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The Kudzu Review

ISSUE NO. 66 / SPRING 2021


The Kudzu Review Issue No. 66 Spring 2021

Florida State University 600 W. College Avenue Tallahassee, FL 32306 Copyright @ The Kudzu Review


CONTENTS Fiction Bobbit by Rosalind Helsinger ..... 2

Visual Arts PEACE NOW! by Amy Alonso ..... 14 House on Dewey Street by Kate Netwal ..... 15 Within Four Walls by Alexa Patton ..... 16 coup d’état by Katherine Grubb ..... 17 Valleys (my love) by Andres Ponciano ..... 18 The Music is Vital by LV Seaver ..... 19 What’s on Your Mind? by Alejandro Valentin ..... 20 Intervention by Karina Deschamps ..... 21 Flowers by Alexa Patton ..... 22


Nonfiction Best Eulogies by Sofia Lavidalie ..... 26 Yoga by Dalton Russell ..... 32 Like Clockwork by Adrian Francis ..... 35

Poetry Cicadas and Citrus by Miriam Spada ..... 44 Digging for Pearls by Valentine Johnson ..... 45 Raising a Toddler While Studying the Films of Alfred Hitchcock: A Sonnet by Stephanie Powers ..... 47 To My Sister, On Her Birthday by Oliver Brooks ..... 48 Serial by McKenzie Harris ..... 49 Ways to Measure Growth by Erin Strickler ..... 50 Chickens by Hayden Church ..... 51 Washing My Face, 4:37 A.M. by Sofia Lavidalie ..... 52 When We Talk About History by Catherine Cosgrove ..... 53 Lexicon by Noland Blain ..... 55


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ISSUE NO. 66

Bobbit by Rosalind Helsinger

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CONTENT WARNING: The following piece contains graphic descriptions of suicide and mental illness. Reader discretion is advised. When I was a little girl, I watched a woman walk into the sea. I saw her go under. I can picture it now—the moment her head submerges and she just keeps walking, her hair floating behind her like strands of bladderwrack seaweed. No one ever believed me. My father waved the idea off again and again on our front porch, fanning himself with an old National Geographic magazine. C’mon, Bobbie, you were so young. But I wasn’t Bobbie then. I was Bobbit. My Aunt Ellery christened me Bobbit after I took a liking to punching other children in the throat. She nicknamed me after a worm that dwelled on the ocean floor, snatching up fish. You are an ambush predator, darling, she said with her scrunched-up smile. When I was young, I thought Aunt Ellery knew everything. Every species of tree from one look at the bark, every breed of bird from the sound of their songs, and every squirming creature in the ocean that washed up by the shoreline. She made her own honey, cared for her own chickens, raised crooked peach trees in her backyard. She thrilled me with bedtime stories of the bobbit worm. It has teeth, she said. Some of them grow up to ten feet. Maybe that’s what happened to the woman who walked into the sea. A bobbit worm unfurled from the depths, ribboned around her leg, heaved her down, struggling, strangling, and swallowed every inch of her. They never did find her body. I didn’t mean to start. The throat punching thing. I can’t remember why I was so angry as a child now, but I was feral then. When I was in a mood, I would run and hide somewhere small, like a school cabinet or a laundry hamper. I felt the air around me get thick. I heard it crackle. I bared my teeth. Struck anyone who reached in to touch me. Ambush predator, yeah, something like that. I relished striking my bony knuckles into the fleshy throats of other children. I grew out of it by the end of fourth-grade summer, but my classmates still hid from me during the sweat and mulch of recess long after. My mother sat sweltering once a week in the vice principal’s office, her dark circles covered with concealer, promising better behavior with a hollow smoker’s throat. When I mention my childhood hunger for violence now, as an adult, my mother tightens her lips and continues chopping thick, sweet onions. It was a hard year for everyone, Bobbie. But she remembers it wrong. That whole year is consumed in her brain as the year her sister died. Everything that happened that year—my outbursts, my father losing the partnership at the firm, my sister breaking her finger falling off her Razor scooter, even the leak in the attic—is because Aunt Ellery died. Even though all those things happened when she was still alive. She was there when I was a playground menace. She talked me down from tantrums when I smashed the glass in the china cabinet and ripped my science homework into snowflakes. How could my anger come from her death

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when she wasn’t dead yet? I suppose my mother doesn’t remember that Aunt Ellery was the only reason I was called Bobbit at all. The throat punching came to a stop after I clocked my sister in the trachea. Chancey didn’t talk to me for a whole week. Partly because she swore she didn’t do anything to deserve it, partly because I’d hurt her vocal cords. She was sour about it because she fancied herself a future opera singer. Chancey teaches middle school choir now. I don’t think she ever stopped blaming me for strangling her inner-coloratura soprano. I wasn’t always angry, but Chancey was always angry at me. I remind her often that she hit me first. Smacked me on the side of the head to get out of her way while we were both sardined into our little bathroom. She wanted to curl her hair. She was always hitting me for no reason. Maybe it was an older sibling thing. Back slapping, shoulder shoving, hair pulling, arm punching, cheek smacking—the Cain Instinct. I guess Abel didn’t have my right hook. I slugged her right in the larynx. She vomited after, stomach-acid oatmeal on my bare feet. One look at it, and I vomited too. Our father ran in, the two of us screeching, Chancey’s voice croaking, covered in puke, the curling iron smoking. That year, we both got sent to New Jersey for the summer to live with my Grandfather. My mother couldn’t take us striking each other after Aunt Ellery died. The beach will calm them, our parents prayed. They didn’t know Uncle Ted had the same idea, shipping off his newly motherless children to Jersey until Chancey and I were already on the bus to the shore. Our Jersey seaside summer punishment wasn’t so bad. I remember missing Philly though. I bet my cousins missed their DC home too, but they never mentioned it. They were always quiet, napkin-on-the-lap, never-splashing-in-thewater kids, but it was even worse that summer. I don’t remember the four of them ever speaking a word. They knitted themselves together and seemed to telepathically communicate. Most of all, I remember their mouths. They had Aunt Ellery’s mouth. Her thin, Burt’s Bees smoothed lips, never still for a second, curling around her chipped canine tooth, smoking Sweet Afton cigarettes, laughing with her mouth open wide enough that I used to see her uvula shiver. It was the first summer she was dead. Her mouth sat smeared on her silent children’s faces. Aunt Ellery took her sound, her stories, and her love of the sea with her. It was as quiet as her wake on the beach that day, the day I saw a woman walk into the sea. Other summer tourists shouted, wailed, and whined about the gulls, the heat, and the high tide. Our family barely said a word. Grandfather was sweet, but couldn’t hold up much of a conversation in those days. The cousins were a no-go. If asked with help on a puzzle, a pillow fort, or movie night selection, all four pairs of birch bark brown eyes stared back with an endlessness that made me stop asking altogether. It was the kind of day where you could see both the moon and the sun in the

