Issuu on Google+

Spittoon Seasonal Affective Disorder

1.2


 

Spittoon Volume One Issue Two Seasonal Affective Disorder Winter 2011

www.spittoonmag.com


Fiction Editor Matt VanderMeulen

Poetry Editor Kristin Abraham

Creative Nonfiction Editor Berly Fields

Cover art by Morwenna Catt: Shot [painting with stitch]


Spittoon 1.2

Table of Contents Nancy Zafris

Fiction

The Strep Climber

4

Lori White

Fiction

Office Hours

5

Laura Madeline Wiseman

Fiction

Potboiler

9

J. Michael Wahlgren

Poetry

Unquestionable as windblown letters.

12

F. Daniel Rzicznek

Poetry

from Leafmold

13

from Leafmold

14

Mary Elizabeth Parker

Nonfiction

Personal Space

15

Gina Myers

Poetry

from FALSE SPRING

20

Rick Marlatt

Poetry

First Snow

24

Meghan MacNamara

Nonfiction

Hospital Coffee

26

Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro

Nonfiction

Dingolay—An Island Girl’s Memoir

28

Damien Kortum

Poetry

Ulysses at Dead Station

35

Donald Illich

Poetry

Lights in the Waiting Room

37

Faith S. Holsaert

Fiction

Appalachian Mitzvah

38

William Henderson

Nonfiction

This Much

45

Nathan Hauke

Poetry

PASTORAL: FIRST, WE’RE YOUNGMAPLES; THEN, WE’RE YOUNG MAPLES; NESTED WITH TENT WORMS

54

DEERFIELD

55

2


Spittoon 1.2

Special Section: Featuring Art by Morwenna Catt

56

[ink sketch]

Kissing Walls

58

[embroidered textile]

This Is Not a Love Song

59

[ink sketch]

Yellow Wallpaper

60

[painting with stitch]

Dead Cloud

61

Lenore R. Harris

Fiction

Good Intentions

62

Maureen Foley

Poetry

Mist

66

Cal Freeman

Poetry

Note Taking While Listening to an Ipod

67

Lori D’Angelo

Fiction

Provisions

69

Jennifer Clark

Nonfiction

A Nod to Ernest Borgnine

83

Don Cellini

Poetry

The rain is happy today.

89

After that he left

91

A mango ripens

92

Pear

93

Jessica Barksdale

Poetry

Contributors

95

3


Spittoon 1.2

The Strep Climber Nancy Zafris

The strep climber came to town. His temperature had run high for years, but he never felt the strep in his system; it was something that kept him warm on the mountaintop. There was fanfare when he arrived. The mountaineering and scuba shop, its tile roof blazing orange, had strung a matching orange banner along its gutter. The strep climber was a hero to rugged outsiders skirting poverty for their Himalayan dreams, but it was the wealthy he was here to flatter. He wished to ignore the man now greeting him on the sidewalk. When the man smiled the strep climber remembered him, a dentist who had failed to summit under another leader. The dentist wore a Polar-Tec jacket against the unusual Florida chill. The raw breeze off the ocean felt like an oven blast to the strep climber. He was not happy unless it was sub-zero and his hands were shaking from working the ice screws. He was stuck for two overlong days in this moist flat swampland where the air was too warm, where he felt too strongly the coals flaming inside him. Just 48 hours of promotional stuff, needed donations from the rich, and he could be back to the snow and cold. In his talk about alpine mountaineering he described with near rapture the frozen bodies scattered below the Everest peak and how you saw yourself mirrored in their snow goggles and were briefly, erotically coupled in death with the men peering up at you. He was dying from his strep and didn’t know it. Lying in his hotel bed near the flat sand of a flat beach with flat saline waves hauling a dull sound to his ears, he actually longed to die. Returned to the high altitude, however, cocooned in his tent, he would hear the Sherpas’ laughter, always they were laughing, and he would yearn to live forever. He would die. He didn't know it. The strep found its own base camp under a molar, then made the deadly trek to his heart. He was not left friezed into the ice as he would have liked, a permanent memorial. He passed away in the medical tent. A helicopter flew him out for a regular burial in his hometown of Yakima,Washington. The dentist was stranded at Camp Two. His first thoughts chased his lost $85,000 and a second failed summit and the victory photographs he had already envisioned on his office walls. The Sherpas kept working. At night they talked and talked and their laugher rode up and down on the wind. Sometimes they passed their friends frozen on the trail, their own images flitting across the snow goggles’ eternal gaze. That was something they could count on. They knew there was no life after death. They knew they would never meet the strep climber again.

4


Spittoon 1.2

Office Hours Lori White

1. Just three years ago I was happy teaching English at my high school alma mater: a private boarding school with orange groves and horses. Students wore navy blazers to dinner, embroidered with the school crest. The teachers were asked to dress in skirts or slacks, but because I’d coached the girls’ volleyball team to a state championship, I got away with jeans. I must have looked like the typical lesbian P.E. teacher. Catherine Pratch was my star setter. Catherine’s cheeks had a translucent blush, a mark of good skin. She crossed the court with rod-straight posture that intimidated the other team. We’d run through pepper drills before a game and jaws dropped when Catherine blocked the ball before it could clear the net. 2. After the boarding school let me go, I started teaching at a community college. There were no navy blazers there. My community college students presented me with new problems: how to work full-time and stay in school. The only coaching I did came at office hours when I patched up lives instead of essays. By a twist of fate, one of my students was Becky. She’d been a friend of rosy-cheeked Catherine at the boarding school, before getting kicked out for smoking pot in the school tack room. Becky wanted me to help her with her transfer letter to Cal Poly. She was planning on majoring in horticulture. I said, “That sounds right. The marijuana crop behind the stables proved you had a green thumb.” Becky said, “Yeah, well, I can’t take all the credit.” She asked me if I’d heard the news about Catherine. She’d gone over there to play an exhibition match and ended up staying. Her latest conquest was a sheikh from Dubai. People Magazine had caught her on the red carpet at the opening of the world’s largest mall. Becky said, “Catherine always knew how to land on her feet.”

5


Spittoon 1.2 White, Office Hours

3. Back then at the boarding school everything was different. I didn’t get paid much but I felt a part of the elite. During the holidays, Catherine used to stay on campus. Her mother had moved to London after the divorce and met her next husband on a walking tour of Scotland. Catherine’s father—a rocket scientist at JPL—was busy reviving the shuttle program. In the afternoons we worked on her volleyball serve, then went to a movie or dinner. She would linger at my bookcase to inspect old trophies and photos. She liked a book of Keats poems my own English teacher had given me for graduation and started a campaign for me to pass it on to her. At the time, I was surprised by my sentimentality and moved the book to a dresser drawer. Catherine never once mentioned its absence. Her mother missed graduation, and I gave Catherine the book in the end. I inscribed it, “Set first before you show them your spike.” 4. There in my community college office, the transfer letter taken care of, Becky started going down memory lane. She said, “Catherine used to talk about you. Nothing really bad. Everyone was fair game. I just thought you should know.” I suggested Becky tackle her high school record head on. Use the pot infraction to show Cal Poly how she’d changed. Becky said, “What makes me most mad is the headmaster didn’t believe me. That’s Catherine’s M.O.—make people think she’s too precious to do anything wrong.” She added, “Catherine said her dad could fix things for me.” 5. I found Catherine’s picture in People Magazine. She was playing dress up in the heels and jewelry, her shoulders squared like they were pinned behind her. The caption read, “Sheikh Noori Al Fallah and American volleyball player Catherine Pratch take in a day of shopping.” I googled his name and twenty thousand hits came up. He’d built the world’s first seven-star hotel, skipping over the sixth star altogether. Catherine’s name brought up a few volleyball sites and the high school’s webpage, where alumni posted wedding and baby photos. There was a picture of Catherine in front of Dubai’s glass-domed ski mountain. It looked like a giant snow globe.

6


Spittoon 1.2 White, Office Hours

6. I guess I had sympathy for Catherine because my parents had dumped me in boarding school to go off and start their second lives. But turning forty had marked the beginning of my own new life: new singlehood, new career, and new sexual orientation. I eventually lost my job after dating a woman at the boarding school who worked in fundraising. When word somehow got out, the parents’ checks stopped coming in. Her name was Phoebe Cutler and I might have forgotten about her eventually if not for the note she sent me after we’d both packed up and left. Phoebe wrote, “There’s got to be a fit out there for me. I must belong somewhere, don’t I?” 7. Catherine was done with her sheikh and moving back to the States. Becky said, “She doesn’t have her next step planned yet. Must be a first.” The story got even more cryptic when Becky said Catherine was staying with her. I agreed to meet them for dinner. Catherine’s tennis bracelet caught the café’s soft light. It looked like it belonged on a much older woman, someone who’d earned that many diamonds. From the sound of things, Catherine wouldn’t be wearing it much longer; the sheikh’s credit card expired in two months. She was thinking about playing volleyball again and asked me if I would help her get in shape. When I told her I’d hung up my whistle, Becky looked oddly triumphant. Catherine said, “Becky thinks I should go back to school.” “Always good to have a backup plan,” I told her. “You’ve been out of the game a while.” “She wants the quick fix,” Becky said. Catherine picked at her salad with her fork turned backwards in the continental style. “Who doesn’t?” she said. “It’s about recognizing opportunities.” “I give up,” Becky said. “Go meet that Duke your mother’s been pushing. But this time get something you can bank on.” I blamed skipping coffee and dessert on a stack of waiting papers. As I stood to go, Catherine asked with a sly smile if I ever heard from Phoebe Cutler. “I never thought the school board would be so homophobic. You know, I didn’t mean for you to go, too.” 7


Spittoon 1.2 White, Office Hours

Becky’s giggles evaporated when I looked at Catherine and said, “Seems like you helped shape several lives. No doubt you’ll do as well with your own.” Once home, I settled on the sofa to read my students’ papers. The assignment was to write their philosophy on learning. Most of the students at the community college had returned to school after a few years lost in the grinding world. I thought of Catherine, tanned and beaming beside her sheikh. I must have looked the same once. Too stunned by possibilities to realize we were disappearing.

8


Spittoon 1.2

Potboiler Laura Madeline Wiseman

Again with the move. Again you’ve boxed up your shelves of text books, your bathroom of pads, deodorant, ibuprofen. Again your stained mattress crowds the flat carpet and butts the walls of your mom’s apartment. The vinyl blinds teeth the floor with streetlight. You’ve entered your mom’s tomb. Still she breathes. Hotdogs boil in a pan of water on subject the stove. A roach scurries into the corner behind the coffeemaker. Still the TV flickers before her glazed pupils as she smokes. Still when she shuffles to the stove and stabs an aluminum fork into the processes meat, her toes crack. Through the thin apartment walls, the TV murmurs at you. You read a novel. You write to a dead friend who dropped out of school to marry and birth two sons. The eldest squished kittens until something, their guts maybe, something creamy, churned from the corners of their mouths. You think of her as you glance from the corner of aluminum foil you’ve peeled back from the one window of the room. You examine the night. Twelve cars with flat setting tires and rusted roofs stud the parking lot. Six times you’ve caught teens fumbling on graffitied stairwells open to the stars. Three times you’ve heard a scream, a crash, a Please stop, but always your mom has done nothing. And you, your mom’s eldest, pressed your thumbs hard into your ears and waited for the noise to work itself out and die. In the morning your two adult sisters arrive at the apartment. They share the other bedroom. You three whisper together, lifting artifacts: a box of expired crackers, a dustpan of bugs, a pipe with a film of resin, black and warm. You say, She’s crazy. I’ve got to get out of turning here, though you’ve just arrived, again. Your sisters nod point and help you plot. I’ve got a suitcase, says one. I’ve got a ticket for a bus, says the other, but they both freeze and flatten their mouths as your mom shuffles into the kitchen for coffee. They exit to their room. You small talk with her

9


Spittoon 1.2 Wiseman, Potboiler

as the soaps parade and commercials recommend dreams. For every one hundred words you offer, she gives you ten. Then you return to your square of foil, the handwritten letter to your dead friend folded over and a novel with an ending you will anticipate by page thirty-three. falling Your sisters go. Your sisters arrive. The scratchy pitch of action them leaks in whispers through the walls. You try to remain hidden, but your mom gives you the phone. You call in take-out orders: five dollar large pizzas, egg rolls that ooze yellow drops of oil, diet cola, lots of ice. You’re never hungry. Not even the one lone hotdog floating in its pan of water in the fridge tempts you. A skin on the pan’s water ripples when you open the door. Other than the hotdog, the fridge contains black nail polish (your sisters’), a half-gallon of skim milk (your mom’s), and a novel (yours). subplot You move in. You move out. This goes on and on for years. Each time you arrive with your mattress, your sisters snigger. They wear chicer boots, more tattoos spiral down their arms, backs, and thighs, another piercing appears in their ears, lips, and tongues. You hear someone moan though the thin walls. Sometimes the moans are singular, a tenor or alto. Sometimes there are a multitude of voices. You imagine a city choir rounding their mattress on the floor and your sisters there with their black eyes and thin ankles swaying with the motion. You do not bring people into your mom apartment. You do not even consider masturbation. Often you dream of the dead friend who accompanies you on walks through the back doors of a stage in a massive auditorium. A half dozen kittens trail behind you. Some with broken tails, some with much worse. denouement On your birthday, you enter your room to find a warm pistol in the middle of your blue and white flowered comforter. You’ve just delivered to your mom a diet cola, lots of ice, a king sized candy bar, and a plastic baggie of something else. The foil on your window has been folded back and taped shut. The pages of your note are scattered like fishon the floor. A novelrests on your pillow. The 10


Spittoon 1.2 Wiseman, Potboiler

author is unknown to you. The language isn’t romantic. You nudge the gun with a finger and realize with a lurch, the gun has always been there. Always it has waited for a moment like this to glint in the hallway light from the crack of your bedroom door. You pick it up, but find not a gun, but a kitten with something at the side of its mouth. You place it on the pillow and peel open a new corner of foil. You see lovers on stairs. You listen to the murmur of the TV, to the crack of your mom’s toes, and to your sisters’ moans. You pick up a pen to finish the note to your long dead friend.

11


Spittoon 1.2

Unquestionable as windblown letters. J. Michael Wahlgren

The boots that let you run loose, (no mishmash of who slept sound in the grey) Are like white horses In a dry-dewed field, convoluted and absent without a hand to be raised.

12


Spittoon 1.2

 

from Leafmold F. Daniel Rzicznek

     

Dear Amanda: the best part of my day: sitting behind a large window reading twenty or so pages of Campbell McGrath’s Seven Notebooks, looking up every so often to watch the fucking rain fall on my chained-up bicycle but not caring much (a damp, windy ride home—only seven blocks—in the young evening across the railroad tracks where I began my poem “Winnowing” some years ago and think of it every time I cross them) because I’ll pass through our door, hear the dog bark and under his playful huffing, the light disturbance—the living sound of your life in one of the rooms—your breath on my neck as we hug is the breath of the world; how happy I am with this almost certain future. A blue unfolding engulfed overhead makes a note of each moment: resounding, reflective, unverbose. When seasoning meat keep one hand clean and be mindful of both. A smile on the lips of the Tonsured Maize God—then he closes his enormous eyes. Bad magnetism has kept us at poles—let it pass, let it pass.

13


Spittoon 1.2

from Leafmold F. Daniel Rzicznek

Pale-faced oryx beneath moonlight—leans into himself. You ate peas for breakfast and the mind, as usual, flailed through the Book of Job like a dull machete, knowledge being too abstract. America says to us: be beautiful but do it on command. The owls are talking and singing in my living room and there’s no such thing as the middle of nowhere. The Poet’s Interview: “What should a poem result in?” Redemption, goddamnit. Legs and claws withdrawing into cozy rifts—we’re underwater and still undergoing changes. The glaciers muttered a bit this morning (one tongue made a particularly rueful clatter). Pomegranate, hazelnut, rosemary, mistletoe, nightshade, morning glory. Winter can never be an opposite—simply an occurrence, a recurrence. As if you were listening. The ghost takes your arm and leads you through what could be a charming view of the abyss: bomb-torn trees and great mosaics of cartilage. Here we are walking with the evils of the world on either side. Dim sum arrives and who knows what’s inside!

