The Kudzu Review ISSUE Nยบ60 / SPRING 2018
The Kudzu Review Spring 2018
Copyright © by The Kudzu Review 01 ISSUE Nº60
Florida State Universityâ€™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. THE KUDZU REVIEW 02
Editor in Chief
EDITOR: Alexis Ruiz
EDITOR: Melanie Raybon
ASSISTANTS: Alexa Amaris
ASSISTANTS: Jordan Anderson
Kelsey Berg Nicole Datteo Kelly Gomez Jacob Goristein-Greenwood Taylor Hawkins David Igarra Shannon Lechon Daniela Mazu’era Kelsey Peters Sidney Rioux Rebecca Rowell Isabella Seijo
Moira Capstick Brandon Davis Katia Fernandez Annalyssa Fincher Jaclyn Hampson Haley Harward Laila Khan Aoife O’Riordan Amanda Piccininni Tawnie Simpson Jacqueline Zalace
EDITOR: Haley Keane
EDITOR: Tara Keimel
ASSISTANTS: Cassidy Camp
ASSISTANTS: Morgan Seltzer
Leah Fleurimond Kendall Gillen Lucas Jorgensen Natalie Nowak Carolyn Roque Sasha Rouzeau Chandler Wilson
DESIGN EDITOR: Ashley Voet
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Letter From The Editor Dear Reader, The Kudzu Review has been fostering undergraduate work since its founding in 1988. A reputation of high-quality creative works both written and produced by undergraduate students at Florida State University spanning for 30 years is no small feat. Its mission has always been to create and grow a united community of student artists and writers so their talent can be shared with FSU and beyond. This semester the editorial staff of The Kudzu Review decided to open our submissions nationally, thus expand our voice and community even further. Comprised of very dedicated Editors, committed Editorial Assistants, and an ever-fascinating faculty advisor, Keith Kopka, The Kudzu Review publishes twice a year, showcasing the best of what undergraduate students have to offer in Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry, and Visual Arts. Countless hours of editing, reediting and designing have gone into making this edition the very best it can be. I want to thank the entire staff for continuing a legacy of excellence. To the writers, poets, artists, and photographers who are featured in this edition, congratulations, and thank you for sharing a piece of your world. The Kudzu Review is honored to be a platform for the stories you have to tell.
Editor In Chief THE KUDZU REVIEW 04
04 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
07 Poetry “PALM” Carmen Renee Morley
“IT IS PAINLESS TO CRAVE ICEBERH HIPS” Raven Halle
“WHAT’S LOVE TO A CRUSTACEAN?” Karl Vieweg
“WHEN YOU DIE, I’LL FEED YOU TO WISCONSIN” Jessica Sorenson
“1907” Meagan Magee
“MORELOS” William M. Boose
“I INVITE MY RAPIST TO BRUNCH” Julia Watson
“BAKER’S CROSSROAD FREEWILL BAPTIST CHURCH” Julia Watson
“MI ABUELITA” Carli Tejera
2 3 Fiction “WILDIN’ OUT” Kassadie Nieto
“TEARS OF THE SUN” Matthew Travagline
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“UNTITLED” Colby Blackwill
“THE STING UNDER MY SKIN”
Visual Arts 4 1 “UNTITLED” Giovanna Elia “METAL COWBOY” Nicholas Rogner “UNTITLED” Colby Blackwill
“RESTLESS” Quinn Daubert
“EMPRESS” Talise Burton & Chloe Schmideler
42 43 44 45 47
“PRETTY BOY” Carmen Renee Morley “UNTITLED” Giovanna Elia
“MERCY” Yousef Mohamed
“LINDSEY” Quinn Daubert
“MIRAGE” Elizabeth Lehman
48 49 50 51
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Palm CARMEN RENE MORLEY
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it is painless to crave iceberg hips RAVEN HALLE
at first. bones that beetle like glacial glass push you to forget your salt-anchored organs. now it hurts easy, wanting the calcium that composes your waist to arc half-moons and it’s even easy to hurt in places that aren’t yourself. the spit of a reflection in the wrong/right light can split the nervous system without severing a single cell. listen— you may not own the tackle to swell a stomach to half-mast without sinking. you may feel your lungs fill forcefully with reef-water to detest the ecology that surfaces your mortal necessities. listen— i love you, and i mean that in oceans, with or without your bulbous pelvis. THE KUDZU REVIEW 08
What’s Love to a Crustacean? KARL VIEWEG
I mailed my lobster shirt the other day to Seattle wrapped around a plastic container of peanut butter pretzels. Although they’re your favorite snack, the shirt is the real prize. A salmon pink button-up dotted with lobsters curled like half circles, but they’re not like the lobsters you’d see in tanks at restaurants, more like the ones in nature documentaries. Actually, they’re cartoon lobsters, glowing red like they’ve just been pulled from the pot, not screaming, fresh as if they’ve never even touched the sea. Did you know lobsters symbolize psychic energy? I always wore that shirt when I was trying to look smart. Like when we wanted to get out of the house one night, wearing jeans and scuffed boots. We scuttled to the bar and tried to order an expensive martini, only to have the bartender look me up and down say, “You must be new at this.” You’ve always been like a lobster yourself. Though you’ll hate the comparison, you told me how when you started to really love something you’d have the desire to crush or smother it. I laughed and asked why I wasn’t dead yet. I’ve got a new shirt with cactuses on it to replace the one that I sent you. I like the idea of you having it more anyway. Maybe one day those lobsters will come to life, clattering off the cuffs and down onto the floor. They’d hoist you up and carry you back to me, or at least help me get a plane ticket over there. 09 ISSUE Nº60
We can all fly economy and eat pretzels, We can fit at least three lobsters to one seat, though they’ll leave a lot of crumbs and need to be routinely splashed with water. The flight attendants won’t mind because they know we’re on a mission. When I get off the plane you’ll be waiting outside with a big sign that reads “over here idiot.” And the lobsters will hop back onto your shirt and look at me grinning as if they never even left.
