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The Kudzu Review

ISSUE N°61 | FALL 2018


The Kudzu Review FALL 2018

Copyright © by The Kudzu Review


Florida State University’s premier undergraduate journal of literature and art.

The views and ideas expressed in the contained works do not reflect those of the Kudzu staff or the Florida State University Department of English. All rights revert back to their original owners upon publication. The Kudzu Review is funded in part by the Student Government Association and is a Recognized Student Organization at Florida State University.


Editor’ ’ s Note Dear Reader, Since our initial conception in 1988, the Kudzu Review has been publishing exceptional work from Florida State University’s own undergraduate students, and now we have expanded our reach to help develop and showcase writers from around the nation. Our mission has always been to create and grow a shared community of writers and artists and show their hard work to our Florida State community and beyond. Our writers have gone on to publish in the Columbia Poetry Review and the Los Angeles Review as well as going into further education to pursue their dreams. With the help of our faculty advisor, Maari Carter, and an excellent and hardworking team of Editors and Editorial Assistants, the Kudzu Review publishes twice a year in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Visual Arts. I would like to thank our staff for continuing to publish great work and for their many hours of dedication. As for the writers, poets, photographers, and artists published in this edition, thank you for bringing your work into the world and for allowing us to be the ones to help share your stories. Shannon Lechon Editor In Chief


CON n KEPT SAFE Victoria Fidler

8

POETRY

8

REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill

9

SLUG LOVE IN KINABALU Parker Logan

10

MELANCOLONY Brittany Files

11

AFTERMATH GENERATION Victoria Fidler

12

JUDGE THE DISTANCE Allison Williams

13

REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill

14

4772 HICKORY SHORES John McQuillan

15

REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill

16

GUT YEAST AND PEANUT BUTTER Isabella Tommasone

17

GODTIER MAGAZINE EDITION 2 Alexis L. Pulmano

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EXILE’S PLEA TO OCALA Katie Davis


Nte nts REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill

NONFICTION

FURTHEST CITY LIGHT Victoria Fidler

19

20

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LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S COLD PEOPLE WAITING IN LINE! Rachael Dirr

21

TV BOY– OUT OF BODY EXPONENT Eli Goldstone

25

TV BOY– RE-WATCHED:RESTRAINED Eli Goldstone

25

UNTITLED Kiera Garvin

26

TICKET TO TEXAS Noah Barrios

27

PAINTED IN YOUR HUES Victoria Fidler

30

MORIKAMI GRAVE IN 35MM Daniela Villasana

FICTION

31

32

REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill

32

THE ROTTEN VAGINA Sabine H. Nemours

33


POETRY

REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill


Slug Love in Kinabalu BY: PARKER LOGAN

Two Kerry slugs knit a flower with their body-long genitalia under the bark of a rosaceae tree shifting into another bloom on the in-season plant, a wiggling spearhead thrown off the Ark to a 39th day pool in the middle of Kinabalu. They twist together in knots of semen, mucous folding at the places they need to be touched, necking at night beading wet during day like a yes and a maybe passing along the backless slug genes for the kids who’ll do the same. And something else happens: they find a groove— the white flower they’ve crocheted glows like a body hot finger’s flame in the middle of Malaysia. It’s a light telling predators we are here. Some stop and watch. Even the bell mouthed plants can see them but the slugs don’t care. They shine for stars while they twist, beaconing toward wood planks and animal hoofs in the sky, watching for high water floods over the tree-lush mountain range in hopes that the master sees them shining through the moonlit forest sky surviving night.


Melancholony BY: BRITTANY FILES

We sat around the fire, you, me, her, and I watched you inch closer and closer until the flames took a bite of your bare feet. But you just leaned back and let them char until there was nothing left. None of us knew what to say as you explored the empty spot where your toes once were. Maybe she could’ve told us about the day she distressed her own jeans with the box cutter she found under the sink. And about how one day that same box cutter moved up and up and up until it chiseled currant canyons across the flesh of her milky wrists. Or I could tell you about how I hum to the tune of a dead man’s song to drown out the sound of a million cicadas chirping in between my ears. And how sometimes, even that doesn’t work. But instead, we let you keep leaning on that cane you fastened of liquor bottles and beer cans, suspended in a Mary Jane haze, until the glass shatters and the aluminum crumbles.


Maybe one of us will be there to cushion your fall. Or maybe we can just hang around this firepit a little longer. You could dip your toeless feet into the rosy rivers snaking along her forearms, and I will sing along to the symphony of the mosquitoes at midnight.

AFTERMATH GENERATION Victoria Fidler


Judge the distance BY: ALLISON WILLIAMS

At 245 feet, the golden gate is the recommended height To jump from if you plan on hitting water. But if you’re hitting concrete you only have to fall ten stories, And if you hit head first you have a higher chance of dying, And if you have to stop parking in the eight-story garage you can walk. Keep company with the thought of Kevin Hines, Whose shattered vertebrae shredded his organs, Leading him to the clarity that God tucked behind our beating hearts To punish us, as if Peter doesn’t stand empty handed in the water.

REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill


4772 Hickory Shores BY: JOHN MCQUILLAN

I sit by the water, looking through window light to see my father lay out powdered dough for a Shepherd’s pie, his soft hands, wet from crushed varna leeks, form its shape while outside the fluttering of bee’s wings melt honey from foxglove nectar trapped in sugared yellow octagon walls, my mother’s fingerprints press into the topsoil, kneading her subtle strength into the veins of our garden, as the delicate necks of herons’ arch into salted breezes, their needled black legs grazing the glassy bay. Adison hums her church hymns to the ears of blue-headed vireos while she sits in fallen cypress leaves next to our neighbor’s redwood dock where below spotted seatrout dart behind rotting columns, as Mrs. Trudy lowers her dead husband’s crab traps into the shallow end, by the concrete bulkhead rocks, where my cousin slipped and cut his pitching hand. In our front yard a sign staked into the grass by a rusted mailbox says “For Sale, Find Your New Family Home Today!”


REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill


Gut Yeast and Peanut Butter BY: ISABELLA TOMMASONE

I’ll buy into any pseudoscience that says I can become skinny overnight. I’m trying out this new diet: water only, for inflammation of the gut, that flushes out toxins in 21 days. I’m on day 2 and if this doesn’t work my cousin Paulie says he knows a guy who will sell me a tapeworm for only 34 bucks. He says he’ll sneak it into Nonna’s pasta sauce, and all I have to do is swallow. It won’t raise suspicion, as long as we’re eating linguine. If it’s rigatoni again, I’m screwed. I don’t tell my mother about my water fast, or Paulie’s parasite scheme. When she was in college she dipped Hershey’s kisses in peanut butter, and called it dinner. And she ran shit. She black-blazered and sheertighted New York’s retail scene, skin glowing in department store glory, though leathered and freckled now, like the coats she used to sell. I don’t tell my mother about my water fast because she wouldn’t see the health benefits. She’d retreat into her closet of size zero dresses, pull out her philosophy books from college, convince herself that Benjamin Libet really was right, that we can’t choose our environment or our genes, so all we are is a jumble of chemical processes and peels products only of our parents and their parenting and she’d lose it. She’d pull the peanut butter jar from her hiding place behind her shoe rack, dunk me inside, and swirl me around, until I’m dropped into her mouth and crunched like a kiss.


GODTIER MAGAZINE EDITION 2 Alexis L. Pulmano


Exile’’’ s Plea to Ocala BY: KATIE DAVIS

Exile’s Plea to Ocala by Katie Davis Ocala, cut the living from your gangrened limb. I’m standing at Nuby’s Corner eating boiled peanuts, the summer apathetic, and I am lost. I’m a runaway. Each step was some new place but the guileless game is up. The gashes on my ankles disrupted the tempo of my leaving, and I can’t remember how to get home. This dead people forest. I grew up here, in a house that looked like a microwave; it burned me, spit me out, ripened me a headache. I grew up among atrophied longleaves, among nothing save the bar where they found Aileen Wuornos and it’s true, it really was the last resort. Ocala, I returned to unrecognize you but I catch late versions of myself in the boarded Salt Springs grocery where I stole baseball cards, and at the water park – your old sell – where a girl drowned in the wave pool as a mother forgot about her. I had my first kiss at the Dairy Queen that same day. Something strawberry. I am thinking about the dead people in this forest, about the bloodied men who berate the city limits, how dense the years must be between their dead girlfriends and their confessions, how cathartic their culling must’ve felt to them, their skirting traces so immediate to me. You see, your trees taught me to be afraid. Ocala, I am begging you to disown me. Could you curl my childhood chlorine-green hair in your fists? Could you cut away my angsty knuckles, so often stained on the boys I hate here? Will you take this neurotic need for distance? Enough people have been killed in the incessant clot and I intend to divorce again, but it’s true


that I’m a liar, that cities make me dizzy, that this place has a song and I ran out of rhythm. Will you atone for the battered bridge over Ocklawaha, where the locals dive and the leavers jump, ensuing only after a joint, smoked – they are born here knowing that the alligators will always refuse a dead Eucharist. Yet here I am, again thinking about the dead people. You’re right, that these trees mislead, stir fear but kowtow down to craft balance beams for me; they were friends to me. Is home a condition? I’m fleeing the brine of the peanuts, the ice cream kiss – my heedless offering being the blood on the backs of my feet.

REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill


NON FICTION

FURTHEST CITY LIGHT Victoria Fidler


Live From New York, It’’s Cold People Waiting in Line! BY: RACHAEL DIRR

In the spring of my senior year of high school, I persuaded my mom to take me on a trip to New York City under the guise of going to tour Fordham, a college in the Bronx. When NBC announced that SNL was back from its short hiatus and the host and musical guest for Saturday, March 12, 2016, would be Ariana Grande, I finally told my mom to book a trip to New York. While my mom was reserving the college campus tour, I was busy searching the web for a way to get a seat in the coveted audience. I found a small blurb on NBC’s website that read: Stand-by tickets are distributed at 7 am on the 48th street side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the mornings of a show. You may choose a stand-by ticket for either the 8 pm dress rehearsal or the 11:30 pm live broadcast. The only other thing I could find was one blog entry about someone’s miserable 10-hour wait in freezing rain. They got in and their takeaway from the experience were that it was absolutely miserable to wait on the street for hours on end, but it was completely worth it in order to see the show. Because there was shockingly so little about the standby line on the Internet, I figured that it was either not very popular, or a very well-kept secret. Either way, it seemed to me like I had a pretty good shot at getting in. I just had to figure out how to get my mom on board. The first time I proposed the idea, she gave me a flat-out no, but being persistent, unwavering, and slightly annoying was how I would break her down “TEN hours on the streets of New York in March?!” she exclaimed with wide open eyes and eyebrows almost extending to her hairline. “It’s going to be 40 degrees when we go! And why would I want to camp out overnight on the street when we’re paying a lot of money for a hotel? It sounds completely unsafe and unreasonable. Do you really want to do all that just for a standby ticket? You know, you still might not even get in.” “I know,” I responded, “but it seems like we have pretty good chance. I don’t think that many people know that the standby line is a thing, and it’s completely safe. We’ll be right outside the 30 Rockefeller lobby, there are security cameras all over the area, and they have security guards standing outside watching the line all night to make sure nothing bad happens.” I didn’t know if any of that was true or not, but I knew I had to convince her we wouldn’t get mugged. “Plus, you know how much I love SNL and if we just did this one thing I will never ask anything from you ever again. My entire life will be made.” She agreed to think about it. As the trip inched closer and closer, I began getting antsy because she still hadn’t made up her mind. I started to ask her every day if she was finished thinking about it. About a week before we left, I finally broke her down. As I sat on the edge of her bed and asked her if we could go for what felt like at least the hundredth time, she looked


