at the University of Florida
FRIENDS OF WILD IRIS
Sister non-profit to Wild Iris Books, Floridaâ€™s only feminist bookstore Our mission is to create social, educational, and cultural opportunities to empower a diverse feminist community.
Acknowledgements As always, Tea Literary Magazine would not be here without the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Council. Our organization would like to thank CLAS and Student Government for continuing to back us. Its professors, student leaders, and staff have provided us with unyielding and enthusiastic support. Without over twenty-one semesters of guidance and financial support from CLAS, we simply would not be able to do what we love. We would also like to thank Wild Iris Books, which has again opened its doors and its heart to the English Society. As a local bookseller, it showcases local authors, poets, and professors whom we respect and admire. The staff of Wild Iris has offered the undergraduate literary community a home. The free ad space we have given them in return seems hardly worth all of that they have given us, and we hope they know our appreciation. Tea is also grateful to the Honors Program this year for providing us with the means to reach a wider audience. The Honors Program is committed to promoting the Humanities and Arts here at the University of Florida, and their continued faith is encouraging. Finally, thank you to all of the artists who submitted this year and all those that support and nurture art on campus.
Letter from the Editor Dear Readers, Tea came out of the zine and coffee-shop culture of the mid-nineties. We’ve changed alongside the changing expectation for literary good times. You may be tempted to guffaw at the phrase “zine and coffee-shop culture,” but it may be time to consider that these things that fell from popular use after the rise of internet memes and the ever-reproducing Starbuxi do deserve some respect. What have Florida’s priorities been since the 90s? I won’t rail against budget cuts in the arts and humanities. I won’t express sadness about the fall of so many independent book stores or the later fall of major bookstore chains. People still read. I am here to tell you that fear over online bookstores and digital books, and the derision spat at experimental art, is something that should not affect our experience as the next generation of readers and artists. We at Tea have no fear of the non-paper book. We are excited by its possibilities. Literature, for us, is a pushing forward of something from the past mingled with something completely new. We are not so picky about how much of art is classic. In these pages you will find the fine writing and visual art we think deserves to be looked at now and in the future. These are the works of young visionaries— those people of our generation that we hope will speak for us in all of the possible literatures to come. We hope our magazine looks, in its print and its digital forms, aware of history and the current cultural landscape, but also as if it is pressing ahead.
Teaâ€™s form has changed with the times, but we remain the supporters of new, undergraduate voices in art and literature at the University of Florida. The University and the State legislature may choose to cut and slash the departments we study in, but the student population and Student Government of UF support the arts and free thought. Tea is not like other literary magazines. We do not pretend that you, dear Readers, have had the pleasure of our company before. It is unlikely. Instead, we lay out for you a moment in art that can entertain you and make you think, but that is also worth holding on to. Many of the names you see in these pages will go on to be big names. Literature is about a kind of interconnectedness, and we are so glad that you have decided to become a part of our network. This year we are pleased to be offering new awards for great work. An anonymous donor has endowed us with the means to start awarding the Palmetto Prize for Prose to an author with an original voice to be watched. The Honors Department, in its respect and love for the humanities, has offered the Blackbird Prize for Poetry for one exceptional poem by an Honors student. In an age where prestige has become increasingly important for artists to get discovered and to have staying power, we are excited to help launch the careers of two promising writers. Read good, Ââ€” STEVEN SALPETER Editor-in-Chief
The Palmetto Prize for Prose We are all connected—I speak of cellphone towers, internet, and the fun, networked ways we fortunate people can spend our leisure time. This connection has brought us masses of information and endless works to add to digital libraries. More and more we rely on Wikipedia and Google results. Though we would not be citing these pages in something written in MLA or APA, Wiki & co. have made research easy. Take the University’s Alma Mater song, which extolls the virtues of the State’s “pine and palm” and the campus’s “Gothic walls” and “vine clad halls.” Quick searches reveal that only a small percent of campus’s buildings are Gothic, the Physical Plant now takes down the vines because they’re bad for building facades, and pines are some of the trees most likely to fall during hurricanes, in part because many are non-native and can’t stand floods and winds. The palmetto is a native plant. They’re not exactly a part of campus tradition, but they are integral to the Florida landscape. This year, an anonymous donor endowed us with the means to reward an undergraduate writer with cash and commendations. We reached out to the Creative Writing Suite, and Jill Ciment was kind enough to help us select which story was most deserving of the prize and the title Palmetto. John Moran’s “Teach Her To Swim” has some real emotional heft. The language is beautiful. The story is exceptional. He has faith in us, his readers, to get his meaning. John Moran has big things to say and he refuses to say them in a way you’ve heard before. We hope you’ll take notice of John as a powerfully good Floridian author. John is the first of many Palmettos. A plaque is to be erected on the fourth floor of Turlington to honor John and the Palmettos that are still to come. —Tea
The Blackbird Poetry Prize Emily Dickinson told us that true poems flee. The winner of the inaugural Blackbird Poetry Prize does just that—sets a scene that we can see, hear, taste, and smell without giving it all away. Carmen Dolling’s “In The End We Threw A Party” is smart and witty with a good rhythm that gives us just enough to be able to fill in the missing details. The Blackbird Prize is sponsored by the UF Honors Program with funds provided by the Wentworth Scholarship Fund. By now, you’re asking two questions: (1) Why would a mathematician want to sponsor a poetry prize? and (2) Why call it the Blackbird Prize? To answer the first, I must confess to a lifelong interest in writing and reading poetry. Luckily there are no known copies of my high school literary magazine around to embarrass me, but I still write poems occasionally. As a mathematician I prefer to write poems that have to follow some rules such as haikus, tankas, sestinas, and villanelles. I am not about to quit my day job, though. As for the prize name, it is inspired by one of my favorite poems. The stanza that evokes the strongest feelings for me is the thirteenth of Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”: It was evening all afternoon. It was snowing And it was going to snow. The blackbird sat In the cedar limbs. This may not make sense to Floridians, but as a native of North Carolina (where it does snow at least occasionally) I understand this stanza completely. When I read it I can hear the snow falling and smell the crispness of the air and see my breath, even when I’m sweating out a Florida summer. If that isn’t reason enough to read poetry, I don’t know what is. —DR. KEVIN KNUDSON Director, UF Honors Program Professor of Mathematics
About Our Selection Process Each year, Tea Literary Magazine bases its content on impartial votes by the various committees of our editorial staff. The magazine is entirely studentproduced and any undergraduate student attending UF can participate in the selection process. All submissions are emailed directly to the Editor-in-Chief of Tea. Reviews are conducted by individual visual art, poetry, and prose committees. The staff meets weekly and, during these meetings, works are displayed with their creatorsâ€™ names redacted. This is the first time anyone present at the meetings views each work. Only the Editor-in-Chief knows the identity of those who have submitted works for review. He or she does not vote, except in the instance of a tie. In this way, each work is selected anonymously. Those present discuss the integrity, mechanics, and technics of the submissions. Keeping this in mind, the committees votes on whether each piece moves on for further review. If a majority agrees that a work deserves more deliberation, it will be saved for the final round of selection. Our Managing Editor keeps a record of these works. During the final round, no commentary is made. In a single meeting for each category, the entirety of the final selection is decided. Members of selection committees rate each piece with a numerical value. The highest averaging works are slated for publication. Only after the total selection is determined for each category are the identities of their creators revealed. Because of the anonymity we afford our submitters, staff members are permitted to submit to the magazine. We do not, in any form, give preferential treatment to any poetry, prose, or work of visual art submitted by staff members. Tea has spent more than a decade perfecting our review process and we take it very seriously. The result is a magazine that represents the best work produced by our student body as a whole. Those interested in being published in Tea 15 should submit their work to email@example.com. We look forward to your submission.