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When You Die, I’ll Feed You to Wisconsin JESSICA SORENSON
Douglas Keith John Paul Sorenson, Jr. was born in a bathtub in Madison, Wisconsin—1950. A classic example of the Paleo-man. Your brain got slung up and mummified before you were done with it. Almost a year ago, at Thanksgiving dinner you managed to avoid picking a fight with any of our family members—even though all three of your brothers were there and their wives. The goosebumps I got from the cold touched the inside of my sweater and made me itchy. The air tasted flat and bitter. I still get sweaty when I hear the clinking silver forks and knives on mom’s nice ceramic plates. It smelled like soil on the front porch since the snow melted.
And the noises you make—the huffing, the grumbles, the throat-clearing, over-dramatic marble-clacking eye rolls—hang around the room where your big brown chair sits. The chair vibrates with dad-noise—it falls out of the cushions.
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I lied before—you did pick a fight with Aunt Jody, but you waited until after dinner. All the candles from the centerpiece got huffed out. Mom said not to bring it up. You might be embarrassed.
How about those Greenbay Packers?
Your daughters turned out A-Okay. We’re grown and we’re just fine. You told us that if we wanted to be successful in life, we’d have to grow six feet tall and look great in a pant suit. That explains why my sister can’t stop eating and I started drinking coffee when I hit five-foot-eight. Neither of us can pull-off a pant suit. Well—we can pull off a pant suit. The credit you take for the pretty faces you made is your sincere claim—
it proves that you have something redeeming in the collection of everything you’ve ever done.
Your rosy cheeks piss me off. Cheeks that get colored in by a CVS Pharmacy buy-one-get-one jug of merlot. Every sad girl’s father is a drunk. Every girl is sad.
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Recently I met a guy who said he loves his parents— I bet his poetry is awful.
Eventually, I’ll shed the guilt and stop calling.
We all like you better in the morning when you sit in the garden-room swivel-chair, clearing your throat and tracing the dawn-lit perimeter of the yard with your old blue eyes. The room smells still and like coffee-breath. After the last big storm, while you cleaned up the debris in our swamp-yard,
one slender tree pinned you down. I realized how old you are.
If you were a good father, I’d like to forget it. My art gets better the more I suffer. The Wisconsin soil is waiting to eat you—it remembers your little-boy-goulashes and the sounds of your huffing breath in the cold as you plucked clams from Lake Michigan and tossed them to the wide-mouth buckets.
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MEAGAN MAGEE I come from a dust bowl family that stayed. Family heirlooms unsold despite hunger. Passed down, a tradition of wrinkle lines filling with life-ending dirt. I come from the Choctaw, claimed Cherokee to maintain at least a slice of tribal dignity. But wideset eyes of ancestral roots told a different story of suspicion and deprivation, found in small, poor tribes. Who cried the hardest on the walk to their new home. I come from a grandpa who killed his own father to protect his mother. Who didnâ€™t go to jail for this, but for selling moonshine. His sister-in-law informed us in the picture chosen for his funeral, he was not donned in a National Guard uniform, but one of prison. The orange uniform turned grey from technical imageâ€™s pre-color influence. Either way he looked handsome. I come from 26 acres so hard to farm, when a hole is dug into the clay and filled with water, not a single drop will have soaked through by morning. THE KUDZU REVIEW 14
Orange dirt makes orange people. Hard dirt makes hard people. I come from squirrel stew, and burnt bread. Cedar trees, and wind. Strong wind that makes everything in its path grow crooked. It takes a head-strong tree to want to continue growing once it knows it’s only option isn’t towards the sky. I come from carpooled mornings and radio stations that broadcast my cousins name for child abuse. I come from two parents, the first of both their families to go to college. That watched and learned from past familiar undoing. Sixteen-year-old father’s whose greatest ambitions include becoming an angry type of drunk within the decade. I come from the other side of town than the rest of my family. Parking lots of Motel Sixes as my father gave a wad of cash neatly concealed in a white envelope to his older brother. “Did Uncle Mitch give you that candy? Don’t eat it.” That uncle gave me stickers for high school graduation. They were nice stickers. I put one on my Prius. They said, “Okie Born and Raised.”
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WILLIAM M. BOOSE
November 1911 in the rural Morelos village of Anenecuilco: Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata proclaims the Plan de Ayala, which advocates for agrarian land reform.