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sky. The sun beat down on our greasy, sunscreen-smeared backs while the little moon watched Chancey bury me in the sand. The waves that day were nearly too much for little kids. They were the salty, kelpy waves every kid with a boogie board dreams about. They hoisted me up into the wind, then sent me crashing back down on the heavy sandbar. The force of the crash sent kids flying off their boards, and the unlucky ones still had their boards tilted down when the wave smacked them. I was unlucky that time. My stomach slipped off the board, but my little fingers wouldn’t let go of the sides. All the water around me rushed up before smashing into the sandbar. I felt the blunt end of the board dig right into my stomach and it knocked the wind clean out of my lungs before I flipped, submerging in the shallows. I tumbled, somersaulting underwater. I knew all I had to do was stand up, but I couldn’t get my footing before tumbling again. I breathed in the saltwater while sea pebbles encrusted themselves in my ear and so deep in my hair that it would take three showers to get all the sand out of my scalp. I slunk out of the ocean, gasping and gulping, and limped up to our tilted rainbow umbrella, seawater dribbling down my chin. No one looked up at me when I heaved my way up to our spot on the beach. Chancey sprawled out on a pink towel, reading her new hardback. My cousins huddled together on their phones and various consoles protected in Ziploc bags that I couldn’t believe they risked getting sandy. I was always jealous of my cousins—their phones, their money, how they got Aunt Ellery to themselves all the time. Though I supposed there wasn’t as much to be jealous of that summer. Grandfather stepped back to our beach blankets, beaming, water ice in each hand. Everyone looked up. The cousins hadn’t asked for any, and huddled back in their little formation after Grandfather gingerly sat down. He shifted his weight in the sand. He was one of those old people who liked to feel the sand on their skin even though there was a perfectly good towel right there. “Chancey.” He handed her a dripping root beer scoop in a paper cone. “Thank you, Grandfather.” Grandfather pulled his baseball cap down further to block the sun out of his eyes. “They didn’t have cotton candy, Bobbit.” I wiped the snot from my nose. “Is it watermelon?” He nodded. I beamed and reached for it. “Oh, that’s alright then.” He laughed. Grandfather had a good laugh, a warm one that felt like hard caramel candy. “What do you say?” Chancey didn’t look up from her book. Chancey always remembered to say thank you. “Thanks.” I suppressed the urge to punch her in the throat again.

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The watermelon was a nauseating sugar-sweet, even to a child. I dug my feet into the sand and watched the water ice leak all down my arm and onto my swimsuit. It was my favorite one: neon pink camo that zipped up the front, though the chunky plastic zipper left marks on my chest after. I could blend in at a watermelon water ice factory. The youngest of my cousins answered his ringing phone and the other three huddled in like field mice. I tried to be extra quiet sucking down my water ice so I could spy, but the only word I could make out was “Dad.” Uncle Ted was a weird guy. He always had one wireless earphone in, so whenever I tried to talk to him, he waved me away because “This is important.” I couldn’t imagine as a kid how you could be on the phone all the time, even at the dinner table, and have every call be important. Surely, at least one would be boring enough to hang up and talk to your niece. I don’t remember him hanging up for anyone, even his kids, except Aunt Ellery. When she would ask him a question, Uncle Ted took the earphone right out and looked her in the eyes. I was sure he loved her, but just before she died, he sold her backyard beehives, slaughtered all her speckled chickens, and slashed down her over-ripened peach trees. The cousins sat enraptured by the phone call. I’m sure if I had walked up to them, they’d have waved and said in unison, “This is important.” Chancey looked only at her book, sucking her root beer water ice. Grandfather stared off at the horizon, playing Count the Ships. I watched his mouth move, whispering, “Five… six…seven.” Aunt Ellery taught me that game. Grandfather must have taught her. Seeing as no one was paying attention, I limbered my way down the sand toward the ocean again, my water ice melting down my fingers. It was at that moment the woman passed me, walking to the waves. I remember because I was at the end of the water ice, when it was all liquidy and the paper cone leaked soggy pink. I stuck my sticky hands in the ocean as the woman waded past me. She loomed over me, and for a second, I was curtained in her long ginger curls with gray racing through the strands. I wanted to reach up and pull on them until they tore out of her scalp like perfect red ribbons in my fists. But I got in trouble for doing that to Chancey. Hands clean, I scrambled back to our spot on the beach. When I sat down on our towel, I saw that she had waded far out. The woman seemed caught in a walking coma, her body hunched and compelled to go deeper. When I remember her now, her arms are too long. Her gaunt, bony elbows swing by her knees. One of her shoulders is bigger than the other. She stepped deeper into the waves and kept walking, walking until the water reached her waist, walking until the water reached her neck, until the last of her red curls were all I could see. “Chancey!” I shouted. Chancey hated being called Chancey. She preferred Chandler. She went by it with pride, even though our parents stuck her with a boys’ name, and Chancey was way cuter. She used her full name every time she introduced herself. Chandler

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Marie Rice. All grown up. Even at thirteen. She would always be Chancey to me. “What?” Chancey lowered her heart-shaped sunglasses. She didn’t even put down her ghost romance book. “A lady went in the ocean.” She popped her gum. “Yeah, that’s what you’re supposed to do at the beach, Bobbs.” “She didn’t come out.” I stared out at the empty ocean. “She drowned.” Chancey turned her page. “Liar.” “It’s true. I saw it.” Chancey unwrapped another piece of gum, so the wad in her mouth doubled in size and made a squishy smoosh when she chewed. “If you saw her walk in, she must have walked out.” “She didn’t!” “Maybe she’s a trained scuba diver. They can hold their breath for like, eleven minutes.” Chancey smirked. “Why don’t you go wait for her? She’ll come back up eventually.” “Will you wait with me?” Chancey put in her headphones. All my life, everyone preferred Chancey. I would’ve too if I wasn’t her sister. But Aunt Ellery liked me best. She liked my questions, my loudness, and my anger. She said I was a difficult young woman and she had been one too. I took great delight in that before she died. After her funeral, I only feared what would happen when a difficult young woman grew up. I huffed and marched back down. It seemed to me all the beach involved was walking from the ocean to the blanket spot and back again until it was time to leave. I sat down in a comfortable divot where the sand was damp and thick. Just behind me, the sand was powdery and stuck to my wet feet like flour, but here it was moist as cement and perfect for drizzling little sand towers. Maybe Chancey was right. Maybe I just had to wait and the woman with the red curls would come out again. I drizzled handfuls of loose dark sand across my toes in a pattern, pooling the most on the big toe. They looked like little sloppy Christmas trees. Aunt Ellery was the one who showed me how to make sand towers. I bit down on my lower lip. There was no use missing her. Aunt Ellery wasn’t like the woman who walked into the sea— she wasn’t coming back. Aunt Ellery could be mean. Especially when she crumpled can after can of pale ale and fell asleep with the shower still running. She snapped at me in the last couple years of her life, though most of her temper was spent on her own kids. When my family visited them that spring break, Aunt Ellery avoided me. She

