ONEOTA REVIEW 2013
The Oneota Review
Volume Forty-One, Spring 2013 Editor
Michael Crowe Assistant Editor
Jessy Machon, Ingrid Baudler, Sarah King, Hayley Ryan Published for Luther College by Johnson Publishing of Rochester, MN
Table of Contents Cover: “Norwegian Pines” (detail) by Michael Crowe
Waking Slow Margaret Yapp6
Salvation of the Gnostics Cassie Jahn25
Grey Emma Cassabaum7
The Scythe Maddy Kofoed26
Ruin Marley Crossland8
Oxbow Casey DeLima27
Satan’s Room Tydus Pharoh9
Notre Dame Casey DeLima28
Tiger Lilies Marley Crossland10
Self-Portrait I Walker Nyenhuis29
Quality Time Tydus Pharoh10
Untitled Jayne Cole30
goodmorning stinkbreath Emma Cassabaum 11
Litany of the Lost Sarah Corfman31
Over the Stovetop Laura Hayes12 She Stepped Back Ingrid Baudler13 Alone & Free Ingrid Baudler13 The Universe Lives Next-door in 14B Michael Crowe14 Mary Walker Nyenhuis18 Library of Dust: Canisters I and II Hayley Ryan 19 Sacrifice Maddy Kofoed20 Grandpa’s Pysanky Cooper Jacks21 The Common Man Cooper Jacks23 Figment Kaia Sands24
Routine Jessica Belt32 ...And I Feel Fine Noah Lange38 Big Black Eyes Hayley Ryan42 Streaking at Luther College Margaret Yapp 43 Rain at the Iowa City Arts Fest (or: The Joy of Living) Margaret Yapp43 The Run Ingrid Baudler44 Square Stories Lauren Nielsen
The Toad Maddy Kofoed46 Flight Laura Hayes47 Dropping the Ball Sarah King48 What We Are Margaret Yapp53
What We Are Margaret Yapp
This is what we were: a length of chive in the summer, a lick of sweet dirt, the weight of a single pebble in the palm of one hand, eyes closed. We were a carpet of violets, spreading mist over the toes of pines that met in our fieldâ€™s center; together we all leaned, lengthening our spines. If you had watched us those afternoons you would have seen pine needles brush and bristle around branches, then gathered in our fingers to form nets of green life. You would have seen us, a mess of browned children, hidden in blackberry bushes that held so many unripe delights to save for later. Yes, you would have seen all of this: a sweet green summer, young heads full of blossom, fingers stained with purple juice, hair smelling of leaves. 6
Emma Cassabaum There is a brief moment of seasons, crammed between sweet scented autumn and the cleansing white of winter. All of a sudden, there are no more leaves to be pulled from the trees. Quiet descends, and often rain. Most barely notice it, this season between the seasons, but here in the hills and bluffs where river and woodland and prairie all come together, it is near impossible not to see the tacet beauty unfurling. The sky here is grey, perfectly so. Yet I do not consider it bleak- it is beautiful and full of imminent possibility. The grass below is still quite green, yet it is littered with leaves, all of which have now decayed into various shades of brown. The rain that has fallen this dark morning has mingled in the leaves, filling the air with a scent no man could ever capture. Sweet and sharp, notes of musk and wet combine with the spiciness of oak. No tree left standing has foliage, save for the great conifers that droop under the weight of damp needles. Green and grey and brown. That is all that there is here
anymore. Green and grey and brown and a quiet that waits contentedly for the coming of winter. Tremors seem to float invisible through the bare branches of the trees, reverberating off of grey sky and scarf-clad travelers who clutch cups of heat to them, sipping to fend off the chill. I myself am one of these travelers, clutching scalding coffee to my body. But unlike the rest I do not hurry from place to place, eager to escape. I walk slow, keeping the earth under my feet. I stare into the endlessly pale sky, even now glancing up every few moments, waiting. This sort of sky seems to be setting the stage, but the actors of winter will be slow in coming. After a while it even begins to hurt your eyes, and you must pull away, averting your contemplative gaze to a deciduous skeleton. Here I will sit now, content, just as this fleeting season is. I will wait and admire and occasionally squirm in my chair, as grey as the sky. Sweet time and this stark landscape will teach me patience, as I shall teach others to see.
Marley Crossland My mind is popping like tired joints, but I don’t know where to start. Should I bring you here? What if your presence is marring, the only fruit of my labor to be pages ripped from my Moleskine? It would be one more thing you’ve taken, just like you took a body, free like woodland, and hacked it ‘til it could not stand, sticky pine needles and sheets of leaves replaced by rust and salt. You walked into the sprawling shrubbery, and with flaming fingers touched everything, leaving burns and scars even in the places that I’d so well hidden. The once-lush canopy now wasted, shrinks back from any visitor. You took a tender sprig of hope and crushed it. You, a two-year old carelessly tromping through her mother’s garden rapidly unhurried, feet stained with the blood of fallen flowers.
Satanâ€™s Room Tydus Pharaoh
The Intelligent gather once a week on the eve of the Sabbath To sin before they must dutifully repent, They force themselves upon one another In the humidity and sweat. This mire of transgressors, They are no strangers to the pleasures of the flesh, The sots share the courtesans between themselves And the eternal fire heats the establishment through the vents. I too am a sinner, like the rest of the assembly, I patrol the line from Limbo that files chaotically inwards, Waiting their turn to pay their debt so they may experience my hellish medley. I contribute to corrupting the youth, Selling the innocence of daughters And finding pure minds to pollute. I persuade with promises of palliatives, grandeur, and erotic sights, Ones that will make the journeys worth the plight. Clad in brimstone they dance with demons, Portraits of fallen women and heathens. The pied piper lures them in with his tune, I welcome the brood of vipers, To Satanâ€™s room.
Marley Crossland This is the night of a thousand fists jabbed into the air. Our feet stir the gravel, the crunching too common, the roar on the streets muffled by the trees like soldiers guarding this path. Soon, we come to the field; our flip-flop clad feet becoming dew-slick as we wander. We sit. You lean on my shoulder, smelling of tiger lilies. We do not speak.
Quality Time Tydus Pharaoh
I can still taste the tequila that lingers on your lip, With each deep stare we indulge in I become inebriated with the following kiss. Minds vacant, Eyelids heavy, Emotions numbed, We lie motionless Embracing in Sundayâ€™s dawn.
