The Columbia Review Spring 2020

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THE COLUMBIA REVIEW Vol. 101 | Issue 2 | Spring 2020

spring 2020


the columbia review

Many thanks to Jordan Kisner and Robyn Schiff for judging this year’s Prose and Poetry Prizes.


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An Editors’ Note “It’s intuitive...”


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contents The Sidewalk Queen

Sidney Eberly


Poetry, like bread,

Ja nelle Effiw att



Mi chael Coppola



Kirsten Ihns

14 16

i choose the regular Newly, rendered, truly

Kelly Hoffer


Hunger Moon

Emma Aylor



Pa trick Redmond

20 21




Ra y mond Lu czak


The Bonus Room

Susa nnah Greenblatt


Thotiana’s interlude, or Barbara Mason reconsiders settling down

Br yn Evans


The Crushing Pain of Existence

Za cha r y Schombu rg


Dear Urgency –

Peter Myers


Dictation, Fears

Clara Hirsch


Multimodal Evening

Engram Wilkinson


Friends of the Gyre

Sara Kachelman


Natural History

Ti m D e M a y


Office of the Holy Face

Kelly Hoffer


from A Porous Theory of Art and the Aesthete

Elise Bickford


Emily said we forgot to breathe the air

Perr y Parsons



Andre w Stone


vol 101

issue 2

spring 2020

Elegy as Essay on Horses

Caleb Brau n



Pe t e r M y e r s

47 48

Viewpoint Heliotropism Complex

Sidney Eberly


lap & collar/flock

Kirsten Ihns



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The Sidewalk Queen Sidney Eberly 2020 Poetr y Priz e Runner-up, selected by Robyn Schiff

A carpet dawn of pink and red poppies clogs the shower drain, the sink. It’s a hazardous everywhere and no means of participation, fire or friendly, the dog asks if I lift my hind leg to piss everything away, will it sound pretty? Why not. A poet told me to never answer a question asked in a poem, but instead I avoid the police. I press flowers into their throwing book and duck. Empty places daydream stick-ups, to turn their pockets out jingling. Hollow is in my very own backyard, and your name. Daphne get out of that tree we’ll go body-shopping. She chooses a back bent from glory, a swan neck that droops ready for some swan gutting. I choose Fancy Jasper for her eyes. He tips his hat at passing women, lecherous agent. Who’s culpable there? Guilty of nothing is a beautiful phrase. I keep one in my cheeks to bite down on and kick it when the night goes into one of its terrible stages.


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Or I stage. I dress in dead people’s clothes, newly bought, shed them. Self-wrought violence is a lovely bouquet of inflections. Doesn’t outgrow the need. Daphne’s pupal husk sits out, sloughed off and grossly shouldered, flowers only when the poppies mosey out the window the paling light of morning’s own stupid way. I join them. I suspect the dog might bail but he wags the day. We three curb and audience what might happen on the sidewalk. A pissing match. An aspirin chorus.


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Poetry, like bread, Janelle Effiw att

is for rich people as it turns out. In last night’s episode, we find Scooby-Doo in competition for the inheritance of a dead landlord. The task: spend A Night of Fright in his ghoulish mansion. In act two, the other heirs go missing, the Phantom Shadows are weightless but still disturbing. Like all that’s missing is a spooky organ! What happens when the language won’t exist you into it? Scooby, last to remain, opens the will to reveal that Poetics, as it stands, is a legitimately inaccessible venture— the written story trailing always behind


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the story-story sort of magically. Imagine my delight in finding out too late it’s uninteresting to enjamb on the word dead. Zoinks— Mr. Creeps & Mr. Crawls, it was you two all along. So sinister, thinks the Reader, & for whose profit? We spent a night of fright for worthless money in a haunted house that wasn’t even haunted, says Velma at the end. If it’s true what they say about the world eating itself, then when the Dollar Tree finally concedes to phony shards, I’ll become like a vacuum with an unsettling quickness.


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PARIS Michael Coppola I rise from the settee in the entrance hall and move through the sitting room with its large-leaf trees pushing against the fifteen-foot ceiling. I open the door to the balcony with its small olive tree, and laundry, and I stare at smudges of gray and clouds. The Paris sidewalks below are always so hard on my feet. This summer the sun has never visited. The Parisians are inflexible, trapped in a logic all their own, of their own making. I struggle in the apartment at their keyboard that prioritizes seldom used symbols, rather than numbers and end stops. The apartment, a Surrealist painting, a strange collection of unusual objects, among them: bookcases that stand at forty-five-degree





resembling Vladimir


chrome lamps in the shape of space ships, green and violet glass mushrooms trapped beneath clear glass globes. I tell him if his apartment had a wall clock it would likely be melting onto a pile of ants like a Dalí. He laughs. As he leaves for work, I agree to meet him on rue Cambon for lunch at one o’clock. The street is the location of Coco Chanel’s original apartment and I joked to him this morning that maybe I should plan to dress in black and white. He laughed. I force myself out of the apartment and to the gym, or rather to look for a gym among the Paris logic. The first offers a choice of one free day or a price for one full year. I used the free day yesterday, and the receptionist reminds me in perpetually scandalized tones and an overly breathy impossible. The second is closed for twenty-six days with a sign that says, Bonnes vacances. The third is fifty-five euros for one day or five hundred euros for ten days. A bald man, my short height, is leaving the gym as I leave. I walk ahead, staring back carefully in his eyes, at each cross walk, each bike lane, each corner, up the avenue de la République back to the apartment. As I enter the door-code he approaches and I say my carefully practiced lines: Pardonnez-moi, je ne parle pas français,


