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S A NTA C L A R A R E V I E W V O L U M E 10 4 // I S S U E 0 2
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF HENRY STRICKLAND ASSOCIATE EDITOR LAUREN BETSCHART POETRY EDITOR SHELLEY VALDEZ NONFICTION EDITOR GIANNINA ONG WEBMASTER RHIANNON JANESCHILD
PRODUCTION EDITOR MIMI NAJMABADI ART EDITOR STEPHEN HUA FICTION EDITOR SCHUYLER CRILLEY OWL EDITOR RILEY MCSHANE
MARKETING DIRECTOR KEVIN BRESCHINI ASSISTANT EDITORS Lindsey Mandell Derek Feldman Diviana Navarro Jackie Rogers Leilan Nishi Cindy Stella Leah Senatro Maddie Wilcox EDITORIAL BOARD Ethan Beberness Jason Lalonde Nicholas Cabrera Lindsey Mandell Derek Feldman Sean McCarthy Alyssa Feldsine Riley O’Connell Letitia Ferraro Ally O’Connor Jimmy Flynn Austin Quinn Mary Fredericksen Allen Riddle Konnor Harada Matt Robinson Lee Harrold Tracy Ronquillo Darrell Hubbard Leah Senatro Colin Skaggs faculty advisor
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TA B L E O F CO N T E N T S NONFICTION
DEVIN KELLY / MR. PREWITT 2 GILLIAN HAINES / THE TENDERNESS OF PRISON 8 JOHN BALLANTINE / THEY NEVER TOLD ME 23 NATALIE BENRUBI / M-QUISITION 26 MADELINE NGUYEN / IN HOT WATER 29 STEVE SUSOYEV / SWORDPLAY 47
DEVIN KELLY / THE LONG SLEEP 4 DEVIN KELLY / THE TRAVELERS 5 HANNAH JANSEN / MOON JELLIES 7 JIMMY FLYNN / YOU TELL ME 25
KATE ASCHE / VASOVAGAL SYNCOPE 32 SAGE CURTIS / STEP FOUR 33 MILES LAGUNAS / TRUNCATION 34 CA CONRAD / FROM MOUNT MONADNOCK TRANSMISSIONS 35 CAMERON CHASE / PARACLAUSITHYRON 43 RILEY Oâ€™CONNELL / TERMINAL 55
AIDAN MAHONEY / THE LIVING ROOM 56 DOMINIC TRAN / DUST LIGHT 57 JAMES CROAL JACKSON / WORK 64
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BEN MILLER / MR. SIMON 65 KELLEY DONG / NIGHT FISHING 77 KAREN SNOWDEN / PICKLES AND GRIEF 80
JACK READY / MAN #1 18 LYDIA SAMUEL / BLACK GIRL MAGIC 19 MASSIEL RIVERA / RANI’S MOON 20 JACK READY / JERRY 21 AMER KOBASLIJA / JANITOR’S CLOSET 38 AMER KOBASLIJA / THE ART OF PAINTING 39 AMER KOBASLIJA / SMOKING 40 MADISON BLESSINGTON / UNTITLED (2016) 41 MICHAEL HOWER / ALVIRA 5 60 MICHAEL HOWER / LOCK RIDGE 61 SANDEEP KUMAR / SHIPWRECKS 62 ANGELINA MARIONI / WHEN AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, TAKE MORE PHOTOS 63 ALLEN FORREST / GESTURE 2 84 DEBORAH DENDLER / FORSYTHIA 85 LAUREN ITO / PRICKLED FRAME 86 LAUREN ITO / LUCIA DE LAGO 87
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EDITORâ€™S NOTE HENRY STRICKLAND volume 104 // issue 02
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TO THE READER, I’ve decided to become a philosophy major. I left the business school behind to pursue this degree in part because I enjoy stacking the odds of finding a job after college even higher against me. Also, I really missed learning about all the bitter old men who have argued with each other about the meaning of life from one era to the next. While my resume and LinkedIn profile may be worse off without a business degree, I know I’ve made the right choice because of one simple, profound change: learning is exciting again. I love discovering how each great thinker tackles daunting existential questions and attempts to unravel the mysteries of human thought. Having served as Editor of this magazine for a year, I’ve found that writers and artists share a similar pursuit with an equal degree of zeal. These creators strive to unearth and understand the intricacies of the human experience, though with a much shorter word count than the likes of Kant or Marx. In a society which doesn’t adequately value the arts with its time or money, they nevertheless believe that art is worth making and dedicate themselves to sharing it with you. As a collegiate literary magazine, we strive to publish both working professionals and our fellow students. Consequently, the latter must prove themselves truly exceptional in their craft to be considered for publication. Our editorial board was taken aback by the abundance of excellent student submissions we received for this issue, and we are thrilled to feature a wealth of art and literature from SCU students in every genre. From Natalie Benrubi and Madeline Nguyen’s provocative flash nonfiction to Jimmy Flynn’s cynically sappy love poem, these student works demonstrate the creative prowess of our peers.
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This issue begins with a collection of nonfiction and poetry by Devin Kelly, a member of the Class of 2017 who passed away earlier this year. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to share his literary talent with you. Art and literature without an audience is like a crepe without Nutella, deprived of meaning and wholly unsatisfying. On behalf of our editors and contributors, thank you for your readership, for believing that the arts can enrich our lives, and for giving our work its purpose.
Corrections: In our previous issue we neglected to publish the contributors’ notes of Kai Hirota and Scott Shaffer. We sincerely apologize to both contributors for this error, and have placed their contributors’ notes in this issue. Kai Hirota’s photograph Rise and Shine and Scott Shaffer’s ceramic piece Rising from the Ashes and Ezekiel’s Wheel can both be found in Volume 104 Issue 1 of the Review.
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DEVIN KELLY in memoriam 1995-2017
Devin was a writer, poet, musician, and artist. His friends will state that he was a philosopher, existentialist and deep listener. Devin worked closely with the great American author, Ray Bradbury, for six years on a 94-minute documentary film, “Live Forever,” which will be released in 2018. Devin wrote songs, beautiful music, and profound and very deep poetry. The British actor, Malcolm McDowell, read Devin’s poetry at his memorial on April 8, 2017. Devin worked closely with Malcolm, Edward James Olmos, Joe Mantegna, and Roy Disney on the Bradbury film. Devin was quiet about his work and was somewhat overlooked during his schooling, but his friends, family, and many arts professionals have been massively affected by his output and his lyrical literature and ideas. We plan to publish a book presenting his large body of work. -Michael Kelly and Giselle Tryon
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DEVIN KELLY nonfiction
I had a history teacher in high school who’d never seen a cloudy day. And by that I mean Chris Prewitt never perceived one to be that way. He’d say, That’s alright buddy, you can turn it in next week. Just make sure you know it by our test next Wednesday. And you’d say, Thank you, in a subdued voice, not because you were ashamed, but because he’d inspired you and you didn’t ask for it. He was partially deaf, so he spoke quite strangely, like his tongue was forever caught by some creature hiding behind his teeth. But no one ever laughed or commented. We couldn’t take back our respect, or our gratitude. Somehow he smiled every day, an action he couldn’t seem to control. His mouth would stretch, as if the amount of things to appreciate overwhelmed him. He valued his students, the ones praised by newspapers, and the ones overlooked by the politics of adults. You could tell by how he was patient with them, how he never hurried to get home. He never abandoned them, nor did he simply enable them. When he gave someone a second chance, they took it, and followed through like they never had. In the morning, he’d scan the room from his podium, looking awake without caffeine, inspired without our inspiration. And when he looked at you, I mean really looked at you for everything you were, it was as if he knew you hadn’t made the soccer team, or that dad hadn’t come home again, that mom had lost her job. He would try to console you with this look, filled with just the right amount of compassion to avoid embarrassing you. On Mondays at 8AM, he’d take in our bored faces, his head high,
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hair poised, his eyes and mouth eager, ready for the futility, knowing that something he said would sink in, eventually. He’d watch as Richie would look for the homework he didn’t do, and overlook Trevor who’d tap my shoulder asking for the answers he’d forgot to write down. Jake would drop his pimple scarred chin into his chest to catch a few minutes of sleep before I’d wake him. In the corner by the door, Stevie would tell Richie where he was gonna smoke after school, then give Gabby a hard time about her cleavage, shooting paper through the rim of her tank top. He’d start his lesson, and never relent in his efforts to uncover whatever curiosity we may have had about post World War One negotiations, or Hoover’s New Deal. Martin would stroll through the door in the middle of Mr. Prewitt’s slide on Japanese internment, fifteen minutes late. Good morning Martin, welcome to class, he’d say. Sorry Mr. Prewitt, lots of traffic. Martin would say for the hundredth time. Just open your book to page 147 and we’ll pick right up again buddy. Mr Prewitt would answer, his voice like a melody. As the class would saunter through the door, drawn by the bell, he’d stay standing, ready for questions about the lesson, about himself, about yourself. I’d ask him about playing water polo and planting trees, and when I began to leave he’d tell me I was doing good work this semester. I’d say, Thank you, and before I’d leave he’d say, Make it a great day. Two years later we passed each other in the hallway. I hadn’t talked to him since our class together had ended, so I was expecting to stay our paths with nothing more than a smile. But, he remembered my name. Turning around and slowly walking backwards he asked me if I was ready for college, and I said I wasn’t sure, but that I was excited. He wished me luck, and I couldn’t help but feel lucky about something, like he’d taken a bit of his luck and willed it into my body. The next year while I was at college a friend told me that Mr. Prewitt had been killed by a drugged out driver as he was jogging home. You never know how to respond to these things at first, so you wait until it’s quiet, when your homework is done and the people that mattered begin to waft across your eyes, previously hidden by the distractions of life. It’s then that you grieve for him, for all the memories that have slipped away over the years. At the trial his wife forgave the killer, and so did his sister, both confident that that is what Chris would have done. Given some of his forgiveness to her, so she could forgive herself. Maybe there is only so much one can give.
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THE LONG SLEEP
DEVIN KELLY poetry
Five words is all it takes To shatter the fragile glass silence, To dislocate sweetness from an unspoiled second. Five seconds is all it takes To push you halfway across the universe Drifting in between stars, departing. Five minutes is all it takes For you to erase a face from your memory, To make someone, everyone, no one. Five hours is all it takes To be left standing by a bus stop, Your small footprints fading in the wind. Five days is all it takes To forget who I am, where Iâ€™m going, After your fingers have slipped from mine in the night. Five weeks is all it takes To notice an empty space in my mouth, The gaps between my toes, a blind spot in my vision, a nakedness. Five months is all it takes To uproot your soft limbs, your lithe body, From my mind, and then to plant them again, and again. Five years is all it takes To discover that one doesnâ€™t need to give All the heart, all of the lungs, to give all of their love. Five words is all it took To wake screaming from a long sleep.
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THE TRAVELERS DEVIN KELLY poetry
An old man’s dreams spill out the bus window, as he rests his head against the glass. I can’t tell if they’re dreams of day or night, as he wears glasses to hide the truth beneath. The silent girl tucks her legs in staring at the rain. Her lips settle, red curves that could cut me in two, could seduce me to the slaughter. They speak novels, yet her mood is a straight line, and she never looks my way. One of us must be a ghost, and I believe it’s me. Behind the insect-strewn windshield graveyard the driver throws his life down the road. He talks of a place in Texas, a home, where things don’t pass him by so quickly. Yesterday, he says, a man wearing the colors of weeds and wet soil asked him for money, and that he asked him to reconsider. As the clouds cluster together like groups of students leaving school for home, the Spaniard rests with his guitar. Slick oil hair dangling, pale face still, I wonder if he’s one of the deceased who waits to play in Paso Robles to revive himself. Men wander, rusting with the train yard, the houses rot on their stilts. The gangster wonders what he’ll do once there’s nothing’s left in King City to raid from the rich and pawn to the poor.
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Human decay, social decay, self-wreckage, mounds of sand and tarp-covered machines, metal yards hold unimportant treasures, and the cowboy struts in his black coat by the railway. Empty billboards and graffitied walls line his way. His bloodshot eyes pierce the dark as he stumbles south. The chain-linked fence holds purple blossoms, and behind, the houses’ curtains are closed. They don’t want the world. The farm tracks sit as human trails, abandoned to see out the corners of eyes. Avocados for 8 dollars, garlic ice cream off the next exit. The rain drops quiver on the windshield like puddles disturbed by trampling feet. A tractor shreds a cloud of dust like a rocket breaking through the atmosphere. The girl staring at the rain is beautiful, she shifts like she needs to get somewhere, taps her foot to the rhythm of her music. I’d like to say something to her, comment on the way she breathes, on how she looks at the rain. But once we step off the bus she vanishes before I can say hello.
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HANNAH JANSEN poetry
Who was the first? Who was the first to slip the bell of a jelly down another girl’s back? Darting across the sand, scouting land for the enemy, naked except our bathing suits, which flashed in the sun and the dash. We squelched the things in each others hair— boneless and brainless— watched them ooze like eggs. We felt bad for what we did, but we did it all the same. We loved the terrible feeling of a jelly on the neck. Loved the lung-less creatures, then sent them to their death. When I see them now—glowing, veins drawing lines in the dark— their fragility hurts me, the way the sea astounds me with its mercy— waves cradling their bodies— and something moves in the depths of me—in me, but far away.
