Since 1964, the Wayne Literary Review has been committed to presenting the best creativity Detroit has to offer, with special focus on the work of former and current students of Wayne State University. Editor-In-Chief Editors Media Editrix Faculty Advisor Reader Cover Design
Ricardo CastaĂąo IV Macrae Stone Kyle Callert Alyssa Bell M.L. Liebler John E. Kalogerakos Michael Miller
2013 Edition Wayne State University ď ´ Department of English 5057 Woodward Avenue, Suite 9408 Detroit, Michigan, 48202
Warm and sincere thanks to the Wayne State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the faculty and staff of the Department of English, and all of our generous donors. Special Thanks to:
M.L. Liebler Royanne Smith Christopher Towne Leland Caroline Maun Chris Tysh
All rights revert to contributors upon publication.
Rebecca Emanuelsen Into the Depths Illustration by Nichole Mercado
Ken Meisel Scrap Metal Mantra The Flautists at the Michigan Central Train Depot
Jenifer DeBellis Book of rElevation Scrolls of Exodus
S. Wiley Youth Shack
Tim Schafer Drop of Ether or A Wholly Gradient Sky Calls Truce in Michigan
Mark James Andrews On the Charcoal Fire Faruq Z. Bey
Cameron Kenneth Nuss at the corner of michigan and washington
Amanda Lewan American
John Counts L-Town Elegy
Jennifer LoPiccolo Return Pose
Jordan Brazell Characters (I)
Alan D. Harris One Word
Justin A. Rogers To a friend I have yet to hug Rue Restroom Wall Ambassador Fishing
58 59 61 62
Joseph Harris The Grace of Lust
Deonte Osayande Love That Red Disease
David La Bounty steam
Erin Bongiorno break
Douglas Brian Craig Elemental Love Stone Walls Blues Harp
79 84 85
M. Pfaff An Elegy for “Howl”
James Nolan Munce Pulse of the Fly
Josh Olsen Last Meal
Eryc Laekallt Shakey
Vincent James Perrone a short ride fodder #2 just asleep the other season
102 104 106 108
L. Sylvia Tatem Fall
Christine Bettis Wine Glass to The Hand Mirror
Joseph Williams Curtains
Johnny Drop Endless
Stefanie Anne Bohde Jaundice
Celestino Hernandez Thirty-One Hours
Plamen Sarov - Flowers -
John E. Kalogerakos At The Swings Detroit, Boston, And Cranston, Rhode Island
After the Somme Young Girl Sleeping Tough Looking Ass Found Here
149 152 154
Into the Depths Rebecca Emanuelsen Her voice is the taut string of a bow. I am the bolt’s shaft fit to her, and her wordless melody makes up the feather-quills that fly me straight and true. Over the deck’s rails, eyes trained on her form stretched across the beach of a nearby island. Into the glassy sea as quickly as a lightning bolt striking a tree, a splash like a resounding thunderclap. Water rushes overhead, seeps into my ears, and like a flash I recall a member of the crew shouting a warning, the captain’s directive to stuff linen or wax or fingers into ears, my failure to comply. Then there was her song dripping sad amber clouds and bluebell fields with lush, long grasses in which we might simply sit hand-inhand and share our sorrows, bathed in the sun’s neverending glow from one horizon and the moon’s soft light from the other. I think of tales told to me in childhood – a binary vision of the winged women who haunt these shores. Some say their tune is not intended to entrap or entice, yet their impulse to sing begets shipwrecks. Others paint them as vicious creatures – vain, cruel, malevolent – who rejoice in thrusting sailors into the sea’s steely embrace. A moment of panic overcomes me, the sea burying my thrashing limbs, salt stinging my eyes and nostrils. A moment of regret comes next, seeing what could have been had I heeded my captain’s order: a life on land, a wife, a babe. A son with a strong profile and hands made for a craft, or a daughter with soft features, delicate pink fingers spinning coarse flax into fine linen thread. A moment of doubt, in which the tales of the maidens’ maliciousness manifests in a nightmarish vision. Yet the maiden who calls to me appears from above, and I reach out, pulling her to me, down into the blue. My maiden with long limbs, her hair a lustrous fan around a mournful visage. Her wings struggle, useless – wings not of a swan, but of a sparrow, no more than an additional burden beneath the surface – but when my grip slips she gathers me into her arms, cradles my head upon her bare bosom, lets 9
her song flow through the water and sweep me away. Surely this is better than land, a wife â€“ better even than a babe to one day forge a family legacy. Her lips are as cool ale settling upon my own, warming my bones and sending my mind on a flight through waving kelp fields that whisper my name as they stretch on forever. We clutch each other tight, and we sink as my body melds to hers and we draw the breath from one anotherâ€™s lungs.
Nichole Mercado 11
Scrap Metal Mantra Ken Meisel â€”At the Packard Junkyard, Piquette Avenue, dawn Holy Hosanna according to the Packards, according to the See Murgh Holy Bird lighting the leafless shrubs on this winter morning here in this junkyard on Piquette Avenue singing all the wonders of the broken down engine world in every language, singing the seven spirits of God rising up in fleeting wingspan from the bow and quiver of aluminum fencingâ€” in Note of Hand, in nugget of gold, in fragrant nucta, oh miraculous drop of nectar that saves a world from the nurr and spell of darkness where all that falls falls wayside in dreary forfeit, in gelid frill, in nuncupative will, oh holy hosanna of the winter sun dawning here before me as I straddle the seven known Packards that could save a city
from sad-bread, from sorrow, from scavengerâ€™s daughter, oh come raise in number our fortune-coming, oh muster of peacocks through weeds, oh cluster of wild grapes, nuts and seeds turned to amber gold of morning sunrise rising over slaughter house, over clump of trees, over covey of game birds exploding out of bricks, oh bevy of roes, of quails, of larks, of pheasants, of the wandering federation of the unemployed, oh light of the harem, oh legion of dogs, whelps, foul fiends in fetid suits of clothing limping through empty hotel rooms and parlors, from abandoned shoals of mackerel-colored cars in lazy procession through ghost-dawn haze, oh rabble of men in ill-fitting clothes, come sing with the birds and me the scrap metal mantra waking up the dawn.
Ken Meisel The Flautists at the Michigan Central Train Depot were all playing the flute together in a small prayer circle in Roosevelt Park where the abandoned train station stood silent and still in the foggy heaving of the morningâ€™s first sunlight, and the stumble bums, drunk, had collapsed like ragged beat angels underneath the milky way of trees to listen. It was autumn, the heart-closing time where the last murmuring of summer turns a heel and scatters all the lonesome people without a roof to winter, and the falling leaves whirled one by one to wither. The prayer group of young flautists, all of them just out of their teens and mixed together in pairs, practiced opening the oldest and deepest known threshold of heaven with each other. This was in the end times, following the zero-energy-condition after the last war in this city where the emergence from nothingness held sway. A shiny '68 Plymouth Fury was parked along Michigan Avenue, its driver a mystery because time here in the city had come to a stand still and none of us knew whether it was
the after-burn of the riots, or perhaps time had moved laterally and we were into the future. The group of flautists were gathered here to awaken and bless the collapsed voice of the people that had fallen in the Pompeii inferno, the '67 riots and everything thereafter, which would then open the gates to the resurrection, or perhaps it would become the musical insurrection of the jazz-infused flute, the heartâ€™s slithering tongue. Their leader, the reincarnated molecular impression of Yusef Lateef, that impassioned virtuoso of riotous music had stirred to electrified life the song Woodward Avenue. He stood there rallying and vaulting the notes as if recovering something silver from his own fire-burned throat, and he softly instructed one of his youngest players, a woman with eyes as wide as a woodland vole who was wrapped in red scarves and a furry brown coat, that the flute should coax back to whistled livingness the spiraled arc of anguished voices, all the souls rising out of flame.
Book of rElevation Jenifer DeBellis A Prophecy: Preface 1 1Worn paper-thin, this 2house of cards still stands upon the 3mantelpiece of one neglected hearth. 4Earth eroded, cracked foundationâ€”one upholds the other through a 5lineage of loyalty rooted to a greater 6missionâ€™s calling. 2 1Fear of falling; grasp at air. Head held in 2cradle of despair, a 3grief evoking the silent suffering. Do 4silent screams earn 5salvation, or go straight to hell? 3 Ring loud the 1liberty bell; 2freedom is an individual act, a personal quest for 3independence. Such sweet sounds of declaration do not always 4ring true. 4 1Slip that cord through the 2narrow eye of a needle, for it is far easier to sew the veil of 3ignorance back into place than it is to 4perceive in broad daylight. I. Matchbox in the Sticks 1 1In the beginning We 2created a house. It was fashioned from the 3love letters collected over the years of our courtship. 2 1Words became the mortar binding earth with flesh and flesh with earth. A fine 2 foundation formed from such craftsmanship secured its 3roots of longevity. Upon the 3 1hearth of tears and trials We erected our mighty mantelpiece, 16
destined to 2withstand time and space. Fossilized fingerprints, Our 3signature, adorned the face of this masterpiece. 4 1Most precious were the photo frames and trinkets displayed upon this shelf. Dusted over, frayed ‘n faded edges, chipped lips, 2broken bodies, cracked necks: each possession still stood 3proud through sun, through 5 1cloud and rain. 2 Time licked his index finger and raised it toward the 3approaching storm. It was a wonder how much longer this paper 6 1shack—worn thin from the dust and the prevailing winds and the elements— could 2withstand the wearing down of its most esteemed 3artisan years. II. Beneath Yellowed Fingernails 1 1Scaling the warped walls of 2manmade mountains, from foot to hand 3 and hand to mouth. Step out, 2 1elevation points toward higher meanings with higher purposes, all of which 2point back to One restricted proposition—a 3condition: 3 1Let go of yesterday. Freefall into the face of that fear. 2Grab your own damn hand if one hasn’t been extended. 3 Silent screams fall upon deaf ears; to save such suffering in a Ball jar won’t 4 1buy one’s way out of despair. And if one’s own heart won’t 2offend her, the next one is sure to sacrifice 17
an 3offering worthy of such praise. 5 1Alas! Fields of yellow flow for as far as an eye is willing to see. 2Sinapis! Just one seed will 3move those mountains. III. Emancipation ≠ Proclamation 1 1Time! is such a relevant variable. For every minute, there is an hour at hand to be 2reckoned. Reconciled, reduced to zero—an overdrawn revolution, or one that balances upon the 3bias edge? Suppose it depends on who’s cutting the pattern pieces. 2 It’s set 1apart for purposes never to be disclosed to the masses. 2Tighten that blindfold: 3mass-produced justice is peeping into that thick skull of yours! 3 The tares must be 1separated from the grains. Pluck me off a piece; the provisional 2promise is as free as the land itself—and it smells as sweet as your 3neighbor’s apple pie. 4 Delayed 1shots ring through the eerie silence—said to be frontline infliction for liberty’s sake. Yet is it the sacrificial 2 lamb or a wayward warrior? The fatal wound in this case is one without a need for 3distinction of such minor answers. IV. Evening’s Evanescence 1 1Developed over many decades of tradition, it was an erosion that worked by night to wear away the 2scales that had been hand stitched with delicate 3diplomacy. 18
2 These traditional 1years weaved a lineage more durable than tri-fold cord, while 2 urban tales drifted above the sludge and bog of mindscapes that were filling fast with 3ordinary thoughts and ideals. 3 That which has 1emerged from the womb cannot return to it, just as the 2naked eye cannot see the things in hiding or whatâ€™s 3 lurking within alternate spiritual realms. 4 If a 1spoon is all you have been given, go ahead and dip that into the flowing fountain of 2understanding, for itâ€™s wiser to try and tread with a mouthful of knowledge than it is to 3drown holding a spoon.
Scrolls of Exodus Jenifer DeBellis Possessed with the strength of Samson, the powers of darkness worked in broad daylight—the audacity, yes— to strike down solid the perceived pillar of strength erected over a half-century. Equipped with the savvy vision of Ruth, the powers of darkness gleaned grains of the forgotten harvest from the floor of the fields, of which were not theirs to collect but were ripened for the picking. Driven by the vision of Elijah the Prophet, the powers of darkness spoke the future into existence through the loose lips of every ready vessel, altering the course of man’s steps with tongue-drawn swords. Sent forth with the commission of Moses, the powers of darkness gathered the nation into the desert, carving covenants and creeds into hearts of souls for the convenience of breaking backs as bread for daily communion. Inseminated with the promise of Abraham, the powers of darkness sowed the seeds of deception—one part destruction, one part unyielding dejection—rendering one species obsolete while the newest inherit the earth. In a metamorphosed message of the Messiah the powers of darkness fashioned the Word into divided schools of theology, beset by inducing a full-season state of somnambulism that fogged the face of reality unrecognizable.
Youth Shack S. Wiley This is a memory hunt, an excursion deep into the jungle clutter of conscious recollection. Help: what help do I receive? The burning star incubates my body. My face, my hands, and my torso swell with the sky's kiss, while I, post 11 years since, sit on white, marble steps athwart the college sculpture garden. This heat fuels my memory. Georgian climate blustered such heat, but I was adapted to its punch. My skin pulled tight and brown, like the bruised blueberries I'd find along the property line, was a scar from Georgia summers. "That sun will knock you down, boy!" my father said, one time when landscaping the property. His hair was a thick black cloud raining sweat against a near-white sky while he disheveled the earth. I masked his thrusts into the soil, but his body didnâ€™t jerk, not like mine. Mother would pester Father's purposes for me to landscape with him. She felt at my age I should be chasing the foxes, climbing trees too short to protect their gifts, and racing the massive, grey asphalt hills on my bike. Father sniped her pestering with precision back at her because he knew I was at play any other day of the summer week. "At least let me take him to the store after; the boy needs a new pair. Why? Look at them Mike, they're torn at the knees. And, the color's run out on them." Motherâ€™s rebuttal was sharp, however Father enjoyed the confrontation, as long as he retained me to learn how to sweat those pretty little droplets that spanked the scorched soil. The Levi jeans I wore were sun bleached, fitting, and my brown knees contrasted them. Summer clothes took the abuse we couldn't help, for the earth is what we preferred to wear. The sun of September gifted these haunting images to the mothers of Kingston because school quietly crept on us. Kingston of Grovetown, Georgia was a neighborhood that stretched its asphalt hills like a mythical serpent swallowing the land. Each home owned a plot of land that came to three acres or more. These acres allotted my friends and I land to adventure in without much consequence. There were steep hills of clay, near the Walls' 21
plot, dried to a pale orange and split with deep red scars where I'd plunge in an arm, clenching the chilly clay while the burning star burnished my forehead. I'd pull away with my red palm cutting the sun from view–I was caught. You carried a canteen so your mouth didn't crumble like the clay. Our canteens had dried, pale orange palm prints on them. I don't know why we loved the clay, but it was tribal and primitive, something Indians would have done, I suppose. The canteens were cumbersome, but ingenuity provided comfort. We'd fashion thin rope to them to loop around our torsos. Our skin became irritated by the rope, but the canteens weren't slapping our nuts anymore. Trampling, and half dancing down each hill, chanting loudly with the bright bands across our heads with feathers and our dyed palms clasping stick weaponry, we warned all. We owned their property. I led the tribe because I had painstakingly mapped out the clay walls, gravel pits, boulder sights, and whimsical forest groves where we could perform our primitive angst. My friends trusted my decisions and wanted me to guide them. Even Thomas Wilson, being a year older, thought me wise, but it was he from whom I stole these secrets from. This was summer: a teething animal chewing up whatever fell in its crooked path, like my black airwalks turned blue-grey–a signal of a well spent vacation. "It's comin' to a close, huh?" asked Thomas while we sat near the precipice of the Walls' clay hill. Tossing pebbles over the edge, I turned to him and said, “It will when we want it to.” His big, square face pulled a smile and his eyes got all wide in that way his father’s would, and he bent back to laugh. I laughed a little too. Our faces covered in war like paint, and brown limbs outstretched, we remained there until that heavy star decided to take its cover beneath us. A week of mornings withered and I awoke to the brass clang of my alarm. I remember turning on the way down to the stop and seeing my mother on the front porch clad in her white robe waving, behind her the red door closing; he worked nights. My sister's glued to my finger as 22
we take slow steps to the red sign of defeat. I'd heard that I should go into the fifth grade with pride. Thomas would be there too; we shared some classes. I stepped through the blue, heavily bordered doorway of Euchecreek and could smell the french toast sticks permeating from the cafeteria. I followed their cinnamon scent, as a hound would trail its bird. The halls pulsated with the orchestral movement, when the careful sway of bodies and the slamming of lockers tune taught, I let it in. Busy adults sped around the halls with coffee, nearly spilling their hot contents in the rush. They looked so tired, detached, but still eager to bring us down with them. School may have shackled the teething beast, but the key was oursâ€“you just had to search for it. We found solutions. Homework could be finished in class if given the opportunity. We accepted that summer could breathe long into late October when the cold eventually choked it out, and that was enough. Rumor was a demon that breathed hotly on our young necks, making the hairs rise. Good schools had their demons. I wasn't much interested in the rumors of my school, but in Kingston I did find them in my taste. The neighborhoodâ€™s cornfield border would be in the process of final harvesting during this point in the year. I had gone out past my property a few times and set foot on this foreign land. An old farmer owned it; I've never set eyes on him. Most in Kingston never saw him; not at the neighbor barbecues, Halloween festivities, nor at Grovetown grocery markets was the farmer ever present. Who sold his corn? Why didn't he gift give each new resident a loaf of cornbread? Mystery grew wildly around the farmer, like a vine strangling his corn stalks. "He'll shoot ya square if you're on his property, Sa-am,"said Thomas,"but I hear there's an old, rotted shack out past that big fuckin tree. You know the one? Yup, past your property!" He cussed and put extra syllables on my middle name, but I never minded it. He built the shack up to a legend. There were treasures to be found, he said, as we walked to my driveway, 204 Thaxton Rd. I became distracted by my sister lunging across the street ditch, almost making it, then crawling up the dusty precipice; she was so young and too 23
incorrigible to see she couldn't make it. I thought of the farmer trying to jump the ditch: would he make it? There could be toys; what old man plays with toys? My thoughts bounced back at me from the ceiling I restlessly scanned some nights. I've had trouble falling to sleep since my birth. This is probably due from my lust to never miss anything in life. I knew that somewhere someone was being chased by lions, or starting a riot with red bandages around their head, or dangling from a mountain like a tiny spider from those droopy willows on our property, swaying. The old farmer stood beneath my window at night, leaning against the rosy brick of the house; I dreaded such a thought, but it was really I crouched under his window, ready to see. If the farmer peered into my window, he would see a boy turning over the sheets desperate for sleep. His captains-bed holding him high above the chilly wood floor and a desk littered with sketches and whispering books told all. Thomas had frightened and excited my lust for the farmer's window. That shack held all the facets. Would there be dead children stacked in columns, like school desk rows? They were all lured by the rumor, a snake's trap. I imagined him venomous, yet the malevolent fluid invigorated my heart's desire to know him first-hand. It's curious where the thoughts of a nine year old boy travel, and curious also in the nature of their root. My thoughts were rooted on the farmer; my restless feet sought a cool patch under the sheets. I slept that night with the farmer beneath my window. "They're all chicken, Sa-am. No one'll ever know, unless we do it," said Thomas as we hid within our chair tent. The living room carpet was pretty, and I kept pushing a relentless piece of fabric from my cheek. He was staying the nightâ€“nothing bothered my father more. He worked nights though, so it didn't matter, reassured my mother. After a few more swats at the heavy blanket, Thomas slid back some to save my precious cheek. "You listenin'? Oh, you're jist always distracted." I'm sure he had considered me queer in the head. I just had things on my mind I couldn't let go. We'll have to wake at dawn I told him, as 24
the old lantern burned paths for shadows to play in. Thomas' square face had cuts of thick shadow, I sensed he had the venom coursing to his heart. The early morning fog laid low to the forest floor, like a great smokey dragon slithering along. It was six a.m., and my mother still slumbered in her white gown; I checked her room to be sure. Thomas and I stood on the drenched concrete facing the fog-clogged forest; the rain did this. Thomas clasped his neck, spread elbows almost brushing my precious cheek, and then twined to me. His eyes were icy blue sheets and I followed them. We stepped in. I had three acres of primitive forest behind my house, but we decided not to waste time and cut straight through at running pace. Like red elk prancing, we dipped and dove through the leaf jacketed trenches, snapping twigs, and howling like the wolves that hunted them. We upset the dragon's stomach till we breached the head, my property line. From here the great oak stood atop the corn hill my property ran into. The soil of the steep hill was disheveled and no yellow pods were to be seen. We had just missed the farmer's harvest. I smiled huge and pushed my hand into Thomas' back nudging him forward. I had confidence now, the farmer would be out harvesting for hours. Our stomachs hugged the earth under the great tree where we studied the valley concealed beneath shadow blankets. I scanned the grim, gold valley of grass for the farmer's shack, but the fog shrouded my search. The sun of September slowly peeled the fog's veil from the now naked field. I secretly thanked that hot beast in the sky. Thomas pointed stiffly to a far black object floating in the gold. "That's it! I didn't know it would be so close," said Thomas. We sprang from the hill, a couple of brown rabbits were we trampling down into the gold valley. There were enormous purple thorn bushels that populated the field. I thought of them as mutated caterpillars with heavy, purple thorn armor, all slowly crawling to block our siege of the shack. One step more and I stood before the shack with gold blades brushing my fists. The ghastly structure was better than any writer could describe. There was a lush sapling chimneyed from the roof, broken whiskey barrels 25
still permeating that alcoholic sting, old tools scarred red by rust, mushrooms spitting spores groped against the walls, and the whole thing was magical. Its secrets oozed from the heavily bordered second floor window to the many jagged cracks. It could breathe and bleed, I thought. I went to touch the grey splintered wood of the door, while Thomas went around back for something窶的 was too distracted to hear him. A fat, orange, iron lock sealed the door. "What about this, Sa-am?" I turned to Thomas clenching a ladder between two brown hands. The ladder made a wet clunking sound against the window ledge. The ladder rungs were probably on the verge of rotting from being soaked. If one of the rungs collapsed, it would've been a broken bone, for sure. I kicked that fat lock on the way up out of spite. Ha! We out done ya, you old coot! The second floor was hollow with hooks dangling from the ceiling. There was a spooky aura to the room, and I was mesmerized by it. Thomas had already made way to the stairs, but I wanted to take time. I had restlessly waited for this moment. "You'll never believe it," said Thomas. What a wonderful lad. It was like he gave me this old shed; an early Christmas was in September, not July! The second floor finally exhausted me when I heard Thomas rummaging the bowels of the shack. I took brisk steps down the stairs and I saw tiny beams of dusty light dance upon its innards. I was peering through the farmer's window now. It was perfect, no warbles or refracting light. I saw a man with leathery red skin, overalls constricting his large frame, and a heart lost amidst his corn fields. A high school science award hung dead upon a portrait of him as a young man. His countenance shining, as if the world was celebrating him. A family portrait captured seven children, him being the youngest and the one to stay. I twirled within the shack and understood all: the old books of science: a broken rocket, its nose pointing to the ground: the grey pictures of a youthful, happy boy with their frame glass webbed. It all collected in me and pulled my skin thin. We had stumbled in on him naked and in pain. He came to 26
weep, and drink away the yellow fields here, his youth shack. I was punctured by all of it, and for the first time I knew I'd die, and possibly be unhappy when I did. I balked to further this peering. I flew out of the shack and the third rung snapped on the ladder from my hasty descent. I fell, but merely cut my elbow on a shard of glass. I was then tied to this place as my blood smeared on that gold grass. Once up, I sprinted for my house; Thomas was running me down, but I just kept pushing my brown legs into the earth, and tears spanked the toiled hill. I suppose the old farmer hated his life and had no desire to meet his neighbors. He might have been jealous, or even angry if he saw giddy families doing what he dreamed of. His rocket should've flown straight and pierced that September sun, while Thomas and I laid on that golden valley hill. Help: what help does the farmer receive? I hope he tore those overalls and turned a page, or two of those dusty science books. The Youth stumbling upon shacks be wary, they have fat, orange locks that keep you out, or rather a part of you, in.
