Spires Fall 2021

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FALL 2021

SPIRES intercollegiate arts & literary magazine

FALL 202 1

Copyright 2021, Spires Magazine Volume XXVII Issue I All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission from Spires and the author or artist. Critics, however, are welcome to quote brief passages by way of criticism and review. This publication was designed by Jade Wang and set into type digitally at Washington University in St. Louis. Typefaces used are Kings Caslon, designed by Dalton Maag Design Studio, and Montserrat, designed by Julieta Ulanovsky. Caslon was originally designed by William Caslon. Spires accepts submissions from undergraduate students around the country. Works were evaluated individually and anonymously. Spires is published biannually and distributed free of charge to the Washington Univeristy community at the end of each semester. All undergraduate art, poetry, prose, drama, song lyric, and digital media submissions (including video and sound art) are welcome for evaluation. spiresmagazine@gmail.com spires.wustl.edu facebook.com/spiresintercollegiatemagazine instagram.com/spiresmagazine_wustl twitter.com/spires_magazine

Table of Contents LITERATURE 01 Arte Romero y Carver

A Chicana Creation Story

03 Morgan Mattke

A Depersonalized Space

10 Maya Tsingos Triptych

13 Anabel Barnett How to Know if a Guy Likes You

25 Melia Van Hecke For naia

26 Daniel Schwartz Ballad of a Day March (After Cathy Park Hong)

05 Violet Cooper

21 Sydney Fallon

27 Jonah Goldberg

07 Isabel Galgano

23 Katherine Lawson

31 Gabriela Martínez

02 Victoria Lin

12 Ester Petukhova

29 Geneva Huffman

04 Cynthia Zhang

20 Marc Stier

30 Marc Stier

06 Cynthia Zhang

22 Peggy Shen

08 Carina Zhang

24 Jessica Carvajal

At the Observatory


Ode to a Sullen Singer in the Season of the Wind

“They call it Surprise”

How to Raise a Baby

Ladybug Lullaby


Night Swim

Vending Machine Fixer

Circus Kids

If I get lost, please take me to (sesame field)

Hands and Histories Meeting





Birthday Balloons


Shiyeon Monk Untitled Washington University in St. Louis, ‘24 Acrylic, Oil Pastel


Victoria Lin Family Antiques Rhode Island School of Design, ‘23 Colored Pencil on Bristol


Ester Petukhova The Gefilte Alphabet of a Russian Immigrant Carnegie Mellon, ‘23 Acrylic on Canvas


Kelly Zhou Murky Waters Rhode Island School of Design, ‘23 Digital



Brianna Hines Lexie von Zedlitz

Alexis Bentz Lara Briggs



Hanah Shields

Mahtab Chaudhry



Amy Hattori

Campbell Sharpe



Anna Bankston

Kimberly Buehler



Gina Zubair

Adi Briskin Jeffrey Chi Daniella Coyle Shelby Edison Jaime Hebel Gabriella Hetu Sydney Hou Joy Hu Hunter Kemp Serin Koh Lena Levey Sophia Li Jason Liu Michaela “Mikki” Marcille Sophia Marlin Peter Michalski Jasmine Mosberger Bei Qi Olivia Salvage Jordan Spector Aaron Wang


Jade Wang

Letter from the Editors Dear Reader, For the first time since the spring of 2020, Spires editorial staff got together in-person, with new and familiar faces alike, to produce the Fall 2021 issue. Returning to the warm comradery and spirited discussions inherent to non-Zoom meetings, we were thrilled to have the privilege of meeting members we had never before seen in-person and welcoming passionate new additions to staff. We are extremely proud of our staff members for zealously advertising our deadline for submissions. Because of their hard work, we received over one hundred literature submissions and nearly eighty art submissions from talented undergraduates creators. With so many submissions, the review process was extensive, but our staff faced the challenge with enthusiasm. The twenty-six pieces of art and literature selected for the following issue represent only a fraction of the incredibly skillful writers and artists whose work we had the pleasure of appreciating this semester. Each submission sparked spirited discussion among our staff members. We have chosen to publish submissions which reveal the great variety of interests and strengths of undergraduate writers and artists from around the country. These pieces sample themes as similar as family, parenthood, and childhood, and as unique as singers and camel-riders, ladybugs and balloons. This collection of works represents the diversity of this generation of creators. It has been a pleasure for us to lead Spires back to an in-person environment with physical copies this semester, and we look forward to what is to come. Thank you to every creator who submitted work, every staff member who contributed their time to the creation of this magazine, and to our dedicated readers. We hope you enjoy it. Sincerely,

