The Columbia Review
Natalie Molina Natalie Molina
Volume 93, Number 2
Volume 93, Number 2 路 Spring 2012
T he C olumbia R ev iew
T h e C olu mb i a R e v i e w
T a ble
Jason Bell Tucker Kuman
Natalie Molina you are a margarita · 8 A Catalogue of Men I Have Yet to Distrust · 9
Alan A. Tomillie
Alexandra Avvocato Salonee Bhaman Sara Corcoran Alison Economy Diana Flanagan Chloe Haralambous Julien Hawthorne Diya Jost Megan Kallstrom Peter Kwang Grace Lee Dan Listwa Yin Yin Lu Mica Moore Kate Offerdahl P.J. Sauerteig Ian Scheffler Marshall Thomas Atti Viragh Rose Winer Jaclyn Willner
Jason Bell Foxtrot Frames · 14 Song in Oklahoma · 15 On Civility · 16
Cover photography by Zoe Schaeffer, CC '13.
C o n ten ts
Marshall Thomas Gentle Curses to Racists · 20 Mouth · 21 Hate Composite 1 · 22 Hate Composite 2 · 23 Erica Weaver Theories of Flying · 26 Hocus Pocus · 27 Bone-house · 28 Augury · 29 Kelly Moore Kika Dorsey Amalia Scott Les Gottesman Julien Hawthorne Rowan Hisayo Buchanan Sofia Sosa
The End of Aquatic Apes · 30 Origami · 31 Sonnet for Darger · 32 Sonnet [from the Review archives] · 33 Interview: Gary Shteyngart · 34 Everything Vanishes · 42 Tower of David · 54
E di to rs ’ N ote Will you be dead tomorrow? Our magazine won’t answer this question, but we choose each of our submissions with the end in mind. Don’t waste what could be your last moments. Read only what’s good.
The Columbia Review is published twice yearly by the students of Columbia University, New York, with support from the Activities Board at Columbia. This issue is sponsored in part by the Arts Initiative of Columbia University. This funding is made possible through a generous gift from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Enquiries to: Columbia Review, Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Books and media sent for possible review become the property of The Columbia Review. Visit us online at: http://www.ColumbiaReviewMag.com Copyright © 2012 by The Columbia Review. All rights reserved. Reproduction or translation of any part of this work beyond that permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the US Copyright Law without permission of the publishers is unlawful.
-Jason Bell & Tucker Kuman Editors-in-Chief
N atal ie M olina
you are a margarita donna, you crazy bitch. I have known you for years, thatâ€™s how this feels. you are waving safety signals through the air, you are dancing.
the people around us will be sleeping or reading or fantasizing about what we have, you and me, donna.
yes! donna I will marry you. I will put on my own oxygen mask before helping others, before helping you, (with my mouth).
yes donna, I will put my seat tray up and turn off all electronic devices, I will do what you say.
two more hours will go by. I will write poems for you on my barf bag, you will touch yourself thinking of me in the lavatory.
9 Natalie Molina
donna, come to 22D so you can sit on my lap with me, airplane dance not like a stripper, like a dancer, like a donna. I will put a tiny umbrella behind your ear and call you mine. aloha sexy (you are a margarita).
o donna pray for turbulence! that we may slip and fall my pants somehow down, your skirt somehow up. that we have sex in first class, where I wish I was sitting.
but go now, love of my life. prepare for cross-check donna, they need you up there.
budget cuts, whose hairy knuckles looked like blacktop grass tufts, looked like weeds, the man with too many sisters, too many slumber parties in which he was forced to participate, too many cookies baked in Easy Bake ovens, sexual orientation somewhat questionable but he says he likes sports, the man with the first beard I met that did not hurt too much, that was gentle in its approach, that was always helping me go to sleep, back and forth across the skin, back and forth like an old wife’s pendant over the genderless womb of her sister, the man who rallied the children together at my brother’s birthday party, who gave me grenadine kisses behind the bar, who played with my hair often, who braided it, the man who wrote things down, things I said, things we heard, helped to remember my poetry, helped to inspire my poetry, my graphite superhero in the sky with diamonds, graphite superhero with a stupid Beatles tattoo, the man from the South who cooked great food, who fed my soul every Monday in between the sheets, making fun of how I say “pecan,” defending the strangeness of how he says “corn,” laughing at our realizations that people in general are strange, the man who moved to Brooklyn after Katrina left him naked to become an artist, to become a writer, to become anything other than what he already was, to become more philosophical and generally lucid, the man who I called my bodhisattva, who smelled like nirvana and prayer bead casserole every time we made love, who turned me around with Sanskrit whispers, who loved his Buddha more than he loved me, who in another life might love me more, the man who knew languages, who explained the differences between coffees to me, lattes lingering in the space between his curls would remind me of his coffeehouse fondness, would remind me of his excellent hair, would remind me that the negative space is equal to if not more important than what is visible in any piece of art.
11 Natalie Molina
After all the chicken adobo meltdowns and broken bacon beers, the atheist combat boots and Lebanese greeting cards, the World Cup jerseys and Turkish curse words, the gender neutral scarves and long-forgotten blogs, after all those men who left me loathing their kin, lonely and mentally castrating them as they walked away—always walking away—just as I barely lost faith in the prospect of finding one for the keeping, a wild clarity sunk inside of me. In moments of fear, I could erase them from memory, think of the rare men who kept me from feeling afraid, like the man who drove with me to Brownsville for a last-minute funeral, shared the back seat of the hearse with me, embarrassing street corners with our public displays of worship, the man with worked hands, tired skin, Braille palms pressed to my cheek, who let me blind-read his stories of moonshine matrimonies, veiled kisses and morning discoveries of bindis in unholy places, the man who drank bodega beer and sat on the roof with me, chewing psychedelic Tootsie Rolls for just the one night, just to see how it felt, just to see if things changed, the man in the NYU emergency room, who calmed me down about needles and IVs and other paraphernalia I could never tolerate raping my arteries, pillaging my veins, scavengers of hemoglobin, the man who was homeless or hipster or both, whose dog I had feelings for, whose ears were so soft, whose paws smelled so good, whose beard was too thick for my taste, the man who drunk slept on my lap, on the basketball court, on the blanket they gave us at our graduation, embroidered with bobcat pride, now covered in the smell of us, the man with the unfailing late night appetite for Belgian fries, and the rhetoric to persuade me to accompany him: they have thirty different sauces, twenty different seasonings, good rap music, cool Filipinos he’d say, the man who wore the puka shell necklace, not worn since the night I expressed disdain for said necklace, now by default more generally fuckable in the additional 49 states, the man with the hammertoes, tortured feet previously under the despotic rule of too-small shoes, of careless mothers, of recessionary
A Catalogue of Men I Have Yet to Distrust
J a so n B e ll
Song in Oklahoma
all the spoons bent ‘by a poltergeist’ — Jason sowed his babyteeth in manure — massage my calves you plumper hands — where has he went to the wrinkled comic covers — Roger ran into the wrong bed and fucked his daughter — stemmed grapefruit halves — segmented plucked, swallow swallow — sugared mornings marriages and machoiatos — crooked nose you bawker you lecher Peter with vegetable fingers — you mossy wolf buried in the flower bed and come and come again
Ronny Howard mows his lawn.