14


Spittoon 1.2

Personal Space Mary Elizabeth Parker

I am standing in line at Mickey D’s, the Golden Arches, America’s oasis, and I am miffed. I have not had an excellent day. At home, I tried and failed to write a poem. Individual words, inert, just sat there on the page, like horse plops. I’m a poet who can’t ‘po’ but only poo. I’m seeing horse poop, literally—the time years ago when two of my cousins christened themselves the Dung Patrol of the Homecoming Parade. They donned orange Brillo clown wigs and baggy pants with suspenders. With shovels slung over their shoulders, they marched behind the parade’s horse contingent, whirling forward every few steps to toss a shovel-full of dung toward each other. I come here needing to wrestle my bad mood. The waft of Super Size Fry grease is as soothing to me as the scent of chamomile to other women. But I can’t eat the fries anymore or I blimp up. I buy a Diet Coke instead and head toward my corner table, which is always, always empty for me. Today some guy is sitting plop at my table.

He’s about 60, perched backward on his chair, straining anxiously toward the door as if antsy to meet up with somebody right now. Hung from his bony frame are a fine-gauge tapioca-color sweater and expensive linen slacks. Their olive drab looks good against his skin. His skin is a color called red-bone*—not ‘black’ but like burnt cinnamon or red-eye gravy. His spit-shined oxblood sandals mark him as a man in the European style (American males don’t wear such strappy shoes). Shooting silent death rays at him to vacate my table, I seat myself, fuming, in a nearby booth. I try to calm down by reading my book, where the author does not fume at persons who annoy her. In Peripheral Visions, Mary Catherine Bateson recounts her years of living in rural Philippines, where the villagers expected intimacy with her personal business (appearing unbidden at her bedside in the mornings). At first, she feels squeezed, and then she feels put off, by their pushy customs alien to us. But her mother was Margaret Mead and her father was Gregory Bateson; she has enough anthropologist blood in her to adjust to any environment. ___________

15


Spittoon 1.2 Parker, Personal Space

Here, my environment fails to adjust to me. Though the laser heat of my evil-eye should have caused him to incinerate, the man continues to sit smack-dab at my table. He has bought food and eats it slowly, slowly—with infinite deliberation and satisfaction—as if the person he waits for might finally come if he pretends he doesn’t care. Slowly, he squeezes packets of ketchup into a carton of Super Size Fries and then slowly extracts from the carton one red fry and eats it in segments, three slow bites, and then extracts another red fry and eats it, and another red fry, all without sticky-ing his fine hands.

I’m not charmed by his delicacy. All I know is he is preventing me from occupying my rightful table—while here, in the booth I’ve tried to adjust to, another man is horning in, forcing himself on me in my new space, making me shudder in my seat. This guy is big (I could feel his bulk shift as he slid in), sitting in the booth joined back-to-back to my booth: Our backsides are separated from loving touch only by the seat-back, a high sheaf of molded plastic. Now he is jiggling his foot, jiggle 1-23… pause… pause… jiggle 1-2-3…pause… pause… jiggle 1-2-3, so that the jiggle travels up through him and through the seat to me. The flat voice of the woman he’s sitting with (she says something about somebody washing a dog) sifts over me like stray hairs and he answers her in a low grunt, first clearing his throat like a smoker. Jiggle 1-2-3…pause… pause… jiggle 1-2-3. He jiggles me until I want to lunge over the top of the booth and slam him with Peripheral Visions. I am simmering like a pot on low boil. Why do men have to force-feed their energy all through a room? My guy students do it, that mindless fidgeting—one leg jittering like a jack hammer while the upper body sits rigidly attentive. I know if I protested, Jigglefoot here would think I was nuts. He’s not aware he jack-hammers and even if he stopped, he’d just re-start. I could move—but I was here first. I try to read again. I can’t. I try to write a few notes. Horse plops—useless. I give up. I rise and see he’s not just big but huge, like that football player named for a kitchen appliance.** He is wrapped in a huge faded blue tee-shirt that says Atlanta-Morrow, Best Harley-Davidson Dealership in Georgia. He wears huge clayreddened boots. And chains. I knew a guy assembled like that—he rode with the Charlotte Hell’s Angels—a former housemate gone rogue. There’s nothing to assure 16


Spittoon 1.2 Parker, Personal Space

me Jigglefoot’s friendly. And his woman, who is pretty in a soft, down-sliding way, I have no doubt would snatch me bald (in Southern parlance) if she had to. I flounce past them and fling myself across the restaurant to another booth, where I can still watch the red bone man and catch the exact second he leaves.

But my new booth is worse. Ensconced at his table across the aisle from me, sits a squat, broad-shouldered guy powering loudly through his repertoire of blowhard anecdotes. The bloviator’s putative audience is his young son and daughter (both of them hefting little bellies like his belly) and his soft wife, wedged against the wall. When he orders Don’t slump, the kids sit straight up (the wife doesn’t). But it’s obvious from their default lassitude (they slump again, immediately) they’ve heard all his bluster before. His real audience is any strangers in earshot. He tips back in his chair to give his lungs room to expand, booming about some altercation at WalMart where he strait-jacketed (with the guy’s own tee-shirt!) some idiot who bumped into him blam! without saying, Excuse me, sir! He learned his defensive moves from the WWA (we learn) back when they were privileged to have him. Butwrestling couldn’t keep me, no, he yells (and winks at his son but really at us strangers), becauseeverybody knows who’s gonna win. Boxingcan’t expect me, either, he shouts, as if we all were agents itching to sign him. But he would, he concedes loudly, step into a hockey contract for $125,000 or $225,000and give ’em just a teensy showof violence. Now his saga’s hockey, about obliterating one Dean (simpering as he says the guy’s name) in some chump game, knocking him flat on the ice at the Coliseum and cleaning up with him like a rag. Whether he creamed Dean last night or last year or only in his dreams isn’t clear, but The Humiliation of Dean is, clearly, iconic for this family—the son pounds his fist on the table and breathes yeah; the wife beams at her little brood with love. Dean makes them laugh, shores them up—and pumps up Dad to the point where he feels big, really big enough. He thumps himself on the chest and says happily: Mr. King of the Ice!

17


Spittoon 1.2 Parker, Personal Space

The redbone man bites into a fry (please, it must be the bottom of the carton). He peeks toward the door—his eyes linger. Whoever he hopes for isn’t coming, anyone can see that. But he turns back to the mess of cold fries and keeps eating. Keeping on for pride’s sake, maybe—like I once did when a lover failed to show up at the pricey restaurant he named and I ordered a meal for myself and ate carefully, pretending it did not taste like sand. But I’m still miffed. I still want my table, to do my work. Why did the red bone man have to take it for his dinky low-rent drama?

_____________

All at once I realize: I’ve become the guy at Dagwood’s. Dagwood’s was the dive where my sister worked her way through college. Every night, a guy like an irascible bear showed up to be watered and fed. Everyone jockeyed notto serve him because he was so un-wonderful. He considered Dagwood’s his private kitchen. He never tipped a waitress, not even a nickel, and he never spoke his order aloud but instead swore under his breath at new girls who didn’t know what he always ate. And he growled, loudly, and stared them down, if a stranger dared to sit in his seat. I think about him: seething and sullen. With waitresses who didn’t love him even a little and customers who cringed when he switched his anger to them. If he cared for anyone in that place—a place he came to every night for sustenance (and solace?)—he had, as my dad used to say, a funny way of showing it. If I’m not the guy at Dagwood’s, I’m close. I come here to Mickey D’s every day, expecting this place to give me what I want: a pleasing effluvium of fry grease and the opportunity for a little voyeurism: I watch the petty world inside McD’s as if its patrons were targets in a peephole. I crown myself (in my own mind) as some sort of VoyeuseMarchioness***. I think of Mickey D’s as a fiefdom for myself—where all persons must concede to me my royal spot (my table), and must have the grace, as my liegemen, to not jiggle. I squeeze everyone into this vision, leaving no room for generosity or mercy.

18


Spittoon 1.2 Parker, Personal Space

Abashed and ashamed, I (silently) release my table to the red bone man: I hope that by some miracle the person he wants will arrive and sit beside him and say what he needs to hear. I release my proprietary expectations of this place. I sit in my seat and am still. * Red bone is an old term used pejoratively by whites and, ironically, positively by blacks (a Negro woman may be called, appreciatively, ‘red bone’ if the speaker prefers lighter-skinned women). Usually, it is used to refer to a Negro with lighter skin, often with a reddish cast. The name Redbone has now been adopted as positive by the dark-skinned group of people in Western Louisiana (where it was considered pejorative, historically) whose racial lineage is not primarily Negro but primarily Caucasian, with strains of Negro, Native American, and Romany blood. **William “Refrigerator” Perry, Chicago Bears Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle, 1994-95.

defensive

tackle,

***marchioness: from ruler of the borderland, the marsh or ‘march’.

19

1984-93;


Spittoon 1.2

from FALSE SPRING Gina Myers

Every year I record in a journal: April snow. So April snow this year too. Breaking up with my hometown is hard to do. Even this blood-stained city has a firm hold on me. A year in my life where the only good thing was you. Everything else has fallen away. False spring will not heal me. I continue to allow myself to be fooled. I am April’s fool.

20


Spittoon 1.2

Myers, from FALSE SPRING

The pain in my side persists. A year of medical examinations & mounting bills. Last year this time: Aunt Wanda was diagnosed with cancer. She died on Father’s Day. Sometimes I imagine the relief death brings, not to be melodramatic, more matter-of-factly. In spring I’m supposed to think about rebirth. Instead, empty lots of dead grass & Eliot’s planted corpses.

21


Spittoon 1.2 Myers, from FALSE SPRING

Sometimes I forget that this is home, that when I lived elsewhere, this is what I wanted to come back to. Even dreamed of. Now: dreaming of something else. 24 down, 26 to go. The map on the wall shaded to show which states I’ve been to, not counting Connecticut, which I’ve only passed through in a car. The older I get, the further away it all feels.

22


Spittoon 1.2 Myers, from FALSE SPRING

We can make this work. I got the idea from a tv show about an FBI detective & a forensic anthropologist, though I still question the distance. I never outgrow doing stupid things like the night I lost my glasses & drove from Detroit through fog & rain, all for a tattoo I didn’t really have the time or money for. My life a history of misplaced priorities.

23


Spittoon 1.2

First Snow Rick Marlatt

This morning my bladder is a prima donna who’s publicly demanding I return to the world when I want nothing more than to curl away inside my burlesque notions ofseasonless dreaming its not that I’ve had my fill of hey daddy it snowed its not that shovel scrapes don’t facilitate clarity it’s I haven’t finished praying for thirty more years or written a thank you to my dead Spanish teacher or pried open the sad rooms behind my eyes & my poetry professor made me promise to read Kafka yesterday they crashed a rocket into the moon with the hopes of discovering possibilities of water what would it be like to sear beneath the surface tap out a pulse where the center begins to spin earth’s speed can vary between 700 & 1000 mph depending on geographic location

24


Spittoon 1.2 Marlatt, First Snow

they also said so the places we’ve kissed are like tiny universes you’re coming home later tonight & I am going to tell you

25


Spittoon 1.2

Hospital Coffee Meghan MacNamara

Her lips barely formed words when I visited her in the hospital. Instead, they hovered above the steaming abyss of a paper coffee cup. The white plastic lid was puckered, leaving a diminutive oval hole through which she sensed, without tasting, fullness still out of reach. Her top lip covered the opening, and she tilted the cup so slowly toward her that I felt as if I was watching the gradual development of a photograph in a dark room vat. Her tongue blocked the opening, preventing the faint and steamy rise of coffee vapors from escaping. Whatever condensation coated her tongue was her only taste. The cup was cradled between her boney and weakened hands. Each time I suggested that she eat, she whispered, “No, it’s okay,” and hugged the cup tighter. Unable to eat for a week, she now held her coffee as though the scent was enough to satisfy seven days of near total starvation. At six, Stacey was diagnosed with a rare pancreatic disorder. When her doctors gave her scant chance of survival past a few years, I pictured her body as a house marked with bright orange “X”s for inevitable demolition. It made no difference how stalwart she was or how animated. Her structural foundation was flawed and fading. She performed with several professional modern dance companies, but I understood this as grace in light of her debilitating disease. Her vitality looked as much like denial as it did living in spite of her illness, which had left her bonethin and pale. We were never sure when the time would come but the indicators of illness – a weak and shaking hand, sallow face -- were unavoidable, clear. A child-patient who had come of age in and out of hospitals, Stacey was now eighteen and placed on the pediatric floor more out of habit than necessity. The faded whitecinderblock walls of her room were decorated with crudely painted nature scenesfit for a three-yearold. Her mother paced the peds unit like a well-worn track. Nurses and doctors were old friends as well as medical professionals. The most competent clinicians were powerless in their treatment of her daughter’s illness, but there was no blame, no grudges to be held. Stacey’s boyfriend teetered on the edge of his seat, and stared down the chasm between the lightly cushioned visitors’ chair he occupied and her hospital bed as if deciding whether to bolt for freedom or stay anchored by her side. I, however, was held captivate by her passion for such a small and seemingly insignificant cup of coffee. In Stacey’s slight hands the cup was a rare and fragrant elixir. She fortified herembrace, digging her elbows into her knees until she was a structure seemingly strong enough to outlast nature’s fury. Her top lip brushed against the lid and lingered until she angled the full cup toward her, licking the thin liquid from her lip as though it constituted an entire swig. She held the cup under her delicate snub nose as we spoke, sucking in the coffee’s fragrance, its vitality. Steam rose from the opening like a last breath exhaled deeply, released entirely. Before each sip, her lips

26


Spittoon 1.2 MacNamara, Hospital Coffee

hovered over the lid as though making a conscious and determined choice to enjoy even the smallest fleeting pleasures. By the time I left the hospital, she had drunk the equivalent of one healthy swallow. Before going, I re-heated the coffee, and felt renewed as fresh billows of steam rose from the cup like hot breath in unforgiving and frigid air. The hole in the lid was so narrow that it only allowed a small amount of energy to escape, just as the parameters of Stacey’s life reserved the most precious and vibrant experiences – even those as mundane as sipping coffee – and kept them close within her reach. Her lips hesitated as her thumb stroked the green and black logo on the side of the cup. When her lip finally touched the lid, covering the warm steam, I was grateful and relieved.

27


Spittoon 1.2

Dingolay—An Island Girl’s Memoir (Excerpts based on a childhood in Trinidad & Tobago)

C orin n e L in coln-P in h eiro

In a foul mood because he had lost two hundred dollars playing whe-whe that morning, Mr. Tony glared at the television. My stepfather still had not found a job since we moved in with him several months ago, so when Mom came home from work they began arguing, again. “Wha’, watyuh mean yuh gamble it?” Mom said, hand-on-hips, the grocery bag weighing down her shoulder. “Yuh better watch yuh blasted mout’,” he said, not looking up. “Ah ain’t paying tax fuh meh mout’,” Mom said, defiantly. Without warning, he lunged at her, throwing over the stovetop in the corner and dislodging eggs and milk, as the bag skid across the floor. The mug of hot chocolate he’d been nursing bounced off the armchair, splashed on the orange rug and spilled on cold concrete—steam evaporated like ghosts. He grabbed her from behind and began choking her and I screamed, helpless, the look of panic on her face terrifying. She reached back aiming for his eyes but he ducked and slammed her face against the wall. She grabbed his dreadlocks, he kicked at the back of her legs, she shoved off the wall, and the coiled silhouette of lovers collided with the elephant-ears plant—together they crashed to the floor. Dark brown soil fell in clumps and leaves snapped in shock; naked roots lay bare, the tips still clutching to pebbles and dirt. “Get out deh house, run,” Mom said, as I stood transfixed. White curtains bellowed in slow motion as a tomcat ran across the opened front door, and the smell of curry chicken drifted past my throbbing eardrums. Embarrassed to see my mother beaten, it was harder still to see her as a victim— this woman, who beat me. A smile reached my lips at the same time a knot of bile rose and I tried to speak but it came out like a growl. Tasting thick heat that must have weakened my lungs because it hurt to breathe, I closed my eyes. At eleven years old, they had already seen too much. A car, blasting steel pan music sped past and I hung on to the fading melody—the rhythm the only thing I seemed able to comprehend.

28


Spittoon 1.2 Lincoln-Pinheira, Dingolay

How did we end up here?

