THE COLUMBIA REVIEW Vol. 100 | Issue 1 | Fall 2018
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In honor of our 100th Volume, The Columbia Review has partnered with The Kenneth Koch Foundation to offer two prizes for pieces by current Columbia University undergraduates that demonstrated exceptional literary merits. Enclosed within this issue are our recipients, Mackenzi Turgeon’s poem “American Studies for Black Kids,” and Morgan Levine’s poem “Ballad for O’Keeffe Finding an Angel in a Canyon.” These prizes are named in honor of Kenneth Koch (1925-2002) whose collections of poetry, fiction, plays, and nonfiction earned numerous honors, including the Bollingen Prize and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, bestowed by the Library of Congress in 1996, and induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was also a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, in addition to a long time New Yorker and faculty member of Columbia’s Department of English and Comparative Literature, where he taught classes for over forty years. Special thanks to Karen Koch and Columbia Review alumnus Bill Zavatsky for making this award possible. We would also like to extend a warm thank you to all of our readers, contributors, friends, and staff for making every volume possible.
An Editors’ Note Here’s to 100 Volumes of men finding their zen, Midwestern aesthetics, food-family narratives, dubious translations, and Georgia O’Keefe.
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THE COLUMBIA REVIEW Contents Through the Looking Glass
M a c k e n z i Tu r g e o n
To d d D o d s o n
An Economy Like Any Other
Jo e l Ro b e r t Fe r g u s o n
The Leaving Season
J i h y u n Yu n
Po e m f o r M y S i s t e r
Fo r g e t t i n g
Wa i t i n g
M e t r i c s o f a Pa n d e m i c
A d r i c Te n u t a
“That which cannot be grasped”: Excerpts from M a x F r i s c h’s J o u r n a l
Ma x Fr i s c h t ra n s . Matthew Zipf
American Studies for Black Kids
M a c k e n z i Tu r g e o n
Un t i t l e d ( Mo r n i n g , C e n s u s )
Pe r r y L e v i t c h
Fr a n k
Ballad for O’Keeffe Fi n d i n g a n A n g e l i n a Canyon
Symphony in Gray Matter
Rubén Darío trans. Anja Chivukula
Street Corner Mermaid
In the Land of Milk and Honey
K e e n a n Te d d y S m i t h
L a u r a Mu l l e n
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Through the Looking Glass M a c k e n z i Tu r g e o n
Her mind, a waistcoat-pocket, a burning hole, the moment came suddenly and time filled book-shelves: at the thought of fear or the fear of thought. She must be near, I thinkâ€” Indeed: her face was lovely but trembling for her wonder could remember nothing: the garden, the key, the glass, nor the table. And crying scolded her eyes; she cheated herself of curious people. Thereâ€™s one eye on the table. Me, beautifully, anxiously holding her hand.
Cleave To d d D o d s o n
The pair of lindens grew too close together, and all summer Dominic and I would sit on the bank of the crick that cut between our two houses, the water smelling of stone and tannin and the linden branches clapping hands in the wind. In the winter, at some point we missed, the bark began to abrade and by next spring the two limbs had joined, forming a skin that contained them both. After school we’d play football in the field behind Dominic’s house. He and I would throw the ball around, run routes, until enough kids from the neighborhood found their way to start a proper game. We played full contact and played until we lost the light, and then some in the dark when we lunged at shadows. We played tackle football and no one ever got hurt. (Craig did break his arm the once, but he was always thin boned.) In part, we were just too young to do any real damage. And it wasn’t the desire to hurt, but the permission to touch another, to throw myself at him—the kinetic force of the initial hit echoing throughout our bodies—not driving him to the ground, but letting my momentum knit with his into a soft fall, and at the last moment even, cradling him. We’d untangle and right ourselves and slap hands. By eighth grade our bodies had started to become dangerous and Craig said we should play two-hand touch. Someone was going to get hurt. I pushed him to the ground and called him a fag. What would be the point of two-hand touch? During the week Dominic and I would share a lunch and save the leftover money, and on Friday we’d stop at the 7-11 on the walk home from school to buy chew and beef jerky. The next day we would fashion walking sticks from deadwood and follow the crick through the subdivision. Sometime along the way we’d stop to roll up our jeans and catch crayfish in the shadows of the sedge and sweet bush. We buried our feet in the loose mud until our eyes adjusted to the water – like they will do in the dark—and the minnows and water spiders revealed themselves. Spotting one nested in the mud, I stirred the water so the crayfish shot back into the plastic cup Dominic held behind it. He pinched it by the tail and held it up for me to inspect, its claws opening and closing, measuring the air. We would disappear all day and no one noticed and no one cared. Eventually the crick broke onto true country. When we passed the last house, the naked world
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spread before us as shocking and thrilling as our own naked bodies, and space became conflated with time, because it was the future, the openness and freedom in those unmarred hills in front of us. We were both afraid, I think. Because we’d take one more tentative step before agreeing it was time to turn back. —— A few weeks before we started tenth grade, Dominic went on vacation with his family to Lake Erie, and when he got back he told me his parents were sending him to the religious school. At the time, I thought it just meant he would have to take the bus. But after the first day, I crossed the ford of stones we’d piled up in the crick to the field behind his house. I waited, tossing the football as high as I could in the air and the football wasn’t regulation and looked small in my hands. I thought his school must let out late. Eventually I went to the front door and rang the bell and Dominic looked no different than the day before, the same Assyrian eyes and cowboy posture, his hair a tangle of dreams, but said he couldn’t come out. Sorry, he said. And as if they knew, none of the neighborhood kids showed up either, that day or thereafter. In the spring, a little black car that looked all one curve of plastic pulled into Dominic’s drive, and he was already there to meet the girl before she could fix her hair in the mirror. As he opened the door, their hands touched unintentionally, like dandelion seed gently stumbling through the world. And then Dominic took her hand and led her down to the gemel tree, the pair of lindens now in bloom. She wore a white dress with some buttons down the front and some lace at the bottom and seemed reluctant to sit down with him in the new shade the trees afforded. He said something that stirred her, because she sat down and pressed back into his waiting arms and he held her about the waist for me to inspect. We had a shed out back where I’d split wood for the fireplace. I’d set the log up on the chopping block and marvel how it could be so strong against the grain, so readily sundered otherwise. It was there I learned how to draw the axe and drop it—and drop was the right word, it was not a violent act—to but let it fall and gather force, to but set my strength with it— how satisfying the hollow of contact, the pop that echoed through my arms, then chest, then everywhere, the thrill of the dull blade penetrating, fissuring the wood, it could not be stopped now, it was all follow-through now, all the weight of the axe and gravity—inexorable until it was finished and the blade was through.
An Economy Like Any Other Joel Robert Ferguson
Traded Les Fleurs du Mal for Nine Stories to S on ferry from Caribou to Prince Edward Island as dolphins paced us and crossed the tack. a real bad trade. He turned up a couple weeks later at my house, dropped acid made a pass at a roommateâ€” shot down, he ran off naked into the night. Traded Discipline & Punish for Gramsci is Dead to E at some collective in downtown Kingston. Confused, I thought I was getting Letâ€™s Spit on Hegel. What else to say? Traded No Great Mischief for some essays by Mary Baker Eddy (why do I do this to myself?) to a sweet old Christian Scientist on the train to Montreal, she left before the blizzard that brought and lengthened the night.
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Traded A Place in the Country (Essays on German Romanticism) for Zamyatinâ€™s We to M in London (England not Ontario!) We also trade postcards and photographic evidence of all things pedestrian from Tbilisi to Tofino. Received: Câ€™s copy of Paterson with scorch marks from a dropped match imprinted on the cover just like a muskellunge trying to leap the image of the falls and continue up the Passaic. Abandoned: Hemingway, Gogol, Red Emma the driveway of a burnt home while hitchhiking, outside Saint-Nicolas, Quebec. Forgive me this offering, I was Dehydrated and not thinking clearly.