Red hair mussled under Sooners cap chugging and catching and stalling—jug jug
one eyebrow sweats, dripping down freckles. He wears an undershirt. Chesthair chestnut and exposed. (Hanes 100% pre-shrunk cotton.) three cattails wiggle like flagella, catfish swim like tadpoles. Their tails Wriggle. a long way to the neighbor’s, he drinks (punctuated a sparrow, hopping over spines for acorns.)
On Civility I. vulgar lips, sweet on using France against Africa and white set in bitter blood , rye puns we whispered in chamberpots and quivering puddings
IV. dizzy with non-hunger not doing nothing freedom for nothing howls like gorgons frozen themselves in blocks of ice like wooly mammoths or prehistoric flies swarming in Catherine the Great’s dismantled sitting room
‘Maryanne was taken by the army’ desperate for manpower average confederacy devoid of imagination the inflation of sugar into history, horrific
17 Jason Bell
III. a portrait of my hand that wrought the war that brought the frolic to a colicky, deluded close
II. the perennial question stop: let me hear Jacob said for me the struggle for two women gutted like fish
M a rsha l l T h o ma s
Gentle Curses to Racists
electromagnetism says · ‘i hit the club’ · since most things are clubs · nice girls with business dads · clubs · or boxes of donut holes · good sweat gracious · lie down in the ‘seasonal’ aisle · you got buried in christmas shit · poor folk in a fish sky · and a breath of carbonated soup · nothing dumber than a limo · fake nails licking a back · non-stop suckers for purple lights with girls in them · teach the tv to drink · it’s never drunk · two shoes · every man is a bad old man · who won’t use napkins
A glass of warm gingerale every evening. Wish you the calmest sex, deliberate in tee-shirts and socks. Your mid-life bran-eating asap. Bad grades and bad fingernails when you go out to eat and all your clothes feel like leather. When you take a picture of yourself at arm’s length—redeye, and your chin dissolves. Hid your DVD remote but am also willing to negotiate, how weak. Anger’s still mine. Can’t say much. Laugh as you cut your finger on an opened corn can and then I go back to my activity.
Hate Composite 1
Hate Composite 2
ok tell your computer all about me · we say weak lips · say tired · look man just leave · we say this is trash · how many rap ballads do we need · the future of · to the left · hi · fall back · go scratch your athlete’s foot · we
a jet among a swarm of jets · or yachted up among the masts · desert eagle clap clap you wouldn’t · last place mixtape · all crack don’t fluff
say airball! · your frozen foods body · lie down · watch the sour ceiling · sniff · we say hide-and-seek hairline · we say you rap like you’re leaving a voicemail · that’s a reptilian jump shot son · haters with temp jobs ·
nice · money curtains man it’s money in the bathtub now · don’t you ever get another haircut · ashy knuckles had em giggling · you mariachi corny · fuck outta here · black as hash browns done wrong · and cereal minded · soft before you know it · whip · hater talking never made me mad
haters going bowling · haters recoil and do my taxes · suck my back · got long money · iced the watch on you · what we weren’t looking · yeah bezels the bezels · our minds are on the filing cabinet · hands in the filing cabinet
E r i ca W e ave r
Theories of Flying
Somewhere in the revels thousands of dead are falling as blackbirds · clacked skulls in the pitch of midnight and with my poor eyesight I cannot tell whether I might not be a species of blackbird · my winged body flown straight into the ground · a frenzy of mass trauma · when the ornithologist spreads me about with rope · says there’s nothing to see here but all I see are three five-gallon buckets of eschatological blackbirds · think only mass trauma · midnight ringing as a fatted blackbird in the revels and there is bleeding in the body cavities · a trace of poison in the roosts and I trace the words mass wildlife death in the cracked skulls whisper that the world has not ended and a few stunned blackbirds stumble away in the dark
I have tried the usual things » » reading late into the night but always still the Wanderlust excessive hand-washing and the buttoning up of long wool coats returns and I think I might be splenetic · might suffer from strange notions of the sublime and a need to alter my scenery Already I am too old but am tuning myself to my self · feeling the turn of bones turning in sockets my spine rolling inch by inch to the floor
Asked about the Eucharist I can say nothing but mutter again and again hoc est corpus · hocus pocus and I couldn’t say when the line was drawn when I was hacked into pieces for blazons or what then are bodies and which is bread
Then I came to you broken as saucers · packed boxes so you could think that soon I might be leaving · or I rolled the carpets Saturdays and lay among the silverfish · burrowed into jackets to be moth-eaten started to smell like the cedar of closets · to feel like shirtsleeves rolled too tightly · or the bulge of neckskin beneath the collar waiting for the top button to pop started to think I’d never get away from here · would open the windows just to watch the curtains blow out · light candles to hear the wax sputter · myself tensed like pinestraw guttered for too long knew my own skin was stretched as marbles and sat through dinner parties feeling like the roast fowl resewn into its feathers · a pie baked with live birds inside · or even stopped feeling like the birds and dreamt myself as just the feathers the thin crust of pastry and sometimes only the pockets of air
In the middle a bird is flattened its feathers clotted · when a man taps my shoulder to tell me the sooth— Forget him · who has time for such things oatmeal-colored mornings when the snow is a dirty sheen and I wonder if it’s wuthering where you are · the tea is never hot enough then · the breadbasket swarms and I hope what he would have said is unimportant.
The End of the Aquatic Apes Kelly Moore after Zhuang-zi 1. The bottom halves of people in the sea trail from them like squid ink. I’ve seen how the water tricks the body out of itself. Our legs wave about, thoughtless as we stare into the distance.
Origami Kika Dorsey I long for nothing more than to fold into myself like the wings of a heron done fishing, belly full, under a truncated sky, under a black crow night, dream and sleep interwoven, feather beneath feather. I’ve seen the design under the wing, folded like blood within where all we see is flight’s potential. And I wonder at the difference between designing and crushing, between a mountain lion’s perfect paw and the rabbit that didn’t get away. Even in winter I imagine the tulips underneath the frozen soil and ice that
I hate the cold of entering the water, how the skin shrivels, folds in all the chill
seals bulbs. And what must open must also close, the rhythm of folding, of layering like lips kissing
2. One day, we won’t recognize our own limbs.
or the way fire licks the sky of winter, daring spring to unfold.
If my hips become a pair of wheels, if my shadow takes the form of a horse, I’ll ride away— 3. Who will carry us back to the water when the sun goes down?
31 Kika Dorsey
If my right arm turns into a crossbow, I’ll hunt for owls to roast.
If tomorrow my left arm is transformed into a rooster, I’ll go looking for night’s end.
