CULT OF CLIO Issue I
Published in March 2022
Staff Members Leatov B Marud Etienne Tsway
Cover photos by: Susana Van Houttum
Table of Contents Pills & good night phantasmagoria by Anh Thu Truong Nguyen
DANAË by Helen Jenks
YET ANOTHER SILICON TRIP by Adebimpe Adeyemi
The Woman Who Faced A God by Jowell Tan
New Sheet by Julia Kroin
Memento Mori by Faye Alexandra Rose
Uprooted by Kerri MacKenzie
Aliyah Means ‘To Ascend’ by Shannon Frost Greenstein
Dissociation by Lasara Firefox Allen
Rocks by Lasara Firefox Allen
Twilight of the Gods by Laszlo Aranyi (Frater Azmon)
The Power of the Change by Ceinwen Haydon
Waves by Lawless Now
Being by Arun Kapur
Table of Contents (continued) Phenomenal She by Dorothy Lune
Multitudes by Linda Arrighi
What They Don’t Know by David Harrison Horton
MARS GIRLS by Barbara Keiser
The Mother of Poetry by Tessa Foley
The Safety is Off by Nicole Starker Campbell
Conversations with suicide as a studious observer by Ayobami Kayode
The Seen After The Separation (June, 2009) Where it Ends All That Remains Last Call by Bruce Gunther
Meredith Grey how tender the bundle landlines, answering machines, and sandra bullock ire sometimes i miss by Sophie Kearing This body a vehicle by Oluseye Fakinlede The Tale of (De)Generation by Sumedha Sengupta
Table of Contents (continued) knowing my misery the last month of the year the aftermath of a breakdown what’s sweeter than not feeling anything? by Phrieda Bogere
THE SUICIDE SELFIE by A. Brassky
TEDDY BEAR by Ivy Darcy
Teddy Bears’ Picnic by Estelle Phillips
TRIPTYCH OF A FREAM A Brook of Our Own Off A Highway Route by Ron Tobey
by Anh Thu Truong Nguyen
Pills & good night trigger/content warning: allusions to suicide, imagery of natural disasters (tsunami)
On this peninsula of mine, the Styx carries the passengers that poison the arboreal ravine. Breathing it’s last breaths, the water drudges the scraps to a centre that wants to devour itself. The cave is becoming a pebbled lagoon, sinking as it’s layers inwardly collapse. Apocalyptic snow feathers the place, while in the sky, adamant, clouds have gathered at last. The end is nigh for this barren site; I find one, final sigh, as the high tide barges in. - Thu
phantasmagoria trigger/content warning: explicit descriptions of bodily harm and violence on the body, injuries, blood, allusions to self-harm and suicide, description of metaphorical suicide.
I wish my throat was gashed chewed out until only bone remained same with my ribs, chest, heart my skeleton left dripping with rotting blood my vocal chords left hanging out a feast for the crows. but; I was never taught the art of true rebellion so instead I foddered to even cut carrots only authorized chips on my skin, undetectable to the human eye, easily covered with some alibi. a fully automated robot, I resort to act out my fantasies in prose where an efficient rope stains history then again, and again, and again and I gain nothing but exacerbation tossing coal to the hell pits of my mind a full-on forest fire, a quiet background at the porch I pour myself some tea the sky roaring tides of crimson and dye it’s a nice afternoon to die too bad I ran out of ink, i’ll return to it tonight. - Thu 8
by Helen Jenks
DANAË Trigger warning: references to rape
Ungrounded, but imprisoned above the earth in a stillness of stone, I gaze, watching the gulls fly in swooping shrieks to meet the unmaking of the sea, as if such phenomena, their stick-strewn nests and shrillen sound, would change the heaviness of my womb as it fills in agony with the seed-shower of gold –– take me, take me, take me, take me with you, away from here…. please?
by Adebimpe Adeyemi
YET ANOTHER SILICON TRIP I stood before my mirror this morning in all my glory and look what stares back at me This doe-eyed girl trying to pass for a lady with a flat chest, plain face and an even flatter behind I hear guys like them Fully endowed, beautiful face Full chested with bums to die for I’ve never been the eye catching one No wonder the cat calls and whistles haven’t greeted my comeliness Would my breast just grow a little curve? Can I just be a little more endowed? Can’t I just have chosen bigger bums I take a silicon trip That broomstick image long forgotten
by Jowell Tan
The Woman Who Faced A God The Woman stands on the cliff ’s peak facing the sea. Beneath Her, the waves crash onto the dirt, foaming at the mouth to devour the pillar of Earth She stands on. Above Her, dark storm clouds gather, yellow streaks flashing within. Rain starts to fall. The wind picks up speed. Each drop of water lands on Her skin with force, creating small welts along Her arms and legs. A lightning bolt whistles past Her with a shrill sound, felling a tree in the forest behind Her with a loud crack and a deafening thud. But The Woman stands Her ground. Today, She will get what She wants. Or She will die trying. Straining Her eyes to look past the heavy rainfall, She sees a yellow circle from inside the gathering of clouds appear and enlarge. She knows that the next lightning bolt that emerges will hit neither forest nor the ground. She knows She doesn’t have much time. The yellow circle grows to the size of a cloud. She steels Herself for the worst, praying for deliverance. And from inside Her body, the one thing She hoped for the most begins its process. She welcomes that familiar feeling of something dropping in Her stomach, making its way down through Her hips. She disrobes, standing nude against the oncoming storm. As She traces with Her eyes the yellow circle transforming into a spike and rushing out from the clouds, She senses a warm sensation flowing down Her inner thigh, the small river of blood that starts from within Her. She closes Her eyes and whispers: “Stop.” She hears the air stop its bellowing, becoming completely still. The pressure vanishes, leaving an emptiness in its place equally as pressing. She wonders if She is still alive, or if the old elder was wrong, and She has been struck dead and is now in the afterlife. The silence brings its own kind of loudness, filling up Her ears and forcing Her to open Her eyes. She is still on the cliff. The rain no longer pours, but is floating in their positions, unsure whether to rise or to fall. The lightning bolt that was flying to strike her is hovering, inches away from the space between Her eyes. It pulsates rapidly, eager to strike Her, but unable to follow through. She can feel the heat emanating from its yellow spikes. Continued on next page 11
She steps back, almost tripping over Herself. The scene before Her appears frozen in time — The rain, the wind, the lightning, it has all stopped at Her command. She looks up at the clouds. From behind its dark textures a shadow of a man grows in size as the man walks towards Her. It grows bigger and bigger, until His shadow looms over everything in sight. The waves emit a loud splash as His feet enter the water. The ground trembles with every step He takes. The lightning bolt travels back towards whence it came, coming to rest in His palm. The God, like the myths of old, is fair-skinned and blonde. As He approaches The Woman, She sees the rain returning to the clouds, awaiting further instruction. She is surprised to see The God appear to Her as a human, a little disappointed that He selected to arrive in this form, looking just like all the other men She has met. But She keeps Her thoughts to herself, for She has a request to ask of Him and it would not be good to begin their conversation with such words. He would not help Her if He heard them. “How,” The God’s voice booms down from many lengths above Her, “Did you stop the storm from attacking you?” “I do not know How, I only know that I did.” The Woman replies. The God strokes his chin. “Interesting.” He notices the red line of blood flowing down Her leg. “Ah. I see. For whom do you bleed, Woman?” “I bleed,” She speaks, “For the man I love, who was taken from me in the dead of night by a gang of marauders. I bleed for my children, who were defenseless against these men, and killed anyway for no other reason than they were present. I bleed for my village, the other men and women, whose screams of fear were silenced by these marauder’s weapons, bodies struck down by their swings. I bleed for myself, I who have none else to live for but to find these men and make them repay their debt to me.” While The Woman speaks, The God listens. He does not make a sound. And when She finishes speaking, He remains silent. She does not know if Her speech touched His heart, or if He is deciding how best to kill Her instead. The silence blankets itself over the Two, its weight making the trees bend and the air rest heavy on Her chest. “And what you wish is for me, God of The Seas and The Storm, to find those who hurt you and exact revenge? Gods will not bother themselves with mortal squabbles, Woman — Gods have more important things to do.” “No.” “No?” Continued on next page 12
“No.” The Woman speaks, each word imbued with increasing anger. “No, I do not want an avenger. I want these men to feel my anger, to fall by my hand.” “I want the power that you possess, to borrow it but for a moment. And when I have completed the task that I have to do, you may do with me as you wish. For after these men are dead, I will no longer desire to live.” The God takes a moment. He looks at the lightning bolt in his hand, considering if He should grant The Woman’s request. “You will willingly destroy yourself to deliver vengeance to these men? You can still live if you do not chase them and find love, create life, elsewhere.” “No. I do not want a life without my lover and our children. Another man and another child would not heal these wounds I have within me. I only wish for revenge before I leave this Earth. Will you grant me my wish?” The Woman stares into the eyes of The God. Her will, resolute. Her desire, spoken loud and clear. The God laughs and shakes His head. “Ah, humanity,” He muses. “I shall never tire of your kind.” The lightning bolt in his hand shrinks to become miniscule in His palm, but weapon-sized in Hers. “Go forth and wreak your vengeance, Woman, and I shall return when you are finished.” The God laughs and shakes His head. “Ah, humanity,” He muses. “I shall never tire of your kind.” The lightning bolt in his hand shrinks to become miniscule in His palm, but weapon-sized in Hers. “Go forth and wreak your vengeance, Woman, and I shall return when you are finished.” The tale of The Woman will go to live forever in the words of other storytellers, told around campfires in the center of villages to children and adults alike. As different raconteurs weave their own versions of the ending, some with more violence than others, the bones of what happens next remain the same: The Woman, now filled with the Power of The Seas and The Storm, accosts the marauders that very same night where they made camp. One She strikes down with the lightning bolt that She received from The God. She summons forth the wind and casts another into the air and far away, out of sight. A third man shoots an arrow at Her, but although it finds its mark She does not bleed. To the third man She calls upon a whirlwind to pick him up and tear him into pieces, his screams echoing into the night. Continued on next page 13
All this She does so silently, without word nor emotion as She dispatches them with ease. Now there is only one left. The last man, the one who killed Her family with his hand and his weapon. She had left him for last. As She blows away the tent where he cowers, levitates him across the distance, and grips his skull with Her hand, She sees that the man — who She saw laughing evilly while killing Her lover — he now bawls loudly, wetting himself like a child while he pleads for his life. To him, She says: “Now, it is your turn to beg. Now, it is my turn to be cruel.” A current of lightning comes out from Her fingers holding his head, travels down through his body and down into the ground. The man’s body jerks and contorts into unnatural shapes. Bones break and flesh burns. The Woman tightens Her grip, passing the current through until the man is burnt black and the smell of charred meat wafts into the air. The Woman then releases Her grip, and the man who killed Her family falls to the ground, turning into dust upon impact. Her mission is complete. She walks away from the campsite, arms raised and head tilted up, waiting for The God to descend. He does so in the form of a massive lightning bolt that strikes Her where She stands, turning the word monochrome for a flash, the white of the lightning against the black of the darkened land. When colour returns, there are no charred remains or burnt smells to be found. She has simply vanished, never to be seen again. To this day, the mystery of The Woman remains unsolved, but the story lives on. The Woman Who Faced A God, and Commanded A Storm.
