving the Raleigh Review for Rob Greene
Once we shovel the trash from the switch room sweep the black widows hanging down from the vents and bitter leaves of insulation speckled with fiberglass and asbestos once we clear out the warped ceiling tiles stained with squirrel urine and the desiccated raccoon carcass trapped in the dead furnace blower once we pay first and last to the ancient diabetic landlord shuffling over in his aluminum walker, his blotched hands gripping the ribbed blue handles, his John Deere hat pulled over his eyes we start to think we belong here across from the veterinarian next to the abandoned market this gray day in March, my birthday—
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though I will fall asleep later on trying to meditate in the front seat on the ruins of time, on the sounds of the wind making words in the oaks and pecan trees words we would try to search out and fashion next to the old woman's tailor shop, at its door a potted camellia, in its window a hand-sewn rose.
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POEM | Emily Wilson
[from august on] [august] There is a knock on the back door. The darkness and I, we cannot tell who is there; if the night could see for itself what hid around the corners, it would not have to send the moths. In this story, the knock is my Aunt Angie, the one embezzling from the PTA. She tells my dad something in a whisper, and he cries. Strange, I think. I did not know sculptors chiseled tear ducts into their granite. [the previous may] Tire-travelling from school to home across West Virginia mountains. My dad and Uncle Warren in the front, the containers of transitions in the back: the cardboard boxes and my body. “Nah, bro, I’d be down for a mountain mama. All you need is gum and tongue for lovin’ someone,” Warren said. When we stopped at a hotel for the night, I heard the dusky lavender tongue of rockborne weeds murmuring, Turn back. This is our country.
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[august] They scraped Warren’s left elbow off I-95. There are things we have yet to understand. I don’t know why our language has no words to differentiate going upstream and downstream, no word for when the current changes direction. My Granny Gail doesn’t know if his blood alcohol content and the speed of his motorcycle imply intent. [the previous may] My dad left for the bathroom, and Warren and I sat alone in the Bob Evans booth. My mother’s distrust of Warren, which had been tilled in me for seasons, ripened into a wordless fruit. The silence a hard stone to swallow, he excused himself, went outside to spit some hallelujah grit stuck in his throat. It arched with the speed of a rushed confession. He returned and I watched his construction worker fingers pick at sweet potato fries. Is familiarity a prerequisite for love? [august] Warren left behind an eight-year-old son named Joshua. Aunt Angie is now collecting for his college fund. At the funeral, Josh latched onto my brother. The text of his torn cuticles read: I have not been comfortable here. My brother asked Josh, a season too early, “What do you want Raleigh Review | 19
Santa to get you for Christmas?” Josh said, “I don’t trust no man who wants me to sit on his lap.” [decades ago, probably summer] When the leafy soldiers traded in their green uniforms and stopped standing at attention, the tobacco fields became the place where every Wilson teenager learned how to drive. Two paths. On the left: rusted bones whose motors no longer work. On the right: a ditch that is difficult to drive around. [august] My dad has never been a particularly disagreeable man. And then my Granny Gail’s fourth husband would not contribute to the cost of a casket. What I thought of for an engraving: Fear is not the mouth of a cave; it is not easier getting out than going in. Warren’s left elbow was fire-tickled in the end, sprinkled into Kerr Lake, so it did not matter anyway. [a day my mother will not disclose, roughly 19 years ago] My mother, a young mother. Wishing to have her own home until she discovered Warren had stolen my dad’s credit cards. The thief of the kitchen cabinet had acquired thousands of 20 | Raleigh Review
dollars in debt. She gave my father a choice: half his DNA or half his DNA. [from august on] The left path of the tobacco field grows fainter and fainter with every thirteenth birthday. The recently added motorcycle frame, though it now bears the same uselessness as its four-wheeled predecessors, is still unfamiliar with oxidization. My brother handles the ditch like a pro. [august] My mother harvested forgiveness like a late crop after Warren died. My dad blamed himself. His brother and abusive father now both lost to the bottle. This is what my dad has learned of love: it is like owning the riverbed, but not the flow of the water.
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CREATIVE NONFICTION | Pierce Tyler
Scrimshaw The moment I jumped off the M/V Uncatena ferry as it steamed away from Nantucket and out to sea, I had an inkling something might go wrong. Jeff had jumped first, right when he was supposed to. But Matt, who was next, didn’t go for some reason. And as I flew through the air that warm July morning―with dark waters down below and the steel hull of the ferry vibrating just behind me―I sensed Matt’s not jumping could pose a problem for us, though I didn’t know how yet, or what, if anything, I could do. I’d met Matt that summer at the Whale, a seafood restaurant on the edge of town where we both had jobs in the kitchen. I can’t say we had a whole lot in common, but we were both nineteen and became friends the way people you work with sometimes do. He was a short little guy—not much over five feet. And his hair, which was blond, was unusually long and looked like he never combed it. I suppose he was cultivating a surfer dude look, though I don’t think he actually surfed. Jeff, on the other hand, was a friend from New Haven. Someone I'd known growing up. So when he went over the side of the ferry, there was no question I was going, too. The waves in the ferry’s wake were enormous. I had to fight against huge, green walls of water to keep from going under. Eventually things flattened out. And when they 22 | Raleigh Review
did, I spotted Jeff and swam over toward him. We scanned the horizon for any sign of Matt. But there was nothing between us and the mighty Uncatena, which continued to plow onward like a tinned ham toward the sea. No sooner had we started swimming in toward shore than a small sailboat glided onto the scene, manned by a well-heeled vacationer in his forties. It must have seemed a bit incongruous to him: two youths in the water waving him down like that. But he tacked over anyway and offered us a lift. We told him the whole story. How we’d boarded the ferry wearing only our bathing suits. How we’d jumped near the beach club, but Matt had not―which meant he was headed straight to Woods Hole with no money for a ticket back. It was funny to think of Matt’s predicament. But the mood quickly turned serious when a Coast Guard cutter came flying around Brant Point, its sirens blaring like a swarm of angry bees. It seemed like it might have something to do with us. But what? We'd gotten away cleanly. We hid ourselves until the cutter passed but soon saw the cause of the commotion. Off in the distance, about a half mile away, the M/V Uncatena was stopped dead in its tracks. It had turned completely sideways, blocking the channel. And there was black smoke belching from its smokestacks. Something was clearly wrong. We figured we better not stick around. So we thanked our skipper and slipped back in the
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water, swimming the remaining distance into shore. Walking back into town, we noticed something strange was going on. People everywhere were clustering in small groups. On the sidewalks. In the street. Everyone talking and listening. Leaning in close, so as not to miss a single word. “How many were there?” “Two, I heard.” “Propellers got ‘em—and that was that.” “Can you imagine?” “Their poor parents.” “Stupid kids.” All across town, the chatter was the same. Everywhere the word was we were dead, and the news was spreading like wildfire. Now, I’d read Mark Twain so I knew these things were possible. But this was actually happening. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say it creeped us out. Still, I couldn’t help but see an opportunity. It was as if a gap in time had suddenly opened up. All we had to do was step into it―and disappear. As if by magic. And who knew what might happen next. This was heady stuff and we needed some time to think it over. So we hitched a ride out to Siasconset Beach, but found everyone there already knew. The news was traveling faster than we were. If we wanted to stay anonymous, we had to get off-island soon. Apparently, though, Jeff had ideas of his own. Because as I was hatching our exit strategy, he wandered off 24 | Raleigh Review
to a phone booth in the parking lot and dialed us in to the police. Five minutes later a squad car pulled up and we were soon being whisked back into town. The officers at the Coast Guard station were in a bad mood. They’d burned a lot of fuel and man hours trying to find us―including the cost of a helicopter called in to assist with the search. It puzzled me, though, how they could know so much about us. Matt had to be involved, but I couldn’t explain how. We got our answer soon enough when a side door opened and in walked Matt, escorted by two officers. He seemed to be having some trouble walking, and a gray woolen blanket was draped around his shoulders, as if he might be cold. His hair was bedraggled. There were cuts on his face and feet. He looked like something the cat dragged in. He sure lit up when he saw us, though. Like everyone, he’d thought we were dead. I can’t say the feeling was mutual. After all, it was his fault we were in this mess. As he told us his side of the story, the bottom line was he’d been scared. That was why he’d backed away and why he hadn't jumped with us. He realized immediately the mistake he’d made. But what could he do about it? The end of the coastline was approaching fast. Frantic, he raced upstairs to the observation deck, where dozens of passengers were enjoying the view. He bounced this way and that. Careening like a pinball. Then finally. Deciding. Right there in front of everyone. He climbed up onto the Raleigh Review | 25
starboard rail and over he went. It was three stories down to the water. Now, I wasn’t there, but when I imagine that moment, I see Matt performing a perfect swan dive. His arms spread out wide. Chest extended. The long locks of his golden hair trailing off behind him. Because if you’re going to do something stupid like that you might as well go all the way. He swam for the jetty as fast as he could. His “plan” was to hide there until the ferry passed. But everyone on the boat saw exactly what was happening, could track his little body as it crawled toward the rocks. This explained why the ferry stopped and the black smoke coming from the smokestacks. When he reached the jetty, he wedged in between some boulders there. But the barnacles were tenacious―and the wave action made it worse. So when the voice on the megaphone ordered him out, he was more than happy to surrender. In the end, we paid the Coast Guard for all the trouble we'd caused. And just like that, my summer savings were gone. As if that weren’t enough, the judge sentenced us to twenty-four hours in the Nantucket jail, where they never turn the lights off and cheeseburgers are served for every meal. To this day I’m still not sure exactly why we did it. My stepfather, the Freudian analyst, thinks he might be partly to blame. But I don’t think so. It had more to do with simple wanderlust and the desire to gather stories. Which makes this here a form of scrimshaw, etched on an ivory page. 26 | Raleigh Review
POEM | Vietnamese Folk Poem John Balaban, Translator
A Tiny Bird A tiny bird with red feathers, a tiny bird with black beak drinks up the lotus pond day by day. Perhaps I must leave you.
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POEM | Karen Harryman
Penelope My freshman girls don’t understand Penelope’s faithfulness. Twenty years waiting it out, fending off Ithaca’s finest— They don’t account for the difference in values. When we get to Calypso’s Island, they’re pissed. Why does Odysseus get to cheat? they ask. Other times, other mores, I tell them, and not one of them is satisfied. Back home I knew a woman who slept under the porch nights when her husband would beat her. In the morning she’d crawl out and make his breakfast. Sometimes strength is a weakness, I say. Sometimes we say faithful when we mean fucked.
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POEM | C. Wade Bentley
Cicadian Infinite nymphs sucking sweet xylem sap, grubbed in mud, waiting these seventeen years for the siren song to draw them upwards at last into mad, full-throated orgy, the brief bacchanal before only molted husks remain, lining every tree like abandoned burkas, like withered penitents awaiting the Rapture. And then silence— the sharp and harrowing nothing left when life has gone to ground.
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POEM | C. Wade Bentley
Just Before Dawn Out the door in the dark and early and through the wire fence at the back of the yard feeling my way along the path at the bottom of Maxwell's fields crossing the canal on two wooden planks and then I am among them sensing the cows before I see them hearing them breathe and finally there they are like icebergs in a dark sea and I call come on girls let's go as they slowly rise and lumber along behind leaving me to pick my way between electric fences or feel the hot stripe across my thighs and curse my Mormon boy curses until I make the milking shed at last switching on the yellow light stamping my boots on the cement floor to keep warm until six steaming cows come to fill the space with slobber and shit as I kneel between their bowed and heaving sides their teats dripping milk bringing barn cats to dance around their hooves and soon a certain syncopation that we all of us boy and cats and cows know and wait for settle into and quietly ride like the low and steady line of an upright bass stepping us into sunrise.
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FICTION | Jacqueline Doyle
A Night with No Moon I don’t give a rat’s ass whether you believe me or not. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I might not like you if we got to know each other on the outside. I’m just telling a story here, passing the time. I got nothing but time these days. So take it or leave it, I don’t care. There were five of us hanging at Danny’s Bar that night. Connor had a new squeeze and took off early, so that left four: me, Big John, Len, and Scobie. We’d had a few beers and played some pool, and someone, I think Len, said he knew about a sure thing. Maybe it was Scobie. Scobie and Len both knew, but hadn’t done nothing about it, since they figured it would take more than two. One outside man, two or three inside. You gotta be fast, on a job like that. In. Out. With a burglar alarm, it’s eight minutes tops. Somebody knew someone whose sister-inlaw cleaned for this rich family that’d be in Hawaii all week. Week was almost up. High walls, big yard, lots of trees, dog at the kennel, neighbors nowhere near. House had an alarm, but cops are busy Saturday nights in Oaktown. We’d have eight minutes for sure, maybe more, but we weren’t taking no chances. Like I said, it was a sure thing. We picked up duffel bags and tools and flashlights at Len’s. There was no moon and by the time we got up there, the Hills were dark as a Raleigh Review | 31
motherfucker. The driveway was long and curvy. We eased the car in under some trees real quiet, pulled the bulb on the overhead light in the car before we opened the doors, and left them part open. Len stayed at the wheel. Scobie found a cellar window that wasn’t even wired and Big John, who’s a skinny son of a bitch, not much more than five foot tall, wiggled in, ran up the stairs, unlatched the kitchen door, then let us in the back. Alarm started the minute he opened the door but we knew it was gonna happen so we just hopped to it. Scobie ran for the den to look for cash and computers, Big John ran for the dining room silver and shit, and I ran upstairs to look for jewelry and cash in the master bedroom. We done it before and were pretty damn good at it. The staircase was long and winding, and the whole way up there was pictures of this perfect family on the wall. Two blond parents, three blond kids, on boats, on beaches, in front of the Eiffel Tower, the White House—older the higher up on the stairs you got. Probably there’d be a new one, at some luau in Hawaii, after they got back. I’m thinking, damn, there’s not a single picture like that of my family. Never had no vacations, never had no Dad most of the time. Mom always drunk off her ass. Maybe I would’ve had a family of my own by now if Joleen hadn’t got that abortion. I told her it was wrong, but she didn’t care, never listened to me nohow. Boy would’ve been almost two by now. Or maybe it was a girl. Don’t know where Joleen’s got to. 32 | Raleigh Review
The bedroom was big, with a view of the Bay from a row of tall windows. The Oakland I know, just little specks of light, far away. Jammed the whole jewelry box in the duffel bag, hoping all the good stuff wasn’t in some safe, and started rifling the drawers. People are stupid, think if you hide a stack of bills under your underwear nobody’ll find it. Found a shoebox with more cash in a pile of boxes in the walk-in closet. And a gun and some ammo in the night table, so I took that too. Would have ripped the TV off the wall but it was too damn big. I figured I had time so I tried the next bedroom, still hauling ass. Hot pink carpet like fake fur, green and pink polka dots on the walls. I’d finished the drawers in the closet when I found it on an upper shelf. I tell you, my hair stood up. I can still feel the prickling on my neck, taste the beer rising up in the back of my throat. It was inside of a plastic bag in a hatbox, black cardboard with silver writing on the side. A plastic Ziploc bag like for sandwiches except much bigger. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I dropped the box like it was on fire, got the fuck out of there fast as I could. Didn’t even let on to Len and Scobie and Big John until we were on the road. We’d pulled the doors tight without slamming them. The three of us done all the running were breathing hard, and I was sweating, fucking scared I tell you. We was coasting down the hill, lights still off, when I told them.
