Shady Side Review

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Shady side review

Shady side review fall 2011


P er sep ho ne SHIRLEY J. BREWER

Millie, elegant in the hotel elevator, glows on dark days. A porcelain goddess, she wears scarves in luminous colors— raspberry, lemon, sexy chartreuse— chiffon layers wrap around her slender neck like a rainbow ring. Her voice caresses with the gentle assurance of bells: Watch your step, please. She loves camaraderie, the exuberant, subdued, even indifferent others who walk in and out of her steel palace. Ten hour shifts, her energy rising with every ascent. No panic, until she reaches her own floor. After work, minus her banter, Millie looks for a button to push, a way out.


She sensed a parting of space between her chair and his, an aloneness that comes with being the one taken in a photo. …and that camera He liked it for its clever net of light. He used to think he could keep the faces of the strangers, the beach at the cottage by Lake Erie. He tried to take the knots of rocks and their cracked elbows—to contain the blue lid of summer in his lens. He took this white paint of living room, this folded arm of the Sunday crossword in my mother’s lap. The lens clicked, made a voice, her eyes captured, gaze sewn along the broken seam of bathrobe, black waved hair runs along the cliff of shoulderlike water to the burning edge of thirst.


for spaghetti legs for shivered, almost-silver limbs for the blood test in the morning the dull canister of cells, a rocket of red shot to shadowed planets. Make room for an invisible light bulb that shines in the center of my stomach, forty watts of love you always said. Make room for the yard cats, for the howl and cry, the baby feline hiss. Bored, we bowl snowballs off the roof, cat tails flicked across the fence. I watch you fall sleep, paw down your ragged mind, no curtains on the windows yet, nothing to break the sun and its first furrowing of light.

Romance on the 166 MILTON P. EHRLICH

Snatches of phrases waft over my seat: “Where were you originally from?” “Brooklyn,” she says, as her peals of laughter sprinkle smiling passengers like confetti. I strain to listen to his questions. They must be charming and witty, for she answers with seductive giggles, The lilt in her laughter reminds me of Eartha Kitt singing, “Santa Baby.” He cheerfully confesses he’s a computer geek on his way to work at the Rockefeller lab. In a British accent, it sounds like she says she’s doing ultrasound at a hospital downtown. I’m reluctant to turn around, but glance at them when they stand. A freckle-faced football player towers over a petite, mahogany-colored, young woman with a radiant presence. He writes her phone number on the back of his hand; they disappear going down the stairs, her infectious laughter trailing behind them like sparkly white streaks of light from a meteor shower.

Four Confessions KURT Z. GEISLER

I. In my spare time, I teach parrots to read tarot cards on the corner of busy streets. They repeat the same fortune for anyone: The skies are gray, look up, look up. The skies are gray, look up, look up. II. Sometimes I steal pens for orphans to write messages to their parents and watch all the bottles sparkle in the street after a storm. III. I met a headstone named James. We shared the same birthday, I called him my twin. He taught me how to use a scale to understand balance. I try to visit him everyday but sometimes I don’t want to. IV. My mother bathed with tea bags, to keep from growing old. For hours, she would soak, the tub eventually turning brown, the smell of leaves surrounding me whenever I sleep there.


Like ignite, like invisible tree frog crescendo, like buzz of cricket then pause. Like crisp fallen leaves, the papery exoskeletons dissolve in the heat. The leaping dog stops short at the buried, invisible fence. Except for this action, we might not know of its existence. Unless we saw the small white flags of warning, low to the ground. The stilled dog yelps. She cannot chase after the wild rabbit, which suddenly seemed to freeze, staring straight ahead. A fence of burning flags imagined.

Imagine there's no countries. It isn't hard to do* In shadow, a silent woman from somewhere else performs her morning exercises, alone in the shallow pool. Sunrise, mist and fog. Motions of long ago and far away transposed. A flicker of protests from the old TV in the basement. After the filming stopped an announcer reports: those people were taken away. Frontiere translates as border. Border, the concept, limits and excludes. Frontier transcends. Dots in the distance bravely wave goodbye/hello.

