The Cat’s Figment The Cat’s Figment 2010/2011 2010/2011 ! ! !
! ! !
! ! The Catâ€™s Figment 2010/2011
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Upon taking the position as Editor-in-Chief in August, I felt that The Cat’s Figment, still in its relatively young life, had great potential. To every person I spoke about what we were going to be able to accomplish this year, the response was an overwhelming “Great!” or perhaps an, “I’m so happy you guys are still surviving.” Encouraged, I began to think about not only our ability to “survive,” but our ability to thrive in a way that would ensure our little magazine’s permanent presence on campus. You’ll notice that we’re in different form this year–a little smaller, with only one issue–but a lot stronger. As you read these pages I hope you will find, as I have over the past several months, that the University of Kentucky has a voice, and that voice is strong creatively. To me, it means that we as students are not just satisfied to sit in class idly learning without it stirring up the impetus to create–to be among those worthy to learn about. From our stories, to our poetry, to our art, I think you’ll agree that this year’s publication means great things for the future of The Cat’s Figment and for our future as artists. In every piece we published (and many of those we could not) we found an incredible desire for expression–solid voices all. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this magazine as much as I have enjoyed working with all of the amazing editors, professors, our faculty advisor, Frank X Walker, and overall fantastic supporters who helped to put it together. So keep it coming, UK. There is more where this came from. There is more to be had. Ashleigh Lovelace April, 2011
TABLE OF CONTENTS FICTION JOHN McCURRY Highway, 5 DANIEL KING The Muse, 20 NIKKI PAUL Excerpt from Baby Blanket, 26 POETRY COREY KIRBY Share Cropping, 9 little women, 9 walking home in the dark, 10 last adjust you were barefoot in the sahara, 12 CHRIS McCURRY At This Point You Know Seven Hundred and Forty Three Words, 13 Iâ€™m Sorry, Your Poem Meanders, 14 MATT SPENCER Forecast, 19 STEPHANIE STRAUB at the salon, 23 grace, 24 I want a man with an Oxbridge accent, 25
TABLE OF CONTENTS ART WILL BRADLEY The Fifth Element?, 15 TIMOTHY HASSEBROOK Bubbles, 15 PHILLIP HOUTZ Honeybee Forager, 16 BRIAN PIERCE City Collage, 16 TATIANA ARISTIZÁBAL Hope, 17 BRANDON MASON Three Fences, 17 CHRISTOPHER EPLING Chapter 16 from the storybook Erby’s Turn to Rake, 18 SKYE SQUIRES Disconnect, 18
JOHN McCURRY Highway The town is a graveyard. Nothing stirs but the rattle of leaves in wind. The houses are crypts that sit ancient and creaking with chipped old faces that carry sighs marked in permanence. The town is a graveyard. The town is mine. My skin buzzes. The cold is the only thing I have felt for a long time. I walk down Main Street in my bare feet and hum tonelessly under my breath. For years I’ve walked, trying to find my way out of the graveyard. The insomnia pulled me into this darkness and left me there. I walk. The old sad faces follow me as I pass, then fall away. Trees catch the wind on their branched finger-tips and howl in protest as the last of their leaves are torn away. I pass shadows of what was: an old gas station, an old factory, an old park. The darkness seeps into the oldest parts of things and pulls them out. Nothing is hidden here in the dark. I walk to the highway—eight lanes of cold concrete that open the trees up like a wound. When I step onto it a chill runs through me. I walk to the middle of the road. I tried to kill myself once before, two hours after I murdered my brother, before they even found his body. We lived on the second floor of a three-story apartment complex and for some reason I was left alone in my room. I had just finished talking to a police officer. He was kind, I think, but what he looked like I can’t say. He asked me to account for what happened so they could find my brother, but I wouldn’t talk. I’d already told my mom. He excused himself and I sat on my brother’s bed. I believed, for an instant, that my brother wasn’t gone. That any minute he would walk through the door in his dirty old blue jeans and Ramones t- shirt and ask for help with his math homework. I waited until my thoughts festered and turned. There was my brother’s face. A bright red flash. Chunks of flesh absorbing blood on the road. Then nothing. I threw open the window facing the street and jumped. Fifteen years later, I am standing in the middle of the road at three in the morning awaiting my fate. I’ve walked fifteen years trying to catch up with his ghost. I am the undertaker. The sins I bury won’t stay inside the dirt. The dark sky splits with shafts of yellow light that push until they fill the world. I shield my eyes and watch two boys walk beside the road. The first is a younger version of myself with dark straight hair and angular lips. His eyes are dark as coals. The light looks as if it fades around their red rims. The one next to him stands with lighter hair and broader shoulders than I have with a pointed chin and blue eyes. “All right, here’s the deal. Last one to the other side and back has to feed Trixie for two weeks and clean up her crap,” I say to my brother as a black Mustang flies by. He watches the car as it crests a small hill and vanishes. “Deal, but if I win I also get to borrow your CD player for a week.” “Of course,” I say. Two more cars zoom past then the roads are empty. “Go!” I shout. We set off. My longer legs eventually surpass my brother. When I get to the other side I look back to taunt him.