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“You won’t believe what I seen in there. In a box in one of the bedroom closets.” “What, man?” Len said. “Yeah, what? Diamonds or something?” Big John was always looking for the big score. “I seen the skeleton of a dead baby, curled up like it was inside its momma.” “Jesus God. Are you sure?” Scobie said. He crossed himself. “You think I’d make something like that up?” Big John said it was none of our business and I guess it wasn’t. Scobie thought we should ditch everything, in case we was messing with some bad juju. He’d seen stuff in the South would make your hair turn gray overnight. Len wondered if they was Satan worshippers, something like that. But Big John fenced it all and we got our cuts. Never got caught. I’m in on a bank job, stupid shit that we should’ve planned better. Out in four with good behavior. Which I aim on keeping up. Wonder if I should’ve called the cops, though, for that godforsaken, unburied child. I still see it, curled up in its plastic shroud, glowing like a crescent moon. Wonder was it dead yet when it got sealed up in plastic, how long it took before it was nothing but bones. Whether it was too late to baptize it. I keep feeling like there was something I was supposed to do, and I never done it. Maybe God was calling me and I didn’t hear. God knows I had a run of bad luck after that night, and plenty of time to think it over since. They say the unburied will haunt you. I don’t know if it’s that baby or Joleen’s, but I can hear it 34 | Raleigh Review
crying sometimes in my sleep. I wake up in a sweat, my heart pounding. What could I have done? Never saw nothing in the paper, but you can bet they hid that baby before they called the cops. Believe this or not. It’s nothing to me.
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POEM | Susan McDonough-Hintz
Wingbert I named my first car, that rusty sweet heap, swapped for a bushel of Jersey blue crabs. Four wheels I fled on, front seat I slept on, torn back seat where my tongue spelled l-o-v-e on a bare breast. I was eighteen grazing nineteen, becoming someone who names what changes her.
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POEM | Jill Coyle
Winter At the wintertime it was a lotta snow and ice. It’d get to where you coun’t go the road an’ the fields were all cover’d with snow blowed into big ol’ drifts. Us kids would go romp around in’t. I ‘member back in nineteen and thirty-eight hit was the awfulest snowstorm ever I seen. Hit was so cold we coun’t git warm everhow we tried. Mama boilt water and filled a stout warshbasin and us kids set in’t. It certain was warm in the warshbasin! After the snow melt, we seen the fence beside of the pasture was sigogglin on account of the heavy snow had blowed up agin’ it. Papa blessed out that snow right loud when he seen the fence needs fixed.
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FICTION | Dani Sandal
What Remains Ah, the knowledge of impermanence that haunts our days is their very fragrance. — Rilke
The Word slips from my lips and I am promptly led home from Sunday service by Grandmother Lucile for a lesson. While removing the Cajun Shrimp polish from her nails, she says, “If you’re gonna to say it, baby, say it quietly and quickly like this.” Then she demonstrates the correct way to use the expression. The woman knows. She’s got credentials. Thirty-two years schooling English in Hattiesburg, she is not to be second-guessed. So on this Sunday afternoon in the heart of summer, I heed her advice. Eyes still teeming and ten-year-old ego scorched wicked from the light whip of a switch atop two layers of pants and one pillow. Ass intact and point taken, I blow her nails dry so she can peel me a fig. “That way,” she continues, “people can’t quite hear it and when they ask, ‘What did you say?’ You tell them duck or puck or luck or stuck or whatever—and laugh. Always laugh. They shouldn’t expect it coming from a cute little thing like you. You should be playing a harp, you’re so precious. Just don’t say it in church again. And so loud. Or, if you must, wait till the choir starts up. I say it all the time these days at the hospital when 38 | Raleigh Review
they ask those exasperating questions. ‘Mrs. Clement, what is this picture of?’ As if I’ve lost my mind completely. It is a whisk. I do not give one iota. They expect me to say, ‘Butcher knife?’ But I say, ‘Fuck.’ Very quietly. It throws them off. I am losing my memory, baby, not my mind. Fuck is a word whose meaning has never changed. Years and years could not mutate it. Check the OED. I have respect for its longevity. And, Lord, don’t overuse it, or it loses its kick. You may as well be saying, ‘Excuse me?’ So say it only when you mean it. Remember, ‘fuck’ has gusto. But don’t, I repeat, do not, use the word ‘suck.’ I don’t approve of the way youth use it today. ‘This sucks, that sucks, you suck.’ I know that you will be tempted, however, you must refrain. Got that?” Other things Lucile wants me to remember this summer: she sits, three years old, naked upon a patch of crabgrass at dawn with her cotton clad mother, cracking dewed watermelon, its sweat pink meat on her tongue…girl days: barefoot, braiding tobacco on a back porch or collecting potatoes from fields in her flour sack apron and keeping a few under her pillow to pretend they are dolls donning the same tweed dress…catching a rainbow, belly full of eggs…the sound those amber gems make when they break mirrored waters (plunk) and how their own rise to swallow them like Christ…marrying the preacher’s son at fifteen then giving birth to a baby boy, still and blue as a winter moon… receiving a stone throw to the skull while she Raleigh Review | 39
rallies for integration…the sound it makes (like an egg to a spoon)…how she goes stockingless to church at noon to feel fine linen against her skin, a red-headed, foul-mouthed granddaughter in hand…after service she suns her full white thighs in plain sight at the reservoir while we suck on peppermints and watch the reverend baptize the wretched, washing their sins away… §
A December evening, room 103, artificial light spreads wide on a woman whose tongue— that lovely tongue—now lolls dumb in its tomb of forgetting. I slouch in a straight back chair at her side, feeling duped and benignly homicidal because there’s nothing I can collar and throw down. And because I am sixteen now and she had been a prophet, I say, “Well, Lucile, this absolutely sucks.” To which she stares, slackjawed and slumped, eyes large on the window where snow beats against the pane and a lone pine bends in prayer. Taking her hand, cracked and flaked white as talc, I finger her nails, now yellowed, like ten blisters pressed in curled willow switch. Leaning in close, my lips to the crook of her ear, I whisper The Word so slow and soft that it must echo in that pillaged space where the past has been plucked by a thief like some celestial fig…fuck, fuck, fuck…and for a split, benevolent second, she turns back to me, brighteyed and quick as a girl who’s seen the flip of a coin down a long dark alley.
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POEM | Andrea O’Rourke
Aubade Forget the morning of the dead mouse in the sink, the rust that the pipe coughed. Swim off the dock. Pass the empty gangplank and the mossed legs of anchors, paddle through that water, sick for air, and forget your lover’s feet in your lap, the half-light’s illicit trace on the mandolin. His drab couch. Forget your red handprint patches stitched to the curves of his black long johns. Coming off, the prints deflating like soured fruit. Forget the uneven legs of the three-drawer bureau that held you. The muffled hablar of men laying a roof in the alley behind the drawn blinds, the way the shower water lashed as he said, We’ll always be this beautiful, then eddied as if devilled by this casual sway—and look ahead past the lake, at the backdrop, those wallpapered woods where, you think, he took off, as wolves do.
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POEM | John F. Buckley and Martin Ott
Moon Shot Everyone watches General Jim, hero to trillions and even some girls. His Joint Lunar Defense Command shines full on our screens each Mega-Moonday, right before bedtime. I make the three-finger vow To fight all enemies, lunar and extra-lunar, but few are worthy. I gather the neighborhood lunar league, using the attic for home base, with a window to watch invaders and mind-controlled moms. Spacemen must hold their breaths, hence the stinky trunk challenge. A leak in the roof has rotted the leather lid and the granny panties inside. Membership has its privileges; membership has its costs. Three kids fell, unable to seal their lungs from the mildewosphere inside their temporary tomb. We receive our orders from the Ouija 42 | Raleigh Review
board and open far too much airplane glue to create the wormhole. I am on the losing side of the catastrophic vote to allow “lunas” into our boy haven, and not even the fiberglass hazing can halt Stephanie and Christy’s ascent through the ranks, their earning construction-paper badges for hand-to-hand combat, for moonwalking across the roof, for correctly identifying JLDC archenemies: the Nazi Tigers of Titan, the Sharkbats of Neptune B, the Ice Cave Ghosts of Mars that spooked Skylab into a falling star. I tie a walkie-talkie to a balloon, and the satellite beams the husky voice of General Jim to us, though the girls argue it’s the UPS man. And there he is, the notorious imposter, mudbrown uniform a travesty of paramilitarism. Through the window,
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tracking his truck, we wriggle into the crabapple tree, fitting fruitbombs into slingshot rayguns with popsicle crosshair sights. I aim and aim to impress, and even as I am distracted by giggles, I slip toward the earth and launch supersour missiles, the freed world whirling, tractor beam pulling me toward General Jim, toward the elite squad on the moon itself, into a darkness filled with the shouts of vanquished foes and heroic escape velocity.
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FICTION | Susan Frith
Flight Over Paris There goes Madame Blanchard in white ruffles. Sophie to some. A nervous one, they say. See her jerk at the sound of a trumpet blast? Beneath her ostrich-plumed hat, the balloonist is small and angular. She climbs into her balloon’s gondola and waves to the people, bobbing her head so she never quite meets their eyes. Night has settled over the Tivoli Gardens, where children chase each other around a kettle of chocolat, lovers squeeze hands, and a traveling doctor peddles phials of green medicine. “All disease comes from a worm,” says the doctor. A touch of catarrh crusts his voice, but he keeps talking. “There is even a worm of love.” The lovers roll their eyes. A stonemason from the provinces spits at the doctor’s feet, calling him a fake, before wandering off to steal dinner. Madame Blanchard rises above them all. Tonight there are fireworks, which the people have come to expect from her shows. Bengal lights bathe her gondola in a blue that’s the shade of their better dreams. Next, something gold flickers inside the vessel. What else will little Sophie drop down to them? Another parachuting dog? More royal birth announcements or at least some bright paper fans? The people crave her souvenirs, each of which flutters down with its own piece of sky.
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“Bravo!” the crowd calls out. “Viva Madame Blanchard.” A girl with chocolate smeared across her cheeks jumps on the spot where the balloon has left the earth. §
At first only Madame herself knows the balloon has caught fire. The hydrogen that should lift her is burning. As she tries to swat out the flames, her first thought is that the citizens of Paris will miss her latest stunt. She’d hidden a torch and a pouch that should have opened to toss more stars to the sky. The people would have loved it, just as the farther away she gets, the more Sophie loves them. She’s dealt with hailstorms and marsh landings. She spent one night in a faint, floating higher and higher. Can she not handle this? For years, her husband was the one they came to see. Then Sophie began to crave Jean’s weightlessness for herself, so she went up with him. She discovered the proper distance from things. Down below, the rattle of carriages and the noise of crowds had always unnerved her. Jean’s debts used to pinch her awake. And now there’s his absence, which is like a dark armoire pressing down on her, pushing out her breath. Up here, though, she suspects she is fearless. Sophie tosses out ballast. With each stone she buys another moment to look around. She thinks of her Jean. What did he notice on his last descent? For a time she has envied him this secret. She passes over a church steeple, sees a 46 | Raleigh Review
flower stall shut for the night, and wonders why an old woman is crying alone on her balcony. Things move faster now. Sophie crouches and crosses herself. §
Several blocks from the Tivoli Gardens, the ditch diggers on Rue de la Provence finish their work by lantern light. One of the men reaches for a roll he has saved since breakfast. It is so hard it cuts his gums. He tongues the spot, tasting metal. He looks up and for a moment believes that Madame Blanchard has come to pay them a visit. But she is going too fast for that. When Madame’s balloon thumps to a nearby rooftop, it seems like a miracle. She is made for this, the digger thinks. She can survive what they cannot. The man holds this thought as the bread starts to soften in his mouth. Then the basket tips. In a flutter of white, Madame strikes the cobblestones below. A ribbon tied tightly under Madame’s chin has kept her hat on. Her feathers tremble under the men’s breath. They try not to stare directly at her still, startled eyes. In the distance, the people of Paris shout for Sophie, but the workmen have reached her first. Now that she is down here, so close to them, they will build her a nest.
