new flash fiction from frank x. christmas, andrea eberly, amina gautier, katherine hubbard, alana reynolds, nicholas a. white and poetry by julia c. alter, mark kyungsoo bias, melissa boston, madeleine cravens, jessica dionne, geula geurts, chelsea harlan, ann hudson, marcus jamison, jasmine khaliq, heather langcassera, steve lautermilch, ashley danielle ryle, angela narciso torres, bob watts, john sibley williams, haolun xu
Lay nun, no novice, / you were teaching me silence and not / once saying a word.
FEATURING THE WINNERS OF THE FLASH FICTION & GERI DIGIORNO CONTESTS
— from steve lautermilch’s geri digiorno prize winning submission, featuring poem lida mae and cover art glass of water and light
featuring the art of alexis avlamis
9 780990 752288
vol. 11.1, Spring 2021
$20.00 ISBN 978-0-9907522-8-8
RALEIGH REVIEW vol. 11.1, Spring 2021
vol. 11.1 spring 2021
RALEIGH REVIEW VOL. 11.1 SPRING 2021
assistant fiction editor
assistant poetry editor
Rob Greene Bryce Emley Landon Houle
fiction editor Jessica Pitchford
Leah Poole Osowski
visual art editor Kathrine Cays
editorial staff / fiction
Heather Bell Adams, Christine Hennessey, Robert McCready, Jeff McLaughlin, Erin Osborne, Daniel Rottenberg, Daniel Tam-Claiborne, Chris Wiewiora
board of directors
Joseph Millar, Chairman Dorianne Laux, Vice Chair Landon Houle, Member Bryce Emley, Member Tyree Daye, Member Rob Greene, Member
Shelley Senai Tyree Daye
consulting poetry editor Leila Chatti
book review editor Lindsay Lake
editorial staff / poetry
Ina Cariño, Lindsay Lake, D. Eric Parkison, Sam Piccone
layout & page design John Patrick McShea Leah Poole Osowski
literary publishing program interns Gia Minnis Da'Jah Jordan Chris Ingram
Raleigh Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring 2021 Copyright © 2021 by Raleigh Review Raleigh Review founded as RIG Poetry February 21, 2010 | Robert Ian Greene Cover image “Glass of Water and Light” photograph by Steve Lautermilch. Cover design by John Patrick McShea ISSN: 2169-3943 Printed and bound in the USA. Raleigh Review, PO Box 6725, Raleigh, NC 27628 Visit: raleighreview.org Raleigh Review is thankful for past support from the United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County with funds from the United Arts Campaign, as well as the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
table of contents
raleigh review art alexis avlamis
3 14 27 43 53
Sailing Away Howling into the Void Dune Almost There Unity
Monument Hansel and Gretel on Trial
frank x. christmas
nicholas a. white
I Live in an Apartment
john sibley williams
ashley danielle ryle
This is the Sound of Wet Wings Going Fast
poetry cont. melissa boston
Continuum There and here
My Neighbor Says his Friend Says
A Certain Hospitality How I Got Over
Bottling the Family Wine Mom's Cocktail Dress Dancing on the Clothesline
angela narciso torres
Blue River Myrrh
Ways to Travel
Tiny Bones Glowing
mark kyungsoo bias
Last August portraits
julia c. alter
Who Makes Milk?
An Environment for Creative Living
poetry cont. madeleine cravens
Meridians Cameron McGill
book review daniel rottenberg
raleigh review vol. 11.1 spring 2021
from the editor on the day that i’m writing this editor’s note, we have, in the United States, inaugurated our new president, Joseph R. Biden. We have inaugurated our first female vice president Kamala Harris, a black woman of Asian American descent. The first national youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman has told us “…for there is always light if we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” So much has happened. So much has happened in the last year, in the last months, in the last two weeks, and today. I’m grateful that in this moment, if there must be evil, there can follow goodness, love, and hope. Like most everyone, I’ve spent a lot of time this past year watching the news and reading articles nearly to the point of obsession. There have been days when I feel inundated, overwhelmed, distraught by tragedy. The pain and suffering that too many in our country and the world have endured has felt so large, in fact, that I’m not even sure how to talk about it. I’m not even sure how to begin or summarize or bring forth anything of import. There are times when it seems my mind has become its own kind of news reel, flashing pictures and paragraphs—the ones most of us have seen, studied, and read and maybe they flash through your mind, too. It strikes me now for the first time that maybe this is a symptom of trauma, and I’m afraid and sad to say that I believe many of us share in it. But included in this reel are other moments—those that uplift and inspire. The nurse who sings “Amazing Grace” to her patients so they can fight through one more day, and maybe she can too. Others that seem more innocuous like this one in particular I keep thinking about: Somewhere, someone’s daughter is working on a science experiment. There are three plants on a windowsill. Two of the plants are equipped with phones that play the girl’s voice on a loop. The plant on the far left only hears negative, cruel comments. The plant in the middle hears
nothing. The plant on the right hears words that are positive, loving, and it’s this plant that is the tallest, the healthiest, the most likely to thrive. Gorman is right. There is light. We have seen it. Now, it is our job to be it. Let the poems, the stories, and the art in this issue open your year and your heart with beauty and grace. In these pages, we are proud to present and honor our first winner of the Geri Digiorno multi-genre prize as well as the winner of our annual Flash Fiction contest. The themes that organically arise in this issue suggest not just the content of our art, but the content of our minds, our souls: worship, necessity, home, innocence, survival, and nostalgia. This issue is our own growing plant reaching tall and strong toward the sun. We hope you’ll love it as much as we do. ◆
Landon Houle, co-editor
john sibley williams
fever When you hold your child’s body like this, cold as unexcavated earth, wet with want, making oaths to anything that will listen, please and god and the usual silences, so much useless splendor cradled fetally between raw open hands. When the field just keeps going without you. Or so you’re told. When anatomies collude with night. Dark steepled night. When you’re reminded it’s all just machinery, rusting, this shame not a halo taken off once the breathing steadies, again. And again, when that something of the stars still in us blinks in and out of existence. (Dis)placed cathedrals. Gut-shot worship. This bittering. When, disordered, your heart is that rarely seen bird no one knows how to name. Will it mourn or devour its young? Congregate a nest from healthy or broken limbs? When lowering that tiny trembling body down to its ill-kept bed, studded in plush and perfect need. This early hour before the world wakes up. When rubbing your hands together just might spark the required warmth. A song returning. On the wind, birdsong and wail. The field extends. The shame intact. 1
ashley danielle ryle
this is the sound of wet wings going fast Water makes everything more distinct. If you could, each moment would be forceful and sudden as the thrush raising himself from pooled rain. If each breath could be like a flame descending, bright and florid as a robin’s neck, then I might need you a little less. Relief, yes, but hear it: carved into. This is me re-envisioning. First there is a girl and a bull’s bone workings, then bees buzzing in that severe way, sharp like a grin can be. Which red thing are you really afraid of? The little sail boat of its bird’s body, round and predictable pontoon, accessible as the line of any summer constellation, a direction to follow whether at sea or another wild place. I hate when you say I could go on without you.
alexis avlamis | sailing away, 2019 24” x 24” | acrylic and colored pencil on canvas
continuum Four times you woke, as if in other beds, as if in other places. The first was mine with damp sheets, off-white, salt-caked, from when in the Pacific our navels met. And I wanted to keep you dreaming, wandering among anthurium and protea gone tame. But you woke, and said for days you heard the myna speak your name from a narrow opening that led to stairs of coral, which led to a small beach. There was a gap in the sand overfilled with rotting fish and driftwood, under a half-risen sun that caused your skin to become a stranger’s skin. You drifted back to that waning island of your own life because, by the fourth time you woke, I knew you would always wake as if in other beds, as if in other places, as if a stranger who answers to the same name darkness left behind.