When we lived in Lavantille, I used to run up and down the stairs in the back of our two-story house playing catch with myself. One day, I fell down two flights of stairs and crashed face-first on the unyielding cement; there were no guardrails. At five years-old, the terror on Mom’s face scared me more than the shock of the fall. Through blood and tears, I saw Mom moving fast, “Hush po-po, hush,” Mom said, cradling my face in her hands and holding me close to her softness, to her talcumpower scent. Craving the attention—the warmth of her body, the lightness of her whispers against my forehead—I grew limp. When she touched my cheek, I shrieked louder and the concerned look on her face grew as she leaned in. I saw the mole on her cheek, the tender curve of her eyelashes, the bloody smudge on her chin, and howled even louder. She applied warmed aloes after she washed me off and her hands—and she had tiny chubby hands—felt soft and warm. That week, she patted Vaseline on my bruised face, she fed me homemade chocolate tea through a straw, she bandaged my head gingerly as she said, “Mammie nice chile, everything go be fine.” I languished under the soothing touchof her hands. I heard the caress and tasted the love in them, but that feeling, that time of gentleness, didn’t last long. Too soon, I grew to know the hardness inside her hands, the force behind them, the anger they signaled. When we moved in with Mr. Tony, I saw another dimension as she used them to protect herself from his attacks. How could I ever hope that they had the ability to caress me again, after they had been through so much?

∞ For the last several months since our eviction, Mom, Mr. Tony, and I had been living with his family—all nine of us—in one-room, but I soon grew oblivious because of the community center at the end of our dirt track road. Never Dirty, Morvant, had some of the best free-style dancers and the best dancer in our county was a close friend of my aunt’s. A lanky boy with shoulder-length jerry curls and an easy smile, I was like a child watching bubbles when I saw him dance. He moved like the water that steadily trickled from the standpipe as I bathed in the middle of our street.

29


Spittoon 1.2 Lincoln-Pinheira, Dingolay

At thirteen, Mom only allowed me to go to fetes because of my aunt, and one night, standing in the corner of the communitycenter I was mesmerized by his quick legs and flexible arms as he break-danced. The neon-blue disco lightscreated a hue around him that made his movements seem mystical as strobe lights followed his limbs. It was as if an electrical pulse had invaded his body as he popped and locked robot-style. His arms flared as though joint-less, and he glided like a greased caterpillar on a waxed floor. He performed a perfect split and wined his waist in fluid-like circles, his pelvis moving as though connected to him by silk. The crowd absorbed his every move, girls with can-can skirts swooned and boys with pop-up collars high-fived each other. After his performance, he came over, introduced himself, and asked me to dance. My aunt giggled behind me knowing I was smitten. Nervous and sweating, I followed him to the dance floor. The crowd formed a circle around us as he rocked to the left and I moved to the right, when he dipped, I jumped, when he shimmied, I glided, he pushed forward, I backed in, and we grined and bumped and wined to the floor. With shirts soaked and hair damp, we moved as though we’d know each other’s bodies since lifetimes past. I had the biggest grin on my face when he said, “Gyul, all this time and yuh could dance like that, yuh surprise meh, man.” I began dancing in earnest under his tutorship at community events, fetes, limes, wherever my aunt took me and he was present. I learned to dance free-style and built up enough courage to beg Mom to join the beginner’s dance class at school. The first day of class, the petite male teacher walked around the room with a thick long wooden stick blackened from overuse. He pounded it on floor as he spoke, “Now, doh think allyuh coming here to lime and give meh ah set ah horrors eh? This is ah art, ah self-expression, not ah game. Yuh joke around, ah kicking everybody out, one time.” He lined us up against the wall and we stretched until our tights quivered. Our squats lasted longer that our calves could ache and when one girl dropped her arms, he smacked her with his stick. “Yuh have to develop yuh arms and legs, people, no bosse-back allowed in here, man,” he said. We ran up and down the room leaping clumsily. The same girl crashed against the wall but I concentrated on every move the way he showed us, determined to get it right. If I looked graceful, everyone would admire not just my effort, but me. “Good job, good form,” he said, nodding at me, and I stumbled momentarily—his words felt as though he had reached inside and massaged my heart—my chest tickled and I inhaled air that was suddenly fresh and warm and clean. Grinning, I 30


Spittoon 1.2 Lincoln-Pinheira, Dingolay

bounced across the room. I had actually done something right for the first time in my life, someone paid me a compliment and it was all me. “Now, this is what ah go teach allyuh next month. Watch, eh,” he said. He began with arms overhead and feet pointed outward. He twirled and the muscles in his legs bulged, his calves shoved against the fabric of his leotards. Soaring, he formed a perfect horizontal H—arms straight out, torso erect, legs parallel to his sinewy arms, and as he landed he glided on the floor and scooped his body into a tight circle. In tune with the magnetic beat of drums, he lunged forward like a massive feline—graceful and limber, in control with teeth snaring, lips thin, he was beautiful. Lost in his trail as his hips swayed, his waist and arms moved in wave-like motions—like a thousand vibrations were shifting from the shoreline of his shoulders to the beaches of his feet—contouring, shaking, pulsating. A shiver ran through me—this is what I wanted, I wanted to be like him, move like him, look like him. Within weeks, we learned the routine and soon it was time for solo rehearsals. When it was my turn, I stomped across the stage to calypso music as the floor absorbed my fury. Grabbing space in rhythm with the drums, I reached up, pulling myself towards the ceiling and beyond where the horizon waited. Climbing on air, the walls echoed as I landed and my lungs burned and I shoved against emptiness, in a move that called for strength and power. Intoxicated with African drums, alive and fierce, I turned into someone whom I admired. With footsteps matching my heartbeat, my thoughts and limbs were transported inside the lyrics, among the beat, within the spirit of sound. Releasing my mind to my body, that same body I despised turned into a portal for something I wasn’t sure of yet. Floating and dipping, rising and gliding, I moved like a giant kite dancing against the skyline in a limbo duo with the wind. I thought it was the love of dance that made me so passionate, so intense, so wild; I still had so much to learn about myself. Beyond the windows, on the thick branch of a guava tree, sat an 89 butterfly— unique to Trinidad. A trail of wind floated over her black and white wings and she fluttered towards ocean-blue skies. Perched on the school wall, a Seekayda bird whistling freely as warm shades of grass shimmered in rhythm with the direction of the breeze.

∞ The day of my first high school dance performance arrived with much fanfare— everyone was excited—any excuse to avoid class and homework, was a sure hit. I

31


Spittoon 1.2 Lincoln-Pinheira, Dingolay

didn’t know how my classmates would react to seeing this side of me, but it was too late now. Standing on stage, I drowned out the chatter and with arms poised, and head tilted, I waited. The balmy wood of the makeshift stage warmed my bare feet, and the cloud cover—one long silken fabric that stretched against the sky—parted to reveal the glow of midday sun. Wind caressed arms, lifted dresses, and framed ankles. The smell of moisture mixed with heat as the lyrics of Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All began. Transformed, and moving within the aftermath. The lyrics took me to a sphere where nothing else mattered except the moment as I absorbed the words. I didn’t know if they could ever apply to me, but I could dream, I could learn how to take love from any source and hide it inside for the bad days when they came; and there were many. Wishing that I could truly touch it, that I could manifest this kind of love in my own life—I completed a pivot. Hands pumped in fists above my head and ten fingers exploded in five-point stars that reached for the sky. My inner beauty trapped between lyrics and beat, no one saw tears well up as I twirled, leaped, and landed. Dipping softly, I feathered air in spirals through my fingers until the tips of them lingered near my mouth. Wind rushed past as I raced across stage and school uniforms of red, grey, and white, blurred. As hopeful as the lyrics made me—that hope died, when I walked offstage and faced my life.

∞ As a child, when I ran sprints at school I used to imagine I could shed my skin and run into a new body, that I could rattle something in the cosmos, draw attention to myself, and fall into a different place, a place far from cuffs, fights, and confusion. Running helped me stay in a child’s joy as I replaced the anger in my Mom’s fists with the pain in my lungs. With my favorite romance novels, I re-lived characters created by someone else’s imagination but dancing was different. I became the stories I portrayed: the striking ballerina dancing her way to fame, the African princess that drums entranced and turned into a hero-warrior, the woman searching for and finding her true love. My yearning for a different place in the universe came true when I became each of these women—I was as vulnerable, as beautiful, as fierce, and my

32


Spittoon 1.2 Lincoln-Pinheira, Dingolay

expression of them, of us, was original and deep inside. Only I knew how to show us to the world. Bending backwards in a limbo move made my backache, but I already knew pain. Stooping low until my calves touched my thighs—made my muscles scream the way I wanted too, sometimes. Free floating as I leaped, limbs spread as elegantly as the petals of a white rose, and faced skyward with an expression of wonder—my dreams were present for the world to see, if only someone knew what to look for. Sometimes, I imagined that special someone was out there and would hear my cries in between the leaps and fistfuls of air I clutched; they would understand. The question was—if that person saw me, would I recognize him?

∞ Above, sapphire skies passed spotless without clouds and heat streamed down and bounced off galvanized rooftops, creating sizzling waves visible like a mirage. In our backyard, Blue Jays picked at warm soil in search of food. Applying a layer of vanish on the front door, I hummed to the Christmas carol playing in the background. My baby sister screeched with delight as a Twenty-Four Hours [lizard] jumped past the poinsettia plant in the gallery. Mom hummed as she measured windowpanes for new curtains—our new home was a real house with a shower, living room, a kitchen even. The LP stopped and Auntie yelled from the dining table for me to change it. The stereo turntable sat above my bed on a thick piece of glass mounted on an iron bracket. With paintbrush and can in hand, I maneuvered the needle, flipped the LP, and closed the cover. Scraping the back of my left forearm on the edge of the pointed glass, I didn’t bother to check it because the sting subsided almost immediately. Gliding over the last brushstroke, as the strings of the next Christmas carol began, Auntie screamed behind me. Spinning around, I collided with my sister who was reaching for my hand in wonder. Blood seeped down and around it—I had cut my forearm to the bone. Staring at my insides felt strange. The starkness of bone was an odd white I hadn’t seen before. Layers of bulbous cotton-like tissue lost it’s shape as it erupted from beneath torn skin but the rip was one smooth line and not jagged, as I imagined it would be.

33


Spittoon 1.2 Lincoln-Pinheira, Dingolay

Red, thick and red, and so stunningly vivid was the color of the blood that flowed freely from me—escaping from the prison of skin and tissue that couldn’t contain it, subdue it, hid it anymore. It was real, vibrant, simple, how could such a thing come from inside me; I was dead from the inside out even if I bled like the living. I must have passed out because I woke up with arm bandaged, speeding in a taxi towards the hospital. My arm ached, but I felt something after all—I only had to cut myself open to do so. Rushing through the reception area as blood erased each footstep. The attendant led me to a private room where a white-hair doctor calmly removed the ice pack. Frowning, Mom stared intently, shifting from one leg to the other. She appeared to be holding her breathe—her look similar to the day I fell down the stairs at the back of the house in Laventille. The doctor gave me a shot and I went back to being me again, I couldn’t feel a thing—there was no pain, no sensation as he tugged at tissue with a needle that disappeared beneath skin, and came out again. With each suture, I watched my insides recede as he mended my skin like Mom used to repair my school uniforms, except he was trying to reshape me. But I would never be the same, no matter how nimbly he tightened the me-inside-of-me it was too late—I saw her, in there, beneath bruises, behind brown skin, beyond blood and vessels. After twenty-one stitches, the doctor was satisfied. The part of me I didn’t know existed was once more hidden, but at least now I knew was I was made of.

34


Spittoon 1.2

Ulysses at Dead Station   D am ien K ortum

   

I’m lingering at this quiet bus stop reading the faded, decayed signal signs and posted schedules (now expired) ok, now, I know the 4:35 bus has come and gone I was a little late – yes, but I at least have a good reason I jerked around for too long figuring out which pants and shirts I might want to wear in western Cornwall oh, and plus! my mom’s cat kept burrowing under the folds of my old suitcase it was a gift from my aunt a wedding gift, actually shoot, I nearly forgot a cough, a sigh I expel steam from my nose but it dissipates in the grey fog of the late afternoon I should have left sooner, I know and it’s no real accident I was late for the bus but, please listen! I was so preoccupied with how I could forget it all that I never actually forgot

35


Spittoon 1.2 Kortum, Ulysses at Dead Station

and now with feet and toes firmly and concretely planted I’m surely a narcissus next to this rotting turnstile I’ll wait, and breathe, and grow fat, and yield and know not myself

36


Spittoon 1.2

Lights in the Waiting Room  

Donald Illich

   

It didn't matter that our faces were melting. That happened all the time, along with the clocks, which slithered underneath like deceptive carpets. What we worried about was not recognizing each other, about alterations so deep even families lost track of their identities. The world around us puddled, becoming shallow enough to poke through. What was beyond it, we wondered? We tried to throw our whole bodies into it, but only ended up back on our side, smeared in the air as ever. The only thing that helped us was the sky. It hardly swirled at all. The stars were what we could wish upon in constant hope, but with the knowledge failure was inevitable. Their lights stood still in a waiting room, prepared to be let out, to ignite, but saw everything had dissolved long before they had a chance to burn us up. We would've welcomed flames. The world's ashes are the same.

37


Spittoon 1.2

Appalachian Mitzvah F aith S . H olsaert

Jed and I undertook a year of traveling after school to Charleston for Hebrew class. On the first day, a tall tan boy was racing around the sanctuary, shouting through the bridle of his braces. A woman in a skirt was chasing him. The rabbi came out of his study with an apple balanced on the palm of his hand. “Mrs. Wolfe,” he said. “Ms.,” I said. The boy scuttled into a corner, shrieking. The rabbi said, “Some of the scholars are unruly.” He pressed the beautifully round and cool apple into my hand. He pulled another from his sagging jacket pocket. “I hope the pleasure of the apple will be associated in the scholars’ minds with the pleasure of Torah.” In his New Orleans accent – magnolia petals unfolding through the nuts and bolts of Brooklyn – he said these words in the wake of the racing boy. “Who was that kid?” I asked Jed on the way to pick up gargantuan burgers wrapped in waxy paper. “His Dad’s a doctor. Ben says his father weighs 400 pounds. Every molecule radioactive. That’s what Ben says.” A little later, “How come we never went to temple?” “There isn’t one in Nicholas County.” “Really, why?” “Your Grandma took me and Nina to Friday night services for a while.” “What happened?” “We just stopped.” My mother had said, I’m telling you, Eva, if I have to accept that business about Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, I want no part of Judaism, but no reason to burden Jed with this. She was long dead. I barely noticed the decision to shield him. At my lover Pearle’s insistence Don’t tell -- I had concealed from my children the most important aspect of my life, my love for Pearle.

38


Spittoon 1.2 Holsaert, Appalachian Mitzvah

Gently, the rabbi’s wife broke me in to some of the rudimentary requirements of being a bar mitzvah Mom. The first though unspoken requirement was to have on hand a bar mitzvah Dad. Part of me wanted to compensate for this lack by excelling at the remaining expectations. The rest of me wanted to fail and be done with it. “We’re so glad you’re thinking about a modest event,” the rabbi’s wife had told me, pouring onto me the caramel of her eyes. “We have worked so hard to get away from the ostentation of the 50s.” I had never been to a bar mitzvah, though I had heard the jokes: that the bar mitzvah boy should say, Today I am a fountain pen. “At some bar mitzvahs,” the rabbi’s wife confided, “there are so many guests we have to open the folding doors at the back of the sanctuary.” She frowned. “Don’t worry,” I said.

One week Jed told me on the trip home in the dark, “A college girl tried to pick me up. Her name is Darcy.” “What’d she say?” “Have you ever been to the midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show? She really was in college. “As we left the Kanawha valley he asked me to describe the choices I was making as I drove – when and how to shift gears, when to turn on the head lights, how low could the gas gauge needle sink before I must buy gas? And suddenly, “Mom, at the temple I feel dumb. All the little jokes people make.” “Today I am a Fountain Pen,” I said. “Everybody knows that. It pisses me off, Dad making me do this. I hate this speech thing.’ “I could help. I’m literate, they say.” I could smell the leftover pizza in the seat behind us. Tomatoes. Cheese. Yeast. “The rabbi says he and I can do it.” “If your Dad were here...?” “Forget it, Mom.” “I just meant.” “No,” he said. I turned north onto the twisting two lane I’d first taken when he was a preschooler. “These kids have been playing together since they were babies.” I imagined the enormous, rambunctious boy in diapers in a playpen with straight A 39


Spittoon 1.2 Holsaert, Appalachian Mitzvah

Nancy. Jed rushed on. “It pisses me off that Dad and Alexandra never go to temple, but here I am, once a week leaving school early, for Hebrew School. I feel like Dad and his family are sort of angry about how they are more Jewish than you are. Than we are.” “His father used to say I was too Americanized.” Jed laughed, a croaky, end-of-boyhood laugh. “You? Anything but, man.” He started fiddling with the dial on my radio. “I know our household is odd,” but I said no more. Pearle had always demanded: Don’t tell. Not even the children. “Mom, I like you fine.” More fiddling. “This music has got to go.” “Rock and Roll,” I said. “It’s The Music.” “Disco is the music of today.”

