ISSUE 12 / €8
Contact SAND Journal c/o Lyz Pfister Prinz-Georg-Straße 7 10827 Berlin Germany firstname.lastname@example.org www.sandjournal.com Connect with us for news and events: facebook.com/sandjournal twitter.com/sandjournal ISSN 2191-429X Published in Berlin Copyright Fall 2015 Designed by Jan Michoin Printed by Solid Earth Cover image: “When The Music’s Over,” by Drømsjel
SAND is Lyz Pfister EDITOR IN CHIEF & POETRY EDITOR Taylor Miles MANAGING EDITOR Florian Duijsens FICTION EDITOR Esther Yi NONFICTION EDITOR Angelique Hering ART EDITOR Louis Labron-Johnson COPY EDITOR Sara Bellini DISTRIBUTION & FINANCE MANAGER Polly Dickson DISTRIBUTION COORDINATOR Isaiah Lee EVENTS MANAGER Valentina Uribe SPECIAL PROJECTS COORDINATOR Mary Quigley SOCIAL MEDIA INTERN Patty Nash INTERN Jan Michoin GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Contents 9_____ Alice O. Duggan Yes 10____ April Sopkin Hannah & Jesse 23____ Anna Mebel The Statues 24____ Stephanie Warner Kindling 26____ Drømsjel Two Faces; Frühling 29____ Irma Pineda Lu Neza VII 30____Translated by Irma Pineda Sobre el Camino VII 31____Translated by Wendy Call On the Path VII 32____ Jeff Ewing Sognsvann 37____ Carol Levin I’d Rather Feel Forward and Wonder About It 38____ Simon Perchik Untitled 42____ Mariel Annarose Nicole Alonzo On Pork and Camellia 44____ Stephen Poleskie A Piece of Pie Inset__QUICK.SAND winners and highlights 53____ LB Sedlacek Edge Code 54____Kevin Tran Bermondsey Red; The Grass Is Greener In Bampton
57____ John K. Peck Hewn Birch 59____ Ari Feld Experimental Prayer 60____ Ambika Thompson Ninety-Nine Pink Vaginas 63____ Dave Harrity [& WHAT IS DONE SO EASILY IN THE LEFT IS LEFT] 64____ Jessie Janeshek North + South 65____ Adam McGee Positive 66____ Michael Zunenshine Resume 77____ Stephanie Warner Wintering 78____ Luis Chaves ¿Tan rápido llegó el 2002? 80____Translated by Emily Toder 2002 is here already? 82____Vidam Petersburger Str.73 - 10249 Berlin - Mike & Möschi; Wrangelstraße 85____ Matthew James Babcock American Paradelle for Dublin 86____ Robert Rigney Zoran 98____ Marie-Pascale Hardy of leaves 99____ Matthew James Babcock Sunnet 100___Contributors
Alice O. Duggan Yes An April evening, vestments of yes and yes. Hope surrounds them, words of union, darkening grass and blossoms closing as they kiss. The feast the band the dance the practiced hands removing plates â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the strands of leaving as night is thinning, now theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re bound for the worn and glowing promise, his clavicle yes and yes her throat.
Hannah & Jesse Half of the family sits around the living room, picking at the fruit platter on the coffee table. The apple slices have gone brown. The chocolate Labrador is pacing from room to room, looking for people, looking for better food. Out in the front yard, the groom is wearing furry white snow boots, his black tux pants protectively tucked inside. Nine inches fell last night. The groom wades through it, throwing his legs forward
through the snow. Hannah is propped backwards on the sofa in bare feet and her maid-of-honor gown, bright yellow silk, gleaming and almost hard to look at, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll show up nicely in pictures. Hannah peers out the window.
“What’s in his hand?” she asks Jesse, the groom’s brother. Without turning to look, Jesse says, “His inhaler.” “No. His other hand.” Jesse turns and squints. “It’s Dad’s pocket watch.” He turns back to the copy of People in his lap, flipping pages, then adds, “Firstborn gets it all, I guess.” “Well,” says Hannah. She looks over her shoulder at her own dad, asleep in the checkered wingchair near the unlit fireplace, his tux jacket draped cleanly across his lap. He’s a quiet, round man, quieter and rounder with the years, and Hannah briefly thinks how snug his bowtie looks, clownish, like it could start to squirt water and spin. Jesse holds up the copy of People next to Hannah’s face. He is comparing her to a picture of Dolly Parton, who poses in full Dolly regalia on the stairs of a decrepit old house somewhere in the Great Smoky Mountains. “I’m seeing a similarity,” he says. He is talking about Hannah’s heavy makeup and her high nest of styled blond curls. He is talking about her hefty silver earrings and long powder-pink acrylic nails. Also, her push-up bra, pushing her breasts up and nearly out of the scoop neck of her dress. “This,” Hannah says, waving a hand over her appearance, “was done to me. I did not do this to myself.” Jesse tosses the magazine onto the coffee table. “Way to take a compliment, sis.” “Thanks a lot, big brother.” They are about to become in-laws, and this is how they acknowledge it. When their families met at a barbeque five years ago, Jesse was twenty-one and Hannah had only just turned fifteen. It was the middle of June, but Jesse wore a baggy V-neck sweater, which he kept pulling off his paunch. Though his glasses were heavily smudged, he just kept knuckling them back up his nose. Teenage Hannah observed the two families and, having recently decided she was a writer, made frequent notes in a little pad she kept in her back pocket. Of her sister’s new boyfriend – a climbing instructor – Hannah scribbled down only, “Biceps as boulders.” For that initial gathering, Hannah’s sister had dressed her up in a flouncy blouse, and all day everyone remarked, “Wow, Hannah, you and your sister look so much alike,” which they do not: Hannah is short and her sister is tall.
Hannah & Jesse
Hannah is blond and embarrassed or serious for arbitrary reasons, while her dark-haired older sister is a bubbling spring of easy conversation. That day, Hannah and Jesse ate five hot dogs apiece, loading them with relish and goopy condiments, and respected each other’s gluttony. They made small talk. “I’m so full I could barf,” said Hannah. “I think I need to lie down,” said Jesse. “You’ve got mustard on your sweater.” “You’ve got stupid on your face.” “So do you,” Hannah said. “I was just trying to be polite.” Over the years, their conversation evolved, as all things in nature must. Getting older meant making attempts to be or sound interested. “How’s school?” Jesse asked. “It’s the same,” said Hannah. “Your mom told everyone that you made the dean’s list.” “It’s community college,” Hannah said. “I still can’t get into Mensa.” Through the phone, she could hear Jesse’s chattering TV and the relaxed sigh people make when they put a recliner all the way back. “How’s the furniture business?” she asked. “I sold two dining sets this week. And two-thirds of a sectional. No dean’s list.” “You can sell only part of a sectional?” “Sure. My dad hates it, though. Poor salesmanship, yadda yadda. But whatever,” said Jesse. “People are working with exact measurements. I tell him, people have restrictions, Dad. Jesus.” Still living at home, Hannah rolled onto her back and watched as the glow-in-the-dark stars glued to the ceiling began to appear above her childhood bed. Two years or so later, living in the university dorms nearly two hundred miles from home, Hannah turned over onto her stomach and said, “Duluth is fucking freezing already. It’s only October and I’m wearing gloves. And all the punks and hippies hate each other, but they totally wear the same brand of shoes. It’s nuts.” This was a month ago. On the other end of the phone, Jesse flipped channels and paused mid-crunch of a chip to ask, “What kind of shoes?” “Doc Martens.”