Lexie von Zedlitz Brianna Hines & Lexie von Zedlitz Editors-in-Chief

A Chicana Creation Story I died in her friend’s guesthouse to be more specific I die on that blow up mattress held like an instrument I can’t sing for shit, so I cry for joy I sound like La Llorona, a lost murderer searching, flooded in the mourning, a woman only real at night. played in the morning she is obviously proud of herself I am a little ashamed roses fall out of the comforter pink and turquoise sheets a ring of stars orbiting my head I look just like a looney tunes character or the holy virgin


Night Swim



A Depersonalized Space I come here to intro-spect. Diagnosis-free, dinosaur-flee, diamond-fleet. Unmedicated truths germinate in our liver and bloom out my nose We grit my teeth until Our ribs have enough of the friction and rattle And stop, frozen with The thought that someone may see inside Even in this Safe new place, our spot Pressure once in our gums tugs on my lips And I snarl. No not for you; I-we are ugly ugly. Nails of differing length and teeth chipped from Childhoods of eagerness and pretty forks. I could tell you to look inward, but that’s equally strange Of a place Cavernous and soil-scattered, With Oma’s brooches lining the ceilings And ornate bathtubs overflowing onto concrete. We can’t stop laughing at the way the bubbles tickle float into my ears and I must repeat and repeat cherry-slushie-tasting jokes followed By hard tack exposition. Grounding and grounding teeth grinding. Oh, I’ve done it wrong again The narrative flips on prime number days Like some people have their heart on the right Side of their chest. If anything ought to be pathologized? Though looking in my eyes may not reveal This busy-workshop Pistons pump and hiss and force rebellious sacks open Against my will and I’ve got coffee on my breath, still. There’s no mint in the place God forbid satisfaction MORGAN MATTKE Forbid satisfaction WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, ‘23 Forbid satisfaction. 3



At the Observatory We make our way up the hill to the observatory in silence. The sky freckled with clouds smiles down upon us. In its age-old wisdom it recognizes our familiar mark of naivete, our fatefully simplistic pleasure. The sun strikes my translucent, opalescent skin, and the silence widens between us. In these silences, I believed I could hear your conscience speaking softly to mine, reaching out to me across an unpartable sea of the unspoken. We continue walking, and arrive at the grassy spot in front of the observatory. I weave my fingers through the grass and the blades stain my fingers, but I don’t notice. We talk about the rooms of our nostalgia, cherry-colored in hindsight. I think about what it would have been like to know you then. To know you in a past time and a distant place, as strangers. But what is it to truly know someone? To see past their eyes and into the cosmos of their subconscious, what we call a soul? Or is it to know that this is beyond our grasp. That only a figment of them remains, the fanciful daguerreotype that we choose to remember. Silence grows again between us. I pick dandelions and you lay with your eyes closed gently. I trace the lines of your face, the crevices worn and owned by time. The gentle slope of your nose, the quiet restfulness of your mouth, your furrowed brows. For a moment, the palpable silence returns to me, a refreshing absence of cluttered thought. I imagine our consciences meeting in the middle of an arid desert, yours speaking the unspoken to mine in a pure, soft whisper. I think I see into you then, past your eyes and into the cosmos of your subconscious. Suddenly your eyes blink open and you catch me looking, an inscrutable expression clouding what I thought had been restfulness. I look down, ashamed, like a child caught stealing candy. Something had passed between us in that fleeting moment, and was now irreversible. Only the dandelions remain, hanging limply in my pale, opalescent hand. Perhaps I never had ownership over you, and it was you who saw through me.