*John Lennon


Two flights up: third on the left, metal number nine on the door the only one not covered in orange rust, the smell of changing leaves and disintegrating flower petals wafting through open windows, sunlight sloughing across the hardwood floors in the morning and air wrapping its fingers around her bed, desk, music stand. All the shadowy crevices of her studio. But now: night. Window cracked, cold air seeping in, phantasmal, like gas. Jillian’s taking out her violin. When we yell and scream and she slams the door I’m embarrassed and my cheeks redden because the Eastern European woman wearing a babushka the color of dead grass, skin pressed up against the taut fabric, peers out her door. I walk by and half-wave, a hello dripping from my mouth. Tonight a tuft of gray hair, a bush of whiskers, poked out from the fabric. Once I asked Jillian how many babushkas she thought the old woman owned, and Jillian asked if I realized that a babushka was an old Russian woman. I said no, babushkas are what old European women wear wrapped around their heads, a second skin. We both insisted, then yelled, and I slammed the door, leaned my head against the brass curve of the nine, and waited, knowing she wouldn’t come: the wall was in the way. Two days later, we stared at one another. I stood in the door frame. She had her arms crossed over her chest, clutching a soup ladle. I reach the building’s door, skinny, red, next to the large glass windows of the antique shop on the first floor, pausing, hoping that perhaps Jillian will come running. She won’t. She’s sitting on a chair, looking at the case in her lap, brushing her hand across the lacquered wood. Pushing open the door, I step onto the sidewalk. A streetlight, topped like a lamp, casts a six-foot wide circle of dull light. I pause there, reach into my jacket for my cigarettes and fumbling, pull one out.

For a moment, I don’t hear them, but then notes eek through the window’s crack. Unsure, short, timid--not clear how the sounds work together. But as Jillian becomes absorbed in the music, the sound becomes more fluid, the notes louder. She adds vibrato. After a few minutes I lean against the post. Close my eyes. I can hear Jillian’s music clearly now; a light allegro with major chords. She knows I am listening. She pretends to appreciate the compliments, but I know she can hear the repetition in my voice. Eventually I stand up straight, drop the cigarette butt to the concrete. As I turn the corner, I can still hear the music. I hum along. I do not know how long Jillian plays, but she knows I am gone; I can only listen so long before the notes melt together, before they become hollow inside.


We knew they liked to take showers. The water was always running, and they were always giggling. People in the building complained to each other, especially the woman who lived below. The couple would chase each other around the apartment, and the way their feet stomped, we knew they were barefoot, and probably naked. We didn’t see them often, usually late at night, when they’d stumble into the vestibule, laughing loudly. They’d start kissing—he would press her against the wall and they’d run hands all over each other. They had only lived in the building five months. When they moved in, they hauled mostly wicker furniture up the stairs—cheap and light. The man, Sid, said hello sometimes, but the woman, Estelle, always glanced at him. We should be going, she always seemed to say. He always wore a suede jacket, jeans, browned sunglasses. She wore tank tops and a variety of skirts, mostly denim. They denied it, but we knew they climbed on the roof and drank beer up there, especially when it rained. They loved the rain. Their windows were open that whole summer, but they were open wider when the storm clouds broke. After a good pour, they left wet footprints in the hall; their shoes would squish along the corridor, past our doors. Half the time they forgot to pick up their mail, so it spilled out of their box – which was never locked – and fell on the ruddy gray carpet. The only time we could smell marijuana was during the thunderstorms. They were usually gone at night, getting drunk somewhere, but when the lightning flashed, we smelled the earthy smoke, all the way down to the basement. Those of us who knew, we knew it was good stuff. Powerful. Sid would make sighing noises—a kind of toneless sing-song—every time the lightning flashed in the distance. When the thunder clapped nearby, coinciding with the flash, Estelle would scream, and they’d both start laughing like crazy.

The water was running during that last storm—the windy one, the storm that shattered our oak-tree. The marijuana was really pungent that night; otherwise they might not have turned on the shower. Estelle’s little screams and Sid’s sighs continued into the bathroom, where belts clinked on the floor and shoes were kicked off, thudding against the wall. The curtain raked back and something thudded—a knee against the tub’s edge—followed by Estelle’s groan. “Oh, that hurt,” she said. “That fucking hurt.” “You okay?” “It hurts.” The water ran. They giggled behind the hissing water. Then there was the sound: Explosion. The loudest thunderclap we’d ever heard—a bolt hitting the roof. Everything shook. Every light on the block went out. Darkness. And because we listened so closely, because we were all so curious, it took us only a minute to race up the stairs, knock on the door, ask, “Are you okay?” Only a minute longer to open the door, which was never locked, and see them, sizzled, naked and embracing, on the porcelain floor.


