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a n a rts & li tera r y journal volume 3 | spring 2016

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volume 3; spring 2016

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Editor-in-Chief Michael Rowe Managing Editor Ashley Clayton Prose Editors Claire Bien Jeanne Steiner Poetry Editor Chyrell Bellamy Visual Art Editor Rebecca Miller Editor Larry Davidson Design & Layout Marilyn Murray Cover Art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

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about the magazine

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We conceptualize a “perch” as both a higher vantage point from which to survey an area and gain a new perspective as well as a place upon which to rest. Our magazine’s goal is to offer a forum for listening to many different voices. We also chose the title The Perch because we are a publication of the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH) at the Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. Our section for visual and multimedia art is called The Parachute Factory, a gesture towards the history of the building where YalePRCH is housed, which was used to manufacture parachutes during World War II and which currently serves as a gallery space. We hope our magazine provides a comfortable space for risk-taking in the arts and self-expression, much like a parachute allows for soft landings, even amidst the harshest territory. _______________________________________________

If you are interested in submitting work for an upcoming issue, please visit our webpage at http://medicine.yale.edu/psychiatry/prch/the_perch/

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Contents

POETRY & PROSE 4 5  6  8  10  13  24  25  26  30  31 

IN THE WEEDS

Jen Payne

ORNAMENTS

Nikita Hernandez

RENUNCIATION

Laura Altshul

THE CORNER

Jeanie Greensfelder

APOTHEOSIS

Victor Altshul

HEED THE PURGATORY MAN

Daniel Rousseau

FLAMES OF GRIEF

Deanie Rowan Blank

NIGHT BREATH

Laura Altshul

AUGUST HEAT, 1944

Jeanie Greensfelder

INSTAGRAM WHORE

Nikita Hernandez

RESILIENCE, RECOVERY AND HOPE FOR THE FUTURE Victoria Molta

36  40  42  44 

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IN THE BEGINNING

Emma Doughty

PHANTOM

Ashleigh Barker

DIAMOND-WHITE NIGHT

Deanie Rowan Blank

AFIGHANISTAN

Victor Altshul


46 52  55  56  57 

WHAT WAS MISSED

Genna Walker

SLIPPING THROUGH

Laura Altshul

HARD UP, 1947

Jeanie Greensfelder

PAPER HEARTS

Nikita Hernandez

BLACK BIRDS MAKE ME SMILE

Black Birds Make me Smile

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Parachute Factory

V I S UA L A RT W O R K 7  12  27 29  26  54 

SHADOW LEAN

Emily Herberich

TO THE ELEMENTS

Eleanor Leonne Bennett

JOURNEYS BRIGHT AND NEW

Eleanor Leonne Bennett

MEDS

Eleanor Leonne Bennett

THE SECRET GARDEN

Joe Saccio

THE COMPELLING AESTHETIC OF DESTRUCTION Joe Saccio

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MIDNIGHT CONVERSATIONS

Linda McMillan

NOTE ON PRIVACY: The Perch has a policy of requesting that authors of nonfiction pieces omit or disguise identifiers or seek permission from third parties.

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IN THE WEEDS by

Jennifer A Payne

The woman laid herself down in a field of knotweed with a razor blade and the men came running, first the white shirt, then the red hat, then the blue coats that danced to the sirens’ screams. Help is on the way, but she looks so peaceful over in the sunlight and hot shadows. Surrendered. They never come running if you’re tenacious and strong. I know. I’ve been writhing here lonely for days, weeds growing from my heart.

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ORNAMENTS After Louis Simpson’s “Working Late”

by

Nikita Hernandez

Withered pink scars adorned my grandmother’s wrists. Did those hurt? I asked, and, we were silent, gently tracing the grooves with smooth fingertips. No one knew the true number of her suicide attempts— the count lost in collections of wine glasses and dissolving marriages. She wore more and more bracelets as each of her four children left home, left her. She never wanted to be a military wife— abandoned ten months out of the year, while oceans and foreign tongues sequestered her lovers. And the scars that graced my grandmother’s wrists now embellish mine.

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RENUNCIATION by She has come to the ocean on an overcast wind-driven day – she has come with a rock in her hand heavy and sharp-edged, gritty – it irritates and pulls her off balance as her toes grip the damp sand and she pushes closer to the waves the tips of her pants dripping with the salty weight of water. The rock in her hand is her daughter. She hurls it as far as she can – the rock drops into the sea and sinks. She told me all this so I would see, and hearing it I saw and paled yet nodded and still tried to remain her friend. But she stopped returning my calls and when I saw her again on the street she turned away.

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Laura Altshul


SHADOW LEAN by

Emily Herberich

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THE CORNER by

Jeanie Greensfelder

I’m six years old, near the corner of McCausland and West Park, the corner where my dog Cindy got hit by a car, the corner I’m afraid to cross. Mother and I are walking home from the bus stop.  I have a side ache. My left side always aches  walking with grownups. They say I make it up. I’m wearing a green dress, missing one of its ties. The tie fell off last week. I threw it  down the sewer. Mother has no time to sew. I like my one-tie dresses. I never liked bows behind my waist. I’m fingering the rock in my pocket. It wants to play hopscotch.

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I start jumping right here at the corner of McCausland and West Park. Mother says, Stop it. She says Stop it a lot. I watch an ant trail on the sidewalk. My friend steps on them. Me? I step on cracks, especially when I’m mad at my mother like I am now. There’s a siren in the distance. Mother says, Someone just died. She always says that when she hears a siren. She makes me think of Cindy, Cindy who died at the corner of McCausland and West Park,  the corner I’m afraid to cross.

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APOTHEOSIS by

Victor Altshul

Hand in hand we stroll through the old library– books with torn spines stick out from not quite horizontal shelves, poised to fall but not quite fallen, a battered couch, a tattered cover, memories of a teenage daughter and a boy who mumbled and wore his Red Sox cap backwards and indoors. We look away from the old TV, our path obstructed by a rusted weight machine that squeaks its protest when we try to move its limbs, purchased long ago to restore illusions of ancient muscularity.

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That daughter, years later, ablaze with vision and defying the static helplessness of her elders, declares great beauty to be found in this rotting space, if only shelves are evened, books rebound, old couches newly covered, detritus of youthful hope prised patiently apart and carted piecemeal away. Let her loveliness incandesce the rubble in seismic heaves. Away! The trash is gone; the old undone; new beauties preen and glow. The mumbling Red Sox boy has vaporized and in his place stands elegance itself: mild of manner, proud of bearing, finely wrought: a prince!

