Blue Bird by Anna Steiner
Fall Issue 2012
Table of Contents Blue Bird by Anna Steiner………………...…………………………………Cover “Waiting for Bus Number Twenty-Three” by Kristina Brodbeck……………..4 “The View From Here” by Leesa Scudder (Miller)……………………………...5 Falls by Evan Lolli…………………………………………………………………8 “We Were Dead Before the „ship Even Sank” by Sara Kaehler………………..9 Paris Rocks by Jacob Stentz……………………………………………………...15 “A House at the Corner of Vine” by Zachary A. McCoy………………………16 “Movement” by Megan Miller…………………………………………………...19 10-24-013 by Evan Lolli…………………………………………………………..20 “The Unsaid Goodbye” by Josh Fisher………………………………………….21 Figure in Pastel by Evan Lolli……………………………………………………26 “I Can‟t Say I Would‟ve Kept You” by Sara Kaehler……...………………….27 “Angiosarcoma” by Zachary A. McCoy………………………………………...29 “Tiny Spaces” by Angela Corbett……………………………………………….30
Waiting for Bus Number Twenty-Three Poetry by Kristina Brodbeck He exhales the whitest breath, watching it mist while awaiting the bus that came every morning at a quarter till six. His six-fifteen clock-in time gives him ten minutes to walk from stop to break room. The next month plays in his mind as usual. One hundred and eighty-two for the lights by the eighth. His daughter needed a new coat, last year. Twenty-seven ninety-eight for the phone by the sixteenth. Five seventy-five for the rent by the first. If his wife can manage an extra nine-ish tables tonight, their check to the grocery store wonâ€™t bounce. As long as the grocer didnâ€™t do a night deposit yesterday. He thinks he can manage fifteen hopefully, no, twenty hours overtime this week to cover the hospital payment for the emergency cesarean when the baby was born sleeping. The squeal of tires on pavement breaks his concentration. If only he could skip eating this month, the lights could stay on.
The View From Here Essay by Leesa Scudder (Miller) Sawing through, it took six crunches of the scissors to finally free the weight of the braid from me. I thought a stylist’s scissors would be sharper than that, especially since this is an expensive salon. She shows it to me neatly tethered at both ends, with a plain red band at one end, and a blue one on the other end. I haven’t touched it yet. I will later. I have always liked the Native American look that braids gave me; why did I hardly ever wear my hair that way? The day is unseasonably warm, so I won’t feel the full shock until later, when January gets back into character. My daughter is in the next chair. I can’t see her from my angle, but I think she’s more upset than I am. I thought I would be crying at this point, but with a smile of adventure, I tell the stylist to do something fun, maybe with bangs. My life is so different now, but I still want to come here to Bender Mountain, even in the frozen winter. The buckeye tree above me has a new look each season. It had flowing strands of white flowers last spring. Then light green, baby leaves came out feathery against a cool spring sky. Thick green fingers of leaves took over as bold summer rolled in. Buckeyes formed later and eventually fell to the ground to meet the fate of being eaten or covered with decaying leaves to rest before receiving the sun’s wake up call. That was about the last time the uphill trek here was easy. Now I’m consciously grateful for each step I take to get here. Each rock and root and muddy spot has meaning. As I round yet another muddy bend in the switchbacks, I only look a few feet ahead to see where the rock steps are jutting out from the hillside. Trying to see too far ahead will only discourage me. My breathing picks up to the pace of my steps. I am grateful for the burn in my thigh muscles and the steady rasp of my breath in my ears. Some people say I should stick to flat, paved trails if I’m even going to walk at all. My hikes make some people think I am crazy, but others are inspired. Each hike is something that has to be done so I know I am alive. At Bender Mountain, I am on top of the world. Breathing is a joy here in the warm sun on the stone bench. I’m grateful for whoever wrestled these rocks into place. The throbbing of a slow train and the swoosh-hum of cars far below trickles up to me as a barge slips by silently. The breeze plays with the few stray hairs I have left. I remember how the wind always used to blow strands into my eyes and mouth. I can take my hat off here. My friend doesn’t mind. He points to the 5
middle of my forehead and says, “It’s what’s in here that matters.” No one can see up here. If I hear someone coming up the trail, I’ll put my hat back on quick. Comfort food is especially important to me now and here it is in the form of a fat Chipotle chicken burrito and guacamole and chips. Avocados are known for good nutrients, which I’m always on the lookout for. As the iced tea fills my cup, the man who was behind me in line turns to me and wishes me luck. His wife went through the same thing. She is doing ok, but it didn’t turn out as well as they had hoped. A grey brick sits on my heart and I wonder how he knew I had breast cancer. People wearing their illnesses are scary until you talk to them. I used to avoid sick people for fear that I’d say something wrong. To someone who is uncertain of their uncertainty, the only thing you can say wrong to them is nothing at all. In the mirror, I take another photo to remember this time. I look chemo stricken. It’s a wonder that eyebrow hairs can persevere all these months and now slip out with a gentle tug. People are the most beautiful when there is nothing to distract from who they are. In the church pew, I feel the looks. Someone whispers over to me, “growing back; looks good.” Running late, I had to walk all the way up, two rows from the front. I didn’t have time to go back when I realized that my wig was still sitting on