ENHANCE October 2012
ENHANCE October 2012
Editor in Chief Sopphey Vance Literary Editor Lily Fleur Poetry Editor Nathan Alan Schwartz E-Pub Editor Matthew Guerruckey
Letter From the editor
Letter to Amerika by Mbizo Chirasha
Waste Management by Timothy James Brearton
Arriving Undressed by Debbie Van Straten
“Interference Plaid” series by RoByn Thompson
Forsakened by John McElroy
Frustration by Adam Sharp
Turning Toward March by Richard Luftig
Welcome to Enhance No 9. Every issue of Enhance feels special to me, but somehow this issue is extra special. It’s the ninth issue but it’s also the most “Enhance” like issue we’ve ever published. But, what does that mean, right? Every piece in this issue explores a crevice of life. It’s an exploration in our perception of what has happened, of what is happening, and what will possibly happen in the narrow corner of our lives. This life of ours is very special, and the pieces in this issue are very unique. I’d say wonderful, too.
Emily’s Dying Embers by K atherine Givens
I hope you enjoy this issue. I absolutely love it. Sopphey Vance
A Tale of Pilgrims by Alisa Velaj
Office Tension by Mary Boland
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Letter to Amerika by Mbizo Chirasha I dreamt sadamu and Kaddafi chasing after America through, Oil sodden sand dunes Ghosts of dethroned spirits crossing Blue Nile through the valleys of Sahara Ghosts with fingers and barefoot burning and cracking in the pans of their Sahara oil Ghosts whose blood juice up the freedom of their people, people of their song Ghosts whose ritual is NATO and obituary is gun thunder I dreamt Afrika shiting typhoid after eating autocracy chocolate coated democracy Anthropology and ancientry roasted and recycled in ovens of Harvard and California Professors and politicians juggled like lottery balls My talent riddled fingers itch to write a long letter to AmeriKa About war cooked in labs and ideologies hatched in test tubes for peanut states to eat and sing-mental genocide Ebola ghosts eating tubes, arvs and Gmos Mental genocide of Kongo and other cassava republics Cable and fox networks roasting struggles through stomachs of young revolutions My nostrils are tired of the stench, stench of human flesh fried in the charcoal of superpower ego Dear America, my eyes are red itching with political pepper in Panama and Haiti, my heart for their freedom
Waste Management by Timothy James Brearton She was chopping carrots when the call came through on Portal. Portal was part of the PURL software she’d had installed the previous fall. It was port-URL software, and the name was creepy. Skype was an okay name, even fun, and V-booth wasn’t bad, just obvious. But Portal – that had reminded her of something that led you to a different time, or place. Or let something step through from another world, and into yours. Thing was, Portal had problems, and cut out a lot, and didn’t work half of the time. She stopped chopping and walked out of the kitchen, leaving a pot of water coming to boil on the stove. In the next room, the PC sat on the desk. Even if the PC was off, Portal kept running. She plucked a remote handset from its cradle and said, “Hello?” without bothering to check the caller ID. “Mrs. Ensidro?” “Yes.” “This is Tom Wolfe with Recovery Ident.” She quickly glanced into the kitchen, a kneejerk reaction, and looked at her waste management system. The compactor was working, the disposal had been fixed, and all the returnables and recyclables sat in their containers. She said, “Yes?” “We’ve found two plastic bottles, soda bottles, on Community Lane. The purchase code identifies them as Ensidro.” She stood still, holding the phone to her ear with one hand, realizing she still held the knife in the other. She looked at the front door, there in the small room with her. Then she closed her eyes. “Okay…” she said. “Mrs. Ensidro,” Wolfe continued, “I have here that this is your third recovery ident.” She sighed, and a little current of fear went through her. To hell with that man, she thought. The one they all called “Mr. Clean.” In office for a year now, the economy stable, the war over, all attention had turned at last to the Green Planet. Mr. Clean’s administration had gone whole hog over the Waste Management and Retrieval Plan. It didn’t even have a catchy acronym, she thought. Like the presidency itself, since Clean had stepped 4
into office people had been calling it the POUSA, or “office of the pussy.” Clean was slim, even skinny, with feminine hands and a wry grin. If he was the face of the Green Movement, she often thought, then she hated the Green Movement. “Okay,” she said again, trying to remember the Plan details. “What does that mean?” She smirked, alone in the house. “As you know, Mrs. Ensidro, before President Battaglia’s Waste Management and Retrieval Plan, most U.S. citizens had little to no idea about the ramifications of their waste production. Since the administration has taken measures to contain, minimize, and retrieve waste, we have slowly begun to turn around the grim fate of the planet.” She closed her eyes again. Wolfe sounded like he was reading from a pamphlet. Or, more likely, he’d memorized it. The big proponents were Green Bible thumpers. They were liberals, they were conservatives. Battaglia – Mr. Clean – had found a way to keep almost everyone happy. Big Corporations had been placated with unprecedented liberties. It had begun with corporate voting power, and continued