ISSUE 54 VOL 1 FALL 2012
literary arts magazine
ISSUE 54 VOL 1 FALL 2012
PHOENIX literary arts magazine Letter from the Editor Phoenix is a symbol of encouragement. Rising and falling and rising again. Itâ€™s about the struggle of the descent and the recognition of rebirth. Thatâ€™s what I hope this edition conveys, a message of encouragement. I hope we have encouraged the artists and writers who submitted and encouraged the staff that worked to put this book together. I want to thank those artists for giving all of us the pleasure of reading and seeing their work. I want to thank the staff that came to long submission meetings, read through a million emails, and never stopped working to see the finished product. I want to thank the designer that came in and made something so beautiful and something I am so proud to be a part of. I want to thank Eric Smith and Jane Pope for their long talks, as they encouraged me, and their guidance and kindness in this learning experience. And most of all I want to thank the UT campus community for always submitting to Phoenix and being a part of this legacy. To changes and falling and getting up again, the journey and the follow through, and the pride of sharing this publication with all of you. Thank you, Hannah Bloomfield Editor-in-Chief
CON T RIB U TOR S
BOM DIA, F LOR DO DIA
NEVER BE NIGHTIME
LANCE, SHORT FOR LANCELOT
A GIRL NAMED JENNY PLANET
IN A HAND BASKET
99 WAYS TO SKIN A CAT
L. Niall Murphy
DRUNK SONNET A
THE CROW ’S SONG
SYM BO LS
ART POETRY FICTION
PHOENIX | 2
BOM DIA, FLOR DO DIA by Genny Petschulat
What do you say when they push you on the sand to rifle through your purse, when they hold you pinned down and smile when you curse?
Bom dia, flor do dia! In a catalogue I saw a tall model walking on toned flamingo legs down a squiggled sidewalk that I recognize with a skip of the heart
What can you say? And what can you do? And what kind of feminist shouts, “I am weak! I am weak! I am smaller and weaker than you!” But it’s true, and what can you do? What can you do except shout that the cards have not been fairly dealt, and you realize you’re going to lose?
because once I was on that beach in the dark. A couple of boys were jogging. They jogged along the ocean and then they jogged right up to my face. They had knives. Not switchblades—the type I would use to chop onions: Giant knives. Jumbo sharp knives, and strong arms to detain me. To scare me into not screaming.
And then when they listen, how do you explain as they kiss you when you trust them in your kitchen, coming quickly all the way around your sides as you realize you are as fragile as a dead butterfly, you are skinny and unpracticed, you are no match.
But you can’t help moving towards them when their arms grab your wrist and they pull you like a strong lead dancing with a clumsy follow, like a papa with a spanking in store for a child.
previous pages SEDUCTION by Savannah Eason
BLINDFOLD by Savannah Eason
UNTITLED Leslie Davenport
PHOENIX | 6
on this page COLEOIDEA by Sterling Goller-Brown
NEVER BE NIGHTIME by Rachael MacLean
elour stands, as she’s been told, like a scarecrow, her eyes pointed upward and her arms flung wide. She is standing directly under that crack in the ceiling that appeared sometime during the bombings, a permanent scar on their home that has long since stopped being noticed. It is an uncomfortable position, one that makes her feel as though she’ll tip backward and fall or simply start floating away. The feeling of weightlessness threatens to send her drifting into the Afghan sky. Around her there is nothing to hold on to, so she plants her feet as firmly as she can in the fibers of the carpet and hopes they will hold her there. “You have packed everything, yes?” Simin, her mother, shoves another bangle onto Belour’s wrist. “I don’t know why you didn’t pack everything a week ago as I told you but now you have packed, right?” “Mostly.” “We don’t have time for mostly. Are you packed or not?” “Most of it is packed. There’s still time.” “There are only seconds. I hope for your own sake you can pack quickly.” Her mother spirals around her, ceaseless and overwhelming, adjusting her Nikkah shawl, tugging the fabric of her clothes, adding bracelet after bracelet, and Belour stands inside the hurricane her mother creates, immobilized. “You’ll be happy there,” her mother says. “Kabul is no place for a young woman, not now. You’ll be happier there.” “I like our home.” “There is space there. In the country there is space for everything. You will be able to look out the windows and all you will see is open space.” “I will not feel safe with open windows. What if a man sees me from the street? The windows are better painted, like here.” “It’s such a large home. You will have so many bedrooms. The country is nothing like Kabul. You’ll forget you ever had painted windows.” Belour forms her mouth into straight line and allows her arms to be stiffly shoved to her sides. Her mother sews a few of the beads onto her dress. The bangles on Belour’s wrist weigh her arm down and she slips her hands behind her back to take them off. “Why is that crack in the ceiling still there?” Belour watches a |7
tiny piece of cardboard flutter inside the crack like a loose molar. “It’s not healthy for the building to leave it like that; we need to fix it.” “It’s been there for years.” Her mother completes a violent stitch. “It doesn’t matter. Besides, we never use this room.” Belour doesn’t reply to this because she hasn’t the courage. This is the room they have filled with her father’s things. Belour knows very well why they don’t often use it, but she also knows, on an instinctive level, that she is not allowed to say so. She slips a bangle off behind her back and drops it as quietly as she can into the desk drawer beside her. It falls noiselessly onto one of her father’s old shirts. The silence of it seems so final that she is compelled to dispose of all the bracelets the same way, slipping them through the slit of open drawer. She tries to cling to the carpet with her toes, but is prevented by her wedding shoes. “He’s a good match,” her mother says. “He will take care of you. And you like him.” “He has no serious flaws.” “Your uncle was very kind to arrange it all. You should be thankful.” “I respect my uncle very much.” “That’s not what I said. I said you should be thankful.” “And I respect him very much.” “Of course it would be better if your father could have arranged everything. He would have if he could. But we always thought we’d have plenty of time. When you are young you forget that everything ends. I remember when I was in medical school I thought I would never get my degree. I thought nothing could be worse than school and afterwards no job, but when the violence hit Kabul, they couldn’t get enough doctors. There are never enough doctors for people who won’t live anyway. Your father—” “Alright, I am thankful to my uncle. I am very thankful.” Her mother stops abruptly and falls into tight-lipped silence. Belour takes off her bangles now two at and time and listens to them clank against each other. She is not particularly prone to speaking but she hates silence because it reminds her too much of the day her father died. With no apartment above them and an abandoned one below, they’ve never feared being heard. Before the new laws came, her mother had spoken to everyone. Even as the Taliban’s laws came, as her mother’s job at the hospital was revoked, and as they were informed they were never to leave the apartment without their uncle, the house had always been filled with sound. Belour remembers vividly the day they painted the windows yellow. Her uncle had come with the notice. They were not to be seen by men, it said, and all windows were to be covered. Now, her mother had said, it will always be daytime. You will forget we ever had open windows. If I were to open one, and you were to see it were night, you would beg me to close it again. It will PHOENIX | 8
