Raleigh Review Vol. 2 (2011-2012)

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Raleigh

Vol. 2 2011-2012

R • E • V • I • E • W

Sherman Alexie Paul Beckman Josh Booton Mark Budman Darren Demaree Geri Digiorno Sarah Dion Jonathan Harris Kevin Heaton Nancy Hechinger M. J. Iuppa Renee LaGue

R aleigh R eview

you underestimated me

L I T E R A R Y

Daniel Lorberbaum Al Maginnes J.M. McDermott Joseph Millar Shabnam Nadiya Maria Nazos Brenda Paro Janeen Pergrin Rastall Jared Yates Sexton Jermaine Simpson Barry Spacks Vol. 2 (2012)

your form in strict black ink

&

A R T S

M A G A Z I N E



Raleigh Review, vol. 2 (2011-2012)

Copyright © 2012 by Raleigh Review Cover image, “The Perfect Wife” by Geri Digiorno Printed by: Sheridan Press, Hanover, PA Library of Congress Control Number: 2011963388 ISBN 978-0-615-58139-2 Printed and bound in the United States of America

Raleigh Review Box 6725 Raleigh NC 27628

Visit www.RaleighReview.org for information on programs supported by our organization, to listen to the audio files of our poets themselves reading their own poems, and for submission and subscription information.

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Raleigh Review Editor/Publisher Rob Greene Coordinating Editor Cassandra Mannes Editors Smriti Ravindra / Fiction Sierra Golden / Poetry Henry Kivett / Art Editorial Staff Tasha Pippin / Poetry & Copyediting Heather Ridlon / Poetry David Koh / Poetry Jake Young / Publishing & Copyediting Tyree Daye / Intern (NCSU) Editorial Advisory Board Will Badger / Co-Founding Fiction Editor Smriti Ravindra / Co-Founding Fiction Editor

Board of Directors Joseph Millar / Chairman Dorianne Laux / President Walt Wolfram / Vice President Wilton Barnhardt / Secretary Rob Greene / Treasurer

Raleigh Review Founded as Rig Poetry February 21, 2010 Robert Ian Greene

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CONTENTS ART Geri Digiorno Sarah Dion Jake Young

7 28 62

Paul Beckman Jared Yates Sexton Shabnam Nadiya J.M. McDermott Renee LaGue Mark Budman Daniel Lorberbaum

10 16 25 31 37 45 51

A Fable for Aesop New Jersey Forty-Year Marriage After the Young Hoopster… One More Epitaph for my Gravestone

Jonathan Harris Barry Spacks Sherman Alexie

6 8 12

To Light a Cigarette A George Jones Song Tits and Violins Cache The Eternal K-Mart Layaway Odyssey Half Made Obit Writing May the Saints Preserve Lately (In) Sight Greenwich Village, Halloween Parade My Sister’s Broken Engagement

Jermaine Simpson Darren Demaree Maria Nazos Josh Booton Sherman Alexie Joseph Millar Janeen Rastall Kevin Heaton Geri Digiorno M.J. Iuppa Nancy Hechinger Brenda Paro

13 20 22 27 29 34 35 40 42 48 49 53

Al Maginnes Cassandra Mannes Tasha Pippin

56 63 69

Venus To that Odd fork in Being’s Road City

FICTION Views Mediation Eating Bone Gaia Tilton Hill On Demand Summer of the Woodpecker

POETRY

REVIEWS Earned Wisdom A Fresh Take on the Love Poem Images Wild and Precise

CONTRIBUTORS

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Editor’s Note: The fiction and poetry from our first year placed in and won competitions such as Best of the Net. The quality of Volume 2 meets the standard set by our first issue. Raleigh Review speaks best through the works we publish. We hope you enjoy some of these selections. At the same time, we believe art should challenge as well as entertain.

Rob Greene Raleigh Review

Raleigh Review is incorporated as a federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit literary arts organization, registered and based in the State of North Carolina. Your support will help us in our mission of returning literature to its rightful owner, the people. For more information on us, our national literary magazine, our authors, our workshops with an award winning faculty in our writers’ studio, our bookshop, NC Poetry on the Bus; either visit us at: www.RaleighReview.org or the next time you are in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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POEM⏐Jonathan Harris

A Fable for Aesop The boy-who-cried-wolf’s promiscuous older sister an actress famous for her tragic howls put out like clockwork on the hillside for the nightshift shepherds and to this day those tender men with little staffs believe her.

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Venus⏐Geri Digiorno

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POEM⏐Barry Spacks

New Jersey New Jersey to me is Jersey Joe Walcott, heavyweight boxer who shopped in our Camden market where I, at twelve, got to help choose his beans and kale, hoisting brown paper bags filled with fruits of the earth up to his smile and his ponderous arms. Plus learning that Whitman lived right down the street and add on to that the time I went with my father for lunch at the Quality Drug and he flirted with the counter waitress, me big eyed, and the time Uncle Sammy bought me the first cold beer of my life: Lintonia Restaurant, age fourteen, in white coat and apron among the men at the noontime bar. My Atlantic City, biking the boardwalk at six a.m., Pennyland where it actually cost one penny to play a slot-machine, noon-times planting our sun-umbrella digging it into sand and bodysurfing waves to the shell-gravel shallows, and old folks resting on Boardwalk benches grouped in what they called “pavilions,” or being pushed in a wicker chair, queasy to think of the guy there pushing and pony rides and saltwater taffy and visiting once in Linden, NJ, a little kid saluted me as I left a bus in an “officer’s” raincoat making me feel they loved me in New Jersey. Raleigh Review 8


Still Life⏐Geri Digiorno

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FICTION⏐Paul Beckman

Views This morning I watched my neighbor go off to work. She lives in the brownstone across the alley, second floor side directly across from my side through. Every morning I watch her go off to work after I watch her having coffee and toast standing at the kitchen sink while wearing her slip. The slip is always white. Before she has her breakfast she’s in her bedroom looking through her closet deciding what to wear for the day and before that she’s drying herself off from her morning shower. When she rubs her hair dry her breasts jiggle and after she’s dried off and before she goes to her closet she puts on her panties and bra. She wears only white underwear and while the panties are skimpy she doesn’t wear thongs. Then she puts on her slip. Prior to her drying herself in her bedroom I watch her brush her teeth and step into the shower. She showers quickly. Sometimes she shaves her legs, putting one at a time on the toilet. She’s a no-nonsense shaver with her electric razor, which she also uses to shave her underarms. She faces the window when she does this. Then I have to rush to get ready for work, I get in about a half hour after my neighbor who is the receptionist for the office I work in. We always say hello to each other—well I say “hello” and she says, “good morning.” That’s the extent of our interaction for now but I’m hoping to turn it into a bit more of a conversation, which could then possibly lead to lunch and then sometime down the road, after-work drinks. Today at lunch hour for the first time ever we were alone on the elevator both facing front when she asked if I could possibly do her a favor and I said that I’d try and would if I could and she then asked in the same tone if I would please close my bedroom shades at night because she’s spending too much time waiting to watch me masturbate and sometimes misses her favorite TV shows. The door opened at the cafeteria floor where she got out and I continued on down to the lobby so I didn’t have to answer her but thought about it all during lunch. When I got back to the Raleigh Review 10


office she was at her receptionist’s desk and said, “Good afternoon.” I nodded my hello and went on to my cubicle wondering if tomorrow would be a good time to pop the lunch question.

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POEMS⏐Sherman Alexie

Forty-Year Marriage My love, you have been my water and thirst, But one of us, one of us, will die first.

After the Young Hoopster Asks Me if I’ve Ever Heard of Jenny Craig, I Proceed to Run His Ass Up and Down the Court These kids are younger than the rim and net. Someday they’ll beat me. But not yet. Not yet.

One More Epitaph for my Gravestone This tomb should include Gratitude for all those people Who offered me grace, But I didn’t have enough space.