its perch at home, and the only hat in the car was a sports cap. It’s getting warmer now that it’s spring. People will just have to deal with it. The wig is so scratchy I only wear it to church anyway. At the Reds game, a crack of the bat signals the difference between certainty and uncertainty. It looks like the Reds will win this one, so my daughter will get to see the winning fireworks. The little boy sitting next to her is from church. He passed me up when the Mother’s Day flowers were being handed out to all the women. I guess I didn’t look like one. The children in my life come to mind. Our Girl Scout troop that was supposed to stay together until graduation may not have that perfect record. Summer Day Camp went on without me as The Nature Lady. Who needs a perfect record, anyway? The holes that cancer creates get filled up; it’s up to me to decide what to fill them with. When God closes a door, he opens a window. Looking around is the only way to find the window. Sitting in class as a new student at The Mount, I am probably the only one with gray hair. Maybe some have gray, but aren’t showing it. But the youngster inside me is excited about college and my new unknown path ahead. Learning is something I’ll never outgrow. 6
My love of learning is as strong as my love of the outdoors. Yesterday, I hiked the 1.6 mile Badlands trail in 35 minutes. The gift of nature is how God speaks to me the loudest. The week before, I walked 8 miles on the paved trail in the rain. We needed that rain! Long hair would have taken forever to dry. The week before that, I biked 31 miles; my longest ride ever, so far, and included a long hill that I refused to give up on. It was not until afterwards that I was told that three-quarters of the riders end up walking their bikes up that hill. I’m glad I didn’t know that before I rode up the hill. Today, my daughter looked at me with a shake of her head and said, “mom, you REALLY need a haircut.” I think I do.
Falls by Evan Lolli 8
We Were Dead Before the „ship Even Sank Fiction by Sara Kaehler Inside the cluttered apartment, he shoved his set of keys back in his pockets. Sheer curtains fluttered in the March chill away from the window’s gaping jaw. The main room was dark, except for the warm glow of a precious lamp atop a tower of newspapers & magazines. Walking carefully around piles of clothes, he found his way to the dirty kitchen. Dishes were still waiting in the sink; coffee still sat in the pot. Everything is the way I left it eight hours ago... Irritation simmered at the back of his skull as he remembered asking her to clean up while he was at work. He hadn’t asked for much, just that the dishes get cleaned & put back in the cabinets. Overhead, the single fluorescent bulb flickered. He sighed, dumped the cold coffee in the sink, & turned the light off as he left the room. All he wanted to do was piss & take a nap. He hoped she was out so he could get some sleep before she asked him questions. Typically, he came home to the filthy apartment & Chinese food, where his tornado of a girlfriend would ask him for opinions on her poetry, her outfits, her friends, etc. She would ramble on for hours without taking a breath, even speaking while she ate. He would sit & listen, because he always genuinely listened, choosing only to speak when needed. She would smile at him, with her teeth peeking out of her trademark pout the color of wine, & then kiss him slowly. Then she would finally be quiet for an instant, with his lips silencing her in a way that made the constant chattering seem like communication. But today he was in no mood to quietly take in the poetry she crafted delicately. No, today was for sleeping in their small one-bedroom apartment. He found himself in the bathroom staring at her. She had fallen asleep in the tub full of pale water. Smoke swirled from her favorite stick of incense. Her spidery legs were draped over the edge while the rest of her body was submerged. One arm was tucked under her torso while the other simply stayed at her side. Her crimson hair splayed out her skull like blood from a gunshot. Despite the cold of another open window, the sight was warm & comforting. He felt the urge to tear off his clothes & join her. Without waking her, he wanted to rest his hand on her soft stomach or run his fingers down her calf or kiss her pallid thigh. However he knew these actions would make her chocolaty eyes flutter open. The edge of the tub was covered in ashes. She was fond of smoking & reading in the bath but he had never known her to doze off. But sure enough, there was a crumpled pack of her favorite brand of menthols & a now water-strained copy of 9
Rage. The sight made his stomach churn. That is my novel, he lamented. It’s f-ing out of print & the bitch damn near ruins it. Water began to make the edges furl & he could only imagine the text smearing. Then, from hopefully nowhere, a vivid image of himself smashing her head multiple times into the rim of the tub entered his mind. It wasn’t even a fleeting thought. He let it fester, licking his lips as he imagined her blood ricocheting onto his thrift-store suit. Even though it only played out in his mind, the violent act of splitting her skull sent a shiver of delight down his spine. Blinking several times, he shoved the thought from his mind. He would simply examine the book before confronting her. Maybe ask her to be more considerate with his belongings, because surely she understands that books shouldn’t be treated so poorly. He let rationality take hold of his frame again. She seemed so tranquil in that moment, the calmness was contagious & it brought back the instant in which he knew he was in love with her, also the day they had met. It wasn’t until half-way through their college careers that they shared a class