SAND Journal Willibald-Alexis-Str. 16 10965 Berlin, Germany
EDITOR IN CHIEF
Jake Schneider MANAGING EDITOR
Simone O’Donovan EMAIL:
Matthew Deery FICTION EDITORS
Melissa Richer POETRY EDITOR
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SAND Journal TWITTER: @sandjournal INSTAGRAM: @sandjournalberlin ISSN 2191-429X Copyright © SAND Journal, November 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. Printed in Latvia by Jelgavas Tipografija on Muncken Pure 90g paper.
Crista Siglin ART EDITOR
Ruhi Parmar Amin NONFICTION COORDINATORS
Simone O'Donovan Matthew Deery DESIGN
Dimitris Gkikas WEB EDITOR
Sarah Coughlan COMMUNICATIONS & OUTREACH
Ruby Mason Dasom Yang EVENT COORDINATOR
Özgecan Kesici-Ayoubi VEREIN COORDINATOR
Christina Wegener OUTGOING TEAM MEMBERS
Joey Bahlsen (Events) Lieke Kessels (C&O) Natalie Mariko (Poetry) Jennifer Neal (Fiction) READERS
Fonts: Helvetica Neue designed by Linotype and Max Miedinger and Cormorant by Catharsis Fonts.
Susan Graunke Anna Linetsky David Lynch Cindy Juyoung Ok Helena Ruß
Cover image: from the series "Exorcise Me" (2013) by Sookoon Ang
Andrew Scheinman Paul Sullivan Charlotte Wührer
TABOO JAKE SCHNEIDER
Inside the taboo, the taboo is invisible. The word itself is a surprisingly recent import into English, given England’s famously elaborate social cues. It was not until the 1770s that Captain James Cook, sailing the South Pacific as a scout for British conquest, “discovered” the idea of taboo – a sacred, social prohibition – in the religious practices of Tongans. The word’s far-flung etymology, dating from before the missionaries arrived to impose their own list of sins, shows us something basic about taboos. The rules in Tonga were obvious to the Tongans, just as the rules in England were obvious to Cook. So obvious that he didn’t have his own word for them yet. So obvious they were invisible.
This issue of SAND looks at taboos head-on. In artistic transgressions and exceptions, we find patterns we never noticed in the wild. Taboos about nudity and age, for example, are all over this issue’s fiction – and as with every taboo, their disruption provokes all sorts of emotional reactions in readers. Children encounter a naked adult neighbor and two naked mothers, besides a third mother in “Nine” (→ p. 96) who turns her sex life into a bedtime story. In “Sweeps” (→ 53), thirty-two-year-old Ted lives and socializes in a nursing home, essentially de-segregating its age range as he reminds us of intergenerational continuities. On a broader level, taboos reflect a culture’s evolving inner logic, which defines the structure of gender, sexuality, and relationships. With its title Feminicid (feminicide), Guilherme Bergamini’s mystically indistinct photo series (→ 84) affirms the trans subjects’ womanhood – even as it publicizes hate crimes against their fellow women. “Pray the police don’t catch you making love / to a man,” warns a character in “A Shorter Note on My Coming Out” (→ 37). Let’s pray they make love anyway. In the essay “Svalbard” (→ 75), set in the Arctic Circle, Sara Anwar tries to rationalize her partner’s wandering eyes, even as she finds it difficult to break the script of monogamy: “Far from disturbing me, it gave me a certain triumphant pleasure, knowing that he in turn had pleasure.” Finally, the teenage girls of Sookoon Ang’s “Exorcise Me” series are indifferent, confident, defiant. These aren’t the kinds of bodies that go on magazine covers. Our shameful bodies – their hidden parts, furtive actions, and skin-deep differences – are the core of forbidden language. This issue is full of those kinds of words, deployed thoughtfully but sometimes gleefully. The opening poem, “Essay on Causation,” uses versions of “fuck” fourteen times – and earns every instance. “A handsome headless man” (→ 67), written in thirteenth-century France, makes us blush today with the phrase “hairy cunt.” In her prose poem, Quinn Rennerfeldt shows us the elegance of
on The Hunters in the Snow,” inspired by a painting from 1565 (→ 68), sacrificially burns the same label. Our cultures teach us to fixate on these taboo moments and words, and therefore to overlook the rich landscape they live in. Leaving out forbidden words would make things easier, but at the cost of subtleties that transcend our shock. Speaking about a taboo is taboo, too. Even to publish portrayals of deplorable acts can be confused with endorsing those acts. But literature and art are legitimate places for negotiating the full range of human experiences, including physical intimacy, brutality, suicide, bullying, incest, and sexual assault. And not publishing difficult pieces would only maintain the gaping silences around such taboos, which can cause yet another generation of pain. So here we are, breaking those silences. This is your trigger warning. The posthumous insertion of two non-Jewish writers into a concentration camp in the poem “Tautologies” (→ 16) – writers who were confined elsewhere during the war – was one moment that challenged us. Who may invoke the Holocaust and under what conditions? In the end, we are proud to be publishing a poem that gave us pause – a constructive pause. The greatest failure of European civilization needs to be written about, even now, and not only by representatives of the victims. We realize this issue of SAND would be censored in many times and places. Here in Berlin, we no longer answer to the Kaiser’s imperial police, the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, the occupying US Army, or the East German Ministry of Culture. It is our privilege to be able to publish the best writing and art that crosses our desks. In featuring “June 21,” a poem from this year’s protests in Hong Kong (→ 41), we know that our freedom to communicate at will and to express all sides of life is hard-fought. If we don’t flex it, the taboos will keep insisting on their silences.
a “puckered asshole” (→ 107). Ben Miller, a queer writer, reclaims “faggot” in his story (→ 119), while the poem “Thirty Observations
→ 37 CHISOM OKAFOR A SHORTER NOTE ON MY COMING OUT
JAKE SCHNEIDER EDITOR'S NOTE
CHRISTOPHER LINFORTH INITIATION
ADELE ELISE WILLIAMS ESSAY ON CAUSATION
TIM TIM CHENG JUNE 21
MARIA A. IOANNOU PILLARS
SHANNON T. SMITH UNDER THE ACKEE TREE BOTTOM-SIDE BEECHWOOD
→ 14 ANNETTE C. BOEHM SELECTIONS FROM E.D. LIBERATIONS
→ 43 HEIKKI HUOTARI BE SPECIFIC / WHEN WORDS COLLIDE
→ 16 JUAN ROMERO VINUEZA (TR. KIMREY ANNA BATTS) TAUTOLOGIES
SEMYON KHANIN (TR. KEVIN M. F. PLATT AND EUGENE OSTASHEVSKY) UNTITLED / SAMYON KHANIN
MILVA MCDONALD NAKED
JOY WALLER ESTELLE IN 17 PARTS
SAYA ANNA IS MY FLATMATE AND SHE DON'T KNOW THAT I WROTE THIS POETRY
→ 53 ADAM PETERSON SWEEPS
UNKNOWN AUTHOR (TR. TED BYRNE AND DONATO MANCINI) SELECTIONS FROM THE FATRASIES D’ARRAS (C. 1280–1300)
QUINN RENNERFELDT THE TONGUE IS A DISGUSTING MUSCLE → 108 MARY-LAURE ZOSS (TR. SARAH-JANE MOLONEY)
IN SEARCH OF WHAT
BLAKE HACKLER THIRTY OBSERVATIONS ON THE HUNTERS IN THE SNOW BY PIETER BRUEGEL
→ 71 JESSICA BLOOM BANNIK → 74 MICHELE REESE THE FLOOD → 75 SARA ANWAR SVALBARD → 80 ART SECTION SOOKOON ANG GUILHERME BERGAMINI KHAIRULLAH RAHIM ELLA WALKER
T. PERSON BEGINNING OF A NEW POEM → 113 MEGAN SUNGYOON MORNING → 114 L. REEMAN ODE TO THE PIT-STOP → 116 TERENCE YOUNG THE PARTY → 119 BEN MILLER TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART
→ 96 EMI BENN NINE
ESSAY ON CAUSATION poem by ADELE ELISE WILLIAMS
The trouble with tuna is tuna smells so if you have long hair and it gets in your tuna salad you are fucked. You are fucked if the last word of your poem is poem or forever. You are fucked if you are in love, or if you are not in love, then you can be fucked too. It is not about getting screwed or being screwed,
it is about the impossibility of loving someone, or writing for effect, or eating without a mess. You can be fucked mostly if you try too hard, if you try too hard or you don’t try at all, or if you think whatever you are doing matters or doesn’t. You will most likely fuck yourself if you mean to make a piece of art for a reason other than you want it, if you don’t add onion to the tuna or relish (where I’m from) or you end a poem or a relationship on forever. Once I was fucked in a Nova on a dairy farm in the dead of night. It isn’t about the fucking, it is about the cop who wrote the public fucking ticket. That was the shit’s creek. The last word of a poem I read yesterday was cedar-limbs. It was the second poem of the day where a woman fucked an animal. Maybe I am fucking all wrong. I am definitely trying too hard (so fucking myself there) and saying never never never far too much (so fucking myself there) and walking around with fish hair (so could be doing better there). I feel obligated to keep writing this poem to end it on the perfect word. It cannot be fucking (duh) or tuna for that matter. It is just about how the mind will obsess you into doubt or task or fizzle.
PILLARS MARIA A. IOANNOU
“We should also try it in public.” “Are you out of your mind?” “Julie said it saved her marriage.” “With Bill?” “No, her first marriage.” “We agreed to keep it in the home. Didn’t you enjoy the wardrobe fantasy yesterday?”
ting them hard onto each other. They stayed mute for three days. On the evening of the fourth, returning from work, he searched all the rooms, even their usual places – the wardrobe, the fridge, the dining table. No sign of her. He shouted out her name a couple of times, really acting it out, pretentiously in panic, and even called her mobile phone, which vibrated on the bedside table. The feeling that you have mysteriously lost someone can be very arousing, they said. It opens up a door towards rediscovering both yourself and your partner. He took off his jacket and placed it on the coatrack by the door which looked more overcrowded than usual. A scarf stirred. And then a finger popped out. “There you are,” he whispered, as he peeled away jackets and coats one by one. Her arm appeared first, then one of her breasts. He couldn’t wait – he sucked it, the sleeve of one of the hanging jackets pushed his head downwards, made him shove his face even deeper, uncovered her skinny thighs, and he sucked them too while unzipping his trousers. He crawled in on all fours and pulled her newly-bought thong with his teeth. “It’s addictive, isn’t it?” “I’ve learned to like it.” He covered up her standing-naked body with all the clothes he had tossed on the floor. Soon, no part of her body was visible. He then stood still right next to her. That was one of the couple therapy rules: staying like that, still and silent, looking lifeless, for several minutes after it was all over. If they were both pretending to be objects, like that time they were chairs, one of them had to willingly retreat and leave space for the other to contemplate their thoughts. It’s an act of sacrifice, they said. And they were right, it did take their relationship to the next level. “Stop spooning me.” “But you’re a carpet!”
She muttered a long reply which included the word “weak” and pulled herself back into the kitchen. She started on the dishes, hit-
“You’re right, I’m a carpet.” “Are you my fucking carpet?” “Yes, yes, I’m your fucking carpet.” The consultants had also provided them with an object-related Kama Sutra book. Some positions were a real challenge, especially the ones that had to do with hanging objects, Aerial yoga can help you with that, they said. The book came with a glossary suggesting role-play dialogues and words. They’d added an appendix in the new edition too, which included more edgy scenarios and tips, as well as philosophical quotes like objectify yourselves to “subjectify” your marriage. Julie the neighbour called one day and said she was giving the whole thing up, they were getting carried away, Bill could no longer take it, wasn’t anything like her first husband. “You should give it up now that it’s early,” she advised. She heard Dino went nuts, decided to literally turn into a statue, covered himself in plaster and couldn’t move an inch. Nikki found him in the backyard with his penis sticking out—“Can you believe it?” He had plastered his whole face too; he could barely breathe. The consultants were closing all their branches, just keeping the headquarters in the capital. “Maybe this place is too conservative for them,” she said. “They will continue their couple consulting services online though, if you’re interested.” She’d told them she and Bill were no longer interested. Julie’s words echoed in her ears. Julie could do that to people. She hung up feeling sorry for Dino. Things to avoid: plaster, glue, tape. They had used tape once to shut their mouths, they couldn’t stay quiet, especially in the beginning. The consultants called it “silent intercourse” – Learn to listen to your bodies and not your mouths. Wasn’t he in the living room a minute ago? Is this a new game? He’s a real player. She never thought he had this in him when it all started, it’s changed their lives alright: made him return earlier from work, made her more confident, more femme fatale, more passive
Really looking at someone. She had missed that look. It’s the first thing that goes away, the consultants said. Couples no longer dive into each other’s eyes. She had searched everywhere, even under the bed, hated the bed fantasy, too claustrophobic— Was he finally taking it to the next level, IN PUBLIC? She could feel the craving on her chin and cheeks. She rushed into the garden, moving plants and flowers to the side like a frantic swimmer, then to the sidewalk, the park, the neighbouring shops, under a bench, in a bin – she searched for hours, feet aching, libido gone. At some point she just had to call the police and report him missing. They found him half-naked by the zebra crossing next to the pharmacy. Julie was also half-naked. They were both standing opposite each other, backs straight, necks slightly drooping. He had an erection when the police found him. They gossiped about it at the station, she could hear them even when they lowered their voices. She remembered Julie’s voice echoing after that phone call, yes, Julie could do that to people. They must've been an exhibit for quite some time before the police arrived, their bodies facing each other, orange lights on their heads. Must’ve been twinkling too, motionless on each side of the zebra crossing, staring at each other, desiring each other until they could no longer hold it – We follow unconventional therapy techniques but we have saved a lot of marriages – pretending to be light pillars at the zebra crossing, Julie’s breasts tighter than hers, nipples hard, perfect thighs. The gap between them must’ve been filled with lust. She knew that feeling well – the gap, the gap between them.
Maria A. Ioannou
maybe, but in a good way – definitely in a good way. And that look.
SELECTIONS FROM E.D. LIBERATIONS poem by ANNETTE C. BOEHM
* Notation for Emily Dickenson.
* E.D. 937, LIBERATED
cleavage split seam by seam — make fit to join the rave balls on a floor
E.D. 371, LIBERATED (pt 2)
When was a living girl, and the facts, familiar as one town — all were true: were born. presence is — not to go.
