Page 1


s wea


te r ve st c onte nt s

2. goddamn, i am ready to have my heart broken by david foote 4. mudflats by benjamin meader 5. photo by hannah epstein 6. photo by andrew podrygula 7. mr. and mrs. lee by daniel sauermilch 12. art by lydia jun 18. art by lydia jun 19. hand by leslie lim 20. the countryside by david croitoru 21. photo by hannah epstein 22. put your hand over your heart and say by elizabeth gay 25. triptych by angela evancie 26. an excerpt from “that gay agenda” by joey radu 27. photo by hannah epstein 28. book review: the dirtiest of dozens by jp allen 30. photo by hannah epstein 31. thick city dreams by hillary coleman 32. our house by alicia wright 33. photo by jp allen 34. exhumation by emily raymundo 36. photo by wisath sae-lee 37. untitled by esa sofian 38. while donning a pair of sundays best by joey radu 39. photo by wisath sae-lee 40. paperweights by anna gallagher 42. photo by hannah epstein 43. survivor by james o’brien 47. photo by andrew podrygula 53. photo by hannah epstein 54. the tables by nick spengler 56. photo by hannah epstein 57. unintelligible absolution and an end by robert norberg 58. photo by wisath lee.


goddamn, i am ready to h a v e m y h e a r t b r o k e n da vi d f o o t e Goddamn, I am ready to have my heart broken. Instead my heart, moderate and American, just pumps. When grief knocks, there’s no real movement, I, I just divorce myself a couple of times and wait for the calm when one wins by wolfing the others. What I mean is that I dream in monochromatic weather, with house cats and already assembled characters; there will be no sailing or catching of tigers tonight. What I mean is when I was a toddler I didn’t believe music was possible. With its strong strokes through the sternum to pullreach the unforeseen— humans can’t be capable of such desire; I, I am not capable of such desire. Such seismic shifts still do not exist to this day as I strangle art in articulation, once in dialogues with it, then more carefully with others, giving its stabs swipes of colors; when it pops in I pounce and paint too late trying desperately to faintly sculpt the air in the innuendos after, but of course always one beat behind. Much easier to open a book, a great, big, staggering monument of a book, and leisurely snort lines off the page, because of all art, literature is the most honest art of all heartless thieves.


This word was in this world before, and I am just borrowing both. Graverobbers of the tombs of old men with their heavy words and heavier beards, especially the truly great old men (who, after all, are not as boring and bearded as they seem) that I’ve collectively buried in the deepest of collective catacombs, underneath the most certain and stolid pyramid of what must be Big, Good, True. Even after sifting through these echoes from the grave, and finding a missing puzzle piece for that core I crave, I still manage to drown it all in the dialogue of me, me, & me; my mind too thick to curve and construct that necessary core, The Core that must be somewhere, hidden there underneath all the anecdotes and assumed personality. Can recognized intelligence from the past be craft into a bulbous shaft behind the ribcage? Perhaps, then I could crack it open over one knee, and stop puddling and part the palms there, at the end of the mind, and finally see no more fronds, but instead, open them to see, the mise en abÎme that is me.

three


mudflats

b en jamin mead er Brackish people everywhere. The chords between the moon and water weave a net too beautiful not to tangle. If they’re not stuck in some tidal pool then they’re waiting for the waters to recede, or the revelations of mussels clinging to rocks, or buried clams clear of the water who wait for the diggers to come.

four


mr. and mrs. lee

da n i e l sa u e rmilch

Jun, I never told you that I was named after the son my parents wished they’d had. -Sung Ki Sung Ki decided after six months of separation from her husband Jun that they should use their distance to share secrets they thought they had never shared with one another. Jun was in New York looking to buy a grocery store in Brooklyn that would satisfy his wife who was waiting in her parents’ apartment in Seoul with their son. When Jun left for the United States, his parents felt their teeth lock together and stay there permanently. Even though they had always known their son would leave them, the fact that he had left made them silent for the rest of their lives. When Jun’s mother was pregnant with him, she visited a widowed neighbor who shuddered when she felt his mother’s full belly. The old woman’s arthritic hands felt in three specific spots before she held his mother’s gaze and told her: “Independent, this one. Not great, not beautiful or wise, but will be born a man.” Although this was a secret Jun had been told by his mother before he left for New York, and on nights when jetlag kept him from sleeping and he couldn’t help hearing his mother’s voice telling him how he had lived out his prophecy, this was not a secret he shared with Sung Ki. He didn’t seem to care about the game they had begun to play while Sung Ki sometimes sat anxiously at home by the window to see when the mail would arrive. In fact, Jun didn’t even seem to take notice that his wife’s name was that of a man. She initially thought of the game one afternoon when she put Shin down for his nap. She wondered what kinds of secrets the boy could have been keeping from her. He was four years old, a transformative age when boys would become boys and it was at that moment she remembered being told once that a person’s secrets were equivalent to their weight in gold. Sung Ki never considered their exchange of secrets a game. She wanted to distract herself from the fact that within several months she would join her husband in a new and distant place where she knew her neighbors would stare at her and she would stumble stupidly over another language that she would never use freely.

seven


It was only after a month of waiting for a letter from Jun that Sung Ki thought that she was wrong to ask for her husband’s secrets. Even as each day passed and she felt increasingly hopeless at the prospect of receiving a letter, she still waited. But, when she finally got a letter from Jun there was no secret attached. It stated plainly that he had finally found a store that what was in their price range, in a good area with an apartment for lease above it. Sung Ki’s stomach dropped as she stared at the paper and suddenly it blurred as if it were sinking slowly to the bottom of a frozen lake. There wasn’t a secret enclosed to cushion the fall and the reality of leaving glued itself to her skin. Instead of writing back with a feigned smile saying that she could hardly wait till they would be reunited, she wrote back two lines, signed it and placed it in an addressed envelope to be sent the following day. Jun, My mother once told me to soak used earrings I bought in salt water to get rid of the evil spirits in them that belonged to the previous owner. I never soaked the earrings. -Sung Ki As she sat staring at the envelope, she didn’t feel relieved at having shared this with her husband. All of the secrets she shared, which had also taken such prominence in her mind for her whole life, suddenly felt absurdly inconsequential. And even though she thought she wasn’t playing a game, it felt as though she was. By the time Sung Ki had made the journey across the world with Shin, she had shared even more secrets with Jun all of which he never responded to. And when she took those first few timid steps into New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, there was a moment when her father’s voice reverberated through her head like the vibrations of a drum. “When you are in a new and different place avoid the paper bag that will try to fall over your head.” Her father, a businessman who had traveled extensively in Asia and Europe, had always brought back his coat smelling of subtle perfumes of untouched snow from mountains and oil paintings he had seen in distant museums. And he had always managed to avoid the dreaded paper bag that could render him blind. But, Sung Ki couldn’t help feeling horribly afraid. Having hardly traveled past Seoul except for an annual picnic organized by her primary school, she felt infantile, as if she were Shin’s older sister rather than his mother. Although she faked confidence as she took increasingly longer steps eight