Sonnet for Darger
This was easy for you The prince could not have done it higher The realms reel out all there Theyâ€™re hoarding the repulsive with the girls sprung in among themselves in the more disciplined formation This is not the lonely crowd of baths The image of the yew is stapled up ablaze They cannot bring up beer The girls are Othering the hell out of the crowd from the implosive damask rose or the abrasive nudes Anything longer than it plies wide is good as your gun and Marie (mother with the goods) scuddles all seven sins sideways as her girls grin They are out for yews and they cry anything but ease
Because we once picked pomegranates above the canyon and you unswerved and smiled so long it was like no other danger. Not those shadows your white trembling when we buzzed the town at one remove flapped wings in my belly as terrific.
Loving a drunk is loving a corpse.
33 Les Gottesman
I sprouted polyps all over the next winter. in memoriam.
Interview: Gary Shteyngart with
Did you always know you were going to be a writer? Yeah, always. I was four or five when I wrote my first novel. You know, my grandmother asked me to write a novel in Russian, so I started writing a novel about a magical goose and Lenin who start a revolution to make Russia a more socialist place. No, but you know people always say I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but the converse of that is some people just don’t have the skills to be anything else. I was fired from every job I ever had… except from this one. Then what’s the worst job you ever had? Well, I wasn’t fired from it, but in high school I was a janitor, partly at a nuclear reactor. That’s where my hair loss began. Really? Here in New York City? No, on Long Island. My father worked there.
Super Sad True Love Story has a fascinating format, made up of letters, diary entries. How and why did you choose to format your prose this way? Because we’re living in a very epistolary kind of age. Literacy is declining. In a weird way, now everyone’s a writer. We live in an age in which everyone’s screaming out their own version of things. So I thought that Lenny would do it in this very old fashioned format, the diary, while Eunice would do it in her own way, with the small pieces of information back and forth. In your latest novel Super Sad True Love Story, books are antiques and collector’s items. Is this an idea that you believe will eventually come to fruition in one way or another? I think it’s coming to fruition as we speak. One of the impetus for this whole idea was that a cable tv repairman came over, and like Lenny I have this giant wall of books, and he looked at it like it was this disgusting thing and kept saying, ‘Why you got such a small TV?’, almost emasculating me. Now whenever you take out a book
I started during my senior year at Oberlin. I was a Creative Writing minor. Oberlin is kind of a hippy dippy school. I wanted to write a novel about the culture clash between the very entitled stoners that hung around me and the poor Eastern European people that I grew up with. I studied abroad my junior year in Prague, so the idea kind of crystallized. By the time I got home my senior year I knew what I wanted to write. I took a long time because I was so embarrassed about publishing it. There weren’t any other Russian-American novelists out there publishing stuff. So I was very worried about it. What happened was I applied to Hunter just to go to the MFA program there but Chang Rae Lee who was there said, ‘Well, why don’t I send it to my publisher,’ and two weeks later I got a book deal, so that was a very lucky break.
Well, the stages go with my stages. People say they’re of the same themes, but one is a coming-of-age novel, and you know when you start writing in your early twenties, what else are you going to write about? The second novel, I thought, was quite political. It wasn’t about an immigrant, it was about the Russian elite. It was about a 325 pound man with a bad circumcision who still gets to do whatever he wants because his father is one of the richest men in Russia. And the third novel is where I was trying to be as sympathetic to these characters as I could, Lenny and Eunice, because they’re nice people, trying to make do. One review, I think it was the LA Times, said that Eunice was vapid, and I was very upset about that because she’s the product of the environment that she lives in, and she’s actually a very nice human being. So I felt a lot of closeness to these characters psychologically. You know, usually I punish these characters, and this time when I was punishing them I felt bad for doing it.
From what I hear, you began your first novel The Russian Debutante’s Handbook before you even enrolled in the Hunter’s College MFA program. How and why did you begin writing this novel?
Your three novels all concern the travails of young Russian American men, but each has a different feel to it, and each protagonist is at a very different stage in his life. Do you feel like your fiction has progressed artistically with each novel?
on an airplane, I think I notice in business class people stare you down even worse, like you’re wasting your time. At least in economy there are still a few humanities grads. This is your first novel set in America. Is there a reason you decided to move from the Soviet Union to America in this novel? I spent the first two novels destroying what was left of the Soviet Empire, so I thought, now it’s time to destroy America. I could finish destroying my other home country.
Do you approach reading differently as a writer? Absolutely. In fact, part of the problem is that you’re always on call. You’re never just enjoying something. Sometimes it’s fun to read books that aren’t well written because you can just take them at their face value. But whenever you encounter something that’s genius, you begin to think how he or she did that with the words or sentences. But that doesn’t become pleasure--that becomes work.
You are a critically acclaimed novelist, but also a professor here at Columbia University. How do you approach “teaching” your students in your Creative Writing classes? I try not to make rocket science out of it. It’s actually fairy simple. The workshop model works very well. We try to sit around and figure out what’s going on here. On a very simple level, it isn’t just about theory. Where does this land? Why does this story matter to me? What do these characters mean to me? What does this story show me about the world? With me it was a little different, because I had a book deal before. I took the workshops, but stuff was already being edited by a real editor. I had to lie, because I was a first year puncher. And people were dissing my work. They were so pissed off at it, oh my god they were so pissed off at it. And then they heard I got a book contract and said it was great.
Do you have any advice for young writers? READ! READ! This is the big disconnect that’s been happening. As Creative Writing programs take off in America as a quasi industry, with over 400 programs out there, it seems that everyone wants to be a writer but no one wants to take the time now to be a reader. Reading is not passive. Reading is how you learn to write. If you can’t consume 100 or more books a year, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Not a novel. I’m working on a few things and one of them is a memoir. I’ve been doing a lot of non-fiction, a lot of travel writing. After three books, I kind of feel a little fatigued, so I wanna take a little time out.
Can we expect another novel from you anytime soon?