Circus Kids



Playroom Be thou my guide until I find, Led by a tender hand, Thy happy kingdom in myself, And dare to take command. - Louisa May Alcott Here is where we play crocodile monopoly. Baskets in wild colors deep orchids woven, iconoclastic ladders to the ceiling— piercing through the ceiling. Here is where we dive to lick the ground and bellow our names with blue crayon. Here is our art and our clay. We fashion masks and desks and windows. I must always think of the willful, moody girl I try to manage, and I write of her to see how she gets on. This is our duck with letters in his beak which are urgent messages to the quiltmaker. That is our shelf holding our pewter cups, and ceramic hands, and books, and fairies also, our extra ponytail-holders. Those are our simple gifts. Don’t lose their pieces— or how will we find ourselves again?






Triptych I. My mother speaks to pots on the kitchen stove. Iron golems: she knows they listen well. As a child a man hit her with his bicycle and her mother said she had the good sense knocked out of her. She stepped out of the green edges of her childhood like the body of a rabbit frozen solid, and left the country in a billow, the kind of storm only teenagers know how to dredge up, flew to a city a lighter shade of gray and bought herself a blue coffee pot because it was the same shade as a Miró she had seen at the Beaubourg. She stayed because it was a place in which men on the subway tried to make babies smile and the steel car trundled down the streets like sap through the city’s mournful veins. Her childhood lay in the corner of the garden bed. Eyes hollowed, ribs sparkling, she stayed, if only to taste her mother’s ablutions in the Vistula as she called her daughter from across the kitchen. II. Years later, it comes to him in morsels–– that is what they taste like, at least, the memories he holds under his tongue and allows to melt into his teeth like the thick cubes of brown sugar his aunt used to bring back from the market. He tells it like: mastic, wildflower honey. Egg and lemon soup. Peeling a sliver of skin off the auricular as you form a lamb meatball in your hands. Flesh within flesh. Iron. The teapot in the cupboard is copper. He used to cut open Nespresso capsules and read the grounds in them. An eye, a mountain range. A journey. A home. These are the languages you forget to speak.


The shape of your lips around the first prayer you ever learned. The breathless silence of the knife as it is crossed over the Easter bread. The name of your father. The name of your son. III. If you could see all the stars in the galaxy, all of them at once, the sky would look like the carpet in the dentist’s office in the town that you grew up in. Brown, mostly. Brown like I am eleven years old and chestnuts––my mother calls them conkers––are prickly and green, despite their name. The betrayal of the Castanea. Brown like footprint. Like palm fiber. Horse’s mane. Brown as in bronze. As in silver, gold. As in my bedroom in October, the yellow windows lighthouse fires.





How To Know If A Guy Likes You Method I: Watch his body language and behavior 1. See if he makes eye contact with you while you’re around. See if He stares out at you from the other side of the lunch table, trying to make you laugh while establishing comedic dominance over the six other guys present. You eat with the boys on the weekends because all of your lady friends don’t like staying in the dorms when they don’t have to, but you don’t have a choice. You eat with the boys and they welcome you, especially Him. He grins at you and tells you they’re all going on an adventure after dinner. They’re dropping acid and walking as far as they can. You do not receive an invitation, however much you might want one. It’s okay, though. It’s good enough just to be at their table. Their table is special, sacred. It sits below the painting The Giant by N.C. Wyeth, your boarding school’s most prized possession. He always jokes about stealing it. It wouldn’t be that hard, He says. Just take out the security cameras and gather like ten guys to help carry the thing. I think it’d be easier to just get a poster version, you say. Ahh, but all the magic would be gone! He exclaims. No portals to other worlds. 2. Ask yourself whether he seems nervous or awkward when he’s around you. Never. 3. Pay attention to whether he smiles at you. See Him smile, then look away? He’s trying not to smile at you. He does this in the dining hall, in class, during homeroom, when you’re both studying with your beloved calculus teacher who says the two of you will get married one day if “everything goes right.” When He’s rallying your classmates, getting them excited for prom or spring fling or the soccer state championship. Always a fleeting glance. When He finally looks at you, you’re both dripping on the bank of Brandywine River. It’s senior ditch day and He nabbed you from the library, telling you to change into swimming attire and meet Him in the west parking lot in twenty minutes. You do what He says. He pulls up, shirtless in His gray Jeep Wrangler with the doors pulled off. You get in and look down at the console. “Wow,” you say. “I didn’t realize you drove stick.” He laughed, queuing up some teen-romance-indie-pop-movie-vomit music. “Of course I drive stick. There’s no other way to do it.” He pulled out of the school parking lot, heading left down Westtown Road. You hold onto the side of your seat and watch the road pass below you, thinking what a beautiful blue-gray blur it creates. The two of you say nothing. He turns onto Route-1 and gets stuck at a light. You’re embarrassed to be demanding so much attention, the two of you basically naked, the doors disappeared, and His music exploding around you. You’ve never looked more like a teenager in your life and it makes the edges of your cheeks hot. But you’re with