always be so cheerful and sunlit in here that you will never wish to see the sky. And so they flung paint at the windows and all around the room like it was liquid gold, washing away the grime and bomb tape and covering everything in a yellow so bright it hurt to look at it. They danced, sang, and yelled so loudly that it shamed the memory of nighttime explosions, and Belour had been convinced that she would never again hear the all-consuming silence of her mother’s grief. She knows better now, though. She knows that the silence only returns in increments, sometimes so short she does not notice them; other times long enough for the yellow paint to seem sallow. Long enough for her mother to discretely chip away fragments of it just to look out at the sky, or the street, or stare long and hard into the swirling dust of Kabul. “I wonder what kind of day it is?” her mother says. “There’s no rain,” says Belour. “We would hear it.” “But I wonder what it looks like?” Belour’s mother glances at the covered window. “It’s your wedding day. It should be beautiful.” “Maybe it’ll start storming and there’ll be a delay. No one wants to have a wedding when it’s storming.” “Nonsense, I’m sure it’s perfect. I wish we could just open these windows—” Belour looks at her mother sharply. “Why would we want to open the windows? It’s so ugly out there. It’s better in here.” “You have only seen war. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Kabul is beautiful.” “Kabul is ugly!” Belour wrenches all the remaining bangles off her wrist and shoves them into the drawer. “And the country is ugly, too! There’s just dust and bombed out buildings and space! Why would I need all that space? Why would I need five bedrooms? I just want to stay here.” “You’ll change your mind when you get there, Belour, you will. Being trapped in here isn’t good for a woman. When you get to the country, you’ll know what I mean. People aren’t meant to always stay inside. If your father was here, or if things were different, I could take you outside more often, but I can only do my best.” “If father were here it wouldn’t change anything! I still wouldn’t want to leave and I still wouldn’t want to get married!” “Don’t talk like that; of course you want to get married. You’re just nervous. I remember on my wedding day I was so nervous I almost didn’t go but it all worked out.” “I am not just nervous!” “Soon you’ll be wondering why you were ever nervous or why you ever painted your windows. Someday no one will have painted windows. Someday our windows will be open all the time because it can’t last. Nothing lasts forever.” “Are you even listening to me? I don’t want this!” “Yes, you do. Of course you do.” “Mother—”
Belour’s mother jerks away from her and crosses the room to the window where she grasps the handles and pulls with bone-rattling force. Shards of dry paint fall from the seams of the window and cracks appear over the panes, slivers of light screaming in. “What are you doing?” Belour reaches out to her mother in the same moment she steps back. It’s a strange, indecisive movement, too clear to be hesitant. Her mother tugs once more at the window and with a great crunching sound it is pried open, an explosion of light shattering the room, displaced dust molecules billowing in. Belour shields her eyes, shadows invading in her vision with each blink. “Look! This is the reason you are getting married, Belour. Every day you will be able to look outside without fear! You must understand; you need this!” Belour stumbles forward and pushes her mother aside, unseeing. She does not look out the window. She doesn’t dare to. The last time she looked out the window, her father was caught in the crossfire, shot on the front lawn by one of two madmen with guns. Belour slams the window and watches the yellow paint tremble for a moment with the impact. The cracks remain, but the onslaught is over and the piercing white light is again muted yellow. Belour basks in it, cherishes it, watches her skin turn the same color under its influence, and shakes. Simin stands behind Belour, stares at the paint, and shakes because it isn’t over and she is starting to wonder if it ever will be. There are very few things, she thinks, that can shake you down to your faith, but there are things. Her daughter has never seen the market, or the reconstructed apartment complex across from them. She hasn’t seen the poppies growing or the little boy who plays on the lawn every day. She has forgotten that sunlight isn’t yellow, it’s white, and now, it has scared her. Simin believes she has scared her. Simin’s daughter turns and stares at her with what is either relief or contempt. Simin wonders why these two emotions, so different, look so similar on her daughter’s features. She sinks down into her husband’s desk chair and stares at that crack in the ceiling. She wishes it were possible to escape through it, to just float away, but there are things that hold her here that are incomprehensible even to her. She thinks it has something to do with this room specifically, and thinks, as desperate as she is to leave, she is not resentful. Simin watches her daughter’s footsteps as she walks to the desk and opens the drawer. It is cluttered with wadded up shirts and staple removers and typewriter ink that all became useless when her husband died, and, Simin notices, her daughter’s bangles. The bangles themselves Simin is past being alarmed by, but the opening of the drawer sends a jolt through her body as though she is watching a grave robbery.
“Maybe you’re right,” her daughter says, “maybe I don’t want to live in Kabul anymore.” “You have only seen the war,” Simin says. “You don’t understand.” Her daughter takes a single bangle between her thumb and index finger and lifts it from the drawer, contemplating it as it glimmers in the muted light. “Maybe, in the country, I can paint the windows yellow, too; so then it will never be nighttime.” “But all that space, Belour—” “Right.” Her daughter glances nervously at the window. When she looks back, she slips the bangle onto her wrist. “All that space.”
“Maybe, in the country, I can paint the windows yellow, too; so then it will never be nighttime.”
HAPPY by Candace Kelsey
A storm is moving in. The thunder is close. It is big when the water falls. Thick and reminding. You are here now it reminds the mother. Like the warm breath of a roar. And she is happy on her porch, to be alive, to be dry The dog sleeps with his head on her foot. Her daughter asks how eyes are made She wonders is the girl things there is a recipe. Like she might design a pair and put them in the oven. But her eyebrows are straight because she is looking into the distance. And she twists the toe of her light up shoe and holds the rails of the porch The mother knows that the child knows itâ€™s bigger than that. The making of eyes. No, she can feel that it is bigger than that. And what is the difference between feeling and knowing? The mother bows for nothing Except the changing seasons, a threshhold and the dawn.
LANCE, SHORT FOR LANCELOT by Matt Olive
Every summer, you cart-wheeled on the shore with me, four gay porn magazines behind your party and refusing to remember our dead relatives. One had given us each a Russian doll to throw into the ocean, which you did without thinking. Mine would not sink, since your hotel men had frozen the ocean, in which you caught your incorrect reflection like a crazed mermaid in a shell bra. Thoughts fell from taunting seagullsâ€™ beaks, but none were man enough to warrant answers.
PHOENIX | 10
A GIRL NAMED JENNY PLANET by Jacob Hobson
In the streets she dance with dreaded hair Eating drugs-drinking Western beers To the improvisational tunes She did her groove She heard mainstream music -Hard to stand it A lost young girl Named Jenny Planet Her parents were far out and did Groovy things Read the Sutras and wore their beads -Kept their seeds In hopes of one day owning land That they would plough with their own hands But she had too may flowers, weeds, seeds, and beads She had too many needs She had to go once more further And she died like the others
PHOENIX | 12
IN A HAND BASKET by Miranda Jones
eaven has an overpopulation problem. Back a century the condos in Zion filled up, and the seraphim wouldn’t let the construction crews build any highrises, because they’re a flight hazard. For a temporary solution, the conservation society had to surrender several thousand acres of the eternal park to turn into a log cabin filled, rustic-style camp. But the humans had a population boom and all of the cabins, RV sites, and even primitive camping spots are filled. Thus, a number of unfortunate souls are up for relocation. Caden received the notice one pleasant twilight evening in eternal park. She was a new addition to Heaven so she was crammed into a primitive site hastily constructed next to one of the cabin villages. The site didn’t even have a tent, so she slept in a hammock, which wasn’t a problem because of course there are no mosquitoes in Heaven. The fledgling condition of her home meant she didn’t have a mail box, so all notices had to be sent by turtle dove, with the most important proclamations meriting cherubim. The fireflies were gently sparkling in the evening breeze, and the last traces of blazing orange cloud were fading to sapphire. Out of the haze a dove fluttered towards her and cooed until she extended her arm and carefully pulled the message from its golden clasp on the bird’s leg. She read the following to the fireflies: Dear Citizen of Heaven, Per divine proclamation, all in residence in Zone 4 are on the trial for relocation or the renewed placement list. You are cordially invited to the placement trials to be held on the next Sabbath at the temple nearest you. If you do not attend the trials you are volunteering for immediate relocation.