E.D. 466, LIBERATED
little ears own the amp — mc a continual crowning
E.D. 348, LIBERATED (pt 2)
I bear countries no blossom salutes — my child, unthinking
TAUTOLOGÍAS poem by JUAN ROMERO VINUEzA
cuando callo soy yo // soy miles // soy todos // me canto a mí mismo cuando me da la gana // sin hojas // sin hierba // solamente con la mente y una inusitada condición de soledad // con toda la ira contenida cuando recuerdo: 1. la poca audición que me queda cuando el mundo se me viene abajo // que es –digamos– cada que me doy cuenta de que la vida no es más que un basurero con lucecitas de neón que se entrecruzan cada cuanto y nos hacen torpemente felices 2. la visión que casi pierdo al destrozar mis ojos leyendo poesía surrealista francesa o poesía alemana de la postguerra (Antonin Artaud puede pelear con Ernst Meister en un campo de concentración y aun así nadie ganaría la pelea con el lenguaje) 3. el poco tacto que tengo cuando lo azul se convierte en una magnolia perdida en las sábanas de una tranquila y cotidiana mañana de sábado // los domingos son bombas que retumban en nuestros desayunos con cereal y leche 4. la memoria es una daga en la mitad de la frente // porque a la vida le jode que me gusten los detalles inútiles: digo, cosas tan inservibles como recordar el lunar debajo de la oreja izquierda de mi ex novia // o como la oración en latín que me sabía cuando era niño // o incluso si somos más contemplativos, cosas inútiles como este poema // que se desborda sin permiso de su autor (o sea, uno de mis yos)
TAUTOLOGIES translated from the Spanish by KIMREY ANNA BATTS
when I fall silent I’m me // I’m thousands // I’m everyone // I sing myself whenever I please // without leaves // without grass // with only the mind and a rare condition of solitude // with all my fury contained when I remember: 1. the scant hearing that is left when the world collapses around me // which is –let’s say– each time I realize that life is nothing more than a dumpster with little neon lights that intersect every once in a while and make us clumsily happy 2. the sight I nearly lose when I destroy my eyes reading surrealist French or German post-war poetry (Antonin Artaud can fight with Ernst Meister in a concentration camp and even so no one would win the war with language) 3. the little touch I have when the blue turns to a magnolia lost in the sheets of a quiet and routine Saturday morning // Sundays are bombs that reverberate in our milk-and-cereal breakfasts 4. memory is a dagger in the middle of your forehead // because life is pissed that I like the useless details: that is, things as unserviceable as remembering the mole beneath my ex-girlfriend’s left ear // or like the Latin prayer that I knew when I was a boy // or even, if we’re more contemplative, useless things like this poem // which overflows without permission from its author (that is, from one of my me’s)
NAKED MILVA MCDONALD
Even though we saw Liza’s mother naked, we still had to call her Mrs. Mitchell. She was dressed most of the time, in brightly colored stretch pants and dark turtlenecks, but when she bathed she would ask us to get her things – shampoo, a washcloth, her back brush – and when she came out of the water she walked around the house with nothing on, the wisps of her short white-blonde hair pasted to the back of her neck, smiling like she couldn’t have been more pleased with herself.
mound of pale brown bush-fuzz, her round dimpled ass, the wiggly white stretch lines you could only see in the light. Maybe I remember the folds and jiggles of Mrs. Mitchell’s body so well because I stared. I was twelve, and I had never seen a naked woman before. The only other female in my house was my mother, and the least I ever saw her wear was a bra and pantyhose. I never told her about Mrs. Mitchell, or anything else for that matter. I didn’t talk much, which may have had something to do with why I had no friends except Liza. I was her only friend, too. She was tall for her age, a lot taller than I was, with blonde hair that fell to her waist. One of the most marvelous and infuriating things about her was that she didn’t care what anyone thought of her – at least that’s what I believed at the time. She sucked the third and fourth fingers of her right hand. On the fourth, just above the knuckle, were two tiny dents etched into the skin, a brand of sorts left by her small, straight teeth. I asked her once why she did it. “Because it feels good,” she said without expression, as though the marks on her skin and people laughing at her didn’t matter at all. ⁂ Mrs. Mitchell was on her third husband, Liza’s second stepfather. “He’s my mother’s husband,” she told me the first time I went to her house. “Call him Joe. That’s what I do.” “Don’t you like him?” “He’s fine. But I don’t call him Dad.” “Where’s your real father?” Liza opened the top drawer of her white desk, part of the bedroom set with the double canopy bed I envied the moment I laid eyes on it. “Here,” she said, handing me a photograph of a man
When I think of Mrs. Mitchell now, that’s what I picture – her ginormous drooping breasts, her loose belly hanging just above a
standing on a beach, hands on his hips, fingers spread wide against his blue bathing suit. With his yellow hair, bare chest, and lack of a paunch, he looked way younger than my father. “Isn’t he handsome?” said Liza. “I guess so,” I said. Liza pointed above her desk. “Besides my Dad, he’s my favorite.” I looked at the picture scotch-taped crookedly onto the flowery wallpaper. It showed a different man. He was wearing a bathing suit, too, but he was sitting, his stomach folded into skinny ripples like a squeezed accordion. His hair was blond like Liza’s father, but brownish wisps of hair covered most of his chest. The picture was cut from a magazine, its ragged, uneven edges fraying at the corners. “Who’s that?” She stared at me, incredulous. “Haven’t you seen him in the movies?” I dropped my head and shook it, waiting for her to call me stupid. Instead she said, “It’s Robert Redford. Someday we’ll go to one of his movies.” Then she got up and walked across the room. “Come on,” she said. “I want to show you my closet.” ⁂ Liza’s closet was long like a hallway, with a door at either end. We spent a lot of time in there. Mrs. Mitchell thought we were just playing and left us alone. Inside, we pushed all the clothes to one end and situated ourselves at the other. There was no electricity in there, so we used a flashlight. Liza kept it in the corner with the rest of our things, covered by a pillowcase. The things we used changed from week to week. Sometimes it was just our hands, like the first time Liza showed me her favorite game. “Take off your pants,” she said. While I pulled down my blue slacks, Liza stripped off everything from the waist down. She
ture I interpreted as a command. I hesitated, caught by the sight of Liza’s half-naked body in the dimness. She didn’t press the issue, just lifted the pillowcase and picked up the flashlight. Before the pile was covered again I glimpsed a toothbrush and a Q-tip. Liza sat against the wall, spread her legs, and shined the flashlight between them. I knelt beside her, transfixed by the sight of the pale, hairless slit between her legs that didn’t look anything like mine. “Besides my mother I’ve only seen boys,” she said. “You’ve seen boys, right?” I felt my skin turn hot and shook my head. “Come on. You’ve got brothers, not to mention a father.” She got up on her knees, rested her hands on her thighs and leaned closer. “Can I touch it?” she said. I didn’t answer. “You touch it, don’t you?” She frightened me. Not with her boldness, which was gentler than I was accustomed to, but with what she knew and was not afraid to speak about. She must have sensed it because she said, “I won’t tell anyone.” She smiled, her small, white, perfect teeth ghostly in the dimness. “It’s our secret.” I pulled off my underwear and lay down on the bone-colored shag rug. Liza knelt over me, her long hair dangling, tickling the inside of my thighs. When she directed the light between my legs the feeling shocked me. The warmth from the bulb, and the air – was that Liza’s breath? Something stirred in my belly. “Liza,” I whispered. “Is it okay?” She laughed. “My mother says it is. She says it’s okay to touch yourself.” “Am I okay?” In my mind I saw what she was seeing – wisps of black hair, flaps of skin, so inadequate compared to her smooth, perfect slit. “Sure,” she said, shrugging. “Show me where you touch it.” I pointed to the little nub near the top that I worked at with the point
looked at my white cotton panties and raised an eyebrow, a ges-
of my father’s fingernail clippers. “Don’t you go inside?” she asked. “This is the best,” I said, still pointing. “But do whatever you want.” “Really?” I nodded. She began slowly, pressing and rubbing with her fingers. Before long she had one inside me, then something cool and smooth, the toothbrush handle. I closed my eyes and let her go at me. As usual, I didn’t feel a thing. ⁂ The morning after we went to see The Way We Were, I woke up wet. Liza was on her side of the bed, almost to the edge of the mattress. The puddle had missed her. I got up, looked at the mess, wanted to cry, but didn’t. I had gone four months of sleepovers every weekend without an accident, falling asleep terrified, waking up relieved. Not today. I looked up at Robert Redford and hated him, even though he had nothing to do with it, even though I’d lied to Liza the night before, after the movie, when she’d asked over and over, “Don’t you love him?” I just nodded and pretended to be enthusiastic. Later, as we were falling asleep, I snuggled up behind her and whispered, “You’re my best friend, Liza.” “I know,” she said. “Are we lesbians?” I thought we must be. I loved her, even though I never felt it when she touched me, straws and crayons in my vagina – inserting was her favorite thing to do. She had even gotten mad at me once for not doing it to her enough. “No,” Liza said, in that voice that didn’t sound like it came from her. “We’re just normal experimenting.” I didn’t know what to make of that, except to think that Liza loved Robert Redford and not me. In the morning when I woke,
curve of her waist rising to the round profile of her butt and thighs. She stirred, and started to roll over. “Don’t,” I said. She sat up and looked at me with squinty morning eyes. “What’s wrong?” I dropped my head and said nothing. “Oh,” I heard her say as I looked at the floor. “Oh, Maria.” “Sorry,” I said. “It’s okay, my mother will fix it.” Before I could stop her she called out, “Mom!” “Don’t,” I said. “She’ll get mad.” Liza looked at me like I was crazy. “No, she won’t.” “Morning.” Mrs. Mitchell walked in, her bathrobe open, showing her silky red nightgown. She looked at us and raised her eyebrows. “What’s going on?” Liza pointed to the bed. Mrs. Mitchell looked at the wet spot. “Maria?” she said softly. I didn’t answer. She touched me, two fingers under my chin, and lifted my head gently. “It’s all right. It happens sometimes. I’ll change the sheets after breakfast.” She headed for the door and called back to us. “Get dressed, girls. Pancakes.” Liza flew out of bed, grabbed a pair of jeans and a yellow shirt, and flung them on. “I’m starved.” I left my soiled pajamas and underwear in a pile on the unmade bed and got some clothes out of my bag, my eyes hurting from the tears I was forcing back. In the middle of tying my right sneaker I couldn’t do it anymore, they ran down my cheeks, they felt so good. “Maria,” said Liza. “I told you it’s okay.” “I know,” I said, getting up and following Liza out the door, thinking over and over in my head what I was feeling but couldn’t say – that I loved her. ⁂
her back was to me and I watched her sleeping on her side, the
There was always a bottle of Coca-Cola in the refrigerator at Liza’s house but Mrs. Mitchell wouldn’t let us drink it. “That’s for grownups,” she said. “You won’t grow properly if you drink too much.” “That’s stupid, Mom,” said Liza. Mrs. Mitchell raised her penciled eyebrows and said, “Watch it, young lady, or you won’t get to drink it at all.” She was talking about Saturday, spaghetti and meatballs day, when we were allowed to have Coke with dinner. Milk, said Mrs. Mitchell, didn’t mix with tomato sauce, and if she didn’t ever let Liza have soda she’d become obsessed and drink nothing else when she was old enough to choose for herself. So we snuck. Only a swallow at a time, because otherwise Mrs. Mitchell would notice. One day after we had each grabbed the bottle and sipped from it then dashed up the stairs laughing, I mentioned the fact that at home, I got to drink soda all the time. Liza stared at me with wide eyes. “Tell me,” she said. “We can drink it whenever we want. We get cases of it from the Hartford Club.” “Why haven’t you told me before?” “It’s not the same,” I said. “It’s a different kind.” “Is there cola?” I thought for a minute. My favorites were cream and birch beer, but there was always orange and grape and ginger ale, and cola, too. “Yeah.” Liza started jumping up and down on the bed. “You have to bring it.” After that, every time I went to Liza’s house I stashed a bottle of cola in my orange vinyl suitcase. When we were done I brought home the empty bottle so my family could return it on our monthly trips to the soda place. Spring vacation came and we arranged for me to stay three nights at Liza’s house. I packed three bottles of cola, one for each day, stuffed in between my pajamas and socks and underwear.
the last empty bottle in our hiding place, under the pillowcase with our flashlight and other equipment. We were downstairs watching TV when Mrs. Mitchell yelled Liza’s name from upstairs. “Uh oh,” Liza said. Mrs. Mitchell never yelled. “What is it?” I asked, scared. I had no idea why Mrs. Mitchell would be angry. “She found them.” “Oh my god.” I imagined Mrs. Mitchell lifting the pillowcase and finding the toothbrushes and Q-tips, our girl scents all over them. “Liza,” Mrs. Mitchell called again, adding, “You too, Maria.” Liza headed for the stairs. I was shaking so hard I could barely move, but I followed. Mrs. Mitchell stood in the middle of the staircase, holding the railing in one hand and our last empty bottle in the other, looking stern. Liza went up and leaned against the wall to face her. I stayed at the bottom. Mrs. Mitchell held the bottle in the air. “What is this?” Liza shrugged and didn’t answer. Mrs. Mitchell looked down at me. “Do you know anything about this, Maria?” I nodded and started to cry. “Get to your room, Liza,” Mrs. Mitchell said. Liza stayed where she was for a moment, her fingers raking the wallpaper behind her, looking at Mrs. Mitchell like she hated her. She took a loud breath in, her lips trembling like she was about to speak but she stopped herself and headed to her room, taking the rest of the stairs two at a time, slamming the door behind her. I started to go up, too, but Mrs. Mitchell stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. “Liza needs to be alone,” she said. She left the bottle on the stair, lifted her blue turtleneck over her head, and stood there in her black bra and pink stretch pants. I looked at the dimply skin of her stomach and the crack between her big breasts. She reached behind her back and unsnapped the bra, letting her breasts free. They swayed before me, long, narrow sacs of flesh dangling as she reached down to pull off her pants and underwear.
Everything would have been fine if Liza had remembered to stash
When she was done she said, “Follow me,” and I did, close behind her big, wrinkly rear. We went into the bathroom, where she had already filled the tub. She climbed in, swishing warm water over the edge onto my bare feet. When she sat her stomach folded into big rolls that looked soft, like a place you could lay your head, nothing like Robert Redford’s flat leanness. Mrs. Mitchell stretched her neck and took deep breaths with closed eyes. “Get my brush,” she said, and I opened the cabinet under the sink and grabbed the long wooden handle. She dipped it in the water, rubbed soap all over the bristles, then handed it to me and shifted her body to make her back accessible. In the middle of my scrubbing a pounding began on the other side of the wall. “Keep going,” said Mrs. Mitchell. After a while the sounds from the other side of the wall abated and Mrs. Mitchell said, “All right. You can stop.” She got out of the tub, rubbed her arms and legs with a towel before wrapping it around herself, went into Liza’s room, and closed the door. I tried to listen but Mrs. Mitchell’s voice was back to its calm softness and I could barely hear it over Liza’s sobbing. At dinner Mrs. Mitchell looked at me and said, “There will be no Coke on Saturdays for a month, and you are never to bring soda into this house again. Understood?” I nodded and reached under the table to squeeze Liza’s knee. Later, in bed after she fell asleep, I hugged her. ⁂ In July we spent a week at the cottage in New Hampshire that Liza’s family always rented. We had been talking about it since school let out. Liza told me about the trees, the lake, her Uncle Bill and Aunt Joanne who would come to visit with her cousin Jackie. The house, shaded by maples and pines, smelled woody and
thin curtains with its soft breath. In the mornings we made our own breakfast, toast smeared with butter and jelly, then stepped onto the porch, feeling the scratchiness of the chipped, sandy floorboards on the soles of our bare feet. We ran by the picnic table, past the trees, to the beach where I stood, hesitating, working my toes into the sand, making craters that fell in on themselves. Liza went straight for the water, the two dimples on her lower back peeking like eyes above the elastic of her bikini bottoms. Then she went under, leaving a trail of ripples on the calm surface. I looked at the green mountain in the distance and stepped closer to the water. By the time Liza came up my feet were wet. Tiny fish darted around my ankles as I took step after step, my toes clinging to the soft bottom. When the water was at the level of my shoulders Liza reached for me. Cool water slid into my bathing suit as Liza pulled it aside. I tilted my head back until I could see nothing but sky, feel nothing but Liza. ⁂ When we had been there three days Jackie came to visit. “I can’t wait for you to meet him,” Liza said. “Why?” I asked. Liza had never shown interest in any other girl or boy before. “He’s important to me.” We were at the beach when Jackie and his parents arrived late in the afternoon, but as soon as Liza heard their Jeep rumbling down the driveway she ran for it. Jackie wore blue shorts, a white t-shirt, and sneakers with no socks. His hair was a mass of brown ringlets covering his head. Liza had told me he was fifteen, just a year younger than my brother, but whereas my brother was big
fresh. The summer air blew into our bedroom at night, lifting the
and stocky and looked like a man, Jackie was slight and boyish with a sweet smile and skinny legs. He seemed tired – they all did. “What a ride,” Aunt Joanne said. “We drove all the way through.” Mrs. Mitchell rumpled Jackie’s curls. “We’re glad you made it.” Jackie grinned at Liza and said, “Me, too.” She dropped her eyes, shy like I’d never seen her, then Mrs. Mitchell had me by the shoulders. “This is Maria,” she said. “Liza’s best friend. Maria, this is Liza’s Aunt Joanne and Uncle Bill, and Jackie.” We all said hello. Jackie looked me up and down and I averted my eyes. All through dinner and the Monopoly game afterward Liza was quiet, every so often smiling at Jackie in that way I didn’t understand. At nine o'clock Mrs. Mitchell said, “I brought some sheets and pillows up to the attic.” Liza took my hand and said, “Come on.” “Good night,” Mrs. Mitchell called as we left. I turned around in time to see Jackie leaning over to kiss his mother on the cheek. “What’s going on?” I asked Liza. “Why are we going to the attic?” “We always sleep there when Jackie comes. Ever since we were little.” We stopped in the bedroom to put on our nightgowns before heading for the attic. It was mostly empty up there, just some boxes piled in the corner next to an old chest and a clothing rack, and a big mattress on the floor covered with flowery sheets. Jackie lay on it, wearing a pair of boxer shorts and a pajama top that buttoned down the front, his hands clasped behind his head and his feet crossed. There was no electricity, only a flashlight and the dull glow of the moon. I squeezed Liza's elbow but couldn't say out loud what I was thinking, that I didn't want to sleep with him. She shrugged me off, got on the mattress, pushed Jackie to one end and said, “I’m in the middle.” Then she pointed at me. “She’s shy.” I lay down on my end, pulled the sheet over me, and closed
I could tell by the tension in it that she wasn’t trying to go to sleep. There was quiet, then the sound of bodies shifting. I opened my eyes and in the darkness I saw Jackie’s face covering Liza’s. Some part of me knew they were kissing, touching mouths and tongues, but the rest refused to understand what was happening. My only certainty was fear, and a sense of turning toward something irrevocable. Liza pulled up her nightgown and took off her underwear. Jackie put his whole body on hers and moved up and down. They made no noise save for their breathing, which sounded as natural as if they were asleep. I looked through the window into the high tops of the trees, quiet and swaying gently in the moonlight, almost matching the motions Liza and Jackie made beside me. From downstairs I heard adult voices, one on top of another, punctuated by laughter. Mrs. Mitchell’s voice stood out from the rest, shrill and happy. Liza pushed Jackie off. “What’s wrong?” he said. She motioned toward me and squeezed my hand under the covers. Jackie laughed. “I thought you said she was shy.” “She is,” said Liza. “But she’ll do it.” I lay frozen while Jackie placed his arms on either side of me and positioned himself over me, a black shadow descending. I closed my eyes tight enough to shut everything out, but I knew I would never forgive her. ⁂ Things went on just the same after that for me and Liza, on the outside anyway, but inside was different. Inside, I could hardly stand to be with her. When I sat at the dinner table with her and Mrs. Mitchell and Joe, when I slept beside her in the canopy bed, when I lay in the closet and felt her touch me and I touched her back, I wished I were someplace else.