Drop of Ether or A Wholly Gradient Sky Calls Truce in Michigan Tim Schafer The night looks at me like I’m in on a joke. Through slits of light, diffused by a damp windshield. With a quick grin seeping out of a cracked oil pan, right before its transfiguration in a puddle. Trees buffer the edge like bearings, assigning the road and sky leeway. All lights hover this same edge. Exempt are the runway freed lightning bugs. The road divides wildly curious skittering retinas, which converge and retract around penetrating torches the way water hugs a swallowed cannonball. All this, while a wholly gradient sky calls truce, pulling up its clouds to imbue all this. So that the lights all bleed together, so that the moon is the streetlights are the taillights and the headlights meet pedestrians and stretch into storefronts and greenlights just can’t all this can’t mean much in the bath. Can’t do much except bubble and slap. Under dispersing pot-lid clouds it all about settles in simmering and looking up at all the defined pin-dot scree it can sit 28
and transpire to what it all was. That which is lost to the space between cracked oil pans and puddles.
On the Charcoal Fire Mark James Andrews Locked & loaded 14 & riding the bus sleeping & dreaming of Ursula Andress the white bikini in Dr. No She who-must-be-Obeyed in the lost city of Kuma awakened by the driver shouting out the stops staccato I pulled the cord that runs above the window his chanting slowed in time with the purging of the air brakes HOLY NAME OF JESUS C-H-U-R-C-Hâ€Ś. I was ready to double down with the House of God fight the stiff prick hit the confessional & light a candle spill out the hollow points chant on the rosary beads spill all my incense on the charcoal fire. It was the 1st minute of a new day a full boat draw with the sacred & the profane both in the game.
Faruq Z. Bey Mark James Andrews Faruq Z. Bey was trancing astral projection somewhere between Ethiopia & a lava flow or rift valley on the orbiting Venus a straight shot out of Blues and the Abstract Truth fingering his tenor with lust lost in Zâ€™s Place on Woodward formerly The Alcove prepatory soft blowing seated but bent low so the bell of the horn moans into the concrete of time muffled between his camo pant legs combat tested for this Invisible Man on the frontier of the Griot Galaxy waiting to answer the call to sit-in & solo on Afro Blue Cantaloupe Island or take Giant Steps over the Atlantic to Atlantis maybe.
Cameron Kenneth Nuss at the corner of michigan and washington there’s this guy tall tired, desperate drunk, he pisses himself on turning the corner every day – I watch they all laugh and I think I would piss myself too if I lived in a fucking dumpster I feel like when I’m there I feel like something dark, unsettling no, mysterious like I’m not supposed to be there there’s a lump of money in my pocket beating like a heart like a Sunday morning sensation, lingering on with cracked streets and crumbling walks and, like dimming coals spirits, shadows
the air is thick when the sun slows when your foot kicks the door, when it props the door open and you straddle an alien glance that sets you back into the wall a perpetuating trance of bitterness and the promise of a delightful evening every time I turn the corner in a bright dash my ankles swell and I think this is how the wrists of scotts in purple battle swell lifting heavy swords when you think only of yourself (if) and when Iâ€™m in the city a fight a rash rumble of public shuttles whistles the kind that hail cabs for tactless billowing clouds, lilting above the street, a reminder that giving up at least suggests Iâ€™ll still be
there a trip on the curb when I close my eyes there thick darkness, the sound of the pale city, the manifold gloom of wounds and deals the night, the smell of rich cigarettes and trainâ€™s tracks wheels and concrete dust covering, cradling fallout debris, organic plastic plants absorb the walls the tired drunks staggering back on soft feet leather alligators swallowing dollar bills in the street losing their usual flare also barking some sweet sirens acknowledge living people two blocks over we all go home at 34
night and some forget the sound of laughter and the beggarâ€™s chant others simply fall asleep
American Amanda Lewan “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” – T. S. Elliot I am a part of the disappearing middle class. The blue collared boys, our fathers, Their paychecks printed with factory haze Tucking us into bed with Silk sheets and Presidential Dreams I am a part of the disappearing middle class. No, no I am still here. Just not quite where they put me. Turning tables, and tables, and tables, and piles of papers. How I learned to be American With bedtime stories With sugar and cream.
L-TOWN ELEGY Excerpts from a memoir John Counts I offer this only partly as memoir with necessary adjustments and embellishments as memory is fluid, a living thing, until we die and take it with us. Mostly, however, itâ€™s an elegy, which implies the author learns something about the mysteries of life and its dim conclusion through the death of another. I learned nothing more about the truth of death (an inscrutable study, really) when my childhood friend Jay Buck was killed fighting in an Atlanta parking lot at a 2000 Halloween party by a squatter punk named Jimmy Skaggs (foot goes up, boot hits face, Jay goes down), but life certainly did change shape. Conclusions, after all, are as fleeting as the raw materials of life: a full belly, a good sleep, an orgasm. My aim is to give chase, try to toss the lasso of language around a life of blurry action. Jay Buck could barely spell, but he lived life like some manic poem he was authoring on the fly, skateboard beneath him, coasting down the street like some mad prophet. Just as it was when we were kids, I am always trying to catch up. *** We destroyed things in the carnival of our youth. We were young pups at furious play. We flopped on torn-up couches in our parentsâ€™ basements as long as we could without jobs, our ambitions wrecked. L-Town, our affectionate moniker for Livonia in suburban Detroit, was home, a magical place of quiet streets we sought to disrupt; yelling, screaming, breaking out car windows, annihilating the silence and sadness. Detroit was our playground a few miles away, a city that only fueled our fuck-all attitudes, a city chewing itself up from the inside out. We ran amok there and everywhere. We fought each other. We quit sports and school. We skateboarded, drank too much, smoked too much and played punk rock music with cheap guitars. We got suspended from school and in trouble with the law. We greeted sunrises with bottles of stolen liquor on the roofs of 37
houses when parents were away. We did too many drugs. We fucked each other’s girlfriends and fought over it. We hooked up with girls in their parents’ beds and wiped ourselves off on the pillowcases. If you found a glob of spit on your back, that was us. If you found a turd in your freezer, that was us, too. If your son or daughter came home crying with a welt on their face, chances are they ran into us. We truly, honestly didn’t give a flying fuck where we ended up, did we Jay Buck? *** There was this kid in my new neighborhood. I’d heard about him. Stay away from him, the other guys said. I didn’t. I heard Jay Buck before I saw him. Three of us neighborhood kids were throwing around a Nerf football in the street, its pointed tips gnawed off by a dog at some indeterminate time, spongy pieces flaking off the ball when we tossed it, floating down on us like snowflakes. We heard the hum of rubber wheels on concrete, pebbles spitting off them. The rattle and chaos of a skateboard on pavement startled me. The two other boys I was playing catch were visibly annoyed and scared at the sight of him. They knew him. I was new to the 1950s ranch house neighborhood in L-Town and did not. The clatter of the board stopped. I turned. Jay was smaller than any of us. At nine, he was skinny as a cattail. He kicked the board up. His feet were clad in combat boots nearly up to his knees, the leather and eyelets worn from use. Despite summer heat, he wore tight faded blue jeans, a T-shirt, and a green army coat with the sleeves ripped off and band names like Minor Threat, JFA (Jodie Foster’s Army) and DRI (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) written with black Magic Marker on it. His head was shaved and looked like a fuzzy nut with giant ears. He looked at us and smirked. “What do you want, Buck?” one of the boys said with suspicion.
I thought they were calling him Buck because of the large teeth filling his face, not because it was his name. *** I fought Jay Buck in the fourth grade during a soccer game neither of us cared about on our elementary school playground. The dispute started because Jay had kicked the red rubber ball as hard as he could off the playing field so we’d have to chase it. “Go get it,” I said. “Fuck off,” he said, standing smiling in the root system of the large tree that marked out of bounds. The roots surfaced up from the dusty ground like large bony fingers. I charged and jumped on him. My fighting style was to smother. It’s all I knew how to do, so I jumped on him. I was probably fifty pounds heavier and there was no way he could get me off. I didn’t punch him – it wasn’t in my physical vocabulary – just bear hugged him on the ground while he kicked and kicked at me with the scuffed bottoms of those goddamn combat boots while I wrestled his arms down. His face peeled back in a fierce, glistening grimace, revealing all of those big front teeth. “Get the fuck off of me, fat ass!” he yelled. Now I decided to try to punch him, closing my fist and aiming at his face, but I was really too afraid to punch. I was terrified. Terrified of fighting. Terrified of messing up my department store clothes. Terrified, really, of Jay Buck and those combat boots coming at me again and again and again. The fight stopped when I stood up and backed away. Jay popped up from those dusty roots, breathing strenuously, his own fists clenched now. We stared at each other. The other kids gawked at us, not knowing what to do. We declared it a draw and soon became the greatest of friends. *** We’d go back as far as we could into The Bogs, a few hundred yards of sitting water that resembled a swamp, to catch snapping and box turtles. It was in Hines Park on the Rouge River on the outskirts of a factory town, but we 39
thought of it as a magical fairy tale bog, hidden by wizened maples and oaks. I sat on a fallen log at the camp we’d built before an illegal fire pit and heard, “Hey, fuckers! Got one!” I walked away from the clearing in the woods toward the swampier area where Jay was crashing around. The smell become worse and the air moister and funkier the lower I went into the swamps. I saw Jay about a hundred feet away, barefoot, shirtless, in khakis with the cuffs rolled up nearly to his knees, hunched over on a slimy log in the middle of the motionless and sludgy water. His hands were hidden in the water. “Got one!” he yelled. “C'mon. Look at it. A swamp dog. Come here.” “Pull it out,” I said. Jay pulled a squirming snapping turtle from the swamp with a great rush of falling mud and water. The turtle had its head contoured back, trying to bite Jay’s arm. Very quickly, Jay swung the snapper around his head a few times and launched it at where I stood. He shouted joyously. The turtle landed with a splat in the sludge a few feet in front of me with a thud and clawed back toward the swamp. “Grab it and build a pen,” Jay shouted. “I’m going after more.” *** O, girls! There is nothing more enticingly strange and terrifying to a boy in the rawness of his youth than the feeling of any part of your body against our genitals. O, how our pricks strained for it. Our balls ached. When we are 13, 14, 15 and 16 years old, we are ready to burst with all sorts of unsavory thoughts and fluids. We want to touch you, but we don’t know how. So mostly we watch you in school, memorize your faces and the smell of the lip balm you use, dream of you and flog ourselves silly into submission. Jay Buck (allegedly) fucked a tall, gangly blonde with a horsey face named Shannon on top of the abandoned Walt Whitman Middle School in the seventh
grade with Saran Wrap in lieu of a condom. This changed everything. I see Jay and Shannon climbing up on top of the long-shuttered school, a plastic half-pint of vodka and a glass bottle of raspberry Snapple iced tea bulging in Jay’s pockets. I see Jay pouring the vodka into the glass bottle half-filled with tea. I see them sitting in a shelter area between two rises of the roof. I see them laughing and passing the bottle. I see them kissing. I see Jay spread his sweatshirt on the roof and Shannon recline onto it. I see the Saran Wrap coming out. It’s nighttime now. The moon and stars glow in the dark suburban sky as Jay and Shannon sing each other’s bodies electric. *** NOFX was playing the night in 1994 some drunken asshole paraded around on top of the band’s tour bus in front of St. Andrew’s Hall, waving a crumpled twenty-dollar bill, a gift for whoever would punch him in the face. Despite warnings from the burly guards at the door, the crowd wouldn’t disperse. We were part of a blob expanding and contracting in the streets downtown. It was late autumn and the city smelled like post-apocalyptic dust. Steam shot up from the manholes. The city was smoldering, dying. Jay, his girlfriend, my brother, Chris, and I were in the middle of the crowd watching the guy parade on top of the tour bus parked across the street. He presided over the crowd like some deranged preacher, waving the money around. “I'll give someone twenty bucks if they punch me in the face,” he slurred. “Look at this asshole,” Jay said, smirking. He looked at the rest of the crowd. “What a fucking idiot.” Jay’s girlfriend was standing next to him. Everyone called her Rage because she wore a burgundy Rage Against the Machine T-shirt to school nearly every day. She had pale skin, pitch-black hair –a plumper version of Morticia Addams.