S TA F F
Steven Salpeter CO-EDITOR
Chase Burke BUSINESS MANAGER
Lee Thomas Penn EXECUTIVE PROSE EDITOR
EXECUTIVE POETRY EDITOR K immy Kemler
Caitlin Henderson PROSE EDITORS
Leonie Barkakati Cynthia Braasch Matt Kriete Colleen McTiernan Kathleen Oâ€™Lear y Kelly Stephens ADDITIONAL REVIEWERS
Katie McPherson Brittany Phillips Marla Rosen Katherine Scott
Carmen Dolling Kimmy Kemler Jeanette Kerstein Anna Mebel Anna Walters
Katharine Curcio Danny Ennis Bailey Meadows Jennifer Murray Alina Shaafi Brittany Wienke
[ P OET RY]
[ F ICT IO N ]
[ VISU A L A RT]
Cover | BAILEY MEADOWS + ALINA SHAAFI Tiny layers of compartmentalized fire | CHASE BURKE
Leaking | JESSICA COOK
Hating fun. | DANNY ENNIS
That Uplift | JESSICA COOK
The New Frontier, 1984 | ERICA KENICK
It was on the fifth floor when I told you | IAN ROWE
Back of the Bus | KERI MILLER
Light Study #5 | KELSEY OLSON
On Reading Lolita | ANNA WALTERS
A Study of Symmetrical Dysfunction | JORDAN KADY
How to take your leave and disappear without interrupting anybody CHASE BURKE
Escape | ANDREA E. SARCOS
Adeline took off for the coast | CHASE BURKE
Too Much | HANNAH DWYER
The mysterious Dr. Hercules raises a curtain and reveals... JAY ROSEN
Last Note From a Luddite Cyborg | KIMMY KEMLER
At My Grandfather’s Funeral | ANNA WALTERS
girl3 | ZAC THOMPSON
Trinity | ASHLEY BUCKLER
Invitation to a Ghost | ANNA MEBEL
Teach Her to Swim | JOHN MORAN
Motel 6 in Late November | ANNA WALTERS
Self-Portrait | CHARLES HEDRICK
Fleet | CAROLYN PORRAS
Figures with Two Doors and Chair | CHARLES HEDRICK
Holiday | ERICA KENICK
No Kidding | JEFF HORN
What Has Happened to You, Semicolon? | KIMMY KEMLER
Mountain #1 | CAROLYN PORRAS
If a television set were edible, like pot roast or maybe apple pie CHASE BURKE
Balloon | EMILIO SOLA
Perception III | JAY ROSEN
Compartmentalizing | JORDAN KADY
Untitled (Glaciers) | LEAH A. AUGUSTINE
The immediate impression gleaned from locking eyes with a stranger in the moment it takes a restaurantâ€™s door to open and swing shut CHASE BURKE
Laserwolf | JESSICA COOK
In the End We Threw a Party | CARMEN DOLLING
Tiny layers of compartmentalized fire CHASE BURKE Memory climbs my spine like a chill or an imagined spider—thin tufts of scopulae adhering to water particles on my skin, the fluctuation of polarization. I know nothing ever really touches, not fingers snapping or feet striking the ground, not my hand cradling your neck, my fingers tangled in your hair, not our bodies sliding as we trade the physical memories of what it is to be the other for a breath’s brief moment. Years ago, I told you that we are empty, that we’re just open space, a molecular gulf separating the bright collections of white heat I imagine as street-scattered lampposts on a summer night. You laughed at me. If I were the god of my own atoms, I would bring them together with yours to negate the space that we can’t see, and we would glow like clusters of nebulous fire against the walls of your dark bedroom, blooming light to the rhythm of our breath.
[ P O E TRY ] 1
Leaking, Jessica Cook | acrylic paint and ink on water color paper, 9”x12”
Hating fun. DANNY ENNIS I take a sip of gin and tonic and Red Bull, looking wildly around even though I’m old enough to be having fun. The roller coaster and Gravitron and Ferris wheel are all about twenty feet away, and I still can’t choose between them. I choose the Gravitron. It can whip its passengers around at speeds so high that my normal right to gravity’s pull is revoked and I have to make the walls into the floor. The hot dog in my stomach has had the same right revoked and it starts pressing against the lining of my stomach. Oh god even the ketchup is hitting the same wall. Packing against the lining in my stomach. Relax little stomach guy, it’ll be over in just a— Oh god this taste is so putrid. Why did I drink so much soda? [ FI C TI O N]
Kissing and hugging and fingers lingering softly on my cheeks – how do the extra 69 years that my grandmother has earned make these so much more disgusting? But I thought kisses were supposed to be nice? I only feel those wrinkled fingers grabbing my cheeks like she’s spent her whole life in a bathtub and finally gotten out of that tub just to rip my cheeks off. Doesn’t she have anything better to do than rip my cheeks off ? Maybe the kissing would be better if her condo didn’t remind me of eating macaroni and watching cartoons. But I’ve dated enough girls who have fed me macaroni and fucked me as we watched cartoons, so I doubt that’s why the kissing isn’t better. She’s leaning in again wearing that wool and there’s the chambray cloth poking through underneath. Who knew that zippers could lose sexuality? If only she fed me one meal other than macaroni and milk. Then maybe I could look at her straight and tell her I love her and not mean that I hate her. Instead I only eat cheese and noodles and go to the bathroom and try to forget about the whole experience. 4 TEA
In the hospital I am always more nervous. This time it’s my fault. Well I wouldn’t say my fault. But this is one of the few times I’ll confess there’s a god so I have someone to blame it on. I’ve been here for hours and they keep telling me to rate my pain and I am a modest guy so I tell them I’m a 7 but I don’t really know what that scale is on. Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. We won’t tell you whether 10 is the most painful or if 1 is the most painful. The girl across from me just got here. She could be pregnant but it’s hard to tell because she looks so miserable. She throws up in the middle of the ER. I’ve been here for hours. I’m not in enough pain to throw up. I want to throw up. Not because I think it will help. Just because I think it will help me get sent back sooner. The girl is checked by a triage nurse. Are they nurses? She’s sent back immediately. There’s puke all over the ER waiting area. I’ve never been more jealous of someone else throwing up. Why didn’t I tell them I was a 10? Or a 1. [ FI C TI O N]
My grandmother comes out of nowhere. In the ER. She lives four hours away. Who sent her? Her? HER? I think about throwing up in her purse because it would be funny and I hate her. Where is my family? 6 TEA
On simple nights I am able to sit on my roof and teeter between sobbing maybe gallons of tears and rolling completely off because the shingles are digging into my butt. On nights when my parents are gone I am able to sneak Miller High Lifes onto the rooftop and hop between houses because they are close enough together. I regret bringing the High Lifes. Usually. But they make it feel better to be on top and sometimes I bring friends but not tonight. I live in a zero-lot-line cul-de-sac so when I have hopped from one roof to the next all the way to the house directly across from my own, I throw anything I can grab at the windows and my grandmother inside. She knows I’m up here, I’m sure. I don’t try to hide the sounds of doors slamming or me shouting FUCK YOU GRANDMA to her. I probably shouldn’t blame her or make her take the shouting. When I say FUCK YOU GRANDMA, I probably mean FUCK YOU SCHOOL or FUCK YOU MTV or FUCK YOU JERKS THAT MAKE FUN OF ME but it’s easier just to say FUCK YOU GRANDMA because nobody else will listen. She doesn’t listen either because she can’t hear much but she probably knows. [ FI C TI O N]
The Gravitron makes me lose my balance. I try to stand perpendicular to the foamy blue wall and run around in a circle like I saw someone do when I was younger. When I didn’t hate the fun. He probably wasn’t drinking gin beforehand, though. I guess my knees gave out as soon as I started to go horizontal. Then my head. Then my chest. Then the puke. In my mouth. Because gravity doesn’t work like I want it to. Then the Gravitron slows and I don’t remember falling from the walls but I’m sure I fall. I’m sure I’m falling. I can only scream FUCK YOU GRANDMA. And then there she is looking down at me in my hospital gown telling me to move along because we need to get out before they charge us. 8 TEA
Before they charge us? I say. SHh, she says. What the FUCK, Grandma. She pretends not to hear it. Grab your clothes, she says. Turn around, I tell her. She peeks out of the hospital room. Where’s Mom? I ask. SHh, she says. Then: Chicago, she says. Are you even still allowed to drive? I ask her. She pretends not to hear it. Don’t they already have my information to charge us? I say. SHh. I took care of it, she says. My jeans are on and my T-shirt is on and my socks are on but my mind is somewhere else. Pretend like you don’t look so miserable, she says. Okay, I say. Okay, I say. [ FI C TI O N]
That Uplift, Jessica Cook | acrylic paint, and ink on card, 8”x11”
The New Frontier, 1984 ERIKA KENICK Plans for space are made in English. On the night of June 10, HOE’s hit-to-kill kinetic collision broke the hush of a full moon. It glowed a petulant O. Six years later, the cold russet nose of Discovery appeared and The Week of Blurry Stars ensued. Hubble’s mirror had been ground down slant. The steadfast crew voyaged back five times in pursuit of life. Each picture showed nothing but confetti-shred stars and distant galaxies like puncture scars. Soon civilians will be sent to the moon. Tickets will be dispersed lottery style: gold wires in Hershey kisses. Grandpa says he remembers the eclipse in 1982 after that winter’s awful frost. He tried to hold his breath till the moon reappeared from the shadow, the silence, and space dust.
