a n a rts & li tera r y journal volume 4 | fall 2017
volume 4; fall 2017
volume 4; fall 2017
Editor-in-Chief Michael Rowe Managing Editor Liat Kriegel Prose Editors Claire Bien Lucile Bruce Poetry Editors Christine Beck Chyrell Bellamy Visual Art Editors Ashley Clayton Rebecca Miller Editor Larry Davidson Production Editor Mary K. Snyder Copy Editor Daniel Evans Rowe Advisory Board Ari Bloomekatz Imani Harrington Design & Layout Marilyn Murray Cover Art by Rosiane Oliveria
about the journal
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/
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.
volume 4; fall 2017
POETRY & PROSE 4 5 7 16 17 21 22 23 24 26 28 30 32 33 36 44 46 48 49 51 58 59
Jeffery L Taylor
Nancy Clarke Otter
STORM TRACKER GUIDE TO RESENTMENT
HOW TO BE ANOREXIC
TELLING ME WHAT TO WEAR
Elizabeth Brule’ Farrell
HIGHWAY ISLAND BEGGAR
Michael A Istvan
DEEP SEA DIVER
John A Cayer
Michael A Ferro
MY D.I.D POEM
I KNOW I WAS AN ASSHOLE
IN WHICH I LET MY EGO WRITE A POEM
Amy Leigh Wicks
THINGS OF GRACE
62 66 68 72 73 80 81 82 84 85 86
A DRAGONFLY’S LAIR
Mary K Snyder
Joseph Ellison Brockway
TATER, I RECKON
Joseph S Pete
UNITED STATES OF AFRICA
ROCKED HERSELF RIGHT AGAIN
AN AGORAPHOBIC’S LOVE SONG
FADED LINES AND GRAVEL
FALLING AND RISING THROUGH TIME AND SPACE
V I S UA L A RT W O R K 6
PRAYER FOR MYSELF IN THE WAKE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN Mattina Blue
27 31 35 45 50 61 65 67 71
OUR 3RD PLACE
HOME OF GOD
ONE AT A TIME
FISSURES IN THE MATRIX
A YEAR OF MOVING BETWEEN REALITY AND FANTASY
THE OTHER SIDE
volume 4; fall 2017
BLACKBIRD WANTING by His breathing is low, burdened by the long, uphill walk. The blackbird sees him. He knows why the blackbird is there but has his doubts about what to do.
The grey worms at the top of his head have begun moving again. Rather than lie still to do their work, the worms are moving, as they occasionally do, more frequently these days at the sunâ€™s earlier setting. This is what the blackbird, large and menacing, wants, the worms. This is what he came to offer. The blackbird, with its two-inch beak throws open its wings to take flight. It circles above where he is sitting on a rickety old bench along a black muddy path. Smaller and smaller circles and then it dives. Suddenly, he jumps to his feet, his breathing crystal clear. The grey worms are lying still, synapsing as they should, floating in their magic and mystery. He takes to the long walk home without looking back, leaving the blackbird wanting.
DOUBLE-EDGED SCHIZOPHRENIA by
Somewhere between my jagged alleyways of scribbled over and scratched out brain tissue and your perpetual soundtrack of the stray man who follows you to formal introductions and everywhere else, I have a memory of ours. You looked at me and saw smooth skull, programmed smile, sterilized and antiseptic eardrums, and a newly-printed volunteer badge that labeled me as another fledgling zookeeper. “We’re not crazy, you know.” I saw overworked retinas yearning to eclipse behind the safety of the moonlight’s shadow, a rasped melody coating patient ears, and bashed and scattered flakes of heart that continue to beat. “I know.”
Thomas Nguyen Rewind.
You exist, and, yes, this happened. Except there was no slick, motor-lipped, hawk-nosed smooth-talker in me that day. Except my words actually relapsed into a cesspool of molten saliva that burned my tongue before I could ever open my quivering mouth. Except there was only silence breeding poisonous and hallucinatory fumes that danced around my throat in mockery and suggested to you that maybe I didn’t know. Except you never had the luxury of taking reality for granted, and I shouldn’t either.
volume 4; fall 2017
PRAYER FOR MYSELF IN THE WAKE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN by 6
With artwork by Ahmed Almulla
Along either side of the asphalt path, the trees race with him. They
lift their roots and follow him down the track. He sees the silhouettes of date palms and acacias picking up speed as he pushes past. The shrubbery shakes,
and he sees this all—he sees it—and he feels almighty. Relentlessly, his left leg propels his body forward on his skateboard, and he goes faster and further
down the path. It is grimly dark; the occasional lamppost is barely luminous in
the dusty air. He needs no light. Dust darting into his eyes—lashes struggling to keep out—doesn’t faze him. It’s 3 a.m., but the heat, remnants of the earlier August sun, lingers, stagnant. Droplets of sweat fly from his forehead as soon as they form and grime sheathes his face. He feels all-powerful. He is—he
must be—floating. The trees urge him onwards. He presses on, pushes on, front
wheels catch in a crack, and he is sent tumbling hard to the charred asphalt. All
is maddeningly still. Prostrated, he breathes in sediments of dust and coughs them out. He turns over, lies there, panting, limbs extended. He doesn’t mind
that the ground sears his back through his thin t-shirt—the back of his arms,
his hands, his head. He likes that he feels a twinge of pain in his left palm and digs his nails in where skin has scraped off. The trees don’t mind that he laughs
in euphoria, in the dark umbra of impending dawn. The date palm extends a
replenishing fruit that he finds next to his head. Khaled accepts it—thumbs its shriveled husk. Almighty.
volume 4; fall 2017
Yasmine had left the glass and wooden lattice cracked open and she
gets up now to latch them back in place—gingerly, so no one suspects that she’d been eavesdropping. As she does so, she peers down through the arabesque lattice to the living room where her mother is still trying to get her brother to calm down, standing in the middle of the marble floor while he circles her on his skateboard, yelling incomprehensible streams of thought—the same as he’d been doing for the past three hours, give or take.
He’s going through threats again now, against everyone who’d
“wronged” him. This and that—horrors. She tries not to think of this and that, wishes she hadn’t heard them.
Before she leaves the window, she observes her brother, her eyes trail-
ing him round the large flower etched in the hard marble, how he looks so
frail—muscle and bone. He hasn’t slept for days. She puts a hand to the glass. He used to be so . . . healthy. Disheartened, she returns to bed, presses pil-
lows to both ears, trying to muffle the incessant din. How is he still at it? For
the love of everything that is mighty, shut up, shut up, shut up! She presses the
pillows tighter. She can’t help but think of this and that—against everyone who’d crossed him. Please, make it go away. Ripping car tires—this. Please, stop doing this to mum, to all of us. Throwing cows’ heads at doorsteps—that. To yourself. Buckets of blood—this. How has he not passed out yet? I wish
he would. He wouldn’t, she reminds herself. He wouldn’t actually do any of
it—that gore. For his sake, I wish he’d pass out. They’re only empty unfulfilled threats, she knows this—that it’s just a symptom of the disorder. He slips in and
out of delusions so much, it’s hard to tell when he’s being literal. It’s only, only the disorder. She whimpers until it stops, until she sleeps.
But before it stops, before she sleeps, her mind revisits a time when
he first made her feel this terrified—more so. It was about ten years ago—back when no one had suspected that he was different. She was thirteen, and he was
developing into a stronger young man of fifteen. It happened so quickly—over something so stupid—over a broken skateboard she had played with with-
out asking. She looked at him, hands hiding her face and cowering body; she
looked at him through her fingers, and his eyes didn’t seem like his. As he yells
from the living room now, she thinks back to that time—when his rage sent her to the hospital with a swollen thumb, “and over something so stupid!” her
father yelled. She was in her bedroom with a throbbing bandaged thumb—her
father and brother in the room next-door. “You could have broken it! A hand is not a skateboard!
“You thank your stars you didn’t break it. I’m taking your skateboards
away.” Ebrahim thinks back to that instance and others that make him question
whether he had failed as a parent: the day he dragged Khaled—then twelve—
by the collar down from the roof to his bedroom, and made him give over the rest of the cigarettes he hid in there; the time he slapped him at fourteen—once across the face, twice on the nape—before driving home from the police station
at 2 a.m. in a wrecked car; that moment, two years later, when shards of fly-
ing glass cut them both after he’d smashed a vaporizer on Khaled’s bathroom
wall—two Ziplocs of hashish swirled down the toilet. As he sits by his son’s hospital bed now, where Khaled, twenty five, lies groggy and quiet, he wonders
if this might all have been reversed had he not been so chiding. Or was it all inevitable? His son stares into the empty paper cup that the nurses administered his lithium capsules in and crumples it before tossing it at the wall.
“Two weeks down. We’ll be out of here soon, son.” Ebrahim puts a
hand on Khaled’s head and smooths his long curls. He has my curly hair. Back when I had hair on my head, he smiles to himself, and my stubbornness. He
has also carried down a recessive disorder that manifested in his son—one that
no one saw coming.
A drawing on A4 paper is propped against the window pane. His son
is drawing again, which is good—probably. It’s a self-portrait—most of his
drawings are: a quick sketch in black felt-tip of a crocodile pushing itself out of his son’s mouth. His thick brows furrow as he tries to construe what Khaled
volume 4; fall 2017
might have been expressing when he sketched this. Anger? Frustration? Suffocation?
A week earlier, when his son was at the height and depth, and exhila-
ration of a manic episode, Khaled only yielded to Ebrahim’s pleading to see
a doctor when he cried. He never cried. But he had never felt so terrified for his son, either. The incessant yelling, the threatening, the nonsensical jabber,
the ludicrous conspiracy theories and hallucinations—no eating, no sleeping—
constant moving, disappearing for days, coming back scrawnier, and yet more
energetic than ever—it had all reached a crescendo. And it wasn’t only sleep and appetite that he had lost; he lost his job, his fiancé and his mind. Ebrahim wanted his son back. It was only when he looked into his son’s hollow eyes,
clasping his shoulders, and heaving out a teary desperate plea, that Khaled fi-
nally acquiesced. He drove. His wife, in the passenger seat, contorted her body
so she could face her son in the back seat and hold his hands on the way to the clinic. The emergency clinic was only a three-minute drive away; it felt much
much farther then.
Mariam finally found a buyer. She takes one final look at the white
lace peeking out of the garment bag before zipping it the whole way up. She
doesn’t want to cry this time, but she can’t help it. She quickly folds a tissue
and dabs it under her kohl lined eyes, careful not to smudge, mouth gaped for
no practical reason. A lace wedding dress is what she always wanted. This one
has long lace sleeves, too, and a deep-V back, exactly the way she had imag-
ined her wedding dress to be. She had made sure not to buy one with a long dragging train; that would be very inconvenient to move in during the bride’s
dance. She also wanted one that hugged her lean figure and only flared below the knees, so Khaled could see her hips sway to the rhythm of the music as she danced back towards him. He would give her a single rose and a kiss when the
dance was over, and help her back into her seat next to him. This is how she imagined it. How it could never be.
She takes a final glance at herself in the dressing table mirror, carries
the garment bag over her shoulder, and leaves to meet the woman she had spo-
ken to on the phone. They had agreed to meet at a small coffee shop that over-
looks the placid waters of the Gulf. Mariam used to go to this shop regularly. It
always had the perfect sultry lighting, soothing music and dreamy ambience; her stomach churns as she drives there now—she should have picked a differ-
ent spot to meet the buyer. She gets there first; the tables are all unoccupied. Good—she has managed to avoid that awkward situation she sometimes finds
herself in when meeting a person for the first time, trying to catch people’s
eyes until someone stares back long enough to indicate that they’re expecting
to meet a stranger, too. At the counter, Mariam orders an espresso—almost orders two. She finds a three-seat table next to the window, drapes the gar-
ment bag over a chair, and sits herself down next to it. She sits next to a ghost
bride. As she takes her first sip of coffee, she hears the ting of the shop’s door
and turns back to see if the buyer has arrived. A young woman steps in—one whom Mariam immediately recognizes; her stomach sinks and she turns back
around—pretends she hasn’t noticed her—but the woman comes straight to her
table. She realizes what’s going on.
“It’s the only way I could get you to meet with me, Mariam.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Yasmine.” Avoiding eye-contact, Mariam gets
up to leave. “Please, Mariam. Hear me out. There’s a reason why this all happened. We didn’t
“I don’t want an explanation from his sister. Please, move out of my
way.” She picks up the damned garment bag and swings it over her shoulder. “Mariam, I swear I can explain—”
“Explain what?” That she was jilted a week before her wedding day
without so much as an apology? Why Khaled refused to see anyone from her family who went over to speak with him? Why she heard nothing from him
except a lousy text message telling her they shouldn’t be together anymore? No
volume 4; fall 2017
explanation would suffice. Yasmine stood still and said nothing. The baristas
all stood still and said nothing, either. “I took a lot of shit from him, Yasmine. For years. He treated me like dirt—loving me one day, then ignoring me for
weeks. I don’t know why I loved him, but I do. I did.” She looks out the window and bites her lower lip. Her cheeks flush into a hot red. “Goodbye, Yasmine.” Before she makes it out of the door, Yasmine calls after her. “He’s been diagnosed bipolar.”
This takes Mariam aback and she stops momentarily before continu-
ing to leave. The garment bag gets caught in the door and yanks her back. She
pulls at it, but the peaking lace has latched on to the aluminum threshold. She
frantically tries to free it without tearing the delicate lace, but it won’t budge.