Holiness and grace be with you always, Your Heavenly Coordinator Caden placed the letter under her pillow and crawled into her hammock. The nearest temple was a half-day’s walk away. Sabbath was tomorrow. The proclamation gave no indication what the trials consisted of. But it was nothing to worry about. It is illegal to worry in Heaven. The crowd gathered before the temple consisted of a motley assortment of souls typical of most Heavenly crowds. Caden did on previous page BLUE GESTURES by Katharine Willford
notice that most of the assembled residents had a ‘born in the 20th Earth century or later’ feel to them. It isn’t easily possible to judge the age or date of Earthly residence in Heaven, but language and doctrinal tendencies are good hints. People who call “Amazing Grace” a new hymn are a little old by Earthly standards. People who talk about living Your Best Life Now are a little more recent. There are giveaways. After waiting in line for two hours with other tranquil Heavenly residence who gave not thought to tomorrow, the mysterious trials, or the undisclosed location of their possible new home should they fail the trials, Caden was called on to face her tribulation. “All souls face the same difficulties,” the Holy Head Angel prepped her as he guided her across the gold brick pavement to the chamber of worship. “The trial of residency considers all matters of faith, including balance, persistence, and reverence.” They reached the chamber and the doors glided open silently before them. Seated in two rows of glowing thrones was an assortment of saints and ark angels the holiness of which startled Caden into realizing just how important this trial truly was. Off in the right she could see Jessie the father of King David, and that was obviously St. James kneeling in the back on the rushes. “The song we leave up to you.” “Excuse me?” Caden looked at the Holy Head. “I’m sorry I was lost in a moment of worship. Could you repeat what you said?” Her guide smiled beatifically and gestured to the front of the room where there was a diving board pointing to a pile of a dozen round cushions unstably stacked 6 feet high. A diamond microphone dangled from the ceiling above them. “I said your trial consists of springing from the platform onto the cushions and then singing your favorite hymn. The choice of song we leave up to you.” Caden blinked. “When do I start?” “Now, please.” He smiled again, encouragingly this time, and left the room in pursuit of some other unknown but no doubt glorious mission. Caden stared at her judges. They met her eyes expectantly. She noticed they all held diamond studded scrolls and swan quill pens. After an eternal moment of silence Caden hiked her heavenly robes up around her knees (causing several pens to immediately start scratching) and began to climb the diving board. It was a short trial. She had a fear of heights so it took a few minutes of mental prepping before she could make the jump. More writing ensued. After the jump she perched for thirty ungraceful arm-swinging seconds while attempting to chant “Your Love is Extravagant.” The saints and co. thanked her and sent her to the waiting room while they deliberated the future of her soul. PHOENIX | 14
She sat in the waiting room with twenty odd souls all resting comfortably on holy wooden pews. Everyone chatted amicably with each other about all holy themes imaginable, though Caden noticed that no one mentioned the elevator doors in the opposite corner of the room from the entrance. After several goblets of holy water and an evening meal of manna, the ark angels came in and announced the verdict of the scrolls. Caden heard her name under the category of “To Be Relocated.” All souls in her category they directed to the elevator. There is no baggage in Heaven, so she had no need to go home and pack. While in the elevator one of the souls asked their divine escort where they were headed. “Down.” It wasn’t really fair, she felt, but one does not question the commands of Heaven. Thankfully they were relocating them to the only air-conditioned section of Hell, a Walmart. It did not turn out to be a typical earthly Walmart. Which made sense to Caden, after all, this was Hell. “Current residents are segregated to the hair and cosmetics sections, so you will not have to worry about contamination,” the escort assured them as the elevator doors opened. Caden gasped at the cavernous dusty halls fading into the distance before them. “How big is this Walmart?” “Oh, it’s infinite.” “But I thought it was only a part of Hell.” “Hell is a larger scale of infinity.” She nodded. Alternate sizes of infinity she had encountered on Earth. It was a concept akin to infinite numbers and infinitely more irrational numbers. The escort politely held the door open for the group as they shuffled out. As soon as they were out of the elevator, they turned to unleash a flood of questions on it, but the doors were already closed. They lingered in a huddle for a while, no one daring to verbally doubt the wisdom behind their exile. Eventually the group split up as the souls slowly shifted in search of stability in the dust filled halls. “I don’t want any, thank you,” Caden nodded politely to the worker daemon offering her a sample of freshly-opened canned green beans. She had been wandering through the store for an innumerable amount of time, but she felt it had been at least 6 hours. There is no manner for measuring time in Hell, particularly not in a Walmart. The only light came from the dim flickering florescent lights hanging from the ceiling, half of which were completely burned out. The floor was covered in a layer of dust which she noticed several worker daemons sweeping smooth fairly regularly. She also noticed one of them dig a small hole in the dust, sweep in a pile of broken glass and pickles, and then sweep it smooth.
One of the first things Caden did was ask the workers where the fresh produce section was, but this proved to be a mistake, because one of the torments in Hell is that no one will answer any direct questions. After several miss-tries Caden figured out how to casually imply that fresh vegetables were a source of torture she would like to avoid, and the daemon helping her told her not to worry because all fresh food was banned from the Walmart before it came into existence. “There are only canned and boxed goods here. It’s part of the curse.” She continued her aimless journey down the never ending aisles of useless and mostly broken nonsense feeling disappointed that she wouldn’t have access to fresh food and faintly guilty for having lied, even if it was to a daemon. Eventually she found herself in the camping section and decided to pull down a tent for when she got tired, because she had spotted many nasty bugs running around the place. It was a depressing introduction to her new home. It was supposed to be, this being Hell. Sleepy, she laid down in her tent. The dust floor was a rather pleasant cushion underneath the tarp, and she drifted off, praying on faith that the home would be temporary. After several eternal weeks adjusting to the sudden invasion of several hundred thousand semi-perfect souls, the daemons decide to protest the segregation of their inmates from what was already an unjust infringement on their property. They thoughtfully send a subcommittee of goblins to Heaven to inform the Saintly board of the changes in policy. Soon Caden found herself surrounded by masses of unfortunate condemned souls and the accompanying crews of tormentors. It was most unpleasant, and she took to hiding herself in a waiting room near the elevator shaft that first brought her to Hell. The Angelic and Saintly Board are shocked by the liberties taken with their very clear request orders. In retaliation they send a heavenly choir down the elevator to “encourage the relocated souls and remind the older hellish inmates of the Supreme Heavenly Structure.” Caden woke to the eerie and unenthusiastic singing of “A Mighty Fortress.” It rumbled down the shelves of the garden tools section and faded into the dust stirred by early risers. She unscrewed a jar of overly salty olives to munch on and shuffled down the hall peering through the haze for the source of the sound. The choir was stationed by the elevator and not budging an inch further into Hell. They were a rather forlorn group. All holding up their robes to keep their hems from dragging in the dust. Caden recognized several of them. A few of the singers she’d known in Heaven, and, back on Earth, she’d attended the same church as the conductor. When they’d finished their arrangement and were on break, Caden approached one of the girls she’d met in Heaven. “What are you all doing?”