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parlez-vous anglais? Yes, he says, would you like my number? No, I say, would you like to come in? He enters and I walk ahead to enter the next door-code in darkness. Will you press the lumière button? I ask. The elevator has arrived, he says. We enter together and he grabs me and kisses me passionately. I see the back of his head in the elevator mirror and my face full of sleep. I hate overhead lighting. We enter the apartment. He makes a comment about how beautiful it is. I tell him my prior line about the Surrealist painting and Dalí. He laughs. I love all the large trees. he says. Yes, perhaps it’s Gauguin meets Dalí, I say. He laughs, and then he grabs me and kisses me passionately. We sit on the settee in the entrance hall, or rather he sits on it and I sit on him. Can we enter the other room? he says. No, I hardly know you, I say, it wouldn’t be appropriate. He grabs me and kisses me appropriately. This all seems too logical for Paris. I say. I am Spanish, he says. I cannot answer except for a pre-moan humming affirmative. I think perhaps he has a guest pass to the gym. He becomes a swinging metronome. Quickly, perhaps harshly, I say, I’m sorry, I need to meet someone for lunch at one. I understand, he says, where are you going for lunch? I have to be on rue Cambon, I say. Where? He asks again. I cannot pronounce it correctly. I repeat again. rue Cambon, rue Cambon—you know, I say, where Coco Chanels’s apartment is. I repeat my prior line about wearing black and white. He laughs.


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WATER LENS BAY DOG COUCH BUTTER MOTHER Kirsten Ihns 2020 Poetr y Priz e Runner-up, selected by Robyn Schiff

wanted to solve the glue but also maintain it, when i feel all will leaving me like an airplane like the wheels— may all your procedures of selection brave such stylizing effect the cat flattens its ears to its head rain flattens the garden’s delicate stems my affect, unrolling metabolically like dawn, was taking place not really at no minute a veil entering down between me the wave that comes at the end for the people in the boat u know it waits: i was benching in the technocratic reflex variously ABUNDANCE then LATTICE benching on the anatomic floor for it again


with the first event, i make the next one need look from the dark box into the lightbox a densely rainbow knot of board

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which is Messages—

i will trust you when you need some thing that i can deny you, some immaterial thing and i will not deny you—

pleasure is to survive the insight when what is administered comes to find me you were most beautiful when you looked like the past itself, not like yourself in it, allergically you appeared as though you existed it was a comfort and a thought me, i looked at the camera like a dog door opened into its cushion i prolong my eye contact with the predator mammal it was nothing like the room of the hospital


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i choose the regular Kirsten Ihns

true surveillance new acids, cold mud, & occasional

‌there are so many things i can no longer explain

like: the condition i was under felt like meaning heave fluid

like: i felt unsecured in my expectations, my form only when losing it

i felt my form only when losing it is what i meant to say

& the gospel will teach me nothing else no matter what i do i remark a dull pressure, standing before the stop sign, and when i wash my hands, and when i and when experience when i that and nausea

jam my hair down the neck to keep my neck warm i had not intended to be percussive, but here we are & when this is the way the trespass floods, i feel pretty ill: irrepressible urge to tread the brown water, its protists, sewage irrepressible urge that the other people disappear which i cannot bring to pass


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by an act of will, i must just


i make plans to slip out and access the far off store i feel very‌desperate it is: artificial I: EMBRACE IT I WAIT FOR MY CHANCE some other artifice is heaving through my lungs while i wait like it always does it is not the virus

i am thinking: you are seeming so plausible you seem like the condition to take the next step the big mulch when they prepare the park i adore it

i adore when they collapse the park

and i am just dissolving, now, my tie to imitation if you are patient angels, stones, fugue, and glass window

& just like that, the tie is dissolved

we are ready to go

we can wash the car


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Newly, rendered, truly Kelly Hoffer

newly, truly, bluely ever madly, sadly, blue blue blue, raw and bluely piece of meat, awfully raw and tender. tenderly. ready for the swoon to fool me, dropped into a pool of cooling lust. or a sentence seamed with stitching nectar. bitten full of pollen. bees sip from the mottled fool of me, even as a flower spools sweet things beside. necked and fought, came by myself. nursing a bitter back of the throat. try to shape my mouth a poppy ringed with dew, my neck a greening nape. I come off inelegant—something borrowed, something burrowed. unseemly. lustering. laying my pleasure across the bed, if I give you a phrase will you supply the subject, if I tell the moon a phase will she bring me a spot of light to hang among my singly, madly, deepening blue.


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Hunger Moon Emma Aylor

In the cold snap I sat and wished myself rawboned, hoped the water lacing the roofs of small houses would lap my arms, shine and swim between. I felt beveled, slate slacked from each shoulder. Only so early do I see the light come on this way, suffused and slowly stirring, of this earth, squinted photophobic: a half-spring so different from the groundglass opacity we expected of February. I’m waiting for the waiting of each warmer morning, am frenzy and stock still, standing on my porch, not moving though I’m moving, giving handfuls I once got.


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(46) Patrick Redmond

Nothing is as unhinged as the absurdity of holding your penis in front of a mirrored hall thinking, how sad, but not remembering what had left you naked as a head penetrated by nails skimming the inner pitch of an attic. Call it the distress of work and light candles painted with Lazarus led by dogs gripping halos in their teeth. It is not unlike pornography, this satiating. When transferring body to sea, a forgotten lung filters the mother wound in the navel once sound is replaced with patterns of movement, returning the focus to love—


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(47) Patrick Redmond

a second life. Wondering where it will land, My brother sends me a photo of the deer he killed through a filter of faded blue— hair hardened to quills and eyes blackened, archiving its body passing as the arrow pulled from the trunk, by the body that pulled the cord and placed its death in sinew. The light eats its dirt gathering on I-80, tectonic as milk and teeth Its spine groping the cloth of goldenrod bloody with blood moon in the divots of heat lamps across the field—as a moth on the subway brings everyone to speak


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Elephants Raymond Luczak

in American Sign Language (ASL) gloss and English One thumb passing the-other far

In the distance, you see

vision vague trees across grass-grass across

a hazy dream of treetops and grasses

flies swarming bother-bother you

punctuated by flies circling


haloes around your head.

Pull-up binoculars there up-close

Through your binoculars, you see

ears big flapping curtains

wide gray ears flapping like curtains

pace easy summer.

on a lazy summer day.

Tusks dirty old war still strong

Their powdery scarred tusks curl up

trunk-coasting-from-nose hand-open-close

with their trunks opening and closing

pluck-pluck grasses

their fists around blades of grass,

shovel-lift mouth.

bringing succulence to the mouth.

