OAKWOOD | 2017
THE OAKWOOD STAFF LITERARY EDITORS Katie Banks Amanda Cecil Elif Gabb Andrew Hyde-Strand Allison Kantack Ashley Kosters LITERARY ADVISOR Steven Wingate, M.F.A. ENGLISH DEPARTMENT HEAD Dr. Jason McEntee COVER ARTIST Masen Quist BOOK DESIGN Michael Mazourek
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Oakwood editorial board would first and foremost like to thank the South Dakota State University Students’ Association for their continued support over the years. We would also like to express our appreciation for the support of the SDSU English Department, especially Jason McEntee, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences. Finally we would particularly like to thank Steven Wingate, Oakwood’s literary advisor, without whom the continuation of Oakwood would not be possible. We give our sincere gratitude to the SDSU Print Lab for their involvement and support.
ANITA (SARKEES) BAHR AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTOR:
ERIKA SAUNDERS Anita (Sarkees) Bahr has been a long-time supporter of South Dakota State University's English Department, especially Oakwood. Thanks to her contributions, Oakwood will continue to provide an excellent opportunity for young SDSU writers and artists to publish their pieces in this journal.
© Copyright Oakwood/SDSU English Department. Rights revert to authors and artists upon publication.
Feast Erika Saunders Summer came through water rush spring rivers, tributaries grown salty with Asian carp zingers, swatted this way and up; heaven shoots bambooing to God’s prayer hands woven into parachutes of miniscule time. Bits of bread salted, stale, long arms wide smile, vanishing point assured you bow your head and say, “Feast!” But laid bare long and low across the white tablecloth dotted with oil-black coffee stains and Saltine crumbles (served freely every Friday afternoon) I see nothing but carcasses floating face up; brother and mother and daughter all cheeks shining salted tears. Wearing crowns of clouds where water-meets-sky-meets their closed eyes, closed lips cracked as music across time, their grief hearts turning slowly over silver encrusted spits like the flesh of you all this time crocked, set to bake slowly near the warm banked coals of a lifetime of endless askance.
OAKWOOD | 2017 TABLE OF CONTENTS 5|
Steven R. Vogel
Sliver of Light
Photograph of a Life
Constantine Nemo Dorn
The Whole Story
All my thread
In Love on Foot
The Blue Line
Where I Come From
Constantine Nemo Dorn
Seneca Falls, July 19, 1848
S. D. Bassett
Constantine Nemo Dorn
Childless Woman Seeks Breath of Life
Mary C. Rowin
Ready for the River
Douglas M. White
Marsha Warren Mittman
Despertar en Cuba
Tim J Brennan
Steven R. Vogel
Mary C. Rowin
Bridgewater, South Dakota
Constantine Nemo Dorn
Heavy Hand of Winter
S. D. Bassett
Sometimes at poetry readings
Rosemary Dunn Moeller
I feel I'm back 70|
Inside the Maybe
Past, Present, Future
Facing the Sun
Dancing with Fire
Samuel T. Krueger
On Reading Richard Wright's
Rosemary Dunn Moeller
Stories in my Students' Textbooks 77|
Ode to My Farm Wife Mother
Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Carol L. Deering
Fast Falls the Eventide
DĂŠjĂ Vu, USSR 1989
Marsha Warren Mittman
Heaven's Back Door
Steven R. Vogel
Round Steven R. Vogel I would not make the world round; nothing in me could fashion it so. I would not make the pheasantâ€™s cheek red; for shame I might, but only for that. I would not wake the morning on a round edge, not anywhere near an edge. Not anywhere at all, but in the open night. It would come like a flashâ€” like the brilliance of a lark landing on a twig for the first time. Anywhere near would hush at the impossible bend of the sky to the earth, misshapen as it is.
Sliver of Light Amanda Jamison Photography
Zippered Megan Caldwell Slide until we combine. Sunken teeth, clasped fists bring me to you. Unlock your zipper-bind fingers from mine. Wedge a cavity between us. Each time we untwine, teeth gnaw craving savory bites. Indulge no more. Unwind my prisoner spine. Coupled in our cocoon, proximity promotes our asphyxiation. Indentured to a lifeline. Do promises charm or chain? Satisfy this deliberation. Unravel our fastened confine piece by piece, tooth by tooth. Stop. Rewind.
Morning Melody Jodilyn Andrews I intertwine myself with his soft, snoring frame before we part for twelve hours. Sticking our stomachs together, I press my fingers to his vertebrae one by one— Bones evenly placed like Mancala marbles filling empty spaces. one. two. three. His hair patches near his shorts. The curve in his muscles, his breath in my hair, stale deodorant smell lingers. I gather him up like flowers: study him, smell him, smother him. Soon, he’ll be everyone else’s. His soft snores whistle and sway like a grass blade between my lips. I drift away alongside him, praying my alarm forgets to separate us.
London Drunk Elif Gabb Sloshing away on empty stomachs. We spin— Gleefully. Questions seek answers but reach jarring mouths. Sweat-drips rest on tables— Tonight, only stumbling takes flight. Hues of gold and brown piece together remnants of the past. Pinching fingers find balance— Salt-covered time changed little, nothing. Trying to venture into no-man’s land but realizing drinks don’t anaesthetize. Another day, another month, another year— Then, we’ll let memories sting.
Cracked Soul Brooke Ruhd Photography
Photograph of a Life Lilli Weinkauf
mountains to the side, they were all white. And they all looked so hot. Then the world exploded in color, and she was in a different place. A different time. She was in third grade and the tallest girl in her class. That didn’t matter though, because
Stiff fingers clawed the dry, broken ground.
she was with James, and he was a year older
The top layer of dirt came off under her nails,
and a year taller than her. James was calling her
and it felt good to feel something other than
a chicken for not wanting to jump off the big
the heat. The woman’s feeble attempt to drag
rock, and she got angry so she jumped in the
herself forward failed, and she lay unmoving
water right next to him and splashed him all
on the cracked brown earth. Even the shallow
over. He was so angry, and she was so happy
breaths she tried to take in weren’t enough
that she didn’t tell him how much the belly flop
to raise her chest. All this managed to do
hurt. His hair was as dark brown as his eyes
was scrape the inside of her throat and make
when it was wet.
her wish she could cough, but her mouth
She was eighteen and all wrapped up in a
was choked with her swollen tongue, and
sweater and gloves. She was clinging to the
she knew it was no use. So she laid on her
young man’s arm with all her strength. James
back, unnoticeable for the layer of dust that
had gotten taller, but so had she, so her elbow
camouflaged her, and stared toward the sky.
matched perfectly with his. He was laughing at
Her stare was of no use either, as everything
her fright, so she shoved into his shoulder and
was white. The sky, and the sun, and the
they both went tumbling down in a flurry of
blades and ice. James laughed and touched his lips to her nose. It was August 19th, and it was the hottest day
saying, Get out. Now the small boy was larger, and he looked remarkably like the brown-eyed man
of the summer. The sky was seared a light blue
holding his hand. He stood on tip-toe and
by the sun, and the grass was hinting towards
threw his arm into the air for one last wave.
yellow. The woman sat on the porch, which
He smiled a smile full of tiny white teeth, and
sat in front of the little yellow house with the
the woman boarded the plane. It had taken all
brown roof and the white-trimmed windows.
of her courage to take this trip, to leave Jaime
She had sun-darkened skin, just kissed by
and head towards the white hot of the desert
the blush of happiness. From her place on the
she had always dreamed of.
porch, she could see the small boy in the blue kiddie pool, his wet brown hair plastered to his forehead and his mouth shrieking with laughter. She could see his four tiny teeth shining defiantly against his dark skin, and she
She didnâ€™t feel courageous as the plane began rocking from side to side. Jaime. Little Jaime is safe. Thatâ€™s all that matters. Thank you. And James. Thank you for that. Little Jaimeâ€™s dark face faded to white, and
was proud of every one. He was just starting to
everything was white, save for the dust-
brush his own teeth. She smiled and he came
covered body on the ground.
running towards her. She was crying, yelling at the tall, dark man that had the same eyes as their son. She loved him and he was everything she had ever wanted. She heard the ringing of her own voice
Vanitas Constantine Nemo Dorn Digital Painting
Homesick Bones Amanda Cecil Foot bones beige and porous march across my father’s desk. I grip the ankle— A skinless size nine, held together with metal screws. The toes tangle in his stethoscope, which amplifies the cereal slosh in my stomach. I set the bones atop my own small foot and visualize the inside of me, stripped down— skeleton. skeleton— I am stripped down, bursting: too large on the inside. I set my feet across a boy’s lap. Wine froths in my stomach, and I feel tangled on the inside. We’re held together like a string of spit. I grip his ankle, and the rounded bone reminds me of the worn toes of my father’s leather work shoes.
The Whole Story James Sullivan The phone queeps in the dark to tell me it’s dying. The way back to sleep is a swim into a sinkhole of blackness where a switchboard operator wants passwords usernames PINs. She asks if I was ever born. Then I’m getting emails and texts from my dead brother Terry saying he is great, down to two joints a day and a few beers. He’s finally pulling it together, wants to tell me the whole story. Again. I think of the suicide attempt so confused we could pretend it was nothing. Three missing days of whiskey and valium and he walked out of the ER with a conman’s smirk and a belly full of charcoal.
Like the time he was 15, woke on the driveway and came to the back door naked with a brick in his hand. No one said a thing. Sleepwalking we thought. Then one Sunday night as he stared into an old Star Trek episode waiting to be streamed up, to come apart atom by atom in a haze of glitter and be remade, his blood stretched, his heart stopped. His cat came through an open window and dropped a dead junco at his feet. The emails grow too faint to read, electrons spinning into new orbits. I hit the send button having typed nothing, and hit it again and again. No brick falls, no door opens.
The Land Jennie Scislow Mixed Media
Absurdity BSL in dharmic walks under the not-warm-enough sun in dakota, i pine for coffee and erasure of eyesores—looming. i buy backpacks to hike into holy lands that are not my own. i find your Coyote to be an american buddha. i imagine him beside me—laughing. this predicament of forward and backward motion, desire, has no location which i can see. he sees in whole radiance of radiation, heat, and other energies. Dakota, did you hear about the performance art with America the coyote? i saw it in the theater of my mind, title cards and commercials for talkies. like sun, the images compose dustily into forms. movies still aren’t real though. no one told me that. still, i never wanted a big house or a car. i wanted my own two toes to step on the land—that was not my own. i wanted to take Reynard and leave him in america— let him go from film and leave him with Coyote. all three of us would make a great band. you could see us on the railway if you could close your eyes. Absurdity, like a flower from the europe i never found in europe, sprouts.
curve of my waist, were home. But if I chose
to confine myself here, wouldn’t that make it a prison? ***
I’ve heard stories of how men used to propose, back in the years before the
The next day was my monthly venture into
Internationalization. So as Seth knelt before me
the Internationalized zone; we couldn’t craft
on one knee, I realized what he was doing even
everything out of forest resources. I was the
though he offered not a ring, but a rifle.
second generation to show that women could
“I don’t want you to answer right away,” he
sneak in and out easiest. There were three other
said, clearly misinterpreting my open mouth as
women left in our clan who hadn’t defected or
an intention to speak rather than the inability
been killed, but we each had our own tasks,
to do so. “If you marry me, this will be your
and this was one of mine.
life—always living in the mountains, always
I faced what used to be the road. With all
hunted. You lose the option of assimilation. I
the missing hunks of asphalt baring different
won’t try to persuade you to become my wife.
layers of material in various spots, it was a
I only want you to accept if you still think our
rougher path than just driving on the dirt. I
love is worth it after considering the bleakness
propped my shoulder blades against a tree and
of what it will mean for your future.”
its bark latched onto my shirt like tiny chains
His lips and jaw moved stiffly, like boulders
trying to forbid me from leaving. I’m sure it
slamming together. But in his eyes I could
snagged my clothes, but I was purposefully
see budding streams threatening to erode his
wearing a torn-up set anyway. The more
composure. I dropped to my own knees before
shredded they looked, the better.
him. A rock jabbed my shin, but I didn’t care.