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TO THE ELEMENTS by 12

Eleanor Leonne Bennett


HEED THE PURGATORY MAN by

Dan Rousseau

The bathroom is doorless. Irrational thought removed the hinges so stern women in powder blue scrubs can monitor the bloodshed of my toothbrush. I stand on a grey, rubber floor. The ground is scored from the desperate clawing of the previous guest who dug to China. I pace to the sink with a dropped head: as is known, troubled brains are twice as heavy. My quivering hands clamp to the edge of a cold, vinyl vanity. I labor my arched spine upward such that my shoulders and scowl are perpendicular to a fading, plastic mirror. The mirror is unbreakable and so it is cheap; it reflects with the power of a silted pond. I rarely search for my reflection. My physical worth is often defined by the wandering gaze of strangers, or my fiancée’s gentle compliments. I lean into the mirror and look past the fog. My shaggy blonde hair is fine, and its grease is tolerable. My eyes are dark. My bright blue iris cannot mask my fatigue. These tired eyes are recognizable - these are my father’s eyes. I stare into the dilating pupils and consider, with delayed breath, a dimension outside of time where my father and I share a mirror. My perspective broadens and I look to my neck. It is clean with a youthful glow, but I cannot help but imagine my father’s bruises - those left by his rope; those the embalmer could not hide. I grab my neck with my left hand, wishing I had a bruise to prove the pain. They caught me before I could justify the anguish. The ward is small: ten shared bedrooms arched around a sterile common living area. It smells of bleach. Three weathered couches, covered in kitsch flower print, sit beneath a twenty-foot skylight. Horizontal rays bound

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through the window in the morning, reminding us what we are missing; we are not allowed outside. A faux cherry table sits flush against the back of a couch. The table is reserved for coloring. Pencils are outlawed, and pens are a sin, so grown men and women waste their days with crayons and color-bynumber. Six wooden rockers surround an ancient fishbowl television. Satellite fuzz plagues the TV, so we can only watch movies. I watched The Royal Tenenbaums twice yesterday; the film’s eccentric palette is at once realistic. I belong to an alliance: four fellow patients and myself. They didn’t adopt me because of relatable suffering - suffering is commonplace here; everyone is afflicted. I was sought out because I can still hold conversation. We sit around the couch circle and laugh about nothings. There is ample time to hear each person through, even if they insist on denoting their fifty favorite glam metal songs - a list written in crayon. Our clique is diverse. Gabby ran her car into a tree because her adoptive parents wouldn’t accept that she is gay. Deb’s been having hallucinations due to deceitful, laced pot. Kevin used too much alcohol to remember the ’80s. Bob kept a shrine to his dead wife and then overdosed, but really Bob lost his wallet. They allow us a telephone. It is anchored into a cement wall with steel screws of mistrust. The receiver hangs on a tight pigtail-cord. We cycle through thirty-second phone calls with loved ones. The mere sound of my fiancée’s breath reminds me of where I am not. For the first time in months I feel emotion. And even if that emotion is loneliness, it is proof that I am alive. Like drops from a rusty spigot, feeling slowly fills my mind. I pray that it might turn into a flood. Today I sit by the phone in place of Bob. He wanted to die, so he took ninety pills. The paramedics found Bob unconscious, lying in front of a shrine built to his departed wife. She died six years ago. He was rushed to the hospital. His bargain-bin jeans were cut with scissors, and his body was revived. They could not revive his mind. In the process of restoring the pink to Bob’s flesh, the paramedics lost his wallet. I think there is a picture of Bob’s wife in that wallet. Like most of us, Bob cannot dig into his pain. When the fake-baked blonde intern asks about his dead wife, Bob talks of his lost wallet.

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This is his defense. My façade is equally thick. We take turns sitting by the phone, waiting for some careless ambulance driver to call about what was lost. Bob’s peace is the finder’s reward. I want to be the one to save Bob. I read the Bible while I wait. The holy pages seem meaningless. Force and solace once leapt from the script, but I’ve taken four semesters of Koine Greek, thinking I might preach, and in the process of translating the whole of Christ’s words, fell upon the affliction that accompanies strict dogma. Six months ago I’d have praised the harshest passages on the problem of pain, I’d have held Calvin’s sixteenth century Institutes over my head with arrogance, as if I knew the predestined truth. But now as I flip through the onionskin pages, I only hear my father at the pulpit and see him choked by assumption. My earliest memories of my father are trapped on a versed, oak stage. He spoke with eloquent dynamics, and introduced the sinner to the Father through humor. Thousands of eyes considered him a savior, and he was kind and bright. But thousands of eyes did not see him past Sunday. His love was real, but so were his appetites. He would drive from church to the strip club, and then home to tell marvelous bedtime stories, often involving a mischievous dunce named Buster Bubblehead. He would hold secret rendezvous with desperate church wives; they considered his touch to be as holy as his speech. His persona was torn at the corner of belief and instinct, and my family’s sanity hung in the balance. I meet my clan for lunch. Four circular tables produce a makeshift cafeteria. A tin buffet is rolled in: unseasoned beef patties, soggy crinkle fries, carrots in yellowed water - today is burger day. The food is cold, likely leftovers from the non-mandatory wing. The frigid cuisine gives off faint fumes. I forget what its like to smell my food. I shuffle in line while holding a crimson, plastic plate. I pull a carrot beneath my nose, breathe in and think it almost edible. I reach for fries with silver tongs when I am shoved from behind. Yellow carrot juice spills from my plate to my bare, white socks. These are my only socks. Gary, a defiant old diabetic, sprints past the line to the boxed apple juice. Two able men in blue rush in and grab Gary’s eager

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shoulders before his fingers touch sugar. Gary tries to bite their hands, and then drops to the floor with a defeated scream. The men in blue brace Gary beneath his armpits and drag him to his room. Gary is tied down most of the time. We talk about Seinfeld over lunch, mostly Soup Nazi impressions. I am not hungry, so Deb eats most of my food. She uses an inordinate amount of ketchup. Kevin says something about George Steinbrenner, we all laugh because it’s not funny. My mind leaves the conversation as I fixate on an old black woman in the corner. She is always there and always alone, but exudes a peaceful aura. Her eyes gaze into space, as if accompanied by a lover. She whispers into thin air, pauses, then chuckles. Someone is with her and so she is happy. Rumors are spread of her schizoaffective mind. In a colony of damaged thinkers, she is declared insane. Someday a pill or a probe will force her into our reality. I wish my fiancée were invisible, so that we could stay up all night and remind one another of our worth. And if the nurses questioned our lovely ramblings, I could just point to my brain and blame psychosis. But I am tangible now and feel the sadness of our distance. Her visits are brief: one hour, twice a week - as rules allow. I am confident in her love because she knows I am broken. The woman in the corner is shining; I want to share in her exuberance so I stand from my chair and leave the comfort of my clique. As I stride to the corner I am reminded of times when my parents tossed me into uncomfortable situations: for perspective’s sake. I recall hugging my father’s solid hip as we built houses in Mexico, performed concerts in nursing homes, and held a terminally ill baby in our arms; that baby’s name was Betito. My poise in approaching the crazed woman is the product of childlike confidence. I stride within two feet of her chair, but she does not look up; she is preoccupied with the dream behind her eyes. I bend my knees so our faces are even. I introduce myself expecting a cordial response, but she whips her head in my direction, contorts her face in fearful rage, and growls. What sleeping animal have I awoken? Her right arm cocks into punching position. She barks for me to fuck