The poinsettia wilts on the “perfect plantation.” Don Porfirio’s rich planters punish laborers, pushing their pueblos to extinction, by cutting off their water, seizing their land – bodies fall like petals across the earth. The wealthy grant them only the shrubbiest plots; the poor emerge like unwelcome weeds through barren soil. Among the mountain crags, the resistance blooms. Zapata, with the tongue of a teacher, plants seeds of rural hope in the houses of campesino families. Hope does not fill the belly, but it provides possibility for future meals – for more than masa. The planters dream of pesos falling through the air, catching light and glimmering like gold flecks in a riverbed. All the laborers dream of is rain. Rural families will not be uprooted, their unrest unravels oppression. Their blood clots the system. The poor of the Balsas River basin want to fill their bags – with corn and cane from land that has always been theirs. Machetes rip open old wounds; resistance flows from them like blood from a severed artery. Red drops fall like petals across the earth. THE KUDZU REVIEW 16
I Invite My Rapist to Brunch JULIA WATSON
I make you a noun, a Proper noun, which we can emphasize to passersby, staring likes mutts across the library. This guy/ maybe I could?/Mr. Darcy/Paramour/ExDon Jon/Mr. Smith/and lover once more. Now you are a Ruiner, a Russian Rouletter who shot me once between blue eyes and again to the gut. Arouser/Revenge/Really I don’t want to/Ravager/Rainy days and rape. My gut spilled bile and wind pushed through the corridors of my spine to my mangled core just to grace the white hairs on your arm—remember? Two shots, a slight draft, an invitation to brunch. Ex/whoever you are now/first love/still loved/and wanted for warmth, for friction, and blood. We sit at our favorite booth—a tired waitress has a lynx tattooed across her collar—where
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we argued above toast and Sriracha eggs four years post—/and I want to hold you, breathe your pheromones, tell you all’s forgiven but it’s not. I want to carve cinder blocks from your morning shoulders and wrap it in a rouge velvet pillowcase so I may grieve nightly. Concrete is softer than human hands, and I promise the fabric’d block won’t bruise any worse than fingerprints on swollen thighs/tangled hair/marred wrists. Sleep peacefully in your own pool as your ear floods with my name. You are free. You don’t deserve pain or its sympathies. I’ll trade you aches, ammunition, lukewarm coffee and thawed butter, your nouns and titles, but all I want is your name to write: Hayden.
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Baker’s Crossroad Freewill Baptist Church JULIA WATSON
It was a one-room layout with Jesus Christ spread at the front like a dissected roach. It was a shotgun house like the one Elvis emerged from on the Mississippi Delta, except stacked on top a mountain like a Jenga block tumbling from brown Tennessee dirt—the rich kind weary horses dragged heavy hooves across, carving roads settlers followed like sheep toward manifest destiny— It was a shotgun house with stained carpet from the sweat plummeting off Preacher David— Dave on the weekends—as his tomatoed lips urged Gospel, Love, and the Vols game this Sunday where he will be Dave and scream louder than God’s ever heard him weep. And I shrink under the pew, swimming in spider veins and a grocery bag hiding a liter of Mountain Dew half finished during Isaiah or Matthew or Barbie Sue’s rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” and it’s in a key too high for her wispy voice. I will inherit this voice twenty Aprils later at eight p.m. I will not be baptized in the shotgun house to my mother’s grief. I cannot bring myself to the water. I will wash my hair every other day with sulfate 19 ISSUE Nº60
and her prayers, hovered over an empty king size mattress. David is dead. Dave is watching the Vols play Vanderbilt with a hole in his head, clinking warm beers with Jesus with ribs now plump and body coiled on a rotten, plaid couch. I prayed when I was six, asking God to spice up my life. I wonder if God listens to bad prayers too; the ones wishing for the ex-wife to get herpes, the ones begging for the tumor to spread and life insurance to hit—the real gritty ones. Barbie Sue divorced my father two weeks later. I am blocking out Preacher David’s fiery brimstone and the whistle coming after each exhale from my Grandma’s nose. I look for my escape routes every ten minutes or so. I am too visible. I am a dog tied to a fence waiting for my owner to beat me and fire his shotgun to prove his gusto. He betrayed me and gave me everything I prayed for.
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Mi abuelita CARLI TEJERA
I thank mi abuelita for half of my tongue. Mi abuelita, who made eye contact with each guard on her way out of Cuba with my three-year old father hoisted on her hip. The gold chain snatched from her slender neck clinking onto cracked concrete was inaudible beneath the slurred string of disrespect in a language she wished she couldn’t understand. As my thick, chocolate curls first sprung from their roots, she balanced the “milk, please” and “I love you” from my American half with “leche, por favor” and “te amo.” After snickering children on the playground planted seeds of defiance and rejection of my own blood, mi sangre, half of my tongue fell asleep for months at a time. “No estoy preocupada,” she’d say patiently, “you’ll find your way back, está en tu sangre.” 21 ISSUE Nº60
She subtly corrected each hint of gringa which found its way through teeth clenched in hesitation. “Carli, sin acento, por favor!” still rings in my ears anytime I dice up palabras and allow them to become words. When my tongue stiffens, and mis palabras crack from rust, I do not become frustrated. Yo hablo más fuerte, sin miedo, y sin acento. I unclench my teeth.