“Docs are cool.” “They are,” Hannah conceded. “You been making friends?” “I’m sharing a dorm room with a chronic masturbator from southern California. But there’s a girl in my world lit class who seems okay. She’s from Berlin and can roll cigarettes with one hand.” “You’re sharing a room with a guy?” “No, it’s a girl.” “Oh.” “Why?” “I just didn’t know girls could be chronic masturbators.” “They can. Or, she is, at least.” Hannah paused. “She does it in the middle of the night. I hear her wake up, toss and turn awhile, and then I hear her masturbating.” Jesse thought a moment, then: “Sounds like she’s homesick.” Some silence. “Anyway,” Hannah said. “Anyway,” Jesse said. “It must be nice to be away from home. Out of the house. Out of St. Cloud.” “I don’t miss it,” Hannah admitted. “But it is fucking freezing up here.” “You’ll be back down here before you know it.” “I know, I know.” The day of the wedding is tense with truth. The night before, in a moment of wedding eve transparency, the bride told the groom about another man. It happened early on in their relationship: The bride went on seven dates with another man nearly five years ago. They slept together twice and then it ended. It ended because Hannah’s sister decided she wanted to be with Jesse’s brother, long before they were to be bride and groom, and were still just two people who felt the hopeful inarticulate about one another. Those are the facts. And it is not a big deal, because this other man happened so long ago, and they have the strength of their shared history bracing them like a harness as they climb life’s uncertain path. But seven dates nearly five years ago is a big deal. Because there was sex. But also because Hannah’s sister made a choice between two people, and Jesse’s brother did not know he was ever one of two. Everything happening actually hinges on what could
Hannah & Jesse
have been, and the what-could-have-been is an expansive universe. If you start thinking about it, you fall right in. The night before the wedding thus proceeded with a long and shaky line of questioning that went well past midnight. Many points were made. Some stopped making sense. There was pleading and repeated declarations of devotion. The idea of superstition or tradition having burst, and rather than stay with Jesse or their dad, the groom slept at home on his own couch, tossing restlessly and getting up to drink water in the dark kitchen or stand under the buzzing glare of the bathroom lights, peeing. The bride took a Xanax with a glass of wine, slept unstirred. “I guess she told him about that electrician she banged,” Hannah says. “Unnecessary honesty, don’t you think?” says Jesse. “I mean, the timing is pretty poor.” They are now walking to the Starbucks four blocks away, dispatched by Hannah’s mother to retrieve a cardboard tank of coffee and a chocolate croissant for the bride. There will be a stop at the gas station for cigarettes as well, also for the bride. The sidewalk is shoveled, but a fine crust of snow remains. Hannah crunches in her boots, hands slugged in coat pockets and a scarf wrapped high over her mouth. Jesse wears his black dress shoes with the slick bottoms. He slips every few steps, then breaks into a light jog that dwindles back into a stride. He thinks Hannah does not notice that he can’t stay on his feet very well. “The timing is poor,” Hannah agrees, poking her mouth above her scarf. “But they’re getting married and she’s scared, I guess. She wanted to be completely honest.” “That makes sense,” Jesse says, then adds, “but still.” “Yeah, still,” says Hannah. They get the coffee, croissant, and cigarettes, and head back. “Your dad’s been in the bathroom all morning,” Hannah says. “How’s he doing?” Jesse reaches down for a handful of snow and compacts it between his gloves. “Yeah, he’s been nauseous. I rolled him a joint before we left St. Paul. The door isn’t locked – I checked.” The snowball hits a mailbox, explodes. “It’s, what, the third round of chemo at this point? He’s a pro.” “He’s smoking weed in the house?”
“I cracked the window. Are you gonna send a sick old man into the freezing cold to get a little high?” “When you put it that way, I guess not.” Some silence, then Jesse says, “He’s leaving me the business.” Hannah ducks her mouth back under her scarf and thinks about what she should say before she says it. Finally, it comes to her: “I guess the firstborn doesn’t get everything.” Then: “You could sell it.” He agrees. “I could sell it.” His tone is plain. He’s thought of this already. “Or you could keep it and I’ll come work for you. I’ll do the books and you’ll run the showroom.” “I do the books and run the showroom,” he says. “You can drive the delivery truck.” “Really?” “No.” “Thanks for the confidence, big brother.” “Anytime, sis.” Shuffling up the path to the house, Jesse stops to say something to his brother, the groom, who has been stomping around the front yard for some time now. Hannah goes inside and delivers the coffee, croissant, and cigarettes to the master bedroom, which is the scene of almighty preparation. Three professionals hired from the local salon speak to each other in soft and cautious tones. The bride sits joined to a curling iron while one eye is in the caged grasp of an eyelash curler. She waves it all away and motions to Hannah for the cigarettes. Their mother has been admiring the wedding gown hanging on the bathroom door, patting it, fanning out the layers, and watching them fall together again. When the bride lights up, their mother, who loves her wallpaper and the upholstery, watches the shadowy exhalation of smoke with a puckered chin and flared nose. The three other bridesmaids sit on the master bed in their dresses and full makeup, looking a little annoyed, a little scared, and mostly bored. On her way back downstairs, Hannah stops at the hall bathroom and knocks. Her eleven-year-old little brother cracks the door and says, “I have the hiccups, which I hate. I’m staying in here until they go away,” and shuts the door again. In the kitchen, Jesse brews tea for his father, who sits at the table with his chest right up to the edge and arms outstretched in front of him, palms flat.
Hannah & Jesse
He looks sleepy and frail, like a grown man in a highchair, what with his tux and overcoat and Twins baseball cap. Jesse slides a mug of tea in front of him and intones, like a waiter, “Here’s your chamomile tea with extra honey, sir.” Hannah smiles at Jesse’s dad. Jesse’s dad asks, “Anybody find out yet if we’re being stood up for the prom?” Hannah shrugs, says, “Whatever happens, we will do the chicken dance.” “Well,” Jesse’s dad says, “there go all my worries.” “Feeling better, Dad?” Jesse asks. His dad dismisses the question with a soft wave of his hand and gives Hannah a wink. She returns it, then goes to the bathroom off the kitchen. After peeing, she reaches for the soap on the sink and finds a half-smoked joint instead. She pokes her head out and motions for Jesse. She points at her finding. He picks it up, gingerly rolling it between his fingers. “He must have forgotten to pocket it.” Then: “Want to have some?” Jesse carefully closes the door to avoid the latch clicking. His father, completely oblivious to all but his own thoughts, sits at the kitchen table only twenty feet away. Hannah hands Jesse a book of matches from atop the toilet tank, closes the lid, and sits down. He takes a seat on the lip of the claw-foot bathtub. He lights the joint, inhales quickly twice, then hands it off. She does the same and it goes like this for a few minutes. “Do you think they’ll have kids right away?” Jesse asks. “God, I really hope not,” Hannah says, then backtracks: “I mean, they’re both responsible and I’m sure they’ll make good parents, but like, I just think it’s probably not smart to have kids immediately after ‘becoming one,’ as they say. You know?” She continued: “Plus, like, don’t you kind of have to be married a little bit before you know that you’re going to stay married? I know you have to believe you’ll stay married if you agree to get married at all – that’s the goal, right? – but don’t you think everyone probably feels like: Okay, we’re married now, it’s real. Let’s see what happens. For, like, a couple years? And once you get past that, then have kids if you wanna have them?” Smoke gets caught behind Jesse’s glasses and he lifts the frames up to sit atop his head. His eyesight is pretty bad, the world full of undefined glare and flotsam. “Okay, I’m high,” Hannah says.
