sanskrit literary-arts magazine
the university of north carolina at charlotte
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The Perfect Poem
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How I wish I could write the perfect poem One that would shape-shift according to its reader Knowing his or her favorite color is blue, blue would appear, clear or hazy, depending upon the mood If despair were present, the poem would paint gray, divorce, loss If the reader had just eaten a pancake minus the syrup, a lovely amber maple drip would provide sweetness The perfect poem would sweat for the athlete, chirp for the bird lover, turn greasy for a reader who is eating fries Knowing a silent moonlit night had been rejected by a hard-boiled editor, the poem would cough cigarette butts, exude tattoos, send sounds of garbage trucks backing up The perfect poem would dance for the dancer, play sax for the jazz man, turn to mist for the dreamy girl For such a poem, ﬁnding the perfect reader is no strain, ﬁnding its form, no effort If the reader is in Nebraska sitting at breakfast eating a bowl of cereal, the poem morphs to the back of the cereal box If the reader is on a train, commuting to the city the poem becomes the small print on a page of the Wall Street Journal The poet who is the lucky owner of this poem is smug, satisﬁed, he always has a hit He walks the streets with his hands in his pockets, a whistle and a smile, his poem running behind him anxious to please
Mail Order Doll
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From a catalog I received in the mail, I ordered a doll that looked exactly like me. I admit I was feeling a little bit lonely with everyone off making adjustments in their lives, learning new paths to comfort, discovering fresh words to describe what was gratifying. I felt like an unpaired sock in a drawer though I continued my rehearsals as the center of attention; then when the doll arrived, I didn’t recognize it at all. Sure, the shape of the face was the same. It had the same placid gaze, like it was staring out onto a restless sea shimmering with its own little private waves of joy. Like me, it even sat in the lotus position, had an ankle scar and arm freckles. It could touch its toes and smile. But I did not fall for its clever habit of mimicking my unburdened sleep, and I did not let it use my name without ﬁrst acknowledging to myself that we had such different histories. It was stuffed with polyurethane foam and plastic beads, and I am full of longing to be the kind of person who is never discontented. Perhaps I could run a simulation where my doll would walk into a room full of people and instantly like everyone in it. I could provide all kinds of scenarios for it: In each scene I could make it do something outlandish. I could dream what its hands might touch. I might tempt the other doll masters to come and play with me just like we were in kindergarten. And as soon as one of them says I’m not playing right, I could take my doll and go home to soak its head in cold brine until it changed its ways. I could discipline and punish it, pick at its felt skin so that its innards showed through. And there I would stand, aged and decrepit, satisﬁed that I had held together for so long despite the nagging feeling of being emptied and the need to atone for what has been delivered to my door.
When my brother calls, our conversation quickly turns to our mother, who fell from a Brooklyn curb last month: hairline fractures in one ankle like the cracks marring Mona Lisa’s smile.
“I think it’s hit her mind, too: she forgets what she’s talking about sometimes,” Jeff whispers, as if she can hear him. Bitterness blisters his voice, as if her fuses shorting out were her own acts of sabotage. �� ��� �� �� �� �� ��� �� ���� ���
“Jeff,” I remind him, “she’s eighty-three.” But it’s harder for him to bear, living near her, seeing her crumble, bit by bit. But I know what he means: when I visit from the distant West, I grieve to watch her ﬁngers shake, her steps shorten.
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And on my next visit, if she hobbles on a cane, or stumbles inside the mobile prison of a walker, I can’t guarantee I won’t join my brother in accusing, “Who are you and what have you done to our young and beautiful mother?”
Forecast for a Cautious Husband
Marcia L. Hurlow
“Clouds always tell a true story, but one which is difﬁcult to read,” Ralph Abercromby, 1887 This is the truth: as far as I can see only one pale cloud in the distance spoils the clear blue of this August morning. The highest tips of the lone sycamore test the breeze: a slight waver as restless air wakes the leaves. This is the truth: what I thought were jet trails are streaks of stratus, so high they mean nothing for a secluded picnic on the edge of a woods, the grass soft and pliant. Don’t think twice. We’ll never see clouds in the deep shade, berries darkening our lips. This is the truth: they might be cirrus, curving and blooming above the chimneys. As a girl, I pronounced them “serious,” but we’re not children, love. So what if they ﬂower into cumulus? Pack up some bread and wine. Don’t believe the sky.
Acrylic 2½ by 3 feet
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ou may already be a loser. ��������������������������������������������������������������� From letter received by Rodney Dangerﬁ ���������������������� ��������������������������������������� el You may already be a loser. ������������������������������������������������������������� eady be a loser. From letter received by Rodney Dangerﬁel From letter received by Rodney Dangerﬁel��������������������������������������������������������������� �������������������������������������������������������������� You may already be a loser. From letter received by Rodney Dangerﬁeld From letter received ���������������������� by ��������������������������������������� Rodney Dangerﬁel You may already be a loser. ��������������������������������������������������������������� eady be a loser. From letter received by ���������������������������������������� ��������������������������� Rodney Dangerﬁel From letter received by Rodney Dangerﬁ�������������������������������������� ������������������������� el ou may already be a loser. You may already ������������������������������������������������������������� be a lose From letter received by RodneyFrom Dangerﬁ letter elreceived by Rodney Dangerﬁel ������������������������ ������������������������������������� ou may already be a loser. ��������������������������������������������������������������� From letter received by Rodney Dangerﬁel
ate of being neglected. �� He has a right to know what’s going on.” , neglect- : neg-, not; see ��� As before, Mr. and Mrs. R. attemp y little or no attention to; fail to heed; disr ing to Roger again. “He’s not a piec ���������������������������������������������������������������� re for or attend to properly “He has a right to know what’s going on.” ��������������������������������������������������������������� s through carelessness or ov . and Mrs. R. attempted to prevent me from tal ��������������������������������������������������� ll. - n. �� The act or an insta s not a piece of furniture,” I insist The state of being neglected. ������������������������������������������������ o know what’s going on.” He has a right I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my re, neglect- : neg-, not; see �������������������������������������������������������������� nd Mrs. R. attempted to prevent me from tal bath toys were a toaster and a radio. ��������������������������������������������������������������� s not a piece of furniture,” I insisted. I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my ���������������������������������������������������������������� Mrs. R. at o know what’s going on.” As before, Mr. and e a toaster and a radio. ing to Roger again. “ ��������������������������������������������������������������� I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my ��������������������������������������������������� e a toaster and a radio. Joan Rivers ������������������������������������������������ ��������������������������������������������������������������
Jennifer W. Thomas
Mixed Media on Paper 22 by 30 inches
est? Immediately, Rabbit decided that he didn’t like them, because they were Different. Then he est? Immediately, Rabbit decided that he didn’t like them, because they were Different. Then he est? Immediately, Rabbit decided that he didn’t like them, because they were Different. Then he est? Immediately, Rabbit decided that he didn’t like them, because they were Different. Then he est? Immediately, Rabbit decided that he didn’t like them, because they were Different. Then he
Puerto Vallarta Janelle M. Geaber
n f being cruel. �� So ���� Law. The inflicti when considered a de The quality or cond causes pain or suffe l or mental distres nt in granting a divorc
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shallow and directed by fear monkeys. You don’t know anything. You really don’t. You’re careless and shallow and directed by fear monkeys. You don’t know anything. You really don’t. You’re careless and shallow and directed by fear monkeys. You don’t know anything. You don’t know anything. You really don’t. You’re careless and shallow and directed by fear monkeys. You don’t know anything. You really don’t. You’re careless and shallow and directed by fear monkeys.
Cadaver #2 Brandon Boan
I want them to be about my age, and ambitious and fun. I want to demonstrate how it feels to be young and bipolar, and I want to show that people survive this illness and live full lives. I want to figure out what worked in people who are successful cases, and shift people’s focus away from all the media attentions on destrucI want them to be about my age, and amb tive violent cases. and fun. I want to demonstrate how it fee be young and bipolar, and I want to show
Ceramic/Mixed Media 36 by 52 inches
owledge that comes from experience more valuhan the knowledge that doesn’t? It seems language. But isn’t memory, remembrance, recolle rom experience more valuThese nouns denote the act or an inst at doesn’t? It seems remembered. Memory is the f the same language. But isn’t at comes from experience more valu-g impressions or recalling or dates. The word also applies to somethin wledge that doesn’t? It seems lled to the mind. Remembrance most often denotes the prof recalling: Remembrance often suggests a deliberate, con few minutes’ recollection she produc pplies to experiences or ev �������������������������������������� ������������������������������������������ ��������������������������������������� ���������������������������� ���������������������������������������������������������� ������������������������������������������������������
Sarah V. Leonard
ability to recall previously lea A. The development of memory impairment as man impairment in the ability to learn new information reviously learned information. A. The development of memory i impairment in the ability to lea ability to recall previously lear A. The development of memory impairment a impairment in the ability to learn new infor ecall previously learned informat
The ghostly footprints were Jeannie’s idea. Most of the really good ideas, the ones that got us into trouble, were Jeannie’s. At 12, Jeannie was a few months younger than I, but she led and I followed, no questions asked. Skinny, freckled and frizzy-haired, Jeannie propelled herself through life with such force that it would have been downright dangerous to step in front of her. Not that I would have tried. I was blessed or cursed (I’m still not sure which) with a natural inclination toward selfpreservation. I preferred to stay out of trouble whenever possible. But Jeannie was my very best friend, had been since we had both ventured out of our backyards and onto the block, and I never wanted to miss out on any of her grand schemes. So I sort of rode in her wake, looking for the safest course through whatever trouble she was leading us into. Memory is a funny thing. I can recall Jeannie at that age so clearly, from her messy orange pigtails down to her constantly bare feet, but I’d be hard-pressed to describe myself back then in any detail. The best I could come up with is brown hair, brown eyes and a poker face. Why the poker face? Maybe it was a lesson learned from the way my mother’s face crumpled whenever my father decided to take her down a peg or two. Maybe it was just that embarrassing survival instinct kicking in. Maybe it’s just too long ago to remember. Jeannie’s father was long gone — we did not know where and we did not ask. Her mother, Anne Grady, worked as a stenographer at Night Court in downtown Brooklyn. Mrs. Grady, as I respectfully addressed her on the rare occasions when she was both at home and awake, demanded peace in her off-hours. Jeannie and I could kill each other, she told us, as long as we did it quietly. Mrs. Grady separated Jeannie’s misadventures into two distinct categories: those that
necessitated a phone call — from or to the school, the neighbors or, in later years, the police — and those that did not. Any trouble that was call-free she ignored or at most, recognized with vague predictions of a “bad end” for her only daughter. “And you, too,” she’d throw in if I was present, waving her cigarette in my direction. I don’t think Mrs. Grady had any real faith in my ability to go off the rails — she just didn’t want me to feel left out. Being far too young to imagine an end of any kind, we exercised just enough caution to keep our exploits free of phone calls and did pretty much whatever we pleased at Jeannie’s house. Like setting up our “beach cabana” in Jeannie’s tiny backyard. I remember an afternoon in early summer, just before we started junior high; hauling out chairs, towels, sodas, magazines, cigarettes from Mrs. Grady’s purse and the good Irish wool blanket from Jeannie’s grandmother, which we threw on the cement to lie down on. It took about two minutes for us to realize just how unsuitable an Irish wool blanket was for sunbathing. Jeannie rolled it up into a ball and stuffed it under her back porch, where a feral cat eventually found it and used it to birth her kittens in. This was bad, but not phone-call bad and this is why I practically lived at Jeannie’s house back then. My mother worried about the two of us spending so much unsupervised time chez Grady. “Why don’t you girls play here in the afternoon?” she’d ask, ﬂuttering around us and offering homemade cookies or hot chocolate. “Because there’s nothing to do here,” I’d bark back, while Jeannie rolled her eyes at my mother, giving her the “What can I do I’m just the little kid” look and shrugging her bony shoulders. So on the ﬁrst day of this summer vacation Jeannie and I dragged half the contents of her house outside. We’d snuck a bottle of amaretto out of the liquor cabinet in the dining room and were sipping it with 7-Up and lots of ice. Since no one (my mother being the particular no one who would have mattered) was there to tell us not to, we slathered ourselves in a homemade concoction of baby oil, iodine and Coty Wild Musk. We were in pursuit of savage tans. I have always been relatively fair-skinned and this was not a wise choice for me. For Jeannie, with her red hair and white freckled skin, this pretty much amounted to epidermal suicide. We moved from the wool blanket to the chaise lounges, then to the towels laid out on the cement, shifting our body positions in what seemed to us like a most methodical and well-thought-out manner. We would be bronzed beauties by the end of the day, in time to go to the mall and saunter around the crowd of teenaged boys that would be there. The plan was to change out of our polo shirts and khakis and into our halter tops and shorts as soon as we got there. My mother would never have let us out of her car so provocatively dressed so this was standard Friday night procedure. Jeannie had a pile of Cosmopolitan
magazines with articles that offered instructions in seduction. We’d been sneaking them (along with the cigarettes) from her mother’s bedroom for quite some time. With junior high looming in the fall, it seemed like a very important subject to start reading up on. Truthfully, at that point I found the idea of applying any of these techniques at the mall on Friday night nauseating. I talked a good game with Jeannie, but I was not really prepared to ﬁeld-test the Cosmo girl’s guide to conquest. Jeannie squinted to read the pages in the bright sunlight. “The back of the neck is one of the sexiest spots on a woman’s body,” she read aloud. “So tonight we’ll be showing off necks with tans — the guys will go nuts!” “And then what?” I couldn’t help but ask. The egg-timer went off for about the sixth time. “Turn,” Jeannie instructed. Settling onto her stomach, she looked at me out of one slit eye and snorted, “And then what!” She pressed her face into her towel and started wriggling like a worm. My look of bewilderment did not fade, so Jeannie started rolling her face left to right in the folds of the towel and making kissing noises — mmmwah, mmmwahh. She either didn’t notice or didn’t care that my expression had morphed from incomprehension to horror as she continued to grind her scrawny little body into the towel with more and more enthusiasm. “Cut it out, Jeannie,” I yelled. I almost never told her what to do so this got her attention. She lifted her face from the towel and grinned at me. I think that was the ﬁrst time I seriously wondered if maybe there was something wrong with Jeannie, if maybe I didn’t want her to be my best friend anymore. By the end of that summer, I would decide that this was the case and I’d stop hanging around with Jeannie. By high school, we didn’t even speak to each other. But that was later. We had more immediate problems that afternoon. “Look at you,” I said accusingly. “Now your face is all red.” Jeannie sat up and stared at me. “My face? What about your face!” We raced upstairs to the bathroom mirror to assess the damage. We were toast, burnt to a crisp. Jeannie stared at her reﬂection for a minute or two, then calmly remarked, “Oh shit.” I looked at her and worked up nerve I didn’t know I possessed. “Holy shit,” I replied — my ﬁrst successful use of profanity. It was so exhilarating that I tried it again. “Holy shit!” Jeannie opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out a huge jar of Noxema cream. “Here — this’ll work for, like, two seconds,” she said. She scooped out a big glop of the white cream and ran it across my burning forehead. Ahhh, temporary bliss. She scooped more of the Noxema out and slid her greasy hands down both my arms, making me shiver in a way that felt weird but good. I sat down on the bathroom mat and splayed my legs out until they touched the opposite wall — the room was that small. Jeannie sat in the v between my legs and rubbed cream into my red kneecaps. I rubbed some into her back, raising the tangled mat of her hair
to get at her neck, which was already starting to blister. A sound came from somewhere deep in her throat — “The sexiest part of a woman’s body,” she growled in a low voice that I’d never heard her use before. All of a sudden, I wanted to go home very badly, to escape the micro-climate of heat and humidity and fever that Jeannie and I were generating in that tiny bathroom. I felt stuck, immobilized by the oppressive heat that our two small bodies were giving off. Suddenly, Jeannie stood up and looked at me, grinning again. “Did ya know this house is haunted?” She plopped back down on her rear end and, raising her legs in the air, covered the soles of her feet with Noxema. Then she scooted out of the bathroom, still on her butt, carefully holding her feet aloft until she could stand on the hallway carpet. She placed both feet on the dark-blue wall-to-wall and projected herself up, like a limbo dancer. “See — ghost prints. You can only get two or three done at a time.” She came back for a reﬁll. “Come on.” We spent the rest of the afternoon covering Jeannie’s house with white footprints. The medicine smell of Noxema lingered long after her mother had made us clean up. We did not get to the mall that night, needless to say. I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised by how angry Jeannie’s mom was. In fact, Mrs. Grady was so mad that she called my mom to let her know about what we’d been up to. My mother was relieved to see some limits being set at the Grady house. She worried less about Jeannie and me hanging out together after that. But that afternoon was the last time I threw myself into Jeannie’s plans with such abandon. And Jeannie did not have much patience with a best friend who was not a willing partner in crime. She started hanging out with some older kids in the neighborhood. By the end of that summer I had found a new best friend, someone I’m still close to. It’s been years since I saw Jeannie. And yet, when I think back to that time in my life, to that time between childhood and what came next, she is right there, the star of every moment that mattered. My memory circles around and around those moments — as if I’d see something new if I just looked into the past from the correct angle. I can remember bits and pieces of that long-ago afternoon so clearly — the cool sting of Noxema, the taste of amaretto and soda, the itch of wool on bare skin. But something is missing. I’ve lost something that I want to remember even if I don’t want it back. I want to remember when having one best friend was all I needed in the world. I want to remember believing that Cosmopolitan magazine could change my life and that I would never grow up to be anything like my mother. And I want to remember, really remember, feeling the full heat of the summer sun just by touching the back of a young girl’s neck. ■
Skipping Stones, San Fernando Valley, 1964 Gerry McFarland
I remember the sway of her forearm gentle as she stepped small by my side up the hill to the dam at the end of the steep Boulevard and the man-made lake. Summers then were loose, sunny, long as the warm sidewalk uphill from her yellow house. We didn’t know the dam
thirteen. We didn’t know she would be thrown from a horse in Denver, restrained in the brilliant room while they set the bone, scrubbed the wounds.
