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Featuring Amanda Bennett, Torii Grabowski, Julie Strand, Eric Valentine & Karena Youtz



TORII GRABOWSKI Mitigating Disturbance at the Chuck E. Cheese


AMANDA BENNETT Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt

We think by feeling. What is there to know?



TORII GRABOWSKI Torii Grabowski will soon receive her MFA in fiction from Boise State University where she teaches fiction writing and works as the Associate Editor for the Idaho Review. In 2010, her story "River Baby" received the Glenn Balch Fiction Award, and was later published in the Southern Pacific Review. Torii likes to participate in regular Fiction Readings with three fantastic ladies who constantly inspire her to write more, and write better. She lives in the North End with her boyfriend, Kyle, and awesome golden retriever, Tucker, who likes to go off-leashing in the foothills like nobody's business.



Let me say, right up front, that I did punch Harold Del-

mar in the nose. I did show up, uninvited, to Chuck E. Cheese with a brightly wrapped package and my son Blaine in tow, to celebrate his daughter Ava’s eighth birthday party. I did plan to wish Ava a happy birthday, let Blaine eat a slice of pizza and play Skee-ball, and be on our way. I did not plan to cause any trouble. I did not plan on hitting my fellow co-captain of the Wombat junior baseball league—and former best friend—in the nose, right before he cut into the Hannah Montana cake—his knife-hand poised directly above the neon-pink icing—while Ava stood by, close enough to hear his cartilage break, and my son watched from his wide-legged stance on top of the matching pink plastic-covered table, his pants and underwear lowered to his ankles, making machine gun noises and aiming his small penis in a horizontal sprinkler motion towards each of the horrified guests.

Nothing about this situation was ideal, I will admit.

And although I am aware I will lose spectacularly in

the upcoming court case against me, and that those who were present at the Chuck E. Cheese will remember only my actions, and Blaine’s actions, perhaps, and although having the cartoon mouse take off his headpiece to reveal a rather surly looking ex-bouncer, to the confusion of the children and disappointment of the adults, so that he could forcibly 4

carry me from the family restaurant, was not my finest mo-

to utilize the full momentum of my ninety-four pounds. He

ment, by any measure, it is important to recognize that these

pointed out the flat part of my fist, right below my knuckles,

things don’t just happen.

and taught me how to swing my body to keep control and

Although I will admit to punching Harold in the nose, I will not apologize for doing so. There is a reason it got to this

deliver maximum force. All this, he taught me in fifteen minutes.

point, just like (I suspect), there is a reason Blaine whips out

his penis when he is distressed, excited, or briefly unat-

my class caught three earwigs in a cup, snuck them into mid-

tended. What I am saying is this: I was incited to punch my

day mass, and slipped them underneath the waistband of

best friend in the nose. I had no other option. He knew, and

my Hanes while I was kneeled in absolution, doing the mo-

I knew, it was coming. And regardless of the current charges

tions my parents told me I had to mimic if not believe, I did

against me, if I could return to the party for a do-over, I

not deliver the punch my brother taught me. Instead, I deliv-

wouldn’t change a thing.

ered a string of curses that reverberated against the stain-

For the record, Harold Delmar is the first and only per-

son I’ve punched in my entire life. I did grow up with a brother five years my senior, and he did teach me to throw a punch, but before Ava’s birthday party, I never found a reason to do so.

When I turned twelve and came home regularly with

black eyes and swollen lips from the Catholic school my Lutheran parents enrolled us in to sidestep the atrocious public schooling Florida was known for, my brother took me into the basement and showed me how to punch using a blow-up cartoon cheetah that made an appearance at my tenth birth-

But when I went to school the next day and two boys in

glassed windows, sending a ripple through the students bowed in prayer, their heads lifted, their mouths forming a singular O. My teacher punched two holes in a piece of cardboard, laced a piece of string through them, and wrote in large, red, capital letters: I SWORE IN GOD’S HOUSE, WHEN I SHOULD HAVE BEEN LISTENING TO JESUS.

I wore the sign for the rest of the day, and when I got

home and showed it to my parents, my brother and I were enrolled in the nearest, shitty, public district by the next day. For that, I was saved from throwing the punch that my brother and I both knew would have done very little.

day party. He showed me where to hold my thumb, on the

The point is, I never felt a need to punch anyone in the

outside of my fist, and how to distribute my weight properly

face, up until Harold, and only at that particular moment. 5

You might think the earwig incident made me vengeful; that

Westerns with my son. What I am saying is this: I am a man

for a second Harold’s face took on the shape of my adoles-

who makes the best of his situation. I am a man who does

cent tormentors, that my anger was building for one too

what is best for his son.

many years and was finally set free, but this would be incorrect. I had one year of bullying, and that was that. I filled out when I turned fourteen, and took up wrestling in high school. I met Laurel in my senior year, proposed at our graduation. Was married before I was nineteen, and had Blaine before I was twenty. And even though we divorced before he learned to walk, I still try to see the good in things, I really do. I try to make the best of it.