A bluish blob on the horizon indicated it was
It pierced my skin far less than his words did
time for me to catch my ride. I half-clawed,
my heart. I gripped both of his stubbled cheeks
half-clutched my unbraided hair as I made
and pressed my lips against his. The labored
my way toward the middle of the street in the
set of his jaw instantly gave way to our familiar
same wide-legged stagger I had forced dozens
of times. As soon as I could make out that the
He pulled back to lay the gun on the forest
blob was an old truck, it was close enough.
ground beside us, then returned his face to
I began to wail. It slowed to a stop a short
mine; all I could do was rest my forehead on
distance in front of me and the driver took a
his, close my eyes, and breathe deeply. The off-
cautious half-step out of his door, just as the
sweet odor of the leaves was home. The breeze
wiser ones always did.
that carried it, sending tendrils of Seth’s loose
“Please, help me!” I moaned. “Those men,
hair dancing across my cheeks as if even that
they—I just came for firewood. It’s always so
part of his body needed to be touching mine—
cold, and Bill wouldn’t come. He, he said it
was home. And his hands, hands that had fired
was dangerous, the Resistors would kill him.
hundreds of bullets into Internationalizers’
But little Sally, she’s a baby—she’s been so
vital organs and now gently clutched the
cold! So I came, but the men in the woods—
they’re worse than they say! They shoved me
long as I was one of them, I had no option of
down and…I can’t get pregnant again, we can’t
any other reality.
feed another baby!” By the end of my routine the driver was out
*** Our clan’s inside supplier being a priest
of his truck and clasping my shoulders; most
was certainly an advantage for my ploy.
of them did. The series of things he’d say,
The drivers never had any hesitations about
questions he’d ask, and answers I’d respond
depositing a rape victim with a member of
was so formulaic I barely needed to pay
the clergy. And places of worship were one of
attention. But the fact that nearly every driver
the few structures neither side was willing to
treated me this way made me question what
destroy thirty years ago when the American
we Resistors said about those living in the
government surrendered its sovereignty to the
Internationalized zone, that they were cowards
UN, contrary to the populace’s wishes, and
unwilling to sacrifice their safety for the sake
rebellion ensued. Ensues.
of what was right. Yet these men would leave
Father Bradbury’s position helped him evade
their vehicles right next to the forest known as
suspicion; it only made sense for a church to
Resistance territory—the one thing they were
have extra clothes to share with the poor…or
told never to do on their job—to help a woman
the Resistance. And the intricate architecture
in need. It wasn’t as easy as saying my world
of this cathedral offered many hiding places
was good and theirs was bad.
for stolen ammunition. How Father Bradbury
During the few-hour trip, my act gradually
actually obtained it, I never asked. I was
shifted to less hysterical. The moments of
content without information. My job required
calculated silence when I would stare at my
me to obtain free supplies for my clan and
hands wringing the shreds of my shirt were
get a ride back to the forest where the church
what I hated most. The silence incarcerated my
sent a truck to the next Internationalized zone;
thoughts, fixating them on my mother.
always the same place the drivers traveled to
She had performed this same act for years. It wasn’t really that suspicious since the
and from. I’d often stay at the church a few days until
Internationalizers spread propaganda that we
the next truck left. Sitting in the pews allowed
Resistors were rapists, murderers, warlords, all
me to listen to the prayers of the people living
of it. I’d heard of a handful who bent that way,
in the zone, to consider what their lives were
but I’d certainly never known any in our clan.
like. What a life lived outside the woods could
But that didn’t keep people from believing it.
One month, Mom never came back. Maybe
They prayed for food, for heat, for their
her story slipped. Maybe the driver just knew
children to somehow enjoy life while growing
better than to trust even a woman in Resistance
up within a war. They clasped their hands
territory. Maybe she had the bad luck of trying
together so tightly their fingers became
to scam the same driver for a second time. I
blotches of red and white, and their voices
guess how it happened didn’t matter. Facing
shook more than the trucks on that road. They
death everyday is part of being Resistance. As
must have thought they were petitioning for
dire needs. I only saw their requests as being
allegiance to the Resistance. That terrifies me. I
for comfort. The religious among my people
can’t help but think how easily I could slip into
begged God, “Let my husband survive another
this society. Hell, they—oh, sorry—heck, they’d
day. Let my son’s infection take over quickly
probably even give me more than most, a
so he doesn’t linger in anguish. Don’t let my
defector from the Resistance, in exchange for a
father be captured, but rather die in battle lest
few propaganda ads or something. And…look,
they torture him.”
I know how much you stand for the Resistance,
I yearned for the freedom to pray for a comfortable life, not life itself. Could I bring
but can you just be a priest for a minute?” He bowed his head slightly. “My dear, my
myself to defect to the other side? Plenty had
passions for God and for freedom are one in
done it before, both men and women from my
the same, as are my passions for freedom from
clan—especially the women. I could have a life
the Internationalizers’ laws and for any type
where I could actually expect to, well, live. To
of freedom. Right now, you need freed from
not have to worry that my love could be ripped
what’s troubling you. I will gladly assist with
from me at any moment. But Seth…he was
Resistance to his core. If I left my home, the thing ripping us apart would be me. A hand settled on my shoulder. I grabbed
I fingered a loose button on the shirt he’d given me to wear instead of my tattered one. “The Resistance is not my fight; I don’t care
for the hunting knife I always kept strapped
quite enough, I guess. But it is Seth’s. He
to my thigh, but my fingers clutched only
would die for it in a heartbeat. And I absolutely
air. I couldn’t bring it with me into the
cannot help but love him, every bit of him. So
Internationalized zone, and its absence in a
how do I choose which world to live in?”
moment of panic felt like getting into a fight with a missing limb. “Ramona.” It took me a second to register Father Bradbury’s quiet voice and his soft
“You’re asking about the wrong choice, my dear.” “What?” “Ramona, I’ve pastored married couples for
smile, even though I stared directly at
three decades,” he said. “You make the mistake
him. This world so different from my own
of thinking of love as something that happens
felt perpetually foreign. It was difficult to
to you. At first it does, but it gets to the point
recognize even the familiar.
where love is a conscious choice. A choice of
“Am I interrupting your prayers, daughter?”
what is most important. You aren’t choosing
“No, no. I should be praying. But…”
between here and there, you’re choosing
“What is your desire?”
whether or not to love Seth. If I asked you, ‘Do
I hesitated. “I’m not sure.”
you love him?’ you would confirm it, would
His face maintained an understatedly
compassionate expression, his whole head cocked patiently to one side. “Well…you remember Seth Clark, right?” He nodded, so I continued. “He asked me to marry him. That would mean I’d be sealing my
“Of…of course.” Father Bradbury’s speech forced a moment’s waver into my voice. Yet, there was no way my heart could respond anything except of course. “And that’s why I’m not asking you that.
Instead, Ramona, you must figure out: Will you
clan’s members already in position, weapons
propped into notches we’d carved into low ***
I sat cross-legged against a tree and let the
branches, aimed perfectly at the road downhill. Seth was with them, his gun in the groove, but
calming scent of sap embrace me, though the
he stood glancing to and fro. Only after his
pine needles insisted on jabbing through my
gaze connected with mine did he hunker down
jeans into my legs. Seth’s rifle lay across my
and nestle his cheek against the gunstock.
lap. I danced my fingertips along the cold, metal barrel, so industrial and foreign in this natural world. But even more out of place was the sound of
I scurried to take position next to him and shouldered his—my—rifle. UN troops poured out of the vehicles, camouflage on their bodies and far more
many sets of car tires on the road. It had been
merciless guns than ours in their hands. They
nine months since that had happened last.
dropped low and started up the hill, and as my
fingertip curled around the trigger, my heart
I jolted upright and ran to our base camp, trying to ignore the tree branches lashing my face. I had to keep both hands on the weighty gun, so shoving them aside wasn’t an option.
began to pound and my palms developed a film of sweat. But it wasn’t because I was afraid. I freely chose to lock myself into love.
As I burst into the clearing, I saw all our
Untitled Brooke Ruhd Photography
All my thread Allison Kantack The strings they tie around us tangle our minds again, and tighten until we look away and say, â€œTwo years too soon, two towns too far,â€? and yet, we let out the hems, sleeves blanket our fingers, only to rip out the seams and start again. Trimmed with a dream, I spend all my thread on you.
Skin Reverberations Jodilyn Andrews Feet stacked—smooth skipping stones. Fingers laced in yesterday’s cracks. Laced stones skip cracks smooth. Yesterday’s fingers stacked in feet. Tucked into mittens, hands warm. The bass reverberates and ripples skin. Hands tuck into mittens. Skin reverberates the bass and ripples warm. An ice cube runs the length of your spine. Toes curl at the edge of a chasm. An ice cube the length of toes curls the edge and runs the chasm of your spine. Smooth stones the length of laced hands ripple cracks in your spine. Ice mittens cube warm chasms of tucked fingers. Curled toes run at the edge of stacked feet. The bass skips. Yesterdays reverberate skin.
In Love on Foot James Sullivan ~ For Deborah I knew a Jasmine and her name was Susan and her name was Julia and her name was Kim. She came from Arkansas and Kansas and Missouri. We hiked the caving banks of the Elkhorn somewhere in Nebraska and then the Nishnabotna and the shimmering sandbars of the Platte. The fallen cottonwood limbs were so white and Jasmine in red stockings, the air sweet in the willows. The darkness, the darkness and Ganzi the cat soft across the stones, snake in her mouth. We shared a peach sitting on her bed one day in Tekamah and a hot day in August felt the peach-colored sunset and Juliaâ€™s hair and her breath in mine, cicadas landing on the window screen and a luna moth come to earth gentle as an eyelid closing.
She was Eastman, she was Snow, she was Watkins and in Omaha we walked through sculpted mounds, berms and swales of a coalescing interstate to eat sugar donuts and smoke Old Golds and talk and talk and love sometimes in the ice of winter and black coffee nights. And we walked and walked among earthmovers where Cass St. and California St. and Webster and Burt were disappearing, white wooden porches and limestone steps and trellises laced with clematis lifted away and orange day lilies where Lucy had waited while lacewings orbited the streetlights. At dawn exit ramps and entrance ramps emerged, sleek concrete curves looping and splaying away and away in serpentine tangles to Utah and Maine and the Carolinas and in her Chevy she tears the wrapper from a Milky Way letting it snap out the window and she sees hot blue sky open and open over and over.
The Blue Line Claire Shefchik
vacuuming up my every right to take up space in this world. He lunged toward me. Boo. I wriggled away and fell, legs split out before
The first time I ever played hockey, a boy
and behind me, my baby clit kissing the ice
tripped me with his stick and shoved me nose-
through the crotch of my jeans, the alien splurt
first into a snowbank.
of pleasure it gave me twinned forever with his
Everyone else just ignored me. I should have cut my losses and oozed away back to
laughter. Look, guys, it’s Dogs on Ice. The monster
wherever I’d come from, but instead, figuring I
grabbed our only puck, flipping it in his black
had no dignity left to lose, I grabbed a different
leather hockey glove, as thick and shiny as
boy and slammed his head against the metal
a convertible’s interior. He wound up, then
goalpost, dropping him like Goofy, stopping
whacked it like a baseball over eight rows of
the game dead.
parked cars. An alarm started screaming. Go
Soon: sun-reddened, snaggly grins, a piece of argot, spat. Damn.
fetch. When I returned forty-five minutes later,
Just like that, I had been admitted into the
having retrieved the puck from inside a slush-
world these boys had only just stumbled into
choked wheel well, the rink was empty. Matt
themselves, a world where they didn’t use
Bondy informed me the next day the monster’s
names. They used placeholders: Hey you! That’s
father had taken them all out for pizza.
what I’d earned: the right to be a you. You
By the time I was ten, most of the boys
was what Sam McGregor called me when he
had lost interest in hockey and moved on
nearly put my eye out with a chunk of sheet
to skateboards and weed, but a few joined
ice. You was what Matt Bondy, the goalkeeper,
peewee teams. And I still went to the rink after
called me when he gave me his old skates and
school and on weekends, to play with boys
showed me how to tape up my stick. And
years younger than me and—by which time I
you was the name denied me by the monster
knew I had truly been brought low—girls.
in the black-and-gold Bruins jersey, Number
One day, a man appeared at the rink and
Seven, who appeared one day when I was nine,
said his name was George. He was tall and
ordering everyone into ranks, stick upturned
pale and black-eyed and wore a thick wool
like a riding crop. Each boy shrunk away as his
coat in which I would have loved to curl up
shadow glided over them like a turkey vulture.
and go to sleep. He introduced himself as “just
When he reached me, I expected the usual:
another hockey dad,” supposing I had parents
What are you looking at?
thoughtful enough to instill in me the fear of
You don’t belong here.
strange men. But I’d never heard the term. And
I wasn’t afraid of men.