with enormous tax breaks for participating companies. It was the law, but, as ever, there were huge incentives for keeping with the law for those who could easily afford to break it. Everybody else…well, there was nothing new under the sun. If you couldn’t afford to break the law, you were out of luck. She thought of her own copy of the Green Bible, probably in one of the bottom desk drawers in the den, and she listened to Wolfe. “We are seeing immense improvements in landfill reduction, and in the pollution of our lakes and rivers. But in order to keep this positive trend going, Mrs. Ensidro, we have to take all violations seriously.” “Jesus, it’s two plastic bottles,” she said. She couldn’t help herself. “We have to take all violations seriously, Mrs. Ensidro,” Wolfe repeated. “It’s the aggregate effect, you understand. Two bottles for you, two bottles for the next household; it adds up. You-” “They’re probably my son’s,” she said. “You know, he’s a skateboarder. He’s a teenager. He was probably out with his friends and set the bottles down and they
forgot they were there. Why are they still making plastic bottles, anyway? Isn’t that a huge oversight? Why not go after the soda and drink companies? Get them to deliver kegs, or something. I’ve got several stainless steel containers right-” “-Mrs. Ensidro-” “-in my kitchen. It just doesn’t make any sense.” She was getting angry. She gripped the knife. “I can’t be responsible for everything my family does. I’ve got two kids, a boy and a girl. I’ve got a husband. The stores, they all still sell bottled drinks. The aluminum is gone, yippy yay. But the bottles remain. Because it’s big money, right? Bottle manufacturers, and the chemicals they coat the plastic with. Haven’t there been huge recalls? Isn’t bottled water the scourge of the 21st Century?” “Mrs. Ensidro,” said Wolfe, with irritating calmness, “I understand all of that. These things will work out in time. For now, it is a violation of the-” “A violation. A violation. You make me sound like some sort of criminal…” “Well, it is a criminal offense, Mrs. Ensidro.” “What? A misdemeanor? A felony? You going to take me to jail? I’m making dinner for chrissakes, for my family.” “Mrs. Ensidro, please calm down. Compliance officers have been dispatched to your home to…” She lost the last part of what Wolfe was saying as her heart started to race. She remembered that – compliance officers. There had been an uproar in the beginning of the Plan about how it would overtax the local police departments, and the State was not going willing play ball, either. Battaglia, with his lissome hands and lopsided grin, had said he’d already created a special group who would handle enforcement. It was a faction of the military created just for the Plan. With no war, he’d had plenty of bodies to put in place. Serious bodies, too, real soldiers, she’d read, and not the type to just phone in the job, but some of whom had been in Afghanistan, who had cleared houses and spent days avoiding RPGs. “I’m preparing dinner,” was all she could say. She stared into the kitchen. A second or two passed. She said into the Portal phone, “Hello?”
Nothing. She hadn’t just missed what Wolfe was saying due to her own addled mind – the connection had been lost, Portal had cut out. “Goddammit,” she said, and slammed the phone back down in its cradle. There was a knock at the door. “Mrs. Ensidro?” A muffled voice. The door was just there, next to the desk and the PC. Another knock. “Mrs. Ensidro, Waste Management and Retrieval Compliance Officers. Please open up.” She started to back away. Behind her, the pot of water on the stove was coming to boil, and the air above it was filling with steam. How could this be happening? What were they going to do – issue her a ticket? She didn’t think so. Mr. Clean was nuts. Everybody knew it. With his light colored suits and his girly hands and that fucking little grin on his face. Things had gone wrong – really wrong – in the country since the war had ended and the economy recovered. There was too much time for things. Too much idle time. They would take her to jail. Johnny would come home with his skateboard to find the home empty. Missy, off to college, would get a phone call that Mommy had gone up river. Her husband would finish the days work and find no wife keeping house. She heard a muffled voice say, “Okay.” She stopped backing up. A second later, the door crashed open. Three men in suits barged into the room, two of them holding onto a small, black bullram. Their heads were swiveling as they looked for her. It didn’t take long to see where she was, and the one not holding the bullram came at her. She thrust the knife out, squinching her eyes shut. She felt it make contact with something, and there was a horrible moment when she felt it sink in to something. A voice cried out, and second later there was a firm crack along the side of her head, and Mrs. Ensidro went down to the kitchen floor.
They sat in a common room, a TV playing in one corner. There was a report about the Waste Management and Retrieval Plan. A pretty newscaster was talking about the continued improvements of landscape and water systems thanks to the Plan. A fellow inmate in orange fatigues came over to where Mrs. Ensidro sat at a table, alone. The inmate, Carla, flopped a book down in front of Ensidro. She looked down and saw what it was. The Green Bible. Carla cackled and moved away. “Don’t stick me, lady,” she said.