She can see people in her peripheral vision waiting to enter the coffee shop now stand around and watch. Her face feels hotter, she pulls, and no one offers to
help, which frustrates her more. It frustrates her so much that she drops the lace
and starts slamming the door on the dress and bag repeatedly, each bang of the doorframe obscuring the expletives she yells.
“What’s bipolar?” Faris’s friend asks before sliding down the play-
house pole. “I don’t know exactly, but mum says we have to be very patient with Khaled.” “Because he’s crazy?”
Faris begins to regret telling his friend about the situation at home.
“No, he’s not crazy. He’s bipolar.”
“That sounds like another word for crazy.” The boy slides down and
Faris follows. He doesn’t realize that his friend has landed on his backside and is still at the base of the pole, and so he topples down over him.
“Shut up. It doesn’t mean that.” Faris checks around to make sure
there still isn’t anyone close enough to hear. “Don’t tell anyone else in class,
“Okay, whatever. Get off me.” The boys get up just as the bell calls
them back to their classes. “So what are his bipolar abilities?”
“Well, he doesn’t have them now. Mum says he’s in depression.”
“Are you stupid? Depression is a phase.” The boys pat the dust off
their maroon trousers and head to class.
At home, Faris eats his lunch with his parents—saffron rice and fried
chicken. He leaves the vegetables last, scraping them away to the edge of the
plate. Some are accidentally tipped over the rim. No one notices. Yasmine
comes in through the kitchen door, leaves her scarf on the counter and tousles Faris’s hair.
Their mother turns to smile at her. “Hey, how was work, honey?” She
gets up and reaches for a casserole dish on the counter. “I made a vegan pasta for you. And, Faris, honey, could you take that plate up to your brother?” Gladly. He leaves his veggies behind and climbs up the stairs to Khaled’s bedroom. He knocks, but gets no reply.
“Khaled?”—nothing, so he lets himself in. The room smells of sleep
and cigarette. The T.V. is on, but it’s on mute; a lady is selling a set of dish-
es that she seems too excited about. Khaled is sitting on his bed in his boxer shorts—his blanket and pillows are in a mound on the floor. He stares at the
T.V. screen and his face is the darkest shade of sad; it’s like the lady on T.V. has sucked out all the energy from him so she can sell her dishes. He’s so lucky he
gets to have a T.V. in his bedroom, though, Faris thinks. It had been installed a month earlier. His parents thought he should have one in there so his room wouldn’t be so gloomy.
“I got you your food.” Faris puts the plate on the night stand, and his brother
mumbles something incoherent—his eyes are still focused on the T.V. screen.
volume 4; fall 2017
Muneera is prostrated and thinking of her eldest. Three times, she
glorifies God: subhan rubbi al-a’la, subhan rubbi al-a’la, subhan rubbi ala’la—hallowed be my Lord, the most high; hallowed be my Lord, the most
high; hallowed be my Lord, the most high. The mat gives where her furrowed
forehead rests and absorbs tears that fall from pinkened eyes. She presses them shut and prays for her son. She prays for patience, for understanding, for guidance, for ease-of-mind. She prays for acceptance. But most of all—with a pang
and heavy heave of heartache—she prays for a cure, as hopeless as she knows it is. She lifts her weary self up, legs tucked under her knees, and picks up
her string of prayer beads. She thumbs the smooth hematite, and in steady in-
tervals, slides all ninety-nine veined spheres round the thread, repeating three phrases with each one: glory be to God, praise be to God, God is almighty. By bead thirty, her mind wanders while her lips continue to mouth the phrases
She thinks of the plump pink cheeks of her boy at two, stretched to
make way for a newly-teethed smile. He was showing her a worm he had dug
out of the dirt, clumsily squishing it between the tips of his pudgy fingers, then waddling back to the sand-pit to find a replacement. Maybe she should have
been easier on him when he struggled to do well in secondary school. Maybe she shouldn’t have moved him to another school. Why did she listen when they told her it would be easier for him? Why did she single him out—treat him dif-
ferently from his sister? Was it because of his disorder—dormant then— that
he fell behind, or did her decision instigate it in him? Could she have prevented
this? There’s no use in reflection now.
Right before she reaches bead sixty, she hears the door behind her
creak open. She can feel her husband walk to the closet, routinely take out his wallet and slip it into the pocket
of an old coat before undressing. He lets out
a troubled sigh. She turns back to face him.
“Ebrahim. Did you see your cousin? What did he say?”
Her husband rubs the bald spot on his head. “He says he’ll talk to
Khaled’s director again and get back to me, but he can’t promise anything.”
“Well, did he sound understanding? Did you tell him Khaled’s on
medication now?” “They’re not going to let him keep the job, Muneera; let’s
just face it already.” After a painful pause, they both turn their backs to each
other; Ebrahim puts a robe on before stepping into the bathroom, and Muneera presses bead sixty so tightly between her thumb and index finger, it might break. She lets out an audible cry, quickly collects herself, then carries on. Glory be to God, praise be to God, God is almighty.
She had susurrated the same phrases the night they drove him to the
clinic months before—stroking his hands and sometimes squeezing them. Be-
fore seeing the doctor together, she told her son and husband that she had to get her prescription refills first and would only be a minute; she actually went in to see the doctor before he saw Khaled. She explained the situation as briefly
as she could.
“I think it’s bipolar disorder. He has all the symptoms listed online.
We just need a referral to the psychiatric hospital.” “Where’s your son?”
“He’s outside. I just wanted to warn you before he came in. Please,
don’t take anything he says personally. He’ll try to defy you—insult you.”
And he did. He called the man a joke—a fraud—and the doctors at
the psych ward, incompetent conmen. He made a scene and had to be sedated.
He is all she thinks about—a time bomb that is set to explode any
minute now. It’s that switch she’s most terrified of—that moment he flips back
to mania and gets the energy and willpower to do what his mind has been urging him to commit during depression. She reaches bead ninety-nine, puts the
string down and her face in her palms. If this is a dream— God, please, if this is a dream, “Wake me up,” she rasps, “Wake me.”
volume 4; fall 2017
GRAY BROTHER by
Grey Brother comes, speaking to me and I listen for I know that if I do not, he will act in my name, with my face, and people will claim it was me that did it when I know I was elsewhere, asleep and getting my rest, so I listen. This is Grey Brother, I want you to listen to him and ponder his words for Grey Brother does not lie but it is hard to find what it is he does not lie about. Come let us go, walk together in the garden
in the cool of the evening and tell what we have heard and seen
and ponder the words of Grey Brother for he does not lie. Ask, “What does he say and what does he say it of?”
Ask, “What did he see and why did not we?”
Should we go and look to see and know for ourselves? For Grey Brother does not lie.
Jeffrey L Taylor Grey Brother came to me this morning as I was walking and he walked with me, pacing his steps to mine, Pitching his words low that I might and others not hear him. For his words were for my ears and not another’s, for they might not give me what is mine. I listened and made note of his words and listened to the sound of his passing. Footsteps matched, so only one is heard. Tread light, that none might note his passing. Only his words come without lies and I? I am left to find the truth where there are no lies.
YELLOW THOUGHTS by
They told me I should work towards Yellow. The dog-eared smi-
ley face poster implies that yellow is happiness. Garishly so. Alegría is joy, amarillo is yellow. Yellow happiness alliterates in other languages, you see. So, think Yellow Thoughts; they’ll push the dark ones away. They think I
have Dark Thoughts. In my room I try to draw bruises on my arms with a
biro and a yellow highlighter. Smudge the ink with a licked finger. But ink
sticks to my hairs and the bruise looks wrong. I scribbled too hard with the
biro and there’s little red loops in the bruise. I show the nurse anyway. She’s not impressed.
Yellow, dark. Yellow, dark. Like a bee. Or my socks, the ones I’ve
worn for too long and the heels have worn through. Striped, stripped.
Light-dark reminds me of the double-slit. An experiment by Thom-
as Young back in the 1800’s where he shone light through two tiny slits and the light interfered with itself to create light-dark stripes. And so, it was concluded light is a wave. See, only waves interfere. But Newton had said light was a particle. Then finally, 100 years ago, annus mirabilis, Einstein says “why not both?” And it is.
It all started with let there be light, didn’t it? Like a chiaroscuro.
Light exists, so the rest is bathed in darkness. Before light, it wasn’t dark,
the universe just didn’t exist. So damn that divine creator for pairing the two, ‘cause here I am having to think Yellow to get rid of Dark Thoughts.
It’s not just the smiley poster that’s on the wall. There’s a bunch of
other stuff too. Crappily coloured-in giraffes. Loopy embroidery. A shitstain
of glitter. Someone thought mixing all the colours together would make it
volume 4; fall 2017
prettier. The Sun’s got it right though. Shines all the colours of light and it turns up yellow, peering in at the corner of every kid’s drawing.
I’m lying on the floor bathed in sodium lamp light and I’m looking
at the little bobbles of wool that pattern the carpet. Orange now, but usually
they’re the same colours ascountries on a world map: yellow, pink, green, purple. You only need four colours to colour a map, if you do it right. They
proved it with computers. But the psychologist told me I need to focus on
things in the real world and not get distracted by thoughts. I need to notice.
I sniff the floor. It smells like damp plasterboard. I look at the shadows cast out by the school chair and the arts table. I run my fingers over a scorched bit of carpet; there’s little melted ridges around the edge. Polyester. This is no-
ticing instead of what usually happens. It’s going to happen anyway. Maybe it already is. I don’t know how to notice that.
My thumb has a hangnail that’s peeling. Catch my fingernail under-
neath and I’m working my way under the skin sting like prickling in your eyeballs when you cut onions and they release sulfur compounds that aren’t yellow like the sulfur crusting you see in volcanic regions, just ocular irri-
tants; and there’s methods to avoid the sting anyway, like running the onion
under cold water. Why do you cut when you can peel back the layers one by one to inspect the light-dark stripes of green and white flesh, and the skin is peeling back and away as the tears run down your cheeks?
That’s not tears, that’s crimson: the skin on my thumb is hanging
back further. The rasp of onion skin crinkled is the rasp of skin scratched.
My left hand scrabbles rodent-esque to some unheard piper, so I watch it, count the swing of the thumb front-back front-back light-dark light-dark.
We only see three colours and yellow’s not one of them. Green-red-
blue and any combination thereof: they don’t teach you in art class that green and red make yellow but if you look up close on the computer screen you’ll see the yellow broken down into little strips of green and red so I can’t really know
what yellow is. No excuse though, the nurse told me, I’m being pedantic and
no-one likes someone like that. She said that that wasn’t a Yellow Thought.
My room is fitted with yellow curtains on rails stuck to the ceiling
by magnets. You can’t hang yourself from them is my guess. Not that you’d
get a chance with the nurse checking you’re still there every 15 minutes. She
doesn’t know how to talk to me. I want to say that it’s crazy that we have concepts for things that are so abstract but are so natural: toddlers know
their colours, but I know that colours are a just weird particle-wave things of
varying energies that bump their way onto our retinae. Then, some special cells turn them into signals heading to the occipital cortex.
I have a paper bag and some string so I tie the bag to the curtain and
begin to count out corn kernels from my plate into the bag. I know there’s
not enough weight between them to pull down the curtain, so when I finish
filling the bag I tug the curtain down anyway and the kernels skitter over the bedspread. My insides squirm at that. Two raindrops are holding hands as
they trek down the window. That’s my tendency to anthropomorphise. Really they’re just a bunch of molecules doing physics. But then again, that’s me too.
Next time the nurse comes around I’m sitting on the floor rocking
because I don’t want to go on my bed with the corn everywhere, even though
it’s yellow so I should be happy. Instead I think Yellow Thoughts are all a farce
because yellow doesn’t really equate with happiness. I don’t like all yellow
things, bananas for example. They make me gag. But the nurse will force me
to go out and talk to the other loonies here and I don’t want to do that. Instead I will try again to think Yellow. I ask for the Yellow Pages because maybe I can
read it and that will teach me how to think Yellow Thoughts. The nurse gives me
a strange look but she gets a copy. I start with the letter ‘Y’ which is right in the middle of the book because it shares with the White Pages but it’s a really small section and only takes up one column. I decide to memorise all the numbers and I’m halfway through Yoga when the nurse comes again to take my plate and she’s angry that the corn is everywhere, even though I thought she’d be happy.
They make me sit out in the crafts room while they change the bed-
sheets so I know I won’t be like princess and the pea and I won’t get a chance
at fairytale happiness. I’m glad, because fairytale happiness isn’t real. There’s
greater trials in life than vegetables in your bed. There’s a paperclip in my hand that I must have picked up from the chair and it has been scratching my leg while I wasn’t noticing: thin strips of red which isn’t yellow but it’s not a Dark
volume 4; fall 2017
Thought. It’s not, because I don’t have Dark Thoughts, no matter what they say. They ask why I hurt myself but I don’t know, I just don’t notice, I can’t notice,
and I’m angry. Yellow is just like everything else: it catches in my mind and I can’t get rid of it and I can’t focus on what’s important. This day has been yel-
low. There’s yellow tingling at the back of my nose like a sneeze, it is anger, it is sickness, jaundiced yellow. I rip the poster still smiling from the wall. Lami-
nated, so difficult to tear; I use my teeth. Swallow the belting sound of buckling
plastic. At last it is torn in two. And I notice that even the smiley face needs its dark lines to smile.