there and here I’m in a bar at seven in the morning. I didn’t know they opened this early. Then I try to stop thinking & order another. The bartender suggests another. He is in a nightshirt & wonders if he is sad. Obviously, his lover is still sleeping. Then a sour white liquid comes through the roof. I am thinking of a rotting Western Larch, silver geraniums, & how your island grows 42 acres each year. The bartender is still talking about sadness, but then we high five until I hear the metallic sound of the universe.
my neighbor says his friend says If you drink too much blue Gatorade, you die. I say wow, do you think that’s true? and he shrugs and says he likes the reds and oranges. His little brother gives me a dried pear from a brown paper bag. Then they run back down the road to their house. Then the planet keeps spinning on its spindly tilted axis and the next day when they’re done with Zoom school they give me a painting of a dragon with two mouths. I say wow, I see the two mouths! And we sit outside and watch the butterflies flitter and just as I’d begun to mourn certainty itself, the little brother says, Those aren’t butterflies, they’re cabbage moths.
flash fiction prize winner
amina gautier monument it was her turn to take the baby. Her husband didn’t even ask where she was going. He knew where she always took the baby. To the square. Always to the square. There was something there the baby needed to see. She made sure to park the stroller as close as possible to the famous monument. She made sure to pack a lunch—she didn’t want to end up running back home for something as trifling as hunger. Some days she could get as close to the statue as she dared. Today was such a day. When she sat this near, she didn’t need her sunglasses or her bucket hat, and she could push back the canopy of the stroller without the baby catching too much sun. The tall bronze statue of Nat Turner cast a protective shadow and provided precious shade, allowing her and the baby to find respite and bask in their history all at once. Only a few other families were out this afternoon.
Luckily, there were no protesters come to flank the monument and ruin her outing. The protestors said the statue’s presence was offensive to the families and the descendants of all of the white slave owners Nat Turner and his group had killed on the night of his 1831 rebellion. For years, protesters had been agitating for the statue’s removal, an action she could neither understand nor condone. This statue would never come down, if she had anything to say about it. Protestors called it an eyesore—to her it was anything but. How she enjoyed looking up at Nat Turner’s strong face and into his fierce eyes. She couldn’t imagine anyone taking Nat away, couldn’t envision coming to the square and not seeing him. Though Turner’s rebellion had been a lost cause, his goal had been admirable—freedom from the tyranny of slavery. Some called him a murderer, but she believed he was a True Patriot. She would always tell their baby the truth about him. She and her husband would bring their child here, year after year, to grow in the shadow of the proud statue. She lifted the baby’s arm and waved its hand at the monument. “Do you want to say hi to Nat? Say hi to Mr. Turner.” The baby cooed and gurgled. They played this little game every time they came. She shook the baby bottle and watched the baby’s bright eyes gleam. “Do you think Nat is hungry? Do you want me to give him some of your ba-ba?” she asked. “Or should I give him some of my trail mix? Even heroes get hungry, you know.” “What a thing to say!” The voice she heard seemed to come from nowhere. On the other side of the statue stood a frumpy middle-aged white woman with short, cropped blonde hair. She asked the white woman, “Are you talking to me?” “A hero? Really?” Most of the white people gave her a wide berth when she was by the statue, subjecting her to hostile glares, yet never approaching. Today, the white woman came closer and said, “I don’t see how you can sit here at ease in front of such a terrible monument.” “It’s my history and my child’s history,” she answered. “I’m here to remind myself of it.” “You know, a lot of people died that night,” the white woman said.
She jabbed her finger at Nat Turner. “And he killed them! Slaughtered them in their beds!” “Slave owners,” she corrected the woman, unable to keep the shrug from her voice. “And he led a group of innocent victims to the freedom which was rightly theirs.” She soothed her baby, who had begun to fuss, and tucked the thin summer blanket tightly around the tiny limbs. “The price of freedom is high and those who would deny others from having it might have to lose their lives.” Tears gathered in the white woman’s eyes, her chin trembled, and her face went splotchy. “Don’t you care how much pain this statue causes? It’s a monument that celebrates the slaughter of my ancestors. My great-great-grandparents could have been among the people he killed, and I have to see this hurtful thing every time I come out here. It isn’t right.” She could not relate to the woman’s personal ordeal. After all, the statue’s presence did not pain her, so how could it be painful? The monument was an important part of her heritage, a reminder that long before any Emancipation Proclamation, her people had fought to claim their freedom, even on pain of death. That was worth commemorating. That was worth remembering for all time. She patted her baby once more for good measure and then stood to meet the white woman. She warned, “If you’re thinking of harming Nat, you’ll have to go through me.” “Are you threatening me?” the white woman asked. “Yes.” The white woman sputtered and plunked her hands on her hips. “Imagine if this was a statue of a slaveholder instead! Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis. Imagine if every time you came here you had to come face to face with someone who stood for enslaving your people. Imagine the pain you would feel. How would you like this statue then?” Imagine that! Statues erected of the Confederates, who had threatened to sever the union in two, committed treason against the country, and then lost the war to boot? Monuments of losers? Commemorating traitors—what a ridiculous notion. What an absurd rewriting of history. To the victor went the spoils—everyone knew that. She laughed in the white woman’s face at such a foolish idea. She
laughed so hard that the white woman backed away in fear. She laughed so hard that the baby caught her laughter and joined in, laughing along with her. She laughed so hard she feared she might never stop—it was just that funny. Who could imagine such foolishness? It was the most preposterous thing she’d ever heard. ◆
flash fiction prize honorable mention
katherine hubbard 1985 basel says he doesn’t want to be the thigh-boot fishnet-stocking kind of rocker, so we ride our bikes to the Goodwill and buy a bag of old clothes for three dollars. Home, we take everything outside and spread it in the grass: two old lady slips, a tan girdle, a button-up, a flowery blouse, a cracked leather belt. He goes into his house and comes out with a steak knife then slashes at the slips because it’s got to look ragged, because we think a scissor’s cuts are too clean. “It’s coming together,” Basel says. later that night, Basel and I meet in my garage. My parents have gone to bed, but even so we decide not to turn on the lights. Instead, we move the mirror my brother uses to watch himself lift weights over to the window where the moon shines in.
We want to be different—but not too different—from the people we think will be there. I cut jagged bangs with my dad’s safety razor. Most of Basel’s head is shaved except one long lock we curl and spray with Final Net so that it sits over his right eye. I bind my boobs with an ace bandage, which hurts in a good way, wiggle into a pink tube-top, shrug on an artfully ripped Brooks Brothers with the collar torn off. I like how I look: curveless, smooth. Safety-pinned slip, Doc Martens, no laces. Basel has on the blouse dotted with small pink flowers which he leaves unbuttoned. His skin is so white, his sternum and ribs pronounced and delicate, I worry a solid bump will crack him open like a teacup dropped to the ground. He’s got the girdle on, which is much too big, and over it the other slip, both cinched at his tiny waist with the belt. I kneel on the floor. The cement is bumpy and cold against my shins and knees. Basel sits on his butt in front of me and hands over the liquid liner. I lean in, tip his chin with one hand and carefully draw wings that go almost as far as his temple. “Now you,” Basel says. His hand rests against my cheek as he draws. When he’s done, Basel turns my face side to side. His breath is warm, scented with the crabapple gum we both love. “You’re perfect,” he says. Then we powder our faces with talcum, take out any color, any hint of health. We put on red lipstick and kiss the way people kiss in black and white movies, mouths closed moving our lips around. When we check ourselves in the mirror, the lipstick is perfectly smeared, and our faces seem unbreakable and deathly. The moonlight adds its own silver to our skin. “We look ironic,” Basel says, “but good ironic.” I sling my arm across his shoulder, drop my lip into a sneer. He laughs, so I laugh—though what I truly want to do is kiss him again, this time properly, in a way that’s real. But already he’s turned away. Already, he’s out the door. it’s a long bike ride from our suburban street to the part of town our parents have always told us to avoid. It’s almost summer, the night is almost warm, the moon so bright we can’t see stars. We whiz past small dark houses, past the elementary school, the library, the post office, Sal’s Pizza. Just past the strip of bars, our friend Jonathan is holding open the alley door to what used to be Tip’s Cocktail Lounge. We drop our bikes behind the dumpster and run.