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THE TENDERNESS OF PRISON
GILLIAN HAINES nonfiction
Dr. Merkel’s dark pantsuit was two sizes too large, but she was slender and beautiful, probably a disadvantage in a maximum-security prison that specialized in sex-offenders. She directed a program designed to change criminal mindsets. Her charges, all volunteers, lived in a dedicated cell-block where they devoted their days to group therapy, journaling in workbooks, and quiet self-reflection. Outside that dedicated cell-block, other prisoners called it the snitch program. Because, in seeking a paradigm shift in their thinking and behavior, program participants confronted each other whenever they exhibited old habits. Dr. Merkel walked to the front of that white cement-block room on Wilmot Street, deep in the heart of a prison surrounded by desert. With her every step, a long chain of enormous keys slapped, jingling, against her thigh. While she gathered her notes, I looked around at my twelve companions. We were volunteers for an organization that provides human contact for federal prisoners who request visits. Grey-haired and middleaged, we included a computer scientist, a chemist, a writer, a pilot, and a home-health aide. One of us had volunteered in prison for sixteen years; most of us, including me, for half that, but a few were brand new. We had requested a tour of the prison to better understand inmates’ lives. Because we hoped to help them maintain some tenderness for when they got out. The warden agreed to our request because our visits made inmates happy and happy prisoners behave themselves. On the appointed day, wearing florals, tinkling silver bracelets, Madras checks, and strappy sandals, we skirted the dirt recreation yard in the center of the prison, smiling and nodding through the cyclone fence at inmates dressed in khaki. Gaudy parrots beside caged brown sparrows. A guard led us to a cell. Two-by-two, we squeezed inside to peer at the stainless-steel toilet, with no seat, a stride from two metal bedshelves bolted to the wall. Our request to see the showers was ignored. Instead, the guard escorted us to a library no larger than a suburban kid’s bedroom, and then to Dr. Merkel’s Challenge Program. On our way in, a metal door clanged. There were no windows. SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 8
No air, either, and I sucked in a breath, fighting panic. Although I spent my every fourth Saturday in prison, I’d never got used to those looming cinder-block walls. Dr. Merkel cleared her throat and I sat straighter, looking forward to her presentation. With every eye trained on her, she opened a white ring-binder file and held up a penciled sketch. “I want you to know the kind of men you are visiting.” A strand of long blond hair fell across her face and I wondered what it was like to work in a prison. Statistically, every officer is attacked and beaten, not once but twice during their career. With their guard set to a hair’s trigger, it would be hard to resist a corrosive suspicion, hard not to lump inmates together and see them as the enemy. My respect for her deepened. Her nails were cherry red and I wondered if she painted them for the same reason that I washed my hair with apple-scented shampoo on the days I went to prison. To bring life into a place where men’s senses were starved. Curious to see the picture she held, I peered through the shoulders of the people sitting in the front row. The drawing was small. I had to squint. Slowly, the crisp lead-penciled lines, the soft graphite shading, and the bright shapes drew into focus. I took in a living room so lovingly rendered, I could almost smell the pot of beans simmering on the wood stove. There were pictures on the walls. A woman sat among plump pillows on an upholstered love seat. Beside her, a little boy looked strangely hunched. I jerked back, my stomach lurching. It wasn’t the image of the woman breastfeeding a baby. It was the little boy. He was so small that his air-bound feet stuck out a foot above the floor as he rubbed his erect penis. Thirteen civilians inhaled sharply then silently swallowed their disgust. Not responding to our reaction and with her face bland, Dr. Merkel turned another page in the ring-binder file. “All these pictures were confiscated from inmates.” The crayoned lines of the kneeling man in the next image were rough and hurriedly made. But there was an uncanny power to the man’s skinny elbows as he spread little-boy legs. Smack in the center of the page, that thin man’s mouth sucked a tiny penis. I felt sick, I could barely breathe. I wanted to stumble from the room. In a world where we live throwaway lives, devoted to entertainment and killing time, people think it strange to value the lives of men behind bars. But I had hoped Dr. Merkel would understand. I had also assumed that she would appreciate that a prison visitor’s role is
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different from that of prison guard’s or instructor’s. But she didn’t understand at all. She seemed to think us naïve. Seemed to believe that we weren’t sophisticated enough to understand that the prisoners with whom we’d built trust had done awful things. I glanced at some of the people in our group who had only just signed up. Stiff bodies, clutched necks, lips squeezed tight and bloodless. If they were like me when I’d joined the program, anxious and full of doubt, Dr. Merkel’s show-and-tell could scare them away. Or poison their views before they even met their assigned inmates. I clenched shut my mouth. Coming to terms with the depth of my feelings for four prisoners, two of them sex-offenders, took years of anguish. A delicate process, easily disrupted. But acceptance of a prisoner’s past is essential for supporting them in transcending it. When I first met Wulf, a mercenary with a forty-five-year sentence, his blue eyes, inherited from the fjords of Norway, bored into me. They assessed the room, gauging its threats. His sleek rhythmic gait brought him toward me and I stared, riveted by the coarse red beard that hung to his chest; it looked as if it had been steeped in blood. When our hands met, mine was engulfed in heat. Indigo tattooed symbols sheathed both his forearms, and above the elbows, they disappeared into oversized khaki sleeves. But that baggy uniform did not hide his strength, not just of muscle and sinew, but of attention. I felt observed and considered. Years into our friendship, Wulf said, “I’m kind of a leader in my block. I try to disarm the hot-heads and talk reason.” He leaned forward and his shaven head shone in the harsh light of the fluorescents. “You’ve got to understand that once these things start, they escalate out of all proportion and everyone suffers.” His eyes searched mine to check that I didn’t think he was bullshitting. Rather, I admired his efforts. “It sounds like an impossible task.” “I’ve got to live here for a long time and I’ll do whatever I can to make it decent.” He pointed at himself and opened his arms. “I don’t want to fight! In here, everyone loses.” Then his blue eyes turned fierce. He pointed at me as though I were an enemy, his panther body ready to strike. “But if you start something, you’d better be serious because I’m going to die trying to hurt you.” Once again, his body became languorous and he shrugged. “I try to find a way out without anyone losing too much face.” In some prisoners’ mouths, those same words would have been self-aggrandizement. But Wulf had killed, led missions to destroy. Violence was a tool he had wielded effectively but with his experience of senseless death, he sheathed it. SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 10
“How did you become a leader?” He opened calm focused eyes. “It sounds funny but guys in prison want someone they can trust. There’s so much maneuvering and manipulation in here. They want someone who talks straight. And they know I’m not a coward.” “Do the officers recognize your position?” “No!” He shook his head, laughing. “Let’s say I get a certain amount of respect.” Turning serious, he said, “When new guys arrive, we tell them how to survive. We talk about respect. We give them welcome packets.” I laughed. “What are they?” A small self-conscious smile quivered on his lips. “Soap, deodorant, toothpaste, shower shoes.” “Not what you’d expect in a maximum-security prison. Is that prison culture?” “Nope, but we do it in our block.” “Sounds kinder than the prison portrayed in movies – that hierarchy of violence.” “There’s both in here.” And Wulf portrayed both. Later, he was sent to the hole and I had to visit him behind glass. Wearing an orange jumpsuit that looked like it had been balled up when wet, he said, “Listen, I beat him pretty bad. I had to. In here, if you let that go, the word’s out, everyone will know they can steal from you. I broke his hand and some ribs.” But Wulf also protected mentally disabled inmates from prison bullies. He taught newbies how to iron tortillas to make burritos. Even a guy he called Mangy. “He’s the type of guy…” Wulf hesitated. “Well, a single look and you want him off your porch. He looks like he ran into a telephone pole and caved in around it. You think: What did they do to you, man? He never had a job. He stole credit cards. But I fronted him the money for a business. He failed miserably. But I do that. They only get one shot but I help a lot of guys. I wouldn’t have before. But I think, I had everything going for me and I ended up in here, what chance did they have?” He’d once looked at me sharply. “Your experiences enabled you to remain an idealist.” I nodded, quiet with the sense of my own privilege. He looked at me for a long time without speaking or blinking. “Why don’t they just execute us?” Taken aback, I didn’t respond. “I’m no good to anyone in here. One fuck-up and they’ve stripped everything from me.” “Oh, Wulf.”
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“I’m a talented guy. I could make a difference. There are lots of us in here with knowledge and skills. But they’ve trashed us!” “Are you saying you’d rather be dead?” The unspoken assent in his fixed stare chilled me. “But you told me that you do your time differently! You told me you try to make a meaningful life in here!” I blabbed on and on while his cool blue eyes bored into mine. When I was finally silent, his intense stare remained. He wanted me to read the emotions on his face. Only then did I notice that his blue eyes were red and watery. But their gaze was unflinching. There was no surrender there. If he could, Wulf would choose to die a fast, dignified death rather than the slow decline planned for him. Still, he said nothing. Then a wave of self-consciousness bathed his brow in a sheen of sweat. Dr. Merkel next held up a page torn from a magazine. The red lips of a woman’s vulva. Smeared with white lubricant. I glanced away. I’d come to that talk, eager and curious. But pornography bored me. Titillation for jaded souls. I’d chosen long ago not to tether my understanding of the men I visited to the things they’d done. I wanted to focus on reinvention. When I’d met my second prisoner, Earnest, he had almost completed an eighteen-year sentence for armed robbery. Earnest was a gentle giant who’d wielded a gun, an illiterate gang-member with a surprising vocabulary, an abused child grown to manhood with a conscience and deep regrets, a mentally-challenged consumer of psychotropic medication, a disconnected father and beloved nephew, adorned with tattooed tears. “When I first came in here,” he said, “I was full, I was full, I was full of rage. I threw feces at the guards. I fought them.” He seemed to want an acknowledgment and I nodded quietly. “I tried to kill myself,” he said, cradling his bald head with both hands. “I hurled, I hurled, I hurled myself at a door. That’s what this lump is. Later, I cut, I cut, I cut myself. Guards said I did it to seek ’tention. I wanted to say, ‘I don’t want no ’tention, I’m cutting myself so I don’t hurt you!’” Earnest frowned. He had beautiful, caramel-colored skin, smooth and unblemished except for the facial tattoos. He glanced at my eyes before gluing his to the tiled floor. “I cut myself for a long time.” There were no scars on his arms. Where does he hide them? Marks of pain, incised on skin so he’d never forget. “I’m sorry. It must have been hard. I’m glad you stopped that.”
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His troubled face melted into a grin. “You so sweet! I ’sider you a friend. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t come, I wouldn’t come, I wouldn’t come out to see you all these years.” He once told me it was dangerous to show tenderness in prison. But when I told him about my divorce from a man I’d loved for twenty years, he shook his head and looked at the floor. “When I came in here, I missed, I missed, I missed my woman so bad. She was in my heart.” He held his belly and started to rock. “I know, I know, I know that pain. When I knew she’d gone, I couldn’t sleep. But you gotta let go of it.” He creased his face until it looked like a walnut. “Thinking about it makes it worse.” “Yeah, I know.” “You have a beautiful daughter. You can read.” “You’re right,” I said, taken aback. Besides me, Earnest hadn’t had a visit in fifteen years. A man with so little comfort in his life offered me solace. “I know my stress is nothing like yours.” “Never say that!” Unfolding muscular arms from his chest, he leaned forward. “My stress, my stress, my stress is my own doing. I put myself here.” I looked at him fondly. A man who’d borne his heartache in a tiny cell where his feet drooped off the end of his too-short bunk. And then, there was Ringer. He’d been inside for thirty years, for a crime he didn’t commit. The Innocence Project had been working for his release for two years. Even at fifty, he was as tall and loose-limbed as an athlete. His full-moon face was young looking, too, with a handful of pitted scars strewn across its black surface. When he was first imprisoned, he’d probably had pimples. A mustache like a gray scrubbing brush was the single nod to his age. But although his body had aged gracefully, Ringer was wracked with anxiety. With elbows resting on spread knees, he revolved his hands constantly, as though washing them without soap. He didn’t seem able to stop his head, either, shaking it from side to side, as if every cell in his body were saying: no, no, no! “I forgive them all,” he’d said to me once. “For putting me in here for something I didn’t do.” Ringer’s milky brown palms fell into their familiar rhythm and I wondered if the movement was so mindless and habitual that he’d continue it when he left prison. “I signed up for an anger management course.” “Why? You’re not an angry person, you’re not impulsive.” He shrugged. “People get tense just before they get out. They fight and say things they don’t mean.”