together. Despite the vastness of the campus, he had heard of her. She is sunshine personified, they said about her, an absolute genius & brilliant with a pen. Casually he would ask people if they knew her, hoping an introduction could be arranged, but mutual friends never offered. Before officially meeting, he had seen her across the room at a party. Her smile swept past the limits of her face, down her bare shoulders, & seeped into the room. Crimson locks tumbled down her back as she erupted with laughter produced by a boy at her heels, just as equally gorgeous, with hands seizing parts of her body that he could never imagine groping so eagerly & selfishly. How can I compete? he mourned. She is perfect & I am nothing. For the rest of evening, he would not allow himself to entertain thoughts of this utterly unobtainable her. Never was his mind allowed to wander back to this goddess he had never even known. He went out with a girl or two in the meantime, but none felt quite right. Eventually, or inevitably, he found himself sitting next to her at the beginning of a new school year. She had strolled into the class on the verge of being late, prompting a stern look from the professor over his glasses. But all she had to do was beam in his direction & her disruption was allowed to slide. Time would erode all memories of that first day, the syllabus that was read to him, the teacher’s name, what books he’d need to buy, with the exception of the way she stopped him afterwards to ask about the book he was holding. She had explained to him she always kept her eyes peeled for a man who carried around poetry. I love poetry, he shared, even though he didn’t truly love it. He liked poetry well enough, at least 10
enough to get this beautiful girl talking to him. Her small hand poked out of her grey sweater as she offered her name. He repeated it, as if rewarding himself. The taste of her name was divine. After giving away his name, he asked her in a random feat of daring if she would like to grab a cup of coffee & talk about poetry. His heart nearly burst at the moment she accepted. As they walked, music became the subject of conversation & they discovered they were surprisingly compatible. By the time they were sitting with cups growing cold at their fingertips, they were rapidly discussing films. Casually stirring with the spoon held barely vertical by her delicate fingers, she asked him if he was single. But, there was shift in her eyes & he knew that she wanted him too. They were hooked on each other from that moment, this whimsical girl with uncontrollable hair & infectious laughter & the serious boy too shy to say hello that kept her grounded. He stared at her, wanting to feel the same sort of joy he felt burn in his heart as she held his hand for the first time or as she bit her lip when handing over the first mix CD she ever made him. Instead, all he could think of were the dirty dishes, the near ruined book, & feigning a love of poetry for all these years. He stared at her, completely naked, exposed, Vulnerable, with her eyelashes resting on her cheeks. There was nothing in his heart to suggest that he had ever tentatively kissed her on the steps of the library or carried her on his back across the threshold of their shitty apartment- the shitty apartment that he paid for working from nine to five writing about local news in a suit while print media died slowly. How is it fair that I have to work all day, when she gets to stay here & do nothing? Collections of bubbles floated on the surface of the still warm water. Serenity was all he could read in her face as he assumed she dreamt more fuel for immaculate poems to sell individually to magazines & journals. One day, she hoped to be recognizable enough for her style that she could sell a collection of her work. He had to admit, he spent a great deal of time rereading her compositions before heading off to work while she showered or slept in, wishing he could create something beautiful, relatable, & seemingly effortless the way she did time after time. Many of her best poems were inspired by him, or at least she claimed. He hadnâ€™t been able to notice but all her friends would pull him aside to tell him how wonderful he was for her, that he made her happier than they had ever seen her. It was hard to believe, since the moment he laid eyes on her she had seemed so carefree. Early on in their relationship, maybe only after two or three weeks, she had asked him to accompany her to get her nipple pierced. She already was sporting 11
several facial piercings & wanted something a little more unexpected- a little more erotic. Without any sense of modesty, he watched her unbutton her shirt to expose her breasts. Never before had he seen them, the smooth, spectral flesh so perfectly shaped. Her face stayed stoic as the needle went through the cerise flesh, a single drop of blood sliding off the sharp tip. Openly he stared at her petite chest, noting how spontaneous she had been removing her blouse to exhibit them before a stranger; ironically he had been too nervous in attempting anything past kissing before this moment. Now, he was able to look at her completely nude without feeling aroused. Her nipple ring glistened, beckoning his vision. What he had once kissed & caressed lovingly he now felt the urge to tear on until she cried out in pain. He could imagine the chirp of surprise sheâ€™d emit as he yanked the hoop out, causing an eruption of blood that would flow down the curve of her breast & meld into the water. He fantasized about the crimson fluid staining the tub until it matched that fiery hair. So vivid was his imagination that he could even note the crisp, stannic scent penetrating his nostrils. Tears would soon follow out of her crumpled eyes as she whimpered, shooting up to cup