6 NORTH by
Nancy Clarke Otter
Trazadone to let you sleep at least this
night. Linoleum, that sick green paint, and
no one will release your clumped and dirty
clothes, caged as if they also were a danger to themselves. Only one elevator
to this floor, alarmed, triple locked, double checked. Hospital gown, no shoes, no phone, no keys.
Open-back gown, no belt, no watch. No keys to this floor, triple locked. Check mate. To themselves, only one elevator.
Clothes caged as if they were also a danger. No one will release your clumped and dirty night. Linoleum, that sick green paint, but Trazadone to let you sleep. At least this.
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STORM TRACKER GUIDE TO RESENTMENT by
1. Doppler radar indicates a large low-pressure system is moving into the psyche.
2. Atmospheric conditions favor the development of a downward spiral.
3. A hostile cold front colliding with tropical moisture will likely form a passive-aggressive squall line.
4. The DSM has called for voluntary evacuations. 5. This disturbance may produce baseball-size grudges; take shelter immediately.
6. If the system stalls, severe vexation is probable. 7. Those in low spirits should move to higher ground. 8. Hurricane-force winds may vent their spleen over the viewing area.
9. Avoid underpasses and misunderstandings. 10. Never drive into standing water without knowing the depth of the grievance.
ANTIDEPRESSANTS by Slowly the veil descends
between the world and my brain.
Then the veil becomes a picket fence. Behind the fence the pill builds me
a temporary mud stick hut, dirt floor, one round window, strangely flat walls on which I hang pictures of the Acropolis, the forest
of my childhood, and Flamingo Beach. The world does not go away, just canâ€™t hurt me, for now.
I rest in the hut, eat strawberries,
watch the maple outside burn autumn red. I pull up my Hello Kitty blanket,
sleep soundly, descend to the dream cellar of good sex with strangers.
Even the wolves behind the fence are smiling.
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HOW TO BE ANOREXIC by
You’ll be in business once you start to dance at the studio down the street. Class is only an hour and fifteen minutes, but after a month you will stay
longer practicing your pirouettes until your ankle swells and your pores show. A molding strawberry. It will be only the feet you care about until Ida spanks your ass with her ruler yelling, “Tuck your bum and suck in that tummy.”
She wants your belly button to your back. ‘Belly to back’ she will say, but
once you go down into your plié, the spandex from your black leotard will
stretch to white. You won’t be able to hold that gut in and the other girls will
know it. The smell of syrupy pancakes, sausage, eggs, and hash will slip from your mouth and practically assault the girl in front of you on the barre. And after a while, you will grow loathsome of how high little girls can jump as Ida continues to boast about her younger dancers and not you. Pointing to
the girls that will keep their dumb eight year old physique, she will whisper, “They are my best.” You will wake at 2am as if Jesus called you out every night for being fat. Tucking your feet under the wooden dresser, you will
count to one hundred and then one hundred again. You will face your door mirror drenched in layers of sweat with the urge to punch yourself in the stomach. You’ll pretend that it’s logical. That the fat will just fall out of
you. You will curse at the stretch marks around your thighs. Curse at them
hardcore because they are still 3D. By the following day, you’ll start to hug
your mom and beam in her face when she hands you two Jimmy Dean griddle
sticks and candy yogurt in the mornings. When she goes out to heat up the
car, you will proceed to throw it all onto a stack of newspaper, ball it up, toss
it into the trash, and tell her it was good. You’ll suck on tic-tacs and lemon
water during your lunch time at school. And when your best friend questions
you about why you NEVER have lunch, you will explain that you’re forgetful or broke. She’ll offer to buy it. Let her, and just nibble on the corners of your ham sandwich until she leaves for French. Then lock yourself in the girl’s
non-slut-shaming bathroom. Security will open their mouths if they catch you puking, so you and the nurse will need to become well acquainted. She’ll let
you sleep a whole class period away on a small cot. She will even have water
and pills for your “chronic cramps” ready every other day, but you won’t take them. (You will give her a small smile with them under your tongue). Once the lights are off, you’ll smash the two tabs to pieces between your hands.
You will rub the white powder on your shirt and sleep dreamless. Jackets and oversized T-shirts will be the standard when at home. You will have to hide your 5-star transformation from your mom because she won’t understand
your success. But expect to be confronted when your younger sister bitches
to her that you have been stealing her clothes. She will check your room and
find this to be true, along with a handful of wife-beaters in your hamper. The
ones that belong to your seven year old brother. When she calls you out of the shower, you won’t argue with her, instead you will sit on your bed wrapped skin tight in a beach towel, listening to her call you all the words you want
to hear. Skinny. Thin. Fragile. You will want to feel guilty because it’s what
you’re supposed to feel. The awkward pin in your gut. But you won’t have
enough room. You won’t even feel her hand wrap around your arm when she
tries to embrace you or the wetness of her tears on your neck. Later, it’s Jacob you’ll feel when he puts his hands around your bare waist in Math and digs
in with overlapped fingers. “Oh my God,” he’ll say. And you will lift up your blouse so you both can see that his thumbs come together like chain – locked
at the navel.
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TELLING ME WHAT TO WEAR by
Elizabeth Bruleâ€™ Farrell
We need the tape measure to shorten the dresses,
a padded bra to fill out the front. I cut pieces from old socks to slip into your shoes,
so that my feet wonâ€™t slide. The weight of your clothes
makes me slouch, the scent of your skin still lingers.
Our frugal mother tells me
that I will wear these things, ghosts on metal hangers.
OUR 3RD PLACE by
Ryan Schauflar 27
Wake up face down
nothing but white white white where do you think you are? If only you knew you might figure a way out.
White white white feels like you haven’t eaten in days you can sense the walls
but can’t see the corners someone stole your cigarettes
and you’d kill for a good danish
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where are your jailers or god
or whoever put you in this white?
Maybe they went off to play chess and left you
to waste away. Or maybe you put yourself in the white while you were drunk or asleep chasing white tigers through the jungle.
If you could see a tinge of red maybe you could find a door but thereâ€™s just white not a spot in it
and you in the middle thinner, paler,
your irises and clothes being leached of all color
in the white air.
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HIGHWAY ISLAND BEGGAR by Pick your nose if worried
about it being too obvious
to the highway island beggar
that you are trying hard to act too preoccupied to notice
his presence, too engulfed to register what he is after
on his bucket there at your door. Dig good. Eat it too if you think that he sees through this bluff.
Why worry in the first place, though? Is he your master? At least when you make it
obvious that you are desperate to act as if you do not notice,
uncomfortable by his presence looming there with his sign
and flesh-patched dog, he knows that you are not going to give, allowing no hope to flower.
Michael A Istvan
BROKEN APART by
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DEEP SEA DIVER by
In wet suit, mask and fins, she shoulders on vest and tank, adds extra weight to counter buoyancy and, regulator in her mouth, rolls backward over the dive boat’s gunwale entering a world beyond limits long ago ordained to gather images— the dance and dart of electric blue and angel gold clown-nose red and spotlight white schools of silver sparks the dead man’s float of steely, barracuda gray coral colonies doing floral imitations at the mercy of currents unpredictable— bring those to the surface. You would think such beauties would suffice. But they fail to satisfy her curiosity about truth she suspects lies nearer rock bottom. She drifts lower chances on a rowboat skeleton, empty oarlocks rusted out, abandoned but for the crust of barnacles that cling with silent desperation. She has the overwhelming urge to flee. But she must rise slow, bear up under the weight, the rasp of new intelligence, stop several times to decompress before she can re-claim colors the deeps leached out climb out of that ancient, tear-soaked realm and breathe fresh air.
when first i touched the noxious jade, spun for months hidden in the back of my mouth all reflection fell silent, blood rushed to be fear and in that quiet wrong there was much but none good. i asked ‘could reap be gain as with the purge from a fast or in the harmonics as they would issue from a bell’s void?’…but no, rather this; one’s own, singular monopoly in malice, seeking an abandon throughout the body not even an ocean tide could simply bridle.
John A Cayer and so is it now all too strange that given the many foreign hands and hours, i might look one eve to a western sky, see it dissolve and become a blanket of rivers, and lo! i would find in their beautiful and nascent charge…the very moment, a kind of still breathing laid within the breath as taken, of the possibility in error, of an illume as a cave found, drawing from the vast, undisclosed itineraries of earth. to remain afloat one must swallow the waters of an imperfect world and then speak as if having slept with mountains.
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HOME OF GOD by
volume 4; fall 2017
Michael A Ferro
In all the time I spent trying to figure out who Albert Maskins was
over the years, never once did it occur to me that he might not have been anyone at all. My doctor told me repeatedly over the last twelve months that Albert was no more real than the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Still, I
figured early on that the doc had just misconstrued some crucial clue, of which
I’d uncovered many. For who was it that had used my toothbrush before me on some nights? The white bristles already wet and splayed when I went to use
it. Why would there occasionally be fresh footprints in my apartment after a midday rain when I returned from work having only just set foot through the door? And, most convincingly, how could this person supposedly not exist
when each morning I would head down to the lobby to retrieve my mail and sure enough, there would sometimes be a letter addressed to a “Mr. Albert Maskins” mixed in among my own. The man lived with me for years and in
all that time, the thought of him not existing seemed tantamount to someone telling me that I myself might not exist either. For did I not also make the toothbrush wet, leave fresh prints on the hardwood floor after rain, and receive letters in the mail?
It wasn’t hard to track Albert; the man was a rolling pigpen. Small
things like the toothbrush and footprints first tipped me off and after that, other
evidence seemed blatantly obvious. For a neat freak like me, it felt akin to
looking down from a helicopter at the fresh path of an F5 tornado, as if a massive finger had scratched a violent rut into the earth.
As time went by, I asked around my building to see if anyone had seen
a man enter my apartment when I was out and about or while I was off at work,
but no one could lay claim to seeing anyone other than me. After a few months I even worked up the courage to ask my landlord about this “Albert Maskins”
fellow who had seemingly moved into my place during some hollow witching
hour, but he just looked at me peculiarly and pointed to the single signature upon my lease. And there on the paper, written in the elegant cursive I’d been forcefully taught as a boy, was my name: John Wellens.
At first I was nervous about opening Albert’s mail. After all, it’s
a federal offense to open someone else’s mail, though I was unsure if that
protection extended to someone who was residing illegally within your own home. One day, when I received a letter addressed to Albert, I brought it into
the kitchen and took out the shoebox I had filled with the others I’d saved.
Spreading them out on the table, I studied the handwriting on the envelopes; these were personal letters, not the usual junk mail from credit card companies and contest sweepstakes.
I decided to use steam from a teapot to open the letters, lest I need
to reseal them inconspicuously. Once opened, I saw that each contained a handwritten note. The handwriting was foreign but it was easy to recognize
that each of the letters had been written by the same person and all were signed “Carrie.” I picked one up.
My Darling Alberto,
I can’t stop thinking about you. I know it’s love. Don’t you? When you pick me up into your arms, cradling me
and swaying me to and fro from room to room in my apartment, I can’t help but savor the excitement and anticipation. Each time you toss me onto my bed and pounce upon me, I can hardly wait to—
I quickly folded that letter and returned it into the box. After chewing
my nails for a few minutes, I began reading another letter at its midpoint. I could stare at you for hours, Albert. Everything about you from your captivating smile to the eye-shaped birthmark upon your collarbone intrigues me. I need all of you.
I dropped the letter and looked into the mirror across from the table,
drawing down my shirt to reveal the eye-shaped birthmark upon my neck. As
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I stared at the blemish upon my skin that I’d always kept well-hidden, I began
to feel my heart race. Had this man stolen my identity? Had he gone so far as to sketch or tattoo a similar birthmark like mine onto his own body? What was so special about me that had Mr. Maskins assembling himself in my likeness?
For months after reading the letters I stopped trying to keep constant
tabs on Albert; perhaps I was spooked. I went about my days and ignored the oft-wet toothbrush and randomly-placed objects. Albert never cleaned his
dishes, leaving many strewn about the room with bits of hardened cheese and
cemented fragments of caramels and sweets stuck within my ceramic bowls designed for salads. I found this rather annoying, as I would have to clean
the plates and silverware for two, but who would I complain about this to?
I suppose I was hoping if I ignored Albert long enough he might discover somewhere else to live, find someone else to mimic.
I began to think back to when I first became aware of Albert. Right
before I noticed the early changes around me, I had run into an old childhood friend’s father from my elementary school days. We’d bumped into each other on a street downtown.
“John!” the man said, handing me the umbrella I’d dropped. “I haven’t
seen you in ages!” Before I could say anything, I was lost in his eyes—dark
eyes that sat under a permanently furrowed brow. He looked me up and down and leaned in close. “You’ve grown into quite the handsome young man.” touch.
I felt him put his hand on my shoulder, gripping my skin with a tender “I bet you drive all the pretty girls wild, eh?”
He winked at me and smiled, and as I looked at those familiar rows
of tiny, pointed teeth, I began to shake uncontrollably. He kept his hand on
my arm and began to slide his grip along my bicep. I stared blankly over his shoulder until he finally walked away, looking back at me, fading into the distance like the Cheshire cat, his toothy grin reluctant to disappear from my mind.
Around this period, I realized that I had begun to lose track of time.
One day shortly after work, I was sitting in my living room reclining chair when suddenly I awoke in bed later that night. Another time I was doing the
dishes when out of the blue I found myself walking down the street through an unfamiliar section of town. Perhaps Albert was drugging my food, just waiting for when he could knock me out of the picture. It was likely just nerves, I told myself.