goodmorning stinkbreath Emma Cassabaum
goodmorning stinkbreath you blanket hog have a cuppa tea while I pour my coffee our hair is mussed once neat leaf piles ruined by a stiff wind donâ€™t put a shirt on your chest is too warm your hands on my waist are most welcome morning mumbles always draw a smile bare toes on the floor now chin on my shoulder hand me my glasses so I might see you better in the morning sun open a window let the chill come find us I want to lay in dewy grass smell the song of the dawn hold my hand and my heart clutch it to you like I clutch my cup to me breathe me in so that I might become light puddling up in the lawn to be drank up by morning birds who will sing me into the day borne on a breeze
that the dog will chase but for now say nothing sweetheart let us sip bask in the goodmorning for it is far fresher than you stinkbreath
Over the Stovetop Laura Hayes
The window was cracked open, exposing the flat to the roar of London. The honk of traffic lulled with the hum of city life. Sounds from the surrounding flats drifted through: the woman singing next door, the couple below bickering over types of apples to use for a pie, and the university student sitting on the fire escape, kicking the railing in time to The Beatles blaring from the speakers. And amidst the noise, Colin heard the front door shut from the kitchen. He paused, his hand hovering over the boiling pasta. The sound of boiling water cut through the air, threatening to go over. With a wince, he moved his dinner from the pot to the sink, growing more and more aware of the presence in the hall. The pasta hissed as it drained into the cool metal sink, but his visitor didn’t make a sound. Colin continued on cooking, taking a moment to butter the bread. The knife quivered in his hand, timed with the repeated hitches in his breath. However, he managed to get the bread in the oven without burning himself and proceed to break lettuce to make a salad, snapping the leaves and stalk into the bowl. She must have decided to stay because Colin heard her toe off her shoes into the corner, hang her jacket on the hook, and set the briefcase on the bench. They had done this time after time; it was part of their routine, part of “every day.” But the shards were still in the corner, the pillow and blankets on the sofa, the bills strewn across the floor. Among the shards was a picture from five years ago, taken outside a café in Paris after Colin and Tara got lost trying to find Montmartre. The sun was falling and she threw an arm around Colin, laughing, and managed to capture the photo, freezing a moment with Colin’s eyes locked on Tara’s head thrown back. It was so easy back then, when they didn’t have to worry about fathers-in-laws or expectations. They simply were themselves. There was a rapping on the wooden doorframe. Colin turned and saw Tara standing in the doorway. They didn’t need to say anything, because that moment said everything. I’m sorry. I screwed up. I love you. Can I come home? Colin smiled and sat down at the table set for two.
She Stepped Back Ingrid Baudler
She stepped back and looked at him. He caught her breath and held it It wasn’t his half-smile or his winking eye It was just him, straight faced, looking at her. Doubts sputtered out and fell off the side of her mind. A smile cracked across his face and he grabbed her by the hips and pulled her in with the flick of his fingers.
Alone & Free Ingrid Baudler
It’s not a callus I’m not ‘acting tough’ I’m not hiding the truth the old truth is now a lie I’ve gone too far in the other direction I am hiding something but it’s not what you think I’m hiding it because I’m scared of it deep down, it’s not that I still have feelings for you It’s that deep down, I don’t think I have feeling for anyone except myself deep down, I don’t have feelings except the urge to be alone and free
The Universe Lives Next-door in 14B Michael Crowe
Setting: 14-C, a small apartment. Bare stage, two settings, one left and one right. On one side, two white sinks stand side by side, as if the audience is looking through the mirror. On the other, a single, battered couch indicates the small apartments living room. The sinks and the couch should be close enough that a conversation can be reasonably held between them. The couch should be disgusting. HE and SHE are standing at the sinks facing the audience, looking at them as if they are the mirror. They are relatively well-dressed. SHE is tweezing her eyebrows, HE is straightening his tie. HE is almost ready. THE UNIVERSE: a voice offstage, old and crotchety. *** SHE: You’re not supposed to see this. HE: What like it’s some big mystery? I know you tweeze your eyebrows. The world knows your tweeze your eyebrows. It’s not a secret. SHE: I know, but I just feel like you’re not supposed to. HE: Not supposed to says who? SHE: I don’t know, just, don’t, ok? HE: I don’t get that. It’s just us, alone in our apartment. We can do whatever we want, eyebrow fiends be damned. Who’s to judge? SHE: God, I don’t know, The Universe, ok? It’s just how it is. Go! (Pause) HE, very sincere: Should we ask the Universe? SHE, playful: You’re being stupid. Stop making fun of me. HE: No, I’m serious. (HE drones–) Oh mighty Universe, may I please remain here with this sculptor of hairlines, the architect of eyebrows? (An expectant pause) HE: Huh, nothing. Weird. SHE (dry): Weird. HE: Why do you set all these little arbitrary rules for yourself? What’s the point? Maybe the universe is more concerned with bigger issues than one man watching his girlfriend groom herself. (HE steps out dramatically, drones agin–) Infinite Universe, I, your humble 14
servant ask only that your show mercy on the evil that clearly has possessed me this day. SHE: Oh shut up. Go! (SHE punches him in the arm) HE: Come on. Why can’t I stay in here? Who will ever know? SHE: You’re ridiculous, and I’ll know. Just, go wait for me somewhere else. HE: Fine. We’re going to be late though. (He walks to other side of stage, headed for couch.) (The opposite side of the stage is nearly completely dark. HE lays down on the couch and throws his feet up.) HE: If we’re late for dinner my parents are going to kill me. Live with that on your conscience. (HE grabs remote, turns on the television. HE tucks his hand into the waistband of his pants.) HE: Grab me when we’re going. (SHE finishes getting ready, taking her time. Her lines are delivered as she finishes. SHE begins brushing her teeth.) SHE (with toothbrush in mouth): Your parents know we’ve moved in together, right? HE (guilty): Well, see, here’s the thing SHE, sticking her head out of ‘bathroom’: Oh no. HE: It may not have come up yet. But I will, soon, really! (SHE walks into the other room before she responds. SHE flicks the light switch, and a spotlight hits HIM on the couch) SHE: You mean to tell me that you–(light cue) (Pause, shocked as she sees him) SHE: What are you doing. What-what-what are you doing? (HE is sprawled, his hand jammed deep in the waistband of his jeans, just resting there. The toothbrush in her mouth clatters to the floor. They both freeze. HE: What? SHE: What is that in your pants? TELL ME WHAT THAT IS IN YOUR PANTS. HE: What? Oh, nothing. It’s just comfortable, all right? SHE: Comfortable with your hand in your pants? That is so foul I can’t even–are you...? (HE stands) HE: No not that, it’s just like, your arm’s just laying there and it slips right in. Just sits there. It’s a thing. Lots of guys do it. SHE: That’s disgusting. Don’t do that anymore. HE: So you’re telling me what to do now? 15