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“How are you coping with the frustration?” “Trying not to think about it. A good friend from my block was released last week.” He shook his head. “Me and some guys in our block saved up to buy him clothes for the outside.” With a wry smile, he added, “I was glad to see him go. He kept talking about what he was going to do on the outside. It got to me.” Dr. Merkel showed our volunteer group several more pictures. I didn’t look. I imagined a window, but even if I could have seen outside, there were no trees, no shrubs, not even grass, and prison walls blocked views of the mountains surrounding Tucson on all sides. My anger slowly dissipated. I still felt disrespected, but she had probably been trying to be helpful. In a way, we were allies our different programs both helped reduce the high rate of prisoner recidivism. Although two-thirds of Challenge Program participants dropped out, Dr. Merkel had devoted her life to a hard job and hardened men. Finally, she snapped shut the file. “Are there any questions?” For long seconds, none of the volunteers said a word. Wanting to ease the tension, I asked her two assistants, “What do you do to protect your tenderness in here?” The burly one shot up his eyebrows. “I run. I do push-ups.” The slender man with a beard slowly nodded. “I compartmentalize.” Not the kinds of responses I’d hoped for. But then, prison is a distorted place. A place where expectations are always wrong. I hadn’t addressed the question to Dr. Merkel, but she trained her amber eyes on mine. “I never let them eat lunch by themselves. We take lunch together and we talk.” I nodded, feeling my attitude lighten. It is the thankless tasks that can save the world. When I first decided to visit prison, I thought it might be like visiting another country. Intriguing. I couldn’t admit that just like the inmates, my life had shrunk. I was a migrant to two continents, uprooted from community umpteen times over, and now, I lived with a brain-injured husband. I couldn’t even voice my hope that I might make a difference in men’s lives because unless you are being trite, it takes courage to own a desire to help someone. It requires acknowledgment of your own power. And when I started visiting prison, mine was at its lowest ebb. Before I met Wulf, Ringer, Earnest and my last prisoner, Dodge, I had envisaged limited relationships. Deep connection seemed unlikely because we were randomly paired, not drawn by mutual attraction. I
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imagined that sad stories would be our currency, and I was prepared to pay. But long deprived of friendship, the men understood that it requires a willingness to own vulnerability, and from the first moment, they divulged extraordinary intimacies. Despite my shamefully mistaken expectations, four felons gave me many gifts. Not the least of which was allowing me to witness their struggles to make sense of thwarted lives. Dodge, a self-professed sociopath, was the most puzzling of all my prisoners. Imprisoned because his wife and the mother of his twins was underage when they first had sex. I understood what it meant to be a sociopath, but on our third visit, I asked for his take on it. Dodge’s face was heart-shaped and boyish, but his dark eyes never lit up. “I had a cellmate once. A good guy and I got on well with him. One night, I leaned over the edge of my bunk to see him on the bottom with his blood pouring out.” Dodge’s hands moved up the pale insides of his forearms, demonstrating as he spoke. “He’d slit the veins up and down his arms and across his throat.” A red-hot wire seemed to short out in my stomach, but Dodge’s face remained blank, his voice so perky. “I don’t like mess,” he grimaced. “I’m very clean. But I wanted my cellie’s radio. I wanted to listen in bed. So, I climbed down and picked my way to his locker. There was blood all over the floor. It was sticky, but I made sure I didn’t get my feet wet. A while later, I thought about his food. I climbed down past his bed again and got his pack of tuna. I ate it while he bled to death.” I was horrified. My kindest interpretation was that Dodge respected his cellie’s right to take his own life. But listening to Dodge over the years, I realized that sociopaths are layered and nuanced, just like everyone else. Reminiscing about Christmas spent with a foster family, after his dad murdered his mom, Dodge said, “I loved it. We strung popcorn on the tree and baked cookies.” Not gifts, but family. Not excesses but pleasure in shared activity. Five years later, Dodge joined Dr. Merkel’s program. “Man, she’s good,” he said. “I told her things I’d never told anyone.” He’d bent a leg to rest a foot on his grey seat and clasped the raised knee. With no fat to impede it, his body folded as neatly as a penknife. “Look. I joined that program to brown-nose. I went through the motions but I wasn’t invested. But not now. She drew me in and now I love it.” As a child, Dodge had been abused by his father who sold him for sex. There were scars all over his body, and he never learned about love.
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But in prison, Dodge tended a mouse. He told me he fed it popcorn and milk; he cut up his sock for a nest; he built it a run from toilet-paper tubes and coffee jars. He let it part his hair like a field of barley. He confided that he slept all night on his back so that Bo Jangles could nestle in his belly button.
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MAN #1 JACK READY Oil on Canvas
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BLACK GIRL MAGIC LYDIA SAMUEL Marker on Paper
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RANIâ€™S MOON MASSIEL RIVERA Pen and Marker on Paper
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JERRY JACK READY Oil on Canvas
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THEY NEVER TOLD ME
JOHN BALLANTINE nonfiction
They never told me that I could not make the world better. They never told me that it is hard to be really kind. They never said it cannot be done…and so I kept tilting at windmills. They never said be good; be just and loving. They just said good luck. I fought early on for the patch of playground dirt, near the jungle gym, that we third-graders wanted. Just a corner away from the others, but the fifth-grade bullies took me to the side—to pound me down. NO, they said, it is our playground—all of it. My mother said, Let go of the ground, John. Let them keep their dirt; it is only sand. But I said, No, I will take the pounding, the turning me into pulp because it is ours, because it is our playground too. My mother drove me to school that morning with Chia sitting in the backseat. Everyone was quiet until I said, “I hope it happens today, the pounding.” My mother kissed me on the forehead and hugged me. “You’ll be okay,” she said. My first-grade sister stared blankly at me. She did not know that I was going into battle, maybe even to my death. I turned to each of my womenfolk as I closed the door and lied, “Don’t worry, I know I’ll be OK. I just want the fight to happen today. I am ready to fight all of them.” But it never happened. No pounding, no ceding of territory to the older bullies, and no death by fist. I stood my ground, fought for what was right, and marched on. Then one morning, many years later, just as the May sun rose, I saw men in blue with billy clubs and gas masks walk slowly across Harvard Yard. I stood with the protesters on the Widener steps; we held our non-violence credo close, to what was right. We watched the assault ordered by President Pusey to rid University Hall of the occupiers— my roommate and our classmates, who were just saying, NO more war, no more lies. This was the beginning. There were many more marches as clubs fell, heads were smashed, and our blood streamed. This is what they wanted. I heard the screams during that dawn raid. Cambridge police bashing Harvard heads. The end of civility, no more discourse, no more talk across the picket lines. We will tear it down, blow up the banks, stop the war.
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No, you won’t; we will not let you turn our worlds upside down. We know what real war is about and that is why we fight The bombs continued to drop over Vietnam, turning the jungles orange, but here our eyes no longer sparkled bright, our fists pushed the Bill of Rights into our parents’ faces. They—you—lied to us. They beat us; yes, your minions beat our bodies across college campuses that spring of 1969. And you wondered why the cities burned and our dinner tables turned dark. They never said the revolution would be easy, or that they would fight back. They never said that the ordered rows of library books, the lies about communist threats were fabrications, or that our parents and hometowns would never be the same. They never said that police billy clubs and bullets would change everything. They never knew what happened. But we all stepped over the line. There was no turning back; the revolution turned us around, it happened not with the billy clubs or blood, but with sentences we spoke to blank stares. They never heard. Something died, day by day back in 1969, as we fought, and protested, red fist painted on banners, blood streaming down our faces and people dying everywhere. This was not right, this was not the home I knew, this was not why I walked the streets. Today I look at the same school buildings, the piece of dirt that I fought for, and the pounding that did not happen in third-grade, and the one that did in 1969. I look down and to each side and say, I still believe in the right, the just, and the fair. I know it isn’t so most of the time, but I still believe. I hear the speeches, I see the meanness and the dead bodies; still. I say breathe, forgive, and believe, knowing it isn’t always so. They never told me that, never said it would be easy, never said I would be tested every day. Yet, I hold onto the dreams to come. The sun shines on the day; the birds sing as they fly south, and there is still love. They never said this living was easy, and they were right. Let them pound away; I will be okay.
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YOU TELL ME
JIMMY FLYNN poetry
Daybreak to dawn, Earth thinks: “The night will come back to me.” I told you: “I only feel like talking at night, anyway.” So sure as the horizon, you will come back to me. Zoloft and vodka’s a volatile cocktail. But my nasty nightcap comes when you come back to me. Snails only venture out when it rains. Storms pass and you always come back to me. Maybe you popped off, maybe I forgot to pop my piece of mind. Disregard the cloudiness—it all comes back to me. You say: “This isn’t like us. I love you.” But I stop and think. And it all comes back to me: You provocateur you. I’ll wash, you’ll dry. Rinse, repeat, and it all comes back to me. “I don’t want to argue;” “No, you don’t want to lose.” “Fault’s fair play, and it all comes back to me.” One kiss, one slap; I’ll burp, you’ll laugh. Forgiveness is free, and it all comes back to me.
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NATALIE BENRUBI nonfiction
We sat together at The Shack, eager for our food. Delicate M sat across from me. Her prim, straw-colored bangs like living room curtains were drawn slightly in the middle. Her drooping eyes and tight-lined lips told me that she had something to say. Our food hadn’t arrived yet, so she hid behind ritual pleasantries. “How’s your memorization of James 1 going?” she asked. “It’s alright. I really should be better about it.” “It’s fine... We’re working through it.” “Yeah,” she said, noticeably unsatiated with my response. She and my small group leader were trying to find a way to get us all more serious about memorizing scripture. For now, we let it slide and continued small talk about last week’s sermons and the comings and goings of our classmates at our church’s youth group. Since I’d spent most of my youth in Catholic churches, I expected something open and cathedral-like when I thought of church. With stained glass, the holy aroma of incense, and crucifixes. In reality, Compass Bible Church was a sterile office complex converted into a place of worship. Still, its glass doors shone with bright promise. Suddenly, the metal of the outdoor seating felt cold. I shimmied a little to warm my butt as a spry server whipped around the corner with two black plastic baskets in hand. “The tacos?” he asked. M sheepishly raised her left hand so it was level with her face. “The Shack burger?” I did the same. M reached for my hands, an eager expression across her face. I nodded and looked at her with a contrived smile that squinted my eyes. “Thank you, God, for our food and for my friend, Natalie. She is a blessing to me, I thank you, Jesus, for her. Amen.” But this was all before I was saved. I decided not to seal my prayer by crossing myself like my mother always taught me. Fundamentalist Christians don’t do the sign of the cross. Instead, I smiled weirdly and grabbed a plump fry. M wouldn’t touch her food. Noticing that she couldn’t hold back SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 26
anymore, I braced myself for whatever she had to say. “I have to tell you about my sin,” she uttered as eyes peered up from a round, pallid face. “Um, yeah, definitely. What do you want to talk about?” I didn’t know if I should goad her further. Despite my usual discomfort with the long silences, I waited. “I sometimes, well, my sin doesn’t have to do with other people.” “Okay.” I paused too long, “Well, what’s up?” It felt like we were playing some form of 20 questions. Is your sin a living creature? Is it roughly the size of a breadbox? In Catholic churches, I never heard someone claim a sin as their own. M and my new friends treated sin like something they possessed, even nurtured. I felt guilty for making light of it, even if it was only in my head. I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t a priest. I felt like she sought some sort of absolution from me that I was completely unequipped to give her. “I touch myself,” she confessed, shaking her head. Then, she hastily snatched a taco from the tin foil laid in a black plastic basket and bit it quickly. Reluctant tears formed a film across her turquoise eyes. I watched her closed lips, a muted scarlet color, move in a methodical circular motion. But would my talking about her sin tempt her? And how do priests feel hearing all of these things? Are they tempted? They’re people too, right? What was I supposed to say to her? The dogma says it’s wrong to touch yourself. But why? Sex was something to be shared with your husband. Masturbation involved no mutuality, so it was wrong. It wasn’t aimed at procreation either. I was suddenly aware that I didn’t really know why it was wrong. She wouldn’t be the one to ask, at least not in that moment. Accountability partners. This is what M wanted from me. Compass asked me to follow different guidelines from those I knew before. Before I could only tell a priest or God about all this. Yet, Jesus renewed life in me. In my new environment, you shared your sin with friends, and they would help you through it. In that moment, I straddled the amorphous line between worshipping the real Jesus and Catholicism, also known as idolatry. To go all in, I’d have to walk their walk. I looked at her and nodded solemnly. I could tell that it took a lot of strength for her to admit this to me. I reached for her hands so we could pray together. My eyes closed, I struggled to see it as a dirty thing. Sure, it was something that made me tired afterwards, and left me feeling a
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little guilty. But M carried it around like she was confessing to murder. Seeing her there so ashamed, though, felt unjustified. I didnâ€™t care what any Catholics or Fundamentalists had to say about it. She chewed and bore holes into herself. And I just watched her.
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IN HOT WATER
MADELINE NGUYEN nonfiction
Left handle at a 80°. Right handle at 30°.
Water begins to pour out of the faucet, and a rush of steam hits her
Her fingers brush the water, before drawing back.
And yet, not hot enough.
She turns the left handle to a full 90, letting the water go up a only
couple more inches until she drops the bath bomb.
The water becomes a violent shade of purply-pink fuschia.
It fizzes around the pool of water. A wild, crackling thing.
Skin touches water. And it burns. Everything burns, but still, it’s
better than the tightness she feels. The weight at the base of her skull. The grip on her throat.
As she crushes the rest of the bomb in her hands, his words play
over in her head.
I was just gonna flirt with you for fun. It didn’t mean anything.
Didn’t mean anything. Didn’t mean
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It was just a joke. Just
a joke. You know I’d always swipe right for you. You’re a sex bomb. Sex bomb. Sex bomb. Sex.
And suddenly it all becomes too much. The water too hot. The air
too sweet. Her skin too tight. Her thoughts uncontrollable.
I know better.
Why does he keep doing this?
I shouldn’t have said anything.
What’s wrong with me?
Why am i not enough?
It’s a litany that’s run through her head since they met a year ago.
The things that he’s told her. The things she believed. The things she’s wanted to tell him.
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“You don’t know what you’re doing.”
Please stay. Please see me.
“That’s not what happened.”
Hold me up.
“Stop being so over-emotional” “You shouldn’t trust yourself.”
Embrace me. Nurture me.
“You’re just confused.” Comfort me.
“Don’t turn this around on me.” “I would never play mind games with you.”
“Stop acting so crazy.”
Give to me what i give to you. Love me.
i love you.i love you.i love you
And she thought that it was over. That she didn’t feel that way anymore.
Or miss him anymore.
But old habits die hard.