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Wildin’ Out KASSADIE NIETO 23 ISSUE Nº60
Tears of the Sun MATTHEW TRAVAGLINE
When young Walker stormed into the kitchen, tears streaming down his cheeks, his grandfather looked up from his newspaper and invited the boy to climb onto his lap. Walker thrust a finger before his grandfather’s face, mumbling between cries about a bee. “Shh, it’s okay, Walker. It’s just one little sting.” Walker’s grandfather scraped the stinger out with his fingernail. “See? It’s out. No more tears, little one.” Walker pulled his arm back and inspected the red welt on his finger. He lowered his arm to his side, keeping it; with his free arm, he wiped at his nose. “Why do you have those stupid bees anyway?” Walker’s grandfather sat him on the ground and the pair walked over to a window overlooking the hives in the backyard. “Without those ladies, many of the delicious foods we eat could not grow. Even chocolate relies on pollinators like bees.” The boy buried his face into his grandfather’s waist and mumbled something inaudible. “Have I ever told you how bees came to be?” the grandfather chuckled at his pun. Walker shook his head. “Our story takes us back to ancient Egypt.” # Mandisa sat up, waking from a sleep she hadn’t remembered taking. The sound of pursuing feet that woke her faded into a dull memory. Her hands instinctively felt at her hairline, searching for something that was not there. Shaking the nightmare from her mind, Mandisa considered her surroundings. She slept on a chair made of polished wood and tanned leather. Brass epaulets tacked to the edge of the leather made the chair look like the throne Mandisa only heard of in her father’s tall tales. After standing, she stooped and dusted sand off of the seat, wincing as her fingers ran over a crease that outlined how she sat. Looking around, Mandisa realized she was alone. The chamber held no other focal features save a reception desk to one side, a small table bearing leaflets, and a television monitor flickering through a dozen preset messages. “They didn’t have TV’s in ancient Egypt, Grampa!” Walker’s sharp comment echoed through the room, though his grandfather was quick to work around his logistical faux pas. “Maybe it was a magic tablet that changed hieroglyphs every few minutes.” THE KUDZU REVIEW 22
Mandisa paid the voices no heed. Approaching the desk, she saw a placard underneath the television. “Err tablet,” Walker’s grandfather amended. The placard read: “Death’s Waiting Room.” Disoriented, Mandisa spun around. When her gaze returned to the front, her eyes fell on a tickettaker that rivaled any grocery store’s deli department. “There weren’t any grocery stores in ancient Egypt, Grampa!” “Whose story is this?” Despite the bickering voices that flooded the chamber, Mandisa appeared not to hear them or notice how the sound caused the furniture to shake as if there was a minor earthquake. Mandisa glanced at the tablet. A message glowed steady: “please take one.” Regardless of how hard she pulled, the ticket never stopped; the number, ever-increasing. The ticket looped under her feet, amassing like coiling snakes in untamed grass. She stooped and tried to bite the strange papyrus, but found it metallic, like gold, and thin. To protect her skin, Mandisa wound the paper around her hands. The ticket became so taut that she had to brace her feet on the lip of the desk. With one last burst of effort, she pulled, and the ticket snapped off. With no anchor to the ground, she flew back and crashed onto the table, spilling a mess of pamphlets and informational brochures. Paperwork fluttered down, covering her face and body. Mandisa burst from her papery tomb and gave the machine an evil eye that would have made her grandmother cackle. A nub for the next ticket jutted out. Mandisa curiously attempted to pull it to test if the next would be as long. When her finger grasped the paper, a jolt of electricity shot up her arm. The message on the tablet above changed to display a common Egyptian idiom. “A rough translation of such would read: ‘Don’t cut your body in two in order to be buried in two tombs.’” The sound of chuckling filled the room, shaking the walls and animating the mass of paper on the ground. An alarm sounded in the room. The girl covered her ears at the sharp foreign noise. The tablet changed to one that rivaled an airport’s departure and arrival board. “Though I suppose to Mandisa, it would’ve appeared like a Nile-boat departure-and-arrival board.” Neon glyphs reading, “Now serving:” flickered to life and pulsed with faux excitement. Numbers began flickering across the board. Mandisa removed her papery gloves. She was surprised to find her palms free of any cuts or scarring, but the bloody paper and distinct ache below her fingers made it clear she did not imagine the wounds. Mandisa waded through the mess of her ticket that, in some places, piled higher than her hips. She searched for a beginning, or end, of her number. After a minute of the board continuously flickering through every 25 ISSUE Nº60
number, it began cementing in place. The first number to freeze was a zero. A thousand numbers after that zero were also zeros. Mandisa glanced with horror at her ticket. As far as she could read, there were no zeros anywhere in her number. At last, a bell rang, announcing the end of the number. The last digit, a two, was the only number on the entire board that was not a zero. Mandisa collapsed into her ticket, willing it to suffocate, strangle, drown, or even papercut her into a second death. After nearly a minute, the board came to life again, but only one digit moved. Mandisa propped herself up on an elbow to watch the board. A slot after the ‘two’ tile flickered, the letter ‘A’ appeared. Mandisa sunk back into her cocoon, this time noting the writing on a pamphlet that she knocked over. “Did you prepare for the afterlife?” it read. “The worst time to start shopping for mummification-insurance is when you’re stranded miles from civilization and just shared an intimate moment with a cobra.” The pamphlet divulged statistics of those with prior insurance in conjunction with those who proceeded into the afterlife. It also offered a heart-lightening plan which, at the cost of a small fortune, ensured that even the most-wicked heart was not immediately doomed to be devoured. In the fine print, Mandisa read that actual results varied and to check with a priest to ensure good-behavior supplemented insurance. She tossed the pamphlet aside and settled back in for a nap when another blaring alarm tore through