Sisyphus Winter ’19
36 Flight of the Flamingos, prose by Fitz Cain 38 The Draft, prose by Andrew Normington Cover artwork by Jacob Palmer 39 watercolors by Jackson DuCharme Inside front cover (clockwise from top left): 40-41 photographs by Prep News 83 Editors photograph by Matthew Thibodeau, 42 Tomatoes, fiction by Joe Mantych watercolor by Logan Florida, digital rendering by Jackson DuCharme, photograph 42 watercolor by Jackson DuCharme by Sulli Wallisch, photograph by John Hilker, 45 Improvised Perfection, poetry by Miguel Cadiz and digital rendering by Logan Florida 46 ¿Dónde Están los Olvidados? Masthead: photograph by John Hilker, by San Oscar Romero, edited design by Jackson DuCharme by Maria Paz Campos Inside back cover (clockwise from top): 47 Where Are the Forgotten? watercolor by Logan Florida, watercolor by San Oscar Romero by Jackson DuCharme, digital rendering by 48 photograph by Jack Billeaud Jacob Palmer, photograph by Jack Billeaud, 49 photograph by Jack Billeaud collage by Ben Krummenacher 50 photograph by Matthew Thibodeau 3 Peacock, poetry by Andrew Wilson 51 Under and Over, poetry 4 Continue, fiction by Rob Garner ’18 by Peter Michalski 6 sketch by Jackson DuCharme 52 Halcyon Days, prose by PJ Butler 9 pastel by Jack Nikolai 54 Mono, poetry by Fitz Cain 10 photograph by Peter Michalski 55 photograph by Matthew Thibodeau 11 photograph by Sulli Wallisch 56 Bodies, poetry by Joey Dougherty 12 K85, poetry by Collin Funck 57 sketch by Philip Hiblovic 13 sketch by Mazin Kanafani 58 ripples (the dynamics of white flight), 14 Guilt, poetry by Gabe Lepak poetry by Joe Mantych 15 Hartsburg, MO, nonfiction 59 photograph by Matthew Thibodeau by Frank Corley 60 The Girl from Ipanema, poetry 15 photograph by Sulli Wallisch by Collin Funck 16 photograph by Sulli Wallisch 61 photograph by Tate Portell 19 photograph by Sulli Wallisch 62 Life in a Dreary Time, prose 21 photograph by Tate Portell by Brian Jakubik 22 Circles, poetry by Peter Michalski 64 sketch by Nicholas Dalaviras 22 ceramics by Liam John 65 Blessings at the Kohl’s Checkout, poetry 23 Blissful Disorder, prose by James Brunts by Frank Corley 24 photograph by Jacob Palmer 66 photograph by Sulli Wallisch 25 Upon a Morning Sunrise, poetry 67 An Apology, poetry by Mike Lally by Collin Funck 68 charcoal by Andrew Munie 26 J.F.K., prose by Noah Scott 69 photograph by Daniel Gatewood 28 The Black Dog of Cuchulainn, 70 Ray, Iran, poetry by Padraic Riordan fiction by Padraic Riordan 71 photograph by Matthew Thibodeau 29 photograph by Tate Portell 72 Canto XIII, poetry by Matthew Hayes 30 photograph by Logan Florida 76 photograph by Matthew Thibodeau 34 photograph by Matthew Thibodeau 79 photograph by Daniel Gatewood 35 the underbelly, poetry by Joe Mantych 80 the river lethe, poetry by Joe Mantych
Peacock Andrew Wilson
Begrudgingly, he staggered to her level, and, just as a naked chick bursts through its shell, emerging from its tacet, sterile womb into a sun uncaring of virgin eyes, stumbling onto hesitant legs which for the first time feel their own weight, shaking the gloopy albumen from its drenched, delicate skin, squirming and wriggling through the dirt in glorious naiĚˆveteĚ , he began to dance.
Continue? Rob Garner ’18
fter packing up at my locker, I jumped on my bike and sped off for work. A few minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of Player One, the local game and computer store. Player One was one of those independent stores that started out selling gimmick items like card, dice, and board games but had grown to accommodate computers, gaming consoles, arcade machines, and, of course, video games. As I stepped inside, I couldn’t help but smile. I had always been more relaxed around technology, which made me feel like I wasn’t just at a store, but like I was visiting my grandparents’ house. I waved to Mick, the owner, as I walked to the break room to put away my bike and drop off my backpack. Mick, who lived up in North County his whole life, had inherited the store from his father. Mick had introduced computers and video games to the store’s shelves, and he’d even chosen the name Player One to fit the sudden change. A likeable guy, Mick got along with all his customers. Working for him was a pleasure as well, since he’d give his employees discounts so we wouldn’t go and buy from Walmart or the new GameStop they’d just built onto the strip mall down the street. Mick hated big chain box stores. “Heya, Jacks,” he called out as I walked out of the break room. “Can you take a look at the Galaga machine in the play area? Either I’m crazy or that fire button has been sticking again.” “Sure thing, Mick,” I said. Walking over to the machine, I began my shift.
he clock struck seven o’clock, ending my work for the day. As I was leaving, Mick called me over. “Found a package in my P.O. box today, Jacks. Did you have more parts mailed to me again?” I sighed, knowing he was going to give me “The Talk” again. “Look, Mick. You know why I have to mail things to your P.O. box. My dad hates that I got into all this ‘computer stuff,’ as he puts it. He even took a package I’d been hiding and smashed the parts in front of me.” I stood my ground as I waited for Mick to give me the package. Mick sighed in defeat as he handed the parts to me. “Just be careful, okay? If the old man heats up again, I gave you the back door key to the shop.” I nodded and took the heavy package from Mick’s hands. Moving outside, I strapped it onto my bike with a series of bungee cords and started off toward home. I made sure not to take any of my usual shortcuts since those involved going off-road and I couldn’t risk having anything in this package fall out or get damaged. As I pulled up to the house, I reached into my backpack and pulled out the garage door opener. I opened the door and wheeled my bike inside, setting it on its usual rack. I did a quick check of the house to make sure my dad was home. I peeked inside and saw him sitting in his office doing paperwork. That would keep him distracted long enough for me to get some of my own work done. With a smile, I closed the door to the garage
and untied the bungee cords on my bike, releasing the package I’d gotten from Mick. I set the package on the long workbench nearby. The garage had at one point been my dad’s workshop. Ever since he’d lost nerve control in his hand, though, he rarely went in there, so I used it for my own projects. I began unboxing the computer parts from the package, taking special care not to damage any of them. Next, I reached below the bench and pulled out a prototype laptop I’d been building from scratch for the last several months. Finding the right parts to build a working computer from the ground up would have been a small nightmare, but thanks to Mick’s resources the search hadn’t been terribly hard. Thankfully, my paychecks from Player One had been able to cover the cost. All it still needed was a battery and some casing. My last shipment contained a variety of computer batteries. Now it was just a matter of seeing which ones would attach and how long they’d last on a full charge. I eagerly got to work as the sun set behind the neighborhood houses. Why was I so intent on building this computer? When I had just turned eight, my mom took me to Player One so she could get her laptop repaired. I assume her plan was to have me distracted by the board games and arcade machines so I’d stay out of the way while Mick worked. It must have surprised her when I sat attentive at the counter and watched Mick take the computer apart. The process captured my interest. He’d even stop and point out what he was doing, explaining each computer part in full detail so I could follow along. The real thing that amazed me was when Mick put the computer back together. All those little pieces came together to create a powerful tool. Ever since that day, technology has held an almost magical fascination for me. Of course, not everyone in my family saw this as a good thing. My mom was ex-
cited that I had found my passion so quickly, and she would often help me in getting materials for projects like building a solar panel, a little robot, and even an RC car. My dad, on the other hand, hated all of it. He was one of those kids who played sports in high school and college and fully expected his son to follow in his footsteps. He liked to claim he could have gone professional had a rival pitcher not destroyed his knee with a 102mile-an-hour fastball during his college days. He seemed to think he’d somehow failed and could find redemption only by making sure his son was a better athlete than he was. It didn’t help that he’d lost two jobs because the companies he worked for automated their offices. His name had appeared on top of the layoff lists both times. As I was making the finishing touches on a battery that seemed like it fit, I heard my dad call from inside. “Jackson! Are you messing around with that stupid computer crap again?” I quickly moved the prototype back under the workbench and hid it behind the box of batteries. “No, Dad! Just doing homework while I have some natural light left!” I yelled back as I pulled my homework out of my backpack. I slid my calculus book out of my bag and began solving problems.
was already well into my assignment when the door to the garage flew open and he stepped out to confirm what I said. His left leg limped a little from his college injury as he surveyed the whole workbench to make sure I wasn’t trying to fool him. “Fine,” he said as he walked over to me. “You don’t seem to be lying this time. Make sure you go running before it gets too dark out.” With that, he turned back and went inside. I groaned as I resumed my homework, not wanting to risk getting caught again. My
computer was so close to being finished. I couldn’t lose it all now. I whizzed through the rest of calculus without a problem. I never understood why other kids complained about that class so much. It came fairly easily to me. I was one of the only kids in the class who didn’t use a calculator for a lifeline. As I worked through the next few subjects, I could hear tonight’s Lansing Lugnuts game coming from the TV inside. I hoped they would lose tonight only because if they played poorly, then I wouldn’t get called inside to watch. About twenty minutes later, I closed my psychology textbook with a heavy sigh. Looking up, I saw my photo of Mom on the garage wall. It had been almost three years since she’d died, and my dad had only gotten worse about things with her gone. I knew he still cared about me on some level, but he tried to live through both me and my sister.
She’d wised up to him and hadn’t come home since moving off to college, leaving me to fight this battle without her or mom around.
efore the sun went down, I did go out for a run like I was told. I didn’t mind going out to run every now and then, but there were other things I thought would have been a better use of my time. I enjoyed running solely because I was alone and could get lost inside my own thoughts. Any other time, and my dad would watch me like a hawk and comment on every small mistake in my form and execution. If he found any such mistakes, I had to keep repeating the drill over and over again until he deemed it correct. As I moved through the neighborhood, my mind was focused on what I’d do once I got home. If that prototype I was making worked, I was hoping Mick would feature it in the store and my friends would ask about my building one for them. That would create a second flow of income outside of my paychecks from work, plus there were several scholarships for young inventors that I could take advantage of to get a good scholarship for college. I broke into a smile as the endorphins in my head got me on a runner’s high. My head was overflowing with all the possibilities that could happen if I was able to make this project a success. I began to feel as if my computer could become better than anything Apple or Microsoft could create. I was so wrapped up in plans for the future I hadn’t thought about what was happening at home while I was gone. When I got back after that run, I was going to have to seriously rethink those plans.
I self-portrait by Jackson DuCharme
got back just as it was getting dark and went up to my bedroom to take a shower. As I was pulling my hoodie off, I heard the garage door slam again downstairs and heavy footsteps pounding through the house. The
door to my room flew open, and my dad was standing there holding my computer. “I knew you were bullshitting me! This is the sixth time I’ve caught you screwing around with some techno gaming shit when you could have been putting your time into something productive! You are pissing away your talent!” he said as he took the computer in both of his hands and slammed it to the floor. I barely had time to scream as it broke into multiple pieces right in front of me. I looked and saw the rage in my dad’s eyes and I knew that I had crossed some line in his mind. As he walked towards me, red in the face, I dashed past him and ran for the garage, not wanting to know what would happen if he caught up to me. Snagging my backpack off the table, I quickly mounted my bike and took off. As I pedaled into the night, I could still hear him screaming from two blocks away. Without thinking, I made my way towards Player One, my only safe haven. Steering into the rear parking lot, I fished in my bag for the key and unlocked the door. The entire store was dark. I didn’t want to risk turning on the lights, so I pulled out my phone and, using the low light from the screen, locked the back door behind me and moved into the break room. Throwing my bike to the floor, I walked over to the couch and curled up. My mind was a mixed bag of fury directed at my father and how I’d let him find my project, and sorrow that something I had spent so many months working on had been destroyed in seconds. In my anger, I shot my leg out to kick the armrest of the couch. As I did, my foot hit something that wasn’t there before. I turned my flashlight on again and found a set of PJs, a blanket, and a pillow sitting on the couch along with a note from Mick. “Hey Jacks,” it read, “if you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance you really got your dad pissed this time. My wife and I
left these here for you just in case you needed a place to stay for the night. If I find you here in the morning, we can go to the police and explain what happened. See you then.” I let out a sigh as I ran through Mick’s note. It was good to know that I had at least one person in my corner right now. I changed into the spare clothes and spread out the blanket. As I lay there on the couch, I looked over to see the Pac-Man machine Mick had installed in the break room for the employees to use. Pac-Man had just died on the demo screen and it was displaying the message “Continue?” in big blue letters. I couldn’t help but force a smile at that bitter irony. Whenever a game character died, they could always respawn and everything would be alright. If things were going to keep going the way they were for me, then I didn’t think continuing would be an option. I could already tell that a lot of things were going to be different after tonight. I’d lost the project that had been my passion for nearly a year and that I’d been planning my future around, I’d run away from home to get away from a crazy father who was probably looking for me right now just so he could scream at me about how I was pissing away all my talent because I wanted to play computer games instead of going to the gym. As I felt myself drifting off to an exhausted sleep, I wondered if continuing was possible for me. I was so tired, I wasn’t even able to dream. All I saw was an unending black void.