Outside the window, the groom marches into view. He does not see Hannah and Jesse watching him. They can hear his quiet mutterings to himself, but they can’t decipher them. He makes it to the end of the property line and sighs. He turns around and sighs again. And then, with little heart or energy, the groom loosely shakes one fist at the white-gray sky. He stomps back towards the other side of the property. “Whose are those?” Jesse asks of the furry white snow boots his brother wears. “My mom’s.” “Fancy.” “He’s not even wearing a jacket.” “I tried to give him mine when we were coming back from Starbucks. He wouldn’t have it.” “Did he say anything?” “No.” “Nothing?” “Like, did he say if he was going to call the whole thing off?” says Jesse. “No.” “Do you think he will?” “I’ve never been able to guess what that asshole was going to do.” The space between them fills with quiet. “They’re both so sensitive,” Hannah says finally. Hannah thinks of her sister upstairs, getting ready to put on the big white dress. Somewhere inside her head, Hannah can see the rest of her sister’s life playing out against a screen: There she is, on her Cancun honeymoon, drinking slushy things and wearing a hat with a big floppy brim that sags to her tanned shoulders. There she is, teaching second graders while six months pregnant, one hand on her belly while the other wipes the whiteboard with an eraser. There she is, breastfeeding. There she is, pregnant again. There she is, sending off her firstborn to kindergarten on the school bus. There she is, consoling her teenage daughter after a breakup. There she is, jogging by herself in the empty early morning of her indistinct and colorless suburban neighborhood. There she is, older, and there she is, old. The bride will probably get married today, but even if she does not, Hannah knows that her sister’s life won’t look much different.
Hannah & Jesse
“You went somewhere,” Jesse says. Hannah nods. This time, when the space between them fills with quiet, they do not look at each other, or out the window, or at the floor. Jesse looks at Hannah’s hands resting in her lap, palms up, one palm on top of the other, fingers curling inward. Hannah looks at Jesse’s knees. His knees are very close to her knees. This detail shrinks the small room even smaller. They kiss several times. Not thorough kisses, but kisses that are like held breaths, that are like questions. Hannah’s eyes briefly open to find that Jesse’s eyes are also open. They shut them and kiss more questions. At some point, they switch to the good, permissive kind of kissing, where there is movement and conversation. Things are easier. They move to the bathmat between the vanity and the tub. Hannah is on her back and Jesse crawls in next to her, propping his head up with one hand. For a moment, they pose like this. Some nervous laughter happens, then more movement and conversation. When hands begin moving underneath clothes, Hannah flashes back to that first month in Duluth, the house party thrown by her roommate’s lab partner, where hands ran over a threshold that she’d been toeing for too long anyway. Hannah can feel herself retracing steps – supposes she knows where she’s going, having been there once before – but neither she nor Jesse leads the way. When the Labrador begins sniffing under the bathroom door, they stop and listen to its searching nose. There are voices on the other side of the house too, coming down the stairs. They climb up off the floor, straighten themselves, and leave the bathroom. Jesse’s dad is dozing at the kitchen table, his arms crossed over his chest, head cast down.
Hannah rides to the church with the bridesmaids in her mother’s maroon Buick Park Avenue. The radio plays old Springsteen, the sad one about long nights and a girl leaving on a train. The car soars with the same leisure as a parade float, and Hannah does a tight beauty-queen wave at all the parked cars they pass on their way. She is still high, and her silk dress has many light creases from the close twist of her body with Jesse’s.
In a sedan two cars back, Jesse drives the groom and their father, and the car is mostly quiet apart from their father’s occasional sighs. Nowadays, sighing is how he breathes. The groom sits in the backseat, leaning forward to squeeze their father’s shoulder, and their father pats the groom’s hand. They get stuck at a light and Jesse watches the Buick moving farther away. He picks at the lint on his tux pants and wonders if he pushed too far. He knows he can’t ask anyone currently in the car with him. He knows he can’t ask his three friends from college who check in every few months, all of them still back in San Francisco, busy tech guys who send random late-night emails about women they knew in college, or about really attractive investment opportunities. And he knows he can’t but wishes he could ask his mother, who was smashed from the world by a drunk driver when he and his brother were thirteen and fifteen. It takes the length of the light to change for Jesse to realize that the only person he can actually talk to about what happened – or maybe about anything – is Hannah. The ceremony is short and Christian insofar as God is mentioned once or twice, like an uncle who lives too far away and could not be there in person. The pictures take forever, endless wedding-party combinations, within which there are several instances of Hannah and Jesse standing next to or near one another. There are over a hundred guests and the crowd blows bubbles to the happy couple as they drive off to the reception hall in a black town car. The back window declares, “We took the plunge!” White streamers sail through the air, trailing from the trunk. Hannah’s high wears off sometime during dinner and the speeches. She settles heavily into her seat and watches the dancing start up. Across the round table, Jesse also watches the dancing, but only pretends the dancing is interesting. Sometimes, they glance at each other. The bride’s parents are teetering together off in one corner of the dance floor, slow and proud and grinning. A few other couples dance too, but the newlyweds take center stage. They slump in place, swaying. They surrender instead of embrace. Behind the DJ, near the window, Hannah’s little brother dances with one of the heavy velvet curtains, the setting sun cutting into the room each time he pulls the fabric into a wide twirl. Hannah glances in Jesse’s direction again, but he’s not there. A few minutes later, he sits down next to her.
Hannah & Jesse
“My dad,” he says. “We shouldn’t have smoked the rest of that joint. He’s feeling sick again, I can tell. He hasn’t been able to eat.” Hannah glances over at the table where Jesse’s dad sits with a family friend. His rosemary chicken breast hasn’t been touched, the rice pile only picked at. His head bobs in conversation with the family friend, but his reactions are slack and his coloring has gone gray. The first cater waiter Hannah approaches pretends not to know what Hannah is asking after. The second just smirks and the third shakes his head. The fourth tells her to ask the waiter with the diamond earring. She waits outside the swinging kitchen doors until the guy with the diamond in his earlobe floats by and she flags him down. For twenty bucks, it’s the smallest, flimsiest joint ever rolled, but Hannah is grateful. She and Jesse retrieve his dad, and they amble down a hallway leading past the restrooms and out a back door. Outside, they park Jesse’s dad on a broken chair propped against the dumpster. They stand close to him, blocking the wind and creating a quieter, less cold space between the three of them. Jesse lights the joint and hands it to his dad, who takes it like a cigarette between his leather-gloved fingers, inhaling so briefly his lips seem to nibble. “I can’t smoke this whole thing,” he says, and hands the joint to Jesse. Jesse takes two drags and hands it to Hannah, who takes two drags and hands it back to Jesse’s dad. He smiles as he accepts it and she smiles back. “So you’re going to be a writer?” he asks her. “I want to be,” she says. Jesse’s dad shrugs. “As long as you have health insurance.” He looks at Hannah and Jesse standing over him, looks at their nice clothes and young faces in the glare of the security lamp over the back door until the joint in his hand burns out. Jesse relights it and hands it back. The joint goes around the circle again, then it’s finished. Jesse crushes it with his shoe. “It was a nice day,” his dad says. “You know, it really turned out.” His crossed leg starts to bounce and he examines the strewn garbage at his feet. “It’s really not too bad out here. Do we have to go back in? Will they be missing us by now?” Hannah and Jesse shrug and shake their heads. They pull tighter into themselves, bracing against the cold. They huddle the circle closer together. “And you know,” Jesse’s dad continues, “you know, you can make money doing anything. Don’t worry about money. And don’t worry about not being smart enough. None of us are very smart, I’m telling you, so just forget about
it and do your best and make a little money and make sure you have health insurance. It’s really not that complicated.” His legs uncross and he exhales. “Okay, I’m ready to eat.” They wander back to the party, all three of them in a line. The big room is much warmer now that they’ve been outside. Jesse and Hannah sit with Jesse’s father while he eats his cold dinner. They glance at each other from time to time. Things are not uncomplicated just because an old man with terminal cancer says so. But the party won’t last forever, so they dance. First Jesse with Hannah, then Hannah with Jesse’s father, then all three of them do the chicken dance together. Near the end of the night, Hannah wants to tell Jesse that everything is okay and he doesn’t need to worry. She isn’t sure what she means by it, and she tries to think of something else, but she keeps coming back to the same phrase. And Jesse wants to tell Hannah the same thing. But neither does.