the waiting room. She sprang up, alert; the change became evident the moment Mandisa looked at the board. Somehow it displayed a number thousands of digits deep without a single zero across the entire number. She flipped through her own mass of a ticket, but found no similarities. She gave up, ignoring the alarm as it persisted in its tirade against the quiet chamber. “Hello?” The girl looked up at the sound of someone speaking. A dog, sitting before the edge of the ticket mess wagged its tail as she stood up. The hound’s short, wiry hair was the same color as the Nile River. It wore a thick leather collar adorned with hieroglyphs. A piece of paper, creased and folded under the collar, sat secure against its fur. “A little scrawny for a warrior, but then again, you did die. Anyway... that’s your number, isn’t it?” the dog gestured with its snout back to the sign indicating the number. Mandisa gaped, realizing that the dog spoke to her. “Lord Anubis doesn’t have all eternity to wait for you.” “I can’t believe a dog came and was talking with Mandisa? A dog!” “That’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve noticed so far?” While the dog appeared to twitch an ear at Walker’s comments, neither it, nor Mandisa acknowledged Walker and his grandfather’s idle prattle, despite the volume of their speech reaching immersion-breaking levels. THE KUDZU REVIEW 26
The dog led her out of the waiting area and down a hallway. Lining the walls were stock-images of dogs hanging in cheap frames, painted to resemble teak. Half of a Walmart Rollback sticker remained forever emblazoned on the front of one frame; someone with sharp claws tried to remove the sticker, but only succeeded in scoring the glass. “Stout warrior,” the dog recited, speaking as though from a script as it led her further down the hallway. “You perished in battle. One which pitted you against insurmountable odds, but a battle nonetheless.” “I wasn’t in battle,” Mandisa said. “I’m just a kid.” The dog halted. “Can you grab the note card under my collar and read what it says. There should be some information listed.” Mandisa pulled the paper from its place and unfolded it. Scanning quick, she saw information for who she assumed was another recently deceased person. “Nefer-kheperu-Al-Rashid, warrior…perished against insurmountable odds – Hey! Here’s my name,” Mandisa squinted, pulling the parchment to her face. Though the lettering shimmered like smoke and stained her fingers like wet ink, she read the small messy script aloud. “Usi, my faitful hound. Osiris needs me to pick up a girl named Mandisa. He would do it himself, but he’s busy getting a prosthesis fitted. So, charcoal her in before Nefer-kheperu-Al-Rashid. I’m getting the scales inspected, so I might be late. Make sure she is prepped for me. Anubis.” Mandisa lowered the paper to the dog’s eyes, which widened in shock. “Well fatten me up and call Sobek for dinner – guess you’re right.” The dog seemed to look at her for the first time. It muttered something under its muzzle about humans all looking alike. Despite the hushed comments, the dog offered no further conversation as it led her into another room, this one markedly smaller than the waiting area. The furniture within was plain. The heavy scent of blood mixed with lemon assailed Mandisa’s nose. The dog grabbed a small tablet and swiped through a few menus. It nuzzled her arm, gesturing that she should take the tablet. “Verify that the information is correct.” Mandisa skimmed her personal information. Her name, age, birthday, and social security hieroglyph were all accurate; the only piece that raised her eyebrow was the line labeled: ‘Patron God.’ Ra was listed, which surprised Mandisa since she had never had any contact with any of the gods, let alone the Sun god. “You…err stand before Anubis. Lord of these hallowed halls. Embalmer of all that once lived.” The dog stepped on a switch, and a false wall collapsed, opening the room up to about twice its size. No other figure appeared. The dog ran through the antechamber, sniffing at the walls, on the ground, and in the air. “I’m sure he’s just a tad late. You know how these things go. We get double and triple booked. There’s a shortage of Gods of 27 ISSUE Nº60
the Dead, and a surplus of dead. Especially with these Greeks poking their spears in our delta.” Mandisa eyed a few motivational posters with stock acrostic phrases like ‘Balance,’ and ‘Happiness.’ “Oh gods, I’m so sorry I’m late,” a jackal-headed god rushed into the antechamber, ignoring the dog he stepped over. He appeared to struggle under the weight of scales that tottered in his arm. The instrument of measure looked straight from any classroom and it even bore an insignia for Ra High School. “You’re making that up. Gods didn’t go to school.” “No? How else would Anubis know how to work the scales unless he took ‘Supernatural-Physics-for-Major-Deities-101.’ Not to mention Thoth’s ‘Intro to Hieroglyphs in Translation; Book of the Dead and other World Literature;’ and ‘Pyramid Drafting, Design, and Architecture.’” “And what does all of this have to do with bees?” “You’ll find out soon. Hush.” Anubis appeared to pause and listen to the narrating voices booming through the room, but offered no remarks in response. “You know how these insurance company auditors are,” Anubis said, regaining composure, though still distracted as he set up his scale. The jackal-headed god pulled his sweat-stained t-shirt down, smoothing out wrinkles and revealing the writing on the back. ‘The average heart weighs 11 ounces. Sobek can eat ten-thousand pounds a day when he’s hungry. Don’t be another Sobek Statistic. Do good!’ “You don’t adjust the counterweight in a millennium,” Anubis complained, “and suddenly they’re jumping down your muzzle and questioning every heart you’ve judged since before the kingdoms split.” He fidgeted in the shirt, frustrated at the wrinkles, then yanked it over his head, exposing slick fur and defined musculature. “Okay Usi,” the god said. “Go ahead and send in the next soul. I’ll work on my introduction in the meantime.” Usi, the dog raised a paw to interject, but Anubis remained hunched over his instrument, seemingly tweaking its knobs. “I am Anubis,” he said, his voice scarcely louder than a whisper. The god held up his hand before his face as though he was reading a note written on his palm. “Lord of these hallowed halls and embalmer of all who die (as long as they have after-life insurance). It is I, Anubis, who judges your heart’s weight against that of the lightest of Ra’s feathers and determines whether you will feed the belly of every monster, or travel on to the land of the dead.” “Um…pardon me, Lord Anubis. Boss,” Usi whimpered, his muzzle covering his paws close to the ground. THE KUDZU REVIEW 28