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POEM⏐Jermaine Simpson

To Light a Cigarette My father didn’t believe in auto shops. No, his ‘69 Dodge Ranger remained lifeless in our old garage, drawing dust particles and the rigid, empty shells of ladybugs. His Sunday suits were gifts from his father, my grandfather, and now they slumber in the back of my own closet, waiting for a man who would never know repentance, would never know how Mom got the wrinkles to shake loose. And no, she didn’t cry when he saw the stars before her. She just straightened his tie and kissed him goodbye or maybe goodnight—the two, she could never really differentiate. But even behind walls my father built himself, she refused her face the comfort of a moist pillow, refused to turn off the lamp on what use to be his side of the bed. It was as if she were waiting. Once, I recognized his scent, passing by an old man in a subway station. I don’t know if I had been imagining the smell of a struck match or remembering the way my father let me light his cigarette, holding on to that wooden stick until the scent of burnt phosphorus coated my fingers. He would say, that’s how a man does it. And Mom knew men all too well. After my father died, she began roaming bars, searching for my role model. She was

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never good with choosing and I referred to those men as lighters. Cheap, plastic, the kind that left your thumb raw and callused on a cold day. They left their marks everywhere. Black holes in the carpet, brown stains on a bathroom sink. That one scar under my right eye. I didn’t even see him coming. But sooner or later, I realized lighters exploded under extreme heat, sending tiny shards wherever. I used to collect and label them, somehow find a way to glue the pieces inside of the family photo album, but they never fit.

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Stop⏐Geri Digiorno

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FICTION⏐Jared Yates Sexton

Mediation “You got to understand.” “Understand what?” he said. “It was back when Daddy visited,” she said. “Last May.” He thought of her father. A sailor from South Carolina with a patchy beard and gray eyes. He’d visited the spring before. Threw his things in the corner and wasted no time in mixing up an Old Fashioned. Made himself right at home. “You were drinking so much,” she said. “Drinking almost all the time.” For a second he looked at the glass in his hand. A ring of foam was all that was left of his beer. “I slowed down,” he said. “Ain’t got drunk near as much lately.” “I know,” she said. “Thank God you slowed it down. I didn’t know what was going to happen one day to the next.” “So what was it?” he said. “What was it you wanted to tell me about?” She said, “Well, I don’t know. I mean, I do, but I don’t know how to say it.” “Just say it,” he said. “Just belly up to the bar and say it already. Goddamn.” “It wasn’t me,” she said. “It was Daddy. He brought it up. That night he took us to eat at the oyster bar.” He barely remembered that night. He barely remembered any night from that period. He’d ordered one drink after another on the old man’s tab. And when he woke up the next morning, a hangover resting on his skull, he stumbled into the living room and found that Daddy and his bags were gone. “You got to understand,” she said. “You were like an animal. Nobody knew what to do with you.” He got up and poured himself another drink. “That a fact?” he said.

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“You yelled about god knows what,” she said. “Yelled and sang and when Daddy asked you to quiet down you put your hands around my neck and squeezed.” “Huh,” he said, and sat back down. She said, “I mean it. You were scary back then.” He took a draw from his beer and leaned back in the chair. He said, “So he said maybe you should split, huh?” “No,” she said. “I bet,” he said. “I bet he told you you’d find someone else who’d put up with all your bullshit and be fine with it.” “No,” she said. “Daddy didn’t say that.” “I’ll be goddamned,” he said. “I’ll be goddamned.” “We got you home,” she said, “and you tore down all the pictures in the bedroom. When I came to bed you were on the floor, crying about someone named Josephine.” “Did Daddy say you could move back to South Carolina? That you could move home and get away from your big, bad husband?” “I wish you’d get it,” she said. “You were like an animal.” She lit a cigarette and tapped her fingers on the table. “An animal,” she said. When he finished his beer he got up and washed his glass out in the sink. “Daddy said he knew someone,” she said. “He said all it would take was a couple thousand. Everything would be taken care of.” He put his glass down and faced her. She had the cigarette in her hand. It was burning down to her knuckles. She was looking out the window at something. “Daddy said this guy was good,” she said. “That he knew him from a ways back and the guy had a reputation.” Slowly, he sat down. He reached for her and touched her leg. “What’s that?” he said. “What’re we talking about here?” “Daddy said I could just let him know a day,” she said. “And that I should go to the store or go for a drive. It wouldn’t take more than an hour he said.” “Wait,” he said.

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“I still remember,” she said. “I still remember what Daddy said. ‘Sharon’, he said, ‘that man is a good for nothing sonuvabitch and he’s gonna wind up killing you someday’.” He tried to make her face him, he put his fingers on her chin and cheek, but she didn’t budge. “And I said okay,” she said. “I said as soon as possible. Call up your friend. Get the wheels moving.” They sat there, the two of them. “Sharon,” he said. “Sharon.” “He was going to use a bat,” she said. “He was going to kick in the door and bash your head in with a baseball bat.” He sat there in his seat, watching her look out the window. Finally, she looked down at the cigarette and ashed it in an ashtray on the table. “I went to the store,” she said, “just like I was supposed to. You were on the couch. Passed out. I kissed you and you woke up long enough to tell me to pick up some chips.” “Sharon,” he said. She said, “I drove to that store, thinking about what I’d see when I got home. Your body on the floor. Blood on the walls. Bits of brain and hair and bone.” He looked at her looking out the window again. Something darted past, just a shadow of something, but he looked out himself and tried to see if he could make out what it was. “I called Daddy,” she said, “and told him to call it off. Told him I thought maybe there was some good to you. Maybe you’d sober up and make a real go at being a man.” He listened, but he was still watching. Something was out there. He could feel it. Felt it so much it made his gut sick. “What’d he say?” he asked. She looked at her cigarette. She studied it. “He said I hope so,” she said. “That’s all he said.” They sat there some more, the two of them at the table. Before too long she stumped her cigarette out and told him she was going to bed. He said okay, he’d be there in a few, but he didn’t move. He sat right there, in his chair, his eyes trained out the window, at the big yard behind their house. He was waiting Raleigh Review 18


for that something to move again. He thought if maybe it moved again he could get a good look and figure out what the hell it was. Figure out just what he was dealing with.

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POEM⏐Darren Demaree

A George Jones Song Tip of whiskey I trip on the whiskey, I banged my head on the whiskey at the top of the stairs, slammed stars against and with the whiskey, felt the she in her best woman parts with the whiskey, cried whiskey more whiskey with the whiskey and cried whiskey when everything went with the whiskey.

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Madonna⏐Geri Digiorno

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POEM⏐Maria Nazos

Tits and Violins When the guy in the bar says that he loves nothing more in this world than tits and violin, in that order, and I don’t punch him I know that I’ve mellowed with age like a fading cord. Part of me misses that song of frank honesty. Somewhere along the way, I began to tune my off-key instincts, to play smoothly into conversation. Sometime between my thirties and desire for my mouth to stop tasting of my foot soles I began to say the fourth or fifth thing that came to mind instead launching the first missile from my mouth. I once asked my sister, “How’s the whole rehab thing going?” Watched her face crumple like a cellophane flower. When a friend in college put down my boyfriend, I said unruffled, “At least he hasn’t given me Chlamydia.” I’ve used words to dig myself out of the prison of long constrictive silences; which is why I feel myself doing it even now. This man who loves the symphony of a woman’s shape, who loves the violin, I could tell him to get lost. I could tell him that he isn’t using the most resourceful approach to getting laid. But instead Raleigh Review 22


I let the woman at the front of the bar play her fiddle to translate what I can’t; to sing a rolling bluegrass song for myself and every other idiot who has ever bothered to be human.