Editor’s Note: In 1990, the first images recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope were blurry due to a spherical aberration in the optical system’s primary mirror, which had been made about 2,200 nanometers too flat at the edges. This slight miscalculation made it impossible for the telescope to take clear pictures of stars. [ P O E TRY ] 11
It was on the fifth floor when I told you IAN ROWE that a good woman should smell like a tangerine wrapped in a foreign language. After she walks past you should feel hungry and well-traveled. I was naked above the covers. It was cold and I wanted to pull the ceiling down over me like a blanket. You opened the window to let the rain in and asked, “What about you?” You said, “What is it that makes a decent man?” A decent man, I explained, should glisten like fruit being sold on the sidewalk. We should look suspicious and healthy. We should sing baritone in the mornings and play accordion at night for our lovers. We should do each of these things in the nude, as a decent man is never ashamed of his nakedness and makes an effort of his undulations. I swung my arms with this and you laughed at me, and so I stretched even higher for the ceiling above me, my fingers splayed apart like the bloom of a firework. Are you going to help me with this? I asked, and you smiled dimly and said nothing, you just turned to look back out the window. Did you know, I said, that a hurricane weighs as much as a hundred million elephants? Only you didn’t turn around. You just shook your head no, and it felt like you had already packed our suitcases, like we were already going home. I rolled over and faced the wall. Are you still upset about what happened? I asked. During the reception of my sister’s wedding you slapped me. I had pulled up your dress on the dance floor and didn’t understand. I had only wanted people to know how much we love each other. The only place available for an argument was a tub with gnarled feet, and you fell back and folded up there, bent and cross-legged under black and white patterns. You crossed both your arms. You refused to even look at me. Though there was no water in the tub I was worried you would drown there. I stared at your legs and considered brushing my hand up them, up past your dimpled knee to where your dress hung loosely like a low expectation. You started to cry and so I stopped. You said my name. “Please,” you said, holding on to me, tears streaking dark fingers down your chin. “Take me somewhere quiet. Take me somewhere quiet that isn’t home.”
I had mentioned that same morning that it looked like rain, and so we stayed inside and fed each other sugar with our clothes on the floor of another room. Or I’d dreamt that. You wanted to go swimming but I swore I’d heard thunder, and said there was a stampede right outside our window, if you could only stop staring and just listen for a minute. In the end, it was only us slamming doors because we were fighting about something. The staff came to the room to ask if we might afford some courtesy for our neighbors. This isn’t a party, I yelled, at a woman whose name I don’t remember. This is an invasion of privacy! This is listening to a stranger through a very thin wall! I slammed the door and we agreed that the thunder did, in fact, sound terrible. I walked up behind you and slid my hands down your shoulders. I told you that I wanted to paint you something. You said that art was a room full of people talking about their favorite sexual positions. You said that paintings made you feel excluded. I told you I loved you and you said it sounded like I was giving you directions. I said it again and you told me it felt like getting bad news over the telephone. I was falling asleep and waking up to you looking out the window, worried about how many conversations we had actually had, contemplating a gray sky full of elephants while you considered their wrinkles, wondering whether or not they were coming or going. I couldn’t explain to you that I’d thrown it on the ground because it came from my sister’s leg. The room was a chorus of a low hum, and when I followed the wood to your feet I saw the tops of flowers hanging upside down in your palm. How could I explain myself to you? What could I have said to make sense? I already knew that when we went home you would move out. I would pass the time learning to play accordion for your ghost. I would cut open oranges. Oranges being their sweetest during winter. Different springs came and when they did I walked from room to room expecting to see you by the window, your back turned like a canvas, my arms stretched toward the ceiling to rip it open like wax paper, knowing that if I could peel back its edges I would see you there, blowing through the sky amidst a hundred million elephants, waving all the while and looking down to say hello where I could see you, and you could see, really, for the very first time, just how naked I am. [ P O E TRY ] 13
Back of the Bus KERI MILLER Amy’s best friend Hannah lived in a small, teal house with a pitched roof. The yellow school bus that Hannah’s mother drove was parked in the front yard. “Can we sleep on the bus?” Amy asked Hannah one Friday night after school. “My mom said I can spend the night since I got an A on my social studies test.” “Ask my mom,” Hannah replied without looking up from her National Geographic. She liked to cut out pictures of sea animals and tape them on her bedroom walls. She was sometimes embarrassed that her mom was the bus driver. Upon entering the sixth grade, Hannah and Amy decided to sit in the back of the bus so that they would be the last ones to exit and no one would see Hannah receive her mother’s have-a-nice-day kiss. Sometimes the girls played on the bus. Hannah’s mother didn’t mind as long as they didn’t mess with anything. They had created a game with Hannah’s little brother and his small, shirtless friends who had dirt stuck in the snot around their noses. The game was called Groundhog and it consisted of everyone crawling under the seats and popping up quickly while one person tried to hit them with paper balls. “You ask her,” Amy said, belly down on the carpeted floor of the bedroom. After Hannah didn’t respond Amy reached over and started poking her in the rib cage. Hannah got up to ask her mom. 14 TEA
A seventh-grade girl named Carly rode their bus and had boobs and a small plastic water gun. She once shot Amy in the cheek. When Amy turned around to face her assailant, Carly began to squirt her and Hannah and called out, “Why don’t you two lesbians just go ahead and make out!” Neither Amy nor Hannah knew what to say. Another time while Hannah was reading a book with her head against the bus window, Amy saw Carly reach her hand down the front of a boy’s pants. He was fifteen and had been held back. They were sitting across from Amy, and she watched out of the corner of her eye but didn’t tell Hannah. His boxers were sticking out of his pants at the top and were blue and green plaid. In the doorway of her bedroom Hannah looked at Amy, who was still on the floor. “She said it’s fine, as long as we don’t mess anything up.” “Well, let’s get some blankets.” Amy popped up off of the floor. “And some chocolate!” It was humid out so they opened every single window on the bus, each going down opposite rows. Hannah was always afraid of pinching her fingers as the windows slid halfway down. The girls draped blankets on top of a few seats, creating a fortress where they pretended to be in an underwater hotel, watching an octopus outside the window. “I want to sleep in the last seat, on the right,” Amy said. “Where Ryan sits?” Hannah asked, shyly. “So?” “You love him.” Hannah giggled and threw her pillow at Amy. It was true. Amy loved Ryan. She loved the way his hair was dark but his eyes were blue and when he talked the tip of his nose moved, slightly, so you could really only see it if you were close enough. She hadn’t noticed it until he sat behind her on the bus, tapped her shoulder, and asked her for a piece of gum. “He’s too old,” Hannah said. “Only a little over two years, his birthday’s in July.” Amy got up out of the fort and moved to the very back seat, on the right. She had been wanting to sit in the seat the whole night. “I’m kind of tired,” Amy said, upon sitting. “I’m not, I had too much chocolate,” Hannah said in her Minnie Mouse voice. Amy picked up her pillow and threw it at Hannah who ducked just in time— after all, she was the best Groundhog. Amy laid her head down on the seat pointing towards the window, the side where Ryan sat, and thunder rumbled in the distance. “Uh-oh!” Hannah emerged from behind the seat and pretended to run, lifting her knees really high in the air, down the aisle to the seat across from Amy. “I don’t want to sleep in Carly’s seat.” “Well move up one,” Amy said. “But...” Thunder rumbled again. Hannah actually was tired, but didn’t think she would be able to sleep because of the oncoming storm. “Have you ever kissed a boy?” Amy asked. [ FI C TI O N]