woke up later that night to the sound of the break room door opening. Not knowing who it was, I quickly hid further under the blankets. It wasn’t until the figure was standing over me that I heard his voice and sighed with relief. “Jacks?” said Mick. “Is that you?” “Yeah…” I said meekly as I poked my head out. “You were right. My dad found the computer and destroyed it. Now he’s furious,
and I don’t think I can go home for awhile until he calms down.” Mick sighed and sat down next to me on the couch. “Here, Jacks,” he said as he handed me a lunch bag. “Your dad called me up and demanded to know where you were. I told him I didn’t know, but I figured you’d come here. After he left, I packed you some food and came here. My wife thinks I’m just here to pick up some late-night deliveries.” I took the bag and greedily tore into the sandwiches, not realizing how hungry I had been until now. “Thanks, Mick,” I said through a mouthful of baloney. “It’s good to know I’ve got at least one friend in this world…” As I finished eating, Mick went back out to the main part of the store and began rummaging through some boxes. He came back with a new box of computer parts and set them on the couch next to me. “Look… You can wait for a while here, Jacks, or go back home and face your dad. You’ve made it clear to me that working with computers and technology is your passion, so go out there and do it. If your dad tries to stop you, you have to stand up to him.” I looked up at him and shook my head. “I can’t though, Mick. Once he starts screaming like that, nothing can change his mind.” At this, Mick sat down next to me and stared off at the Pac-Man machine which had just started playing a new demo round. “Jacks… you’ve heard the story about how I brought all this business to Player One by adding electronics to the shelves right?” I nodded my head. “Well, would you believe me if I told you that my dad refused to let me do it?” “What?” I asked as I sat up. “Why would he have said no? You making that business change was what saved the store from closing.” The very possibility of Player One without electronics boggled my mind. After all, if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be the person I was
today. I sat there with a blank stare as I processed this new information. Mick chuckled as he got up and open the door to look out on the dimly lit store. “The place WAS in danger of closing, but my dad refused to make changes to it. He didn’t want to be remembered as a guy who changed who he was just so he could make an extra dollar or two. He was stubborn like that. We fought a long and hard battle with each other until he gave up and said I could take over the store and make the changes I thought would be for the best. I agreed and changed the ownership, the stock, even the name of the place. And you know what? Fifteen years later I’m still in business.” I stood up and thought over what I’d just been told. I’d never met Mick’s dad, but I knew what Mick was trying to pull with that story. “If you’re trying to inspire me with that, that only works in John Hughes films,” I said flatly. After a moment, we burst out laughing. Then Mick turned back to me, smiling. “Maybe, but take it to heart. I was able to accomplish my dream of keeping the store alive by standing up to my dad. You can make him see your side of things if you just sit him down and talk to him.” I groaned as I sat on the couch. He was right, of course. I had never had the courage to talk back to him because he was, after all, my father, and, over the years, I’d gotten it drilled into me that I had to respect him. Talking back was seen as a sign of disrespecting him and usually made the situation worse than it was. “Look… spend the rest of the night here and go home in the morning. The old man might be calmer by then. Sit him down and talk to him face to face.” Mick picked up the box and put it in my lap. “And when all that’s done, you can rebuild your computer. I’m certain you can salvage some parts from what’s not broken and you already know
how the pieces go together. Just repeat the process.” He chuckled a bit. “It’ll be like you’re the machine. Plus if you ever need any help”—he opened the door and gestured to the Player One store—“you always know where you can find me.” We both smiled as I took the box and set it next to my clothes on the floor. Mick moved my bike over the couch, walked back to the door and flashed a grin at me as he opened it. “You’re gonna be all right, Jacks, I can feel it.” With that, he closed the door and left the shop. I curled back up on the couch and pretty soon I was floating off to sleep again.
hen I woke up the next morning, I got dressed and walked my bike outside, carrying the new box of parts. As I pedaled home, I mulled over last night’s conversation in my mind and the possibilities of how everything could go wrong.
What if my dad wouldn’t listen again? What if he would agree with me then forget making the promise? The list kept going through my head as I pulled up the driveway and walked onto the porch. I hesitated only once as I lifted my hand to the door. Then I let my face show my determination and I walked inside. I found him in the living room, staring silently at the TV from his easy chair. He didn’t notice me walk in, so I had a few moments to analyze the situation before I did anything. He was wearing a ratty old T-shirt and pajama pants. A few empty bags of chips sat next to him on the floor, and I could see the grease on his fingers. The shadows under his eyes and the bloodshot color of them tipped me off: he’d been up all night. The old man usually kept himself well-groomed so people would always see the best side of him. He looked alone, almost as if he had this aura of defeat and had resigned
pastel by Jack Nikolai
himself to some unknown fate. He’d chosen to give up. Feeling pity for him, I walked over and sat on the couch next to him. Her looked up, and his eyes registered some surprise at seeing me there. I smiled gently and, taking his hand I looked him in the eyes and said, “Hey, Dad. I think we need to have a talk.”
those screens?!” He got up and started pacing the room, lost in his growing rant. “With that body of yours, you could be a champion. If you push yourself you could turn into a fucking beast on the field!” I began to fidget as my resolve wavered. I already knew where this would be going, and part of me was
photograph by Peter Michalski
ur talk began with me mostly asking him questions and not receiving any answers outside of some grunts of acknowledgement and the occasional shake of his head. As I tried to get through to him, his silence slowly began to give way until he eventually broke down into tears. It was the first time I ever saw him cry. “Jackson, you’re a great kid, and I’m proud of you for all that you’ve accomplished, but… why do you bury yourself in all
ready to stop and let things happen. Sadly, that old fearful side of me was winning out as he went on. “If I’d had the opportunities you’d had back when I was your age, I’d have been playing in the major leagues before I was done with college. Instead… what do YOU do?! You sit in the garage and play grab-ass with computers! You are wasting your life away son! I know what the problem is. I was too fucking soft on you when you were a kid. I
should have been out there pushing you, but your Mother kept saying”—he switched to an annoying high-pitched voice he used when he impersonated someone he thought was whining—“‘Oh, you’re being too rough on him! Back off! Let him play with his toys!’” As soon as he began insulting mom, something inside me just snapped. I suddenly stood up and noticed how much taller I was than my dad. He turned just in time to see me move forward and shove him into the nearby wall. He hit it with a hard thud and fell to the floor. When he looked up, I saw the rage in his eyes, but
there was something else. Something like… fear. “Never insult Mom,” I said quietly, my own rage burning inside me. Without waiting for a reply, I walked to my room and saw my prototype sitting there on the floor, still broken. With a sigh, I gently picked up the pieces and walked back to the garage. I set them down on the workbench and, after a quick analysis of what was broken, I pulled out my box of spare parts. Deep down, I knew things between my dad and I would never be the same, but that didn’t matter right now. All I could do was continue.
photograph by Sulli Wallisch
K85 Collin Funck
The last time I wrote, I wrote for me, For Dunbar and Dickinson, For peers and pupils, For family and friends, For applause and approbation, That I was the next one to bring them love songs of timid regret, Tales of war on lost fields, And beaches echoing Dionysus’s might across oceans. But when did I last write for Him or Her or You? When did I last write something to a love whom I know And have bled with onto the same patch of grass On cool summer nights, Or anything that did not come From a conceited greed for approving nods and promotion Out of an apprentice’s malice toward the shoemaker? Indeed, My writings have been as the apprentice’s But less in me than the ones He or She or You thirst for, And only that of love I can offer, Completely, truly, yours. My tongue can lie a thousand times over, But my heart can only speak the same love once. I have lost that love with which I write tonight. Take not my help, For my hands are tainted with ink; Take not my strength, For my back aches from long nights in oak pews; Take not my advice, For my lips run dry of hope; But, please, take my writings. They are all I can give. Forevermore will He, She, and You take me in, With truth that not Dunbar, Dickinson, or any shoemaker Could put forth as my heart.
photograph by Mazin Kanafani
Guilt Gabe Lepak
In the in-between of awake and asleep I stood on a parapet watching a bridge below me made of stones gray and sleek and square, cool as the ice they were cut from drizzled with a scattered rain that had swept through days before, but the clouds hadn’t parted, and the rains hadn’t evaporated. And I saw my friends walk to, stand on, look out on, and leap off the railing, my friends who I knew from every moment of my life, who I had fought and laughed with for days on end, who I am and wish I wasn’t a mix of, who I love. My friends cascaded down into the sea below, and I reached out for them, and I couldn’t catch them as they dropped out of my sight, they just fell and fell and fell and fell, and I watched and watched and watched and watched And I opened my mouth to scream and nothing came out, I shouted harder and harder and the words refused to come out And I found myself in tears longing for them, wanting them, wishing for them, I found myself on the edge they fell from gray and sleek and square, cool as the ice it was cut from drizzled with a scattered rain that had swept through days before, but the clouds hadn’t parted, and the rains hadn’t evaporated And I was standing on, looking out on the railing to the bridge that swallowed my friends. If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? I took a step and I didn’t join my friends in an unceremonious pile at the bottom. I hovered in the air off the side of the bridge and wept but no sound came out, and the rain began again.
Hartsburg, MO Frank Corley
ake up, you motherfuckers!” 2:17 in the morning. I had pitched my tent the same place as last year, away from the others, off in the corner of the park near the backstop. There was a board there with power outlets so I could plug in my phone. I’d set up the door facing the other direction from the park so if I had to get up during the night and pee, I’d have some privacy. But I was right next to the road, across the street from the nearest house, so that when the truck raced east on River Road toward the Lions Park and ball field where we were camped, they had to slow down right by my tent to make the turn and go south on Bush Landing Road. It was an easy calculation to make, lying there as the passenger screamed at us, to stay in the tent. There was absolutely no way I could make the situation better by coming out. No way I wanted a fight. No way I wanted a screaming match. No way I wanted to be a sixty-yearold man in my boxers in any way interacting with the young men in that truck. I assumed it was a truck, even though I never saw it. That afternoon, we’d rolled out of Cooper’s Landing after dinner, with an easy ten miles left to bike to Hartsburg. I’d had a #5 and a #7, a Garlic Chicken and a Chim’s Kitchen Special. The Garlic Chicken, which a couple of the other guys had gotten, too, was no big deal. Some scraps of white meat on some clumpy rice, some reasonable zucchini and carrots with a nondescript, lowflavor brown liquid poured over. “The best
Thai food in mid-Missouri” I’d told the guys. Their response—“That’s kind of like the best red wine in all of Idaho”—was not far off. The description had been told to me a long time ago, and I always repeated it when heading to Cooper’s, always ironically. But my fellow travelers always bought into it and usually enjoyed the meal. The #5, though, was pretty good. Batter-fried chicken, some nicely cooked cabbage, and this time the clumpy rice was covered in a reddish, vinegary sauce. It was interesting enough that it actually had flavor; I shared it with one of the guys, and he enjoyed it, too. The aroma of the Chim’s Special was still on my mind as I rolled out, nearly last in line, from Cooper’s. I knew that in one mile, on the right hand side of the trail, we’d see our first Confederate flag on this ride. I pulled a big wad of spit into my mouth and saved it for that target. Sure enough, as we entered Easley, MO, there was a flagpole to the right, Stars &
photograph by Sulli Wallisch
Stripes above, Stars & Bars below. I couldn’t hit the flag from the trail, but I spat in its general direction and pedaled on. I didn’t push real hard, but I kept up or gained on the riders ahead of me. We all gathered in Hartsburg at the trailhead and headed south toward the ballfield where we’d camp for the night. The park is a great little small-town park. The kids’ playground has a swingset,
with us staying there, so I refrained from hocking a loogie at it and just rode on. We could see from that distance that there were a lot of cars parked at the field, so we figured there’d be a game tonight, as there had been a week earlier when we had come through. That night it had been a girls softball game; this looked to be a Little League boys game. 3:21 AM, an hour and four minutes after
photograph by Sulli Wallisch
a merry-go-round, a see-saw, and a couple of slides. Recently, a corrugated steel tunnel has been added. Next to the playground is a horseshoe-pitching yard where most of us pitch our tents. Under the pavillion, where the hammock-sleepers would be, a concession stand sells TwinPop™ Popsicles for twenty-five cents during the games. A couple of houses onto First Street, we saw our second Confederate flag. This one was much newer than the one in Easley. The house was occupied, and I needed Hartsburg to be okay
the first raucous visit. I’m lying in my sleeping bag and I can see, through my tent, two bright lights coming toward me. They’re coming fast down River Road. I lie there waiting, hoping it isn’t them but someone else. This time, he slows down considerably as he comes even with my tent. “I SAID, WAKE UP!” Who else could it be in the middle of the night? I had the sense it was only one guy this time, but it was the same voice. I figured he’d dropped his buddy off somewhere over by the river and circled
back on his way home to scream at us one more time. Then he screeched off, leaving us lying there, awake, in his wake. Lying there, I thought to myself that, yeah, he woke us strangers, but his yelling disrupted the entire neighborhood and disturbed his own friends, neighbors, and fellow residents of Hartsburg. As if to confirm my thoughts, I could hear the woman from the house across the street come out, let her dog run a little bit, and then bring him back inside. I wondered about her thoughts. Well, I’m awake anyway, I might as well take the dog out. Or I’m going outside, and if he comes back, I’m gonna really give it to him. Or Those poor cyclists trying to sleep; I’ll bet that’s so-and-so. I’m going to say something to his parents. He didn’t come back, and I did get some more sleep.
’d ridden the Katy Trail six times, eaten and slept in Hartsburg, Marthasville, and many small towns between and around. Folks had always been friendly, welcoming even. I’d never been yelled at, cursed at, or woken up in the middle of the night. One or two young men in one vehicle on one night may or may not represent rural Missouri: I don’t know. We’re probably different, but we find a way to get along. We rely on their cafes, bars, B&Bs, and ice water; they appreciate our tourist dollars, no doubt. I don’t talk politics with Dotty or Don at the Community Club Park in Marthasville, but as my African-American son napped in the pickup under the elm in the park, I know that no one bothered him, questioned him, harassed him, or gave him a ticket. Lying there in my tent, I knew the incident would come up in the morning with the other riders. I knew I would have to be able to interpret it, mediate it even, for the guys I was with. I would have to find a way for this guy not to be the villain, for them to see that, rural or urban, cyclist or farmer, redneck or liberal, we weren’t that far apart.