Arriving Undressed by Debbie VanStraten I asked my friend, “Why the nakedness?” “Barriers-breaking down barriers,” she said. At that moment I understood. My journey began at Harbin Hot Springs just north of San Francisco. My friend of many years suggested it. I agreed to the journey, not completely understanding where we were going. We drove through the Napa Valley Vineyards, acres and acres of them, winding to our destination. We arrived at the Garden of Eden. My girlfriend suggested I pack lightly that it would be a “clothing optional” experience. She asked me a number of times if I would be comfortable with nakedness? I decided I would be, kind of, that it was time to simply let go to fully experience something outside of my comfort zone, trust. I was hungry for a deeper understanding and an opportunity to create a foundation for my last chapter in life, elderhood. The retreat center was woven into the foothills, developed on a very steep incline. Cars were not allowed near the buildings and so we parked at the entrance and lugged our bags up winding and steep steps, resting and acclimating periodically. My friend picked a cabin near the top of the sanctuary, Cedar, far to the left, very private. Our cabin was adorable, cozy with a small fireplace and skylight windows all over the ceiling. Through the skylights, we were embraced by trees and greenery. The wooden deck in the front of the cabin had a huge hole designed to allow one of the fragrant bay leaf trees to survive the building of the cabin. I touched it. It was covered with thick, wiry, bright green moss—most of the trees were—so lush. When we arrived, it was evening and pouring rain. And so, we unpacked and my girlfriend handing me the one essential piece of clothing I would need for the remainder of our stay, a white terry cloth robe. She inquired if I wanted to go to the meditation pool and I said sure, thinking better to get into the experience than worry about it. We left the cabin wearing nothing but our robes—I was feeling vulnerable. We walked many steps in the darkness with only the sound of rain. Then we came around the corner to air filled with fog and people, naked walking without inhibition. I
sucked in a deep breath and went with the flow; I was committed to the experience that was challenging my comfort zone. I was struggling with looking at my own aging body let alone someone else looking at it. We walked through the haze around several men and women--Adams and Eves--silent. There was a little shelter near the hottest meditation pool and we hung our robes. I was naked for the first time in a sexually mixed community wearing only a comfortable expression on my face to shield my uneasiness with the experience. It was all feeling surreal. We stepped carefully into a large pool that was lukewarm. My friend and I moved in different directions and I searched for a space where I could exist and experience. That was a bit of a challenge as it was crowded but I finally found a spot along the side of the pool where I could breathe and begin my silent retreat, silent at least in the pools. I draped my arms around the metal bars up behind me on the edge of the pool and gently allowed my body to relax, float, breath in the cool air. My eyes focused as the steam came and went. There were so many different men and women in the space. Some were in deep meditation eyes closed alone in their spiritual thoughts. There were a few couples embraced in the pool, not sexually, but quietly embraced in oneness. Some were same sex couples. People represented all ages. I breathed again the cool air. The rain was cold, relentlessly running down my face. I dipped to my neck in the pool still getting comfortable with my nakedness and trying to stay warm. The rain simply added to the cleansing. It dripped off the large shiny leaves hanging just above my head within reach— paradise indeed. I pulled my legs close to my chest and then stretched them long again. My mind raced. I twisted my hips working the muscles central to my core easing out the stress. Every move felt good. I grabbed the bar above my head and arched my chest. My breast broke the surface of the warm water, cold, and I arched myself again below the water line. I heard for the first time a guttural sound. I heard it not once but every now and then. It was a new
sound to me, one that is difficult to explain. Each time I heard it, I searched for the source of the sound. It was a deep sound--a sound that seemed to come from the center of the diaphragm—as though the vocal cords were inside of the chest instead of the throat. My friend found me again and motioned me to follow her to another pool. I faltered as I climbed the steps. We entered a pool that was much smaller than the one we had left. The temperature was overwhelming, hot very hot. I grabbed the railing tightly as the 115 degree water stalled my movement and caused me to catch my breath but not to call out and break the silence of the experience. I went full body deep into the pool with the heat being almost too much to bear. Again I inhaled only this time it hurt my lungs— the air was so hot. Once again, I found some solitude near the edge of the tub, my private space. The pool was no larger than ten by ten feet, about four and a half feet deep. A large water spout spewed geothermal water from the center of the earth. Some people dunked deep in the pool with their whole body— head immersed under the water. There were candles burning nearby where the water entered the pool. As some entered they faced the spout, opened their arms, bowed to the source of the intense energy and smiled with peace. There was a bar hanging over one side of the tub. Those who were young and strong would jump up and grab it pulling themselves out of the hydro-therapy water like monkeys without tails. It was in this tub that I first noticed the jack-o-lanterns carved and placed around the sacred space aglow with golden light. I breathed and gently rubbed my face, the start of my transformation. We left the pool via the steps and climbed higher to the cold pool. Again, it was small. It was located in a more wooded area, a bit darker space. As I moved down the steps into that pool I was overwhelmed by the extreme cold. It seemed way too cold and that I would not enjoy the experience. Then, my body adjusted. I became accustomed to the temperature.