the room is smaller than we thought it would be, hazy with smoke, cigarettes, the pot Jonathan has lined up in the bong we both hit before Basel leads me toward an opening in the undulating bodies around us. The band is so loud it is almost like silence. The music is punk, serrated, I am ecstatic, transcendent—Basel and I hold hands and pogo like little kids, bounce off the shoulders and hips and arms and legs of the people around us. We slam our bodies against each other, against kids just as young and weird as we ourselves are, all of us moving as if we are drowned, hair floating up and around our faces on the current of sound, cheeks puffed out, our eyes wide and blind as if there is no future. Which is as it should be because the truth is, the future sucks. In two years, Basel will move to the city, and I’ll go to college in the Midwest. In six years, I’ll be working for a phone company that requires women to wear two-inch heels, and Basel will die of a sarcoma related to AIDS. I won’t know about his death or the funeral or even his sickness until my brother says casually one day over the phone, “Remember that kid you used to hang out with?” And I’ll hang up without saying goodbye because in that moment lights strobe from the ceiling, yellow to blue, orange to purple. Basel pulls me to his chest, my arms are around his waist, the heat of my cheek against the wing of his shoulder, and I know our lives cannot be contained by the small suburban place that frames us. And when I kiss him now, properly, the way I always meant to, the space and air between our bodies and everyone around us is gone as if we’ve all inhaled the last of it. ◆
alexis avlamis | howling into the void, 2019 8” x 6” | acrylic, colored pencil and pen on paper
a certain hospitality Down here, these creek beds holler. Swirl a hint of progress & brown liquor beneath the tongue, then see which one seeps first. The chicken spot under the bridge serves lukewarm hope with a side of biscuits. Uncles who did bids in five-by-tens or Vietnam sit in understaffed temp agencies, still hoping for the trickle down of opportunity. Grandmama on the front porch swing & all them babies freeze-tag the yard, ‘til they mamas scoop them, on time pleeease because Wednesday nights mean prayer meeting. A cool breeze creeps in to blot the sun-soaked summer days. Cherry red Buick shined sufficient in the yard, & maybe we can stave off these blues with a little soap, a fresh coat of wax, or a deuce & a half pint of Paul. We are always sharing ourselves with something— the river’s song, a black night’s plea, our troubled pasts trampled by history’s bare feet. Sometimes, I cry myself to sleep thinking of abandoned lots & the new Jim Crow. All the dead homies getting high blood pressure. On the other side of the county, them grove boys bust plenty shots, then peel out on four wheelers. We have lost too many to the wrong sides of a gun but I don’t believe the fallacy of the lost cause— too many of mine have swallowed through the choke & spit of their force-fed demise, so we delight in nights steeped honeysuckle sweet, sitting ten-deep on somebody’s porch,
the pulse of music, us teeth & gums, riotous in our blasphemy. Down here, God gets lost in the remains of deserted textile mills. Sleeps easy in a rusted railway car. Is a chicken plant fire that claims kin. My mama was a prayerful woman, held good book & church fan in hand, with hopes that we might shake these demons. I hold on to a bit of her generous ways, offer warm embrace to both guest & stranger. From where a patch of land & the gall to tend it are the only means some folk have. Can’t nobody tell me about humility. It’s the sandspur etched in my throat, these dirt roads coursing my veins. A shout-out to every crumbling Hamlet that, though backwoods, still stands.
how i got over Tell me how I got over, Lord Had a mighty hard time coming on over You know my soul look back and wonder How did I make it over?
The tendency is to always brake late. We coast the wayward air down just-climbed hills— our ten-speed testaments of tempted fate conquered, & we’re a mob of blackbirds thrilled with flight. So simple in that drift of wind to forget the maelstroms we left back home. So, we glide demise. Temper what won’t bend easy & ride this rite of passage on; a trio of gangly black boys thinking we could wheel ourselves a new gravity. But these flat worlds grow dark, with their sinking sons—folks ‘round here rarely reach apogee. So, we float these low clouds. Ignore small scrapes. To pedal faster means to seek escape.
bottling the family wine In my grandmother’s house we gather around the thick oak table, apples spilling from a white ceramic bowl, we bottle and cork Catawba wine. The young ones outside kneel at gnarled roots and gather fallen garner—swollen globes the color of a wound, and fence-fickle. Fistful of rot September, bloomed and beat the girls gather their skirts where innocence wears thin to kick across the creek. We gather, the grandfather clock chimes Jowett’s Jig, and venison burgers fry on the stove in this house. The crow at the window takes the fruit into his blue gape and more gather to steal his gain we watch the fat orbs pop and die in the dust.
mom's cocktail dress dancing on the clothesline Bodyless, it moves with some slow grace hung from two wooden clothespins on the line stretching from the trailer to the tall pine tree whose needles slide along a breeze. It’s blue, not sky blue but gentian blue and it sparkles like the ’84 Mustang that rips up the gravel road the one that can handle all the curves. She hangs it up on Sundays day of rest day of rehydration and Chef Boyardee and her room stays dark ‘till well after noon. But the dress is alight in the midday sun, dancing on the line casting a shadow solo on a red clay stage. Watch the dress on the line imagine the slip of a stranger’s sleeve against the scalloped collar the whispers folded into the waistband. And what would it take to fill that skirt what hips could round that rayon? So devil-may-care what the neighbors may think as the dress jerks and jives on the line. When it’s dry she takes it down with the care of a hundred lepidopterists her modest kitchen apron folded, untouched in a drawer.
winner of the geri digiorno prize
lida mae The squawk of the cast iron pump over the sink, honk of Canada geese, wings, winds changing direction, north, south with the weather. Doilies push pinned, star falls, snowflakes on plush arm rests. Queen Anne’s lace along the banks of Tymochtee Creek. Blue hydrangeas, purple grapes, path between back porch and barn. China you cradled, water wrinkling blue veins forking your wrist. The pulse that worked the folds of your throat. The hush that fell as doors closed. The quiet that came along, settled in with you upstairs. How you fanned, shuffled, drew from the deck, each of us watching you cheat at double solitaire. Lay nun, no novice, you were teaching me silence and not once saying a word.
Locust beads vining fingers and wrist, lips still pursed in silent prayer. Bird nests lining the bathroom sink, your eyes still meeting my own when I bend to wash, rise and look into the mirror. Shrewd heron, leaving these reflections behind, the lines, words can’t fill, can’t escape.
flash fiction prize finalist
alana reynolds you two at the threshold you hesitate. Should you knock or should you walk in? The family name shines as bright as ever on the brass mailbox. You still belong. But you’re out of practice, so you knock. Your mother’s face appears in the space of the open door. At her feet, an ancient wire-haired terrier shuffles out and sniffs at your shoes. Your mother’s eyes widen and then flutter shut. She asks in a whisper if you are you or if you are your sister’s ghost. Your mouth wicks dry and you drop your valise on the poor dog’s head. The funeral was three months ago; your twin now lies under a bluestone marker in her husband’s family plot. They had no idea how to find you so they just prayed that somehow you would come home. You stand in the kitchen nodding, abashed by the thought that prayers might actually be heard.