My only real escape from Albert Maskins was at the office. I’d never
noticed any sign of him there, so I realized that he must not have known where I worked. Often I would sit in my cubicle and try to find traces of Albert on the
internet, but I was never able to locate anything; Albert was always just out of reach—the breadcrumbs leading to nowhere.
At home, the walls were closing in around me; an intimately tangible
sensation of the room shrinking, packing me in like a sardine, began to
envelope me. As if the ramparts of my apartment had contracted into some
simple primate cage, I could feel someone’s unsympathetic eyes gazing down
upon me. I began going into work early and staying late hoping to escape this sensation and to distance myself from Albert as much as possible.
It was around this time that Human Resources had their first chat with
me. When I received the note at the office directing me to come in to speak
with them, I was certain that they had tracked my growing activity online and
were set to reprimand me. If only you could have seen the surprise on my face when I realized it was anything but.
“How are you doing, John?” the HR rep asked me.
“I’m fine,” I said, expecting the pleasantries to quickly expire.
“Good, good. Listen, John, let me just ask you: Is everything okay?”
I had been prepared to be chewed out; I had not been prepared to
discuss whether everything was okay.
“Sure, I think so. Why do you ask?”
“Well, thing is, we’ve noticed some unusual changes in your behavior.
Lately, some of your co-workers feel like you’re acting differently at times.” I played it cool and shrugged.
“Nothing out of the ordinary going on then? Nothing you want to talk The HR rep leaned closer as if I were about to reveal some secret.
There was a fleeting moment where I thought about mentioning Albert and
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why I was so distracted as of late, but I thought better of it. “Nothing I can think of.”
And that was that, for the time being.
Eventually my co-workers began approaching me a little differently;
nothing too odd, but I noticed that no one addressed me by name anymore. It was always just “Hey there” or “How’s things, buddy?” But those comments were only uttered by the folks who I’d known for many years. Everyone else just sort of looked at me and nodded or averted their eyes when we crossed
paths in the hallway. I couldn’t be sure, but I started to sense a rising suspicion
that perhaps Albert had contacted someone there… maybe he’d even spread lies about me or shown up at the office, romping around and showing off his eye-shaped birthmark tattoo.
To my horror, I started to notice little changes around my cubicle
over the next few weeks. One time, I found a porno magazine left out on my desk. I dropped it in disgust and noticed handwritten notes on the back cover in
nearly-illegible chicken scratch describing the best-looking women inside. A man on the back-cover ad wearing a suit flashed the same grin as my childhood
friend’s father. I picked up the magazine in a hurry and shoved it into the shredder bin.
Later, certain candy bar wrappers that I recognized from the vending
machine in our lobby began to accumulate on my shelves and on the floor
of my cubicle. I would place them in the trash next to my discarded fat-free yogurt containers, but soon enough, there would be more. When I would take a break and head down to the lobby to buy a bottle of water from the soda machine, I noticed that dollar bills had vanished from my wallet.
Apparently I was also missing meetings and short stretches of the
workday disappeared without a trace. After neglecting a particularly important meeting one day, I slumped forward at my desk and noticed a paunch in my midsection. As I gripped the roll of fat, I felt completely helpless. No one came by to chat after lunches and when I would ask someone how their day was,
they sometimes responded in a sarcastic tone, saying, “Oh, just dandy, John, how about you?” I wasn’t sure, but I swore someone once called me Albert…
The second meeting with Human Resources was the one that
blindsided me—the one that ripped me from the soft fibers of my reality. Right
when I entered the room, I noticed an unfamiliar woman whom I’d never seen before seated alongside the H.R. director, her back straight and upright against
the chair. She was dressed professionally in a close-fitting women’s suit and wore glasses with thick dark frames and had her auburn hair up in a bun; she
was sharp and angular. After a few minutes of them explaining who she was and what she did for the company, I began to sweat.
Almost immediately after that they mentioned Albert Maskins. I
nearly fell out of my chair. Their questions were vague, consisting only of the “yes” or “no” variety, but there was little doubt in my mind that my fear was
palpable. I could see it upon their faces: the quick transfers from smiles to frowns and back again to smiles, their eyes casually making contact with one another before looking back towards me, and the slow, measured movements
of their rear ends upon their seats. In that moment I felt like some imperceptible line had been crossed: Albert had set foot into my workplace—the last bastion of my waking world.
Things get a little fuzzy at that point. I remember a panicked feeling
in my chest, but I don’t remember much of anything that was physically happening around me. My doctor says I experienced an episode then. I guess
thinking back on it now, that is kind of what it felt like: an episode—some montage from a television show where all the characters melt into a flashback
or step into some other drug-induced reality for a bit. Normally, TV shows do
this as a comic aside, but I don’t remember it as being very funny… though, like I said, I don’t really remember it much. I doubt it was funny.
The first visit with my doctor immediately following that is something
I do remember. I remember he didn’t have a big beard or those tiny round
glasses or a frizzy tweed jacket, though I thought he might. I remember feeling
disappointed about that—like maybe he wasn’t as good of a doctor without those things or something. Like, Oh, hi, nice to meet you—hmm, John Hopkins
School of Medicine, not bad, but, uh, where’s your beard and tiny round glasses, doc? Instead he wore a gray dress shirt with a loose green sweater over
it. I also recall the way he spoke: so quiet but so clear. Never could anything be lost among his words, as if each statement he made or question he asked drew
volume 4; fall 2017
some response from me with such little effort on my part, at least, that’s how it was in the beginning.
After many discussions, the questions my doctor asked no longer
pulled out such relaxed responses from me. We had talked about Albert Maskins regularly since our first few meetings, but now, the image of Albert was finally exteriorizing (the doc’s word). I remember that distinct sensation
like the doc was using a scalpel to slice me into two, the sharp knife gliding down my spine, nicking each vertebra in its path.
I can now also remember something else that happened to me a long,
long time ago; something that I must have preferred never to recall. This
was natural, the doc said, adding that the memories from my childhood were suppressed and that they manifested themselves in Albert. When I first heard the doc say this, I asked why “Albert” would treat people so differently than I,
John, would. I didn’t feel like I was interested in sex or dating or bad behavior, yet, as evidenced by the letters he received, this wasn’t the case for Albert.
The doc stated that what I went through as a young boy had stuck with me and manifested itself as another personality within my mind. I punched the cushion
beside me in frustration, surprising both the doc and myself, when I realized that this might be true. After months of the doctor’s delicate digging, I know
now that I’ll never forget what transpired with that awful individual so many
years ago and the thought that this nascent ghoul had planted its seed into me filled me with an irresoluble rage. Now that it’s out there in front of me, I can’t hide from it, and must always face it, lest it slip inside me once more.
What I can’t precisely remember now is exactly when I realized
that Albert Maskins was no more than a ghost of myself; some misbegotten fragment of my own body that lived outside of my consciousness. The
understanding must have come slowly and in pieces. It does seem almost funny to think about it now—this man living in symbiosis with me in the comfort of
my home, receiving his own letters and using my toothbrush and whatnot—but at the same time, I don’t find it disconcerting anymore. When I finally found
out who Albert was, or wasn’t, I was despondent for a while, as if I had just been informed of a close friend’s passing. I had been walking so far away from
one edge of my psyche that I nearly toppled off the stark opposite end. The
doc recommends that I must try to find some metaphorical middle ground as I continue through life, so I suppose I’m doing that now. Talking helps.
I felt like I had been diagnosed with cancer and received treatment
to eradicate the disease and now I’d been reincarnated. Still, as the doctor reminds me, Albert does exist within my mind and I know what he is; he
endures much like the tingling sensation left from a severed limb: my phantom persona non grata.
These days I clean up the apartment but whenever I notice I’ve
carelessly left a dirty dish out on the counter, or spot the dried remnants of a soiled footprint upon the floor, I feel a twinge on the back of my neck like
someone poking me with a sewing needle. The thing about cancer is that it hardly ever truly goes away; it just goes into remission. You can’t fight genetics. At some point, it’s probably bound to rear its horrible face once again. Maybe
one day I’ll wake up and my cancer will be there, having fully consumed me—Albert pumping through my veins. I suppose I’d never know it happened because I wouldn’t be John anymore. I guess we’ll see.
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GRAVEL by loose scrabble of stones only ice or moving water could have made you could have left you so fragmented it took a river years of rolling you around in its mouth clattering you against its teeth or maybe a lake slapping and slapping and in winter its frozen edge grinding now I step gingerly not wanting to twist my ankle on your hard life not wanting to fall have the shape of you gouged into my knees printed into the heels of my hands
THE FLOOD by
volume 4; fall 2017
MY D.I.D. POEM by
For those who think they know me tell me who I will be in 10 minutes 10 seconds in 10 tear drops.
I am not who I say I am because when I am who I think I am I change.
I was born to be built by the bullies, mamas health, my confusion, and dads honest effort.
But I shattered because I couldn’t appreciate dads effort because I didn’t want to disappoint him with my confusion while trying to take care of mama and being beat on by bullies.
Mind splitting like arthritic fingers casting spells on my sanity telling me there’s more to me.
They tried to medicate my symptoms but I never described my pain.
I have trenches where feelings hide and stars where dreams gaze.
I have skies where I paint hope and hell where I make some type of happiness.
I have times where triggers aren’t attached to guns but the to person that said I’m here for you, you’re mama is gonna be okay, it’s okay to not know what you like, your daddy loves you regardless.
I curse at hope because my personalities can’t get enough of me.
I piss on tomorrow because I might pass ten days.
If I could be what God intended for me.
I would wipe around today with hope I’ll remember who I am when that time comes.
I can’t feel anything but the word monster. Soaking me in gasoline oh how beautiful the smell how deadly the reaction.
If you really know who I’ll be in 10 minutes 10 seconds 10 tear drops I promise I’ll try believing someone again.
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I KNOW I WAS AN ASSHOLE by
I have been called many things a bastard scumbag mutant devious Jesus a screwball criminal failure fuckup
Cornelius Rosewater I smiled wide as the horizon and bid her good morning as she said to the class (here it comes) Class, I would like to introduce you to The Iconoclast
but the best was one time walking in late to a lecture on the first day of class the professor stopped and said
and I made my way grinning hideously to the back of the room to the only empty seat and sat down regally a ragged king on his plastic throne
Mr. Rosewater what a surprise it is to see you and on the first day of class, too
the ones who didnâ€™t know werenâ€™t sure what to think but the ones who knew were dripping fear
(they always thought I was playing hooky they never knew and they never will)
they just waited all nerves as I sat there smoldering patiently winding up my wrecking ball
IN WHICH I LET MY EGO WRITE A POEM by
10 knuckles on each hand I do work I talk my shit Walk in the building Like a war speech
My fit; hospital clean My mouth; kingdom gates All of history behind me They split the atom for me Every battlefield led to me And I carry all of them Beneath this beautiful face A goddamn country of brilliance Bleeding in my teeth
ONE AT A TIME by 50
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supposed to heal hows
im asking you personally
anyone here supposed to heal
hows my brother
Daniel could only look the nurse in the eye. He was afraid to look
away, to find himself lost in the fluorescent hall. He picked at a sticker on the counter and felt lightheaded.
-it wasnt so much the hugging sir
it was the attacking the nurse
-what would you do if someone told you you werent allowed to love
id have done the same thing
The nurse said, sir i understand how you are feeling but the regula-
tions are there for a reason
Daniel thought, will this be the first time I faint? The vague presence
of someone watching him. The nurse half stood up and checked the white hall both ways. Daniel also checked. Ten feet down the hall a woman in
socks was sitting cross-legged in an armchair. He smiled back. Other than the woman, it was only the two of them, Daniel and the nurse. Seeing it was safe to talk, the nurse stood fully and leaned in. She was short, Daniel had to lean in to meet her over the counter.
-last month a patient stabbed a nurse in the head with a pair of scissors
he asked to read her palm then he held on and he wouldnt let go and with his
other hand he stabbed her in the side of the head
Daniel adjusted his grip on the counter and shifted his weight. He
anchored his existence in her face. Somewhere in the white depths of the
volume 4; fall 2017
place a phone softly rang twice and ceased. -why, he said.
-your guess is as good as mine
we have to play it safe
but thats why we have the regula-
-safe for you
-yeah well who else is there heal
how is anyone supposed to
He postured and wished he could cast a shadow over her, but the
fluorescent ceiling said no. The nurse did not bat an eyelash.
A dry buzzing startled Daniel and he turned around to a man in a
white button shirt holding open the metal-framed glass doors. Finally.
He followed the man down a flickering hall. This ward was quiet
compared to his brotherâ€™s first. Along both sides hung paintings and crafts at
eye level, feathers and glitter and construction paper, long-necked birds, hills and red trees, horse-faced women in crowns. All the signed names looked like childrenâ€™s writing. They passed an alcove with chairs in a semicircle
around a huge television. The chairs were empty and the Westminster dog show was playing.
-where are all the patients, he thought.
The man stopped at a corner and pressed a buzzer. He said -im doctor beyser.
-now we upped his meds a little to calm him down
seem a little
so he might
The man had a slight stoop and his eyes were magnified by his
glasses. He had white hair, airy and combed back like a windthinned cloud, and his arms hung slack at his sides, palms naturally facing back. His skin looked burnt in places.
-how much, said Daniel. -he was pretty agitated -can you tell me
what exactly did he do to the nurse?
-well after he was told again that he cant hug other patients he pos-
tured in a threatening way
-what exactly did he do?