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slept until four in the afternoon and never took us to see the cherry blossoms as she promised. On our last stroll through her neighborhood, she was quiet. Birds beckoned, but she held my hand and said nothing, even when I gave her an easy one, asking what the whippoorwill’s cry was called. She shrugged, I don’t know, Bobbit. I’ll never forget the way her fingers trembled in my little fist. I sat and drizzled sand towers until the pile on my toes grew to my knees. The waves sometimes reached the furthest they could and took the sloppy tower off my big toe, but I just rebuilt it with more handfuls. The woman was taking her time returning. Maybe she walked out when I was playing in the sand. No. I would’ve noticed. Maybe she resurfaced, but if she did, I must’ve blinked every time. I focused my eyes until tears welled up in them, staring at the spot she first sunk into. It was too late to go to a lifeguard now. What could I say? A woman went into the ocean an hour ago? I waited for her just like I was supposed to, but she didn’t swim back up. I heard Chancey’s earrings jingle before I saw her. She scoffed. “You’re still here? She’s not coming back, Bobbs.” “I saw her.” I hid my face between my knees, feeling the nylon swimsuit make grooves in my cheek. Chancey’s fresh coat of lip gloss shined in the sunlight. “God, just shut up about your stupid lady already.” On the horizon line, I could spot four little ships. One. Two. Three. Four. “No.” I said. “Aunt Ellery.” Chancey went silent. The sunset spread across the sky like Superman flavor ice cream, blue, yellow, red, orange scooped thick in the clouds. I tried to not let my voice shake. “Before she died. I saw her go into the basement.” Chancey sat down in the wet sand beside me. I felt nauseous all at once, my watermelon water ice laced with stomach acid in my mouth. “The storm woke me up, and I went into the kitchen. She was there.” My breath hitched. I could feel the plastic zipper dig into my stomach. “She heated a cup of mac and cheese for me. She watched me eat the whole thing.” Chancey put her hand across my damp back, rubbing a little circle like Mom did when we woke up from bad dreams. “I gave her her birthday present early.” I’ll never forget the way she smiled at me when I placed the bracelet I made her into her hand. In the darkness, it wasn’t a nice smile. It looked painted onto her face like a haunted doll. But I wasn’t scared then. I was happy to bask in her Sweet Afton cigarette smell, to be with her alone at the table.

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In the end, she took this memory from me. With time, it all became chum for nightmares. I looked up at Chancey whose curly hair haloed out to little flyaways in the wind. I spit the sand out of my mouth. “She said she had laundry to do and that I should go to bed. Then she walked away.” Chancey never looked more like an adult to me than she did right then. Her brow furrowed, her eyes softened, and her mouth an impenetrable line. “That’s the last you saw her?” I nodded. I still remember the sound of the purple plastic charm bracelet rattling on her wrist as she stepped down the stairs. She even had it on when they found her floating in the basement. Aunt Ellery left the utility sink running when she put the gun in her mouth. No one heard it over the tropical storm rolling through. The sink hemorrhaged water all night until nine in the morning when my mother opened the basement door. It was flooded up to the fifth stair. I never saw it, but I can picture Aunt Ellery’s body floating amongst her children’s uniform shirts and navy pants, her husband’s checkered boxers, her scattered mis-matched socks. They had to throw out all the clothes floating in the flood with her. Chancey told me later they could never repair the water damage. That was the thing Uncle Ted was angriest about—not only did his wife leave her children motherless, but she took the basement and his home’s property value with her. Chancey reached out to bury me in her arms. “Bobbit—” “No!” I shoved her arm away so hard she toppled backward, and her hair caked in sand. “You’re not allowed to make me feel better!” I wound up to punch her in the throat with everything I had. She dodged my sloppy right hook and grabbed me by the shoulders. I never knew her hands were so heavy, her grip so tight. “Stop.” I hated her. I hated how she was always bigger and stronger and older. I hated her arms and her stupid ruffled bikini, I hated her mouth like Mom’s mouth, and her eyes all wide, all worried. I hated her. The mountain of sand drizzles slowly slipped off my legs. I hated her. I kicked my feet until the sand splattered Chancey’s legs. I wanted to punch her in the throat. I wanted to rip all the baby hairs out of her head. I wanted her dead like Aunt Ellery. And all at once, I hated my aunt more than I hated anyone. Hated her for promising me that I would grow out of it. Hated her for lying to me. Hated her for dying. Hated her for naming me an ambush predator when inside her thrashed a bobbit in a bottle. “It’s okay to be upset.” Chancey gripped my shoulders tighter even though I kicked her shins and sprayed her with sand. “I’m upset too.”

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I shook my head back and forth like a wet dog, splattering the ground with clumps of sand loosened from my hair. I screamed, my throat raw with strain and salt, slamming my arms into her chest until she let me go. I tried to run but fell face-first into the sand. I spit out the globs in my mouth and wiped the chunks in my nose, weeping the way Mom did at the funeral. Aunt Ellery said she outgrew her anger, that she never hurt another person. But that was a lie. She was a person too. My cheeks flushed with anger and shame, my ears already burning. I struck the sand, again and again, struck its ugly, uncaring face until my arms rubbed red. Chancey would never understand. Her heart was always at low tide. She inherited my mother’s soft temper. I was born with an angry heart that hungered and crashed and tore. I was there, nine years old, sitting in the ocean. It crashed around me, throwing children off their boards, pulling them under, choking their lungs. I was there and I was the ocean. I threw the children off, I pulled them under, I struck their throats, I choked their lungs. I couldn’t explain to Chancey that I knew why our Aunt Ellery died, that she tried to hold the ocean inside her. Around us, the gulls cried, the children screeched, the waves wept. The ocean’s breath shuddered on the shore between sobs. The beach was grieving, I thought. “Bobbs.” I looked back at her. Chancey was sitting down now, drizzling sand across her toes the way Aunt Ellery showed us. “I’ll wait with you, okay?” I looked at her and knew all of a sudden that this was our last summer as girls. We would never be children again. “Okay.” Chancey folded her knees into her chest and bound herself up. Her voice was thin and hollow as a reed. She sniffled. “We’ll wait until she comes back.” I nodded and stared out at the sea.

