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♦ Table of Contents ♦ The Etowah Valley issue (a word from Donna Coffey Little) .......................................... 3 Editor’s Note: What’s in a Name? (Casanova Green) .......................................................5
Prose Krista Shaw ...................................................................................................................... 6 Amy Puckett McGee ..................................................................................................................................... 11 Tina Morris ..................................................................................................................... 14 Brandi Price .................................................................................................................... 16 Dr. Pam Wilson ............................................................................................................. 20 Samantha Canuel ........................................................................................................... 23 Barbara Jones Newey .....................................................................................................27 Stephanie Autry ............................................................................................................. 30
Photography Joey Klouda ................................................................................................................... 33
Poetry William Walsh ................................................................................................................ 41 Val Featherston.............................................................................................................. 42 Maria Klouda ................................................................................................................. 45 Bonnie Medford ............................................................................................................. 46 Katie Fesuk .................................................................................................................... 48 Cassidy Richards.............................................................................................................53 Bo Higgins ..................................................................................................................... 56 Casanova Green .............................................................................................................. 61
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The Etowah Valley issue It is July, it is 97 degrees out, and twenty people are traipsing through the winding paths of Westview Cemetery in Atlanta. They have come from all over Georgia, from Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, even Maine, and they have come to read the names on gravestones, to decipher the meaning of stone angels, stone lambs, stone pillows. They have come to marvel at the massive magnolia and cedar trees, the bizarre water tower, of this curious cemetery. They are writers. They want to know, who are the people whose bones rest beneath this earth? Their guide, writer and historian Jeff Clemens, shows them the miniature stone houses, some overgrown with ivy, where the wealthier families inter their family members and sometimes visit them. Peering in the windows, they see easy chairs, televisions, tables set with plates and silverware. Jeff tells them that Atlanta’s gypsies own many of the elaborate vaults. He tells them about Atlanta’s Irish horse traders, about Asa Candler, Jr., the eccentric Coca Cola heir who once owned the cemetery and kept a menagerie on the grounds. He shows them the memorial for the Civil War Battle of Ezra Church, which took place on the grounds. And he shows them the African-American portion of the formerly segregated cemetery, where the graves are not marked, overgrown with kudzu. He brings them to the cemetery’s vast mausoleum, a Gothic abbey in the heart of Atlanta, corridors lined with plastic flowers adorning drawers full of skeletons. Sweat runs down their face, their necks, their backs. Their clothing is damp and sticking to them. Inside the mausoleum, it’s hard to breathe. But they are writers, and they want to absorb it all, the panorama of gravestones and trees, the stories of the cemetery’s inhabitants, the grotesque grandeur of the mausoleum. Afterwards, they write. In stories and poems, they bring to life what they saw at Westview Cemetery and other places they have visited. It is the poetry of place, and the stories of place, that they pursue. They are the writers and students of Reinhardt University’s Etowah Valley Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing, a program whose motto is “Story and Place in the New South.” They are black and white, male and female, straight and gay, united in their identity as writers interested in wrestling with the legacies of Southern history and the beauty of Southern landscape. 3|One – MFA Issue (The Blue Mountain Review)
Like the Southern Collective Experience, they are redefining what it means to live in the South. They are curious and brave in writing their truths and their stories. I am privileged to be the Director of the Etowah Valley MFA, and deeply grateful for the writers featured in this special issue of Blue Mountain Review. I am deeply grateful as well for the friendship between the Southern Collective Experience and the Etowah Valley MFA. I hope you enjoy this issue and join our common quest to notice where we live and to dig deep to find and tell the stories of the people who lived here and of the land itself. - Donna Coffey Little
4|One â&#x20AC;&#x201C; MFA Issue (The Blue Mountain Review)
Editor’s Note: What’s in a Name? While wandering through trails to clear my mind one abnormally warm February day, I looked at my phone and saw and email from Dr. Donna Little about the issue you are currently reading. It was asking about the name for this publication. I quickly e-mailed her that I planned on reaching out to the group about a name that evening. Honestly, I knew that naming this issue would be difficult because it had to be the right name. This is the first of many and the name had to stick and capture the heart and personality of the program and the cohort itself. I sat on an old log waiting for some suggestion to come. Then, a cool breeze crossed over me and the name just came. I called her and said the name: ONE. Looking from the surface, the name ONE seems prideful. ONE implies the first, the ultimate, or the winner. ONE is a singularity that stands alone and needs no help. It is prime. It is perfect. For the Etowah Valley Low-Residency MFA Program at Reinhardt University, the definition of ONE has nothing to do with who is on top. For us, being ONE means working together, walking together, doing life together. We celebrate each other’s victories and grieve each other’s losses. We are a family spread out between Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Ohio who love and respect each other and our individual work. We do not compete but push each other to be our best. We are all cross-genre, crosscultural, and cross-experiential. This sense of oneness is not extended to just our classwork. I am typing this letter in the labor and delivery room waiting for my first child to be born. My cohort has been with me since the moment I found out we were pregnant- my wife called me during the Residency- and have been with us every step of the way. They have been a source of strength for me and my wife. During this process, they have allowed me to be vulnerable and taught me the importance of connection with a group of people. Over the past year, we all have experienced illnesses, loss, changes, and other life happenings and we have always been there for each other. I know of many writing programs that are fiercely competitive and people end up becoming apathetic about their craft. There is such a level of respect, care, and truth within this program, that you cannot help but want to become better. It is this safety that got me to take the step to join this program. If you are reading this and you are interested in being a part of our family, I would highly encourage it. This family has allowed me to grow from a reluctant writer who just teaches English to an excited poet and writer who has found his voice and love for writing and teaching again. Enjoy the first issue of ONE. - Casanova
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Krista Shaw Buoyed The heat stole the air from her lungs, too thick and hot to make breathing easy, so it was understandable that Bay found it difficult to focus on her great uncle’s funeral. As it turns out, she chose wrong when it came to mourning clothes. Most funeral homes south of the Mason Dixon came standard with air conditioning. She’d assumed the flowy black dress and matching floppy hat would work just fine. It was just like Randolph to want his funeral service in an abbey in the middle of an enormous cemetery. She’d learned that from an aunt, someone she was more familiar with. Of course he would want the grandest place he could find. It didn’t matter that he’d died during the late-June heat or that the majority of his family would be socially trapped in the abbey for the duration. It’s not like she’d even really known Randolph. She’d met him a few times when she was younger than ten. Honestly, she’d only flown in from Louisiana because she needed an excuse to ignore her job. The real estate market had tanked following Katrina, and the area was still doing its best to recover any sort of value. Turns out people are reluctant to move somewhere for years after a nationally-televised disaster. She needed a break from trying to sell houses on the grounds that they were haunted. She’d at least hoped to make something of her weekend excursion to Atlanta, maybe learn a little something about her uncle, but that even seemed like a no-go. The eulogies were generic as far as they went. “He was a great man… blah blah blah … cared about his family and friends … would want you all to be happy he’s gone home.” It was nothing she hadn’t learned from the obituary. If the speakers hadn’t been half-sobbing, she would’ve questioned the legitimacy of their loss. Randolph hadn’t remained close to any of his four siblings, but he was massively wealthy. The Google-result eulogies were shit. Ol’ Randolph cared about himself. His kids were lucky keeping them dressed nicely was a good reflection on him. Bay was lucky she was a sympathetic crier. Otherwise she would’ve sat awkwardly in a back row trying her best to ignore the sweat running down her spine. The burial followed immediately, complete with the grand reveal of the family mausoleum. He’d planned a long time for his death and commissioned one in his honor. “Pierce” ran across the top in block letters, a name few of them carried. So now she was standing in the heat under the beating-down sun and finding herself wishing for the slight relief of the abbey. At least she wouldn’t be in direct sunlight. The pallbearers walked agonizingly slow, careful with the custom casket. Feet apart, feet together, feet apart, feet together, lift. She was thankful for the hat, at least she could watch the proceedings. His tomb was sealed, the newly engraved death-date still covered by paper. It was the only part of this that had to be done in a hurry. 6|One – MFA Issue (The Blue Mountain Review)