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Sun Virgin⏐Geri Digiorno

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FICTION⏐Shabnam Nadiya

Eating Bone Disha hadn’t walked out of the house in anger, she never did. She waited until some time had passed, wrapped her sari around herself neatly, pulled her hair into the accustomed knot (though tighter than usual), checked her purse and mumbled something about going to see her tailor. Her husband didn’t bother looking up from the television. “It’s over,” Disha said aloud, “Shesh.” The juddering movement of the rickshaw made her voice shake on that last word, as if there was still some uncertainty left. Ten years of marriage, ten, a nice rounded number, ten without any children. Who knew why. Beyond gossip, complaints and allegations, the childness was unexplored. As she descended from the rickshaw at a random street corner, she recalled this morning’s taunt. It was a new one. Disha knew all his usual jibes: her fleshy belly and sagging breasts, her barrenness, her dark skin, her unkempt domesticity, her lack of property. What was she good for? And now this one: all he had to say was Talaaq, three times, and Disha would be divorced, out of the house. She kept silent about the newspaper article that said saying Talaaq thrice wasn’t all it took, these days the law demanded more effort if a man wanted to rid himself of a wife. She kept silent about how the sordidness and uncertainty of marriage for women should be left unsaid in their kind of household, that this was something her maid might hear from her husband, but not someone like Disha in the air-conditioned splendor of her posh neighborhood. As she walked, the strong aroma of roasting chicken invaded her nostrils. The smell spoke to her, as if the tendrils of smoke wisping in the air were messengers, entering her head through her nose, leaving indiscreet messages. She salivated as she looked at the glass-cased spit at the eatery. It was set right in front of the café, almost on the sidewalk. The chickens skewered into inert lines by thick steel rods turned relentlessly

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as she watched, fat dripping from them. A young boy stood next to them, beside him a small table with some bottles and chopping paraphernalia. Stacked in a corner near his feet were plastic boxes and bundles of fabric bags. All the things required to prepare a roasted chicken for a customer to take away without even having to go inside the café. He caught her staring and began his litany immediately, “Shall I get you one, apa? They’re beautifully done by now, and I’ll spice them up the way you love. You’ve been here before, you’ve had our chicken, I remember you. Take one; I’ll throw in some extra salad.” ***** Disha sat on her bed, naked, her breasts hanging slackly brown, chocolate-nippled. She ripped open the dirty-white box of thin plastic that sat between her spread out legs, and gazed at the spice-browned chicken as it lay on it’s back, legs splayed, dead yet inviting. The dying afternoon sun directed spent rays here and there, and the golden hue surprised her as one landed on her fleshy thigh. The chicken felt heavenly in her mouth, her taste buds flaring at the saltiness and hotness and the sweet-sour tang of chili sauce. The fat hadn’t completely dripped away during the slow burning, and some dribbled down her chin now landing on her belly. Disha didn’t bother wiping it off as her jaw moved continuously. There was no food in the house today, Disha had cooked nothing. Her husband stood at the bedroom door, slack-jawed, transfixed at the vision of her. The meat was finished and she stared at the small heap of bones in front of her. She remembered her mother eating chicken: how the woman had loved to crunch the bones! The best chewable bones, she would tell her daughter, were in the bits no one wanted. And so Ma would eat neck, tail, feet, head. But not Disha: she had eaten flesh, now she would eat bone. She picked up one of the bigger bones and licked the knob on the end. She would eat it all. Today she would eat the world. Raleigh Review 26


POEM⏐Josh Booton

Cache Like a man rises to greet his life at sunrise, the line of sky lifting into light, and thinks of a woman he had once, how she lifted for him so slowly her skirt, and what came after. Today, he’ll plummet into love with every woman he meets, with a man raising the gate of his bodega, with eyelids even. Anything that opens opens him. Until later. Until lunch maybe, when he’s walking past the steaming food carts longing for perogies from this little Polish diner that went under a few years ago, potatoes and onions folded into dough, so simple, so impossible to perfect, and he wants suddenly only perfection, to keep walking forever or to fold himself beneath his bed sheets and imitate oblivion. Like above him, those lazy doves decorating the trees, each head tucked beneath a wing. Strange to think such a white thing can carry even a spoonful of darkness. But it must.

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To that Odd Fork in Being’s Road⏐Sarah Dion

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POEM⏐Sherman Alexie

The Eternal K-Mart Layaway Odyssey Every summer, skinny and poor, and the survivor of a constant war, I collected aluminum cans. And sold them for ten cents a pound at Recycled Joe’s. Our mother earth breeds nothing feebler than a man. Late August, and I was desperately trying to earn enough cash to make the last payment on my new school clothes.

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Bobbie⏐Geri Digiorno

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FICTION⏐J.M. McDermott

Gaia The first lovers in the history of the universe, Gaia and Uranus, couldn’t work things out. There’s probably no hope for the rest of us. I did nothing to deserve the way he treated me. All that nonsense my children talk about endlessly—a wedding, a war between titans and children of titans and all for our sake, him and me, heaven and earth—don’t believe a word. All that really happened between us was just the argument that broke out because we hadn’t quite invented marriage, so we couldn’t quite divorce when he invented infidelity. Here’s the true story. I was asleep in a field. Goodness, I was the field. He came by like a cloud over me. His shadow passed over me like nightfall. He looked down at my beauty, at how beautiful I was as a field, naked and asleep with nothing to cover me. He wept because I was so beautiful. Then he did more than weep tears. That’s what woke me up. Back then, two lovers just allowed themselves to be in love. This is the truth about marriage: we invented divorce long before we invented marriage. Think about it, and you’ll know it’s true. She and he move in together. Before this they both have their own things. He has his things, and she has her things, and they are separate piles of things. Then, they move in together. The piles of things, and the children, all get messed up because everyone loves each other and wants to share their things with each other. The two lovers are feeling generous. But, they were innocent and did not sign a prenuptial agreement because these things had not been invented yet, and there was no need for a public ceremony because there was no need for any witnesses to the love. It just was. I woke up and he was over me, and the stars in his hair and the way the light shone through his marvelous form was like nothing you’ve ever seen in your life. It was certainly the

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only time I had ever seen it, before or since. No one even thought of remembering who was responsible for what in the affairs of our household. We just did what we wanted to do, and if it was a mess later on it was all just stuff we didn’t really care about because we cared more about hurting each other at that point, and breaking stuff we knew the other wanted. And, this is how divorce was invented in all that mess of tears and missed phone calls and blame and gifts sent back and gifts destroyed and all the messy—pardon me for speaking so Chthonically—truly fucked up shit that happens in the end: my children—our children, all of them, but these in particular who are my children loved me more—caught him running around with our best and brightest chariot and our best and brightest daughter, doing untoward things to my baby girl, and she was letting him do it because she loved her father and no one had ever taught her the boundaries that we had to learn later after we got sick of dealing with all this trouble—so don’t judge her, if anything it was his fault, and mine, but mostly his, because I was just lying around when he came upon me, and I was just lying around afterwards not knowing any better while he was scheming. My swift-footed children, some with more arms and legs than could ever be fought away even by ethereal men, and my ugly children with tentacles that harden anyone to stone in a blink, and my vengeful children who sleep in my breast and relentlessly seek the true nature of unjust hearts—all of them found him with our best chariot, leaving me alone down here for my bright-eyed, beautiful daughter. They were trying to escape, him and her. Our whole family was too much for them both, with our tusks and tentacles and jagged flesh. All of my beautiful, hideous children were too much. He was a man whose head was always in the clouds, wanting idealized things. I had been trying so hard to keep him involved with us, and to pull him down to our level, where the muscle meets the mud, and there he was with our most beautiful daughter, trying to flee. So my children caught him up, and her, and there was a divorce. If you want to get technical, it could be considered a war. There was certainly fighting, and tears and bloodshed, and the dividing and conquering of our shared territories. All’s fair Raleigh Review 32