my eyes. I felt Liza’s body close to mine as she stretched out but
I kept trying to love Liza the way I did before, and there were times I still did. Sometimes in the night when I’d watch her sleeping, or when we were in the closet and my fingers would brush against the softness of her thighs, I’d feel that rush of closeness, but there was always a sensation of sickness right after. Liza, who’d seemed to know everything before, didn’t notice anything was wrong. I knew it was because of me, the way I could pretend so well. I didn’t want it to be like that, I wanted to be open so she could read me like she used to, but it wasn’t anything I could control. All I could do was wait for a way out. It came unexpectedly, in school. We were in different classes that fall, and in science I got paired up with Debbie White. She wasn’t exactly popular but no one made fun of her either. She was closer to fitting in than I ever thought I’d get. One Saturday she invited me to her house. Liza came up to me after school that Friday. “Where’s your stuff?” “I’m not coming,” I said. “Why not?” “I’m just not,” I said. “I’m never coming again.” I didn’t look at her, just walked away and kept walking even when I heard her following me. “Maria.” I’d never heard her sound scared before but it didn’t really register. I’d been so afraid of losing Liza that I couldn’t really believe she’d be afraid of losing me. She trailed me halfway down the street, saying nothing but my name. I didn’t answer and didn’t turn around until I got to my driveway. By that time, Liza was gone. ⁂ From then on I hung around with Debbie and her friends, Elaine and Melanie, and soon I even looked like them – long hair hugging my face and covering the corners of my eyes, leather belt buckled
like Debbie did, and collected rings of turquoise and silver to wear on my fingers. Liza didn’t try to talk to me – probably she was too proud. She sat alone every day at lunch but I rarely looked at her. When I did think of her I remembered only the trees guarding the cottage in New Hampshire, the fish swimming around my ankles, the mountain casting its huge shadow over the lake. I went where my new friends invited me, to parties where we played Spin the Bottle and Truth or Dare. The boys tried for long kisses but the girls turned their heads away after just a peck, their long hair falling deeper into their faces. Sometimes a boy would grab onto a girl’s shoulders and stick his tongue in her mouth. The girl would either scream and push him off, or sit still and scream with her mouth open while the boy proceeded with his sloppy kiss. Then the two would go into the next room, the other kids whistling as they left. I did this, too, not because there was any boy I liked better than another, but because I hoped there might be one I’d stop hating. Six months into the school year I got an invitation to Liza’s thirteenth birthday party. I threw it away the second it came. Liza called me the day before. “Are you coming?” She sounded timid. “Terri Marotta’s coming,” she said. “I invited Debbie and Elaine and Melanie, but I haven’t heard. Terri’s coming, though.” I knew Terri was only going because her mother made her. She lived near me and when we were in third grade I went to her house sometimes. She hated me and told me so, and said she only played with me because she had to. As Liza waited for my answer, I knew I had somehow ended up in a higher position than her, and at that moment I allowed myself to believe it was because I was better. It didn’t bring out meanness, but something just as bad. I felt pity, and guilt. I said I would come. Mrs. Mitchell answered the door. “Maria,” she said, giving me
tight around the hips of my jeans. I even started biting my nails
a hug. “It’s wonderful to see you.” She held me at arm’s length. “You look so grown up.” I smiled and shrugged. Liza approached the doorway and stood with her hands held behind her back. “Hi,” I said. She was wearing a two-piece knit dress, off-white and clingy. It stopped mid-thigh. Her legs and feet were bare. It was a stupid outfit, the kind of stupid outfit she always wore, but I felt a fleeting kinship with her over it, an almost wish to go back to the days when clothes didn’t matter. It was crazy, because now I had seen other girls’ bodies, down to their bras and underwear, anyway. We never touched but we changed clothes together, trying on each other’s jeans and striped shirts. None of them were shaped like Liza. None of them had dimples in their back or a waist that curved like hers. “Come on in,” said Liza. I followed her to the living room, where Terri sat with her arms folded over her chest. Joe was talking to her, asking about her favorite subjects in school. I sat down and said hello, aware that even though I had other friends now, Terri was still way more popular. After cake and ice cream Liza said, “Let’s go upstairs.” “My mother will be here soon,” said Terri. Mrs. Mitchell looked at her watch. “Not for another hour.” I started to follow Liza and Terri upstairs but Mrs. Mitchell stopped me. “How have you been?” “Fine,” I said, looking at my sneakers. She lifted my chin the way she had that morning after I wet the bed, and without a trace of anger said, “Liza misses you.” I shrugged, tracing the underside of my rings with my thumbs. “You’re welcome anytime.” “Thanks,” I said and ran up the stairs, feeling warm and familiar about Liza and Mrs. Mitchell, thinking I could be her friend in secret, that Debbie and Elaine and Melanie would never have to know. When I got to Liza’s room I saw her handing a pencil to Terri, who looked bewildered. Then she held it out to me. She didn’t say
what to do, you know me, you’re like me. I didn’t speak, either, and I have no idea if Liza knew what I was thinking because I never talked to her after that. I’m sorry, I said in my head, over and over, all the way down the stairs, and sat in the living room with Mrs. Mitchell until my mother picked me up.
anything but I knew what she meant – here, you show her, you know
Ariel Gonzรกlez Losada, Babel (2016)
Ariel Gonzรกlez Losada, Manifesto (2015)
ANNA IS MY FLATMATE AND SHE DON’T KNOW THAT I WROTE THIS POETRY poem by SAYA
After I lost my shoes, I had to walk in bare foot. Nothing has left in my flat, but Anna and sofa bed. “It feels like, this world has already ended” Anna said. “But look, you and I are here” I replied It was extremely hot summer, and she just stares me asking she couldn’t understand what I mean
A SHORTER NOTE ON MY COMING OUT poem by CHISOM OKAFOR
Not even these flickering lights could hide the hunger in her open palms angling towards mine from a distance; fingers arrowing into an untouched dark. So you love a man now, she says. Not even mine, as I thrust a bottle of Tequila into them, as I make her soak up her own life in a mound of silence. Here is a toast to the young horses burning in your tongue. Here lie the remains of us, sautéed and spread in the dark as seedlings scattered in a barren cornfield. Pray the police don’t catch you making love to a man, she says. But sometimes, all you need in lieu of survival is a change of names, then to keep indifference as a disused whiskeyglass at a deserted pub. You’ll soon find the ugliest scar to be a constant circumvention of things whose beginnings and endings are marked with flames.
INITIATION CHRISTOPHER LINFORTH
we clawed. We grazed the smooth surface, felt the hole in his face where his upper lip should have been. He ducked and weaved, bobbed away from our clumsy attack. His thin body was lanky, elastic, could dance around us with no trouble. Straps lassoed from the mask to the back of his head. The knots looked doubled, tripled, so many twists and loops that the straps would never be untied. One of us caught his shirt and pulled him over. He stood in the middle of us, raised his hands, egged us on. Three on one – we liked our odds. We had a bag of peaches, ripe, swollen, and we each took a single fruit. One of us lobbed a peach at his face, hitting his forehead square, sending the boy off-balance. He wobbled as he dodged the next one. We caught his wrist, then tackled the boy to the ground. All three of us sat on him: his legs, his waist, his chest. He shifted beneath us, his eyes ablaze. We dug our fingertips underneath the mask’s fabric, past the nose down into the hole. He knew the leverage we had in ripping it off. Eat a peach, we said, pressing one into the mask. The boy didn’t speak. He shook his head. We leaned back, heaving the mask from his face, snapping the elastic straps. We rose, carrying our prize, passing it from one to the other. The boy finally stood. We saw the crescent of dark space, a mouth above a mouth. He took the last peach from the bag. His half-mouth slid over the furred surface, his bottom teeth holding the peach in place. He slurped the fruit, breaking its skin, devouring the sweet flesh, spitting the stone back at us.
We grasped at the boy’s surgical mask. We swiped; we pinched;
JUNE 21 poem by TIM TIM CHENG
We are what you called pussies without a leader (for they’re all in jail); pussies without military training, without an army, without the preparation for assassination; pussies who scream your mother 你老母 as negation; pussies who reject photoshopping politicians’ faces on naked female bodies; pussies who reject online articles on girlfriends complaining boyfriends prioritising protests over dating; pussies who refuse to be named democracy goddess with just a pretty face. We are air-conditioned, bubble tea pussies who just reached the legal age to be a voter; pussies who just learned how to be water; pussies who retreat together at 12 a.m. when we foresaw police closing in; pussies wearing no make-up but sports bras; pussies okay with looking unevenly tanned as we took to the streets; pussies who dragged out friends who occupied LegCo as a symbolic suicide; pussies fact-checking, updating; pussies who imagined what Umbrella Uprising must have felt like as we trespassed places forbidden; pussies filled with a sense of purpose instead of daily pressures and parental nagging; pussies preventing copycat suicides by searching the streets; pussies whose freedom is etched by our very own feet in the summer heat.
UNDER THE ACKEE TREE BOTTOM-SIDE BEECHWOOD poem by SHANNON T. SMITH
Nothing good to eat ever falls from the top of a tree. Dem seh de tree curse, that this one wasn’t the first the tree shake off. But I seh it wasn’t the tree that kill him it was poorness. For only poorness coulda mek a man risk him life on a limb fi try reach a dozen.
BE SPECIFIC poem by HEIKKI HUOTARI On reading Wikipedia’'s Waggle Dance To the scientific method acting badly add an epicycle – the duration of the waggle indicates the distance to the pollen and my pollen probability is the reverse of yours. To cantilever is to contemplate sans address as there surely is some somewhat undeveloped panorama that the water wanted. If you were selected and perfected and selected and perfected would you ask for details too?
WHEN WORDS COLLIDE poem by HEIKKI HUOTARI I may drunkenly press SEND and say, To learn from a mistake first make one, and if that with which I’m smitten is recessing I may take that personality of mine to an assessment yesterday. Writhe as I might, the center of my mass traverses its prescribed parabola and in what seem to be collisions, information is exchanged.
UNTITLED * своди ее в сады потом своди к воде, к реке потом сведи с ума своди к врачу и сам сходи с ума и сам к врачу сходи зима, ходи пешком сперва туды, потом сюды и откажись от сдобы сойди теперь за тех кто без ума стань между них своим затем совсем своим потом зады, дворы заводы веди ее под мраморные своды воды, воды потом ищи свободы свищи ее потом
poem by SEMYON KHANIN
45 Translated from the Russian by KEVIN M. F. PLATT and EUGENE OSTASHEVSKY
* take her to the gardens then to the water, the river then drive her crazy take her to the doctor and go crazy yourself and to the doctor yourself itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s winter, go on foot first thisaway, then thataway cut back on carbs stand in for those whose minds are lost become at home among them and then wholly at home later backyards, courtyards and shopyards lead her under marble vaults bring water, water then seek freedom holler for it later
ESTELLE IN 17 PARTS JOY WALLER
“My kundalini has fallen down my insides,” Estelle tells me. 3 a.m., a club called Distortion. “It scraped me of everything, everything, on the way down, its fangs you know, its scales, and now it’s reversed itself, pointing to hell like a demon – it’s how I orgasm now,” she says, as she points to the floor, “this upside down serpent.”
I should have shoplifted that chunk of Sedona rock from the gem and mineral show last weekend. It would have been nice to watch Estelle hold it, watch her feel the heavy desert sunlight of it in her hand, watch her perceive how solid a thing could be outside of herself. 3
“It’s hard being an earth sign,” Estelle says, “everyone thinks you’re so boring. But I’m like crystals, goddammit. That’s what they don’t get.” 4
Estelle and I are in the back seat of a taxi, her head in my lap. She’s crying, neon and rain on the other side of the window, stoplights dripping chakras – sometimes she does it with girls, she says; do I? 5
“I miss being young,” Estelle writes in an email marked Urgent. “The day I was twenty-two and ate a cheese and potato chip sandwich with the edges dipped in ketchup, I was seriously so happy I thought I would die.” 6
A man at Distortion buys her a drink. She likes him but she doesn't like his slacks. “I get so mixed up,” she tells me in the toilets. "I never know if I should stop, if the next one will be enough."
Estelle sits on the pink leather barstool with her blue eyes brittle as dried-out bones, eyeliner smeared, coughing into a handkerchief and signaling the waiter for another Singapore Sling – “No ice,” she says. “No goddamn ice.” Lipstick on her fingers, on her cup, on the collar of her man. 8
Estelle tries to ensure there is always a dog nearby. She’s the only person I know who does not subscribe to the theory that dogs offer unconditional love: “It’s all calculated,” she tells me, “those big brown eyes — dogs taught me every bad thing I know – how to create an atmosphere of guilt, how to barter for affection, how to steal and get away with it and make it seem endearing.” This is a woman who cries frequently, without shame. “Release,” she calls it, watering the worlds below her, whatever object might be held there, whatever menu or telephone or pet. “I need release,” she says now in her apartment, using the edge of an envelope to separate four prim white lines for us on her coffee table – “Are there any taxis? Can anyone drive? Take me to a place of goddess worship.” 9
Estelle is screaming. “What are you, some kind of grid? Fucking my consciousness like a sieve? Lemme have my smokes! Give back my cancer sticks; give ’em here—” At the other tables, everyone is doing their best to blow out candles, doing their best to seem ascended.
Estelle in 17 Parts
“I read an advertisement in a magazine about a place where you can pick your own apples,” Estelle writes in an email marked Help. “They give you a bamboo basket and let you loose in the orchard for an hour. It sounds like some kind of corporate retreat team-building bullshit, but actually it’s literally just picking apples. I feel we should go. Fresh air and all. And we could make applesauce after, or pies. I heard that in the Northwest Territories people sometimes smoke powdered apple seeds in the winter to get high; I’d be up for that as well. Also we could get a juicer and make apple juice. It would be organic.” 11
It’s not even midnight on our way to Distortion and I am in the backseat of the cab taking deep breaths, blood buzzing in my ears and my heart pounding, trying desperately to come down. Estelle is in the front seat, ignoring me – applying lipstick, blotting it, applying lipstick, blotting it – at one point, at a red light, I hear her say, “Good Chariot,” to the cab driver, “good boy – it’s like you understand this road.” And I reach for the door handle, pull back and dig my nails into my palm till there’s almost blood, then reach again for the door handle and pull back and dig my nails in, and without me noticing it, the light turns green and the pavement starts to move again. 12
Estelle misses two days of work and I am told because I am her emergency contact. So the next day I go round to her apartment with some takeaway coffees and apple fritters to see if she is dead, but she is alive. She is there on the sofa with an ashtray, several empty bottles, the television, and some architectural magazines
– just as I’d known, mostly, that she would be. I think if I’d come sooner she would have looked just the same, her eyes the same shade of static as they are now. 13
The first time I saw Estelle naked, in the steam room of a spa on a weekend health and beauty retreat that someone else had organized, I was surprised to see that she kept her pubic hair. It was discreet, and very neatly trimmed, but it was there. She saw me looking. 14
We go to the movies and there is a scene where an intruder enters a home and ties the elderly husband and wife to chairs, then loosens one of the husband’s hands, gives him a gun, and says only one of them has to die. The husband points the gun straight at his wife and pulls the trigger, and there is a click, then nothing. The gun is not even loaded. Estelle and I are both deeply disturbed by this scene and want to call our respective sets of parents to tell them we love them. Our parents are superior to the couple in the movie. In my case, my father would have turned the gun around and shot himself in his own head, instantly, without thinking about it. In Estelle’s version, her mother is given the gun, which she uses to shoot the intruder. 15
“I lost my virginity when I was twelve,” Estelle tells me at brunch. We’re eating waffles. “I hadn't even had my first period yet. It didn’t hurt and I didn’t bleed a drop. I came like a motherfucker. I don’t remember if he did. The next time I had sex I was twenty.”