The Leaving Season J i h y u n Yu n
All winter we slept with backs pressed against one another. I let him love me, and felt immediate regret, then let it happen again. Even to myself, I had no answer. I hated that he smoked in bed, how he found me adorably inept. I said nothing all season. Once, we went to Seonnyeo beach. He meant to impress me with a rock shaped like a celestial woman in mourning, praying to go home to her sisters, but to me really just looked like a rock. I was more taken by the ladies at the base of her dress, scraping oysters the size of thimbles into zip-lock bags. With the tides pulled back, the beach was disgustingly pock-marked, barnacles and shellfish tanning themselves to death in a dazed December sun like so many opened eyes. Once, I was dubiously alive, They’re harvesting oysters, because they’re going to eat them, he explained, to which I thought, no shit, but said nothing. What keeps me so afraid of wounding a man? What hungry inheritance? Later, tangled up in the seaweed, we unearthed the jawbone of some beast picked clean of its meat, its weathered teeth muscled around nothing. A few meters inland, we found its sea-swelled face, cleanly displaced as if water knowingly eased flesh off the skull to free it of its visage. I knew it was a boat offering, a prayer for maritime safety. what other reason would an animal head have to wander onto shore? But all I could think of was a dream I once had of a woman with a sow’s head walking into the water. A dream my mother insisted was auspicious and spent a day’s earning on the lottery for. Pigs are the luckiest animals,
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and itâ€™s better to dream of a woman than a man, donâ€™t you know. What sweetness, to enter the sea to bless nothing but your own safe passage. I looked down at what washed up from this dream, porous and meat against the green of dashed soju bottles. Wire-hair whitening with sun and not yet taken by rot, the skull and face smiled separately.
As a suckling, I was sweet enough to be coddled, to be lead to a prone teat, fed apple-core and flesh scraped from the carcass of other animals like me. Forgive my indiscretion with feed, the wild hunger that drove me to partake of the meat I would one day become. I spent my days rubbing my snout against the cage, hating my mottled pink body for its deliciousness. to be desired is rarely a good thing. When I was old enough to breed, my failure to conceive earned me a bolt between the eyes. I died without fanfare, like so. My body, they halved and sent away to be drained, salted, and swung from hooks at the market. My hooves went elsewhere, were braised with spice and rice liquor to an unctuous toffee-brown, all that sweet warm fat glistening under heat lamps and hawked with peppers and salt shrimp. Itâ€™s strange to know this world I loved, loves me best dismembered. I watched them use me with great dispassion. Why blame a human for his nature which at its core is merely hunger?
Why miss the body for what it can endure? At some point, I lost track of my head, felt it hoisted aboard some gleaming new boat that hastened it towards water, all grease and alabaster. The sun resting pinkly across my scalp untethered some live-wire longing in me. My head, my harrowing, my little life ended abruptly. I followed the last remnants of me to the open expanse of a moon-struck sea, where they blessed and implored my head for safety before giving it to water. The storm above unbraided leisurely. I saw myself [unbraided] apex and heat as witnessed from above. Fear sweetens the meat, and so explains the violence before every partaking. I was just [a girl] in every sense, but pressed no charges. On your pull-out sofa-bed, you slept [affrontingly] sound. Roses on your desk, their wilting, beer doused heads. Roses pressed between chapters of your [girlfriend’s] Herman Hesse. It shouldn’t matter how I got there, and yet— Did you walk through the door on your own two feet? Did you kiss him first besides the bonfire’s unhusked heat? Yes, yes. Still drunk, I crawled to your palm
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smeared mirror, pushed The Sorrows of Young Werther from where it rest, pulled off my animal face, and forced myself to look. Water fills every cavity/ buoyant with blubber and blood/ It sinks slow/ carp nibble gratefully at its cheek/ cuttlefish streak by with their curious pale meat/ For a while, it resists rot/ It was wrong to reject the body/ to think it wouldn’t miss it/ The water eases between sinew and skull/ lifting away until face and bone hurtle towards shore divorced of each other for the lovers to find / Do not be tricked/ all of this means nothing/ Why do we wish to force narrative after every end? / This is only the poet projecting/ The severed head misses nothing/ the girl doesn’t leave/ the boat continues to sail safely / As for the pig, she remains dead, having met all her purposes:/ to be/ to feed/ to serve as female offering/ Did you really expect otherwise?/ Fool/ She never enters the ocean in search of herself/ There is no tether, no heroic ghostly hunt.
In death’s adjacent room: let me live inside this girlhood. He presses his thumbs against my pulse and I wake beside the ocean. There is no one around, except the ladies pulling oysters from the rock. They’ve seen this all before and will not look, slip mollusk after mollusk on their winter numbed tongues. Kaleidoscope of faces and bodies, I know I am lucky
to be living. In another life I’ve washed up on shore halved and picked at by carp. Above, the sky blots itself antisceptic pink. I think the worst must be finished. Whether or not I am right, don’t tell me. Don’t tell me. No ringlet of bruise, no animal face, the waters salt me and I leave it barefoot. I leave you, season of still tongues, of roses on nightstands beside crushed beer-cans. I leave you white sand and scraped knees. I leave this myth in which I am pig, whose death is empty allegory. I leave, I leave— At the end of this story, I walk into the sea and it chooses not to drown me.
And then, I dreamt myself into season, and so, I briefly was.
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Wing-Longing Arielle DeVito
I once lived with an entomologist who was interested in moths. She was interested in anything that was small and had large wings, but mostly in moths. Large ones with soft antennae and tiny ones that could perch on your thumbnail and white furry ones that hatched in the winter and translucent green ones that used to be fat caterpillars that she would bring home and keep in jars and feed with oak leaves from the backyard. She lived in my house and we slept together often and I cooked her expansive dinners when she came home from the lab, but when she said she loved me she was lying. This was okay. I loved her, and that was all I needed at the time. She loved the creatures that she raised at the lab and let weave in and out of her fingers, creatures with small tapered bodies and wings that tried to fool you into thinking they were eyes. She loved them as they fluttered and as they crawled, as tessellating eggs and squirming pupae and bulbous chrysalises. I was wingless, and I was large and sturdy and had no interest in eating nectar or mulberry leaves, and so she could not love me. I understood this because I understood her, and because I myself had tried too many times to love something I could not. So we stayed together and I loved her because I needed something to love and she needed somewhere to live and someone to cook for her and rub her back and listen to the things she wanted to say. The days passed with regularity, and time went by in a slippery way, like egg white through your fingers. One night we were lying in bed, naked and kissing but without urgency. We had spent all of our urgency in the first few months of being together, and now when we touched it was slow, almost methodical. She pulled back and turned to stare at the ceiling, at the low-hanging light above our bed. “There’s something I have to tell you,” she said. I shivered, from the air coming in through the open window or from something else, I couldn’t tell. “I’ve been looking at apartments. Elsewhere, I mean.” This was not a surprise to me—of late, she had stopped coming home before dinner had gone cold, stopped even repeating back the words I said to her—but my body took it as a surprise anyway and froze up so that I could not speak to tell her that I had guessed as much, that I had loved enough and was willing to move on if that’s what she wanted.
“I’m just not sure I’m the same person I was when I met you- when I thought I wanted a relationship,” she said, her voice forced-soothing, almost patronizing. “It’s not personal, you know? I just need more space for myself. And things at work are so stressful I think I’m decaying. I’m breaking out in rashes, look.” She took hold of my hand and pressed it to a small ragged tear in her skin near her navel that I hadn’t noticed when she first took off her clothes. Instead of blood or a scab it opened up to a dry, flat surface. It felt hard and smooth and I ran my fingertips over it and felt my nails catch on the edge of her skin, which curled up slightly. “What is it?” I asked, although suspicion churned low in my stomach. Under my fingertips I had felt a kind of movement, a bump or a flutter. “I don’t know, but it itches more than a million mosquito bites.” Her hands pushed mine out of the way and she dug her fingernails into the skin around the spot. Her skin started to peel back, but there was no blood, and the underside wasn’t veined or wet but dark brown and shiny like the spot was. Underneath, where flesh or ribs should have been, I caught a glimpse of many things in furious motion. Hands jumped back and recoiled and I looked up at her face to see sick curiosity and horror. She didn’t want to see what was inside her but I was suddenly desperate to know if I was right. What had I really been loving for all this time? I reached out quick-fast and seized onto the edge of her skin, which felt doughy and crackling, yanked it back across her stomach and her chest and up to her shoulder with a sickening ripping noise, and the motion underneath exploded out of her into a flurry of wings and fat, furry bodies. They were a blurred mass of colors and shapes and sizes that seethed towards me, and I recoiled instinctively from the feeling of their spindly insect legs on my skin. Then the motion took itself away from me and I blinked dazedly at the hundreds of moths streaming out the window. I was left on the bed with only myself and the deflated chrysalis of a woman, and one moth perched on my wrist with half-closed wings. It was enormous, larger than my hand, with ruddy wings that curved like teardrops and white triangles ringed with black. I lifted my arm and looked at it closely, examined every hair on its featherlike feelers and the joints of its unmoving legs. Its eyes were round and bulging and for a second I thought I saw a glint in them that made me feel like it was about to start telling me about caterpillar eating patterns. And then it, too, opened its wings and flew off into the night.