Him. He chose you. He ignored your bookishness and rule-following. He chose you. You pass Hank’s Diner and Pocopson Elementary, where He parks. Your nakedness makes you feel, well, naked, and you try to hurry Him along. He leads you over a busy overpass covering the Brandywine and down a man-made path leading to the river, the long reed grasses flattening beneath your feet. The pillars and sides of the bridge are covered in graffiti, and He shows you what He’s contributed. It’s mostly His name. You walk along the bank before reaching a maple tree that juts out over the water. He slips off His Chacos and begins climbing, motioning you to follow. You do. It’s easy for the both of you, having lived in the country for most of your lives. Your hands, feet, and legs work in tandem. The two of you reach the top half of the tree. “Jump on my count,” He says. “Ok,” you say, and ready your feet and hands. “3, 2, 1.” The two of you drop into the water below. You resurface seamlessly. He comes up a few seconds later, His blonde hair falling on His forehead and clouding His eyes. “We should probably get out of here,” He says. “The car exhaust has done weird things to the water over the years.” You both swim to the shore and struggle up the bank. You stand there. He grins at you, and you attempt to mold yourself into a normal position, but your gangly arms and legs don’t respond. “What should we do now?” you ask. “Well,” He responds. “I was about to do something that should’ve been done a long time ago.” He steps forward and kisses you. It’s good, until you realize what’s happening and pull away. He looks confused. “Did I do something wrong?” “No,” you say. “Not at all. I’m just a little worried.” “About what?” “Ruining this.” You point to your head, then his. “It won’t, I promise.” He steps toward you again. Kisses you again. You lean into it. The two of you leave the river. When you reach the bridge, He stops and takes a spray-paint marker out of His pocket. He draws a green heart on the cement before continuing up towards the freeway. 4. Observe whether his body and feet are angled towards you. Always. 5. Watch whether he mirrors your behavior. The two of you sit cross-legged on the east side porch of your school. It’s Saturday night, and he’s coming down off an acid trip. You’ve finished all of your work and you don’t want to be in your dorm room. He has a variety of different fruits lined up in front of him. Fruits He has never tried thanks to His parents, who do not eat fruit. He’s tried the apple and orange and is now moving onto the banana. “Very odd texture,” He says. The two of you look out over the campus you’ve


shared for the past six years. It’s quiet, save for the few students’ cars leaving for and returning from dinner dates in town. “I suppose I better get used to it. Have to eat fruit in college,” He says. You nod. “This is true. You’d probably be bullied.” “Oh well.” Your knees touch slightly. The sun is melting behind the group of pine trees that line the field hockey fields. He finishes the banana and stands. “Have a good night.” “You too.” Does he find excuses to touch you? Something like that. Method II: Get to know him better 1. See whether he teases or compliments you. Every member of your high school class receives an affirmation booklet in which their classmates can write nice things. He didn’t sign what He wrote to you, but you know it is His given the terrible penmanship and sheer amount of space it takes up on the page. “You helped the old Jason become the New and Improved Jason and that’s really amazing. You’re a great person. Most of all, I love that all of our communication is done with our eyes. There’s so much more coming, just look up!” 2. Pay attention to whether he opens up to you over time. He cries in your arms two weeks before you graduate. You are outside of your calculus teacher’s office. He doesn’t know what college to choose, and He is stressed. He cries, and you hold him. The bell rings, and He tears out of your arms and through the building’s doors as other students begin streaming past you. 3. Pay attention to whether he’s always willing to hang out with you. He’s the one who wanted to have the party. But at your house. He called you that December evening, asking if it was happening. You were in the car. You just bought a Wawa hoagie and very much wanted to swallow it whole when your phone begins vibrating against your thigh. “Is tonight happening?” “I don’t know, Jason. You’re the one who knows everyone.” He sighs into the receiver. “Just text people.” “I don’t really know how to do that. How to approach it.” “You graduated with them. It’s fine. Just text them and tell them to text other people.” You do as He says. People pour into your basement from the backyard. You grab the guitar amp from your dad so you all can play music. There’s a buzz in the air. No