Lying there in my tent, I thought about the baseball game. Earlier that evening, after getting the guys settled in and hosing off my sweaty head, I’d walked over to the picnic table behind the backstop to watch the game. Two teams of little boys, about third or fourth grade, were playing. It was kid pitch, so I knew there would be a lot of walks, passed balls, errors, and slow grounders. The kid on the mound—not a mound really, but a white circle chalked into the middle of the diamond—was pitching with his arm only. With no lower body effort, he held the ball in his right hand above his head, pulled back a little bit, and flung it toward home. This wasn’t pitching so much as it was throwing; I wished he’d had a little coaching, and I recalled my days with my son Deion’s summer rec league teams, with Gary Kyles coaching the pitchers. The boy on the mound was big, bigger than the other kids, and flinging it pretty hard. His control was inconsistent, but when he got it over the plate, the opposing batters could not make quality contact. The noise of the crowd was clearly behind this pitcher and his team. I always feel a little bad at hearing a crowd cheer a strikeout, because while they cheer one boy’s success, they’re also cheering another boy’s failure. I was sitting at the table, taking all this in and processing the entirety of the scene, as things came into tighter focus for me, and I watched the batter, the catcher, and the umpire. Once I focused on the pitcher, and my eyes got used to the light of the field and the dimness of the picnic table, I realized that the darkness beneath the brim of the pitcher’s cap was not so much shadow as it was a dark face, and that the darkness of his arms was not my eyes adjusting to the sunlight, but dark arms. Yes, the pitcher was AfricanAmerican. Here I was, in Hartsburg, MO, rural mid-Missouri, population 106. I’d biked past two Confederate flags in the last hour.
This little boy, this pitcher, must be the only Black child in town. Where were his parents, his family? I looked around—no other Black faces. Did he live here? And they were cheering him, encouraging him, applauding his play. At the end of the inning, he trotted toward the dugout, turned and tossed the ball back to the mound. The crowd congratulated him; his coach high-fived him. He’d struck out the side, the third one coming after a walk and an error, so it got him out of a bit of a jam, squelched a rally. He headed to the dugout and set his glove down. At first, this was disorienting; I couldn’t reconcile this cheering of a Black child with the flying of that flag. Then it became for me yet another instance of a group approving of an individual Black person while demeaning the race as a whole. When we get to know a person, I thought, our generalizations break down. But we make exceptions in our heads: Sure, he’s okay, but most of them . . . The kid’s team had their at-bats. He hit that inning but was unremarkable. A big kid, he could swing hard, but not well. He chased bad balls, fouled some off, eventually squibbed a grounder between first and second. He could throw, but I couldn’t tell how far past that it went. They headed out to the field for the next inning and he was pitching again. Things on and around the field were quiet as the defense warmed up, and I looked around the crowd. To my left were the Hartsburg fans. Their team wore black T-shirts with white writing; the visitors wore a kind of gray camo jersey with their names on the back. Right behind the backstop, I saw this woman, a solid-framed white woman with highlighted, bleached blonde hair pulled back behind her head with a big clip. She was keeping the book for the game, a job which simultaneously demands knowledge and endows authority, the status of arbiter. And she was yelling. She was making sense, at least, and she was constructive; but she was yelling.
She had a jersey on, camo sleeves with a cream-colored torso. Above the number, the jersey read “Demarion’s Mom” and the jersey was #23. Could this be . . . ? I didn’t have to check. Though I admitted to myself that it was a racial generalization, I knew there wasn’t a white boy on the planet named Demarion. As if for confirmation, the jersey number was LeBron’s and, before that, Jordan’s. As the lead-off batter for the inning settled into the box, and the pitcher faced the catcher, hand above the head, the coach called from the first base dugout, “All right, Demarion. Let’s go get ’em.” Demarion’s mom. In a sense, it was no surprise that she was keeping the book. If he was the pitcher, he was one of the better athletes on the team, whose mom would then hold higher status among the parents. Furthermore, if she was able to get her young Black son to play baseball, then she probably had the necessary knowledge of and enthusiasm for the game to keep the book. There was no husband in sight, and this child was not biracial: perhaps this single white mother had raised her Black son to be a baseball player. I imagined her in her backyard, playing catch, teaching him to throw and swing a bat, hitting grounder after grounder to him. The thought made me smile. The thought also made me wonder at his story, her story. Who was this family? Maybe I already knew. Teresa and I fostered close to thirty children and adopted five, four of whom are African-American. Though our eldest, Rick, played a little baseball in grade school, it wasn’t until Deion and Mark played that we found ourselves at the baseball field on summer nights, sweating, calling to the players, eating pretzels and nachos dipped in the same bright orange cheese sauce. Is that who this woman was, a foster mom raising her Black child in the white sport, albeit with a basketball player’s jersey number? Wow. It
photograph by Sulli Wallisch
seemed unlikely that Demarion was her stepson, that her Black husband had brought his son into the relationship and she had gone along for the journey through baseball. Possible, I guessed, but the dynamic between the two didn’t seem to fit that narrative. The foster-adoptive route seemed more likely and, of course, the one I knew and had taken myself. So now I have a rural, mid-MO mom, fostering and then adopting a young Black man and coaching him through baseball, then taking him to this game, driving right past a bright new Stars & Bars. I turned to the woman on the other side of the picnic table, on the first base side— probably a parent of this team. I opened with the typical questions, “How old are these boys?” “Third grade. Going into fourth.” That fit. Mostly little, some starting to shoot up, some a little pudgy. “Where are they from? Are they local?”
She probably figured I was a parent from the other team. “We’re from North Callaway.” She was indicating the county and probably the school district. “I’m just biking the Katy Trail, I’m not from here. Is the other team from Hartsburg?” Again indicating school district, she said, “I think they’re southern Boone. I’m not sure.” Okay, so Demarion and his mom don’t live in Hartsburg, but northern Callaway County, the “Kingdom” of noted oddballs who’d opposed the Union during the Civil War. “What town are you guys from?” I asked. “Mostly Kingdom City, Auxvasse, and Hatton.” I figured Auxvasse was named for the creek whose watershed cut out the deep, wide valley which Interstate 70 crossed, and I knew Kingdom City was the location of the
McDonald’s, huge gas stations, and tourist store just before Columbia on the way from St. Louis. So I asked her where Hatton was. “Well, they’re each just the exit before and after Kingdom City. Hatton is just west of Kingdom. It’s the one with the Craft Day and the Bonnet Festival.” I love that each town has its own festival and is known by that unique connection throughout the area. In Teresa’s native Minnesota, it’s the same way: Vining has Watermelon Daze, Clitherall the Testicle Festival, and Battle Lake has Chief Wenonga Day. In fact, Hartsburg itself is known for its Pumpkin Festival every fall. It is charming, truly, that each community has some product or history to distinguish it and which it celebrates. With all this banging around in my brain, and these thoughts getting produced and put together in moments, the game went on. Demarion’s team, North Callaway, was winning, and he was still pitching. And still drawing cheers, enthusiastic, supportive cheers. The woman next to me went on to explain that she’d been born in the St. Louis area, that her mom had gone to Ritenour High School. They’d moved out this way and she’d married and stayed. She and her husband both stood straight up when their son came to the plate, not cheering but coaching. “Wrists stiff. Elbow up.” “Swing!” He struck out looking. “Shit,” the dad said to his wife, clearly disappointed in his progeny and discouraged, I knew from experience, at the prospect of having to wait an entire time through the batting order to see him bat again. Their directions were echoed by every parent on
both teams. Demarion’s mom instructed him on every pitch, both those he threw and those he faced. I wandered back to the pavilion, losing interest in the game with the aggressiveness of the parents. They were really not much different from Mark’s teammates’ parents, who shout at their sons from the stands every night; it’s just that I didn’t know these folks.
ll this ran through my head that night in my tent: the flags, the festivals, the parents, Demarion and his mother, this park, the woman across the street, the American game and the Thai food . . . how would I convey my sense of all that in the morning to a bunch of tired guys who only remember being woken up in the middle of the night by the screams of locals and their truck tires?
fter the game, I was momentarily tempted to find her and ask the story, almost as an investigative journalist might: What’s it like to raise a Black son under the flag of slavery? But only for a moment: it was an absurd thought. I knew full well that even I myself could answer such questions only when asked by my closest friends. It would remain an unknown, the complex mystery perhaps more valuable than a neat explanation. The cars pulled out of the gravel parking lot, scattering to various parts of Boone and Callaway counties. I took my tent and sleeping bag over to the picnic table behind the backstop to set up for the night. I unrolled my sleeping pad, ducked into the tent, lay down to sleep. Until 2:17 in the morning.
photograph by Tate Portell
Round I go but never merry Saddled atop a thought It bobs and bounces to an unsettling tune Together we careen around something Could it be an escape? I like to believe it draws nearer
Circles Peter Michalski
The bars of the song cycle through yet again In slow crescendos they rise and fall As do we, steed and prisoner My need to know has locked me to this ride Seduced by a cold, empty light And strapped into endless rotation I soon grow tired Yet my colt of consciousness presses on In whimsical dances to a horrifying melody We go around again Again Again Again Again Again Even the icy glow flees this purgatory And Iâ€™m left on a darkened carousel Riding high until the end
ceramics by Liam John
Blissful Disorder James Brunts
he usual musk of cigarette smoke struck me more distinctly this time than it ever had before. As the nicotineyellow door swung open before me, revealing the dimly lit shadow of the kitchen I’d grown fond of, the typical aroma that I had ascribed as simply “the smell of Grandpa’s house” was bitter on my nose. It was the stench, I now knew, that had accumulated over years of my grandfather’s self-imposed exile from the outside world. Trying to wade through the odor, I pursed my lips and dipped my head in, softly drawing the door to a close as I stepped onto the dirtcaked welcome mat that “only cost $7.95 at Costco.” Flicking on the kitchen light, I found that the ambience of the room didn’t satisfy me the way it once had. In the place of a vibrant, active kitchen where I’d usually find my grandpa gingerly toying with the ingredients that he’d use to work up his next meal—which were always served in huge proportions because, according to the MSN browser home page, “it is healthier to eat one or two larger meals a day rather than three rationally sized ones”—stood a pale array of outdated appliances, dirty pots and greasy, unwashed pans. I scanned the room a hundred times over, giving no merit to the walls coated in nicotine or the crushed cans of Coors Light that littered the shelves and mounded up near the base of the overfilled garbage bin. In venturing to find a silver lining amidst the horror I knew I had entered into, I found none; in its stead were only the silver cans—cans crushed, mangled, and void of cheap beer. The usually windy path to the stairs, which once consisted of cutting around the
kitchen tabletops and a set of high-sitting chairs circled around the rim of a countertop island, was now a straight shot from the back of the kitchen where we had entered to the base of the stairway. As I shuffled to the stairs, I noticed the mess of chairs that were usually parked, in odd contrast to the perpetually disorganized kitchen, in a neat array beneath the countertop. In a rush of memory, I recalled the many mornings I spent atop them as my grandfather threw together our breakfast. There I’d sit, chatting with him about our plans for the day, or maybe how good the dog, his beloved AustralianShepherd-and-Blue-Heeler-mix, looked after its monthly trip to the groomer the weekend prior, or even drawing up a list of exactly what was needed from our excursion to Costco or Shop ’n Save that afternoon. It became clear to me, however, that the chairs themselves had no character at all; without a reason to sit in them, they were just glorified bar stools covered in clumps of dog hair and weighed down by piles of months-old junk mail. As a heavy-hearted sigh escaped my lips, I heard the slam of a car door outside. Out the front window, I met the gaze of the last officer here who, judging by his flat-eyed glare, was uninterested in my father’s grievances. He gave me an “is-he-always-thishysterical?” glance and bowed his head in the front seat of his police sedan as my father droned on. To the man’s credit, though, his legal talk with my teary-eyed father had allowed me to tread around the empty home on my own terms, which was crucial to my coming to terms with this heart-scalding loss. Now, however, I caught him slowly inching away from my father, likely wish-
ing to avoid awkward conversation with the mourning son. He gave my father a nod and a wave from the wheel, glanced at his rear-view and slowly began to back out of the driveway before Dad trotted up to his window, forcing the officer to halt as my father continued to drone on about legal business and what he was to expect in the coming days. Dad had told me that my grandpa’s death was the first time in his 46 years that he had lost someone truly close to him. He was lucky in that regard, I suppose. I took a seat on the base of the stairway, drawing my knees up near my chest and looking out over the kitchen once again. Gliding the tip of my finger around one of the many holes branded into the carpet by dropped cigarettes, I pictured the landscape of the room as I had remembered it best. I imagined that the chairs were aligned in their neat array around the island, the dog’s bed a bit closer to me, just close enough to
photograph by Jacob Palmer
the stairs so that if I sat on the edge I could pet the dog and talk with my grandfather at the same time. The path they’d cleared for the stretcher made me uncomfortable. It disrupted the odd consistency of my grandpa’s messy home. And, though it had always seemed a horrendous mess, I understood that my grandfather would have had it no other way. Now, however, the furniture was scattered and misplaced, and, although to anyone else it may have seemed just as disturbingly cluttered as before, I knew of my grandfather’s secret arrangement: his blissful disorder. I knew. And, because I knew, the path that his stretcher had cut through it all felt as if it cut through my security—my comfort in this second home of mine. It was as if that damned stretcher, soaked in blood and weighed down by the bloated shell of an exiled and lonely soul, pushed everything aside and marched straight through the mess of my new life. Instantly, tears welled up in my eyes, blurring my vision. I had not yet cried for Grandpa. His death had not been a reality to me until then. I sobbed involuntarily, a broken chirp that my father surely heard outside, but I didn’t care; Dad was in the same place as I was—just as broken, confused, and scared. I pounded my fist into the stair I had curled up on and cried until I could hardly breathe. I glanced out the window again to find that my dad’s truck was gone. He must have left me to grieve alone. I appreciated that. Again, I caught myself glancing around the room, wishfully envisioning the arrangement of the furniture that I had known forever. And, after a pause, in what I saw as an act of justice for both myself and my grandfather, I stood up and slid the tables and chairs back into their rightful places so that even for a single, ecstatic moment, this place once again felt like Grandpa’s house to me, even though I knew it never truly would be again.