“The Parents,” the rabbi’s wife told me, “like to have floral arrangements on the two serving tables. And little vases on each guest table.” She pronounced vases with her mouth open and her tongue out as if a doctor were checking her tonsils. Another expense. Months of unease between the rabbi’s wife, her husband, and me. There was my relative lack of money, but worse was my dubious Jewishness, and our sovisible differences from the congregation. After Pearle and I had taken Jed and Alma to an anti-Klan demonstration in Greensboro, the rabbi had said to me, “Mrs. Wolfe,”– he was not going to say Ms. no matter what – “Did you really take the children to that march? Mrs. Wolfe, we as Jews are commanded to repair the world. I think of myself as a man concerned with justice. But.” The month before the bar mitzvah I spied a phalanx of bittersweet, the perfect solution to thevase problem. The clusters of orange berries would be so clever, so different. An answer to those in the temple who, I was certain, feared for Jed’s masculinity in my household. Pearle and I went out in the dead of night to harvest some. Imagining how stunning the bittersweet would be on the guest tables, I plunged into the thicket, clippers at the ready, only to scratch my face and arms, long scratches that throbbed. “Fuck,” Pearle said. The stems were so tough, I couldn’t cut through them -- I had to be satisfied with sprigs from the ends, no arching, berry-studded sprays. A car hummed toward us, its lights flooding the bittersweet. Pearle and I hit the ground. The car’s lights stayed above us for a long 40


Spittoon 1.2 Holsaert, Appalachian Mitzvah

time. We lay there and kissed like mad. “Purloined bittersweet,” I said and Pearle laughed.

I arrived at Beth Shalom at 8:00AM. The rabbi’s wife nodded toward a black woman in a beige uniform. “Mary will show you the skirts.” Skirts? Alarming enough was the china I had been shown, including two vases, each as tall as a healthy four year old. Well I had figured out that little conundrum: autumn foliage from the hillside behind our house: sumac, maple, oak. There were two rectangular tables in the center of the room and a dozen small round ones, each to be tricked out with the skirts. Mary vetoed leaving the tables undressed. When my friend Lila arrived, Mary laid a bundle of the linens, still cased in dry cleaner’s plastic, in my arms as if it were a child. Lila and I stretched a cloth over one table, then Mary showed us how to secure the skirt with straight pins that caught the soft pads of our finger tips. As we pinned, the skirts dragged, pulling the cloth off the table. Mary went into the kitchen to refrigerate my food: tubs of home-marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts, bowls of autumn pears and apples, deli sliced turkey and cheeses for the bagels which Harvey was bringing, masses of brownies and lemon bars which had kept me up until 3:00AM. Lila and I kept pinning; the skirts kept slumping; the pins bent and jabbed us, leaving drops of blood on the slick linen. “Fucking things,” Lila said. In the kitchen Mary worked among the stainless sinks, a central work island as big as Pearle’s and my bed, stacks of white china behind winking acres of glass cabinet doors.

The night before the bar mitzvah, Jed pulled his matchbox cars out from under his bed. He and Alma started playing in his bedroom, but soon the races and road hazards were in the living room, then the dining room. “Careful, rock slide,” Alma called out. “Alma, flood waters,” he yelled, his eyes beetling. They chuckled and chortled, crawling about on their knees, Jed bigger than a St. Bernard. At 1:00AM, Pearle served hot chocolate. Alma brought out her battered copy of Cinderella. All four of us climbed onto the big bed. The children took off their shoes and socks and lay their heads down on the quilt, smiling at one another. As I read, each child ran a finger tip over the miniature rubber wheels of one or another of the cars, making the wheels spin. When I’d finished reading and Cinderella was safely ensconced in the palace, out of the blue Alma asked, “Mama, are you and Pearle homosexuals?” 41


Spittoon 1.2 Holsaert, Appalachian Mitzvah

“Homosexuals. Ha. Ha. Ha,” Jed burst out. Pearle wasn’t clenching her jaw. “Yes, we are.” Jed was still cackling. “Do you know what that means?” “Yes,” he said, the ha ha gone.” I was shocked to see dark hairs on his childish legs. “It means you’re queer.” “Queer?” Alma snorted. “Like me and my friends say, Oh, you queer?” “Who knows how to tie my necktie?” Jed asked. We looped and cursed the new necktie of West Virginia wool, but none of us could tie a proper knot. “I don’t want Dad to know. He thinks you wouldn’t know how to tie a necktie,” Jed said.

Alma and Jed flew out of our car toward the sanctuary’s back door where their father’s family stood. Inside, the social hall was pristinely silent. The skirts fell in perfect pleats at table after table. Bagels and fruit lay in artful heaps below the antlers of sumac in their foils of oak and maple. Jed and Harvey were snared by the rabbi and disappeared into the office. My former mother-in-law came to give me a hug, her arms around me touching some pained but happy place inside me. Alma came through the door, her party shoes clacking. “Grandma,” she shouted. I tried to enter the social hall, but the swinging door with its little eye level window was blocked. The upholstered back of a huge man blocked my way. I watched through the little window as his hand, the size of a baseball glove, held a boy by the necktie, up close to the boy’s chin. It was the boy I had seen chasing around the temple the first day of Hebrew school. With his other hand, the man smacked the boy across the face. “No more of this shit,” said the father who turned toward me. His eyes with black holes drilled into the center of each, met mine. Organ music groaned from behind a latticed wood screen. Up front, shallow carpeted steps rose to the carved doors behind which the torah was kept. A low table stood at the foot of the steps; on it were a stubby candle, two unlit white tapers in brass candle sticks and a box of matches. Jed stood halfway down the aisle with three elderly women in navy blue dresses and hats, two of whom held his hands. He and they were the same height but he, with his burst of curls looked like he had only put growth on hold for the ceremony, while they had the look of women whose height was collapsing along their spines. I saw in my mind the baseball mitt hand and my stomach turned over. 42


Spittoon 1.2 Holsaert, Appalachian Mitzvah

Harvey’s parents stood with my Nicholas County neighbors Whitey and Loretta as if they had just been introduced. My friends Sonia, Charley and their children – Harriet, Javier, and Patricia – were now being passed along the line of Workoffs. Glancing back at me, Jed flicked Charley’s carmine red tie, a big floppy thing, which Sonia must have selected. Jed mouthed to me, This tie is really ugly. Jed’s three admirers in their navy dresses stopped to ask me, “Are you the mother?” One feigned a swoon and said, “Those dimples.” I grinned. Jed emerged on the platform. “Today I am a fountain pen,” their father said just as the congregation hushed. I caught a whiff of tea rose and Sonia and Charley joined us, with Javier and Harriet. Baby Patricia’s flouncy petticoats rustled as her father settled her in his lap. Lila crammed into our row. Whitey and Loretta squeezed into the row behind us. Loretta touched my shoulder with her square farmer’s hand and Whitey looked spooked to be indoors with all these people he didn’t know. Swathed in white prayer shawls, Jed’s father, his grandfather, and the rabbi sat behind him on high-backed ceremonial chairs. The man who had slapped his son ponderously climbed the three steps to the platform and sat behind my son in one of the throne-like chairs, the man’s white shawl as small as a hand towel on his elephant shoulders. With authority, Harvey began to pray in Hebrew, gargling and bouncing his voice up and down before rolling each syllable out into the congregation. Jed’s grandfather rose to read, racing through it lickety split, in an Iowa Russian accent. Draped in his white shawl, Jed looked perplexed. His white silk yarmulke looked like it might slip off the explosion of his curls which he planned to let grow down to his shoulders, starting that afternoon. The rabbi came to stand beside him and Jed cleared his throat. When it was time, he stepped toward the torah. Despite his inadequately Jewish mother, they were going to let him in – Jed, draped in white, unbearded and beautiful. He unrolled the scroll and haltingly began to read aloud the ancient words which I had never learned. My mind flitted here and there, filled with Jed, with Alma, with us. In a swoon. Gradually my attention settled. Jed’s words began to register. He was talking about Abraham. And Sacrifice and I knew: this was the price of his admission. His Torah portion was exactly the text which had caused my mother to bolt from Judaism. Up there on the pulpit, my boy said in the uncracked voice of childhood, “At first, the idea that God might ask a father to sacrifice his own son is appalling, but we must examine this story for its inner meaning for our people.” Easy for him to say. My 43


Spittoon 1.2 Holsaert, Appalachian Mitzvah

friend Sonia would never have said it. I didn’t think Pearle would have either, though I wasn’t sure. “We must look to the sacred texts which have come down to us.” Jed quoted rabbis from this and that century. Behind him, the men sat, white shawls about their shoulders, their faces turned to welcome him. My throat swelled. “We must understand,” Jed continued, “that God never intended to demand the actual sacrifice. In his mercy, he gave back the life of the son.” The brutal man shifted in his chair and he was so heavy, we could hear it creak. The next time I tuned in, the rabbi, who was explaining everything for the many non-Jews, told us it was time for the mourner’s Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. He said there were two things noteworthy about this kaddish. It had come down to us in Aramaic, which had been the vernacular when the Jews lived in Babylonia, though parts of this prayer in Aramaic had been translated from the Hebrew. Secondly, although the prayer is known as the mourner’s kaddish, it is devoted to the glory of God and not to loss. “Reflections and contradictions,” the rabbi said. I rose with the mourners. “Yisgadal...” I began, groping with my tongue for words I didn’t know but maybe once had, reaching like I might for a slipper in the dark. For you, Mother, Vivian, Vivian Wolfe, who floats free of blood sacrifice. For you, My tongued mimicked the Aramaic as it fell from tongues around me, not mimicking exactly, more listening and shaping my tongue to what I heard. Standing to honor her, my plum-red hippie back exposed to the congregation. For her, though she had said decades before: I want no part of this Judaism, her blue-black hair glinting like flint in my inner eye. At a signal from the rabbi, Alma rose and walked to the low table on which unlit white tapers stood in heavy brass candle sticks. Without the microphone, she said her blessing, her phrasing carefully paced. She leaned forward and lit one of the tapers which burst into flame. She giggled, two notes. Then another prayer and she lit the second taper. She turned and faced Pearle and me and the Workoff clan, a flame of mirth and pride on her face, unbowed by the weight of the frieze of old men behind her. Jed and Alma changed into their jeans and turtlenecks and came to kiss me goodbye. “See you at the Kup at 9:00PM,” I said, holding the hangers with their dressy clothes in one hand, Jed’s discarded shoes clutched in the other, and Alma’s shoes pinned against my side. “I had a really nice day,” Jed said. “Now that I’m a fountain pen,” he said,, “when can I get my learner’s permit?” “Ha ha. Your father’s waiting,” I said. Jed said, “Good-bye, Mom.” 44


Spittoon 1.2

This Much  

William Henderson

The traffic sucks, and my son, Avery, is in the backseat asking for the iPad, which, as he knows, is at my house, because he left the iPad at my house, and my daughter, Aurora, is sleeping in her car seat, and I want Avery to be quiet because I don’t want him to wake up his sister, and I want Avery to be quiet so I can focus on the traffic, and I want Avery to be quiet because he repeats things until he gets an answer and then he asks, Why?, because, nearly four, he is at the age where he uses the question, Why?, more than any other word in his ever-increasing vocabulary. And use the question, Why?, he does. I say, because that’s where you left it, and he says, Why?, and I say, I don’t know, and I say I don’t know more harshly than I want to say I don’t know, but someone in front of me has suddenly stopped, and I have to suddenly stop, and I look in the rearview mirror to see if a car behind me will not suddenly stop, and I say the word, Fuck, and I do not say words like Fuck in front of my children, because, as I’ve learned, if I say the word Fuck, then Avery will say the word – Fuck. And I don’t want to laugh, but I laugh because hearing such a big word said in such a little voice makes me laugh, even though I don’t want to laugh. Fuck. Fuck. Again and again. Fuck. This time, I’m the one saying Fuck, because I know that Avery will use this word in front of his mother, my wife, who will soon be my ex-wife, and she will know that I have said the word Fuck in front of Avery, or that someone in my life (not hers; never hers) has said the word Fuck in front of him and now Avery, our parrot, will say the word Fuck during one of the two days he’s at daycare or in front of his grandparents, revealing my sin of saying Fuck. I text Holly: Sorry. I swore at traffic, and accidentally taught Avery the word Fuck. Great, she replies. Just what we need.

45


Spittoon 1.2 Henderson, This Much

She’s mad at me. She wants to move to California, where her parents live, and I don’t want to move to California, where her parents live, because California is where her parents live, and I want to stay in Boston, where she and I have lived for nearly nine years, because I like living in Boston, and she is mad at me because she is living in an apartment alone for the first time in 12 years, and I am not mad at her, even though I am living in an apartment alone for the first time in 12 years. Her, a year ago, after I confessed my affair with a man: You need to move out, and we need to divorce. I know, I said. Can we stay married until our daughter is born. Before you think that I was having sex with both of them, know that I wasn’t. She and I stopped having sex years ago, and had conceived both of our children using invitro fertilization. With him I had sex, a lot of sex, and I liked having sex, a lot of sex, with him, and I didn’t tell Holly that with him I liked having sex, a lot of sex, because who wants to hear something like that. She said yes, we could stay married until after our daughter was born, even though I doubt she wanted to say, yes, and I said I would move out by the end of the month. A year ago.Nearly a year ago. She stayed in the condo we had bought; I found an apartment about a mile away. We divided our house into his and hers, created a custody arrangement (which we knew we’d have to modify once our daughter was born), and we remained – remain – married. Fuck. Again, Avery. He laughs. Fuck. Laugh. Fuck. Laugh. He knows the word Fuck is not a word he should say, and yet he says it, and I think he says it because he knows the word Fuck is not a word he should say. Avery, I say, you can’t say that word. It is a bad word. You said it, daddy, Avery says. I shouldn’t have said it, I say. Why?, he asks. Because it is a bad word. 46


Spittoon 1.2 Henderson, This Much

Why? Because it is a bad word. Why is Fuck a bad word? Sigh. Why is Fuck a bad word?, I want to repeat. Why? I don’t know. Because we are taught that Fuck is a bad word, and so we shouldn’t use words like Fuck, because it is a bad word, because we are taught that it is a bad word. But Avery will not understand this circular logic, even though he uses such logic to negotiate after-dinner snacks and the hour after which he should not be awake. Fruit snacks or a lollipop?, I will ask, and he considers his choices – and I can tell he is considering his choices because he gets an expression that makes clear that he is considering his choices – and he says, I will have fruit snacks now, and in the morning, before I leave daddy’s house, I will have a pop. No, I say. You can have one now, but not one in the morning But when I come back to daddy’s house, I can have a pop? Yes, I say. If you choose a pop. I can have fruit snacks and a pop now? And sometimes I tell him no, and sometimes I tell him yes, mostly because I don’t want to have to explain why he should have neither, because his mother does not want him to have either, and I am the one who has to enforce her rules because I work at home and she works outside of the home – two homes, we have – and I’m around Avery and Aurora more than she is, and some days I am tired of being the parent who is primarily responsible for doctor’s appointments and swim lessons and play groups and drop-offs and pick-ups, and all I want to say on these days is the word, Fuck, several times actually, FuckFuckFuckFuckFuck until the word Fuck loses its meaning and I no longer thing the word Fuck is anything but an emotion. Guilt is an emotion, and I felt guilty – the affair, the moving out, the two houses for two children, even the divorce – until I no longer felt – feel – guilty, and I cannot explain the fault line dividing guilty from not guilty, just like I cannot explain the fault line dividing love between always and never, but I no longer feel guilty, and because I no longer feel guilty about the affair, the moving out, the two houses for

47


Spittoon 1.2 Henderson, This Much

two children, even the divorce, I am able to feel guilty about teaching my son to use the word Fuck. Avery was born on a Sunday in September, 2007. Holly’s water broke at 3 in the morning. We waited six hours before going to the hospital. We were not pros at labor and delivery, and we were worried, and Avery took a while to lower, and we were worried, and Holly didn’t want to push, and we were worried, and she pushed even though she didn’t want to push, and we were worried, and out came Avery, cord wrapped around his neck, and we were worried even though the doctor told us not to worry, and the cord was cut, and Avery cried, and was fine, and we still worried because already we were parents and parents worry. Twice, maybe three times if I am honest, I almost killed Avery. He was three months old, the first time I almost killed him. Holly had gone to the grocery store, or maybe to the mall, or maybe to get a massage, she was elsewhere, and I was home with our son, in the home she kept when I moved out, and he was sleeping and I was tired and wanted to shower and take a nap. I brought Avery into the bathroom. I was not comfortable (yet) leaving him asleep in one room, while I was in a different room, and so I brought him into the bathroom, and I put him in a laundry basket (in my defense, it was filled with clothes), and the laundry basket was on a table, and so I left the laundry basket on the table (not a high table; maybe two feet tall), and inside was Avery, and inside the bathtub I turned on the shower. I thought I could be quick because I thought I should be quick, but between the bar soap and the shampoo, I heard Avery begin to scream, bloodcurdling screams, and I got out of the shower and Avery was on the floor and the laundry basket was on the floor and the clothes were on the floor. I picked up Avery, and he still screamed, and my blood still curdled, and I shushed him and told him everything would be OK and I held him to my body and I held him away from my body and still he screamed and then he stopped screaming and he fell asleep. I texted Holly: Let’s say Avery hit his head. Do I let him fall asleep? She responded: Hit his head? And I texted: Hypothetically. She responded: Hypothetically, if he hit his head while I was away from him, I would be royally pissed at you, and I would come straight home, and he’d better not have hit his head while I was away from home. I: No. He didn’t hit his head. Hypothetically.