Later, her grown daughters can’t help but touch your face, and you notice their eyes following you everywhere. You understand; you’re a poor facsimile but close enough. They, in turn, look like strange creatures to you, adults wearing the stretched skins of children you remember. You walk through town with them and neighbors and friends stop dead in the street, mouths wide. When they regain their senses they’re overjoyed, if unsettled. You accept their comforts and move on before they can start to pry. At night you look at yourself in the mirror and begin to wonder. Maybe you are not you? Maybe your sister’s spirit has moved in, wedging you into a corner as she used to do in your shared crib. Maybe it was she who marched you home on borrowed legs. Her kid leather boots still sit in the wardrobe. You pull one on when nobody is looking. It fits almost perfectly, the worn insole cupping your heel like a hand. Your family turns out to be the minefield you thought you had left behind. You stay on tiptoe but keep finding yourself in pieces. They press for war stories, but you don’t oblige. Finally, you tell them about wounded horses, how they flooded the fields with their blood. How sometimes they would collapse and drown in mud only ankle-deep, too exhausted to lift their heads to breathe. Your aunts gulp air and fan themselves in the heat. Still, you decide to stay. Your mother’s mind is going, and someone needs to care for her. Every morning you bring her breakfast, helping her to sit up in bed, sometimes feeding her by hand. After a while she starts to call you by your sister’s name. You don’t correct her. Later, near the end, she asks one morning if they ever found you, the sister who stole off to the war and never wrote home. You fluff her pillow and tell her no, you were never heard from again. ◆
flash fiction prize finalist
amina gautier hansel and gretel on trial i shall speak for the both of us. I swear to speak only the truth. So help us, we didn’t mean to eat the house. We couldn’t help ourselves. We are very sorry it has come to this. Yes, we were hungry, but we know that’s no excuse. We had been hungry many times before. (Before our father became a wood-cutter, he had dabbled in things spiritual. We were not ruled by hunger, one of man’s more animal desires.) The house—deliciously spun!—that construction of confection was not to be resisted. We were sorely tempted. We needed no urgings. We had no qualms. My sister gnawed the window, and I nibbled at the rooftop. Hadn’t we been taught better? Our mother was a memory, thin as the smoke that escaped through the witch’s chimney. Our stepmother was unkind. And what of our father? A man of social graces, he taught us to always knock and cry
halloo before entering another’s home. We knocked before we started eating the house, but when it comes to a gingerbread door, who can tell the difference between knocking and kneading? No one hears when a boy’s knuckles sink into sweet baked dough. And that doorknob—oh pure sugar!—it was no sooner turned than eaten. ◆
comet neowise Your voice is a comet electric. Do not wait for me in this terrestrial aquarium of slumber. Number me electric. Do not wait. For me, staccato wisps of thought are not of slumber. Number me & these gently wasted days. Staccato wisps of thought are not echoes of a small fawn song— & these? Gently wasted. Days ask us to be in revolution. Echoes of a small fawn song, this shudder of forest understory, ask us to be. In revolution, your voice is a comet.
alexis avlamis | dune, 2012 59” x 59” | encaustic on plywood
angela narciso torres
amphibious is my word for this mishap weather, sullen soup of sky at dawn, then sun maps the floor by hump of noon. The rose’s tight bisou, furled umbrella, gardenia’s pious skirt. Someday I’ll ship my frayed anxieties to Siam. For now, sorrow hums along to my tired history of I-am’s.
The poem uses the form “a gram of &s” created by the American poet Terrance Hayes who writes, “The poems are based on the daily word game found in the puzzle section of many syndicated newspapers. I end each line with one of the eleven words derived from the title word, while abiding by the other rules of the game: 1. Words must be derived from four or more letters. 2. Words that acquire four letters by the addition of "s," such as "bats" or "dies" are not used. 3. Only one form of a verb is used.”
blue river myrrh Oh, I know this place. That river earlier with its deltoids tense and rippling as it carves towards each horizon blessed and daunting in its forever voyage out. I pull back the free cattails growing out the marsh's breast. By the river earlier my cousin my father and my uncle lay half embedded in the sand and whisper, twenty years. It's been twenty years. I feed their open mouths with squashed yam, poppy paste, and oh, that sweet leaf myrrh, which comes from the river's bend. Drink that, and curve space, I whisper to the bodies. This is the art of retrieval. I think the true shape of a river is a circle. Despite how things fall, despite all the maps— the river stays completely still, the water never ever changing. Only becoming, as pure as resistant as its name. Because yes, it’s home—it’s all damn home, miles and miles of it, trees stacked upon trees like love stacked into boxes. So I go to places
that stick together—like a gum castle— like a mammal taping together a house— like how an aging man is different than a dying man and where it all makes sense to know that— the shape of a river is a circle and the shape of a home is a river, and the river is the river earlier bearing forth the art of retrieval.
ways to travel Do you have the boarding passes? your father asks, his eyes flashing. Don’t argue. Pat your jacket pocket and explain you’ve got them right here, everything’s all set, and then ask him to take another bite of his apple slice which right now he is rubbing against the plate the way a man might rub a poker chip against the felt. Except this isn’t Vegas, and your father isn’t much of a gambler; even now his mind casts about for ways to make his world a little steadier— packing imaginary bags, arranging for transportation, deflecting risk. Do you have the boarding passes? he’ll ask again, ready to rebuke you for your inattention to the checklist which he runs through endlessly. His borders have been drawing in for years; the furthest he now travels is to the doctor; mostly he gets wheeled down to the pond each day to visit with the duck, and see the willow, and nod to joggers. In another day
you’ll be gone again, walking toward the gate with the bag you’ve learned to pack and quick. He might forget you until you call, or he might call you by another name, or might ask aloud if you’ve ever written out a check before, wondering when the two of you might go over some banking. He wants to make sure you can navigate out there on your own, teach you how to manage all the gateways of the world. Yes, Dad, I’ve got the tickets right here, you repeat, tucking his napkin into his shirt against his narrow collarbone where the pulse sits. Your father, in his wildness, thinks he is always going away; you search the wild places by coming back to him.
frank x. christmas bulldog when i think of the city I think of lost opportunities and buildings that eclipse the impossible night. I think of the alleys between the buildings and the things I expected to find in those alleys, what I found in them and what I did not. I remember a nightclub on Boylston clouded with smoke, where we staked out the wall at the back of the club, sipped overpriced Cokes and waited all night for an oversized bouncer to size us all up for being too young, then throw us all out for being naive. The waitresses minded us. Some had a yearning look in their eyes, some had a crushing guilt and some both. The least of them offered us sisterly pity. We never did get bounced from that club but we should have been, not for being impossibly young and naive but for failing to understand even miserably the first and most basic thing about Brubeck.