Upon a Morning Sunrise Collin Funck
25 I recall soft tufts of grass as flesh And lying beneath willows motionless, its eye upon me. Her arms wrapped around me chilled yet I warmly embraced the cool drops of dew on my skin. But time caused her to forsake me for the creek next door, And I was alone. It kept watching empty words form on dry lips. I rolled over into her new romance’s shallows, Searching beneath the willow’s shadow for cover and an escape from parchment. Without her I can thirst again for another entanglement, ensnarement, embarkment. It is it. Fantasy is the whirlwind of a new mystery, one filled with bright colors and sounds That imagine how the natural transcends our emotions. Fantasy is it. A careful gaze that watches even through the stringy hairs of the willow, day or night. Lovely colors transform to the cold stone of her kiss after dusk, Only returning to liven me upon sunrise. While she must follow her love down the current into the valley, Mine waits for me with the patience she never had. It watches me still, But I cannot look back for long. I long to see its rising face more than the paler one it shows when I am ready to dream. So I do dream of it, its face—though I have felt its kiss, A much warmer, gentler kiss than hers. And when she passes with him down the edge of the bank, We know the time again has come For the willow to cut her hair for the creek. The creek seals its love and sends her back to me until summer returns. Not until then can I find it watching, Upon a morning sunrise.
J.F.K. Noah Scott
he seat Terry slouched in was not nearly comfortable enough for this kind of a wait. The grey metallic sheen of the armrest matched the dreary air of the morning. A hazy web spread itself across Terry’s eyes, threatening to pull at the lids until they were sealed. First, the presentation was thirty minutes late in getting started. Then an hour. Then two. The cold punch of the chair’s seat had initially sent an icy pain through Terry’s butt, but eventually he lost feeling in it entirely, as if it had been given a shot of local anesthetic. “When are they gonna get this damn thing goin’, Terry?” “I don’t know—hopefully before they need us to fight the Russians!” Terry didn’t feel like joking, but something in his natural disposition made him spit out some halffunny comment. Allan, Terry’s bunk-mate at Ft. Leonard Wood, was a short young man. Neatly cropped blond hair rose from his oblong skull like grass in serious need of watering. His pupils darted in and out of their corners, and his face was slowly being painted a light shade of red. Terry recognized these signs as the precursors to his bunkmate’s occasional panic attacks. Inwardly, Terry was having his own of sorts; the mass of antsy reserve men made his heart tickle and his stomach squeeze in on itself. A muffled bark sprung out from the loudspeaker, and the whole room spun toward its source as if it came from Jesus himself.
“Thank God,” Allan whispered. “Finally, leadership has gotten it together.” Terry just looked ahead and nodded. He hoped that the presentation would be as interesting as the howitzers that he usually got to blast in the morning. He felt a long column of air push through his pursed lips. “I doubt it,” he mumbled. Before that assembly, my grandpa’s world had been much smaller. His experience had been limited by the confines of his hometown of Washington, Missouri. Much of that experience was situated within his own family, where he was just one of ten siblings, as well as within the bowling alley where he set pins from the time that he was eight. During his high school years at St. Francis Borgia, my grandpa’s world expanded to the local bakery. Every night, he would work the graveyard shift at that bakery, go to school in the morning, and return home, exhausted. He would repeat that same routine every day. The repetition of that routine was so rigid that my grandpa hadn’t imagined another mode of existence. As he approached adulthood, my grandpa took his first leaps into a world other than that which he knew. The first move was involuntary, as his family relocated to Jefferson City. Jefferson City was bigger than Washington, but the flow of life was the same. After graduating from Helias Catholic, Grandpa signed up for a spot in the army reserve. Those Howitzers he loved to shoot off while in the reserves would eventually lead to hear-
ing loss, but in the moment, trying to hit targets that were miles away felt like a game. However, no amount of training could have prepared my grandfather for the events that ensued in that Fort Leonard Wood auditorium. For a brief instant, the burden of a nation would collide with my grandfather’s small-town existence. The microphone screeched with a brief, metallic buzz as the murmurs died out around the room. Terry blinked the clouds out of his eyes and stiffened his back, his feet now glued to the floor in attention. “What could this all be about?” Terry thought as his eyes scrolled over the people on stage. The skin on his forehead crinkled, however, when he realized who those people were. Every officer stationed at Fort Leonard Wood was standing on stage, arms pencil-straight at their sides and faces strained towards the man behind the podium. Even more surprising to Terry was the rank of the man who was about to speak: the commander of the entire base. Usually a man with an intense gaze, the commander’s eyes remained pointed in the direction of some empty chair at the back of the room. His head was smeared with sweat that glimmered from the stage lighting, and a crooked frown was plastered to his face. His lips shivered as he began to speak. “Gentlemen, I have an urgent message. The president has been shot…” The normally quiet assembly collectively gasped. Terry stared straight ahead as his mouth dropped open. He could not comprehend the scale of what had just happened, nor could he instantly realize its implications. Stunned, he sat and listened. No, rather, he heard. Listening would have caused a tear in his brain. Terry sat and heard as the commander spoke to that empty seat. Nothing made sense. The world might as well have been dunked underwater and yanked back up, barely alive. When the words “lockdown” and “war” vi-
brated from the speakers into Terry’s consciousness, it was like being crushed under the weight of the howitzer. Dread ran through his muscles until he was unable to move. The burden of a nation seemed to have been placed upon them. One passing moment may have stretched into a suspenseful eternity for the men in that Fort Leonard Wood auditorium, but the tension dissolved soon after. The Russians hadn’t killed Kennedy, and the Cold War didn’t turn hot. These important conclusions, however, proved to be but small details in the story of my grandpa’s life. He would have gone to war if called upon; he was not afraid of that. It was something else that illuminated the magnitude of the situation for my grandpa. The assassination of John F. Kennedy triggered the seismic shift that completely ripped him from his small town existence and threw him into a wider world that he couldn’t control. Russia was a long way from Washington, Missouri. Although jarring and cathartic, my grandpa’s experience on that day in the reserves was crucial in coaxing him to take risks later in his life, like moving to St. Louis in search of employment or starting his own business. He was vaulted out of the routine of small-town life and given a glimpse of his small corner in a complex, changing world. As I continue to age, I, too, will gain a fuller sense of reality. Going to college and starting a life in the real world may not be as profound as the assassination of a president, but they offer a similar perspective beyond my current life. St. Louis University High School, though bustling with nearly a thousand students, is a place of routine for me. For these four years, I know no other way. Like my grandpa, I will have to navigate new visions of the world as I move beyond this existence. And if that vision takes me by surprise, I hope to embrace the uncertainty, following my grandpa’s example.
The Black Dog of Cuchulainn Padraic Riordan
velyn got caught climbing out the win- ing how I would somehow suffer thanks to dow again. Mother had come in to her actions. check on us and give us the usual kiss on the cheek before turning the lights out and “ oarding school?” I asked. “Whatever for?” sending us to a blissful sleep. Except sleep Father pulled at his collar. He was a was never blissful for Evelyn. She tossed stern man and didn’t like being questioned like and turned through all hours of the night this, but the look Mother shot him told me and woke me with her incessant grumbling she’d asked him to keep his temper for once. about being trapped under three layers of “Because, William,” Mother said, “we’re fine silk blankets. Tonight, it seemed, she afraid you aren’t as safe as you should be had had enough. when you’re here with us.” Before Mother came in for the routine So it was Evelyn. She’d actually hurt ceremony, Evelyn pulled open our bedroom herself pretty bad last time, and Mother window and stuck her arm out as far as couldn’t trust her. But why me? I didn’t dare she could, just barely grazing her fingertips bring such a question up in front of Father, against a nearby tree branch. even if he was restraining himself. Instead, I “Go back to bed, Evie,” I whispered met Mother’s gaze, and made sure she underfrom across the room. She pretended not to stood my question. Why must I be sent off hear me over the wind howling through the because of my sister’s foolishness? open window and swung a foot up onto the Even though I wasn’t aiming my gaze sill. “Evie!” I said, louder this time, but still at him, Father must have picked up on my with that kind of airy rasp that loud whispers quarrel, as he growled, “It would be in poor inevitably bring. Ignoring me, Evelyn pulled spirit to separate a boy from his fam—” He her full weight up onto the windowsill and, stopped himself, looking at Mother. “From getting to her feet, crouched in preparation his sister.” With that he stood up, grabbed for a leap to the tree. I groaned and sat up, a bottle from the cabinet, and stormed off. and was about to get up out of bed when EvSo Father wasn’t glad to see us go either. elyn jumped. That much was obvious. Mother softened It was then that Mother came in, just as her gaze and squeezed my hand. Evelyn reached out for, and missed, the tree “Oh, William. We love you. Don’t ever branch. All Mother saw was a glimpse of Ev- forget that.” elyn’s foot as she fell face-first to the ground. Then why send me away? I thought. Mother screeched and rushed to the window. Yet even with Father gone, I couldn’t bear Too late. Evelyn was already on the ground to force Mother to confront this question. ten feet below, rolling around in the dirt, her There was a sadness in her eyes, one she was laughs wafting up to our room. trying to restrain. In its place, she projected Mother ran back out of the room, call- an answer to my question. ing Father and the servants to go get Evelyn, Protect her, Mother’s pupils said. Proleaving me alone, sitting on my bed, wonder- tect Evelyn.
ust like that, we were off to the school. Mother had the servants pack our bags while we were talking, and by the time the sun set that day, Evelyn and I were in a fine coach car out to the countryside. I turned around and looked at the smokestacks of London fading in the distance before being completely swallowed by the horizon. I would miss it. Evelyn didn’t share my gloom whatsoever. She was elated, and she could barely sit still in her seat. “Can you believe it, Billy?” she squealed. “We’re going on an adventure. Oh, to finally be away from that tired old crypt of a house. I’m so excited!” “It’s not an adventure,” I muttered. “It’s school.”
eamus groaned and turned his backpack over again. The cloth sack filled with books and clothes provided little in the way of comfort and would never match a real pillow, but it was all he had. Still not enough. Resigning himself to the waking world, Seamus reached up and clawed at the ripped fabric of his seat, pulling himself upright. It amazed him that the bus hadn’t simply disintegrated in the act of going more than thirty miles an hour. The metal plates rattled all around him, and the screws looked ready to pop right out. Seamus focused his eyes on the driver, about fifteen feet in front of him. They were the only two people on a bus clearly meant to hold many more. Seamus wondered how many men had ridden in these seats; what perceived host of murderers and monsters, or worse, Ulstermen. He settled into his seat. He would follow in their footsteps. The bus crested a hill and Seamus finally saw the compound. He expected the sort of thing he was used to back in Ireland: high fences, grey stone walls, and a near battalion
of guards patrolling the grounds. Instead, he saw hedge rows, students walking and laughing in pairs, all underneath a warm red brick building. Seamus looked back at the driver with a newfound confusion. What sort of trick was this? Seamus was a hooligan, a criminal, maybe even a terrorist. Why would they send him to this paradise? The driver just kept going along, apparently unaware of the sudden change of events. Seamus thought that in being sent to England, he’d be awaiting harsher treatment than he’d ever seen before, even in Derry. Now, for some reason still unknown to him, he’d be going to what looked like a school with the richest children in England. The bus pulled to a stop in front of the main entrance. Seamus carefully grabbed his bag and walked to the front, afraid that someone would pop out to reveal his good fortune had all been a trick, but no one did,
photograph by Tate Portell
and the driver didn’t even look up when Seamus passed him. Seamus stepped out of the door and onto the sidewalk. “Have a good day, Mr. Smithson,” the driver said. Smithson? Seamus thought. He turned around to correct the bus driver, but the driver had already closed the doors and put the bus into motion. Seamus shrugged. So he ended up here, and whoever this Smithson was probably wound up in some prison with the other IRA suspects. Not a bad deal. Well, bad for Smithson, but Seamus didn’t have time to worry about that. There was a gathering for new students, and Seamus could smell homecooked brisket in the air.
had to concede that the school didn’t look that bad. Evelyn and I were gorging ourselves on brisket and mashed potatoes, and everyone around us looked rather nice. Evelyn decided to follow me to my room before checking out the girl’s dorm. While not up to the same standards as home, the dorm looked serviceable enough. I both got my own bed which came with warm felt blankets and big soft pillows. My new roommate, however, was more than pleased with the conditions. He dropped his bag at the sight of his bed, and glanced at us hesitantly. “Is that… Is that mine?” he asked, pointing at his bed. “Um, yeah,” I started to say, but before I could get another word in, he leaped onto the mattress and wrapped his arms around
photograph by Logan Florida
it, as if he was afraid someone would steal it were he to leave it alone. I was about to ask him his name but he was already asleep. “I suppose he didn’t sleep very well on his way over,” Evelyn said, poking the sleeping roomate. He slept for a couple hours. I got to work starting a new journal I’d decided to bring, and Evelyn sat under the window, gazing at the sky. I kept an eye on her to make sure she didn’t try to jump out, but she hardly moved the whole time. When my roommate awoke, he pulled himself up and stretched his arms out, yawning loudly. “By St. Patrick that was the best sleep I’ve had in ages!” he exclaimed. I could barely understand him through his thick accent. Evelyn and I both turned our heads in confusion. He cleared his throat. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m Evelyn, and this is my brother William,” Evelyn said. “What’s your name?” “Oh, I’m…” he paused for a moment, before saying “Smithson.” He seemed unsure at first, but then affirmed “My name is Smithson,” his accent noticeably diminished.