Estelle in 17 Parts
It’s those little things you do to show a person you love them: remembering how they take their coffee, for example, or which color of scarf they might prefer. Estelle never learned how to do this. But she attracted men who did: thoughtful, generous, gift-giving men. There was always a surplus of chocolate piled up on the coffee table when I came round to her apartment for bourbon or some blow before going to Distortion. There was always a gift bag of fancy soaps or fashionable bottles of liqueur that Estelle seemed surprised to see there. 17
She left written instructions in an email with no subject line. “I’d like there to be ice cream served,” she stipulated. “Something classy and minimal, like pistachio. Have them play a tune by Woody Guthrie, I don’t care which one. And tell them no donations, for the love of Christ, nothing to Amnesty International or any such shit in my name. I want flowers, goddamn it – so many flowers they have to open up another room, so many damn flowers you could suffocate and choke on that alone.”
Derek Setzer, Physical Lapse (2019)
SWEEPS ADAM PETERSON
They will fall in love on the final day of May. This feeling held just outside themselves, loosed by some comic misunderstanding, some cosmic happenstance, which, in a nervous beat, will consume them both. Ted knows this will happen. Like breathing. Ted knows this for many reasons, but the most important one is this: He’s pretty sure this is a sitcom. The evidence is compelling. On an August night, Ted’s father died with a dog curled between his feet. He’s black, a caretaker said over the phone. No he’s not, Ted said. The dog, the caretaker clarified. The dog? His name is Noah. He’s a very good boy. But my father is dead, right? Yes, the caretaker said. Very dead.
When the call came, Ted had been sleeping on his ex-girlfriend’s couch while Anne and her husband ate hummus sandwiches in the kitchen. This should have been Ted’s first clue: this zombie relationship, this unfinished business, this abasement from sweatpants to soul. A decade of bad jobs and bad love. Worse, not enough bad love. Worse still, anyone abased enough to love him probably wouldn’t love him the way he needed to be loved while he lived on Anne and Mark’s couch. Physically. He needed to be loved physically. I’m so sorry, Anne said. Tragedy is when we need family most, Mark said. Maybe you should stay with your sister. There must have been a funeral, weeping. There must have been drinking because Ted came to in a smash cut, blinking himself into consciousness for the first time in days at the reading of his father’s will. Ann, his sister – distinct from Anne, his ex-girlfriend, though not distinct enough that he didn’t sometimes text one apologies intended for the other – sniffled even though she was getting every middle-class heirloom that their father had acquired throughout a middling, incongruously happy life. A state quarter collection missing Missouri. A grandfather clock younger than a kindergartner. A painting of a turtle (reproduction). Then the attorney coughed the final item: My condominium at the Seasons Senior Community shall go to my son Theodore with the intention that the proceeds from liquidation fund either his oneman show or a technical certificate in metalworking. Ann cried and hugged her brother. Even Ted came as close to tears as he believed himself capable at this stage in his life. This is your chance to make Dad proud, Ann said. Ted awkwardly bent himself around her to ask the attorney a question: But I don’t have to liquidate it, right? There must have been a moving montage, hijinks, before Ted found himself meeting with the Seasons administrator who asked
not a nursing home, was not not a nursing home either. There must have been a condition that Ted be more of a live-in janitor. And there must have been a moment when everyone left and he closed the door and sat on the bed in the room where his father had died and understood everything there was to know about being alone. Then he saw Cecilia, the nurse, and Ted knew they would be together forever and he would never be alone again. But that was the pilot. That was weeks ago, and now Ted sits at a card table in the common room surrounded by geriatric chins sagging into their bathrobes, a local costume he is not too proud to adopt, his own robe a bathmat-shag not quite beige enough to hide the stain from yesterday’s Swedish meatballs. Bridge! Ted says and slaps his cards down. Honey, that’s not how you play, Erma says. Bridge? We blew up a bridge, The Colonel moans. Lefty, Dietrich, Hensen – they’re in the dirt outside Yeongdeok. God, I envy the bastards. Cecilia’s glare from across the room cuts off Ted’s laughter. Her eyes are knives, but she’s sweet to him, too, bringing him cocoa alongside the veterans who meet at night to talk about the war, any war, one big war against time itself. Ted has also fought this war, and so he too gets marshmallows. Not at first, but after Barinholtz died, the black dog in his bed, the nurse’s marshmallow count never changed. A mistake, maybe. Love, definitely. As clear as the scent of lemons every time Ted is near her. The premise of this show is so obvious. They’re all here. Erma – permed and plump – the sassy biddy. The Colonel – jaundiced and deflated – the cut-up. Noah the Scottie dog – a Scottie dog – and, most importantly, Cecilia – the will-they-or-won’t-they love interest.
why a 32-year-old man would want to live in a facility that, while
They will, Ted knows, because that’s how this works. Ted’s sister lays out her objections over breakfast in the mid-season finale. Ted, this is so fucking awful. You’re being a little hard on the flapjacks. What would Dad say? Help, let me out of this box! Ann doesn’t laugh, but that’s okay. She plays the straight man. Ted used to be the older one but then Ann actually did all the things she’d promised on career day – college, business school, a husband named Leonard, two red-headed children – and now he’s no longer certain. Ted quit college, doesn’t understand what business school actually teaches, sleeps with husbands’ wives, frightens their children. This had not been desperation until it was. There’d been an accident. A minor almost-tragedy he forgot even if no one else would. It didn’t matter. That’s what he’d yelled at his father the last time they’d talked in the very room where Ted now sits, the retreating footsteps of the black dog echoing off the walls. Nights, Noah patrols the halls while Ted sweeps, mops, dusts. The dog sniffs each door, sneezes, and moves on, save for when he smells the inescapable spoor of death. Then, he noses a door open and leaps onto the bed of the summoned. Who knows how he knows, but in the morning the staff will find one cold body and one black dog wagging his tail, panting so hard it looks like a smile. There should be comfort in Noah’s companionship – a guide, a friend – or at least this is what Ted thinks, but most shy away from the dog, as if there’s some doom in his dark eyes. Erma disagrees, says, He can’t be the devil when he’s such an angel. In her lap, Noah licks her glasses dirty. The Colonel reaches to scratch behind Noah’s ears and says,
B.L. Bitterman, Jennifer, and Dogly. You’ll go too, little guy, and you’ll go alone. Everyone dies but me. Ted laughs, then Erma, then the whole room. Everyone here laughs, always. When Ted eats tapioca with his hand, when he pretends to translate Spanish soap operas, or when he slaps The Colonel’s back so hard the old man drops his cane, they all roar in laughter. You’re not in a sitcom, Anne says. I know, Ted says, but maybe I definitely am. They sit in Season’s family room though they only dated for two months during his third freshman year of college. Boyfriends, engagement, marriage – in the movie of Ted’s life, these had been only small hitches that he knew they would someday overcome. Until. Until he realized his life was not a movie but a TV show. Until Cecilia. Cecilia is a wall. He needs to explain this to Anne as delicately as he can. Anne, Ted says. Cecilia is a wall. I don’t understand. It’s okay if you still have feelings for me, he says. But I need you to know it will never happen. And then they fight, her recriminations sounding exactly like his father's. He needs a real home, a real job, a real life – the minor almost-tragedy looms over every word as if, when the ratings are looked at with the dispassion of a business, Ted should be cancelled, his remaining episodes unmade, unseen, unwanted. You could leave here and get a real girlfriend, Anne tries. Not until Sweeps Week, Ted says. Anne punches his shoulder, a joke. Punches him again, less a joke. Ted thinks maybe they’re supposed to be together after all. But that night Cecilia doesn’t bring him marshmallows in his hot
I’ve had eight dogs in my life: Rosco, Angus, Spud, Max, Tom-Tom,
chocolate and their whole crazy dance returns. I know what I’m doing, Ted says throwing his cards on the table. You better, Erma says. You’re my bridge partner. You’re dead, The Colonel says. We’re all dead. Ted doesn’t get the joke, but it’s true that outside the common room’s windows, time might have stopped. Golf course grass, the shady maple full of singing birds – everything as it was on the day he arrived, though he’s fairly certain it’s December. Pinned to Cecilia’s blouse is a small, green wreath. Ted has been anticipating mistletoe awkwardness as a cliffhanger before the long holiday break. Of course, it’s Southern California. But still. Do you remember when you came here? Ted asks Erma. Two weeks after my Geoffrey died. Packed all my things while my daughter was at work. I wasn’t going to be a burden. And you? he asks the shriveled grey man just barely making the fourth in their game. Ted doesn’t know his name. An extra. There are many extras, people Ted smells more than sees as they shuffle in ever smaller circles. Some get a line, some disappear, none are missed. This one wears fine, dusty clothes like he’s on his way to a supper club, and, even though he doesn’t really know what a supper club is, Ted feels underdressed in the set of mint green scrubs he borrowed from the nursing station’s hamper. This man, this Rockefeller, licks his false teeth and says, I believe I arrived on a Thursday. Colonel? Ted asks, sure he will get a hilarious story, maybe one not so different from his own. An attractive nurse, a scheme. Or a Tuesday, the grey man coughs. The Colonel throws his cards on the table, swears, limps away angry. Hey, Ted yells after him. I’m fairly certain that’s not bridge. That night, Ted watches Noah nose his way into the room of the grey man. The next day there’s a new old face at the card table with the same retiring eyes, and Ted recognizes in himself the terrible
He will not die here. He will not disappear. He will remain here until this world is done with him. On New Year’s Day, he sings “Auld Lang Syne” to the accompaniment of paper horns blown by emphysemic great-aunts. As the clock strikes 4 p.m., Ted seeks Cecilia but finds Erma, who smushes a wet kiss squarely on his lips. As she pulls away and adjusts her dentures, Ted sees his sister watching. Later, when they are alone in the room where their father died, Ted tells Ann that Erma’s kiss was a sign of an active and fulfilling social life, with multiple romantic possibilities. Ted, this feels like before, Ann says. Ted considers what she’s said. Considers it seriously. Considers all the world’s stories and which one he wants to be his. He takes her hand and whispers, Ann. His sister raises her eyes to his. They’re green. They’re both green. We’re really going for more of a zany thing, he says. The Colonel already wants to take the show in a mystical direction, and I’d just as soon avoid getting too maudlin. You understand. We’re just not looking for notes right now. This is when she cries, right there in the place that is as close as their family has to a shared home. Maybe lives can begin here, too, he says. Maybe that’s our tagline. You’ll see. I’m about to bloom. It’s spring. Ted, she croaks. It’s winter. Ted parts the blinds to check the season, but there’s only brightness outside. I’m going to be better starting right now, he says. Count off my pushups.
burden of the regular cast member.
As Ted drops to the floor, Ann turns to a photograph of Ted and herself on either side of their father at a baseball game. You’re all the family I have, she says. You’ll see, Ted manages, as he rises sweating but undaunted after several pushups. On the final day of May. He commits to fulfilling the promise – not the great promise of his life, but the simple guarantee he makes to everyone who has or ever will love him: He is okay. He will be okay. He begins with a renewed commitment to being average at janitoring. Noah helps, barking at stains and licking up dust balls. Together, they make the morning bright and welcome the residents to it as they shuffle to breakfast. I’m telling you, Cecilia’s noticing, Ted says as he spoons scrambled eggs into his mouth. Her cheeks burned when she saw me flirt with Erma’s daughter. You stay away from my daughter, you hear? Erma snaps. I’ll whoop you in this life and haunt you from the next. I met Soo-Hee after I burned her village, The Colonel mumbles. I don’t even know if she kept our baby. No one laughs. And for the first time, Ted realizes these people, his friends, could be re-cast. Or die. Whether by studio executives or by God, they might no longer be here with him. They are barely here now. It’s The Colonel who might go first, in any one of his absurd, racially problematic moments. The old man’s eyes cannot focus until they do, milky and uncertain. How are you feeling? Ted asks him. The Colonel spits at Ted’s feet. The spit was purple, Ted tells Cecilia at lunch. What does that mean?
Cecilia pulls Ted away. Ted, she says, you know he’s going to die, right? It’s what happens here. Not to me, Ted says. She pinches a stray gem of tater tot from his robe. It might, she says before flicking the crumb away. Days, Ted stalks The Colonel through the facility’s impossible brightness. Nights, he sneaks into The Colonel’s room and places two fingers close enough to feel the tickle of the old man’s nose hair on each bourbon-scented exhalation. Vigilantly now, Ted studies Noah’s movements down the hall, his heart stopping when the dog sniffs at The Colonel’s door, but the Scottie never stops. I worry, Ted explains to Erma the next day at bridge. He’s a mean old bastard whose family was right to abandon him, Erma says. The Colonel lowers his head in agreement, and no one laughs. The day comes. The old man collapses in the hallway, then army-crawls to the base of a plastic fern where he vomits. Ted helps the soldier to his bed then hoses off the fern in a handicap shower. The vomit was also purple, he tells Cecilia. Oh, Ted, she says. Noah tracks death past blotchy pictures of robins painted by the day’s therapeutic art class, and Ted tracks Noah. He’s careful to pretend to be sweeping when Noah stops so as not to make the dog self-conscious. The journey takes an eternity, giving Ted the opportunity to remember the good times with The Colonel, a pinkedged montage of spit takes and pratfalls and pranks. Most of these things didn’t actually happen, but they would have. Ted’s certain of it. Noah stops outside The Colonel’s door. He sniffs. He places his nose against the door.
From across the table, The Colonel bellows, Nothing means nothing.
And then the dog turns, sprinting down the hall toward Erma’s room. No! Ted whisper-yells. He drops the broom, runs, and grabs Noah’s legs just before they disappear inside the room. There’s lightning in Ted’s nerves as he carries the dog back up the hallway and sets him in front of The Colonel’s door. The dog strains toward Erma’s room, but Ted holds the animal’s waist so that the dog’s tiny running legs only scratch the linoleum. When Noah won’t relent, Ted carries him under one arm to the kitchen, takes a spoonful of chunky peanut butter from the tub, and returns to place it on The Colonel’s nose. As the dog begins to lick, Ted slowly backs away, shutting the door to trap Noah inside. The lemons. The lights. The languid heartbeats of his neighbors. Ted awaits the morning’s drama in the activities room with his head in his hands, imagining what it would be like to cry. I puked on your mutt during the night. Ted looks up to see The Colonel, who throws Noah, fur matted by purple vomit, into Ted’s lap. He stands over Ted’s chair with a gleaming nugget of peanut butter up his left nostril. Ted jumps to hug him, but The Colonel uses his cane to parry Ted away. She was a good woman, The Colonel says to Ted as the paramedics wheel Erma’s covered body away. We had a thing, you know. We did, too, Ted says. When it’s time for bridge, Ted asks every woman who looks even the least bit like Erma to join the game. That is all of the women, even Cecilia, who, in the window’s pale reflection, sees him with the same doubting eyes. Do you feel it too? he asks her. Like you’ve forgotten how to be alive? Christ no, Cecilia says. I love my life. On the day of the funeral, Cecilia promises to take Noah to say
season will end. If Erma were here she’d say— Erma’s gone. He feels it too, feels it again. Like he can’t laugh, hasn’t in years, never will again, never will anything. He’s felt this way before, which is to say that once Ted felt like he would never have a feeling again. It really was a minor tragedy. One cut with his dirty chef’s knife, then panic. Ted remembers fumbling to put the stopper in the sink, as if he could save the blood. On the way home from the hospital, the only thing his father had said was, You know, Ted, time will kill you just fine on its own. Ted tells The Colonel this story while Cecilia is gone at Erma’s funeral. Smart guy, your pop, The Colonel says. But also a real fucking idiot. He’s dead, Colonel. The Colonel huffs. How many times do I have to tell you I’m Petty Officer Second Class Kybartas? Ted quits his janitoring job, and due to budget cutbacks – and the insistence of both the community’s board and his depression – his father’s room becomes the only set. Cecilia brings food until he stops wearing a bathrobe, then Ted uses an old credit card of his father’s to order pizza and pornography from the internet which he trades to Petty Officer Second Class Kybartas for the cafeteria’s cinnamon apples. You can have Mark’s apples, Anne says to Ted when they all visit. He won’t finish his. I will, too, Mark protests. Here, have mine, Ann says. They have teamed up, the Ann(e)s, to inform Ted of his eviction. His sister explains how Seasons changed the bylaws to require residents to be over fifty-five or suffering from a debilitating condition.