“The Tempest: Weight” Zach Bell
“Daniel” Greg Hindy
Everything Vanishes Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
43 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
strid and Will moved to the cottage. It was a last resort. Three years ago, on their honeymoon, Will had lifted Astrid over the threshold. This time he carried her all the way from the car. He tried not to think of it as a hospice, but the hospital had given up, pulling out of the co-dependency of remission and relapse. The house was his aunt Mabel’s summer retreat but recently she preferred Florida. She let them stay on the condition that Will care for her two fat mares. He disliked horses, especially their eyes. It was impossible to meet them straight on. The first night Astrid and Will bathed together in the old porcelain bathtub. It was an old-fashioned free-standing tub with cleft iron hooves for feet. Astrid sat in front and Will behind, easily wrapping his legs and arms around her underfed torso. There was a large window that looked out on a small wood. Naked, Astrid’s body seemed like a mechanical device, arms as skinny as exhaust pipes. Her naked back showed each joint and pivot of her bones and the green-blue wiring of her veins. Will ran the sponge over the grill of her ribs, knowing his repairs were only cosmetic. Steam made Astrid lightheaded. Will left the window open to allow the vapor to escape. A pitted white moon hung in the blue sky. Steam flowers floated out their window and away. Liquid petals clung to the plaster ceiling. Will swirled shampoo into her scalp and his hands emerged netted in blonde hair; he wondered how much longer before it was all gone. Astrid leant backwards, tilting her face upwards and whispered; “I saw a unicorn, on the roadside, while you were driving.” Quips and fears entangled in Will’s throat. He’d heard starvation victims went insane, he knew that her refusal to eat was its own insanity, but he was not prepared for unicorns. A wind began to blow in through the window, wafting the steam back in. A rain of green seedlings pelted them. Tiny and lung shaped, they caught in her hair and floated across the bathtub. One hid the freckle on her inside knee and others stuck to the peaks of her hipbones. Astrid twisted her head, skin contorting around bone, and opened her mouth. In the center of her tongue was a seed. She lisped, careful not to let her tongue curl, removing all the angles of her speech. Each s softened to a soupy th, each r to a digestible w. “If I thwallow i- will I gwow a twee inthide o- me.” Will thought that if she swallowed it, it would be the first thing in forty-eight hours. He replied, “A forest.”
She laughed, and kissed his knucklebones before spitting the seed back into the water. It drifted until it became indistinguishable from the rest. The wind stopped and they became silent as the air. Will carried her out of the bath and into bed. It was warm but he bundled Astrid under two comforters. He liked to see her there, wrapped in this simulacrum of flesh. He opened the French windows to allow air to circulate. She fell asleep quickly. Even laughter exhausted her. Will reached into his suitcase. He had hidden a pot of honey and a brush inside a pair of white athletic socks. He eased the brush between her sunken lips. She did not wake. He stroked honey onto her lips, her gums, her teeth. It probably wasn’t good for her enamel but teeth only matter if you use them. Once before, Will had known a girl like Astrid. He had been young and it had ended badly. On cold days, Will wondered if Astrid was penance for that. On drizzly days, he wondered if it was some sort of sexual perversion if he liked Astrid precisely because of how light she was to carry, if his love was why she was getting worse. His ex-girlfriend said he picked weak women to distract from his own inadequacies - but ex-girlfriends always become psychologists. Whatever theories he offered himself, their truth or untruth offered no solutions. That night she was beautiful as the brush kissed her mouth, and the last light of the day was puddled in her honey-painted lips.
45 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Downstairs, Will dealt with business while she was asleep. He was working for a New York art dealer, handling PR. One of their “outsider” artists lived nearby to the cottage and Will was supposed to visit him. The artist sculpted famous monuments, using old heroin needles and a glue gun. Matchstick sculpture for the clinically messed up. Recently though, the needles were getting too much use, and production was down. Later that week, he was supposed to go and persuade the guy to go to rehab. As he was looking up clinic fees, the boss called with a new problem. The people who had been buying outsider art had moved on to Asian art, of which he had none. He had told a client “if you want Chinese art why don’t you just go to Wal-Mart.” It turned out the client owned majority shares in several major news outlets. Culture sections, while ignored by most of the population, constitute the gossip pages for a certain sector of New York. Will, as the PR agent, was supposed to salvage the situation. He didn’t even know where to begin. Astrid’s bones were disintegrating faster than snow in spring, or so her doctor said. Astrid was unfuckable. Will sat in the silent kitchen and unbuckled his pants. He looked at Japanese cartoons. He had lost all his taste for videos, amateur or professional. Relishing the curve of fleshy thighs reminded him too much of what Astrid didn’t have. Inky women never ate,
never drank and weighed nothing at all. This artist liked to draw girls with blank eyes, signifying that pleasure had rolled their irises back in their heads. It gave them the look of Grecian statues: blind Justice and her sisters. It was late when Will made his way upstairs. He opened the bedroom door, quietly so as not to wake her. Then he saw the unicorn. The light from the hall illuminated its fat flanks and muscled curve of its neck. The head was lowered, the horn creasing the sheets. Its nostrils pressed against Astrid’s cheek. Will let go of the door. It swung shut. He stared at the door, the white paint peeled to reveal tender pine. He touched the brass handle as tenderly as if it was a lock of Astrid’s hair, letting his hand rest for a second. Then he turned it. The unicorn was off-white, like the sagging bathroom ceiling; aged plaster colored by condensation and years of sloughed-off skin. Will stared. The unicorn angled its horn towards him. The gesture was as smooth and fast as a teenager flipping him off. Will stopped, in still standing on the lintel. The horn tapered to the width of a paper cut. The unicorn bent down again to Astrid, and began to lick her pale face. Will ran towards it. He shot his words into the air, threats more than warnings. Words he would not remember the next day, because he valued them more for volume than syntax. But he meant: Leave her the fuck alone. Surprisingly it did, cantering out through the French windows. At first, Will ran, trying to parse the distance with his spotlight but he lost the unicorn and could not find it again. Nor could he find what dark stagehands of the night might have set him up for this. He sunk into the long grass. It was rough, wet and scented with manure. Unseen things scuttled in these grasses. But he sat anyway, letting the water seep into his clothes. He wondered if it was possible to have sympathetic hallucinations the way some men had sympathetic pregnancies. He wondered if it could have been one of the fat brown mares mistaken in the shadows, but he did not think so. There was dirt on the bedroom floor and horse saliva ran down Astrid’s face like night sweats. He locked the windows. Will pulled the covers off so Astrid, still asleep, lay alone on the white plinth of the bed. Her body was delicate as seagull bones joined by white thread. Or an origami girl - all corners. She was art. He just wanted to preserve her. So what if her hips weren’t child-bearing? Even before this
relapse he’d given up on children. His sister had married a Chinese guy. At the christening, everyone had gathered around the kid, desperately pointing out how maybe he had Will’s nose or Aunt Mabel’s eyes, like people identifying bodies after a fire. Astrid had whispered in his ear that she didn’t want kids. And even though he didn’t care if his children had skin as marbled as the inside of book covers, he agreed. Will only needed Astrid. He thought about calling the needles artist. To find some drug, some beast, that might make her want to live: heroin, even with its steel horned needles and black straps. She already had scars running like shooting stars down her arms, from a time when she tried to cut the blood and its sugars out of herself. Will shook his head; he really was going crazy. He left the flashlight on guarding them from the night. He crawled between the white lips of his sheets and fell asleep.