She scrubs the wooly bath sponge across her skin until epidermis gives
way to dermis and blood speckles across the yellow surface of the loofah.
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KATE ASCHE poetry
when the voice says: worthless, apparatus, someone rubbery to be used the body puts the mind to sleep somewhere safe-ish from, for instance, the man who brought you to his house who is always already bringing you to his house— while the mind sleeps, the body lays its head down violently on the first surface gravity provides another cut to the forehead, another opening to reach through the body gets low, waits for him to finish the ugly eternal business with his hands, your mouth and something else— but the body can’t keep the mind asleep forever the body doesn’t want to die— after a few prone moments fallen sweaty between potted cabbage cactus and African daisy, the body returns your mind to you though your eyes remain dilated my fingers look like someone else’s, wiping blood from your temple your pupils shrink as my touches slow time dilates— this endless moment I spend cradle to your wound—
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SAGE CURTIS poetry
Your mother put her foot through a window to watch the drops of blood pool on the entryway tile. The Coors Light had nothing to do with this. This was years before my palms bled from breaking a glass of Pinot in the kitchen of our first apartment. My mother got rolled into a hospital waiting room, blood staining her black leggings between her thighs. The Popov had nothing to do with it. This was years before you slit your finger on the sharp edge of a light bulb as the lamp hit the wall, leaving a long black scorch. If you fall in love with someone like her, don’t let me sit still while we move furniture, don’t let me hush you. If I fall in love with someone like her, I won’t let you fall asleep to the TV on loud, I won’t let you hide vodka in the dash of your truck. Sometimes, you love your mother by finding her hiding in someone else. Sometimes.
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MILES LAGUNAS poetry
Iâ€™ve heard it said that the rings Of a tree can be played like A vinyl record. And that the music produced is That of the birds, and the leaves, And the groaning of branches. If this is right, I venture you can do the same thing with a person. To take a slice, say from the midsection, and Hear the song of a life.
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FROM MOUNT MONADNOCK TRANSMISSIONS CA CONRAD poetry
the spirit of your flowers is my favorite shelter we were in love is the main thing faintest green light in tree pulls me forward whenever life is djd beautiful makesdjd me think of you djd carry color of thedjd forest to be with djd you to belong to djd this world with djd you to have whatjd we have and that is it djd yes the present is between thejd past and futurejd but is too radical to be called j the middle e
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heard a library when I was blind in a dream sleep less now your unfinished life is exactly where you left it break inside me break yourself up inside there we can afford to get a jump at it poets can still reach into murk for it we slept on the roof to watch cloud formations in moonlight just feel through it I want you to start writing poems in the land of the dead I want you to stop counting on mine made up like you want
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JANITORâ€™S CLOSET AMER KOBASLIJA Oil on Canvas
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THE ART OF PAINTING AMER KOBASLIJA Oil on Canvas
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SMOKE AMER KOBASLIJA Oil on Canvas
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UNTITLED (2016) MADISON BLESSINGTON Acrylic on Canvas
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PARACLAUSITHYRON CAMERON CHASE poetry
I’m standing outside the sliding glass door on the balcony of your 32nd floor apartment. A single lamp lit at your bedside, I can see lit-up skyscrapers all reflective around you on the glass, like skyward swords, or blooms of flashing flowers. I knock three times on the window, knock once loud & knock twice again. You are enclosed within those black headphones that shut you away, and suddenly I am struck by the altitudinal wind: climbing the fire escape to see you was not really an option. * The scent of lavender! that breathed from the airlock of your tights, fanned off your loose, racy legs—you, back-down and bare, opened and closed them like wings on the bed in front of me against the unseen skin. And you pulled me in by the wrists—last night you did— wrapped your legs around the backs of my thighs and drew me in. The stars reclined and fluttered, burning blue behind your fogged skylight. Our kiss-flushed lips dragged open against
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mooned over skin, tongue-licked and mouth-shined all our limbs in that liquid night. * And now I’m back with a small daisy tucked in my ear. For hours I waited on the porch outside my house, occasionally patting my front pockets, my back ones, wondering where my cell phone was —rustling through that maddening stillness!— as if you’d gotten back to me. * Through the glass I see the black screen of my phone on your night stand. I pat my hands over my front pockets, again over my back ones and, yes, have nothing with which to contact you, to touch your face through the blue light of your phone. My reflection stands between us. Just me and me again.
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* I stroke the doorâ€™s glass face, trying (softly now) the white handle. Still, locked. I take the daisy from my ear. * But how we laid last night, beside like nestled cocoons, wet hand in wet hand! * Hard heart to win, without the eyes or ears to open upâ€”let me in. I raise my fist. The glass throws back my reflection.
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JAMES CROAL JACKSON poetry
takes the hours then the years now try: remember the soft face of sky how to find shapes in clouds (no one remembers how to properly be alone) how days could be a right kind of endless when the river was the road and the toad in your palm was the work
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STEVE SUSOYEV nonfiction
We walked in the dry washes out there every Christmas and every summer for six years. You were nine when we started and already handsome, with those wolf-gray eyes and your grandpa’s strong jaw. At six, I was eager to know what you knew, and thrilled to follow you. “Hiking in the arroyos,” you called it, and the grown-up sound of that also thrilled me. Our first day out, you unzipped to pee without modestly turning away and I gaped as if you had pulled a Labrador puppy out of your shorts. Before we embarked the next day, I guzzled two tumblers of water, keen to show you my own newfound lack of modesty. Hiking without our shirts was natural during the summer. In deep, narrow stretches of the most remote wash, with only jackrabbits and an occasional coyote to see us, we began to stash everything except our underwear and sneakers, and soon wore only the sneakers. The first time we shed our clothes, when we returned to their hiding place you carefully checked mine for scorpions. You conceived of games like dueling doodles, employing the coy slang for “penis” that my mother and yours, her cousin, had learned as children and passed on to us. By Christmas of the year I was nine and you were twelve, only a few growth spurts away from your eventual height of six-one, we were extremely familiar with each other’s doodles. We had done a lot of fencing: standing side-by-side and using our pee streams as swords. I was better than you at peeing with a hard doodle, which gave me an edge. Once we had emptied our bladders, we turned face-to-face and continued the game by thwacking our swords together, holding each other by the shoulders and laughing. Sometimes I stood on your feet and you bent your knees, to bring our swords within striking distance of each other, and sometimes I jumped up and down for the same effect. I remember looking up into your face at times. Hoping for eye contact? My first kiss? You always remained steadfastly focused on our doodles. The kids around the Arizona farm town where I lived had names for what you and I did on our hikes. “Playing nasty” was the most popular. I think kids in your suburban Texas neighborhood called
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it “playing doctor.” Very privately, I liked the adult implications and promise of “making love.” Our adventures included scientific explorations. What would happen to a ripe peach left on a rock for twenty-four hours on the longest day of the year? Would a creosote sprig jammed into a fresh lump of coyote plop take root and bloom? We found out! And created new reasons to return each day to the arroyos. You were the closest person I had to a brother. My parents never understood why following the Christmas before my thirteenth birthday, I completely avoided seeing my beloved cousin Zach for over twenty years. As an adult, I’ve talked about this with anyone who would listen. My friends and even a therapist have recalled, “Oh, the cousin who molested you.” If only it were that simple. Yes, you were older and bigger, but I was precocious. Willing. Eager! You never forced anything on me. But then you gave me that damned dollar. DOZENS OF OLD SPIRAL NOTEBOOKS include snips of our childhood hikes and strokes, among many other dramas of my life. When I try to write about what happened, I never get even this far before skidding off the rails. I cry, and pick up the phone or a rake or some other distraction. Months or years later, back in the notebooks, sometimes I start at the low stucco wall and your wallet and the dollar, and skip the dry washes and the fencing and the stroking in front of each other, and the stroking of each other, and our astonishment at the changes in each other’s bodies from Christmas to summer to Christmas. Now I sit here in your bedroom, transcribing my streaming thoughts and admittedly one-sided fifty-plus-year-old memories onto a small screen, watching you fade in and out of a morphine cloud. The college basketball playoffs are on ESPN, at low volume. Lucia is in the living room tuned to another network, watching something that might have sounded healthy before I saw it swallowing her: televised dramas about people dying of cancer, and their loved ones loving them, choreographed to crescendos of high-volume stringed instrumentation. She seems to be trying to expel all of her grief before you go, so she can be a stoic widow, a good role model for the younger members of the family. This morning when I arrived from the airport, you were a lot thinner than when I left a month ago. “You’re still fucking handsome!” I howled, meaning it, and kissed your forehead. “Being skinny really shows off your great bone structure.” While your hospice nurse laughed, you grasped my hands and kissed them. SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 48
Zach, we’re closer than we’ve ever been. When will we talk about this? In forty-seven years I saw you three brief times. So, okay, I didn’t make myself available to process childhood trauma. But since your diagnosis I’ve sat here during many visits from San Francisco, each day hoping you would say something about arroyos or a dollar bill, creosote bush or jackrabbits, that would signal your readiness. The last time I was here, you hadn’t started the daily morphine and still weighed over a hundred and twenty pounds. I did plenty of writing during that visit, too. If I’m so eager to talk, that would have been a good time to look up from this laptop and initiate our dialogue. While you’re drifting, I write. When you’re awake, and the current game isn’t in the fourth quarter, I sometimes read to you — not from this tortuous journal but from other things I have written, articles about Irish theatre or gay rights in Cuba. Your questions show you’ve been listening. On my last visit, I read from a book by Oliver Sacks, who wrote so beautifully about his own approaching death. Your eyes never left my face. This afternoon you seemed to enjoy Michael Chabon’s essay about fatherhood and masculinity. With that, was I trying to launch a discussion of what it means to live up to society’s expectations of men? How benign that sounds! Let’s try this: Did I hope to maneuver you into talking about the twelve-year-old on his knees beside the low wall at the clubhouse swimming pool late one Christmas Eve? The boy had just been offered a dollar by his dear older cousin in exchange for putting the cousin’s dick in his mouth. The boy knew he was meant to accept that he was the queer, while the cousin in the very grown-up camelhair coat and with the movie-star haircut, who placed the dollar on the low wall and weighted it down with his grown-up Italian leather wallet so it wouldn’t blow away, was not the queer. The wallet held the dollar bill in place because the queer couldn’t claim his dollar until he had put the cousin’s dick in his mouth. At twelve, I often imagined how I would feel with another boy’s dick in my mouth, and how I would feel if another boy took mine in his mouth. Despite the foul names I had heard for guys who did those things, my imaginings aroused me deliciously. Which, unlike anyone else in my life, you understood. What we did in the arroyos seemed like the only thing we shared in common. You had your go-cart, and girls who giggled when you strode past, and football. I wasn’t a sissy. In first grade, I could fix a flat, and by nine I was driving a tractor. At eleven, I started training neighbors’ horses. I had a way with skittish colts. But there was something fundamentally different about you and me. This would be easier if I could bring myself to say, Hey, Zach,
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before you fade completely away let’s get something clear. You miserable dying fuck, you did molest me. And I’m here to tell you, paying a twelveyear-old boy to suck your dick makes you a queer. Your family wonders what the hell happened to me, and when anyone mentions my long absence, I fall back on the wilderness therapy cult I joined at nineteen. It’s a feeble story, because the cult accounts for fewer than ten of the forty-seven years I avoided all of you. But your brother and sisters and your very perceptive mother seem to have agreed not to dig. On that final Christmas Eve, with both of us still dressed for Midnight Mass at Good Shepherd, I held your veiny, throbbing dick in my mouth for maybe ten seconds. Even today I have no words for the feelings that ripped through me. Yes, I was profoundly aroused, throbbing like you. But a vision stretched before me of a life spent on my knees, sexually serving guys who could never love or pleasure me. As fanciful as it may sound for a twelve-year-old Arizona farm boy in 1964, I believed that someday I would love a guy who loved me, and we would share our love in ways that included sex. Until you lay the dollar on the wall, I had hoped that you would be that guy. In those ten seconds I earned my dollar. The closest thing to a climax that evening occurred when I stood and brushed the grass from my trousers. While you zipped up, I tugged the dollar bill out from under your wallet. We left the clubhouse, and the next afternoon we were in the field across the stucco wall, playing football with your buddies. You announced, “Last night Stephen gave me a great Christmas present!” Remember their curious faces? The full horror hit me then: Not only was I now your queer, you would brandish this power to expose me whenever and to whomever you chose. I pulled a trick play on you. “Zach’s the one who gave me the great present. Cold, hard cash! Like grownups give you.” The love I had imagined blossoming between us withered and browned like the creosote twigs that we used to plant in mounds of coyote scat. Before Valentine’s Day I told my parents, in the most mature, mind-made-up tone I could manage, “I’m not going to Austin this summer,” with the explanation of a paying job, breaking a pair of colts. By September I had gotten myself into a youth choir that would preempt my joining in the annual Christmas visit with your family. I didn’t see you again until you were married and a father, twentyone years later, at your kid sister’s wedding — which, as if we were in a far-fetched movie, took place at the same clubhouse. By then my father had died, and my mother conscripted me to escort her. Your son Rory was five, riding on your shoulders at the reception, and you handed me a dollar bill and asked me to buy him a Coke at the bar. SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 50