He is stepping off the median and into the road, when the edge of his sneaker catches on the concrete. I watch as he lurches forward with his hands out. Then there’s the bright red flash, and he’s gone. For an absurd second I think that our favorite superhero, The Flash, has whisked him away. The hallucination ebbs away and darkness creeps back but I continue to remember the way my shocked mind swirled to pieces. I stare at the top of the hill, but the car is gone. The world comes in and out of focus. Red streaks materialize on the pavement as I walked to the spot my brother had just been. Chunks of white flesh swam in small red pools. I kneel down, into my brother. It was selfish of me to jump out the window. I saw my mom standing over me in the hospital room. She was a large woman with hair like mine, but thicker and longer. Her eyes were blue like my brother’s. I tried to give her a smile, but the corners of my mouth had strings attached to the grave. Mom stared through me with her hands clenched. A strong woman, a survivor, but now with one dead son, and another broken. A police officer knocked on the door and came in, different from the one who had asked me questions about my brother. “Mrs. Scott, we’ve located your son’s body.” “Oh God,” she choked. “Where?” “About a mile from the accident.” “I want to see him.” “Mrs. Scott, I do not think that is a very good idea.” “I want to see my...” The machine monitoring my heart rate sped up. It was then that I recalled seeing my brother stuck in the maw of a truck, flapping like a doll in the wind. The driver never stopped...probably didn’t even slow down. I was too much of a mess to fathom the implications. It was my fault he got hit. I killed him. It was my idea to race because I was tired of feeding our stupid dog I had begged my mom for last Christmas. I jerked and pulled as white hands pushed into my skin. I pushed back, hoping they would tear it off. Through my tears and the two nurses who were trying to subdue me, I watched my mom being dragged out. Her hair hung in her eyes in dirty strands, her mouth contorted in a shape too small to swallow the pain. I stopped struggling. I did not want to kill her too. A week after I got out of the hospital I stopped sleeping. I would lie in bed and talk to my brother. He slept just above me. I asked if it would be okay if we swapped beds. I wanted to sleep in his. He said that would be fine. My mom sent me to a therapist. Her name was Denise. “Is your brother still alive?” “No.” “Do you speak with him?” “Yes.” “Is your brother still alive?” “Yes.” I was forced sleeping pills. The back of my throat became sore from throwing them up every night. I did not want to stop seeing him. Eventually I did, but the insomnia remained. There have been many times when I thought I was dead. I would see visions, never
of my brother, but of bright flashing lights and swirls of colors that engulfed the town—a bomb being dropped on my sanity. I would see forms in the shadows and blood. Red blood, an extra layer of paint only I could see over the town. The police, the citizens, they never bothered me. I had never hurt anyone before. The murder of my brother obviously didn’t count. Tonight he comes back to me, young and wearing his Ramones shirt. He beckons me to the road and asks me to join him for a race. His eyes are bright blue in the dark. “But if I win you have to feed Trixie? Okay bro?” “Sure. I’ll feed her. And the CD player?” “It’s all yours, but you have to beat me.” “Ready?” “Ready.”