-he was posturing in a threatening manner
the nurse felt threat-
-the woman out there said he attacked her
-what? he said, furrowing his brow. He peered around Daniel as if
he could see around the bend in the hall and all the miles out to the reception area.
no no no
he didnt attack anyone
-if he didnt attack her then why did you move him -first of all you keep saying her but it was a him
clear restrictions on interpersonal contact
second there are
and over the past week hes been
warned at least a half dozen times which is more than most people get trust me
you have to understand that this is a hospital
this isnt a birthday shin-
dig where everyone knows each other and is happy to see each other a wedding where everyone is kissing everyone
if hes ever going to leave
he needs to acknowledge that in real life there are boundaries -i dont understand
threatening to kill people ered an improvement
the problem in the first place was that he was
it seems like hugging strangers should be consid-
-boundaries mr thompson
An attendant with a goatee and tired eyes appeared and led Daniel
to his brotherâ€™s room. The door was a crack open, they eased it further, and
it was heavy. The yellow walls of the room were padded, the only light was artificial and no visible light switches. In one corner clothes were strewn
around a half-full paper bag of more clothes. Balled-up socks lay here and
there. A rectangular block rose from the ground in the middle of the room and was the bed; the only other furniture was a chair seated under a sort of stub countertop projecting from the wall.
David, who was sitting on the bed, looked up with a blank face.
Then he smiled. He stood and they hugged.
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-how ya doing bro
Daniel turned to the attendant in the doorway and said -arent you going to taser us
The attendant left.
-how ya doing, said Daniel again.
David was grinning bashfully. His beard was growing back. -im so tired
soup and a cupcake
i had a chicken salad sandwich for lunch and chicken
im full as heck
-that sounds good -im so tired
David sat back down, hands tight together between his knees.
Rhythmic tremors coursed through his legs. Daniel grabbed the chair to bring it closer but lost his grip. He could hardly budge it and thought it was bolted to the floor, but then it squeaked an inch and he realized it was weighted, so heavy it was like an invisible person was sitting in it. He had to get on the other side and push it over with his whole body.
-how have you been, said Daniel, sitting. In Davidâ€™s previous room
the chair had wheels. of this
i cant wait to move home to be honest
-either home or somewhere else
town that mom and dad saw
im getting sick
there are some nice places in
-yeah but they need help around the house you know
dishes walking the dog you know
-itll be nice to have a place of your own
-i wasnt saying that
i could stay here
i dont mind the hospital
i dont mind staying
He was looking Daniel intently in the eyes now. He held his knees
tight but the slow power of their trembles swayed the rest of his body. -weâ€™re having macaroni for dinner tonight, he said.
-wherever you move after this ill come visit, said Daniel.
will mom and dad
i just want to take a walk to the brook you know
remember fishing by the dam
you caught the biggest pike ever
mustve been a world record
-yeah it was pretty big
some big ones too
that was a long time ago
-yeah they were alright
to the one you caught time
-youre the better fisherman -yeah who knows
but they were minnows compared
biggest thing ive ever seen
daniel the fisherman
i swear it
i think about it all the
i learned what i know from you
i havent been outside in four months
wish i could take a walk to the brook you know
-you will and it will be the best thing ever -although
once you take a walk you never stop wanting it so
maybe its best im kept somewhere inside sighed. show
like a hospital
it doesnt have to be all or nothing like that. lets see
i had a chai yesterday
i watched a football game
i have a nice life
i watched the today
i like watching sports
-what do you have planned for today -oh i dont know
maybe ill watch a nature show
mom brought me this tracking book i got in high school you know
i was tracking deer moose
would you want to do that?
hm what else
i love tracking
i got really good
we should take a class together
My poor brother, thought Daniel. -that sounds cool
-they took it away
can i see the book
-who took it away -they took it away
-whyd they take it away -because i was fighting
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-why were you fighting
-i cant explain, he said a little louder, shifting bodily as if to find
a more comfortable position, but settling in the same place as before. He rubbed his eye with his fist.
-i tracked a bobcat once, he said, becoming steady.
-really, said Daniel, leaning in. He chased to catch David’s eye, but
David was looking into another realm. It was as if there were a fissure in the
wall and cold air coming in from outside, and David had a view of a land that lay beyond.
-i tracked it through the snow for hours
all the way up a mountain
-wow, said Daniel. He stared at the wall that held David’s gaze and
tried to see what was there for his brother.
wow a bobcat
David put his thumb and forefinger to his chin in recollection and
-i never did quite find him
but i found the log he was living in
Daniel had no words and so he waited for his brother to speak, but
his brother did not speak.
-thats beautiful, said Daniel.
we should definitely take that class
and then go tracking or take the book on a camping trip -whatever, said David.
The fissure in the wall had closed. He dropped his hand and his
gaze. The rhythmic tremors rose slowly from inside.
-we’ll do it, said Daniel, slapping his knee declaratively.
-i think im going to take a nap now, said David without moving.
So Daniel stood and David followed, and they hugged and David sat
back down with his hands on his trembling knees.
-merry christmas, said David staring at the floor.
On the slow walk out Daniel found the paper turkey on the wall
with David’s name. He pressed a buzzer and waited and then heaved open the metal-framed glass doors.
Outside in the chill damp parking lot, the small scene of his life.
Distant purple mountains lined the limits of his reckoning. Car key in the
raw lock, he hesitated and looked back and appraised the hospital. The bricks were dark and the sky was like smoke. He imagined the corner window
on the fourth floor might be Davidâ€™s and he waved, just in case David was watching.
He hoped he was watching, and he smiled to think so. He thought,
what more can I do than wave? What less?
Waiting to make a left turn out of the lot he remembered Davidâ€™s
room did not have a window.
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There is nothing of me to touch but stretch marks and bite marks and the shapes left by accidents with ovens and knives. There is nothing inside me to awaken. I havenâ€™t slept for what feels like a hundred years. There is nothing of my time that still knows the old things that bring me joy, least of all desire. There is nothing left of the way I used to understand life, and what it takes to be alive. There is no understanding. There is no space here for a step back
for a question for a deep breath that isnâ€™t a pause between two things I have to do if I donâ€™t want the world to fall apart while I am on the clock. There is no silence to spare, only the noises of clutter and burdens of need and the rage of all the tears that I have no right to weep. There is no peace. He is unhappy because I am not the same woman. I am unhappy because he is unhappy even after all that I have done.
CREATION STORY by I was alone in the womb breathing the water of God through my little gills
Amy Leigh Wicks
I came shivering--gasping to the light--my mother â€˜s face a smear of pink To be held against a wall with her heart on the other side this was my first sadness I loved the taste of every playdoh--but red was my favorite. Father fed me grapefruit hearts on a tiny silver spoon--I tore each chamber apart with my teeth. I can say now and know it is true--I know of the heart what I learned from love
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THINGS OF GRACE by Blue night is An absent shade now, A broken memory of sky, Shadows moss-damp and Pearled with honey. There are corpses floating in the trees; Things of grace, Swimming over us in flight, Fluent beings on bone-white wing. They call to me When the sky goes dark, When the clouds are a wish But no rain pours, When the moon rolls past and My eyes catch fire. They curl over pools To drink, Pale-eyed, beautiful, Something half-remembered.
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A DRAGONFLY’S LAIR by
Mary K Snyder
My alarm went off at 7:45am, early for a Saturday. Weekdays I wake early to work and earn my paycheck, and weekends I sleep in. Every day, though, I live with multiple chronic illnesses and an autoimmune disease, which sap my energy and make it difficult to get out of bed. But today was different. Today was the dragonfly lecture at the Peabody Museum. And today it had snowed, was still snowing, and the air was damp. Just the type of weather that kicks up inflammation and makes it hurt to move. The event today was a talk called A Dragonfly’s Lair – Creating Dragonfly Habitat in Your Yard. Dragonflies are magic for me, a magic that came from a memory of my late Gram. My Gram lived in a rented cottage overlooking a farmer’s fields where the deer would gather around the salt lick, and in wintertime, we’d sled down the hills as the adults watched from the wrap around porch. One summer weekend while I was sitting on the porch eating lunch and drinking a large glass of milk, a yellow jacket landed on my arm and stung me. I cried out, it hurt so much. Gram brought ice out to me as I sat on the porch, crying. As she tended to my sting, she pointed out the dragonfly on the porch railing. I remember it vividly – the translucent wings, long and butterfly like. The colors! Shimmering and so delicate, and before I knew it, the pain of the sting was gone. I was fascinated by the dragonfly. As my Gram spoke to me with a soothing, calming tone, she talked about the dragonfly, how this particular dragonfly visited her every weekend. I listened and was so taken by the story, marveling at the beauty of the dragonfly as its magic took the pain away. Gram gave me the magic of the dragonfly, and whenever I’m hiking or at a park where there is a little water, I am visited by a dragonfly or two.
I rest up on weekends usually, a sacrifice to the altar of chronic illness. But this lecture was one on which I was not willing to give up. Out of the shower, dressed and ready to go, I put on my coat, picked up my bag and grabbed my keys. I stopped for coffee on the short ride into New Haven with the snow still coming down. This winter I had taken a fall that really hurt, hurt physically, but also hurt emotionally. I realized after slipping on ice and slamming to the ground that I had lost a magical superpower; I was no longer a Weeble, that toy from the 1970’s whose ads boasted, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!” I used to wobble and teeter and call myself a Weeble, but this winter, I did fall down. I got to the museum, parked my car and grabbed my cane to help me walk to the building. I followed the path carefully avoiding the icy patches not yet salted. I met the host of the event and then scoped out where to sit, listening intently for anyone coughing or sniffling. I try to be covert about it, but I need to be away from most folks, I can’t risk getting sick. I like to be in one seat, alone, with no one around me so I can focus on the event, and not on the possibility of germs and illness. As I wait for others to find their seats, I overheard bits of conversations, how the harsh winter made one woman’s attempts of animal rescues almost impossible. Another man spoke of the huge snapping turtle he found on the road last autumn. Sadly, it had been run over but he still had it in his “non-food item” freezer for further study at a later date. Someone else chimed in by saying they too, had a “non-food item” freezer in their house, filled with everything from turtles to opossums. I found myself grateful for not having a need for a “non- food item” freezer in my house. On a table were old slide viewers, the kind with wooden handles to hold up to your eye and view the slide inside. I looked at the 3-D dragonflies and butterflies through the glass eyeholes. In one slide was a yellow-winged darner, beautiful with its bright yellow and orange wings, sitting atop a branch of a mock orange bush. The next slide held a photo of a turquoise skimmer, and another held the slide of a blue dasher. I picked up a few brochures and realized I had much to learn about the different plants to put in my yard to attract these creatures to my habitat. I chose my seat, took out my notebook and sat down. The lecturer came over to me and we introduced ourselves. The handful of people who were there early, like me, were all seated in different locations. The lecture was to begin at 10am, and it was 10. I was so pleased to see a small group, so
volume 4; fall 2017
we all could sit comfortably without others directly on either side. I overheard the host telling the lecturer that he was expecting more people, and could she wait a few minutes before starting. She enthusiastically responded with yes, no problem. I heard a commotion in the back of the room, and I looked to find a clump of about 15 people coming in. Part of me was happy there was such a great turnout. I watched the people entering the room, some with umbrellas, some without, some with parkas and some with just a light jacket. I turned my attention to reading some of the handouts and that’s when I heard it. Someone coughing. Not a simple cough. Not a dry cough, but a gooey, germy, “productive” cough. Phlegm. I sat in my chair, very still. I heard people moving about, pulling their chairs in and out making it easier for the new arrivals to get settled. I heard someone approaching, coming up on my left and asking if the seat next to me was taken. I smiled and told them no, it was free. As the person sat, the coughing began. The cougher had chosen the seat next to me. She turned to me and said, “I just can’t seem to shake this bug. It feels like I’ve had it forever. The snow today isn’t helping, either.” It was then that the lecturer took her place at the podium and welcomed us, thanking us for coming out in such bad weather. “Make today different,” I thought to myself. “Don’t focus on the sickness in the room. Listen and take notes. You want to be here. Enjoy yourself.” I have become someone I never wanted to be. Someone who loses concentration at hearing coughs or sneezes or sniffles. I wanted to jump up, grab the cougher, shake her and say “How dare you come into my lair?! How dare you disturb my habitat!” I wanted to run, take flight and touch down on a quiet pond, find a warm summer stream, be anywhere but here, in this closed room caught next to the coughs. Today was different, today I was not my illness, I was not caged, I was translucent, I was flying. Today I stayed the entire time, with the hopes that the germs would somehow miraculously pass me by, by dragonfly magic. My attention shifted from the coughing to the dragonflies and I rose above my fear while dealing with the pressure of the moment. I sat through the lecture, I found the dragonflies, and I was last to leave at the end. I made my own habitat. Today was dragonflies.
RESILIENCE, RECOVERY, AND HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
FISSURES IN THE MATRIX by
volume 4; fall 2017
SKIN IDENTITY by I am the scales. I’m flawed skin scratched daily until blood seeps and scabs over my surface.
I am a fish. My medicated patches sharply glisten like a rainbow trout running up, down my Columbia River limbs. I am a gorgon masked by long sleeves. I’m hiding alone, slithering in a cave of blankets and shame. My skin scrapes off in a sandstorm of flakes as I blend against stone and statues. I am Perseus minus Hades’ helm of invisibility. Sometimes I want to decapitate the gorgon I see in my reflection every damn day. I am a faulty immune system. I’m apparently under attack from myself, skin cells produce faster than the dead cells shed. I am a victim of heredity. My dermatologist calls it psoriasis, I call it bullshit. I try to manage, yet the patches persist.