by Julia Kroin
New Sheet Crinkled paper whistling while it flies towards a fishnet bin of negligence A Bunsen flame burning whatever remains of the soft pencil scratches of intelligence And the repetitive dawning of beginning Again Again Again Until nothing awaits but the hissing embers of discarded paper and wasted potential However The thrill of etching mind into curved alphabet stencils Nothing in the world more powerful than your pencil Is enough to make a new beginning worth the millions of crinkled paper shriveling red
by Faye Alexandra Rose
Memento Mori I was escorted to my seat. I was told that this was just a procedure and that I was so brave for what I was doing. I remember thinking to myself that I would much rather walk straight off a cliff into shark infested waters than be in this room. Looking back, I guess that is exactly what I was doing, but without the water, there were plenty of sharks though. One shark had a moustache so long it would tickle the top of his lip and he would repeatedly brush off for it to fall straight back I would find comfort in any distraction. He walked in in a suit with policemen standing at either side. A face that once made my stomach fill with excitement now brought acid to the back of my throat - fear tastes like you are chugging petrol, waiting to be set on fire - the judge asked him if his handcuffs were too tight, and he said no. Funny how now he understands what the word no means. I guess an old man with a comb over isn’t his kink. The trial took three days, like clockwork both him and I took in turns to be questioned. His lawyer had his buttons fastened wrong on his shirt; one collar was higher than the other, then he had the audacity to speak to me as if he were talking to a child who just drew on white walls. The last time I sat in that chair my brother and I made eye contact, he clenched his fist with a smile. You can do this, I thought. As the jury gave their verdict, I heard my mother scream behind me in uproar. My immediate response was to turn around and apologise to my family for losing the fight. I always apologise. My brother often reminds me of the time I fell off the wall outside my primary school and apologised to the ground in case I hurt it. I needed eight stitches in my knee, but at least the concrete was okay. Concrete. A cold, hard surface. A bit like my exterior since those words left that shark’s mouth. They say death is inevitable, which is undeniably true. But what about the times where a part of you dies and you must continue living? I am not scared of death, no. I am scared to become too damaged to live.
by Kerri MacKenzie
Uprooted I had big plans for my excess of skeleton. Oh the things I was going to do with it. I was going to grind a bit up and use it for spells. Put it in a tiny vial and save it for those moments when I feel less wise than usual. Maybe even take the most intact one and drill a hole on either side and wear it as a protection amulet. “I am strong.” “I am brave.” “I can do hard things.” These were the silly little incantations I would say as I smoothened the surface of my skeleton with my nervous little fingers. It’s a funny thing, having too much skeleton. I couldn’t let it go to waste. I’d take another one with me when I went home. Well, when I went back to my birth country. I’d take it and I’d bury it and then I wouldn’t feel uprooted anymore. I wouldn’t go back and feel unbelonging. From there but also now from here. Now from nowhere. A little bit of my skeleton buried deep in Scottish soil would keep me connected. I chose to pluck myself out like a weed, like an overgrown thistle, and transport myself somewhere else. So is somewhere else home? I’d bury its sibling here. One tooth rooted in Scotland. One tooth rooted in France. Grounded. A hybrid thistle-fleur-de-lys weed that could claim its own space and thrive in this soil. The last one, the one with the largest, curved root that was maybe just big enough to be rooted in my brain, I was going to save for something huge. Something real important. I was going to wait until all the leaves had gone from sickly greens, to burnt ambers, to browns and when they fell to the ground and rotted and the air was crisp and stung my nose and the night came before dinner. Then. Then, I was going to sit beside the river under the vast, ever-expanding blanket of stars. I’d sit under the waning crescent and I would hold my little skeleton in my hand and I would focus very, very hard and use it to speak through the veil. There must be magic in a wisdom tooth. There just has to be. And there are so many things I need to know. I’d use it to call upon the wisest woman I know, seems fitting to use a wisdom tooth for this, and I’d ask her; “Are you proud? Did I make the right choice? Can you come back for a minute please?” A little bit of skeleton as an offering to Spirit must be enough to grant me that? Just a minute. When the border between the living and the dead has been reduced to nothing more than a see-through wire-chain fence that anyone without a corporeal form could slip through, surely a minute wouldn’t be too much. I’d sit in the cold and feel the damp grass seep into my jeans and hold out my little hand with my little skeleton offering and she’d take it and sit with me for a while. It seemed fated that four chunks of skeleton would be ripped from my mouth so close to Samhain. The wisest teeth, with the deepest roots and the most pain. That must mean something. All the years of them in my head must mean something.
Continued on next page 17
I couldn’t speak when it was over. I had gauze pushed into each hole. I guess that was to stop the blood but what if that was all that was keeping the wisdom from my teeth inside too? What if my brain poured out the holes and I lost all of my wisdom? I had four holes and no roots. Through gauze and numb lips and swollen tongue I asked for my teeth back please. With unceremonious, surgical precision I was informed that they were already gone. My skeleton. My very own skeleton and all of its magical potential thrown away like weeds from the garden, destined to rot away on some great compost heap of excess skeletons.
by Shannon Frost Greenstein
Aliyah Means ‘To Ascend’ Anna exhaled deeply, air hissing out between her teeth as if a snake cowered beneath her tongue. Gentlemen, you underestimate me, she thought vehemently, hurling the thought through the bars at the guards sitting outside her cell. Anna fidgeted in her chair, straining her ears for the sound of her baby. Hearing nothing, thrumming with energy, she did what her loved ones had been doing for the past three thousand years. She prayed. She remembered another time in jail, arrested by the KGB and thrown into a room with two dozen drunk men and a blessing to do with her what they would. But God had been watching out for her then; one prisoner recognized Anna as his young daughter’s schoolteacher and warded off the mob for the night. But even after that, she hadn’t stopped protesting against the government; she hadn’t stopped fighting back. Even as they beat her, Anna knew she ultimately had the power. Try as they might to harm her body, they could not silence her voice. Anna had been terrified this morning as she and Yuri walked to Palace Square; her hands, stuffed in gloves and clutching her husband’s arm, had been trembling. Then the stately columns of the Winter Palace came into view, and…suddenly…she did not feel an ounce of fear. She was not afraid at the sight of government agents. She was not afraid when dozens of police officers arrived. She was not afraid as she chained herself to her baby’s carriage, the maternal instinct to protect one’s young made incarnate. Anna brandished her sign, bold Cyrillic characters declaring she would not be a hostage of the KGB, and closed her eyes. It was December 6, 1987. She had been trying to leave the USSR for a decade. It wasn’t safe to be much of anyone in the Soviet Union, but it was particularly dangerous to be Jewish. Anna, like her husband, was a refusenik; she had been a refusenik ever since the first time she was denied an exit visa. All she and Yuri wanted was to emigrate to Israel; all they wanted was to make Aliyah. All they wanted was to be safe, and welcome, and welcome to worship as they chose. So now, with Yuri by her side and their child between them, she continued to challenge the government for her right to practice Judaism; for her right to leave. Continued on next page 19
It was December 6th, and thousands of miles away, it was also Freedom Sunday. Thousands of supporters were currently demonstrating at the White House Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev, an auspicious meeting entirely in the spirit of glastnost. These individuals came from New York and Philadelphia and Washington D.C; they were observant Jews and secular activists and celebrities who had taken up the movement for Soviet Jewry. Anna and Yuri’s protest in Palace Square mirrored this rally, a communal moment of synergy on either side of the globe. The Americans were shouting their support for refuseniks from all the way across the world, and their voices could be heard even in Leningrad. Anna was not a stranger to these foreign advocates. Her family had become, in fact, the face of the Jewish resistance. Their outspoken plight had attracted the attention of philanthropists and religious leaders in the United States, sparking relationships with influential Western allies. Anna knew this notoriety was her insurance policy in the Soviet Union, where it was far too easy for individuals to simply disappear. We are not alone, Anna comforted herself. “Get up,” an agent barked from outside her cell. “Ok,” she replied neutrally. Yuri always refused to answer the KGB’s questions, but Anna knew to tread more carefully; she needed her daughter back. “Come with me,” he ordered, and she followed him obediently to a dim interrogation room. Anna entered and nearly dropped to the floor with gratitude at the sight of her husband, sitting at a table strewn with papers, and their baby, still fussing in the carriage. God has set us on this path, Yuri always said. Hours passed. “Why would you want to leave the Soviet Union?” they were asked, again and again. “What are you planning with your American friends?” “We just want to live in Israel,” Anna kept repeating stubbornly. “We just want exit visas.” The baby’s fussing grew louder. “Shut that kid up,” barked the agent. He circled the child and feigned knocking over her carriage, grinning slyly as Anna’s heart leapt into her throat and adrenaline shot through her veins. The man laughed heartily, and Anna reminded herself yet again why all of this was necessary. Continued on next page 20
She and Yuri would never be allowed out of the Soviet Union; they had been told as much the last time their visa applications were denied. Her family’s silent protest in Palace Square, their network in the United States, their public arrest…it was all a last resort. You can’t stop us, she recited silently now, a mantra, the phrase that had echoed through her head years ago while they were beating her with clubs. The infant began to wail, and Anna lifted her from the carriage. It was as she was checking the baby’s back for diaper pins that her daughter – with no warning whatsoever – abruptly vomited on the table, the interrogation documents, and the KGB agent. Hours passed. And then…it was all over. Anna was let go, clutching the baby to her chest. Yuri was detained for the next ten days; he was released on the first night of Hanukkah. Eight days later, they were all granted exit visas. And finally, after it all…after the flight to Israel, after settling down and starting to work, after making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem…Anna at last stood on the peak of Mount Zion. She could see over the walls of the Old City, over the hills and graveyards and King David’s Tomb; she was floating in the cloudless blue sky which stretched in all directions to the horizon. Aliyah, she thought. To ascend.