48


Spittoon 1.2 Henderson, This Much

She: Hypothetically, you’re his father and you should do better. Avery slept and Holly came home, and Avery still slept and Holly looked at Avery’s head, but there was no bruising, and then Avery woke up and reached for Holly’s breasts, and she undid the front of her shirt and then her bra, and Avery sucked on one nipple, his eyes closed, and I knew he was fine, and his tumble would remain a secret he and I shared. Maybe even the first of several secrets he and I would share. The second time I almost killed him, I didn’t mean to almost kill him (does anyone ever mean to almost kill someone?). December, mid-December probably, and temperatures were hovering around 10 degrees. Avery had a cold, and Holly had asked me to pick up cold medicine at a Target, and I had Avery in my car, and I didn’t want to take Avery out of my car, and besides, he was asleep, so I left him in the car and I went inside Target, and I was in the medicine aisle looking for baby cold medicine, and I heard on a Target employee’s walkie talkie: There is a baby locked in a car outside. And I knew the baby locked in a car outside was my baby, because I had left him locked in a car outside. I didn’t buy medicine; I ran out of the store. Two police cars were parked on either side of my car, and the lights were flashing, and I got to the car, and I could hear Avery howling. I unlocked the car, and I unstrapped Avery from his car seat, and I held Avery, and he stopped crying. Why would you leave your baby locked in a car?, one of the police officers asked while the other looked inside my car and asked for my driver’s license. I needed to get him medicine, and it is fucking cold out here, and I didn’t want to take him outside. We could arrest you for that, the officer who was not looking at my driver’s license and calling in my driver’s license number said. I didn’t say anything. What do you say when someone says they can arrest you? Where are you from?, the officer who had my driver’s license asked me. Florida. I’m from Florida. That explains it, the officer said. He handed back to me my license, and he told me that I should never leave a baby locked in a car when the temperatures outside were hovering around 10 degrees.

49


Spittoon 1.2 Henderson, This Much

Yes, officer, I said, and I strapped Avery back into his car seat, and I drove home, and when Holly asked why I didn’t have medicine, I told her that there had been none at the store and I would go elsewhere until I found what Avery needed. The third time I almost killed Avery was less dramatic. I was tossing him up and catching him, and he was laughing, and I was laughing, and then I tossed him up and almost didn’t catch him, and he was still laughing, and I was not laughing, and I stopped throwing him up in the air and catching him because I almost had not caught him. Avery keeps secrets he doesn’t know he’s keeping. Holly and I started taking Avery to a therapist three months ago. Dr. Linda. She has a last name, of course she has a last name, but I do not know this last name because Avery calls Dr. Linda Dr. Linda, and I call Dr. Linda Dr. Linda, and Holly calls Dr. Linda Dr. Linda, and even Dr. Linda, in her e-mails to me and Holly, calls herself Dr. Linda. Avery doesn’t go to sleep when he’s at Holly’s apartment. And he hits her and bites her and yells at her and says that he is mad at her and locks her out of her car and refuses to put on his seatbelt. And Holly always cries after he hits her and bites her and yells at her and says that he is mad at her and locks her out of her car and refuses to put on his seatbelt, and Holly sometimes texts me that he is hitting her and biting her and yelling at her and saying that he is mad at her and locking her out of her car and refusing to put on his seatbelt and that she is crying, and I stop what I am doing, and I go to her – once, on the side of the road – and I tell Avery that he has to listen to his mother because she is the only mother he will have. Holly hates having to call me, but sometimes all she can do is call me, and I hate cancelling my plans to help her and take Avery – usually for the night, because Holly will have had enough – but I always cancel my plans to help her and take Avery because she is my wife, who will one day be my ex-wife, and when I tell Avery that he has to listen to her because she is the only mother he will have, I mean that he has to listen to her because she is the only mother he will have. In my kitchen, Holly holding Aurora, Avery twirling while holding a red balloon, and me, watching, Holly looked at me and said, I am tired. And we were supposed to go to a playground near the Charles River and play, and Holly saying she was tired made me think that we weren’t going to go to a playground near the Charles River and play, and I said as much to Holly who said, no, we’re going; I’m always tired.

50


Spittoon 1.2 Henderson, This Much

Avery heard us, of course he heard us because he always hears us, and he laughed and said, I’m not tired. I’m not. I’m not. And he twirled and he laughed and he let go of the balloon and it floated to the ceiling. Avery looked at me: Daddy, get it for Avery (he doesn’t know reflexive pronouns), and I reached for the string and captured the balloon and handed it to Avery who looked at me as if I had hung the moon. I know why Holly and I have his and hers houses, and I know that we have his and hers houses because I could no longer be her his, not really, but spending time away from the children, even just the hours that they sleep in her home, is difficult. And this situation is difficult, because this situation is difficult. Fuck is this situation difficult. Traffic. Stop-and-go. Still a few blocks from Holly’s apartment. Aurora wakes up. I know Aurora wakes up because Avery tells me that Aurora wakes up. And I reach back with my right hand, and I search for her bottle, because I always have a bottle for her in her car seat, and I find the bottle, and I hold it within her reach, and she pulls the bottle out of my hands and puts the nipple of the bottle in her mouth, and I can hear her sucking until Avery starts making bird noises so that I can no longer hear Aurora sucking. You know, Avery, that even when I’m taking care of Aurora, that I love you. Yes, daddy, Avery says. And you know that my loving Aurora has nothing to do with my loving you. Why? Because I love you this much, and I spread my right arm out as far as it will go, and I extend and wiggle my fingers, and I extend my left arm to the elbow and turn my arm up at the elbow. This much, I repeat. This much, Avery says, and he extends his arms as far as they can go. That much, I say. You love me more than that, daddy, Avery says. Open your window.

51


Spittoon 1.2 Henderson, This Much

I tell Avery that I love him to the moon and back, because I always tell him that I love him to the moon and back, and I think that he is three, almost four, and one day he might go to the moon and come back, and I will be older – maybe even old – and I will ask him how the trip was and he will tell me how exciting the trip was and I will ask him, Why?. And he will answer, and I will respond with Why?, and he will answer, and he and I will continue this pantomime, echoing what today often is frustrating. Little luck is needed in raising a child who asks why, but much luck is needed in raising a child who will say definitively: You are my best friend, daddy, and I love you, because Avery looks at me and does not have to say, you are my best friend, daddy, and I love you, because I know that he thinks I am his best friend and that he loves me. Aurora does not yet know the wonder in store for her. She laughs, a lot, more than Avery did when he was her age. And she sleeps, a lot, more than Avery did when he was her age, and more than he sleeps now. Aurora says da-da. She calls me da-da, and she calls Avery da-da, and she calls Holly da-day, but she mostly knows me as da-da because I’ve made sure she knows me as da-da. Holly and I were not worried during her birth, though we should have been. Despite the changes in our family between Avery’s birth and Aurora’s birth, we had forgotten the cardinal rule of parenting: Above all else, worry. But we thought we were pros at labor and delivery. A doctor had to break Holly’s water, but only after 12 hours of labor and an epidural, and Holly was not worried when she was told to push, because she had pushed before and the pushing resulted in a healthy boy. And Holly pushed, and Aurora slid out, quickly, within four pushes. Aurora didn’t cry, and Holly and I knew that Aurora should be crying, but she was not crying, and she was taken from us. A NICU team cleaned out Aurora’s lungs and nose and made sure she was OK. What’s going on, I asked a nurse. And the nurse said everything was fine, but because the birth happened so quickly, Aurora was stunned. We heard her begin to make noise, and Holly and I relaxed. I touched my daughter and I fell in love with my daughter, and I thought I should be crying but I wasn’t crying. I looked at Holly and she was watching me and I knew she was wondering if everything was OK because she and I do not need to talk to communicate. I nodded at her, and Holly smiled. 52


Spittoon 1.2 Henderson, This Much

After Aurora attached to Holly’s nipple, the labor and delivery room slowly emptied. The NICU team left. Then the doctorand residents. Then the nurses. Holly and I were left alone with Aurora, and while Avery slept at a friend’s house, anxious to meet his sister, I updated Facebook: She is here. Avery met Aurora the next day. He looked at her and he smiled and he touched her face and Holly and I asked him not to touch her face and he touched her face a second time and Holly and I told him not to touch her face and he laughed and Aurora did not laugh, mainly because she did not know how to laugh. And Avery looked at his sister and said, happy to meet you, Rora. I know, in time, when Aurora is old enough to call Avery Avery, and Avery is old enough to teach his sister words like Fuck and how to reach the fruit snacks stored in the cupboard above the stove, I will watch my children and I will cry, because they will be – are – beautiful and beautiful things make me cry. Now, in the car, in traffic, driving to Holly’s home, which used to be the home Holly and I shared, I am not crying because Avery will say the word Fuck – I know Avery will say the word Fuck – and Holly will not be happy that Avery says the word Fuck, mostly because parents are taught – or somehow learn – that words like fuck should not be said by children. Daddy, open your window, Avery asks again. You know, Avery, I say, I have enough room in my arms for both of you. And I open my window, and I extend my left arm fully, and I wiggle the fingers on my left hand, and Avery laughs, and I laugh – and Aurora, who has no idea what I am saying and what Avery is saying, laughs, because she is not yet nine months old and she laughs a lot, and I love her laugh because she has my laugh, and I already know the types of adventures the three of us will have – and for a moment, just this moment, the word Fuck is forgotten.

53


Spittoon 1.2

PASTORAL: FIRST, WE’RE YOUNG MAPLES; THEN, WE’RE YOUNG MAPLES;

NESTED WITH TENT-WORMS   Nathan Hauke

Dresses in the bridal shop hours before my father’s voice opens like a miniature black hole— Hours before I call home and find out Josh was mugged when he got off the El—Margaret and I are laughing while we shop for wrapping paper at The Dollar Store. Turning to leave, I see our reflection in the front window as we stumble back out into the cold. :: Someone followed Josh back to his apartment, choked him Fear nests in his voice on the other end of the line where larvae spread chemical trails through leaves—I’m not there to walk him home from work even though we talk the whole way while I make stupid jokes: I’m a green plastic desk chair, a metal chair with dark, wet-looking red cushions. Pushed him down against the stairs

54


Spittoon 1.2

DEERFIELD   Nathan Hauke

A sheet of ice thick enough to hold tracks near the bank …………….. Location cuts, sharpened to an edge against the current where I reach toward a sound. Lonely as the dry crack of branches when snow softens enough to cave in, layering the surface. Orange-brown leaves rake diagonals of wind. Make another river. Psalm 63: I sing in the shadow of your wings.

55


Spittoon 1.2

Special Section: Featuring Art by Morwenna Catt

56


Spittoon 1.2

Morwenna Catt traveled a circuitous route to fine art, spending her youth living in squats and frequenting the free festivals, all the while pavement drawing on streets up and down the UK. She found herself, in her early twenties, living in a large shed with her dog, in an idyllic Sussex 45-acre wood, and working for a theatre, where she made props and set up art exhibitions. Realizing she’d prefer to see her own work on the gallery walls, Catt earned a degree in Art & Design and a Masters in Fine Arts. Her current practice includes textiles, painting, drawing, light boxes, and installations. Her work is collected, published and exhibited in international venues, including The Museum of Arts and Design in New York, Galerija Skuc in Ljubljana, and Yarra Sculpture Gallery in Melbourne.

Artwork Statement: “Children believe what we tell them, they have complete faith in us. They believe that a rose plucked from a garden can bring drama to a family. They believe that the hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim, and that this beast will be ashamed when confronted by a young girl. They believe a thousand other simple things. ..” —Cocteau I love stories - old tales and modern narratives. I am drawn to the “grotesque” and feel for the beast, identifying with the “separateness” that is part of the human condition. My work evolves quite subconsciously, patching together narratives from disparate elements of text and image and working these into 2D compositions and 3D objects which are drawn, painted, stitched, or a combination of all these. I work within the tradition of the ‘grotesque’ with a modern, fearful, knowing eye.

57


Spittoon 1.2 Morwenna Cstt

Kissing Walls [ink sketch] 58


Spittoon 1.2 Morwenna Cstt

This Is Not a Love Song [embroidered textile]

59


Spittoon 1.2 Morwenna Cstt

Yellow Wallpaper [ink sketch] 60


Spittoon 1.2 Morwenna Cstt

Dead Cloud

[painting with stitch] 61


Spittoon 1.2

Good Intentions Lenore R. Harris

"They fired five men in D.C., just for attending a meeting," Hannibal was saying when Dexter stopped, his face paralyzed with shock and something that looked like shame. “No,” Dexter whispered. “Yes, can you believe that?” Hannibal continued. “They didn’t do anything but listen to a man talk about a union and they lost their jobs. How are we supposed to get a fair shake if they don’t fight fair?” His ranting skidded to a halt when he realized Dexter was staring at something ahead of them. It was a boy, about eleven, standing by a ditch, looking down at a bicycle. Hannibal glanced around, half-hoping to find an adult and half-hoping not to. It was dark, too dark for two Negroes to be out, even if they were wearing Pullman uniforms; but they had been hungry and the only place that served colored people was a ten minute walk from the train station. They had to make tracks for Ma Hammond’s or wait until they reached New Orleans in the morning since porters could cook and serve but not eat Pullman food. The boy was white, which was bad enough. Closer, Hannibal could see that the boy was bedraggled - his hands and face, dirty; his pants, ripped at the knees and thighs. An angry scratch crisscrossed his left cheek. The bicycle he stood over was mangled, almost beyond recognition. Whatever this was - was none of their business. His instinct for survival told him to keep walking but his uniform, which didn’t just represent the Pullman Company but every Pullman porter, meant he would, at least, stop and see if he could help. Dexter didn’t hesitate, but he wouldn’t. It was Dexter that taught him what his uniform meant. Beyond the admiration of women and the reliability of a steady paycheck, the dark blue wool with its epaulettes identified him with a thousand black men, honest and dignified, trusted and respected by passengers with their children, their valuables and sometimes, their secrets. That meant they did not ignore a frightened or lost child, even in the middle of the night in Tennessee.