What the fuck! I got the Coke and considered keeping the dollar, to satisfy some perverse urge, but handed it back to you. “Silly me, it’s an open bar,” you said. I avoided your eyes because I dreaded what I might see in them. Over thirty years ago, and I remember not only the dollar and your words but my fear of your eyes, and the look of simple happiness on Rory’s face when he reached for his Coke. You had been a lousy cousin, but you appeared to be a good dad. OKAY, when telling pieces of this one-sided story, I usually fail to mention the letter. When my mother told me you were getting married, I was in my mid-twenties and hadn’t seen you in well over ten years. I sent you a letter at your parents’ house, in an envelope with no return address. I knew you’d had some trouble involving drug arrests, a few nights in a Mexican jail, enough that your parents might be tempted to read an anonymously mailed letter. “Dear Zach,” I wrote, “My mama says you’re getting married, so happy for you. After all these years, I realize I was lucky that my early sexual experiences were with someone I loved and trusted.” I’ve chewed on your dollar for decades. You’ve probably chewed on my letter. I want you to honor my feelings about the dollar. If we ever do talk about this, will I be as receptive to your feelings about the letter? After I handed Rory his Coke, six more years passed and my mother died. She had asked me to give her Spanish mantillas to Lucia, and specified that I deliver them in person. From the grave she engineered our reunion. When I arrived to deliver the mantillas, you shook my hand and didn’t seem open to a hug. I didn’t reach for one. Rory and his young sister played hide-and-seek with their dog. That was 1992, and I didn’t see you again until your big sister invited me to her daughter’s wedding in 2011, welcoming the prodigal cousin back into the family. I role-played in front of a mirror and planned my wardrobe for every stage of the event. “The cousin who took my power when I was twelve is going to be there,” I told friends, who didn’t need to be reminded about the Christmas Eve dollar, the wedding reception dollar, or the rest. Then you were happy to see me and hugged me. You asked if I had a partner. I showed you a picture of Jim and me at Yosemite Falls. You told me about business disappointments, the unfulfilling job you were keeping so you could retire with a pension and take care of your daughter’s graduate education. You said you had Hepatitis C but didn’t mention how you had contracted it. You shared far more vulnerability than I had imagined you were capable of. I felt safe with you and left the wedding sad that I had missed
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so much of your life and your family’s. Your mother invited me to her ninetieth birthday party, and I found myself on everyone’s mailing lists. Then, after a few more birthdays and weddings, your diagnosis. Lucia tells me how much my visits mean to you. You don’t want me to stay with other family members and have asked me to stay in the guest room, so I can eat my breakfast sitting beside your deathbed. Last night you said, “I love you very much.” This morning we waited for North Carolina to pull ahead, but Duke slammed them 74-73. The excitement of a tight game clearly distracts and comforts you. When you struggled to reach the bathroom with the catheter bag, I called out, “Hey, long as you’re up, grab me a beer?” You laughed so hard I had to jump up to keep you from falling. Later you said, “I don’t believe in hell, but I’m afraid of dying.” I nodded because I feel much the same way. But I don’t have pancreatic cancer, so for me any fear is academic. Then you said, “I’ve done things nobody knows about.” I held your hand. You didn’t elaborate, and I whispered, “If anything that ever happened between us is causing you concern, please relax.” Your eyes searched mine, or maybe they were trying to tell me something. I went on, “I have nothing but love for you and good memories of our childhood together.” Yes, your eyes told me, that was the right thing to say. Mostly but not entirely true, but look at you, a hundred and twelve pounds. It’s too late for the whole damned truth. YESTERDAY EVENING, while I was driving your mother home after her visit with you, she made an offhand comment: “I’ve always wondered what that saying means, ‘Discretion is the better part of valor.’” My foot jerked off the gas but I managed not to slam on the brakes. From Shakespeare, maybe one of the Henrys, but my personal interpretation of the aphorism flashed through my mind, while I blamed my jerky driving on a coyote running across the road ahead of us. To exemplify my own version of discretion-as-valor, I would have to tell her, I will never explain why you saw me only three times in four-and-a-half decades, and will allow you to think I was simply too self-absorbed to show up when your grandchildren were born, when your husband was dying. Zach, I’m saying what I know how to say with my engaged eyes and my firm smile, and my attempts to make you laugh, and I’ve been saying it while sitting on your bed, with the gentle foot-massages that you seem to enjoy. That is all I can give you on this visit, and I’m afraid there won’t be any more visits. SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 52
I’VE BEEN BACK IN SAN FRANCISCO for less than a week. Your brother just phoned to let me know that you died this morning. Your mama was holding your hand and your younger sister was with you. I hope Lucia was close by, and that she has been able to let go of the cancer shows. You have taken our secret with you. I want to think that all my tears are for you — relief that you’re not suffering, no longer afraid. But maybe I’m also crying over the phantom secret that stands between your family and me, and the need to accept that you and I said everything we needed to say. IF WE’RE IN A MOVIE, it’s a Ron Howard project: your celebration of life is at the same damned clubhouse. I am wandering around the grounds, and after sundown I’ll get a snapshot of that low section of the wall. People are drinking and singing. Some fine musicians in this family, and it’s beautiful. The band takes a break and people approach the microphone to share memories. I have anxiously anticipated this moment. Am I afraid I’ll point to the wall and exclaim, “Late one night when we were kids, I knelt in the grass over there and Zach gave me a dollar to . . .”? No. But having missed forty-seven years of your life, I don’t feel qualified to say much. One of the speakers jokes that he’s had several shots of Wild Turkey — your signature drink and the beverage that spikes the punchbowls here tonight. He recalls playing football with you right over there, in the field beyond the pool. I remember him from your neighborhood, one of the curious boys on Christmas afternoon, 1964. I applaud enthusiastically after his shared memory, and all the others, and stay away from the mic. Later, during the Spanish canciones, a bear hug surprises me from behind, and someone lifts me off the ground. “Steve, you’re such a great guy,” Rory says. “I don’t care what people say about you! You’re a great guy and my dad loved you.” An approach fueled by Wild Turkey, and I exploit it as casually as I can while he sets me down. “Hey, Rory, thanks. But gee, what do people say about me?” He’s drunk enough, or I’m smooth enough, that he answers, “Just, you know, how you disappeared for all those years.” Then, a bit wistfully, so it tugs at me: “I wish I’d known you when I was growing up.” His little daughter scampers over and hugs my leg. I hoist her in my arms, the brown-eyed reason you underwent months of horrendous experimental chemotherapy, hoping to live long enough that she would grow up to remember you.
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A few years after I pocketed your dollar, a boy came into my life who grew to love me as I grew to love him. We were together for many years. We remain close friends, and I’m grateful to the universe for the inspiration to get up off my knees that Christmas Eve and wait for him. But in spite of his love and my gratitude, thanks to those years of arroyo-hopping and stroking together, and thanks particularly to our night beside the wall, I came to understand I had something that boys like you — boys who were not queers, who had go-carts and girlfriends and who grew up to be men with wives and children and security clearances or automobile dealerships or law practices — wanted and needed, sometimes desperately, often on their knees. By willingly giving these boys and men what they needed, and honoring their vulnerability, and keeping their secrets, I held their power. I’ve found a thrill in helping men explore their forbidden fantasies even though they can’t love me. A therapist once tried to convince me this was a spiritual calling. I just think I always did have a way with skittish colts.
show you my own newfound lack of modesty. SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 54
RILEY O’CONNELL poetry
I have this recurring dream where I’m back in the hospital, four months shy of my eighth birthday, death a faraway train that had not yet stopped at our station, the impending alarm all but I could hear. And I’m watching The Cat in the Hat, white walls, blue sheets, orange bottle of hand-sanitizer on the table beside the tissues, the pamphlets, bed a thousand times more firm than my understanding of why I am here. And I’m texting my brother. He’s sitting across from me, but he cannot speak, so I text him, tell him about that “Band Geeks” episode of SpongeBob he loved so much, and he laughs, types back, “omg Riley” I’m literally dying right now.”
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THE LIVING ROOM
AIDAN MAHONEY poetry
i love the warm bone of your shoulder pointing through your sweater on the edge of my ear, as we sit and i lean and you listen your breath on my hair a freshly washed pillowcase or lemon tart always soft
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DOMINIC TRAN poetry
[DARK HOUSE, DARKER ROOM] she led me to the place where her mother used to dream a mattress on a sea of rags and clothes and cardboard drifting in its black exile i wondered how it could still float [BROWN HAIR IN THE DUST LIGHT] like a child edging around a lake she laughed as her skinny legs leapt across the depths and onto that flotsam a book was buried inside it but with its spine torn it couldnâ€™t find the strength to stand in her lap [POCKED AKLES DANGLING, DIPPING] when the weight of her fingers pressed on its insides the bookâ€™s plastic veneer ripped spilling a stained birthday a balloon, trees shining in the sunset a faceless man holding a girl in pigtails and overalls still-lives of a family that still lived caught in the warmth of an eternal summer
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[YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME SO WELL] we walked out onto the street afterwards trying to hold on to the words that kept losing themselves to each exhalation but there on the edge of the curb in the space between half-breaths i hooked the words before they would be swallowed by the moonlight [LEAVES RESTING BY RESTLESS FEET] it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, baby it’s not your fault.
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ALVIRA 5 MICHAEL HOWER digital photography
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LOCK RIDGE MICHAEL HOWER Digital Photography
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SHIPWRECKS SANDEEP KUMAR digital photography
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WHEN AT FIRST YOU DONâ€™T SUCCEED, TAKE MORE PHOTOS ANGIE MARIONI
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MR. SIMON 1
BEN MILLER fiction
Mr. Simon leaves the high-rise at noon for a party that begins at midnight,2 hoping to elude the fools. Bald head scalded lobster red by the shower of boiling water that Dr. Reft suggested before social occasions. Goggle circles around the eyes. Potato masher (another instrument of healing) lodged in the pocket of seersucker slacks that do not match the tweed jacket because thus far it has been impossible to find tweed pants enormous enough to accommodate a potato masher. The bulge does not go unnoticed. Those sharing the Stump Park mulch path make way for the wincing celebrity with the unusual gait. They point. They stare and wonder.3 Chump Tower haunts the other side of the deforested urban plain, crown jewel of downtown redevelopment or tom peeping cousin to elegance, depending on which Dronx guide book is consulted.4 The backdoorman--an aspiring singer-songwriter--slips Mr. Simon a demo disc: May Our Mood Be Enough: Monster Movie Themes Romanticized By My Zither. Tenant Salzburger, lingering in the azure lobby, has--as of yet-cut no recording but does remember the words to Mr. Simon’s smash hit “Crime After Crime” and sings: CRIME AFTER CRIME / I’M REMINDED OF YOU / A FORK WITH 20 TINES! She really means what she warbles and it hurts. It hurts more than being asked to autograph a tennis ball. He’d give all his success--all of it!-for an ounce of taste. Mr. Simon winces and tugs the wooden handle of the potato masher, building confidence for the next move: three shuffling steps into the tubular glass elevator. The ascent mimics a grand act of insemination: the pendulous crystal member rocketing toward a yellow light at the shaft’s apex or suspended glowing egg. After decades overdubbed with the static of knowledge, another precious stab at innocence! Mr. Simon’s knees wobble and dip. Hips wiggle then grind side-