A YEAR OF MOVING BETWEEN REALITY AND FANTASY by
Mattina Blue 67
volume 4; fall 2017
TANITH’S SMILE by
Joseph Ellison Brockway
With her tears she said goodbye.
With her conjunctivitis she said goodbye.
With her inflamed dry lackluster eyes she said goodbye. Voicelessly she said goodbye.
With her rosary she said goodbye.
With her swollen hand she said goodbye.
With her rosary fastened to her delicate hand she said goodbye. Voicelessly she said goodbye.
With her ulcers she said goodbye.
With the ulcers on her legs and back she said goodbye. With legions of posterior erosion lesions from being
in the hospital confined to a bed for two months she said goodbye.
Voicelessly she said goodbye.
With her tachycardia she said goodbye.
With her hypotension she said goodbye.
With her tachycardia caused by the medicine to keep her pressure normal
so that she wouldn’t die, but then she couldn’t have her dialysis, she said goodbye.
Voicelessly she said goodbye.
With tubes invading her chest,
my chest tightened,
I couldn’t breathe.
With tubes protruding from her nose, I grabbed my nose,
I couldn’t breathe.
I felt my lips; they quivered when I couldn’t remember her smile.
With gangrene toes that looked like the vomit rising from my stomach, I smelled her flesh,
her gangrene flesh.
I choked on death and swallowed tears internally. With dizzying machines all around,
entranced by dancing colors and sterile blue gowns,
my heart hummed and beeped inside my chest to the rhythm of the
She is watching you.
Remember her smile.
I kissed her on the forehead with my sterile mask, and in my heart I said goodbye.
I lied and said that I’d see her tomorrow. She looked at me and told the truth. I said “I love you” with my lips, and with her eyes she said goodbye.
volume 4; fall 2017
THE OTHER SIDE
volume 4; fall 2017
When my back went from bad to worse And I could hardly walk, It seemed that everyone I knew Felt some strange urge to talk. I listened very patiently To non-expert advice; Some folks insisted heat would work, Yet others spoke of ice. One doctor ordered medicine Despite the common risk; Another swore no pill would fix A herniated disc. A third complained my painful case Was lasting far too long; His words did little more than prove My treatment had gone wrong.
Awaiting micro-surgery, I tried to pose as bold; My long-grown daughter made the point, “You’re too young to be old.” The day before the hospital, My spirits got quite low; My husband then encouraged me, “You don’t have long to go.” I did survive and soon went home To rest in my own bed; My goal was to recover from What had been done and said.
TATER, I RECKON by
Joseph S Pete
We called him Tater because of his resolute insistence on calling
every single potato- based dish—whether deep-fried, baked, scalloped or whatever—taters.
At the chow hall after morning PT, when we were winded and
damp in our heavy sweaty gray T-shirts, which chafed like burlap, he would ask for taters instead of hash browns. At lunch, if he hit the short-order line, he’d request taters instead of French fries. Come dinner time, he’d point to
a foil-wrapped baked potato glistening under a heat lamp or a stainless steel tub of mashed potatoes and say he wanted taters, them taters right there, he reckoned.
God bless them, those underpaid and underappreciated mess hall
workers, they indulged this good ole boy affectation that was not at all necessary to prove Tater’s Southern bona fides. His molassessy accent—thick as a cover of unchecked kudzu—was proof enough. So were his expressions: he’d often call you a scholar and a gentleman without irony, even
though you were neither really and probably just had handed him a beer. Dude was a cliche with a high-and-tight who could seem more
mannered than Colonel Sanders at times. It had to be an act, a put-on to
fool those no-nothing northerners. Still his independent streak—sharpened by rural living in a rough-hewn holler—showed in his aloof bearing, the way he’d kill hurry-up-and-wait downtime by whittling sticks with his
rustic- handled pocket knife while everyone else sat in circles and chatted.
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Here was a man who knew how to be alone, who knew how to navigate the wilderness, who spent many a Saturday morning perched on a tree stand
waiting for a winter’s worth of frozen venison to wander into his sights, and who got his knees wet wading into a stream with the fishing pole his daddy
gave him. Tater came from a place where the landscape was rugged and the property lines were spaced out to the point where neighbors were more of a rough concept than an everyday reality. He was the way he was because he
interacted less with people than with the wild, free, untrammeled vastness of
the great outdoors.
But Army life is a crowded tangle of people—rambunctious, rowdy
people who are canned into so-called cattle trucks and even closer quarters,
people from all over the country who are randomly thrown together, people who you end up seeing more than your own families, people who you huddle with under concrete bunkers when the mortars start to fall.
Broad, lazy stereotypes about other geographic regions faded as our
platoon mates spent more time together. But there was always still that element of strangeness, of curiosity, of some fundamental bedrock otherness, at
least in Tater’s case.
We tested how consistently he applied his preferred potato denota-
tion phraseology, of course. We tested it as though we were fervent adherents of the scientific method. Oh, we tested it—a lot. “Hey tater, what’s that?” “That sir, is a tater.” “That’s not a French fry?” “No sir, that is a tater.” “You know, it really looks like a French fry. Why do you think it
always says French fries on the menu and never taters?”
“The menus got it wrong. It’s supposed to be taters.”
TATER, I RECKON
“All of them, Tater? All of the menus everywhere got it wrong?” “I reckon so.” “Tater, can you say French fry? Just say the word, words, whatever.
Just say French fry.
Say it. Come on, just say it. Please just say it, man.” “Taters,” Tater would say. Hey Tater, what’s vodka made from?” someone else would chime in. “Taters,” he said. “It’s tater juice I reckon.” He didn’t care much for Tater juice or any drink other than whis-
key—and specifically, George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey. He rarely drank
anything else, but he drank a lot. We were stationed in the Pacific Northwest, which was outdoorsy enough in its Birkenstocked and granola-munching
way, but not in the manner he was accustomed to. There were earnest hikes through evergreens and aspirational climbs of Mount Rainier, not weekend hunts with muddied pickup trucks and supersized cases of Busch Light.
So he drank. The army plucked Tater up out of his natural environs,
and drink was what he had left. He had little interest in going out with us
to explore Seattle or to hit up the bars and try to meet girls. He was one of
those guys who was content to hang around the barracks and drink all week-
end. By about 10 p.m. on a Friday, he was heavy-lidded and barely coherent. Come Monday morning, he would be puking before PT, and sometimes after PT if we ran far or hard enough.
One time, I remember he locked himself out of his barracks room
and was sleeping on the floor in the hallway. He was still wearing his wood-
land camo BDUs, had drank himself into a stupor before even changing into his much more comfortable civvies. His camo blouse was unbuttoned in his only sartorial nod to being off-duty. The brown undershirt rode up, and his
volume 4; fall 2017
protuberant gut spilled out. A few long straggly blonde strands of hair by his belly button shone under the hallway’s fluorescent light.
We carded his door, using the junior enlisted soldier’s time-hon-
ored trick of sliding a credit card in front of the lock to pop it open, which only really works in cookie-cutter barracks that were slapped together by
the lowest bidder decades ago. Tater wasn’t stirring so we had to haul him into bed. Another soldier and I hoisted him up, draped his arms across our shoulders, and dragged his dead weight, as he groaned incomprehensibly. Eventually, after we returned from Iraq, the drinking caught up
with him. Like most of us, he was drinking more, a lot more, to blot out the
raw memory of what we had witnessed, and, despite his prodigious capacity, it was more than he could handle. He slept through formation a few times, and couldn’t be roused.
Civilians don’t really grasp how central formations are to regiment-
ed army life, but not showing up is a cardinal sin on the order of cursing out
an office supervisor. They Article 15-ed him, restricted him to the barracks, put him in a first-floor room by the company offices where the CQ could
watch over him. First Sergeant told him he couldn’t drink, not anymore, not until he served his two-week sentence.
Tater didn’t take kindly to that. He disappeared. Most of the sprawling 87,000-acre post where we were stationed
was forested, left as pure, unadulterated Pacific Northwest wilderness that we would romp around periodically for training exercises.
Tater vanished somewhere into the expansive woods across the
street from our battalion headquarters and camped out with bottles of
George Dickel he had buried out there when he found out what punishment
We searched that mossy thicket of towering fir trees for Tater. We
had to find him before First Sergeant found out he was gone, or the conse-
TATER, I RECKON
quences would get much more severe.
It was like the land navigation course all over again, trekking
through that rough terrain without the benefit of dirt trails, crunching twigs and shrubbery under foot. Walking through the woods was totally different
as a soldier than it was as a civilian, when your path was literally paved in front of you.
“Tater! Tater!” I called out, deploying the deepest, most resonant
voice I could summon. It felt silly to use that nickname when so much was at stake. But no one from our unit ever called him by his real name, and he probably didn’t even answer to it at this point.
It was so still and tranquil out there. It was striking, the way shafts of sun-
light pierced the canopy and dappled the forest floor, dancing as the clouds shifted overhead. The air was so crisp you could taste it.
Unbidden thoughts about patrols and raids in Iraq cycled through
my head as I pressed ahead, weaving and slicing between the thick tree
trunks. Mostly, I was pissed. I was steamed over how the weekend was ru-
ined and how I’d likely be left with little time to visit Seattle after we found him.
Eventually, Tater turned up under an army-issue tent in a clearing.
His face was bright red; he was bloated, glassy-eyed and not making much sense.
His mind was made up. Hell no, he wouldn’t come back. Hell no, he didn’t care what they
did to him. They could do their worst. Hell no, he was done with all this
army bullshit anyway, just done with it. Hell no, he wasn’t going to listen to any of us.
At some point when we were dragging—literally pulling—a stub-
born but stupefied Tater across the forest floor, I realized that alcohol’s hold was less like the boundless wilderness and more like the tent he pitched—a confined, claustrophobic space.
volume 4; fall 2017
I knew it myself from wasted nights and woebegone mornings.
That first whiskey burn felt like the wild untamed woods. But, as the shots went back and the bottles emptied out and half the mornings were lost to
a hazy shroud, it got to be like that shallow hole Tater had dug in the flinty earth for his precious fifth of George Dickel. It got to be more like being stranded, all alone, in the middle of nowhere.
Tater was stuffed in that George Dickel bottle. He was crammed in
good. There was still hope for the rest of us in the platoon yet though. We could still be free. We could still escape the Iraq Warâ€™s long grasp.
TATER, I RECKON
volume 4; fall 2017
UNITED STATES OF AFRICA by
Before you get on the ferry to Staten Island, stop at a food truck and order chicken shawarma.
Make small-talk with the North African behind the till because you’re both “from Africa,” but not really. My country’s national flower is a plastic bag that takes 5 million years to decompose. Tripoli during Gaddafi grew no such flowers – military men are too tidy for plastic frivolity. I want to ask the attendant if he believes in a United States of Africa but I can see that he doesn’t. The rich melanin in my pores; precious gift from my South Sudan ancestors, makes me kufar way beyond any uniting boundary – an abid by genetics. Slave to many. But we don’t talk about such things here. Here, in the “land of the free,” we don’t see colour just as we don’t see tribe back at home. What a farce! But we’re free, aren’t we? Free in Nairobi. Free in New York. Free to pretend that iniquity is not founded on any distinguishing inequality. Free to inter-marry and bring up a new race of people with easier passage through immigration and airport security. Fancy restaurants and high-end shops. Black only cracks in places you refuse to see.
PEARL BAG by Cigarettes in the attic eaves. A tinderbox of loss. It is hard to remember the names of friends now. Passing out on doorsteps. Shards bruise and sting beneath the surface. Memory of falling.
Colors stain the satin lining. Fractured camera lens. Tiny slivers. Erase tender, slice memory. Condoms under cellar mattress. The camera clicks again and again. Open-thighed in the alley. Blood red on the carpet. Click. Missing-an amulet from Minsk. Winds force windows open. Ghosts demand entry. Dogs, unused to the smell of a girl on the streets after doors are locked, bark on and on to warn dreamers of a stranger crossing. The seams don’t open anymore – not a simple orange, hardbound book, love or the loss of it. Searching to pull out slivers of glass. There’s no pulling shards out when you can’t find the break line. Intentional or not, barely matters. Pearl bag open on the street side of the freeway ramp, a few feet from the entry sign. No money, some indigo paints, a small flask of vodka, crushed image or two.
volume 4; fall 2017
ROCKED HERSELF RIGHT AGAIN by
All She Needed Was Art, Music and a Rocking Chair To Rock Herself Right Again Out in the world seemed so happy Oh sheâ€™s got it all together All Healed Up But those close - ask questions Come home each night -Underworld The moment she turned the key and entered the door Sunken place Then repeat She looks at Art Her own or others Oxygen Writes on paper in her head Sees Art Inhales Music Banged banged on her Djembe drum Right into a trance Plays Blues or Jazz - not smooth that sleeps The real that stirs her soul To feel and release Push Out From inside - deep So Loud her cries Shook her weeping Hope the neighbors donâ€™t come knocking Even to her Shocking
The hell inside her head You donâ€™t know Been Through Seen Through Worked Through Made Through Rocked Herself Right Again In that rocking chair In the corner of her bedroom Listening Looking Silent The Back and Forth that Stirs her soul Rocks her in silence grown to love Alone not lonely Rocks back into her body Rocks Herself Right Again Rocks and waits for transition Shape shifter - time machine To places sheâ€™s been Or dreamed of going Rocked Herself Right Again Struggle Story Joy Story #Deepjoy #Joyseeker Thirsty Salivating vibes Tripping on what high Looks Like Feels Like Smells Like Tastes Like Sounds Like And is damn close Rocked Herself Right Again Out of the Underworld And out
volume 4; fall 2017
AN AGORAPHOBICâ€™S LOVE SONG by
A stranger from battle, I have crossed the nationless plateaux of the lost once, twice, before this room trapped me. I sit in the corner, smoking.