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would burst when the ﬁngers of the old fault worked loose the bound water onto the evacuated neighborhood. We were
We knew the words to Unchained Melody and all the names of the Beach Boys. We were the small ﬂesh of the world. We didn’t know the imminence of her father’s death. I didn’t know what it meant when my forearm brushed against hers. The stone has to look like this, I told her. She showed a girl’s disinterest, wandered, mute down the shore, touching the hair she had spent an hour setting while I demonstrated how
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to ﬁt the stone in the knuckle, bend close to the water, swing the arm parallel the earth. I threw my heart out the end of my ﬁngers.
SOCIETY • 18
The National Collective Dream Brenda Howald
The President invited the Buddha to the White House. The Buddha sent back the answer, “No, you come down to the river,” and the President thought: Damn, you go down to the river, you get your feet wet. So he hesitated a few days, tried to lure the Buddha to the Rose Garden with promises of barbecued chicken dinners and donations to the temple of his choice. But the Buddha just kept wading in the shallow current. Pebbles rolled beneath his feet, the hem of his robe grew heavy, his mustache drooped, and overhead the shoo-shoo-shoo of the poplars sent gold coins of leaves pinwheeling into the eddies. And the President fussed, “Damn, you invite a Buddha to The White House, he should come.” And the Buddha mused: You invite a president to the river, he should walk down to the river. One night soon after, the President dreamed that a tidal wave rolled over the White House, ﬂushing out the contents and sweeping the corridors clean. And he dreamed the earth shook beneath the Pentagon and the building shattered in two. The next day the President said, “Damn, things don’t look so good for me. I better ﬁnd someone to tell me my future. Don’t buddhas tell the future?” And he took off that night to walk to the river, alone. The Secret Police were busy, anyway, arresting terrorist suspects at the turnstile of the subway. The President walked a long time, not knowing what to look for. What did Buddhas live in? But when he reached the river, the moon threw a ﬁerce beam across the water and in that shaft of silver the Buddha waded, plain to see. The wind lifted the sleeves of his robe. The President was nervous, he cleared his throat. “Your Buddhaship? Your Excellency? Sir?” The Buddha kept his eyes on the water and said, “George, take off those cowboy boots and give me your hand.” The President said, “I don’t swim. Anyway, I need your advice. I dreamed the Pentagon shattered.” The Buddha just stared at the current so the President moved closer and once at the bank, saw that all the stars of the heavens were reﬂected in the water, brilliant explosions of light. He watched a long time, mesmerized, a little dizzy at the spectacle, until he blinked again and saw the twinkling was not a reﬂection of the constellations but the eyes of thousands of human forms that were ﬂoating beneath the water’s surface, corpses with light in their eyes. The Buddha took his hand and said, “Step into the river of the suffering of the world, George, and your heart will shatter open.” With that, the Buddha gave a soft yank and the President fell in.
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Attending a Yeats Play for the First Time Marc Elihu Hofstadter
I can’t remember which one it was. I think Cuchulain was a character — he who “fought with the invulnerable tide.” Five or six men and women moved slowly, as in a trance, uttering words such as a shaman would tell his tribe, or your grandmother your tiny self afraid of night. What I remember best was a boy about my own age, eighteen, whom some indeﬁnable glow haloed. Was it his strange, stately phrases? The way he ceremoniously danced? Or his elﬁn face, charming in a way I couldn’t put a ﬁnger on? Afterward, I thought of him again and again, and his magical body became indistinguishable from the play’s poignant poetry. I realized I’d fallen in love with both. Which became my greater passion, poetry, or men? Was there a difference?
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In Dreams There is No Spell-Checker
Hyphens are optional Bombs explode backwards into themselves reconstructing atoms as they go Swans ﬂoat in random number sequences forgetting their bourrés Dogs bark in perfect 5ths Rain comes down sounding like a Josquin motet A windstorm blows petals back onto their stems What you were wearing last week turns to other colors in the wash Fools suffer themselves into greater fools but only on April 1 when poems are taken as gladly as plans in the Pentagon Politicians’ smiles tell the whole story of tar and blackface and then disappear in a cloud of cheap perfume and dry ice In dreams ﬂoating upwards is as easy as a grand jeté Jet planes run on prune juice Trapeze artists get most of the seats in the Senate And the House is full of cheerful Madams and their rowdy johns War was invented in an alternate universe where deathless knights ﬁght it out by telling each other jokes The most laughter wins
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A Day in the Life of Some
Poor Schmuck Who Had to Ride the Train
I tried to get into my compartment on the train but two platinum blondes stood in front of the door. Next to the No Smoking sign, they ﬂicked their cigarette ashes out of the cracked window. I squeezed myself and my briefcase past them and entered my compartment. I took a seat across from a young woman and her male companion. She was pointing to the passing town and saying, “When we’re married, we could live somewhere like that.” “Really?” He raised his left eyebrow. “Of course, after I’ve sold enough scripts and your business is stable.” “My business?” “My agent and I discussed this during lunch last week,” she said. She had a thin, pale face. Her vibrant red lipstick matched her hair, which was loosely tied in a French twist. She sat with her shoulder blades pressed against the back of her seat, her legs crossed at the ankles. “And he seems to think that you’d do better if you were to quit your job and start your own company.” The man’s eyes met mine, and he forced a smile. She continued, “We think with a little research and…” I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation because the blonde with fuchsia nails began banging her ﬁsts on the window, laughing uncontrollably while her friend whispered in her ear. Then they both doubled over at the waist and grabbed onto each other for support. This amused me, and I wondered what was so funny that would cause two grown adults to create a scene in public. The man and woman had grown silent, and I turned my attention back to them. Physically, they complimented each other. She was pretty, and he had a distinguished handsomeness about him. He wore a crisp navy suit and redand-blue-striped tie. I decided he was involved in a high-stakes profession like a lawyer or stockbroker.
“Do you know what Don said to me?” she asked. “Who’s that?” “Sometimes I wonder if you ever listen to a word I say. My agent. He told me that my last script has the most potential he has seen in a long time. He says I see things most people don’t. He says I have a gift of awareness.” She didn’t strike me as the author type, and I tried to envisage her sitting at a computer, creating a manuscript ﬁt for the screen. She seemed like the type to talk about writing an Oscar-winning script rather than actually writing one. I thought she would fare much better as a beauty queen or an actress. “Don thinks he can sell my script for a lot of money. A million, at least,” she said. “You’ll be rich.” He looked miserable. “With that much money we could move somewhere exotic.” She playfully swatted him on the backside of his hand. “We could be married there.” “Where?” “I just told you — in the tropics.” He cleared his voice, lowered his eyes, and asked, “What about Mother?” I watched the woman’s gaze drift to the platinum blondes still smoking in the hallway, then back toward her ﬁancé. She shook her head. “Dear, I don’t think it’s necessary to involve her in the preparations.” “Every mother wants to see her son get married.” The man appeared bewildered. “If she wants to attend, I have no problem with that.” “But she can’t just get up and go wherever she wants. The surgery left her unable — ” “If her health is poor, then she doesn’t need to go anywhere.” “I suppose you’re right.” He slouched against the back of his seat and rested his right arm on the armrest. He ﬁdgeted with his leather watchband. 21
22 My assumptions about him were wrong. He could never make it as a broker. And I was beginning to doubt his ability to start and run a business. He needed someone to tell him to ignore her advice and keep his current job. “Guatemala. That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?” She smiled at me. “What about it?” “Do you ever pay attention?” She threw her hands up in the air. “We’re going to move there!” “But you’ve never been.” “That’s precisely why we should go. We could marry on the beach and stay in an oceanside bungalow. I’d start my next script — you know how travel inspires me. I’m more aware of my surroundings and interactions between people.” “I’ll have to work.” “We talked about this. You’ll own your own company.” “In Guatemala?” “Of course not. In Boston.” “I make good money now. I don’t see any reason to quit.” “But what about our plans?” Her look of dismay shocked me. I wanted to ask her if she could follow her own conversation, although I doubted it mattered much to her. “You could go without me. You always say your writing requires solitude,” he said. “Are you saying that you don’t want to be with me?” She crossed her arms across her chest, forcing her breasts perfectly parallel with her chin. “No.” “Don was telling me the other day that I needed to let go of the things holding me back. And that I must be careful of people who want to sabotage my gift. You know, he thinks I have amazing insight along with my gift of awareness.” “You told me.” “Honestly, dear, I wonder if you want to be with me at all.” She sighed and stared at the blonde women. “Of course I do… it’s just that, well…” The man’s face became distorted as his nose crinkled upwards, and deﬁned lines appeared on his forehead. I imagined the two master puppeteers, his mother and his ﬁancée, ﬁghting for control over him. What would his mother say if he married her in Guatemala? And what would his ﬁancée do if he refused? I found myself wishing that her script wouldn’t sell for a million dollars or at all. I hoped that he would start his own company, and that it would be a success. I watched him pensively search for the right words, and I felt sorry for him. No matter what he said or did, he was destined to fail. She set him up to lose. I hoped she had pushed him too far, that he would get up and leave her sitting there. Maybe he’d go out into the hallway and laugh with the blondes. The brakes screeched as the train crept into the station. The man abruptly stood and lifted his bag from the overhead bin. He handed his ﬁancée her fur coat and then slipped into his khaki trench coat. He motioned for me to exit ﬁrst. The two platinum blondes stood near the exit holding onto the support railing. One said something to the other, and they both began to laugh. I stepped onto the bustling platform and I heard the man say to his ﬁancée, “Those two blonde women. I wonder what they were laughing about. They seemed to laugh a lot, didn’t they?” “What on earth are you talking about, darling?” she asked. “Sometimes I don’t get you at all.” ■
w I’ve climbed the highest t I can see for miles around. re hope someone rescues m ve trouble climbing down. w I’ve climbed the highest t I can see for miles around. I sure hope someone rescues m many don’t seem to realize it, stuck as they are in the wrong job, the wrong marriage, or the wrong house. When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong. One man’s food many don’t seem to realize it, stuck as they are in the wrong job, the wrong marriage, or the wrong house. When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong. One man’s food
After Imogen: Flower as Form, 1 Melita Betler
oks, hillsides, vacant lots--but whe filled, the Loneliness really begins s are joined, the Classes are signed up for Gift-to-Yourself items are bought. Whe ness starts creeping in the door, the ny people are afraid of Emptiness because it reminds them of Loneli ng has to be filled in, it seems--appoi s, hillsides, vacant lots--but when lled, the Loneliness really begins re joined, the Classes are signed up for Gift-to-Yourself items are bought. Whe ess starts creeping in the door, the
Silver Gelatin Print
Silver Gelatin Print 10¼ by 11½ inches
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Gridlock 106 Bryan Wood
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C-Print 72 by 96 inches
DESTRUCTION • 25
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Jennifer W. Thomas
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Mixed Media on Paper 22 by 30 inches
She knew the game to play with him, Eileen Hennessy
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her bird-god with beaky nose, receding chin, neckless round body large above his skinny legs. In no time she was streaming in satin, braving the tornado in his eyes. All he wanted was chaos brought out of order. She wanted the secret and rule of his body. He went political, made a full-scale statement on the values of carnage. She went ﬂat-out for neatness. Lightning slivered and strafed, ﬂashed their hunger.
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Old Snapshots Judi A. Rypma
I hate it when he comes back, suddenly pasted into my mental scrapbook as if he’d never left emerging full-blown — an unordered eight by ten. His image still loves me: smile slightly yellow with time corners crinkled forehead creased in concern shadow above ﬁrm jaw. Would he still admire these breasts, stroke graying tresses, tilt his black and white head, whisper a name no one’s thought of since if those periwinkle eyes could see?
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In weaker moments I touch the enlargement, kiss glossy lips make love to a memory forget he appears in other minds, albums, dimensions of time I can never penetrate.
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OBSESSION • 30
Desires in Reverse
I want to live in Paris: drink café au lait in squat brown cups with thick porcelain sides; stare at Les Bateaux-Mouches steaming slowly along the Seine, tourists hanging over their sides; browse Le Boulevard St. Michel, its sidewalks narrowed by plywood bins full of beige paperbacks whose pages still need cutting. I want to stand in the Louvre on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or wander in the Tuilleries, reminded of Monet’s poplars whose images mesmerized me a few hours earlier in Le Jeu de Paume; have nothing to hurry home for save dinner and conversation with French friends. I want to sleep late under a down comforter, wake up to the knock of the concierge who brings croissants and chocolat chaud, then sit later in a café in the sun eating Croque-Monsieur and drinking lait grenadine. I want to live French ﬂuently.