Next to the cold pool was a statue, some Eastern looking statue. Candles burned around it. A beautiful young woman sat naked on the bench before the statue in a crossed leg yoga pose and turned her palms to the heavens. She closed her eyes and left her surroundings in deep meditation. Amazing. We left the pools and retreated to our room. I was still dizzy with interest and questioning. We drank plenty of fresh water and slept. We awoke late morning and had a light breakfast. My girlfriend explained that she had an appointment for me to enjoy a massage. I thought perfect! I was greeted by Todd, my masseuse and we walked up a winding trail to a private room. Again, it was a silent journey and the silence challenged me. I went inside of myself to consider my feelings. When we were in a private room he asked my comfort level and desire to be draped for the massage. Once again, I decided to suspend my inhibitions in an effort to truly experience healing. Once again, I went natural. Todd had ten hands and ten feet, at least it felt that way. His healing hands worked my muscles, worked them deep to stretch and heal them. I felt Todd join my breathing—I would breathe in, he would breathe in. I would breathe out, he would breathe out. He actually shared cleansing breaths and exhaled carbon monoxide in perfect unison with me. As the hour and a half massage progressed, I heard that guttural sound again that seemed to come from deep within. It came from Todd. I heard it again and again but I could not imitate it. I was beginning to liken the sound to unconscious cleansing similar to conscious sounds like chanting or church music— similar but different. Todd massaged my whole body with respect to appropriateness. At the end of the massage, he placed his hands over the center of my chest, over my heart. Todd gave of himself to heal me. It was an energy exchange; it was his gift as a healer. It was definitely working. I lost my way back to the pools; I was disconnecting with the world I left when we parked the car and entered this sacred space. I was becoming
immersed in the experience of letting go—physical and invisible barriers. The second day of my experience I was treated to Watsu in the warm water pool. Although I can’t remember being in utero, Watsu was a womblike experience. The movements and stretches in the tepid water supported my letting go being totally free, floating. The experience was truly as great as my ability to let go and just be. In the evening, we dressed and went to the yoga temple. We didn’t do yoga, though. Instead, we joined a sacred circle of music. The leader would play a tune; we would pick the genre. Unrehearsed, one of us would then pick it up creating the music. We could hum, drum with our hands, clap, sing, make a clicking sound with our tongue, whatever felt right. I liked blues. We created original music together first with caution and then with playfulness. It wasn’t bad; now, I actually wish I had a recording of it. We came outside of ourselves; the youthfulness of our play returned. We worked to shed the complexity of our lives and enjoy human oneness.
more loving, easier existence. It was at the end of the journey when I asked the question about nakedness and my friend replied, “barriers—breaking down the barriers.” It was then I understood.
On our last day, we shared one of the conversational pools with two women about the same age as ourselves. I started to experience the breaking down of mental walls as the physical limitations change. The two women were so at ease, like my friend they were veterans at the Harbin experience. We were four people—no jewelry, no titles, no clothes-nothing to define us or limit our experience. The interesting part was being naked did not create a feeling of vulnerability but rather of safeness. It wasn’t about our bodies but about where we were at in our bodies. By evening, we arrived back in San Jose and stopped at a grocery store. I had a weird experience. I was standing next to a total stranger. I felt closer somehow even though I did not know him. I felt more alike than different. I wondered if I was continuing to be with people as though I was naked with no pretense. It reinforced the concept of brotherhood and sisterhood. It made me long for a better existence—a
from the “Interference Plaid” series by RoByn Thompson
Forsakened by John McElroy For a long time I have laid here, a witness to things that most have forgotten. I cannot remember the year I was born, having aged quickly in this dusty, scarred town. My face is beaten and filled with ruts from the daily poundings of a hundred feet. My skin is weathered brown and easily cracked yet no amount of sun or rain will ever fade it away. Stretched out from east to west, I have endured the trample of heavy boots and heard the savage cries of men at war, fighting over me as if I were the town whore, they use me repeatedly with no end in sight. Wherever they travel I am always with them, a slave to their ominous intentions. From their constant quarrels, blood is shed. The carnage of bullets and bombs rip apart fragile flesh, jagged pieces of bone fly freely in every direction. Searing hot metal careen into the crevices of my skin. Horrid cries of agony fall silently onto my ears. I am too worn, too old to help them. All I can do is patiently wait for rainfall to wash away their sins. Sometimes when the fighting stops, I am alone with barely a sound. I gaze at the sky from sunrise to sunset, trying to forget the years I have suffered in horrendous silence. Unable to cry, scream or fight back, contemplating why my life hasnâ€™t ended already. The battles rage on and many more men will die needlessly at my feet. While they lay on my stomach, tears pouring from their drooping eyes, blood oozing from catastrophic wounds. They take their last breath wondering why they are fighting over me. Iâ€™m just a dirty, old road that nobody cares about.
