SAND Journal Willibald-Alexis-Str. 16 10965 Berlin Germany firstname.lastname@example.org www.sandjournal.com Connect with us for news and events: Facebook: SAND Journal Twitter: @sandjournal Instagram: @sandjournalberlin ISSN 2191-429X Copyright © SAND Journal, May 2019 All authors, translators, and artists retain their copyrights to the respective works.
SAND e.V. is a registered nonprofit association (gemeinnütziger Verein) under German law. Designed by Bárbara Fonseca Printed in Latvia by Jelgavas Tipografija on Cyclus 90g paper Fonts: Spectral by Production Type, Sporting Grotesque by Lucas Le Bihan Cover image: “Hair Vigilante” by Vicky Charles Quotes from song lyrics contained in “Editor’s Note,” “Citizen!,” and “Lashes” fall under fair use according to German copyright law. Attributions for the relevant quotations are as follows: “Somewhere” written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim for West Side Story (1957). “Wave of Mutilation” first performed by The Pixies (1989), written by Black Francis. “Little Animals” first performed by The Ravonettes (2003), written by Sune Rose Wagner. “Night Drive” first performed by Jimmy Eat World (2004), written by Jim Adkins. “Mr Brightside” first performed by The Killers (2003), written by Brandon Flowers. “Soft” first performed by Kings of Leon (2004), written by Caleb Followill. “All Cats Are Grey” first performed by The Cure (1981), written by Laurence Tolhurst, Simon Gallup, and Robert Smith. “Disorder” first performed by Joy Division (1979), written by Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Ian Curtis, and Stephen Morris.
Out of Place JAKE SCHNEIDER
“All my distances point to home” — King Llanza
From “Somewhere,” West Side Story
In this apprehensive time, the conversation keeps returning to who belongs where. In December, a multilingual poster appeared in my local Berlin U-Bahn station, courtesy of our newly renamed “Homeland” Ministry, with the tagline: “Your Country! Your Future! Now!” The former Interior Ministry was advertising a program that pays people to leave their homes in Germany and return to other “homelands.” So much for Willkommenskultur. After seven years here, I thought I already was in my country, living my future – right now. In February, Fatma Aydemir and Hengameh Yaghoobifarah released a brilliant volume of essays by a dozen prominent members of German society – who are also members of religious, ethnic, and/or sexual minorities often omitted from the national narrative.
Edito r’ s No te
The book’s German title means “Your Homeland Is Our Nightmare,” and it is dedicated, with deliberate ambiguity, to “us.” Out of their shared sense of doom, both the Homeland Ministry and its naysayers drew lines between us and you, changing the subject from diversity to place. The widespread impulse to sort like with like goes both ways. It’s not the sole province of nativists barricading their birthplaces against newcomers, who they fear could displace or “replace” them. For their own part, outliers often wall themselves in: a turtle-like defense mechanism. When I’m traveling, I find it comforting to walk into a synagogue or gay bar and to know the tunes by heart. The comforts of coming home to eccentric Berlin are less specific but no less palpable. So many of “us” supposed anomalies grew up imagining a more welcoming enclave, a zone of elseness populated by sore thumbs just like ourselves: maybe a queer mecca, an artists’ colony, or an ancestral land where our faces and names would blend into the citizenry. Then again, enclave dreams recreate the same segregation that gave us our original loneliness-in-a-crowd. They simply leave out someone else. This issue is loaded with incongruities we would be tempted to label “out of place.” Sore thumbs and misfits, hermits and dreamers, immigrants and local-born loners. Yet to say that they exist at the margins is, once again, to restrict their worlds to one page. Perhaps “out of place” doesn’t mean “in the wrong place,” after all. Perhaps it’s an invitation to leave “place” altogether, to set aside the quilt of geography and find another pattern, another set of connecting threads. Here are a few isolated examples from the issue: A ham-radio hobbyist explores their identity in Germany; some of the neighbors are tuned, tragically, to another frequency. →
A Bangladeshi-American essayist ponders the intersections of sex, culture, and religion.
A poetically censored report from Mexico gives us clues about a disastrous wrong-place/wrong-time scenario.
A young American man shuts himself in his bedroom for years, culturally appropriating a Japanese epidemic of self-seclusion. →
In a poem inspired by an article from The Journal of Molecular Biology, the surname “Okazaki” becomes a recurring genetic fragment whose function we cannot immediately place.
In another unknown dimension, we struggle to classify an “electric nosferatu.”
In a pharaonic, otherworldly realm, we’re the outsiders. → 47,
121 61, 120
A Brexit-era Briton explores a free-trade zone peppered with borderless brand names.
And on the cover, Vicky Charles wraps her hair around her face, locking eyes with us through her self-imposed cage. • •
What unites SAND #19 is a sense of dissonance and disconnection, whether in Greenland, Nigeria, or Iran. The place is beside the point. As usual, we haven’t announced a theme in advance – the anomalies just fell into place – so some of the works we selected might relate to this theme more than others. By that logic, the exceptions are “out of singularities. “Even on this roof, the grass trembles / in the wind” (→27). The grass has found higher ground. It isn’t going anywhere, and neither are we.
Ja k e S ch n eid er
place” themselves. Let us appreciate all of it, the universals and the
Carlo Andre CRTL+
Florian Wacker trans. Rachel McNicholl MOUSE
Luke Muyskens ENDLESS SOAK
trans. Rebecca Ruth Gould
MOURNING THE BIRTH OF IMAGE
Rosaire Appel MATHEMATICAL WEATHER
trans. Rebecca Ruth Gould Kayvan Tahmasebian
THE IDEA OF PERMANENCE
Rosaire Appel WEATHER
Trace Howard DePass NEW AMERICAN CONSTITUTION (TERMS & CONDITIONS)
SOMETIMES THEY FALL FROM
Lisa López Smith
Marc Cohen THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE EARTH
FROM THE AYOTZINAPA INVESTIGATION REPORT
& Kayvan Tahmasebian
Rowen Foster DON’T KNOW WHAT TO
DO WITH VIOLENCE SO
I PICK AT MY LIP
Art Section VICKY CHARLES
Hussain Ahmed MAGHRIB
SARA ANSTIS AVANTIKA KHANNA HENRY CURCHOD
Marie Lundquist trans. Kristina Andersson Bicher
from OKAZAKI FRAGMENTS
4TH OF NOVEMBER
MY SECOND ENCOUNTER WITH ABANDONMENT
ALLUP IN MY DREAMS, #1
(FEATURING OCTAVIA BUTLER)
TOOLING AROUND THE KEYS
trans. Saskia Vogel WHAT ONCE WAS
POEMS ARE LOCATIONS
Po e t ry
CTRL+ +DEL Untethered state I music you myself . . . morphed : : the mundane meta blender : : the sky grappler the Rebelmaster spheres in : ripper of lights thrown out : equinoxes neon-grab the [+]me te quiero, amorpill regatta pulsing my deepest end f*ck it body : leave it evident a void : the real prone to Xfade being : O O O long awaited instant & drop & drop & drop: where Iâ€™m here not & the destinationâ€™s me mover : : alleye Marshall domino piece here we tumble off personal
9 shatter cord aboil at the fry surround like dazzlelust hear me speck the inverted eye of me to zoom center pit & spit [ignominy] hand to mouth as it rushes in
Fic t io n
Endless Soak LUKE MUYSKENS
twenty-five women. one man. five thousand bottles of champagne. There are no cameras. The girls face a dense, velveteen block of red. It doesn’t matter. Aliyah, Alex, Amberlee, Anne, Becky, Beverlee, Cari, Celine, Elisa, Jayne, Jessie, Kelly R., Kelly T., LaTonya, Liz, Martzia, Molly L., Molly R., Nicole, Penelope, Renee, Samantha, Sarah, Sara, Veronica, and Zara matter, their eyeshadow is of consequence, their dresses have weight. the next seven weeks will be spent here, in our wine country estate, where these twenty-five girls will vie for the eyes and seed of one purebred hunk. and who better to mediate than yours truly? Ty’s voice is strong and luxurious, like an oak door. His suit is Italian or French and his imposition on the world is welcome. Who better, truly? i am ready to separate cat fights and, if necessary, punish our contestants with a playful spanking or two. he delivers a charming wink. all kidding aside, we’re here to find love. aren’t we, ladies? The ones who aren’t caught preening give dutiful nods. Ty is momentarily overwhelmed by the collective glamour of these women. As a unit, they embody the verve, glitz, and polish to which all girls aspire. His eye is trained, however, to recognize defects. Small scars and blackheads fighting through foundation make the presentation of their bodies pornographic. this season’s hunk is special. some variety of doctor/marketing manager/entrepreneur whose enamel we have inspected and whose parents’ pedigree we guarantee. girls, you have so much
11 to lose this time. you cannot afford to let your posture go slack. The lights are hot, they blind, the candles burn, the torches burn. ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the bachelor. Fans everywhere admire Ty’s grace and poise. While the twenty-five women sweat and grind their teeth, Ty moves with the fluidity of something more natural and confident, a jet stream. The universal envy for his ease gathers in the atmosphere, condenses into rain, and pours on every nation. • •
Night. Morning. Ty folds his shirt and places it in a wicker basket. He steps out of his sweatpants and puts them on top. Covering himself with a small towel, he walks from his bedroom into the bathroom. Onsen cannot be fully accomplished outside a bathhouse, but Ty replicates the Japanese ritual to the extent he can, performing kakeyu in the shower by pouring hot water over his body with a measuring cup, something like a short prayer. He then climbs into the steaming bath. Water quiets his body, dissipating the static and stress in his joints. Uniformity, he sinks. Underwater, sense is limited to thumping noises and broad pressure on his skin. Ty dries himself with a warm towel, dresses, and returns to his room, which remains unchanged. Afternoon. Evening. Night. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. Night. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. Night. Morning. Afternoon. • •
ty? His mother, Edna. how are you doing today? A response is not expected. She is magnificent, an institution of culture and care who deserves a progeny, not a polyp. your groceries are in the bathroom. Pause. i got you some mochi from whole foods. green tea flavor. i read about it online. enjoy,
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ty. please. The door choking her voice is impermeable, less of a portal than a continuation of the wall. It has not been opened in three years. Ty hasn’t crossed its threshold in four. Edna delivers his groceries through the bathroom, which has openings into both his room and the hall. i’m going to work now. i’ll be at the university if you need anything. A professor, an intellectual at the helm of her field with him, a useless skin tag on her legacy. Do her coworkers know? Ty assumes shame, omission. i tried the mochi. it’s good. please have some, ty. The window seems a more possible escape than the door. It’s occasionally opened to the air twelve stories over the park’s brain-crushing streets when Ty finds his energy focused and forward. goodbye. He cracks open the world and tries to find something, anything, within himself. • •
In the bathroom, Ty opens the bag his mother left and pulls out chicken stock, soy sauce, Top Ramen, sliced pork, baby spinach, eggs, dried nori, and shallots. In the medicine cabinet he finds garlic powder, ginger powder, chili powder, and five spice. The bathtub holds an electric cooking pot, in which he combines the stock, soy sauce, and seasoning. He adds pork, egg, and vegetables. Once everything has cooked, Ty tastes. No. It’s not the same, it must be the same. Sugar. He adds sugar and relaxes. The same, every day, the same, one meal at four, always. He will not eat the mochi. • •
below them is a pool of mud. they must cross the monkey bars while our audience pelts them with eggs. Ty commands a group of goonish Midwesterners who’ve won sweepstakes. They wait with fistfuls of eggs and yellow smiles, unexamined
13 bodies peppered with age spots and acne. The show’s participants, in contrast, are hyperaware of their myriad shortcomings. For this challenge, the girls are dressed in glittering bikinis that show off their augmented figures. The group has been whittled down to Aliyah, Alex, Beverlee, Cari, Celine, Kelly R., Kelly T., Martzia, Molly L., Nicole, Samantha, Veronica, and Zara. They shiver, nipples protruding from layers of foam and Lycra, pointing across the mud to where the bachelor lounges with a daiquiri. after this challenge, the girls will accompany our bachelor on a group date. here’s the catch – they won’t have an opportunity to clean themselves before. the girls who fall into mud will visit d’alonso’s, a five-star italian eatery, looking like pigs in slop. Ty stands in between, pleasantly realized. Only within this fantasy can he find something resembling stasis. • •
A blink is the first withdrawal, an almost immeasurably minute cloak under which you’re free from the persecution of sense and socialization. Some consider the eyes windows to the inner life, but since an early age, Ty has found them to be portals, passageways, and the eyelids their doors. The same way he toddled around the house closing every cupboard and shutter, he sat through dinner, church, school, and television commercials with his eyes shut. These small moments alone were an introduction to more total isolation. Time-consuming shits, walks along the lakeshore, evenings in his bedroom. Once, when Ty was an early teen, he didn’t leave his room for a twenty-four hour period. He found it could be done. Withdrawal offered its full then more, then he was swallowed, then now. • •
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mouth, and years later, one day became two, then five, then a month,
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Ty's avatar leaps from behind a bunker and sprints toward the ops. Headshot, headshot, headshot, headshot, to the neck, to the chest, headshot, kill streak. hikiki69 is on fire! get ʼem, bro! Endorphins bubble through Ty’s spine. to the fuckin’ dome. His headset microphone is deactivated. It’s not that Ty can’t speak – he fills the day with little vocal aphorisms, narrations – it’s that his voice has become not a tool but a compulsion serving only himself, and its volume has diminished to where he can barely be heard. After a close call in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, he’ll sometimes make an audible sound of relief. That’s all. to the north! dude to the north! get his ass, hikiki! Change guns, sniper. Fire, reload, fire, reload, fire, reload, fire, reload. Got him. Ty is playing alongside Florida high schoolers against a team from Japan, a country that makes more sense to him. He regularly consumes anime, manga, and hentai. In high school, Ty excelled at judo, and he sometimes wears his white judogi in the morning. And, of course, Japan is home to a million compatriots – the hikikomori, confined to their rooms like Ty. The knowledge of others, a neural network of brains with similar insufficiencies elsewhere in the world, has kept Ty alive. Their message boards and newsletters are a method of deferring blame. One does not point fingers at the dead during an epidemic. kill
him! Japanese players come on the mic and chatter. 地獄へようこそ!
私はあなたのお尻を殺すつも りです! They swarm, neutralizing half the American team in moments. Ty hides in a bombed-out building. They spot him. 誰かがその dōtei を殺す! Ty only knows a handful of words picked up through osmosis, one of which is dōtei – a male
virgin. 彼を殺せ! 彼を殺せ! Their tone is playful and competitive, but Ty feels a pang. Sex and romance seem, to him, like unifying elements of life that are unfamiliar to him. Unlike the mundane experiences he’s missing, he imagines sex holds answers. Why else would everyone talk about it so much? Though he’s not technically a virgin – there was a short-lived fling his sophomore year of high school with a commanding senior – Ty is involuntarily celibate
and feels the word “virgin” encapsulates him. These Japanese kids have lifted a rock to watch him squirm like a pill bug. He is gunned down and chooses not to respawn. hikiki69! what’s wrong with your dumb ass? For a moment, Ty forgets where he is. The room is incidental. A crushing. • •
Ty’s fortitude of will allows his situation. Someone weaker might not withstand the monotony of meals, the frigidity of a captive body, and the spooling and unspooling of time that occurs in limitation. Hikiki are not agoraphobes. They are motivated by futility and annihilation. A regimen is critical, and as part of this, Ty only allows himself to masturbate once a week. The internet being a bottomless pit filled primarily with porn, disappearing in it would be easier than putting on a hat. With a towel and a bottle of lotion nearby, Ty steadies himself. First, he opens his email. from: edna.williams@uchicago. edu. subject: a proposition. She rarely contacts him like this. Changing mental gears, Ty clicks. dear ty, you’ve made the bathroom into such a lovely spa. i hear you soaking for hours. sometimes i worry, but mostly i’m happy you have something to do. so i’m making you an offer – i will buy you an indoor hot tub. find one you like on amazon. Ty is filled with effervescence. A real spa could bring the peace he craves. True onsen. in return, i want you to see a specialist. she practices emdr – eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. it works wonders. feel free to research
L uk e M uy sk ens
on your own. love, mom.