Here’s where things get tricky. The penis situation. I still

remember the initial conference. For once, Laurel actually wanted me to come, even though she wouldn’t tell me why, and even though she still had Jeff come with her. We sat around the double-wide table reserved for PTA meetings next to the principal’s office, twiddling our thumbs for the first couple minutes. Somehow I got stuck at the head of the table, while the principal and the teacher sat at one side,

After the divorce, I fought for weekend visitation and

and my ex and her new husband sat at the other. Somehow,

three nights a week, along with holidays and most of the

this made it seem like I was the one on trial, like I had done

summer, which is almost unheard of when the mother isn’t a

something wrong. Somehow I was the only one who wasn’t

crackhead. I rearranged my schedule at Macaroni Grill

let in on the fact that my son had developed a habit of flash-

when I received my new visitation schedule, and left Laurel

ing his cash and prizes to his unsuspecting peers during

the house, and didn’t complain when Jeff moved in, or when

class, on the playground, in the lunchroom, and anywhere

he got her pregnant three years in succession, so that when

else he got the chance. So for the first few minutes, I was

I came to pick up Blaine I had to see a whole bunch of

lost. For the first few minutes, the principal and teacher

snotty little girls running around, who weren’t really snotty,

looked at me with alternating looks: at once questioning,

who were actually well-mannered and cute, but should have

pitying, and condemning, wondering how I knew so little

been mine, and not Jeff’s. Still, I didn’t complain. I picked

about my own son.

up the son I had and brought him to the condo I owned. I

So, he’s flashing people?

teacher conferences even though Laurel insisted she could

Laurel shot me a look and Jeff looked like he wanted to

“take care of it,” and spent my Saturday nights watching old

laugh. I’ll admit, I kind of wanted to punch him then.

learned to cook meals other than spaghetti, went to parent


We don’t use the word flashing, Mr. Yahkish.

The teacher had a small stack of pamphlets in front of

her, and she slid one over to me. At the top, it said, So Your Child is Exposing Himself.

So what’s the big deal? Why’s the principal here?

My ex and the teacher exchanged glances, and the

The teacher tapped her foot. She had long brown hair

and looked much younger than my ex-wife. When she spoke, she did not look at me. She looked at Laurel instead.

I’ve spoken to Blaine, asked him why he likes to do this.

He says he is bored, and that it is fun to show his friends. He seems to understand it is wrong, but he continues to do it anyway. Do you have any ideas why he might be doing

principal cleared his throat.


These situations are tricky, Mr. Yahkish, Mrs. Yahkish.

Jeff said, TV? Like it was a question.

I expected my wife to correct him, but instead she nod-

My ex-wife mentioned how much he plays video

ded serenely, without looking at me. The principal contin-

games, at my house. She added that she didn’t allow them


at her house.

We understand Blaine is young, that he is expressing

I said, aren’t we blowing this out of proportion? And

himself, but we have to consider the other students. There

four heads swiveled to the head of the table, their eyes bor-

are legal concerns. Parents do not want their daughters to

ing into mine.

see a penis. It is difficult for Blaine’s classmates to focus on say, the Civil War, when your son is using green marker to trace his penis and make a rocketship. This is not hypothetical. This was last Thursday.

Laurel reddened. I pictured a really small rocketship.

The principal continued.

Calls are being made, conversations are being had.

You understand that Blaine is not our only student.

I mean, he’ll grow out of it if we ignore him, right? Kids

play doctor. Kids are curious. What do you want to do, make him wear a sign that says I SHOW MY PENIS? The principal said, maybe we should consider weekly counseling.

I tried to talk to Blaine about it myself, the next time he

came over. We played Guitar Hero for an hour, and I let 7

him win three times in a row. I made macaroni and cheese

with cutup hotdogs. I watched him slurp down the noodles,

table, leaned back in his chair, and blew his bangs up from

eat around the cheesy meat so he could save his favorite for

his eyes so that—for a second—he looked more seventeen


than seven.

Dude, I said. Your teacher told me you are showing

your privates to your friends. That’s not funny, man.

And then my son pushed his bowl to the center of the

What a dumb reason, Dad.

When two people get divorced, no matter what, there

Penis, penis, penis, Blaine said. He stabbed three

is always someone who comes out on the winning end. And

pieces of hotdog with his Thomas the Tank Engine fork and

in my divorce, there was really no contest. Laurel is the one

ate them all at once. It’s called a penis, Dad.

who found someone else to love her. Laurel is the one who

Okay then. Your penis. You can’t show your penis to

your friends.

He looked up from his bowl, and screwed up his lips so

that he looked just like me. Why not?

had three more perfect children, none of whom flash their classmates. Laurel is the one who got the house, and the Leave it to Beaver dinner table, and the family trips to Wisconsin Dells.

But I get Blaine—and I don’t just mean on nights and

These are the moments when I take pause. Why not? I

weekends. I get Blaine. I get to be there for him when Laurel

thought of the things I could tell him. That it was inappropri-

can’t. If he can’t have Playstation at her house, he can have

ate. That he will get in trouble at school. That someone

it at mine. If Laurel says no toy guns, he’ll sure as hell find

deems a certain age when we can experiment with sex, and

them under my fake tree on Christmas. This is what I can

that he hasn’t reached that age yet; or simply because I

give: what she denies him. And it may seem childish, or irre-

said so, which is probably what Laurel would say.

sponsible, or silly, but sometimes you have to take small vic-

Instead I said this: Because your mother doesn’t want

you to.

tories as a divorced dad. And if I can feel him inch closer to me by placing us on one side of the fence, and Laurel on the other, then I’ll do it. I won’t think twice.


So I agreed. I told him it was a stupid reason. And he

I said, shouldn’t I be the one worried about him wear-


ing girl clothes?

But I believed what I said in the principal’s office. I

But I wasn’t, and she was, and the fact is Blaine grew

didn’t think the flashing was a big deal. I did think it would

out of Snow White and moved onto the Power Rangers be-

blow over. It reminded me of when Blaine was four and

fore Christmas. I figured the same thing would happen with

went through a Snow White phase, pleading to dress up in

the flashing. If we acknowledged it, talked about it, let him

her blue and red dress for Halloween. It surprised me that

get it out of his system, he’d move onto something else soon

Laurel was so against it.

enough. But that was before the inciting incident, before last

Jeff says he’ll get teased, she said.

Jeff’s an idiot, I said. He’s four. People will think it’s


Saturday’s baseball practice.