“No—” Hannah said, choking on the O a little bit. “I would’ve told you.” “Do you know what it’s like?” Amy asked. “No. “Me either.” A bolt of lightning flashed and was followed by thunder. “Six seconds! Six seconds, Amy!” Hannah shrieked. “You know that means the storm is only six miles away, right?” “You know that a car with rubber tires, or a bus with even more rubber tires, is the safest place to be in a storm?” Amy said. Having hidden under her pillow, Hannah’s voice was muffled when she said, “I bet a house is safer!” “I want to stay on the bus.” One time Amy had seen a boy and girl making out in the park. They were on top of a picnic table and the boy was on top of the girl. Amy stood at the top of the slide and quickly went down it when they paused and caught her looking at them. She had not known that people did that kind of stuff in the daytime. “Who do you like, Hannah?” Amy asked. “No one,” Hannah said from under her pillow. “Yeah right.” “I’m serious.” “I don’t believe you. I see you looking at Cody in homeroom all the time.” Hannah brought her head out from under her pillow and said, “I only look at him because he always has a chocolate-milk mustache.” “I think he’s cute.” “You do?” “Yeah, he has nice eyebrows.” “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I think he’s Italian.” Hannah sat up in her seat. “I have an idea.” Amy sat up in her seat, too. “What?” “I’m going to pretend that the back of this seat is Ryan and you pretend the back of that seat is Cody.” “Why?” “We’re going to kiss them.” “The seats?” “No. I’m going to kiss Ryan and you’re going to kiss Cody.” “I am not kissing this nasty seat.” “Doesn’t your mom clean them?” “I don’t know.” Lightning struck again, closer, and the thunder shook the windows slightly. Hannah didn’t seem to notice this time. “OK.” Amy turned her head and faced the back of the seat in front of her, closed her eyes and quickly put her lips against the vinyl. “See, now you have to do it.” Hannah turned her head and quickly kissed the back of the seat in front of her. 16 TEA
“Now, you have to do it longer, like it was really him,” Amy said. They turned their heads and kissed their seats, lips pressed hard for at least five Mississippi-seconds, until a flash of lightning shone through their eyelids and startled them into laughing. “It tastes like glue and dust.” Amy said. “Eww, you tasted it?” “Yeah, you’re supposed to kiss with a little bit of your tongue.” “Not always.” “Yes, always,” Amy said. “Now try it with your tongue. Pretend it’s Cody and make out with him.” “No way.” “How are you going to know how to do it if you’ve never tried before?” Hannah couldn’t come up with an argument. “You do it first,” she said. “Fine.” Amy pressed her lips against the seat that Ryan brushed with his stomach every time he stood up to get off the bus. She opened her mouth and stuck her tongue out, closing her mouth and opening it again, moving her head just a tiny bit. She sat back up, her eyes glossy with her own imagination. “I want to go inside,” Hannah said. “Why?” “Because of the storm.” “Ugh, don’t be a baby.” “Well fine, I’m going to sleep in the tent then. It’s safer.” Amy lay down and put her sweaty palm as flat as she could on Ryan’s seat and fell asleep to the sound of wind blowing in the trees across the street. Hannah lay in her fort, staring at the pattern of dolphins on the bed sheet above her head, unable to sleep.
[ FI C TI O N]
Light Study #5, Kelsey Olson | digital archival print 18 TEA
On Reading Lolita ANNA WALTERS I press my nose into the gutter of the curved pages in an unread first-edition, uncovered beneath a stack of post-war encyclopedias, its sweet and musky scent intoxicating like hair rinsed in rose water. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” I slink further down the trunk of the oak, and scan the courtyard for Sister Catherine. Eyeing the closed doors, I wonder if I had imagined Mr. Callahan’s stare lingering on the hem of Suzette’s tartan skirt. Rita’s saddle-shoe steps break my focus at page 106. Her name reminds me of the hurricane that wrecked our porch last August. Outside of homeroom, her plain face seems brighter. Old H.H. would probably remark on the downy blond hairs softening the bend of her knee or the rush of blood beneath her delicate cheeks. He’d long to brush her neck with parted lips and breathe in the warmth of her honey-hued shoulder— not me, though. I couldn’t think such things.
[ P O E TRY ] 19
A Study of Symmetrical Dysfunction This playful deconstruction addresses the human desire to impose order on our surroundings, represented in perfectly symmetrical portraits of a fictional individual whose work involves the taxonomy of the compositionally perfect Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). The life of this character is shaped by aesthetic choices within the series. She is photographed over the course of her daily life and her work appears in every image in the form of a small moth, butterfly, or flying bug. They appear sometimes hidden, sometimes blatant, but they always amusingly destroy the symmetry of each composition. The narrative begins in the comfort of the home surrounded by the things the subject loves and the control of the environment she craves. Over the course of the narrative, the symmetry begins to crack and shatter. As the subject begins to move further away from her home, her control over the surrounding environment begins to slip, and a breakdown becomes evident in both the visual structure of the series and her countenance. At the mailbox, a door is left open, and a butterfly stamp ruins the order. On the bus, a necklace is unknowingly askew. In front of a class, the wind blows a skirt amiss, and a book cover depicts winged creatures in asymmetrical flight. In the museum, a display seems randomly organized. In the library, the books on her subjects creep from the shelves. And finally, in nature set loose in a butterfly garden, the symmetry breaks down completely. The order is gone, sacrificed to the whims of the butterflies that embody the chaos of the natural world. This ill-fated character’s attempt to force order on disorder is a moralizing tale. It began, in part, as a farcical look at our own neurotic idiosyncrasies as we organize our lives on shelves and in boxes or try to catalog the chaos of nature in books and research. The resulting narrative is a cautionary one—a depiction of the error in forcing perfection on the natural, beautiful disorder of life. —JORDAN 20 TEA
A Study of Symmetrical Dysfunction, Jordan Kady [ V I S U A L A RT] 21
A Study of Symmetrical Dysfunction, Jordan Kady
[ V I S U A L A RT] 23
A Study of Symmetrical Dysfunction, Jordan Kady | silver gelatin prints
How to take your leave and disappear without interrupting anybody CHASE BURKE Get on the nearest plane and fly to Barcelona. If you can, arrive at night. Take the Aerobús into the city and see the sights. Marvel at Gaudí. Send a postcard to your family. Your girlfriend, your dog, your landlady. Don’t forget your beta fish circling its bowl. Avoid the crowds. Or better yet, embrace them: the man carrying a pale chair over his shoulder; the children in the fountain of Plaça Catalunya. Feed the pigeons. Keep to the coast and travel north. Learn to water ski. Hang glide over the Mediterranean. See Llavaneres, where Appalachia meets Miami. Take a photo of yourself, save it for posterity. Meet a girl, trade virginities. Give away a lot of things. Buy balloons, let them go. Call your mother, let her go. Be a tourist. Lack impression. Look for work, and find it. Buy a house, or just a place to live. Convince yourself it’s not temporary. Grow old in Barcelona: find a wife, have children; don’t forget the beta fish, floating in its bowl. Discard memories like so many clipped wings. Construct new ones out of feathers and candle wax. Leave your old life as a hazy pane of glass. Buy a journal, sit outside—maybe with your children, maybe with your wife—and write. Find the words that explain your feelings. Write them down. Look for patterns in the cobblestone. Stand your ground against the lazy slide of days. Trace your shadow in the sand. Send your words away, folded and flung into the bordering turquoise sea. Editor’s Note: Sant Andreu de Llavaneres is a municipality on the Mediterranean coast of Spain about twenty-five miles north of Barcelona. In certain areas along the coast, mountainous terrain directly borders long, wide beaches, separated only by neighborhoods and a stretch of highway. [ P O E TRY ] 25
Escape, Andrea E. Sarcos | ink jet print, 13”x18”
Adeline took off for the coast CHASE BURKE Adeline sometimes acts out of character. Six days ago she left our apartment in Columbus for the coast, by bus and out of the blue, after telling me that she didn’t want to deal with things any more, that this environment was hopeless. She left our car sitting in its spot in the parking lot. She’s done this before, the running away, but it’s strange that she would go anywhere near the ocean considering that years ago a friend of hers was attacked by a shark while vacationing in Pensacola. That effectively killed any coastal desires she might have been harboring. I didn’t follow her, not at first. I’m predictable, and sometimes I make it a point to be unpredictable or to do the opposite of my gut reaction. She expected me to follow her immediately, and I think a part of her wanted me to, because if I did she would be proven right. Her patterns were easy enough to recognize—her leaving like this wasn’t uncommon. She was testing me, of course. I knew how to pass this one. I was confident. Adeline, Adeline, I know your thoughts, and you only think that you know mine. Sometimes I think the most volatile of us are the easiest to pin down and understand. What was truly out of character about all of this, about her leaving in the middle of a Thursday night with only a backpack and two hundred dollars and a note left on the table for me saying, “Don’t follow me, we can’t continue like this,” or something to that effect, was that she was pregnant with our child, and she was due in three months. Why leave then, Adeline? But still I waited, for a week—six days. Her note said she was going to stay with her mother in Daytona, where she moved after Adeline left for college too many years ago. I set out to find her the next Wednesday at 5 a.m. I felt like a search party in a war, I was saving Private Ryan, I was alive, oh I felt alive. ... [ FI C TI O N]