62


Spittoon 1.2 Harris, Good Intentions

“Are you all right?” Dex asked. “Can we get you some help?” It was quiet and only the scurrying of something small and animal could be heard. The night was like the interior of a sleeping car, when the curtains of every berth were drawn. So Hannibal and Dexter acted, as they would in a sleeping car – attentive but distant, observant of the child’s vulnerability but mindful not to call too much attention to it. They waited, as long as was respectful. When the boy didn’t answer, Hannibal prepared to walk. They had a little over eight minutes to get back to the station with their sandwiches. Hannibal resumed his walk, hoping to prod Dexter into moving. Soon, Dex fell in line, beside him. Though it felt cold, Hannibal left the image of the child’s face behind him. This was one of the few moments he’d have alone with Dex, without the worry of being overheard by white conductors or anonymous spotters, who wrote porters up on a variety of offenses, real or imagined. Their train had been late tonight, which was why they were out in the inky blackness of Tennessee and perhaps, why Dexter hadn’t reacted with the anger that Hannibal had expected. He tried again, "See, I think someone has been telling them what we've been up to, otherwise how would they know who to talk to and where to look?” Dexter looked away, as if he didn’t want to hear himself say the words. “I think, maybe, it was one of us.” “No, Dex,” Hannibal shook his head. “Who would do that?” “You know who," Dexter interrupted and picked up the pace, walking slightly ahead of Hannibal as they hurried toward the station. Hannibal was attempting to catch him when the boy whispered something loud enough to be carried to them. Hannibal wished Dexter hadn’t heard but he did because Dexter turned and asked, "What? What did you say?" “I didn’t mean for it to happen.” The boy said, too loudly for Hannibal’s comfort. Something had stirred in the darkness, causing one of the bicycle’s bent wheels to spin. He glanced at it, rather than Dexter. Dexter walked towards the boy. “I was just trying to help when I told my mama.” When he reached him, Dexter circled the boy, carefully, as if the child were a cat he’d cornered. “Told her what?” "I told my momma that I saw my daddy.” The boy said. “I saw my daddy in Indianola. He told us he was with Grandpa, fishing, but he was there. I saw him.” Dexter nodded, as if he understood. The boy continued, “I was there for my baseball game and I seent him with her, holding hands, kissing on her, so when I came home 63


Spittoon 1.2 Harris, Good Intentions

and I told my mama. She was supposed to stop him.” The boy started to cry. “But my daddy … he hit me. He said I didn’t have the right.” The boy glanced at Dexter, who avoided his eyes. Having seen passengers shed their everyday lives at the beginning of one line and resume them at the end, such behavior no longer shocked him. Sometimes people climbed on board trains to become someone else, and porters learned to be discreet and ignore what didn’t concern them. The consequences of their passengers’ actions were not their problem. But he wasn’t eleven or watching his own father make love to woman other than his momma. “He left. He left us. I tried to follow him,” The boy gestured towards the fallen bicycle. “I told him I’d take it back.” The boy sobbed. “I told him I’d tell her it was a lie but he wouldn’t listen.” Hannibal didn’t need to glance at his watch to know that they had six more minutes to return to their train. He knew that Dexter had to know it, too. Dexter could track arrival and departure times of all the Pullman lines without a schedule. Dexter knew the birthdays of porters, their wives and their children. Railroad people – engineers, conductors and porters, were obsessed with time. Not just arrivals and departures but connections, meetings, deliveries depended upon perfect timing. Porters had to be on the train before the passengers boarded. Cars had to be cleared and cleaned; suitcases and carpetbags loaded and unloaded; beds made and shoes polished. They were like the gears in a watch; and those gears didn’t stop turning for white boys with broken bicycles. Despite that, Hannibal wavered and his palms grew sweaty. Dexter had taught Hannibal all about what it meant to be a railroad man, what it meant to be a porter. That was why he had argued against organizing a union. They didn’t need it, he said. The company wasn’t perfect, but it was a better job than most black men ever got. He believed that the Pullman Company provided black men with an opportunity to showcase their best qualities, and because they rubbed shoulders with only the best quality people, porters were advancing the image of black people everywhere. A union would be for white men, he argued. White men only and then where would they be? The boy turned to Dexter. “It’s all my fault, isn’t it?” Dex reached for the boy, but withdrew his hand before it touched his shoulder. Four minutes. While Hannibal found himself, unable to take a step forward or backward, Dexter stepped back, an intuitive distance that was close enough to let the boy know he were there but far enough away to convey his separateness. In spite of that, Hannibal felt the separateness was a lie, so he was surprised when he 64


Spittoon 1.2 Harris, Good Intentions

heard Dexter say, “Yes.” The sound of the boy’s sobbing grew louder and louder, so Dexter spoke louder. “Yes, it’s your fault. You thought you knew what was best for everybody else but you was wrong. People got hurt. Nothing you can do now to make up for what you’ve done.” Hannibal moved, this time to grab Dexter and drag him away if necessary. Now was not the time to educate a child about the weaknesses of men or frailty of good intentions. Dexter shrugged off Hannibal’s hand and began walking away. Without turning around, Dexter said, “You was supposed to protect your family.” When he closed the distance between them, Hannibal put his hand on Dexter’s shoulder. Dexter nodded. Then he shrugged his shoulders, as if pulling his dignity back on and followed Hannibal back to the train.

65


Spittoon 1.2

Mist Maureen Foley

In the end, mist covers the ground- The cold weather disappears into the distance- La Jolla, Iraq, Morocco- Prepare for firefights daily by running behind the fresh juice countersGlasses start flying- What do you want? Balls, tennis racquets, stringers- A circle. Taste the scalp skin underneath my fingernail- I march below the stars and stripes that wave in the wind at the very top of the pole- White clouds keep moving- White-pink walls- This is not Paris. In Paris, students riot against the end of the social welfare state- So what? This is the way I roll- Please don't talk about me when I'm gone- A glistening white cream slidesI'd like to keep track of my personal detritus- Hoarding can become criminal- This is good. I resent the assumption that I have a husband because I wear a diamond ring. A recipe for making paper- Simple- Use what I have- Coconut oil- It takes all kinds- I am resolving and revolving- It can happen even when we least expect itDoes the fact my bra is exposed matter? I start drinking white wine before elevenAfraid of the fade-out  

66


Spittoon 1.2

Note Taking While Listening to an Ipod Cal Freeman

Between titanium and harbor, Pullets shriek. (Each walk into the rain Nullifies each walk into the rain.) To undercut— A lack of explanation Concerning harrows. A weathervane. Not where The wind came from. Crows, not indicators Of direction. Boots made this way leak. Turkish coffee Is in the grinding method— Fine— Throwing signs Will get you shot in meaning’s slippage. Narrative platforms Are built with imperfect IBeams. Cars on lawns. Pragmatism. Turkish coffee blended with ThedorAdorno Enters into negative dialectics With the stomach’s acidic forces.

67


Spittoon 1.2 Freeman, Note Taking‌

Regional wrangling over Water control is institutionally racist. Supply something of your own here. The holistic reins in its like horse qualities

68


Spittoon 1.2

Provisions Lori D’Angelo

The banging upstairs seemed to grow louder and louder as the night went on, and my patience waned. I don’t know if the noise actually increased in volume, but I knew that my head pounded more with the passing of each minute, each hour, and that it did not stop until I could not take it anymore. I had been polite. I had tried leaving notes printed in block letters on spiral notebook paper that said, “Do you mind keepin’ it down up there? Down here, we’re trying to sleep.” I had called the apartment complex and complained nicely. The woman in the office with the big hair and small skirts said that they’d have a talk with our upstairs neighbors, but now Emma was pregnant and the noise bothered her, too, although she tried to pretend it did not. I went into the living room to the china cabinet and grabbed the gun I kept behind the glass doors. In spite of the noise, Emma had fallen asleep. She slept a lot now, head pressed against the purple sheets, body curved and sprawling. She heard the sound of my stirring, the click of the cabinet door slamming. I loaded the gun. “Joel?” she asked, her voice a distant whisper from the bedroom. “What are you doing?” “I am going to take care of this once and for all,” I said. “Oh please,” she said, her voice beyond the doorway. “Please don’t do anything stupid.” I knew what she was going to say next because she said it just about every night now. But she felt the need to say it anyway. “Joel, the baby’s coming soon.” “I know,” I snapped. She said this as if I had forgotten. She told me this regularly to curb any impulse I might have to drink or to stay out too late or to do anything that was not exactly right. I knew, too, because I could see it in the way she’d expanded, almost to the breaking point. Her belly seemed like a water balloon, thick and solid, just about to pop. Sometimes her belly seemed like a thing apart from us, like a moon rock or something from another world. When she slept in those tent-like shirts, I looked at the arc of her stomach and could not quite figure out how had she gotten like that. She was still Emma with the long flowing hair and the small, thin glasses, but she was also a swollen cocoonlike version of herself. Pregnancy had diminished her. Now she was focused on the lower-order needs. Eat and sleep and urinate, and eat and sleep and urinate again. Those discussions that we used to have about the future of the country and whether it was headed in a good direction

69


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

and how we could help it get there sooner seemed to occur less and less. These days she seemed to talk more and more about the basest things, things like the steak she wanted or how the smell of onions made her sick. Lately, we didn’t talk about anything much except the things we needed to buy for the baby. Meanwhile the expenses of sonograms and doctor’s visits and the sessions with the breathing coach ate away at our savings like a bunch of termites pecking at the wood, threatening to tear the house down. We’d been looking for a house, but we couldn’t find anything. The house that I wanted to give her, the one that she deserved, was not, I was told, in our price range. Emma told me that herself. “But we’ve got this money saved for the mortgage,” I said. I wanted to provide. “Joel, the economy’s gone to shit,” she said. “But I’ve got my job,” I insisted. I worked construction, and, regardless of the economy, I was working on a project that wouldn’t be finished for a while. Emma’d gone to school, worked as a journalist. Her friends had looked down on me, I knew. But when the layoffs to her company came, they changed their minds. They were losing their jobs everyday, falling down like a bunch of kids playing ring around the rosy. With the rise of internet news sites, people weren’t buying the daily newspaper like they used to. Subscriptions were down. Ad revenues were down. So they laid off reporters and ran more AP Wire stories. Emma was already a few months pregnant when they told her that they were eliminating her position, too. “We had to look at the productivity of each staff member,” Emma’s boss had told her. “And you haven’t been producing as many stories as you used to.” When she’d told me over dinner, I’d been outraged. “Em, does he know you’re pregnant?” She shook her head. Holding my fork like a sword, I said we should sue the dirty bastards. But I could tell the conversation was upsetting her. She burped loudly. I didn’t know if she’d keep the dinner down. She was at the stage of pregnancy where things didn’t settle well. “They’re cutting most of the newsroom jobs anyway. Even if I keep my job for a little longer, they’ll just lay me off later. And besides,” Emma pointed out as she stirred the mashed potatoes on the chipped yellow plates, the ones we ate off of when it was just the two of us, “you said it might be nice if I stayed home with the baby.”

70


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

“Yeah, right,” I said, because I knew that a lawsuit was probably a lost cause anyway since the correlation between Emma’s pregnancy and her decreased productivity might be difficult to prove. “This’ll give us some time to get ready, I guess.” In my head, I was thinking about the hit our bank account would take— going from two incomes to one. The next day I asked my boss if I could pick up some overtime. When I started working the extra hours, that’s about when the noise upstairs began to get to me. Maybe it had always been there. Maybe those people were always loud, but when I started getting home later and later, drenched in dirt and sweat, I just wanted to curl up nights and go to bed.

Now I slipped the gun into my blue jeans, barrel down, safety on. I’d keep it there unless I needed it. But it made me feel better to have it, just in case. I didn’t intend to shoot the people upstairs, just scare them a little. Maybe I could shoot the gun into the air as a kind of warning like they did at race scenes in movies. Maybe that would stop the pounding. But it would also put a hole in the ceiling that we’d have to pay for. We didn’t need more expenses. “Joel?” Emma asked from the bedroom. “What are you planning to do?” “Just go up there and have a friendly chat with the neighbors,” I said. “Don’t worry.” Before she could protest any further, I walked to the door and pulled it shut behind me. I was careful not to slam it because I didn’t want to add to the noise. I walked up the steps and banged on the door. “Hell-oo,” I called. “Anybody in there?” A shirtless guy with a slight beer belly opened the door. He had a mustache and the kind of frizzy long hair that made him look like he belonged to some kind of cult. In his left hand, he held a cigarette, in his right hand, a beer. “I’m your downstairs neighbor,” I said. “You the one been leavin’ those notes?” he asked. “That’s me,” I said. It seemed strange that we’d never met before. He glared at me, his blue eyes staring into my brown ones. I felt like we locked in a test of will. “What the hell you doing up here, anyway?”

71


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

He opened the door wider. “We’re getting things in order,” he said. Inside, there were people all around cramming into the living room, the kitchen, the rooms I could see. There had to be at least 50. I was tempted to ask about city codes, fire codes. The noise was hammering. From the doorway, I could see the thing they were building. I stared at it. “What is that thing, a ship?” “It’s an ark,” he said. “As in Noah’s Ark?” I asked. Just my luck to have David Koresh and his followers as my upstairs neighbors. When I looked closer, I noticed that all the rest of the people in there were women. Girls really. “The office know about this?” I asked. “This place is a joke,” he said. “You pay your rent on time, they don’t care what you do.” “Ain’t that the truth?” I couldn’t help blurting out. I looked at my neighbor and tried to figure out how nutty he was. I was tempted to go downstairs and begin packing mine and Emma’s stuff right away. I was tempted to bolt. But instead I stood there, staring, mesmerized. “Wanna come in and have a beer?” the long haired dude asked. “You drink beer?” I asked. I had always thought that cult leaders looked down on alcohol. “Jesus drank wine,” he said. I wondered if he thought he was Jesus. Or if he thought he had a special relationship with him. Like if he believed he was a kind of direct descendant to our lord and savior. “Um right,” I said. I wondered if the beer had been tampered with. On the other hand, maybe drinking the beer would lessen the noise of the banging. Plus, I felt like he owed me something. “Sure,” I said, “I’ll have a beer.” “I’m Simon,” he said as he walked to the refrigerator and grabbed a can of Miller Lite. “Like Simon Peter?” I couldn’t help asking. 72


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

“Just Simon,” he said. I had a feeling that he didn’t use a last name. “I’m Joel,” I said, as Simon handed me the beer. The apartment, I noticed, smelled of sweat and sex. “That’s very Biblical,” he said of my name. I looked around at the women again. “Do all these girls live here?” I asked, surveying the ark workers. I wondered how he planned to get the thing outside. “They’re visitors,” he said calmly. He seemed savvy for a cult leader. I looked around at the girls. Most wore headbands, long dresses. They looked like girls from another time. I almost expected a soundtrack to be playing in the background. I expected to hear someone singing, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” “So,” I said. Nothing in my life had prepared me to make small talk with a cult leader. “Why are you building an ark?” He shrugged. “It’s something to do. Have a seat,” he said. It felt like a command. I had the feeling he was used to being obeyed. The ark work was taking place mostly in the dining room. The ceilings were high and the furnishings sparse. There were just a few folding chairs and the ark. In the living room, though, there was a brown, comfy couch and a TV. I sat down there. Not surprisingly, he had CNN on. “So,” I said. “You watch a lotta news?” “Gotta be prepared,” he said. “For what?” “Things,” he said. I had a feeling he meant the end of days. He obviously wasn’t a man of many words. I sat on the couch. He called two of the girls over. They set down their hammers to join us. “Mildred, Millicent,” he said, and they took a break from working on the ark. “Come sit with Joel.”