up at me from the book she was reading, and I watched her eyes roll behind her thin framed reading glasses as she let out one of the biggest and longest sighs I have ever heard, relenting, “Fine. We can do it. But you owe me big time.” I let out a huge shriek and tackled my mom with a hug. We arrived in New York City early Friday afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, we had plans to go stake-out the standby line, get the essentials like snacks and an air mattress, and set up camp in the line at about 10 pm. When we passed the line the first time at around 4:30 pm there were 3-4 people in the line. I felt pretty good about our chances. After struggling to find a store in midtown Manhattan that sold an air mattress and a hand pump, we bought all the snacks we thought we would need to survive a night on the street. On the way back to the hotel, we passed the line again at around 6:30 pm, and it had gotten significantly longer. There were at least 20 people in the line now, and I was starting to get nervous. I made the executive decision that we were heading to the hotel to change, grab our hotel bedding before going back to the line to set up camp a little early. I was not going to miss my chance to see this show. We got it into line at around 7:15 pm and were the 25th and 26th people in line. After about half an hour of pumping up the air mattress, my arm was sore and achy, but we were all set up to spend almost 12 hours on the 48th street side of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Half-jokingly, my mom said that since she was waiting outside in the cold as a favor to me, she claimed the air mattress for herself. Slightly less-jokingly, she also told me she’d be pissed at me for the rest of my life if we painstakingly waited outside in the cold for 12 hours and didn’t get in to see the show. No pressure. While I was pumping, the line had grown behind us. At around 10 pm once, all the foot traffic had died down, a hush suddenly fell over the beginning of the line. When I got up to see what was happening, I saw a man talking to the first 8 or so people. Then, suddenly a girl carrying a blue binder and a clipboard walked by us with a poster that read, “Please be advised that Universal Television LLC is filming scenes and background material in this area, related to the TV production ‘Saturday Night Live’ if you enter this area, you may appear and you agree to appear, in this or another production, in any and all media now known or later devised worldwide in perpetuity.” When I asked the girl what that meant she said that they were filming bits of the standby line for some material for Weekend Update, SNL’s weekly news spoof, for the upcoming show. My jaw dropped. I eagerly watched as pieces of the crew started pouring out of 30 Rock into the street to set up the camera, the lights, and the cue cards. Watching all this happen right in front of me, all the pieces of TV magic come together, ignited something in me that I had never felt before, a sense of yearning. I desperately wanted to be a part of what was going on in front of me. I think that was the first time I put two and two together and realized that television is an actual career, not just a hobby. These people got paid to make people laugh and it hit me that this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be on TV. I was yanked out of my epiphany by the sound of excited screaming coming from the front part of the line. I bobbed left and right to try to see around everyone in front of me and see the source of the commotion. Then I saw him emerge from behind the wall that had been obstructing my view; it was Bobby Moynihan. As soon as I realized, I joined in on the girlish screams. He’d been on the show since before I started watching and had played characters like Drunk Uncle, and for the sketch that was happening right in front of us, Riblet. I watched as they ran through the whole


skit three times, scared that if I blinked I’d miss something. As they wrapped up and began to head in, Bobby thanked the crowd for their cooperation and then turned to go in. Without even thinking, I made my hands into a megaphone and yelled, “I LOVE YOU, BOBBY!” He stopped in his tracks and turned around. He heard me. He ran down to where I was in line gave me a high five with a big smile on his face, but I can promise you the smile on my face was bigger. I was in such a state of shock over what had just happened I had to sit down on our air mattress. Our line neighbors were freaking out that Bobby had just walked right in front of them and I was freaking out that he knew I existed. The excitement and adrenaline of meeting Bobby and watching a piece of SNL get filmed carried me all the way until 2 am. Only 5 more hours to go. I tried to get some rest, but the constant sound of cars zooming past and the smell of exhaust fumes made it hard to focus on falling asleep. Eventually, I put headphones in, pulled a blanket over my head, and closed my eyes. I remember being woken up by the loud conversations of the people in front of us and opening my eyes to a sun just beginning to rise. It was 6:45 am, we had made it through the night. The NBC Pages had come down to tell us to pack up our things; they would be giving out standby tickets in 15 minutes. While I deflated our air mattress and my mom folded up our blankets, I made up my mind that we would ask for tickets to the dress rehearsal rather than the live show. Less people would be willing to fly to New York for tickets to a dress rehearsal, so I figured it’d be easier to get in. As the NBC Page made his way down the line, a knot formed in my stomach. When he got to my mom and I, he asked us, “Live show or dress rehearsal?” I kept with my gut instinct, “Dress rehearsal,” I said. He took our IDs, made a note of our full legal names on his clipboard, gave us standby tickets number 11 and 12, and told us to be back in the NBC gift shop by 7:15 pm. Just like that, our 12-hour long wait was over. It felt weird to finally leave our little spot on the concrete and, at last, have the freedom to go somewhere that just wasn’t the bathroom. Naturally, we went back to the hotel and crashed, finally able to spread out and get a decent sleep. I awoke to my alarm going off at 5:30 pm. It was time to start getting ready for the opportunity I had been nervously anticipating for months. We arrived at the NBC gift shop at 7 pm sharp. They re-ordered us according to our ticket numbers and were reunited with our standby line neighbors. While I was standing in line, I stared at the elevator, the only thing that stood between SNL and me; it hit me how real this was. I was so full of anxiety and adrenaline I felt like I could jump up to the 8th floor all by myself. But as 7:15 turned into 7:30 doubt began to set in. With each minute that passed, I began to stare more and more intensely at the text that read Does not ensure admission right at the top of my ticket. What if all this wait was for nothing and we don’t even get in? I glanced nervously at my mom who shrugged back at me. I looked down at my phone: 7:45 pm; the dress rehearsal starts at 8pm. An NBC Page showed up at the front of our line, and just as I was preparing myself for bad news, “Send up the first 25” blasted over her walkie-talkie. She put a key in the elevator and ushered in the first 25 people. This is it! I thought to myself as I got on the elevator. I tried to play it cool, but I could feel a grin creep across my face that I just couldn’t wipe off. I was sure the other 23 people in the elevator thought I was completely bugging. One of the seasoned vets of the standby line gave me a once over and asked, “First time?” I was so paralyzed