Adeline says “picture” and you think “baseball.” Her fingers are narrow and longer than mine, delicate things meant for plucking, for small spaces. She has a way of laughing that sort of brings you in. She is inclusive. Her brother lives in California and she calls him every other day. She is two years older than me. She taught me how to drive stick. Some early mornings she practices yoga on a towel on our living-room floor, the old TV turned to Animal Planet or infomercials. She stopped doing it when she found out she was pregnant, but then read in a magazine that yoga is beneficial to pregnant women if done correctly, so she started up again. She asks me to join her, sometimes. Our couch is as old as I am. She wants to replace it, but I can never find the means. I drove all day on Wednesday, stopping four times to get gas. At the gas stations I bought food: chips and pretzels, Gatorade, a slice of lukewarm pizza around noon. At each stop I bought cigarettes and lottery tickets and left Adeline a voicemail saying that I was on my way. In college I once won a thousand dollars on a scratch-off. I used to keep a ledger of the amount of money I was putting into tickets compared to the amount I was winning, but I stopped doing that a few years ago. By the time I reached Atlanta I had emptied four packs of cigarettes, but when all you’re doing is driving and surfing radio stations you go on autopilot with stuff like that. I was up sixteen dollars on my tickets. I bought ten at a time and scratched them off while I drove. I hadn’t been to Atlanta in four years, when I took Adeline to see Wilco. We had been running late and had to park a few streets away from the venue. We got lost after the concert and spent an hour looking for my car, and she finally gave up and sat underneath a streetlight in a corner of the city that neither of us knew. She leaned against the post with her forearms resting on her knees, her hands hanging between her legs. She carried cigarettes with her, but only so she could give them to bums when they asked for change. She took one out and asked me for my lighter. Unlike me, Adeline does not smoke. She did then, but only the one cigarette. Small curls of gray encircled her head. In that moment, I felt she was beyond me. I was twenty-one and young and taken with her. I lay on the sidewalk with my head near her left foot. She gave me a cigarette. She held hers like she’d been smoking all her life. To this day, after eight years of the things, I look awkward with a cigarette in my hand. We found the car fifteen minutes later nearer to the venue than we’d thought; we’d missed it by a street. Adeline wanted to get married when she found out she was pregnant last March. I wanted to wait. She dropped out of her writing program at Ohio State. She began writing for a small magazine. She had a story published in a college review in mid-summer that paid well, or well for us. I wanted to finish school but knew that it wasn’t feasible, not right then. I had been at City College of New York but was a couple of years behind her, and so I had dropped out my junior year to move to Columbus with her when she was accepted to Ohio State. There never 28 TEA
seemed to be enough money. We’re still young, I always told her. There’s time. She wasn’t even twenty-eight yet. I kept hoping that I would hit it big again. I met Adeline at CCNY when she was in her third year and was twenty-one. I had just started and was nineteen, having spent a year working nothing jobs in the city. She approached me, and that is something I will always remember. I was sitting at a small table in a coffee shop, a book of poems open and ignored, my thoughts hung-over, unfocused. And then she was sitting across from me and asking me about my studies and saying that we had a class together and that we should get coffee sometime, to which I said I already had coffee, to which she replied the same, and then she laughed, and before I knew it we had talked for two hours and I had missed my classes, something I didn’t realize until I had taken the subway halfway home. We had an argument that I remember perfectly, as if it happened yesterday, had always just happened, was forever fresh. It was over money and my habits and her desire to get out off of 5th Avenue and out of the student ghetto, and over our inability to make that happen. It was a two-way street, she said. It’s a two-way street and you need to meet me in the middle. You can’t win an apartment. You can’t win a home from scratch-offs. I knew what she meant. I knew what was needed. I know that she was right because she always is. I convince myself otherwise at times because I need to be unpredictable, because I need to be something other than myself. And Adeline knew this, and Adeline knows this, and she knows that I always try. She comes around, and she sees things through my eyes like I see them through hers. We argued in our room and I sat with my head leaning against the bed. She stood in the doorway in her red-and-white striped underwear. Our exchange of words kept us fixated on each other and incapable of moving. Fights do that. You find yourself unable and unwilling to move. I took a hitchhiker from Atlanta to Jacksonville. He was old and squinted through bushy eyebrows that nearly enveloped his forehead. When he talked he spoke in a half-drunk slur accented by nose twitches that shook his drooping moustache. He slept most of the car ride. I left Adeline a message again, asking why she hadn’t called me back. This was strange. I’d waited a while before coming down here, I reminded her. Isn’t that what she wanted? That was the right call, and it was unexpected—how unlike me, Adeline! While the hitchhiker was sleeping, I rifled through his coat pockets and found thirty dollars. I took ten, which seemed fair. After I dropped him off, I turned the ten into scratch-offs and the scratch-offs into nothing. This is how I imagine her leave-taking: She’s got a bag packed and a smile on her face. She’s scribbling a note and setting it on the table, and the words are playful in their don’t-follow-me declaration. She doesn’t move too fast because of [ FI C TI O N]
her stomach, and she keeps a hand—it’s her left, it’s always her left—resting on what will be our child. She makes sure to turn off the lights in our apartment. I have been calling Adeline from my car because I’m in Daytona and I can’t remember how to get to her mother’s house. She hasn’t answered. I called her mother and didn’t get an answer there, either. I assume they are together. I’m waiting in a hotel, a cheap place, the cheapest I could find. There’s a gas station down the road, walking distance, and I should probably go for some cigarettes, though my chest and throat hurt. I leave my room and walk toward the gas station. I’m nowhere near the ocean but I imagine that I can hear waves. The sound of cars passing in the dark. I didn’t know the girl who was attacked by the shark in Pensacola. That thought of waves and blood terrifies me. My hotel is on the outskirts of Daytona, and everything is so flat. Lights look strange out here, something to do with perspective. I don’t like Florida. I’d rather be back in New York, or even Columbus in our shitty apartment with the ratty couch and the small TV and the thoughts of everything I can’t afford. My head hurts. I’m standing in front of the gas station, which is on the other side of the four-lane road from the hotel. There aren’t any cars, not for a while. I imagine crossing back and reaching the middle of the road as two semi trucks materialize out of the dark and weave out of their respective lanes on a collision course, blind to the fact that I am frozen to a spot that will cease to exist when they ram each other at eighty-five miles per hour. That would be a spectacle. That would be an event. Adeline would read about it in the paper and never know it was me because my wallet would have been incinerated along with my clothes and my body, because the only outcome of such a collision is an explosion, or at least a fire to melt my body down to nothing. Oil and gasoline would ruin my DNA. I’d be anonymous in Daytona. My child would not know a father. I don’t know if I will have a son or a daughter. Adeline, Adeline, I know your thoughts, and this isn’t how you are. I cross the street. The gas station is cold. I have five dollars and two scratchoffs, each for a free ticket. I forgo the cigarettes. I leave the gas station and walk back toward the hotel, and I call Adeline. There’s just enough light from the scattered streetlights for me to see, and I take a dime to the first ticket as I wait to leave Adeline a voicemail. I have seven tickets. I will leave a message for each one. I want her to hear my voice if one of them is a big winner. She would call me back.