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Poem for My Sister Ellie White
We peel back layer upon layer of pink. White crust consuming our fingertips like fungus. A bitter film, wax-like, dry on the tongue. Peony flesh pulls away in ragged strips, paper thin unless we rip too much, reveal the lush red. It is so much work to get to the meat. When at last the rind forms a neat pile on the counter, we each force a thumb into the center & separate ourselves. Two knives & two bowls sit on the table, waiting.
Forgetting Luc Diggle
I amble over the bank in thigh-high waders heavy vest trussing my chest with spool and jig thick morning mist lines the back of my throat as the slender lure hits the glossy mirror with a plunk it sinks into the liquid world circled by glistening scales reel ticking slow until a bass slips the skirt jig up into the oval shaft of its mouth my line tugged taught to draw him in wet hands tracing slick lips as he gasps everything is still you.
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Waiting Janika Oza
On the day my dead brother came home I awoke to the smell of salty broth, mushrooms swelled with water and heat, the tang of sugared limes. My mother entered my bedroom, pulled me from sleep with cool fingers. He’s home, she said. Who? Your brother. When she said his name, I pushed away the thought of the boy I had once known, glasses round and thick framing eyes whose lashes I never stopped envying, a checkered shirt or perhaps his Manchester-United polo, navy blue with red stripes that lined his bony shoulders, a missing canine that had never grown in. Instead, I rolled over and said, my brother is dead. He died long ago. Let me sleep. Patient, my mother peeled back the covers, waited for the February air to work its way under my pajama shirt. He’s in the living room, she said. He needs a change of clothes. Give him something of yours. When she left the room I heard her speaking to someone, asking my brother if he was hungry, when was the last time he ate. When I stepped into the living room with a sweatshirt and a pair of shorts folded in my arms, my mother was seated on the low sofa, rubbing her hands over a flowered pillow. He’s soaking, she said, give him the clothes so he can change. I placed the clothes next to her and asked why he was wet. It’s a storm, she said, and as she said so I heard the drum of rain against the window. Also, he had to swim so far to get here. He can’t swim, I said. My brother had drowned years ago, when we first arrived in this country where children learned to swim before they could walk, burbling mounds of fat and feathery hair dropped into communal swimming pools like coins, careless wishes tossed by believing parents. My mother looked at me. He learned, of course, she said. He had to swim all that way. What’s that smell, I asked, my nostrils pricking at the acidic cloud that was drifting from the kitchen. I’m making soup, my mother said. Help him change while I go check on it. She left the room and I heard the clicking of a spoon against a pot, the splatter of garlic and mustard seed frying in oil. They’re just ripe enough, I heard her say, followed by the whack and tear of plantain skin peeling from body. Moving to the couch, I sat where my mother had been and fingered the pile of clothes next to me. My brother was older than me but he had always been slight, his cheekbones carving his face into delicacy, his collarbones knocking against mine whenever we hugged. Which wasn’t often, but I remember him slinging his arm over my shoulder as we walked
home from school, whispering low into my ear to drown out the calls of the kids on the field. Where did you even come from, they would call. What happened to your dad? Clicking their tongues, is this how you speak in Africa, click click click. Then pressing hands together, bowing, pushing thumb into index finger to form an O. My brother would stroll over with an easy cool, nod his head at the boys who were doubled over in cruel laughter, and steer me away. Just like that. Something was crackling in the kitchen, maybe dried chilies added to the pot, the ticking of the back burner that never quite worked. Almost ready, my mother called, her voice high-pitched, sing-song, like it wasn’t past midnight and she didn’t have to be up for work in five hours, to stand on her feet in a cold hospital waiting room all day. Okay, I called back, then picked up the pile of clothes and shoved them under the pillow. One day, I had arrived at school to find that no one was interested in bothering me. Instead, I found a crowd of sixth-grade boys around my brother, and my brother recounting story after story, his hands shaping the air into mountains, rivers, elephants, swords. Yes, we rode lions to school, and for dinner my mother would kill a monkey, crack open its skull for us to feast on fresh brains. Yes, for my last birthday I had tea with the King of Uganda, we shared a cake made of mango flesh and peaks of fresh cream studded with passion fruit seeds like jewels. Yes, he sent my family on a mission to far-off Canada, we swam here, all four of us, it took us a whole year. Yes, a few days into our international journey my father realized he had forgotten to bring our money, so he had to turn back to fetch it. He’ll arrive any day now, with our money too. The boys were nodding, nodding, what looked like hesitant admiration in their eyes. Later, I would understand it as jealousy. I heard my mother humming over the stove. In the kitchen I found that she had coiled her hair into a high bun atop her head and that sweat was speckling her nose from the steam rising out of the three steel pots. She had her arm nearly all the way into one of them, working a fork over the matoke, squeezing in lemon juice and oil, mashing, grunting with effort. Do you need help? I asked, but she shook her head, her back turned to me. You just keep your brother company for now, she said. He’s missed you. She pulled a wide bowl from the cabinet, ladled in broth and heat-drunk vegetables, lined the plate with a heap of matoke, sprinkled a palmful of salt over the sticky mound. She took out a smaller bowl and pressed three wedges of lemon and a quartered radish inside. He never liked spicy much, but—she said, adding in a green chili. She poured a mug of water and waved away a fruit fly that was hovering expectantly above the unlidded pots. Then, balancing all three vessels in her arms, she turned around to face me and my brother. Oh, she said. Where did he
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go? I looked beside me, at the seat that I had pulled out. My mother walked over and lined up the two bowls and the mug, folding a sheet of paper towel under the spoon. Steam curled up around the empty chair, thick with oil and salt. Just as the plate had sat seven years ago when we waited for my brother to come home from school, the spoon untouched, the napkin to be folded up and placed back in the cutlery drawer, though the food would be left out all night. In the morning we had found bugs feasting on the corn, an upturned fly floating in the orange grease, its belly swollen, glutted. Later we would learn that some of the boys had challenged my brother to prove that he had swum across the world, leading him down to Taylor Creek after school. If only he had mentioned the airplane, or the leaky boat, or even the lifejackets. My mother sat down in the chair across from the brimming bowls, wiped her wet fingers across her stomach. Never mind, she said. Heâ€™ll be back any day now. Weâ€™ll just leave this out until morning.
Libera Me Kirk Schlueter
Imbue is the word Iâ€™m looking for, the way smoke lingers in a shirt collar, for how, even in the last light clinging to this country highway like a childâ€™s hand to a finger drawn over its palm, the dead are with me, stirring from their thin graves between my ribs, leather wings shuddering up my throat. Desperate for another touch of the world, they want what the dead always want, one final chance to crack their laughter like birdshot over the trees, one last time reading the Braille of stars stamped on the sky. Once, they walked this road in ill-fitting clothes, talking of the weather. Now, as the day collapses, their fevered bodies beat within me like rain.
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Metrics of a Pandemic A d r i c Te n u t a
I have a headache for the second time in eighteen years. Sometimes I pretend to wash my hands after I go pee. I listen to other boys who don’t wash their hands. I know this—that other boys don’t wash their hands. You left your print on my neck—evidence will be here In the morning. I have a headache. It’s interrupting my wither and bloom. The cure to the Bubonic plague was washed hands. I have a headache. I have the plague, I know who. You Paint the bathroom door with lambs’ blood—mark it. You Wash your hands in my hair, in my lesions and phlegm. I have the plague. I know you washed me in pathogens. Men who don’t wash their hands, bite me like fleas, give me— Strigil me on a pyre, flagellate and wash your hands in whips. Or wash me with your plague: plagued men. One in Three men will wash their hands in me. Dig their mass graves In me. The first time I had a headache not as many died.