mithson became good friends with Evelyn and me over the following weeks. Evelyn especially took a liking to him, as he proved just as, if not more, prone to excitement and adventure as she was. A part of me worried. After all, Mother had sent me to keep Evie safe, not to let her go off exploring in the woods every other night. But despite my worries, Smithson’s easy attitude reassured me, and he made sure to include me, make himself a friend to me, something I’d never really had before. One Friday night, when we knew we’d have the full breadth of tomorrow to ourselves, Smithson took us out to the woods. He’d snuck a tent out of a storage closet, and assured us he was more than capable of building us a fire. We waited until nine
o’clock, when the teachers called lights out and did a head count in every room. I had to hold my breath to keep still, but Smithson fell into his usual mattress-gripping stance and snored with such conviction I worried he’d actually fallen asleep. Moments after the teacher had gone, Evelyn appeared at our door. Smithson flew out of his bed, straight to the window. I slowly stood up and tiptoed after him. Smithson swung open the glass plane and dropped the tent outside. It made a dull thud as it hit the grass below. He then turned around to Evelyn. “Ladies first,” he said as he picked her up by the armpits. Evelyn giggled while Smithson swung her through the window and hung her low, before dropping her on the tent. He soon followed her outside, leaving me alone in the room. I peered out the window, and even though it was a short drop, I could barely make out Smithson below. Taking a deep breath, I swung one foot over the sill, then another. I stopped to look again, and almost wondered if Smithson and Evelyn were still there, until he said, “Well come on now, William…while we’re young.” I closed my eyes and pushed myself off the sill. I hoped Smithson would catch me, or that I might land on the tent, but instead I landed hard on the grass, buckling and bruising myself. Before I could register the flash of pain, Smithson pulled me up. “Hurry up, Willy,” he said. “You don’t want to get caught, do you?”
eamus led the twins through the trees. They were loud, stomping through the underbrush and crumpling the leaves, while Seamus himself floated through the woods, silent, as his comrades back in Ulster had taught him. Seamus knew this route by heart. In the past weeks he’d spent at the school, he had
often skipped class in favor of going out to the woods, a bottle in one hand and a stolen guitar in the other. He’d set up a small campsite out here, a place where he could retreat from the pomp and circumstance of the school. While the sun hung high over the British soil underneath his feet, Seamus thought about how low it fell just a few hundred miles away. While these children enjoyed a life of all possible luxuries, Seamus’s family and friends suffered every day. It left him with a gnawing guilt, for as much as he enjoyed the easy life at the school, he longed to be back home, where he belonged, fighting the British rule he now reclined under. In some of his free time, Seamus had taken to snooping through his classmates things. Surely these rich British brats had something worth knowing, yes? In doing so, Seamus had found a letter to young William from his mother, a letter which revealed that the twins’ father held a prominent role in Parliament. Upon finding out, a new thought began to form in Seamus’ head, and he realized he might still be able to fight the British even from all the way out in England itself. A few hundred yards away, a wolf let out a long howl, and Seamus saw the twins jump in fright. The ghost of a smile formed on his face, as Seamus led the twins further into his plan.
could tell this wasn’t the first time Smithson visited this campsite. A pile of ashes, some still smoldering, lay at the center, and nearby, Smithson had set up a tent, identical to the one we’d brought. He’d dragged a couple dead logs near the fire, and they served as fine enough seats. Evelyn and I rested our legs while Smithson pitched the new tent. I spotted a guitar just inside the older tent. When Smithson finished, I asked him about it. “I only know a few chords.” he said. “But
it’s enough for the old ballads.” He produced a flask from his shirt and took a swill. I didn’t know what he was drinking, but whatever it was, the smell dominated the whole campsite. “Could you tell us one?” Evelyn asked, eagerly at first, then more restrained. “The old ballads, I mean.” Smithson smiled. “Now’s no time for the past.” He stood up. “We should be looking to the future.” He picked up the guitar and returned to his spot on the log opposite us. “But I will indulge you just this once.” He strummed a chord, startling a few crows nearby. “Have you heard of the Black Dog of England?” “Like from Sherlock Holmes?” Evelyn asked, her eyes newly aglow. Of course she knew what it was. “Can’t say I’ve read any of them British books,” Smithson said. The remark confused me, but Smithson continued. “Regardless, I’m sure you know the legend. A horrid black dog, one that prowls the English countryside, terrorizing young children.” He grinned, and his eyes turned a dull shade I’d never seen before. “It’s more true than you might imagine.” Evelyn only looked more interested, but I grew nervous. Smithson continued. “In the far off land of Ulster, the hero Setanta killed the hound of Culann, and offered to take the hound’s place until he could raise a new one for the smith, thus earning himself the name Cuchulainn, the hound of Culann. As all in Ulster know, Cuchulainn went on to become the province’s greatest hero, but what of the dog? What of the great beast he promised to raise for the smith? “Cuchulainn did indeed raise such a dog, and it was the most fearsome hound ever seen in the land. Cu trained it to run faster than his horse and to leap higher than the birds in the sky. Under his tutelage, the beast learned to bite hard enough to crack open
the ground itself. Finding his work fitting, Cu gave his dog the name of Barghest. “Even more legendary than its physical prowess, however, was Barghest’s rage. Cuchulainn trained his dog to protect not just the land of Culann, but all of Ulster from any would-be invaders. And so Barghest would tear apart anyone not from the holy land of Eire. Culann had to lock the hound away, so as to protect his guests, but the beast broke out, turned round on the smith, and said, “You are not worthy to be my master, nor to call yourself an Ulsterman.” “With that, Barghest left to the wider world of Ulster, and was dismayed to find the whole country under the rule of invaders from a foreign land. Cuchulainn, his original master, was long dead, along with the king Mac Nessa. In the king’s place, Barghest heard tell of a foreign King, one who called himself Cromwell, one determined to push the Ulstermen, along with all Irishmen, off their land. “In response, Barghest fought. He devoured foreign soldiers whole, and his ferocity became legend. “But to the hound’s dismay, Ulster, his home, remained under British rule. Barghest would continue to fight, but not in Ireland anymore. No. Barghest sprinted across the Irish sea, straight into the English countryside, where to this day, he terrorizes the British in their home, hoping they might release Ulster from their grip.” Smithson let the lowest string on his guitar twang out into the otherwise quiet night. Evelyn and I had been stunned to silence. Over the course of the story, the accent I first heard Smithson speak in, Irish I now realized, had creeped back into his voice, until he sounded nothing like an Englishman at all. I heard a howl behind me, and it frightened Evelyn and I so much we fell to the ground. Smithson laughed, but it wasn’t the normal, kind laugh of his I’d grown accustomed to. There was a restrained hatred
behind it, a biting edge that was desperate to be let out. I looked up, and through the flames of the campfire, I saw the same thing in Smithson’s eyes, eyes which were beginning to focus around a wicked smile. “W-where—” Evelyn stammered as she pulled herself back to the log, “where is the hound now?” Smithson bared his teeth. “He sits before you now, oh helpless child. And he will have his fill.” Evelyn froze, but I remembered the look Mother gave me before we left. Protect her. I leapt across the flames and straight at Smithson, sinking my teeth into his arm. He howled and threw me off, against a tree. From where I landed, I could see Evelyn, sitting petrified on the log. I had drawn Smithson’s attention away from her, at least for the moment. I fell on my side, and when I tried to get up, the flare in my side told me something had broken. A rib, most likely. Smithson rolled me over on my back and straddled me. As his hands wrapped around my neck, I realized his name probably wasn’t Smithson. Dogs like this didn’t have a name. “Just got to go and fight, don’t ya?” the Irishman growled. “Doesn’t matter. In time, you will help me usher in a new era of independence.” I had no clue what he was on about, but I wasn’t about to let some damn Irishman take my life, even if he looked bigger than me. My hands fumbled through the dirt until my fingers wrapped around a rock. Small, but enough to give me an edge. With one hand clawing at my throat, my other flung up to the Irishman’s face, landing the rock square in his eye. He grabbed it and fell back. I took a moment to gasp for the air he robbed from me, and then finally stood up. Not waiting for the Irishman to recover, I found a different, much larger rock sitting near the fire. Even with both hands, I could barely pick it up, but it would be enough to end the fight.
The Irish dog lay on his side, much as I had, still clutching his eye and whimpering. I must have done more damage than I thought. No matter. I stood over his head, and held the rock up high above my head. I bared my teeth, and growled “You bloody Irishman.” I dropped the rock directly onto his temples. His whimpering fell silent at that. I looked over to Evelyn, still frozen on the log. I went to her, kneeled in front of her, and opened my arms to hug her. She pushed
me away. “Don’t touch me!” She screamed. “Keep your hands off me, you animal!” And in the center of her eyes, I saw the reflection of what I’d become. A fearsome black dog circled around her iris, its mouth foaming as a low growl echoed from deep within its throat. The image frightened me so much I couldn’t do anything but watch as Evelyn stood and fled into the night, freeing herself from the monstrosity that the Irishman had brought to me, and that my father had brought to the Irishman.
photograph by Matthew Thibodeau
the underbelly Joe Mantych a child said to me, Why? fetching it to me with bony hands caked in mud. how could I answer the child? (I knew the answer and I knew nothing). I guess it is and was and ever will be and I have seen it and he has seen it and the ribs poking out of his striped t-shirt have seen it and the black clay nestled under his toenails has seen it and the crumpled photo of his mom in his wet pocket has seen it and the ants dancing on the walls for him have seen it and the gray and red and spiny hands have seen it and the flying metal and donâ€™t look honey has seen it and the moon shivering in the hot puddles has seen it and the splatters of the falling sky and donâ€™t look honey have seen it and the carcasses sleeping is he sleeping? have seen it and I have seen it and his bony eyes have seen it too. a child said to me, Why? fetching it to me with bony hands caked in mud. how could I answer the child? he washes off his bony hands and scoops up the mud again. the earth is dirt and mud and bones and meat.
Flight of the Flamingos Fitz Cain
aurice wrenched the old Peugeot into park, his rough hand pushing the stubborn gearshift forward with great effort and unclicking his seatbelt. “Here we are,” he said. Swinging open the driver’s side door, he stepped down off of the dusty black floor mats of the four-door. Tracie and Tyler, his eager but naive followers for the month, did the same behind him. Having lived in Nairobi as a missionary priest for almost 30 years and fluent in Swahili, Maurice was well qualified for the role of tour guide, and the young couple happily followed his leadership. Maurice lifted his sunglasses, their metal rims already hot to the touch under the Kenyan sun, and set his hands on his hips. The dirt road was hard under his sandals, and he kicked up dust onto the rolled cuffs of his jeans as he strode towards the lake shore. Before the opposite shore lay a multitude of flamingos, long necks bobbing in and out of view and nimble legs bending sharply as the birds rustled within the quilt of their fluffy plumage. No matter how many times he visited this place, he never got used to the sheer multitude of the creatures. He turned and faced the young couple, grinning smugly as if to say, I told you so. “Wow,” said Tracie. “I know you said there’d be a lot, but…” she trailed off. Tyler surveyed the area from left to right with a straight face, his eyes shielded by the makeshift visor of his left hand, his
hairy fingers tanned thoroughly but for the single stripe protected by a gold wedding band. Slowly, he began nodding, eventually breaking into a chuckle of both disbelief and amusement. Tracie, a science teacher and, consequently, an overall learning enthusiast, immediately began regurgitating the long list of questions reeling through her mind. “What brings them all here? What do they eat? Why are there so many?” “Wait a minute, I thought I heard...” said Maurice, interrupting Tracie’s biological rambling. The three fell silent. Then a cough echoed from behind a swarm of reeds along the marshy shore of the lake, just as Maurice suspected. He crept towards the source of the noise and spied three children huddled behind the brush. Both the metallic green of the Peugeot and the tanned peach of Maurice’s flesh were rare hues seen in this area, and the boys had hidden from the threatening sight of them. “Come on out, we don’t bite,” said Maurice in Swahili. The children’s heads perked up, both at the realization that the man spoke their language and at the new opportunity for some entertainment. They scuttled out from behind the reeds and approached Maurice. “Do you want us to make the birds fly?” said one of the older kids, skipping an introduction. He had other things on his mind. Maurice raised his eyebrows suspiciously. “At what cost?” he said. “Fifty shillings,” said the boy. “I’ll give you twenty,” said Maurice. “Forty,” said the boy. “Twenty,” repeated Maurice. “...Deal,” said the boy reluctantly, secretly pleased at his bartering. One of the other boys, giddy with excitement at the fortune his friend had just won for them, skipped into the water. This
wasn’t the first time they had carried out this operation. He raced forward, braking gradually as the muddy water rose higher against his body and resisted his movement more and more. He waded out until Maurice had to blot out the sun with an outstretched hand to decipher the boy’s figure through the gleaming puddles of sun on the lake’s surface. The other boys on the shore watched intently, grinning in anticipation for the trick they regularly performed either for their own entertainment or at the will of travelers such as these. Tyler fiddled with his camcorder, surveying the scene through the lens of his thick glasses layered upon the narrow camera lens. He jerked this eye around, trying to find a good vantage point, his other eye pinched shut. “Here we’ve got the adventurer,” he said, zooming in to the figure gliding across the lake in the distance, slower with every stride but persistent nonetheless. He turned the camera to the other boys. “And here’s the navigator and the uh…” He hesitated, the camcorder fixed on the boy who had heckled with Maurice. “The businessman,” Maurice said, invoking a cackle from Tyler. Suddenly, across the lake, the boy began flapping his arms at the lanky birds, as if he was one of the creatures himself. At first sporadically, then all at once, they took flight. A bustling hurricane of pink swirled and lifted off, sweeping away the solid sky and pulling the water up with it. The boy dove beneath the rapid splashes, and his business partners cheered. Tyler and Tracie laughed breathlessly. But Maurice didn’t make a sound. He simply watched, eyes wide and heart racing.