Eventually, their mourning fulfilled, the small crowed turned and walked en masse back to the abbey and their waiting vehicles. The poke of Bay’s heels dug into her ankles. *** Over the years and multiple rifts, the family had spread itself over most of the Southern states and put down their roots. Bay’s grandmother had refused to speak to her eldest brother for years. Space helped her do that. Luckily for Bay, it meant the reading of the will was held the next day. They were busy people. They had places to go and things to do, little time to spend mourning someone who couldn’t care less about them. She’d been notified beforehand that she’d been included, which was confusing at best. She doubted Randolph would’ve recognized her name, much less been able to identify which sibling connected them. She was especially grateful the will-reading was held in an air conditioned lawyer’s office. The conference room was large and airy, windows instead of walls. Bay was sure the speaking lawyer had delivered one of the eulogies. Something about Randolph being a loyal friend. His voice sounded the same, like he was trying his best not to choke up. As was expected, the majority of his wealth was split between his children. Equal cuts, all of them. Then the guy got to the shit. It was all junk really, and Bay could only theorize that the purpose was to unload the unwanted stuff onto the family he didn’t like so as not to burden his grieving children. Bay got a boat. A few hundred miles away without a way to get it home, and the man gave her a boat. She met the boat – which she soon dubbed Albatross – in a tiny, too-hot self-storage garage. It was a good thing she didn’t have to groan; Aunt Rita did that for her. Sometimes it helped when you weren’t the dramatic one in the family. Because the boat was buried in more junk. That was Rita’s, who had rented a U-Haul but opted not to hire movers. It was backbreaking, grueling work, the kind that a good hosing afterward is needed to get rid of the dust. Bay was fairly sure she’d seen better quality stuff at garage sales, but she did her best not to snoop too much. Rita was grumbling incessantly, but she was still the type to snap at her niece for being too nosy. It wasn’t like Bay was a teenager anymore; she was a fully-grown woman thank you very much. But the ensuing shitstorm would probably cause another rift if she bothered to stand up for herself. So she did her best to not bother anyone. She still didn’t understand why she was the one obligated to help. Rita had dragged Evan with her, who was seventeen and lazier than she’d been at that age. He was doing his best to 7|One – MFA Issue (The Blue Mountain Review)
keep entertained with a squirt gun, which he occasionally used to bother his mother. At least it wasn’t her that was getting blasted with their drinking water. He was known to put pee in squirt guns, and she hadn’t kept an eye on him the entire time. But, all things considered, it looked like Randolph hadn’t disliked Rita all that much. The job – though backbreaking – was finished in less than an hour, so Rita and Evan drove away, leaving Bay to fend for herself against Albatross. The boat was larger than she’d originally thought, and she was seriously concerned about getting it home in one piece. A brown and green camouflage pattern, the boat was more like a pleasure boat than a duck boat. The paint job was haphazard, which made her wonder about the its seaworthiness . She took a deep breath and did all the necessary connections before gently pulling forward with the rental SUV. The tires spun; she held her breath, tempted to just leave the boat until the lease on the unit ran out. They’d auction it off to the highest bidder and Bay would be boat-free and clear. But the SUV pulled through, and Albatross lurched forward. Taking another look, Bay was certain the boat had never been in water, or, if it had, it’d been many years since. Surely the heat in the pod would do damage. She hopped out of the driver’s seat and walked over, giving the side an experimental knock. God, she needed to haul this monstrosity back home. She’d never even so much as pulled a little trailer. She was sure this was a joke. A pun on her name. Bay, so named because her grandmother was going through a sailing phase at the time. Her name had been appropriate too - Sandra, always shortened to Sandy. She’d been given water-related things for gifts since before she could remember, and this was by far the most annoying. Hell, it had to be a bad joke. The man hadn’t even really known her. At least she got it out of the facility without much trouble. The Interstate wasn’t that bad really. Everyone was going the same direction, and she just needed to make sure she had the extra room when she needed to merge. She was also careful to make sure she didn’t have to turn around ever. There was no chance she could manage that. The rental was much more comfortable than the abbey, despite being unfamiliar. At least the air conditioning worked. The passenger side doubled rather nicely as a snack-holder, and she’d made a big Thermos of coffee before pulling out. The plan meant she had to do the entire trip in one go. It wasn’t like she could park this thing anywhere. She must’ve made quite a sight, her and the boat. She surely didn’t look like someone who would have one anyway. Forty-year old single ladies didn’t generally have boats. At the very least, she didn’t know any who did. Once she was home and had a free day from work, she’d have to sit down and do a lot of research to figure anything out. She surely wasn’t going to dump it into the river without any experience. With her luck, Albatross would sink immediately.
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Actually, no, not immediately. It’d wait until she was out on open water, stranded from help, before it started to sink. Nope, the launching would go perfectly fine and later she’d be left drowning. Bay wasn’t much for traveling. She liked living where she did and rarely ventured more than a couple hours from her apartment. She figured out fairly quickly that interstates pretty much all look the same. At least they did in this area. They were long, as straight as possible, with intermittent cities, rest stops, and exits. The heat beat down on the road, rising visible in the air. Maybe having a boat would be a good thing. The idea of cooling off in a river was enticing at the moment. She also figured that, no matter what, cars started to smell like road trip after you spent a few hours in them. It started with the faint smell of salt and grease from the chips with an undertone of chocolate from the Nutty Bar wrapper on the dash. She was feeling a little corn-chippy herself, like the grease was eking out through her pores. Honestly, this was kind of disgusting. An hour from her destination, Bay realized she shouldn’t be trusted hauling a boat in traffic, so she turned off at a rest stop for coffee and candy. It killed a few minutes, not enough to mean light traffic near home. So she found herself lying in the bottom of the boat, watching the sky with the hum of the interstate in the background. She alternated munching on Skittles and sipping her coffee, sort of disgusted at how the flavors intermingled. Normally it wasn’t an issue, but rest stop coffee is notoriously similar to sludge, so the bitterness made the sweetness too sweet. Still, she couldn’t stop herself. Sip. Munch. Sip. Munch. Sip. Cringe. She really needed to figure out how to say no to herself. This was ridiculous. She’d probably scare the shit out of some poor trucker if they looked her way at the wrong moment. Some crazy lady nearnapping in a boat. She wished she could take a nap directly after drinking coffee again. A nap would be nice. She focused on her breathing. Time would pass, if she let it. In. Out. In. Out. The road offered her something to time her breaths to, the play of compression brakes and revving engines. People going places they needed to be. The heat was starting to get to her again.
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Should she apply sunscreen? It wouldn’t be long before the sun went down. She’d have to return to the SUV then, to avoid the mosquitos. She didn’t relish slapping one and getting a handful of her blood for the trouble. Nah. Sunsets are sometimes pretty when you’re in the process of traveling and bored enough to look. They light up the sky and turn the clouds different colors. It was honestly a good distraction. She watched it go down before peeling herself off the bottom of the boat and retreating to the car. It would be another hour at least before she felt okay about driving through town. She listened to a radio show to pass the time, thankful her FM app could pick something up. For some reason, the radio guy was talking about funny court cases. Some woman was arrested on forty-seven counts of shoplifting and was insisting on a separate trial for each. Someone ran a car through the front of a gas station. It’d been brand new too - the gas station not the car. She wondered if it’d been one of those with glass instead of walls. She’d seen a glass wall break before. It’d been oddly satisfying to watch the cracks spider across the expanse before it finally fell apart. Sometimes windows would burst outward if a fire inside was hot enough. She’d learned that the hard way a few years ago, when she’d watched from too close as her first home to herself burned. Just… boom. She was lucky she hadn’t been hurt worse. Her grandmother’s ashes hadn’t been so lucky. Lucky for her, she knew of some good deals on the market. Her current place was supposed to be haunted, but honestly everything was haunted in southern Louisiana. It was a selling point in any place close to New Orleans. The floor of the boat wasn’t up to par either. She was pretty sure it was castoff laminate wood, but that may have been her own pessimism. Either way, it started to play hell with her back, so she shifted onto her side before pulling herself into a sitting position. The key was still in the ignition, which was one less thing she had to worry about with the boat. From it swung a tiny buoy keychain, orange paint pale with age. Startled, she pulled her own keychain from her sweatpants pocket (the only suitable road trip attire, really) and held it up for comparison. Even though her own keys were a mess of unusable keys she found in various knickknack shops, her own home and car keys, and a small abundance of novelty keychains, the buoy was the exact same. Although, upon further inspection, the one attached to the boat had the initials RP inscribed on the bottom. Her own had SP, Sandy Pierce. Maybe the boat wasn’t trash after all.
Krista Shaw grew up with a book in her hands, whether it be during road trips, class, or afternoons spent in her bedroom. With an insatiable love of story, it came as no surprise when began writing herself. As an MFA student at Reinhardt University in Georgia, she wishes to share that love with the world by developing her skill as a writer. She likes science fiction, fantasy, video games, television, and her cat. 10 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Amy Puckett McGee Broken Promise I collect promise rings. In my jewelry box, I have four. One from Jamie, one from Chris, one from Micah, and one from Bill. Each one represents a broken promise. Not engagement rings, but engaged-tobe-engagement rings. One is silver with a diamond you can just about see. Two are white gold, and I’m not really sure what Bill’s is. Probably something that would have come in a Cracker Jack box forty years ago back when you still got half-decent prizes from those. I broke four hearts, kept four rings. They remind me of things I don’t like about myself. A sudden self-inflicted cruelty, self-prescribed penance. But the ring that haunts me the most is the one from Daryl, the one he never gave me. The promise we didn’t have time to break.