47 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
For the past year, Astrid had lived on an earth that orbited a smaller sun, in narrowing circles. Her days lasted perhaps eight hours, divided evenly between sleeping and waking. On this tiny planet, there was less gravity; this allowed her to leap. She woke and saw Will sleeping next to her, his hand stretched towards her pillow. She turned towards the window. Pressed against the glass was a shape like a long white skull, eroded by deep shadows. At first, not eating had made things hard, but now it made them easy. Once seeing a unicorn at the window would have set up hurdles of doubt, hills of fear, and tunnels of worry before she was able to even sit up in bed. Now she just stood and opened the French windows. It lowered its head at her and she thought, “Oh, it’s going to charge.” Her father’s voice came to her ear, crackling distorted by its journey from Bengal to Connecticut. He called her by her middle name: Kali. Kali, listen to me carefully, If charged by a elephant or hippo, charge back - that way it will think you are a predator. If a tiger or leopard charges, freeze. That way it will think you are a rock. The rules had made no sense then. She hadn’t been to India or Bengal and wasn’t planning to. Astrid was a souvenir her mother had picked up on a pit-stop between Stockholm and Westport. She wasn’t sure if a unicorn was predator or prey, she didn’t much care. She whispered because talking was hard and because she didn’t want to wake Will. “Come on, stab me mother-fucker.” But it didn’t; instead, it batted her with the side of its head. The knock was gentle but enough to push her back onto the bed. The unicorn grimaced, the only way a horse can smile. She looked into its eye and saw the distorted world reflected back at her. Then her mind leapt again.
On her eleventh birthday, the glass unicorn arrived in the mail, addressed to her. Her father had sent it. She had asked for a new watch, the kind with a gummy strap that came in colors like cotton candy, marzipan, liquorice and lemon drop. All the other girls had one. After unwrapping the unicorn, Astrid refused to eat her birthday cake. The unicorn was childish and stupid, how old did her father think she was? Her mother, growing increasingly frustrated, shouted. “If you don’t want it, you can give it to your sister.” “Fine.” Her sister was her half-sister, daughter of the man who had been a kind father to them both. The next day, Astrid had to stay home sick. An overdose of disappointment and breath-holding had kept her awake all night. After lunch, bored of daytime talk shows, she snuck into her sister’s room. The unicorn stood at the head of a herd of plastic ponies. She took it down from the shelf. Its mane was blowing in a wind she couldn’t feel. She held its flank up to her eye. The word viewed through its glassy haunches was blurred and beautiful as the world is when seen through tears. She pressed the horn into the plush nub of her little finger. It was sharp as a spinning needle. The glass magnified the weft of her fingerprints. She held a hoof pinched in her left hand, the body in her right. She let the snappability, smashability, crushability, powderability thrum between her fingers. But she placed the unicorn back down next to an American quarter horse bought at the dollar store. It seemed too late to take it back. Later as a teenager, Astrid remembered the spike of the horn. Her mother had taken all Astrid’s knives; the kitchen knives were put to sleep each night under her mother’s bed and in the day were carried around in her mother’s handbag. She slipped into her sister’s empty room. In the Saturday sunshine, dust motes lit up like galaxies. But her sister was also a teenager and her horses had joined the Salvation Army. Astrid had never expected to see the unicorn again but somehow it walked into her bedroom. Just then, Will sat up screaming. Astrid often woke herself up screaming, noise bridging the world between sleeping and waking. She could see this was a scream that had started in sleep. But his scream went on and on, through the waking world. The unicorn ran and the scream gushed after it. Will blinked, caught his breath and then in the voice of an orator completing his speech added, “I am going to kill it.” Astrid looked at the clock. It was 5 am, only two hours until
There was no gun in the house. There was no knife longer than the unicorn’s horn. In the end, Will settled on the axe. It was a small axe, the blade of which did not stretch further than the distance from the tip of his fingers to the palm of his hand. The fireplaces were accustomed to burning pre-cut wood. It was an in-case axe, in case of what? Perhaps in case of unicorns? It was kept in the stables and Will made the trip alone. He hurried knowing he was wrong to leave her alone, but what was he supposed to do? He doubted she could make the walk. As he hurried, he thought that if a major in Art History prepared you for anything, it should be this. He reached for the mental flashcard, scrawled in the 2am ink, labeled Unicorn. Symbolism: Life, Christ, Horn attributed to have healing powers, phallus, goat, horse, rhinoceros, apocalypse. Quote: I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven
49 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
and asked him what he thought of the Campbell’s soup print above the Aga. Then she ushered him to the living room. He had come to appraise the art collection but he paid only nominal attention to the paintings. He needed to know if Astrid had eaten the cereal, if he had done something that actually mattered. He asked her out to lunch. He began driving her to and from therapists; instead of saying grace, he would tell her she was beautiful before each meal. She had gotten a bit better. Then a bit better, then a bit better. She had walked through the city, learning not to look down; learning to be always a tightrope walker avoiding the vertigo she felt upon seeing her own stomach. She had got well enough that he asked her to marry him and she said yes. She had learned to live functionally. She had felt nothing, or nothing greater than the disgust she felt at her own existence, at being trapped in the first person pronoun. No matter how much she ate she was never strong enough to break the bars of I I I I. Her mother’s friends asked: why the horror, the self-hatred? Was it models on TV, emotional distance from her Caucasian family, a missing father? It was as if you could shrink the patchwork of miseries that is a life, into one stitch, one moment of misery that tied it all together. And that stitch having been found they could then unpick her. The best moment of the day was to sink into her enormous dreams. “Stay in bed.” The words that were supposed to be a comfort came from Will’s mouth like a threat.