“We’re here to bring spiritual encouragement and heavenly messages to you poor souls trapped here in Hell.” “But, I’m not--” “There’s no use denying your spiritual state! You are condemned here, but even in Hell, I believe that you can find solace in the knowledge of a tranquil place that houses those you love. We are here to remind you to seek peace. Repent!” Caden held up her hand. “May I speak now?” “Of course.” “Aside from the fact that you know me, and you know I made it to Heaven, how would repenting help someone in Hell? Isn’t it supposed to get a person to Heaven? Because I repented countless times on Earth, got to Heaven, and ended up in Hell anyway.” The girl looked at her for a moment, embarrassed and confused. Her friends noticed she was in dire need of aid, and sent the choir conductor over to protect their co-soul from the wicked sinner verbally attacking her. Much to Caden’s relief, the conductor immediately recognized her. “Caden, what are you doing here? I thought you’d made it.” “I did, but I got relocated because I didn’t pass the trial of faith.” “Ahh, no balancing act for you?” “Exactly.” The girl realized her mistake and shrank back to her group of friends. “Tell me, Mark, why are you guys really down here?” “Someone in Heaven thought it would be a nice retort to the daemons for allowing sinners to mix with the relocated saints.” “So singing hymns is torture?” “For everyone involved. They gave us the worst selection of songs, and we aren’t allowed to sing anything except what they’ve approved.” Caden felt mildly apprehensive for Mark’s soul. This was not the talk of a spiritual devotee, but Hell has that effect on you. “I still don’t get how Heaven could run out of space. Isn’t it infinite?” Mark nodded, “But the larger realms of infinity are doled out to saints and martyrs. Regular souls like you and I are assigned to finite amounts within the infinite. So when that fills up, we’re kind of stuck until someone on the Heavenly Board agrees to a rezoning of space.” “Will I ever get back to Heaven?” He shrugged. “It all depends on the priorities of the Board. As far as I know you don’t have any prayer teams lobbying for you, so it might take a while.” The break ended and Mark went back to conducting. Caden sat for a while, listening to them sing. It reminded her of the endless hours she’d spent practicing for song service, reading her |15
Bible, handing out fliers to the sinners. All that work to keep herself in Heaven’s favor and look where she’d ended up. She went back to her tent when she was tired and drifted off with the oppression of failure and the unattainably of Heaven weighing on her mind. When she woke, something snapped. The irregular occurrences in Hell continue to escalate. After receiving shocking reports of irregular behavior from their own spiritual children, the Heavenly Board decides to wash their hands of the whole matter. Essentially they decide to ignore the fact that that they ever relocated anyone anywhere. Caden liked singing. She’d always liked singing. It was her ultimate form of expression. She liked to sing whatever she wanted as loud as she wanted. She suddenly realized at that moment of waking that she was sick and tired of letting anyone control the volume or content of her song. So she crawled out of
disturbed the bugs. Her voice reached levels of tone and volume she’d never before attempted, and she watched in mild amazement as glass jars of pickled eggs and onions began to explode on the shelves around her. It was rather fun. A bit like fireworks. She deliberately wound her way through all of the condiment aisles, exploding jars of honey, olive oil, jelly, and cooking wine as she went. When she reached the elevator, the choir was standing there where she’d left it earlier. Their jaws were hanging open, and their eyes were bulging. She was being a little loud. Not one of them had realized that a carol could sound that...well...sinful. Mark was the first one to join in, than the girl she’d spoken to yesterday, then her friends, then the entire choir was violently abusing their vocal chords as they sang a chorus of “Joy to the World” that filled the entire Walmart and reached up the elevator
her tent and started to sing. Her songs were not the depressing hymns of yesterday. She started with a feeling good jazz song and moved onto a shake it up rock song. Unfortunately for her, she realized after three songs that the only other songs she knew were religious. She’d never taken much time to learn other types of songs, because she had always occupied her time learning holy songs that would ensure her passage to Heaven. So she resorted to singing “Joy to the World,” which is one of those unique holy songs that can be sung rebelliously. Caden did not mean to rebel. She wasn’t aware of the fact that she was rebelling. All she knew was that she wanted to sing, loudly. Her voice disturbed many inmates around her. Her voice
shaft into Heaven. Daemons and angels found themselves trembling at the sounds of the human noise. It was an unnerving demonstration of life that neither realm appreciated. Shortly Heavenly Coordinators were sent down the elevator to investigate. The choir went instantly silent when the doors opened, so the Heavenly Coordinators had no way of knowing who the instigator was. They didn’t really care. They weren’t in the business of punishment, they just wanted the singing to stop. “You all seem to be a little strained from having to wait in Hell for this long,” one of them intoned magnanimously. “Why don’t you all go into the waiting room and will sort out shifts to send you back up.”
PHOENIX | 16
on this page HOLLAND 2 by André Safi
The choir silently shuffled into the waiting room, and the first group of singers filled the elevator. They were very happy to be leaving Hell. Caden had slipped into the waiting room with the rest of the choir and now watched sadly as they pulled out their ID crowns for passage back to heaven. She noticed Mark furtively trying to catch her eye, so, as casually as she could, she walked by one of the coordinators and sat down next to him. “What is it?” she murmured. “Give me your crown,” he whispered back. All Heavenly souls are issued crowns when they reach Heaven. They are very inconvenient to wear, and most souls keep them stashed away in their robes. The number of jewels on each crown indicates the level of Heaven that each soul can attain. Caden had noticed that the entire choir had a gem on their
crowns which she did not have. As she watched, Mark pulled out a small bag containing a number of these gems and bottle of glue. “They issued me extra gems just in case one fell off of a crown while we were here,” he whispered to her as he spread glue on her crown and pressed one of the gems against it. “These gems mean you passed the trial of faith.” “But, won’t they know?” He grinned. “They wouldn’t expect us to even think of doing something like this.” And he was right. Caden walked up to the elevator with the next group of souls. One of the coordinators glanced at her crown, and she stepped without further trouble back into Heaven.
It was a half day hike to her hammock, and she noticed that nothing had been disturbed in her absence. She wondered just how serious the overpopulation issue actually was. She suspected that somewhere, some angel had misread a statistic. Caden never again read or listened to another Heavenly proclamation, and she is still happily living in her primitive campsite singing lullabies to fireflies.
“They wouldn’t expect us to even think of doing something like this.” |17
99 WAYS TO SKIN A CAT by Charlie Sterchi
This here cat does not trust thumbs. She writhes against my foot like a leper on fire. I don’t trust cats or lepers or fire. I kick her in the throat almost, slip her in a greasy paper bag almost, abandon her in a moving vehicle almost. “Who are you and why are you still alive?” says me, and the cat purrs in microwavable ecstasy.