by Lasara Firefox Allen
Dissociation revealing the lattice work of ancient scars the ones my flesh is made of that my heart is cut from that my cells are built on I find myself again standing on the outside this island of the lost where I send my unwelcome parts I stopped telling the stories so I could forget they live inside me and so I stand outside my own skin my body is an island of lost souls
by Lasara Firefox Allen
Rocks Like Sisyphus, I have my rock. More accurately, I have many rocks; some the size of boulders, some more like marbles. The problem is, how do you push many rocks up a hill? One answer is to live a long life. And that’s a challenge because it requires decisions like eating well, and reducing stress. Sometimes you gotta give up things you really like, like booze or sugar. Or heroin. Some folks have to give up heroin. And I find myself thinking, you know, thank the gods I didn’t choose that particular route. So right now I’m going without alcohol. It’s not like I’m dependent on it physically, but let’s just say alcohol and I have a semi-functional relationship. I like to drink. And it wouldn’t be such an issue if I didn’t want to live into old age. As I’ve gotten older, there have been these forks in the road. Decision points. Places where I’ve had to decide whether living fast and dying young was the legacy I wanted for myself. And sometimes still I ask myself, how much fun is it to live a constricted life? I mean, I could say restricted, but restriction is not a visceral enough word. Constriction, like a strangling. I keep deciding to live. Regardless of the requirements. I keep pushing that rock up the hill. Because the rock is this life. And about all those rocks I feel I need to push? Maybe I should learn to juggle.
by Laszlo Aranyi (Frater Azmon)
Twilight of the Gods Light sleepers without bodies; homunculus germs in sticky, curd-like drivel on a cutthroat flypaper. The unity of male and female, the degenerated, fading, distant, magical obsessions of the primordial, blameless root cause become perceptible The rebel leader writhes in chains. Call to your ancestors, the flooded river answers, your double that moved to your house, is the lynx. Meanwhile, a double-edged, demon-slaying sword inflicts a wound upon you, your self-reanimated shadow draws you deeper. The dreadful North’s sending a dire army; it crushes the masked, sleepless foe. Before he murders you though he waits insidiously for you to kill him.
(Translated by Gabor Gyukics)
by Ceinwen Haydon
The Power of the Change Her hot flushes, hot flashes, power surges – burst boundaries of enslaved objectification: after a life of wolf whistles, shame and guilt marked by leaking blood and moods flooded with sore honesties unleashed by potent PMT. Now, after a bonfire of dud vanities, she defeats her fears and anxieties, her confident stride grows long, her tread firm. She demands the right to speak, without perpetual interruptions. To try out her own predilections. She has slipped her reins. Independent of her tight harness, acquired at her mother’s knee, she breaks free to be herself. Brain fog clears, sun breaks through and leads her, wiser, to richer post-menopausal days.
by Lawless Now
Waves He doesn’t cry much any more, The tears don’t fall in crescendos off his cheeks.. They catch, stationed and sidelined by the nose, Pessimism made him view those trails as the set terms and conditions. Terms to be amended based on untested conditions, On these terms your patience or silence, is not a plaster paris that gets rewarded with healed limbs. He woke up too many times last night. He checked all the doors and windows. Never for marauders To keep him in. Watch from a hidden bay, the ships sail by undefined. Dream-like render. This body is simply rocks. Wethered. Stuck. Engrossed in it’s faultines. The body holds the score they say, Well his skin sighs to every panorama A regular phantom itch sends tremors all over, A smile starts to sag, dragging down, anchor like.. It settles, noisily so. Nostalgia blurs a reconciliation. Mouth, lips and tongue…waver under the excess of unspoken words. All the half-made remedies remembered after debilitating incursions.
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He doesn’t cry much anymore.. Potential waves, that erupt are wiped before any eyes pierce, Before any intrusive sympathy reaches for sources. Protect these walls at all costs! Just give him a moment to own. Trample barefoot over there by the dunes. The sand remembers as much as it always remains. Shifting on loop. Becoming traversed in deception, A well heeled prodigie of evasion. He’s worried they are all forgetting.. Him maybe, Or maybe.. Others footprints Chance laughter All the knowing stares, exhales and subtexts. You see, when alone he doesn’t make the best company. Lock up late. Forget preemptive strikes Settle in. Buckle up. That hum is the house resting. It’s been here a long time hasn’t it? He doesn’t cry anymore.
by Arun Kapur
Being Coming together of the clouds Gathering of souls no longer in their shadow, the world passes by. We are told to silence how can we as tears stream by, how do we not cry? Divide by egos and pride, what manner shall we survive? Amongst the abyss , simplicity will reveal true bliss Watch close as clouds form life in the sky United we be as we reach an all mighty high A welcoming is now being recieved for many, as the deceiving stay silent in plenty. We are limited less but become less through power and control. Storms thunder, arrive to bring calm and take it’s toll. Pluck at the weak and branches cut short. Clean hearts never forgotten the wars fought . God offers a shelter upon this skelter and seize a protection . Exposed levels of destruction through false smiles and greed. The awakening of truth is freedom we all desire and need. Rise and fall of the sun or beaming of the moon, come shall be our true calling soon.
by Dorothy Lune
Phenomenal She She spoke with a spiked bat of words. “If male is the natural order, why do we need an organised system to enforce that?” She spoke through a paper microphone with misunderstood sentences Phenomenal She on the box made of flimsy flat cardboard— she makes due with what she has— She is outrageous.
by Linda Arrighi
Multitudes I have always had many different interests and hobbies. I was a competitive swimmer throughout my childhood. I loved the swimming, the breathing, the water. Still, I was always itching to try other sports and hobbies. Changing interests all the time was a form of rebellion for me, a refusal to be the same. I have always enjoyed the freedom to reinvent my space as well as myself. Luckily, the world we live in accepts and sometimes encourages that freedom. I am an only child who craves independence and the ability to do what I want. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I kept coming up with a different response: doctor, war journalist, veterinarian, teacher, book reviewer, model, figure skater, neurosurgeon, writer, artist, swimmer, scientist and poet. These occupations require largely different types of training as well as different types of people. One cannot possibly be them all. On the other hand, I have made peace with the fact that I am also unable to choose just one. My identity stays adrift. It is lost in vast oceans. “I contain multitudes”, Walt Whitman wrote in a poem. This has since then become a Twitter meme, which does not surprise me. I am quoting the meme but not its meaning. On Twitter, “I contain multitudes” means that you struggle to decide because you like all given options. In my case, I am rational person who gives it all up when it comes to big decisions. I am all gut and instinct. I decide in the time it takes to write a Tweet. Despite that, I admit I am a multitudinous millennial. What is that, you ask? I am one of those who cannot choose a career to save my life. I am a student, but my life is a side hustle. My side hustles have side hustles themselves. I run on 8 cups of identities per day. As Sylvia Plath beautifully put it, “I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life.” It is hard for my family to understand that each project I embark on, each different niche I create for myself, does not necessarily need to become my job and, even if it does, it is not forever. I avoid picking a single career not out of fear or worry. When I introduce myself, I struggle to pick which part of myself I want people to identify me by and I always try talking about the other things too. I do this not to brag, but for the fear that other people will think I am something I am not. The reason why I want them to know that I contain multitudes is that I am not comfortable with being defined by one thing only. I am not saying that the multitudes will stop me from choosing a job. I will choose one at some point and maybe my identity will become more defined then. Despite this, I am sure that while I do my full-time job, the multitudes will keep humming and puffing away, impatient to receive attention. Continued on next page 30
Having admitted I struggle to define my own identity as being a single fixed thing, which I think many other people in my generation feel, I can now let you consider what the “adults” usually ask of us. I know I am an adult; I am just not as adult as the “adults” are. So, although I cannot define my identity to myself, what is it that they want of me? All they want me to do is pick, settle, and decide. There is an enormous pressure to choose a career, a place to live, a niche and an identity. They ask you to be authentic, original, and recognizable. You should strive to be known for that one thing you do well. You have to highlight what it is that defines your “personal brand”. You have to present yourself as secure within your career choice. You should describe your most relevant experiences. Please, illustrate who you are “in one sentence”. I said it before! I contain multitudes! I could talk to you about who I am, who I want to be, and what I do, but I recommend you get a coffee and a snack and choose a comfortable chair. We might need until tomorrow. At that, I hear a feeble: “Synthesis is really appreciated; we are running out of time”. Ah, people never have time. Can you tell me then, where do I find the time to be all my multitudes? I can vouch to you that I always find it. Your feeble comment makes me feel that, in reality, people just lack the willingness to find the time for multitudes. Their identity may be on secure land and anchored deep into the earth but they need binoculars to scan the horizon for their neglected imagination. I contain multitudes because I want to. The multitudes keep my doors open and my imagination soaring. The child in me can continue to dream about the different combinations of people I could be. My identity is adrift and I am okay with that. That way, it can continue to rejoice in the swimming, the breathing, and the water I have always loved. After all, the multitudes do not deny my existence. They do not overshadow my core. They simply allow me to be who I always wanted to be. A woman who can be both creative and logical, kind and goal-oriented, defying expectations and stereotypes. The ultimate rebellion. A woman containing multitudes.