in love. So, we, right then, we invented divorce long before anyone thought of a marriage. Anyway, all the stories you hear—all of them—are wrong. Especially about me. I was just lying there minding my own business when he wept over me. I woke up. I was so ashamed by my own nakedness, and how he was crying over it, that I pulled a long green robe over my body. He did nothing to cover himself because he was a man, and you and I both know what he was about to do. Then, we had children. Then, we invented divorce. After this, when the blood had seeped into my skin, and he was still looking down on me with thunder in his heart, we all decided there ought to be some kind of ceremony before all the fighting, where everyone could take sides—his or hers—so that everyone would know how things stood if it got ugly. If the sides were pretty even—which was best—no one would kill anyone or imprison them deep inside their mother’s heart on account of the divorce. I don’t have to tell you how awful it was when so many of my children took his side, and I’m stuck down here unmoving. I would have liked to know that sooner, so it wouldn’t come as such a shock. He’s up there, right now. He’s looking down at me all the time. He regrets it; I know. He cries about it constantly, but I just throw his tears up as high as I can push them, and I roll those tears around where he can see them, and take them back when they burn away. I don’t want to take in his tears if I can avoid it. Deep inside of me, the good children that took my side are forever pounding and howling at my bones. I have a giant heart. I have the largest heart in the world because my heart is the whole world. I’m all heart, and don’t let him or his tell you any different. I have this huge, huge, red heart. And, it’s so hot. It has so much love that it burns hot. Listen to me going on. That was all so long ago. I can’t believe anyone even remembers it anymore, to gossip about it.

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POEM⏐Joseph Millar

Half Made Something half made like the love poem left behind in the front seat or the youngest child who keeps turning to leave, his nicotine fingers and widow’s peak. Something half made like this high rise, its jackhammer breaking the curb, its terrace abandoned, then planted again with lilacs and clumped, leafy herbs. Something half made like a wedding blanket nobody thinks will last or maybe the thin skin of the past: counting the capillaries and veins, the tiny bones in your feet, even at night the blood pulses, the iron planet hums in the heat. Something half made like the song of the crow, the marriage vows given and taken even at night, blow by blow.

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POEM⏐Janeen Pergrin Rastall

Obit Writing I squeezed their lives like pulp through a juicer. Three hundred thirty two words counting backwards from the address of the parlor. I peeled off every memory: her head flung back in laughter, his morning mirror song. No room for his midnight pacing, her laser guided critiques. No room for salt on the watermelon, or jigsaw puzzle debris. I pared my parents to fit the text box, pressed print and laid them out on the page.

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Red Apple⏐Geri Digiorno

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FICTION⏐Renee LaGue

Tilton Hill “Child—” he shoves the milk pail at his eldest, bossdaughter, and drops to his knees in the hay and shit of the corner stall. Red Bridget is down, head folded against her flank, eyes dry and staring. Her calf has been forgotten along the foundation of whitewashed stone. The farmer looks up at the small square windows and sees only snow. He could call on his new telephone and plead, “My best cow, my boss cow,” but the vet would simply say twenty below, Marsh Road iced over and the other snowed in. Is this the hand of fate? The farmer settles his wool hat farther down his forehead. A broken fence last May, a wayward bull and Bridget standing in heat for every frisky cow. Is it best that she should die after a season of brown grass, of rib-creeks exposing the traprock belly of Tilton Hill? With one less mouth to feed, he will not have to supplement his scant hay. This ground is a stone, he thinks, that will own my children and their children too, will consume their earthly hours and finally their flesh. Oh, only the soul is spared. Some days he waits; he is headed—but which direction? The thought makes his rail-thin shoulders come up in defense. He does not want his cow to die. He glances at his daughter’s small form, her coat of sheepskin among the brown hides billowing with calf. Oh January, animal in animal. Bluest month, month of creaking ice, hands numb on teats. The embers eating cords of wood. Bridget yesterday with her calf’s placenta hanging from her mouth. The farmer puts his head on the milking spot and breathes in the smell of shit that is indistinguishable from the smell of cow. He feels Bridget’s heat. Her teats are bursting, the one in the bedding dripping with pressure. Has the calf drunk its fill? “Daddy, is Bridget going to be okay?” his daughter asks. “We need to call the vet.”

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He lifts his head. “I don’t know, honey. The snow is too deep for the vet to come.” She leans on the stall slats, one stubby leg tucked behind the other, “Is the calf a girl or a boy?” “Boy.” And too bad for him. He would have had a long life as a milker. Bridget looks at the farmer and he scratches between her ears, offering a handful of minerals, clay, and salt. She swipes his hand with her gooey tongue. Just like the baby at the house, shit and mucus and food everywhere. “Do cows go to heaven?” his daughter asks. “Well—” he’s no preacher, but he can’t imagine a heaven without a good milk cow. “Didn’t Noah bring them on his ark? Wasn’t Jesus born in a barn?” “Just like this one.” “Just like,” he says. “Cow souls go to heaven and we eat the rest.” There is a pause as his daughter’s face twists with thought, and she says, “Some boys at Sunday school said we’re all going to hell on—on account of that woman.” The words are too old for her classmates, and he knows who has been saying them. He knows—he opens his mouth but no words come. He is simply the man who moves stones, fingerprints erased by the granite he lays. If it is a sin to love and let love, has he not done penance? He has spent so many shotgun nights curled up in the hay, listening to the whistle of coyotes, and keeping the calves safe. Finally he says, softly, “That’s for God to decide. But I can’t really believe—well, I reckon the bread’s done in the house. Why don’t you run home and try some?” How can he answer a question he works with daily, fitting it into hollows as he fits stones? This is one for the women, and he will ask them later to explain. He helps his daughter with her hat and walks her through drifts to the house. When she is safely inside, he turns to the frozen pasture. Every day he expects the preacher to appear frowning at their door but the man does not. Oak days and iris days, days the solitary sandpipers scoot down the marsh. RedRaleigh Review 38


winged blackbird days, bobolink and wood duck days proliferating like wrinkles on a forehead or freckles on an arm. Days he moves stones, double-faced, walls to prove he is not unbounded. This flesh is the limit, the radius of motion, the host we are set here in and must endure. The wives braid onions, garlic, their wheaten hair. Is it so wrong for the three of them to entangle like sedge and bindweed on the bed? He and his wife opened their home to a traveler like the Good Book would have said. Oh the soft wet dark, the soft moans. He is always turning—turning to the fields and the solitary pebbles, the slick brook bedded in mossy stones. He does not deserve— Fingers and toes numb, he moves back to the barn. Bridget has not stirred, and he mounts the stairs to the hayloft, pitches some hay down the chute, and grabs the cold arm of his rifle from the crossbeam.

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POEM⏐Kevin Heaton

May the Saints Preserve the electorate Behold the fatted sheep unshorn fed on forbs and bulgar wheat who sport a sullied woven fleece led by rams down coffin planks willing gleeful bleating sheared abattoir-stunned and gutted butcher-boned sweetened salt preserved mutton chopped and rendered

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Bar Talk⏐Geri Digiorno

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POEM⏐Geri Digiorno

Lately I see my husband everywhere, sitting in cafés in the crowd, still young and handsome, serious, thoughtful, not the devil with pale blue eyes, the laugh, the jokes teasing the Irish, but rather a young man with thoughts on his life. Someone sitting at the window of the coffeehouse drinking it black and strong the way he liked it. Someone wondering about his life, the mistakes he’d made, worried about his kids. Maybe I’m thinking of this all because my daughters have found his people over in England, maybe he likes that. He has a thoughtful look, like that photo when he was a little boy and looked like an angel.

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A face in the crowd, not smiling or joking or kidding around, always the same look and right at me.

