a feminist journal of language and art
a feminist journal of language and art
Summer Online Issue Summer 2012
So to Speak Summer 2012 Online Issue Subscriptions and all other correspondence may be addressed to: So to Speak, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, MSN 2C5, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444. <www.sotospeakjournal.org> Subscriptions: $7/sample issue, $12/one year, $22/two years Submissions: All work relating to feminism welcome. No more than five (5) poems at a time; all forms invited. Limit fiction to 5,000 words and essays to 4,000 words. Art should be sent electronically (.tif; .jpg) to STS@gmu.edu. We welcome collaborations. All submissions should be sent electronically through our Submission Manager. For more detailed guidelines and for contest information, visit our website at sotospeakjournal.org. Our reading period is from August 1 through October 15 for the Spring issue and from January 1 through March 15 for the Fall issue. Cover art: Kendall Idal Karam, Me with Self Portrait Ink and acrylic on paper The editors would like to thank Jennifer Atkinson, all the authors and artists who submitted to our journal, Jacques Moyal, the Phoebe staff, William Miller, the Fall for the Book Festival staff, the editorial circle that founded So to Speak (Jamy Bond, Sara Brown, Leslie Bumstead, Jean Donnelly, Colleen Kearney Rich, Isadora Lector, Stephanie Muller, and Rebecca Wee), as well as all past editors of the journal. So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art is committed to representing the work of writers and artists from diverse perspectives and experiences and does not discriminate on the basis of race, class, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, culture of origin, disability, political affiliation, marital or parental status, Vietnam-era veteran status, or similar characteristics. So to Speak is published bi-annually at George Mason University. Opinions expressed by authors and editors do not necessarily reflect the official views of the university. All rights reserved. No material herein may be reprinted by any means, recorded or quoted, other than for review purposes, without the express permission of the authors or artists, to whom all rights revert after serial publication.
a feminist journal of language and art
Summer Issue Staff Editor Kate Partridge Managing Editor Michael Stein Assistant Editor Michele Johnson Art Editor Fiction Editor Nonfiction Editor Poetry and Blog Editor
Ceci Cole McInturff Dan Hong Chrissy Widmayer Sheila McMullin
Assistant Fiction Editor Elizabeth MacLean Assistant Nonfiction Editor Jess Szalay Assistant Poetry Editor Amber Cook
CONTENTS POETRY Jacob Oet O Medeia Starfire Wake Up You Sleepyhead After Hours Parting by Comb Kimberly Dark 1820s French Fashion Marta Ferguson Mustang Sally Takes a Vacation
8 16 17 18 20 32
TRANSLATION Margarita Ríos-Farjat Café in Pioneer Square Translated by Matthew Brennan
NONFICTION Nandi Sojourner Crosby The Sisters
FICTION Jeanne Althouse Vanilla Flowers
Heather Sappenfield Thinking’s Deadly
Amanda Graham The Girl Desired
VISUAL ART Kendall Karam Me with Self Portrait
So to Speak
CONTENTS Eleanor Leonne Bennett Sweet Taste of Poppy
Annette Polan Bound Unbound 14 Ivan de Monbrison Untitled
Jasmine Murrell Women’s Box
Cynthia Brown-Milans Untitled Untitled Untitled
22 22 22
Elsabé Dixon Microscrope Solar: 10 Handmade Papers 31 Elizabeth Patten Gra Dilseacht Cairdeas 33 Lisa K. Rosenstein Creation
Melissa Jay Craig Self You Never Know
So to Speak
O The autumn wind taps and stops, muffled by hands that open, stay open and the leaves whisper back, Chiaroscuro all the while steel bench thinking maybe it’s never gonna slow down. Compared to a stream, winter’s enormous. In spring the ladle drips with milk, Big Dipper sinking into desert horizon. Here in fall town they wield coffee. Yes, yes, an ever-raging war against sleep. Their chimneys forgive them, of course, just as the baby’s throat clogged with steam and mush learns to swallow, gulping the leaves know the closest thing to fire is an ashcovered brow, and the closest thing to a match is a human being with another human being one of them holding a knife, about to pare the other into nakedness. Sleek, the initialed bark peeling off a tree. Never get a tattoo, or lay your head in the warm feminine grass, every lap is another possession, when things mean nothing, and every mistake is another kiss earned, we will take off our hats to the wind, and with bared heads, dance holding each other as far as possible, our teeth, our tongues are knives. It is nighttime, and we whisper, Chiaroscuro, clasping the windows of hands shut warm around each other’s.
So to Speak
ELEANOR LEONNE BENNETT
Sweet Taste of Poppy 10”h x 8”w Self Portrait So to Speak 9
NANDI SOJOURNER CROSBY
The Sisters As a young girl, I made regular weekend visits to my paternal grandmother’s home. Grandma Queenie, whose birth name was Queen Ester King, was a sturdy Black woman with dark, deep-set features. Her sense of femininity was more brawny than nurturing. She was rather masculine, actually, in spite of her consistent use of pink sponge rollers to curl her bangs and maintain a flip in the back of her head like hairdos I saw worn by White ladies in 1950s movies. She never donned jewelry or makeup, and she always ran her errands wearing modest cotton housedresses. People feared my grandmother. She did not smile or laugh much with us kids. She was old school, and made us pluck our own switches when she decided we needed to be taught a lesson. We loved her. We were devastated when she died three years ago. She gained custody of three of my cousins in the late 1960s, taking them out of foster care as toddlers to raise until adulthood. Five years later, she took in one of my prepubescent cousins who showed up at Grandma Queenie’s when she ran away from home. Then in the ‘80s, she boarded a neighborhood teen girl and her newborn. Those who lived with her called her “Mama,” as she was the only mother some kids knew. Grandma Queenie was a daycare provider until she was in her 70s, so her home was a place of comfort for those of us who loved our trinkets at home, but believed her place was the ultimate refuge for snacks and games. Her humongous house was brown—then mint-green, four stories high with a basement, and contained ten bedrooms and one bathroom. She and her husband, a man I knew as “Granpop,” slept in separate rooms, and a very elderly man named Mr. Coco rented a room on the second floor. During one weekend at Grandma Queenie’s when I was seven years old, my cousin Darryl told me about three girls who had just moved into the corner house on my grandmother’s street. He said they were sisters close to my age who I might enjoy getting to know. He warned me that they were “funny” and that I had better watch out for anything freaky they might do to me. It was rumored that the sisters kissed and touched each other. The prospect of them wanting to kiss me was exhilarating. I did not let on that I was tickled about meeting them, though. I was not sure what “funny” people looked like. But I knew I wanted to experience it for myself. Darryl walked me across the street to their house, which was a huge, nefarious-looking, cocoa brown building with wood slats for a porch that spread across three-quarters of the structure. From the outside, it looked somewhat like my grandmother’s ginormous house, but clearly, with so many 10
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NANDI SOJOURNER CROSBY doors on its front side, it was an apartment building. The eldest sister, a girl of about ten who already had B-cup breasts, came to the door in a Wonder Woman terrycloth robe and mismatched belt hanging down toward stained yellow house shoes. “Where your sisters at?” Darryl inquired, sounding more like an incessant boss than a curious neighbor. “They’re watching TV. Why?!” She gave him a version of ‘tude I was used to seeing among girls around my way. At the tail end of rolling her eyes at him, she managed to glance tenderly at me. “My cousin wanna meet y’all,” he said. I gazed at the peeling rubber at the toe of my right shoe, and then rocked on my tiptoes while she studied me. I wanted to tug Darryl’s shirt and whisper to him that she looked normal to me. Anxiety forced my lips tightly together as I waited to see how out-of-the-ordinary her sisters were. “Wait one minute,” she muttered. Then she erupted, turning toward the paneled living room, “Scooooobaaaay! Monaaaaaaa!” As the three of us stood soundlessly in the cool air waiting for her little sisters to appear, Darryl said, “Ay, don’t y’all be doing nuffin’ freaky to my cousin. Do not touch her. Alright?” Darryl is four years older than I am, but tossed out that command as if he were my daddy. The large-breasted girl offered a flirtatious smile in my direction and then remarked, “Ain’t nobody gon’ do nuffin’ to her.” Scooby and Mona, who were seven and nine years old, arrived at the door. Peering intrusively, they said almost in unison, “Darryl, who’s that?” He replied, “This here is my cousin. She wanna hang out with y’all. Don’t be doing none of that dyke-y girl stuff around her. Hear me?” The older girl pulled me into the house, sucked her teeth at him, then slammed the door before he could fully turn and walk away. All three girls were wearing pajamas, and there seemed to be no adults at home. Following them to the far back bedroom, I could hear the distinct sounds of my favorite cartoon. We were in their mother’s room; I assumed this because of the velvety, black-light poster of sex poses that my own mother had hanging up in her room. I sank down in a tattered corduroy chair and fixated on the television. We spent the better part of 20 minutes not saying much, lost in Looney Tunes and intermittent commercials for Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Happy Meals. When the show ended, I pierced the awkward stillness with a bevy of questions: “Where y’all from? What school y’all go to? Where y’all’s mama at? What did Darryl mean when he said y’all was funny?” In response to my last question, they looked at each other and giggled. Scooby, the seven-year-old said, “You ever let a girl touch you?” I was almost sure she meant “down there” so I shook my head, “Uhn So to Speak 11