as time progressed, she was slowly becoming blinded as if the paper bag had begun to fall over her head. Jun, standing at the arrival rotunda, didn’t recognize his wife as she stopped and stood abruptly in the middle of the hall making the other travelers create a path around her. It was only when Jun finally noticed her did he see that she had not changed since the moment he left her at home. She stood in her thin, floral print dress, her hair in a tight bun with Shin’s hand in hers appearing to be from a bygone age. When they finally approached one another, Sung Ki embraced Jun systematically. She thought how different he looked but was unable to pinpoint exactly what appeared changed. When he held Shin, Sung Ki immediately noticed the boy’s hesitance, almost preferring to observe his father rather than accept his embrace. And then, as if a boulder had crashed through the ceiling, Jun asked in what seemed like perfect English: “How was the flight?” Sung Ki froze in her place as the paper bag suddenly felt heavier on the crown of her head. Jun then repeated in Korean to which Sung Ki responded nervously that it was long with many bumps. Jun then took the opportunity to ask Sung Ki if she had practiced her English to which she responded that she had in her head. With that, Jun knew that whatever speaking they would do it would be in Korean, that language he had not heard in months. Finally, they walked silently towards Jun’s new car in the parking lot. As they drove, the silence seemed to thicken and Jun made no effort to break it. When they arrived at the grocery store, Sung Ki was shocked to see that it didn’t look like a store at all. Nothing was there except for a few shelves with no stock on them. Jun didn’t apologize for the dust and emptiness. “I’m tired,” Sung Ki said to the room. Jun took his cue and led her and Shin up the back staircase to the apartment above the store. It was sparsely furnished and she put Shin to bed on a mattress on the floor in what appeared to be his room. Jun emerged from the doorway. “Don’t sleep. You need to get used to the time here.” Sung Ki didn’t want to get used to the time. The thought of her parents sleeping soundly, her neighbors possibly coughing while dozing felt like a great comfort she had never been aware of until that moment. After telling her husband she would stay awake and that she was merely sitting on her bed, she silently tucked herself in and fell asleep reassured that the only people who truly knew her were doing the very same thing. It was at three in the morning that she awoke and she took a moment to realize that the mound of blanket beside her was her husband’s body. After heaving herself from the mattress,


Sung Ki made her way to what appeared to be the living room. It wasn’t just the dark that made her unable to recognize it. She slowly walked across the floor, feeling her toes plant their prints on each board she touched. Two windows on one side of the room let a yellow light from the streetlamps stream across the walls. Sung Ki placed her hand on the window and observed the shadow she produced on the far end of the room. Whether it was her footprints on the floor, her awkward shadows or mere breath, she felt the apartment was slowly prostrating itself before her, giving her no choice but to claim it in whatever way she could. The kitchen revealed itself to her next. She flicked on the light switch and a buzzing fluorescent light flashed several times causing her to squint. It wasn’t a kitchen she was used to. Bright blue cupboards adorned the walls and she decided in that moment she wouldn’t cook in this kitchen. It would be a dishonor to the cooking lessons her mother had given her in the weeks before she left for New York. It was after she flicked the light off and turned around that she stumbled over something. She heard a soft cry and realized through the darkness that Shin had been standing behind her the entire time, observing her as she observed the ugly cabinets. Her hands reached for him and she whispered that she was sorry. “What’s wrong?” she asked him. The boy didn’t respond. She carried him to the small plastic table that stood outside the kitchen and sat down in one of the chairs with him on her lap. Sung Ki had never held her son as tightly. She knew he wasn’t oblivious to the changes, the shadows of the apartment, but she thought how different their experiences were. But in that moment she just wanted to hold him, as if he could keep her calm, convincing her with his silence that the paper bag would eventually float away, leaving her behind. Jun walked into the living room in the early morning to see Shin and Sung Ki asleep, collapsed on the plastic table outside the kitchen. He approached them and tapped her brusquely. She woke with a start. “I told you not to go to sleep so early,” he said. Sung Ki looked up at him. “Are you hungry?” Sung Ki nodded and rubbed her eyes. “I want to take you somewhere.” They sat in a booth of the Ninth Street luncheonette unable to speak with one another. Sung Ki had a plate of pancakes in front of her. Jun had his face buried in his plate. Shin was more willing to try than she was, slowly being fed bites from his father’s plate, becoming increasingly intrigued by the taste. Jun looked up at her and Sung Ki made an effort to look as if she were


about to cut into them. She clumsily clasped her knife and fork and ripped a piece off the pile and forced it into her mouth. She had read testimonials from history books of immigrants traveling through Ellis Island from Russia and Poland describing the first time they ate a banana or held an ice cream cone. They felt a buzz, a glimmer on their tongues. This didn’t feel like one of those testimonials. There was no magic, no spark, just the feeling of limp, sweetened dough in her mouth. “It’s good?” Jun asked her. “Yes,” Sung Ki said. But Sung Ki’s mind raced. Pancakes had seemingly brought out more passion in her husband than she had. She thought he wouldn’t have even looked up from his plate had she not been there. For a moment she thought how this could have easily been a secret he developed from his year in the United States. It was a secret he could have shared with her. “You like these,” she said to him. “Yes.” He didn’t say that it was the first meal he ate in New York. He didn’t say that he discovered pancakes when he was alone walking down the street at midnight and noticed the diner from across the avenue. He didn’t say that as he ordered them for the first time he felt for an instant like an American. “I like them too,” Shin added. Sung Ki observed him as he ate more and more. “I like them a lot.” In that instant, Shin developed a new taste, awakened taste buds that had been sleeping for four years that sat on a hidden part of his tongue. Jun went down to the store and stayed there for hours when they had arrived back at the apartment. All he did was stay there, sweeping, observing the street from the front window. He sometimes sat there for what felt like days, looking around at what he had created. A few shelves and a floor and it felt like the greatest discovery he had made. Sung Ki sat at the plastic table after Jun told her he would just be downstairs. Anxiety crept up on her as she sat scratching at the surface of the table. Suddenly, she stood up and searched around the apartment. When she saw the small notebook on the kitchen counter that was used to record telephone numbers, she knew what she was searching for. She ripped out a piece of paper and took out a pen from her bag. She was standing at the plastic, about to write when only the instinctual sentence came to mind and she wrote it. We were different once. eleven