I also remember Boston in winter, crystallized snow piled high on the curb, and a friend who picked a fight in a bar with a guy so much bigger, I questioned his motivation. Harold wasn’t so much a friend but someone I knew whose acquaintance was friendly. It’s entirely possible he liked the ridiculous odds; he may have relished them. We followed their argument into the street, into bone-chilling cold and crippling winds, and all of it made me feel brittle and coarse. Ever since, I have not known a man to take on a rival whose advantage was so dumbfoundedly obvious, so clearly superior, to beckon him onto a dark city street on a bitter cold night in order to prove to himself, or to others, his courage, his bravery, his virility or some other thing that was for him important or in question. The whole thing was over in no time. The winds were so high, our hats spiraled off and into the night before they squared off. We chased down our hats in the street willy-nilly, into alleys and parking lots empty of cars, got back just in time, hats in hand for the slaughter. We formed a loose circle, looked on as the other guy, orbiting Harold, shred him with surgical grace and precision. He had marvelous skills, and he wielded them flawlessly. A flat-footed, hazy-eyed Harold went down in the street. Beside me a friend of the guy shredding Harold said Napoleon here had just met his match—huh. By the scruff of the neck we hiked our bedazzled friend off the pavement; by the seat of his pants we loaded him into the back of the car. For a small man he held his alcohol well, but for the briefest duration. His head landed square in my lap. His neck was so short, so thick and rolling with muscular tissue, it had earned him a nickname. But he was overly proud of it, and we denied him the pleasure of hearing it spoken. What I knew about Harold—impulsive, sarcastic—would not fill a thimble. First a blunt remark unprovoked, now a witless elbow, all in fun, to the ribs. He had dishonesty in spades. At the same time sincerity was his friend. He seemed incapable of irony, and it may have been this that I admired in him most. I liked less his arrogant ways. We delivered Harold home to his father. The streetlamps which were on in the city were out in the suburbs. Now he was coming to on the flagstones. We had him face up, a man at each limb, and Harold, swaying this way and that, like a pie-eyed hammock. Our idea was to leave him at
the foot of the door, ring the bell and run like banshees. Something had happened to Harold’s old man in the war that had made him a howler; it had managed to make a monkey of him, although how, and in what way, was lost to family folklore, and history. Before we made it as far as the door, the old man was out on the stoop in his bathrobe; on the pocket was stitched a small Marine logo. He thanked us for bringing home Harold all in one piece; sometimes, he said, it was more. With almost a curtsy, he closed the door; we stood there dumbly till the sounds of the night’s second whipping commenced. Then we ran for it. On the bend for home we fishtailed the street, and I cursed out Harold, under my breath, for half-bleeding out on me, in the back of the car. ◆
frank x. christmas
nicholas a. white half-truths i. Daddy sits on the sofa, his belly hanging over his belt. I ask him if he likes his job. He says it’s fine. ii. I push a toy race car across the linoleum and bump it against the walls. Daddy tells me to be quiet because he can’t hear the TV. A bathing suit commercial comes on, the one with the woman in red who has the big hooters. I ask if he thinks Momma is the prettiest woman in the world. He says yes.
iii. Momma comes into the living room. Her face is red and she’s angry. I grab her legs and try to tie her shoelaces together. She yells at me and says not to bother her because she’s busy. iv. My race cars remind me of Tony. I miss him. He was seven years old when he died in the car accident. I ask Momma if the accident was anyone’s fault. She tells me no. v. I climb the stairs to my room. Tony’s notebook is hidden under my bed between some empty boxes. Sometimes I spend hours reading his stories. Sometimes I read the same page, over and over. I turn to my favorite page, the one about the dinosaur Tony saw in his closet at sunset every night. I want to see it too, but Momma and Daddy keep Tony’s bedroom locked so the monsters can’t get out. vi. Momma knocks on my door and says dinner is almost ready. She asks me what I’m doing. She doesn’t like when I read Tony’s notebook. I tell her I’m going to the bathroom and flush the toilet, even though I don’t pee. vii. At the table, I sit between Momma and Daddy. Across from me there is an empty space where Tony used to sit. I ask Momma if she thinks Tony still keeps us company, if he comes down from heaven to eat supper with us. She says yes. I ask her why we don’t leave a plate for him. He brings his own food, she says. viii. The sun’s starting to go down. I push my plate onto the counter and say that I have to go to the bathroom again. Momma frowns but doesn’t say no. I decide to try crawling into Tony’s room from the roof this time. I have twenty minutes before the dinosaur’s supposed to appear in his closet.
nicholas a. white
ix. I go to the guest bedroom and open the window and step onto the shingles. I’ve never been on the roof before. I decide to crawl on my hands and knees to keep from falling. The shingles are hot and I take rests to keep my hands from burning. I’m halfway there. But then I slip and tumble towards the gutter and try to grab it, but the shingles are flat and the gutter doesn’t hold my weight. I think I’m going to hit the sidewalk but instead I land in a bush. Somehow, I’m okay. My parents rush through the front door. Momma’s in tears. I feel light-headed. I’m surprised my legs aren’t broken. Later, when my parents ask what I was doing on the roof, I tell them I just wanted to see what it looks like when the sun sets over the trees. ◆
tiny bones glowing My mother sucks the marrow from a chicken’s thin bone, her mouth aglow with pith. She sucks and sucks, pulls wet air through her teeth like her life depends on it. She always knew how to beat the slant light of dawn— rising before the day’s unhusking. When my father woke at noon she willed the shells to crack back into eggs. Her mind could bend like that. And when all four children suckled her down to the core, she remained bottomless. Only after her own ribs were split, did the wishbone beneath her thumb turn into the spare key of her survival. Behind her cage of marrow I find a brilliant milk. I’ll take whatever she has left to give.
mark kyungsoo bias
exit signs God is a greasy sock in a tightly laced boot. A name in a torso clenched for it to come. Each night, an undeserved answer. The way Tupac pondered a ghetto in heaven when you know what happened next. The hand me-downs impossible to outgrow. A face held together by the seams of your father’s mistakes. God is the frozen peas just cold enough to rid your cheek from the embers of a beating. Where you laid still like a shadow, daring the light to eat you. That same light that—as a child—you whispered to. Asked it to take you back and remake you so that you could survive.
last august with lines from Hélène Cixous’ 1994 essay “Love of the Wolf,” trans. Keith Cohen
in august I think about last august a baby I know turns eight my mouth shut until september my body twenty-three thousand bees I got mad and I got what I wanted so what am I mourning today? I miss dogs in windows I miss ducks in water I wish I had really wailed had laid in the lawn untethered, frowned with all my face and made you look on it. I have felt too hurt to exist in the world. days all the same and senseless someone cutting an ear from every horse in france sea lions on canadian beaches scattered like grain and equally headless, and no one will say why would you know me by my ankle? does my suffering become me? hot nights I wondered if loving you was a lack of imagination, or an over-active one.
I dreamt us redressing in barns dreamt I could only see your back dreamt you as the warmth in my thumbs what do other people convince themselves of? I could call anything romantic I always get like this looking at hills bodies sleeping on their sides yes headless, and dreamless as pears that which is given in love cannot be taken back, Cixous wrote. I beg you, eat me up. in august I think about last august orange and swallowed and shrieking and blue I miss my old dog in my old window I miss my old dog on my old doorstep I offered pieces of myself everywhere I’ve changed over and over August—October 2020
alexis avlamis | almost there, 2018 24” x 24” | acrylic and pencil on canvas
portraits once for three minutes straight I watched that little brown bird throw itself again and again into the side mirror of my car. I did not move. in bluer hours hills black green I could die driving that road. Vasco: (possibly) crow. I could have died a long time ago. I’ve seen my self slink and bruise up and down my hall, long hair, no face she is the pulp of me. she and I waiting. I had that dream again. fantasies of other forms, of big skirts big sleeves and throats blushed like raw steak. I’ve seen.
in some other time, and some other place I would shoot ducks, each of them with my name.