NANDI SOJOURNER CROSBY uhn.” I paused, to be certain, then I asked, “Touch me where?” Just then, she pulled the left side of her pajama top down past her shoulder and revealed a smooth, honey-colored nipple that looked a lot like mine. I was nervous, but treasured the peek. Mona added, “You never kissed a girl before?” I responded, “No.” The two older girls then began kissing each other in a way I had seen grown-ups do. Wet sounds. Heads bobbing side to side. Hands grasping each other’s backsides. As they pulled apart, they laughed and laughed. As abruptly as this playful incestuous affair began, it ended when Scooby said, “Let’s go outside.” The three of them ran to their bedroom, as I stood near the doorway peeping around the edges of a psychedelic curtain, hoping to catch a glance. I wasn’t interested in outside. I wanted one of the girls to offer an invitation, a dare, anything that would lead to my lips pressed against theirs. Moments later, they reappeared dressed for playtime in the streets. As Mona dragged me by my wrist through the kitchen and out the backdoor, they all acted as if nothing had happened. For them, that display was amusing. For me, it was serious—although I felt neither violated nor afraid. Once outside, I saw Darryl and his big sister zooming across the black tar on their metal skates, oblivious to my new fascination. Darryl’s insistence that the sisters show me a good time without all that “dyke-y girl stuff” had been delightfully marred by a slightly raised nipple and soap opera-quality kiss. He would never know that his summons for me to befriend the neighbors was the lead-in I needed to learn that a girl touching other girls is not bizarre. That they were sisters touching and kissing one another was only mildly peculiar to me because I had, at that time played “house” with other boy cousins, rubbed pants with them a little, and flirted with the tang of their tongues inside my cheeks. At five, six, and seven, you explore with people you know and trust. Scooby and her sisters moved from the neighborhood not long after they arrived. I had not been to my grandmother’s home for a few weeks, so I had no idea they planned or had packed to leave. I had, however, thought much about other parts of ourselves we could explore together someday. As a little girl, years before I came to know the meaning of “lesbian,” “bisexual,” queeridentified,” and “sexual politics,” I searched for girls like them at school and in my own neighborhood. Months after new tenants moved into that brooding brown building catty-corner to my grandmother’s house, I still hoped the sisters had forgotten something and were on their way back to retrieve it— or me. Alas, I would never see them again. I would also not explore sexual pleasure with girls until I was a senior in college. Before age 21, there would only be peeks across locker rooms during gym or between costume changes at the theater. 12
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NANDI SOJOURNER CROSBY On the day of my grandmotherâ€™s funeral in 2006, the procession rode down her street to glance one last time at the mint-green house where my cousins and I amused ourselves with tar-packed soda tops and makeshift checkerboards. As our cars approached her street, my cousins were undoubtedly reflecting on how Grandma Queenie provided them with the freedom to just be kids. I glimpsed over to the dispirited cocoa-colored apartment building on the corner, now charred and forsaken, and I smiled a half invigorating smile, thinking about innocence lost there and how much of myself I found the day the sisters invited me in.
So to Speak
From the installation Covert Autobiography Bound Unbound Archival inkjet on silk, cotton fibers, aluminum, fluorescent lighting. 8â€™h 14
So to Speak
IVAN DE MONBRISON
Untitled Ink and acrylic on paper
So to Speak
Wake Up You Sleepyhead Wake up be with Mommy put on clothes Mommy picked out for you let Mommy lay on your shoulder let Mommy brush your hair Mommy’s mad at your dad you know how he is Mommy’s sad your daddy’s such an asshole he never listens nobody pays attention to Mommy nobody ever does what Mommy asks so Mommy’s the villain now Mommy did something wrong Mommy hates this world Mommy’s sorry she yelled at you Mommy loves you, she does whatever you say.
So to Speak
After Hours Mommy fed you with the breast don’t I deserve your love for that tell me what you know why don’t you talk more it’s good to hear your voice Mommy always wants to help show Mommy what you’ve learned on piano tell Mommy how many lines there are on the staff let’s call your grandmother tell her how many lines tell her you love her tell her what you are learning in school you never tell Mommy anything.
So to Speak
Parting by Comb Head back for Mommy let Mommy check for lice your friend Kathy stole some money off the dresser you’d tell me if you knew she did it Mommy doesn’t want you to lie please don’t lie to Mommy you’ll hate Mommy when you’re older you’ll turn on Mommy though Mommy loves you knows you are good knows you wouldn’t lie knows you would never use another girl’s hairbrush.
18 So to Speak
Women’s Box 8”h x 4”w x 4”d Fabric, wood, shoe string
So to Speak
1820s French Fashion When the first giraffe went to France fashion really extended itself Women sat on the floors of their carriages to accommodate their hairdos held aloft with wire scaffolding And hats were high in homage to the elegant neck of the fine creature who came from the South continent on a ship rumored to have had a hole cut through the deck to accommodate her upright passage from Egypt. She walked from Marseille to Paris in forty-one days, wearing stylish boots and a cape, to parade through throngs of admirers, 30,000 people gathered in Lyon to see her graceful amble. The craze lasted only through her youth, a few years of high hats and hair of wallpaper and lampshades and porcelain patterns spotted like her skin and then she lived the remainder of her eighteen French years as part of the royal menagerie, never saw another like herself again. And if she were making her stroll today would the paparazzi cause her to stumble in her even taller boots and would images of her loveliness show an even longer airbrushed neck? Would we extend her eyelashes and cap her teeth, leave her looking to a sky void of leaves to preserve her girlish figure in a landscape lacking companions? Would we romanticize her peerlessness, distorting that which we admire until it can do nothing but admire us back? 20
So to Speak
Sad consolation for the isolation it takes to be a thing of beauty, so long ago removed from home.
So to Speak
From the installation Mafia Swimwear Untitled Solid steel brassiere 7”h x 13”w Untitled Solid steel thong 7”h x 11”w x 5”d Untitled Solid steel heels 10”h x 13”w as arranged
So to Speak
Vanilla Flowers Her neck was warm, smelled of Vanilla Flowers. Was that before we made love, or after we showered together? I can’t remember. Was it after I saw her reading out loud in the park from a red notebook, her pen suspended above the words? Her voice carried like a song. Or was it after we kissed hello, both cheeks, two business women meeting in the café? Or it could have been the day when we found each other on the city bus and, looking across the aisle, compared haircuts and handbags and asked each other how we had been doing since high school. Was that before we knew for sure, but suspected, the burning that came after? And the cool water over long wet hair flowing down her back while we soaped each other, slowly. I can’t remember. The park and the red notebook might have been from years ago when I followed her as she left her house next door, in the pre-dawn hours, to watch the sun rise over the lake, or feed the ducks crackers, or sit on the grass and write while I stood behind trees, watching, smelling the air, thinking of her neck. I told non-factual date locations to my parents while I spent the evening hiding in our parked car in the street watching her lighted window hoping for a view of her red hair and praying my father would not need to take the car out for more beer. Did I really do that? If it happened it was definitely before we both laughed and swore off lipstick and men and I began to wonder if she was looking at the scarf draped over my breast or at the shape of me under the knit dress. That was probably following the time on the bus and at the café having coffee. After we made love and after we showered together did we text from the bus home, friend on Facebook, and email before bed using love words we would never share with others? The next day at work, alone in my cubicle, my screensaver a globe turning in the dark of my windowless hole, I held my phone in my lap and texted again and again. She did not answer. On to the next person—that was her in high school too, one boy after another, but I thought it was boys, a category not right for us, and after we made love and before we showered together, she would be changed. Was she changed? After work and before I got on the bus home alone, I bought Vanilla Flowers and sprayed it on my neck, trying to recapture.