by David Harrison Horton
What They Don’t Know I Your mother once told you to bottle up your feelings. You were in the car. It was a warm summer day. School had just gotten out, the possibilities of summer opening up before you like a scroll rolling onto the floor as it opens itself up to the world. You asked her why she said that. Why she wants you to hide yourself from the world. She said it would be better for everyone if you just kept them inside you. If you just let them fester. It was how she was raised and she “turned out just fine.” II When you told your therapist you were fairly confident you had anxiety, her first reaction was to nod and agree. You told her about your anxiety pains, how your head goes lightheaded, your stomach twisting into knots as you feel like everything is far away. Just out of reach. Like a kid trying to grab the candy from off the very high shelf except this time, the candy has rotted, its stench filling your lungs and suffocating you. You told her about how your anxiety feels like a black mass that flows as slow as honey taking over your brain, making your heart beat out of your chest, your hands shake, your head the equivalent of a 50 pound weight, your veins run cold as you imagine blades to your wrists. It makes pushing out words in conversation like vomiting. You just want them to come out but they burn your throat and leave you light headed until they all spill out onto the floor, piling at your feet, and it’s your responsibility to clean them up. Words fragmented on pages. Words dancing in the air. Too many words for you to handle. So many words. Just make them stop. III The first time you felt true love, it was for someone you could never have. You swear, sometimes you still see her while walking down the street, beige trench coats billowing at the backs of knees, light brown cowboy boots striking uneven cobblestones, never breaking her balance. Her long brown hair billows as she keeps walking with the air of a thousand queens. Sometimes, when you close your eyes, you can still see her brown eyes staring back at you, comfortably haunting you halfway across the world. IIII The second time you felt true love, it was for someone you could have but didn’t want you. You remember his brown hair, how it flew every which way as he thrusted fake swords and petted fake cats in the theatre class you ended up in together, his brown eyes under silver glasses glowing as he became someone else. You remember his hands and how big they felt in yours as you stood in a circle, watching your theatre instructor do something but not paying any attention to it because he was so close, right there in your grasp. You remember feeling something missing inside you when he slipped away like a puzzle piece without a partner, leaving an empty space beside you where he was supposed to be. You remember his kindness. How he fills you up with hope, your intestines turning into a knot of a thousand twinkling fairy lights whenever he says something encouraging to you. He kills you in the best way possible, filling you with happiness that flows like freshly melted wax, hot and burning and ablaze with the fire of a thousand suns.
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You love him because he makes you genuinely smile, takes care of you when you’re sick, makes sure you’re okay when you’re having an off day. You love him because no man your age has ever been genuinely nice to you before. You love him because you fear being alone. You can’t stand a room of silence. There always has to be some sort of white noise, some sort of music always playing in your brain. Always beating in your heart. It’s why when you’re so depressed you don’t have the energy to get up and go to class in the mornings, you sing, the music taking over your brain. You become someone else so you don’t have to deal with who you really are. You love him because you don’t know how not to. V The week you learned he liked someone else that wasn’t you, you wore the boots you bought on your first week here everyday. They made you feel confident, standing tall even on the cracks in the sidewalk. Flowing through the wind even on days when it rained. Accentuating your legs in tight leggings, hoping to pull him into your orbit. They don’t work. They never do. You start to wonder why you love. Why you waste time passing your heart around like it’s a flyer on the street. Like it’s the latest fashion trend. Like it’s a disposable camera, always taking pictures only to be thrown into the trash when one is finished using it. Why you’re here. Why this keeps happening to you like patterns scattered across time. Why you write words upon words hoping they will make him love you. Words fragmented on pages. Words dancing in the air. Too many words for you to handle. They aren’t making him love you. If anything, they’re driving him away. Why are you still writing about him? Why aren’t you enough? Why are you incapable of being romantically loved? Why are you shaking? Why do you suddenly feel the need to vomit? Why did your friend tell you to get a hobby even though you already write and sing and paint? Why can’t you sleep when you’re starving? Why does your heart want to escape out of your chest? Why does your head feel like a 50 pound weight? Why are you shaking? Why-VI Do you see the beauty in people you feel others don’t see? The curls dangling above her left eye, the little eyebrow raise he does when he’s confused about something, the softness of her voice when she reads out loud, the rare moment his blonde hair is down to his shoulders instead of up in its usual ponytail. You try to capture them in words. Freeze them in moments of time. Keep them trapped within your heart. You don’t tell them that this is your way of appreciating them. Of loving them. Of showing that you care. Of saying “I see you” because you know what it feels like to be invisible.
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VII Your mother once told you to bottle up your feelings. To leave them out to dry, watch them as they turn wrinkled from sitting out for too long. Watch them as they rot away sitting at the bottom of your stomach. Watch them as they dissolve like snowflakes on tongues. You don’t tell her that feeling emotion is similar to how the characters in your favorite book series describe the magic they have inside them. Flowing, ringing their skin, buzzing their insides. Clawing down their arms until it spills out of them, a constant waterfall of magic they learn to control over time. You’ve started to wonder when you will learn how to control your own waterfall of magical emotions, spilling out of you like lemonade from a pitcher on a warm summer day. Instead, you stuff them inside you, keep them in little glass bottles, all neat and organized. Shining in their little rows of pink and blue and orange and yellow, hoping they don’t shatter. Hoping you won’t bleed out. Hoping you’ll “turn out just fine.”
by Barbara Keiser
MARS GIRLS Mom always said, “We make our own time in this house. We wake when it’s beneficial and sleep when it’s convenient. We don’t need time. If night calls us to wake when the owl screeches, or day’s heat puts us to sleep, nature intended it to be.” So, when Andrew McFarley said I was weird for not knowing how to tell time, Mom said, “Don’t you conform to society Milly Mars. Boys go to Jupiter and only get stupider, but we’re Mars Girls.” Then she handed me a candy bar.
by Bruce Gunther
The Seen I’m almost afraid to look: the young couple in ecstatic love feeding each other in the Chinese restaurant. An old man emptying his lungs into a white gym towel, fingertips yellowed by nicotine. Flies swarming the vacant expression of the squirrel crushed in traffic. A Confederate flag flying in front of a house in small-town Michigan. Mom smacking her son in the head in the grocery store aisle. I can’t not look even when it becomes overwhelming. I pull up to the drive-thru window where the tattooed arm of the cashier slithers toward me like a snake.
After The Separation (June, 2009) I can’t sleep again and there’s no escape from this fractured place, no space free of reminders. Panic presses its weight on my chest, heavy as a lead apron. A man coughs outside and through a sliver in the blind I see his cigarette and its orange tip fall into rainwater. The new apartment smells of disinfectant and recent tenants. I shed covers aside and wander in darkness, wary of unfamiliar walls.
Where it Ends Cold metal in my mouth, waiting for a decision, Motel room in a badly-aged part of Saginaw, where the future passed without a second glance and now I must hear the couple in the next room make love like animals snarling with sharp teeth and then sighs. The years calculated produce nothing but the sum of all mis-steps and the lingering truth. It was always headed in this direction, like the time I tried to overdose on acid while the full moon blazed outside my bedroom window.
I woke with the morning sun, with a sharp awareness that registered neither disappointment nor relief for a future that might be better if only. If only what? Stoned dreams of an empty hallway, the silence holier than the murmur of a thousand congregations. Silence like an empty sanctuary at midnight. Finger on the trigger, cold metal my final meal as the wind stirs up dust in a near-empty parking lot while I fall deeply into a swirling abyss that could set the night on fire.
All That Remains
The first swill of whiskey. Cheap wine and its aftermath. You’re in college but sometimes you’re so dumb. I get it, all these years later, but life is different now, with vision that sometimes sees flowers in the meadow. A father’s rage tasers the security of the little boy huddled, terrified in his bedroom. “Over here” whispers the voice through the seam that separates murderous impulse from pure prayer. It ends, but with scars. It’s all about words now words and how they flow as if from a fist unclenched. No, it never ends. It vibrates, becomes a faint pulse that grows stronger if we feed the beast. Frame by frame it unfolds as my eyes droop toward blessed sleep.