goodbye. It is already March, and Ted no longer knows how this
They call it Ted’s Law, she says. So that’s something. Ted throws his spoon. An apple hits the wall and smears a golden trail to the floor. Tell them I’ve got that reverse aging thing, Ted says. Ted, his sister says. Even then you’re not young enough to be that old. Who is this little guy? Mark says while bouncing Noah in his lap. He kills people, Ted says. Yous a dog, Mark says. Yes yous are. Yes yous are. Ted tells Mark to shut up. Ann and Anne share a look at the scar on Ted’s wrist: just one, going the wrong direction, a short, puce line that was not a very big tragedy at all. You can stay with me until we figure out what comes next, his sister says. And this little guy can stay with us, Mark says. Who’s a murderer? Yous a murderer. Ted sighs. It’s not funny anymore. Oh, Ted, Anne says. It was never funny. Ted notices Cecilia watching from the open door and remembers that the world might be more comedy than drama. It’s so clear a sensation that he opens his arms and pulls them all in for a hug. This is where the two-parter would end, Ted whispers. They push him away. The final day of May, Ted pleads. That’s all I want. The administrator at Seasons agrees, as long as Ted stops the black-market smut trading and returns to his janitorial work. And Ted does return, tries harder than ever, and even Cecilia notices. Mornings she arrives while he’s dusting the plants and nights she brings him hot chocolate. With marshmallows. You two might actually happen. You think, Colonel? Ted says. Ted received the right to use the nickname in exchange for
Why not? I lived fifty-four years with a wife I didn’t deserve on my best day. Way I see it, you and I are dreamers. Erma, too. Hell, even the mutt. That’s why we’re the gang. Ted hugs him, and this time The Colonel doesn’t hit him with his cane. On the final day of May, Ted finishes his rounds early so he can pack up his father’s room. He’s putting the photo of the family at a baseball game into a cardboard box when he hears the knock. Cecilia enters and takes the picture from his hands. Lemons. She always smells like lemons. Opening day, he tells her, looking down at the photo. You look happy, she says. We weren’t. Mom died that winter. And you can’t tell, but it was cold, almost snowing. We smiled for Ann. And I think she smiled for us. Cecilia sets the picture into the box, and Ted knows what the audience will expect him to do next. He places his hand on top of hers until she turns to him, then kisses her long and slow. It’s his best kiss, so good he can hear his own heart’s hooting and doesn’t even fear the inevitable next breath he’ll have to take, and the one after that and the one after that. Cecilia pulls at her uniform and clears her throat. Jesus, Ted. You know I’m married, right? I’m sorry, Ted says. I am. But this is how it ends. Noah noses the door open and paws at Ted’s leg. Ted raises an eyebrow at Cecilia. Take him, she says. He scares the fuck out of everyone. Ted and Noah step into the bright May morning, warmed by a soft wind keeping the robins aloft and new blossoms waving. There’s a sharp knock behind the glass, and Ted turns to see The Colonel offering a hard salute. Ted’s reflection salutes back. In the glass, the ghost of the dog barks madly past the maple tree.
teaching The Colonel how to clear an internet browser.
SELECTIONS FROM THE FATRASIES D’ARRAS (c. 1280–1300)
Dui rat userier Voloient songier Por faire un descort .iii. faucons lanier On fait plain panier Des Vers de la Mort Uns muiaus dit qu’il ont tort Por l’ombre d’un viez cuvier Qui por miex villier s’endort Qui cria Alez lacier Por tornoier sans acort
Uns biaus hom sans teste Menoit molt grant feste Por un com velut & une fenestre A mis hors sa teste Si vit le fendu Ja fust grant max avenu Qant li songes d’une beste S’escria Hareu le fu Trestout voloit ardoir l’aitre Pour ce c’om i ot foutu
poem by UNKNOWN translated from the Old French by TED BYRNE and DONATO MANCINI
Two usurious rats hoped that by dreaming theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d write a descort Three timid falcons filled a breadbasket with worm-eaten dirges A mute declared that theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d erred since the shade of an old tub asleep to stay more awake shouted Go ahead embrace for a contest with no rules
A handsome headless man laid on a great feast for a hairy cunt Just then a window stuck out its noggin and noticed the crack Bad things of course did happen when the dream of a donkey brayed Hey Help Fire Fire Everyone wants the altar where we all got fucked to burn
THIRTY OBSERVATIONS ON THE HUNTERS IN THE SNOW BY PIETER BRUEGEL poem by BLAKE HACKLER
69 1. Not poles, but spears, sharp-tipped, empty. 2. Notice their bloodless gaze, rib skinny bodies concaved by ache and hunger. 3. I meant the hunters, not the hounds. But the hounds too. 4. Listen. Not one of them barks. 5. Hubert, their patron saint, hangs from the inn, hinge split, vision spent. 6. There was never a miracle that stopped a single winter. 7. The crows, black as anchors, sniff slaughter in the air and gather, keep watch. 8. Mother, father, uncle, and little Lotte throw faggots on the fire. Furniture, too. 9. They watch the faggots burn. They cry for the furniture. 10. Faggots and furniture were the same then. Both expendable. 11. I would have burned had I been there. 12. Yara, the one the women call witch, watches from the dark, her mouth stitched silent from all the years of othering. 13. She knows why the hunters have come, says nothing. 14. Lift her skirt and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll see sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cut runes into the wrinkled skin below her navel. 15. A door, amputated, lies in the snow. 16. Farther on, a barn goes up in flames. No one left to blame soon. 17. The church stands empty. God escaped and took the faces with him. 18. Notice no one has a face. Not really. 19. In the lower right corner, two sisters sled. 20. Miriam, the younger, is the only one in town bold enough to wear red. It matches her hair. 21. The hunters will save her for last. 22. The pondâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hardened to a greyish green, a bruise halfway to healing. 23. The villagers skate, sled, curb, fish, fill the air with laughter and self-interest. Listen. It sounds like silence.
70 24. Notice the three bodies lying on the ice. Have they died? 25. Bruegelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s smudged the horizon, the treetops thumbprints of ash. 26. Later the wolves will come down from the mountains and divide whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s left. 27. Another crow, the size of a mountain peak. 28. Ask me to explain how absence tastes. 29. The hunters have come home. The hunters have come. 30. Run.
BANNIK JESSICA BLOOM
The backyards in this neighbourhood are full of trash. It’s not anyone’s fault. These are good people – they just live with too many seasons and they need too much stuff to make it through the year. Sheds fill up with garden hoses, rakes, sacks of soil, sacks of salt, ladders, sleds, and umbrellas. There’s no room for tires or old furniture or other things that get piled up against the fence and covered with tarps bluer than any sky we’ve seen around here.
Kids forget about toys which become fossils in the mud and matted grass. Our parents have attempted to fix things, to repaint the window frames, but the debris of abandoned projects clump together and make homes for raccoons, squirrels, and mice. The backyards are mostly for animals anyway. We only have four weeks of nice weather – the rest are too cold or too hot – and we spend those days sitting on our front stoops where we can talk to each other without tidying up inside or giving anyone a beer. My mother was always concerned about people asking for too much. “Sorry, it’s my last one,” she told anyone looking for a cigarette. If she gave you anything, it caused her pain. A request too reasonable to be denied would cause a wince and sharp inhale as if she stepped on a nail with her bare foot. She’d move slower than usual, complain the entire time, and somehow manage to not quite do what was asked of her. People rarely made the mistake again, which was, of course, exactly the idea. I think that’s why she got along with Joz’s mom, zsofia. They lived at the end of the row, backing onto the forest, and never turned their porch lights on. zsofia thought everything was stupid in this country – giving out Halloween candy, putting up Christmas lights, selling old things on the driveway. Like me, Joz didn’t know his dad. When we were kids, it was difficult to believe that we even had dads at all. It didn’t seem impossible that our mothers had willed us into existence by themselves. They had a sauna in their backyard, which was unusual in our neighbourhood, especially back then. Even the word felt strange in my mouth, pulling my jaw down and around. Built from raw cedar, it looked like a tree pulled inside out and turned into a little room. Something nicer than a tree fort, bigger than a doll house. “That place gets hot,” said my mother. “Don’t touch it.” Joz told me it was boring in the sauna – just some dumb room – but I didn’t believe him. We were ten years old and best friends because our mothers drank together in zsofia’s kitchen. Years later
had nothing in common. Even then, there were signs. He wanted to watch TV, and I wanted to watch his mother go into the sauna. It always happened after my mother stumbled home to make dinner. I stayed behind, with the promise of leaving soon, and waited at their kitchen sink for zsofia to appear in the little window that framed the whole backyard. My alibi was a glass of water that I sipped slowly, refilling over and over again, for as long as it took. In a pastel blue bathrobe, she walked to the sauna that had nothing but forest behind it. Before getting inside, she took off the robe, even in the coldest weather. The moment hung, like a spider on its thread, as she stood naked and still in her backyard. Her body, bright and pale. Then she put the bathrobe on a hook beside the door where it slouched in the memory of her shape. I used to believe the sauna was a portal into another world. That it took zsofia out of the backyard and returned her with a pink face and shiny hair. At home, I would make my face drip with sweat by stuffing a towel underneath the bathroom door and cranking the shower dial to the hottest setting. I made the steam so thick that I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see my hand in front of me. My breath went from gulps to sips as the air coated my throat with fire. The heat was sharp, a thousand little claws on my skin. Lying on the tiles, I listened to water hiss and tap against the plastic curtain, then gurgle down the drain. The darkness behind my eyeballs rushing to the front when I opened the door, woozy and wet.
we would fall in love, and years after that we would realize that we
THE F L O O D poem by MICHELE REESE
I have heard gods whispering in the corn and wind. â&#x20AC;&#x201C;Sherwood Anderson
After cotton molded on the stalk, peanuts rotted floating in rows of water, and the muck abated, too late for winter wheat, farmers sowed their fields with corn futures.
SVALBARD SARA ANWAR
It was early fall when Liam and I decided to go to Svalbard. We arrived in the smallest of airports, and we only knew that in Svalbard, polar bears outnumber people, and you must never venture outside of the small strip of the one street which is the town. And that if you do leave the town, you must always have a working rifle in your hand. Over the years global warming has altered seasons and food patterns, and polar bears have become increasingly skinny and hungry. They will eat anything. I spent all my time on that trip haunted by the thought of a polar bear behind me. In the Arctic the sun never sleeps, and we wore heavy black sleep masks at night to hide from the midnight day. We had rooms in a converted coal minerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cabin. Svalbard was originally a coal town, and many miners had died in piteous conditions before the mines were shut down.
It was rumoured that some mines had been closed with the miners still inside. The shaft entrances stood on the hills surrounding the town on either side, wraiths of weather-worn wood and canvas breathing softly in the Arctic air. I reached for Liam’s reassuring hand often on that trip, and he always gave it to me. Liam had a body like a human polar bear. A giant well-padded chest and arms, and bear-like fur everywhere. He was the most comforting physical embodiment of a person whose actions sometimes made me horribly uncomfortable. For the two years we had spent together, every time a passably attractive woman looked at Liam, he would be thrown into a tizzy and then we would have The Talk, where he asked if, perhaps, I would be okay with him being with other women. I would bite my lip and shake my head and he would withdraw like a warm polar bear now turned into a glacier, and then when I, filled with remorse, said – yes, Liam, yes, we don’t own each other’s bodies, of course you may do as you please, I trust you – he’d envelope me once again and draw me close, and it was like coming home after a long day in the sleet to a warm fire and soft rugs at your feet. And so it went, and we often played this game, it was our cat-and-mouse way of remaining close, all whilst driving our own selves miles apart. In Svalbard everything costs as one would imagine it does on the Norwegian mainland, but more. Liam took me out to a fancy dinner where we ate reindeer steak and one tiny, square centimetre of cured polar bear meat. Hunting was not permitted, so animals would only be eaten if they had died of natural causes. The fancy dinner was served in a tiny wooden shack, which used to be the miners’ mess hall. We were the only patrons there aside from a large group of women, ostensibly a hen party, all drinking and having an excellent time. I asked Liam to sit facing me and them because I knew he enjoyed looking at women, especially a large group of individually beautiful Scandinavian women. Over
the group again and again, and far from disturbing me, it gave me a certain triumphant pleasure, knowing that he in turn had pleasure. It’s the little things, I thought as I stabbed at my square of polar bear meat, that keep people together till they grow old. On the walls of the restaurant hung rusted and reclaimed coal-mining equipment, and while Liam made eyes behind me, I imagined dead memories of the miners watched us eat, a part of the walls in their black stained clothes, their eyes pierced out of greyed faces. We went back to the hotel and I was amazed when Liam reached for my body. This was a rare thing, hardly ever spoken of, and even more rarely performed – sex was a ritual not of physical pleasure, but of reassurance – we’re still a couple, I would think, as he stabbed at me unfeelingly. It ended as suddenly as it began, with his orgasm, and I rolled out of bed to take a shower. The next day we watched the heads of beluga whales slip in and out of a fjord so far below a cliff that they seemed like silverfish skimming across the page of some rotted book. A shoal that big, said the guide, was rarely ever seen. That night Liam and I were chosen by our guide for the first polar bear watch of the group. One finger cocked on a flare gun’s trigger, I watched the coiling dark mist give way sometimes to fresh rain, sometimes to milky clouds, and then suddenly blue sky. But all the while, watching the horizon for polar bears, I stayed locked in my mind, thinking of how each day I spent with the man I loved who sat next to me cheated me of true intimacy. Every so often I would freeze, a distant cloud on the line of sky seemed to take a bear-like form. No real bears came that night, though my fear stayed. In the day-lit Arctic night I couldn’t fall asleep. I could see the faces of the miners floating above the belugas in the sea. Reproachful, unsung, left out, they asked me: Why are we here? And I asked myself the same thing.
dinner I saw, or imagined I saw, his eyes stray from my face over to
Ariel Gonzรกlez Losada, Imago Mundi (2016)
Ariel GonzĂĄlez Losada, PhĂ¤nomenologie des Geistes II (2016)
SOOKOON ANG 80–83
GUILHERME BERGAMINI 84–87
KHAIRULLAH RAHIM 88–91
ELLA WALKER 92–95
Right page: Sookoon Ang, Immortality III (2018)
82 Sookoon Ang, Exorcize Me (V) (2013) Sookoon Ang, Exorcize Me (VI) (2013)
Sookoon Ang, 4PM (2016)
Exorcize Me is a photography, videography and live performance project addressing coming-of-age anxiety, alienation and the metamorphosis between childhood & adulthood. The title Exorcize Me speaks about the unease within oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own skin and the yearning to get rid of newfangled fears and unfamiliar emotions. The goth makeup, baby language, school setting, and uniforms are juxtapositions of reality and fiction, interior work brought out to the exterior.