That March, Hannah will stay in Duluth over spring break and not come home. Jesse will visit her over the weekend and not tell anyone that he is doing so. The weather is frigid, but the sky is blue and clear and shining. They walk out to the very end of the North Pier, where the lighthouse looms over the water like a skyscraper, and turn their backs away from the wind rushing off Lake Superior and squint against the sun. “How are you doing?” Hannah says. She’s talking about the funeral. Jesse shrugs and doesn’t know what to say. His fingers and nose and mouth are numb. His eyes dry from the wind. “It’s like I’m an adult now,” he says finally. “It’s like I can do anything and there’s no one around anymore to tell me I’m doing it wrong. No one’s going to say, don’t offer layaway or don’t stand in the front window staring at people. It’s like I have to think of everything on my own.” They walk back down the pier and go to a restaurant where Hannah knows she won’t be carded. Her twenty-first birthday is still a few months away. They order beers and Jesse puts his hand over Hannah’s. She looks down at it and stays as still as possible. “Do you think it’s gross?” he asks. “Now that we’re family?” Hannah thinks awhile. She doesn’t think it’s gross, but doesn’t say so, because there are other facts now.
Hannah & Jesse
“Maybe they’ll get a divorce,” Jesse says. “Maybe,” Hannah says. “But she’s pregnant. So they’ll probably keep it together for a while.” Jesse nods, but doesn’t move his hand. And Hannah doesn’t move hers either. And although he has a hotel room, they stay in her dorm that night. Her roommate has gone back to southern California for the break. The whole building is quiet and they watch Jurassic Park with the volume up really high, sitting together on her twin dorm bed, their backs propped against pillows. It starts to snow around midnight. When the movie is over, they watch the credits and wait for the very end of the disc, then Hannah turns off the TV and they sit in the dark, hearts beating. They sleep together this one time and immediately afterward discover that conversation has evolved again. Now there are secrets. “We can never tell anybody,” Hannah says. “Never, ever.” Her guilt is strange to her, overcoming her slowly like a fever: she feels fine, then uncertain, then certain that something has changed. Retracing the steps isn’t so difficult, yet every choice and advance has led to an unfamiliar place, not at all like that time at the house party. Still, she moves closer to Jesse. “Can I just say,” Jesse says, “that it was nice and I’ve always thought it would be nice?” “Sure,” Hannah says. “I know. I thought it would be too. I mean, I think it was. But we can’t tell anybody.” Jesse knows that Hannah is right. He knows the impossibility, and can’t think of a scenario where anything is ever going to be different. He closes his eyes for a long silence. When they reopen, he sees Hannah’s eyes watching him in the dark. Under the comforter, their knees touch and he puts a hand on her hip. “It’s between you and me,” Jesse says. He leaves the next morning to go check out of his unused hotel room and head back down to St. Cloud. Hannah hugs him before he gets into his car, and waves as he drives away. She sort of bounces up and down, hand flapping, trying to keep warm long enough to see his car disappear, then she goes back inside the empty dorm building. It snows all day, easy and consistent, but the wind coming off Lake Superior pushes and whirls the falling whiteness, and accumulation is difficult to judge.
Anna Mebel The Statues The statues in the corridor to the bedroom made out all night, and dead leaves turned up in the kitchen. You scolded me for leaving hair in the sink, but the trees were shedding too and no one gave them shit. The dog needed walking, forks and plates slunk low in the sink, but the only chore I did was dusting off the statues. They were having a better time than us! Once, you caught me touching their fused heads with cold fingers. We havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t talked about it.
Stephanie Warner Kindling When it occurs to you that there will be no heat unless you work for a good three hours in the bowels of this clapboard house, where the axe’s single frightful thought is sunk into the heartwood of a tree you cannot name – and as three dogs, not your own smell the maze of your faltering, you are humbled. What does it really mean to shatter time’s placid rings so fastidiously nested? To strike one of trauma’s iron knots and feel the surge through the animal of your arm. Every hair prickling the bad news to the gut, and the heart’s aortic claw. But not the brain. You, the great divider, coaxing wood further and further from its nature. Just a notch and tap and kindling like septals, half-expecting the artichoke’s blank heart. Even the word 24
is precious, and likewise, the pagoda you make in a drift of cinders – fussing, peevish too urbane for this, having memorized the steps, but possessing none of the knack. But the fire, when it comes, in glinting cubist planes, odorless as glass – is bewitching. As good as they say. And you understand why Prometheus was the most glamorous, the David Bowie of gods, having stolen fire. The punishment of being lashed to a crag, while carrion mince a self-renewing liver, for all eternity – he’d have done it all over again. Yes. The metal contracting in clicks, and you feel the month’s long-set of your jaw slackening, the splinters behind your clavicle loosening. Labor, reward and no middleman – a warmth spreading through every room of the house: deep and unsettling pleasure like his hand, fish-hooked inside you, so long ago. The feeling that you would wet yourself, the mind and body’s Venn diagram drifting together, total eclipse, but his mouth in your unwashed hair – trust me. 25
Kevin Tran Kevin Tran’s series South of The River follows the story of the artist’s first year living abroad in London. “Bermondsey Red” depicts the sombre face of a fire tiger, Tran’s Chinese zodiac elemental animal. A self-portrait, the piece mirrors the artist’s internal struggle to find purpose and clarity. “The Grass Is Greener In Bampton” is the final installment of a triptych that chronicles the artist’s personal metamorphosis from winter to summer. Inspired by the lush rolling hills of England’s countryside, this jubilant fox captures the artist’s newfound optimism and resolve.
Opposite: “Bermondsey Red” Overleaf: “The Grass Is Greener In Bampton”
John K. Peck Hewn Birch words from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami, tr. Jay Rubin
Millions of crickets settle into uneasy sleep. A dozen tigers recoil from a human infant with a mouthful of crooked teeth. A jellyfish halts at the bottom of the sea. The evening collapses in tears. The moon is a symbol of nothing.
Luis Chaves ¿Tan rápido llegó el 2002? El sonido de los refrigeradores arrulla a las familias y creen que es la lluvia o viceversa. Para los turistas, esto que es tu casa será un video amateur de palomas que llegan a comer de sus manos. No hace mucho tiempo dormíamos sin soñar mientras nuestros pies se tocaban. Sin duda, los primitivos encontrarían aquí un significado. Del cine salen los electores a vivir una película en que todos son extras y nada hay en eso de dramático, como tampoco nada excepcional en el charco de diesel tornasolado donde los niños escupen para divertirse. Allá donde fue tu casa ya no está la foto blanco y negro de la hija de un alcohólico. El árbol que creció con los hermanos tiene dos iniciales encerradas en un poliedro que debió ser corazón.
Llamarnos por nuestros nombres debería parecernos un milagro o al menos algo digno de esas películas para intelectuales. Herencia de mi madre es hablar poco, el resto no es culpa de nadie. Vivo en la que fue su casa como un turista y es mi padre ese señor que alimenta a las palomas. Nos arrulló varios inviernos la lluvia o eso queremos creer, pero es cierto que dormíamos sin soñar y que nuestros pies se tocaban.
Originally published in Chan Marshall by Luis Chaves (ed. Visor, Spain, 2005)
Translated by Emily Toder 2002 is here already? The sound of the refrigerators lulls the families to sleep and they think it’s the rain or the other way around. For the tourists, this thing that is your house will be an amateur video of pigeons that come to eat from their hands. Not so long ago we slept dreamlessly, our feet touching. Undoubtedly the primitive would find in this some meaning. Voters come out of the cinema to act in a movie in which everyone’s an extra and there’s nothing dramatic about that, just as there’s nothing exceptional in the iridescent puddle of diesel where kids spit for fun. Over by what used to be your house there is no longer the black and white photo of the daughter of an alcoholic. The tree that grew with the siblings has two initials carved inside a polyhedron meant to be a heart.
Calling us by our own names should seem to us a miracle or at least something dignified out of those films for intellectuals. Speaking little I inherited from my mother, no one’s to blame for the rest. I live in what used to be her house like a tourist and my father is that man who feeds the pigeons. Several winters the rain lulled us to sleep or that’s what we wanted to think, but it’s true we slept dreamlessly and our feet were touching.