Frustration by Adam Sharp “Just help,” I say. “I’m trying,” Mom says. “I’ve told you before, I’m in the most remedial class at Wayne State.” “You’re in college and I’m in eighth grade, and you can’t help me?” I say. “I would if I could.” “I need to know how to do this.” “I don’t know how to help.” “So you’re telling me you’re stupid?” I say. “Don’t say that to me,” Mom says. “You can’t do middle school homework, you must be pretty stupid.” “I’m not stupid.” “How aren’t you? You can’t help? Okay, okay, if you don’t like stupid, how bout slow? You’re very slow. There, is that better?” “I don’t know what you want me to do. I can’t do it. I don’t know how. What do you want me to do?” “You would help me, but you’re too slow to do so, right?” “Stop this.” “Why should I stop? I’m smarter so, maybe, you listen to me. I mean, you can’t help me with math? And you’re supposed to tell me what to do? That doesn’t make sense,” I say. She should apologize and end this. “Stop this.” “I’m so scared. You’re a hundred pounds less than me. What are you gonna do, hit me? I wish you would, it’d be funny.” “This’s my house and you will stop.” “A mother’s supposed to be superior and, besides having a better job, you aren’t superior. If it makes you happy, I won’t call you Mom anymore, I’ll call you Lori. Is that better, Lori?” “Stop this shit right now. Just fucking stop it. ” She is right. I should stop. She has had enough. “Okay I’m sorry, Lori. I’m sorry that you can’t help me with seventh grade homework, Lori. Maybe I can call up my friend. His real Mom can help me since Lori can’t.” She slams her chair against the wall and stomps toward her room. I never should have asked for help with my fuse burnt so short. Ink smeared across my sweaty fingers. Mom had no chance. But she does
not deserve empathy. This is not my fault. A mother should be able to aid her child. I thought Mom knew better than to fail. I stare at my textbook. Before I asked Mom for help I could focus, but now I see only scribbles on the page. Everything blends. I sit, trying to think of an excuse for the teacher tomorrow. Mom walks into the dining room. “I’m calling your father to tell him how you’re treating me. Maybe he can talk some sense into you,” she says. “I’m sorry.” I say immediately. She glares at me and keeps dialing. “I’m sorry. I said I’m sorry, okay, I’m sorry.” Relationships should be secure. When I said those things to Mom, I never expected anyone else to hear them. Dad scares me. His passiveness makes me feel evil. Mom starts to dial his phone number and I run upstairs. The solution is simple. I will bash my head in. The only exit for my mischievous thoughts is my mouth. After I put the hammer through my skull, the rogue spirits will seep through like a high-pressure New York sewer. No light will enter the black gas as it whistles out. Mom will see not all evil intentions are mine. Maybe I should run away. Everything is better when I am by myself. If I feel the urge to attack there will be no one around. Mom will weep while I walk in the rain. A violin will play to complete the sad movie. I scratch my legs. I dig my nails in deep and peel back small portions of flesh. These fresh scars line the tops of yesterdays. My legs are always raw and sore. I can never were shorts. I rub the blood together on my fingers. The texture calms me. I throw clothes into the bags. I can hear Mom telling Dad what I said and I lose control of my body. I cannot breathe; my chest flattens and my neck scrunches against it. I lace my arms on top of my head and raise my knees to my face. I lie still in the fetal position. Why did I say those things? “Adam!” My mother yells up the stairs. “Adam.” If I do not move, I will not have to talk to Dad. I will not see him for a week and he will forget. Everything will be fine if I do not move. “Adam! Your dad wants to talk to you,” Mom says. I hum and rock, clutching my bag full of shirts as
if it is a stuffed bear. “Adam! Come down stairs.” I squeeze my hands against my ears and hum louder. “Adam?” She starts to walk up the stairs. “I’m coming.” I shake my head and try to focus. The plastic bag peels away from my skin as it drops to the floor. It is damp from sweat. There are no answers for Dad’s potential questions. I walk down the stairs and grab the phone from Lori, trying not to look at her. “Hello,” I say. “Hey kiddo, what’s going on?” Dad says. “I don’t know, me and Mom are arguing.” “You can’t talk to your mom that way.” “Can I live with you?” “No, kiddo, you have to treat your mother better. She’s just trying to help,” he says. “I know, but she didn’t.” “You can’t talk to her like that.” I do not try to explain my side of the story. Dad will never understand what it is like to be possessed. All I want to do is perfect the lost art of insult. Mom is a practice dummy. I try to remember everything I said. Only isolated words and moments appear in my head. It is as if I am trying to remember a nightmare. “I know. I’m dumb. I’m sorry,” I say. “Don’t be sorry to me. Say it to your mother,” Dad says. “I will.” “Okay, talk to you later kiddo.” “Kay.” I turn off the phone and walk over to Mom, trying to think of an explanation. Nothing I say will make her understand. She claims to love me unconditionally. It seems unfathomable. It is natural to test conditions and boundaries. My research is just more extensive than most. I should receive a prize for my dedication. I look into her eyes. “I’m sorry,” I say. “It’s fine. Here, let me try again.” I sit down next to her as she opens the math book once more. I still have anger in my heart, but I must sit and be patient. Hope that if I am calm things will 14
