Page 1

RIDING LIGHT

SPRING 2016


“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein


Riding Light Spring 2016

The Riding Light Review


A sixteen-year-old boy once imagined riding on a beam of light, and his simple thought experiment played an important role that would later change the world—it ushered in the age of modern physics. This boy was Albert Einstein. Einstein‘s use of imagination fueled his work in physics, which eventually led to his famous 1905 papers on special relativity. Riding Light emerged out of a desire to push the boundaries of creativity through language, ideas, and story. We believe in the power of imagination, the fuel for our ideas and innovation. This notion inspired the name of our magazine.

ii


Masthead Editor in Chief Cyn Bermudez Associate Editor, Fiction and Nonfiction Melissa RaÊ Shofner Associate Editor, Fiction and Nonfiction Yvonne Morales Lau Associate Editor, Poetry Kara Donovan Junior Copy Editor Sophie Eden Readers Jamie Hoang Š 2016 The Riding Light Review ISSN 2334-251X This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from individual authors or artists. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without permission of the author(s) or artist(s) is illegal. www.ridinglight.org

iii


TABLE OF CONTENTS

EDITORIAL ........................................................................ 1 ARTISTS .............................................................................. 2 ART BY BILL WOLAK ...................................................... 6 HEARTBEAT...................................................................... 7 Fiction by Rebecca Hodge ................................................................ 7 ART BY BARBARA RUTH .............................................. 11 BRICK BEDS ...................................................................... 11 COAL MICE .......................................................................12 Poetry by Scott Sherman................................................................ 12 ART BY KATHY RUDIN ................................................ 13 YOU ....................................................................................13 Fiction by Rosie Gailor ................................................................. 13 ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH ................................... 22 OCCASIONAL GUESTS .................................................. 22 Poetry by Iain Macdonald ............................................................. 22 ASSISTED LIVING (Excerpt)............................................ 24 Poetry and Art by Leanne Grabel................................................. 24 BLAME ............................................................................................ 25 THICKETRY .................................................................................... 26 EVOLUTION ................................................................................... 27 FAMILY CRUISE WITHOUT DAD ................................................. 28 A LITTLE HIP ................................................................................ 29 RULES OF MARRIAGE ................................................................... 30

iv


ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH ................................... 31 NATURAL CAUSES ......................................................... 32 OPEN RIVER.................................................................... 33 Poetry by Craig Evenson ............................................................... 33 ART BY BILL WOLAK .................................................... 34 FATE WORSE THAN ...................................................... 35 Flash Fiction by Robert F. Gross ................................................. 35 ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH ................................... 36 HOW I EARN WHAT I OWE .......................................... 37 I BELIEVE YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SAY WHEN YOU SAY IT ...................................................................... 38 Poetry by Jessie Janeshek ............................................................... 38 ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH ................................... 39 LIGHT AND DARK .......................................................... 39 Flash Fiction by Christopher Woods ............................................. 39 ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH ................................... 42 WHAT THE GUN EATS #65........................................... 42 WHAT THE GUN EATS #66........................................... 43 Poetry by Darren Demaree ............................................................ 43 ART BY BILL WOLAK .................................................... 44 THE HARVEST ................................................................ 45 Fiction by Arthur Davis ............................................................... 45 ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH ................................... 57 LITANY OF GRIEF .......................................................... 57 HOW TO SAY FAREWELL ............................................. 59 MAMA SING-SONG ......................................................... 60 Poetry by Lee Landau .................................................................. 60

v


ART BY BILL WOLAK .................................................... 62 BEHEMOTH .................................................................... 63 Fiction by Andrew Davie .............................................................. 63 ART BY KATHY RUDIN ................................................ 72 PREFLIGHT ..................................................................... 72 Flash Fiction by Sara Whitestone ................................................ 72 ART BY BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO ..................... 74 UNE JOURNÉE À LA LAVANDE (A DAY IN LAVENDER) ..................................................................... 75 Poetry by Kavitha Rath ................................................................. 75 ART BY BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO ..................... 78 GLYKOPHILOUSA .......................................................... 79 Poetry by Mathias Alpuente.......................................................... 79 ART BY BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO ..................... 82 AROUND A CORNER ..................................................... 83 Poetry by Mark J. Mitchell ........................................................... 83

vi


EDITORIAL The surreal landscape is like a dream, where life conforms to a set of unknown laws, where we are merely spectators to the order and chaos of the subconscious mind. Dreams can be complicated, epic, silly, and always filled with metaphor. Do you analyze your dreams or write them down? Do you subscribe to a Jungian or some other view of dream analysis? Or do you even remember dreaming at all? This year‘s spring issue focuses on the surreal: a dream-like collection, fractured in form or content, or just slightly left from the natural world. From seeing beating hearts and encountering mysterious women, to living in one‘s head, our spring contributors have risen to the challenge of our theme. I hope you enjoy this issue. Sincerely, Cyn Bermudez


ARTISTS Cover Art by Allen Forrest Graphic artist and painter Allen Forrest was born in Canada and raised in the U.S. He has created cover art and illustrations for literary publications and books. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University's Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation's permanent art collection. Forrest's expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas. Interior Art by Brian Michael Barbeito, Laura M. Kiselevach, Kathy Rudin, Barbara Ruth, and Bill Wolak. Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer and photographer. Recent work appears at Fiction International. Brian is the author of Chalk Lines (Fowlpox Press, 2013) and a two-time Pushcart Prize Nominee. A former visual designer and set stylist for such clients as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, and The New York Times, Laura Kiselevach now pursues her passion for photography. Applying her well-trained eye to capture both the breadth and minutiae of her everyday life. A native of northeastern Pennsylvania, Laura lives in Manhattan and Southampton, New York with her partner, Kathy, their three dogs, Mug-Z, SimbaLu, Frankie, and Sam the cat. 2


Kathy Rudin is an artist from New York City. Her work has been published in, OUT, Genre, Wilde, Riding Light, DUM-DUM, Rip/Torn, RIPRAP Journal, The Sun, The Boiler Journal, and Bop Dead City, among others, and has been exhibited at galleries in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles and Vancouver. She also volunteers at an animal shelter, and her favorite words are, ―no,‖ and, ―slacks.‖ Barbara Ruth dances with precarious grace in Silicon Valley, a location in which she often feels like a Luddite and dreams of being a saboteur. But where to throw the shoes to halt the startups that contribute to Bay Area homelessness, including her own? When in doubt (and she is usually doubting something) she writes. Her work is widely anthologized and appears in QDA: Queer Disability Anthology, Tales Of Our Lives, Fork In the Road, Barking Sycamores Anthology, The Spoon Knife Reader; Biting the Bullet: Essays By Women Of Courage, Lunessence: a Devotional For Selene, Les Cabinets Des Polytheistes, and Garland Of the Goddess. Bill Wolak is a poet, photographer, and collage artist. He has just published his twelfth book of poetry entitled Love Opens the Hands with Nirala Press. His collages have been published in over thirty magazines including The Annual, Peculiar Mormyrid, Danse Macabre, Dirty Chai, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Lost Coast Review, Yellow Chair Review, Otis Nebula, and Horror Sleaze Trash. Recently, he was a featured poet at The Mihai Eminescu International Poetry Festival in Craiova, Romania. Mr. Wolak teaches Creative Writing at William Paterson University in New Jersey. 3


The Riding Light Review is fiscally sponsored by Art Without Limits. Please visit our website for information on how you can make a taxdeductible donation: ridinglight.org.