That I could handle. That I could claw and scream and swear my way out of. Instead, he just stood there, grinning,
He asked me how old I was and how long I’d been playing hockey. I humored him. No adult had ever done anything for me, and I
didn’t expect it now. But when he beckoned me
my puck, leaving me no choice but to yank
into the arena for a Styrofoam cup of hot cocoa
her ponytail back and bash her head into the
from the concession stand, I followed. I wasn’t
glass. As she skated in tears to her mother, a
stupid. Food was always worth the trouble.
dainty trail of blood trickling from her nostril,
I burned my tongue on the cocoa but kept
the coach blew her whistle and threw me out
drinking it, relishing the warmth cascading
of the game. But even this wasn’t enough for
into my stomach and shooting into the
the team mothers, who ganged up on George,
capillaries in my face. George positioned me
Sr. in the parking lot, threatening to withdraw
at a picnic table on the other side of the glass
their daughters and, more importantly, their
from the ice, where a peewee team played a
money, from the league.
scrimmage. The shouts and whistles of the
So it was back to the boys. I began that
coach reverberated off the high ceilings, as the
season not knowing what an assist was, but by
armored players whipped toward each other
the end, I had made seventeen—and twelve
like bullets. Sitting there at the table, watching
goals. But all I cared about was that I could
it, my body felt restrained, corseted. Staring
once again pile with the boys into someone’s
down at the cup, I watched the tendons under
mother’s minivan, elbow to elbow and knee
my hands flex on its surface.
to knee, and go to Prezzioso’s, a dim Xanadu
That’s my boy over there, George said when the coach called a timeout. Number Seven. It was the monster. He was still gigantic,
with beautiful fake Tiffany lamps and a mowed-down carpet covered in red pepper flakes and powdered Parmesan, where I could
even from twenty feet away, even discounting
gobble sawdust pizza and fail, every week, to
the pads under his jersey. He removed his
beat Sam McGregor at Golden Tee.
helmet to reveal unruly black hair that recalled his father’s. Then he cruised, restless, waiting for the whistle, black eyes scanning the bladegouged rink like a predator. His name is George, too. I was the youth hockey equivalent of a feral
Why do you have a girl on your team? Especially such an ugly one? It was the first question out of the mouth of George Hadfield, Jr., our new teammate. He didn’t really need us—he was already on the varsity squad at Duluth East, and, at just
child, and George Hadfield, Sr., Chairman of
twelve, matched all of the juniors and most of
the Board of the Duluth Athletic Association,
the seniors in size. But he also had a legitimate
was the researcher tasked with reintroducing
chance at being scouted, and he wasn’t getting
me to civilization. I had never worn gloves or
nearly enough ice time. Playing for us, he
pads or a helmet, or been given skates or a stick
could count on getting as much as he pleased.
that fit me. I had no concept of periods or time-
He turned to me.
outs, of infractions or penalties, or that rules
You look like the fucking marshmallow
couldn’t be changed on the whim of whoever
man out there, waddling around. No wonder
shouted loudest. And before the end of the first
nobody passes to you. They’re afraid it’ll get
period of my first game with my new team,
lost in your fat rolls and they’ll never see it
West Duluth Girls 12U-A, some bitch stole
Laughter echoed. I didn’t matter what the boys thought of me. It mattered what they
Nobody wants me there, I explained. He told me that wasn’t true, then reached to help me
thought of George, Jr. And they thought he was up. their fucking emperor. I stepped forward. Only getting to the rink would make this okay. Where the fuck are you going? He shoved me back against the locker, then stood in front of the door, blocking out all the light. And my world, for those few
Will you come now? Not today. Please. Wednesday, I promise. He began trudging toward his black machine, but turned. If anything’s bothering you, Brooke, you can always tell me. George, Jr. was right. Coach Nelson was in
minutes, crystallized, cracked, and filled again
charge in theory. The Hadfields were in charge
completely with him; the aquiline curve of
in reality, which meant that when the other
his nose, the steam of his breath in the just-
teams weren’t following his lead by ignoring
below-freezing air. I don’t want to see your fat,
me, they were tossing me against the boards
disgusting ass on the rink until five after five,
like Raggedy Ann.
he said. My dad owns this team. He owns this league. You want to stay in it?
And I threw myself into the hits. It felt right; it felt like penance for my own uselessness, for
my long, greasy hair and fat thighs and reeking
Then do what I say, or I’ll tell him we fucked.
cunt. Sometimes I’d reach up to touch my
Then you’ll get kicked off the team. Know
face and get a hand back covered in blood, or
enter the third period with my mouth stuffed
I shook my head.
full of gauze. I’d pop my shoulder and elbow
Because he’ll think you raped me.
joints back into their sockets in the locker
Your disrespect for my and your teammates’
room during halftime, peel Ace bandages off
time is unacceptable, Coach Nelson said when
miscellaneous body parts to reveal nothing
I finally arrived on the ice. He sent me off to
but yellow ooze. A few times I was actually
skate ten laps, while George, Jr. led a puck-
knocked out cold, only to awaken in the
fluorescent bath of the empty locker room,
Monday, instead of going to practice, I
frightened and kicking to be let back in. You’ll
went to the outdoor rink, but I didn’t feel like
get scars, said Antonella, the tutor George, Sr.
skating. I made a little nest of snow and curled
had hired to make sure I wasn’t tossed off
up in it.
the team because of my abysmal grades, but I
Soon, I heard heavy wheels on the gravel just
didn’t care. My body wasn’t worth anything
outside the rink, recognizing the Hadfields’
if it couldn’t take hits. Yes, I was quick and
Mercedes SUV. The door slammed, and I knew
I could skate and shoot, but as a girl they
George, Sr. was trudging through the banks
expected that of me. The hits were different.
behind me, probably having spotted my blue
The hits set me apart.
snowflake hat poking up from the snow. I
Meanwhile, George, Sr. quietly replaced
prayed he hadn’t gone to the address listed on
my used, ill-fitting pads and equipment with
my league file first.
brand-new gear. Antonella, a graduate student
in romance studies at St. Scholastica, met me in an empty classroom three times a week after school. I had finished first semester, for the first time ever with a B average. But I didn’t care about the honor roll, about the money, about the glittery purple skate
The fuck you are. You’re poor as shit. I’ve seen where you live. I closed my eyes, trying to ward off the image of the house I lived in and George, Jr. existing in the same universe. The standard Hadfield interest rate is
guards he must have thought a girl would like.
eleven percent compounded quarterly, which
As cold as George, Jr. was, colder still would
adds up to, he paused as if calculating, eight
be the winter without the rink, the winter as it
million dollars. So you better start whoring for
had been before I had a pile of boys to keep me
a quarter now, since that’s what you’re going
warm, before, Hey you, want to be on our team?
to be doing for the next fifty years. Assuming
By the time I was in eighth grade, George,
anyone could stand to fuck someone as ugly
Jr., had entered high school. He was once
as you. Say, he added, let’s find out. Show me
again driving the Kestrels toward the district
championship and officially been made starting
Slowly, I pulled down my black leggings.
center at East, which meant the last barrier
Hurry the fuck up, he said. Some of us have
keeping him mortal had crumbled. Calling cards from Michigan, Colorado, Trinity, and Cornell fought for space on the Hadfield mantel, though he shrugged them off. Play it cool. I heard his father say. Please. It would be like nailing down a tiger’s
real homes to go to. I spread my legs as little as I thought I could get away with. Now your tits, he said. I pulled up my shirt. He stepped back and laughed, running his hand through his hair, clearly impressed with
tail. Subtlety throttled him; serenity enraged
himself, if not with me. He held out the face of
him. He terrorized Duluth’s East End in his
my phone and snapped a photo.
father’s BMW; he cut class to swagger down
You want me to send this to my dad? he
the hallways of East High swigging Woodford
said. I shook my head. Then keep your fat
Reserve out of a Gatorade bottle, throwing
fucking mouth shut.
open the doors of his girlfriends’ classrooms and roaring to see them, while their hands literally shook under their desks at the prospect
I called George, Sr. immediately after practice. I can’t be your charity case anymore. Brooke, I’m not doing anything the least bit
of fingering the gold and quicksilver that
charitable. I consider it an investment in your
seemed to line the pockets of his waistcoats,
his vintage tees, his leather messenger bags, his
I want to pay my own way.
cavalry coats with their rock-star epaulettes, all
You’re thirteen. Would you baby-sit? Mow
stuck with patches declaring him commodore,
lawns? Anything you could make wouldn’t be
enough to cover one season’s worth of skate
I hear you’re begging for handouts again, said George Jr., as he slammed open my open locker door. I’m going to repay him, I said.
laces. You pay to play in this sport, Brooke. I’m sorry. I’ll quit, I said, but I knew I wouldn’t. Instead, I let George, Sr. get me a job at the
country club where he served on the board, and day on the ice five years ago. It never occurred where he hauled his son out on the fairways
to me to say no. Saying no was what a girl
to bond. It ate up those few remaining hours
in my day when I wasn’t at school or practice.
Who’s in there?
I wore a white cotton apron over my black
The manager, who’d been upstairs drinking
uniform and spent most of my time mapping
Lagavulin with the club president and head
out escape routes from George, Jr., should he
greenskeeper, pounded on the storage room
door, sending two plastic forks tumbling off the
He finally did, one night, as the dining
room was closing, as I ran two full garbage
George, Jr. stepped back. Fuck.
bags down to the bin. It was raining, but the
The next day, I fainted out of my chair in
sooner I finished, the sooner I would have to
the middle of third period pre-calc. I gave the
go home. I turned when I heard footsteps. He
nurse George, Sr.'s number. He met me at the
emerged from behind the maintenance shed,
hospital, sat through the MRI, and there, hand
rain rolling off his cherry leather bomber
on my shoulder, when the doctor told me that if
jacket. I bolted like a hare, forgetting all of my
I kept playing hockey the way I did, there was
elaborate escape plans. Maybe if I could get
a good chance that, before long, I wouldn't be
inside quickly enough, it would magically be as able to do any more pre-calc. if I’d never seen him. I flung open the door to
It’s your choice, Brooke, said George, Sr.
the clubhouse and tore down the cellar stairs,
Do you need to talk to your dad in private?
heading the wrong way down the hall, praying to encounter a lucky hiding spot instead of the dead end that awaited me.
asked the doctor. Once I explained who George, Sr. was, it wasn’t long before a familiar woman in glasses
How old are you, six? What the fuck do
and a bad perm pulled up in a state car and
you think I’m going to do to you? I just want
drove me away. Staring out the sleet-pelted
us to be alone for a minute. Come on. He
back window at George, Sr., my breathing went
led me down the hall in the other direction,
shallow and cold.
to a windowless storage room full of metal shelving, cardboard boxes full of the plastic
He promised to request me, and he did, petitioning the state for custody as if I'd been a
cutlery and paper napkins they used at the pool vanity license plate. All we had to do was wait. in the summer.