breakfast-time. Even though she didn’t eat, Astrid still took note of meal times. Without those rosaries of guilt and penance, she would be unsure how to measure out the minutes of her day. She thought, “Why?” but asked instead, “What makes you think it will come back?” “Because that is the way it works. The unicorn comes back for the virgin maiden.” “I’m not a maiden or a virgin.” “You are practically.” She was, in effect, impenetrable. Astrid’s body was shedding. He thought of the bald nub of her pubic bone, featureless as the wrong side of a telephone handset. Astrid thought that bulimia doesn’t work; even if you try to reject the meal, calories are absorbed. You cannot re-virginize. But she liked the idea that somehow she had undone the past. One day in her early twenties, she had looked at herself in the mirror. She saw the drop of her hips, the dilated diameter of her nipples: womanhood. It was too late for the magic she didn’t believe in to happen to her. That was the end: she would never walk through a closet into another world; she would never be discovered by princes or movie directors. And yet the unicorn had come. Will shone the flashlight at her, her bones cutting triangular shadows from the light, sharp as sharks’ teeth. The flashlight illuminated the hair that had begun to grow all over her body. The hair on her scalp was molting but these fine white hairs only grew denser.They had appeared one day like mold on white bread; the spores must have been planted long before. She stood, spine sloped, toes splayed to support herself. Will was suddenly surprised that she could stand at all. Her throat sounded sore when she asked again with the same soured gratitude of so many times before, “Why are you doing this?” There was a time when Astrid looked for herself in spoons, store windows and other people’s glasses. Minimal flaws in the mirror of an elevator door could distort her mood. But after the start of what her mother referred to as the “sickness,” that changed. Everyone thought her horror was of quantity, the amount of flesh, that Astrid thought she was fat. They were wrong; it wasn’t the quantity of flesh that disturbed her, but that it existed at all. At first she tried to explain: a bucket is worse than a coffee cup of vomit. But how would you feel if you were stuck carrying a coffee cup of vomit everywhere you went? Even a teaspoon of her flesh was enough to make her nauseous. But eventually she stopped explaining. Will had been trying to save Astrid from the day he found her asleep in front of the breakfast she had refused to eat. Her right hand rested on the table in a loose fist. Rivulets of drool spread from the pucker of her lips to the table. He reached forwards and gently unfurled her fingers so they reached the cold steel of the spoon. Then Astrid’s mother turned around
Spring 2012 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
51 Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
she thought, to persist in the notion that virginity is innocence. Will brought the axe down hard. The axe pressed down into the unicorn’s neck. The white flesh dimpled. Blood began to cluster around the edge of the axe, droplets gathered around the steel smile of the blade. Will was surprised by the blood. As a boy he had bit his elder sister, and drawn blood. All the while his mother shouted at him, he was dazed by what he had achieved. A person was a discrete unit, like the atoms in his science books; a person could not be split up like Legos, into component parts. But now the unicorn was bleeding and blood was pouring over Astrid’s legs and arms. It shouldn’t have been that easy to bring down a horse; it should have reared, bludgeoning them both with its steel shoes. Will dropped the axe. Astrid looked at the unicorn’s unfurled eyelid. Its breath was as hot as its blood, still pulsing over her stomach. She saw that it was giving up. This must be what the unicorn was waiting for. It was waiting for the hunters. It was waiting to die. It knew as well as she did that unicorns never get to live. “Will, I need honey.” He got it, still staring at her and the unicorn, not yet wondering how she knew about the honey. One-handed, she strangled the plastic bear, honey spouting from its head like pus from a wound. She poured the honey over the cut, knowing it stung. The one time her father saved up enough to visit, she had leapt towards him, misjudging the distance between them; her knees had scraped the tarmac. He had shown her how to dress a wound with honey to clog the bleeding and embalm the wound. She smeared the honey over the unicorn’s neck, working it in with the heels of her palms. All the while she whispered into its ear. Live, live, live, live, motherfucking live. It lay still. With all the honey finished she began to yell, Live, live, live, live. Each L hitting the roof of her mouth hard as sprinting feet. Will joined in discordantly his voice raw as the tail end of a scream. It got up clumsily, legs clicking into place like the joints of a picnic table. One of the panes of the French windows lay cracked on the floor. As the unicorn retreated, it smashed the pane, which made a noise like laughter. They heard the hooves on the track and then they didn’t hear anything at all. They sat, blood turning the color of dirt on the white sheets. “I want to go to Bengal, to see everything, the tigers, the elephants, the trees, before everything vanishes.” She looked at her palms as she spoke, blood darkening her life lines, love lines and the
seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come and see!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! -Book of Revelation. He remembered some debate as to whether the first rider of the apocalypse was supposed to represent evil or righteousness. None of this would help him kill a unicorn with a hand axe. The fat mares, Chocolate and Pudding, were awake in their stables. He had never liked them before but now he rubbed each horse in the space between their ears. He poured oats into their troughs, although it was no sort of mealtime. They licked the meal and came up, pink tongues gold seed-studded. How many seeds make a field, how many seeds a horse, dark as peat and round as a pot of pudding? Then he picked up the axe, plain steel not made prettier by the lipstick-red paint slashed across the end. He held it in one hand with the gesture of a man measuring heft, but he had no mental measuring cups and did not know what it would cut. Will waved the axe at Pudding, who did not react. With one hand on her hot nose, he ran the axe against the grain of her hair. He pulled the sharp edge softly against the side of her wide belly. Pudding laughed a horse’s laughter, dirty and breathy. Will laughed too, what was he going to do with this back-scratcher anyway? The sound of breaking glass flashed through the night air. Will ran. With each step he flipped another mental flash card. The Unicorn Tapestries, woven in light across the darkness of a long ago lecture hall. The white Unicorn lanced by and lancing the hunters. How they tried and failed to kill it with a bouquet of steel. But then in the white hands of a virgin, it learned to die. Still drugged by the smell of her skin, the Unicorn was stabbed. It was dismantled for the royal medicine cabinet, as the horn of a unicorn was supposed to cure all wounds. And yet the Unicorn was resurrected into a new cage. No one ever said what happened to the Unicorn bride. Will saw them while he was still on the wrong side of the door. The unicorn was kneeling, posing as its tapestry counterpart. But the unicorn in the tapestry was the size of a dog. The axe swung in the empty air hacking at the vines of fear that were growing over the cottage. Will stepped over the open threshold. The nub of its nose was pressed in between her legs. Will flushed. Astrid willed the unicorn to speak. The unicorns on children’s TV had always explained themselves. The unicorn looked at her as if it was expecting something. She didn’t know what it was expecting: in no story that she had read, did the unicorn get the girl. “I’m not an innocent,” she whispered. The unicorn didn’t move. It only exhaled. Unicorns must be male,
unnamed dips of flesh in her skin into a network of brown roads. “Of course,” Will said. “We’ll leave tomorrow.” He was already mentally making the phone call to his boss about the Asian art market, already booking tickets, already to everything. Then Astrid began to lick her hands. The admixture of unicorn blood and honey was sweet and salty, like good takeout. Astrid thought it had been a long time since she had take out. She stuck her fingers all the way into her mouth and did not gag. When she had sucked them clean she continued to lick her wrists, relishing her own sweet salt.
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Tower of David
55 Sofia Sosa
paint his sifrino guts all over the place as I drag him out onto the street. I’m on the side of the road, flashing the emergency lights on his SUV. It’s surprising how much fat spills out of him for such a jacked kid. It pours out in cottage cheese lumps; they’re not see-through but almost shiny, crystal-like, pretty, even. I watch as other sifrino cars drive by. Their motors sooth me, almost like the sound of waves, their comings and goings rhythmic, irrelevant. It doesn’t surprise me that no one stops; the cars just roll through. They know, like I do, there is no one to call. In fact, their whirring speeds up when their lights catch me head on, and I can picture them, in their pink polos, swearing what the fuck this, que bolas that, all sobered up all of a sudden, mierda que horrible brother. Thinking, but not saying, that it could have been them, that next time it might be. I lay him down on the asphalt, on the shoulder a short distance from the highways lanes where he will be seen, recovered, buried. I would bet it’s 4:10 if I had to, and the screen on my phone reads 4:55 as I pull the yellow cruiser into the garage. It’s just around the time when the city wakes up to what it did last night. Just about the time I go to sleep. The daytime’s useless to me; it’s for petty crap –snatching cell phones, purses, from cars caught in traffic. I don’t deal in cowardly shit, I tell myself. El Bicho is excited for this one. We’d seen the yellow Landcruiser around in hunts, and el Bicho remembers the driver. So do I. Always whoring around with a million friends, a group of uniformed pussies with their pastel button downs and hair parted to the side, tailed by a band of skinny things with lacy underwear just peaking out the back of their jeans. We can always tell a sifrino from the way he sweeps his longish hair from one side of his part to the other every five seconds. This one couldn’t help doing it even when he’d overstepped. I’m sorry please, hair sweep, por favor huevón, hair sweep, let’s just calm down, my father’s got money, hair sweep, he’ll set you up, I promise. Then no more hair sweeping. At least Button Down had a nice car. The cruiser was hooked up with bull bars and heavy-duty headlights. It was equipped for some nasty off-roading, but I would have bet this ride was decked for show. Except for their making, the headlights had probably never seen a speck of mud. Sure, we’d have to dismantle the whole thing before selling it. The lights to one person, the bull bars elsewhere. There was a year-long wait list for this car at the dealership, and with so much demand nobody would bother to look
The first thing I think when I wake up is where am I, and moments pass before I accept this is my room. There’s always that instant before the haze fades when you’re half-blind, when you see but you don’t. There’s the ceiling, the bare cement discolored from the rain, there’s the brick wall I built and the wallpaper I made from old news. I stare at the families in the ads with full shopping carts. There’s a car blinding service on offer in one of the pages. I’ve seen it so many times when waking up it barely registers.