Group move-together one.

They stand together in peace.

Mind-scar everything, but you

They never forget, but you do.

mistake-mistake same-same.


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The Bonus Room Susannah Greenblatt

1 João Retrieved His Yarmulke and Clipped It to His Head for Take-off He settles his elbow on a sliver of armrest just behind the gringo’s enormous tricep. As a teenager, he’d once been seated next to a hooker on a domestic flight. She’d given him a blowjob right then and there, bosom spilling over the armrest of seat 9B. And that—he’ll tell me and Caio later, as he unpacks in the spare room—that is how I became a man. But that domestic flight was sixty years ago. In those days, those things happened, and airplanes were smaller, and Brazil was the future, and João had felt safer. This airplane is monstrous. Over-populated, with used-up air and the rich gated-off— another São Paulo, taking to the sky. He’s heard it’s safer now with these jumbo jets, but tell that to the fiery wrecks on the nightly news. His worst fear might not be dying in a plane crash; it might be surviving. He pulls down the plastic oval window shade. No question it had felt safer to fly when airplanes were smaller. Think: cloud carpet; think: sundogs, he tells himself, and everything else that lives up where humans don’t. Think of God, for example. And then there was the busty woman reaching under his seatbelt. She had made him feel safe. It was as if she’d been instructing him: And this, dear boy, this is how you become a man. His daughter had called him just before boarding, told him that the spare room was waiting for him, the bed all made up. He can picture the heavy green bedspread with the white polka dots. Thinking of that little room tucked away in his daughter’s palatial suburban home, that calms his nerves a bit. The pilot says something on the intercom in English. He sounds like Bruce Willis. If only the pilot had great big breasts and a carioca accent like a song. Maybe then he could relax a little. João quietly unbuckles his seatbelt and shuffles toward the aisle, clinging to the row of seats in front of him, so as not to fall into the lap of the beefed-up gringo or the short-haired woman dozing one seat over. The sleeves


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of João’s sports coat bunch up around his shoulders as he reaches up to open the overhead bin. He unzips the front pocket of his carry-on. The yarmulke inside is pale blue and only leaves his suitcase twice a year: once for the flight to New Jersey to visit his daughter and grandson and once for the flight back home. For the nine hours and fifty minutes between take-off and landing, João will keep the yarmulke tucked away in the seatback pocket, readily accessible in the event of turbulence or engine fire or emergency water landing. For the duration of his two-week visit, the yarmulke will remain in his suitcase. We will go for hamburgers—João, Caio, me, Caio’s mother, and her new boyfriend—we will go to the mall, to Best Buy, and the yarmulke will go untouched. A flight attendant comes up behind João and scolds him in English. Her hair is wrapped too tightly around her head, and she shoos him back into his seat. So João sits down beside the gringo, and clips the silky disc to what remains of his white hair. He doesn’t know a single prayer. But even though João wore his yarmulke for take-off, his emphysema got worse and worse. And the dog was shot outside the Bonus Room.

2 I Rewashed All the Saucers in the Dish Rack After washing all the dishes, I scrub the entire bedroom. I scrub every place where wall meets floor. This is the most efficient place to start, as I am at once starting on the walls and the floors. It is also the most effective place to start, as this is where the dirt goes to escape the broom. It’s quite possible that these dustmites have been hiding here for months. Years even. Caio might come home any minute; it’s not impossible. The cleaning spray is astringent, and I’ve been inhaling it at close range. I didn’t know Caio when he smelled like chlorine. Those long afternoons in big blue rooms where, even in the bleachers, everyone sounds underwater. Pubescent body slung into a speedo, shaved arms, shaved legs, shaved seconds off a losing time (face unshaven but perfectly smooth). He chose the backstroke so he could stare at the


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ceiling of the Aquacenter, watch the mold creeping to the middle of the roof from all sides. He’s like a housefly with those goggles on. Does he see everything a thousand times? My dirty coffee mugs on the nightstand a thousand times? A thousand times my bedroom? Does he see me in there a thousand times, or am I a thousand times gone? I leave the too-square table exactly where it is. I crawl under it to scrub a little more. I stand up too quickly, and the edges of my vision vignettes like an old cartoon, as if to say, That’s all folks. I pull my shirt over my nose and try to imagine the fibers filtering out the toxic molecules, now thick in the air. My palms sweat onto the handle of the scrubber. Didn’t I have rubber gloves? Are they necessary? I’m having difficulty believing that this liquid really burns. There’s a dream that many people have in which they discover an extra room in their apartment—a room they never knew existed. I’ve been told it’s a glorious dream, a big win. But I can only imagine the state of that disregarded room. And the state of the person who never bothered to notice it. If I ever have that dream, it will be a nightmare. I do not listen to music—I do not want the songs to be dirtied by this dirt. If I knew where he was, I’d go and wait outside the door, bent over like a diver on a racing block. I go to the kitchen and regard the dish rack. It is full of tiny plates drying, artifacts from a roommate’s failed diet. She’d read an article about a study suggesting a correlation between small plates and a reduction in appetite. She threw out all the dinner plates, leaving us with only saucers. I regard the sponge at the edge of the sink. I am appalled: it is covered with tiny particles of rice and congealed tomato paste. And I have dirtied everything: I have tried to clean dirty things with a dirty thing. I throw away the sponge. I reach deep into the cabinet under the sink and push aside the large plastic jug of detergent, the slim container of wood oil, the spray bottles of Windex and Shout, until my fingers close around a new sponge, the slightest bit damp inside its plastic wrapper. I scrub every undersized plate a second time.


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But even though I rewashed every last saucer, Caio left. And João’s air sacs swelled and swelled. And the dog was shot outside the Bonus Room.