So to Speak
Thinking’s Deadly Leah’s boots crunched against the trail as it curved through aspens torched by autumn. She tilted her face to the sun’s needling heat, closed her eyes, and heard Galen die again. She saw his sprawled body fall past the frozen waterfall. From his red harness, cinched across his parka and pants, trailed slack, purple ropes. His metal-clawed boots kicked the air, and the wind rolled his hair round his helmet’s edge. She turned away, just as she had that day. She’d not thought to cover her ears before he hit the frosty boulders. It was mid-morning, the busiest time in the coffee shop that she now owned alone. The Wired Bear was the hotspot for locals and tourists, famous for the bantering between its fearless athlete owners, and for Leah’s guffaw. A patchwork of photos from magazines like Powder, Rock and Ice, and Rapid papered the walls. Many of the pages were autographed by friends. Some featured Galen or Leah. It was the perfect business because afternoons, they’d closed shop and played. Friends ran the place now, had been running it for ten months. After the shock wore off, Leah’s parents, even her kid brother, had said, “How could he be so irresponsible?” But Leah didn’t regret Galen’s choice that day, or any day. The challenge of the ice when he ascended, the rapids when he kayaked, the chutes when he skied were what made Galen alive, and Leah had loved him alive. She had adored his hair askew, his smile wide with his crooked front tooth bumping his lip, and his eyes leaking adrenaline, had loved that risky countenance since the first moment they’d met. They’d been kayaking in May’s snowmelt, had vied for the same standing wave, paddled to a shoal to have words, and fallen headlong in love. He had always been a little better than her at every sport, and this pissed her off. He’d see her frustration and say, “You’re better looking and you’ve got more skill, babe, but thinking’s deadly.” Leah would swell with fury for hours, till she’d burst with a guffaw because he was right: when she took these risks, she needed to trust her body. Leah adored Galen so much she had not minded when she’d drifted into his shadow. She’d even stood in it as he fell, and then it had drawn tight beneath him, and there’d been that doughy thud. What Leah regretted was that Galen had left behind so little of himself. Nothing but clothes, photos, his kayak, five pairs of skis, and two bikes. He’d given her no jewelry, only gear. Her wedding band was a 24
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HEATHER SAPPENFIELD tattoo round her ring finger. After seven years of marriage, when she was 32, she’d spoken of children. He’d said, “We have all the time in the world, babe.” Did he realize his mistake as he fell? Did he think, There will be nothing left of me but stuff? What Leah had left was this trail behind their home. They’d hiked it together most days, and its cliffs, meadows, and creek were their sanctum. Her body clung to a narcotic sense of him as she moved along it now. Leah smoothed back hair that had escaped her ponytail. She knew she’d go home tonight and numbly open a can of soup, or crack spaghetti over a steaming pot, and stir it as the newscaster droned on. Friends would drop by. “You never laugh anymore,” they’d say. “When will you start kayaking again? Or climbing? Or skiing? Come to the Wired Bear tomorrow.” “Soon,” she’d lie. “Galen,” she said now and cupped her face in her hands. She felt if she could just cry, she’d be freed from this margin. She hadn’t cried at the accident as their friends had said, “Ah, God! Ah, God! Don’t look, Leah!” They had dialed 911. Rescue workers had carried away his body. Steps scuffed from down the trail. Leah moved into yellowed wheatgrass and scarlet-tinged Oregon grape and pretended to scan the cliffs. She hoped this wasn’t someone she knew. The hiker passed, she turned, and the spread of his shoulders, the narrowness of his hips, the muscling in his calves, the gentle curl at the ends of his hair—stop! Yet the way he moved. Leah reminded herself of Galen’s memorial, held at the top of the ski mountain, 300 people gathered to acknowledge his death. She had stared dry-eyed, arms rigid at her sides, turning from them as she forced back that sound. She started up the trail, keeping a discreet distance, and telling herself she was hiking up anyway. Her heart quickened because in the hiker’s stride, in the swing of his arms, was Galen. Her eyes blurred, and then he was Galen. She moved faster, got close enough to touch his back. He glanced over his shoulder, and he was not Galen. Leah mashed her eyes with her fists. A squirrel darted to a pine, scampered up, and chattered at her. Ahead, the trail bisected an avalanche chute strewn with boulders and wild roses, and the hiker disappeared round a bend. She squinted at the trees, the boulders, and the frost-singed asters, an addict clinging to reality. She inhaled moist dirt heated in the sun. “Take me with you, Galen, if you that’s what you want, but don’t drive me mad.” She spun and marched toward home.
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HEATHER SAPPENFIELD After a week, Leah returned to the trail. The sky was gray with snow clouds, but the air was warm. She paused to appreciate a stand of glowing aspens. Their leaves would not endure the coming storm. Their beauty would vanish, to be stored in roots below ground. She wriggled her toes. Leah ran. The rocks and ruts required small, quick steps, so she didn’t gaze down the curves or into the alcoves of trees, but focused on navigation. She reveled in the airiness of her steps, in how each knee’s lift made her feel lighter. She hadn’t had the energy to run in so long, and she sensed this was healing. She topped a rise and didn’t see the bear. The northern breeze clacked through the leaves. It carried her scent in the other direction and drowned out her steps, so the bear didn’t see Leah either. She tried to stop, reached out, and her fingers disappeared in fur. The bear wheeled, bounced twice on its front legs, and lunged. She felt the pads of its paws on her shoulders as she flew backward and landed against a wide stone. Its claws pierced her chest. So this is how it happens, she thought. She saw her ghostly reflection in the beast’s beady brown eyes. They regarded one another for seconds, an eternity. The bear snorted, its head snapping down, its weight compressing her chest like resuscitation. It hopped off, hustled to the side, and studied her. Finally, it snorted again and sauntered away. It glanced over its shoulder three times. Leah lay still and watched the bear, the backs of her fingers flattening cool grass, her palms still feeling its fur. She inhaled against the pain in her chest and smelled a feral scent she recognized as her own. She looked at the sky and barked one, bleak laugh.
* Leah woke on the couch and still felt the bear looming over her. Her skin was slick with sweat, and she tasted fear. Each night since the encounter, her wispy reflection in the bear’s eyes had lured her toward a cold, rocky place. She got up, peeked through the curtain, and saw snow falling in the pre-dawn light. She walked to her dresser and pulled out clothes to go slog through her soreness on the bike path. Each day, she’d forced herself to run, determined but failing to recapture that sense of healing she’d felt on the trail. Leah paused and leaned toward her dresser’s mirror. She bumped her fingers along the punctures on her chest. They curved up from her shoulders to her clavicle, then down, meeting in a dip over her heart, where the inside claws had been. At first, they’d been scab jewels in a bloom of purple, red, and yellow. As the bruises faded and the scabs scarred, they evolved into exquisite rose indentations. This scar necklace 26
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HEATHER SAPPENFIELD seemed a covenant, of what Leah did not know.
* The last scab fell away. In the stillest hours of that night, Leah woke and ambled, naked, to the chilly garage. They kept their truck outside because the garage was full of gear. Now, the kayaks, the skis, the bikes, the snowshoes, and the ice-climbing equipment seemed to watch her. She approached Galen’s kayak. It leaned against its rack. She caressed it, feeling each tiny bump of its rough plastic. Her fingers remembered Galen’s stubbly cheeks. She stroked each gouge made by the rocks he’d bashed, the rolls he’d survived. She studied her wedding band, and she felt her thirst for him spread to every pore. She imagined herself paddling into this spring’s churning runoff, maybe where they’d met, saw herself stab the water with her paddle and roll under. Her hair swirled in the current. She’d paddle, upside-down, so she’d never come up. She hugged Galen’s kayak, pressed her cheek against it, but inhaled its sharp, plastic smell. Her embrace became a clawing, and then her fingers pulled to fists. She punched the kayak, three jabs that scraped her knuckles, so she pummeled it with the sides of her fists. Her blows sounded like drums. The kayak fell to the floor, rocked high along its arced side, and whunked onto its bottom. She kicked it, not caring that her bare toes screamed, but it screeched only a few feet across the concrete. She gathered as much ice-climbing gear as would fit into her arms. The cold metal pressed against her breasts. She fumbled with the lid of the trashcan and dropped it in. I should sell this. This is wasteful, she thought, but she hefted all the gear, three loads, to the trash. Her snowshoes hung on the wall beside the can. She lifted them down and brought them inside for the morning.