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off. I run ten paces and then turn around. My heartbeat is visible. Alone again, she is immediately peaceful, her hand is stretched to her love. The hospital should plant a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the edge of her toes. At my house, in a closet, in a shoebox, wound beneath rubber bands, there is a picture of me, at six years old, asleep on my father’s back. He was sleeping too. In this former life, his breath was my comfort. I looked forward to the days when he would pick me up from school – the days we would stop at the dollar store for baseball cards. Every Wednesday morning we would eat split pea soup and watch The Price is Right. On Fridays we would squat a batting cage – he gave me a nickel for every opposite field hit. These were the years that he was mine and I was his. Do not disturb the picture in that box. We are ushered into a circle of folding chairs. A man holding a weathered guitar joins us. His hair is silvered and long, kept back in a tight ponytail. Turquoise beads frame his slim, whiskered neck. He wears a wool shirt, covered in green pinstripes, loose like a smock. His fingers are ringless. This, we are told, is the music therapist - a man qualified to pull at our endorphins by replicating Bob Dylan’s philosophical ebb and flow. Some of the older patients delight in the sight of the hippie psychologist. They reminisce of an age when their hearts were free. A time machine transports me to a simpler era, when my mom still wore a string bikini and my dad smoked pot with his band mates. Most of us are here because of nostalgia. The music therapist begins to pluck at his guitar: open hand, no pick. His smoky voice carries a familiar tune, some Bob Seger-like composition. The words are generic and uplifting, an obvious rip-off geared toward defective minds. I am insulted by his jovial inflection. My damaged being longs for dissonance, the relatable sound of tritones. I want the time machine to take me further back so that Richard Wagner can be my music therapist. What more hideous man could beget such intricate beauty? The familiar cry of Wagner’s Tristan might bewilder my madness away. The hippie therapist ends his song and asks how it made us feel. Patients fire answers in machine gun fashion, each one sounding cornier than the last. I am called on to relate my feelings. I want to push away from the

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futile clichés. I am too proud to say that I simply felt happy, or sad, or glad. So I provide a discourse about the rational conclusions of C.S. Lewis in his doubt-filled book A Grief Observed; surely this learned response will prove me lucid. But my friends in the circle look at me puzzled, and the music therapist says he’s never heard of Lewis. He starts a new song without acknowledging my thought. I should have said the tune made me feel nice. My clan sits alone on the chairs left from the music therapy session. Gabby complains that her new medication is shit - she still wants to cry. I pipe up and explain that those drugs take at least a week to enable noticeable change. The group knows I am studying psychology, that I was knee-deep in Psychopathology class two weeks ago. They pry me for answers even though I told them I only know enough about medicine to be harmful. Regardless, I feel responsible to tell them something positive, even if it is not true, because they rest assured in my placebo words. I have become attached to their actions - accountable for their lives. My last positive memories of my father are stuck in Utah, where we biked across the meandering red rocks of Moab. It was just the two of us, miles deep in the dry wild. I was twelve, my father was a grown-up. We found a dinosaur footprint, but I’ve lost the picture. We ate steak, and caught spiders, and made funny faces at the burping toads. I knew my father took the journey seriously because we stayed in places called hotels and not motels. One night, while my father showered off the day’s enjoyable dust, I went to examine his old SLR camera. He carried the thing everywhere. I have thousands of slides on scores of carriages, so I can still see through his eyes. I unzipped the case and found the camera hidden beneath five full bottles of pills: they were all the same - they were all substantial. I knew in the moment that he had sinister intentions, that he was hoarding a death wish. But the trip was euphoric, I didn’t want it to end, so I kept silent about the pills. We hiked through God-fearing arches the next day. My father’s pulsing runner’s legs were alive, his smile was alive, his pride in my exploration felt real, so it was alive. I could not understand why he wanted to die. My father overdosed on those pills three months later, this was his first failed attempt - my mom

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found him alive. I am telling this story in group therapy; everyone looks confused. Kevin asks why I am smiling. I don’t realize that I’m smiling. Perhaps my subconscious knows that they let grins out of the hospital early. Perhaps the learned tactics of my father have the corners of my mouth on a taut string. My smile is indifferent. They let my father out of the hospital a week earlier than expected. The family was frightened. My mom’s eyes had been reduced to rivets as she carried the hopes of her children on her back, while shielding them from the returning stranger. My mom is a saint in the gentlest form of the word. She reads heavy books, but never brags about their meaning, she keeps her mind to herself because her confidant is gone. She trusted her children to raise themselves, and we did, and I am glad. My mom never pushed to be my best friend like those desperate parents who seek their children’s approval. She knows life is raw – so she is simply my loving mother. I refused to acknowledge my father’s presence for several weeks after his initial return because he tried to kill something that I loved. I hid in the basement and fixated on the PlayStation my mom bought me out of pity, only climbing to fresh air when my father was in bed. I was not ready to talk to the purgatory man. When my mom would go out, to the store or just to drive, I would listen to the footsteps on the floorboards above. Feeling responsible for my confused father, I would monitor the frequency of his gait. I timed his movements by playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a skateboard video game played in two-minute sessions. I stomped kickflips in a mall and grinded on picnic tables at a high school - a welcomed virtual unreality. Where screens often divide, the basement TV fulfilled a noble purpose: to divert and protect. If the house fell silent for five consecutive skate sessions, I would sneak up the stairs, crack open the basement door, and peer into the adjacent living room. Most of the time my father was napping or reading - occasionally watching porn. One afternoon, following a prolonged silence, I paused my game

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and ascended the stairs. The air was empty so I emerged fretful from the basement. He wasn’t napping, or watching basketball, or jerking off. He was missing. I heard a thud on the ceiling. I saw a ladder through the window. My father was on the roof. I looked out of the sliding glass door, which led to the leaf-strewn backyard, just in time to glimpse my father’s miserable body falling from the roof onto concrete - like a ragdoll tossed from a shelf. I ran outside, in anger, not concern. He would not look at me, but moaned while holding his back. His elbows were bloodied, like a child who had fallen off a bike. I stood over him, pitiless. This was not my father. This was a broken record. He claimed he fell while fixing the roof, but really he jumped. I kept this to myself. The new medication is supposed to make me tired. To numb me is to fix me. They send me to my bedroom before I pass out. A roommate joins me, he always cries, and both of his parents hug him during visitation. I haven’t cried in years. My father took my tears with him, and I’ve yet to visit his grave to take them back. I sit in my room and watch the twilight fade through curtainless window, the panes will not open; the panes cannot open. Though we are in the midst of spring, the winter-white walls suck the warmth from the sun’s orange, glowing rays. I want to drink of the dew that winds down a maple that sits twenty yards away. The air is dry in here, like a Moab without God’s touch. My bed is a box without springs, two feet off of the ground. I imagine a time when they allowed springs and some unbalanced young woman tore through the mattress with her teeth. She pulled up the naked springs like tulips, then stuck the metal coils into her stomach and made a mess. Now we have to sleep on limp, lifeless beds. They gave me an amber, wooden desk; it is bolted to the floor. I consider myself sitting there to write, because people love to read pain. But there is no chair, and beyond this I have lost control of my fingers - the meds are sinking in. I lay my head on a pillow that is as thick as an old t-shirt, and gaze at the lone pop of color in the room. A kitsch landscape print hangs on the wall opposite my bed. The painting shows a path leading to a stark blue lake.