I had come back from my first fling in the Balkans and was looking for Serbian music in Berlin, and somehow I ended up at Zoran’s, a Balkan specialty shop in Neukölln that offered a dusty array of Serbian and Bosnian evergreens, homemade slivovitz smuggled from Serbia, bad Macedonian wine, imported mineral water, and spicy Serbian sausage studded with fat, just like I had tasted in the Šumadija. I eventually got to know Zoran, the diminutive Serbian owner with a penchant for colorful polo shirts and gold chains, who would invite me to the back room for shots of slivovitz. Periodically, Serbian Gastarbeiter (guest workers) from the neighborhood would stop by for a drink and chat. Talk revolved around sex and politics. No one could understand my interest in Serbia, and Zoran’s customers assumed, as had many people in Serbia, that I was a spy for the CIA. They would come in and see me and say, “Aha, the špion is here.”
Zoran came from a Yugo Gastarbeiter family. He was born in the town of Vrnjačka Banja in the Šumadija, where he worked his father’s fields as a child. In 1970, he came to Berlin with his mother and was employed for a time by Gillette, helping to manufacture razor blades. In the mid-’80s he opened up this shop on Flughafenstrasse. Those were the good old days: the Wall was still up, the Deutsche mark was going strong, and people had money to burn. Today Zoran can only complain. Most of his clientele, aging Gastarbeiter like himself, are on the dole and only have money at the end of the month, when their unemployment checks arrive. He’s had to fire two employees, and he’s seen how his neighborhood, the Flughafenkiez, has changed – in his opinion, for the worse, with the old Germans pushed out, and more and more Turks and Arabs moving in, turning an old Lutheran church across the way into a mosque, taking over neighboring shops and, he believes, putting pressure on him to move. Five times, he claims, they destroyed his sign advertising Balkan Spezialitäten. He is convinced that the mosque across the street wants to take over his shop to sell halal goods and has dumped its garbage at his front door. Sometimes Zoran can be seen standing in front of his shop, grinding a constant grist of curses through his teeth, calling down indemnity on the Muslims. Or else he’s standing behind his meat counter, massaging the belly of a stuffed puppy dog and muttering some incantation. When he goes to Serbia, he visits a very famous fortune-teller who can cure everything from alcoholism to cancer, and she once gave him this dog – the protector of all Christians, she said – and instructed him to rub its belly and pray once a day against the witches who are out to destroy him. In Zoran’s opinion, Neukölln is full of witches: black-magic witches, voodoo witches, Muslim witches. And of all the witches, the Muslim witches are the most pernicious. That’s why he has crosses everywhere and garlic hanging over the doors. Zoran claims he is a tolerant man. He sells not only Serbian, but also Croatian and Bosnian music. He doesn’t care if a singer is a Serb or a Muslim. And to be sure, he has a varied clientele. Now and then he has Muslims visit his shop, like the young Bosniak whom Zoran immediately identified as a Muslim because the man asked if Zoran cut the beef with the same knife
he cut the pork. Zoran replied that he washed the knife every time he used it, but the Bosniak didn’t take the beef in the end. Another time, Zoran had a Bosniak come into his shop who wanted some čvarci, or pork rinds – only he wanted it packed well enough so that his Muslim neighbors couldn’t see it. One thing Zoran will say is that Muslims steal the most. They come in three at a time. They say, here, play this, play that, Zoki. When Zoran has his back turned, one guy reaches under the counter to steal a CD. He runs out and sticks it in his car and comes back, and there’s nothing Zoran can do. Sometimes he catches them red-handed. He picks up the telephone and says to them, I’m calling the cops if you don’t return the CD. And they say, all right, here you are, Zoki, no hard feelings, and they give it back. If it’s not the Muslims, then it’s the Gypsies. “One Gypsy lady came in here with a baby in her arms. While I had my back turned, she took a CD and stuck it under her baby. I said, ‘Come, give the CD back.’ She said, ‘What CD?’ I took the CD out from under her little brat and I beat her over the head with it. Verschwinde!” Nor does Zoran have much good to say about the Turks. “When you’re out on Flughafenstrasse, you have to be really afraid. When they are alone, they’re nothing. But when there are four, five of them, it’s really bad, they gang up on you. And if someone complains, they start punching.” “Deport them all!” says Zoran, working himself up into a frenzy. “An airplane without seats. Standing. Then once over the Adriatic, open the doors and drop them all in the sea. Gone!” He slaps his hands together. “No more Kanaken!” I tell him that I can’t understand why the Germans dislike the Turks. If it weren’t for the Turks, the Germans would have only Currywurst and Pommes and Schlager music. Zoran should like the Turks, I tell him: he’s had five hundred years of experience with them. “We thought we got rid of them from Serbia and then we come to Germany and we’re surrounded by them here,” says Zoran. “But I’ll tell you, I don’t really dislike the Turks, Arabs, blacks. But I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have the cross.” I want to put in a good word for Muslims, so I tell Zoran that he should try reading the Koran. Christians and Muslims believe in many of the same things, after all.
Zoran says that God would strike him stone-dead if he ever opened the Koran. “I have my religion,” he says, walking over to a cabinet, which contains a picture of Christ, the kind where his eyes pathetically open and shut depending on the angle at which you look at him. Zoran lights a candle and stands in front of it with his hands closed, saying a silent prayer. He crosses himself three times from left to right. The pork bubbles on a hot plate beside him. After he is finished, he walks over to me. Zoran pours one slivovitz for me and one for himself. “A joke,” he says. “A Catholic priest, an Orthodox priest, and a playboy are standing before the gates of heaven. ‘So tell us,’ says Saint Peter, ‘what have you been doing with your thing?’ The Catholic priest says, ‘One hundred percent only pissing.’ ‘Okay, stand aside,’ says Saint Peter. ‘And you,’ he says to the Orthodox priest, ‘in your life, what have you been doing with your thing?’ The Orthodox priest says, ‘Fifty percent screwing, fifty percent pissing.’ ‘Okay,’ says Saint Peter, ‘stand aside.’ Finally, Saint Peter asks the playboy, ‘And you, what have you been doing with your thing?’ The playboy says, ‘Ninety percent only screwing.’ And the gates of heaven swing open. ‘Welcome,’ says Saint Peter, ‘this isn’t a pissoir.’” Zoran is the only gay Serb I know. He lives with a retired German cop, who sometimes performs cabaret dressed in women’s clothing. Sometimes Zoran goes to bars, but not like when he was a young man and used to visit all the gay bars in Berlin. He’d stand there and ring the bell, and they’d ask him, “What do you want, Knirpse?” And he’d say, “Who are you calling Knirpse? I’m twenty years old.” He’d stick his ID up to the peephole, and they’d let him in and he’d go sit down at the bar. Zoran would introduce himself as Charly and demand that the queers buy him drinks. “Thanks,” he would say. And then he’d leave. He was a delightful, dapper little looker at the time, prowling the streets of West Berlin. He says he’ll show me photos one day.