“Hmm?” Anubis remained with his back to the pair. “The soul is uhh…here, sir.” “What? That’s not possible,” Anubis spun on his heels, eyeing Mandisa. “My log said 3:30.” He tapped on the heavy face of a sundial strapped to his wrist. “Yes, and it’s 3:35, plus or minus a few minutes. You really need to upgrade to a modern hourglass.” “Set said that it would keep accurate time even in the darkest depths of the land of the dead. I want a refund,” Anubis whined, tore it from his wrist, and lobbed it behind him. Mandisa watched as it crashed with a metallic twang onto the left plate of the scale. The plate fell to the ground, suddenly heavier than air. Anubis paid it no heed. Mandisa swallowed a lump. “So, warrior Nefer-kheperu-Al-Rashid. Did you get that or do you need me to repeat?” Mandisa prepared to mention the sundial weighing the scales, but Usi spoke first. “Actually, sir.” The dog motioned to the tablet sitting on the table. Anubis glanced for a minute, his eyebrows furrowed. “That’s embarrassing. One of the other gods must’ve written you in without my knowing.” Usi seemed primed to inform his master that it was he, who had written Mandisa in; he decided against it, assuming that in his haste to have the scales calibrated, the embalmer of the dead forgot his schedule change. “But, as they say, death must go on.” Without waiting for another word, Anubis flexed his hand. Needle sharp claws emerged from his fingertips. The god pounced on Mandisa and tore into her chest. Despite hearing her ribs split apart, and seeing the blood spill down her cotton robes, Mandisa felt no pain. Even when the jackal-headed god removed her still-beating heart, Mandisa felt little more than a slight discomfort at the sight. Anubis tossed the heart onto the same plate already weighed down by the sundial. Anubis then produced a feather from a nearby cabinet. It looked like tiny tinsel in his large claws and glowed as if it had harnessed a star’s light. He placed it with the utmost care onto the opposing scale. Mandisa held her breath. Surprisingly, the feather’s plate began falling, though not nearly at a rate to match the heart and dial. She made to call out to the God of the Dead and inform him of the added weight on his scale, but abandoning courage left her lips limp and her muscles liquefied. “You actively worked with your brothers to harass your mother,” with the god’s judgment, the heart scale slapped back into the ground without as heavy a force. The feather on the other scale seemed to dance as the air rushed through its frills. “But you loved her wholly and would pick the fairest flowers to brighten her day,” the scales evened out some, “You ate more than your share at meals. No excuse for that.” Mandisa’s heart dropped, literally and metaphorically. 29 ISSUE Nº60
“More than once, you stole from a fruit vendor, though I see that you did share with local beggars,” Anubis continued rattling off each infraction and deed. For her part, Mandisa watched in horror as her heart rose and fell like the billows to an anvil’s fire. The heart scale remained predominantly heavier than the feathered scale, despite however many honorable deeds Anubis recounted. Mandisa thought she heard the distant jaws of Sobek snapping, as if in anticipation. The rush of blood in her ears could easily roared the currents of the Nile as it invited her below its depths. “My judgment is made! Mandisa, it seems that you shall feed the ilk of Apophis for all of eternity. Now if you’ll step forward, I can-” A falcon’s sharp cry interrupted the God of the Dead. A singular column of golden light fell to illuminate the scale on which Mandisa’s heart sat, still beating. “This is a place where Ra’s light rarely shines. It seems that he has taken an inkling in your case, young Mandisa.” After a minute, the light receded some, and with it, so disappeared Mandisa’s heart from the scale. Anubis gaped when he realized that his sundial was also on that scale, now drenched in blood. The god picked up a letter, as gold as Ra’s beam, and handed it to Mandisa. Mandisa opened the letter. The script, written in what Mandisa could only call liquid-sun, remained foreign to her eyes. “Well? What does it say, mortal?” Anubis checked his wrist, readorned with the now-bloody sundial-watch. The God of the Dead seemed inclined to milk Ra’s essence, calibrating the watch against the sun’s ray. “I—I can’t read this,” Mandisa stammered, her voice suddenly emerging from its cowardly retreat. With a sound so powerful like the sun, a voice boomed through the chamber. “Mandisa. Sweet Forager. Your life, while fleeter than the blink of my eye, stung me in ways I did not think possible. Your death has me roaring in anger, and I was not about to let Anubis’s blunder sentence you to an eternity in Apophis.” Anubis looked away from the beam of sun, rubbing his wrist. Blood continued dripping down his claws. “And while I could easily smite those responsible,” Ra’s voice called. “The vagrants hounding you; he who made your sandals which failed to net you traction; the camel whose spit loosened the sand on which you tripped; the stone on which your head split open. Set knows I could smite the entire world without breaking a sweat. I want to give you an opportunity to exact your own sweet revenge while providing ever-true nourishment. I want every Egyptian to know your name like me. I want them to sing of your bounty and envy your existence.” “But her heart was heavy,” Anubis moaned, tweaking the knob on his THE KUDZU REVIEW 30