by a weird combination of fear and excitement that all I could do was nod. After going through extensive security and being told numerous times that no cellphone use was permitted inside the studio whatsoever, they lined us up again in order of our ticket numbers and gave us wristbands. Slowly, the Pages came and brought people into the studio two at a time. They had told us, “There’s no guarantee you’re getting into the show unless your butt is in a seat,” so when they brought my mom and me into the studio and we sat down in our seats, I could finally let out a sigh of relief. My eyes wandered around the studio as I tried to take in as much as possible. My heart was no longer racing, and I felt peaceful, almost as if I were at home. I watched how they were able to utilize such a small space for so many different sketches. I got to experience part of the thrill of live television and the sense of high-risk and fixing things all the way until the very last moment. I felt that same sense of magic in the pit of my stomach from earlier and I realized that my love for the show had transformed into a desire to be a part of it. I had always loved television and coming up with ‘bits’ and characters to make everyone laugh, but I had always been told that TV was too unstable and that for every success story there are a thousand starving artists. But at that moment, I didn’t care. My mind was made up. Looking around at how many people it took to get this show on its feet: prop people, Pages, producers, directors, cameramen, makeup people, costume people, people just walking the actors to their mark, there had to be a place for me here. I watched as Kate McKinnon, dressed as a blob fish, attempted to seduce a stranded sailor by telling him that her mouth and her anus were the same holes. The skits moved around the studio in a circular fashion, making the best of the very tiny studio space. In between sketches, the crew moved quickly to change the sets and the actors ran backstage for quick changes. I heard some director or producer yell, “ten seconds to air!” before every skit. A stern-faced Lorne Michaels, their original showrunner, walked around and made sure everything ran smoothly. I watched as Ariana’s big voice exploded out of her tiny body for a skit that forced her to do impressions of famous singers, and she nailed every single one. As the crew all piled on the stage for the goodnight, Bobby’s eyes wandered to our corner of the studio seats. I waved at him and he smiled and waved back. My mom leaned over to me and whispered, “You guys have some kind of connection now.” As the show wrapped up, I broke the number one rule and took out my phone to snap a picture, so I could always remember what the studio looked like. Then I was hit with a sense of sadness that this experience was over, but I was also excited to have realized my new sense of purpose and ambition; I want to work in television. As we were ushered out of the studio, I lingered, looking around for as long as possible, trying to take it all in one last time. When we made it out into the hallway, Bobby Moynihan was crossing through to get to his dressing room. We locked eyes, and he instantly recognized me from the standby line. “Hey, you made it in! We did it!” he said to me, high-fiving me again. My eyes practically fell out of my head. What a perfect conclusion to a crazy 24 hours. “You’re going to end up marrying him!” my mom joked. I didn’t know about that, but I took that as a sign that I was right, and TV is where I was meant to be. At a time when I was so lost and facing a new chapter in my life, I got in to see SNL, met a cast member, and watched as a skit was filmed right in front of me. The experience gave me a crazy story to tell anyone who will listen and a new, slightly unstable, yet fulfilling, path for my life. I plan on achieving my dreams the same way I broke down my mom: with persistence, determination, and by being slightly annoying.


TV BOY– RE-WATCHED:RESTRAINED Eli Goldstone

TV BOY– OUT OF BODY EXPONENT Eli Goldstone


UNTITLED Kiera Garvin


Ticket to Texas BY: NOAH BARRIOS

As I wiped the sweat off my forehead and chugged my third bottle of water, I half-heartedly listened to my father explain how to check the oil on our ancient lawnmower. It was a scorching hot July afternoon, and I had been putting off learning how to take care of the lawn for weeks at this point. I was leaving for college soon anyway, so what was the point? “Noah,” my father said sharply. The sudden shift in his tone snapping me out of my trance. I looked up and saw a foreign look on his face. To a younger version of me, Dad was scary and intimidating, tall and masculine. As I grew taller than him, so did my views, gaining height and seeing above his narrow-minded, foreign-born ideas and beliefs of family roles and values. He was by no means a weak man physically; he had received warnings from his boss about employees complaining that he was intimidating when he approached them in person. Yet from someone who knew his vulnerable side, his weak mental state and his often alcohol-induced sob sessions on the living room sofa after the kids went to bed, I saw as no one else had, “Your mother is cheating on me.” Unshockingly, I wasn’t taken off guard by this statement. Ever since my mom had brought up the topic of divorce to my father, I knew his confidence had taken a hit. He could only assume that she had found someone else. I knew this for certain because I could hear his sobs from behind their thin bedroom door across the living room. The silence after Dad spoke those words would have been deafening if not for the sound of kids down the street, the neighbor’s dog barking, or my own annoyed groan. “Are we really gonna talk about this again? Why can’t you just take a deep breath and chill the hell out like I tell you to every other time you bring this up to me?” I have had many conversations with my father, his fragile ego and his self-pitying sob sessions becoming incessant to the point where I was more disgusted and annoyed than sympathetic. The majority of his conversations with me ended with accusations of not caring, most likely taking that opinion from the eye rolls and smart comments I gave. Of course, I’d reassure him at any notion of that idea, but not because he was wrong. He was always bothering me and my siblings with these pathetic conversations, painting my mother in an evil light. He had no proof of any of these things and she had no reason to stray. At least, that was what I thought. “Come with me, let me show you something,” he said as I rolled my eyes and let the yardwork broom fall to the ground. Most Saturday mornings, my mother was grocery shopping and running her usu-