Jay slid behind Rage’s body and scooted her closer to the drunk guy, who had climbed down from the bus and was staggering through the crowd. “C’mon!” the guy said. “Somebody punch me in the fucking face! I got twenty dollars here. I want someone to punch me. Come on. Somebody do it. Punch me right here!” He was now very close to us. He pointed to his face. Jay reached his arm underneath Rage’s, grabbed her wrist and swung her hand at the guy, but somehow connected his own fist with the guy’s cheekbone. The man staggered backwards, collapsed, and rolled on the pavement, clutching his head. It happened so fast, no one saw what Jay had really done. “Look,” someone in the crowd said. “That girl knocked him out!” The guy rocked on the ground and groaned. Jay snatched the twenty-dollar bill out of his hand. As usual, Chris and I could only stand back and watch Jay Buck’s mad antics with amazement. Chris grabbed Jay and Rage and pulled them away. We quickly made our way out of the crowd toward the red Tempo parked a few blocks away. No one gave chase. We were free. We stopped at a liquor store on the way to a house party back in L-Town and Jay bought a whole case of Mickey’s forty-ouncers with the drunk’s twenty. Jay Buck, mooch-king, never had money and owed us. We roared down the freeway out of Detroit, cracking forties and smoking cigarettes, the radio cranked for our concert-deaf ears, retelling the story about what just happened over and over again. *** When he was about twenty, Jay moved to Atlanta where he could skateboard year around in the warmer weather. He needed a new scene, new people. He wanted adventure. Even after he moved, Jay still came north frequently to see old friends and skateboard various urban infrastructures –stairs, railings and fountains – in Detroit 42
and Chicago. In September 2000, Jay Buck and a crew of five or six guys came to Chicago for one of these extended periods of time and stayed with my then-girlfriend and her friend in a sprawling three-bedroom walk-up on the north side. I came to visit. There was a party. We chugged Tecates and crunched up Ecstasy tablets and snorted them. This would be the last night I saw Jay Buck alive. We hadn’t seen a lot of each other in the past two years since he moved south. We were suddenly sitting next to each other on a loveseat in the Chicago apartment watching everyone else suck up nitrous balloons and nod off. We couldn’t afford one. We’d already borrowed money from some of the girls for the Ecstasy and couldn’t ask for more. So Jay Buck lit into the sleazy club kid in charge of the tank, waiting until he was at the zenith of a balloon toke to convince him to give us two for free. With his con artist charm and determination, Jay Buck succeeded and we were soon the proud owners of balloons, one red and one blue. We leaned back on the loveseat and started sucking up the chemical air, our entire bodies lifting, lifting, lifting into numb oblivion. “I’m fucked up,” he said. “Me too. It’s good to see you, man.” “You too.” The next day, a Sunday, I was walking out the front door where the winding hallway met the living room. I stood at the door about to walk out and drive back to Detroit looking into the front room where Jay was sleeping, passed out on a sofa, no blanket, arms crossed on his chest like a vampire. His sleeping head was propped up at an uncomfortable angle on the short couch, his legs dangling off. I didn’t wake him up. I never said good-bye. It was the last time I saw Jay Buck. The casket would be closed at the funeral two months later. *** It was late, past midnight, but the party was just starting. Tents had been erected over the parking lot of an apartment complex in Atlanta. Revelers dressed in Halloween costumes carrying red plastic cups of beer
grouped together in circles, drank and talked. The music was loud, but you could still hear the conversations. Jay was dressed as Dirk Diggler, the pornstar character from the movie Boogie Nights. Weeks later, I would be shown pictures from before the party. Jay was standing in a kitchen, his face spread into a wild smile as he stuffed a banana down his beige pants. It was an expression I recognized. He’d made that same face all his life. Like everyone at the party, he was drinking, grouped together with friends, bullshitting, laughing. Jay’s friend, Mingus was there, bandages wrapped around his head. He had been hit by a car while skating in Chicago and had suffered bad head injuries from which he was recovering. “Hey, chink, what happened to your head?" someone said to Mingus, who is half-Filipino. Two guys were standing near Jay, Mingus and the rest of their group. They were dressed in tattered clothes, and looked like they hadn’t bathed in months. Both were in their mid-twenties. One wore camo pants and steel-toed boots. Jay looked them up and down. “What are you guys, fucking squatters?” Jay said. Mingus and Jay’s other friends laughed. Jay mocked them more. “Are you guys punk rock?” he asked. “It's cool to be punk rock. You guys living on the edge? Go home to mommy.” “You better shut the fuck up,” said the one wearing the steel-toed boots. “Fuck off, squatter,” Jay said, with a wave of his hand, dismissing them. The guy in the steel-toed boots, Jimmy Skaggs, would not be dismissed. He reeled back and punched Jay in the face. His fist connected with Jay's nose, which burst with blood. Jay smiled. I’d seen him fight before and he would always smile mockingly if someone caught him with a blow. Then, he would become fierce. I can see the face. His chin would jut out, his whole mouth would crease downward. He’d puff out his chest ape-like and clench his 44
fists. This was the pose I see him in when Skaggs roundhouses Jay with his steel-toed boots. It’s so fast. Leg goes up, boot hits jaw, Jay goes down. Skaggs is bobbing around like the fucking Karate Kid. The blow sent Jay headfirst toward the concrete of the parking lot. His head hit hard. He would never regain consciousness. Jay Buck has died in my mind a thousand times since that autumn night in 2000. Leg goes up, boot hits face, Jay goes down, head hits pavement. The kick has become a crucial visual component in my brain’s hall of mirrors, something mythological. *** We never accept our dead. We are never ready for it, even when it’s a ninety year old grandparent. We never truly "get over it" or "move on." Given the passage of time, they might not be the burning suns filling up our skies they were at the raw moment immediately following their deaths. Instead, they transform into the heaviest, densest dead stars. We carry them around in the pits of our souls until we too return our dust to the cosmos. The dead exist inside the guts of our memory. We’re surrounded by their phantoms. They live in the sights, the smells and the sounds of wherever life pushes us in the present. We walk into rooms they once occupied and are assailed by a rusty sadness while looking at the armchair where they once sat. I see a maple tree in the middle of a forest and think of the tree in the schoolyard where I fist-fought Jay Buck in the fourth grade and all trees have inexorably changed for me. Catching a whiff of shampoo or hair gel has my memory smelling the Butch Wax hair gunk Jay used to spiff up his flat-top with, smearing it on his head with its underarm deodorant-like applicator. I hear the clack of a neighborhood kid’s skateboard on pavement, but in my memory it’s Jay Buck landing a 360 kickflip in the parking lot of our elementary school, grinning like a devil. Our minds when we’re awake are in all places at once: past, present and future. “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” says Faulkner. Therefore the dead pay their
visits whenever they want. The gates are always opened. We are forced to live with their ghosts. Our nighttime brains are even more prime for phantoms. In dreams, the dead have more power. They walk and talk; comfort and terrorize us. A few months after Jay Buck was killed, I had one of the most significant dreams of my life. The image of his face stretched the capacity of the blackness in my mind spinning and spinning. His mouth didn’t move, but I could hear him speaking: “It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s OK.” That eternally smooth face will never know a wrinkle in my memory. He’ll be 22 years old forever.
Return Jennifer LoPiccolo Back to everything borrowed, Thanks. Hank Williams is the most honest sad. Sometimes sounds of familiar faces place a beer in a tear that still gets drunk. Pull up, upon the red brick she was raised in, still stable, both she and the brick. The days when they ghost in the graveyard are buried, under roots, under swings, setting. Can't believe how many hands have shaken since. Twelve hours from home, lying, lamp lighting. People home say this isn't the south butâ€” y'all here order a side of grits. And she remembers dancing at Tir Na Nog, playing pool at Slims, Jon Warlick. She remembers him and finding a ticket, Honda hung over, eggs. She remembers being tipsy in a secret with her best friend plus first week: well, she remembers the arrest, the Waffle House with her and him and her and she remembers telling a cab driver why she gave that dress a third chance. And she remembers coming up to the lake to take apart the tent and lose her sunglasses butâ€”she got better at frisbee one afternoon. She remembers the margarita was air conditioning on bathing suit skin. In the mitten they miss, maybe, I hope, me. They eat devilled eggs in a yard of July. Sparklers in days humid, they must be in Hillsdale through the ravine, or the Udder Side (ice-cream) where here, we are in some purple house, like incense. I zoomed apart. Meant a great-bye to Zach who taught me many, while she, slinging cases overâ€” Communication. Corn on the table back in the View, phew, sweaty thoughts ready to be home though, not ready to say later to my regulars and The Diner lit up (club time) or the morning glow, watering pink & white on the patio. And she remembers driving to Durham for a fried banana, songs up on stage, 47
the echo of pitchers and shots. She remembers the paper note towel found, feeling filthy bedroom but, touching a fresh hunt for paychecks. Day interview in and up, slipping on tile, armfuls of plates up and up until, I blend nostalgia frozen or cry. Like my exhaust pipe, I need to be welded. Then I’ll move. Smoother than a fox, I dug a new borough, only to scurry back to my last— Foxboro Street. I lean into my driveway after twelve clumped hours, tank top, windows down, my little hugs me under the last week of August, frown. Where is everything? Only home an hour gotta pick his ass up, sitting with a marquee he, tells me I try too hard. I lean on him since I had to shrug a lousy bye to her, somewhere in Ohio’s detour.
Pose Jennifer LoPiccolo careful how you portray self. your face never the answer yet, a request I saw my skin stolen rubbed onto canvas hung in a foyer. humans crooked thought pull traits out my ribcage for talk, they're unsure— like dogs. I saw my muscles—a project for bored optometrists. twenty eyes glare mine—foreign noise touching. their brilliance shrugged and forgot my ponytail (8 years-old) my eyes up and out but, their mouths slanted like doctors. I saw my organs escape before anyone could open a guess. they let me be— a hollow piece of metal. smack in your highway lane swerve if it's important like someone who hurt you. self. your face never the answer yet, a request careful how you portray
Characters (I) Jordan Brazell We all play roles You know It dwells in all Lost cause Lost souls Soft souls Soft-spoken Out-spoken You know We all subsist under the light Of the sun You be one Iâ€™ll be the other Sisters and brothers In the flesh Come forth As foes Who never connect You know Some people are intellectuals But all are individuals Others, not as sharp But still collect residual, Effects That makes them too, intellects So all people are intellectuals I guess So respect, because knowledge learned And knowledge applied Make the difference between death and life You know So what is the main claim Could it be that we are not the same because we have freedom in drives As nature proclaims But in addition to Being individuals 50
It is also true That we are all characters
One Word Alan D. Harris Monday April 2, 1984 Today I was supposed to get my seventh grade writing journal back from Mr. Borso. English is my seventh hour class. The final bell had rung and all the students raced out of the room—all that is, but me. I was a little nervous, not knowing how my teacher would feel about each and every word and sentence and paragraph I had written so far. But just before I got my feedback, Principal Randolph Smith Jr. walked in. I was standing nervously at Mr. Borso’s desk as the Principal marched up to the teacher. I became even more nervous as Principal Randolph Smith Jr. was clearly unhappy. He carried under his arm two books. I only recognized one. It was Billy Budd, our current American literature reading assignment. Mr. Borso ignored the Principal and handed back my journal. “You are my favorite,” he whispered. “Keep up the great work.” To be the teacher’s favorite is simple— just write more than everybody else. Thanks to the fact that I have no problem finding something to write about every day, I’ll always be Mr. Borso’s favorite. “We have a problem,” stated Principal Randolph Smith Jr. When it comes to meeting with an adult, Mom and Dad have taught me a simple rule. All adults should be treated with respect, especially if the adult is a School Principal. It was not clear that Mr. Borso’s parents taught him the same rule. “We have a very serious problem,” Principal Randolph Smith Jr. repeated. Mr. Borso winked at me. I think that the wink meant, Watch this and write about it. I was way ahead of him as I noted the tension in the room along with the smell of Aqua Velva as soon as the Principal had walked in. “How can Mr. Kogut and I help?” Mr. Borso said with a smile. “What is today’s serious problem?” 52
Principal Randolph Smith Jr. put Billy Budd down on the teacher’s desk. “I have received a parent complaint about the highly questionable content for seventh graders in this hard-to-read trashy novel, Billy Budd.” “Is classic 19th century literature too difficult for the parents to read?” asked Mr. Borso. “One particular word is too difficult for even me to read,” replied Principal Randolph Smith Jr. I already knew what word they were probably talking about. I don’t like the word neither. One hundred years ago a poop deck must have meant something less gross than...well… Mr. Borso spoke up, “Imagine that—one whole word! I seem to recall that you, yourself, approved my syllabus before the school year started.” “At the time I felt your Billy Budd was less problematic than Melville’s Moby Dick.” “A revealing decision.” As the two men started to sound a lot like my parents whenever they pretend they’re not fighting, I slowly slipped my writing journal into my backpack and was about to escape. Mr. Borso stopped me. “Stay right where you are, Mr. Kogut. This should be a good entry for your journal today.” “I prefer not to discuss the situation in front of the student,” said Principal Randolph Smith Jr. “Young Kogut here is perhaps the top contemporary 7th grade American writer of our time.” Mr. Borso looked over at me and asked, “Have you read the offending assignment?” “Twice,” I answered. “I know what word you mean.” “You do?” The Principal’s eyes lit up. “Yeah, my parents say the word all the time, especially my mom. She’s good friends with a farmer. He makes special deliveries to our house just so she has plenty to sprinkle on her garden. It makes her tomatoes big and shiny.” Then the Principal gave a look of pure disgust. I don’t blame him. The word poop does the same thing to me. Poop or no poop, it was uncomfortable being in the middle 53
of someone else’s argument. But on the other hand, it’s like having a front row seat at the movie theater—or like turning pages in a novel as you read each and every word. I read their faces, their body language, and watched as this story unfolded. “Very well,” replied Principal Randolph Smith Jr. “Page thirty-five.” Mr. Borso nodded his head, still smiling. At that moment it occurred to me that the word poop—as in poop deck, was not on page thirty-five. I was relieved, thankful and suddenly curious. “One word…” Mr. Borso said. “You want me to change the reading assignment because of one word on page thirty-five?” “It’s a bad word,” whispered Principal Randolph Smith Jr. “It’s a perfectly legitimate word,” replied Mr. Borso. “This word was written in 1886 by a great American writer.” With a confused look on his face the Principal asked, “Melville’s an American?” Mr. Borso nodded, saying, “Furthermore, it was written in a correct and proper contextual manner.” Principal Randolph Smith Jr. squinted his suspicious left eye and said, “Contextual?” Mr. Borso shook his head in frustration and handed the book to me. “Exactly what page again?” Mr. Borso asked. “Page thirty-five,” I answered. They both looked at me. So I quickly turned to the offending page. I found an entire sentence circled in red. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” Principal Randolph Smith Jr. said to Mr. Borso. My teacher leaned into the book as I held it. “Read all the good and bad words inside the red circle.” “Starting with Jemmy Leggs?” Mr. Borso nodded, Yes. It looked like a reluctant nod, but I knew what he wanted me to do. Mr. Borso wanted me to make Principal Randolph Smith Jr. feel uncomfortable. So I started reading…
“Jemmy Leggs!” ejaculated Billy, his welkin eyes expanding. “Disgusting!” said Principal Randolph Smith Jr. Not as disgusting as poop deck, I thought to myself. Mr. Borso suddenly turned to me and asked, “What do you think?” I didn’t like to be put on the spot. Just to play it safe, I decided to keep the word, poop, to myself. “I don’t think Jemmy Leggs is a bad thing to say,” I explained. “I first thought that Mr. Melville was making fun of Billy Budd’s bully, because that’s what I would do. But then I looked it up and learned that Jemmy Leggs means Sergeant-at-Arms.” Both my English teacher and my Principal turned their heads and just kind of stared at me. It was like they were surprised to find that I was actually learning anything in school. “I really did read the book twice. And I looked up a lot of the old weird words,” I said with a proud but nervous smile. There was more silence. I thought about the silence and what it might mean. I think it meant that neither adult wanted to have the next word, so I took it myself. “This is all about context, isn’t it?” “Absolutely, Mr. Kogut,” ejaculated Mr. Borso. Principal Randolph Smith Jr. grabbed Billy Budd from me. He then held up the other book he had been holding. It was simply and timely titled 1984. “I would like to suggest that Hannah Middle School follow the lead of other progressive school districts,” advised Principal Randolph Smith Jr. “Now that we have finally reached the year 1984, let’s join our educational colleagues and place George Orwell’s 1984 on the reading list of contemporary American literature.” “Contemporary American Lit?” replied Mr. Borso. “1984 was written by an Englishman before I was born.” “The district pays you to be our literature teacher, not me,” said Principal Randolph Smith Jr. “Prove you’re worth it. Do what’s right for everyone—me, you, the students, and especially the parents.” Mr. Borso took the book 1984 from Principal Randolph Smith Jr. and flipped through the pages like he was looking 55
for something. Then he handed 1984 to me. I gave him back Billy Budd. Mr. Borso smiled and simply announced, “Page 184.” So I quickly found the page. “Start reading right about there,” Mr. Borso pointed his finger near the top of the page. On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns---after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax… “Stop right there,” said Principal Randolph Smith Jr. He snapped 1984 from my hands and closed the book. I listened carefully as the silence returned to the two adults. Finally Mr. Borso asked, “Can you live with Huck Finn?” “Absolutely,” replied Principal Randolph Smith Jr. “That one hasn’t been banned in years.” Then the Principal quickly walked out of Mr. Borso’s classroom and returned to his office. “You read very well, Mr. Kogut. You’re more mature than I had given you credit for.” “I’m just glad you guys didn’t expect me to read page sixty-seven,” I admitted with relief. “What’s on page sixty-seven?” “Something gross about a stupid old poop deck.” My English teacher laughed, admitting, “I’m totally with you on the whole poop deck thing. Words are funny sometimes. They mean different things to different people. You have to be aware of the context, both historical and thematic. Thank you for helping me with Principal Smith. And thanks for letting me read your wonderful writing journal. Keep up the good work. You really are my favorite contemporary 7th grade American writer.” “Thanks,” I replied. Today’s journal entry became easy to write. But as I left the room—I hoped and I remain hopeful that Thank you means the same today as it did 100
years ago, as it did to Herman Melville and Billy Budd and Jemmy Leggs.
To a friend I have yet to hug Justin A. Rogers Someday I will hug your pelt Until it sticks to mine And its stench lives in me. From that point forward, We will be threaded together Between spans of wilderness. You will know the times When I try to scrub the stench out. You will know When I curl my knees to chest Pretending they are you beside me. When its due time For you to reapply your stench, I will pull our thread Until we are chin-to–neck; Arm around shoulder; Hooked at the ankle To make sure the other Doesn’t try running off. On this day We will be each other’s Full moon in the forest. You will leave the roots Along my spine standing, Your fingers will remain in fist Pretending your palm Is the flesh on my backIt’s never easy to release me Back into my natural habitat. One of us may come back different next time. Those without homes always do.
Rue, after reading an article entitled â€œWhite until proven blackâ€? about remarks made about her race after being seen in the theatre Justin A. Rogers I am your daughter. I live within a collapsed structure. Like you, I too have skin. we are humans. natural carnivores; heaps of muscle, organ stomach and heart. Rations are hung at my nostrils. I am trained to mace and spear fellow humans, swim in blood in order to consume resources before neighbors do. For those of us who know our tomorrow is an empty promise, killing is a survival instinct, not a trait of skin, remember, you also have skin. we are humans.
natural entertainers; streams of talk and mediapools of information sweeping debris from collapsed structures to use as decorationit’s easy to look better by comparison easy to pass off promises that were broken from the startLike the way you adored me before you saw my skin, as if you don’t have skin too, as if it were the only thing that mattered. we are humans, not pigment, not caged carnivores separated by hue. I am your daughter, can’t you see the resemblance? can't you see your collapsed structure in me? your grim future for the next generation in me?
Someone has written “How can we exterminate niggers?” on the restroom stall wall. The ‘S’ is vigorously crossed out and replaced by the word “haters?” Someone else writes “How do we exterminate racism?” Another writes “Stop talking about it.” The final statement says “IS truth to be found in language?” Justin A. Rogers Pens and markers Mean exactly what we give them credit for: Their external context. Today I found the ink Well framed in a men’s restroom stall Jutting from its surface like a healing scarIt is hard not to become its infection: Humans too often agitate peace, Become the microscopic germs In the pit of a rotting wound Expecting population to fill the gapHumanity is unnatural. But let’s not talk about that. Let’s erase the discrepancy. Raise treason against pigment. Press it against restroom wallsWhat truth is there in language? Tonight someone will scrub it away. Probably a colored woman. She does it on the regular.