“That which cannot be grasped”: Excerpts from Max Frisch’s Journal Matthew Zipf
Worth noting: It is precisely of the man we love that we can least say, this is how he is. We just love him. In fact that’s what love is, or that’s the wonderful thing about love: how it holds us suspended in what lives, in the readiness to follow a man however he may unfold. We know that each man, when he is loved, feels transformed, opened up, unfolded. Everything unfolds itself for the lover, too, both what is to come and what has long been known. He sees many things as if for the first time. Love frees each thing from its image. That is the thrilling, adventurous, truly exciting part: that we are never finished with the men we love—because we love them; so long as we love them. Our belief that we know the other is always the end of love, although cause and effect may differ from what we are used to assuming. Our love doesn’t end because we finally know the other, but the reverse: because our love is ending, because its strength has been exhausted, that’s why we’re done with the other, that’s why he’s finished. We just can’t do it anymore! We deny that he may yet undergo new transformations. We reject that claim, proper to everything that lives, which remains outside of our grasp, and at the same time we are amazed and disappointed that our relationship no longer seems alive. “You are not,” says the disappointed lover, “who I thought you were.” And who did you think I was? This: A secret, a thrilling puzzle. Indeed the person remains just that, only we’ve gotten tired of putting up with it. So we make an image. That is the loveless act. The betrayal. —— In Andorra there lived a young man who was thought to be a Jew. Here is what there would be to tell: the supposed story of his heritage and his dealings with the Andorrans, who see the Jew in him—the set image that awaits him everywhere. For instance: the skepticism about his heart and soul, which a Jew, as even
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the Andorrans know, cannot have. They set him back on the heels of his sharp intellect, which the pressure of emergency sharpens still. Or this: His relationship to money, which also plays a large role in Andorra. He knew and felt what everyone silently believed, and he checked himself to see if it was true that he was always thinking about money. He checked himself until he realized that it really was so: he was always thinking about money. He confessed it, he stood by it, and the Andorrans looked at each other, silently, the corners of their mouths hardly twitching. In matters of the “homeland,” too, he knew exactly what they thought. As soon as he spoke the word, they let it lie like a coin fallen in the dirt. For the Jew—and the Andorrans knew this, too—may have chosen a homeland, or bought one, but he has no homeland like ours, none into which he was born, and in discussions of Andorran interests, no matter how well he meant it, he spoke only to silence, as if wrapped in a wad of cotton. Later he realized that he needed tact. Yes, they told him that plainly when he, despondent about their behavior, grew vehement. Once and for all, the homeland belonged to the others, and it was not expected of him that he could love it. To the contrary, his dogged attempts and efforts only opened a gulf of suspicion—he’s courting favor, looking for an advantage, it’s only a means to an end—even when they themselves couldn’t recognize any conceivable end. And so it went until one day he discovered, with his restless and all-comprehending intellect, that he really didn’t love the homeland, not even the word itself, which, every time he used it, led to embarrassment. Clearly they were right. Clearly he couldn’t love at all, not the way Andorrans did. He had the heat of passion, certainly, plus the cool of his intellect, which they saw as a secret weapon, always primed for revenge. What he lacked was heart and soul, the stuff that binds. He lacked, and this was unmistakable, the warmth of trust. Daily life with him was stimulating, sure, but never pleasant, never comfortable. He didn’t succeed in being like the others, and after he had tried in vain not to stand out, he came to wear his difference with a sort of defiance, pride, and lurking enmity. These traits were hardly pleasant, even for him, so he sugared a bustling politeness over everything. Still, when he bowed, it was a sort of accusation, as if the world were guilty for his being a Jew— Most Andorrans did nothing to him. Nothing good, either. On the other hand, there were also Andorrans of—as they called it—a freer, progressive spirit, a spirit that felt obliged to Humanity. As they themselves empha-
sized, they respected the Jew precisely for the sake of his Jewish qualities, like his sharp intellect. They stood by him until his death, which was cruel, so cruel and disgusting that it horrified even those Andorrans who had not been moved by the fact that his whole life had been cruel. That means: they didn’t really mourn him. Or to speak freely: they didn’t miss him. They were outraged only by those who had killed him and by the way it happened. Above all, the way. They spoke of it for a long time. Until one day, something was revealed that the deceased could not have known: He was a foundling. His parents were later discovered. An Andorran, like any one of us— They spoke of it no more. But the Andorrans, all of them, whenever they looked in the mirror, saw with horror that they bore the features of Judas. Thou shalt, it is written, make no image for yourself of God. The law should hold in this sense, too: God as what lives in each of us, as that which cannot be grasped. It is a sin that we, even as it is committed against us, ourselves near ceaselessly commit— Except for when we love. —— To a certain degree we really are the creatures that others—friends as well as enemies—take us to be. And the other way around: so, too, are we the author of others. We are, in a hidden and inescapable way, responsible for the face they show us—responsible not only for their disposition but also for the form that disposition assumes. When a friend grows stiff and strains us, we stand in his way; to be exact, it is our opinion that he is stiff that forms yet another link in the chain that binds and slowly strangles him. We wish that he would change—oh, yes, we wish that for whole peoples! Which is why we are still not ready to give up our idea of them. We ourselves are the last ones to transform them. We think we are the mirror and suspect only rarely how much the other, on his side, is actually the reflection of our fixed image, how much he is our product, our victim.
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American Studies for Black Kids M a c k e n z i Tu r g e o n Kenneth Koch Poetr y Priz e Recipient
They used to lynch my people I wasn’t there but I seen it / Teacher Showed me once Seen it with my own eyes Cried I cried in class once / More times than they did I ain’t have no choice but to / See it Can’t breathe no / More Hanged Classmates ain’t really there ain’t see it They ain’t have to See it Ain’t yours to see / Me Hanging / Teacher / Grin He said / Learn Black girl ain’t never have no choice
Untitled (Morning, Census) Pe r r y L e v i t c h
All this blotching: Monets cropping up along the pier of my shoulders; blues that promise pinks, greens that promise yellow; smatterings of them where my thighs meet and greet as I walk myself to all the places I’ve said I’ll be; the column of my neck in garlands, a holiday mood come and gone, the streets after the parade passes through; a lurid purple bite on the fleshy front of my arm. Why should it end there? No curve tapering out, no bone ridge fit to stop a mouth’s pursuit. Me and the white morning, I twinge where I bend. To tell you you’ve left a whole palette at my place. Violet hovering on my bicep, the residue of something dropped from above: a plastic paratrooper; ash; a glass of water tumbling over the railing of a balcony.