sundial. “How can such a heart deserve to beat again?” his voice sounded as close to a whine as Mandisa assumed possible for a jackal-headed god. Ra sighed. Mandisa was unsure if Ra wrote the sigh in the letter or abandoned the pretext of text and resorted to simply talking to them. The column of amber light within the chamber waned as if mirroring the god’s mood. “This is why I should not muddle in mortal affairs – can’t make anyone’s eternity without the backtalk.” From the ceiling dripped two drops of golden amber, clear as the rain and golden as the sun’s rays after the yearly floods. The first drop fell onto the feather, encasing it in solid gold, and sending that scale crashing to the floor. It carried such momentum that it burrowed deep underground, thereby causing the heart scale to fly high into the heavens. “I’d say the feather is heavier.” A chuckle, explosive like thunder, momentarily deafened Mandisa. “I literally just had that inspected,” Anubis said. The second drop fell and levitated before Mandisa’s face. “Open your mouth,” Ra’s voice calmly ordered. Mandisa obeyed, and when the golden droplet touched her tongue, an explosion of the sweetest amber flooded her mouth and filled her gut. Mandisa swallowed, fearing that she’d choke, and was startled by a deep vibration that emanated from her stomach. The girl belched, then spat a small insect onto her hand. With her free hand, she blocked her mouth, feeling more of the creatures crawling up her throat. She attempted to swallow them back like bile. The small creature ambled around some, then took flight and alighted on Mandisa’s face. Fire erupted under the skin on her nose. Without thinking, she released her mouth and screamed in pain, thus unleashing a torrent of the small creatures. They landed at various places on her body, eventually covering her every inch. Their chorus of buzzing drowned out the girl’s mortal cries. After a minute, during which time the creatures covered Mandisa’s body, they took flight, escaping Anubis’s chambers through Ra’s column of light. No evidence of Mandisa remained. Ra’s voice echoed through all the lands, “You, Mandisa, have received my tears. Henceforth, you shall be my eyes and ears on this mortal plane. Spread your potent product, but teach your people the meaning of tact, patience, and respect, or show them the power of your sting.” # Walker jumped off his grandfather’s lap and raced around the room buzzing, arms free behind his back like wings. “Let’s not run too far away. We still need to wash those hands, lest you call the ladies over to you when you go out next time. They’ll smell that alarm pheromone and will be quicker to sting.” 31 ISSUE Nº60
Thorough washing and a bandage later, Walker excitedly recounted aspects of the story to his grandfather. He suddenly quieted, inching up to his grandfather’s face.
“You know what my favorite part was?” Walker asked.
“What?” “When Anubis pounced on Mandisa and pulled free her still-beating heart!” Walker poked his grandfather’s chest with his bandaged pointer finger, wincing at the flare of pain he had already forgotten.
“Maybe you can leave that part out when you tell your mother later,
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Untitled COLBY BLACKWILL
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The Sting Under My Skin MICHAL REICH
There’s just a dirt spot on the ground now. A large, rectangular patch, disrupting the greenery. The grass has not grown back yet. The rectangular patch is the only spot without a stone. Jewish tradition, or possibly law, states that the stone is unveiled a year later. For now, there is a little laminated paper on thin metal rods. It has her name, her date of birth, date of death, and some stuff written in Hebrew. I can’t read it through my watery eyes. It is so sunny outside. The four of us stand there, Dad, me, Mom, and Sam. The Miami heat is as unmerciful as ever, even on this December Sunday. This is not her funeral. I was too far away to come home, and final exams were too close. This is my first time at her grave. The tears rush out silently but forcefully, hidden by my sunglasses. I hope they will hit that gaping dirt patch and make the grass grow back faster.
Cleft palate. “The roof of the mouth (palate) is formed between the sixth and ninth weeks of pregnancy. A cleft palate happens if the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy.”1
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Birth Defects,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 27, 2017, section goes here, accessed February 20, 2018, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/cleftlip.html.
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Sunday was always visiting day. We scrambled in the car, sweating and grumbling. Crammed in the back seat, our limbs stuck together like glue, fused by our sweat. The South Florida heat was never merciful.
Her group home always smelled bad. Arielle, my oldest sister, had
lived in a group home her whole life, and it had always smelled awful, yet every week we were surprised by the smell. Behind the door were two possibilities: the choking stench of human waste filling our chests or the sting of antiseptic under our skin. Every visit was the same. We sat outside with her, whoever decided to come along that week. I was the youngest, the one who went everywhere with Mom. Mom visited Arielle every week, so I did too. We used to also mean my siblings: my sisters, Sarah and Alice, and my brother, Sam. Over the years, that changed. Each one left the nest of childhood, starting their own lives as adults. Arielle and I were the only ones left. Mom and I sat outside on the group home patio, and she would ask Arielle about her week. Arielle would respond in her garbled speech, which I grew up learning how to understand like I did with Spanish and Hebrew. Her mouth smacked together in a watery way, permanently fixed into a frown.
Moebius syndrome. “A rare neurological condition that primarily affects the muscles that control facial expression and eye movement…. Weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles is one of the most common features… Affected individuals lack facial expressions.”2
Dad used to say that you could see the cleverness in Arielle’s eyes, trapped behind a body and a brain that wouldn’t work for her. He always 2
“Moebius Syndrome - Genetics Home Reference,” U.S. National Library of Medicine, February 20, 2018, section goes here, accessed February 22, 2018, https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/ condition/moebius-syndrome.
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had a sad expression when he said that, just like he did whenever he talked about Arielle. I don’t know if I saw what my dad saw. I don’t really know what I saw. When I was 10 or 11 years old, Mom had to scream at Arielle in order for her to hear us. Those visits were uncomfortable. Any bystander probably thought that Mom was having an unfair shouting match with Arielle for no reason. The possibility made me squirm in my seat. Her hearing aids had stopped working. Arielle had surgery to get a cochlear implant put in her skull, so she could hear again. Sometimes they still fell out because her bones were so thin. A rare bone disease that later caused deafness. Mom only gave me this information when I asked her to give me the full list of Arielle’s medical problems. I never knew why she went deaf until now.