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PEACE NOW! Amy Alonso

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House on Dewey Street Kate Netwal

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Within Four Walls Alexa Patton

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coup d’état Katherine Grubb

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Valleys (my love) Andres Ponciano

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The Music is Vital LV Seaver

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What’s on Your Mind? Alejandro Valentin

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Intervention Karina Deschamps

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Flowers Alexa Patton

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Best Eulogies by Sofia Lavidalie

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NONFICTION When I was in middle school, near the end of my sixth-grade year, a boy who lived down my street was murdered. His mother got a restraining order against his father in early April, and a week later, his father broke into their house and shot both of them. Mom told me in the early morning while I got ready for school. She said, “Ron’s dead; watch your brother.” There wasn’t much to do, but I listened to her. I sat on the floor by my brother’s crib while Mom smoked and talked on the phone with her friend who lived in our subdivision. A lot of her friends at the time were my own friends’ mothers, so the story of Ron’s death passed mom-to-mom down Lakeway Cove like a game of telephone. My mom heard it from Morgan’s mom, Morgan’s mom heard it from Hunter’s mom, so on and so forth. I didn’t have my own phone yet, so I sat in silence with the news, thinking about the fact that nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I’d been grounded in a childish belief that nothing truly bad could happen to anyone I knew. My abuelita had been diagnosed with cancer, but she was outliving her prognosis. My mother suffered a difficult miscarriage, but she ended up having my brother. When bad things happened, they were at a distance, and if they weren’t, they were at least survivable. I have to believe this mindset was a result of my upbringing—spoiled, cushy, sheltered from our poorness until we were no longer poor. I spent a large chunk of my childhood growing up in a nice suburb, the one in which Ron died. It was yellowed and dull like a bag of old oranges, with houses that were nearly identical but still aesthetically inconsistent. I could only assume the homeowner’s association was staffed exclusively by dystopian novel antagonists and Republicans dead set on squashing out any individuality or artistic expression. In my moodier teenage years, I’d often remark to my parents that “Gonzales is the kind of place people go to die in.” In all fairness to my young self, I guess I wasn’t wrong. ----I carry some shame now about the way I grew up. I recognize my privilege for what it is, and it disgusts me to think about how much time I spent assuming the life I lived was something owed to me. I find this sort of self-flagellation uninteresting, though. I’m not sure whether my hate for the suburbs is more about the privilege they represent or about specifically hating the suburb in which I grew up. Among my peer group of young liberals, suburbs are a sort of caricature of everything we despise—they’re white, they’re heterosexual, they’re upper-middle class. Occasionally my boyfriend will bring up the topic of moving to the suburbs after we graduate, and it always astounds me that he sees that as an option. Move to the suburbs? How could I—with my English degree, and my stack of Andrea Dworkin books, and my hair—move to the suburbs? There is an unspoken pact between my peers and me that we will not end up like our parents. It feels very obvious to us that we are definitely the first-ever generation to have made this pact.

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ISSUE NO. 66 Despite our best efforts, though, I think most of us will end up happy. For most of my childhood in the suburbs, I was happy. Then Ron was murdered, and for a while, everything felt shattered. I don’t know why I cling to this period more than I do all the positive memories of the subdivision. Maybe it’s self-serving. When people ask me about my childhood, sometimes “I grew up in a suburb where a kid died” is easier than “I grew up in a suburb.” ----The front door of Ron’s house was made partially of glass, and when his dad broke in to kill him, he left it shattered on the doormat. A few hours after the murder, a local news station released an image of the door’s remains, and next to the pile of glass sat Ron’s shoes. I find this kind of journalism unbecoming and unnecessary, but I return to the image of the shoes often. A pair of small, limp tennis shoes flecked with glimmering shards of glass, a sort of still-life portrait of a crime scene. The glass stayed there, other neighborhood kids pointed out to me, for a week after the murder. Memorial items littered the driveway, creating a blur of green stems and white flowers. This pile remained long after the memorial, and it became a kind of fixture in my view of the neighborhood. I’d gaze at it passively through my dad’s car window the way I gazed at flowerbeds or Christmas decorations. I often speculated with Morgan about when they’d get rid of the pile. “It’s like a gravestone,” she told me, and it always felt that way to us. We started avoiding that part of the neighborhood when we rode our scooters. Even when Ron and his mom were long dead, it felt like they were still in the house somehow, unfound, buried in the tile. The flowers are long gone now. I can’t remember them disappearing. The night after he died, Ron’s family held a memorial for him and his mom down our street. All the kids I knew came with their parents, wearing school uniforms and holding fake candles in little paper cups. It was dark outside, and the orange streetlights made the tears on our faces shine yellow. I kept a mental note of who was crying and who wasn’t. The boys in our neighborhood were prone to fighting, and I knew that a few of the boys at the memorial had fought with Ron before. Some of them were crying. I felt a sort of self-righteous anger at them; I had never fought with Ron. The few times I’d talked to him, we’d gotten along very well. I felt this gave me a sort of right to be sad that the boys didn’t have, even though, looking back now, they had much more to be sad about than I did. I think I was trying to pin my guilt about not being very close with Ron onto someone else. Going to these grief-centric events is always very awkward when you’re not quite grieving. ----The first time I ever really grieved was when my abuelita passed away. I was fifteen when we had her late-summer funeral. I thought my sadness would numb

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NONFICTION me to the inherent awkwardness of the event, but it didn’t. Funerals are very self-important. My abuelita was not a self-important woman. Before her death, she orchestrated her funeral to reflect that as much as possible—we had to sing, we weren’t allowed to wear all black, we weren’t even allowed to call it a funeral (it was a “celebration of life,” my mom likes to say). But there is no way to cry in public that doesn’t feel like performance art. I gave her eulogy, which I wasn’t sure I wanted to do but felt obligated to anyway. It was a very calculated process for me. I pored over quotes about life on Goodreads and wracked my brain and Facebook page for memories. I googled “best eulogies.” I reread it over and over again in the mirror so I wouldn’t cry. Though I am prone to them, I’ve always hated public displays of emotion, especially when they involved my family. It seemed obvious to me that crying at my abuelita’s funeral would be unbecoming. This logic didn’t amount to much, though. I was reduced to tears almost as soon as I stepped in front of the mic. Grief, when we’re in it, makes children out of all of us. I think part of what makes it so humiliating is that no matter how big the loss, no matter how great the pain, there will always be people around you who could not care less. Funerals make this distinction uncomfortably clear. ----I remember seeing a woman at Ron’s vigil. She was a large older woman with dark skin, and she was unfamiliar to me, so I knew she was a relative, not a neighbor. As more people showed up and the memorial rose into a crescendo, her large body moved with loud, wracking sobs. I had never witnessed grief like that before. I’d never seen anyone cry so loudly like the Earth was about to split open beneath them. All the while I’d been so focused on my performance of grief, true grief—shattering, earth-bending, unbelievable, permanent grief— swelled right in front of me. I wanted to leave. I was uncomfortable and afraid. The scope of this woman’s loss humiliated me and my stupid conviction that I was somehow shielded from death. Death always seemed to be on my periphery, but now it was in my suburb, my clean, dull suburb, leaving a permanent stain on all my yellowed memories. It was haunting all of our houses. The woman’s crying sent a clear message: someday, something will happen that makes me cry like that. ----I call my mom to tell her about this essay. She’s with my aunt, who also came to the memorial, so they put the phone on speaker while I read off an excerpt to them. They fill in some of the details for me. They bring up the woman crying before I even mention her. When we talk about the memorial, it’s the first thing to come to both of their minds. “It was shocking,” my aunt says. They tell me that the woman who’d been crying at Ron’s memorial was his grandmother. Ron’s mother was her only daughter. She’d begun crying after