SHE: When I moved in we agreed that this would be our place, not your bachelor pad. You’ll have to change. HE: Oh come on, what’s the big deal? It’s a thing! Lots of people relax with a hand in their pants! It helps you think! Gives you something solid to hold on to! It’s not hurting anyone. SHE: Oh you are so hurting someone! HE: Who? SHE (hysterical): NANA! This is my grandmothers couch! IT IS LIKE YOU ARE LAYING ON TOP OF NANA WITH YOUR HAND IN YOUR PANTS. (A pause, HE looks at the hideous couch, then back to her. Pause.) HE: I am very sorry, couch-nana. SHE: Fondling yourself to nana, desecrating her memory– HE: Alright, calm down. Let’s both just breathe for a second. (SHE heaves a dramatic sigh and glowers at him) HE: Sit with me. (They sit) HE: Now, I want you to listen carefully (pause) I want you to try it. SHE: What?! I will not– HE: Please, for me, just try it. Just relax, and put your hand in your pants. (She considers, a pause) SHE: Fine. HE: Alright. Just like this (HE slouches low, and tucks his hand in his waistband) Now you. (SHE, apprehensive, does that same) Now, how do you feel? What are you thinking about? SHE: That this is stupid. HE: Oh come give it a chance. What are you really thinking? SHE: Fine. Oh, god, I don’t even know. So many things. First, that I’m realizing I just moved in with a psychopath (pointed glance) and we’re about to go have dinner with his parents which is going to be awful since we can’t dare let slip that we’re living together now because they’ll probably crucify me and god I want them to like me because I’m respectable goddamnit and these are the two-thousands for christ sake I am a goddamn modern woman and now I’m thinking about why you really don’t want to tell them, and 16
how it’s probably because you’re embarrassed of me? I’d never have moved in with you if I knew you were embarrassed me. (An epiphany. They look at each other.) HE (smiles): See? SHE: You know, I get it now. HE: Sometimes, you’ve just got to let those things slip away, and just hang onto yourself for dear life. It’s reassuring. You against the universe. It’s like a security blanket you’re never without! (Pause) HE: You know I’m not embarrassed of you, right? I don’t want you to think that. SHE: Well I don’t think we should have to keep this a secret. It feels that way. HE, somber: Alright. Let’s tell em tonight. Screw what they think. SHE: Are you sure? HE: Very. SHE (gaining momentum): We tell them! HE: Tell them we’re living together, and we don’t care what they think! SHE: We’re adults, and they’ll have to accept it! HE: Fortune favors the bold! SHE: We are young adults, independent, the masters of destiny HE (frenzied): Screw the universe! SHE: You hear that? Screw you, universe! THE UNIVERSE: WOULD YOU KIDS SHUT THE HELL UP IN THERE (They freeze, petrified, looking up) SHE: WHO’S THERE? THE UNIVERSE: YOUR NEIGHBOR, WHO CARES VERY LITTLE ABOUT YOUR PIDDLY LITTLE ISSUES, BUT CARES VERY MUCH ABOUT HOW LOUDLY YOU DISCUSS THEM. (pause) IT’S LIKE YOU DON’T EVEN CARE THAT CSI: MIAMI IS ON. (Pause) SHE: Do you remember that TS Eliot line from Prufrock? Do I dare disturb the universe? HE: I think we already have. (They collapse, giggling conspiratorially) END. 17
Walker Nyenhuis She sits alone. Her family is late Though she does not know. All days Interweave, flowing Into each other, disappearing as vapors.
Her family arrives, quickly filling the room with laughter and smiles. In her: a love for those who have no name.
Across the room, her husband worriedly whispers to specialists, who nod and attempt Reassurance.
They ask her how she is doing. She slowly replies: Thoughts disconnected. Words on repeat. A solemn stereo of mind seeking some form of Transmission.
A series of coughs summons them back. She emits a yawn and again tries to sleep in her chair. Her wrinkles shift against her hand. “They’ll be here any minute, Mary,” he insists to no reply.
Time’s observance is meaningless in this building, full of those untroubled by demanding schedules and pains of memory.
After several hours, all laughter fades, and the nameless depart, but She remains there, Confined to the chair. Staring out her picture-window prison.
Library of Dust: Canisters I and II
Abandoned urns from the Oregon State Insane Asylum
Another Earth forms where seams meet. Blues join to simulate the rippling waves of the ocean. The tides spread across the canisters, providing rhythm, a heartbeat. The blues lap at the greens, corroding copper. The colors blossom into insane pinks and manic purples, embellishing the new Earthâ€™s surface. Like snow, the white mineral falls across the blue atmosphere. The element extends its crystal arms in an embrace. As the ocean and land breed, they wrap their young around the container, mummifying the body. Entombing forgotten ruins. Another life forms as ashes are laid to rest. They remain unclaimed, yet buried by the Earth.
Maddy Kofoed She had two bad arms from polio and a face that was sharp and pious and stern, When dad called her on the phone every Sunday at seven She would sit and wait for the ringing to stop – wait it out on her cold, white steel folding stool at the heavy oak table next to the window, wrinkled hands folded steadily on top of the vinyl daisy table cover – that deadened, dulled sheen of fake yellow flowers and dusty, faux sunlight that had been beneath our plates all the Thanksgivings past; everything as it always has been, nothing new, never updated And after the million years between the first and the last ring, she would wait a few seconds longer for the answering machine –wait, with a cold, monkish patience, cloudy, pointed eyes fixed straight ahead, heavy arms composed in a heap upon the dulled daisies beneath her, until she knew dad had hung up, confused and irritated. Then, as soon as the familiar, disconnected stillness has once again claimed the dulled yellow house, bitter with age and annoyed with its broken silence, she would swiftly pick up the telephone and dial the numbers by memory, tracing the sweet pattern of nines and fives and threes, twos, sixes that her furrowed hand knew so well, Ringing again, but now the muted, controlled noise contained in the earpiece of her telephone, until the ringing stopped and a deep Hello came, and she would speak out loud in her solemn house for the first time all day, and he would say Mom you know you can just pick up the first time, we can cover the cost of a phone call… and she would smile soft to herself and trace the vinyl daisies of the table cover under her two bad arms from polio. 20
Grandpa’s Pysanky Cooper Jacks
“Hey, Grandpa,” Ellis called as he entered the guest room. “Mom wanted me to tell you it’s almost time for supper. Uh, what’s that you’re working on?” Grandpa was sitting at the table with an egg, some newspaper, a candle, a block of wax, dye, and what looked to Ellis like three drawing tools of different sizes. “Pysanky,” Grandpa answered. “It’s Ukrainian egg art.” Grandpa held a block of wax over the candle. “But I thought you were German,” Ellis said. “Of course. But when I was…serving, I met a Ukrainian gal who taught me Pysanky.” “You fought in Ukraine?” “Ah—no. I never fought. I was posted in Germany.” “So she came to you? How?” Ellis pulled over a chair and settled into it. The block of wax had softened. Grandpa sighed as he dipped and filled one of his drawing tools and started rubbing the soft wax over the egg. “I suppose you’re old enough to know. I shouldn’t have to hide it from my own family. I was posted in a forced labor camp within the German border.” Ellis said nothing.