E n dles s S o a k
He’s in a chair, lit from the side in blue, electrodes taped to his chest and forehead. Behind him is darkness filled with the static electricity of bodies. Opposite him are Aliyah, Cari, Kelly T., Molly L., Samantha, and Zara, electrodes fixed to breasts almost popping from tube tops. The lights turn pink and rise to reveal a room of squinting eyes, and in front of them, Ty, wearing an immaculate suit hewn by Tom Ford himself. He smiles. ladies and gentlemen. welcome to the hour of judgement. the hour of truth. There are murmurs. Speculation. Who will expose and embarrass themselves? What skeletons will they find? As always, Ty is not the focal point. They’re here for these girls, their desperation, the bachelor’s oblivious, gleaming abdomen. The host is simply a reference point of normalcy to compare against these maniacs. our bachelor will now interview the contestants about their families, romantic history, criminal records, fetishes, murderous impulses, physical abnormalities, and pets. if he can stomach what he unearths, they stay. Ty turns to the audience. Men, women, and those in-between only here for carnage. Why does Ty place himself in these shoes, this suit? Grace? Power? No. He’s delivering the gift of entertainment. before we begin, i have a special treat for those in our studio audience. each of you will be going home today with a brand-new sundance kingston luxury hot tub! The room explodes with enthusiasm, hands clattering, teeth beaming. Ty brings them down with a gentle smile. The role of a host is service – something Ty was born for. • •
you aren’t required to speak while the machine is activated. just look for your target and allow your mind to move freely. i’ll stop the machine after a few min-
17 utes and check in. how does that sound? Ty nods and squirms on the edge of the tub. They’re in his bathroom, an antechamber less precious than his bedroom, and still the intrusion pries apart his comfort. The specialist flips a switch and the nodule in Ty’s left hand clicks, like those small rubber domes you flip inside out. The right one clicks, then back to the left. Deep inside his brain is an empty suitcase. He’s trying to fill it with a target defined by the specialist – his early bouts of isolation, more than four years ago. Ty sees himself meandering through each day without spine or regimen, shuffling, drawing, crying, bored, dying, and regenerating. The clicking stops. ty? what did you find? Before speaking, Ty tries to plan the volume of his voice. Still it comes out far too quiet. not much. just regular stuff. no trauma? nothing like that. things are better now. how do those early days affect your life now? not having anything to do taught me how to do nothing, I think. The therapist sucks her teeth. She reactivates the machine. Ty returns to his internal search. She wants to find some awful happening that shocked him into isolation. She won’t like the truth – that no such event exists. maybe you’ve blocked it out? no, I don’t think so. He digs in earnest. He wants to change, maybe. were you beaten? molested? attacked? There is nothing to put inside that suitcase, it remains empty. If there were something to put inside he would – he wants that weight, that accompaniment, but there is nothing to block or protect himself from, nothing but air. • •
Before the workers come, Ty constructs a temporary wall of blankets access to both sides of the wall between his bedroom and bathroom, Edna had explained via email. He used a whole roll of tape to fix the blankets to plaster, yet the prospect of his wall coming down fills
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to cordon off a corner of his bedroom. For installation, they’ll need
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Ty with palpitations. Recovering from the specialist’s intrusion had taken hours of onsen and she was only in the bathroom. When the men come, the sound of their exertions penetrates the barrier. Water rippling, pouring, screws and hammers, a drill. Ty worries they’re fucking up his bathroom. Where, then, will he practice onsen? Where will he prepare meals? From their voices, he counts only two men. Ty leans against the wall to hear. gimme the crescent wrench. you got a tile knife? Ty is drawn to the bass and resonance of their voices. He leans a little too far and the blankets pull down. no. Ty feels penetrated, a foreign object inside his body. The men look. They look at him, two men looking at him, looking. Before panic can collect into anything of substance, one speaks. i thought you was shia labeouf for a second there, bro. • •
He will not do it for his mother, though her kindness and patience are appreciated. He will not do it for his own happiness, because his mind and body are begging him not to. Ty will leave his apartment for one reason – he is beginning to want, for the first time in years, an audience to his life, a witness. Not the scrutiny or interrogation of the specialist. Something more like the hot tub delivery men. They didn’t want to dig, they wanted only to see him. Ty is still roiling with pleasure from the case of mistaken identity. He has no illusion of potential – he’s already purchased tickets for Avengers: Infinity War at Harper Theater and will not be required to interact with anyone but a machine. Fifteen minutes to walk there, twenty minutes of previews, two hours and forty minutes of actual film, and fifteen minutes to walk back. A quick three and a half hours of being seen, no more. Ty puts on jeans that are surely out of style, a Neon Genesis Evangelion shirt, and chunky Airwalk shoes. Feeling the need for more walls, more barriers, he dons an unseasonably warm coat.
19 Good enough. The door is still too much so Ty leaves through the bathroom. The sparkling, boiling, untouched hot tub will be his reward upon returning. He steps through the door, a movement which for him has incredible weight, a gigaton. After four years in the hole, that step is more than pulling teeth – it’s pulling bones. The walk to Harper Theater is not so bad. He puts on headphones and blasts through. excuse me sir, can i bother you for— got good weed, good weed— morning, son— who this nerd think he is?— watch your step. A storm of sensation and proclamation scraping against his brain, taking away its protective coating, and then it’s over, and then he’s there, slumped into a scratchy plush seat before an expanse of white, waiting. The movie begins. Ty is here, doing this. The screen is unbelievably large – were they always this large? – encompassing more than his entire bedroom. Stars and heroes populate its immense space as the action begins: this is the asgardian refugee vessel. we are under assault. Ty wants to watch the movie but his mind is buzzing with thrill; he has envisioned this moment for years. A monumental accomplishment. A villain speaks to him from the screen: you may think this is suffering. no. it is salvation. universal scales tipped toward balance because of your sacrifice. smile, for even— The sound cuts out. Heroes and villains fight in silence. What is happening? The theater lights go up. Ty sinks into his seat. Exposed. Other moviegoers look at each other in confusion. Still fixed on the screen, Ty feels someone in the next row turn and look at him. The lights are not meant to be on now. He is not meant to be seen. ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing technical difficulties. Technical difficulties? This can't be happening. Not in this moment. we apologize for the inoffice. No. It was not supposed to be this way. Order the ticket, walk to the theater, see the movie, walk home. There was a plan. Ty’s mouth has gone dry. His muscles are rigid. Box office? Refund? The
L uk e M uy sk ens
convenience. your tickets will be refunded at the box
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others are getting up and trickling to the exit but Ty cannot move. Maybe, if he waits long enough, the movie will restart or another will begin. Waiting is something he can imagine. Something he can manage. He remains in his seat for a long time, long enough to lose track, until it’s clear there will be no more movies. Nothing will ever happen. And still he waits. • •
tonight, only two remain. kelly t. and zara compete for the devotion of our handsome bachelor. they have come so far this season – through arguments, fights, and two attempted poisonings – all for a shot at true love. by the end of this six-hour special, one will receive a rose, and – fingers crossed – live happily ever after. The monologue plays in Ty’s head as he soaks. Powerful jets massage his shoulders and back, working away the lactic acid buildup from the stress of his excursion. The temperature is a tropical 102 degrees and he will never leave. Kelly T. looks stunning in a Rosie Assoulin gown, yellow and lace framing her exquisite Pilates body. Zara looks a little ridiculous in an Alexander McQueen ruffled mesh gown, spilling out of her doll-like dress. Kelly trembles in adorable, anxious anticipation while Zara is more poised than a captain, eyes like Adamantium. Ty has no horse in the game – he’s a professional. Whoever wins, there will be another season, a fresh batch of girls will arrive, the contestant will be replaced, and the mansion will be remodeled. The only constant in this game is Ty, the dependable host. For twenty-five seasons he has ushered these fascinating specimens, and he’ll continue to do so until the world burns or the public loses interest. He sinks under, letting the uniformity of water encapsulate his skin. Ty cannot think of a single bad thing that has ever happened underwater. He opens his eyes. The room is a blue
21 blur, all sound is his breath, there is no smell. He is enclosed and can think of only one reason to surface. The oxygen in his lungs is expiring. as always, iâ€™m ty williams, your dashing host. welcome to the bachelor. He fights, but it must be done. Ty
L uk e M uy sk ens
breaks the surface and breathes.
Po e t ry
BIJAN ELAHI TRANSLATED FROM THE PERSIAN BY REBECCA RUTH GOULD & KAVYAN TAHMASEBIAN
Mourning the Birth of Image 1. Time turned blue. Your fingers brought no more good news. Your fingers used to be a ladder on which plucked doves would climb to the roof. 2. Time turned blue. And in its veins there lived another time that struck his heart at the glass and tore the newborn hour in pieces.
23 3. Suddenly in the fatherâ€™s veins, I was out of breath, a sperm who dreamed of a mother for years.1 The mother was searching for a bird in the veins of a tree. She had forgotten the birdâ€™s empty perch on the branch. 4. Here is that bird in mirrors. Let us break the mirrors! Shall the bird die or shall it be born? An image born is a mirror broken A mirror dead is an image broken. 5. Fable A bird lived in a mirror. The mirror broke. The mirror birthed a bird.
M ounri ng the Birth o f I m a ge
The bird melted the mirror, drank the water, and became a mirror! 6. Here I am, having become the bird in the mirror.
Bi ja n El ah i
1. The same Persian word – mani – here denotes both the first-person pronoun “I” and sperm.
Ro s a ire A p p e l , " M a t hem at i cal Weat h er, " 2 0 1 8
Po et r y
BIJAN ELAHI TRANSLATED FROM THE PERSIAN BY REBECCA RUTH GOULD & KAVYAN TAHMASEBIAN
Wild Grass In memory of green it is green. Never say it is green. The grass greens to say it can green. Never say it greens. Never in the ruins. Never in the garden. Never say it’s trapped, never say it’s free. Even on this roof, the grass trembles in the wind. Wild grass is wild grass. Otherwise, it’s nameless.
Fic t io n
Sometimes They Fall From the Sky JEFFREY GIBBS
Anxiously, she watches the two men in wolf masks confer in front of the Burger King where she first tried to call her blind date, Aram. They scan the street, their animal heads moving in unison, snouts lifted slightly up. It’s like they’re trying to catch the scent of the fading electromagnetic waves. The masks are overly large and the features exaggerated in the manner of anime characters, but they are covered in real fur, coarse and brown, and there’s a white screen over the eye holes. Both men are slim and wear black pants with black jackets over silk dress shirts. One sports a thin black tie, the other leaves his shirt open at the collar to reveal a hairy chest. Her gaze follows them in growing alarm as they walk up the street and pause one more time in front of the ATM where she withdrew cash and texted: “Where R U?” The masked men head toward the Mavi Jeans store from which she’d sent her final frustrated “I’m outta here in 5,” and now she’s almost certain they’re coming for her. From there, they will look across to where she’s sipping coffee out of a to-go cup on the patio of one of the new hipster cafés, the five minutes not quite up. They will see her watching them, smell her fear, and know. She quietly grabs her purse, walks out the door, and ducks down a side street next to the café.
29 Istiklal Avenue is crowded today. Middle Eastern tourists pour in and out of the storefronts, their arms overloaded with bags labeled Gap and Zara and LC Waikiki. The malls were empty for a long time after the bombing. Locals were too afraid to leave their homes. Now the shoppers come in droves from overseas. She found Aram on Tinder late last night. It must have been after 2 a.m. when she finally surrendered to her insomnia and climbed out of bed. She’d been tossing and turning, arguing in her head with one of her male students at the university who had asked why she was staying in Istanbul. He himself had just secured a visa to the UK and he wanted her to know that when he didn’t show up in class it was because he had escaped – not that he had disappeared. “You’re just an expat,” he’d said, “Go already. You’ve no reason to stay except a paycheck.” A paycheck and my entire life, she thought. Her accidental decade-long career, the ten different apartments, the ex-husband and friendships and failed dates and two miscarriages, and the day-to-day moments that had accumulated like a mason’s stones, building houses and blocks and cities of memory. There was a gravity here that kept her rooted. And besides, at the signing of her last contract, her manager had told her she had nothing to worry about as long as she kept her nose clean. They’re not after foreigners. That’s what she told the student in the end. “I don’t do anything that matters. They’re not after foreigners.” The street ends at a gaming store, veering either right into a passage of secondhand bookstores or left beneath a banner advertising “International Shopping Week!” She stands in front of the shop window and feigns interest in the ceramic statues of dragons and aliens and wizards on display there, turning her head slightly until she can see the café she’s just left barely visible at the other end. The men in masks are crossing from the Mavi Jeans store toward where she’d been sitting. It’s then she realizes she’s still clutching her phone. She looks down at the screen in alarm – the red flame of the Tinder icon
S ometi mes T hey F al l F ro m th e S k y
is at the top of her feed. She taps the WhatsApp speech bubble, still no response from Aram. “Fuck,” she says, and hurriedly switches it off. The screen goes black. Will that be enough? I’ve got to get rid of this phone, she thinks. His profile had immediately caught her eye. Unable to fall back to sleep, she’d gone out on her balcony, taking a beer in defiance of the curfews and bans. The windows of the neighboring buildings were all dark, though she knew that didn’t mean no one was watching. The cameras on the cornices of the building moved as she did – she heard them aim at her, humming – but she’d poured the beer into a used McDonald’s cup so it would not be obvious what it was. She flipped through her messages – nothing new – skimmed her Facebook feed, then switched over to Tinder. His picture popped up third – a balding, bearded, athletic young man in a Hawaiian shirt. He was grinning boyishly and holding up a photo of the President, one of those official portraits with the waving red flag in the background, clipped from a poster or maybe from one of the oversized patriotic magazines handed out door to door by the Party women. He had defaced the President’s face, adding black-marker horns and a caveman unibrow. The bearded man’s name was Aram, and he had written, “I still dare. Want to dare with me?” in three languages – Turkish, Kurdish and English. It was like he’d spoken directly to her mood. Impulsively, she swiped right, and a notification popped up to let her know that he’d also liked her. She winds past the used bookstores, emerging at the other end of the passage and heading left. She walks quickly but tries not to look like she’s walking quickly. She thinks the vendors might notice and turn her in. She hangs a right down a large crowded alley. The left side is closed off with a wall of corrugated sheet metal and scrap wood covered in construction signs – they’re converting another old theater into something else – the right side is jammed with cafés and restaurants. The bang and clamor of jackhammers and drills make
31 all the diners shout. Toward the end of the alley, where it’s slightly quieter, she kneels and finds a gap between the metal and wood. She sweeps her eyes over the cafés, but no one seems to be watching. Quickly, she wedges her phone into the gap and stands, brushing the dust off her jeans. She starts to leave but then takes out her house key and scratches a small x in the wood where her phone is hidden. It had cost her over a thousand lira. Maybe they won’t find it after all. Maybe in a few days or a week, the danger will pass and she can come back and get it – if no one else finds it first. Or if it doesn’t rain, she thinks, quickening her steps, Or a street kid doesn’t steal it, or they don’t knock the wall down. She takes a right down another alley, then left at the end, then right again, winding her way downhill to lose herself in Beyoğlu’s endless backstreets. Can they track her without her phone? Everyone says they can, but it sounds paranoid, and she doesn’t want to succumb to the panic she feels poised at the center of her chest like a hand over her heart, waiting to squeeze. She’d sent him back a picture last night at 3 a.m. – the monitoring of the net would be the most lax then, she’d reasoned. She went to the bathroom to take it – there were no windows – and put on her white tank top to reveal her graceful brown neck and a hint of cleavage. She held up a vandalized picture of her own creation – something improvised on the fly – a photo of the President from one of the newspapers. She’d used a pen to draw a blue penis dangling in front of his mouth and scribbled across his forehead, “I still dare.” At the time, the only thing she’d worried about was that it was too explicit and would give the wrong message to the guy. Stupid, she berates herself now. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She imagines the faces of the patriotic boy-trolls, lit by their green LCD, taking screenshots of her makeshift artwork and forwarding spring to life. She’s so lost in this vision that she doesn’t notice the tall young man texting in the middle of the street. She crashes right
J ef fr ey Gi bbs
them to some ominous central command where figures in shadows
S ometi mes T hey F al l F ro m th e S k y
into him, the phone slipping from his long fingers and clattering over the pavement. “Çok pardon,” she mumbles. “I’m so sorry. Is it…?” They both squat down at the same time. Their fingers touch and she jerks her hand back. He grabs his phone and inspects it. “Not a scratch,” he says. “That screen protector was worth the money.” He’s at least ten years younger than her. His voice is deep and resonant. They stay crouched, smiling nervously at each other. He shows her the undamaged screen and winks. Perfect teeth, a long jaw covered in stubble. His wavy black hair is gelled on top of his head like some kind of elegant confection. She likes his smell – something about it makes her blush. He’s wearing a black concert tee of a Turkish band called Duman. Peeking out of the frayed collar she sees a tattoo arching up his slim neck – the head of a horse with a flock of pencil-thin birds flying toward his Adam’s apple. He notices her gaze. “In the old days,” he says, “they’d paint pictures like this on rocks or trees to mark where they left their valuables.” “Oh,” she says, nodding, and starts to stand. He puts a hand on her arm. The heat of it sends tingles over her skin. “But there was never anyone left to go back and find them,” he continues. “It’s all still there, waiting to be taken.” The pupils in his dark eyes seem to expand – perfect black circles reflect her own face. She notices a red light blinking on his phone. She glances down and sees the words “terror alert.” “Again, sorry,” she says. “I wasn’t looking.” He lets go and taps his phone. The red light goes away, and they both stand. “Don’t worry about it.” He gives her a wink and then waves. “Stay safe.” As he walks away, she wonders, “Now why would he say that?” She steps in front of an abandoned ramshackle Greek house – one
33 of the few left intact. It’s a crumbling wooden skeleton of what was once a glamorous mansion, standing four stories tall – a slender building with filigree and gingerbread railing. Its former courtyard is closed off from the street with a brick wall covered in shards of stained glass. Bramble, weeds, and street garbage thrown in from the street fill the garden, and right in the middle stands a persimmon tree. Swells of orange fruit crowd the bare black branches. Imagine, she thinks, it’s still alive in there after all these years. There seems to be something between the street and house, something besides the wall, an invisible barrier like aquarium glass that holds everything in – the older time and history, the somber dignity of the ruined facade, the quiet abandonment of the shadowed rooms and bright autumn fruit. The house calms her, somehow, and so she sits down at a döner shop across the way to decide what to do. “A chicken wrap and a Coke,” she tells the teenage boy who approaches her table. It’s a rickety plastic fold-out that wobbles when she puts her purse on it. The boy shoves a broken piece of wood under one leg to keep it steady and murmurs an apology. The moustached man in white who tends the rotisseries of meat says he’s sorry too, then orders the boy to bring her a complimentary tea. Is this the best idea? Sitting so close to where she ditched her phone? Her first thought is that they will expect her to put as much distance between herself and the evidence as possible, so this might be the smartest place to hide. A Turkish friend had said that the other day at lunch, “Don’t run. Just find a crowd and try to blend in.” The men in the masks are just boys right out of high school, apparently, loyal stooges too stupid to think much about strategy. They’ve played too many video games and long for car chases and shootouts on the street. But what if they’ve gotten her picture from Aram’s phone? The boy sets a tea down in front of her and a small plastic bowl of “Your wrap will be up soon,” he says. Her heart is pounding. As long as you keep your nose clean, she
J ef fr ey Gi bbs
sugar. He also gives her the Coke.