Let me just say, Harold and I have been friends for a

long time. A long time. And we’ve gone through basically everything together. I got married six months before he tied

I bought him the costume anyway, and when Hallow-

the knot, and Sara delivered Ava four months before Blaine

een rolled around, I got him for the first three hours and he

was born. Although I was the first to get divorced, it was

trick-or-treated as Snow White, singing a few bars of “Some-

less than two years before he and Sara untied the knot. And

day my Prince Will Come” at each house. The mothers ate it

before all of that, back when my parents made that rash de-

up, and one of them even gave me her number, and Blaine

cision for me and my brother to switch districts, Harold was

a king-size Snickers. When I dropped him off with Laurel,

the student assigned to help me assimilate. He showed me to

she gave me a nasty look, and she had him changed into

all my classes, and told me I should stop tucking my shirt

the robot costume her mother helped her make within

into my jeans. He invited me to his house and shared his

twenty minutes.

dad’s collection of dirty videos, and let me copy off his his-

You only did this because you knew it would make me

mad, she said.

tory homework when it became obvious how much my Catholic schooling had neglected that particular subject. When we entered high school, we joined the wrestling team together and made sure we took all the same subjects. And 9

when Harold joined me in bachelorhood, he found a condo

close before you saw his small package peeking through the

in the same complex as mine, and we agreed to volunteer

metal teeth of his zipper. And Ava, trying to skid to a stop,

as captains for the local baseball team so we could see our

but instead toppling over Blaine. The whole thing couldn’t

kids more, and so we didn’t have the pressure of going at it

have last more than ten—fifteen—seconds, tops. Ava


screamed, Blaine giggled, there was a small scuffle, and pos-

I figured Harold must have heard about Blaine’s new-

sibly some touching.

found hobby, but now that I think about it, he could have

been as clueless as me. Sara might not have told him about

him to zip up his pants, but the damage was done. Harold

it. Still, I didn’t expect him to get so upset. I didn’t expect

ended practice early, and he wouldn’t accept my apologies

him to make such a scene.

or explanations. I got angry, too, and said some things I

Picture this: Harold pitching, and me at third base,

coaching for run-ins. We’re doing a scrimmage, and Ava’s

I scooped Blaine up from the dirt and scolded him, told

probably shouldn’t have, and the whole time Blaine was jumping around the bleachers like nothing happened.

up at bat. Blaine’s acting as catcher, which he hates, be-

cause he has to squat still for too long. Ava connects with

wouldn’t answer his cell. When I saw him coming and going

the first pitch, hard, cracking the ball up and over Bernie,

from his condo, he’d act like I wasn’t there, so I did the

the left-fielder, who wouldn’t have caught it even if it landed

same. I knew he was mad at me, sure, and I understood

square in front of his face.

why. I figured if I gave him some time to cool off, things

Picture this: Ava pumping hard around the bases, all

I tried to call Harold a few times after that, but he

would go back to normal.

the fielders giving up in defeat, Bernie searching for the ball

that he didn’t see coming, and me guiding Ava around the

when Laurel dropped my son off for the weekend, and

last base, telling her to gun it for home.

pulled me aside to let me know he hadn’t received an invita-

Picture this: Blaine, wide-stanced over home plate, his

catcher’s mask raised, his mitt abandoned, his pants still up, but his zipper down, so that you would have to be pretty

All things considered, I should have seen it coming. But

tion for Ava’s birthday party the next day, and I saw Blaine, my tough kid nobody and nothing could touch, kicking at dirt in the back yard, shuffling around and trying not to let 10

his disappointment show, I let that news hit me in the gut. I

let it sit there, for a minute, before I said anything.

already. That it got mixed up with the junk mail, and my son

Did everyone get an invite?

I think so, Teddy. From what I gathered.

Well what the hell? They’re just kids. They’re best

friends, for Christ’s sake. Come on.

From what I hear, this could have been prevented, Lau-

rel said, enunciating her words so I couldn’t miss them. From what I hear, Harold’s not the person you should be mad at.

She could do that, my ex-wife. She was the master of

making you feel like the smallest piece of shit imaginable. So I did the only thing I could think of to do. I waited until Laurel left, then took Blaine to the mall and let him pick out a toy for his best friend. I bought some paper, and scotch tape, and wrapped it as well as I could. I folded a piece of white paper and let Blaine write out a message to Ava in capital letters. I listened to my son tell me over and over that he wasn’t invited, that you had to have a Spiderman invitation to go, and that he didn’t have one. I listened to him tell me all the reasons why he was left out, and I lied.

Dude. I said. She mailed the invitation here. She knew

you were coming for the weekend, so she sent it here. You got an invitation, she just sent it here.

When he asked me to show it to him, I told him I lost it

believed me. Maybe because my condo was a mess, or maybe because he knew I was lying and didn’t want me to say anything more. We played Guitar Hero for a couple of hours, read a book, and went to bed. When he woke up the next morning, he got dressed without complaint. To be fair, I did call Harold to tell him we were coming. I did call, but he did not pick up.

I wanted to be at the party on time, but because we

didn’t have an invitation, I had to guess. Because of this, we arrived after the pizza had been served, and after the tokens had been distributed, and after the presents had been opened. Because of my poor estimation, we arrived when the children were already gathered around the table for cake, and the designated parents were poised with camcorders and cameras. So all eyes were on us when we reached the doorway of the Chuck E. Cheese private party room.