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Ever After Some day, if the Lord tarries, I will be an old woman, and Mark will be an old man. I’ll have a vegetable garden and work in it while wearing a big floppy hat and dungarees. Mark will have a truck with stuffing coming out of the seats and a constant smell of burning motor oil. We’ll talk about the kids and the grandkids, and maybe we’ll Skype them or do whatever they do in the future to stay in touch. Because I know they won’t visit – not as much as we want them to. And the weight of this secret will stay with us, and get heavier with every passing year until it bends our backs and crushes the air out of our lungs. We’ll talk about everything else under the sun and tell the same stories and jokes to each other over and over, but I know for a fact we will never talk about what we learned that night. Not before we’re both dead and gone, when they’ll find us in our little house cold and stiff, turned away from each other and partially eaten by our half a dozen half-feral cats.
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Something Stolen He was a beautiful boy with dark curling hair and eyes like a pint of Guinness. He wore white tshirts and blue jeans every day except Sundays. He looked like a tortured antihero in a 50s movie. Marlon Brando passed through six decades miraculously unscathed by age and weight and weirdness and politics and protest and eventual death. Except not the last one. And his Guinness-dark eyes are closed. And heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wearing his Sunday suit, when the t-shirt would have suited him better. He looks like a wax model of himself. The only things that look like him are his hair and the thin gold chain he wore around his neck. When I bent over the casket to say goodbye, I snapped the necklace open and slipped it down my sleeve, just the way he taught me to do.
Amy Puckett McGee is a librarian, a former newspaper editor, a voracious reader of anything from cereal boxes to classics, a writer of fiction, and a student in the Etowah Valley MFA program at Reinhardt University. Her literary heroes include Sharyn McCrumb, Jasper Fforde, Douglas Adams, Maeve Binchy, Lee Smith, Neil Gaiman and Monty Python. She credits her mother, a retired English teacher, for inspiring her devotion to the written word. A lifelong resident of Waleska, Georgia, Amy lives on old family land with her husband, two children, three dogs, and assorted cats. 13 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Tina Morris Desert She’s always on my mind. Even in this desert – her complete foil – I think of her. The lack of every trait she possesses – moist lips, soft hair, and supple skin – pull me back to the memories I came here to avoid. Her bold demeanor didn’t fit in near the beaches of South Carolina, yet that is where I met her; not the rolling hills of North Western Pennsylvania she called home. I loved the accent: nasal, fast, and frank. She sounded nothing like the slow drawl of the southern girls that frequented the local area. We were young and having fun frolicking on beaches, the centers of attention. Popular because it was our party. Tight t-shirts and bikini bottoms. We never slept together, not the way boys dreamed of. Forehead to forehead and nose to nose like sisters, we slept peacefully after a long day of out-surfing the boys. My drawl was light, and she said it made her feel like she was floating with the stars above the waving ocean. I thought she was my best friend. She cared for me when I got the flu, making her grandpapi’s famous chicken soup. It was a whole chicken, pack of carrots, bunch of celery, onion, spinach, and orzo. Mix in spices that I will now never know, and with it she nursed me back to health for a week. There was fresh orange juice and brushing my long blonde curls out as I lay there. She never made a move on me that would have put us over the edge. I don’t think I would have followed. I had sex on the couch with a boy I met at one of our parties. She laughed when I told her. I wonder if that’s when I began to lose her. Maybe if she had the opportunity to bring me over the edge, if we rolled down together, then she brought me back to the top in euphoria. Maybe then I would have followed. Maybe I would have run. I don’t know myself well enough to know. But once the fall came and the chill crept into our bones, I found warmth in a surfer boy who wasn’t afraid to tell me how he felt. He held me close with a plaid blanket wrapped around my shoulder at a beach fire. Our lips begged for each other with a single look. Heat radiated in the empty air between us until we became one by the moonlit fire. Sand-covered skin rent itself to extravagant exfoliation. She answered less and less until my heart began to ache for her voice, her hand to hold during the scary point of a movie, her quirky sense of style. The stars dimmed on the season, fall turned to winter, 14 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
and the surfer boy disappeared to the bottom of the surfer-less sea. Even that was not enough catalyst for conversation. In despair, I left the location of my greatest heartaches for a fresh start somewhere completely different; a landlocked, dry grassland. I began a job that was so busy with mindless work that I finally saw everything I missed. I had broken her heart.
Tina Morris grew up in Jamestown, a small town in Western New York. After college, Tina became an Army Wife, moved to Georgia, and then Missouri. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and three dogs. She tweets as @tinarazz about writing and parenting. She is a full time student in Reinhardt Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Etowah Valley MFA, a stay-at-home-mom, and a part time gymnastics coach. 15 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Brandi Price Preacher’s Guide to Getting the Girl Robbie teased me, texting me every now and then, always stringing me along. I didn’t know how he got my number or if we’d even talked to each other in person. We saw each other at church some. He usually had a girlfriend. Brittany Henderson was one. None of us knew where he found her. Then Jim Dubose’s granddaughter. We kept up with it on Facebook, me and my mom. Robbie was an avid fisherman. Every profile picture boasted a striper, bass, or the new boat his parents bought when they won the lottery. He advertised guided fishing trips, left business cards at the fitness club and barbeque joints with his picture and number. Women of all ages flocked his Facebook page, liking every fish picture and even the ancient ones from his racing days. Robbie was a natural born racer bound for the Daytona 500, which his Mama and Daddy got tickets to every year. The family even knew Bill Elliot, who lived right in the hills in Dawsonville. I was reminded of this by his younger sister, Kristie, and their parents every time we had a basketball game against Dawsonville. We’d go eat at the pool hall, a Bill Elliot shrine with every newspaper he was ever in modge-podged to the bathroom walls. These people knew everybody in the racing world. In seventh grade, Kristie even dated a racer who was a senior in high school. She wore hoodies and tshirts with her brother’s racing logo on them - Robbie Sawtell Racing, RSR. I told her I would like to have one, but never got one. I was led to covet Kristie’s possessions, her family’s lifestyle, throughout my public school life. In fourth and fifth grade, I envied Kristie’s Nokia cell phone with its Hello Kitty case. She wore a different Abercrombie and Fitch outfit to school every day. She never once ate a school lunch. Her mom packed a homemade lunch for her K-12, which she would sometimes share. The Sawtells lived in downtown Jasper right on the golf course. They had a pool and even their own dumpster. In her bedroom, there were clothes hanging everywhere and perfume bottles galore ones I knew I would love. There was just new shit everywhere, stuff I’d never seen her wear and never would. Empty and unemptied shopping bags covered their dining room table and floor. Clothes hung with the tags on them in her closet above dozens of new shoe boxes. She had one burgundy leather 16 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
jacket she wore once in the 5th grade that I made the mistake of falling in love with. I begged her to let me buy it and prayed for the day they would finally have a yard sale and all of these coveted treasures would become mine. In high school, Kristie’s mom gave her boyfriends $100 a week so they could take her on dates appropriately. She had a checkbook in 10th grade and the checks had peace signs printed all over them (I just recently ordered my first checkbook). Her mom checked us out from school to go eat at Red Lobster and get Starbucks before returning to class. The woman didn’t work. It didn’t seem like Kristie and Robbie’s Daddy did either because he was always bringing biscuits and coffee to our basketball coaches. For years, every time Kristie got picked up from school, her Mama would be driving a new Chevrolet sedan. Robbie’s huge white GMC truck, and the fact that he was eight or nine years older than me and his sister, demanded my attention. Their whole family went to the same church as us, but I didn’t them there much. In his late teens, Robbie told a preacher calling, not all that long after dropping out of public high school to be homeschooled so he could focus on racing. The Lord got the best of him, though. God was tired of the racecars, the revolving door girlfriends, the hillbilly parties where Robbie made most of his friends. God said enough’s enough. Go preach my Gospel. So Robbie slid into a white shirt and slacks, asked his Mama to wash his dark hair in the kitchen sink, and off to church he went - not every Sunday, but most of ‘em. That’s when Robbie came into my view. He was sitting up in the pulpit and I thought the Sawtells might not be such a bad family to be a part of. I would love to have Kristie as my sister. Same with his mom. And thank God, they go to the same church. What a blessing. My Papa, a preacher himself, mightily approved. Later, my mother told me that Papa had a vision that me and Robbie would get married. It was real hush-hush, though, in case it didn’t work out. Besides the sister and mother-in-law I would get, just think of the shopping we could have done together. I wondered what
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kind of car I’d drive, what kind of house would we live in? I knew one thing for sure- my ass was gonna stay at home. A stay-at-home preacher’s wife. I’d make a good one. Robbie took me on my own guided, private fishing trip one day. Finally. Throughout the next few weeks, I was blown away to discover he had the same things in mind as me, and so early on. He was reading my mind, talking about where we would live. He showed me pictures of his favorite houses. And he wanted to know what did my Papa think about it? About us being together? “Oh, he really thinks a lot of you,” I confessed. The moment I knew Robbie was serious about us was when he started making the moves on me in his parents’ basement. I’m sure he was just testing me, being a preacher and all, or just being silly. You know how boys are. He knew a girl like me, of my standards, had to wait till marriage. For heaven’s sakes, he was a preacher himself. He was supposed to wait too. But I knew he hadn’t always been a called man, and I knew I had to ask, “So how many girls have you been with, Robbie?” “Well…” he started to admit as he flipped the channels on his TV in the darkness of his basement bedroom, “I really racked up when I was 16 and 17.” What the hell? You racked up? “How many?” I asked. “Well I’ll just say this. It’s over twenty.” Bile rose up in my throat and I had to get out of there and away from the Sawtell house, out of downtown Jasper for good. Shortly after the confession, we were in the jacked-up GMC, barreling toward Talking Rock. It was an awkward silence because we didn’t know each other. Not really. I was just one of his sister’s friends, another pair of legs at church. Once I got out of that truck at my parents’ house, I knew I wouldn’t be in it again. To what? Get HIV rubbed off on me right from one of his seats? I knew he had a disease and I’ve told everyone that. There’s no way you can screw over twenty people and not have some kind of disease.