S ometi mes T hey F al l F ro m th e S k y
thinks. Why had she so deliberately put herself at risk by responding to someone as blatantly obvious as Aram? The feeling had been building for years – that feeling they all felt, of being caged in – and she’d wanted to strike a blow, however small and personal. But now they had him, and they will take everyone he’s contacted. Or maybe she’s jumping the gun and they haven’t gotten him yet at all. Maybe they’re going to catch him by tracking her. Or maybe it’s her they want. He was just a ruse, a setup, and she’d sent that damn picture, which they’ll use as an excuse to parade her in front of the news cameras as a perverse foreign terrorist. Or maybe it’s because of something else she’s done. Something careless, something she didn’t know was illegal or something newly banned. Did they overhear her conversation with the student yesterday? Would that matter? She watches the people pass in front of her – groups of young boys smoking cigarettes in one hand and flipping prayer beads with the other, pairs of schoolgirls walking arm in arm, middle-aged women loaded down with groceries, a group of Kurdish musicians hurrying toward the main street. The rich shoppers don’t seem to come down these back streets where a different Istanbul still hangs on. Everything seems so mundane and rundown, the same as it’s been for decades. A movement catches her eye, like a shadow of wings crossing the sun. Her gaze falls on the ruins of the Greek house. The roof is gone on the right side and the third floor is missing the back wall. The two front windows look like the eye sockets of a skull, long emptied – the bleached bones of a murder victim found among the weeds of a deserted field. The silhouette of a grandfather clock stands like a sentinel in the frame of the window on the right, lit from behind by a white sky. On the second floor the windows are black, the panes cracked and coated with dust. The ones on the ground floor are boarded up, blindfolded, and a doorway stands between them without a door. It looks like a gaping mouth. She notices a gate in the brick wall. Had there been one before? It’s rusted and open to the street.
35 She sips her tea and her stomach growls. She turns around to check on the progress of her wrap but the shop is now empty. The meat still sizzles over the fire, the refrigerator with the drinks still hums, but the boy and the man at the rotisserie have both disappeared. There’s a short hallway in the back of the shop, painted all white. A door at the end has a sign that says “Employees Only.” Have they gone in there? When she turns back around there’s something different about the house, something liquid, as if it has all been painted secretly on a curtain and she’s caught a ripple moving through as the wind passes by. The clock on the third floor is gone. On the first floor, from the window on the right, she sees a long leg kick out one of the boards. Fragments of wood splinter onto the ground until there’s room enough for a man to emerge into what was once the front garden. He’s slim, wearing black pants and a black jacket and the wolf mask over his face. From the black doorway comes the one with the collar open at the throat. He casually steps out sideways and pirouettes to face where she sits, as if completing a dance step. He offers a little bow and then the two of them move forward to stand on either side of the persimmon tree. They regard one another from across the narrow street – she and the men in the masks. The people passing between them quickly thin out – they have learned when to disappear – until the space between the ruined house and the döner shop is completely emptied and ready. “I’m sorry,” she whispers. She knows everything she has touched will be implicated. Her landlord, the university, her ex-husband, the student she talked to yesterday who might still escape, even the boy and the man at the döner shop – all in an instant. Their footsteps are steady and rhythmic, the soles crunching first on glass and pieces of pavement and into the store.
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plastic and then moving like a slow, thudding heartbeat across the
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The white screens across the eyeholes of the wolf heads flicker as they close in on her. She sees a dream from many weeks before appear on their surface: it’s winter. She’s in a taxi driving along a ridge that overlooks the Bosphorus. The driver stops at a traffic light and she notices a park on the right with a small lake; a flock of swans waddling away from the water towards the taxi. One by one, they spread their wings and rise into the air. “Look,” the taxi driver says. But as the birds fly over the road something seems to jerk them down. She knows it’s the ponderous weight of their own bodies. She remembers reading about it somewhere. “It’s a sign!” the taxi driver says. “No,” she says. “Sometimes swans do this. I saw it in an article somewhere. Sometimes they fall from the sky and no one knows why.” One of the birds slams into the windshield, shattering the glass.
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And then the screens go white, and it’s just their eyes.
Po e tr y
LISA LÓPEZ SMITH TRANSLATED FROM THE SPANISH BY THE POET
From the Ayotzinapa Investigation Report criminal operate within the borders of the State of Guerrero. In addition, it should be noted that within the preliminary investigation number consider the Social Representation of the Federation, filling the exdasghadl;akj;d;jdl;fd;l;dfklklal;kkdl;dfl;d;lf’’ds’f’ldpl[ disappearance of the social leaders of Iguala de la Independencia, Guerrero and particularly that is based on a over the kidnapping of MARIA DE LOS ANGELES PINEDA VILLA it was announced were members of the PGR / SEIDO / UEIDMS / 871/2014, se encuentra en calidad de indiciada C. MARIA DE LOS ANGELES PINEDA VILLA for the crime of kidna committed against students in the Municipality of Ayotzinapa in the State of Guerrero; being one of the people who also investigated in the is a relationship of events, among the preliminary inquiries under blicinistry, attached to the Unit specialized in Investigation of Crieived the declaration of the witness with identity key “X” who he said he knew ;ljk;akdgMorelos opinion on the subject of Criminology in which it was concluded that derived from the intervention in the Cocula landfill, based on the observation of the place, a - initiate the preliminary investigation AP / PGR / SEIDO / 439/2014 dated June 12, 4 by the lawyer Ignacio Quinainst Whoever Is Responsible for the commission of the crime of Organized Crime, the receipt of the the preliminary investigation number HID / SC / 01/0758aggrieved Nicolás Mend Homicide, toda vez que de la misma se desprende la participación al parecer deng, by virtue of the agreement of October 17, 2014 issue, by which criminal action was tona, Rafael Bandera
Román and Angel Román Ramírez, who were reported as missing on the thirtieth of May 30 of two thousand) events occurredkilometer 170 of thHighway e by otherg Raf without license plates, re Gregorio Dante Cervantes had managed to escape from their captors, and that Bertoldo At he left because they were going to kill him, like they killed dklArturo Hernández Cardona, Rafael Balderas and Ángel Román RamíreLomas del Zapatero kidnappArturo Hernández Cardona, José Luís Abar risking the same fate ...(sic), that" El May", was the head of assassins who was also known as “El Choky or,” also referring to " Gil el gallero "(pages 40 to 43, Volume XXV). With date the nineteenth of May of two thousand fourteen, the document virtud de encontrase relacionada con la diversa HID / Sal de Justicia del Estado de practiced by its similar common consisting of the Delgado the Municipal Palace, in which the City Council and the State Government were to participate, in the office of the Municipal President, that he sign them, , May tollbooth, followed them y, six people with firearms situation Jimmy Casdo run away, managing to escape since they did not follow him, that later they took them to a place of thorn bushes where had been kidnapped, hearing that to not kill these people they had to work for them since they called themselves members of "Guerreros Unidos" and that they were under the orders of the President Municipal of Iguala, José Luís Abarca Velázquez, later was no longer blindfolded, and Felipe Flores Velázquez, who kidd it was the dsicipalPreside who first dgd him a shot at the height of and then told him to hit him to kill them now dkdkkd “because it’s about to rain” , adding finallsdgdsgskljldslkjlsdfjl;sjagl;ajkgljlkdkdldklkdkdkdkdkkdkdkddkdkkdkdkkdkdkdkkdkdkdk
P o e tr y
spoken language my uncle tells me that he can speak & asks me
with his hands
to translate his words into malayalam
i listen carefully: the rain weeps outside & the terrace lies open
with their mouths
of men who speak
& men who speak with
their roughened hands
in the shadows
a billowed body dances with his hands the wall where fingers trace wind air
here is a secret
& currents deflect
he says with his blundering
mouth & rolls his fist across the table flicker like lights before i see
what he has shown me
Fic t io n
Mouse FLORIAN WACKER TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY RACHEL MCNICHOLL I only knew Mouse for a year, maybe a bit longer, and now here I am in the little graveyard on the edge of the city park, having a quick smoke before it kicks off. I’m sweating in this suit. It’s borrowed – I don’t normally go to funerals or weddings. It’s far too hot to be in a graveyard, actually. On the way here I passed the outdoor pool; the kids were shrieking; the air smelled of sun cream and chlorine, and I thought, this just doesn’t seem right. But now I’m thinking it’s not such a bad thing; who says the weather always has to be wet and windy in graveyards – isn’t it much nicer with sun and birds and sweat? I’m standing behind a tree; I don’t want the others to see me smoking, to see that I’m nervous, that I haven’t a clue what I’m going to say, even though I stuffed a piece of paper in my pocket with his name, date of birth, and things like that on it. But it would be a bit silly for me to be telling them that kind of thing, because they all know it anyway. They’re Mouse’s family, after all. I see a few people gathering in front of the church. That must be them. I squash the butt under my heel, smooth down my jacket, and head over. To be honest, I didn’t really know Michael that well. I’m not even sure when we met… a year or so ago maybe. Anyway, I got to know Mouse – I’m not going to call him Michael any more, just Mouse, because that’s what we all called him, because that was his name, no one actually called him Michael, ever – so, I got to know Mouse through the amateur radio club. I hadn’t been there long either, but
41 when Mouse joined I knew I’d stick with it. He was a good radio operator; he always took the amateur radio code, the “ham spirit,” very seriously. He often said that radio operators were pioneers because we’d always had an internet of sorts: we’d been communicating with Moscow and Havana and Beijing long before email took off. I still didn’t know Mouse well, though. At first, we only saw each other at the radio club; later, we also met at the Gute Quelle bar, but mostly it was at the radio club. Mouse was already quite an expert; he used to write articles for the ham radio magazine, Funkamateur; he was good at that. Now here I am, sweltering in the sun. Mouse’s family decided to have him cremated and put into one of those cremation walls. It’s like a whole wall unit with a pigeonhole for each urn. We’re standing in front of it. There’s a candle, though you can barely see the flame. My mouth is all dried up; I try to speak slowly and clearly, but at times I just can’t continue; then I stare at my piece of paper – or rather, I stare through the paper at the gravel – and I ask myself how all this could have happened and why it had to be Mouse, of all people. The first time Mouse invited me to his house was a few weeks after we’d met. I was about to push off on my bike when he planted himself right in front of me and said, “You’re coming to my place on Saturday. I’m cooking. There’ll be a few friends too – and a surprise.” So I nodded. On Saturday, then, I put on a shirt and a decent pair of jeans, and I took the tram because I didn’t want to arrive all in a sweat. On the way, I stopped off at Kaufland to pick up a bottle of wine. I figured that’s what you’re meant to do when you’re invited somewhere for the first time: bring a little gift. Even though I knew Mouse already, I felt pretty nervous as I rang the bell at the front door and waited for him to buzz me up; like it was a date, which was ridiculous of course, but that’s what it felt like. Mouse was very nice; he took the wine and introduced me to his friends. Maybe I should have twigged something at that stage, but I didn’t think of
it until later, in the tram on the way home at midnight. That’s when it dawned on me: it wasn’t inflammation that gave one of Mouse’s friends those red lips. Mouse had made mushroom risotto. He showed me his room, where he kept his radio station, and we talked shop for a bit, but that was the end of the radio talk for the evening. For dessert we had strawberries and cream. Mouse laughed and drank a lot. He was constantly getting up from the table to fetch something or clear something away. At one point he said, “Now for a surprise,” then disappeared for half an hour. I went to the bathroom during this time, and I could hear Mouse’s voice coming from the bedroom. He was talking to someone called Petra; I figured he must be on the phone. Then a woman walked into the living room. I hadn’t heard the bell or the front door. The woman approached me, smiled, and held out her hand. I was shaking Mouse’s hand and Petra’s hand at the same time. “Hi, I’m Petra,” she said. “Nice to meet you at last.” The minister says a few more words and a prayer, but I’ve stopped listening. I screw up my eyes; I feel a headache coming on. There are five of us, including the priest. None of Mouse’s friends are here, the ones I met that evening and a few times since in the Gute Quelle, nor is there anyone from the radio club. I wonder why they aren’t here, but then I decide death is not a simple matter, and everyone deals with it differently. It’s over now anyway. The minister nods and shakes everyone’s hand; then he leaves. I stay behind for a bit, sit on a bench and light a cigarette. Smoking is forbidden in graveyards but right now I couldn’t give a shit. I lean forward, staring at my runners. These Adidas sneakers are the only black shoes I had. Someone sits down beside me. It’s the younger woman who was at the funeral. “Hi,” she says. “I’m Mouse’s sister, Sabine.” We shake hands – her fingers are cold, mine are sweaty. “That was nice, what you said.” “I hardly knew Mouse, you know,” I say. She smiles and looks away. “Sometimes the people who know you best are people you’ve
43 never exchanged more than a few words with,” she says, and I reckon she’s probably right. She asks if I’d like to get a cold drink. The park café is nearby, so we go there, sit under an umbrella, and order lemonade. Sabine seems younger than Mouse, but her face is like her brother’s, a narrow, pensive face, a little on the pale side right now. “It came as a shock to us all,” she says and sips her drink. I say I can well understand that. “Mum just stared at him,” says Sabine. “She didn’t say a word to him, ever again. I asked him if that’s what he really wanted, if he was really sure, and Mouse said: “It’s fucking awful to spend your whole life feeling like you’re stuck in the wrong skin. My whole life is the wrong way round.” Sabine looks over at the grassy expanse of the park; I stir my lemonade with the straw. “I still didn’t get it,” says Sabine. Mouse was my friend, I suppose. Maybe not my very best friend, maybe not the kind you’d go to hell and back with, but he was a friend, I’m sure of that. I didn’t really understand the Mouse and Petra business either, but I didn’t slag him or have much to say about it either way, and I think he liked that, the fact that I treated him the same as everyone else. If we met in the Gute Quelle, he was Mouse the radio guy. We’d flick through the Funkamateur and drink our beer. Sometimes I went to his place as well. Then it was usually Petra who opened the door and gave me a quick hug. She was a bit shyer than Mouse, but I liked her because she was always laughing; she laughed at practically everything I said. We often sat on the balcony, smoking, and Petra explained how you put on mascara and kohl, and she showed me her lingerie and said, “Soon my boobs will fit into that,” and we tried on her bras, stuffing them with oranges. Mouse stopped coming to the radio club. He didn’t really like the people there in the the time they really only wanted to bullshit and drink beer. I still go, but only in memory of Mouse, because the room and the smells and the bullshit always remind me a bit of him, and because I’m kind of
F l or ian Wa ck er
end; I think he thought they weren’t serious enough about radio; half
afraid I’ll forget him otherwise. Everyone was pretty upset, of course, but the grieving didn’t last too long and soon everything was business as usual. For me things have changed, though – not outwardly, because I keep doing what I was doing anyway, but in how I think, how I go about things. I’ve never been religious, not in the slightest, but now I sometimes sit in the kitchen or in the Gute Quelle and mutter under my breath, “Please let it have been quick. Please don’t let Mouse have felt anything.” Sabine says, “I’m glad we got to meet.” I just nod in return. Now she doesn’t look much like Mouse after all; she seems taller all of a sudden, a bit better-looking too. She pays for our drinks and says she has to go, she has a few things to do, the apartment has to be cleared, formalities have to be dealt with. I offer to help if I can, say she can always let me know, and write my phone number on the corner of a serviette. “Sure, thanks,” says Sabine, offering me her hand. Then she leaves. I keep watching her until she disappears among the people at the station entrance, and for a moment it’s as if it’s Mouse who’s disappearing, as if it’s Mouse waiting patiently for the right moment to step onto the escalator. The rest of the day is a write-off, so I decide to go back to where it happened. It was at the back of a big sports shop. Petra was on her own, on her way back from a party, a little bit drunk. But she was so happy after her first party that she didn’t even register the guys who had been following her for some time. One of them kicked her in the back, and Petra fell to the ground. Her wig slid off. The guys kicked her and spat on her; one of them pulled her skirt off and raped her with a beer bottle. Then they all pissed on her and cleared off. Petra died two days later in the intensive care unit, from multiple blows to her head. It was all reported in the papers, including the fact that the guys were arrested quickly and are currently in custody.
45 Someone has left flowers by the wall, and a candle. The stain is still there on the ground; it hasn’t rained since. For a minute I feel sick, then I’m okay again. It’s still very warm, so I take off my jacket and sling it over my shoulder. For a split second I feel as if Mouse is standing right beside me, remarking on the stain on the ground, then laughing or giggling. “Mouse,” I say. “Jesus, Mouse.” I give myself a fright, because I really was talking to Mouse. Better get out of here, I think. There’s very little action on the streets, which seems like a fitting response. I’m going to head straight for bed, with a cool lemonade, and flick through Funkamateur. If I’m not too tired, I’ll read another of Mouse’s old articles; then I’ll feel like he’s kind of talking to me. Right now, as I root for my keys outside the front door, it hits me that it’s not just Mouse I’ll miss, but Petra too, that two people went into that cremation wall at the same time today, even if the
F l or ian Wa ck er
minister only spoke of one.
Po e t ry
Peaches Between them a type of drowning. A distance measured in carpeting Or The furry halo around a peach, or That grey film of moving, seeing from a light place To a dark place. Squinting. That distance. I waited in the ash-glow staring At a lizard chasing itself, or nothing, As screams rattled the windows. My father once convinced me that Money lived in the ceiling. Quarters mostly, nested in plaster, Warm children. I stood on a chair and reached for them.