get better. *** I do not know what to do. I did not finish my homework. I guess I have to go home. Saying I am sick is always a solid excuse, but I have to save my sick days. A drip of sweat falls off my cheek and hits the blotchy paper. My eyes are too tired to cry. I hate asking for help. I receive a lot of help already; learning should be something I can do on my own. I will take a zero on the assignment. I deserve it. “If you need help come to the front?” Mrs. Mohr says. I could go right now. Others are starting to stand. But I am smarter than they are. Or, at least, I need to appear to be so. The line for help stretches past the wall and the line curves. Only Matt, Zinsser, and I sit. “All of you need help?” “Yes,” everyone responds. “Would any of you three like to give some of the answers,” she says to the three of us. An awkward silence fills the room. She had better not look to me. “I’ll do it,” Zinsser says. Everyone sits down and Zinsser starts reading what he got. Everyone still thinks I am smart. I cannot help but think of how all that anger was wasted. Perfectly good abuse used on a lost cause. Next time, I will make sure my anger has a purpose.
Turning Toward March by Richard Luftig The shovel stands alone on the porch, while out front a collage of dirty snow is scattered about the brown, bare patches of what used to be a lawn. Down the street, the empty lot is beginning to show its old tires, bleach bottles, plywood and plastic bags and the storm gutters are filled with the twigs, dead leaves and dross of last December. In the neighbor’s front yard, a child’s bicycle balances seat down, the handlebars a snow angel, pedals pointing up like the beginnings of new flowers, while in garages, Hot Wheels begin to awake from winter’s hibernation, counting the days until first equinox, waiting for the emergence of owners their still silent engines idling.
Emily’s Dying Embers by Katherine Givens Once a very darling child, a flame kindled from naught. Her soul coated with gild, a pure soul to be caught. The evils of the earth found a victim in her. Fires died in the hearth, and one could only leer. The radiance was gone, and her family suffers. What once brilliantly shone are now dying embers.
A Tale Of Pilgrims by Alisa Velaj No one is willing To hear the story from the beginning. The leaf is a leaf And the tree is a tree. The overwhelming green remains A visionary illusion, Or a wooden bed of unconsciousness. Once I fell in love with the pine that was not a pine And startled solitude with bluish branches. Later I became as exhausted from wakefulness, That I fell as a feather over the tree crown. And here exactly begins the tale Of what the pilgrims have said for me; That I once was made of flesh, But later an item full of leaves, One night in September lost my ability To feel the lust of your deepest feelings. This is as cold as the genes of origin. At nights I breathe below the shade of candles Without recognizing anything From the timid game of flames. …And the tale ends every night lit by the moon When you are drunk from other bodies Praying to the Veneers with cloudy faces. A sad Pilgrim Of the roads where the trees have no leaves! Translated from Albanian language Peter Tase
Office Tension by Mary Boland “There’s nothing to say. I’ve no excuse. I failed.” His cool blue eyes swept up the young woman seated before him. He didn’t believe her. “During all this time you’ve been working for us, you have never even come close to failing on a project. Talk to me, what’s going on?” But she wouldn’t talk, he knew; she never did. She had been working at the museum for almost a year and had never opened up to anyone. Her personal life was a mystery. But at work, she was phenomenal. She stunned everyone with her ambition and killer instinct in getting the museum back on its feet. But this slip up? This was big – little pink slip big. He moved around his desk with a sigh and stopped with his back to her. Her eyes travelled up his spine. “This is serious,” he breathed. “I don’t understand. You’re a smart, attractive –” he let the word hang in midair, shocked it had slipped out. He heard her body shift in the chair. That was all it took. Closing his eyes, his mind flashed to the office Christmas party three months ago. He sees her standing in an elegant emerald dress, in front of an arrangement of scarlet poinsettias. Catching his eye, she renders him numb with a serene smile. He begins to slide through the crowd towards her, determined to crack the code of this striking, introverted woman. His opportunity is smashed when Esmeralda jerks on his arm. Her thick gold jewelry clangs and rattles. Her red sequined dress dazzles. Her accented voice shrieks. “Wha-sa matt-uh with you, huh? Ya hear me? Can ya get me a drink, hun? Gin and tonic!” He nods absentmindedly, casting a glance to the now unobstructed poinsettias and saunters over to the open bar. Several more trips are made to this bar at the behest of Esmeralda. She is now flirting vivaciously with his boss. Watching her, he downs another glass of scotch. Her black hair flips, her arms flutter, her laugh bellows. As he stares wretchedly at this fiery image, a soft voice slithers in his ear, and a sea of green cools the fire in his eyes. Caught off guard, he cannot comprehend the words, but he smiles unabashedly. A gentle hand on his arm shoots