And at this precise moment, my son must have realized

I lied to him. And for this reason, along with the tension palpable in the air, and the frustration of missing most of the important parts of the party, and perhaps because he hadn’t eaten breakfast this morning and instead sucked down a Pedisure on the way over, my son chose to climb on top of the table and expose himself to a room full of parents and party 11

guests. And Harold, my best friend Harold, against his bet-

ter judgment, directly pointed at me and told me to get “this

may have been misguided, but they were for my son, for my

little pervert out of here.”

son who I only see every so often. I know my son does not

And for this reason, only this reason, I walked directly

up to Harold, possibly pushing young children out of the

But I know better. I know my attempts at reconciliation

have a problem. I know that he is going through a stage, and that he just needs some time.

way in my single-minded rush to reach him, which I’m sure

will be brought up in testimony, and punched him directly in

hurts to know that he knows this will affect my visitation

the nose, the right way, the way my brother taught me, with

rights, and that he is doing it anyway. Because he gets Ava

my fist flat, my knuckles braced, my thumb secure around

every other weekend, and only on two holidays a year, one

my fist, my full weight—about one hundred pounds more

of which is usually Fourth of July, which might as well not be

than it had been fifteen years ago—swinging confidently to

a holiday at all. So maybe he’s jealous of how good I had

make my fist connect centrally with his flesh. It was just one

it. Maybe he wanted to bring me down a peg.

hit, but I made it count.

But it hurts that Harold is going through with this. It

But still, I said I would do it again. I might not say this

There are things that will come up during testimony,

in the courtroom, but I’m saying it here. And here’s why:

things that I will have to listen about myself. I’m sure Harold

Blaine and I driving home. Blaine quiet in the backseat, so

will claim that I came with this singular purpose in mind: to

quiet I almost think he’s asleep, so quiet, I’m trying to figure

destroy his daughter’s birthday party. There will be a great

out how I can get him out of the car without waking him

to-do about the inciting baseball practice, and—my lawyer

when we get home. I’m trying to figure out how long it will

had hinted—about the initial conversation I had in the confer-

take before Laurel hears about what happened, how much

ence, about my apathetic reaction to my son’s problem.

longer I’ll have him, how much longer it will be quiet, like

That’s what they will call it, my lawyer says, a problem,

or a condition. You should expect this, he says. You should not argue this. We don’t have much of a case, so it’s important we don’t make it worse, he says. It’s important we toe

this. And then, a giggle.

Dude, Dad. Did you see their faces?

I smile, and keep driving.

the line. 12

You can’t do that anymore. You get that—right?

It was just you and me, Dad. You and me against the

party. We showed ‘em.

And I don’t agree, but I don’t have to, because I see in

my rearview mirror that his head is already pressed against his seatbelt, his eyes closed. And I think, hey, I would defend you, you know? I would defend you no matter what. And right then, that was important. That was the only thing that mattered.


JULIE STRAND Julie Strand is a candidate for the MFA in Creative Writing at Boise State University. She is also the Education Coordinator at The Cabin, a literary center about a block from BSU. She is co-editor of Goodmorning Menagerie, a chapbook press. Her chapbook, The Mae West Defense, was released by Dancing Girl Press in 2009. Her work has appeared in Caffeine Destiny, FOURSQUARE, Boo: A Journal of Terrific Things, Weave Magazine, Delirious Hem’s 2010 Advent Calendar, and others.



AGAIN Cut my hollow neck open and fill it with bees. Pour them down so the pile starts at my echoing toes and fills all the vasiform appendages of me. Please kill them first one by one before they water into me. I can't stand the thought of revolting stingers, building honey combs, homing in my cavities. They would have no room to hang or swing. And pick out all the queens before. I don't want any more girlish bossiness floating around. Filled to the rime already, I have no idea how to rid skin of it. Only 15

BEFORE YOU male bees please, their wings tucked in with honey. I hope you don't mind all the leg

I built myself into a full anatomy,

work needed before filling me. Hope it will be worth it for your fingers.

a child with a mouth full of bees. You pulled them out

Whenever I’ll see you now, I feel bees like boiling inside me again.

with the cup of your hand and threw them like a mouth full of sand. Blood flowed and tendons sinewed just like they had in the past. I was a hole now, a hole again gaping, ladled of wings and stingers, pollen and honey, and all I wanted to fill it with, was you fingers and palms lifelines and jagged nails. I lowered my jaw, looked


at you and you hid your hands behind your back. From where I sat doe eyes angry it looked like you were armless, an anatomy incomplete. I loved you more then I love you more without your arms.

IN SEARCH You’ve always wanted to feel all the bones in a body, dig your fingers into your own skin in search, crinkling lines into your face. It hurts enough to make you pull back but your stiff knuckles tell your need for answers. I am more concerned with the wet strands that come from your soft spots what can spoil at some point a cliff collapsing into sea spray the clear winner every time. I want to be a winner and want you even if my knuckles and face dig ditches like yours.


DROWNING I wake up to your face, morning after morning, relive our love every day like the sun and its following stars see the same land every day then night like bees visit the same flowers to bring back what’s needed as long as its available. As long as you’re available I can renew your image in my eyes daily, you will appear

EDITOR’S NOTE: The formatting for the following untitled poems is designed to retain and highlight the author’s intention. They are “poems [that] are dialogic. They attempt to have direct conversations with each other to embark on a search for their own meaning.”

and re, and also, and additionally, and always. When I think of your body, I mostly think of your face. If you aren’t around for a week I do loose it, as if your face drowns in the sea of what else is in front of my eyes. I see you after this absence and have to relearn. Etching takes a minute, but I will eventually respond.


the southern border grown over with beard.

I try to describe what is around the moment, object, line, that is the beginning.

Why hide only pieces of yourself?

Unsatisfied or worried

I come back to it

I am too simplistic.

pieing at you, mouth tasting the air

I search for a description,

Your face more thin than a circle

what touches us both.

still grasp onto what I might say at a dinner table to my mother. I say pieing instead of my eye looks. The image it rhymes with eye which is all the sense. It will seem mysterious, and poetic it will and won’t be.