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Spring 2012 Sofia Sosa
square office is bare, but there’s only me and I don’t need appliances or kitchens like others have built. There’s a fridge, empty, a curtainedoff bathroom, a safe, chained to the ground, and a flat screen hooked up to a satellite dish that points from one of the bare columns into the sky. In the middle of the room is a bed alongside a square table and some plastic chairs. I’m collapsing into the mattress, but there’s a knock on the door and it’s Yajaira, my big slice of pussy pie. How could I not. I know she’s here for the blow and I did good last night, so we do some lines off the table and then she’s all loose and bendy for me. My gut bounces when I pound her, and I could snap her in two, but she screams for all the neighbors to hear, and I like that. Her curly hair’s all up in her face the color of negrito corto. As we’re going something in me snaps, and I pump all of myself into her while she’s all ay papi this, ay papi that. When I’m done the anger falls onto me as if from the ceiling. I hate her for her performance, for her fake moans and staged sighs. There’s the urge to undo her from within, and I go again but this time it’s rough; I picture myself a knife, shredding her insides. I imagine myself cutting at her and know that I could right now if I wanted to, but Yajaira’s my one sure lay. How could I. Ay, ay, ay, she goes, making me wonder what would it take to really make her scream. But I let her act; she’s good enough –loud enough, sure. Also, maybe it’s me and not her, but something’s wet there and it’s dripping all over me and down into the bed. Once she’s done pretending, Yajaira asks for a little more to take the edge off. There’s nothing for me but to indulge. I buy in bulk, in one kilo flour sacks, so there’s no looming shortage. I join her though I don’t need to, drawing a line from her collarbone to the spot between her breasts that I then make disappear. She dresses quickly, and I catch the cheap sheen of her thong. Yajaira’s all of a sudden clunky, with her big ass and tacky underwear. I let her go. I wish her gone.
into the credentials. I wouldn’t be surprised if Button Down’s brother or cousin ended up buying the car, unknowing. El Bicho gives me 100 palos for the whole piece. He’ll sell it for triple, but I don’t care. I made good last night, and the bills are so colorful in their bright blues and greens and browns I almost believe they’re worth something. It’s time to go, anyways. I scratch off the scabs of dried blood on my hands before heading out. It’s like brushing dust off a table. I nod to Victor who’s on guard on my way in and he shakes my hand. What’s up, jefe? He asks, and I tell him nada, coming back from work and he stiffens in acknowledgement. Good night? He asks. Not bad, I say and he lets me in. Always, the vertigo catches me off guard when I enter my office. I have one of the best views in the city, in part because there’s no window, not even floor to ceiling glass between my air and the air outside. I step inside the room and see the valley. Around me stand the handful of skyscrapers in the city. Even on the twenty-third floor I hear the occasional honk from bellow. And as the city climbs the valley it dissipates, the skyscrapers down here in the center fade into scattered apartments and residential neighborhoods that lie alongside the barrios of bricks, dirt floors and tin roofs where everyone in this building belongs. And the barrios turn into the hills, sheets of green, and then, right now, there’s the budding sun. The city is one big vat of green and exhaust smoke and light. The city winds; there are no blocks, no demarcations, one moment you’re passing a row of apartments with guards and electric gates and the next you’re in a barrio where there are no roads, but only stairs, so many stairs, just like here. I built this room five years ago, we all made our own offices. Some guy David with a rich last name started building this place where we’d never have entered except to clean the toilets. But he died and all his coward friends backed out leaving the 45-story skeleton skyscraper half built. Soon after we moved into the first 22 floors. Now we’re up to the 28th. We call this the Tower of David. The floors have no running water, no sewage system, and large chunks of the building are dark zones without electricity. Still, it’s not a bad place to live. Victor’s part of the security, and each floor has a manager, a shop, and some have even turned their offices into cyber cafes and beauty salons. We lorry water up with hoses to the 28th floor, and we’ve set up the old in the bottom floors to save them from the stairs. I’m one of the ones with a brick wall to separate my office from the hallway, though I’d never build a wall between the room and the city. The walls can’t go all the way up to the ceiling because of the ventilation, so I hear the rustles of my neighbors, waking up for the day. My
Spring 2012 Sofia Sosa
59 Sofia Sosa
We’re driving this beat up 81’ Malibu that’s bound to stand out in a neighborhood like this. We’ve inched here for an hour on the outdated highway, past the skyscrapers, into a residential enclave where nobody walks –the distances too long for feet. We’ve started climbing the valley though we’re still pretty low. The way it goes is the higher up the houses the richer. Funny enough, the higher up the barrios next to them the cheaper; the
harder it is to access them, the more stairs to climb. There’s an odd calm here. Elsewhere the city honks and screams and fumbles in on itself. As soon as you leave the tower, you’re met with the drone of motorcycles and the street vendors, selling anything from water to DVD’s and contraband books to the masses stuck in traffic. Here, there are just the trees and their falling blossoms that form yellow carpets on the road. There are no stoplights, just roads that snake into one another and would seem to go on forever were if not for the guarded checkpoints and electric gates that separate one group of scared citizens from another. We drive up this steep road and pass a church on our right. We then turn left onto a checkpoint. Nico stays quiet for the most part, and we listen to a shitty burned CD. The checkpoint’s a breeze; Nico’s been here to do yard work before, and the guard remembers him. He rails off the name of the wrong quinta and we make up pretend phone numbers. He lets us through. We park across the street and bust open the door with its ancient single lock. I let Nico do the bulk of the work, and he swings the bat with rigor into the wood around the lock. I realize he’s efficient. Nico can get things done, even if he’ll mumble his way through everything. There’s a foyer inside with a wall piano, and there’s dry cleaning lying by the stairs to what I can see is the dining room. I follow another set of stairs, presuming it leads to the bedroom. Nico goes off to scope out the house, count the rooms, do a survey of what we can take from where. I head to the main bedroom, eager. The room has floor to ceiling glass panels that slide open into a garden. I realize we didn’t have to break the front door; it would have sufficed to climb the wall and break the glass. The room is small but the bed is large, and sure enough there’s a monster flat screen, DVD player, and a desk with money inside, I’m hoping. The trick about these things is time, and the problem is we don’t have very much, so I dump open the drawers on the bed and search the closets for the money missing in the desk. Electronics, jewelry, cash. That’s what we’re taking. The lady, whoever she is, has two drawers for her underwear. She also has a jewelry chest, and I can’t believe the size of the rings. They’re massive bolts of gold for her fingers. I find these clunky pearl chains to wrap more than once around your neck, and all her earrings are long and dangly. There’s a delicate chain of white gold. It’s thin but there are many strains. I’m bagging it all and picturing her. There’s a bottle of lube in her underwear drawer. I like to think her in her forties, with a little bounce to her sides, in all that lingerie.