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Frank Matt Jones
This is your boyfriend, Frank. Goatee. Sideburns. Dreams of becoming a DJ. He is obsessed with the size of your feet. He insists that you show his friends when they are all stoned. Frank is four years older than you, 21. He lives alone in an apartment above the garage where his parents store the ski equipment. Frank who says, “Yeah, you like that?” as he rubs the space a full two inches higher than your clit. “Yeah, tell me how much you like that.” What you really like is that he can buy you alcohol, and he does. What you like is his dark facial hair, though not the specific pattern in which he shapes it. What you do not like about Frank is that he lives above his parents’ garage. He has a friend who once marvelled at your bare feet and held them wrapped in his meaty hands until he fell asleep, stoned, and you were unable to loose yourself from his grip without physically prying each finger apart. What you do not like about Frank is his insistence on watching porn all the time. Like ambient elevator music, he keeps it on in the background. Does it soothe him? Does it turn him on? If you look deeply into his eyes, you will see burned into the gelatin of his pupils two people pretending to enjoy sex. Either that, or nothing. What your parents do not like about Frank is his eyes. Your mom says he has shark eyes. She calls him “disaffected.” Your dad does not like that Frank spent three months at Mid-State Correctional. For what? No one knows. Upon his release, his record was “expunged.” Your dad sometimes raises his voice and says, “You’re seventeen, you know? We could call the cops and have him put away again just for seeing you!” Your parents do not like Frank, but you do not really like your parents. You ask Frank about his time in prison and he says it was for drugs, for dealing. “Now I’m just out here focusing on my music,” he tells you, “trying to come up.” Frank’s music is terrible. He doesn’t have the ear for harmony or melody. His body, when it moves on top of yours, is clunky and cumbersome. “Yeah, you like that?” he asks, pushing the outline of his erection through his basketball
shorts and into your sweatpants, the ones with the high school track team logo embroidered down the side of the left leg. It has never gone further than this, though Frank is persistent. For your sixteenth birthday, your mom gifted you a pink tube of jogger defense gel, which was really just mace. It has a hand strap so you can run or walk with it, but you keep it in your purse. The chemicals inside are “police strength” and will spray up to 12 feet. You have never used it, but you have held it in your hands countless times before. It is short and thin and more champagne than pink, and you are always reminded of it when Frank presses himself fervently against you while alone in his above-the-garage apartment. One of the things that Frank likes is cars. He drives an all-black Acura CVX with a modified muffler. It is a two-door coupe with black leather seats and a manual transmission. He drives erratically. He lacks control. The car lurches and jolts when he shifts gears. On the first Saturday of each month, he drives out to a car meet in Cinco. A car meet is essentially a bunch of guys meeting up and parking their cars and talking about cars. You go one time because he has promised to buy you booze. He wants to show you off alongside the car. Frank’s access to alcohol has been a boon to your other friendships. Without him, what would you have? Certainly not liters of goldschlager and cake-flavored vodka, maybe not even friends, at least not as many. The car meet is not that bad. You are able to sit in the passenger seat with one leg stretched out onto the pavement. Occasionally, Frank leans in to turn up the volume on his stereo system so he can let another guy hear one of the tracks he’s been working on. As soon as he walks away, you turn it down again. When it gets late and it seems like the liquor stores might close, you insist on leaving but Frank isn’t interested so you maybe hint that it might be worth his while if he just gets in the car and leaves. Driving with Frank is tumultuously intimate. You have been kicking around that phrase in your head for a while now: tumultuously intimate. It is written in the journal that you keep under your bed. If your mom has found it and read it, which you know she has, then she has likely gasped at that phrase. The problem with Frank is that he drives too fast. He plays his music too loud. The interior of the car thuds with bass. He’s obsessed with volume. In the trunk of his car, he has a speaker larger than you. It’s black with four subwoofers. You have seen him lift it out of the trunk almost effortlessly when he needed to work on some faulty wiring. He threw it up over his shoulder before setting it down
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in the driveway with a thud. Then after he fixed it, he picked it up again and set it back in the trunk just as easily and you thought about how no one would ever guess it was even back there. After you stop at the liquor store and he buys what you wanted, he wants to keep driving out to this “little place that he knows.” That’s all he’ll say. He drives up the county roads past Cinco and into the farmland that surrounds Mid-State Correctional. When he pulls over on the side of the road, he is talking all about stars and wishing for three whole months that he’d be able to see the stars as a free man again. “What did you do again?” you ask, because suddenly you are more interested in Frank than you normally ever have been. He doesn’t like to think about it. Frank is simple that way: he likes what he likes and everything else is just too much. He leans across the car’s console and puts his hand on your leg and runs his fingers up and down between the skin of your thighs. He gets breathy all on his own. “You like that?” he asks, “Yeah, you like that?” and all the while the only things you can really think of are the impeccably small yet possibly dangerous pink canister in your midst and the way he was able to so easily lift that speaker in and out of his trunk.
Ballad for O’Keeffe Finding an Angel in a Canyon Morgan Levine Kenneth Koch Poetr y Priz e Recipient
In clear cold rivers, red rock gulches, you would scrape your shoulders. Bones like sea-glass curved and shallow – edges smoothed by sunlight. Half-drowned I found you, scorched and bitter, my small and shivering comet. Wrens had nested in your ribcage, cacti ‘round your ankles. Your wings were shadows long and thin strung out along the ground. Your wings were half a memory. Your wings were desert rain. Yes, heat can be divinity, how she unhooks breath from lungs and lays it flat to dry snakelike upon the sand. You dreamed of ice and water vapor; hail still held in clouds. I couldn’t speak. I took your jaw and turned it side to side. A door appeared beneath your chin. It spelled mirage, but still I knocked, and was let in, to fill my pail with oil paints.
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Sinfonía en Gris Mayor Rubén Darío
El mar como un vasto cristal azogado refleja la lámina de un cielo de zinc; lejanas bandadas de pájaros manchan el fondo bruñido de pálido gris. El sol como un vidrio redondo y opaco con paso de enfermo camina al cenit; el viento marino descansa en la sombra teniendo de almohada su negro clarín. Las ondas que mueven su vientre de plomo debajo del muelle parecen gemir. Sentado en un cable, fumando su pipa, está un marinero pensando en las playas de un vago, lejano, brumoso país. Es viejo ese lobo. Tostaron su cara los rayos de fuego del sol del Brasil; los recios tifones del mar de la China le han visto bebiendo su frasco de gin. La espuma impregnada de yodo y salitre ha tiempo conoce su roja nariz, sus crespos cabellos, sus bíceps de atleta, su gorra de lona, su blusa de dril. En medio del humo que forma el tabaco ve el viejo el lejano, brumoso país, adonde una tarde caliente y dorada tendidas las velas partió el bergantín…
La siesta del trópico. El lobo se aduerme. Ya todo lo envuelve la gama del gris. Parece que un suave y enorme esfumino del curvo horizonte borrara el confín. La siesta del trópico. La vieja cigarra ensaya su ronca guitarra senil, y el grillo preludia un solo monótono en la única cuerda que está en su violín.
Symphony in Gray Major trans. Anja Chivukula
The sea like the face of a vast silver mirror reflects back the sheen of a zinc-coated sky; far-away flockings of songbirds stain brushstrokes across a wide canvas of pale polished gray. The sun like a circle of glasswork opacity creeps towards its zenith with faltering steps; the maritime breeze lies about in the shadows with its ebony trumpet to cushion its rest. The undulant waves as they heave their lead bellies appear to be moaning from under the dock. Atop a thick cable, his pipe filled with ashes, an old, haggard sailor sits smoking and thinking of the shores of some far-away, fog-laden land.
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Heâ€™s tired now, that old wolf. His face has been scorched by the fiery rays of the sun in Brazil; the fiercest typhoons of the seas off of China have watched as he sipped from his flask full of gin. The sea-spray imbued with saltpeter and iodine has come to know well now his lobster-red nose, his coarse curling ringlets, his muscular biceps, his tarpaulin sun hat, his shirt made of twill. In the midst of the smoke from the burning tobacco he glimpses the far-away, fog-laden land, where one golden evening the anchor was lifted, the brigantine set off from the glistening shore... A tropical siesta. The old wolf is sleeping. Now all is engulfed by the gamut of gray, as though an enormous eraser had flattened the curving horizon to a borderless blur. A tropical siesta. The aged cicada rehearses the tune of his senile guitar, the cricketâ€™s stark prelude a monotone solo on the singular string of his lonesome violin.
Street Corner Mermaid For the mermaids of Norfolk,Virginia Ellie White
When the river gathers itself like the behemoth slug it is, and lurches forward over the bank. When it fills the streets to the curb and keeps rising. When children gleefully begin kayaking around their front yards. Then, I am home. Seaweed, croaker, muskrat. In the murky swell, they surround me. I dream of rusty propeller blades, scrap metal, dead trees. Anything large enough to smash this pedestal Iâ€™ve been glued to. Left to rot in the sun year after year. To fade, to crack, to rust. My arm fell off again. I heard a father tell his child the city canâ€™t pay to put it back. He said I am still pretty this way. Beauty comes in many forms. Nor-Easter, hurricane, bomb cyclone, many forms.
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In the Land of Milk and Honey Angie Romines
n the first photo we took as a family of four, we are gathered on the red, microfiber couch in our living room, having just hosted my family for a 4th of July cookout. My husband is holding our youngest son, just over two months old, socks on his hands because he can’t be trusted to not claw his own face off, (survival of the fittest, my ass). My older son, barely two-years-old, stands in front of me with a sweet grin on his face. I sit on the couch just behind my son, head thrown back, eyes squinted closed, mouth open in midhowl. My toddler had accidentally head-butted me in the chest, where the infection had been building all day. We retook the photo, and I look happy and healthy. But minutes later, my family said their goodbyes a little earlier than planned, as I lay on that same spot on the couch. The fancy thermometer we’d bought for the kids scanned my forehead. 103.9. Too late for anywhere but the ER, so I let the infection burn inside of me until tomorrow. And I kept pumping. I strapped myself into the machine, whimpering. I counted to three so many times, my thumb hovering above the “on” switch. “You have to do this,” I chanted to myself. “There is no other choice but this,” I whisper-lied through gritted teeth as I pushed down on the button.