I stop by Zoran’s Gastarbeiter oasis with Luli, an Albanian friend of mine. Luli comes from Kosovo, and although he knows the language, he refuses to speak Serbian with Zoran out of nationalist spite. He merely asks Zoran some curt questions in English about the shop, casting a critical eye at the posters of
big-titted turbo-folk stars, the icons, the folklore records. Later, Luli asks me, “Who is this guy? How does he live? Selling those cassettes?” When I see Zoran again, he says, “That Albanian šiptar you brought in here – I would really like to know what he was thinking. He looked at everything in my shop, my cassettes, the pictures on the walls, frowning because everything is Serbian. Sometimes I think I ought to have a Serbian flag in my shop just so that people know ovde je Srbija.” Here is Serbia. We talk about vacations. Zoran has traveled widely, and in his opinion, Thailand is the best. “You wouldn’t believe it. Sex, sex, sex. Bars, nightclubs, dancehalls! The women! The boys! I went with my mother for the first time. She just sat in front of the television in her hotel room, but I had to go outside and see the life. I went to a whorehouse. Before that, I got a haircut. Not only did they cut my hair, but they took care of my whole body as well. Over there, they do things correctly. One girl takes care of my head, the other girl takes care of my hand, another girl takes care of my other hand, and another girl takes care of my feet. And then I went to the whorehouse, and the girls there were swarming around me. They said, ‘What is your name, little man?’ I told them my name was Kurac, which means ‘dick’ in Serbian. They said, ‘Kurac, Kurac, we like you so much.’” Still, as much as he loves Thailand, nothing compares to Serbia. Zoran asks me if I have ever been to a Serbian wedding. “Oh, a Serbian wedding is something to experience. Three days of celebration. On the third day, the bride and groom go screw. That was always a great source of fascination for us as children. We used to sneak up to the window and try to get a peek inside.” I tell Zoran that I have only been to a Serbian funeral. “When someone dies in Serbia, it’s the worst,” says Zoran. “You can’t listen to music for a year. You have to dress in black. The day after the funeral, you are supposed to light a candle. You are supposed to visit the cemetery every Saturday for a year to have a picnic on the grave of the deceased, but it was banned because of the rats. When my mother dies, I won’t do all that. I’ve told my mother: When she dies, I won’t dress in black. I’ll still keep listening to my music.”
Zoran is cooking pork in a broiler. I sit down and have a beer. Zoran offers me a slivovitz. He takes one as well, though he’s been on a diet for five days. He wants to get his figure back to how it was when he was a strapping young Knirpse touring the gay bars of Berlin. He shows me pictures of himself as a young man on the beaches of Thailand and Egypt. There he is in a swimming suit, tanned, hips cocked. Today he is wearing shorts and looks sporty, were it not for his paunch. He pinches the fat around his midriff. “I must get rid of some of this,” he says. I sit drinking Atlas beer from Serbia. “Today is tote Hose,” says Zoran. Dead. No one is coming to the shop. “People say to me, ‘Zoran, why don’t you just close your shop and live off the state? It’s not worth it.’” He would no doubt grow bored, I tell him. “I tell you what I really want to do,” Zoran says. “Work for a couple more years here and then go back down to Serbia and start something there. A travel agency, for example.” I ask Zoran if life is really that much better in Serbia. “The people are friendly and uncomplicated. It’s easy to meet people. It’s so much different than here. In the last years since the fall of the Wall, the Germans have become terrible. “Look, I’m a foreigner,” he continues. “But no one can tell I’m a foreigner until I open my mouth. Then it begins. The comments. Really, it’s become much worse since the fall of the Wall. Then they really started to hate foreigners. The Germans felt that they were all coming to take their jobs away – but the jobs were only the bad ones that the Germans won’t do. The Turks especially took these kinds of jobs. Germans hate Turks. Down where I live in Rudow, a Turk recently moved into a house and immediately raised a Turkish flag over his roof. The next-door neighbor got pissed off. He pointed to the flag and said, ‘What is that? That’s an offense! Not in Germany! Not in Germany, my friend!’ I tell you, pretty soon you’ll have everyone in Berlin going at each other, just like in the Balkans.”
It’s a warm April afternoon and the door is open. Serbian folk music is playing and Zoran has visitors. I say hello and shake hands all around. There are a couple of guys I recognize. There is Nenad, a Serb from Kosovo; Vojo, a Serb from Vojvodina; and Horst, a German who is married to a Serb. Nenad lays down a box of lokum on the table under the poster of the blind turbo-folk singer Saša Matić. Nenad is friendly enough, as long as you don’t rub him the wrong way by saying anything favorable about Albanians. Nenad is from a small village just outside of Priština. He didn’t want to leave, but “was kann man tun?” According to the Statistical Office of Kosovo, there were 111,300 Serbs living in Kosovo in 2006, making up five percent of the population, compared to twenty-four percent in 1948. Since the war of 1999, there has been large-scale emigration of Serbs from Kosovo. The more people who left, the harder life became for those who stayed behind. They lost their friends and lived in half-empty villages, unable to keep up numbers at their schools, suddenly half-strangers in an unfamiliar country. So more followed, and among them was Nenad, who left his ancestral homeland never to return. Nenad heaves a deep fatalistic sigh. “Ja, mein Freund. Believe it.” Hard times have induced in him a stoic attitude to trouble. But he drinks his slivovitz cheerfully enough: “Forty percent. Straight from the Šumadija. Homemade. You know it’s good when you shake it and there are little bubbles. This stuff will never give you a headache.” Nenad laps up his rakija and returns to the subject of Kosovo. “Let me ask you: What is the population of Kosovo?” Around two million, I tell him. “And what was the population before the war? One and a half million. I ask you, where did half a million Albanians come from? From Albania. Albanian soldiers.” Nenad says he has left Kosovo for good and isn’t going back even for the holidays. He says that the United Nations mission in Kosovo is in collusion with the Albanians. “There’s a deal on. UNMIK and the KLA” – the Kosovo Liberation Army – “are in it together, and if you are a Serb, UNMIK will stop you at checkpoints and then call the Albanians and let them know that a Serb is coming their way so that they can shoot at you,” Nenad says. “Trust me. I know.”
Then we drink to John F. Kennedy. Not Clinton. Not Bush. “What religion are you?” Nenad asks me. Catholic, I tell him. “Do you know the Ten Commandments?” asks Zoran. Zoran rattles off a couple. Then he gets up and returns with a little booklet issued by the Orthodox Church. In it are the Ten Commandments. He reads them aloud. “The founders of Yugoslavia, before Tito, they made a great mistake,” says Zoran. “They should have just concentrated on making a Greater Serbia. Instead they formed a confederation of Slavs with the Croats and Bosnians. They figured they were all southern Slavs. Spoke the same language. Were brothers. But they didn’t take religion into consideration – that the Croats pledged their allegiance to the Vatican, that the Serbs pledged their allegiance to the Orthodox Church, and that the Bosnians were with the Turks. They made a great mistake. Religion drove the people apart. Do you know that in Islam there is no commandment against killing? In fact, it is said in the Koran that you must kill to defend your religion.” I tell him that I’ve read the Koran, and that Muslims believe in many of the same things as we do. “I don’t believe that,” says Vojo. “The Koran was written long before Christ.” “And tell me,” Nenad says to Vojo, “did you go to school?” “No, I didn’t, but I listened when the windows were open.” Vojo lifts his cap and mats down his graying hair. “Bosnians,” he says, “I can’t believe they are any different from Serbs. They want to believe they are something different from Serbs. Kurac! They’re Serbs!” “No other people suffered like the Serbs and still stayed like they were,” says Zoran. “Five hundred years we suffered the Turkish oppression, and yet we still kept our identity. The Bosnians went over to the Muslim religion, but the Serbs stayed the same. It is amazing. No other people are like the Serbs.” A customer comes in. He asks what’s new. “I’ve got Sneki, Šeki, Seka, Ceca, Aca…,” says Zoran, listing the names of Serbian singers that have just come in. None of them seem to have last names. The customer thinks awhile and makes his selection.
Zoran tells me about the artists: “There’s Šeki. The Muslims hate him. He was a Muslim from Sandžak who became Orthodox. Just like Šaban. They even tried to stab Šaban.” “Do you have anything by Marta Savić?” the customer asks. Zoran has a cassette. But Marta has changed her style lately. She has moved away from folk and is now singing more Schlager hits. Zoran plays the cassette, and they both agree it isn’t very good. “And now for Serbia’s most famous woman,” says Zoran, putting on some Ceca. Zoran breaks out a new bottle of slivovitz. He pours me a shot. After a while, he pours me another, then another. “Three times is Serbian,” he says. “Three times drink. Three times kiss. Three times fuck in the night.” Why three times? I ask. “That’s how we make the sign of the cross. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. That’s why we kiss three times. It’s a curious thing: the Kurds kiss three times as well.” Zoran has seen them kiss outside his shop. The Kurds are not Muslim, he says. They are Orthodox Christian. A Serbian woman comes in and starts talking about men. She was married to a Muslim. She says she dislikes the Balkan mentality. “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is also mine,” as she puts it. Zoran shows us a picture of himself as a young man, standing on the beach in a bathing suit. He displays another of himself in a grass skirt. “That was me. What do you think?” “Not bad,” says the lady. “But small kurac.”