one’s seen each other since college started last semester. Earlier that night, when you tell your mom what’s happening and who’s coming, she’s worried. “Couldn’t you find some more girls to come?” she said. “Mom, please. We’re fine. We’re all friends. We all graduated together. Besides, none of my female friends from school go to parties,” you said as you carried two bottles of Chardonnay down to the basement. It’s good to see everyone. Julian and Matt are on the grey two-seater couch. Will and Daniel are smoking out the backdoor. Aidan just arrived with beers and wine in tow. He showed up a few hours ago, tan and happy from His semester in New Orleans. You feel great. After a first semester of All Work No Play at college, you don’t know your limits and you’re five glasses of wine in and He’s not helping. He’s handing you drink after drink shot after shot it’s fine because you’re amongst friends and there is no need to worry and the basement is fine the couch is fine and you’re laughing and it’s ok and you’re happy because you missed your high school friends and it’s ok because your best friend is there and nothing will happen to you because everyone loves each other and but suddenly you’re in your room in your bed and you’re falling asleep but he’s on top of you and he’s­—he’s inside of you but is he? and you just hear your name over and over again but see nothing except the dark insides of your eyelids and the beckoning hand of sleep and you wake up the next morning around 7 am and you’re alone and you go to the bathroom and see hickies lining your neck and thighs and think: wow. I guess we are in love. 4. Check whether he’s following you on social media. His comments are everywhere, on all of your friends’ posts. On Aidan’s photo of his Virginian Greek life induction: “Sig nu’s finest. Frat fuckin star.” On Daniel’s picture of his new haircut: “Ladies, where are ya?” And theirs on His: variations of “WE’RE LIVING IN THE GOOD TIMES,” “handsome king,” and “ ” sit under His photos with frat brothers and New Orleans women that pop up every weekend for months.


You post on your Instagram story for His birthday. He DMs you His thanks. His mother posts constant Facebook updates, letting the world know exactly what He is doing. It’s wonderful. You’re proud. You communicate every few weeks. Sometimes, when you get too drunk and brave and careless, you call Him. You try to talk about that night in December. You try to get Him to admit His love. Every time you bring it


up, though, you get this: “You’re drunk. I don’t think we should be talking about this now.” “It’s fine, I promise. I want to talk about it.” “It’s not the right time. We can do this when you’re sober.” You always try to talk to Him about it the next morning. You text an apology and try to call Him. “I’m sorry,” you say. “I was wrong, you were right. I shouldn’t have called you in that state.” He ignores you for three weeks before FaceTiming you like nothing happened. It’s fine. It’s better than nothing. 5. Watch whether he gives you gifts or does things for you. One of your college friends is taking a book-making class, and she shows you how to do it with construction paper, printer paper, and yarn. You make Him a book. You put pictures in it, of Him, yourself, all your friends. The cover is yellow. It says His name inside. You leave some blank pages that He can fill. You build up the courage to talk to the lady at the post office. You choose a package in which to fit the book without bending it. You put His New Orleans school address on the outside of it. When He receives it, He sends you a snapchat. “Thank you so much for this,” He says. “I love it and I love ya.” 6. Watch to see if he texts you out of the blue. “How are you doing my dude?” His text read. He’s been in the mountains, taking time off during the pandemic. You tell your friends you ignored it. You didn’t. “I’m ok, how are you?” You stay as dry as possible. He’s doing great. He loves nature and hiking and skiing. He’s found a new God in the West. He never wants to come back. You stop the conversation after three exchanges and promise yourself you’ll never do that again. Method III: Finding out for sure 1. Ask your friends what he says about you when you’re not around. You tell Daniel after you tell Aidan. Aidan had mentioned something to Daniel about you having a tough time the past few months, so He already knew something was up. He was driving to Idaho to start a job at a ski resort when He called. You were unpacking after winter break, re-introducing yourself to your dorm room. “How’s it going?” he asks. “Not bad,” you reply. “Trying to get set up and ready for the new semester.” You sit down at your desk, which is covered in piles of fiction and poetry books from the past four centuries. “How are you?”