andrea eberly i live in an apartment 1. something is wrong My cat sprints into the living room, almost tripping over himself as he slams to a halt. He looks at me and meows. This isn’t the first time he’s acted weird. He’s weird a lot. Like recently he’s been doing this thing where he suddenly sits up on the back of the couch and stares at the ceiling. I’ve done a quick Google search and learned there are a lot of stupid people who think their cats can see ghosts because their cat looks at nothing like it’s something. Anyway, my cat meows again. Rather than get all excited that he’s communicating with spirits, I figure he just wants me to pop him a can of food. So I get up and shuffle into the kitchen (my legs have fallen asleep watching endless reruns of Hitler’s Henchmen). Thing is, my cat
won’t follow me past the place where the wood floor hits the linoleum. He’s looking past me. An interesting fact about cats: cats won’t look where you point. They just stare at the end of your index the same as they would a feather or a wriggling string. Dogs, on the other hand, look where you point. Probably because dogs co-evolved with humans. My sister has a baby who is nine months old, and she points at stuff all the time. They should get the baby a dog. Imagine the fun they’d have. I have a decent relationship with my cat, maybe not caveman/cavedog look-where-you-point good, but good. I follow his gaze. In the kitchen I see it. Itty bitty, squeezing in from the window sill, marching across the counter. A column of black specks leading to a living, moving, mass of crawling things. They’ve covered my honey bear. The cat’s food bowl is alive with them. Fucking ants. 2. a short natural history of tapinoma sessile In their natural habitat, the forest, the colonies are very small. Maybe one hundred ants to each queen. A tiny colony might live in an acorn or a hollowed-out stick. Bucolic. Ant arcadia. In the urban situation, nests are connected by trails to hundreds, even thousands, of other nests, each with their own queen. With few competitors for food, many excellent sources of nourishment and cozy nesting sites, they explode into super colonies. Tapinoma sessile actually prefers to stay outside, but for any number of reasons they come in. After a heavy rain they may look for a drier place for the nest. Or, alternatively, if it gets too dry, they seek water. When food becomes scarce, the older, experienced foragers search for nutriment. Millions of workers spread out over whole city blocks, living under firewood, rocks, sidewalks. Slipping into walls, around pipes, and even into potted plants. And that smell when squashed? It is a defense mechanism that alerts the other ants that something is wrong. * * *
3. warfare and knowing when to give in How many times can you be watching TV and be interrupted by something triggering the hairs on your arm? Did you just put down an ice cream bowl? Were they waiting under the couch to mob it? I may never be able to have maple syrup in my house again. There is no safe place for cat food. Cinnamon sprinkled on every windowsill. Vinegar sprayed near the baseboards and all over the counters to scramble their trails. Borax and sugar laid out as bait. All food in plastic bags, glass jars, safely tucked in the fridge. And when that didn’t work, the chemical armada: Invict Xpress, Advance375 A, Intice Gelanimo. I lie on the couch and something tickles the top of my foot. I shake and kick but it holds on. I try to ignore it, but each of its six legs feather over my nerve endings. Winter settles. For a while, all is quiet and I think I will get a breather. Dormant, hibernating, the world hits pause. A moment to myself. I even make pancakes and the cat gets a can of wet food. On the TV, the weatherman talks about the Pineapple Express, a wave of moist warmth, a long dark cloud, stretching from the tropics to the north Pacific coast. I fear the change in the weather. But for one week, nothing happens. I like long showers, especially opening my mouth and letting the water wash my tongue. My cat always scratches on the bathroom door, not because he likes showers, but because he doesn’t like to be alone. I step out from behind the curtain, walk to the vanity to comb my hair, and from the corner of my eye something creeps out from a crack in the wainscoting. I open a tube of toothpaste and try to plug the hole. I buy silicone and outline the windows and the floors and the walls. I try to get my corner of the apartment building ready like a hurricane is coming. I’ve run out of nails. I’ve run out of boards. I’ve run out of a lot of things. Is there another way? One day I go into the kitchen and unwrap the honey bear from its six layers of cling film, unscrew the lid, and squeeze. I smear honey over my cheeks, rub it down my arms, through my hair, between my toes. I settle myself down, prostrate in the middle of the floor, limbs spread out like a starfish.
I will wait for it. I will wait. One more little fact. A dog is far more likely to eat your dead body than a cat. ◆
julia c. alter
who makes milk? Cows, I want to say. But I say mammas, I say mammals. Whales, even. Milk is made by a wound, or that’s how I made it for you—the un-making, the un-drinking. The blue empty, blue translucent. Sucked teats make it. Beasts make it. Other mothers. Better mothers. Udders. Plastic wheezing suction cups. Hands pulling down, hands stirring yellow powder into water. Factories. Flowers. Women who weep in the shower, rolling their last pearls down the drain. Thunder. Hunger. Your mouth, some whisper in your saliva. A harder mouth, a darker whisper. Lips pulling, teeth. Prayers. Nipples that will never heal. Trees. Breathing things.
an environment for creative living —1960’s advertising line for Bethlehem Steel
Brick walls unroofed, grass-floored, emptied of work and open to the slanted winter sunlight passing through, clouds gathered north of town at the hill-notched horizon, evening to come, and later, rain.
creation myth Because a hand came out and pushed down the land. Because a boy tried to hold two dogs together. Because you wrote her about it. You sent a letter. Because peacocks made cat-like sounds in the mountains, and someone knocked twice, three times, on a smooth wooden door. Because one’s parents stared at each other on the delayed train, gray commuters, and blood ran through a divot and bloomed, became water spilling from the lion-mouthed fountain. Because an impossibly large structure was built. A pond used to exist at the edge of our city. Mosquitos gathered in the tall grasses. Because one could die without knowing this, the wild heart of all objects. In the dark, I mark myself: One can be alive again. One can be alive ten thousand times.
alexis avlamis | unity, 2007 71” x 95” | encaustic on canvas
book review daniel rottenberg
cameron mcgill willow spring books, 2020 acme poetry company surrealist poetry series
cameron mcgill’s debut collection meridians explores the emotional response to the collisions between the abstracts of memory and Earth’s imaginary north-south lines of longitude. You may recognize McGill’s name from the pages of Raleigh Review—his poems “What I Tell Myself” and “At the Bar” were finalists for the 2019 and 2018 Laux/ Millar Poetry Prize and published in the fall of 2020 in volume 10.2 and fall 2019’s volume 9.2, respectively. Meridians pulls no punches as it tight walks the hazy line between place and memory: within these pages, McGill guides us from cold lakeshores and dark woods to hanging pictures of night-covered silos, and to melancholic mornings of pink fog and dubious clarity. In these poems, the concrete existence of nature and place reveal the instability of memory and the distressing, beautiful attempts to reconcile that instability with one’s own identity and sense of self. Meridians draws us into the heart of Michigan from the start, opening with the imploring lines, “Michigan open your dark umbrella / your benzedrined night sky.” McGill informs us that he does not intend to shirk the murky and complex associations and relationships that we carry to a certain place, suggesting at once drowsiness as if in a hypnotic