Too Much, Hannah Dwyer | pen, watercolor, pencil on paper, 20â€?x26â€?
[ V I S U A L A RT] 31
The mysterious Dr. Hercules raises a curtain and reveals..., Jay Rosen | mixed media, digital collage, 17.5” X 16.8”
Last Note From a Luddite Cyborg KIMMY KEMLER This is the last poem I will write. I hope it will have the sound of breath, for once. It won’t be composed of ticking or whirring. I hope it will be the sound of a human child whispering into another’s ear. It won’t sound like the thick, black oil on my tongue. It will eat bread. It will drink wine. It will digest. It will feel the wind on its cheeks, flesh rather than metal. It will learn to speak a language that requires vocal cords. Perhaps, this last poem will have vocal cords. Perhaps it will be capable of cradling a woman, able to press its lips to hers. It will have hands made of flesh, gracing hers, grasping hers. It will not process mechanically. It will be capable of thought. Perhaps, I could’ve written thousands of poems— all bleeding and crying, swingers and swayers, living and dying, all dancing and jealous, greedy egoists vying for more life than I’d give them. In another world, I could have been a poet with no metal carapace keeping me from feeling as this last poem should. [ P O E TRY ] 33
At My Grandfatherâ€™s Funeral ANNA WALTERS I kiss my grandmotherâ€™s tissue-paper cheek, noting how her skin has sagged, and how her back has hunched. In the basement, two pink-haired old ladies wink at me as they stuff sandwiches into their purses and shuffle out the door.
[ V I S U A L A RT] 35
girl3, Zac Thompson | pen on paper, 10”x8”
Trinity, Ashley Buckler | watercolor and pencil on paper, 22”x30” 36 TEA
Invitation to a Ghost ANNA MEBEL Come back older, as if death didn’t release you from the passage of time: your veins china blue beneath translucent skin, the bags under your eyes heavier. Play chess with me the next time I’m home and use your queen against me this once. I’ll tell you about my unlucky Thursdays, about my lack of a driver’s license. You will laugh as you notice my exposed king. Recount your stories without babushka’s embellishments. Were you a brilliant engineer? I see you drawing blueprints of machines intricate as insects; but you could be Willy Loman, great only in the stories you tell. Don’t stay too long. I’m worried that you’ll age even more. My last clear memory is not of you, but of people discussing you. They said you were getting angry at your skin and all the bandages.
[ P O E TRY ] 37
Teach Her to Swim JOHN MORAN Before the above-ground pool grew dry and filled with garden snakes, and a hawk perched on Ms. Linda’s childless swing set to swoop down and eat the garden snakes; before the Bangladeshi family let the weeds grow tall, tall to a fakeblue sky, and shifts in the neighborhood’s racial composition bothered no one; a mom and dad were throwing their toddler into the pool: their toddler drowning in the pool. The dad is at the bottom of the pool wresting the toddler off the pool lining. The toddler is shooting the bird. The dad comes up for air. “She isn’t coming up,” says the dad. “Leave her there, then,” says the mom, running a finger along the surface of the water. “What’s meant to be is meant to be.” The house is a green box. The sliding glass door leads to a slab of cement without patio furniture. The mom opens the door balancing a plate of spaghetti. She dumps it in the pool. At dinner, her husband says, “We have too much spaghetti in the pool.” The mother takes a bite and signals she will speak when she finishes chewing. “Honey, she has to eat,” says the mother. “Still,” says the dad. “It’s clogged.” He watches a hawk swoop between trees. Young girls come to play with their daughter in the pool. The mom gives them mints from a candy drawer. The husband and wife write modest checks to 38 TEA
the Relay for Life. They leave baked goods in the mailbox on Christmas. Their cousin’s daughter asks them to buy Girl Scout cookies. “Sorry,” they hate to say, “We just bought two rolls of school fundraiser wrapping paper from the little girl next door.” “Do something right or don’t do it at all,” they say. “You can be anything you set your mind to,” they say. Their daughter is still in the pool. Cellular technology becomes a lived reality for several billion people. The mom and dad buy a cell phone for their daughter and call it from the kitchen. The reception is garbled by water. “Why did we buy a pool?” asks the mother. She is washing grapes. “Why the hell did we buy it?” “You can’t objectively say we shouldn’t have bought it,” says the dad. “It’s just turned out horrible in our case.” He looks around the room. Where they have framed pictures of their daughter in the pool. Young in the bottom of the pool. Surrounded by friends in the bottom of the pool. Wearing her middle school graduation dress in the bottom of the pool. First date in the pool. T-ball equipment in the pool. T-ball-trophied pool. “I love you,” says the husband. “Things are how they are,” says the wife, starting to cry. “Don’t do that,” says the husband, grabbing her a paper towel. “You are doing it too,” says the wife, returning the paper towel wet. The daughter has grown old. She extends her arms and her body stretches from one end of the above-ground pool to the other. The pool is the center of a universe. The yard is swirling, green; you feel a presence fecund in the yard; there is a jungle captured in an iris; plus the house, the house, the pool, the pool, pool. oo “Maybe we should go in,” says the dad. “I can’t,” says the mom. “We need to go in,” says the husband. “I won’t,” says the wife. “I love you bigger,” he says. “I love you biggest,” she says. He opens the sliding glass door. She follows him to the pool. They stare at the hair of their daughter. They climb up the steps, wade in the water. They are startled by the water’s physical properties, how it acts so in-between. It makes their graying hair fall limp. It asks the mother’s breasts to float. They dive to the bottom of the pool. They stare at the hair of their daughter. They rub their hands along the fraying lining of the pool, searching for a place to hold on. [ FI C TI O N]
Motel 6 in Late November ANNA WALTERS That rented Buick Le Sabre has got to be the ugliest thing Iâ€™ve ever seen, parked next to vending machines under the flickering orange light. I choose my dinner, B-02, and pause to peek through the blinds at Dad slumped on the edge of the bed. He forgot to request a non-smoking room and now my asthma is acting up. After a bath, soap sits on my skin like film on a glass of old milk. Ignoring the stained sheets, I close my eyes. A couple fights in the parking lot. Dad snores. There is frost the next morning, but I have no trouble getting out of bed and stuffing my backpack into the trunk of the Buick. When Mom calls to say happy Thanksgiving, I hear her voice shake.