3 Rahib Ate Soup with Dumplings the Night before His Court Date He stirs his soup a little with the back of a plastic spoon. “I am leaving $10,000 in the top right corner of my desk drawer. If it comes to that. Are you listening?” He looks at me; I look at his soup. It looks good. The dumplings’ wrappers suggest they are full of juicy things. Rahib does not elaborate on the charges. Says they arrested him at JFK. Says the TSA agent had scanned his passport, pulled him aside, took him to an empty room. Says it still felt empty, the room, even while he was in it. He does not say what happened in that room. I met Rahib playing pool. He taught me to shoot twice as far as I wanted the ball to go, and then he disappeared into the bathroom. He sometimes disappeared for weeks at a time. We spent the summer fishing out quarters for the pool table and dollar bills for beer and Fritos. He built me a bookshelf from scraps of wood and never called again. Then, he called and asked if I liked dumplings. “You’ll find my other passport there in the desk drawer, under the wad of bills. The passport says CCCP embossed on red leather.” He says I should keep the passport safe for him, if it comes to that. The passport is from a country that no longer exists. He is from a country that no longer exists. He stirs the soup. It is good. It is how it always is. “Depending on how tomorrow goes, I might be gone for a while. Listen, if you don’t hear from me tomorrow night, then you go to my apartment and you open that drawer. But if I walk out of there, then you can just forget the whole thing, okay?” I stick and unstick my napkin from the filmy tabletop. The dumplings bob in their broth and press against the plastic takeout container.


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But even though Rahib ate soup with dumplings, his mother’s back in Baku picking plums. And Caio left. And João’s oxygen tank will be so cumbersome. And the dog was shot outside the Bonus Room.

4 Caio Ran around the Kitchen Table, Beating Drumsticks on the Backs of Chairs He has his mother film him on her iPhone X. He beats one chair with both sticks, then he beats two chairs with one stick each. His mother says he’s on to something. His breathing is heavy and he is dizzy from all the running around. It is sort of funny, but neither of them are laughing. Someone else would be laughing, he thinks. Jim died alone in the bathroom of his condo in Leonia, dried vomit on his Oxford shirt, but that’s not why they aren’t laughing. To laugh would be to acknowledge that, compared with the rest of life, it is funny to beat drumsticks on the backs of chairs. The rest of life has no place here in this kitchen right now—the thirty-year sickness, the three months together, the funeral they were not invited to attend, the cruelty of the ex-wife and sisters, the cruelty of details. That’s why Caio’s mother says he’s on to something: she just wants him to keep running round and round the kitchen table. She wants a little noise in the house that is not her own making. She wants something stirring safely through the empty rooms. Something that moves and moves without going anywhere at all. But even though Caio beat every chair with drumsticks, the funeral is Tuesday. And Rahib’s mother is picking plums. And Caio left. And João’s lungs: blackened. And the dog was shot outside the Bonus Room. And there’s the nuclear threat, and also Bach is dead. But the plums in Baku are so ripe. And Jim hasn’t had a drop to drink. And Caio’s back! And João’s in Teaneck napping. The South Koreans are blaring newscasts across the border. And the Goldberg Variations are playing on public radio. Commercial-free! But still, the dog was shot at the bodega just outside the Bonus Room.


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Coda The people inside the Bonus Room lean against the countertops and stools. They talk loudly and look around. Their cheeks are flushed; their drinks are empty. They sign receipts with clicky pens, and go downstairs to snort cocaine off the toilet tanks. Then, they go back upstairs and talk louder. Pool table’s up a ramp at the back. House rules are winner stays on. The guy who’s winning is the guy who knows the most about how things collide into other things. He is the seer who sees how the milky orbs will rearrange themselves and come to rest on the green felt. He lines up his cue. Inside the Bonus Room, it is as if the dog were still alive. Outside, patrol cars flash blue and red. Police have taped off the street and they radio people, who radio back. When the blue light strikes their faces, they look so sad; They look angry when the red light strikes. A few of us gather, teeth chattering, on the sidewalk outside. We are not really gathered; we are six or seven people looking at the same six or seven things. We are looking at the bodega across the street. From his perch on the railing, the bouncer of the Bonus Room tells us that he saw the whole thing: the dog-walker from the dog-walking app going into the bodega; the deli-man, trembling with a pistol. Somewhere between point A and point B, the dog just lost it. Couldn’t do anything from over here. There was nothing to be done. We don’t see dog’s blood, deli-man, dog-walker, pistol. We only see the dog’s hind legs, splayed out on the sidewalk. The front legs must be on the other side of the doorway, inside the bodega, outstretched toward the chips and soaps.


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Thotiana’s interlude, or Barbara Mason reconsiders settling down Br yn Evans 2020 Poetr y Priz e Winner, selected by Robyn Schiff how long it take him to fall asleep light or heavy when he get [s there what his voice sound like when he come home from work Is he only gentle afterwards was he the one to say it first

how many weeks did it take months

one two

does his face change when he hold a baby

I wanna hold a baby my baby tell me he gon’ get my name tattooed on his chest ( ) I ain’t really His until I change

I say I keep

my last whatever

Imma leave him if he don’t [stop He made it pretty for me quiet now He popped a question after I bust it down His sheets a shade of purple learn to love where he looking, try to learn to love

He He

call me want


I can

I look to myself


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Staring at me my bust my butt my but

I wanna ask

him what color my name tastes like, what scent it sounds in his hand. He ring finger me unnecessary she’s got the papers (



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The Crushing Pain of Existence Zachar y Schomburg

My dad had a favorite spoon. Before each meal, he’d shuffle the little stack and pick it out from the drawer. He’d push his thumb into it and rub it around. It was smaller than the other spoons, and a different shape. It fit into his mouth better, he’d say. I lived only to see how long I could outlive him, how long I could carry it for. Then morning came again, and again, and again. I love you is a wish I’ll make when seeing a flower.