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to-side and all around, contortions a minister might label: The mystery of Life.5 The car stops. The door opens. He lurches into a candlelit hallway, breathing so hard that for a moment he does not hear the whoops and whistles coming from 76C. Retreat? Press forward? Curl up and nap under a flickering gothic sconce? Before a decision can be made, host Sam Geholdt appears in the doorway, blue hair to draw attention away from an unfortunate face, nipple-tight satin shirt, sandals. “Who do we have out here!? An artist or a root vegetable!?” They hug. They hug again. They hug once more and don’t let go, deep in the grip of the childhood trouble they share, those hapless, pennypinching postwar years6. Sam pulls Mr. Simon into the apartment, shouting: “Get a load of two guys who look as bad as they did 58 years ago!” Guests descend,7 many ages and sizes, chewing nicotine gum and cradling long-necked bottles of the latest water: Pit Bull River. “Hello, Perry.” Mr. Simon turns and turns and keeps turning, hoping the rutted face will be gone when the second slow revolution is complete...but she’s still there: Sam’s scary mother! “Hello, Mrs. Geholdt. How are you?” “Sam and I attend therapy together twice a week. That way, we can protect each other from the sort of progress that would stand in the way of happiness.” She sticks out her tongue and bites down--lips widely parted--just as gross Mr. Geholdt did when alive and stocking the shelves of Grubway Market with rotten fruit painted fresh colors, cracked eggs taped shut, bottles of flat beer relabeled May Wine. “Sam and I find it sweet to believe each person we meet becomes an element of our personalities, just as many unidentifiable additives are present in baked goods.” “Really?” “Cookie Consciousness it’s called! You are clueless, as usual.” “Is a man always the biggest clue to who he is?” “Look in the mirror.” “It stopped reflecting a few years ago.” “Then get another at a medical supply store. They have extra reflective models for those with low self-esteem. Sam’s mirror has worked wonders.”8 “Could be true.” “I wiped your slimy nose when you were three. You exist.” SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 66
Art by Dale Williams
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“According to The Star, I am made of tofu.” “I bandaged your bruised ding dong after the sledding accident. You exist.” “What about Julio Backatrack, the newest singer of dolorous ballads?” “What about Backatrack?” “What if I told you I am Backatrack? That A&R executives decided I needed a rival to be bigger than me and made me him by stuffing ping pong balls in my cheeks.” “Is that news?” “It’s a secret known by few.” “And even fewer could care! So what if you are Hackalack or Makalak so! Like my husband said to any lady waving a purse stained by painted bananas: I’m a liar, but not a fake. There are no fakes in America! We are all legitimate phonies!” A caterer from Rude Temptations interrupts, gloved finger whirling above a tray spread with candied radishes, rattlesnake dip, gouda-baited ginger traps, roast piglet. Mrs. Geholdt gags. The waiter twirls away. “But Herman, God rest his soul, was wrong. There is one fake. Alderman Antler.”9 “Exactly how old are you, Mrs. Geholdt?” “That age nonsense again.” “Round down if you want.” “Always comes to this.” “Take a wild guess.” “I feel like a twenty-year-old wearing a hundred-year-old flotation device.” “That doesn’t help.” “Nor should it. Peace of mind is never generated by numbers, no matter how cozily they multiply and divide. Peace is a feeling, Perry, and you’ll never experience it until you lay off the arithmetic and home fries.” “Home fries?” “Yes! Swear off the grease of regret and learn to live according to the last good thing that happened to you!” “What?” “If you think hard enough, something will come to mind.” “Nothing ever does.” “Think of the summer of 1969!” “Blizzards, snow plows.” “That was the summer of 1970.” “1969 was when Carlo started selling cigar box dioramas in which to display the family photatograph. Venice painted on the lid! Or Rome! SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 68
Or London! Suddenly, clean up was a snap, no more scraping the radiator cover, just shut the lid and toss.” “Late. Toss too late. Too late, toss the stench of the continuum’s open grave.” “Such a determination to dwell on the dark side! If only Herman were here to agree with you! The epitaph he wanted was so long I had to buy three dreary stones.”10 “You miss your husband very much.” “Every moment, and not at all.” “He was a real artist.” “As if you and Sam are not! There’s nothing shameful about getting paid millions of dollars for humming like a seven-dollar kitchen appliance! Have melodies ever changed anything for the better? Blender or Gershwin on the radio--blandards or standards--humankind is still damned. There will never be any salvation for anyone as long as artificial flavors taste so much better than the real gamey, stringy thing. The temptation to fake a life is irresistible because what we are cannot be named and identity is most easily experienced in absentia, when lost and felt as a hole inside!” The doorbell rings and Zerena enters--portrait artist of the Z train.11 Sam leads her to a bulletproof bay window coated with greenish gray grains shed by dunes of smog sifting above Stump Park. Seen through this veil, the skyline3 resembles a throbbing staircase to Hades. Zerena slips a key off the ring and begins making hay of Sam’s silhouette. Mrs. Geholdt hustles that way and Mr. Simon makes for the front door, too late. A choir blocks the way, wailing: Where is the fire-eater? Where is the fire-eater? The Amazing Cheraldo was supposed to lunch titillatingly near wax rock-n-roll figures sculpted by the late Arkansas artist, Go-Go Earl. Is Cheraldo’s red van stuck in a traffic jam: cases of lighter fluid, asbestos costumes, stilettos to gulp if a member of the audience pleads flame phobia? Or is Cheraldo still fielding complex questions at the firehouse where he went to teach volunteers how to inhale infernos rather than drown them? “Have you seen Cheraldo, Mr. Simon?” Mr. Simon staggers, faking a stroke. Often the tactic scares away admirers but this athletic mob lurches in the same direction, repeating the question until there is no more room to stumble and everyone is pressed against a grassy poster documenting Sam’s latest whacky philanthropic endeavor.13
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“Have you seen Cheraldo, Mr. Simon?” “Why should I have? HAKHUKKKAAHKLLIEHAUG!” “Speak less emotionally, Mr. Simon.” “Don’t we often pay dearly for defunct goods and services? Beef from cows that were really never alive! Glass opals and rubies! Tickets to hear singers that can’t sing a note! Herbal remedies that promise health and swiftly deliver death!” “Beth? Cheraldo has run away with Beth! Love at first sight! How poetic and ironical14! One form of fire exchanged for another! That excuses everything! Boogie O wild hearts! Hot springs tonight for Cheraldo and Beth! Hot hot hot hot hot springs!” The choir scatters to spread the good news and Mr. Simon makes another run at the front door, only to be tripped by a drip wearing blue tights, orange cape and a black chest C indicating that he has appointed himself the Conscience of the Decadent Party. C-Man glares down at Mr. Simon--pale, panting, hand in pocket, squeezing the handle of the potato masher that is not quelling anxiety as Dr. Reft insisted it would. “We need to talk, Baldie! That is, I need to talk, and you need to listen carefully! YOU, THE HUMAN BLENDER, a hummer that numbed a nation from coast-to-coast! Am I growling? Well, I should be. I have a bear on my mind. The last grizzly bear! After Ezo dies in the Sierra Nevada room at the Waldorf Motel; there will be a Congressional declaration of grief and a State funeral. But will there be any national event honoring the extinction of the postman, typewriter repairman, or lighthouse keeper? No! And why not? BECAUSE SMOOTHING OVER HUMAN LOSSES IS THE MAIN AIM OF ANY SOCIETY! BLENDING BLENDING BLENDING REALITY INTO DULL HAPPY HARMLESS PABULUM THAT DOES NOT CLOG GEARS OF GOVERNMENT OR THE BUSINESS SECTOR, NOR FILLS THE MINDS OF CITIZENS WITH WORRIES THAT STEM SPENDING! SILLY BILLY WINKING REPLACES THINKING AND WHEELING AND DEALING DESTROYS FEELING! IF IT WERE OTHERWISE, IF THE UNIQUENESS OF EACH CITIZEN WERE TRULY CHERISHED, HOW COULD ANY OF US BEAR THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY POVERTY, DISEASE, VIOLENCE? WE’D GO CRAZY CONTEMPLATING ALL THE GIFTS--ALL THE POTENTIAL!-ERASED IN JUST THE SHORT SPAN OF OUR LONELY LIVES! GOT IT? GOOD!” C-Man flies off, spreading the harrowing news, and Mr. Simon crawls toward the front door, into the jackboots of a waiter who insists on helping. “Upseedaisy, Mr. Simon! That’s it! Let me dust you with a nappy.” SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 70
Dust, dust, dust, dust. “That big bad conscience should pick on someone his own size!” Dust, dust, dust, dust. “Of course, of course, you did not want to be who you are not. Just happened. Always does, somehow. Many reasons. Don’t cry sand. Life’s too short for agony!” Dab, dab, dab, dab. “Or do cry sand. Get it out of your shell--I mean, system. If not, hourglass. They are made for tipping, yes, they are, they are.” Dab, dab, dab, dab. “What’s that you’re saying? Expendable? I am expendable? Everyone is expendable so the world can keep muddling forward in a dangerously safe and uninventive way? No need to state the obvious, it’ll only confuse you. There, there. Blow your nose. Of course, you’ve got a soul somewhere beyond the dump! We all do! Let me straighten lapels. Stand still. Good. Now eat! That’ll make you feel better!” Leather glove whirls above a tray spread with lark livers, fried foreign objects, peacock crackers, sock monkey slices, hot naked lady bugs, overcooked potato skins. Mr. Simon chooses the sure thing: starch--My Madeline!15 He bites. He chews, and chews, and chews. The metallic flavor summoning the desolate glory of Aluminum Pan Alley.16 A fist slugs Mr. Simon’s shoulder. Sam whispers: “You really do have to wonder about guys who look as bad as they did 58 years ago!” Hug. Then, the embracing begins.
Notes Excerpt taken from the panoramic novel, Meanwhile, In The Dronx…
Twelve hours early is not early enough. New York City has changed that way. In case there is no later, people do everything sooner--the sooner the better. 2
Is it love for a woman half his age? A five-spout whiskey flask? Did he get hit by shrapnel during the filming of a music video? 3
Otherwise known as the 8th Blunder of the Borough, make sure to avoid this residential collage of bulletproof bay windows, toothless terraces, no front door for security reasons and a rear atrium that one critic has likened to an enormous glass fanny appropriately tinted the color of sewage.
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And a historian might define as: Muscle memory of “American Bandstand,” air-humping homage to The Bay City Rollers and host Dick Clark, teeth flashing above the waxed moor of the dance floor. 5
In Aluminum Pan Alley, it was an August tradition for extended families to visit the sweltering workshop of a craftsman named Carlo who posed each member on a crate and whittled individual portraits into peeled potatoes. Each photato, as these folk-objects were called, came with a cardboard base similar to an egg cup--this for easy display on the radiator cover. As months passed the photatoes decayed until finally--around Thanksgiving-starch generations had become indistinguishable withered heaps of soursmelling mush that infused children with a dread that they might instantly shoot from seven to the gooey age of rocking and cooing like grandpa and grandpa on the porch. It was not uncommon to see a little boy checking his scalp for baldness or rubbing dirt smudges that looked like liver spots. Girls began lying about their age before entering kindergarten. And once in school, they hummed continuously like the upper grade worriers of both sexes who had discovered the best way to be afraid was to give fear an inspiring calliope-like rhythm but no tone or melody to which horrid memories could attach. These songless songs--“Stardust”s that were all dust and starless--attracted cynical talent scouts searching for a bland sound that would knock America dead. Mr. Simon was offered a contract while washing dishes at Coughman’s Cafeteria and Sam was signed soon after by an agent who joined a football game, luring away humming athletes until only the bemused kicker remained on the vacant lot. Hit albums followed--Mr. Simon Has the Slippery Soap Bar Blues, Geholdt Behooves You to Groove Groove Groove! And then more hit albums with even sillier names. All of these productions owing much to the woozy wizardry of the engineers at A&R Studios, creators of the numbing “Ceiling of Sound,” a phony cacophony produced by slowing tape down while simultaneously speeding it up. 6
First in line to shake Mr. Simon’s hand is a retired gym teacher with a six-figure pension and a zeal for composing novelty songs such as “Funky Free-Range Chicken” and “Hip-Hop Hokey Pokey.” You are the headlights, Mr. Simon, and we are the deer...Thanks for teaching me that knowledge and wisdom are different...I just love how that frown causes your head to swell like an allergic reaction, wrinkles scrolling up the face, down the other side... Mr. Simon concludes: It’s Sam’s party, and sad company. Have some lonely fan ask him to define the technical difference between a hug and an embracea. 7
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Sam thanks Shirelle for posing such a pertinent question, and explains that though the two acts are somewhat related, they are also quite dissimilar, in the way a Grandma Moses picture differs from a Rubens painting--a hug being a crude matter of energy, body on body, one heart tilting against another, blood and muscle and bone: that’s hugging, whereas an embrace is a delicate baroque endeavor proceeded by eye contact and accompanied by words or back-scratching: fingers scrubbing circularly in an attempt to coax the homely genie of kinship from the sleek designer coat! The mere mention of the word “homely” causes Mr. Simon’s knees to ache--joints that jiggled so youthfully in the glass elevator are again victims of arthritis!
No more calling me at midnight to wail that he is NOTHING, NOTHING but a corporate euphemism for the latent artist existent in every human-that the discs sold under his name are blank and the voice the fan hears is actually their own, humming a neutered Song of Myself. 8
a.k.a. magisterial Mayor St. George, who ran on an environmental platform and signed into law a bill opening Dronx parks to commercial logging. Mrs. Geholdt doesn’t care if the proceeds kept 27 firehouses from closing. The removal of those trees lowered carbon dioxide levels and so damaged air quality that to step outside now is to experience an inferno in the throat or what they used to call in the Gay Nineties: a real barn burner. 9
#1: WE OVERLAY ROTTEN REALITY WITH A SIMPLE AND CONVENIENT CONCEPT THAT DEMANDS THE LEAST FROM US. #2: LAZINESS! OR THE FRANTIC LASSITUDE OF POINTLESS ACTION! THAT’S THE PRIMARY HUMAN CONDITION! #3: ALL OUR UNFORTUNATE--IF LUCRATIVE-BEHAVIOR SHOULD BE SEEN FOR WHAT IT IS: TRAGIC ANTICS OF MORAL BEINGS WITH NO MORAL CENTER. 10
MFA, Parsons, 1987. Available for parties large and small. Eye patch. Red boots. Camouflaged parachute pants. Ring strung with keys that she uses to scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch commuter portraits into subway doors and seats. These eerie depictions, resembling haystacks with mouths, have garnered her a month at Harding House of Detention, a show at Transit Gallery, calls from lovelorn locksmiths and many invitations--all so far unaccepted--to teach Figurative Vandalism.