state, addiction and impairment, and the grim and mysterious nature of the night. We are immediately introduced to the Michigan that can only exist through McGill’s poetry—a tone, a feeling, a life that weaves itself throughout the collection. McGill’s interpretations of place in Meridians aren’t only envisioned in the poems, but, as if summoned by invocation, serve as titles in geographic coordinates. Half of the poems in this collection, alternating with poems that have worded titles, appear in this manner. Writing in such a way, McGill invites us to probe the poetry further; for instance, a curious armchair traveler, equipped with Google Maps, could retrace the speaker’s steps, visiting bustling Chicago and the quiet, dark shores of Lake Michigan. One location shares its coordinates across six poems, titled “44.6336° N, 36.2345° W”. If we follow McGill to these coordinates, we find ourselves in Frankfort, Michigan. McGill’s repeated use of these coordinates layers memories over memories, images atop images, and the scenes captured in these poems grow to form second skins, textures akin to a topographical map. In this constellation of memories charted across longitude and latitude, 44.6336° N, 86.2345° W, or Frankfort, Michigan, becomes an elevated beacon, a lighthouse, for McGill to return to amid deviations to other coordinates and meditations on an evolving body heavy with experience. Turbulent memories all find their anchor in this one place, but they emphasize a haunting sense of the unseen; here, the unseen represents memories and meridians, both serving to delineate growth and movement, yet neither concretely existing. McGill artfully dodges the urge for punctuation throughout the coordinate poems, instead injecting the incorporeality of memory and meridian lines into the white space of the poems themselves. The result is as unsettling as it is effective, untethering the images to conjure and establish the uncertainty and instability of memory and place as seen on something so audacious as a map made of imaginary lines. The coordinate poems lurk, much like memories lingering in hidden spaces of the mind, in liminal, darkened places, occupying the shadowy worlds of dawn and dusk. Here we uncover scenes tragic, familial, and intimate, all bonded by nature: McGill introduces a setting beside a death, writing, “Morning expands one rib at a time / speaks through the pinktops of pines On the porch / I write to a friend whose mother has
passed;” in a later poem, he fills a setting with memory and character: “but my father & me / in the four o’clock dark He starts in with noises / of his life A fluency of branches swimming at the window / means I wake in blue The room a vanity mirror with rain on it;” and later still, McGill addresses the hesitancy over prolonged inspection into these memories: “My remembering a bath / her knees islands in the cooling water I’m afraid describing things ruins them.” The lines, disrupted by white space in the midst of reckoning memory, place, and the natural world, almost act as intrusions on the unsuspecting coordinates of the titles. McGill dissects the turmoil abundant in this reckoning, lamenting, “This distant country called me home / Why have I only brought it adjectives,” and much later, in a stark response, “Take my memory scraped raw by lake rock / & latitude Take my nerves knife gouges in the linoleum.” Building this topographical map through something as boundless as the human mind’s sporadic ability to process memories, McGill recognizes the need for salve. Working to both accentuate and differentiate from the coordinate poems, the poems with titles such as “Inventions Toward Pleasure,” “Moonflower,” “Mythos,” and “Distant Country” provide concise, moving memories and meditations. While they retain a connection/attachment to place, these poems are not as intrinsically focused on locations, as in the coordinate poems. Rather, these memories are allowed their room to exist freely, unrestrained by the shackling connotations of coordinates like 44.6336° N, 86.2345° W that bear memories like superimposed photographs. McGill wields a unique lucidity within these poems, honing in on clear, grounded images—whether theorizing on the nature of memory and emotion, painting precise scenes, or diving into lyrical reconciliations toward characters from his past. Examining the origins of pleasure, McGill writes, “Some things insist more than we do—clutches of birds at sundown in / southern panic, lastlight tearing like / lions of color at the trees from dunes to / pier.” The punctuation, so powerfully absent in the coordinate poems, surfaces in these pieces, further grounding and guiding us over sturdier grounds, while refusing to retreat from the urgency McGill conveys. And where the coordinate poems want to embody the battle between memory and reality, these poems heft the riddle to the forefront: “Mother, I am wrong— / we are not from stone, but my memories / make hard things of beauty.”
The back-and-forth of the coordinate poems and worded titles creates a conversation between the two styles. If we return to viewing this collection as a topographical map, we can call the coordinate poems the meridian lines, the landmarks, the entities, the altitudes, and we can consider the other poems contextual examples. They can be read as asterisks, or, perhaps more accurately and more accordingly, as legends on a map. In the ethereal coordinate poems, McGill evokes a feeling toward a place. There are memories here, but the crux of what we digest is the speaker’s perception toward each location, and, aligning with the adrift stance McGill takes in his selective use of punctuation, the ghostly imprint that nostalgia and homecoming devise when observed not through rosetinted lenses of long-lost ice cream cones and sunbaked days on a riverbank, but under sober, scrutinous eyes that withstand the lull of reverie, and confront those upheavals in identity that are caught in certain places like flies in a spider’s web. In response, therefore, are the worded titles, which take the ultimate atmosphere established by the coordinates and translate them into meaningful recollections, questions, and reflections. In “40.1164° N, 88.2434° W,” McGill writes, “I think of youth as one long summer / incorrectly,” accentuating the fogged window through which we witness our memories. This poem follows the format of the coordinate pieces: haunting images, prose, emphatic white space and lack of punctuation that suggests gaps and conglomeration. Turning the page, we encounter the poem, “After Work.” Here, McGill offers a glimpse into childhood: he likens his father’s cigarettes to birthday candles and eats the olives from his father’s drink. The poem is rife with violent language—“split,” “icepick,” “crush”—creating an atmosphere of tension, one that culminates with lines addressing the relationship between the son and father, “Those nights when two / Unlikely things were forced together.” There is a candidness to this poem that isn’t typically seen in the sublimity of the coordinate poems; the poem closes with the line, “I was a kid; I was helping.” McGill crafts sincere simplicity into such a complex memory, offering us not only a keyhole into a crucial moment, but also an affirmation of youth, of understanding youth, of enduring youth, and, in terms of our topographical map complete now with a legend, a mitigation for the “one long summer.” Time and place, memories and meridians, are locked in their interchangeable discourse, and McGill, through the dialogue woven between these poems, illumi-
nates the contradictory behaviors of muddled views of youth and unearthing the nuances and inherent intricacies and subtleties. Beyond the personal and introspective compatibility between poems, however, remains the narrative arc at large. We are introduced to Meridians by a coordinate, the insistent 44.6336° N, 86.2345° W, and when we close the book, we depart from that same location. Over the course of the journey, McGill takes us to three other coordinates, peppered by returns to that place of origin. There is an unmistakable degree of movement as we track the collection’s lifespan. With each consecutive poem, the layers on the topographical map grow, the meridian lines emerge to pinpoint coordinates, and we pause after each definitive stop for McGill’s pensive contemplation. In “Chinese Zodiac,” between a coordinate far from Frankfort, Michigan, McGill writes, “Memory won’t stop happening to me.” Memory, to McGill, seems to drop in as naturally as if it is gravity, as if the very predilection of movement from coordinate to coordinate is to invite memories. “Forest Exercises,” a series in this collection, interrupts the otherwise consistent pattern of worded title to coordinate poem with a sudden stream of direct memories, exploring the deepest intimations into the speaker’s relationship with his father. This series weighs the correlations between these moments and the present, from the line, “Have I become the way you look to me?” to the latter passage, “I’ve grown towards you and away from myself.” McGill brands the place with this recognition of forging a new identity. Early on in the collection, McGill describes 44.6336° N, 86.2345° W as a distant country that has called him home. He returns to this idea much later in the poem “Distant Country,” in which he seeks finality (and if not pure resolution, then at least the promise of growth and newfound understanding) with memory and place. He writes, “Memories are less imaginary— / placing them on Winchester at that window with your face, / waving them in wind that climbs my arm among the trees— / they are inches light and numbered as waves.” A wide transformation has transpired since the line, “Take my memory scraped raw by lake rock.” The distant country—the meridians, too—starts to come into focus, no longer blurred by foggy and haunted images, but born anew, led by the acceptance that memories are real because they exist in places, that there is beauty in the complexion of our topographical maps, that their persistence need not blind one’s sense of self, but embolden it.