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POEM | Marsha Mathews
Kidnapping Mary Eunice
We didn’t know how to do it, without getting caught. Been there nine years now, her sigh-reen face rising out of the shrubs. She looks good— she’s white. She’s righteous. Her nose’s broke a bit, but those eyes. They look straight to the far side of heaven, her hands wide open like she’s about to catch a pass. That’s Mary, Mama of Jesus, all right. None of us had spine enough to take shut of her at a proper church meeting. Lawdy no! Tell Pastor Janet about Mz. Mink? Nary one of us eighty-year old gals would do that. We ain’t got no meanness in us. We just wanted Mary gone. Young foreign feller about thirty stopped in one Sunday, then left. He come in thinking
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we’d be good Catholics ‘cause of Mary waiting at the door. But I reckon we Methodists was just too much singing and shouting and hugging for that forlorn little feller. Proved what we knowed all along— Mary had to go, dad gum it. Mary had to go. How to get shut of her without Mz. Mink catching wind? We needed a plan. I didn’t want no part of such conniving myself, but being Treasurer, they said I was the very one to get away with it. Come October, we pulled on our men’s hunting clothes, backed Big Angie’s pickup to the wheelchair ramp. Yahoo! we jumped like Marines. We netted Mary in a trash bag, hefted her in the back, climbed in. Angie squealed off leaving nothing but a hole in the hedge. Kidnapping done, we dropped Mary real respectful-like
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at the Catholic church where she belongs. We got tickled to think of them bedraggled long-faced Catholics showing up for mass the next day. There’d she be. A sign from heaven. Rumors would fly— MARY MOTHER OF GOD TRANSFIGGERED STATUE WEEPS REAL TEARS whole town flocking to see. Sure enough, what they couldn’t see, they made up— tears, slick on alabaster white. Somebody spied Mz. Mink’s creek-colored Lincoln Continental high-tailing it. Let me tell you, my belly was shooting sparks. I made a bee-line for Big Angie’s. From the porch, I heard her surround-sound TV, & who’d have believed it — Mz. Mink’s rattly voice on the six o’clock news. Big Angie and me, we looked on, hollow & stiff as uncooked macaroni. Then Mz. Mink did something I ne’er seen her do
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at the Methodist church. She kneeled down. Same time, she pulled the microphone smack plum to her bobby-pin lips. Going on and on about how she’d been first to find Mary, somebody’s garage sale special and saved her, the Mother of God. She brung her to the Methodist church where she stood all alone for years, tearing up ‘cause she never felt quite welcome. Now me and Angie, we squirmed like bait in a fisherman’s tub. She’s a real piece of work that Mz. Mink. Next day, she started catechism. Maybe not such a poor do, longs she happy. As for that hole in the hedge out front of our church, some claim they still see Mary there, arms stretched wide, stuck on welcome.
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POEM | Rick Rohdenburg
Elegy, for the Immortal You’re drunk, Li Po, and one thin arm upraised, you teeter to the water and your fate, the moon a water lily, night a cloak of black and stars.
Li Po, you old sot. Li Po! But you gather up the midnight and dive in—
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POEM | Panagiota Doukas
Second Trial for my father
The nurses come to bring you water like Romans bearing vinegar to a bed-pinned Christ— they dab lips, paint water like sacred images: buffalo, red deer, hawks around the dark mouth cave—they probe, you bite, and suck the spongestick hard, to relearn water like you once learned to swallow warm chugs of breast milk dry: and what they call a miracle is just the body remembering: those essential motions, its habits.
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FICTION | Alisha Karabinus
Danny Came Home So many grunts came back broken, jagged with rage from those thirteen slogging months, but not Danny. Danny brought home two tattoos and a delta of scar tissue that spread over his right thigh, but he was whole: feet, ankles, knees, and skin that had been raw with days of standing stagnant in water that stank of war. For thirteen months, he kept two steady hands and one vision of home. Danny could close his eyes and see Marguerite, blue skirt flaring over legs smooth and white, so goddamned gorgeous his teeth hurt with it. Now he is back, living it, but nothing is like he imagined when he was carrying a dream through the jungle. She is standing at the stove, her hands careless of the frying pan, the sizzling grease. “I didn’t think you would come back,” she says again. “I thought you were dead for sure. You were with Lucy’s no-good man.” “I know.” “She’s better off.” Danny lies; he tells her, “He was a good soldier,” when really, Leonard was about as useful as shit on a shingle, even before they were in country. Marguerite says, “Barbie’s husband, he didn’t come home neither, or Cathy’s.” “No, they didn’t.”
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“I didn’t know what to think. I kept waiting–” Her voice freezes and she looks down, remembering, maybe, that she’s at the stove. That things are on fire. “They made an awful racket with crying. Everyone brought food. Barbie didn’t have to cook for days. Her mama moved in. She does all the housework now while Barbie just sits.” “The bacon’s gonna burn, baby. Turn it off.” She just stands there, staring at Danny, or beyond him; her hair falls dead to her shoulders, frizzy and unbrushed. She used to wrap it every night with cotton rags, and mornings, the curls bounced as she poured pancake batter and squeezed oranges. Come nights, she’d smear lipstick around the hungry darkness of her mouth and they’d go dancing. Now the folds of her cheeks droop around lips that have bled out. “I didn’t know what to think,” she says again, softly now. He nudges past her. Turns off the stove. Gently pries her fingers from the pan’s crusted handle. Danny guides her back to the counter, back to the simple reality of breakfast, of a morning that should be like all other mornings. “Come on, let’s mix up these eggs now.” His hand settles at the base of her spine and Marguerite stiffens. For a moment, he thinks she’s gonna flare up, tell him there was some college boy longhair motherfucker warming his bed and shitting in his toilet while Danny crouched in the rain. Then her shoulders sink again and she touches the waiting eggs like she’s Raleigh Review | 55
never seen them before. One by one, she cracks them, slowly, on the rim of the bowl and Danny takes the empty shells from her, crushing the halves together in his hands.
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POEM | Kristin Laurel
The Lifting …to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly. — Rilke
Dylan, your room’s still a mess, there’s Monster energy cans on the floor, your back-pack’s un-zipped, books and papers lie on your unmade bed. And on your nightstand— the dust is piling up, thick. Grandma wants to go in and clean it all up. Your mom has closed the door, she cannot bear to look inside and not find you. But isn’t that just like you? You have the entire family afraid to go in your room, except to clean it up. Dylan, your mom believes you sent her blue jays one lonely morning; she saw twenty or thirty jays fly in and land on the apple tree by her kitchen window. She says it was a gift; to see all those blue jays next to a bright morning sky. Native Americans describe that blue on blue as a “double vision”—a clarity, a purity of the soul. Grandma thinks blue jays are pests; Raleigh Review | 57
She says they squawk and carry on, steal other birds’ nests— She thinks your mom has magical thinking. After a year like this, I’ll believe in anything. And I’ve taken to wanderings, any old kind, to the simplest places. Just yesterday at the Park Reserve, I saw a rescued Barred owl who had been hit by a car. He’ll never fly again; when I noticed he was missing an eye— I looked away. I don’t want to know what a one-eyed owl knows. Instead, I watched a black hairy caterpillar-kick up dust. I watched them fly: A Gypsy moth, A Mourning cloak, and many Monarchs. I sat on top of composting leaves, and I watched as a small brown seed drifted toward the blue sky, carried by the white silky hairs from the milkweed.
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POEM | Debra Kaufman
Play House Glory Jean had everything— a smooth blonde mom, winking dad, her own little house with ruffled yellow curtains. The day we sipped beer from tiny cups she said, Touch me here. I felt a quiver I knew was wicked. Let’s be French. She licked my lips. There was swooning, then the looming rest of it: my mother (how did she know?) marching me home, clouds threatening snow, wind bending daffodils in bloom too soon.
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FICTION | Mark Rosenblum
Courting the Fairest Lady Everything about you is perfect. — Gary Cooper to Audrey Hepburn in Love in the Afternoon
At first, she appears as Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Window shopping elevated to timeless elegance. Oversized sunglasses, elbow-length gloves and a pearl choker co-star with Givenchy’s Little Black Dress in the classic introduction to our leading lady. She glances over her shoulder, removes a long, thin cigarette holder from her dainty mouth and smiles at me. I glance away, shy, unable to look upon her for a time. Am I worthy of her radiance? Next, Princess Ann from Roman Holiday. She zooms past me on a Vespa. I am tempted to yell—attract her attention—but I am reticent once again. Spellbound, hypnotized by her joie de vivre and the striped scarf fluttering against the most elegant neckline in the world. When I see her again, she is Sabrina Fairchild from Sabrina. She strolls across a tennis court in a flowing, strapless gown—a black and white muse to beauty. She beckons me to follow. She exits the tennis court and makes her way down a flight of stairs leading to an underground jazz club. We are in Paris now. She is Jo Stockton from Funny Face. A slinky seductress in black skinny pants and a black turtleneck dancing uninhibited to beatnik jive. I rally the nerve to speak to her. 60 | Raleigh Review
From across a smoke-filled room, while organizing words in my mind, she vanishes. Suddenly I am alone, staring at a blank television screen. A frantic call to the cable company brings only an apology for a city utility crew cutting the wrong line. No ETA as to when service would resume. No Charade or Two for the Road. The Audrey Hepburn marathon continues, but I am no longer to be part of The Nun’s Story or The Children’s Hour. Finally, in late afternoon, the screen glows back to life and My Fair Lady appears. She is wearing the iconic black and white Ascot hat with its abundance of flowers, ribbons, and feathers. The hours without her have made me realize I must not let opportunity pass. When evening comes, I invite Eliza Doolittle to the Embassy Ball and she accepts my invitation. At the appointed hour, she appears in a shimmering white gown and long white gloves. When I tell her she looks divine, she curtsies with the grace of an angel. I take her hand and lead her to the ballroom. She tells me that her heart takes flight when I begin to dance with her and we could have danced, danced, danced...all night.
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POEM | Elizabeth Breen
Genesis of a Jet Evolution is like a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and leaving behind a Boeing 747. —The Creation Museum, Kentucky
It begins, as so many things do, with screwing— a gulf breeze prompts that first bolt to pump a knot of copper dizzy—junk mounting junk in iron-rich dirt. Groundwater swells aluminum until it’s tender as muscle; old bicycles boozed up on rain are seized by the white capillaries of lightning. The yard in the heat of conception: tin cans are silk worms now, spitting metal into sheets alloying an old jungle gym and headlights into steel. Wind splays copper apart, throbs like squid tongue, thrusting wire, melted glass to fill what’s empty: as through a funnel, a helix, a galactic washing machine pulsing scrap begets salvage, salvage begets salvation— a silver jet stands. The world, as always, birthing itself new again, urged from an abandoned womb, ready for the sky. 62 | Raleigh Review
CONTRIBUTORS Decorated by Ruby Newman’s Musician Pen & Ink Series
John Balaban is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose, which have won The Academy of American Poets’ Lamont Prize and a National Poetry Series Selection. His poetry has received two nominations for the National Book Award. Locusts at the Edge of Summer: New and Selected Poems won the 1998 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Among his publications are poems in The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The Hudson Review, and, most recently, Great River Review, Granta, and Little Star. Balaban is Professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at North Carolina State University. C. Wade Bentley lives, teaches, and writes in Salt Lake City, Utah. For a good time, he enjoys wandering the Wasatch Mountains and playing with his four grandsons. His poems have appeared or will soon be published in Cimarron Review, Best New Poets, and Western Humanities Review. Raleigh Review | 63
Elizabeth Breen is originally from Falls Church, Virginia, and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina, where she teaches first-year English. John F. Buckley and Martin Ott began their ongoing games of poetic volleyball in the spring of 2009. Poetry from their previous collaboration Poets’ Guide to America, released by Brooklyn Arts Press in November 2012, has been accepted by more than forty publications. Jill A. Coyle grew up in Pennsylvania and currently lives in Cary, North Carolina. She received a Ph.D. in Classical Studies from Duke University in 2002. She is currently working on an MA in English literature at North Carolina State University.
Geri Digiorno, Sonoma Poet Laureate (2006-2007) and artist, is founder and director of the Petaluma Poetry Walk. She studied art at College of San Mateo, Solano College, Sonoma College, and Santa Rosa Junior College and has worked at the homeless shelter in Petaluma teaching poetry and collage.
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Panagiota Doukas studied English and Creative Writing at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she spent her time volunteering at a nonprofit radical bookstore.
Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she teaches at California State University, East Bay. She has poetry and flash fiction published or forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Confrontation, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Indiana Review, Vestal Review, Sweet, Monkeybicycle, The Rumpus, Prime Number, and Café Irreal. Susan Frith is associate editor of 10,000 Tons of Black Ink and a writer in Orlando, Florida. Her work has appeared in Phoebe, Sycamore Review, Potomac Review, and other publications. She is currently working on a novel set in 19th-century Philadelphia. Karen Harryman’s poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Verse Daily, and The Cortland Review. Auto Mechanic’s Daughter, her first book of poetry, was selected by Chris Abani for the Black Goat Poetry Series Imprint with Akashic Books in 2007. Gregory Josselyn’s fiction recently appeared in the Burningword Literary Journal. He lives in Massachusetts. Raleigh Review | 65
Debra Kaufman’s poems have appeared in many anthologies and literary magazines, including Spoon River Poetry Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and North Carolina Literary Review. Alisha Karabinus is managing editor at Sycamore Review and executive editor at Revolution House. Kristin Laurel is the author of Giving Them All Away. Dorianne Laux’s most recent books of poems are The Book of Men, winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize, and Facts about the Moon, recipient of the Oregon Book Award. She teaches poetry and directs the MFA program at North Carolina State University and is founding faculty at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program. Marsha Mathews is an author and an educator. Her books include Northbound Single-Lane and Hallelujah Voices. Mathews teaches at Dalton State College. Susan McDonough-Hintz has work forthcoming in Adanna and often wakes to the howls of coyotes around midnight and doesn’t mind them at all.