a tantalizing warmth through his veins. Slowly, his heart sinks as the impassive words form bleakly in his muddled mind. “James, I just wanted to tell you, I left the report you asked for on your desk. I’ll see you Monday.” His dazed mind labors to summon a witty remark, a stupid joke – anything to make her stay. Before he can recover, she’s out the door. Dejected, he turns to the bartender. “Scotch, please.” The memory had flashed in the blink of an eye. The blank off-white office wall stood before him again, toying with him like an empty canvas promising endless creations. Realizing only seconds had passed, he attempted to finish his sentence with nonchalance. “...ambitious young woman. Look, I know this kind of mistake is beyond you – you’re better than this.” He turned to look at her; her eyes hit the floor. “Anna,” he began soothingly, “I know this is a tough topic, but is anything the matter at home? You’ve been far more... distant than usual.” Her eyes wandered over his desk as if seeking an answer amidst the office rubble of papers, pens, and binders. He found himself relieved at the recent purging of haughty Esmeraldas gloating from picture frames. “Nothing’s wrong at home,” she whispered. “You can’t expect me to believe this mistake was pure incompetence! With your flawless track record, this sort of oversight is simply impossible. I have too high a regard for you...” He let the sentence trail off, not knowing what else to say. In his flustered mind, he considered telling her everything – how he felt, what he wanted. She wouldn’t be a coworker now, no longer his subordinate. His hands slipped into his pockets and a sigh escaped him as he dreamed momentarily of his wistful future. While he floundered helplessly in his reverie, she straightened herself in the chair, and her eyes locked him in her gaze. He felt a strange shift of power in the room. She spoke with conviction, “You’re letting personal feelings cloud your view of my performance. I have failed intolerably. I think you know what you have to
do.” She smiled ironically to lessen the tension, but her eyes betrayed her true sense of failure. He said nothing, hating his responsibility. The silence lingered. His hands intertwined. She uncrossed her legs. He shifted on his feet. Finally, she said flatly, “I’ll clean out my desk.” “I’ve still got faith in you,” he stammered, feeling a lump form in this throat. “Thank you, James,” she breathed, and a warm smile played on her lips, “but you’re alone in that belief. My time here is up.” She offered her hand as she stood. He grabbed it. Her slight hand was wrapped by his, yet he was surprised at her firm grip. She released him; her touch lingered. As she turned away, his gaze followed her figure leaving through the office door. She felt it but did not look back. Later that night, James returned home, sullen and moody. He had spent the last half hour at the office in a meeting with his boss: “You did the right thing, James – she had to go. It’s better this way, after what she did. Although, I do wish I could have watched her leave, if you know what I mean.” He winked, chuckled, and his expensive Armani suit collided with James’ lessthan-pristine Kohl’s bought blazer at the elbow, in what was meant to be a playful nudge. James’ lean but tall figure buckled with the impact, causing him to perform a graceless three-step backwards cha-cha slide. His boss, lost in his merciless chuckles, did not notice the spontaneous performance. After he recovered and continued the meeting charades, James returned home to an empty, dark apartment. It was one of those supposedly artsy apartments that had been built inside an old warehouse – except instead of being built both efficiently and artistically, it was somewhat crudely put together in a fashion that James took to be a mixture of abstract and minimalist art. Brick walls enclosed every room (there were three: a kitchen and living room, divided only by an island-like counter, a bedroom, and a bathroom, all connected by a skinny hallway). The stove originated from the 1950’s and stuck out too far from the cabinet; the microwave had broken several times now; and a dishwasher was 18
nonexistent. James believed the toilet was the nicest thing in the entire apartment: never once had it clogged, broken down, or anything. It was a machine of unspeakable merit – and courage, James thought and chuckled. Taking off his long jacket by the door, he noticed an ominous red blinking light down the hall, coming from the kitchen. His heart sunk. That blink meant only one thing: a voice message, and in following the past three-week trend, a carefully calculated ninetyseven percent average suggested it to be Esmeralda. So assured of this was James, that he simply ignored it, grabbed a Coors Light from the fridge and plopped down on the couch, flicking the TV on with the remote – all in one fluid motion. He lingered there, flipping channels for twelve minutes before giving up on the hopelessly overacted reality shows and infomercials that consumed almost every station. Barely moving, he grabbed the Xbox 360 controller lying next to him, pressed the power button, and immersed himself in the world of Skyrim, of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls V, until well past midnight. Having completed several side-quests, he found himself immeasurably tired (as if he had explored those caves himself and fought that dragon with his bare hands) and moseyed to his bedroom, undressing along the way. He flopped on his bed with a sigh, and his mind flashed to Anna. Would he ever see her again? Before he could conjure any lasting thoughts of her to carry to his dreams, he was fast asleep, and his night was laced with dragons, mages, merchants, and magic.