her breast as blood trickled between her fingers. There was no blood in the tub as he opened the eyes he had not realized he shut. She was still there, slumbering with ease as her boyfriend stood over her. I donâ€™t truly want to hurt her, he firmly assured himself. But, there was still an inexorable spasm building in his fist, clenched tight in resistance. Deep down, he still wanted to twist the susceptible piercing until she squealed & he felt the blood pool in the creases of his palm. Horrified, he realized he was turned on by the thought. You love her! his mind screamed. You love her! She is everything youâ€™ve ever wanted for years! He inhaled & exhaled & did so several times until he no longer heard the shouting in his head that he loved her, damn it, or the whispering to make her hurt. There was nothing in his mind as he stood there, almost rooted to the spot where he watched her chest rise & fall. Smoke continued to writhe from her incense, staying in the room long enough to make his eyes water before floating out the open window. He was glad she had left it open, because the bathroom was small, too small for two people to share, & the smoke would have easily filled the room. She had carefully hung her robe on the door knob & kept her cigarettes away from the water as to not ruin the few remaining, maybe only four or five. Yet she had not been that considerate with his book. Already the defenseless novel had begun to bloat, swelling uncontrollably. The damp pages were beyond repair; the text was indecipherable. While the smoke 12
continued to dance in the air, the bulk of the paperback bulged between the ruined covers, & the vein surged on his temple, she stayed still. Nothing could disturb her slumber, much like nothing could bother her while she was awake. He would ridicule the way she left her keys in the knob absentmindedlyretreating into their room, playing music so loudly that she couldn’t even hear him enter. What if I were a burglar or a rapist? She’d have left them a way in & she wouldn’t even know until it was too late. All she ever did was smile at him so sweetly & remind that mistakes happened. He would forgive her. Even when there were moments he would notice her lips were swollen as he walked in the door or a book he couldn’t remember either of them buying, he would forgive her. All he could ever do really was mumble Wheredidthiscomefrom? before she would purse her lips the color of lust & coo softly that they were nothing. So, he would ignore the chapping of her lips from rougher kisses than his & read the books she must have foolishly bought because she should know by now what would spark his interest. Never did his meek confrontations result in her uneasiness. No, she was calm time after time, so believable even as she brushed off what appeared to be mysterious love marks on her flesh from teeth that clamped down harder than his own. Her handwriting was elegant, yet slightly illegible. Effortlessly, the letters curled at her will, broad cursive that dipped in a way unique to her. They were a foreign alphabet; by the time you could understand the words she had placed before you like sacrificial lambs, you were already half in love with her solely due to the satisfaction of deciphering her script. That morning, he had bent his head over a poem scrawled in green on a napkin, his nose nearly touching the soft paper, overflowing with exclamations of love. Before stepping into the bathroom, he labored over her words describing touches that didn’t feel like his, words that didn’t sound like his, or kisses that didn’t taste like his. At the top, she had written his name as the title, & he felt a fiery rage simmer in his chest. How dare she? While the more obvious signs had gone unspoken, he was infuriated by her false words, the blatant lies. Does she truly believe I am that stupid? He walked towards the bathroom in slow motion. With each step he took, the door seemed to slip further away. Cautiously, he wrapped his fingers around the cold doorknob, letting the smell of rain slide between the crack of the door. Her silhouette flickered against the wall from impatient candle light. She was sitting up in the bathtub, water waist high, twisting her hair the shade of sunshine into a bun. Her fingers stopped working when he walked in the door. 13
“Hello, darling,” she purred. “Headed off to work? I left a poem on the table next to your coffee, if you have a chance to read it.” “Could you do the dishes today?” His reasonable question was emitted like a growl. The harshness of his voice made her blink & put a chink in her smile. She let her blonde hair fall back down, cascading past her shoulders, her waist, until the tips brushed the surface of the water. “Yes, of course. Hand me my robe, please? I’ll do them as soon as I dry off.” As their hands extended towards each other, he holding the pale pink silk robe & her reaching out for it, her elbow bumped his novel, sending it into the water above her lap. Frantically she let the robe drop to the floor, focused solely on the rescue mission of the book. She began to sniffle as she handed the soaked pages to her lover. “I’m so sorry. Oh god, I never should have been reading in the bath, but I definitely should have been reading one of my own books. I know how hard you looked for this. Oh god.” Her tiny fingers wrapped around the rim of the tub to lift herself out, but he forcefully shoved her down by the shoulders & he could hear the smack of her body hitting the base. Her tears came freely now, the result of guilt & pain.. Before she could tearfully ask why he was being so cruel, he brought a hand down sharply down in a slap that echoed so clearly in the bathroom he could still hear it after working such a tedious day at the office. She continued to weep, meekly