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Beyond the lake there are miles of pine and proud, purple mountains. I play in the lake as my consciousness dims. I am swimming free. Something prods at my left shoulder. It is calling my name. In continuation of my drug-induced dream, I think it could be God, or at least the angel Gabriel, but when I lift my eyes I realize it is a round, middleaged nurse. Her tone is forceful. She wants to draw my blood. I push my body from the bed and notice a mist around me that is really a psychotropic hangover, akin to the unattached buzz that accompanies anesthesia. I force myself onto two feet, all the while balancing on the hefty woman’s right arm. She was hired on account of her low center of gravity. My heels are bare and the hungry linoleum sucks their heat through a straw. The nurse guides me to a chair and proceeds to clean my left-forearm. I don’t feel the needle go in; she is good at this. I watch the blood exit my body: a cocktail of iron and lithium. I imagine, in a wishful haze, that there is significance to my blood. That I share a bond with some damaged genius, the brand of tortured souls they make movies about. The woman is finished collecting my worth, so I stand, and blood immediately rushes to my head. A fog covers my eyes. Two pill-sized lenses cap my corneas. The tides of my moods once brought me to euphoria, a place where I could paint all night and make sense of Kierkegaard: The Sickness Unto Death is despair. But now I know, after seeing my fiancée’s concerned face, I must live in the between. I must live among the medicated. And now I feel that my body has merged with the shameful ghost of my father. He has stepped from the mirror into my being, and, for a fleeting moment, we share a cloud. Jeffry, the longest standing therapist in the hospital, is leading group therapy. He is a kind, aging, black man. He smiles like me. His deeply religious spirit echoes hymns throughout the ward. He has a weeping shoulder for those who can cry, and a simple hug for those who can’t. Sometimes I sit alone in my room and read the Bible, waiting for Jeffry’s assurance. I flip past the genocidal Old Testament and focus on a Messiah. Jeffry beams with pride when he sees the canon in my hands. I may not like the words on the page,

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but my interaction with them is reinforced. I told Jeffry that I translated the Greek. We sit in our usual therapy circle. This is a long-talk session: open mic for the slightly deranged. With Jeffry at the helm, the patients divulge their human troubles. We are reminded never to laugh, but not cautioned against tears. Gabby talks shyly about her leg splints, the frustrating outcome of her car crash. Deb reads a poem she wrote to the tune of a recognizable yet forgotten Bon Jovi song. Kevin can’t remember what he wanted to talk about so he sings Deb’s Bon Jovi song. Bob thinks he knows where his wallet is – a conspiracy theory involving his dead wife’s estate and an insurance company. I notice that my fingernails are too long and I am embarrassed. I make two fists in order to hide the protruding ivory edges. It’s hard to sound impressive with blades in your palms. I talk about my dad because I don’t recognize myself.

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FLAMES OF GRIEF by

Grief’s cold night retreats in dawn’s flaming yawn  as sunrise glides  to gold-blue sky,  frames clouds set to clear by dusk— thus embrace full moon’s mellow glow.

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Deanie Rowan Blank


NIGHT BREATH by

Laura Altshul

Suddenly on the ceiling looking down at my body sprawled on the bed beside you our hands linked in night’s darkness, sleep denied for this moment of reaching – breaching blackness by pale moonlight my ribs rising with each breath of yours we are here in life, in living, in now and you turn into me and I sigh and return.

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AUGUST HEAT, 1944 by

Jeanie Greensfelder

The bus is crowded. I have to sit on mother’s lap. It’s hot, and my pink pinafore’s covered with sweat streaks. I stare at them like clouds in the sky. I find a giraffe, a sword, a demon. We’re coming home from downtown errands, and I can’t wait to stand in front of our fan. When we get off the bus I see old Mr. Jones with a policeman who points at me, calls us over. My stomach somersaults. My first grade teacher said if we are very bad, we go to prison.

Mr. Jones lives up the street. I sat with him on his swing. He touched me, asked if it felt good. I said yes. Then my friend Anastasia told me he was a bad man. She asked if I’d ever sat by him. I lied. Now the policeman talks to my mother. In the oak tree a squirrel scolds. The sun glares. My heart’s a drum. Mother asks if I ever went to the man’s house. I look at my feet and shake my head no. They talk more, and the policeman lets us go. After a few minutes, mother yanks my arm and asks again if I’d gone there. I shake my head. She’s satisfied. We go home.

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JOURNEYS BRIGHT AND NEW by

Eleanor Leonne Bennett

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MEDS by

Eleanor Leonne Bennett

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INSTAGRAM WHORE by She stands there spotlighted in the dim lights of the tavern— tattered fishnets under

Nikita Hernandez

black shorts, black tank voluptuous bombshell with too much makeup eyeliner swallowing her whole— Lady Gaga wannabe touchin herself ’cause no one else will. She caresses the mic croons a sloppy love poem about fucking on a piano, butchering Italian phrases added for class wow factor sophistication fallen short. This social media beauty queen ain’t impressin’ no one alienating followers choking up my news feed— get off the stage and leave poetry to your dreams.

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RESILIENCE, RECOVERY, AND HOPE FOR THE FUTURE by

Victoria Molta

Recovery and hope for the future go hand in hand. For me, recovery is when I feel strong and resilient; it is not when I fall between the cracks. Recovery is an interlocking dance between wellness and illness, feeling strong, keeping my balance. I am a social being and no matter how independent I consider myself to be, I do not discount people’s definitions and perceptions of who I am. Relationships impact whether a person will succeed or fail in life. People come and go. Some connections are fleeting and last a few minutes; a stare or scowl can affect someone’s mood or feeling about oneself. Some relationships last a lifetime and can be places of refuge and safety like being at home with snowflakes gently falling outside the lit window of a cozy cabin in the woods, fire blazing in the fireplace keeping me warm. Other relationships are toxic, like two rams butting heads. They are like claps of thunder booming or lightning angrily streaking a dark night sky. Abuse is like obscene words etched on a sacred, natural object by a graffiti artist. Recovery is the process of emerging after a threatening, toxic situation or loss of a loved one. It means first acknowledging and naming the harm or loss. If some people never know anything other than being hurt and abused, they will never know that it is not acceptable and that they deserve something more, something better. If I hadn’t had enough love in my life, I never would have known the good. Recovery is looking at what is happening in my life when I am upset and figuring out how to bring myself out of it. It is understanding why

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something is good or bad for me and learning from it. It is taking my power back from those who try to take it away from me. When I give my power away and turn it over to someone else, allowing them to decide my fate and define who I am, I lose myself. Even if a relationship is loving and good, without two separate selves within it, when the worst thing happens and the beloved partner dies, the survivor has no tools to survive the loss. Two separate selves must be folded in the mix in order for it to grow like a cake with the right ingredients rising in an oven. My mother-in-law retreated to her bed for eight years up—until the day she died—after her loving husband of over fifty years died. She had no skill or ability to recover from the loss. She had lost herself in the marriage and after his death felt purposeless. She was like a baking cake that had collapsed into itself. The doctors diagnosed her as “failing to thrive.” I was born with an independent streak. As a baby, my Mom spoon fed me baby food until one day I took the spoon from her hand and fed myself. Throughout the fabric of my childhood, patches of color peeked through the fabric of the southern California home I grew up in. Though I was independent, I searched out family and friends to connect with. There were loving family members who valued me. I remember small gestures such as sitting with my grandmother in front of the TV at night watching “Murder She Wrote” in the sunroom of her home outside Chicago. She briefly, gently stroked my cheek. I felt content just to be in her presence. On another occasion, I spent a night with my great-grandmother Mersey who in her 70’s, took up oil painting after moving into her own home near the orange groves in Claremont, California. After retiring from her job in Chicago, she moved to sunny California to start a new life. She knew no one but began taking classes at the nearby college and started her new foray as a painter. Empty coffee cans contained paintbrushes on the counter facing the sun shining through her kitchen windows and green plants on the sill leaning