al errands. My father led me into the dining room, which had been more or less converted into an office, considering we hardly ever ate together as a family anymore. Papers like bills, my mother’s ungraded class assignments, divorce papers and report cards stacked every inch of the dining table. Out of a much-too-populated filing cabinet, Dad pulled out an envelope from Delta airlines. He handed it to me, muttering “Look for yourself.” I pulled out the contents of the envelope, a simple printout of a plane ticket. What confused me, however, the ticket itself confused me. “We don’t have any family in Texas, right?” I said, starting to tremble as I began to piece things together. The date on the ticket: one month prior. Mom had said she was visiting her mom in West Palm Beach for the weekend. What is going on? All the time she had spent smiling and laughing at her phone, was it really her sister texting about a new boyfriend? Coworkers sending memes? “No, but you know who does? Scott.” Mom had mentioned that name before. An old friend of hers. “Dad...” I looked up and realized both of us had started to tear up. In hindsight, I don’t think at any moment should I have felt sadness. Knowing now that I would be filled with nothing but anger, spite, and shame for the weeks to come, I didn’t think I would be sad at all. “Dad, does she know you’ve seen this? Does she know that you know?” “Yes. You don’t know who your mother truly is. You don’t know the things she hides from you. You have no idea how hard it is to keep myself from showing you everything, how hard it is to force myself to protect you kids and keep myself from looking like anything but a villain...” I stopped my dad short and gave him a hug. I didn’t need to hear any more. “I’m sorry, Dad.” The next several hours became a bit of a blur. Dad left for Home Depot and to get groceries, which meant going to a bar and to get drunk. Mom was still out and would be for a few hours. I pretty much did what I would have done on any other normal day and sat in my room, playing video games and listening to music. My mind was racing at a million miles a second. Did mom think she could just do whatever she wanted and that there weren’t consequences? Why was dad just sitting here and letting this happen? What happened to the idyllic sculpt of my parents’ character that my mind had forged so long ago? My entire paradigm had shifted. For so long I thought my father was weak-willed, simply playing the victim, while my mother was the real sufferer, the one who had to deal with his bothersome comments and his pathetic attempts to make her stay after her mind had been made up years ago. Now, it was as if I had it completely backwards I had rarely been at such an impasse before. It almost felt like I had to pick sides. At this point I had never been so irritated by two people before in my life. Am I just overreacting? I thought to myself. I knew teens and kids about to leave for school always had issues with their loved ones. Is this something I should be getting worked up about? That night, after my father went to sleep, I went into the living room where my mother was watching TV. I looked at her, and while I was attempting to keep my face from betraying my emotion, I must not have been doing a very good job.


“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked, one hand petting the sleeping cat in her lap, one hand shielding her screen while she took turns glancing at me and her phone. “Mom, I was looking for an old report card for my SSAR, and I found something weird in the filing cabinet.” Her face turned to stone, her grip tightened on the phone. The cat stirred, giving me a look that probably mirrored my own confused, angry scowl. She glared at me, most likely wondering whether or not to inquire about exactly what I had found, or if she even needed to say anything at all. I had nothing else to say to her, her reaction only confirmed my thoughts. I slowly walked back to my room. Slamming the door behind me, I pushed my face into the pillow, shoved my headphones in my ears, and sifted through the collection of feelings, thoughts, and scenes being replayed in my head. I realized that while things weren’t going to be the same ever again, I had lost any desire to care or worry about my parents. They clearly had other priorities besides the family they started, and I was about to start my own life with my own priorities. I closed my eyes, and I began to dream about life outside of my own home. ****** The next morning, I sat down at the kitchen table and ate my usual Sunday morning French toast and sausage. Mom sat next to me and Dad was across from me, the usual arrangement. However, instead of the usual comments about baseball standings, plans for the day, or goings-on of the week, there was no chatter. The table was silent, and in my mind, I pondered. Do I care enough to bring anything up about yesterday? While I was looking down at my food, I caught glimpses of their eyes scanning my face for an emotion or a thought waiting to be shared. I looked up. “So, how ‘bout those Yankees?”


PAINTED IN YOUR HUES Victoria Fidler


MORIKAMI GRAVE IN 35MM Daniela Villasana


FICTION

REMNANTS OF THE MOTHERLAND Colby Blackwill


The Rotten Vagina BY: SABINE H. NEMOURS

The Rotten Vagina There’s a dead thing between my legs. It’s been dead a long while, but now its scent has grown too strong; aged and old, it clings to the skin of my legs and calves, foul like a sea of rotten fish. I’ve been ashamed of it ever since it first started to smell; all of my days are for the panic of one who has something to hide. I’ve carried it like a heavy secret, with the memories of it living and pink and breathing gray behind a dull haze at the back of my mind; it’s almost impossible to remember when it first died, and I am too afraid to venture beyond what sharpness might lay just behind the murky and faded pastimes which we once shared. It might’ve been Tuscaloosa, when it first croaked, but I say this unsurely and don’t trust myself enough to believe it is true. It was my second year of college, fresh off of my first heartbreak. I was gawky, like a girl who has just started to outgrow her skin; I was under the impression that I was being stretched out tall and thin; my grief made my arms limber and long; ; it gave me waking nightmares of a concave hole where my chest once was and I was sure – absolutely sure – that for the sake of love, I was losing my marbles, spilling them over someone who went chasing after the next heifer with fatter udders. Tuscaloosa might’ve been my first college party; outside the bounds of town, it was one of those backwoods-farm house horror stories that send strict parents into a fit, into one of those late-night-oh-I-was-just-checking-up-on-you type of calls, where you know your Mummy is lying and you know that she knows you’re lying but neither one of you can communicate honestly enough to tell the other one the truth. I had turned my phone off, just in case. We were all drunk, half-naked and especially young and my heart was heavy with something that told my tongue it might’ve been vomit; might’ve been, but could also have simply been heartburn from a place inside of me that could not be fed with food alone. I wasn’t much of a drinker before Tuscaloosa, but the heat and the sound and the bodies, all like liquid fire, was absolutely unbearable. Then I had a cup and it was just what I needed; I moved with the heat and danced with the sound and the bodies, their warmth, comforted in knowing that I was not alone in my confusion. Some shadow, with liquor breath, at some point in time, pulled me in for a dance and the way his hands grabbed at me told me what I needed to shrink back down to size. I must’ve been ten feet tall, in my sorrow, so much taller than him; but his stranger’s touch brought me back down to my small and my tiny world and I knew that he knew that I was aching for someone to make it feel better. In a backroom, on thin brown paper towels spread haphazardly between our hands and a floor ancient with grime and footsteps, we went at it like two dogs. I remember having to stare at a blank space on the wall in front of me, because he didn’t want to kiss me or touch me or even know my name. My bottom half was all that he cared about and that was such a miserable thing to know, it knocked me right out of what good feeling the liquor brought me. I found that my body was stretching again, hoping to escape; but his furious pumping kept a part of me there and the other running as far for the hills as possible. He didn’t even notice that he had had fucked only a bottom half, and that my torso had grown so long and so thin that it had been