hroughout my childhood, I caught snippets of this trip, glimpses into my
parents’ married life before children, a land as foreign to me as the dry, grassy expanse of Kenya that I mentally constructed from their retellings. My great-great-uncle Maurice, or Uncle Moe as we referred to him, was a mythical figure to me. I vaguely remember meeting him at some point as a child, but these meetings could just as easily be adopted memories, a product of the secondhand words my parents fed me throughout the years. Now 94 years old, Maurice is the last surviving member of his seminary class in the Maryknoll home for retired priests in Ossining, New York. His eyesight is nearly gone and he can’t walk anymore, but his mind is still intact. Even though the particular shade of pink that protruded from those flamingos’ feathers that day may never reach his corneas again, they make frequent trips across his mind, I’m sure. I can hardly picture my great-great-uncle as my mom describes. Laughing, standing casually, effortlessly rattling off Swahili to these children. Not after my visit to his retirement home this past spring. Not after I watched the young woman with matted hair and a gentle face wheel him into the dining hall to meet us. Not after I ran my eyes across his wrinkly, spotted arms sitting complacently on his chair the whole day. It seems impossible to me that the man who guided my parents through Kenya now needs a nurse to guide him to the bathroom. I wonder if he ever encounters these flamingos at night. Gliding across his sleeping mind like the birds themselves cruised upon the lake that day. And when he does, I wonder if he feels the way he did that afternoon, that great sense of wonder and beauty. And when he wakes up to that bare ceiling, that stagnant air of the home, I wonder if he ever closes his eyes again, trying to call the flamingos back.
The Draft Andrew Normington
38 My lucky number I have purpose now, I am a means for justice and liberty. I can fear now, I can love what I haveâ€” Knowing I could lose it all. My lover whines with anticipation, The power ball is mine; To be armed and legged and anything-ed To fight for everything that I and they hold dear. Till that rupture, scar, and shrapnel breaks my spirit And I cry alone with others. The photos I hold can no longer show The loves I left at home. The veil of my veins has tainted the Polaroidâ€” The treasures of my own blood stained with my own blood. Red and grimy my life leaks away onto my arms and stubs. I have no purpose now. I am a means for the power of few. I am home now, Afraid to speak of the hell I saw.
water colors by Jackson DuCharme
photographs by Prep News 83 Editors
Tomatoes Joe Mantych
Kenneth B. Simpson: man shouldn’t have to wait this long to eat. It’s boiled chicken again. Steam from the pot spreads throughout the kitchen, suffocating. The radio is on, the volume low, murmurs of some song with guitars and a crowing voice, singing about love. I can barely hear it. We used to listen to the radio together, but not anymore.
We used to listen out on the back porch, listening as the stars and the moon listened, listening as the sea of swaying wheat listened, but not anymore. Her graying hair is pulled back in a bun, tight, taut, she hovers over the counter, the one right next to the humming white fridge with a calendar of national parks on it except the calendar is turned to August and it’s the middle of September already and
art By Jackson DuCharme
she’s cutting apart the tomatoes she bought from town, the ones I said we didn’t need, we have enough food in this house, she said I just wanted some goddamn tomatoes, don’t you want some goddamn tomatoes too, Kenneth? and I stood up and pushed my chair back and it scraped against the dulled tan tile floor and the screech of the wooden chair against the dulled tile pierced the kitchen and I stomped out the door to the fields because the fields don’t ask for nothing, you water them and they feed you, but Ann, Ann needs too much, takes too much, doesn’t give enough in return. That was this morning. Now it’s dinner, my boots are off, my brown boots wait by the wooden door on the red carpet that she cleans every day but not well enough because it’s always dirty. The steam still suffocates. She still cuts up the tomatoes. The radio still plays, murmurs of some song, but still there. We used to listen to the radio together. Not anymore, but we used to. We used to. We used to listen together out on the back porch, the wooden porch I built myself out of wood I bought from Len in town when he asked me if I wanted to buy some wood and I said how much and he said a hundred bucks and I said no I’ll give you $75 and he said come on Kenneth you know I need the money, you know my brother’s sick and I’m the only one working the damn fields and I said I’ll give you $75 and I gave him the money and he helped me load the planks of wood into the back of my Ford and I took the wood home and built the porch in a week. I worked at night because I had to work the fields during the day and she would creep open the backdoor at night in her light blue nightgown and say Can you stop the hammering and get on into bed you need the sleep anyways and I would say I’m working on this for you and if I want to work on it at night then I’ll work on it at night and I finished it in a week and the first
night she and I sat out on the porch in those rocking chairs with the cushions on the back and we rocked on the porch as the radio sang and a couple of flies wisped around but we didn’t care and we looked out at the fields of wheat as they swayed in the night breeze we watched the seas of wheat swaying together as one and the moon and the stars listened to the radio with us and Willie and Johnny and Dolly seeped into the fields and embedded themselves in the quiet rustling and the radio played and we rocked on the porch I built for her and I looked over at her in her blue nightgown and she had her heels up on the chair and her arms around her knees and her copper hair dangled around her taut shoulders, the shoulders of a strong woman, and I looked over at her and she smiled and I smiled and we turned to look back out at the sea of swaying wheat and that was the last time I saw her smile and now the radio ain’t nothing but a bunch of lonely sounds. I can see her left hand. She hasn’t worn her wedding ring for a few weeks. There’s tomato guts on her hands, she’s tearing the tomatoes apart. It’s late for dinner, about 9:00 now, a man shouldn’t have to wait this long to eat, a man shouldn’t have to wait to eat until after the sun goes down, barely any light breaks through the red cotton curtains above the porcelain sink. A few dishes are in there, a few plates, a metal cup, a spoon and a fork, waiting for her. I do my work. She does hers. It’s always worked like that. It’ll always work like that. She looks at the tomatoes and not at me. She said she wanted them, I said we don’t need them, but she’s already taken them apart, cutting them. I’m hungry. I don’t want no goddamn chicken and tomatoes but I’ll eat it because I need food and I reckon the only people who always get what they want are the ones who ask for too much.
Ann: know he’s watching me. I know he is. But I don’t give a damn.
I can’t see him. I’m looking at the tomatoes, at my tomatoes.
I can’t see him but I know he’s watching me, sitting in his overalls, his black baseball cap on his balding head, his eyes judging me under his untameable eyebrows, those untameable eyebrows usually furrowed together into a hairy wrinkly mass because he’s mad at whatever isn’t following the undeniable laws of Kenneth B. Simpson. He still wears his wedding ring because marriage is one of those laws, a law that can’t be broken.
And right now it’s hard to breathe because of the steam. The radio murmurs but I can barely hear it and I don’t like listening to the radio anymore anyway. I used to listen to the radio but not anymore. “It’s late for dinner.” I hear him but I don’t look at him. “We always eat at 7:00. It’s almost 9:00 now.” I look at the tomatoes, at the food, the food I bought. “I was doing your laundry.” I know he’s looking at me. “If you didn’t go to town to get those goddamn tomatoes, you could’ve done the laundry this morning.”
But I still just look down at the tomatoes, the ones I’m cutting up, the ones I bought, the ones I bought from that store in town, the ones I bought with the money I had saved up in that purse, that purse I hid behind the towels in the bathroom closet. I saved up my own money and bought my own tomatoes even though I knew Kenneth would be angry because we didn’t need them but I bought them myself and when I do things that defy the laws of Kenneth B. Simpson I can actually breathe for once.
I don’t wear my wedding ring. The tomatoes are bloody, seeping into my fingers.
The tomatoes seep into my fingers.
I look at the tomatoes, the ones I bought.
“You’ll still get to eat.” And he will. He always eats, and I always eat, too. But I’m also always hungry, always never quite full. I don’t wear my wedding ring. It’s hard to breathe because of the steam. The tomatoes seep into my fingers. I don’t like listening to the radio. Not anymore.
Improvised Perfection Miguel Cadiz
Running â€™top a choppy web of blank, stepping onto blackened stumps that leap up to a roofed sky. In a small and fearful tread clickings of unified noise fly. A sporadic cricket trumps, a stumble comes at his flank. The creature walks volatile with a scamper hard to hold. The crawling strains the mover, while it keeps a stance of bold courage to keep its own wile. He spins and spazzes keys, skitters against the dotted white. He stutters on thin chords encased in tensile fiber, being swept by doubt brushed upon a changing rock face. A melody falls through dim light. An unpleasant red is freed, with an attempt to save. An impromptu section sees the arrival of the brave, the conclusion to the work, and the improvised perfection.
¿Dónde Están los Olvidados? San Oscar Romero Editado por Maria Paz Campos
46 Cerca del Río Grande, estaba sentado un hombre pobre. No tenía humanidad. Su humanidad le fue robada Lloraba sus esperanzas. Sus lágrimas eran sus sueños. Se caían en el río. Aumentaron las aguas del río, Él eran olvidado. Cerca del Río Grande, estaba sentado la casa de la justicia. Pero la única justicia aquí es la sangre del inocente. Hombres vestidos de negro mataban a los inocentes. Bancos rodeaban el altar roto de justicia. En el altar, un alma rota era sacrificada. Voces hacían eco en el cuarto. Gritos de culpable . . . Culpable . . . Culpable. Entonces, el martillo suena. Los inocentes eran olvidados. Cerca del Río Grande, una familia sagrada caminaba en la noche. Tenían muchos miedos. El miedo a la muerte, el miedo a la separación, el miedo de nunca encontrar la felicidad. Su amor en contra del odio del mundo. La hija menor tenía una muñeca. Ella dormía en los brazos de su madre. El hijo caminaba detrás de su madre. Tenía en su sudadera con las palabras: Hollywood. El padre caminaba en frente de la familia. Los guiaba entre las montañas en la tierra de libertad. La familia era olvidada. Cerca del Río Grande, está el lugar de cráneos. Los inocentes se sientan en jaulas para pájaros.
Where Are the Forgotten? San Oscar Romero Edited by Maria Paz Campos Near the Rio Grande, a poor man was sitting. He had no humanity. His humanity was stolen. He cried his hopes. His tears were his dreams. They fell in the river. They raised the waters of the river. He was forgotten. Near the Rio Grande, the house of justice sits. But the only justice here is the blood of the innocent. Men dressed in black killed the innocent. Pews surrounded the broken altar of justice. On the altar, a broken soul was sacrificed. Voices echoed in the room, Screams of guilty . . . Guilty . . . Guilty. Then, the hammer sounded. The innocent were forgotten. Near the Rio Grande, a holy family walked in the night. They had many fears. The fear of death, the fear of separation, the fear that they would never find joy. Their love against the hate of the world. The younger daughter had a doll. She slept in the arms of her mother. The son walked behind his mother. He has a sweatshirt with the word: Hollywood. The father walked in the front of the family. He guided them between the mountains in the land of liberty. The family was forgotten. Near the Rio Grande is the place of the skulls. The innocent sit in cages for birds.
Hay gritos de dolor. Una niebla helada rodea la prisión. Pero, los inocentes cantan. Sus trinos temerosos de esperanza hacen eco alrededor las barras. Los inocentes en sus jaulas sueñan con encontrar un casa. Sin embargo, ellos también son olvidados.
En el desierto, la Familia Sagrada camina en la noche. No temen la policía, si no la ira del rey. La madre en azul se sienta en el burro y tiene a su bebé. Ella llora, pero cree que encontrarán un santuario. Los ojos del bebé parecen sostener el mundo y su piel parece brillar. El padre camina en frente, líder de la familia. Mira al cielo donde la estrella brilla Sabe que encontrarán un santuario. Ellos son olvidados.
photograph by Jack Billeaud
There are screams of pain. An icy mist surrounds the prison. Yet, the innocent sing. Their fearful trill of hope echos around the bars. The innocent in their cages dream of finding a home. However, they too are forgotten. In the desert, the Holy Family walks in the night. The donâ€™t fear the police, but the anger of the king. The mother in blue sits on a donkey and has her baby. She cries, but believes that they will find sanctuary. The eyes of the baby seem to hold the world and his skin seems to glow. The father walks in front, leading the family, He looks to the sky where the star shines. He knows that they will find a sanctuary. They are forgotten.
photograph by Jack Billeaud
photograph by Matthew Thibodeau
Under and Over Peter Michalski
Undermined and undefined There’s fire underneath. Stuck below in molten glow A sword trapped in its sheath. Masks of ice conceal my vice But they won’t stop the pyre. My bright flame brings me great shame And I can’t douse this fire. Insides scorched, intestines torched I start to cough up sparks. The blaze burns, but soon it turns From brightness into dark. Silence leers; I sink to fears Of passions unexplored. On my knees with fruitless pleas I mourn myself ignored. Frostbite stings as memories ring Try not to remember. Trapped in rooms of freezing gloom What’s this? I see an ember.