Guilherme Bergamini, Feminicid (2015)
85 Guilherme Bergamini, Feminicid (2015)
Guilherme Bergamini, Feminicid (2015)
Khairullah Rahim, Distant White Fowl (2019)
89 Khairullah Rahim, Angel (2019)
Khairullah Rahim, Duck (2018)
Khairullah Rahim, The Opportunist (2017)
Khairullah Rahim, Pigeon (2018)
92 Ella Walker, Dragon under feet (2019)
93 Ella Walker, View of Piazza Del Priori (2019)
94 Ella Walker, Mirror of Human Happiness (2019)
95 Ella Walker, Spheres (2019)
Ella Walker, Popping (2019)
NINE EMI BENN
“Nine,” the mother says. “Is that a lot?” the daughter asks, pulling back the sheets. “I sleep with you and all my stuffed animals. That’s already maybe a gazillion.” “I’m not counting stuffed animals. Do you want a bedtime story or not? If you just want to ask questions, you can go right to sleep, bunny. You know I have to go to a lot of trouble to tell you about the nine.” “Story, please.” “Have you done your teeth and toilet?” The daughter nods so the mother begins. ⁂ The first was just for a night. Her boarding school was an alien place where she never felt she belonged (she had a full scholarship). The bed was hard and narrow and creaked whenever they moved. Though the mother had slept on it all year in the small room of her dorm, she hadn’t noticed how uncomfortable it was until he was there sharing the bed with her. He was older and had come to visit his girlfriend, her classmate, from his Ivy League college nearby. “What was he like?” “He was black. If I brought him home, Grandpa would have said bad things to him.” “Why did you sleep with him, Mommy?” The mother shrugs. “We were drinking. People do foolish things when they drink.” “He’s the one who kicked the blankets and twisted the sheets.” “Yes,” the mother says, “We both made a huge mess.” ⁂ Number Two happened the summer before she started college. She knew him from school, but he never talked to her. It was only in the
quiet of summer when they ran into each other at the drugstore that they had their first conversation. Her immigrant parents encouraged her to see him. “They practically shoved me out the door and sold me to him,” the mother says, but mildly and without bitterness. “He was white and came from a rich family. That kind of guy who will always be alright, no matter what they’ve done.” He drove them to the beach and then he just wanted to sleep. “He just fell asleep? Isn’t that weird?” The mother shrugs. “Why did you sleep in the car with him? Were you tired?” “I was. Very, very tired of it all, especially my parents. Never sleep in a car with a boy you don’t know that well. It’s uncomfortable and you don’t want to be thought of like that.” “Like what, Mommy?” “Like the kind of girl who would sleep just anywhere. You want to be a girl who only sleeps in a feather bed and sends boys all around the world just to fetch you a silk pillow.” “Why would they have to go so far to get a pillow? Couldn’t they just buy one at the store?” “Because you want someone who’d get you something so special that it won’t leave creases on your cheek.” The mother sighs. “You have to understand, if I didn’t sleep, there would’ve been nothing else to do. And I was kind of excited, too, before I went. I liked him before that.” “Did you have bad dreams sleeping in the car?” “Yes. Terrible dreams and nightmares about monsters who lurk in the dark.” ⁂ “Wait,” the daughter says, holding up her little hand before the mother can get to Number Three. “Do the monster check.” The mother hangs her head over the side of the bed until her
stuffed animals that have fallen through the crack between the bed and the wall. “It’s clear.” “Then why do I still have bad dreams?” “Sometimes monsters are invisible. They hide in the crevices of things and even in people, behind the faces they wear every day. They feed on secret things, the things you can never tell anyone, like this story. If you repeat it, you might invite monsters in. Do you understand?” “I won’t tell. I don’t like monsters.” “Good.” ⁂ She was in college by Number Three – a state school with financial aid, she was the first in her family to go. He was in her American History class. He took long, hot showers after they slept, as if he wanted to wash all the sleep away. “Did he wash the sheets, too?” “Maybe. From the way he washed himself in those showers, he probably had a lot of laundry.” “Didn’t you sleep with Grandma and Grandpa? Why weren’t they the first two?” “I never slept with them,” the mother says as she stiffens but seems to rise taller, even though they’re both lying on the bed. “I always slept on my own. Even at sleepovers. I never got too close to anyone. I never shamelessly climbed in the way you do. I don’t know why you bother. You have such a lovely bed.” “Yes,” the daughter says, fluffing her feather comforter and resting her head back onto her pink pillow, safe under her net canopy. “But it’s cozier with you. And I get scared.” “You should stay in your bed,” the mother says. “My number is one,” the daughter says.
dark hair brushes the floor. All she sees in the dim light is dust and
⁂ Four was someone the mother liked but met in passing. She noticed him right away. He had a lion’s mane of blond, curly hair. They were traveling on the same bus in a foreign country. Before they slept, they took a walk. They were the only two who wanted to see the village nearby. People warned them not to go because it was unlucky. But they were curious. Dirty children blocked the path there, taunting them and throwing rocks. Though she hadn’t believed it before, the mother was sure she could feel the bad luck. “We should turn around,” she whispered. As they made their way back, Four put his arm around her like he was protecting her from the bad things behind them that they both had felt. That night they shared a bed. They were dusty from the road, but he didn’t seem to mind. ⁂ Five and Six didn’t happen but they’re still part of the list. She’d parted ways with the man with the lion’s mane and lost her passport. This time she was hitchhiking in a car with another American – safe, she thought, not knowing that the taillight of his car was out and that it would give the police an excuse to stop them. They waved the driver on. The mother had no identification, so they took her to jail. The two arresting officers told her that she had to sleep with one of them. Five was tall, young, and good-looking. Six was old and squat. You choose, they said. The mother was very dark and brown from the sun. She was wearing a filthy cotton dress that looked like a sack. If she’d even had a shower, she was sure they wouldn’t have given her a choice.
She chose the old, ugly one. “I knew that the tall and handsome one would want to sleep right away,” the mother explains, “He looked used to getting his way. Because he was handsome, I knew he would be brutal. So I chose the old one. He looked like he could be tricked. I just used my hand.” “What for?” “To cover his eyes so he would think that he was sleeping without really having to sleep. You probably wouldn’t have known to do that, would you, bunny? You would have chosen the tall, handsome one.” The daughter nods, shyly. When the first light filtered in through the bars of her prison window, the mother called out to the tall, handsome officer and prostrated herself before him. “Remember your mother and your sister,” she cried. “Remember the Virgin Mary!” “Then what happened?” “He let me go and I got a new passport.” ⁂ The real Number Five was Henry, a potter who lived with the mother in a big house they shared with other people who came and went like the rabbits she let run wild. She was still in college but older at this point – wiser, she had thought, from travelling. The rabbits multiplied. One day, they chewed through the electrical wires, and the house burnt down. “You wouldn’t know what that’s like,” the mother says. “You love your things too much. If something like that happened, you might die just staying with your things. Or you would get caught in the fire while you were trying to take them with you.” The daughter makes a face but then asks, “Was the man who owned the house very mad?”
But she was female, and they were bored that day.
“Actually, insurance gave him more money than the house was worth, so it seems the rabbits did him a favor. That’s karma for you.” For just a little while, before the house burned down, it had been nice: the mother liked Henry and he had liked her back. After they moved, he started liking someone else. “It’s what always happens,” the mother says. “I’m the last one before they marry someone else.” The one that Henry liked had a name that began with N. All the mother’s enemies have N names. The daughter, too, has a name that begins with N. The mother named her with the hope that the daughter would grow up with all the advantages of her nemeses. The daughter knows who Henry is because he still sends the mother packages. She smiles a secret smile when they arrive and passes them over to the daughter, who rips open the paper. The daughter drinks hot chocolate out of a perfectly weighted mug that Henry made. In the summer evenings, she holds Japanese fireworks that he sends, while the mother lights their ends. They burn slowly in soft explosions that look like stars and snowflakes. ⁂ “Why do boys like to sleep so much?” the daughter yawns. “They want to be close to someone when they sink into their subconscious.” “If you’re both asleep why does it matter?” “It’s the same reason you climb into bed with me. It’s comforting. But sleeping with someone else – even me – can be dangerous, too. Sometimes your dreams mix together and then you get mixed up in the other person. You don’t know where you start and where they end. But it can be nice to lose yourself like that, and not have to be completely responsible and enclosed inside your own body. “Also,” the mother continues after thinking a little, “it makes
makes them taller than before. Just for a little bit, not permanently. Then they walk around all day, and the gravity fights their bodies, so they get shorter. But for boys, that little moment they’re taller, it still counts.” “Should I sleep more so I can be tall, too?” “No. The best thing you can do is to sleep soundly and not wake in the night. I know you creep to the bathroom, but try to sleep, little bunny. Monsters lurk in the dark. It’s better if you don’t see them and just let them pass by without knowing that you’re there. Only wake after they’re gone.” ⁂ Six was George, the mother says, trying it out loud, and wondering if it’s true. She’s muddled up the timeline at this point. She can’t account for everyone, and nine seems like a decent enough number, not too big or small. Six wasn’t important – that’s all she knows. The daughter nods because she knows he belongs in the list. George liked the mother but sleeping with him was just like sleeping with a brother. “But you want to be safe when you sleep next to someone,” the daughter says. “Sleeping with someone like family is better, isn’t it?” “Sometimes,” the mother agrees. “But sometimes you want to sleep next to someone who isn’t like family at all. They help you dream different dreams.” ⁂ Seven was the one who got away. He was older, a graduate student she watched as he biked across campus. She knew he would be important one day. He surprised her by walking right into the library where she worked. That’s when they really met.
them taller. Boys like to be tall. Right after they sleep, all the gravity
He was half-Japanese, half-white, serious and tall. She liked the way he considered everything she said, but that was the problem, too – he took everything she did so seriously, all her moods and crying jags and silly, crass jokes. “I was too messy for him,” the mother sighs. “He was more comfortable with someone more cultured, of his own class. He married a prettier, nicer version of me. Everyone said that she reminded them of me. Sometimes she sends a Christmas card and signs his name for him. I always throw those away.” ⁂ The daughter’s father was Eight. The first time the mother saw him he was standing on his head in an ashram in India where the mother had gone to find herself. He told the mother about a girl he’d met there who could see auras. She had told him that his aura was white. White was rare, he explained, it meant that he was a very spiritual person. He was at the ashram because he had left the zen temple where he was training to become a Buddhist priest. He didn’t like the rituals – the toilet cleaning and all the repetition – and wanted to see if there was something better. They didn’t talk about the past or the future because it was not something the mother was thinking about (if they did, she couldn’t remember it). She was still thinking about the seventh man who hadn’t loved her enough. She wondered if her aura was black and was glad the girl who could see auras had left the ashram before she’d arrived. They hiked together and slept outside on a holy Tibetan mountain. The mother had vaguely decided to travel on and work with Mother Teresa. But she had a change of plans. “I was in your belly!” the daughter cries. “Tell me again how I got there.”
to notice things when you’re distracted by your dreams. Sleeping in a holy place means that mischievous gods are around. I can’t recommend it.” “But you’re not mad that they put me in there?” The mother strokes the daughter’s hair and says, “Shhh.” ⁂ “Next time will you tell me the story of the giant boob that rolls down the hill?” the daughter murmurs. Her eyelids are heavy, though she fights to keep them open. “I like that one. I can’t remember if it smashes the city or not.” “Maybe tomorrow.” “And the milk that comes out, I can’t remember if it saves the people or drowns them. I can’t remember if it’s a happy story or not.” The daughter blinks her eyes and furrows her brow. She’s halfasleep but awake enough to know that something isn’t right. “I’m sure there was another one after that. I thought there was someone else after Daddy? A handsome prince who was gentle and kind?” “Not tonight.” Through her yawn the daughter continues, “Wasn’t there also one before, at the beginning, a monster? And a girl? I remember a girl.” “Go to sleep, my Nine. You know that there are always nine.” “But—” the daughter protests but her eyes are closing. “Stories change. Sometimes they get confused with your dreams when you’re already drifting off so you can’t remember them exactly right even if you try.” “Please stay with me after I’m asleep,” the daughter says. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“While I was sleeping, a deity must have snuck you inside. Be careful where you sleep. You’re more vulnerable, and it’s easy not
â &#x201A; The daughter lies heavy in her pink bed. She looks like a doll next to all her stuffed animals, which are buried in the crack between the bed and the wall to protect her from the monsters. She smells of bath soap mixed with her own sour smell. The mother climbs in under the cool sheets and lets her head fall onto the pillow. She feels the warmth of the daughterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s body beside her. Then she closes her eyes and sleeps.
THE TONGUE IS A DISGUSTING MUSCLE poem by QUINN RENNERFELDT
I say Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m the Mary Oliver of giving a shit. You say poetry is a disgusting muscle. I lick a line of truffle salt off your palm; the spit glitters. The hand reaches for me. Your tongue, silky slug of the mouth, slices every bright nerve of mine to the quick. You are busy below, and my breath becomes the ocean, and the window is open, and outside the window there is a hummingbird at the breast of a flower on some milk-giving tree. Suddenly everything is lactating for me. Suddenly I fissure like the half-eye of a kaleidoscope, and then it is over and you are up for air. I only kiss your mouth in the aftermath. Your lips already taste like apocalypse. At night, there is a gulf of blankets between us, and every once-bloomed flower is a puckered asshole under the moon, and somewhere, small birds drop from trees, dead from cold.
EN QUÊTE DE QUOI from Le noir du ciel
poem by MARY-LAURE zOSS
depuis la chambre du haut rêvent les morveux, s’écorchent les mains aux galeries de bois, leur âme retournée rase la pente des champs, par dessous l’herbe les yeux du mort piquent le ciel, accrochent le ventre boueux des renards en quête de proie, eux se perdent, les pieds dans la terre molle où se défont les os, dans leurs jeux poussent des échelles contre les arbres, ils écoutent la nuit s’égoutter sous l’écorce de l’orme, les chemins sont plein de trous, ils cherchent toujours à remonter à travers les paquets de nuit qui leur restent dans la gorge, s’inquiètent des cavités noires dans les murs
IN SEARCH OF WHAT translated from the French by SARAH-JANE MOLONEY
in the upstairs bedroom the little snots are dreaming skinning their hands on the wooden galleries their upside-down souls skimming the fieldslope beneath the grass the dead manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eyes prick the sky hook onto the muddy bellies of prowling foxes they get lost feet in the soft earth where bones come undone in their games pushing ladders against the trees they listen to the night drip under the bark of the elm the paths are full of holes they are trying to climb back through the lumps of night stuck in their throats fretting over the black cavities in the walls
Derek Setzer, 004 (2019)
Derek Setzer, 005 (2019)
BEGINNING OF A NEW POEM poem by T. PERSON
Patience let the hill come to them, allowing it to roll up their shins, so it pushed their knees backwards
MORNING poem by MEGAN SUNGYOON
[ ] is dying call her what is poetry when you die outside of it You leave tomorrow by never arriving. leave
translated into English your dying is immediate. Tell me: conditional, conjunctive, how dying is in our home language
ODE TO THE PIT-STOP poem by L. REEMAN
O my body needy and brave how at 2 AM every language reverts to its most music mothertongue O the first time i pumped my own gas the cigarette-song woman selling me myself in Virginia only laughing gently arranged my hands (an expert) (an access) O the coffee i will vomit onto the highway shoulder O the shoulder-piss crouched in primal prayer
115 O half-nap i take somewhere wide enough to put my hazards on O jolt awake at a truckâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s scream metal marginally missing each other a rosary of wheels a chemical dawn alone this long i become greedy i borrow old habits i scoop frosting off my face O every hotdog reeseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gummy worm combo i shamefully Gullet (my side mirror sneering) O i change socks in another storage-bathroom O i wash my hands and turn the sink back into dirt O timely iced tea O thunderstorm clearing O shitty gas on which i binge my tank O bashful break-squeal O seatbelt cinch
THE PARTY poem by TERENCE YOUNG
They were told the party was on. They were told everyone would be at the party. They should come. They should really come. But they were of two minds. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a party, they said in one mind. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a party, they said in the other mind. Both statements were equally true. It was a question of timing. It was a question of distance. But it was neither of those things. Do we go to parties, they asked themselves. Do we like parties, they asked themselves.
117 Now they were getting somewhere. (They had been to parties. There were pictures.) Parties are like Christmas, she said. I know exactly what you mean, he said. She went on to tell him why parties were like Christmas. He listened politely, saying only, I know, I know and thinking parties are like sand, parties are like water on level ground parties are like the wind beneath a door. When she was finished, she asked, Aren’t we done with parties? What do you mean by done, he asked. You know what I mean, she said. True, he did. But he didn’t like the idea of being done with anything. What’s the point, she asked. Does there have to be a point, he asked. I knew you were going to say that, she said. It’s a celebration, he said. All parties are a celebration, she said. I knew you were going to say that, he said.
118 The celebration isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t important, she said. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the excuse. The excuse for what, he asked. Parties are for getting laid, she said. Getting laid is like sand, he said. Getting laid is like water on level ground, she said. Getting laid is like the wind beneath a door, he said. Getting laid is like Christmas, they agreed. In the end they chose not to think about the party. In the end he came upon her washing her hair. In the end she interrupted him shaving. In the end they had a good time. In the end they left early. In the end they drifted home.
TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART BEN MILLER
When I went to Oregon for the eclipse the woman sitting next to me on the plane had five turquoise hairpins and a tin of crystals and leathers. There was turbulence on the descent into Eugene and she held my hand. “It’s about safety,” she said. “I feel safe when I hold someone’s hand.” I stared at her, unblinking, as she clutched my fingers, hoping I’d give her a little scare. She didn’t seem to notice. Earlier she’d unpacked the tin and mumbled incantations to her cords and gems. She had streaks of blue and pink in her gray hair and little moons dangled from the lobes of her ears. When the plane touched the tarmac she withdrew her hand quickly, adjusting a hairpin, then returned both hands to her lap. We didn’t speak during taxi or as we deplaned. The airport terminal smelled like industrial cleaner and jet fuel. The woman stopped for a drink of water and as I stood by the baggage carousel, I watched her walk quickly through the doors and out towards the buses and taxis. I wished I’d been able to tell her about my friend Freida, who was joining me in a couple of days, on the day of totality. She’s a witch who moved to Berlin a few years back, one of the first people I knew to be kicked out of San Francisco. It had never been cheap, but lately the landlords had started pulling stunts to evict people so they could raise the rent. She’d missed a payment due to a bank error while she was on vacation, so she didn’t get the phone calls. When she got back there was an eviction notice in the mailbox. Eventually they settled for $60,000. It seemed like a lot of money, but then again it was the sum total of fifteen years of life, and a new lease in San Francisco would have been $3,000 a month. At least the settlement got her started in Berlin, where she was making ends meet with performances and sex work. Freida, who can talk to anyone anywhere, would have had something to say to the woman on the plane, would have known where to begin: what her equipment was for, whether the spells she was casting were good or evil. Maybe Freida could have convinced her to cast a spell for me.