73


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

The girls were blond and young. One took a seat on my left and one on my right. Simon looked at the gun. “I’m going to have to ask you to remove your firearm.” “Tell you what, I’ll give you the bullets, but I’m keeping the gun.” I unloaded the bullets and handed them to him but put the gun back in my pocket. Even unarmed, I felt okay with the situation. Besides, Simon was no match for me physically. I worked on buildings all day and he, well, God knows what. Drank beer and prophesied? And maybe he helped with the ark. The girls sat close to me. So close that it made me feel uncomfortable. “Look, I’m married,” I said to them. Simon had left me alone with them. “That’s okay,” said the girl on my left. She had glitter on her cheeks. Both girls wore flowing white shirts, straight skirts and beaded necklaces. I didn’t know which one was Mildred and which was Millicent. I began to wonder if I was dreaming this whole thing. Were my upstairs neighbors really building an ark? The girl on my right put her hand on my leg. “Joel,” she said, and I noticed then that she wore pink lipstick, “you’re cute.” I felt uncomfortable in part because I was attracted to the girls. I wondered if Emma would come up to check on me, see if things were okay, but I knew what had happened with Emma. Drowsy with the last trimester of pregnancy, she had fallen back asleep. “My wife is having a baby,” I said to the air. “Oh, that’s nice,” said the girl on the left. She moved closer. I should have gotten up from the couch then, should have walked out the door and back down the stairs, back to my apartment and Emma, but instead I sat there. I was closer to the pounding than I had ever been, but somehow it didn’t seem as loud as it had from downstairs. I sipped the beer. I should go, I told myself. “I should go,” I said to the girls. I moved to get up. The girl on my right, the one with the pink lipstick, said, “No, stay.” The girl on my left, the one with the glitter on her cheeks, moved closer. She pressed her lips against my face. I closed my eyes. The girl on my right moved closer, too. Against my other cheek, I could feel her lips. Two girls, I thought. The pounding noise was still there, but the noise seemed fainter still. I had never slept with two women simultaneously, and Emma was downstairs, big with my child inside her. This is not real, I told myself. 74


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

“Oh,” said one of the girls as she reached down, down to my grimy pants. I hadn’t yet showered the day’s dirt off me. I put my hand up to stop her. She took my hand and studied it. “You work with your hands,” said the girl on the left. “Yes.” “You could help us build the ark,” she said. I wondered why they were building an ark inside an apartment complex, but I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to break the mood. “I don’t know about that,” I said. “Oh yes, you do,” whispered the girl on my right. “You want this,” said the girl on my left. “Give me your hand,” they both said in unison. I clenched my left hand into a fist and with my right hand I held tight to the beer can, but they were kissing me and I thought about how long it’d been since Emma and I’d had sex. One kiss wouldn’t hurt anything, I thought. I opened my mouth to let them in.

A little while later, dazed, I finished the beer. The girls had returned to the other room and ark building. I walked to the kitchen to look for my bullets. Simon didn’t follow me but instead called from the other room, amid the banging, “They’re on the counter.” And so they were. I finished off the beer. The banging was just as loud as ever, but I did not mind so much. When I walked downstairs and into our apartment, I put the gun away back inside the glass cabinet, then I got into the shower to wash off the smell of the girls. Kissing them was so strange that I wasn’t sure that it had happened. After I showered, I joined Emma in bed. I put my arms around her, but she did not stir. In the morning, I fried bacon, because Emma craved it now, and I felt like I should do something nice for her. I walked to the door to get the morning paper. Just above it was a note, black marker on a piece of white scratch paper. “Come back tonight,” it read. I crumbled it up so Emma wouldn’t see. I threw it into the kitchen trash under the sink.

75


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

The smell of the frying meat woke her and Emma walked into the kitchen barefoot in her white nightgown. She looked healthy, well rested. And I felt bad. Emma yawned and asked, “Whatever happened last night?” “I met the upstairs neighbor,” I said. “Did you find out what the banging was?” “Yeah, the guy who lives there, he’s doing some construction, so to speak.” “What’s he building?” she asked. She couldn’t stop yawning. “A boat,” I said. “A boat?” she asked as she stretched. “For what?” “For fun, I guess.” “Hmm,” she said, “interesting.” Feeling guilty, I gave her a kiss. “I’m hungry,” she murmured. “It’s almost done,” I said. As I spoke, I could see the bacon crisp to just the right shade of red, and I flipped it. Emma walked to the refrigerator to pour herself a glass of juice. “The baby’s coming soon,” she said. I watched the bacon finish frying, then put it on a paper towel. Emma poured some Special K into a bowl. I brought her the bacon. She ate greedily and happily. Watching her, I thought of the blond girls upstairs, their stomachs flat as washboards.

After work, I ate dinner with Emma. After she had done the dishes, she said she was tired. I listened for the familiar sound of her snoring. Then I walked over to the door and up the staircase. I half expected that it wouldn’t be like it had been the night before, that maybe when I knocked on the door, instead of the cult people, someone normal, a man in a tie and a wife in an apron maybe, would answer. Instead, Millicent and Mildred answered. They were dressed the way they had been the night before: flowing shirts, straight skirts, beads around their neck. 76


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

“See,” said the one with the pink lipstick, “I told you he’d come back.” “We like you,” said the one with the glitter on her face. They were very pretty girls. For a moment, I thought about turning and going. But they held the door open and I went in. They led me to the living room. “Come sit with us,” lipstick said. “I’ll get you a beer,” said glitter cheeks. “Which one of you is Mildred?” I asked. “I am,” said the girl with the lipstick. She sat next to me on the couch while Millicent brought the beer from the other room. “Are you girls from around here?” I asked. Millicent handed the beer to me. She had already opened it. “Noooo,” they giggled. “Where you from?” I asked. “Michigan,” said Mildred. “Missouri,” said Millicent. “How’d you end up here?” “We had a vision,” said Millicent. “Both of you?” I asked. I sipped the beer. I felt drowsy. Maybe she had altered the beer. “Ummhmm,” Mildred said. “Did you do something to this?” I asked Millicent.

77


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

She giggled. Mildred leaned over to kiss me. “We will make you ours,” she said.

When I woke up, I was in the bedroom, with only my shirt and my socks on. The door was shut. Both girls were naked. Both of them had thin legs, nice jutting hips and big, round breasts. Their soft blond hair fell over their shoulders. The lamplight made their faces shine. They looked like angels. Oh God, I thought. I’m in trouble. Maybe if I don’t look at them, I can resist them. Maybe if I think of Emma. “Hello,” said one of the girls. I couldn’t remember now which one was which. “Are you ready?” asked the other. They may as well have been twins. I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t have to. The one girl mounted me and said, “I will go first.” “Save some for me,” said the other. “We will build the ark,” said the girl. She had the most perfect body that I had ever seen. Still, I tried to protest. “My wife,” I said. “A man can have many wives,” she said. “Aren’t you with Simon?” I asked. “We have been waiting,” she said. “For what?” “You,” she said. It was so bizarre and yet she was so pretty. Just for a moment, I thought, I’ll just feel her for a moment. I hadn’t had sex in at least a month though. Before I knew it I had come inside her. “You’re on the pill, right?” I asked as she climbed down. 78


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

“Be fruitful and multiply,” she said. “You have good seed,” said the other girl. “What?” I asked, wondering if I had heard her right. “You said your wife is having a baby.” “Yes, but,” I moved to get up but the girls held me there. “You must sleep with us both,” said the other one. She had wedged herself against me. “What?” I asked. I thought of Emma. Was she still asleep? “I really shouldn’t be doing this. I need to get home to my wife.” “You live just below,” said the girl. “Relax a moment. Turn.” She got up and began to masturbate for me. “Tell me when you are ready,” she said. “I shouldn’t,” I said, but I could feel my will weakening. Her face seemed to glow. Her skin seemed to shimmer with an unnatural light. “You must have us both,” said the one I had not yet slept with. “And then you can return home.” When I was hard again, she pulled up her dress, kissed me, and I came inside her, too, and then I returned home to Emma. She was fast asleep.

The next morning, there was no note, and I was relieved. During breakfast, Emma was the one who commented, “It sounds like the pounding up there has stopped.” I listened. I hadn’t even realized the absence until she noted it. “You’re right,” I remarked. “Maybe you had some effect,” she said.

79


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

I was frying bacon for her again. She surprised me by sneaking up behind me and kissing me on the neck. I felt the weight of her as grease from the pan rose up and splattered me. “Awl,” I said. “You alright?” she asked. “Yes,” I said, “but I think we should get out of here as soon as we can. Let’s look harder for a house.”

That night, out of curiosity, when Emma fell asleep, I walked upstairs to the apartment above. No one answered, and I didn’t expect anyone to, because all night, there had been no pounding, so I tried the door. It was unlocked. When I opened it, the apartment was empty. No furniture, nothing. All of them had gone. I walked in. The apartment was empty but the bedrooms were locked. I wondered if I had dreamt it all. Except that Emma had heard the strange pounding, too. I walked out of the apartment and back down the stairs. I walked over to the bed and reached for Emma, cradled her against me. “I think they’ve left,” I said. “Huh?” she asked. “The people upstairs.” “Oh good,” she said. “Now that it’s quiet again, maybe we can just stay here for a while. I don’t think I have the energy to move right now. Joel, the baby’s coming soon.” “I know, sweetie, I know.” I couldn’t help thinking of the other girls, the ones from upstairs. To drown out the thought of them, I clung to Emma.

About a month later, the baby still had not come and Emma, dejected, had stopped saying that it would come soon. It began to rain and did not stop. I couldn’t help thinking of the ark and the girls upstairs. After work, before going home to Emma, I walked the metal steps.I had done this every night. And every night, it was the 80


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

same. Empty apartment, open door, but tonight, the girls answered. Everyone else was gone but the ark was back. For some reason, I felt relieved. “We’ve been waiting,” said the one with the pink lipstick. “Go get your wife,” the girl with the glitter said. “Where are the others?” I asked. “What others?” Millicent asked. “Oh,” said Mildred, “They don’t matter. They were just workers. People expect a male leader, you know. So we recruited Simon. But the ark is ready now and we don’t need him anymore.” I looked at it. It looked small. Like a mini-ark. “How will you get it outside?” Mildred gestured for me to follow her. In one of the bedrooms, she had a pile of explosives that would make the people at Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms squirm. “Go get your wife,” Millicent repeated. “What do I tell her?” I asked. “Tell her the baby will be born on a ship,” Mildred said. I looked at the ark again. It looked a little better this time. It was still small but the craftsmanship was solid. If put into the water, it would hold. I imagined spending days and days on end with just the four of us. “The ship is packed,” Millicent said. “With enough food for five.” “Five?” I asked, and then I remembered the baby. “Was this the plan all along?” “Yes,” Mildred said. “This was always for us.” I wondered if she was kidding. “Hurry,” Millicent said. I looked over at the TV, which was again turned to CNN. There were stories of floods. Waters rising at an alarmingly fast rate. Low-lying areas like New Orleans were already submerged. 81


Spittoon 1.2 D’Angelo, Provisions

“The waters show no signs of stopping,” said the newscaster, a distinguished looking man with whitish gray hair who sat calmly behind a desk. He noted that it seemed to be raining everywhere. “It defies explanation,” said the weatherman who was shown on a low lying street wearing a yellow slicker. He was up to his knees in water. “Go get your wife,” Mildred said, “so we can board the ark.” I walked down the stairs and into the apartment. Emma was sleeping, so I woke her. “Oh, hey, I’m glad you’re here. I almost called you earlier, but I decided to wait. Sweetie,” she said, “I think it’s time.” “Yes,” I said. “Do you have the suitcase ready?” She nodded. It was beneath the bed. I grabbed the small black briefcase that Emma had so carefully packed, and we walked out the door of the apartment. I locked the door. Grasping the iron railing for support, Emma started to head down the stairs. “No,” I said, “we’re going up.”

82


Spittoon 1.2

A Nod to Ernest Borgnine Jennifer Clark

We were in the car headed to breakfast when a piece aired on NPR about Ernest Borgnine. I thought Borgnine was dead, said my husband. 94-years old. Imagine that. Mermaid Man! shouted our five-year old, thoroughly impressed with this credential of being the voice behind the over-the-hill superhero in the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon. Puss, I was thinking. That is it.Puss. In the interview, he referred to his face as a ‘puss.’ Ugly puss, I think he said. Or something to the effect of not liking to see his puss on screen. Even though it was radio, I could see Ernest Borgnine’s round, craggy face proclaiming the old fashioned word in that unmistakable, gravelly voice of his, could see it slipping out between the gap in his top front teeth: P-U-S-S. I wanted to hail him for hauling out of oblivion this outdated, fallen-out-offavor slang expression to reference his face. I didn’t know puss was the word I was searching for to finish my latest poem until Borgnine tossed it like a life buoy over the airwaves to me. Puss. So perfect. My entire body was humming to finish the poem. As we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, I considered asking my husband to turn around and go home. But he and my son were already scrambling out of the car in anticipation of feeding their hungry bellies. Declaring my desire to return home to finish a poem wouldn’t go over well. What are you thinking about?my husband asks, biting into his bagel. Puss, I say. Puss?he replies. Yes, puss. A severe looking woman at the next table shoots me a disapproving glance. I ignore her. Hello?! Ernest Borgnine? I remind him of the segment we heard in the car. I tell you,the minute he said ‘puss’ it struck me that that was the word I needed to finish my poem. I wouldn’t use puss, he says, lowering his voice. No? No. Puss? Come on... It conjures up, well you know…

83


Spittoon 1.2 Clark, A Nod to Ernest Borgnine

I realize what he is getting at. I look over at our son, quite absorbed in his blueberry bagel. I lean into my husband and softly whisper, I thought you liked puss. I do, but not in a poem. From the way the woman in the next booth shifts uncomfortably I don’t think she likes puss under any condition. I am not swayed. I am committed to puss. For the rest of breakfast, all things Ernest Borgnine run through my head. I think of his puss first. For a man I hadn’t seen for years—mistakenly thought, as had my husband, that he was dead—it is surprisingly easy to conjure up his puss. Two things immediately come to mind. Bushy eyebrows that could easily be mistaken for two caterpillars curled comfortably above smiling eyes. What actor today has such bushy eyebrows? None off-hand that I can think of. And even if there are, how many feel that free to let them grow wild like that? The other feature is the gap in the middle of his top front teeth. It is rather sweet and gives off the impression that he is approachable and friendly. I had a gap between my top two front teeth. Bigger than Borgnine’s, a small car could have passed through and still had room to spare, at least it felt that way. Fortunately for me and my self-esteem, I got braces in fifth grade and the gap eventually disappeared. It was in my early teens that I saw Marty on television. What I remember about the movie is that my tongue hurt from flicking it ragged between metal braces to inspect any gap closing progress while I watched Borgnine play some guy with a gap between his teeth. My mother said Marty was originally shown in movie theaters sometime in the 1950s and that he had won some award for his performance. An Academy Award, I think. I should see if I can get my hands on a DVD of Marty at the library. Growing up, I caught a few re-runs of Borgnine playing McCale in McCale’s Navy. The television show always started with a ship sweeping across the ocean and Ernest Borgnine on deck, smiling. He always seemed to be smiling out from under those shaggy caterpillars. Breakfast is over and we get back in the car and head home. I start thinking about that time in college when I discovered I had a knack for impersonating Ethel Merman. Mom’s thinking about her poem, my husband says to the rear-view mirror image of our son, allowing his eyes to briefly tear away from traffic and take in his silent wife. I must admit, usually he is spot on with identifying my ‘thinking about a poem look.’ This ‘poem look’ must come off the same as my ‘thinking about Ethel Merman look.’ I am going to finish that poem when I get home, I announce. My husband grins, thinking he’s pegged me once again. Back to Ethel. I was in my dorm room trying to stay awake, studying for next day’s midterms. In danger of falling asleep, I belted out the Ethel Merman song, “There’s No 84


Spittoon 1.2 Clark, A Nod to Ernest Borgnine

Business Like Show Business” and was roused to my toes. It’s a nifty trick. You should try it sometime. Just remember to drink in generous amounts of air, add a healthy dose of vibrato and clip the ends of each word crisply as you boom it out—so it sounds like, there’s nooobuuusiness like shooooowbuuusiness like nooobuuusiness I knooow… If you’re trying to stay awake, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” works too, but, for whatever reason, not quite as well. Thanks to Ethel, I aced all my exams. Thus ensued my brief infatuation with Ethel Merman. It didn’t last long. I was home on break and performed my newly discovered talent for imitating Ethel Merman. That’s when my mother told me that Ethel had recently died. She remarked that Ethel had once been married to Borgnine, her fourth and final husband. For reasons she couldn’t recall, the marriage didn’t last long. We return home and I promptly get to work on my poem which I’ve entitled “The Winter of 2011.” The poem is about getting satisfaction from kicking off dirty snow chunks that grow at shockingly rapid rates underneath motor vehicle in winter time. These self-breeding ice chunks are the kudzu of the North. At some point, they crack off here and there, in parking lots, in driveways and when you have an armful of groceries you stumble over one of these unsightly turds and drop your keys in a pile of snow. I change face to puss, and realize I must also replace ugly with lowdown. The sixth stanza now reads: How is it— after kicking your lowdown puss— My God, I LOVE it. Puss is perfect. It rescues the stanza from mediocrity, elevates the entire poem to another level. I am ecstatic. If I had Ernest Borgnine’s phone number I’d call him to thank him for helping me finish this poem. A phone call would be a bit presumptuous. A letter might be better. I write: Dear Mr. Borgnine: I apologize on behalf of my husband and myself for thinking you were dead. For selfish reasons I am so glad you are not. Were it not for you I would not have completed my poem (see enclosed). How generously, and without fanfare, you sent me puss. Thank you for resurrecting such a quaint, old fashioned word. Your newest fan, Jennifer Clark P.S. I’m sorry about your marriage to Ethel not working out. I envision him opening the letter, the gap in his teeth evident as he smiles; it wanes when he gets to the part about his ex-wife. I delete that line and wonder what other actor goes