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Joseph Millar wrote Overtime, Fortune, and Blue Rust. He has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a 2008 Pushcart Prize. He teaches at Pacific University. Ruby Newman was born in New Jersey and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area. She received her BFA from Carnegie-Mellon University, and has been involved in many public arts projects as well as creating private commissioned works for over 35 years. Andrea O’Rourke is from Rijeka, Croatia. She lives in Atlanta now, where she paints and attends the MFA program at Georgia State University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Missouri Review, Barrelhouse, Poet Lore, Spoon River Poetry Review, and PANK, among other publications. Rick Rohdenburg received an MA in English Literature at Brown University. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and works as a systems analyst. Mark Rosenblum’s work appears in Emerge Literary Journal and other fine places. Dani Sandal has work in the Adirondack Review, New Orleans Review, Puerto del Sol, Monkeybicycle, PANK, Madhat Lit, Mad Hatter's Review, Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Adroit Journal, Deep South Magazine, and Stirring: A Literary Collection. Eric Paul Shaffer is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Lahaina Noon and Portable Planet. He received the 2002 Elliot Cades Award for literature. Pierce Tyler lives with his wife and son in Norfolk, Virginia. He earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland and taught college English for many years. He is currently finishing his first novel. Raleigh Review | 67
Emily Wilson, born and raised in North Carolina, is currently a senior at Oberlin College, where she studies Creative Writing, Religious Studies, and Latin. She is a Bonner Scholar and serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Oberlin’s literary magazine The Plum Creek Review. Debra Wuliger lives in Durham, North Carolina. She has this to say about her art: “Simple shapes fascinate me. In paintings, I use shapes to create interlocking patterns with the way I place the elements on the canvas. These patterns bind everything together into a unified whole. I believe this is a metaphor for the way we live in the world.”
Thank you for reading
Raleigh Review Literary & Arts Magazine Vol. 4 (Winter/Spring 2014) To subscribe, submit, or learn more about our workshops and events, please visit www.raleighreview.org
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Raleigh Review Literary & Arts Magazine Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 2014
Raleigh Review, Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 2014 Copyright © 2014 by Raleigh Review Cover image “San Juan Capistrano” by Geri Digiorno with assistance from Ruby Newman ISBN: 978-0-9907522-0-2 Printed and bound in the United States of America by Sheridan Press, Hanover, PA Raleigh Review PO Box 6725 Raleigh, NC 27628 Raleigh Review is supported by United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County with funds from the United Arts Campaign, as well as the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
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EDITOR & PUBLISHER Rob Greene MANAGING EDITOR Karin Wiberg EDITORS Sierra Golden | Poetry Craig Lincoln | Fiction Hao Nguyen | Fiction Henry Kivett | Art EDITORIAL STAFF Heather Bowlan | Poetry Tyree Daye | Poetry Sejal Mehta | Fiction BOARD OF DIRECTORS Joseph Millar | Chairman Dorianne Laux | Vice Chair Karin Wiberg | Secretary Susan Shah | Treasurer Rob Greene | Member at Large Sejal Mehta | Member at Large Angelika Teuber | Member at Large RALEIGH REVIEW FOUNDED AS RIG POETRY Robert Ian Greene February 21, 2010
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EDITOR’S NOTE When I saw how this issue was coming together, I got shivers. It smacked me in the face from the get-go and never stopped shaking me. Editors Sierra Golden, Craig Lincoln, and Hao Nguyen and their respective staffs selected impressive pieces of writing. I was engrossed in every poem, every story. Finding artwork to complement the writing was a delight. I am indebted to Heather Allen for introducing me to the work of artist Pete Sack. And Geri Digiorno returns with her fourth outstanding cover collage, expertly incorporated by cover designer Henry Kivett. The only word that comes to mind for this issue is “breathtaking.” It’s been a pleasure for me to work with such talented editors and contributors while our publisher, Rob Greene, has been on sabbatical to spend time with his preemie twins. It seems appropriate to dedicate this issue to them. To Max and Ava— Your father has his priorities straight
Readers, get ready for quite a ride. —Karin Wiberg, managing editor
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CONTENTS ARTWORK Pete Sack
FICTION Amber Burke George Dila James Braziel POETRY Noel Crook Heather Dobbins Allen Chamberlain John Blair P. J. Williams Laurie Byro Mara Eve Robbins Anele Rubin Jeffrey Alfier Emari DiGiorgio T. J. McLemore Tony Gloeggler Landa wo Wendy DeGroat James Crews REVIEWS Tom Lisk Rob Greene CONTRIBUTORS
I Just Want to Fly Boylan Tower 1 Brown Woman Almost Home Took a Shot at a Moving Target This Requires My Full Attention
12 23 27 45 51 55
Moon Maid of the Mist Last Time Jake Played the Blues
13 28 56
Prey Orion’s Belt House Her Knees, Shaking Walking the Buttermilk Trail Shooting Dove Displacement The Fox Requiem Almost Raw When I Was New Long Beach Littoral for Late March A Girl Writes a Letter to God The White Horses of Wainui Beach Corpus Christi This Kind of Room Lament for the mango tree’s daughter (English & French) Running Late In a Blizzard Waiting for Love
6 8 9 16 17 18 20 21 22 24 26 46 47 48 49 52
A Beguiling Experience: Beauty Mark Poems of Many Places: The Widow from Lake Bled
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POEM | Noel Crook
Prey It was the eviscerated porcupine, its sacrificial posture over the downed poplar limb, buck teeth tipped back in what seemed like surrender, innards missing from a belly split clean as a hickory nut. Then later that month, the doe downed in the backyard, neck snapped but otherwise left whole, the three weanling calves just plain gone from the neighbor’s pasture that made us think not of recent rumors of mountain lion kills in Medina, but of Uncle Winfred, long eaten by colon cancer, his campfire tales of the hrumphrumph that once prowled these bluffs, hungry for hearts, especially those of girls who ventured out at night. And though he did not speak of height or conformation, in our dreams we conjured our own—mine lean, yarn brown, and loping. Loose-hocked it paced through gorse shadow when the pickup idled and we’d draw straws to see who had to shimmy from the truck’s bed
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to unlatch the gate, even the youngest unexempt from that long trek down the limestone aisle of road, taillights crimsoning our thighs. At dinner the conversation turns to the neighbor’s foreman, who last week cut the throat of a young goat and slung it from a cedar sapling, crouched all night with a Colt .45 by a bucket of blood, but nothing. Still, after the dishes are done, some of us slip out alone to walk the chalk-pale loop past the barn, under a caul of stars, our faces silvered by a reaper’s moon. To know again how our hearts are meat, what it would be to be husbanded by something marrow hungry, imagine again what beast skulks through darkness, lifts a muzzle to the perfume of our flesh. To have a name for it.
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POEM | Noel Crook
Orion’s Belt All those years he loved the smallness of her hands— how the fist fit neatly in his palm, his fingers circling both her wrists at once. In bed he admired the winnowing of rib to waist, the rise of hip; contemplated her flank, her ankles, her feet. Of course he worshiped the obvious: breasts, belly, the darkness there between her legs. But even when she showed him he did not see she kept Orion’s Belt in a splay of freckles on her thigh.
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POEM | Noel Crook
House Swaybacked, molting, mildew-blackened between fallow tobacco fields, its sprung shutters sagging like flagged wings, the house foundered under the oaks when we came, fresh from the city and just married. An exercise in history, we learned that slaves had built the place—at the courthouse ferreted out Captain Archibald Capehart’s deeds for fourteen unnamed field hands who’d loaded oak beams numbered at the mill and hauled them by wagon down twenty miles of mud road, dug a cellar out of red clay. Now it sits, squat, white as an egg at the end of the dirt drive, smug in the coat of paint we gave it last spring, and in the time it’s taken to find the right green for the master bedroom and bury three good dogs out back, we’ve learned
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the crooked landscapes of its un-plumb walls, their blunt odor of horsehair wadding on afternoons when damp slicks the corrugated roof and mold grows on our shoes in the mud room; on winter mornings the frail constellations of spackle-dust sifted silent as strychnine from the cracked hall ceiling. The walls here are swollen with stories—blank-faced, serene, they keep secrets of whole families held restless and musty in the plaster: the caught breaths of children playing hide and seek, slow crumbling of marriages, little treacheries of brothers, smell of another brought in unnoticed on a husband’s hands. In my daughter’s room the cry of the mother whose boy died in her arms, skull smashed when his Roadster missed the curve: our own stories sidled up next to those of Captain Capehart, laid out and bathed on the dining-room table,
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all the mirrors hung with sheets. Hot nights, when sleep swings out of reach, the windows thrown open, I hear them confabulating behind the plaster —dry, querulous whispers threaded with the trilling of the crickets— and half-dream how some day the house will fall, victim of a faulty wire or deserted in some end-of-world disaster, the wind lifting its tin lid for rain, thin lathes loosening, all our stories sliding into mud—how maybe it will stand for a while like this, a dark skeleton against the pines, marker only for those who moved silent over pitched joists, matching and joining the beams, the ring of their hammers rising into blue, immaculate sky.
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ARTWORK | Pete Sack
I Just Want to Fly
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FICTION | Amber Burke
Moon As a child, you longed to be an astronaut. The stars were every dime you ever threw into a well. Winters, you used to like to lie back in the snow, to look up, your powdery breath floating above you until the happy churn of wheels on pebbles meant your father was home. “Aren’t you cold?” He asked one evening, shutting the door to his truck. You were cold, but your warm house was lit up behind you, and you could go in anytime, and that made you less cold. So you said, “No.” Your dad lay down beside you. You were glad he was beside you though he didn’t know how to hold still. He made a snow angel. You laughed at him. Then you made a snow angel. You remember the scuffing sound of your arms and your legs, and his arms and his legs, as you made snow angels together under the dark before-dinner sky. You are on your way to the moon alone. You are being cannonballed up in a rocket. Earth makes it hard to leave. It pulls. Your narrow ship pushes. You feel the throttle in your teeth. When the push stops and you start floating, you look out the porthole. You feel acutely how thin the metal is between you and unbreathable space. You feel as though you are falling. You were never afraid of falling, but now there are so many ways of falling, and what used to mark north doesn’t mark anything at all. North slid out from under you on your way up. You try not to be afraid since Earth knows your heartbeat. How much you breathe. How much you sweat. How much you blink. You try to blink methodically. You look at the blinking numbers, you press buttons. You are careful. You press all the right buttons. You are a good astronaut. Raleigh Review | 13
You land where you are supposed to land. You land and you slide down the chute. You are standing on the glowing surface of the moon, where you will live from now on. Here, the horizon curves under a sky that looks like glittering magnetite, and low enough to scrape. Your friend’s voice is in your helmet. He is on Earth. He welcomes you to your new home. You notice that he sounds like your father. During the years you practiced walking in your spacesuit through deserts and flying still ships, you didn’t notice this. But now his voice is stretched and chipped by distance: it has become a thin voice that cracks. It has become your father’s. You get to work. You check the checklist on your wrist. You take photographs of each mountain. You put rocks in bags with your thick fingers. You pick up pebbles that weigh nothing. You can’t feel them through your gloves. You have to look at your hand or you don’t know what you have in it. You think you might have nothing. Rocks, rocks, rocks: you are up here with all these glowing things, spinning away from you. The planets hang, sanded spherical, moving like mobiles, each heaving into the silence a noise too large to hear. A noise that surely you could hear, if you had your ear the right distance from the whole planet. You trot a slow low gravity trot, you glance your hand through the black, feeling for strings, the ones by which celestial bodies hang. Or to feel for the thickness that supports them, and turns them, and slows down their light. There must be something that slows the light, swaddles it, or all space would be aglow with the gold of suns upon suns, not just punctured with pinpricks of light. There must be something holding you up: you feel like collapsing but you don’t collapse. How nice it would be to lie down right here, in the cradle of this dry sea. The surface of the moon feels like snow under your boots. Its cringe under your feet is something you can feel bone-deep, like chalk on a blackboard, or rubbing certain kinds of cotton between your fingers. 14 | Raleigh Review
You notice footprints. Bigger than yours. Footprints older than you. You watch your step. You step over metal junk, the suicidal machines that did their jobs and then crashed. You skirt the divots. You remember when you thought for every crater there had to be an asteroid somewhere; you remember when you didn’t know that the asteroid became the crater. Night here: one big shadow. The voice in your helmet tells you enough rocks are in bags; it’s time for bed. Your father’s voice, and the way the darkened valleys sweep, as if smoothed into place by long arms— You look back at your module. A disappointment. It looks like you made it by yourself out of foil. You did not go far. The map your footsteps make on top of the map of the moon goes loop-de-loop—it coils back on itself. You have stayed proportionately as close to the module as the moon is to the earth. You are suddenly aware of the insignificance of your steps. You came here for nothing. Rocks. You climb slowly into the shuttle. Inside, you feel the weight of all space. The galaxy spirals its long arms around you. Stars pulse their lighthouse rays, dying rhythmically, far away. Out your window, the bright scoop of earth is your night-light. How could you have stayed on Earth? All your efforts, your whole life, had been directed upward. All the numbers you learned! All the time you spent flying still ships! All the time you spent alone so you would not be lonely on the moon! But now, you realize, with despair, that you do not want to be an astronaut. You want only to be a child wanting to be an astronaut. You want to be a child in your own backyard, lying with your father on top of the earth, feeling the gentle press of your warm house behind you, full of light.
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POEM | Heather Dobbins
Her Knees, Shaking the shanty preacher’s sister
She worked the next row, always quicker, better than I was. That was all I thought of her ’til that day I miscarried in the field. She said, That there will be the best row. Mark me, nothing is ever lost. My hands never been smooth. A month later, I put my cheek to her, brought her to the ground with me. I watched the flush, the sweat between her thighs. Her only softness, too, there and under each breast. Nothing else to live off of, nothing to stave this hunger, we walked to where land ended. The river did not deny us.
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POEM | Allen Chamberlain
Walking the Buttermilk Trail The stone I carry to your grave tastes of grit and fish. On the trail we still belong to each other. I see your body: beech leaf lightlyveined as your ankles and a ghost of ivory clinging beneath the May apple crown. These will vanish. I’ll be yanked toward emptiness, and what can pry me open then? Not even the wild phlox, clinging to the hollow.