It was an East party, George, Jr. told me over
Your hair curls when it rains, he said.
the phone when he called, three days after
He grabbed my face and kissed me. Inspired,
I’d already convinced myself he wouldn’t. It
I reached up to grab the back of his head,
would be full of people I didn’t know, which
burrowing my fingers in his dense black hair as meant it was safe for both of us. He offered to deep as they would go. Now, at least, I would
pick me up. I told him I’d meet him there, then
always be able to say I knew what it felt like.
threw up the cucumber sandwich I’d pinched
His fingers grazed across my mons pubis, sending a shiver to the place he’d claimed that
from the lunch buffet. It was halfway up the hill, in a lemon-brick
foursquare that took up half the block. As
paying attention. He had transferred one of
I clambered up Superior Street, feet raking
his hands to my neck, and from there, began
against the straps of my heeled sandals,
a battle with my bangs, which kept spring
preparing myself to ring the doorbell and
forward in a doomed campaign to defend my
discover there was no party, no George, Jr.,
face as he kissed it. Meanwhile, his other hand
no hope for everything I had wasted so much
erred farther, quietly urging me onto my back.
time praying was real when I should have been
Guests began filing out of the parlor in an
orderly fashion. They knew what was coming.
But as I approached the house, I spotted him
It’s okay, he kept saying, as I squeezed my
on the front porch swing, his head poking up
eyes tight against the tears. It’s okay. It’s how
over the edge of the rail. A narrow row of stone
it’s supposed to feel.
steps led up to it. I climbed them slowly, as if
Afterward he fell asleep on top of me. I
he were wildlife likely to attack if startled.
traced the blue lines under his face and hands,
He met me halfway. You idiot, he said,
twisted his hair into corkscrews, picked at his
snatching me up by the arm. He stared at my
old scabs. It was over. For the rest of the night,
blistered feet. Why didn’t you let me pick you
he was mine. He didn’t know it, but I’d won.
up? He wore skinny jeans and brown leather
A week later, he flew to Sweden with the U-17s. When the photos came in, he
combat boots with the laces undone, and
was hoisting a bottle of Stockholm in the
his checked button-down, underneath his
Sodermalm, two blondes, all neck, clinging to
navy blue blazer, had military patches on it.
him like fox fur.
He didn’t look overweight at all, or silly. He looked perfect, a beautiful dandy.
When I arrived at the lake house for good, the cancer had spread to his father’s lungs. He
He didn’t introduce me to anyone—less out
wore a patch over his left eye, but he was still
of embarrassment, as I’d feared, than because
King George, intubated and oxygenated, in a
they all seemed to genuinely bore him. He
black cashmere robe as expensive as anything
treated beautiful girls like they were waitresses, he’d ever worn. He had been positioned in the ordering drinks and bowls of tortilla chips,
sun room by his live-in nurse, who probably
and they brought them to us with a smile,
hoped to be written into his will and thus hated
ignoring his hand creeping up the edge of my
me. No one else was there.
dress. It didn’t matter what they thought of
I stepped into the room. Floor-to-ceiling
me. It mattered what they thought of George
windows dwarfed him, a proscenium wearing
Hadfield, Jr.. And they thought he was their
a scrim of paper birches over a backdrop of
lake. Despite the room’s name, there was no
What is this? I asked after one of them handed me a cup. Grey Goose tonic, he said. Drink it. I took a fake sip, and kept at it for a few minutes, until it became clear that he wasn’t
sun, only a graduated dimming along the line of blue. The only other chairs seemed miles away, so I sat on the ottoman at his feet. I kissed him hello.
I’m going to keep playing, I said.
don’t leave me.
No, you’re not.
I’m going to leave you anyway, Brooke.
I sunk into the ottoman, my heart beating in
Slowly, I rested my head against the wasted
my ears. Out the window, I saw the ice, empty, rise up before me for the last time.
chest, the velvet elysium of the robe. You have no idea how much I’ve lied to you.
I’d be crazy to let you.
His lips touched my hair.
I can take it, I said. I’ll see it through to the
Do you love my son?
end. It doesn’t matter anymore. Just—please
Novak, Brooke Alison Born January 11, 1992 to indigent single mother, Hannah Marie Novak in Duluth, Minnesota. Mother’s parental rights terminated, December 4, 1992. Ward of the State of Minnesota, 1992-2006. Starting wing on Duluth Pewee Kestrels 1A, 2004-2006. Duluth News-Tribune Athlete of the Week, January 2006. Ms. Hockey Duluth, 2006. Duluth Denfeld High School, 2005-2007 Duluth Country Club, Busser/Server, 2005-2008 Diagnosed with acute post-concussion syndrome (PCS), June 2006. Harbor Girls’ Shelter, Summer 2006; released to temporary custody of George Hadfield, Sr. (1961-2007) Adopted in September 2007, name legally changed to Brooke Novak Hadfield. Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, Mass., Class of 2008. Manager, varsity girls' hockey. Voted Best Eyes. B.A. in Romance Studies and Italian, Magna cum Laude, St. Andrews University, Scotland, Class of 2012. Board of Directors, The George A. Hadfield Memorial Youth Sports Foundation, Duluth, Minn. Daughter of the blue line.
To Envy Gabrielle Erdmann Oil and Acrylic on Canvas
Where I Come From Franki Hanke I come from Jew food at Christmas hot wax melting, latkes cooking, sizzling, while we hang bulbs. Tinsel thrown while we recite Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai e-lo-he-nu Me-lech ha-olam I come from tatertots stolen off the top of a hot dish. Zotz sizzling on my tongue while my feet cook on the pavement. I come from snow covered streets and tracks from the four wheeler, flying smears in the snow from the sled dragged behind, breathing in the exhaust fumes. I come from listening to late night concerts through an open window. I come from lemonade stands, stashing quarters for garage sales. I come from soda pop chicken bathed in Orange fizz in the crockpot. I come from a sprawling graveyard marked with each tadpolesâ€™ name. I come from bushy brown eyebrows on the black dog, sleeping on the patient dog, and swimming with the blind dog. I come from Mo (and his four reincarnations). I come from late night bike rides right into the river. I come from bouncing between apartments, but I come from the big yard. I come from a step-mom who was never a stepmother, but was sometimes evil. I come from bonding over a shared love of cheese, of hiking boots at a wedding.
I come from licking up jello powder in the closet with the cousins, all boys. I come from being the one girl in the family in the Trombone section. I come from bouncing between states. Food stamps and middle class living. I come from the eight-hour drive to McDonald’s. I come from sitting on the top of the dirt hill while my dog drinks root beer. I come from South Dakota, never North. I come from the fireworks behind Mount Rushmore. I come from lighting our own fireworks, pugs carrying smoke bombs in their mouths, from sparklers falling in laps, from my uncle’s once-a-year drunkenness and the curse of the breaking chair. I come from skinny dipping at Okoboji, the edge of somewhere, with crisp, clean water that showed everything and it never mattered. I come from the Up North. I come from snowshoes I hated and sleds I didn’t. From visible breath at the bus stop. I come from holes in snow pants from playing “polar bear.” I come from Junie B. Jones over the phone, spending evenings, listening to the kids in the Magic Tree House. I come from Minnesota, come from never being cold, fiercely against my own accent, but you betcha I’ve got it. I come from a low Nooo if caught in the act of sounding Midwestern, but I boldly come from Oofta and cream of everything. I come from peanut butter bars on Christmas and spinning a dreidel, the smothering of religion and the grasp of the church and believing in nothing, but celebrating twice. I come from the Jew who married the Christian who divorced the strong independent woman. I come from sneaking books into the house, under my desk, fighting for words. Dontcha know where I come from.
Metastasis Constantine Nemo Dorn India Ink Drawing
Burgled Brain Marva J. Hoeckelman The sound of shattering glass, A stranger’s umbrella pokes through. The ripping of a magazine clipping. Smoking psychologist has a thumb drive in his shoe. Hotel key card won’t work again. Found $100 in my library book And muddy shoes in the fridge. There’s an old voice mail from a friend now dead. Bloodshot eyes climb out of bed. Where was I last night, One dark, one dark night? Fear of . . . fear of . . . fear of . . . There’s a trunk in the attic, locked and no key. My mind is ransacked and one item gone. Wrong bus! Wrong bus! The doorbell rings at 3 a.m. With loud banging at the door, The sound of shattering glass.
Seneca Falls, July 19, 1848 S. D. Bassett High collars. Long sleeves. Hair, gently up and back, frames female faces of hope. Sitting and standing, their eyes speak volumes. Through portals of time, in dignity and solidarity, from a large two dimensional poster on my office wall, they extend strength, courage, intelligence, and wisdom. Though I cannot physically touch them, they touch me. Seventy two years before the vote was obtained. Did these women have a clear plan? Clear direction? Some must have known change would come slowly, at a price, and never in their lifetime. The depth of humility and gratitude I feel for these women at times overwhelms me. As they look at the camera, circumspect beauty emanates from the flat surface. Solemn gravity and poise thinly veils the future from their knowledge: they were owned, were property, second class citizens.
They are well aware of their inert power and the part their own gender played in arriving where they are at. But they look out, to the future, to the ages, to me, us, asking, What is your knowledge? What is your power? Do the attributes you ascribe to us reflect you? Dignity, solidarity, strength, courage, intelligence, wisdom? Circumspect beauty, solemn gravity, poise? Our attributes obtained for you what you now have. Our gift to the ages. What will be yours?
Afghan Girl Constantine Nemo Dorn Charcoal Drawing
Childless Woman Seeks Breath of Life Mary C. Rowin In the sculpture garden, my hand caresses bronze. Students rush past, absorbed. Noisy black crows swoop overhead. A flag slaps against its pole. A man sweeps snow from the steps. Mother and child sit on a pedestal, legs bent, toes curled under. Mother’s thick limbs and bare back shield the child whose arms circle her neck. I brush December flurries from shoulders, from the creases and places where snow settles. No cry will escape if I pinch the child’s cheek. Never with a mind to explore, to exasperate or inspire. No laughter. The child inside mother’s smooth arms will never flinch in pain even if scratched. As if I could take the child and warm it in my arms, as if one evening its cool hand would grasp mine and we could walk away.
Ten Geese James Sullivan Donovan jumped in January at Riverside Park five miles below the dam where the churned water never freezes, leaving a red cell phone like a rejected organ on the snowy banks of the Missouri. In March a fisherman found the body ten miles downstream snagged by willow limbs dipping their bones in the water. In spring lovers watched the river dizzy with the waterâ€™s volume its quiet sighing, its immense passing. All summer the river was engorged by snow melting a thousand miles away. From submerged graveyards coffins rose like rowboats. In June ten geese flew out of Nebraska while women tended to geraniums waiting for sons who did not call and thought of water that swirls without pause.
Ready for the River Tyler Gates It's impossible to know just how you'll be remembered. The fields are empty again and so are the hearts of your children. They dance sideways, forever suspicious of anything that happens to be even just a little bit gray. One scratches curse words into the sand with her plastic foot. Another waits in line to saw you in half. But your youngest, she stands at the edge of it all, black-eyed and red-toed, looking up at you with the cracks in her lips forever twisted into a cherry smile. You stand above all this, laughing wildly as the pumpkin-colored carnival of your life twists on into hearts made of autumn love. And what of the others? Under feelings of remorse they sing along with music that no one quite remembers just where it came from. But you, all you can hear is your own vacant heartbeats, and the sound of wolves rushing to claim your bony hands, to tear open promises that as hard as youâ€™ve tried, you never got a chance to break.
Again Douglas M. White
Can't you see what's happening? My eyes pleaded with this man, but the gaze went unanswered.
No clouds were in the sky, and the sun shone
“Sorry, Mr. Wilson!” a voice rang out. To
brightly upon the hordes of kids heading
my right was another teen, apparently having
home, shooting off in various directions.
made the same mistake as me. I ran with her
Multitudes of vehicles strutted forward, filled
to the other side of the road, hoping she'd
with anxiously distracted parents focused on
seen what I had. As our feet hit the sidewalk,
picking up their offspring and getting to the
she turned toward a field of trees, waving
next event in their hectic lives.
animatedly at a friend she'd spotted.