twelve


It was not a secret that was about her hidden desire to become a painter or her inability to whistle. At the same time, she wondered if it was really true, if they had been different. She couldn’t help thinking that all of change had suddenly made her aware of the fact that Jun never knew her at all. Thinking about it made her freeze, made her limbs numb as all the blood rushed away. Rather than trying writing something different, she folded the paper and placed it in one of Jun’s shoes that lay beside the mattress. It was late when Jun finally returned from downstairs. “You’re not in bed yet?” he asked. “I’m not tired,” she responded. “It’s the jetlag.” “It’s not,” she said. He watched her for a moment. “I’m going to bed.” Jun then went into the bedroom and switched off the lights. As Sung Ki sat in the dark she was overwhelmed by how much she wanted to scream. Her husband didn’t even ask her why she couldn’t sleep, or whether she had eaten or enjoyed her day, or how much she had hated the diner he had brought her to. But what angered her the most was not how she had travelled across the world just to be with him, but it was that she had no way of understanding what was sitting in his head, that he didn’t feel comfortable enough with her to share a single secret. Sung Ki awoke late the following morning. The shoes beside the bed were gone, as was Jun himself. As she hobbled into Shin’s room she saw he wasn’t in bed either. Neither of them was in the apartment and just as her heart began to race she heard their muffled voices from downstairs. She silently went down the stairs and observed Jun and Shin sitting side by side looking out the front window. Jun was describing to Shin the different kinds of foods that he would buy to put in the store, the cereals and the types of oranges that would eventually sit in stacks. All the while Sung Ki thought about the slip of paper that most likely still sat in his shoe unnoticed. As Jun continued speaking, Sung Ki returned upstairs and her legs began to shake, her mouth trembling as she ripped more pieces of paper from the book on the countertop. I hated the pancakes she wrote on one. The streets here are dirtier than the streets at home she wrote on another. I’m alone even when I’m lying next to you. And one by one the secrets began to explode until tens of pages were missing from the notepad. And then she stuck them in his pillowcase, in between the plates in the cupboards, in his shirt collars, inside the toilet paper roll, in his wallet and pants


pockets. They were tucked and hidden away like crumpled spiders when Jun returned with Shin upstairs. “Let’s go for a walk,” Jun said. “Why?” “Because it is a nice day outside,” he explained. “Where do we walk?” she asked. “On the street.” Taking a walk was something her parents never did, even in the most beautiful places. And there they were, walking along the sidewalk in their neighborhood nearing midday. As her feet hit the pavement Sung Ki thought of when they would return, Jun would be welcomed by an apartment that she had marked in more ways than just leaving her footprints on the floor. Jun began to smile as he walked and Sung Ki felt a pang of self-satisfaction as she thought about what waited for him. She scared herself, never knowing she could ever feel that way, like her own mother who burned her husband’s dress shirts with an iron out of spite. “How long do you want to walk?” she asked him. “I don’t know.” Sung Ki had been around him enough to know this would be his most characteristic response. Never knowing where he was going. It was evident in the store that wasn’t a store, their marriage that wasn’t a marriage, their apartment that wasn’t an apartment. Suddenly, Sung Ki felt a splash. She awoke from her daydream to find that she had stopped in front of a nail salon on the corner of the street. A man washing the salon windows had his back turned to her. He carried a bucket in his hand as he wiped away at the windows not noticing Sung Ki. Jun and Shin stopped a few paces after her and looked back. Her face and the front of her dress were splattered with water. She felt like an idiot, standing in the middle of the street soaked, everyone watching her. The man still kept his back turned. She thought he probably knew what he did and just didn’t want to face her. And with that single thought something snapped. Sung Ki approached the man and tapped him forcefully on the shoulder. The man turned to face her and was welcomed by clenched lips and reddening cheeks. “Did you do this!?” Sung Ki demanded. The man’s eyebrows went up. “Did you?” she repeated. The man’s mouth moved, he shrugged his shoulders and his hands gestured, sloshing the water in the bucket back and forth. She stared into the man’s eyes like she had never stared at anyone before.


In Seoul, Sung Ki watched as children snuck candy out of grocery stores to eat when no one would see them. Each time she saw a child stealing she would tell them to put it back and apologize to the storekeeper because in Seoul, strangers were educators. It wasn’t enough to apologize and walk away. Storekeepers were also the keepers of a child’s fate, calling parents, prolonging punishments, bringing embarrassment to the parents for harboring such a disrespectful child. As Sung Ki stood before the man holding the bucket, her dress drenched, her fists clenched, a part of her that hadn’t risen before, that had come all the way from Korea, suddenly emerged again. “Tell me you’re sorry!” Sung Ki yelled as if she were demanding it from the world. The man’s mouth stopped moving. “You’re not careful with what you do so you tell me you’re sorry. I’m not leaving until you tell me.” “He doesn’t speak Korean,” Jun whispered, pulling her arm. She hadn’t realized that it was Korean that came out of her mouth. “So you tell him. Tell him that I need to hear him apologize.” Jun stopped tugging on Sung Ki’s arm. “Tell him in English. You speak English!” she commanded. Jun looked at her for a moment and slowly began to shake his head. Sung Ki’s throat tightened and she couldn’t believe what a man she had married, ashamed of her, wanting to drag her away, unable to protect and defend her. She never thought he would be capable of disgusting her until that moment. Jun walked over to Shin and took his hand. They stood together waiting for her to join them. The man with the bucket had already begun to wash the windows again leaving Sung Ki standing silently behind him, with no apology, with no words to use to ask for one. Shin looked at his mother and called for her. Sung Ki closed her eyes and began to walk, feeling the wet fabric of her dress rubbing against her bare skin. That night, Shin was already in bed asleep and Sung Ki counted on the living room clock what she thought was her eighth hour of not speaking. When the clock finally showed ten, Sung Ki went into the kitchen out of her nervousness. Her eye caught sight of the wastebasket that sat beside the counter on the side. Nothing had been thrown away in the past days, the pail had been waiting for its first garbage and Sung Ki noticed something had been placed inside it. As she peered into it she saw the familiar flash of white and a smudge of ink and knew immediately. At the bottom of the basket, their first garbage was her note that she put in Jun’s shoe that he had been stomping on the entire day. She didn’t dare touch it as it sat crumpled and dead and suddenly her nervousness went away although the paper bag rested more heavily on top of her.