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POEM | John Blair
Shooting Dove Watch your lead, he says, catch it on the rise. Sweep on past and take it when the muzzle grazes the beak. Watch for the climbers over the trees, they’re the ones, streaking-rare, impossibly manifest, that sweep the glistered sunlight through the cedar elms and strip the breath from your lungs like something you can’t afford to lose, and as you raise the stock to your face, weight on your back foot, the bird palled by the muzzle’s sudden void, a child will fall clean from the half-held bowl of sky, torn with yearning, through your one open eye
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into the wounded and weeping core of you where nothing ever heals and all you crave drains sodden from your heart onto fields of scattered wings.
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POEM | P. J. Williams
Displacement Because the inlet has become too thin, the dredge impales the bottom with its bones, draws out in mouthfuls dusty clouds of sand & sludge. I place my ear to iron pipes— turned amber in the salt exhaust—the soft wet ash of centuries eroded back onto the beach. Its song the texture of the throats of crows when sloped toward the sky, its joints with lights like rivets. It must work on through the night, & soon its graveled hum becomes the moon that rolls along its track & at the melody of sunrise, light unwedged from the horizon. Purple sky erodes & in its place a passage through.
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POEM | Laurie Byro
The Fox Requiem excerpted from “The Fox”
The girl went outside where suddenly she knew the fox was singing. A singing roamed the woods, in the fields and in the darkness. The fox grew from the earth, red as a candle flame. When she touched him, he bit her wrist. The fox whisked his brush across her face. It seared the girl’s mouth and she was stricken. He continued to sing. She lay trembling, a burnt out wick, silenced by the fox.
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POEM | Mara Eve Robbins
Almost Raw She liked to pick up slabs of bloody meat and tear off pieces with her teeth. Smaller than you’d expect, not quite 5’1” and oh, that woman could eat. I learned to sear steak on high heat. I learned to forget knives. The beef, she liked—me, she only tolerated. I was useful in the way a spatula can be, saving drippings for the dogs. I was good enough to stay awake till three AM and light her slender cigarettes with the embered tip of my thick Camels. Eventually she found Jesus, sends emails now with too much God for me to swallow. Sometimes I pick up a ribeye, rare, hold it soaked with fresh blood to my mouth, teeth tearing sinew from the still-cool flesh of the center, and I wish for a God that would have blessed the fervent carnivore, that would have taken her folded hands and placed them on the blistering handle of my skillet.
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ARTWORK | Pete Sack
Boylan Tower 1
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POEM | Anele Rubin
When I Was New When I was new to New York, and broke, I sold a pint of blood for six dollars and kept passing in and out of consciousness for the rest of the day. I shouldn’t have done it the doctor (I guess he was a doctor, the one who drew the blood) kept saying, your weight’s just borderline. I was lying when I said I’d eaten breakfast. If I could afford breakfast, why would I be selling blood for six dollars? I can’t let you leave, he said, if you pass out on the street, they’ll step right over you. Go back to Louisiana, little girl, he said, though I wasn’t a little girl anymore.
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I am looking at the clouds now thinking about what matters. When he finally let me go, after orange juice and saltines, I walked to the Nedicks in Grand Central and got a bowl of chicken noodle soup with more saltines and a glass of milk and savored that feast. Forsythia bloom at the saddest times, I remember thinking then because it was spring and they were.
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POEM | Jeffrey Alfier
Long Beach Littoral for Late March There’s a hotel without a name near Miramar and Anaheim, where occupants drop what possessions they own on dusty mattresses. You didn’t dwell long on whatever loss brought you there, locked the door behind you, and hit the twilight streets under a weak moon rising in the soft impeachment of early evening. At Rudy’s Diner you waited for a warm meal dowsed in Tabasco, the heady acid jolting a cough, a bite of hash browns chased with bitter coffee. Bill paid, you passed a woman at the entryway phone begging someone in Spanish to please come home. Avoiding her eyes, you paced west on Anaheim, stopped at Rosita’s Flowers, blossoms locked behind a thrown bolt. Above, night birds fluttered from a window ledge into wind rising shoreward, smelling of iron and the sea. Reversing steps, you came to the railyard at Cerritos Channel and paused, wondered if there was more out there, knowing the answer was a search for nothing promised, all thought haloed under liquor store neon—an arrow aimed inward like a one-way sign, nightfall bringing all the sirens ever needed to sing your way home.
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ARTWORK | Pete Sack
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FICTION | George Dila
Maid of the Mist Running One night many years ago, according to what I’ve been told, a Bent County sheriff’s deputy found me walking alone along a narrow two-lane road in the middle of nowhere. It was past midnight. It was summer. I was three years old. The story goes that I told the deputy I was looking for a new home. I have to invent some of the details now, create my own version of the truth, because there is no one to say exactly how it happened. I’m going to say that it was a cool night, because that’s the kind of summer night people pray for on the harsh plains of eastern Colorado—cool, sweet nights to give relief from the hot, mean days. I’m going to say that there was a good moon for traveling, a moon that was enormous and red in early evening when it was low, close to the ground, like a giant, glowing coal, but small, bright and white later when it was up high in the sky. A moon to light my path and to show me, softly illuminated, the fields that stretched flat in every direction uninterrupted, for all I knew, until the ends of the earth. Occasionally there was a dark mass of trees against the sky, sheltering a farm house. Lightning from an electrical storm crackled on the horizon, and I heard the soft roll of thunder, like Indian drums, a sacred ceremony happening a long way off. I’m going to say that I wore only shorts and a little shirt, and rubber thongs on my bare feet. I rubbed my arms for warmth. I was hungry. Well lookit here, I imagine the sheriff’s deputy saying when he found me walking along the side of the road. Do I remember the bright headlights of the patrol car looming up out of the darkness, blinding me? I stopped and put my hands over my eyes to block out the glare. 28 | Raleigh Review
Well lookit here, a little bitty girl. He squatted down so he could look into my face, sitting on his haunches, his forearms resting on his knees, fingers entwined. Wearing an Indian ring of silver and turquoise. Sweetheart, what are you doing out here in the middle of the night, huh? He reached out to touch me but I pulled away. Give me your hand, sweetheart. What’s your name, anyway? Bee-trice, I said. He tried to take my hand again and I jerked it back. Ah-ha. Resisting arrest, huh? Won’t go home, I said. Your folks are probably worried sick wondering where you’re at. No. The deputy walked away, the heels of his boots crunching on the gravel. There was a pop as the trunk of the patrol car opened. He came back unfolding a brown army blanket. Everything’s gonna be all right, sweetheart. He draped the blanket over my shoulders. Yes, honey, everything’s gonna be all right. But everything would not be all right. Taking me back to Mama and Da would not be all right. Bellyache all the time would not be all right. Baby sister Rachel always hungry, crying, would not be all right. I screamed. The deputy pulled back, his mouth open. Sshh, sshh. You’re going to wake the dead, for God’s sake. I screamed louder, looking straight into his eyes, my face a tight, crimson knot, my fists like little rocks. Then I struck out, hitting him on the head, knocking his Smokey Bear hat cockeyed, and with the other fist I hit him in the chest. Holy shit! He reached out and pulled the blanket from my shoulders. I started to run but he tossed the open blanket Raleigh Review | 29
over my head like a net and as I struggled to break free he pinned my arms to my sides, lifted me off the ground, and carried me to the car. I could only kick and one of my thongs flew into the weeds where it may still lie this many years later. In the back of the patrol car I burrowed my face into a corner of the seat and beat my fists against the cushions, against the doors and windows, against my own head. I kicked at the front seat where the deputy sat, giving him jolt after jolt, and he kept repeating, trying to calm me, It’s okay, honey, we’re going to get you back to your mom and dad quick as we can. His radio buzzed with static and another voice, a woman’s voice, tinny through the speaker, said, Bring her in. That may be the way it happened, many years ago.
Pictures I was returned to Mama and Da, although I do not remember it. And I do not remember later being taken from them with my baby sister, Rachel, and going to live in a new place with many children who were strangers. And I do not remember with any detail the weekend my new parents came to pick me up at the foster home in Las Animas, although there are pictures to record the event. One picture shows my new mother and me in the swimming pool at the Bent’s Fort Inn. She is standing close behind me, her belly against my back, her arms wrapped tightly around me, her head tilted down so that her cheek is against the top of my slick wet hair. The aquamarine water sparkles around us. Another picture shows my new father pushing me on a swing in a park. It is a barren place, the grass dry and sparse. In one picture the three of us stand next to the carved wooden sign at the Kit Carson Home and Museum. In another we are at the entrance of Old Bent’s Fort. I cannot look at any of the pictures now without reading into them. In some pictures my new mother seems desperate, her smile forced and tense. In others she looks hopeful, cheerful. My new father appears distracted, glancing away or towards his 30 | Raleigh Review
feet. I examine my own image looking for clues. Who is this girl? What can I learn from her face, from the eyes, my God, the eyes, coiled like western rattlers ready to strike? Certainly this child, this wild thing who stuffed food into her mouth with both hands, who slept on the floor, who could only grunt replies to questions, this could not have been the little girl of their dreams. They’d brought a gift, a pink stuffed rabbit. I ripped off its arm and tore at its ear with my teeth. Bea, no! my new mother said. They also brought a picture album, carefully arranged to show me my new family. We sat together to look at it, the three of us, cross-legged on the motel room bed. I picked at a scab on my ankle. Don’t do that, honey. It’s not ready to come off. Here’s your new brother, sweetheart. Bradley. He’s six. My eyes darted to the picture, then away. He’s adopted, too. He’s a wonderful boy. I pushed the album off my lap. My new father picked it up, held it open so I could see it. Bradley’s staying with friends while we’re here. Back in Denver. That’s where we live. Near Denver. We call him Brad. He can’t wait to meet you. He’s always wanted a little sister. This is our house. Your house. Rachel. I said my sister’s name. Rachel. Somebody else is adopting your sister, honey. A very nice family. This is a picture of your room, sweetheart. Do you like the wallpaper? Rainbows. Sure she does. Don’t you, Bea? Everybody loves rainbows. I pawed at the plastic pages of the album, digging the pictures out of their sleeves, looking at them and throwing them to the floor. Careful, honey. Don’t hurt the pictures.
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This is your aunt and uncle in Florida. These are your cousins in Detroit. Your backyard. Your dog. Your very own Hot Wheels. Be careful of the pictures, sweetheart. I put my finger into the moist wound on my ankle where the scab had been. We love you, darlin’. Rachel, I said. We can’t take Rachel, honey. They’re finding another family for your sister. We’re going to give you a home. A real family. A family that loves you.
Love This family is built on love, my mother would say. Do you know how much your mom and I love you? my father would ask. More than you can ever imagine. You’re our best girl. Bradley and I shared a bedroom for the first few weeks. He would speak softly to me after lights out. You’ll like these people, he’d say. You’ll be safe here. I responded with silence. He was not my brother. Later, I would go into his room when he was not there. I stole his baseball cards and threw them in the garbage or gave them to neighbor boys. I put holes in his stereo speakers and scratched his records and unraveled his tapes. I took his books to other places in the house, hid them and forgot them. I hate you, he told me one night. He had come quietly into my dark room, had knelt down at the edge of my bed. I hate you, he whispered harshly next to my ear. You’re crazy. I hate you. My mother and father often told me they loved me. Sometimes they said this as I raged, pinning me to my bed as I struggled and screamed, the effort taking all of their strength. My first therapist recommended this holding technique. 32 | Raleigh Review
When I was eight we moved to Michigan where my mother and father had grown up. I met new aunts and uncles, new cousins, and two sets of grandparents, all who told me they loved me. I hurt things, broke things. Radios, telephones, toys, watches were soon in pieces. My dolls lost their hair, their hands and feet, their heads. I held the neighbor’s pet bunny to my chest until it stopped breathing, loving it to death. You monster! the neighbor shouted. My fingernails were chewed to nubs. I sucked on pennies, scratched and picked at my skin, bit my lips until they bled. I was moved from school to school, from therapist to therapist, from drug to drug. My parents were determined to help me find a normal life. Sometimes I asked my parents about my first family, about Mama and Da. They would tell me the story they were told, how I ran away when I was only three, how I was found on the road at night. My birth parents didn’t know how to take care of me or my sister Rachel, my father said. They mistreated us. There’s a scar on the back of my leg, a burn scar, they were told. I was a failure-to-thrive baby, but I was tough. I was trying to take care of my sister Rachel when I was only three and she was two. The judge took us away. I was almost four when I was adopted. I weighed less than thirty pounds, they told me. I asked about the house I’d lived in but they didn’t know much about it. It was in the country, a pretty awful place, they heard. I asked them why Rachel didn’t come to live with us. They told me that the adoption people thought it would be better if Rachel had her own home. I think they were afraid that I would boss her or hurt her. Why can’t I see my sister? I asked. You have a new life now, they told me. You have a new family. Then my father told me this story. Up in heaven, when God was getting ready to send me to my family here on earth, there was a mistake and I was accidentally sent to the wrong family. A cosmic screwup, my father Raleigh Review | 33
said. It took almost four years to get things straightened out, but now I was finally with the family God wanted me to be with. And Rachel was with the family God wanted her to be with. My father told me this story more than once. You’re a survivor, he would say. You’re little but you’re strong. You never gave up. You’re a very special person. You’re a beautiful girl, my mother said. God gave you the gift of beauty. Let your true colors shine through. You have a good heart. Let it show. You’ve got to learn to control yourself. Stop it! my father would shout at me when I began to rage, clenching and unclenching his fists, his face thrust forward into mine, his jaw working hard. Get yourself under control, now! But I could not.