Is this why no one noticed? It was almost hard for me to notice until a
Sighing, I continued on. I didn't see them anymore. But I knew where they'd be.
group of kids across the street pulled their
shirts over their heads. One of them rushed
After several minutes, I found them. There
forward, hitting a boy walking alongside a
was a bridge that crossed over a rock bed
younger girl. The attacker's head connected
between two streets; Mike and the girl were in
squarely with the boy's back, who stumbled
the middle, trapped. The others were cutting
off passage from the bridge on both sides.
The boy's companion turned back to see what had happened. Her face registered
Their shirts were back to normal, replaced by sinister sneers.
confusion, which quickly turned into shock.
“What do you want?” Quivering, yet defiant.
Then just as quickly, fear.
“Mike, what's going on?” she asked.
“Let my sister go, first,” Mike replied.
Mike's face showed it all. He was
Sister? She's his sister? My apprehension
outnumbered. No one would intervene. Quickly, he touched the other on the shoulder, motioning for her to keep walking. The gauntlet had been thrown. There would
grew. The group turned to one of them, the apparent leader. “Should we, Jack?” one asked.
be no resistance. No counter attack. The
Grunting, Jack uttered, simply, “Fine.”
pack turned feral, increasing their aggressive
The boys blocking the exit on the right parted
actions. It's happening again. I told myself. Again. I felt a sick, familiar dread in the pit of my stomach. I didn't realize what I was doing until I heard
and Mike's sister bolted away. He looked in her direction for several seconds. Finally, Mike turned toward Jack. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
the honk. Looking to my left, I was surprised
to see a bumper of a truck inches away from
I waited, holding my own breath, sure that
my waist. The angry glare of the driver took
now was when they'd do it.
a moment to comprehend. I was in his way,
It didn't happen.
having absent-mindedly rushed into traffic.
They let him go.
I watched, dumbfounded. Mike exited the
“Here it is,” I told him. He comes down and I
bridge in the direction of his sister. The kids, no hand him the rock. longer with prey, quickly disbanded.
“What is this?”
“Me,” I say softly.
The next day, I find Mike in the lunchroom
“You didn't think you were the first, did
and approach him, hesitantly. But I had to talk
you? They did it to me too. Except, I didn't
to him. He needed to know.
apologize. I'm not even sure what they thought
Mike sees me and smiles, also hesitantly. It's easy to see he's not comfortable around others.
I did. Doesn't matter, though, does it?” I pause for several seconds before
I don't blame him. What almost happened…
continuing, “They pushed me. I fell off the
“Yes?” Mike questioned, snapping me back
bridge, onto these rocks.”
to the present.
Deep breaths. I try to calm myself. I point to
a spot on the rock he now holds, “This stain
One eyebrow raised in confusion, “I don't
here? That's my blood.”
understand.” “You will. Meet me after school by the main doors,” I turned and ran out of the cafeteria. That afternoon, I stand by the doors, pacing. I didn't think he'd come. But sure enough, the doors parted and Mike exited, walking over to me. “What is this about?” he asked. “Follow me,” I walk down the path he and his sister had gone yesterday. The two of us walk side by side, neither speaking, until we reach the bridge. Mike's eyes widened. He glares at me, blurting, “Seriously, what is going on?” I paused, not sure how to start, “You two were lucky.” Mike's face betrayed no emotion, but I could tell. He knew. I walk toward the bridge, veering off to the left, and climb down the steep incline toward the rock bed below. It took several seconds before I found it. Shivering uncontrollably, I pick it up. I look up and could see Mike standing near the bridge, watching.
Mike doesn't say anything right away. Finally, “Did you tell anyone?” “I'm telling you.” “I meant when it happened.” “You still don't get it.” I take the rock back from him, “I told you, this is me.” “What does that mean?” “I died. I hit my head on this rock and bled out. I could see them watching on the bridge until I was gone.” Mike takes a few steps back, “You died? But … how? How are you here?” But I'm now gone. At least to him, anyway. The rock, the last vestige of proof that I was ever even here, clatters to the ground. Mike picks it back up, holding it for several seconds in quiet contemplation. Finally, he places it in his jacket. Quickly climbing out of the rock bed and onto the bridge, Mike runs toward home.
Relentless Waves Marsha Warren Mittman All powerful waves crashing over the sand, The grains dispersed and washed away, The beach eventually eroded, destroyed. I stand on omnipresent battlefields where relentless invaders endlessly march over villages, towns, cities, countries, continents, and oceans, washing away people, songs, dreams, cultures, societies, histories. From raiding parties and pogroms to war councils and departments of war, the relentless war machine grows ever larger to devour and destroy ever more widely a powerful wave of obliteration, causing the erosion of respect and compassion, the erosion of accomplishment progress history, the erosion of rational mind, reason, logic, and ethics, drowning everyone and everything in its wake.
Despertar en Cuba Amanda Jamison Photography
Praying Tim J Brennan Is like trying to sculpt silence not really dreaming of anything not the sea, not oneâ€™s past not even the door that wouldnâ€™t open the night father died.
Buried Gabrielle Erdmann Charcoal on Paper
The Land Steven R. Vogel I left the land as I found her, full of the wolf and his whole moon, sprinkled with the quiet chuckles of grouses, empty with shadows of birches shaving their legs. I left her climbing into swamps of peat hillocks covered with tamarack needles, mustard slivers floating on pools dropped at random. I last saw her baking leaves slowly, ten years at a time, with heat too small to know but large enough for the coon, the possum, the clacking porcupine. And as I left, she waved all about, not in my direction, and not awayâ€” not to anyone who could not sit in the shades of winter and summer, in the changeable firmness of her imagination.
Jenner sat on her porch and yelled obscenities
at the kids across the street. They ignored her, just like everyone ignored everyone else in
It was dry there. Even when it rained it was
this town. Until they got bored at least. Then
dry. Not the good end-of-summer kind either,
they’d want to fight, and you couldn’t ignore
the kind that meant you finally got to go back
them, ‘cause you wanted to fight too. So you’d
to school, to junior high this time, just like your
fight, and people would buzz around you like
big sister. No, this was the dry that went up
big, fat horse-flies trying to get at the heart of
in your nose and hurt your throat and made
it, and then you would stop, and the buzzing
your voice all crackly like you were sick. And
would die, and everyone would go back to the
you could drink and drink and drink, but that
deep quiet they lived in before.
wouldn’t make it better. Some people tried
The only people that seemed happy were the
though; they drank and drank and drank. I
kids, and then just the little ones; they didn’t
think that just made it worse.
know that the place they lived in was dead.
It was a lost place now; a town within a
But then they grew up, and the boys beat cats
town. The rows and rows of derelict trailers
with sticks to prove they were men, and the
seemed like they should be empty, yet each of
teenagers drank until they could forget, and
them was occupied: some by people, some by
the adults still hadn’t forgotten. Except for the
smoke, and most by defeat. During the day, Ms. lucky ones.
The Sentinels Meghan Peterson Acrylic on Canvas
Evidence Mary C. Rowin If I could run into rivers like spring rains flow to the sea, would there be a counting of trees washed down from the highest leaf? If I could melt into soil, push and pull rocks and stumps, rumble over streams, rip gouges from limestone and clay, would you record the kettles and drumlins? If I would vanish into a cloud, bounce off deserts, a balloon tethered to earth, a changeling moody as a small child, would you open your hands to my ministry, be soothed by the stream that pools there cascades over your breast, your body, evidence of what connects me to you?
Bridgewater, South Dakota James Sullivan When the owner of Quality Meats disappeared in January no one minded. By the end of April a whiff of decay, a fustiness— maybe roadkill in the ditch—got your notice. But as summer set in, the unpaid electric bill and 88,000 pounds of buffalo announced their presence. Forty-four tons of meat swelled and split plastic wrappers, and stacked boxes sagged, shifted, oozed in a humming frenzy of maggots and flies, a molten mountain of rot in corrugated cardboard. The town of 600 gasped and gagged in a stench that made the air sweat a putrid film, a stench that saturated nasal hair, howled through the sinuses and tainted salivary glands. It was a stink that stuck. The bank stank. The tavern reeked. The library closed all books. Vultures came from across the prairie to perch on mailboxes, clotheslines bird feeders, and flagpoles. Myra Schenk locked her underwear with a photo of Frank in in a safe. It was a stench you wanted to stomp on, hit with a shovel, burn down the sheriff said. Ten men came in hazmats, and using five dump trucks and two dumpsters carried the carrion to a landfill. “That was bad” said Wilson. “Nothing like that since Buffalo Bill and the railroad came through. Quality Meats, my ass.”
Untitled Rachel Funk Photography
hunting for your mother’s hidden homemade
hens that you would grow up to hunt and
donuts after your bullets missed drakes and farm the land. Those all-nighters you spent
drafting your thesis gave you a master’s
They burn ditches and bury fear out west.
and a government job, where you worked to
Every spring, dead switchgrass and timothy
conserve wildlife and preserve the land for the
engulf in flame that I can see for miles on my
future from eight to five. I know that job made
way east to visit Rick. My car has to nudge
it easier to farm during low milk prices. You
past the billowing smoke that I fear will seep
paid off the mortgage. The New York fields I
through the door frames and slither up into
learned to walk through are in your name.
my nostrils, down my windpipe, and into my lungs to fester into cancer. I drive past farmers throwing saplings into
Your land and fields are close to the city. Realtors slide their cards under your door frame. They don’t walk to the barn where the
the ditches to chard last year’s weeds. Their
hearth of your life is. They keep their dress
fires remind me of the ones we kept alive
shoes on concrete. The land you bought from
next to the machinery shed every month. The
the neighbor twenty years ago holds waterfalls
smoke grew black with each wad of bale wrap
that music moguls could build log cabins
we threw in the flames. The smell hugged our
beside with logs from Asia. The hill field I
clothes, it clung us together. You’d toss empty
first saw as a baby from my mother’s back,
paper sacks of milk replacer after the wrap
overlooks the town with the little white church
warped in the fire and you’d glimpse into the
that still has the original outhouse from the
smoke, a crease would form under each of your
nineteenth century sitting behind it. I’m sure
hazel eyes. Sparks would shoot higher than
some lawyer would love to wake up to that
your five-eight frame through the morning
view from his bedroom window. The field just
mist after the fire engulfed the bags. The
up the gravel road behind the house is where
melting plastic charcoaled our lungs. I would
you buried Nicky, Cabbie, Twist, Jack, and
gaze at the toxins bubbling in the orange glow
Ollie. Horses that served as friends, riding
and wonder why we couldn’t find something
partners, and siblings I hugged when no one
more natural to wrap bales in that would keep
else was around. Their bodies could be dug out
the hay away from snow and mold all winter.
for a politician’s swimming pool if you forget
I would fear breathing those toxins into my
to draw up a will. I don’t want you to die and
short five-foot-three body. I would think of the
vaporize into distant memories I can’t recollect.
black smoke smothering the plant and animal life that grew on the land stretching out beyond
—I fear losing memories of you— I recall when you taught me to I.D. birds
the burn pile, land you raised me to dread
by their heads and wings out by a pond in a
pasture when I was shorter than orchardgrass. —I fear losing the land—
You knew back when you dug caves in the sides of creek banks and took your bird dog
“That’s a boy mallard,” You pointed to a duck with a green head. “And that’s a girl mallard with the brown feathers and blue ribbon wings.