Ambassador Fishing Justin A. Rogers
The Grace of Lust Joseph Harris Just before my thirteenth birthday, Mr. Hendricks died. He passed out in his Grand Marquis with the doors of his two-car garage sealed tight. No one on Sylvan knew for sure what happened, if it was just an accident, why the engine of his car was running. Neighbors whispered to each other that he was probably lonely and tired, Mrs. Hendricks being long dead and his children scattered across the state with their own families. We stood in the road and watched the ambulance pull into his driveway, lights flashing, watched the MT’s, masks on, open the garage door. When they brought him out on the stretcher the mothers covered their children’s eyes. My mother did the same, shaking her head and turning me back in the direction of our house, but I told her I wanted to see. I’d never seen a dead person before, had never even been to a funeral. There was something grotesquely fascinating about it, seeing someone who just days before was alive, walking, animated now perfectly still under a white blanket. As I watched from the street, Cecile Hendricks walked out of the house with the police, her cheeks stained with running mascara. She was three years older than me. In the spring of that year her own parents had kicked her out and sent her back to Pleasant Ridge to live with her grandfather. My parents told me to stay away from her, told me she was trouble. And though I did, I always watched her from afar, watched her sneaking in the back door past midnight, or in Gainsboro Park smoking and drinking from brown paper bags with the older guys from the neighborhood. To me, at that age, she was wildly, recklessly beautiful. Her fair skin freckled with sun, her face always shrouded in a mess of dark, unwashed hair. She had three silver balls pierced in the cartilage of her left ear and wore tattered Salvation Army t-shirts with jean shorts. Since she lived across the street, I waited in my house until she came home, looking out the window until she approached, and then I would run outside and pretend to water the lawn. Whenever she saw me, she smiled and 63
waved, but never walked over or asked for my name. I was sure I existed on a different plane from her, one where violently sensual people could communicate only with each other, and even then, only with their lips, their hands. The only night she stayed in was Saturday, so she could walk with her grandfather to Drayton Presbyterian for service the next morning. They would walk home arm in arm late in the afternoon, eating ice cream cones from the Dairy Queen on Nine Mile and singing hymns. It was the only time I saw her smile. After half an hour the crowd thinned and my mother beckoned for me to return home. I lied and told her my friends were going to meet me down the street, initially making my way towards Devonshire, then turning back to watch Cecile, with her wet eyes and chapped lips. I lingered and tossed a tennis ball aimlessly, sneaking glances as my heart pounded. The mix of death and my foolish passion was intoxicating. I wanted to stay in the moment, linger on the edges of a feeling I couldn’t define. Some compulsion beneath my ribs seemed to fix me to the sidewalk. As I finally started for home she saw me staring, looking past the cops. She walked over, stood next to me and smiled, sadly. “I’m so sorry,” I said, my heart in my throat. “Thanks.” She played with her hair and looked at the ground. “Did you…were you the one that found him?” She nodded her head. “Must have been terrible.” Her eyes welled up, then she drew a breath and spit up phlegm into the road. She stared at me, a savage glint in her green eyes. “I want to go swimming.” I looked away. “Do you want to come?” After a few awkward moments I nodded and told her to wait, that I needed to go home and put my bathing suit on. “You can meet me there, okay?” 64
I ran so fast across Woodward to the pool that by the time I got there I was soaked with perspiration; I had to walk around the Cadillacs and Lincolns out front to catch my breath, to let the hot and dirty August wind paste the sweat to my face. Out on the deck she was lying on a red towel, on her stomach. Her bikini top was untied, and her back had a faint tan. She lifted her head up, sunglasses sliding down her sweaty nose. “Didn’t think you’d make it.” I laughed nervously and tried not to look at the curve of her back. “Come on, lie down. The sun’s hot today.” I spread my towel and lay on my back. “No, on your stomach.” She pulled her hair back around her pierced ear. “So I can talk to you.” I rolled over and looked at her, at the soft blond hairs on the side of her face, the mascara under her eyes. “I see you around a lot,” she said. “You do?” “Ya.” She flicked sweat off the small arch of her nose. “You never say hi.” I had somehow found myself in the middle of my fantasy, lying next to Cecile Hendricks’ soft legs, her flat stomach. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Grosse Pointe,” she said, craning her neck to the side. “My parents are real social types, you know, country clubs and all that. I think I embarrass them.” She turned to me and smiled. “Do you like it here?” I asked. “It’s not so bad.” She looked off across the freeway. “People are…people are nicer here.” I didn’t know what to say, couldn’t, so I said the first thing that came to mind, something to beat my heart back into my chest. “Your grandpa was a great guy.” 65
She pursed her lips and turned away. When she looked back she was grinding her teeth, her eyes receding further behind black lashes, dark circles. “What do you want to do?” I took a deep breath and narrowed my gaze, the way the older boys did. “I dunno…have fun?” “You wanna have fun, huh?” She smiled wickedly. “Tie me up.” I froze. “My top.” She held the strings out to her sides. I tried my best to keep my hands from shaking. We both stood up and she took my hand and we walked towards the concession stand, out of the sun. When we got to the window she leaned in and smiled at the lifeguard working his rotation. He was 18, maybe older, and when he saw Cecile he ran his hands through his hair, lifted his shirt up and scratched his stomach. “Not to worry you or anything,” she reached inside and took a pack of Starbursts, “but there’s some old guy sitting in the park. I think he’s looking at the little girls.” “What does he look like?” he said, mood changing. “Can’t tell.” She unwrapped two pieces and chewed with her mouth open. “Has a Bermuda hat on and big sunglasses.” She stared at the counter, tracing drops of water with her index finger. The guard stepped out quickly and made for the front desk. Cecile turned to me and smiled. “Works every time.” She took my hand and led me inside, laughter rounding the dimples of her cheeks. “Shut the blinds” she said. “Lock the door.” She sat on the table, chewing her candy, brown hair falling around her sunburned shoulders. 66
“You’re shaking,” she said, laughing. “That’s so cute.” She reached out and grabbed my hand, put both of hers around it, tried to calm it. Then she leaned in and breathed on my neck, warm, wet. With her hands she guided me to her bikini. “Touch me,” she whispered. All I could feel was a pain and tightening in my trunks. “Have you done this before?” I shook my head. I stroked the polyester. She moved my hand inside her suit and grabbed the hair on the back of my head. “Just like that.” I wanted to kiss her but couldn’t break my concentration. “Faster.” “Like that?” I felt my fingers dampen and my neck was raw from her fingernails. “Yes,” she whispered, and then came the knock on the blinds, furious pounding at the door. She shoved me back. “Fuck.” The lifeguard unlocked the door and walked in. Cecile jumped off the counter and stood in front of me. She faced the guard, biting her bottom lip. “Sorry,” she said, grabbing a Kit-Kat. “I just wanted some chocolate.” I went to the bathroom and stood under a freezing shower for five minutes, and when I came out she was gone. The scratches on the back of my neck were the only things I had to prove it had happened at all. I staggered into the parking lot dizzy, breathing in shallow huffs as a cloud mercifully covered the sun. It took me a minute to recalibrate my mind, running with formless abandon through my thoughts, my memories, my deepest desires. I breathed and replayed the day in my head. Mr. Hendricks was dead, and I had done something exciting and dangerous with his granddaughter, something my body was still reacting too, but it was too hot to think. 67
I walked south down Ridge Road, under the shadows of trees to Oakland Park, and gazed longingly at the green expanse of their mansion’s front lawns, now patchy with drought. Now and then mosquitoes would buzz past my ear and I thought they were Cecile’s voice, raspy and full of pain…I couldn’t smack them away – they were circling around the part of my neck slathered in her sweet spit. It mixed well with the three gashes that dribbled blood onto the back of my shirt. I had never felt more alive. When I crossed Woodward back to the shady bungalows of the east side I closed my eyes and began to dream…She was in a bathing suit, a different color – navy blue, my favorite, walking along the shore of some northern lake. She dipped her toes into the water and shuddered from the cold. Drawing the hair from her eyes she approached what must have been me, though I could not see myself, and drew our hands together. She said something I couldn’t make out or didn’t want to, then leaned in close and twirled my hair with her fingers: “You love me, don’t you?” I tried to make my lips move but my hands were already on her, smoothing out the gathers of her suit above her hips, “Tell me,” and I wouldn’t. She drew me closer and kissed me…then the vision floated on the humid wind and disappeared down the street to Woodward and the freeways to be carted off in some semi truck bound north for Flint or south to Trenton, to some ugly industrial park where dreams go to rust. As I approached my front door I was gripped by nervousness, a dormant restless pulse worked its way up my leg and seized me violently. As I had earlier in the day I listened to the physical reactions of my body and walked down to Gainsboro Park, where I had gone by myself for as long as I could remember. I was an only child in a neighborhood of older children, and from a young age I found ways to entertain myself, to escape my loneliness. I created an entire baseball league in my imagination, playing the roles of every player when the softball diamond wasn’t full of beer leagues; I stalked the wooded area on 68
Fairwood, pretending to be Robin Hood, tossing pinecone arrows with a phantom bow. When Cecile began coming to the park to tease the older boys I felt a change coming over me, a realization that my games were no longer as fun, had become more routine. They grew old in me as I watched Cecile shift her weight from leg to leg as she walked across the fields. The park was bathed in light and spotted by clouds. I traced my usual path across the storage hangar, around the gravel mound and rusty fence. The train tracks were silent. And it was then I saw her, periodically lifting a paper bag to her lips and staring down the tracks to Ferndale, to Detroit and the river. I approached her cautiously. She was wearing the work shirt of some local mechanic shop – I made out “Minser’s” on a tag over her left breast. “Hey, you.” She beckoned to me with the bottle. “Come have a seat.” The metal tracks were hot, and my damp trunks steamed as I sat next to her. “You run off on me at the first sign of trouble, huh?” “No. I couldn’t find you.” “Uh-huh. Someone warned me about guys like you.” I saw her throat clench, as if she forced a cough back into her stomach. She took a long draught from the bottle. “You want some?” I took a sip and spat it out. It tasted worse than turned cider. She laughed. “Takes a while to get used to.” The sour taste lingered on my tongue. The factories on the other side of the tracks lay quiet and a robin sang from a tall pine behind us. “I love this park,” I said. “It’s nice.” “I come here a lot, by myself.” “You don’t want company?” I was surprised at myself, opening up to her. 69
“Not really. I like being alone.” She brought the bag to her lips and a tear dropped from her left eye. “Don’t you love your parents?” Why this fixation on love? I remembered my daydream and wished I could interpret it. “Sure.” “I don’t love mine. Or they don’t love me, I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.” She tapped her foot on the rail and swung her head from left to right. I didn’t know it then, but she was drunk. “My grandpa would always tell them that I wasn’t like them, that they didn’t have to understand me to love me.” She took another sip. “They’re just fixated on the wrong things, you know? Like my mom and her face lifts, my dad and his sports cars. They live like they’re afraid of something.” She tilted her head back and looked up at the clouds, then back down at the tracks. “They don’t listen. That’s the main thing. They don’t listen like my grandpa does…did…” I sat gazing at her beautiful face, my lips open but unable to form words. “You can say something if you want.” She reached out and ran her hand up my leg. “Sorry, it’s just so hot outside…” I wiped sweat from my forehead. Her hand crept higher. “I’m only bringing it up ‘cause if you don’t love something it doesn’t hurt when you lose it.” She stroked me and drank and narrowed her eyes. “Does that feel good?” I nodded. “I’m not usually like this,” she said, feigning embarrassment. “Like what?” “You know…” She ran her hands across my trunks, slowly. She moved her lips from my hair to my chest, lower and lower, than stopped and leaned forward. “You first.”
I didn’t know what she meant but I had no time to ask. She led me off the tracks and underneath a giant pine tree, laying me down in the brown needles. Then she sat on her back and pushed my head toward her bikini. “You know how to kiss?” “Yes.” I kissed a girl the previous summer at camp; she was my age with acne and braces. It was forced and awkward, and I was filled with a gnawing sense of my own imperfections. “Then kiss me. Kiss me right there.” I opened my lips and she pushed aside her bikini. She pulled my hair and contorted her legs around my neck, her back arching as she breathed deeper and deeper. When her tension expired she threw her head back and opened her eyes, a tempest of sadness and pleasure exposed on her face before her lips offered a smile. She drew my hand up and kissed it. She took out a cigarette, threw her bagged bottle on the tracks, and walked away. I was so lightheaded I could barely make her out as she sauntered through the tennis courts and faded into the mirage of heat rising off the asphalt. Though she walked away slowly, almost invitingly, I didn’t follow her. I sat on the bed of dead needles and tried to make sense of what we had just done. The summer before, at our place on Lake Michigan my older cousin had brought a magazine with a half-naked girl on the cover. Although I had seen what we had done in the magazine, I didn’t understand it at the time. Unlike the tougher boys my age, the ones from bad families I was warned away from and that attracted Cecile, I made no attempt at faking my knowledge of bodies – female, or my own. A knotting pain seized my bowels, so monstrous and consuming that I almost called back the vanishing apparition for help. My mouth was covered with a strange film that I couldn’t spit out. When the agony subsided, I gathered myself and walked home. At dinner that night my parents talked about Mr. Hendricks, what a kind life he had led, how cruel it was to 71
grow old. My mother spoke of his generosity when they moved to the neighborhood after I was born, how he used to bring me candy on holidays and take Sunday walks with his wife when she was still alive. I thought I heard my father mumble something about Cecile, about how she might have helped age him since she came to Pleasant Ridge and what her parents were going to do with her now. My mother started talking about her family, how her father, Mr. Hendrick’s son, was an executive at Chrysler with a beautiful house off Lake Shore Drive, how his wife, Cecile’s mother, looked perpetually thirty years old, how their other two children, Cecile’s blond, timid younger brothers, were excellent tennis players. They talked to each other about the nature of rebelliousness, how and why it could exist. I couldn’t pay attention to the conversation, couldn’t even eat. I was cloaked in Cecile, and I remembered our conversation from the train tracks, when she asked me if I loved my parents. I’d never thought of our relationship deeply. I assumed you were supposed to love your parents, or at least respect them, and I did my chores and kept my hygiene and did well in school. What if that ended? And what if, like Cecile, I found myself alone in a world that seemed so vast and confusing, with no one who loved me? But I knew I had my parents, they were here, at our table, animated and wholly alive. I had never understood their patience, their care. I knew that I loved them. I cleared the table and washed the dishes, staring out the kitchen window at the water tower of the Detroit Zoo, exalting the setting sun and the coolness carried on the evening breeze. I imagined Cecile next to me in the kitchen, twirling her hair, pulling at my shirt and breathing warmly on my neck. I went to the living room and looked over to see if there was any sign of her at the house – burning lights, sounds from the TV or radio. But there was nothing but darkness, silence, and the restless pulse coursing through my blood.
After twenty minutes I told my parents I wanted to go for a walk, and I went off to find her. I looped around the east side, north down Indiana to Kensington, then south across Flynn Field and the parks. Empty swing sets swayed in the breeze, whistles from distant trains peppered the silence. The streetlights came on as I reached Woodward Heights. As I walked west I wondered why the parking lot of the liquor store was empty, why the juiced-up imports from Hazel Park and Madison Heights weren’t screaming on Hilton, past the tracks I never crossed. Then I remembered it was Sunday. I crossed over to Cambridge and wove a path under the trees. The city was so small that I was sure I could find her; I just didn’t know where to look. I passed Ridge Road and turned right onto Oakridge, the trees receding and the night opening up. When I reached the dead end, the brick wall put up when the state sliced up the city to put the freeway through I heard singing coming from the brush to my left. I pulled the leaves apart and found a hidden park that wound behind the houses of Woodside. The singing grew louder. I recognized the tune immediately: “Praise the Lover of Creation.” “Shouldn’t you be home?” I asked as I reached her, playing with grass by the wall. She laughed. “They’re not even looking for me. They’re not even worried.” When she looked back at me I saw her eyes were dry, her face radiant in the humid night. She was gorgeous. “Come here,” she said, reaching for my hands, “you’ve been so good to me today.” I inhaled sour fumes as our lips met. She tore off her bikini and threw it the dark corner of a yard, dragging me close to her and reaching inside my damp trunks. Unlike earlier, I had no illusions about what we did. 73
When it was over we clutched each other in the darkness. Cars sped down I-696 behind us, engines converging behind the brick wall. It sounded like waves crashing ashore, the tide coming in. I was stillness, peace. My eyes opened and closed slowly, and I thought that I had never felt so satisfied, so completely lacking in want. I untangled our arms looked up at her face, bathed in tears. The contrast, of my sated desire and her choking grief, was horrifying. “Do you think,” barely able to speak, “do you think he…” “What?” “I know things can be bad but, but still…” I had no idea what she was talking about. “Why did he do it?” She broke into an uncontrollable sob. “Why did he leave me?” “What will I do?” She turned to me. “What am I gonna do?” I wanted to calm her, but no words would form. “I don’t want to die like that.” “What?” “I don’t want to die alone.” “You won’t.” “Yes I will.” “You don’t know that.” She narrowed her eyes, now vicious and dark. “You will, too.” “What?” They were seething now, piercing through me. “Die,” she smiled, “you will.” “No I won’t…” My heart pounded and my stomach tightened as I broke our embrace and gulped the air, now soft in the night. In that moment I remembered Mr. Hendricks under the blanket, the stillness, the silence of his body, the finality of it as I fought back my fear. “You don’t understand.” She brushed her hair out of her eyes and pulled her bikini back on. “You’re too young.” 74
“Not much more than you.” She shot me a hard glance I feel still, writing this now. Then she took a deep breath and stared into the empty sky. “It’s a shame.” “A shame?” She stared longingly down Oakdale, past the trees and houses and cars. “Yeah. A fucking shame.” Then she scaled an elm tree over the wall and disappeared. I gathered my clothes and got dressed. I reeked of her saliva and fluids and sweat. Suddenly the fear of which she spoke crept higher and higher up my throat, and when it reached my mouth I gagged. My parents were going to die. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes, ready to fall. I brought my hand to my lips to keep them from quivering, and then tasted Cecile on my fingers. I closed my eyes as my shorts began to tighten. I never spoke to her again. I watched with despair from my bedroom window the morning after as her parents packed her up and drove her from my life. In the summers as I grew older I went back to the pool alone, scanning the deck in vain, and when I turned sixteen I became a lifeguard, eyes wandering gradually to the rotting canopy of our lonely tryst. Summer nights I traced our path under the streetlights, and when I approached the landmarks of our fleeting romance my heart would skip and I thought that I could smell her, feel her fingers as the perfumed air of a million running motors blew across my neck. But I knew she was gone. Rumors filtered back that she had run off to Chicago with some drug dealer, hitchhiked to Los Angeles to do porn, was a bartender at some dive bar downriver, that she had found Jesus and gotten married and settled in Livingston County. The only thing I could picture was her locked in erotic embrace with a simple boy, annihilating her fear and her grief.
Love That Red Disease Deonte Osayande Cancer of the soul, plague of sunlight, illness of crimson, You have had me infected abundantly. My throat is a locked door. I can't speak around you. Feverish shivers of flesh, vomiting embarrassment, you are without cure. Late night urchin, coral reef of ribs resting against me, you are without any pharmaceutical antidote. I wouldn't want to be sickened in any other way.
steam David LaBounty in the fog of this morningâ€™s mirror I wrote poet I wrote believer I wrote father, lover, dreamer, thinker, I wrote blank loves David I paused briefly as I waited for the dying of the fog, and then I wrote David loves and again, I wrote David, loves
break Erin Bongiorno the space i'm writing in is weird
it's strained is this how it should feel?
i watched the branch on the tree break under the strain of the cold
and i wonder if i'll break too.