Total Eclipse of the Heart
back to my parents in Kansas, and I was on my way to Oregon for the eclipse – to celebrate wholesomely after too many goodbye parties – and then to join them. Freida kept telling me to move to Berlin but rent was going up there too, and watching one city die was enough. I’d settled for $100,000 (we joked that at least the settlements were going up) and figured I’d look for land in Kansas, land in Oregon maybe. I had a few friends outside Denver. I wanted to be someplace nobody could kick me out. At the rental car counter they told me I’d been upgraded and led me to a line of midsize SUVs. I guided a Highlander down the spaghetti ramps of the garage, stopping to ask the guy who checked my contract for directions up to Willamette Pass. Freida and I had booked gondola tickets a year ago when we realized she’d be working on a friend’s performance in Portland and could drive down for the day to see totality. We’d always talked about wanting to see a total eclipse. For the past few days she’d been sending me endless Bonnie Tyler rickrolls. I’d open a link to an article she said I needed to read and it would redirect to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”: Bonnie in a tight red leather jacket and pants swaying wildly in a haze of pink light. “I need you now tonight,” Bonnie sang. ‘I feel you, girl,’ I thought. The land was hilly leaving the airport and then started rising and falling, bunched up against the wall of mountains in the distance. Finally after an hour of driving steadily upwards through dark trees, with fog on all sides, I hit a town called McCredie and turned into the parking lot of our little motel. I had a full day before the eclipse to go out into the woods and take pictures and video. I’d filmed all my goodbye parties in San Francisco and figured I’d get some moody shots of myself stalking through the woods, posing on rocks in heels. Maybe I could throw Bonnie in behind that. Big mood. The woman who checked me in had once had something colorful tattooed on her leg; now, you couldn’t tell what had once been
I was the latest landlord victim. My things were in boxes being sent
part of the pattern and what was recently revealed veins. In the lobby I registered a beardy man checking his phone and sipping tea out of a paper cup. He looked up at me over his glasses and I smiled as I took the key from the woman and walked out into the dark courtyard. Every thirty seconds or so a car would pass, headlights shooting cones of light through the fog. In my room I unpacked, shoving underpants into drawers and hanging shirts on plastic hangers that were permanently attached to the rod. I clipped my one pair of jeans and one pair of khakis to the suit-pants hangers; they brushed the built-in’s dusty floor. I am just exactly too tall for standard human-sized things – my head hits the top of doors, my knees press firmly into the airplane seat in front of me unless I sit on the aisle, akimbo. I lay down on the bed and took out my phone and immediately opened Scruff, as though there were horny fags in McCredie, Oregon (why not, there are horny fags everywhere I guess; after all, there I was, a horny fag in McCredie, Oregon). The boy drinking tea downstairs was online. I looked at his profile. His name was FaintWarmth, which I liked, his picture friendly. He was making bear face – pursed lips, slightly clenched jaw, asymmetrical eyes, one arched brow – it says grrrr, I’m tough, but also cute. “Gay masc duck face,” Freida calls it. I decided to have a cigarette and see if he was worth messaging. The cigarettes weren’t in my raincoat or on the nightstand or in my bag or in the bathroom; I must have finished or lost the pack at the airport, so I decided to go downstairs and look for a machine. Out in the courtyard the fog was even thicker, I almost bumped into a couple of cars. Inside the woman had gone but FaintWarmth was still sitting on the couch, still flipping through his phone. “I’m the only one in walking distance,” I said, “and I’m right here.” “In that case,” he said, “let me get my car keys.” “Bitch.” “You started it.”
Total Eclipse of the Heart
“From me, or from the gas station ten miles down the mountain.” “In that case,” I said, “let me get my car keys.” “Your loss,” he said, crossing his legs at the ankles and turning back to his phone. He was wearing maroon suede sneakers and white socks, joggers with small strips of elastic at the bottom of each leg. “Actually,” I said, “I’d very much like a smoke.” “Me too,” he said. He picked the empty paper tea cup off the table, threw it in the trash behind the motel-woman’s desk, and stepped outside without looking back. I followed, and thought, ‘If he invites me up I’ll go with him.’ Outside he opened a pack of Marlboro Reds and handed me one. “Reds,” I said. “She’s butch.” “Is she complaining?” “No, just observing.” He lit mine, hands cupped around the base of it, then lit his and inhaled deeply and exhaled. “So,” he said. “Here for the eclipse?” “Yeah,” I said. “Where from?” “It’s complicated. You want the short story or the whole story?” “Eventually, the whole one.” “Priced out of San Francisco, going who the fuck knows where.” “So the eclipse is your eviction ritual?” I laughed. “I guess. Meeting a friend here. Can’t say I’ve thought too much about what spirits I want to encourage and what spirits I want to beat back.” “If you talk to any spirits tell them to make me finish my book.” “You’re a writer?” “That’s what I tell cuties I meet at motels in McCredie.” He blew his smoke in my face and I coughed a little, caught off-guard. He said he lived in Portland and was trying to finish a novel
I smiled. “Do you know where a girl can get a cigarette around here?”
and had a couple of jobs: teaching community college students and bartending at a bear bar called Woof. I laughed at the name, saying “fucking bears,” and he shot me a look and said he knew, but it was a gig. “It’s more than a gig,” I said. “Woof is a fucking lifestyle. Look at your New Balance.” “It’s a gig,” he said. “If it’s a gig,” I said, “then I’m sure your novel isn’t some sad bear bildungsroman.” “It’s not sad,” he said, deflating. “I have a sense of humor about it, okay?” “What’s it called?” “The Faint Hint of Warmth.” I shrieked. “Tell me that in the last scene the narrator finds the last faint hint of warmth in the world on Daddy Bear’s hairy belly! Please, please tell me it’s true.” “You cunt,” he said. He dropped the cigarette, muffed it out with a twist of his toe, and walked away into the foggy parking lot. I thought it was a bit, so I stood waiting for him to come back. I like taking people to the edge of their ability to deal with me and then reeling them in again. It strengthens friendships somehow, like how you’re supposed to let a battery get really empty before recharging it. In any case, he didn’t come back, not in a minute or two or five. I wanted another cigarette and instinctively felt up my back pocket for the pack, realized he had them, and muttered “motherfucker” under my breath. “Hey,” I yelled-sang, “come baaack!” No response. “I love bears,” I muttered. “God knows enough of them have blown loads in me that I should have given birth to one by now.” I trudged back up to my room and kicked my shoes off and fell down on the bed. I opened up the app and he wasn’t there anymore. He’d blocked me. Served me right. I am used to men ignoring me, this weird long-limbed gawky faggot making jokes at
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bar called Powerhouse – the kind of guy you could imagine showing up for the first time with all his friends in the mid-eighties and then watching them all die, one by one, until he was sitting there alone, fused to his stool, talking to me, nursing his fifteenth gin and tonic of the night. He told me he’d met Andrew Cunanan once, the guy who shot Versace. “The scary thing,” he said, “is that you meet fifteen delusional faggots like that a week in the bars. Some twink pushing twenty-six who’s getting a little too fat for daddy and suddenly has a new name and some bullshit job you know doesn’t exist, like they’re auditioning for the role of the kind of men who run their lives. I can tell you ‘former bum boy’ doesn’t work too well on a resume,” he said, “and the Judy Garland diet gets you whacked out of your head, it’s a miracle more of them don’t crack and start shooting people.” I lay in bed and thought that I was thirty-six, and not ready to shoot anyone, and where was my fucking medal? Homosexual men are just men, but worse. ⁂ The next morning I managed to get off the phone loop quickly, and by 11 a.m. I was walking into the woods behind the motel. The kid working the front desk told me there was a trail that ran out the back of the parking lot and into a state park, a few hundred acres running down a slope, dotted with little ponds. The fog had burned off and the light was dappled and pretty on the forest floor. My feet crunched through dry leaves on the trail. We’d had a dry summer in San Francisco too. Every few weeks the city would be lightly dusted in falling ash from a fire north or west of the bay, the newspapers all had headlines like DISASTERS RELENTLESS and CALAMITY WIDENING. The world was getting hotter and drier, the
land itself seemed to be telling us time was up; and still the rents went up, and still the landlords took us to court and wrote secret
their expense from across a bar. I met a drunk old queen once at a
petitions and bent the law to kick us out of our homes and replace us with the rich. I decided Calamity Widening was my drag name and showed up at the Lone Star one night in heels and a shaken-go blue wig and was denied entry at the door. Bears can’t take a joke. In the woods I was jonesing for a cigarette but I didn’t have any, only FaintWarmth did, and he wasn’t talking to me anymore, and it was probably better not to risk a smoldering ash falling in the dry brush. That would be Calamity’s ultimate performance: a queen starting a forest fire, burning down half the state of Oregon. “Try to take me out now bitches,” I said out loud. “Just try to fuck with me and I’ll burn everything with the flames of my faggotry.” I imagined the path of fire traveling down through Oregon, crossing the state line and heading through Mendocino, avoiding enclaves of endangered species and the happy Faeries hidden trimming weed buds in the woods, burning up the big industrial farms whose owners paid politicians to say forest fires were caused by water conservation and bird protection, traveling like a lit fuse towards the offices of my former landlords in San Francisco, then aiming skyward, becoming a plume rising up from the building thousands of feet into the sky, visible from hundreds of miles away. All the documents would be burned up, they couldn’t evict me, and I’d be back to my old life again. Calamity would be victorious and the day would be good. Cleansed in the fire, the world would restore itself to balance. Fat fucking chance. As my reverie of arson ended, I tripped. I slid on my ass down a few feet of trail, clutching the bulky camera to my chest, and came to a rest, legs splayed, in front of a small stand of birch trees. I blinked a few times, checked my hands to make sure I wasn’t bleeding. My legs were splayed out at an odd angle, and I held them in the pose while I took the camera out of its bag and snapped a couple of pictures: here is the diva at her lowest moment, here she is at the depth of her fall. Then I saw that I’d landed close to a decently sized pond. I stood, hopped on my
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the trees ringing the water. That’s when I saw the swan. It was standing in a shallow patch and preening itself; when it saw my head come through the trees it reared up and stared at me. I fixed my eyes on its beady black ones and it cocked its head. It couldn’t have been more than four or five feet away. The swan looked at me and I looked at it looking at me, or maybe it was the other way around. Here was its home, this pond. There were its improbably enormous wings. It could fly somewhere else if it wanted, but it didn’t want to. This pond had plenty of weeds and small fish, plenty of light and air. You could just see the tip of a couple of snowcaps over the treeline. The swan’s black eyes were still fixed on mine, and mine on them. It cocked its head again and broke eye contact and kept preening. It had decided I was a friend. I should have taken my camera out but I couldn’t move, it had fixed me there somehow, something wild and white looking at me like that. I decided to take a step closer. It looked up at me again, and again our eyes locked. Then the swan unfolded its wings and beat them at me, two, three, four, times. I froze, thinking, ‘Listen, Mary, you’re about to be killed in the woods by a fucking swan; at least there’s no gayer way to go.’ Then the swan honked and flew away. It landed about fifty feet out into the water and sat picking at little bits of weed on the surface. I sat for the afternoon on the bank of that pond watching the swan feed and dive and paddle. Its mate came back about an hour later, which put me in an even worse mood. ‘I should have known,’ I thought. ‘The good ones always have boyfriends.’ When I got back up to the motel I took a long shower, standing in the yellow plastic stall and soaping up my bony legs and feet, my ropy arms, my dick hanging ridiculously from my torso. I pulled halfheartedly at it, thinking maybe I’d jerk off in the shower, and it didn’t respond. The soap they provided smelled like artificial rose, like my grandmother. There was no restaurant at the motel but
legs a bit to get the blood running, and stuck my head through
there was a McDonald’s a few miles down the mountain, near the gas station. I could go and get a burger and at least have my own fucking cigarettes. I texted Freida, who was coming in late that night: bring food, situation dire. About to go to McDonald’s for emergency rations. I puttered around the room for a few minutes, waiting for her to respond. I needed some kind of response, from someone. I can articulate all of this to therapists or to strangers but still have the impulse to pull people so close they suffocate or to pour drinks over them to pretend I don’t give a shit, sometimes in the same ten-minute span. But Freida can put up with it, with these strange tendrils of loneliness that come lashing through my stomach, free radicals looking for places to attach. I was hopping in the Highlander to drive down to get dinner, having drenched my tears in scratchy hotel towels, when I heard a “hey” and turned and saw FaintWarmth leaning against a tree at the corner of the parking lot, in jeans and brown boots and a denim jacket and a trucker cap, smoking. I smiled and he smiled and it was everything I could do not to run across the parking lot, Baywatch style, and jump into his arms. Free radicals, I know, but here was a handsome man smiling at me from across a motel parking lot, someone I thought I’d never speak to again. ‘Keep it together, queen,’ I thought, and strolled across to him, and smiled. “I’m just going down the mountain to buy cigarettes,” I said, “so I won’t have to bother you anymore.” “I wasn’t planning to let you,” he said. “But I’ll give you my last one anyway.” I needed it, and couldn’t pretend otherwise. I reached out and grabbed the cigarette from the pack, greedily, and he slapped my hand and said, “Easy.” I lit the cigarette and sucked in the smoke. “You know how it is,” I said. “Well,” he said, “now I’m out of cigarettes too.” “Wanna come to McDonalds and get some dinner and refill
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“Are you asking me on a date?” He smiled broadly. “Am I about to say yes to a first date at a McDonald’s in McCredie, Oregon?” “Why not,” I said. “I know I’ve done worse for less.” He followed me over to the car as we smoked, stomped out his butt with a boot, and hopped in the passenger seat of the Highlander. “I shouldn’t be coming with you,” he said, as I shut the driver-side door, “after what you said to me yesterday.” “I’m sorry,” I said. “I can be a bitch sometimes.” We didn’t talk much on the drive or over dinner, munching on our Big Macs. I told him a story about my mother taking me to a McDonald’s when I was ten and seeing a sex worker touch up their makeup in the men’s bathroom, and he laughed a bit but didn’t seem to appreciate the story’s mythic power. “I guess I try to be more proud of being gay,” he said, “I guess I think more about how we can be good role models and not have to rely on images of broken people,” and I wanted to bring my tray down over the top of his head, over his perfectly-executed undercut, and tell him that life wasn’t an inspirational movie or a story told to generate donations, that we were all broken and living in a broken world and just trying to survive it. When we got back to the motel I had no desire to talk to him ever again. I create these soap bubbles in my head, baroque narratives of love and desire and rejection, and then they just vanish, and the feeling when they pop isn’t even relief, exactly, but just the absence of any feeling at all. So thank god Freida was in the room after I said a perfunctory goodbye to FaintWarmth, whose name I had never learned and would never come to know. I opened the door and there she was lying on the bed, in a long black skirt and a gray cowl-neck sweater and purple lipstick. “Reliving the teen goth days?” I asked. We hadn’t seen each other in person in a couple years and she shrieked, jumping up to hug me.