The Brink The summer that I was ten we took a trip to Niagara Falls. We’re going to do all of the things my parents wouldn’t do with us when we were kids, my father said. We put on yellow plastic ponchos and went out on a platform next to the cataract. We reached out over the railing but we could not touch the water. Can you feel the force of the falls? my mother shouted over the thunder. I can feel it, she said. I can feel the energy all through my body. Then we went down a long tunnel behind the falls. Small chambers had been carved out of the rock, and holes dug all the way through to the outside where the curtain of water rushed by. We went on the Maid of the Mist. The boat churned its way up the channel almost to the base of the falls, its engines rumbling and straining against the force of the
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current. The terrible noise filled our heads, and the fine, cold spray blew across our faces. Awesome, Bradley said. That night we went to a special theatre to see a movie about the falls on a huge screen. It showed how the falls were formed, and about its history. The first person to go over in a barrel and survive was a woman. See, a woman, my mother whispered, nudging my shoulder. Then the movie told about a boy who had gone over the falls. It had happened years before. He and his father and mother were fishing in a little boat several miles upstream. But his father couldn’t start the motor, the kind that starts by pulling a rope wound around the top. The boat began drifting downstream faster and faster, and there was nothing they could do. They put on life jackets. People along the river bank could think of no way to save them. Eventually they entered the rapids, the boat capsized, and the father was killed. The mother was swept close to the shore of Goat Island and was pulled out just before she reached the edge. The boy went over. People on the Maid of the Mist saw something bobbing in the water. They pulled the boy out, safe. That night I lay in my bed at the motel and tried to imagine what it would be like to go over the falls like the little boy. I imagined myself being swept through the rapids. I imagined myself screaming, flailing the air, clawing at boulders, clutching at the foam. But when I neared the brink, my fear turned off the picture, would not let me look at it, would not let me continue. I lay there for a while and then tried again to imagine it. I was in the rapids, choking and sputtering, but again the picture went dark. Finally, I willed myself to continue, not allowing my fear to turn off the picture, forcing myself to look towards the edge, it came so quickly, the incredibly smooth surface of the water curving downwards, and then I was there, at the brink. I felt a small hand in mine, Rachel’s hand. Looking down into the maelstrom I went Raleigh Review | 35
into freefall. I must have made a sound, because from the other bed Bradley said, What?
More Love Sometimes we talked to Rachel and her parents on the phone. They lived on a farm in Colorado. I would be very excited to talk to her, but I was never sure that she knew who I was. I overheard my mother talking to her mother about therapists and school, about attachment problems and mental age. Rachel told me that she was in love with Prince Harry, Princess Di’s son, and that he was in love with her and that they were going get married some day. I was fourteen when a man first told me he loved me in a romantic way. His name was Doug, he was twentythree, and he lived next door with his parents. He’s a re-tard, Bradley told me. It was summer, early evening, and Doug and I were alone on the playground. Are you a re-tard, Dougie? I asked. He let out a burst of laughter, like a machine gun, uh, uh, uh, uh. Yeah, I’m a re-tard. Dougie, do you like girls? Yeah, I like girls. Uh, uh, uh. Do you like me, Dougie? Yeah. I like you, Bea. He took my outstretched hand and I led him off the playground and up a grassy hill. At the top was a cluster of trees and bushes. I let go of his hand and ran for the hiding place, Dougie running behind me, and when we reached the safety of the trees we fell to the ground panting. I leaned back on my elbows. The grass was cool and scratchy against the backs of my legs. I pulled Dougie on top of me but he held back, so I put my mouth full against his and he slowly relaxed, lowering his body onto mine. Tell me you love me, Dougie, I whispered. Say you love me. 36 | Raleigh Review
Uh, uh, uh, uh. He put his mouth over mine this time, and began a rhythmic movement of his hips against mine, and I responded with a grinding movement of my own. Oh, oh, Dougie, say you love me. I felt him against me, growing, getting hard. Say you love me, Dougie. I love you, Bea. I love you, Bea. Then he jerked against me. When he got up there was a wet spot on his pants. Back home I went to my room, closed the door and got into bed with my clothes on. Honey, is everything ok? my mother asked through the door. What’s up, babe? I pulled the quilt over my head and closed my eyes and tried to remember Mama and Da. I imagined a house I’d seen in a movie about poor country people. A shack of unpainted wood. Maybe like my first home. I imagined myself as a baby, neglected, smeared with my own shit. I saw myself at three years old, finding something to eat for Rachel and me. A bag with bread in it. I tore off small pieces and put them into her mouth. I had left her there. I had run. What’s wrong with her now? I heard Bradley ask. That night I tore my bedroom apart, threw my TV to the floor, crushed my porcelain dolls against the wall, tore the sheets and blanket from my bed, ripped my clothes from their hangers, emptied the dresser drawers into a heap in the center of the room. When my parents tried to hold me, I scratched and bit, I tore my mother’s glasses from her face and broke them, and put the imprint of the sole of my shoe on the side of my father’s face where it remained for nearly a week, a red welt, a reminder of our struggle. Finally I was subdued, the act taking all of their strength and their will, holding me down on the bed as I continued to fight, to thrash and to spit, to butt with my head, hissing, I hate you, I hate you both. You’re not my parents. I know they hated me at that moment, but they kept repeating again and again, between our heaving breaths Raleigh Review | 37
and our sobs, We love you. We love you, sweetheart. We love you, Bea. You’re our best girl, our wonderful girl, and we love you. Later, I heard my mother tell my father, I can’t take it anymore. But of course, they did take it, and they told me they loved me, and I told them I loved them, and it was all true.
Running Home In high school I was always older than the other kids in my class because I’d been held back. For two years during school I worked part time as a bagger at the local supermarket. I learned to drive. I had sex with lots of boys. I got better at controlling my rages. I still had trouble reading and doing arithmetic, but they let me graduate. In the quiet of early morning after my last day of school, while my mother and father still slept, I left home in the four-year-old Honda that had been my graduation present, heading west towards Colorado to find my sister Rachel. I had her phone number in my purse, along with about 500 dollars I’d saved. I took some clothes, a bag of apples and pears, a blanket and pillow, and my father’s road atlas. The money would last if I was frugal, if I ate the apples and pears for most of my meals, and if I slept in the car. I started out with my favorite station on the radio, oldies, and when it finally faded into static I switched to the strongest station I could find until it too faded away, and then I switched again. I heard country music, more oldies, a lot of rock, sometimes news, and occasionally a preacher. I stopped only for gas, and to go to the bathroom. I spent the night in a parking lot behind a grain elevator in eastern Iowa. The sound of heavy trucks woke me in the morning and sent me on my way west. By the next evening I had crossed Iowa and Nebraska without 38 | Raleigh Review
seeing much besides the road ahead. Just west of Ogallala I dipped down into Colorado on Interstate 76 and pulled off at Sterling. I stopped at a church advertising an allyou-can-eat fried chicken dinner and ate my fill. That night, in the quiet dark of the Honda, I tried to remember. Did I really call my first parents Mama and Da? No matter how hard I tried I could not imagine the sound of their voices. Is it possible that they never spoke to me? I could conjure up no sensation of touch, no memory of an exchange of feelings. Was it only my imagination, or did I actually remember seeing Mama sitting on a straightbacked wooden chair, her feet hanging limply, her toes barely touching the floor, her arms wrapped around herself, holding herself as she rocked her torso forward and back, forward and back, a tiny movement from the waist, endlessly, forward and back, forward and back, her lips moving without speaking, her eyes closed? Rocking forwards and back. The next morning I filled the tank at a truck stop and washed up in the ladies bathroom that smelled of disinfectant, then headed west on Interstate 76. An hour later at Brush I headed south on Highway 71, a thin red line on the map. The closer I got the more notice I took of my surroundings, for miles and miles broad, flat land, the high, arid plains of eastern Colorado. Gigantic irrigation sprinklers on wheels inched their way across the ground. Millions of tiny green tufts sprouted in neat rows across the endless gray fields. Rocky Ford by dinner time, an apple from the bag, east on Highway 50, another thin red line. Dark as I drove through La Junta. A sign, Las Animas 21 Miles, sent a quiver rippling through my belly. An hour later I was checking into the Bent’s Fort Inn. The next day I found the park where, years before, a picture was taken of my new father pushing me on a swing. There was another family using the swings now. The parents were just kids themselves, about my age, he with a thin mustache and long, limp hair, she with a washed-out complexion and tired shoulders. They took turns listlessly pushing their toddler boy, and for the few Raleigh Review | 39
minutes I watched not a single word passed between them. I smiled at the boy and he stared back. Back at the Bent’s Fort Inn I put on a pair of shorts and a tank top and went out to the pool. Two girls, sisters, were taking turns doing cannonballs into the deep end. I eased into the cool water and waded to the spot where, sixteen years before, my new mother had held me in her arms. I closed my eyes, held my breath, and slipped beneath the surface, allowing the water to hold me, refresh me, envelop me, isolate me from the real world above. I let my body sway slowly with the currents, slowly swaying, weightless, wishing I could stay there forever. The play of the sisters at the other end of the pool reached me like distant thunder. That night, from my motel room, I called Rachel’s mother. She told me that my parents had called, told her that I might be headed west. I told her I would call them. She gave me directions to their house, a farm in the country. She said she couldn’t wait to meet me. Their house was a neat two story of white-painted cinder blocks, set in a square of emerald green, an oasis of smooth lawn and large trees surrounded by miles of flat, gray land. There was an old wooden barn and a newer metal barn, and fencing laced together to form what looked like pens for animals. At the entrance to the driveway was a sign in the shape of a pig. Dwyer’s Farm. As if she had been watching for me, the woman who was Rachel’s mother came quickly out of the side door. She was rosy and smiling, her arms open wide for an embrace. Bea, it’s so good to see you. Yes, I said. You’ll call me Liz. You don’t remember me, but I met you at the foster home. She put her hands on my shoulders. What a beautiful young lady, she said. I smiled, but kept an eye on the side door, waiting for Rachel to come out. My sister, I finally said. 40 | Raleigh Review
Oh, God! Liz Dwyer said. What am I thinking? She’s out back, sweetheart. Go on, go on! She made shooing motions. As I was walking away, Liz called my name. I turned. Your sister, she said. Yes? In the silence I heard the low, rough noise of a tractor in the distance. Be patient with your sister, she finally said. I will. Behind the house there was a small cement patio with potted geraniums lined up along one edge and white plastic chairs pulled up to a round umbrella table. A few yards away was a garden patch about the same size as the patio, perfectly square, with plants of different heights and textures and colors, leaves of green and white and purple, with clean brown dirt raked smooth between the straight rows. Rachel sat in a lawn chair in the deep shade of a large tree at the back of the yard, gazing off in the direction of the fields, lost in herself, it seemed, not waiting or watching for anyone. I kept my breathing under control and went to her, numb, as if I was floating, out of contact with the earth. Rachel? She looked in my direction. Hi, was all she said. Even though she stayed in her chair I could tell she was larger than me, taller, heftier. Her smile seemed far away. Her eyes were slightly crossed behind thick glasses. She wore a pretty, loose-skirted cotton print dress and sandals. I knelt on the grass in front of her, put my hands on her knees and looked into her face. Rachel, do you know who I am? My sister, she replied through the smile. My sister, Beatrice. I leaned forward and hugged her, resting my head on her bosom, and she held me as we rocked slowly back and forth. Rachel, Rachel, I murmured, and then I began to cry. Raleigh Review | 41
She said nothing, but tugged gently at my arms, pulling me up until I was nearly in her lap, Rachel cradling me, and then she began stroking my hair, silently, gently. We stayed that way until I was all cried out. She offered me the soft skirt of her dress to dry my face, then she used it to fan cool air onto my red eyes. I love you, Rachel. I love you, Beatrice, she said. Would you like to see my pigs? She clapped her hands together. Absolutely. Let’s see the pigs. My pigs, she said. She came up quickly out of her chair and headed toward the pens by the barn, leaving me to follow. We spent a few minutes looking at the pigs, watching them lie there, or roll over, or root with their noses into the dirt. Rachel giggled when a pig grunted, or stumbled over another pig, or rolled in a patch of mud. What are their names? I asked her. Never name anything you might have to eat, she said. That’s the rule. Then she pointed out the few that had names. Big Daddy and Big Mama and Bertha and Andy and Pickles and Porky were like family. Permanent. Bill Dwyer, who had been working in the fields, joined us for lunch. He and Liz asked about my life, and school, and my family, and I responded with good, positive answers. I asked Liz if she knew where Rachel and I had lived before we were taken to the foster home. Yes, she told me. No one lives there now. Rachel was mostly silent, and before we were done she left the table and did not come back. Later, I found her in the chair behind the house. I sat on the grass next to her. I’m so glad to see you after all these years. We’re going to be close, real sisters, forever. She didn’t answer. I love you, Rachel. Before I left, Liz gave me a big hug, then put a small square of folded paper into my hand. I looked at it in the car. It was a map. 42 | Raleigh Review
I drove for about half an hour, following Liz’s directions. Then I was on a narrow gravel road. A cloud of dust followed me for several miles. Occasionally, there was a house, or a crossroad leading toward the horizon. Twice the car scattered gangs of crows picking at the meat of dead animals. It was midafternoon when I pulled up next to the abandoned house. The sun was a yellow blur in the sky. The house was a small one story made of wood, the paint faded, the roof sagging on one side. Most of the windows were shattered. A hot breeze ruffled the trees and insects buzzed up out of the tall weeds as I pushed through them. The back steps looked dangerously dilapidated. I climbed them carefully and put my hand against the door. It swung open into a little covered porch crammed with junk—a couple of wooden chairs, a crib, stacks of old magazines, cardboard boxes filled with empty cans and bottles. A ripped mattress leaned against the wall. A door led into the kitchen. Although the windows were broken out, no breeze stirred. I walked slowly through the empty rooms. Worn linoleum covered the floors. The walls were streaked with moisture stains. Colorless shreds of curtain hung limply at a few of the window frames. I heard the whispered scurrying of small animals. A film of perspiration formed on my forehead. For a moment I felt chilled, faint. Mama. Da. Were you here? Did you walk through these rooms? Did you occupy this space? Inhale this air? Touch these surfaces? Did these walls hear your voices? Is there anything of you left? A vibration? An atom of your breath? Did you stand naked in this tin shower, the hard soles of your feet on this rusty floor, your face upturned to the spray of water, the sweat of your body, the oil of your skin, the spit of your mouth, loose hairs from your crotch running down this drain? Mama and Da, did the cries of my sister echo here? Is this the place where I was made? Have I seen these walls before? Does any trace of the little girl remain? Yes. I can feel her. If I stand very still, quiet my mind, close my eyes, I can feel her presence. Oh. Oh. Oh Mama. Oh Da. Raleigh Review | 43
I sank to my knees in the center of the small living room, my eyes closed, my arms wrapped around my body, and holding myself this way I began to rock, slightly, gently, rhythmically, endlessly, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh... I awoke to darkness, still on the living room floor. As my eyes adjusted I could see moonlight through the window and the outline of trees. It was cooler now. A faint breeze moved the shreds of curtain. I left the house, pushed through the weeds, walked past my car, and when I got to the gravel road I kept walking. The moon gave enough light for me to see where I was going. It was a bright moon, high and white in the sky. I walked until I came to a paved road, followed it, and then another. It was chilly. I rubbed my arms for warmth. Lightning crackled on the horizon, and occasionally I heard the faint boom of distant thunder. Ahead I saw headlights approaching. As they came closer I continued to stare into the brilliance, unblinking. This time I would not raise my hand to block out the glare. My eyes burned from the brightness but I would not close them. The ground shook and dust flew up as the car sped by. I turned around and walked back to the house. The next day I returned to the Dwyer farm. Rachel was in her chair behind the house, staring out across the fields. I heard the low muttering of Bill’s tractor. Where’s your mom? I asked. To town getting groceries, she said. I love you, Rachel. I love you too, Sister. I took her hand and she got out of the chair and I led her to my car. I opened the door and she got in without hesitating. I didn’t hesitate either. I got behind the wheel and we left together, onto the road and away.