fifteen


“Are you tired?” Jun asked from the doorway. Sung Ki continued looking into the garbage. “Don’t people apologize in this country?” she asked. “This isn’t a country like the rest.” “Yes, it’s different.” “It’s not like where you lived before.” “Not like where we lived,” Sung Ki said, holding her breath. “They don’t tell secrets here.” Jun didn’t need to look in the basket to know what she meant but he still didn’t respond. “Why don’t you speak?” She felt herself beginning to lose the grip on her tongue. “What is it?” he asked. “You threw it away.” Sung Ki stared at him. “I wrote it and you threw it in the garbage.” Jun observed his shoes. “I sent you letters.” “I read them.” “You never told me.” Sung Ki took a breath. “You never told me something of yours,” she continued. “I waited.” Something compelled her to dive headfirst. “And today you were embarrassed by me because I will never be like you.” In Jun’s silence, Sung Ki became aware of her trembling hands and numb face and stopped talking and forming sentences in her head. She never thought she would speak like this to her husband and realized how much easier it was to write what made her most vulnerable on a piece of paper. Not one word she had said made her feel fulfilled or satisfied. Although she heard the words come out of her mouth and thought she was right, she felt humiliated by how much she needed to say to Jun. “I don’t want you to be like me,” Jun said. Sung Ki couldn’t bear to look at him, having coaxed him to speak felt unbearably unnatural to her. “I’m not a man of words, I’m just a man.” When Sung Ki finally looked at him he opened his mouth again. “I don’t know how to say ‘apologize’ in English. You asked me and I didn’t know how to say it.” Sung Ki’s hands stopped trembling as she watched him. And her husband didn’t walk to the bedroom and turn off the light or slip downstairs to be alone. Without his knowing it, without her noticing it, Jun gave Sung Ki a secret that wasn’t vindictive or meaningless. It didn’t fall on her like a boulder or weigh down on her head like the paper bag that for once felt lighter. It was a secret that fell into her hands that she could feel, that she could hold and try to observe with her fingers. It was then, as she looked at his face, did she really see it. She noticed the lines that had formed around his mouth and imagined they had been there from the first moment he began speaking sixteen


English. She imagined he began speaking with an awkward accent that made his face take a different shape. He could have told her about the first time he spoke the language, how it felt, what had happened, what it meant to him, but he didn’t need to. She thought when he spoke the accent might have made his tongue quiver, his jaw realign and his teeth straighten. And then Sung Ki asked herself if her husband had become an American. She had no answer. She then asked herself is she was still that Korean woman sitting by the window waiting for Jun’s letter. And she knew she wouldn’t have an answer. That night after Jun went to bed, Sung Ki stayed awake. This time she didn’t sink into the dark, sitting silently at the plastic table. She crept around the apartment searching for the hidden pieces of paper. She spent the whole night trying to remember where she had placed them and when she was certain that all of them were found she left one behind. She waited for a moment, the pen in her hand and wrote: One day our son will dream in English, and he will be a man of words. Even words that we will not understand. Sung Ki then took the piece of paper and placed it on the plastic table for Jun to see in the morning. She didn’t hide this one. It was no longer a secret she kept for herself that she wanted to grab his attention with, but a truth they both shared, an answer she found while searching for and tossing away the purposeless secrets she had once thought were important. When Sung Ki eventually went to bed, she lay beside Jun and listened to his breathing. That night she did not sleep. She simply watched Jun’s body rising and falling and felt as though she were listening to the wind sweeping through the streets, caressing the windowpanes. By the time the sun was beginning to rise, the apartment had warmed and Sung Ki finally knew what kind of man she had married.


1. Standing apart from its flock, a tireless chief, supple with purpose, separating us from the rest. 2. The Judas of his brothers; aim with conviction at your own peril. 3. Danger danger, a slender statement pregnant with implication. Fuck you.

h a n d leslie lim 4. Waiting, its bareness the mark of a miss, golden reward for the seeker, temper your hopes. 5. Daintiness for a genteel teacup, it exists forgotten and jobless, too weak to close the door.

nineteen


the countryside

da v i d c ro i t o ru

Sighs resound as ants spring from thawing soil Fountains of renewal gracing calloused land. Children read braille on a gnarled willow’s boils, Asking if the sky was bluer yesterday. You dream in open fields, staring at the Sun, Counting blades of grass like they told time. Praying for tomorrow, as if it would soon come, I sit in wonder, how you don’t go blind. In your eyes, I see today, and my heart peers, From a sunflower pupil, glowing at its rim. We lie on corn stalk bent back by storm winds, And you nod off as my words rush through golden ears. I caress the creases of your eyelids drawn, Just knowing that today has come and gone.

twenty


put your hand over your heart and say elizab eth gay

We pledge allegiance to the Mardi Gras Mambo Mambo in kindergarten choir. Ms. Schluter makes us memorize and teaches us to stress New-Or-leans when we sing it. Not Neworlins like we say it. We mambomambo to the cafeteria. Saddle oxfords tap blue tile while we wait in line for red beans and rice with extra sausage. Because it is Monday. In fifth grade Louisiana history, Ms. Frank murmurs in the background about Jean Lafitte’s map and the Louisiana Purchase and slave auctions. Sarah and I spit ink on our arms, rubbing in Crayola bruises. After class we show Ms. Frank our handiwork. She gives us detention. We moan Because it is Friday. My barely sixteen-year-old sister brakes, her pale foot hesitant with untested independence. A funeral is passing through a neighborhood we would normally avoid with up-rolled windows and downcast glances, examining unbroken fingernails.


But this morning we roll the windows down and let the music slide in. A saxophone player taps and sways and hoots. Umbrellas pop up-down in the sun. And the saints go marching in. Emily drives us to church, where we will stand up straight. Where we will not mambomambo, or tap, or moan, or weep. Because Uptown folks don’t, especially not on Sunday. So when the water mambomambos in with a too big stomp, cracking blue tile, when the water rises too high, lashing nine foot bruises on Ninth Ward houses, when the water hollers in with the metallic slam of a screen door, like a too loud soprano in a too empty church, we all lickety-split. We mambomambo down the I-10 to Houston. To Baton Rouge. To Birmingham. To New York. To the Moon. And some folks stick around and die in too hot attics. In too dirty Mississippi sludge. In their shotgun houses with their shotgun holes in the roofs of their mouths. No saints come marching in. You’re watching us on television, just sitting there watching us slowdance in one big funeral all over this one nation, under water. twenty-three


And I am sent away to boarding school and all of it just mixes up and I can’t keep track of days of the week anymore and I’m charcoaling black hurricane eyes in art class and I’m crying in the shower where I feel it least and I can’t do anything but sit still and Wait. Wait to go home. I can’t wait to go home. I can’t go home. So don’t tell me to forget. To let it slide or sink. You collect your torn books and diapers and canned tomato paste, (because you don’t even like tomato paste), in cardboard boxes in school hallways in Nashville, in synagogues in Los Angeles, in libraries in Detroit. You stamp those boxes South. But you don’t eat red beans and rice on Monday because the pot could simmer all day while Mama did laundry and Daddy picked cotton and the tradition stuck with all of us. You aren’t afraid of yellow fever because you didn’t learn about the girl at Laura Plantation whose sweetblack Mammy scrubbed her so hard trying to wash out that fever with water and foreign prayers. And that little girl bled, turned the tin bathwater red with her pearl blue blood. twenty four