—— I never expected to have trouble breastfeeding, so of course, my first son wouldn’t latch. As we laid together in my hospital bed, I kept chucking my nipple in the general direction of my tiny son’s mouth, but nothing. “Try making a C-shape,” said one nurse, pinching my breast until it was practically inverted. My milk hadn’t come in yet, just colostrum, so I had no idea how much more painful her maneuvering would’ve been if my ducts had been heavy with milk. “Try a football hold,” said another nurse, rolling my nipple in between her fingers, as if that were a normal thing to do to a stranger. “Do the booby dance,” said my favorite nurse, the night nurse. “Shake those boobies up and down. There you go, you’ve got it. C’mon, Dad, you can do the booby dance, too. Shake that milk on down. All that good milk for baby.” “But he won’t latch,” I said, shaking my boobs in tandem with the nurse. “I’m into this dance, though.” “Yeah, you are,” said the nurse as she switched from the booby dance to raising the roof. “You can pump, sweetie. He’ll still get that good breastmilk. Let
me show you how to work the pump.” The lactation consultant came to visit for the first time the next day. “So you’re not trying to get him to latch anymore?” she asked with concern. She got him on there for a few seconds. He popped right off, but she had shown me it was possible. Improbable, and an insane amount of work for a professional baby-boob attacher, let alone a new, inexperienced mom, but possible. Still, I liked the pump. Well, I didn’t like it, but it was reliable. I knew how to hook myself up and watch the small cylinders slowly fill with the thick, honey-colored colostrum. “This is too hard,” I told her. “How am I supposed to get him latched on my own every two hours. Pumping seems to be working, so why can’t I just do that?” I can still see her actively trying to withhold judgment, her hands clasped in front of her, nodding her head in understanding. “You’re welcome to try to just pump. I thought I’d do the same thing. Guess how many days I made it? Guess. [no beat included for me to guess; but also, I don’t want to play your dumbass guessing game as I’m still passing giant blood clots from my nethers, okay, La Leche?] Five days. Five days and I gave up.” “Neat, I’m going to do it anyway,” I said as I held my sleeping newborn in the crook of my elbow, hospital-grade pump nestled next to my bed.
—— For the first few weeks after bringing our first son home, I didn’t really leave our bedroom. I tried a couple of times. Once to play a board game with my in-laws but sitting was too painful. Once to try to warm up the chicken enchiladas my sister had made and frozen for me, but the smell of real food made me sick, sicker than I’d ever been when I was pregnant. All I could do was lay in bed and drink tiny fractions of smoothies my husband would set on my nightstand. I could hear the worry in his voice. “Don’t you want to try to come down and watch a movie?” “What if we go down to the kitchen, and I’ll make you a grilled cheese?” “Why don’t you hold the baby for just a little while. He misses his mom.” All I could do was get up every two hours, pump myself dry for thirty minutes, break down the pump parts and scrub them, and then do it all over again. I couldn’t get my son to latch, I couldn’t make myself go downstairs, I couldn’t eat solid food, but I could sustain his little life. My body shrank and shrank some more, the milk pouring out of me, but nothing of substance going back in. I was walking around our bedroom in nothing but the ginormous, mesh hospital underwear I stole and an industrial-sized pad, while I carried my milk-coated pump parts to the bathroom sink to rinse and scrub them. I stopped to study myself in the vanity mirror, instinctually sucking my stomach in.
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“You got your beach body back,” my husband joked, as he lay on the bed with our son. I stared into the mirror. “I’m not eating. This isn’t what I’m supposed to look like right now. My body is sick. There is no beach,” I said flatly, looking at my deflated breasts, knowing I only had an hour or so of relief before they’d be full and pulsing, ready to be pumped again. “I know you’re sick,” my husband added quietly. “I want to help you.” “You are helping,” I said, as I dumped the dirty pump parts into the large mixing bowl I kept beside the sink for soaking and scrubbing. “I’ll get better,” I said, but I didn’t know how much worse I could be. —— I was just a month postpartum as I sat in the waiting room of Urgent Care. My OB/GYN’s office was closed on the weekends, so I sat, burning with fever thanks to a blocked milk duct that had become infected. I’d been feeling a little better. I had been able to take care of my son and take care of myself a little, feeding myself and getting out of bed more. We had taken a tiny little hike as a family of three, my son strapped to my front, his cheek nestled into my chest. But then mastitis happened. The first round of what would be many.
I hoped I would be seen soon so I could run home and pump all the milk out. My breasts were expanding with milk and my underwire bra was too small, but it was the only clean one I had left. I was running through multiple bras a day with all the leaks and the summer heat. I was wiping the sweat from my forehead and adjusting my tank top over my bulbous chest as best I could, when the thirty-something guy wearing an ace bandage on his wrist decided to give me the ol’ up-and-down elevator look as he walked out the door. He left before he could hear me laugh. You just checked out milk and pus, dude. The doctor told me I’d been doing everything wrong. I shouldn’t even be looking at an underwire bra until my milk dried up, let alone one that was several cup sizes too small. I shouldn’t have been sleeping on my stomach—I’d been dreaming about reclaiming my natural sleep position for months as my belly hardened and grew. Even the arm exercises I had just started to “get my body back” (as if I’d been spiriting around since the baby was born, scouring the earth for my lost corporeal form) could’ve contributed to compressing a duct, leading to the mastitis that burned through my body. By the time I made it home after swinging by the pharmacy to pick up my antibiotic, I had ruined yet an-
other bra. It shouldn’t have mattered since I wasn’t supposed to be wearing it anyway. But seeing how my milk had darkened the salmon-colored cups to a deep red color that matched the skin of my left breast made me cry, just a little, as I strapped on the funnels, bracing myself to get out every last drop, no matter the agony. —— When you’re up at all hours of the night, attached to a milk pump like the heifer you are, you stumble into a lot of dark corners of the internet. Mom forums abound for just a purpose. They have their own coded language. DS = dear son. FTM = full time mom CIO = Cry It Out (also a good sign that drama is a-coming in the thread). My favorite was EP = exclusively pumping. My people. My long-suffering, udder people. Those of us who watched that scene in Mad Max: Fury Road where the sweaty, naked, disheveled women—human cows—lazed in a state of stupor while their bodies were drained of milk and felt dystopian solidarity. In the forums, they call breast milk “liquid gold,” and I suppose that’s accurate enough. My milk, especially at the beginning, had a honey tint to it. But when I think of gold miners, I think of fat, unwashed men in scraggily beards, panning in a river with a beautiful mountain vista in the background. Mining gold didn’t seem difficult enough for the analogy to ring true. My milk was white oil. (There
Will Be Blood! I drink your breastmilk shake!) To procure oil, you have to dig. You have to go out into the ocean and break the earth. Everyone and everything suffers to bring this commodity to the surface. We sacrifice. I still remember that lactation consultant’s warning. Five days. I made it five days. Then, another five days. Then, five weeks begat five months. Oh, I wish you could see me now, lactation lady. I finished the milk-marathon after eleven and a half months, a birthday present to myself. I made it as long as I did for my son, mostly, but a small part of me did it just in case I ever ran into that lactation consultant again (as if I’d even remember her face). But I remember the five days. I remember that liquid gold/white oil, excavated, running down my chest, soaking my t-shirt, turning the skin of my stomach sticky and sour. —— When my second son latched while I was still in the hospital recovering from his birth, I let myself believe that maybe, just maybe, it could be easy this time. Days later at home, visited by the postpartum nurse, it became clear that “easy” would never be for me. I tried to explain to her how my son had latched at the hospital, but how since my milk had come in like a storm surge, he couldn’t seem to hang on like he needed to. Before his mouth could even reach me, his face would be covered in the milk that leaked from
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my overfilled breasts. I made too much milk. I knew this about my body from my first son. Imagine a gallon jug of milk hanging from your chest by your skin and nerves. Now imagine someone dropping that milk on your nipples from a great height and that is what happened each time my milk let down, when my child tried to drink from me. I explained to the nurse that my son couldn’t latch because he was drowning in milk. She suggested I pump before I feed him, feed him, and then pump again. Every two hours. So at noon, I would pump for fifteen minutes, feed my son for twenty minutes, pump for another fifteen minutes, and do it all again at 2pm. “I can’t do that,” I told her. “It’s so painful to pump. It’s even more painful to try to feed him. I can’t do that and live.” “Well, you can always just give it a try,” she said, as if it were a matter of plugging my nose and swallowing my medicine like a good girl. I explained this to my mom later that evening as she sat beside me on my bed, handing me pump parts while my sister hovered by the doorway. She wasn’t supposed to come until the weekend with my dad and brothers. My husband had called her and told her to drive over from Indiana early, to come as soon as she could, that even