“I’m ok. Idaho is weird. Very different from college.” “Oh, I’m sure,” you say. “Not a lot of studying, huh?” He laughs. Silence ensues. “I talked to Aidan the other day.” “Oh really,” you say and laugh again. “Did he mention anything?” “Not really. Just that you’re struggling a bit.” “Aren’t we all?” You pick at the fringe of your jeans. “I suppose so.” You sigh. “You don’t have to tell me anything. I promise. No pressure.” You gesture about the room. “No, it’s fine. You and Aidan are kind of a two-for-one deal. I wouldn’t tell one of you without the other.” So you tell him. “Ok,” he says. “Yeah, I thought that was a little fishy but not unusual. I knew you two went up to the room, but He never mentioned anything about you, so I wasn’t sure anything actually happened.” You nod in spite of yourself. “Yeah. That makes sense.” Daniel calls you back about two weeks later. “So, He’s in Idaho. And He wants to have dinner with me.” “Ok,” you say. You’re sitting in bed, watching the 22nd season of Survivor. It’s 11:33 pm and you’re trying to go to sleep. “Why is He in Idaho?” “He’s here for snowboarding, I think.” He pauses. “Is that… ok with you? I don’t really know anyone here yet and–” “It’s fine, Danny.” “I just wanted to check and I won’t do anything if you’re uncomfortable, really I won’t–” “Daniel. Please. It’s ok. You’re friends. It’s alright.” You kick off your comforter. “Ok. I just wanted to ask. If you asked me not to, I wouldn’t do it in a heartbeat.” “I know. Have a good night.” You hang up, plug your phone in at your desk, and return to your bed. You call Daniel back three weeks later. Summer is approaching and his job is ending and he’s getting ready to move back East. “How’s school?” You sigh. “I don’t know, it’s good. A lot of work, I guess. Mostly writing, a lot of reading. Just trying to do what I do.”


“That’s good.” You pause. “Yeah. By the way, how was your dinner with Jason?” He’s quiet for a bit. “Oh. I don’t know. It was fine. I brought another friend with me so we didn’t really talk about high school stuff.” “Hmm. Alright.” You drop it, and the two of you talk for another two hours. 2. Talk to his friends if you’re not ready to ask him yourself. You, Aidan, Daniel, and another friend of yours are sitting on your back porch, eating pizza and drinking beers. You’re discussing high school. The four of you move from classmates to teachers to recent disciplinary drama. The conversation slips to parties. You rock back in your chair, listening. You can’t contribute much. “Remember the graduation party?” one asks. “Yeah, that was crazy,” one says, nursing the IPA cradled in his left hand. Your other friend says, “I got so close to Olivia that night. We rescued that sophomore with the short brown hair together. Olivia couldn’t find her, so she texted her. The sophomore was responding to her in some kind of gibberish, and we had to run around the house trying to find her.” “Did you?” you ask. Your plate is clean and your hands are clasped in front of you, resting on the edge of the table. “Yeah.” He nods. “She was in some room with Jason. He was all over her, on top of her and whatnot.” He folds a new slice of pizza in half and slides it into his mouth. Aidan snorts. “Sounds like Jason.” “Yeah,” Daniel chimes in, throwing his dirty napkin down onto his plate. “He only makes his move on a girl after she’s ten drinks in.” You all nod in agreement. You all laugh.