PHOENIX | 18
on this page JUNK TOOL
by Erin Jones
By Murray Dunlap
aking to early afternoon, Madison puts on coffee and starts the shower. The water is slow to heat, and he glares into the mirror while he waits. Over the past year, his hair turned completely white, even the eyebrows. Madison’s chest slopes inward as if he’d lain down and a cue ball had been dropped from a great height. Yellowing skin sags beneath his eyes. Under the shade of a loblolly pine, a little black boy draws lines in a sandbox: circles, zigzags, and spirals threaded out by a three pronged stick. Glass bottles suspended with fishing line hang from the branches of the pine. A hundred of them turn in the wind. From Coke bottles to glass salt shakers -all clear- the bottles gape lidless, cooing above the boy. Madison pulls himself up from the low coupe. He takes another snort of bourbon and throws the empty pint bottle to the ground. He slams the door. The little boy looks up from the sand and points his stick at Madison. “Hiya there.” Madison puts on a big smile and waves. “Anyone else around? Maybe inside?” Madison points at the church as he approaches. The boy, drooling now, stares at him, still pointing with his stick. “Hey, looks good,” Madison says. “Sort of like little rainbows.” He stoops down and examines the sand drawings. He looks over to the boy. The boy holds a severed rooster foot, tight in his undersized hands. Madison takes a step back. The boy waves the clawed foot at Madison, a yo-yo of shaking slobber lolling from his cracked, pink lips. “Jesus,” Madison says. “Ump,” The boy says, pointing to his forehead with a free hand. “Well all right,” Madison says. A thin white man with long tangles of dirty blonde hair steps out from the church’s sliding barn door. “I see you found Jesus,” he says. The man’s oversized black button down has been worn to the point of sun-bleached shoulders. Black jeans bleed into black boots. He seems to march in place on the concrete slab extending from the door. “Jesus?” Madison asks. “Jesus,” the man says. He stops marching and looks out into the woods. “What?”
on this page LEANN’S EVOLUTION by Erin Jones
“I said Jesus.” The man pauses, scratches his stubble. “Jesus is the Reverend’s boy.” “This kid’s name is Jesus?” “You been drinkin?” “What?” Madison squints in the sun. “No.” “Yeah, the boy’s name is Jesus.” “Oh.” Madison shades his eyes with his hand and looks at the man, then the boy. Jesus stares at Madison. “I’ve gotten a little turned around on all these clay roads.” Madison forces a smile. “I see that.” The boy points the foot at Madison. “You got a lazy eye.” the man says. “Yeah,” Madison says. “Jesus don’t like it none.” The man shakes his head side to side. “You born with it?” “The condition developed when I was nine.” “That’s peculiar.” “So they tell me,” Madison says. “Why are you helping me?” asks Madison. “I’m not helping you,” the Reverend says. “I’m just moving you along.” In tow, Madison sits in his coupe and drinks from the bottle. He steers now and then as the Reverend makes turns or takes sharp curves. He can barely see for the clouds of dust and mostly watches shadows of pine trees blinking at the windows. They pass a cemetery and Madison swears he can see faces on the gravestones. Not just etchings, but three dimensional faces pushing out into the sun. He drinks from the bottle. He finds NASCAR on the radio and listens to the Daytona 500: The track here is 2.5 miles long and the curves are banked at 31 degrees. These guys are knocking out 200 laps in blistering 120 degree heat. Some drivers wear a ‘cool-suit’ with capillary tubes woven into the fabric. Cold water is pumped from an ice chest in the car through these tubes. Let me tell you folks, it’s hot in these cars. “It’s sure hot in here,” Madison says. He plays a new game by drinking whenever the commentator says the word fast. Then he adds the word track. At the cabin, the Reverend unties the car and throws the rope in his truck bed. Madison stands beside the Mercedes and palms the hood for balance. “You a NASCAR fan?” Madison asks. “Here and there,” the Reverend nods. “Daytona’s today, right?” “Yes sir,” Madison says. “I’m pulling for Junior.” “You and everybody.” The Reverend pauses. “You got a junior somewhere?” “Portland.” Madison points at the sunset. “That’s a long way from here.” The Reverend wipes his hands with a rag. “He know where you are?” PHOENIX | 20
“Not for a long time now.” “I see.” “What about your boy?” Madison asks. “What about him?” “His eyes are white.” “Yeah, he’s got the cancer. The white is tumors in his pupils. He can see a little. Not much. They got a name for it, but I can’t remember.” The Reverend looks up at Madison. “Your eyes ain’t quite right either.” “I know that,” Madison says. The Reverend nods and climbs back in the truck. “Wait.” Madison reaches into his pocket for the envelope of rent money. He slides out a fifty and holds it up. “Here, thanks for the tow.” The Reverend laughs as he holds up the palms of both hands, shooing off the money. “We’ll settle up later,” he says. “And don’t worry, you don’t need to pay your rent today. Mr. Lester won’t do business on Sunday.” “Sunday. I guess it is.” “For some, it’s a day of atonement.” The Reverend pulls on his black beard. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” But the Reverend has already started out the dirt drive, his dreadlocks masking any view of his face. He hangs an arm out the open window of the truck and flips Madison the bird. Madison nods. A hazy cloud of dust swirls in the air, settling red and dirty on the pine needle blanket covering the ground. Madison watches him until the truck is gone. Inside, Madison throws his money and keys on the table. The cabin is hot. He turns on the shower and sits naked on the edge of the toilet. A low creak issues from the den and Madison raises his head from his hands. He doesn’t hear anything else, but wraps on a towel and peers out the bathroom door. Nothing seems amiss, so he walks through the bedroom to the den. Out of the corner of his eye, Madison thinks he sees a shadow flit across the window, but he turns to find nothing. He blames his lazy eye. After the shower, Madison drapes on a robe and steps into the kitchen. There are no groceries. He finds a jar of pickles in the fridge and eats one with a beer. The dill turns his stomach so he puts them back. He makes a tall bourbon and water and returns to the den. He lights a cigarette, sits on the couch, and gulps his drink. He turns on the TV and flips to NASCAR. Outside, Rob-Rob pours gasoline onto the sides of the cabin. He methodically makes his way around, one wall at a time. At the front and back doors, he wedges a two by four between the doorknob and the ground and at last understands why he was told to hang them backwards. Reverend Charon crouches down with his son Jesus near the south wall. He holds a box of matches in his hands.
“Now look how I do it, Jesus,” the Reverend says. “I hold the match like this, and I slide it fast against the box.” “Ump,” Jesus says. “Fah Fah.” “Watch me now,” the Reverend says. He strikes the match. Inside, Madison refills his glass. He pounds his fist on the coffee table. “Come on Junior!” he shouts. On TV, Gordon leads Junior by a car length. The commentator breaks in: Junior’s drawin’ in on Gordon. Looks like he’s going the distance. “There it is, Junior.” Madison says. “Hammer that son of a bitch.” Junior knows just how much bumper to give, the commentator says. He can push Gordon’s car where he wants without spinning him. “You got it Junior,” Madison says. “Put a tattoo on his bumper!” Junior’s dipping to the inside…he’s within a foot of Gordon at 190mph…He’s comin’ up fast! Ya’ll don’t blink, this is it! “That’s right Junior!” Madison shouts. “You know your daddy’s watching.” He drains a fresh drink and stands up to scream at the TV. Outside, the Reverend puts a match into Jesus’ right hand and the box into the other. He holds Jesus’ hands inside his own and makes the motions of striking a match. “See how easy it is?” the Reverend says. “Do it like this. You’ve earned it.” Jesus moves his right hand in spastic jerks. He misses the box by several inches. The Reverend eases the match and the box closer together and guides Jesus’ hands. By now Rob-Rob has completed his circle of the house and pours the last of the gasoline into a pool on the ground. Rob-Rob looks to Jesus and smiles. In moonlight, Rob-Rob’s face is pale like a ghost. He scratches his stubble and marches in place. They can hear Madison screaming inside the cabin as Dale Earnhardt Junior wins the Daytona 500. Madison howls and stomps the floorboards. “Ok Jesus,” the Reverend says. “When we light this fire, it’ll be big and bright like fireworks. And once it’s going, it won’t stop.”