Elemental Love Douglas Brian Craig Water When we first met, I drowned in your eyes. Nearly so. You'd left early – I don't recall why – so you weren't there to pull me out. Looking past the peninsula to where the cloudless blue melted into the mouth of the bay, I'd simply become engrossed in a feeling of weightlessness and waded deeper and deeper into the rolling waves. Fortunately, there were two teenage girls within earshot splashing about, both a little on the heavy side. In hindsight, that bit of physiology probably made the difference, but at the time all I knew was that I was in too deep. I could only touch the sandy bottom on tiptoe when there was a trough. And when the next wave rolled in, my body was lifted, like an offering to the gods, and then let go to slip beneath the surface. I'd never been much of a swimmer, so I tried to hop back up, but my legs didn't respond. It only took one more wave for the panic to wash over me. “I need help,” I called as calmly as I could, chin up. The taller of the two girls heard me, then smiled indulgently in my direction. Under again. “I'm serious. Really. I need...” When I came back up that third time, her smile was gone and she'd started toward me. I didn't say anything more. She said later my eyes had told her everything: they were wider than any eyes she'd ever seen, and I didn't blink. The shorter one swam over and joined her. Each took an arm and supported me to shore. With the slap of each successive wave, even after we'd reached ankle deep water, I gave a yell, though the tightness in my chest made it sound as if I were just having a bad dream. In their car, they wrapped me in a blanket and turned up the heat. I didn't feel cold. I didn't shiver. But my breath was shallow. I remember the blanket smelled like a wet dog. When we got to the emergency room, they told the doctor I'd nearly drowned, then left. He stood me up to 79
take a chest X-ray. When the film came back, the absence of a shadow meant there was no water in my lungs. Later, I heard the nurse say my temperature had been ninety-five when I'd arrived. These facts lead me now to revise what happened. Yes, it was a warm day; but the water, below the surface, was cold. I didn't nearly drown in your eyes. I believe now it was hypothermia. Fire When I first met your parents, you took my breath away. I have to admit I was nervous. Everything about our relationship was moving fast then, and the seriousness of meeting families scared me. Your little brother opened the front door when I rang the bell. I'd only just begun to reach out to shake his hand when I saw you start down the stairs. The way that simple pink dress swayed with each step, I could picture maidens throwing rose petals at your feet. It was less the huff you gave as you rushed toward the kitchen than Tony's genuine concern when he saw my reaction, that pulled me from my reverie, his reedy voice when he said, “What's wrong with that man?” was deeply endearing. Your parents must have been listening discretely from the kitchen, because they appeared suddenly at his side. I'm sure the shock of a guest crossing the threshold into their home only to immediate begin gasping for air was, in all fairness, a bit more than they were prepared for at our first meeting. In spite of the fact that I was near to passing out, I was still very touched when Tony raced upstairs to his room and returned, asthma inhaler in hand. It was that little act of kindness, in fact, that seemed to spur reaction from all concerned, because your mother immediately barked at your father to “Get your oxygen, Matt!” And the fact that your father had an unused oxygen tank prescribed for his COPD was more than happy coincidence; I'm not sure I would have made it otherwise. At first, I thought you'd gone to the kitchen to phone for the paramedics, so I was as surprised as anyone when they finally arrived and we found that you'd already 80
gone. As we pulled away, I will never forget the look of concern on your father's face as he paced back and forth behind the hydrangeas, his clandestine cigarette glowing like a beacon there to guide me safely back to harbor. If I embarrassed you, I am truly sorry. As it turned out, it was probably all for the best. With your parents' permission, Tony road with me to the hospital where he slept on the recliner in my room. His smiling cherubic face was there to greet me along with your mother's when I awoke the next morning, feeling much better, I might add. I sense that Tony and I have really bonded. I think he looks upon me as his big brother, as someone he can truly care for. Air When we made love a few weeks later and you leaned down and whispered that we were soulmates I knew you'd forgiven me your earlier embarrassment. That a simple Midwestern boy like me had found someone to connect with at that level, someone as beautiful and caring as you, was all I'd ever dreamed of. Mating is such a sonorous word for what too often is a near violent act. We're lulled into this sense of its beauty and naturalness, but I'll share with you that growing up on a farm watching two twelve-hundred pound animals go at it can be downright scary, and maybe that's part of the problem. The sheer weight of your love overwhelms me at times. So much so that when our souls do the deed, it distracts me to no end... and not always in a good way, or at a good time. As an example: I was standing in line at the Post Office the other day. Ahead of me stood a delicate old lady with translucent skin, clutching a package to her chest. I was thinking of you when, without warning, our souls touched. It was an innocent enough touch at first, a spiritual peck on the cheek, but evidently it set off that chain reaction all too common to the animal spirit. Before I knew what was happening, I felt the ravishment of your soul on mine. I know I'm not always the most assertive of men, but you, my dear, can be downright commanding in 81
moments of passion. The forelimbs of your eternal being hooked themselves around my ribcage, prompting a sharp intake of breath that nearly sent me into a panic, but I quickly recovered and my vital essence assumed the position in preparation for the coupling of our two souls. It hurt. Though it hurt in a deeply satisfying Eros piercing way. The intimacy I feel when we're as one is undeniable, but the brutality (and deep bruising) I feel after we've connected often leaves me numb. It is unfortunate that that numbness doesn't precede the act, since that may have lessened the degree to which I cried out and startled that poor old woman. I tried to explain, but the way my face was contorted, and the foul air about me, left her mortified, and in no doubt that my cry was somehow lewdly directed at her. In the end, house-arrest was a generous compromise offered by the prosecution, one which gave me a much needed rest and time to heal my love ravaged soul. Earth I said I couldn't live without you and it's been two months since last we were together. My eyelids are tired beyond description (I never knew the muscles in one's eyes could do so much work). For the last month, I've lain here, day in and day out, tubes filling me, tubes draining me, tubes feeding me, and tubes pushing through my veins the ĂŠlan vital I'm too tired to push myself. Each day, doctors come to stand in my doorway, shake their heads, and then continue on with their rounds. On this much they agree: My heart is failing, damaged in no small part from the strain of my hypothermia; vessels had contracted, muscle died. My lungs are filled through intubation now, but my breath has left me; the fire in me starves for air. And my colon, my colon lies inert, impacted, the victim of two loving souls. Everything fails me save the two eyes with which I first beheld you (reduced to one since yesterday), the only remaining window into the me that once loved you with every last cell of my then fully functioning body.
If not for the patience of Ruby, the volunteer who visits me each afternoon, I would not have found the means to share these last thoughts with you. Patiently (and painfully on my part), Ruby transcribes my every blink into the words I now write to you. Although she says it helps her study for the vocabulary section of her upcoming GED [it does â€“ R], I sense, as near as I can in my present condition, that she has grown rather fond of me [I have â€“ R]. When I finally return to earth you may be tempted to look upon my death as nothing more than the consequence of an overfull bowel, but I remain convinced that the ultimate cause was the depth of my ever abiding love for you. For me, love was never just a word, it was the embodiment of what I felt for you, it was real, it was concrete. My love was no mere metaphor, it was metaphor reified, and I lived (and will die) knowing that the meaning of love for me was more than utterance, it was the act of living itself.
Stone Walls Douglas Brian Craig late spring snow gone stones rise spines bent low of those who worked their flesh left themselves in the field green hands wrest back their ache reach quickly between the dirty cuticle cracks where crocus fade
Blues Harp Douglas Brian Craig at the corner across from the VA strapped in his motorized chair give me a light a ready cig clamped in the homemade stand bolted to the arm flecks of gray ash fallen into his open fly a stretch of yellowed hose run to a pearl cigarillo tip surgically taped in a worn harmonica holder hesitation says i don't smoke and his eyes roll to the canvas bag hung at the back of the chair where i find the lighter tucked between discharge papers lit he inhales eyes closed tastes the music i pick up the tune feel as i cross the street
the need to plan now so when nothing's left of me i can summon passers-by to dig through the memories i'll hang around my neck find you press you to my lips satisfy the craving
An Elegy for â€œHowlâ€? M. Pfaff When the last forgotten recess of your ultimate weary drawer of dust coughed out the yellow petal of its one remaining folded rose, and the sheet of bloodsmeared paper, stained with poems like ink, gave up its ghost: i saw nothing. There was nothing to see. The best minds of my generation expired while little more than seeds. you did not see. you were not seen. Poker-faced hysteria starved in silence and exhausted itself in lame dysfunction to be pinned insensate to a cluster of symptoms as a matter of course by moth-dust fingers of DSM lepidopterists in formaldehyde rooms of science. 86
i heard nothing. There was nothing to hear. The eli eli lamma lamma sabachthani cry was drowned in words. you did not hear. you were not heard. Jaded sincerity choked on its tongue and shook with neural crescendo of seizure, in pig shit halls of knowledge. there was no mouth to take the sigh and the final rattle passed unremarked.
Pulse of the Fly James Nolan Munce
The mind of a fly
flies about It's not important never mind what it's about.
the things that are The that wants to be and that that's nevermore or never was or never will Life's convenience is the thrill. To dream to hope it is the stars your mind is yours 88
or is it ours? How different are we? Are you prepared? We sow our seeds to be compared to be judged and to die. You can have the answers but do you know why? No! you are a
Last meal Josh Olsen February 7, 2012 I ate dinner with my grandparents at the nursing home. Roast beef, mashed potatoes and brown gravy, sweet corn, bread and butter, coffee, and coconut cream pie. Needless to say, it wasnâ€™t spectacular, but it was far better than I had assumed, and it was very possible that this could have been my last meal with my grandfather, so I savored each and every bite. But, alas, the very next day, I treated my grandfather to lunch. One fully-loaded Chicago-style hot dog with French fries for him and two Italian beef sandwiches for me. The brown paper sack I transported our meal in was translucent with grease. Shortly after we finished eating, when I stepped out into the hallway to dispose of our rubbish, an elderly man rolling by in a wheelchair stopped to tickle my belly as if I was a child. And that was my last meal with my grandfather.
Shakey Eryc Laekallt The son and the father are driving across the plains of -----, driving towards home in -----. Tundra rolls past the window: white with the tuft of grey mash caused by rubber tires flinging sludge to the side of the road where it collaborates with gravel. Fence posts breaking up the monotony of the horizon. Stale. The son thinks of Fargo; the father thinks of Christmas breathing down his neck—he has not bought presents, but thought of them constantly. The son made his present at school, but does not talk about it with the father, nor does the father ask; he does not ask about the present, school work, or how the ladies have been. He does not ask about anything. Nor does the son. He does not ask about home, or how the father’s job is coming along, or if he has seen any good movies lately. They are not talking about Christmas presents, nor school, nor shopping malls and their crowdedness and how they each respectively feel about shopping malls (even though the son has a very un-artschool opinion about shopping malls and the father a very un-father-figure opinion about them), and they most certainly do not talk about the gaping hole the son left at home; a gaping hole the son did not feel aside from the brief and piercing moments he (the son) felt like a son: when he would walk up to his dorm room after smoking dope with some friends behind the dumpster near the science hall (which was not the lava lamp/shag rug pot smoking paradise the son had envisioned when he started college and, in fact, he held the whole actual ‘smoking’ affair at a distance (like when he would watch day-time television and hear someone describing the first (sometimes last) time they realized there was an actual needle going into their vein and this was not the life they envisioned for themselves and it didn’t even seem like their life, but rather a crude caricature of a junkie) and the son realized this was not the college experimenting he had in mind: smoking pot behind a dumpster while balancing daytime television memories with the tension of…this), which was the best 91
alternative to drinking alcohol as there’s no palpable method short of a drug test to prove they were high, which just wasn’t practical (right?), giving them all reason to get lit or toasted or just plain high—so high that they’d have a hard time making it back to the son’s dorm room, attempting multiple times to enter not only the wrong dormitories, but buildings that weren’t even dormitories, giving the whole affair a lost-in-space type feeling in addition to the already mounting paranoia inside of him, but he’d stifle it and focus on just, like, a single thought or something while the other party would be giggling about unknown somethings and the dorm would eventually be found in spite of it all and he’d have the other party with him and the older security guard who took watch of the dorm during certain hours between dawn and dusk would give them not a necessarily disapproving glare, but a sad kind of too-old-for-this lowering of his eyes and the son and the other party would chuckle and look at each other in the stairwell beyond the security guard—both of them knowing and liking their fleece pulling and they would knock their bodies against the walls of the stairwell as they made their way to the dorm, the son knowing that, no, he was not really that burnt, but it was fun to pretend he was (but does the other party think so—like, are they more out there than the son, or are they pretending like him and what else are they pretending about?), but the dorm is the end in sight and the door is closed and the lava lamp is turned on and it is warmed up while the son and the other party giggle and laugh and once the lava lamp’s juice is flowing, it is watched for an hour before the son falls asleep in his bed with the other party except in such cases where the other party falls asleep on the couch or, even worse, goes back to their respective dorm, which leaves the son feeling terribly alone and terribly needy and terribly self-loathing and he knows the other party has their own life to live, as does the son, but he still feels this…insatiable urge to drop out of life—an urge which pervades as deep as the son’s thoughts when he’s sleeping with the other party—when he’s actually in the middle of dropping out he still feels the urge to drop out and the anxiety to do it quickly and urge and 92
the anxiety would follow the son and the other party down the stairs the next morning and watch the son say goodbye to the other party and lead the son by the hand back up to his dorm room, but not before having his eyes meet those of the security guard (who has to be on his last leg of his shift by now) and the son now has no one to laugh about this look with—this look of bewilderment and disappointment from someone you don’t even know, yet their judgment still stings because you feel it too—the judgment, it’s not confronting you with new information, just syncing up with that which is already there and the urge and the anxiety can’t laugh with the son about this realization in the stairwell, the best they can do is tell him ‘that’s not funny’ and the son would try very, very hard to fight whatever feeling was coming up inside of him when he was back in the dorm room and looking at the lava lamp which just isn’t that cool anymore and the homework piled up undone (and it’s not so much about the homework—it’s just the banality of it all) and the late morning sun sifting through the window and the uncertainty of the day feeling weighted and pregnant and the vast, simple loneliness painting it all and the way the son’s mind worked on marijuana is finally starting to get to him because he hasn’t been high for a few hours now, but the thoughts just keep coming and the only thing he can place this feeling against is the difference and solitary fact: sons, not fathers, feel like this. But the father feels, too. Right now, he is frustrated. The car broke down on the way home. His. The sons. It wasn’t anyone’s fault (what is?), but it happened. The son is restrained and apologetic: when the father blasted the heat, the son did not un-zip his coat. It would make too much noise, taking his gloves off and zipping it down from his chin and dealing with the overcoat by means of stuffing it in the backseat before removing his two sweaters. He conjured up a wad of snot in his mouth, but did not unroll the window, instead letting snot fester in his mouth until they got home. He did not budge. The father would not yell nor would he hit him nor 93
would he have reason to—this (the car breaking down) was not his fault. He still did not budge. He did not know why. The mother is at home setting up decorations regarding Christmas. Generally, she is with Shakey, but, in all bona fide physicality, Shakey is nowhere to be seen. She may be tucked between the shopping bags underneath the stairs, bags covered in dried cat puke and fur shed many moons ago. She may be on the pile of clothes spilling out of storage containers: BUM XXL sweatshirts with paint stains and jeans missing buttons from a sudden weight gain during 4th period math in 8th grade, jeans kept cold in the low insulated room beneath the stairs and the coldness wrapping the fibers and sealing in their smell. Shakey may be dead. But she is not dead. She is in the house, waiting. Waiting for the son to come home so she can slink between his legs and vibrate and the son could slip his hands underneath her armpits and bring her to eye level, her milky mirror of agate reflecting his pimples, longer hair, his coffee-stained teeth: his scars of college and the son suddenly not wanting to hold Shakey any longer, putting her—no, hurling her down before seeing what else is new. Shakey is waiting for this. She is waiting for this and the mother is drowning the house in decoration. The mother’s present: life-sized, highly detailed, and meticulously crafted sculpture of the mother holding Shakey, her body poised looking uncomfortably endearing—her eyes never leaving the sculpture viewer and Shakey’s never leaving the mother; sculpture medium: lowdensity red putty which, upon kilning, retreats to an unhealthy brown sheen striking the imagination dull with languidness, a feeling so weighted it stands in contradiction to the light, crafted, floating material currently situated on top of the father’s station wagon (a wagon of stations so prototypical and so bromidic it left the father unable to laugh while buying it—the laughter of coming to terms with being one of those fathers who owns a station wagon, giving up the childhood dream of being a(n) ---------- and admitting defeat because you know, yes, everyone had 94