* One person had tracked out the trail, and on those footprints lay two inches of new snow. Vegetation lumped and poked through in reds, greens, and yellows. Leah tugged her hat low over her ears and relaxed into a jog, her steps wide to accommodate her snowshoes. She scanned the trunks of aspens and the shadowed pines for movement. As Leah approached the place where a month ago she’d met the bear, she slowed to a walk. She brushed off the stone and studied it. She matched the sore places in her back to its shape. As she imagined the scene, she brought her hand to her coat and traced her necklace of scars, feeling each memorized bump. Rose-hip-tipped branches reached over the stone, and she realized the bear must be hibernating. “Sweet dreams,” she said. So to Speak
HEATHER SAPPENFIELD Leah resumed jogging. She passed the bend where she’d seen the hiker who resembled Galen and continued to the spot where she’d let him go. The same squirrel chattered at her from the same tree. “Keep my secret,” she said. “You’re the only one who knows I’m crazy.” The word crazy seemed to float before her, and she swatted at it. She thought of how good it felt to punch Galen’s kayak, to throw away that gear. Galen was right: it was time to trust her body. She ran down, each step cushioned and sliding in the way she loved. She abandoned herself to it, motoring along, hopping over rocks and logs, and energized by resolve. Bear tracks crossed the trail. It took Leah five steps to stop. Veiled by fresh snow, their depressions led the direction her bear had gone when she’d watched it saunter away. She searched a sky so blue it made her squint, and felt her violence against Galen’s kayak in her knuckles. She stepped into the bear’s tracks and smelled her own acrid scent again. Her snowshoes sank awkwardly in the prints, and she worked to maintain her balance. Within a minute, she was breathing hard. She followed the tracks through a stand of spruce and down a gentle slope to an icy creek. She peered along its gurgling course, spied two downfallen logs, and navigated toward them through bowed sedges. The logs were narrow, but Leah inched her snowshoes along their bark to the watercresslined bank. On this side of the creek, the bear’s tracks were purposeful, straight, as they climbed the valley’s north wall. Their path curved around a majestic spruce, ascended to a ledge against a cliff, and disappeared into a cave. Leah stood, her breaths heavy from the ascent and her limbs numb with apprehension. On the ledge, she gazed out over the valley, could make out one bend in her trail, and realized this bear had probably watched her and Galen hiking, had known them together. She knelt at the cave’s mouth and peered in. They’ll never find my body, she thought, and, I wish I knew more about bears, then, Don’t think! She crawled through. The bear’s scent burned her nostrils, and she covered her nose. She kneeled and waited for her eyes to adjust. Leah made out a fur crescent against the cave’s wall, and she retreated toward the bright hole behind her but stopped. She discerned its ribs rising and falling, heard torpid breaths, and matched her breathing to them. The cave was almost warm. She pulled off her gloves and inched closer, lifting her toes, so her snowshoes wouldn’t scrape. She reached out and brushed her fingers along the tips of its fur like wind through a wheatfield. She inched closer and lightly rested her hand on its flank, thrilled by her audacity. 28
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HEATHER SAPPENFIELD Galen would be proud, she thought as her hand rose on each inhalation. Even he wouldn’t have the guts for this. Beneath the bear’s fur was heat, and this was the first time she’d allowed herself to feel another being’s warmth since Galen. A buzzing surged through her. She saw Galen falling, but felt herself within him, felt wind against her own face, felt her limbs sprawled on the air, felt loose ropes tug on the harness, and gravity’s horrible pull. She saw the boulder-strewn ground approaching. The bear stirred, yanking Leah back to herself. She saw Galen land as that thud concussed her chest. All of her breath rushed out in one burning cough. She retreated, gulping panic and guilt at knowing that she did not want to die. On the cliff, she straightened, dizzy, blinded by whiteness. She fought a sob and stumbled. Her snowshoe screeched against stone. A grunt seeped from the cave. Another, and the sound of movement. Leah ran. Her snowshoes screeched and clanked. There was a bark like a surprised dog, and the rasp of claws. She sprinted around the spruce, cut the distance to her tracks by jumping off the cliff and sailed, arms windmilling. She somersaulted once, was up and sprinting. She heard the bear’s huffs, and the whoosh of its paws through the snow grow closer, closer, closer. Her foot stopped, but she sprawled forward, felt her snowshoe hinge beneath a paw. She twisted as she landed so that she faced the attack. She screamed, more animal than human, “Stop!” They were within an intimate boundary. The bear stepped back. It grunted, and then its mouth hung open, black lips flared to reveal fangs. “Stop!” She thrust her palm out like a traffic cop. “You know me.” She brought her hand to her chest and said, “You gave me some jewelry.” The bear lowered its head and swung it from side to side. It stepped from foot to foot as if dancing. Leah thrust her palm out again, and it plopped on its rear. It dropped its head low but forward, and Leah tittered. She twisted her foot back beneath her and unwound. “It’s over,” she said, this time to herself. She brushed off her torso, and her hand traced her scars. “Thank you,” she said and longed to reach out, to touch the flare of fur below its ear. Instead, she found her tracks. She glanced back three times, hoping to remember the bear’s texture. Three strides took her across the logs spanning the creek. She climbed the rise through the spruce. She ran down, a gentle gait, and felt how the trail’s contours seemed changed, seemed simply tinged by loss. She thought she must be radiating exhilaration. Tears, thickened by cold, blurred her vision. As she rubbed her eyes, she caught her toe on a root. She sailed and landed before she could get her arms in front of her. She bounced hard on her chest, plowing snow, two leaves, and a sparkling rock So to Speak
HEATHER SAPPENFIELD shard with her face till she skidded to a stop. It hurt like hell, and she had a bloody nose, but she was alive. Leah rolled, gasping, onto her back. She howled with laughter.
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From the installation We Won’t Play Nature to Your Culture Microscope Solar: 10 Handmade Papers Kozo, Abaca, linen and silk cocoons; worm-spun silk inlay Each 16” x 16”
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Mustang Sally Takes a Vacation Red rocks and cactus margaritas, blue-corn tamales and my own hot tub. For which I was so grateful last night after bouncing the rental down those switchbacks from Flagstaff. But it’s the vortices I came to see, the cloud ships and UFOs, bizarre, I know, but so far I’m undeterred. Though my first vortex was more snooze than buzz—it felt surreal— like that night we lay under the stars. I held her hand and we could feel the whole great earth turning under us, careening along its orbit, steadier than we turned out to be. So I’ll postcard ya on what comes next, be it little green men or prickly pear oblivion.
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Gra Dilseacht Cairdeas 4’h x 2+’w variably Metal, wood, artist-made cotton paper, tuille So to Speak
The Girl Desired Seen I stand on the dance floor, at the edge of a group of loud, drunk, college people; a guy near my shoulder is shouting into the ear of a girl who is drunk enough to think she’s bi. She’s been eyeing me for as long as she has been able to maintain focus; I am perfectly still while this shouting guy is bobbing up and down on his toes hard enough to make his shouts of “WHEN I GOT THE CAR...” sound like some demented yodel. I was lonely and had been feeling like hiding in a crowd to celebrate finishing another short story; perhaps it would help me get over my “postnot-published” jitters. I tried closing my eyes and concentrating on the DJ’s crap-rap, but the car guy was too loud for me to stay motionless any longer. I turned a little to try to edge by the bi-girl and get somewhere where I could just be still while the human atoms in the place vibrated around me. Over beside one of the posts holding up the upper balcony/VIP area, I found a few square centimeters where I could set up house. I leaned back against the simulated antique iron column, put my hands over my head, and arched into a stretch. Relaxing, I opened my eyes and there she was. My breath caught in my diaphragm and I began a slow cycle of hiccoughs. She was moving like an out-of-control dance cyborg; not doing that stupid robot bullshit, but her motions were so fast that they were one continual blur; and they were amazingly smooth. Not like a trained dancer moves smoothly, but wildly out-of-control smooth. I hadn’t noticed her before; what the fuck HAD I even looked at in this place? There was space around her; no one could have entered the bubble of energy she cleared around her. I saw a guy penetrate into her zone, and I watched his mouth move while she vibrated in her universe; he got closer, and reached a hand out to touch her shoulder, maybe figuring that at the speed she was moving, she probably didn’t notice how wonderful and hot he was. Her hand shot out and hit his forearm like a pile driver. His mouth shaped into a surprised grimace, and I could see him mouth the word “BITCH” at her and, clutching his damage, shuffle off, hunting for something easier to play his third grade tricks on. She rotated and spun and moved on in her circle of space; like my tongue moves in, well, in nobody, recently. That’s another cost to my life of sleepless scribbling for 24/7. She was soaking wet. Her grey top: ‘is that the top I had drooled over from Urban Outfitters?’ Her movements, and the sweat soaking it, made it near to impossible to tell for sure, but yeah, I’d lusted over that particular 34