I Daisy chains. She loves me, she loves me not. Silver snail pathways crisscross the lawn, and the flattened grass where we sat turns brown in the sun. Her name was Geraldine, from Cork. Her singsong accent rattled down my ribcage; her laugh pealed into the clear blue sky. She loves me not. Me, a compulsive kid who fears cracks in the sidewalk, the lives of his parents at stake: one false move and they’re dead. Everything’s going to be all right. My shirt is tucked into my trousers, nice and tight. II The man across the road has a tin leg. When he drags it behind him we hear the hollow clank as it hits the ground. His wife looks like a Jinnet, half horse, half donkey. We cry out the word when their car drives off to Mass every Sunday. There go the Jinnets! All their kids bray when someone tells a joke. One day, the youngest pulls a pot of boiling water off the stove. Forever her face is a moonscape of scars. Who’s laughing now? We huddle at the railings and choose sides for soccer in the lane. III There was a hole in the roof of our house where the rain came in. Da put a plastic sheet down and placed a bucket under the drip. Seagulls flitted in and out of view through the opening, and when I closed either eye the whole world looked different. At night I lay awake wondering if Da would die and his soul would float through the open roof up to heaven. Sometimes the loud snores would stop for long moments and I’d watch through the crack in my bedroom door for his soul to float away and leave us orphaned.

IV My Converse covered in writing: the musings of her diary, copied in my meticulous hand; the words she hid from me. Aloft on the breeze the seagulls float by, their black eyes obsidian pins. I can do this, I can fly, my love! Watch me run to the edge, see the pattern of my sneaker in the dirt? See the flecks of spittle from my mouth as I cry to the elements? Shall I jump now, into the air above the water hundreds of feet below? Take my hand and come along with me because you are the one who brought me to this spot. I couldn’t have done this without you.

The party room LYNN HARPER

Bonne terre means good earth. My grandparents live in Bonne Terre, Missouri. In my mom’s childhood, it was a mining town; galena surged through underground seams, until, like with all extractive industries, the heart stopped, veins dried up, and the profiteers went poking for another artery to bleed in another town. In my childhood, Bonne Terre contained an eroding chat dump and trailer parks. I have trouble remembering it ever being sunny. After Grandpa retired from medicine, my grandparents moved to the neighboring town of Terre du Lac, the land of lakes, where man-made ponds dotted the good earth. Terre du Lac had lake houses not mobile homes, golf courses not piles of course sand. Grandpa bought the Terre du Lac house secretly and gifted it to Grandma. Grandma took the surprise hopping mad, I heard from my sister who heard from my mom. By now, I think she’s come to accept it as her house. Nearly half the house is the party room—a room with too much brown carpet for a good party. One-dimensional fake boards, complete with imitation nails, pattern the carpet, suffocating the actual wood floors beneath. Jay Gatsby might’ve brought this room to life, but for my German Midwestern grandparents, it warehouses mismatched furniture, lamps with too-broad shades, and a bar stocked with sodas from Aldi’s. World instruments perch atop shelves of Rush Limbaugh and Robert Schuller books. Commemorative plates from all fifty states line the hallway leading to the double door entrance. We grandkids loved the room for its electric organ with preprogrammed songs, rainbow panel of buttons and switches, and foot pedals. As one cousin punched and stomped the organ’s accoutrements, the others circled the perimeter of the room in tempo—dodging couch, fireplace, and grandfather clock corners. My grandfather built three grandfather clocks whose chimes my mom would dismantle when we visited. The three clocks ringing, ridiculous and redundant, in one house maddened her. My