Ode to A Sullen Singer in the Season of the Wind There you are the apple sliding down a tree trunk that never intended to be so tough. There you are front-page-sexy, pouting 19 year old patron saint of impatient brains. Magazines still love to remember the frowning vixen they sculpted from stone silences. And was that not enough for the tuxedoed werewolves? It doesn’t matter anymore. Thank God for an artist that knows she is made of bone and would like to keep it that way. We don’t need your skeleton, Singer. We’ve taken too much flesh already. We forget who remakes her own bruises in the blues and yet still finds sultry reds. It’s you pruning a vine of piano-key leaves into syncopated topiary and sinking into teeth-sharpening consonance. A contralto spider spinning silk then burying incisors into a meaty note. You sketch the strike of a snare across a whirling canvas of ostinato, discordance, and mechanical music-box magic.

A callused hand drops the drumstick at last––not a bloodshot eye in sight.





“They call it Surprise” Suspended in hollow desert air the town always settles back down in-between the black highway and the scraggly giant. Scabbed and scarred the man on the rocking porch seems to levitate amongst dust be amongst dust born amongst dust die amongst dust and when you ask says “They call it Surprise” and leaves it at that.

Strange green limbs sprout out of the giant our God. The cracked road curves its way from the center of town up and over to the otherside of His back. When you turn away from that lifeline you see the sparse huts of the town slanted and hallow hunch over towards Him in dutiful prayer. Scales of white paint peel from the door frames: pitiful offerings.

Sparse and tired are the people but the buildings remain reborn every starry night. Protruding from the red clay reaching for that Strange Beast the dust coats their windows and their barren insides coil and creak in revolt. A dog skin and bones sits in the slim spotted shade of the single Palo Verde tree.




for naia under a softly weeping mother, enwombed in dirt, i hear a cry. and it’s easy, at first, to unearth you. i form you with child hands, dig deeper into black soil until i reach clots of red iron clay. and i impress your baby skin with my thumb’s fingernail, knicking lines of small deceit. and i sculpt what is supposed to be me. and i love you even though i can’t get the details right. i know the shared parts of our faces well, through deft cheek cupping hands. i know the widening watering can nose, the bare arms soft as lambs ear, and the copper tones of redwood brine. i comb the earthworms out of your hair, brush away the pillbugs from your chest, unlace cotton web veins from your roots. and the two of us sit, hand in hand, next to the overgrown birdbath, frequented only by water skeeters with an offering to gods who offer love, i await for the sun to kiln your skin and awake you with a blessing. birthed, you come true on the longest summer day. my statue, my soulmate, my sister, my soleil and you learn to run in my footsteps but oft step out of line. i teach you to pinch creeping myrtle off her vine, and sip sweet nectar from her arched lip. i show you how to crush chamomile buds between nail and thumb like a spilled yolk of blue jay egg. we etch sweet faces on acorns and leave our creatures together, hand in hand. and we shade our shared sheer skin under two taller than youth sunflowers until the light is caught in honey softened hair, mine is the dark shell and yours the fresh seed. who taught you to dance the way you do? not i. for you are the sun, and i am the ray. you no longer mirror the face of my own. the garden is gone now and there’s nowhere left to play. so far away, my love made of clay, ever alive, and almost full-grown. i wish to embrace you, sister in stone.



Ballad of a Day March (After Cathy Park Hong) We travel camel-back thru barren braut, past many a small happening too small to call towns, They crop up in our path with the might of a shed or three, the scent of bread, dusted road, lamplight, Compadres suck dry air and croon for a shy sip of our scarce stock. White sun beats noon on our backs. Pueblititito on the horizon, We thank our gods it’s not sunny season on this mercurial planet. Fizzing pebblets whip our camels’ royal robe–a saddle blanket striped red, green, and faded blue sputtering like a drum, fringes frilling– We don’t feel the sting. We mute it with brandy flask and timeless tune. Orange dusk filters through tufts of tossed particules, Sandy, brandied nostrils, our camel spits ptou and saunters into town, Land-candied hostels creep with shard crystal, hardened by stark light and stark night. Through luminous windows voluminous sacks of rice, grain, sorghum stack to low earth ceilings, The barkeep hums between beer barrels and soft rock salt. He digs under a rusty fingernail with his dirt-caked rag and chips away at the crystalline man-sized loaf– seasoning, no doubt, for tonight’s special– broth We concur: no stops. Our camel spits ptou and marches into indigo