The reckoning at 2 a.m., sipping slowly the last beer, trying to stall the inevitable, car interior a deep freeze, breath fogging the windshield knowing that the road always leads back home. She, asleep on the couch, television still on, remote on the floor, kids asleep in a single room; superhero pajamas, wooden Jesus on the wall. Driving home, stoplights blinking yellow and red, glancing in the rearview, ribbons of snow across the pavement, praying that the dark car approaching isn’t a cop so help me God.
by Tessa Foley
The Mother of Poetry What are you afraid of? The surf, the stones or the railings? You cannot write a single word of woman who walked away, The one who left you on the beach, the one with pocket bottles, Half white eyes say, No, I never did it and, You can’t prove I did. You have cut the cake and cord with the sad same knife, and life, Life was wasted on you, because that woman with her waves Took all the water she could drink and then she took some more, The gate was opened to the path that ran straight to the sun. You pick up pens and throw them at the trees and all the lovers, But you cannot stand up straight with her sat on your shoulders, You are a shadow of a baby, smiling at the gulls and moving shingle With your jelly shoes, you grew under the criss-cross beams. What are you still doing here? All parting tiny patch of sand with Infant hands, with loss of adult woman all tattooed on your tongue, They’ve spotted you and you can’t hide, your mother was a drunk A death, that rocked about the newsprint with such stressful ease. And when you walk on softened stones, they know you and your insides, So what are you afraid of? That guesses will be made with every day? You should take your paper and stain it down with each event, all swallows And the soaking jeans. What was it for if not to make a poet?
by Nicole Starker Campbell
The Safety is Off A deep, deep, cold will run from your scalp to your soles when your brother tells you he almost killed himself—that the pistol was in his hand, loaded; that he left his body, watched himself take the Glock from the cabinet and snap the magazine into place. Your breath will catch in your throat. You’ll barely manage to exhale when he tells you that his awareness returned and he unloaded the gun, locked it back in the cabinet, gave the keys to his wife. You will want to fly the three-thousand miles to him and not let him out of your sight. You’ll want to make him okay because you are the older sister, you are the protector of mother and younger brother. Your dad never asked you to take over as head of the family before he died; he didn’t have to—it was an unspoken pact. Or maybe it a vacancy you thought only you could fill because you’re always more comfortable in control? But you won’t be prepared for this. You too have been to some depths and people have watched from the outside gauging your fragility, wanting to keep you safe, and they couldn’t and you can’t.
by Ayobami Kayode
Conversation with suicide as a studious observer. Suicide has been a woodpecker to my oak tree several times. Once, I ensued him in a conversation and he said; “It’s me, suicide. I greet you with the ululating whispers of ghosts. I come as a solution to your hollowing insides, to depression plaguing your sinews, dredging your goals, and, I ask, Isn’t the pain you feel gruesome enough to make you walk my path? Over the years, I have religiously observed you and from my observation, I say, in your heart are millions of rooms; some home dirges for dead friends, some are sea-deep dark; a darkness borne out of low grade in academics, some behold the silence of morgues; a silence borne out of self deprecation. In you, I see rooms beholding memories of your childhood, memories you frantically cower into extinction lest your face becomes a pool. In you are rooms with big doors, a grin emoji pinned to some, a wink emoji to some, a kiss to some, but, whenever I peep into these rooms through the keyhole, I see a flame puffed out by the wind of loss, i see your cancer-struck mother awaiting death as she is tethered to the hospital bed. So, i come as a light bearer bearing many lamps. One lamp reflects you as a pendulum. One reflects you jumping from atop a precipice without parachutes. One reflects you laying on your bed after consuming sniper. So, you see, I have come with many options. Choose one and tether your pain to a halt.” So, I answered; “Oh! You’ve really studied hard. Thank you for the lamps you brought. But I do not want to walk your path, as it is laden with doom. Despite my dawning inside, I anticipate light from lamps, bright lamps not these fickle, dim lamps you have brought. Woe betide you; wolf in sheep’s clothing. Mother, prior to her disease, never stopped repeating that faith isn’t an illusion & that hope cures the incurable. So tell me, tell me who’d look out for orphans if I home you? Who will look after my cancer-struck mother if I walk your path? Who will feed the goats in the morning so they don’t end up with broken legs once caught stealing yam peels in the next house by afternoon? Tell me who will pray for Syria? for Nigeria? for children birthed under the debris of dilapidated buildings in Gaza? See, i won’t open for you this door, as I stomach hope for better days & do not want to compound the woes and throes of my loved ones. Please, take your leave. I am resolute with my choice to live and definitely, will.
by Sophie Kearing
Meredith Grey Meredith Grey once pleaded, “Pick me. Choose me. Love me” and started Pick Me culture. Just kidding; that shit’s been around forever. And she did get her man. But then he died. It broke my heart. I literally cried.
how tender the bundle how tender the bundle of bristling nerves that laments the success i think i deserve
landlines, answering machines, and sandra bullock on thursday night i was watching premonition on netflix my nostalgic side was like can we go back to the days of landlines if you weren’t home their calls weren’t known there’s something so angsty but right about that answering machines you’d wait on bated breath to hear the words they left 42
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there’s something so pathetic but sweet about that sandra bullock if she was starring, damn it sold now everyone just thinks she’s old there’s something so fucked—no— fucked about that and then I was like what are these thoughts bitch, i need my iphone so I can send shitty texts never check my voicemails and rarely watch a movie from 2007
ire i rose trembling through wet earth and skinny roots vibrating with ire i saved just for you
sometimes i miss sometimes I miss those carefree days of driving around in Betsy and fucking in funeral homes and I dream of you calling my name in an airport
by Oluseye Fakinlede
This body a vehicle this body is a vehicle that was driven to perish. it halted on a dusty road, and the cheerleading took turns to walk away leaving me alone on the driver seat. Then the cheerleader disappeared like fart echoing the wellness of never leaving me but the journey were all mine from the onset. The thing is short changing one’s self for people’s pleasing till they drive your bodies to perish. See my head. it has some scars from bullet, and the scowl used to be a happy grin. See my hand, freckled. Used to hug. the dent used to hold you firmly in warm embrace but broken . I wish you can see my heart, burrows , plenty burrows all in the name of given without receiving, Well the kind of love ineffable, because its scared to call some his. Who likes the remains of this body? Only God can mend a heart .
by Sumedha Sengupta
The Tale of (De)Generation I was Seven, And a cruel king in one of my grandmother’s tales buried his seven children in the backyard. Seven pastel flowers bloomed in the night thereafter, and they became his perfumed agony. With the tip of her lip upturned, it was perhaps her way of assuring (herself) that human souls never truly wither. I was Nine, And I struggled to keep up with her seventy-year-old fingers that flew across the harmonium keys. Indian tunes cut through the air and stern glances stirred my soul, lest I sing my colonisers tongue better than my own. I was Eleven, And the stench of currying fish mingled with petrichor, the silent humming of dead old songs, and the sight of dainty fingers ladling gravy over rice, was an identity dearer to me than my own name. I was Thirteen, And we took a stroll in the garden behind our home, and I pranced away into the greenery, while she struggled to keep up with me, scrambling to manage her emblematic beige Saree. I was Fifteen, And saw something from the corner of my eyeMy grandmother discarded half-eaten shortbread biscuits that my mother had baked.
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I was Seventeen, And habitual were the sounds of curses and cries in the afternoon, emanating from my grandmothers’ bedroom. I was Nineteen, And faced with her gut-wrenching questions“Who even are you?” She would ask. Strangely though, I still have no answer. I am Twenty-one, and my favourite story is that of the soul withering away.
by Phrieda Bogere
i’m learning to lean into my vulnerabilities, listen to the loud voice of uncertainty, stand by the rash decisions, let the slow frustration move through the shells of my skin.
i’ve confronted painful truths at any early age, brushed shoulders with harshness instead of a firm understanding, i wasn’t ready for the path ahead, you knew that and pushed me anyway.
i think about who i could’ve been if i stopped running backwards, if potential could bend with time, if i chose different vices, if i wasn’t so fixated on need. sinking into a hole of deprivation, losing myself in other people, places, and things, constantly in confusion, dryness around the eyes, what’s unknown remains there for my own good.
it didn’t matter if i was nice, nothing was ever enough. i never graduated from feeling small, you exist as if the events didn’t occur and it plays in my head, over and over like a bad film, and each time i notice something new. a part of me tries to emulate innocence before the flames, what it would feel like if i didn’t know what i knew. i’m afraid that things aren’t the same anymore, shoes tainted with dirt, laces come undone after a few steps. i wish this life wasn’t mine.
the last month of the year i peel back the layers of yet another chaotic year, december has been surprisingly calm.
the aftermath of a breakdown
i’m learning to choose myself, accept inevitable endings, and believe that good things are coming.
sipping warm peppermint tea, on a calm sunday, stretching my legs and taking a deep breath in. cold weather paralyzes me, strong winds shake the pavements, i ask myself twice, do i really want to go outside?
leaving means taking back my own power, embracing the process of re-calibration, knowing when it’s time to rest.
i was lost for so long but i genuinely believe i’m on the cusp of something beautiful.
what’s sweeter than not feeling anything?
occasionally, i think about you. the oversized hoodies, the cheap wine you like, your house plant near the bed, the aroma of pho soup that makes its way around the apartment.
you crawl, then walk, and eventually run. as if there’s no reason, like the fire wasn’t burning your feet, painless and warm, blisters became regular scars.
chaos complicates lives, i’m working towards optimal health. i promise you’ll see me, i need a little more time.