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My mother could not believe the news, but she still adored him. My mom never cooks any meals at home, but she told me she felt just like a preacher’s wife herself; getting to cook dinner for him that one night he visited. She could just see herself being his mother-in-law, doing motherly things for him. Maybe he’d even want her to wash his hair in the sink before church. And oh, watching us sit on the faux leather loveseat across from her and daddy. He was so handsome! My mother’s heart broke when she heard of his many lovers, yet it offered her some sliver of hope.
Brandi Price is a student of the Etowah Valley MFA creative writing program at Reinhardt University. She is the Assistant Literary Editor of The James Dickey Review in which her work can also be found. She lives in Atlanta with her husband Brandon. 19 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Dr. Pam Wilson Transcendance: The Grove Meg decided to go out for a walk in the chilly October morning; while the light was still soft and the world quiet. She scribbled a note to Peter and left it on the bed. Shen pulled on her blue jeans and a sweater, laced up her hiking shoes, grabbed a Pashmina scarf and her broad-brimmed felt hat, and headed down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out the back door. Her senses were first accosted by the pungent decay of the woods; nature’s compost transforming the glorious leaves, which performed their finest and most magnificent display of beauty before dropping to the forest floor to be moistened into disintegrating layers of crumbling degeneration. The ultimate irony of this season was the way it masked its mission of death with the brilliant arboreal plumage and explosive palette of fire. Meg chose the trail leading to the creek where she played as a young girl, frolicking with her cousins as they climbed over rocks and carefully balanced themselves to walk across logs fallen across the creek bed. Following the creek upstream would bring her to a thick, magical grove that had always been a sacred space for her. Groves, streams…. Suddenly a verse of Wordsworth came into her mind, which she recited aloud as she walked: “There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem Appareled in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream.” “Ah, yes, Mr. Wordsworth. Intimations of Immortality.” Not inappropriate for this day, for my reflections on my life as I walk through yet another symbolic door, crossing a new threshold in this steady march through life, away from the age of innocence and toward the grandeur of autumn, the next movement in the symphony of this unpredictable but joyous life. “How do those last sections go? ‘Nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower? We will grieve not, but rather find strength in what remains behind.’ Damn. That’s good stuff.”
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Meg smiled as she realized she was talking to herself—or even to a long-dead poet—as she climbed up the trail, stepping over fallen logs and feeling herself surrounded by the spirits of the forest. Not that there’s anyone around to hear me. I can talk like an eccentric all I want. She was now high on a ledge looking down on the creek that ran about twenty feet below. This was the part of the trail that had scared her the most as a child fearful of heights. Then there had been little to protect anyone who might have stumbled on the narrow path from falling into the rocky stream far below. Now a bank of good-sized trees had grown up along the cliff, providing plenty of trunks and brush to break any fall. It was the most vivid example she’d seen so far of how time had changed these woods. Up ahead, she spotted the mystical grove and hastened her steps. To get to it, she would need to ford the stream; a series of rocks spaced close together invited her to step from stone to stone, testing each one for steadiness. No longer as surefooted or balanced as the mountain goat she once thought herself to be, Meg reached up to grab a branch to pull herself up the steep hill of the far bank. Reaching the top, she gasped at how little her beloved secret place had changed. The trees—thick-trunked, tall spreading oaks (the leaves now crimson) and a few long-needled pines loomed over a green thicket of rhododendron and laurel beneath them—created a dense shelter that allowed little view of the sky. Inside the thicket, however, was hidden a room that appeared to be scooped out of the laurels, opening up into a home-like space roofed by oak branches, surrounded by walls of laurel with a floor of pine needles. As a child, she fantasized about living here, though Mama Nellie would never allow her to spend the night out in the woods alone. That never stopped her, though, from stuffing a sofa pillow and her favorite book into her backpack along with some snacks to bring here so she could lie back and read for hours at a time in her secret enclave. Now Meg knelt on the floor of pine needles and fallen scarlet oak leaves before giving in to spread herself on the earthen bed, flat on her back. Leaves in her hair, her eyes soaked in the canopy of reds and green above her as every nerve ending felt the cool, sacred ground beneath her. She breathed in deeply, holding the breath for several seconds before releasing it. Repeating this, she fell into a rhythm of slow, deep breathing, filling her lungs and inhaling the aroma and freshness of the decomposing forest. 21 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
This transcendent moment connected her to this place, this natural world as well as its human memories, in a way unlike anything she had experienced in her adult life. She became hyperaware of her own body, focusing on allowing various muscles to relax and become one with this earth as her breath joined with the movement of air through the forest. She saw with clarity that her past, her present, and her future all interconnected here; in this place and in this momentâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;making her whole, integrating and interweaving her fragmented threads of experience into a single living, breathing tapestry that was her life. The sounds of the woods became more audible to her, the colors more brilliant, her senses more receptive. She felt the gentle breeze upon her cheeks, the slight movement of each hair that blew and shifted on her scalp. An acorn dropped from high in the trees to the ground on her left. The percussive sound of acorn meeting dried leaves registered like music to her brain. A pileated woodpecker hammered a nearby tree. Meg inhaled the odor of the leaves and needles surrounding her, their invigorating scent stimulating some sensory port in her brain. Hearing a movement, she turned her head to see a squirrel staring at her from the edge of the magical clearing as it held an acorn in its front paws. Meg closed her eyes again, resuming her inhalations as she acquiesced to the new peace taking root in her soul.