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ISSUE NO. 66 their family started to sing “Amazing Grace,” and the crowd of memorial-goers began to sing along. I have vague memories of this—not of the family singing, but of myself following in my small voice, feeling embarrassed and warm under the orange lights. Mom tells me about how Ron’s grandmother rocked back and forth and moaned under the chorus of voices. I read them the paragraph I wrote about her, and my mother and aunt hum approvingly. I circle back to the beginning of the essay—waking up, the blue light of morning, my mom breaking the news to me. “Ron’s dead.” “I never said that.” What? “I didn’t just say, ‘Ron’s dead,’ I sat you down and told you what I knew, that he and his mom were shot. I didn’t just say it bluntly like that.” ----Whenever I was bored as a child, I would imagine my life as a novel being perpetually written. I’d be sitting around my house, cleaning my room, or doing my homework, and in my head, I’d write the story. “She looked down at her book; she put her pencil to the paper; she filled in a bubble.” This practice has carried on into my adult life. Even when I don’t do it consciously, I’m always mining my sorrows for plot points. Andrea Dworkin says that to write means to cannibalize oneself. I’ve often found my life too boring to cannibalize, but that hasn’t stopped me. That’s why, I think, being a writer has robbed me of my memory. My mom’s account of the morning makes much more sense than mine—she is not a very blunt or unfeeling person, she would have no reason to break the news in such a thoughtless way—but it is my own recollection that sticks with me most. When I think back to that morning, it is the memory of my mom’s bluntness that is most vivid. It probably didn’t happen. People often say that words are just an unfaithful translation of life. I’d say the same is true for memory. As much as I want to be faithful to my past, to the younger version of myself that yells out every time I write about her, I know that I am not. I can’t be. Consciously or unconsciously, I always choose the version of the past where I look best: where I have brushed teeth, and my hair is shiny, and I care about everyone. I have one memory of Ron. I am with my cousin, and we are in someone’s backyard. There’s a group of us there, us yellow-neighborhood, suburbanite children, and we’re on a trampoline. It’s getting late, our legs are tired, and we all lay down to look at the sky. Ron’s there. I have to be home soon. The sunset is warm and orange on our faces, and if you look beyond the fences, beyond the roofs and the trees, it’s like it lasts forever. We are all young and healthy. We

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NONFICTION have long, happy lives ahead of us. I don’t know how much of this memory is true. All I know for sure are these two facts: a boy died, and this story isn’t even about him. I’m sorry.

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ISSUE NO. 66

Yoga by Dalton Russell

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NONFICTION Breathe in for three seconds. Hold it for three seconds. Exhale for three seconds. Don’t breathe for three seconds. Focus on the breathing square. Focus on your task. Don’t let your inability to finish it make you feel incompetent. Don’t let the supervisor’s un-insightful email make you feel hopeless. Don’t freak out because it’s due in an hour. Don’t mind the AC kicking in, the smell of blueberry vape coming from another cubicle, Natalya chewing with an open mouth on your right, the Sun shining directly into your forehead, the sweat building between your toes, the hair standing up on your forearms making you feel like a bug is crawling on you. Breathe in for three seconds. Hold it for three seconds. Exhale for three seconds. Don’t breathe for three seconds. Focus on the breathing square. Go to Target. Grab a frozen pizza. Check out the clearance. Mittens, Charleston Chews, Hot Wheels, Silly Putty, and superhero stickers. Don’t look up, but if you do, don’t notice Amelia and Tyler walking down the aisle. Don’t notice them holding hands, laughing at the faux-designer sunglasses Amelia just tried on. Don’t remember how Amelia lit up every time you kissed her as if it were the first time. Don’t remember massaging her shoulders after work, surprising her with a picnic when her depression resurfaced, or taking care of her mother when her mother got the flu and Amelia was traveling for work. Don’t remember going to yoga classes with Amelia, watching Grey’s Anatomy so you could spend time with her, or changing yourself to be the man she wanted. Don’t remember wishing, for the first time, that you could see the world with someone. Breathe in for three seconds. Exhale for three seconds. Don’t remember how sad Amelia still was about Tyler when she dated you. Don’t remember how weird the two of them acted when Tyler’s boss transferred him to Amelia’s office. Don’t remember how much Amelia’s mother still liked Tyler. Don’t remember how close Amelia and Tyler became despite being exes. Don’t remember the nights she came home late. Don’t remember the ring she returned to you. Don’t remember realizing she only appreciated the traits you shared with Tyler. Breathe in. Don’t walk up to them. Stop shaking. Stop breathing so quickly; you’re hyperventilating. Don’t speed up. Don’t try to catch them. Don’t notice everyone’s head turn to watch as you close in on them. Don’t reach out. “Hi, can I help you with something?” the Sales Associate asks, intercepting you. “I’m just looking for,” grab the nearest thing, you idiot, “a bra.” Fuck. Amelia and Tyler are staring at you. She’s nervous. He’s grinning. They don’t say anything. Nothing at all. “I don’t think you’re a D-cup, sir,” the Sales Associate says. Tyler giggles. Amelia pulls him away. They continue shopping. You hope they blend in with everyone else and disappear in the dairy section. They don’t. Stop

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ISSUE NO. 66 looking. The Sales Associate is waiting for your response. “Whoops,” cue the most awkward laugh of all time, “it’s my first bra.” Don’t engage in awkward eye contact with the Sales Associate. Don’t walk away with the bra in your hand. Don’t buy it at the cash register because you’re too afraid to put it back. Get back to your car as soon as possible. Sit down, close your eyes, and breathe. In for three seconds. Hold for three seconds. Out for three seconds. When you open your eyes, don’t acknowledge Tyler mocking you as he and Amelia walk past. He’s miming large breasts on his chest and giving you a thumbsup as a compliment. Drive home. Put the pizza in the oven. When you go to turn on the oven, change your mind and grab a bottle of bourbon instead. Drink directly from the bottle as you search Netflix. Delete Netflix when it suggests you finish watching Grey’s Anatomy. Cry. Finish the bottle of bourbon with the TV off, alone on your couch, in silence. Blackout. Wake up an hour before work. Do the sun salutation. Hold the warrior pose. Fall on your face. You’re still drunk. Breathe in for three seconds. Hold it for three seconds. Panic. Stop panicking; you just forgot to exhale. Exhale. Take off the bra. Throw on dirty clothes from your hamper. Remember to do laundry at some point. Go to work. Check your email. Breathe.