[ P O E TRY ] 41
Self-Portrait, Charles Hedrick | graphite and oil on arches, 30”x42”
[ P O E TRY ] 43 Fleet, Carolyn Porras | oil on arches, 14”x11”
Figure with Two Doors and Chair, Charles Hedrick | graphite and charcoal on reeves, 80”x42”
Holiday ERICA KENICK No one wanted to be loved. Mother applied and reapplied her crimson lipstick, humming to the blare of the oven timer. She combed her hair, combed her eyebrows. Uncle Joe came in reeking of booze and cigarettes. He was greeted by the family pets. Father kept his eyes on the newspaper. Last week Uncle Joe spent his last penny on his favorite stripper, Destiny Rose, who now boasts F-cup breasts. It is Uncle Joe, though, who has been blessed. The bulb in the golden star atop the Christmas tree died as Grandma wheeled in from the porch. A bag was attached to her chair, in which one could always find a cigar cutter, a glass swan, and the portrait of a man with no name. Instead of saying grace before Christmas dinner, Grandma read a Shakespeare sonnet. Mother punctuated each line as she set down the gravy and rearranged the heavy casseroles. Fatherâ€™s eyes remained fixed on the bread basket.
[ P O E TRY ] 45
No Kidding JEFF HORN They are supposed to have the record done by now, so I ask Gianna, the singer, why it’s not done. They’re done with both legs of the tour. It is the day after the record release party, which the band has thrown for the record, which the band has yet to complete. I forwarded the band the money a month before the tour, expecting, at minimum, a record. The label doesn’t normally pay advances. The first leg of the tour went west and then came back east without a record. I had sex with Gianna between the two legs of the tour, so that was adequate. It is the day after the record release party and I woke up next to the pool in the sun. Gianna woke up next to me, by the pool. That was fine. We are at the Shangri-la Motel, courtesy of the record label, which is really just me. The pool is a rectangle in the parking lot, and there is a metal fence between the pool and the parking lot. There is a palm tree also, inside the metal fence. There are bottles broken in the pool under the flat breeze-broken water. There are empty bottles and cigarette butts everywhere. A motel guy is picking them up. Kimi and Johanna and their friends are in the motel room. On the first leg of the tour, for the eleventh gig, they were out somewhere, and Kimi, the bass player, and Johanna, the drummer, consummated their relationship. Gianna was driving the van. “Could that get in the way, like, of the record?” I said. “No,” she said. “What counts as consummation?” I said. On the second leg of the tour they went north. We talked more often. One time she called me from somewhere up north and said, “So, what have you been up to?” “Nothing. Can you send me some of the tracks?” “I would, but they aren’t finished. Have you been up to anything?” “No, babe, there’s nothing to do. It’s Raging Men finished recording last week. Robert is mastering it now. It would be good if you guys could get in some studio time.” 46 TEA
“We’re busy,” she said. “Did you go out last night?” “Yeah, I went downtown.” “Pretty girls?” she said. “Yeah. Wait, what?” “Would you tell me if you were fucking somebody?” “I don’t know, would you? I’m not fucking anybody.” “All right. Neither am I, then.” “What does that mean?” “Nothing.” “Are you trying to get me to say I’m fucking someone so you can go fuck someone?” “No, babe, you’re ridiculous. I have to go.” “OK. Goodnight.” The next night she called me. “Kimi and Johanna aren’t speaking to each other.” “They don’t have to speak, just play.” “That’s harder than speaking.” “No it’s not. You’re easier to play with than speak to.” “Fuck you. What should I do?” “Finish the record.” I did not know what to do, but she figured it out. She opens up to me when she’s drunk, because she’s a person. She did last night at the release party. Her legs open up to me also. When she opens up, her face has all the languor of summer and all the vulgarity of the internet. Her face is like that when she sings. And she is the songwriter. She says the songwriting is all done, for the record. She wants to go to the beach now. I don’t understand why she wants to go because it’s sort of far away and I’ve been there enough, but she wants to take me. I understand that she’s not like me and she probably really thinks that it will be one of the best things, so to her it might be, and that’s all right. Gianna takes a picture of me with two of her friends that I don’t know. She acts like a tourist around her friends. She is always taking pictures of them and in front of them. I see her pictures. They go on: a picture of her, a picture of me, a picture of me with her. Before the band got back I was at the gym, and I lifted some twenty-five-pound plates onto the bar and sat in the seat and leaned back and I realized I don’t give a shit. First it was just about the gym, and I thought about how there are skinny guys who do fine and get chicks and everything, and so I thought, what am I doing here? But then the not giving a shit spread out to the record label and how Morphina, the band, wasn’t done with the record, and they still aren’t, and how Gianna should call me, and then she did. So whatever. We’re going to the beach now. And the record is months away, and the beach is an hour away, and Gianna is here, and we’re going to the beach now. [ FI C TI O N]
What Has Happened to You, Semicolon? KIMMY KEMLER You were once the Super Comma saving the lives of sentences doomed to swarms of calamitous commas. Now, ever since you met those goddamned parentheses, your lifeâ€™s just one big partyâ€”playing the winks in flirtatious texts. So tell me: who is left to separate related clauses?
[ P O E TRY ] 49 Mountain #1, Carolyn Porras | acrylic on canvas, 30”x36”
If a television set were edible, like pot roast or maybe apple pie CHASE BURKE You’d think that it would be too big to eat, and you’d be right, at least for an all-at-once attempt—better to break it into bites or into sections, separate by channels. Leave the remote for last. Your stomach as a TV screen, internalized, light projected outward through the mucosa membrane, all of one millimeter thick. Your family would carry on and cast looks in your direction as the flashing blue of channel-changing leaked out your mouth and eyes. What would you do? I can imagine a constant sound and presence, a poltergeist of screening shining on your heart and lungs, turning your breath to charged electricity, to information transmitted through airwaves. The US government would try to auction you to the highest bidder, maybe AT&T, on its quest for every bit of wireless spectrum available. You’d be a vessel, a static cornerstone. You might have a place on a shelf, or near a stereo. I could press my ear to your stomach and feel the moving pictures— a child of additive color. You would hum. The fine hairs of your arms would stand like an extension of antennae. Fine-tuned reception. In the dark I lost sight of all direction as the monitor’s muted light spread its color on the walls. That light is distinct. Sleep disruption. I see you in my mind standing in my father’s den, surrounded by a blue halo of electricity. Your smile wavers. Sending signals into the atmosphere.