trying to get up, but after every satisfying blow, he would return to pinning her down & shaking her with a potency she had never known him to possess. IKNOWYOU’VEBEENCHEATING&LYING&IHATEYOU&YOURPRETENTIOUS POETRY! His thoughts were pouring out his mouth between blows, his hands still firmly gripping her shoulders, occasionally being drowned out by the sound of her skull cracking against the porcelain. He continued to scream as her yellow hair began to clump together with clots of blood & bits of her brilliant, artistic brain. As he stood in the doorway later in the day, he remembered violently shoving her under the water, letting her cries fade beneath the surface until the last indication of life shattered with the pop of a delicate air bubble. At this moment, it was not her chest rising & falling, but rather floating in the murky water. Her incense had stopped burning a long time ago; her hair was irreversibly stained red. The novel was beginning to dry on the floor. He loosened his tie, took one of the few dry cigarettes, & sat on the toilet smoking it next to the body. 14
Paris Rocks by Jacob Stentz
A House at the Corner of Vine Poem by Zachary A. McCoy There is an old House at the corner of Sycamore and Vine. This home was forgotten by the passage of time. That I have accrued from a grandpa who died. The will he left said it is mine. And it sits and rots on the corner of Vine. It has a small garden that has been forgotten. With a statue of Jesus that is crumbled and rotten. And ivy that has suffocated the plants. But my name is still on that grave grant. I walk in my new old home at quarter to six. I’m greeted by a cat and three dead mice, and I feel sick. The sun sets behind and I turn to the cat as it slinks away, Undoubtedly finding more mice with which to play. A dust filled chandelier is close to a table set. The hallway smells of mold and things that I should forget. The dust blows through the door; in dying light it seems to glow. A clock chimes eight, it is too late for me now from this place to go. I step into the house and behind me the door swings shut. Startled I turn staring, and I assure myself it was the wind and cut From my mind any supernatural thoughts. I look around and see why no one, from my grandfather, this house, bought. I hear the tiny steps of mouse feet and the flutter of bat’s wings, And a rattle on the floor I assure myself is not from a ghost’s chains falling And dragging on the ceiling above; or a man’s feet brushing The floor as his neck hangs from the above awning. I feel like I have been here before as I let my hand slid over a dust filled Banister. I feel like I have been here before and meant to never come back. It’s as if though I knew the man who here was killed. I move from room to darkened room before each room is frayed and torn like an empty sack. 16
Each step cracks underfoot as if each step was a cockroach; I move toward where the dead man
Used to sleep. There are no light switches the house is too old. I try my flashlight I had brought but it flickers and burns out. No backup plan So I squint my eyes and imagine things in the corners from scary stories I was once told.
Matches and candles sit on an old oak table at the top of the stairs. I strike a match and light a candle quickly to subdue the darkness that crowds me. The candle newly lit rests now in my hand. As I raise it up I stare Down a long hallway with empty mirrors that can no longer properly see. Distorted vision in the flickering flame I see shadows that cannot be there. I take my first step and feel like it was a mistake. The house groans, I feel like a kid sent in to this hell on a dare. I step further in and swear I hear whispers back down the stairs. I ignore it for sanityâ€™s sake.
The bedroom I know is the last door on the left. But to get there is to walk a plank with goblins waiting for one wrong step. I feel my heart move to my throat from my breast. I wonder how many sinister secrets these rooms have kept. My mind begins to race My feet pick up the quick pace As I hold the flame close And hurry to my room. As I shut the door I feel a new horror Of knowing I have to stay the whole night in. I hear laughter in the hall Of small girls who once lived near Who played in the dining hall And never felt the fear When their father snuck in at night And slit their throats with his knife. 17
I don’t know what’s real anymore There is a pounding at my bedroom door. The flame falters ever so slightly And eyes appear around me brightly. My form is breaking and I do not know how long I can take being in this house and what is in my mind and what is real and how long I have to stay and what was that noise that noise just then that sounded like an old man’s last wheezing cough. I must get out. I rush to the door as the flame goes out And bound down the stairs as the spirits shout “No please come and stay we just want you to come and play!” The door cannot get any closer as I feel them gaining on me. I try and quick and it is stuck This is it I am out of luck I turn around to see Thousands of eyes staring back at me I try to scream but no sound comes out Because I am stuck inside this house.
Movement Poem by Megan Miller Rooted to the ground like the stoic tree Suspended in the air as the warm Sun He cannot move and his mind is undone His life is a dark night where he canâ€™t see He just needs someone soon to set him free This challenge people face cannot be won The unspoâ€™en words on our hearts weigh a ton Think, then speak, that is the poisonous key I will move you, like the moon moves the waves The rhythm of which makes the sweet beach art One may find that this scene strikes hearts to love We will no longer to our brains be slaves Our mouths will be the median for our hearts Alone, we stand still, together we move.