4


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY BILL WOLAK 6


SPRING 2016

HEARTBEAT Rebecca Hodge After the car accident, after the mangled crunch of twisted steel and broken glass, after the ambulance screamed itself silent, I could see people‘s hearts. I don‘t mean this in the poetic sense. I can‘t tell honesty from lies, true love from manipulation. I‘m as bad at all that as the next woman. I mean this statement literally—I could see the heart—the moving muscle—beating its steady, relentless rhythm inside the chest. I could see inside anyone if I tried. My gift reminded me of that old black-and-white Superman TV show. Superman stared intently at a solid wall with his x-ray vision, and the wall disappeared to reveal the bad guys huddled in the next room, counting stolen currency. Instead, I stared at someone‘s chest. I tightened my eyes into a squint. Clothing, skin, muscle, and bone disappeared, and I saw the heart, exquisite in every detail. I first noticed this ability in a mirror when I was on medical leave, my apartment echoing and empty. I searched on-line and discovered A.D.A.M.‘s anatomy images, then sat for hours at a full-length mirror and matched the names in the colored figures to the things I could see. Ventricles. Atria. Mitral and tricuspid valves, smooth flaps held in place by dental floss wisps of cartilage. Aortic and pulmonary valves, glistening semicircles that snapped open and closed with every heartbeat. Eventually, I tired of my own heart. I forced myself to leave the cocoon of my apartment, went to St. Vincent‘s, and signed up as 7


RIDING LIGHT

a volunteer. At orientation, while my fellow classmates clamored for assignments in Pediatrics, I quietly signed up for the Cardiology Unit. Here were hearts everywhere, each of them different. I chatted with patients, pestered the nurses, read echo reports to fill in gaps. I saw white-haired retirees with leaking valves, their blood flowing backwards from ventricle to atrium. I saw bloated ventricles and atria riddled with cancer. I saw semilunar aortic flaps crusted solid with grit, blood jetting hard through the narrowed valve like water shooting through a crimped garden hose. My visions calmed me, and the day finally came when I didn‘t think at all about the accident. Didn‘t picture the other driver, flattened on the pavement with his chest torn wide. I hummed to myself that evening as I walked past the hospital parking deck towards the side street by the YMCA where I parked for free. I passed the open end of the alley that ran between the Y and the Floral Creations display window, and a shape detached itself from the shadows. A hand grabbed my arm and jerked me from the sidewalk. A man. Very strong. A gleaming knife with a long tapered blade clutched in one hand. He pulled me into the slot between two dumpsters, pushed me until my back pressed hard against the rough brick wall of the Y. It happened fast. I couldn‘t breathe. I had blurred impressions of red hair, blue eyes, an unshaven face, a jagged front tooth. He pressed the flat of the blade against my neck, the steel cold against my skin. I could smell his sweat, the decay of his breath, the stench of discarded food 8


SPRING 2016

rotting in the dumpsters. He pushed his body hard against mine, the knife rocking against my skin, and his free hand grabbed my skirt. Don‘t resist, they say. If there‘s a weapon, don‘t fight. If this had happened months earlier, I would have obeyed. The man leaned back slightly to let my skirt slide, and I twisted and rammed my knee upward, fast and hard. He was shorter than I, so there was power behind my thigh when it buried itself in his crotch, lifting him up as he yelled. He doubled forward, the knife glinting between us. I reached for it. My fingernails dug deep into his wrist. His grip loosened, and the knife was in my hand. He moaned with each breath, clutching his groin. But he still stared straight at me. I looked at his chest. I tightened my eyes. I watched two full heartbeats, astonished that this man‘s heart worked the same as anyone else‘s. I watched as the knife blade slid neatly between two adjacent ribs. Watched as the point plunged through the thick muscular wall of the moving left ventricle. Watched as the cutting edge sliced through the base of the aorta. The muscle spasmed but kept beating, and blood poured from the wound, pooling in the man‘s chest, gushing red over his shirt. He screamed. He fell off the knife. My magic window snicked closed. I stepped over his legs and leaned against the dumpster as I made my way down the alley. When I reached the florist‘s 9


RIDING LIGHT

display window, I paused, and I looked. On the left, an arrangement of yellow roses and daisies. On the right, a centerpiece of blue irises and scarlet lilies. In the middle, the reflection of a woman. Pale. Scraggly hair. Shoulders slumped. A thin line of blood stained her neck. A long, wicked knife, held at her side in a trembling hand, its blade dark and dripping. I stared. Focused on her chest. Tightened my eyes to see. Nothing happened. Nothing changed. She was a woman. She looked familiar. But I could see no heart at all.

Rebecca Hodge is a fiction writer and clinical research scientist who lives in North Carolina. Her short stories have appeared in The MacGuffin, Zest Literary Magazine, Blue Lake Review, Big Muddy, and other journals. In between short stories, she is hard at work on a novel.

10


SPRING 2016

ART BY BARBARA RUTH

BRICK BEDS Scott Sherman Too many nights you sit up ready to die, grabbing for your mouth. You tell me about opening a box of tongues and they all beg to be put back. They're speaking Hebrew you don't know what to do, so you call out and they scream stories you've never heard, like how the foxes in the road weren't run over but strangled and dumped there.

11


RIDING LIGHT

COAL MICE Scott Sherman There's silence when someone's about to cry like a redhead sitting in the corner of a jazz bar, staring with no pupils. Little things wrong, glitches waiting for us to eat each other's fingers. The worst dreams are when I'm lost in worlds of firewood and burning Templars, panicking like a mouse suffocating in bag of food.

Scott Sherman is a graduate of Ursinus College, where he earned his BA in English. He has been writing poetry for seven years, and his work often focuses on abstract depictions of his youth, dreams, and relationships. He breathes nostalgia and tries to include his past into the majority of his writing. He has work published or forthcoming in Rivet Journal Issue 6, The Opiate Issue 4, Clover: A Literary Rag Volume 10, Floor Plan: Issue D, The Stillwater Review Issue 6, and The Radvocate.

12


SPRING 2016

ART BY KATHY RUDIN

YOU Rosie Gailor You came out-of-the-blue, like a firework that catches you off guard just as you take a sip of your beer and, startled, you spill it down your white shirt, and end up looking like a child that‘s unable to control the direction of a damn bottle. 13


RIDING LIGHT

You‘d taken the seat next to me on the train. Until then I‘d had both seats to myself, my legs angled to make the most of the space, occasionally glancing at my reflection in the plastic window. There was never much to see outside. Commuter trains only ever passed through grey city skylines that looked like it had purposefully been built to appear dirty. You didn‘t look dirty. You looked wonderfully clean, even though it was the end of the day and the train was clammy. You took the seat next to the window. I shuffled my legs to let you through. Your skirt rubbed across my trousers. It was then that you surprised me. You didn‘t take out earphones to block out the rest of the carriage, but you brought out a book. You were halfway through. You‘d probably reached the most interesting part of the plot by then. I didn‘t know what it was about. The slow shudder of the train as it plodded along the tracks didn‘t put you off reading. Did you not get motion sickness? You didn‘t look up for a long time, your head was bowed like you were going to attempt to push your head through the open pages. The conductor spoke through the sound system: expected delays. They‘re doing what they can. They‘ll keep us updated. There‘s tea available in carriage H. It was then that you tore your eyes away from your tattered book and looked at me as if to say ―trains, eh?‖ You smelt of perfume and paint – a smell I have yet to forget. When I close my eyes to think back to that moment; to remember the exact tint of auburn in your hair, the precise number of freckles on your cheeks, the smell of perfume and paint rises up again, so thick I can almost drink it.

14


SPRING 2016

The elderly woman in front of us snored a little in her sleep – I wished that you‘d make eye contact with me again, that I had someone to laugh with. We could have been like two children, hiding our mockery behind innocently evil smiles. Couldn‘t we have done that? But, no, your eyes continued looking downwards, seemingly mesmerized by a wonderfully worn novel. What was it? I should‘ve asked. Up until that moment I‘d never before taken notice of strangers, beautiful or not, on any street or train or bus. It just wasn‘t something that I did. But with you...well, you changed everything. In the split second that my eyes met yours I was hooked. That was all it took – one second. And I bet you didn‘t even have a clue. I didn‘t know what to do with myself; I couldn‘t peel my eyes away. I studied you. I studied you. Your eyes – as green as emerald city, and twice as sparkly – scanned the pages in front of you. Your right hand was holding your book, your left hand was holding up your head; your fingernails were painted – as red as Snow White‘s ruby lips – they stood out against the dull pages. Your hair – as brown as mahogany – was in soft curls draping around your face and neck. You wore a sheer white shirt, buttoned-up only to your bosom, with a delicate gold chain hanging around your neck. The skin on your bare chest had three moles (one on your collarbone, one on the base of your neck and one on the crease between your breasts). You had on a navy skirt, hugging your waist, with a delicate polka dot pattern around the top. I could see your navel just above it, through your shirt. You had an outwardly protruding bellybutton. It was unusual. I liked it. 15