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NONFICTION

Like Clockwork by Adrian Francis

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ISSUE NO. 66 Black trauma is a wristwatch composed of a million gears. It ticks and ticks off the backs of grinding metal, assisting the passage of time, marked by hands of oppression. Crack of Dawn When George Floyd was murdered, I remembered I was Black. Not that I wasn’t fully aware before. I don’t think that there’s a Black person in this country that doesn’t have that persistent ache—that nagging pain that one does not get rid of but only gets used to feeling. Shit, they released the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s lynching only a few weeks before the final time-halting 8 minutes and 46 seconds of Mr. Floyd’s soul cycle. So, I knew I was Black; it’s just that racism makes itself prominent every so often, reminding you that your skin is a target for armed marksmen. It could be the media placing varying levels of merit to stories they feel will gain traction, positioning certain anecdotes to the front of the conveyor belt of their manipulation professionally known as the ‘news cycle.’ Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that there are checkpoints in a Black person’s life where they remember what it means to be Black. In older generations, the murder of Emmett Till often serves as a benchmark in the realization of that grief. For my generation, Trayvon Martin’s lynching awoke the inherited demons linked to pain and indiscretion. And of course, George Perry Floyd Jr. marked 2020, an already aberrant year, with his forced expression of martyrdom. What I did not anticipate about George Floyd’s death, however, were the tremors that would wrap their trembling arms around my very own college community. Solstice In response to the events surrounding George Floyd’s death, angered individuals across the nation took to the streets armed with heavy hearts and eyes filled with fervor. I was one of them. A few days before I actually went to protest, my girlfriend and I were on my back patio smoking a joint and venting to each other. “I don— I just don’t know. I don’t think anything is gonna change, Adrian. This shit has been going on for too long. It’s deep in our country. It’s like a fucking stain that you leave unwashed for months.” I agreed with her. “I can’t raise my kids here. How am I supposed to explain to them tha—that people hate them and care less about them because of…” I trailed off, punctuating that thought with a tear. I was tired. Exhausted. Sick of the cycle and scared of the future. So I fought. We took to the streets of Tallahassee in the middle of the summer, demanding answers and action. We were a conglomerate of students from the area’s triad of higher educational schools: Florida State University, Florida Agricultural and

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NONFICTION Mechanical University, and Tallahassee Community College. We marched in solidarity not only for George Floyd but also for Tony McDade, a transgender man gunned down by the Tallahassee Police Department in front of his apartment complex on May 27, 2020. Naturally, eyewitness accounts clashed with the police report, which stated McDade pointed a gun at officers before they opened fire. Witnesses claim the officers did not announce themselves as the police, and all they heard were gunshots. That same police report also misgendered McDade, and the day after they filed it, the department made a half-assed attempt to correct their disregard by claiming McDade was a woman who identified as a man. Our group of approximately 400 people moved like a hivemind and set our collective sights on the Police Department to insist for the bodycam footage of the officers involved in McDade’s killing to be released. We met in front of the State Capitol on Monroe St. and trudged in our sweat-soaked clothes through streets surveyed by TPD. Cars filled with supporters accompanied our brigade, honking their horns in approval of our advancements. We picked up a few strays on the way. One young woman prominently covered in tattoos left her job to join our mission. Local businesses even supplied us with drinks and snacks as if we were participating in a marathon, which we were. It’s a race that we’ve run for centuries. Before we could even make it to Tennessee Street, about a fourth of the way to our destination, a man in a pickup truck did not yield when he saw our group. Instead, he revved his engine in an attempt to intimidate and frighten us. He said something I didn’t hear, but suddenly, that’s when people started toward the truck, throwing things and yelling in its direction. I stayed put, and a few members of our group started arguing with the passenger and then began punching him. The driver revved up again and hit two people in his attempt to escape the crowd. Officers rushed in and escorted the two in a police vehicle which hastily left the scene. We arrived at the police department with even greater zeal than before. Congregating on the steps and the surrounding streets, community leaders took center stage, equipped with a megaphone to guide their thoughts into the air. Everyone who spoke shared either personal police-brutality-related stories or ways that we should all stand in unison. Then there was Toyin. She had on traditional African dress, faux loc dreads, and skin as lustrous as onyx. Her tone was affirmative and bold, expecting the attention of every ear in proximity. She spoke on the unfulfilled promises of justice, fearing for the Black men in her family, and the apathy of our oppressors. Her message hung in the air like a damp cloth on a clothesline, dripping and heavy. It stuck to me. After about an hour of waiting for the Chief of Police to show up, we decided to take our protest back to the Capitol to display our coalition. We stopped at the intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Monroe St. and sat in the road. We were tired. Exhausted. No one in power would hear our cries for equality, but we continued to wail. Toyin paced around the setting and uttered manifestations that carried the ancestral wishes of every Black woman that has ever graced the earth. She spoke protection,

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ISSUE NO. 66 guidance, safety, and realization over our lives. She wanted security for us, and I felt assured through her aura. For the next few days, my mind often drifted to Toyin’s words and her demeanor. I wondered about her background and interests, whether this was her first protest, what sparked her confidence, and what level of legacy her advocacy her actions would carry. I regretted not having a conversation with her. Whom the Bell Tolls Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Ruth Salau went missing on June 10, 2020. A few days before her disappearance, on June 6, she tweeted that she had been molested in Tallahassee by a Black man who offered her a ride. Toyin’s body was found in a ditch on the side of a road, along with the body of a 75-year-old AARP volunteer, Victoria Sims. I felt numb and disassociated. #JusticeForToyin started to trend on Twitter. Her story ran on CNN. It was all surreal. We commemorated her with a march to where she was found, lighting candles and sharing tears. A Civil Rights group named TheMovement850 got in contact with me and asked if I could write and share a poem at Toyin’s official vigil, which would be on the local news station. I’d already partnered with them a few weeks prior and performed on a Zoom call with Tallahassee’s NAACP chapter. I said yes. I wouldn’t have a chance to ever speak to her, so this was the closest to a dialogue that I could ever get. I wrote the poem mostly at night. I only had a few days to draft it, and I wanted it to be poignant. The vigil would take place at the State Capitol, which had become a location that seemed central to the events that had been transpiring. I was anxious for that day to come. Half Past 4:00 All the speakers/performers of the vigil had to be at the Capitol for rehearsal a few hours before the actual start. I ordered a Lyft and eagerly awaited its arrival. I got in the car with every intention of listening to music and pondering the day’s events, but my driver sparked up a conversation. “Ohh, so I see you’re heading to the Capitol.” Her eyes darted from the road to the rearview mirror, determined to see my expressions. “Yes, ma’am, I am.” “You must be going to a protest over there. They still doing all of that?” I wasn’t sure if her tone had any malice in it, so I answered. “Well, I’m not going to a protest. I’m actually going to the vigil for the teenage activist that was found dead the other day. I’m not sure if you heard about it, but it’s