“She lived in western Ukraine. She hadn’t fled when the Germans came because her people wanted the Germans to liberate them from the Soviets.” The melted wax flowed over the egg in whatever patterns Grandpa preferred— straight, arcing, angular. Ellis couldn’t tell whether Grandpa had planned the patterns ahead of time or was improvising. “She and the others were herded to Germany to be Ostarbeiters. Eastern slave workers. They had to wear these navy blue badges with blocky, white letters, ‘O-S-T.’ The Reich exploited them for forced labor.” Grandpa switched from melted wax to dye. He caressed the egg in strokes of dark blue, leaving the wax pattern intact. “They even made the women do forced labor?” “Yes. Except if they became pregnant, like the woman who taught me Pysanky. Then they were sent back home because pregnancy got in the way of work.” The wax pattern contrasted against the dark blue. Ellis didn’t see much of the pattern before Grandpa held the egg over the flame. “So what was stopping them from getting pregnant and going home like the woman you knew?” 21
“When we—when the Germans caught on, they started carrying out forced abortions. Then they changed the policy. Babies who were born with ‘good’ blood were taken away to a Lebensborn institution for Germanization. Babies with ‘bad’ blood were hauled off to an institution called an Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte.” Drops of melted wax fell from the egg. The drops in the newspaper reminded Ellis of teardrops. “So what happened to the Ukrainian woman and her baby? When did she get pregnant?” “She got pregnant after the policy change,” Grandpa began, “and her baby, her little girl, had mixed blood. She was sent to an Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte.” Grandpa took picked up a tube-like tool with a section like an accordion and began sucking out the egg’s innards. “Were they supposed to grow up and serve the Germans, or—” Ellis lowered his voice. “Or were they sent there to die?” “I don’t know. But they usually died. They suffered a few months, and then they died. But those few months were their entire lives. That’s what happened to the Ukrainian woman’s baby. The little girl lived and died entirely in the hands of the Nazis.” The egg’s guts lay in a dark, earthy bowl. “Grandpa?” Ellis asked, his voice wavering. “That Ukrainian woman…was she Grandma?” “I didn’t meet Grandma until after I’d 22
fled to America. The Ukrainian woman, Nataliya, was dead inside after what happened. Der Muselmann.” The egg was empty now. All that remained was the brittle shell, painted dark blue with white circles, S-curves and T’s. “She gave up the will to live. That was when I left.” The blue and white shell cracked in Grandpa’s hand.
The Common Man Cooper Jacks
Everyone saw the posters. It’s definitely not avant garde, but everyone’s going. The critics say not to. Amid the backstage mess, he confesses. What he really wants to do is direct. Don’t we all. Enter stage left. Our star emerges in black and white and velvet. We ignore his lack of classical training and suspend our disbelief. We want the populist promises, to and from the common man. He’s one of us. Is the smoke so thick? Are the mirrors so clean? The common man has broken the rusting iron. He stands strong against the elites. He’s one of us. Real change now. Unending revolution without revolution. This plot does not progress. Its gears only spin in stasis. His catchphrases are all clichés, but we still call for them. He responds. Or maybe he calls, and we respond. No matter. To and from make a circle. The common man. One of us. He enraptures us. Cheer. Chant. Sing. Stamp. He gives a standing ovation while we bow to thank him. One of us. The show must not go on. Cheers will become screams. Through the smoke, his iron will show, still hot from the war. He’ll burn his velvet costume, and then the people. The plot is purgatory. We forged the common man’s iron. We fortified the common man’s role. We forfeited the common man’s future. Victim. Villain. All of us. Exit stage right. Enter stage left. 23
Figment Kaia Sands
Listen to me! Just listen, will ya? I know I’m thought delusional —hell, the whole damned town believes it too— but I swear it’s not true. I know what I saw. I wasn’t dreaming. No, it wasn’t my imagination! She was perched on my cedar chest, clad in her favorite indigo sundress —the one that always reminded me of sultry summer afternoons, picking wild blueberries at the lake. I cried. Warm skin brushed my cheek as she hugged me close, her breath a breeze tickling my ear. “I’ll be with you forever, Bobby. I’ve always loved you most.” —Ha! I knew I was her favorite! My siblings just roll their eyes— She vanished after this confession. There is no other explanation— I’ve seen my mother’s ghost.
Salvation of the Gnostics Cassie Jahn
a professor of mine once held a lecture on Gnosticism he told us that Sophia (her desire) had constructed the world around us afterwards most of her returned to Pleroma the rest was given to us (as a form of salvation) these pieces of Sophia were called divine sparks they were something (ever-present) in the body that could bring you to salvation if awakened through knowledge of them (given by the Messengers of Light) our eyes held a piece of her, liquid and translucent but as class ended and our minds wandered that filmy spark of the feminine deity melted into our skin like snow (disappeared from our sight) but I sometimes wonder if she forgot to melt into me and I wonder about those people who never learned of Sophiaâ€™s existence (never enlightened) did the Messengers of Light ever think to save
The Scythe Maddy Kofoed
Sickle scythe, your crescent of steel Swift and strong you chop the sedge; The grass and the goldenrod, garlic mustard and clover All bow to your blade - steady and blind And the sure swoop of the farmerâ€™s swing You follow his form, flow with his hips To the clink of the honing stone hitched to his hem You reel and thrust, both thirsty for thistle In the heavy heat of half past three Your thwoosh thwoosh consumes the thick And the meadowlark watches, a witness from its willow While the hawthorn falls with a hymn in its heart And the sweet ache in the scytherâ€™s side The bright burn that stings his back The blisters that bleed for the broken green All is fair All is fair
Casey DeLima 27
Litany of the Lost Sarah Corfman
How are you? I’m pretty tired. Tired of fear Tired of sorrow Tired of making A dent in tomorrow. I’m tired of lying Awake late in bed, Knowing that time cannot Smother my dread. Tired of guilt Tired of playing Tired of trying To sate every craving. So if Someone you’ve followed Has brought you back cured, Waiting and knocking for me Till I’ve heard, Then you’d better speak up – Spill the beans – share your Fire – Because I’m desperately sick and I’m pretty tired. How are you?
Routine Jessica Belt
The digital clock on the oven slowly blinks 10:13 pm. The same time as yesterday. And the day before. The end of one day—one life—and the start of another. The beginning of a routine. The first thing she does after coming home from work is grab the shot glass waiting for her next to the sink. Then she opens the fridge and reaches for the vod—wait, not that one. The strawberry flavored one. Yes, it feels like a strawberry day. Removing the top, she pours it out and leaves the bottle uncovered; she knows she'll come back for more. Oh hell, she’ll just bring the whole bottle. As she trudges over to dining table, she downs the shot before even sitting down. No chase. That just makes it take longer. She falls into her favorite dining chair with a sense of finality. Every night is the same. There is no change. No deviation. She is right on schedule. The table she sits at is of old oak, varnished back in the mid-80s. Time has nibbled away at it with gleeful delight, savoring some pockets more than others, leaving patches of light brown bare to the elements. Without the protective layer, the grain has been worn away to a natural smoothness. She lightly traces her fingers over one such spot, absentmindedly searching until she 32
finds it: a little notch of bare wood protruding into the still-varnished section. Slowly, almost tenderly, she begins chipping away at the varnish with her nail. It is habitual. Cleansing. Scattered all over the time-worn table are photos of various sizes, newspaper clippings, Internet articles. All are from different sources, collected with an obsessive organization and care. All hold the same story. The same accusing words scream from the headings: WOMAN FALLS ASLEEP AT WHEEL, KILLS SON AND THREE OTHERS TRAGEDY IN INDIANA: DRIVER TO BLAME FOR FOUR DEATHS FOUR DEAD IN CAR CRASH, INCLUDING DRIVER'S SON Although each heading is a painful reminder, the one that always makes her heart stop dead is the last line of an article she had found on the Web. In it, the author rants about the driver’s irresponsibility as a parent, and protests the court’s ruling against all counts of manslaughter. After all of the sharp words and searing statements, the article ends with a sardonic question: Will her son be waiting for her in heaven? On a deeper level, she knows why she keeps these painful reminders in plain sight.