“When we light this fire, it’ll be big and bright like fireworks. And once it’s going, it won’t stop.”
CODEXCORVIDÆ By L. Niall Murphy
asey turned into a magpie each night to leave through her apartment window, then out perched on the nearest oak by the shutters in virile wingflaps where the rough bark was, past the power lines and the neighbors fucking audibly, as if in a bell jar or a sounding chamber, and to shit on their brand new car they will swear was just clean an hour earlier, then to the tracks, the tracks going equatorially through the little town with other birds, but not like her, until she found the Same Place, the one that must have been slightly apart from the true material world, where the broken glass around the lake was from a previous century and the leaps of fish fell like lead on her puny ossicles knocking about behind her beak and wild, starred, and hollow eyes. A wake just dwindled from a trash barge passing behind an east-west jut of land, the form of it so small from her place on the gutter of some abandoned shack, third from the right in a queer compound of the same, all sided with the same pinewood, all with porches stepped one-two-three with cinderblocks for supports and someTimes unopened cans of faded beer propping up a deck chair or checkers table with bottlecaps as the playing pieces – American versus German brands, and Casey saw no irony in that – but she watched a cat slinking out from beneath a rotting tire to settle at the waterline and tilt its head just so to look at her, hungrily, but she was beyond its range and so she gave a few useless flails of her feathers and a snap of her beak and the thing turned back to study the mirror of the lake once more. As a bird she had access to things that eluded her dayTime self. Rituals of tiny insects circling a bit of carrion or fungus inexorably putrefying some poor, sickly pile of whatever that was (maybe once a fish) or the wails of her not-brethren in formations above, roosting in the hills that made up the bowl where the lake rested, nesting in the tallest firs or in abandoned chimneys and burnt-out signage along the highway going toward the Cherokee reservation in Redrock where sometimes she hears shouts of Kalvltiahi or Tlanuhwa or other jumbled things, but here, now, in this Other Place there was just the water, and just the cat. She had read the creation myths, someTimes often but someTimes not, until she couldn't think of the world as anything but a giant island floating in water, with animals growing out of some giant stone arch, or with a spider carrying fire down to humans in a basket on its back, but fuck ancient hokum, right? and God, but I could eat just about now – no,
PHOENIX | 22
not until the cat has gone and the sun is up again, if it ever is. Casey shuffled the points of her claws against the rusted metal and it made a sound like ka-kreeeeek. She stretched herself wide and went out from her rooftop place and over the water where reflected a thousand tiny lights, an industry of fireflies as a blurring host of minuscule chemical factories wafted, waiting, for her open and vacant mouth to snatch them. There was a smaller island at the center of the lake, domed and sheersided rock jutted with trees living and dead depending on the angle she observed it from where she came to rest on top of a stump and looked out back across the water to the cat and the compound and uttered a single, revelatory caw. Charred fingers of the canopy allowed in light only at odd wavelengths and produced an erratic sort of phantasmagoria on the leafy carpet of the place, the barrel of a gun hung by its strap, a music box but no spinning dancer, and one old leather boot like the one in the painting, where each night made Casey even more sure of the existence of lateral worlds, but this night, and in this place, the remains of a campsite with plastic food wrappers, still-warm coals of a recent fire doused quickly but surely amidst the crossing tracks of two small children and an adult running from tent to overturned logs by the firepit that all smelled of what she still called something Other from herself, in the quietness that came over the lake just then in a sudden absence of mating insects or rutting frogs. A cat padded surefooted through the underbrush toward the ashes in the center and dropped a headless lizard at Casey's feet, the stench of which drove her to sidestep along the log and eventually to ascend onto the lowest branch of the overhanging deciduous things, spindly-legged and wobbling and inspect the surroundings of a place at once shifting in Time and in space, trees groaning in altogether human ways, but where was the cat now? and where would she go to find it? Flapping up over the island again to watch it go, she remembered her brief reading on quantum dynamics but this aspect of it had not been named, not exactly, by her professor who had explained what she thought she was seeing now as “essentially a mirror, when you really get down to it” while the little island spun on some ætherial axis creating eddies and miniature
mudslides, and the fireflies were going round by the Time she glided back to the mainland and the thing was gone completely save for a tree sticking up thumblike from the surface of the water, the sad sight of it, twisted and bent to a shape resembling soft serve ice cream poured by an amateur. Her best friend preferred his surname Salinger to the regrettable thing his parents had chosen for him, but he no longer spoke to them about that or about any other thing, especially not his platonic sexuality with Casey Reed, or how they only spent daylight hours together dodging work or graduate studies at the university to experiment with exciting new techniques of vaginal stimulation at his apartment when his brother Will was not around or how Casey could not be seen outside her own residence past dusk for reasons which still made very little sense to Salinger, but she assured him that they were entirely logical and honest. This was on a Saturday early in the season, the Time when things are only ever exactly as they seem to be, he liked to say, but Casey would just give him that look she usually reserved to throw at Jehovah's Witnesses or teen pregnancy TV shows that Salinger's brother so often was caught peeking at before he quickly switched the channel back to something educational or otherwise wholesome. Casey did not care for William Salinger (that boring sonuvabitch, that fucking slob) though she wouldn't admit it within his earshot and only once had accidentally shouted his name at orgasm which led to a major argument, several smashed dishes, Sal's blackened left eye from an errant swing by Casey, and a three month hiatus from their sexual exploits. That was the end of the spring semester last year. Today Will was gone, thank God, so Casey sat astride Sal's waist looking down at his sweatmatted head on the only pillow still on the sofa creaking the springs in her oversized band t-shirt stolen from his closet so her white legs stuck out from the bottom as toothpicks cracked in the middle, making sure to moan the way he liked, move the way he liked, his hands gripping the meat of her pelvis on both sides to use as levers to pull her back down each Time she surged up and back, then down again and forward, occasionally leaning in to bite or suck or kiss his neck or earlobes, maybe the lips every third Time, tongue grazing his teeth and giving him that same look she gave to traveling proselytizers, swearing afterwards it was a mistake and at least I didn't call you Will this Time, right? Ha, ha.