Boy and girl mallards stay married for years.”
chop gushed into the white plastic bag in front
I focused hard on their colored feathers and
of you. I knew it was a heart attack. No one
where the green met the white on the boy’s
was near. For the next hour, I thought you
neck, just in case you asked me to I.D. them
were dead. My mind swirled and plummeted.
again. You didn’t bother to explain to me then
I waited for my cell to break into song. I
that a drake will mate with several females
thought of calling Rick at work and telling
during the spring even though he will stay
him he needed to take off time to go east with
with one hen for years. Thinking back, I didn’t
me. I thought I could drive twenty-two hours
know you were unfaithful to my mother at
without stopping. I thought I could pick out
the time and now I wonder if I inherited your
your casket. I imagined you’d want to lay in
cherry or walnut. You’d want to lay nestled in
Once as a teenager, I walked into the main
your Carhartt pants and t-shirt. But I couldn’t
pasture to call the horses in for the night and
remember what wood is your favorite or what
a pure white bird swam in the pond. The
shirt you’d prefer. I thought I’d extinguish
pasture dipped down behind your grey and
in tears. At four thirty a.m., I let go of hazy
red barns and held one of the larger farm
glimmers of reality and called Rick.
ponds you owned, stretching across an acre or so. Muddy hoof prints marked off its edges
—I fear losing Rick— Rick’s house rests flat against eastern prairie.
alongside white and green geese scat. The bird
A grass runway for flocks of single engine
had a duck-like body but a neck that inched
planes serves as his backyard. He’s ten years
up further into the sky than its bill. It was such
in on the mortgage. Like you, Rick spends his
an unusual sight to see all alone without a
days in a barn. His hands medicate sick and
mate. I studied the way it glided through the
dying cows on a thousand cow dairy. His legs
green and yellow shades of duckweed, creating
breed energy and terror in milking staff on
a curlicue pattern on the pond’s surface. It
unofficial breaks. His touch stokes heat. His
floated in silence.
voice is colostrum for my ears.
I felt the air gust as the horses burst past
After his thirty-seventh, Rick reminds me
me, galloping into their shed for feed. I turned
he’ll crumble if he blows out forty candles
around and saw you standing by the barns
without a wife taking his picture. I let his
eyeing the white puff of feathers and beak.
words sizzle and snap between the synapses
As I strolled up the hill, you gushed out: “It’s
in my head for hours before telling him as I
a snow goose. Must’ve got lost on its way to
flicked the bedroom light switch that it’s too
soon. A couple of years of dating does not
It is in the folds between pasture and pond
equal the six I spent in my last relationship.
banks where my memories live. You are a man
And you know, that ex of mine wasn’t a man
held together by pools and fields, sparks and
I could call for relief during a nightmare. I
flame. You are the memory of myself.
welded to hope in my twenties. I poke at trust
I woke up the other night convulsing with
in my thirties.
sobs. I saw you gasping and wheezing next
Rick likes to slip in between conversations
to the corn loader wagon in a dream. Green
on the sun and snow, descriptions about his
grandmother’s ring she left him. I avoid asking
city in my dreams. He added, “I’m not getting
about its stone and band. I don’t ask to see it.
up for that again” and commenced snoring.
Instead, I carry on to talk of muck and asphalt.
For him, reality can’t be fabricated. He thinks
I want to learn about the concrete corn bunkers
coupling the fragments of my dreams with true
his boss commissioned to erect before winter
life is like welding stainless steel to stainless
freezes the ground. I want Rick to speak of the
steel. The sheet pieces won’t meld or hold
excavators digging through the sod next to
together. I need a piece to hold me to Rick, a
the heifer barn. The sound of metal on rock he
body to create with him that binds us together
hears for hours. The smell of diesel fueling the
as a couple.
—I fear losing the chance to have a son—
When I drive alone past ditches of fire and
Just so you know, Rick doesn’t keep a bat
smoke, I think of when I nursed on your
in the garage, but the basement clutches
screams you lashed on my mother. I toddled
thousands of John Deere tractors and battle
through the big bluestem, chasing your back
worn GI Joes. A few slowly deflating game
through the fields to the pond. I know you
footballs still rest in boxes. Rick played tight
hated the nagging pleas she hung in the wind
end in high school and sometimes defense. His
and the way you ran away. I know I used your
older brother and father played for the same
tongue to strike my ex whenever I wanted,
team. Debates in his family erupt over game
and I know I’ll stab Rick with it when I want
day scores. The three men each convinced they
to push him out to pasture. I don’t want to
remember precise field goals and yards from
burn my best friend in wildfire; yet, I’m afraid
their youth. They avoid watching the current
I’ll repeat the same mistakes with Rick that
high school boys play, because those kids
you made with my mother. You taught me
can’t tackle without rolling in the grass, crying
how to fight. You taught me what not to do in
out for the local ambulance to take them off
relationships. You never taught me what to do.
the field. Rick wants a son to play ball under
~ I never called Rick that morning. Right before tapping on the call button, I pushed
floodlights. A son who makes plays he once made. A son he can gripe about me to. I want to give you a grandson to teach the
the power on the cell. The phone buzzed and
art of duck calling to. I want a son to value my
died. I thought Rick would tell me I needed
creative mind. A child who doesn’t watch his
medication. That I should go to a shrink. I
parents fire insults at each other. I know you
imagined he’d question my intelligence.
wanted a boy to follow you through fields. A
I’ve told him about my dreams before. One time, I kicked him awake. There was a shadow lurking in the garage, waiting for Rick to leave
son who cared for you and looked like you, but I looked like my mother. ~
me for work. The shadow wanted to ransack
I’ve got lots of time to think when I drive to
the house after striking my eyes with a metal
Rick’s across the flat and smoking prairie. We
bat. Rick switched on the light in the garage,
never spoke as the plastic warped in the flames.
looked around his tools, and then came back to
Not once. Thoughts would ravage my brain as
bed to report that I needed to stop living in the
I tried to think of something to say to you. But
I’d spend the whole time thinking. The smoke
maybe someone I hurt spending all that time
would rise higher in black clumps toward
dreaming and thinking.
the morning sun’s rays. The paper sacks
I think, as I drive faster to evade a possible
crackled. My mother told me that you read
death from cancer, that I don’t own a home. I
The Population Bomb and you were convinced
don’t own land. I don’t have a son. I won’t be
couples should avoid having multiple children.
able to claim my name as my own if I married
You insisted for years after my emergence,
Rick. If my mind burned away, I’d have
that I would be the only child and then my
nothing left. You are my father. You are alive
brother came along. You and him played ball
and well. And I am your only daughter. I don’t
and hunted, sharing a bond I could never enter.
know what to do if you die. But I don’t want
Our time together was marked by throwing
to stop dreaming of what could happen to me
farm waste in a fire.
or of what could happen to you. I fear what
I once looked at an oil painting of a trio of
frightens me will wither and smolder into ash.
mallards that were tied with thin twine like a
I cling to the smell of smoke to feel brave this
flock. The hen flew after the drake. Another
duck lay belly up between them. A victim of its surroundings. I thought it could’ve been a victim of either yours or of mine. Or
Untitled Constantine Nemo Dorn Photography
Heavy Hand of Winter Carla Cloutier The heavy hand of winter paints generous strokes of ice adding to dead branches a frozen layer of skin, translucent and light bending. Limbs of dangerous beauty hang lower and lower brandishing frozen blades, threatening to cut power. The wind calls, dead arms wave, answering back too brittle to hold. Talons scrape and plummet, snapping cables, killing voltage. A neighborhood blinks before succumbing to dark and cold.
Sunstrike Paul Gaillard Photography
Spring Rites Pamela Sinicrope Old snow, melted and refrozen, leaves a crisp glaze that crunches underfoot and dulls our snowman’s face. A vibrating murmur cracks white earth. Green stems thread through and petals reach for light, absorbing the sun’s hues, a sign it is time to fetch the shovel and bury the dead waiting in my son’s shoebox beneath the swing set.
Flat James Sullivan A prairie town can seem pretty flat, the sky too heavy, the wind too much. Ranch style houses prim and pastel stay low. The big box stores and corrugated steel warehouses and factories, the storage units, which hide another smaller town, hunker close in a city planned by a flat earth society auxiliary. The VFW hall is as old as Hopalong Cassidy on a Saturday afternoon, but the fast food outfits and the gas stations, one called Freedom, are bright with glass and red, white, and blue perk. Not much buried here, maybe fire cracked rocks, tipi poles, sod houses gone to soybeans and butter-colored limestone left by an ancient and seamlessly flat sea. In May the winds begin to spin. A darkness looms and an anvil cloud ready for the hammer masses like the dark memory of glaciers ready to scour the earth. People seep into the flatness. When the light returns we bless the water tower the steeples, silos, and cottonwoods. Overhead a red-tailed hawk watches still as a sundial, wings flat as a blade.
Academia Today S. D. Bassett Time in this world, more precious than all jewels. Clocks tick as mortality sifts through fingers. Lives spent in pointless activities that bring no joy, no peace. Copious forms await each day, their creators smug, satisfied, evil. In the barrage of edicts and standards, individuality is lost, options limited, consequences blurred. Chaos reigns. Important work of touching lives, lighting minds, igniting hearts, is negated. Nullified. Souls are confined, intelligence wasted in a zombie graveyard. Listen. Hear the silent screams of brilliant minds reduced to assembly line mentality. Retention and productivity the goal. The god. Energy, creativity, all that is truly human falls by the wayside at a sad and horrible cost. Students, meet your professors.
Sometimes at poetry readings I feel I'm back Rosemary Dunn Moeller in college dorm bathrooms offering little personal privacy within a humid community of succinct greetings. Poets, honestly nude in spite of clothing, before a steamy mirror with a dental brush that touches a hair brush in a toiletries basket, some words perfect, others raise questions, until explanations come or disappear, familiar setting, familiar people. But we’re neither home nor in transit, just somewhere for some time and some nakedness. Similes comfortable as similarities offer participants chances to interpret psychological, emotional categorization: silly words I think about when I should clear my mind in silence. Just smile. Inadequate beige shower curtains, opaque or translucent, depending on the lights, morning or bedtime, there’s percussive punctuation, unruly and personal, a hand reaching for a towel—an unscripted gesture. I’m back there when hearing a poet read, whose rhythms alter my respiration.
Inside the Maybe Jodilyn Andrews iridescent soap swirl you’re inside a bubble that calmly grew around you flickers translucent you’re inside a bubble you only see your reflection flickers translucent no escaping you walk inside you only see your reflection they only see theirs no escaping you walk inside you can’t hear a sound they only see their reflection when they try speaking to you you can’t hear a sound before the silent burst they try speaking to you through filmy opalescence before the silent burst the pop you tested negative through filmy opalescence it calmly grew around you the pop you tested negative iridescent soap swirl
Past, Present, Future Amanda Jamison Photography
Facing the Sun Emily Meyer
he looked each one in the eye. “Mr. and Mrs. Woods, Miss Catherine,” he began, “I brought you to my place of solitude because I trust each of you wholeheartedly. And I trust that my
Mr. Montgomery paced in front of the doors,
words will not overly frighten you, my dear
his brows pulled tightly together as his hands
friends. But what you are about to see may
twisted somewhat painfully. His home looked
indeed alarm you and even change your lives. It
more occupied than usual. Three guests in
certainly did for me.”
total stood glancing from one unfamiliar wall
“Well I’m not sure I’ve agreed to whatever it is
to another. They always knew Montgomery to
you have in mind for us, Montgomery, but sure.
have a unique flair, but today Montgomery’s
Let’s go ahead and see it, this sight of yours,”
remote demeanor was quite exceptional.
Mr. Woods responded.