Pam Wilson is a photographer, writer and media studies scholar from Cartersville, Georgia. A Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Reinhardt University, she teaches writing, intercultural communication, and media theory when not working on a novel or historical nonfiction. Her academic work has been published in many journals and anthologies; she also co-authored Global Indigenous Media: Cultures, Poetics, and Politics (Duke University press, 2008). More of her photographic work can be seen at culture-quest-photography.com. 22 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Samantha Canuel Stella & Cruz A young woman perched herself on the windowsill and applied black lipstick to her otherwise peach lips. “Here’s Stella, she’ll pierce whatever you want.” A ragged old Indian with long braided hair appeared behind the mirrored puckered lips. An apparition of what was once a woman. Fear ran through the giant brown baby eyes as the young woman turned around to meet Stella. Stella was the piercing specialist at the reputable Tattoos & Snuff, a tattoo parlor where you can smoke whatever you could find. Stella’s old skin sagged on her weary bones. Her loose jowls seemed to pull her lips downward into a permanent frown. She stood silent in front of the plump twentysomething. She quietly raised her metal piercing gun into an upwards fashion, poised to strike. “I’m gonna go. I think my parents were right.” The once-tough black-lipped young woman took off outside, hopping into her almost new Bentley - an obvious goth phase gone wrong. A smirk almost rose to Stella’s frown, the edges temporarily softening as she put down the black and metal piercing gun that reflected off her tribal nose ring. The aged metal was hooked between her nostrils like a bull. Paired with her constant frown, she was the toughest 75-year-old you have ever seen. But for Las Vegas, she was a wallflower. “Stella, that stupid rich girl was willing to pay $175 for a ten-dollar belly button piercing.” Charlie laughed as he tattooed a young marine getting his colored corpsman tattoo touched up. “If you weren’t so damn scary, we’d actually make some money.” Stella just stared at him, grabbed the girl’s lipstick that she had dropped in terror, and smashed the entire tub against the front glass of the shop. Her unblinking gaze never breaking, even after his did. Cruz crashed through the doorway. Spiky gray hair tinged with clay and the residue of gel highlighted his eyes that were always bulging with excitement. He looked like he’d showered fairly recently, maybe a day or two ago, but wore a striped button-up that had stains on the elbows and sleeves where he’d miscalculated the length of arms. “STELLL-LLLLLAAAAAAA” he sang in an obnoxious Marlon Brando imitation followed by, “Hey, you wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you.” 23 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
He ran over to Charlie and puffed his cheeks. “It’s not personal, it’s business,” and followed with “You don’t understand. I coulda’ had class. I coulda’ been a contender. I could’ve been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let’s face it.” “Oh my God, Cruz, Shut up!” shouted Charlie. “Stella, get him out of here. He’s screwing up my straight lines.” The young marine tried to lift off the bench where Charlie continued to carve into his pale back, “sit your ass back down, it’s not like you’re going to see it anyway.” Stella grabbed Cruz’s arm as she pocketed her piercing gun into the hip-hugging pouch she used to hold her herbal cigarettes and various studs and hoops for piercing. Cruz let out one more one liner as the door slammed in his face “Nobody tells me what to do…” he turned around to yell at Charlie, “I’m gonna take this joint apart and you’re not gonna know what hit you!” Stella turned and just stared at him blankly. “What? You know that I learned Marlon Brando just for you, Roomie.” She turned around, held up a wad of cash in her hand, Cruz stared at her, cocking his head. “Your charming personality got you tips again? Huzzah! Let’s go to Rudy’s and celebrate.” Cruz began impersonating shooting off a bottle of champagne and spraying her with it. Stella just stared at him and muttered “No. You Idiot.” She started walking towards her bank to deposit her wad of cash. Stella banked at the same place forever. It was a family bank that was attached to the casino a few blocks down. She was notorious for spending all of her ‘savings’ once the account hit $350 dollars. You would find her trying her luck at the card games on the casino floor. She would eventually bottom out her meager savings and slowly walk back to the tattoo parlor, her wrinkly head down in shame. Cruz rarely heard Stella talk. Once in a while, she would mutter at him. It was as if her ancient vocal chords were out of order, in disrepair. He stared at her with wild eyes. She had long, dark gray hair that crowned her tanned forehead. Deep lines creased between her eyes and peak lines drew the corners of her lips downwards - the opposite of most people’s laugh lines.
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Stella stared at him and shook her head as she opened the bank door. Stella and Cruz waited in line, her with dark clothing hanging off her lean, ancient body, and his wild demeanor throwing crazed looks across the bank as if shadows were dancing around them. An odd pair to see. When it was her turn, Stella walked up to the young blonde teller/cashier that was open. “Well hello Ma’am! How are you today?” Silence. The woman swallowed. “What can I do for you?” Stella rummaged through her piercing kit holster that was wrapped around her hips. Stella grabbed the piercing gun and held it slightly out of the pocket, the handle showing as she rummaged for her tips floating around. The woman gulped audibly. She waited a moment, grasping at the counter as she looked around. It was just past dinner, the bank part of the casino closing within a half hour. She was the last teller in the area. The woman put her hands up slowly, palms facing the duo. “I swear I’ll give you whatever you want. I’ve got two babies at home, please don’t hurt me.” Stella paused rummaging and unintentionally gripped her piercing gun tighter. The woman blurted: “I have $25,000 in the drawer, I can give you that right now if you leave.” She teared up. “Please don’t hurt me.” Stella looked at the woman, a trace of confusion passed through her eyes, but the frown remained. She turned her head towards Cruz, who was a few steps back staring outside at the neon signs, acting fidgety. Stella returned her eyes to the young woman who had grabbed a knapsack and began filling it without instruction. “Okay. Just between us, I can give you all the money in the five drawers here.” She waved across the line of teller stations. Her experienced fingers flipped stacks of cash into the sack. Cruz perked up as he heard movement. “What’s the issue now?” His voice raising towards the end, seeming slightly eccentric. The woman’s eyes grew bigger as she stared at Cruz’s bulging eyes and crazy hair. The teller bent over the second drawer and whispered to Stella. “Is he forcing you to do this.” She looked at Stella, forming her own theory of why she’s being robbed. “He’s forcing you to do this, isn’t he? Blink once if that’s right.” 25 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Stella just stared at the woman, she jerked her arm in a spasm and stabbed her leg with her piercing gun. She yelped. The teller ducked away. “Okay, Okay. Here’s what I can give you,” she said, tears brimming. “It’s almost $25,000 per drawer, so that should be over a hundred thousand dollars.” She gulped, continuing “Just go. Please go. Don’t kill me.” Cruz stepped forward and furrowed his eyebrows, the woman behind the counter covered herself with open palms. She shielded her eyes from an impending bullet. Eyes covered, tears leaking. Stella looked at the bag of money. She blinked for the first time and grabbed the bag. She grabbed Cruz’s arm as she ran out of the bank. They ran towards Rudy’s Bar and Grill, only a few blocks away. It sat behind the main drag of the Las Vegas Strip, Rudy’s lit up by the neon and lights from the large casinos that sat less than a mile away. Rudy’s was a Creole Bar and Grill, the only place you could get authentic fried chicken, gator bits, or even mashed taters in the city of Las Vegas. Karaoke night was just starting up when Stella and Cruz barreled in. Both of them went into the only bathroom in the entire bar, graffiti stained with curse words, phone numbers and unidentified smears. Stella bolted the lock and closed the top of the toilet. She opened the knit bag that the teller had handed her and pulled out a handful of crisp twenties and fifties. President Jackson never looked so fine. Stella exclaimed as clear as day, “I think we just robbed a bank.” The pair stared at each other for a minute as music (Tom Petty’s “Free-Falling”) reached a crescendo in the background. “WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-OOOOOOOO,” belted out Cruz. Stella danced in the fluttering bills that she had just grabbed. Both were oblivious to the sirens echoing in the alley just outside.
Samantha Canuel is a graduate student at Reinhardt University studying to receive her MFA in Creative Writing. She has had fiction published previously in Reinhardt University’s 2012 print edition of Sanctuary. Apart from writing, Samantha Canuel is a successful Project Manager at a Public Broadcasting Atlanta with a background in digital marketing. 26 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Barbara Jones Newey Apple Dishes As part of our Thanksgiving ritual, I always set the dinner table the day before. This gives me time to enjoy the process of collecting the family heirlooms that are as important to the holiday as the turkey and dressing. Setting the table follows the same process every year. First, I take everything off the table so my husband and I can pull it from opposite ends, opening up the space for the extra leaf needed to accommodate our growing family. Next, I get out the polish and clean away the countless fingerprints and scratches that have accumulated since last year. It makes me smile to think my Mom did the same thing so many times. She loved the table’s rich pecan finish. Next, I flip on the ivory tablecloth with fine lace trim that my Mom had custom made for the table. The water goblets and wine glasses follow. These were my Mom’s too. She displayed them in the same pyramid-shaped china cabinet that stands sentry in the corner of our dining room. Each glass is a crystal work of art that dazzles and winks with every touch of light. Next, I pull out the special-occasion silverware. I love the ornate pattern that would be at home at the Palace of Versailles. A gift from my parents, the set is nestled in an imposing wooden box lined with red velvet. I always wondered about the pattern. It is regal compared to anything they ever bought for themselves. Did they see this as a future heirloom for the family I would have? This is a special Thanksgiving. In addition to celebrating the annual food feast, we are welcoming our daughter Megan’s fiancé, Travis, as a new member of our family, which includes our older daughter, Elizabeth, her husband, Brandon, and their two children, Beau, a good-natured toddler, and Riley, a precocious three-year-old. The engagement of our youngest daughter brought lots of change to our household. Not only did Megan move out of the family home, but also she took her dog, Raven, and even more devastating, her cat, Ruffles. We were suddenly childless and petless empty nesters.