though my sister was with me I wasn’t okay. “I cannot double pump and try to get him to latch. It hurts too much,” I told her as I adjusted the funnels over my nipples. “I can’t even hold him, Mom,” I said, staring ahead at the machine. “If I hold him, I remember the pain of trying to feed him, even when I’m not trying to feed him. I can’t hold him.” “It’s okay. Maybe you can just pump for six months and then quit. And you wouldn’t have to feel bad for quitting early,” she said, and I knew she didn’t understand. Six months wouldn’t be early. Making it six months would be a miracle. My sister chimed in from the doorway, “Or you can just use formula.” My mom shot her the dirtiest of looks. I looked at the button. It was time. I started breathing heavy. “Do you want me to rub your back or do you want me not to touch you?” my mom asked. “I know it hurts.” “Doesn’t matter,” I whimpered, as I flicked the switch and began to wail. When I had finished, I hobbled downstairs and emptied the milk into storage bags. “Come sit with us,” my sister said as she guided me toward the living room where my family filled every seat. I tucked myself into the corner of our red couch. “I’m not sure how long I’ll
last though. Might need to go back upstairs and rest.” My mom brought my newborn son over to me on the couch. “You’re doing good now. You’re empty. Now might be a good time to try to hold him,” she said. I took him from her, and then I couldn’t breathe. I thrust myself upward, tipping my head back to get air. “Take him. Take him,” I gasped. I wanted to hold him, to snuggle him close to me, and feel his body rise and fall with his breath. I thought I’d be better this time, but my body had other plans. My husband took my days-old son from my arms as I crouched on the balls of my feet, trying to keep myself from sinking into the couch. The room was still for a spell and then my sister spoke. “We’ll help you,” she said. My brother, a junior in high school who fancied himself the family DJ, whipped up an hour long chill mix on Spotify before I knew what was happening. Then he pulled up YouTube on our TV and found a loop of calming nature images to match his soundtrack. “I think that helps,” I whispered, tears falling down my cheeks even though it didn’t feel like I was crying. My mom went over to her overnight bag and pulled out adult coloring
books and a large box of pencils. “This always makes me feel less anxious,” she said, as we each took a book and started filling in the intricate designs with pinks and oranges and greens. My sister, a psychologist at a college counseling center, held her phone in front of me. “Look, one of my coworkers made this app to help students who have anxiety. Match your breathing with the box.” I watched as the box expanded and then contracted, shrinking in on itself. It reminded me of my breasts filling with milk and then deflating again once I’d pumped. We sat for hours, my family and me. It felt like a wake or sitting shiva, except we were neither Catholic nor Jewish and no one had died. My husband and I went to bed for the night. He handed the baby to me, and said, “I knew you needed your family here. I knew I had to call.” “I’ll get better,” I said, forgetting I’d told this lie before. I laid my son on my pillow. He was awake and seemed happy to see me, his toothless mouth open, his arms flailing. “Look at me. I’m an old man baby,” I chirped at him. “I got no teeth because I’m an old man baby.” I ran my finger over his gums and laughed a little. “It’s so good to hear you laugh,” my husband said, sighing like he’d been holding his breath in for a very long time.
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Harbor: I —Flint. K e e n a n Te d d y S m i t h
Fli-City, Flint Town, Flintstones the rubble in the rough squeezing gems. Generations upon generations upon hope sought gone foul. One lie is that harbors are a point of departure. Landlocked, hands cuffed and Oxford ties to the nines before the rusty river. Refuge and safe passage. Seldom does the sky scrape but instead the streets stumble, hills topped in cobblestone and sit-down struck syrens singing about the General’s motor and the skeletons that line his wake: coiled on the battlefield, left without rites. Body ash fertilizes soil, as do tears and sweat. Waves rush past one another as perch do. Traci leads some syrens in a song or two, Tunde teaches the kids why boys aren’t always blue, arsons somewhat undone because now we’re on television.
Goodnight Laura Mullen
Leadbelly sang my father to sleep At a Communist Party party In a Los Angeles that barely existed Then and doesnâ€™t exist at all anymore Unless what you call existence is this Stripped down bleached out cow Skull decked with red shreds of dry Flesh gilded in places and crawling With lost bees confused bees bees No longer able to tell the difference Between bones and flowers bees For whom death has a sweetness
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CONTRIBU TO RS
Mackenz i Tu r g eo n i s a So p h o m o re i n C o l u m b i a College m a j o r i n g i n A f r i c a n - A m e r i c a n St u d i e s . She is fro m Wo rc e s t e r, M A . To dd D o d s o n ha s publishe d work in Ni n th L e t te r, The Amer ican Lit erar y Review, T h e Flo r i d a Re v i e w, Sa in t Ann’s Review, The Eva n s vi lle Revie w, and Upst reet. He c ur re n t ly t e ac he s at Ku t ztown Uni ve r si t y. Joel Rob er t Fer g u s o n ’s p o e t r y h a s a p p e a re d i n num ero u s p ub li c a t i on s, i n c ludi n g L e m o n Ho u n d , Prairie Fi re , a n d The Capil ano Rev i e w . Or ig in al ly from t h e v i l l a g e o f Bi b l e Hi l l , Nova S c o t i a , he now d i v i d e s h i s t i m e b e t we e n Wi n n i p e g a n d Montreal , w h e re h e i s p u r s u i n g h i s Ma s t e r s i n English L i t e r a t u re a t C o n c o rd i a . Hi s f i r s t b o o k o f po etr y i s f or t h c om i n g f rom Sig n at u re Ed i tio ns in 2 0 2 0 . Ji hyun Yu n i s a Kore a n -Am e r i c a n po e t f ro m C al i fornia. A Fu l b r i g h t f e l l ow a n d re c e n t g r a d u a t e o f Ne w York Un i ve r s i t y’s M FA p ro g r a m , h e r p o e m s have bee n p ub li sh e d i n Na r ra t i ve , Fu g u e , R i ve r Styx and e lse wh e re . Ari el l e D eVi t o i s s t u d y i n g En g l i s h a n d t h e a t re at Stanfo rd Un i ve r s i t y a n d i s o r i g i n a l l y f ro m Cleveland , Oh i o. Sh e h a s h a d w o rk p u b l i s h e d i n The C l a re m o n t Re v i e w, Cra s h t e s t Ma g a z i n e , and Ohio Po e t r y A s s o c i a t i o n a n t h o l o g i e s , a m o n g others. W h e n n o t w r i t i n g , s h e e n j oy s p a i n t i n g self-p o r tr a i t s, b a ki n g a r t i sa n b re ad , an d w hit tli ng s m a ll b i rds out of st i c ks. El l i e Whi t e h o l d s a n M FA f ro m Ol d Do m i n i o n Universit y. Sh e w r i t e s p o e t r y a n d n o n f i c t i o n . Sh e h as w on a n Ac a de m y of Am e r ic an Poets Poetr y Prize , a n d h a s b e e n n o m i n a t e d f o r b o t h Be s t
of the Ne t a n d t h e Pu s h c a r t Pr i ze . He r w o rk h a s ap p eared or i s f or t h c om i n g i n Cra b Fa t , Up t h e Staircase Qu a r t e rl y, Arc t u r u s a n d m a n y o t h e r j o urnals . Elli e’s c h a p b ook, Req u ie m fo r a Do ll, was relea s e d by E L J Pu b l i c a t i o n s i n Ju n e 2 0 1 5 . Her first f u l l - l e n g t h c o l l e c t i o n i s f o r t h c o m i n g fro m Un soli c i t e d Pre ss i n 2 0 1 9 . She is a n o nfi ctio n an d p oe t r y e di t or a t Fo u r Ti e s Li t e ra r y Re v i e w, a n d a s o c i a l m e d i a e d i t o r a n d re a d e r f o r Muzzle Mag azine. Elli e c ur re n t ly re n t s a b as em ent i n down t own C h a r lot t e sv i lle , Vir g in ia. Luc Di ggl e A n a t i ve Ne w En g l a n d e r, Lu c l i ve s and work s i n Ve r m o n t . He s e r ve s a s A s s i s t a n t Re vi e ws Edi t or f or t h e Cáfe Review. Jani ka Oz a i s a w r i t e r a n d e d u c a t o r b a s e d i n To ro nto. He r work c a n be f oun d in Sm o k e L o n g Qu ar te rly, Homony m Jour nal, Loosele a f Ma ga z i n e, and Hobar t, a m o n g o t h e r s , a n d s h e i s a 2 0 1 8 VONA/Vo i c e s f e l l ow. Fi n d h e r a t w w w. j a n i k a o za.co m . Ki rk Schl u et er e a r n e d h i s M FA i n p o e t r y f ro m Southern Il l i n o i s Un i ve r s i t y - C a r b o n d a l e . Hi s poetr y h a s b e e n a f i n a l i s t f o r t h e R a t t l e Pr i ze , Indiana Re v i e w Po e t r y Pr i ze , a n d t h e Ye m a s s e e Prize, and h a s a p p e a re d or i s f or th co min g in R a ttle, RHIN O , Ni m ro d , Ni n t h L e t t e r, Gr i s t , Na t u ra l Bri dg e , Greensboro Review, Green Mo un ta i n s Revie w, Tin der b ox Poet r y Jou r nal a n d C o n n o t a t i o n Press, amon g ot h e r s. He h a s re c e i ve d a f u l l s c ho l arship to t h e N Y S Su m m e r Wr i t e rs In s t i t u t e a n d has been p a r t of t h e Hun g r y Youn g Po e t s Re adi ng Seri e s. Adri c Tenu t a ’s p oe m s a p p e a r i n Cra b Fa t Ma g azin e. The y a re m a j or i n g i n c re a t i ve w r it in g an d Eng li s h a t Emor y Un ive r sity.