You didn’t cry at some man’s jazz funeral whose name you didn’t even know, because you never heard that music. You probably say New-Or-leans. You never learned to mambo mambo.


an excerpt from t h a t jo e y ra d u

gay agenda

Some people can accomplish things by moving: walk to get places, run to win races, sprint to escape. I am always moving, and yet am stuck, stagnant. I can no longer jog, or play tennis, and when I shop I must allow myself several days to carry my feet to all the stores. I march with millions—in place. I collect signatures full of fake names and blank spaces, and wonder, in a flurry of stillness and a fury of unmotion: where am I going? “Faith is taking the first step,” MLK said, “even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” But I’ve tripped too many times and fallen too hard, and still that first step sits beneath me. Inspire me! Inspiration is my liquor: withhold or give, I tremble. And while I long to lie at the bottom of these stairs and be trampled by others’ merciful hate, there are those who won’t let me, who care. “Get up,” they say. I cry the most when they ask, “How was the protest?” or, “How many signatures?” I cut my hair. I purchase fish. I pray I do not fall in love. But I will, and time is running out. For “long is the way / And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light.” And I am in hell, where some say I should be, where we are all equal in burning. I await the day when there is movement, when equality is no longer word, concept, or belief, but marrow—set deep inside our bones. The day when my heart stops slowing. When we will be together. When I will write no more poems.


twenty seven


jp

book review: the a l le d n irtiest of dozens

Benjamin Franklin has an almost legendary reputation as a statesman, inventor, practical thinker, and -- dare I say it? -- lover. Yet, amid all the honorific, lofty talk of Franklin’s legacy, it is easy to forget the jovial side of “the Water American,” as he was sometimes known. Franklin was fond of joking with his fellow statesmen, both for pleasure and in the interest of loosening the strictures and discomforts normally associated with the diplomatic arts. And now, in a new book, masterfully edited by Middlebury’s own Hazelrigg Professor of History, Jacob Fiktischivus, we of the present day can enjoy Franklin’s boisterous joie de vivre as much as his contemporaries did. Rather than present a formal review of the book, this reviewer has decided to let Franklin’s own words, painstakingly and exhaustively compiled by Fiktischivus, speak for themselves. And so it is with much joy that we share the following excerpts from The Dirtiest of Dozens: the “ Yo Mama” Jokes of Benjamin Franklin. * * * “Greetings senators, guests, friends. Let me begin by saying that if any of your mothers are French, I’ve probably fucked them.” “Games lubricate the body and the mind. However, since your mother’s so stupid, I needed only to lubricate her body.” “Greetings, senator. Thanks to your mother, I am now in the possession of a new portrait. . . . And you, a new half-sibling.” “I have always said, ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.’ Coincidentally, that’s what your mother said as justification for my fucking her.” “I may have invented bifocals, but I don’t need them to see that your mother’s a whore.” twenty eight


“I once said, ‘Fatigue is the best pillow.’ I was wrong. Your mother is the best pillow.” “Not only did I invent the stove, I also put something in your mother’s oven last night.” “Pardon the colloquialism, but I showed your mother my lightning rod last night.” “Your mother was on fire last night, but I was unable to notify the volunteer fire department I invented, so I doused her with my own hose.” “I am by no estimation a thin man, but I still had to roll over twice to get off your mother’s corpulent ass last night.”

*

*

*

It is only once in a blue moon that the citizens of this age are allowed to peek under the skirts of history. Hearing such memorable statements from such a memorable man goes some way toward reviving Ben Franklin, or at least catching a fleeting glimpse of the happy, lecherous twinkle in his eye. Those interested in Fiktischivus’s previous scholarly pursuits should look up his masterpiece, The Collected Knock-knock Jokes of Thomas Jefferson:

Madison Hemmings: Knock-knock! Jefferson: Who’s there? Hemmings: Your numerous illegitimate children! Jefferson (Nervously): My numerous illegitimate children, who? Hemmings: Don’t pretend you don’t know us.

Like all historians worthy of the name, Fiktischivus combines rigorous investigation with an imagination that brings the past to life, drawing modern readers as close as a mistress to the great men of a great nation.


hi l l a ry

th ic k c it y d re ams coleman

It’s thick tonight in the city, air sluglike up and down and around, swallowing fragile glass buildings. Eliot’s yellow fog turned a modernized, car exhaust gray in the dusklight. The leaves dance for the rain gods, pleadingly, frantically In their scarcity, but the world hangs lazy, drugged on the edge of the storm, taking its time. It’s a slow motion, sardine can subway evening and a night of underwear dreams fed on ice cubes and longings for a cooler tomorrow. It’s a night of fly-away hairs tucked in bobby pins and a morning slicked by itching, creeping dreams trapped rattling in the window box ac.

thirty one


our house

alicia w righ t Somewhere between the blue November light ghosting white painted boards and the fallen dew our house stands silent. The birds in the branches of our magnolia chirp away at it. Dust motes drift in the slanted sunlight, the red kettle on the stove, the linens hung to dry along the kitchen rafters. Here is the dark, wide stairwell, down the hall are our children’s rooms. We see their little bodies in the love we do not make. The storm windows have blown off again, the shattered glass among the potted ferns. You are the haunted in the hallway mirrors. I am the space between droplets in the rain. Forgotten lawn chairs lurk beneath the porch. The cat, thin ribbed and slit eyed, calls out hungrily, stalking cracked cicada skins.

thirty two


e x em h uilymraymu a t i on do n In my family, cornfields mean history, like if you say cornfields, we all know what you’re talking about. Probably someone will cry if you talk about cornfields for too long, or what is buried in them, or who. Mine is not a family for stories. We are not a talking family. Maybe we’re an eating one— maybe when we pass the bright flesh of fish between us, maybe when our hands brush other hands, that is the same as talking. Maybe that’s how how we pass stories down, through mouths, through the eating of dead things. Maybe it is hunger that we all have in common. After all we are all round-bodied, after all our bellies have always been the softest part of us. Like I said, if you talk about cornfields, we all know what you are talking about. We know what comes out of the earth and what stays in it.