M a rc C o he n, " T h e I dea of P erman en ce, " 2 0 1 8
A D IC E
clarity behind each strike? One way or another, I reach out. Protecting myself from harm, or
tuck away the sun. Look for watches. Filled with heat, I ask why tongues dance in battle. Is there
sprinkles dust in our melanin. Satisfactory. I get darker. Under the eye of lust and saltwater, I
callaloo. Sneezed before dinner time. Make sure we say “bless you.” The secret of light
soil. Pick-a-pepper dashed with rice and peas, man, we say “Hallelujah.” Momma’s making
A man on the corner tucks a watch into his stocking. Reminds me of labour back home on island
Po e t ry
F ic t io n
Citizen! CHRISTIAN BROOKLAND
You are late, speeding in a residential area, and to mark the last time you will collect your daughter from school, you feel miserable. You can’t seem to take your foot off the pedal, or your mind off work, and you briefly envision the worst possible outcome: twisted metal, flashing lights, sirens. When you finally come skidding to a stop next to her, she fixes you with her canny gaze. Barely seven and already much smarter than you ever were, than you’ll ever be. With a leap into the pre-heated passenger seat, your daughter paraphrases lines she must have picked up whilst scrolling through the news (she’s going through that impressionable phase), such as: Do unmanned libraries have a viable future? Should work be a baby-free zone? Why was this lady forced on to a plane? • •
See how your Maurice Lacroix wristwatch – an impulse buy on the strength of your relocation bonus – comes sliding off your arm? With your other hand you adjust its crown, turning it until VIII becomes IX. Your burgundy passport gets clamped down and punched in that mechanical, irreversible style that only border officials possess, then
Citiz en !
gets slipped back via the mouse hole in the Plexiglas divide (to make physical contact with the officials impossible) before you are waved through and the next person in line steps up. After retrieving your passport and smiling at nobody in particular, you walk through a gap in the row of booths. You manage to resist the urge to turn around one last time. • •
Your gym has a crèche in the shape of a diamond, big enough to accommodate maybe ten children, with a glass front like a shop window where you pause to look in. You look in every time you wander down a corridor connecting the weights room and the open-plan cardio landscape, and you imagine your children sitting on the floor, listening open-mouthed to a flurry of languages. The whole complex is submerged underground, and you try to visualise the challenges the builders must have had. The huge empty pit they had to fill. Your day tends to look like this: twelve Olympic pool lengths before work, then stow away your goggles and swimming cap in locker, then work, then return to cross the Channel on the rowing machine, gripping the oar and staring at the display. Then you spend the evening thinking of your children. • •
Where you came from, a colleague will one day be asked to recall the time when some of you were handpicked – there one day and gone the next – and they might say: …oh, without a doubt the boldest bunch of investors I can remember, which didn’t necessarily do them any favours; sure, they were ambitious, with a certain thirst for taking on anyone and anything, good and bad… a fearless
51 shine in their eyes. Can you even blame them? Do you? They were the kind of people the company knew wouldn’t entertain second thoughts. So, off they went. What they say about you amounts to much of the same: a single, brightly lit window at the top of an ostentatious glass wall cut out of the dark, flowing sky. • •
The day you gave Boris Johnson a tour of your school, he seemed happy to be led through the various fields, down the paths and into the old buildings. It was a long time ago and much has happened since, but the two details that have remained with you are: 1. Boris saying over and over again: give ’em hell, give ’em hell, give ’em hell, give ’em hell… 2. Boris complimenting your school’s Danish cinnamon swirls whilst stealing peeks at the curves of dinner ladies. • •
Your hotel room affords views across the old town; your office is sparsely furnished, and beyond its glass facade a 360-degree view keeps you company throughout the day. You focus your phone’s Carl Zeiss lens on the bell tower of a nearby church, from where you set out to shoot a wide panorama made up of many individual photowith the result, you send the composition to your other half without further comment. • •
C hr is tia n B r ook la nd
graphs. You swivel a few centimetres between each frame. Pleased
Citiz en !
At your old college, a professor will one day be asked whether you showed any early signs of megalomania, and they might say: …gosh, I suppose there was this splinter group that was obsessed with the idea – with all its implications – of endless possibilities; always looking to surpass loopholes and obstacles even where there clearly were none to begin with. If you’re convinced by what you’re doing, if you think it’s radical enough, nothing but your own conviction will make any sense to you. • •
You live in a room in a Sofitel with a king-sized bed and a TV with BBC News and thirteen channels in a language you can’t speak. You while away the early hours watching endless news tickers through bloodshot eyes. Today, an official in a raincoat is answering questions on the deck of a cargo ship, dissecting import and export for the layman whilst being buffeted left and right by malicious winds, spray all over the shaky screen. Just before the connection cuts out the official screams and promises something about mussels continuing to arrive on time, for the restaurants and their white wine sauces… stop. Did she just say on a wave of mutilation? • •
You maintain a brief, hedonistic affair with a cellist called Saskia or Simon who likes to drink pink champagne at a deli-island in the department store’s vast food court: a windowless, underground space with cold and warm aisles humming side by side. One Saturday afternoon, when the stool beside you remains unoccupied, you realise that orchestras travel to concert halls around the world. You also realise that by now your affair needn’t be termed “an affair” anymore.
53 • •
Your other half never replied to the panorama crammed with towers old and new, but did detect the faint reflection of your paisley-patterned suspenders – a gift given to you on a long weekend in the country. Memories of being confined to a yellow bed in a yellow B&B, building houses out of cards and balancing jugs of cider on your chests. • •
Unisex saunas. You think: Why is the rest of the West so fucking puritanical? You take three white towels with you. One for under your feet, one to sit on, and one to drape over your head and neck, a technique you’ve adopted by closely observing the other frequenters of Wolkenkratzer Wellness: the routinised guests can often languish until their vision begins to swirl and the sands of time render them inane lumps of flesh. The vocabulary of business transcends the chains that tend to lie heavily around two different languages attempting to correlate. Within fourteen minutes you’ve secured a lucrative investment with your towel-draped neighbour – a guy in his sixties who you’ve been attempting to network with for months, watching the way he slips off his Ermenegildo Zegna flip-flops and takes the stock market section of the day’s broadsheet into the heat with him every Friday evening. Draped, and with the strange, ember glow of the sauna igniting his shoulders and brown belly, in profile he looks like Death
C hr is tia n B r ook la nd
reading the news, but you keep this to yourself.
Citiz en !
The gym has a great crèche, you tell your other half, who hangs up. • •
You are a flaneur of interiors, of exotic textures, rich furnishings, and high-end jewellery. Your speciality happens to be grand department stores, the kind whose endless adjoining spaces are like mournful sighs from a glorious past, a past the likes of which your grandchildren might never experience. Still, you’re positive that one day it will all come back around again. You have found a personal favourite on the edge of your triangle of commute (hotel–office–gym), a complex whose floors are more sparsely populated the higher one ascends, reaching its most luxurious at the top. The silent escalators manoeuvre you up the atrium. There are no windows, for the walls are lined with shelves of dark veneer, floor to ceiling, displaying long silks from Italy and handmade cravats from Croatia. There’s a sunken space at the very back of the room: a treasure trove of cufflinks nestled within soft, velveteen cushions. You wake up under a pile of Portuguese cashmere, soft sleeves of every colour flowing around your rising body. Some assistants have emerged from a hidden door lined flush within the soft, buttoned wall, and are watching you from a safe distance like they’re observing a wobbly fluid spreading in a Petri dish. You overhear how one of them, whilst following your movements, is uncomfortably reminded of Gregor Samsa. You catch your dishevelled appearance multiplying tenfold, trapped between opposite full-height mirrors. You check yourself to see if you are who you think you are... • •
55 A photo comes through, full of smiles and missing teeth. It’s of your son and daughter holding up their new navy blue passports emblazoned with crowned lion and unicorn. Looking at the lion, you are swept back to your childhood; it’s filled to the brim with sticky tins of golden syrup. You wonder if they’re still labelled with that unique line reserved for the most special of goods: By Appointment to Her Majesty. • •
Your other half is driving, and you imagine your voice coming out of the handsfree, how it fills the Audi’s leather landscape whilst the kids are singing car songs. You try the following with your daughter: Easter is a beautiful time of year to come visit. Unlimited chocolate: how does that sound? Me Me Me! I know this one! Go on! The government is pinning its hopes on exports ranging from Cheddar to Stilton to single malts! And Cadbury Creme Eggs!
You sit at the bar of a giant gingerbread house replica that smells of sawdust and tangerines. You snack forlornly on Parmesan shavings. The floor is covered with last night’s peanut shells, and people’s winter boots make crunching sounds as they walk between the long
C hr is tia n B r ook la nd
Citiz en !
benches, balancing steaming mugs of Glühwein. You have fonder memories of last year’s batch, but then again you remind yourself how every Glühwein has a capricious way of luring you into supposed notions about community and festivity before violently pushing you away once more. A failed attempt to strike up a conversation with a local makes you acutely aware of your foreignness. You swipe past the headlines to a picture of your son captioned “My First Guitar.” He is strumming with a look of concentration that is almost discernible through his fringe. You make out a turtlenecked blur in the background of the picture and send a fireball of Glühwein down your throat. Swiping back to the headlines, you skip a few items, then there’s Boris Johnson again, smiling and waving at the camera as he bids farewell to the nation. You remember that time you met him, and the way he said just what you thought nobody would ever say… you think what now – he admits he’s always seen himself in education, and will begin by teaching Kipling to the natives in Burma. The shot pans to some helicopter-angled jungle footage. You swipe back to the picture of your son. Without looking up you reach for some more Parmesan shavings, and your hand accidentally collides with the hand of the local sitting next to you. “Breaking News” starts flashing up on your phone – you select the recommended video which begins with a familiar scene: a crowded high street with people going about their business, standing on corners, generally idling about whilst waiting for something to happen. Anything. You seem to recognise a market stall where somebody is paying for a bunch of flowers wrapped in a paper cone; this must be big red blur that comes swerving into the frame. A red double decker bus takes the corner at breakneck speed and as the screeching starts to build, you’re quite sure: it’s aiming for the people.
Ch r is tia n B r ook lan d
where you once— then the sound of a wailing engine followed by a
Ros ai re A ppel, "Weather," 2018
Po e t ry
TRACE HOWARD DEPASS
new american constitution (terms & conditions) the sunset’s heat nudges an avalanche to bear-hug a deer until it converts, convulses, culverts to, from its blood, several streams it would gladly drink from. ingredient: mandible of deer will never screw-in, thru its own jaw, enough English to concur: the deer fear in its damp squeal might incite, may excite, let’s say invite in the snow. the snow, mr. hayes, too may not own teeth but something caught in its taking nature something white, male, something that stampeded here before, taught me nations’ soil reminiscences of men’s incisors, molars, forefathers. in regards to redlining, i disremember this brand of poverty, acquiescence, its certain passivity knows to trail us, from black, red, translucent. in nature, doors are always open or there is no door; a cave rejects bartering its being with men but was its cliff Marxist? whimsy blushed, sloped down the brine of its deer’s dark jawline, bleached stuffs under it – dark, with too many legs to be men – to burnt sienna. & who would know
59 how many nieces we lost to poverty & snow? i, hovered me, choked me to me. i courted him once. &, a god, near us, from his coma, just woke his ass up. in this avalanche, i am its snow. in this avalanche, i am the deer
but who isn’t?
the deer unsuspecting that its cold-blooded killer won’t be, it turns out, human. snow unsuspecting its white sheets would wave not as surrender flag but, here, now: to whiteness conceding copies of, in fact, itself. some poems, perhaps
not exactly here, as one and zero as a quark, i’m not, by the end, killing myself. i simply ain’t expect embracing what revolves to be this gruesome. Only a god can see his blood, see its snow, be unwilling to unsee, wake up from a coma, and see with deer eyes, you, and smile, as though Nothing with laws to kill it had killed it. in epistles wherein i’m no god, my lens faults to a click of misclick, a “Yes, I agree” with me thus colonizing my damned me. delusions of RAM, like grandeur, wherein a “he” placed his dimmed blueprint totalitarian, his framework’s shadow –
new ameri can consti tuti on ( terms & co n ditio n s )
prisons with laws for someone loved; it colored me so well, everybody loved became censored black. bodies, which rods & cones were forced to render: forced, entered, became broken to silent members alongside m[in]e – as in, let’s not talk about the subject of this poem, let’s not talk about the subject of her body or any deer as a metaphor for mine let’s not talk about what it is to be here just governed into a body let alone a governing body. can you smell the blood of this new lecture about tacit consent? let’s not talk about the idea of choice let alone the talk of “lesser of two evils.” in the laments wherein you find me, evil consumed me so well it defined me, so i [engirdled ‘just got married’ round his neck, i tied the knot with my car, and i] killed me on my drive to objectively ‘good now’ from a ‘bad place.’ i’s a widow now, a window with a letter opener charged at the single letter, n, until shattered free of self. perhaps i guess a good person says, me & i got divorced. it was about time, it was by force. in all the poems, wherein, you say, i mostly sell puns for the living, i find god as mine, bested by me into m[in]e. in rooms
inside me was civic duty. was the tax i paid to love; the wager, not which at any attainable time, could i, my deer, afford.
Tr a ce H ow a rd DePass
mourning the animals i store
Marc Coh en , "T h e I n telligence of the E arth," 2018
Po e t ry
Don’t Know What to Do with Violence So I Pick at My Lip Anne’s got battering rams for hands I run my tongue along her ear Leave traces of mildew from my broken teeth To scare off Anne’s little friends There’s a new language called listening Comes branded in a can I slit the tip and feel nourished Shove that can up your ass Sorry I wrecked your van Anne Ivory sounds the breaking point Of chipped teeth on overdrive The Mars Volta on repeat
63 Maybe just my mouth breaking Sorry I smashed your TV Sorry I tore up the newspaper in your driveway before you got the chance to read it This is what it means to accelerate, Break speeds yet unreached I clutch my stomach once a month Try to be honest but shatter Hold my tongue with a pair of pliers Interrupt and apologize on repeat The faces in the wall arenâ€™t breathing
C y ck
tik n a v
s e l r ha Sara A nstis
nn a h K
ry C urch od
Vicky C h a r l e s , " D e e p C on di t i on , " 2 0 1 8
I don’t remember my hair in its natural state as a child. I didn’t discover my natural curl pattern until I was eighteen. Since then, I’ve learned to embrace my natural hair and I feel the need to show the beauty of black hair everywhere I go. I express myself through it, it is my crown, and it is what gives me my black girl magic. The strength of my kinky curls cannot be touched or criticized by anyone. My hair is no longer
a secret identity, but part of who I really am.
V i c k y C h arl es , "Drapo, " 2 0 1 8
Sara An s t i s , "S low Motion," 2019
Sa ra A n s t i s , " Si t t i n g , eat i n g, cryi n g, " 2 0 1 6
Sara An s t i s , det ai l of "In a G reen S hade," 2018
A vantik a Khanna, "Felted A l paca Wool Hol ds C erami c O b jects , " 2018
A v a n t i k a K h an n a, det ai l of "We H old the S un Well," 2018
Av a n t i k a K h a n n a , d e t ail of "All of the Space Found in Each Place B e fo re Tr a n s c e nd e nc e, " 2 0 1 8
Av an t i ka K h an n a, det ai l of "A n Object is a Place," 2018
H en ry Cu rchod, "Tears not S weat," 2018
H e nr y Cu r c h o d, "P i cn i c As s as i n N o. 2 , " 2 018
H e n r y Curchod, installation shot, "Bring Me the Sweat o f G abri el a Sabat i n i , " Ch i n a Heights G allery, 2018
H e n r y C u r c h o d , " S a n s s eri f pi l l ows , " 2 0 1 8
P o e tr y
Okazaki died. Okazaki lives. Okazaki was. Okazaki is. Is Okazaki Okazaki sans Okazaki? Is Okazaki now in nonrelation to Okazaki? Is Okazaki okay?
from O k a z a ki F ragments
Okazaki acts under seven sets of masking conditions: A
Excluded matter is concentrated by evaporation before masking.
Okazaki as a silkworm polymerizes memories selectively.
Okazaki wades in floral tracts with eight hands and a face lit like a catastrophe.
Okazaki as a molted snake, brilles unclouded, slips antiparallel to its venomless cast. Each is the original of the other.
Okazaki counts backward to and beyond the origin of Okazaki.
Okazaki as a hybrid of grief and its echoes wears a gnomic mouth.
Okazaki as Okazaki passes through a column showing all possible sequences at the terminal junction.
Okazakiâ€™s internal control is either incomplete or nearly incomplete in all cases tested.
83 V Okazaki makes preparations for Okazaki is most present in the preparation The pulse of a future without Okazaki occasionally contaminates the preparation Gloves are worn during manipulations to prepare Okazaki for displacement Okazaki has a mind of glassware and Okazaki forms a flask in Okazaki’s preparing hands Preparation by centrifugation can separate Okazaki in the presence of Okazaki Prepared as described previously by Okazaki the separation will vary from its properties on paper Okazaki’s presence and Okazaki’s absence are produced from the same preparation Given the sequence begun by a primer Okazaki and Okazaki were always prepared for separation
Ogawa, T., Hirose, S., Okazaki, T., and R. Okazaki. “Mechanism of DNA Chain Growth, XVI. Analyses of RNA-linked DNA Pieces in Escherichia coli with Polynucleotide Kinase.” Journal of Molecular Biology, vol. 112, 1977, pp. 121-40. This is the final paper in a sixteen-part series on discontinuous strand synthesis during DNA replication.