I is not quite. I am a hide not quite covering the muscles of a deer

This seemed like a poem metaphors and an ending that leaves you in image.

blood dripping down the boney knees. I is knuckles of a hand the middle one too big to match the others. I am a very long nail curved inward on the pinky finger of your hand. I is a grasping

A thought but only almost. To be almost is the over and over of the poem of all the poems on these pages in your hand.

jar opener you dig out of the drawer you don't usually open, its filled with all the

I am speaking directly to you and we are having a conversation.

things you want to close your eyes to. I am a drawer good at disobeying

Did you see there how I made us one? Did you in your eyes?

and making you forget feng shui. I is a hole allowing you to keep what you should rid your life of. I am what doesn't quite cover a hole or what

Funny, I am. Shirk off your borders, I am. Let me lap up the fluids under your skin I am.

keeps one in tact. I is what borders an opening what is the definition of an absence. I am that one thing. I am many things lying to faces one the street. I am

Always I. Where else can I invade you? Where else can I invade you and leave it hanging? Where else but the next page.

molecules pretending to be one object. I is two people wanting to be in one head to understand each other. I is a myth as old as shorelines absorbing water and drying in the presence of the sun.


A statement netted between my lips.

Or maybe it is that I am too much of an I

Confidence is fickle or a liver riddled with years of medication. I am practical and you are sticking to the walls of my brain like a wallpaper made of many fly strips. I’d like to convince myself that what’s been lost hasn’t altered my body any.

looking constantly at my navel at the mirror at the clothes I wear at myself in your eyes at what you say to me at what you want from me. Maybe you are in the line every time.

I’d like to convince myself that what you tell me isn’t absorbed thoughtless, and I would like to be an active member of myself.

Whether or not you are based on a real man,

This happens when you have nothing to say for yourself.

the you here, on the page is really I, controlling you, a marionette cut off at the wooden knees. Take the blame. Be a target. Make me the victim. Dance.


What I say is exhausting to you. Am I therefore exhausting? Does a part constitute the whole? At what point, what percentage of matter do pieces of me equal a self?

We fight and I am left unsatisfied. I write. Catharsis is real and I’m not ashamed. The event makes me think of my I. What is it? Its boundaries what it includes.

I find a pill on the carpet, separated at some point from the bottle and push it into a crevice between two of your records. Revolt again cleaning myself out of your space. If I move on am not offended, what does that mean of value?

I write lying on the carpet as you iron clothes on the bed. The poem shifts. I have no answers and murder in the poem doesn’t solve anything. Maybe I am ashamed. I find a pill on the floor, revolt against cleaning myself out of your apartment and shove it between records.

Peter, Paul and Mary what happens when you fight? Are commas simultaneous

Fragmentation, like that is a solution, like a beak and a wing and a tail become a bird.

a drawing of borders an anticipation of each other? Like a beak, a wing, and a song become a bird.


I touch(ed) you. I (will) touch you. No one is present. Suggestion, it makes me Does love matter

think of poetry.

as much as a fragmented I?

The poet suggests, the reader either makes that suggestion into the thing in her mind or doesn’t.


A woman's skin is slight even if she has thick layers of fat within her. Her borders are porous like a chain of colanders strung together. String her around your

To say my voice in the poem is not my voice when I sit on this carpet with you

body, what you want and she will see it as her own. What is yours is mine marriage is not required for this sweet sapping of more than one body.   I rub leather protector onto my arms thinking that I am an animal too   but I found it inside your desk drawer mahogany and I am not an animal.    I'm going to stop now, because this is where I go. Breathe and turn

and you won’t let me eat supper in your bed.

is a lie. You don’t have enough chairs for us to sit on

It is your house, I only have a drawer and a chicken in the yard molting eggs. But I lied and you accepted so lets move on.

the page fingers dewing its corners.


ERIC VALENTINE ERIC VALENTINE is a writer, editor, and designer with more than 13 years of experience in journalism, marketing and creative arts. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from UCLA, but says he learned most about the craft of writing from his first editor Wayne Green of The Wall Street Journal, who hired Eric as a reporter in 1999 for a community newspaper Green purchased. Eric spent the next 5 years writing and editing for newspapers in San Diego, and later Silicon Valley, before moving to Boise, Idaho, in 2004.

ERIC SUGGESTS: Anything by Camille Paglia DAEMON and FREEDOM TRADEMARKED by Daniel Suarez


Hiking Mt. Fuji is not a great accomplishment. When you do it, old Japanese ladies – who hike it once a week for leisure – pass you by, giggling. You hike Mt. Fuji the way you tour the Colosseum in Rome. Anyone can do it, but not everyone has been. You do it to say you’ve been. I have proof that I’ve been. It’s a lava rock from the very top of Fuji-san. A quarter-pound chunk of volcano vomit that I learned, after I had brought it home, was bad luck. I was telling this story to my friend Jen, a beautiful young woman totally devoted to the healing arts and making the world a better place. Jen is not a liberal or a progressive. Jen is a utopian. “Apologize to the mountain and let it know the rock is in good hands. You’ve been proud to have it. You’ve been taking good care of it. And you want permission to keep it. Maybe even one day you will return it,” Jen said. “But you have to go back to that moment when you took it.” --Our group of 10 expatriates began the Fuji climb at 11pm. It’s the recommended way to climb Fuji-san, especially if you may only be climbing it once in your life. Leaving the base station at 11pm allows you to get to the top of Fuji right at sunrise. It also makes the hike up one of the more aesthetic experiences imaginable. Far outside the Tokyo-Yokohama skyline, and nearly 13,000 feet in the air, Fuji is the Hubble Telescope of earth-bound star gazing. Never before had I seen so many stars so crystalline.