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Dear Urgency – Peter Myers

once upon an even and offset breath, upon advent, upon a leaf blowing open, in a decision situation one must always be so reactive, calling all tools’ assistance, human to inhuman Crisis Actor, when I’m all gone will you search for me, will you speak in a tongue that doesn’t buckle, this the question I can’t defer so I wish – I wish to be so uptaken, in the cloud of no questions, given a name that has no signal, no slipping referent to – Crisis Actor, will you drag me toward synchronic, where I’ll obtain what I am already, snag in my perceptual valley, a molten silence yes, and through it I’ll bear such sweetness, I’ll bear it forever I’ll bear it for you for you for all sixty seconds or forever Crisis Actor, yes time persists, but persistence can grow so manageable, everything can be managed if it’s wished for and everything wished for can be loved, even you Crisis Actor, face who ever greets me, welcome to the perpetual valley, perpetual rift, here everything is capable of everything, everything will be under control for sixty seconds and all that shines to sight is thanks to you, Crisis Actor – please face me for just this moment – I lack the signs to carry on –


spring 2020

Dictation, Fears Clara Hirsch


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Multimodal Evening Engram Wilkinson

The genuine interest is ashamed of its past. Even multivitamins leave me bereft. I was afraid the hymnals would be dependentlyoriginating, but it is true that, over time, anonymity will become a pastoral experience. Meted-out and outmaneuvered, leaving semblances or amaryllis in the dominion of our uncanny grace where, before the cicadas, we subjected ourselves to the concurring murmurs of the glass-eyed moment and stared, ruinously shy.


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Friends of the Gyre Sara Kachelman 2020 Prose Priz e Winner, selected by Jordan Kisner

The gyre arrived. It spun along the reefs, secreting foam on our shores. We sounded the horns and gathered on the beach. The foam was yellow and shivering. We poked it with our gaffs. We poked it with our fingers, then sniffed them. The gyre had made contact. It was our first. Disagreements on the beach: we needed a strong response. We sized up the foreign body, squinting under our palms. Being but a small island, we had to choose our friends carefully. Some friends required nothing of us. Others required a contract. It was unclear which type of friendship the gyre proposed. When it made no further advances, we put out our fires and decamped. We never had visitors. We wanted to behave correctly. All through the night, we debated a suitable welcome for the gyre. On the beach, our lookout reported no change in the gyre’s size or position. It was content where it was, churning gently over the reefs. Before we regrouped on the beach, the gyre sent us an invitation of its own. The morning’s catch was thick with seals. Smooth, brown seals with fat necks. We fed the seals to the weakest among us. When they suffered no spasms, we tried the meat ourselves. It was delicious! The gyre had made friends of us. But it also created a problem. We could not receive a gift without giving a proper gift in return. The gyre gave us the gift of seals. It was pointed out that we had always hunted seals before the gyre, and had never wanted. Seals were once a delicacy. Now they were breakfast. Some of us said that they enjoyed the seals more when they were a festival food, caught by our own people. Some of us said that instead of giving us a gift of seals, the gyre had robbed us of the pleasure the seals once gave us. As a gift, the seals were unsuitable. We all agreed. At least the gyre tried, even if it was wrong, some of us said.


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We needed a gift for the gyre. It was imperative that we respond quickly, because the seals piled up on the beach. The gyre was too generous. We were stuffed with seals. We developed an intolerance to seals. The seals rotted on the beach, in full view of the gyre. This was unthinkable! The problem with our island is that it is flat. That is what we decided. If we had a cliff, a gyre could not push seals on our beach. We would not have to eat the seals. But we have no cliff. We collected the seals and burned them in a pyre in the forest. We did not want the gyre to think we were ungrateful. But even with the odor of the pyre in the air, the gyre did not stop. We mobilized. The best gift was the gift of experience. We would welcome the gyre with song. The following morning, we marched along the beach, blowing our horns. This was the song we sang: Gyre, friend, you are too kind. Thank you for the seals, that is enough, please. La la la la, la! Then we retreated up the path to our homes. The next morning, we awoke to seals, but fewer seals than before. It was possible that these seals were dispatched before our performance. It was also possible that the seals were simply used up, and there were no more seals. We celebrated that our message was received favorably. We copied the gyre song into our songbooks. Each day our lookout squinted at the gyre and reported no change in size or position. We built the lookout a hut on the beach. The hut had a narrow strip in it, for looking. When a seal washed up, we burned it right on the shore. The gyre could forgive us, and it did. In the full light of day, we gathered around the burning seals and sang to our liking. Our children played in the gentle shallows. Our children wore beards of yellow gyre foam.


spring 2020

The fires burned down, and we decamped. When we counted our children, we were short. We arranged the children in a line. We measured and scrutinized them. Still, one was missing. We hunted in the waves, but the tide was filling in. We counted the children again. The gyre jostled along the reef. The waves were never so fickle before the gyre. Didn’t the waves seem high? The waves were so high that it was difficult to see the gyre spinning along the reefs. The gyre was hiding somewhere, playing coy after the attack. There on the beach, we had been holding hands and singing songs. Careless! The gyre just wanted to be closer to us, some of us said. The gyre was extending its hand. It wanted to hear more of our songs. We had beautiful singing voices. Children always drowned before the gyre, we said. This child was not our best. The gyre was present for the ceremony. It kept its distance, but it was not forgotten. As soon as we stop mourning, we said, we will address the gyre. Standing there with our wreaths, we could mourn forever. This child was not our best, we agreed. But it was ours. It was pretty good. Some of us cast off their wreaths. This is a declaration of war! they said. Bring us the body of our child! They stamped their feet in the shallows. They raised their fists. Hush, we said. We didn’t want the gyre to hear. Maybe it was satisfied with the child, and would not take any more. But some of us were not satisfied. They were acting out of grief. We arranged ourselves in two camps: friends of the gyre, and enemies of the gyre. Violence broke out around the island. Friends of the gyre moved to a small campsite on the west end. We tried to stretch what little we carried with us. We were not worshipping the gyre. We were not pushing it on anyone. We just didn’t mind it. Enemies of the gyre patrolled the remaining land, collecting resources for a vast army. They wanted more than they needed. They wanted revenge. We made an earthen barrier, a half circle around ourselves. The other half was the shore. We can live with a gyre, we said. We can live with a gyre, but we cannot live with you!