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NONFICTION been all over the news.” I quietly sighed. I was trying my hardest to avoid any conversation that could take a political turn because I wasn’t in the headspace for a debate. But she insisted. “Oh yes, yes, I saw that. How heartbreaking… You see, my problem isn’t with the peaceful protestors; it’s really with the looting. We’ve been pretty peaceful up here, though, so that’s a good thing, but I just don’t see why you have to destroy your own environment. It just doesn’t make sense to me.” I paused a moment and thought of a way to get her to understand that riots are the language of the unheard. I did my best. “No, for sure. I can definitely see how that could be a problem for a lot of people. And I don’t condone violence in any way, shape, or form, but look at it from this perspective: the people looting are tearing down the establishments and businesses they built. The whole economic system of the U.S. was built on the backs of slaves. If their descendants are still being treated unfairly by white people, how else are they supposed to get their attention? Many rioters may feel like they have a right to burn everything to the ground due to the fact they built it by extension.” I could tell that wasn’t the answer she was expecting, but I didn’t care. I was fed up with being told by unwronged people how to act after generations of oppression. “But why does it have to be a race thing? There are good white people; I’d like to think I’m one of them. I didn’t grow up in the South. I’m from up North, and we treat people equally where I’m from.” I was tired. Exhausted. But I retorted. “It is a race thing. When one race is being conceptually incarcerated, it is a race thing. Then I baited her ass. Would you say you don’t see color?” “Exactly! I don’t see color! I don’t look at a Mexican person and say, ‘Oh, look at him, Mexicans are so dirty.’ That would be wrong. And in any case, even I’ve felt oppression myself. I’m a woman. If you and I walked into a job interview, they would give you the job over me.” I wasn’t even surprised at her mindset. “No. I think you’re forgetting something very important here. I’m a BLACK man, and you are a WHITE woman. White women are one of the most protected groups in this country. If anything, they’d give you the job to ‘protect’ you from me.” I sensed a bout of white fragility creeping in her speech, and I almost wished I hadn’t said that, but it needed to be said.

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ISSUE NO. 66 “That’s not true!” she rebutted, “Who are you to tell me about what would happen to me in any given situation?” I could’ve given her any number of my “credentials” to assure her that she was wrong, but it would’ve been counterintuitive. “I’m no one. No one at all.” She drove for the duration of the trip in silence, chewing and swallowing back the words that she really wanted to say. Grains in an Hourglass After rehearsal, I walked to the front of the State Capitol Building and waited on the sidewalk until I was sure it was safe for me to cross. I was heading back home to change clothes and to prepare more for the vigil. I stood there thinking about the number of people that might show up. I hoped that the turnout was good. Toyin deserved it. The traffic light in front of the Capitol turned green, and cars started to pass where I stood. A dirty white pick-up truck rolled past me just slow enough so that I could make out the racial epithets the passenger hurled at me. N***er boy (2x) I remembered that I was Black then, too. I also remembered that I was Black during the vigil, when cars honked their horns and yelled out of their windows, consciously interrupting our commemoration project. I remembered I was black when I shared my poem about protecting Black women, and I remembered I was Black when Toyin’s friends wept on the podium for their sister. I know full well that I’m Black, and believe me, I’m proud of it. I just wish the world found a better way of reminding me.

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POE


ETRY


ISSUE NO. 66

Cicadas and Citrus by Miriam Spada My beloved’s house holds a chorus of crickets. They live in his old jean pockets with rusted keys and Timber Wolf snuff. A whining breath between bodies, a disconcerted harmony rings like trees whistling off the side of US-27 as 18-wheelers wind to Georgia. Dusk Singing Cicadas wake him in the mornings to drink his spit and eat the sap from the fleshy wood of our magnolia headboard grooving into softwood to echo their own song. My beloved’s voice is orange basil tea, a bitter citrus. Cicadas feed on this knowing he will speak of the yellow tickseed flowers in the medians until his nose is out of joint and he swallows his own tongue. Their courtship songs of buzzing zits tell him it is time for the big shells of bodies to bang tymbals and grind legs under the sheets while I sit on the floor and chant Psalms to the Gregorian rhythm of their ancient songs. My lover scratches his name into the headboard and I hum, sway, and pray to the God of locusts that one day I will lay under clean white sheets and the cicadas will no longer eat, they will sing to me and turn their heads to look and whisper: Talitha Kumi and my lover will swallow his tongue again, roll off of the bed and I will watch him feed on orange basil and finally sleep through the night until I wake to his quiet hums and softwood song with the morning sun beating on my back, hearing them all sing to me: rise little girl arise.

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POETRY

Digging for Pearls by Valentine Johnson In a sweaty tent, I wake up from dreaming about you and catch my arm on a briar climbing out. It isn’t more than a sharp scrape —only bleeds long enough for me to wipe it away. Before dinner, I get into the river undressed. Stir up the rich brown bottom wading out into the current, let it tug me away. Til I get hungry and turn, swim up and so hard the sting is just splashing water. By Monday it’s scabbed over— but flushed hot below the skin with red, itching infection. Press it like a bruise, hot like my cheek when you hit me with I love you Splash it with alcohol but the scab does its job —no more in. No more out. Think about leaving it, hope that bruise doesn’t blossom and streak. Stead I try picking at it, but it clings to me like you did when you came. I take a shower hotter than my wound. Soften the scab into a bloated brownish line, 45


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peel it off and see, nestled in the shallow ditch of red-raw flesh— half a dozen yellow-white pearls of pus. I can’t squeeze them out of me, like I still can’t chase you out of my dreams. But the teeth in my arm are too straight to be yours, though they shine the same. Like this one, your dream-mouth never talks— I forgot all your words. The lighter chicks and I heat tweezer tips in the flame. Let them cool for a second. Use the warm metal to dig for pearls.

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Raising a Toddler While Studying the Films of Alfred Hitchcock: A Sonnet by Stephanie Powers

Could I get away with the perfect murder of Caillou stuffing him in a trunk while we color on top of his tomb? If we’re killing them off, can Miss Elaina die too? Ugga Mugga Daniel Tiger, you think King Friday is flaccid? Letter of the Day is M for Murder, Strangers on a Dinosaur Train Come to think of it! Let’s put Barney on a guillotine! it was chocolate syrup seeping down the tub from Marion Crane ice cream, ice cream we all scream for stabbings in the shower scene making a bedroom fort cosier than the cinematic apparatus but we don’t want no oedipal complexes in this house, kid Norman, almost as sexually deviant than that Cat in the Hat is and that shelf-elf voyeur has a itty-bitty peephole, no doubt sis never ending scene of popcorn fundraisers and VPK admissions You think Mr. Rogers liked the missionary position?

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ISSUE NO. 66

To My Sister, On Her Birthday by Oliver Brooks I made you earrings carved from my own finger bones. Wear them for me; wherever you look, I will be pointing the way. See over there? That is the tree we planted the morning of your birth, placenta buried under its roots—bits of Mom, bits of you. And there is the creek where we baptized you. (Tadpoles got in your mouth.) During the dry season, promise me you won’t forget where it wanders between the cypress knees. Here is a brooch made from a wasp that once stung me on the cheek. I’m convinced it meant to kiss me instead but was disoriented by a breeze. Pin it to your lapel so when you walk into a room, the first thing that enters will be a specimen of something that will never hurt again, with you following suit. My last gift is wrapped in golden tulle. But first, tell me, young aesthete, what do you see when you find, on some shelf, a ship in a bottle? Me, I first see the cork plugging the mouth of a sea, so here is a drawstring bag of cork seeds I gathered myself, dredged from round fruits with my eight remaining fingers. If we each swallow one, we will know what it is to contain multitudes. But first, please confess, sister, what multitudes do you already harbor?