In some twisted, macabre sense, they make her feel... attached to reality. Not as alone. The pain will lessen with time. That's what they keep telling her, all of those shrinks and AA leaders, those members of her support group who pretend to be friends, but who in their facades of caring and compassion were really only trying to find some leverage with which to heal themselves, not her. Her pastor, who somehow finds his ways to inadvertently slip in comments regarding her “nonpracticing ways.” Sinner, she could see in his eyes, when he wasn't actively trying to console her or convince her to move out of the lonely apartment, to seek solace with family or friends. He is angry with her, disgusted by her. But worst of all, he pities her. They all do. She hates it. None of them can truly understand that she doesn’t deserve their pity. They can’t see that she needs to be reminded of the pain every day, to remind herself that her life is worthless. With a sigh, she swirls her drink and detachedly watches the ripples of light dance around. As the liquid slowly sloshes to a halt, the many fractals of light meld into one reflection of a somber woman looking back at herself. Untidy black hair hangs around the face. Smudges of dirt are painted across the palate of dull skin. Dark circles underline glassy eyes. A fleck of grease from the grill back at her job shines upon her cheek. With one fluid move she tosses the drink back, wincing as it burns all the way down her throat. Feeling relieved as the reflection
disappears, she then slams the glass back on the table, suddenly angry. Pathetic. She is absolutely pathetic. No wonder they all look at her with disgust. Sure, they try to hide it, all right, behind the “Oh, I’m so sorry’s” and the “It’s okay to forgive yourself’s.” But deep down, she knows they are repulsed by her. They all know the truth. They all know what she is, what she did, and yet they still insist on keeping up the facade of caring. Why can’t they just hate her like she hates herself? It’d make everything so much goddamn easier! It isn’t just the alcohol. It’s her nature. She can’t even kick her shopping habit or her addiction to chocolate, and those are fairly minor compared to this. When she had first become a CNA ten years ago and had seen the types of characters these activities attracted, she still couldn’t bring herself to dump out that case of Skyy in the fridge. When she had married Henry, she sat him down their very first night together and confessed to him everything about her past and her struggles. He hadn’t even gotten upset; he just held her in his arms as her steady source of support. They would get through this together. He was glad she had told him. With Henry, it had been so much easier to deal with. She’d come home from work to find him waiting for her, providing comfort for the long nights. Sometimes she’d stay clean; other times she’d wait until she could hear the quiet rumble of his snores and then sneak off to the corner store. No matter how much she wanted to, though, she never 33
drank to the point of intoxication. She didn’t really need to; Henry kept the demons in her mind at bay. Her drinking then was more of a pastime than anything. And then one day, everything went south. She had just walked into the house and set the keys on the table when the landline rang. It was an odd occurrence, but without question she reached for the receiver and cradled it against her ear. Her hands found a dirty glass and a sponge, and she began to wash while she spoke. “Hello?” “….Emily.” It was her sister’s tearchoked voice on the line. “Something’s happened…” Between sobs, Emily’s sister spoke the words that would rip Emily’s life apart. “Mom’s dead.” The glass slipped from Emily’s hand and shattered across the linoleum. That night she drank herself into a stupor for the first time in six years. Henry happened to be out of town for the week on a trip for work, and since Emily had been on the Sunday night shift, her husband had already tucked little Chase into bed to count sheep. The demons returned that night. Their whispers would come out of nowhere to grate inside her skull, telling her past stories she wished to never think about again. Mom, who had always put herself between Emily and her sister and their father when 34
he drunkenly stumbled into the house after a night at the bar, was dead. Mom, who had finally found the strength to take her kids and flee across half the country before it was too late. Mom, who had raised them on her own, working two jobs and never once complaining about how life was unfair or too difficult. Mom, who would sing her daughters to sleep at night, who would give them the last piece of bread even when she hadn’t eaten in three days. Such a bright light to the world had been snuffed out in an instant. The one who had singlehandedly saved Emily and her sister in both body and soul was gone. The paramedics said it was a stroke. Apparently she had died peacefully in her favorite blue armchair, the crossword puzzle book still in her hand, her cross necklace gleaming around her neck. This gave Emily a slight stroke of comfort. Mom had always loved her crosswords. The morning after she had received the call, Emily woke up on the kitchen floor to her six-year old son, Chase, wailing over what must have seemed to him as his mother’s dead body. It took all of her effort to lift herself to a crouch, hug him to her chest, and calm him down. He cried into her shoulder, and she stroked his hair reassuringly. Over his head, the oven clock flashed 10:32 am. So she had fallen asleep, even if for only for 40 minutes. And then Emily realized that it was Monday. Chase should have been at school
over an hour and a half ago. Quickly, she swept her son into her arms and staggered up the stairs. In the state she was in, it surprisingly only took her 15 minutes to get Chase changed, fed, and placid enough to get into the car. Her head throbbed horribly as she pulled out of the garage. It left her oblivious to her nearly taking the mirror off on the side of the garage door. As the silver car backed out into the morning, sunlight exploded across the hood, briefly blinding her and sending lances of white-hot pain through her skull. She gasped and gritted her teeth, and then jerked the steering wheel to back out onto the road. In the mirror, Chase’s worried blue eyes bore into her, and she heard his high-pitched voice ask, “Mommy, what’s wrong?” “Nothing, sweetie. Just let mommy be until we get to school, okay?” She should have realized how tired she was. In no way was she in any shape to drive; even Chase could see that. But all Emily could think of at the moment was, Henry will kill me if he finds out that I didn’t get Chase to school because I was drunk off my ass. That was it. That was the one thought that kept her going throughout the 12 mile drive to the elementary school. Not a single thought for her safety, or more importantly, her own son’s. Just fear of her husband’s anger. It was the same freeway she had driven down countless times before. She knew
there was a cross section that she had to stop at coming up past the next hill. Why didn’t she think of that that morning? However, unfortunately, Emily’s mind was not on the upcoming stop. The fatigue she had been fighting off struck with full force right as she climbed the final hill. She told herself she’d just rest her eyes for a second. Her eyelids closed, and in the time it took her to blink, the car had travelled 100 feet and into the intersection. What woke her up was Chase’s sudden intake of breath, a sharp “hhhh” that cut through her drowsiness. Then her ears were full of the sound of screeching tires and the horrendous discord of metal scraping against metal. There was no time to scream or even breathe. All that existed was the shifting gravity, the sound of bodies clunking and fabric tearing. The shattering of windows. Dirt and grass and whirling sky all flew past in a pastel blur as the car rolled across the pavement, shedding glass and bits of metal as it went. The world was quiet for a while after that. It took the ambulance seven minutes to arrive. Even if it had been there the second of the accident, magically waiting on the side of the road for some freak accident, there was no way to save anyone. All three persons in the other car were killed upon impact. One had been ejected thirty feet. And then there was Chase. At some point—Emily had been told this was the truth, although 35
she could not remember any of it—Emily had dragged his broken body out of the car. The paramedics found her in the ditch, cradling him, stroking his bloody hair, and brokenly singing him a lullaby her mother sang to her when she was a child. Brought out of her reverie, Emily downs another shot and sniffs, looking at a picture of her son staring up at her from one of the articles. It had been taken a year ago, at his fifth birthday party. He had been crying all day because it was raining and he wasn’t able to go out to the pool to swim. Uncle Allen managed to coax a smile out of him after pretending to be Goofy. It was the only photo of Chase released to the press. A job lost, a child killed, a marriage disintegrated. An addiction still clung on to, despite all of the hurt and loss. Emily understands with the heaviest of hearts that she is following in the footsteps of her father. It is a vicious circle, one she has countlessly tried to break free from. Why should she have to pay for the sins of her father? Why should she have to suffer night after night, re-hearing her mother’s screams over and over again, hearing the constant smack of his hand against her face? Why did Chase and Henry have to suffer because Emily couldn’t be stronger than her past? Well, her father had lost his marriage and his job, but at least he hadn’t killed anyone. He had been a terrible father, had never been kind to her, had been prone to violent fits—she could still feel the bruises on her 36
cheeks—but still, nothing like this pure negligence. Sighing, Emily grabs the now half-empty bottle. With detached observance, she notices the quivering of her hand as she pours unsteadily. The stream dribbles into the cup, trails over the lip of the glass, briefly pools on the wood, and then meanders back over the glass. Her phone vibrates. Her left hand jerks, shoving her nail over a splinter, while the stream of vodka surges into a waterfall, splashing onto the table. Cursing, she slams the bottle down and pulls out her phone. New TXT Message Izzy Friday, May 4 10:31 pm Remember… Anna and I are coming over tomorrow morning…Clean up. Can’t wait to see you. Love Sis Emily pockets the phone and massages above her eyes with one hand. With the other, she holds up her glass towards the ceiling, watching the light dance in circles as it swirls around. We’re all dancing in circles, aren’t we? She contemplates that thought for a few minutes. Seemingly reaching an answer, she throws back her head with a rue smile and feels the liquid hit the back of her throat. With a smack of her lips, she stands, grabs the half-empty bottle, and totters over to the sink.