How to Raise a Baby Much as you might spread mulch over the yard to help your plants grow, we spread meat around the baby in the crib. We are nervous about being parents, but we think we’re doing a good job. When the baby smiles, we ask if he loves his daddies, and he gurgles and grabs our pinkies with his whole hand. When the baby cries, we hold him and ask what is wrong, and he babbles, “I bear a deep and aching hunger but have only one mouth with which to feed,” and we cradle him into our chests and breathe slowly with him until he falls asleep and the wallpaper stops bleeding. We got a sitter once, so we could go out to dinner just the two of us. When we came back, she said the baby was very easy to take care of—he just waited, she said, he just sat still and waited—the only thing that she had to clean up after was the wolves—but that she would not like to come back again, she was sorry, but when she got too close to the baby she could feel her own skin—no, she couldn’t really explain better than that but have a good night Mr. and Mr. Bowers and good luck with the baby. Now only one of us leaves the house at a time, and the baby doesn’t fuss too much. One night one of us is poking parts of his face and singing things like “This is your nose, your nose, your nose, this is your nose,” and the baby whispers, “It is lamentable that human hearts are protected in their cages.” And we stop singing, and we wait and when the other one of us comes home, we hold him tightly. Because maybe all the baby meant was that people are not always open enough with each other, yes honey I’m sure that’s what he meant and I love you too, don’t cry it’ll be okay. “You have been good to this body,” the baby tells us, before he leaves. He repeats this several times a day for a week, and after we hear it the second time we start packing him a bag, with snacks and clothes and toys. He does read at this age, though most books we place before him revert to their original hieroglyphic form before burning to green ash. We bring the ash back to the library but we are still fined. The baby has become so difficult to clean up after. We open the fridge to get his formula twice a day and there is another carcass in the fridge. Sometimes we take the time to cut it and put the pieces in the blender for him. Sometimes we have to leave the room, and we come back minutes later to find the whole animal gone except for the bones. The baby likes sucking on the bones. The baby is floating now, in our small backyard. The wolves are here again; we hired an exterminator, but they keep getting into the yard and the baby’s bedroom. Now they


all begin to howl at the black and volcanic moon. The baby opens his mouth and begins to toll, like a deep church bell. The moon ruffles its black feathers and tolls back. They ring together as if to signal the arrival of a train. The earth fissures underneath the baby and he drops into it. Half of the wolves follow, running forward and diving into the pit in the backyard. Then the dirt closes. The moon becomes dormant again. “Goodnight moon,” we whisper, hugging each other and shivering in the brisk wind. We go inside but leave the porch light on. “Goodnight baby.”





Birthday Balloons



Ladybug Lullaby In a whisper of warm vanilla milk, even softer than the way you wish on fallen lashes found on bruise-purple moonshadows beneath the eye, you tell me about today. You saw a ladybug sleeping on the windowsill. You hope, with locket-clasped hands, that the cherry corpse will still be there tomorrow. You hold that wish between your soft palms like the first and last precious thing you will ever know. You worry. Because there’s dust on the wings. That fuzzy coat of day’s debris. Armor built with pieces of passing hours. There’s dust on the wings and time is a heavy thing to wear. It’s a heavy thing to take off, too. Like rained-on jeans. When you have to sit down and pull your way out, a death-defying escape. Once, there was a time when you pulled lightning bugs from the sky and jarred them to keep them. They were always asleep today. Dead is just a game to play. They would always wake up tomorrow. Your worry is now a question delivered in a voice half-awake


and half-dreaming: How will those wings rise tomorrow? For right now, let’s pretend that windowsill into our own resting place. Come lie down next to me, see what ladybug sees from deep, dark bug eyes. We will watch the dying sun carry the world into tomorrow. Things can only die when you aren’t looking. You turn your head to play with crying clouds and when you return, every body is still, gone. It’s hide-and-seek. Here’s our little trick: never ever ever close your eyes. Tomorrow, we will go to the windowsill together. We will look to the polka dots and ask ladybug what it means to be still. Tomorrow, you will wake up. You will wake up to me singing the sound of your name. And I will blow the dust off your wings.



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