RIDING LIGHT

There was a small flake of pastry, presumably from lunch, on your skirt. I had to thrust my hands into my pockets to resist the urge to wipe it away, to have it stick to my skin before it fell to the floor. Would it taste like pastry, or would it taste like the material? Cotton, or polyester, or a blend of both, absorbed by the grease on the pastry to change its taste forever. I never knew. On the bare skin of my forearm I could feel the warmth radiating from your body. I‘d rolled my sleeves up. I was warm. You were warmer. My hairs stood on end. You pretended not to notice our sudden closeness; you kept your eyes fixed on your book. You were coy, you were teasing, you were subtle. I was not. I could barely contain the new rhythm my heart was pounding out, electric and unsteady and loud. It would have sounded out your name, but I didn‘t know it. Perhaps you were a Poppy. Or an Alyssa. Something sensual. Like Maureen. All the while my skin itched to be touched by yours, like thousands of tiny fingers were barely touching my arm, tickling me, itching me, making me squirm and testing if my fingers could resist the urge to scratch. You looked silky and smooth and soft. Out of the corner of my eye I saw you glance at me, before crossing one leg over the other, gently nudging my shin with your foot. ―Sorry,‖ you smiled. Time stood still. Your eyes were lit up, like someone holding a leaf up to the sun. They were bloodshot. Were you tired? Had you been crying? I wanted to reach out and place my hand on your shoulder, but I didn‘t. I could have comforted you, in 16


SPRING 2016

sadness or in tiredness; I could have been there. I should have been there. The thought of you assuming that I didn‘t care about you makes my blood froth in remorse, even now. I close my eyes. I think of yours. There were speckles of black around the outer rim of your irises, like shadows in a misty field. You had uneven eyebrows: one with a slightly higher arch than the other. It was endearing. You had one, two, three, four, five freckles subtly placed on the bridge of your nose. There were some, lighter, less obvious, on your cheekbones. Sun-kissed. Not born with it, they were too pale to have been from birth. They suited you. I was never prone to freckles. Your thick, full lips framed your straight teeth. Did that happen naturally, or did you used to have braces? The image of you as a teenager with braces and greasy skin brought a smile to my face. You turned away then, taking my smile as a response. I kicked myself inwardly, desperately searching for another way to explore your eyes for rogue traces of blue and grey, to examine your uneven hairline, to memorize the dimples in your cheeks. Could I speak? Should I speak? Ask about your eyes, or the pastry, or the unusual smell that brushed past me as you fiddled with your hair. The train suddenly darkened as we went through a tunnel, and the window acted as a mirror. You lifted your head to look outside, almost as a favor to me, sensing that I wasn‘t done appraising you. Even when it was the wrong way round your face was beautiful. You tucked your hair behind your ear, revealing a pair of small stud earrings. They were transparent gemstones, made of either glass of diamond; the reflection wasn‘t clear enough to be sure. As you were looking at your reflection – oh, were I to be the mirror casting your likeness – 17


RIDING LIGHT

your eyes met mine. Your eyes looked away, hurriedly, like a sound being hushed before it had time to resonate. There was something about you that felt familiar, like a face in a crowd that you recognize, from a place that you can‘t remember; in a flash the face is gone but the image remains, burnt into the back of your mind, as if it had been dreamt into existence. A small man in a blue uniform approached our seats, asking to inspect our tickets. Mine were stored in my breast pocket, whereas you had kept yours in your purse, thrown into your bag, tucked away under your seat. It was charming to see you rummage through your bag, like an eager child opening Christmas presents. You were flustered. It was intriguing. Why should you care? The inspector would be in no rush. There was nowhere he could go; he would have to wait. He sighed with impatience. I shot him a piercing glance. He rolled his eyes as you timidly handed over your train tickets. ―Sorry,‖ you whispered. Indignantly, I withheld eye-contact as I passed my tickets over, then left my hand outstretched, awaiting the return of them, newly-stamped. I peeked at you as you tidied your belongings away, ruffled, your cheeks flushed red. I wanted to smile at you, reassure you, calm you, but you were too busy hiding away your clothes into your bag. Was that real leather? Splashes of red cotton, blue silk, grey linen spilled out from the opening of the holdall, skirts and jumpers and underwear. I imagined you trying them all on, twirling around in slow motion, revealing your skin and then all at once covering it with another item of clothing, now long, now short, now there...now not. I pictured you sleeping, partially covered by your sheets, your hair strewn across 18


SPRING 2016

the mattress below you, legs akimbo, eyes shut, mouth parted, breathing quietly. Where had you been? Shopping? Visiting friends? Were you only now on your way, after work, a full day‘s work followed by travel to a weekend trip. I wished I could go with you. I‘d left all my clothes at home, I didn‘t even think. You wouldn‘t have minded if I had invited myself along. We could have bonded. I could have read your book. You could have told me why your eyes were bloodshot. Your friends would like how I admired you when you weren‘t looking; you would have liked how I admired you when you were. A blurry voice transmitted through the air: the train would be arriving shortly at the next stop. Please remember your luggage. Connecting trains are all on time. Thank you for travelling with us. You looked at me as if to say ―better get comfortable, we‘ve a long way to go.‖ I blinked, stupefied by the wrinkles at the corners of your mouth. But, then, you started to put on your jacket. My brows knitted in confusion. Were you cold? Your journey couldn‘t have been so short. We were just getting to know each other. I hoped that you were you going to get some of the coffee available in carriage H. But you stood, picked your book up, marked the page, before you packed it into a front pocket of your bag. How could you? You carelessly threw the strap over your shoulder, before giving me the same look as before. ―Better get comfortable‖ turned into: ―Get the hell out of my way, you bag of bones.‖ Your uneven eyebrows were raised higher, your dry lips pursed tighter, saying something different. I didn‘t move. I couldn‘t. 19


RIDING LIGHT

You readjusted the strap on your should and edged forward, your eyes saying ―well, this is my stop.‖ How could you? I swung my legs sideways to grant you access to the aisle. The smell of perfume and paint clawed over me, clinging to my skin. It stung my pores and gripped onto me. I tried to wipe it off with my handkerchief. Your jacket touched my hand; colder, harsher than your body which was now obscured from view. Your threadbare bag jolted my shoulder on your way past. ―Sorry,‖ you said.

Rosie Gailor is a recent graduate of Edinburgh University‘s MSc Creative Writing program. She currently lives in Bristol; surrounded by Jaffa Cakes and in the company of her female cat, John Smith. (Don‘t ask.) She‘s been published three times before and has had a few of her short plays produced in Bristol and Edinburgh, and her greatest claim to fame is that if you Google her she‘s the only Rosie Gailor to currently exist.

20


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH

OCCASIONAL GUESTS Iain Macdonald The hours just after daybreak are the ones in which my dead parents visit me most often. I'll be stumbling round the kitchen, barely surfaced from many-peopled sleep, and they'll just be there, peering over my shoulder as I prep the coffee maker 22


SPRING 2016

or crack eggs into the skillet. This never seems to get old for them. They remain silent but unfailingly interested in my routine. They also seem to like one another more than they did when alive, and so I've come to welcome their companionable presence, which rarely lasts beyond the point at which I sit down and start to eat, as though they have somewhere else they need to be and must leave me orphaned once again in this rational world. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Iain Macdonald currently lives in Arcata, California. He has earned his bread and beer in various ways, from flower picker to factory hand, merchant marine officer to high school teacher. His first two chapbooks Plotting the Course and Transit Report were published by March Street Press, while a third, The Wrecker's Yard, was released in 2015 by Kattywompus Press.

23


RIDING LIGHT

ASSISTED LIVING (Excerpt)

Leanne Grabel Leanne Grabel is a Portland writer with a handful of poetry books in publication and a memoir. She also self-produced a series of hand-painted graphic poetry collections. For more information about Leanne, please visit her website at leannegrabel.com.

24


SPRING 2016

BLAME For a long time. I thought it was. Her fault. Not mine. I mean. My mother's. Not mine. No. Yes. Everything. Then. One day. I knew. It was mine. Yes. Broke open. Like an egg yolk. But still. If it hadn‘t. Been mine. No. My mother's. To begin with. Though. No. He screamed. Enormous anvils. In our ears. The way he taught us. To scream! It's his fault. I'm treading. I'm sifting. I'm cupping. Scooping air. I'm slapping air. My hand's exhausted. My whole arm‘s exhausted.