The alcohol hisses slightly as it slithers down the drain. Like the snake slithering away from the garden. Emily waits until the stream slows to a thin trickle and then stops. She shakes the bottle for good measure, watching as the remaining drops spray across the steel sink. Everyone is always dancing in circles. It is an eternal cycle that even Mother Nature herself adheres to. Birth, youth, adulthood, old age, death. It is perpetual, constant, dependable. With each life there is the potential for more life, along with the certainty of death. One can try square dancing through life, and she might even get away with it for a while, too. But in the end, the circle has to be completed. In the end, we are all dancing in circles. Emily smiles to herself. That doesnâ€™t mean she canâ€™t try breaking the circle, even if only for a little while. The last thing Emily does before she goes to bed is grab the unopened bottle of vodka in her fridge. It is the last one she has in the house. Without a second glance, she dumps the contents down the drain, its stream hissing and chasing after the firstâ€™s, and tosses the empty bottle into the trash. The time is 11:07. Right on schedule.
...And I Feel Fine Noah Lange SETTING Place. A room. Time. The end of the world. CHARACTERS ONE. A hallucination. One should still be played as a normal human being. No silly business. TWO. The protagonist. TWO. So, I guess that’s it, then. ONE. Yeah, I—I mean, yeah. Guess it is. TWO. Huh. It’s quieter than I expected. Well, I mean, with everything that’s happening. (beat) ONE. What, this is something you expected? TWO. Well, no, not really. I mean, I guess it’s something you think of casually at points, in sort of a “huh, I wonder what everything would be like if this particular thing happened, like, I don’t know. Witnessing a miracle. Winning the lottery. ONE. The end of the world is a pretty terrible lottery prize. TWO. Yeah. I guess. It’s not even really a vaguely pleasant end, you know? Not one of those cozy catastrophes that the British like to write about, where you get to sit in your comfortable British house and sip tea and look around while everything falls to pieces and remark, “Ah, well, that appears to be a spot of trouble, isn’t it?” ONE. I can’t say I ever thought about it like that. You might just have a more pessimistic view of the end of the world than most people do. 38
TWO. Yeah, that’s probably it. (Beat) Well, all things considered, it’s good to meet you. Nice to have someone to talk to in a time like this. (Pause.) TWO. Too bad there’s nothing fun to talk about at the end of the world. “How was your weekend?” “Oh, it was great, minus the whole end of the world thing, it sort of ruined my plans and made everything an excercise in futility—how was yours?” No one wants to have that conversation. Even a relatively pleasant question, like, what was the last movie you enjoyed, is going to be just awful, because all you’re going to be able to think about is, you know what, I really did enjoy Roman Holiday, but now I realize that I’ll never be able to see that movie again, the odds that I’ll ever see another movie again are pretty close to nil, and even if I did want to go to Rome and see that weird hand-eating fountain thing, that’s probably never going to happen because I’m stuck here in this room in the middle of the end of the world. ONE. It must be nice to know that you’re the only one having this problem. TWO. I don’t know. I was personally hoping for a little more, I don’t know,benign end to everything. A few fewer bombs, maybe. I guess things really can’t get much worse, so you can’t do much but expect them to get better somehow. ONE. I don’t underst—that doesn’t really make sense. TWO. Well, the way I see it, of all the possible things in the world that could happen at any given moment, the end of the world is generally considered to be among the worst, if not the worst. It’s sort of the ontological theory of pessimism. The absolute worst thing ever must exist, because its existence makes it immediately worse than any non-existent terrible thing. And if the end of the world is the worst thing we can think of, and it’s actually here, well, I suppose this is the worst thing that could ever be. And I figure this is pretty tolerable as far as worst things ever go, so it must just get better from here on out. ONE. That doesn’t—I still don’t think that makes any sense. Wait—this is really all about God, isn’t it? I don’t want to talk about God. It’s late. And besides, I never liked the ontological argument much anyways. TWO. Oh. I mean, I just figure if God were there He’d probably be helping right now, but He’s probably off busy somewhere. Doing whatever God would be doing during the end of the world. Playing billiards, maybe cards. Maybe sorting through his big book of souls to determine which people sucked the least. 39
ONE. Yeah, probably. TWO (continuing). It’d be nice, though, if God decided to make an appearance. Like the director at the end of a test movie screening. “Well, how d’you think it all went? Did you like the ending? How about the love story, was that satisfying for you?” And then the two of us could sit down and have a conversation in which God would be informed that no, I didn’t think everything had gone all that well—in particular, the ending was unpleasant and I’d found the love story deeply unsatisfying. ONE. Well, I hardly think you can blame God for all that. TWO. Well, I mean, what’s the alternative? Being a victim of random chance? ONE. What’s wrong with random chance? TWO. It just feels—I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right. We spend our whole lives searching for, I don’t know, meaning in things. Why nobody ever did anything about the environment. Why stupid people get away with saying stupid things. Why one night, everything was wonderful, and then the next morning she was gone. And, you know, who knows? Maybe there isn’t a reason. Maybe some things just are, and searching for some greater significance behind it is like searching for a—I don’t know—like shoveling through a pile of cow manure for something you lost. Sure, maybe it’s there, but the odds that you’re actually going to find anything are slim to none, and you’re just going to come out feeling like you just rummaged through a pile of shit. But to have that whole search utterly pointless, to have such a, like a, core human drive just invalidated, dismissed, it’s difficult to handle. ONE. There’s got to be a more satisfying conclusion than that. TWO. So what else is there? That it’s our fault? What, is that like our only chance for some sort of satisfying solution to the whole meaning thing? (As if ticking off items in a list) God’s out there, but he doesn’t have a damn clue what’s going on. Pleasant. (Two) God’s out there and God can tell what’s going on and everything, but God can’t do a thing about it. That’s a pretty shitty option. To be entirely honest with you, probably worse than option one. (Three) God’s out there and God can see what’s going on, and God has the power to change it, but God just doesn’t care. (Four) And then maybe there is no God, and there is no such thing as inherent meaning, and we’re just blind minnows swimming in a huge ocean and the vast anglerfish of death is just coming, waiting to swallow us up and that’s it, finito, and there was nothing we could do about it, no way we could see it coming, no meaning to make of it, and ultimately the whole thing was just utterly beyond our comprehension. So 40
what else is left? Maybe we do have a choice, and maybe we do have free will, and who knows, maybe, either through evolution or some sort of celestial clockmaker we do have some sort of vague ability to effect change in the world, and so everything that happens is on us. It’s our responsiblity. Our fault. Maybe this is just all our fault. ONE. My, aren’t you feeling chipper all of a sudden? TWO. I don’t know. Maybe this isn’t the time to be chipper. End of the world, and all that. I guess I’m sorry to rain on your parade and everything. ONE. No, it’s fine. (Pause.) TWO. You know, there are times that I wish the world weren’t ending, and there are other times when I’m really quite apathetic about the whole thing. I mean, I’m sitting here in a room talking with someone I’m not entirely sure exists, and sitting and waiting. For what? For the big anglerfish to just swoop out of the black and seal the deal. I don’t know. Maybe. (Pause, a nervous shuffle of the feet. Eyes flick soideways.) You’re not really real, are you? ONE. I was wondering when we’d get to that. No, I’m not here, exactly, but we’ve been honest with each other so far—what does that have to do with anything? TWO. I don’t know. Maybe nothing. I guess we’re all alone in our separate ways, anyway. ONE. You’re very understanding. (pause) TWO. I figure we deserve what we got. ONE. You’re probably right. TWO. We deserve what we got. END.