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ARTWORK | Pete Sack
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POEM | Emari DiGiorgio
A Girl Writes a Letter to God I’m sure you already know this. I guess we’re not really friends, but I’m writing on account of Bootsie. Bless her heart. That’s what mom said. At least she’s not suffering. On the day that she died, she wouldn’t drink my Cap’n Crunch Berry milk or eat the honey-smoked ham I snuck from the fridge. She lay in the stretch of sunlight by the screen door. She knew we were going to the vet. But when mom got the carrier from the mudroom she didn’t scramble behind the couch. I couldn’t hold her. Not because she hissed or tried to wipe my face off. I thought I would break her or her bones might tear through the skin. When the doctor gave her the needle, it was so fast. She was breathing and then she stopped. It felt like when she left she took the air with her. Mom says Bootsie’s in a better place, but I can’t imagine anything she’d want more than to be tucked into the hood of the sweatshirt at the foot of my bed. It’s not my favorite, but even if it was, I’d want her to have it. I’m writing to ask you to send an angel or a dove or whatever. I’m not going to wash it so it has the right scent. And if you’d prefer that I mail it, I’ll ask mom to take me to the post office. But it’d probably be better if you sent for it. If I don’t hear from you, I won’t assume that you don’t exist or that you don’t care about me or Bootsie. I know no place is safe. We do lockdown drills at school, and a man shot another man for texting at the movies. Mom says the world’s going to hell. It must break your heart, to see something you made fall apart.
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POEM | Emari DiGiorgio
The White Horses of Wainui Beach I’ve felt the dredging stride, a hoof upon my chest or back. To slide along their slick coats before they buck and rear— a circus act. No trainer walks these steeds round the circle of corral. The wet sand sinks beneath the weight of the white water’s muscled flanks. Only moon spooked, not gods or demons, with calla-white manes. They run themselves aground and vanish like ghosts in the foam or splinter like trade ships tethered to the plow of the sea. I too am bound to this earth and wish to know what it is to shatter and resurface whole.
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POEM | T. J. McLemore
Corpus Christi Night lets go its moorings and slides out to sea. Your prayers drift down like a sheet pulled taut over the city, pour from lips like a tower tumbling away, falling always somewhere else. Thunder unrolls slow over the worn-out cottonlands and echoes between seawall and promenade, fumbling down brick lanes, trying to get out of town. So we’re enveloped, all of us, the sheet hauled, unfurled and billowing slowly down, catching us inside, pushing us into each other’s arms.
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POEM | Tony Gloeggler
This Kind of Room It’s that kind of soft, not too hot, summer day when all I want is to be young enough to run fast break full courts until night falls. I don’t want to subway into the city, stop in book stores, thumb through bins of used vinyl for hours, stand in line at the Angelica for one of those movies where I don’t care if the main character lives or dies. I don’t want to be back in love with Erica, driving to some quaint upstate town, windows down, in complete control of the tape deck and we’re both singing along as loud and as off key as we please: Springsteen, Beach Boys, old live 1969 Poco. Don’t want to linger over brunch, wander into tiny shops filled with scented candles and antiques, not even if we stop at a roadside park, find a deserted shady spot, spread a blanket and end up making out like we first met. I want to be the first, the only guy at the schoolyard, feel the grooves of the ball with my fingertips, hear it echo off the handball walls, the four floors of empty brick classrooms, as I take a few dribbles, make easy lay ups. I don’t want to be in Vermont, back in love with Helen at the Champlain Valley county fair watching Jesse stroke some bored cow, taking pictures as he rides the long rainbow slide fifty-five straight times, no matter how cute and ecstatic
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he looks every time. Don’t care if he sleeps through the night and we cuddle through some video, walk to the bedroom for slow mind blowing sex and an early morning rewind. I want to stand at the foul line, hit a few shots, watch the ball softly fall through the not yet stolen net. No, not a little kid on a back in Brooklyn Sunday, my grandfather, my father, still alive, mom complaining there’s nowhere to place the lasagna pan and my favorite uncle, Dom, with his crutches by his side, always saying just as long as there’s this kind of room in heaven, we’ll all be alright. I want to nod knowingly, maybe slap palms, flick bounce passes when the other guys start showing up, talking shit, late night west coast box scores. I definitely don’t want to be sitting inside, at my desk, clicking through emails, reading about my old schoolyard friend Duden’s kidney transplant and how it all went well, he’s recovering nicely. Don’t want to think about my own kidney condition especially since it’s now official that the medication didn’t work. I don’t want to spend a moment making a list of who would contemplate donating a kidney for me, who would get sick of visiting me in the hospital first. Today, all I want to do is shoot for sides. Duden’s my first pick. He grabs a rebound, hits me with an outlet pass. I glide down the sideline, cross over, take off and soar to the hoop. Even if my shot somehow rims, spills out, Dude will tip it back in, fill the basket.
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ARTWORK | Pete Sack
Took a Shot at a Moving Target
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POEM | Landa wo
Lament for the mango tree’s daughter
When a man can’t live on the land of his ancestors, he settles down in the land of his imagination. —Kayimuinda Ndjo1
Where are you little flower? If you are in a stream I will dive to join you If you are in the stars I will be a cloud for you If you are in a graveyard I will be the sap on your tomb If your shroud is closed Barambo2 will sing to open it.
Dried up steam Prince of minerals (Cabinda), first of the dead buried in the city of the wind 1 2
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POEM | Landa wo
Complainte pour la fille du manguier
Quand un homme ne peut pas vivre sur la terre de ses ancêtres, il s’installe dans son imaginaire. —Kayimuinda Ndjo3
Ou es tu petite fleur? Si tu es dans un ruisseau Je plongerais te rejoindre Si tu es dans les étoiles Je serais un nuage pour toi Si tu es dans un cimetière Je serais la sève sur ta tombe Si ton linceul est clos Barambo4 chantera pour l’ouvrir.
Ruisseau asséché Prince des minéraux (Cabinda), premier mort enterré dans la cité du vent. 3 4
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POEM | Wendy DeGroat
Running Late Sometimes a body makes it hard to get ready for work. Take nipples, for instance. The way, when kissed by a cold draft after a shower, they rise up like a kid in the front row of class waving both hands. You see them— and you just have to stand there and gaze, amazed by the way blood rushes, plumps them to tight berries, how the tingle jingles through your body. While you should be making coffee, packing lunch, you remember how, in a crowded room, they perk up near the one with promising lips and sure hips, twin pulse pulling you toward hello. This magic— the magic of our bodies’ beautiful machinery, if I were to show you what I know so far about the Holy, I’d begin with this.
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ARTWORK | Pete Sack
This Requires My Full Attention
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FICTION | James Braziel
Last Time Jake Played the Blues He had four fingers. Tonight he has six. Now I know I’ve been drinking, hell we all have, and I know drinking is an epidemic in this country among us out-of-work jobbers, but six fingers. Damn, Jake. We’re losing money and ground to the Man and you’re gaining fingers. Let me say here, I can count as high as 657 in an alcoholic stupor, so I know how to count to six. And let me say, too, the blues have never sounded better. Amen. The last time Jake jowled down—twisting his neck like a duck over the wavy part of his guitar, his eyes using red laser telepathy to tell his fingers what to do—he did not, I repeat, did not take a break from making his guitar twang-diddy-twang. He shifted up that fret board, latticing a ladder to the sky, making the clouds we couldn’t see dance dirty with the moon. We were down at Jack and Jill’s Topless Oysters Bar, amazed. Gulf Shores. And that was with four fingers. But with two more fingers, it’s like he’s taking us to one of those galaxies just getting started. Like he’s the usher. Last time I heard Jake play the blues, I was still in love with Lucinda, one of those bad loves where your woman yells at you and you yell at her and the drinking is the only thing that makes it good enough to stay inside that squeak-squawky birdcage, go round and round. I had just been let go that afternoon from my two week stint at the chicken plant because I supposedly cut the chickens the wrong way. Boss said I didn’t know the difference between a thighbone and a backbone. Hell if I didn’t. I was cutting them more efficiently, fool. But calling him a fool did me in. I went home glum blue, got Lucinda, and came out here. But did I get a single I’m-sorry-baby from her? No. Instead Lucinda told me she had fallen out of the love
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orbit we spent four months making. All the while she listened to Jake with her hand over her crotch. “Man’s got four fingers to strum with. That’s all, Tony.” She pointed to the stage. “Yet he’s got more soul and love in those fingers than you got in all your right hand.” I explained to her that Jake was a left-handed picker. “Don’t matter, know-it-all,” she yelled and slapped my head. “Damn, know-it-all, you see? It don’t matter. You won’t ever love me like he loves his guitar.” And Jake was going into some deep delta under the big muddy thing cause he’s from there, born out of that river before he moved here, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe the chords were so heavy he kept laying down. I closed my eyes and nodded cause it was true—I didn’t love her. “So true,” I said to Lucinda. She chucked her drink in my face, a fuzzy navel that made me taste all peachy. “Bastard idiot,” she said. “You’re not even willing to fight for our love.” But I would not open my sticky eyelashes to any of her venom. I was down underneath that river at its deepest point in the cool calmness where Jake came from. My river of peach and bad feeling feeling so good, so lonely, but so good, I wasn’t ever going to leave if I could help it. Her chair scraped across the floor like a fat chicken unable to fly. “Wait Lucinda,” I said in a breath of regret, but all I had was the emptiness of where she had once been. Up on stage, Jake played the blues. He never even looked at the audience while he played, just stared at his fingers. So I looked at my fingers all rough and cut. I wondered for a split second what kind of pieces a chicken holding a knife might cut me into. Then I refocused and thought of Jake’s music and my fingers. Together. That was the first time I really communicated with him, on his level, when I really understood where the calmness in him came from. Then I looked off, way off. Can’t tell you where exactly—into that mob getting rowdier, the colored lights Raleigh Review | 57
weeping above. I don’t know where it was I looked, but I connected with something larger than the world of Jack and Jill’s Topless Oysters. Every now and then, I yelled out, “I’m with you, brother,” and put a hand up to the sky, grabbing hold the ladder Jake had made. Though he didn’t answer, he heard me. After Lucinda’s declaration on his playing, you’d think she’d be here tonight to hear more. I was prepared for it, ready to ignore her sweet cutoff jeaned ass. But let the record show she is not here to witness the miracle of Jake’s additional two fingers bestowed upon him by some alien god I guess. He did not grow them on stage. Yet he’s using those fingers like he’s had them his whole life, taking all of us up to some far off galaxy we don’t want to come back to Gulf Shores for. Who wants to come back for taxes and nasty bosses and death and a dirty ocean full of blitzed tourists and irresolute women that don’t love you? Not me. I would only come back for true love, if some woman could give it, and give it to me the right way with an accepting heart and an understanding that even though I can’t play the blues like Jake, I know what he feels. If I wanted, I could grow fingers and do whatever it takes to love a true love back. Every chord he touches, I’ve those chords way deep down, ever so deep down in me.
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POEM | James Crews
In a Blizzard The night was alive with falling snow, white hiding the white of the Capitol until, from a distance, it looked like one of those cairns the Inuit used to stack at each pass, a heap of stones in the shape of a man they could stop and talk to, or reach out and touch with stiff hands when the mountain wind cut too close. As I rounded the frozen lake, I saw it on the fresh snow: a cigarette, not yet wet or ruined, and though I’d quit years ago, I picked it up, slipped it in my pocket and ducked into a diner where I begged matches and a cup of steaming coffee. Almost home, I held that hot Styrofoam up to the plow now grinding along my street, toasting the unseen man spreading rocksalt like alms among the rows of tucked-in houses his yellow lights kept caressing. I stepped onto my porch, struck a match and lit the cigarette, letting the smoke go into the bitter air where it bloomed and hovered as if it couldn’t bear to leave me.