25


RIDING LIGHT

THICKETRY Something ropey. In the way. Between. My mother. And me. Slivergiving. Thicketry. Got scratched every time. My mother tried to. Grow closer. I tried to. Grow closer. But. Lost in the history. Mad at her. Ninetysix years to get over it. Right near the end. I forgave her. I saw her. I kissed her. I hugged her. I kissed her. But. Then. Held her arms. Way too close to her body. For a mother. Way too thin. She was bored by our food. For a mother. We were hungry. Grew mean. And she sniffed me. She sniffed me. Your head smells. Now. I'm eating too much. Can I ever? Get over it. Hope so. I think. Yes. I'm slipping on thicketry gloves. Time is already out the door.

26


SPRING 2016

EVOLUTION Before. I feared the crow. Black. Rife. Loud. Harsh. Like glass. Flapping. Squawking. My poor skin. A cloak of worms. But. Today. The crow. A ballerina. Black tutu. Black point shoes. Crow as beatnik peacock. Today. A crow was Nureyev. Not the damned dirge piper.

27


RIDING LIGHT

FAMILY CRUISE WITHOUT DAD We tried. We gathered. We swirled. We tiptoed. Reeled. Especially the elders. We huddled. Hesitated. Separated. Hid. Squirmed. Shrugged. Hugged. Hobbled. Ate. We burped. Laughed. Swam. Got up. Sat down. Ate. Drank. Got up. Sat down. We wiped. We cleaned. We put on cologne. Took on a tone. Rarely went limp. Exercised. Exercised. Tried to decipher. We tried. We churned. We growled. Yearned. We were restless. Confessed. With cocktails. We floated. Avoided the screaming. His screaming. No screaming. There was laughter. There was breathing. There was flat-handed touching. There were powerful curves. There were cocktails. There was care.

28


SPRING 2016

A LITTLE HIP I saw her today. At Rite-Aid. That woman who hunches. Who scuds. That woman. With the low brown dance. Then. I saw her. In the stacks. It was a Tuesday. In April. Brilliant. Bosoms. Blossoms. Babies. Blabber. But that woman. As if aching. As if fielding a stoning. Without a fight. It enraged me. I wanted her open. I wanted to tether her shoulders back. Like a turkey. Or a lover. Not to hurt her. Not to scare her. To make her stronger. Lusher. I wanted her mighty. Plump and lungeing. Chest out. And. I wanted her to learn how to rumba. Samba. Cha cha. Flamenco. No kidding. I want every woman to. A little rumba. A little hip. Let the lizards scud.

29


RIDING LIGHT

RULES OF MARRIAGE Soften fists. Straighten toes. Unhump toes. Twist and shout. Relax feet. Flex feet. Relax feet. Keep control of own damn socks. Soften fists. Iron shirts. Shit freely. Close the door. Have manners. Groom well. Be elegant. Point upwards. Point outwards. Open legs. Toes out. Twist and shout. Clip your toenails. Open chest. Close drawers. Allow eyebrows. Un-tuck blankets. Stop obeying. Laugh at eyebrows. Try obeying. Tame the basement. Clean the toaster. Rid crap. Surprise each other. Unhood everything. Surprise each other. Trust the children. Copy the dog. Lick the husband. 30


SPRING 2016

ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH

31


RIDING LIGHT

NATURAL CAUSES Craig Evenson In dusty houses with sallow shades floating ghostly past books, pictures, broken furniture unconnected disengaged Functional rubble of teeth, knees, hips, skipping the charters to Branson, afternoon performances of Hamlet writing in their journals how the view from the end of the road mirrors the view from the beginning: a thoughtless line vining to mind, a heart of treetops, vanishing unsurprised through the floorboards.

32


SPRING 2016

OPEN RIVER Craig Evenson The way thumb and index extend pen to paper weighing the nib exposes my skin, biowritten in sunlight and stitches. Cradled in muscle and vein, slanted across a tapered void, conspiring the breakup of winter ice. The greasy middle the grainy edge of what moves into and out of my fingertips, each the end of its own soft curve touching back.

Craig Evenson is a school teacher. His work has appeared in a number of magazines, including Midwest Quarterly, The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and Lalitamba. He has work forthcoming Fractal, Common Ground Review, West Trade Review, and Blueline. He lives in Minnesota.

33


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY BILL WOLAK 34


SPRING 2016

FATE WORSE THAN Robert F. Gross When they slip the plum-colored strait-jacket on me the one that‘s embroidered like a mandarin‘s jacket When they slip the satin shroud over my head they fasten it tight around my willpower so I can‘t breathe They slip it on again and again I can‘t hiccough free can‘t get out of this sleeve this sleep this intension though I struggle in a dragon in a drain in a dream It‘s like abduction like Persephone like Ganymede like a silent picture idol fallen in the hands of the Yellow Peril who erupts in an opium den or cracks in a Teutonic cubist madhouse with everything askew including penciled eyebrows psyche lips They slip it on again and it smells sweet feels like platinum birdcage feels like armored sleeve feels like straightened circumstances feels like luxury goods feels like where we need to go at last They slip it again and again I can‘t get free I plead in mime in script in art nouveau intertitles tighter and more dark please sir knot my reminiscence with wires of silk with scarring circuitry with nerves with continuous accidental deaths so it can‘t beat can‘t move so it drops into a swoon in your sweet chloroform arms fades into an iris shot impassively contracting into a poppyseed dustmote fistful pinched hemidemisemiquaver pizzicato nitrate flicker in an expurgated chapter Then blank

Robert F. Gross has been a playwright, a performer, a theatrical director, a teacher, and a poet. He has recently had poetry appear in Thirteen Mynah Birds, Local Nomad, and After the Pause. He's queer, disaffected, melancholic, and always open to an aesthetic experiment. 35


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH

36


SPRING 2016

HOW I EARN WHAT I OWE Jessie Janeshek The clang stands for anger a low sun, a cat jaundiced and neon green in its tail.

I sleep all day next to my sidekick watch the leaves‘ bead-gold diet blue ants tracing cracks wires, the stonewall. Your talking knife opens lank, hairy legs deerskull, triangle, and spine.

My hands are extensions what you do alone matters of my fracture‘s haze.

The hive drops a tomahawk snake, a blonde weal. We let the fox die rise like a birthday.

37


RIDING LIGHT

I BELIEVE YOU BELIEVE WHAT YOU SAY WHEN YOU SAY IT Jessie Janeshek You couldn‘t be chief with that almost-blonde featherskull that French phone, that cannonball knapsack of napalm so you made a system handprinted the treetrunks gangrene dripping syrup on the creekbed in the shape of an apron to tell me that daddy drinks rum, digs a skullhole so hogs‘ll eat anything and there‘s more to the weightlessness than drumbeats and pills.

Jessie Janeshek's chapbooks Spanish Donkey, Pear of Anguish, and RahRah Nostalgia are forthcoming from Grey Book Press and Dancing Girl Press, respectively. Her full-length collection of poems is Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). An Assistant Professor of English and the Director of Writing at Bethany College, she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. She co-edited the literary anthology Outscape: Writings on Fences and Frontiers (KWG Press, 2008). You can read more of her poetry at jessiejaneshek.net. 38


SPRING 2016

ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH

LIGHT AND DARK Christopher Woods Every night the same, he would go looking for her. In parks, in garbage cans, at the dark riverside, anywhere where he thought he might have left her. His dreams were filled with guilt.

39


RIDING LIGHT

She slept for always, in a dark place, where he had placed her so gently after he murdered her. But she continued to dream, and when she did, she dreamed of light. After many months, his health suffered from lack of good sleep. His dreams were long and often exhausting journeys. Even when he was hospitalized, the journeys continued. In time, she learned that she could imagine light. Warm, soothing glow from the other side, from life. So drawn to it, she recovered from her eternal sleep, rise and walked again. The doctors could not help him. He was placed in a ward for the soon to be dead. He knew few people, and none of them came to see him. They had moved on. She felt as though she wanted to give back, to do something. She was so thankful to be alive again. He fell into a long coma from which he never awakened. No one could know what he dreamed, but the constant twitching of his legs suggested walking, even running. She became a volunteer at a local hospital. She delivered mail and flowers to patients. She lingered in the ward for the dying. It was a lonely place, but she knew well about such places. In the depth of his coma, he could sense her presence. His legs stopped their incessant movement. He began to relax, to drift away. She held his hand as he passed. She smiled at the peace on his face, with the thought of where he would be going. Into darkness. Always.