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It was true that the waves were higher than they had ever been. The waves were not clean, either. They were filled with colored fragments, foreign currency. Things we could give no name or use. The shore was crowded with the gyre’s relentless gifts. We had been outdone. Elsewhere on the island, the enemies constructed a vessel out of the gyre’s debris. They planned to penetrate the eye of the gyre. They wrote their ultimatum on a scroll. The scroll demanded that the gyre stop spinning immediately. If the gyre did not heed the scroll, they would stab it with their gaffs. On the day the enemies of the gyre set sail, we peeked over our earthen mound. We watched the vessel tip into the waves, gaffs raised. We did not watch for long. We crept over the island, salvaging what we could. The island was smaller than before. The waves crashed over the edge of the forest, and dragged the trees into the churning foam. With the enemies gone, it wasn’t so bad for the friends of the gyre. Nothing had come to the island in living memory. Now we had a story. We composed great songs, and sang them to one another. Our territory was small, but so was our number. The work that formerly filled our days was no longer necessary. The gyre gave us plenty to eat. And the food was delicious! All we had to do was play our horns and sing our songs. The gyre would never leave us. The gyre was our friend.


spring 2020

Natural History Tim DeMay

There it was half-turned in salt and waiting. A thousand possibilities mucking about at the lost and found, bored in the museum. You reach for the egg and dream of the sun. Waiting too long to know what it would mean to wait no longer, we are piles of fizzy sleepy shade, the sun cutting out of the doorway an orange rectangle, the arm suspended in its unconscious, not-yet decision to push upon the table and begin the minute processes to lift the body. To move. It all ceaselessly keeps coming. He scoops a spoonful of cumin on the napkin and takes the few coins. I am the shore of chronology, fickle and riven. You are a wind light enough to feather furrows in the dunes. To waver like a desert snake. I should have thought more about sustenance. More about the moments surrounding the moment, as if pushing against the frame.


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As if disbelieving the magnanimous glitter of an age for sounding in the genes an echo of all we do not remember. Chipping the flint. Sewing the fur. On the wall of every cave counting what I had seen and painting it red. Red and ochre in thick lines. To know, and to know where it once was.


spring 2020

Office of the Holy Face Kelly Hoffer There are species of abandonment

spectral fringe

wave me in

to the vacancy pending

scene of

buoys untethered

to find one and rustling


an other

over depth

huddled on the ocean field

a school of


pretty luck

I want a carcass to sing

to me in golden-hour light made a song tunnel

hot error

glutted shot-tied fever pitch

the body revives

I am tired

of my mother’s ghost halving aloft, the blade of her

of precious boys a limpid shiver primed

a plow tilling its own ash

hers a haunting having nowhere

I need

to wander to that good relic

a portrait possessed by a flickering an exercise to think saw a seedpod opening

tallow-light her body, dead and alive

its papery mouth to reveal black teeth

and thought of fall falling, a horizon


42 Perhaps a tall stele stood.

In one corner of the lake, an action was taken. In another corner, an event occurred, divorced from the plot. In yet another, a thin film experiment was conducted and yielded results. Which changed the contours of our understanding of domains far beyond thin film. There was one more corner, and what if anything happened there? Perhaps a tall stele stood. Or public opinion changed. Or a pore emerged and swallowed what—what I imagine. I never imagined each minute of my life. My body would fill the swimming costume. Each moment with a different class, kind, type, of conformity. By convention, the lake is, without corners your foot, slips in. And out of what, when I look at your foot and then cease to?

Elise Bickf ord


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spring 2020

Emily said we forgot to breathe the air Perr y Parsons

Emily said we forgot to breathe the air so we did Emily said we forgot to breathe the air so we did Emily said we Forgot to breath the air so we did Emily said we forgot to breathe the air so we did Emily said we forgot to breath the air So we did Emily said Emily said Emily said we forgot We forgot to breathe the air so we did we did so we did we forgot to breathe so we did we breathed we breathed the air we did we did


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Sonnet Andre w Stone

It is 6:40 p.m. on Wednesday and it is Courtney’s birthday. It is no longer Courtney’s birthday and she is not my love. Still, the cicadas gobble, they are the turkeys of the trees, spies who constellate the vast vastness from behind closed car windows. Here there is analogy: The door, a door; the rain in love with the form of the city; a train horn like Verklarte Nacht. Now that I love considering I loved you I love and honk for no one.


spring 2020

Elegy as Essay on Horses Caleb Braun

Because I watch a woman in the parking lot of my run-down apartment on the plains for hours change a tire, I will do nothing for the rest of the day but think of horses. And because I have only seen a horse up close a few times and touched a horse’s mane once they seem the closest thing to truth I can dwell on, doing not one thing for hours but watch as my head stampedes with horses, white horses, great bulky speedy brown horses, black horses that seem destined like death to cross into my field soon and chew me with their magnificent teeth. The hours run long. No horse enters my field. No horse trots down the road past this woman who is still in the lengthening Texas afternoon wrenching a tire iron into her old, white sedan, splotched in black where the paint has peeled. Because I am poor a horse seems the surest thing to own. A group of wild roaming horses is called a band. A horse fitted with blinders is called a racehorse. After the racehorses finish the race everyone either claps or gets very sad and wonders what they will tell their wives. Either way, everyone gets drunk at a racetrack in my head, having never been to one. 13,000–11,000 years ago, all the horses died in North America or went elsewhere. New DNA evidence suggests domesticated horses introduced by the Spanish conquest that escaped and spread throughout the American Great Plains are genetically similar to the species that disappeared around ten thousand years ago. This says something about colonialism and categories. This interests me but doesn’t help me pay the bills or the woman change her tire. In fact, most of my time is spent earning no money and sitting in my chair. I can look up the names if you want: Mustang you’ve probably heard, and I don’t know how to distinguish them. Clydesdales are tall and have white feathering on the lower legs, but they only remind me of beer commercials and I’m not trying to sell you anything though perhaps I should. The American Paint is beautiful and splotchy and reminds me of clouds or this woman’s car and probably is the best horse for the movies. Point is, I’m thinking mostly about horses in the abstract: fitted with blinders, Emily Dickinson’s, thundering toward Eternity. My head’s horses have very specific verbs, like gods, they rumble up there and I tremble, I yearn, I go nowhere.