“Montgomery, I never dreamed you’d buy land
“I’m glad you feel that way, Mr. Woods. It’s
so far from the city,” spoke Mr. Woods, one of
much better if you’re filled with anticipation.”
the guests. “It’s really quite impressive, but
Montgomery reached for the door handle. With
why so far from everything? It took us nearly
a large tug the door swung wide, opening to
an hour to drive here. I couldn’t imagine such a
the bright outdoors. Spreading his arms wide,
Mr. Montgomery stepped onto the concrete
“Neither could I, neither could I.” Mr.
terrace, beaming from within. “There it is. Ah
Montgomery explained, swaying with his
yes, there it is,” he whispered. Mr. and Mrs.
words. “A colleague of mine suggested I give
Woods and Miss Catherine squinted into the
the place a chance. He thought the open space
yard in search of the source of Montgomery’s
might suit me well. I doubted him at first, but
excitement. Miss Catherine and Mrs. Woods
after one visit I bought the property straight
exchanged glances through wrinkled brows
out from under the other buyer. Best decision
as Mr. Woods raised his hand above his eyes
of my life, Woods. Best decision of my life.”
for shade. Montgomery turned to the house,
Montgomery was delighted in having his guests
and called into the shadows. “Geoffrey, dear
over to view his home. He hadn’t seen Mr.
boy, where have you gone?” A tall, young man
and Mrs. Woods and Miss Catherine for quite
approached Montgomery. He leaned in toward
some time. But after several minutes of friendly
Mr. Montgomery’s words. “You’re writing
conversation, a serious tone began to creep into
this down, aren’t you?” Montgomery quietly
Mr. Montgomery’s voice. His feet moved in
questioned. “Their reactions are invaluable to
small, deliberate steps around the room while
he spoke. “Before we continue our afternoon
“I am, sir. It’s all here.”
pleasantries, there are several items we must
“Good, good, excellent job, son.” Mr.
discuss.” He took a moment, choosing his words
Montgomery responded as he gazed again into
carefully. “Why you’re here, besides for the
the open space. The sound of whispers drew
company of course is, well, a very confidential
his attention toward the house where his guests
matter,” Montgomery informed them. He spun
stood waiting. “Oh how rude of me. Please,
abruptly to face his guests, startling them as
take a seat!” With stiff, anxious movements the
guests walked to the opposite edge of the terrace
I’m sorry. I’m not making sense. This is
and took their seats in his rigid wooden patio
overwhelmingly difficult to comprehend at the
chairs. Montgomery followed suit and situating
moment,” Mr. Woods explained.
himself and with an “ah,” he leaned back into
“That’s what they all say,” Geoffrey added
the pillow placed in his chair. Without taking his
with a sigh. “You’re not the first group of people
eyes from the view in front of him, Montgomery
Mr. Montgomery’s invited to his home. It’s
spoke. “Mr. Woods, have you met my new boy?
almost a ritual now, actually. At least once a
His name’s Geoffrey. The smartest I could find
week several guests arrive. He takes great care
in such a remote area. He’s here studying.”
in selecting who they’ll be, and then when they
“Nice man, Montgomery,” Mr. Woods
agree to come he can hardly contain himself. He
responded. Mrs. Woods and Miss Catherine
cleans off the terrace and paces the room until
nodded in agreement. The guests searched the
they arrive. Then after his speech, the same one
spacious yard. The sky and mountains softly
you heard today, he takes them outside to their
touched and the grassy field met the foothills
seats and shows them.”
with ease, but nothing more sat in front of them.
“Shows them what?” questioned Mr. Woods.
Mr. Woods cleared his throat. “Geoffrey, maybe
Geoffrey paused a moment before speaking.
you could show me where I could find a glass of
“Well, the sun. He shows them the sun like it’s
water. I’m feeling a bit parched from the heat.”
never been seen before,” Geoffrey explained.
“Yes, of course, Mr. Woods,” Geoffrey complied. Mr. Woods got out of his seat and
“I’ll be damned,” Woods muttered. “The colleague he mentioned earlier, the one
followed him into the house. “The kitchen is this
who suggested he give this place a try, well,
way, sir. We have something stronger than water
he’s not a colleague. He’s Mr. Montgomery’s
psychiatrist,” Geoffrey explained. “I don’t know
“No forget the water. I’m fine. What I need
the details, but something in Montgomery’s
to know is what the hell we’re doing here?” Mr.
head just clicked. Like a grenade being thrown
into a wall, he just went off. No one can quite
“I’m not sure I understand the question, Mr. Woods,” Geoffrey replied. “You’re a smart man, I can tell. So why are
explain it yet.” Mr. Woods stroked his chin as he thought, his eyes frozen in place. “And you? How did
you sitting here taking notes for Montgomery?
you ever get involved in such a thing?” he
And why are we sitting outside staring into
the sun as though it’s God himself? I’ve known
“I work as an office man for his psychiatrist.
Montgomery for years. He’s always been a bit
Montgomery came up to settle his balance one
strange by the average person’s definition, but
day and saw me writing in my journal. He
this, this is…”
offered me a job right then. Said I looked like
“This is a tragedy. Is that what you’re about to
an educated man who knew how to take good
say?” Geoffrey turned to face Mr. Woods with a
notes, so he hired me to record data for his
straight look. “The man you thought you knew
experiment,” Geoffrey explained.
has lost his mind?” “Maybe not lost it completely, but, well…
“Experiment?” questioned Mr. Woods. “That’s what he calls it,” Geoffrey explained.
“Every night after his guests leave he spends
Catherine. Geoffrey pulled up a chair behind the
hours reading what I wrote. He takes it very
rest and began his notes.
seriously, writing notes and reading passages out loud. Then he emerges from his office, thanks me for my services, and ushers me to the door. Always the same.” “And the guests? Do their responses ever frustrate Montgomery?” Woods asks.
August 30th – Mr. and Mrs. Woods, Miss Catherine Signs of uncertainty, apprehension, yet enlightenment “Thank you for sharing this afternoon with me, Mr. and Mrs. Woods, Miss Catherine. It’s
“No. After the initial confusion they usually
been so lovely,” Mr. Montgomery expressed.
just sit and smile politely, conversing for maybe
“Oh yes it has, Mr. Montgomery. Such a
an hour or two before leaving,” said Geoffrey. “Well then, we’ll do the same. I’d appreciate if you would keep me updated on his state
delight,” Mr. Woods added. “But we must be going shortly. I’d like to avoid the rush hour if I could.”
though. Montgomery and I haven’t been in close
“Yes, of course. But please, just sit here one
contact for years, but I do still have my concerns
more moment. You can stay a minute longer,
for him,” Woods added.
can’t you? It’s just so beautiful right now. Have
“I understand, Mr. Woods,” Geoffrey replied. “I’ll make sure to do so. But we best go back out
you ever seen anything so magnificent?” “No, Montgomery, I haven’t. I really haven’t,”
before the others start to worry.” Then, without
Woods responded. So they sat, facing into the
another word, the two once again opened the
sun, the mirage, the magic of Mr. Montgomery.
door to Mr. Montgomery’s sunny terrace.
And in the confusion of it all, they knew he was
“Sit, sit, Mr. Woods and Geoffrey! Your chairs await you!” Mr. Montgomery exclaimed. Mr. Woods took his place beside his wife and Miss
right. They had never seen anything quite as magnificent.
Dancing with Fire Samuel T. Krueger Acrylic Paint on Wood
On Reading Richard Wright's Stories in my Students' Textbooks Rosemary Dunn Moeller I never read Richard Wright in French before. He was here, in the Sahel, and in Ghana, walking the dirt streets, blending in with his French, being a tourist on a homecoming journey. They too know of Fishbelly, who learned from his father as I did about float bladders, who hated the smell of fish that he then grew to love, in Wright’s story, that I read, too. And Wright asked about the market at Takoradi, full of buying and selling, ”How is this seen as a sign of poverty?” Ce traffic en pleine rue etait-il un sign de grande pauvrete? These Malian children see the life and living of complex people in communities as normal, which Wright and I see with eyes amazed, ears astounded, senses overcome. But he was one who came home, and I am a tourist, Toubabu of straight hair and pale skin. Did he breathe this aromatic air of fish and soot knowing where he was for the first time? I taught the students who heard his voice on the pages of their textbooks, the Great American Writer who came home, loved his home, lived in his home. He stepped in the same Niger River I cross daily to go teach.
El Mercado Jennie Scislow Oil Painting
Ode to My Farm Wife Mother Audrey Kletscher Helbling Before my brother, you were Saturday nights at the Blue Moon Ballroomâ€” a bottle of Jim Beam whiskey in a brown paper bag, Old Spice scenting your dampened curls, Perry Como crooning love in your ear. Then motherhood quelled your dancing duet. Interludes passed between births until the sixth, and final, baby slipped into your world in 1967. Thirteen years after you married. Not at all unlucky. Life shifted to the thrum of the Maytag, sing-song nursery rhymes, sway of Naugahyde rocker on red-and-white checked linoleum. Your skin smelled of baby and yeasty homemade bread, and your kisses tasted of sweet apple jelly. In the rhythm of your days, you still danced, but to the beat of farm lifeâ€” laundry tangled on the clothesline, charred burgers jazzed with ketchup, finances rocked by falling corn and soybean prices. Yet, you showed gratitude in bowed head, hard work in a sun-baked garden, sweetness in peanut butter oatmeal bars, endurance in endless summer days of canning, goodness in the kindness of silence. All of this I remember now as you shove your walker down the halls of Parkview, in the final set of your life, in a place far removed from Blue Moon Ballroom memories and the young woman you once were.
Veiled Gabrielle Erdmann Charcoal on Paper
Mother-Proofing Lindy Obach I start with anything glass: bottles, shelves, the stupid trinkets I love. Anything that can shatter, draw blood has got to go. The shelves in the bathroom go because one morning while standing in my shower, the very one my mother will be in soon, with the water so hot, so hot I can barely stand it, so hot it’s almost numbing my pink skin, I blink. And in that split second, I see her slippery and stumbling (she is dizzy, always), clutching at the steamed air, ripping the curtain from the hooks, smashing into the glass shelves above the toilet, and I come home from teaching, find her cut to ribbons on the floor. The blood sticky because it’s been hours. Grocery shopping: lots of boxed soups, deli meats, lunches I can assemble on the fly, make sure she eats before I have to be in my classroom. Because even though she has not moved in months, 30 pounds have melted off her. Her mind doesn’t clear enough to tell her she’s hungry, and she needs to eat. What rugs might she trip over? Do I pull vinyl sheets over the guest bed? How will I look in her blue-green eyes and clean that up?
Doctors: I go to a behavioral health clinic in town. I wait in a small, gloomy room furnished with only a box of Kleenex and a woman I recognize from the gym comes in to talk to me. I beg her to help and I cry. She gives me numbers and cards and literature for neurology, therapy, group counseling, neuropsychological testing, and walks me across the hall, her warm hand on the small of my back to schedule it all. From the cold and broken parking lot, I call my father and tell him I’m driving the 600 icy miles to get her. He doesn’t put up a fight. I may get drastic. The stove should go. She can’t be trusted with burners. So should all the stairs, the water heater. Jackhammer the concrete steps to the front door. Rubble feels sturdier now, for some reason. Dig out electrical wires, dislodge the fridge. Windmill a sledgehammer into the sheetrock, tear walls down to the studs, and she and I will live here, huddled together on the bare, busted floor while a Midwest winter storm rages around the mess we’re in.
Secret Heart Carol L. Deering Seasons ache for their complements, or we do. Spring should sprout from the ground and winter spurt from the sky. Vengeful blasts slam chimes, snarl as branches quake at dusk. All the world’s unanswered questions haunt the darkening vast. Then dawn, no sun, an ashen breath, unfurls a wealth of drifts and aisles. The geranium in my kitchen presses its pink petals to the pane, the only sunrise for miles. Little star tracks on the snow. Birds, up before the shovel. I hoist and fling, then hear a muffled cellphone ring. But I’d left mine, its song by Feist, inside, and I am all alone. Wait! Coyotes! Spirits of the hills! Melodious cacophony, antiphony, like dogs in fire engines, quavering upwards, brocading the wintry air. My geranium’s stepping down, petal by petal: windowsill soap dish sink flaming to sow the ground.
Fast Falls the Eventide Meghan Peterson Oil on canvas
Blind Hope Erika Saunders To trick the surface of the earth to begin to believe again in the smooth turtle shell pockmarks sanded and buffed and polished to shine Dianaâ€™s mirror back against time and bloat, and these small hands wrapping banana leaves around your neck, a bull hippo bellowing in rage as the boat floats the salted crocodile eyelights. Smooth, steady hunt the river edged shallows where bended reeds help buoy the ridiculous weight of it all. For you know the years will be danced out along your back, feet-stepping-feet delicate carefully, tenderly, lovingly, vertebrae by
vertebrae like my fingertips kissing trace as you sleep stomach-down, face turned to the wall, arms elbowing out like geometry. You know I could climb the rivers lazily adapting, giggle at being mistaken for the albino river dolphin and dream of time, and playing tricks on you in the dusky blue waters warmed by the cosmic thinning of space. I could glide silent as an eel into the reed roots of space and time, while you doze in the deep heart of night, cock-assured of your place in the world to tickle loose the roots of things like freedom and reason and tie them around your toes, shoe-stringing you to your desk chair.