They held hands only as a formality, walking along the path toward campus that led by an abandoned housing complex from four decades past abutting a small lake with an even smaller island situated centrally in its chill, and Casey looked up to watch a group of corvids – maybe crows maybe ravens; she couldn't tell the difference – spinning concentric about a pine waiting to perch like planes at an airport on a holding pattern but silent, the blackness of them like the blackness of event horizons, and Sal squeezed her hand just hard enough to bring her out of it. They waited to cross the street. Sal was still flushed from before and she grinned. She brought his hand up to her lips and kissed it, laughing and tilting her head back to steal another clandestine look at the birds, and then hugging Sal close until the signal turned for them to cross. “I'm not sure I understand our assignment for Quantum,” he said. “You've read Feynman, surely.” “That's not really relevant, is it,” he said. “He said that 'Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it.'” “Yeah, so? Sounds a bit familiar, maybe,” he said. “Hey, give me your hand. See these lines here, and here? You know what they mean if they're curved toward each other instead of away?” “That you're full of shit,” he said. “Besides that,” and she hit him on the shoulder. “I guess not, then. What's it mean.” “It means you can see the birds too.” “What?” “The visual Codex Corvidæ or something. I don't know.” “Would you shut up with the bullshit,” he said. Salinger waited a moment, then a longer moment, and their feet on the concrete made accidental polyrhythms that only she noticed, struggling to keep in step to continue them while he thought about what she'd said, and she probably read it somewhere in one of those books on spirituality, or was it alinearity, crossing consciousness streams weaving in broad deltas to meet in the afterlife or however it was worded in the pseudo-intellectuality, but then again she didn't have much right to judge outlandish religious claims anymore. At least not at night. Campus was empty here, the library standing against the
spiritual journeys and compendiums of discarded religiata. The backdrop of red brick and fledgling trees and the gas station mother wind, the great wind; when she felt it, the pressure of it, on the edge of it by the university police department, of course she wanted night to come. Not even Cherokee senses, her birdrecently graffitied with Quis custodied ipsos custodes? just until the sense, even ancient Celtic, Irish notion of the Dagda or Tuatha library passed in front of it and obscured it from view, Salinger Dé Danann come conquering heroes not unlike a wind itself, opening the door and bowing satirically, Casey smiling, faux though she would never bore Salinger with it, or would he even curtsy practiced too often before a mirror in her younger years understand. How entire wars were fought, how the bodies fell to for cotillion, and Sal said he just needed to pick up one book fertilizer in the dirt and blood all for a cow or so she told Salinger, before Monday. It had been bothering her for weeks so she said trying not to listen to her going on about ancient religion and finally, custom and those Cherokee she would never shut up about, or “Do you really not believe in Multiverse Theory?” the Irish, all for the sake of the Táin Bó Cúailnge and its Cú Sal, rolling his eyes and leading her out into the relative mildness, perhaps a hand on her lower back that would eventual- Chulainn boy much like Salinger, Casey tried to explain, but he ly find its way downwards, especially in those tight jeans, said drove faster and turned the music louder. Trees became thick conglomerates, stands of pine and maple “Can we please not get into that again today,” and he kissed and oak and copses, groves, where creatures went to hide and her, and she kissed him back, just outside the library doors until Casey spotted a family of squirrels scratching at tree knots but an older gentleman walked by and cleared his throat once Sal's were gone by the Time the car passed them while Sal motored hand was no longer socially appropriate. onwards, someTimes glancing aside to watch Casey watching “But why not? It's a perfectly viable theory.” him or the green wall a blur past the window, leaves of tree and “Sure it is, but so is not believing in it.” grass alike, or blades of it; Casey pulled a book of mythology “What if I were to show you something tonight.” from her satchel and told him the significance of it all, Great “After dusk, you mean?” Spirit in the meanest of things, Gaia (or Gaea, or Gaeia?), Headed to Redrock along the interstate and then exiting to Terra Nova this place like a trip behind Time as she saw it, the more meager byways, all the world passing outside her window Cherokee reservation frozen in some indescribably Past like with Salinger beside her concentrating, her breath on the glass a decade without number: was it the 50s, was it the 70s, but and her finger drawing little birds with tucked wings and there were Ford trucks and crushed beer cans already and they someTimes a worm or someTimes a mate, bow tie or stovepipe had only just passed the sign Welcome to Redrock with its little hat for comic effect, and she laughed to herself in the quiet of painted deer, rabbit, fox, bass, crow, black bear, and mountain, the car, still triumphant in convincing Salinger to take her there and Casey Reed put her palm flat against the window, something promising answers or what she hoped would be answers. They cold and solid against the veins, a sidestep along a continuum passed the dead billboard, the train lines that weaved through that they had inhabited only before crossing the boundary of the mountains, tunnels, the carved highways made a hundred years reservation and Casey noted this aloud to Salinger: I don't think ago cracked and sealed and cracked again a dozen Times since this place is usual, to which he replied with a grunt, and the where only horses had gone and the proud history of a people vanishing, a country she thought she knew but only knew in part, car went on along that slender road, a speck on the map. There Salinger's music louder now once he twisted the knob – why had were signs in English and in Cherokee directing travelers to the campgrounds, to the gas station, to the school or the grocer's, so he insisted on classical? Salinger turned the car and the tent banged against the inside The landscape sloped up then leveled, the push of trees of the trunk and again over the road once it went from asphalt from all sides, vast fields of shifting grains or grasses, Casey slid to gravel to dirt and then to no road at all, pulling up to one back the sunroof to a rush of wind noise over Sal's song, but he demarcated area with a little cast iron barbeque cemented in didn't seem to mind, only smirked, odd but not unexpected she thought when all she'd read for the past six months had been
PHOENIX | 24
place and a bare spot in the grass where tents would go, Casey hopping out to crack the trunk and unfurl the tent alone, poles here and there through loops and grommets so it spread open in a dome while Salinger stuffed the sleeping bags and pads inside, a cooler with some beers and bottled water for the weekend, condoms and cigarettes. Casey stood at the edge of the road where the campground came to a vertex with a creek and it flowed right underneath through a culvert of wavy aluminum piping to watch the coming and going of older men with long white hair and baseball caps, little boys and girls filthy with mud from the streambank, three younger men drinking beer from cans and saving the empties in a large black bag which jingled with many dozen cans already. The smell of the air and the sights, the clouds and bent treetops were all so hyperreal, a stranger in a world by proxy. As a bird Casey viewed the landscape in stereoptica below as it shuffled, those few crisscrossing gravel roads that split the growing fields as a ghostly matrix of charcoal and white and golden for the corn, wheat, soy stalks there browning beneath the gibbous moon that also shone on Salinger back in the tent alone, cuddling against a pillow and a pile of empty alcohol containers she had gotten him drunk with but she had never tried flying drunk until just now – the solidity of the ground was less convincing and she remembered at once the 4-D shift of the small lake island back near her apartment past the equatorial tracks and the cat and the shacks. Smells were different here from the too-stuffy pine pungency and algae ponds to molding tenement buildings erected by the government decades ago of clapboard and cheap glass no thicker than paper in some cases, rotting furniture in piles left by the road for pickup the next morning or whenever the trash men saw fit to come, the scents co-mingling and riding one another helixlike, a sudden olfactory realization that it was Sal's brother William that Casey was truly smelling, the repulsive
bouquet of him, dirty jeans and flannel shirt, sleeves rolled back, scruff of beard and badly mended glasses, how he seemed to smell perpetually of liquor and weed, but then without consent the smell of his breath, sharp and wet, which led to her ears making up the sound of his voice so she had to land on a power line until the visions subsided and it left her scathed, sexually frustrated. All things meager or massive were suspended, coded and cataloged – the Codex Corvidæ or whatever you wanted to call it – a primal hierarchy of her own manufacture that included the right to love, hate, fuck: prokarya and eukarya and archaea; eumycota; arthropoda; arachnida, araneae and acari and solifugae; insecta, pterygota and thysanura; annelida; cephalopoda; echidnodermata; vertebrata to salientia and caudata to amniota, synapsida and diapsida, futher up Casey's chain toward lepidosauromorpha, then archosauromorpha (closer still) to archosauria, dinosauria, those past failures in Time like clades ornithischia or sauropoda, and finally to theropoda, coelurosauria, and AVES; and the pyramid, that eternal structure present in the mythos Egyptian, American, Aztec and Mayan, African ziggurats from before Time, perched there black is CORVIDÆ like a strand or a thread out from that slipspace in Casey's mind, birdmind-crossed-human-mind, Cherokee mind, perhaps, from its common ancestor, birds over all else and the corvids over them – she is flying again and had not noticed until a thermal brushes her upwards even towards the narrow clouds, passing once again high enough to see Sal's car and the tent as dots on a grid and other birds or were they bats and owls in the nightTime. She felt manic, all these words rushing in her skull that sounded like bad poetry or cracked syllogism toward her crazed manifesto of this Magpie Complex with its This statement is false mentality and she needed to calm down, find someone, anyone who was just like her in this spirit world such as a fox or even a
The smell of the air and
the sights, the clouds and bent treetops were all so
hyperreal, a stranger in a world by proxy.