10-24-013 by Evan Lolli
The Unsaid Goodbye Essay by Josh Fisher Conversation and laughter reverberated throughout the front half of a 1994 Chevy Astro van; a cool breeze flooded through open windows and was a welcome addition inside the vehicle during this surprisingly mild fall evening. Bleeding through the speakers, the roar of heavy metal was drowned out by gut wrenching laughter. On the way to our Thursday evening volleyball session, I and two friends kept the drive jovial as we continuously tried topping each other’s best one-liner. Distracted with the entertainment of one another’s company we took a sharp turn, as we almost missed the correct street heading to the gym. The reckless driving maneuver caused the discussion to head from blissful comedy into a retelling of serious news. It was the summer of 2001, and there I was perched behind the front counter with a co-worker, routinely going through all the motions at my after-school job. Very unenthusiastically I progressed through the hours at work that night, until a ray of sunshine walked through the doors of the laser tag facility where I worked. The dreary night of work was turned seemingly into wondrous daylight. Shoulderblade length straight blonde hair, and dazzling green eyes framed an absolutely gorgeous face. Approaching the front counter she lightly bit her bottom lip, and her deep green eyes locked gazes with mine. Already being sold on introducing myself with a clever joke, I parted my lips to speak but was beaten to the punch. With a flirty smile she began speaking to the coworker next to me to be taken care of. Either being steadfastly determined, dumbly ignorant, or simply head over heels already, I continued to apparently have entire conversations with this girl through eye contact and without ever saying a word. The night winding down, I realized that she’d be leaving soon and I needed to step up and say something, even if that something was utterly embarrassing. Fear and nervousness clotting up inside my stomach, I approached this heavenly beauty with all the nerdy confidence possible and gave her a shrewd compliment hidden inside a joke. To my surprise she replied with an ear to ear smile, and thanked me for making the first move, since she said she was contemplating fighting the same butterflies I had all night long to break our silence. Phone numbers got exchanged along with a scarily nervous light hug, both of us seemingly afraid to scare the other off; this was the night I met and began my relationship with Jessica Carson. Hugs filled with tension would gradually progress to her little hand being engulfed by my larger one as we held hands; the nervousness eventually passed and 21
comfort arrived as we would lock ourselves in passionately love-filled kisses. Nights would consist of me unwinding after volleyball as I held her in my arms, with intermittent kisses while we watched various movies. We’d spend hours on end talking about absolutely nothing deep into the night with each other over the phone, hanging on each other’s every unsaid word. She was there, her loving and reassuring face, cheering me on at every one of my volleyball games, further motivating me into an all-star season. My senior homecoming I arrived to pick her up only to be absolutely awestruck with how she looked in a midnight blue gown, and incredibly lucky to have one as gorgeous as her for my date. On cool fall and spring nights, the wind rustling lightly through tree leaves, we’d spend hours walking her dog; our hands intertwined with one another, we’d share laughter and jokes with each other as we casually strolled. These were short outtakes from our intensely emotion-rich relationship that spanned the course of around a full calendar year, including my entire senior year of high school. Whether it’d been deciding to take a walk, laughter erupting from our lungs like lava, as rain cascaded from our glee-filled faces, we’d walk hand in hand as we playfully caroused about together in rainstorms. Or whilst our bodies remained locked together like jenga blocks, my arms wrapped around her body holding her snugly against my chest, we’d lay beneath blankets, the glare from a television screen illuminating soft loving kisses exchanged randomly. It was a sort of teenage relationship that could only be described as one that made Shakespearean love seem trivial by comparison. The months immediately following my high school graduation proved to be a trying few months for our blossomed relationship. While we never officially broke up, the time we’d spend together grew increasingly less and less frequent. I had started college classes a week after I celebrated in my cap and gown with my high school peers. With more and more of my time being held hostage due to classes and radio internships, we kept in touch through various means of communication, and would occasionally keep our flame burning when we had time to re-acquaint ourselves with one another. Lucky days would be spent over that summer with each other, lazing poolside next to one other. Every so often I would turn to face her, the sunlight glimmering off of her goldenrod-colored hair, and we would simply gaze deep into one another’s eyes. Around the end of summer, our lucky days became quite the saddening rarity. Nights once filled with conversations late into the early morning were replaced with sparse bits of talk time primarily through text-based means of communications. I 22