Osteogenesis imperfecta. “A genetic disorder characterized by bones that break easily, often from little or no apparent cause.”3
I am in the Intensive Care Unit, the day after Thanksgiving, and I feel the sting again. I still feel it even after 18 years of feeling it. It gathers on me, seeping in underneath my fingernails as I hold my sister’s wrist. She has more oxygen in her body. She is breathing again. Her hands are wrapped in cloth gloves to keep her from pulling out the breathing tubes. She probably thinks that they gave her a tracheal breathing tube, and she hates those. I would, too, if people kept trying to shove a tube down my throat. 3
Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation, “Fast Facts on Osteogenesis Imperfecta,” Fast Facts - Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation | OIF.org, 2015, section goes here, accessed February 20, 2018, http://www.oif.org/site/PageServer?pagename=fastfacts.
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I can’t touch her hands, so I rub circles into her wrist instead, letting her know that I am here. It doesn’t really make a difference, though. Arielle is slowly dying anyway.
Scoliosis. “A sideways curvature of the spine…An especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly.”4
It’s early December, and my first semester in college is almost over. “Hi Mom! I just put my laundry in and I’m doing homework. What’s
up?” “Arielle passed away 20 minutes ago.” I can’t say we talk after that. Neither of us cares to break the silence much.
I keep my breathing under control until she hangs up, making me
promise to stay with my brother for the night so neither of us would be alone. Then, I relinquish control. Did the floor move closer to me or did I move closer to the floor? * “I didn’t tell you this before, but she had an unexplained ovarian cyst. They wouldn’t have been able to treat it if she had lived. She would have gone through so much more pain.” Mom’s breathing is shaky as she tells 4
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Scoliosis,” Mayo Clinic, December 29, 2017, section goes here, accessed February 20, 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scoliosis/ symptoms- causes/syc-20350716.
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me this on the phone later, but she is still much calmer than I am. After all, Arielle was her first child. She has been dealing with it since the beginning. Sometimes after our weekly visits, Mom would say that Arielle would probably outlive her. The doctors had always told her and Dad that Arielle wouldn’t live past the age of two, and the fact that she was still alive and kicking over twenty years later was a miracle. The night she passed, Sam came and picked me up. I opened the door to my dorm and he hugged me. I cried into his chest, my glasses squished against his coat. After we both calmed down, we shoved my hamper full of wet laundry into his car and drove across town. We sat in his cramped living room, on his ugly green couches in silence, his shitty dryer trying to knock out my clothes in the third round. I was between crying sessions, my eyes raw and red. Sam had stopped long ago. Suddenly, he broke the silence. “We need to remember the good times we had with Arielle.” I looked at him. “Like what?” “Remember her sixteenth birthday? We all went to the park and had a big party outside. There was cake and everyone was happy.” I did the math in my head. “No, I was four years old. I don’t remember that.” My nails furrowed deeper into my palm, drawing blood to just below the surface. I was always the one with the least amount of good memories with her. *
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Her birthdays were always a special day. The ones I remember were at her group home, outside on the patio where we spent our Sunday visits. Those were the birthdays where Arielle was going through her twenties, something that no one thought she would ever do. The party was the same every year. My grandparents would come, and sometimes my siblings or aunts and uncles from out of town. Mom would buy a cake, either a chocolate cake from Publix or a Carvel ice cream cake, and we would all sing “Happy Birthday.” Arielle always did her little excited dance, which was just her rocking side to side in her wheelchair. It was so funny to watch. It always put a smile on my face. * It frustrates me that I saw more of the worst of Arielle than the best. All of my siblings and I grew up with Arielle and her situation. She was the oldest of us, after all. But there is a 12-year gap between Arielle and me. There are 12 years that I missed with good things in them, even though there were always bad things too. There are years after those 12 that I don’t remember, even though I was there. There are years that blend together, that I can’t separate from one another because they are muddled together by the consistency of childhood. Grief is a dark space. It’s a dark space I can’t completely leave until I am no longer left in the dark when it comes to Arielle. But ever so slightly, the light is coming in, and I am accepting its entrance.
Failure to thrive. “Defined as decelerated or arrested physical growth…is associated with abnormal growth and development. The reason for failure
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to thrive is inadequate nutrition.”5
I called Mom as I walked to class. I decided that it was the best time to ask about what exactly Arielle was born with. She went through the list, item by item, which I have now listed, item by item. She told me how they had a nurse on standby to revive Arielle because she kept almost dying. I could hear her voice getting shakier. I knew she wanted to stop talking about Arielle, but I had one more question I needed to ask. “Why did you never tell us the full extent of Arielle’s problems?” “I didn’t want you and your siblings to know. It would have been too much for you.” * It is February 24, 2018. Today would have been Arielle’s thirtieth birthday. It has been a little over two months since she passed away.
I am happy, and I think it’s right to make sure that her birthday is
happy again. At least for today.
Children’s Hospital, “Failure to Thrive,” The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, August 24, 2014, section goes here, accessed February 20, 2018, http://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/failure-thrive.
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Untitled GIOVANNA ELIA 41 ISSUE Nยบ60
Metal Cowboy NICHOLAS ROGNER
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Untitled COLBY BLACKWILL
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Restless QUINN DAUBERT
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Empress TALISE BURTON & CHLOE SCHMIDELER THE KUDZU REVIEW 46
Pretty Boy CARMEN RENEE MORLEY
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Untitled GIOVANNA ELIA
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Mercy YOUSEF MOHAMED
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Lindsey QUINN DAUBERT THE KUDZU REVIEW 50
Mirage ELIZABETH LEHMAN 51 ISSUE Nยบ60