You suck your ﬁnal blue-fog medicine breath from the nebulizer that whirs and sputters like an alien space ship with a broken carburetor on a bad landing. You twist your eyes in your shrunken Jewish voodoo-master skull sending a hex on the clorox doctors who treat dementia with ammonia and heartbreak with Haldol.
Tessa Sapan Joshua Sapan
Your sight is blocked by a wall of big brown West Indian women whose breasts sway in quiet rage, and the 2-hour bus trip from Brooklyn is a continuation of their great grandfathers’ slave ship. Their careful cleaning of your bedpan is more foul to them than the ﬁelds of Alabama. You are browner, blacker and more Negro than them. You are sadder, madder and fatter in your frozen emphysema frame. You are more sister, mother and motherfucker.
Your cousins were hidden from Hitler. Your uncles and aunts were gassed in camps. Some survived with numbers on their arms to live with daydreams of a new breed of bounty hunters cleaning the world, with nightmares of armies of children killing each other with toy guns. You took a boat from Lublein Poland. Came through Ellis Island. You were raised by a mother without irony, who didn’t iron. You were brought up on home relief by a king-of-the-boardwalk father telling stories of emperors, ﬂipping silver dollar gifts to strangers.
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You were a listener, a watcher, a lover, a drinker, a dancer, an actor, a writer, a cook and a mother. You kept every pore open all the time trying to ﬁnd some route to the company of Karl Marx or Sholem Aleichem.
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Now, when you decide to die you kiss us goodbye with a smile and a nod that transplants your soul into ours without blood or stitches.
RELATIONSHIPS • 31
oel ﬂicked his wedding ring across the ﬂoor.
It skimmed the polished hardwood easily, passing between the squat legs of the mahogany coffee table before pinging, then ricocheting off a tall copper urn ﬁlled with pussy willows by the ﬁreplace, disappearing from sight. He sat on the living room ﬂoor with his back slumped against the wall and his knees drawn up, kneading the white, ﬂaky stripe around his ﬁnger. A yellow Post-it clung to the thigh of his jeans. He drew his ﬁnger across the phone number dashed off beneath Posada Vieja, one of the sevens crossed, the other not. He stood and pocketed the Post-it on his way to the kitchen where a wall of windows overlooked the back yard, big enough for a swing set and one of those oversized, redwood climbing structures. But there was only snow and a naked maple.
A grumble rose from his stomach. The refrigerator was empty except for some crusty-lidded condiments and a package of lunchmeat coated with a slick, rainbow sheen. Amy always said he’d eat bugs before going to the grocery store. He thought of this as he shook ketchup onto a spoon, licking it clean. The kitchen-nook desk was littered with broken pens, twist ties, diaper coupons, take-out menus, and a tube of Super Glue missing its top. Amy was incapable of putting things away. Uptight, she called him. Unreasonable. This he laughed at. He’d give her uptight but not unreasonable. Wasn’t he the one who analyzed and weighed, while she torpedoed blindly ahead? Joel swept the debris into the trash and returned to the living room to search for his ring. As soon as he dropped to all fours, the phone rang. He jumped up so fast his elbow knocked over a lampshade.
“Good afternoon,” said the voice on the other end. “Happy Thanksgiving!” Joel looked at the clock hanging on the wall. “It’s morning. Eleven ﬁfty-one to be exact.” “Yes, I guess it is. My name is Dave and I’m with Ace-One Auto Glass. We offer free, same-day mobile service —” Joel slammed the phone into the receiver and took the Post-it from his pocket. He punched in the ﬁrst three numbers before hanging up. He returned to the living room and poked a ﬁnger between the front window blinds, lifting until the metal slat popped. It had snowed for days, record amounts, and had ﬁnally stopped during the night. The sun was out, the sky the sharpest of blues. The only sound was the scrape of metal against pavement. At noon, Joel waded through the knee-deep snow, boots crunching through the glistening top crust, shovel slung across his shoulder. Opaque icicles hung from the gutters, their translucent tips dripping steadily. The plow had been through earlier. Banks of snow were pushed up against both sides of the street, blocking his driveway. “Hey there!” his neighbor Alan called, tossing a shovelful of snow on top of a jagged mound alongside his sidewalk. “I thought you and Amy were gone for the holiday.” “No, just a quiet Thanksgiving at home.” “Wish I could say the same.” Alan made his way across Joel’s driveway, lifting his knees as he went, shovel held out like a baton. “The girls are dressing up the dog, the baby’s crying, and Gail’s mother is organizing our kitchen cupboards. Happens every visit.” He stopped beside Joel, slapping his rounded midsection. “Gail thinks shoveling is good exercise. I have to make sure I don’t run out the door.” Joel looked to a bunch of pink balloons tied to Alan’s mailbox. “Yeah, we were hoping for that boy,” Alan grinned, “but she’s as perfect as they come. She’s —” He dropped his eyes to his black rubber boots, dug a heel into the snow. “Hey, thank Amy again for the baby blanket. If you want to start on your driveway, go ahead. I’ll do your sidewalk. I’m ﬁnished with mine.” He lifted his face to the sun. “What a beautiful day, isn’t it?” Joel slid his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose and looked over the top. The snow’s brightness sent a kaleidoscope of needle-sharp pain through his eyes. “Yeah, what a beautiful day!” Joel trudged up the stairs to his bedroom where he sidestepped a pair of crumpled jeans, a discarded suitcase with a broken handle, and a red clog. He stopped in front of the window and looked out. Alan’s girls, wearing pinkhooded jackets trimmed in white fur, were making snow angels in their back yard. The dog, wearing a red bandana and a holster buckled around his belly, was licking the older one’s face. The younger one saw Joel and waved a mitten. He waved back, their shrieks and giggles following him as he pulled away and headed down the hall. He entered the ﬁrst door on the left, the room they used as an ofﬁce, and sat at the desk. A big manila envelope lay on top. He opened the envelope, pulled out a sheet of ﬁlm, and held it to the light. “I see the head,” he had said to Amy, pointing to a white oval attached to what looked like two antennae. He stood behind her, his chin jutting over the shelf of her shoulder. Amy had laughed. “The stomach. And the legs.” She moved her ﬁnger to a tiny smudge. “The heart.” She lifted the ﬁlm higher. “And here,” she said, “his maleness.” “Where?” “Here,” she said, tapping her ﬁnger beside a small white dot. “That?”
She jabbed an elbow into his ribs and they laughed. He parted the hair from her neck, noting the wiry ﬁlaments of gray springing from the brown. They both were thirty-eight, but his hair hadn’t started to turn yet, an unfair state of affairs she liked to point out, given that he was the worrier. When she brought this up, he was tempted to reply that sadness trumped worrying, but after ﬁfteen years of marriage he had learned to keep thoughts like these to himself. Joel slid the ﬁlm back into the envelope and shoved it inside a drawer along with the book beneath it, Genetic Mother, Surrogate Womb. The door to the next room was shut. Joel pushed it open. A crib trimmed with blue bumper pads was pushed against one wall, a small dresser topped with a changing table along the other. Joel opened a dresser drawer. Inside were tiny white t-shirts snapped at the bottom, diapers the length of his palm, and a cap the size and color of an unripe pear. He picked up a container of baby powder, dialed the cap open, and lifted it up to his nose. When the phone rang, he sprinted down the hallway to his bedroom, snatching the phone from Amy’s pillow. “Hello, this is Dave with Ace-One Auto Glass. I hope you’re having a nice Thanksgiving —” “You’ve already called.” “I do apologize. Sorry to bother you again —” “That’s okay,” Joel said, releasing his football hold on the baby powder and setting it on the nightstand. He rubbed a chalky hand over his jeans and lay on the bed, bunching a pillow beneath his head. “So tell me, how many windshields have you sold today?” “Quite a few,” he said, unconvincingly, voices humming in the background. “Did you ever think that Thanksgiving might not be the best time to call? People are busy with their families. I don’t think they want to talk about windshields.” “Got to make a living, you know. Right now we’re offering a super special. We waive up to 250 dollars from your deductible. We come out to your home —” “So what’s your family doing today?” “Pardon?” “Your family. Aren’t you missing out on the turkey?” “Not really. My wife took the kids, the house, the furniture, the tv. She left me the remote though. And the bills.” “I’m sorry —” “Hey, don’t go sorry on me now. I got a job. So what’re you doing?” Joel crossed his ankles and bent an arm behind his head. “We just took the turkey out of the oven. We usually go to my mother’s in Florida, but we have a new baby. My wife didn’t want to travel.” “Boy or girl?” “What?” “Your baby.” “Oh, a boy.” “Did he shoot you yet?” “Shoot me?” “You know, whiz on you,” Dave said, lowering his voice. “My boy, Nathan, every time I’d take off his diaper, that little cannon would salute and shoot. The trajectory was amazing. One time he shot my wife in the eye. You should have heard her scream! Guess you’re lucky he hasn’t done that yet.” “I didn’t say he hadn’t. You just lost me at ﬁrst —” “Yeah. My supervisor says I talk so fast, it’s a wonder I can sell a thing.” “I don’t think you talk too fast,” Joel said, imagining Amy overhearing their conversation. “Well, I’d love to talk some more,” Dave said, sighing, “but as I said, gotta make a living, so I think I best —” 33
34 “You know, my windshield does have a chip in it. Do you think it’ll crack?” “Might. Might not. But with a new baby you sure don’t want to chance it,” Dave said, perking up. “Well, I’ll take a closer look at it. Why don’t you call me back later?” “Well, I’ll do that. It’s been good talking to you —” “Joel.” “Talk to you later then, Joel.” At four o’clock the doorbell rang. Alan stood on the doorstep, his Green Bay hat pulled past his eyebrows and his heavy cheeks ﬂushed. “So much for our good weather.” He rolled his eyes to the sky, a cloudy dome of gray. “Crazy isn’t it? Sun one minute, clouds the next. They say another foot’s coming.” He held out a plate of frosted cookies. “Gail thought you and Amy might like to try her pumpkin cookies. She makes them every Thanksgiving.” “Please thank her for us,” Joel said, taking the plate. Alan shifted side to side on the stoop, his corduroy pants scraping up against each other. Cold air ﬁlled the entry. He looked like he wanted to say something; his hands ﬂapped against his jacket. Joel crossed his arms over his chest. Amy would never have left him standing outside. “Hey,” Alan said, hooking a ﬁnger and sliding it down his nose. “You’ve got something white there.” Joel dragged a sweatshirt sleeve across his face, inhaling a tickle of baby powder. “Got it.” Alan smiled, looking past Joel. “Is Amy home?” “She’s in the shower.” “Good!” Alan said. “I wanted to talk to you about something.” The answer caught Joel by surprise. He felt a prickle of sweat spread beneath his armpits. Even though Amy had promised she wouldn’t say anything about the surrogate, maybe she told Gail, who had told Alan, who now was going to poke his nose where it didn’t belong. When Amy had suggested that Alan, a lawyer, review his changes to the contract, Joel went crazy. “These are simple additions!” Joel said. “Simple? You call no sex, simple?” The rims of Amy’s eyes were raw. Her thin legs paced from one end of their bedroom to the other. “Just because she isn’t HIV-positive doesn’t mean her partners aren’t.” “She doesn’t even have a boyfriend! Every day a new change! Monday, it’s no caffeine. Tuesday, it’s no changing cat litter boxes. Wednesday, it’s no eating raw shellﬁsh. And now this!” Why couldn’t Amy see he was just trying to protect her from more disappointment? “I’m really sorry,” Alan now said awkwardly. “Saying that bit this morning about hoping for a boy. Gail’s still mourning the miscarriage she had before the girls. And we have three healthy kids.” Alan stepped forward and rapped his ﬁst twice against the wooden door. “Knock wood that is.” “Well there’s no need to be sorry. We’re ﬁne.” “Glad to hear it. But two miscarriages have got to be hard on anyone.” Five, Joel said to himself. “I didn’t mean to be insensitive.” “Alan’s glassy-eyed sincerity irritated Joel. “Join us for dessert. Gail’s mother makes great mincemeat pie. She just loves Amy. More than me, I think,” Alan chuckled, waving goodbye. Joel had never met anyone who didn’t love Amy. She ooohhed and aaahhed over boring vacation photos. She befriended grocery baggers, mail clerks and single-mothers working at low-paying jobs. She made her grandmother’s chicken soup and brought it to sick neighbors. When she came home from work with the news she’d found a surrogate,
a young woman named Maria who cleaned her ofﬁce and needed money to bring her sister to the states, part of him wasn’t surprised. From the outset he opposed the idea. But a few weeks later he found himself, against whatever better judgment he had left, agreeing. His decision was a selﬁsh one, the price he was willing to pay to get Amy back, at least temporarily. Maria was young. Maria was illegal. No visa, no work permit. She had a cross tattooed on one arm and a bug-eyed gargoyle on the other. Five miscarriages and two failed in vitro attempts, Joel reasoned, had obviously impaired Amy’s judgment. But not her ability to persuade. Maria ended up signing the contract with the no-sex amendment. On nights Joel couldn’t sleep, he reread the contract, brooding over Maria’s signature, which looked more like Wanda than Maria. When the phone rang this time, Joel waited three rings before picking up. “Sold any windshields? Oh, sorry Mom. Never mind.” Joel pulled a chair from the kitchen table and slumped down onto it. “Well, happy Thanksgiving to you, too. Sure, we’re ﬁne. No, we haven’t heard anything yet. They think she took the baby to Mexico City. Well, I know it’s our baby. But what am I supposed to do? Print the ultrasound picture on a milk carton? I am serious. It’s crazy to think we’d ﬁnd her. Like I told Amy, it was risky from the beginning. We needed to prepare ourselves for the worst. What do you mean it’s impossible to prepare for something like this? I did.” Joel walked to the window. The dense cloud cover had prematurely darkened the sky, and the maple tree was now only a shadow. “Now, she’s napping,” Joel said. Amy had insisted he not tell his mother she’d left. “She’ll just worry herself into the hospital again.” Joel’s mother started to cry softly. “Okay, I promise, yes of course,” Joel said. “I’ll let you know as soon as we hear something. Yeah, I’ll tell Amy you love her.” Joel dug out his old ice skates from the mudroom closet and put on his jacket. Inside the garage he double-checked the trunk of his car to make sure he had a shovel and chains, just in case. The engine chocked but kicked in on the second try, the tires slipping and spinning as he backed down the icy drive. He waited until he passed Alan’s house to turn on the headlights. By the time he passed through town and turned onto the county road, snow had started to fall. He drove the next several miles to the steady tick-whoosh of the wipers. Every few minutes a yellow light appeared in the distance, and as he drew closer he could make out the silhouette of a farmhouse. Fifteen miles outside of town he slowed, nearly missing the turn onto a narrow road marked with a sign to Mirror Lake. He and Amy had taken this same road seventeen years ago. As soon as she’d entered the lecture hall that ﬁrst day of class, ropy braid slapping her back as she took the auditorium steps two by two, he wanted to know her name. He started to sit a row behind her, watching as she’d doodle on her canvas high tops — shooting stars, bolts of lightning, peace signs. One day she wrote his name on the rubber toe of her shoe. After that he sat next to her. To celebrate the end of ﬁnals, they had driven to Mirror Lake to ice skate. The plow had left so much snow on either side of the road that it was now one lane. Up ahead he could see the road was impassible. Joel drove on and stopped where the plow had stopped, behind a tall ridge of snow. He cut the engine and sat in the dark. Amy had brought hockey sticks and a puck to the lake. He had played a little himself but was no match for Amy, who had grown up with brothers like herself — quick, aggressive, fearless. After she had “kicked his butt” as she would later tell it, they huddled in the car drinking hot chocolate spiked with Kahlua from a thermos. Her mouth tasted of wet wool.