[ P O E TRY ] 51
Balloon EMILIO SOLA It was a cool autumn evening and Monty had bet me he could eat all of eight hot dogs. I had a stack of comic books on it—Uncanny X-Men and some of The Avengers, a stack dating to 1979 and spanning that era during which I could still give a shit about comics. I felt a small pain, I’ll admit, when I thought about losing those costumed champions of my less than comfortable years. But I was putting those days behind me. And I knew my odds were good. Monty was up to hot dog number five—these were the jumbo sort of hot dogs his dad would buy—when we saw something black in the sky against the gray. It went whizzing and whirling and then became immense, and we were excited. Then it fell—we had seen it by then, identified it, and it was a hot-air balloon, crashing against the power lines a half a mile south of Monty’s front porch. When we got there on our bicycles some forty seconds later, there was a crowd. They had all seen it, of course, this blue and red air balloon like out of a comic strip, sputtering in mid-air, flipping into itself and then out again. All we saw when it landed, really, was the rough fabric of the balloon, whatever it 52 TEA
was—I didn’t touch it, hadn’t thought to touch it. All we saw was that balloon, empty and heavy-looking, all of its weight bearing down on all of the things under it: the burner, the basket, and, presumably, the pilot. The balloonist was a man called Benji Todd Gravy—that was his name, really, I saw it in the papers. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, 1917 to 1986, and though he died in old age he was survived, incredibly, by both parents. He was a man whose genes were too good for him, I imagined—you don’t come down like that, like an anvil in a wicker basket, unless you’ve got something else going on. His wife, as she identified herself, made the trip south from Georgia when she found out he had died. She arrived the next morning, her demeanor inscrutable. She was a hunched woman, approaching what Monty called “crone-status,” with gray hair and tanned skin like wet leather. She wore dark, brown-tinted glasses, and she had a way of keeping her gaze toward the ground, as if resolved to give aircraft wide berth. What Irma told reporters—her name was Irma, and it was perfect, she was in every way Irma—was of Gravy’s lasciviousness. He had left her, she told them, high and dry some twenty years preceding. Through all of their painful time together he had kept on with other women. He had fled his marital circumstances, she said with an air of indemnity, in the same balloon that killed him. The local media had not planned a cover story on airborne profligates, but even the local media could appreciate a story that fell, almost literally, into its lap. The town papers typically specialized in high-school football scores and dog show coverage. But for the next few weeks Benji Todd Gravy was all you ever heard about. One of the papers—this was the extent of our town’s fascination—got hold of a note, dated August 1960 and laid before sunrise onto what I imagined was a dark-stained wooden nightstand, written from Gravy to his forsaken missus Irma. The letter impressed me, myself a fifteen-year-old rake-in-training, with its author’s lyricism—the imagination within his debauchery, if, in all the debauchery’s trueness, you could still call it that. He convinced me, anyway, when I read the transcript—had I been Irma, being scorned so beautifully, I might have had a better attitude about it. I believed in love, reading Gravy’s words. I believed in a love too fathomless, too cosmic, to have wasted on Irma. The papers uncovered a former lover as well, who had come along, unfortunately, a few years after Gravy’s escape. I say “unfortunately” because I was fascinated, and remain fascinated, by Gravy, and feel crushed, utterly, by the doubtless gaps in his chronology: the ferocious trysts, the brutal romance, the high-velocity car chases and narrow escapes from any and all attachment by freight train or dirigible, by carriage, frigate, or, imagine it, spacecraft. This second woman, amazingly, lived right by me in town. She had a dim house on the edge of a brown field, down by the very power lines that had taken Gravy in. [ FI C TI O N]
Rose, as she was called, was considerably more attractive than Irma had been—Irma had trotted home by the time Rose’s association with Gravy became known—though it was clear that she intended, via cheap cosmetics, to resist her ongoing passage from middle age. I had seen her before around town. I had seen in her look the long-exhausted sense that she was fooling no one, that there was no one left to fool. She epitomized, I thought, in her graceless gait and cigarette-smoke breath, a familiar figure in the taxonomy of the American small town: unrepentant in her sorrow and unmistakable in her ubiquity, the down-market divorcee. Rose, like Irma, had much to say on Gravy’s faithlessness, but altogether she seemed OK about it. She mentioned again the balloonist’s proclivity for sweet-talking—Rose’s eyes, perhaps not so heavily painted then, had been like the warm sea seen from the gondola of Gravy’s hot-air balloon. The eyes of other women, he told her, had been like drops of water on loose sand, visible just for a moment, moisture of little consequence slipping down into the silt. Rose’s eyes were the ocean and Irma’s were drops of sweat on the dirt. Benji Todd Gravy—balloonist, equivocator, magnificent fraud. The last we saw of Gravy’s life was his ancient father, for whom a great ostentation was made when it was heard he’d be coming down. Gravy, the lustful sort of angel he was, to me and to most of us, had become a local idol. The mayor received the elder Gravy, I hear, and the man was over a hundred years old, and blind, and deaf, and mute. And when he walked he walked on a cane that was gray like stone, and his head protruded from the center of his chest, inches beneath his shoulders. I imagined that his eyes, indiscernible under sagging pockets of flesh, had collapsed into themselves like dead stars. This is how black holes are formed, I knew, and I wanted badly to peer into one. I only saw him by accident, in February, months after I’d watch his son crash. I had cut class and walked to the nearby drugstore. I’d had no good reason for going there; it was just some place to walk to. The old man stood on the grassy border of the parking lot, one hand on the stone-colored cane and the other clutching the skinny dwarf of a tree that was growing or dying there. I recognized him immediately; I had heard enough about his arrival that it could not have been anyone else. Watching him there with a stick in either hand, I felt the two of them were the kind of old friends that knew each other too well. I was the stranger, incidental, witnessing a longawaited reunion. For all of my youthful idolatry I didn’t know the one of them. The old man made as if to move, and for an instant I felt angry—I wasn’t done, I wanted to watch him. But then he did move; this Buick pulled up and he got into it, slowly, not seeing. I watched it as it drove off and then I went into the general store. I slipped a bag of red party balloons into my jacket and I walked back out to the parking lot. Stumbling to the far end, I sat down by the skinny tree and opened the bag. I blew one up and let the air come out. I blew it up again and let the air come out. 54 TEA
Perception III, Jay Rosen | collage on paper, 5”x5”
[VISUAL ART] 55
Compartmentalizing The psychological definition of compartmentalizing is the act of splitting an idea or concept into parts in an effort to defend against anxiety. Humans often compartmentalize things that are too intimate or private to share, a dissociation that leads private memories and objects to be put out of the mind until something triggers the remembrance. The intent of this piece is to ask the question, â€œIf these figurative compartments existed physically, what would they look like?â€? Each box depicts such drastic shifts in internal form that the viewer is asked to step back and reconsider the space as hostile or inviting. Contrast between the uniformity of the outside of the boxes and the differences in volume and space definitions within must be considered and assigned meaning by each viewer. This consideration will hopefully inspire an exploration of similar past feelings in an effort to categorize the ideas within each box. The goal of the piece is that this introspection will ask the viewer to deconstruct their own mental compartments, be it remembering a childhood toy, further shrinking from a crippling embarrassment, or dwelling on past feelings of loss and joy. â€”JORDAN 56 TEA
Compartmentalizing, Jordan Kady | finished wood, small bulbs, teddy bear fur, black paint, textured plastic, straight pins, furniture tacks, stuffing, buttons, cotton linen, rocks, stamps, coins, elastic nylon, matte board [ V I S U A L A RT] 57
Untitled (Glaciers), Leah A. Augustine | digital photography, 12”x18”
The immediate impression gleaned from locking eyes with a stranger in the moment it takes a restaurant’s door to open and swing shut CHASE BURKE I see him at seven and the look on his face is vulgar, like a year of unhappiness condensed to oil, oozing from his pores. His lips peel back to reveal teeth unevenly tiled and set on a face so red it’s purple: a plum gone bad, an unnatural apple. He wears these colors like a flag, his anger pungent in the doorway where people pass behind and do not notice. I can only think of his fuming breath clouding this downtown coffee shop, bringing winter inside where I fail to focus on my coffee, distracted by the thought of him at home, unhinged, icicles in his hands and the house frozen over, molecules resting apart, snow flaking off the ceiling, impossible and clean and white, where his jacket is a mark, the bones’ black spot, the hood like a black mouth swallowing his face. His hands are hidden in his pockets, and I imagine them clenched like his jaw, draining blood from his face, and I know that nothing has changed, not in these moments. Does he know I am looking at him, wondering what brought this out? I imagine him as Ugolino, submerged in ice and gnawing and gnawing and gnawing, devouring what has no substance. I feel that the shop is empty, that I am alone with him, that there is no one else here. I am here. I am near him and I am intoxicated by this look he wears to face the world, this look that defines him more than words. He is a collapsing star. He is a singularity. He is the absence of light. What I draw from him is something from inside of me. Am I myself tomorrow? I fear we are the same. He wears his life on the outside, open to the world, open to me, and I am terrified and I am drawn inward and toward him and away from myself to lie in the inverted inferno of his jaws—
[ P O E TRY ] 59
Laserwolf, Jessica Cook | acrylic paint and ink on water color paper, 8”x11”
In the End We Threw a Party CARMEN DOLLING The icecaps melted and the oceans boiled over and the ozone layer was so very full of holes that it caved in. We slathered on sunscreen. Sightings in Reno of four horsemen! Locusts in Caracas! Chicken born in Beijing with two beaks and four wings! Ripley’s stocks skyrocketed, Hollywood boomed, the president issued a Statement. For forty days and nights it rained and Africa wept with relief. The moon swung away out of orbit. It was superb— it was sensational—we were clean out of gasoline and the vegetables burned instead made everything smell like Thanksgiving.
[ P O E TRY ] 61