“I brought whisky,” she said, “and dark chocolate, and good coffee.” “It’s good to see you,” I said. “How’s the performance going?” “It’s fine,” she said, “It’s going okay. I’m happy to have the break.” Her voice was low and throaty. “It’s the goddamn sticks out here. What have you been doing?” I told her that I’d fallen for the only boy on Scruff within fifteen miles, who turned out to be some kind of a bear writer with an undercut and big legs. I’d pissed him off with a joke, and then spent the day in the woods crying because I scared a swan, and then had dinner with the guy and he’d turned out to be kind of a boring asshole. When I put it like that, it sounded uneventful. “You sound like you need a drink,” she said, “and swans are dicks.” She went over to the built-in and poured me a whisky, which I downed. “Why am I attracted to men,” I said. “It’s so unfair.” “It’s silly,” she said, “and I hope you get over it.” ⁂ We woke up at six the next morning to an alarm Freida had set. It was Bonnie Tyler, of course. I rolled over in the bed and punched her lightly. “Fuck off,” she said. “That’s my tit.” “This song is going to be stuck in my head till I die.” “Turn around, bright eyes,” she said. “I have to change.” As the song built to its climax I started lip-syncing, I couldn’t resist. I lay, head hanging off the bed, kicking my feet in the air, draping the sheet across the front of my chest like Bonnie does with the pink chiffon in the video. “Forever’s gonna start tonight,” I mouthed, and Freida leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. “It’s not going to start if we don’t get out of this hotel.” On the gondola up to the top of the mountain, pressed against
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was clear but a little windy and the cabin was full of people and we were swaying a bit as we went over the towers. I started shaking at the knees so I closed my eyes and tried to breathe deeply as the gondola shuddered. We finally arrived, and Freida and I walked out hand in hand onto the bare mountaintop as I took deep breaths. Here, up above the tree line, you could see everything. There were snowcaps all around. A broad lake stretched out in front of the mountain. Sun glinted off the grass and gravel. “Let’s go,” Freida said, laughing and grabbing my hand. We started running up the path away from the guys setting up their telescopes, and found a little spot a few hundred feet from everyone. Freida unpacked two crystals and a thermos of coffee from her backpack. “A woman on the plane here had a whole tin of crystals and leathers,” I said. “No shit,” Freida said. “She sounds awesome. Did you talk to her?” “No,” I said. “I needed you for that.” Freida poured me the coffee and smiled. “You don’t need me for anything,” she said. “You should have asked her if she was coming.” We opened up our backpack and lay out a picnic blanket and I pulled out a book of eclipse facts I’d brought with me. “Did you know,” I said, “that the moon is four hundred times closer to us than the sun but also exactly four hundred times smaller? That’s how eclipses happen. They shouldn’t happen. It’s a fluke. The moon used to be a little farther away, and there weren’t any eclipses; and in a few hundred million years it will be a little closer, and there won’t be any.” Freida gestured down at the guys in eclipse t-shirts, who were now unpacking telescopes. “This gonna be your new hobby?” she asked. “I can see you out in the desert in Kansas, in heels and a caftan, listening to Joni Mitchell and staring at the stars.”
the glass by guys in eclipse T-shirts, I started to feel panicked. It
“Maybe,” I said. “It’s powerful shit.” “Powerful shit,” Freida said, “deep in our hearts.” She opened a box of tarot cards and as she started laying them out to read, we noticed the slightest shift in the register of light. “Is that the start—” she said. “Shhh,” I said. She handed me a pair of eclipse glasses and we both put them on, and stared at each other for a moment, smiling in one another’s reflection. I took her hand. For the next hour or so we sat in silence as the guys with telescopes adjusted their equipment and the light darkened. We stared up at the sun through our glasses and watched the moon’s shadow get bigger and bigger. When it covered half the sun we took off our glasses and stared at the trees. Crescent shadows started forming, birds began squawking and roosting. A stillness set in. The color of the trees started to saturate, their shadows kept getting longer and stranger and refracted with crescent shapes. The gondola shuddered to a halt and the swaying cabins, painted blue and orange, glowed as if lit by an alien star. Then, on the white gravel, on our white picnic blanket, shimmering dark lines appeared and began to dance. “Shadow bands,” Freida whispered. I looked up at the sun through my glasses and watched as the last glint of sun slipped behind the moon. The air cooled suddenly and a haunting wind blew across the top of the mountain. We took our glasses off. Everyone was silent, even the guys with telescopes. I breathed in and breathed out and stared at the sun’s corona, jets of plasma impossibly far away turned by a few accidents of geometry into delicate wisps, long glowing streamers, for me to stand and watch. I felt that Freida and I were alone on the world and connected to everyone else alive and also that we were not on the world at all. Then totality broke, the guys with telescopes cheered, light started to filter back from the darkened center of the sky, the sun rising in all directions, half-light like dusk but from a high angle. “Bonnie Tyler was right,” Freida said.
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and I almost shushed her and then didn’t. She was right. I needed her too. We needed each other. Hocquenghem once said fags and dykes should fuck and that day with Freida on the mountain is as close as I’ve ever gotten. You could see the endless sunrise rushing out towards the Pacific, towards California, towards Idaho, towards Washington. We held hands and watched the darkness recede. to Peter Max Lawrence
“This is amazing.” I nodded. “I need you now tonight,” Freida said,
SOOKOON ANG is an artist living
and working in Singapore and Paris. Underpinning her work is existential anxiety and the desire to represent the condition of flux and momentariness. Centring around intangibles and their co-existence with the rational world, Ang creates from a fundamental belief that there is no singular, objective reality and responses to the transient and imperfect nature of things, emotions, and ideas. Her work has been exhibited internationally in Palais de Tokyo; Art Basel Hong Kong; International Film Festival Rotterdam; International Short Film Festival, Oberhausen and Festival du Films sur L’Art in Montreal.
journals. Book-length translations include the short story collection Matracide/Matar a mamá (La Caída, Ecuador, 2015) by Santiago Vizcaíno, Casabe Lands: Binational Anthology of Stories, Ecuador-Nigeria, compiled and translated with Juan Romero Vinueza (La Caída, Ecuador, 2017), Every Day Behind/Todos los días atrás by Antonio Ramos Revilla (Argonáutica, Mexico, 2019), and the poetry collection Ambushed/Emboscada by César Eduardo Carrión (Artepoética Press, New York, 2019). EMI BENN’s fiction has appeared
in Joyland, Monkeybicycle, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and other places. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario.
SARA ANWAR was born and raised
in Karachi, and has since lived in Montreal and now in Berlin. She writes poetry and nonfiction and is currently focused on a novel which considers the ideas of belief and mental illness, and how they are entwined with the experiences of her protagonist. KIMREY ANNA BATTS is originally
from East Tennessee. She resided in Ecuador for 12 years and currently lives in Mexico, where she works as a professional translator. Her translations of poetry and narrative fiction have appeared in numerous literary
GUILHERME BERGAMINI was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He graduated in journalism and has been working with photography for 22 years. Through this art, Bergamini intends to express his experiences, worldview, and anxieties. He has received awards in national and international competitions and festivals, and has taken part in group and solo exhibitions in 21 countries. He has had his work published in several Brazilian and foreign media outlets. He publishes part of his photographic journey on guilhermebergamini.com
135 JESSICA BLOOM is a Toronto-based
writer. Her writing has appeared in Pithead Chapel, New York Magazine, McSweeney's, VICE, Playboy, and more. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria and an MA in Media Studies from Ryerson University.
have been published in Voice and Verse Poetry Magazine, GuGuGu, and The Bauhinia Project, among others. She is one of the co-founding editors of EDGE: HKBU Creative Journal. She has been a featured reader of the Cha Reading Series. BLAKE HACKLER is an actor,
ANNETTE C. BOEHM is a queer poet
from Germany. She is the author of one book of poems, The Knowledge Weapon (Bare Fiction, 2016) as well as two chapbooks: The Five Parts of Love (dancing girl press, 2012) and E.D. Liberations (dancing girl press, 2019). She serves as a poetry reader for Memorious.
playwright, and professor. He has appeared in productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in regional theatres throughout the country as well as in TV and film. His plays and musicals have been seen in Dallas, Chicago, and New York. He currently holds faculty positions at Yale University and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
TED BYRNE is a poet, essayist and
translator who lives in Vancouver. He was a member of the Kootenay School of Writing collective for many years. For the past decade he has been an active member of the Lacan Salon. His most recent book is Duets (Talonbooks, 2018), a book based on translations from the sonnets of Louise LabĂŠ and Guido Cavalcanti. Previous books include Aporia (Fissure-Point Blank, 1989), Beautiful Lies (CUE books, 2008), and Sonnets: Louise LabĂŠ (Nomados, 2011) TIM TIM CHENG teaches at a secondary school in Hong Kong. Her poems
SEMYON KHANIN is an author
of the books Tol'ko chto (2003), Opushchennye podrobnosti (2008), Vplav' (2013), A vam ne kazhetsa, chto eti vashi p'at' minut kak-to slishkom sil'no zat'anulis' (2015), and No ne tem (2017). He is a translator of Latvian and American poetry into Russian, and editor of numerous poetry collections of Russian and Latvian poets. He has authored the anthology Poems in Russian Written by Latvian Poets (2011). His books of poetry appear in Latvian, Czech, Ukrainian, Serbian, Georgian, Spanish, and Italian translations.
HEIKKI HUOTARI in a past century
attended a one-room school and spent summers on a forest-fire lookout tower, is now a retired math professor, and has published three chapbooks, one of which won the Gambling The Aisle prize, and two collections, Fractal Idyll (A...P Press, 2017) and The Knowable Emotions (Lynx House Press, 2011). MARIA A. IOANNOU is a writer
and creative writing tutor based in Limassol, Cyprus, where she is the organiser of the SARDAM festival. She studied literature in the UK and she is completing her PhD in Creative Writing, having won the Vice Chancellor's Excellence in Research Award 2019 and the Emerging Writer State Prize in 2012. She has published two short fiction collections and a fairytale in Greek, and is currently writing her first short fiction collection in English. ARIEL GONZĂ LEZ LOSADA is a com-
poser and visual artist. He was born in Buenos Aires, the city in which he currently resides and develops his professional activity. As a composer, his musical works have been played by many ensembles and soloists. As a visual artist, his works have been presented in collective exhibitions such as at the Cultural
Center of the Bank of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, AC Institute, New York, and in various graphic magazines across the world. CHRISTOPHER LINFORTH has
recently published fiction in Fiction International, Notre Dame Review, Day One, and Descant, among other magazines. He has been awarded fellowships and scholarships to the Sewanee Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. DONATO MANCINI holds a PhD from the Department of English at the University of British Columbia. His published critical writings include the monograph You Must Work Harder to Write Poetry of Excellence (2011), Loitersack (2014), and the co-edited, co-authored volume Anamnesia: Unforgetting, on poly-temporality in the archive of cinema. As a poet, he has published numerous books, including Buffet World (2011), Fact 'N' Value (2011), and Ligatures (2005). Same Diff, his most recent book, was a finalist for the 2018 Griffin Prize. MILVA MCDONALD's writing has been published in The Beloit Fiction Journal, The Boston Globe,
137 Mothering Magazine, Clean Sheets, and the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica. She is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant, and the co-author of Unschoolers (Sophia Sayigh, 2017). BEN MILLER is a writer and historian
in Berlin whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and other venues. He is currently at work on a novel and is represented by Doug Young at PEW Literary in London. benwritesthings.com SARAH-JANE MOLONEY is an Irish playwright and translator living in Lausanne, Switzerland. Following a degree in English Literature and Classics at the University of Lausanne, she studied theatre practice in London and now works as a dramaturg and playwright, writing in both English and French. She is the latest recipient of the Stück Labor award, a Swiss fellowship for emerging playwrights. “In Search of What” is her first literary translation. CHISOM OKAFOR is a poet and
nutritionist who was shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Award for Poetry in 2018 and the Gerald Kraak Prize in 2019. His works have been pub-
lished or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Rattle, Palette Poetry, The Heart of the Matter - The Gerald Kraak Anthology (Jacana Media, 2019), Kikwetu, The Rising Phoenix Review, The Single Story Foundation Journal, Praxis, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Brittle Paper, and elsewhere. He is currently co-editing 20:35 Africa, an anthology of contemporary poetry. EUGENE OSTASHEVSKY is the author of The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi (NYRB, 2017), a poetry novel about challenges in communication between a pirate and a parrot. Translated into German by Uljana Wolf and Monika Rinck, it was published by kookbooks as Der Pirat, der von Pi den Wert nicht kennt. T. PERSON is a poet and performer who focuses on the literal elements of communication – language as letter and sound; and they enjoy the unknowing confusion that appears as a consequence. More poetry is available at Lune Journal, OfZoos and Ulmer Textshop. Current projects are a DFA application in poetics of walking at Glasgow University and a pamphlet on food called Delicious.
ADAM PETERSON is the author
of the flash fiction collections My Untimely Death (Subito Press, 2008), The Flasher (Springgun Press, 2012), and [SPOILER ALERT] with Laura Eve Engel (Dzanc Press, 2012). His short stories have appeared in Epoch, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. KEVIN M. F. PLATT is a professor of
Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the founder of the periodic poetic translation symposium Your Language My Ear, and has published English translations of poetry by Dmitry Golynko, Osip Mandelstam, Artur Punte, Sergej Timofejev, Vladimir Svetlov, and others. He recently was lead translator for the poetry collection Orbita: The Project (Arc Publications, 2018) and editor of the volume Global Russian Cultures (University of Wisconsin Press, 2018). MICHELE REESE is a professor
of English at the University of South Carolina Sumter and author of the poetry collection Following Phia (Word Tech Editions, 2006). Her poetry has also been published in several journals and anthologies including Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Oklahoma Review, The Paris Review, Poetry Midwest,
Ezraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Book (Clemson UP, 2019), Found Anew (University of South Carolina Press, 2015), and Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race (Muddy Ford Press, 2017). L. REEMAN is the author of multiple
chapbooks, including INVENTION OF THE MOUTH (Dream Pop Press, 2019). They have work in the 2017 Bettering American Poetry anthology, were the final Grand Slam Champ of Loser Slam, and co-won Sundog Lit's inaugural collaboration contest in 2018. Currently, they are surviving small-town America and want to hear about your favorite bridge. QUINN RENNERFELDT studied creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder and currently lives in San Francisco. Her heart is equally wed to the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. Her work can be found in Slipstream, Birdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Thumb, Mothers Always Write, Punch Drunk Press, and elsewhere. She is the co-founder of Q/A Poetry, a journal promoting women poets. SAYA is a contemporary poet, based
in Seoul. Currently reading French language & literature at Yonsei University. He is an Arsenal fan, pursuing borderless literature, writing and self-translating his poetry
139 on English. His poetry stands on present which is faster than a future. DEREK SETZER’s work currently
revolves around themes concerning internal emotional processing, utilizing the human figure and abstracted forms as a sort of symbol. A lot of the imagery he works with involves feeling removed from one’s self, represented by imagery dissolving and reforming. SHANNON T. SMITH is a graduate
of the University of the West Indies, Mona, where she received her undergraduate degree in International Relations, minoring in Film Studies. She is a part-time vegan who currently works as an editorial assistant at Blue Banyan Books. Her poems were previously published in Susumba’s Book Bag series. Shannon was also shortlisted for the 2018 Small Axe Literary Competition. MEGAN SUNGYOON has been living
in between two languages – English and Korean – and is temporarily living/writing/translating in New York. KHAIRULLAH RAHIM (B.1987) graduated with a Bachelor of Fine arts (Painting, with a First Class Honours) from LASALLE College of the Arts, in partnership with Goldsmiths,
College of London in 2013. Though formally trained in the field of painting, he also creates assemblages and sculptural installations. His practice explores stories that are concerned with experiences of oppression and prejudice against communities whose identities do not fit within society. In response, survival and thriving strategies have emerged as recurring points of discussion and consideration throughout his works. While his idiosyncratic works may evoke a distinctive joyful demeanour, they are however loaded with stories of loss and marginalisation. JUAN ROMERO VINUEZA studied
Literature at PUCE in Ecuador. He is currently pursuing an MA in Hispanic American Literature at the University of Guanajuato (Mexico). Co-editor of Cráneo de Pangea. In poetry, he has published Revólver Escorpión (La Caída, 2016); 39 poemas de mierda para mi primera esposa (Turbina, 2018) and Dämmerung [o cómo reinventar a los ídolos] (Ediciones Liliputienses, 2019). With Abril Altamirano he compiled Despertar de la hydra: antología del nuevo cuento ecuatoriano (La Caída, 2017). With Kimrey Anna Batts he compiled and translated País Cassava/Casabe Lands (La Caída, 2017).
ELLA WALKER lives and works in
London. Her large-scale watercolor paintings and frescoes draw inspiration from medieval narrative and the occult. Her abstracted depictions of traditional subjects such as parades, processions and scenes of hunting explore medieval narrative and costume. Imagery found in the series “Human Monsters Running with Bells, after Conrad of Megenberg” is inspired by Megenberg's beautifully illustrated manuscript “Buch der Natur” showing 14th century discoveries of the natural world. JOY WALLER is a Canadian writer and editor based in Tokyo. She is the author of Pause :: Heartbeat, a collection of poems (2019, ToPoJo Excursions). ADELE ELISE WILLIAMS is a poet from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is currently an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech where she recently served as Poetry Editor for the minnesota review and now works as an assistant editor for Noemi Press. She is a Crab Creek Review Poetry Prize finalist, winner of the Emily Morrison Poetry Prize and a Hindman Settlement School poetry fellow. Her poetry can be found or is forthcoming in Crab Creek Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Still: The Journal and elsewhere.
Her current goings-on can be found at adeleelisewilliams.com. TERENCE YOUNG lives in Victoria, BC, Canada, and is a co-founder and former editor of The Claremont Review, a literary journal for young writers. His most recent book is a collection of short fiction, The End of the Ice Age (Biblioasis, 2010). The poem in this issue of SAND is from a forthcoming book of poems called Smithereens. MARY-LAURE ZOSS lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland. She has published several books including Le Noir du ciel (Empreintes Suis, 2007), which won the 2006 C.-F. Ramuz Poetry Prize as well as the 2008 L-A Finances Foundation Prize for Poetry. She has also published an artist's book, Route (éditions du frau, 2012), as well as pieces in the Revue de Belles-Lettres, N4728, and Fario.
         Artworks by Derek Setzer.  An Auspicious Day for Demonstrating. Protest poster by anonymous Hong Kong artist as parody of daily horoscope calendar (2019).  The Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565).
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3 Guilherme Ber gamini, Feminicid (2015)
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