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AMANDA GRAHAM top for weeks. Her black, skin tight jeans, riding so very, very low, showing quite a bit of her skin; almost as pale as my own. Spring would probably put color on hers; mine never would tan, only burn. Her hair was soaked too, and the perspiration was running off of her face. I could see her glisten from here. God, look at her, so wonderfully beautiful to me. My fetish for real noses with character tweaked me hard where I hadn’t had anyone tweak me in weeks. She was slowing now. Fast or slow song, she’d kept pace, driving the clots of cliques away from her space. Now, she was changing dimensions and shifting back into a presence on the floor. She stopped, and I could see her gasp for breath, standing with only her feet shuffling a bit, spent. The exhaustion was signaled in gasps and a growing laxness. Her sadness at having no remaining energy was clear and written on her face as though I had woven it there myself. She stared around her as though in a fugue, and that’s when I saw the eyes. ‘Fuck, those have to be contacts,’ I thought. ‘Wow.’ Her face settles and she focuses hard, searching the room. She sees something, stills a moment, and then shuffles toward a group at the bar behind me. I watch her move; God, she’s in agony. It shows so clearly to me. A group of guys she passes by makes some remarks to her, but she hears nothing. Focused only on her goal, she shuffles on. One of the party that she’s approaching, a girl in blue jeans and a sweatshirt, rises from her stool with two purses and a jacket in her hands. She approaches the standing girl, a slight smile on her lips, and I can lip read, “Hey, thanks, ready to go?” on her wonderful mouth from here. Having dated a deaf guy, back when I did guys, helped with my ‘crowd story background searches.’ I’d made friends with his mother, and maintained that friendship long after I’d decided that he and all other men were just not designed to scissor with. She takes the jacket offered her and scrunches her face up. Shrugging, she turns and heads toward the large doors at the front of the place. Pulling her arms around herself, with her purse and jacket clutched tight to her, she fits herself carefully through the people in front of her. Walking away, I watch the movement in her wet shoulders and back. God, she’s beautiful. Her friend turns and waves to the group at the bar; they wave back and I see, “Love you girl,” mouthed at the girl I’ve been watching. She raises her hand weakly and gestures, a tired smile issued. The two of them turn, and she takes the arm of her friend, who leads her toward the front exits. As they pass the same group of males that mouthed their cumon wit at her, I see one lean toward another and mouth, “Lezbo dykes.” I watch as the two enter the crowd, and they are lost to my sight. So to Speak
Bridge I had finished a piece and turned it over to an agent, knowing that the audience for my stuff had shrunk incredibly since the news had leaked out. The row over who and what it was that had written the work were loud and angry, and neatly divided the entire literary community that had, so far, swooned over my tales and my sorrows. There were whispers in different shadows about who was real, and if so, who was it, and did she really, and why. Those voices were in every gossipy writers’ group. And so here I was again, in the club where it had neatly begun almost two years earlier; she was still in my mind, every day, while I wandered and watched; but then mostly at night, when my Macbook Air was charged and on a bar, or in a booth, or just on my thighs. I’d little hope of actually seeing her again, or of anything approachable happening if I did. I’m far too, well, to be honest, ‘shy me’ to expect that; but still, where the heart lingers, it hopes. I picked the Gzhelka Vodka on ice up from the bar and downed its three ounces quickly. The sliver of lemon peel glued itself to my outer bottom lip. The vodka neatly peeled the film off my eyes and loosened my sinuses; I held back the urge to sneeze or cough or shout that always accompanied my vodka-fueled efforts to numb myself. The tall, red-headed girl with the triple lip piercings looked at me from behind the bar and said, “Fuck, are you okay?” My eyes welled up heavily and overran; I hurried to mutter hoarsely, “Yeah fine thanks,” and wiped my eyes. The redhead reached under the counter and her long fingers, tipped with OPI black lacquered nails, reappeared, holding a pink Kleenex in them. “Here, honey, give it time and you’ll feel better.” I nodded and tapped the rim of my glass for the third time since I’d sat down. I have this thing about noses, and my own is no exception; I hate, absolutely hate, blowing my nose where others can see. As a child in elementary school, I had once done so, with the horribly humiliating result of having snot on my hair when I turned around. Since the age of ten, I had never cleared my sinuses within view of another human; so, cautiously, I looked around, found a close-by little niche where I couldn’t be easily observed, and blew. I wadded the Kleenex, feeling quite awesome and full of Russian vodka-bred strength, turned, and there the girl was, in the crowd. She, like most, is taller than I am, probably by as much as five inches or so, and in heels, she’d be even more a graceful giraffe to my more, hmmm, well, to me. I love heels and delight in wearing them, but suffer from that affliction that many people who attempt to ice skate disastrously discover themselves victim to: weak ankles. So, outside of a bed, it’s flats, 36
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AMANDA GRAHAM boots, flip-flops, sandals, multipurpose exercise shoes, or Doc Martens steeltoed short boots for me. I think my feet had been happiest when I worked security and wore a pair of stupid and unattractive black crepe-soled utility shoes for ten hours a day. Those cheap shoes had been the most comfortable I’d ever slid my webbed toes into. I watched as she shed her utility coat and revealed her ‘Heavy Red, Broken and Unbound’ grey strap hoodie. Oh fuck, I’d lusted over that item for months, and was still dieting in hopes of eventually fitting into it. It was made for her, and she had her eyes shadowed to its same soot-grey shade. She had lovely eyes, a blue that had burned for entire ancient city-states; but it was her nose, and the shape of her face, that stung my heart so. I stood and watched as she began her ritual of motion to the music. I’m a better-than-adequate dancer, but this girl, she had danced in public before; it showed in her lack of self-concern, her abandonment to motion and sound. I worked my way back to my bar stool in time to keep a guy with close-cropped hair with the letters “SUXZ” carved into it on his occipital region from claiming my seat. ‘College rituals,’ I thought as I pushed him away from my stool. “Sorry,” he mumbled, and immediately leaned on the shoulder of a burly jock sitting on the stool beside me. I picked up my triple Gzhelka and slid around to watch the brunette in the crowd. I guessed that most dancers here had learned of her space requirements as there was no one within her spin- or push-range. Sipping the vodka slowly and teasing the lemon peel with my tongue, I considered my possibilities. Setting a course for one, I put my glass back on the bar, pushed it at the bartender, and said, “Toss this will you?” She nodded and threw the drink back in one long gulp. “Thanks doll,” she said. I nodded and moved into the crowd. The grey hoodie was tight on her, and I could see the strength in her movements through it. She was about five inches taller than me, wearing a pair of ‘Shrekh Wild Divas.’ My eyes were focused on the dark shade of red on her luscious mouth. She had her lips in a sort of tight grimace at the moment, and her body seemed to burn while she reached, and moved, and twisted, and turned, and stretched her arms out in a grasp that suddenly met my tits full on. Her eyes focused and she spun down quickly, focusing suddenly on my being there, in her zone. “Love the shoes,” I mumbled. She laughed loudly, a strong, full-on laugh with no hesitation or shyness to it. “Me too!” she shouted; and she began to let the music into her again. I returned the courtesy and began a slow set of moves that a Romanian friend had taught me. The Romanian girl had spent years perfecting an entire life’s worth of yoga and belly dancing moves and motions, and I’d never had a hope of equaling her abilities; but the Romanian had paid a dear price for her ability, and I’d had no desire to lose that much of myself to something So to Speak
AMANDA GRAHAM other than the loom I was constructing in my mind and its wonderful, woven threads of words. The brunette watched me as I began to move along with her, adding to her motion and not conflicting with it, suggesting with my hips and hands what might be possible, and my hair, unbraided, loose, and flowing, and moving my presence even closer to her. She seemed suddenly open to the options I offered, and her moves calmed and grew into mine; she was so fast at picking up what I could contribute to her dance. I was jealous of that ability. My Romanian friend and lover had spent months getting me to learn just twenty of the proper seducing motions. I was beginning to heat up. My light hoodie was still zipped, and I felt the moisture under my arms and between my breasts tickle as it ran down. I stopped and looked at her, and she suddenly was awkward, and slowed, unevenly, to look closely at me. “I’ve seen you watch me here before. I remember you.” I nod and try to become interesting. “Yes, can we?” and I motion toward a table. “I know who you are, I’ve heard of you. You’re that writer that everyone talks about.” I feel my face, usually so pale and white, burn, and know that I look like some child caught with her mother’s wallet in her hand. “Umm yeah, that’s what they say about me.” She frowns, looks down at my Doc Martens, smiles, looks up, and steps close. “No; it’s not going to happen this way.” She raises her hands to my shoulders, leans in close, and kisses me. I feel the soft skin of her lips, I smell her hair, the odor of her body beneath the light, sweet smell of a cologne or body wash or cream; the smell of tobacco and of some sweet, spice odor. My legs tremble, and the desire she’s imparted sits heavily between my thighs. I am so surprised. I haven’t closed my eyes, and so I am wide-eyed, looking into her partially-closed eyes; her irises are a corona blue edge to her expanded pupils, so deep and black and waiting for my open mouth to drink from. Suddenly, she pushes me, hard, and I’m sent staggering backward. I turn mid-stumble, and am banging into some plaid skirted girl who yells and shoves me into the body of the huge halfback she’s dancing with. My confusion rules; my mind is only on the brunette with that face and that mouth. I’m turning to see where she is now when the halfback bellows and pulls his arm back to plant his fist in the middle of my skull. I waste no time; all of this now is just a reflex learned in a shopping mall ten years or more ago, when a 300 pound crack head had withstood stun wand, fists, fingernails, and my flailing feet, and had hurled me onto a counter top. I neatly kicked the halfback between the legs, dropping him like a sack of boiled potatoes to the dance floor where he proceeded to barf up an evening’s worth of cheese fries, chicken wings with an unidentifiable sauce, and what seemed to be pieces of pineapple from a boat drink. His girlfriend 38
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AMANDA GRAHAM dropped to her haunches beside him, avoiding the stream of vomit still launching from his gob, and calling, “Bobby, Bobby baby.” I looked around, the girl of my dreams was nowhere, vanished, gone. I stood there stupidly while the bouncers from the back of the dance floor near the restrooms waded through the crowd toward me. I began to move toward the front entrance, scanning for her, when a tall, skinny black guy stepped into me. “No troubles babe, but you gotta go, yeah. My name’s Smiley; you just call me George, right? So, okay, you got all your stuff girl?” Still craning my head in circles, trying to find her, I nod mutely. Smiley takes my arm. Fuck, he’s tall and skinny and got damn big hands. “Okay, yeah, I’m ready.” And off we go, the crowd parting like he’s Moses and saving them all from me. “I know your face and name, read your first stuff, not sure about the poetry, but shit, that one that raised hell was fucking HOT!” I nod and sullenly allow him to lead me through the front entrance to the cold air outside. “Thanks,” I say. “No prob, Amanda. Come back again, it’ll be fine.” I stand in the lot for a while, cooling down and feeling like Dorothy in the first moments in Oz, before all the trouble begins, and with her salvation still so far down the road.