Déjà Vu, USSR 1989 Marsha Warren Mittman the shrivelled grey old man said in heavily German accented English no worry, I watch over you, as I, traveling alone, obsessed over my two young children asleep in the sealed Soviet train car while doberman attack dogs and military guards with machine guns patrolled the station’s platform where’d you learn English? I asked British POW camp, he answered then sadly added, few bad people anywhere in world, just bad governments everywhere in world
Heaven's Back Door Steven R. Vogel Photography
she will to continue to write and dance, and she hopes to teach English abroad. She is passionate about creative writing, dance choreography, camping, and dogs.
Jodilyn Andrews Jodilyn graduated with her MA in English from SDSU in the fall of 2016. Her thesis explored the intersections of medicine, the body, and poetry. She has had poetry published in Pasque Petals, Oakwood, and Dark Matter Journal. Andrews lives in Brookings with her husband and teaches English classes at SDSU.
Carla Cloutier Carla is a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild. She writes poetry, short stories, and flash fiction. She has lived in Nebraska most of her life and believes there is no greater place to reside than the Midwest. When Carla is not writing, she is behind the lens of a camera, capturing the beauty of the Great Plains.
Katie Banks Katie is a graduate student studying Language and Literature at SDSU. She has a love for reading and hopes to open her own publishing company in the near future. Once she has graduated with her Master’s Degree in May 2018, she will be returning to her hometown of Sioux Falls to marry her high school sweetheart and begin her professional career.
Carol L. Deering Carol has twice received the Wyoming Arts Council Poetry Fellowship (2016, judge Rebecca Foust; and 1999, judge Agha Shahid Ali). Her poetry appears in online and traditional journals: recently in Soundings Review, forthcoming in The Kerf. She also has poems in the anthology Ring of Fire: Writers of the Yellowstone Region.
S. D. Bassett A licensed registered nurse and current lecturer at SDSU, S.D. Bassett has long established roots in South Dakota. Her home is an acreage near Volga, where she lives with her husband, and raised their now grown sons. Writing has been an important pastime and job requirement, with poetry outweighing professional writing on the enjoyment scale.
Constantine Nemo Dorn After leaving the Air Force with an honorable discharge in 2010, Constantine worked as a manager in food services before enrolling at SDSU. He is currently a graphic design major with a minor in studio arts. Upon his graduation in 2017, he will pursue a career in graphic design and illustration and continue his education by seeking an MFA in painting.
Tim J Brennan Tim’s poems have appeared in many publications, including Green Blade, Talking Stick, The Lake (U.K.), and Sleet. Brennan is a Great American Think-off essay winner and his one act plays have appeared on stages across the country. Tim is a retired educator from Austin, Minnesota. Many of his former students have attended SDSU, and he is happy to now be a small part of the university.
Gabrielle Erdmann Gabrielle grew up on Enemy Swim Lake and went to high school in Waubay, South Dakota. She currently goes to school at SDSU, majoring in Graphic Design and minoring in Advertising and Studio Arts. After college, she plans on moving to New York City to pursue a professional career.
BSL BSL is a writer and budding theologian. Although a recent graduate of Black Hills State University with a degree in English Education, he spends the majority of his time hiking, reading, and teaching preschoolers about meditation and manners. He frequently rambles like a mystic in Midwestern poetry slams and has been published in both the Green Bowl Review and StarLine. Megan Caldwell Megan is a native to the Midwest and grew up in Eastern South Dakota. She graduated Watertown High School in 2014 and moved to Brookings to attend SDSU. Megan will graduate in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Amanda Cecil Amanda is a senior at SDSU studying English and dance. Her poetry has been previously published in Oakwood and Pasque Petals magazines. After graduation
Rachel Funk Rachel is a senior Art Education student seeking certifications in both Ceramics and Art History, and enjoys seeking out experimental methods of art creation that she can transform into lesson plans for her future students. Though she was born in Idaho, she grew up in south-central Kansas; Rachel transferred to SDSU in 2014. Elif Gabb Elif is currently an English major at SDSU, hailing from Godalming, England. Coming to SDSU on a tennis scholarship in 2014, she has spent the last three years completing her undergraduate degree. After graduating in May 2017, she plans on attending law school. Paul Gaillard Paul came to Brookings from France in January 2016. Since then, he has fallen in love with the town's weather, landscapes, and people. He feels honored by the opportunity to become part of the Midwest.
Tyler Gates Tyler lives in Watertown, SD. His writing has been published in places like Whistling Shade, Skullmore, and Readers Digest. Tyler is also the author of the chapbook, More Than Letters, Less Than Words. Franki Hanke Franki is a student at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English with a Professional Rhetoric focus. She writes weekly for Odyssey, The Oracle (as a senior reporter), and Hamline Lit Link (as managing staff). Her work has also appeared in Why We Ink (Wise Ink Publishing, 2015), Piper Realism, and The Drabble. Sapphire Heien Sapphire is a freelance editor and writer who lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with her husband Jeremy. Her essays have won national and international awards and placements from such institutions like the Ayn Rand Institute, Bill of Rights Institute, and American Foreign Service Association. Her articles and short stories have been published in the High Plains Register, Starsongs, and Home School Enrichment. Audrey Kletscher Helbling Audrey, award-winning author of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, writes from her home in Faribault, MN. Her work has been published in The Talking Stick and Lake Region Review anthologies, on signs in the Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride, as part of poet-artist collaborations, on billboards, in a choral arrangement, and in newspapers and magazines. Marva J. Hoeckelman Marva has been writing poetry for fifty years, yet has only been pursuing publication since 2006. There is a manuscript in the works, tentatively titled Leap of Faith. She has a Bachelor’s in English and elementary education. In 1991, she moved to South Dakota. A member of the Watertown Benedictines, at her day job she is a bookkeeper for the Benedictine Sisters Foundation of Watertown. Andrew Hyde-Strand Bartender by night, editor by day, napping enthusiast during the afternoon, Andrew is an English Major attending his final year at SDSU. He has been a returning contributor to Oakwood and hopes to teach abroad in South Korea next year or attend the graduate program at SDSU. Amanda Jamison Amanda is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, pursuing a Masters in Architecture at SDSU. Living her life behind the lens of a camera has taught her about space, design, part to whole relationships, and importance of details. Through this lifelong method of exploration and documentation lies an opportunity to learn and grow while implementing inspiration into architectural designs.
Allison Kantack Originally from Brookings, Allison is a junior studying English Writing and Theatre at SDSU. She serves as Head of Print Media for State University Theatre and works as a writing tutor at the library. As a member of Alpha Psi Omega, she contributes to the production of Capers, the annual sketch-comedy show at SDSU. Ashley Kosters Ashley is a senior at SDSU, studying English and Marketing. She is originally from Mobridge, South Dakota. Samuel T. Krueger Samuel hails from Elkton, South Dakota. An SDSU senior, he is graduating in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Studio Arts. Aside from visual arts he is interested in a variety of art forms which include architecture, fashion design, and landscaping. Emily Meyer Emily, a South Dakota native, is a senior at SDSU. In May 2017, she will graduate and receive her Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish, specializing in education. She enjoys writing about her experiences growing up in the Midwest and plans to continue writing as she pursues a career in education. Marsha Warren Mittman Marsha has numerous poems, essays, and short stories published in American and British journals, magazines, and anthologies. Most recent: Novelty (London) and a fourth Chicken Soup for the Soul selection. Mittman, a Spearfish resident, coedited the 2016 Black Hills Literary Journal. She’s the recipient of eight poetry awards (Midwest, Atlanta) and three prose distinctions (US, Ireland). Rosemary Dunn Moeller Rosemary farms with her husband in Hand County, SD. Her poetry has been published in Scurfpea anthologies: I Walked by the River, Scandalous Lives of Butterflies, Memory Echo Words, Thunder Storm and others; Pasque Petals chapbooks: The Lift of Wind Across Wings and Midnight Picnic in the Fields; Paterson Literary Review, Oakwood, South Dakota Magazine, and others. Lindy Obach Originally from a farm on the edge of the badlands in western North Dakota, Lindy currently lives in Sioux Falls, SD, and teaches English for The University of South Dakota. Lindy’s poetry has been published in The South Dakota Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Blue Bear Review, Scurfpea Press, The Ukrainian Cultural Institute, and more. Meghan Peterson Meghan loved college at SDSU so much that she never left. After completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2002, she earned a Master of Science in counseling in 2005. She serves as a professional
academic advisor for the College of Nursing. Born and raised in the Midwest, she currently lives in Brookings with her husband, Shawn, and the world’s worst studio cat, Clarence. Masen Quist Masen is a Graphic Design student at SDSU. She will graduate in May 2017 with a major in Graphic Design and a minor in Studio Arts. She hails from Plymouth, MN: the Caribou Coffee and Target capital state. She enjoys spending her time taking photos and designing. Mary C. Rowin Mary’s Midwest roots range from her birthplace in South Dakota, to North Dakota where she grew up and graduated from college, to Wisconsin where she went to graduate school. Mary’s poems have appeared recently in Solitary Plover, Portage Magazine, Panoply, Bramble, (the literary magazine of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets), and in you are here, The Journal of Creative Geography. Brooke Ruhd Brooke is a sophomore at SDSU, originally from Toronto, SD. She is pursuing an Art Education Major and Museum Studies Minor. She enjoys practicing modern calligraphy and many other creative endeavors. Brooke plans to become an art teacher and volleyball coach when she graduates college. Erika Saunders Erika is a technical editor and writer working in aerospace, and living in Brookings, South Dakota, with her husband and three children. She maintains a blog that chronicles hiking and travel adventures interspersed with poems. Her poetry has been included in Watershed, Oakwood, and Pasque Petals. Honor Schwartz Honor will earn her MA in English from SDSU this year. She published poetry as an undergraduate at a liberal arts college in her home state of New York. Honor’s work focuses on dairy farm life with her laconic dad and other taciturn family members. She came to South Dakota to stay near her grandpa’s original homestead and plans to live in the Midwest after graduation. Jennie Scislow Jennie is an Interior Design student at SDSU, planning to graduate in May 2018. She has minors in Studio Arts and Spanish to fulfill her passion for the arts and travel. Originating from the Twin Cities, Jennie is a member of the Women’s Soccer Team, the StudentAthlete Advisory Committee, Interior Design Club, and Art Club at SDSU.
Claire Shefchik Claire is a native Minnesotan with an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and reviews have appeared in or are forthcoming in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Smarter Travel, Business Insider, MAKE, El Portal, Rain Taxi, 300 Days of Sun, Underwater New York, Union Station, The L Magazine, and Compass Rose. Pamela Sinicrope Pamela resides in Rochester, MN, where she works as a behavioral scientist. She earned a BA degree in English, and MPH and DrPH (Public Health) degrees. She works with the group, Poets Unite Worldwide, and maintains a personal poetry blog. Pamela is a member of the League of Minnesota Poets (LOMP). Recently, she has been published in Watermelon Isotope, The Furious Gazelle, Vox Poetica, and her local newspaper. James Sullivan Jamie has taught writing and literature at Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD, for years. He has published poetry in many literary journals. In the process of hiking in wild areas to hunt for snakes, fossils, and natural curiosities, he has also found more than one poem. Steven R. Vogel Steven has been a Lumberjack (Bemidji High School) and a Beaver (Bemidji State University). He has lived, worked, and written poetry on farms, in villages, in midsized cities, and in suburban and metropolitan areas. He is a Mayo Medical School alumnus and has worked in medicine for several decades. Currently, he teaches Anatomy and Physiology in Rochester, Minnesota. Lilli Weinkauf Lilli is a South Dakota transplant. Though she currently lives in Brookings, she aspires to one day pursue fulltime vagrancy, wandering the lonely plains of this world in search of the next great adventure. Douglas M. White Douglas is a software developer by day, writer by night, and geek pretty much all of the time. He’s been writing for family and friends since he was a young boy. Doug has self-published two books: The Habitué and Birds of a Feather. Doug lives in Sioux Falls with his wife and daughters.
South Dakota State University's literary & arts annual, featuring work from across the northern great plains.