We are not a family that cares about land. We don’t stay in one place because we grow to love it but because it’s easier that way, because everywhere is the same anyway, because history catches up to us wherever we are. Because no matter where we go, the dead stay dead. Everyone thinks they know what that means and no one ever does. Oh yes, someone might say, oh I see, but if you are from my family you will turn your back on someone like that. Like I said. We are not a family that talks, so we are less a family that listens. We have had too many languages stripped away from us. All that is left is our bodies. And, of course, the cornfields— they are on every horizon, dark with distance, waiting for us, waiting for my family to come and get down on our knees and begin to dig up the bones we know are somewhere, hidden there.

thirty five


thirty six


u esa sofian

ntitled

It’s always difficult to exactly define our relationship. The best way to sum it up cannot be explained in words, and neither is it so easy to see. You would have to catch the both of us unaware and candid in our natural states: I, surreptitiously sneaking a foot across the white-painted doorway of my room, and he—worn, tired, and hungry—just entering the house with his glasses slowly slipping down his head. And even then, the moment might be over so quickly that your human eyes would not be able to catch it; that by the time you blink to adjust to a more focused scene, time has resumed its normal operations, and I would be quietly reading in my room while he would have long disappeared into his own office. Sure enough, you would hear the report on CNN from the downstairs television not five minutes later. Everyone is always fast asleep by then. The lights are always turned off, and the only bright source is my glowing computer screen. I always hear the soft little click of the door being turned before I do anything else. Quickly, I switch the screen off, grab my phone, and try to close my bedroom door before the garage door opens, letting him in. Sometimes I manage to get away without a word, sometimes not. “Esa?” Today he has caught me, and the elusive scene must take place. This isn’t new. I look over the wooden railing, down to his uplifted face where I can plainly see the weariness of seventy-plus hour workweeks and sleepless nights of constant worry, of caring for a family and paying the bills. But I also see his temper that simmered—boiled—after each argument, each lecture, each exchange passed between us; my hot, angry tears that inevitably appeared afterwards; and the tentative returns to our late night, almost run-ins with each other. Maybe I can say something different to him tonight, make my “goodnight” mean a bit more. He is still standing there looking at me. Perhaps he too, expects a little more from me this time. Or maybe he is so lost in thought, in his work, that I’ve again become some piece of decorative furniture in his house. I cannot tell what he’s thinking from here. And I should say something different tonight, if only to catch him off guard. “Hi, Dad.” And yet, in the end, I can’t. Something always holds me back. The usual response comes out of my mouth, and he stares at me for a second more before nodding and walking away, grunting slightly as he shuts the office door closed. Sighing, I eventually retreat to my room and attempt to sleep, the same image from tonight—every night, every night—burned into my mind: the hurt, the disappointment, and (yes, of course) the love etched on his face as he turned away from me. I pull the covers over my head. I’ll tell him later. There’s too much to say in that one little moment anyway. How do I tell someone how much I love him? Or how sad he can make me feel at times? Once again, the precise essence of our relationship has eluded me, and I close my eyes and promise myself that I will definitely tell him someday, if not tomorrow night when I try again.


while donning a pair o f s u n d a y joe s ybr eadus t equality is all shoes shined

for shouldnt we kneel before each others plainness


thirty nine


paperweights an n a gallagh er

He was obsessed with paperweights. The ones he purchased for three dollars-they were clear, with ink twisted and frozen inside of them. Hand-held stagnant galaxies, he used them to hold his life together to catch the light from open windows to scatter sunrays on his phone bills, his broken poems. The unconscious puddles outside of his window collected rain and only grew more grey filling concrete cracks, they were paint splatters on a ruined city. He hated wet socks and retirement. He spent most days doing trigonometry in the halflight of his apartment assigning peculiar theorems to the unquantifiable: If X is her eyelids in the moonlight and Y is her body alive in my bed than X + Y = my former life which is greater than or equal to love.

forty


He wrote this on a napkin under a paperweight where the words were unnaturally magnified He contemplated how a magnifying glass could distort the truth or when coupled with the light of day could burn holes in the story. He carried a paperweight in each pocket to keep him anchored to earth because if A= I am empty and B= I am sane Then A- B = Gravity cannot keep me here alone. He thought of Galileo, one hand tied to a telescope the other tied to a bible his chest torn in two directions and wondered what it was like to look for so long outside of this world.


survivor

jam es o’ b rien I…I’m not sure why I picked up the phone, sir. It just rang, and—

Now, Mr. Franz, I’m just saying, we did not expect a person in your position of recent trauma to pick up the telephone, but we’re glad you have. Do not you hang up! As a token of our respect, we here at NNC would like you to take a moment to recover from your grief. One, two, three—O.K. enough grieving Mr. Franz, we here at America’s favorite news channel don’t have all day! Word of this horrible tragedy must be relayed to the public immediately, in order for innocent lives to be saved. H-how will innocent lives be saved? Don’t you see, Mr. Franz? Can’t you get it through that thick and most-likely-prejudiceagainst-the media-and-also-people-of-minority-skin-colors skull of yours? Though you certainly have gone through an unspeakable tragedy, you, Thomas J. Franz II, can rise above it. This horrible event should not and will not make you reluctant to do right by us good folks at the National News Channel—who after all have never done you wrong and are only asking for a small favor. Okay. I suppose you’re—w-well, what do you want, sir? NNC would, of course, like you to tell us what you thought when you walked into your house and saw your brother, celebrated climatologist Michael Franz, holding your wife at knifepoint. What I thought? I was scared. I panicked. I—just stood there. Scared? Panicked? Is this all you can give NNC, Mr. Franz? Boy oh boy, this does not make us happy—especially since we were thinking about making your wife’s tragic and unexpected murder our lead story tonight on News Update Time. Can’t you see you’re letting us down? I’m sorry, sir. L-let me say that differently. I was not scared. Or I was, but…well I saw my wife. And my brother behind her, holding her around the neck with one arm. Knife raised above her

forty three


face. He said, “Hi,” that’s all he said. Then I looked at my wife, and in my mind I saw—my birds, the pigeons I study. You wouldn’t believe how those pigeons look when they realize that the Peregrine Falcon is about to— Holy Moses, Mr. Franz. Are you joshing us? Are you purposely and deliberately messing with NNC right now? Quite frankly, you are the least co-operative widower of a newly-deceased wife that we have ever come in contact with. L-let me tell you what I remember about my wife, sir. I remember the time Sylvia told me she was proud of me, when I got the grants I needed to go ahead with my study. You, you probably haven’t heard of it. ‘The Effects of Global Warming on the Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus calidus) of Murmansk Oblast?’ No? Well, either way, she was excited. Boy was she proud, sir. Called me her Scientist. I loved that because I’d always felt this strange need to belong to her. Sylvia wasn’t like any otherMr Franz, please! No aimless trips down Memory Lane! First of all, we would like you to let us know: Who is Sylvia? You mustn’t make these jumps in logic. You cannot just introduce new persons into this interview without first— Sylvia! My wife, sir. Your wife? We here at NNCThe…the newly-deceased. Oh, yes, yes of course, Mr. Franz. And may you allow us to remind you that we are very sorry for your loss. NNC sincerely hopes that, in the short time of this thus-far-boring and unnewsworthy interview, we have been able to communicate this fact of our compassion. Our sympathies are at the very least far more sincere than those of the competing news networks who will most likely be calling you shortly. In fact, Mr. Franz, if you are lucky, you may even receive a complimentary fruit basket tomorrow! Which in these hard economic times is more than we here at NNC would give to, say, a homeless family in Louisiana being interviewed by us. So if there is a silver lining to this whole thing, that fruit basket is it. I think I need to go, sir. forty four