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The holiday table is taking shape – just a few things to add – the rustic wood chargers, the pinecone-shaped candleholders and, finally, the apple dishes – the family heirloom most symbolic of both holiday traditions and family history. Also handed down from my Mom, the dishes have a story of their own. It was the war era, and my Mom, who worked as a secretary in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, was browsing the Higbee’s department store on her lunch hour when she spotted the dishes and decided to begin collecting them for her “hope chest,” a special box women of the time filled with china and linens in anticipation of married life. Not rare or particularly expensive, the apple dishes have an appeal that stands the test of time. The design is simple. The ivory plates are trimmed with brown branches sprouting quarter-sized burgundy apples backed by mossy green leaves. During the war years, pieces of the American-manufactured Franciscan Ware apple dishes were hard to come by. Shipments were unpredictable. On pay day, my Mom would buy what was available – two cups this week; a bread- and-butter plate the next. Accumulating the dishes became a hobby that continued into the 1980s, when my Mom was still adding and replacing dishes to her by then extensive collection. While my sisters and I were growing up, the apple dishes only came out for special occasions – Easter, Christmas and, of course, Thanksgiving. Later, when my widowed Mom retired, she gave away all her other dishes and only used the apple dishes simply because she enjoyed them. The apple dishes were meaningful to both my older sister, Judy, and me but when my Mom passed, she left them to her. I was a little sad but shrugged it off. I had been left many meaningful items and felt it fitting that my older sister would have the dishes. But then without preamble, a box arrived at my house with apple dishes. My sister had decided to break up the set and send me half. She wanted us both to have apple dishes on our Thanksgiving tables.
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As I carefully set an apple plate on the charger at each place setting it hit me. This is exactly what my daughters will be doing one day. They will have divided the apple dishes after my husband I are gone. They will be admiring their tables and remembering past holidays and loved ones. They will smile at the apple dishes and other heirlooms. We will become a memory.
Barbara Jones Newey is a freelance writer residing in North Georgia. She is a participant in the inaugural class of the Reinhardt University Etowah Valley MFA in Creative Writing Program. A former editor of Where Magazine in Los Angeles, she also wrote news and feature stories for Sun Newspapers in Ohio. 29 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Stephanie Autry The Last Supper My father’s last meal was also his favorite, rare steak and baked potatoes loaded with butter, shredded cheese, and bacon bits. His eyes beamed as Mom sat the plate in front of him along with two bottle of Bud Light. He grinned at her with excitement as he picked up his steak knife. “You must want something extra special tonight,” he said, giving her a suggestive wink. Mom gave him a polite smile before going back to the counter to get our plates. My father didn’t even wait for her to sit down before he began devouring his meal. I watched with disgust and confusion as he wolfed down the steak that was so rare it looked more like a squirrel ripped apart of the side of the road. His doctor had put him on a strict diet to keep his high cholesterol under control. This meal was definitely on his do-not-east list. Mom sat my plate down in front of me, the steak cut into neat squares. It was hard for me to hold the meat in place with the heavy cast on my left wrist. Everyone at school wanted to know how I broke my wrist, and I wondered what they’d say if they heard the truth. But Mom helped me practice the story I would tell them instead. I fell riding my bike down a steep hill in our neighborhood. Mom’s a professional at making stories up to hide the truth. I wondered how she explained the five purple finger prints across her neck to the other nurses at the hospital. Or if her blonde hair covered the marks up like she hoped. I poked at my steak, unable to eat. “Sweetie, you need to eat so you can your antibiotics,” Mom said, cutting up her own steak. “The meds will hurt your stomach.” I woke up without an appetite after listening to Dad’s threats last night. How he said I’d get worse than a broken wrist if Mom tried to leave him. He’d hunt us down. Make her wish she’d never been born. “Are you going to eat that?” Dad asked, nodding at my baked potato. I looked at Mom to see if she wanted me to give it to him. I thought she would be monitoring his diet as she normally did. She nodded, and passed the plate over to him for me. I watched with an uneasy stomach as he covered it with half a stick of butter, and what remained of our shredded cheese.
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One of Dad’s coronary arties clogged sometime while I lying in bed, reading for my freshman English class. First there was the sound of glass shattering in the kitchen, then Dad’s loud, angry voice echoed through the house. His voice grew even louder as he accused her of breaking the bowl his mother gave them for Christmas ten years ago on purpose. Mom didn’t even argue. When he slapped her, it sounded as if someone had set off a loud fire cracker in our kitchen. Mom told me over and over again, if he hits her, keep quiet and stay in my room. I tried to help a few days ago. I wasn’t a kid anymore. I couldn’t just hide in my room with the covers pulled over my head while my dad beat my mom until his anger simmered down to a low boil. Dad threw me across the room when I tried to pull him away from her. He’d hit me a few times in the past, but a few days ago, he knocked me across the face so hard I blacked out for a few seconds. Dad said hopefully a minor concussion, and a broken wrist would teach me not to mess with him again. First he was pissed, then he laughed, saying I was proof girls couldn’t fight. “Aren’t you gonna give me my pills?” he asked Mom, after he calmed down a bit. “You can get them yourself,” Mom told him, in an unusually calm voice. “They’re sitting right on the counter. Take one of each.” I sat up in bed, amazed but frightened at the same time. Why would she stand up to him like that? She knew it would set him off. He shouted and hit her until there was a hard, deep grunt. “Don’t you walk away from me! Where do you think you’re going? I asked you a question, bitch! Where the -“ He was cut off by his own sharp gasp. I jumped when my bedroom door opened. Mom came in and locked the door behind her. Her face already starting to bruise. She kept her arms crossed tightly over her chest as she walked to my bed and sat on the edge of the mattress. There was a loud thud and a strangled cry from the other room. Dad choked out our names, begging for help. I started to get up and see what was going on, but Mom put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t,” she whispered. “Just lie down, okay?”
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She soothed my hair back and wiped my scared tears away as I snuggled into my sheets as if I were going to bed. Dad started to slam the heel of his shoe into the hardwood floor. It sounded rhythmic, thud, thud, thud…..thud……thud. When it stopped completely the house was silent, except for my frightened sobs. Mom leaned forward to kiss my forehead. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Stephanie Autry is a writer born and bred in the North Georgia mountains. She graduated from Reinhardt University in 2013 with a BA in English Creative Writing with a minor in History, and in 2016 she returned to Reinhardt to join their Etowah Valley MFA program. When she is not writing, she is volunteering with Trinity United Methodist Church's children's ministry, and breaking up fights between her two rivaling feline overlords. 32 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
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Joey Klouda is a graduate of Woodstock High School. He is currently a freshman at University of West Georgia and is majoring in German Studies. He developed an interest in photography on a trip to Ireland. 40 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
William Walsh My Grandfather’s Call We walked the woods to call the Saw-whet Owl, where you showed me how to cup my cold hands together as though I had caught a frog. The air returned a low cry from beyond the tree-line. Your muddy boots are now mine as I teach my children nature’s cruel game. In my dreams you stand across the river, cane pole over your shoulder, room to room I navigate the darkness of your house, searching for the light the dead see, shadows for the devil rowing this boat ashore. What death promises, it delivers. If you were my age now, would we be friends listening to the screech through the foggy trees?
William Walsh is an award-winning poet, whose most recent collection of poems, Lost In the White Ruins, was published in fall 2014. He is also a novelist, having most recently placed as a finalist in the Pirate’s Alley William Faulkner Writing Competition for The Pig Rider. His other books include Speak So I Shall Know Thee: Interviews with Southern Writers, The Ordinary Life of a Sculptor, The Conscience of My Other Being, Under the Rock Umbrella: Contemporary American Poets from 1951-1977, and David Bottoms: Critical Essays and Interviews (McFarland, 2010). His work has appeared in AWP Chronicle, Cimarron Review, Five Points, Flannery O’Connor Review, The Georgia Review, James Dickey Review, The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, North American Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Rattle, Shenandoah, Slant, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. He teaches in the MFA Program at Reinhardt University. 41 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Val Featherston Francis and the Cool-whip You were the one that ate all the cool whip that spring morning. Not even hiding while you did it. Mom had a fit since there was no money to buy another sacred tub. Cooking was far and away from her wheel house of knowledge; the off chance of whipping some out by that night was nil. I was outside looking for more rocks near the edge of the man’s yard. Mom was pulling heavy wet pants from her straw basket. Hanging them on that old double rowed square metal frame. Remember how we used to hang on it and spin till we laughed so hard and got so dizzy our grips slipped bit by bit. The last one falling got to open the other’s stiff curled fingers faster than they could. I can see your grinning face, your hand-me down bathrobe holding that cool-whip tub high so I could see in it. Your head thrown back with your giggle, that crazy laugh. Then Mom charging up the old wooden staircase while you turned and ran screeching with mad delight, up the last few steps into the kitchen, across that weird green thinning rug. Lucky for us we had non-beating parents. She sent you to the bedroom we all shared while I was sliding the window open from the outside. We smothered our faces in pillows so Mom couldn’t hear. I have no idea why you ate that damn stuff. It was for the strawberry shortcake later that night. Idiot, your own birthday cake! You said you had been planning the theft for a couple of days. We wrestled for a while (I got a few good punches in just so you would know that I did not appreciate having to dry swallow Mom’s shortcake later). We never seemed to figure out how Mom always, always knew we would find each other after one or the other got in some mess. She called us the twins she never had. You know, I had the spare room ready for you after you sold your house. I can’t make it something else.