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toward the light. The kitchen smelled like turpentine and the living room had a musty odor. On her living room table was a 1960’s Time magazine with the cover of Eisenhower on it. Her butter yellow canary named Freddy was perched in his cage singing. I remember holding hands with my Mom and walking into a pharmacy in Newport Beach, California. She spotted the actor John Wayne who appeared to be ten feet tall. She squeezed my hand to let me know as we watched him pay the store clerk, saunter outside, get into his black and gold Cadillac and drive off. Loneliness and connection were opposing yet equal forces in my life. Growing up, I felt that if I didn’t take care of things in my chaotic, dysfunctional, alcoholic family, nothing would get done. My bedroom was my refuge, clean because I regularly dusted, vacuumed and kept it in order in a disordered home. My siblings could be bullies and there is something lonely about being misunderstood and bullied. I have encountered rejection and being frozen out and no matter how proud I am of my independence, it cannot take away the sting of being excluded. Being with people who don’t “get me” is like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. A pattern of mine was when I was in a harmful situation, I was able to gather the courage and strength to feel I deserved more or better and that I could walk away and venture out of a bad fit and curl up with “my tribe,” “my people” carrying with me the cushion of people who had indeed “gotten me.” It has been an act of discerning the mean from the nice, the bad from the good, even if it meant walking away from some members of my blood family and creating a family of friends of my own. Living my life in recovery is like pouring grains of sand through a sieve. Many of my experiences and endeavors and relationships have sifted through and not stuck with me. But there was the occasional seashell that remained in the sieve and I have taken it out and treasured it; color not yet bleached out of it, whole and pure. Occasionally, life rushes in like an ocean wave and the shell is washed up in the frothy water and then buried under mounds of sand, but it is never forgotten in my mind and heart.

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My most important childhood friend was Bonnie. Our friendship was like a blooming flower during awkward early adolescence. But we didn’t feel we were blooming as quickly as the other girls. We were late bloomers; an ugly analogy for not keeping up with the other girls our age. For three years, we were best friends and stayed up and talked about everything the nights I slept over at her house. I loved being at her house—and still have vivid memories of staying in her yellow room wallpapered with red, blue, and purple spring flowers on a pale yellow background. We sipped the cream off the top of glass milk bottles delivered by the milkman. We rode bikes and stayed after school eating red licorice, French fries and drinking cokes at the snack bar. We raised money for the March of Dimes by walking twenty miles for sponsors. I vacationed with her family in Lake Arrowhead where we swam, sunned and played cards late into the night. In 1976, after my parent’s divorce was finalized, my mother moved the four of us children out of our California home away from my father and Bonnie. We drove across the country to a new life in Connecticut. Bonnie was the buried seashell and for many years, I lost her. However, through Facebook, the sand is parting and I have found her again, though our lives have taken us far away from each other. The two most prominent romantic relationships in my life were like night and day. Raging winds blowing me away versus a gentle breeze embracing me. The first was with a man from Qatar who came to this country to study business at a college in northern Vermont. I was a twenty year old college student, struggling and depressed because I was far from my home. Two weeks after meeting him in a disco, I moved in with him. His opinion of women was low and he took the opportunity whenever he could to batter me. My opinion of myself was low, which was no surprise. We stayed together during the summer break of 1982. I couldn’t get out of bed, but couldn’t sleep either while Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” played over and over on the record player. I couldn’t eat or keep anything down and felt utterly alone and lost. Ultimately and miraculously, I found the strength to walk away from that relationship, traumatized but free

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RESILIENCE, RECOVERY, AND HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

from his over- controlling behavior and rages. An instinct for survival kicked in and my suppressed spirit broke free. Somehow, I was able to finish my final year of college and graduate, leaving behind my boyfriend forever. I created my own rules when I married my husband. We had met when we were both living in a halfway house in Danbury, Connecticut. I was twenty five years old and the depression had returned. I had lost pieces of myself once again like fragments of paper torn from the journal in which I kept my hopes and dreams. They flew out from my back pocket as I struggled to gather them together. Nothing stuck. Sand through the sieve. Bill was just as lost, recovering from many years of substance abuse to obliterate his memories of a troubled past. He was a hippie, a vegetarian, a yogi, a musician; gentle, tender and sweet. Connecting with him was like finding my way home to my other half. Twenty eight years have passed and he has always honored my independent streak, trusting me and loving me and encouraging me to keep going. Along the way, we have created colorful meaningful memories on our journey together. I chose love over money and his twenty two years of sobriety are priceless. Commitment for us means not doing for, but not running from challenges either. It means facing life as two strong people together. I have learned to hold onto what makes me whole, what heals me and to walk away from people and experiences that hurt me. Resilience and recovery are more than just instincts for survival. They are thriving, whole, colorful seashells in a sieve. Their beauty is captured as they sparkle in the light of the sun. Sunlight is hope that helps me to look at myself and guides me to where I am meant to go.

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IN THE BEGINNING by Do you remember? How this relationship once was Your simple touch Made me shake From head to toe Your taste I could not bear Like poison Running through my veins A bubble of fear My heart would say Go on its ok My head would say You’re an ugly mess Thank god my head Listened to my heart For now I can say I love my food

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Emma Doughty


THE SECRET GARDEN by

Joseph Saccio

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THE SECRET GARDEN (detail) by

Joseph Saccio

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by

Ashleigh Barker

PHANTOM

I can still taste it The hot breath fading on my neck I can still feel it The weight of his body bearing down on my bones I can still hear it My soul crumbling under his power-hungry flesh tearing breaking hurling himself through my skin

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I wake up some nights burying myself in the covers as if I were trying to bury my shame under six feet of dirt You’d think 6 years would bring some change some faith a wound healed without the pain of the bandaid ripped off, a wound lay open as if I slit my wrist yesterday to use my blood to write the eulogy of my young mind your manners, child.


15 years is too young to taste the bitter grit of shame 15 years is too old to collapse in the crib begging for a comforting rock, rock, rock me to sleep Too old and too young and too wrong I was all wrong to believe parents protect and friends care and people can be heroes “Turn to God” they said “Bow your head” “Pray” “Pray it away”

I inked “enough” in my arm to keep the knife away but I still look down with phantom limb wondering whose arm that is, whose confidence that is, whose courage that is And how can I get it? How can I look up on that day after 8 years and feel okay? I can’t. I don’t. What do you think?

Pray, they say, but how can I pray when I am so intoxicated by his pain that I can’t breathe. There are drunks with vision less distorted than mine, junkies with arms far cleaner than mine, rapists with conscience far freer than mine.

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DIAMOND-WHITE NIGHT by

Deanie Rowan Blank

I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was. ─Bottom, awaking, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; act 4, scene 1 I. The world was mine, filled with zest and rapture. Manhattan cool, Athens white, marbled Rome. Unknowing then of nearing disaster Elusive as reflections in slick chrome. In mid prime, he met life’s volleys leaping. So subtle the symptoms, nothing was feared. Even so the cistern began seeping, Eroding life, death by degrees appeared. To think of the future, I did not dare. Vital nerve nexuses would evaporate─ Every day was fraught with a new nightmare─ Losses grieved, I battled to compensate. No longer the fine athlete full of grace. Gone, whimsy and laughter from his fine face. II. When relentless disease crushed his spirit And there was no possible means of repair, He chose the kindest release and took it─ Freed himself from pain, unending despair. My heart turned empty as a barren womb

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With future forsaken, chances taken, It did not matter that I faced my tomb. Yet in a rare dream I did awaken. My fear now is, I cannot create A poem with the wisdom to define Or with a master’s palette to relate The exquisite dream that once was mine. I craved to stay, desired no release, Still my waking brought a reclaimed peace. III. To bring forth the splendor is my goal. I ascended on currents of lambent light From the moonless cavity of my soul. And I was not alone on this grand flight. Oh, the bliss to feel his presence once more─ A gift of ecstasy sublime. May I never reach another shore But hold fast my moment of perfect time. Where joy was lost, mere memories must suffice. Behind me the frosted fiery twilight Mounted with wings, high above black ice. I flew to the eye of diamond-white night, Saw him, free, sleek as a blackbird, soar Toward a new dawn. I woke to explore.