Go? You need to go? Mr. Franz, this makes us laugh. You cannot go! Whether you know it now or not, you will never leave this moment. BREAKING STORY: A rather significant part of Thomas J. Franz II has just been lost forever. I do not see what you mean, sir. And, also, I think, I think that I would like you to be nicer? To me? You don’t see what we mean, Mr. Franz? For instance, when we talk about you never leaving this moment—do you remember how you felt in the seconds, minutes, weeks, months, and years following the loss of your father, the original Thomas J. Franz, to pancreatic cancer. Or how you felt about the most-likely-unrelated suicide, twenty years later, of your sister Gloria, 46 and living in Tallahassee, FL at the time of her death. Are you still feeling badly about these expirations? I— Well, get over it! Because something far worse has just happened! Why do you keep saying things like that? You see, Mr. Franz, you may think that in this moment now, and in every moment, you are growing, learning, becoming something new. You are, in fact, getting smaller. In each small increment of time a fraction of you is ripped away—though sometimes sympathetic gifts such as fruit baskets can seal up holes left by those lost parts. But, as your friend, NNC needs to tell you the truth: This will not pass and you will not heal. So what can I do, sir? I know I need to act pragmatically, to take the necessary steps to alleviate my grief. I’ll call my mother. No need for that, Mr. Franz! Just follow this friendly advice: Come up with a list of two or three things you learned from this experience to make it all worthwhile. They don’t need to be important things, and in fact you don’t even need to have learned them! For example, you could take up a hobby, put several years of your life into it, and then say things like, “I never would have been able to achieve such a level of excellence in Puppet Theater if it weren’t for this unexpected tragedy!” Or even without a sudden puppet theater tendency, you could say things like, “It all happened for a reason.”


Chant mantras like these often, Mr. Franz, and if you are quite clever, you will begin to believe them. Repeat after me: It all happened for a reason. It all happened for a reason. I will be O.K. No no no! Stop ad-libbing! You will not be O.K, Mr. Franz. Not even close! We think it is our duty to tell you that. W-what? How can you say that? Your duty? Your duty is not my problem you son of a b—I mean, well, no, I shouldn’t say that. I’m, well, I’m a good person, right? I mean, I am. Perhaps if you asked questions in a way that would— The brightness of your future as a scientist is in question right now. HEADLINE: Can Thomas J. Franz II Battle Back From Tragedy? Will he be able to put aside inevitable depression and probable paranoia to once again study the nuances of Peregrine falcon behavior, a subject which now seems insignificant compared to the death of his beautiful wife Sandra? Sylvia. Who? Sylvia! Syl—Her name is not important, sir. But her beauty—it was palpable. If you could maybe just ask about that, sir? Or I will tell you, that’s what, I’ll tellI’ll tell you what you’ll tell me, Mr. Franz. Let’s not get ahead ofI loved her. And I don’t have the words to tell you. They don’t exist in English. I’ve been trying to learn Sanskrit—they have ninety-six different words for love you know—but I’ve just been so busy with my research. What I remember about our love is that every morning she, oh every morning, even though maybe she hadn’t showered, she smelled like—like roses. Roses? We can’t use that! Not only are roses especially hackneyed, but how can you expect us to refer to a recently-stabbed-to-death woman as having “smelled like roses even though maybe she hadn’t showered.” We apologize, but that is not exactly the sort of tone we tend to take with these reports. Perhaps you have seen our News Update Time news information program?”


forty seven


I have, sir. And now that I think about it I remember some good things about the show. Like how you sometimes show names of charities that viewers can donate to if they are passionately struck by the still-photo of a certain victim. I’d like to ask you then, could you please— That’s better. You are asking nicely. Could you please mention the charity that Sylvia loved, sir? It would make everything so much better. The Global Hope Fund? If people are at all moved by her story, by her spirit. If they are touched byIf they are touched by how she smelled like roses even without showering? HaHa! LOL! Just joshing with you, Mr. Franz. NNC hopes you can take a joke. Anyway, we would love to mention the hope charity you are referring to but sadly there are only five minutes of news update time available on News Update Time. We need two of those minutes for our news anchors to act saddened about your wife and morally superior to your brother. Then we’ll need the other three minutes to consult our legal expert on just how your brother’s lawyers will try to get him off the hook. You see? Hello! Are you there, Mr. Franz? Mr. Franz? Make some sounds! So we know you’re alive! My wife. Yes, yes, your wife. In case you’ve forgotten, we are having a dialogue here. And since we have already established the formerly-live victim’s relationship to you, I must ask you to stop interrupting me with useless information. NNC hopes what we hear right now is not you crying, Mr. Franz! Stop making that particular noise, NNC is trying to think. That’s better. Now, we were hoping for you to put this unspeakable moment of horror in perspective for us, to perhaps give us an interesting angle, or, we do not know, perhaps your own opinion on why your brother would kill your wife. What? I am s-sorry, but I have no opinions, sir. I need time to sort out the causes and effects of this situation. forty eight


We do not have for that, Mr. Franz. News Update Time goes on at 5pm/4pm central. Sir, why do you keep saying we? What? You, you keep s-saying, “We here at NNC?” But aren’t you, well…you, not we? Aren’t you I? One human being who has called my house? Oh, well, yes. But if we here at NNC, if we were not we, but instead referred to ourselves using, ahem, the first person singular pronoun, then we might have to let down this whole official guard of the three letters of N-N-C. In other words, we would have to be somewhat human, Mr. Franz, which is not what we are in the business of doing. Not because we are insensitive, mind you, but because we do not think that being fully human serves our purpose of efficiently getting news to the masses. As a result, it only follows logically that we choose to be quasihuman. Quasi-human? You are—you disgust me, sir. You can’t even take responsibility for— We disgust you? We are not the one crying here, Mr. Franz! You being a scientist we hoped you wouldn’t be such a bleeding heart. What do you even mean, “take responsibility?” Look, all being quasi-human entails is this: Fitting the viewer’s idea of “human” enough to scoff at things like teachers having sex with students, prominent citizens smoking illegal drugs, things like that. We have the human ability to scoff. And, additionally, when bad things happen, we have the ability to look sad. Does that mean we actually are sad, Mr. Franz? Is that a—do you want me to answer you, sir? No, Mr. Franz, that was just a rhetorical question, after which I paused for a bit. My wife. Sigh, Mr. Franz. First person singular pronoun alert: I know. Really, I know. I wish I could—do something. But I can’t. I can only do this. This job. Please, you need to let me explain. I can feel it, and it hurts.