life feels like one big hallucination, a never ending episode of experiencing the same thing again and again, in different forms, in other people, honey sticks to the bottom of your throat. sorry isn’t a substitute for killing the flowers.
by A. Brassky
THE SUICIDE SELFIE Lana dumped Vincent three weeks ago. Vincent wasn’t ready to let go. Every day, he sent her miserable messages, wrote long comments under her posts in social networks and looked at the humiliatingly brazen pictures of her and her friends at parties. He did all of this in the hope that she would change her mind and come back to him, as if nothing had happened. He, generous and forgiving, would take her back with no regrets and they could have a fresh start. But Lana remained silent. One day, Vincent would have to realise that their love had been lost for good and he would have to stay lonely for the rest of his life, with a broken and bleeding heart. Waking up each morning was unbearable for him, and his heartache didn’t let him breathe. A revenge plan began to ferment in his mind. Having thought it over in all its detail, he found it nothing but perfect. The plan was simple, and at the same time, beautiful. Vincent decided to kill himself. But killing himself was just an inevitable end. Before his death, he wanted to make sure that he would break Lana’s heart exactly as she had broken his. She had to realize what a mistake she had made by breaking up with such a faithful and loving guy. That would make them even. First, he dashed down the suicide text, filled with dignity and regret. “…I have been searching for you all my life, you have always been the girl of my dreams. I have seen our future together – love, children, happy family. My life is meaningless without you, so there is the only way out for me – death...” Vincent felt content. He didn’t lower himself to cheap accusations and maintained his writing style – that of a true man. There was only one thing left. It would become the ultimate expression of his fatal masterpiece. The selfie. In his imagination, he envisioned the picture to be full of manhood, yet full of pain, his last living glance, a glance of forgiveness. He wouldn’t live his life till the end, but he would forgive. His generosity was limitless.
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In a perfect world, he would rather see himself with a handgun – sitting on a chair with his right hand holding the grip and hanging wearily between his legs, which were spread wide like real men usually did. Still, he was holding his head high. He made his decision and there was no way he was going to give it up. Unfortunately, it was impossible to find a real gun in his environment. But acting out one death and ending his life with another would be pathetic. So, with limited resources, Vincent chose one of the most traditional methods available: slitting his wrists. On the web, he had discovered that if wrists were slit in a warm bath, there was almost no pain. A person would just fall asleep and never wake again. At the same time, it was clean and tidy; the blood, as well as their cold body, would stay in the bathtub. It took Vincent some time to figure out what his last selfie should look like. Eventually he concluded that the blood coming from a freshly slashed wrist would look pretty spectacular. It would add passion and resolve to his suicide message. But he needed to send the photo before he departed this world, so he got an ingenious idea: he would just make a slight cut to his hand to make blood appear on his skin, take a selfie, send it to Lana, and only then would he finish what he started. Vincent filled the bathtub and removed his clothes. He had decided beforehand that he would keep his trunks on. The very idea that his dead body would be found naked was off-putting to him. So, he was flaunting his best Calvin Klein trunks which he wore only on special occasions – usually when he was expecting to get undressed! After casting a last glance at his reflection in the mirror above the sink, from where the dignified face with eyes full of bitterness and pride looked back at him, Vincent climbed into the bathtub and winced. Warm water in his trunks reminded him of that sticky sensation he had experienced in his childhood when he wet his bed at night. He fidgeted until he settled his ass on the bottom of the tub, cutting a fart as he did. Big bubbles set off towards the water surface tickling his thighs on the way, and he eventually relaxed. His phone was on the washing machine within his reach, patiently waiting for its assignment, but Vincent first had to choose the place for the cut. After examining his wrist, he spotted the line right at the base of his palm. A minor cut wouldn’t do much harm, but in a photo it would look like a real slashed wrist. Vincent applied a paper cutter knife (it was the sharpest item he could find at home) to his skin, squeezed his eyes tightly and pressed on it. Continued on next page 50
The pain was unexpectedly sharp, absolutely the opposite to how it was described online. Vincent squealed and dropped the knife in the water. His butt slid forward on the slippery surface, and the next moment his feet shot upwards, overtaking his entire view, and his head thudded against the bottom. Desperately swinging his arms, Vincent reached out, grabbed the bathtub rims and brought himself to the surface, spitting water out with disgust. His left hand was hurting, but the result exceeded all his expectations. Thanks to the water, his blood spread out around his wrist, so it seemed that he had already lost a pint of blood while in reality there was nothing but a small scratch. Just one small thing remained: a click of the camera, and he could wrap it up. Vincent sat comfortably in the tub, stroked down his hair, ruffled after his unexpected dive, and looked at the phone screen. There was a red-eyed mophead staring back at him. It was an absolutely incongruous image for a decent man who decided to end his life. He tried to arrange his hair with his free hand, but it didn’t work out. He needed the help of a mirror and a comb. Grunting, Vincent got out of the water and shuffled to the mirror. After carefully dividing his hair with a smooth parting, he decided to blow dry it and to fix the result with some gel so that his styling didn’t come undone every time he turned his head. Pleased with his own reflection, he quickly stepped back to the bathtub. At that moment, the ground came up to meet him. He sprawled in crabby half-splits, painfully hitting his knee against the floor. While he had been beautifying himself in front of the mirror, he didn’t notice that water was dripping from his trunks right onto the floor. The tiles under his feet had turned into a slide which became the reason for his first-in-a-lifetime acrobatic stunt. Damning the whole world, Vincent touched his hair carefully. It seemed the product of his efforts was still in place. Not trusting his legs any longer, he crawled on all fours to the ill-fated tub and simply rolled over the rim. Archimedes’ principle presented itself to Vincent direct from the textbook. A warm tsunami raised and solemnly fell over the bathtub sides turning the already wet floor into a small lake. Damn, I’ll flood my neighbors downstairs, a petty thought crossed Vincent’s mind, but he immediately put it off. What was the difference anyway? He envisioned his neighbor chasing him with a broom in his hands in the next world and experienced the sense of exceptional superiority. Nobody would be able to get him there!
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His bruised knee ached as Vincent refilled the cooled and shallowed tub with hot water, and the cold fabric of the trunks stuck to his groin. He was also terrified to realize that the small wound on his wrist which had been bleeding so spectacularly earlier had become a barely visible scratch. He tried to pick it open with his nail, but blood wouldn’t flow; at the same time his skin burnt unbearably. Was he a masochist or something? If he was going to slash it, he would slash it up to the end. He could do without blood in the selfie. What really mattered was the emotion of torment caused by the pain in his heart, not in his hand. Inspired with this new conceptual twist, he immediately grabbed his phone and struck a pose in front of the camera. Click. He stared at the screen. A plucked chicken with scrawny arms and a sunken chest looked back at him. How many times he had told himself he should go to the gym, but it was too late now! He needed to change the camera angle and focus it only on his face and eyes. His eyes had always been the source of his pride, and he was sure that Lana would really regret that she would never be able to see his soulful eyes alive again. He zoomed in so that the camera focused only on his face, he stretched his lips in a condescending manly smile, brought his chin forward, and looked piercingly into the aperture. Click. Good God, he had no idea he had an eggplant for a nose! It seemed that half the entire photo was occupied by it. It was violet red covered with large pores, and he could even see a crimson pimple with a whitehead on it. The bathroom lights were merciless. His eyes, which he bet so much on, were totally lost behind this huge lump. He moved the phone in front of his face, watching the picture changing on the screen. In order to enhance his eyes, he had to shoot a bit from above. In this case, he had a look of a sad cat, and it was well known that no one could resist it. Vincent recalled the saddest moment in his life (it had happened only three weeks earlier, so it didn’t take much effort) and pressed the button a few times moving his hand from side to side. Click, click, click, the camera reported. He gawked at the screen. His eyes were good, no doubt about that; he could even read the universal grief of a man with a wound in his heart. But his forehead… and everything above it! It was an indescribable disaster! First, his forehead glistened and shone like the light of a beacon, giving flare spots all over the picture. Second, it was huge, widening from the bottom to the top just like those of green men he had been recently shooting in his favorite online game. Third, and worst of all, he noticed that the hair on the top of his head had begun to thin, resembling weeds sticking up in different directions on a withered garden bed. Continued on next page 52
He felt like he would rather die from such a view, which was quite ironic. Wasn’t he going to do it just a few minutes later, though for a different reason? There was only one choice to make it right: he could crop the image so that only his eyes would be seen. But in this case his main idea would be lost. Where would be his sorrow and courage, his strength and confidence? The entire grandness of his plan was disappearing along with his resolution, but he didn’t want to give up just yet. He decided to take as many random pictures from different angles as possible, and then he would just choose the best. Sometimes accidental photos just worked even better than posed ones – he had one on his computer screen as a wallpaper. Vincent had taken it while Lana and he were sitting together by the red sea of lava on Venus, in the Facetweet space. At that time, Vincent chose his favorite appearance of a space pioneer: the black skin-tight suit, muscular torso, that sort of thing. In other words, he was irresistible. They spent the whole day exploring the digital version of Venus with its huge volcanos, atmospheric vortexes that would knock you down, and acid clouds. In the evening, when it was time to say their goodbyes and there were just a few minutes left till the end of their session, they just enjoyed the severe beauty of the boiling lava. Lana put her head on his shoulder, and Vincent dared to kiss her for the first time. He was so happy! The system was recording their adventures, as usual, and after that Vincent simply selected the shot he liked the most. Lana looked a bit surprised in it but the joy in her eyes was sincere, even more so than in her user pic which had drawn his attention six months earlier. He fell for her immediately and realized that he would do anything for her to be his girlfriend. Soon his dream came true. His Facetweet status changed to a proud “in a relationship” and the first comment under his posts was always Lana’s, applauding another original idea. And if Vincent became engaged in a heated debate online, Lana was always on his side. They traveled together, went to museums and exhibitions, rode horses on the beach and climbed Mount Everest. They held hands, kissed and even made love in cauliflower clouds. But then something changed. Rather, Lana changed. She began to demand live interaction. In the beginning it was quite bearable, they videochatted from time to time without changing their appearances, and for a moment Vincent even started enjoying it. It was some sort of adrenaline ecstasy from the combined feeling of agitation and pleasure. Lana was beautiful even in real life, almost as beautiful as her image in Facetweet. Vincent couldn’t say the same about himself, though it seemed that Lana simply didn’t notice.