Meridians is a painstakingly articulated collection of memories and feelings exposing the intricacies of homecoming and homegoing, of unveiling the harmonies between memory and place, and of reconciling the questions impressed upon oneself in coming to terms with the blurred, ungrounded lines that chart our upbringings. Cameron McGill’s debut collection carries us from the deeply personal to the profoundly uncanny. His words are thoughtfully selected, his use of space is meticulous and poignant. In the shadow of the tumultuous times we find ourselves living, it is increasingly vital to retain the ability to tap into and process memories with place. This is a daunting task; we may find ourselves unable to face harsh realities, and unable to find meaning in places that have once meant a great deal to us. But Meridians offers us a lifeline. This collection doesn’t flinch from the travails and tribulations of probing the past. McGill, writing of the obfuscating night and bleary mornings in the coordinate poems, understands the hardships of colliding the past, the present, and the place. During the final return to 44.6336° N, 86.2345° W, McGill assures us that Meridian’s inventions towards pleasure, the beauty and the sadness, are as intertwined as memory and place. He writes, “Thirty years ago / I wrote my name in sand not far from here erased it with my foot.” A new understanding and appreciation of transience arises, and the melancholic, pink fog, so dubious at the onset, begins to subside. In these poems, memories do not only exist to cause pain and dislocation; instead, “Memory’s as fair as it has to be.” In the end, memory and place share an ephemeral bond, one that shifts as often as its coordinates list further away from each other and pile atop one another; and through recognizing that bond, McGill reminds us of two things: that change is relentless, and that it is beautiful. ◆
from the publisher we at raleigh review are heightening our know-how during this pandemic as our team all collectively accomplish the work of the magazine together. We know how to protect, and we know how to fish and shrimp. We had to learn trades as machinists, carpenters, electricians, technicians, teachers. We serve others, and we not only know how to install new wiring, we know how to make the coaxial cable. Channeling our experiences as artists allows us the mental capacity to troubleshoot and work around real life issues, or at least they should. At Raleigh Review, we believe great works of literature inspire empathy among our neighbors everywhere in the world. As Nina Simone sings, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day” so as we do our best to get on the other side of these times, we wish everyone well. Subscribe to our print magazine if you want, and if not, view our issues online for free. Though, we do ask that you most certainly join us in donating to causes that serve those in need—when you can. Thank you for your ongoing support. ◆
Rob Greene, publisher
contributors julia c. alter received her MFA in Poetry
from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poems can be found in Palette Poetry, Foundry, Smartish Pace, Crab Orchard Review, Yemassee, The Boiler, Glass, and elsewhere. She lives in Vermont with her son.
(b. Athens, 1979) is a painter influenced by the Surrealist’s Automatism. He received an early art instruction from Bennington College, Vermont and later on earned a BFA(Hons) in painting from the Athens School of Fine Arts. By juxtaposing existing and fabricated visuals, he creates dreamlike landscapes of the mind. His work has been exhibited and published worldwide. He is a laureate of the International Emerging Artist Award (Drawing and Illustration) and a winner of the 7th ArtSlant Showcase Painting contest. Works may be found both in private and museum collections internationally.
mark kyungsoo bias
is a recipient of the 2020 William Matthews Poetry Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Asheville Poetry Review, Best New Poets, PANK, and elsewhere. He is currently a consultant for Grub Street and is an MFA candidate at UMass Amherst.
melissa boston’s poetry has appeared in Moon City Review, Midwestern Gothic, and I-70 Review. This is her first appearance in Raleigh Review. She currently lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
frank x. christmas studied journalism
at Northeastern University and theology with a retired Jesuit. His stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Manoa, Northwest Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Seattle Review, Chiron Review, a tribute to the work of Fernando Pessoa, and numerous other venues.
madeleine cravens received her BA from
Oberlin College, and is currently an MFA candidate at Columbia University, where she is a Max Ritvo Poetry Fellow. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Best of the Net, The Adroit Journal, New Ohio Review, Image Journal, and Narrative. She lives in Brooklyn.
jessica dionne is a poet from North Caro-
lina. She is a PhD student at Georgia State University, and she received her MFA from North Carolina State University. She was a finalist in Narrative’s 2019 30 Below contest, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Iron Horse, SWWIM, Rust & Moth, and Banshee.
short stories appear in journals such as Southwest Review, Witness, and Bellevue Literary Review. She lives in Seattle and is working on a novel set in 1990s Germany.
amina gautier is the author of three short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy, and The Loss of All Lost Things. More than 125 of her stories have been published. For her body of work, she has received the PEN/ MALAMUD Award for Excellence in the Short Story.
is a Dutch born poet and essayist living in Jerusalem. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Salamander, The Penn Review, Juked and Radar Poetry, among others. Her lyric essay “The Beginnings of Fire” was named a runner-up in CutBank's 2020 chapbook competition and will be published in Spring 2021. She works as a literary agent at the Deborah Harris Agency.
holds a BA from Bennington College and an MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. Her poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Sixth Finch, DIAGRAM, Cold
Mountain Review, The Greensboro Review, The American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn.
work has been published in One Story, Glimmer Train, Blackbird, and other journals. She teaches writing at Jefferson University and lives near Philadelphia with her family. Her website is www.thisthingneedsatitle.com.
ann hudson grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has lived in the Chicago area for over twenty years. She is a senior editor for RHINO, and teaches at a Montessori school in Evanston, Illinois. Her first book, The Armillary Sphere, was published by Ohio University Press.
is a poet, short fiction writer, and essayist from Hamlet, North Carolina. He is an MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina. A Watering Hole fellow, his work has appeared in Barely South Review and Quarterly West, as a 2017 AWP Intro Journals Award winner.
jasmine khaliq is a Pakistani Mexican poet
born and raised in Northern California. She holds an MFA from University of Washington, Seattle, where she also taught. She was a finalist in the 2019 Wabash Poetry Prize. Her recent work is found or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, The Pinch, and Phoebe.
is the Clark County, Nevada Poet Laureate and was named 2017 “Best Local Writer or Poet” by Nevada Public Radio’s Desert Companion. She is a Lecturer for Nevada State College, the World Literature Editor for The Literary Review, the guest Poetry Editor for Witness, and an Editor for Tolsun Books. www.heatherlang.cassera.net
A photographer and poet, steve lautermilch has work appearing in The Chariton Review, Dogwood Journal, Psychological Perspectives, and Sow's Ear Poetry Review. Rim (2010) won the Sow's Ear Chapbook Award. Figures for a Family Portrait (2018) received the Bright Hill Press Book Award. Reflections (2020), an artist's book is now available from Hour Press.
alana reynolds is a writer and poet living
in Beacon, New York. She is the author of the poetry chapbook Bleak and Corny. This is her first piece of published fiction.
ashley danielle ryle's work has most
recently appeared in Prairie Schooner and online at Upstart. Her chapbook Fetching My Sister is with Dancing Girl Press. She currently resides with her husband in central Pennsylvania while pursuing a PhD in materials and grammars of sixteenth and seventeenth century women’s life-writing.
angela narciso torres
is the author of What Happens is Neither (Four Way Books 2021) and Blood Orange (Willow Books). Recent work appears in Poetry, Missouri Review, and TriQuarterly. A graduate of Warren Wilson MFA Program and reviews editor for RHINO, Angela has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Ragdale Foundation. She lives in Southern California.
bob watts is an Associate Professor in En-
glish/Creative Writing at Lehigh University. His first collection, Past Providence (David Robert Books, February 2005), won the 2004 Stanzas Prize from David Robert Books, and his poems have been published in Poetry, The Paris Review, and Redivider, among other journals.
nicholas a. white
earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. His short stories and
contributors cont. essays have appeared in Pembroke Magazine, Permafrost Magazine, Baltimore Review, Prime Number Magazine, and Still: The Journal, among others. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.
john sibley williams
is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize), Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize), and Summon (JuxtaProse Chapbook Prize). A twenty-three time Pushcart nominee and winner of various awards, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review, teaches for Literary Arts, and is a poetry agent.
was born in Nanning, China. He immigrated to the United States in 1999 as a child. His writing has appeared in New Ohio Review, Witness, Bellevue Literary Review and more. He currently reads for Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review.