forced to separate from the other, to rest against the wall while I watched, sullenly, in my mind’s eye, what he might be doing to that part of me. When he was done, he got up, zipped his pants, and disappeared back into the party. But I lay there, dismembered, one half squatting and the other half with my heart sinking in it, back to its favorite sulking spot, with a strangeness in my chest devoid of any real feeling. I put myself back together, at some point, and got up and left, but the pieces weren’t holding together properly; my hips shook loosely with my walk and I spent the rest of that night twitching with discomfort, trying to find the small niches and clicks where my pelvis needed to attach to my spine and my femur with its socket. Maybe – maybe my body was wondering who that new man might have been? Wasn’t I supposed to give it up to one guy and one guy only, like I had been taught? He was supposed to be my forever. He had promised me that. I’m not quite sure, but after that night in Tuscaloosa, I walked a little duck-like and never felt warm in my lower half again. Yet Tuscaloosa doesn’t seem to own the pride of having killed the thing between my legs. It couldn’t have died then and there that night, I’m sure I’m wrong; I could not have had a dead thing sitting between my legs in the months that followed after. The men would have known, and they would have gone running, screaming, when the panties came off and I presented to them a corpse. No, not Tuscaloosa. Dying attaches itself to places, but murders attach themselves to people; and although I am unsure of when or where it died, I am positive of who is responsible for what killed it. My Mummy showed up on my doorstep one night three months after Tuscaloosa; soon as the door opened she slapped me, the sting of her hand on my face lingering long after I had let her in and she sat at my couch, her eyes furious, but cool like blackened coal. I had wanted to throw myself at her feet and beg to tell her of what was becoming of my body and my mind. Between Tuscaloosa and her visit, the sun had disappeared from my days. My friends had lost their shape and their width and only instead appeared to me as paper cut-outs, with slits that opened up and words that fell flat against my ears. They were flimsy in the wind and blew away easily, to places where I could not follow them, in buildings where there were classes being held. I had always been a good student, smart and patient and with many who liked me, but putting myself back together after that party had also misplaced where my thinking had gone. Jason was the one who had given my Mom the truth about what I was up to. She sat at my couch with presumptions already twisted in her frown and waited for my excuses, but I had none to think of. “You ah make me go ‘head and drive all up here to come see you and you nuh even say greetings to yuh Mummy.” I had forgotten her voice in the time that I had been away from her and she sounded foreign to me in my own mother tongue. “Wickedness, Medea!” “I – I’m sorry, Mummy.” But I was not. I had not been sorry in a very long while and I remembered wishing her and her thick-island tongue gone, back to where she had come from, back behind the phone screen which connected us, back to the memory and feeling and wishing, but not wanting, her hugs and a big bowl of warm porridge. “You nah sorry!” Standing in my own apartment, I was as helpless as I had once been beneath her own roof. I remember thinking my hair was not braided and my bed was not made, that my roommates who had not seen me for weeks left the place filthy and that her eyes would be judging my state and my being and I winced, for the thing between my legs had not been warm since Tuscaloosa, but it had been in constant use, and it was the only thing which I had given my time to at all as of late. “You nah sorry, Medea! No tell me such lies. I birth you, I know you like my own breath and I know you nah sorry.” “But Mummy, I am” In the wake of her appearance and the sudden shock of wondering why I had not seen the sun in months, I could not have faltered before her. I could not have told her the truth, but the shell of my words needed to be honest. “It’s hard,