40


SPRING 2016

Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. His published works include a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a book of stage monologues for actors, Heart Speak. He conducts creative writing workshops in Houston. His photographs have appeared in many journals, with photo essays published in Glasgow Review, Public Republic, Deep South, and Narrative Magazine, among others. His photography can be seen in his online gallery christopherwoods.zenfolio.com.

41


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH

WHAT THE GUN EATS #65 Darren Demaree Watery certitude & fiery being, the breadth of which becomes nothing in the eye-snap of a trigger‘s desire. 42


SPRING 2016

WHAT THE GUN EATS #66 Darren Demaree How many hands must touch the candy wrapper before the sugar disappears? I wanted life in my mouth, melting slowly. Now, I crunch down without regard for my teeth. If there is another life, I won‘t be able to consume it.

Darren C. Demaree is the author of five poetry collections, most recently The Nineteen Steps Between Us (2016, After the Pause). He is the Managing Editor of The Best of the Net Anthology. Currently, he is living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

43


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY BILL WOLAK

44


SPRING 2016

THE HARVEST Arthur Davis ―There is a secret I possess. I will tell you what it is, but only if you please me.‖ It is only recently, through an accumulation of dreams patched together over twenty-nine years that I have been able to reassemble the riddle of these words, gather and relive what happened, and can now bring myself to recall the true, if improbable tale. Music bled in from the long corridor off to the left of the gallery in front of the elevator landing that opened directly into her apartment. The gallery was meticulously furnished in a pallet of chrome, canvass, leather, and restraint. In the living room, Impressionist oil paintings framed ceiling to floor windows. Sliding glass doors ran the length of the living room overlooking Central Park to the West. The music was soothing, though unrecognizable. The effect was as calming as the wine that spilled between my lips. …but only if you please me Like many men, desire often overrules reason. And what little willpower I possessed could easily be compromised, especially when whispered in a sprawling penthouse one usually views in the centerfold of a glossy, overpriced architectural journal. A dish of fresh fruits, a small, but tangy platter of rich cheeses was set out. I took a second, long sip and let my fantasies flower along with the practically inaccessible 1982 Chateau Lafite 45


RIDING LIGHT

Rothschild Bordeaux. The banquet was at the ready when we stepped off the elevator. At first, it was her eyes, as if she was beyond the reach of consequences. Strange then to find her sitting in back of me in a lecture hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the middle of a workday afternoon. We paused briefly in a coffee shop before she invited me back to her apartment. I walked out onto the balcony. A fresh blanket of snow had fallen over the weekend. Frigid temperatures sealed it to the ground. Eighteen stories below on Fifth Avenue, cars and buses struggled south between walls of freshly plowed snow and the futile necessity to get anywhere urgently. The sliding glass doors opened behind me. ―Enjoying yourself?‖ ―I could get used to this.‖ Steam puffed from my lips. ―Lovely, isn‘t it?‖ She moved closer to my side and anchored her hands to the icy railing. She glanced up and down Fifth Avenue then out into Central Park, watching ice skaters crisscrossing the Wolman Skating Rink. ―From up here, I feel like a time traveler from a distant galaxy.‖ ―And your mission, if you want to share that with me?‖ she asked, releasing her grip from the railing. ―Maybe, to make contact with other life forms?‖ ―You have quite an imagination, Jonathan.‖ 46


SPRING 2016

She was wearing a black body suit cinched at the waist by a wide black elastic belt. No jewelry or ornamentation. Simply, curves and deeply accented contours. A clutch of blonde hair held up by tortoiseshell barrettes. A skim of fresh snow had settled hours ago, probably in the middle of the lecture on Picasso and Matisse we attended. The footprints we carved in the white fluff, the only track of life on the balcony that swept around the apartment from three sides. There were no redwood chairs, no evidence that life existed up here during the clement weather, or that the cliff on which we perched had ever been visited. ―It‘s cold out here,‖ she said, returning to the sanctuary of her living room. I wanted to capture the moment. I wanted to remember everything. New York City was a white frosted wonder. Horse drawn carriages carried tourists and romantics, and adventurers braving the windless chill. Moving headlights snaked through the winding roads wrapping the park like a holiday present. I opened the sliding doors, as she finished a glass of mineral water. She fell back on the sofa with her head propped against a pillow. ―Are you enjoying the wine?‖ ―It‘s delicious.‖ ―I want you to be comfortable.‖ How could I not be? ―Why?‖ ―I felt at ease with you from the moment you turned around after the lecture. Sometimes it happens that way.‖ 47


RIDING LIGHT

Clara was in her late thirties and marginally overweight if you‘re preference ran to runway models. I was curious about this. It was the only thing out of place, though it was what I naturally preferred. The weight I mean. She folded her arms, lifting the outline of her breasts. ―What happens that way?‖ ―An unexpected delight happens.‖ At a certain unmarried age, you have less patience, and possess half the interest to parry for position, instead of simply explaining what you want. ―What would you do if I kissed you?‖ ―Be grateful,‖ she answered quickly, her eyes reaching into mine. ―If I held you tight?‖ ―Be relieved.‖ ―If I bent my head to your breasts?‖ ―Be welcoming.‖ ―Would that be all it takes to please you?‖ ―No.‖ ―Then how will I know?‖ ―Because I believe pleasing women is what you do, naturally.‖ ―Is that why you chose me?‖ ―I chose you because you‘re handsome, and very charming, and I‘ve been too lonely for too long.‖ 48


SPRING 2016

I could define her loneliness, not as needy, but as needful. And, as the wine warmed and comforted and reassured me, I felt exactly as she described. ―How far have you traveled to get here? She patted down the pillow to her left and I came to her side. ―Does it matter?‖ ―Is your name really Clara?‖ ―Don‘t you like it?‖ ―It‘s beautiful, but you don‘t seem like a Clara.‖ ―What do I seem like?‖ ―A Vanessa, or maybe an Alexandra.‖ ―What is it about me that makes me an Alexandra and not a Clara?‖ For a moment, thoughts dissolved. Speech was impossible. But, only for an indistinguishable split of time. ―Clara is too obvious a name for you.‖ ―I don‘t mean to be evasive.‖ I took another sip, savoring the robust red. ―What did you mean, only if I please you?‖ She stared at a painting in the corner of the living room. It had already caught my attention. Most of the paintings and two of the sculptures were museum quality. ―You recognize it?‖ ―The artist and the work.‖ 49


RIDING LIGHT

―Then I‘m even more delighted with my selection.‖ Whatever was her design, I felt more curious than threatened. ―So am I, but what exactly did you choose me for?‖ This was what I wanted to ask when I considered leaving as I stood on the balcony, actually looked down, and tried to calculate the impact of a falling object. ―For reminding me of Kim Daniels.‖ A hundred images flashed before my eyes. None of them were particularly flattering. ―Never heard of her.‖ ―It‘s a him, and he graduated high school with me in San Diego almost twenty years ago.‖ ―And?‖ ―I had a terrible crush on him. I don‘t think I ever got over it.‖ ―So I‘ve been plucked from the Metropolitan so you can consummate an adolescent crush?‖ She took my hand in hers. ―Talk to me, Jonathan.‖ ―Whether the Kim Daniels story is true or not, you could have had me without the game playing.‖ ―It‘s only partially a lie.‖ ―What part of partial?‖ I asked, as the buzz from the wine intensified. The intercom rang. She got up and picked up the phone. ―Dry 50


SPRING 2016

cleaning.‖ I liked the way she moved. It was effortless. As though space flowed around her and not she through it. ―Take off your shoes.‖ She walked back to the large leather couch, kicked off one shoe then the other. She was now five-feet-four, small, and vulnerable. ―Take the barrettes out of your hair. ― She removed the two tortoiseshell clips. Hair cascaded over her shoulders as the elevator opened. Neither of us turned. ―There.‖ I moved to the edge of the couch, set my hands on her ass, and moved them down slowly, removing her pants. The elevator doors closed. I could imagine the fluids seeping out between her lips as my thumbs stroked their contours, teasing and tracing out the oval outline of their wonder. The room slowly pitched into a halo of gray. The calming buzz spread. Warm sensations swarmed through me. She unfastened her blouse and removed her bra. Her nipples were pink with expectation. ―What are you thinking?‖ ―That there was no Kim Daniels,‖ I said, covering them with lingering kisses. She wrapped her arms around my head and drew me closer. ―I tend to complicate things.‖ 51