But what drew my attention for most of the hike upward was not the amazing sky. It was the clouds underneath. After about two hours into the hike, we were well above cloudline. And our group noticed a strange triangular dark spot on the clouds below. Some loose references were made to it along the way, but none of us knew exactly what it was we were seeing. After all, it was much easier to focus upward into the mystery of the galaxy than ponder bizarre cloud formations down below. A few more hours into the hike, oxygen began to thin. While there were no treacherous moments, taking seven steps, then five steps, then three steps in a row became a challenge. A break was needed. My buddy Mike, a sweet-natured Texan, stood about 6-foot3 and needed the break the most. He pulled off his backpack, he sat down next to his fiancee Kara, and he looked up at the sky.

“Holy shit, Mike!” I said. “Yeah, I think that triangle we’ve been looking at is Fuji,” Mike said cooly. “Holy shit, Mike!” I said. I think that when I die, for a second I’ll still be alive. And during that second, I believe my mind will pull above my body, and I’ll know exactly where I am, exactly where I’m going, exactly content. That’s how I felt on Fuji-san at that moment. Our bodies and minds at rest. The subtle cues of ambivalent nature revealing themselves in the silence of the world, where freedom lies and creativity is born. And for the first time in my 27 years of life, I knew exactly where I was.

“Oh. It’s a full moon tonight. That’s why were seeing the shape.” Mike said. There was a pause. No one said anything, but everyone looked around. And a silent haiku hit our collective unconscious. Triangular shape. Full moon. On a volcano. See the clouds below.




KARENA YOUTZ is a poet living and working in Boise, Idaho. She

SCOTT ABELS received his MFA from BSU in 2005. He loved living

tries to be in the audience of Boise poetry readings as often as possi-

in Boise! He loves the Boise poets! (Hello Boise poets!)  Abels cur-

ble. She and her husband Doug have performed as a poetry band.

rently lives and teaches in Honolulu, where he edits the online poetry

Her book The Transfer Tree is forthcoming from 1913 Press.

journal Country Music ( He is the author of Rambo Goes to Idaho, which includes John Rambo's MFA thesis (BlazeVOX, 2011), and Nebraska Fantastic (Beard of Bees, 2012). 


More of his work can be found or is forthcoming in Best New Poets; RealPoetik; Forklift, Ohio; Word for/Word; Lungfull; H_NGM_N;

RAMBO GOES TO IDAHO by Scott Abels THE MAP AND THE TERRITORY by Michel Houellebecq ALL THE GARBAGE OF THE WORLD, UNITE! by Kim Hyesoon translated by Don Mee Choi

Sink Review; EOAGH; Sixth Finch; DIAGRAM; and others.


BEFORE MODEL FOR PAXIL Dear Scott, I am almost ready to wash my hair. * Dear Scott, from the town I have fenced the grass as if its plot were not also the town To me a lawn is private. In poetry is it confessional if you didn't do it? Union among poem and person accommodates

Owyhee is a collaborative manuscript written between Idaho, Hawai'i, and Mexico over the course of one year; the title is taken from the Owyhee Mountains of Idaho, which are said to be named from an alternate spelling of Hawai'i. More poems from Owyhee can be found in Alice Blue Review, Horse Less Review, Country Music, and The Ofi.

I am also rain and cold three August days just to sleep with no definite or problem of speech. The experiences themselves do not elegize. In the observation of types of existence, which person asks? And what is best? Like this morning I accidentally fed the cat dogfood for breakfast. You are not the audience you are the poet.


Dear Karena, I actually physically went to some movies in Oregon. That fucker really does go to the moon and get lonely.

Karena, touch my brakes. This is the waiver you will be asked to sign prior to making your skydive.

Beats me who did it. What the Shakespeare town. During the Macbeth intermission I peed blood. Karena, I have an historical ace in the hole: me and Nina are moving back to Mexico. I predict there will be no definite problem of sleep. There will be a bad fluency and an unmeasurable. A shady turdless spot in the park. Union as in worker's rights. There is no experimental taxidermy. So forgive me all my forgive me, a perfectly ugly poem. And there is a companion emotion to giddiness. You have to make a half-empty balloon.



never touches you.

That flower was like, "Taxidermy? Right on!" Shake lithium water from the Lady's unwashable hands. My mother killed herself with fire I never say I will talk about my dog's breakfast

My mother died when she was 43. Details vary Could you read this as a poem from me? No waiver, I never found out how to bring her towards truth.

Dear Scott, poets make meaning AFTER or LATER--Does suicide run down lines of ladies? I never become deathfluent a discussion necessarily silent--Moon, Oregon: on the ocean a fishing ship I find disruptive of the horizon and humans interrupt the beach with cars. Why do we decide what is ugly? I gotta stay up in the etherosphere and look the other way what with all this earth-loss occurring. My mother set my grandmother's house on fire does not have anything to do. If I could reach unmeasured from the sky I would settle my mother. Scott, I still hope gravity 31

Karena, this time a waiver is some fucker actually physically fucking waving from a fire. It was a beautiful day. Karena, I threatened to rape Paul Wolfowitz in a poem

scared the fucking hell out of me. I don't know why I could not be sweet about it. It was physically very pretty.

to scare myself into something spiritual, and I thought it would be more illegal. * And now here is your mother asking you to light a match. My mother would ask me to come make this bed as she was making this bed, which is exactly the task of your last poem. She said Ron Howard has gotten really ugly. Thank you, Karena, for doing that. Karena, just say the sign you'll outlive everyone in the room is if you're the life of the party. Light the match and it's Country Music in the park in everybody's womb and your poem, which will be sad, 32

ANTI-SUICIDE PACT Dear Scott, thank you for making this with me. Symmetry disappoints without surprise. Illegal harshness I walk night alleys for, you hand over unsecretly. Inhaling, black out from pretty or ugly. Ron Howard is such a producer.

angry to be so sad. Fire in the park burning everyone. Scary shit. A sweet lie is still a lie. Fuck it. I never make my bed. Toss a quilt over Macbeth's bloody urine. We can be taken care of with the truth, but after I confessed I could not change my story.