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1:11 A.M. PST I sit, waiting at the bar. As usual, the place is quiet at this time of night and day of the week; ‘Sundays,’ I sigh. “Another Ice Wine cocktail?” the bartender inquires. ‘Why are people always so mannerly and nice when there’s a buck to be made,’ I wonder. “Yeah, sure, sugar me up, Mister,” I say. He doesn’t smile. I’m not surprised. For a girl, I’m not a nice bit of fluff; and sitting here for 2 hours? I’m sure he is thinking, “Crack hoe” in his head. But I kept the tips coming, so no complaints. I look up and into the mirror; ‘Yeah, still there.’ I light a smoke, watching my dried, blood red nails handle the pack of Reds and the Zippo I carry to remember what ‘real’ men once were like in this world. Briefly, I remember a face, a white, open-collared blouse, red-blonde, shortly cut hair, a tattoo of twelve bars of music scrolling up a smooth-skinned bicep, and a girl’s voice saying, “For a skirt, you’re tough, sister.” But those days are gone. Now it’s all, “Do ya wanna fuck baby?” or “Can I give you a lift?” or “What ya workin on, on that computer, girl?” It’s always predictable, and never interesting. And the girls I long for are never much better to me; I suppose I’m not really the L-Word-type they all would spread their thighs for. God, it all was so easy once; if you could dance, the guys all formed a line to spin you around the floor; and if you wore red lipstick and had the right color of hair, the girls all wanted a bit of it too. I check my watch; God, another night like this; I might as well have gone to a twelve-step meeting; I might actually have gotten laid by someone. I watch as the gold second hand drags slowly across the soft golddusted face of the ancient Rolex that my father had worn so many decades before. It looks large for my wrist, but I love the weight of it. My hand blindly searches the surface of the bar and finds my wine glass; I lift it slowly to my lips. I hear the bell hung on the door to the bar, and then a quick, light breath of air from the street outside lays soft on my cheek. I smell the wet of a rain soon to come on the wind, and smile to myself, remembering what a lover had said once about our skin feeling so different against each other with the cold rainwater and our goose bumps. I hear a woman laugh gently, and I look up in the mirror. ‘God, I’ve seen her before,’ I think. I had danced with her once, but she’d shoved me away. Christ, she’s wearing my lipstick, and she’s with some guy who looks like a true burner. Internally, I roll my eyes, and realize, too late, that she’s been watching me in the mirror as I actually roll them. She and the burner park themselves at the bench and table against 40
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AMANDA GRAHAM the wall just behind me and to my right. The burner comes to the bar and stands a couple feet away, waiting for the bartender to look up. Customers at 1 A.M. are really of interest to him. I’ve asked him why the studied indifference, and been told that he’s always busy thinking about his prosthetic leg by this time of the day; told me his stump burns from ten hours of standing, and all he wants is to go back to his rooming house and let the lady who runs the place wrap it in a cold towel and kiss his face. I’m wishing I had a stump right now, if that’s what it takes. I tap the bar once with my Zippo, and the bartender looks up with a pained expression, sees the burner, and nods at me. “A scotch and soda for me, with ice in it; and an Ice Wine with berries if you can,” the burner says. He’s not bad-looking for a hobbit; I can smell the reefer on him from the eight feet that separate us; can’t tell in the mirror whether his girl has redeye or not. She’s pulling a pipe out of her bag, loading it with tobacco; her hands are strong-looking, a little thick-fingered, and I’m already wondering at what they’d feel like on me. I remember her from the dance bar across town now. My head is busy seeing all of the sliding, moving, hot, wet skin that I’d danced with. My heart is thumping hard, remembering the kiss and the promise of her lips as she’d kissed me a “No.” She’s striking a match and putting the flame to the tobacco, and in the red-yellow glow of the flame, and the smoke rising sinuously, I can see her eyes. They’re large and blue, and no, there’s no sign that she’s done anything but tobacco tonight; for some reason I’m relieved by that. I shake my head to try and separate its drumming needs from the someone sitting on the bench behind me, who’s not ever gonna slice through my loneliness. I stare at the wineglass in front of me: a slice of strawberry is slowly circling, and the Ice Wine is so thick and sugary-good that my tongue slides out and touches my upper lip and circles my mouth. I always remember a girl that I had truly, awesomely, wonderingly, loved when I have Vin Glacé like this; how its sweet flavor was so close to the honey taste of her that had been on my lips and tongue. And Oregon: how the fuck did they create it in a state with so little sun? The bartender has set the drinks for her companion on the bar top and stands waiting. The burner drops a fifty on the countertop and takes the glasses away. he looks at me strangely as he passes, probably wondering what the fuck I’m doing with an open Macbook Air on the bar top at 1:11 A.M. PST. I watch in the mirror as he walks carefully toward the booth and puts the drinks down; I can almost feel his sigh of relief that he didn’t spill any. His girl is still looking at me. Her smoke is drifting around, and I can smell it in my mouth now, an odd combination of cheap tobacco and some smooth candy or spice taste, some mix she’s put together for herself, something to touch her and put her in a place she likes. I wonder if she So to Speak
AMANDA GRAHAM remembers the shove she gave me, how I’d lurched into that guy and his bitch who were dancing behind me. How he’d pulled his arm back in a fist and how I’d planted my boot between his legs. His girl had squatted down on the floor trying to comfort him while he’d puked his fried pickles on the floor. I’d turned and looked for the blue-eyed girl who’s now smoking at the booth table, but she’d been gone by then; and I’d gotten a bum’s rush by ‘always smiling George,’ the tall, skinny, black bouncer. I’m feeling uneasy and unhappy, and damn horny, and like crying, and hating everything except the sweet mix of Ice Wine, strawberry, and that girl’s smoke in my mouth.