COREY KIRBY Share Cropping I remember who I am; southern bales of hay, blond strands of cornfields growing long past shoulders of sun. a long run on a salty road, a handful of overgrown raspberries in the pocket of high-water jeans. a mean storm that beats the side of the house so loud my mouth bleeds, leaves debris in the yards of my memories. but keep that part out, let me write about bruised fruit, unripe. little woman do you remember me, young girl in the back seat embracing femininity with all ten years? mostly i feel out of orbit with those prospering eyes that watch me in the review mirror; you are our parents' success story. but wait. there are the wing-like arms i picked you up by when i taught you how to fly.
walking home in the dark walking home, empty except leftover pasta salad forks knives the get up, slung in a bag on my left shoulder, strapping my back each time my right side dips forward to keep moving. man walking home too, he the opposite way, dips to investigate a fluttering paper (folded bills from a tourist's pocket?) keeping lips and tongue whistling at the same pitch even as his body forms various altitudes. this tune sounds ... ... familiar? there are other things i think about while staring through smudged lenses of glasses bought after i'd already learned to drive with faltered vision. i watch my shoes move in crayoned darkness, skin of their soles shed from nights i stumbled home, drunk from gin vodka lip-red drinks that keep young girls from waking up when men rip skin of humble places. my mistake is stopping, just for a rearranging of the slipping straps, put them back between my neck and shoulder, pull the bones up higher to keep them grounded. but now my shoes aren't moving, i'm losing
landscape items to measure my speed by, i am quiet black, i am scotch tape faith that breaks if you tear it quick. for a sick second i am hindered by you; nails driven into feet. last adjust you were barefoot in the sahara november you are sun up sun down for so long now i forget the sound of anyone else. you are warmer than you should be, no selfish bad weather just flaky leaves that sway sometimes but mostly stay at groundlevel. i could stand barefoot in your calico grass, your hands passing over my hips, the tips of your fingers like moths on my skin, wind as puddles around my ankles. that is how much i cherish you.
CHRIS McCURRY As This Point You Know Seven Hundred and Forty Three Words When she says I love you it sounds like pass the pepper please. It sounds like something you’ve heard before. Maybe in the morning as you make coffee or at night when you examine the puffiness of your face. It might remind you of standing outside a movie theatre or the burning tip of the cigarette. You may hear it as: How was your day? Tell me about it. That’s nice. Or, Be safe. Call me later. And you’ll glance up from your computer while still working on a poem, puzzling over the image of a man who is losing more words each day and has written the last seven hundred and forty two he remembers on his lover’s body. You will say back: Pass the pepper please.
I’m Sorry, Your Poem Meanders Of course I won’t write a good poem every time I try. Sometimes they will be boring and describe the dinner I had at City Buffet, a Chinese place across the street. Other times they’ll simply be about when I noticed an old man holding a door for his wife. And you’ll say: what could be more dull, or what could that mean? And suggest I substitute larger words when I remark on the superfluity of food at buffets. Or add a metaphor in place of the old man holding the door for his wife, but I won’t do that. Perhaps, in your poem, they can be dust.
Christopher Epling, Chapter 16 from the storybook Erby’s Turn to Rake. Colored pencil.
Skye Squires, Disconnect. Fiber. 18
Christopher Epling, Chapter 16 from the storybook Erby’s Turn to Rake. Colored pencil.
the storybook Will Bradley, The Fifth Element? Illustrator. Will Bradley, The Fifth Element? Illustrator.
Timothy Hassebrook, Bubbles. Photoshop. 15
Timothy Hassebrook, Bubbles. Photoshop. 15
Phillip Houtz, Honeybee Forager. Photography.
Phillip Houtz, Honeybee Forager. Photography.
Brian Pierce, City Collage. Photoshop. 16 Brian Pierce, City Collage. Photoshop.
Tatiana Aristizรกbal, Hope. Photography. Tatiana Aristizรกbal, Hope. Photography.