dreams and of course not everyone could accomplish them and some were going to have to slink to the station wagon dealership and accept the fate graciously, but you would somehow beat the odds, not quite knowing how, but somehow; the father remembers everything being tan in his life after the station wagon) currently approaching home. The present is taken off the top of the station wagon and the son sets to wrapping it in the middle of the garage while the father watches the door. The son takes the wrapping paper he had brought with him from college—wrapping paper bought at an expensive markup online which was only necessitated because the local wrapping paper outlet didn’t have a nice, slick mauve color—and gets to it. He is nervous. It is not going well. The paper is tearing an uneven tread along the ream and it is hard to find a nice fold to tape on. It is not going well. It looks messy. There seems to be not nearly enough tape. He thinks he has a paper cut. He knows he has a paper cut. He is starting to itch; sweating comes next. His hand is trembling. This is worrisome. He takes a deep breath. The father is still watching the door. He has barricaded himself between the door frame, making it impossible for the door to swing outwards, forgetting the door opens inwardly. He is supposed to be placing his ear against the door to pick up any motion, but he’s watching the son instead. Intently. He wants—needs—the son to finish wrapping the gift so there can be something—anything— under the tree. He neglected to buy presents this year, although neglected may not be the right word, but he didn’t forget, either. He just didn’t and he really doesn’t know why (whoever does?). But now he is watching the son. Intently. One of his eyes trails toward the To: From: tag the son had set aside (not just a spare piece of wrapping paper, but a nice card stock with imbedded Christmas-y things printed on the front in an ink which changed color depending on how you looked at it) and his other trails towards the calligraphers pen beside it. He is going to rider his name on the present. The monolith is too grandiose to be the fruits of one man’s labor, let alone a boy. Sex on 95
Christmas night: copulation on the floor in the shadow of the towering statue, the towering present, the father being able to see the mother and the wife at once. Yes. What the father does not foresee at the present: the wife and the mother thanking both of them (father and son) as she slowly circles the present, soaking it in, preserving the moment, that sort of thing, before she tears—carefully—the mauve wrapping paper off and sets it in neat little piles surrounding the life-sized, highly detailed, and meticulously crafted red putty present before the whole thing is unveiled and the mother is ecstatic to the point of speechlessness, still slowly circling the present; her mouth slightly agape (in a very unattractive way), her gaze meeting her sons, and her eyes, bright and shining, speaking of a hushed love and a beaming glow within her heart which the son is basking in before the father starts hearing—literally, hearing—the glow sucked out of the air as her eyes match the fathers and she takes a Armstrongsized step and embraces her husband. Wholly. “Thanks, you guys.” You guys. The father doesn’t hear, at this time, in the present, the maelstrom beginning upon the long slide of the ‘s’; a maelstrom starting in the son and carrying itself outward for years and years and years and manifesting in small, myriad ways—true hate having the same tangible little carbuncles as love; for if he did, hear the maelstrom, the To: From: tag may have never even been thought of being thought of being thought of a possibility. But right now, the father was thinking whose name should come first on the tag. His or the son’s. He was not thinking of much else. Dinner: no—Homecoming Dinner: meat loaf, potatoes, salad that came out of a bag, and milk. The son caught up with his parents, asking how the homestead held up in between his mastication and milk-gulping. Notable moments in the eyes of the mother and the father: The Cindrich’s dog was left—no, placed—well, in either case, the dog was in the kennel while the family went on vacation to Florida—South Carolina—no, they have property in Flordia—no, I was talking to Joy last week, it’s 96
South Carolina—well, in either case, they were on vacation and when they came back, the kennel said they had no idea where the dog was or if they even dropped it off at their kennel in the first place—can you imagine? It would just be awful—hold on a minute, will ya?—and the family, obviously, raised quite the calamity about it, got the local news involved and, low and behold, the kennel knew about the dog’s disappearance the entire time, they were just playing the fool. Last I heard the kennel was getting sued or something, I don’t know; next door neighbor had a bit of a tiff with leukemia and the mother had to watch the kids for the extension of the tiff.. The mother’s voice tinged with something like poignancy or melancholia or something as simple as sadness when she said this; Shakey had started to go out at night. It started in the warmer months but managed to continue to the present. The mother would try to coax her into before she caught her 40 winks, but sometimes this proved beyond fruition, in which case Shakey would be waiting patiently near the door in the morning: fur matted black, mouth and asshole having no discernible difference in smell, eyes widened to a state of amphetamine awareness—this was a different cat. Shakey now batted at the back door to be let out and then batted harder. The mother left the table. A hunger took over the son. It was not evening, but night. The hunger cradled him out of his bed and into the kitchen, into the cupboard, and into the blue box of macaroni. And cheese. It was cold in the house and a draft ran nipple-level across the kitchen. He began the preparations: butter, cups of milk, boiling water, etc. He was naked. The Christmas lights provided the illumination he needed, leaving him feeling like he was in some twisted form of a blockbuster movie from the 70’s, but being unable to explain exactly what about the situation made him feel this way, which, in turn, left him feeling like a bartender closing the bar down at night—the neon beer signs the only light he had to work off of. He practiced his bar tender abilities: he called butter “champ” and milk “kid” and made small talk to the blue box, but it was a tactful battlefield, it being so close to 97
Christmas and all; he tiptoed around the mines of family and kid questions, bearing the holiday suicide rate as a muter for his trumpet of a tongue and stuck to the weather and a few embarrassing, revealing, yet highly personable anecdotes about himself he thought might cheer the blue box up. When the box didn’t bite, the son made awkward non-eye contact and noticed Shakey at the window. He let her in. Shakey curled around his legs while making that weird vibrating noise which had a soporific effect on the son, like a murmur of a heartbeat. He wasn’t hungry anymore. The oven was turned off and he lifted the near boiling water using a spare towel as a guard and brought it towards the sink. Shakey jumped in the sink as the water flowed. The son flicked his wrist and landed the remainder of the water on the counter (and some on his coat). Shakey was making a weird noise (different and incomparable this time) and the son could see steam rising off of her butt. Shakey started batting arbitrarily with her paws— decorative bottles of olive oil with dried peppers in them or something toppled and fell, salt spilt over, napkins became unfurled. This is not good. The cat has to make it till Christmas. The son repeats this in his head. He covered his butt with a towel and hissed before turning his attention towards Shakey. He ran the cold water and doused Shakey’s backside. He took paper towel and gently padded until there were at least no water droplets. Shakey didn’t respond (negatively) to gentle prodding of the area. The father and son are out to breakfast. The mother had to work. The father was off for reasons unknown. At the table was them and only them; no food, no coffee, no water, no conversation, no warmth. Last night, while his father was on the computer or pretending to be while he was actually just sitting in silence and oblivion or he was playing solitaire or thinking of naked ladies or closing the latest merger or something, the mother told the son what had happened while he (the son) was away: the father hit Shakey. Or they had an altercation. Something happened. Transpired events in the following order: the other washing dishes in the minute or so (impossible to tell time in matters 98
such as these), father reached out and swatted her. Batted her. Shakey. The father swatted (batted) Shakey. Shakey moved a few inches on the table, but not much beyond that. The mother put away the cleanest dish she had ever hand washed and never mentioned it. She didn’t speak to the father the rest of that night, but this was not unusual. The mother just figured the son should know, although she couldn’t pinpoint why this information was…she couldn’t find the right word, but she just had to tell him. The son had this welling inside of him all morning. The information. It lodged itself in his throat while condensing to the size of an egg and stayed there, masquerading as an upcoming cry. It made a cameo in the form of ‘swatted eggs’ when the waitress came, but fell back soon after that. The food came. And the coffee. The son decided to smoke the information out, swallowing large amounts of visibly hot coffee while the father, eyebrow cocked, stared. Intently. The father resumed eating his breakfast, using esoteric motions of his silverware to simultaneously cut and eat his omelet in a fluid motion that seemed beyond lucidity. The son noticed this. He was watching the father. He was going to bring it up, he had no other choice. This diner was his mount. The air was filled with something. The question. The waitress came. She filled the coffee. The air was diluted. But Shakey was outside. The son noticed. Outside the diner. In the street. The father’s back to the window, his head angled downwards towards the plate, the son’s eyes just above his head, mimicking the stare-at-the-forehead sales technique the father taught him, watching Shakey in the road. Unmistakable Shakey. Shakey was on the gravely shoulder of the road, pacing. Waiting. The son tautened his breathing to a shallow halt, lest he hyperventilate all over the table. The father. The son steadied his hand over his jittering leg. Shakey started to move, no longer parallel to the diner, but, well. The son died. No, but he wanted to. Cars were coming. Shakey was in the road. The cat must make it till Christmas. A red Ford was coming. Shakey was in trajectory. The son’s veins were 99
bursting out of his neck. The father. The Ford passed over Shakey, body (both) intact. The son could breathe again. In the distance, cars could be heard crashing. The house was silent. It was waiting, breathing, seething. It was cold, looming over the street, windows blacked out, and front door locked; air flowing in between cracks— making all but a low whistle. Light strings hanging, plugs waiting, oven not on but poised to heat; handles in up positions, cups with clean rims, water heater ready: bring it on; the street alive, the next block alive, the city alive, but the house waiting. Not dead; waiting. Waiting on a mental hill. Sitting, breathing, seething, waiting. Dark and looming. Breathing. Seething. Waiting. The family is at a loss on Christmas Eve. No plans, no intentions. The TV is on, but it’s unclear whether anyone is watching it. Shakey was outside. The son noticed. The present had been placed underneath the tree earlier in the day and now it sat. The present. It sat. The family sat. Shakey, wherever she may be, may or may not be sitting. The outside is a strange place. The night rolled in and the TV was turned off, the mother and the father rolling themselves into their cocoon of a bedroom while the son sat unmoved in his chair, butt imprints fastening themselves into the permanent category (cushion damp with sweat). Shakey was not in. And it had begun to snow. The son noticed. Then it began to snow harder. The son noticed. The snow whirled and pelted the window with empty, blank thuds, his mind absorbing them as some kind of surrogate, giving the son a massive—really, killer— headache. In the kitchen there was a bottle of aspirin or Tylenol, the son took two. It wasn’t as late as it was dark, but the son worried about Shakey. Calls and cat treats did no good, so the son sat in front of the TV for an hour. It was not turned on. Then the son became very worried. Very. The cat must make it till Christmas. It was nearly Christmas. No one had cared to let Shakey in. The son noticed. He 100
stripped down and put on his coat. He was naked save his coat. He went outside. All he could see was snow. It was cold. Shakey. The cat needed to make it till Christmas. The next morning, the father, the son, and the mother were getting ready to open the present. The son had not slept. His feet were still cold, possibly some kind of frostbite (are there multiple kinds?). His father had slept well and the mother had slept. The mother was moving towards the present. The son was sweating. It was Christmas. The mother looked at the tag.
a short ride Vincent James Perrone a father and a father before, a flower curled around the clouds. it’s good to be home bound and restless, diving head first into crabgrass. green in the back of a greyhound. salt and smiles. passengers backwashed into paper cups of r&r and coffee. it’s good to be anything at all. an earring is flung between the seats. a woman with a mistletoe chin, presses her ass into my thigh. fold your arms, your legs, fold in the corners of your lips, fold the cockpit, until it drips air conditioning. fold me into origami and blow me across the room toward a grade school lover. one that knows the hollowness of bones and breath. pry me from my desk or stand peering over my shoulder, a jealous god. it’s good to be born from ash, fed from ash, 102
bleeding ash into trashcans and gutters. where ever highways meet. praying in the front of the bus sinning in the back where dreams weave circles around cough syrup frowns. leaning toward the road, white lines whistling back. my father picks me up, drooling mint middle class nausea. he asks if that’s what i’m wearing to the funeral i say “yes.” mimicking his greying sincerity. his father and father before curled around his car keys. a short ride home, shorter to the casket.
fodder #2 Vincent James Perrone she talks in 35 millimeter sentences. in square sidewalk blocks asking â€œwho are we but blankets around our lovers?â€? a projector hums in the background. i need white noise and gray streets and gray means to make ends meet, scuffing the floor older than my father. i follow trails. the ones that snake like smoke under a black barrette. the ones that tunnel like lovers under blankets. the ones that scrape their legs like locust knitting melodies, half as pretty as you in spring and i missed you then as i miss you now. collected cobwebs for my arachnid museum. i miss you now certain as a copper clock-hand. i miss you now, a hole in drywall. a breeze unheard. a prodding in the morning from a lover still in lust, kissing bowing bones. forever kissed eternity and gave birth to scribble and scribble rubbed elbows with me in childhood and i touched hands 104
with you and you are the the centipede of my dreams, crawling and never bothering anyone. loving light that croaks under blankets.
just asleep Vincent James Perrone sunny day on the swings stray chains rasping like a cupped throat. rocking back against the high tide of wood chips and parade of sour mouthed kids, i rest and digest a queasy dream. last night lasted too long, i know as i probe the ground for the spoils of scraped knees. a girl spins the steering wheel of the tiny plywood car, i swear i can smell the flakes of dried peanut butter on her chin. her father rolling his sleeves, a crucifix on his forearm, contorts into the passenger seat. a boy grinds his cheek into a sandpaper slide, whistling a lullaby. i’m still, a wheezing statue, dedicated to the sculptor. the plaque reads “just asleep.” when the families leave i imagine them, parents, watching yellowish television until their eye blotch to the shade 106
of raw elbows. iâ€™m sure they imagine me, trembling in that rubbery chair. just another child, one crinkled brow away from their own.
the other season Vincent James Perrone in summer i stumbled through my room growling sour vowels, carouselling to match her ballet steps. i grinned at her like a bashful hyena. in autumn i strummed her chest like a 12 string, church music. i knelt, some pious pagan, dragging my fists on thick gravel, surely a neanderthal. tarzan and jane know nothing of domestic disputes. i trim my ego, splint my tongue and try to pass as tribal. in spring i’ll find love, under my deck where the pill bugs thrive. i’ll find love, under her eyelids, in that dark of place. in winter, i’ll etch her name into the glassy lake. i’ll burrow in snow and hibernate in her favorite notes. it’s the little things, 108
certainly. so small i can keep them under my tongue. the blue sparks that bounce, hoping for a chance to catch the gas leak behind the oven. this season iâ€™ll run my fingers down the small of her back, toward her creaking joints, where secrets are forgotten like worms in dry earth.
Fall L. Sylvia Tatem It was an October day, brisk and ripe with raspberry-mango colored leaves spinning from trees; we were two lovers inside of a corner café, seated on highstacked stools, framed by a fog-stained window. A fluorescent magenta “open” sign hung above us blinking, and we were drinking coffee, waiting for a carry-out; making our weekend plans between Marvin Gaye-induced kisses. Promising kisses. The kind of kisses that lead to later on and torn garments and roll-away buttons—and in some cases, never-to-be-found-again-buttons—much later on. We fastened our puffy down jackets and left the café. We strolled through the outdoor market, oblivious to others, stepping on curled, crunchy leaves; laughing deliriously at nothing and everything; laughing so hard I sometimes snorted. I fed you intermittent spoonfuls of my favorite beans and greens soup because you were too scared to get your own, turned your nose up at the mere mention of it. But you ended up lovin’ it. You listened to me go on-and-on with “I told you so.” And to shut me up, you leaned in for more, followed by a kiss. Its sweetness was on your lips. I sensed you were already anticipating the next taste and so was I. Long and warm conversation led to cold soup. You listened without interruption to plans for the grand opening of my second boutique, Sunny’s Too! You told me about your promotion, just days away, Caleb Laveau, Director of the Chicago Center Stage Opera. I liked the title and I interrupted you to say so. I admit, I’m not as good of a listener as you. You pulled me toward you, kissed my hand, and switched sides with me so that you now walked on the outside, closest to the curb, shielding me from moving traffic, holding me close as we walked. A gust of autumn air lifted my floral maxi skirt high above my thighs and blew my red curls to one side, but I didn’t care, didn’t even try to fix things because I felt as if I would miss capturing another moment.
We picked up fresh vegetables and fruit, cherry conserve for my homemade rolls, hazelnut hot chocolate, Bailey’s, and whipped cream. Oh, and bulbs… lots and lots of bulbs that you offered to plant in my flower garden on Sunday: Blue Parrot tulips, Apricot Lace daffodils, and Dutch Irises all of whose brilliant blooms and fragrant scents will surely make my soul dance come spring. With the orange sun setting before us, we made a few more stops and boarded the train, bags in tow, with dinner and other things on our minds. At home, we sat on the floor next to each other, bodies slightly touching; our untouched plates on the cocktail table, because that night, Barolo and love had vehemently trumped lamb chops and new potatoes and asparagus, but would make for a scrumptious brunch in the morning. We drank our second or third or fourth glass of wine while the flickering tea lights appeared to pulsate to Donny Hathaway’s song, I Love You More than You’ll Ever Know. It was a sensuous melody, the tempo deliberately slow. And you, my sweet thief, would mercilessly employ Donny’s rhythm to undress me and slide your familiar hands over parts of my body that would welcome your return; and you would utter the lyrics…utter those heartfelt, soulful lyrics while we made love, long into the night. I awakened to the soft sound of the wind chimes outside of my window. Occasionally, I could hear the thud of the shovel hitting against the earth. Barefoot, I walked through the house. I stepped on something hard and reached down to pick it up, toying with it in my hands. I stood there in the archway watching you bend down to plant the bulb and cover it and stand up to repeat the process. Your mixed gray hair glistened in the morning sun. Watching you, I realized that when the flowers bloom annually, I will always think of you and the day that we met crossing the avenue in opposite directions, each headed toward our respective towers. You came back across to walk with me, held the door open and offered to take me to dinner sometime soon. 111
Your business card stared at me all that day, taunted me during all of my meetings and phone calls. I donâ€™t know why I said yes or why I even considered your offer over the others. Perhaps it was the simple sincerity with which you asked me out. No posturing; no playerâ€™s line. Then, too, maybe it was for the same reason that young Allie Hamilton laid in the middle of that empty street with Noah Calhoun in The Notebook: an open heart plus the right moment can equal the love of a life time. You finished planting the first batch of bulbs and started up the walkway. I opened the sliding door and the chilly air accompanied you. A morning kiss, a bear hug, and you looked at me and asked me to join you outside. Naughty boy. I was only wearing a strategically draped sheet. Instead, I offered to make you brunch and sent you back out into the garden. I placed the crystal button I had been fondling in the ceramic bowl on the sink and checked the pantry to make sure I had enough flour. All these years later, through good days and bad, I know that even if we part, I will savor every moment of that October day. It was not grand with gestures but pleasant moments, lasting memories, a gift that you gave to me, I believe, to remind me of what it feels like, really feels like to be free in love. I will always remember the splendor of the fall.