Damn it Scott raping Paul Wolfowitz hurt my kidneys The scariest middle-aged woman you correspond with does not make threats. The waiver's not waving, but fanning the flames Would you rather be spiritual or beautiful like a day? I drove into the one way grid hurrying to the grocer's to compensate; a guy in a Honda flipped jerk honesty -- Doesn't that commuter know I know I drive like shit? Beatniks suggest penning down the first thought. As if thought were linear and with points. In the moment's iconography. My opened thinking became the match so instead fold up my poem for Country Music. Scott, good problems have aesthetic solutions. People have to walk out of the womb. It makes me 33

AMANDA BENNETT AMANDA BENNETT grew up in Connecticut. She attended Hamilton College in upstate New York and received her MFA from Boise State University, where she currently teaches. She is a writer in residence through the Cabin's Writers in the Schools program and is working on a novel entitled, she thinks, The Unbreakable Comb. Her most recent work can be found in the current issue of Confrontation Magazine.

AMANDA SUGGESTS: The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte w/ Anne Carson's "THE GLASS ESSEY"


Dolores says that the last ten minutes of Family Feud are the best, but the last ten minutes of Full House are the worst. Dolores says that every time she read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, she skipped most of the songs because they were kind of boring. Dolores says certain things twice because she has a tumor the size of a ping pong ball growing on the left side of her face, making her difficult to understand, though easier to apply her blush. Dolores says she will tell me more about my mother when she is caught up on One Life to Live. Dolores says, get it? Dolores says she always thought Thomas Jefferson was the sexiest founding father. Dolores asks for glasses of water (because she is constantly thirsty), and if her tumor could potentially be mistaken for body modification (which she has recently become intrigued by), and if she can do Sudoku while the tape recorder is on (because it might alleviate some of the pressure), and for me to stop wearing my hair in pigtails (because I am a grown woman). Dolores says she heard that it was common in prison to get your irises tattooed black, so that you look possessed and or intimidating. Dolores says she is glad McDonald’s brought back the McRib one last time. Dolores says that maybe Michael Bay really does understand the human condition. Dolores says that, incidentally, she has never once lasted a day without telling at least one lie. 35

Dolores says: She has cancer so what she says seems to somehow matter more now. And with the recording, it seems to matter even more. And that everything is being said with the knowledge that she is at the end of the line, and so it’s not accurate, and it’s skewed, and it’s weighted. She says that I want reflection and wise words and rumination so I’m looking for it. And Dolores says that she will say something like, I should have locked the front door last night, and that I will think it’s a stupid metaphor, when really, in this day and age, front doors should probably be locked at night in all parts of the United States of America, and maybe during the day as well. Dolores says that just because she has fewer sentences left to say doesn’t mean she’s more apt to say something profound. Dolores says that her face is really expressive and that maybe I should film this instead and it will be like that Johnny Cash video. Dolores says she doesn’t trust runners who say they like to run, and people who say they don’t get people who don’t take their coffee black, and the people in suits who decided to label the condom aisle at Walmart as “family planning.” Dolores says she is out of breath.

processes of a coma patient, who is actually just a floaty piece in a child’s snow globe, which doesn’t matter, because the whole story is taking place in a wolf’s eye. Dolores says that I should never have let her see the movie Inception.

Dolores says she will tell me more about my mother when she feels like it. Dolores says what she really wants is to get drunk. Dolores says that she is taking this seriously. Dolores says that she will tell me a story, but that it’s complex, and in the end maybe it will all be the thought

Dolores says you should never be with a man who cuts out coupons. Dolores says that you should never be with a man who says things like, “Maybe I’m just a dreamer,” or “I guess I’m kind of a free spirit.”

Dolores says to refrigerate the wine, even though it’s red. Dolores says because it tastes better that way. Dolores says that it’s a miracle she hasn’t developed a complex, what with all the time she’s spent with people who try to undercut everything she says. Dolores tells me that I need to stop drinking all of my wine out of boxes and cubes. Dolores tells me I need to get some sun and maybe some lipstick in a nice coral shade. Dolores says all this while drinking her wine out of a bendy straw. Dolores says that while I was in the bathroom, she stole my cell phone and sent text messages on my behalf consisting of winking smiley faces to all of the male names in my phone book. Dolores says she no longer wants to wear the wig, and to leave her on the floor because the cold feels so nice.


Dolores says that you should never be with a man who doesn’t like The Golden Girls, especially the episode where Blanche has a thing for mall Santas. Dolores says you should never be with a man whose name is a verb, like Chuck, Trip, Chip, Skip, or Blair. Dolores says you can never run out of excuses for why you shouldn’t be with any given man, but maybe you should try. Dolores says that maybe she was in love, but just the one time. Dolores says that maybe he saved her from a fire, and then a tornado, and then a lightning strike. Dolores says that maybe he sucked poison from her potentially fatal snake bite in the back of a covered wagon under a covered bridge. Dolores says that maybe they always checked out the same books from the library—this was when you wrote your name in the back of the book to sign it out –until one day they both checked out the same book at the same time. Dolores says that maybe it started on the internet, and then it got pretty serious at an Applebee’s. Dolores says that maybe he was the fire, and the tornado, and the lightning strike. Then she says JK—and that maybe she just knew and to never mind the circumstances. Dolores says that the only way you should tell a man you love him is to trace it on his back while he is sleeping. Dolores says, it seemed important to her for him to like her, and then time happened and it seemed really important for him not to like her.