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AFIGHANISTAN by

Victor Altshul

An eight year-old looks at a National Geographic, takes in brown terraced fields lined with furrows, a faceless man with a pick, a white mountain looming far behind. He reads the name of this enchanted land: Afighanistan! Five syllables glow— he mouths their magic, knows he’ll never go, undeserving of a gift so grand. His father will not tell him no: he’s been so good, in fact, that they will plan to go together: no magic in the world of man will keep them out of Afighanistan. No magic does, but they are not to see it. As if in spite the first i leaves the land (such things occur as youngsters learn to read);

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and tetrasyllaby, no matter how concise, cannot support an earthly paradise. Hordes invade; gunshots roar; knives plunge. Men rape their sisters and their wives and murder them with impunity for their innocent impurity; and it’s a fine thing for the boy to know this one i land Afghanistan is nowhere in the world of man that anyone should ever want to go.

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WHAT WAS MISSED by

Genna Walker

“Do you want to talk about what brought us here?” the doctor asked, looking at Corinna’s bandaged arm instead of her face. She slid her hands over the white gauze and looked away, bolting her mouth tightly closed. I didn’t know what to do, so I pulled my tan leather bag closer to my stomach and surreptitiously tried to smooth the wrinkles from my daughter’s forehead with my gaze—angling my body away from the doctor and towards her tense form, with my head lowered so she wouldn’t think my eyes were locked on her. Corinna stared steadily at the sign on the opposite wall of the office, at the poster of kittens in a teacup next to a collage of photos of blond children. There were two desks in the small office adjacent to the emergency room; the one in front of us didn’t have anything hanging on the wall next to it except for two degrees in frames which dangled crookedly. Did he plan on playing the waiting game with her? My palms were drenched in sweat and my strange body angle was beginning to cramp my side. I wondered if Corinna felt any differently being here as a patient, rather than the family member in the wings, not waiting for good news because they knew there wasn’t any. She was younger the last time we were here together, allies in the lobby. He cleared his throat, still auspiciously staring at the gauze. I wanted to grab his head and turn it towards the teacup kittens, maybe shaking it to reinforce the point like a child would mistreat an animal. Bad puppy, I thought, don’t pee in the house. But, he kept staring. And I sat in my chair,

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holding my bag against my stomach. Corinna would have good news, she would. He sighed and looked down at the chart, rubbing his eyes. How long has he been working? It was seven a.m. and we’ve been in the hospital since five. It looks like he was here longer. Flipping a few pages, he filled the silence himself. “Why don’t I call a nurse in here to take you to your room?” He took his glasses off and tossed them onto the desk and leaned back in his chair, finally looking at her face. “Your paperwork is done now.” She didn’t remove her placid gaze from the teacup kittens. He ran his fingers through his dark brown hair—I tried not to look for the presence of gray hairs because I doubted I would find any. Then he reached for the telephone at the corner of the desk and punched three buttons. My daughter was going to be taken to the psychiatric ward. My stomach rolled again, so I pressed my purse more tightly against it to suppress its urging me to throw up on my shoes. “Your mother will bring you some clothes from home tomorrow. I’ll give her an approved list of items before she leaves.” He sat back in his chair to wait for the nurse. Corinna relaxed her hold on her arms, letting them fall open. She looked defeated, waiting for the leering vultures that had been following her around ever since she failed out of the local community college to finally start picking at her guts. When the nurse finally arrived—a short, candy corn shaped woman in equally bright colored scrubs—her eyes were closed. Was she sleeping again? Corinna rarely slept in high school. In sporadic weeks she’d sleep most of the day away, claiming a fever, even though she wouldn’t let me near her to help. Dr. Davis handed the nurse the chart and she gently coaxed my daughter out of the door and down the hall—as the sound of her steady shuffle drifted away, my hands began to shake. The doctor was staring at me now, though he didn’t have any bandages to examine for answers on the wounds they hid. “You must be exhausted,” he said, rubbing his eyes again. Maybe he

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was talking to himself, unless I looked just as bad as he did. “Do you want to get a cup of coffee?” The last cup of coffee I had was at five-thirty, as I was waiting for the doctors to stitch and bandage the gashes Corinna had made on her arms. “Sure,” I said, “that’d be fine.” I wasn’t sad to leave the bleak little room, whose empty walls and teacup kittens were the only thing to stare at to avoid talking about the truth. The young woman who stood behind the counter didn’t say a word about the way my hands shook when I paid for my coffee, but the tremor quaked waves out of my cup even before I started walking towards the small, circular table covered with a spray of sugar grains. Dr. Davis wiped the table off with a napkin from the dispenser at the center of the table before he pulled a chair, squealing, across the fake-stone floor. For an in-hospital coffee shop, it was kind of nice. I didn’t know what to say, so I sat down too. My purse felt better in my lap as I sat across from the doctor—the list of allowable items gave me a purpose. This I could do. The doctor stirred some sugar into his coffee. We drank in silence. I was grateful that he wasn’t trying to make casual conversation or interrogate me about my daughter’s health—my thoughts were swirling, thinking about everything that had happened since Corinna had awoken me in the middle of the night, crying and bleeding over my blankets. Then, I had been a whirl of motion, wrapping her arms tightly with my pillowcases. I thought now guiltily of infections invading my daughter’s bloodstream—at the time, my main concern was that the blood, which was effusing from the cuts like it tasted freedom, stayed within her precious body. How could she do that? When I was younger, my cousin and I failed in our attempts at making a blood pact because neither of us were willing to cut our skin. Corinna hadn’t been afraid. She had always been braver than me. I saw her again in my mind, the way the streetlight outside of my window made her cheeks glisten, but the blood on her arms jet black. She must be more like her father, though less extreme: he had used a gun when he killed

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himself. Corinna was almost 15 then. I sighed and looked away from the painting of blocks of gaudy colors that I didn’t realize I was staring at. Dr. Davis wasn’t sitting across from me. I glanced around hastily, wondering how long I had been staring into space alone and when the doctor departed. My cup was cold, half of the liquid tepidly resting at the bottom. My expectations leaving the house this morning were admittedly grim, but the steady emptiness of the passenger seat in the car startled me at first. I didn’t want to acknowledge it, so I shakily slid the keys into the ignition and started the engine. The jeep rumbled and cleared its old-man throat, a comfortable relief of friendliness that lasted a few moments. When I merged into traffic, I looked towards the right and felt like someone had taken a giant hole-punch and forced out an essential part of me. I kept driving. Breathing evenly was the key. And deeply. I was pretty sure those were two essential adjectives in the calming process. Inhale. I remember the long drive from Houston in this jeep, following Barry at a distance in the rental van—my younger brother always bragged that he was the best with directions. Corinna rested her legs on top of the dashboard, collecting the dust that I had been meaning to clean away weeks ago with her white cotton socks. The hood of her gray sweatshirt was pulled over her eyes because the sun was just beginning to rise in my memory. Exhale. The morning had been tense because any move I made irritated her. It being the day after your father’s funeral would probably have that effect on a lot of people. Inhale.