We all have to do something, right? If I didn’t, then, er, if we didn’t— If we didn’t, we might kill. We might kill our brother’s wife. That’s not exactly what— That’s probably just it, you know? The best explanation I’ll ever come up with for why he did it. It was something to do. Maybe he was bored. Too much routine. Too much watching you guys at NNC. And so why not, why not take a life? Hadn’t ever done that before, had he? It was something new…So maybe that’s what he thought: Why not, you know? Why not? Hmm. We—ah it feels good to say that instead of the dreaded first person singular—we here at NNC would officially like to thank you for this quotation. It is the best one we have received in awhile. What? It both screams “original” and fits the mold just enough so that people will understand that the quote is an example of “Grieving Husband.” And that’s good. Because they are used to seeing some variation of “Grieving Spouse” on our channel—so they will be seeing just what they expect. They expect to see what they expect, which is why they watch. And we here at NNC pride ourselves on fulfilling viewer expectations. So what if your words were a little too emotional? You spoke them with conviction, and in quite a unique way. But not too unique, which is good. So we congratulate you, Mr. Franz, and, of course, we send you our condolences. Is this a joke? I can’t believe you! I just told you what was in my heart and… And, what? And. And… And! And! HaHa Mr. Franz. You are so stupefied you cannot say anything other than a con-


junction. Oh lighten up! First of all: You cannot, as you put it, “tell me what is in your heart.” What is in your heart is a series of valves, which are ultimately made up of atoms and quarks, which cannot be told to me by you. Second: Be happy! Your reasons to be happy are twofold. 1) You are going to be on NNC! Well, not you exactly, but your quotation; and 2) You are going to be on NNC.com! Oh, and I almost forgot the third reason for you to rejoice, Mr. Franz: When you wake up tomorrow, you will hear a knock at your door! A delivery man—or woman, since in this day and age women are delivering packages instead of taking care of their children—will say, Delivery! And you will receive from him or her a fruit basket, along with a hand-written card from the good folks here at NNC. We will have written something in the vein of: “Please, enjoy your fruit basket, Mr. Franz. And while you’re at it please forgive me. I want you to know that there are all these things— these pins and needles, these flashes of light—inside me I just don’t know how to say. I have this strange affliction, Mr. Franz: I feel whatever happens to everyone else in the world—these happenings of course include your wife’s murder—is happening to me. And so I hate you all for doing this to me. I shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling! That’s my Constitutional right! My psychiatrist keeps trying to feed me this whole load of malarkey about how my affliction is called compassion and that other people have it too. I hate my psychiatrist. I’ve tried drugs and meditation and intercoursing strangers and long runs in the park. I light incense and do yoga and chant the words ‘I’m an individual’ twice a day, but no results. The best I can do is pretend nothing bothers me, despite the opposite being true. My advice to you in your time of grief is this: Treat your deepest emotions like an item on your grocery list. On my most productive days, ‘love’ and ‘despair’ are no more important to me than ‘milk’ and ‘bread.’ Sorry that I happened to catch you on one of my ‘productive days.’ I think you may have gotten the wrong impression about me. Yours. Truly. NNC” Um, sir, I don’t think the little complimentary notecards that come with fruit baskets are big enough to fit a note that long. Hello? Is that you weeping uncontrollably, sir?

fifty one


Ahem. NNC’s got what we need, Mr. Franz! And now that we’ve established that a fruit basket will be on its way to your door, we do not need to continue talking to you. Goodbye. Goodbye. Sir? Are you still there? Is that you breathing? Do you need me? You know what NNC just remembered Mr. Franz? We forgot to defrost the chicken! We bought it last week and needed to preserve it, so we put it in the freezer and now our wife is going to be all upset that her potential dinner tonight is a chicken-brick. Perhaps we were too careful with the chicken, thinking that if we didn’t put it in the freezer, it may be ruined by the freshness-destroying ingredients of the world. My wife. Are you not hearing us, Mr. Franz? We forgot to defrost the chicken! You must tell me, Mr. Franz, what is to be done?

fifty two


t h enickt aspengler bles

We have come here to fall. There are large slabs at thirty, forty feet and a black cove below. We linger at the edge then leap, a pair of loose rocks that suddenly give and scuttle off the cliff ’s face: a moment of uneasy suspension, the balance in which everything hangs, on which everything is weighed. Ultimately, it all depends on where one lands, the point of delivery, where our bodies surface or fracture. An experiment: what if a wineglass were to skirt the table’s edge and shatter on the floor? If the glass rests on the edge it has potential energy; if it falls, the energy is kinetic. I can tell you my knuckles grazed the stem, but I can’t say if it was an accident.

In Montreal, we stood on a balcony on the tenth floor of the Sheraton. You looked out, watched the string of headlights drift over the St. Lawrence (the current had chewed the moon to icy rags). I looked down at the parking lot,


the white van at the service entrance, and I understood my potential. What is it we’re made of? How hard do we have to drop it before it opens up, reveals its principles, its weaknesses? Is it enough to rest on the edge of a cliff, on the edge of a bed in a room that could be anywhere, my knuckles rolling down your spine? On the television, we watched bodies fall through clouds of paper and ash: a sloping trajectory that was almost perfect until you considered the landing. They showed it over and over and we watched it over and over, that neat arc in the sky. It’s a sort of fascination, a sort of experiment: the posing of a question, the testing of potentials. We have come here to fall, to measure our uncertainty. There are large slabs and a black cove. There is a balcony, a bed. You draw me down to your chest, the bracing arc of collarbone. We linger then leap, weight suspended as we await the surface. fifty five


fifty six


unintelligible a br obs eortl nuotrbi eorgn a n d a n e n d

Did you ever notice how stones tend to weigh different amounts? Like, vastly different? My cousin never did. He took a swim with the wrong kind in his shorts pockets. Now I’m trying to figure out this stupid fucking tie.


s we ate r ve st fall 2009 editor

em il y r ay mun d o

layout

j a rrett d ur y -agr i em il y r ay mun d o alicia w r igh t

rea d i n g b o a r d

ph ilippe b ron c h tein lo gan b row n j arrett d ur y -agr i les lie lim alicia w r igh t

f acu l t y a d v i s o r ro b er t coh en

fifty nine


submit to the spring issue sweatervest@middlebury.edu or sweatervestmag.blogspot.edu


Fall 2009  

a first look at the issue, due out in december

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