Mummy, being up here; I work, and I go to class and s-sometimes I forget where all the time has gone. Especially with all the tests they’ve been giving us here.” “You been testin’ for two months, girl?” the suck of her teeth. “No one go be so foolish to think you ah go test for two months. I not here to hear yuh foolishness. I here to see my child.” “But you didn’t call or text – “ “You nah reply.” “I-I…” “Ahh, silence! I no care, Medea.” She had thrown up her hands, not in defeat but in exasperation. There was never any truth between us, but she knew that I was tired, just as I knew that what lay behind her fury was simply worry. It had seized her like a possession after I had stopped calling, after she had not heard from me in one, two, three weeks; one month; two months; I had taken to relying on Jason to tell her that I was still living and breathing but eventually, she must’ve gotten it into her head that my friend might be lying, and in a strange land where she did not know or trust many who spoke or looked like her, she could not trust her child’s life only to what another girl might be telling her. So, of course, she had taken it upon herself – as presumptuous as a mother hen – to come see for herself. I knew her chastising was more relief than it was actual fury, but behind my eyes I could only be relieved that no man had asked to spend the night with me with her sudden arrival. She had placed her hands back on her knees, glancing suspiciously around the dimly lit apartment which she had chosen for me. “I come for you and I see you alive, but filthy, and uncared for! I no send she up here to be pig. I send she here for learning. You go be foul like the lot that run ‘round here? I no want you schooling thinking that you go be dirty girl like how they raise them here!” She had fixed her glare back upon me and my head crawled with the old childhood fear that she could see through me, down to my core, down to the spot where I hid myself from her the best. But she only sighed, rose to her feet, and came to me, gathering me in her strong and brown arms, saying softly. “Dee-dee, cheri.” It was the longest since she had coddled me and longer still since my name had not been used like a weapon. Her words were falling more and more into the language which she had raised me on. “I birth a good girl. Go send yuh Mummy into a fright, send she all the way here for why? Yell at yuh? No, she no come here to yell at foolish girl-child. Medea, my doux-doux, yuh need yuh Mummy.” And I did. But in that night, I could not understand her very clearly and I could not have conveyed what was becoming of me. Her hug and her words brought me back to when I had been a girl, browned and cooked by the sun. The water had been blue and my Mummy’s figure had always loomed at the edge of my sight, a black woman built like a statue, lean with little fat and muscled on her arms and her back with strength that raised my little body up, up in the air, high above her broad and handsome face, smiling at me and speaking in my mother tongue which I had known as a baby, but had forgotten as I grew up and the waters turned into dirty rivulets which ran down storage drains in a crowded city far from the sun. I had hugged her back, that night, and some part of me knew that she was not the spry young woman that she once been – but if my Mummy could lift me up like she had near the blue waters where we had come from, perhaps then I would not be so jumbled and mixed up, perhaps my spine would connect back to my pelvis, and I would be whole again and I would not stink. But she did not lift me up, not into the air, not up and out of my own misery, and I could not tell her the truth. Moving away from that bright sun and those blue waters had claimed my ability to speak to her like she spoke to me. I had thought, that night, that she could not possibly understand me in the language which I now spoke. So, I did what I knew was best for the both of us and complied into silent obedience,


crumbling into her hug and crying that I had missed her too, that I was sorry, and fabricated an explanation with a little truth in it – that I had failed a class and was ashamed of my shortcoming. If only she had seen through it that night. If only she had not been too afraid to try to speak to me, maybe then the thing between my legs would not be dead, would not have been killed by the man who came just a few weeks later. She stayed the night, we went out and bought some groceries, and despite having driven hours and hours, she stayed up on her feet and made me stew chicken and hummed to the tune of drums which were beaten in rituals and served me a meal, hot and savory, filled with love. Afterwards, she braided my hair, and we laughed, poking fun at the strange things which I noticed white people do, and the Black people who were not from the islands, and we spoke at length of politics and work. I was not aware that I was warm and smiling and full until she had kissed me goodbye and driven away, taking all the joy that she had brought with her. When I closed the door, I sat back down on the floor, and I think – I think, that was the last time I had reached down into my pants, checking carefully for the thing between my legs, and felt it there, still breathing. I remember when I first discovered the smell of it. It was the night I dreamt my Mummy’s voice ringing in my ears, as loud as a monstrous stereo. I had taken up the routine of calling her, like a machine, once every day, at almost exactly the same time, with exactly the same news so as not to have her show up unwanted again. A fasttalking woman, she did not notice the practiced air of it all.. And in turn she would launch into her own million stories, each connected by a small thread of relevancy and held together in some large web that was her life. I listened with my eyes glazed and bored but stayed vigilant just enough to not slip when she asked a. It was in this way that Eve had come to know her too, and he teased me about it sometimes when we lay in bed together, his breathing muffled, but amused, eyes steady on me, making me uncomfortable with how he dismantled my own routine without having to ever say anything. He saw me at my weakest when I spoke or thought of my Mummy. “You funny when you get to talking to your mama,” he told me on the same night that I awoke in a cold sweat, haunted by the sound of her. “It’s almost like you don’t know who she talking to.” I knocked my pillow into the side of his head, rattling with the force that I’d hit him with and catching my mistake with a soft and apologetic ‘o’. He lay back graciously, laughing at my reaction and the strange childishness which always accompanied me when it came to my mother. As all killers seem to be, I could not have pegged him for one until after the killing had been done. That night he pulled me into his arms, holding me tight against the smell of his body and I was— for the first time in a long while— feeling safe enough to ease into the comfort of, perhaps, what might be my next boyfriend. But something strange had happened, after my first love, and although the night in Tuscaloosa had not caused the death of what lay between my legs, it had certainly been the beginning of the disjointedness which lived within and outside of my body. It was neither something to be proud or ashamed of, and my friends – Jason – shrugged with loose shoulders when the name of the guy who I was having dinners and dates with changed with each passing week. It had taken me a long time to pull Jason aside one day, worried and questioning, with my hands wringing, as I whispered about the boy in Tuscaloosa. Her laughter and the absence of any judgement made my cheeks burn hot. Oh, sis, really? That’s what got you all bent? Medea, this not the island! We’re in college and it happens all the time. If anything, you did great girl. It’s your body. And her familiar face had smiled at me with her familiar lips, like I had known them since we were young girls rolling with laughter on the floor, at our names, and the otherness of them in a place where brown girls were not usually named Jason and Medea. Yet my laughing and my smiling felt plastered to my face, and I did not want to be the weaker of the two of us, as I was