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But then she asked to meet, and everything went completely wrong. Vincent dodged it as long as he could, but Lana was persistent. A month of heated arguments, fights and making-ups was kind of a blur, but still the outcome came as a shock to Vincent. He could remember their last conversation to the letter. They were talking over Whatsline and Vincent had to show his real face without any filters and 3D makeover, therefore he chose to stay in shadow, but it seemed that Lana didn’t care about it at all. She was annoyed and returned to her favorite subject of how their relationship should progress. Vincent, as a true man and a loving partner, felt it was his duty to hear his girlfriend out but do his own thing. ‘Listen,’ Lana was saying, ‘if you don’t want to meet up, let’s just end our relationship, if you even call it that. What’s the point in this online romance if nothing real can come out of it?’ ‘This isn’t true!’ Vincent exclaimed. ‘Our relationship IS real! I feel it with all my heart and if that’s the case, it means that it is more genuine than anything can be.’ ‘Vincent, I’m tired of our fights! Goodbye, I’m blocking you.’ ‘Lana, don’t!’ Vincent cried out, but it was too late. The chat window in front of him turned black. He hastily entered his Facetweet profile, but silence was waiting for him there too. Lana was no longer among his friends. Warm tears streamed down his face; he couldn’t believe what had just happened. Maybe Lana was only teasing him, she decided to give him some shivers and would appear again in a minute. But the lines of their months-long chats dimmed and became empty and lifeless. Vincent suddenly realized that they would never be filled with new messages, new confessions and new emotions again. He felt completely empty. But meeting up? In reality? When he had to be himself, the way he really was, when he couldn’t change his appearance, couldn’t choose any costume in a snap, couldn’t create any space he would feel comfortable and warm in, and couldn’t become a hero when he wanted to make an impression? No, it was too much, even for such a brave and adventurous guy. A gentle knock on the door interrupted the flow of his memories. Continued on next page 54
‘Vinnie, baby boy, will you have dinner? I’ve cooked your favorite beef stew with potatoes.’ Vincent coughed, flabbergasted as he came around. There was a phone in his hand, cold water in the bathtub, a microscopic scratch on his wrist, his trunks blown up like a parachute and probably totally ruined, and his hair stuck together into a hard hat. Well, at least his mother hadn’t offered to rub his back. She would have been really surprised to find her beloved son like that. ‘Yes, Mom. Give me five minutes.’ He faked a cheerful reply and looked at his phone screen scrolling up his last “random” selfies. They were all dull and pathetic, prompting nothing but disgust. The masculine image he wanted to achieve so much remained only in his head. In reality, there was only a skinny 25-yearold with a horse face and crooked teeth, a guy who still lived with his mother and wasn’t going to move anywhere else in the foreseeable future. ‘Screw reality!’ resolved Vincent, removing all evidence of his disgrace from his phone. He climbed out of the bathtub, pulled off his trunks and began to wipe off the puddle on the floor. This was reality in all its glory – on all fours with his naked ass up sorting out the consequences of the physical world! On the other hand, there was a dream world which fully obeyed his rules only. Vincent grabbed his phone again and opened Facetweet. Just recently he had seen a curious girl there and it felt like something could work out between them. As far as he could remember, her name was Pink Unicorn.
by Ivy Darcy
TEDDY BEAR content warning: blood, mention of death watch your hands entwined with mine. watch them — the crimson blood is still there. and then you close in for the cuddle and then the hug and my bones are grinding, the feathers flying. all my brown fur was not able to soften your violent love. you attempt to stitch me up: needle in your bloody hand, and you attempt to whiten the bruises — the recurring ones of our love, and you sew back the small black button eyes. you thought i was blind, but i saw everything. i saw the knife you stabbed i saw you fill the void of melancholy in my stomach i saw the death i saw the pain but i also saw you: a portrait of duality &
by Estelle Phillips
Teddy Bears’ Picnic She opened the door with a teddy bear at her breast. Furry arms and legs poked from a baby’s pinafore dress, the softest cotton in eggshell blue and printed with ducklings paddling through waves. Smocked beak to tail across Lily’s chest, the ducklings swam for nearly a day, rising and falling over her tiny heart. Janice cradled her newborn and watched her try. For seventeen hours Lily fought to live; with every little bone and sinew and every ounce of her scraggy flesh, Janice’s baby fought for breath. But the ducklings laboured and their movement ceased. Janice felt the courier’s eyes bore into her, a grown woman suckling a toy bear. The lad stood slack jawed and speechless, and stared at her nakedness. He did not see the scratches on her ribs. Janice caressed Honey’s felt clad paw and the tufted fur where the felt was worn, but he did not see the pressure points on her wrists, “Mn, Mmm, Mmmi… Mister Bolton?” The courier stuttered. “Who is it, darling?” Her husband called out, his endearment sure to be heard on the porch. Wordlessly, Janice signed the chit and the courier left. Janice deposited her husband’s parcel on the sideboard and hobbled upstairs; the hem of her nightdress skimmed her ankles and the purple bruises girding them. The front door shut with a click and deadlocked with a clunk. Janice watched her husband from her bedroom window as he sauntered down the road, swinging his briefcase in time with his gait. He disappeared around the corner and she waited. Janice used to have breakfast as soon as he was out of sight, but one day he’d returned via the back garden gate, slunk up the path, crouched at the kitchen window and spied on her topping her cornflakes with his frosted cereal. No sooner had she sat to eat than Henry unlocked the back door. He strode in, stood over her, clenched her chin in his hand and tilted it upward. Her eyes rolled back, her nostrils flared and her breathing rasped with fear. He force-fed her deliberately too quickly and she vomited on the floor’s taupe lino. Henry left the way he came, “Clear up your mess,” and locked the door behind him. An hour later, Janice went into the kitchen. Unboxed, it sat on the table lifeless and stuffed, with a shiny nose. Janice flung the bear away and it somersaulted under the sink where it stopped, lopsided and smothered with breadcrumbs; vivid and white, they clung to the bear’s synthetic fur like the dandruff spat on his shoulders. Janice padded to the back door; it was locked and she leant her cheek on the wood and closed her eyes, her shoulders hunched, her back bent and her jumper tented on vertebrae but Janice did not cry. She put the kettle on, pressed her hands on its metal bowl and waited for the heat to come. She pressed until bubbles pummelled chrome into her palms and her hands scalded. It was seven months, three weeks, and three days. Janice extracted a hospital tag from her pocket, laid it in her tenderised hand and traced the scrawl, “Baby Lily Bolton, 5 lbs, 3 oz. D.o.b. 17.6.2012.” Minutes after her birth, Lily opened her eyes and gazed at her mother. In the mosaic of her daughter’s blue irises Janice understood the want to give your life for your child’s. She rocked her daughter and the tips of her fingers quivered while her lips trembled the gentlest song. 57
She mourned Lily’s death in silence. The small coffin’s descent into soil unleashed something in Henry. In the early days of their courtship, and loosened with whisky, Henry let slip memories of telling teddies bedtime stories to distract from the sound of his father’s fists and his mother’s protestation. The longer his mother endured, the more involved the stories were. Henry named his teddies and they were his friends, and in an unnecessary act of degradation, his father insisted they be girls. Now Henry brought the teddies back and he meted punishment: “It’s your fault she died. You should be dead, not her. You would be, if it weren’t for me. You should be grateful.” “Thank you, Henry.” Janice hung her head in shame. “I give you everything. You don’t look after my girls properly.” Henry would check on his way to bed. Janice retrieved the new bear, brushed its fur, carried it upstairs and squashed it in Lily’s cot with the others. That night, Henry came home thick with drink and leaching cruelty. Janice had his favourite supper ready and stood behind him while he ate, her hands folded in compliance. “Ketchup!” He ordered. “Sorry, Henry.” Janice reached into the fridge and positioned the ketchup at Henry’s elbow. He struck the base of the bottle and red disgorged into creamy sauce. Henry scraped his plate with his knife and when he licked the blade his tongue snaked off its slicing edge and tautened in anticipation. “Thank you for the teddy, Henry. I’ve tucked her in bed.” Henry grunted. Janice remembered Lily’s gaze and laced her fingers to still their tremors, “I was wondering, Henry, if you thought the girls would like to picnic in the garden?” Henry snorted with derision, “You can’t be trusted.” “Please, Henry, I wont make a mess. Just the garden… they need some fresh air.” “Nothing’s ever enough for you, you selfish bitch!” He slapped her out of habit and watched her clear his supper. The next morning, Janice came downstairs slowly and winced with each tread. Her teaspoon shuddered in the china mug and as Janice fetched the milk, she saw a glint of sunshine on metal; the key was in the back door lock. Clumsy with excitement, Janice jabbed at the key. It was jammed. Janice inhaled five times, placed the sore pads of her finger and thumb each side of its head and slowly turned. The cylinder rotated, the handle depressed and the door swung open. Janice stepped over the threshold and onto the concrete patio. Grit pricked her soles and she balled her feet for the feel of it. The lawn flickered with long grass, tips mussed in the wind and Janice crossed the patio and walked into the stems, which crisscrossed beneath her. She squelched moist earth in mounds on her toenails. The sun warmed Janice’s pallid complexion and she closed her eyes to the shine. A breeze flittered her face and neck and ruffled the top of her nightdress; Janice’s heart fluttered - Lily had never felt sunshine or wind. Bloated with grief, tears swept down Janice’s cheeks and thudded on her chest. She owed her child survival. Continued on next page 58