The mirror exalts me. I am myself and no hurdy-gurdy, no selfless elf in collapsing empires of nicotine smoke. I tramp the room as though it were roads. Where does my floating conscience begin? Where will it lead me, guiltlessly, for my share of the blame? I see you watch as though my travail were ending. The street outside is a lukewarm river. Aping the sky, it will deliver its crop of obsessions. Should we aspire to boil in the dust of travellersâ€™ tires? The world, in coyly hiding its traps, beckons abstainers. Where love overlaps, we are forced to venture. Say, shall we go undaunted where cumulonimbus roll?
FADED LINES AND GRAVEL by
My son tells his teacher that his father had been hit twice by a car, or once by two cars, or twice, separately, and likely they were different cars, but we’re all confident no one has confirmed the make and model similarities.
This is simply to say my head has gravel beneath the surface. My son tells his teacher his father didn’t see them coming, because this is what I’ve told him—stories about watching where you’re going, about the feeling of lifting from the ground, flying for that one gentle second, before crashing skull down. He knows my head split. He’s been fingering the white scar since he was an infant straddling his father’s shoulders as I strolled through the park, listening to birds and his hushed breathing. He tells his teacher something broke but he isn’t sure how to name it. Decades later I see the face of the driver of the second car, the laughing smile suddenly dropped when we made eye contact before I made contact with the front bumper, the hood dancing me outward onto the gravel near the stop sign. I didn’t see his face as he drove off, if the smile returned, if he laughed again miles away down the road—so my son doesn’t tell this part, doesn’t reflect my memories that fade like the white lines, but I hear it in him even if he can’t name it, even if we’re the same make. In quiet moments, I search his scalp for gravel, push aside his hair, exploring scars he hasn’t made.
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FALLING AND RISING THROUGH TIME AND SPACE by
I. Returning Iâ€™ve scurried back into the shadows Of a cold, jagged cave. My pallet is here, Crawling with memories of anxious dreams. A basket holds dry, tasteless bread, Just enough sustenance to keep my heart beating (A little too fast), My lungs breathing the stale air (With an occasional gasp of fear). Out there, I am too exposed. Too burdened, too visible. Out there are warm voices That I donâ€™t deserve to hear; Out there are demanding voices Demanding more of me than I can do. So I return To this favorite despised hiding place Whose echoes wrap me In their cruel embrace.
II. Revival Flickering sense of my strong self, Like the tinder of a newly kindled fire— Quick— give it air— Or it will die. Flickering sense of my clear self Like the picture of an old television set: Adjust for brightness, contrast, alignment. It may get better or it may get worse. Flickering sense of my joyful self Like the intermittent flashes of a firefly. No way to predict when or where it will appear, But the sight of the sudden brightness Pierces the dull, thick night. Waiting for my strength, My clarity, my joy to return. The flicker a signal that all is not lost, Just hidden As a pirate hides treasure, As a squirrel hides nuts, As the sun hides below the horizon Until it reveals its dazzling self.
III. Restoration I build my floor three times a day. At breakfast, lunch, and bedtime. I open a small door Like the door to a tiny closet And remove its contents. I scoop them out and swallow them: The round red ones, the pink capsules, The large and small white chalky circles. They cannot stop me from stumbling, From falling. They can prevent me from sinking, From disappearing. I did not welcome them into my life. I saw them as invaders, Strength-sappers, I built walls with my words To defend me against dependency. But when my own darkness Had defeated me And I felt the floor Firm under my feet, I knew I had returned; I knew I was finally home.
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The Perch has always provided a forum for writers, poets, and visual artists to express their creative voices in connection to mental health. In this issue, we sought to broaden that vision to include music. All of the arts have the ability to reach the heart, mind and soul. Listed below are all the musicians’ works from this issue. Their pieces can be played in the online edition of Volume 4, which can be found by following this link: http://medicine.yale.edu/psychiatry/prch/the_perch/
“I’M LOVING YOU” Thomas Ice
“PALE BLUE DOT” Ken Grimes
Daniel Evans Rowe
“LOST IN MINE FOREST” Douglas Snyder
“TRYING TO GET BY” Rashelle Reyneveld
With many thanks to Mary K. Snyder and Daniel Evans Rowe, who launched the effort to include music as an additional artistic medium in The Perch and to Adam Christoferson, founder of Musical Intervention for giving talented musicians a forum and for connecting them to The Perch.
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AHJA FOX is an emerging writer with publications in the Arapahoe Pinnacle and Progenitor Art & Literary Journal. She was the 2016 Writerâ€™s Studio Scholarship recipient at Arapahoe Community College while pursuing her A.A with Creative Writing Emphasis (which she graduated from this past spring). She is continuing her education in creative writing at Adams State University next fall and is currently working on a collaboration with her artist husband. On the side, she acts as copartner/ co-host for Art of Storytelling, a reading series in Denver. Finishing at least a book draft and opening a dance studio that caters to older children and the disabled are her long-term goals.
------------------------------------------ALEXANDRIA HEATHER is an Interdisciplinary Shamanic Artist mostly made of water. She is a prolific writer, artist, musician and choreographer whose art, writing, video & music is in private and public collections throughout the world. Her studio is in Vermont, available by appointment only. In the last year her work has appeared in such publications as the Elephant Journal, Rebelle Society, Slag Review, Boston Accent, Thought Catalog, Inklette Magazine, The Story Shack, Black Elephant, 1001 Literary Journal, Natural News, Stoneboat, Omni Magazine, Meat For Tea, Alice Wisdom & The Perch. ------------------------------------------AMY LEIGH WICKS is currently undertaking her PhD in poetry at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. For the past decade she has facilitated free weekly writing workshops to empower others to write. Her recent work can be found in drDOCTOR, SPORT 45, and Turbine/Kapohau.
ATHOL WILLIAMS is a South African poet and social philosopher. He holds six degrees, from Harvard, MIT, Oxford, London School of Economics, London Business School and Wits (SA). Athol has published four collections of poems, his most recent being Invitation (Theart Press) and his poems have been published extensively in literary journals in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has twice been awarded the prestigious Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award, won the Parallel Universe Poetry Contest at Oxford University and been a runner-up for the South African Literary Award for poetry. www.atholwilliams.com ------------------------------------------BRIAN BAUMGART’s chapbook of poetry, Rules for Loving Right, was released from Sweet Publications in 2017, and his prose and poetry have appeared in a number of print and online journals, including Tipton Poetry Journal, Blue Earth Review, Good Men Project, SLAB, and Ruminate. He is the Director of the AFA in Creative Writing Program at North Hennepin Community College, just outside Minneapolis, and he has an MFA from Minnesota State University-Mankato. He recently taught his children how to use a power sander and a hatchet; he’s amazed he still has all of his fingers. ------------------------------------------CAROL GLOOR is a retired attorney who has been writing, mostly poetry, for more years than she likes to remember. Her work has been published in many online journals, most recently in Soul- Lit, and in hard copy journals, most recently in the anthology Rust Belt Chicago. She loves reading her work to audiences, most recently with her Chicago writing group at the Harold Washington Library, and by herself at the Mt. Carroll, Illinois open mic and at the Savanna Illinois June First Friday Festival. Her full length collection, titled Falling Back, will be published by WordTech LLC in 2018. ------------------------------------------CAROL KANTER’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Atlanta Review gave Carol three International Merit Awards before publishing three others of her poems. FinishingLine Press published her two chapbooks: “Out of Southern Africa,” (2005) and “Chronicle of Dog,” (2006). Two poetry books—No Secret Where Elephants Walk, and Where the Sacred Dwells, Namaste (DualArts Press, 2010 and 2012) marry Carol’s poems to her husband’s photography from Africa and from India, Nepal and Bhutan. (See www. DualArtsPress.com) Carol is a psychotherapist in practice in Evanston, IL. ---------------------------------------------CHRISTOPHER WOODS is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Houston and Chappell Hill, Texas. He has published a novel, THE DREAM PATCH, a prose collection, UNDER A RIVERBED SKY, and a book of stage monologues for actors, HEART SPEAK. His work has appeared in THE SOUTHERN REVIEW, NEW ENGLAND REVIEW, NEW ORLEANS REVIEW, COLUMBIA and GLIMMER TRAIN, among others. His photographs can be seen in his gallery -http://christopherwoods.zenfolio.com/
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Originally a(n) (un)common laborer from southern New Jersey, CORNELIUS ROSEWATER is currently masquerading as a competent employee of the National Park Service ------------------------------------------DANIEL EVANS ROWE is an editorial assistant by day and musician by night. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and grew up as the middle child of three. Daniel began recording music at the age of eight doing most of his work on a dual-cassette deck karaoke machine. He attended Naugatuck Valley Community College, where he ﬁrst became exposed to the digital audio workstations he now uses to record. He later received his Bachelor of Arts degree in music theory from Southern Connecticut State University. Daniel lives in Naugatuck, Connecticut, where he records nearly all of his music at home. ------------------------------------------DOUG SNYDER and his wife operate a record store in Hamden, CT. He grew up in a loving family, yet developed symptoms of social anxiety and alienation. After years of various “therapies,” he got through high school. During that time, he honed his musical talent with a technical understanding of the recording process, and produced hundreds of “home recordings” of original songs and collaborations with others. He went on to engineer at a 24-track studio, but left the business in 1985 due to stress, and alcoholism. He has been in recovery for 27 years. “Those songs kept me sane and alive. But over time my demons caught up with me.” Today, Doug records occasionally with his group THE HALLUCINATIONS, who released their first LP in 2015. ------------------------------------------ELAINE ZIMMERMAN is a policy leader for children, essayist, and poet. Publications include poetry in Lascaux Review, Americana, Coal Hill Review, Lilith, Adanna Literary Journal, Winning Writers, New Millennium, The New Guard Literary Review, Theodate, Cyclamens and Swords, Connecticut River Review and anthologies including, Forgotten Women, All We Can Hold, Everybody Says Hello, Sleeping with One Eye Open, Encore, Inner Landscapes-Writers Respond to the Art of Virginia Dehn, and Worlds in Our Words-Contemporary American Women Writers. Honors include the Connecticut Poetry, William Stafford, Al Savard and Morton and Elsie Prouty Memorial Awards and a Pushcart nomination. Elaine is the mother of two young adult artists, one painter and one cook. She lives with her husband and son in Hamden, Connecticut. ------------------------------------------ELIZABETH BRULE’ FARRELL believes that facing the experiences that have shaped us can bring a positive outcome not only to ourselves, but to many who have yet to find their own voice. It is to this end that she continues to write. Her work has appeared in Watch My Rising, The Healing Muse, Steam Ticket, Earth’s Daughters, Spillway, Pilgrimage, The Chaos of Angels, Common Ground Review, Poetry East, The Paterson Literary Review, Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge, and in other publications. She used to write advertising copy and has worked in the public school system teaching creative writing. -------------------------------------------
IRIS ORPI is a Filipina writer living in Chicago, IL. She is the author of the novel The Espresso Effect (2010) and the books of compiled poems, Beautiful Fever (2012) and Cognac for the Soul (2012). Her work has appeared in several online and print publications all over Asia, Europe and North America. She was an Honorable Mention for the Contemporary American Poetry Prize, given by Chicago Poetry Press, in 2014.
JANE BLANCHARD lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has appeared in venues such as The Dark Horse, The Evansville Review, The French Literary Review, The Healing Muse, and The Seventh Quarry. Her collections are Unloosed and Tides & Currents, both available from Kelsay Books. ------------------------------------------JEFFREY L TAYLOR’s first submitted poems won 1st place and runner-up in Riff Magazine’s 1994 Jazz and Blues Poetry Contest. Encouraged, he continues to write and has been published in The Montserrat Review, REED Magazine, Mediphors, Buffalo Bones, di-vêrsé-city Anthology, and in the forthcoming issue of Red River Review. Educated in the US and Canada, his spelling is ambiguous. Having served as sensei to small children and professor to graduate students has taught him a certain humility. ------------------------------------------JEREMIAH DAVIS has been writing poetry since he was in sixth grade; he is now twenty. He began writing to more or less take burdens of his mind and transform them into a piece on inspiration that he hopes “someday saves a life.” Jeremiah started writing because of early mental health issues he kept quiet about, while also battling bullies. He was bullied by bullies until he stopped bullying himself. Jeremiah decided to make triumph out of his tribulations. In recent times, he has published two books of poetry. His first book, Jeremiah Said: It Never Stops Here, was written in his final year of high school. About a year and a half later he still felt troubled about giving useless parties his energy. He then went on to write a second book called Redemption. Jeremiah doesn’t complain about the challenge; he makes the challenge complain about him. Jeremiah wants to inspire nations with his words and motivate someone the way he wishes he could’ve been. ------------------------------------------JOHN A CAYER attended Boston University School of Fine Arts as a Performance Major, spending the better part of 40 years in the theater and music realm. A founding member of the BrickWalk Poets of West Hartford CT his poems have appeared in The Madison Review, The Southern Poetry Review among others. A songwriter, he has also written for the theater, most notably the short play “The Blue Room” concerning the struggles of an incarcerated artist and a solo piece entitled “JWB” depicting the life, politics and proclivities of the notorious American actor, John Wilkes Booth. A cancer survivor and Smilow alum, he lives and writes on the Connecticut shoreline and works coordinating the Resource Sharing Department at the Fairfield University Library. ---------------------------------------------JONATHAN CALLOWAY earned a B.A. in English literature from the University of Vermont. His work has appeared in Vermont’s annually published Poem City anthology. Having lived in Finland and China, he currently resides in New York City teaching, writing fiction and poetry, and composing music, all whilst he romances his own atomic blonde.