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Ruby Vale⏐Geri Digiorno

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FICTION⏐Mark Budman

On Demand The novelist—call him Dick, because he is big and albino and has a crooked jaw like the whale in Herman Melville’s novel—sits next to a woman, the protagonist of this story. Dick is trying to peek down her tight white top. They are alone on a bench in the church hall. She sells cookbooks to support her kid’s music school, and she has offered to sell his novel as well. “My publisher is Love Universe,” he tells her. “Print on demand.” She nods. She has never met a novelist before. When she looks at him, butterflies flutter in her tummy. Unless they aren’t butterflies, but bugs that crawl inside you when you sleep naked, and never leave. Does this mean she is in lust? It can’t be sexual; she loves only her husband. “There is no demand,” Dick adds under his breath. His elbow touches hers. The protagonist moves away. The man looks just a few years younger than her, so she is certain she’s not a cougar. That thought reassures her. She has never had sex with a real writer. Her husband is a bookkeeper, and he prefers spreadsheets to spread legs and rumpled sheets. She tells the novelist about her ten-year old son. “You know, he got this big piano award at school last year. Do you have kids?” He leans toward her. “You have skin like a peach. So smooth.” Corny, she thinks. I have to drive him away, but I must sound both gentle and smart. He is an intellectual, after all. “You know,” she says, looking away and wrinkling the skin of her forehead. “The Y chromosome is defective. Next to the X, it looks like it has a broken leg. Ergo, men are lame next to women.” She is very proud of her “ergo” and her metaphor. It’s a bit confusing, even to her, but still… “Love is not lame,” he says.

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She shifts in her chair. Her bottom in tight pants, hot from the plastic. “What is your book about?” She doesn’t want to call him Dick anymore. She’d rather call him Ishmael. She has been published once herself, in Smashed Potatoes Quarterly. “An aunt who has steamy sex with her nephew.” The protagonist blushes. She should have asked this question before she had offered to sell his book here. The hotness spreads from her bottom to her lower belly. She is sweating down there, too. Does it mean she is easy? “Is that so?” she asks. “There is a motel across the road,” Dick/Ishmael whispers in her ear. “I’ll pay the bill, naturally.” She gets up and glares at him, her ears on fire. “What do you think I am?” He gets up, too. “You say no because I’m an albino? I bet you’d refuse sex with an African-American. Or with a Buddhist monk.” Two hours later—after she drove the kid home and made a feeble excuse to leave her husband for a bit—Ishmael raises his head from between her legs and grins. She refused the motel, and insisted on a Holiday Inn. She paid the bill. He was a first time novelist and she thought he must be poor. She gave her name as Anaïs Nin, and had a hard time explaining to the clerk how to spell it. She fights the urge to wrap her legs around his neck and strangle him. She can’t do this. Not in this universe. Instead, she grins back and moans. The sound rises to the ceiling and beyond, perhaps trying to escape to the universe where love is more than an adjective in the publisher’s name.

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Red Madonna⏐Geri Digiorno

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POEM⏐M.J. Iuppa

(In) Sight Clouds gather volume over the lake– the eerie stillness before electricity. Waves surge to whitecaps. I can’t find my shadow. Something bigger shadows me. My strongest shield is two palms up. I close my eyes. Puckish raindrops explode cold, stunning me with cruel constellations.

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POEM⏐Nancy Hechinger

Greenwich Village, Halloween Parade I’m trying to get to 6th Avenue to make it to the corner, sidle past the young man in a speedo, a Mohawk of bright lights on his head, blinking red LEDs clipped to his nipples, a gaggle of short-skirted girls, sleek as stilettos, a pair of trannies decked out like Barbie dolls, and a black-death Cheney on stilts. The snap of a cap gun that sounds real. I am going to die here on Halloween, trampled in this mosh pit of gays and guidos in wife-beaters, swimming against the current in a dry sea of people. I can’t breathe, like the time when we nearly drowned in the ocean after a hurricane. I can’t think of anyone to call even if I could get to my phone buried deep in my backpack. No one’s expecting me, no one to hold on to, it could be weeks before someone notices I’m gone. Though there might be a mention in the paper tomorrow under the spread of this year’s winning costumes: Unidentified Middle-Aged Woman Crushed To Death With Runs In Her Stockings, perhaps an over-wrought editorial on the turning from celebration to terror, the whole story of the United States of America.

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Little Mary at the Playhouse Lounge⏐Geri Digiorno Raleigh Review 50


FICTION⏐Daniel Lorberbaum

Summer of the Woodpecker We only mentioned her leaving once—the next morning, over orange juice and cereal. I told Dad what I had spied the night before between the slits of my blinds: Mom, with a laundry basket of clothes, ducking into a car that sped up to the stop sign and hung a right. He took his spoon from his bowl and slowly stirred his orange juice. Twice in the middle of the night I caught him scraping vanilla frosting from the can with his fingers. He would look up at me without surprise, suck his fingers clean, and slink silently past me with the can. Then the business with the bird started. To the bewilderment of the neighbors, he tried nailing panels of sheet metal over the siding. A week later he pried them off and coated the whole exterior with some chemical that turned our dark brown home the color of wheat and made the inside reek of insect repellant. And still the drilling continued. One afternoon I looked outside to find Dad in the front yard aiming my old BB gun at the lush, green tree branches. He began to check books out of the library, The History of Ornithology and Birds and Their Habits, and more, which I was always shoving out of the way to make room for myself. “Dad,” I said, perched on the arm of the couch, “these look like they’re for people who love birds, not people who want to kill them.” He didn’t look up from his reading. “I have to understand how it thinks.” I left for college not long afterward. Dad took a leave of absence from his school and told me he planned to spend six weeks traveling. He sent me postcards from the Grand Canyon, from Las Vegas, from L.A. But they were all postmarked from our hometown. Some time later I received a picture that looked like it had been taken with a Kodak disposable. The back bore a

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simple message, Got Him. On the front was Dad, holding up his prize by its brittle legs: a speck of red, a fallen cardinal.

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POEM⏐Brenda Paro

My Sister’s Broken Engagement My sister snaps green beans, unsheathes okra leaves at the sink. She cooks raw things to bloated boils of paste. I don’t hate the taste, she says: it’s the crunch that I can’t stand. She says, it feels like they’re biting back. Her attempt to eat fruit ended last week when the squeak of an orange pulling free from its peel unnerved her, and the wisp of her knife taking grip on the rind of a grapefruit made her sorry. She says, I thought it might bleed. She knows she is being unreasonable. She says, maybe it’ll go away after awhile. For now, she barely eats, instead repeats defensively: It’s best to care, just in case,

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to beware of how you proceed. You just can’t tell, can you, she says, until you look back: what can or cannot feel, what will or will not care back.

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Crow Chief ⏐Geri Digiorno

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REVIEW⏐Al Maginnes Blue Rust:

Earned Wisdom Joseph Millar. Blue Rust. Pittsburg, PA: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2012. No price listed, paper.

In his essay “Pure and Impure Poetry,” Robert Penn Warren defines the pure poem as one that “tries to be pure by excluding, more or less rigidly, certain elements which might qualify or contradict its original impulse.” Warren goes on to note that for one who adheres to this line of reasoning, there are many kinds of impurities that might intrude on a poem. The poems in Blue Rust, Joseph Millar’s strong third collection, understand that life itself is a kind of impurity and that nothing living survives without being compromised. Young poets lose their way and end their days drinking in hotels, the dreams of industry and profit that powered Carnegie and Frick take an incalculable toll on the land and on the men and women who live there. Millar watches and records these instances of human folly, including his own, in language that is at once highly charged and accessible, that strives always to take stock of our human condition. Millar’s first book Overtime was justly praised for its depictions of the working life. Millar was in his fifties when the book saw print, and had spent many of those years as a commercial fisherman and telephone repairman, among other trades. But the poems in Overtime were not simply poetic musings on shiftwork. A vital imagination was at work, able to imagine the last years of Sitting Bull and Lightnin’ Hopkins, the brief apprenticeship of Keats. The poems in Fortune, Millar’s second collection, were on the average shorter than the poems in the first book, their language denser. The poems went deeper, did their work more quickly. And now Blue Rust takes Millar another step forward, brings him solidly into the line, Raleigh Review 56