Marcus had been depressed a long time before we met. That’s

how he described it to me, whispering it into my ears and tracing with his fingerprints the places he hurt, but on my skin. He was curled around me, pressed so tightly against me that the only way he could reach himself was to go through me. A week before it happened, he told me therapy was going well. The road was clear around me, so I almost forwent the use of my turn signal, but flicked it on when the memory of nine year-old Corinna’s soft child-voice chided me like she did when she briefly became fascinated with

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the mechanics of the jeep and its proper usage. I pulled onto the shoulder of the road and parked the car beneath the trees that lined the highway. Did Corinna think about her father when she forced the knife into her flesh? What atavistic pull was guiding her towards this outcome? What connection did I have to this? My hands were shaking. I couldn’t answer any of my questions and I tried not to let any more find voices—my fear was formidable enough as an amorphous concept lurking in my mind. Inhale: Corinna bouncing around the new house, talking about the swimming pool in her new high school. Exhale: not seeing more than my daughter’s feet for days at a time, and worrying that she wasn’t eating enough during this pseudo-coma. Inhale: Marcus slept through his birthday party when he found out that his proposal had been rejected at work on the same day. Breathing wasn’t working. Maybe my airways were distracted by the excessive crying that bent my body over the steering wheel. I groaned loudly as the punched-out hole throbbed with pain, wailing as the emotions coursed through me. Eventually, I was breathing steadily again and the tears stopped. The absence of Corinna from the seat she had occupied only a few hours ago pressed against me; I could feel the physicality of it, the way I had to press my body close to the wheel to avoid touching its edges. The first time I walked into the new house in Indiana, I was terrified that there wouldn’t be enough space for all of the items I had accrued throughout my seventeen year marriage. The first two years, the ones before Corinna was born, had been a slow consolidation of a single body of furniture that Marcus took very seriously: whose toaster was better? How much should sentimental value be considered when an item’s pros and cons were weighed? The smaller house couldn’t hold all of our things, though. Marcus’s essentials list had to be forgotten and his items were left behind. Corinna was visible in every corner of the small house—even the plain white clapboard façade was brightened by the birds she had painted around the edges of the windows during her first summer break. She would

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wake up early every morning, eating breakfast with me before I went to work, and start painting as I began my drive. Only half of the house received this treatment, though. After the neighbor boy insulted their sometimes crooked figures, Corinna slept through breakfast so I never knew exactly what she filled her days with. I dropped my purse onto the kitchen counter and sunk into the chair next to me. A white piece of paper was poking out of the opening of my purse. It was the list that Dr. Davis had handed to me before we left his office. There was a pale green watermark next to the bulleted list so I trailed my fingertip around its circular form—the hospital logo was basic but comforting, proclaiming the date of the institution’s foundation to promote its legacy. It was very similar to the list of tips for incoming freshmen that Garver Culinary Institute had sent along with Corinna’s acceptance letter. Whenever she told me that she had failed her first semester and was not planning on returning, she couldn’t look me in the eyes. I sighed, grabbed the list, and started walking towards the creaky staircase at the center of the house—all of the other rooms radiated around it. The bedroom across from the bathroom was Corinna’s. Her clothes were all over her floor, the contents of the drawers leaking onto the carpet and overtaking the space. Corinna’s inconsistency surprised me sometimes—she could be a neat freak, cleaning in the early hours of the morning and aligning all of the furniture, or a total slob. It took me a half hour to sort through the clothes on her floor. Did Corinna wear this top often? Would she want the green shorts or the jeans? I was impressed with how often I was able to recognize the clothes which she wore the most—she had so many that some of what I came across didn’t look familiar at all. When the bag was packed, I sat on the bed and looked around the room. All of these things reminded me of my daughter, but none of them had hinted at a need for caution. Unless the signs were there, and I just hadn’t seen them. I wrapped Corinna’s blankets around my body and lay down on the bed. Visiting hours started early in the morning, and I had a lot of memories to analyze before I left.

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SLIPPING THROUGH by

Laura Altshul

The way a needle pulls thread through the cloth the way water winds through a pinhole in the pipe the way a mouse eases through the wall’s crack the way a diver cleaves the water’s surface

the way a glass crashed out of my mother’s grasp – it just slipped through my fingers she said an hour before she paused and fell into bed – and despite her fear she slipped right through.

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THE COMPELLING AESTHETIC OF DESTRUCTION (detail) by

Joseph Saccio 53


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THE COMPELLING AESTHETIC OF DESTRUCTION by 54

Joseph Saccio


HARD UP, 1947 by

Jeanie Greensfelder

I’m going home after playing with Patty. It’s dark. I’m scared. My sister told me about the Bogeyman. She said he’s going to get me.

Someone’s burning trash. I smell rubber. Sparks rise like the fireflies Patty and I caught and put in a mayonnaise jar. We took them to her room and turned off the light. We weren’t afraid. Patty’s lucky not having a big sister. I think about chewing the stick of gum Patty gave me, but I don’t like Doublemint. I’ll save it till I’m hard up. I walk carefully. The blister on my heel hurts. I need new shoes. I have to pass  the oak where crows roost.  Someone’s coming across the street—  a little old woman bent over a cane— the Bogeyman in disguise. My feet take off, ignoring my blister. As I run by the oak, crows caw, rise, and loom overhead. Anything could happen.   Nothing does. I’m home, afraid to go inside.  If Mother sees me shaking and out of breath,  I’ll never get to go to Patty’s again. I sit on the steps and take out my stick of Doublemint.

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PAPER HEARTS by

Nikita Hernandez

He folds dreams into paper wings, tucking wishes in a thousand origami cranes, cleaving to the idea his efforts will bring him closer to me, divorce him from pain. I fold hope into flower petals, pleating lotus blossoms on the kitchen floor while I wait for the stovetop kettle to sing, beckoning me to pour my sorrows in a mug of tea. I sip mint and listen to my heart croon about ache and loss—enemies you don’t see, but feel. He left me too soon, too soon.

But how many days does it take to fall in love? We can only wonder in a separated existence— he counts the time apart, and shoves stationery into shapes to close our distance. Until then, we stash our delicate hearts in dog-eared sculptures, waiting for loneliness to depart.