So to Speak
Closing On the dark, polished wood of the bar top, the piece of paper glows, square and white. Around it, the grain of the wood flows deep beneath its finished glow, as if movements of currents under the lacquer, where the larger creatures would lurk, waiting for some disturbance on the surface to draw them, in their strength and speed, to shine, scaled and silver, in a glistening display of their hunger. Taking what is their need. Near this abstract, square shape, a pair of abandoned drops of condensation from my wine glass curve magic, signaling the illusion of the lacquer and the burl beneath. The white of my finger’s skin is not quite a match for the absolute of the paper. My Sephora Caffeine Fix nails touch and spin the parchment. It is not notepad, not jotting tear-away, not desktop or copy machine or typing bail. It is a fragment of fine, heavyweight, contoured, watercolor stock, its surface a topographical map of some far off continent, some world once glimpsed but not explored. Its edges are not sliced or cut by scissor steel. Instead, they are rough-edged and torn by hand, like sheet linen on a bed, twisted and kicked until so frayed that it serves only to drift some notice to me of how passionate the lovemaking there had been. I watch my hand poised over the white of it, and then dropping to lift the frayed edge of the message. She had, in leaving the bar, paused so close I could feel the heat of her on my back and her wine-sweetened breath on my cheek, a soft odor of strawberries, and tobacco, and some unknown spice that was now how I thought of her, in this moment, before knowing would come. She had dropped the paper, and it had settled quickly with only the slightest of sounds, a soft shuttling of the air beneath its contact with the surface shine of bar. I had turned to look, and had seen her back as the burner she’d entered with held the door wide for her; his eyes were flat and spoke nothing to me of intent or expectation. The ink is black and the hand of the lettering firm and smooth, flowing across the contoured surface carefully and with speed, a clear, feminine form to the lettering taught in some elementary class, and practiced carefully day and night; her eye for appealing shape and control clear in each character’s precision. The ink rises above the surface of the parchment, not the ink of some casual plume or commercial laundry marker, now so commonly grasped to dash off a grocer’s list or after thought, or university note home. It is the ink of those who craft art, ink meant to stand out from the background, to become shape and not negative space. Its message is clarity, concise, and complete, and carries such power over me that my breath catches hard. The bartender looks up at me and So to Speak
AMANDA GRAHAM nods once, “On the tab will be fine. Go.” The single word that flows with such power on the paper, which puts motion to me, shines up: “Waiting.” She stands on the pavement, and her eyes are bright and open; blue, like tomorrow’s morning skies. They shine wet and sharp with points of light from around her. Her pupils are dark, like those pools of night tidewater I find when I wander her shores, touched by my toes to watch the ripples echo the moonlit clouds. The skin of the eyelid, among the thinnest and softest of the body, and containing the most pigment of any flesh, is shadowed dark and colored deep grey, running lighter on the upper lid. Her hands have labored with softest brush to do this art. My mouth will meet them and soft dust from them, like the powders of a butterfly, will coat my lips, and I will taste it. And her hair, so soft and floating brown, highlighted with strands of different golds, will coast and form around her on a linen pillow, where my arms and hands will wander and clutch, and it will slide gossamer through my fingers. And her arms are opening now, and I will fall into them, and we will roll and toss together like the great ocean along the shore. I will be held within them, now safe and carried and warmed, and lay upon her shoulder, its curve a sweet place my mouth will search and taste and curry favor in. And I am rushing to her, and crashing white and bubbled and foaming to touch and wash upon her. Her teeth are bright and delicious and my mouth is with hers; our lipstick’s flavor and color a match and joined together. My tongue, so pink and narrow at its tip, is between her lips and her teeth are on it, holding it in place, while her own tongue caresses mine. Her hands are on me now, and later they will explore and caress and communicate her desire; mine clutch her, pulling her tight against me. Our mammal skin, ours the only life so smooth and fragile and sensitive and needing the comfort of each other, fits together and shares our desire. And we embrace and breathe into each other and join, and in the morning we’ll wake and laugh and know that we have mingled and are now one. We will share and show and lift and carry each other, our moments stretched out like her legs, so long on the cream linen of her bed. Knowing the rush of time, we will open and present ourselves and know each other in manners that intimacy, as a word, does not confine. And her breath will quicken, and her body toss, and she will become me and I she. Those instants will join us, and in evenings, we will repeat this song. We run together now, moving faster, the sound of our steps echoing, and her door is open and we are inside each other, and the spice smell of her is in my mouth, and her legs wrap tightly; and we fit together in perfect motion. Her chest is heaving, and my breasts are gripped tightly, and I am lost with her and around her and she is all that there is and now, and now, and now. And we perspire, and we slide together and my hands are filled with longing, and 44
So to Speak
AMANDA GRAHAM my lips are filled with throbbing, and my legs part for her knee. And she leans back, and she cries out, and I feel like all of heaven has opened and lays in waiting for my heart to clutch at and draw it into me. And the flowers we will send, and the letters left on table tops in the sun, and the clothing we will wear, and the places we will be, and the oceanâ€™s roll and thunder, and the hooves upon the turf, and the leaves in wind and rain, and the sounds of sleeping children, and the taste of salt and berries, and the feel of you and me, are all that I desire, are all that I will ever be. And as the sun rises, behind the mountains above us, and lights the ocean, shore, and city, and as it lights your face and skin and eyes, and settles in my chest, and lights a place untouched by others, it settles in, and softly speaks, and whispers with my voice to you, moving air in patterns, like the foam left on the beach, beside the sea.
So to Speak
Playlist Music for The Girl Desired Seen –The Girl Desired Into through guy shouting Always ………………….. Birthday Massacre Moving like a cyborg Bliss………………………. Syntax Slowing now Linoleum ………………. Tweaker Friends and leaving Celebrate You………….Veruca Salt Fly…………………………..Veruca Salt Bridge Music –The Girl Desired Sitting at the bar with a drink Que Veux-Tu ……………….. Yelle The girl dancing Angel …………………………… Massive Attack Shove and Run Don’t Fake This…………….. Chevelle Tossed Every Time You Go………… Ellie Goulding 1:11 A.M. PST – The Girl Desired Intro, Fini and Credits Theme Fragile .............................. Sting Closing – Girl Desired Opening through final credits. Help Yourself...........Death in Vegas
46 So to Speak
LISA K. ROSENSTEIN
Creation Free form handmade netting of variable size. Nylon, cotton, acrylic. So to Speak
Café en Pioneer Square Hace cinco años tuve una tarde redonda. Desde adentro del café mirábamos el cielo bajo, colcha de algodón llena de sueños detenida entre los dedos de unas ramas en invierno. Desde adentro del café escuchábamos la flauta gris del viento y la danza callejera de las hojas, de las pocas que rondaban los primeros días de enero. Tuvimos una mesa redonda junto a la ventana y el aroma redondo del café sobre la taza. Café sin cafeína porque el vientre era redondo y también lleno de sueños y pesado como el cielo. En el círculo Gabriel y yo y algún recuerdo iluminado de repente, y afuera el lento paso de la niebla ocultando cosas: el tótem de Occidental Park, por ejemplo, del que sólo quedaron los augurios dispersos. Pero así relucieron los racimos de farolas sobre cada poste, sobre cada ensueño, redondas y claras sobre el parque y también llenas de sueños como el vientre y como el cielo. Y la tarde giró sobre su eje. Pensé en mi hijo que aún no nacía y en la parte de mi vida llegando al fin a su destino pero otra se me iba, la que yo había sido se alejaba. Quién viene ahora, preguntaba, yo de nuevo. Y sonreía. Y quizá la vida sea eso, la gracia de girar en la espiral del tiempo, quizá la vida es redonda y también llena de sueños y de círculos que cierran al abrirse otros y de racimos de lo que hemos sido y lo que seremos y volveremos a ser y ya no somos y todo en la vida es un vestigio luminoso aunque a veces esté a medio vislumbrar, como en la niebla.
So to Speak
Cafe in Pioneer Square Five years ago I had a round afternoon. From inside the cafe we were watching the low sky, a cotton bedspread thick with dreams and caught upon the fingers of the winter branches. From inside the cafe we were listening to the gray flute of the wind and the street-dance of the leaves, of the few that remained on the first days of January. We had a round table by the window with the full aroma of the coffee from our cups. Coffee without caffeine because my belly was round and also full of dreams and heavy as the sky. In the circle Gabriel and I and a memory suddenly lit, and outside the slow step of the fog was hiding things: the totem of Occidental Park, for example, of which remained only scattered signs. But the clusters of lamps on each pole were glowing, above every dream, round and clear above the park and also full of dreams like my belly and the sky. And the afternoon turned on its axis. I thought of my son who was not yet born and of the part of my life arriving finally at its destination, but another one was leaving, the one I had been was going away. Who is coming now? I asked. Me again. And I smiled. And perhaps life is that: the grace of turning in the spiral of time; perhaps life is round and also full of dreams and of circles that close at the opening of others, and clusters of all we have been and will be and will be again, and we are not any longer and all in life is one bright trace though sometimes difficult to discern, as in the fog.