He shivered with the memory of her cold ﬁngers and warm breath snaking down his belly. That night they had talked about children. He said he wanted three; she said one was enough. He had argued that only children were lonely. He was proof. Joel turned on the headlights and got out of the car. The shoulder-high ridge of snow standing between him and the lake was sloped. He kicked at it, his toes slamming up against his boot. He tried a running start, but halfway up he slid back down. He got the shovel and started to dig at a furious pace. A painful twinge in his lower back caused him to drop the shovel. Joel got his skates from the car. He’d forgotten his gloves, and his numbed ﬁngers fumbled with the laces. The sharp blades made it easy to scale his way to the top. A gust of snow blew into his face. It was so dark he could barely see the outline of the lake only a couple hundred yards away. He climbed back down and picked up the shovel lying in the glare of a headlight, raising it up above his head. A deep, piercing cry exploded from his mouth as he made contact with the windshield. A cracking noise divided the air, followed by a beat of silence and then, raining glass. Calmly, he took off his skates and brushed the driver’s seat free of glass. By the time he got home, he had blisters in his ears and his eyebrows were stiff with frost. The message machine in the kitchen blinked. It was Dave with Ace-One Auto Glass. Upon hearing his voice, Joel laughed. He jackknifed at the waist. Tears splashed onto the ﬂoor. Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, Joel staggered into the living room, dropping beside the mahogany coffee table. The laughter subsided, but his chest continued to heave. He crawled in a zigzag toward the ﬁreplace, dipping his head as he went. A glint of gold beneath the radiator caught his eye, and he ﬁshed it out with the ﬂat of his hand. Exhausted, he rolled onto his back, the ring warm and tight in his ﬁst. He could only cry when he laughed, that’s what Amy had said bitterly after their second, failed in vitro attempt. What was the point, he asked. The point? She stared at him, her eyes dark and shiny with hate. Last week, wet lashes stuck together in triangular spikes, she’d ﬁxed him with this same look as she gave him the Post-it. Posada Vieja. He couldn’t pronounce the name. “You don’t even speak Spanish,” he said, unable to hold back his anger. “So?” Amy said, dragging her suitcase down the stairs. “Do you know that Mexico City is the biggest city in the world?” “Second.” “Come on, Amy. For God’s sake, don’t be ridiculous.” “For God’s sake, Joel, don’t be an asshole.” “Well, what do you expect me to do?” “Well, what do you expect me to do?” Amy said, opening the door. Joel loosened his grip on the ring in his ﬁst. He stared at the ceiling. Tears pooled in his blistered ears, burning them with pain. He sat up and took the Post-it from his pocket. This time he punched in all the numbers before hanging up. When he clicked the phone back into the receiver, he noticed a swash of red on the phone handle. For a few moments he stood staring, lost in the void between what he saw and comprehension. He felt a tingling stiffness in his hand. Turning it over, he saw clotted blood and a shard of glass buried in the meat of his palm. He pulled it out and watched the blood run down his wrist and forearm. With a dish towel wrapped around his hand, he went down to the basement to get his suitcase. ■
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Man Reﬂected in a Lake Frank Jamison
I am looking at a drawing of Gerard Manley Hopkins A self sketch made while sitting on a dock, legs dangling, Gazing, he would say, at his inscape, at himself reﬂected. The lake must have been smooth and the afternoon… I like to think it was an afternoon… in late summer Warm to the skin though not enough to cause him To doff his bowler hat and the collar seems Up around the neck and the trousers are long, not short, No thoughts of jumping in for a little swim. But it is the gaze that’s captivating, chin down on the chest, Eyes not even visible in the hat’s shadow, but you know They are intent upon something, a ﬁsh in the water Or a sunken boat, when suddenly he realizes He is seeing himself look back at himself With such clarity he can’t resist taking up his pencil and pad to draw, not himself at all, but a moment… When nothing else in the world is seeing him quite like this And he knows it will never happen again, Himself in and out of the scene all at once, That only in this moment can he look like this… With the soles of his feet in plain view.
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Bathroom Bonanza Glenn Shaheen
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The bathroom door was busted in straight through the upside down cross middle and ﬁxed sometime in the history of the house, and who knows who the culprit may be? Maybe an angry husband looking to strangle his cheating or nagging or spending wife until she turned an apology shade of purple, gagged out a receipt, or just shut the fuck up for two seconds. Or maybe that same husband or wife was trying to save their despondent love from sleeping pills and Jack D or razor blades and roadmap wrists or a Remington lollipop balanced between the knees, shouts of I’ll do it, I’ll do it, or why’d you do it, why’d you do it, or maybe just c’mon, it’ll add a little something different to our lives. Or maybe it was the kid of that family breaking down the balsa thin door cuz daddy went in three days ago and never came back out, because the shower ﬂoor is too slippery and the human neck is too fragile, or the radio fell in the bath to homemade lightning ﬁzzes, or he just plain drank too much and slipped into that permanent hangover. But it could have been the cops who busted down the door, guns drawn cowboy style, barrels at the top of the toilet looking to bust the dealer of the week shrouded in red handed smoke, or the tax evading child molester with a couple of hard drives in the dresser, or the writer, who just thought up too many ways for people to die in his bathroom.
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tional harm. “Do you think y I asked Hartley. He nodded mutely. “your take your pills, don’t the “I suspect that’s the c therapy? Do you think you’ talking about yourself in dept Hartley shook his head. “ “His last suicide attempt b things about ourselves that we don’t like. But once we see they’re there, we can decide what we want to do with them. Do we want to get rid of them Sooner or later, we are bound to discover some things about ourselves that we don’t like. But once we see they’re there, we can decide what we want to do with them. Do we want to get rid of them Sooner or later, we are bound to discover some things about ourselves that we don’t like. But once we see they’re there, we can decide what we want I internalize everything.
Myself & I Steven Beck
One of my problems is that I inte can’t express anger; I g that I internalize everything. row a tumor instead. lize everything. I Woody Alle or instead. I internalize everything. Woody Allen
Woodcut Print 22 by 30 inches
In Memory April Copeland
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Wasting Away Jeremy J. Chapman
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t Grandma watched Suey’s favorite ad re program with him, even though she sai as “full of downright fakery.” Then Stue ed Grandma’s favorite family program h he said it was “too mushy and full o .” After that, they watched the ol t and Costello movies that they both liked
see why a child shouldn’t have sex with its parents.” your actual father,” I responded, “but my role is a parental one. My job is to help you gro atisfy you. You can get sex elsewhere, with your hy a child shouldn’t have sex with its parents.” plained once again that it is the parents’ job toward independence��and independen ways retarded by incestuous ties. dn’t be incest,” Charlene said. “ y a child shouldn’t have sex with its parents.” your actual father,” I responded, “but my role
Ink Jet Print 8½ by 11 inches
Shroud of the Feminien: Untitled # 2 Melita Betler
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Shroud of the Feminien: Untitled # 4 Melita Betler
Ink Jet Print 8½ by 11 inches
IRRESPONSIBILITY • 43
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Acrylic on Canvas 30 by 40 inches
The early clues were tiny. A new dress disappeared with the tags still attached. A novel lay open to an unfamiliar page. Measuring spoons spilled out from beneath the couch cushions. Small annoyances easily attributed to my absentmindedness, the daydreamy nature that made me sometimes put mail in the freezer or pour two cups of coffee when I was the only one home. But in the still of 3 a.m., I saw more. Curtains inﬂated like snails from windows sealed in ice. Doors creaked open unbidden. And grainy moths of light ﬂuttered across the ﬂoor, making me wonder if I had mice. Finally, I saw him through the reﬂection of my living room window — a man, transparent as steam, standing by the ﬁreplace. I had always heard that ghosts could not be seen in reﬂections, but that’s the only way I saw mine. Invisible on my apartment ﬂoor, his image projected onto the panes of glass like a movie. The light had to be just right — no more than two 40-watts — and of course it had to be dark
outside. In fact, it wasn’t until I ﬁrst spotted him that I understood why ghosts are only seen at night. They’re around all day, hiding dress shoes and irritating the cat, but the sun bleaches them out. That’s why ghosts, like stars, are rarely sighted in New York — too much light. He was looking at my CD collection, leaning against the mantle with his head tilted to two o’clock as he perused the new titles I got for Christmas. And right away I knew he had lived in my apartment for a long time and would stay there years, even decades, after I had left — making me the transient, the intruder. I’m not sure why I believed this — it was certainly possible that just that evening he had slipped through the heating vent and was behaving like any man when he ﬁrst enters your home. But his posture did not suggest he was evaluating my taste. Biting his lower lip, he studied the photograph of the angry singer-songwriter. I stepped closer and he jolted up, eyes as big as doorknobs, and dissolved into the radiator mist. The next time I saw Henry — that’s the name I gave him — I lay slumped on the couch, sifting through the paper on a Friday night. The bubbles locked in the side window’s glass made his image even more watery as he gazed at me from the end of the sofa, his head resting against the patchwork quilt hooked over the top. I slid myself up, gazing past the blanket and into the window, like a blind woman. “Hello,” I said. Henry stared back. “Would you like to see the B section?” Henry smiled, a sweet moment that quickly dissolved into awkwardness. What exactly does one do in this situation? I waited for Henry’s lead, ﬁguring he must be experienced at this since he was — what? ﬁve-hundred? a thousand years old? Henry’s eyes trailed down the paper. I smoothed it on the spot beside him, gauging the right angle from his reﬂection. Henry craned his neck to a picture of workmen in Times Square preparing for New Year’s. There were no side show effects. The paper did not hang like a large prayer book, in midair. But I did see it crinkle, a little. “They’re expecting two million people,” I offered. Henry glanced up at me brieﬂy, blankly, out of politeness I think, and resumed his reading. That was the extent of our socializing. Sometimes, while heating soup, I’d spy on Henry through the kitchen window as he grazed his ﬁngers along the bindings of my books. Our eyes would meet, and we’d wave with self-conscious smiles, hastily returning to our business. I never quite found a pattern to Henry’s visits, but certain TV shows seemed to bring him out. He liked Friends, but not Charlie Rose. Henry disappeared after I met Russ, which was ﬁne with me. Russ lumbered into my apartment, swinging bags of Thai food and courtroom dramas. He’d wiggle his feet out of his work boots, and drop them like cement blocks on the ﬂoor. We made love in the afternoon, white light ﬁlling the apartment, making me feel beautiful and superior. Vainly, I attributed Henry’s absence to jealousy. As I pressed my face in Russ’s neck, warm pity washed through my body. And when I crept into my apartment on Sunday mornings, guilty as a teenager, I’d furtively search the room for signs of vengeance — an overturned houseplant, a curtain rod unhinged. One night while Russ was dining with his parents, I pulled a large tumbleweed of dust from underneath the bed. Then I stopped and said to the ceiling, “I’m human.” Immediately, I regretted the statement; it seemed like a low blow. Anyway, I was wrong. Henry was still there — reading the sides of cereal boxes and hiding the stapler. I just couldn’t see. ■
The Gates of Hell
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“Make pain into art” a visiting writer said, his war-borne anger still burning on his tongue some thirty years after a war he didn’t want. A parking lot away sits the Prince of Pain surrounded by seraphs, twisted Rodin bronzes cold and wet in a gray Stanford drizzle. hot wax melted into meaning. Transform pain into art. The poet challenged — If not immune, At least willing To forge clarity out of fog and pretend Heaven.
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Dawn in Shanghai Jean Howard
crawls in on jade blown up by ﬁre twisted by rain. A soft murmur begins as delicate as mist fainting upon a skyscraper as people arise, a drop here a drop there then a million drops rippling across the surface.
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Like a pond streaked by Koi the pavement begins calm and glazed with ink then brushed-stroked with gold ﬁres up with cabs. But now it is early. Clouds move their mountains toward sea that gray stone of volcanic laughter.
The unstoppable march of fragrant fungi, bullfrog, and ﬂower. Ten million tinklings strong the song of bicycle bells ﬂow as great thunder from the people Earth-loved and spitting their names on the pavement. Held back as a great river by a mere trafﬁc light they gather and wait then come crashing down into the intersection as beautiful and life-ﬁlled as rain.
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Characters arise high above one thousand department stores the crimson of good money.