was picking up more and more internship time with a radio station, and getting increasingly engulfed inside my chosen career; she was preparing herself for a very important junior year in high school. We were being pulled apart at the seams like a tattered old shirt by our respective educational focuses. It was as if the very same forces of fate that seemingly brought us together were having us ripped from one another’s loving embrace. An apparent last chance at romantic redemption came in the forms of a family function; one night to rekindle the unmistakable love we had for one another would come in the forms of a family member’s wedding. I was outwardly hopeful about the event, being a member of the wedding party; I couldn’t have been more excited to once again have the most beautiful girl I’d known in formal attire, and at my side. Upon placing the call to initially set the date I could sense the sheer elation in her voice upon accepting my invitation, the happiness that mirrored my own internal jubilation. Over a year together, countless intimate hours had been spent with each other; and we were once again back to the initial stages of utter enjoyment upon acceptance of time spent with one another. As the day of my uncle’s wedding arrived we hadn’t talked much in the preceding week. No arrangements had been made other than the initial invitation and exchanging of event details, so I expected to simply meet up with her at the wedding. Family, friends, and loved ones were all in attendance at this wedding, but to my disdain, the one and only person I’d planned on seeing at the wedding did not show up. To this day I’m still not very sure how exactly it happened, as it was an absolute whirlwind of a day; but we did not get to spend our fated time together at the wedding that day and night. There was no gazing longingly into each other’s eyes as we slow danced, my hand placed on the small of her back. There was no laughter to be had during dinner as we engorged ourselves with sliced roast beef and mashed potatoes. There wasn’t even the timeless pleasure of having our picturesque romance captured inside a photograph that day. Apparently my love was under the impression when our initial plans were made that I’d be her transportation. Somehow I had managed to stand up the single greatest person in my life up to that point, and I wasn’t even aware of it. The only thing that remained were the words that awaited me on my computer screen when I arrived home later that night. The words that still to this very day haunt my memories, and plague my inner conscious read very simply, “I hate you.” A week later and there we were, three teenage boys on the way to volleyball; when an inadvertent driving mishap, and sudden change in car direction brought up an odd conversation. Somehow it sparked dubious conversation about hearing 23
through the rumor mill of two girls from a nearby high school that were killed in a car crash just 48 hours prior. As I pried for further details, something inside me was biting at my brain, as if to tell me I already knew the answers to my questions. My Jessica, the one with whom I spent so many irreplaceable days and nights with, was taken by an oncoming car; I hadn’t even gotten the chance to tell her the outpouring of emotions I had for her, much less apologize. As the emotion itself was all so new, I had never took the time during our countless hours with one another to tell her the words I desperately felt inside. The funeral itself was incomprehensible. Hundreds of friends, classmates, and people that didn’t even know my girlfriend were at the funeral. Snaking themselves throughout the inner workings of the building and out the parlor doors they poured themselves out onto the sidewalk in a single file line, gradually paying their respects. Arriving amidst a wave of emotions, I remember having to return to my car several times throughout the visitation to weep what seemed like my soul out into tissues, as various songs we had shared together echoed from my vehicle’s speakers. Walking up to the casket was surreal, I couldn’t physically approach within five feet of it without having the feeling creep up of my insides being ripped out by the very demons that had stolen my love from her breath. As I stood there very sullen and in a daze all I remember is her grandmother, from whom I was always desperately seeking to gain acceptance, clutching me in her arms as we wept together. I can still hear the echo of her words in my ears “She loved you with all her heart, she loved you truly and completely. No matter what I thought.” Whether it be the accumulation of outsiders to our relationship, or just the internal fear of being seen as less of a man; I couldn’t say what I really wanted to say to my love at the visitation, services, or even the actual burial. I was drone-like as I helped carry her coffin to its final resting place; the emotion was seemingly gone from out my face the same as her life was out from her body. I sat very quiet as the various prayers were read, occasionally needing to wipe tears from my cheeks as they streamed out. As the casket was lowered into the ground, I approached the mound of dirt and tossed a single rose I had clutched in my hand into the dark chasm-like hole below me. Taking a few slow steps backward, my lips parted as if to cry out to the powers that be themselves and ask for a second chance, I bowed my head and returned to my car. Weeks would pass before I would be able to return. A plane flew overhead in the sky, leaving a jet stream to intertwine itself with the fluffy white clouds in the sky that day. Butterflies fluttered across the various stone markers and the hum of lawnmowers buzzed faintly in the distance. Merely walking up the hill I found myself choking back furious tears already 24
welling themselves at the base of my eyelids. After what seemed like a lifetime I made it up the slope, to the top of the hill I was struggling to ascend. At the summit, overwhelming beauty enveloped me; I found myself entering what seemed to be an untouched forest shrine of some sort. Tall, aged oak trees protected the back side of this grove with beams of sunlight poking through the dense foliage. Longer limbs overhung from the trees and created a canopy of leaves, keeping half of this grassy area free from sunlight. Arriving at my destination tears could no longer be restrained, and they began to stream down my cheeks, coating my face with a wet, salty film. I hovered over the marker as if trying to stare myself straight through the ground to once again see who I was trying to find. Sobbing uncontrollably I lifted my head up and looked into the clouds, tears now flowing straight back my face, wetting the inside of my ear sockets. Throughout constant sobs and incoherent word fragments, I used one trembling hand to wipe the tears from my face and cheeks, and dropped to my knees in the grass. As I tilted my head down looking to the granite marker, I acted as a personal rain cloud, puddles of tears collecting inside the granite lettering. There I remained, one hand outstretched; the palm of my hand planted firmly on the cold, unsympathetic letters, eternally saying my unsaid apologetic goodbyes.