K a ni k a A gr aw al
IMAGES AND SOME LANGUAGE ADAPTED FROM:
No n fic tio n
Lashes MARINA REZA
The woman who commits zina and the man who commits zina, lash each of them one hundred lashes. Do not let pity deter you in a matter ordered by God, if you believe in God and the Last Day —Qur’an 24:2, Muhammad Assad translation
Women have an Islamic right to exemption from criminalization or punishment for consensual adult intercourse. —Asra Nomani, “Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom,” 2005
Ryan Ryan doesn’t mind the patch of sun gracing his face as he sleeps. I tell him he must have one of the prettiest sunrises to look at in this area. There were no sheets on the bed last time, but there are some now. He sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. The night before, we drank too much and nibbled on pizza. He interviewed me about sex and boys, Mimi, Mimi and Islam, me and Islam, and I told him everything in that interview, and we slept together, and then it’s quite possible I told him too much.
85 Dhaka, Bangladesh: Lake Circus, Kalabagan Yusuf, the Arabic teacher, ran away with one of the three female house cleaners. She didn’t have a torn ear and wasn’t mute like the third. The second one had thin lips and was forgettable. Mimi was suspicious of him, always, and asked my grandmother to sit in the room while he taught me and my sister how to read Arabic. Finishing the Qur’an meant stuffing the face of those around you with sweets and never knowing exactly what it was that you read.
Woodside, New York: Apt #5 My tutor was in the seventh grade when I was in the third. She was named Niti and she would talk about periods, and said sex was the moment the tip of the man’s penis touched the tip of the woman’s nipple. I believed it. Nothing told me otherwise, anyway. I would turn my head away as she changed her clothes but would watch her fight with her brother Rishabh and then stare as he sat on her stomach when she lay down on her back and he pretended to squeeze her breasts and defy her as she pleaded, weepy, that he go to hell. I didn’t learn what sex was until I opened up the Oxford dictionary at ten years old, sitting under the mosquito net over my bed one afternoon in Dhaka. Merriam-Webster was never as explicit.
Techniques of Fiction A portion from a short story I wrote before I ever had sex: “In twelve nights, Benny will be in Daria’s body. He will march his
L a s h es
fingers around Daria’s chunky neck, and when she flinches, strands of whole-wheat hair will shift and folds of her stomach will shift and Daria will suck her stomach in and become a taut little thing. She is like one of those cherubic Botticelli cupids, legs like Courbet painted them – immovable trunks waiting to be pressed. Benny will map out her ear with his tongue. Clack clack clack clack clack clack. Benny thinks of the verb to describe this sound in case your idea of clack and mine are different and can only agree when Benny uses the verb ‘to lap.’” A classmate remarks, “This sex scene is done very well. Very visual. One of the best I’ve ever read.” Where did I come up with this shit.
The Movies Bonnie Hunt is trying to explain sex to her daughter in Now and Then. Mimi is asking why I am only eight, saying that it is inappropriate. Mimi calls sex scenes “scenes.” A “scene” could also be a kiss. A softer “scene,” to me, was one during which we didn’t necessarily have to whiplash our heads away or cover our eyes; the tenderness in the kiss might mask the sexual quality of it, is how I’ve come to rationalize it. Tongues swirling and clacking up against one another would be inappropriate. I heard about the movie where the female has sex through a hole in the sheet, and I assumed that would also be the case with Islam, thinking it could make sense given the Muslim conservatism I grew up with. The sound of paper crinkling: dirty. Bed sheets, crumpling through
87 your fingers. The small, sudden sounds of a chair being moved or someone's sigh floating in a room. All of these are not unlike sex sounds. Each time my parents went out and my sister was not home, I turned to a cable network and flipped through channels to find a sex scene, or a kiss at the least, and looked forward to the chance to see it alone, to make up for the massive censorship of my childhood. For a few years, the search always meant fast-forwarding through Bollywood’s 1942: A Love Story on a video cassette. In Dhaka, it was Sonique’s music video for “It Feels So Good” on MTV. Looking for sex, or a love scene. But how can you rub against the furniture when written prayers and images of mosques are all around the house?
Showers When Mimi said true Muslims only listen to instrumental music, my sister and I laughed. When Mimi told me why she still bathes with a bucket and pail, I could not stop thinking about it. She runs soap and shampoo all over her body so the shayatin – devil-esque beings said to emerge when people are at their most vulnerable – cannot get a glimpse. “Haven’t I told you and your sister to shower with your panties on and remove them quickly to wash
M a r in a R ez a
towards the end and then quickly change into your clothes?”
L a s h es
I think of Mimi bathing, her bottom grazing the bathtub. I think of the image on the cover of Annie Ernaux’s Shame. What belongs to religion? What belongs to Mimi’s personal paranoia? Family secrets are secreted and then secreting. Look at how different the characters in the same nursery rhyme looked in different books. How can you separate the stories from the superstitions from the secrets from the sound? My fourteen-year-old cousin running away with a man she met on the internet. The dish running away with the spoon.
Dietary Habits When Mimi started embracing halal meat, my sister and I didn’t think much of it. Halal: permissible. Haram: forbidden. Both words can describe various aspects of a Muslim’s life, but also poultry. Halal food was temporarily served at the university cafeteria, but was quickly discontinued after few students showed interest. The leftovers were swiftly given away. Haram substances, according to the Qur’an: pork and all its products, animals improperly slaughtered or slaughtered in the name of
89 anyone except Allah, alcoholic drinks (including intoxicants), carcasses of dead animals, blood. To kill an animal in a halal manner is to do it almost invisibly, so the animal loses consciousness quickly, so its fears don’t kick in, before any emotions get involved.
Ryan I woke up next to Ryan after he had an episode of sleep paralysis, and his account of it was eerily similar to that of mine a year ago. You feel strapped down to your bed, unable to move, and there are black shadow-like spirits – or shayatin, as Mimi might say – flying around the room. Ryan does not have xylophone ribs. No hard, wooden sounds when I lightly tap that area. Many instruments fill his room. Mascara is wrapped around my lashes in clumps and I am self-conscious that twisting and turning has made my eyes puffy, smeared the kohl. He couldn’t find his keys the next morning and let me take a can of pomegranate seltzer water from the fridge. Jethro, the backyard chicken, was no longer there. It will be better next time. My stomach will be flatter then.
Ch 4: Prohibited Acts and Forbidden Partners: Illicit Sex in Islamic Jurisprudence
can undertake and a profoundly social activity.”1
M a r in a R ez a
“Sex is, paradoxically, both the most private, intimate act humans
L a s h es
Zina Halal and haram can also refer to the sort of activities one engages in. Zina: extramarital or premarital sex. My sister and I found Pakistani porn on my fatherâ€™s laptop. Look at the marital people we know doing non-marital things. Here is the chasing. Look at the non-marital people we know doing marital things. The running. Was it licit or illicit? Where have Papaâ€™s hands been? I donâ€™t think about his hands years later at college, where I am too busy numbing out every weekend, and pretty soon, every other day. Walking home at 2 a.m. from the library, feeling intensely alone. This is it? College? Before it ever happened, I remember thinking, This is it? Sex? And how reductive the baseball metaphors inching up to it. When it was announced that our PE class would be baseball or softball that quarter, my stomach sank.
91 A Visit Sam and Anthony are sitting on my sheets smirking and they are frank about what they’ve done and what they’ll do later. I take pride in the fact that I introduced them to one another at a fraternity. I ask them if they have ever had sex with more than one person at once? Sam replies that once, there were four in total and he was the only boy. Anthony smirks and I have no idea what he is thinking. I leave my room pretending I will do something else, to give them space, to see if anything will happen besides the obvious movement of their hands over the surface of each others’ clothing. At least I could say right then and there that I gave them the chance.
Identify the Song “My girl is a little animal / She always wants to fuck.” 2 “Lay back baby and we’ll do this right / There’s blankets in the back we can use.” 3 “Now they’re going to bed and my stomach is sick.” 4 “I’d pop myself in your body.” 5 “I never thought that I would find myself / In bed amongst the stones / The columns are all men / Begging to crush me.” 6
In Bharatnatyam II, my South Indian dance class, Hari is teaching us the mime portion, the part of the dance where we are taking clean,
M a r in a R ez a
L a s h es
minimal steps forward and focusing on our hand gestures, trying to match our facial expressions to the movements. “Try not to be sloppy,” he says. For the gesture in which both our pointer fingers come downward to meet each other, he says, “Be intentional and look into the audience with a coy look or a come-hither glance – whatever you do, make it intense!” I try to sear the imaginary audience in front of me. Robert Henri in The Art Spirit: “Do what you do intensely.” We are talking about colonialism, orientalism, exoticism, and the professor shows us a book of photographs of nude women with veils covering their faces. My boss at the university press is explaining what a money shot is as she picks up a book by Rae Armantrout. So much to be getting away with in poetry.
Blood All we know is reenactment. “Ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking (what traditionalists call ‘addiction’) is a normal response to the adversity experienced in childhood, just like bleeding is a normal response to being stabbed.”7 Balance is God but there is always some new high. Mornings listening to covers of “Disorder” by Joy Division. What is the nightly ritual you return to? Intellectualize and glamorize the shit out of it.
93 “We must note whether he plucks his hair, picks at his skin, or weeps.”8 I dig and peel. Little pearls of blood. Little lobster eyes, sans lashes. Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?9 “When a dog keeps licking one spot until its fur comes off, we don’t wonder whether it was unloved as a puppy. We know it just doesn’t seem to have an off switch for a common behavior.”10 Where have Papa’s hands been? Nesha: under the influence. Mimi and Papa pray five times a day but I could only move through the motions. When I’m bloody, I am told to stay away from the prayer rug. I am considered impure. Haram. When skin breaks during a fast, the fast is broken, too. Baudelaire told me to stay drunk, so I did. All we know is reenactment.
Wake up before 12 p.m. or else the shayatin will rule your day. There is no future for you, Mimi says, when you arise after 12 p.m.
M a r in a R ez a
Will You Love, or Be Arranged?
L a s h es
Well, was it love or wasn’t it? Mimi never says.
Hold When the handle is depressed, could I flush my compulsions, too? Intergenerational transmission. How to give it back. Happy birthday Mimi. You made it. I made it too. I peeled all these scabs for you. The flush valve opens. Scrubbing and flushing. I’m blushing. Hushing my inner kids. Babes. Young and sensitive. They keep me up, run me late, demand things. Does anything ever, does anything ever, does anything ever leave the body? When I was 7, Gayoun Lee stepped down from a chair onto a parakeet we had taken out of its cage. We watched a flattened body and scattered plumage. A leaky beak. We were babes: young and sensitive. How moments run in you long after they’ve run out. How every sexual encounter leaves a deposit. The plumbing is old and sensitive. Please flush gently and hold.
ENDNOTES 1. Kecia Ali, Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an,
Hadith and Jurisprudence, (London, OneWorld Publications, 2006) 56. 2. Lyrics: Sune Rose Wagner, "Little Animal," (New York, Columbia, 2003). 3. Jim Adkins, "Night Drive," (Beverly Hills, DreamWorks, 2004). 4. Brandon Flowers, "Mr Brightside," (London, Island, 2003). 5. Caleb Followill, "Soft," (Beverly Hills, RCA, 2004). 6. Robert Smith, "All Cats Are Grey," (London, Fiction, 1981). 7. Daniel Sumro quoted in Jane Stevens, “Substance-abuse doc says: Stop chasing the drug! Focus on ACEs,” ACES Connection, May 1, 2017. www.acesconnection.com/blog/substance-abuse-doc-says-stop-chasingthe-drug-and-focus-on-the-aces 8. Hippocrates, Epidemics Book 1, quoted in www.vice.com/da/article/ wd7d3m/compulsive-skin-picking-bfrb-823 9. Ian Curtis, "Disorder," (Manchester, Factory, 1979). 10. Jon E Grant quoted in June Demelo, “How I Overcame My Skin Picking Addiction,” O: The Oprah Magazine, May 2017, www.oprah.com/
M a r in a R ez a
Po e t ry
4th of November Mama got me a shirt, asked me to wear it, pays no mind to my remark. â€œRed athleisure, straight men shirt,â€? I said. She does the mindful ironing on weekends. I watch, see a memory of her denial in the wrinkles. A spray of mist, weight of hot iron, makes steam. In gliding motion, disappears into smooth silky cloth. Here, making up for things takes form as little household gestures. I go out wearing the red shirt, meet my lover, tread the night downtown sneaking kisses under a balete beside a bank. All my distances point to home, and I believe they're all right.
F ic t io n
Lazy Eye JOSHUA BOHNSACK
In fifth grade I told my mom I was giving up ice cream for Lent, but I promised myself I would also give up staring at Libby Truman’s lazy eye. Every day at lunch, she was allowed to take her eye patch off for the remainder of the day. When she first started wearing it after Christmas break, Sam Miller asked her if she was going to be a pirate next Halloween and she cried so much that Ms. Gay, the school nurse, had to change her patch again when the adhesive wouldn’t stick to her wet cheek. I thought maybe I wanted to talk to Libby Truman the way Sam Miller talked to people. They paid attention to each word and laughed whether his joke was funny or not. He was good at baseball and everyone said he was the fastest kid in class. I wanted to be the fastest kid in class. I wanted to talk to Libby Truman, instead of her just staring at me. From 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., our gymnasium became the lunchroom. We ate at two small lunch tables set up in the corner of the gym even though our class of nineteen could’ve easily fit into a smaller room. Libby Truman sat at the table directly across from me. I could look over Logan’s shoulder and through her thick, purple, plastic-framed glasses. I’d see Libby Truman staring back at me with her good eye. I always broke our gaze first, for fear Logan would turn around to see who I was looking at. We had tomato soup and grilled cheese and I passed my soup over to Logan. He told us about Sammy Sosa and I nodded, keeping my eyes on the soup in front of him. The only Cubs players I knew about were on the Iowa Cubs, and they weren’t ever on TV.
L a z y Ey e
Logan ate the tomato soup so carelessly – his fist clenched around the spoon – but he didn’t spill a drop. I held my sandwich with two hands and guided it towards my mouth while Colton reciprocated Logan’s love of Sosa by talking up Mark McGwire. Colton spit through his teeth, slanted from too much time with his thumb in his mouth when he was younger, but there’s no thumb to shut him up now. Logan held up his grilled cheese and said, “I don’t even like this crap.” Crap was a new word we were saying when the lunch monitor wasn’t around. “Uh-huh,” I nodded, but didn’t agree. “It’s every freaking Friday. Tomato soup, cheese pizza, quesadillas.” He drew out the syllables of case-a-dill-ahs. “What for?” I said, “Uh-huh.” “I wish my mom would pack me lunch like this,” Logan pointed inside Brent’s lunchbox: roast beef sandwich, bag of Cheetos, baby carrots, a Ding Dong. “Except for the gay note on his napkin. Hey Brent, what’s the quote of the day?” Brent guarded his lunchbox and covered his napkin where his mom had written the daily quote in cursive. I only saw the name of the speaker, may angelo, but couldn’t read cursive very well. I was mainly interested in his roast beef sandwich. His mom was a notoriously good cook at the retirement home. It was no wonder Brent was as thick as he was. Heavier, but not fat enough that anyone would make fun of him for it. I was envious of the roast beef. Fridays are the best days to eat meat, and I think Jesus knew that when he made Catholicism. When we finished lunch, we were free to move around the gymturned-cafeteria. Sam Miller had eaten his lunch and relocated from sitting with his girlfriend, Haley, and her friend, Courtney, to our section of the lunch table. Sam Miller leaned in close to us and asked the guys, “You know why we have to eat this crap every Friday?” Libby Truman made eye contact with me across our tables. Logan shook his head and Sam Miller put an arm around me.
99 “Altar boys like Jerry, here.” He gave me a little shake that reminded me why I hated him. His breath smelled sour like the chocolate milk he’d just finished. I tried to bat his arm from around my neck, but Sam Miller kept it there and pulled me in a little tighter. I dipped my grilled cheese in the ketchup. “You can’t be an altar server till sixth grade,” I said. “I still have a year.” “I went to St. Mary’s once with my stepmom,” Logan said. “Jerry, do you got to wear that dress when you’re the altar boy?” I chewed my sandwich and said, “I don’t know. I’m not an altar server.” Sam Miller said, “Sure, Jerry probably loves wearing those dresses.” I tried to pull his arm off my neck, but he kept it on. I spun to get away from his grasp and my elbow hit the edge of my tray. The milk carton launched and spilled all over Sam Miller’s lap. He stood up and I stood up and we stared at each other for too long. I raised my left hand and shouted, “Sam Miller just peed his pants.” The crowd roared and Sam Miller turned whiter than he already was. I panned the room and stopped on Libby Truman who smiled and stared at both Sam Miller and me. Waiting for our turn on the tetherball court at recess, Colton said, “Sam Miller is going to kill you before recess is over, Jerry.” I took a step back when he spoke so that debris from his lunch didn’t land on me along with his words. “I don’t care,” I told him. “I didn’t make him pee his pants.” Logan laughed, but still managed to strike the tetherball a final time, as the rope and the ball wrung around the pole. Brent stepped away from the match, accepting defeat. As I approached the pole, tossed the ball in the air with my right hand and smashed it with my left. It spun counterclockwise and wrapped the pole twice before Logan could even react. “What was that crap?”