Rain drapes its silk like pale robes across the city while chimes spill from digital clocks the lotus blossoms at the end of sleep The Chinese song and English bell
HOLY SOCKS Constance Studer
was four when my father went into Toledo State Hospital in 1947 and never came home again to live. I have faint memories of his large hands pushing hair out of my eyes, of watching him preach in front of a small church while an organ played Amazing Grace. He told my sister and me stories about Holy Socks, who was sometimes funny as Father hopped around like a rabbit twitching his nose, swishing his tail. Sometimes Holy Socks was a scary monster who gobbled up any socks left on the ﬂoor. The story was never the same two nights in a row. Sitting on the church steps, the world was all dandelions and bluets, smooth, green knolls bristling with lilacs and thistle. Spirit has many meanings. It can mean breath. And then there’s “spirited away,” a phrase that can mean someone was abducted or perhaps passed on. My father, a Methodist minister, preached about the Holy Spirit. But most importantly, spirit means having the courage to persevere. My sense of the sacred as a child was once connected to memories of my father — accompanying him on pastoral calls, hearing him preach every Sunday. As a preacher’s kid, I spent a lot of energy wriggling out from under kisses of maudlin matrons to whom religion was a foundation garment that squeezed out all breath, poked them at every step. In 1963, I was 21 and a third-year student at Toledo Hospital School of Nursing. Part of that training was a three-month psychiatric afﬁliation at Toledo State Hospital, the institution in which my father had been incarcerated since his lobotomy. “Would you get this chart for me, please?” I asked, handing the elderly woman a slip of paper. “Why do you want this chart?” she asked. “I need to do a nursing care study on this patient,” I mumbled, avoiding her eyes. My palms were sweaty. “I’m a student nurse.” As she shufﬂed off to ﬁnd the chart, I leaned against the wall and took a deep breath. I had no idea what punishment would befall me if my nursing instructors discovered that I’d read an unauthorized chart. I needed to ﬁnd out why my father had spent more than half of his life in Toledo State Hospital. The loss of my father was a cave of silence — the silence of secrets too painful to tell. The silence of doctor’s orders hidden away on dusty charts, long ago destroyed. The silence of the cultural taboo attached to mental illness. The silence of a life lost in the wilderness of back wards where no one visited. The silence of the medical profession’s arrogance at playing God with other people’s psyches. Cutting brain tissue in order to still an argumentative voice, to make a life conform, to cut a life down to size. The old woman trudged back to the counter with two thick manila folders. “You can’t take these out of this room,” she said. “Bring them back to me when you’re through.” My father was a Methodist minister and the Bible preached that he must be silent to hear God’s guidance. But when he was silent, he was accused of acting strangely. I had so many questions: Was madness the domain of doctors or theologians? Was it caused by physical pathology or spiritual depravity? Was
it a disturbance of body chemistry, or the result of cultural inﬂuences? Had my father spent so much of his life behind locked doors because he loved God so mightily that his circuits blew, madness as a form of prayer? Many years later, I found a newspaper clipping, brittle with age. The editor of the paper in the small Ohio town where my parents began their ministry had written an article about my parents. “Adam and Eve at Home” was the title. He described watching “Eve,” my mother, Evelyn, playing the piano, while “Adam,” my father, Lucien Adams, sang a hymn. How interesting that the editor would equate my parents with the world’s ﬁrst lovers, the prototype for all those who came after, authors of that ancient story of sin and sex and sorrow and redemption. “Adam” means “blood,” “earth,” “the ﬁrst gardener.” “Eve” means “life” or “living.” In the beginning, out of nothing, God’s spirit brought light, then divided light from darkness. He created Adam, breathing in life and soul. Adam adored Eve, just as my father adored my mother, ﬂesh of his ﬂesh, bone of his bone. “You’ll bear children in pain,” God said to Eve. “You’ll toil in the ﬁelds,” God said to Adam. They made choices and were forced to live with the consequences. God placed a spinning sword at the mouth of the garden to keep sinners out. Adam and Even spent the rest of their lives trying to get back where they started. My father was a romantic, down-on-his-knees in love with my mother, a believer in the true, sweet ache of it. Blood rush. Grand holiday of reason. Cheers from the awakened soul. Love, the only glimpse of heaven any of us will ever get. When my mother walked down the aisle of the Ruggles Methodist Church one warm summer evening, the young interim pastor was besotted. One look at her and Father decided brotherly love wasn’t the most important kind. He was tall and so thin that his body weaved in and out as he preached. The oak pulpit glowed under its patina of varnish. A purple linen cloth hung down the front. Above the altar hung a simple oak cross. Angels and apostles danced in the stained-glass windows. Father was a transcendental philosopher, a dreamer, a writer who tried to make poetry out of sermons. My only legacy from him was a battered notebook in which he scribbled poems and Bible verses and notes for sermons. Faith is the door we all must knock on, but not everyone gains admittance. The word “bliss” comes from the same word as “wound.” Bliss, that condition known to infants, psychotics, saints, and lovers. My family had moved every two or three years. The Bishop of the Ohio conference had the power to uproot lives for many reasons: maybe parishioners had lodged complaints about his preaching style, or his tendency to forget names, or the slip of his haircut. A good minister was one who accepted his calling to another church without question. Mother was petite and had brown hair that shown gold through sunlight. She always seemed, even when seated, to be moving forward at breakneck speed. After the service, Pat and I climbed into the backseat of the Chevy. Home was Whitehouse, Ohio, a small farming community with perhaps 200 souls when all the aunts and uncles and cousins were home for the holidays. Even 49
50 then it was a shrinking town — one grocery store, one faded, brick drug store. Hay ﬁelds came right up to the edge of Main Street. Ohio towns all looked the same in the late 1940s: a bronze soldier held his riﬂe in the town square, one church, one bar, one stop light, a drinking fountain in front of the drug store on the corner. Driving towards the small, white parsonage, ghost words ﬂuttered out the window of the car. My mother asked something about a woman in the church having bruises, and what could be done. My father pulled her into the shelter of his arm. The parsonage needed a coat of paint, and inside there was a bookcase full of books, a Philco radio where we heard news about the war still raging, a ﬂoor lamp, a threadbare rug, and a brown sofa rubbed shiny from years of use. My parents’ most prized possession was a piano that was given to my family by someone in the congregation, an heirloom. My father sang in a deep baritone and my mother joined him in her strong alto harmony, a smile ﬂashing between them. My mother’s brow had a permanent groove of worry because of the meager collection plate. I overheard our neighbor, Fern Barker, refer to my family as being as poor as church mice. I thought all little girls wore hand-me-downs from their older sisters. Father took me along on his pastoral calls. Every time we went into the nursing home, there was the same odor of Clorox, dead ﬂowers, and urine. We walked past men and women in wheelchairs, while a woman in a white dress gave out little cups of pills. Low cries and moans followed us down the hall. Doors stood open leading into darkness. Father opened the door where an old man lay in a crib. He put his hand through the siderail and touched the man’s shoulder. The man had no hair or teeth and his eyes were half-open. He tried to speak but there was no sound. “Show me where it hurts,” my father said. His hand moved to his belly. My father pulled up the sheet. His belly was round and shiny. “Please,” the man whispered. “I’ll see if I can get some help for your pain.” My father returned with a nurse. She had a glass tube with a plunger, a piece of rubber tubing, and a bottle on a tray. Gently my father uncurled the old man’s arms while the nurse tied rubber tubing around his thin arm, pushed in the needle. “We’ll stay for a while,” my father said to the nurse. She was already out the door, on to the person further down the hall who needed her the most. “There now, Joe, there now,” my father crooned, just like he did when my sister and I fell down and cut our knees. Slowly the old man’s face relaxed into a smile. We sat beside Joe’s bed until his breathing became quiet and easy as he slept. •••
On a gray, freezing day in January of 1946, my parents brought my The word “bliss” comes baby sister, Marguerite, from the same word home. Hail beat coldly as “wound.” against the northwest Bliss, that condition windows. It was when known to infants, my sister and I helped our mother change the psychotics, saints, baby’s diaper that we and lovers. learned the truth. There was a large hump on her tiny back. It had a purplish cast to it, like a huge bruise. There was a white gauze bandage on her back. Her forehead looked large. No hair. When Mother put her ﬁnger in Marguerite’s hand, she didn’t grab hold. “What is that on her back, Mama?” I asked. “Part of her spinal cord is on the outside, instead of on the inside,” Mother said softly as she rubbed baby oil into the hump. She lowered Marguerite into a small basin of water. “Doesn’t it hurt?” Pat asked. “Hurt? No, I don’t think she’s in pain. It’s up to your Daddy and me to make sure she isn’t.” Mother had to lay the baby on her side or her stomach. The top of her head bulged and I couldn’t see her pulse beat there. The smell of the baby — wet scalp, talcum powder, the sour smell of milk. Mother held Marguerite on her right arm and trickled a small stream of warm water over her head and down the tiny chest, belly, legs. She allowed me to help with this baptism. Mother murmured and cooed, trying to get Marguerite to ﬁx on her face, but my sister’s eyes remained vacant. Mother let me put on her diaper and pajamas. “Do you want to hold her?” Mother asked. “Will I hurt her?” “No, honey. Here, sit in this rocker.” I sat in the oak rocker and Mother put Marguerite in my lap. Her back felt hard against my chest, like a grapefruit. Her eyes peered out of the pink blanket with a look of astonishment of being here, and then she slept. Fluid wound through the ridges and valleys of nerve cells of Marguerite’s brain, like a vast network of underground rivers, spilling into open spaces called ventricles, forming tiny lakes as it made its way back down her spinal cord. Marguerite’s pathway was blocked, resulting in an excess of ﬂuid in the brain’s canals. If she didn’t have surgery, the pressure of the ﬂuid would cause her head to enlarge and create symptoms such as headaches, seizures, vomiting, and problems with her vision. Spina biﬁda was a strange afﬂiction that had arisen out of the pitch, the accumulation of thousands of years of genetic evolution that had compressed into the single moment of my sister’s conception. My father was in his study, working on his sermon he’d deliver on Sunday. Marguerite was eight months old and lay in her bassinet in the corner of his study. Pat had gone to play at the neighbor’s. Mother had gone to the store. I was in my hideout in the back of the downstairs closet. I lay down in the dark on a nest of coats and old sheets that my mother planned to cut up for diapers. I swam in the darkness of clothes. Tiny drums of bone swept up from the bottom of this lake. I swam within the belly of the house. Feet were running. Doors slammed. I heard my father’s voice yelling, and then a high-pitched scream. Something about blue and stillness and breath. Breath-less. No breath. Then my mother was home and there were many people creaking ﬂoorboards, answering the phone, slamming doors. Much later, I heard my father and Pat calling my name. I didn’t answer. I was afraid. Something had happened and I knew that nothing would ever be the same again. Finally the house was quiet and I ﬂoated in my silent lake.
“Connie, come out of there, dear.” Fern, our nextIf God could take door neighbor, ﬁlled the a little baby, closet doorway. “Come on, sweetheart.” Rubbing my none of us were safe. eyes, I crawled out with one of my mother’s sweaters around my shoulders and my father’s hat on my head. “Something happened to Marguerite,” I said. “Come sit on my lap. I’ll try to explain.” Fern was large and made a swishing sound from the rubbing of her thighs as she walked. Buttons never exactly brought the edges of her dress together. “Dr. Browne was here. Your parents have taken Marguerite to the hospital, but there’s nothing anyone can do,” she said. “She’s gone.” “Gone? Where?” “God took Marguerite with Him to Heaven.” Fern held me in her lap. The only sounds in the house were the creaks of the old rocker against the bare ﬂoor. The bells of Whitehouse Methodist Church called. The evening air was thick with lilacs and honeysuckle and spirea. The darkening sky was alive with darkening moths and ﬂickering ﬁreﬂies as we entered the church. At the front of the church, my sister lay in her tiny box. A casket, my mother called it. Pat and I were squeezed between our parents on the front pew. The eaves, long and low, rose like bloody bones. A minister from the next town conducted Marguerite’s funeral. I blocked out the words that were supposed to calm and console. Words hurled up into the wilderness of heaven. Words of the hymns vibrated against my temples. If God could take a little baby, none of us were safe. Amazing Grace… how sweet the sound… that saved a wretch like me… As the minister sang, he made a cage of his hands by touching his ﬁngertips, as his right hand balanced against his left… I once was lost, but now I’m found…He tilted forward on his toes and then tilted back on his heels…was blind, but now I see. Tears rolled down cheeks. No sense trying to hide them. My mother wiped away the wetness and more tears just came in their place. My father bowed his head, held his glasses in his lap. All of us held hands, a lifeline to home. Then there was nothing left except carrying the small casket to the cemetery where moonlit stones lay in rows like teeth with nothing to bite but sky. ••• The Ohio Methodist Conference was held in a barn-like building with open rafters and a wooden ﬂoor. Wooden seats clattered as they tipped up and down. My father was just one in the thousands milling about anxiously, waiting to learn whether or not they’d be able to stay in their church one more year. Annual Conference was a social club, a Board of Director’s meeting, and judgment day all rolled into one. There were signs designating the different Ohio districts with some of the fervor but none of the power of a political rally. Steubenville. St. Clairsville. Mansﬁeld. Akron. Cleveland. My family sat in the Toledo district. There were committee reports from the chairman of the Caring Cupboards, who helped keep food on the table for thousands of families during difﬁcult economic times. A report from the committee that helped widows who’d lost their husbands in the war. And while these reports were being read from the platform, a steady stream of ministers walked by the open book at the front of the room just below the platform where the Bishop presided. My father joined the line of ministers milling about and chatting in the aisles before they learned their fate. “This isn’t fair,” my father yelled. “I can’t move again.” “Rev. Adams, you’re disturbing the proceedings,” the Bishop said. The room was suddenly quiet.
“You can’t move me and my family again,” my father shouted. “You’re out of line, Rev. Adams. Please restrain yourself.” My father ran down the aisle and out the door into the street. My mother ran behind him, but was caught up in the crowds and couldn’t reach him before he vanished through the door. He sat in his car and somehow the key didn’t ﬁt the ignition. Sat there on the corner of Miller and Lincoln Streets and couldn’t remember how to drive, how to get his arms to work, how to turn the key, to make his right leg step on the gas. A blue light glowed around the steering wheel. Then the car was running, but the white line kept disappearing as he weaved the car through trafﬁc. He rubbed his eyes, but it didn’t help. No way to turn the car off, and so he listened to a fountain of voices spraying. Voices boiling the radiator over, voices propping open the hood. Afternoon shadows scattered in a jagged dance. Bushes moved. Sunlight shattered the windshield into glassy stars. ••• There are times in life when a family’s course is forever altered. The damage only becomes apparent much later. Or perhaps too late to be undone. This was one of those times. My mother paced the ﬂoor because my father had not come home. It was late at night when the police station called. The ofﬁcer told her that my father was safe with them. When we arrived at the police station, Father was in a room by himself, sitting at a table looking mortiﬁed and frightened. He’s lost his glasses and his suit jacket. “Lucien, we’re taking you home,” my mother said. “We need to have him evaluated,” the ofﬁcer said. “We found him sitting in his car. He said he couldn’t drive anymore because a voice told him he’d die if he put his hands on the steering wheel. He thinks he killed his daughter.” “Our baby died of a genetic disease. It was no one’s fault.” She took her husband’s hands in hers, trying to bring warmth to the ice she felt. “The psychiatrist will be here later tonight. Lucien needs to stay here until he sees him.” The doctor who evaluated my father found him oriented to time and place and person, but in his opinion he was subject to mood swings and limited insight and judgment. My father admitted to hearing God’s voice. Based on this information, the doctor diagnosed my father as paranoid schizophrenic, thought he was a danger to himself. My mother signed the consent form, and on the line asking the reason for my father’s admission to Toledo State Hospital, my mother wrote, “Lucien needs rest.” She visited the love of her life in a hospital with Goliath structure, a place of parallel tress and concrete buildings that had not aged well. Some 51
52 delusional architect had tried to enhance the landscape by adding a few turrets and Corinthian columns, but it hadn’t helped. The hospital was a squat mess with barred and screened windows. High-pitched voices and cries came from somewhere deep inside. Mother sat in the psychiatrist’s ofﬁce, waiting to ﬁnd out how she couldn’t help her husband. On the wall was the etching of Herr Freud. Sigmund the Conqueror. Monarch over the unconscious, explainer of impulses, unleasher of Ego, master of Id. The doctor told her that my father needed electro-shock therapy, and of course she agreed because she thought that would bring my father home. Father was wheeled in on a gurney and his arms were tied to iron railings. They put a wedge under his back and globs of paste were put on both temples. A rubber bridge was inserted between his teeth. The doctor turned a dial on a brown box. Assistants kept his mouth tightly closed around the rubber gag. Someone pressed down on his shoulders as he ﬁshtailed and contorted and convulsed. It was only after the lightning went through his head that the pain in his chest began. His breath came hard. He felt faint and sweaty. Pain shot through his chest upwards to his throat. The pain grew worse. Crushing. He was losing power, a terrifying seepage of strength. Maybe it’s better this way. Won’t have to think about Marguerite anymore, her tiny body a ripple of ribs and belly, her little bones threatening to poke through her skin. Her head almost too heavy to hold. Suddenly there was noise, lights, commotion. Someone gave him nasal oxygen, took his pulse and blood pressure. Suddenly he was a body pathology instead of a brain pathology and he smiled at the irony. “How do you feel?” someone asked. The elephant sitting on his chest was slowly being replaced by a wolf. A sharp bite but not as much weight. “Lucien?” the doctor said. “Are you okay?” “What happened?” “I think you had a heart attack. I’m putting you in the inﬁrmary overnight.” “Tell Evelyn,” my father whispered. If he died without telling her, she’d never forgive him. He laughed to himself because this was indeed the logic of a deranged mind. The nurse who helped him into a clean hospital gown looked down at her patient’s face and wondered why he was smiling. ••• Father had rheumatic fever as a child that had weakened his heart. Because he could not tolerate electric-shock treatments, the doctor recommended a prefrontal lobotomy. The hospital was full of strange noises at night, hooting owls, howling wolves, screaming pumas. The night before his surgery, an aide appeared at my father’s bedside to prepare him for the surgery scheduled in the morning. The aide told my father to lie on his left side, knees up to his chest as Paulo was busy behind him with a small pail and rubber tubing. “Will I be asleep?” my father asked. “No. The doctor will give you an injection to deaden the skin, but he needs to have you awake so that you can tell him where he is while he’s working on your brain. You sort of give him directions,” the aide said with a laugh. The ﬂuid was all in. My father leaped towards the commode in the corner of the ward. “I’ve changed my mind,” he said. “I want to talk to my wife. Can I call her?” he yelled from the commode. “It’s too late to change your mind,” the aide said. “Your wife signed the
consent. It says on your chart that you’re a paranoid schizophrenic. No one’s going to listen to your mind. Hey, man, you’re a patient in a mental hospital. You’re here because your mind is sick.” “Can’t I leave if I want to?” “In your dreams. There are only two ways you’ll ever get out of this hospital. Either in a box or if you have this surgery tomorrow.” Promptly at six a.m., the aide appeared again, this time with shears. A loud swish of scissors and my father’s hair sifted down to grey linoleum. There was no turning back. He didn’t protest again. Events were moving too fast. “No jewelry,” the aide said, so my father took off his wedding ring. The aide helped him onto the gurney and angled it down the hall. The small room had no spotlights, no banks of sterile instruments. He felt someone put cold liquid on his scalp. First his right arm, then his left arm was tied down. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside sill waters. He restoreth my soul… He felt the pinprick of a needle, one, two, three, four times… He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for His Names’ sake… There was chilling pain as the needle went in, then his head was numb. Behind him he heard a rattling of instruments and suction ready as the “What was going through doctor made an incision your mind during the surgery?” through layers of skin “A knife.” above the frontal lobes of his brain. The doctor sectioned off the left upper quadrant of my father’s skull. “You’ll hear a loud noise. You’ll feel some pressure, but no pain,” the doctor said. My father heard a loud burring noise as the doctor made holes in the left side of my father’s skull… Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me… The sound of a saw. “I’m feeling pain,” he said. “In the back of my forehead. Doctor, are you there?” “Of course I’m here,” the doctor said testily. “Where else would I be?” The doctor pulled the plunger on the leucotomy, retracting the looped wire into the cannula… thy rod and thy staﬀ they comfort me. He placed the blunt end of the shaft into the hole on the left side of my father’s skull, two inches below the cortex into the white ﬁbers that connect the frontal lobe to the rest of his brain… thou preparedest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou annointest my head with oil…The doctor pressed the plunger on the leucotome and the loop opened. He rotated the device and a core of white brain tissue was severed… my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life… “We’re about one-fourth of the way done, Lucien. Now I’d like you to repeat the Lord’s Prayer for me. It’s something you know very well, right, you being a minister and all.” “Our Father who art in heaven…” my father said. “That’s good. Keep going.” The doctor withdrew the leucotome to a depth of one-and-a-half inches, depressed the plunger, removed a core. “Hallowed be Thy name…” “Do you know who I am, Lucien?” “Yes. You’re my doctor.” “Are you going to recover and be able to go home?” “I want to. If only the pain in my head on the right side would go away.” He retched but nothing came up. Someone turned his head to the left.