Figure in Pastel by Evan Lolli
I Can‟t Say I Would‟ve Kept You Poem by Sara Kaehler I’ll never know what you were thinking about when you sent me into the gas station by myself. You abandoned me, turning down your shitty, electronic music to snap a cruel & insensitive “Let’s try to make this quick.” This was before the days when I felt responsible enough to carry a purse with me, so when I exited your car, which you didn’t even bother to turn off, I pathetically tried to hide the drug store plastic bag behind my thigh as I asked for the restroom key. I can pinpoint the moments we stopped loving each other. You stopped loving me when you begrudgingly went into Walgreens around ten o’clock at night to buy the cheapest pregnancy test you could find. As you paid with cash, you stopped loving me with every tender bill you ran between your fingers, two fives & three ones that ended up in the register whose forceful shut may as well have been the last nail in our coffin. I stopped loving you under a flickering light as I counted seconds on my fingers that should have been wrapped in yours as we faced the threat of adulthood together. I stopped loving you around forty-seven Mississippis, terrified by the idea that in an incredibly near and all too conceivable future, we would fall apart, but there would be casualties. Afterwards, after counting all my digits six times over, after throwing away the cheap stick coated in my shame rather than my urine, pale pink negative sign & all, I staggered back to 27
your car. You watched me out of the corner of your eyes when you asked me how it turned out. You grumbled an â€œI told you soâ€? then turned the volume back up.
Angiosarcoma Poem by Zachary A. McCoy Sometimes I wish I had a rare type of cancer That settled thickly in my blood. And that I only had a thirty percent chance To make it out alive. Because no one really listens When they think you are going to be around A long long time. They only really listen, when you are about to die. And if you could die right now Every word becomes your potential last And everyone is interested in last words. I wish I were an amputee So people would wonder what happened to me And I could tell them all the awful things that I have seen While awake and in my dreams. And how I fought through the pain. But I wouldnâ€™t be telling about my leg. Because I have lost so much more than a limb It just doesnâ€™t show quite the same. Since no one looks me in the eye And sees what lacks from what I Was before.
Tiny Spaces Fiction by Angela Corbett The haze is receding now. I’m neither conscious nor unconscious, comfortable nor uncomfortable—in the place where I listen to my thoughts, muffled from behind a closed door. I’m in a tight curl of bodies, shoulder-to-shoulder, linked like segments of a millipede. Our pores are open-mouthed and drooling into one another’s. Lips pull against aluminum. Skin sticks to the leather couch. The air is occasionally broken by voices and grunting engines coming in from the open window. Heat swathes us like a layer of cellophane and the faces around me have drawn their curtains. Except for Jared. He’s looking at me from across the room, or at least I think he is. In the little globe of orange light branching from the tip of a bent and quivering cigarette, I can see a bead of sweat traveling down the slope of his nose. Smoke hovers before settling in sheets over the neon constellations that cluster the walls. Haphazardly placed, plastic, glow-in-the-dark cutouts create the backdrop for the piles of beer cans and bottles and bags of chips staggering up from the coffee table like city buildings. The faint green light emitted by the stars is comforting. When I was little, I had a ceiling full of them—precisely placed like my stuffed animals and the toy kitchen set in my room, complete with a fake yellow phone that I used to dial “911” when my house was broken into. I told my mom not to worry and then I turned back to the phone, pressed my cheek to the sticky, white buttons and talked to the make-believe voice of a policeman coming through the receiver. I miss the comfort of smallness—hidden in playrooms, within plastic slides, under pillow forts and just below eye level—and feeling, falsely of course, that everything is simple and everything can be fixed. Someone’s legs are draped over my lap and someone’s swelling body is pressed to my side. I feel like a tapeworm, outgrowing intestines, bloated and stuck inside damp casing without space to elongate. Someone on the floor groans. “What time is it?” I turn my wrist and look at an imaginary watch. “Either very late or very early,” I say, “Depends on how you want to look at it.”
Submission Details Initiated in January 2005, Lions-on-Line is a literary collection of works by the College of Mount St. Joseph students and alumni published online with the cooperation of the English Department. Lions-on-Line is published online twice yearly, during the fall and spring semesters. When our budget allows, Lions-on-Line goes “in print”. We take submissions during all twelve months of the year. If you are currently a student or a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph and you would like to see your work published, you may submit your work to LOL simply by emailing poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction or digital artwork to LOL@mail.msj.edu. For full submission guidelines, consult our website. Lions-on-Line is always looking for new staff members! If you’re interested in joining Lions-on-Line, please contact the faculty advisor, Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D. at the following email address: email@example.com.
Editors and Staff Poetry Editor:
Creative Nonfiction Editor:
Zachary A. McCoy
Emily Berning Corey Burdine Lauren DiMenna Matthew Kohlmorgen
Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D.