RIDING LIGHT

Her tender entreatments dissolved into words and repeated phrases that seemed foreign. The words quickly muffled into unrecognizable sounds. I could no longer focus, my tongue and lips slowed to a near standstill. Her body stood near, and yet unreachable. ―Aren‘t you feeling well?‖ My hands and feet felt distant, detached. ―I‘m not sure.‖ ―Do you want to lay down, or some cold water?‖ ―No. I don‘t know.‖ ―Can you get up?‖ she asked, standing back from me. My legs and arms were limp as the swelling in my groin pulsated on unbearably. ―Lean back. It will help.‖ She pulled down my pants. Alexandra stood over me for a moment, and disappeared into the kitchen. Seeing the movement of hips and thighs and the crack in her buttocks only incensed my desire. She returned with two small, thumb-size empty glass vials in hand. She removed the white cap from one and let a few green drops oozed into her palms. The other vile looked empty. ―What‘s that?‖ She leaned down and infused the ointment with her saliva before anointing me with the balm. Heat and her passion turned the coating to an incandescent green slick. She covered me in the slather. The excitement was unbearable. I wanted her to stop, 52


SPRING 2016

and prayed she would never let me go. I was short of breath, and captive. I heaved once, twice, and then exploded in a series of spasms that only increased her stroking frenzy. Finally, slowly, I stopped shuddering. She slowed, stopped, got to her feet and left the room. After a while the room slowly returned to its own natural, steady state, as did my focus. I pulled up my pants and followed her into the kitchen. She was swathed in a white and yellow terry cloth robe. I opened the refrigerator. It was empty. ―Don‘t get much company do you?‖ She combed her hair back with her fingers and sipped at her water. ―Now, maybe you‘ll tell me what‘s going on.‖ ―Wasn‘t that good for you?‖ ―You didn‘t need to doctor the Lafite for that.‖ ―It‘s an excellent vintage.‖ ―Why the theater and drugs, or did you think I would put up a fight and not let you swallow me whole?‖ Then I realized, I wasn‘t certain she had. ―Your upset?‖ I walked out of the kitchen and wandered to the back of the apartment. There were three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and what seemed to be a study, and all were empty. Not a stick of furniture, carpet or rug. The walls were as barren as the floors. I 53


RIDING LIGHT

couldn‘t even find the clothing I saw her wearing in the museum. I returned to the living room, dressed and joined her on the balcony. ―You‘re not going to tell me the truth, are you?‖ ―It‘s not important.‖ ―Or the secret you promised?‖ She leaned away from me. ―I‘m very tired, Jonathan.‖ ―The truth, Clara?‖ ―You‘ve seen what there is to see. I wasn‘t hiding anything from you.‖ I pulled open the knot around her waist and slid my hands in around her waist. She did not resist. ―What‘s the secret?‖ ―The secret?‖ ―Tell me.‖ ―Don‘t waste a moment of your life.‖ ―I didn‘t need you to tell me that.‖ ―You all need someone to tell you that,‖ she said, pulling away. Some time passed, though unmemorable, until I walked out of her building and into the white of Central Park. I turned and looked up. The terrace was empty. The lights were out. You all need someone to tell you that, she had said. 54


SPRING 2016

I did remember the image of her lips hovering over me, then darkness, then Central Park and music filling the night around the Wolman skating rink. My coat was buttoned up to my neck. I was exhausted. I got home and showered. There were tender red welts, landmarks of her lips, traced across my groin. As I touched each, they softened into a shadow of pink, quickly faded and disappeared. I returned to her building weeks later. The doorman said she was out of town. Apparently she traveled a lot. As the months drifted by, the fine points waned and became clouded with uncertainty until I could make only ghostly references, unable to separate her fact from my fantasy. I came to forget her name then slowly the address, the images of her body against mine. I remembered that the robe was yellow but not the color of the couch. The vision of her face blurred completely. I was convinced there was a delicious wine. There was nothing to show a doctor and only a casual outline to confess to close friends. They laughed. They told me I had lived out one of my greatest dreams. In the end, I had to believe them, but found myself coveting the time I spent with them and my family more than ever.

55


RIDING LIGHT

Arthur Davis is a management consultant and has been quoted in The New York Times, Crain’s New York Business, and interviewed on New York TV News Channel 1. He has taught at The New School University, advised The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission on organizational reform, advised Senator John McCain's investigating committee on boxing reform, appeared as an expert witness on best practices in 1999 before State Senator Roy Goodman's New York State Commission on Corruption in Boxing, advised the Department of Homeland Security, National Protection and Programs Directorate, and lectures on leadership skills to CEO's and entrepreneurs. Over sixty stories have been published including ―Conversation in Black‖ which was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize, and eight stories were included in Storylandia, a quarterly single author anthology that came out in February 2016. More at talesofourtime.com.

56


SPRING 2016

ART BY LAURA KISELEVACH

LITANY OF GRIEF Lee Landau Tribute to Mark Strand, All night you wept. Tears searing your face, Not the body, not sleep interfered, Not the dog licking your mouth. 57


RIDING LIGHT

Your throat closed to food And comfort, the hand on your heart. Breath gasped in the hollow spaces Of your lungs. Nothing stopped you. Nothing could stop you. The air Rank with anger in the morning. And still you cried, coughed up A wild heartache. Lush screams Hollowed out the day. All the next night Your cries deafened ears; your eyes Never stilled, never rested. All night you wept Loss swept under the bed, the bed Your only asylum. Nothing Could stop you. Your voice Cracked and bereft of time, The clock struck 48 hours. Fatigue lived in your sighs. Even in broken skeins of sleep Your eyes filled with tears, Part of a spillway sluicing Wounded, crystal cut eyes. Nothing could stop you-[Your sadness defined home.]

58


SPRING 2016

HOW TO SAY FAREWELL Lee Landau I plan tomorrow‘s move, journey to my next future. Boxes climb the walls like tendrils Of overlooked ivy. Roses inch up the trellis outside the back door. All this growth Twenty-five summers hoeing choke weed, gardening back bent to the soil, In later years curved unable to straighten. Time whittles the past, token whistles sound the call to let it go. How to say farewell to Julie, my daughter, whose death can hardly touch my future. Too many holes in its trajectory, life unseen, dreams unsaid baffle a different ending. The past, a galloping horse heedless of rutted byways, races ahead but can‘t keep pace. Too many goodbyes circle like eagles flying from aeries impossible to reach. Child, you are my galloping horse frozen to the past. 59


RIDING LIGHT

MAMA SING-SONG Lee Landau ―Mama,‖ says the magic skin doll, drinks her bottle and wets her diaper. ―Mama,‖ says her little girl, only silence follows, her blanket dragging on the floor. Mama, Mama the thunder scares me, hold me tight until the lights come on only silence. Mama where are you hiding the bed is empty? I am alone and shaking. Mama is this some game to teach me to be braver… hide and seek? Where are you, the house is dark and hollow. Mama what kind of lesson is this… how to master fear, so alone, so afraid? Mama I hear your laughter 60


SPRING 2016

high up in the rafters floating on dusty motes. Mama, Mama, my baby doll needs you to hug her until she stops crying. Lee Landau writes with raw honesty about family events, those dysfunctional backstories. She shelters emotion from the snowy winters of Minnesota that sparks her imagination. She writes about obsessions, both large and small that tumble through her poems. Lee‘s poems are published or forthcoming BlueStockings Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Breath and Shadow, Avalon Literary Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Ice Box Journal, Rockhurst Review, Vending Machine Press, The Monarch Review, ElseWhere Lit, and many more.