Brandon Mason, Three Fences. Photography.
Brandon Mason, Three Fences. Photography.
MATT SPENCER Forecast When I was little I always knew where home was. The narrow road that had been cut through mountains, the concrete bridge that crossed the Big Sandy into Auxier, the train tracks that had shaken my bones since birth, the foot-tall cracked stone steps, covered in dust and worn down from a lifetime of climbing that grew heavier and quicker with age. Anymore I feel that I am in search of that place, those feelings. Late at night I find myself standing out in the pre-storm electricity that hangs heavily on everything like wet clothing. Looking up at the matte finish sky, I wish for stars. I want to leave, to get in my car and drive until I am out past it all, away from the cloud-choked sky pressing down on me and the longing. But what would that prove? Where would I go? No. I will remain here in the space between The things I carry with me and the things I chose to leave behind; what I could not wait to walk out on and what I want back late at night when I am waiting on the rain and all that comes with it.
DANIEL KING The Muse I see Bob Dylan's aged and worn face staring at me from the newsprint, but it's not his story, stark, that comes to the forefront of my mind. Vicky, my landlord, she's running to me across the tiny paved area behind the small mill houses with the fall New England wind pulling at her clothes. "Dan," she says while making a Herculean effort to keep her composure, "Dan, I need your help." Her hurried tone carries a weight that is very nearly a command, as though if I don't do something a dam within her will break. "Please, it's my father, he's gotten himself stuck and I can't move him; he's upstairs and I can't move him by myself." One hand clutched a crumpled tissue while the other arm flailed towards the back of our duplex, gesturing wildly at the top floor. I said something, and was through the back door, moving into the old row house. A comforting warmth enveloped me as I passed through the kitchen. I stepped down the hall, strewn with her daughter's toys, towards the stairs. How had she explained to her daughter that her father had come back home because he had cancer? That he had come home because he was dying? I took the stairs two at a time, and followed Vicky's finger into one of the small bedrooms. I stopped. That instant will never leave me, not as long as I live. The already small room was now filled with a bed which took up most of the space and oxygen machinery took up any that was left. I had seen Vicky's father before he left to retire in Florida. Before his diagnosis. Before a lifetime of chain smoking had come to fruition. Before he left, his bearing had been one of strength. If not strength of body, then certainly strength of will. He had always seemed upright and proud, as though the frame he had been given was just enough to carry around the man that lived inside of it. The twisted frailty that lay strewn and contorted on the bed before me was not the same man. He lay, face down, half twisted off of the bed. Next to the bed was a small wheelchair, and one of his legs seemed to be caught up in it. His one free arm pushed against the comforter, unable to lift the weight of his own body, and his legs pushed feebly against the footrests of the wheelchair. Vicky's brother, a small framed man, was already in the room, trying to figure out what needed to happen to alleviate his father's suffering. Vicky stood on the landing between the rooms, and her voice drifted back into my consciousness, saying "...he was trying to get himself into bed and he fell, and I can't move him, and..." Time came back harshly in that instant, and the clear snapshot of that moment dissolved back into a blur of reality. I jerked into action, moving to lift his torso while Vicky's brother helped by shifting his legs. He felt like a scarecrow, as though he was mostly air, a husk. The button down shirt that he wore draped off of his chest and hung across my arms like a tablecloth. I lifted him, forcing my mind to work slowly so that I would not hurt his aged body. His face, now free, contorted in a grimace of pain as the weight came off of his arm, which had been pinned underneath him as he had fallen. His mouth opened, and a groan that more closely resembled a sigh came out. Seeing the change in his body had
been a shock, but the change in his face struck me with even more intensity. His cheekbones were far more pronounced with his cheeks drawn tightly against them, and the skin was drawn close around his jawline. "You alright?" I asked softly, and his eyes swiveled onto me from within their sunken sockets. The arm I had lifted and placed around my neck to brace him shifted, and I felt a weak but heartfelt pat on my back. "Thank you," he breathed with no voice. His son stepped in between us, working to insure his comfort while I stepped back. Vicky squeezed through the door past me as I took another step back, asking, "Is he okay?" She and her brother looked in on him, crowded into the small room like commuters on a busy train in order just to be close to their father. She turned to me, her eyes red and swollen. "Thank you so much...I just couldn't move him...not by myself and..." I pulled her close and hugged her tightly, saying that I was glad to be able to be there for her. "Just come and get me if you need me, any time, for anything, okay? You alright?" My arms rested on her shoulders, and I watched her dab at her eyes with the crumpled tissue, as though the tears would somehow be what would drive me away in her moment of need. I quietly let myself out. The warmth of the house was pulled off of me by the chilled air outside. Behind me, one of the Classroom Building doors opens with a screech, and it ushers in a blast of cold air. Bob Dylan's grainy and crumpled face rustles on the newspaper rack. I have been looking for a muse, and now instead I felt selfish and petty. Vicky's father had passed away about two weeks after that, reaching for the heavens as his last breath left him.