“Keep saying the Lord’s Prayer.” “It’s hard to remember. They kingdom come… I can’t remember how it goes.” The third quadrant was severed. My father felt someone checking his blood pressure. “Where are you?” “I’ve been telephoning from the corner drugstore, but I lost my dime in the machine.” “Who were you calling?” “Anyone who’ll listen, but I’m having trouble getting through.” “Are you worried?” “No.” Another core was made an inch below the cortex. The doctor retracted the loop and removed the instrument from my father’s brain. Four cores had been cut. My father felt the cloth being removed and his blood pressure being taken and felt pressure as the doctor closed the protective layer over the brain, and then the skin. “How do you feel?” “Okay. Just a nervous trembling like a chill.” He felt his arms being released from their bindings and someone putting a bandage on the top of his head. He vomited twice in the room they took him to after surgery. The head of his bed was elevated, his knees raised. He felt someone take his blood pressure and feel his wrist for his pulse. Hours later, the doctor appeared by his bedside. “How do you feel?” he asked. “Much better.” “Do you have any of your old fears?” “No.” “Do you remember being upset when you came here?” “I was upset, wasn’t I? It’s not important now.” “What was going through your mind during the surgery?” “A knife.” “You don’t remember how upset you were about the death of your daughter when you came here?” “Do I have a daughter?” “Two. Pat and Connie. But the one I’m talking about is Marguerite. Your baby who died.” My father rubbed his eyes with his hand as if it were a magic slate and his memory would return. He looked down at his hands, but didn’t realize that his wedding ring was missing from the third ﬁnger on his left hand. He didn’t remember to ask anyone to give it back. ••• After his surgery, my father came home for one visit. A photograph taken during this time showed my family standing in front of a lilac bush in the front yard of the farmhouse that my mother had rented. My mother looked thin. Father was frowning into the sun, his left hand resting on my mother’s shoulder like a claim. There was a confusion of shadows, perhaps ﬂowers, between them. My sister Pat and I stood in front of our parents. No one was smiling. Mother proudly showed him her large garden: rows of broad beans, lettuce heads, clumps of carrots, but my father cowered as he entered our new home, as if he no longer knew how his body ﬁt in to the universe. His eyes were lowered. The brown couch was in the bay window. The piano that my father loved so much stood in the living room. The only drapes that my family had ever owned covered these windows too. My mother was always an
expert at making do. It was during that weekend that my mother learned that the “regressed behavior” the doctor talked about meant that my father wet his pants and banged his spoon on the table when he ate. While my mother was making dinner, Father wandered away. After an hour of looking, Mother called the police. “Do you have a picture of him, Mrs. Adams?” the ofﬁcer asked. “Yes.” Mother raced upstairs to get the photo that was taken of Father when he graduated from theological seminary. He was smiling, proudly holding his diploma in his right hand, his wavy brown hair shining. His eyes glowed with joy and intelligence. He stood tall and proud. “This is how he looked before he got sick, before he had the surgery,” Mother said. “What kind of surgery was it?” the ofﬁcer asked as he scribbled notes. “Lobotomy. Brain surgery. The doctor told me that was the only way that Lucien would ever get out of the hospital. I’ve always only wanted what was best for him.” “Does he have any scars, any unusual features that would set him apart?” “He has a large scar on his forehead and head, but it’s almost covered over with hair now. What hair he has left has turned grey in less than a year. He has trouble concentrating. No attention span. He walks with a stoop as if he’s afraid he’ll lose his balance.” Mother started to cry. The ofﬁcers rose from the table, shifted from one foot to the other. “May we take this photo with us?” Mother wiped her eyes. “Of course.” “Don’t worry, Mrs. Adams. We’ll ﬁnd your husband.” “You’ll call me as soon as you know anything?” “Yes.” And they were gone. They found my father standing on a bridge that spanned the Maumee River, more than ﬁve miles away from our home. He was huddled by the railing, holding onto it for dear life. The police car pulled alongside. “Are you Lucien Adams?” “I can’t get over the bridge.” The policeman got out of the car, photo in hand, and compared the picture to his face. They carried him to the police car. Father heard the silence taking shape, weeds starting to split the concrete, a ﬂock of geese receding. He lay down on the backseat and covered his face with his hands. He was on his way back to the concrete building, to his bed next to Lorenzo and Joshua, his home. Now maybe he’d be able to sleep. ••• My father no longer owned his own body, and my mother, out of necessity, gave up all claim. The State of Ohio had given him shelter at his hour of need, and now was my father’s guardian and had the power to keep him or let him go. Now he was a mental patient who’d lost all power to make decisions about his own treatment. My father had read about the prophets in the Bible who went mad on mountaintops, had ecstatic ﬁts in the desert like John the Baptist, Joan of Arc, St. Francis of Assisi. These people were labeled crazy by those who knew them. I still carry with me the memory of my father preaching in that small, white church and reading from the Holy Scriptures: If thou wilt diligently hearken in his sight… and keep his statutes, I will put none of these diseases on thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.” And again from the Book of Deuteronomy, “I kill and make alive; I wound and I heal.” When I read his chart, I ﬁnally realized why I’d lost my father. How lobotomy meant cutting his skull open so that brain tissue could be scooped out, erasing his memory, his conscience, his ability to write sermons, and his
David Doran As a child in northern Michigan I tracked ﬁreﬂies, predicted then tried to remember each brief ﬂash. It was a way to quantify time, but this light, the immediate, the now and now and now, glowed with delicate impossibility.
Years later I learned an image must present itself for .48 of a second for the mind to register as having seen it — the measure of the present? I wonder how many ﬁreﬂies I must have missed those Midwest nights.
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for Sylvia Plath
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Mother who dripped syllables in the mouths of babes along with milk, nursing anger heightened by a quickening mind, so that even babies’ napping rendered nothing, no time to write, no time to speak or even think with no one hearing; sidelit nightly, hand scratching words to half-shadow, words whose sharded edges slit motherhood open wide and held time to a page, then grew enraged not to repeat it;
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woman, woman more myth than real except in the reading, whose tight-metered tales hostage talent to their ﬁerce beating, precise, daring to ﬂy as phantom creatures, to seek the sky and fathom pain and not be tamed — how sadly do we keep alive your name. Gulls caught in plastic canrings die: they can’t ﬂy to spread their wings over water, to seek and dive and eat their natural ﬁll of the small things that sustain them — and you, poet tangled, captured by lullabies — small giving killed you who were meant for large gifts to the world, to us who follow grieving, who would free you to scratch precious lines, unbind your tangled life to glide on widening wings.
CONFORMITY • 55
Scott Seward Smith
closest r every death. That’s the artz There is a reason foSchw is artz enforces it like an inquisitor. Schw
we get to theology in the newsroom, and eyes in his corner of the newsroom, small, dark the man I fear the most. He sits like a bear n s. He wears black T-shirts, does the Washingto darting for the slippery salmons of our error ss the now and then grunts out grammar rules acro Post crossword puzzle in six minutes, and of any what he thinks much of me. I don’t know newsroom. I admire Schw artz. I don’t think ared of places. The college newsroom never prep them think of me. This is the most inhuman the med assu artz paper. I am sure that Schw me for the soulless jealousies of this suburban recent and sloppiness he would expect from any worst of me: the ignorance and carelessness diocese. college graduate who dared transgress his for editing. It was just an old lady from Fair to The other day, I slugged an obit over him t about it after I sent it and went on to the Oaks who had died, nobody important. I forgo us and assaults that the police department faxed “Police Beat” — the list of minor burglaries ing fuck ry artz sent back a brutal diktat: “Eve and that I had to write up in journalese. Schw of e of death in your OBIT. GET me the cause death has a cause. You DID NOT put the caus death ASAP.” h. I had been on the phone with the funeral I had tried like hell to get that cause of deat her doctor. Finally I shot an IM back to home and the family of the old lady and even ed h. She was 93. Things just shut dow n. I track Schw artz: “No one know s the cause of deat If you absolutely have to have a cause, then dow n the doctor. He said she died of ‘old age.’ the hell.” It was heretical to write to Schw artz put ‘old age.’ I think it looks stupid but what care Three weeks in the newsroom, and I didn’t like that. But already I didn’t care anymore. r, journalist anymore. There was Paul, the edito if I got ﬁred. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a e polic the to ing listen , g at his commanding desk balding and fattened around the waist, sittin g goin ’t e him from the realization that he wasn scanner for some wild news that would rescu g suburban paper. Then there were all the youn any further in his career than editor of the rs edito the by ed g for stories, hoping to get notic ones, a couple years older than I, competin uate there was Beverly, not unattractive, a grad at the Washington Post across the river. Then dow n desk was right next to Paul’s. Paul sent her of the Columbia School of Journalism. Her and gas her ed rnor ’s election. The paper reimburs to Richmond ever y week to cover the gove e did sure. But the fact that ever y death had a caus motel costs. She was going somewhere, for not mean that ever y life had a reason. Schw artz. I had checked that all the “alleges” I ﬁnished “Police Beat” and slugged it off to s. with burglaries, and that there were no typo were there, that robberies were not confused e, wrot he but , He didn’t quite apologize I got a reply from Schw artz about the old lady. ys have an accurate cause of death.” “Without Papal dispensation, we should alwa ed the Pope than to call these families.” I look I wrote back, “Sometimes it’s easier to call copy four or artz sat with his cluster of three up over my computer terminal to where Schw editors bow ed around him like altar boys. g to be a smart ass, buck.” I felt that I had He wrote back immediately: “You’re too youn won a point and smiled behind my terminal.