always too short, of poets who have something important to say and who say it well. There has always been an element of mythmaking in Millar’s work. He has written monologues in the voice of Hansel and Gretel’s father, imagined himself drinking with Robert Herrick, and his father with Thomas Wyatt, even ruminated that the old men at his gym might have once hung around bathhouses in Carthage and Rome. The first poem in Blue Rust, “Nativity,” imagines the poet’s own birth and the first months of his life, “his father’s corporal stripes, / his tan shirt that smelled of tobacco” and the mother who “loved me and hated me…when I wanted everything she had.” The poem ends with the family “headed east in a 38 Studebaker / its big engine swallowing the miles / of America…and they named me So Long/ It’s Been Good to Know You.” “So Long It’s Been Good to Know You” is the title of a song by that most American of songwriters, Woody Guthrie, and while it is tempting to draw parallels or contrasts between Guthrie’s view of America and Millar’s, it is also somewhat pointless. Although he wrote the ballad “This Land is Your Land,” an edited version of which generations of children have sung in schools across the country, Guthrie was no Walt Whitman seeking to sing an all-encompassing vision of America. Joseph Millar is less interested in sounding his barbaric yawp from the rooftops than in looking closely at what goes on under those rooftops, what concerns and struggles face the citizens of his poems. The America Millar writes about is populated by men and women, many of them skilled at their professions, who find that their lives are not quite working for them. One of Millar’s many strengths as a poet is to empathize with the despair many of these people feel without allowing the poems to fall prey to such despair. There is often a kind of cockeyed optimism expressed by the people who inhabit these poems, a faith that tomorrow or the next day, for some reason, things are going to be better. In “Romance,” Millar addresses a hapless shipmate: “one more month listening / to seabirds and wind, / listening to you dreaming out loud / about the waitress in Naknek…you could

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have made a life with her you said.” Such hopes allow these men and women to move forward day by day. Yet the dreamed-of future often does not materialize. “Song for Stevie” memorializes a friend who “helped me plant / the red flowering currant.” Separated from his friend, first by time and geography, then by death, the poet remembers times when “we ate Kung Pao chicken / the hotter the better/ before going to hear TajMahal or Wayne Shorter.” The poem ends: Tonight the earth sleeps wrapped in its mantle smelling of tar pine and cinders and stars keep burning their metal fires far out over the sea but no one knows for sure where he’s gone, the human one, the look in his eyes watching the long grass sway by the beach, the soul with its lit endless gaze. The endings of Millar’s poems often move to expand the poem’s territory, to remind the reader of the mystery that fills the hidden places of our lives. And if acknowledging this mystery does not always provide consolation, it does allow us to lift our eyes from our own struggles, our own griefs for a while. And if some fall, such as the namesake of “Song for Stevie” or the friend to whom “First Poetry” is dedicated, others make their shaky way, such as “Eddie, the meth addict 40 days clean” or the poet’s brother who works on his boat and “doesn’t trust the government.” These men have replaced desperation with a need to survive, and occasionally survival is rewarded, though the rewards are more often small and domestic. “You bring the sausage and lentil soup / to the long couch / where I watch baseball” begins the poem “For Annie.” There are shadows even here; this scene takes place “the night after the famous poet / commits suicide in New York.” But the more pressing concern here is that unwanted guests might show up: “I’m not / the most eager host, feet / splayed out on the window sill.” Raleigh Review 58


Fittingly for a poet who spent years working with his hands, these poems are filled with appreciation for physical skill and things well-made, whether they are the songs of Bo Diddley—“the scratchy beat everyone stole”—or the printing press “definitely not up to code” a friend jerry-rigs into working. In “Marriage,” a husband and wife spend a bit of time on their anniversary walking through a tool shop rummaging among hammers and “locking c-clamps, their jaws / heattolerant to 300 degrees.” The tools, “the chisels and knives / torches and welding tanks” are given their due here, but in this case, the well-made thing is the marriage. Figures and names from popular culture, as well as the names of poets, arise in these poems, but there is no namedropping here. Millar does not seem interested in using Chuck Berry or Weldon Kees to garner street cred. Some, like James Wright or Vallejo, populate his imagination while others were people he saw playing music or reading somewhere. “Ginsberg” speaks of the poet eating “peaches from a can” but moves swiftly into a meditation on a demonstration in Washington DC in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings in 1970: “When the sun went down / the trouble started.” The poem ends with the observation “it was daylight in Vietnam / land of rice paddies and ancient poetry / land of the lotus pond hidden from sight / its presence so hard to know.” More than the tear gas and the “huge angry crowds” mentioned early in the poem, the last two lines serve to remind readers how thoroughly the conflict in Vietnam divided American society in the late 60’s and very early 70’s. Millar has never been a long-winded poet. As his work has progressed it seems to have compacted even more, so readers familiar with Overtime and Fortune may be surprised to find that the second section of Blue Rust is a five-page poem entitled “Ocean.” Less a narrative than a series of meditations on the water and the rigors of making a living on the water, the poem offers some of Millar’s most lyrical writing to date: Come close and whisper the names of the living, names of the dead returning,

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sleepwalkers holding their hands out, litter of sea-straw and sand like dark metal, song of arriving and going away. What are we ever doing but “arriving and going away?” The poems of Joseph Millar accept the world on the world’s terms but do not yield to its quirks and injustices. His poems make their case in well-wrought language. Normally, after I have read through a book of poems a time or two, I find myself fixing on some poems and ignoring others. It says something about Blue Rust that I never find myself skipping past a page. Every poem in here rewards careful reading. We could do worse in these times than to listen to our poets. And we could do far worse than to heed the wisdom of the wellmade poems Joseph Millar has given us in Blue Rust.

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Red⏐Geri Digiorno

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City⏐Jake Young

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REVIEW⏐Cassandra Mannes A Hymn That Meanders:

A Fresh Take on the Love Poem Maria Nazos. A Hymn That Meanders. Decatur, GA: Wising Up Press. No price listed, paper.

Maria Nazos’ poetry collection starts with a poem for those she writes about—those people we all know who have sunk into the shadows unable to surface. The introductory poem is for “a lip permanently swollen,” “legs strewn with silver lamé,” and “the wild sweet place.” It opens the book with memories, words made into orchestras of song and a traveling meander from Joliet to Provincetown, resting again in white space after Cuba. Nazos takes us on a road through countries, dreams, memories and lovers with this debut collection, starting with the very first words. In Section I: In Joliet, named for her half-upbringing in the cornfields of Illinois, we rub against the rust of the country. We experience love in a lounging truck, pool halls hazy and musty, and Joliet’s staple: jail bars. We fall for Jimmy the “wild horse,” and Korbin instructs us on prayer and God. Mostly, we discover Jimmy through Joliet—his need for both freedom and love. The “Us” of her and Jimmy still haunts Nazos throughout Section II: Provincetown. In “A Question about Cause and Effect” we find an exploration of love through a teenage heart. Is this what it feels like to finally describe first love? It asks if love would last in a beautiful, all-encompassing way that was both global and personal. If he’d had proper health care, would he have lived, or at least opened a window so the warm breeze swept back the curtains like a woman’s hair off her shoulders? If he’d not been at the