grandmother wears a ring that Grandpa bought her in India. It has three diamonds: two white and one brownish Indian diamond. Grandma explains: there’s one for each of her kids, the brown one for the boy. Grandpa shot the annual Christmas family photos. Uncle David would arrive late, if at all, with his children and fourth wife, who had been in the picture as long as I can remember. Since my family traveled the farthest, we kids were always carsick and complaining. Upon our arrival we were ushered into the party room and photographed in front of the fireplace mantle that displayed Grandpa’s Rotarian medals. These framed pictures, with our matted hair and sour smiles, lined the living room shelves. Grandma showed them to occasional visitors to brag about her beautiful grandchildren, who looked like little goblins in terrifying Christmas sweaters. Grandpa erected the Christmas tree between the fireplace and gun case; Grandma stooped under its branches to stack identical boxes. She bought all of our Christmas gifts on tremendous sale from Goldie’s, a regional chain bought out by JC Penney. Each year the three granddaughters received a polyester nightgown, sweater set, and a bottle of cheap perfume. My three items varied only slightly from the other two girl-cousins’ presents, a gift-giving strategy that precluded any real envy or joy. (My nighty had unicorns on it; Cousin Angela’s, puppies.) One Christmas, Grandpa carved the girls hope chests. Nothing felt less like a party than receiving a wooden box the size of my twelve-year-old body. Except for the type of wood, the boxes were indistinguishable. My parents still house my chest; in my seven years of marriage, I’ve never lived in a place permanent enough for real furniture, let alone an heirloom. My mother swears to keep it as long as I’m not “settled.” My grandparents paid for my eight years of piano lessons. Grandpa was an award-winning jazz trombonist and adores the Three Tenors. My mother recalls her childhood embarrassment at her father’s operatic performances in church. I never recall music being played in my house. On grandparent visits I had to play something, anything on the party room piano to signal to my grandparents that I had not squandered their money with sloppy practice and palpable apathy toward music. In Grandma’s kitchen, exactly one gallon of water runs before it turns warm

enough to wash dishes. That clean water would go down the drain pains Grandma. So she collects the water in an empty plastic milk carton, seals the top, and adds it to her collection of the dozens of others she has stashed, like a drunk would stash liquor flasks, in pockets of the house: closets, garage shelves, and corners of the party room. The party room hosted our pre-adolescent cousin weddings and receptions. We de-closeted and donned yellowing evening gowns and girdles and ivory elbow-high gloves. The boys sported fedoras and plaid jackets. We tossed bouquets of fake flowers to onlooking aunts. We tended bar, serving mixed drinks of off-brand root beer and ginger ale, sipping out of tiny mixing straws and pouring the rest in the sink. Grandma once showed me a painting that hung, droopy as a crucifix, on a dim wall opposite the bar. An old, half-blind farmer had come into my grandpa’s office holding his hand, red and swollen. “I picked up a bunch of big worms from the garden, and they kept biting me.” They were baby copperheads. His wife painted a picture of the winding St. Francois River knifing through Bonne Terre’s springtime bluffs and gifted it to Grandpa. Grandma and Grandpa would pack us snacks of old pretzels and flat sodas for the two-hour trip home. They gave us wet kisses and checked our seatbelts. They waved, big, sad waves, as our suburban reversed out the driveway, asphalt beneath the tires and the earth beneath their feet. Alone I could see them slipping back inside through the oversized party room sliding doors as we pulled away.

Dismantling routine RACHEL CARBONELL

The meaninglessness of routine without connection: boredom, apathy, aging, loneliness. Putting dreams and freedom on hold, inspiration on hold. Pursuit of meaningful conversations stifled. Thwarted. Solitude; alienation; apathy. Growing disenchantment, cynicism, growing embodiment of everything I disdain. Fears of being like my mother: neurotic, desperate, high-strung, achingly lonely, disordered, fragmented. Nerves. The struggle of the days, of going through the motions of taking the bus to work sitting alone typing data, recording numbers, donors, logistics. Struggling against mechanization, hating it with every molecule of my body: this uninspired mechanized role of mine. The tedium, the repetition, the flatness of the days. Killing time. Counting down until the end of the workday until Friday and starting again. Monotony interspersed with children, housemates, drinking, smoking, music, doing art, friends, movies: yet this voracious hunger that remains, this beast.

This reality as truer for

humanity than the student life of my past, the innocence and energy of childhood. A daily craving to return, to reawaken, to claim myself, to live fully, to grow. This daily craving to connect to stay inspired, young, interested. This flickering candle of life. Humanity struggling to maintain the faรงade that we are not struggling, grappling with life. Struggling to find my niche, my community, to stimulate my craving for academia. Struggling to find excitement, to stay interested. Sense of wanting to return. Inability to live in present, to feel satisfied or awake. What is this role, this life, this absence? Too isolated, restricted by work, myself, the nature of society. Livelihood as only possible if you open up to it. Wanting to find more people who live on more abstract levels. More intellectual, philosophical, intelligent, insightful. How intelligence in self and personal, professional and academic networks enable depth, philosophy and abstraction without drugs. Deeper connections, meanings than mediated escape/enlightenment/pleasure.