A war hero died. The funeral home had sent who you are. They’re not gonna ﬁnd you on the street and us the announcement, as usual, and as usual, there beat you up. Get the story. That’s your only job. The story’s more important than widows’ tears. Print is forever. Damn tears were few details of his life. At least the cause of evaporate.” death was listed: cancer. The brief bio from the But the fact “I’m sorry, sir,” I said. “They obviously didn’t want to talk.” funeral home said he had been a bomber pilot that every death “Make them talk,” Paul said. “That’s what a good reporter in World War II and had worked at the Pentagon had a cause did does. Tell ‘em it’ll be on the front page. Whatever. I don’t give a before retiring. It seemed an interesting life — not mean that damn. Get it out of them.” more than that of the butcher from Herndon who I told him that in the future I would. For sure I would. had also died that day. I thought the family would every life had Later Schwartz sent me an IM: “What KIND of cancer???” I wasn’t be proud to have such a life ﬂeshed out in the obit. a reason. sure if he was joking or not. I didn’t care. I went home as soon as I I called the contact number on the announcement. could, and I bought a bottle of bourbon along the way; that’s what A woman answered. I told her I was from the good reporters did. newspaper and was writing an obituary about the deceased. I asked if I could speak to someone who The next day, I ﬁnished “Police Beat” and my obits by noon. I had lunch knew him. across the parking lot at the antiseptic diner. I ate alone, since no one had yet “I’m his widow,” she said. asked me to have lunch with them, and I didn’t feel comfortable asking them “I’m sorry,” I said. Not enough people had died in my life for my to have lunch with me. I saw Schwartz come in and get a sandwich and then condolences not to sound perfunctory. I asked a few questions about her leave. He pretended not to see me. I had a copy of the Post and was reading husband’s life. When did he enlist in the Air Force? What decorations had he its op-ed pages. I pretended that I hadn’t seen him pretending not to see me. won? “I already gave that information to the funeral parlor. They said they’d When I walked back across the parking lot, I saw the pretty girl coming over send it out to the papers. Why are you calling me?” with Kevin, the new photographer. I nodded at them and kept walking. They didn’t nod back. “We just need some additional information. I want some texture. To try to I was bored after lunch. I watched Paul dispatch his favorite reporters to give the obituary a more personal feel.” one story or another: the extradition of a carjacker from D.C. to Virginia, a gas “Personal? Texture! You didn’t know my husband. How you gonna give it a personal feel? You don’t give a damn about anything except selling your papers. leak in an Alexandria high-rise. The newsroom thinned out as the stars left to illuminate the news. I worked on the Post’s crossword. It was early in the week, We haven’t even buried him for the sake of God!” and so the crossword was easy, but I still couldn’t do it in six minutes like There was a bare pause, an electric clunk, and then a male voice came on. Schwartz. “Who is this?” “Whoa!” Paul bellowed. The few of us still left in the newsroom looked over “I’m a reporter from the Courier. I’m writing the obituary —” “Do you have no sense of shame? We’re on our way to the funeral, and you our terminals at his desk. He jumped up and was standing above his police call about a newspaper story? Does anything matter to you people except your scanner, looking around the newsroom like an owl on speed. Eventually his own little needs?” face settled into a jowly disappointment. “Shit,” he said, looking at who was “I’m sorry.” left. The typing ceased in the cubicles around me. They knew I was in trouble Then he called over. “You’re going to have to take this one,” he said. It was a and, like good journalists, wanted to see this train wreck as it happened. murder out near Fort Belvoir. A man had been shot at his house in broad daylight. The police were on the way. Then he called Kevin over. Kevin was still on his two “I mean, I’m just trying to do justice —” weeks of probation. This was a big deal for him. He was too handsome, and I “What do you know? You damn journalists are all the same. What about our right to privacy? Doesn’t that mean anything to you?” wondered how it was he’d found himself on the wrong side of the camera. “I’m just doing my job,” I said. I heard a snicker from the pretty girl in the “Here’s the address,” he said. “You two go and get the story.” cubicle behind me. We took Kevin’s car because he had some extra equipment in the trunk “Some job you got, reducing widows to tears.” that he might need. It as an old Chrysler LeBaron. We drove with the windows “I’m sorry,” I said. I felt myself ﬂushing. I could hear the pathetic cringing down; the air was cool when it blew into our faces. in my own voice, and I knew the rest of them could hear it, too. He had already “Where is this place?” Kevin said. He was from St. Louis and had only been hung up the phone. in the area a few weeks. I put the phone down and exhaled. I had a map open on my lap, and we worked towards the address. I hadn’t “Don’t worry about it,” one of the guys from the sports desk yelled over to been sent out enough to know the suburbs very well, either. We reached the me. “Obits is not forever.” For the ﬁrst time, there was a sense of camaraderie guarded gates of Fort Belvoir where the road ended. I knew enough to know in the room. we were lost. We got directions at a gas station, bought some cigarettes, and set “Did you get the cause of death?” Schwartz called from behind his out again. terminal. A few others laughed. Finally we found the house. A few squad cars were parked in front. Kevin “You’d think they’d want the story of their war hero in the papers,” I said. walked as close as he could to the porch without crossing the police tape and Paul came over and was standing above me. He wore his usual khaki pants took some pictures. “There’s still blood on the porch,” he called out to me. and his blue blazer and a shirt-and-tie combo that matched neither. “You can’t I went up to the investigator. “How did it happen?” I asked. “A guy got shot.” Cause of death, I thought, writing it down in my reporter’s let it get to you. You have to get the story. That should be the only thing that’s notebook. important to you. Who gives a damn if they scream at you? They don’t know 57
58 “Who do you think did it? Family member? Friend? Drugs involved?” I asked the investigator what I thought were normal questions. “You know we don’t release that kind of information,” he said to me, pissed off and tired. I had no idea that they didn’t release that kind of information. It was the ﬁrst time I had talked to a cop face to face, not over the phone. It was the ﬁrst time I had ever been to the scene of the crime. I smiled gamely and said, “Sure, I know. But I gotta ask those questions anyway. It’s my job.” He decided to smile. “Yeah, I know it. It’s all part of the game.” He told me, at least, that the victim had been shot three times in the chest. I talked to the neighbors, and it was a beautiful day to talk to neighbors. Cool, but with a wide sun sparkling off the leaves like they were tinsel. There were shadows and shade and a mother swinging her kids on a creaking swing to the beat of the shade. There was a saw-toothed young oriental man who lived in the house across from the murder house. He didn’t say much, but then his sister appeared behind him in the doorway holding a bowl of rice, wearing a red jumpsuit that almost matched the red polish on her toes. Her teeth were perfect and white. I thought she was pretty, smiling and talking in that lacquer box voice, rice still piled white in the motionless bowl perched on her hand. There was an old man with teeth on the left side of his bottom gums and on the right side of his upper gums — time’s joke or age’s orthodontic jigsaw. “Yeah, he had a broad an’ a coupl’a fuckin’ snakes in there. Shit I use’ta have a house around the corner; you know what a half acre costs around here? You know? No? Guess! More! Sixty-thousand? Shit! Call yourselves fuckin’ reporters, and you can’t spell Mike. M-I-K-E. Fuck. Don’t win no fuckin’ points for handwritin’, either. All right, just kiddin’. See you kids later — and hey! Go ta handwritin’ school!” The woman with the coating of Blistex on her lips and welts like grape stains around her mouth, suburbanly fatted like a Thanksgiving turkey for the ultimate roast, had been crocheting near her window when she saw the van come in. She said she saw it speeding around the corner, then she heard the sirens. “Police were lookin’ for a gun in my yard. I saw them snoopin’ around. I said, ‘Can I help you?’ They said, ‘If you can ﬁnd us a gun!’ I said, ‘I don’t wanna ﬁnd no gun!’ They stopped the shooter all right. But there wasn’t no gun in his van, which is why they were looking in my yard. She remembered that the van had been coming around for the past few years, especially back before the new houses were built, when the lots were still wooded, and the van would go into the woods, and it would be followed by fancy cars — she particularly remembered a green Jaguar. She said they drew her attention because how could all those young kids afford those fancy cars? — just like the van drew her attention when it was speeding around the corner onto Hoos Road and didn’t even stop at the stop sign. “Every time I see a car that don’t stop at that stop sign, I say, ‘Man, I wish I was a cop!’” She laughed and her grape stains jiggled and her heavy breasts jiggled like they had gotten the joke, too. “Thanks a lot ma’am. And — oh! — can we have your name?” “Did you get the story?” Kevin asked. We were on our way back. The windows were down, and Kevin was smoking. We were driving down a long, smooth triple-lane highway. I was touching up the notes I had written to make sure I’d been able to read them when I got back to the newsroom. “Pretty much,” I said. “I hope you did better than pretty much,” he said. “Paul didn’t seem too convinced about sending you out to begin with.”
“Is that how you saw it?” “Don’t get touchy. You’re new. I’m new, too. I just want to make sure we make a good impression. I’m on probation.” “If I could get past probation…” I said. “I just wish we hadn’t got there late, you know? The body was gone. I didn’t even get a picture of the body. All I got was the porch with blood on it. That’s not a front page photo.” “That tells the story, don’t it?” “No it don’t,” he said. “All it tells is we got there too late to get a real photo and to get the real story and shoot the body because the body is the real story.” “Stories aren’t real,” I said. “They’re just stories. And we got a story.” “What’s your story? The neighbor was a hot Chinese girl that you wanted to do? That snakes were involved? That a half acre near Fort Belvoir costs sixty thousand dollars these days?” He was angry. He changed lanes without looking and almost got sideswiped by a BMW coasting at great speed. He jerked back into his original lane and swore. “Cause of death,” I said. “Three bullet holes to the chest. Bang, bang, bang. And you missed the turnoff.” “Where?” “We just passed it.” “Goddamn it!” “Wait for the next one,” I said. He looked at his watch. “We won’t make it back in time. How fast can you write?” “Not faster than you can drive.” “Shit,” he said. “Don’t worry,” I said. “We won’t make it by the deadline, anyway.” “You should have told me before the exit, damn it.” “I was too busy telling you the story.” “Fuck you, we won’t make it. We’ll make it.” He put his foot on the accelerator and was swerving in and out of lanes. We would still have to double back to the earlier exit. There was no way we would make it. There was no way that Paul would hold the edition for our story. It just wasn’t much of a story. We had messed up, and it didn’t really bother me. I felt sorry for Kevin, though. He was still on probation. “If you ﬁnd a phone,” I said. “I can phone in the story.” “Screw that,” he said. “The story’s nothing without the photo.” “All you got was a porch full of blood.” “It’s better than nothing,” he said. “We’re gonna make it. This is a murder, for Christ’s sake. Paul will hold the printing for us. It’s the top story for the whole damn day. It’s a page-one story for this shit hole.” “You better look behind you,” I said. I had seen the lights. But just as I spoke, the siren went on. “Son of a bitch,” Kevin said. He slowed down to the speed limit and then moved over to the right lane and ﬁnally pulled over onto the shoulder. The cop walked slowly up to Kevin’s window and asked for his license and registration. Kevin ﬁshed for it in the glove compartment, muttering, “We’re press. We’re press, damn it. We gotta get back to the newsroom.” The cop didn’t seem to care. “Do you know how fast you were going?” he asked. “You cold have caused an accident. You could have killed someone.” Cause of death, I thought. We would have nailed that one. I put my head back against the seat rest and waited for the formalities to be done and imagine, brieﬂy, that we might have made Schwartz happy. ■
The Writers Robert Cooperman is a Colorado resident and a second year
Gerry McFarland lives with his wife, writes poetry and walks his
poetry contributor to Sanskrit.
dog, in Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood. He has a Master of Psychology Degree from Antioch University in Seattle, and after many years doing psychotherapy and human service work, he now enjoys teaching others how to be therapists and social workers.
David Doran is currently an undergraduate at Emerson College, where he is pursuing his BFA in writing literature and publishing. He is also the proud editor of one of his school’s literary magazines. In her twenties, Sara Eckel worked as an editor for a newswire service and wrote short stories during the evenings and weekends. She has been a political columnist writing about women’s issues and began to receive assignments from consumer magazines such as Glamour and Self. Currently devoting more time to ﬁction writing, she has been admitted to the Writer’s Voice Writer’s Community. A native of Long Island, Eileen Hennessy has spent her life there and in New York City. She began her professional writing career as a translator of books, chieﬂy in art history, and now specializing in translating legal and commercial documentation. She is an adjunct professor in the Translation Studies program at NYU, but a poet ﬁrst and foremost.
Marc Elihu Hofstadter has a Ph. D. in Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz and has taught American literature at Santa Cruz, the Université d’Orléans (on a Fulbright lectureship), and Tel Aviv University. He has a Master’s degree in librarianship and is the librarian of the City of San Francisco’s transit agency.
Brenda Howald has worked as a social worker, a modern dancer, an arts administrator, and a teacher of English as a Second Language. Her work has appeared in The Seattle Weekly, The Written Arts, Carquinez Poetry Review, The Wisconsin Review and Phoebe: A Journal of Gender and Cultural Critiques. New work is forthcoming in Epiphanies and Eureka Literary Magazine.
Jean Howard resided in Chicago from 1979 to 1999. Featured on network and public television and radio, she has combined her poetry with theater, art, dance, video, and photography. She has been organizing the annual National Poetry Video Festival since 1992, with her own award-winning video poems, airing on PBS, cable TV and festivals around the nation. Marcia L. Hurlow has published three chapbooks; her latest, A Tree Ogham, won the 2001 Nova House Press prize. She recently received the Kentucky Arts Council fellowship for poetry.
Peggy Messerschmidt grew up and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her musician husband and 13-year-old son. She has taught English for 25 years, the last 13 at Mission College where she is the English Department chairperson. She enjoys the out-of-doors, especially mountains and rivers. She also enjoys gardening and, of course, writing.
Alice Pero has won two poetry prizes from the National League of American Pen Women and an award from the California State Poetry Society. Her ﬁrst book of poetry, Thawed Stars, was published in 1999. Born in Texas, Colleen Powderly lived in Louisiana before moving to Rochester with her family when she was 12. She received a Master of Arts degree in English in 1996. She decided to upgrade her computer skills by completing a degree in Computer Science in 2001, just in time for the current recession. She now works intensively with chemically addicted women. Her work reﬂects her childhood in the deep South and her time in the Midwest.
Helen M. Raﬀerty was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in Media and Communications and worked in production for public television. She is currently a student in the Sarah Lawrence College writing program. Judi A. Rypma is not sure she has “a life.” Mostly she enjoys being a “deck potato,” doing nothing but watching corn grow. Her most recent publications include poetry in Nimrod, The Amherst Review, Poetry International and others. Her chapbook, Holy Rocks, was published by Finishing Line Press. Michelle Salater is a grant writer for a grassroots art organization in St. Louis and a volunteer writing instructor for an inner-city school. She is the former editor in chief of the newsletter, Missouri Fox and a member of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Her work has appeared in International Living, Transitions Abroad, I Love Cats, and Missouri Life.
University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has always been obsessed with language, and he has been writing since his undergraduate days. His ﬁrst book of poetry, Marginal Notes, was published in 2001.
Although Joshua Sapan works as the CEO of a media company that operates cable channels like American Movie Classics, The Independent Film Channel and others, he has been a lifelong writer of poetry.
Currently, Tim Kahl teaches at Sacramento City College. He is also working on translations of German poets Rolf Haufs and Christoph Meckel, and Austrian avant-gardist, Friederike Mayröcker’s most recent book, Das besessene Alter (The Possessed Senior Citizen) as well as a collection of contemporary Brazilian poetry.
Glenn Shaheen reads poetry by the ﬁstful. After teaching seventh grade Language Arts for a year, which did not sit well with his stomach, he is now reenrolled in school, with the ultimate goal of cutting up dead bodies for a living.
Frank Jamison has a Master’s degree in Mathematics from the
Scott Seward Smith was born in Boston and grew up in Tanzania, Nepal, Switzerland and France. He works at the United Nations where he is a specialist on Afghanistan and electoral issues. He has been published in Crisis Magazine, The New York Press, Accord: Journal of Conﬂict Resolution, and The Journal of International Affairs.
Constance Studer graduated from Toledo Hospital School of Nursing with a diploma in nursing and worked in Intensive Care-Coronary Care and then as a hospital
supervisor. She earned a BA in English Literature from Illinois College, Jacksonville, Illinois, and a MA in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her book of narrative poems, Prayer To A Purple God, was published by Mellen Poetry Press and a short story, “Mercy,” has recently been published in the anthology, Intensive Care.
Frances Sutz studied ﬁction writing at the University of California, Davis. As a freelance writer she has written pieces about food and restaurants for the Chicago Tribune and Sacramento Magazine. She is now a principal of Cicada Communications and for the past several years has participated in an ongoing writers’ group workshop facilitated by novelist Sands Hall.
The Artists Steven Beck will be graduating in May 2005 with a BFA in Illustration and a minor in Art History from UNC Charlotte. He hopes to start a gallery after he graduates to highlight high school and college artists. Melita Betler is a senior at UNC Charlotte pursuing a BFA in Art with a concentration in Time Arts/Photography and a minor in Art History. Known by her classmates as the girl who lives in Rowe Arts building and never sleeps, she is obsessed with learning about everything. A vegetarian, idealist, wannabe environmentalist and world traveler, Melita would like to change the world but ends up reading about it instead. Brandon Boan is a Ceramics BFA student at UNC Charlotte. He tries to create some kind of ambiguous carcass type form that contains information about his personal body of experience. He vicariously lives through the things that he creates by letting them act as an interpreter for the unknown. He serendipitously lets his work take his personal experience and give it form. This allows him to investigate his work and interpret himself. In his work he hopes the viewer will ﬁlter abstract information and interpret each piece based on their personal experiences.
Luke Bumgarner is a junior at UNC Charlotte going for a BFA concentration in photography. To see and to see through a lens are completely different. Jeremy J. Chapman is a complex man. He spent many years underwater trying to ﬁnd his truth. He feels like an old man as he sculpts away. His claim to fame is brushing his teeth twice a day. He wonders if he will ever go back to Hawaii.