UBER TIRE, SOCKS MATCHED, ROBOT REWIRING, AVID WISHERMEN LODGE, REDUX RECYCLING, DEATH CONSOLES,
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OBFUSCATION CORP, STEW STEW STEW STEW STEW STEW, HYPERBOLE HUT, JOIN THE WAR ON DREGS, SKY RINK, FLAT TASTY MUFFINS, VISIT THE FAMOUS ROOFTOP FOREST OF CORKSCREW TREES, DISSCUSSADROME, 1/2 COURSE DINNERS, NUCLEAR CODES 4 SALE CHEAP, NOSTALGIA EXCISED, GREEN NUN WINE, HARSH PUPPY SHOES, SHAME AND SORROW ALLEVIATION, REINCARNOSPHERE, MANY CENTURIES IN THE ANIMATING! TOCQUEVILLE’S DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA: THE CARTOON! CROWDS RUSH HERE! CROWDS RUSH THERE! NOBODY CAN KEEP QUIET OR MAKE UP THEIR MIND! MOST AMAZING! Shield Every Eyesore or SEED, a foundation dedicated to placing plastic prairies atop strip-mined baseball diamonds. 13
Q.v. note 6
I can remember Sam and I huddled in the De Sota at Taytottle’s Junkyard, listening to WABD and Vic, Echoing Voice of the Void: “HEEEEEELL-OOOOOOOOOOO TEEEEEENY BOOOOOOOPERS!”... Mom’s snorkel tube protruding from the dirty laundry...Pop, career grocery bagger, telling every customer: “If I don’t put all the cans together then you won’t know which bag is going to bust!”...Karen, stenographer to madmen, typing on the corner of Mumble and Rave: Tram O Tram of Knees eat it before it eats you play “Eleanor Rugby” for Dee Nile late-itudes cuzins grate choo-choo implicities ETC...industrial strength lemon drops from Dandy Candy Store puckering lips for many weeks...Slim, drumstick-juggling butcher at Dark Meat Poultry who called every kid “Kip” for some reason...Sam losing a dragon kite in the brown cloud over the 50-chimney roof of Frank’s Fireplace Store...cruel Dr. Roderick telling mothers to stick sniffly children in the dryer...Lucy’s Warm Heart Restaurant where diners were allowed to lick wooden spoons from the kitchen...me catching a tractor tire and winning a Drainage Ditch Fishing Derby sponsored by Trickle’s Tackle...photatoes burning on the radiator cover, stinking stinking stinking stinking stinking...Sam hearing the word that rhymes with orange on Lint St. and forgetting it... surreal headlines: Raccoons File Suit Against Garbage Lid Mfr-Flaming Guinea Pigs Flee Torched Pet Store--Lost Alaskan Dog Mushing Team Discovered in Meat Freezer...marble dumpster memorial to residents murdered by the stench of the 1952 sanitation strike...Uncle Dante and Aunt Dioxin wrapped in much barbed wire for the protection of neighbors...homeless contortionist never chased 16
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out of a public restroom because he cast the shadow of a toilet...2nd floor pianist who played for tips dropped into the fire escape goldfish bowl...Sam placing third in the Tip-Toe-A-Thon on Eggshell Avenue... me egging the Atonal Avenue Apple Doll Fashion Show...locusts hatching under Off Putting Harmonies Record Shop, eating through the floor, flying away with the building...“Rhapsody in Goo” performed at Bem’s Concert Hall by an orchestra of rubber cement bottles, and later that season, a D Minor drenching from the spinning Damptations...THE ATTACK OF THE CHAIN STORES--Blackened Burger, Drant’s, Denial Supply, Bog Drug--and CLEVER COUNTERATTACK ORGANIZED BY EDIE, of Precious Little Variety Store, who hired Ham Radio City Music Hall dancers--Pockettes!--to shatter display windows and kick men in blue green who tried to stop looting by whistling lullabies...Sam and I sneaking into The Kitten Club and finding no strippers but an animal shelter run by women wearing baggy sweaters, eager to talk about Kafka...the water main break that flooded Freehoff’s Sponge Cake Factory, causing the building to swell to five times its normal size...me playing first base, Sam outfield, for the Grubway Market Swinging Orange Rinds, a little league team coached by amorally moral Geholdt, who required players to cheat by doctoring bats, sharpening cleats... rich stale taste of mothball-flavored ice cream at Icarus Dairy...the whirling walk of gyroscope-shaped Mr. Ampunus, owner of Concentric Hardware...Sam and I cadging scummy custards and mealy veal cutlets at Coughman’s Cafeteria and then talking our way into Remaker Theater and watching APARTMENT OF WAX STARRING NOBODY YOU’VE HEARD OF...putrid retrospective of photatographs at One Room Museum after Carlo received the Artisan of the Century award from himself...Christmas at Del’s Very Used Car Lot, rusty bumpers slung with tinsel, hood ornaments dangling from a blinking tree next to the loan shack...Our Mother of Responsibility church billboard: INSTEAD OF GIVING A PRESENT THIS SEASON WHY NOT SIMPLY RETURN THE BOOK YOU BORROWED BACK IN JUNE?...Jacob Riis Library of Impoverishment that everyone stayed away from except the academic working on A Definitive History of Porridge...street musicians: Jess the oil can drummer, Willie the suitcase strummer, Om the trombone player whose slide froze each winter, forcing him to play the same note again and again until the spring thaw...Eddie Cantor Junior High and a new friend, Ronnie from Clockton, who came over one Saturday and fainted after seeing the moldering photatoes on our radiator, believing he had entered a headhunter’s hovel, an event so impressive that I immediately invited over more naive classmates, Peter from Gunnyside who puked, Larry from Lush Meadows who puked more, and finally Billy Bolton from Stark Slope who smiled when he saw the shriveled portraits and
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opened his shirt to reveal a necklace of genuine shrunken heads, which caused me to pass out, my eyes opening just in time to stop Billy from decapitating napping Pop, NO NO NO NO, that’s not how it happened, I OFFERED BILLY A QUARTER TO DECAPITATE POP, so he and I would never be the same age, drooling cooing pals on the porch, only Billy didn’t have his fine saber--it was in the shop, being studded with emeralds--so he leaped over the gurgling tube sticking out of the laundry heap, grabbed a butter knife from the old kitchen and vainly sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and sawed and…
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KELLEY DONG fiction
We found it floating on its side. Shining beneath the flashlight, its matted, grey fur resembled a tangled pile of seaweed. Drowning maggots spilled out in thin rows from its stomach, cut open with the insensitivity of sharp teeth. Blood spread in gelatinous layers across its body like a tide. My father tossed his fishing rod aside and got on his knees, tenderly pulling out the blood-stained hook. As I held my flashlight over him, I noticed a scar on the side of his neck, a hole in the dampened wooden panel beneath my feet shaped like the inside of an ear, and the fullness of the fields, long untouched and uncared for, surrounding the entire fishing ground. Around me, I saw the flickering lights of the other shacks. But I could not see their inhabitants, the middle-aged men who rented a room for only one night then left without a trace. I did, however, hear the fish pulled out of water. I inhaled the pungent yet sweet smell of soil made heavy by humid condensation. In our own shack I heard the muted sounds of a late-night cartoon and the echoes of my brother’s laughter. Meanwhile, my father heaved the animal out of the water, splattering dark brown water onto my sandals. That past Christmas, my father mailed us plane tickets to Korea with a small postcard. I would like for my son and daughter to spend spring break with me. Don’t worry about the money, it read. Or something along those lines. My mother refused to read the card in its entirety. The ends of her mouth twitched when she told us the news, as if translating each word several times over before spitting it out. We were going to meet him. We were to be on our best behavior. Across the dinner table, Charles looked up from his comic book. “And?” He asked my mother. “Anything else?” She shook her head. Charles had turned twelve the week before. That night, when the three of us lay down together on the floor of our one-room apartment, Charles muttered to no one in particular: “He said nothing.” I kept my eyes shut. I imagined where my father was and who he might have become. Maybe he was a loan shark lurking the streets, or a celebrity with slicked back hair. Maybe we’d be on one of those shows that tracked down long lost family members. I imagined Charles and me
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dragging our suitcases past aisles of clapping audiences towards a tall man in a suit on an empty stage, smiling directly into the camera with arms open wide. And we would embrace him, feeling his warmth, instantly forgetting that we’d forgotten him, and that he might have forgotten us. We knew very little about our father. The few photographs we uncovered were of no use because of the large sunglasses that hid the top half of his face. Stories of him were heavily filtered and only told when my mother was in one of her better moods. Back then, my father was a computer parts salesman. His name was Pedro, and he met my mother on the bus. Enamored, he asked her out on one date, then another, and several more, until two months later, they moved into a one-room apartment. There, they lived together until my brother was four and I was two. Then he was sent back home for not having his papers. But I did not know what that meant. Charles had heard the phrase tossed around by my mother’s side of the family when they gossiped late at night and assumed we were asleep. He told me he didn’t know what it meant either. After leaving, our father returned to his hometown, a small seaside neighborhood in Gangwon Province. Mother kept the apartment, along with all the remaining monitors and keyboards he’d bring home from work, the broken ones no one wanted to buy. Every once in a while, I peeked over at my father as he fished. I counted the coarse hairs lining his barely visible jawline. He was much larger than the man in the pictures. Without his sunglasses, his watery eyes seemed exposed, vulnerable even. His crooked teeth were yellowed by cigarettes. We sat in silence. “I think I saw something move,” my father whispered. He stared out towards some unknown point far, far away. I did not follow his gaze. He was a statue and I was a spectator, watching him watching the water. In Korea he was known by a different name. Kim Hui-taek. He told us he worked as a Chinese food delivery man in the city, an errands guy for a flower shop, and a private English tutor. There were other jobs, too, but he said those were nothing we should aspire to do ourselves. The fishing ground was where he went to get away. It was his uncle’s property. He spent most of his teenage summers there, collecting buckets of fish and raking up leaves off the dirt road while his parents worked in the city and sent money back home. “Comfortable? Sleepy?” “I’m not tired, not yet. I want to see you catch a fish.” “I do, too.” The whirring of a small boat rang as an invisible fisherman tossed his net out into the open waters. Charles turned off the light inside the shack and faded into heavy, open-mouthed snoring. My father and I were left to continue our search for fish in the dark. “I can still see,” he said. “I SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 78
can do this with my eyes closed.” Scornfully, my maternal grandmother had described him as a dreamer. He never accepted his own mediocrity and always made rash, inappropriate decisions, often involving those closest to him with little understanding of the consequences. There were many consequences, she said, without ever naming a single one. A country boy with no money, his circumstances were supposed to humble, not inspire him. But it was hard to believe that the man sitting next to me with a paper cup of rice wine in his hand had dreams. My father wanted me to know him in some way. I could tell that he was struggling to tell me something, anything. “One summer, I found a black dog on the top of the mountain,” he said. He paused, unsure of whether or not I understood the language. His words felt heavy in the thin air. “Dog,” he repeated. He pointed towards the horizon. “On the mountain.” I smiled to let him know that I was listening. “She was still a baby,” he said, cradling an imaginary pup in his arms. “I raised her for months, until I moved to the city. But when I left, my grandmother took her into the mountains and sent her away.” He took a sip from his flimsy cup. Then he crushed it beneath his coarse fingers. “Sometimes I regret that I didn’t take her with me.” I nodded, thinking to myself, Father, do you know when Charles was born? Then it tugged on his line and dragged him towards the edge of the harbor. He swore under his breath and rushed ahead. The dock shook. Struggling to reel in the catch, he knocked over several empty cans as the body was dragged ashore. But I did not join him. Instead I sunk into the familiar but still searing feeling of waiting, and watched as he held the creature, decayed and torn beyond recognition. I brought my knees to my chest. Then I saw its snout. Its large nostrils flaring. We met eyes. The beast blinked. I blinked back with hot tears in my eyes, trying to erase my father still kneeling, his back turned to me. To forget twelve-year old Charles snoring, louder and louder. I wanted to go home.
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PICKLES AND GRIEF
KAREN SNOWDEN fiction
“We told her to get a hobby,” Lauren, twenty-four, levelheaded, repeated to us. “We wanted her to do something.” We should have seen it coming. Hadn’t we been hoping for something like this to happen in the weeks since the blood vessel in Dad’s brain unexpectedly popped? Hadn’t we whispered together, cross-legged on my childhood bed, our knees touching, the door shut, her name floating between the three of us like a firefly, lighting up and vanishing? “But this?” Grace, seventeen, yell-whispered. She was the baby, but had long ago given up being told what to do by anyone, especially us. “I wanted her to join a book club. Bake brownies. Sew tablecloths!” “At least this is…useful.” The seven years spread between my two sisters like a battlefield. I stood in the middle, holding a white flag. It had always been like this. Once, when Grace was seven, she had built a bonfire in the backyard. It was almost fall; the leaves we had gathered lit up quickly, then the grass, then the deck. Grace stared triumphantly as the flames leapt up, up, up, licking the overcast sky. Lauren screamed and ran for help, for water, for our mom and dad. I had stood there, shocked, unable to move as the heat rolled towards me in waves. The house did not burn, but we lost the deck. Maybe if I had acted, then and now, things would have ended differently. The first indicator of trouble was the jars. A month after the funeral, we woke up to find hundreds of them: stacked on the counters, on top of the fridge, spread across the dining room table, covering the living room alongside the vases of dying flowers and brightly colored condolence cards. It wasn’t that our mom had always had a deep, unfulfilled desire to be a canner. If that had been the case, maybe the shock would have been less intense. But throughout our childhood, we had sucked down fruit cocktail and spread generic strawberry jam from the bottom shelf at Fred Meyer’s on our white bread. Our mom had been a Busy Woman, looking through microscopes we could not play with, researching things we could not see or pronounce. She came home in a lab coat and high heels to lasagna or meatloaf, Mexican casserole or broccoli soup—the 4 things SANTA CLARA REVIEW | 80
our dad could cook, freeze, and reheat. She had never frosted a cupcake, let alone canned tomatoes. “At least she’ll make it through the winter,” Lauren offered. “Eating nothing but preserves? We’ll see,” Grace replied. Where she even learned how to can was beyond us, but suddenly, flats of strawberries and blueberries, bags of apricots, and piles of peaches appeared on the counters. And then we had jam like we’d never had jam before. Unnamed-pastas, pots of stew and entire chickens that had been left on our doorstep in the days after the funeral by well-meaning but uncomfortable friends and neighbors lost their place in the freezer to make room for her jars. “We always wished that she was more homey,” Lauren said as she filled the trunk of her car with boxes of jam to take to her apartment. “Something has to be done,” Grace muttered. Each Sunday when I visited, she spread butter on her toast and ate it slowly, staring at Mom the entire time. I thought it was cruel to punish her like that, but I just spread my own jam on my own toast and ate in silence. I foolishly thought that this phase would end eventually and she would go back to normal; perhaps she would dust off her microscope, leave retirement, and spend time with living things again. I dutifully gave a few jars to the four coworkers I hated the least, then went back to my cubicle. Before long, however, it was obvious that our mother had fallen in with the wrong crowd. Calls from her former PTA friends and professional associates went ignored; she stopped going to the prayer group at church; her walking club did laps without her. The innocent looking older women she picked up at the farmer’s market—Ethel and Victoria and Katherine— we found, were the source of the problem. “They’re enablers,” Grace hissed. “They’ve brainwashed her.” Although I had always lacked Grace’s flair for the dramatic, after a few weeks, it was difficult to deny the influence they seemed to have on our mom. Before long, they had her jamming harder fruits: raspberries, Marion berries, currants. They went in on equipment together; recipes were dealt like drugs. “We all cope with grief in our own way,” Lauren reminded us. “At least she has something to keep her busy.” And she was busy. One morning, three months after the funeral, she woke up consumed with the desire to make blackberry jam, and vanished; Grace called us when she got up to find the front door had been left open. A few hours later, we found Mom with her gang, pillaging berries from a rogue street bush; it seemed she couldn’t stop. I realized too late that jam was just a gateway. Busy managing the onslaught of preserves, the three of us completely missed her subtle and stealthy accumulation of salts and vinegars.