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POETRY

Serial by McKenzie Harris

The Cuyahoga River has been ignited more than 13 times in the span of its life. A fetid liquid is pumped so full of industrial sludge that flames slink along its surface in a pas de deux of elements, an intricate duo-dance defying nature and setting water ablaze. Its name is Iroquoian and means crooked water or place of the jawbone. It receives the Little Cuyahoga near the northeast border of Akron, the place that cracked my jaw. Land of LeBron, metal bands, high-functioning heroin addicts, and just 20 minutes from where Jeffrey Dahmer dismembered his first victim. My grandpa recalls his days as his tennis coach and how he wrote letters about the troubled student to the school’s board, how everyone looked the other way. Jeffrey was 9 years old when he witnessed the worst fire in the history of the Cuyahoga and 18 when he first crushed a man’s bones with a sledgehammer. In 2019, the Cuyahoga River was named River of the Year in honor of 50 years of environmental resurgence, but the water is still a squalid, sepulchral saxe.

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Ways to Measure Growth by Erin Strickler

There are marks on the wall in my grandmother’s foyer and when I was ten I was the size of my father when he was seven and my brothers were average until they weren’t. My grandmother had a bougainvillea and the first thing she said to my mother when she wanted to start a garden over summer break was, “Stay away from the bougainvillea because once it spreads it doesn’t stop,” like ivy on stone walls, forcing its way into the cracks and crevices. There are girls with their hair dyed straight from the box but you wouldn’t be able to tell because it didn’t change the color from brown to auburn, it just kept brown as brown. They sit, sinking into burgundy velvet, and talk about joy like a foreign object, like a guilt trip, and the woman at the desk across says, “Just let light be light.” There are physicists in auditoriums, there are students with their heads down as the professor talks about the visibility of light and says that, even though we are taught color is the form light takes when it steps out before us, the math tells us rather bluntly that all of light is invisible, because the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other. So how do we recognize light long enough to allow it the pleasure of being? How do the girls see it, the bougainvillea in the garden? Then I think of the lizards, how they shed their skin, not all at once, but in wavering frequency and patches: it just depends how fast they are growing.

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Chickens by Hayden Church

I a child picks-at the wicker chicken standing at attention— plucking feathers stringed in ropes, draped in locs of wicker jowls ribboned around its neck, its beak clucking just to say exactly nothing it would not otherwise. II the other chicken is made of metal and is quite sharp and takes his meals at noontime and will not take it a second before or after. he enjoys his meal, burps decisively, and rides away on his motorcycle. he bites children. III wow: the lovely lady has flown the coop —how regent she is— and I, for one, will not tell her that the roosters down there are missing are gone a lady, untamed in her investments because she is well aware.

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Washing My Face, 4:37 A.M. by Sofia Lavidalie

I am walking to my parents’ bathroom to get a rag, thinking of all the ways I have undone myself in this house. I am washing my face again, which Mom says is a good sign. The rags are in a monochrome stack in the closet, and I can see the dust collecting high in a corner. I am visiting my family for the holidays. It is making me think about how losing someone can feel like returning home to oneself after a long trip. The curtains are open, the lights are shining warm yellow, but one knocks on the door and finds nobody answers it. I tell Oliver I don’t want to hollow myself out anymore. He says back calmly, “Who said you have to?” The rag is becoming wet and dark under the faucet. I bring it to my face and it cools my red cheeks, my puffy eyes, the soap bubbling little piles on my eyebrows. You are somewhere in Boca Raton. And the sun there is probably heavier, and the bare trees are shifting back and forth. Or maybe not. Maybe not at all. I have no reason to know, now. I am tired of working against my own body. Every time I say this I say it in your voice. I feel I am living in the residue of your absence. I will live in it, and I will live in it, and even if I die in it I will continue living.

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When We Talk About History by Catherine Cosgrove there’s a yellow house on the street that shares our last name, and how it flooded when the snow melted and carried tension to the ceiling and grey March runoff began bobbing beneath cedar floorboards. The story is worn down, threadbare and yawning on its stubby legs, taking one last go around. And history is subjective like a furrowed brow transfixed in sorrow and asserting: If we lived here we’d be home. And it doesn’t really matter if you never understood how her mouth slid against the words, or why every street reminded her of South Buffalo and that she used to take three buses and a streetcar to school, how she wanted to pay twenty dollars in 1945 to change her name to Elaine, because Phyllis was stodgy and unremarkable. Everything comes back to the faded yellow house that straddles Lake Erie and the street that isn’t named for us, but holds us all the same –

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& and the wind is whimpering against the windows, and Mark is mopping kitchen linoleum and I need to wonder how much of this is mine to keep.

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Lexicon

by Noland Blain

“It’s no use mother dear, I can’t finish my weaving. You may blame Aphrodite, soft as she is, she has almost killed me with love for that boy.” - Sappho, translated by Mary Barnard My father doesn’t mention the pearl earring, the white roach he would have called queer as a boy. He no longer says it like that, a small mercy. I catch him glancing at my lipstick, and he hastens silence—bless him and his silence, his well-meaning pot lids over my soap-boxing, which must burn right through him, right to the gods of his boyhood: the ivory girlfriend sauntering through the mall in a short skirt, or else trapped in magazine pages beneath the boy-blue bed. How can I blame him for his age, we of different love religions: the Aphrodite I worship, rough as granite and with no slender wrists; all monument I had to coax, carve, and name from the deep wood closet. When I am home with my father, she is vacant from this temple. Godless home, made godless house in smothered prayer, each of us pantomiming a frantic translation. Identity, I coo and touch his heart. Expression, I curl his hands around a pearl. I prattle about cuffed jeans, gold brooches, the pink stiletto I see in my dreams. My father shifts his weight on the sofa, jokes: What are you doing with a knife in this house?

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STAFF Alaina Faulkner, Editor-in-Chief Aram Mrjoian, Faculty Advisor

Fiction

Visual Arts

Mia Jackson - EDITOR Alyssa Cuevas Emma Derricks Brittany Duffey Emily Engle Sabine Joseph Sage Kim Allison Mickey Kiersten Wright

Christian Latham - EDITOR Natalie Hughes Jessica Steffens Rachel Zak

Nonfiction Anna Morgan - EDITOR Catherine Cosgrove Gabriela Laracuente Cristin Aimee McKee Shawntia Nicholson Roxy Rico Katherine Shannon

Poetry Sarah Beal - EDITOR Kristine Castillo Ana M. Daragjati Dariela Delgado Ted Dryce Courtney Foth Joshua Hogie Alexa Martinez-Loza Brianna Minuse Jordan Stokey

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The Kudzu Review: Issue. No 66  

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