April Copeland was born in Edenton, NC. She is currently a senior at UNC Charlotte. Her major is Photography with a minor in Art History. Photography gives her the freedom to capture many different points in time, and is an extension of her eyes and hands.
Janelle M. Geaber is a junior at UNC Charlotte, pursuing a BFA in Time Arts/Photography and a BS in Marketing/Advertising. As an active student on campus, she continues to get involved in Leadership, Business, and Art organizations, along with striving for excellent grades. Upon graduation, May 2007, she hopes to continue her endeavors with her love for photography. Sarah V. Leonard graduated in 2002 from East Davidson High School in Thomasville, NC, where she took art classes under the instruction of Dixie Blackwell. She is currently a UNC Charlotte Art major/Art History minor concentrating in Illustration. Felecia Robinson is an artist and musician trying to make it in the grimy world we live in. She is determined to keep herself undiluted through confrontation with all things that challenge truth and freedom. Jennifer W. Thomas is currently completing her BFA in Painting at UNC Charlotte. Her work ranges from ﬁgurative and semi-representational to purely abstract, with a demonstration of skill and willingness to experiment using a variety of traditional and unconventional media. She uses rich color and wide ranges of value and texture to create unique compositions on paper and hand stretched canvas. Bryan Wood settled temporarily in Charlotte, North Carolina to ﬁnish a BFA in Graphic Design and Time Arts/Photography with a minor in Art History. His content ranges from broad feminist issues to minute details in nature. The discovery turned him from a scientist.
The Lit Jury Lucinda Grey teaches writing at UNC Charlotte where she coedited Southern Poetry Review for several years. She has won writer’s residencies in La Napoule, France, Mojacar, Spain and Patzcuaro, Mexico where much of her work was conceived. She has published three chapbooks and her book, The Woman Who Has Eaten the Moon, was published in September 2004 by Wind Publications in Kentucky.
Glenn Hutchinson is a lecturer in the English Department at UNC Charlotte, specializing in Rhetoric and Composition with particular emphasis upon service learning and the teaching of writing. His other interests include creative writing/drama and American literature. His chapbook, Nudists Invade Charlotte, was recently published. Barbara Presnell has an MFA in creative writing from UNC Greensboro. She is the author of three books of poetry. In 2004, she won the Linda Flowers Prize from the NC Humanities Council for her suite of poems, “Sherry’s Prayer.”
The Art Jury
David B. Brodeur is an Assistant Professor of Art at UNC Charlotte. He teaches classes in Graphic Design and is a practicing studio artist. He received his MFA degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May 2000.
Keith Bryant joined the faculty at UNC Charlotte in 2000 as a lecturer. Previous teaching experience includes Central Piedmont Community College and the University of South Carolina at Columbia. He received his BFA from Colorado State University and his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art. His ceramic sculptures have been exhibited both nationally and locally.
Myra Perry enjoys writing along with her students in order to discover one’s true self through reading about lives, thoughts and ideas of others. And in the process, gaining wisdom, clarifying values and reﬁning characters. She believes in “active,” experiential writing — doing something worth writing about! Not merely being a sedentary activist, but an engaged participant in life, thereby contributing through both deed and words. Kimberleigh Stallings is a lecturer in the UNC Charlotte English Department. She is the author of more than 68 published poems, a chapbook entitled In the Company of Flesh and Blood, and two textbooks. She enjoys fresh raspberries, the music of Angelo Badalamenti, science ﬁction, and long walks in the rain. She is not now — nor has she ever been — on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Julie Townsend is a full-time lecturer in the UNC Charlotte English Department. She is a published short story writer, repeat juror for Sanskrit, and hoping to get her novel placed.
LouAnn Lamb is a 1990 graduate of UNC Charlotte. While a non-traditional student undergrad, she worked as a writer and editor in Student Media, which opened the door for a position in the ﬁeld of promotional advertising for the late marketing/advertising genius Mac Fletcher. She has been blissfully employed by her Alma Mater since 2000 as Coordinator for Marketing and Graphics, Student Life, and Coordinator for Graphics and Production, Student Media. LouAnn continues to freelance for corporate and non-proﬁt clients and provides peer support and advocacy for families faced with the challenge of childhood-onset bipolar disorder.
Frances Hawthorne graduated from UNC Charlotte in 1988 with Anat Pollack is an Assistant Professor of Art at UNC Charlotte. She degrees in Art and Psychology. She obtained her MFA from Winthrop University in 1993 and has been a faculty member at UNC Charlotte since then. For the past several years her focus has been on art activism and on public art projects. She works regularly with Charlotte’s homeless population through the ARTWORKS 945 program at Urban Ministries.
Kristin Kaineg is a lecturer in the Department of Art at UNC Charlotte. She obtained her MFA in Visual Design from Tyler School of Art in May 2004. Her design career began at National Public Radio in Washington DC. Since then she has worked for both small and medium size design companies and has maintained her own freelance business. Her work includes corporate identity, posters, brochures, packaging, web and interactive design.
is an installation and new media artist with an interest in interactivity and engagement for her audience. Anat studied at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Washington, and Indiana University.
Kristin Rothrock received a BS in studio art from Skidmore College and an MFA in printmaking from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a Foundations lecturer at UNC Charlotte and has been teaching for nine years.
The Student Reader Group Pete Hurdle is a ﬁlm fanatic and a music maniac who shufﬂes time between class and works as Creative Director at UNC Charlotte’s Student Media. When it comes to reading, it’s political news, satire, instruction manuals and how-to-guides, but is also known for reading a good share of Hollywood fanfare and useless fact. Emily Simpson is a junior at UNC Charlotte working towards a Mass Communication major and Journalism minor. She prefers beat writing over textbooks, and has a guilty pleasure for Harry Potter
books. She currently works as Marketing Director for Student Media marketing, and has plans to work in the print industry upon graduation.
Marcia Hooks is a student at UNC Charlotte. After she completes the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, she plans to teach students ranging from kindergarten to high school. In addition to her classes, Marcia works as a copy editor for The University Times. 61
Special Thanks… ���� ��� ���
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Wayne Maikranz • Thank you for your guidance. We are grateful for the opportunity to express ourselves through the making of this magazine.
Mark Haire • Thank you for keeping everything running smoothly. You should keep those papers we sign for our paychecks because someday, our signatures might be worth something. ����� ��� � �� �� ��� ��
LouAnn Lamb • No one else has limitless inspirational materials to supplement all of our ideas, or tells stories, quite like you. You deﬁnitely are the queen of… everything.
Kevin Snook • Thank you to the man who keeps the computers working properly (or as close to normal as possible.) We don’t think we would have been able to make one page of this magazine without your technology-savvy mind, or simply your presence. We will miss your wanderings into our ofﬁce just to say hello, or even to poke fun at us a little. We wish you all the best of luck, and may just steal you back. ����� �� �� ��
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Kelly Lusco • Thank you for your constant enthusiasm… at least we think it’s enthusiasm… we’re not exactly sure what you’re saying… is it Cantonese?
Pete Hurdle • You know we can’t work without music and you made sure we were listening to something good. Thanks for keeping us supplied with mix cds. Marc Bess • Our ofﬁce door is always open, and we would like to thank you for taking advantage of that. Your spontaneous, witty and just plain odd comments are always there to spice up our day. ����� ���
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The Jurors • We could never narrow the submissions down this much without your help. We sincerely appreciate the time you put into the decision making process.
The Contributors • We’d like to thank the talented writers and artists for the content that makes this publication great. Please keep submitting!
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Editor in Chief Michael Kerr is a sophomore at UNC Charlotte pursuing his degree in art. He enjoys laughing at everything, especially himself. He is a painfully typical art student, taking great pleasure in almost all literature, art, ﬁlm, music, and philosophical inquiries. He is not yet sure how to get the ideas out of his head and into some practical form, but eagerly antipates the day when he can. If the answers to life’s questions can be found in movies, Associate Editor Denise Anetrella needs to watch more movies. Graphic design remains her passion though she questions herself daily. However, the little things in life provide her with the most happiness. Without them… she truly would go crazy.
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With the wind in her hair and a cocktail in her hand, Lead Designer Lindsey Greenwald loves to think in purple and insists that no one rain on her parade. She is a senior attempting to obtain a BFA in Graphic Design without pulling every strand of hair out of her head. But beyond all the stress that the design world enforces on her, she has truly enjoyed her two years at Sanskrit and will treasure the experience always.
Designer Samantha Webster loves life, and by life she means art, fashion and music. Oh, and those people she is always with that forced her back into wanting to be an art major. Little known fact: “Tiny Dancer” was written about her, even though it was fifteen years before she was born.
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Assistant Promotions Coordinator Kathryn Lord is a sophomore who enjoys reading, knitting, napping, and dating. She is in way too many campus organizations, yet still manages to read her 400-page romance novels in 6 hours. She’s an Elementary Education major with a minor in Spanish, and she looks forward to spending the Fall ‘05 semester in Spain.
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Small and strange might be a good way to describe Content Coordinator Courtney Smith. In what free time she manages to salvage between sleeping and eating she is attempting to earn a Master’s degree in elementary education with a minor in art. Her major job in Sanskrit is to show up in the ofﬁce and tell ridiculous stories. Bright colours, good music and boys make her quite happy.
Promotions Coordinator Kim Powell may be the shortest member of the Sanskrit Staff, but she is definitely the loudest. She loves talking and that is what makes her pefect for the job. It comes naturally that she is pursuing a major in Communincations and for the sake of conformity, a minor in Art History.
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Designer David Hill ﬁnds some jobs so gripping that, no matter how hard he tries, he simply cannot go away. Working on the ﬁrst of two senior years in the BFA program, he hopes to enter the ﬁeld of graphic design with such gusto that no potential employer can say “no.”
64 Copyright © 2005 Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine and the Student Media Board of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Do not consume while drinking. Alcohol may intensify effect.
Printed by Belk Printing, Pineville, North Carolina. 3000 copies of Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine were printed on 100 lb. Utopia One. Cover stock is 80 lb. Via Vellum Black. The magazine contains 64 pages with a trim size of 9 by 12 inches.
Produced on Power Macintosh G4 computers running OS X version 10.3, using a Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED, Epson Perfection 3200 Photo and Epson Perfection 1200 scanners, Adobe InDesign CS, Adobe Photoshop CS and Adobe Illustrator CS.
ING may cause dizz ines s, drowsine Type is 10 point Minion. Titles are 30 point Neutra Text Demi. Other fonts used: Apple Garamond, Acoustic Bass, Berkeley, Cochin, ss, ag itation, yawning, headache, nausea , di arrhea Futura Bold, Helvetica Neue Bold, Helvetica Neue Regular, Myriad Pro Bold, Neutra Text Book Alt, Neutra Text Bold, Neutra Text Bold Alt, , vo m iti ng ,w w ea kn es s, de crea eight gain, se d se x dr iv e, ur in ar Neutra Text Demi Alt, Neutra Text Demi SC Alt, Poloroid 22, Rockwell, Schmutz and Selfish. blurred vision, cons y re te nt io n, tipation, sedation, ery. atta insomnia, heart Use caution while operating heavy machin ck, stroke, bleeding Cover and Title Page designed by Michael Kerr. Table of Contents of th e es op ho gus, impotence, eye twitching, and sudden death. and Editor’s Note designed by Michael Kerr and Lindsey Greenwald. Illustrations for Sunburn by David Hill with the assistance of Lindsey Greenwald. Illustrations for A Day in the Life… by Michael Kerr and Samantha Webster with the assistance of Lindsey Greenwald. Illustrations for Henry by Samantha Webster with the assistance of Lindsey Greenwald. Illustrations for A Beautiful Day, Holy Socks and Cops and Obits by Lindsey Greenwald. Art pages designed by Michael Kerr, Lindsey Greenwald, Denise Anetrella, and David Hill. Poetry pages designed by Michael Kerr, Lindsey Greenwald, and Denise Anetrella. Illustrations for colophon by Lindsey Greenwald.
ING may cause dN izziness, drow siness, agitati headache, na on, yawning, usea, diarrhe a, vomiting, w weakness, d eight gain, e c re a s e d s e x d ri v e , u ri n a blurred vision ry re te n ti o n , , constipation , sedation, inso attack, stroke mnia, heart , bleeding of th e esophogus, eye twitching impotenc , SH anO d UL suD dd enTA BE dKE eaN thW . ITH PLENTY OF e,
Sources: American Psychiatric Association. Quick Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000. Balling, Rich, ed. Revolution on Canvas. Canada: Ad Astra Books, 2002. Buckley, Horace M. et al. Happy Times. Phillippin Islands: American Book Co., 1938. 1, 20-21, 24, 43. DOoULno coTAns D tBE Byrne, Robert. The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said. New York; Galahad Books, 1996. SH KEum N WeITw Hhi PLle ENdTrin Y OkiFng. Alcohol may intens Morre, Lillian. Everything Happens to Stuey. New York: Random House, 1960. 4, 34. ify effect. NGed. All-American Ads: 50s. Italy: Taschan, 2003. 1, ,3, 21, 26, 63, 74-77, 83, 91, 94-96, 98-99, 103-104, 109, 111, ARNIJim, WHeimann, ing yawn n, tio ita ag , ss ine ws dro s, es 157, 166, 172. dizzin143, may cause125-126, vomiting, weight gain, diarrhea, Ads: ea us he, na Jim, ed., All-American 60s. Italy: Taschan. 2003. 1, 3, 19, 22, 46, 49, 70, 90, 93, 97, 101, 119, 123-125, 131, 138, headacHeimann, , ur ina ry ret en tio n, ive dr x se ed as cre de , ss we ak ne 144-146, 152-153, 180. omnia, heart tion, ins sedaFuturistic on, Vintage tipati coed.nsFuture vision,Jim, Perfect: Graphics. Italy: Taschan, 2002. 17, 45, 51. blurredHeimann, s, impotence, gu ho op es the of ing ed ble e, Benjamin. The Tao of Pooh. USA: Penguin Books, 1982. strok attack,Hoff, . Do not consum death dden The su d an Houghton Mifﬂ in Company. American Heritage College Dictionary g, hin eye twitc e while drinkin g. A 3rd ed. USA: Houghtifﬂin Co., 2000. lc o h o lm Use caution whi aop y er inte n s le if y ating hee ffyecmt.achinery Lewis, L.W. Why Do Flies Eat Doggy Poop? USA: Red Pumpkin Press, 2001. av . Palahnuik, Chuck. Lullaby. New York: Random House, 2002. Peck, M. Scott. People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. New York: Touchstone, 1983. Shapp, Martha and Charles. Let’s Find Out About Fireman. New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1962. 5, 27, 39. Simon, Lizzie. Detour: My Bipolar Road Trip in 4-D. New York: ENTY OF SHOULD BE TAKEN WITH PL Atria 2002. UseBooks, cauti on while ope rating17hFeb “Tickle’s Original Ink Blot Test.” 1999-2005. eav2005 y machinery <http://web.tickle.com/tests/inkblot/?sid=2005&supp=search_ . inkblot&test=inkblotogt>.
. Do not consume while drinking Alcohol may intensify effect.
Published on Dec 10, 2010
Published on Dec 10, 2010
Sanskrit is UNC Charlotte's nationally recognized, award winning literary-arts magazine. It is published once a year, in April. Sanskrit is...