About the Authors Mary Boland grew up in Northwest Indiana and is working towards a Bachelorâ€™s in English and minor in French at the University of Dayton. She possesses a love of literature, writing, and French culture, which she discovered while studying abroad in France. Currently, she is a contributing writer for the Fashion Foot webzine at www.thefashionfoot.com, but has held other illustrious positions under the service of the Dairy Queen, as well as an on-campus cafeteria. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue a career more associated with her major.
personal website is at http://www.katherinegivens1. wordpress.com.
Timothy James Brearton has published short fiction with the Third Rail, a now defunct newspaper in Greenwich, NY, and currently publish arts-related nonfiction with the Lake Champlain Weekly and The Free George Online Magazine. As the creative manager of the Adirondack Film Society, he writes extensively. One of his novels, Rehabilitation, drew nomination for Best Fiction within the 2010 Adirondack Literary Awards.
John McElroy is a junior college student attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa majoring in psychology. He hopes to pursue a master degree afterwards. He serves part time in the US Army and am a combat veteran. He also has a 20 month old son named Justin that is the center of his life.
Mbizo Chirasha is an internationally acclaimed performance poet, writer, and creative projects consultant. He was the poet-in-residence: from 20012004 for the Iranian embassy/UN Dialogue among civilizations project; the United Nations Information Centre - 2001-2008; Convener/Event Consultant THIS IS AFRICA POETRY NIGHT 2004 - 2006; official performance poet Zimbabwe International Travel Expo in 2007; Poet in Residence of the International conference of African culture and development/ ICACD 2009; and official Poet Sadc Poetry Festival, NAMIBIA 2009. A delegate to the Unesco photo novel writing project in Tanzania, Mbizo is the Official poet in residence for the ISOLA/ international conference of oral literature 2010 in Kenya. His poetry books Good Morning President is Published in UK and Whispering Woes of Ganges and Zambezi is published by an Indian/American Publisher Cyberwit Press. Mbizo Chirasha the Founder /Operations/Creative Director of Girlchild Creativity Project and the newly founded Urban Colleges Writers Prize. Katherine Givens is a college student but a writer at heart. Her poetry has been or will be published in Inclement Poetry Magazine, Literary Juice, The Rusty Nail, BareBack Magazine, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, and Miracle e-zine. Her short stories will be published in upcoming issues of The Enchanted File Cabinet and The Rusty Nail. Her
Richard Luftig is a recipient of the Cincinnati Post-Corbett Foundation Award for Literature and a semi finalist for the Emily Dickinson Society Award. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and internationally in Japan, Canada, Australia, Europe, Thailand, Hong Kong and India. One of his published poems was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Poetry Prize.
Adam Sharp has a masterâ€™s degree in Creative Non-Fiction Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. He specializes in creative physical and mental health stories. He is a blogger on www. prosportsblogging.com for the New England Patriots. RoByn Thompson is a fine art body painter, photographer and mixed media artist who uses her art to empower herself and others. It is also a method to explore her world and a tool in her search for meaning. She does not edit the images with programs such as Photoshop. She is happiest playing with her computer, paints, camera, book and wrapped in her Hello Kitty blankie. She can be distracted with chocolate and shiny things. Debbie Van Straten is a national mentor for the Eden Alternative and Pioneer Network dedicated to improving the quality of life. She is a journalist by education and a writer by experience. She is presently authoring a book on how to transform the culture of aging. Alisa Velaj was born in the southern port town of Vlora in November 1982. She studied Albanian language and literature at the University of Tirana. She follows M.A. in literature with the writer Mitrush Kuteli and now teaches literature at the university of Durres. Velaj is the author of two verse collections: Themelet e eres (Foundations of the wind) and Drejt ajrit (To air).