Halcyon Days PJ Butler
t the peak of a sultry afternoon in the St. Louis summer, an eleven-yearold boy set out from his back porch door, walked around the side of his house, and continued south on Longfellow Boulevard. Pete DiManuele knew little of the world in his youth, but he was certain of his course and destination that day. He had traversed this route many times before on excursions to the home of his best friend, Bobby Jones. As he turned the corner onto a street lined with stately homes and towering trees, he encountered the familiar face he was searching for. My grandfather, sixty-two years older than me, grew up in a world that lacked the central fixtures of my own childhood. In the days of his youth, television programming was confined to small screens and broadcast in black and white, mobile phones were merely the stuff of science fiction, and the Internet hadn’t even been dreamt of. With no technology to connect people remote from one another, the only way to prevent boredom or briefly escape from routine was to actively seek out others with whom you liked to spend time. On this particular Thursday, my grandpa had done exactly that. “Bobby! How are ya?” said Pete. “Good to see ya!” he responded. After climbing the stairs to the front porch of that house on the corner, Bobby invited him inside as he had done often be-
fore. The two had been visiting each other for as long as they could remember, but how their friendship had come to be in the first place was something of a mystery. They came from disparate backgrounds—one the son of prominent St. Louis physician who owned a local hospital and the neighborhood drugstore, the other the son of an Sicilian immigrant who didn’t learn how to drive until age forty-nine. But the bond they shared together as neighborhood boys was strong. Because of the Jones family’s considerable wealth, their house was replete with luxurious furnishings, novelty items, and, of course, the latest technological marvels. Bobby himself had an entire room dedicated to his Lionel Train collection, whose tracks traversed a massive diorama with every imaginable landform and a variety of trees and shrubbery. The sumptuous life at his friend’s home stood in stark contrast to the ordinary reality of everyday life at the DiManuele house, but Pete didn’t feel inadequate. “Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy?” asked Bobby as the two boys walked down the main hallway. “Your pick, remember?” responded Pete. It was Thursday: the choice was indeed Bobby’s. “Abbott and Costello it is!” Upon entering the bookcase-lined screening room of the Jones house, Pete drew the heavy curtains over the windows
while Bobby prepared the projector atop its table. A truly state-of-the-art piece of machinery, it came equipped with sound capability and had the same—if not better—image clarity as Maplewood’s Powhatan Theater, the DiManuele family’s movie house of choice. Dr. Otis Jones, Bobby’s father, could purchase first-run films because of his connections to a local film distributor, allowing the boys to watch blockbusters in the comforts of the Jones home. After preparing chocolate malts using the same equipment as at his father’s drugstore, Bobby handed one to Pete and sank into the rich, satin cushions of the screening room couch next to him. The room darkened, the Universal Pictures logo crawled across the screen, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein began to play.
hree months later, as the city bus he rode made its way down Nottingham Avenue on a bright autumn morning, Pete DiManuele felt truly alone. Perhaps it was the unseasonable chill of an October day in St. Louis, or maybe it was due to the surprising absence of other students walking down the same sidewalk toward the school entrance. Whatever it was, Pete couldn’t bring himself to shake the feeling. With the green expanse of Francis Park behind him, the boy reflected on the radical transformation that his life had undergone. He and his family would be moving into a newly-built home on a picturesque street two blocks away in just a few days’ time, and he had already made several new friends at St. Gabriel the Archangel School in the first weeks of classes. But Pete longed to return to lazy afternoons in the screening room with his closest confidant, Bobby Jones. There had been no falling out between them, nor one ceremonial last movie
screening with chocolate malts. It was Pete’s parents, Charles and Antoinette DiManuele, who made the decision to uproot the family from Compton Heights and settle in the newer St. Louis Hills neighborhood. Their son’s friendship with Bobby, however important it may have been, had fallen victim to the relocation. The two were neighborhood buddies one day, and the next they lived worlds apart. More than the grandeur of the Jones house or Bobby’s unending supply of toys and gadgets, the boy making his way to school that fall morning missed the camaraderie of the friendship that had come to define his boyhood. Even before he became a teenager, Pete DiManuele had identified genuine companionship as the foremost ingredient in the making of a fulfilling life. Unfortunately, in this era where our social transactions with other humans often take place through a digital middleman, that’s a lesson a shrinking number of us understand. My grandfather has borne witness to a wide gamut of socioeconomic situations in his lifetime, some of which were his own and some of which belonged to others. Furthermore, it would be incorrect to say that the takeaway of his lost friendship with Bobby and the collective experience of his nearly eight decades on this planet is that financial status has little correlation to one’s happiness. Indeed, material possession has its place, but my grandfather has ceaselessly impressed upon me that authentic connection with others is paramount, more important than any form of wealth. In the simple act of telling stories about his upbringing around the kitchen table after family dinners, Pete DiManuele has taken on the transmission of such a concept as his life’s work and ensured that the profound realization he came to as a boy will serve as his enduring legacy.
Mono Fitz Cain
54 I forget how easy it is to flatten someone To take all their curves and make them lines To turn their mountains into topography To make them two-dimensional To put them on repeat Forever recalling something they said Or something I said they said In an endless loop of perpetual emotion To reduce them to a single trait A single flaw A single sentence A single word But just when I think Iâ€™ve bulldozed them, Taken the steamroller of my thoughts And ironed them out, Painted them with a dull monochrome, They break from the backdrop Their words outpouring like paints Hybridizing before my startled eyes Whose defensive glasses shatter helplessly
photograph by Matthew Thibodeau
Bodies Joseph Dougherty Born from a point infinitesimal Was I, rending existence from nothing. I hailed from the shore of God’s primeval
Womb, a capsized vessel among everything And nothing at once, amid those fiery Waters, those storming calms, that clinging Separation. Presence from absence came she: The earth-mother, Nature. From her Elemental sash leapt the seeds to sow me: The planet in earnest of light’s murder Of that cloying privation: the dark. And From the new infinite came my sure Deliverance—a body like glowing sand Under a moonbeam, kept from the outcast Shadow: the encroaching penumbral hand. This celestial guide was the sun, spun fast By the unseen tapestry. His wondrous Incandescence stretched asprawl, past The reach of my spherical oneness. My bulbous Edge lipped his yellow ray, crescenting A cosmic smile. I, the firstfruit of raucous Creation, laid claim to this vacuum, partaking The ocean of spacetime wolfishly. That Sulfur star fed me, with raspy life breathing Into me, baking the readied clay, molding fat Stone with splinterless rod, raising man. Bipedal, mobile, and primed to format A craft of his own, to breathe, mold, and raise an Art, a poetry, a prose. He claimed the tapestry For his own, weaving continuum’s design
Into his own sculpture. I, the nest of this glee, This joy, this new dawn, shall stand witness until Timeâ€™s end heralds Judgment. Let him launch free From the mortal yoke, cheat death, dodge the kill Once assumed a guarantee. The means are his To harvest, his to repurpose. Nothing is still Under my sky, moved by the Fatherâ€™s sunkiss To churn restlessly, to be everything From nothing at once.
sketch by Philip Hiblovic
ripples (the dynamics of white flight) Joe Mantych
58 startled: they shoot out of the shivering black, a sopping mass of feathers flapping like fleeing footsteps, those feet that are flesh and that fear flesh (those feet that drag dust into the depths of the suburbs), those wings that wait and whimper (those wings that streak into the reeking white of the sky). the stones are pebbles, peltered by storms and overuse, tossed into the lake by groaning limbs that watched
the green water glisten and grow, these limbs that thump to the cry of crackling Coronas under squealing tires, the yelp of tired school children as they yawn with hollow stomachs, the howl of streaming slugs shredding into shallow skin. and as the wings watch the water blacken, their bloated bellies canâ€™t tell that the water is still just bobbing water, and they flee into the startled white above them all.
photograph by Matthew Thibodeau
The Girl from Ipanema Collin Funck Yes, I would give my heart gladly.
Across the docks at the Babe of the Sea, Towards the sail of the Mighty Ulysses, In the mirror of the harbor, At the dazzling eyes of the sea she looks, But not at me. Across the boardwalk, Towards the bar, Away from the steeple, Around the sponger she strolls, But not with me. Down into the bank, With soft, lush grains of white sand Mushing between my toes and underfoot Like my pillow beneath her head, I gallop. Away from her and towards a new love I race. But each day when she walks to the sea, She looks straight ahead not at me. Her eyes brighter, Her hands softer and consoling, Her voice soothing, Her reason willing, Her temper controlled, Her memory boundless, Her love, always growing With each rain and storm To fill her lacking depths. As I breathe her intoxicatingly toxic perfume, She surrounds me. I collapse. As I fall my foot snags on a coral reef lurking beneath;
She strikes me. I stumble. As I gasp underneath her weight, She pushes me harder, Yet I rise. When I break free from the burden, The burden of her enchanting snare, Her wailing call, Her volatile anger, Her childish reason, Her shrewd malice, And her ignorance, I find myself alone with a buoy, Waiting for her to take me back to shore. But I watch her so sadly How can I tell her, â€œI love you?â€?
photograph by Tate Portell
Life in a Dreary Time Brian Jakubik
t the dark onset of morning, before the sun appeared on the horizon and brought light to the commotion down below and eventually the mayhem above, there was kicking. Me. In Ivana’s womb, kicking and trying to find a way out of the bloody enclosed space that had been my home for nine months. She jolted awake into the eerie silence that had befallen downtown Manhattan; when even the lamp posts, the sole source of light, were empty of the gray moths’ touch and buzzing chirp. The labor, the noise, the seemingly impossible path to climb: America was not what they had expected it to be so far. This was no different. “It’s happening,” Ivana whispered, breaking the silence. “What’s happening?” “Him. I think my water is breaking.” She pointed to her bulging stomach that I would not occupy for more than a day longer. Her husband, Marian, was now used to these occurrences. He turned over on the lumpy, hardened mattress, causing the aged wire bed frame to creak and emit a sound that resembled nails on chalkboard. Their first child was supposed to have been born three days earlier, and the boy’s indecisiveness about whether or not to emerge from his mother’s womb had caused several recent scares. Marian had been in America for six years, Ivana for eight, and throughout this time, they had only known a life of sweat dripping down their faces with little time to make up for their hard work. He worked as a carpenter, using his Czechoslovakian trade school education to attempt living in a city loaded with carpenters. She worked long hours at various retail marketplaces, ones
where employees would writhe with soreness in their arms and legs while receiving unfair wages after each and every single day. Paradise to them was the ability to come home to their hostel and use the few hours that they had in the dark outdoors to converse with their new friends in the dimly lit, spider-webfilled, and crumbling lounge. Marian eventually made a decision: “Let’s wait a little, see if it’s just a false warning.” I have always known the connotation surrounding my birthdate. I would often be questioned on my parents’ feelings or the nuts-and-bolts of my birth, but there is no emotional connection that resonates within me. Frankly, I don’t go on walks and talk with my parents about what happened on the day of September 11, 2001. That date is already the conversation at least once every single year in the patriotic realm of America. My parents are riders of the present and future. They hide the details of their life before I was born in the way that people hide their prized possessions: in concealed thoughts, like a safe that requires the right key to unlock. They clearly do remember their past, but in attempting to pick the locks to their childhood and early adulthood, I am met with only the present and future to look towards. Often I have the privilege to learn vague details through conversation, but I don’t know of their learning moments or moral lessons. My parents provide mere detail, but I seek meaning. As silence reconvened on the uncomfortable bed, she turned over to her left and back several times with her hand resting on her stomach. She attempted to bring herself up to sit on the bed multiple times, but she could only surrender back down onto the bed, a seemingly electric shock pulsing across her entire body causing a sting of pain every single time. “This will be a long day,” she whispered to herself as she returned to her slumber.
As Ivana and her husband entered a taxi cab, she observed that the once silent cityscape now bustled with the sounds of colleagues chatting as they perused the city streets in business casual attire, with locally brewed coffee in plastic cups locked in their palms. It was about half an hour after United Airlines Flight 175 had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Ivana had experienced contractions since awakening earlier that morning. She adjusted her legs and got as comfortable as she could in the small yellow cab while her husband dialed the directory telephone number for Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, fifteen minutes away. Cars had piled up on the roads as fear and confusion set in. After an hour, they had barely moved. Left on hold for the entire time, an attendant finally picked up on the other end. Marian was able to ask the question that they dreaded asking on that fateful Tuesday. “Are you able to have my wife come in? She’s in labor we believe,” he said quickly with a thick Slovak accent, trying to avoid getting put on hold again. “Spots are filling up extremely quickly. Get here as fast as possible.” Ivana had mustered up the strength to yell thanks as they hung up the call and began to approach the hospital. The stress of the situation had begun to make her skull throb. To add to everything, this was the closest hospital to the World Trade Center. She envisioned walking in with her husband to see a ramshackle, improvised morgue, with not much distinction between the living and the dead in the lobby filled with portable beds of bloodied, burned, confused, broken people. As she nearly vomited the contents of her breakfast onto the seat of the taxicab, he motioned the driver to keep going. After about twenty minutes, they pulled up close to the hospital’s front entrance, with Marian
tipping the young man, a fellow immigrant, who had been their driver. As they entered the mayhem, they were immediately told that there would not be room. Given a map to Long Island Jewish Hospital, Ivana gasped knowing that, in regular conditions, this was an hour-long drive. Fortunately, their cab driver still had not left his spot outside the hospital. The drive to Long Island ended up taking six hours, which meant that my mother remained in labor for over twelve hours before she was even admitted into a hospital bed. As I sat on a leather living-room couch with her sixteen years later, far away from the urban monstrosity of New York City, my mother recounted that although she had fallen asleep for most of the ride, the sound of the metropolis soon switched from one of pure fear and loud confusion to a strangely silent grief. But the expanse of vehicles on the road did not change, and everyone had pressed their ears close to the raspy sound waves coming out of their car radios for updates. I had held on the whole time, refusing to let myself enter the world until soon after midnight, where I was born without any complications in a quiet hospital. Unsurprisingly, this story has held on through time. If I had not held on in my mother’s womb on the day of the terrorist attacks, my birth may have taken place in a taxicab and been even more difficult for my mother. I have held onto priorities, onto friends, onto faith, and so much more for seventeen years. My family has held on through major bumps in our relationships, through living a world away from close relatives and friends. My parents both held on through the arduous process of acclimating to and making a good living for themselves in America. “But life never stops. We will keep holding on,” my mother tells me.
sketch by Nicholas Dalaviras
Blessings at the Kohl’s Checkout Frank Corley Standing in line for the checkout at Kohl’s, buying a shirt for my husband, a man standing in front of me, clearly developmentally disabled, said to me, in a full voice, “My mom died.” He was about forty-five years old; the man in front of him, probably seventy, must’ve been his father. The other shoppers looked down, looked the other way, didn’t want to be the ones the man was talking to. “We’re buying clothes for the funeral,” he continued. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I replied. What could it hurt? He wanted to tell someone. His father touched him on the shoulder. “I’m sorry,” I said to the new widower. Noticing my wedding ring, the younger man reached out, touched it. It was curiosity, encounter, not intrusion.