Wine Glass to The Hand Mirror Christine Bettis Inspired by Sarah Kay’s “Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire”
I see a lot of myself in you I see the way that people can’t stop looking at you I see that hands hold us in different ways The fullest I’ve been is half-empty Too many lips press against me I need to be kissed clean Every time that sponge puts me away wet Can we compare streaks? Yours long, mine colorful Can we live like we did before the fire? When we were quartz and sand So fine we slipped through fingers Clung to wings of shorebirds and flirted with the seaweed so green
Curtains Joseph Williams “What are you doing?” Cat demanded. Jason glanced over his shoulder at her and then continued on with the leveler, trying to make certain he had the screws for the curtain rod lined up straight. He could almost feel the laughter in her voice, not because it was funny but because it was awful. “Hanging the curtains like you asked.” Cat was too stunned to reply. There didn’t seem to be anything she could say to fill a silence like that one, especially at a time when words felt so much heavier than they normally did and the spaces between them so much emptier. “Does that look right to you?” Jason asked her intently. He wasn’t facing her. “Yeah, that’s fine,” Cat said. She couldn’t even force out a word of reproach for his wasting precious time with household chores, since arguing seemed even less productive and an even more terrible end than hanging curtain rods. “Have you seen any of the news reports?” Jason didn’t flinch. “Yeah. They sent us home early after we saw them. Or we left without telling them. I’m not really sure which. We all kind of picked up at once.” “I think they’ll understand.” Jason laughed. “It doesn’t matter whether they do or not. Can you hold this up for me for a second?” Cat couldn’t help but feel compelled to rush over when he asked. “Sure.” She was still in her heels, tracking snow and something dark (maybe mud and maybe dog log) across the carpet. There was no reason to care, but realizing that she was making a mess still made her a little sad. It was a foolish way to feel. By the time she noticed, it was too late anyway. She’d crossed the carpet and had the leveler resting three quarters of the way up the wall. Jason started to make the lines where the lasers shot out of the leveler to mark new positions for the screws. 114
“How was your day?” he asked. Cat laughed abruptly but the sound died on her lips just as fast. “Interesting. Draining.” They both shifted as Jason stepped around her to the other end of the tall window. She could smell the sweat on him even though it was well into winter. He’d been working since he came home. “Yeah. There’s a lot of that going around right now.” Cat took a moment to kick off her heels and then stood on tiptoe to keep the leveler in place. She hoped Jason would hurry. Her arm was getting tired and she didn’t feel like switching hands. The silence was uncomfortable. Even more so than usual. “Did you call anyone?” Jason shrugged. “Why would I?” Cat was about to respond and then realized she had nothing to say. There was no way she could form an answer to a question like that. He’d stunned her. “I don’t know,” she finally replied. “Why not?” He put down the pencil and the drill and wiped sweat from his brow. Cat let her arms fall to her side in relief too quickly and the leveler, surprisingly heavy, smacked against her hip. How awful it would be to get a bruise right then, on top of everything else. “Did you call anyone?” he asked conversationally, fidgeting with the curtain rods on the floor and looking about the room for the curtains themselves to slide onto them. It was difficult to make sense of his reaction to the news. Was he in shock? Was he in denial? Was he scared? In the seven years they’d been together, including three in what was to remain a forever childless marriage in spite of their efforts, Cat had never had trouble reading his emotions. She’d known the moment he’d laid eyes on her that he was in love, just as she’d known he was going to propose in the park one late spring afternoon four years before the comet would come. And that was hardly all of it. Not long after they were married, she’d also known he’d 115
bought a puppy without her permission when she returned home from work and he couldn’t conceal his grin even after she started to get upset (they’d later given it to friends), and she’d known he’d lost his job last month when he stayed parked in their driveway with the windows down for forty-five minutes, listening to the Counting Crows and looking hurt but somehow relieved. She’d known him through all of that. But this…this was new. It frightened her, perhaps even more than the news reports or the idea of dying without ever having a taste of motherhood. “Honey?” Jason called her back. She realized he’d stopped working and that she’d been staring off into the corner of the carpet, where a hairy centipede scurried across the vent and made for the front hall. On any other day, she would have screamed, but what was it to her if it lived another hour? It was strange thinking that way, since she wouldn’t have hesitated to kill it back when she knew it would otherwise live a full life. But now that she knew it would be dead in an hour one way or the other, it seemed a sin to speed up that process. “Did you call anyone?” he asked again. Maybe he did care, after all. “Yeah. I called my mom and dad. And Sharon.” Jason nodded and went back to assembling the curtain rods. It wasn’t going very well by the looks of it. He’d never been very handy. “What did they have to say?” “I don’t know,” she replied, though she really remembered almost everything they’d said and all of it had been extraordinarily meaningful when they’d said it. But all of those words seemed silly now, looking back on them. Somehow melodramatic. Self-indulgent in a way she never would have guessed she’d feel at the end of the world. It always felt good to confront history, she supposed, even if it was the end of history in the normal sense. Jason didn’t seem concerned one way or the other. She watched him struggle with the rods for a while (two more to go, by the looks of it), and then she put her
hand on the small of his back. Sweat soaked through his shirt. He looked back at her, and she knew that her eyes were wide and maybe a little fearful, but she couldn’t control them anymore. The world was ending, and her husband was hanging curtains. Jason smiled at her. “It’s all right, honey. I’ll finish in time.” As though that was what troubled her. She wasn’t sure what it was about the situation exactly that had her so stupefied, whether it was the end of the world or that she was six states away from her parents when it happened, but how far he progressed in hanging the curtains before they died could not have been further from her list of worries. But maybe he was the one having the breakdown and this was his way of coping with it. “Jason?” “Yeah?” “Are you all right?” He stopped working again, turned around, concerned, and pulled her into a hug. “Yeah. Are you?” She had to think about it for a moment. Even then, the answer was elusive. It didn’t seem important. Not as long as his sweaty arms were wrapped around her. “The church is holding a vigil right now until it hits. Sharon’s taking her family there,” she told him. Jason nodded solemnly. “Do you want to go to it?” “I don’t know. I kind of figured we would.” The curtain rods sprawled out over the floor. Their indifference to Cat and her troubles was calming. They had a clean conscience and she envied them for it, but it also made her hopeful. Jason kissed her cheek. “If you want to go, we can.” “Don’t you?” “I do if that’s what you want.” “It’s not about what I want. It’s about what God wants.”
Jason frowned and pulled away from her, eyeing the remaining curtain rods. There wasn’t much left to go, and not much time, either. They were both silent for a while as he gathered his materials and started for the dining room. It took her longer to follow. At first, her legs simply wouldn’t allow it. And yet hearing him grunt and groan as he stood atop a chair and reached over the sliding glass door, she knew she had to be near him. There wasn’t time to waste. The end had to be meaningful, and leaving things the way they were certainly wasn’t poetic or heroic enough. Hearing her enter the room, Jason stepped down from the chair and looked out the window at their lawn. Cat almost laughed seeing him that way. She could tell by the look on his face that he was appraising the front yard and the projects that still needed to be taken care of before the heart of winter. They’d only been in the house for six weeks and there was still a lot of work to be done to bring the foreclosure up to their standards. But whatever humor or indignation she might have mustered from watching him assess their land in such a way vanished as soon as she saw the unabashed acceptance in his eyes, and then how the look of appraisal was replaced with contentedness. “I don’t think God will mind if we don’t go to the church with everybody else. But if you want to, I will.” He paused, perhaps waiting for Cat to respond. When it was apparent she had nothing to add, he continued. “I’m happy with how I’ve lived. The things I regret won’t be wiped away with fifteen minutes of prayer. I’d be thinking of anything but God if we were crammed in with everyone panicking like that, and any prayer I’d say would be selfcentered and pointless. He already knows one way or the other.” Cat stared out the window numbly. “So you don’t want to go to church at all? You’re not even going to pray here?” Jason shrugged his shoulders and continued measuring for the dining room curtains.
The answer wasn’t good enough, Cat thought. It was impossible for him to be so indifferent with the world ending. Didn’t he care about her at all? Didn’t he believe in God like he’d said he did every Sunday since before they were dating? He had to. That was a big part of why she’d chosen him out of all of her suitors in college, after all. He’d been raised with a strong Christian background and that was paramount in her eyes. Lots of boys pretended they cared when she breached the issue on their early dates, but she could tell pretty quickly that they were all talk. Jason had seemed different. What if it had all been a sham? “Don’t you even want to call your parents?” she pressed. “Why?” “To say goodbye to them! To comfort them!” He set down the leveler and took her hand. “I will if you want me to.” “That’s not the point! You should want to!” “Why?” “I just told you!” Jason sighed and looked down at their intertwined fingers. “Honey, I wouldn’t do them any good. I’d probably just sidetrack them from making their own peace with it.” “Don’t you think talking to their son before they die would give them some peace?” “If they don’t know I love them by now, telling them when the world’s ending won’t convince them.” Cat pulled her hand away from him slowly and fell quiet. The gesture was not one of anger or frustration, but denial. He was right. She knew he was. But she didn’t like it. Not at all. They needed to have some grand, meaningful exit to end their days. She wasn’t sure if it was because she felt a desperate need to have closure or because she truly thought it would fill some intangible void in their lives, maybe scoot them up the line at the pearly gates. But how could she argue that to Jason when she knew he was right? She wouldn’t have a rational retort, and even though she knew that he would follow her to any end she saw fit, it
wouldn’t be the same. Not with him being right. It made her feel foolish. “So, what do you want to do, then? Huh?” she started angrily. “You don’t want to tell your family how much you love them and how grateful you are to be a part of their lives. You don’t want to go to church and make yourself right with God. You don’t want to see any of your friends or neighbors, don’t want to say goodbye to anyone. So what is it, then? What’s your last wish? You want to go sleep with a stranger? Loot the Best Buy? Drink a ton of beer or eat a bunch of fried food because you don’t have to worry about your health? Maybe kill someone to see what it feels like?” Her voice rose in pitch and volume the longer she yelled. Veins stood out on her neck, her eyes glared, and she stabbed one, accusatory index finger through the air in his direction. Jason looked her in the eye, hurt, and took her hand again. “I just want to hang the curtains like you asked.” Seeing him humbled that way, saddened simply because he’d upset her, the anger began to dissipate. But she still wasn’t done. Her emotions had been held in check all day from the feeling of unreality, the terrible numbness that had stolen through her heart, body, and mind like a cancer. It needed to come out no matter the cost. Especially because he was right. “That doesn’t make any goddamned sense, Jason! To hell with the curtains! I want you to be scared like me! I want you to tell me you love me!” “Why do you think I’m doing this?” “I want to hear you say it now. Maybe I wanted you to show me before we found out about the comet, but now I want to hear it.” “I love you, Cat. You know I do.” Jason pulled her into his chest and she burst into tears. She felt small, heaving there in his arms. Childish. After all the time and energy she’d spent in college and graduate school and establishing herself in the professional world, she was reduced to a hysterical little girl when faced with true, inevitable disaster. 120
But she liked the feeling just then. Jason’s arms felt different around her. The sweat steaming off of his chest and out from beneath his armpits was different, too. More real and more oppressive, which suddenly wasn’t such a bad thing. She found herself looking out the window over his shoulder and truly seeing their front yard for the very first time. There was the grass, now dead and cold in preparation for a brisk Christmas and New Year, but in her head it sprang up in glory like a million parapets on an emerald castle. The rose bushes bloomed full with pinks and reds, ruby lips forever puckered into seductive teenaged foolishness, which then withered and died, only to be reborn all within a gasp of human breath. A buck crossed over the lawnmower lines of summer with cool, everlasting indifference that assured Cat it knew more about eternity and the divine forms than she could ever hope to know even if she were guaranteed another half century on the earth. Jason was playing catch with their son and teaching their daughter to ride a bike out in the street, and even though they would never have those children or know their names and the nuances with which they’d been so cruelly afflicted by their parents, it was all right. It was beautiful. The grass, the buck, the flowers, the sunrises and sunsets, the children. Everything was all right. And it was awful, too. It all seemed so alien, imagining a life she’d never know in a house she’d never broken, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if there was something to frame the mental picture. A border. Something. Jason kissed the side of her head and she found herself worrying whether or not her hair smelled from the straightener. It was bizarre, she thought, to mark which mundane instincts are with you until the end. “I need to finish the curtains,” Jason said. “Screw the curtains.” “I’m doing them for you.” “What point is there now, Jason? We’re going to die!” “We were always going to die.” “But not right away!” 121
Jason stepped back to the window and looked out at the front yard calmly. Perhaps he was envisioning the same thing she had moments before. There was no way of knowing and Cat didn’t really care. She was staring at the curtain rods and trying to channel all of her hurt, anger, and terror into those thin, hollow poles, exorcise her anxiety so she would be clean and ready for the kingdom when the comet arrived. “You said you wouldn’t feel at home here until we put up curtains so you wouldn’t feel so exposed all the time,” Jason told her, still looking out the window. “And I want you to know what it’s like to be home together at least once before we die. Not in an apartment. Not at our parents. Not at school or work or anything. Home, in our house, together. I want that more than I want to say goodbye to my parents, more than I want to work myself into a fake frenzy at church trying to erase all of the mistakes of my life in less than an hour like everybody else, more than I want to get drunk or listen to the Beatles one last time. I want that even more than I want to kiss you or make love to you before the comet hits. I want you to know what it’s like to be home with me, like we always pictured it.” The room was silent, but not really. All of the appliances in the kitchen were still on and humming (how silly was that?). Cat’s pulse had slowed and so had her tears. She looked down and saw that her hands were shaking, but she couldn’t take care of everything at once, anyway. When Jason turned around and looked at her, tired, she nodded back at him, too worked up to smile. He caught the sentiment anyway, and she knew for the first time beyond a shadow of a doubt that he really meant it when he said he loved her more than anything. Even when she’d thought she believed it before, there was always an inexplicable and irrational jealousy that reared its ugly green head whenever he preferred reading, watching sports, or drinking with his friends over spending time with her. It was not something she could voice because she knew it was wrong to feel that way, but she couldn’t help it. Whenever 122
he said he loved her more than anything, there was always a part of her that cynically refused to believe it. She always thought that if he were faced with a situation where he would have to choose between her and literally anything else in the world devoid of any earthly consequence, his loyalties (or lusts) would fall elsewhere. Maybe sheâ€™d be in the top ten (hell, probably), but that still wasnâ€™t number one. Yet, here was the proof. Here in those same curtains sheâ€™d cursed only moments before. She stooped and picked up the last rod, walked to the family room where the remaining sliding glass door was located, and went to work. Fifteen minutes later, they had curtains, and fifteen minutes after that, Jason told her not to be afraid.
Endless Johnny Drop Fractals constantly generating spawning and re-spawning even after the soundâ€™s rapid decay. They are not born nor do they bear. Burst into existence free and exhilarating bold and unknowing. They are not quick but instant finite and infinite. Gently violent destroying what came before in order to die for new they are alive, alone and gone
Jaundice Stefanie Anne Bohde Once we were simple like anchored boats along the severed coast— the cloudless sky, coy sparrows, footsteps slow and steadfast, our measured steps progressing through Detroit’s frayed corridors, pulsing jambe drums casting long shadows from the storefronts circling the farmer’s market. There were wire-caged chickens and calla lilies, yellow rings around the wilted petals like metallic hydrogen and I could hear the customers bartering for the cheapest price— cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes, pickled beets. Only last week you picked up eggs from the grocery store, ran the clothes through the wash, even diced zucchini into quarters, strange flying discs absorbed in the fry pan. But now I stand detached, fragile sounds echoing from an empty basement. Our home is all here—the staggered pictures over the entrance, kitchen towels and laundry baskets, beige rings around the bathtub— Except you, your empty coffee filters snug at the bottom of the lethargic 125
kitchen drawer, jaundiced and yawning like Saturnâ€™s helium gases.
Thirty-One Hours Celestino Hernandez I checked my watch. Noon. What was it Nora had said? “Seven hours to midnight, twenty-four to the new year.” Well, it’s not gonna be for me. Not getting off that easy. I’m used to it. The diner had my favorite meal on the grill before I walked in: clockwork. “Heyyy Bobby! It’ll be right out!” Of course, the pickle was left whole. Ten years asking for it, I sure as hell hope so. The sauerkraut was moist mush, the Swiss so scalding that the meat was barely there. I savored the burn it left on the tip of my tongue. Don’t want to forget. It was smack and went straight to my brain. Taste. It always was your temptation. “It’s taking over me, kid. Soon I won’t be me. I’ll be a syringe pincushion, gettin’ up from one shot to the next.” *** The rud-a-dud-dud of the bad CV joint was a bass, the vibration of the CDs in the side panels were synthesizers when the car idled, and Wah-Wahs when the car accelerated. Spare change was the snare. I always hated Dubstep. Focus: there is work to be done. Don’t need to say goodbye to work, no one will remember me anyways. The floors and the broom closets would, my coat hanger would, but no one.
Looking back, I kind of sympathize with him. Gotta have something to get your mind off things. Believe me, shit on the walls and puke in the sink don’t turn off. Dope was peace of mind. No. that’s no fucking excuse. Man up. “Only once in a great while, and there’s no shame in that. It’s all about moderation.” Sure is. Great examples. Maybe cancer would’ve been better. Would’ve been quicker. You would’ve been stronger, not as lazy. Survivor, victim: better titles than addict, apathetic. “I quit when I realized it was getting out of hand.” So instead you let it take you over. No fighting, no tears: just business as usual. All these big plans I had today. Was there time? Make time, don’t use his excuses. Besides, you got all the time you need. Hey, I was right. Four. I’m not quite in sync with poor Nora, strong Nora, but it’s not like I envy her. “I was hot shit back then, boy. They couldn’t touch me. When you have them—“ God, not that again. Maybe listening to him was right. But then, why the list? Why this uncontrollable feeling of hurtling, this lightheaded vertigo? Why had it all left me? And where the hell did it all go? *** The front door. Maybe the answers were in here. The house was always lined. And orange. Who chooses that, 128
I always thought. Not me. Not people who care about the place. This house really should have had someone who cared about it, but I guess houses are just as unlucky as people. That smell, that god-awful smell. And it was always so hot. Hot, nasty, rot. Since his “old lady” died, it became a cesspool. If the answers were in the kitchen, they’d need to be cleansed. I was finally going to do my chores: bleach was cheap, and sprayers were free if you stole them. A little car can hold a lot of bleach. Who cares about opening windows? We’re disinfecting, don’t give bacteria an escape route. No quarter. Twenty gallons later: How are you still alive? Wake up. Focus: There is work to be done. My eyes are burning, but my nose is bleeding. Smell. It used to help the taste. “I don’t want you to be my fucking nanny, alright? Just get this over with and I’ll be out of everyone’s hair. I know you don’t want me here anymore.” Yeah, blame it on me. “No, you’re not thinking clearly.” “No one’s going to fix me. It’s come to this, and I’m sorry.” You gave me that old-tired look of “C’est la vie,” and expected me to carry on. Do you remember what you are anymore, asking something like that? “You’re sorry?” “What do you want from me?”
A fight. Some kind of resistance. Shit, walk again, did you forget how? “You’re fucking sorry?” “I don’t know what else to tell you…” “That’s all you’re giving me?” Fuck you. “You can’t make me do this.” “I won’t have to.” How long had he been wearing that shirt? Six days, seven nights? No. Eight days square. Either way, it needed to go. Sonny boy laid out daddy’s fine Sunday clothes. Getting him in them would be simple. But we both need to look our best, look our most pure. That means I need a bath. “You don’t get it kid, it’s everything. When I get a hit, everything comes alive. I don’t just feel, I sense. Everything. It’s like being struck by lightning. I can dance again; I can see forever right from my bed.” When you realized what you were saying, that proud head drooped. “See? See what it does to me? I’ve had enough, son. Let me go.” *** Put a t-shirt in a bottle of undiluted bleach for an hour and you’re left with foam. Ten seconds bathing and I have no fingerprints. 60 seconds and I’m splitting, so I roll 130
out and onto the towels on the floor. My dermis is bubbling and weeping. Anything I touch or lay on feels like fire, and then shock sets in. Numb, I almost let it take me. Focus: there is work to be done. Despite all my screams, he hasn’t moved a muscle. We all become our parents, right? Not this spring chicken. I can’t put the watch on, but it’s eleven, and I realize I’m now behind schedule. My dick is on fire and being rubbed mercilessly as I walk. My balls are a couple of red balloons, and I’m surprised they haven’t popped yet. Two boxes left to check and I’m naked and bowlegged – I soon discover it is windy in the backyard. “The shotgun hasn’t moved in eighteen years, kid, you know that.” “Do you know what you’re asking?” “Yes!” “Of me?” You were so exasperated, but you snapped back— “Yes, god damn it. I don’t care about you.” Still so heavy. It feels like a Superman extension of my arm. If I could, I might have had a hard on when I grabbed it. It’s the little things. Little cars make excellent echo chambers. A magnum slug is enough to blow through the engine block. Imagine what the sound does to your ears. The wind picks up on my way back inside. It kisses me with knives and I almost make the mistake of falling. *** 131
He’s sleeping? I don’t believe it. I shake him. Slap him. I shake and shake. I slap until I cut the side of his mouth. He wasn’t sleeping. My head splits and my eyes melt. The Reuben falls on the ground next to him. “You can’t make me do this.” “I won’t have to.” He always got what he wanted. Yet… I kneel at the bed, thinking. My carapace pops and groans, and I’m getting used to the bright, searing pain. I’ve removed myself from everything but that, and yet, what are the actions of one man to a world of sinners if no one knows what he’s done? All that matters is how I can share my newfound purity with the world. My revelation. FOCUS: there is work to be done. Maybe they’ll remember me at work. *** The cracks in my skin are red and oily, the burns glistening, but all that is old hat now. I put my clothes and watch back on, and I almost look normal. It brings a tear to my eye. I wipe it on my sleeve and walk outside. I think some of my face slides off with it. The watch says it’s seven a.m. – it’s been eighteen hours. Like I said, Nora’s timeframe would have never worked for me. Lurching forward, I limp to my secret pulpit. It takes time, and walking in raw skin is an agonizing Passion, my crown of thorns, flagellations and cross all in one. I weep openly in the streets, but as always, no one is there to greet me. The doors were new, entrances all paved over and redone in stunningly underwhelming beige brick. It was a pair of khaki pants on a dirty poor six-year-old for his first day of Sunday School, courtesy of discount stonemasons. 132
The inside was all alien; none of the hallways I had walked down existed anymore. It was new musculature in an old skin. The lockers were blue now, like the ones from the gym had gone forth and multiplied. You could almost smell the old jocks and socks that used to hide in those forgotten corners. Summer makeovers – apparently, this one was completed ahead of schedule. Come fall, it’s a breeding ground for new addicts, a fresh batch of monkeys on the world’s back. Maybe homeschooling wasn’t such a bad idea. Joke’s on them now. It would be better if they just remembered me when they thought about it, not the graduate strippers and drug dealers shaking their principal’s hand like it’s an achievement. My axe is still in the grounds keeping closet, my lighter and smokes still stashed in the mulch bag. Despite its new facade, the gas main was in the same old sewage-tinted basement, hanging above all the mildewing textbooks – your education tax dollars at work. I make a little throne out of them and sit on it for a moment, taking in my last vision. It’d been a long day, I deserve forty winks. As I nod, I disgust myself; an addict to the last. Then it all wakes up. “Focus! There is work to be done!” I scream as I fall off my throne. I feel a few blisters pop in my shirt. It sticks to me like fetid-smelling glue. The watch says eight at night. Huh. I’ll be damned, Nora. I’m breathing clear and easy. The air tastes sweet and pure. My last vision is of the throne, a magnificent pyre on the damp floor. The clang I hear becomes a glorious tintinnabulation as the axe cleaves the main. “Thirty-one hours to live.” 133
- Flowers Plamen Sarov Amen to the men who love flowers. Amen to the men who can handle flowers fondly. Amen to the men who love flowers so much that they prefer to coyly place petals on to their tongues and to eat them whole, rather than to cage them in a vase for nothing but show, selfish pleasure: to watch them suck desperately on the source of their dependency; to gaze as they wither and die woe to those men. Amen to the men who love flowers.