Dolores says, maybe she was engaged in a battle of who could appear to care more about caring less, and she really cared, more than anything, about caring less. Dolores says that when they were fighting one time, he placed a piece of masking tape on the floor of her apartment and put pictures of them, movie ticket stubs, restaurant receipts on the line of tape. Then he said, our relationship is on the line. Dolores says that maybe he was just married. Dolores says she left, and she moved to the suburbs where there was vinyl siding and chain restaurants, and she got a job at Dunkin’ Donuts, and she had the baby. Dolores says she spent a lot of time watching her toddler watch Peter Pan, watched as Tess chanted along with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys as they yelled, “Old, alone, done for” at Captain Hook. Dolores says for a time—after him but before Tess—she thought every car on every side street was going to pull out and hit her, and that wayward coffee grounds were ants, and when she went into convenience stores she would start to anxiously weep for the clerk if he/she was dealing with a long line, or a broken nacho cheese dispenser, or someone who didn’t know that you can’t use your debit card to buy scratch tickets. Dolores says, if he wanted her, he should have tried harder. Dolores says, if she were him, she would be somewhere, shouting likewise.


Dolores says, one time I finished a chapstick without losing it. Dolores says, one time I dropped someone else’s mom’s keys down a sewer grate. Dolores says, sometimes I don’t want to spend the extra dollar on the eggs from the free range chickens. Dolores says that she once held a hummingbird in the palm of her hand. Her first impulse was to crush it. It’s not a metaphor, she says. It’s just what happens. Dolores says she wants us to leave the lights on at night. Dolores says, when you die, I hope it’s not because you wanted to reduce your carbon footprint. Dolores says she shouldn’t have walked by so much wet cement. Dolores asks, isn’t that what you really want to know? Whether I consider myself happy/successful/fulfilled? Dolores says that the answer was yes, and no, and maybe. Dolores says that she doesn’t mean 75 percent of what she says. Then she says that she doesn’t mean that either, or she does, but not necessarily that exact percent. Dolores says that she always wanted to go on Supermarket Sweep, even more than Wheel of Fortune. Dolores says that this would be a good way to check out, pun intended, by throwing meat and pyramids of cheese into a shopping cart while someone cheered you on. Dolores says that she will tell me about my mother when I am older. Dolores says that someone else will lock the front door at night. Someone else will buy all of the size eleven shoes

at Wal-mart. Someone else will be the one to hand out raisins for Halloween. Someone else will do the Sudoku puzzle. Someone else will fill in the blanks. Dolores says that food like quinoa, avocados, and hummus make her nervous. Dolores says she can’t believe she spent all of that time learning how to use Instant Messenger. Dolores says she is going to take up swearing as a hobby. Dolores says Jane Austen was a fucking liar, but that sometimes it’s nice to pretend that everyone gets what they deserve. Dolores tells Tess and me that we need to stop being so fucking morose. Then she tells the same thing to all of the medical staff who cycle through with their professional faces of sympathy, and to all of the people on the soap operas who are looking at pictures in shattered frames and crying as they fucking monologue, and to all of the bachelorettes who didn’t get the rose, and to all of the characters in the books on the shelves. Miss Havisham—stop being so fucking morose and change your dress. Sydney Carton, stop being so dramatic—it’s just your head. Gatsby, man the fuck up— there are other flowers. Dolores says sometimes she wants to kiss someone she is in love with on a playground drawbridge with their legs between the slats on the safety rails, and in front of every single state capitol, or on the moon, or even in the spot where those four large squarish states come together. Dolores says not to tell anyone. Dolores says to tell everyone. 38

Dolores says there are some matters she should probably be ashamed of: still using margarine instead of butter, sucking up one of her earrings and leaving it in the vacuum bag for several years, not changing the vacuum bag for several years, assorted perms, not sorting out completely where she stands in terms of political and religious beliefs. Dolores says she is going to stop swearing, just to cover her bases. Dolores says she isn’t sure whether she believes in ghosts. Dolores says she can’t decide how these sorts of things manage to be both increasingly and decreasingly important. Dolores says that maybe people somewhere are walking across a long hot desert, and in the end, maybe they are rewarded water. Dolores says—wouldn’t this be nice? Dolores says she sees images: Neglected children with the loops of safety lollipops hanging out from their mouths. A map so detailed it becomes the size of what it’s actually supposed to be a map of. A butterfly suspended on a car’s antennae. My mother forcing her own hand to remain on a hot stove burner.

Dolores says that in this world, where rain is making all of the lakes acidic, and where there are too many flavors of pop tarts, and where not everyone gets to come on down on the Price is Right and bid on the dinette set, and where you still get sick even if you have never once failed to return your shopping cart to the shopping cart stall, that sometimes you have to crawl up and into every beam of light you can find and pull it tight around you. Dolores says that maybe that’s what my mother was doing when she vacuumed out our chimney and folded herself in there. Dolores says there is no way to do this gracefully, that in the end you will be watching hands go around a clock, but in spite of or maybe because of these things, what she would like me to believe, regardless of whether it’s true, is that everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

Dolores says that she is not going to tell me that I look like my mother because I do not. Dolores says that there isn’t enough water in the world to make her unthirsty. Dolores says that she tried to pick up a spoon and it was too heavy, it was so heavy. Dolores says that maybe that’s a metaphor. Dolores says that she is waiting to see around corners.


Special thanks to JR WALSH for his help in the decision making and editing processes and to JAY SAENZ at Barn Owl Records for web hosting, p.r. advice, and caring about Boise and its cultural betterment.

JOSHUA HALE is the editor/designer of theBOISEAN. He lives in the East End with his lovely wife Ashley. He dabbles in poetry and fiction and someday might even get up the guts to show you some. JOSHUA SUGGESTS: THE METHOD ACTORS by Carl Shuker USELESS LANDSCAPE OR A GUIDE FOR BOYS by D. A. Powell & GETTING OUT AND SEEING THE WORLD

theBOISEAN V.1 I.2  

Issue 2 of theBOISEAN: a journal dedicated to promoting Boise's literary talent.

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