Big Black Eyes Hayley Ryan
In my pocket, my fingertips rub against the rippled edges of two Lira coins, the shallow outline of one, a man’s furrowed brow and long nose. The hustle of Istanbul glides past us as we roam. We try to absorb every last detail: the grandeur of the mosques, the smoky smell of veal, the moon’s reflection on the oscillating ocean. Street venders border stable shops. Scarves, mosaic candleholders, geometric drawings, lamps. Each seller holds a heavy heart. Couples exchange a few coins for ice cream and sit in the colorful glow of the fountain, watching the water shift through green, blue, purple, and red. They whisper into each other’s ears. A little boy’s big black eyes glow in the shadow of an abandoned storefront. He huddles in the corner, clasping his legs, leaning his forehead on knobby knees. Only a red t-shirt and stained jeans cover his protruding bones. Beside him, a ripped plastic bag advertises individual packets of tissues: one Lira apiece. 42
Tom crouches in front of the boy, his big eyes shift nervously. Tom sheds the leather jacket from his shoulders. In a language foreign to the tiny boy, He urges him to take the jacket. The child understands. As his bony fingers grasp the soft leather, his eyes exude gratitude. As Tom braves the chill night air and the boy slips into his new jacket, the coins burden my fingers.
Streaking at Luther College Margaret Yapp
One night last spring we ran around the tennis court, the three of us, naked-our butts as white as the marzipan moon, one after another, a train of lanky limbs, and the air was so sweet and cold--
made sweeter by our soft, stifled giggles, and colder by our concrete chilled sweaters that we quickly stuffed back on our numb arms as headlights slowly approached and we rushed, laughing, back to our room
Rain at the Iowa City Arts Fest (or: The Joy of Living) Margaret Yapp
The bones of our arms and legs can be seen through our summertime clothes. The sudden rain has whittled our hair with the warmth of this June, July, August, and We are wet! We are shivering with delight! Our hands search for each other, magnets in the downpour; our tongues poke out from behind smiling teeth. We are not thinking, we are alive under the cloudburst, so we sprint! 43
Ingrid Baudler legs ache but breath puffs softly out my nose heart beats quick and steady my whole body thumps to its rhythm thighs are weakening, muscle lapping against bone but I yearn for the weakness, the vulnerability sweat puddles into specks, then droplets and traces the curvatures of my neck, shoulders, spine strands of hair come loose at every step dark spots stain my shirt skin grows slippery I think about walking, beg myself to rest then laugh in my own face thereâ€™s no stopping now
Once Upon A Lake Lauren Nielsen
Thereâ€™s a lake of octopus ink outside my front door. I like to kayak through it with my Dalmatian swimming at my side. He does a doggy paddle and I whistle to the tune of his paws beating against the now intensified black ink. I cannot help but wonder whether a beach would be at all worthy of this lake.
Tear Ducks Lauren Nielsen
I have ducks in my eyes. Tear ducks! They paddle around in the tear lakes, hidden from sight until the lakes fill too full! And then the tear ducks stream down my face in beautiful blue waterfalls, leaving little yellow feathers behind.
Maddy Kofoed Below the airy stage where wings perform Old grandpa toad floats fat in nature’s spit; His pond of mud, a bed so moist and warm, He slurps a slug and, floating, takes a shit. For thirty years he’ll bob with toothless frown; To snail and spider sticky tongue affix The monarchs and the wrens do not look down – No grace is in his earthen sack of bricks. But come the timid warmth of April sky Sir toad his dewlap puffs without reserve And from the muck a bright blue note sounds high, Accordion filled and pressed with lusty verve! Then his spring song goes silent, as before, And gallant frog is grandpa toad once more.
Laura Hayes And up a hill there lived a snake who longed to fly. Angels soared high, and never touched the earth, above the world, entwined in endless flight. Below, the people ooh-ed and ahh-ed, and sighed at purples, blues, with yellow, loud and fiery red, kaleidoscope of rainbow hues. And cast in sun, they flew aflame past mountain, vale, and worldâ€™s last end. But on a hill sat one small snake, who watched the angelsâ€™ last ascent.