At The Swings A dramatic scene John E. Kalogerakos Characters: Eric: A high-school aged teenager. He tries to model his appearance on James Dean. He is very sharp-witted but also very unsure of himself and an unintentional loner. Laura: A high-school aged teenager a year older then Eric. She is very cocky and confident and very outspoken about being a lesbian. She is dressed in worn combat boots and dirty jeans, and even though it is summer, a collarless black leather jacket. Set: A playground at dusk. At left center stage is a slightly angled swing set with four swings. The lights start at the beginning of dusk and progressively slip into night as the act progresses.
(The lights rise on an empty stage. From stage right is heard the loud crash of a Vespa scooter falling over.) Eric: (off stage right) Why don’t you use the kick stand? (Eric and Laura enter from stage right. Laura holds a motorcycle helmet.) Laura: It doesn’t work. I don’t mind, it adds character to my bike. Eric: Laura that is not a bike. Laura: (Tosses her helmet gently to the ground) It’s closer to a bike than anything you got. Eric: Hey. Don’t bash the Schwinn. It would beat your sad scooter in a race any day. Can I get a smoke? (She hands Eric a cigarette and pantomimes offering a lighter, he nods yes. Laura digs around in her pocket for it.) Thanks. So I assume it’s a safe guess that my neighbor Hadley wasn't home and that’s why you're slumming it with me? Laura: She probably isn’t, I don’t know. (Laura pulls out her Bic lighter and lights her cigarette.) You know Eric, I really need to stop chasing after straight girls. Eric: You do this a lot? Laura: All the time. The last girl I dated was my art teachers' daughter. It was a total mess. He caught us fooling around and flipped out. He even 136
threatened to fail me, (She hands Eric her lighter and he lights his cigarette) but I was able to calm him down. Eric: How’d you do that? Laura: I told him that if I was dating his daughter he wouldn't have to worry about her getting knocked up. (Eric is shocked) What? It’s true! Eric: Did you pass? Laura: Got an A. (beat) But enough about my love life, what’s this I hear about you and the football field? Eric: (nervously) What? Laura: (grinning) Jack told me to ask you. Eric: (crossing over to the swing set) I’d rather not talk about it. (Eric sits on the right middle swing. Laura crosses to him and remains standing.) Laura: What rumors have you heard about me? Eric: Just that your family’s loaded, and that your brother is a prep. Laura: (Looking at Eric) No one’s told you about my dad? (Eric shakes his head “no”) He's been in jail for the last three years, he just got out. Eric: What did he do? Laura: He embezzled a bunch of money—It was a real mess. (pause) See…my family really does have a lot of money. We always have. We belonged to the Country Club and all that. I even had a horse I 137
named ‘Peppers.’ We lived the perfect Grosse Pointe life…then my dad was arrested and it…changed. (Eric begins swinging) They tossed us from all the clubs and no one would talk to us. Eric: How old where you when this happened? Laura: I was in seventh grade. My brother was a freshman. He handled it all better than I did—he’s better at fitting in than me. Most of his friends kept on talking to him…I think it’s ‘cus he is such a good athlete. (takes a drag from her cigarette) I went all alterna-teen, I mean that was coming anyway—I was kinda over the Laura Ashley dresses before the shit hit, but it still sucked. People I knew my whole life stopped talking to me. They started to make fun of me and spread rumors. There were even a bunch of stories about how I was sleeping with all these older guys. (chuckles to herself.) Those have gone away, but they were horrible at their peak. (Laura puts the cigarette out in the sole of her boot.) That wasn’t even the worst of it. My mom completely lost her mind once my Dad went away. Eric: That seems kind of understandable. Laura: No, you don't get it. She had a complete break from reality. Depending on which doctor you want to believe she either became bi-polar or schizophrenic. My aunt wanted to have her institutionalized but somehow my Dad talked her out of it. He said something about not making orphans out of my brother and I. Eric: That’s awful. Is she any better now that your Dad’s out? 138
(Laura sits down on the left middle swing. Eric looks nervously at the ground as he stomps out his cigarette. Laura starts to swing.) Laura: Not at all. My Dad spends most of his time trying to get her to calm down. Last week she came at me with a meat tenderizer. He walked in just as she'd caught me by my hair. He had to wrestle her off me and then he pushed her into the pantry and locked her in ‘til she calmed down. I was gone when he let her out, so I don’t know how it all ended. (Laura has the swing going very high.) Eric: (nonchalantly) You know, any time you need to get out of your house you can come over. My parents are actually pretty chill about that sort of thing…but you can’t be in my room after eight. (Laura laughs. She stops the swing to try and catch her breath.). Laura: Yeah, 'cus they totally have to worry about me playing with your pecker. (Both Laugh.) Eric: Do you really want to know about the football field? Laura: (excitedly) YES! Eric: Well, believe it or not, I'm really not good with the ladies. Laura: (beginning to swing) No. I’da never have thunk it after the way you so daftly made that move on Hadley. (Eric looks down and begins to sway his hips so that the chains on the swing cross in front of his face.)
Eric: (still looking down) I’m serious Laura. I went to a really small private school until seventh grade. There were only two girls in my class. One of them goes to school with us, but that’s neither— Laura: (interrupting) Who is it? Do I know her? Eric: Maybe. Her name’s Olivia. She's one of the editors of the school’s literary magazine. Laura: (grinning) I know who you mean. She’s the one who wanted me to submit my poems. Eric: That sounds about right. Anyway…by the time I started public school I was totally in the throes of adolescence. I had horrible acne and really ugly glasses. No girl was ever interested in me, and basically all my friends just wanted me around so I could be the butt of all their jokes. Then right before I started high school—like, literally two weeks before—I went away to camp. During that week the Accutane finally kicked in and my zits disappeared. I also (making air quotes)"lost" my glasses canoeing so my folks let me get contacts. When I showed up for school I looked totally different. The girls in my class didn’t much notice—they remembered me from before, but the older girls didn’t and they took an interest in me. I started dating a Sophomore like a month into the school year. Laura: Who? Eric: Megan. Laura: She’s got a tight body, but she can be total bitch. Eric: Yeah, kind of…anyways, she was really aggressive with me. I would go to the houses she was babysitting at and we'd fool around—we always 140
drank and got high when we hung out. Then last December, like a month into dating, we were hanging out on the football field getting plastered and fooling around. Nothing major, just like heavy petting, and then, out of nowhere she starts saying, (mimicking a female voice) ‘I want to fuck, we should totally fuck.’ (beat) Honestly Laura, I really didn’t want to. She was the first girl I had kissed and that happened only a couple of weeks before. I really wasn’t down for sex…I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have protection or anything, and the last thing I want is to knock some girl up, so I tried to talk her out of it but she kept pushing me. Finally I was like, (mimicking himself) "why don’t you just suck me off?" (beat) She said okay and handed me a joint. I smoked it while she started to…you know.(pause) For whatever reason the weed hit me weird…maybe it was because we had already drank a fifth of lime vodka…I don’t know— Whatever. It made me pass out. (Eric pauses and wraps the chains of his swing together over and over. Once it is wound he uses his feet to stop the swing from unwinding.) I don’t know how long I blacked out but I woke up just as I (searching for word) finished. (beat) It took me a second to realize that she was on top of me. I totally freaked out. Right after she got off me I made up some excuse about having to be home and took off. I…I was really a mess about it. I...kinda still am. I don’t know…Something about the whole situation just felt wrong. I don’t know if I'd call it date rape, but it wasn't right, and I just didn’t know how to deal with it. I avoided her for the rest of that weekend so I could try to sort it out. I wanted to talk to someone about it, but I didn’t really want anyone to know. I actually tried to talk to Hadley about it…I mean, she's my neighbor…I've known her since we were kids, but 141
I couldn’t get a hold of her and honestly I don't know if I could of actually told her. I was…I AM pretty embarrassed about the whole thing. I basically decided that the best thing to do was to confront Megan at school on Monday. (Eric’s hands grip the chains by the base of the swing and he lifts his feet so the chains unwind and spin him. He waits for the swing to come to a rest. He looks down at his lap.) Laura: (holding out a cigarette for Eric.) Here. Eric: (looking at her he takes it.) Thanks. Laura: (handing Eric her lighter) What happened on that Monday? Eric: (he pauses before answering.) When I walked into school everybody already knew about it. Guys wanted to high five me and people were shouting ‘TOUCHDOWN’ at me and shit. (pause) It turns out Megan had told a bunch of people and was acting as if what had happened was awesome. That it made us into this adult couple. It was like something that would happen to someone on 90210—totally fucked up. (Eric lights his cigarette.) In one of my classes I tried to explain what had happened and how I felt about everything to one of my old friends, but he just kept on rambling about how amazing it was that a loser like me was the first one of us to get laid. I decided to keep my mouth closed about the whole thing and to just treat Megan like shit—which wasn’t very cool of me. I didn’t like hit her or anything, I just blew her off most of the time and when we did hang out I was super cold. She eventually had enough and broke up with me and ran around telling everyone 142
that I had used her and thrown her away. (Eric pauses and begins swinging.) So now you know…and knowing's half the battle. (Laura stands and walks down stage right center. She looks up. The stage is now awash in nighttime lighting. Eric looks at her as he is swinging as hard and fast as he can. Laura turns around and looks at him. Eric, noticing, stops his swing. His face has a defensive expression.) Laura: All your friends ditched you after she broke up with you, right? Eric: (surprised) Yeah, how did you know that? Laura: Seriously? Did you not listen to my story? Eric: Of course I did, but— Laura: (interrupting) I was friends with those fuckers, Eric. They're the same people who dropped me. (Laura pauses and looks over her shoulder and out across the house) Why didn’t you call her out for raping you? Eric: (Looking away from Laura) I don’t even know if it is rape—hell, I’m not even sure a man can be raped…and besides, it was basically my fault. She obviously wanted to get off, and instead of offering to help her with that I acted like a pig and told her that getting me off would be enough for the both of us. I got exactly what I deserved. (Laura moves suddenly and quickly to Eric and grabs the chains of his swing) Laura: It was not your fault. She took advantage of you. Eric: (looking at her before speaking) Okay, Laura… I mean— I know. 143
Laura: (tenderly) Promise? (pause) Eric: (softly) Promise. (Laura lets go of his swing and stuffs her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket.) We should get going--you probably need to see if Hadley's home yet. Laura: Nope. I came over to hang out with you, not your neighbor. (Eric stands up and stretches his back backwards and lets out a grown.) Eric: Can I ask you a question? Laura: Sure. Shoot. Eric: Why Hadley? Laura: You first Eric…And don't you dare say (imitating him) "she's the girl next door." Eric: (smiling) I don’t know, I think it's her energy. There is just something genuine and caring about her and it makes me want to be around her every moment that I can. (Eric pauses in a moment of realization) I think that is why it was so easy for me to back off when you asked me to. It isn’t really her sex that I want, it's her friendship--does that make sense? Laura: Yeah. Totally. (Laura moves stage right and pick up her helmet.) Eric: What about you? Laura: What? 144
Eric: Hadley. Why are you hung up on her? Laura: Itâ€™s the strawberry scent of her hair. It really gets to me. (Laura turns to walk off stage right) You coming? (Laura exits stage right.) Eric: (Waiting a moment then following her) Yeah. (Eric, in a jog, exists stage right.) CURTAIN.
Detroit, Boston, And Cranston Rhode Island John E. Kalogerakos Low 40’s with light rain Too miserable to go out. the warm blanket over my body acts as a womb. The television hums in utero white noise while I'm waiting for the streaming of data to load. You are probably too busy in Cranston, Jessica Ahlquist, to be watching Cheers like me. “What’s up Norm?” “My nipples. It’s freezing out there Coach.” Tears leave a clavicle shaped trail across my cheeks. Are they for you Jessica, or the old man who’s about to die in 1985? “What’s going on Norm?” “My butt cheeks on that stool Coach.” I’ve never met this man, Jessica, but I’ve watched him grow old and thin in low definition. He’ll die in six more episodes, some twenty-seven years ago (Eleven years before you were born.) He is data now A recipient of the modern Fossilization award. My blanket dries my tears. “What’ll it be?” 146
“The usual coach. I’ll have a froth of beer and a snorkel.” Are you in bed Jessica? Is 40 and light rain too much for you too? Do you hate Cranston tonight like I hate Detroit? Did it wound when the florist wouldn’t deliver you flowers because you decided to stand up and demand that prayer be taken down? “What’s up?” “The corners of my mouth Coach” You aren’t in bed, are you Jessica? Unlike me, you have already traveled through a duvet covered birth canal, and you gained virtual transcendence when the court ordered tarp was placed over the offending invocation. “How’s life treating you?” “It’s not Coach, but you can.” Soon the screen will fade to black. Coach will be ragging down the bar, I’ll be laying here still. But you, Jessica, you will soon go to college and get a job. You’ll know balmy days when the sun caresses your shoulders, and cold rainy afternoons that will corral you into a Boston tavern; there a simple old man will serve you a drink.
“Still pouring?” “That’s funny Coach, I was about to ask you the same thing.” Jessica, I don’t think It's you or coach. I think I am crying for myself. I think I want to be bits of data too. I should get up. Maybe just one more episode. “What would you like” “A reason to live. Give me a beer Coach.”
After the Somme John E. Kalogerakos My dearest Evelyn, it is over now. I am whole and alone. pop pop pop rang through the morning. 7:30 we went up the ladders, out from trenches' embrace into this muddy hell; Northern France. Artillery pock marks created every moment, the land before me destroyed by English shells. Evelyn (if we were French you'd be Avaline and I Jean) always before me pop pop pop For each, a man fell and screamed. an explosion saved me, tossed me whole into a hole. I felt myself to be solid and went to rise. Again the air filled noise and dirt a corpse pinned me, 149
pushed my helmet low. blood splashed my face. I thought of us many months past, playing on the beach. Remember when you splashed me with summer's lake water? we tussled on the sand, we laughed. Pop pop pop above me again. Pushed the dead off tried to remember your smile. shells never land in the same hole twice. I stayed trying to count each and every one that fell. Hopeless too many, so many our great grand children will still find duds a hundred years hence. Evelyn, (I do not know who we would be if we were Jerry's) I tried to dream of you while I sleep there but only saw the mud and blood and toil and my far off trench. Now a half million of us are dead, will I ever dream of anything else But the mud beneath 150
or the lifeless beside while the never ending pop pop pop calls out over head?
Young Girl Sleeping John E. Kalogerakos (A mediation in front of the painting of the same name by Eberhat Keilhau) “Я надеюсь, что они будут изнасилованы в тюрьме” (I hope they will be raped in prison) -Oksana Makar The negative space along the top draws my eye down to the slight angle of your small, quaint frame and the vertical from your bent knee beneath the blanket guides towards your innocent face resting on your hands. Your face contains concern, as if you were waiting on March 9, 2012, to be awoken by the three mazhory, who will have their fun then beat you as you say with your remaining innocence that you will go to the police. The crinkle of your modeled brow shows they didn’t take that well. I keep waiting for you to move in the painting I want to see a sign of life—but it will not happen. today I watched a video online of a child, probably no older then you who was raped, beaten, burned and left but lived on for a few days. In the tape, she —Okasana Makar— 152
spoke from her death bed her hair was matted, eyes cold. She had lived smiling, a bounding blond soul, they took her innocent spirit, so when her body stopped, only bitterness rose out from her lips, and she, like you, was too young for that.
Tough Looking Ass Found Here John E. Kalogerakos 154
Esteemed Readers – I truly hope you enjoyed this year’s edition of the Wayne Literary Review. It’s been such a rewarding challenge. In thanks, I acknowledge my fellow editors Macrae and Kyle for being indispensable in the process; much gratitude to Michael Miller for concocting such a striking and evocative cover. Last, dearest, and most vital, I must extend a loving thanks to my wife Rachael for her support, understanding and love throughout this process. The talent here at Wayne and in Detroit is diverse and brilliant. While I know the successes of the people in this volume are assured with the proper amount of elbow grease (literally, in some cases), I wish all of them the best of luck and inspiration in their careers. On that note, dear reader, I encourage you to seek out these authors and artists. I promise you will not be disappointed. Finally, I would like to dedicate this edition of the Review to the late Chris Leland. He was a wonderful mentor, teacher, and friend for many of those students published this year, and in several editions previously. His spirit guided me to the end of this project, and will continue to do so for myself and all who remember him for the rest of our lives. We miss you, Chris. Until next time, thanks for reading and best wishes. Yours in the Words,
Ricardo Castaño IV Editor-in-Chief 155
Since 1964, the Wayne Literary Review has been committed to presenting the best creativity Detroit has to offer, with special focus on the w...
Published on Feb 26, 2013
Since 1964, the Wayne Literary Review has been committed to presenting the best creativity Detroit has to offer, with special focus on the w...