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POEM | James Crews
Waiting for Love You must save up for it and collect and gather honey. —Rilke
You can collect as much of it as you like, keep it in trunks under the bed, in closets or store it in stone jars as the pharaohs did, placing gallon after gallon of priceless honey next to the alabaster heads of sarcophagi so when they woke wide-eyed and famished in the afterlife, they’d find something familiar and sweet to eat. But nothing hoarded stays hidden for long. Soon enough some looter will shimmy into that secret room in you and— ignoring the warnings—he will pry off the lid of every sighing jar and scoop out what is now crystallized, shining in his hands, and still delicious after all that time.
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REVIEW | Tom Lisk
A Beguiling Experience: Beauty Mark Suzanne Cleary. Beauty Mark. Kansas City, Missouri: BkMk Press at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2013. $14, paper. Beauty Mark is my first encounter with Suzanne Cleary’s work. It is, however, her third published poetry collection, and makes me want now to seek out the other two. Beauty Mark manifests considerable poetic skill in a limber and versatile style. These are poems of sensibility, and of sense. Any reader can follow the syntax, understand the vocabulary and grasp the meanings of the sentences in Beauty Mark. The poems are meant to be understood, or rather to be felt as well as thought, which means experienced rather than compartmentalized by their “meanings.” Irony, the default mode of anxious doubt, seems the only way a poet can respond to the gut stuff of lyricism, the tug of sentimentality, the pull of Emerson’s advice “Trust thyself.” As a gesture against anxiety about “meaning,” let’s say these lyrics, perhaps like all lyrics, work somewhere between self-pity and selfish joy, between MacLeish’s “a poem should not mean but be” and Frost’s “a poem is a momentary stay against confusion.” Cleary takes on the big subjects—God, memory, time, fame—and manages steps toward post-irony, a large mind discovering and controlling the relationships between the inward and outward elements of her own experience. In “Silver Amulet of Ganesh the Elephant God,” she addresses the amulet not just as a symbol but as a god, “the size of my thumbnail,” and with only the lightest touch of irony “I can believe in you / … for Raleigh Review | 61
neither does my god stop the bus from crashing”— polytheism synonymous with monotheism when it comes to divine helplessness, or at least inscrutability answering our common need to believe in a higher power in the face of disaster. In a later poem, “Holy Water,” “...the water changed God / into something close, and ordinary, and simple, and here.” Her titles are marvelous, and the poems live up to them. “Televangelists” and “God Visits the Televangelists” pave the way for the lucid beauty of those lines from “Holy Water.” “Swimming with Miss Peggy Lee” and “Magnificent” inform each other. “Manual of Proper Correspondence” and “Exercises from a Manual of Proper Correspondence, 1889,” a found poem arranged from the actual manual, reveal a wry and generous sense of humor recognizing that the social niceties of one generation often seem silly and fussy to the next, but our ironies are just as likely to seem quaint. If titles like “Lines for the Actress Who Performed Shakespeare-in-the-Park with a Stick in her Mouth” and “Cheese of the Month Club” don’t make you want to read the poems, I can’t help you. Cleary’s poems are shapely, with beginnings, middles, and ends, but the confident ambivalence of the speaker’s voice leaves us with more to feel (and think about) and a desire to reread the poem for its relation to the whole collection. The poems don’t just offer summary lessons to bring “closure,” but an aesthetic wholeness that makes me want to experience the poem again. Suzanne Cleary’s poems function as beguiling experiences. In Beauty Mark delight becomes instruction.
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REVIEW | Rob Greene
Poems of Many Places: The Widow from Lake Bled Kirby Wright. The Widow from Lake Bled: Selected Poems. Westbrook, Maine: Moon Pie Press, 2013. $15, paper. After reading the final chapter of Kirby Wright’s selected poems, I felt compelled to write a quick review of his book. Wright’s unpretentious word choice and deep knowledge of place lead me to believe that this is indeed a poet who has been to and experienced the locales he writes about. This is not a poet who sits in front of a television set and gets so outraged by the news reports that it leads to a book. Nor is this a poet who interviews factory workers with hopes of furthering his career by shedding some light on what it means to actually work for a living. Kirby Wright gets his hands dirty with lines like: Voila the dead hour before the sun. Scent of plumeria, whiskey, and menthol. Coral moon teases the roosters to crow. Honolulu Harbor turns mercurial. (First stanza “At Waikiki At Four in the Morning”) With lines like “Taboo dreams invade the hotels,” I feel like I am in the very rooms he describes: Palms become silhouettes. Walls of my studio are sex bamboo. Taboo dreams invade the hotels. Umbrella tree shivers below me. (Third stanza “At Waikiki At Four in the Morning”) Raleigh Review | 63
I’ve started this review with the end of The Widow from Lake Bled because the deeper you get into this collection the stronger it gets. But even the beginning sets a high standard. When entering Wright’s selected poems, get ready for couplets, tea, and perhaps a cigarette or two while sunning on the deck: The widow shakes her coat At the bedroom window. There was a Porsche in the garage Now long gone. She warms in black sweats On her maple deck. Sunlight sparks the lake below Chimneys blue the valley with smoke. She lives on cigarettes and tea. (First 9 lines of “The Widow from Lake Bled”) After the opening poem, a tight and modern pantoum features a waitress who may ask your age after the fourth pint “At Billy Boozer’s” in Hong Kong. I slip into Billy Boozer’s for a drink. I am confident, hair dyed blond. You are the Carlsberg girl, a beer model. I like the green Danish frock. I am confident, hair dyed blond. You ask my age after the fourth pint. I like the green Danish frock. I know there are three decades between us. (First two stanzas of “At Billy Boozer’s”)
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The poems in this book are real—in the most earnest sense—and range from traditional form and hybrid forms to prose poems and free verse. It does not matter whether you are in Kirby Wright’s chapter on Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Martha’s Vineyard, or Waikiki, he conveys an actual and a factual legitimacy and a strong knowledge of these regions. From this single collection of selected poems, Kirby Wright strikes me as someone I can trust, and I am looking forward to experiencing other locales through his lens.
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CONTRIBUTORS Jeffrey Alfier is winner of the Kithara Book Prize for his poetry collection Idyll for a Vanishing River (Glass Lyre Press). He is also author of The Wolf Yearling (Silver Birch Press). His recent work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Arkansas Review, and New York Quarterly. John Blair’s short story collection American Standard was the 2002 winner of the Drue Heinz Literature prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. He has also published two books of poetry: The Occasions of Paradise (U. Tampa Press) and The Green Girls (LSU Press/Pleiades Press). A professor in the English Department at Texas State University, Blair directs the undergraduate creative writing program. Two of his novels have been published by Ballantine/Del Rey, and his poems and stories appear in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, The Sewanee Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, and elsewhere. James Braziel is the author of the novels Birmingham, 35 Miles, and Snakeskin Road. His work has appeared in journals and newspapers, including The New York Times. Currently, he lives in north Alabama with his wife, poet Tina Mozelle Braziel. They are building a house together. Amber Burke is from North Dakota. She is a Yale graduate and former actress who completed The Writing Seminars MFA program at Johns Hopkins University in 2012 and is now writing and teaching yoga in Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in Five Chapters, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Apt, Essays & Fictions, Devilfish Review, and Escape Into Life. She has finished her first novel and is at work on a second. Laurie Byro’s short stories and poems have appeared in dozens of journals, including Loch Raven Review, The Literary Review, Triggerfish, Snakeskin, Redactions, Chaminade Review, Chronogram, Grasslimb, REAL Journal, The New Jersey Journal of Poets, Red Rock Review, The Paterson Literary Review, and The 66 | Raleigh Review
7th Quarry (from Wales). Her work draws on myth, fairytale, and her experiences of foreign places in the years she worked as a travel agent. Byro has been facilitating Circle of Voices, a poetry discussion in New Jersey, for over 15 years, currently at the West Milford Township Library where she is Poet-inResidence. Allen Chamberlain grew up in the woods of Mississippi and now lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is Head Librarian at the Saunders Family Library and teaches in the English department at the Collegiate School. Like her grandfather and mother before her, she manages the family's tree farm in Clarke County, Mississippi. She is a 2013 graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her poems appeared in Sound & Sense: Virginia Poets and Their Students. James Crews was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. His work has appeared most recently in Ploughshares and The New Republic and he is a regular contributor to The (London) Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of The Book of What Stays, winner of the 2010 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. He lives and teaches in Lincoln, Nebraska. Noel Crook’s first book, Salt Moon, winner of the 2013 Crab Orchard Review First Book Award, is forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press in early 2015. Her poems have appeared in The Atlanta Review, Shenandoah, New Letters, Smartish Pace and other journals. Her chapbook Canyon was published by Red Dragonfly Press in 2010. She is a graduate of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at North Carolina State University. Wendy DeGroat is a poet, librarian, and teacher with poems in About Place, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism, and Sprout. As part of her poetry advocacy, DeGroat curates poetryriver.org, a site that connects visitors with diverse voices in contemporary American poetry and resources for exploring documentary poetry, including handouts from her documentary poetry workshop at Split this Rock 2014. She also teaches creative Raleigh Review | 67
writing workshops for LGBTQ elders and writes articles that encourage more frequent inclusion of contemporary poetry in classrooms and libraries, such as “Make Space for Poetry” published in the March/April 2014 issue of Knowledge Quest, a professional journal for school librarians. Emari DiGiorgio makes a mean arugula quesadilla and has split-boarded the Tasman Glacier. She is Associate Professor of Writing at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and Poet-in-the-Schools through the New Jersey State Arts Council and the Dodge Poetry Foundation. Her poetry manuscript The Things a Body Might Become was a finalist for the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and Open Competition and the Black Lawrence Press St. Lawrence Book Award. Recent poems have appeared in The Nassau Review, Poetry International, and Smartish Pace. Geri Digiorno, Sonoma Poet Laureate (2006-2007) and artist, is founder and director of the Petaluma Poetry Walk. She studied art at College of San Mateo, Solano College, Sonoma College, and Santa Rosa Junior College and has worked at the homeless shelter in Petaluma teaching poetry and collage. George Dila’s short story collection Nothing More to Tell was published by Mayapple Press in 2011, and his short story chapbook Working Stiffs was published by One Wet Shoe Press in 2014. His stories and personal essays have appeared in numerous journals and earned several awards and prizes. A native Detroiter, he now lives and writes in Ludington, a small town on the Lake Michigan shore. Heather Dobbins’s poems and poetry reviews have appeared in Big Muddy, CutBank, The Southern Poetry Anthology (Tennessee), The Rumpus, and TriQuarterly Review, among others. She was a featured poet for Beloit Poetry Journal last June. After ten years of earning degrees in California and Vermont, she returned to her hometown of Memphis. Her debut, In the Low Houses, was published in March by Kelsay Press. 68 | Raleigh Review
Tony Gloeggler is a native and lifelong resident of New York City. His work has been recently featured in Columbia Poetry Review, Paterson Literary Review, Nerve Cowboy, Exit 13, The Gathering Of The Tribes, Rattle, and The Ledge. He has two fulllength collections: One Wish Left, which went into a second edition and was published by Pavement Saw Press in 2000, and The Last Lie, which was published by NYQ books in 2010. His new collection, Until the Last Light Leaves, is forthcoming from NYQ Books. Rob Greene is the editor and publisher of Raleigh Review. He teaches at Louisburg College in Louisburg, North Carolina. Tom Lisk’s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in many literary magazines, newspapers, websites and wastebaskets. Three collections of his poems are available through any bookstore: Aroma Terrapin (Mellen Poetry Press), These Beautiful Limits (Parlor Press), and Transient Lodgings (Jacques Wool Produblications). T. J. McLemore holds his MFA in poetry from Boston University. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Worchester Review, Moth + Rust, and others. He currently lives and teaches writing in the piney woods of east Texas. Mara Eve Robbins lives and writes in Floyd County, Virginia. She stops to help turtles cross the road, enjoys drinking green tea out of blue Mason jars, and often wanders around with Sharpie markers asking people to write poetry on her pants. Her work has appeared in New York Quarterly, Nantahala Review, Real Simple, and Floyd County's own Museletter, among other wonderful publications. She still enjoys her steak rare. Anele Rubin’s poetry has been published in Café Review, Paterson Literary Review, Midwest Quarterly, Rattle, Atlanta Review, Chattahoochee Review, Third Wednesday, U.S. 1 Worksheets, San Pedro River Review, Slant, and many other places. Her poetry collection Trying to Speak was published by Kent State University Press. She divides her time between Brooklyn and New Kingston, New York. Raleigh Review | 69
Pete Sack started his art career at an early age, creating watercolor paintings of baseball players from photos out of magazines. He continued his artistic development at East Carolina University, where he graduated with a BFA in painting in 1998. While there, Sack was introduced to oil paint and has had a loving relationship with the medium ever since. Presently residing in Raleigh, North Carolina, Sack has combined his love of oil paint and watercolor by creating paintings with both mediums. He is currently represented by Mahler Fine Art in Raleigh and shows regularly in Raleigh and other venues around the area. P. J. Williams, born and raised in North Carolina, is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salamander, Crab Creek Review, Nashville Review, DIAGRAM, Four Way Review, Cloud Rodeo, and others. He is co-founder and lead editor of Utter, an online journal of writing and art, and is co-editing an anthology of poetry inspired by hip-hop with poet Jason McCall. Landa wo is an Angolan Cabindese poet who, having previously lived in Ireland, France, Gabon, Congo and England, currently lives in Germany. A poet of the diaspora, Landa wo writes mostly in English and French with the heart oriented to the unknown, dreamed, and surely idealized land of Angola and Cabinda. His work has won a number of awards including 1st place in the Metro Eireann Writing Competition 2007, Eist Poetry Competition 2006, and Feile Filiochta International Poetry Competition 2005. His poetry appears in literary journals in Ireland, UK, New Zealand, and USA (Boyne Berries Literary Magazine, Nashville Review, Blackmail Press, Ropes, Weyfarers) and in a number of anthologies.
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Thank you for reading
Raleigh Review Literary & Arts Magazine Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 2014
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