J o sh u a Bo h nsa ck
Brent said, “Newbie serves,” and swung the ball around to me. I
L a z y Ey e
“It’s my first time,” I said, “and you couldn’t even hit it.” The vibrant yellow ball left my palm red and stingy. “You messed it up.” Logan said. He unwrapped the ball and said, “Like this,” repeating the same motions I had made. “That’s what I did.” “No,” he said. “You did it backwards.” “You’re supposed to hit the ball one way and keep going,” I said. “That’s how the game goes.” “Jesus, Jerry, you’re doing it wrong. You have to hit it with your right hand.” I didn’t realize that I had, indeed, done it wrong. When I asked my mom, she told me she realized I was left-handed when I was young. Before my dad took off, back when he was still a part of the family, he told her it would be easier to raise me right-handed, and statistically, right-handed people live longer. So he got me a right-handed baseball glove when I was five and told me he was disappointed in me when I wasn’t very good. That’s one of my most vivid memories of my dad: us driving home from a T-ball game in his black Jeep and him just shaking his head. “You lost your turn, Jerry.” Colton stepped up to the pole and served the ball. “Whatever. It’s a stupid game.” I turned to Brent, “How mad do you think Sam Miller is?” Brent shrugged, “It was funny.” “I know it was funny, but you don’t think he’s going to hit me or anything, do you?” Logan smacked the ball and it coiled the pole until the string’s tension started spinning it back. “I’m tired of this. It’s boring winning all the time.” Sam Miller’s girlfriend, Haley, approached our group and said, “Jerry, I’m supposed to talk to you.” I looked around at the guys, and my neck got hot. I took a step towards Haley.
101 “We need to talk over here,” she instructed. I followed her for a few paces toward the alcove of the doorway to the older kids’ hallway and leaned against the metal loop we were supposed to use to clean the snow off our boots in the winter. “Yeah?” Each word of Haley’s was staccato when she asked, “What do you think of Courtney?” I didn’t. Courtney’s sister was friends with my sister. I once had a dream where her sister came to my house and ran through the sprinkler in a snowstorm. I asked Haley, “Why?” She jolted her head back and asked, “Do you like her or don’t you?” I told her I didn’t know. Haley said, “Okay,” then looked around. My friends had gone back to playing tetherball. Once she thought we were alone, Haley kissed me on the lips. Only it was more like she kissed my teeth, because my mouth was open. The warmth on my neck spread down my whole back and I thought I was going to throw up, in a good way. “Don’t tell Courtney you like me instead,” she said. “She’s my friend.” I stood in the alcove and Haley walked across the basketball courts. I sat down in the middle of the foursquare paint and rubbed the back of my neck, trying not to cry. On the swing, Libby Truman rocked back and forth, staring at me. I don’t know why, but I yelled, “What are you looking at, Libby?” She skidded her heels into the wood chips and kept staring. “You’re always looking at me with that wonky eye and I’m sick of it. What do you want, Libby? Huh? What do you want?” Tears swelled in her eyes, magnified by the lenses of her glasses. “Ah, crap. I’m sorry, Libby.” I held out my arms towards her, then relocated to the side of my head. Then my body hit the wood chips. Ms. Gay stuck the otoscope in my ear and I shivered from the cold metal. Because Ms. Gay had been our nurse since kindergarten,
J o sh u a Bo h nsa ck
I remember a pop in my ear. The heat I felt running down my back
L a z y Ey e
nobody thought to make fun of her name. In hindsight, I’m glad we didn’t. She said, “That Sam Miller clocked you pretty good. I think it’s ruptured.” I told her, “Everything sounds fuzzy.” Brent sat in the plastic chair by the door, reading Ms. Gay’s inspirational posters. I was never sure why a man rowing a boat at sunset represented courage. “I’ve got to grab some forms,” Ms. Gay told us. “Brent, you’re in charge.” When she left the room, I asked Brent how it happened. “You told everyone Sam Miller peed his pants, so he punched you in the ear.” “But why didn’t anyone stop him?” Brent shrugged, “He’s the fastest kid in class.” “My ear is ringing. It’s hard to hear,” I said. Brent said, louder, “He’s the fastest kid in class!” “I can hear you, I was just telling you my ear is messed up.” “You made Libby Truman cry?” “She was staring at me,” I said. “Yeah, but you yelled at her. She wasn’t doing anything to you.” “I don’t want people to stare at me. It makes me nervous,” I told him. “She always cries. What’s the big deal?” Brent said, “You know, Libby Truman is really nice. I wish you guys would be nice to her.” “What do you mean? I am nice to her. I don’t make fun of her eye patch or anything like Sam Miller does,” I lied. Brent looked at a poster of Shaq with a milk mustache. “Yeah, I guess.” “What am I supposed to do, Brent? Huh?” “Jerry,” he asked, “do you know what the quote of the day was?” “Jesus, Brent. No,” I told him, “I can’t read your mom’s handwriting.” “‘People will forget—’” Brent pulled the napkin from his pocket
103 and read, “‘I’ve learned people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’” He looked up from the napkin and said, “Maya Angelou.” My neck burned and I stared at my shoes until the words stopped ringing, and only the constant buzzing remained. I remember it started snowing when Brent and I walked back to class, but that can’t be right if it was during Lent. When she got home from her night class, I remember telling my mom about the punch, but not about the kiss. I remember eating ice cream that night, even though I gave it up for Lent, but I gave up ice cream for Lent almost every year until high school when I told my mom I wasn’t going to give anything up for them, because I thought maybe I was gay and I didn’t feel comfortable in church anymore. The last time I saw Libby Truman was in the grocery store when my mom convinced me to come back during Thanksgiving last year. I planned to stay in New York like I had the past eight years. I told my mom I couldn’t afford the trip, since I hadn’t earned a sales commission at the data storage startup I worked for. My coworkers assured me it wouldn’t matter once a corporation bought us out, but I struggled to pay my share of the rent. When my mom offered to buy my plane ticket – a gift, she told me – I gave up on making excuses not to go back home. The night before the holiday, I grabbed a six-pack of IPA at the nice Hy-Vee before heading to Logan’s house. I’d already had a few beers at a Buffalo Wild Wings with my mom, my sister, my brotherin-law, and their kids, but needed a few more to get through the night. Brent was back too. Though he also lived in Brooklyn, we him alone at Logan’s. I also knew Courtney and her sister were going to be there and I wanted to go home with one of them. I ran into Libby in the liquor section. She carried a basket containing a few cans of whipped cream and a bottle of Chardonnay.
J o sh u a Bo h nsa ck
never saw each other around, but I’d promised him I wouldn’t leave
L a z y Ey e
She smiled. “Hey Jerry. You need a little boost to deal with your family too?” I started going by Jared in college. Only my mom still calls me Jerry. I looked at the six-pack in my hand and said, “Probably. I was just bringing these over to Logan’s.” “Oh yeah. I heard he bought a house around here.” His dad had technically bought the house – to get Logan out of his basement, I assumed. Logan had enough money to buy his own house since his company had settled the lawsuit. He’d crushed his ribs on the loading dock at work when a semi backed up too far, and his newest stepmom happened to be the best personal injury attorney in the county. “Yeah, I haven’t been to his place yet,” I told her. Libby must’ve switched to contact lenses. “How are you?” I asked. “I heard you were in Europe. How long are you in town for?” “Forever, I guess.” She blinked, her eyes were now remarkably symmetrical. “I’m good. I was in France for a semester, but when I got pregnant with Jonathan, I had to come back. My parents were so much help. I’m finally going back to school next year.” “Oh, that’s great. I love France.” “Well, I heard you’re living in New York?” Libby looked smooth and beautiful. I hadn’t talked to her since high school. She didn’t have a ring on, and I considered asking her to join me, but I’d had a good thing going with Courtney or her sister the last time I’d been in town for my niece’s baptism – it was a late night of drinking in the pool at Colton’s house, so I don’t remember which, but I still didn’t want to ruin my chances. “Yeah, I live in Brooklyn.” We walked towards the register, where Libby let me check out first. As the cashier rang up my beer, I told Libby, “It’s so much cheaper here. It makes me feel rich, like I’m not thirty and living with two roommates.” She laughed. “I’ve got three of my own, between my folks and Jonathan. I thought I would hate coming back, but Iowa really is a great place to raise kids.” She paid and we walked out into the parking lot.
105 When she asked me, “Aren’t you going to walk me to my car?” I followed her even though I’d parked my mom’s car on the opposite end of the lot. She leaned against the door of her RAV-4 and touched my arm. “It was so good seeing you, Jerry.” I leaned in and kissed her, but she wasn’t expecting it, so I really just kissed her teeth. I said, “Sorry. I’m sorry.” “It’s fine,” she said. “No, really. I shouldn’t have done that.” “It’s fine, I’m just not looking for anything right now.” She played with her keys. “Plus I thought you were gay. You know, because of that thing with Sam Miller in high school.” I exaggerated an eye roll. “A guy gives you a handjob one time and nobody lets you forget it.” Sam Miller and I had denied it at first, then we told people we were drunk. We didn’t like, let alone love each other. Our friend groups overlapped in our little high school and we both thought we knew something about the other. Sam Miller’s dad kicked him out of the house before graduation because of the rumors. Last I heard he was a burnout, living in Missouri. I wished he had someone to talk to about it, like my mom. Or I wish he had just talked to my mom. It worked for me. The event lives in relative obscurity in my life now. A couple men have been in the margins, but I’ve only dated women since. Once I left home, the interaction with Sam Miller didn’t follow me unless I volunteered the anecdote, which I usually don’t. Plus, Logan never asked me about it, and despite his politics, he didn’t seem phased by my alleged queerness. “It wasn’t unwanted. Just unexpected.” Libby hugged me, which made me feel better, but overall I still felt terrible.
She laughed. “You’re so full of yourself.” My neck burned. “But Libby, you were always watching me. I even yelled at you once because of it and made you cry. Haley kissed me, I yelled at
J o sh u a Bo h nsa ck
“I shouldn’t have done that. You look great, and I thought you had a crush on me when we were kids. That’s not an excuse.”
L a z y Ey e
you, then Sam Miller punched me in the ear, and my equilibrium hasn’t been right since.” “I remember you making me cry, but I don’t think it was that time.” She switched her grocery bag to her other hand. “I used to watch you though. I thought you were interesting. You weren’t any nicer to me than the others, but you weren’t as mean. Just out of place.” Maybe I had forgotten exactly what I said and did to her, but I think I know how I made her feel. I said, “Everyone is awkward in high school.” “No, before that. When we were kids.” Libby thought for a moment and said, “You were always trying so hard not to mess things up, but you ended up spilling milk or coloring outside the lines.” “I wasn’t always messing things up.” “Oh, and your handwriting was awful. I remember you for that. It’s like you didn’t know how to use your hands.” “It’s still pretty bad,” I admitted. Libby scratched the bridge of her nose and I asked her, “Do you want to come to this party with me?” She smiled and shook her head. “That sounds fun, but I want to get home to put Jonathan to bed. I’ve been gone twenty minutes and I already miss him.” She gave me one more hug, then drove away. As I walked across the parking lot to my mom’s car, I opened a beer and tried to figure
Jo sh u a B oh nsa ck
out just when it was that I had made Libby Truman cry.
P o e tr y
allup in my dreams, #1
featuring Octavia Butler
the stone wall outside 7128 is a squared U, stepping over memories, I want my room, Ms. Pat screams from next door, ‘All that you change, changes you,’ the screened-in porch, blurry furniture w gold piping in the livingroom, my Dad in the dining room cleaning his .45, it almost goes off backwards, woulda changed my nigga, it’s like the TV Room don’t eeen exist, faux-wood-paneled play room, red wagon fulla our toy collection, hook left to my parents’ room, but it’s my room, large, near empty, TV a football field away, peek out the back window to the backyard, I see Woof Woof, hear them sprinting thoo the house, my Momma is laughing I think, lil brother is too, & the playroom is now his room, I’m smiling, when I try to go out to the backyard Dad carries Woof Woof thoo the door and down the hall in a black plastic bag, the backyard is now school field at 7227, it’s bright green and like 100 yards, I run thoo one goal line, run thoo the other, I know where I’m at but I’m runnin slowly, I stare at the sun and think fuck what the Principal say I’m Me, the Sun says, ‘All that you change, changes you,’ transforms into the moon, slate-blue & occupying most of the sky, the grass is black, the grass sounds like the ocean, unctuous, I’m sittin at the edge of the sidewalk watching a snapping turtle traverse the landscape,
direction to meet by the swings, I hug the Person cuz they taught me how to swing just days ago, we swing, mid-air looking at the locked gates encasing the parking lot, no stars, I launch myself, anchor to the monkey bars, hanging & smiling, I think: ‘Should we change the name from monkey bars? are they racist?’ the Person answers my thoughts while swingin off into the moon, ‘All that you change, changes youmst.’
al l up i n my dreams, #1 feat u ri n g O c ta via B u tler
turns into a Person the color of the grass, waves me in their
Rosaire Appel, "Tooling Around the Keys," 2018
No n fic tio n
What Once Was EXCERPTED FROM DET SOM EN GÅNG VAR (NOK, 2016) HELENA GRANSTRÖM TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH BY SASKIA VOGEL
I’m sitting completely still and letting the world move for me – forests, clearings, and steep slopes passing by. The road runs along a rocky beach, across the water are dark-green heights of spruce. And then they’re in front of me. Through the windows of the bus, I see them: glossy black, tenderly rocking melting glaciers in their arms. The first stop is a holiday village named after a waterfall that hydroelectric power did away with, a gift shop and a roadside diner with chopped reindeer and mashed potatoes on the menu. Through the windows, shimmering black, black against damp, brilliant white; above them a pale blue sky. At the lake, the road ends. The doors open; for a moment the chill from the water mingles with the stale air. We tumble out: stiff legs and clunky boots, rustling windbreakers, snatches of German tossed in the air. Is this a package vacation disguised in breathable, water-repellent clothing? The water separates us from the mountains, from creeping birch forests and steep slopes.
111 Down in the boat, a man with a knife in his belt mutters as he heaves aboard bodies and luggage. Then he takes his place by the motor. He says: “In wintertime, there’s nothing under the ice. When the dams open downriver, the water level drops, but the ice stays put. Careful when you’re out on the snowmobile. If you break through, well, there’s nothing that’ll stop your fall.” Rollicking, German-sounding laughter, unaware. The mountain’s gaze on the far shore is that of an old woman. We land right at the edge of her shadow. A society’s norms shape its actions. But the reverse also applies: a society’s actions shape its norms. A perceived need to cut down forests, till the land, extract oil or breed animals in captivity impacts the cultural story that surrounds these practices. In the same way that a culture that sees trees as meaning-bearing subjects won’t engage in clear-cutting, a culture that engages in clear-cutting will never see trees as meaning-bearing subjects. In our cultural mythology, there is no environment with which to enter into a relationship; there are only resources to extract, materials to exploit. If the concrete apparatus of production works by transforming living into dead – tree into paper, mountain into tin can – the cultural mythology works in the same way, just more efficiently: Trees and mountains aren’t living things, are they? Nothing is killed because there was never a life to take. A story about the world such as this is both a condition for and a consequence of the large-scale devastation we are witnessing today. A culture based on exploitation has no choice but to deny the subjectivity of the exploited. It’s evening when I take my first steps up a steep, dust-dry path so well-trodden that the pates of subterranean stones have been laid bare, the flesh of the earth gnawed to the bone. Dusk is but a subtle shift in the light, another mosquito landing on your neck, a faint modulation in the rapids’ roar.
Wha t O n ce Wa s
The German tourists from the boat are long gone. Everyone has disappeared. The silence is louder than the noise from the rapids raging below the trail, drowning them out, heavy and deep. Look at the trodden path, the dusty clay compressed by foot after foot. Birch forests, mosquitos on my neck and temples. The waning light and the river’s rumbling melodic din. If I turn my head a little to the left I see her, large and aged, black and green, meltwater furrows ribbing her flanks. And the ground gnawed to the bone by step after step. I stop, kneeling in the crowberry shrubs, the water spitting white below the smooth, gray cliffs. I take off my backpack, place it next to the crooked birch trees. I leave it closed, don’t light the spirit stove, keep the tent packed. Make no notes in the notepad. Arms and back and head and legs in the crowberry shrubs. With the pale, calm sky above me, I fall asleep, the damp light of night pressing its body against mine. Each radical shift in mankind’s living conditions must be followed by an equally radical shift in its mythology. The first nomads’ transition into settled life and agriculture is a prototype for such a shift: a gradual and in many cases almost imperceptible transition, but with consequences that would prove to be revolutionary. First and foremost, agriculture altered mankind’s relationship to its environment, and with that the view of mankind’s place in it: the earth itself became a tool. What was originally a home became a tool for production, a thing that could be owned. This dominance of ownership was initially limited to farmed earth, and with time it would expand so much that now ownership is the primary category through which we make sense of our surroundings and ourselves. Today’s human also owns her body parts, is the proprietor of her brain, heart and hands. Ownership is a greedy perspective: If I can own my field, then why
113 not my forest? If I can own my forest, why not my animals? And if I can own my animals, why not my wife? This transformation of everything into property is also closely connected to the development of capitalism. If I own my land, I also have the right to profit from it – and the same applies if I own my body. What is waged labor if not the worker’s sale of her physical services – and how does this endeavor differ from that of the woman who offers sexual services in exchange for payment or who rents out her uterus? This figurative and literal transformation of the world knows no limits: the stories that could have set such limits have long since been refuted by science. The forest, therefore, is a field on which the farmer has chosen to cultivate trees; the world becomes a place where everything can be owned, bought, and sold. This is the natural end point of what we call progress and the free market; the transformation of everything into economic value, and the denial of everything that does not allow itself to be transformed. The Rönnbäck isthmus, the Risveden wilderness, Norvik, the Great Alvar, and Lake Vättern – are these still the names of unique places? Do they still exist in and of themselves, for their own sake? Do they exist in any meaningful sense at all? Or is the final, physical loss of them only a matter of form, a technical detail, because my culture has already allowed them to be ideologically lost by turning them into the only thing that can be valued: resources ready to be used, capital to be exchanged for cold, hard cash. My culture fills its moral void with more of the utilitarian extremism from which it arose. The introduction of the category “eco-system services” makes it possible to put a price tag on environmental devastation, and thus to create crass economic incentives to keep us the habitats of pollinating insects, thus diminishing or completely eliminating their existence, means that pollination will have to be carried out by humans, which means economic losses for commercial agriculture.