In comes another familiar face. Zoran looks to see who it is and groans. “Get lost!” he says. “Get out of here!” But the customer isn’t deterred. She goes behind the counter and enters the back room. It’s a woman in her fifties with graying hair, holding a cheap handbag. Her name is Lepa, and she is from Bosnia. “Dobar dan,” she says.
“Can’t you see you’re not wanted here?” says Zoran. “What are you looking for? There are no old men here for you to fuck.” “I am not interested in finding a man,” says Lepa. “That is not what you told me,” says Zoran. “You said you wanted to find a man. You wanted a man to sit on your balcony. You wanted to find a man for sex.” “That is not true. I am not interested in finding a man for sex. I am interested in finding a man to go for walks, for conversation. A man who likes dogs.” “No dogs. I can’t stand dogs,” Horst says. “How can you not like dogs?” Lepa says. “If you don’t like dogs, then you don’t like humans.” Lepa tells me that she had a child at fifteen. She only had one child. But her child had two children. Her grandchildren had two children each. “I did well,” she says. “And you, Zoran, do you have any children?” “I don’t know,” says Zoran. “Maybe in Thailand. I know of one for sure.” Lepa says something insinuating Zoran’s homosexuality, but he ridicules her terrible German in return. Lepa has lived in Germany almost as long as Zoran, but she never bothered to learn the language. “Say that one more time,” says Zoran. “How long are you living in Germany? And you still speak German like that?” “What can I say? I only go around with Yugos.” “You fuck around a lot, don’t you?” “No, I don’t. In the past, yes.” Lepa makes a wistful face. “But not anymore.” “Who would want you? An old bag like you. If they stick it up you, you could move it around this way and then again the other way around. You are so loose.” Shortly after Lepa arrives, Horst leaves. Lepa says it’s because he’s afraid of her. “He wants you,” says Zoran. “Didn’t you hear him?” “If he wanted me, he wouldn’t have left.” “I tell you, he wanted you.” “And you, Zoki, how’s your sex life?” “I have to have sex at least twice a week. With women and with men. On the bed, on the carpet. And if I can’t find anyone, then alone.”
“I cannot understand how you can be homosexual,” says Lepa. “It is against nature. God meant men and women to be together. If everyone was like that, then there wouldn’t be any children in the world.” Lepa sips her coffee. Zoran takes up a duster of ostrich feathers and flicks at the shelves. “No,” says Zoran. “I wouldn’t fuck you. And I wouldn’t lick you either. You can be sure of that. I can’t lick those old twats. They stink too much.” “In Bosnia they don’t lick,” says Lepa. Lepa starts telling us how great Bosnia is. “The best men and the best women are in Bosnia. In Bosnia, unlike here, there are no Kanaken. No Arabs, no Africans. Just people like us: Serbs, Muslims, and Croats. In Bosnia, there are no girls wearing headscarves.” Lepa says I ought to come to Bosnia. “I’ll find a wife for you. Bosnian women are good women. They can cook for their men. I’ll introduce you to my niece. She’d be a good woman for you.” “He likes Serbia,” says Zoran. “He said Serbia is the best place.” “And in Bosnia,” says Lepa, “they know how to treat a guest. They give them enough to eat and drink. Hey Zoki, why don’t you bring anything to eat for your guests? Bring some sausage.” Zoran goes up front and comes back with some sliced kobasica. “Actually, there is no difference between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs,” says Lepa, “except for their religion. You should see their houses. Chic! You should come to Bosnia. I will introduce you to some nice Bosnian Muslims. These Bosnian Muslims are not like the Turks. I can’t understand the Turks. They are too different. And the women, the way they wear their headscarves down low with their eyes just peeking out – it’s terrible. True, some women wear headscarves in Bosnia, but there, it’s different, and it’s just the elderly ladies, and the way they wear their headscarves is less conspicuous. No, it isn’t just the Turks. It’s the Arabs and the Neger. I would never have a Turk or an Arab or a Neger for a man. They are too different. No, I would stay with a European.”
Without warning, Zoran pulled down the shutters and left without leaving a note. Perhaps he had finally made the move back to Serbia, like he always said he would.
A month passed, and by chance I found myself on Flughafenstrasse in front of Zoran’s shop. It was open for business again. Two Yugo regulars were resting their paunches against the fridge full of Atlas beer and imported mineral water, shots of slivovitz between their fingers. Zoran stood behind the counter in a black polo, also with a thimbleful of the Yugo elixir in his hand. I walked in, and after handshakes and zdravos all around, I asked Zoran to play a new release by a Serbian turbo-folk star. “I can’t play any music now,” he said. “Mother passed away.” I reached across the counter and patted Zoran on his arm. His mother had been eighty years old. Five summers ago, I had visited her. I was supposed to meet up with Zoran in Serbia, but he couldn’t make it, and I ended up sleeping in his bed at his mother’s small house in the Šumadija. She had been a sprightly woman who spent her time tending her garden since returning from Germany. For three months, she had been in an old-folks home in Vrnjačka Banje. She had died of a heart attack on a saint’s day. The priest said her soul would go straight to heaven. “She always said she wanted to have a singer at her funeral,” said Zoran. “But somehow I didn’t think that was proper.” Instead, Zoran had her buried with a cassette player playing Miroslav Ilić – her favorite. The coffin slid into the earth against the music of “Živela Jugoslavija.” “That was how she would have wanted it,” said Zoran.