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Last year, I sent a picture of sheriff’s horses at the Stockyards to a girlfriend in Seattle. There were brick roads and buildings built to look like the Old West when horses and carriages pulled by horses were the only way around. They really sold us on the whole thing—this being when my mom was still alive and wanted out of the house even though it meant being pushed around in a wheelchair. To her, the horses were so tall and unbelievable then. She envied their legs and their appetites and she appreciated with envy my legs and my appetites. When the check came at the Stockyard’s BBQ joint it was December. My girlfriend demanded I take her there in the future and she wanted Texas Toast especially with her meat. My parents paid the bill so it was okay and then she died and I stopped speaking to the woman from Seattle and I moved to Texas and still people were fitting old cars with new wheels. Somewhere without fences, a horse is still wild. Somewhere there is another universe in which the woman and I are married and my mom dances and holds with healthy arms our first-born child if certain theoretical physicists are to be believed. I wonder if it would make any difference to us if it were true. And how does one get paid to come up with such things? On his death bed Hardy cried out, “Eve, what is this?” though he had thought about it all his life. Are we to believe there is another Hardy—architect Hardy, Hardy-who-wrote-no-novels having the money to devote his life to poems? I picture horse jockey Hardy winning the race, and according to some, he exists. Well it all becomes quite meaningful and yet saying so doesn’t put a roof over one’s head, as they say, and still this woman is twisting lug-nuts into a doughnut to go somewhere presumably important. As he died, Socrates said, “So pay the debts and don’t be careless,” and there are many other stories like these. Where I falter is not “what will I say?” or “what did she last say?” but, “Here I am.” October almost over. Birds I don’t bother to name chirp pleasantly in cool sun. A fly beats at the glass. And, “here she is not.” No phone brightening with her name. No Texas sun through her window. No birds singing in the tightknit seams of her tree. No one running her miles every day at sunset into the Mountain Valley parks to pray. No teeth, no smile up into me. What horses carry her across to the heaven she knew? No wheels can take me to her home over the lowlands and the hills. No home, only horses. Like the Spanish invaders I can only see one thing as a vehicle for another. Like this woman, I take a long time trying to replace what is lost with something that looks the same.


spring 2020


I wake up, the bed’s built from limit only, lines who power, don’t touch, humming diluted light, in the midst of turning from one side of the bed to the other I’m met by a shape in the shape of a face, it has somuch to say to me, packets of light ferrying themselves across the water, waveless, I wake up, a shape sick of its edges, turning to face the other side too quickly I run right into the back of my head, that’s limit’s hello, under light lies the water under water’s what it lies for, try on gravity, derive the wave, it doesn’t skip except I do, rooms of unfinished days, I wake up, say to my edges stay on, turning over or on questions of arrival at the depthless plane like will you scrape so slowly by, on soul my hands collapse, little hours turning surgic plus to minus plus to plus, the question’s come and it’s so late, I wake up, what’s mine little limit, little loop, not for the anxiety coil that clothes itself unblinding but afterward or noematic crag my, knowedge destruct, the hour arrives as it doesn’t, a face who shows itself its face,


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I wake up, box or chamber reactive, trying to do the continuous, andso or the green trail, will it let me crust over I wonder, will it let me be a tree, eyes for roots and nerves for branches, the wind’s speech continuous, still unclear to me, mouth-sounds without mouths and rusted, the crust of what isn’t there, I wake up, this room doesn’t have enough edges, space leaks so what, the so what flower the so what field, from the bed I turn toward the missing edge to align myself with the site where the lines must converge they do, there aren’t guarantees, I wake up, I watch myself enter and exit the store on the store’s cameras, day’s perfect, the sun is an orange activity, I walk toward the doors they slide open I step out into the parking lot, andso, something’s off, limit’s atrophied, the asphalt has too many edges, if sunlight won’t stop continuing, I wake up, it’s morning, it’s evening, hours won’t, it’s over, the grid’s alive but edgeless, I wake up andso to find what I’m in, am I back in the bedroom, do I restart motion through the andso, the andso valley the andso field, my brain is a sharp project, I wake up, another edge fails, the horizon won’t be terminal, it’s a smile lapseless, it speaks with a quiver mouth, I don’t know if I can hear it, can I, name yourself, okay, name the I okay, I unlimiter, I andsoer, thus will I have come to be known as the one who has scratched knowledge out of the earth, I wake up, I was awake already, the ground is a mouth that doesn’t open, lines won’t converge and they aren’t mine, I wake up andso I andso I andso I andso I andso,


spring 2020

Heliotropism Complex Sidney Eberly

We were talking about her cowboy’s relationship to suicide. And what’s this? A forum? In the great white sojourn where all words are reconstituted I mend events in small stitches. I sat in seeds in the cowboy’s stomach and grew flowers in the cowboy’s throat when he’d open his mouth for long exposure aperture fittings. Which happened, she told me, at least once every day. Often for hours. Me: In the morning? She agreed. Then what’s stopping me and my flowers saw her cowboy’s mouth was a tourmaline sun between the yawn and eclipsic filler, took in oxygen, were wetted by his gagging spittle. I got big & poked out at the metal & shed petals into his TV dinners. She hates me. She says he took out a reverse mortgage on his horse, then willed it his heir apparent, so it could own the giddy up but he knows it’ll sell itself. Her cowboy thinks sometimes his horse wants this which is him over with. The horse tells him this in stillness. No doctor would accept xenomorphic flowers as proof of revelation, which were mine, not hers, not his. Then why have her cowboy hesitate at all? I kept telling her thank you, thank you.


the columbia review

lap & collar/flock Kirsten Ihns

for years just sampling the original lake with my tube and nakedness, & late in confused dreams heated not 2 shout when u reveal the future how you can use the tools and feel them

as a skill?