H el ena Gr a n str öm
from ruthlessly exploiting natural resources. For example, shrinking
Wha t O n ce Wa s
Such is the character of the strongest argument against driving other species to extinction that this culture is capable of producing; it’s based on the fundamental objectification of the world, which allows us to weigh one species’ survival against the number of jobs, toxin-free foods, and changes in the climate against the projected growth for next quarter. Through this objectification, value only exists in the abstract. The forest’s value is not the forest itself, but its function as raw material, as a container of biodiversity or as a place for human recreation. I want to be clear: the argument for not driving the wolf to extinction is the wolf. The argument for not driving the Arctic fox and the polar bear to extinction is the Arctic fox and the polar bear. The argument for letting the Phlebia mellea fungus, golden spreading polypore, gray-headed chickadee, and white-backed woodpecker live is the Phlebia mellea fungus, golden spreading polypore, gray-headed chickadee, and white-backed woodpecker. And the argument against systematically destroying any of their habitats, the argument against poisoning them or shooting them one by one until there are none, is the total absurdity of belonging to a human culture that eliminates species as part of its daily practice and without even noticing because the sensitivity it takes to make such an observation has long since been lost. A culture that poisons the water, poisons the air, poisons the ground. All the while insisting that it is improving mankind’s material living conditions. What do mankind’s material living conditions have to do with clean water and clean air? An albatross found in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, having starved to death because there was no room in its body left for food – was shown upon dissection to have 1,603 plastic items clogging its stomach. Over a million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals and innumerable fish die each year from plastic debris drifting in just this part of the ocean, which also contains six times as much plastic as plankton. Meanwhile 5 to 13 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year – an amount that is expected to double in
115 the next decade if no action is taken. This is marginalia. This is a curiosity. This is an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of our improved living conditions. But, no, this has nothing to do with mankind’s standard of living. Our violent actions are violent in two ways: there’s the violence itself and then there’s our massive disinterest in it. The world is new-born and age-old, redolent of cold, wind, and water. I’ve crossed the border, passed the tree line. This is higher ground; wilderness etched with paths, a no-man’s-land where every peak has a name. I open my eyes wide and look nowhere and everywhere at once. Sun glowing at the edge of my field of vision. Reindeer just gray streaks on a field of snow, rocks and earth, yellow lichen, the ever-expanding sky and my own body beneath it, smaller and smaller. The scudding clouds, their shadows dragging on the ground beneath them. I take out my map. It’s safer here, here on the map in my hands being pulled by the wind. I step off the path. And each step I take breaks my gaze, forces it up, demands that it open. Wider eyes, wider nostrils, breath trembling all the more for each step. The map flutters in my hands, it has begun to tear at the fold, the old woman’s spurs split in two. The last cairn that disappears behind me looks like a person crouching, hair flaming red. The culture that has shaped me does not think of nature as a subject. next to me has an errand, if I hear longing in the cry of a black-throated loon, my culture can assure me that I’ve wrongly anthropomorphized these creatures, ascribing to them a will and a direction that is in fact but my own.
H el ena Gr a n str öm
If I hear the trees talking to me, if I believe that the buzzard landing
Wha t O n ce Wa s
Even if this is true, I’m not sure it makes a difference: the meaning is there, whether it occurs in the unfamiliar or only when the unfamiliar meets my eye. To see yourself in your environment is the only possible foundation for empathy. The only way to see the Other as genuinely other is to simultaneously see what unites us. Maybe I’m projecting myself on that which is not me, but perhaps it’s through this projection that the experience of the not-me as its own subject, outside of my control, can emerge. To one side of me, the mountainside shines black, rolling green on the other. The farther-flung peaks sit white and still just below the sky. The path is far behind me now, the fiery cairns, I’m in the valley’s embrace. My tent cover is taut and rattling in the wind. The aluminum canister is barely half-full with stream water, the food inside it expanding. I eat slowly, eyes fixed on the rifts in the black mountain. The sun is behind the fells, the air light and cool. No more mosquitos, no insects, the wind is steady and crisp. Nothing alive around me at all, except the ground beneath my feet. I put on all the clothing I have with me, base layers, windproof pants, woolen sweater and jacket before I crawl into my sleeping bag, contained in the tent’s amber dark. The sun wakes me, more its heat than its light; it has crawled over the mountain ridges and is sitting there, panting, brilliant and hot. The water from the stream on my face, hands, in my mouth; in the dwarf birch shrubs I drink tea from a cup made of hard plastic and eat the oatmeal straight from the pan, a stiff breeze in my face and the sun against the nape of my neck. When I’ve packed up, I continue walking in the same direction, due straight northwest with the strong sun at my back. Stopping sometimes to compare the terrain to the paper in my hands: there’s that pointy peak, there are the soft, low fells, there’s the glacier, the stream, here is the valley, here I am.
117 Two ravens high in the sky, right below a lone wafting cloud. If I reached out, I could touch them, wrap my fingers around the mountaintops. Gullies with dazzling rose root, large boulders, unfathom-
H el ena Gr a n str รถm
able brown and green distances.
Po e t ry
my heart is the shade of the moon, when it’s drained of all its shadows. few miles down this road, our sadness gets barricaded in pines, so everyone would know we are safe here, because we have lost someone. Maami believes extinction is another word for untimely, and I swore an oath to believe all she does, for I was made in her image, and her body has the sonograms of all my prayers. how long we get to live depends on how moist we could stay when everywhere goes dry. it’s the season when ghosts become whisperers, because their absences remind us of how to live in the rays of the memory that brightens our rooms, without having to wake up burning in them. the lit lantern is how my sister convinces herself that she is safe and not vulnerable to the whispers of anything she could not see in her mirrors, before it all gets dark. it’s maghrib again, we sit around a white piece of cloth the size of grandfather’s grave. we are all dressed in white, and our rosaries are as long as the sleeves of our jellabiya. I watch my brothers close their eyes, learning to feign their tiredness in the sound of the Zikir. I sway in silence and listen to the ghost of all our dead, giggling in my ears. this circle is the only space for the men in my house, to cry aloud, even though we believe this couldn’t be how to get God’s attention.
MARIE LUNDQUIST TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH BY KRISTINA ANDERSSON BICHER
I loosen these altogether too hard knots. Let go in order to rise like smoke. You lie on your back under me. I’m a sail. Only a sail. Then it’s over.
Jag lossar dessa alltför hårda knutar. Släpper taget för att stiga som en rök. Du ligger på rygg under mig. Jag är segel. Bara segel. Sen är det över.
Marc C o he n, " Su n s e t Dan ce, " 2 0 1 8
F ic t io n
An Anniversary ANDRIANA MINOU For our anniversary you gave me an electric nosferatu. During the day he recharges and at night he sneaks into bed next to me. All night I dream of a freshly chopped piano with milk teeth; sometimes I touch it with the tips of my nails and the teeth tremble a little and start pushing each other, the piano becomes a gigantic black-andwhite rattle, spitting out clanging names incapable of inhabiting a human mouth. This dream resembles a pendulum, its shape swinging between a miniscule moment of immobility and a dispersal longing for silence. Meanwhile, the electric nosferatu drinks all my blood and in the darkness the only sounds are his gulps sliding gently over his Adam’s apple, and something he whispers in my ear incessantly, breathlessly, as if inhaling in whispers, and all night he tells me of crinkly fig leaves and of lovers shedding skin, he tells me of the place where forgotten dreams go, of the pebbles I dropped behind me for you to find, which are now rattling in his pocket; but most of all he likes talking about blood, my blood, flowing warm in his throat, my blood becoming his blood every night, about the gentle embrace of the shadows, sweeter than those of bodies, and about my own body that he is emptying tenderly in this reverse intercourse. By the break of dawn he’s told me everything – each night the same exhalation-poem. Then I get out of bed to take my breakfast in the kitchen. The kitchen is at the end of a corridor with eighty-eight doors. Usually, before I make it to the end of the corridor, exactly midway to be precise, I stage a collapse and lie on the floor, striking an adorably
A n A n n ivers a ry
melancholy pose, eyes shut, focusing my attention on hearing your approaching footsteps echo on the marble floor in the empty house. After I establish that there is not a single sound, for even the clocks hold their breath and their hands are still, at last I proceed to the kitchen. I sit by the table and stare absentmindedly at the cage with the little deaf-mute nightingale, opening and closing its beak noiselessly. It is like a love-call, what it does. Most probably it’s unaware that its song is mute. For hours, I can sit there and watch the bird calling for its partner, with the conviction that he will fly through the open window any minute now. It all takes some getting used to, I tell the bird, don’t worry – the good and the bad, it all takes some getting used to. Everything – the blooming cadenzas and the walks along the pier, the crumpled sheets and the broken glances, the crimps on one’s hair, the uncomfortable silences, the words still soft like embryos – everything takes some getting used to, whether you like it or not, you’ll get used to everything, you will get used to liking everything, as much as you would’ve gotten used to disliking everything, whether you worry or not, you will get used to worrying and you will get used to not worrying, and then you will get used to having gotten used to— It is not you who’s standing behind me. It is someone whose face I recognise without seeing. He is standing behind me, going through my pockets, touching my cheeks. It is not you. To comfort me he recites words with soft t’s. Under his fingertips all is as white as an
A nd r ia na Mi nou
Po e t r y
My Second Encounter with Abandonment
I was six when my mom and I found a spider sipping tea with my teddy bears. We found her, and she ran, scared, although we couldnâ€™t have known she was pregnant. As she died, her babies scuttled across our cold wood floors seeking warmth, and milk, maybe. There were hundreds of them. My mom looked at them like mothers do and let them starve.
Fic t io n
Nothing Machine ARIANNA REICHE
You throw the rest of the notebooks into a box labelled garage, but slide one underneath your folded legs. “What’s that?” asks T. “Nothing,” you say. But you know it’s too late; children don’t forget a single detail, and you are positive that T will say something to his mother within days, if not hours. Thirty hours pass. “T said you kept a notebook,” Prisha says the moment she’s inside your home. “Yep,” you say. “You kept all those shirts. Daniel kept that box of floppy disks. We’re all keeping some stuff, right?” You shrug, as punctuation. You don’t know it, but you’ve done this since you were small: shrugging where language would normally be, but even back then it always looked adult and world-weary on you. Never adolescent. “Why that notebook?” Prisha asks. Her face looks even more heart-shaped than normal. Her chin is razor sharp. The cottage was a cave. Your father had put up the sign reading elm cottage, purchased and carved from the internet, in the absence of any actual elms. He’d returned from Cambridge only days earlier. “Every standalone house can just name its damn self over there!”
125 He was awed. “You can just do that. You can just name your whole house like you’re a goddamn king!” It was nothing like a cottage, though none of you ever said this to your father’s face. You tried to be sweet to get him to stay, to take a residency closer to home. It never worked. The home was not a cottage, but whatever it was, it fell into total, nauseating disrepair while he was away the second time. There was never a question of an adult staying with you. Even your father thought that a guardian would makes things more delicate, more easily ruptured. “You’re in your late thirties, if you combine all your ages,” he’d say. “Plenty old.” On the phone he told you he’d need to ship notebooks home. No one had scanners that far north, and he refused to get a phone with a camera. “You got a pen? I’m gonna give you the tracking numbers now.” “Dad, I’m not at home—” “It’s important you have these, kiddo: DE7-Whiskey-Juliett-Whiskey—” “Dad, I’m walking into class, can you call Dan—” “Just let me finish, Whiskey-Juliett-Whiskey-7-7—” “They’re gonna take my phone away again if they see me talking—” “Then put your head in a locker.” While you and Prisha and Daniel were growing up, he’d appear back in town over Christmas breaks, or when his department ran out of funding. He remained locked so tightly inside a daydream that he could not bleach the mold that grew in the shower or stem the bleeding pipes that left a bloom like a tropical plant on the wall facing Daniel’s bed, just underneath his Big Lebowski poster. The stain eventually grew a face and Daniel avoided sleeping in his room, preferring the couch or even the bathtub. Your feet were always damp, even in the summer. Wearing socks only made it worse. “The magnitude,” he’d say to any of you over breakfast, as though
Noth in g M a ch in e
you’d been in the midst of a conversation which had begun the previous night and lasted beyond sunrise. “The magnitude of their depressions. It’s the Eighth Wonder.” And he’d hardly be able to spoon the instant oatmeal into his mouth, such was the intensity of his smile. You listened, but only because you hadn’t learned how not to yet. Daniel played on his little bleeping console; that’s how he didn’t listen. Your mother was long dead, which was the best way not to listen. Prisha was driving by this time. She liked to jingle her car keys and look longingly into space while the three of you ate. She watched her Stratus like a jailed lover on the other side of your kitchen window. Prisha showered at school, and she always looked the cleanest of the three of you. Her cleanliness and constant longing felt mismatched with one another. You always thought longing should make you sweat. “What Paris is to fashion, man…” your father would continue. Sometimes he’d finish the thought, sometimes he wouldn’t. If he did, he’d roll his shoulders back, spine straight, and growl, “Nuuk is like that but for mood disorders. So much data. So much data.” He said data so that it rhymed with a British person saying “fatter,” but what was always the most distracting about this, to you, the only one who would look him in the eye while he was talking, was the idea that he knew anything about fashion. How ridiculous. It was his favorite analogy. He delivered these lines, with only very subtle variations, almost every morning that he was not in Greenland. A few weeks after one of his returns, the university threw a party for him, to which you, and only you, agreed to accompany him. You buckled yourself into the car before your father had finished putting his shoes on, and you spent the evening watching him try and fail to get drunk on white wine. He published papers on akathisia and bipolar II disorder in Greenlandic men and went off-piste (“No arctic pun intended,” you’d hear
127 him howl at whatever knot of men in linen shirts would have formed a semi-circle round him, their formation of choice, it seemed) for a piece on the architecture of Grønlands Universitet (“designed,” he’d written, “to lull its inhabitants into a thorazine stupor and set the animal-brain into claustrophobic arousal, simultaneously”). In the car he’d lean his elbow out the window and bark at the steering wheel about Danish academic governance – how it was an isolationist gerontocracy and the nation’s version of the Center for Disease Control was run by the same PR agency that was responsible for hygge. He talked about the shameful jurisdiction over Greenland, the poverty, and the way entire groups of men he’d monitored did not know their dates of birth. He talked about Greenland’s national health service and history of colonization, and the overregulation of psychotropic medicines as a kind of mantelpiece of Scandinavian state failure. “Scandinavia’s not a state,” Prisha said once from the back seat, and he didn’t speak to her much after that, until she left for college. He said that no one in continental Europe took his credentials seriously because he wasn’t coming from Stanford or the sar-BONN, but in Greenland the doctors could recite his thesis on dextromethorphan word-for-word. He started saying kiddo to you a great deal, as though it was something he’d always called you. He liked to do this in grocery stores, to locate you in faraway aisles like sonar. He went on a fundraising tour which was meant to last a week. At the two-month mark he missed your and Daniel’s fifteenth birthday, and Daniel vomited into the bathroom sink because he ate old Del Taco from the fridge days after the power was cut. Prisha got hold the following Sunday. Your father didn’t go into his office much after that. You started to wonder if he’d ever had one at all.