Contributors Mariel Annarose Nicole Alonzo is an emerging poet from Davao, Philippines. Her poems have appeared in journals – such as Octavius Magazine and The Prague Revue – in six countries. She was awarded an honorable mention by Tarfia Faizullah in the 2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry and was a blogger intern for UNICEF Voices of Youth. Matthew James Babcock teaches literature, composition, and creative writing at Brigham Young University–Idaho in Rexburg. His debut poetry collection, Points of Reference, will be published by Folded Word in 2016, and his debut fiction collection, Future Perfect, will be published by Queen’s Ferry Press, also in 2016. His poetry has been anthologized in Fire in the Pasture (Peculiar Pages) and NERVE: Writers in the Attic (The Cabin). He received the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award, and his literary criticism can be found in Journal of Ecocriticism and Private Fire: The Ecopoetry and Prose of Robert Francis (University of Delaware Press). Wendy Call is an author, editor, translator, and educator in Seattle, Washington. Her 2011 book No Word for Welcome, about Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec, won the Grub Street National Book Prize in Nonfiction. Her translations of Irma Pineda’s poems have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Michigan Quarterly Review, Orion, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in translation and serves on the faculty of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Luis Chaves (1969) is a Costa Rican poet, chronicler, and fiction writer. His work has been published in Costa Rica, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and Germany. In 2011, the Akademie Schloss Solitude awarded him the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Fellowship. In 2012, the Ministry of Culture awarded him the National Poetry Prize of Costa Rica. He is a current artist-in-residence of the DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm. Drømsjel, also known as Pierre Schmidt, was born in 1987 in a small city near Cologne. He held an apprenticeship at an advertising agency from 2009 to 2011, when he moved to Berlin, where he has lived and worked ever since. www.dromsjel.de Alice O. Duggan, a retired teacher, grows flowers at home and at her local public library. She reads biographies, history, humor, novels, and poems, and plays with her granddaughter. She won a spot in the Loft’s Mentorship Program for writers, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poems have been published in Sleet Magazine, Water~Stone Review, and Whistling Shade (all in Minnesota), as well as in other journals and in A Brittle Thing, a chapbook from Green Fuse Press (2012). She is currently writing a collection of poems with nonfiction inclusions about a dairy farm in the golden age of American agriculture. Jeff Ewing is a writer from Sacramento, California. His fiction, poems, and essays have appeared in Sugar House Review, ZYZZYVA, Utne Reader, Crazyhorse, Beloit Poetry Journal, and
Southwest Review. He spent a year and a half as a student in Bergen, Norway, a time that undoubtedly colors “Sognsvann.” He lives in Sacramento with his wife and daughter. You can find him online at jeffewing.net. Ryan Eyers is a writer and translator from New Zealand living and studying in Berlin. Some of his other work can be found at ryaneyers.wordpress.com. Ari Feld is from the North American Midwest. He currently lives in Santa Cruz, California. Tristan Foster is a writer from Sydney, Australia. His writing has most recently been published in Words Without Borders, Gorse, Music & Literature, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and Black Sun Lit. He is a reviews/nonfiction editor at 3:AM Magazine. Marie-Pascale Hardy was born in Quebec, Canada. She spent eight years of her early adult life in London, before retiring to Berlin. She writes, paints, and sings in English, French, and asemic. Her words have been published in Poetry London, The Delinquent, and Kumquat. She is the voice of the duo Paco Sala. Dave Harrity’s work has appeared in Memorious, Revolver, Killing the Buddha, The Los Angeles Review, Confrontation, Softblow, and elsewhere. His forthcoming book of poems is titled Our Father in the Year of the Wolf (WordFarm Press). Jessie Janeshek’s first book of poems is Invisible Mink (Iris Press, 2010). An assistant professor of English and the director of writing at Bethany College in West Virginia, she holds a PhD from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and an MFA 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. Barbara Leahy is from Cork, Ireland. She started writing in 2010, and since then her stories have appeared in various anthologies and journals, been broadcast on national radio, and won several prizes. She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in both the short story and flash fiction categories. Her stories appear in current editions of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, and The Irish Literary Review. Carol Levin has published two full volumes of poetry: Confident Music Would Fly Us to Paradise (MoonPath Press, 2014) and Stunned By the Velocity (Pecan Grove Press, 2012). Also chapbooks: Red Rooms and Others (Pecan Grove Press, 2009) and Sea Lions Sing Scat (Finishing Line Press, 2007). Her work has been widely published in journals and anthologies, print and online, in Russia, New Zealand, and the United States. She’s an editorial assistant at Crab Creek Review and teaches The Breathing Lab/Alexander Technique in Seattle, Washington (the-breathing-lab.com). Adam McGee is a Pushcart nominee whose poems have recently appeared in Cimarron Review, Assaracus, RHINO, The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Bayou Magazine, and The Delmarva Review, among other places. He lives in Boston with his partner and works as an editor. He holds a doctorate in African-American studies. adammichaelmcgee.com
Anna Mebel lives in Syracuse, New York, and is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Syracuse University. Her writing has appeared in Tinhouse.com, 90s Meg Ryan, and Bodega Magazine. Marion Michell is a London-based visual artist and writer who has exhibited internationally. She was born and raised in Germany, and moves between languages and media to cast sideways glances at history. Her work is intimate and intense; it draws its lifeblood from lingering on thresholds. She is not afraid of falling. John K. Peck is a writer, musician, and printer living in Berlin. His work has appeared in Salon, McSweeney’s, Jubilat, Nerve, Last Exit, and VOLT, and was included in The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Stories From the City: A Slow Travel Berlin Anthology. With his wife, he is co-owner of Volta Press, a letterpress and book-arts studio founded in California in 2007 that remains active in Berlin. johnkpeck.com Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, SAND, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013). For more information, including free e-books and his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities,” please visit his website at simonperchik.com. Irma Pineda is an author, editor, translator, and educator in Juchitán, Oaxaca, Mexico. Her sixth book of bilingual Spanish-Isthmus Zapotec poetry, Guie’ ni zinebe – La Flor de Se Llevó (Stolen Flower), was published in 2013. She is the only woman to have been president of Mexico’s national Escritores en Lenguas Indígenas (ELIAC). She is a 2013–2015 member of Mexico’s Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte and serves on the faculty of the National Teachers University in Ixtepec, Oaxaca. Stephen Poleskie is a writer and an artist. His writing has appeared in the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, the United States, and the United Kingdom. He has published five novels and two story collections, and writes a regular column for Ragazine.cc. His artworks are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate Gallery in London, among others. He currently lives in Ithaca, New York. stephenpoleskie.com Robert Rigney is an American writer and journalist from Berlin. After attending college in the United States, he worked for a while in Prague, before moving back to Berlin to write about the art scene for ARTnews. He has travelled widely in the Balkans, lived for a year in Istanbul, speaks a bit of Serbo-Croatian and Turkish, and writes about immigrant milieus and “parallel societies” in Berlin. He is currently putting together a work of fiction to be called Land of Champions about Bosnian war refugees in Salt Lake City in the early ’90s. LB Sedlacek’s poems have appeared in publications such as Main Street Rag, The Broad River Review, Mastodon Dentist, RiverLit, The Copperfield Review, Third Wednesday, The Speculative Edge, Down in the Cellar, and Sea Stories. She is the author of ten chapbooks, publishes a free newsletters resource for poets, and is a former poetry editor for ESC! Magazine.
April Sopkin lives and writes in Richmond, Virginia. She is an editor for and has been published in the literary journal Makeout Creek. Her short fiction can also be found in Portland Review and Paper Nautilus, among other places. More info at aprilsopkin.com. Ambika Thompson lived her past life in an alternative universe that had everything sorted out. In this life she lives in Berlin, where she is a parent, writer, and musician, and has nothing sorted out. She has contributed short stories to NPR Berlin, Fanzine, The Missing Slate, and a smattering of other places around the globe. She is also one half of the cello riot grrl band Razor Cunts, and is the short story editor of Leopardskin & Limes. ambikathompson.com Emily Toder is the author of the poetry collections Beachy Head and Science (Coconut Books) and the chapbooks No Land (Brave Men Press), Brushes With (Tarpaulin Sky Press), and I Hear a Boat (Duets Books). She has translated various prose and poetry collections, among them The Life and Memoirs of Dr. Pi (Clockroot Books), Wendolin Kramer (Barcelona eBooks), and The Errant Astrologers (Ugly Duckling Presse). She lives in New York. Kevin Tran was born and raised in the western suburbs of Sydney, Australia. Kevin’s art is a vessel for his thoughts, stories, and lived experiences, often touching on themes of metamorphosis and spirituality. Memories of significant people, places, and events are deconstructed and reinterpreted into creatures and characters bursting with energy, colour, and life. The artist’s unique style is a hybrid of loose, expressive mark-making, bold graphic shapes, and intricate patterned details. www.kevintran.co Vidam was born in 1983 in Budapest and raised in a small village in Germany. His youth was shaped by comics and the art of flyer design, leading him to move to Berlin to study graphic design. Whilst studying, he realized that his real passion lay not in design, but in illustration and painting. To pay homage to his temperament and roots, he decided to go under the alias of “Vidam,” which means “happy” in Hungarian. Due to his background as a graphic designer, Vidam is always curious to explore new techniques, material, and subjects for his artworks. www.vidam.net Stephanie Warner graduated at the top of her department with an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. Her poetry has recently appeared in Event, Descant, Arc, This Magazine, The Malahat Review, and Prairie Fire, as well as been long-listed for the 2015 Montreal International Poetry Prize. Her first collection of poetry is forthcoming with Fitzhenry & Whiteside in the spring of 2017. She currently resides in Barcelona with an Englishman and a tabby cat. Anthony Zilli is an American whose life seems to be directed by a new Luftbrücke to Berlin by way of Detroit, and whose interest in the city as a place of literature has brought him to Nabokov, to Kleist, and now, to SAND. Michael Zunenshine was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. He currently lives and writes in Berlin.