Why can I only be fascinated with culture, humanity, and life on the abstract? Unappeasable mental hunger. Or very short and therefore seemingly illusory moments of transcendence, realization, fulfillment, curiosity. Such fleeting satiation. Too many moments of yearning and tedium in my current life without enough intervals of feeling present, inspired, grounded, fulfilled by my present. How culturally we Americans tend to move, to uproot ourselves: the impermanence of community, the fewer close relationships we form/maintain. Larger American community as insincere, superficial, dependent on systems of privilege, roles, and economics. Larger degradation of community. Smaller communities and alternative communities in response to this cold industrialized living defined by roles. Mechanized flesh and mind, people valued for our productivity, our beauty, our economic leverage. Co-existing competing networks of support and competition, of community and individualism. The transience of communities, of lives. We are losing identity, deeper meanings, essential elements in life to greed, to fit in the cultural mode, to fulfill larger expectations and roles. How I privately reject, refute, and dismantle such roles and expectations, while still playing my part. The ways I strive to create and construct individuality, on superficial, interior and expressive levels. How to create moments of stimulation, meaning, fulfillment. Throwing myself into art, theory, community, friendship. My resolution to be more disciplined, self-confident, respectful of myself, particular with career and personal choices.

contributors JOE BAUMANN is an English PhD candidate at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, where he serves as an assistant editor for Rougarou: an Online Literary Journal. His work has appeared in flashquake.

SHIRLEY J. BREWER is a poet, free-lance writer, and workshop facilitator. Shirley won first, second and third prizes in the Maryland Writers' Association 2010 Short Works Contest for Poetry. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2009. Publication credits include: Pearl,

Comstock Review, Loch Raven Review, HazMat Review, Free Lunch, shady side review, among others. Her first poetry collection, A Little Breast Music, was published in 2008 by Passager Books (Baltimore). Shirley received her M.A. Creative Writing/Publishing Arts from University of Baltimore, 2005. Her website is: A writer and teacher in Brooklyn, New York, RACHEL CARBONELL has published “A Mid-20’s Reverie on Time” in The Vagrant Literary Quarterly and maintains a blog at She holds a B.A. in English from Oberlin College and an M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University.

SIOBHAN CASEY received her MFA from Chatham University. Her work has appeared in The

Susquehanna Review, Dash Literary Magazine, and Coal Hill Review.

JAMES CLAFFEY writes at, and is a contributor to The Nervous

Breakdown. A native son of County Westmeath, Ireland, James lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his wife, the writer and artist, Maureen Foley, and their Australian cattledog, Rua. He is the winner of the 2011 Kent Gramm MFA Award for Non-Fiction at LSU. His writing is forthcoming in New Orleans Review, CaKe, a journal of poetry and art and The Bicycle

Review; and, has appeared in Up the Staircase Quarterly, A Bad Penny Review and Carpinteria Magazine.

MILTON P. EHRLICH, Ph.D is a psychologist who has published numerous poems in periodicals such as The Wisconsin Review, Toronto Quarterly, Dream Fantasy International,

Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times.

KURT Z. GEISLER is a graduate of Frostburg State University. He currently lives in Frostburg, MD, and works at the local bookstore, Main Street Books. Originally from southeastern Missouri, LYNN HARPER is an interfaith chaplain at a retirement community on the New Jersey Shore. She writes for the religion section of The Huffington Post, while other selections of her work has been published at Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi

River Valley and The Journal of Religion and Abuse. ROBERT ISENBERG is a freelance writer and stage performer. He is the author of The

Archipelago and the forthcoming collection, Wander.

ANN NEUSER LEDERER was born in Ohio and has lived and worked in Pennsylvania, Michigan,

and Kentucky. Her poems and creative nonfiction appear in journals such as Diagram, Umbrella, and Brevity, anthologies such as Letters To the World: Poems from the Wom-po Listserv,

Bedside Guide, Best of the Net, and The Country Doctor Revisited; and chapbooks Approaching Freeze,The Undifferentiated, and Weaning the Babies. Ann is employed as a nurse in Kentucky. Additional information is available at

STEPHEN KNEZOVICH is a visual learner with poor vocabulary skills. He makes collages of what

words and phrases feel like. He pretends this helps him learn. When not collecting, cutting, and rearranging the forgotten scraps of our printed past, he poses as the associate editor at Creative Nonfiction. His work can be found here: Visit to read past issues and find out how to submit your work for an upcoming edition.

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