did you want to die in a religious way my reason was just a movement of limbs

everything that gold has an end and glitters what one what might i be forgiven in thinking or nighttime like a beachball sign natural stick, so stark, not releasing—


is this a risk u can lead by the neck

throat collar fuck and dammit let me be her who bears news


spring 2020

for a second veronika can u do that? briefly i loved a foreign man-voice in the book rows felt vault, not vaporous scared as a sheet put butter on the night thought, see if it stops & toasted what does not stop is either true or evil let me be indicated by the contours of my interest

or, illumined by what cannot traverse me

light came down thru leaves as what it is able

to become—low noise


in the conservation region of its gesture

ghosts, said Parran, was GEISTES

& i sat there, just gripping



the columbia review

Mathilda Maslow Abler, née Loebel, graduated from Washington Irving High School of Art and worked as a commercial artist for an advertising company. In the late 1930’s she attended Cooper Union and began portrait and landscape painting. In the 1950’s Mattie studied philosophy at Columbia University and SUNY New Paltz. In March, she celebrated her 100th birthday. Emma Aylor’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades, New Ohio Review, the Cincinnati Review, Sixth Finch, and Salt Hill, among other journals, and she received Shenandoah’s 2020 Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets. She holds an MFA from the University of Washington. Originally from Bedford County, Virginia, she lives in Lubbock, Texas. Elise Bickford is a doctoral student in philosophy at the University of Chicago interested in the epistemology of literature. Before starting her Ph.D., she studied poetry at MIT and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Caleb Braun holds an MA in English from the University of North Texas and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. He lives in Lubbock, Texas, where he is a PhD candidate in creative writing at Texas Tech University. He is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award from the University of Washington and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Crab Orchard Review, Harpur Palate, Arcturus, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine and elsewhere. Michael Coppola’s work has recently appeared in Drunken Boat, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, VIA: Voices in Italian Americana, and Denver Quarterly. Michael currently teaches undergraduate English and Humanities. He divides his time between New York


spring 2020

City and Italy. Tim DeMay is a PhD student in the English Department at the University of Chicago. He received an MFA in Poetry from the University of Maryland and has poems and translations printed in ArabLit, Asymptote, Banipal, and Prodigal, among others. Sidney Eberly is a senior at Columbia University. Janelle Affiong Effiwatt is from Tucson, Arizona. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she wrote Like a Thin Hustle (Letter Machine Editions 2019). Bryn Evans is a writer from Decatur, Georgia. As she writes this, she is reminded that she is breathing and is thankful. Her writing has appeared and is continually appearing. These appearances, fleeting and archived, occasionally transpire on her Instagram account, @brynevans_, when she is in the mood. Transpire as emergence, but also as breath -if Bryn were a color, she would be the sky. Address your next poem to her, but she dis/claims that she is no longer responding to unsolicited dms. The poem should smell like cinnamon. Susannah Greenblatt is a writer, filmmaker, and translator from Spanish based in Brooklyn. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2016 with a BA and high honors in history. She currently works at Words Without Borders and is a contributing writer to the magazine’s blog, WWB Daily. Her writing and translations have also appeared in Literary Hub, Epiphany Magazine, and Ramona: revista de artes visuales; her short film, La Ciega (2018), has shown at festivals in the US and Canada.


the columbia review

Kelly Hoffer earned an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was recently a Creative Writing Teaching Fellow at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Her poems have appeared in Yalobusha Review, BathHouse Journal, Radar Poetry, and are forthcoming in Prelude online and The Bennington Review, among others. She currently lives in upstate New York where she is a PhD student in English at Cornell University. Kirsten Ihns is the author of sundaey (Propeller Books, 2020). A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is currently a Ph.D. student and Neubauer Presidential Fellow in English at the University of Chicago, where she studies contemporary visual poetics. Individual poems appear in jubilat, Hyperallergic, Black Warrior Review, Bennington Review, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. She is from Atlanta, GA. Sara Kachelman is the author of the art book Autopsy of the Sewing Machine. Her stories have appeared in Diagram, Portland Review, New Delta Review, and many other journals. Read more at Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of 23 books, including Flannelwood: A Novel (Red Hen Press), Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman (Squares & Rebels), and Once Upon a Twin: Poems (Gallaudet University Press, forthcoming in February 2021). He is the editor of Mollyhouse. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Peter Myers is a poet and writer based in New York. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Vestiges, Boston Review, and elsewhere.


spring 2020

Perry O. Parsons (they/them/theirs) is a third-year at Barnard College, where they study Theatre with a concentration in directing. They celebrate and aspire to poets like Dorothea Lasky, Bernadette Mayer, and Joni Mitchell. Email: Patrick Redmond received his MFA from Brooklyn College. He currently teaches composition and creative writing at CUNY. Recent work is forthcoming or housed in The Hunger, Silver Pinion, Bomb Cyclone, Prelude, and elsewhere. Zachary Schomburg is the author of a novel, Mammother (Featherproof Books), and 5 books of poems on Black Ocean. A forthcoming book of poems, Fjords vol. 2, is due out in the Spring of 2021. He is also an artist, illustrator, teacher, and the publisher and editor of an independent poetry press called Octopus Books. He lives in Portland, Ore. Andrew Stone is a poet from Wilmington, DE. He lives in Brooklyn and adjuncts at CUNY. Engram Wilkinson holds a law degree from the University of California, Hastings. He lives in San Francisco, where he clerks for a federal judge. His poetry has recently appeared in Lana Turner, Deluge, The Offing, Black Sun Lit, and Vassar Review.


the columbia review


spring 2020


Managing Editor Spencer Grayson

Layout Editor Anna Lang

Prose Editor Emily Mack

Web Editors Sam Wilcox and Ilina Logani

Editorial Board Hanna Andrews Bella Barnes David Ehmcke Spencer Grayson Anna Lang Ilina Logani Cat Luo

Emily Mack Elizabeth Meyer Evan Mortimer Charlie Munns Cassidy Sattler Sam Wilcox Maddie Woda


Ryan Daar Morgan Levine Sofia Montrone

Cover Art Mathilda Maslow Abler 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.

Enquiries to: Columbia Review, Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. Email: Books and media sent for possible review become the property of The Columbia Review.Visit us online at: Copyright Š 2020 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.


the columbia review


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