Janice trod across the lawn to the back gate. It was six foot tall, the same height as the fence and light lanced from a new padlock. Time was running out. If she fell pregnant, Henry would imprison her for the baby’s sake and she had only one month left of secret pills: to keep the doctor out of the house, Henry had driven Janice for her check up and waited in the car outside with the engine running. Janice had told the doctor in faltering words and the doctor either did not believe her or did not care until she showed the doctor her inner thighs, and he advised, “Don’t make your husband angry.” Janice pleaded, “I’m not ready for another child.” In this, at least, the doctor concurred and gave her a prescription for six months of the pill, along with iron supplements. Janice sewed her contraception into Honey’s back, beneath the duckling dress. After Henry had eaten his supper, Janice presented a coffee and walnut cake filled with buttercream icing, like his mother used to bake. “The girls say thank you.” Henry ignored his wife but in the morning the key was in the back door. In the evening, Janice made strenuous effort to placate her husband and came forward to take off his shoes in the hall. She moved noiselessly in the kitchen while he ate and belched and slurped his tea. She bore the night with renewed bravery. During the next day, Janice made a show for the neighbours. She arranged the teddies in a circle on the lawn, cuddled them and fed them from eggcups full of cornflakes. Eventually, the neighbours bored and Janice passed the day unreported. She ambled in the garden, a teddy dangling in her hand, dragged the kitchen stool outside, clambered on it and retied the washing line high at the far end of the fence. Janice lugged damp laundry down the garden path and pegged large sheets and duvets first. They billowed, obscuring the gate. After that, at every opportunity, Janice climbed the stool and practiced balancing. Feeble muscles appeared on her thighs and her underarm droop lessened. Every day, Janice followed the arrows and popped a pill from thin foil and the numbers entered the twenties. On day twenty-three, Henry was sour and bitter. He flexed his fingers on the kitchen table while she served him chicken in gravy. His last bladeful dropped a glob on his blazer and he smashed his plate at the wall. Janice ran to collect the broken crockery, Henry’s chair screeched back and as he exited, Henry whacked Janice on her head. He went into the sitting room, switched the television on full volume and sat kneading his fists on the edge of the sofa. It was midday before Janice raised herself. She could barely walk, her left eye was swollen and her vagina bled. Her fingers shook as she rethreaded the stitches in Honey’s fabric. The back door was locked and the key was gone. That evening, Henry came home late and slept on the sofa in a drunken stupor, and his supper dried on the table in its warmer. Day twenty-five came and went. On day twenty-six, Janice disguised her facial bruising with layers of foundation and warmed his slippers on the radiator. She made a chocolate cake and served him oven chips on the side of a steak, fried blue the way he liked it. Continued on next page
On the morning of day twenty-seven, the key was in the back door lock. Janice set the sheets and duvet on a quick rinse and the machine whined into the neighbours’ wall. By eleven a.m., Janice had arranged the teddies in the garden and she stood on the stool and hung out sopping washing. At six thirty-five p.m., Henry found his slippers on the floor by the front door where he’d left them. His ire rose. He stamped down the passageway, through the kitchen and out to the garden. The teddies sat in a slapdash circle beneath the washing line, which sagged with blood stained linen. Henry grabbed his way up the line, yanking down sheets and twanging pegs into grass. The double duvet hung last, Henry tore it down and revealed the stool, flush with the padlocked gate. He staggered back in disbelief, tripped and fell by Honey; carelessly discarded, stuffed arms and legs akimbo, the duckling dress had been removed and her body had been gutted.
by Ron Tobey
TRIPTYCH OF A FREAM Cabin on a Hill Yeats’ Lake Isle I would a cabin on a hill in Jefferson build, view through its picture window down the farmer’s field granite rock fences for his dairy cows, across Cherry Pond to the Presidentials beyond. Working in a hardware and lumber store after school at sixteen, I sketch schematic outlines, grid lined paper, freehand, guided by product brochures, talk with licensed contractors, published floor plans. On Sonotube pillars of Sakrete the cabin would float, a pier of 2x6 planks, plates, and headers, anchored by grade A325 1/2” bolts, joists to frame the floor drum support framed walls of 2x4 studs, all wrapped in a Tyvek envelope under a pitched shed roof, heat by an iron wood-burning stove with chrome handles and feet set on an apron of yellow firebricks,
furnish with a bench bed, storage drawers underneath, a flush door laid on metal sawhorses, Formica covered for kitchen prep and my desk, with my Smith-Corona portable typewriter, fountain pen, reams of 18-pound paper. I would eat farmer’s cheese made by the Intervale Dairy, firm wedges of sharp white cheddar cut from a glass covered wheel, small batch bread baked by a farmwife, sold at Jefferson crossroads general store. In late summer I would watch the migrating geese wade in Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge, in winter follow, on snowshoes, deer trails to remote forest deer yards and birthing grounds, in spring, watch the snow melt fill beaver dams on Pricilla Brook. There would be no “I” in this cabin riding the wind, poetry would sound itself out with every moan of timber, creak of frame, every hiss and squeak of cured firewood burning in the stove. I would write, journal by day, poems at night, by Propane hurricane gas lanterns’ light. If I would need to call, I could walk to my aunt’s old two-story home rooms to rent in the village, use her wall-mounted crank phone with party line in the hall, to ring the Littleton exchange for outside numbers. When my time came to live far away, office, suburb, car commuting, asphalt pavement, freeways, my cabin is home for you, lover and muse, holding my trust until I return, as I must.
A Brook of Our Own Joyce’s portrait In the college library reading room metal stacks display periodicals on sloping shelves daily newspapers announce the latest apocalypse above the fold current popular magazines seek attention with flashy covers scholarly journals hide behind old maid colors you and I are often the only students here Saturday evenings at school with most believing minds digging treasure out of Architectural Digest and Country Life how we will live we take long walks on dirt third-class New Hampshire roads not gravel even connecting dispersed subsistence farms perhaps roads that Frost walked or drove a buggy down taught at the Normal School that year hills generate freshets and year-round creeks one winter we trace a brook running under snow and ice across farm fields we are lost tramp to a farm house stamp snow off our boots at the door “do you have a phone we may use” they do wall mounted insulated copper wire precariously slung between slender poles to the exchange in the village where the familiar voice of an operator assists us they are amused to see us dressed in student clothes dressed up from their farm labor perspective we inquire about nearby rundown barns several shelter a milk cow or two a horse chickens rusted plow harrow harvester outside
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and dilapidated barns piled with waste hay brittle yellow hosting spider holes and webs and barn swallows then pasture side ruins fallen into a granite block foundation rotted 4x4 roof rafters once shelter farm draft horses with 12 foot high stalls plank floor boards bolted to 6x6 floor joists we know at once we want to rehabilitate a barn
reproduction tapestry scenes from the captive unicorn story
nurse it to health re-purpose it
framed on walls
a house of two stories that open up inside a cathedral
mirrored cases storing heirloom jewelry and necklaces
founded on immortal quarried granite blocks
armoires to hang antique dresses
with bore holes and chisel marks on their sides
in late spring at our picnic spot on Sugar Hill
bedroom in loft above chancel
we hear from distant cities
kitchen in the choir
shrieks and screams on the breeze
a table at the communion rail
gunning up the wind in the white pine woods
picture windows overlooking fields and hills
we watch storm rain lash fields of orchard grass into waves
stained glasses amid modern double hung windows
old barns break upon piers of high ground
functional wood shutters to close against winter storms bedrooms in chapels cavernous stone fireplace with cooking hooks ringed by a bronze two-pipe fence to keep out small children running through the middle of our home a real brook a check pool with adjustable spillway for fish water year round to nourish indoor plantings furnish with Shaker styled tables chairs benches New York Public Library reading lamps with green shades sconces hanging ceiling lights alcoves with cushioned seats to read by natural light garden plots of memory to grow love’s flowers antique faded photographs with frozen faces rigid poses aunts uncles cousins and second-cousins saved from obscurity black and whites of grandmother brides in lace gowns holding bouquets with no color no name grandfathers and fathers at last sufficiently prosperous to afford wedding suits trunks packed with quilts duvets coverlets afghan throws shawls
Off A Highway Route Hall’s Eagle Pond Farm I feel faint viewing the housing project from the expressway stacked lives sunlight never reaches inside cordwood a concrete funeral pyre nearly all my friends are dead I choose in denial to have nothing I would not have a name but as I forget what it is I can’t not have it I live in a small winter cabin on Tater Tots Scotch whiskey goat’s milk ground beef three times a week a clearing in Appalachian forest unplugged a cold wind rises the night with secret snow fills there is no one to ask my name far from cell phone service my hands are laced with cuts from handling ice numb I use a pseudonym too painful to hold a pen my arthritic fingers bleed as I type on a keyboard rejection letters drop out of the sky turkey vultures claw crows tear at the corpses of my poems I wait for spring to resurrect drafts