Dropping the Ball Sarah King
CHARACTERS WALTER, early thirties, a computer programmer RACHEL, mid twenties, a computer programmer DICK CLARK, 70, wearing a winter coat, gloves and nice clothing and holding a microphone, has a box around him to be the t.v. SETTING The break room of an office building. Center stage, back, Rachel sits at the table working on her laptop. A second, unused laptop sits on the table – its Walter’s. Stage right Walter lounges on the couch, which is perpendicular but angled out to the audience giving them a semi-front view of Walter. In front of him, stage left, not blocking the table or Rachel, is the “television set.” The t.v., Dick Clark and the box, faces Walter but is slightly angled towards the audience so that the audience can see Dick Clark. Dick Clark is frozen, smiling, for the entire play except when speaking lines. TIME December 31, 1999, 11:55 p.m. Rachel sits at the small square table watching the screen of a small black laptop. She keeps glancing at Walter, annoyed. From the television, the audience can see Dick Clark smiling. (Rachel sighs, looking over at Walter. He continues watching the t.v.) DICK CLARK: I tell you, they can’t wait. It’s only five minutes away. (Rachel sighs again, more loudly. Walter continues watching the t.v.) DICK CLARK: All sorts of sound and confetti and do-dads will happen as we go along. RACHEL: Protocol 3, subsection b states that “All on site company employees must remain alert at their posts throughout the night of December 31, 1999, into the morning of January 1, 2000.” WALTER: Good to know. (Rachel, visibly angry, puts her hands on the table and pushes her chair back, wavers, then stands) RACHEL: You’re not following the protocol. 48
WALTER: Your point is? RACHEL: My point? My point is...It is the end of the world and you’re just...sitting there – watching t.v. WALTER: It could be the end of the world. RACHEL: That’s what I said. DICK CLARK: Piccadilly Circus is big. Ginza Tokyo is big, but it ain’t nothing like the ball in Times Square, crossroads of the world in New York City. This is the place to be, believe you me. WALTER: You said “It is the end of the world.” I said “It could be the end of the world.” RACHEL: Either way, we’ve got a job to do. WALTER: Right. RACHEL: Protocol A subsection c states that “All employees on site throughout the night of December 31, 1999, and into the morning of January 1, 2000, must maintain constant surveillance of company systems.” WALTER: How many times do we have to go over this? RACHEL: If these systems crash...thousands of people could die. WALTER: (sarcastically) How? (Rachel walks over to stand at the end of the couch, facing Walter) RACHEL: Our company supplies elevator systems! If they fail, the elevators crash! WALTER: And that’s why every elevator running on our company’s system is closed right now. No one is allowed in them. RACHEL: Well... WALTER: Plus, they can only crash if the world actually ends. RACHEL: You...you’re such a... (Walter suddenly turns to Rachel) WALTER: Such a what? (Rachel makes a frustrated sound) WALTER: Do you really think the world will end in (checks watch) three minutes? RACHEL: Maybe. WALTER: How? RACHEL: Elevators could crash. Bank accounts and their data could be lost. Hospital equipment could fail. Security systems could shut down. Heck, nuclear bombs could go off.
WALTER: Nuclear bombs? RACHEL: They run on computers, too. DICK CLARK: It’s all computerized now. In the old days, they used to drop the ball with a nylon clothes cord with three guys and a Mickey Mouse watch, but it’s all computerized now and highly technical. WALTER: Then what the hell are you doing here? RACHEL: I don’t understand. WALTER: I mean, what are you doing here? If the world is going to end, is this where you want to be? RACHEL: You just said the world isn’t going to end. (Stands up to face her) WALTER: I said, it could, but that’s besides the point. RACHEL: Then what is your point? DICK CLARK: This is a massive New Years Eve crowd with a minute a thirty seconds left. Listen to the music build. They’re ready. WALTER: My point is – is this how you want to spend your final moments? RACHEL: If you’re so sure it’s not going to end, then what the hell are you doing here? WALTER: You didn’t answer my question. (Checks watch) WALTER: Only one minute and fifteen seconds to decide. RACHEL: I... WALTER: What are you doing here? RACHEL: Why do you care? DICK CLARK: You are wise to stay at home. In one minute the ball will drop and you will see pandemonium. WALTER: Don’t you understand? DICK CLARK: Listen to ‘em. RACHEL: Why is this so important to you? WALTER: Why isn’t it important to you? DICK CLARK: The ball is beginning to move. RACHEL: Why do you care what is and isn’t important to me? DICK CLARK: They can feel it. WALTER: Because something like this should be important to everyone! It should be 50
important to you. Your last moments on earth should matter. Not that these really will be, but seriously. Think. RACHEL: I...I don’t know! DICK CLARK: They know it. WALTER: Would you really want to be here? RACHEL: I don’t know – no. I don’t. WALTER: Then why don’t you leave? RACHEL: Why don’t you? WALTER: No. This is about you. Honestly, I could have walked out that door hours ago. I basically have. You said it yourself. I’ve just been sitting here watching t.v. all night. I haven’t been “following protocol.” So why have you? RACHEL: Because that’s my job. Our job. DICK CLARK: In forty seven seconds it will be 2000. WALTER: Why do you care so much about your job at the end of the world? Wouldn’t you rather be with someone you love, or having one last drink with friends, or outside watching the sky as it is engulfed in flame? Anything? RACHEL: Well... WALTER: (cutting Rachel off) And if it is not the end, then this whole protocol operation bullshit has just been that – bullshit. It hasn’t actually meant something. You will have just been stuck in an office waiting for something that will have never come. So why bother with it at all? RACHEL: (slowly) Because there is the possibility that it will help. That the computers will crash. WALTER: Unlikely. DICK CLARK: Thirty five seconds. RACHEL: No, listen. (building) Someone could have gotten into one of the elevators out there and if the computers do crash – WALTER: They won’t – RACHEL: (Cutting him off) I know it’s unlikely just shut up. RACHEL: If they do, and there’s some ridiculous person that’s gotten into an elevator, then that person will need me. If my job saves them, then I am willing to spend my night here doing just that. I care about more than just myself. DICK CLARK: Get close to somebody you love. 51
(Pause. Rachel looks away and crosses her arms but Walter continues watching her.) RACHEL: I care more about a person’s life than getting drunk and having a good time with my friends. WALTER: That’s not what I meant. DICK CLARK: Are you ready? RACHEL: (Looks back at Walter) Then what would you do at the end of the world? DICK CLARK: In ten, nine, eight, seven, WALTER: I’d want to be with six, five, four, three, two, one. Happy 2000! someone I love. (pause) (They stare at each other for a few moments. Rachel walks over to computer and checks it. She clicks on a few different things, types a little on the keyboard) RACHEL: All of the systems seem to be working all right. WALTER: That’s good. (Rachel walks off stage right. She comes back on from stage right with a satchel over her shoulder, buttoning up her coat. Walter stays standing there.) RACHEL: You were right. It’s over. WALTER: It’s over. (Rachel goes over to the table, closes her laptop and puts it in her satchel) RACHEL: I’m leaving. You coming? WALTER: No. I think...I think I’ll just stay here for a bit. Make sure the systems really are okay before heading out. RACHEL: Okay. (pause) RACHEL: Well... WALTER: Yeah... RACHEL: Happy New Year. (she exits stage left) WALTER: Happy New Year. (Lights fade slowly with Dick Clark’s final lines with Walter standing on stage.) DICK CLARK: Well they’re in a party mood. Can you imagine how long this thing is going to last? You won’t find a happier group of people anywhere in the world. END. 52
Waking Slow Margaret Yapp
The wristwatch, in its black and white frame, counts away the frosted morning: cold hours, melting minutes, seconds that slide over skin--sanguine and silver. Through breaks in the tiny window come ropes of winter light, fractured into bits of dancing glass by outside boughs--a magnolia uncovered by buds, blinds, or ripe blossoms, pristine; and this wristwatch, mirroring the beat of blood, ticks through the dust, the frozen rivers, and the billowing bloom of the horizon; blades of light stir from slate to violet and I wake slow. I will keep these blue moons and months safe in paper boxes--hidden treasure for my children.