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Matthew Z i p f i s a s e n i o r a t C o l u m b i a , w h e re h e studies c om p ut e r sc i e n c e a n d re se arc he s A me r ican Tran s c e n d e n t a l i s m . Wi t h ro o t s i n t h e Un i t e d States an d Sw i t ze r l a n d , h e h a s t r a n s l a t e d t e x t s from Spa n i s h , Fre n c h , a n d Ge r m a n . Hi s c u r re n t project i s a p h i l o s o p h i c a l e s s a y o n t h e n a t u re o f leavi ng. Perr y Levitch i s a s e n i o r a t Ba r n a rd C o l l e g e from Was h i n g t o n D . C . s t u d y i n g c re a t i ve w r i t i n g and gend e r s t u d i e s . He r w o rk h a s a p p e a re d i n 4x4 Mag azine a n d The Sil o, a n d s he w as aw arded Quar t o Ma g a z i n eâ€™s Po e t r y Pr i ze by Je r i c h o Brown la st s p r i n g . Matt Jon es i s a g r a du a t e o f t h e Un iver sity of A l abama M FA p ro g r a m . Hi s w r i t i n g h a s a p p e a re d i n The Sou t her n Review, Michig an Qua r te rly Review, The No r m a l S c h o o l , T h e At l a n t i c , C h i c a g o Tri bune , Post Road, a n d va r i ous o t he r pu b l ic atio ns . Morgan Lev i n e i s a m u l t i m e d i a p o e t c u r re n t l y studying a t C o l u m b i a Un i ve r s i t y i n Ne w Yo rk City. He r w o rk s h a ve b e e n p u b l i s h e d b o t h i n print and o n l i n e , a n d s h e i s a t h re e - t i m e f i n a l i s t fo r Ho ust on Yout h Poe t L a ure a t e . Anj a Chiv u ku l a i s a sop hom ore a t Bar n ard C o llege stud y i n g p h i l o s o p h y a n d w o m e nâ€™s , g e n d e r, and sexua li t y st udi e s. Sh e g re w up in t he s pr aw l ing subu r b s o f m i d - Mi c h i g a n , a n d c u r re n t l y calls San Di e g o , C a l i f o r n i a h o m e . A n j a i s o n t h e edi to ri al b oa rds of 4x4 Magazine an d q u e ( e ) r y jour n al o f q u eer and f eminist t heo r y, a n d t h i s i s her fi rst p ub li sh e d t r a n sla t i on . Angi e Ro m i n es re c e i ve d h e r M FA i n Cre a t i ve
Writing f ro m Oh i o St a t e i n 2 0 0 9 . He r w o rk h a s been p ubli sh e d i n The Bang al ore Re v i e w, B o o k e n ds Re view, The Bind, Sil ver Pen , Bli n d e r s Li te rar y Jou r nal , a s we l l a s o t h e r pl a c e s . Sh e h a s also plac e d i n s e ve r a l w r i t i n g c on t e s t s s u c h a s the Soul - m a k i n g Ke a t s L i t e r a r y C o m p e t i t i o n and the Ti n y L i g h t s Na r r a t i ve C o n t e s t . Sh e b l o g s abo ut 90’s C h r i st i a n rom a n c e n ove l w it h he r s ister at h t t p : / / u n d e r t h e r j g . b l o g s p o t . c o m a n d i s currently w o rk i n g o n a m a g i c a l re a l i s m n ove l s e t in Easter n Ke n t u c k y. L i n k s t o h e r w o rk c a n b e fo und at www. a n g i e rom i n e s. c om . Keenan Teddy Smith i s a w r i t e r f ro m Fl in t , Michigan n ow l i v i n g i n C h i c a g o. Hi s w r i t i n g has app e a re d a s p rose i n PA PE R Ma g a z i n e , T h e Advocate, Hy perAllergic, a n d R a c e Ba i t r, w h i l e h i s p o etr y ha s a p p e a re d i n Fou ndr y, Am e r i c a n Ch o r data, The Shad e Jou r nal , a n d t h e Ne w Yo rk Ti m e s’ T Mag azine . He h a s a lso b e e n n a m e d an ‘ Eme r g ing’ Que e r Po e t o f C o l o r by t h e Sh a d e Jo u r n a l . His writi n g tr i e s to e xpa n d on th e l i t e r a r y a e s thetics o f Bl a c k q u e e r n e s s , re i m a g i n i n g a n o f t e n stigmatize d s e x u a l i t y t h ro u g h w o rk s w h i c h h e l p bui ld an a r t i st i c voc a b ula r y f or Blac k q u e e r g e nder, fam i ly, love , a n d i m a g i n a t i on. Laura Mu l l en i s t h e a u t h o r o f e i g h t b o o k s a n d the McElve e n Prof e ssor of En g li sh at LS U. Recent p o ems h a ve a p p e a re d i n C o n j u n c t i o n s , 1 1 1 1 , an d Lan a Tu r ner. He r t r a n s l a t i o n o f Ve ro n i q u e Pi tto lo’s He ro i s f o r t h c om i n g f rom Blac k Squ are. Joyce Po l a n c e i s a C h i c a g o-b a se d p a i n t e r w o rk ing in oi l s . He r w o rk c o n s i s t s o f e x p re s s i o n i s t p o r trai ts a n d la n dsc a p e s wh i c h e x pl o re t he c ha o ti c inne r wor lds of t h e i r sub j e c ts — b o t h as d e piction o f t h e s u b j e c t s’ ow n v u l n e r a b i l i t i e s a n d of their c o n n e c t i o n s t o t h e t u m u l t u o u s p o l i t i c a l
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atmosphe re we a re c u r re n t l y l i v i n g i n . Po l a n c e has exhi b i t e d i n t e r n a t i on a lly a n d is t he re c ipient of m u l t i p l e g r a n t s a n d a w a rd s i n c l u d i n g s i x Chicago C AAP g r a n t s, a Ge or g e Su g ar man Fo u ndation gr a n t , t w o Ju d i t h Da w n Me m o r i a l g r a n t s , and a fell ow s h i p a t Sp e r t u s In s t i t u t e i n C h i c a g o. Her pain t i n g s a re h e l d i n t e r n a t i o n a l l y i n p r i va t e and co rp or a t e c olle c t i on s. Pola n c e w as b o r n in Ne w York C i t y i n 1 9 6 5 . Sh e a t t e n d e d We s l e y a n Uni vers i t y an d re ce ive d a BFA f rom t he Fash ion Instit u t e o f Te c h n o l o g y. Sh e l i ve s a n d w o rk s in Chica g o , Il l i n o i s a n d i s re p re s e n t e d by Ju d y Ferrara Galle r y in Thre e Oaks, MI an d Elephan t Room in C h i c a g o , I L . He r p a i n t i n g s m a y b e vie wed on h e r we b si t e , www. j oyc e po l an c e . c o m.
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Fall 2018: Volume 100, Issue No. 1 Join the editors of The Columbia Review in celebrating the first issue of our 100th Volume!
Published on Dec 31, 2018
Fall 2018: Volume 100, Issue No. 1 Join the editors of The Columbia Review in celebrating the first issue of our 100th Volume!