A r i an n a Re ich e
of the provost in your father’s campus apartment, and he was home
Noth in g M a ch in e
That’s probably when he began to plan his escape. His real one. It didn’t take much planning, all said, but he finally did it, ten years on from the very first time he’d left, when the three of you were on the brink of true adulthood and your guards were down. You never believed he’d really act on it, and of the three of you, you were the only one who felt the pain of having been wrong. You had imagined it before his note was found: You and Prisha and Daniel making funeral arrangements for your father. The world outside would be shaking like when live TV zooms in on something small. You would be perfectly still, moving with graceful steps through the flat-topped houses stacked neatly side by side, but everywhere you looked would be golden retrievers with palsied silhouettes and the humming, skittering trunks of aluminum lamp posts. It was always the frightened trembling of a poorly rendered scene, of an ailing creator. You might have been more excited about your powers of premonition, if your father had in fact been dead. But the note didn’t say that. That’s what made things tricky. The note said he wasn’t coming back, and to act like he was dead. By this time it was obvious that he hadn’t been receiving paychecks for many years. The provost stopped answering your calls. It didn’t matter. You knew where he went (Nuuk, of course, or maybe somewhere more remote, Ilulissat or Nanortalik). This certainty gave you two types of comfort: the warmth of a secret, and a kind of weightlessness, an unmoored sleepiness, as a child who nods off in the back of a moving car. You could find him if you really wanted to, if you wanted to ignore his note and go collect him some day. You could. Still, it felt like a death. The permanence felt shocking because the whole spectacle was unnecessary. By this time you’d hit your strange late growth spurt, somewhere in your early twenties, and had become tall in a way that Daniel never did. Maybe it was sleeping in
129 closets and bathrooms that kept him one shape and size. Maybe your height was the reason you weren’t offered real consolation by those who’d known you as children – you looked so unlike that child, so unlike the man who’d gone missing, so sure-footed and still. Surely it was the strangeness of the whole thing that made them uneasy – to become unofficial orphans after a lifetime of seeming to be actual orphans. There is no sympathy card for losing someone gradually, atom by atom. “Why that notebook?” Prisha asks. You stall for as long as you can. “Clues,” you come up with. Yes. You decide to run with it. “Clues. I’m still going to find him. I’m going to make him answer for everything. Everything he’s left us with.” You pretend to hold back tears. You do this by constricting the back of your mouth, the soft palate, and making your voice first loud, and then soft into a whisper. You blink a few times. Prisha is hard to lie to. Or rather, when she finds out she’s been lied to she’s a real dick about it. But no – now it’s worked. This time she puts a hand on your cheek and tilts her head. She smiles a little, a smile that might have belonged to your mother. Prisha is the only one who’d really know. “You and Daniel. I’ll never understand what you think you’ll find.” She takes a breath. “He wasn’t a good guy. You know that right?” You nod solemnly. Of course you know that there’s nothing to find. You don’t know why you’ve come out with this. You prickle at the comparison to Daniel. In the weeks after your father disappeared, something awoke in your brother, the brother whose skin was now weathered with odd stints of manual labor and sleepless nights. He rose early until it besity interval training, and tried to explain Orange Theory to you. He introduced you and Prisha to a near-mute girlfriend named Ashlee, and in her presence your father was all Daniel spoke of. While fid-
A r i an n a Re ich e
came habit, and updated his LinkedIn profile. He began high-inten-
Noth in g M a ch in e
dling with a slice of sourdough at the Italian place that looked like a casino, Ashlee asked if you’d had any idea that your father was going to run away. It made your father sound like a dog, you thought, and no one could come up with anything to say. Daniel rubbed Ashlee’s knee like he was going to hunt down all the answers, each and every one, just for her. Daniel might want to go there – to Greenland – but you don’t. You’d hate to ruin the gift that you have now, the one that you found thirty hours ago, scribbled in the notebook: The “problem” of sadness is based entirely on the notion that our bodies are machines whose sole purpose is to generate happiness (for our own consumption, and for their environmental effects). In this way we treat depression as a malfunction. Then there is the other idea, which feels more fantastical, speculative: that happiness is the anomaly in what are otherwise sadness machines. What I posit is this: You are a nothing machine. Your body is a nothing machine which requires propulsion, and that is where tonics and pilgrimages and safeguards and interventions begin. This is something which I believe unwaveringly, and which liberates and exhilarates more than any other model of reasoning. You think that maybe someday you’ll show it to Daniel. Maybe he’ll find some fantastical clue in it. But he won’t see what you see: there is a dot over the i in machine. A loop, a small sloppy o. It doesn’t belong to your father, but to someone else, someone else who is there with him. That’s why you will keep the notebook until you’re dead. Maybe for a time he won’t be lonely. The kind of lonely that rotted the house. The kind of lonely that grew a face in your twin’s bedroom. The kind of lonely that made you a fast walker and content in silence. The kind of lonely that made Prisha the most beautiful when she spoke of burning Elm Cottage to the ground. Maybe he’s not lonely. Maybe.
131 There in your home, the one with a dehumidifier that runs round the clock, and the constant, vague smell of multiple bathroom cleaners, Prisha removes her hand from your cheek, and the desire to tell her the truth washes over you. You open your mouth, but she is already gathering her things. She’s throwing her phone and a spray bottle of children’s sunscreen into a straw bag twice the size of her child. She realigns her face and says, “It was so weird leaving the cottage with T the other day. It might be the last time we’re in there. Any of us. Right?” You nod, looking around your home, anchoring yourself. “Sayonara,” she says, to nothing and no one in particular. Her lips don’t really move when she says it, which feels, to you, creepy – her audio out of sync. Prisha is rubbing the top of her hip now, eyes glazing over. There will be no more lifting. No more boxes. At least there’s that. The land will sell to developers overnight. The Cottage will crumble like damp newspaper, and you will write: tonics and pilgrimages safeguards and interventions on the underside of your desk at work one day. No one will ask you what you’re doing, even though you’re there on the floor for quite a while, breathing the burnt-air smell of electrical power strips and enjoying the quiet. You and Prisha hear something coming from her Jeep, which is parked sloppily across the street. The engine is still running and music is spilling faintly from the cracked windows. You both take a slow breath while you look out. “T can’t stop listening to 80s synth
A r i an n a Re ich e
stuff,” she says. “Kids are so weird.”
Po e t ry
Poems are Locations & there. are even porns about losing lovers to circumstance in Heaven.
Contributors KANIKA AGRAWAL
is an Indian citizen and longtime â€œtempor-
ary alienâ€? in the US. She studied Biology at MIT, where she came to love restriction enzymes and fluorescent labels, and earned an MFA in Writing from Columbia and a PhD in English from the University of Denver. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Best American Experimental Writing 2020, Black Warrior Review, filling Station, Foglifter, and various SFF publications. HUSSAIN AHMED
is a Nigerian writer and environmentalist. His
poems are featured or forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, The Journal, Magma, and elsewhere. CARLO ANDRE was born in Peru, raised in Miami, and served as a
combat medic during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He studied English in Florida and is presently working on a first collection of poetry about war and the queer immigrant experience. SARA ANSTIS
was raised on a small island off the Canadian west
coast and draws and lives wherever she finds good light. Her images, installations and collaborative writing and curation projects take shape through an intuitive exploration of memories and pleasure. In her soft pastel drawings, unruly figures can be found engaging in scenes of revelry and living tender moments within landscapes built from imagination. ROSAIRE APPEL
is based in New York City and is a text/image
artist who uses analog as well as digital materials. Her subject is, basically, visual language. She has a long practice of asemic writing
(writing with no semantic value) and is now exploring sound though energetic mark-making. Her output includes drawings, prints and many books in both limited and unlimited editions. KRISTINA ANDERSSON BICHER
is a poet, essayist, and trans-
lator living in New York City. Her poems have been published in Ploughshares, Haydenâ€™s Ferry Review, Plume, Denver Quarterly, Narrative, Painted Bride Quarterly, and others. Her essays and profiles have appeared in The Atlantic, The Rumpus, and Columbia Journal, with translations in the Harvard Review, Brooklyn Rail, and Tupelo Quarterly. She is the author of the poetry collection She-Giant in the Land of HereWe-Go-Again, due out from MadHat Press in Autumn 2019, and Just Now Alive (Finishing Line Press, 2014). She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. JOSHUA BOHNSACK is a fiction editor for TriQuarterly, an editor
for Long Day Press, and an MFA candidate at Northwestern University. He is the author of Shift Drink (Spork Press 2019) and his work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, Queen Mobâ€™s Teahouse, and others. He lives in Chicago where he works as a bookseller. CHRISTIAN BROOKLAND started writting in 2012. Since then he
has divided his time between Germany and the UK, and has contributed poetry and fiction to Ambit Magazine, 3:AM Magazine, and Ink, Sweat & Tears. He has just finished his first novel, The Last Mountain. VICKY CHARLES
is based in New York and has a BFA in Photog-
raphy from SUNY New Paltz. Her work consists of self-portraits that deal with issues about black identity, the body, and relationships with oneself. Vicky achieves her visual effects in camera with such procedures as staged studio work and double exposures. Her photography expresses itself without words, but by showing.
135 MARC S. COHEN
is an artist, writer, and musician born in the
United States and currently residing in Toronto, Canada. His artwork dwells on existentially topical themes like alienation, dislocation, and the construction of selfhood in a shifting semantic landscape. LINDSAY COSTELLO
is a multimedia artist, poet, and art writ-
er from Portland, Oregon. She received her BFA in Textiles from the Oregon College of Art and Craft in 2017 and has published two chapbooks, So What if I’m Unfolding? in 2017 and Bloomswelling in 2018. Her poetry can be read in SUSAN, Pom Pom, and Rue Scribe, among other places. Her critical writing is found at 60 Inch Center and Art Practical. She is a visual arts editor for Inklette Magazine, an Assistant Poetry Editor for Digging Press, and founded soft surface, a digital poetry journal, residency, and bookshop. HENRY CURCHOD
was born in 1992 in San Francisco, and is a
Sydney-based artist working in painting and drawing. His practice promotes a playful perspective of the modern human condition, characterised by organic figuration interacting with surreal architectural spaces. Often with dark or satirical undertones, the works present a fascination with the nuance of human gesture and its delicate intrinsic symbolism. TRACE HOWARD DEPASS
is the author of Self-portrait as the
space between us (PANK Books, 2018) and editor of Scholastic’s Best Teen Writing of 2017. He was the 2016 Teen Poet Laureate for the Borough of Queens. His work has been featured on television and radio – BET Next Level, Billboard, Blavity, and NPR’s The Takeaway – and in print – Anomalous Press, Entropy, Platypus Press, Split This Rock, The Other Side of Violet, and the Voices of the East Coast anthology. DePass is a 2018 Teaching Artist Project & Poets House Fellow. He serves as a creative director for SouthSide Thrives and a program coordinator at the Climate Museum.
(1945–2010) was the preeminent hermit-poet of Per-
sian modernism. A major influence on contemporary Iranian poetry, his poetics is distinguished by a diversity of style and registers, as well as by its intertextual engagement with a wide range of world literatures. His poems establish poetry as vision experienced within the nuances of a language that constantly exiles itself. The Iranian poet Yadollah Royaee describes Elahi's poetry as, “the tomorrow of our poetry today; a tomorrow coming from distant pasts.” ROWEN FOSTER
was born in Houston, Texas, and is currently
based in Dallas. She studied sculpture and creative writing at the Kansas City Art Institute. She has exhibited work in Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, and Ruse, Bulgaria. Her poetry can be found in Sprung Formal and I Wagered Deep On The Run Of Six Rats To See Which Would Catch The First Fire (Thrice Publishing, 2018). JEFFREY GIBBS
grew up in rural Florida. He received his MFA
from the University of Arizona and has had short stories, essays, reviews, and poems published in The Boston Review, 3:AM Magazine, and Diagram. He has worked in Turkey as a writer and teacher for eleven years. “Sometimes They Fall From the Sky” is part of a series of short stories set in Istanbul. Other pieces in this series have appeared in Eclectica, A Minor, Word Riot, The Opiate, Big Truths Little Fiction, and Entropy. He keeps a travel/culture blog on his experiences in Turkey at istanbulgibbs.blogspot.com. REBECCA RUTH GOULD is a writer and translator from Persian,
Russian, and Georgian. Her first book is Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press), and she is the translator of After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Death of Bagrat Zakharych and other Stories by Vazha-Pshavela (Paper & Ink, 2019). Her poem “Grocery Shopping” was a finalist for
137 the Luminaire Award for Best Poetry in 2017, and she is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She teaches at the University of Birmingham. HELENA GRANSTRÖM is an author with a background in physics
and mathematics. She debuted in 2008, and has since then published several books on topics such as technology, nature, pregnancy, and cosmology. Granström’s writing takes place in the borderland between novel and literary essay, and she is currently working on a highly personal essay on the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. MARTA HELM
is an interdisciplinary avatar that has operated as a
composer, a band, a poet, a critic, and an artist. You can find them as Jordan Amadi Martin, Nitram Nadroj, @MartaHelmExists, @brokensocialqueen, and @derrickisalive. They are the author of the book/ tape S.O.S: Some Oscillations Suck! Collected Poetic Rock Criticism with Translations in Morse Code. Their work has been featured in The Felt, GO Magazine, She Shreds Magazine, Tom Tom Magazine, Third Coast, and more. You can find their music and their work in general at cargocollective.com/jordanamadimartin. AVANTIKA KHANNA relates her identity to the countries she was
raised in, her brown skin, oranges, drawings, and found objects. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a BFA degree this past spring, and is currently setting up her practice in Berlin. As a materially-driven artist, her collection of objects teaches her about the ways in which she can transcend beyond her own identity politics in order to find belonging and comfort in any place in which she finds herself. KING LLANZA
is a writer from the Philippines. His writings navi-
gate ecological imagery and personal queer experiences. He is currently taking an MSc degree in Environmental Science and Ecosystem Management, while finishing his first collection of ecopoems.
was born in Sweden in 1950 and is the ac-
claimed author of 11 books of poetry and prose as well as plays written for radio. In addition to writing and translating, she has worked as a librarian and a teacher. Lundquist has received numerous awards and honors, including Sveriges Radios Lyrikpris (2002), stipendium from the Svenska Akademien (2007), De Nios Lyrikpris (2008) and the Aspenströmpriset (2015). RACHEL MCNICHOLL
is a freelance translator and editor based
in Dublin, Ireland. Her translations have appeared in journals and anthologies including The Stinging Fly, Manoa, No Man’s Land, Best European Fiction, and The Short Story Project. Book-length translations include short stories by Austrian writer Nadja Spiegel, sometimes i lie and sometimes i don’t (Dalkey Archive Press, 2015) and Lebanese-German writer Pierre Jarawan’s novel The Storyteller, co-translated with Sinéad Crowe (World Editions, forthcoming 2019). Rachel was a recipient of a PEN America PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant in 2016, and of an Arts Council (Ireland) literature bursary in 2014. UMA MENON
is a fifteen-year-old student and writer from Win-
ter Park, Florida. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, IRIS, and The Rumpus, among others. Her first chapbook was published with Zoetic Press in January 2019. Uma is the recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for her first-place poetry in the state of Florida and she was named National Winner of National Poetry Quarterly’s High School Poetry Contest. Uma is also a nationally-ranked debater and an activist for marginalized groups. ANDRIANA MINOU
is a writer and musician based in London.
Her writing has been published in several anthologies and literary journals in Greece, the UK, Canada, and the US. She has published three books in Greek with Strange Days Books. Her experimental
139 novella, Hypnotic Labyrinth, was published by Verbivoracious Press, and her latest book, The Fabulous Dead, is under publication by Kernpunkt Press in New York. She also writes librettos, song lyrics, and texts for performances that have been presented around the world. andrianaminou.com. LUKE MUYSKENS’s
writing has appeared most recently in Arts &
Letters, New Madrid, Hopkins Review, Cutbank, New American Writing, and Howling Up to the Sky: The Opioid Epidemic, an anthology from Pact Press. He has work forthcoming from descant and Fugue. He earned an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, and was a Tin House Scholar for the 2018 Summer Workshop under Lesley Nneka Arimah. CANDICE NEMBHARD
is a Birmingham-born writer, poet, and
artist based in Berlin. She is the founder of the Afro-European archive The Black Borough and co-founder of writers’ and artists’ collective Poet & Prophetess. Through writing and performance, she addresses the Black Caribbean diaspora, queer identities, and race relations. ARIANNA REICHE
is an American writer based in London. Her
short fiction has been published by Popshot, Ambit Magazine, and Lighthouse Journal. Her nonfiction and features have appeared in Vice, New Scientist, and Vogue International. She won first prize in Glimmer Train’s 2017 Fiction Open, and is represented by Curtis Brown UK. MARINA REZA,
born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and raised in New
York City, graduated from Wesleyan University in 2013. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Newtown Literary Journal, Bone Bouquet, Having A Whiskey Coke With You, First Times: A Collection of Stories, and Künstler Künstlerin. She can be found at marinareza.com.
is an undergraduate student at the University
of Missouri, where she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English next May. Her work has appeared in the university’s literary magazine EPIC, as well as Tilde, Sky Island Journal, and Levee Magazine. When she isn’t writing or studying, she is working at a small daycare with kids who make her life exceptionally bright. LISA LÓPEZ SMITH
lives and writes from her home in central
Mexico. When not wrangling kids or goats or rescue dogs, you can probably find her riding her bike. Recent and forthcoming publications include Coal Hill Review, Rise Up Review, Lacuna, The Esthetic Apostle, Rat's Ass Review, Tilde, and Mothers Always Write. KAYVAN TAHMASEBIAN is a poet, translator, and literary critic.
His poetry has appeared in Notre Dame Review, The Hawaiʻi Review, Salt Hill, and Lunch Ticket. His co-translations of Elahi have appeared in Tin House, Poetry Wales, Waxwing, Acumen Literary Journal, The McNeese Review, Two Lines, and The Kenyon Review. His co-translated volume, High Tide of the Eyes: Poems by Bijan Elahi, is forthcoming with The Operating System in 2019. SASKIA VOGEL
was born and raised in Los Angeles and now
lives in its sister city, Berlin, where she works as a writer and Swedish-to-English literary translator. She has written on the themes of gender, power, and sexuality for publications such as Granta, The White Review, Sight & Sound, The Offing, and The Quietus. Her translations include work by leading Swedish female authors, such as Katrine Marçal, Karolina Ramqvist, and the modernist eroticist Rut Hillarp. Her debut novel, Permission, was published by Dialogue Books in 2019.
141 FLORIAN WACKER
was born in Stuttgart, Germany. He is a writ-
er and website designer who originally trained in remedial education and later studied at the German Literature Institute in Leipzig. His publications include one collection of short stories Albuquerque (mairisch Verlag, 2014), two novels, and a play. florianwacker.de MARCUS SCOTT WILLIAMS
is an artist and writer from Kan-
sas City, Missouri, living in New York City. His work is predicated on themes such as the creation of comfortable spaces, memory, and radical vulnerability. He is the author of Sparse Black Whimsy: A Memoir (2fast2house, 2017) and has attended workshops at Cave Canem and Winter Tangerine. He has received a fellowship from the Saltonstall Arts Colony, and his ultimate goal is to take care of his friends and family.
C R ED IT S
Edi t o r i n Ch i e f
J A K E S CH N E I D ER
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A S H L E Y M O O R E , JENNIFER NEAL,
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S U S A N N A F O R R EST
B ÁR B A RA F O N S ECA
Web Ed i tor
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L I E K E K ESSELS, RUBY
M A S O N , D A S O M YA N G Ev e n t s C o o r d i n at ors
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