STEPHANIE STRAUB at the salon the girl in the mirror belongs to you— those thick red curls hanging over her shoulders against the shiny black vinyl are yours, not mine. she and I swallow deeply in unison, the stale taste of hairspray filling both our mouths as we sit, rapt, the twin prisoners of the shears' soft, persistent snip, snip, snipping, those twelve months slipping down our backs— those twelve months of quiet laughter and hushed voices and stifled tears and unspoken anger and thunderous silences slipping down our backs— the weight of those twelve months slipping down our backs— falling to form a rose-gold ring on the dull brown tile... my eyes, peering hesitantly from beneath my bangs, meet hers, and I know she is mine again.
grace when I was young I would hide myself in my mother's closet when Papa went outside to kill the pigs— I would clutch her coarse skirts close, breathing in the smell of her, lavender and peppermint, wrap myself in the cotton, trying to escape that screaming. they sounded just like babies. at dinner, Mama would take my hand, weave my plump fingers between hers,
as we thanked God for such a beautiful meal. I want a man with an Oxbridge accent who wears his suits the way I wear jeans, left without a shilling to his aged, aristocratic name after some old earl squandered the family fortune on a gated country estate, long since mortgaged, whose warm English eyes will meet mine one dreary London morning, as he smokes his third cigarette of the day, insists he really should quit in a voice rich with Eliot and ale, with the shame of half-remembered empire, a voice that promises to take me home.
NIKKI PAUL Excerpt from Baby Blanket It was the middle of January, and snow was falling light and sparkling, dashing across the hood of my car the way salt is spilled across a table. Even with the kind of wind that whips up so unexpectedly that it takes your breath away, I was in no hurry to walk in that door. Not that I could linger, though. She’d seen me from the living room window and opened the door quickly, a cigarette glowing out of the corner of her mouth. I smiled forcefully through the smoke and stepped in, and when she shut the door behind me, I looked longingly at it for a moment like an inmate might stare at the bars of his prison. There was music playing from the kitchen, some twangy country ballad about the usual lost love, lost truck, lost everything. A thick kind of heat occupied every crevice of that house, and even walking in the door it slammed into my face the way it does when you open the oven after it’s been on for some time, and the heat comes rushing out like it’s finally glad to be free. But my only real surprise came from looking around the empty house. Where were her parents and family? Where were all those country bumpkin friends she’d accumulated over the years, each one appropriately assigned their own obscure nickname like “Trailer” or “Hitch” or “JD” (for either Jack Daniels or John Deere)? It was only the two of us, me standing there like a goober with my plastic smile, and Kayla limping into the kitchen, dragging her cast-crusted leg along, jamming her cigarette into an ash tray on the way, and asking me what I wanted to drink. “Oh, uh, doesn’t matter. Ice water’s fine.” “Ice water? Naw, c’mon, girl! Lemme get you a rum and coke. I think we got some here.” I heard her rummage through the refrigerator and I took it upon myself to cruise slowly through the living room. They’d done away with the carpet and put down hardwood flooring, painted the walls a dizzying lime, and put a slipcover over the couch I remember being there since childhood. I sat down there, my eyes whirling around at all the pictures she’d either framed or taped to the wall or sides of shelves. She had a few of her brother and sister, many of her friends, and then on an end table next to the couch, she had several pictures of us as kids. It was like a Liv and Kayla Childhood Collection Set. We were swimming or laughing or hugging or dancing, or we were at school or in Wal-Mart or in one of our backyards; and as I scanned them over, seeing that wide (and often toothless) smile on both of our faces, a pang of guilt was born in my stomach because I hadn’t kept a single picture of her. I was scared to think of the disappointment she’d feel if she ever did come to my apartment, and while I was making her a drink in the kitchen, she would be looking around for pictures of us only to realize I had none, but had plenty of myself or even Jonesy.