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Pauperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Grave Your forest damped hair dripped into that hollow place where your neck and collarbone meet creating skin pockets to collect mineraled drops waiting for someone to find whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no longer held by connective tissue like tendons and cartilage and love searched for by dear wife and darling children forsaken by all men and the crow dearly beloved we never gathered to where you came to ground after your words inflamed a people to rise they became more and less than you dreamed those years ago and now only the glow of pearled bone.
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Bronx Star Waved heat crushed the Bronx that summer oxygen and tempers airlifted up and around skyscrapers wrapped in shimmering cellophane we of the streets shimmied in hydrants listened to loud music that echoed up and down the night fire escapes heavy air held hostage raw vileness uncontained tin armies of garbage mountain over-run by rot and rats of summer strikes seemed oblivious to the fallen approach of Septemberâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s release expectant pressures built upwards to another war we of the streets took to the tops scratchy damp towel-backed boards accustomed to porous bodies we waited for the stars to save us into sleep.
Val Featherston Potter, assembler, painter, teacher, advocate, and is learning to write. Arrived in Georgia decades ago... decided to stay and create. 44 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Maria Klouda Shadow You are the shadow. A beautiful, golden Palomino. Tall and elegant. Skittish and afraid. I can’t imagine what they did to you. The horror you lived through to get here. There are no visible reminders but you have not forgotten. They won’t tell me and I don’t want to know. It’s been months and progress slow. I hope that you will learn to trust again. If not me – anyone. You’ve been walking in the ring for an hour. You watch with curious, cautious eyes but are settled in the exercise. Snuggle in for a nose rub at the fence where I sit watching you. Red clay dust rises in the ring with each of your steps. The birds are quiet. We are both sweating. Today is the day. I ease in to the saddle, gently lower my weight and we walk together. A slow walk. Hope. The saddle squeaks with the rhythm of our dance. From behind you, a friend-it’s always our friends that throw us. She picks up a training whip that we have never used; that you cannot see fully. Eyes wild. Your peripheral vision catches glimpses of your past in the sight of the whip. Ears back. Snorts. Panic. Screaming. I hold on for a while. You finally throw me. I ride the fence then fall to the ground. Shocked and broken and still loving you. Aren’t we all afraid of what we can’t see? Aren’t we all leery of shadows? Throwing us? Begging us to get back on and ride again. I’m terrified to let go.
Maria Klouda calls Canton, GA home and has deep roots in the new South. She was born in Atlanta and grew up in Conyers. She has a BBA in Marketing, a MBA, and is currently writing her way to an MFA at Reinhardt University’s Etowah Valley Writing Institute. She is also the Copy Editor and Social Media Manager for The James Dickey Review. She is the previous owner, publisher, and editor of edible Metro & Mountains. 45 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Bonnie Medford Love Spell (Black Magic) Not evil, just a little wicked. A witch to your warlock. I’m going to cast a spell that will make you mine, finally get more than a taste of the sweat on your neck. Distracted by your own pain, and still walking free. You cannot see me, I know. Your head will never wear a royal crown. Your father denied you. Gave it to your brother. You are what you are. Damned from the start, we belong together. I’d do anything to make you mine, even commit the most dangerous sin in the arts. I’d take your will for my own and pay with scorched soul. Maybe I really do need you to rescue me. Everyone is blind to my charm, because of my little black heart. Constant bruising has pulled me apart. Exiled and spit on for power. I never asked, but I need a savior. Stop hiding under the fog and come to me. Swear your allegiance to this broken heart, this witch in your favorite black corset. I’ll lift you from under a rock, take you from dark knight to Black prince of my life, so it’s not a light fairy tale. Don’t make me bind you with Dragon’s Blood. You won’t release your troops and ride to me on your black charger. I mix flowers & herbs in my cauldron, burn three white candles and say I ask the gods to bend to my will. Now, I see you just over the hill. I will pay, but you’ll be mine today.
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Broken Glass I may be broken, but my arms are almost as much your home as your own four walls. I can see the shatter of broken beer bottles in your eyes. You left for a little brunette. I saw her picture. Just another someone you use to know. A woman delivering pain in shot glasses. You said she looked beautiful in her first wedding dress, but she was turning someone else’s hair grey, then. The wrinkles at your eyes tell me more than your words. They whisper of late night fights growing distant into the dangerous quiet, of bags being packed and a man too tired to keep fighting. You told me when you took your ring off replaced by skull tattoos, covering that slice of skin with a nasty grin. You are safe here. Pick up your bottles. Make yourself at home; start again. If she is your sandy beach, I’m your broken mirror. Her affection is a stopped clock, battery acid leaking into the chamber. Mine like the blood retuning to your heart through grease filled veins. Broken to pieces long ago, neither of us will ever be whole again. With a few more patches glued on, sewn with thread, stapled in the corners we can only keep rearranging the pain. We will still get cut and Waste Management will collect our wreckage.
Bonnie Medford started writing poetry in high school as a way to express herself to a friend who also wrote poetry. Having many interests, Bonnie studied law, sociology, English, and history in North Georgia Technical College and Reinhardt University. She added creative writing classes to practice for an assignment in sociology. There she discovered a release through expression and has not wanted to quit writing again. Bonnie was published in Reinhardt’s Sanctuary journal in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Bonnie enjoys writing about topics such as social situations, criminals, and fairytale themed escapades. Now, Bonnie is in Reinhardt’s MFA program. 47 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Katie Fesuk Onomastics for My Kids, or, How Naming Can Be Like Earth Science You’re better off asking: why is it warm at the equator and cold at the poles? How does rain form? These questions are old, hard to explain. Things move from atmosphere to lithosphere in a process that determines the character of an environment. Determines the character. My children are learning the weight of their names, how to carry the words we have given them— what it means to write, learn, know each letter. What it feels like to be called by them, summoned across a room or down a long staircase. When their names are fired like a shot to signal trouble, loosed from the lips as a blown kiss, name like a hand wave, spoken for its own sake, reminding me that they are real, that my son’s hands have grown big, clipped nails small crescent moons falling from his body, my daughter at midnight, arms thrown around a stuffed caterpillar, her brother, me— bringing all the world into the orbit of her hold. Like veins occupying a rock fissure, its fault, the sadness of names begins: my son in kindergarten, bewildered, tells me for the first time that the boys in class say his last name is funny, his middle name girly. He’s confused by others’ audacity, laughter, his parents’ boldness that he be called anything else but wind and rainfall and seawater; coal beds, river deltas, salt marshes; my daughter in preschool struggles with grips and pencils and keeping straight lines. She wants to know why her double name is so long, cries when learning to maneuver the curves and symbols. Why so many letters? she demands. I’m tired. We take small steps. Initials first, one word, one word plus one letter, and now in spring, the whole name calls to be written. Nautilus, volcanos, bright coral. How have we gotten here so early? Early for both of my children to look at me through tears, demanding to know how dare you? How dare I speak that worn path of language for them 48 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
before they could speak for themselves, give them the only word the world guarantees every time they shake a hand, receive a callâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; one to carry around all their waking lives? Ask instead: how does air temperature help desert formation? Do topography and ocean currents influence the weather? The answers are what they are, driven by sunlight, same as those names: carbon cycling through oceans, shells, erosion, death, rocks, birth. Upwellings of deep water. Whole hunks of white cliff. My sea, my trees: they washed up on my shore.
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Moonshine I imagined tiny men polishing a crescent in the night sky with soft small blanketsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; dusting away particles, dark matter, astral powder. Drunk off its light, in revelry. My mother always kept a bottle of moonshine in our freezer Near stacks of cash wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed into Ziploc bags like fish or loaves of bread multiplied at feast time, it stayed. I vaguely understood its potency but loved its name. She barely drank, an easy blusher, but sometimes, whether to impress or to terrify, she would take the clear bottle, loosening its silver screw top like a Christmas star then say, Watch this.