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BLACK BIRDS MAKE ME SMILE by

Deanie Rowan Blank

The contrariety of black birds attracted him. He saw their beauty,

admired their wily ways, enjoyed their notoriety. Mythic winged things of ill omen. Raucous scavenging strumpets, clever, not simply black, iridescent as an oil slick in sun— silver, green, gold, blue. When light dims ravens turn velvet ebony hue and crows’ caws mimic new babes. He was a bit of a rascal himself. A bow tie kind of guy with flair for demonic wit. Students and colleagues awed by his art—Socratic irony. So, a grand paradox, his favored refrains, folk lyrics—If I were a blackbird I’d leave all the sorrow behind.* When the tocsin of mortal disease tolled—knowing the denouement— he chose to close the cover of the tome before him. If I were a bluebird, I’d soar….* *Bluebird, The Smith Sisters, Flying Fish Records, 1984

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MIDNIGHT CONVERSATIONS by

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Linda McMillan


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Contributors

LAURA ALTSHUL’s first book of poetry, Searching for the Northern Lights, was published in the summer of 2015. A long-time New Haven resident and educator, she was the featured poet on the half hour public TV series Speaking of Poetry Episode 36. She and her poet-psychiatrist husband Victor have seven children between them and ten grandchildren with an eleventh on the way. ------------------------------------------VICTOR ALTSHUL, a 1960 graduate of Yale Medical School, is a practicing psychiatrist in New Haven and an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale. He has enjoyed a number of alternate careers as marathon runner, rower and opera singer. Inspired by Eizabeth Bishop’s magnificent villanelle “One Art”, he began writing poetry four years ago. His first volume, “Stumblings”, was published by CreateSpace in 2013; his second, “Singing with Starlings”, published by Antrim House, came out in 2015. A number of his poems have appeared in “Connecticut Medicine” and other publications. He is indebted to his wife Laura, also a published poet, both for inspiration and for much needed critical oversight. ------------------------------------------ASHLEIGH BARKER is a 24 year old central Kentucky resident. She works as a Behavior Technician with children who have behavioral difficulties, developmental delays and Autism Spectrum disorders. She has had a long battle with mental illness, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, and is currently in recovery from an eating disorder. She is surrounded by friends who are more like her family and is especially thankful for her best friend, Betsie. She finds writing to be her most useful coping strategy and her poetry provides her with an outlet to express that are difficult to voice.

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ELEANOR LEONNE BENNETT - One of a select few included in the Saatchi Online partnership with the Gilt Groupe’s art sale at the age of fifteen resulting in exposure to the then 5.5 million customer base of Gilt.com. In 2011 multiple pieces were selected by Microsoft for display in their Windows themes Insects Dynamic, Fauna Dynamic and Aqua Dynamic. Youngest artist to exhibit with Salon Arcano, Argentina. “Sleep Anywhere” selected for the Danish EU Presidency’s exhibition. Included in the culminated photo mosaic display offered to schools, city halls, libraries and embassies around Denmark. On the cover of Annals of Internal Medicine and The British Journal of Psychiatry at the age of sixteen. From being a very young artist I have utilized the proceeds from my work to benefit a number of charities over the years. These include Great Ormond Street, Ink For Aid, Love Drop, and Winston’s Wish among others. ------------------------------------------DEANIE ROWAN BLANK, a native of New York state, now lives in Connecticut. Soon after her retirement from a career as clinician and community mental health program director, the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, Chautauqua. NY, selected her to read a selection of her work for the “Student Poet Spotlight” public reading. Her work appears widely, including:  Edgar Literary Magazine, Main Channel Voices, Mediphors [sic] - a Literary Journal of Medical Professionals, Potpourri, Expressions, Saturday Magazine, Northeast Magazine, Whitney Word, Poetica Magazine, Whistling Fire, Coachella Review, Sunday New York Times Book Review Letters, Long River Run, ITO EN Oi Ocha of Japan, and Prairie Schooner. She was selected a Sunken Garden Poetry Festival Tenth Anniversary Prize finalist, as well as finalist in The Great River Shakespeare Festival Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest.  She is the recipient of a Pierce Loughran Scholarship to attend the W.B. Yeats International Summer School. Her poetry has been performed in the Plays and Poetry productions of the East Haddam Stage Company. She may be reached via her website: www.deanieblank.com ------------------------------------------EMMA DOUGHTY - Emma was born with mild cerebral palsy (hemiplegia). She has enjoyed writing from a young age, at fourteen she wrote her first poem about mental health titled from Black 2 Blue. Emma recently had a short story published in Irelands own. She is also in the process of having her first children’s book published. ----------------------------------------JEANIE GREENSFELDER is the author of Biting the Apple (Penciled In, 2012), and Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith (Penciled In, 2015).  A psychologist and poet, she seeks to understand herself and others on this shared journey, filled, as Joseph Campbell wrote, with sorrowful joys and joyful sorrows. She grew up in St. Louis and now lives with her husband in San Luis Obispo, CA. Her poems have been published at Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry, and the On Being blog; in anthologies: Paris,Etc. Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems, and 30 Years of Corner of the Mouth; and in journals.  Some can be read at jeaniegreensfelder.com

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EMILY HERBERICH is a writer by day and painter, political devotee, and cat mother by night. ------------------------------------------LINDA MCMILLAN is a Connecticut artist who loves to wander in nature, searching for inspiration and beauty in the world around her.  She works predominantly in the digital arts and colored pencil, but also enjoys working with three dimensional art on occasion.  She graduated with a BFA from the University of Connecticut and has since continued in her artistic endeavors.  She has been shown in many galleries and shows in both Nevada and Connecticut and her art is found in private collections as well.  As an art educator, she enjoys being a part of her students’ artistic journeys. ------------------------------------------Born and raised as a military brat, or “professional gypsy” as her mom likes to say, NIKITA HERNANDEZ grew up in the Deep South drinking sweet tea and plucking pecans from her next door neighbor’s tree. She spends her time battling wanderlust, daydreaming, and drinking tea. Her poems have appeared in Meat For Tea, The Fredericksburg Literary Review, and The Gambler Mag, among others. Additionally, Nikita was a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee, and is currently a guest editor for 67 Press. ------------------------------------------VICTORIA MOLTA has worked as a mental health advocate and peer support specialist in agencies and clubhouses throughout Connecticut. Her written work has been published in mental health journals across the country. She has been married for almost twenty five years to a person in long term recovery as well. ------------------------------------------JEN PAYNE finds her creative spark kindled by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Her writing efforts include poetry, creative non-fiction, flash fiction and essay. She is the owner of Words by Jen, a marketing and graphic design company in Branford, CT. Jen is an active member of the Guilford Poets Guild, the Connecticut Poetry Society and the New Haven Arts Council. She is the author of the book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, and her work has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, and WOW! Women on Writing. You can see more of her writing at www.randomactsofwriting.net ------------------------------------------DAN ROUSSEAU is a Philadelphia based writer and MA candidate in Writing Studies at Saint Joseph’s University where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Avenue: SJU’s graduate literary magazine. He holds a degree in psychology from Taylor University in Upland, IN, and has worked in behavioral health through the Institute for Behavior Change. Dan is a new father, and a seasoned dog owner. 

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JOSEPH SACCIO is a largely self-taught artist, but learned techniques at various places, including marble carving and bronze casting in the cities of Lucca and Pietrasanta, and from fine artists including Ann Lehman, Stan Bliefeld. From boyhood an artist, Joe practiced his art during a fine career in medicine. Before engaging full time in his second career as a professional artist, Joe was a professor at the Yale Child Study Center teaching early child development and conducting a private practice of Child, Adolescent and Adult psychiatry from 1966 – 2006. ------------------------------------------GENNA WALKER received her BS in Creative Writing and Philosophy, with a minor in Literature from Slippery Rock University and is currently pursuing her MA in Publishing from Rosemont College. She was born and raised in the small, western Pennsylvanian town of Windber, and is currently living in the Philadelphia area.Â

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Profile for Ashley Clayton

The Perch | Volume 3  

The Perch | Volume 3  

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