“You’re married,” he said. “My mom and dad were married for fifty years.” I accepted the connection. Fifty years. “That’s a lifetime,” I said, to both men. The older man looked off into the future. I blinked. “You must be very sad,” I said to the younger man, so that his father would hear. He looked at me, with nothing to say, just to say yes. “We’re planning the funeral,” the younger man went on, not wanting to be left out of the conversation. “Oh?” I replied, returning to him, attentive. The husband, father, widower, survivor, spoke now. “Of course, we’ll play ‘On Eagle’s Wings.’” On eagle’s wings, I thought, eyes welling up.
photograph by Sulli Wallisch
An Apology Mike Lally “They must have been dumb,” the teenager said. “Only the stupid would speak of raising the dead. If only they possessed our sight or our reason, They wouldn’t have made a god who is eaten.” The young man, since reading, brings heavy critique, Telling any and all who can bear hear him speak: “The same story told, again and again, By cultures to halt the terror of men. Drugs for the masses, hope for the hopeless., God is dead,” he declares, “Tall tales for the broken.” The middle-aged man lacks the fire of youth, So simply allows all to cling to “their truth.” “Who’s to say, who’s to know,” says experience, exhaustion. “If it helps you feel better, then don’t let me stop you.” The old man has seen enough pain and frustration, The violence of nations, the world’s degradation. The slow march of time, the death of all loves, Reveal dust as the fate of all that’s begun. “They all were so stupid,” the teenager said, Full of youth’s certainty, dismisses the dead. Who sleeps under the watch of shortsighted men, holding weapons that lead to a billion’s end. “If only they possessed our sight or our reason,” Did they live in fear of the threat of extinction? “The same story told, again and again,” The young man’s discovered a weary old trend.
Critique and attack, mock and dismiss despite his great chasm, his hungry abyss. Opiates and fairy tales, a desire for comfort, Who mocks the poor for their need and their hunger?
“Who’s to say, who’s to know?” comes in middle of age. Despite the sure certainties, the failure and rage. The man long at sea may have forgotten the taste of the land he once loved, the grass’ soft embrace: Enough is stone-set for those who seek grace: Evils demand justice, beauty demands thanks. The old man confronted with death and with demons, Who wonders aloud, “Well, what was the reason?” Forgets the seeds planted, the unseen love sown, the promise of youth, the hope of new morn. And despite all the agony, the anguish of loss, the mind that no longer holds its own thoughts, he, and all men, go into long night, awaiting to hear, “Let there be light.”
charcoal by Andrew Munie
photograph by Daniel Gatewood
Ray, Iran Padraic Riordan
This poem is based on the story of the Mongol siege of the then Persian, now Iranian, city of Ray (pronounced â€œryeâ€?). Upon realizing they were being attacked, the people of Ray split into two factions: those who wished to fight the Mongols and those who wished to surrender, hoping the Mongols might spare them if they did. Before the Mongols even breached the walls, the citizens all but eradicated each other, but those favoring surrender won out. Subotai, the Mongol general, saw this and promptly decapitated all the survivors. When the horizon vanishes under hoof and foot, When the sky is snuffed out by arrow fire, And when the rising sun in the east reveals itself, a demon on horseback, the people of Ray understand this simple truth: They will die. The inevitable invaders first annex their hearts and minds. The population crumbles before a single brick falls from the walls. How will they respond to the horde at their doorstep? How can they face the apocalypse come in the form of not four, but thousands of horsemen? The people, like a pack of starving wolves Circled around a carcass they donâ€™t realize has been picked clean, They convince themselves of the old lie: That they can survive. But as the wolves dance around a skeleton, They quarrel over who shall have the first bite. Over how they shall find their way to a feast, A feast that never existed. Brother against brother, city against city, they tear into each other, all humanity sacrificed in the foolish hope of retaining it. And when the battle ends, When the foolish few call themselves Lucky and victorious, The horde breaks through the gates
And they all die anyway. We live in Ray. We stand just inside the gates, gates we know will not hold. But rather than face the coming threat, our swords fall upon each other, and the horde, the plague, the war, the murderer, wins his siege again and again and again.
photograph by Matthew Thibodeau
Canto XIII Matthew Hayes
This piece was originally written for the Dante and the Modern World class with the goal of imitating the poetic style and storytelling of Dante’s Inferno, the portion of his poem dedicated to Hell. This imitation imagines a new circle of Hell, along with the people and punishments found there. Please consult the notes at the end of the piece for clarification of specific points.
On the other side the terrain remained bare, The hard ground scaly and cracked, Like lips that become chapped when exposed to mountain air. O Virgil, you who guided me from the black Darkness that once consumed my thought and soul, Who bestowed knowledge upon me in this track, This tiresome journey down the many hellholes. I write these lines with a trembling hand, When I recall what enthused me that you were not the sole 10 Guide through this rugged wasteland. The fractured ground trembled and shook under Nessus’s hooves that could barely withstand Each new tremor, straining to avoid a catastrophic blunder. From this splintered ground shot fire, Like the sudden, startling crack of thunder To signal the start of a raging storm. Rising higher, Then cascading down on that forsaken plain, It seeped through cracks, awaiting another burst to transpire. Then the first screeches met my ear, pure fear and pain. 20 And how terrible it was, as our party continued to go, As it was bad enough to drive any man insane.
“As you shut and secure every window, Sealed tight, impossible to pry open, Before the impending white storm blows,
So too should you protect your ears from their emotion, As progress halts if with wild thoughts your mind teems, absent of the advice and wisdom that I have spoken,â€? My noble leader warned, as we reached those whose screams Pierced the air. Disgusting and disfigured, broken 30 They hobbled, stitched together with multiple seams. Of their previous injuries, these stitches were a token. Looking about, I saw creatures tear into a vulnerable prey. I wish the grotesque nature of it could remain unspoken, For the organs and insides that came spilling away Were so mutilated and mangled in that mashing of teeth, That it was near impossible to tell what comprised the buffet. I looked upon the creatures as they feasted on the soul beneath, And realized that I recognized their breed. Hyenas compromised that distorted wreath, 40 Possessing extraordinary speed To outrun their target with ease, And that is what they did indeed. No cunning or intelligence did these Beasts use to achieve their goal, But pure force until they were able to seize The bones and flesh of any helpless soul. Then the pack would move on, Oblivious to the physical and mental toll That their torture caused after they were gone, 50 As the tormented now feared Their eminent and terrifying return thereupon. So that was the terrible punishment here, To run in a panicked state of terror until The breathing of the scrawny beasts reached the ear, All the while stumbling over the ground that will Shake and erupt without warning or notification, Never for a moment remaining still.
60 70 80 90
As a demon dispersed the pack with frustration, The butchered soul lay spread about, As the seamstress took his needle from its location. As long as a spear and barbed throughout, This needle began to weave through the shredded skin As the thread followed it like a devout Dog that never strays from his master’s shin. Slowly it pieced together the maimed mess, The stomach, intestines, and other organs shoved in With haste as he closed up the chest. Pity almost found its way to my heart, For while disgusting at the beginning of the process, The soul was now even more disfigured than at the start, And it would be a shorter next chase Before again he was caught and ripped apart. “You whose stitches keep together your face, If you tell me who you were in the world above And why you reside in this horrid place, Then I promise people will hear thereof.” I began, but he was already frantically on the move, Quickly shuffling past me with a shove. Catching his heavy, misshapen foot in a groove He went crashing to the ground, Feverishly struggling to get it removed, Like a drunken fool found Face down unable to lift himself up, As earlier he downed too many rounds Being the last one to leave before lockup, Ignoring his responsibilities and troubles By finding solace in the dirty bottom of a cup, Knowing that he’ll be back to drink double The next night without a second thought Letting his life collapse into rubble.
The urge to watch this struggle I fought, But the terrible image of inevitable feast and desire From Virgil to proceed advanced us from that spot. So through the punishment and fire We continued to wander trying to discern Any of those souls whose situations were so dire. Though much did I truly yearn To see a normal, untouched face, All of them were mangled and burned, 100 And never once did one being chased Stop to answer my questions posed About the nature and reason of their race. “Why did the souls here not stop to compose their story like so many others, But instead leave their answers undisclosed?” I asked once it was just the centaur and my spiritual brother when we were away from the howls and cries. “And what could one possibly do to another To make the almighty creator above devise 110 Such a punishment filled with suffering and pain.” “One who wears love for family as a disguise,” Virgil harshly responded with visible disdain. “Those souls ruined their families by abuse That no one in the family could constrain, As their pleas for mercy only led to more bruises. Their harmful nature knew no bounds, Spouse or child, they did not take much time to choose, Drowning out the victim’s pleas and sounds, By yelling, cursing, unleashing their pent up rage 120 As they just continued to pound. That is why they did not answer after an attempt to engage, Because they never heard those who were aghast During their outrageous rampage,
So all they hear now is the hyenas as they struggle to outlast. And while their wounds become worse with each attack, Their hearing becomes better than in the past, So that they are more paranoid, more afraid of those prowling packs.â€? Virgil concluded as we sustained our progress through the field, Leaving those behind who served as snacks. â€œThank you for your service across this battlefield, You served us well and protected my valuable student, You can return back proud to your brethren and the bows they wield,â€? Virgil informed the strong legged, prudent Guide as on this terrain our party took its last steps And continued on my path towards improvement.
photograph by Matthew Thibodeau
Notes 1: This canto begins after Nessus has forded the river of blood, so they are now on the other side. 3: “Like lips that become chapped” — Matthew opens this canto with a simile that highlights how uncomfortable this circle of Hell is. 8: Matthew subtly shows that he is both the poet and the pilgrim of this journey. 14: “From this splintered ground shot fire” — This reflects the often unstable foundation that abusers develop during their childhood. It is this broken moral base that allows their anger to burst through. 22-24: The second storm simile of the canto appears in these lines. Scholars believe that this emphasizes the violent and sudden nature of abusers. 29-31: The abusers now embody the very thing that they created — a broken, deformed, and scarred family. 39: “distorted wreath” — It is the hyenas in the form of a circle, instead of the usual flowers or leaves, that decorate the soul’s temporary grave. 40-48: There is debate and controversy among scholars as to why Matthew picked hyenas to torture the souls. Many think that, like the landscape, they reflect the true nature of the abusers. As wild beasts, the hyenas do not focus on the emotional or physical well-being of the souls shown in line 48, but instead only on satisfying their lust for violence and cruelty. Others think that Matthew just picked them because they are skilled predators who can effectively hunt their prey. 54: “scrawny beasts” — Like hyenas who were physically small, abusers are figuratively small, cowards who prey on the weakest people to feel like the strongest people. 60: In another clever simile, Matthew ironically compares the demon stitching the souls back together to a seamstress. While seamstresses usually take scraps of cloth and turn them into something beautiful that people admire, this demon takes scraps of skin and creates something ugly and deformed that people despise. 65-70: Matthew reveals the imprecision and carelessness that the demon shows to each soul he stitches up, which results in the souls looking far worse than they did before. This reflects the actions of abusers towards their families. If abusers apologized at all, they did so in an insincere way, while their abuse left physical and/or mental scars on their victims, breaking and damaging them even more.
79-90: In the last and longest simile of this canto, Matthew compares the souls in this circle of Hell to drunken fools that let their lives fall apart. Lacking self control just like alcoholics, abusers ruined their lives because they could not stop harming others, ignoring their responsibilities to protect and respect their families. 94-99: The sinners in this canto are not named or recognized at any point. When alive, abusers acted like beasts and wild animals, so they now take on their lack of name and physical distinction.
103-104: Matthew alludes to earlier cantos where souls were willing to share what happened to them, like Francesca in the second circle of Hell. 106: “spiritual brother” — shows the strong connection between Virgil and Matthew. 109-111: With one of the best rhymes in the canto, Matthew showcases the effectiveness of the terza rima. 117: “Spouse or child” — Matthew writes that abusers did not care if they were hurting little children or women, which highlights how despicable abusers were when alive. 125-127: This punishment reflects the twisted reality of abuse. Each time a victim is abused their wounds become worse and their fear for the abuser becomes heightened. 129: “Snacks” — Highlights the dehumanizing effect that abuse has. 132: Matthew alludes to the centaurs that guard the twelfth circle of Hell by shooting those who try to escape their punishment with arrows.
photograph by Sulli Wallisch
photograph by Daniel Gatewood
the river lethe Joe Mantych
I forgot why I came here, to this throbbing womb of loud things attached to strings. I forgot the bodies, the bumps of the speakers, the sloshes of everything big. I forgot there is something else than this. I forgot there is something else than this. what does silence taste like? I want to say it is sweet, like, like the wink of the sun off heads of grass, like letters on pages, little blots of ink dotting soft paper, like waking up and watching snow settle on lawns and empty cars, like the wide eyes of everything small that is meant to be small. but I donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t know. I forgot how small I am here. my eyes are shut and I do not remember why I came here.