usually called, so I did not speak to Jason about the looseness of my hips or why my legs felt numb and cold. Yes, yes, my body was my body and I used it rightly so, with a sudden vigor and energy which reduced my friends to paper-cut outs and men to personifications of their bodies which I liked the best. The turn of their lips or the cut out of a collarbone; the licorice twist of their torsos in motion, sinew rippling beneath their skin; the baritone of a voice which sounded like musical notes to my ears. All of this, yes, belonged to my body, which I could use in any which way I wanted, and which made me no less of a woman than when I had first developed into one. Yet Jason’s laughing about the boy in Tuscaloosa clung at the back of my mind, and my girlishness at that moment embarrassed me every time I showed a new boy my breasts. They hardly ever had names, those boys, many of them going by nicknames which they forced on me with the air of legal business. I never knew many of them, besides in the body, and their bodies often lied to me. It was in this way, in the same way that I still hadn’t quite figured how to put my bottom half back together correctly, that I came to distance myself from each man whom I slept with. I was often bewildered by the sight of some unimportant nobody laying sprawled out in my bed. Who was he? What was he doing there? Where were his parents and why had they let their son stray so far as to think that hunching on a girl with cold legs was called love-making? Tuh, such stupidness, my Mummy would say, and some part of me would agree vehemently before the next one rolled into my life, got my number, and found his way in between my legs. Yet Eve was different. He was worse. He did very little to gain my attention, yet he managed to hold it with ease. That night in his arms, I relaxed my muscles and opened my mouth to whisper out to him about what I had been doing within the timespan of a year. I wanted him to laugh with me at the growing of a girl into a woman, and the mistakes which she will make, but in the darkness his breathing was even and undisturbed. I had been thinking to myself that it was time to tell Mummy about him. It was not that he was especially good-looking or talented; his face was average and so were his dreams. But his mind was exceptionally sharp, and he was devastatingly observant. This was how he first approached me, and how we talked at length in circles around things that made me uncomfortable. Medea, you done went somewhere dark. Dark, dark, dark, a place that many girls go to, but few women leave from, he told me once in observation. He seemed to know me better than I knew myself, and it was always a relief when my calls with Mummy ended, and yet I trembled with how badly I had wished I could tell her about all of it. Like Jason, Eve shrugged when I admitted my personal number of bodies, unimpressed by my embarrassment and numbness. It’s not like back then, you know. You can do what you want. Man’s got to know what he wants from a girl and if he let a little old thing like a body count keep him away from that, then dude never really wanted a girl in the first place, yeah? And yes, I would agree, because it was true and rational and respectful. But he had come too late into my life to change anything seriously. I had already been through too many nights with hands that only grabbed at me for wanting of orgasm and nothing else. He did not understand, just as Jason hadn’t. My body was my body, and it was my choice to do what I wanted with it, but my Mummy had said different, that it was a temple, and that it was sacred to no one else but myself, and only the filthiest of girls took pride in being used freely. But then why would a girl with bigger breasts ruin my relationship with my first love? How could my own sacredness not have been enough to keep even a single boyfriend? And that night that I first smelled the rotten thing between my legs was when I had awoken from that nightmare of my mummy’s voice, loud in my ears, ringing you nuh good woman, Medea! Only wicked women not loved by man! Man wake up and leave she, yuh ah go look pon youself and think! You nuh good woman, Medea, you nuh good woman! I had not loved Eve, nor did I know him very well, but the ease of his unjudgmental eyes kept me close to him at night. When I woke fleeing from my Mummy and her


nightmare, he was still asleep, but his phone was ringing and what was on the screen was the bright ID of someone named LISA. I had rolled onto his chest, watching the call go to voicemail, realizing. Biting my tongue, I watched, waited, and then there was the dreaded text message, from LISA, questioning: can u come thru tonight? The questioning afterward seemed almost necessary to complete what was ritual among the young and the scorned. Who’s Lisa? A friend, Medea. Why’s she calling you so late? I wouldn’t know, Medea. You didn’t tell me everything. You never asked, Medea. I thought we had something. I never said that, Medea. Why can’t we have something? Because, Medea. You too easy. In the bathroom, afterwards, as I collected my tears in the sink, my shoulders jagged, bony, and reflected in the mirror before me, I smelled it for the first time. A faint, sour scent of flesh that had gone unwashed. Reaching down between my legs, I felt the corpse. Outside, in the room, I heard Eve’s heavy steps and the unhurried shuffle of his feet as he put back on his clothes. The first taste of what would become my usual panic spread, and I thought my Mummy was right, had been right, all along. I had been careless, foolish enough to believe sex had been the answer to what was eating me up. Now, I had dismembered my own being, and could not put myself together again, and the thing between my legs had been used to ruin. You nuh good woman, Medea! Nuh good woman! No, I was not a good woman. I could not possibly be a good woman. A good woman owned who she was, but I did not own not even half of myself. A good woman rose above the casual meaninglessness of temporary sex and temporary lovers, and always, always, kept herself sacred and spotless. But Eve, Eve knew, and he had always known, and he had told me, but I had not listened. He had taken me for the fool that I was, had shown me my pathetic little state, and how he knew me easily because there was a legion of women like me, the desperate and the unloved. I was not one of the girls who escaped that dark place. You too easy was what had finally forced me to acknowledge that the thing between my legs had died, and that he was the one who finished it off. Eve rapped gently at the door, waiting a few seconds for no response, and then said softly “Call me sometime, Medea?” and was gone. It is difficult to hide a corpse between your legs. There were moments when I could hope that maybe, I was doing a good job at hiding my secret, but there was always the panic of a wind gust too strong or a day too sweaty and then, everyone would be forced to acknowledge that there was a girl walking around with a rotten vagina. There’s a name for girls like that, who can never be good women. Even Jason, my Jason, has betrayed me. I wish they would say it, call it, point at me, anything besides knowing that everyone knows, and that no one dares to be the first to say it. But it never happens, because I have worked hard to hide this corpse and no one, not one soul, is going to speak about it till the day I die too. Then, let my casket be opened and let anyone, everyone, see and smell and hate it too. Let the word be spilled forward upon me, and chanted between those who are attending my funeral, where when living I never had a true enough friend who had loved me enough to help me gain the courage to own it myself. But in death, I’ll be beyond my Mummy’s nagging, and her voice in my dreams. If I am a ghost, then I’ll laugh down at the bowed heads and shocked gasps. I might even point and gasp too, accepting my nature at long last. Medea, you slut, I’ll say, disappearing into the heavens, Medea you huge, proud fucking slut!


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The Kudzu Review ISSUE N°61 | FALL 2018

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Kudzu Review Fall 2018  

Kudzu Review Fall 2018  

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