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shelter, would he have turned his hate-compass away from his absent mother, his stepfather who pulled a gun on him; would he have learned anger as communication? Using the if-then notion of cause and effect, Nazos takes us through an upbringing of a man and woman who come together in a love affair. It explains in a way why we argue with the people we love, why we are verbally violent, and what it means to be a human. And isn’t this the thing we all ask from poetry, or just symbol-words when we cannot bring ourselves to action; what is love, what is it to have a body that sways, what is it to breathe and have pores…what is it? How are we human? Joliet ends section I with “Hymn to the Midwest that Meanders.” This is the title poem of the book, which illuminates both the poetess, Joliet, and Jimmy. The line, “I say the one prayer left to me,” gives finality to Joliet, but not Nazos’ relationship with Jimmy. The lack of keep Joliet has for Nazos and the path into her next location, and the obvious adulthood in Provincetown is established in Section II. Entering a town like Provincetown where poets such as Mary Oliver, Stanley Kunitz, Marie Howe, and Mark Doty have laid the foundation for poetry and art to be viewed as important to the community, it seems difficult to write something new and fresh about the famous Cape Cod area. It is a community that we would love to build in Raleigh in the next twenty-five or fifty years. Provincetown, blazing the poetry saddle, offers poets the Cape Cod Poet’s Theater, and the Fine Arts Work Center among others. It’s an established center for the flame of poetry. For Nazos to write about the town that has become iconic to most poets and writers in the last few generations, it’s important that she adds something fresh to the established historical perspective. While her poems are very personal and intimate, especially when she discusses lovers, her poems also create the landscape of being surrounded by water, very different from the dirt of Illinois. We forget sometimes how dense the oceans surrounding us are Raleigh Review 64


and how much power they possess in even their small ripples. She writes of Provincetown through the landscape and salty air. In the poem, “The First Person” Nazos’ writes: “Pretty soon, there will be water everywhere, which makes sense because / people are water, aren’t they? Which is why I can slip / back into the first person pronoun, back into my body, back to you and me.” Throughout the Provincetown poems, the water, the environment, still carries with it the lover. In “Ubiquitous You,” Nazos writes directly to Jimmy. In “Provincetown” we are following the hymn not only across the US, from corned roadsides to salt water pools, but we are following a love hymn, a love song, back throughout. Like Gretel, Nazos leaves bread crumbs for herself across the dirt to feed on that love and keep it alive even past city signs, new soil, waterways, and new geographical locations. In “The Yellow Jeep,” we follow a love affair beyond Jimmy. When my last lover, at a wedding reception, told me to put on the bride’s mink coat naked, I felt I had ordered from the Universe’s Catalogue. Until he left, with a piece of me tucked under each arm, we shone together as two people in love do. The poem alludes to the failing of lovers who come after. The plot of Jimmy subsides for a season, but soon returns after the next affair fails. We have to ask ourselves, as I assume that Nazos did, is new love comparable to Jimmy? I think we find the answers in Cuba, the last section of the book. Cuba is the smallest section, hailing only four poems. I think this section rides free, unencumbered by old love. Rather, it illuminates the small chalk line between freedom and oppression, not in love but in politics and war. We get the feeling that her love of Cuba has released her from the memories of Jimmy and instead she finds herself through the songs of these new streets. In “The Absolute Value of

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Lonliness,” Nazos writes: “Cape Cod was too small, and the whales couldn’t save me.” Cuba seems to be the answer, the place Nazos feels is home. She discusses families in the Cuban section. I get the notion that rather than a geographical location being “home” to the poet, it is rather the people. While Jimmy kept her tied to Joliet and even in love in Provincetown, in Cuba she finds home in the hearts of others—even in those she doesn’t know: a woman buying a dove to cut its neck for her mother’s cough, cousins wearing hats turned backwards. The last poem in the collection ends with the rebirth of the poet: “Not knowing how to take the next step, but infinitely moved.” While the material is obviously there in Nazos’ writing, I do wish she’d become more comfortable with the line. All but two poems in the collection are formatted free of stanza and in long range. It does mirror the book title, written as a hymn—the lines ranging full page—and then in each poem, there is a turn, a meander where a memory or a changed voice immediately leads us to veer in a different direction. I enjoyed the effect of a poem body being also a hymn that meanders, but my suggestion is to add format surprise. In her future collections, I’d like to see the power she has with both structure and words. When the Raleigh Review received the poem “Tits and Violin,” it came in hymn format. Our print journal requires statement size pages, and so we had to break the lines. While we are not deterred from wonderful poems that we have to work on a bit, I took it upon myself to break the lines. For example, Nazos’ lines: “Sometime between my thirties and desire for my mouth to stop tasting of foot soles, I began to say the fourth or fifth thing that came to mind instead of launching the first missile from my mouth.” In statement size they become: Sometime between my thirties and desire for my mouth to stop tasting of foot soles, I began to say the fourth Raleigh Review 66


or fifth thing that came to mind instead of launching the first missile from my mouth. For a debut collection, this is a stunning work of geographic and narrative poems. From the rust of the Midwest soil to the waters of Cuba and Provincetown, Nazos’ lyrical voice offers a fresh take on the love poem in her new book A Hymn That Meanders.

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Pink Lady⏐Geri Digiorno

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REVIEW⏐Tasha Pippin Letter to Leonard Cohen:

“Images Wild and Precise” Nancy Hechinger. Letter to Leonard Cohen. Georgetown, GA: Finishing Line Press, 2011. No price listed, paper.

To call the collection Letter to Leonard Cohen “honest” seems hardly enough. These poems are at once rousing and quiet, touching on all the biggies—loneliness, family, heartache—and all these explorations exude from a speaker who is decidedly candid, with not only the guts to portray the world as it really is, but to lay the self, bare and gritty, right down with it as well. These poems are bursts of narrative, blooming with lyrical moments. As Blake showed us infinity in a grain of sand, Hechinger shows us loneliness through such images as Chinese take-out in the fridge, the “rice / hard as bone,” and through the pervading sense of quietude and contemplation throughout the collection. But there is beauty in the very examination of this loneliness. Reading these poems, one does not feel lonely. Although Hechinger takes risks with her usage of an unspecified “you” in these poems, which so often can confuse a reader, who might think to himself, “You…who? Me?” the voice, which seems to emanate straight from the center of the speaker, seems to substantiate the “you” when it is used. In other words, it seems clear in poems like “Clench,” through lines like “You clutch, / when it’s time to leave, you can’t…You have to be slapped in the face…Go Now!” that the speaker is speaking primarily to herself, in a moment that beckons the reader to eavesdrop. There is beauty in these and other moments of overhearing; we listen in as the speaker explores moments of both disconnect and clarity, not only within herself but also with the world around her. And in this world, the poet leaves no stone unturned. The details are sharp and sometimes

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unnerving, and the descriptions are clear. Hechinger does not lack a talent for preciseness. In “Alone in Africa and Therefore the World,” the speaker describes the Senegalese man she meets on the plane, “The whiskers on his rough shaven face / looked like they’d been placed in the pores / one by one” and in “Marriage,” she describes the wife, “[her] skin doughy, shoulders slumped / in a muddy ochre sweater set.” Hechinger also seems to know when instances call for a precise moment of impreciseness—the speaker in “April” is in love with the newly emerging men, “peeping out from / the rolled up sleeves of their button-downs” precisely for their “non-womanness.” There is a balance in lines like this one between the precise and the unnamable. This poetry is as poetry should be: equal parts of image, emotion, and intellect. The intellectual portion of Hechinger’s poetry comes mainly in its arrangement. She knows when to shock the reader, and how to let him rest. She knows how to surprise him, and how to bait a first line properly. In “Alone in Africa and Therefore the World,” the first line, “My first night in Africa I was not raped,” both jolts the reader and sets her up to feel something—a promise the rest of the poem keeps in its vivid scene of struggle and strength. Yes, Hechinger baits us with all sorts of strange tackle, with opening lines ranging from “I lick the beads of sugar bursting,” “Standing on a bridge over a creek, after my father died,” and “The man who owned Napoleon’s penis...” And after we are hooked, we discover metaphors that are thoughtful. Sometimes they are quiet, sometimes they are surprising, but they never lie. In “Scattered,” the “leaves on the trail [are as] dry as flakes of cereal.” In “April” a torn umbrella’s “broken spines” are like “wings of an injured crow.” With metaphors like these, we trust Hechinger wholeheartedly. We trust her descriptions, her voice, her surprises. In the midst of such poignancy, Hechinger is not afraid to incorporate humor or even sarcasm. She has a little fun with her readers in “The Man in My Bed,” which actually reads like a joke, (one thick with imagery) complete with a punch-line. Similarly, “Beloved” is full of wry humor in its treatment of Raleigh Review 70