85


Spittoon 1.2 Clark, A Nod to Ernest Borgnine

around with gaps in their teeth these days? Lauren Hutton, but then she was born in 1943 and has, in my estimation, a more modest space between her teeth compared to Borgnine. I am shocked to find how easy it is to obtain Borgnine’s address. In one click I am on a site that not only announces his Beverly Hills address but promises to reveal secrets that will get Ernest Borgnine to respond to my letter if I go to this other link. I don’t. I’m becoming a bit suspicious of the site as it has posted an outdated photo—maybe taken twenty years ago—of the actor. It is the same Borgnine I invoked from my childhood. He comes across the internet as a dapper bulldog, smiling and wearing a dark suit with a red hanky peeking out of the pocket. His tie boasts a spray of flowers which picks up the same shade of red. His hair, with touches of gray, is still dark. If the picture is outdated, maybe the address is too. I find out things about him I didn’t know, not that I’m the expert on Ernest Borgnine. Far from it. But I’m beginning to feel guilty for barely thinking about this guy since McCale’s Navy while he ends up single-handedly saving my poem. Ernie was also a navy man in real life, a veteran of World War II. (I’m calling him Ernie now because in one of the stories I just read it quotes him as saying he prefers Ernie over Ernest or Mr. Borgnine.) I wonder what Ethel called him. She was number three of five wives. Really not much of a marriage as it lasted under two months. Makes you wonder what happened. In Ethel’s memoirs, she included a chapter entitled, “My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine” and offers up a blank page to the reader. Maybe Ernie’s string of failed marriages had something to do with his parents separating when he was just the tender age of two. His mother whisked him off to Italy but a few years later his parents reunited and returned to Connecticut, his birthplace. Upon reconciling, they decided to take the Italian out of their last name, changing it from Borgino to Borgnine. So ErmesEffronBorgino became Ernest Borgnine, or Ernie, for short. This is interesting. Google ‘Ernest Borgnine’andyou come up with 116,000 hits. Seems like a lot. However, google somebody famous, born after 1970, and you’ll discover that younger celebrities beat out the older celebrities. I base this statement on the one experiment I just did using ‘Ashton Kutcher.’ Born in 1978, Kutcher has 3,470,000 hits. That’s 30 times more than Ernie. Is it just me or does it seem like a crime to have such a—I don’t know what you’d call it—a cyber gap? At the very least it seems disrespectful that someone who has lived almost an entire century has their number of hits vastly exceeded by someone whose life has spanned three short decades and has starred in movies like Dude, Where’s My Car? On the other hand, I think there is a larger, underlying truth in all this. A profusion of meaningless information is floating around out there. Take Kutcher for example. I just got on his twitter account—I’ve never been on anybody’s twitter account until this moment— and see that, as of today, he has made 6,472 tweets and over 6 million people are followers

86


Spittoon 1.2 Clark, A Nod to Ernest Borgnine

of comments like, “I FANCY the new UI on THE FANCY.” What the hell? I bet Ernie hasn’t ever polluted cyberspace by twitting a tweet. How many cyber notations does one really need in this life? Even Ernie’s 116,000 is too much. Someone should set a limit. Say five, ten entries tops? Until then, I begrudgingly decide to partake in this gluttonous behavior. Instead of mailing the letter to Ernie I will figure out how to enhance his internet presence. Perhaps an addition to the Ernest Borgnine’s entry in Wikipedia might do him justice. It’s not much, but how I see it, it will help him get one step closer to Kutcher. I compose the following email: Dear Jimmy Wales: If possible, could you please update Ernest Borgnine’s current Wikipedia entry to include the following statement?: One of Borgnine’s greatest accomplishments is something this character actor didn’t even realize he had accomplished! Unbeknownst to Ernie, by uttering the word ‘puss’ during a 2011 NPR interview he inspired an obscure, relatively unknown poet to finish her poem, “Winter of 2011.” Thanks to Ernie and this poem*, the term ‘puss’ quickly regained the relative popularity it once enjoyed. This resurgence in puss is evidenced by the fact that within months, Facebook officially changed its name to Pussbook. Thank you, Jennifer Clark PS. *Please hyperlink the word poem to “The Winter of 2011.” I have attached it for your convenience. Who am I kidding? I can’t send this email. Even as I was writing it I realized, with the exception of the obscure poet reference, none of it is true. At least, not yet. Perhaps the best way I can pay homage to Ernie is to get my poem out. Start circulating it to a few select literary journals. But I don’t. Instead, I make a list of what Ernie and I have in common: 1. We both use the word puss. 2. I am now the age (minus five years) that Ernie was when I was born. 3. We both had a thing for Ethel Merman but it didn’t last long. 4. When Ernie and his caterpillar eyebrows were busy playing Stanislaus Katzinsky in the 1979 film “All Quiet on the Western Front” I was busy using a tiny comb to shape my eyebrows into the Brooke Shield’s style that was all the rage that year.

87


Spittoon 1.2 Clark, A Nod to Ernest Borgnine

After looking over the list I realize it is a stretch. With the exception of the first entry, Ernie and I have nothing in common at all. I should stop thinking about Ernie. I pick up my Bon Appétit and start browsing the recipes I am too intimidated to make. I wonder what magazines Ernie subscribes to. Readers Digest? Life Magazine? Before his last wife died I bet she had plenty of magazines like Ladies’ Home Journal and Redbook scattered throughout the house. Now and then he probably comes across one, thumbs through it and stops at the green bean casserole recipe that has been dog-eared. I can just see him pulling out of his back pocket a man-size hanky and moping up tears that slip down his sweet, craggy puss. I wonder how long he’s been a widower. Whoops, my bad. Ernie’s fifth wife—that he has been married to for over 35 years—is still alive and well. TovaTraesnaes, that’s her name, was born in Norway in 1941. That’s just two years shy of Lauren Hutton’s 1943 birth. Turns out, Tova is quite the business woman. She’s taken this face cream concocted with cactus and made by a family in Mexico and sells it on QVC along with a host of other cosmetics. I hope the family gets a good cut out of the whole deal. I wonder if she sells those eyebrow combs I used back in my teen years. Maybe I should start watching QVC and order some of her makeup. I can’t remember the last time I bought makeup. Get this. Lauren Hutton sells makeup too! Coincidence? I don’t think so. And she has relatively plush eyebrows for a woman. Ethel Merman, on the other hand, had pencil thin eyebrows. One site described them as ‘Quizzical eyebrows.’ Maybe that outwardly thinthick eyebrow difference was simply an outward manifestation of the differences between Ernie and Ethel. Maybe Ethel lifted her quizzical eyebrows one too many times and Ernie said enough. A marriage ended over eyebrows. I’m sure it happens. Okay, so I just got back from the library and you know what? The Kalamazoo Public Library has two copies of Marty and they are both checked out. The young man working the media area apologized and said I could place one on reserve. I was so relieved to know that Ernie was still vital and circulating that I almost forgot to thank the young man. I left, forgetting to place it on reserve. So, I’m thinking about Ernie’s eyebrows again. Seriously, who really wears eyebrows like that anymore? I don’t know what it is about eyebrows but they seem to have played an astonishingly large role in Ernie’s life. And gaps. It hits me, I’ve been thinking about Ernie’s gap in terms of his teeth being disrupted by a gap rather than his gap being flanked by teeth. I wonder how come? Flank. Now that is one powerful word. Makes me want to write a poem right now, using the word flank in it. Or maybe entitle the poem “Flank” or the bit more edgy, “Flank You.” I’ll write it, send it off and see what happens. And then I will give another nod to Ernie because it was in thinking about him that I was led to write about flank. Who knew that an old man with caterpillar eyebrows could be such a font of inspiration? I could easily become addicted to Ernie. 88


Spittoon 1.2

The rain is happy today.

Don Cellini The rain is happy today. It sounds the roof as a tambourine, pings and claps excited on the windowsills. The saucers under the plants on the patio gasp. The dry earth gulps. Inside I sweep, remove, shine smooth. My friend – my friend who has been gone so many years – is coming to visit. Even the handsome angel on the ceiling

89


Spittoon 1.2

Cellini, The rain‌

in the corner of the old chapel is weeping with joy.

90


Spittoon 1.2

After that he left Don Cellini

After that he left with the circus. Groomed horses and cleaned cages. Finally became a stunt rider. People say one of the best in the business. He thought he was best at picking up each week and leaving town.

 

91


Spittoon 1.2

A mango ripens Don Cellini

A mango ripens on the windowsill, awaits the perfect hour to give up its spicy sweetness. Tonight the wind is full of long-ago voices, of those who have left behind their wrinkled clothes, their empty shoes.

92


Spittoon 1.2

 

Pear Jessica Barksdale

I moved Rebecca into the garage next to the WD40 and Castrol oil, then to my new home, and later I brought her to a performance where I asked the audience a question. I held her box in my hands, and I meant it as I asked, "What am I supposed to do with my sister's ashes?" It was the final moment of my piece, and the lights went out, but I wanted to skip the bow and the applause, so I could get some answers. I finally decided to plant her under an pear tree. I was at Home Depot in the late afternoon, rain brilliant through outdoor halogens, and I grabbed up a bargain bare root tree, the roots clumped and stiff as witch hair. At home, shoveling up the muddy square in the middle of my lawn, I thought of the labels on Red Anjou pears, Ripe when yields to gentle pressure. I thought of Rebecca grabbing the pear tree branch in my parent's back yard and swinging up and back, and then up and down, her body thumping flat on crabgrass and trampled pears. My father didn't believe me when I told him that she had fallen and was cradling her broken arm like a little live thing. This was back when injuries were easily healed, before her body betrayed

93


Spittoon 1.2 Barksdale, Pear

her and ate up the precious islets that keep us all alive and happy with sugar. This was before scabs stopped healing, and her vision grew dim, and she tried to swallow a whole bottle of anti-depressants because the doctors cut off the tops of her toes due to poor circulation. My husband poured her ashes into the hole, and they were so much whiter than I expected, not gray and full of bone souvenirs. I guess I thought I would find a shard I would remember, something I would have memorized from looking at her skin, from watching her body grow, from tending her while she was sick. Like the elephants, I wanted to mourn over something I could hold. I would have spotted her femur, long and lean, her collar bone, rounded like a full moon on her shoulder. But the dust was fine and soft, almost pure, small flakes luminescent in the dull December sky. I feel like touching them, I said, disgusted with my desire to feel the crisp ashes in my hand, to touch her once again, just as I had rubbed her legs as she died in the hospital bed. Go ahead, my husband said, so I swirled my finger through the dust as if it were sugar, cracking the flakes between my finger and thumb like small, brittle beetles. I probably could have done this for hours, weighing each particle in my palm for memory, sifting the dust into the air, loosening her to the clouds. I imagined I might conjure a vision, a feeling, a ghost, and I had to pull my arm out before I fell in myself. So I watched my husband slowly shovel, until I could see nothing but tree trunk, dirt, and wet blades of blue-green fescue. 94


Spittoon 1.2

Contributors

95


Spittoon 1.2

Nancy Zafris is the series editor of the Flannery O’Connor award for short fiction. Laura Madeline Wiseman teaches English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, including Branding Girls (Finishing Line Press, 2011). www.lauramadelinewiseman.com. Lori White teaches at L.A. Pierce College and lives with her partner and their three dogs in a trailer by a lake at the edge of the Los Padres Forest. J. Michael Wahlgrenis author of Valency (BlazeVox [Books], 2010) &Silent Actor (Bewrite Books, 2008. He lives around Boston, MA, where he publishes for Gold Wake Press. Contact: JaredWahlgren@hotmail.com or http://goldwakepress.org. F. Daniel Rzicznek’s books of poetry include Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press 2009) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press 2007). Co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press, 2010), Rzicznek is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for 2010. He lives and teaches in Bowling Green, Ohio. Mary Elizabeth Parker’sessay “Combat Boots” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry collections include The Sex Girl and two chapbooks, Breathing in a Foreign Country and That Stumbling Ritual. Since 1996, she has been chair of the Dana Awards in the Novel, Short Fiction, Poetry and the Essay (www.danaawards.com). Gina Myersis the author of A Model Year (Coconut Books, 2009), and several chapbooks, including False Spring (forthcoming from Spooky Girlfriend). She lives in Atlanta where she writes reviews and makes books for Lame House Press. Rick Marlatt holds a MFA from the University of California, Riverside, where he served as poetry editor of The Coachella Review. Marlatt’s first book, How We Fall Apart, was the winner of the 2010 Seven Circle Press poetry chapbook award. His work has appeared in publications including New York Quarterly, Rattle, Anti, and elsewhere. Marlatt teaches English in Nebraska, where he lives with his wife and two sons. Read more at rickmarlatt.com.

96


Spittoon 1.2

Meghan MacNamara earned her MFA from Vermont College. Her work has appeared in Fourth Genre and Mind Sprocket Magazine. Her memoir, Never Thought of Losing, will venture into the world of print publication in the near future. Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro is a freelancer, reporter, and author. She has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College and is a member of the VCFAWriters Workshop and PNWA. CLincoln.Pinherio@mail.com. Damien Kortum is an English Instructor at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, WY. He lives in Colorado with his wife, his daughter, and his three cats. Email Damien at damienuw@hotmail.com. Donald Illich has published work in LIT, Passages North, Nimrod, and other journals. He was a semi-finalist for the Boston Review/"Discovery" Poetry Contest. He lives in Rockville, MD. Faith S. Holsaert has published fiction in journals since 1979. She is revising a novel set in the black lung Movement in Appalachia. Her work can be seen at OutHistory.org. She lives in Durham with her partner, Vicki Smith. Contact her at writerwk1@mac.com. William Henderson lives in Boston where he is often tooling around with his children, Avery and Aurora; musing about love and writing and parenting on his blog (hendersonhouseofcards.wordpress.com, where you can find his other published work); tweeting (aavesdad); practicing yoga; and waiting for his ever-after ending. Nathan Hauke is the author of chapbooks In the Living Room (Lame House Press 2010) and Stray Music ( Furniture Press PO25¢EM Series 2011). His chapbook, S E W N, is forthcoming from Horse Less Press. His poetry has most recently appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Peaches & Bats, and Real Poetik. He is currently co-editor at Ark Press and an editor for Slash Pine Press.

97


Spittoon 1.2

Lenore R. Harris is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of San Francisco, where she earneda Master's of ArtsinWriting. Currently, she is a community college English instructor. She lives in Oakland, California. Maureen Foley is a writer, artist and teacher who lives on an avocado ranch in Southern California with her cattle dog, Rua, and her husband and writer, James Claffey. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, Caesura, Skanky Possum, Bombay Gin, and elsewhere. She studied Zen Buddhism and writing at Naropa University. For more information, visit http://www.maureenfoley.com. Cal Freeman’spoems have appeared in such journals as Nimrod, Ninth Letter, Folio, Commonweal, The Journal, Drunken Boat, among others. He currently teaches writing at Oakland University. Lori D’Angelo lives in Virginia with her husband, son, dogs, and cat. Her work has appeared in various literary journals including Word Riot, Drunken Boat, and Stirring. Jennifer Clark’s work has recently appeared in Raven Chronicles, Astropoetica, Driftwood, Defenestration, Rose & Thorn Journal, and other fine journals. Her first book of poems, Necessary Clearings, will be published by Shabda Press in 2014. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Don Cellini is a poet, translator and photographer. He has published three books of poems: Approximations/Aproximaciones and Inkblots (March Street Press), and Translate into English (Mayapple Press). He teaches at Adrian College in Michigan. Find out more at http://www.doncellini.com. Jessica Barksdale is the author of 12 novels (some under the name Jessica Inclan). You can read more about her at http://www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com.

98


Spittoon 1.2