human but no never William Salinger whom she hated but oh it felt so good to be with him and on him and tongue and skin and fluids from orifices meant for procreation, temple of the cunt or cock but just what would Sal think about her fucking his brother, the one she hated; the bird made her mind race these ways with no end possible until dawn came again, that bitch, that beautiful bitch, beautiful like Will or like Sal, the Salinger brothers two and come to think of it what would it be like to fuck them both stupid with sufficient whiskey split three ways. There was a bear in the dark, by a stream, lapping water. Gliding down to perch on a dead tree angled out of the dirt, she saw its eyes, Nûñnë'hï eyes, bland and smart eyes, come here go there let me fetch this fish out of the creek eyes, a spirit person trapped within a bear's glorious, blubberous, yellow fanged and black eyed and fearsome and serene shape, in the eyes, around and in them with colors she had never dreamed, and she tried to speak with it, with the bear, but her mouth made only shrieking bird sound, and the bear made only grumbling bear sound... A door swiped open one-eighty and sprung back closed but bashed against a pile of clothes and came halfway slit again in the following weeks, a huffing new body in the dim bedroom, low ceiling and low light, a door with a broken lock so what use was shutting it, anyway? when Sal went what the fuck what the actual fuck and slammed his arm so hard against the wall a lamp fell from the table and smashed on the carpet, light going out of course, Will and Casey there frozen mid-thrust, coitus interruptus, but Sal looked relieved and that was the most disturbing part because is he about to kill us or maybe worse but instead of that he just flipped the hall light on behind him, framing him like a murderer, silhouette against yellow 60-watt glow watching his best friend fucking his brother, the brother she hated or claimed to hate for so long, language a failure for him, but what else was he to do except throw things and shout. Casey clutched him close, her Billy boy, sweet pilgrim among savages now as Sal pulls him up and out of the bed headlocked, whaling at his face with closed fist crunch-crunch and blood falling about the carpet and walls, Casey sitting there naked hugging her chest scrambling for her clothes to help Will and screaming at Sal to please just leave him alone it's not what you think, we love each other just please Sal please let him go, let him fucking go.
PHOENIX | 26
The sun was just starting to fade beyond the bottom of the windowsill, Sal and Will punching, kicking, shouting profanity, Casey wearing only one of Will's large shirts to cover herself screaming at them both and a flight of crows went past the frame like a cloud, strobing across the face of the sun for a second or two, and Sal landed a blow on Will's nose and it went crack and blood squirted against the drywall and he kneed Sal in the groin and Sal went to the floor where Will began kicking him in the gut, in the throat and the face, in the groin again and again until Casey moved to restrain him, holding his arms from behind and yelling stop, just please stop, you're killing him, and the sun went behind a hilltop. Sal was just there, foetally curled and shaking, whimpering pleading for his brother to stop and Casey felt a shock, convulsing in her muscles and she was forced away from Will, his arms free again to hit his younger brother over and over – blood and snot and bone – and she heard another crack as maybe Sal's cheek was broken but she could do nothing to help him because her skin was sprouting these tiny black buds like curled petals which grew elongate and unfurled into little feathers far too small for a human body, but she was shrinking after that, smaller until William the Giant smashed Sal the Lesser with hammer fists and Casey was no larger than a doll or a pet. The fight stopped once the day had fully become night and there was a strange bird in the room flapping about, slamming itself into walls and ceiling, into their heads, into the light switch so everything went black for a moment and all there was left was squawking and crying, Salinger on the floor quaking in an oblivious pain and Will grabbing a broom to swat at the intruding thing, Casey moving out and away to squeeze her tiny altered form through the crack at the bottom of the window, and when she did the broom handle crashed through after her and Will swore loudly and began to panic when he could not find the girl he'd just beaten his brother bloody for, and he would not find her then or ever again, and if Casey Reed could cry she would have gladly done so.
â€œIs he about to kill us, or maybe worse, but instead he just flipped the hall light on behind him, framing him like a murderer, silhouette against yellow 60-watt glow.â€?
IMG001.TIF by Sam Petschulat
PHOENIX | 28
by Andrew Koch they say Nashville went underwater in three hours and I’m sure certain it’s because of the liquor at this party where everyone is a friend who is an asshole or has an asshole, I forget. who is this house? doesn’t it have a mother? upstairs there is a focus group on time travel the present is an illusion. there is only a past of brain, tongue, ears. then-fingers, shoulder, hip. this must be what they call the witching hour the girls outside don’t even have to sit to pee. I feel a busted speaker beneath my sternum. no wait it’s sinking down. into my liver. some of us are Mt. Sinai bliss-pilgrims who ask the important stuff. like how are we here? what is this?
THE CROW’S SONG
Spring lust swayed me to torch the ridge and catch the last escalator down Black Mountain to Interstate 40.
Today I think I’ll be a crow and wade, wandering in knee-deep snow and wait, wondering, for Zephyros my throat already sore. Cawing, pruning, filthy threadbare feathers fearing my beak might freeze together waiting for some warmer weather’s herald, since all our friends took wing. Wearily, wearily, await the sight, Shivering, shivering, that red on white Cheerily, cheerily, the steel-gray skies Seem brittle. I’d sing: A fanning fire fills my breast Cheerily, cheerily, and all the rest My dull eyes scanning, east to west, Then wearily, wearily falling— The bright red Robin’s loving wing In this empty meadow, nowhere seen, I grip my frozen branch. And wait for Spring.
by Michael Herrell
I deserted green paradise knowing pollen blankets in fly ash whirlwinds might suffocate my eyes for a photograph Sarah sent sprawled bare on my scarlet bedspread. I straddled the Pigeon River past battered bluffs carved by cutlass rapids forging a crude portrait of the hourglass I would conquer, my stone face blind to the Blue Ridge mountain crests I should have swallowed like jars of raw clover honey. Knoxville greeted me with soot clouds from landfill brush‐fires drowning the Big Orange street‐light sky, an omen my libido ignored as I scurried down the exit ramp. My illusion snapped when I peered through yellow tape tethered across splintered windows to find my room ransacked with piss glazed on the door.
PHOENIX | 30
by Andrew Carlile
O N T H E COV E R
WATER by Sam Petschulat
ÂŠ Copyright 2012 by the University of Tennessee. Rights retained by the individual contributors. Send submissions to: Phoenix Room 5 Communications Building 1340 Circle Park Dr., Knoxville, TN 37996 email: email@example.com
PHOENI X LITERARY ARTS MAGAZINE
ISSUE 54 VOL 1 FALL 2012
PHOENIX STAFF Editorial Staff
Hannah Bloomfied Editor-in-Chief
Carly Duckett Sarah Elias Shiloh Jines Brandy Wells Kurtis Welch Andrew Emitt Victor Medina Demi Demirkol Charlie Waddle Ashley Wright Courtney Bond
Jane Pope Eric Smith
Shelby Stringfield Fiction Editor Tara Sripunvoraskul Designer
PHOENIX | 34