Nico’s up in my face. He’s hunching over me, nudging my side. I can barely control myself and launch at him. What’s wrong with you? Can’t you see I’m sleeping? Nico’s sorry, I know, and stands still, quiet by the side of my bed. He mumbles an apology and it’s unnerving to see this man who’s taller than me act, not like the 26 year old he is, but like a seven year old boy who’s upset his father. I have no patience for self-pity. Bueno chico, que es? What do you want? What did you wake me up for? And as soon as I ask I remember. I told you today, right? We’re doing a run? I wait to see if he’ll speak, but Nico just nods feebly. Bueno did you get the car? Nico’s face moves up and down, but his eyes look down at the bed, not at me. He’s a dummy, expressionless, and already I’m regretting this. Bueno muchacho habla, what is this place we’re hitting up? I shove him at the chest to wake him up a bit, see if he’ll be angry enough to take along, but his shoulders swivel for a moment and then return to their apathetic crouch. I’m thinking this isn’t a good idea. The boy doesn’t have it in him. There’s not a single blemish on his skin. No crack, no wrinkle, just softness all around. He’s too pretty. Meanwhile, the city outside is in mid-day. The roads are packed with what looks like parked cars. Its drivers have to believe they’re inching away at some destination, but I can see the whole city’s collapsed, frozen. The honks are more frequent at this hour, though they remain faint. It’s hot even in the shade of my office, and Nico has a mustache of sweat but no mustache. I wonder if he also has droplets of sweat where his balls should be. He shows me a picture on his phone. I see a one-story quinta with vines crawling up the façade. The house has no garage door, making the job simple enough. There’s no electric fence either. Nico looks at me expectant. I could postpone and I don’t like to do this kind of work anyway, but the kid needs a favor and he has to start somewhere. You have a car? I say, knowing he’ll nod. Let’s do it, I say. We exit my office. We pack it out of here onto the maze of stairs in the Tower. By now I’ve learned which ones lead down and which lead nowhere, but we can always tell who’s new because we find the tenants stuck on the edge of stairs, trying to climb their way into midair.
She’s a fucking gold mine, and all is going smooth until Nico calls me over. He’s not apathetic, not hunching. Tio what do we do, he says as we enter a girl’s room. There’s a bunk bed, and on the top bunk is a girl, sleeping. She looks too old for all the dolls, but there’s make up lying around, a bra on the floor. She looks 16, 17 maybe, and is asleep on her side on top of the covers, napping. She’s wearing a short, loose dress, and her panties peek through the bottom. They’re big, cotton, orange and yellow-striped. She’s well-built, strong, and even asleep her calf muscles are outlined. Her mouth is open, her hair dark and straight in a ponytail. Now what do we do, Tío? Nico asks. I picture her mom like her but fuller, and don’t answer. She stirs. Her eyes open and she sees us but doesn’t. She isn’t unnerved yet, doesn’t know where she is yet. Hasn’t even asked herself yet. I smile at her, hungry. Girl, you really shouldn’t be here, I say.
“Negative Capability” Zoe Schaeffer
C ontribu to r s Jason Bell, CC ’13, is thinking about getting a haircut. He looks forward to cultivating dwarf fruit trees in his dorm room next year.
Zoe Schaeffer, CC ’13, is a junior Art History major in the College. She photographs both creatively and professionally (always creatively, sometimes professionally). Her work is visible online at http://www.zoeschaeffer.com
Zach Bell is currently a sophomore at Yale University studying art. Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, CC ’12, aspires to be neither lady nor unicorn. Perhaps, if she is lucky, she may achieve the rank of blind and hook-nosed seamstress. Kika Dorsey lives in Boulder, CO with her two children, husband, Border Collie, and three birds. She has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and her poems have been published in The Denver Quarterly, The California Quarterly, The Comstock Review, Freshwater, among numerous other journals and books. Her articles have been translated and published in Zwischen Distanz und Naehe and online journals such as Not Enough Night. She is a professor of English composition and Creative Writing at Front Range Community College. Recently, her collection of poems titled Beside Herself was published by Flutter Press. When not writing or teaching, she loves to swim, run, and hike. Greg Hindy is a junior cognitive science major at Yale College and also very interested in art and photography. He is originally from New Hampshire, his favorite book is Siddhartha, his favorite album is Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and his favorite movie is The Room. That about sums it up. Natalie Molina, CC ’14, is a creative writing major at Columbia University. When she’s not listening to nineties R&B or exploring the weird parts of YouTube, Natalie writes poems. She sleeps proudly under a naked portrait of Allen Ginsberg and reads Howl each month to remind herself why she writes. She’s honored to follow in Ginsberg’s footsteps by having her sexy poems recognized by the Columbia Review. Kelly Moore is a writing instructor at the University of Houston, where she earned her Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in New Letters, Mid-American Review, and American Letters and Commentary, among other publications.
Amalia Scott, CC ’13, was born in Oxford, Mississippi. She enjoys inducing lucid dreams, although it’s very exciting not to be asleep now. Sofia Sosa, CC ’12, was born and grew up in Venezuela, and she makes a mean arepa in her tiny New York kitchen. She put off this bio for a whole weekend, and likewise enjoys cooking, yoga, and good conversation, especially when she has work due. She studied creative writing and philosophy and is looking forward to a lifetime of answering the question, “and what do you do with that?” Marshall Thomas, CC ’12, is “riding in my whip, racin’ to her place/Talkin’ to myself preparin’ to tell her to her face/She opened up the door and didn’t wanna come near me/I said ‘One second, baby!” Please hear me!” Erica Weaver, CC ’12, is leaving this city. [A proud resident of the Columbia Writers House, she has been awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize and the Arthur E. Ford Poetry Prize and will be starting a Ph.D. in (Old) English at Harvard in the fall. Look for her on Commencement with a feather in her cap.]
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The Columbia Review
Natalie Molina Natalie Molina
Volume 93, Number 2
The Columbia Review, Volume 93, Number 2, Spring 2012