So to Speak
MELISSA JAY CRAIG
Self 18” x 13” Kozo drawing
So to Speak
MELISSA JAY CRAIG
You Never Know Approximately 18” x 13” Kozo drawing
So to Speak
CONTRIBUTORS JEANNE ALTHOUSE lives in Palo Alto, California. In addition to So to Speak, her flash fiction has been published in various journals including Opium, Pindeldyboz, Temeros, Flashquake, Literary Mama, PIF Magazine, Rumble, Q Review, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. Her longer stories have appeared in the Madison Review, the Stanford English Department Newsletter, The MacGuffin, Redlands Review, Porter Gulch Review, Written Wardrobe, and Red Rock Review. She is a finalist in the 2012 Bevel Summers Contest at Shenandoah; her story will be published in the fall. ELEANOR LEONNE BENNETT is a 15-year-old British photographer whose work has shown internationally and been published in British, American, French, and Canadian media. Most recently her work was displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus global exhibition tour, See The Bigger Picture. See more at www.eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com. MATTHEW BRENNAN (Olympia, Washington) completed his M.F.A. in fiction in 2010 from Arizona State University. He is a novelist, translator, short-fictionist, screenwriter, and freelance editor, and his short fiction has received several awards and fellowships, including Colgate University’s Lasher Prize. His work has appeared in dozens of journals, including The Superstition Review and The Copperfield Review, most recently in Pure Slush, Fiddleblack, The Eunoia Review, and Recess Magazine. Brennan’s translations of Margarita Ríos-Farjat’s poetry are forthcoming from Two Lines. Formerly a prose editor for the Hayden’s Ferry Review, he remains on staff with the journal as an associate editor, and is an assistant fiction editor with Speech Bubble Magazine. As a writer, teacher, and administrator, Matthew has traveled to five continents, and in addition and contribution to his writing, he has done both mission and archaeology work in Latin America. See more at http://matthewbrennan.net. CYNTHIA BROWN-MILANS is a former jeweler, holding art degrees from the Corcoran College of Art + Design and Florida International University. Her creative metals work involves welding, large-scale casting, mold making, wax modeling, and acid washes. New work is in fast-curing resins and semi-precious metal finishes. With Mafia Swimwear, steel worked into soft alluring women’s wear is Brown-Milans’ way of poking fun at chauvinist ideas and feminist concepts of beauty and self. See more at http://chasingrepousse.blogspot.com.
So to Speak
CONTRIBUTORS MELISSA JAY CRAIG is a nationally-known artist, sculptor, book artist, teacher, and lecturer. Her work pioneers hand-formed paper as an independent sculptural medium and narrative installation mechanism. She works with handmade paper specifically for its minimal environmental impact, versatility, variety, and deceptive strength versus perceived fragility. She lives in Chicago. See more at www.melissajaycraig.com. DR. NANDI SOJOURNER CROSBY is a native of Baltimore, Maryland who graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Clark Atlanta University, and Georgia State University. Currently, she is a Professor of Sociology and Multicultural Studies at California State University, Chico. Her activist and academic focus is social inequality, and her courses range in theme: multicultural feminisms, ethnic and race relations, popular culture, prison industrial complex, and African American studies. She has deep passions for researching and writing about social inequality—and for promoting the voices of marginalized women, prisoners, and not-formallyeducated persons. As editor of the anthology of prisoner writings called, This Side of My Struggle and founder of Soul.Journer Press, Dr. Crosby is committed to creating a life that examines personal struggle, and engages with truth, and social change. KIMBERLY DARK is a writer, mother, performer, and professor. She is the author of five award-winning solo performance scripts, and her poetry and prose appear in a number of publications. For more than ten years, Kimberly has inspired audiences in fancy theatres, esteemed universities, and fabulous festivals. She tours widely in North America and Europe, anywhere an audience loves a well-told story. The Evening Echo in Cork, Ireland says, “The balance between objectivity and intimate analysis certainly gives Dark an edge and has made her a force to be reckoned with on every level.” The Salt Lake Tribune says, “Dark doesn’t shy away from provocative, incendiary statements, but don’t expect a rant. Her shows, leavened with humor, are more likely to explore how small everyday moments can inform the arc of our lives.” The High Plains Reader in Fargo, North Dakota says, “Dark’s skill as a storyteller gets to your heart by exposing hers.” See more at www. kimberlydark.com. IVAN DE MONBRISON is a French artist whose work chases the human figure in a distorted way as he pursues the meaning of art, whether it is religious, and how its use has changed from the days of Bacon and Giacometti to contemporary technology-drenched culture. See more at http://artmajeur.com/blackowl. So to Speak
CONTRIBUTORS ELSABE J. DIXON is a South African-born artist who uses live organisms, in particular Bombis Mori and the process of sericulture, to construct sculpture and fiber installation work. Practicing the craft of producing or processing silkworm fiber within a personal and historical context, these pieces are from her recent installation, We Won’t Play Nature to Your Culture. See more at www.readingsilk.com. MARTA FERGUSON’s chapbook Mustang Sally Pays Her Debt to Wilson Pickett was published by Main Street Rag in 2005. Recent work has appeared in Spillway, Bluestem, and Alligator Juniper. She is the sole proprietor of Wordhound Writing & Editing Services, LLC, and has a manuscript making the contest rounds. AMANDA GRAHAM has lived in a variety of places, from her birthplace in Ogden, Utah, to Florida, to England, and then to Arizona. Throughout her life, she has held a number of jobs: security guard, clerk in a porn shop, adult web cam girl, housekeeper for the disabled, support technician for a coven of online-poker-playing Mormons, fetish model, waitress at a Waffle House, denizen of the seedy underbelly of the Phoenix Valley of Death, and hopefully, successful writer. Amanda splits her time between New York City and the Washington, DC area caring for an old friend. KENDALL KARAM is completing a doctorate at Morgan State University in the Department of Advanced Studies Leadership and Policy, Urban Education. There, she is writing a curriculum which integrates math, space, and painting. See more at www.curvedspacegeometry.com. JASMINE MURRELL’s work is often involved with the search for new and innovative perspectives on our relationship to consumable objects. With Women’s Box, she challenges the contemporary conception of perfection, which is limited to modern trends of youth, beauty, and sexuality. She is completing her M.F.A. at Hunter College in New York, and lives in Brooklyn. See more at http://jasminemurrell.com. JACOB OET lives in Solon, Ohio. He is the author of two chapbooks of poetry: Metamorphosis (Kattywompus Press) and Peeling the Apple (NightBallet Press). Jacob’s poetry appears in cream city review, Illuminations, Yemassee, Straylight, and Sugar House Review, among others. His awards include the 2011 Younkin-Rivera Poetry Prize and the 2011 Ohioana Robert Fox Award. 54
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CONTRIBUTORS ELIZABETH PATTEN’s primary medium is sculpting and printing on paper made by hand. Her pieces utilize texture, strength, delicacy, and variations in shrinkage while incorporating additional mediums to make statements into what she describes as the unknown. She holds degrees in education and printmaking from George Mason University, and lives and works in Fairfax, Virginia. ANNETTE POLAN is Professor Emeritus from the Corcoran College of Art + Design, and an internationally known portraitist, teacher, and lecturer for more than 30 years. Her work interprets the portrait as narrative, and extends into video and site-specific installations. In 2005, she was awarded the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Outstanding Public Service Award for her founding of Faces of the Fallen, an exhibition of 1,323 portraits donated by 230 American artists honoring servicemen and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq. See more at www.annettepolan.com. MARGARITA RÍOS-FARJAT (Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico) is an Attorney at Law with a master’s degree in tax law; she was admitted in Mexico in 1996. As a poet, she was a fellow at the Nuevo Leon Writer’s Centre (1997-1998), and the winner of the following contests: Literatura Universitaria (University’s Literature, 1993), Poesia Joven de Monterrey (Young Poetry of Monterrey, 1997), and Nacional de Ensayo Juridico (National Contest of Juridical Essay, 2000). She is the author of several juridical publications, and two books of poems: Si las horas llegaran para quedarse (If the Hours Would Come To Stay, 1995), and Cómo usar los ojos (How To Use the Eyes, 2010). Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies in Mexico and many magazines, some of them of national distribution. She is also a regular Op-Ed contributor to Monterrey’s leading newspaper, El Norte. LISA K. ROSENSTEIN works in a monochrome focusing on composition, texture, and narrative. Her works are an exploration of the passage of time, attachment and detachment, control and release. Her studio is at the Street Artists Studios in Washington, D.C. See more at http://lisakrosenstein.com. HEATHER SAPPENFIELD ’s stories have won the Danahy Fiction Prize at the Tampa Review and the Arthur Edelstein Prize for Fiction at The Writing Site. She has received Honorable Mentions for the Bear Deluxe’s Doug Fir Award and Gemini Magazine’s Short Short Story Contest and been a finalist for many other awards. In 2011, she received a Pushcart So to Speak
CONTRIBUTORS Nomination. Her stories have appeared in Meridian, Limestone, and Shenandoah. Her interview with Bonnie Jo Campbell appeared in the May 2012 issue of The Writerâ€™s Chronicle. She lives in Vail, Colorado, with her husband and daughter, where she tries, not always successfully, to balance writing and normal life. MEDEIA STARFIRE grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, and now lives in Seattle, Washington. Her work recently appeared in Peregrine, PMS poemmemoirstory, and Dark Sky Magazine.
So to Speak