61


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY BILL WOLAK 62


SPRING 2016

BEHEMOTH Andrew Davie The crumpled racing form was covered in hieroglyphics for which no Rosetta stone existed. McFleer sat hunched over, glasses perched on the edge of his nose, which had been distorted from rhinophyma. A shot of Evan Williams was within reach, but he wouldn‘t touch it until the six am call. Delayed gratification. Also, as much of a raging alcoholic as he was, he‘d never sour his reputation on the job. I took up a stool next to him. ―Gropper‘s Delight. Look‘t the odds,‖ he said and slid the paper in front of me. Around us the bar was growing regulars: people who needed eye openers, who had given up on life— weathered, leathery specimens so pickled they defied scientific methodology. During his residency, my brother often referred to them as ―street people‖— those who‘d wander into the hospital from the cold able to withstand breakthrough pain that would relegate a ―normal‖ person to catatonia and death. Most Abrahamic religions would have a name for this bar, and this type of life. For now, I was still an interloper here. McFleer played the exactas when he bet the ponies and had apprenticed both his drinking and gambling under a British expat, long since deceased. He was going to wheel Gropper‘s Delight with three other horses, meaning any combination would pay out big money. As I continued to check the racing form, he produced a battered Moleskine from his pocket—his 63


RIDING LIGHT

ledger, which kept all of his bets going back countless years. He‘d never reveal how much money he would have made had he actually bet these horses, but the payout would have seen him lounging on a shore in some tropical latitude, enmeshed with local women, drinking ambrosia out of a coconut husk and various orifices of his companions‘ bodies. There‘d been those along the way who sought to profit off McFleer‘s algorithm. A local bookmaker, convinced he could extrapolate and reverse engineer the system, created a consortium and pooled the profit seekers‘ money. When McFleer wouldn‘t sell, they threatened violence and extortion, but his nihilistic tendencies called their bluff. Convinced the Moleskin would be buried with him, they returned to their nefarious practices. Time shifted. Only five minutes left before the call would come. McFleer said his prayers to the Norse gods he believed ordained the actions of his life and shut his eyes. An amalgam of paradoxes, he knew enough about everything and could have been a visiting lecturer at any institution in the world. Instead, he worked part-time as a mail carrier, pontificating and drinking himself to death. I had only been a part-time mail carrier for a few months, mostly because I had no direction and craved some revelatory moment; perhaps that‘s why I was drawn to him. He took a bottle of Pepto Bismol from his pocket to soothe his gastric ulcer. ―So what‘s the answer?‖ I said, the same question every day. Somehow, I was hoping McFleer, in all his wisdom, would reveal the method for living a good life. 64


SPRING 2016

He took a swig of the pink liquid, squinting, then put it away. The coating gave a sheen to his teeth and a marshmallowy quality to his voice. He was a high priest, a monologist, and I was about to get a sermon; hopefully, he‘d finally answer my question. ―Tickling the Dragon‘s tail: you manipulate two half spheres of beryllium, fitted around a plutonium core, with a screwdriver, to discover critical mass. All of this is done as part of the construction of a nuclear device. In Los Alamos, during testing, the spheres connected, which resulted in a critical mass with fissile material. The man at the helm died nine days later from severe radiation poisoning and more trauma and agony than you can ever imagine. His goddamned genetic materials were altered into something never meant to exist; we‘re talking Elephant Man–like mutations. They called the device the demon core since it was responsible for two aberrant deaths and multiple injuries. The same core design was used in a Mark III implosiontype nuclear device, also known as Fat Man, which was dropped on Nagasaki. The Japanese who survived the Atomic bomb detonation are called Hibakusha, which literally translates as ‗explosion-affected people.‘ Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Fat Man and Little Boy; he lived to be ninety-three years old before he died of stomach cancer.‖ He winded down, and, as usual, I had trouble reading the subtext. Of course, there are a few things in this life you don‘t do: one is take another man‘s fries; another is admit you understood nothing of what he just said. ―I don‘t understand.‖ 65


RIDING LIGHT

The sound that preceded his next utterances was one reserved for children who let down their teachers. ―There‘s no maxim for how to live life, you‘ve got to make these determinations your own. S‘all subjective. Why did the original handlers of the demon core perish but Yamaguchi live almost a century after being twice subjected to the equivalent of Old Testament wrath? You want the answers, make some choices. You‘ve got to find the Jormungandr and slay it.‖ ―Jormungandr?‖ ―Leviathan.‖ He took another shot of the pink solution. ―The Leviathan and the Behemoth?‖ Wait, why did that sound familiar? When I didn‘t immediately offer up understanding he said, ―They‘re chaos creations. God made them, and he‘s the only one who can take them out.‖ Pulling teeth wasn‘t even close, and he could sense my frustration. He always did, and, at times, I thought he gained a perverse joy from keeping things opaque. ―Look,‖ he began. ―I could describe to you what it might be like to get punched by Dwight Qawi, but you wouldn‘t fully grasp the pain unless it happened.‖ ―Who?‖ Master of the one-word retort. 66


SPRING 2016

―The Camden Buzzsaw, light-heavy, became a cruiser-weight. I watched him take out Matthew Saad Muhammad on TV right here in this establishment. Everything happens for a reason, you either embrace possibility, or you deny it.‖ The phone rang and malice and sharp edges appeared on everyone‘s faces. Odds are, this early in the morning, it was the superintendent ready to assign routes for substitute mail carriers. Though each of us needed the work, the thought of leaving the sanctity of the bar was not something anyone here wanted to endure. The bartender, a runty looking woman, put down a copy of her farmhand seduction fantasy and picked up the receiver by the third ring. She let loose with a few un huh‘s, then promptly slammed it back down. Jutting her chin in my direction, she said, ―You got route 38.‖ McFleer reached for his whiskey and drank it back cleanly. ―Gai gezunterhait,‖ he said. ―Go in good health.‖ § The house was similar to all the other houses on the block, uniform in its design. Mass-produced, it lacked the grace of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was the last house on the route; once finished here, I could return to my haze. I pulled the truck to the curb and got out, gripping the package under my left arm. The yard was in dire need to be mowed and litter was strewn about. The wind picked up rippling waves in the grass; an eerie calm had settled.

67


RIDING LIGHT

The sound of chimes cascaded over the porch. Anxiety, ever present with my current state of being, attempted to penetrate, but I shrugged it off. In my previous life, certain events were supposed to occur and never did. Did that preclude a descent into a limbo reserved for those without answers? It was going to take more than simple folklore and the ramblings of some jittery mail carrier to put the fear into me. I rang the doorbell. Would I eventually become McFleer, glued to a barstool slowly replacing my fluids with hooch, pontificating existence through a haze of allusions? Seconds turned into a minute. I rang the doorbell again. Leaving the package on the welcome mat, I turned around. It couldn‘t have been more than twenty feet away, standing there eyeing me curiously like it had never seen a human being before. It reached down and snatched at a clump of tall grass, making circular motions with its jaw as some chewed remnants fell to the ground in a matted wad. A hippopotamus, easily over a ton. Uncanny was the word that came to mind. The beast stared at me, glistening in the sun. It was during this moment I realized the fortune of paying attention during McFleer‘s lectures, because I‘d be goddamned if the man didn‘t at one point recite facts about hippos. Four scotches in, he‘d managed to go from discussing the Iran-Contra affair to Pablo Escobar‘s private menagerie. ―El Padrino had turned part of his estate into a zoo and acquired four hippos, some of whom later escaped the dilapidated 68


SPRING 2016

compound and bred to a pod of fourteen still roaming the Columbian countryside.‖ Unfortunately, McFleer didn‘t reveal any pertinent information, like how fast they could move on land or whether they were naturally aggressive toward humans. It looked tranquil, so perhaps if I slowly walked on the outskirts of the yard, I could get to the truck and drive away. Taking a few calculated steps, the animal angled its body like a boxer cutting off the ring. And then, suddenly the wind picked up again, and I remembered where I had heard talk of chaos creations. I saw myself at twelve, sitting in a pew in the church affiliated with our school. Winter Convocation, Reverend Houghtlin welcoming us back from Christmas vacation. A warm and funny man, he smoked a corncob pipe and had a debilitating stutter. That day he talked to us about Job. Made to suffer in a wager between God and the Accuser, he‘s stripped of everything he holds dear, suffering worse than a man who has been twice exploded by atomic fissile material, because in this case, like Kafka‘s Joseph K, there is no discernible reason for the cause of his anguish. ―So, Job is given counsel b-b-b-b-y some of his friends, to give in to sin and blaspheme. Here was a man who was able to succeed simply because he believed; blind faith allowed him to prosper. Job also bears witness to the enormity of God‘s power, in the form of the Leviathan and the -Brought back into the present, the hippo strode forth. The ground shook; grass parted.