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Our mother began to live by a new motto: “There’s nothing you can’t pickle.” Soon, she was investing in stalks—dill stalks taller than she was. She started coercing vegetables from friends and family, and they unknowingly fed her habit in the form of cauliflowers, carrots, green beans, and peppers, all while expressing how glad they were that she had found a way to spend her days without her husband. Our house fell into disarray. Our mother, once impeccably organized, gave up laundry and cooking and cleaning in order to devote more time to her canning obsession. Five months after the funeral, Grace arrived at the door of my studio apartment, suitcase and pillow in hand— our mom, it seemed, had taken over her room to store the excess pickles and fruits. Bills vanished under or inside the jars, and with them, the electricity, the heat. Money disappeared from Lauren’s purse each time she visited; Grace and I had long ago stopped bringing bags into the house, knowing that they would be picked through, money taken, unidentifiable pickled vegetables left in their place. “Tough love,” Grace declared. She turned 18, left for college, and hasn’t spoken to our mom since. Lauren tried harder, not one to give up: her denial ran deep, almost as deep as her loyalty. But when Mom missed her wedding—the invitation lost somewhere in the mess, the phone disconnected because of an unpaid bill—she too, was done. That leaves me. The peacemaker. I eat the jam every Sunday, sitting on boxes filled with jars. I place a bag of groceries in the fridge and update her on her other two daughters: Grace is studying theater; Lauren is back from her honeymoon in Capri. I leave with a jar of pickles. But who knows, maybe I’m like her; I keep every empty jar. They are, after all, the only things she has left to give me.
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GESTURE 2 ALLEN FORREST Watercolor and Ink on Canvas
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FORSYTHIA DEBORAH DENDLER acrylic on canvas
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PRICKLED FRAME LAUREN ITO Digital Photography
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LUCIA DE LAGO LAUREN ITO
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CONTRIBUTORSâ€™ NOTES SANTA CLARA REVIEW volume 104 // issue 02
Kate Asche’s poetry has appeared in The Missouri Review (as an Audio Prize finalist) and in Colorado Review, Natural Bridge, Bellingham Review, RHINO and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Our Day in the Labyrinth, debuted in 2015 from Finishing Line Press. A graduate of the UC Davis Creative Writing program, she teaches workshops in Sacramento and is associate editor at Under the Gum Tree. www.kateasche.com. A professor at Brandeis International Business School, John Ballantine took his Bachelor’s degree in English at Harvard, with an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Economics from NYU Stern. He has published economic commentary in Salon and the Boston Globe. His literary work has appeared in Crack the Spine, Penmen Review, Ragazine, Rubbertop Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Slippery Elm, and SNReview. He writes to understand the world we walk in and touch. Natalie Benrubi is a newly minted Santa Clara University graduate who loves the ocean, words, and avocados. She spends a considerable amount of time running, writing, singing, and chasing around a flying piece of plastic with her teammates. Today, she sees God in things like seashells, her dogs, hummingbirds, and in her relationships. Born in Oregon, Madison Blessington finds inspiration through her immediate surroundings, specifically in subjects that remind her of her definition of home. Although this definition can be expressed in many subjects and mediums, for Madison the presence of a sharp, open yet collected urban landscape recalls the drama and beauty in the duality of nature and urbanization, and in turn, the personable “human” aspect of the places she wanders in. Having grown up in the Sierra Nevada, Cameron Chase spent winters skiing through blizzardy wilderness and summers lakeside philosophizing with friends. In 2014, Cameron earned a BA in English from Lewis & Clark College. He is now a Subsidiary Rights Assistant at Hachette Book Group. Interested in both poetry and fiction, Cameron is currently working on his first novel-length project. CA Conrad’s childhood included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and helping her shoplift. The author of 9 books of poetry and essays, the latest is titled While Standing In Line For Death and is forthcoming from Wave Books (September 2017). For his books, and details on the documentary The Book of Conrad (Delinquent Films 2016),
visit CAConrad.blogspot.com Sage Curtis is a Bay Area writer with her MFA from University of San Francisco. Her work has been published in numerous literary journals and she performs it whenever possible. Recently, she’s been interested in the glamour and grit of women’s addictions, and places it finds us and takes us unexpectedly. Deborah Dendler, an alumna of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, has exhibited extensively in solo, group and invitational shows in the US, London, Toronto, Paris, Munich, Tokyo, Singapore, and Sydney. She regularly wins awards, commissions and grants, and is represented in private and public collections throughout the country. Kelley Dong is a third year student at Santa Clara University, where she is studying English and Communication with an emphasis in film. Her work has appeared in Film Comment, Reverse Shot, and The Offing. Across varying forms including fiction, poetry, film, and criticism, Kelley is most interested in deconstructing and reconstructing the image of diaspora. Jimmy Flynn is a third-year student at Santa Clara University. Currently, he is Managing Editor of The Santa Clara newspaper and host of the late-night talk show Amateur Hour on 103.3 KSCU. He also performs stand-up comedy throughout Northern California and works as an independent filmmaker. His first short film, Tasty, was an Official Selection of the 2017 Sacramento International Film Festival. In his free time, Jimmy enjoys cooking, going to the movies, and trying new restaurants. Allen Forrest is a writer who has created cover art and illustrations for literary publications and books, the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University’s Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation’s permanent art collection. Forrest’s expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements, creating emotion on canvas. Gillian Haines is an Aussie who loves Tucson’s desert, its hummingbirds and saguaros. For the past eight years, she has been volunteering to visit men in maximum-security prison because they only know the desert’s thirst.
Michael Hower is a photographer from Central Pennsylvania and has been working in the digital medium for the past four years. Over that time, he has amassed a resume of more than sixty juried, group and solo exhibitions. In the past year, he has had two solo shows in Wilmington, Delaware and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was also part of a three person show entitled “Legend” at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, Ohio last winter. Lauren Ito is a 2014 Santa Clara University alumna who can be found cultivating curiosity somewhere between her hometown of Seattle and the pineapple fields of Nicaragua. Lauren’s love for photography was sparked by an academic interest in documenting the cultural impacts of globalization on the human experience. Publications include The Seattle Times and Santa Clara Review. Laurenito.com James Croal Jackson’s poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. His first chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), is forthcoming. He is the 2016 William Redding Memorial Poetry Contest winner in his current city of Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at jimjakk.com. Hannah Jansen’s poems have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Southern Humanities Review, Yew Journal, and The Common Online, among other places. A graduate of the M.Phil. program in Creative Writing at Trinity College, Dublin, she is at work on her first collection of poems. Devin Kelly was an English Major at Santa Clara University, Class of 2017. As he wrote of himself, “I enjoy space, nature, ice cream, deep talks, friends, nice tunes and being lost. I like to keep an open mind and talk when I have something valuable to say, not just for the sake of saying something. I believe in the plan of the universe and never becoming someone I wasn’t born to be.” Devin Kelly passed away in March 2017, but he blessed all his friends with intelligent conversations and the privilege of knowing such a wonderful human. Originally from Bosnia, Amer Kobaslija fled his war-ravaged homeland in 1993 to a refugee camp in Nuremberg, Germany. Later he traveled to Düsseldorf, where he attended the Kunst Akademie. In 1997, Kobaslija was offered asylum by the United States and immigrated to Florida. There in Sarasota he completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Ringling College of Art and Design. In 2003 he went on to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree at the Montclair College of the Arts in New Jersey and has since
established his base in New York City. Miles Lagunas is a 21 year old English and Psychology double-major at Santa Clara University and will graduate in June 2017. When he is not writing poetry, Miles enjoys working as a Behavioral Technician and skateboarding. Aidan Mahoney is a senior English major and Women’s and Gender Studies minor. In this issue, she shares ‘the living room’ a short poem from her larger autobiographical piece, ‘things i never told my mother. She is thankful, excited, and nervous as hell to share with you one of the things she never told her mother. From Seattle, Wa., Angie Marioni is a senior Studio Art and Communication double major. Her deconstructed photographic work often revolves around her understanding of self-concept, self-perception, and the power of socialization. In her piece, If At First You Don’t Succeed, Take More Photos, she explores the boundaries of identity as she disjoints and reconnects over 100 images to create something new to look at. You can find more of her works at www.angelinamarionimedia. com. Ben Miller is an essayist and fiction writer. His nonfiction work River Bend Chronicle: The Junkification of a Boyhood Idyll Amid the Curious Glory of Urban Iowa was published by Lookout Books in 2013. His writing has appeared in the Best American Essays anthology and many literary journals, including AGNI, the Yale Review, the Kenyon Review, the Antioch Review, Raritan, One Story and the New England Review. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts (fellowship), the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University (fellowship) and the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America (research grant). Sandeep Kumar Mishra is an outsider artist, an International freelance writer and a lecturer in English with Masters in English Literature and Political Science. He has edited a collection of poems by various poets - Pearls (2002) and written a professional guide book -How to be (2016) and a collection of poems and art - Feel My Heart (2016) Madeline Nguyen is a recent graduate of Santa Clara University. She was born and raised in the Bay Area. Her writing interests include intersectionality, intergenerational trauma, diaspora, emotional labor,
and food politics. In 2016, she was awarded the Nina Leibman prize for her paper analyzing the feminism of Beyoncé’s “Partition.” An avid writer since the first grade, Riley O’Connell served briefly as Denver’s inaugural Youth Poet Laureate before attending Santa Clara University. There, she founded both The Bronco Slam&Jam, a quarterly poetry slam and music open mic, and SCU’s first national CUPSI team amidst her studies in English and Communication. When she isn’t writing poetry or petting dogs, O’Connell is eating poke, listening to Kendrick Lamar, or thinking about petting dogs. Jack Ready is from San Diego and has been painting his whole life. Recently, he has been working with oil paints to capture the emotions and personalities of his closest friends. Massiel Rivera, a Sociology and Studio Art double major. She is Colorado born, enjoys hiking and reading spooky stories, is a self proclaimed meme connoisseur, and strives to become a Peace Corps volunteer when she graduates. Lydia Samuel is a first year at Santa Clara University. She is from San Diego, California and some of her hobbies include drawing and designing on photoshop. She has had a passion for art ever since she was little and lovPs being creative and putting her own personal spin in her artwork. Karen Snowden is currently a senior at Santa Clara University from Seattle, Washington. She is a double major in Psychology and Child Studies who enjoys using creative writing to explore psychology and relationship dynamics. After graduation, she hopes to continue working with children and families as a social worker. Steve Susoyev practices law in San Francisco, specializing in the needs of people with life-threatening conditions. The White Crane Journal has said of him, “Susoyev is a rare example of the gay man as seeker, as victim, and as redeemed and redeemer.” Dominic Tran is a second year English major who loves literature, music and film. When he’s not drafting conspiracy theories or singing Frank Ocean’s songs off-key, you can usually find him playing Tetris in the bottom floor library by himself. He has yet to reach Level 15. Dale Williams has exhibited in the New York City area for decades. His one-person show, “Fear Not To Appear,” highlighting early paintings,
drawings, and books from 1980–1997, was held at Gowanus Loft (Brooklyn) in April 2016. Currently he is developing Cage Dies Bird Flies, a multi-phase collaboration with writer Ben Miller. He exhibited all 81 paintings from Phase One of “Cage Dies Bird Flies” at the Gowanus Loft in 2015. His images have appeared in BOMB, Ecotone, the Weirderary and other print and on-line journals. For his work on the Cage Dies project he received a fellowship in Printmaking/Drawing/Book Arts from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Contributors’ Notes Vol. 104 Issue 01 (Corrections) Kai Hirota is an international student from Japan, currently studying Marketing at Santa Clara University. He is also a member of the professional business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. Despite being selftaught, his work has been featured on Discovery Channel and Hypebeast under the artist name “from81.” Scott Shaffer is a San Francisco Bay Area potter. His work is frequently seen in the San Mateo County Fair and has had a Judges Choice and Best of Show awards given to him over the years. He regularly displays his work at the San Mateo Main Library and San Mateo City Hall. He is exclusively represented in Carmel by Anne Thull Fine Art Designs. Firing techniques include: high fire, pit fire, saggar fire, horse hair and raku. More of his work can be seen at www.saspottery.com.
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