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JORDAN RANFT is a Bay Area native. He recently graduated from UC Davis with a BA in English. In 2015 he took 3rd place at the national poetry slam as a member of team Berkeley. His work has been published in or is forthcoming in issues of Rust+Moth, Midway, and Marathon. At the present he is frantically scrambling to apply to MFA programs. ------------------------------------------JOSEPH ELLISON BROCKWAY is a poet, translator, and Spanish professor. He holds a BA and MA in Spanish, and he is currently working on his Ph.D. in Studies of Literature and Translation. He has translated poems from That’s Not How Women Talk by Puerto Rican poet Nemir Matos Cintrón, and he is translating Island Mythical Coffer by Spanish surrealist Eugenio F. Granell. Joseph is currently working on a manuscript about identity, family, and depression after a DNA test revealed that the man he knew as his father is not his biological father. Joseph’s literary translation interests include surrealism, mental illness, and Latin American poetry. Joseph’s poetry has been published in The Rising Phoenix Review, Dirty Chai, Full of Crow, L’Éphémère Review, and Surreal Poetics. ------------------------------------------JOSEPH S PETE is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He has done live lit on the iO Chicago stage and was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His literary work and photography have appeared in The Grief Diaries, Gravel, Perch Magazine, Lit-Tapes, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, Blue Collar Review, Work Literary Magazine, Lumpen, Stoneboat, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Euphemism, Jenny Magazine and elsewhere. He’s okay at hyperbole, he guesses. ------------------------------------------KEN GRIMES is an American artist born in 1947 in New York City. His artwork consists of drawings and paintings in monochrome (black and white), typically consisting of white text and diagrams on a black background. His art deals with themes of coincidences, outer space, extraterrestrial life, and UFO conspiracy theories. Ken now lives in New Haven, Connecticut and creates his art at Fellowship Place in New Haven, Connecticut. ------------------------------------------KYLE BRANDT-LUBART’s artistic practice explores the contradictions, connections, and creative potential she has encountered through her personal and work-based experience in the realm of mental health. She enjoys dabbling in various mediums including painting, woodworking, printmaking, and textiles. She is currently the Assistant Team Leader for a community support team that works with people diagnosed with chronic mental illnesses. Prior to her current position, she developed and piloted a creative arts program in the psychiatric inpatient unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She holds a B.A. in History and Sociology from Oberlin College and an MSW from Washington University in St. Louis.
LORNA REID loves to connect with people artistically through her photography and poetry. She writes from the deepest parts of her soul and shares real life experiences. Lorna strongly believes that our stories must be told and can help heal and transform others. She has recited poetry at creative venues dedicated to showcasing spoken word artists. Lorna evaluates data from different perspectives in her IT profession as a Senior Systems Analyst. You can also find her spending time with family and friends at the Jersey Shore, enjoying a walk on a trail, riding her bike or exercising. Lorna’s biggest adventure was a recent soul healing trip to South Africa where she captured amazing Safari images. Born in Newark, NJ, Lorna Reid currently resides in Dayton, NJ. ------------------------------------------LUJAIN ALMULLA is a writer from Kuwait, where she works as an English language instructor. She relocated to Louisville, Kentucky in 2015, in pursuit of an MA in English with a concentration in creative writing, which she has recently completed. Her work has been featured in Kuwait’s Bazaar Magazine. Her recent creative work has focused on issues of family and mental health. ------------------------------------------MARGOT MILLER is an American Artist born in Woodmont, CT. An Oil Painter residing in Putney, VT, she has deep roots in the New Haven area, where her work has been displayed since the 1970s. In this Diptych, the 2 panels are painted in Oil on Linen. They are each 54 x 26. The painting evokes separation, loss and grief. A sense of being broken. It’s title: “Broken Apart,” a theme almost all can relate to. Her work has switched overseas to the U.K. where she is heading up a Charity at the University of Cambridge, for much needed research and cure funding for a rare spinal cord disease: C.S.M. An important job, one dear to the Artist. For more information: www. millerstudio.org / www.myelopathy.org ------------------------------------------MARY K SNYDER is a person in recovery from substance and alcohol abuse. She lives with multiple chronic illnesses, which has brought on depression and anxiety. She has found that all of this can be very challenging when it comes to her everyday life. Through her writing, she is able to channel much of this to help her deal with these situations. This piece speaks to her level of discomfort when it comes to public events. As her illnesses evolve within her, so does her reaction and response to many outside forces. This story brings to mind just that. Mary lives in CT, with her husband Doug and their cat, Grace. She and Doug own Replay Records, in Hamden. Namasté
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MATTINA BLUE is a painter, designer and educator, whose work stands on decades of dedication to photographic and meditational practices. Her interest is in using the qualities inherent to watercolor (bleeding, flowing, layering) to reflect the private experiences of an inner world and the common struggles in maintaining relationships. All paintings are improvised. Without a sketch, images are composed completely in the moment. A graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology and Hampshire College, her work has been exhibited, published, and commissioned for twenty-five years. The author of three books and the creator of large-scale public works, Mattina teaches creative watercolor painting in workshops around the world and out at sea. She lives in a barn on the coast of Maine. www.mattinablue.com. ------------------------------------------MICHAEL A FERRO‘s debut novel, TITLE 13, will be published by Harvard Square Editions in early 2018. He was awarded the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award for Fiction and his writing has appeared in numerous journals in both print and online. Born and bred in Detroit, Michael has lived, worked, and written throughout the Midwest; he currently resides in rural Ann Arbor, Michigan. Additional publications and information can be found at: www.michaelaferro.com. ------------------------------------------MICHAEL A ISTVAN JR., PHD has resorted to selling his used underwear online. New hope has arisen in his life, though. Last Spring, a waitress in Manhattan failed to address him by his preferred pronoun. Istvan prefers “ze” as opposed to “he” or “she.” Istvan had in fact told her so right when he sat down, and yet she told the bus-boy, “He would like his water refilled.” Not only has the waitress been fired for violating the NYCHRL (the New York City Human Rights Law), but Istvan’s lawyer says that he has a good case to make up to six figures from such an egregious offense (especially since Istvan records these NYC interactions—in hopes to get paid in such bleak times). ------------------------------------------NANCY CLARKE OTTER teaches English at a public school in Hartford, Connecticut. Her poems have appeared in The Wallace Stevens Review, Ekphrasis, Crosswinds, Earth’s Daughters, and Blue Collar Review. Her poem “Hart Crane” appeared in the Naugatuck River Review and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Another poem, “Fortune’s Rest,” won first place in the 2014 Connecticut Poetry Society contest. She received an honorable mention in CALYX’s Lois Cranston poetry contest for her poem “Chattel Is.” Two of her poems appear in an anthology, Forgotten Women, published by Grayson Press. She holds an MFA from Goddard College, as well as degrees from UC Santa Cruz, Hunter College, and Wesleyan University. ------------------------------------------NATALIE CRICK, from the UK, has found delight in writing all of her life and first began writing when she was a very young girl. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in a range of journals and magazines including Ink in Thirds, The Penwood Review, Interpreters House, The Chiron Review and Rust and Moth. Her work also features or is forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Lehigh Valley Vanguard Collections 13. This year her poem, ‘Sunday School’ was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first chapbook will be released by Bitterzoet Press this year.
PAULINE ODHIAMBO’s first short story Her Friend’s Father was published in 2010 on the Storymoja blog featuring contemporary East African writers. A journalist by profession, she has enjoyed a career as a feature writer and lifestyle columnist, and has immense interest in memoir and fiction writing. She derives inspiration from her lived experience in Kenya, her home country, as well as from her travels in the U.S, Sweden, South Africa, Libya, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates among others. She is currently contemplating her next destination for a travelogue on the same. ------------------------------------------PETER ARCHER lives in London, having spent his formative years in Japan, and has worked many years in academic libraries. He was a live music reviewer for the New Musical Express and has written TV scripts. His radio script was workshopped at the National Film Theatre (UK), and more recently has had poems published in Penumbra and South Bank Poetry (both UK). His experiences of anxiety/depression and OCD continue to inform his work. Peter is currently completing a comic sci-fi novel. ------------------------------------------PRISCILLA FRAKE is a studio jeweler who lives in Sugar Land, Texas. Her first full length collection of poems, Correspondence, was inspired by Jung’s encounter with the unconscious, as documented in his journal, The Red Book. She has published poetry in a number of anthologies and in dozens of journals including Verse Daily, Nimrod, The Midwest Quarterly, Medical Literary Messenger, Carbon Culture Review, The Sun, Fjord’s Review, and The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review. Her honors include the Lorene Pouncey Award at the Houston Poetry Festival and a Pushcart nomination. ------------------------------------------RATA INGRAM writes poetry and short stories from where she resides in Christchurch, New Zealand. She was most recently published in Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017, shortlisted for the 2016 NZ Heritage Poetry Award and commended for the Hagley Writers National Poetry Day Competition. She was a featured reader at National Flash Fiction Day 2016 and 2017. Currently Rata is the newsletter editor as well as the youngest member of the South Island Writers’ Association. A student in physics, her other interests include neuroscience, philosophy and computation. ------------------------------------------RIVKY GROSSMAN often found it difficult to interact with other folks. She first discovered painting as a way to communicate and engage with the world better. A prodigy born with multifold skill sets ranging from painting, singing, writing — that only recently have been tapped into — Rivky persevered. Rivky’s artwork has been exhibited in New York City and in the Hamptons, including being accepted into an artist residency in The Hamptons, under The Full Moon Arts Center. She joined forces with her sister to design Fountain Gallery’s December Holiday Shop, where Rivky’s hand-painted Mandala umbrellas were among the items for sale — and all of them sold. https://rivkygee.com/art-exhibits-and-events-still-under-construction/#jpcarousel-658
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ROBERT BEVERIDGE makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Neologism, In Between Hangovers, and Clementine Unbound, among others. ------------------------------------------ROSIANE OLIVEIRA is a 59 year old artist, who received a Bachelor of Fine Arts / Design School of Fine Arts-UFMG in 1984. She participated in exhibitions and salons of Visual Arts between 1980 and 2006, being awarded in Recife-PE-Brasil / 1998 and in Alagoinhas-BahiaBrasil / 2006. She was also Art Editor in São Paulo, Brazil, from 1988 to 1998. From 2004 to 2008 he participated in the Ceramic Atelier at the School of Fine Arts of the Federal University of Bahia. Oliveira currently lives in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, where she develops different artistic languages. ------------------------------------------RYAN SCHAUFLER received a BFA from California Institute of the Arts in Acting. Not only has Mr. Schaufler worked as a professional actor for over 20 years, he is also a special education teacher, adjunct theatre teacher, playwright, director, photographer, artist, and a father. He recently completed his fifth season as a voice-over artist with the radio show ‘The Brinkman Adventures.’ His photography can be seen in Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Pithead Chapel (2017 September cover), among others. In addition, he is the founder of the site www. twitterization.wordpress.com where some of his writing and photography can be viewed. ------------------------------------------SARA DEBEER has a BA in English from Yale. While at Yale, Sara received the Robert C. Bates Fellowship and spent the summer of 1980 studying storytelling traditions in Ireland. Upon graduating from Yale, she received the George A. Schrader, Jr. Prize for Excellence in the Humanities. She is a Connecticut Writing Project Fellow. Her work has appeared in “The Deronda Review,” “The New Jersey English Journal,” and “Kol Aleph,” as well as other publications. “Reading2Connect” has published three collections of her poetry designed for memory-challenged adults. Since 1978, Sara has worked as a professional storyteller, presenting programs of multicultural folktales to audiences of all ages. She performs in schools, libraries, independent/assisted living facilities, and a variety of other venues. ------------------------------------------SETH MORRISON is a professional and creative writing student at Central Washington University. Having been given the advice to “write through your problems,” Seth is writing poetry in his spare time. He is currently in a battle against mental illnesses, psoriasis, and chronic pain. His rheumatologist speculates psoriatic arthritis may be in the cards. ------------------------------------------SHERYL SLOCUM lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she teaches English as a second language at Alverno College. Her poems have appeared in numerous small press publications, including Blueline, The Anglican Theological Review, and The Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar. Her poetry can also be found in several anthologies, including No, Achilles (WaterWood Press, 2015-2016) and Masquerades & Misdemeanors (Pebblebrook Press, 2013). A Pushcart nominee, Sheryl is a mother of three and contentedly belongs to a cat. She is a member of the Hartford Avenue Poets and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.
The song included represents a sampling of hundreds of songs THOMAS ICE has already composed in his young life. His talent of creating original, distinctive melody is in the tradition of classical jazz standards and the great American songbook. I Am Loving You best exemplifies Thomas Iceâ€™s ability to express his emotions through music. ------------------------------------------THOMAS NGUYEN is a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied Neuroscience and Creative Writing. In the fall of 2017, he will move to Manhattan to begin the Masterâ€™s Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. His work is forthcoming or published in the Bellevue Literary Review, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Intima, among other journals.
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