the act of holding onto bodily remains. A woman’s stuffed husband now “listen[s],” Hechinger writes, “more attentively / than he ever ha[s] before.” This is indicative of Hechinger’s style. Quietly witty. Haunting. Lovely. Sexuality, likewise, is handled masterfully in this collection. It is by no means skimmed over or denied the standing it rightfully deserves as an important part of being human, but neither is it sensationalized or pushed upon us with ideas of grandeur, which is the case in some modern poetry. The title poem is frank and wistful, illuminating the “lingering hunger” of a youthful desire, an idea also beautifully explored in “Late Summer Fruit”: “I eat, slow motion, knowing how rare a thing / is perfect ripeness. This fig is not my first.” Letter to Leonard Cohen is a lovely collection of poems that are written with insightful passion, filtered through a crackling New York wit. There is “schmutz,” “swack and swagger,” and “images wild and precise.” What more could we ask for?

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Not Alice⏐Geri Digiorno

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Supporters Raleigh Review, volume 2 was made possible with support from United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, our dedicated staff & board, our subscribers, our writers, and the following individuals for their generous donations:

Mr. Joseph Millar, Raleigh Review Chairman Professor Dorianne Laux, Raleigh Review President Dr. Walt Wolfram, Raleigh Review Vice President Mrs. Margaret Wolfram Mr. Dan Greene Mrs. Sue Greene Mr. Geoff Holden Mr. Jack Greene Mrs. Barbara Greene Professor John Balaban Mrs. Lana Balaban Dr. Cynthia Dowdy Dr. Elaine Orr Mrs. Mary Alice Hale Mr. Lawrence Rouse

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Acknowledgments Raleigh Review thanks Laura Giovanelli, Eric Gregory, Gonzalo Guzman and Emily Howson for editorial assistance, and photo credits to Ruby Newman for all the Geri Digiorno images.

The lines on the cover of this magazine are from poems published in Raleigh Review, volume 1. You underestimate me—is from Sandra Hoben’s poem, “No.” Your form in strict black ink—is from Jennifer Lambert’s poem, “Teaching Ruby the J.”

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Contributors Sherman Alexie’s most recent collections include Face from Hanging Loose Press, and War Dances from Grove Press. He lives with his family in Seattle. Paul Beckman’s stories have been published in journals such as the Connecticut Review, the New Haven Review and in Playboy. He earned an MFA from Bennington College. Josh Booton is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers. Winner of the 2011 Keene Prize in Literature, and finalist for the 2010 Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, his poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Poetry Northwest, The Grove Review, and elsewhere. Mark Budman’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared or are about to appear in such magazines as Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The London Magazine, McSweeney's, Turnrow, Southeast Review, Mid-American Review, the W.W. Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, and elsewhere. He is the publisher of a flash fiction magazine Vestal Review. His novel My Life at First Try was published by Counterpoint Press. He co-edited the anthology You Have Time for This from Ooligan Press; a new anthology is forthcoming in 2011 from Persea Books. Darren Demaree is living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and daughter. His work has been published in numerous journals online and in print. Geri Digiorno, Sonoma Poet Laureate ( 2006-2007) and artist, is founder and director of the Petaluma Poetry Walk, an annual literary event celebrating its 17th anniversary this year. Geri has studied art at College of San Mateo, Solano College, Sonoma College, and Santa Rosa JC. One of her wall pieces was accepted at University of Santa Clara (1960s). A one-woman show at Benicia Art Gallery in Benicia, California (1985) and a collage show in Paterson NJ Hamilton House where she has read her poetry, taught collage and poetry. She has worked at the homeless shelter in Petaluma, teaching both poetry and collage. Recently, she's been featured in an art show at Claudia Chaplines Gallery in Stinsen Beach, CA; and her collages and poetry have both been presented in the Vagina Monologues in Petaluma, CA. Sarah Dion is currently in her third year at the University of Florida, majoring in Creative Photography with a minor in Art History. She grew up in Southeast Asia and spends life between the Southeastern United States and the South Island of New Zealand.

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Jonathan Harris received an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Jonathan lives in Los Angeles with his wife and kids. The Wave That Did Not Break is his first published book of poetry. Kevin Heaton writes in South Carolina. His most recent chapbook, Breaking Ground, is forthcoming from MLM-The Quiet Press in 2011. Kevin’s work has appeared in more than seventy print, and online journals. He is listed as a notable poet at: KansasPoets.com. Nancy Hechinger’s Letter to Leonard Cohen was published by Finishing Line Press (2011). She lives in New York City and teaches at the Interactive Telecommunications Program, a graduate school in New Media at NYU. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College (1969) and her MFA at Pacific University’s Low-Residency Program (2009). Hechinger has poems forthcoming in the New York Quarterly and Mudfish. M. J. Iuppa resides in Rochester, New York, where she is the Writer-inResidence and Director of the Arts Minor program at St. John Fisher College. She has a MA in Creative Writing from SUNY Brockport and a MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University. In 1996, she was the recipient of the Writing In Rochester Award, which honors a teacher of writing for adult students who has impacted the creation and appreciation of literature in Rochester. Renee LaGue is a seminomadic New Englander currently living in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Last season she hand-milked a cow and wrangled vegetables on a small family farm in Connecticut. Since graduating in 2009 from Oberlin College, her work has appeared in Drunken Boat and Plain China magazines and has been nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize. Daniel Lorberbaum grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He studied English and Art History at Bowdoin College and now lives in New York City. J.M. McDermott is the author of five novels, including Last Dragon (February 2008), which was #6 on Amazon.com’s Year’s Best SF/F of 2008, shortlisted for a Crawford Prize, and on Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading List. His other novels include Never Knew Another, Maze, and Three Kings of Dogsland. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and more.

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Joseph Millar is a poet and teacher in the low-residency MFA Program at Pacific University. His work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Triquarterly, and most recently, River Styx. Recipient of a 2008 Pushcart Prize and grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Millar is the author of three books of poetry: Overtime, Fortune, and his newest collection, Blue Rust, which will be published by Carnegie-Mellon in 2012. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife, the poet Dorianne Laux. Shabnam Nadiya is a writer and translator from Bangladesh. She is currently a first year fiction student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Nadiya has been published in periodicals and anthologies such as Gulf Coast, Texts’ Bones, One World (The New Internationalist, UK), Galpa (Saqi, UK) Arshilata (Writers’ Ink, Bangladesh). Maria Nazos is the author of A Hymn That Meanders, published by Wising Up Press. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work is published in Raleigh Review, Stymie Magazine, Inkwell, The Saranac Review, The Chicago Quarterly, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. She lives and writes in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Brenda Paro is originally from Minnesota, but has spent much of the past ten years living in various locations across the United States. She is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry writing at the University of California, Irvine. Her work has previously appeared in Rattle, Columbia Review, and a handful of other publications. Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, Michigan. Her poetry can be found in: apparatus magazine, Halfway Down the Stairs, and The Blue Lake Review. Jared Yates Sexton is Assistant Professor of English at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He works as Assistant Editor at Bull, and his fiction has appeared in magazines and journals around the country. Jermaine Simpson’s work has appeared in the New Mexico Poetry Review and Aerie International. He is a 2010 graduate of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. Barry Spacks has brought out various novels, stories, three poetry-reading CDs and ten poetry collections while teaching literature and writing at M.I.T. and UC Santa Barbara. His most recent book of poems, Food For The Journey, appeared from Cherry Grove in August, 2008. Over the years his poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review and hundreds of other journals.

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