69


RIDING LIGHT

The shot rang out, and the rifle‘s report echoed. The animal careened off to the right, somersaulted onto it‘s back. Entrails sagged forth. Shaking, I glanced over my shoulder. Standing on the porch was a man in his midthirties who looked like he hadn‘t slept in a long time and was in desperate need of a shave. The rifle, a bolt-action monstrosity, ejected the spent shell from the breech. The Man white knuckled the stock, and his eyes were saucers. Finally, he left the porch and walked past me. He smelled of canned goods and hysteria. When he got to the beast, he readied the weapon to finish the job but realized the hippo had passed. ―Finally got him,‖ the man said, and flung the rifle to the ground in a symbolic gesture. Then, just as quickly, he turned and walked back to the porch. ―Hey,‖ I called out. Stopping he seemed to notice me for the first time. ―What the Hell,‖ I said, and raised my arms in a futile gesture. The man said, ―One day I came home, and he was just standing there. Chased me clear into the house. The next day, he was still there; been that way for weeks now.‖ ―I don‘t understand,‖ I said. ―Thanks for delivering this.‖ He reached down, picked up the package, and tossed it over. A box of cartridges, ―necessary for bagging large game.‖ The man turned to go back into the house but stopped. 70


SPRING 2016

―You want to join me for some tea?‖ he asked. When I didn‘t reply, he offered: ―Sometimes, things just happen. You ever hear of this Japanese guy? Had two atomic bombs dropped on him and lived.‖ He scratched his forehead with his thumbnail. ―People have an overdeveloped sense to find meaning where there is none. It‘s best to move on, no rhyme or reason to it.‖ He left the door open, and I heard his feet echo on the hardwood. The wind picked back up again, the Behemoth lay dead, and I waited in the yard for answers.

Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and currently teaches in Virginia. His work can be read in Bartleby Snopes, The South Dakota Review, Menacing Hedge, Necessary Fiction, and LitroNY, among others.

71


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY KATHY RUDIN

PREFLIGHT Sara Whitestone I had felt it coming on for weeks, like false labor spasms that warn of pain and an uncertain future. But those small pangs were not enough to prepare me for the force of what came—the knife that cut through the covering of my soul. I was exposed. 72


SPRING 2016

This casting off of my old skin meant I could never crawl into it again. So I tried to pull that shroud back around my shoulders. To cling to that dark protection—to that pretended safety. Anger would stop the fear. Anger would end this tearing of my soul. But I could not hold that either. My rage burned away into the night air. After the fear, after the rage, there was a clearing of mind. Whose hand was directing this knife? God‘s? But I could not be angry with Him—had never been able to be. In hurt, in incomprehension, and yes, even in fear, I had trusted Him. Standing on the edge of a lake, the full moon high and tender in the night sky, I let go. Like crumbling pieces of a cocoon, my old life fell away into fragments at my feet. Reaching up with empty hands, I wished again for real arms to hold me—for human fingertips to smooth away my tears. But in that reaching it was as if I felt wings—wings heavy and wet with afterbirth—emerge from my un-shrouded shoulders. And unnamed hopes—throbbing and filling—rose again on unseen wings. Sara Whitestone‘s students in NYC introduce her to the mysteries of the world. Whitestone discovers writing through travel. Her works appear in book anthologies and popular and literary magazines including The Portland Review, Word Riot, and Literary Traveler. Her book-in-continual-progress is a fictional autobiography entitled Counting to 100. 73


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO 74


SPRING 2016

UNE JOURNÉE À LA LAVANDE (A DAY IN LAVENDER) Kavitha Rath Out of old Lugdunum, we left on the A7, sachets of dried lavender on the Citroën dashboard puffed hints of conifer and camphor as we listened to thrums of French rap. On our way, along the Rhône, from the confluence of turquoise and sapphire, our hearts filled with brioches and macarons our stomachs with quenelles, the vestiges of an ancient world envelop us. I see women in snail-ink dyed robes, drawing pine flower baths of marble. I conjure the limbs of pantomimes, and the farcical laughter at the theatre in Orange stories buried in the steps and sand, dried, destroyed parchment in the wind. By the autoroute, a dreamscape of lavender fields, gold-bordered against the countryside. Flower apices touch the sky, a greeting of honeycomb tessellations. Violet whorls draw you in, spikes ready to strike your heart and here is where you will stay, here in this field where no time will turn, forsaking all hope for return. You will live in the maws of this flower, soothing with its luxe and sedation, washing you clean of histories, intoxicating as the harvest-ready grapes 75


RIDING LIGHT

of the valley under the haze of Mont Blanc. Fruit shriveled and sugar-filled, one bunch or two only on each vine. Afternoon streaks into blue and mauve against the house-studded hills of Mougins. As the night comes, the violet light closes in to keep us calm, to hold us, to heal us here for now and ever. Kavitha Rath lives in Washington DC, and her poetry has appeared in Papercuts, Danse Macabre, Through the Gate, and Strange Horizons. She can be found at kavitharath.wordpress.com and on Twitter @WrathofKavi.

76


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO 78


SPRING 2016

GLYKOPHILOUSA Mathias Alpuente We bartered for frankincense, myrrh, and kryptonite. I built an ark of fragrant boxwood that cost me leaf, marrow, and ash. Oystershell scale preyed on my long thighs. Guard against them. Seal exposed pith of my cut canes, cap the xylem sap. Filch a tarnished dime, pilfer rail spikes, fight them with tempo, scimitar, tallstar. I should have followed the wagtail bird. South on dust roads I licked at the lure of the grasshopper, shed names, earned rattlesnake skin, justified thirst. Call her spirit: Walking sticks tamping damp ground predict her screech pitched in melodies notated by mayflies on staves of telephone wires. When the road pulled itself to shore I dipped my burnt hands into blue air and water. Impervious now to your phosphorous, my twins and I found your baby for you. Here, she cries for you, for your churches, your sweet milk, your shaved goatskin. Let me escape the smoke of myrhh, the itch of the oil that christens me brother forever of an infant and a corpse. Stand down as I strap seaoats together with strips of skin, naked as elands, swift as lies. 79


RIDING LIGHT

Let me return to my dark mother, float to the mouth of the Niger. Let bitter water reclaim me, restore my sheathing skin while hot bright Sirius rises in the eastern sky. Mathias Alpuente has roots in New Orleans and spends hours in various libraries. He credits a wide-ranging circle of writers, beginning with Catholic sisters, and most lately his cohort in the beach cities of Los Angeles, for having taught him, and they continue to challenge him. He lives for wearing out what he loves. His poetry and fiction have found publication in journals such as Gravel Magazine, Bang!, Marplot, and Elohi Gadugi.

80


RIDING LIGHT

ART BY BRIAN MICHAEL BARBEITO 82


SPRING 2016

AROUND A CORNER Mark J. Mitchell Two eyes, blank as steel, shift loosely as lazy toys from a school carnival. They see nothing. They reflect less. But once, maybe an hour ago, they were alive as water, looking through a mirror to see— What? Here‘s a mute witness. Your arrival is empty. Move along. There‘s not a chance of recall. Someone came. They peeked, then died. Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. He studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock, and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty-five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places, Hunger Enough, Retail Woes, and Line Drives. His work has also been nominated for both Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net. He is the author of two full-length collections, Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press), Soren Kierkegaard Witnesses an Execution (Local Gems), and three chapbooks: Detective Movie (Fermata Publishing), Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press), and Artifacts and Relics (Folded Word). His novel, Knight Prisoner, is available from Vagabondage Press and two more novels are forthcoming: A Book of Lost Songs (Wild Child Publishing) and The Magic War (Loose Leaves). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster.

83


RIDING LIGHT

84


SPRING 2016

STAY CONNECTED ridinglight.org

85


Riding Light Spring 2016  

Cover by Allen Forrest. Contributions by Mathias Alpuente, Brian Michael Barbeito, Andrew Davie, Arthur Davis, Darren Demaree, Craig Evenson...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you