Those pictures were haunting. Kayla still had the long, wavy brown hair she had when she was younger; still those crisp green eyes and that natural tan that, upon first glance, betrayed any hint of American heritage; and still that thick midriff and those eternally youthful and muscular legs. I’d cut my hair off, traded in my gold-framed glasses for blue-tinted contacts, and covered my face in makeup on a regular basis. “Well, it’s not Coke but it’s pretty damn close. Off-brand. And there’s some Captain Morgan in there for ya.” She took up a seat on the other end of the couch and I took the drink with as much grace as I could afford. “So, where is everybody?” “Ah, dad’s at some bar or somethin’. I guess everybody else couldn’t make it or somethin’.” “Oh.” Great. “But, whatever!” She shrugged and took a long swig of her own mystery drink. “It can be just us, Liv.” “Yeah.” I took a drink. “Well, I saw all that stuff on the news about you gettin’ hit by that car and everything.” I caught a glimpse of her leg, covered in rudimentary drawings and nonsensical or irrelevant phrases. “Doesn’t that hurt?” She looked down at her leg like she’d forgotten it was even broken. “Oh, naw, girl. Those reporters really liked to exaggerate things. They said it would give me more sympathy.” She took another drink. “They got me on some pain meds anyway, so I don’t really feel a thing.” Leave it to Kayla to mix her pain meds and alcohol. After a few more sips of the rum, I felt less and less in a hurry to leave. My face was flushed and I felt heavy from the heat of her house, and my eyelids slouched down like I was half asleep. We talked about an odd assortment of things: the pizza rolls we used to eat all the time, the bikes we used to ride around our neighborhood, how we never wanted her brother or sister to play with us because we were older and cooler, how high school seemed so long ago (though less so for me since I had actually finished the career), and even a little about religion and politics. But I was, at first, too afraid to venture any closer to what had happened most recently. Something inside me warned that she’d never really invited anyone else, and that this was all a ploy to get me alone so she could try and rekindle some ghost of the friendship we used to have. I’d already convinced myself a hundred times over that it was impossible, even as I sat there getting drunk with her. “I need a cigarette.” I was wiping away eyeliner with my middle finger. “Cool. Can we go outside? It’s hot in here and I think I need some fresh air.” The snow had stopped and we stood very near her back door to soak up what warmth we could, while simultaneously being chilled by the winter evening. I breathed scarcely because of the onslaught of cigarette smoke, and had great difficulty simply
standing still. The rum was a little more potent than I’d wagered, and I blinked several times, squinting almost, just to keep my eyes moist. My arms now wrapped around me (for I’d had my fill of fresh air already), I stole a glance at Kayla from the corner of my eye. She was staring at me, hard, incredulous, like I’d just slapped her in the face. I shivered. “Liv, why’d you come here?” “What?” “Oh, c’mon. You heard me. Why’d you come here?” I shrugged, feeling meek under her gaze. “I figured you needed a friend or somethin’.” She took a last drag on her cigarette and flicked it away, a red star shooting to the ground.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Ashleigh Lovelace MANAGING EDITOR, FICTION Weston Amos STAFF EDITORS, FICTION Eloise Lynch Matt Finley MANAGING EDITOR, POETRY Jordan Quinn STAFF EDITORS, POETRY Sarah Hayden Cambron Wright MANAGING EDITOR, ART Anna Coutts