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What I Know About Happiness -after PBS This Emotional Life That it’s no secret. And it looks something like your father in his long gray coat in January. It looks a little like my mother, too, at twenty-three in her brown velvet duster or at forty in a white blazer in the back of a boat in New Hampshire. Like my father driving that boat and then remembering himself driving that boat and then wishing for that boat when it and my mother are both gone he isn’t sure whether to sit and miss them or just be thankful that once he had them both so close, so in his hands. That I found it sometimes at the bottom of the pool on Forkwood Drive or else just off the tip of the diving board. I found it in the bamboo that grew like a surprise behind the Fairhaven rental or else the shrimp and potatoes and corn we boiled and seasoned with spices. It hides sometimes in windows and beneath shampoo bottles and long baths, but also on the other ends of phone lines and emails addresses and long hand-scrawled cards. But that really, it’s often in a good book, holding its breath for you. That it masquerades as love and comfort and contentment and peace and sleep —almost never in envy or gossip or things you’re ashamed to remember. So forget those things. And know that happiness is more about you and how good you are and how much you laugh and with whom. It hides in that laughter, and I found it there hundreds of times. It even hangs on walls in museums. It lives in most music but especially, I think, in blues. People who suffer the most are also the ones who can tell you most about happiness, when they’ve come through the other side, and how simple it can be. How uncomplicated. It is not elusive. Not a trickster. Not unfaithful or awkward or cruel. But sometimes you have to sit still to see it, sometimes meditate. Get in the car and drive. Certain days, only the ocean can bring it back to you, or a long deep kiss or having your hand held. Sometimes a good meal. An apology. A nap. An honest prayer. 51 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
And it will make you want to sing. And sing again. Be always in song.
Katie Fesuk was a 2006 Georgia Author of the Year Award nominee for her chapbook, If Not an Apple (La Vita Poetica Press). Her first full-length manuscript, If Men Were Angels, was a two-time finalist for the Violet Reed Haas Poetry Prize (Snake Nation Press). Her poems are featured on Atlanta’s WRA 88.5 radio poetry program, Melodically Challenged, and she has been both a featured reader and presenter at Callanwolde Arts Center and Kennesaw State University. Her poems can be found in Five Points, Slant, Bloodroot, Poet Lore, Chattahoochee Review, Water~Stone, Caesura, Rock & Sling, and No Tell Motel, among others. She teaches at The Walker School in Marietta, GA, has studied in GSU’s New South doctoral program, and is currently a student in Reinhardt University’s MFA Program. 52 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Cassidy Richards Home Made Shortcake was the first thing I ever learned to make, After failed attempts at spongy muffins And blackened sugar cookies. The first batches were pale, Overcooked, chalky, bitter, And I sweated beside the oven, Curly hair matting, And with aching young fingers Mixed the milk, sugar, bisquick and butter And loaded pan after pan with lumpy globs of dough Until i’d destroyed the whole kitchen And exhausted every ingredient. My mother didn’t scold me. Instead, she restocked the pantry and fridge And let me try again And again And again Rising Uninterrupted And determined, Until I’d created something delicate That melted in her mouth Golden brown And beautiful.
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The Riverside, Down By The river runs through me and everything, Smooth and slow, down the mountain side Where boys and girls make wind chimes From glass bottles Of coke, cooled in the stream And emptied on parched tongues. It moseys past small postcard towns that boast Old world charm with wooden-toy store fronts selling Glossy, hand pulled salt-water Taffy and teeth freezing, Slow churned, peppermint ice cream. It slides beside dirt roads that lead brothers down Righteous paths to bleached churches, where Lord praisinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Is the only thing happening on Sunday, save for baptisms In the creek, where Magnolias offer white petal blessings. It bleeds into the city where cars bump along potholed Roads squeezed between posh shops and restaurants that Offer up the same thing: new takes on southern living, Cool cotton dresses and salted cracklin' with greens. It bends behind towns where neighbors come by with Fresh veggies grown in backyards and sweet Jellies And tart jams and crispy fried peach pies and place gentle hands on your back, blessing your heart. The river runs through me and everything, From Helen down to Columbus, and finds 54 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Me ankle deep in the Hooch sucking on a honey suckle, or some lemonade, hiding In the shade with the bugs, smooth and slow.
Cassidy Richards is a self-proclaimed professional dreamer. With a BFA in Creative Writing and currently pursuing an MFA in the same concentration, Cassidy believes the most powerful tool in the world is understanding and she aims to help people achieve that through her writing. 55 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Bo Higgins The Oldest was 10 They sat like stacked school lockers. Their name and year on each. Thomas Ridgewell 1960 Suzzane Mathers 1958 Infant Daughter Never Born.
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Ode to Cassanova and the Idea I Entertained for Too Long We sit in silk boxers, Cross legged. Writing poetry of dead babies And voodoo magic. Drinking Foxhorn wine straight from the shaft. I wonderâ&#x20AC;Ś If being gay would be easier.
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Happy 30th Anniversary If I were to write of you It would start on the table Stained with â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Overlapping wet circles that She cried down Your gin and tonic With the lime tryst. And your hollowed ribs With the dry rub. There is no doubt you are the best cook I know. No one simmer and boils over quite like you.
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Mulatto Stray I witnessed your birth. When the tooth white streak of a Cornish rex Snagged your mother and father From their clowder, Under the bridge. They fed from bleached teat while lying on oak with walls of glass. Kept in a kennel in case of disease. You parents grew large, had litters that filled each room. I witnessed your father die. He darted past the toy train Leapt to the window ceil. Freedom stolen by the jowls of Crow The coonhound. Loyal pet who made chew toys of your aunts and uncles. But not your mother. Cornish Rex stood over A Sleek marble home For your mother to lay. And you were born On molded clothes in the guest bedroom closet Already muzzled and two-toned no mothers purr A light murmur at your Moorish face And corn silk boots. You are seen as the bad batch Pitched from quartz stairs Hissed away from the bridge You lived in bushes watching the others move freely as you scavenged for beetles. But you grew up strong didn’t you? Brawling opossums and garden snakes And those dogs the neighbors let loose then called for As if they listened and didn’t hear the cry of food. You even tussled with loose tabbies Because unlike them you were taught how to jump backwards. And you made your way Into hardwood homes with sectionals That you taught all the terriers was your kingdom. And you donned a collar. It was choice. It did not read King or Rex, it read unity. I witnessed you leave. When Cornish Rex was old and failing You left. Taken by your pride and curiosity you strived to the wild 59 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
And found it. You became a cat bitten by a snake so you dreaded rope. Caught in the jaws of a mastiff Now all dogs and have mange. Your claws dulled from soft cushions you couldn’t catch. I witness you now. Standing at my front door. Chest caved in like a scoop Fur looking glued on. That collar you chose has slipped under your arm and become a part of your flesh. But you can’t run because of it, cant hunt. You have a red iron hiss as you stagger into stance. The door stand gaping and you hiss Stoic and ready. The terriers watch with eager tails, Cornish Rex fully recovered. The door stands gaping and you with hind against the Woodline Crying for home. You have started your movement but gained no momentum Covered no ground. I bribe you with warm milk and a cushion from the sectional You staunch up the quartz stair and partake until eyes close. The last leaves of fall prick off and somber to the ground. Sleep Mulatto Stray.
Bo Higgins is a Creative Writing graduate from Reinhardt University and now a student participating in Reinhardt’s Etowah Valley MFA program. His passion for writing comes from his love of editing and years spent workshopping with peers and watching everyone blossom into better writers and better people. He currently works for Shane Company as a Sales Associate and Blog Writer, but aspires to become an editor or college professor in order to help develop like minds. 60 | O n e – M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
Casanova Green Why Do We Fail to Say Your Name? You are a dangerous enigma. We know you exist because we exist. But in our sacred halls, we sit pious like perfect penguins lips pursed longing to say your name. A young woman fattened and hips spread struggles with her frontward load chained to two children with hints of her and heaps of their fathers baked into them. They are shame cakes and she, ragged with regret, sits in her seat. Her children wriggle next to and inside her punishing her for saying your name. Two boys explore hoses and play the tips until weird water gushes out. They trade to see if the same thing happens and eventually knock on doors not meant to open. Their sisters pant in another room, lock lips, and whisper lollypop secrets hoping and praying the heat will go away. Today, they sit in separate places ashamed To look at each other For fear of saying your name. A man melts atop a chair eyes focused on a computer screen. watching two women feign love. He begins his solo dance 61 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
and sobs as he glances at his well-worn Bible resting stoically by the forbidden fourth wall. Before he shatters, he explodes. He is not here because he is too afraid, too dead inside because he said your name. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve died too many little deaths, created too many ties, played both sides, kept secrets and maintained lies, and been left ravaged by you. You are the shark that signals a beautiful death and I am the lifeguard who knows you well. If only I knew you then like I do now, I would have said your name.
Casanova Green is a writer, singer/songwriter, educator, and minister. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University with a BA in Language Arts Education. He released his first album, A Worshiper Mentality, in January 2016. Casanova is a member of the Southern Collective Experience and is pursuing a MFA in Creative Writing at the Etowah Valley Low-Residency MFA Program at Reinhardt University in Waleska, GA. He is also working on a second recording project and several writing, speaking, and performance opportunities. He and his wife reside in Lancaster, OH. 62 | O n e â&#x20AC;&#x201C; M F A I s s u e ( T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w )
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